Fear and Salvation: Jonathan Edwards' Persuasive Sermon

Categories: GodRhetoricSinners


Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," employs a disdainful tone to catalyze a religious revival within the Puritan communities of colonial America. His weapon of choice is fear, a potent motivator that he strategically deploys to instill a literal fear of God in the hearts of the unconverted individuals within the church. Edwards's sermon creates emotional instability, laying the groundwork for salvation as the ultimate resolution for the entire congregation.

Identifying the Target Audience and Shifting Blame

From the outset, Edwards subtly identifies his target audience: all unconverted men.

Yet, he refrains from directly addressing them, opting for words like "they" and "them." Although the unconverted individuals would recognize that Edwards is referring to them, this indirect approach might provide a shield, preventing them from feeling immediately responsible. However, as Edwards builds towards the climax of his threat against the unconverted, he abruptly shifts from "they" and "them" to "you" and "your," directly confronting and blaming his audience.

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This strategic move aims to expose them to direct culpability, ensuring they feel guilty for each passing day.

Creating Emotional Distress and Providing an Escape

Having emotionally shattered his audience by obliterating all hope of escaping eternal damnation, Edwards then opens an escape hatch, inviting the emotionally distressed congregation to step directly into the salvation he offers. Throughout the sermon, when describing hell, pain, and suffering, Edwards utilizes long, interconnected sentences, purposefully prolonging the audience's agony. Despite the harsh subject matter, the smooth sentence structure prevents the audience from absorbing the content sentence by sentence, forcing them to swallow the entire message whole, inducing panic and emotional distress.

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Edwards employs descriptive words like "no refuge," "left behind," and "the pit is prepared, ready to receive them," creating a sense of impending doom and cornering the guilty individuals.

The Power of Manipulative Language and Passionate Persuasion

The use of condescending language in the sermon's inception evolves into a more severe form of retribution as Edwards condemns the audience for their sins. The language becomes almost mocking during the depiction of eternal punishment, isolating the unconverted and making them feel hopeless about their impending condemnation to hell. As the sermon reaches its zenith, Edwards's tone shifts to a somewhat solemn one, providing a glimmer of hope for those who feel alone. Even as he extends an opportunity for redemption, he maintains persuasive language, coaxing the unconverted to accept God with the promise of salvation, a stark alternative to eternal damnation. Edwards's sermon is driven by his passionate dedication to his religion and his frustration with those who mock it by refusing to accept it as the ultimate truth. He strategically uses manipulative language to isolate the unconverted, rendering them defenseless against a surge of emotional distress, and then offers them a single escape route: acceptance of God for the promise of salvation.

Conclusion: A Persuasive Journey from Fear to Redemption

In conclusion, Jonathan Edwards masterfully navigates the realms of fear and salvation in his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." By strategically identifying his target audience, shifting blame, creating emotional distress, and providing an escape route, Edwards crafts a persuasive narrative that pushes the unconverted towards redemption. His use of manipulative language and impassioned persuasion reveals a sophisticated approach aimed at achieving a religious revival in the Puritan communities of colonial America.

Updated: Dec 15, 2023
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Fear and Salvation: Jonathan Edwards' Persuasive Sermon. (2016, Dec 26). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-god-rhetorical-analysis-essay

Fear and Salvation: Jonathan Edwards' Persuasive Sermon essay
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