AP Language and Composition 01
1 March 2018
Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God
In the sermon, Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards, scathingly attempts to persuade Puritans to turn to God to seek forgiveness before it’s too late by instilling fear into his speech. He instills fear not only by his forceful choice of words but also by his imagery. The imagery is elaborated on with the syntax and metaphors that emotionally affect the Puritans and non-Christians. This would be even more effective due to him being a preacher.
The choice of words that Edwards decided to subsume were very cacophonous and pompous. The fact that the words are very loaded would lead to the Puritans and non-Christians having a lot to decipher and think about. According to him, the people who sin are left “hanging” over a “hot” and “fiery pit” which God can easily “cast” them “down to hell”. Due to what he says, the Puritans and non-Christians would be very fearful due to having a preacher scorn at them. The message that Edwards wants to spread would stay on their mind due to the message being very loaded.
Imagery also goes hand by hand with the diction that he chose. The effects that it has is almost identical to the effects that diction has. By elaborating on God’s wrath by describing hell would incite fear into the sinners. This would make them want to change and ask for forgiveness. Imagery is also employed with metaphors. Edwards inserts many metaphors that would work side by side with the imagery such as by comparing a human to a spider and its web. The point that wanted to be done here was to portray a person as being as defenseless as a spider due to it being so small compared to outside forces. If a rock were to fall on it then the web would completely fall apart and that’s what would happen if the sinners chose not to ask God for forgiveness. Another point that was put out there was humans walking on a bridge made out of rotten wood. This gives an impression that at any point, that bridge could collapse and the sinners could fall into the “fiery pit” of hell. Images such as these are bound to stay on their mind.
If that weren’t enough to stay on their mind then the syntax could assure it. The way that Edwards decided to contrive his sermon was by the exertion of long sentences. Long sentences in his case would serve to create suspension and agony into the sinners. It engenders frustration and and fear as he expounds on how the sinners “wickedness” makes them “as heavy as lead” and how they “tend downward” with their “great weight and pressure towards hell”. However, he does not stop there as he continues to extend the dreadfulness. He later processes what would happen if God were to let them go and how they would “immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf”. The sinners “healthy constitution”, “own care”, “prudence”, “best contrivance”, and “righteousness” would be no stronger than a spider’s web trying to stop a fallen rock. All that put into one long sentence extends the misery that the sinners have to listen to. It fosters trepidation.
Edwards successfully achieved his purpose of dissuading the sinners from sinning and to persuade them to reach to God and ask for forgiveness. His methods of enticing terror into his sermon and dehumanizing the sinners would effectively lead the sinners to desire a change due to not wanting to go to the hell that Edwards descriptively elaborated on.