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Sinners in the hands of an angry God” as a constant threat to all human beings
When our view turns to North America in the first half of the 18th century, the brightest phenomenon is the “Calvinistic Great Awakening,” which began with the sermon of Theodor Frelinghuysen in the Dutch Reformed communities of New Jersey in 1726. One of the greatest representatives of that time was Jonathan Edwards. Due to Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the hands of angry God” he can truly be called as “one of the greatest theologians and pastors of America, who stood at the origins of the Great Awakening.”
Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is the most famous sermon in the history of America. The sermon was read in Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741, at the peak of the First Great Awakening. This is a typical Puritan “awakening sermon,” which warns of a court that hangs over unbelieving people. It also tells about the mercy of God, who keeps his enemies from instantly overthrowing Hell. One of the most important moments for Edwards was that every person should feel his sermon, that’s why he carefully selected the words to make his listeners take the topic exactly as reality. To achieve this goal, he used bright images in his explanations together with the biblical teaching. As a result of this sermon, the listeners experienced a dramatic revival. There are many meaningful quotations from the sermon, but we want to concentrate your attention on the one, that is being discussed enough.
” Their foot will slip in their time… when their foot is shaken” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
In this verse there is a threat to God of the wicked, unbelieving Israelites who were the chosen people of God and lived under His mercy; but who, despite His tremendous work on them, resembled stiff, reckless people (Deut. 32:28). After all that was done for them, they brought a bitter and poisonous fruit, as you see in 32 and 33 verses of the same chapter. The citation “their foot will slip in their time” seems to imply something very close to the punishment and death of sinful Israelites, who were left by God to their fate.
Another truth that is laid down in this verse says that they are in danger of falling, as well as those who stand or walk on the ice. They do not need any interference; their weight will knock them down.
The reason why they haven’t fallen yet is only one – the time appointed by God has not come. Therefore, it is said that when it comes – “their foot will slip.” God will no longer support them in a slippery place; He will leave them alone. And then they will instantly perish, because they are similar to people on the edge of a slippery sloping plane, which, as soon as they are released, will fall and break.
Image of hell in the sermon.
Jonathan Edwards was a consistent opponent of Arminianism and perceived freedom of the action from the position of compatibilism. He first gave the clearest definition of “free will,” that human freedom is not an opportunity to do what a person decides to do, but rather what he wants.
He also pays a lot of attention to the explanation and meaning of hell. God keeps all unconverted in His hands over the hellish abyss. Everyone by nature deserves this hell; God is angry with sinners, and unless they believe in Christ, they can’t feel secure. They have nothing to grasp. Edwards’ vivid descriptions of hell and eternal torment are examples of the emotional appeal pathos. For example, Edwards’ states, “The devil is waiting for them; hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up…”. In this example the audience can imagine the horrors of hell, which encourages them to look to God for salvation, thus also making use of logos as the audience rationalizes and considers the situation.
God has enough strength to drop sinners into hell at any moment. When He rebels, people become helpless; and even the strongest of them can’t resist Him, and no one can deliver them from His hand. For Him there is no difficulty in instantly plunging corrupt people into hell, He can do this very, very easily.
Sovereignty of God, original sin, and salvation in the sermon.
Jonathan Edwards describes hell to make the sinners aware of what is waiting for them in the nearest future. Also, he is disturbed by the next questions:
- The sovereignty of God. The doctrine of God’s dominion permeates the preaching, writings and the entire theological system of Edward. God predestines and fully controls all things, and He can never be disappointed in His will. The world exists in complete and absolute dependence on God, and God’s sovereign purpose extends to all His actions in creation, providence, and By the historic Reformed tradition, Edwards examines the truths about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility as a paradox that is humanly incomprehensible, but not contradictory.
- Original sin. Edwards believes that the whole human race sinned through the fall of Adam. All mankind inherited sinfulness, guilt and moral corruption because of their relationship to Adam. Falling from the original righteousness caused alienation of humanity from the rest of creation and distorted the image of God in people. Edwards emphasizes that the heart of a sinner has hardened, and his violation of the law enslaves him. Therefore, he manifests an open opposition to God and disrespect for Him. This sober and pessimistic view of human nature contrasted sharply with the optimism that arose in the colonies before the Revolution and continues to this day.
- Salvation is only in grace. The view of Edwards on the absolute necessity of God’s grace for salvation follows from his understanding of the sinful and spoiled state of man. In his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” he argues that human is not an independent ability. Rather, it reacts to its nature, its predominant motives or traits, which, since the fall, are marred by sin for all people. Thus, Edwards concludes that man is helpless to save himself or even cooperate in this process. He is convinced that a sinner by nature never chooses God unless God interferes with His special, effective and irresistible grace.
That theme can be important to everyone. Edwards tries to convey that in the souls of sinners reign the infernal principles which, without God’s limitations, could have already inflamed in them, flaring up with infernal fire. Edwards’ sermon and especially his later writings reflect this diagnosis of the fallen human condition. In the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards tries to show all the horror of the lives of sinners after death. He explains that the only one salvation is a faith in God. It’s never too late to change; God will always listen to you.