On July 8, 1741, there was an unusual stirring in the town of Enfield, Connecticut. For months, Suffield, a neighboring town just west of Enfield, has been experiencing an awakening; a religious phenomenon was beginning to be widespread: “the congregation [was] considerably affected—and many cried out.”1 However, Enfield was virtually unaffected for a considerable duration after the revival of Suffield; preachers tirelessly tried to create the same effect in Enfield without any results for the assembly was “thoughtless and vain” and “they hardly conducted themselves with common decency.”2 However, it was on July 8, 1741 when the congregation encountered a spiritual stirring that changed the course of history and Jonathan Edwards was the momentous catalyst for an awakening.
That night Edwards preached a sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which would be anthologized as the most recognized sermon in American history. The delivery of the sermon was not anything like the champion of itinerant preaching, the notable evangelist George Whitefield. Edwards possessed neither his fiery voice nor the ostentatious display of pulpit dramatics, but rather, he was calm, his voice soft, and his movement very minimal. Despite the lack of fiery passionate preaching, his words took captive of his listeners, as the words of delivery were full of meaningful ideas and imagery, compelling the audience to a state of uproar. Stephen Williams of nearby Longmeadow recounts in his diary that day: “Before the sermon was done, there was great moaning and crying out through the whole house. What shall I do to be saved? Oh I am going to hell! Oh what shall I do for a Christ?”3 The shrieks and cries filled the room and pandemonium settled in, and Edwards, having lost control of the crowd, stopped repeatedly to wait for the congregation to become still. The experience was definitely a first for Edwards, who up until then would only witness as a spectator, but on that night, a stirring took place and Edwards was behind the masterful act of delivery. The Awakening would continue to spread throughout New England like wildfire.
The Sinners sermon received a great deal of attention in New England as Edwards preached the sermon repeatedly from one place to another. The news of the phenomenon as well as the printed text disseminated overseas, receiving even the attention of Isaac Watts, who remarked it being “a most terrible sermon.”4 With Sinners at the helm of many of his works, Edwards became an international sensation as many of his other texts found their way to the printing press for widespread distribution. Though a sermon like Sinners was originally penned as a complete manuscript, by the time Sinners reached the printing press, it undergoes a considerable degree of revision. This is to the fact that publication followed after numerous times of delivery, probably after being positively received time and time again. The composition of Sinners was intended to be a sermon for the sake of delivery utilizing the human faculties, namely—but not solely—speaking and listening. The published text becomes for Edwards a polished text, dramatically different from what Edwards had before him as he preached in front of the Enfield congregation. So in essence, the anthologized Sinners sermon presents a striking contrast from the sermons that Edwards actually delivered. The aim of this paper is to explore the dynamics of sermon writing, sermon delivery, and the final end-product reached at sermon publication to explain the differences between the manuscript form of Sinners from its print text. The process of getting to the print text is marked by constant revisions of the sermon in succession, which begins with the written Edwards, in manuscript form, which gives structure and content for the spoken Edwards, which makes constant revisions at the pulpit. These are the refinements that lead all to the final print Edwards. The written Edwards, spoken Edwards, and print Edwards are all inextricably intertwined in the transcription dynamics of Edwards.
Getting to the Written Edwards
The written Edwards is the stage at which the sermon is in manuscript form, as Edwards ascends to the pulpit. Although the sermon is almost entirely written out, the manuscript is hardly a final draft, with plenty of instances of reworking and rephrasing of expressions and ideas; there is an element of roughness in the way the sermon was put together. Still, the “roughness” of Sinners is seen regularly in Edwards’ way of sermon composition, a penning process seen in most of his writings.5 One cause of this is Edwards’ way of sermon writing—the manuscript form is a high point in the process of developing Edwards’ thought.
Edwards’ thought begins at the stage of collection, the point at which doctrines are tightly formed, inventive ideas are formulated, and sometimes, progressions of thought are outlined for future sermons. Edwards collected these thoughts into notebooks like the Miscellanies, one of his many sermon notebooks. This particular one had each idea numbered, which would be fitted into the system of referencing for future use and development of thought. Throughout Edwards’ life, the sermon notebooks constituted his compendium of ideas. Almost compulsively driven to compile ideas, Edwards was known to have pinned pieces of notes onto his shirt while traveling horseback from one city to another, which was spent mainly in solitude. This became his extensive system of memory, where he meticulously wrote down notes, and a series of thought were carefully traced by his note system. Edwards was a man, whose mind constantly worked, with ideas that streamed through the conduit of innovation, inspired by enlightenment thinking on the rise in his day and age. John Locke and Isaac Newton were among those great thinkers, whose works Edwards read as a student during his schooling days at Yale, but despite their influences, Edwards was not a protégé of any one of them, since he was able to churn new thought in ways original and abreast of current innovations in metaphysics, and appropriated much of the emerging epistemology in the realm of Calvinist system of theology. Contrary to Perry Miller’s belief that Edwards was a Lockean, Norman Fiering argues that Edwards’ five inherited principles predate Locke.6 Edwards was not strictly a Lockean, Newtonian or even a Malebranchean for that matter, but an empiricist, who often returned to the crux of confessional Calvinist tenet, by which God was glorified in all of his creation. Many systems of thought profusely entered through Edwards’ mind, and collected into sermon notebooks.
Derived from these sermon notebooks, sermons are produced, with entries making way into the sermon corpus. Three typical relationships result from the sermon and notebook entries:
- the origin of a sermon or part of a sermon in the notebooks,
- the sermon as a stylistic refiner of doctrinal ideas in the notebooks, and
- the sermon as a part of the “reference cycle” of notebook entries.7
Notebooks like Miscellanies, Notes on the Apocalypse, and The Mind, all contain entries of various ideas and doctrine, which reference other entries and are also referenced for the sermon material.8 These entries serve as the springboard for sermon composition. The sermon acts the “drawing” board for collecting and refining proper theology to communicate to the congregation. The beauty of these notebooks is that ideas are used and reused, worked and reworked, developed and refined, and this is the world that is constantly at work in the mind of Edwards for the sake of the written Edwards.
