I have four favorite sermons. In thinking about them, I realized they were two pairs, one old and one modern. Each pair was of the same subject. Of course each of the two pairs of sermons are edifying. Let me share the first pair now, and the second pair tomorrow.
On July 8th, 1741, pastor Jonathan Edwards ascended the pulpit and preached one of the most famous and convicting sermons in the last 270 years, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.
Edwards first preached an outline of it to his own congregation, then preached it fully as a guest pastor to the Enfield CT people. Sinners is part of the First Great Awakening.
The Spirit’s work in the First Great Awakening, unlike the Second Great Awakening which reached the unchurched and unconverted, was to shake complacent, church-going Christians to the core and revive their somnolent Christianity to one of fervor for personal holiness and prayer under a loving but wrathful eye of God.
First Great Awakening. Edwards’ use of vivid imagery combined with the powerful concepts of personal responsibility for sin in the face of a holy and sovereign God, crushed the hearts of listeners everywhere- because Edwards was asked to re-preach it often.
Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologians,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later. (Source)
On July 8, 1741, in Enfield CT (where a small stone marker marks the spot) Edwards delivered this great, theologically convicting sermon. Though Puritan congregations were well used to fire and brimstone teaching and preaching, the fact of hell and wrath unquestioned, the Spirit’s desire to spark an awakening by using this gifted preacher and his powerful sermon with vivid imagery stands still today as one of the great sermons.
Here is JD Wetterling’s foreword to the sermon, a concise recounting of the sermon’s history and impact.
If you live at the turn of the third millennium after Christ walked this earth, you’ve probably never heard a sermon like this one. Jonathan Edwards was a renowned Puritan preacher, philosopher, theologian, and the leading intellectual figure of colonial America. He graduated from Yale at age 17, became a preacher like his father and grandfather, and is today considered one of the theological titans, along with Augustine, Luther and Calvin, of the Reformed faith.
SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD was delivered during a time called the Great Awakening, when revival was sweeping the continent and thousands were daily coming to Christ. Two-hundred-fifty years later it is generally recognized as the greatest sermon ever preached on the North American continent, and one of the prime manifestations of the Holy Spirit that brought about the first Great Awakening. While Edwards was equally fervent and eloquent in his preaching on all of God‟s infinite attributes, especially His love and mercy, he is remembered most for this powerful portrayal of God‟s infinite hatred of sin. Edwards was not considered a charismatic orator. He read his sermons, and when he looked up at all it was to stare at the rope for the church bell on the back wall. He knew that in order for lost sinners to come to Christ, their only hope for salvation, they must first be brought to the realization of the desperate state they were in and the horrendous eternal consequences of it. He brought many of his listeners to that realization this day with “remarkable effect.” Such was the power and passion of his words that moans and groans filled the sanctuary and people fainted as he spoke.
The “h-word” is used more often here than I have heard in 52 years of church attendance—it sets the standard for “fire and brimstone.” Jesus himself talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and Edward‟s biblical support for his awesomely graphic metaphors is correct,complete and convicting, and elicits a sense of urgency rarely heard in church pulpits today.
To read in original form-
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
To hear on Youtube:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Edwards was concerned with sin, complacency, and the wrath of God. His biblical exposition used vivid imagery and is the hallmark woven through the entire sermon. In this next sermon from today’s times, the vivid imagery is also a powerful vehicle to bring the concepts of the devastation of sin to the listener.
The title of this sermon that has three times now brought me to a place of utter conviction, is called “Hacking Agag to Pieces.” Many people consider this sermon as MacArthur’s best. Its content is as vivid as the title, which is a literal event from 1 Samuel 15:33.
John MacArthur’s bio from Wikipedia,
John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American Calvinist, Baptist pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You. A popular author and conference speaker, he has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969 and also currently serves as the president of The Master’s College in Newhall, California and The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books.
MacArthur is … a strong proponent of expository preaching. He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time, and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.
The sermon is paired with the verses from 2 Corinthians 1:12, Romans 6:14-17, both about sin and how it devastates a life, unless it is hacked to pieces. MacArthur exposition of the context of Saul’s disobedience set the stage for the doctrinal explanations of the verses in Corinthians and Romans.
Both sermons bring to the listener how important it is not to give quarter to sin. We must not give the enemy any opportunity to weave his way into our hearts nor to nestle there. When we find sin in us we must deal with it immediately and vividly. Jonathan Edwards reminded his audience that it is only the pleasure of God that we draw the next breath. If you are unsaved, and your breath is taken away and death befalls you, an eternity of unutterable torment awaits. Those living a deluded life in false assurance of their salvation are at most risk.
And in MacArthur’s sermon, Agag lived a pagan, rebellious life before God and until the first sword stroke never thought it would be his last breath. As for Saul, God pronounced a curse upon him for his disobedience in not killing Agag in the first place, another sin before God, because disobedience is always sin.
Both sermons remind us that sin has profound and eternal consequences.
In tomorrow’s blog essay, a pair of sermons that uplift the listener, one old and one new. Prepare to be awed by His providence and His sovereignty.
The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. ~Steven J. Lawson