When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
~ Matthew 13:19-22, Luke 8:13
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
~ John 6:66, 1 John 2:19
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
~ James 1:11, Matthew 7:26-27
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
~ 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 16:4, Amos 6:12, Romans 9:13, Matthew 7:23
Proposition: Sudden Conversions Are Very Often False, by Jonathan Edwards.
The following contains excerpts from his sermons on the Matthean Parables, Volume II: Divine Husbandman (On the Parable of the Sower and the Seed). Edwards preached these sermons in 1740 immediately following the visit of George Whitefield to Edwards’ church in Northampton, Massachusetts, in October of that year.
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
~ Matthew 13:3-7
Sudden conversions are very often false.
It is particularly remarked in the text, that the seed that was sown in stony places sprung up forthwith; and then the reason is given, viz., that they had no deepness of earth.
Which implies as much as that it is a more common thing for seed to spring up very suddenly, when it has not deepness of earth, than when it has. Seed that is sown upon a rock, where there is only a thin covering or sprinkling of earth, can’t sink in: for it must lie very near the surface of the ground, and therefore it will come up quick.
Seed that is buried at a suitable depth underground may be agrowing sometime before it appears above ground; but the seed that has so little earth can’t sprout long before it comes up.
Under this Proposition, I would, first, note two or three things for the right understanding of it; and second, give the reasons of it.
First. These two things may be noted for the right understanding of this Proposition
1. ‘Tis not intended but that all true conversion, as to the work itself, is wrought in a moment. ‘Tis ordinarily a considerable time before persons are converted: not after God has actually begun the work of conversion, but after persons are first awakened and put upon serious consideration of the state of their souls, of the misery of their present state, and of their necessity of a change, and after they first begin to seek the grace of God…
…At a time of an extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit, God is wont to go out of the usual course of his providence in many respects.
At other times, there are very few saved; but at such a time, great multitudes are brought home.
At other times, ’tis very rare that old sinners are converted: but at such a time, such are brought home. At other times, ’tis a rare thing that great men and rich men are brought home to Christ: but ’tis foretold that in the beginning of the glorious times of the church, there shall many rich men come in with their silver and gold, Is. 60:9; and that many kings shall be converted, v. 10 and v. 16; and so God also at such times goes out of the ordinary course of his providence in this respect, that then are many sudden, yet true, saving conversions.
Though this also must be noted concerning times of extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit, wherein multitudes are truly converted, viz., that there are many false conversions at such times. At the time when the householder goes forth to sow his good seed, then the enemy also goes forth to sow tares among the wheat. And at the time when the blade of the wheat springs up and brings forth fruit, then appears the tares also, as in the 25th and 26th verses of this 13th (chapter] of Matthew.
At the times when Christ has a great many converts appearing, the devil will have his amongst them. As of old, at the time when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them; and also, when in Egypt it was a time of the wonderful works of God, that it was also a time of the extraordinary working of the devil by the magicians, who by their enchantments mimicked the work of God.
And as in the glorious times that were in Solomon’s days, when his ships went to Ishir, they did not only buy gold and silver, and precious stones, but also apes and peacocks, I Kgs. 10:22; so the devil himself is transformed into an angel of light, II Cor. 11:14.
Extraordinary spiritual showers from heaven not only produce a great many true converts, but also is the occasion of a great many
22. MS: “any.”
hypocrites. As we see it commonly is in the time of a very great shower of rain in the summer, which causes the grass and good fruits of the earth to grow abundantly; there is wont to come a great many mushrooms, especially in a very rich and dungy soil. They are a thing of a sudden growth; they will come up in a night, but soon wither away with the drought; they won’t bear much of the heat of the sun. So ’tis observable, that as a great rain brings forward good fruits, so it brings a great many blasted fruits. So there were many false converts in that extraordinary time of the pouring out of the Spirit in the apostles’ days. The apostles in their epistles often mention them that after a little while turned away from the faith and followed after fables, many that forsook the assemblies of the saints, that went out from them, because they indeed were not of them (I John 2:19].
