As we begin a new year, people often look back and feel some remorse over how they spent their time, and the things they did or did not do, in the past year. As a result, many people make resolutions for a new year—a list of goals or practices they want to do in the new year. Often these goals have to do with eating better and exercising more, which are good things. And we would do well to start (or continue) activities that lead toward overall better health.
But as Christians, we have much more important goals we are to strive for. As the Apostle Paul told young Timothy: “… train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7–8). We are to train ourselves for godliness; we are to grow in grace; we are to do all things to the glory of God; we are to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven; we are to redeem our time and make the most of every opportunity. And what better time than the beginning of a new year to take inventory and make some decisions that could affect us and others for eternity.
As a young man—an 18 year old—Jonathan Edwards set down on paper a series of 70 thoughts and practices to help guide his life and cultivate his growth in grace. (See 2 Peter 3:18.) Edwards then re-read this list once a week to keep his mind focused and renewed. The result was a man of humble godliness who played a significant role in igniting one of the greatest revivals known to history—what’s called The Great Awakening. Even many secular scholars admit that Edwards was one of the greatest minds to be born on the North American continent.
The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards are still a practical and beneficial tool for spiritual cultivation. But one problem for many is that the early eighteenth century language makes it sometimes difficult to grasp what Edwards wrote. Dennis Griffith took it upon himself to translate Edwards’ meaning into more modern language in hope that some might read, understand, and use these resolutions who might otherwise feel discouraged by the archaic words.
It is my prayer that God will use these thoughts and resolutions of a godly young man nearly 300 years ago to propel us toward greater faithfulness, greater commitment, and greater usefulness for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722–1723)
Aware that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do pray that, by his grace, he will enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are in line with his will, and that they will honor Christ.
NOTE: Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
- Resolved: I will DO whatever I think will be most to God’s glory; and my own good, profit and pleasure, for as long as I live. I will do all these things without any consideration of the time they take. Resolved: to do whatever I understand to be my duty and will provide the most good and benefit to mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I encounter, and no matter how many I experience or how severe they may be.
- Resolved: I will continually endeavor to find new ways to practice and promote the things from Resolution 1.
- Resolved: If ever—really, whenever—I fail and fall and/or grow weary and dull; whenever I begin to neglect the keeping of any part of these Resolutions; I will repent of everything I can remember that I have violated or neglected … as soon as I come to my senses again.
- Resolved: Never to do anything, whether physically or spiritually, except what glorifies God. In fact, I resolve not only to this commitment, but I resolve not to even grieve and gripe about these things … if I can avoid it.
- Resolved: Never lose one moment of time; but seize the time to use it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
- Resolved: To live with all my might … while I do live.
- Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
- Resolved: To act, in all respects, both in speaking and doing, as if nobody had ever been as sinful as I am; and when I encounter sin in others, I will feel (at least in my own mind and heart) as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same weaknesses or failings as others. I will use the knowledge of their failings to promote nothing but humility—even shame—in myself. I will use awareness of their sinfulness and weakness only as an occasion to confess my own sins and misery to God.
- Resolved: To think much, on all occasions, about my own dying, and of the common things which are involved with and surround death.
- Resolved: When I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom—both of Jesus and of Believers around the world; and remind myself of the reality of hell.
- Resolved: When I think of any theological question to be resolved, I will immediately do whatever I can to solve it … if circumstances don’t hinder.
- Resolved: If I find myself taking delight in any gratification of pride or vanity, or on any other such empty virtue, I will immediately discard this gratification.
- Resolved: To be endeavoring to discover worthy objects of charity and liberality.
- Resolved: Never to do anything out of revenge.
- Resolved: Never to suffer the least emotions of anger about irrational beings.
- Resolved: Never to speak evil of anyone, except if it is necessary for some real good.
- Resolved: I will live in such a way, as I will wish I had done when I come to die.
