Assurance Through Action
Because the soul is not only affected by the consideration of religious things, it must be remembered that the mere presence of affections does not prove the presence of true religion. Edwards listed various examples of affections which are neither proof of the presence of true religion nor proof of its absence.
Edwards argued that true religious affections arise only from those influences of the Spirit of God that are saving and not common. In other words, the Holy Spirit’s saving influences are not saving merely because they are to a high degree, but because they are of another kind. Therefore to have true assurance of salvation we must see to it that our affections arise from these influences of the Spirit that only true Christians can experience (for example, love for divine things for their inherent excellency, delight in the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things, &c.).
The supreme sign, according to Edwards, is seen when gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice:
“Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action…. Holy practice is as much the end of all that God does about his saints, as fruit is the end of all the hubandman does about the growth of his field or vineyard.”
My main critique of Edwards is that his entire schema gives rise to questions that simply did not seem to occur to Calvin, or more importantly, to Paul (questions like, “How do I know I believe?”). In fact, in my days as an Edwardsian I even began to wonder how Paul could make everything seem so simple.