(2) There are particular exempt instances of sudden, and yet true, conversions in ordinary times. They are common in extraordinary times, and there are some such instances in ordinary times, though then they are not common but extraordinary instances. The time of Christ’s public ministry upon earth was no time of the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit of God, but on the contrary, was a very dull and dead time; but yet, there were some instances of sudden conversion that were true, as particularly the conversion of the woman of Samaria seems to have been so, and also some other of Christ’s disciples.
But in ordinary times, it commonly is otherwise.23 There is indeed in ordinary times a great deal of difference: some are much longer under convictions and travailing in the wilderness, before they are converted, than others. But commonly persons are sometime under awakening, and seeking conversion, before they are savingly brought home to Christ. But on the other hand, ’tis a common thing that false conversions are very sudden; they hear the Word, and anon that is immediately with joy received. False joy and comfort is very often suddenly received.
Second. I proceed to the reasons why sudden conversions are frequently false. The reasons seem to be principally these two:
1. Those that are suddenly comforted after first awakenings, han’t had time to learn by experience what they are. Indeed, God don’t need time to teach them: he can, if he pleases, make them sensible of their own blindness, wretchedness, and helplessness at once; he can show it them by his Word and Spirit, from that wickedness and folly they have been
23. MS: “otherwise true conversions Commonly are not There.”
God don’t stand in need of any means at all to accomplish his work in the soul. And when means are used, and never so proper means, and used never so thoroughly, and never so long, they will have no effect without God’s blessing, the power of his Holy Spirit with means; but yet, ’tis God’s manner to make use of means, and to work in men a conviction of their own wickedness and lost estate; ’tis his more usual manner to make use of this means, viz., men’s own experience of themselves under awakenings, and in a way of earnest seeking salvation. In that way, God convinces them of their exceeding sinfulness, and in this way God usually convinces them of their utter impotency, of the insufficiency of their own righteousness.
But those that are very suddenly comforted after they are first awakened, han’t had time for such experience of themselves, by the various workings of their own hearts, and by repeated trials, to help themselves by their own strength and righteousness. And therefore, oftentimes, it is so that the seed grows without deepness of earth. There is no deep and thorough sense of their own nothingness and wickedness. They han’t had time to dig deep, and, therefore, lay their foundation as it were on the top of the ground.
They han’t descended deep into their own hearts. They imagine it may be that they believe that Christ is sufficient to save them, and so fancy themselves to be true believers; whereas, if they saw how24 guilty they are, and what a doleful condition they are in, it may be they would be far from thinking Christ sufficient then to save them.25 He that don’t see his own wickedness and misery, has no trial whether he can believe Christ to be sufficient to deliver him. He that is not sensible of the vastness and tempestuousness of the ocean, may think a small and weak vessel sufficient to carry him over; but if he knew what the ocean was, would think far otherwise.
24. MS: “their Gu what Guilty m how Guilty they.”
25. MS: “him.”
2. They that very suddenly embrace Christianity, or seemingly do so, commonly do it without a thorough consideration of the cost of being Christians. Persons, when they begin to entertain thoughts of turning to God, that they may become Christians, should, before they allow any hope that they are Christians, or before they pretend to make such a profession, set themselves seriously to consider the straitness of the gate, and the narrowness of the way. They should thoroughly consider the difficulties of that which they have thoughts of engaging in: how much labour and self-denial and suffering a life of universal, persevering obedience to God’s commandments may be an occasion of. They should first seriously consider, what it is for them to sell all to obtain the pearl of great price; what it is for them to give up themselves to God without reserve; what it is to devote all their strength, and all that they have or hope for, and their whole lives, to the great business of religion. For want of this, there are many false Christians, there are multitudes that seem to embrace Christ, that Christ will never own another day; for want of this, many that seem to receive the Word with joy, have no deepness of earth.
