Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
God could throw you into hell at any moment. Jonathan Edwards believed that and shared it with his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. His sermon was about how God is disgusted in humans and thought they deserved his wrath. It persuaded people using different techniques which made it so successful.
Persuading others can be a difficult task, but not for Edwards. His purpose was to persuade people to change their lives and achieved that. Edwards used scare tactics, believing that people in fear will want to change so they will not go to hell. God “looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire” (Edwards 2). A human is seen as feeble and disgusting in the eyes of God, someone who should be thrown into hell. They will want to change their lives because “it is nothing but [God’s] mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction” (Edwards 2). There is hope though. “You have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to the poor sinners” (Edwards 3). He believes that even though you are a sinner, there is hope for you to change when Christ offers his help. His persuasion was strong enough, or scary enough, to have people alter the way they live.
Persuasion uses techniques to influence others. Edwards uses a few persuasive techniques such as repetition, emotional appeal, and metaphors. Repetition is very prominent in his sermon, as he repeats things about God’s wrath and how God is angry with you. Edwards appeals to the emotional appeal of people. He shows “how awful it is to be left behind on such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl in vexation of spirit!” (Edwards 3). The audience who reads this will feel sorrowful or scared that they will end up “pining and perishing” and “have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart” instead of being joyful (Edwards 3). He scares the audience, guilts them, but then gives them the hope that they can be saved. Metaphors are also inserted into his sermon. He compares God’s wrath to a sword and bow and arrow, where he can strike at any moment.
Edwards’ sermon was not successful with his own people, but that may be because they were used to hearing it. When he went around to different churches and gave his sermon, people were moved greatly by it. Edwards used powerful imagery in his sermon, like describing someone “dangling on a thread above fire” (2). It fired up people’s emotions and scared them or some imagery gave them hope. It was influential to the people because they believed they could change if they did as Edwards’ had said in his sermon. With his use of imagery, emotional appeal, and persuasion, his sermon was very successful and people changed their because of it.
Many sermons like this would not be as successful today because of the diversity in religion and it is not as important to the mass of people. During Edwards’ time though, it was a very important writing that sparked the lives of many. One sermon can influence people so greatly, they want to change everything about themselves.