How does John Edwards use syntax and diction in his sermon?

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

SYNTAX: Sentence structures are typically long. He particularly uses periodic sentences. These sentences build and build not getting to a main point until the end of the sentence. This allows Edwards to add detail building the fear of the people with each phrase or clause. This sentence exemplifies the concept of a periodic sentence:

Thus all of you that never had the great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all of you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a new state, and never experienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God.

He also uses polysyndeton sentences. These employ the use of several conjunctions for the purpose of emphasis:

The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice points the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one second from being made drunk with your blood.

DICTION: Edwards' purposefully uses language to paint word pictures of the relationship between God and man. He positions God in His anger holding man over a pit of flames as man dangles uncontrollably hoping God will not release His grasp of man. The words he uses to demonstrate the connection between God and man include a spider's web, and a hanging thread; both of these are easily broken. Continued language puts God in a position of great power and man in a position of hopelessness. He uses the imagery of flames and fire coupled with the thought of a bottomless pit, and the metaphors of God's wrath being an arrow ready to strike and a storm ready to descend. All of these negative connotations to the relationship between God and man heap the guilt on Edwards' audience and earn him a spot among the best at delivering "fire and brimstone" sermons. However, by the end (after sitting through 38 minutes of language suggesting that man will burn in hell forever) he offers the hope of God's salvation which only comes through belief in Christ.

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

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