Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” AP Writing Prompt Analyze how Edwards’s distinctive style reveals his purpose to his audience.

In Puritan America, colonists were constantly fearful of what would happen when they died. Since death at a young age was altogether too common in those times, early Americans wanted to be sure that they were right with God. Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards understood these fears within his congregation and took advantage of them to make an argument for salvation, putting “the fear of God” in his audience through his distinctive speaking style. In his popular sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Edwards utilized appeals to pathos vivid imagery, and a powerful closing argument to reach his audience.

Edwards spoke of God in a way that appealed to pathos, or the emotions and feelings of the audience. He described God as “dreadfully provoked” and full of wrath and anger, holding sinners over the pits of Hell by a mere string. The Puritans, a very pious people who concerned themselves with religion more than almost anything else, would have felt guilty, uneasy, and nervous after hearing this. By appealing to these powerful emotions, Edwards seemed to have tried to provoke this thought into the minds of his congregation: “God hates me, but He is giving me a chance at salvation…if I don’t take it, He will be even angrier at me than he already is.” Edwards used very vivid and terrifying imagery to convey his message to his listeners. His description of hell would have surely frightened and disturbed his audience, to the point where they could not help but listen. Edwards wanted these descriptions of a place where “the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot” to motivate his congregation to accept God and turn away from their wicked ways. Whereas many modern-day preachers would use a more cautious approach to communicating to the audience about the afterlife, Edwards was not afraid to approach this sensitive subject...
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