One of the most effective high-pressure sales techniques is the insistence that this offer is only open today. If you do not take advantage of the unique opportunity right now, it will disappear forever. In "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards is selling salvation,...
One of the most effective high-pressure sales techniques is the insistence that this offer is only open today. If you do not take advantage of the unique opportunity right now, it will disappear forever. In "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards is selling salvation, and no salesman ever made more aggressive use of this method.
One of the preacher's favorite images comes from archery. He refers to death as an arrow twice in the sermon, most memorably when he says:
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.
Edwards's congregation would have been familiar with bows and arrows and would have hunted with them. They would have known how much strength and restraint it takes to keep an arrow on the string instead of letting it fly. This image, therefore, plays on the listeners' awareness of the fragility of life. It is one of several extended metaphors which suggests that death is more probable than life at any given moment. Edwards also says:
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.
As with the image of the arrow, this emphasizes the immanence of death. If you are holding a spider over a fire, the easiest course of action is to let it fall.
For a convinced Puritan, death is far more important than life. One is alive for a few decades as an insignificant preamble to an eternity in heaven or hell. Any time not spent ensuring that the former, not the latter, is one's destination is time frivolously wasted. This is doubly the case when one cannot expect a good seven or eight decades but might easily be carried off after forty, thirty, or even twenty years by any one of a myriad of dangers. Edwards's repeated images of immanence do not allow his listeners to forget this for a moment.