When Devastation Strikes

large2

On October 29, 1729, New England was struck by an earthquake, followed by nine days of aftershocks. Fear gripped the region, and the Massachusetts governor called for a day of repentance and fasting. On that occasion, Northampton, Massachusetts’ Jonathan Edwards spoke on the importance of understanding the times. He acknowledged that such events have natural causes, yet noted that they also have spiritual significance. His text was Jonah 3:10, which recounts the Ninevites’ repentance in the face of impending disaster. Edwards warned his listeners that God was known to send signs of looming judgment, but that these phenomena were also merciful reminders of His forgiveness toward those with contrite hearts.

God sometimes threatens and warns a people by extraordinary things in providence, sometimes by strange sights in the heavens, and sometimes by earthquakes, as it was before the destruction of Jerusalem …

God has no pleasure in the destruction or calamity of persons or people; he had rather they should turn and continue in peace. He is well-pleased if they forsake their evil ways, that he may not have occasion to execute his wrath upon ’em. He is a God that delights in mercy, and judgment is his strange work.1

Footnotes:

1 Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses 1723-1729, vol. 14 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Kenneth P. Minkema (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 220-221.

Share this article on…

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
More Articles

Our Basic Need

In her first novel, Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that “there was a deep, black, wordless conviction in him that

Read More »

Models of the Church

When I was in seminary, Professor Rick Lints made a memorable statement. After lecturing on the Reformation’s conception of salvation, he asserted that “This generation

Read More »

The Crux of Gospel Preaching

The acclaimed Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti was a nervous wreck before every performance. Perhaps this would be the day that he would finally fail?

Read More »