Jonathan Edwards on Preaching to Children

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At the end of the famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” (originally preached in the 1730s) Edwards warns children who remained careless about eternity and calls them to flee to Christ:

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?  (emphasis mine)

Offended?  After discussing this sermon this past week in class, the objection against Edwards was raised:  “Edwards directly told children that God is angry with them.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

So, how do we feel about this?  Does this make us fidget in our seat?  Or heat our ears at the audacity of Edwards?  Being affirmed as a child that God was happy with me and my behavior was very dangerous, and it remains exceedingly dangerous to children today.  In response to that same objection raised in class, Edwards gives some good insight about preaching to children in his work titled “Some Thought Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England…“:

What has more especially given offence to many, and raised a loud cry against some preachers, as though their conduct were intolerable, is their frightening poor innocent children with talk of hell-fire, and eternal damnation. But if those who complain so loudly of this, really believe what is the general profession of the country, viz. That all are by nature the children of wrath, and heirs of hell—and that every one that has not been born again, whether he be young or old, is exposed every moment to eternal destruction—then such a complaint and cry as this betrays a great deal of weakness and inconsideration. Innocent as children seem to us, yet, if they are out of Christ, they are not so in the sight of God; but are in a most miserable condition, as well as grown up persons: and they are naturally ver senseless and stupid, being born as the wild ass’s colt, and need much to awaken them. Why should we conceal the truth from them? Will those children who have been dealt tenderly with in this respect, and lived and died insensible of their misery till they come to feel it in hell, ever thank parents and others or their tenderness, in not letting them know their danger? If parents’ love towards their children were not blind, it would affect them much more to see their children every day exposed to eternal burnings, and yet senseless, than to see them suffer the distress of that awakening which is necessary in order to their escape, and that tends to their being eternally happy as the children of God. A child that has a dangerous wound may need the painful lance, as well as grown persons; and that would be a foolish pity, in such a case, that should hold back the lance, and throw away the life—I have seen the happy effects of dealing plainly and thoroughly with children in the concerns of their souls, without sparing them at all, in many instances; and never knew any ill consequence of it, in any one instance.  (emphasis mine)


Written by keywoodblog

February 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Please do not preach this to my grandchildren. (Especially before they spend the night with us.) I remember after Sarah got saved (the Holy Spirit convicted her when she was raking leaves) and I told her about the Holy Spirit living inside her, and she freaked out and started crying. Evidently, she thought the Holy Spirit was some kind of alien! ha!

    Judy Disch

    February 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

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