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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons

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by Jonathan Edwards

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A sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards to his Enfield, Connecticut, congregation in July 1741, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is particularly noted for its vivid descriptions of the torments of Hell and mankind's natural depravity. At the same time, it was also an appeal to man's need for salvation and a reminder of the agonies that awaited the unreformed.


A sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards to his Enfield, Connecticut, congregation in July 1741, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is particularly noted for its vivid descriptions of the torments of Hell and mankind's natural depravity. At the same time, it was also an appeal to man's need for salvation and a reminder of the agonies that awaited the unreformed. Coming during the height of the Great Awakening — a period of religious fervor in the first half of the eighteenth century — the homily was at once regarded by many as the greatest ever given on American soil and vehemently attacked by others as puritanical "fire and brimstone." One thing seems certain: it made a lasting impact on American Christianity.
Accompanying this landmark document are sermons by nine other influential Puritans of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, among them Thomas Shepard's "The Parable of the Ten Virgins," Cotton Mather's "An Hortatory and Necessary Address," John Cotton's "The Way of Life," as well as sermons by John Winthrop, Increase Mather, Jonathan Mayhew, Thomas Hooker, Peter Bulkeley, and Samuel Willard.
Enlightening and thought-provoking, the volume will serve as primary source material in many American history and literature courses.

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11568-9





THIS MAY serve to be a warning to all such people to whom the Gospel of Christ is come: let them in the fear of God take heed lest they neglect so great salvation, and let them with thankfulness and love entertain the grace which is brought unto them by the revelation of Jesus Christ. If you become despisers, God will work such things among you as whoso heareth them, his ears shall tingle, and your hearts shall ache in the suffering of them much more; for if every transgression and disobedience committed against the law, or against the dim light of nature, do receive a just recompense of reward—if those which are without the law perished in those sins which they committed without the law, and if those which are without the Gospel perish in their ignorance because they know it not—how then shall those escape which have law of grace and Gospel of grace revealed unto them, and do neglect those great things? ...

And here, O England, my dear native country (whose womb bare me, whose breasts nourished me, and in whose arms I should desire to die), give ear to one of thy children which dearly loveth thee. Be thou exhorted thankfully to accept the grace which is now ready to be revealed unto thee. The way is now preparing: the high mountains, which with their shadows caused darkness, are now alaying low, and the low valleys ready to be exalted, the crooked things to be made straight, that all flesh (that lives within thy borders) may see the salvation of our God. Thy light is now coming, and the glory of the Lord is now rising upon thee. Though darkness hath covered a part of thee hitherto, through the wickedness of those that hated light, yet now the Lord himself (I trust) will rise upon thee, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon thee. Now therefore stir up thyself with thankfulness and joy of heart to embrace the things of thy peace, which shall be brought unto thee. See that thou love the Gospel not in word and in show only but in deed and in truth: and not for novelty's sake but for truth's sake, not because it is a new way but because the grace of God which brings salvation is thereby revealed. Though in respect of order and government all things may become new, yet look not after new substantials, new foundations. Thou hast had the foundation truly laid, by many skillful builders, many years ago: only some have built thereupon hay and stubble, instead of gold and precious stones. Let therefore the roof be new, but let the foundation be the same. Take heed of too much of that "new light" which the world is now gazing upon. Some have reported sad things concerning thee in this respect: so much new light breaking forth that the old zeal is almost extinct by it. Herein take heed. "The old way is the good way": this is now ready to be revealed. The time of grace is coming unto thee: this is the accepted season, now is the day of thy salvation. Oh, be wise to consider it, and walk worthy of it, esteeming the Gospel as thy pearl, thy treasure, thy crown, thy felicity! Thou canst not love it too dearly. Make much of it therefore: otherwise, know the neglect of it will bring heaviest wrath, and thy judgment hastenth, and sleepeth not.

And thou, New England, which art exalted in privileges of the Gospel above many other people, know thou the time of thy visitation, and consider the great things the Lord hath done for thee. The Gospel hath free passage in all places where thou dwellest: oh, that it might be glorified also by thee. Thou enjoyest many faithful witnesses, which have testified unto thee the Gospel of the grace of God. Thou has many bright stars shining in thy firmament, to give thee the knowledge of salvation from on high, to guide thy feet in the way of peace (Luke 1. 78, 79). Be not high-minded because of thy privileges, but fear because of thy danger. The more thou hast committed unto thee, the more thou must account for. No people's account will be heavier than thine if thou do not walk worthy of the means of thy salvation. The Lord looks for more from thee than from other people: more zeal for God, more love to His truth, more justice and equity in thy ways. Thou shouldst be a special people, an only people—none like thee in all the earth. Oh, be so, in loving the Gospel and ministers of it, having them in singular love for their work's sake (I Thess. 5. 13). Glorify thou the word of the Lord, which hath glorified thee. Take heed lest for neglect of either, God remove thy candlestick out of the midst of thee; lest being now as a city upon an hill, which many seek unto, thou be left like a beacon upon the top of a mountain, desolate and forsaken. If we walk unworthy of the Gospel brought unto us, the greater our mercy hath been in the enjoying of it, the greater will our judgment be for the contempt. Be instructed, and take heed.





