God appears first in the title and is the sermon’s most oft-repeated noun. And this God, whenever mentioned, is angry. Edwards draws on the full range of his considerable literary talents to craft images that attempt to convey the full extent and character of this anger, or “wrath.” Perhaps the single most memorable picture of the angry God Edwards presents is that of a being who “abhors” mankind to the point that He “holds you over the pit of hell like some spider or loathsome insect over a fire.” Make no mistake: the God of this sermon is Old Testament and old school. Even his mercy is expressed only as an arbitrary decision not to just step aside and let the devils have at us, feasting upon our souls like ravenous lions.
Jesus Christ, the Redeemer
All is not doom, however. While God the Father is Old Testament wrath through and through, the New Testament does come into play. Though, left to our own devices, in the face of God’s judgment we’re all doomed, through the mediation of the Redeemer—Jesus Christ—salvation is still possible. Edwards' sermon is so full of fire and brimstone, blood and wrath, death and damnation, that, as he surely intended, it comes to seem a miracle that us lowly sinners can be saved at all, through the “covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises will most surely come to pass.”
“God,” “Christ” and “Jesus” collectively appear in the text roughly as often as the word “you.” Rather than addressing his listeners as sinners—a word which actually does not show up that often in the body of the sermon—the listeners are addressed collectively through the plural “you.” Thus, God abhors “you.” It is “your wickedness” that presses “you downward to hell.” This “you,” which effectively becomes a synonym for “sinners,” quickly replaces the Israelites or other biblical figures as the object of God’s wrath and Edwards’s warnings. This rhetorical strategy, in which the listeners at first believe that they’re merely listening to a tale of the wickedness of others, long ago in the past, is one of the most powerful elements of the sermon.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.