In the Carolinas, with General Baptists on the frontier and Regular Baptists on the coast, different styles of worship evolved, especially concerning emotion. This difference in Baptist worship is seen even today. Some congregations love formality. 1 Corinthians 14 says that all things should be done for edification; worship should have an order to it. Too much emotion may lead seekers to think we are mad. On the other hand, other congregations see that the same passage talks about exercising our gifts in songs, teaching, and exhortation. Even in our music, we can see this divide. Some of us love lifting hands to praise songs. Others of us crave the teachings found in the formality of our hymns. So how do we know if our emotions, in either setting, are truly “Holy Affections” or if they are just our own feelings?
If we are satisfied merely with our feelings, we risk making our Self the object of our emotions. We “feel” good. But did the experience point us to our Lord and Savior, to the God of our creation? Feelings by themselves are not evidence of holy emotions. But, if the object of those emotions is God, then we are, at least in one aspect, in the realm of holy emotions. Edwards says that holy emotions are based in the “transcendentally excellent and amiable nature of divine things as they are in themselves and not any conceived relation they bear to self or self-interest.” [p 165]
One Labor Day, at an outside Baptist worship service, someone recited Isaiah 53, personalizing the phrases. As she read the passage, I heard inside me, “…surely Tom’s griefs He Himself bore, and Tom’s sorrows He carried….” In a new way, I saw God and what He did on the cross for me. With my eyes and heart focused on God, I let go a loud “Amen!” An older friend sitting next to me looked my way, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Did I just hear an amen from you!?” Holy emotion…? I like to think so.