Directions how to
conduct yourself in your Christian course
(A letter by Jonathan Edwards, addressed to a young lady
in the year 1741)
My dear young friend,
As you desired me to send you, in writing, some
directions how to conduct yourself in your Christian course, I would now
answer your request. The sweet remembrance of the great things I have lately
seen at your church, inclines me to do anything in my power, to contribute
to the spiritual joy and prosperity of God's people there.
1. I would advise you to keep up as great an effort and
earnestness in religion, as if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature,
and were seeking conversion. We advise people under conviction, to be
earnest and violent for the kingdom of heaven; but when they have attained
to conversion, they ought not to be the less watchful, laborious, and
earnest, in the whole work of religion, but the more so; for they are under
infinitely greater obligations. For lack of this, many people, in a few
months after their conversion, have begun to lose their sweet and lively
sense of spiritual things, and to grow cold and dark, and have 'pierced
themselves through with many sorrows;' whereas, if they had done as the
apostle did, (Philippians 3:12-14) their path would have been 'as the
shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day.'
2. Do not leave off seeking, striving, and praying for
the very same things that we exhort unconverted persons to strive for, and a
degree of which you have had already in conversion. Pray that your eyes may
be opened, that you may receive sight, that you may know yourself, and be
brought to God's footstool; and that you may see the glory of God and
Christ, and have the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart. Those who
have most of these things, have need still to pray for them; for there is so
much blindness and hardness, pride and corruption remaining, that they still
need to have that work of God wrought upon them, further to enlighten and
enliven them, that shall be bringing them more and more out of darkness into
God's marvelous light, and be a kind of new conversion and resurrection from
the dead. There are very few requests that are proper for an impenitent man,
that are not also, in some sense, proper for the godly.
3. When you hear a sermon, hear for yourself. Though what
is spoken may be more especially directed to the unconverted, or to those
who, in other respect, are in different circumstances from yourself; yet,
let the chief intent of your mind be to consider, 'In what respect is this
applicable to me? and what improvement ought I to make of this, for my own
4. Though God has forgiven and forgotten your past sins,
yet do not forget them yourself: often remember, what a wretched slave you
were in the land of Egypt. Often bring to mind your particular acts of sin
before conversion; as the blessed apostle Paul is often mentioning his old
blaspheming, persecuting spirit, and his injuriousness to the godly;
humbling his heart, and acknowledging that he was 'the least of the
apostles,' and not worthy 'to be called an apostle,' and the 'least of all
saints,' and the 'chief of sinners.' And be often confessing your old sins
to God, and let that text be often in your mind, (Ezekiel 16:63.) 'that you
may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more, because
of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you have done,
says the Lord God.'
5. Remember, that you have more cause, on some accounts,
a thousand times, to lament and humble yourself for sins that have been
committed since conversion, than before; because of the infinitely greater
obligations that are upon you to live to God, and to look upon the
faithfulness of Christ, in unchangeably continuing his loving-kindness,
notwithstanding all your great unworthiness since your conversion.
6. Be always greatly abased for your remaining sin, and
never think that you lie low enough for it; but yet be not discouraged or
disheartened by it; for, though we are exceeding sinful, yet we have an
Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; the preciousness of
whose blood, the merit of whose righteousness, and the greatness of whose
love and faithfulness, infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our sins!
7. When you engage in the duty of prayer, or come to the
Lord's supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship—come to Christ
as Mary Magdalene did! Come, and cast yourself at His feet, and kiss
them, and pour forth upon Him the sweet perfumed ointment of divine love,
out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured the precious perfume out of
her pure broken alabaster jar! "There was a woman who was a notorious sinner
in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's home,
she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at His feet behind Him. She
was crying and began to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her
hair. Then she kissed His feet over and over again, anointing them
constantly with the perfume." (Luke 7:37-38)
8. Remember that pride is the worst viper that is
in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul's peace, and of sweet
communion with Christ: it was the first sin committed, and lies lowest in
the foundation of Satan's whole building, and is with the greatest
difficulty rooted out, and is the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all
lusts, and often creeps insensibly into the midst of religion, even,
sometimes, under the disguise of humility itself. "To fear the Lord is to
hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech."
9. That you may pass a correct judgment concerning
yourself, always look upon those as the best discoveries, and the best
comforts, that have most of these two effects: those that make you least and
lowest, and most like a child; and those that most engage and fix your
heart, in a full and firm disposition to deny yourself for God, and to spend
and be spent for him.
10. If at any time you fall into doubts about the state
of your soul, in dark and dull frames of mind—it is proper to review your
past experience; but do not consume too much time and strength in this way.
Rather apply yourself, with all your might, to an earnest pursuit after
renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of faith and love. One
new discovery of the glory of Christ's face will do more toward scattering
clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining old experience, by the best
marks that can be given, through a whole year.
11. When the exercise of grace is low, and corruption
prevails, and by that means fear prevails; do not desire to have fear cast
out any other way, than by the reviving and prevailing of love to God in the
heart. By this, fear will be effectually expelled, as darkness in a room
vanishes away, when the pleasant beams of the sun are let into it.
12. When you counsel and warn others do it earnestly, and
affectionately, and thoroughly. Remember that you are speaking to your
equals—let your warnings be intermixed with expressions of your sense of
your own unworthiness, and of the sovereign grace that makes you differ.
13. If you would set up pious meetings of young women by
yourselves, to be attended once in a while, besides the other meetings that
you attend, I would think it would be very proper and profitable.
14. Under special difficulties, or when in great need of,
or great longings after, any particular mercy, for yourself or others—set
apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by yourself alone; and let the day
be spent, not only in petitions for the mercies you desire, but in searching
your heart, and in looking over your past life, and confessing your sins
before God—not as it accustomed to be done in public prayer, but by a very
particular rehearsal before God of the sins of your past life, from your
childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with the circumstances and
aggravations attending them, and spreading all the abominations of your
heart very particularly, and fully as possible, before him.
15. Do not let the adversaries of the cross have occasion
to reproach true religion on your account. How holy should the children of
God, the redeemed and the beloved of the Son of God, behave themselves!
Therefore, 'walk as children of the light, and of the day,' and 'adorn the
doctrine of God your Savior.' And especially, abound in what are called the
Christian virtues—which make you like the Lamb of God. Be meek and humble of
heart, and full of pure, heavenly, and humble love to all. Abound in deeds
of love to others, and self-denial for others. Let there be in you a
disposition to account others better than yourself.
16. In all your daily living, walk with God, and follow
Christ, as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ's hand,
keeping your eye on the marks of the wounds in his hands and side, whence
came the blood that cleanses you from sin, and hiding your nakedness under
the skirt of the white shining robes of his righteousness.
17. Pray much for the ministers and the church of God;
especially, that he would carry on his glorious work which he has now begun,
until the world shall be full of his glory.