Reflections On A Teenage Edwards
In God's wisdom reflection is best done in retrospect, rather than at outset. As we bring our series, "A Teenager's Resolutions," to a close, we would like to reflect on five prominant characteristics of young Jonathan Edwards, in hope that we might all be challenged to live our lives with greater passion for holiness and for the glory of God.
Driving Passion For God's Glory
We first observe that at 19 years old, Jonathan Edwards desired to be all he could be for the glory of God. In Resolution #1 Edwards establishes the purpose of every resolution that follows, when he writes, "Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory." In Resolution #5, "Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can."
At 19, Edwards constantly challenged himself for greater victory over sin (#56), greater knowledge of doctrine (#11 - #28), greater discretion in company (see below), and greater "exercise of grace" (#30) -- all for the purpose of glorifying God through the subsequent character and competence his efforts produced. [#2, #4, #6, #41, #47, #50, and #63]
Secondly, we observe that at 19-years-old Jonathan Edwards thoroughly and consistently practiced self-examination. This inclination is displayed in Resolution #37 where Edwards writes, "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," and in Resolution #48, "Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of."
Edwards' devotedness to searching his own heart, discerning his motives and desires, and then subjecting them to the light of God's truth, is highly admirable. When Edwards focused inwards, he did so in order to bring his heart and mind -- his emotions and his thoughts -- into greater alignment with God's perfect holiness. Too often we focus inwards in order to discern "how we feel" and then we allow our feelings to dictate our actions. At 19, Edwards would have none of that. [See also: #3, #24, #25, #27, #28, #40, #41, #60, #67, and #68]
We secondly observe that at 19 years old, Jonathan Edwards genuinely cared about people and sought to be agreeable in every social context. In Resolution #70 Edwards wrote, "Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak." And in #31, "Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind."
More than any other subject, Edwards' Resolutions addressed his interaction with his fellow human beings -- including his family. In Resolution #46 he wrote, "Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting 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." In case the 18th century English confuses you, Edwards is making an incredible commitment not to argue or whine with his parents. Not only that, but he pledges not even to allow his temper to reveal itself in his voice, or by rolling his eyes. His love for others was the result of his experiencing the love of Christ. [See also: #13, #16, #31, #32, #33, #36, #47, #58, and #66]
Fourthly, we observe that at 19 years old, Jonathan Edwards often thought of death and eternity. In Resolution #7 he writes, "Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life." And in Resolution #17 "Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die." In Resolution #22 young Edwards spoke of obtaining "as much happiness in the other world" as he possibly could. And in Resolution #55 he seeks to act as if he had already seen the "happiness of heaven" and the "hell torments."
Young Edwards' concern was for his reception into eternity -- not the reception of men. He embraced the truth of James 4:14 "You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." At 19, Edwards would not adopt the "I'm Invincible" attitude of modern teenagers. He both understood and thought about death and eternity. This was not morbid introspection, but served to focus his heart and mind on what really mattered. This long-term perspective prevented him from getting caught up with how he could best attain immediate pleasure and motivated him to strive after eternal pleasure by denying himself. [See also: #9, #10, #19, and #50]
Dependence On Grace
Finally, we observe that at 19 years old, Jonathan Edwards placed his trust, not in his own strength of will, but on the grace and mercy of Almighty God. The only introduction Edwards makes to his 70 Resolutions is this powerful statement: "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."
In Resolution #53 young Edwards determined to "cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer." To those who believe Edwards' resolutions and introspection reveal a man-centered view of salvation and assurance -- as opposed to a Christ-centered and grace-dependent view -- believe so no longer. It was love for Christ that prompted Jonathan to strive after holiness, and it was trust in God's grace that made him hope for victory over vice and sin.
Questions for Discussion:Read Part One - Resolutions #1-10
- Of the five characteristics outlined above, which two are most lacking your life?
- Do you endeavor to develop character and competence for your glory or for God's glory?
- When was the last time you spent time inquiring into the state of your soul, your motives, or your current level of love for Christ?
- Are you loving others as Christ loved you? Do you, as Edwards' did, place special emphasis on how you treat your family members?
- Do you make decisions based on short-term or long-term consequences? When was the last time you thought of the "happiness of Heaven" or the "torments of Hell?"
- Do you hope in Christ alone for salvation, and in God's grace alone for progress in your Christian walk? If not, who and/or what are you trusting in instead of God?
Read Part Two - Resolutions #11-20
Read Part Three - Resolutions #21-30
Read Part Four - Resolutions #31-40
Read Part Five - Resolutions #41-50
Read Part Six - Resolutions #51-60
Read Part Seven - Resolutions #61-70
Read Closing Statements