I have been reading "The Supremacy of God in Preaching" by John Piper and have been also reading the biography of Jonathan Edwards as Piper recommends in his book.
I've learned in my reading that Jonathan Edwards was one of America’s greatest theologian/preachers. Known as one of the great revivalists of the Great Awakening era of the 1700s and early 1800s, his great sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” caused convicted sinners to grip the pews and cry out in repentance when they heard the sermon which Edwards read verbatim from his manuscript. So impassioned about the Word of God and its contents, Edwards constructed a list of resolves that he intended to live by which he kept the rest of his life. There were 70 of those resolutions that we would all do well to live by. But 3 of those resolutions really stand out on the page that we all need to consider and really think about everyday, ourselves. Edwards resolution #6 is the first:
6. Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live.
9. Resolved, to think much on the occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
And also #55
Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of Heaven, and hell’s torments.
John Piper writes that Edwards had an overwhelming conviction of the reality of the glories of Heaven and horrors of hell that made his preaching utterly earnest. He came under severe criticism for his revival fervor in his preaching by some Boston clergy who accused him and others of stirring up to much emotion with their dreadful seriousness about eternity.
“If any of you that are heads of families saw one of your children in a house that was all on fire over its head, and in eminent danger of being soon consumed in the flames, that seemed to be very insensible of its danger, and neglected to escape, after you had often spake to it, and called to it, would you go on to speak to it only in a cold and indifferent manner? Would not you cry out loud, and call earnestly to it, and represent the danger it was in, and its own folly in delaying, in the most lively manner you were capable of? Would not nature itself teach this, and oblige you to it? If you should continue to speak to it in only a cold manner as you were wont to do in ordinary conversation about indifferent matters, would not those about you begin to think you were bereft of reason yourself? . . .
If (then) we who have the cure of souls, know what hell was, had seen the state of the damned, or by any other means, become sensible how dreadful their case was . . . and saw our hearers in eminent danger, and that they were not sensible of their danger . . . it would be morally impossible for us to avoid abundantly and most earnestly setting before the deadfulness of that misery they were in danger of . . . and warning them to fly from it, and even to cry aloud to them."
This is where I am of late. I am in agony of soul as I can see the happiness of Heaven in sight and at the same time being fully aware of the terrors of hell, I can't help but speak boldly to sinners. With Paul, "knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, I persuade men, 2 Corinthians 5:11. The clock speeds away for every soul toward an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27). And then there is the coming of the Lord. How can we be relaxed and non-chalant? The house is burning, souls are in danger. Jude 22-23 instructs: "And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
We have not a moment to spare. The Gospel must go forth and the sinners hanging over the edge must be pulled back. Yes, I know that God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners and will save His elect with a mighty arm. But God also uses means and has sent us into the world to preach the Gospel and bring the lost sheep to the Gospel feeding trough. We must point it out. We must put the food near their mouth. We must cry "eat and live!"
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said:
“Men are going to Heaven or to Hell and it is time that we came to close grips with them about this all-important matter. God help us to do so!”—1893, Sermon #2327 (http://www.spurgeongems.org/quotes1.pdf).
I am going to be like Spurgeon. Will you?