During the time of the Great Awakening, religious spirit flooded throughout America. This was a time for puritans to repent to God, guaranteeing an eternal life in Heaven. The wise theologian, Jonathan Edwards, wrote a vigorous and persuasive sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards’ use of imagery, figurative language, and angered arguments shaped this sermon, to show the congregation the gruesome consequences of sinning. The use of imagery in Edwards’ work lets the audience experience a three dimensional view of God’s wrath. The horror and trepidation pending the sinning congregation is remarkably effective, helping Edwards’ purpose of persuading sinners to repent. He describes how man is held in God’s hand over the fiery pits of Hell, knowing he could drop you at any second. God is always there holding you, until he decides that it’s your time to burn eternally in Hell. This image frightens the listeners, and is a way to make them feel uncomfortable enough to convince them to stick with God.
Edwards’ compares God’s wrath to “great waters”, which have the potential to rise above and cause people great destruction, if God chooses to let the flood gates open. A similar image that was used is a comparison of God’s wrath to a bow and arrow, with the bow bent and the arrow waiting to penetrate the sinner’s heart. These two examples helped the congregation view Edwards’ purpose in a more familiar and relatable way. Simple and vivid metaphors were used and were also very effective.
The corrupt ways of sinners and their state of evil were as “heavy as lead,” which is God pulling souls down to Hell. Another frightening message Edwards’ conveys is the likelihood of being accepted into heaven. He compares the acceptance with the chance of “A spider’s web would have to stop a fallen rock.” This metaphor shows the seriousness of sin, and why a sinner should want to repent. The comparison of a sinner to a serpent or spider portrays the way God despises a sinner. Spiders and serpents are hated by humans, which makes sinners highly despised by God. Throughout the sermon, Edwards’ has a judgmental and angry tone. He uses this tone in his arguments, to make the audience feel that sudden impact of guilt. Having this repetitive anger, he is able to have his lecture scare the congregation, and have it open their mind in a different way.
He uses the words “you” and “your” as a direct target and blame to the audience. By doing this, the audience can sit back in their seats and feel the guilt hit them like a ton of bricks, just like Edwards would want. Another evident way of making the audience feel guilty is by simply calling them “sinner,” which Edwards has done multiple times in his piece. Edwards’ sentence structure grants another opportunity to make his audience suffer. The torture, torment, and destructiveness of Hell is heavily described and done in long and elaborate sentences, making the audience have to suffer through them. Edwards’ furious tone and picture of a Hell full of consequences captivated the minds of sinners, and scared them away from what could become their life eternally. The wrath and intimidation of God persuaded an audience to repent in a clever way.