“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
By: Jonathan Edwards
In one of the most famous sermons ever preached, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, preacher, Jonathan Edwards, tries to persuade the ‘sinful’ people to realize that God is real and that they have to live ‘purely’, as in to live as a true Christian who is devoted to God. Because of God’s Wrath, his judgement, on all people, will be more painful and fearful than expected by many people around the world. Throughout his sermon, Edwards wants describe to them about how God treats us, views us, and handles us with care throughout our pitiful lives as ‘sinful’ people. But, in order to preach such a powerful, complicated topic to the whole world, he first must use several persuasion tactics to make his audience realize what they are doing with their everyday lives.
By using these tactics, he successfully creates a portentous tone and fearful mood throughout his sermon. Edwards uses a portentous tone to describe God’s wrath and to persuade the congregation into trusting God in order to save themselves from the pits of hell. Since this topic could be confusing to some people, Edwards uses several descriptions to provide vivid images about the Wrath of God. Throughout the excerpt, Edwards uses several words in order to bring ideas to the reader’s minds in order to make the reader understand what he’s trying to impose to his audience. Such examples could include “dreadfully”, “fierceness”, “struggling”, “uncovenanted”, or “unobliged” (pg. 3). These words all connect to the crucial tone, because it demonstrates the ‘serious’ future he expects from God if people won’t change their ways. Another example of portentous tone is demonstrated when he compares several objects, or symbols, to different kinds of characteristics to persuade his audience into transforming their lives. Several examples of these comparisons are wickedness to heavy lead, your plunge into hell like a falling rock onto a spider’s web, God’s wrath to a huge, dark storm, and destruction to a powerful, devastating whirlwind which comes and goes (pg. 6). All of these comparisons contribute to his tone, because they provide a significant thought, which talks about a future full of devastation and doom.
Since Edwards constantly talks about the people’s choices, the future full of doom, and the reality of the world, most of his comments are negative, which creates a fearful mood throughout his sermon. He believes that the world has to realize what they’re doing wrong, start working on their faith and love for God, and begin to ‘purify’ their religion. In order for Edwards to achieve his goal on provoking fear to all, he applies useful syntax that describes such a dreadful mood. For instance, in paragraph 9, he states that “the God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.” Because of syntax, this statement successfully describes how God actually looks at humans, but uses several words in order to add effect to a single word. It creates a feeling of guilt and fear towards God for what he has already done and what he is capable of, which contributes to the mood of the whole sermon.
By using these strategies, Edwards creates a very effective sermon, and later becomes a world famous sermon. Most likely, the tone and mood both combined to create a feeling of fear and necessity of transforming a person’s life. With these tactics, it makes the reader either think, question, discuss, or even feel the fear of God’s judgement. For Edwards, the reader could either keep living the way they are or live a new, pure life loving God.