Introduction to Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a sermon delivered by preacher Johnathan Edwards in July of 1741. It was famously well-received by Edward’s congregation, and the impassioned tone and intimidating images of fire and brimstone helped spark the First Great Awakening, a religious movement that swept across the colonial United States during the mid eighteenth century. This era was characterized by a focus on morality, repentance, and each individual's personal relationship with God and religion. Edwards’s sermon is evocative of this ideology, as he encourages listeners to view sin as a proverbial slippery slope, reminding them that it is only through God’s grace that humankind is offered a path towards redemption.

The sermon’s core message is based heavily around Deuteronomy 32:35, which describes how close humans are to falling off the righteous path at any given moment. Edwards uses this passage to inform the rest of his speech, where he reminds people that sin is easy, whereas redemption and righteousness are difficult. Hell is figured as the fiery and horrific domain that awaits sinners, and Edwards suffuses the sermon with repetitive images of hell, damnation, and death in order to reinforce the importance of following a moral and Godly path.

A Brief Biography of Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was an American preacher and Christian theologian who played a major role in the First Great Awakening. Edwards was the only son of Timothy Edwards, a minister and preacher, and Esther Stoddard. Esther’s father, Solomon Stoddard, played a major role in liberalizing the Congregational Protestant Church. Edwards was not as liberal as his maternal grandfather, but Stoddard’s beliefs did influence some of his opinions regarding the power of the clergy and the importance of fire-and-brimstone preaching.

In addition to his devout Christian beliefs, Jonathan Edwards was a student of natural science and philosophy. Unlike some of his contemporaries, who felt that science disproved or otherwise corrupted the teachings of the church, Edwards felt that the wonders of the natural world were further proof of God’s power. His most famous work, the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” helped spark a second round of religious revivals throughout New England, and many of his children carried on his clerical legacy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

"The wrath of God is like great waters" metaphorically depicts God's anger towards humans as rising higher, much as water held back by a damn does. Nothing humans are doing lessens God's fury at...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

There is a great deal of visual imagery in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Much of it is used in the same way: to compare God's restraint of his anger to something else which can only be...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

At the time of Jonathan Edwards's preaching of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” his Puritan audiences generally believed that hell was a literal place full of suffering and fiery torments....

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The central idea of Edwards's sermon is that humans are helpless on their own and must rely on an all-powerful God to save them from hell. Edwards compares the human condition to the plight of a...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

There are arguably two sides to how God is portrayed in this famous sermon. On the one hand, he is merciful, and it is this mercy that prevents people from going straight to hell and enduring an...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards uses the image of fire throughout his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". This sermon, delivered at the beginning of the First Great Awakening, was designed to drive...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 3:36 pm (UTC)

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Although Jonathan Edwards was typical known to conduct his sermons in a calm, restrained manner, his most famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is an exception. This sermon is in...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

In his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards compares sinners to vermin—specifically, worms and spiders. Indeed, one of the most memorable images from the sermon is...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards's use of imagery in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is primarily intended to make his message more striking and urgent. Edwards achieves this by using simple objects and...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

There is a notable shift in tone during the last three paragraphs of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” For most of the sermon, Edwards unleashes a veritable hailstorm of hellfire and...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The first and most apparent way in which Jonathan Edwards's style contributes to the persuasiveness of his sermon is the sheer force of his thunderous rhetoric. This use of pathos is continual and...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards's God is angry because of man, his greatest creation. God created man to worship and adore him, as well as to love his fellow man. But man has strayed from his creator. Instead of...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Renowned American revivalist and theologian Jonathan Edwards delivered his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to his church in Northampton, Massachusetts, and then in Enfield,...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Rhetorical devices are elements that an author or speaker will use to persuade his or her audience. The person delivering the message should, ideally, use logos, pathos, and ethos to persuade an...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

In one of the many unforgettable images that Edwards uses in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” he compares God's wrath to black clouds hanging over the heads of his congregation. These clouds...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Tone can be defined as the author or speaker's attitude toward a subject or an audience, and the choice of words generally indicates the tone of the piece. Jonathan Edwards's tone is unapologetic...

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By its own standards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was incredibly effective. In preaching his forbidding sermon, Jonathan Edwards hoped to instill the fear of God into his audience,...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The preacher who composed and delivered the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was Jonathan Edwards. He was born in Connecticut in 1703, attended Yale, and became a...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was written at a time of strict religious adherence. Edwards, a Puritan preacher and Theologian in eighteenth-century New England, felt...

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is by far his most famous sermon, although it is necessarily the most characteristic of his style of preaching. The reason for this fame \...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:12 am (UTC)

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Summary