Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Edwards

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In "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," how does Jonathan Edwards personalize hell for his listeners?

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Edwards's use of the word "you" throughout his sermon is the main way he personalizes hell for his audience—but even more so are the ways in which he describes it using vague, yet somehow descriptive, terms.

Take, for example, this section:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf.

His description of God and of hell as a "bottomless gulf" both captivate and strike a sense of doom into his audience. Because...

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Edwards personalized hell for his listeners by using imagery, which is a technique used to help the audience better imagine the situation. In other words, Edwards made the topic very real and relevant to the people. He used this technique to engage his audience with all five senses. He used visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory imagery. Edwards used visual imagery as his main focus. For example, he referred to “fiery floods,” and “a wide and bottomless pit.” This helped give hell a color and dimensions. Edwards helps the listener feel hell through tactile imagery, by using the phrase, “heavy as lead”, making the sinner feel they are being pulled down to hell due to their sins. Auditory imagery was used to help the listener imagine the sounds of torture being endured. Edwards also talked of fire and the flames, helping the listener to not only see and feel, but to smell and hear the flames as well. The sense of taste was used when he said, “swallow them up.” This technique was powerful in helping the listeners to experience hell in their own minds. However, Edwards didn’t stop here, he used figurative language as well, such as personification, similes, and metaphors. He used a variety of techniques to relate his subject to as many individuals as possible. He wanted the people to seize the opportunity of salvation and fear the torment of hell. Jonathan Edwards was a powerful author/speaker. He knew how to repeat his message in numerous ways, to reach each individual in his audience. He was very talented and differentiated his sermon for every listener through the use of these techniques, and he helped them cognitively to think about what he was saying. His technique put depth and personalization in the sermon. He used a variety of literature techniques to reach the varied learning styles of his listeners.