70 Effective Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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.

December 26, 2006

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments

mike rucker

January 03, 2007  4:34pm

gary - if you click on my name below you can go to my blog and get my email address and we can swap thoughts there. i'm not convinced doctrine is important to God. we construct doctrine from the Bible, yet the Bible only really got into human hands in the last couple of centuries - and even then, primarily into Western hands. define "saved", and we can continue. 99% of the definition today means heaven vs hell - and if the hell is a fiery hell of eternal pain and suffering, i'd argue that it should be 100%. but the church isn't frantically working to get the gospel in front of the thousands and thousands of people dying every day, so i can only conclude that they are pretending. like they say, the first step is admitting that one has a problem - in this case, a bogus doctrine that wastes energy, time and money. and puts needless guilt on people for not "witnessing" or "sharing Jesus" enough with their friends and family. the "good news" is still good news without having to sell bad news first.

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Gary Smitham

January 02, 2007  11:40pm

Mike, why should anyone ignore you...you need to be reminded that doctrine is important to God...and that we should aim for both right & light. What do you mean by "pretending to save"? Do you not believe in the need for us to be saved, rescued from sin?

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mike rucker

January 02, 2007  8:35pm

i found a piece of paper on the floor. it said, "the statement on the other side is false." i flipped it over. it said, "the statement on the other side is true." do we teach doctrines because they are true, or are they true because they are doctrines? is the problem that the bible is testimony to itself? or is the problem ours for making it the lone witness at the trial? maybe the current "Reimagining Evangelism" post will shed some light. this doctrine - that every man is born into sin, and condemned to a fiery hell unless at some point in his life he says he believes certain things are true - is the focus of evangelism today. that's what we've reduced the gospel to. a check-box. an ID card. a secret handshake. a mark on the...forehead? everything that isn't focused on delivering an individual from hell is just noise. "good news"?

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Ian Gould

January 02, 2007  2:48pm

Mike, did you have any specific doctrines in mind that you consider pointless, or just doctrine in general? Last time I looked, we were commanded to watch our life and our doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16). I find that no doctrine is pointless, as it all shapes me and my perspective and world-view. Jonathan Edwards was very strong on doctrine, and his resolutions show, I think, that he was serious about modelling his life (and that of his listeners/members) after Jesus. I'm being greatly challenged and inspired by this man's life. He wasn't perfect, but then neither was any biblical character with the exception of Jesus.

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Doug Murphy

December 31, 2006  9:36am

Great Post, We should all take these resolutions to heart. Jonathan Edwards is awesome.

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December 29, 2006  2:07pm

Great stuff. I found these a year ago and put them in our church bulletin. It sure shows how times have changed. All resolutions now are about losing weight, getting a better job, or at best, maybe reading our Bible more. Interesting resolutions from on interesting man.

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Pastor M

December 29, 2006  11:06am

Who can quibble with what you've recorded from Edwards? I would note that I see nothing here about serving others or being part of the body of Christ with other believers. I shudder to say this about one whom I hold in high regard, but this seems to be "all about me." Were there other resolutions that speak about serving others?

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mike rucker

December 28, 2006  1:50pm

an excellent read; the full list can be found at http://www.reformed.org/documents/Edwards/index.htmlmainframe=/documents/Edwards/j_edwards_resolutions.html. strangely enough, he said nothing about sharing the gospel to save men from an eternal burning punishment in hell. one would think that, if he really thought people were headed there, he would have said something...? rather, it seems he wanted to live as Jesus did, knowing that Christianity, like AA, is a "program of attraction rather than promotion." a selfish am-I-saved evangelism to pretend to save people from a fiery eternity is the biggest waste of time and money in Christendom today. if the church simply chose to focus on the first coming, and model its members' lives after Jesus, it wouldn't need to worry about a second coming and pointless doctrines. my resolution for 2007 is to get the church out of its corner where it seems content to be "right", and get it back in the world where it can again be "light." happy new year. and, no, ignoring me won't make me go away...

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Geoff Baggett

December 27, 2006  12:05pm

I like this one: "Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life." This makes me think about the precious nature of time. Indeed, how many precious moments do we sacrifice in front of our televisions or computers, or in many of the other countless ways that we manage to waste the numbered minutes of our lives? I think I'll go spend some time with my girls. :) http://geoffbaggett.wordpress.com

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