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God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners Jonathan Edwards delivered his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in Enfield Connecticut on July 8, 1741, the year following George Whitefield's preaching tour which helped inspire the Great Awakening. Weeping and emotional conviction among Edwards audiences came at a time of great spiritual thirst. While very foreign to mainstream American opinion today, this extraordinary message was fashioned for a people who were very conscious of how their lifestyles affected eternal consequences. By todays popular perspective, the doctrine of predestination probably discourages conversion because of the new-age independent attitude. However, in Puritan culture, through Jonathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, fear might have powerfully affected people to look within them for the evidence of grace and then experience salvation.
First, Edwards sermon is filled with graphic images of the fury of divine wrath and the horror of the unmerciful punishment of the wicked in hell. If one were to continue in their sin, according to Edwards, not only would a person be tormented in the presence of holy angels, but Gods terribleness would be magnified upon his / her life and forced to suffer through Gods wrath for all eternity (74). Although it conveys the reek of brimstone, the sermon does not say that God will hurl man into everlasting firefox the contrary, doom will come from Gods indifference (Thompson 71). Edwards had little need to justify his scare tactics and theology. His consuming obligation was to preach it; to preach it fiercely, purposely, persuasively, and firmly. Williams 2 Next, an example of Gods wrath is seen through Edwards portrayal of great waters dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given (72).
Here was an old image redesigned to startle Enfield out of its smugness (Cady 4). Every New Englander was intimate with his community's use of water power at the mill, if nowhere else. The dramatic peril of floods as well as the daily power of the falling waters were familiar and exciting. Edwards strikes blow after blow to the conscience-stricken hearts of his congregation. He draws graphic images from the Bible, all designed to warn sinners of their peril. He tells them that they are walking on slippery places with the danger of falling from their own weight (Sproul God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners).
Edwards took the essence of his hearers own minds, raised it to the plane of his own intensity, and made his vision live in those memories. Equally important is the spirituality of Edwards and the Puritans being far more complex than Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God portrays. The fear in the sermon is about having a holy respect for Gods power. Because of the 18 th century popular culture, unconverted audience members probably remained more God-conscious in their daily living than most people of the past few centuries. Edwards understood the nature of Gods holiness. He perceived that unholy men have much to fear from such a God (Cady The Artistry of Jonathan Edwards).
He did not evangelize out of a sadistic delight in frightening people, but out of compassion. He loved his congregation enough to warn them of the dreadful consequences of facing the wrath of God (Sproul God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners). He was not concerned with laying a guilt trip on his people but with awakening them to the jeopardy they faced if they remained unchanged. Finally, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is not directly concerned to create Hell imaginatively. Hell is in its picture, but only at the surface. The focus is on the predicament of the sinner, how dreadfully he dangles just before he plunges to eternal agony, while he has time to Williams 3 repent and be saved.
The purpose of this sermon was to motivate those unconverted members of Edwards audience to repent from unbelief and sin, become baptized, and experience a realization of Gods grace, as imparted by His Spirit. You have an extraordinary opportunity (to be saved) Therefore, let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come (Edwards 75). The horrific slipperiness and fearful suspension above the flaming fire described throughout is a message intended for those individuals who know the truth, yet have remained wicked and unbelieving. Edwards believed that God has less patience for those who know they should be living right (Cady The Artistry of Jonathan Edwards). In conclusion, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God represents a relentless concept of fear designed to convince the then Puritan society through future generations that the tremendous effects of an unconverted mans unstable state lay in Gods whim of mercy, and the terror of this message derived from the insecurity of being temporarily protected by an all-powerful being full of infinite anger (Thompson 71).
How does one react to Edwards sermon? Does it provoke a sense of fear? Does it form anger? Does todays public have a feeling of nothing but scorn for any ideas about hell and everlasting punishment?
Should the wrath of God be seen as a primitive or obscene concept? Is the very notion of hell an insult? If so, it is clear that the God one worships is not a holy God: thus, He is not a God at all. If we despise the justice of God, a person is not a Christian. One stands in a position which is every bit as dangerous as the one which Edwards so graphically described. If we hate the wrath of God, it is because we hate God Himself.
We may protest vehemently against these charges but our vehemence only confirms our hostility toward God (Sproul God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners). But a God of love who has no wrath is no God. One who does not love God in this present world is considered a loser, as he has lost all peace, comfort, strength, and even hope. A persons greatest detriment in the hereafter is found in the loss of the sight of Christ and the beholding of His glories 351
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