Happy new year! Because it is the first of the year, some of us think about writing resolutions, those things you write and are intent about keeping for a few weeks, and then life sets in.
Let’s go back in time to our friend Jonathan Edwards, because he wrote some resolutions. Seventy of them, from 1722 to 1723. At this time, Jonathan Edwards is nineteen years old, going on twenty. He’s completing his MA at Yale, while also doing a brief stint as a pastor of a Presbyterian church in New York City. This church meets by the wharf, and Edwards is there for only a few months. During this time, as he’s thinking about what he wants his life to be about, he does what he often would do: he writes. He writes these resolutions.
Edwards resolutions start with a preface. I think it’s very important that we remember this preface. He says, “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.”
There are three things I love in this preface. One is his recognition of his own weakness, and his own inability to keep these resolutions. And because of his own weakness, what does he do? He appeals to God’s help and God’s grace. So, second, he wants God’s grace to be at work at him. Third, he’s aware that what he’s thinking may not be God’s will, and he doesn’t want to bend God’s will to his. It’s the reverse. What an important preface. As we make our resolutions—as we strive for self-discipline and control over certain areas of our lives—remember that we need this foundation of grace.
Now let’s get into the resolutions.
Number one is this: “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and to my own good, profit and pleasure.” He adds, “Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.” His first resolution is to live a life that is for God’s glory and that will do the most good.
Edwards also has a resolution that has to do with time. Resolution five says, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” He resolves to squeeze every moment of the precious time that we have.
Some of these resolutions deal with Edwards’s struggle with sin, and his mortification of sin. Number fifty-six says, “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” He resolves to continue putting to death the old man, the sinful self, or, as Edwards would have learned from John Owen, “the mortification of sin.”
One of these resolutions has to do with his commitment to Scripture and to reading Scripture. In number twenty-eight Edwards writes, “Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.” He’s committing himself to study Scripture.
A number of these have to do with the tongue. One of them is my favorite, number thirty-six: “Resolved, never to speak evil of any except I have some particular good call for it.”
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Maybe you want read Edwards for some inspiration. And don’t forget the preface. It’s all by God’s grace, isn’t it?