Jun 13, 2011

‘Listen to your heart’ sang Roxette but Isaac Watts is not so sure

‘Listen to your heart’ sang Roxette but according to Isaac Watts that’s not altogether the best advice – even if your heart is on fire for God!

I’m just finished reading Isaac Watt’s Discourses of the love of God and it’s influence on all the passions.

The big idea is this; Christians cannot afford to neglect God-given ‘passions’ or ‘affections’ when it comes to our  worship of him. In fact God has made us in such a way that the Christian life is only really possible when we seek to love him with both heart and heart.

Watts notes that love is the most powerful passion or affection that we possess as human beings and a love for God ‘will influence all the other affections of the heart.’ A true and right worship of God must not only have at its centre a profound conviction of the truthfulness of the gospel but a deep love for God.

It is a knowledge and belief of the truth of the gospel, joined with love to Christ my redeemer, that makes me zealous to fulfil every duty.

But midway through the work Watts turns to address the abuse of the passions. And it is here that I stumbled across a new thought to me. Our affections, even our godly affections, can lead us away from truth about God. Watt’s comments;

Even the best affections, and those that seem to have a strong tendency towards piety, are not always safe guides in this respect; yet they are too often indulged to sway the mind in its search after truth or duty

And the first example he gives of this could have been written yesterday

Suppose a person should be exceedingly affected with the unlimited goodness and abounding grace of God; if, by this pious affection towards God and his goodness, he is persuaded to think that God has no such severe vengeance for sinful and rebel-creatures, and that he will not destroy multitudes of mankind in hell as the scripture asserts, or that their punishment shall not be so long and so terrible as God has expressly declared; here the passion of love and esteem for the divine goodness acts in an irregular manner, for it takes off the eyes of the soul from his awful holiness and his strict justice, and the unknown evil that is in sin. It prevents the mind from giving due attention to God’s express word, and to those perfections of the divine nature, and his wise and righteous government, which may demand such dreadful and eternal punishment, for the rebellion of a creature against the infinite dignity of it’s creator and governor.

A sense of the profound love of God can, Watt’s argues, cloud our judgement and skew our view of God. It prevents the mind from giving due attention to God’s express word he writes.

When our judgements are built on our passions we are in danger of getting God wrong.

The passions were made to be servants to reason, to be governed by the judgment, and to be influenced by truth; but they were never given us to decide controversies, and to determine what is truth, and what is error.


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