When it is proposed to men to build a tower, they should sit down first and count the cost, and see whether they have sufficient to finish it, and not go about suddenly without any consideration: for that is the way to fail in the enterprise. When we hear that an army is coming forth against us, we should not rashly, without any consideration, go forth to encounter them, but should first sit down and consider the number and strength of the enemy, and what strength will be requisite on our part in order to resist them. Luke 14:31-32, “Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”
‘Tis true that men may get their conversion very soon and not be deceivers, as Jacob was, because God may bring it to them, as Jacob lyingly said [Gen. 27:36). God brought it to him; but more ordinarily, it is not so.
[Use] I. This doctrine should put such as look upon themselves to have been suddenly converted upon strictly examining their conversion, whether it be true or said in this, to endeavour to discourage all that have had a sudden or quick conversion. I have shown plainly from the Word of God that there are many such instances in extraordinary times, and some exempt instances in extraordinary times. Nor do I make any doubt but that there are some such here that are true converts.
But yet, what has been said doubtless may, and ought to, put all such persons as have received comfort and hope of their good estate, very quickly after they set out in seeking salvation, upon strict examination of their conversion. A sudden conversion may have good works and evidences of being true and real, but inquire whether yours has such evidences or no, and whether it has not the evidences of a false one.
If your conversion was sudden, yet if you had the following things, you may safely allow it:
First. If the ends of length of time are obtained. If that be so, that you are convinced of your exceeding sinfulness and unworthiness as you are in your[self]; if you see yourself to be all over polluted and abominable, and have that settled, abiding sense that you carry about with you, that you are utterly unworthy of any mercy, and that if God should behold you out of Christ, he might justly hate you, and cast (you) as abominable out of his sight: if such a sense as this accompanies your hope, 26 ’tis a good sign of your hope, whether it was a little while or a great one, before you obtained your hope.
Again, if you are convinced of the utter insufficiency of all your own righteousness, and are sensible that your best performances are as filthy rags, and know that nothing that you do is worthy of God’s acceptance, and have your dependence alone on free grace, and are one that is poor in spirit, that lives not upon your own stock but upon Christ alone; then the end of long convictions before conversion is obtained, and the suddenness of your conversion need to be no stumbling block with you with respect [to that).
So if you are convinced of your own utter helplesssness), and see what a poor, weak, impotent creature you are in yourself, the end of long experience of your helplessness before conversion is obtained.
If you have a conviction and sense of these things upon your heart, you need not be concerned about the manner how you came by such a sense, whether it was by being held a great while under trouble, and wandering long in the wilderness, or no.
Second. If your comfort han’t put an end to your striving, you need not be afraid of it, because you strove for salvation but a little while before you obtained it. There are some that strive but a little while before they have their hope, and strive not in religion at all after, unless it be just while that common affection holds, whence they take their hope, or while the newness of their supposed circumstances affects them.
When this is the case, ’tis to be feared whether that they are not some of those that anon with joy received the Word without root in themselves, and that their hearts are the stony ground in which the seed sprang up forthwith, because they have no deepness of earth.
But if your comfort been a flattering comfort—that which flatters corruption and is a pillow for your sloth—but upon experience of it, you find it stirs you to go on in religion, striving in it, since your supposed conversion, as well as before; this may justly encourage you to allow your hope that obtained before you had strove very long.
Third. If your sense of your own sinfulness and emptiness increases since you have received comfort, this may encourage you concerning it, though you had not any long experience of it before. There are some that know more of themselves a great deal after their conversion, than ever they did before. They see much of their own hearts. When they consider themselves, as they are in them[selves], they appear much more deformed and odious in their own sight than they did before; and they have a great deal more of a sense what poor, weak, blind, unstable, treacherous, empty creatures they are, than ever they were before their conversion. And the longer they live, the more and more does such a sense of themselves increase, and are less and less apt therefore to depend upon themselves.
