Damning Of The Masses Essay, Research Paper
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
–Romans 10: 9
From the time we are small children sitting in Sunday school not able to fully grasp the love of God that we sing simple songs about, we are taught that Jesus was sent to earth to love us no matter what. The Puritan congregation listening to Jonathan Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in 1741 were not being taught of this wonderful gift. Though Edwards’ intentions were sincere and good, he put far too much emphasis on the side of judgment that is to be greatly softened by the lesson of love Christ came to earth to make known. This made his invitation to salvation very appealing, but only through the avenue of fear of what might happen otherwise, not through sincere love for Christ. Because of this, Edwards’ call to Christianity and repentance is not complete.
In Edwards’ sermon, emphasis is placed on what will happen if we do not put Christ on in baptism, enslaving ourselves to sin. He uses the fear of God that is emphasized so much in the Bible and twists it just a bit. The fear we are to have in God is one of respect and adoration of His awesome power. It has the sense of reverential trust in God that includes commitment to his revealed will (Holy Bible, NIV, Ge. 20:11 note). Edwards interprets this fear as trepidation and terror, allowing no room for our souls to love God as he loves us.
Edwards also fails to emphasize a major thematic concept of the Bible– love. The word love is used in 539 verses of the Bible. In this sermon it is used only four times. Only two of those times directly refer to Christ’s love for us. Edwards seems to have shaded this crucial aspect of salvation.
In the very small section of Edwards’ sermon that he gives his listeners a way out of being dropped like a spider into the fiery lake, he fails to give their terror release, still making his message into a threat. Jesus never threatened. God never finds pleasure in the damning of men’s souls. The Lord wishes only for us to be with him.
I agree with Edwards that if we do not come to Christ and obey His commands that we will spend eternity in hell, but I also believe that our God is a god of infinite grace and love. This is something Edwards seems not to have felt or appears to have interpreted in a way that makes God into a spiteful, jealous god waiting to crush us at any moment. If only Edwards would have realized how crucial Christ’s message of love was to the salvation of his congregation. His powerful invitation of deliverance would have given people hope and a more healthy sense of urgency. They would have seen that the only way out was not simply jumping in the water and shouting “I’m safe!”, but through their own minds and hearts devoted
The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition, vol. 1