Holy Emotions or Just My Feelings?

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.

First Battle of the American Revolution

“The Separates” is the seventh segment in The Courage of Your Faith series. Alamance was a southern battle over taxes fought by mostly Baptist and Quaker farmers against the British supported governor. Unless you are from the south, you probably have not even heard about this battle or about the Regulators. In southern states in 1770, taxation was based on a set fee for land given to the settler. However, the governor could change it. And the tax collectors could extract more for themselves. Furthermore, taxes often had a way of disappearing once collected.

The Battle of Alamance (see pictures of the battlefield here) was fought in 1771 and is commemorated by a number of monuments in the field where, by some accounts, 3700 Regulators confronted Governor Tryon’s militia of 1500 men. The Regulators came to Alamance expecting the Governor to accede to their demands for fair taxation. When that did not happen and weapons were fired, most of the Quakers left; they hadn’t even brought guns. Baptists, on the other hand, came prepared for a hunt; they had guns but not enough rounds to finish a battle. In the end the Regulators lost. Dissatisfied and angry with England, farmers emigrated from the area, seeding the South with resentment toward the British and those that supported them.

See more at “The Courage of Your Faith,” this month featuring “The Separates.”

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