Benjamin Franklin and Jonathon Edwards are two well known figures in American history. And, although their spiritual perspectives were widely divergent, they have something very interesting in common-they both wrote and lived by specific personal resolutions.
Both men believed that it was important to focus on written guidelines for life. They regularly evaluated their progress in keeping those resolutions and both of them were committed to the process for a lifetime.
Franklin wrote down 13 resolutions. They highlighted virtues like temperance, silence and orderliness. His emphasis was on his performance in this world and he was particularly interested in being a good citizen. His thoughts represent the attitudes of scholars in the “Age of Reason.”
Franklin kept a famous “little black book.” In it he kept his master list of virtues where he kept “score” of his achievements or failures. He “entered a black mark for each resolution broken” and rotated the list each week so he could cover them all during a year’s period of time.
Edwards on the other hand, used his 70 resolutions are a means of self-examination with the scriptures being the guide. Those biblical injunctions were meant to strengthen his resolve to live under the expectations of his Savior. His resolutions can be divided into various categories focused on his overall life mission, his good works, his relationships, time management and his character.
His resolutions pertaining to his spiritual life particularly resonate with me:
“Resolved, to examine carefully and constantly what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God, and to direct all my forces against it.
Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”
Edwards wrote his resolutions over a span of a few months in 1722-23. What is interesting to note that he was a 19 year old young pastor at the time, struggling to meet the needs of his congregation. What insight into living that young pastor had.
This week might be a great time to review the lists both men compiled. Both are readily available on line in a variety of forms. Franklin’s will be easier to “chart” and evaluate on a daily basis. But Edward’s resolutions get to the heart of the spiritual struggle we all should be fighting. Over two hundred years later, his insights are remarkable. Check them out! They will make good fodder for your New Year’s resolutions.
And if you are focused on a diet this time of the year, Edwards addressed that too! “Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could with respect to eating and drinking.”
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel