Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Introduction
by Jonathan Edwards

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So you’re going to teach Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenges—frightening subject matter, dense allusions, syntactic complexity—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” will give them historical insight into the First Great Awakening and reveal the rhetorical artistry of church sermons. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1741 
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 8th and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 7, 240 
  • Author: Jonathan Edwards 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Sermon 
  • Literary Period: American Colonial 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Supernatural, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Enfield, Connecticut, 1741 
  • Structure: Prose, Protestant Sermon 
  • Tone: Grave, Instructive, Condemnatory

Texts That Go Well With "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"

“A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630) is a seminal sermon by John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the second major Puritan colony in New England. According to legend, Winthrop composed “A Modell of Christian Charity” on a ship from England to Boston, where he delivered his message of moral rectitude, brotherly love, and American exceptionalism. 

“Contemplations” (17th century) is a long poem by Anne Bradstreet, a Puritan settler and poet widely considered among the first literary figures in American history. Unlike the staunch sermons of her fellow Puritans, Bradstreet’s verse approaches religious topics obliquely. In her masterpiece “Contemplations,” she handles her biblical and spiritual subject matter with musicality, patience, and curiosity. 

Freedom of the Will (1754) is another key sermon by Jonathan Edwards. The central concern of the sermon is the Protestant notion of “total depravity.” According to this notion, posited by Edwards,...

(The entire section is 493 words.)