Jonathan Edwards: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” (Deuteronomy 32:35 (ESV)

Jonathan Edwards was the most vigorous defender of The Great Awakening. He believed the Holy Spirit truly moved among the people of the American Colonies in 1740-1742. This awakening not only brought about conversions unto salvation in Jesus Christ, but also brought about a renewed commitment by believers in Christ to personal consecration and holiness.

The pinnacle of the Great Awakening occurred on July 8, 1741. Jonathan Edwards was in Enfield, Conn. for a midweek service. He was not scheduled to preach that night. However, the intended preacher became ill and Edwards provided pulpit supply. His text was Deuteronomy 32:35. Dr. Stephen J. Nichols explains what then occurred.

“Edwards delivered what is likely the most famous and the most read sermon ever preached on American soil, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The drama overwhelmed the crowd. They shrieked and cried out. But the drama did not stem from Edwards’ technique. Rather than whoop up the crowd into a frenzy, Edwards waited for the congregation to regain its composure, and then he pressed on in his sermon. The drama came not in the technique but in the truth, the truth of eternal damnation, the truth that all of us are on the precipice of eternal judgment. The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow is pointed directly at us. We are like spiders dangling over the pit of hell, saved from the flames for the time being by a mere thread. God used Edwards’ words to pierce hearts.”

“Edwards equally matched his imagery of judgment with imagery of redemption. Christ has ‘flung the door of mercy wide open and stands in the door crying and calling with a loud voice to poor sinners.’ This was passion for the gospel.”  

“Edwards had preached the sermon a month earlier in his own church with little visible effect. But when he delivered it at Enfield, a powerful revival occurred. Sinners were convicted and souls were shaken. Edwards was forced to motion for silence as people clung to the pews for fear of dropping into hell,” Dr. Steven J. Lawson states

We must again note that drama of that evening was not sourced in Edwards’ preaching technique. The drama was not in technique but rather in truth. Edwards preached the truth of eternal damnation and God’s eternal judgment of sinners without faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit brought conviction of sin. This distinguishes Edwards from being a motivational speaker to being a herald of the Word of God.

Eternal damnation is a truth which continues to be denied today, by even some well-meaning pastors. However, it remains a truth to be preached, leading to the gospel to be believed (Romans 1:16-17).

Soli deo Gloria!

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