Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God -Jonathan Edwards Fire, hell, and eternity were essential topics of puritan preachers during the colonial period. Theologian, Jonathan Edwards took a new view on God, that he was heartless and condemning toward those known as sinners. Edwards outlined this belief in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Eyes of An Angry God. ” His fiery images, advanced topics, and effective use of rhetoric created a successful speech that struck terror and conversion into the hearts of his followers.
Initially, Edwards implements frightening and vivid imagery in order to establish fear and dread, two motives that focus on the negative aspects of life. The first refers to God’s wrath and the evils of humanity. To emphasize this point, Edwards compares the fierceness of God’s wrath to images such as a terrible storm, a hurricane, an explosive flood, and an everlasting fire, all of which show his audience that God’s wrath cannot be stopped, appealing to emotion by scaring them so that they crave redemption. The second negative point describes the terrors of hell, the consequences for the unconverted.
Edwards describes hell as a gaping mouth, waiting to consume them in flames, and only the true converted-those that were “…raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life…”-can escape hell’s custody. All of the unconverted non-believers are destined for an inescapable suffering in hell, waiting “…in the hands of an angry god,” who will toss them into the fire. These images and ideas cause fear in the audience and make them hope for salvation for their sins and the threat of hell, a request that Edwards has the answer to.
Furthermore, Edwards’ style also established his purpose. His diction is full of words and development that create dynamic images. For example, “You are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in yours. ” Edwards varies his sentence choices, using simplicity for added effect of a strong point, as he does when saying, “there will be no end in this exquisite horrible misery. ” He also mixes complexity for balance showing their equal importance.
For instance in his sentence, “then the great and angry god hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it,” Edwards shows the equal importance of the suffering and God’s point of suffering as an example to the world. These sentences appeal to belief, showing that Edwards knows his audience and can effectively get his point across.
With this in mind, Edwards’ effective use of rhetorical strategies, contribute to a successful and powerful sermon. He achieves his purpose by converting those in his audience by showing them the evils of hell and providing them with an escape, using manipulation of their emotions to follow the puritan belief. His powerful words and frightening imagery created fear in his audience, but his promise of salvation offered them hope for a continuation of their life, which made his sermon all the more effective.