Tuesday, October 26, 2010

John Winthrop's Resolutions

In the Reformed world, the Resolutions of young Jonathan Edwards are well-known. Less well-known are the resolutions of John Winthrop a century before, scattered throughout his spiritual journal, which he faithfully recorded, along with his failings in the flesh and testimonies to the grace of God working in him.

John Winthrop, Experiencia:

The 20 of April, 1606, I made a new Covenant with the Lord which was this:
Of my part, that I would reform these sins by his grace: pride, covetousness, love of this world, vanity of mind, unthankfulness, sloth, both in his service and in my calling, not preparing myself with reverence and uprightness to come to his word. Of the Lords part that he would give me a new heart, joy in his spirit, that he would dwell with me, that he would strengthen me against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, that he would forgive my sins and increase my faith. God give me grace to perform my promise and I doubt not but he will. God make it fruitful. Amen.

December 12, 1606...In these following Experiences there be diverse vows, promises to God, or Resolutions and purposes of my heart, occasioned through the oft experience of my weaknesses in such things, and my great desire of keeping peace and holding communion with God, many of which I have in time observed that I have great need to repent (in some of them) my unadvisedness in making them, considering that they have proved snares to my Conscience, and (in others of them) my wretchedness and sin in not carefully observing them. Mr. [Thomas] Cartwright in his Answer to the Rheims Testament: Acts 5. 4. giveth some directions on this point.

1611. The 22 of August it pleased God to send me a sore sickness wherein besides the work of God's Spirit upon my conscience, I did most evidently perceive his great mercy and care in supporting me, easing the pain, giving me patience, and much cheerfulness, and willingness to abide his good will, and before the sickness was come to the height, God in mercy cut it off by sending me without any means a great relief.

One thing which I observed in this sickness was that God visited upon me many of my bold runnings out against conscience, which I then when I committed them passed over with slight repentance, and now had surely smarted well for them if I had not now stopped them by serious and speedy turning to God, whereupon I resolved not to be so bold to sin against my conscience in time to come.

Feb. [1612]...I saw my great folly in that I placed so much felicity in present outward things and in the hope of things to come, when as I am sure that I shall have them but for a short time, if at all. The danger and hurt of these earthly joys I find to be greater in that they diminish the joy of my salvation: wherefore I have resolved by the grace of God, to hold my affections in a narrower compass and not to suffer my heart to delight more in any thing than in the comfort of my salvation.

September 8. 1612. Finding that the variety of meats draws me on to eat more than standeth with my health, I have resolved not to eat of more then 2 dishes at any one meal, Whether fish, flesh, fowl or fruit or white meats etc: whether at home or abroad; the lord give me care and ability to perform it. I found that the pride of my heart, viz: these great thoughts of mine own gifts, credit, greatness, goodness etc. were like a canker in my profession, eating out the comfort of all duties, depriving God of a principal part of his right in my heart, which I daily perceived, when it pleased God to let me see my meanness in his exceeding greatness: whereupon I resolved to make it one of my chief petitions to have that grace to be poor in spirit: I will ever walk humbly before my God, and meekly, mildly, and gently towards all men, so shall I have peace.

May 23, 1613. When my condition was much straightened, partly through my long sickness, partly through want of freedom, partly through lack of outward things, I prayed often to the Lord for deliverance, referring the means to himself, and with all I often promised to put forth myself to much fruit when the Lord should enlarge me. Now that he hath set me at great liberty, giving me a good end to my tedious quartan, freedom from a superior will and liberal maintenance by the death of my wife's father (who finished his days in peace the 15 of May, 1613). I do resolve first to give myself, my life, my wit, my health, my wealth to the service of my God and Savior, who by giving himself for me, and to me, deserves whatsoever I am or can be, to be at his Commandment, and for his glory:
2. I will live where he appoints me.
3. I will faithfully endeavor to discharge that calling which he shall appoint me unto.
4. I will carefully avoid vain and needles expenses that I may be the more liberal to good uses.
5. My property, and bounty, must go forth abroad, yet I must ever be careful that it begin at home.
6. I will so dispose of my family affairs as my morning prayers and evening exercises be not omitted.
7. I will have a special care of the good education of my children.
8. I will banish profanes from my family.
9. I will diligently observe the Lords Sabbath both for the avoiding and preventing worldly business, and also for the religious spending of such times as are free from public exercises, viz. the morning, noon, and evening.
10. I will endeavor to have the morning free for private prayer, meditation and reading.
11. I will flee Idleness, and much worldly business.
12. I will often pray and confer privately with my wife.
I must remember to perform my father's Will faithfully, for I promised him so to do; and particularly to pay Mr. Meges 40 a year till he should otherwise be provided for.

