The sermon is dated, July 1744. Jonathan Edwards is thirty-one years of age. The title of the message is Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only. The text is Ezekiel 15:2-4.
If men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.
Edwards seeks to prove his doctrine with four points.
- That there can be but two ways in which man can be useful, viz. either in acting, or in being acted upon.
- That man can no otherwise be useful actively than by bringing forth fruit to God; serving God and living to his glory.
- That if he bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which he can be passively useful, but in being destroyed.
- In that way he may be useful without bearing fruit.
The key to this sermon is perspective. Jonathan Edwards bring a God-centered perspective that readjusts the worldview of the saints. One example is Edwards’ encouragement to Christ-followers as they gaze upon the damned in eternity future:
When the saints in heaven shall look upon the damned in hell, it will serve to give them a greater sense of their own happiness. When they shall see how dreadful the anger of God is, it will make them the more prize his love. They will rejoice the more, that they are not the objects of God’s anger, but of his favor; that they are not the subjects of his dreadful wrath, but are treated as children, to dwell in the everlasting embraces of his love. The misery of the damned will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that he should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species, and have deserved no worse of God than they. What a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them! and how will it heighten their praises! with how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them!
Four thoughts are offered by way of application by Jonathan Edwards:
First —We may learn, how just and righteous God is in the destruction of those who bring forth no fruit to him.
Second — This subject ought to put you upon examining yourselves, whether you be not wholly useless creatures.
Third — Another use of this subject may be of conviction and humiliation to those who never have brought forth any fruit to God.
Fourth — May people bring forth fruit to God’s glory.
In typical Edwardsean form, the Puritan preacher calls people to fulfill the reason for their creation, namely – to glorify the great God of the universe!