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Posted on April 17th, 2014, by

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is probably one of the most famous sermons in American history. The sermon was delivered in Enfield (Connecticut) on July 8, 1741 at the height of the First Great Awakening. Analyzing the sermon, it can be said that this is a typical Puritan awakening sermon, which warns of the further holy judgment hanging over the unbelievers. Thus, we are going to dwell on the main aspects of this sermon for the aim to demonstrate its impact on people’s minds.

It is a truth that Edwards, being a Congregationalist preacher, maintained strict Calvinist rules and principles, but times has changed and even Calvinist theology became more patient to some aspects of people’s faith. For instance, from the early beginning Congregationalists were sure that only people who converted to the true faith can be members of their communities because Calvinistic understanding of the conversion to faith required the presence of special dramatic experiences in people who were admitted to their communities, and those experiences were necessary to certify the exclusivity rights for salvation. However, after a generation or two, many of the faithful Congregationalists have stopped looking for similar experiences, and therefore, could not be accepted in the local church. The church stood in the face of crisis and then heads of Congregationalists compromised, and thus, allowed believers to visit the church and baptize their children there. Naturally, this greatly increased the flow of worshipers in the church and caused the beginning of the so-called Great Awakening, which has become the most important event in the religious life of America in Colonial period. Thus, Edwards, being a representative of Calvinist theology, was strict in his sermon depicting the true will and power of God, demonstrating that sinners are in the hands of an almighty God, who can punish sinners at any moment, but Edward also added a thought that every person has a possibility to make aware of the own past sins and try to live better using the principles of sinless life.

It is an undoubtful fact that the sermon was frightening by its nature, but it was a very important technique to frighten people for the purpose to awake their inner emotional experience and force them to reconsider their previous experience. In addition, the sermon not only underlined everything bad that can happen to people for the sins, but it also stated that God is mercy and he even can keep his enemies from the immediate overthrow to the hell. To add, one of the most important moments for Edwards was to make every person to understand and think about his message, so he chose his words carefully to allow his listeners to perceive this subject as real practice. To achieve this, he used vivid images along with the biblical teaching in his explanation. As a result of this sermon, the audience experienced a dramatic revival.

In summary, Jonathan Edwards was a great preacher of his time, who was able to use his natural oratorical skills for the purpose to convert people in true faith where sins open the dark side of human soul, while religious thoughts and way of life give a hope for salvation. Therefore, Edwards, giving people a chance to change sinful thought and acts to virtuous ones, proved that the Calvinist theology is not a kind of dry academic disciplines, but it is a possibility to live better developing the own spiritual health and right positive outlook.

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