Edwards begins “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with an extended metaphor based on a passage from Deuteronomy, and this metaphor recurs throughout the sermon. In fact, his opening argument is essentially just a process of drawing out the metaphorical implications of the phrase “Their foot shall slide in due time.” It essentially states that the path on which man treads during his time on Earth is fundamentally unstable, that we can slip and fall at any moment, and that in fact we will slip—and would have already fallen, but for the support of God. No amount of care or circumspection, he says, can prevent this; only the temporary grace of God and, ultimately, the intervention of Jesus Christ can save us.
A Dam on a Flooded River (Metaphor)
One of the more striking metaphors for God’s wrath, which is so often likened to a raging fire, is that of a powerful river held back by a dam. What’s so effective about this image is that, paradoxically, God is both the raging, powerful waters, and the dam that holds them back from sweeping away and drowning those who are living in sin. And the implication is that, like a river that has been unnaturally obstructed, God’s wrath only increases in tension and power the longer it is held back.
Kings and Princes (Simile)
Edwards frequently compares the total power that God holds over humans with the power that earthly princes and kings hold over their subjects—though of course he makes sure to emphasize that God’s power is infinitely greater. By means of this simile, he draws on the real-world knowledge many of his parishioners likely had of the consequences of drawing the anger of their earthly rulers, encouraging them to imagine how much more serious the consequences must be of the wrath of a power that knows no bounds.
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.