When it is thus with a man’s hope, whether obtained suddenly or not, it is a very hopeful evidence of the goodness of his hope. Though he had not a great deal of time to know himself by experience, yet if his experience that he had now does more and more lead him into an acquaintance with himself, his hope has a contrary influence to that of a false hope. The nature of a false hope is strangely to put a stop to men’s convictions of their own badness. If they had some conviction of it before, while they were under trouble, a false hope will put a stop to it. They won’t learn no more of their own badness after their supposed conversion; on the contrary, they will lose what sense of it they had before, and will begin now to appear very good and lovely in their own eyes, and will be established in a very high thought of themselves.
Fourth. If you find that you are indeed come to a disposition to embrace religion with all its difficulties, the suddenness of your conversion need to be no stumbling to you. Though ordinarily men don’t come to this disposition without some considerable time of consideration, yet if upon experience you find you are come to it, ’tis no matter how you come by it. If you go on building the tower, though you find the work heavy and very costly, and find that you have a disposition to go through with all the burden and cost of it, ’tis no matter you took any great while to count the cost or no.
Men that go about the work suddenly and rashly, because they han’t counted the cost, commonly very suddenly leave off, when once they begin to find the cost of the undertaking. Very often that which is soon ripe is soon rotten; that which comes up in a night perishes in a night; as we see that seed on the rock that suddenly sprung up, suddenly wilted away too. But if this been your case, but you go on still, still holding your resolution to cleave to the Lord and do his work, still pressing forward in the way to heaven, ’tis no matter how suddenly the seed sprang up. But of this I would speak more particularly under another observation, and therefore shall insist no further on it now.
Use II may be Caution to those who have long been under trouble, not to conclude their conversion is true, merely from that. As sudden conversions may be true, so the conversion those that are very long seeking may be false. True conversion and long seeking are not necessarily connected together. Many of the children of Israel that long wandered in the wilderness never entered into Canaan. Persons may seek a great while and be long under trouble, and yet never be convinced of their own sinfulness and emptiness. Long experience of those things alone won’t do. There must be power of grace accompanying it.
Some are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth, but take up with the devil’s delusions and lies, instead of the truth, at last. If the end of a long wilderness travail is obtained in those that have been but a little while under trouble, and be not obtained in you that have been long under trouble, they are far better on’t than you.
Therefore, see whether those ends are obtained, whether you are brought to a thorough sense of sinfulness and emptiness, and whether you are indeed now, after halting so long a time between two opinions, brought wholly to renounce Baal, and to receive the Lord as your God, and to give up yourself to him without reserve, having a disposition to cleave to Christ through all difficulties and follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes.
OBSERVATION. That religion that arises only from superficial impressions, is wont to wither away from want of root when it comes to be tried by the difficulties of religion.
I would speak to this under several Propositions.
First [Prop.] Persons that have only superficial impressions, do oftentimes appear religious. The seed sown upon the stony ground made some impression, it sank in a little way, and there was some effect; there was a growth from the seed. And the growth, for what appears, was at first as fair as that which was in good ground; as the lamps of the foolish virgins, for aught appears, burnt as bright for a while as the lamps of the wise virgins. Those whose hearts remain hard as a rock may yet, from superficial impressions made by the Word, for a while be reformed: they may live morally, may avoid those wicked practices that they formerly used to indulge themselves in, and may be careful of their behaviour amongst men; they may make a fair profession, and put on a religious countenance, may appear serious and devout; and may join with the people of God, may seem to desire their company, as Judas was a great while a companion with the other disciples, and as Achitophel was a companion with David-see Ps. 55:13-14, “But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company”—and may seem to be much engaged for a while in religious duties, may be constant in secret prayer, and diligent and strict in attending on ordinances, forward for religious talk and frequent at private religious meetings; and may show a zeal against sin, and seem zealous for promoting religion…
…Second Prop. The religion of such as are only superficially impressed, is but temporary. The children of Israel had their hearts impressed in the wilderness…
…The difficulties that attend a being thoroughly and constantly religious are very many and various. There are many difficult duties to be attended, as well as easy. Some duties that are required are difficult to all men as they are by nature.
