The Puritans on Spiritual Resolutions

//The Puritans on Spiritual Resolutions

The Puritans on Spiritual Resolutions

In addition to the general busyness of life there are the diversities and complexities that accompany it. More people are getting more involved in more activities in more places with the demand of more time. This toxic mix reduces the Christian’s spiritual life to a wasted shadow. Hypnotized by the drone of life he becomes unprofitable for any effective and consistent service for God (Cf. John 15:2; II Timothy 2:21).

Many Christians are acutely aware of this spiritual weakening but are at a loss to know how to find a way out of the vortex of vanity. All the self-help programs, novel Bible editions and innovative group studies only serve to disappoint and life goes on unchanged and with no prospect of victory over sin. William Bridge recognised this and in his treatise on A Lifting up of the Downcast states: “Sometimes the discouragements of the saints and people of God are drawn from the failures and lack of success in their duties.”

The Apostle Paul felt the same inner struggle that we feel today (Romans 7:19-25). It is common to all who experience the life on earth. The conclusion that Paul came to was that the Christian is one who “walk

[s] after the Spirit” (8:1). This ‘spiritual walk’ involves the effort of personal discipline in practical and spiritual involvement on the part of the believer.

The Puritans were masters of this discipline. Their resolve to follow Christ was costly, extremely detailed and practical. Notably among these of course was Jonathan Edwards and his “70 Resolutions” which he read every week in order to keep them before his memory. George Whitefield later drew up a list of methods to godliness which amounted to the same purpose. The resolutions during the puritan era were criticised as a legalistic discipline of religion, as “gloomy and austere.” However, the puritans were men who understood the Gospel. Walter Marshall said “it is from the comfort of the Gospel that the Christian performs the duties of the law.” For the Puritans there was great joy in performing the duties demanded of them in the law, because their strength to perform was in the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10).

1. Spiritual Resolve is the Duty of the Christian.

It is the Christians duty to “set himself toward that which is good and against that which is ill” (Sibbes, 1:100; cf. Goodwin 6:169). This is the example of Christ who set himself as a flint and the exhortation that Peter gives us in I Peter 4:1 to follow Christ.

2. Spiritual Resolve is a Demonstration of Soul Worship 

The Puritans believed that what we are most determined and steadfastness in is what we worship as god (Clarkson. 2:301). Sincere and godly resolutions then flow from an inward rooted inclination. They are the blade sprouting forth from a living root. “The heart is the root of action and grace is the life of the root” (R. Alleine, 229).

3. Spiritual Resolve is Discovered by Providence 

The work of sanctification is affected in the life internally by the Spirit and externally by providence (John Flavel). The Puritans understood that the stuff of life is the real test of our resolutions. We may intend to do for God without counting the cost. Many have resolved to do, but not at all cost, and with the first wind of adversity that providence brings they are thrown off course. Effective spiritual resolutions are the work of out-striding all hindrances (Sibbes, 1:100); they are the arming of ones self; “a steeling of the heart,” to use Goodwin’s term.

  1. 4. Spiritual Resolve is a Dependence on God 

Thomas Manton points out that the will and resolution of the Christian is to be understood as the fruit of Grace.  He said it “is not to be understood as if our resolutions had any strength in themselves to bear us out.” David resolved in Psalm 119:8 to “keep [God’s] statutes” but he did so on the basis that God would not forsake him. A Christian resolves because he trusts God and His Word.

  1. 5. Spiritual Resolve is a Determination of Self 

Resolutions were not the puritan idea of self-help. They serve to encourage us to come to God, to keep to God and to be hearty in His service (Manton vi. 335). The details of life are to be kept as though they were the last, and with the possibility that we will have no future opportunity to perform the same duty or have opportunity to mend any ills. (Edwards 2:242).

The determination of the Puritans was both reasoned and deliberated. Deliberation takes all the reasons for and against resolutions, weighs the arguments and objections, counts the cost and acts accordingly. (Richard Alleine).

Let us resolve to live for Christ at all cost…Let us set our face steadfastly to the cause of Christ!!


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