The written Edwards in Sinners is the prototypical sermon of sermon composition for both Edwards and New England preaching at the time. The written Edwards followed a general pattern, very familiar to the listeners of the New England congregants. Sermons were structured in a way that would be accustomed to Edwards’ listeners: text, doctrine, and application. Such is the structure of Sinners. The text is Deuteronomy 32:35, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” Following his short exposition of the text is the doctrine that the verse represents in six points. The application section follows suit at two distinct levels, which are addressed to believers and natural men. Listeners would have been able to receive these distinct points in the exact fashion that is usually presented.9 Part of Edwards’ genius is in his simplicity. He has a way with rhetoric and style, all of which he intentionally avoids, and he makes this evident in his preface to Miscellanies. Edwards writes in the cover of one of his earliest notebooks to remind himself that he should not have anything to do with fanciful styles of writing, rather approach his writings with modesty.10 Even then, the sermon actively captivates the attention of his listeners with gripping descriptions, ideas, and most importantly structure.
Sinners is written out almost entirely in the pages of the duodecimo manuscript, with twelve pages, each with recto and verso sides.11 These argued points in the sermon are numbered, and some have corrections with symbols and arrows showing insertions in the text. Edwards also had ways of revising the text within the duodecimo pages. These changes are naturally placed at the final two pages, where there is plenty of room for additions. Symbols, numbers, and roman numerals are employed to indicate necessary changes, and possibly additions that come as an afterthought. This common practice was a technique of “keying” of different passages.12 The fact stands that the manuscript form of Sinners contains the sermon written out in its entirety. Even then without actually “keying,” the changes can be listed out, which appears in the manuscript of Sinners. On Leaf 14, both recto and verso, Edwards lists these extra expressions, after the sermon is fully written out in manuscript form. These changes include: “cloud of God’s wrath,” “the bow is bent,” and the spider imagery. Revisions are constantly emerging for Edwards, especially after preaching it and for certain occasions.
The written Edwards of Sinners first reached the pulpit at the church in Northampton sometime in the month of June 1741, and it was not received with any bit of enthusiasm. In Enfield is where Edwards would preach a revised version of the sermon a month after Northampton that same year. The revisions were probably adapted for Enfield, and there were noted at the end of the sermon. The first version preached in Northampton did not do so much as to condemn, but rather, it took a subtler, a more pastoral approach to the wrath of God. In Enfield, the revised version included the changes and became the sermon whose genre Edwards would characterize as the “awakening” sermon, the type of sermon that invokes fear with language characterized by fire-and-brimstone. The written Edwards is being constantly refined at this point, as the written Edwards transitions over to the spoken Edwards, and the words written from the creative mind of Edwards reach the ears.
The Spoken Edwards: Alive at Every Word
Edwards was widely known to be quiet in nature, not so outspoken, nor very charismatic as a public speaker. Always in contrast with the itinerant preachers of his time—most notably, George Whitfield, Edwards was convinced that public speaking was not a gift, which he possessed, because of his dependence on the having the manuscript at hand. Edwards saw it as a handicap, and for the most part of his life, he depended on some sort of prepared note to help him through the delivery of the sermon. As mentioned earlier, Edwards advised himself to be modest in style; he stayed away from rhetorical techniques. Despite his simplicity, Edwards was no simpleton in regards to his delivery of his sermon, but his way of delivery was far from ecstasy. Thomas Prince in 1744 once described Edwards, as having a “natural” style of delivery, “without any agitation of body, or anything else in the manner to excite attention.”13 Edwards was calm, his voice was probably serene, the setting was also adverse to a spiritual renewal, but in moment’s time, the congregation reacted in shrieks and cries, and the whole meetinghouse wreaked havoc, to the point where Edwards was no longer able to preach. The spoken Edwards beckoned a spiritual awakening there in that place. But what was it? How would a “natural” Edwards speak words that would penetrate the souls?
The spoken Edwards is characteristically subtle, which though not flamboyant at the onset, the flow of coherent ideas and vivid imagery embedded into the sermon bursts forth from the pages to the hearts of the listeners. The language communicates the impregnable power of God, and the overarching authority of his ways. The hand of God is upon them. The use of the “hands” is an imagery commonly found in biblical sources.14 The hand of God is quintessentially the acting power of God that lies imminently before hearers. The spoken Edwards magnifies the power of God that exudes fear: “Thus are all you that are un– converted in the hands of God and tis nothing but his meer pleasure that Keeps you this moment from being swallowed.”15 How else should his listeners react? The language of the spoken Edwards is gripping with fear and trembling, and the judgment of God becomes inescapable.
Also along the lines of imagery is a vivid imagination of Edwards that thrusts upon the audience, and this includes the all-famous spider, which hangs over a fiery pit. The unconverted is likened the same way, as he suspended over the fiery pit of judgment and hell; he is held by the mercy of God. Another rhetorical technique for Edwards is the “threatening tactility,” which Thomas J. Steele and Eugene R. Delay argue.16 Steele and Delay begin with a quote from Perry Miller:
Edwards’ pulpit oratory was a consuming effort to make sounds become objects, to control and discipline his utterance so that words would immediately be registered on the senses not as noises but as ideas. To use to the term in its technical rather than its debased sense, his was truly ‘sensational’ preaching, which wrought an overwhelming effect by extraordinary simplicity.17
Working from this Miller’s thesis, the article further ensues an account of Edwards’ tactile language. The extraordinary creative power lies in Edwards’ descriptions in three-dimensional sense, such as fullness and overfullness; two-dimensional sense with slippage and falling, piercing and hardening; and finally, the “proprioceptive”—the sensation of the vertigo.18 Such is the threatening tactile imagery, whereby the audience is closely engage by means of the senses. Edwards’ means is far from an artistic delivery; rather, the art lies in the senses and the imagination conjured up from the dashing portrayal of reality.
The spoken Edwards unleashes the vivacity of language. The orality of Edwards’ sermons is the defining character of any pastor, but in the case of Edwards, it becomes his outlet of enthusiasm, and it continued to be this way, regardless of how much Edwards likened himself to be best suited for scholarly pursuits at the desk. The delivery of sermons was an activity that galvanized not only Edwards’ words of expression, but also his abundance of creativity. The Sinners sermon was preached numerous times. The first historic occasions were at Northampton and Enfield, both in the 1841. The sermon at Northampton differed from the one preached in Enfield. The version of the Sinners sermon in Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards has in the title page with the following:
Mr. Edwards’s SERMON. On the Danger of the UNCONVERTED.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
A Sermon Preached at Enfield, July 8th 1741.
