We come to the final sign of a true work of God in the heart of a believer, what Edwards considers “the chief of all the signs of grace”—Christian practice. As the net effect, or that which flows from the preceding eleven distinguishing signs, a holy life constitutes the best evidence of true faith in those professing faith in Christ, both outwardly to observers and inwardly to one’s own conscience. 
True Christians obey Scripture. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” and “we know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 3:3, 5:18). 
For Edwards, Christian practice includes positive acts of obedience to God’s Word in service and charity, and the obedience of abstaining from wickedness and things contrary to the commands of God. Behavior fitting of the Gospel involves more than a life of moral respectability. It includes a
serious, religious, devout, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, respectful, condescending, benevolent, merciful, charitable and beneficent walk and conversation. Without such things a these, he does not obey the laws of Christ, laws that He and His apostles did abundantly insist on as of the greatest importance and necessity. 
When Christ returns to judge the earth, He will separate the sheep from the goats according to the presence or absence of love displayed in good works toward Him. To the sheep, He will say, “I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me,” for, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Bearing the marks of love to Christ, the sheep shall enter into eternal life, while goats lacking such love are banished “into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:35-6, 46 NAS).
Edwards never advocates salvation by the good works of fallen sinners. On the contrary, the context of the Edwards’ argument here, and consistently throughout Religious Affections, presents evidence of a redeemed heart, the heart transformed by grace and saving faith in Christ. Christ, alone, met God’s just requirement of perfect obedience for eternal life. Christ, alone, met the standard of perfect righteousness and paid the required penalty for disobedience by bearing for us the weight of God’s wrath on the cross. Believers stand justified before God by the imputed righteousness of Christ, alone. At the same time, as Edwards argues throughout the treatise, the Spirit of God gives new life and produces Christian works in every justified believer.
Service to Christ is no halfhearted enterprise in second or third place behind worldly pursuits. Christ stands as the believer’s greatest love and first priority. Indeed, He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:13-14). Our diligence, then, increases assurance and hope. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11-12 NAS). True faith in Christ will “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). In Christ’s parable of the talents, the servants who used their master’s talents to produce more were rewarded, while the “unprofitable” servant who did nothing with his talent was thrown into “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:14-30). 
A true zeal for obedience and Christian works endures. Many enthusiastic participants in the Great Awakening, however, lost an apparent love for God when the heat and excitement of the awakening died down and the social benefits of associating oneself with Christ dwindled. Some cut and ran after the next promising venture. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:12-13).
Every true believer echoes the cry of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68 NAS). Thus, every saint perseveres from a love to Christ, despite the opposition. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22). “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God…. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Heb. 3:12, 14 NAS).
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul (Heb. 10:35-39 NAS).
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2:26-27). 
All true believers stumble in many ways, sometimes badly. But, those justified and transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit will not fall into a continual dislike and disregard of serving Christ. Jesus remains the saint’s ultimate object of love and trust.”  Therefore, “let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10 NAS).
Next up: Why gracious affections produce Christian works.
Scriptures marked NAS are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
 BT, 326-7; Yale, 406.
 BT, 309-10; Yale, 384-7.
 BT, 310; Yale, 386-7.
 BT, 310-12; Yale, 387-8.
 BT, 312-3; Yale, 388-9.
 BT, 313; Yale, 390.
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