Jonathan Edwards the Great Preacher

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He was a man whose very words struck fear into the hearts of his listeners. Acknowledged as one of the most powerful religious speakers of the era, he spearheaded the Great Awakening. “This was a time when the intense fervor of the first Puritans had subsided somewhat” (Heyrmen 1) due to a resurgence of religious zeal (Stein 1) in colonists through faith rather than predestination. Jonathan Edwards however sought to arouse the religious intensity of the colonists (Edwards 1) through his preaching. But how and why was Edwards so successful? What influenced him? How did he use diction and symbolism to persuade his listener, and what was the reaction to his teachings? In order to understand these questions one must look at his life and works to understand how he was successful. In his most influential sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Jonathan Edwards’ persuasive language awakened the religious fervor that lay dormant in colonial Americans and made him the most famous puritan minister of the Great Awakening in North America.

In order to understand Edwards use of language however, one must look at his early life and formative influences. His family undoubtedly shaped his religious career because “[H]e was the only son among the eleven children of Rev. Timothy Edwards and Esther Edwards, the daughter of influential puritan clergymen Solomon Stoddard” (Wachal 1). Growing up in a religious family must have influenced his career path. Then “Edwards attended Yale School of theology at 13 years of age” (Paposian 1). This is important because at Yale, Edwards would create his own “unique style of preaching” (“Jonathan Edwards” Dictionary 1). Here “his theology which soon came to be known as Edwardseanism had developed in hi...

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