Use the context clues to define the word "abhor" in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God spoken on July 8, 1741 by Jonathan Edwards explains in the "Application" part that the purpose of the sermon is, basically, to scare the puritans back to their original system of belief.

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.

The once devoted Puritans seemed to be running astray, thus going against the very cause for which they had left England in the first place: their right to worship, among other things. Seeing that the flock is going awry, Edwards wrote this sermon using the most scary representations of evil possible in order to instill in his flock the purpose of their religion.

This is the context in which Edwards would use the word "abhor". To "abhor" something is to regard something with horror, with anger, contempt, and detestation. The word is used in two different contexts in the sermon.

  • The Puritans must work themselves to abhor any sinful practice in the knowledge that

if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

  • God abhors sin and sinful practices and thus nobody will be missing out on their wrath. However, Edwards goes further by stating that God ALREADY hates all of us for being sinful and that God cannot wait for the day that he comes back to give us our punishment.

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: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.

The hating then moves toward what will happen when the day of the final judgement, when every sinner is already punished and done for

And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

Basically it says that, regardless of being dead and punished, bad is always bad. Therefore, whoever is lucky enough to survive that day will find the spectacle of seeing the fire that consumed these sinners still burning, as sin never dies. And they will look at all of the dead bodies in horror (abhorring unto all flesh), praying and hoping they never EVER make God mad again because it is clear that he does not take sin lightly,

Therefore, the context cues, as well as the historical context of the sermon, show us that the word abhor refers to the disgust that sin causes in the eyes of God, and how we too should feel the same way about sin.

 

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