What are some examples of metaphors throughout "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

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

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Jonathan Edwards uses many metaphors and images in his sermon. In one case he uses a metaphor to dramatize human powerlessness. He states the the human has as much chance of keeping out of hell " as a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock" He compares the wrath of God to "great damned waters" He then compares God's wrath a bow which is bent and "the arrow made ready on the string" to pierce the sinner's heart. He continues by saying that God holds people over the pit of hell 'much as a spider...over a fire "and that his wrath is like "fire".
The part of the sermon that it is many textbooks is just an excerpt. Historians say that the actual sermon lasted about two hours and was so effective people were crying and even fainting when it was over.

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teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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As George Lakoff explains in his "Why It's Difficult to Replace the Fiscal Cliff Metaphor," geographic metaphors are among the most powerful, and Jonathan Edwards uses these abundantly in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." For example, he employs the metaphors of the slippery slope and the yawning abyss to make abstract concepts such as sin and hell vividly real to people. We can all create a visual and tactile image in our minds of sliding down a slope and imagine what it would feel like (painful) to fall into an abyss. Further, this abyss is filled with fire, a physical metaphor for the pain of remorse a sinner experiences in hell. The pain of remorse might be abstract to people; the pain of being burned by fire would not. Edwards uses as well the physical metaphor of humans walking over hell on a rotten covering. This would bring to mind the idea of walking on a bridge made of rotten wood that could collapse at any time, though in Edwards' telling of the story, people would plunge not into cold water but into fiery brimstone. These powerful images, along with everyday images that would be familiar to a rural society, such as worms crushed underfoot and chaff blowing in the wind, powerfully impress on people's minds their own precarious, weak and helpless situation before hell and the devil, and the need to be saved by Christ.

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junebug614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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In the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" Jonathan Edwards infamously struck fear in the hearts and minds of the Puritans listening to his speech. He did this by using strong images and effective persuasion, and he also used several strong metaphors to help prove his point -- men should repent their sins before it was too late and they were punished violently forever by God.  

One of the first metaphors, and a very strong one, is one comparing human powerlessness to a spider web. He claims that those who believe they can avoid hell without God have no chance, then he compares it to a spider web having the ability to catch a rock falling through the air. Of course, it's virtually impossible that a spider web could stop a rock, so is it that a man needs God to help govern his life. 

Another example of a metaphor comes soon after when Edwards compares God's wrath to a bow bent, while "justice strains the bow." This image of God's wrath as a weapon reinforces the idea that God is not a benevolent being, willing and ready to forgive; instead, Edwards invokes fear in his listeners to get them to repent and live in an honorable way. 


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