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Article 3 (Jan 2017): The Man who Made (and kept) 70 New Year's Resolutions

January 26, 2017

Most people make New Year's resolutions to become a better person, but one 18th century minister made 70 resolutions designed to mold himself into, not just a good man, but the perfect man of God.  To that end, he wrote his 70 resolutions. 

Jonathan Edwards, a Congregationalist theologian, was born in 1703 the fifth child of 11 children (the only son) in Connecticut Colony. A precocious child who entered Yale at 13, he became an enthusiastic student of nature and science.  In 1720, he began his resolutions for his own conduct: To speak with truth; never to speak evil of others; to shun anger and revenge; to be temperate in eating and drinking; to be agreeable, peaceable, compassionate and charitable.

During the next few years, Edwards added to his resolutions, focusing resolutions about living: Resolved, never to lose one moment of time ... to live with all my might, while I do live.  And another: I will live so, as I shall wish I had done, when I come to die.  Edwards also followed up his resolutions: Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could ... to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.
Looking at the adversities of life, Edwards pointed to duty: Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it..."  He asks himself if afflictions can be good: Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
Edwards, who frequently meditated on death as a way to understand life, lived to age 54. The father of 11 children, his descendants have left a large legacy in America.  Of 400 traced descendants, there were 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 100+ lawyers, 30 judges, 66 physicians, 80 holders of public office (including three senators, three mayors, three state governors, one controller of the United States Treasury, and one vice president of the United States (Aaron Burr elected 1801).

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