Jonathan Edwards’ Advice to Young Converts

Last night I found myself enjoying a classic Edwards letter – one to Ms. Deborah Hatheway, that eventually was distributed and is popularly termed ‘Advice to Young Converts‘ (Ms. Hatheway was a recent convert).  I thought you all might also enjoy taking a scan through this wonderful letter.

One thing that I love about Edwards is his ability to list off several very very practical ways of applying the principles of the Gospel of our everyday lives.  In his writing, he is intensely concerned with living a holy life.  I hope and pray that this short foray into the writings of Edwards will delight you, and cause you to search out the deeper things of Christ.  If you are interested in reading more of Edwards’ work, Yale has setup an online collection that is pretty comprehensive and can be found here.

Here below is the copy of that letter…

To Deborah Hatheway in Suffield.

A Copy of a Letter Sent to Deborah Hatheway a young woman belonging to Suffield; by the Revd Mr Edwards of Northampton.

Northampton June 3d AD 1741.

Dear Child, as you desired me to Send you in writing Some Directions, how to behave your Self in your Christian Course, I would now Answer your request. The remembrance of the Great things I have lately Seen at Suffield, and the Dear affection for those Persons, I have there Conversed with, that give good Evidences of a Saving work of God upon their hearts Inclines me to do any thing that lies in my power, to Contribute to the Spiritual Joy and Prosperity of Gods people there; and what I write to you, I would also Say to other young women there, that are your friends and Companions and the Children of God; & therefore Desire you would Communicate as you have opportunity.

1. I would advise you to keep up as Great a Strife and earnestness in Religion in all parts of it, as you wou’d do if you knew your Self to be in a State of Nature, and was Seeking Conversion. We advise persons under Convictions to be earnest, & violent for the kingdom of heaven, but when they have attained to Conversion they ought not to be less watchfull laborious and earnest in the whole work of Religion, but the more; for they are under infinitely greater obligations. for want of this many Persons in a few months after their Conversion have begun to loose the Sweet and lively Sence of things, & to grow Cold and flat and dark, & have pierced themselves thrô with many Sorrows, whereas if they had done as the Apostle did Phil: 3. 12 13 14 their path would have been as the Shining light, that Shines more & more unto the perfect Day.

2. Dont leave off Seeking Striving & praying for the Same things that we exhort unconverted persons to Strive for: & a degree of which you have had in Conversion. Thus pray that your Eyes may be open’d, that you may receive your Sight, that you may know your Self, & be bro’t to Gods foot, & that you may see the Glory of God & Christ & may be raised from the Dead: & have the Love of Christ Shed abroad in your heart, for those that have most of these things, had ned Still to pray for them: for there is So much blindness & hardness & Death Remaining, that they Still need to have that work of God wrought upon them further to enlighten & enliven them; that Shall be a bringing out of Darkness into Gods marvellous light. And a kind of new Conversion & Resurrection from the Dead. There are very few requests that are proper for a natural person, but that in Some Sense are proper for the Godly.

3. When you hear Sermons hear them for your Self: tho what is Spoken in them may be more especially Directed to the unconverted, or to those that in other respects are in different Circumstances from your Self. Yet let the Chief intent of your mind be, to Consider with your Self, in what respects is this that I hear Spoken, Applicable to me & what Improvement ought I to make of this for my own Souls good.

4. Thô God has forgiven & forgotten your past Sins, yet don’t forget them your Self: Often remember what a wretched bond Slave you was in Egypt, often bring to mind your particular acts of Sin before Conversion, as the Blessed Apostle Paul is often mentioning, his old blaspheming & persecuting & injuriousness, to the renewed humbling of his heart & acknowledging that he was the least of the Apostles, & not worthy to be called an Apostle, & the least of all Saints, & the Chief of all Sinners: and be often in Confessing your old Sins to God & let that text be often in your mind Ezek: 16 63. That thou mayest remember & be Confounded & never open thy mouth any more because of thy Shame when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done Saith the Lord God.

5. Remember that you have more cause a thousand times to lament & humble your Self for Sins that have been Since Conversion than before, because of the infinitely greater Obligations that are upon you to live to God. And look upon the faithfulness of marginal Christ, in unchangeably Continuing his loving favour, & the unspeakable & Saving fruits of his everlasting love, notwithstanding all your Great unworthiness Since your Conversion, to be as wonderfull as his Grace in Converting you.

6. Be greatly abased for your remaining Sin, & never think that you lie low enough for it but yet dont be at all discouraged or disheartned by it. For thô we are exceeding Sinfull yet we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous, the preciousness of whose blood, & the merit of whose righteousness & the Greatness of whose love & faithfulness does infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our Sins.