[Feb. 3, 1617]...After this, settling myself to walk uprightly with my God, and diligently in my calling, and having an heart willing to deny myself, I found the Godly life to be the only sweet life, and my peace with my God to be a true heaven upon earth. I found God ever present with me, in prayer and meditation, in the duties of my calling, etc: I could truly loath my former folly in preferring the love of earthly pleasures before the love of my heavenly father. I did wonder what madness was in me, that I should leave the fellowship of my Savior, to keep fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness; I was not then troubled with the common cares and desires that I was wont to be taken up with, as of food, apparel, credit, pleasure, etc: but was well contented with what God sent: what can I say? I find a change in my heart and whole man, as apparent as from darkness to light. God of his mercy continue and increase it. I find withal that I was ready upon every object or occasion, to embrace the delight in earthly things again, which I see plainly will soon get within me again, if I slack my watchfulness never so little, so as I resolve by God's grace to keep my heart with all diligence, and to set a watch over my mouth, eyes, ears, etc, when I am alone, in company, at home, abroad, in every business, service of God, etc. O Lord my God, for Jesus Christ his sake enable me hereunto, and strengthen the poor weak faith of thy unworthy servant.

November: 1617...Still I find by continual experience that the most usual thing that turns me out of my course and breaks off my peace with my God is the embracing the love of earthly things, and seeking a kind of secure and commodious settling in these things; which as it greatly delights the wanton flesh, so it as fast quenches all delight and appetite to heavenly things; it blinds the Judgement, takes away all affection, and dulls all gifts both of body and mind, making all unserviceable, etc: I still pray, O Lord, crucify this world unto me, for surely the love of thee and the love of the world cannot stand together.

I have found this infallibly true by oft experience since, and I am fully resolved, that if I will keep the love of God, I must cast quite off the love of the world.

January 10, 161[8]. Afterwards finding myself snared by the world, I could not be at rest until by reading Mr. [Robert] Bolton's discourse of true happiness, I was brought to a more thorough discovery of my sinful heart and ways, and thereupon to more sound repentance and resolution of reformation; when again upon sound deliberation being free from all passion, or oppression of melancholy, I did quietly, cheerfully and absolutely resign up myself again unto my God, covenanting to walk faithfully with him, and praying fervently yet without any distemper of affection, etc, that he would rather take me out of the world or cast me into any affliction, sickness, poverty, disgrace, or whatsoever, so himself would not fail me in them, then to give me up to the slavery of the world, to mine old profane, idle, voluptuous, and foolish heart; and so I beg still of him for the Lord Jesus' sake.

Aug. 22, 1619. I had been drawn from my steadfastness, and walked in an unsettled course, for the space of a year and more, before this time: I had made divers attempts to return again, but they still vanished, my zeal was cooled, my comfort in heavenly things was gone, I had no joy in prayer, nor in the Sabbath, nor in God's word, nor in the Communion of Saints, or if I had any, it was so soon gone, as it was not to be regarded; and now it pleased God to open mine eyes again upon a Sabbath day, and I found the cause of all to be, that I had again embraced this present world, eagerly pursuing the delights and pleasures of it, and I might easily observe that as the love of the world prevailed, so the love of God and all goodness decayed. Hereupon (by God's grace) I have again resolved to renounce this world, and to hold in my affections to the love and estimation of heavenly things; the Lord in mercy enable me hereunto.

December: 1628....The Lord give me grace, never to forget this kindness but to cleave fast unto him, and to hold that resolution of obedience etc, which he wrought in me.

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