Good day folks, Circuit Preacher here, glad to take a break from the rough trail on which I find myself today. Millard, my mule, is grateful too—after all, he was doing most of the work. But I am emotionally worn out as we have just come from a funeral. It was a sad occasion as a stagecoach had tumbled off the edge of the road and over into a gulch along a mountain pass. Two people were killed instantly and another took a few minutes. None of these folks were church goin’ folks and the report from one of the survivors is that the third man, a bad man by reputation, spent his last breaths sayin’ that he wasn’t ready to die. Well, since I was in town, they asked me to say a few words over the graves and I was willin’. But I didn’t mince words and probably shocked some folks over what I had to say. Millard was shocked too as I smacked his behind when he started to munch on some of the flowers someone had left in front of a marker. I believe he forgave me, but sometimes you have to keep that ornery mule in line.
But I digress. The words I spoke came in part from that most famous of sermons by Jonathan Edwards. Now I’m not sure the last time you heard a good hellfire message from the pulpit, but around this timeframe, and especially in revival tent preachin’, it seems to be a popular subject. I feel sometimes that we forget what it is that we are being saved from. Yes, we are called to love others and serve and such, but there is a simple message which starts it all and that is, we are sinners and in need of salvation from the wrath of God!
Edwards starts off in Deuteronomy 32: 35, “their foot shall slide in due time.” I do encourage you to read the entire text. Edwards states, “In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed verse 28, void of counsel, having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.
There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”
Edwards then makes the following points: There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment, they deserve to be cast into hell, and they are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. Later he goes on, “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. ’Tis true, that judgment against your evil work has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are continually 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 God’s 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.”
Edwards continues: “O sinner! consider the fearful danger you are in. ’Tis 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 moment.”
Then he concludes with some points to consider: Whose wrath is it? It is the wrath of the infinite God, it is fierce, and it is an everlasting wrath. He also mentions that some feel that they can somehow beat the wrath of God. No one is immune, all have fallen short. He ends with this paragraph, “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 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 ye be consumed.’”
I would continue and emphasis that there is a way of escape. Despite the wrath of God, there is a way of salvation and that is through His son, Jesus Christ. Believe on the Lord and thou shalt be saved. God, in his love and mercy, sent his Son to pay the price for our sins which cleanses us and leads to eternal life with Him. None of us knows when the end will come, for those poor folks on the coach, it was unexpected and sudden. You cannot put off making your decision!
May you go with God today!
To read Jonathan Edwards’ full sermon, SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD, go to http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34632/34632-h/34632-h.htm