Important Background

On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards began a sermon the he would not finish.

The fires of great Awakening renewal were burning brilliantly throughout new England. Iain Murray notes,

As spring passed right into summer 1741 no one could well keep track the the number of places which were also witnessing the revival. Churches, i beg your pardon in some cases had to be cold and also dry at the start of the year, to be transformed before the end. “It is astonishing,” created Edwards, “to see the change that there is in some towns, where prior to was but small appearance the religion.”1

As Jonathan Edwards placed it in a letter to cutting board Prince, a minister in Boston, “It was a an extremely frequent point to watch a house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions and such like, both through distress and also with admiration and also joy.”2 This background to the renowned preaching the the “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is important to grasp. Edwards’s sermon go not occur in a vacuum. There to be a vast and basic revival occurring at the moment of his preaching. But what is even much more important to understand is the the location where Edwards preached the sermon was, up until the minute when Edwards preached, patent resistant come the revival. If in nearby towns, many were being converted—one church obtained 95 brand-new members into the church top top one Sunday alone—Enfield was coming to be notorious because that resisting the work-related of God in ~ the time.

Edwards had actually preached “Sinners in the hands of An angry God” before. He had preached it in ~ Northampton, in his own house church. There to be no reported astonishing manifestations, or response, or emotion, at the time of preaching. But now he concerned preach it at Enfield–this city holding out versus the revival–and God blessed the preaching of his word in one extraordinary manner.

The Sermon

One tradition has actually it the Edwards was not also the designated or to plan preacher the day. He to be a stand-in. Such is the weird providence the God. A team of ministers gone into the meeting residence at Enfield whereby the sermon to be to be preached. Groups of together ministers to be traveling around brand-new England together itinerants preaching renewal sermons, capturing to the fullest extent feasible the move of the soul of God the was sovereignly occurring. As one participant later recalled, once the ministers entered the church at Enfield, the gathered people were “thoughtless and vain.” By compare with other towns in ~ the time, the civilization there were not also showing any specific interest—let alone an excellent passion—regarding the points of God. In fact, castle “hardly performed themselves with common decency.”3 This was no an auspicious beginning. There to be no ‘atmosphere’ of readiness and seriousness, nor even normal, polite attentiveness.

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But climate Edwards started to preach. We execute not know specifically how Edwards preached—there were no video recordings the his style, his mannerisms, and any idea we have of his technique is just gathered from a couple of reports of the way he preached and by illustration conclusions from the copious sermon manuscripts that room preserved. Samuel Hopkins, in his Life of president Edwards, offers a famous set of descriptions of his preaching. Anyone at the time identified Edwards as an “Eminent Preacher.” This, Hopkins says, to be for three major reasons.

First, Edwards “took great pains in creating his sermons . . . The wrote most of his sermons all out, for near two decades after he began to preach; despite he did no confine self wholly to his note in delivering them.” Second, “his good acquaintance with divinity, his study, and also knowledge the the Bible. His extensive and also universal knowledge, and an excellent clearness that thought.” Third, “his good acquaintance with his own heart, his inward sense, and also relish of magnificent things . . . This gave him a an excellent insight into human nature: he knew what to be in man both the saint and sinner.” Hopkins included that “his figure in the desk was v a good grace, and also his shipment easy, natural and an extremely solemn.”4

It is occasionally assumed that Edwards never deviated from what he had written in his manuscripts, but Hopkins indicates that Edwards would speak ex tempore together he thought appropriate, coming turn off his notes. Plus, the manuscripts of his sermons indicate that Edwards had a much more direct approach. Lock were cut into a tiny enough size that Edwards might “palm” lock (hide castle in the palm the his hand); a little like one autocue, ns suppose.

The crying and weeping ended up being so loud that Edwards was forced to discontinue the sermon.

On this particular day in history, Jonathan Edwards started a sermon that he did not finish. Such was the influence of his preaching that the world listening shrieked and also cried out, and also the crying and weeping ended up being so loud the Edwards was forced to discontinue the sermon. Instead, the pastors went down amongst the people and prayed v them in groups. Many came to a saving understanding of Christ the day.

What can we learn from Edwards’s preaching the “Sinners in the hands of An angry God?”

We have to Not Be fear to Preach Hell

Edwards is unfairly tarnished as only a hell-fire preacher. Read Charity and also Its Fruits. Read plenty of of his other sermons that discourse upon the beauty of Christ. Preaching on hell to be not unusual in 18th-century new England. What make Edwards’s sermon impactful was not that he preached on hell, however how he taught on hell. Through contrast, we hardly ever (if ever) even mention hell from our pulpits today. Surely in the future, the church will look back on ours age and also recount it together the strangest fashion the we preached on god’s love without preaching oh my god justice or wrath. Over there is little biblical balance in ours preaching today.

We must Preach v Imagery

Edwards’s sermon is astonishing for its continual use of arresting verbal images. “Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and also pressure towards hell; and also if God have to let girlfriend go, girlfriend would immediately sink and also swiftly descend and also plunge into the bottomless gulf.”5 our enthusiasm because that proposition truth, because that rational articulation, must not blind us to Edwards’s fundamental insight: the “sense of the heart” that must be captured by the beauty of the Christ. Preachers space to be artist rendering in intuitive words the glory of the Jesus they represent.


God Sovereignly Blesses the Preaching of His Word

This was not the an initial time Edwards had preached this sermon. But this time—this job in history—God relocated in a an effective way. We should likewise not it is in surprised to discover that we are offered sometimes past our own expectations. Over there is no record of Edwards ever commenting upon the influence of this his most well known sermon. Evidently, he taught it at other times subsequently–his sermon manuscripts give proof of once he taught sermons and other notes included for various various occasions. However it to be not unusual for him come preach his sermons more than once. Probably the sermon girlfriend preach this Sunday will certainly have much more impact than the previous ten, and perhaps you will be unaware the it. If nothing renders us humble, climate preaching should.

Our Urgent need Is for Revival

Edwards is the theologian par excellence the revival. Read his The background of the job-related of Redemption. Edwards’s dispute is that God’s redemption strategy is to move forward in leaps and bounds v the job-related of revival and that an ext is done for God’s kingdom at such times than in decades prior to or since. This too have to drive united state to ours knees. May we plead that God would not permit the an initial or Second great Awakenings it is in the just “awakenings” that involved America, but also in our day in 2018.


Iain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A new Biography (Edinburgh, 1992), 166.George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale, 2003), 218. George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale, 2003), 220.Samuel Hopkins, The Life the the late Reverend, Learned and Pious Mr. Jonathan Edwards (Boston, 1765), 46-48.Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the hands of angry God, “The functions of Jonathan Edwards” Vol. 2, (Edinburgh, 1988), 9.

Josh Moody (PhD, university of Cambridge) serves as the an elderly pastor of college Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and also president the God focused Life Ministries. He was formerly a other at Yale University. Josh and his wife have 4 children.


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