05 February 2007

Thoughts on Religious Experience

I just started Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), founder of Princeton Seminary in the early 1800's, for my sabbath-reading. I'm struck by how similar it is to Edwards; the opening sentence, for example, is:

There are two kinds of religious knowledge, which though intimately connected as cause and effect, may nevertheless be distinguished. These are the knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and the impression which that truth makes on the human mind when rightly apprehended. (p. 5)
That is the same theme struck by Edwards in "The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of a Divine Truth," "A Divine and Supernatural Light," Religious Affections, and Distinguishing Marks.

Here's another statement, on something I've been thinking and writing about lately: the vital relation between right doctrine and affective experience (theology and doxology):

There is reason to believe that all ignorance of revealed truth, or error respecting it, must be attended with a corresponding defect in the religious exercises of the person. This consideration teaches us the importance of truth, and the duty of increasing daily in the knowledge of our Lord and Savious Jesus Christ. This is the true and only method of growing in grace. There may be much correct theoretical knowledge, I admit, where there is no impression corresponding with it on the heart; but still, all good impressions on the heart, are from the truth, and from the truth alone. (p. 9)
And on regeneration, the new birth (a word which helps put the glories of the Super Bowl in perspective):

There is no more important event, which occurs in our world, than the new birth of an immortal soul. Heirs to titles and estates, to kingdoms and empires, are frequently born, and such events are blazoned with imposing pomp, and celebrated by poets and orators; but what are all these honours and possessions but the gewgaws of children, when compared with the inheritance and glory to which every child of God is born an heir!

. . . the implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end. When you plant an acorn, and it grows, you expect not to see the maturity, much less the end of the majestic oak, which will expand its boughs and strike deeply into the earth its roots. The fierce blast of centuries of winters may beat upon it and agitate it; but it resists them all. Yet finally this majestic oak, and all its towering branches, must fall. Trees die with old age, as well as men. But the plants of grace shall eevr live. They shall flourish in everlasting verdure. They will bear transplanting to another clime--to another world. (pp. 35-36)

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