What is the effect Rev. Jonathon Edwards gives his audience?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The highly-charged fire and brimstone sermon of Reverend Edwards strikes such fear into his audience that many of the women cried and screamed; also, there were a number of terrified listeners who actually fled from hearing more as they ran screaming out of the church. 

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is Edwards's most famous sermon. It was so highly charged and had such a powerful effect that several times during this sermon, he had to stop and request that certain members of the congregation refrain from their shrieking, if they did not leave.

Much of the power of Edwards's sermon derives from his effective use of rhetorical devices such as the use of repetition and parallel constructions that seem to reach a disturbing and horrifying crescendo. For instance, Edwards repeats the word nothing in parallel phrases such as "nothing that you have ever done, nothing that you can do" in order to stress the belief that people cannot be saved by their actions; instead, they must have God's grace. An extremely effective parallel construction is exemplified in the beginning of Edwards's sermon as he uses frightening visual imagery:

The devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them....

This use of parallelism, frightening images, and repetition is certainly effective in terrifying and emotionally moving Edwards's congregation.

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

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question