Jonathan Edwards on Hell

Jonathan Edwards is often caricatured as being all fire and brimstone. This is usually based on his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of Angry God. Many have probably heard the title but few have read the sermon. Of course Edwards’ great crime in the eyes of 21st century man is not really his powerful and vivid preaching on hell but that he had the temerity to mention hell at all. If there is a hell nobody today wants to talk about it.

Edwards logic was rather different. If there was a hell people needed to be warned about it- that was the loving thing to do he said when he preached on the subject at his daughter Jerusha’s funeral. That he preached such vivid sermons on the subject was itself part of the warning. For he realised that people needed not a notional idea of hell but to recognise it in all its imminent and eternal fury. For as he remarked in another less well-known sermon, you could enter hell in an instant and once there, you are there forever.

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