Puritanism, a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th century which sought to “purify” the Church of England, Anglican Church. Puritans became noted for a spirit of moral and religious pledge that determined their whole way of life, and they sought through church reform to make their lifestyle the pattern for the whole nation. Their efforts to transform the nation led to a civil war in England, and to the founding of the colonies in America as working models of the Puritan way of life. The excerpt from Jonathon Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, is an example on how Puritans followed their religion. Jonathon Edwards’ work describes how God hated Puritans for their sins; which led the Puritans to feel guilty for their sins. With the wrath of God and the guilt man felt, the damnation and salvation principal became the focus of Puritanism.
The Puritans religion had the belief that they were sinners, and that God hated them for their sins. According to Jonathon Edwards, God hates man… “‘Tis true that judgement against your evil work has not been executed…” (Edwards 41). He used evil work as a metaphor for sins. Bremmer’s article Puritanism, its Essence and Attraction describes God’s creation of man, man’s fall from his grace, and how we became sinners. “Man was part of God’s creation and was made in the image of God. The relationship between God and the first man Adam was described as a covenantal bond. In the words of the Puritan West – minister Confession, ‘life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.’ But ‘our first parents’ violated this covenant…” (Bremmer 20). Since our first parents violated this covenant, they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in their sin. The effects from this original sin were born by all men thereafter.
Since the Puritans believed that we were all sinners, the Preachers often utilized the concepts of the wrath of God and guilt in their sermons. God was so angry with man that his wrath was great. Edwards in his sermon described God’s wrath in terms of metaphors. His wrath was so vengeful that he described floodwaters being held by a dam. It was God’s will that the dam did not break, and wipe man out. “Puritans spoke frequently in his benevolence” (Bremmer 20). God had ill will toward man, and only salvaged a few and left the rest for damnation.
Man after the fall was by nature sinful, and for sinning against God man deserves damnation. This was a central belief of Puritanism. Every man was in the hands of an angry God. “Thus are all you that never passed under a great change of heart by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; … ’tis nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this movement swallowed up in everlasting destruction” (Edwards 42). At the time God created Adam, man’s salvation depended on his own actions. God pledged happiness to Adam in return for man’s absolute obedience to the will of God. The Covenant of Works exemplifies this concept in Puritanism. In the fall, man broke the covenant, and lost his opportunity to be salvaged. The consequences of man’s sin could only be reversed through divine action. God provided the release by the Covenant of Redemption. “… the agreement whereby the Father compacted with the Son to provide the salvation of some men and women through Christ’s sacrifice” (Bremmer 21). This superficial order for the sins of mankind made possible individual redemption through the Covenant of Grace. Once man reached this Covenant, believing in God could redeem him.
The excerpt from Jonathon Edward’s sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, focused on Puritanism theology. He addressed the issues of man as a sinner, God’s hate of sinners – wrath of God. Throughout the sermon he addressed the damnation of man, the process of salvation and redemption. He hammered at his congregation using guilt and fear for their souls. Thus Edwards’ sermon incorporated the three covenants; Covenant of Works, Covenant of Redemption, and Covenant of Grace.