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Jonathan Edwards: Resolved

Jonathan Edwards is considered one of the greatest theologians and philosophers in American history. He was a Puritan preacher of colonial times, playing a big role in the First Great Awakening (1730s – 1740s). Edwards’ most famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is the second most published sermon in human history (the first is the Bible’s Sermon on the Mount). This sermon is studied in American high schools to this day. Ultimately, Edwards was known as a man with an eternal perspective, living truly after God’s own heart.

Between the years 1722 and 1723, while he was completing his schooling and ministry training, 19-year-old Jonathan Edwards wrote out his famous Resolutions by which he would strive to live by—according to God’s will and grace—unto the glory of God.

His Resolutions were not intended as a form of pseudo-legalism, which some later critics accused him of. This could not be more evident in the preface, in which he wrote:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing 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.”

Today, I want to highlight his first Resolution. It is by far my favorite.

Resolution #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.

This first resolution set the tone for Jonathan Edwards’ life. He recited all 70 resolutions at least once every week, beginning with this one. It paves a defined path for each of the resolutions following it. Let’s look at it, phrase by phrase.

“Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God…”

Edwards resolved to honor and glorify God with all his might, preeminently. The glory of God was his chief aim. Nothing topped it. So what exactly do we mean by the glory of God? That is an important question. We talk about it often, don’t we? The glory of God is the sum total of all God’s divine attributes and His perfect holiness. It is His infinite beauty and worth—the revelation of all that He is. He has an intrinsic glory which cannot be added to, nor can it be taken from. From eternity past, it remains unchanging. He… is… just… wonderfully… GLORIOUS. Is He not? In addition to this intrinsic glory that God alone bears, there is also God’s ascribed glory. This is the praise and honor that is due His name. It is the kind of glory that man offers up to his Maker. John Piper describes it as “us making God’s glory shine, making it visible.” Thus, when Jonathan Edwards aims himself to do whatever is most to the glory of God, he is aiming to illumine the radiance of God’s manifold, His infinite worth and His immeasurable value…and he does so in such a way that it is clearly seen that God Himself is Jonathan Edwards’ highest treasure—as it should be ours.

“…and my own good, profit, and pleasure…”

And since Jonathan Edwards treasured God in such a way, he therefore believed that God’s glory was inseparable with his own good, profit, and pleasure. To Edwards, since God is the Maker and Sovereign Ruler of all things in heaven and on earth, then seeking the glory of God must automatically yield his greatest “pleasure.” He was confident that when he sought hard after God’s glory, it would inevitably return God’s greatest good for his life. What a God we serve! What a Maker, that He would create this universe in such a way that His children may actually seek Him and find Him and know Him and find joy in Him… what a blessing. You see, Edwards’ view of God was so big… so majestic… and so reverent… that his undeniable desire to glorify God in all that he did also served as the source of his ultimate joy.

Christians, where do we find our joy? Is it in the things of this world or in the God of the universe? Is it in things created or in the Creator?

“…in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence.”

Simply put, both the glory of God and the consequent joy found in God would be pursued with a steadfast determination. On this side of eternity, Edwards made this pursuit the driving purpose of his life. This would serve as his life-long central theme. He must always live for God’s glory, and he would not exchange the glory of God for any lesser glory this world would offer, as long as he lived. He would be relentless.

“Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.”

Jonathan Edwards knew that a commitment to God’s glory would also produce in him a duty for the good and advantage of mankind in general. When we work unto the glory of God, we serve those around us more supremely than if we were just serving them as our main purpose. This is because in our service, we are offering unto them both blessings and Jesus. Ultimately, we serve God by serving others. Likewise, we love God by loving others. When we seek God’s honor, and not our own, then the greatest benefit is received by others. Steven Lawson says it this way: “Thus, living for the glory of God would lead to the greatest influence of the Gospel upon the world. Souls would be converted. Saints would be edified. Needs would be met.” Christ is honored wherever He is met.

Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.”

Jonathan Edwards closes his first resolution by resolving to live for God’s glory despite the hardships, regardless the cost, and no matter what difficulties and opposition he would inevitably face. Even if it meant persecution from friends, colleagues or family… Even if it meant forfeiting the riches of this world for a life of service in poverty… Even if it meant relinquishing status , personal wants or long-planned dreams… he had made up his mind: his will resolved to glorify God no matter what. He would remain undeterred. Jonathan Edwards was willing to pay any price to shine God’s glory upon a darkened earth.

Resolved to live for God’s Glory

And so, Jonathan Edwards sets the stage of his 70 Resolutions, written during the first sprint of his new life as a Christian, by resolving to live for God’s glory. This was Jonathan Edwards’ chief aim in life, and he drove it down hard to the core of his heart. Considering this, I pause to beg the questions: Is it my chief aim? Is it yours? Will you make the glory of God your highest goal? Will you make Christ your ultimate joy? …your highest treasure? Will you discern the greatest good? Will you pay whatever price? Will you be resolved to live for the glory of God?

Lord, grant us the grace to do so!

Recommended Resources:

Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought
by Stephen J. Nichols

Jonathan Edwards, a leader in the Great Awakening during the eighteenth century, still has much to teach the church. Evangelicals are rediscovering him through the efforts of several authors (John Gerstner, Iain Murray, Harry Stout, and others) and publishers (Banner of Truth, Soli Deo Gloria, and Crossway). Stephen Nichols offers Jonathan Edwards “as an introduction, a gateway into the vast and rewarding life, thought, and writings of Jonathan Edwards.” He intends it for anyone who wants to read Edwards but who needs a little help.