The purpose of the sermon was to persuade those had not yet converted to the Puritian religion to convert. Edwards talks about saving those who have not converted yet by converting and uses lots of emotion when talking about God. Edwards uses lots of emotional appeal in this sermon as he talks about what God will do to those who do not convert. Edwards also uses a huge amount of imagery when describing hell and heaven. The most two effect are imagery and emotional appeal as this was a sermon based solely on emotion.
The natural men are those who are not already converted to the Puritian religion and the goal of the sermon is to persuade those who have not converted and to rekindle the religion in those who are not as faithful as they used to be. God feels as though the worshippers are not faithful enough and need to prove their faith more. God feels this way according to Edwards because Edwards feels like people are not as committed to the religion as they used to be.
Jonathan Edwards originally wrote his sermon for his parishioners in Northampton, Massachusetts. So initially, his address was to his own congregation. For Edwards, this is the only way for a person to be saved. He claims that men/women will slip and God will not save them. In other words, he is saying that they will slip unless they convert. 'Their foot shall slide in due time.'
He used imagery and figurative language so the wrath of God is more fearsome and gave you a mental picture of hell in your head. Edwards wrote when men are on God’s hands and they could fall to hell. Natural men are held in the hands of God, over the pit of hell. Knowing that you might fall into hell at any moment should scare you. God decided to save you until he wants to let you fall into an eternity of burning.
He firstly compares the wrath of God to damned waters, with God holding back 'the fiery floods'. He then compares the wrath of God to a bent bow, whose tension is increasing as justice prepares to loose the arrow of God's vengeance upon those 'out of Christ'. Sinners are compared to 'loathsome' spiders held over the fire and threatened with being dropped into the flames. All of these are emotion appeals as he paints a terrifying image in peoples heads. Sinners can repent to God and convert to save themselves from an otherwise brutal death. I think that approach was somewhat successful because the imagery was extremely persuasive but if one did not believe in God, it would not have had the same affect.
- Edwards, Jonathan. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Preached at Enfield, Connecticut, July 8th, 1741. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=etas
- Marsden, George M. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Yale University Press, 2003.
- Stout, Harry S. The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England. Oxford University Press, 1986.
- Wainwright, William J. "Jonathan Edwards and the Shaping of American Theology." Theology Today, vol. 42, no. 3, 1986, pp. 330-341.
- Griffin, Edward. "The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards." The Princeton Theological Review, vol. 1, no. 2, 1903, pp. 189-209.
- Schafer, Judith A. "Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Heaven and Hell." Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, vol. 2, no. 1, 1992, pp. 71-87.
- Dobson, Joanne. "Jonathan Edwards's Rhetorical Legacy: The Persuasive Effect of Images of Hell." Early American Literature, vol. 35, no. 3, 2000, pp. 223-245.
- Martin, Luther H. Jonathan Edwards: A Profile. Hill and Wang, 1968.
- Bezzant, Rod. Jonathan Edwards and the Church. Oxford University Press, 2013.
- Nagel, James. "The Theology of Jonathan Edwards." The Journal of Religion, vol. 47, no. 4, 1967, pp. 285-301.