Sinners in The Hands Of an Angry God or God Really Hates Sinners

god abhors you

Excerpts from America’s most famous sermon,Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Preached by Calvinist Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Their foot shall slide in due time. Deuteronomy 32:35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as vers 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them…

…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 consideration.

  1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot 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…
  2. 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…
  3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not 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; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.
  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 miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who 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, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not 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 does not 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 its mouth under them.
  5. 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 11:12. 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.
  6. 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 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, 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 as they do in them…
  7. …Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them 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 and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the 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…
  8. …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 who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant…..

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 them 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.

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one 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 any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not 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 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 for 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 does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not 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 do not willingly serve 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, 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 on the summer threshing floor…

…Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

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9 Comments

  1. Ahab

    What a miserable, loveless world he describes, ruled by a vicious tyrant of a God.

    Reply
  2. Byroniac

    Wow, we’ve come a long way. “Seeking souls being touched by a loving Jesus.” LOL. Honestly, they took this so much more seriously and compliantly then we would now. Man’s pride (I can hear it now) does not allow him the humility to hear such a dire warning and presentation of God’s majesty and power. This sermon is schoolyard bullying on a cosmic scale.

    Reply
  3. John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    I wanted to vomit after reading this sermon of Edwards. It is full of a violent and angry God whose hate knows no bounds save for the special chosen few whom he decides will escape the horrors of eternal torture. Thanks goodness most churches aren’t as bad or as wicked as Edwards, though some are pretty bad.

    This kind of preaching is so cruel that it is no wonder that many of those who escape it become atheists. Atheism is preferable to such a violent god. The big problem over the last 20 years or been so has the resurgence of Calvinism among the “young and the restless” who are described as New Calvinists. I am amazed at how so many internet Calvinists embrace this type of full-on violent and repugnant god with such enthusiasm. I can’t understand why anyone would want to embrace such a god. There is little compassion, tenderness, mercy and loving-kindness in any of this. I hope that deep down that many such people are compassionate and in ,face to face behavior, actually act differently than what their ugly internet responses suggest.

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    Reply
  4. Byroniac

    Hi John:

    Speaking only for myself as a former Calvinist, I had always believed in and felt predisposed to the idea of God’s authority as even more important than his attribute of goodness, so I naturally felt drawn to the idea of complete Sovereignty by God (like Edwards), and honestly was not troubled by sermons like this. Why? Best I can remember, because I also held to the idea of the completely autonomous self-referential moral authority of God, in addition to his Sovereignty. So to me, anything God did or commanded others to do was automatically right, no matter how it looked. That meant, had God really intended for Abraham to slay Isaac, disobedience would have been more sinful than sacrifice (in actuality, in that scenario, sacrifice could not be sinful at all). I probably would have back-pedaled at that point, though, because such things are repugnant to those who actually have empathy, and I would have been thankful that such things (such as the order to exterminate the Canaanites as well) were for perpetual instructional value rather than an intended order of things.

    One thing I suppose you have to remember is that the heaven for the elect was supposed to be every bit as good and wonderful as the hell for the non-elect was horrible and tormenting. The idea of election did not bother me so long as I believed I too belonged to the elect, though. And I derived a great deal of comfort from the idea of God’s complete sovereignty. Somehow I made myself believe that all the evil and suffering in the world had been deliberately planned and ordained by God beforehand, and that to me was more comforting than the idea that God either could not prevent such or choose not to do so (in my Calvinism, supposedly God uses moral evil and natural disasters and accidents to further his own glory, which would actually be lessened if the world was a “worse” place or even a “better” one). My theology seemed to have an answer for everything, except there was not really much empathy there. And that is what I actually admire about Progressive Christians and such, though I do not share their faith obviously. Not so with so many modern Calvinists, whose blogs I have visited, and so often found very little empathy or humanity.

    Then again, it’s very difficult to manufacture humility and empathy from an elitist predestination membership club apparently. Who would have thought?

    Reply
  5. Alice

    Calvinism really did a number on me, too. I can relate to a lot of what Byroniac said above.

    Reply
  6. Mike

    I think many people miss the point of the Great Awakening altogether. American Colonists were some of the first people in the world to ever read the Bible for themselves rather than simply be obedient to the “teachings” of the Church. Now came the call to personal responsibility, and personal accountability. The “fire and brimstone” sermons of the Awakening may seem severe to us today, but the positive effects among COMMON people, that sense of personal responsibility for our faith and our actions plus accountability to God above all, remains a part of the American psyche today. I believe, personally, that this is the source of “American exceptionalism”.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      You assume that American exceptionalism is a good thing. You also miss the fact that the Puritans were every bit as fundamentalist,if not more so, as Evangelicals are today. I say more so, because in some colonies they had the power of state on their side and were able to punish those who objected to or ignored their doctrines and practices.

      I see the Puritans and their early descendants as the educated class who used theology and stern, threatening preaching to advance their religious, cultural, economic, and political agenda. Sadly, the Puritans still lurk in the shadows of our society, and many of the culture warriors are quite fond of the Puritans.

      Reply
      1. Byroniac

        Yes, there is a good reason why the word “Puritanical” was invented and has not been intended to be complimentary.

        Reply
        1. Mike

          Sure, the Puritans had their moments, and they were not the end-result of the process. What brought the Puritan movement about was reluctance of the Anglican clergy to give up power. Letting people power to interpret Jesus for themselves has always been a fear of theologians and high-church leaders. This is what got Christianity into trouble in the first place; power over people. To me the goal of true evangelicalism, and the Puritans were simply part of the process, is fully bottom-up; the individual believer finds ‘church’ within themselves, and the organized church becomes simply a meeting or association of similar believers. This STILL sends chills up the spines of clergy today.

          Reply

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