"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" Excerpt and Activity
By Jonathan Edwards 1741
Take out a pencil and paper. Draw yourself being held in what you think God's hand might look like. Under your drawing, draw a pit. This lesson is not intended to make you into a Christian, but to show you the images preachers created in their listeners minds in order to persuade them to become Christians.
Ask yourself what motivates you to act: fear or hope? Add descriptive words or details to your drawing or draw new pictures based on the sermon.
Someone with a booming voice who can read without rehearsal can volunteer to read the sermon aloud to make it easier for students to get the emotions of the sermon. Alternatively, the teacher can read the sermon aloud.
...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 toward 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 hellís wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything 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 downward with great weight and pressure toward 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 spiderís web would have to stop a fallen rockÖ.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of Godís vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw His hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of Godís wrath is bent, and
the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart,
and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of
an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one
moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed
under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon
your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and
raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether
unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may
have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections,
and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the
house of God, it is nothing but His mere pleasure that keeps you from being this
moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now
be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it.
Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it
was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they
expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, peace and safety: Now they
see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing
but thin air and empty shadows.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath toward you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; He is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that Godís hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking His pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending His solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: It is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one momentÖ
Sermon Source: edwards.yale.edu/files/SinnersLite.doc
Adapted by Gale Sperry
Discuss your drawings in small groups. Discuss whether a person who believes in heaven must also believe in Hell. Did people like Bradstreet and Edwards teach people to make decisions based on hope or fear?
Do you make your decisions based on hope or fear?
Get back into a whole-class group. What did your investigation of the sermon teach you about yourself and humanity's role in the universe?
Lesson: ©2010 Gale Sperry, www.mrssperry.com, All rights reserved.