The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Besides wishing readers a Happy New Year, I want to share some thoughts about how to approach the year to come, based on some thoughts penned by someone who lived in the USA three hundred years ago. According to Wikipedia: “Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a revivalist preacher, philosopher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Like most of the Puritans, he held to the Reformed theology”. He is a man I particularly admire, and one aspect of his work I would like to consider here.

edwards

As we approach the end of another year, it is normal to look back at the year just past and to look forward to the year that is to come. For most of us, there is a mixture of good and bad memories but generally to then take stock and move on. It is customary for some to produce New Year resolutions but many having tried and failed within a short time to keep them, no longer make this their practice. As I reflect in this manner, I consider something I wrote two years ago, when referring to two of my heroes: Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Edwards, when it came to their practice regarding such matters. As I looked at my own resolutions, my verdict is they still apply; while progress has been made, I could still do better.

As I pondered the resolutions of Edwards, which he wrote as a young man and updated periodically, my first thought was, even among earnest Christian types, I can think of few who would see things quite the same as he did and partly because of the culture, that call to seriousness, discipline and duty someone like Edwards responded to is not one made much of, sadly, these days. He came up with seventy resolutions.  While a few I might be inclined to dismiss, the majority have merit and I am happy to commend them.

His preamble begins “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. Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week”. The first of his resolutions reads: “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever”.

As I reflect on the year past, I am grateful God is good and he is so patient, and that I have the privilege to be able to serve him. In the year to come, I want to embrace what is ahead fully confident that the Lord will help me, and do what Edwards resolved to do: honour the Lord. I end by quoting from the blog I posted two years ago, which referred to a book telling my story, I wrote prior to that. Much still applies but I could add: “continue to blog on things that matter and preach the gospel in season and out of season“. I could also add what I agreed with Mrs B – not to get irritated! There are other things I would like to do, like sail round the world, but the nobler part in me wants to make a difference in the short time I have left.

When I wrote “Outside the Camp“, some three years ago, I came up with ten resolutions I was intent on keeping.

  1. Honour God.
  2. Organize my affairs.
  3. Take care of my family.
  4. Complete a book started fifteen years ago, based on the Song of Solomon.
  5. Engage in the public square about what is right and what should happen.
  6. Pass on what I know about community to those who might do most good.
  7. Help my church and other churches respond to issues raised in this book.
  8. Champion the causes of homeless folk and asylum seekers.
  9. Take a wider (national / international) view regarding community activism.
  10. Tie up loose ends regarding my activities in the community thus far.
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