Jonathan Edwards's sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” delivers the dogma that only the mercy of God can save one from being condemned to Hell. Edwards appealed to his followers’ fear as a way of guiding his flock towards what he saw as the correct principles of Christian faith; the intensely terrifying metaphors of the sermon were his trademark.
He bases his sermon from Deuteronomy 32:35 "Their foot shall slide in due time" (NAAL 425), which equates in layman terms as “give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.” The quote suggests the idea of a spiral into Hell, setting the mood for the dark sermon to come. "In due time" implies that impending damnation is not only imminent but assured as well. “There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God” (NAAL 426) is the mission statement that Edwards reiterates throughout his sermon. His "considerations" are attempts to justify his doctrine through a combined use of observations and hellish imagery and to illustrate the supremacy of God. Edwards makes his opinion of God’s enemies clear; “They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames” (NAAL 426). Chaff and dry stubble are both highly combustible dry plant material, or fuel for a fire. They will both go up in smoke easily without a threat of dampening the power of God. Edwards leaves little doubt in the minds of his parishioners that the devil wants them, and that God is the only thing keeping them safe. “They (devils) stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are at present kept back” (NAAL 427) brings up a mental image of being dangled like bait. In Edwards’s sermon we are all rife with sin, whether know it or not. Ignorance is no more an excuse in the divine courts than it is in secular ones, and it does not make one safe from danger. God will send a natural or...
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