In "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," to what two creatures does Edwards compare sinners?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edwards compares sinners to spiders and venomous serpents.

In the sermon, Edward initially compares lost souls to spiders. He states that God holds sinners over the fires of Hell in the same way one would hold a spider. He maintains that his listeners are ten thousand times more loathsome in God's eyes than a venomous snake is in theirs.

He also maintains that his listeners' healthy constitution and self-righteousness are as effective in preventing them from falling into the pit of Hell as a spider's web is at stopping a falling rock. In other words, Edwards characterizes sinners as no better than mere insects; they are powerless to protect themselves against the wrath of God.

In comparing sinners to venomous snakes, Edwards is also insinuating that lost souls belong to the Devil (whom Edwards characterizes as the "old serpent"). He warns that many demons lurk about like hungry lions and that, if God should withdraw his protection, sinners would quickly be "swallowed up and lost."

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this sermon, Edwards likens sinners to spiders and to other types of insects:

"That God holds you over the Pit of Hell, as one holds a Spider or some loathsome Insect."

In addition, Edwards also likens political figures, rulers and monarchs ("Potentates") to a worm:

"...are but feeble, despicable Worms of the Dust."

By imagining sinners in this way, Edwards expresses his disgust for those who sin: they are little more than an insect, of little or no importance, and waiting to be trampled upon by God. Moreover, this image of insects suggests that sinners are inferior to other, God-abiding people. In other words, he dehumanises sinners. 

Moreover, in creating this comparison, Edwards creates a powerful call to action to his parishioners. He wants them to turn their back on sin and to realise that only God can save them from spending the rest of eternity in Hell. 

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his sermon, Edwards first compares sinners to spiders or other disgusting insects:

. . . [God] holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect . . . .

In the same paragraph, he compares sinners to poisonous snakes:

. . . you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours . . . .

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

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