In 1722-23, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote his now-famous Resolutions which have benefited believers since they were penned. Of significance, Edwards wrote these when he was 19-20 years old–how mature of him in Christ to pen such resolutions at such an age.
In reading through these, I found an interesting phrase that occurred in both Resolutions 23 and 24:
23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
Here, we see the positive and negative aspect, all with the glory of God as its end. The phrase? “Trace it back.” If something was done for the glory of God, trace it back to “the original intention.” If an evil action was done, trace it back to “the original cause.”
These Resolutions smack not of impulse, like many of our New Year’s resolutions, but of intentionality. He looks not simply to the ends, but also to the root and to the means as well. He looks at the heart of the action, not simply the habits. Habits come from the resolve of the heart. The heart of the resolutions are found in the preamble:
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.
The original cause and mission of all believers is the glory of God and the gospel good of humanity (see Matthew 22:37-40). But none of this is possible outside of God’s help. That Mylon LeFevre song found in our hymnals speaks truth:
Without Him, I could do nothing;
Without Him, I’d be enslaved;
Without Him, I would be drifting
Like a ship, without a sail.
So live with a gospel intentionality and trace back your actions, good or bad or indifferent, and see if they bring glory to God or not. What may look glorifying to God to many may well be fueled by a desire for the glory of self. Trace it back to the original intention and cause.
Yes, wise words from an old, dead guy (who may well be the greatest mind America has ever produced). May we stand on the shoulders of giants like these.