Well, here we are again, at the beginning of 2021, and quite naturally, the subject of New Year’s resolutions surfaces once again for many of us. Some of us old guys have long since tried to put the subject behind us, having made them, only to break most of them along the way. A simple internet search of the term New Year’s resolutions will yield a veritable plethora of ideas and articles, as well as tips on keeping them.
The practice of making of New Year’s resolutions has a long history, going all the way back to days of the Babylonian empire, and had to do with making promises to various gods. Participation rates, along with success and failure rates varies depends on whose survey you are using. I’m sure we all have stories about resolutions we’ve made through the years.
I’d like to set our personal experiences aside for now and talk about a set of resolutions crafted by a man who was perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace American soil. His name was Jonathan Edwards. I we know about him at all, it is probably in connection with a famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands a of an Angry God., and/or the first Great Awaking in 18th century America.
Edwards was born in 1703, the son of a Puritan minister in Connecticut. His mother was the daughter of a minister from Massachusetts. While he delighted in religious studies from a very young age, it was when he was in his late teen years, that he experienced a turning point in his spiritual quest. In the Spring of 1721 he wrote:
“I was brought to a new sense of things, to an inward sweet delight in God and divine things, quite different from anything I had ever experienced before. I began to have a new kind of apprehension and idea of Christ and the work of redemption and the glorious way of salvation by him.”
A year later he began writing a series of life resolutions he felt would greatly assist his spiritual growth in grace and God-centered living. The first 21 resolutions were crafted in a single sitting in 1722, which were added to at various times until, in August 1723 the list included 70 resolutions. He then read them once a week for the rest of his life.
Who among today’s evangelicals would take up a such a lifelong commitment? Some of us might even call it a legalistic attempt to please God. That would be an erroneous assumption. Edwards himself acknowledged who could provide him with the ability to keep his resolutions, including a short preface to the resolutions themselves:
“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.”
What follows is the list of resolutions, each one beginning with the word “Resolved.”, indicating a firm decision made with a soul deep gravity. Here are the first seven resolutions, to whet your appetite and arouse your interest.
1. 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 myriads 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 soever, and how great soever.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
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.
If you are considering your own resolutions for this new year, and to follow Jonathan Edwards’ example, let these three simple principles resolutions be your guide:
1. Let the glory of God be the ultimate goal of any resolution you make.
2. Consider resolutions that will last a life time instead of just a year.
3. Like Jonathan Edwards, draw from God’s strength
You can find a complete list of the seventy resolutions here (Jonathan Edwards: Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel.org).
Have a divinely blessed New Year!