- Resolved: To live, at all times, in those ways I think are best in me during my most spiritual moments and seasons—those times when I have clearest understanding of the gospel and awareness of the World that is to come.
- Resolved: Never to do anything, which I would be afraid to do if I expected it would not be more than an hour before I would hear the last trump sound. (i.e., when Jesus returns.)
- Resolved: To maintain the wisest and healthiest practices in my eating and drinking.
- Resolved: Never to do anything, which if I saw another do, I would consider a just reason to despise him for, or to think in any way lesser of him.
- Resolved: To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the world to come as I possibly can. To accomplish this I will use all the strength, power, vigor, and vehemence—even violence—I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
- Resolved: Frequently take some deliberate action—something out of the ordinary—and do it for the glory of God. Then I will trace my intention back and try to discern my real and deepest motive: What did I really desire out of it? If I find that my truest motive was not for God’s glory, then I consider it as a breach of the 4th Resolution. (See above)
- Resolved: Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, I will trace it back till I come to the original cause; and then I will carefully endeavor BOTH 1) to do so no more, AND 2) to fight and pray with all my might against the source of the original impulse.
- Resolved: To examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is that causes me to doubt of the love of God, even the least little bit; and then to direct all my forces against it.
- Resolved: To oust away anything I find that diminishes my assurance of God’s love and grace.
- Resolved: Never intentionally omit or neglect anything, except if such an omission would be for the glory of God. NOTE to Self: frequently examine anything I have omitted.
- Resolved: To study the Scriptures so steadily, and so constantly, and so frequently, that it becomes evident—even obvious—to myself that my knowledge of them has grown.
- Resolved: Never consider something a prayer, nor to let pass for a prayer, any petition that when making I cannot actually hope that God will answer; nor offer as a confession anything which I cannot hope God will accept.
- Resolved: To strive to my utmost every week to be brought to a higher spiritual place, and to a greater experience of grace, than I was the week before.
- Resolved: Never to say anything at all against anybody; except when to do so is perfectly consistent with the highest standards of Christian honor and love to mankind; and except when it is consistent with the sense of greatest humility and awareness of my own faults and failings. Then, whenever I have said anything against anyone, I will examine my words against the strictest test of the Golden Rule.
- Resolved: To be strictly and firmly faithful to whatever God entrusts to me. My hope is that the saying in Proverbs 20.6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be found to be even partly true of me.
- Resolved: Always do whatever I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, whenever it can be, but without over-balancing the value peace to such a degree that it becomes a detriment in other respects.
- Resolved: When telling stories, never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth.
- Resolved: Whenever I so much as question whether I have done my duty, to a point that my peace and tranquility is disturbed, I will stop and question myself until my concern is resolved.
- Resolved: Never to speak evil of anyone, except I have some particular good purpose for doing so.
- Resolved: To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, where I may have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and how I have denied myself. I will also do this at the end of every week, month, and year.
- Resolved: Never to speak anything that is ridiculous, trivial, or otherwise inappropriate on the Lord’s Day or Sabbath evening.
- Resolved: Never to do anything when the lawfulness is questionable. And then afterward, resolve to consider and examine whether or not whatever I have just done is truly lawful and/or whether whatever I have refrained from doing would have actually been permissible.
- Resolved: To inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.
- Resolved: To ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, where I could have possibly done better in any respect.
- Resolved: To frequently renew my dedication to God, which was first made at my baptism and which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have now solemnly re-made this [DATE] day of [MONTH], [YEAR].
- Resolved: Never, from this day until the day I die, act as if I were in any way my own, but entirely and altogether belong to God, and then live in a way agreeable to this reality.
- Resolved: That nothing other than the gospel shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, even in the very least circumstance, anything other than gospel declares, demands, and implies.
- Resolved: Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance, but what advances the gospel.
- Resolved: Never allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness about my father or mother. Resolved to never allow the effects of disappointment in them, or frustrations with them, to even in the very least alter what I say to them or about them, or any activity in reaction to them. Let me be careful about this, not only about my parents, but also with respect to any of our family.
