One of my favorite stories concerns a woman named Sarah Edwards, wife of the famous Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. He was best known perhaps for his sermon that every early American schoolchild had read: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He told his audience:
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present. . . .
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you.
And, for the unregenerate, he continued:
When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you . . . ; there shall be no moderation or mercy.15
I cannot help but wonder how such excesses struck the hearts and minds of tender people everywhere and of Edwards’ own devout and loving wife in particular. It so happened that on one occasion when Edwards was out of town, another local preacher came to visit Sarah and her children. He offered to have a prayer with the family, and she agreed. Afterward, she recorded in her journal that while the Reverend Peter Reynolds was offering his prayer, she found herself feeling “an earnest desire that, in calling on God, he should say, Father.” She asked herself, “Can I now at this time, with the confidence of a child, and without the least misgiving of heart, call God my Father?”
In consequence of this reflection, she recorded, “I felt a strong desire to be alone with God,” and withdrew to her chamber. In the moments that followed, she continued:
The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any thing else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great and immutable love to me. . . .
The peace and happiness, which I hereupon felt, was altogether inexpressible.
« Previous 1 » Next