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"REV. AND Dear Sir,
"Northampton, June 9, 1741.
"The special occasion of my now writing to you, is a desire I have of two things; one is, that you and your brother Pomeroy would go to Scantic, in my father's parish, and preach there, as of ten as the people will be willing to hear you, and continue so doing, as long as the concerns of your own parishes will allow of your being absent. You know the wretched circumstances of that society; and, if ever they are healed, I believe it must be by a reviving and prevailing of true religion among them. By all that I can understand, they are wholly dead, in this extraordinary day of God's gracious visitation. You have lately been so remarkably blessed elsewhere, that I cannot but hope you would have success there also. I have written to my father, to inform him, that I have desired this of you.
"Another thing that I desire of you is, that you would come up hither and help us, both you and Mr. Pomeroy. There has been a reviving of religion among us of late: but your labours have been much more remarkably blessed than mine. Other ministers, I have heard, have shut up their pulpits against you; but here I engage you shall find one open. May God send you hither, with the like blessing as he has sent you to some other places; and may your coming be a means to humble me, for my barrenness and unprofitableness, and a means of my instruction and enlivening. I want an opportunity to concert measures with you, for the advancement of the kingdom and glory of our Redeemer. Please to communicate what I write to Mr. Pomeroy, and give my service to him. I desire the prayers of you both, that God will give me more of that holy spirit, and happy success, with which you are replenished. "I am Dear Sir, your unworthy brother and fellow labourer, JONATHAN EDWARDS."
As very few of Mr. Edwards's letters to his own family are preserved, it is proper to give those few to the reader, even when they are not otherwise interesting, in order to exhibit his true character, as an affectionate and faithful christian father. The following was addressed to his eldest daughter, in her thirteenth year, while residing with her aunt, Mrs. Huntington, at Lebanon.
"To Miss Sarah Edwards, Lebanon.
"MY DEAR CHILD,
Northampton, June 25th, 1741.
"Your mother has received two letters from you, since you went away. We rejoice to hear of your welfare, and of the flourishing state of religion in Lebanon. I hope you will well improve the great
advantage, God is thereby putting into your hands, for the good of your own soul. You have very weak and infirm health, and I am afraid are always like to have; and it may be, are not to be longlived; and while you do live, are not like to enjoy so much of the comforts of this life, as others do, by reason of your want of health; and therefore, if you have no better portion, will be miserable indeed. But, if your soul prospers, you will be a happy, blessed person, whatever becomes of your body. I wish you much of the presence of Christ, and of communion with him, and that you might live so as to give him honour, in the place where you are, by an amiable behaviour towards all.
"Your mother would have you go on with your work, if you can, and she would be glad if your aunt would set you to work something of hers, though you do but little in a day. She would have you send word by Mr. Wheelock, who I suppose will come up the next week, or the week after, whether you are well enough to make lace if you are, she will send you a lace and bobbins.
"The flourishing of religion in this town, and in these parts of the country, has rather increased since you went away. Your mother joins with me in giving her love to you, and to your uncle and aunt. Your sisters give their love to you, and their duty to them. The whole family is glad, when we hear from you. Recommending you to the continual care and mercy of heaven, I remain your loving father,
Some time in the course of the year, a young lady, residing at S―, in Connecticut, who had lately made a public profession of religion, requeste Mr. Edwards to give her some advice, as to the best manner of maintaining a religious life. In reply, he addressed to her the following letter; which will be found eminently useful, to all persons just entering on the christian course.
Letter addressed to a Young Lady at S, Conn. in the year
"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 S, inclines me to do any thing 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 a strife and carnestness in religion, as if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature, and were seeking conversion. We advise persons 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 want of this, many persons, 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, (Phil. iii. 12—14,) their path would have been "as the shining light, that 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 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 God's marvellous 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 soul's good?"
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, (Ezek. xvi. 63,)" that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and 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, 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 Magdalen* did; (Luke vii. 37, 38;) come, and east 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 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.
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 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.
*This is a very common mistake. The woman here mentioned was not Mary Magdalen.
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 wont 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, 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 Saviour;" 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 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, till the world shall be full of his glory."
About this period, a considerable number of lay members of the church began, in various parts of New England, to hold religious meetings, and to preach and exhort in the manner of clergymen. They were usually men of worth, and desirous of doing good; but having much zeal, and little knowledge, and often but little discretion, the church, at that period, had certainly very little reason to rejoice in their labours. The following letter of the Rev. Gilbert