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Jonathan Edwards' sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' was first heard in 1741. Known in U.S. history as "The Great Awakening', it was a time when some Calvinist ministers felt that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination was being questioned, challenged, or just plain ignored. It was the lax of religious dedication among Calvinists' that Edwards responded to in his sermon. There is no doubt that his figure of speech utilized the power of imagery. The sermon is full of fire and brimstone directed to everyone as a reminder of the consequences, but especially to those Calvinists' who had 'lost their way'. The quote you refer to sent a clear message by Edwards to those who sought to look elsewhere for spiritual peace. Look no further, God is just waiting to lash out. Repent your idol ways or else pay the price. Damned to hell for all eternity.
Jonathan Edwards is using imagery here. He paints a picture in the listeners' minds that is intended to instill fear in their hearts. God is painted as full of wrath and set to destroy anyone who goes against his wishes. Speeches like this were used to scare people into behaving and doing what God (or what those professing to speak for God) wanted. It is no wonder that the young girls in Salem, Massechusetts, when caught dancing in the woods one night, swore that they were being posessed by the devil in order to escape the terrible punishment inflicted upon wrong-doers during the time when men like Jonathan Edwards were preaching. Fear led the girls to lie, which resulted in 20 innocent people being hanged in the Salem Witch Trials.
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