Editors’ Note: This is an essay written by a student in Mr. Key’s Humanities class.
“Their foot shall slide in due time.” Deuteronomy 32:35. Every man is within reach of God’s wrath mercy; furthermore, deserving sinners can be cast down to hell at any time, and they only remain because God has decided that it is not their time.
Since The Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was preached in the beginning of the Great Awakening it became a starting point for a time of religious change. In the 1730s, the Great Awakening embraced the evolving world and Church when it was straying from the basic values of Puritism. God is not forgiving in unyielding Original Puritism. Puritism from the Great Awakening created a wide spread revelation that God can be more merciful and forgiving. Even though God has all the power and ability to cast sinful men to hell he does not until it is their time, displaying clemency and a step towards a true merciful God. The Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God evolved like the perception God in the Great Awakening.
A central message in the sermon pertains to God, yet it can also be applied to unbelievers, for the message was humans design their own fate. The choices make are their future; furthermore, humans are their choices. As societal creatures, humans live in communities, so they are affected by lives around them. Though outside forces influence choices they never make the choices, for that is what creates the individual that they can not be helped from themselves, but still lives in a world full of people. People are in control of themselves, both a freedom and burden.
Vivid imagery of hell and God’s wrath establishes fear that captivates his audience. Edwards uses vivid metaphors of God’s hands holding sinners above the fiery pits of hell as a rhetoric technique to continually reinforce the danger of being a natural man. Metaphors are a very powerful tool when compared to an act of atrocity or horrible action that has already been experienced or seen. The people of this time era were usually uneducated and Edwards bridged God’s message from the written bible to actions that could be comprehend by the congregation.
Edwards’ dramatic, strong language reflects his intense opinions and exceedingly strong will. A lasting feeling of power impresses upon the reader through the intensity of the words. Edwards’ subtler writing appeals to pathos. Logos and Ethos are hard to bring into a sermon, for it’s hard to find ethics and logic when talking about God. Pathos is passion and emotions; therefore, his every word oozed pathos.
Fear is arguably the most powerful emotion because it can be used by leaders to keep their followers under their thumb, and Edwards’ writing seeps fear and power, most specifically that of God. Some sermons, like Edwards’, manipulate the crowd through the fear and strong opinions. Manipulating the crowd is very easy through sermons because at that time people were very religious, building their life around God’s words. Sermons include scripture, passages from the Bible, and people believe in God; therefore, they believe in the sermons. Edwards’ words that create the sermon are power, as a result he is powerful over the people because the people believe.
Religion is everlasting because people with always believe. Throughout the ages musicians, writers artists, etc. endlessly delve into the subject of religion, seriously or comically, and the faith of its believers. Randy Newman wrote a song in 1972, God’s Song, that is a satire about people’s unconditional love of God, and an example of how loving unconditionally hurts the person loving the most. It is dangerously careless to have such faith or love in one being because even God will take advantage of it. Edwards, whether it was intention or not, manipulates the crowd, for they had unconditional love and faith in God. Love and faith makes religion dangerous, especially in a time where no science was present to contradict it.
Sermons are important in understanding the people of the Colonial Period because Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom. By building their government and life around religion it made their deep faith their vulnerability. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a literature piece that embraces powerful religious change; in fact, constant reiteration implies the messages are unchangeable fact. The sermon was written at the beginning of the Great Awakening as a persuasion piece for its ideals and embraces the Great Awakening.