“Whenever a change occurs in the religious opinions of a community, it is always preceded by a change in their religious feelings. The natural expression of the feelings of true piety is the doctrines of the Bible. As long as these feelings are retained, these doctrines will be retained; but should they be lost, the doctrines are either held for form sake or rejected, according to circumstance; and if the feelings again be called into life, the doctrines return as a matter of course.”
Charles Hodge, “Address to the Students of the Theological Seminary,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 5 (1829): 92.
Hodge is not asserting that feelings are more important than doctrine. He is observing that feelings tend to precede doctrine. If a church’s heart is tender and warm toward the Lord, that church will love the Bible as his Word and tend to stay on track theologically. But if a church’s heart cools toward the Lord or becomes simply distracted, that church will become doctrinally unstable. The heart works with such power that it creates inevitability in a church’s theological future, for good or ill.
There is a reason wise pastors work so hard to help their churches love the Lord, above all else.