Jonathan Edwards introduces two comparisons for God's wrath in paragraphs 2 and 5 of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Describe what is being compared in each.  

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Most of the versions of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" are excerpts from the much longer sermon which, according to eywitnesses, lasted about two hours. In the version I use ( from McGraw-Hill, American Literature, a Chronological Approach, pgs. 54-55) the second paragraph contains an extended metaphor comparing God's anger to a bow that is armed with an arrow pointed directly at the heart of a sinner:
"The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string and justice bends the arrow at your heart."
Paragraph 5 is again an extended metaphor comparing the sinner to a spider who is being held over the fires of hell by an angry God. Edwards describes how much God abhors them and much they deserve to be dropped down into hell. Edwards writes,
"The God that hold you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider. . . Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason shy you do not this very moment drop down into hell."

rmhope's profile pic

rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The question evidently refers to an excerpt of the sermon, as the full text of the sermon does not deal with God's wrath in paragraphs 2 and 5. When Edwards comes to the topic of God's wrath, he uses several metaphors to describe it. The first comparison he uses is to describe God's wrath as a flood of waters that is held behind a dammed gate. As the person continues sinning, God's wrath builds up more and more, as if the waters behind the dam are climbing higher and becoming more fierce. It is only God's hand that withholds the flood-gate from opening and releasing the flood of judgment upon the sinner. In this comparison, God's wrath is the rising, swelling river behind the dam; the sinner and his eternal state is the landscape beyond the dam; God's mercy is the dam. When God has had enough, he will release his judgment, and the sinner will be overwhelmed, completely unable to resist God's oncoming punishment.

A few paragraphs later, Edwards compares God's wrath not to water, but to fire. He says God's wrath is a "Furnace of Wrath" and that the listener dangles by the slightest thread over a "pit full of the Fire of Wrath." Again, it is God's hand that holds the thread that keeps the sinner from plunging into eternal punishment. The furnace is the punishment that the sinner deserves; the flames are God's wrath; the string that prevents the sinner from falling is God's mercy.


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