According to Jonathan Edwards, what keeps sinners out of the fiery "pit of hell" in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his fire-and-brimstone sermon, "the last Puritan," Jonathan Edwards, declares that it is only the hand of God that keeps sinners from falling into the fiery pit of hell.

The Reverend Edwards asserts that God holds sinners over the pit of hell in much the same manner as a person may hold a spider or some other repugnant insect over a fire. He tells his congregation that God abhors the sinner:

....He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours...and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire....

Further, Edwards informs his listeners that they could easily have gone to hell the previous night, or even when they arose in the morning but for the hand of God. In fact, he adds that there is no reason that God should not drop into hell these sinners who sit listening to his sermon in the house of God.

"Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God" is unquestionably Edwards's most famous sermon. As may be expected, this sermon had a powerful effect upon his listeners, so much so that he had to ask his screaming and swooning audience for quiet at several points in his delivery.

labrat256 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Edwards was an American theologian and pastor born in 1703 who created the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in 1741 which emphasises that Hell is a very real and horrific place where 'The Souls of The Wicked' are placed in a very literal 'Lake of burning Brimstone'.

His intention was to scare those who did not believe in God or those who were 'Wicked' towards Christianity and to convince the congregation that it was the will of God that they do not end up in Hell. He claimed that God offered all of humanity an opportunity to atone for their sins and escape the punishments of Hell. As such, he claimed, there is only one way to avoid damnation and that is through the 'Covenant of Grace' with Christ.

He specifically states that: 'There is nothing that keeps wicked Men at any one Moment, out of Hell, but the meer Pleasure of GOD.' Therefore Edwards says that it is only by the pleasure of God that humans can avoid Hell.

Read the study guide:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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