Should Christians Take Sermon Notes?

October 28, 2010

I was thinking recently about Christians taking sermon notes. I’ve never been good at taking notes in general (I can hardly read my hand writing), but I often wonder if people who take notes lose something by not focusing on the message immediately in front of them? Apparently Jonathan Edwards agreed. He writes,

The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered

(Quoted in The Salvation of Souls, eds. Richard Bailey and Gregory Wills, p. 11)

What think ye? Was Edwards way off?

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Resolved…

December 31, 2009

With the New Year upon us, many people will be making New Years Resolutions. While this is neither commanded to do nor commanded not to do in Scripture, the principle is a sound one. We, with the help of the Holy Spirit can resolve to do things different this year in 2010. In light of that, I want to include Jonathan Edwards resolutions he wrote while he was 18 and 19 in the years 1722 and 1723. They are an excellent example on how to approach the new year with a desire for holiness and doing all to the glory of God!

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

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.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

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.

25. 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.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. 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.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is

perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

44- Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14′ and July ‘3’ 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. 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.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

For more on Edwards and his resolutions be sure to check out Steven Lawson’s excellent book, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards.


Jonathan Edwards and Revival

June 5, 2009

Our churches today focus on marketing strategies in order to grow churches. Pastors are viewed as CEO’s who if unable to grow the church by certain percentages over a certain amount of years should be terminated as being unsuccessful. We take our church growth strategies from the business world instead of the Scriptures. Instead of marketing the church we should be seeking revival to grow the church. The problem is, the church has more than one view of what revival is.

Revival can be viewed as something “extremely rare, humanly unattainable state of temporary overheated spirituality” (Josh Moody, The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today [Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2007], p. 36). In contrast the opposing view sees that revival “may be manufactured by following certain techniques or methods” (Moody, The God-Centered Life, p. 36). Both of these extreme views are really foreign to the Scriptures.

In Josh Moody’s recent book, The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, he argues that one area that Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the great American theologian and philosopher ,can have a great impact on the church is in the area of revival. I am currently just reading this book and have found I cannot put it down. Moody is an excellent writer with a pastor’s heart (he is Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, New Haven, CT) and an incredible grasp of Edwards (his PhD from Cambridge was on Edwards response to the Enlightenment (his dissertation is published as Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God).

He writes,

It takes little imagination to understand the pastoral challenges that can arise from these opposing views of revival. The first idea of revival so strongly emphasizes God’s sovereignty that there is an inevitable tendency to passivity in evangelism. If I can do nothing to create revival then it is understandable to wonder whether I need do anything. The second idea of revival can produce exactly the opposite challenge. If revival can be produced by a predetermined mechanism and if revival fails to arrive, spiritual disappointment, even depression, is possible, to say nothing of the pressure to produce results, which leads to spurious conversions, or those who think redemption, regeneration and revival is in their and not God’s hands (p. 37).

What can Edwards teach us then about a more biblical approach to revival? Edwards is uniquely qualified to teach us on the area of revival. He experienced first hand two revivals and was a historian of a third. He preached and taught on revival and wrote one of the key books ever written on the subject, A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. What we can learn about revival from Edwards is a more balanced biblical approach to revival.

Moody writes,

Revival is not random, not manipulative, not tied to a particular system or certain ecclesiastical machine. It is God’s initiative, his action, his intervention, his applying salvation to the church and the world. Much of the contemporary criticism of revival is well founded. Revivalism can be manipulative and shallow, its techniques unthinkingly aping modernistic attitudes of industrialism and individualism and woefully inadequate to anticipate changing culture in which we live. Revivals can also be excuses for delay, inaction and remaining passive in the face of the challenges the church is called to address. All these and other criticisms targeted towards revivals are at least to some degree cogent. Edwards would have agreed: for him, true revival was less mechanical and more magisterial, less passive and more powerful and Christ-like (p. 48).

While revival, or what Edwards would call an “awakening” was something only accomplished by God and could not be accomplished by the hands of men, he acknowledged that man was involved in the process. Not only did God ordain the end, that is revival, He ordained the means. Edwards noted that things like prayer and the preaching of the Gospel were ordained means of accomplishing revival. God used the prayers for revival and the preaching and urging for men to repent was used by God to bring about awakening or revival. Therefore, what Edwards teaches us is that church growth is not about man it is about God but it is also about God using man.

No amount of strategizing by man can bring about church growth through revival. But God does involve us in the process. We are not to sit idly by. We are to actively pray for revival and preach for revival! That is what Edwards teaches us about revival.

Moody concludes his chapter on the area of revival by addressing three issues in the church today. First, the church needs to revive preaching. We must boldly and clearly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “A greater commitment to careful explanation of the text would be married with a relevant and emotionally engaged application” (p. 50).

Second, Moody calls us to revive the church. The church is God’s vehicle for accomplishing His will in this age. We need to makechurch first place in our lives once again. “The church too needs to be revived, because communities of salt and light are necessary for such preaching to be realistically and practically modeled. Without free samples of Christ the message of Christ is hard to swallow” (p. 51).

