Tuesdays with Edwards!
If you would not lose what you have heard, let the next thing you do be to practice. There are no truths of the word of God but what some way or other relate to practice, and have their proper improvement in life and behavior.
The Christian doctrine is a doctrine “according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3), and the end of the word is practice. And therefore the surest way not to lose the word, is immediately to put it in practice; because when we put the word in practice, we improve it to its proper purpose and end. And if we obtain the end of it, then we don’t lose it.
If you without delay put the word in practice, then you do as it were make sure of some benefit of it. The word of God is what we are apt to let slip; we are much exposed to have it stolen away. Therefore ’tis the prudent way to improver it now the first thing we do, while we are sure of it; as if a beggar has a price given him to purchase bread with, that is in danger of being stolen from him, ’tis his prudentest way to improve it forthwith, while he is sure of it.
There is nothing that nourishes and cherishes the word of God in the heart so much as practice: it fastens it in the memory. There is nothing that so much tends to keep alive any good effect that is had in the hearing.
If we delay the practice, and put it off till another time, this is almost a sure way to lose the word; for whilst we delay, the impressions die and vanish away.
Jonathan Edwards, “Hearing the Word, and Losing It,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738, ed. M.X. Lesser, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 19 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) page 50.