Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
(A modern English version of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon)
If you would like to read the original version, click this link.
In due time their feet will slip; Deuteronomy 32:35
In this verse God threatens His revenge on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s chosen people, chosen in order to be an example to the world of what Godly people should be like. They enjoyed God’s special kindness. However, in spite of all God’s wonderful kindness towards them, they remained foolish, as recorded in Deuteronomy 32:28, “They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them.” In spite of having the amazing benefits of the presence of God actually with them to guide them and direct them, they behaved more like children of the devil than children of God, as recorded in Deuteronomy 32: 32 – 33: “Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.”
The expression I have chosen for my text, “In due time their feet will slip”, seems to imply the following four things, in relation to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites had exposed themselves.
1. Firstly, that they were always exposed to destruction; in the same way that someone who stands or walks in a slippery place is always exposed to falling, almost waiting for the inevitable to happen. This is suggested in the text in the way that their destruction will come upon them: their feet will slip. The same thought is expressed in Psalm 73:18 – ” Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”
2. Secondly, it implies that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. In the same way that someone who walks in a slippery place is every moment at risk of falling, they cannot be sure from one moment to the next whether they shall stand or fall with their next step; and when they do fall, they fall without warning. This same thought is expressed in Psalm 73:18, 19 – “Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!”
3. Thirdly, another thing is implied, that they are at risk of falling entirely of their own doing, without being thrown down by someone else. Someone who stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but their own weight to make them fall.
4. Fourthly, that the reason why they have not fallen down already, and are not falling down at this very moment, is only that God’s appointed time has not yet come. For the verse says that when the due time arrives, their feet will slip. Then they shall be left to fall, brought down by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall to destruction. In just the same way that, if someone stands on slippery sloping ground that is on the edge of a cliff, that person cannot remain standing by themselves, and when he is let go he immediately slips over the edge and is lost.
I would warn us to learn this solemn lesson from these words:
“There is nothing that keeps any of us at any moment out of hell except for the mere kindness and patience of God, a kindness that we in no way deserve.”
By the “mere kindness and patience” of God, I mean his sovereign kindness, his own will that is not subject to influence from anyone or anything. He is not forced in any way by any obligation or duty, not hindered in any way by any difficulty, to keep sinners from falling to their dreadful destiny.
The truth of this solemn lesson may be seen in the following ten thoughts.
1. There is no lack of power in God to be able to cast wicked sinners into hell at any moment. Our human hands cannot be strong in self-preservation when God rises up against us. The strongest of us has no power to resist him. Nothing and no one can deliver us out of his hands. He is not only able to cast sinful people into hell, but he can do it very easily. Sometimes an earthly king or president might have a great deal of difficulty subduing a rebel who has armed himself, and has made himself strong by an army of followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though we unite in opposition in an army, and a vast multitude of God’s enemies combine and form a mighty army, it is easily smashed to pieces by God. They have as much power as dust in the path of a hurricane, or piles of dry leaves in the path of a raging bushfire. We would find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the ground. It would be easy for us to cut a single slender thread that something hangs by. In the same way it is easy for God, whenever he pleases, to let his enemies slip down into hell. Who are we, that we think we might be able to stand securely before him? At his rebuke the earth trembles, and before him the mountains are thrown down.
2. They deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice and fairness never stand in the way of casting people into hell. Divine justice and fairness make no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them in hell. On the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says if you bear wicked fruit like the wicked town of Sodom, then “Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” (Luke 13:7). The sword of divine justice is every moment raised over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of God’s patient kindness, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down to hell. In addition, the sentence of the law of God, his law that is the eternal and unchanging rule of righteousness that God has set in place between himself and mankind, has already given a verdict against them, and stands against them, so that they are already condemned to hell. In John 3:18 we read, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” So every unconverted person properly belongs to hell; that is their place; and hell is where they are from: John 8:23, “You are from below.” And they are on their way there. Hell is the place that God’s justice and God’s word and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to them.
4. They are right now already the objects of God’s fierce anger, the very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment is not because God, in whose power they are, is a little less angry with them; as if he was less angry with them than he is with the many miserable creatures already being tormented in hell, who already feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath in hell. In fact, God is a great deal angrier with great numbers of people that are now on earth. In fact, he’s no doubt angrier with many that are now in this congregation, who appear to be at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.
