It’s right there in the title of the sermon: this is an angry god. Throughout the sermon—from the beginning to the end—Edwards reveals God’s wrath through metaphor and imagery. That wrath hangs over everything and God sits poised to unleash it at any moment without any warning. It is a taut bow with arrows aimed directly at the heart of every man, woman, and child, and the only thing keeping that wrath from breaking like a dam and flooding the entire world is God’s grace. It is by the grace of God—and only the grace of God—that any person does not wind up spending eternal damnation in the fiery furnaces of hell. And God’s anger is a righteous reflection of the fact that human beings are, in Edwards’s theology, inherently sinful—creatures more of the Devil than of God.
Edwards’s goal with all this sound and fury about God’s wrath is to instill fear in the listening congregation so that they will understand and appreciate what is at stake. The images that Edwards conveys of hell and damnation are terrifying even to non-believers; imagine how much more horrific they would have been to those in the congregation listening to them. Edwards’s opening set of statements about the moral of his chosen verse from Deuteronomy is nearly a perfect definition of the basic elements of the genre of “horror,” describing a threat that is omnipresent and unforeseeable, and occurs suddenly, without warning, and without any chance of prevention. Though he does tell the congregants what they must do to have a chance of avoiding damnation, he offers no emotional relief from the aura of dread carefully constructed throughout the sermon. In fact, he urges them to carry this terror out into the world with them, ending by exhorting everyone in church to run for their lives and not look back, lest their souls be sent to hell and their bodies turned into pillars of salt.
Heaven Is only Possible Through Christ
The extent of God’s wrath is such that He plays no part in the redemption of any person. The sermon makes it astonishingly clear that as far as any man’s hope for the saving of his soul is concerned, God has washed his hands completely. Edwards assertively states that man should realize God is under absolutely no obligation to see that any one of them doesn’t wind up in hell. And nothing they themselves can do will save them—that power belongs solely to Christ, in whom they must be “reborn” to have any chance of being spared God’s wrath. Those who opt not to take this option are also afforded just one alternative: “that World of Misery, that Lake of burning Brimstone.”
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.