And there are some duties that are easy to some, that are very difficult to others by reason of their particular constitutions and natural tempers, or the particular circumstances. If men might have the liberty of picking and choosing among the commands, yea, if there were only that liberty given that every man might set aside some one particular command, it would be an abundantly easier thing for men to be Christian than it is now. But there is no such liberty given. Let men’s natural dispositions or their circumstances be what they will, every command must be obeyed.
And there are some seasons abundantly more difficult. They that pretend to be religious, if they live any time in the world, must expect to meet with difficult seasons. At some seasons it is comparatively easy to be religious; the stream seems to run that way. But there are other seasons wherein, if we would cleave to Christ and follow him, we must row against wind and tide. Commonly those that follow Christ at some times have [a] smooth, plain way, but they must not expect this always. They must expect to be lead through over rocks and mountains, and very difficult places.
And as there are difficult seasons, so there are difficult places and companies that the professors of religion at some times fall into, where it will be difficult being strictly religious.
The difficulties that attend religion are fitly in the text compared to the scorching heat of the sun. The beams of the sun are not always burning hot, when the seed that we sow in our fields first begins to grow; in the spring, the weather is temperate, and the sunbeams are very moderate. But if that growth continues a while, the sun will get up higher, and then it will shine down upon it with a vehement heat. All our seed must, first and last, stand the burning heat of the sun.
God is wont to order it in his providence, that every professor of religion should meet with difficulties; to try him, he will lay a stumbling block before them, as ’tis expressed in Ezek. 3:20…
…those great troubles that should arise after Christ’s resurrection, which should try men’s sincerity.
And those difficulties that attend religion, are doubtless also one thing intended by Christ in the latter end of the seventh chapter of Matthew, when he speaks there of the rain descending, and the winds blowing and floods coming, whereby the house is tried as to the strength of its foundation, whether it be built on a rock or on the sand.
If an house be built on never so weak a foundation, yet if there be never any wind, nor rain, nor flood, nor anything to bear hard upon it, the weakness of the foundation never will be discovered; the house will stand as well as if it were upon a rock. But storms and floods are the proper trial of the foundation, to prove whether it be a rock or sand bank [Matt. 7:24-27].
Again, the difficulties that attend religion are in Scripture often compared to the fire that tries the gold. ‘Tis a thing peculiar to that metal, wherein it differs from other metals, that [the more it is tried, the purer it becomes].
Therefore the fire is the proper trial which distinguishes that precious metal from all base metals, and from whatsoever has only the colour and outward appearance of gold. Some that are very much used to gold, may pretend to know it by colour; but the colour may be counterfeited in a great measure, or baser metals may be washed over with gold. But the fire is a sure trial that no false metal will bear. Let the colour be never so exactly counterfeited, yet the fire will show the difference. The difference between the religion of hypocrites and the sincere religion of true saints is represented by this, in Rev. 3:17-18. The hypocrite thinks he is rich, but his riches is not true gold; but the saint has gold tried in the fire, that which stands the fire, and therefore is evidently true gold. “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee,” says He,28 “to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.”
