Many during the excitement of the Awakening sang God’s praises, said the right things, knew the right doctrines, loved the saints, served God with zeal, joy, and assurance of their eternal destiny, and moved saints to tears with testimonies of God’s grace in their lives. To many, the combination gave undeniable proof of a saving work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of these fervent believers. Time, however, told another story. Despite the outward evidence, many such luminaries abandoned the faith when the excitement of the Awakening died down. According to Edwards, then, moving affections and testimonies are an uncertain sign of a true and saving work of God in the heart. But why?
To begin, God, alone, knows the heart of others: “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  “Men may have the knowledge of their own conversion: the knowledge that other men have of it is uncertain, because no man can look into the heart of another and see the workings of grace there.”  In fact, every “uncertain” sign can be displayed in abundance, with “a sweet natural tempter, and a good doctrinal knowledge of religion, and a long acquaintance with the saints’ way of talking, and of expressing their affections and experiences,” and “yet there be nothing more than the common influence of the Spirit of God, joined with the delusion of Satan and a wicked and deceitful heart.”  The most discerning saints can easily be misled by the outward religiosity of the most corrupt and deceived people.
The semblance of godliness “may appear in men who are altogether graceless,”  as not only seen by the unsure nature of the eleven “uncertain” signs, but as confirmed by the apostasy of “eminent saints.”
Be not offended if you see great cedars fall, stars fall from heaven, great professors die and decay: do not think they be all such: do not think that the elect shall fall. Truly, some are such that when they fall, one would think a man truly sanctified might fall away…. I speak this, because the Lord is shaking; and I look for great apostasies: for God is trying all His friends, through all the Christian world. In Germany what profession was there! Who would have thought it? The Lord, who delights to manifest that openly which was hid secretly, sends a sword and they fall. 
Edwards likened great “outpourings” of the Holy Spirit to “blossoms in the spring,” with “vast numbers of them upon the trees, which all look fair and promising; but yet many of them never come to anything.”  Every blossom emits a sweet aroma, but none can know which will bear fruit. How many people have you known who have made great professions of faith in Christ and have since abandoned the faith? Some things become clear with the passing of time. “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” (1 John 2:19).
Nonetheless, saints should delight in the testimony of people seemingly transformed by God’s grace in Christ, even while we cannot know for certain the speaker’s heart is right with God. Why? Because God’s children rejoice in God’s work. “A true saint greatly delights in holiness; it is a most beautiful thing in his eyes; and God’s work, in savingly renewing and making holy and happy, a poor, and before-perishing soul, appears to him a most glorious work.”  Our hearts should be touched.
For instance, some argued that because a testimony moves believers to love and tears, and the Holy Spirit produces Christian love, He must have caused the response of love. And, since He cannot lie and certainly knows who are His, the person giving the testimony must be a true Christian because the Holy Spirit would never be moved by a false testimony.
But, says Edwards, God requires us to love those we believe to be His children, even if God knows otherwise. He has not made us omniscient, but has given us His Word as the infallible rule by which to judge all things. “When there are many probable appearances of piety in others, it is the duty of the saints to receive them cordially into their charity, and to love them and rejoice in them, as their brethren in Christ Jesus.”  Therefore, “As we ought to love Christ to the utmost capacity of our nature, so it is our duty to love those who, we think, are so near and dear to Him as His members, with an exceeding dear affection, as Christ has loved us; and therefore it is sin in us not to love them so.” 
“It is the glorious prerogative of the omniscient God, as the great Searcher of hearts, to be able well to separate between sheep and goats.”  Even the Apostle Peter, in speaking of a well-known and highly respected co-worker with the Apostles, “pretends not to say any more concerning Silvanus, than that he was a faithful brother, as he supposed!” (1 Peter 5:12). 
Thus, with respect to the motives behind another’s credible profession of faith and service to Christ (absent false doctrine or flagrant sin), “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5). The Holy Spirit prompts believers to obey in all circumstances, even when He knows the catalyst is false. Edwards illustrates the point this way: If you were told your house had burned down but your family miraculously escaped unharmed, you would rightfully rejoice and thank God for their safety. To not respond with thankfulness to God at that time would have been sin, even if you later discovered the story to be false. 
God’s appointed means to judge others’ sincerity is spiritual fruit. Nowhere does God point to the leaves or blossoms of a tree as the evidence of its nature.  In the parable of the wheat and tares, Christ illustrates how difficult it can be to distinguish the true from the false (Matthew 13:24-30). Not until the wheat begins to bear fruit can the difference be seen.  Here, as with many things, God will bring to light the truth of the matter—in due time.
Next, at long last, we begin a look at what Edwards calls “distinguishing signs of truly gracious and holy affections,” or, the nature of a true and saving work of God on the heart.
 BT, 110; Yale, 181.
 Stoddard, A Treatise Concerning the Nature of Saving Conversion, quoted in BT, 110, footnote; Yale, 181, footnote 5.
 BT, 112; Yale, 183.
 BT, 111; Yale, 182.
 Shepard, Parable of the Ten Virgins, 190; quoted in BT, 111, footnote; Yale, 182, footnote 7.
 BT, 113-4; Yale, 184-5.
 BT, 113; Yale, 184.
 BT, 111; Yale, 182.
 BT, 116; Yale, 187-188.
 BT, 112; Yale, 183.
 BT, 118-119; Yale, 189-190.
 BT, 117; Yale, 188.
 BT, 113-114; Yale, 184-185.
 BT, 114-115; Yale, 185-186.
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