It is easy to see why Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” has stood the test of time, being transcribe, orated and read for centuries after its delivery. In the beginning of the sermon, Edwards quotes from Deuteronomy in reference to the Israelites, stating “There foot will slip in due time. ” This ominous quote easily conveys the convictions of Edwards’ speech, that all men are susceptible to God’s wrath.
Here, he lays the framework for his speech through four points that elaborate his quote: that all mankind is poised for destruction from God, that this can be sudden, unexpected or unexplained, that man is likely to be responsible for his own sins, and that even the pious will slip under the will of God’s destruction, for even they are not safe from his resolve (Edwards).
Through evocative description and confident assuredly, Edwards bluntly states the theme of his sermon, that the only act keeping man from burning eternally in a furious damnation is “the mere pleasure of God” (Edwards).
As God plots this final judgment, man must simply wait patiently while faithfully accepting that only the intervention of God will allow man to reach salvation. Once Edwards makes this clear, he transitions into an exposition on God’s eternal powers unto how such power affects the lives of all member so God’s domain, down to the individuals who would hear the speech first hand. This is very consistent with Calvinist theology, as they believe that God rules all aspects of life, physical and spiritual.
He warns that while many may not see the direct acts of God upon their daily life, they should consider the small pleasures of their life, and realize that these are the acts of God holding them above the treachery of Hell. This further falls in procession with mainline Calvinist teachings, as it is their belief that there is nothing that man can do to achieve salvation, but only the will (and act) of God that permits man to escape the wrath of Hell.
Sovereign grace is another issue that Edwards treads upon in the sermon, as he addresses how all men are sinners and that humanity as a whole is a fallen idol to the eternal good that is God. Because of this, man is predestined to eternity in Hell as they are born into a world already fallen from grace. Thus, as Edwards reminds his listeners, people are the complete mercy of God, for their altruistic acts, sinless life, and faith mean nothing to the afterlife if God has not deemed one worthy enough to save (Wikipedia: Calvinism).
However, Edwards continues in his speech to concretely assert the antipathy that God beholds man. In an analogy comparing man to a spider, Edwards argues that god is to man as man is to a spider, and as man holds a spider over a burning flame waiting to cast the creature ablaze, so does God look down upon man, waiting to disdainfully throw man into a pit of hellfire and brimstone.
Edwards uses strong, entrancing word choices in describing God’s disdain for mankind, the thin spider’s strand that holds men currently from damnation, and what is in store for men once they arrive at the eternal source of punishment. Edwards describes Hell as “millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance” (Edwards). However, Edwards does offer his audiences (and mankind) a way out of the gloom and doom described in his sermon.
Towards the conclusion, Edwards suggests that only other option is the acceptance of Jesus Christ. This of course contradicts some of the Calvinist principles that one’s destiny is predetermined, but it does offer real life alternatives to those who may be living a (perceivably) sinful life without Christ. Thus, is man is allowed the will to accept Christ in a manner to deflect Hell, then he has thwarted the divine destiny of God. That is, unless that was God’s intentional plan.
Nevertheless, this allows Edwards to conclude the speech while giving listeners hope in escaping the tortuous Hell described, they must only accept the Gospel and Christ, as well as God’s sovereign will rather individual efforts or church activities.
Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. ” Enfield, Connecticut. 8 July 1741. http://www. leaderu. com/cyber/books/edwards/sinners. html “Wikipedia: Calvinism. ” <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Calvinism>. 25 April 2009.
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