Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Most famously preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", is Jonathan Edwards' most recognizable sermon.

Part 1

Part 2

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."

This is Edwards theological expression, one that will be repeatedly invoked and used rhetorically throughout the remainder of the sermon. This section consists of ten "considerations", as Edwards refers to them, which he justifies through a combined use of observations and hellish imagery. They are as follows:

1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment in time.

2. They [wicked men] deserve to be cast into hell: so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them.

3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.

4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell: and the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many of those miserable creatures that he is now tormenting in hell, and do there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath.

5. Satan stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him.

6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hellfire, if it were not for God's restraints.

7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand.

8. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment.

9. All wicked men's pains and contrivance they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, don't secure them from hell for one moment.

10. God has laid himself under no obligation by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment.

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the widely-held belief that Hell is a real and functional 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 in their ways. The underlying point, often overlooked in this sermon, 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 change their ways and come to Christ. Jonathan Edwards' sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic settings today.


Great Googly Moogly! said...

Edwards is one of my theological heroes. I have his collection and it contains quite a bit of philosophical work as well. Of course, theology and philosophy cannot be separated. Philosophy asks the questions that theology (properly understood) answers.

Jonathan Edwards...quite a difference from the watered-down "seeker-sensitive" drivel we hear nowadays!! :-)


Jeff said...


Thanks for the comment!

Philosophy asks the questions that theology (properly understood) answers.

Very nicely said, and very good point.

Jonathan Edwards...quite a difference from the watered-down "seeker-sensitive" drivel we hear nowadays!! :-)

Yes, I very much agree.