Making a resolution for 2007? Before you do, check out the resolutions of one of America's most celebrated pastors. Eric Reed shares with us Jonathan Edwards' effective resolutions.
Jonathan Edwards was a serious man. Even at 19, the young man who would become a leading figure in the First Great Awakening took his faith seriously. In several sittings over a one-year period, Edwards drafted 70 resolutions by which he governed his life and ministry.
For such a young man, he wrote a life's code that was amazingly well-rounded. He addressed personal spiritual growth and physical temperance, and matters of attitude, behavior, and relationship. Edwards wanted to live as if he had "already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments."
He pledged that he would "never speak anything but the pure and simple verity." "Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak." In a pledge that he would speak evil of no one, Edwards added the caveat, "except I have some particular good call for it."
Some might say Edwards was too serious. Although not in the Resolutions, his pledge to spend 13 hours a day in the study of Scripture isolated him from his congregation, and indulged his solitary nature and his tendency to melancholy. Some in his congregation complained about his absence from their daily lives - they were accustomed to the regular rounds of most parsons - but they could not complain about his moral integrity or his commitment to the pulpit. Edwards reviewed his code of ethics weekly, and subjected himself to rigorous spiritual examination.
His commitment "towards making, maintaining, establishing, and preserving peace" was ultimately tested when, after 23 years of ministry among them, Edwards was terminated by his congregation on account of a nasty doctrinal disagreement.
One of the most devout pastors in American history, and one of our greatest theologians, was canned. Even so, he stayed on and filled the pulpit, until the church called a replacement.
Edwards later took the pulpit of a tiny frontier church. He pastored there six years, a productive period for Edwards the writer, until he was called as president of Princeton University.
Edwards served but six months, felled by a smallpox vaccination at age 54.
Let's consider a few of the resolutions that guided Edward's ministry:
Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God's help, I do humbly intreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake.
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.
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.
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
Resolved, To be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise Him for, or to think any way the more meanly of Him.
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.