person lying in the fetal position surrounded by hellfire

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

by Jonathan Edwards
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What was Jonathan Edwards trying to accomplish with his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

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Jonathan Edwards believed that too many people were falling away from what he regarded as the true faith. This is a common theme of religious revivals such as the Great Awakening, of which Edwards was such a leading figure. In his famous sermon Edwards rails against what he sees as...

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Jonathan Edwards believed that too many people were falling away from what he regarded as the true faith. This is a common theme of religious revivals such as the Great Awakening, of which Edwards was such a leading figure. In his famous sermon Edwards rails against what he sees as growing immorality among the people of New England. He notes with horror the "lewd practices" in which so many are engaged, such as socializing between the sexes and the frequenting of taverns.

Strange as it may sound in our more secular age, Edwards genuinely believed that, what for him were such immoral actions, placed those who practiced them in serious danger of going to hell. This accounts for the urgency of Edwards's pulpit oratory, and his lurid warnings of what happens to sinners when they are consigned to the flames. He wants to put the fear of God into his audience to shake them out of their complicity, to make them change their ways before it's too late.

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Jonathan Edwards's sermon was delivered in Enfield, Connecticut in 1741 during the religious revival movement known as the (First) Great Awakening. His aim was to bring as many people as he could back to Christianity as colonial society was becoming more secular and diverse. His goal was to convert the unconverted and revitalize the active faith of believers. His approach in this famous sermon was to strike fear into the hearts of his listeners as he detailed the horrors of Hell that await sinners who fail to take advantage of the opportunity to gain God's grace. The bulk of the sermon dwells on how tenuous man's relationship with God is and how God could drop sinners into Hell at any time—and how sinners should fear God's immense wrath.

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