False professors are invited to come to Christ, that they may not only have a great deal of that that shines like gold, and so have an appearance of being rich, but that they may have that which stood the fire as gold, and so may be really rich. Christ gives true grace that will bear the test of difficulties and sufferings…
28. I.e., Christ.
…So Christ represents sincerity in religion by embracing religion with all its difficulties, setting down and counting the cost, and so embracing Christianity. So that ’tis manifest that, according to [the] Scripture notion of sincerity, sincerity consists very much in choosing Christ and our duty to him above all others. And then it is to be considered,
2. That when professors are tried with the difficulties of religion, then Christ and other things are set before them together for their actual and practical choice. Sincerity consists in choosing Christ before other things; and surely the proper trial, whether a man chooses Christ before other things, is to set both before him, to see which he will choose. If we had one of two things to offer to a child, and had a mind to be most certainly determined which the child chooses or prefers, or had rather have, we should bring forth those things and set them before the child, and see which he would actually take. Taking, in such a case, is the proper trial of choosing, especially if the child is tried often, and we see that from time to time it takes that and not the other. This is a more proper trial of the child’s real choice, than only asking the child which it chooses. When it don’t know that ’tis like to have the trial, the child’s saying that it likes such a thing best, is not such an evidence as seeing it actually prefers it, by taking one and refusing the other, when both are set before it.
Now when we meet with difficulties in our Christian course, then is the time when Christ and other things are actually set before us, to see which we will take. Times of difficulty in religion, are the times when our Christian and our worldly interest close and consist together; and therefore it must be so, in such cases, that one must be taken and the other left, because we can’t hold both: our taking in such a case is the proper trial of choosing.
It is a practical choosing, as much as when we offer bread to a beggar: his actually taking the bread we offer him, and eating of [it], is the proper manifestation of his accepting the offer, for it is itself a practical acceptance. The external act will follow the act of the will in such a case. So has God made man, that the will has the command of his actions; but the act of the will is the very acceptance itself. So that the act of the man in cleaving to Christ in cases of difficulty, or when his worldly profit, reputation, or ease, or pleasure, or friends, or life, stand in competition-I say, the act of the man in cleaving to Christ in such a case, so far as his act is the act of the soul, is properly the very act of accepting, choosing, or preferring Christ before those things, and therefore is the very thing…
….as it is said in Luke 8:5-6, the growth from the seed will wither away because it lacketh moisture.
Such men as have only superficial affections, when they set up for saints and seem to embrace religion, they don’t intend to hurt themselves. They are far from making any such bargain, as to agree to be religious at the cost of many and great difficulties. Their hearts are never weaned from the world enough for that.
They would be religious and would go to heaven, but not to be so cruel to their lusts as to crucify them. They have a mind to show mercy to Achan, and never are persuaded to be willing to burn him and his wife, and children and family, and all that he has (Josh. 7:24).
They may be reformed for a while, and may be very obedient; but when difficulties arise, there is an end to their obedience. And commonly it puts an end to their religious affections, their seeming love and zeal. They can be friends to Christ as long as he does well by them as to their temporal interest and natural inclinations, and spares them; but when he comes to require them to part with them, they are out with him and forsake him. They don’t feel such affections towards him as they used to do. And the manner of their religious failing is fitly called “withering away” in the text. For as the plants that wither by the scorching heat of the sun don’t dry at once, but decay by degrees till they are quite dead, so it commonly is with the religion of the stony-ground hearers when they meet with difficulties: their religion don’t cease at once, but by degrees. The first difficulties they meet with, they may bear pretty well; but as they grow more cold, they are more and more discouraged with their strictness, and begin to study for excuses and to find out arguments to justify their neglecting to do such and such a duty, and will plead that ’tis not their duty, and get more and more into that way, till they find out [a] way to shun everything in religion that has any great matter of difficulty in it, and so return by degrees to a carnal, wicked life.
Sixth Prop., and last. Their religion thus dies for want of rooting, which seems naturally to imply two things:
1. A thorough conviction of the understanding. This is the root or foundation of all religion. And when men are once thoroughly convinced of the truth and certainty of the great things of religion, and see their superior excellency to all things in this world, that will fix their hearts and settle their minds on religion, so that they won’t be easily overthrown. It will be like the deep rooting of a plant, that will uphold its growth under scorching heat. Yea, it will flourish the more for that heat of the sun, that dries up the plants that have no root. No wonder that those that never were thoroughly convinced of the truth and certainty of the great things of religion, are very unstable in religion; their religion wants a foundation to stand on. If they han’t a thorough conviction of understanding, ’tis not to be expected that the will should be steady.
