You Say You Want A Resolution…



It’s that time of year again when many of us make bold resolutions to do things like quit smoking, start exercising, or quit smoking while exercising.

I have never found making New Years resolutions helpful though, because:

1) I don’t write them down, thus forgetting what I resolved by January 2nd,
2) I make resolutions I can never possibly do, like “Do Iron-Man Triathlon,” or “Memorize book of Habakkuk in original language” or,
3) I make resolutions I feel I “should” do but have not the least whit of actual desire to do, like “Raise organic free-range chickens.”

In the 1700s when there was no HDTV, YouTube or Twitter, people passed the time by making resolutions, as did the famous theologian, Jonathan Edwards.? He made approximately 5,000 mostly unkeepabable resolutions, such as “I resolve always to clean the kitchen sink before going to bed,” but narrowed them down to 70 keepable ones, like “I resolve to witness to 342 people a day.”

Yearly I examine the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards whenever I want to remind myself what a loser Christian I am.? But in addition to reminding one of how spiritually pathetic one is, the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards have great value to inspire.? So I thought it would be good if we looked at a few.? And because we are a full-service blog, I’ll make helpful and insightful comments and interpret his Puritan into language any common Pittsburgh Steeler fan can understand.? Let’s get started.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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.

What a great beginning. We can’t do anything apart from God’s grace and help, so J.E. prays for grace.? I regularly fail to pray before doing things, so often I find myself looking at a toilet I’ve installed upside down, or hot water coming out the cold water spigot after I’ve repaired it, and my wife Kristi asks me, “Did you pray about it?” To which I reply, “No!? And I’m not going to!”? But let’s move on, next J.E. says:

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

J.E. hasn’t even made his first resolution and already I know I’d fail to do this.? I’ve entered weekly reminders into my Google Calendar, like “Jog” or “Clean Gutters” and though they pop up like prairie dogs before my eyes every week, after 2 pop-ups they become invisible, like the exercise equipment in my basement.? On to the first resolution.

1. 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, 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 to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

Here’s a great example of Puritan language: “never so many myriads of ages hence.”? This means “a heck of a long time.”? Here Jonathan Edwards resolved to live completely for God’s glory, for his own and others’ good.? But Puritans always made things sound more impressive by using words like “hence” and “soever.”? One of their favorite words was “duty,” which roughly means “that which is boring and tedious like flossing”.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

Again, it makes you sound more spiritual to your friends if you use Puritan words like “endeavoring”, “contrivance” and “aforementioned.”? What he means in plain English is: “Git ‘er done.”

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 Edwards says, “nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it,” he means he will avoid things like snowboarding and swing dancing because he could throw his back out.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Obviously he could only have kept this resolution because Facebook hadn’t been invented.? No one today can possibly do this.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Let’s see, in the last hour of my life, I’d be afraid to light myself on fire, eat a live scorpion (Bear Grylls couldn’t make this resolution), or sing “The Impossible Dream” in front of Simon Cowell.

Well, so as not to overwhelm you, to be continued…

Originally published Dec 28, 2009


  • Tom says:

    That’s really funny!

    I’ve just started re-reading “Don’t Waste Your Life”, and last night came across a mention of Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions and thought I’d find them online and print them out…and then here they are again this morning!

    Part of me would love to have resolutions like these – to honour God, to make the most of my time to glorify God, etc – and (by God’s grace) try to remind myself of them often and keep them, but then the other part of me realises I probably wouldn’t keep them, nor even remind myself to do so, so I don’t make any.

  • Mark, for better or for worse, I would say I’m a lot more like you than I am like Jonathan Edwards.

  • Hey Tom,

    So glad we don’t need to try to change in our own strength, but that we can change by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I’m glad the Lord is patient with weaklings like me.

  • Hey Barry,

    So sorry to hear that. But there’s hope, for by diligent study of Puritanese, we can at least sound more spiritual.

  • This is wonderful. Admittedly, I’ve not read much Jonathon Edwards so the insight into his resolutions is great for me. It’s a window into his heart.

    I’m not sure about that last one though: not doing anything you should be afraid to do. I’m still considering it. It’s certainly a provocative post for me. Thank you.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • Mark, that’s the best thing I’ve ever read on resolutions (maybe I just have low standards). That sure did resonate with me. Fun stuff.

  • Hey Marshall,

    Jonathan Edwards resolutions are really inspiring. I think he meant being afraid to sin, which I agree with. I love his resolutions, but have to poke fun at myself….

  • Hi Terry!

    Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions reveal just how low my standards are. So I’m right with you…

  • Paula says:

    Mark, I think you should post more 21st century translations of Puritanese. Try putting it in text-speech. hee hee! Get right on that now, in all of your spare time.

  • MarkAltrogge says:

    Thanks Paula, I think I'll do that. In fact I think I'll tweet them. I don't think the Puritans were able to say anything in 140 characters or less. Even some of the titles of their sermons would have been longer…..

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