Sinners in the hands of an angry god by jonathan edwards
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“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. Focus Activity, p. 100. Think about a time you tried to change someone’s mind. Did you use a gentle approach, scare tactics, or something in between?

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“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards

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“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”by Jonathan Edwards

Focus Activity, p. 100

Think about a time you tried to change someone’s mind. Did you use a gentle approach, scare tactics, or something in between?

In your journal, write about a time when you tried to persuade someone to accept your point of view. How did you do it? How successful were you?

Literary Elements

Metaphor – a figure of speech that compares or equates two seemingly unlike things. In contrast to a simile, a metaphor implies the comparison instead of stating it directly; hence there is no use of connectives such as like or as.

Literary Elements

Imagery – The “word pictures” that writers create to evoke an emotional response.

In creating effective images, writers use sensory details.

Literary Elements

Repetition – The recurrence of sounds, words, phrases, lines, or stanzas in a speech or piece of writing.

Repetition increases the sense of unity in a work and can call attention to particular ideas.

Literary Elements

Sensory details – Evocative words or phrases that appeal to one or more of the five senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste.

Selection Vocabulary

  • Wrath – n. extreme anger; vengeful punishment

  • Appease – v. to bring to a state of peace or quiet; soothe

  • Abate – v. to lessen or reduce in force or intensity

  • Incensed – adj. made very angry

  • Prudence – n. exercise of good and cautious judgment

  • Abhor – v. to regard with disgust

  • Abominable – adj. disgusting; detestable

The Great Awakening

In 1740 the well-known British evangelist George Whitefield joined with Jonathan Edwards to spark a religious revival that swept New England. The Great Awakening was a backlash against what many believed was a church that had grown far too lenient.

Edwards preached a return to Calvinism which stressed predestination, the belief that only a select few chosen by God would be saved. No individual could earn grace by doing good deeds, so everyone was equally powerless to control their own fate.

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Analyze the Title

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Analyze the Title

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Analyze the Title

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Analyze the Title

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Cultural Note

As a Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards believed that some people were favored by God and others were not. This belief was interpreted by some to mean that worldly success was a sign of God’s favor. Many believed that one way God rewarded people for their repentance and pious behavior was with earthly goods.

What is wrong with this assumption?

Visualize the Story

As you read, visualize the faces on the congregation as they listen to the speech.

How might they react?

Could their outward reactions tell how they are reacting inwardly?

“…indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.” (p. 105)

“…all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.” (p. 105)

“The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made rady on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.” (p. 106)


Edwards repeats the word nothing several times. What effect does this have?

It emphasizes that there is nothing the natural man can do to save himself.

Theme of the Selection?

It’s time to turn so you don’t burn!


Edward exhorts his congregation: “Let everyone fly out of Sodom!”

How is this a symbol?

The city of Sodom is believed to have been destroyed by God because nearly everyone in the city was living sinfully. Obviously this congregation does not live in Sodom, so Edwards uses the term to stand for all conditions of sinful living.

Literary Elements: Imagery

Edward’s sermon is filled with images meant to frighten listeners into seeking God and avoiding hell.

  • What frightening images occur in the first two paragraphs? To what senses do they appeal?

    Images of a fiery pit and lake of brimstone appeal to sight and touch.

Literary Elements: Imagery

2. What sensory details does Edwards include in the fourth paragraph? What effect does the imagery have on the reader?

The weight of sin will make the sinner fall. The images frighten and intimidate.

Literary Elements: Imagery

3. List five additional images in the sermon, each of which appeals to a different sense.

  • Bow and arrow of God’s wrath

  • Souls born again

  • The sinner held over hell like a spider

  • A sinner who is like a venomous serpent

  • Hell as a great furnace

Interdisciplinary Activity: Art

Choose a passage from Edwards’s sermon that contains vivid imagery, such as his comparison of sinners to “the most hateful and venomous serpent.” Sketch the passage, or use a computer graphics program to illustrate the scene.

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