THIS MAY serve to teach us the danger of allowing to any mortall man an inordinate measure of power to speak great things, to allow to any man uncontrollableness of speech, you see the desperate danger of it: Let all the world learn to give mortall men no greater power then they are content they shall use, for use it they will: And unlesse they be better taught of God, they will use it ever and anon, it may be make it the passage of their proceeding to speake what they will: and they that have liberty to speak great things, you will finde it to be true, they will speak great blasphemies. No man would think what desperate deceit and wickednesse there is in the hearts of men: and that was the reason why the beast did speak such great things, hee might speak, and no body might controll him: What, saith the Lord in Jer. 3.5. Thou hast spoken and done evill things as thou couldst. If a church or head of a church could have done worse, he would have done it: this is one of the straines of nature, it affects boundlesse liberty, and to runne to the utmost extent: What ever power he hath received, he hath a corrupt nature that will improve it in one thing or other; if he have liberty, he will think why may he not use it. Set up the pope as Lord paramount over kings and princes, and they shall know that he hath power over them, he will take liberty to depose one, and set up another. Give him power to make laws, and he will approve, and disprove as he list; what he approves is canonicall, what hee disproves is rejected: give him that power, and he will so order it at length, he will make such a state of religion, that he that so lives and dyes shall never be saved, and all this springs from the vast power that is given to him, and from the deep depravation of nature. Hee will open his mouth, His tongue is his owne, who is Lord over him, Psal. 12. 3, 4. It is therefore most wholsome for magistrates and officers in church and common-wealth, never to affect more liberty and authority then will do them good, and the people good; for what ever transcendant power is given, will certainly over-run those that give it, and those that receive it: there is a straine in a mans heart that will sometime or other runne out to excesse, unlesse the Lord restraine it, but it is not good to venture it: it is necessary therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited, church-power or other: if there be power given to speak great things, then look for great blasphemies, look for a licentious abuse of it. It is counted a matter of danger to the state to limit prerogatives; but it is a further danger, not to have them limited: they will be like a tempest, if they be not limited: a prince himselfe cannot tell where hee will confine himselfe, nor can the people tell: but if he have liberty to speak great things, then he will make and unmake, say and unsay, and undertake such things as are neither for his owne honour, nor for the safety of the state. It is therefore fit for every man to be studious of the bounds which the Lord hath set: and for the people, in whom fundamentally all power lyes, to give as much power as God in his word gives to men: and it is meet that magistrates in the commonwealth, and so officers in churches should desire to know the utmost bounds of their own power, and it is safe for both: all intrenchment upon the bounds which God hath not given, they are not enlargements, but burdens and snares; they will certainly lead the spirit of a man out of his way sooner or later. It is wholsome and safe to be dealt withall as God deales with the vast sea; Hitherto shalt thou come, but there shalt thou stay thy proud waves: and therefore if they be but banks of simple sand, they will be good enough to check the vast roaring sea. And so for imperiall monarchies, it is safe to know how far their power extends; and then if it be but banks of sand, which is most slippery, it will serve, as well as any brazen wall. If you pinch the sea of its liberty, though it be walls of stone or brasse, it will beate them downe: so it is with magistrates, stint them where God hath not stinted them, and if they were walls of brasse, they would beate them downe, and it is meet they should: but give them the liberty God allows, and if it be but a wall of sand it will keep them: as this liquid ayre in which we breath, God hath set it for the waters of the clouds to the earth; it is a firmament, it is the clouds, yet it stands firme enough, because it keeps the climate where they are, it shall stand like walls of brasse: so let there be due bounds set, and I may apply it to families; it is good for the wife to acknowledg all power and authority to the husband, and for the husband to acknowledg honour to the wife, but still give them that which God hath given them, and no more nor lesse: give them the full latitude that God hath given, else you will finde you dig pits, and lay snares, and cumber their spirits, if you give them lesse: there is never peace where full liberty is not given, nor never stable peace where more then full liberty is granted: let them be duely observed, and give men no more liberty then God doth, nor women, for they will abuse it: the Devill will draw them, and Gods providence leade them thereunto, therefore give them no more then God gives. And so for children; and servants, or any others you are to deale with, give them the liberty and authority you would have them use, and beyond that stretch not the tether, it will not tend to their good nor yours: and also from hence gather, and goe home with this meditation; that certainly here is this distemper in our natures, that we cannot tell how to use liberty, but wee shall very readily corrupt our selves: oh the bottomlesse depth of sandy earth! of a corrupt spirit, that breaks over all bounds, and loves inordinate vastnesse; that is it we ought to be carefull of.


