When he was hurried into the pastorate at 18 years old, the gifted and intelligent but youthful Jonathan Edwards knew that he was not fully equipped to undertake such a daunting task. From the fall of 1722 through 1723, he then penned what would become the principles by which he would live his life and make his decisions. In these 70 Resolutions, one thing is very clear, Jonathan Edwards was fully aware of the sinfulness of his own heart, and how he must be constantly combating its often overlooked or excused violations of God’s commandments no matter how unimportant they may seem to others.
Below, I have listed some of his resolutions that dealt directly with the tongue and reveal his modes of combat against the sins of the tongue that we all too often commit. These troubles are the ones we find in James 4:11-12, where instead of using the tongue for health and good, we use our words to tear down others and destroy their reputations. Scripture teaches us in Matthew 18:15-19, and in Galatians 6:1-2, that if you know someone is sinning, it is proper and necessary to go to them personally and confront them about their sin so that they can be restored. However, if you see someone sinning and your natural inclination is to gossip about it to someone else, and “Speak evil of one another” then perhaps someone needs to confront you and seek to restore you from your sinning.
Read down through a few select Resolutions from a Saint of ages past and reflect on his efforts to guard his heart from the sinfulness that he saw in it. Perhaps the challenge would be enough to cause us to consider developing our own resolutions or at least borrowing some of his.
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.
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.
36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 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.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.
Reflect: What does Ephesians 4:15 tell us to do with our tongues? Which Resolution of Jonathan Edwards do you think is the most helpful for you?