Sunday, January 01, 2012

Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions

At the beginning of every year, the word "resolution" becomes a popular topic of conversation. This year, of course, is no exception. Perhaps you have made resolutions in the past, or perhaps you are thinking of making one right now, regardless, I think you will benefit from reading a few of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions (Edwards was a Puritan who lived in 1700's Colonial America; he tends to be remembered most for his awe-inducing sermon Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God).

Edwards wrote his resolutions for his own private use, not to be published or visible to the public.1 He begins his list of resolutions with a short explanation:
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.
In this short sentence Edwards explains that he is making and keeping these resolutions for Christ's sake. Furthermore, he recognizes that he is powerless, unable to do anything without God's help.

What if whenever you made a resolution (regardless the time of year), you stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, and first made sure that you were making the resolution for the sake of Christ?

Always keep eternity and the glory to come in mind whenever you make a resolution. There's nothing wrong with resolving to follow a better diet or be more disciplined, but if none of your motivations are eternal in value, you are doing something wrong. Make sure your heart is right.

In the same way a treasure chest full of fool's gold is not very valuable, a resolution that aims only at earthly things may at first appear to have value, but will be found worthless in the end. Make sure to always aim for the true, golden resolutions that shine with the glimmer of eternity.

After Edwards' short explanation, he lists seventy resolutions. I've picked out a few of these resolutions that caught my attention and listed them below (if you want, you can read all of them here).

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yes violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
  1. ^ The Works Of Jonathan Edwards (1834) by Rogers, Dwight, and Hickman (page lxii).

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