Though he died at the relatively young age of 54, we can be thankful for the extensive written works left behind by this gifted intellectual and brilliant philosopher/theologian. This is especially true of his diaries, as they are a unique window into his soul.
Early in his life, at age 19 in the year 1722, he first drew up a short list of what we might today call "New Year’s Resolutions". These were added to at various times all throughout his lifetime, eventually totaling seventy resolutions in all.
I post an excerpt of these seventy resolutions here at the onset of a brand new year. I do this for two reasons. The first is to give both of us (you, the reader, and me, the writer) a glimpse into Edwards’ heart. The second reason is to inspire us, and perhaps also to motivate us to follow his example.
One can only imagine what sort of Christians we might be if we did. More to the point, one can only imagine the sort of impact we ourselves might have on the world around us, as indeed Edwards did in his world. As you read through them, therefore, seriously consider the outcome, the consequence, and the impact of a life lived out in compliance with just such a list of resolutions.
(Note: Spelling, grammar, and other aspects of the English language all change over time. The resolutions below are presented just as Edwards himself penned them.)
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.
Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration.
Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.
Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
Resolved, To be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
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.
Resolved, To strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher excercise of grace, than I was the week before.
Resolved, To ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.
Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722–3.
Resolved, Never hence-forward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.
Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.
Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.*
*SOURCE: Jonathan Edwards, as quoted in “Jonathan Edwards” Christian History Magazine (Issue 8, 1985) and posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1985/issue8/802.html.