"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards' the most famous sermon, is now considered as a masterpiece of colonial American literature. It is a revival sermon delivered in 1741 during the Great Awakening. The sermon itself is rigorously structured, falling roughly into five distinguishable parts: text, context, doctrines, arguments, and applications. The text from which Edwards begins is a portion of a Bible verse from the Old Testament, specifically Deuteronomy Chapter 32, which reads simply “Their foot shall slide in due time.” In the context given in the following paragraph, Edwards clarifies that this verse concerns "the wicked Israelites," who were once the chosen people of God. They had to abide by The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, to remain God's chosen people, but failed to do so, and so fell into damnation.
Only after he has laid out the exceedingly perilous, tenuous, sinful state of the Israelites, does Edwards pivot to addressing the congregation directly, making clear that he has in fact been describing their own condition this entire time. From then on, “you” (the congregation) are the “Sinners,” and Edwards spends the vast majority of the sermon that follows reiterating in highly colorful, compelling imagery the extent of God’s anger towards “you” and the horrific punishments that await should “you” fail to allow yourself to be “reborn” in the “mediator” and “redeemer” Jesus Christ. “Sinners…” is a brilliant piece of rhetoric, calculated to inculcate an overwhelming fear in its audience, a fear powerful enough that they are willing to do absolutely anything necessary to avoid the horrific fate he describes.