277 years ago, a man named Jonathan Edwards gave what was probably the most influential sermon in American history. Titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” it played a critical role in the First Great Awakening—a religious movement that swept across Britain and America in the 1730s and 1740s.
A couple years ago I wrote a condensed paraphrase of that classic sermon. You can read my version here.
What impresses me most about Edwards’s sermon is the vivid language he used to describe the imminent danger unrepentant sinners are in. Here are excerpts from my paraphrase:
“We are all on the brink of eternity. Who knows if our next step will be into the next life? Unconverted sinners walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are many places in this covering that are weak and unable to bear their weight. They have no idea when they will step on one of these weak spots and plunge to their deaths. God doesn’t need a miracle to send us to the next life—he can easily send us there anytime.”
Clearly, Edwards believed that unsaved people were all in mortal danger. He urged everyone to come to Christ before it was too late. And sure enough, his message sparked a massive response; countless people decided to repent after hearing his stern warnings.
Here’s another paraphrased excerpt:
“Think of it this way: your wickedness makes you sag downward like a heavy object toward hell. If God were to let you go, you would immediately plunge into the bottomless gulf. Your physical health, your own precautions, and all your righteousness wouldn’t hold you up any more than a spider’s web can stop a falling rock. If it weren’t for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth wouldn’t sustain you one moment, for you are a burden to it.”
Obviously this sermon had a harsh, frightening tone, which was common in the Puritan era. I suspect most of us would cringe if we heard a message like this in our church, and I’m sure a lot of us would take issue with the way Edwards depicted God as fierce, angry, and vengeful.
Nevertheless, thinking about this influential sermon and all its dire warnings about being outside of Christ makes me appreciate the sure foundation that we have in Christ.
He is our foundation.
Therefore our foundation is firm, unmoving, steadfast.
Unchanged by our struggles,
unmoved by our mistakes,
uncompromised by our sins.
Many times I feel disgusted by my shortcomings. I try hard to discipline myself and stay away from sin, but of course I often fail. Regrets pile up daily. During the bleakest moments, it feels like my salvation is slipping away.
But then I remember that my salvation was never meant to be about me or based on my merits. Neither is yours.
If you are in Christ, then your salvation is settled. It’s finished. It’s done.
Our Lord Jesus Christ…will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful… | 1 Corinthians 1:7–9
No more rotten, weak foundations. No more danger of plunging into hell. No more fear of eternal doom.
God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his.” | 2 Timothy 2:19
Friend, you are spoken for.
You’re totally secure.
You are in Him.
O I am my Beloved’s,
And my Beloved’s mine;
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine!
I stand upon His merit;
I know no other stand.
I’m hidden in His presence
And held by His own hand.