Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards

The Greatest Sermons
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"
Jonathan Edwards
Sermons between 1725-1750

When I began my reading journey five years ago, I thought I had no interest in Christian literature, and certainly not in Christian fiction or self-help gobbledygook.  But in the last few years, I have developed a need and warmed up to reading biographies of early Church Fathers, histories of the Church, and testimonials of Christian faith and truth.

Here is a list of non-fiction Christian books I have enjoyed:

Josephus - Flavius Josephus
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas à Kempis
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther - Roland Bainton
No Other Foundation: The Church Through Twenty Centuries - Jeremy Jackson
Church History in Plain Language - Bruce Shelley
Foxe's Book of Martyrs - John Foxe
The Institutes of Christian Religion - John Calvin
Confessions - Augustine
Tortured for Christ - Richard Wurmbrand
The Book of Margery Kemp - Margery Kemp
The Life of Saint Theresa - Theresa of Availa
The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom
Joni: An Unforgettable Story - Joni Earekson Tada
Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - Laura Hillenbrand
Bonhoeffer - Eric Metaxas
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce - Eric Metaxas
Born Again - Charles Colson
Surprised by Joy - C.S. Lewis
Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton
Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners - John Bunyan
I'm No Angel: From Victoria Secret Model to Role Model - Kylie Bisutti
EPIC: The Story God is Telling - John Eldredge
Let's Roll: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Courage - Lisa Beamer
Of Plymouth Plantation - William Bradford

Many of these books are pure encouragement, and I want to continue reading more like these in years to come.



This book, The Greatest Sermons by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a Puritan New England theologian, is a collection of his most urgent messages between 1725 through 1750.  He was extremely popular during the Great Awakening (1730-40s), which he probably caused because of his preaching, or maybe it was just a time when New Englanders thirsted for the grave truth; either way, Edwards was instrumental in turning the hearts of the colonists back to God with the Bible's alarming warnings.

His expository sermons were extracted directly from Scripture, aimed at the sinful hearts of men.  He did not soften his delivery or sweeten his words; he defined it exactly as it was and is, according to the Bible: sin, hell, eternal punishment, damnation, election, repentance - whatever he was preaching.

The topics included in these sermons cover:

God's final judgment
Election (who Christians are)
Jesus Christ (always the same/never changing)
The excellency of Christ
The preciousness of time (and how to redeem it)
Justification (by faith alone)



The main sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is quite a dreadful warning.  Here is an outline of his message:

The Israelites (our example) were always in danger of falling into God's vengeance, but He preserved them for His appointed time.

Edwards interprets Psalm 32:35 to say: There is nothing that keeps wicked men . . . out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.

Edwards demonstrates that God has the power to cast men into hell, they deserve to go to hell, and they are already under a sentence of condemnation.  Man is the object of the same wrath of God that others are experiencing in hell right now; Satan will take them as his own the moment God will permit it; evil forces are reigning in the souls of wicked men; while death may seem far away, the unsaved are not safe; and the unsaved cannot escape hell.

He continues:
So all of you that have never had a change of heart by the mighty power of the Spirit;
all of you that were never born again;
all of you that have not been made new creatures;
all of you that have not experienced new light and life;
are in the hands of an angry God.
He goes on the warn his hearers:
There is no other reason that you were allowed to wake up this morning and did not go to hell last night after you closed your eyes to sleep.
Gulp.

He asks his congregations to consider:
Whose wrath is it?  It is the wrath of the infinite God.  (Fear him, after he has killed you, has power to cast into hell. . .)
It is the fierceness of His wrath to which you are exposed.  (God will execute the fierceness of His anger on you . . .)
God is standing right now ready to pity you.  Today is a day of mercy.  (God has it on His heart to show to the angels and men both how wonderful His love is and how terrible His wrath.)
It is everlasting anger.  (It matters not how moral, strict, sober, and religious you are.) 
Edwards pleads with his listeners to "take this opportunity to be born again."
I cry to everyone who is outside of Christ, awake and flee from the wrath to come.  The anger of Almighty God is undoubtedly hanging over many in this congregation.  Let everyone fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."
 ~

Jonathan Edwards' words are still relevant today.  Nothing has changed because God never changes. Unfortunately, too many "Christians" do not know their Bible, and this kind of preaching sounds "mean, harsh, and intolerant."  Why are soft, prosperity preachers, like Joel Osteen, so popular?  Is it any wonder his congregation is the largest in the United States? I mean, really; how many people want to be reminded every week that they deserve to go to hell because they are not right with God?

P.S.

Someone actually spent the time and energy to create this really cheesy clip of Joel Osteen talking to Jonathan Edwards (who shares his theology straight from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God").


4 comments:

  1. What a great list. I've read a number of them and need to read the rest. I agree with you. We need a good dose of Edwards today. Joel Olsteen aside, too many other churches present the Gospel as some kind of therapy program. I read the kiosks on some churches and they seem to read like they are advertising for a grief recovery program.

    I'm not saying that God is not our healer nor that our lives cannot be mended. But we forget how great and holy God is and that it is not about us but rather about worshiping God.

    I read something very interesting by John MacArthur. He quoted a Calvinist saying that too many pastors do not present the Gospel clearly enough or more people in their congregation would reject it.

    I think that's true. If people heard the real, unadulterated Gospel, there would be fewer people in church. That sounds harsh, even discouraging I know, but nevertheless I believe this is the true.

    Thanks for a great review!

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    1. Thank you.

      Sadly, this is true. Too many watered down Christian churches are concerned with entertaining their congregations and keeping them content, it seems. : ( Surely, Edwards was speaking to the unsaved in his congregation. If one is saved, this kind of truth should not turn people away. Unfortunately, we are an entertainment-based society, and we really need the bells and whistles to keep us tuned in.

      P.S. My pastor was educated at Masters seminary by MacArthur. : )

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  2. Well put Ruth. I read this a long time ago. Probably due for a reread.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joseph. Glad to hear that someone else I know read this too. : )

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