Jonathan Edwards presents his doctrine at the front end of the sermon: We should be willing to engage in and go through undertakings, in order to our own salvation.
Noah, in this case is the exemplar. As Noah obeyed when God commanded him to build the ark, so we too, should go through “great undertakings, in order to our own salvation.”
Three specific propositions undergird the doctrine.
Proposition # 1: There is a work of business which must be undertaken by men, if they would be saved.
“If we would be saved, we must seek salvation,” Edwards argues. He explains, “It is on account of the works which Christ hath done for us. Works are the fixed price of eternal life; it is fixed by an eternal, unalterable rule of righteousness. But since the fall there is no hope of our doing these works, without salvation offered freely without money and without price.”
Proposition # 2: This business is a great undertaking. Six statements describe this great undertaking:
- It is a business of great labor and care.
- It is a constant business.
- It is an undertaking of great expense.
- Sometimes the fear, trouble, and exercise of mind, which are undergone respecting this business, and the salvation of the soul, are great and long continued, before any comfort is obtained.
- It is a business which, by reason of the many difficulties, snares, and dangers that attend it, requires much instruction, consideration, and counsel.
- This business never ends till life ends.
Proposition # 3: Men should be willing to enter upon and go through this undertaking, though it be great, seeing it is for their own salvation. Edwards notes four reasons for seeking salvation:
- A deluge of wrath will surely come.
- All such as do not seasonably undertake and go through the great work mentioned will surely be swallowed up in this deluge.
- The destruction, when it shall come, will be infinitely terrible.
- Though the work which is necessary in order to man’s salvation be a great work, yet it is not impossible.
Edwards concludes with five pointed statements which serve as points of application for his hearers:
- How often you have been warned of the approach flood of God’s wrath.
- Consider the Spirit of God will not always strive with you; nor will his long-suffering always wait upon you.
- Consider how mighty the billows of divine wrath will be when they shall come. Edwards adds, “The misery of the damned in hell can be better represented by nothing, than by a deluge of misery, a mighty deluge of misery, a mighty deluge of wrath, which will be ten thousand times worse than a deluge of waters; for it will be a deluge of liquid fire, as in the Scriptures it is called a lake of fire and brimstone.”
- This flood of wrath will probably come upon you suddenly, when you shall think little of it, and it shall seem far from you.
- If you will not hearken to the many warnings which are given you of approaching destruction, you will be guilty of more than brutish madness.
Edwards utilizes the historical narrative surrounding the events of Noah’s life to alert his congregation to the reality of God’s wrath and the importance of seeking salvation. Included are his strong words; words of vivacity and intensity which seek to awaken sinners to the reality of sin, salvation, and final judgment. Listen to the final warnings he utters in his sermon, warnings which are rarely heard from American pulpits in this generation.
“You have been once more warned today, while the door of the ark yet stands open. You have, as it were, once again heard the knocks of the hammer and axe in the building of the ark, to put you in mind that a flood is approaching. Take heed therefore that you do not still stop your ears, treat these warnings with a regardless heart, and still neglect the great work which you have to do, lest the flood of wrath suddenly come upon you, sweep you away, and there be no remedy.”