2. A change of nature. Whatever affections a man may have, yet if his nature been changed, there is no rooting; his affections are like green leaves without root, that will presently wither.
A new nature is a root that will abide and will afford supplies for a constant, persevering obedience. If the nature of the swine been changed, he will return to the mire, let him be washed never so clean. If he has his old swinish nature still, it will return to the mire; but if he [is] turned into another sort of creature, and has a new nature, the nature of some cleanly creature, then it will not return to the mire. ‘Tis the new nature or grace in the heart that is the oil in the vessel that will keep the lamp from going out; and so it is the root of the ground that will keep the plant from withering and drying up.29
In the improvement of this Doctrine, I would apply myself,
I. To those that [are) now setting out in seeking their salvation. There are—blessed be God!—some amongst us, that have lately been in…
29. This marks the end of the first preaching unit of No. 5. JE notes, “Application must be reserved to some other opportunity” At the beginning of the next preaching unit, he summarizes the text, Doctrine, and major points covered thus far (here edited for readability):
…Matt. 13:6, “And when the sun was up they were scorched and because they had not root they withered away.”
That religion that arises only from superficial impression is wont to wither away for won’t of root when it comes to be tried by the difficulties of religion.
First. Persons that have only superficial impressions do oftentimes appear religious:
Second. But temporary. Third. There are many difficulties. Fourth. Are the proper trial. Fifth. Is wont to fall away. Sixth. For want of root…
…some measure awakened, and are beginning to make that inquiry, What shall I do to be saved?
The Exhortation I would give to such is to count the cost, or fully to consider the difficulties of being thoroughly and steadfastly religious. You have heard that there are many difficulties that do attend a being thoroughly religious and continuing strictly in it. If it be so, ’tis best that you should be aware of it now, in the beginning; ’tis best, when any are going about any piece of work, that they should be sensible of the difficulties of it when they first begin.
How many have set out to seek heaven, and have been something awakened and concerned for their salvation, as you are, and have seemed to be something engaged for a while, that afterwards, when they have come to find the difficulty of continuing, finally in it have grown discouraged and have failed? And many of them through that means have perished, when, if they had held on and been willing to go through the difficulties, they might have been saved. O, what a pity it is that it should be thus! Now you are something awakened; now God’s Spirit is in some measure striving with you, and you have begun to seek salvation, and have a good opportunity to obtain. What a pity it is that you should fail of it, and after you have sought a while fall back and sink down into the dreadful pit, for want of pressing forward through the difficulties of religion. The reason why many that set out soon fail, is because they don’t consider what they are going about; they enter upon the business without considering the difficulties that attend it, and so been prepared for them.
There are some now in this congregation that formerly began as you now do: they were concerned and they sought a while, and intended to get salvation, but since that they have backslidden, and returned to their vomit and wallowing in the mire. And let their own consciences speak and declare whether this was not the case; whether when they set out, it was not without any expectation of, or preparation for, the difficulties of a constant striving for salvation to the end of their lives, without any expectation of any occasion for it; whether or no they did not enter upon the business, hoping soon to get through with it, and so being in great measure done with the labour and toil of it. Therefore, I would warn you that are now setting out, to avoid those rocks upon which others have split, now you are going about a great piece of work…
…convert, is made willing to be at the difficulty of a laborious, thorough, constant, perpetual seeking and serving God as long as he lives. He that hasn’t such a heart as this, is no true convert.
Therefore, if you would be successful in seeking heaven, this is the way for you now, to think of the difficulties and come to a determination whether you will comply with them or not. If you will, in all probability you will obtain; if you been willing, ’tis not worth your while to pretend anything at all.