This important treatise was published in 1746, after the events of the Great Awakening had caused Edwards to put much thought and labor into describing the nature of religious experience. He begins with a defining question: "What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God? … What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?"
As with much of his theological writing, Edwards starts with the "natural" in human beings and proceeds to God. He begins with the heart as the seat of the affections, but distinguishes between "religious" emotions and genuine spirituality. He discusses signs that the affections are "gracious" – that is, which are rooted in God's presence and in accordance with His holiness. The treatise adopts the familiar 3-part structure, moving from the human psyche to the Spirit of God at work in the believer's heart.
NOTE: The Works of Jonathan Edwards are part of the PC Study Bible Version 5 and OneTouch Libraries.