At a Time of great Awakenings; and attended with remarkable Impressions on many of the Hearers. By Jonathan Edwards, A.M. Pastor of the Church of Christ in Northampton.19
The publication date of this sermon is 1741, the very year the sermon was preached in Northampton and Enfield. There must have been a considerable amount of hype built up from the awakening event at Enfield, as Sinners became associated with Enfield, not Northampton, where it was first preached. Following Enfield was another occasion for preaching Sinners in Boston.
Moreover, there are plenty of indications that this sermon was preached more than those three times. One, there is a skeletal outline of the sermon that accompanied the duodecimo booklet, which strongly suggests that Edwards preached this sermon more frequently than the records show, that he may have preached it more than those three times and more extemporaneously off-the-cuff using the outline.20 For Edwards, Sinners brought about significant advancements in his career, as he was able to follow suit in the steps of George Whitfield, not so much in his itinerant nature, but in the ways of popularity. Edwards became known through New England and even overseas, and his preaching incited a great deal of stirring amongst his listeners. The dream of becoming an international figure quickly manifested, with his renown spreading from one city to another.
The striking similarities between the manuscript and the print version reveal that the sermon remained for the most part in tact, and that Edwards was usually faithful to the manuscript, when preaching, but variations were naturally bound to occur, or even expected. The use of the outline shows that there is some of liberty in making variations with the structure still finely intact. However, given his calmness and the art of delivery, or the lack thereof, Edwards has the tendency to preach and utilize whatever gifts of sermon delivery that he may have, despite any deficiencies that he may have possessed. Edwards had plenty of opportunities to preach, both in his congregation and congregations neighboring him. These preaching opportunities would have naturally lent themselves to some ease behind the pulpit. In other words, Edwards could not have been a timid man—at times, possibly awkward, but far from quiet and insecure. Thus, the spoken Edwards would be a person of confidence in speech and of liberty to vary the sermon, to move from one idea to another, perhaps making changes in mid-section, mid-sermon, or mid-thought.
The Context of the Print Edwards: An Awakening
By the point of publication, many possibilities of variations and elaborations have gone through Edwards’ mind. The title page claims that the sermon is the one preached at Enfield on July 8, 1741, but that probably was a statement of formality. Why the formality and such a claim as this? It may be that the both Edwards and Sinners became popular at Enfield, which caused a ruckus among what were believed to be spiritually impossible people. On that historic date, Edwards began to ride the waves of revival, anticipating “many successive works and dispensations of God,” which he believed in many years prior to the Enfield awakening. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit was imminent and even in their midst.21 Even more so, Edwards became very much like an enthusiast of the “notoriously spirit-drenched tribe of hyperzealous New Lights whose Pentecostal fascination with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit scandalized the Great Awakening in New England,” or at least dangerously close to becoming an enthusiast, which is the thesis of Douglas L. Winiarski.22 Winiarski uses a letter written by Samuel Phillips Savage to contextualize the Enfield sermon and the events that unfolded around that time.
The entire New England was experiencing great awakenings of religious fervor, and town after town, the revival effect became contagious. The Savage manuscript gives credence to an enthusiast understanding of Edwards:
The letter extracts copied down by Samuel Phillips Savage, however, present a figure strangely at odds with the moderate revival persona that Edwards carefully constructed in these works. Here, we see a powerful evangelist at the peak of his charismatic authority—a fervent revival promoter who had fully embraced the radical spirit of the Awakening, seemingly without reservation. In the weeks and months surrounding his visit to Suffield and Enfield, Edwards wrote in glowing terms about the gospel successes of itinerant preachers.23
Edwards became in one sense an itinerant preacher in his own right, traveling from one town to another, fully aware of the cultural currents of the time. More importantly, he had full knowledge of what had happened in Suffield, the Great Awakening could only ensue; the time was ripe for messages of fire-and-brimstone and vivid descriptions of hell. Arriving at Enfield, Edwards consequently preached to “engineer the dramatic response that [Stephen] Williams recorded in his diary later that day.”24
Edwards was the enthusiast, who fit what Winiarski calls the “somatic dimensions of radical evangelicalism during the spring and early summer 1741.”25 The time was ripe for the kind of message Edwards was to preach, and this spread of revivalism became more and more contagious, much to Edwards’ favor and expectation.26 Northampton was no exception, as Edwards began to preach almost everyday in the meetinghouse. In addition to Edwards, other itinerant preachers like Eleazar Wheelock and Benjamin Pomeroy were on the move, riding the wave of the Awakening. The reactions continually developed into this highly conditioned rise of religious affections. The cries in the churches became common, and the heavenly experiences with visions frequented the meetings. The Old Lights condemned such unfounded events, and Edwards reacted apologetically more and more over time. In the years that followed the Enfield revival, meetings would eventually need to be reigned in, as they become more susceptible to counterfeits, but that would be much later.
What is important to note is the framework of the Great Awakening: the ideologies that propel the rapid development of religious fervor. One ideology is in regards to sin. Sinners is fashioned entirely within the norm of New England cosmology. George Marsden writes:
In Sinners Edwards took hell and its agonies for granted as realities proven by Scripture and confirmed by reason. To be sure, some eighteenth-century people did doubt traditional views of hell, even in New England. Yet Edwards spoke to his audience as though such a denial were not an intellectual option.27
Given the fact that the audience was fully accustomed to the understanding of hell and torment, Edwards proceeds with the style of preaching that would be fully received. In addition, there is also the apocalyptic view of the Awakening that further characterizes the New England cosmology, which hinges on the great expectation that God’s plan of redemption was at hand.28 The driving force of an eschatological ideology allows Edwards to greatly intensify and embolden the message at Enfield. To preach otherwise would be turning a blind eye to the encroaching tide of God’s dispensation.
As Sinners approaches the printing press, numerous changes are made by Edwards. The sermon is indeed dated July 8, 1741, and also indicated as the sermon preached at Enfield. Douglas L. Winiarski assumes that the print edition appeared later that fall, referring to the introduction in Works of Jonathan Edwards, which does not print the exact timing of publication. In essence, the exact date of publication is not an absolute necessity to know its timely importance, but what is clear is that there had been some passage of time from Enfield to the time of printing. Considering the historic proportions of the sermon and the recognition he received during this time, Edwards took great care to revise Sinners; it represents his polished work. It was preached at least three times, at least three significant occasions.
