Since I had a basic knowledge of Edwards and his influence on American Christianity, and because I have an intense curiosity of history and the intertwining of cause, effect, and influence, I figured this would be a cross-exercise in biography and the birth of American Christianity. It has been all of that, and more, yet I am sensing that Edwards, over 255 years removed, is becoming more and more present in every moment.
The Pursuit of Holiness
Jonathan Edwards was born alongside the 18th century – in 1703 – and, while not a Puritan in the truest sense, should be counted as one who promoted and lived out Puritan theology. Edwards fully believed in the sovereignty of God in all things, and sought to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” He spent his life working out his sanctification, seeking a purity, a holiness that is unusual. In essence, Edwards sought to live for Christ’s sake, and he called others to do that.
Not only was he serious in his pursuit of holiness, but he was a thinker, as well. Edwards was well-read in the writings and research of Isaac Newton and others, and he was thrilled to read, among other philosophers, John Locke. He agreed with Locke in that, to know something truly, one must experience it. In one of his early sermons, “A Spiritual Understanding of Divine Things,” Edwards observes, “It is not he that has heard a long description of the sweetness of honey that can be said to have the greatest understanding of it, but he that has tasted.”
At the age of 19, as Edwards was finishing Yale College (1722), he began to write his Resolutions, work that took almost a year to complete. By the time he had finished, Edwards had written 70 resolutions, statements that he endeavored to review daily, weekly, and monthly. These were not just casual guidelines that he hoped to follow, but were, instead, goals that had spiritual and theological purpose of directing him toward a godly, purposeful sanctification for the sake of Christ.
Edwards wanted to live a holy life, as directed in Scripture, so he resolved to do it in these 70 statements.
According to Steven Lawson, in The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, the different Resolutions can be placed into one of six categories. I’ll list the categories with an accompanying example, but if you’d like to read the entire 70 statements, go here.
1. Pursuing the glory of God.
1 Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, 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, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
2. Forsaking sin.
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.
3. Making proper use of God-allotted time.
5 Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
4. Living with all His being for the Lord.
6 Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.
5. Pursuing humility and love.
13 Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.
6. Making frequent self-examination.
25 Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.
An Example for Us to Follow
I’ve challenged my class to write their own resolutions. Of course, I’m doing it, too. I can say that as I’ve started the process (I’ve completed 11 resolutions), it has caused deep self-examination of where I am in my sanctification. It has caused me, too, to look back on the day and find much for which to ask forgiveness, while giving me pause as I go throughout the day to pursue holiness.
I encourage you to begin your own list of resolutions to help you work out your sanctification – for Christ’s sake and for the glory of God.