What are examples of metaphor and repetition in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?"

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Using a metaphor, Edwards describes God's enemies in the following way: "They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames." In other words, people who oppose God are as weak as bits of wheat before a large wind or dry tinder in a raging fire. They are weak and cannot withstand God's power. Of God's wrath against sinners, Edwards says, "The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads." In this metaphor, God's ability to get vengeance is compared to a sword hanging over sinners' heads, ready to fall on them. In a simile, which, like a metaphor, is a form of figurative language, Edwards says of sinners:

"The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back."

In this simile, Edwards compares the devil to lions waiting to launch themselves at their prey. In other words, he says that people are always prone to committing evil.

In an example of repetition to emphasize God's power, Edwards begins two sentences with the word "God":

"God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life."

When Edwards turns his focus later in the speech to his audience, he begins several sentences with "you":

"You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.—And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ?"

By repeating the word "you," he makes the message directly to his audience that it's time for them to accept God.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One metaphor Edwards uses is walking on a slippery slope, which he likens to human existence as sinners. Like those who walk on a slippery slope, sinners are in grave peril of destruction and it is only through God's intervention that they do not perish. This is actually the central metaphor for the sermon, and is drawn from Deuteronomy 32:35, which reads "Their feet shall slide, in due time." Another metaphor used by Edwards is that of a flood, which is used to represent God's wrath:

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given...'Tis true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto...but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are continually rising and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back that are unwilling to be stopped...

Edwards repeats the theme of the "pleasure of God" and the "will of God" to emphasize that only God's grace could keep people from destruction from a wrath that is otherwise as irresistable as floodwaters, raging flames, or, to cite another metaphor, a falling rock. 

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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