Amidst graduate education at Yale and his first pastorate, a small Presbyterian congregation near modern-day Broad and Wall streets in New York City, the young Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) formulated a series of resolutions to underline his priorities and shape his future. Having committed to reading over the resolutions at least once a week, it is evident that these early spiritual virtues played a central role in shaping his character and life.1
Of the 70 resolutions here are some of the most striking:
“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.”
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
28. 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.
30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.
69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.
70. Let there by something of benevolence, in all that I speak.2
1 Stephen J. Nichols, “Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions and Advice to Young Converts, ed. Stephen J. Nichols (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001), 9.
2 Jonathan Edwards, “Resolutions,” in Letters and Personal Writings, vol. 16 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. George S. Claghorn (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 753-759.