What are 3 rhetorical techniques used in the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God? Are there any examples of figurative language, as well?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Edwards "fire and brimstone" sermon that caused some of his congregation to run from the church in their awe-filled fear of the Lord and eternal damnation contains several literary devices, rhetorical and figurative.

Here are 3 examples of rhetorical devices used in Edwards's sermon:

1. Anaphora - the repeating of a phrase or word that begins successive phrases, clauses or lines

...nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do....

2. Hyperbole - obvious exaggeration for effect or emphasis

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downward with great weight and pressure toward hell....

3. Climax - use of words in ascending order

There is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.


Here are examples of figurative language that abounds in this sermon:

1. Metaphor - Either a direct or implied comparison that equates two unlike things, people, or concepts

The bow of God's wrath (stated comparison) is bent, and the arrow (implied comparison of God's retribution) made ready on the string, and justice [this is personification- giving an idea the qualities of a person] bend the arrow at your heart.....

2. Simile - a stated comparison using the words like or as

That God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire....

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead....

3. Alliteration - the repetition of initial consonant sounds. In this example it is /f/

...His hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury.....

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

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