Analysis of Jonathan Edward’s Sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
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Jonathan Edward’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is such a beautifully and eloquently spoken sermon of love that many will likely see only as a sermon of God’s displeasure with man.
I don’t think that I’ve ever been quite so glad to have been raised on the King James Version of the Bible as after reading this. This plea to “natural man” to be born again is evidence of Edward’s attempt to address any argument that escape from hell can be earned, purchased or avoided by man, except through Christ.
Edward’s image of God’s hand holding “natural man” by a thin thread out of the path of his wrath is a wonderful accounting of God’s grace. God does not want to let go of that thread.
When Jonathan Edwards refers to “natural man” he is speaking of anyone who has not accepted Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation by being “born again.”
Edward’s first outlines the wrath and vengeance God set against His chosen people the Israelites when they continued to fall away and disobey Him. Then later he shows how that same wrath transfers to the whole world.
Edwards notes that only God’s own desire to keep us from falling into hell is sustaining us from it. It is only through God’s grace. He mentions several times how man has and continues to try to fit God into a mold that will not hold Him. God’s pleasure, His will, is what holds us up, until He knows that a heart is so hard that He will let go and let us slip into the hell we have earned by our own hands. Then the sinner is no more a thought of God, but is something under His feet.
Edwards is careful to point out that only God knows when that point of no return for any one person is.
Edwards backs up every claim with Holy Scripture. He addresses everyone and every excuse. He knows that there are people in the very congregation he is speaking to that will turn their deaf ear to it and be without excuse. He speaks of man’s schemes and man’s wisdom as foolishness before God.
Edwards’ ten points of consideration end with the final blow that God is under no “obligation” to man. He has outlined the covenant of Christ as the mediator man rejects.
My own gut reaction to the message in this sermon is of rejoicing for the power, love and mercy of God, because I have no need to fear death. But, my assurance is only through being born again through Christ. Nothing I did could change me to be righteous before God. Only God could do that for me. And that is what Jonathan Edwards is trying to make visual here.
In the final plea the minister offers yet another chance for anyone there to be born again through Christ. I’m sure his voice was bold and loud, but still he spoke out of love. Sure his message is a fiery one, but that seems to be the point. But, I could almost imagine hearing this man’s voice in a humble and pleading tone, not at all haughty or of a man above his congregation.
Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) preached this sermon in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is meant to be disturbing to the heart of the unrepentant sinner. It is also meant to give hope by offering a way out of the state of “natural man.”