So it is not because God is not aware of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off from his patient kindness. God is not like us, though we may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them. Their damnation does not sleep; the pit of hell is prepared, the fire is ready, the furnace is hot and ready to receive them. The flames rage and glow right now. The glittering sword is sharp, and held over them, and the pit of hell has opened its mouth under them.
5. The devil stands ready to grab them and seize them as his own, as soon as God will let him. They belong to him; the devil already has their souls in his possession, and under his control. The scripture represents them as his goods as in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil”. The devils watch them. They are always nearby, as if at their right hand. They stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey and expect to have it, but are for the present held back. If God removed his hand that holds back the demons they would in one moment jump upon their poor souls. The old serpent, Satan, is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God permitted it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
6. Sinful principles control the nature of people. If it were not for God’s keeping a check on the results of those sinful principles, they would simply burst out into hell-fire on the spot. There is already a foundation of the torments of hell within the very being of their sinful nature. The principles of the sinful nature are now controlling them, and in full possession of them, and those principles are the seeds of hell fire. These hellish principles are active and powerful, and extremely violent in their nature. If it were not for the restraining hand of God, they would soon break out and burst into hellish flame. They would be like the souls already in hell, whose evil and ill-will torments their own hearts. The living would endure the same torments as the dead. The Bible compares the souls of sinful people to a storm-tossed sea, as in Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” For the time being, God holds back their wickedness by his mighty power, in the same way that he holds back the raging waves of a stormy sea, saying, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11). But if God withdrew his restraining power, their sinful nature would soon destroy everything in its path. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul. It is destructive in its nature, and if God did not hold back its action, nothing else would be needed to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is unrestrained and boundless in its fury, and while sinful humans live on this earth, it is like a raging fire contained by God’s restraints. If it was let loose, it would set all of nature on fire. Since the human heart is now a storehouse of sin, if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.
7. It should be no comfort to sinful people for one moment that there is no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to anyone that they are now in good health, or that they do not see any way that they would die by an accident, or that there is no visible danger regarding death in their circumstances. The world is full of evidence from all ages that just because someone appears to be safe does not mean that they are not on the very brink of eternity, and that their next step will not take them into the next world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of people dying suddenly are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted people walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that it will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen in the middle of the day. The sharpest eyesight cannot see them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking sinful humans out of this world and sending them to hell that there is no need for God to have to work a miracle or go out of his way to destroy any sinful person at any moment.
All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world are so in God’s hands and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never used, or at all concerned in the case.
8. Their efforts to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve their lives, make them no safer for a moment. Both divine providence and experience substantiate this fact. There is plenty of evidence that human wisdom and effort is no protection from death. If it were otherwise we would see some difference between the wise and shrewd people of the world and others, regarding their likelihood of experiencing an early and unexpected death. How are things in reality? As in Ecclesiastes 2:16, “Like the fool, the wise man too must die!”
9. All of sinful people’s effort and scheming that they use to escape hell, (while at the same time continuing to reject Christ and therefore remain sinful people), does not safeguard them from hell one moment. Almost every person that hears of hell flatters himself or herself that they shall escape it. They depend on themselves for their own security. They flatter themselves in what they have done, in what they are doing now, or in what they intend to do. Everyone makes plans in their own mind as to how they shall avoid damnation, and they flatter themselves that they have worked things out well for themselves, and that their schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that only a few will be saved, as in Matthew 7:14, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” They hear that most people who have died up to now are in hell; but each one of them imagines that they have worked out their own escape from hell better than others have done. They do not intend to go to that place of torment. They say to themselves that they intend to take good care of their soul, and to order matters for themselves so that they will not fail.
But foolish humans miserably delude themselves in their schemes, and in their confidence in their own strength and wisdom. They trust nothing but a shadow. Surely most people who have lived up until now under the same kindness of God that we enjoy, but are now dead, are certainly now in hell. It was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive. It was not because they did not plan things out for themselves in order to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them and inquire of them one by one, whether they had expected when they used to hear about hell that they would ever themselves have to suffer that misery, no doubt we would hear all of them reply, “No, I never intended to come here. I had things planned out differently in my mind. I thought I had planned well for myself. I thought my scheme was good. I intended to take good care of my soul, but things came upon me suddenly. I did not think about death for a while, and at that time death came like a thief in the night. Death outwitted me. God’s anger was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with useless dreams of what I would do in the hereafter; and when I was saying, ‘Peace and safety’, then suddenly destruction came on me.”
