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The setting of Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was his church in Enfield, Connecticut, in 1741, given during what is known as The Great Awakening that roared through the American colonies from about 1738 to 1742. Edwards addressed the sermon specifically to those of his parishioners whom he felt were lacking in religious convictions.
What is arguably more important than the setting, however, are the forces that created the sermon. During The Great Awakening, the Calvinists, an evolution of the Puritans who founded the colonies in New England, were attempting to revive what they viewed as the lagging spiritual strength of the American colonists.
Edwards' sermon was an attempt to recall his congregation to the fundamental beliefs of the Puritans--man's total depravity; unconditional election (only God decides who goes to heaven or hell); Christ's death saved some, but not all, sinners; grace is given by God, not earned by man.
Ultimately, the Great Awakening--the call to return to religious fundamentalism--became a turning point in American history because the population turned not to the religion of the 17thC. but to the new, less fervent, less conservative religion of the 18thC.
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" certainly had a dramatic effect on his congregation, but it was among the last of the 'fire-and-brimstone" sermons. His congregation soon turned to the less harsh God of the 18thC.--a more forgiving and far less angry God.
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