Jonathan Edwards' resolutions - The untold sequel

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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I had listened to lectures on Jonathan Edwards by Matthew Everhard, and the resolutions were central. The resolutions themselves are for the most part excellent aspirations. What amazed me is the untold story of those resolutions--namely, that Edwards gave up on them. He penned the first ones in December 1721, but was possibly done with them by August 1723.

Edwards kept a diary, which he began at the same time, to track his own spiritual progress according to those resolutions.

A month later in January 1722, Edwards writes:

“The last week I was sunk so low, that I fear it will be a long time before I am recovered. I fell exceedingly low in the weekly account. I find my heart so deceitful, that I am almost discouraged from making any more resolutions. — Wherein have I been negligent in the week past; and how could I have done better, to help the dreadful low estate in which I am sunk?”

There is nothing about his resolutions in Edwards' journal after August 1723, and even that project began to taper off, until in 1735 he wrote his last entry. Even before then, there were gaps of months and years between entries.

In 1740, Edwards writes to another minister with a clear allusion to his resolutions:

“I had an eager thirsting after progress in these things; which put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife, day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and a disciple of Christ. I now sought an increase of grace and holiness, and a holy life, with much more earnestness than ever I sought grace before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness than ever I pursued any thing in my life; but yet with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit there was in my heart. However, I went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ.”

The resolutions are in the most part excellent and high aspirations; but it helps to remember that men like Edwards were made of dust and ashes, and to remember they may have a much different view on their own acts and strivings and attainments than we or the biographers do.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I had listened to lectures on Jonathan Edwards by Matthew Everhard, and the resolutions were central. The resolutions themselves are for the most part excellent aspirations. What amazed me is the untold story of those resolutions--namely, that Edwards gave up on them. He penned the first ones in December 1721, but was possibly done with them by August 1723.

Edwards kept a diary, which he began at the same time, to track his own spiritual progress according to those resolutions.

A month later in January 1722, Edwards writes:

“The last week I was sunk so low, that I fear it will be a long time before I am recovered. I fell exceedingly low in the weekly account. I find my heart so deceitful, that I am almost discouraged from making any more resolutions. — Wherein have I been negligent in the week past; and how could I have done better, to help the dreadful low estate in which I am sunk?”

There is nothing about his resolutions in Edwards' journal after August 1723, and even that project began to taper off, until in 1735 he wrote his last entry. Even before then, there were gaps of months and years between entries.

In 1740, Edwards writes to another minister with a clear allusion to his resolutions:

“I had an eager thirsting after progress in these things; which put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife, day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and a disciple of Christ. I now sought an increase of grace and holiness, and a holy life, with much more earnestness than ever I sought grace before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness than ever I pursued any thing in my life; but yet with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit there was in my heart. However, I went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ.”

The resolutions are in the most part excellent and high aspirations; but it helps to remember that men like Edwards were made of dust and ashes, and to remember they may have a much different view on their own acts and strivings and attainments than we or the biographers do.
John Newton would describe Edwards' resolutions as typical of a "Type A" Christian - full of enthusiasm to serve the Lord but not yet aware of the depths of their own heart's sinfulness, a view it seems that Edwards came to share. Newton notes that there is a peculiar beauty in the young believer's zeal, and we need not be in a rush to hurry them on to the next stage of Christian maturity - the Holy Spirit will do that humbling and deepening work in his own time - but alongside the zeal there is often a censorious and legalistic spirit. Mature Christians may regret the loss of that early zeal, even while they appreciate the stability and groundedness that longer walking with God brings. See his three letters "Grace in the Blade", "Grace in the Ear", and "Grace in the full corn" in "The Select Letters of John Newton" (also available online). They are pure gold for understanding the process of sanctification (as are the other letters in that book).
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
John Newton would describe Edwards' resolutions as typical of a "Type A" Christian - full of enthusiasm to serve the Lord but not yet aware of the depths of their own heart's sinfulness, a view it seems that Edwards came to share. Newton notes that there is a peculiar beauty in the young believer's zeal, and we need not be in a rush to hurry them on to the next stage of Christian maturity - the Holy Spirit will do that humbling and deepening work in his own time - but alongside the zeal there is often a censorious and legalistic spirit. Mature Christians may regret the loss of that early zeal, even while they appreciate the stability and groundedness that longer walking with God brings. See his three letters "Grace in the Blade", "Grace in the Ear", and "Grace in the full corn" in "The Select Letters of John Newton" (also available online). They are pure gold for understanding the process of sanctification (as are the other letters in that book).

I appreciate the recommendations from Newton, and I am going to read them.

What you say is true. There's not two better words to describe the first stage of my own spiritual life. What's chilling about it, is how right it seemed at the time.

But praise God, the reality was there.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
In one of his letters, Newton compares the young believer to an unripe nectarine. We don't find fault in it for not being ripe: we say to ourselves, a little more sun, a few more rain showers and it will be ripe. I'm not always as patient as Newton with the immaturity of young believers, but I hope to learn from him.
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Junior
This is awesome. I'm sure I'll refer back to this post later for future use. Thank you so much for this insight.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It would seem that if Edwards were alive today, he'd have his resolutions and milestones on a spreadsheet. I don't know how healthy that is for the long term and that his seeming fadeout with the project was that very insight.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
It would seem that if Edwards were alive today, he'd have his resolutions and milestones on a spreadsheet. I don't know how healthy that is for the long term and that his seeming fadeout with the project was that very insight.

Apparently Edwards was always running out of paper; so maybe by mercy he didn't have Excel when authoring the resolutions.
 
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