10. God has put himself under no obligation by any promise to keep any living person out of hell for one moment. God has not made any promises either to give eternal life to people, or to deliver people or preserve them from eternal death, except for those promises that are contained in the promise of God’s kindness in his son Christ Jesus, in whom all the promises are sure and true. But surely the people who are not children of God’s promise of kindness have no interest in the promises of God, and they don’t believe his promises, and they have no interest in the Mediator of the promises, our Savior Jesus Christ.
In spite of some people having imagined and pretended that God’s promises apply to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking in religious duties, it is obvious that whatever effort a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, until he believes in Christ, God is under no obligation to keep him one moment from eternal destruction.
So sinful people are held in the hands of God, over the pit of hell. They deserve the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it. And God is dreadfully provoked! His anger is as great towards them as it is towards those who are already suffering the penalty of the fierceness of his anger in hell, and they are doing absolutely nothing to appease or lessen that anger. And God is not in the least bound by any promise to hold them up for one moment longer. The devil is waiting for them; hell is gaping for them; the flames gather and flash about them, and would happily grab hold of them and swallow them up. The pent-up fire of hell even in their own hearts is struggling to break out. And they have no interest in any Savior; no interest in Jesus as their Mediator. There are no means within reach that can be any safety for them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, and all that preserves them from hell every single moment is the mere undeserved kindness and patience of a God who is angry with them. And he has no obligation to help them and no promise to fulfill in preventing them from falling to their fiery doom.
The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted people in this congregation. What you have just heard is the case of every one of you who is without Christ. The world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended broadly underneath you. There beneath you is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the God’s anger. There is hell’s wide gaping mouth open, and you have nothing to stand on, and nothing to grab hold of. There is nothing between you and hell but the air. It is only the power and mere kindness and patience of God that holds you up.
You probably are not aware of this. You find that you are presently kept out of hell, but you do not see the hand of God in it. Instead you look at other things, such as the good state of your health, your diligence in looking after your own life, and the care you take in maintaining your own life. But indeed these things are nothing. If God should withdraw his hand, they would no more keep you from falling than thin air is able to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
Your wickedness makes you as heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell. And if God let go of you, you would immediately sink and swiftly plunge into the bottomless pit, and your healthy body, and your own care and prudence and best scheming and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to hold you up and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign choice of God, the earth would not hold you up for one moment, for you are a burden to it. The creation groans because of you. The creature is enslaved to decay, though not willingly. The sun does not willingly shine on you to give you light so that you can serve sin and Satan. The earth does not willingly give you her food so that you can satisfy your lusts. Nor is the earth a willing stage for your wickedness to be acted out on. The air does not willingly let you breathe it in order to maintain the flicker of life in your body, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made to serve God, and they do not willingly bend to any other purpose. They groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and proper purpose. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of God who is the master of the creation that longs for its deliverance from decay. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of a dreadful storm and big with thunder. And if it were not for the restraining hand of God, the violent storm would immediately burst upon you. For the moment, the unforced will of God keeps his storm in check, otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor, like dust in a mighty wind.
The wrath of God is like great lakes of water that are presently dammed up. They increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, until an outlet is found. And the longer the water is held back, the more rapid and mighty is its course when it is let loose. It is true that judgment against your evil works has not been executed up until now. The floods of God’s angry revenge have been held back. But your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and every day you are every day building up more and more of God’s anger against you. The waters are constantly rising, and becoming more and more powerful, and there is nothing but the mere patient kindness of God that holds the waters back. And those waters are not willing to be held back. They press hard to be let loose. If God withdrew his hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and anger of God would rush out with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with almighty power. And if you were ten thousand times stronger than you are, or even ten thousand times stronger than the toughest and strongest devil in hell, your strength would still be nothing compared with the strength of God’s flood of anger.
