Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Length: 930 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)
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In the first few weeks of class we have discussed the thought and religion of the early people that first began the development of our counrty. As we have looked at the literature in class the works of these writers seem to be simlar in that each one talks about a higher being that these people all worshipped. However, that is where the comparisons would end. One of the writings that I found interesting was that of Jonathan Edwards. Born in 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, Jonathan Edwards lived at a time when the Calvinistic Puritanism of the American colonies, particularly New England, was giving way to thoughts coming out of Europe. We had discussed in one of first classes the reason that so many of the laws and rights found here in the United States were the same as in Europe. The reason was for this is because that is where the people of early America came from. This is the reason for the large population of people believing in these thoughts and beliefs coming from Europe.
The Bible was a large part of the lives of these people. With that, as many religious leaders before and after him, Edwards's source of inspiration and guidance was the Bible. He often used parts or sections of biblical verse rather than complete text because too much information might diminish the importance of his primary intent. An example of how he preached to the people can be seen in Edwards's sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." In this sermon he addressed the issues of man as a sinner, God's hate of sinners - wrath of God. Throughout the sermon he addressed the damnation of man, the process of salvation and redemption. He hammered at his congregation using guilt and fear for their souls. It is a moving and powerful sermon that would have put fear in my head if I was in attedance during this time. This sermon, delivered in 1741, persuaded his congregation to join him in his Christian beliefs. In the sermon he portrays God as an all powerful and all knowing being. He depicts Him with the ability to both crush and save a soul.
To instill fear in his audience, Edwards draws upon the flames of hell as images, effectively captivating the assembly and stressing his points.
The pace and the language of the sermon seems to be fast and relentless on the conscience of the people of the congregation. It seems in the reading that there are several occasions where Edwards would raise his voice as if to deliver punch after punch to the people of his congregation. It almost seems as though Edwards expects the members of the congregation to accept Christ out of necessity and to avoid Hell. He draws graphic images from the Bible, all which seemed to be designed to warn sinners of their peril. He tells the people of the congregation that they are walking on slippery places with the danger of falling from their own weight. He says that they are walking across the pit of hell on a wooden bridge supported by rotten planks that may break at any second. He speaks of invisible arrows, which like a pestilence, fly at noonday. He warns that God's bow is bent and that the arrows of His wrath arc aimed at their hearts. He describes the wrath of God that is like great waters rushing against the floodgates of a dam. If the dam should break, the sinners would be inundated by a deluge.
In several sections of this sermon I noticed that Edwards uses parts or sections of biblical verse rather than complete text because I feel that he thought that too much information might diminish the importance intimidating and placing fear into the people who are listening. In one part of his sermon Edwards proposes that sinners are already Satan's property. Later in the sermon references another passage from the bible saying that Satan "stands ready to fall upon them(sinners) and seize them as his own." Edwards only gives the name of the gospel. After some research I realized that what Edwards does not tell his congregation is that this part of Luke's gospel deals with asking for God's salvation rather than handing sinners over to Satan. (www.biblegateway.com)
Lastly, in the application section of the sermon Edwards places great stress on the nature and severity of God's wrath. This differs from the rest of the sermon in that it focuses on the power and the punishment that God will hand out. The earlier sections of the sermon focuses on how the people should conduct themselves and how they should practice their religion and live their lives. In the Application section the central idea is the clear notion that a holy God must also be a wrathful God. He lists several key points about the wrath of God that we dare not overlook. One of these points is that God's wrath is greater than any other wrath that someone could be subject to. Human wrath terminates, in other words it has an ending point and is limited. On the other hand God's wrath can go on forever because he is thought to be eternal.