Why was the Sermon ¨Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Effective?

  • Category: Religion,
  • Pages: 3
  • Words: 685
  • Published: 14 March 2021
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Well-known Preacher, Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” illustrates the idea that Christian conversation is the only way to be saved from eternal suffering and damnation. Edward’s purpose is to induce his congregation into believing the new ideals of The Great Awakening through the proposal of new beginning and salvation. Through the use of a condescending and cautious tone, the multiple instances of apostrophe, and strong diction, he builds the argument of steering his audience away from the wrath of God by adopting the ideals of conversion. 

The Great Awakening was a passionate revival of the Puritan authority that existed in the 1730s in response to the emergence of secular ideals that were being discussed throughout Europe. This passion exists heavily in Edwards’ sermon through his condescending and cautionary tone. He talks down to his audience, stating that they are the problem and, because of them, “must suffer it [the wrath of God] to all eternity” (Edwards, 4). According to ActiveChristianity.com, a website run by the Brunstad Christian Church, is dedicated to teaching about what it means to be Christian. Their article about what is means to fear God states that people fear them mainly for the reason that they are believed to be so powerful that a person fears them because of how in awe they are. Edwards uses this claim not only teach about the fact that God is powerful enough to sentence you to damnation, but he uses it to warn his audience about that sentence. As mentioned, he uses a condescending tone to begin with, which breaks down the listener/readers pride and then moves onto solutions, or in this case, conversion and faith. He states that “And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open…” (Edwards, 5), which, after breaking down the listener/reader, gives them hope. Describing such a harsh reality and then offering a solution to avoid it, again, makes someone more inclined to listen. His message was effective in the sense his tone provided caution and depreciated his audience. 

Furthermore, another strategy used to convey the message of the sermon, was through apostrophe, or talking directly to the audience. When a speaker talks to/about their audience, they often generalize them or group them as a whole. This could make a listener feel unseen or generalized. However, the use of the word “you” in the sermon makes the reader feel directly talked about/to. As previously mentioned, Edwards breaks down the listener/reader to make the message more impactful. Phrases such as “O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in… you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell” (Edwards, 4), help build the condescending and cautionary tone previously mentioned, but make it immeasurably more poignant. The use of the word “you” makes the reader feel addressed directly and helps build the tone of the sermon. 

Finally, another strategy used to connect whole-heartedly with the audience is through powerful word choice. He uses words such as “...who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath”, “God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell…” , and “There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery” (Edwards, 1, 2, 4). A part of being human is the ability to feel, and strong words make it easier to, not only understand what is being said, but to really be impacted by it. Edwards uses this to his advantage to convey his message effectively. A person is more inclined to listen to something if they are using threatening and powerful words. 

Overall, through the use of tone, apostrophe, and diction, the overall message of the sermon was made effective. The First Great Awakening was the revival of passion for Christian ideals in response to the growing secular ideas throughout Europe in order to revive the dedication to religion. The sermon left people weeping due to its effectiveness which was built through a multitude of literary devices. The passion presented is what would later help fuel the battle between secular and Protestant/Catholic governments that would help shape the European governing system in years to come. 

Works Cited: 

“What Does It Mean to Fear God? Why Should We Fear God?” ActiveChristianity, 30 Aug. 2019, activechristianity.org/what-does-it-mean-to-fear-god.