Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards

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How does the choice of details set the tone of the sermon?

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Edwards is remembered for his choice of details, particularly in this classic sermon. His goal was not to tell people about his beliefs; he knew they already were aware of what Christianity had to say about the fate of their souls. His goal was to make them care. To that end, he focused on painting pictures with words of how dangerously close to the edge of the pit of hell they were walking, and how precarious was their foothold. Hence he begins this sermon with Deuteronomy 32:35: "Their foot shall slide in due time," breaking it down into observations about how suddenly this will happen and how no one will even need to push them; they'll fall by their own weight—all perfectly logical observations.

From there, he moves to what it means to speak of the "power of God," beginning with the observation that God can do anything at any time and we can do nothing to stop it:

Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces: they are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so 'tis easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that anything hangs by; thus easy is it for God when he pleases to cast his enemies down to hell.

Note the images of the whirlwind, the devouring flames, and the worms. The whirlwind is God, and the flames and worms are images in other scriptures depicting hell.

Edwards' tone is one of warning. He wants his congregation to picture what he describes and be afraid. If he invokes fear, he gains converts.

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