The bow of God’s anger is bent, and his arrow is ready on the string of the bow, and justice aims the arrow at your heart, and pulls back the bow, and it is nothing but the mere will of God, (and an angry God at that, who is under no promise or obligation of kindness towards you), that keeps the arrow at this instant from being made drunk with your blood. So you people here that have never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God on your souls, that have never been born again and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin to a state of new light and life, (a light and life that so far you have never experienced), are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many ways, and however you may have had religious feelings, and however you may keep up a form of religion in your families and in the house of God, it is nothing but God’s will, free of any kind obligation towards you, that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may be of the truth of what you are hearing right now, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those people who have already died yet held a view like you do now know that it used to be their view as well. But destruction came suddenly upon most of them. When they least expected it, and while they were saying, ‘Peace and safety’, now they see that those things on which they depended for peace and safety were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some other ugly insect over the fire, detests you, and is dreadfully provoked. His anger towards you burns like fire. He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He eyes are too pure to look at you. You are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous snake is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel offended any king or president, and yet it is only his hand that holds you from falling into the fire of hell at every moment. It is for no other reason that you did not fall into hell the last night, and that you were allowed 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 got up this morning, except that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you came and sat here in this house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. There is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in. You are held over a great furnace of anger, over a wide and bottomless pit full of the fire of anger. And it is God’s hand that holds you, and his anger is provoked and incensed as much against you as it is against any of the damned that are already in hell. You hang over hell by a tiny thread, with the flames of divine anger flashing about it, ready every moment to singe it and burn it to nothing. And you have no interest in any Mediator, in any Savior, and nothing to grab hold of to save you, and nothing to keep off the flames of wrath. Nothing in you, and nothing that you ever have done, and nothing that you can do, will induce God to spare you for one moment.
And now consider these things in more detail:
1. Whose anger it is:
It is the anger of the infinite God. If it was only the anger of a man, even though the man was the most powerful ruler in the world, that would be comparatively little to be concerned about. The anger of earthly rulers is at times to be greatly feared, especially of despotic dictators who have the lives and possessions of their subjects wholly within their power, and can be dealt with by the dictator in any way that they like. Proverbs 20:2. “A king’s wrath is like the roar of a lion; he who angers him forfeits his life.” The citizen that enrages a despotic dictator is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or that human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly rulers in their greatest majesty and strength, when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison with the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the worst of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing; both their love and their hatred is to be counted as nothing. The furious anger of the great King of kings, is as much fiercer than theirs is, as his majesty and power is greater than their majesty and power. Luke 12:4 – 5, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
2. It is the fierceness of his anger that you are exposed to.
We very often read in the Bible of the fury of God, as in Isaiah 59:18. “According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.” Also in Isaiah 66:15, “See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places, as in Revelation 19:5, where we read of “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” These words are exceedingly terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful, but it is “the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” The fury of God! The fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can speak of or conceive of what such phrases mean! But it is also ” the fury of the wrath of God Almighty”, as if it is indicating that there will be an enormous display of his almighty power in the fierceness of the anger that he will inflict, as though omnipotence itself is enraged and exerted, in the same way that people like to exert all their strength when their anger is very fierce. Oh! Then what the consequences will be! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure that anger? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall endure this!
Consider this, you who are here, and who are still unconverted, and not yet born again. The fact that God will execute the fierceness of his anger implies that he will inflict anger without any pity. When God sees the indescribable severity of your situation, and sees your torment to be so vastly greater than your strength to bear it, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down into an infinite gloom, he will have no compassion for you, and he will not turn away from the execution of his anger, or in any way lighten his hand. There will be no softening or mercy, nor will God in any way limit his severe storm. He will have no regard for your welfare, but only be concerned that you shall suffer what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld simply because it is too hard for you to bear. In Ezekiel 8:18 we read, “Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.”
Now God stands ready to pity you. This is a day of mercy. You may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most miserable and distressed cries and shrieks will be useless. You will be wholly lost and thrown away by God regarding your eternal welfare. God will have no other use to put you to but to suffer misery. You shall continue existence for no other reason than to be an object of wrath that is ready for destruction. And there will be no other use of you, but to be filled full of God’s anger. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,” as in Proverbs 1:25 – 26, “Since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you.”
How awful are those words in Isaiah 63:3, which are the words of the great God, “I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them a greater display of these three things: contempt, hatred, and fierce indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your woeful situation, and so far from showing you the least kindness or favor, that instead of pitying you, he will only tread you under foot. And although he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading on you, yet he will not be concerned about that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy. He will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be splashed on his clothes, so as to stain all his clothes. He will not only hate you, but he will hold you in the utmost contempt. No place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mud of the streets.