The Making of the Print Edwards in Sinners
The introduction to Sinners in the Works of Jonathan Edwards gives a brief synopsis of the discrepancies between the manuscript and the printed text:
There are discrepancies between the manuscript itself and the version published in 1741.6 Within the Doctrine, Edwards added the last half of point VI, beginning at the reference to Is. 57:20, and he significantly expanded points VII and XI, which are all very sketchy in the manuscript (pts. VIII and X, for example, consist of only single topical statements). In the Application, the most significant differences come near the end. In the manuscript, there is a second Use of Instruction that includes six instances and concludes with ““a word of advice to natural men” in two brief points. For the printed sermon, Edwards made the Application one long Use, changing it from its mild, pastoral tone to a more dramatic, intense form; toward its conclusion he considers the nature, object, and duration of God’s wrath.29
As the editors list these various changes from one form to another, it is hard not to notice the type of changes that Edwards imposes on his sermon, primarily elaboration. These were probably elaborations that Edwards while looking away from his manuscripts. These were elaborations that Edwards probably thought would be good to include in this polished work.
How is one to explain these elaborations? Why do these elaborations occur? Most importantly, why would these elaborations be important to Edwards? First, a shift in diction occurs at the very onset. On the first leaf, second sentence, Edwards writes, “In this verse is Represented the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites…” This sentence is transcripted into the print text: “In this verse in threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites.” The key word for Edwards is threatened, which replaces represented—a milder word. Already at the second sentence, Edwards is able to set the tone for his listeners, by placing the emphasis on the passage for the sermon. The message that Edwards is about to deliver is closer to reality than it appears to be. It does not just represent; it threatens. God’s impending judgment is closer than ever, and Edwards purports to deliver the imminence of God’s wrath in this sermon. By shifting the diction in the second sentence of the sermon, Edwards sets up a different degree in projectile. Over in the course of time, any small change in degree can dramatically change the direction and course of a traveling object.
In the same way, Edwards’ sermon has shifted, and much of the imminence is further developed from the manuscript. Elaboration on imminence is further made in a few other places: From Leaf 4 recto is an elaboration of the state of “wicked men,” to whom there is no security for one moment. From Leaf 4 verso is an extended elaboration on the imminent doom of unconverted natural men, which the editors of TWJE observe that points VIII and XI have been elaborated. And finally, Leaf 11 verso, which contains the last bit of the application, leads into a more in-depth portrayal of the imminent destruction of natural men:
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath, and infinite misery! 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 they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old. There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity.30
These are the elaborations of imminence that Edwards adds to great extent for the print text.
Another type of elaboration is more frequent scriptural undergirding of his points. That is not to say that Edwards lacked scriptural references in his original sermon. There are plenty of instances where Edwards cites from the Psalms,31 and the Gospels,32 which are present in both the manuscript and print, but for the print text, Edwards manages to include more references alluding to Isaiah and Job for the destructions in Israelite history,33 more characterizations of the coming judgment as detailed in the 1 Thessalonians,34 and detailed descriptions of God’s wrath from Isaiah.35 Edwards makes a Puritans case for judgment, by employing the holy Bible as the chief source of framing his points.
The print Edwards is a result of the spoken Edwards, not the written Edwards, although the written has much to do with the inception of Edwards’ line of thinking. The print Edwards is also a result of the pragmatic side of Edwards, whose worldview and his experience of spiritual renewal allows him to engage in the creative flux of processing, writing, and preaching. The text that we have today, which supposedly was the sermon preached at the awakening event in Enfield on July 8, 1741, became the polished work of Edwards, which he was able to refine for the sake of a wider audience that was quite aware of the unfolding events in the Great Awakening. The revisions have made the written Edwards consistently fluid with the spoken Edwards.
The print Edwards represents the preacher Edwards, whose work and self are always in progress.
|DEUTERONOMY 32:35 Their foot shall slide in due time. The whole verse is: ““To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed, v. 28, ““void of counsel,” having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.|
The expression that I have chosen for my text, ““Their foot shall slide in due time,” seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction that these wicked Israelites were exposed to.
1. That they were always exposed to destruction, as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction’s coming upon them, being represented by their foot’s sliding.
June 1741 Deuteronomy 32 35. Their foot shall slide in due time. The whole verse is In this verse is Represented the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites that were Gods visible People and Lived under means of Grace and had seen or heard of such wonderfull works of God towards that People and yet Remained as is expressed verse 28. void of Counsel having no understanding in them and that under all the Cultivations of Heaven brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit as is expressed in the two verses next preceding the text . The Clause expression in that that I have Chosen for my text their foot shall slide in due time seems to Imply the following things Relating to that Punishment and destruction that they are Exposed to. . 1. That they are alwaies exposed to destruction as one that stands or walks in slippery Places is alwaies exposed to fall. This is Implied in the way of their destructions coming upon them being Represented by their foots sliding.
|The same is expressed, Ps. 73:18, ““Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.”|
2. 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 can’t foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning. Which is also expressed in that, Ps. 73:18;nd19, ““Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!”
3. Another thing implied is that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another. As he that stands or walks on slippery ground, needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
4. That the reason why they are not fallen already, and don’t fall now, is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, ““their foot shall slide.” Then they shall be left to fall as they are inclined by their own weight. God won’t hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands in such slippery declining ground on the edge of a pit that he can’t stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
The same is expressed in Psalms 73 18. surely thou didst set them in slippery Places. thou castest them down to destruction . 2. it Implies that they are alwaies exposed to sudden unexpected destruction as he that walks in slippery Places is every moment liable to fall he can never fore– see one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next and when he does fall he falls at once without warning. which is also expressed in that 73. Ps. 18. 19. v. surely How are they brought down to destruction in a moment. 3. another thing Implied is that they liable to fall of themselves without being thrown down by the hand of another. 4. Tho the Reason why they hant fallen already and dont fall now is only that Gods appointed time is not come . for tis said that when that due time or appointed time comes there foot shall slide. then they shall be Lost God wont hold em up in those slippery places any Longer but will Let em Go and there they will fall of themselves as a man that stands in such slippery Places that he Cant stand alone then in a moment he shall fall into destruction
|The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this:|
There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment,
out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.