Finally, we need to emphasize other areas of spiritual revival. “If spiritual revival is ecclesiastically controversial today, it is also manifestly necessary. The levels of holiness, of the fear of the Lord, of simple spiritual power, are at a low ebb in the West” (p. 54). There are other means to promote revival including personal testimony, cocerts of prayer, and other opportunities to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to bring about revival.

Moody concludes the chapter,

Edwards’ theology of revival has three practical and strategic implications. First, it encourages us to emphasize preaching. Second, it calls us to focus upon the basics of building local churches. Third, it points us forward through the power of the Holy Spirit. Revival as an unblical an manipulative belief in the capability of human agency to generate spiritual change must be eschewed. Revival meaning a passive and stagnet excuse for doing nothing because God has not brought revival needs to be exposed for what it is: an attitude foreign to the vigorous missionary effort and evangelism modeled by the Apostle Paul. Revival as a principled reliance upon expectation of divine initiative for the advance of the kingdom through God-given means is what we should embrace.

I could not say it better than that!

For more on Edwards, the Holy Spirit and revival be sure to check out Michael Haykin’s Jonathan Edwards -The Holy Spirit in Revival: The Lasting Influence of the Holy Spirit in the Heart of Man from Evangelical Press.


Book Review – The God-Centered Life by Josh Moody

March 6, 2009

The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today. By Josh Moody. Vancover, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2007. Available from Westminster Books for $12.71.

There are many saints of the past who need to be reawakened for our churches today. There is much we can glean from in the lives of those who have gone before us. Many of them still speak directly to the issues we are facing today. John Moody, now Senior Pastor of College Church, Wheaton, IL, has provided a helpful volume sharing insights from Jonathan Edwards that address the issues we face today.

Moody, a precise thinker and academic with a pastor’s heart, is an expert in Edwards. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University on Edwards and continues to argue that the great American theologian and pastor speaks to us today. That is the intention in this book. He writes,

Because he preached the historic Christian gospel, and because that gospel is still true today, Edwards’ message, like that of any genuine Christian preacher, is relevant throughout the ages. But Edwards’ contribution is particularly timely today because his great sparring partners, the Enlightenment and the secularist modernism it bequeathed, have defined the recent progression of our culture. Whereas Edwards’ was responding to the Enlightenment at the beginning, our culture has reacted to the Enlightenment modernism at the end. If Edwards formed an effective and biblical response to the Enlightenment, we have lots to learn from him (p. 21).

Moody addresses a number of issues where we can learn from Edwards. These include revival, analyzing new Christian movements not only by what they teach but by their fruit, the human-centeredness of modernism, leadership must be biblically intelligent, the reality that human leaders fail, and family life and ministry. Edwards informs us on all of these issues. For instance, on revival, Moody draws from Edwards the following conclusion,

Revival is not random, not manipulative, not tied to a particular system or certain ecclesiastical machine. It is God’s initiative, his action, his intervention, his applying salvation to the church and the world. Much of the contemporary criticism of revival is well founded. Revivalism can be manipulative and shallow, its techniques unthinkingly aping modernistic attitudes of industrialism and individualism and woefully inadequate to anticipate changing culture in which we live. Revivals can also be excuses for delay, inaction and remaining passive in the face of the challenges the church is called to address. All these and other criticisms targeted towards revivals are at least to some degree cogent. Edwards would have agreed: for him, true revival was less mechanical and more magisterial, less passive and more powerful and Christ-like”(p. 48).

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the last chapter, “The Edwards Message.” Here Moody summarizes what we can learn from Edwards but especially does a wonderful job at highlighting what an Edwards influenced individual, church, and evangelistic mission would look like. Moody is not content to leave this in the theoretical but places it in very practical terms of how one can learn from Jonathan Edwards.

If I had any one complaint it would be a desire to see more of Edwards actually speaking in the book. Moody knows Edwards well and communicates for him, but it would be excellent to see more direct interaction with Edwards writing on these particular subjects than was reflected in this book. But, this is a minor criticism as it does not overly detract from the helpfulness of this book.

Moody has done the church a service. While the growing body of secondary literature on Edwards is intense and not all of it ultimately helpful, this book is a valuable not only for pastors to learn how to have their ministry be more God-centered but also for individual Christians who seek to have their lives be more God-centered. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to any believe who wants to grow in their walk with God and especially to pastors who want to understand how the supremacy of God makes a difference in their ministry.


What a Deal! Sweeney and Guelzo’s “The New England Theology”

March 5, 2009

Christian Book Distributors has Douglas Sweeney and Allen Guelzo’s excellent book, The New England Theology: From Jonathan Edwards to Edwards Amsa Park (Baker 2006) for only $4.99! Baker’s  description:

Many recognize the importance of Jonathan Edwards, yet the writings of those who followed in his theological footsteps are less widely known. This collection draws together their key works, making them accessible to a broader audience and providing readers with easy access to an important part of the Calvinist tradition in America.

In addition to plentiful selections from Edwards, the volume includes eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works from writers such as Samuel Hopkins, Nathanael Emmons, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Timothy Dwight, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Charles G. Finney. Their writings have broadly influenced evangelical theology in America, and this collection will be of great value for those interested in the study of Jonathan Edwards and the New England Theology tradition.

