Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God Summary

I'm having trouble with the short story "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?" Can anybody give me a brief summary?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gist of the sermon can be found in the sentence

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."

The sermon's goal was to a) instill a fear of God's omnipotence over the human race, b) to create an awareness of man's nature as an original sinner,  c) to reinstate the Puritan foundation of pre-determination which argues that men have no control over their fate, and that it is God who decides whether you will enjoy the company of Grace or the Firepits of Hades.

The audience for this sermon were people with similar believes, but it is argued in the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University that such sermon was probably prepared especially after a specific situation occurred in the congregation that led Edwards to believe that his sheep were walking in the wrong path. This is supposedly evidenced by the strength of the message. Why would Edwards be so emphatic in reinstating what everyone already knows if not that something occurred among his people that upset him enough to scold them with such sermon.

Regardless, he sees men as a race which hangs from the threads of God's will facing directly the fire of Hell. Only God's will will determine the end of each man's soul, and we always must humble ourself before God in remembrance of our "messed up" nature compared to his merciful and much superior greatness. That is what the sermon basically included.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the first distinction that has to be made is that Edwards' work is not a short story as much as it is a sermon delivered to a congregation.  In a brief manner, I would submit that Edwards delivers his sermon in the examination of where Colonial life perceived religion at the time.  Edwards delivers his work at a time when colonial obsession with money and commerce was on the rise and when spiritual faith was on the decline.  Colonists were more adept to embracing a pragmatic and practically utilitarian view of life, where commerce and economic prosperity was preferred and where religious spirituality was placed in a position secondary to this drive.  At the same time, the Colonies were reeling from the miscarriage of justice at the hands of the Salem Witch Trials, causing a lack of zeal in spirituality.  Edwards delivers his sermon with this in mind and the message is quite clear:  The powers of the divine are not happy with this lack of faith and God is angry.  According to Edwards' sermon, if colonists do not repent and embrace God as the only power and sole notion of the good, few, if any, will be spared from God's wrath.  The entire sermon is built upon different ways to express this theme, one where the focus was driven to change the spiritually worship of the colonists from one that was waning and passively secular to a more zealous orthodoxy and an active expression of faith.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, it's not a short story, it's a sermon delivered in church by Jonathan Edwards, who was an American preacher in the 1700s.

The basic idea of the sermon is that people are inherently evil and that God is very angry at them.  Edwards believes that people all deserve to go to Hell and it is only the mercy of God that prevents them from all being sent there.

Edwards ends by encouraging all his listeners to repent and come to God so that they will not go to Hell as they deserve.

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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