By ““the mere pleasure of God,” I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.
I. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands can’t be strong when God rises up: the strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.
He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, that has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces: they are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so ‘tis easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that anything hangs by; thus easy is it for God when he pleases to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him,
There is nothing that Keeps wicked men at Each moment out of Hell but the meer pleasure of God This may appear by the following Considerations 1. There is no want of Power in God to Cast them into hell at any moment mens hands cant be strong when Gods Rises up the strongest have no Power to Resist him . nor can any deliv. out of his hands He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell at any moment but he can most Easily do it some times Earthly Princes meet with some difficulty to subdue a Rebel that has fortified himself and made himself very strong but it is not so with God we find it Easy to tread on and a Crush a worm under foot that we see Crawling on the Earth . so tis Easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by so Easy is it for God when he pleases to Cast his Enemies at any Time down to hell what are we to stand before him at
|at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?|
II. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, ““Cut it down; why cumbreth it the ground” (Luke 13:7). The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and ‘tis nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.
III. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They don’t only justly deserve to be cast down thither; but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18, ““He that believeth not is condemned already.” So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is. John 8:23, ““Ye are from beneath.” And thither he is bound; ‘tis the place that justice, and God’s Word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assigns to him.
IV. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell:
whose Rebuke the Earth Trembles and before whom the Rocks are thrown down . 2. They deserve to be Cast into hell so that di– vine Justice objects not against Gods using his Power to destroy them yea on the Contrary his Justice calls aloud for an Infinite Punish– ment of their sins. divine Justice says of the Tree that brings forth such Grapes of sodom cut it down why Cumbreth it the Ground Luke 13: 7 3. They are under a sentence of Condemna– tion to hell. they dont only Justly deserve to Cast down thither but the sentence of the Holy immutable Law of God is against them and by that they are bound over already to Hell. John 3: 18 He that believeth not is condemned already. so that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell that is his place from thence he is and thither he is bound ’tis the Place that the Eternal Rule of Righ. assigns to him 4. They are now the Objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is exposed in
|and the reason why they don’t go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as angry as he is with many of those miserable creatures that he is now tormenting in hell, and do there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. 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, that it may be are at ease and quiet, than he is with many of those that are now in the flames of hell.|
So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and don’t resent it, that he don’t let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation don’t slumber, the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
in the torments of hell . the Reason why they dont Go down to hell at each moment is not because God in whose power that are is not then very angry with them he is as angry with them every whit as he is with many of those mis. Creatures that he is now tormenting in hell and that do there feel and bear the fierce– ness of his wrath and fury . yea God is a Great deal more angry with Great numbers that are now on the Earth and that are hitherto Kept out of Hell than he is with many of those that are now in the flames of Hell . so that tis not because God is unmindfull of their wickedness and dont Resent it that he dont Let Loose his hand and Cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves tho they may Imagine him so to be. the wrath of God Burns Against them their damnation dont slumber the pit is prepared the fire is made ready the furnace is now heat ready to Recieve them the flames now do rage and Glow.
|V. The devil stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The Scripture represents them as his ““goods” (Luke 11:21). The devils watch them; they are ever by them, at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back; if God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. 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.|
VI. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men a
5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them and sieze them as his own at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him he has their souls under his Power and possession and alwaies has had and the Scripture calls them him his Chil. and The devils are very Greedy they stand waiting for their Prey Like Greedy hungry Lions that see their prey and expect to have but are for the Present Kept Back. if God should Let Loose his hand by which they are Restrained they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls the old serpent is Gaping for them Hell opens its mouth wide to Recieve them . 6. There is in the souls of wicked men those Hellish principles Reigning would presently Kindle and flame out into the flame of Hell if it were not for Gods Restraints. is There is Laid in the very natures of natural man a
|foundation for the torments of hell: there are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, and exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments in ‘em as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in Scripture compared to the troubled sea (Is. 57:20). For the present God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, ““Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further” [Job 38:11]; but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all afore it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is a thing that is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whenas if it were let loose it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so, if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.|
VII. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. ‘Tis no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he don’t see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows that this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step won’t be into another world. The unseen, unthought of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable.
foundation for the torments of Hell in their souls . There are those Corrupt Principles that are in Reigning Power in them and have full Possession of them that are seeds of Hell fire and if it were not for the Restraining hand of God upon them they would soon break out and they would flame out after the same manner as the sinners Corruption the same Emnity does in the Hearts of the devils and would beget the same torments in them as they do in the devils. 7. it is no security to em from Hell that there are no visible means of death at hand . a being new in Health no visible danger of Circumstances Tis found by exp. times without number that this is no security . ways and means of Persons Going out of the world suddenly are innumerable unseen unthought of ways
|Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they won’t bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noonday; the sharpest sight can’t discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending ‘em to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it don’t depend at all less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.|
VIII. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, don’t secure ‘em a moment. This divine providence and universal experience does also bear testimony to. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death: that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death; but how is it in fact? Eccles. 2:16, ““How dieth the wise man? as the fool.”
IX. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, don’t secure ‘em from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do; everyone lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes won’t fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the bigger part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done: he don’t intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take care that shall be effectual, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.
But the foolish children of men do miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in their confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The bigger part of those that heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell: and it was not because they were not as wise as those that are now alive; it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If it were so, that we could come to speak with them, and could inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of that misery, we doubtless should hear one and another reply, ““No, I never intended to come here; I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself; I thought my scheme good; I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief; death outwitted me; God’s wrath was too quick for me; O my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter, and when I was saying, ”Peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction came upon me” [I Thess. 5:3].
X. God has laid himself under no obligation by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation 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. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace that are not the children of the covenant, and that don’t believe in any of the promises of the covenant, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.
So that whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, ‘tis plain and manifest that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.