The misery that you are exposed to is the misery that God will inflict in order to show what the anger of Jehovah is like. God has had it on his heart to show to angels and people, both how wonderful his love is, and also how terrible his anger is. Sometimes earthly rulers have a mind to show how terrible their anger is, by the extreme punishments that they execute on those who provoke them. King Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty king of the ancient Chaldean empire, was willing to show his anger when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Accordingly he gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than usual. No doubt it was raised to the fiercest heat that humans could manage. But the great God is also willing to show his fierce anger, and to display his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Romans 9:22, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction?” And seeing that this is his intention, and what he had already planned, to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to full effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful to see. When the great and angry God has risen up and executed his awful revenge on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of God’s indignation, then God will call on the whole universe to see the awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah 33:12 –14, “The peoples will be burned as if to lime; like cut thorn bushes they will be set ablaze. You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power! The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?’”
Thus it will be for you who are unconverted, who are not yet born again, if you continue that way. The infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be displayed in you, in the indescribable horror of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And when you are in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven will go and look at the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is like. And when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore him who has displayed such great power and majesty. Isaiah 66:23 – 24, “From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
4. It is everlasting anger.
It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and anger of Almighty God for just one moment, but you must suffer it for all eternity. There will be no end to this intense horrible misery. When you look forward you will see a long forever, an endless future in front of you, so amazing that it will consume all your thoughts and amaze your soul. And you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance from it, any end to it, any mitigation of it, or any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions and millions of ages, in fighting and battling with this almighty merciless vengeance. And then when you have done so, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is like one point on an endless line. So your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul is in such circumstances! All that we can possibly say about it gives only very feeble and faint description of it. It is inexpressible and inconceivable, for “who knows the power of God’s anger?”
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great anger and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation who has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would think earnestly about it, regardless of whether you are young or old! There is good reason to think that there are many in this congregation now hearing this talk that will actually be the subjects of this misery for all eternity. We do not know who they are, or what seats they are sitting in, or what they are thinking right now. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much anxiety, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the people in danger, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was just one person in this whole congregation that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing it would be to think about! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight it would be to see that person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a woeful and bitter cry for him! But, alas! Instead of one, I wonder how many of you will go to hell and when you get there remember this sermon? And it would not be surprising if some of you who are hear now will be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is over. And it would be no surprise if some people who sit here now in this building, who are in good health, quiet and secure, will be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you who continue in your present condition, and who keep out of hell longest will be still there in only little time! Your damnation does not slumber. It will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly on many of you. You have reason to wonder why you are not already in hell. It is no doubt the case of some people whom you have seen and known, and who deserved hell no more than you, and who up until their death appeared as likely to have been alive now as you are. Their situation is beyond hope. They are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair. But here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and you have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity. You are in a day where Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners. This is a day where many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south. Many who were very recently in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful it is to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many others rejoicing and singing from joy in their hearts, while you have cause to mourn because of the sorrow of heart, and howl because of distress of your spirit! How can you rest for one moment in such a condition? Aren’t your souls as precious as the souls of the people at the nearby town of Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long lives in this world, and yet to this day are not born again? And so they are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and they have done nothing as long as they have lived but store up anger for themselves on God’s day of anger? Oh people, your situation is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Don’t you see that generally people of your years are passed over and left, in this present remarkable and wonderful time of God’s mercy? You had better carefully consider your situation, and awake thoroughly out of your sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and anger of the infinite God.
And you young men and young women, will you also neglect this precious opportunity that you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all the useless entertainments of youth, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity. But if you neglect it, it will soon be the same for you as it is with those older people have who spent all their precious youth in sin, and have now come to such a dreadful state of blindness and hardness.
And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?
And let every one of you who is still without 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 listen to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favors to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases quickly at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls. And never was there such a great danger of such people being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be quickly gathering in his elect in all parts of the land. And probably the majority of adults that will ever be saved will be brought in now in a little time, and then it will be as it was in the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days. The elect will obtain mercy, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and you will curse the day that you were born, to see such a time as this of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and you will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. This time is, no doubt, a time as it was in the days of John the Baptist, when the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, and when every tree that does not bring forth fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Therefore, let every one of you who is without Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The anger of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one of you fly out of Sodom: “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”