Sinners In The Hands Of A Merciful God

On most weekday mornings my usual routine includes listening to Bill Bennett’s ‘Morning In America‘ radio show as I prepare for work. One morning this week, (I can’t remember exactly which one), Mr. Bennett read a brief quote by Jonathan Edwards taken from his famous sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.” I have no idea why this was read. But what took me aback was Mr. Bennett’s obvious disgust for what he just read. Here’s the quote:

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 towards 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 so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.

Johnathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry, God, p.411
The Jonathan Edwards Center @ Yale University – click here.

I’m afraid that Bill Bennett’s disgust is shared by far too many professing believers. The idea that God could exhibit wrath for His rebellious creatures and be righteous and just in doing so is unpalatable to many. But God is righteous and just in His wrath. God is holy and we are fallen, rebellious creatures. We are sinners in the hands of an angry God. It’s too bad that Mr. Bennett didn’t read more of the context of Edwards words for in walks the grace and mercy of God. As surely as the Law condemns, the Gospel saves those who believe.

You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; ’tis 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 God’s hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you han’t 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 don’t this very moment drop down into hell. . .

. . .And let everyone that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s Word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, that is a day of such great favor to some. . .

Johnathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry, God, p.412 & 417
The Jonathan Edwards Center @ Yale University – click here.

We’ve just seen why it’s extremely important to read the words of others in context. More importantly we find that God’s wrath is only half of the equation. God is gracious and merciful as well. Never fear Mr. Bennett. The Law must indeed be preached. Then comes the Gospel. Jesus Christ died to save sinners from the wrath to come. Believe and be saved.


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