Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Sermon and Its Postulates Essay
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a pastoral sermon authored by Jonathan Edwards, an American theologian, while preaching in the Northampton congregation. Like other works by the author, the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God text combines intense imagery of Hades with depictions of the "contemporary" world and constant citation of the Bible. As the most famous of his pastorals, the sermon vividly demonstrates Edwards’s style of preaching. It also showcases how the Puritans tried to oppose liberal theology and rationalism, which were gaining strength in the American colonies.
It's unclear exactly when was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God written and first proclaimed; yet, we know for sure that for the second time it was preached in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. Long after, it became a subject of study among history and theology scholars by providing insights to the period from 1730 to 1755 of the Great Awakening. This paper highlights the Puritan quotes and discusses similar ideologies in the sermon.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Imagery Examples
The purpose of the sermon was to spread the ideas of the Great Awakening in the churches in Connecticut. Edwards spoke upon the invitation by the Enfield's church’s pastor to preach to the congregation. He aimed to teach the congregation about the horrible situation in hell, the dangers of sinful behavior, and the risk of treading down in the world of sin. He described the risky position of the people who fail to honor Christ’s call for repentance. In the last section of the Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God text, the author indicates his religious argument throughout the Bible and the history of the scriptures. He does this by invoking examples and stories across all books of the Bible.
While different from other early renowned Puritans, Edwards utilizes the "everlasting torment" approach while preaching to his congregation about what he believes to be God’s anger. The sermon seeks to add that particular punishments awaited the sinners in hell because they fail to comply with proper religious virtues as provided by the Holy Scriptures. While Edward wished to influence the colonists’ actions, he considered it appropriate to debate God’s anger with the high levels of sinning and overindulgence instead of continuing with the usual warnings about sinning. To achieve this objective of ensuring that his congregants recognized their hazardous position in the world, he ensured that they knew that God could wipe them away.
In his view, notwithstanding that humans could be saved through Christianity and were created for neither hell nor heaven, they are wretched creatures, always surviving on God’s mercy. He relates the association between God and men by reminding the congregants how it should be "easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth" (499). This is also how God views people on earth. By likening humans to worms in this sermon, Edwards stresses the degree of Lord’s mercy and at the same time inspiring his listeners to struggle for some "status" and acquire tangibility in God’s eyes. Otherwise, you will face His wrath. Generally, though the sermon’s objective was changing the sinful behaviors of the congregation by pointing out that humans were only surviving on God’s grace, he attempts to better people from the congregation. Although the sermon is frightening, it seems that Edwards wanted it so to ensure that the people were scared and inspired simultaneously. The fact that "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was popular suggests that the colonists massively accepted the author’s idea, and obviously, many of them tried to live up to the covenants expressed in the sermon.
Even today, roughly 300 years later, the vivid imagery of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God makes it stand out from the array of suchlike pastorals and calls to studying it as a prominent example of persuasive writing.
Most Notable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Quotes and Their Meaning
Edwards considered that humans could save their souls while the concept of the election was invalid. Although he provides explanations that all humans are born to this world with intrinsic degeneracy, this natural sinfulness can be surmounted by humbly living a holy life. Unlike most of the other Puritan literature of that time, Edwards emphases on the intravitam behavior of the people instead of exemplifying the fabled lives of the scriptural individuals or their prophecies. Arguably, the most notable theme in the sermon is God’s Irresistible Grace. That ideology is founded upon the belief that this is God’s alone decision to condemn or save a soul whilst at any time a person can be sent to hell, as provided by, "There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment" (499).
According to the Edwards's Puritan beliefs, and while observing the tenets of the Irresistible Grace, wrongdoers are only allowed to stay on the world because God isn't yet ready to wipe them out of the face of the earth. At a particular point in the sermon, he articulates this by saying that, "The only reason why sinners are not fallen already and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time has not yet come. For when the time comes, …then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight" (499). What is the purpose of this sentence in Edwards's sermon? The said weight in this quote is not merely for the presently committed sins, but the weight of the intrinsic dissoluteness, which all human beings are carrying. After stating this, Edwards poses a threat palpably by addressing it to the people when he proclaims, "God is a great deal angry with great numbers that are now on earth; yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation" (500).
Although contemporary readers might be tempted to regard this one as an outright "threat tactic" way of ensuring repentance and inspiration to the congregation and change their behaviors and actions, this sermon is, however, a striking shift from the other Puritan literature of the time. It must have certainly come as a very radical piece in the 18th century. He finishes the sermon by one last plea, "Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake, and fly from the wrath to come" (500). He indirectly gives hope to those sinners by saying when they return to Christ, they will escape the wrath of God as he outlines in the sermon.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Sermon Premise
In conclusion, the quotes highlighted in this paper from Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God show the Puritan beliefs on sin and salvation, as well as their ideologies on the whole. The quotes identified in the sermon show Edwards’s confidence in the Puritan beliefs of becoming pure through Christian doctrines and worship. According to the sermon, the author of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was advocating for obeying religious rules, which he said was to ensure that the people avoided hell. Quoting and giving other examples from the Holy Bible, Edwards shows Puritan belief, which teaches the people to live according to the expectations of the Bible in all ways. The sermon was designed to make every member of the congregation accept one central idea: for I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God, I must be aware that my conduct and actions on earth outweigh any other thing.
The identified quotes show how morality – of even the smallest forms – is crucial for avoiding hell where God can send sinners at any time. Edwards’s sermon about God’s anger is bent on the main idea of convincing people to embrace purity. Otherwise, if you're a sinner of an angry God, you cannot expect anything else but His wrath. Evidently, such an appeal resonated much with people, and it is what makes Edwards and his sermon a guiding beacon for many even today.
- Kimnach, Wilson; Maskell, Caleb; Minkema, Kenneth, Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010
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