Resolutions

resolveAs the new year approaches, I’ve been hearing the phrase “New Year Resolutions” uttered in recent days.   The best list of Resolutions I’ve ever read was written almost 300 years ago by the great preacher/author/theologian Jonathan Edwards when he was around 20 years of age.  His was a list of 70 Resolutions or “purpose statements” that will have guided the rest of his life.

I like the practicality of his list and its transparency to the reality of the human nature and frailties.  It permeates every area of life–the use of time, eating and drinking, conversations, relationships with family & others, prayer, etc. (I Cor. 10:31)

Some of my favorites among his list:

Jonathan Edwards

24.  Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

30.  Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

36.  Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it.  Dec. 19, 1722.

37.  Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself;—also, at the end of every week, month, and year.  Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.

41.  Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.  Jan. 11, 1723.

46.  Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother.  Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.

47.  Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done.  Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.

52.  I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.  July 8, 1723.

54.  Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it.  July 8, 1723.

56.  Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57.  Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it.  I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin.  June 9, and July 13, 1723.

58.  Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity.  May 27, and July 13, 1723.

60.  Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.  July 4 and 13, 1723.

63.  On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.  Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.

67.  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.

69.  Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.  Aug. 11, 1723.

70.  Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.  Aug. 17, 1723

The printable version which grouped the list of Resolutions into several subheadings.


Christopher and Mary Love

It is inspiring to hear or read of godly women in the faith, including those from centuries past.  One such woman in my reading is Mary Love, the wife of the great 17th century Puritan preacher Christopher Love.

Christopher Love’s life was cut short at the age of 33 when he was executed (beheaded) in 1651 for alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell, then the Lord Protector of England.  His wife was eight months pregnant with their fifth child, the third to live, at the time of his execution.

Love used the scaffold as a final pulpit to preach his last sermon and pray for his accusers.  These were among his last words: “There is but two steps between me and glory.  It is but lying down upon the block that I shall ascend upon a throne.  I am exchanging a pulpit for a scaffold and a scaffold for a throne.  I am exchanging a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels, to carry me to Abraham’s bosom.”

What was Mary’s response in the weeks approaching her husband’s execution?  We can see a glimpse of her heart and faith through a letter she wrote to her husband.  It is hard to read her letter with a dry eye:

July 14, 1651

My Dear Heart,

Before I write a word further, I beseech thee think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.”  Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.

O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations.  I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.

I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain.  Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory.

Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother.  Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory.

Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace.  And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.  I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.

My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it.  When thou art putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am putting on my wedding garments to go to be everlastingly married to my Redeemer.”

When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life.  When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.

And when thou layest down thy precious head to receive thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven.

And though it may seem something bitter, that by hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.

Let us comfort one another with these sayings.  Be comforted, my dear heart.  It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and where the wicked shall cease from troubling.  Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night.

My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee.  I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.

Farewell, my dear, I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.

Mary Love

Mary’s letter challenges my thoughts about the kind of love prevalent in today’s culture.  Her love for her husband was not a selfish nor idolatrous love that elevated him above God, but a love firmly rooted in the One who first loved us and who dealt the heaviest stroke of all upon His only begotten Son whom He loves (so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but receive eternal life).  Instead of focusing upon her great loss, Mary directed her focus (and her husband’s) upon their first Love and eternal Bridegroomthe Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.