Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Perhaps the most famous sermon ever preached in America. Jonathan Edwards preached this July 8, 1741, at the church in Enfield, Connecticut. Widely read for two centuries since, as a prime example of the theology and preaching of Great Awakening times, 1730-1755. Most of the sermon consists of Edwards’ “ten considerations” which he poses with strong imagery of the sufferings involved in hell.
About the Author / Preacher
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) served the Northampton Congregational Church in Massachusetts for twenty-three years. He went on from there to the missionary outpost to the Mohawk and Mohican tribes. In 1758, he became president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), only to die a few months later due to an adverse reaction to a vaccination.
From a portion of the preface:
Edwards never mentioned this sermon in any other writings. The reason is probably because the spirit of revival at Enfield was a common occurrence at that time. For this was the period of The Great Awakening in which many souls were converted by the overpowering work of the Holy Spirit. The Great Awakening began in New England in 1734-1735 by a revival in Edwards’s own church at Northampton. For a description of that spiritual visitation one should read Edwards’s account titled A Narrative of Surprising Conversions. (1735).
In 1739 revival erupted again in New England, and well into 1741, at the time of the Enfield sermon, Edwards was convinced that “the work seemed to be much more pure, having less of a corrupt mixture than in the former great outpouring of the Spirit in 1735.”
Through the years, Edwards has been unfairly criticized for Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God because many think that its predominant teaching is the punishment of the ungodly in the fires of hell. While that image is certainly present in the sermon, it is not its prevailing image. On the contrary, as E. H. Cady points out, ‘The focus of the sermon is on the predicament of the sinner, how dreadfully he dangles just before he plunges to eternal agony, and while he has time to repent and be saved.” Consequently, the purpose of the sermon was chiefly evangelistic.