“Angry God” Marker

In What State Was God in 1741?
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Marker

Enfield, 11/20/2009

jonathan_edwards1I’ll bet God was pretty darn angry when John Edwards sinned and committed adultery with Rielle Hunter a few years ago while his wife was nearly dying of cancer. What? A different John Edwards? This rock monument marks the spot of a famous sermon by Johnathan Edwards way back in 1741? Oh. Sorry.

A tip o’ my hat to Dave of Dave’s Cupboard who alerted me to this rather interesting marker along Route 5 up in Enfield. I’m not sure how I’d otherwise have sought it out. (Note: if YOU have anything like this in your town, let me know.)

I easily found the marker on the grounds of a beautiful old Montessouri school up there, just down the road a little ways past the Paul Robeson House. Both the Robeson House (visited for an Enfield stop along the Connecticut Freedom Trail) and this marker have led me to learn some crazy stuff about some interesting people from our state’s rich history. I knew nothing of Paul Robeson and was only familiar with the phrase “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” in a very vague sense.

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a sermon written by American theologian Jonathan Edwards, preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Massachusetts Connecticut. Like Edwards’ other sermons and writings, it combines vivid imagery of the Christian concept of Hell
with observations of the secular world and citations of scripture. It remains Edwards’ most famous written work, and is widely studied both among American Christians and historians, due to the unique glimpse it provides into the theology of the Great Awakening of c. 1730-1755.

Here’s the Wiki about the Great Awakening.


Note how I struck out “Massachusetts” up there? That’s a whole other fascinating story, which I cover here. Before a 1749 agreement between the states, Enfield was part of Massachusetts so yes, this spot was indeed the Bay State back when Edwards was pumping up crowds with his visions of hellfire. (It’s interesting to note that CT and MA are arguably the two most liberal states in the nation today, and as every wingnut knows, liberals all hate God.)

Edwards’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is considered a classic of early American literature, which he delivered during a wave of revival in 1741. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the widely-held belief that Hell is a real and functional place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that he argued awaited them should they continue without Christ. The underlying point, is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell; this act of restraint has given humanity a to change their ways and return to Christ. Jonathan Edwards’ sermon continues to be the leading example of a Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic settings today.

Well, remind me not to attend a church which holds the Edwardsism, “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” That God takes pleasure in some strange things.

Most of the sermon’s text consists of ten “considerations”, which Edwards poses and justifies through a combined use of observations and hellish imagery. They are as follows:

angry11. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment in time.
2. The wicked deserve to be cast into hell: so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God using his power at any moment to destroy them.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.
4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell: and the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; 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.
5. Satan stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him.
6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hellfire, if it were not for God’s restraints.
7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand.
8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, does not secure them a moment
9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, doesn’t secure them from hell for one moment.
10. God has laid himself under no obligation by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell for one moment.

In the final section of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards wishes to show his theological argument at work throughout scripture and biblical history. This is done at length, invoking stories and examples throughout the whole of the Bible and comprises the bulk of this section. Edwards ends the sermon with one final appeal, “Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come.” Without explicitly saying, Edwards indirectly gives a sense of hope to those currently out of Christ. Only by returning to Christ can one escape the stark fate outlined by Edwards.

Awww, that’s nice.

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