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Sinnners In The Hands Of An Angry

God Essay, Research Paper God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners Jonathan Edwards delivered his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in Enfield Connecticut on July 8, 1741, the year following George Whitefield’s preaching tour which helped

God Essay, Research Paper

God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners

Jonathan Edwards delivered his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in Enfield

Connecticut on July 8, 1741, the year following George Whitefield’s preaching tour which helped

inspire the “Great Awakening.” Weeping and emotional conviction among Edwards’ audiences

came at a time of great spiritual thirst. While very foreign to mainstream American opinion today,

this extraordinary message was fashioned for a people who were very conscious of how their

lifestyles affected eternal consequences. By today’s popular perspective, the doctrine of

predestination probably discourages conversion because of the new-age independent attitude.

However, in Puritan culture, through Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An

Angry God, fear might have powerfully affected people to look within them for the evidence of

grace and then experience salvation.

First, Edwards’ sermon is filled with graphic images of the fury of divine wrath and the

horror of the unmerciful punishment of the wicked in hell. If one were to continue in their sin,

according to Edwards, not only would a person be tormented in the presence of holy angels, but

God’s terribleness would be magnified upon his/her life and forced to suffer through God’s wrath

for all eternity (74). “Although it conveys the reek of brimstone, the sermon does not say that

God will hurl man into everlasting fires–on the contrary, doom will come from God’s

indifference…” (Thompson 71). Edwards had little need to justify his scare tactics and theology.

His consuming obligation was to preach it; to preach it fiercely, purposely, persuasively, and

firmly.

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Next, an example of God’s wrath is seen through Edward’s portrayal of “great waters

dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is

given…” (72). “Here was an old image redesigned to startle Enfield out of its smugness” (Cady

4). Every New Englander was intimate with his community’s use of water power at the mill, if

nowhere else. The dramatic peril of floods as well as the daily power of the falling waters were

familiar and exciting. “Edwards strikes blow after blow to the conscience-stricken hearts of his

congregation. He draws graphic images from the Bible, all designed to warn sinners of their peril.

He tells them that they are walking on slippery places with the danger of falling from their own

weight” (Sproul “God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners”). Edwards took the essence of his

hearer’s own minds, raised it to the plane of his own intensity, and made his vision live in those

memories.

Equally important is the spirituality of Edwards and the Puritans being far more complex

than Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God portrays. The fear in the sermon is about having a

holy respect for God’s power. Because of the18th century popular culture, unconverted audience

members probably remained more God-conscious in their daily living than most people of the past

few centuries. “Edwards understood the nature of God’s holiness. He perceived that unholy men

have much to fear from such a God” (Cady “The Artistry of Jonathan Edwards”). He did not

evangelize “…out of a sadistic delight in frightening people, but out of compassion. He loved his

congregation enough to warn them of the dreadful consequences of facing the wrath of God”

(Sproul “God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners”). He was not concerned with laying a guilt trip on

his people but with awakening them to the jeopardy they faced if they remained unchanged.

Finally, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is not directly concerned to create Hell

imaginatively. Hell is in its picture, but only at the surface. The focus is on the predicament of the

sinner, how dreadfully he dangles just before he plunges to eternal agony, while he has time to

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repent and be saved. The purpose of this sermon was to motivate those unconverted members of

Edwards’ audience to repent from unbelief and sin, become baptized, and experience a realization

of God’s grace, as imparted by His Spirit. “You have an extraordinary opportunity (to be saved)

…Therefore, let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come”

(Edwards 75). The horrific slipperiness and fearful suspension above the flaming fire described

throughout is a message intended for those individuals who know the truth, yet have remained

wicked and unbelieving. Edwards believed that God has less patience for those who know they

should be living right (Cady “The Artistry of Jonathan Edwards”).

In conclusion, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God represents a relentless concept of

fear designed to convince the then Puritan society through future generations that the tremendous

effects of an unconverted man’s unstable state “lay in God’s whim of mercy, and the terror of this

message derived from the insecurity of being temporarily protected by an all-powerful being full

of infinite anger” (Thompson 71). How does one react to Edwards’ sermon? Does it provoke a

sense of fear? Does it form anger? Does today’s public have a feeling of nothing but scorn for any

ideas about hell and everlasting punishment? Should the wrath of God be seen as a primitive or

obscene concept? Is the very notion of hell an insult? If so, it is clear that the God one worships is

not a holy God: thus, He is not a God at all. If we despise the justice of God, a person is not a

Christian. One stands in a position which is every bit as dangerous as the one which Edwards so

graphically described. “If we hate the wrath of God, it is because we hate God Himself. We may

protest vehemently against these charges but our vehemence only confirms our hostility toward

God” (Sproul “God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners”). But a God of love who has no wrath is no

God. One who does not love God in this present world is considered a loser, as he has lost all

peace, comfort, strength, and even hope. A person’s greatest detriment in the hereafter is found

in the loss of the sight of Christ and the beholding of His glories

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