Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 3

Part 3: Promoting God’s Glory in Ministry and Personal Life (Resolutions 2-4)

Even in these early stages of thinking on Edwards’ Resolutions, I find that I cannot speak for Edwards himself. His thoughts and writing come from a different era, cultureI cannot enter into the spirit of his mind. I might be able to read the output of his thoughts, and thereby, draw much from them of the man and for my own soul. But I cannot see his soul or spirit like I could his body. Only Edwards’ own spirit can know the essence of Edwards’ thought (2 Corinthians 2:11) – and of course, God who knew them before he had them. But I am grateful that he has given them and that God has retained them for us all in His providence, that we might be encouraged by them. I write all that to write this – I can only comment on what I hope to be in some accordance with the original meaning and purpose of his soul, and beyond that, I will write only with regards to my own reflections upon his words, attempting to add for you any biblical insight that I am inclined to see reflected in Edwards’ Resolutions. With that set forth, let us comment on resolutions 2, 3, and 4.

Resolution #2: Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the fore-mentioned things.

I take this to mean that he intended to be tireless in endeavoring in those things that most glorified God and pleased Him, which glorification obviously implies that advantage for his own soul and that of others. In terms of Gospel endeavor, it seems that he was of the mind to always be finding points of reference with men to advance it; and since contrivances and inventions are intended to make difficult tasks more simple (though not without mature thinking), it appears that he intended by such inventions to make plain the glory of God in Christ to men so as to win some. But this resolve is relative to personal life also. For how does one promote the glory of God and the profit of souls without an intimate striving after holiness and satisfaction in Him who is most satisfying? By endeavoring in these inventions and contrivances, I find an echo of Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ (apostolic shorthand for the Gospel), and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” By contrivances, we may also talk of keeping oneself out of situations in which our fleshly desires are sure to meet that attractive temptation out which wedding comes sin. By inventions, let us know ourselves and stay ahead of ourselves with the help of God’s Spirit that by purity and growth in restraint we might not give ourselves occasion to sin – this is most glorifying to God and most beneficial for us and our witness to that greatest need in others. But positively, it is a call (having put off sin) to be satisfied in God and to contrive of ways in which to do this: take a walk with God as Edwards often did in the woods for prayer; in the ways that we might think of spending time with our wives, let us think likewise towards God. With the pslamist let us pant for God and so endeavor to be satisfied in Him: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you (ah, there it is – he is earnest in his invention for seeking); my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you…so I have looked for you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory…(and you want to talk about contrivances and inventions?)…My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,” Psalm 63:1, 2, and 5.

Resolution #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.

Here we find encouragement to have our own biblical resolutions – personal accountability, that accountability with ourselves. By writing such resolutions that are the outpouring of our souls, we will in reading them be confronted with ourselves, and with that soulish resolve. Therefore, we will be reminded and held accountable, and if we have forsaken a resolve that was in accord with the Bible, then we will immediately repent of every shortcoming that He brings to mind. It is a thing worth noting that our initial repentance towards God results in an inward principle of repentance by which we continually repent towards God so long as we live. Sometimes it is comforting to know that Paul battled sin, or that Edwards battled sin, or that any modern spiritual hero battles with sin, so we are assured to have examples of them who overcame them in Christ in our own battles. How this is a humbling thing – our resolutions are often greater than our obedience! Let us then cling to Christ, and thank God for Him who was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin! Allow me to leave this resolution with a practical thought:

Have you ever awakened (as I often do) without the slightest inclination to pursue those things that most glorify God and are most to your spiritual advantage? Yes! But we should not be surprised or angry at God for this seeing He is the One who supplies even our daily rations of faith. For if we arise in complacency, it is because we have awakened in ourselves, and thus, it ought to be our humble plea to God for mercy and grace that day! It is an amazing meditation – our absolute dependency upon God!

Resolution #4: Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

When we think of soul, we think of mind or will, or the immaterial aspect of our person. When we think of body, we think of our substance or matter. The resolve then seems to be never to do any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, never to be any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, and never to suffer any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice that does not serve the glory of God. Positively, in thought and deed, principle and practice, affection and activity, will and work, our chief attendance is to the glory of God. What an example of right striving! Let every aspect of our person be fueled by and funneled towards the glory of God. Since, in Edwards thought, and in my own, God’s greatest passion is His own glory, this resolve is a resolve to will and work in accordance with God. So he sets his sights on God’s glory and aims to let nothing detour him from attaining his resolve. May God help us also to propose to our own souls and bodies a like proposal to join with God in glorifying Him.

Confession and Resolution. I have often put myself in situations that I know are not ideal for glorifying God or profiting another, much less my own soul, and this in outright defiance of God’s convicting Spirit. Resolved, to pursue personal and biblical creativity, sensitivity, and accountability in life and ministry chiefly aimed at maintaing my witness, advancing the Gospel, and agreeing with my Lord in promoting and attending to, with unceasing fervency, the Glory of God.

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