From The Way of Life (London, 1641)

FOR FURTHER encouragement hereunto, consider that place, Ezech. 47. 3, 4, 5. It shewes you the marvailous efficacy of the spirit of Grace in the dayes of the Gospel: First a Christian wades in the rivers of God his grace up to the ankles, with some good frame of spirit; yet but weakly, for a man hath strength in his ankle bones, Acts 3. and yet may have but feeble knees, Heb. 12. 12. So farre as you walk in the waters, so far are you healed; why then in the next place, he must wade till he come to the knees, goe a thousand cubits, a mile further, and get more strength to pray, and to walk on in your callings with more power and strength.

Secondly, but yet a man that wades but to the knees, his loynes are not drenched, for nothing is healed but what is in the water. Now the affections of a man are placed in his loynes, God tries the reines; a man may have many unruly affections, though he be padling in the wayes of grace; he may walk on in some eavennesse, and yet have many distempered passions, and may have just cause to complaine of the rottennesse of his heart in the sight of God: why then, thou hast waded but to the knees, and it is a mercy that thou art come so farre; but yet the loynes want healing, why, wade a mile further then; the grace of God yet comes too shallow in us, our passions are yet unmortified, so as we know not how to grieve in measure, our wrath is vehement and immoderate, you must therefore wade untill the loynes bee girt with a golden girdle; wade an-end, & think all is not well untill you be so deep, & by this you may take a scantling, what measure of grace is poured out upon you. And if thou hast gone so farre, that God hath in some measure healed thy affections, that thou canst be angry and sin not, &c. it is well, and this we must attain to. But suppose the loyns should be in a good measure healed, yet there is more goes to it then all this; and yet when a man is come thus farre, he may laugh at all temptations, and blesse God in all changes: but yet goe another thousand cubits, and then you shall swimme; there is such a measure of grace in which a man may swimme as fish in the water, with all readinesse and dexterity, gliding an-end, as if he had water enough to swimme in; such a Christian doth not creep or walk, but he runs the wayes of Gods Commandments; what ever he is to doe or to suffer he is ready for all, so every way drenched in grace, as let God turn him any way, he is never drawn dry.


From The Way of Life (London, 1641)

GAL. 2. 20.

Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.

NOW HE corrects, or indeed rather explaines himselfe, how or what kind of life it is that he lives; Not hee, how then? Christ lives in him.

So that in these words, you have a deniall of himselfe, to be the author and roote of his owne life; he denies himselfe to live, even then when he doth live.

Secondly, You have an acknowledgement of the author and roote of his life; Christ lives in his life.

DOCTRINE. A living Christian lives not himselfe, but Christ in him.

Or thus:

The life of a Christian is not his owne life, but the life of Christ Jesus.

Either of both these expresse these two parts of the verse; A living Christian lives not himself, not his own life, but Christ lives in him.

First, see how a living Christian lives not his owne life, after once he hath had part in the death of Christ, and hath thereby beene initiated into the life and power of Christs death, and so become a mortified and crucified Christian in some measure, such a Christian lives not his own life in this world.

There is a threefold life, A carnal life, a spiritual life, and a natural life; and in some respect, a living Christian lives none of these lives.

A carnall life is expressed in three things, in living to a mans lusts, in living to the world, and in living to a mans owne wisedome and reason.

Now a Christian man lives to none of these; He lives not to his owne lusts: How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Rom. 6. 2. He looks at it as an absurdity, and indeed in some measure monstrous, ver. 6. The body of sin is dead in us, that we should no more serve sin; and ver. 7. he that is dead with Christ, is free from sinne: arme your selves with the same minde; now you live no longer to the lusts of men, but to the will of God; this life Paul doth not live, he is not lively at his lusts, they are death to him; for though a Christian man may be defiled, and sometimes overtaken, yet so farre as he is a living Christian, so farre he is a dead man to those lusts, they are the deadnesse of his heart, the discouragement of his spirit, the hell of his soule, that he is compassed about with such evils as these be; Oh wretched man that I am, &c. Rom. 7. 23, 24. as if it were the death of his life, that he carried about such a body of death with him. Now then, saith the Apostle, if I doe that which I hate, It is no more I that doe it, but sin that dwelleth in me, Rom. 7. 20. It is the misery of my spirituall life, that I am at any time deadhearted to spirituall duties, and somewhat apt to close with temptations to sinne, whether darted by Satan, or stirred up by my owne corrupt heart; and therefore if there be any life of sin in me, in the least measure, it is the death of my heart.

And secondly, so neither lives he in regard of the world, for though you may have a godly man busie in his calling from Sunne rising to Sunne setting, and may by Gods providence fill both his hand and head with businesse, yet a living Christian when he lives a most busie life in this world, yet he lives not a worldly life.

There are foure or five several differences between a Christian his living to the world, and another mans that is not yet alive to God, and hath no fellowship with Christ in his death.

First, a Christian man principally seeks Christ above and before the world, Mat. 6. 33. He doth first look for spirituall things, he had rather have his part in Christ, then in all the blessings of his life, he would first order his heart to Christ, his principall care is about that, and if he doe not so, he looks at it as his death, which a worldly man doth not.


Excerpted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons by JONATHAN EDWARDS, DAVID DUTKANICZ. Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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