Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – J. D. Wetterling

© 2010 Smashwords

If you recognize the title of this e-book don’t get upset. Wetterling did not write it, and yes, it is Jonathan Edwards. What Wetterling has done is edit this time-tested sermon into shorter, more manageable sentences (and the readers say, “Thanks”), and couple it with another of the great Puritan preacher’s sermons.

I have long heard of and read bits and pieces of “Sinners . . .” but have never read through the sermon in its entirety until I accessed this copy for my Nook. Edwards, it is said, was not an eloquent speaker, but rather read his sermons in a fairly monotonous voice. When he looked up it was to make eye contact with the rope used to pull the church bell. Even so, this sermon so moved the hearts of his listeners that they envisioned themselves literally dangling above the fiery pit on the strand of a spider’s silk.

Now, having had my turn at reading the sermon (even this edited version), I have little question in my mind as to why the sermon did its work. The one troublesome thing that “Sinners. . .” did was to advance a view of Puritanism which focused over-largely on a wrathful God. In fact if the only sermon you ever heard of Edwards was this one, you might also think that God is always and only angry.

This is what prompted our editor to include the second sermon in this short book—“The Christian Pilgrim.” This second selection focuses on the Journey that each person takes, with the hopeful destination of Heaven. Edwards pulls no punches – insisting that if there is a heavenward destination, there is also an opposite life’s ending (we call it hell). But the tone of this message is one of a more benevolent and loving God offering a final destination of awe and wonder.

Of the two sermons, I must admit that “Sinners . . .” is the more compelling, but there are reasons why one work of art is considered a masterpiece and another fodder for the ‘fridge. Some books and movies are considered classics, timeless, while others find a quick spot on the back shelf of the video rental house. We classify certain songs as vintage or classic, while others aren’t even good enough for the ‘b’side of a 45 (ask you mother). While “The Christian Pilgrim” is a good sermon, and achieves its purpose in this collection of two, the real star of the show is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It is well worth your time to find a copy—either this edited version (which is free for your Nook, by the way) or in other collections of classic sermons from American History. It’s a great message for Christians to read to remind them of the great, grace-filled gift that is theirs, and to share with others who are waiting to hear.

This edition is worthwhile for any collector of great sermons, four and one-half reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, January 7, 2012

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