So that thus it is, that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold ‘em up one moment; 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; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out; and they have no interest in any mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.
alwaies walk over trap doors There are so many ways that there is nothing that can make it appear that God had need to Go out of the ordinary course of his providence to destroy any wicked man in a moment. 8. Their Prudence and care to preserve their own lives or of others to preserve em is no security . we see that wise and prudent men die as fools do. Ecclesiastes 2: 16 9. all wicked mens pains and contrivance they use to Escape Hell is no security one moment 10 God has Laid himself under no obligation by any promise to Keep em out of Hell one mo– ment. The mercy that Preserves em is not Covenant mercy 11. They have no Interest in a mediatour in short they have no Refuge application
The Use may be of Awakening to unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of everyone of you that are out of Christ. That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of: there is nothing between you and hell but the air; ‘tis only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
1 use may be of Awakening to unconverted Per– sons . This that you have heard is the Case of every one of you that are out of Christ There is under you a dreadfull pit of the Glowing flames of the wrath of God and there is nothing between you and hell to Keep you out of it but the Air that world of misery that Lake of burning brimstone is entended abroad under there is Hells wide Gaping mouth open and there you hang upon nothing there is nothing to Keep you from falling every moment but only the meer Pleasure of God that for the present keeps you up suspends you in the air without any thing at all to stand upon or any thing to take hold of There is nothing but the power of God that Keeps you from falling. every whit as much as if a person was held up in the air over some Gulf and had nothing but the air to stand upon and nothing but the air to take hold of and no account why he Re– mained there and did not fall Every moment but only that the Power and pleasure of the
|You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but don’t see the hand of God in it, but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.|
Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no
almighty for the Present Kept him up you it may be dont see this you find that you are kept out of Hell but you dont see the hand of God in it you don’t Look at his meer power and pleasure as the Cause but you Look at other things as the Good state of your bodily Constitution or your own care of your own life and the means you use for your own preserva. but indeed these things are but air they are as weak as the air and cant hold you up one moment without the Power of God if God should Let Go his hand they would have no more power to keep you from falling than the thin air has to hold up a Person that is suspended in it your sin and wickedness makes you as it were heavy as Lead and to tend down– wards with Great weight and pressure towards Hell and if God should Let you Go you will sink Like a mass of Lead swiftly down and would plunge into the bottomless Gulf and your bodily Constitution or Care or Righ. would have no
|more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not that so is the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun don’t willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth don’t willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air don’t willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and don’t willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads,||L. 6r.
more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell than the thin air has to stop a falling Rock if it were not for the sov. Pleasure of God the Earth would not bear you one moment for you are a burden to it the Creation Groans with the Creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption not willingly the sun dont willingly shine upon you to Give you Light to serve sin and satan by the Earth dont willingly yield her Increase to satisfy your Lusts the Earth dont willingly bear you is not willingly a stage for your wicked ness to be acted upon the air dont willingly serve you for breath to maintain the the flame of Life in your vitals while you live to sin and satan Gods Creatures are Good and were made for men to serve God with and the Creation Groans that tis made subject to such vanity . and the world would spue you out immediate were it not for him whose pleasure subjects it to such bondage There are the black Clouds of Gods wrath now hanging directly over your head.
|full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God for the present stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.|
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given, and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. ‘Tis true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath;
full of the dreadfull storm As it were big with thunder and were it not that the hand of God Restrained it it would immediately break forth upon you the sovereign Plea– sure of God for the Present stays his rough wind other wise it would come with fury and your destruction would come like a whirlwind and you would be like the Chaff of the summer threshing floor. The wrath of God is Like Great waters that have been dammed up for the Present as it is with a stream that is dammed the water increases and Rises higher and higher against the dam till an outlet is Given and the more violent and rapid is its course when once it is Let Loose Just so it is with the wrath of God tis true that Judgement against your Evil works has not been Executed hitherto but tis only because Just wrath has been hitherto witheld and as it were by Gods sovereign Pleasure and the floods of wrath have been Continually every day rising
rising higher and higher the waters become more and more mighty Continually for your Guilt is increasing Constantly and you are every day treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and there is nothing but the meer pleasure of God and that of an Angry God without any Promise or obligation at all that Keeps the waters back God holds the flood Gate in his hand tis but for him to Let it Go and it flies ^ open if you dont Get an Interest in Christ he will soon do it and you Know not at what day or what moment he will do it and then the fieryfloods of wrath will Come mightily upon you they will come pouring down with irresistable omnipotent Power and if your strength were ten thousand times Greater than it is yea ten thousand times Greater than the strength of the stoutest sturdiest devil in hell it would be nothing to Resist its fury. There is nothing but the meer pleasure of God that keeps back the deluge of his wrath it stands ready
|The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and Justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.|
Thus are all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life (however you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, and may be strict in it), you are thus in the hands of an angry God; ‘tis nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction.
to Go at what moment God shall say the word . The Bow of Gods wrath is bent and the arrow made Ready on the string and Justice Levels the arrow at your heart and strains the Bow and it is nothing but the meer pleasure of God that Keeps the arrow back. if once the hand of Gods sov. Pleasure were witheld the Arrow would immediately flyand be made JE’s ommision 52 drunk with your blood. There is the Ax lies at the Root of the tree yea tis in the hand of Justice and Justice says Let me cutt it down and sov. mercy hither to has said Let it alone and has held back the hand of Justice and that not Covenant mercy but as soon as ever the excercise of that sov. mercy is with drawn the fatal blow will Given the dreadfull blow at the Root and the tree will fall. Thus are all you that are un– converted in the hands of God and tis nothing but his meer pleasure that Keeps you this moment from being swallowed
|However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them, when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, ““Peace and safety”: now they see, that those things that they depended on for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.|
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or 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 else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ‘tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment;
up in Everlasting destruction. now you dont see it but they that are Gone to hell they see it was so for destruction came suddenly upon most of them when they expected nothing of it and while they were saying Peace and safety now they see that those things that they depended on for Peace and safety were no more than air they were nothing to Keep ‘em out of Hell when God Let em Go for they have proved so and so you will see it concerning your self first or Last now you think it is not so there is some thing else to Keep you out of Hell besides the pleasure of God but by and by you will see there is nothing else you will see the Truth of what you hear this day and be fully convinced of it . you are over the pit of hell in Gods hand very much as one holds a spider or some Loathsom Insect over the fire and tis nothing but for God to Let you Go and you fall and Consid. the things that have been said that there is no promise that God has made that he wont
|‘tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since||L. 8v.