My only issue with the book is that it is too bad there are no selections from Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844) the Reformed evangelist and theologian who was criticially involved in speaking against the revivalism and theology of Charles Finney and Lyman Beecher. I would recommend if you have an interest in American Evangelical History be sure to get this book. With a deal like this, who can go wrong?


Evangelicals, Liturgy, and Confessionalism – Oxymoron or Historical Reality?

March 5, 2009

Over at the Christian History Blog, Chris Armstrong has written an excellent short piece called “Evangelicalism’s Hidden Liturgical and Confessional Past.” In it he notes how some evangelicals today are moving to recover their liturgical and confessional history and that some are very wary of this “re-engagement.” The post helpfully shows how modern evangelicalism clearly comes out of a liturgical and confessional past and how re-engagement with this past could seriously help the movement today.

I for one would love to see more confessionalism in evangelicalism and especially more formal liturgy in our churches. I think we have lost much in the free church movement when we abandonend formal liturgy for a more “haphazard” approach.


Book Review – The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

February 19, 2009

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. By Steven J. Lawson. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008. 168 pp., $16.00, hard cover.

 

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is probably the most well known American preacher and theologian of the 18th century and perhaps any century. Interest in him and his theology grows each day with the body of secondary literature rising at an unbelievable rate. Beyond the body of secondary literature, Edwards was a prolific writer and the primary materials take up 26 large hardcover volumes from Yale University Press. Some know only of his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and perhaps only from studying it in school as part of their American literature. Some disdain his Calvinistic theology and some extol it. He was a theologian of revival and prayer. But, the question is, is there a need for another volume on Edwards? Steven Lawson proves there is!

 

Lawson, Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, AL and President of New Reformation Ministries (a ministry dedicated to bring biblical reformation to the church today) has already proved himself with his volumes The Expository Genius of John Calvin, Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men (both from Reformation Trust), and Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching (Moody Press) amongst others. He has other volumes coming out soon in his “Long Line of Godly Men” series. And if his existing books are any indication, future ones will be just as profound. Lawson is the prophet Evangelicalism needs to highlight the famine in the land with the hopes of God bringing the rain of expository preaching.

 

In this current volume on Edwards’ Lawson focuses on an area that should be of great importance to many of us today, the unwavering resolve of Edwards. Lawson’s focus therefore are on Edwards’ personal resolutions he made. These seventy “purpose statements for his life” (p. xiii) were written in 1722 and 1723 at the ages of 18 and 19. Lawson notes as a result of these resolutions, “this young Puritan minister wrote and worked hard to keep these seventy vows. Here is the key to his spiritual growth–Edwards disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness. He understood that growth in holiness is not a one-time act, but a lifelong pursuit, one that requires a daily determination to live according to the truths taught in Scripture” (p. xiii).

 

Essentially this volume on Edwards then is on the personal piety of the great 18th century theologian and pastor. Lawson argues that more important than Edwards intellect or anything else is his personal holiness. We live in a day of great spiritual interest and confusion. As Evangelicals we must turn to a spirituality that is rooted in the Word of God. Studying the godly men of the past gives us a helpful look at how to apply that Biblical spirituality in our lives today. That makes looking at the personal holiness and resolutions of Edwards of utmost importance.

 

This book then uses Edwards resolutions as a starting point and then includes material from his diary and his “Personal Narrative” to see how he implemented these resolutions in his life. The book begins with a detailed but simple chapter outlining the life and legacy of Edwards. He then moves into looking at the resolutions directly. The first section deals with the purpose and historical setting of the resolutions as well as the theological roots behind them. Then Lawson looks at the resolutions under the broad categories of “the prerequisite of faith,” “the priority of God’s glory,” “the putting away of sin,” “the precipice of eternity,” “the passion of discipline,” “the practice of love,” and finally “the posture of self-examination.” Especially important for today’s believers in this last section. The Puritan practice of self-examination is lost in today’s generation. The journals and diaries of various Puritan authors outlining their lives and highlighting where improvement could be made is a valuable discipline that most today have lost. Journaling our spiritual lives is something of great value as we continue to grow in Christ that we can learn particularly from Edwards.

 

Lawson highlights the major importance of studying Edwards today and learning from him for a new generation in his conclusion. He writes, “In this day, some three hundred years after Edwards’ time, there is a desperate need for a new generation to arise onto the scene of history that will prize and promote the glory of our awesome God. Beholding the soul-capturing vision of this all-supreme, all-sovereign, and all-sufficient God transforms in life-altering ways. This is what we learn from Edwards, and this is what we must experience in our own lives. Our lofty theology, centered on God Himself, must be translated into daily living in practical ways” (p. 154).

 

Truly Lawson will encourage those who already love Edwards and his God but will also encourage those who know not the great American theologian. This book should be in the hands of every pastor especially but in the hand of every believer in Christ to encourage them and challenge them in their constant walk with the sovereign God of the universe! Soli Deo Gloria!