Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
July 8, 1741
If you were to hear this sermon properly, you’d be seated, as were Jonathan Edwards’ parishioners when he delivered it on July 8, 1741. Men separated from women; men on the right, women on the left.
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is a sermon written by British Colonial Christian theologian Jonathan Edwards, preached to his own congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards combines vivid imagery of Hell with citations of the scripture. It is Edwards' most famous written work and is widely studied by Christians and historians, providing a glimpse into the theology of the Great Awakening of c. 1730–1755.
I have edited it down from the original 25 pages to the 6.
Hear now the 1741 sermon of Jonathan Edwards titled
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Deuteronomy 32:35 tells us, Their foot shall slide in due time. In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who lived under the means of grace. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit. They were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. The same is expressed in Psalm 73:18. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction."
It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning:
Another thing implied is that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
The reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, “but the mere pleasure of God."
There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell.
They deserve to be cast into hell; divine justice never stands in the way. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place.
Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation. The wrath of God burns against them, the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, the flames do now rage and glow.
The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The devil watches them; like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; destructive in its nature, all wicked men's pains and contrivance, used to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it.
God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. God is dreadfully provoked, the devil is waiting, flames gather and flash about them. The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; hell's wide gaping mouth is open; nothing between you and hell but the power and mere pleasure of the God that holds you up; and that of an angry God.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell as one holds some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing but to be cast into the fire; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell.
When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, God will call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. 33:12-14. "And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites."
Thus you shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old!
There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit. And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning.
You have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands calling with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? Oh, sirs, your case is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how persons of your years are passed over and left, in the remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God's mercy? You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of God.
And you, young men and young women, will you neglect this precious season, which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? And you children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?
And let every one that is yet hanging over the pit of hell, be they old men and women, middle aged, young people, or little children, hearken to the loud calls of God's word and providence.
God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed." AMEN