how does edwards sermon reflect puritan religious belief?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For a correct statement of fact, Jonathan Edwards is hardly Puritan, in fact it is perhaps the perfect antithesis of Puritan belief. Puritans, as strict Calvinists, believed that God determined before the beginning of the world who would be saved. Those who had received some indication that they were the recipient of God's undeserved merit were known as the "elect," but it was determined long ago. There was no free will involved.

Edwards was a product of the first Great Awakening which rejected Puritan ideas. He once commented that the people of New England needed

not so much to have their heads stored as their hearts touched. It is a reasonable thing to right persons away from hell.

His sermons reject the idea of predestination; rather he preached that all persons could be recipients of God's salvation, and that justification came from faith in Christ. All persons in Edwards' view could be saved; but all persons also could burn in hell if they did not repent. His most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God illustrates this point:

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.

It is interesting to note that Edwards did not appeal to the emotions of his hearers as did his contemporary George Whitefield; his sermons were read calmly and dispassionately; yet when he was finished, several minutes were required to calm the congregation who often shrieked and howled in terror of hell. One would never see such in a Puritan service.


cestoler | Student

As answer number #2 is correct in stating "There is no set of Puritan beliefs..."; there was in fact one set called "calvinists" Calvinists beliefs in Edwards' opinion were very incorrect. He strictly opposes against them, and proves it within his paper. 

dtwenstrup | Student

There is no one set of Puritan beliefs, as there were many diverse groups of Puritans and thus diverse beliefs. However, as coming out of the Reformed Christianity movement, they generally followed Calvinist beliefs.

Puritans put a strong emphasis on preaching to encourage people to follow moral purity and piety. Thus they invited Jonathan Edwards to their congregation in Connecticut on July 8, 1741. He preached a sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which reveals the general Reformed belief of ‘sola scriptura,’ meaning scripture is the only recognized source of authority. In the sermon, Edwards backs up his arguments with a great deal of scripture.

The Reformed belief in ‘salvation by faith alone’ is seen when Edwards declares that man cannot earn, purchase, or avoid hell. Man is sinful, deserving of hell, and only faith in Christ, through God’s grace, can save man.

The Puritan emphasis on demonic forces is also evident throughout the sermon, as Edwards tries to instill terror in his listeners about the horrors of hell.