Monday, February 15, 2010

Confessions on Fear, Part 4

"Holy" living is a topic one easily finds in Christian literature, past and present. It is an obvious topic in both Old and New Testaments. Addressing our "deep" self, the sub-conscious or our character as seen in our old natures is a process with only one end-goal, to effect a greater holiness before the Lord.

I recently looked up the famed sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards in 1741, the period of the Great Awakening, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I found this quoted from the diary of Mr. Stephen Williams:

went over to Enfd, where we met Dear Mr E- (Jonathan Edwards) of N. H. - who preachd a most awakening Sermon from those words Deut - 32.35 - and before ye Sermon - was done there was a great moaning - & crying out throughout ye whole House - what shall I do to be Savd - oh I am going to Hell - oh what shall I do for a christ &c &c - so yt ye minister - was obligd to desist - shreiks & crys - were piercing & Amazing - - after Some time of waiting - the congregation were still So yt a prayr was made by Mr W - & after that we descendd from the pulpitt and discoursd - with the people - Some in one place & Some in another - and Amazing & Astonishing - ye powr - God was Seen*

The sermon had an immediate and noticeable effect upon the congregation, and further, has left its mark upon the history of American Christian culture since. Both the sermon and presented theology turns on this doctrinal statement made early in the sermon as a thesis:

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."**

The question develops then, is fear of hell an effective motivator for conversions (Edward's intent), as well as in the thought development I have worked toward in this series of seeking a deeper walk?

(And yep, Craig, I am working toward a discussion of perfect love casts out fear.)

*Stephen Williams, Diary, Storrs Library, Longmeadow, Mass., typescript, vol. 3, pp. 375–76

**Edwards, Jonathan. "Sinnners in the Hands of an Angry God"


postmodern redneck said...

The amazing thing about this historical event is, Edwards was not what we think of as a dynamic speaker. From what I have read, he wrote his sermons out, and read them from the pulpit in a monotone. Not the traditional stereotype of the fire-and-brimstone preacher. The result was the work of the Holy Spirit on the people, not the speaker playing up emotions.

careyrowland said...

The hell on this earth was sufficient enough evidence to drive me to seek his grace.

ded said...

postmodern redneck,

That Edwards spoke in a monotone is a fascinating fact! Thanks for sharing it. It puts the event in a completely different frame.

carey, and for me as well! Though so much of the hell I encountered was there as a result of my own choices, and I did fear that I was making my hell on earth worse by the day!