HEAVEN’S DRAGNET – Jonathan Edwards (1751)

The text is Matthew 13:47-50.  The missionary to the Stockbridge Indians sets hisjonathan-edwards
up in advance:

The fisherman that cast the net are ministers of the gospel whom Christ appoints to gather men into his church.

Edwards draws an immediate contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous: “So God will save his saints and make much of them as precious to him, and as those that he dearly loves … But the bad fish men cast away, as those that were good for nothing.”

The judgment of the unrighteous is presented in vivid terms which are familiar to readers of Jonathan Edwards: “The fire shall be exceeding great and dreadful, for it will [be] the fire that God will enkindle by his great power, and in the fierceness of his great wrath for the wickedness of men, and therefore doubtless vastly more terrible than any fire ever seen in this world.”

Edwards describes what Jesus refers to as the “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  He adds, “They will wail because their misery will be very dreadful and what they cannot bear; and also because they never shall have any hope of being delivered,  will know that there will be no end to their misery.”


Edwards continues to utilize the metaphor drawn from the world of fishing, a metaphor that his hearers could certainly relate to: “The net has been let down and many of you have been gathered in it and brought in among the people of Christ, into the kingdom of Christ.”  He challenges his audience, “You can deceive men with a good outside when your hearts are rotten, but you can’t deceive God.”

He draws the sermon to a close by challenging the hearts of his hearers: “Therefore, take heed to yourselves that you ben’t at last found some of the bad fish that be cast away.  See to it that your hearts are right with God … Don’t rest in outward show but get a clean heart: a holy heart that hates all sin and loves Christ, and loves all the people of Christ, and loves all the ways of God … Unless you have a new heart, you never will be good.  Though you may be good in some things, yet if you han’t right hearts you will live wickedly in other things … That is the reason that some men reform their lives for a while only, and then never again.  Their hearts were never changed.”


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