Letter to a new convert
by Jonathan Edwards, 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 Godís people there.
1. I would advise you to keep up as great a 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;í whereas, if they had done as the
apostle did, (Phil. 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 people 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 Godís footstool; and that you may see the glory of God and
Christ, and may be raised from the dead, 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
death 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 out
of darkness into Godís 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
that, in other respects, 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 bond-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 renewed;
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 has 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
Lordís supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as
Mary Magdalen1 did; (Luke 7:37, 38.) 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 ointment
out of her pure broken alabaster box.
8. Remember, that pride is the worst viper that is in the
heart, the greatest disturber of the soulís peace, and of sweet communion
with Christ: it was the first sin committed, and lies lowest in the
foundation of Satanís 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.
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 a pledge pursuit after
renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of faith and love. One
new discovery of the glory of Christís 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 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; and when 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 religious meetings of young women
by yourselves, to be attended once in a while, besides the other meetings
that you attend, I should 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 is 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 religion on your account. How holily 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, and make you like the Lamb of God: be meek and lowly of
heart, and full of pure, heavenly, and humble love to all; abound in deeds
of love to others, and self-denial for others; and let there be in you a
disposition to account others better than yourself.
16. In all your course, walk with God, and follow Christ,
as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christís 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."
Particularly I would beg a special interest in your
prayers and the prayers of your Christian companions, both when you are
alone and when you are together, for your affectionate friend, who rejoices
over you and desires to be your servant.
In Jesus Christ,