Identify three famous figures of speech that Edwards develops in his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several figures of speech are used with great effort to compare mankind's situation to objects of nature as analyzed through the eyes of God.

Here is one simile:

The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose.

This compares the building of God's anger to the pressure of water. The purpose of this comparison is to get the congregation to think about how when God actually releases his anger, it is going to be done with great force.

This next sentence contains both a metaphor and personification:

The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends 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 moment from being made drunk with your blood.

This metaphor compares God's anger to the string of a bow being pulled and ready to let go, but not yet let go. This comparison proves that God's wrath could once again come with great power and severely destroy mankind if he so chose. Later, he gives an arrow the human ability to experience being drunk. Being drunk means a great amount of alcohol would be consumed. Here, he suggests that an arrow would consume a great amount of blood.

Edwards is very famous for creating this image of a human being held by God's hand over a fiery pit. This visual image he uses to compare to the actual relationship between God and man:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked...

This quote also contains a simile...

Good luck using these figures of speech!

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edwards uses a simile, a comparison of two unalike things that uses like or as, when he writes, "That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall." Here, he speaks of the Israelites who, he says, could not know from one moment to the next whether or not they would fall from grace, just as someone who walks on slick spots never knows when he or she will physically slip and fall.

Another famous simile occurs when Edwards writes, "God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost." He compares the Israelites' inevitable fall from God's grace to a person who is on a slippery hill near a pit; when that person is let go of, he surely falls and is lost forever, just as they will be. However, it is not their lives that will be lost, but their souls. This line also contains a metaphor, a comparison of two unalike things where one is said to be the other, when Edwards compares the metaphysical danger people face to "slippery places." These places are not physically slippery and dangerous to the body, but, rather, they are spiritually dangerous to one's soul.

Yet another two similes occur when Edwards discusses the legions of God's enemies. Although groups of rebels might thwart a prince, "They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames." He compares God's enemies to the insignificant debris that is separated from the seed when grain is threshed in the face of a wind storm, and then again to cut grain, left to die and dry in the field, in the face of a raging fire. Both would be obliterated immediately.

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

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