You see, that was my question as I prepared this message. How could I present these verses to you in such a way that you would really get it. Not just mentally assent to the need for living in the fear of God, but truly experience His glory and His love till your heart changes.
I’m certainly not the first preacher to wrestle with that task. Many others have, and with much greater impact, I might add. One of those preachers, after one of his sermons, saw powerful changes that lasted. People were made humble, faithful, prayerful and holy. Churches became powerful place of worship where people, hungry to hear the Word, gathered. Whole towns were revolutionized and being good even became “fashionable.”
Who was that preacher? Well, he was Jonathan Edwards and that sermon that had so much power was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It is such a masterpiece that it is included in many American literature books. I didn’t know this about it, but it followed a style that was current at the time. Evidently when death row inmates were about to be executed, they’d bring in a preacher who would preach on meeting God and call them to repent. People listening to Jonathan Edwards in 1741 would have been well aware of the style.
What was unusual was to whom Edwards preached a death-row sermon. He preached to the respectahble people of his church. He hammered those church members with word pictures of themselves as standing before their impartial judge. His church came off the chain. They began to wail and to weep and sinners began to confess their sins. Revival broke out.
Now if you were in English literature, your professor may point to the rhetoric of that sermon or its death-row form as the reason for its success, but they’d be wrong! How do I know that? Well, I know it because just a few weeks before he preached that sermon in Enfield, he had preached it at his own church in Northampton. But Edwards’ flock evidently just yawned, endured, shook his hand when it was over, and went home to lunch.
When Edwards analyzed the Great Awakening (which is the name of the national revival that his sermon started). He said that, while faith comes by hearing the Word of God, that the Word must be empowered by the Spirit or nothing happens.