Let you drop the next moment . in any mediatour and this God that thus holds you in his hand is very angry with you he is dreadfully Provoked his wrath burns Like fire you are Loathsom and hatefull in his Eyes and wor– thy to be burnt he Looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be Cast into the fire you are ten thous. times more Loathsom in his Eyes than the most poisonous insect is in the Eyes of any man and you have offended him a thous. times so much as ever an obsti– nate Rebel did his prince. and yet you are in his hands and tis nothing at all but his meer pleasure that has Kept you from falling into hell every moment there is no other reason to be given why you did not Go to hell Last night why you did not wake first in hell after you closed your Eyes to sleep and there is no other Reason to be given why you hant drop’d into Hell since you
|you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell.|
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: ‘tis 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; you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.
And consider here more particularly several things concerning that wrath that you are in such danger of.
First. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God.
you arose in the morning yea since you sit in here in the house of God Provoking his pure Eyes by your sinfull wicked manner of attending his Holy worship. yea there is nothing else that is to be given as the Reason why you dont this moment very down drop into hell . ^ ^ you havenothing but the Pleasure of this Holy God that is dreadfully angry with you and in whose Eyes you are Exceeding abominable that holds you up. and you have no Interest in any mediatour and you have nothing of your own at all to induce God to spare you one moment . O therefore Consid. it how dreadfull how dangerous and uncertain is your Case. if your Eyes were but open to behold the Circumstances you are when trembling and astonishment would sieze you . II. Use may be of Instruction in several Instances. 2. wrath arising from abused mercy. to shew 1. of Jehovah.. he will shew his wrath. (later add) (la) 4. wrath without pity. 3. Fierceness of wrath. before (la) all. (la) 1. Hence tis no wonder that some Persons under Great Convictions think themselves
|If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, that have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. 20:2, ““The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments, that human art can invent or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates, in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth: it is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth before God are as grasshoppers, they are nothing and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings is as much more terrible than their’s, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4;nd5, ““And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.”||L. 9v.
immediately Going to Hell. Tis feared to be so sometimes according to the terribleness of a Calamity that persons Look on themselves in danger of so are their minds ready to be filled with apprehensions of its coming immediately upon them if they are afraid of their lives . as in a time of war seeing therefore damnation is so dreadfull and these that are much awaked have a Great sense of it and see that there is nothing . if one hung over a pit . sometimes their natures are weakened and they think they shall die . 2. If this be the Case that sinners have no security one moment and it be nothing but the meer Then it may Easily be accounted for that some have been brought even to shriek out under a sense of their danger
|Second. ‘Tis the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Is. 59:18, ““According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Is. 66:15, ““For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebukes with flames of fire.” And so in many other places. So we read of God’s fierceness. Rev. 19:15, there we read of ““the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible: if it had only been said, ““the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful; but ‘tis not only said so, but ““the fierceness and wrath of God”: the fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is not only said so, but ““the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power, in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then what will be consequence! What will become of the poor worm that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? and whose heart endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk, who shall be the subject of this!||L. 10r.
temporal Calamity. it will make a person shriek to be apprehensive of some terrible 3. Hence what is to be thought of those that are in these danger and are asleep in it and take litle or no Care to Get out of it. neglect the most Precious opportunities. such opportunities as this is when so many others are pressing into the K. of God 4. How blessed is the Lot of those that have an Interest in Christ who hant only been pre– served from Hell but are Eternally delivered. have Got into a strong Refuge have an interest in a firm Everlasting Cov. Can’t Perish . what cause have they to praise God
|Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies that he will inflict wrath without any pity: when God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed and sinks down, as it were into an infinite gloom, he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much, in any other sense than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires: nothing shall be withheld, because it’s so hard for you to bear. Ezek. 8:18, ““Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy: but when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God as to any regard to your welfare; God will have no other use to put you to but only to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel but only to be filled full of wrath: God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that ‘tis said he will only laugh and mock (Prov. 1:25;nd32).||L. 10v.
5. Hence no wonder Persons are directed to make Haste to Get out of such a Condition . fly from the wrath to Come. as the angels said to Lot Christ says He that is in the field Let him not turn back . Matth 24. 18. Indeed Persons should wait Gods time not that they should be willing to be in such a condition one moment. 6. Hence Tis no wonder that Persons Common ly have destruction coming very unexpectedly upon them . Tis almost alwaies so the Scripture teaches it Exp. shews it . If the damned in Hell that have Gone to Hell from under the Gospel could be asked one by one whether they expected to go to Hell at that time there is scarce any but what would answer in the negative one would say I expected to live Long.
|How awful are those words, Is. 63:3, which are the words of the great God, ““I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” ‘Tis perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favor, that instead of that he’ll only tread you under foot: and though he will know that you can’t bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he won’t regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he’ll crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt; no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet, to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.||L. 11r.
I shall conclude with a word of advice to natural men in two things 1. To those that are not much awakened strictly to Enquire what it is that they depend upon to Keep em out of Hell. There is something . or is it that you think God is such an one as your self . or that there is no God . or that he has decieved the world with threatnings 2. To all that are concerned for the Good of their souls. Earnestly to seek and pray that they may see themselves in the hands of Godand that there is nothing. see all dependences taken away. This is very needfull that you may be made sensible of your need of Christ if you
|shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”|
Fourth. ‘Tis everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity: there will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble faint representation of it; ‘tis inexpressible and inconceivable: for ““who knows the power of God’s anger?” [Ps. 90:11].
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath, and infinite misery! 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 they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old. There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, 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, or what thoughts they now have: it may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder if some that are now present, should not be in hell in a very short time, before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some person that now sits here in some seat of this meeting house in health, and quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest, will be there in a little time! your damnation don’t slumber; it will come swiftly, and in all probability very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder, that you are not already in hell. ‘Tis doubtless the case of some that heretofore you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you: their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living, and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned, hopeless souls give for one day’s such opportunity as you now enjoy!
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God; many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him that 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! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield,7 where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here that have lived long in the world, that are not to this day born again, and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh sirs, your case in an especial manner is extremely dangerous; your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Don’t you see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and wake thoroughly out of sleep; you cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.
And you that are young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season that you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as it is with those persons that spent away all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness.
