Biblical References In Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Jonathan Edwards was an American revivalist preacher in the mid-1700s that used violent, intimidating, and terrifying metaphors in his very well-known sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. The imagery he used in his sermon was used to provoke fear in his readers, to scare them enough to incite a need for repentance within his congregation. His readers were scared because of the way he describes Hell and how it was the ultimate worst thing that could happen to anyone, therefore his readers didn’t want to be sent there and would repent. His imagery to this day instills a desire in readers for salvation, all of his metaphors are based on passages in the bible which are still very well known today. His images were created to perceive the floods of God’s vengeance coming down with fury and of God’s wrath being ready to pierce through a sinner’s heart at any given moment. He showed that God’s wrath was like a furnace on fire and was ready and waiting to consume sinners. His metaphors represented a stereotypical view of God’s wrath and his hell.

Edwards first metaphor designs the image of God’s vengeance and his wrath taking in blood form. He says “floods of God’s vengeance has been withheld” from overtaking all sinners but that there isn’t really any safety in it (107). The image reminds me of a tsunami coming towards a city in our current world. Large tsunamis have the power to destroy even some of the strongest building structures, and there is no way to prevent tsunamis from happening or damaging everything in its way. Because of this, the metaphor of God’s wrath in the form of a flood or tsunami makes it still relevant today and it causes people to still try to avoid the situation by promoting that fear so effectively.

The second metaphor of God’s wrath taking the form of a bow is the opposite of the first because it is less relatable today. Edwards tries to explain that God’s wrath is like a bow that is “bent”, but that it comes with an arrow that is still ready to pierce whoever’s heart has angered God. He states “justice bends the arrow…and strains the bow”(108), and while it is easy to imagine an arrow piercing through one’s heart, it makes it difficult to believe that it would actually happen now. Being shot by a gun is more probable now than being struck by an arrow now in our current times. Now what Edwards meant by injustice bending the arrow, it references his statement on how God only punishes and deals with people accordingly and those who deserve it. This imagery was easily understood, but it just wasn’t nearly as effective for our current times now.

The third and final metaphor example is “the great furnace wrath” (109), and this metaphor is repeated many times throughout the sermon by emphasizing the image it’s giving to add to the effectiveness. Edwards continues to talk about the furnace and how “hot” it still is, he’s trying to intimidate in a subliminal way that God can distribute his wrath when he pleases. He then provides more details such as “burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than… before”(111). That detail adds a sense of urgency and intimidation into its audience to push them to repent, and if one does not repent then it will only increase God’s wrath. This metaphor was the one that was more effective in its message for today’s times. Another common image is the one of Satan overlooking Hell and being surrounded by its fire. This makes the idea possible that God can bring you down in fire just as much as Satan can and this empowers the image that suggests the true ability of the divine. Edwards created and expanded this fear by then saying “hang by a slender thread with the flames of the divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it” over “a wide and bottomless pit full of the fire of wrath” (109). This image portrayed just how close the congregation was to feel God’s wrath if they didn’t repent as soon as possible.

Jonathan Edwards overall was very detailed in all of his imagery examples throughout his sermon, and effectively promoted fear and intimidation within the congregation. He also combined some biblical references with his beliefs to paint God as angry, wrathful, and a God that sticks to his word and going through with his word when it came to destroying sinners whenever he desired. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” does an amazing job at representing how weak and powerless Edwards really believed humans were. To Edwards, God was the strongest force known to him and that man will ever know or could imagine. Many of his images and metaphors still intrigue his audience today and provoke some as well, they’re effective in intimidating his audience into repenting before his almighty God.  

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