In this short sermon prepared and addressed to the Stockbridge Indians, Edwards utilizes Psalm 1:3 – “He shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water.” The doctrine is set forth at the beginning of the sermon:
Christ is to the heart of a true saint like a river to the roots of a tree that is planted by it.
Edwards explains his doctrine with five short propositional statements.
- As the waters of a river run easily and freely, so the love of Christ.
- Christ is like a river in the great plenty and abundance of his love and grace.
- Waters of a river don’t fail; [it] flows constantly, day and night.
- A tree planted [by a river] is never [dry]: so Christ is never [exhausted].
- [Water] refreshes; so [Christ] refreshes and satisfies [the heart], and makes it rejoice.
In a brief application, Edwards challenges the Indians of Stockbridge with two concluding thoughts:
- Examine whether you are a true saint.
- If you are not in Christ, though you may be like green trees, yet by and by you will wither.
In a short sermon (unusual for Edwards), he demonstrates a remarkable ability to contextualize the gospel for his audience. The sermon is filled with imagery that his audience would have immediately grasped. These images are employed for the sole purpose of introducing people to the Savior. The final exhortation ends abruptly. But Edwards obviously wants this final thought to lodge in the hearts and minds of his hearers – “All your streams will fail you.”