- Resolved: To endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peace able, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so.
- Resolved: With the utmost niceness and diligence, and with the strictest scrutiny, constantly be looking into the state condition of my soul, so that I may know whether or not I have truly an interest in Christ at any given time. I will do this so that, when I come to my end in death, I will not have neglected to repent of anything I have found.
- Resolved: That Neglect never shall be, if I can help it.
- Resolved: I will act in such a way as I think I will judge to have been best and most prudent, when I have come into the future world—Heaven.
- Resolved: That I will act in every respect, as I think I would wish I had done, if in the end for some reason I would have be damned.
- I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again, so … Resolved: That I will live just as I can imagine I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
- Resolved: To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my eternal safety, knowing that my confidence is in my Redeemer.
- Resolved: Whenever I hear anything spoken in a conversation of any person, if I think what is said of that person would be praiseworthy in me, I will endeavor to imitate it.
- Resolved: To endeavor to my utmost to act as I can imagine I would if I had already seen all the happiness of heaven, as well as the torments of hell.
- Resolved: Never to give up, nor even slacken up, in my fight with my own corruptions, no matter how successful or unsuccessful I may be.
- Resolved: When I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done all I am expected to do, and resolve to do everything I am able to do. Once I have done all that God requires of me, I will accept whatever comes my way, and accept that it is just as God’s Providence has ordered it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my own duty and my own sin.
- Resolved: Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversations, but also to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and graciousness.
- Resolved: Whenever I am most conscious of feelings of ill nature, bad attitude, and/or anger, I will strive then the most to feel and act good-naturedly. At such times I know I may feel that to exhibit good nature might seem in some respects to be to my own immediate disadvantage, but I will nevertheless act in a way that is gracious, realizing that to do otherwise would be imprudent at other times (i.e. times when I am not feeling so irked).
- Resolved: Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of sorts, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within my own heart and/or soul, or the least irregularity in my behavior, I will immediately subject myself to the strictest examination. (i.e., Psalm 42:11)
- Resolved: I will not give way to that apathy and listlessness which I find artificially eases and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on God’s Grace. Whatever excuses I may have for it, whatever my listlessness inclines me to do, or rather whatever it inclines me to neglect doing, I will realize that it would actually be best for me to do these things.
- Resolved: Never to do anything but what God, by the Law of Love, requires me to do. And then, according to Ephesians 6.6–8, I must do it willingly and cheerfully as to the Lord, and not for man. I must remember that whatever good thing any man has or does he has first received from God; and that whenever a man is compelled by faith to act with love and charity toward others, especially those in need, that we do it as if to/for the Lord.
- On the hypothetical supposition that at any one time there was never to be but ONE individual in the world who was a genuine and complete Christian, who in all respects always demonstrated the Faith shining in its truest luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever angle and under whatever circumstance this Faith is viewed … Resolved: To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my strength, to be that ONE; and to live as if that ONE should live in my time and place.
- Resolved: Whenever I experience those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “longings” that consume our souls, of which the Psalmist speaks (Psalm 119:20), I will embrace them with everything I have within me. And I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to express my desires, nor of the repetitions so often necessary to express them and benefit from them.
- Resolved: To exercise myself in all my life long, with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires; and every thing in every circumstance.
- Resolved: I will endeavor always to keep a gracious demeanor, and air of acting and speaking in all places and in all companies, except if it should so happen that faithfulness requires otherwise.
- Resolved: After afflictions, to inquire in what ways I am now the better for having experienced them. What good have I received by them? What benefits and insights do I now have because of them?
- Resolved: To confess honestly to myself all that I find in myself—whether weakness or sin. And if it something that concerns my spiritual health, I will also confess the whole case to God, and implore him for all needed help.
- Resolved: Always to do that which I will wish I had done whenever I see others do it.
- Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.