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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (102) is a speech given in a house of worship where Jonathan Edwards connects logical instances and literary rhetoric to attract and maintain the attention of his congregation. Edwards uses imagery to portray images of water, air, and fire, and to paint a picture. “…to see so many rejoicing…while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart”(106) casts fear upon the listeners and persuades them into his point of view, an “angry” god.

In order to develop a positive relationship with unity between him and the multitude, Edwards uses diction and promises “…an opportunity to obtain salvation”(105) to re-engage listeners. Jonathan Edwards utilizes figures of speech to enhance the two tones. The author uses imagery to express a fearful situation, describing to the people how in hell “.. the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot…. “. This can very well serve as a threatening aspect because the use of imagery indicates that all the information is imperative in depicting the horrid thought.

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Also portraying an intimidating tone, the apostrophe that describes how hell awaits all sinners with eagerness and how “… the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them…. ” The use of an apostrophe is practical because it is threatening to know that everything will have such an impact on what is repeated at the end of every sentence. Imagery plays a role describing the mercy stricken sinners who have changed their mood and their hearts are now “… illed with love to him who has loved them…. ” This rhetoric emphasizes how compassion is shown by love. The author uses pervasive figurative language to suggest the condemning tone as well as the merciful. Edwards describes how the pit of hell . “.. opened its mouth…. ” This is personification that suggests it is a monstrous place that can just swallow up the sinner in an instant, as a person would do to food. Personification portrays this as such a powerful place where one would feel intimidated by the mere mentioning of it.

Held over this pit of hell and . “.. in the hand of God… ” is how the sinners would be threatened. This is personification that suggests that God, the spirit, possesses an abundance of power to the point where he can determine your eternal life. Personification expresses how, like a person, God has authority conveying the condemning tone. Hyperbole is introduced again when describing how one can “. . . hang by a slender thread… ” over this pit of hell. This embellishes the idea of going to hell because one can’t really hang by a thin piece of string.

Hyperbole correlates to the threatening tone because it creates a larger thought than what might actually be meant. However, now switching to a forgiving tone, the author uses hyperbole once again when he tells of how God will “. . . wash them from their sins in his own blood…. ” This hyperbole certainly implies that the same God that can put one in hell can also cleanse them of their sins, even if it requires His blood. In stating this hyperbole, hope is brought to life by the thought of this possibility. Edwards’ uses diction to emphasize threatening accusations as well as hope towards the end.

The minister frightens his people by stating how daunting the “…wrath” of God can be. He warns the people of how they will be “…tormented” in hell. This dreadfulness is associated with a Prisoner of War and how the enemy puts them through such pain that one would rather die than to suffer. Mounting fear upon the people even more, he tells of how eternal “…damnation” is never at rest. To a wealthy man, “…everlasting damnation” could very well be living life with no money whatsoever. The groups of listeners are forewarned of “executions” in hell.

Lastly, it is stated that whoever rots in hell will be consumed in perpetual “…destruction. ” However, he offers God’s compassion in providing information of “deliverance. ” Expressing how God Himself can be like a saving grace in any situation. The minister also tells of how one can luckily be a victim of “…mitigation. ” Stating how humble God can be and how he can act as an aspirin to the most outrageous headache known to man kind. Edwards attempts to instill fear into his listeners. He makes sure everyone is paying attention and on the “edge of their seats”.

In his sermon, Edwards uses God as a higher power to grasp the listener’s emotions and fill them with terror. He captivates the audience with his threats and intimidation. He assures them that without a change they will be eternally tormented in Hell and that there is nothing they can do to spare themselves. He is very descriptive and leaves them in shock with his explanation of what will happen if you are never born again. The listeners are then terrified into thinking that there is nothing that keeps wicked men at any moment out of hell, but the pleasure of God.

Jonathan Edwards used several comparisons to depict the wrath of God and scare his audience into salvation. In his comparisons only by Gods pleasure is every man and women spared. He says the wrath of God is like “…an enormous storm ready to burst…” upon you at any moment. The wrath of God is compared with the great waters being held back ready to burst and destroy anyone in its path. He compares God’s wrath with a bow and arrow ready to fire at the heart. The purpose of this technique was to terrify the listeners into achieving grace before they suffered a horrible fate.

These comparisons worked effectively and created uproar in the crowd of people who wanted to be saved. In conclusion, Edwards gives his crowd hope. Despite his fear filled sermon he also told the listeners that there is a “…chance” that they could go to “…heaven. ”  He says everyday we have the chance to obtain salvation; a day that God shows us mercy and lets us live for one more day, a day where God is calling us to come to him and be saved. He says everyone has the opportunity to have a change of heart and be “…born again”.

He is very persuasive in his diction. The crowd is convinced that Edwards is correct about salvation because he is an intelligent and righteous man. This is very effective because it gives anyone, no matter how religious they are, a chance to change their life and experience grace. Jonathon Edwards uses several techniques to show the effects of not obtaining grace. He scares the audience with threats and terrifying accounts, then returns with rewarding promises of a better life after salvation. Edwards was very effective in his sermon in changing people’s lives.


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