What is one of the most vivid images from the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and how did it make you feel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post identified a nice (albeit disturbing) excerpt from Edwards' sermon.  One of the most striking images I take from it would be Edwards' moral clarity.  It seems so powerful to me that he can articulate a position where there is little ambiguity or vagueness.  Granted, the Great Awakening was convinced in its sincerity of wanting to reestablish the place of religion in the colonies.  However, when Edwards dismisses those who refuse to accept the presence of divinity, it is striking how convinced he is:

They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins.

Following such absolutism, Edwards continues with "The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back."  I suppose I am struck by the ability of any human being to hold so much conviction and dogmatic belief in the powers of divinity.  Something that is so complex and intricate as the workings of the divine also seems to be something that lies outside any absolutes.  Apparently, such intricacies did not apply to Edwards with such imagery.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is really a question you're going to have answer for yourself to some extent, because just because I (or someone else) finds an image to be vivid doesn't mean you will...

But here's mine:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.

I find it vivid because I find it easy to picture someone doing this with an insect.  And because I hate spiders, I can picture how I'd feel.

As far as how this makes me feel, it makes me feel like Jonathan Edwards has a view of God completely different from my own.  I remember how I felt as a little boy doing things like that to loathsome insects and I don't think God is supposed to feel that way.

parama9000 | Student

Among the two examples here, the insect one strikes me more because I can relate to it, so go along with an example with a theme you can relate to.

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

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