How does the sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", typify the spirit of the Great Awakening?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” typifies the spirit of the Great Awakening because it argues that people should have a personal and emotional relationship with God.  This idea went against the prevailing Calvinist idea of predestination and a very detached relationship with God.

The Puritans believed that God had already chosen which people were going to Heaven and which were going to Hell.  There was nothing people could do and nothing they could believe which would change their destiny.  A person could love God with all their heart and do their best to act the way God wants, but could still be condemned to Hell.  In such a belief system, there is little room for an emotional relationship with God.  Such a relationship would not benefit a person in any way.

The Great Awakening pushed back against this idea.  It held that people could achieve salvation, or at least make it more likely, by loving and appreciating God.  Contrary to what the Puritans believed, the Great Awakening said that a person who opened his or her heart to God would have a better chance at salvation.  Edwards told his listeners that many other people had been sinners just like them but that those people had accepted God and

are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him that has loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

This passage would have made no sense to the Puritans.  They would have said that whether a person loved God was irrelevant and gave no greater “hope of the glory of God.”  The Great Awakening, however, argued that it really mattered if people loved God and had an emotional relationship with him.  Edwards’ sermon typifies this idea because it outlines the ways in which people should feel sad for having disappointed God and the ways in which they should increase their hope of salvation by loving him.

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

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