How does Jonathan Edwards want the congregation to respond to his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Edwards, a circuit preacher in colonial New England, wanted people to get out of sin and accept God's mercy before it was too late.  Edwards spent most of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" convincing the congregation that God hated sin and that He created Hell for sin and sinners.  Edwards describes the bottomless nature of Hell and, if placed there, the futility of escape attempts.  Edwards describes how death can come quickly and that God holds each soul over Hell. It is only at his whim that a soul does not fall in unexpectedly.  Edwards would then exhort the congregation to accept God's mercies and turn to Him and away from sin before it was too late. Edwards's sermon achieved its desired effect; accounts from that time period describe people in hysterics from imagining Hell and the hopelessness of their spiritual situations without God.  While other ministers preached on this subject, Edwards's sermon is one of the most popular and enduring thanks to the descriptive language he used.  

may-stone eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As one of the most influential preachers and instigators of The First Great Awakening, which swept America in a fever of repentance and rededication to a sort of Puritanical Christian doctrine, Jonathan Edwards designed his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” to convert as many hearers to Christianity as possible.  The text is a classic example of a Jeremiad, which warns of the dire consequences if some behavior or trend is not corrected.  In this case, Edwards wants to make his audience so afraid of going to Hell that they will convert immediately, at the end of his sermon; he finishes up by exhorting his audience, "therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come."  At the end of his sermon, Edwards would ask that those that had been convinced by him to come up to the front and dedicate their lives to his religion, and many people did. 

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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