7. When you engage in the Duty of Prayer or Come to the Sacrament of the Lords Supper or attend any other Duty of Divine worship, Come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did Luke 7. 37 38. Come & Cast your Self down at his feet & kiss ’em, and pour forth upon him the perfumed ointment of Divine love, out of a pure & broken heart, as She pour out her precious ointment out of her pure alabaster broken box.

8. Remember that Pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the Greatest Disturber of the Souls peace & Sweet Communion with Christ, was the first Sin that ever was, & lies lowest in the foundation of Satans whole building, & is most Difficultly rooted out, & is the most hidden Secret & Deceitfull of all Lusts, & often Creeps in insensibly into the midst of Religion & Sometimes under the Disguise of Humility.

9. That you may pass a good Judgment of the frames that you are in, always look upon those the best Discourses, and the best Comforts, that have most of these two effects viz: those that make you lest, lowest, & most like a little Child, & Secondly, Those that do most engage & fix your heart in a full & firm Disposition to Deny your Self for God, & to Spend & be Spent for him.

10. If at any time you fall into any Doubt about the State of your Soul, under darkness & Dull frames of mind, tis proper to look over past Experience, but yet Dont Consume too much of your time & Strength in poring & puzling thoughts about old Experiences, that in Dull frames appear Dim & are very much out of Sight, at lest as to that which is the Cream & life & Sweetness of them: But rather apply your Self with all your might, to an earnest pursuit after renewed Experiences, New light, & new lively acts of faith & love. One new Discovery of the Glory of Christs face & the fountain of his Sweet grace & love will do more towards Scattering Clouds of Darkness & Doubting, in one minute: than Examining old experiences by the best mark that Can be given; a whole year.

11. When the Exercise of grace is at a low ebb, & Corruption prevails, & by that means fear prevails, Don’t desire to have fear Cast out any other way, than by the reviving & prevailing of love, for tis not agreable to the Method of Gods wise dispensations that it Should be Cast out any other way; for when love is asleep, the Saints need fear to restrain them from Sin & therefore it is So ordered, that at Such times fear Comes upon them, & that more or less as love Sinks. But when love is lively exercise, persons don’t need fear, & the prevailing of love in the heart, naturally tends to Cast out fear, as darkness in a room vanishes away as you let more & more of the pleasant beams of the Sun into it 1 John. 4 18.

12. You ought to be much in Exhorting & Counselling & warning others, especially at Such a Day as this: Heb: 10 25. & I would advise you especially, to be much in exhorting Children & young women your Equals, & when you exhort others that are men, I would advise you that you take opportunities for it, Chiefly when you are alone with them, or when only young persons are present. See 1 Tim: 2. 9, 11, 12.

13. When you Counsel & warn others, do it earnestly, affectionately & thoroughly. And when you are Speaking to your Equals, let your warnings be intermixed with Expressions of your Sense of your own unworthiness, & of the Sovereign grace that makes you differ, & if you Can with a good Conscience, Say how that you in your Self are more unworthy than they.

14. If you would Set up religious meetings of young women by your Selves, to be attended once marginal in a while, besides the other meetings that you attend I Should think it would be very proper & profitable.

15. Under Special Difficulties, or when in great need of or great longings after any particular mercies, for your Self or others; Set apart a Day of Secret fasting and Prayer alone; & let the Day be Spent not only in petitions for the mercies Desired, but in Searching your heart, & looking over your past life, & Confessing your Sins before God not as is wont to be done in Publick Prayer, but by a very particular rehearsal before God, of the Sins of your past life from your Childhood hitherto, before & after Conversion, with particular Circumstances & aggravations, also, very particularly & fully as possible, Spreading all the all the abominations of your heart before him.

16. Don’t let the adversaries of Religion have it to Say, that these Converts Don’t Carry themselves any better than others. See Mat: 5.47 What do ye more than others; how holily Should the Children of God, & the Redeemed & the beloved of the Son of God behave themselves, therefore walk as a Child of the light & of the Day & adorn the Doctrine of God your Saviour; & particularly be much in these things, that especially be Called Christian virtues, & make you like the Saints of God; be meek & lowly of heart & full of a pure heavenly & humble love to all & abound in deeds of love to others, & Self-denial for others, & let there be in your disposition to account others better than your Self.

17. Don’t talk of things of Religion & matters of Experience with an air of lightness and laughter which is too much the manner in many Places.

18. In all your Course, walk with God & follow Christ as a little poor helpless Child, taking hold of Christs hand, keeping your Eye on the mark of the wound on his hands & Side, whence came the blood that Cleanses you from Sin & hiding your nakedness under the Skirt of the white Shining Robe of his Righteousness.

19. Pray much for the Church of God & especially that he would Carry on his Glorious work that he has now begun; & be much in Prayer for the Ministers of Christ, & particularly I would beg a Special interest in your Prayers, & the Prayers of your Christian Companions, both when your alone & when you are together for your affectionate friend, that Rejoyces over you, & desires to be your Servant In Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards


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