Skip to content

From Thought to Print: Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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:

  1. the ori­gin of a ser­mon or part of a ser­mon in the notebooks,
  2. the ser­mon as a styl­is­tic refiner of doc­tri­nal ideas in the note­books, and
  3. 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.
L. 1verso.
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,
L. 2recto.
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:
L. 2v.
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.
L. 3r.
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
L. 3v.
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.
L. 4r.
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.
L. 4v.
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.
L. 5r.
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
L. 5v.
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;
L. 6v.
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
L. 7r.
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.
L. 7v.
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;
L. 8r.
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.
L. 9r.
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].
L. 11v.
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

L. 12r.

L. 12v.
L. 13r.
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.
L. 13v.
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.
L. 14r.
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
L. 14v.
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: 1920

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, 17031758, 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/​r​e​f​/​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” (3435), in which he uses a ser­mon on Isa­iah 1:1820, 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.
15. L.7.v.
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 19831984): 242.
17. Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards (New York: Merid­ian Books, 1959), 158, as quoted in Steele, et. al, 242.
18. Ibid, 244248.
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.
25. Ibid.
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), 576577.
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/​r​e​f​/​7810​/​m​/p/

Tagged with , , .

Line Break

Author: Donald H. Kim (1 Articles)

Donald H. Kim is a PhD Candidate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX and an Assistant Professor of Bible at The College at Southwestern.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

QR Code Business Card