The beliefs of the time can shape an author’s words. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a sermon written by Jonathon Edwards in 1741. During this time was the Great Awakening, a series of religious revivals meant to turn church members from passive listeners to passionate and emotionally involved. Puritans were a large part of the colonies in this time also. Puritans, who were escaping persecution, formed some of the 13 colonies but in turn they enforced their religion and beliefs in the colonies. Jonathan Edwards focused this sermon on the beliefs of the Puritans to turn them to God.
“1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding.” (Edwards) Here Edwards is saying that God can cast the wicked men into hell any time He wants. Similarly, Puritans believed that you were predestined for either heaven or hell. God alone determined a person’s salvation.
“Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf…” (Edwards) Likewise, the Puritans believed in total depravity. Everyone is full of sin. They accepted that every part of them was sinful, their thoughts, emotions, and actions.
“And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.” Edwards paints a picture of Christ calling and crying with a loud voice His offer of grace to the sinners of the world. Puritans believed that His grace was irresistible and once you were elected for heaven, you could not escape it.
Edward’s allowed the views of his time to shape his powerful sermon. He knew from the response of the Great Awakening that many people were asking what God would do with them. He gave them a memorable answer telling them of their sinful state before a Holy God. He used their Puritan beliefs about salvation and divine judgment to shape a message that would bring many into God’s fold.