Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
A monument in Enfield, Connecticut commemorating the location where this sermon was preached.
|8 July 1741|
|Text||Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God at Wikisource|
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is a sermon written by British Colonial Christian theologian Jonathan Edwards, preached to his own congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts to unknown effect, and again on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut. Like Edwards' other works, it combines vivid imagery of Hell with observations of the world and citations of the scripture. It is Edwards' most famous written work, is a fitting representation of his preaching style, and is widely studied by Christians and historians, providing a glimpse into the theology of the Great Awakening of c. 1730–1755.
This is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and language of his sermon would awaken audiences to the horrific reality that he believed awaited them should they continue life without devotion to 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.
"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."
Most of the sermon's text consists of ten "considerations":
- God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
- The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
- The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God's condemnation to Hell.
- The Wicked, on earth - at this very moment - suffer a sample of the torments of Hell. The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not - at this very moment - as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who - at this very moment - do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
- At any moment God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
- If it were not for God's restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
- Simply because there are not visible means of death before them at any given moment, the Wicked should not feel secure.
- Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God's wrath.
- All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell's pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
- God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.
One church in Enfield, Connecticut had been largely unaffected during the Great Awakening of New England. Edwards was invited by the pastor of the church to preach to them. Edwards's aim was to teach his listeners about the horrors of hell, the dangers of sin and the terrors of being lost. Edwards described the shaky position of those who do not follow Christ's urgent call to receive forgiveness.
In the final section of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Edwards shows his theological argument throughout scripture and biblical history. Invoking stories and examples throughout the whole Bible. Edwards ends the sermon with one final appeal, "Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come." According to Edwards, only by returning to Christ can one escape the stark fate he outlines.
Effect and legacy
Jonathan Edwards was interrupted many times before finishing the sermon by people moaning and crying out, "What shall I do to be saved?" Although the sermon has received criticism, Edwards' words have endured and are still read to this day. Edwards' sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic studies.
- Religious Affections
- A Faithful Narrative
- Freedom of the Will
- American philosophy
- The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners
- Conforti, Joseph (1995), Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition, & American Culture, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0-8078-4535-6, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Crocco, Stephen (20 November 2006), "Edwards's Intellectual Legacy", in Stein, Stephen, The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 300–324, ISBN 978-0-521-61805-2, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Hart, Darryl; Lucas, Sean; Nichols, Stephen (1 August 2003), The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, ISBN 978-0-8010-2622-5, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Kimnach, Wilson; Maskell, Caleb; Minkema, Kenneth (23 March 2010), Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-14038-5, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Marsden, George (1 August 2004), Jonathan Edwards, New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-10596-4, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Ostling, Richard (4 October 2003), "Theologian Still Relevant After 300 Years", Times Daily, Associated Press, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Stout, Harry (20 November 2006), "Edwards as Revivalist", in Stein, Stephen, The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 125–143, ISBN 978-0-521-61805-2, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Wilson, John, "A History of the Work of Redemption", WJE Online 9, retrieved 2013-01-04
- Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, from DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln