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Rebellious Worms Might Go Free

The following devotional is from Edwards' sermon "Glorious Grace" (1722). Edwards was around 20 years old when he composed and delivered this message. It is a celebration of the grace of God to rebellious sinners. The version below is updated for modern readers (Edwards' original of this section is also reproduced at bottom for quick comparison). The entire updated sermon can be found in Many Mansions, Glorious Grace, and Christian Knowledge.

In this section, Edwards highlights the role of God the Son in redeeming sinners. Christ was sent to be a sufficient and perfect sacrifice, giving himself away so that rebellious worms might go free.


We see the rich and boundless nature of God’s grace when we remember that his plan to restore mankind involved giving his only Son. The miserable plight of man could not be sufficiently corrected without a great deal of cost to God. Our fall into sin plunged us deeply into the most wretched and sinful condition, and it would take much sacrifice to get us out of it.

Yes, it is true that all things are infinitely easy for God because he is omnipotent. But because he is also holy and just, our redemption could only be obtained at a great cost (indeed, an infinite cost) to himself. To put it bluntly, the only way mankind could be saved was by the shedding of the infinitely valuable and worthy blood of God’s divine Son—the blood of God!

Redemption for our souls could only be acquired in this way since absolutely nothing else could have or would have satisfied the justice of God. Our rebellion and subsequent alienation from God brought about this either/or situation. Either we die eternally or the Son of God spills his blood in our place. Either we suffer beneath the weight of God’s wrath or God’s own Son suffers there. Either we (miserable worms of the dust who deserve to suffer) are punished or the Son of God (who is glorious, kind, beautiful, and innocent) is punished as our substitute.

It had to be determined one way or the other. And it was determined. On the basis of his strangely free and boundless grace, God sent his own Son to die so that rebellious worms might go free. No longer must they face the punishment they have earned. The death of Christ made it so that those who deserve wrath might actually be happy in God’s justice, since he has given them liberty.

Oh, what grace! It seems only right to shout, “Grace, grace!” when we consider all this!

At one time among heathen peoples, it was believed that the sacrifice of an only son was the greatest gift that could be offered to the gods. They would sometimes do this during periods of great distress. Even to this day, there are some people who continue to perform this type of sacrifice, and in some places in the world, it happens constantly. But something even stranger than that has been declared to us in the gospel—not that men have sacrificed their only sons to God, but that God gave his only Son to be slain as a sacrifice for men.

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son to God, as God had commanded him. You may interpret his willingness to obey as a wonderful demonstration of faith and love to God. Not many today would have been willing to obey such a difficult command. But if Abraham’s obedience fills you with wonder, then you should be filled with even more wonder when you consider what God has done. Instead of Abraham offering his only son to God, God gave his only Son to be offered for Abraham and all of Abraham’s children. Certainly you will agree that nothing is as wonderful as that!


Edwards Original

But especially was it of rich and boundless grace that he gave his only Son for our restoration. By our fall, we are cast down so low into sin and misery, so deeply plunged into a most miserable and sinful condition, that it may truly be said, although all things are infinitely easy to God with respect to his omnipotency, yet with respect to God's holiness and justice, God himself could not redeem us without a great deal of cost, no, not without infinite costs; that is, not without the presence of that, that is of infinite worth and value, even the blood of his Son, and in proper speaking, the blood of God, of a divine person.

This was absolutely necessary in order to our redemption, because there was no other way of satisfying God's justice. When we were fallen, it was come to this: either we must die eternally, or the Son of God must spill his blood; either we, or God's own Son must suffer God's wrath, one of the two; either miserable worms of the dust that had deserved it, or the glorious, amiable, beautiful, and innocent Son of God. The fall of man brought it to this; it must be determined one way or t'other, and it was determined, by the strangely free and boundless grace of God, that this his own Son, should die that the offending worms might be freed, and set at liberty from their punishment, and that justice might make them happy. Here is grace indeed; well may we shout, "Grace, grace!" at this.

The heathens used to reckon that an only son slain in sacrifice was the greatest gift that could be offered to the gods. It was that, that they used sometimes to offer in times of great distress, and in some parts of the world it is constantly at this day performed. But we have a stranger thing than that declared to us in the gospel; not that men sacrificed their only sons to God, but that God gave his only Son to be slain, a sacrifice for man. God once commanded Abraham to offer up his only son to him, and perhaps the faith and love of Abraham may be looked upon as wonderful, that he was willing to perform it—there are few that would do it in these days—but if you wonder at that, how wonderful is it that, instead of Abraham's offering his only son to God, God should give his only Son to be offered for Abraham, and for every child of Abraham. Certainly, you will acknowledge this to be a wonder not to be paralleled.

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