And you children that are unconverted, don’t you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God that 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 everyone that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s Word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, that is a day of such great favor to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls: and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the bigger part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on that great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days, the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit; and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the ax is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree that brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over great part of 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 [Gen. 19:17].
were brought to this then you would be sensible of the absolute necessity of a mediatour. and your soul would then be in such circumstances that the discovery of a saviour would be most wellcome to you. [[Remainder of]page is in 1. now count the Cost of a thorough and Persevering diff. ink] seeking salva. 2. Behave as Resolute soldiers do in taking a Countrey or Kingd. 3. Remember that God never will bestow mercy on you because you deserve it but only because you need it 3. in your prayers be much in very particular Confession of your sins . 4. sometimes Keep days of secret fasting 5. Take heed of Getting into such a way of seeking as to Keep your self quiet and Easy with it 6 Remember that God will be waited upon and will have his own times of shewing mercy
1. alwaies exposed to fall
2. suddenly fall.
3. by their own weight
4. nothing that tis God that holds em up
1. no want of power in God
2. They deserve it .
3. They are Condemned to it . Tis the place they belong to .
4. God is angry enough with them .
5. The devil if not Restrained would Immedi– ately fly upon them and sieze them as his own
6. They have those Hellish principles in them that if God should take off his Restraints
7. Tis no security that there are no visible means of death at hand.
8. Their own care and prudence to preserve their own lives .
9. The schemes they Lay out for Escaping dam nation. 10 There is no promise.
Use of Awakening This is the Case with you you are as it were Heavy with sin and these things are as spiders web.
the black Clouds of wrath hang over you The Bow is Bent . The wrath of God is like a rapid stream that is dammed up . your damnation dont slumber you hang over the pit by a slender thread and the flames of wrath flashing about it God holds the thread in his hand
you are held over Just as one holds a spider or some hatefull Insect over a furnace There is no other reason to be given why you did not Go to hell Last night next seven lines blank
1. whose wrath this is
2. Tis misery that shall be inflicted to that End to shew what the wrath of Jehovah is
3. Tis the fierceness of his wrath . especially in Gospel sinners
4. nothing in you shall Tis certain unavoidable wrath
5. Tis speedy wrath. you Know not how soon
6. Tis Everlasting wrath.
7. Tis certain unavoidable wrath. Job 21: 19–20
1. From the diary of Stephen Williams, July 8, 1741, as quoted in George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 220.↑
2. From the account of Eleazer Wheelock, as quoted in Marsden, 220.↑
3. Stephen Williams, Diary entry, as quoted in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 22, edited by Harry S. Stout, et. al (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 572.↑
4. Quoted from Ola Winslow, Jonathan Edwards, 1703–1758, 192, quoted in Marsden, 224. Watts makes an observation that the sermon could have more of the Gospel, to which Marsden defensively suggests that the New Englanders would have had an adequate grasp of it, needing only a way for them to seek the remedy.↑
5. As evident in the Edwards’ duodecimo manuscript of Sinners preserved at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library at Yale University and the online version of the transcribed manuscript, see Jonathan Edwards, ms. trans. “Sermon on Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Deuteronomy 32:35), 1741, p. 1.-28, Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, eds. Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, Caleb J.D. Maskell, 2005-. http://edwards.dev.oho.com/ref/7810/m/p/↑
6. Norman Fiering, “The Rationalist Foundations of Edwards’ Metaphysics,” Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, edited by Nathan O. Hatch and Harry Stout (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 78. There also, Fiering cites the five principles: “The affirmation of total divine sovereignty, entailing among other things the position that events in the universe are entirely free of contingency; a belief in divine concurrence in events and in the continuous conservation and re-creation of the existing world; a commitment to teleology at the ultimate level of explanation—everything exists for some divine purpose; acceptance of the Neoplatonic typological system that posited divine archetypes and ectypal representations on earth; and the rejection of the Cartesian position that the essence of matter is extension.”↑
7. Wilson H. Kimnach, “General Introduction,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 10, edited by Harry S. Stout, et. al (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 74.↑
8. Not only do the notebook entries make references to another, but one notebook may reference another notebook. Ideas were cycled and recycled, cross-referencing one pool of thought with another. See the diagram in Kimnach, “General Introduction,” 90, for a diagram of the multidirectional, functional relationships between these various sources.↑
9. An evidence of this is illustrated by Wilson H. Kimnach in his “General Introduction” (34–35), in which he uses a sermon on Isaiah 1:18–20, preached by Edwards, closely parallels the notes taken by someone in the congregation. The resemblance is striking in both the points and the verbatim nature of the notes in relation to the actual sermon.↑
10. Marsden, 59.↑
11. See the appendix. On the right column are the pages of the Sinners manuscript as preserved in the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library and also online at Works of Jonathan Edwards Online.↑
12. Kimnach, 101. Kimnach presents a diagram, illustrating an early sermon of Edwards on Matt 16:26, at which keying played a crucial role for revision purposes.↑
13. As quoted in the editorial introduction to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, edited by Harry S. Stout, et. al (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 573.↑
14. There are numerous passages like Exodus 24:11, in which the hand of God signify the striking power and authority.↑
16. Thomas J. Steele and Eugene R. Delay, “Veritigo in History: The Threatening Tactility of “Sinners in the Hands,” Early American Literature 18, no 3 (Winter 1983–1984): 242.↑
17. Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards (New York: Meridian Books, 1959), 158, as quoted in Steele, et. al, 242.↑
18. Ibid, 244–248.↑
19. “Introduction to Sinners,” 575.↑
20. The Editorial Headnote for “Sinners,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 22, 575.↑
21. Jonathan Edwards, “History of the Work of Redemption,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 9, 121, as quoted in Avihu Zakai, “Ideological Context of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Fides Historia, vol XXXVI, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2004): 4.↑
22. Douglas L. Winiarski, “Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiast? Radical Revivalism and the Great Awakening in the Connecticut Valley,” Church History, vol. 74, n.4 (Dec 2005): 691.↑
23. Winiarski, 728.↑
24. Ibid, 729.↑
26. Edwards writes in his letter to Thomas Prince how the meetings were “most happy.” See Edwards to Prince, 12 December 1743, 117, as quoted in Winiarski, 730.↑
27. Marsden, 221.↑
28. Zakai, 5.↑
29. Harry S. Stout, et. al, “General Introduction,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol.22 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 576–577.↑
30. Sinners, 593.↑
31. Leaf 1 verso.↑
32. Leaf 2 verso, Leaf 10 verso.↑
33. Sinners, 581.↑
34. Ibid, 583.↑
35. Ibid, 589.↑
36. Source: http://edwards.dev.oho.com/ref/7810/m/p/↑