Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God": Not so seeker friendly

The following excerpt is Point #4 from the famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Jonathan Edwards was a part of the First Great Awakening. He lived between 1703-1758 and delivered this sermon at the height of the Awakening in New England, in Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741- 272 years ago this week!

As Wikipedia summarizes the sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that awaited them should they continue without Christ. The underlying point is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell. This act of restraint has given humanity a chance to mend their ways and return to Christ."

Below is the interior of the Rocky Hill Meetinghouse, Salisbury, Mass. built in 1785. It's typical of the New England meetinghouses of Edwards' day. It's called Meetinghouse because the building was used for church services AND government activities. This one was unheated until 1830.

Source

They were leaping out of their pews... "Parishioners personalized their pews by adding footstools, cushions, foot stoves, or arm rests. The pew seats are hinged, possibly to allow women more space for their full skirts while standing." (source)
Numbered box pews were sold to parishioners.
The remainder of the seating was unreserved.(src)

An oft-overlooked fact is that as Edwards preaches hell and gets to point four, he tells the congregation that of the danger of hell, he is speaking to them. Not everyone in a church is saved, as Edwards says,
"There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity." 
It doesn't matter how moral you are or how sober you are, if not saved by faith in Jesus, their place wrathful torment will be their state forevermore. (Matthew 7:22-23).

John Wesley preaching during 1st Great Awakening

Here's Edwards:
"It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"

"How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell?"

He ended this way:
"Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.""
-----------------end---------------

Not so seeker friendly, is it? The reaction of the congregation was astounding. Reverend Stephen Williams was minister at Longmeadow Mass. He recorded the reaction in detail later that night in his diary. This is Pastor Williams' description of the congregation's reaction at Enfield to Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,"
"Before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying out throughout the whole house, "What shall I do to be saved?! Oh, I am going to Hell! Oh, what shall I do for Christ?!" etc. etc. So that the minister was obliged to desist. Shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing. After some time of waiting, the congregation were still so that a prayer was made, and after that we descended from the pulpit and discoursed with the people, some in one place and some in another, and--amazing and astonishing!--the power of God was seen, and several souls were hopefully wrought upon that night, and oh, the pleasantness of their countenances that received comfort."
Lest one believe that Jonathan Edwards was dour and sad, here is the text of his sermon, Heaven, A World Of Love
"...But heaven is his dwelling-place above all other places in the universe; and all those places in which he was said to dwell of old, were but types of this. Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of his glorious presence, and it is his abode forever; and here will he dwell, and gloriously manifest himself to all eternity. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that "God is love;" and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love."
Yes indeed! His love reigns.

Every person born has an automatic citizenship in hell the world of wrath. You can transfer that citizenship to heaven, the world of love, by repenting of your sins and calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved from the world of despair.

3 comments :

  1. The power of the Word of God.

    I have read that Edward' was such a poor preacher with such poor eyesight that he read his sermons with his nose pressed against the paper.

    What a might God we serve..!!!!!!!!!!.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just my opinion, but I'd take Edwards over the "seeker-friendly" crowd ANY day! There was no lukewarm pablum drooling out of his mouth. Thanks for the great post.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for postIng things like this, Elizabeth! I learn so much from what you share. Melissa S.

    ReplyDelete