By Sarah Levesque
ELDRIDGE: Hello, I’m Francis Eldridge from HIST News. Today, July 8th, 1741, I’m standing in front of the Second Meeting House of the First Church of Christ here in Enfield, Massachusetts, where the famous minister Reverend Jonathan Edwards is preaching. The service started some time ago, but I have reason to believe it will continue long enough to return to an interview I conducted earlier, when I caught up with Elder Smith in the church about why he and his fellow elders asked an outside speaker to come preach here in Enfield.
[Cut to earlier interview in church]
ELDRIDGE: Elder Smith, could you tell us why you asked Jonathan Edwards to preach here, instead of one of your own preachers?
ELDER SMITH: Well, we’ve had a lot of young people falling into sin. There are many who come to service regularly, but they don’t follow the commandments. I won’t mention names, but I personally know one young man who lies habitually. I fear for his soul, and for the souls of his peers. This younger generation needs to learn the errors of their ways, and the sermons of our own ministers do not move them. This is why we asked Reverend Edwards to come. We’ve heard nothing but good things about him, and I pray he will get through to our congregation.
ELDRIDGE: And can you tell us how Reverend Edwards is qualified for such a task?
ELDER SMITH: His credentials are exemplary. He was born in Connecticut, the son of the Reverend Timothy Edwards, and the grandson of the great Reverend Solomon Stoddard of Northampton, here in Massachusetts. Edwards graduated from Yale College in 1720, and took over his grandfather’s parish with wonderful results (Farley). I had the opportunity to hear him speak, and I was surprised to hear that the rumors of his excellent sermons were quite true.
ELDRDIGE: And you believe he can bring the young people back to the Lord?
ELDER SMITH: I do, God willing.
[cut to present]
ELDRIDGE: Again, that was Elder Smith, speaking about Reverend Jonathan Edwards, preaching today here at the Second Meeting House of the First Church of Christ in Enfield. I have reason to believe that service is over or nearly so – after a very long period of silence, there has been noise coming from the church, as if the congregation is no longer listening. Ah – here they come! Pouring out of the church behind me like water from a pump. Let’s see if I can find someone willing to speak to me. You, sir – young man!
COOPER: Me, sir?
ELDRIDGE: Yes, you. Could you tell the viewers your name and what you saw in the church?
COOPER: My name is Franklin Cooper. That was some sermon. Actually, it was almost creepy the way that Reverend Edwards spoke calmly and looked above all our heads.
ELDRIDGE: Tell us about the sermon.
COOPER: Well, as I said, he spoke calmly. He told us all about how sinners were going to Hell. I guess we all believed that already. Then he described it some and told us how the only thing keeping the wicked on this earth and out of Hell was God’s hand, and how He was getting so angry at them he’s liable to just drop then right into the pit. And we’re all sitting there thinking, “Of course – that’s what they deserve,” and just being glad we weren’t those sinners. But then, step by step, he shows us that we are those sinners! Of course, as soon as that sank in, people began crying and moaning. I admit that I gasped aloud when I realized that I, too, was a great sinner, that God was the only thing keeping me out of Hell. Certain things I’ve done came back to me, and I realized I had sinned so many times in so many ways, and I just fell to my knees and begged the Lord’s forgiveness and thanked him over and over again for letting me live until I had repented, and for extending his mercy to me, as Reverend Edwards said He was doing now.
ELDRIDGE: Did others take it the same way?
COOPER: I believe so, and I hope that we have all turned from our sinful ways. I am a new man.
ELDRIDGE: Thank you. If you look behind me, you can see that there are still people coming out of the church, many of them in tears. Mistress – would you be willing to – no? Alright, I guess not. Excuse me, sir? Would you be willing to tell our viewers about what you just experienced?
MAN: We’re all sinners, so repent or you’ll go to Hell.
ELDRIDGE: Sir, excuse me, but are you crying?
MAN: What if I am? Every man should cry in anguish over his sins, and have tears of joy that mercy has been shown to him. Excuse me.
ELDRIDGE: Thank you. Well, folks, the crowd is thinning now. Let’s see if we can get inside. Alright. What you see now is the inside of the First Church of Christ. Many people are still here, crying, in the pews. Look – there’s a child. Why would someone bring a child to hear about damnation? Little miss, why do you cry? Surely you are too young to sin. No? Could you explain?
GIRL: We can die, too, so we, too, must be saved. We disobey God when we disobey our parents, and we could go to Hell if we don’t repent.
ELDRIDGE: Surely not!
GIRL: Why not? We’re people too. Excuse me – my mother is beckoning.
ELDRIDGE: Well, then. Apparently Reverend Edwards believes even children can be cast into Hell. Look – there he is now. Reverend Edwards, is it true that you made children and grown men cry?
EDWARDS: No. All I have done is shown them that they are not impervious to Hell.
ELDRIDGE: I see. Are you pleased with the result of your sermon?
EDWARDS: We can but wait and see how the Lord works in the lives of the congregation, and if they change their ways because of it. If they do change for the better, than I will be pleased that God has allowed me to be His instrument.
ELDRIDGE: Do you believe that all people will go to Hell?
EDWARDS: Absolutely not. Many go to Hell, it’s true, but many also go to Heaven. It is completely up to God. But if you sin – and we all do – we need to beg God’s forgiveness, or he will allow us to drop into the fiery pit of Hell.
ELDRIDGE: Do you believe that you will go to Hell?
EDWARDS: I don’t know. I can but hope and pray that God will not drop me into the pit, but instead bring me into Glory. But, as I said today, it is not by our own hands that we may be worthy of Heaven, but by the hands of Christ alone. If you do not believe in Him, surely you will perish and be dropped into the abyss.
ELDRIDGE: There you have it, folks. If even the Reverend Jonathan Edwards may go to Hell, how much faster might we common folk be going there? I’m Francis Eldridge, reporting live from the Second Meeting House of the First Church of Christ in Enfield, Massachusetts, for HIST News.
Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 7th ed, vol 1. Ed. Baym, Nina. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 194-205. Print.
Edwards, Jonathan J. “Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (8 July 1741).” Voices of Democracy. n.d. Web. 22 February 2016.
Farley, William P. “Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening.” Enrichment Journal. The General Council of the Assemblies of God. Winter 2002. Web. 22 February 2016.
“Jonathan Edwards.” The Enfield Historical Society, Enfield, Connecticut. 9 November 2014. Web. 22 February 2016.
“Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758.” The Norton Anthology of America Literature. Shorter 7th ed, vol 1. Ed. Baym, Nina. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 168-170. Print.