Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God Summary

What is Jonathan Edwards’s purpose in delivering his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

Jonathan Edwards’s purpose in delivering his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is to terrify his congregation into immediate repentance.

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Jonathan Edwards's purpose in this sermon is to make his listeners take seriously the prospect of their own damnation and arrive at a more genuine and powerful expression of Christian faith. The sermon focuses very much on the subject of God's power, while also expressing a very harsh vision of divine justice, by which (Edwards states) people ultimately deserve the damnation that they are allotted, on account of their sinful nature. One of the fundamental goals here is to break his listeners out of apathy and convince them of the very real existential danger that (in Edwards's Calvinist mind) they are continually facing in every moment of their lives.

Edwards achieves this through the manipulation of language, utilizing frightening imagery to create in his listeners visions of divine anger and damnation (thus appealing to their emotions), while repeating those same themes and images for rhetorical effect. At the same time, this sermon is also profoundly personal: remember, Edwards was originally speaking before a congregation. In this sense, his purpose was to convince them (both collectively but also on an individual person-by-person basis) to take more seriously the state of their souls, in order that they might arrive at a more genuine relationship with Christ and thus hopefully receive salvation.

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In his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards uses scriptural exposition and frightening, emotive imagery to terrify his congregation into repenting of their sins and accepting Christ into their hearts. As he says simply at the end of the sermon,

Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come.

Only the final few paragraphs of this long text deal with this great opportunity which Edwards says is open to his hearers. Citing Deuteronomy 32:35—"Their foot shall slide in due time"—he begins by placing these words in context, speaking of God's vengeance against "the wicked, unbelieving Israelites." Edwards then says that his congregation is just as deserving of God's wrath as the Israelites were. God can cast them into the flames of hell at any moment and has every reason to do so, since he is dreadfully provoked by their sinfulness. They may have the illusion of security, but it is only the mercy of God that keeps them out of hell from moment to moment.

In illustrating his points, Edwards uses such images as a bow with the arrow aimed at the heart of the sinner and a spider held over a kitchen fire. These vivid similes show the immediacy of the danger and prepare the congregation for the final message of how they can escape from it. Therefore, although the opportunity for repentance occupies only a small part of Edwards's text, the entire argument is directed towards this purpose.

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Jonathan Edwards’s purpose in delivering the sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is to warn his congregation in particular, and presumably, by extension, his nation as a whole, that they must repent of their sinful ways and turn to God for forgiveness before it is too late - so that they can escape death by hell fire.

In essence, Jonathan Edward's is saying that the opportunity is now to embrace and accept Jesus Christ,  his message, his teachings, and his sacrifice as atonement for sins. The choice must be made by those God is calling, through Jesus Christ, to either accept the call to repentance and a new life, or reject it.

Rejection will result in death by hell fire. Edwards indicates that God is extending mercy by calling out to sinners - He is giving them an opportunity to accept Jesus' sacrifice and start a new life of obedience to Christ -  to become slaves of Christ - subject to his mastery over them. Edwards' purpose with this sermon is to awaken people to the seriousness of their situation because of sin - and that Christ is their only way to true redemption and a real eternal life. Edwards is encouraging his congregation to flee,run, from the wrath that is to come upon the unrepentant and unbelieving. He trumpets the necessity of accepting Christ and his atoning death. This is indicated in the Scriptures as well in this verse:

"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,"

(Philippians 2:10 - New International Version (NIV) )

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The fire and brimstone sermon by Jonathan Edwards is meant to throw fear into the hearts of those wayward Puritans- of his congregation, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Fear is an instructor of great sagacity and the herald of all resolutions." Paradoxically, Edwards was a Calvinist who believed in predestination, yet he also believed people are responsible for their actions. And, so, he preaches a sermon that is replete with fear-inspiring imagery.

The prevailing image of this sermon is the image of the bottomless pit of hell whose fiery floods wax high enough to burn the gossamer thread that holds the unworthy souls who are weighted down with wickedness in the first place. Edwards speaks in hyperbole: "the floods of God's vengeance"; "the fiery floods of fierceness"; the bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string and justice bends the arrow at your heart."

This frightening sermon of Edwards is constructed around a passage from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the King James Version of the Bible: "The foot shall slide in due time."  Using the metaphor of a slippery slide, Edwards, at a revival where his famous sermon was given, points to the dangers of spiritual sliding.  The yawning abyss waits for the sinners, whose wickedness makes them "heavy as lead," and only the "mere pleasure" of God keeps them from burning in the images of "fiery floods" and "fire of wrath."  Especially, the image of the sinner held over the fires of hell by only a gossamer thread is effectively fear-inspiring as many Puritans fled in fear from Edwards's revival.

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