Godly affection is the spring from which godly actions flow. Godly affection is the fruit of faith in Christ. Edwards describes faith as “trusting in another . . . resting or living in acquiescence of mind and heart in the full persuasion of his sufficiency and faithfulness, so as to be ready fully to venture on him in our actions.”
Faith (confidence) in Christ as sufficient and faithful produces an affection for him that leads to godly practice. In the words of Edwards:
They [who] do not enter on any action or course of action in such a confidence, and so venture nothing, and therefore cannot be said truly to trust. He that really trusts in another, ventures on his confidence. And so it is with those that truly trust in God. They rest in the full persuasion that God is sufficient and faithful, so as to proceed in this confidence to follow God, and, if because he has promised that they shall be no losers by such a course; and they have such a confidence of this, that they can and do venture upon his promise, while those who are not willing thus to venture, shew that they do not trust in him.
Faith must be present, indeed, is a necessary pre-condition, to godly action. However, this faith is not without affection. As previously noted, faith and affection, for Edwards, go hand in hand. Faith and affection, together, produce godly action. In the words of Edwards, “Love is an active principle – a principle that we always find is active in things of this world. Love to our fellow creatures always influences us in our actions and practice.”
In addressing the question of faith and action, Edwards comments on Galatians 2:20, which reads “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” he says,
We are often told that Christians, so far as they are Christians, “live by faith;” which is equivalent to saying that all gracious and holy exercises and virtues of the spiritual life are by faith. But how does this work? Why, in this place in Galatians, is it expressly said, that it works whatsoever it does work by love. From which the truth of the doctrine follows, [that is to say] that all that is saving and distinguishing in Christianity does radically consist, and is summarily comprehended, in love . . . From love to God springs love to man, as says the apostle (1 John v. 1).
According to Edwards, to live by faith is to live in love. The summation of the Christian life is the life lived by love. By faith, the Christian lives by love to God and to man. in the words of Edwards:
It is our inclination that governs us in our actions; but all the actings of the inclination and will, in all our common actions of life, are not ordinarily called affections. yet, what are commonly called affections are not essentially different from them, but only in the degree and manner of exercise.
The life of faith, for the Christian, is the life of love, according to Edwards. It is the heart, which is the seat of our affections, that govern our actions. Whatsoever the soul is inclined to and has affection for, that inclination and affection will govern the action of the Christian toward to object of the heart.
Edwards appeals to reason and common sense examples to reinforce his argument for man’s actions are a result and fruit of his love. Using Christ’s words in John 15:13, which read, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friend,” as a backdrop, he writes:
Reason teaches that a man’s actions are the most proper test and evidence of his love. Thus if a man professes a great deal of love and friendship to another, reason, in such a case, teaches all mankind that the friend as he professes to be, in his appearing a friend in his deeds, and not only in his words; and that he shall be willing, if need be, to deny himself for his friend, and to suffer his own private interest for the sake of doing him a kindness. . . And so, if we see a man who, by his constant behaviour [sic], shews himself ready to take pains and lay himself out for God, reason teaches, that in this he gives an evidence of love to God, more to be depended on than if he only professes that he feels great love to God in his heart. And so, if we see a man who, by what we behold of the course ofhis like, seems to follow and imitate Christ, and greatly lay himself out for Christ’s honour [sic] and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, reason teaches, that he gives greater evidence of the sincerity and strength of his love to the Saviour [sic] than if he only declares that he loves Him, and tells how his heart at such and such a time was drawn out in love to Him, while at the same time he is backward to do any great matter for Christ or to put himself out of the way for the promotion of his kingdom, and is ready to excuse himself when called to active effort or self-denial for his Savious’s [sic] sake.
Edwards line of reasoning is simple. If someone truly loves someone and has a true affection for them, their actions will show it. If a believer is truly trusting Christ, their heart will have an affection for him that will demonstrate itself in action and practice. The only question that remains is what such practice and action look like practically. To this Edwards says:
There are various ways for the exercise of sincere love to God, and they all tend to holy practice. One is, in having a high esteem for God; for that which we love we have the highest esteem for, and naturally show this esteem in our behavior. Another way of showing our love to God is, in making choice of him above all other things; and if we do sincerely choose him above all other things, then we shall actually leave other things for him when it comes to the trial in our practice: and when, in the course of our life, it comes to pass that God and our honor, or God and our money, or God and our ease, are at the same time set before us, so that we must cleave to the one and forsake the other, then, if we really choose God above these other things, we shall in our practice cleave to God, and let these things go. Another way of the exercise of love to God is, in our desires after him; and these also tend to practice. He that really has earnest desires after God, will be stirred up actively to seek after him. He will apply himself to it as a business, just as men do for this world when they have earnest desires for a good which they believe is attainable. And still another way of the exercise of love to God is, in delighting in him, and finding satisfaction and happiness in him.; and this also tends to practice. He that really and sincerely delights more in God than in other things, and finds his satisfaction in God, will not forsake God for other things; and thus, by his conduct, he shows that he indeed is satisfied in him as his portion. And so it is in all cases. If we have had enjoyment in any possession whatever, and then afterward forsake it for something else, this is an evidence that we were not fully satisfied with it, and that we did not delight in it above all other things. In all these cases, the feelings and choices will be seen in the practice.
The demonstration of our faith in, heart’s affection for, and soul’s inclination toward God is seen in a high esteem for God, a choice of him above all other things, a desire after him, and delight and satisfaction in him. The evidence of these practices are, by virtue, a denial and forsaking of everything and everyone else.
According to Edwards, a believer’s faith in the gospel produces an affection for God that results in an abandoning and forsaking of sin and the pursuit of pleasure in anything other than God, and thereby produces a delighting, desiring, esteeming and choosing of God as a daily practice.