Jonathan Edwards and That Sermon

This is the day that … a very famous Sermon was preached !!

The austere Calvinist leaned over the pulpit – held his sermon manuscript close to his near-sighted eyes – and began to read.

The “levity of the congregation” subsided as he announced the text – “Their foot shall slide in due time”, Deuteronomy 32:35.

And as he read on … “strong men held on to their seats feeling they were sliding into hell… Men and women stood up, then rolled on the floor, their cries drowning out the voice of the preacher. Some are said to have laid hold on the pillars and braces of the church apparently feeling that they were sliding into hell…” (Hall of Fame, by Ed. Reese, page 8).

And Rev. Jonathan Edwards read on: “His wrath towards you burns like fire. He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. You are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful serpent is in ours. It is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment…”

The sermon, called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, has been designated “the most famous sermon ever preached in America” (Profiles in Evangelism, by F. Barlow, page 69). Certainly it had a marked effect upon the congregation that heard it … and upon the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, where the church was situated.

Edwards had commenced his 23-year pastorate in 1727 … and a “thrilling revival of religion” followed. But by 1750 he had alienated himself from the congregation by his stern denunciation of sin. (Or was it the congregation alienated themselves from their pastor??)

So on 22 June, 1750, he was fired! And found that he was “too formidable a figure for other churches to invite.”

At the age of 47, with a wife and nine children, he gave himself to six years of missionary labours among the Red Indians. During this time he wrote The Freedom of the Will, a classic Calvinistic statement of foreordination, original sin and eternal punishment.

Then in 1757 he was called to accept presidency of Princeton College.

However, a smallpox epidemic broke out, and he died after only five weeks in office.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Amzi Dixon Establishes Fundamentalism

This is the day that … Amzi Clarence Dixon was born in North Carolina in 1854. His father was a Baptist preacher.

Converted at the age of 12, young Amzi “devoured the Bible, and the sermons of Spurgeon” (Dictionary of American Religious Biography, page 130).

At the age of 21 he was ordained to the Baptist ministry, and it was his aim to make each church he pastored “a soul-saving centre”. Among those churches were Chicago’s Moody Church (1906-11), and Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in London (1911-19).

“He was not interested in social reform itself because only the gospel could meet the deepest needs of human problems. It was easier to reach the body, he argued, by curing the soul than vice versa, and to reform a person’s character was far more important an objective than effecting some change in the environment” (ibid, page 130).

He became a zealous opponent of modernism (a liberal theology), attacking Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’s emasculated gospel. “The kind of unbelief which he did more than any other man to popularise has done much to weaken the power of the pulpit,” Dixon said.

In 1909 he became editor of a 12-volume set of booklets defending the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. These volumes were called Fundamentals and gave rise to the name “fundamentalist”. They were sent free – thanks to two Californian millionaire brothers – to 200,000 ministers and missionaries.

In 1922 his first wife died during their tour of China. Two years later he married the widow of Charles M. Alexander (of Alexander hymn book fame) (she was Helen Cadbury of the famous chocolate family).

In his latter years he became more ‘mellow’. He had fought a good fight against the inroads of modern theology, but now he “gave up the militant stance” (In Pursuit of Purity, by D. Beale, page 225).

On 14 June, 1925, A.C. Dixon suffered a heart attack, and died.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Layard Uncovers Nineveh

This is the day that … archaeologist Austin Henry Layard died in 1894.

He was born in Paris 77 years before, of Huguenot ancestry.

We are told that whilst poring over his law books, which he was supposed to be studying, the images of “Arabian Nights” that he had read in his teens kept filling his mind. Eventually he met an uncle, returned from Ceylon, with a thousand stores of the exotic East.

That did it.

At the age of 22 he set out with a friend to travel overland to distant India.

By 1840 Layard was crossing the Euphrates River … and then into ancient Assyria. Great mounds of buried cities lay before him. Before long he had hired some Arabs and digging commenced.

And thus it was Austin Henry Layard unearthed ancient Nineveh … the palace of Sargon (once thought to be fictitious by critics of the Bible, despite the Biblical reference in Isaiah 20:1).

He also unearthed the palace of Sennacherib. Great winged bulls, some weighing 50 tons, came into view. The tourist to the British Museum may see some of the results of Layard’s exciting discoveries – discoveries that again confirmed the Scripture in its historical accuracy.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Hans Egede Apostle of Greenland

This is the day that … Hans Egede arrived in Greenland in 1721. He was 35 years of age.

Accompanying him was his wife Gertrude (13 years his senior) and their little son, Paul, who was later destined to play a major role in reaching the pagan Eskimos with the gospel.

At the age of 21 Hans Egede had pastored a Lutheran church in Vaagen, Norway, and to him had come – like a Macedonian call – the spiritual need of Greenland.

Now, after untold obstacles, including the initial opposition of his wife, Hans Egede set foot on this “barren and dead” land.

The Eskimos “were slaves of repulsive habits, their priests and wizards tried to kill the missionary. Sometimes there was no food to be had …” (Torchbearers of the Faith, by A. Smellie, page 221).

Some years later a smallpox epidemic slew 3000 people, including his beloved wife (in 1736).

Moravian missionaries arrived and saw conversions. “Bitter with envy and resentment,” writes Ruth Tucker, “Egede accused them of ‘reaping what I have ploughed’” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, page 79).

Was there ever a sadder text chosen by a missionary as he left the field: “I have laboured in vain…” (Isaiah 49:4).

Hans Egede returned to Norway with his two sons, Paul and Niels. And here it was Paul translated the New Testament into the Eskimo language (1766) and, with his father’s help, drew up a doctrinal guide for the converts in Greenland.

Hans Egede’s labour was not in vain in the Lord, even though he may have felt that way when he preached his farewell sermon.

He died on 5 November, 1758, at the age of 72, and is remembered as the “Apostle of Greenland”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.