These days when you mention Jonathan Edwards in some circles you have to be careful to be clear about who you mean! I mean neither the Olympic athlete, not the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, but rather the eighteenth century American Pastor and theologian.
As a fairly young man he began to make resolutions concerning his walk with God, and continued to add to the list through his life. I thought I might find it helpful to take some time to think about his list, so here goes.
1) Jonathan Edwards knew that it was not enough just to make resolutions.
The full list of seventy resolutions are prefaced with the following comment:
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.
Edwards knew that by the exercise of the human will power alone nothing would be achieved. That didn’t make him give up however. When he made his resolutions, he made them fully aware that without divine aid they would be no more than good intentions, and so he asked God for grace to keep the resolutions that he maked. This coming together of serious human commitment and a recognition of the need of God’s help is profoundly Biblical.
Take one example: Psalm 127:1 says:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
This Psalm resounds with sense of dependency on God. If he is not at work, then everything we do is vain. This truth however is neither a reason for the builder to stop building, or for the watchman to desert his post.
Jonathan Edwards neither made the mistake of assuming that it was all down to him leaving him to do everything, or assuming that it was entirely down to God so he need do nothing. To use the image of the Psalmist, he both built energetically and prayed passionately for God to build. He both watched assiduously and prayed faithfully for God to keep watch.
A Question: Do I both build with all my might and pray in a way that is consistent with the belief that I am completely dependent on God?