A look into Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hand of God"

por E. Aponte


Jonathan Edwards' overwhelming, smothering style in "Sinners in the Hand of God" makes a reader glad the puritans' zeitgeist has been eclipsed by a new time and a new spirit. Edwards use the most abdominal and unmerciful parts of nature to terrify his listeners into converting themselves. Invoking hellish images was one of those things that were kept throughout the sermon as well as the overall theme; whoever does not convert and bows down to God will burn in Hell for eternity. Edwards was often criticized for his harsh point of views, but this did not stop him from becoming a controversial character in American history.

Edwards' technique is to use the most stunning metaphors, words, and examples to deluge a reader with feelings of guilt. Considering the audience he intended this for, this was probably quite effective. Puritans felt their godliness was so imperative, so all-consuming, they secluded themselves in small communities and ceased to take advantage of technological and economic advances beyond colonial times. Religious leaders like Edwards could drive a person to the point where he feels hopelessly doomed by his own sinfulness--lacking clear-cut reasons for this fate and devoid of salvation.

Edwards uses such imagery mercilessly. His sentences are meticulously worded so that there can be no doubt of their incisiveness, their disgust at those who set their eyes upon them. He explains this to such a level that you cannot help but smell the pit of fire, and feel the flames around you. Mentioning how “God’s wrath” is a black cloud that is waiting for you to be a sinner, and unleash the most powerful storm. The same wrath that burns like fire, that will have no mercy to let you go into an eternity of suffering, and will cause the most dolorous cries.

Eventually, he used the beauty of repetition to persuade his reading into converting. He kept reminding his listeners the wrath of God. Judging them but at the same time giving them hope to repent themselves. Telling them that if they did not bow down to God that day, the suffering they would encounter in hell will be worst than anything they could imagine. There was not a paragraph where he did not say this. This strategy kept the audience focused on what he was saying. Edwards was not afraid of sounding intimidating. On the contrary, that was his main goal; intimidate people into converting.

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