Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

by

Jonathan Edwards

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To Edwards, God’s primary characteristics are his power and his wrath. Edwards sees God as the most powerful force in the universe, beside whom even the most powerful human beings are “but feeble despicable worms in the dust.” God’s power is limitless and unpredictable, as sinners could be cast into hell at any time. Edwards also goes to great pains to stress the wrath of God. God’s wrath comes from mankind’s fall; since God created people to be good, he is angry that original sin ruined mankind, and he is eager to punish them for their sinful natures. Edwards stresses that God loathes mankind with an untampered wrath—“You are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes,” Edwards says, “as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.” Edwards also points out that God is vindictive and cruel, stressing that sinners who cannot bear the pains of hell should expect no mercy or restraint, no matter how unbearable they find their eternal torment. Futhermore, God will show no pity on sinners but will rather “laugh and mock” when they cry, and might even make their torture a spectacle for “the whole universe,” including all the “inhabitants of heaven,” in order to prove his limitless power and profound indignation with mankind. Unlike Christ, God has no obligation to save mankind from hell, and no tendency towards mercy. God is simply vengeful, exacting justice on the depraved.

God Quotes in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God quotes below are all either spoken by God or refer to God. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power and Precariousness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God published in 2013.
Part 1 Quotes

There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the meer pleasure of God.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, that has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Tho’ hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces: They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so ‘tis easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by; thus easy it is for God when he pleases to cast his enemies down to hell.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Related Symbols: Vermin
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Joh. 3:18. He that believeth not is condemned already. So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is Joh. 8:23. Ye are from beneath. And thither he is bound; ‘tis the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assigns him.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

Yea God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth, yea doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, that it may be are at ease and quiet, than he is with many of those that are now in the flames of hell.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God, The Congregation
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell: There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments in ‘em as they do in them.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they won’t bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight can’t discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending ‘em to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear that God had need to be at the expence of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in their confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God, The Congregation
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God, Christ (“the Mediator”)
Page Number: 175-176
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2. Application Quotes

Were it not that so is the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun don’t willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth don’t willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air don’t willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and don’t willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Related Symbols: Vermin
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God, The Congregation
Related Symbols: Vermin
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies that he will inflict wrath without any pity: when God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportion’d to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed and sinks down, as it were into an infinite gloom, he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much, in any other sense than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires: nothing shall be with held, because it’s so hard for you to bear.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God, The Congregation
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Oh who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; ‘tis inexpressible and inconceivable: for who knows the power of God’s anger?

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls: and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the bigger part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time.

Related Characters: Jonathan Edwards (speaker), God
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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God Character Timeline in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The timeline below shows where the character God appears in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Power and Precariousness Theme Icon
Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
...one from Deuteronomy and one from the Book of Amos. The quotation from Amos emphasizes God’s power to see all human action, thwart human plans and behavior, and unleash vengeance upon... (full context)
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Theology and the Human Condition  Theme Icon
...quotation from Deuteronomy that opened the sermon. The quotation is a threat of vengeance from God to the sinful Israelites who, despite God’s grace and kindness, were still not faithful. Edwards... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
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...in a slippery place is vulnerable to a fall. Edwards quotes Psalm 73, which links God having “set them in slippery places” to the Israelites being cast “down into destruction.” (full context)
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...the Israelites vulnerable to punishment, but they were vulnerable to unexpected and sudden punishment at God’s whim. A person walking in a slippery place cannot foresee the moment in which he... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
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...the only reason that sinners haven’t yet fallen due to their own weight is that God’s hand holds them up until God’s appointed time comes. Once that time comes, they will... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
...keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the [mere] pleasure of God.” By this, Edwards refers to God’s “arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation” and hindered by... (full context)
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1. God has the power to cast a wicked person into hell at any moment and nobody,... (full context)
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...deserve to be sent to hell: “divine justice,” then, is not an adequate objection to God “using his power at any moment to destroy them.” On the contrary, justice would be... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
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...would be a mistake to think that living sinners are not currently in hell because God is less angry with them than he is with those already in hell—God’s fury at... (full context)
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5. The Devil is also ready to receive sinners at whichever moment God decides—after all, sinners belong to the Devil, and their souls are already in his possession.... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
Theology and the Human Condition  Theme Icon
...souls of wicked men lie the very elements of hell itself. Were it not for God’s will, their souls would flame “into hell fire.” Thus, in the “nature of carnal men”... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
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...give at any moment. There are so many ways for a sinner to die that God doesn’t even need to create a miracle—he could kill them in the ordinary course of... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
Theology and the Human Condition  Theme Icon
10. God has no obligation to keep man out of hell. It is Christ that offered the... (full context)
Part 2. Application
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
...“unconverted” (not with Christ), “there is nothing between you and Hell” except the hand of God. Wickedness makes these people “heavy as lead,” and no amount of health, practicality, or righteousness... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
Language and Metaphor Theme Icon
Theology and the Human Condition  Theme Icon
...the congregation that if they are sinners then they are a burden to the earth. God’s creatures are meant to serve God, and the sun doesn’t shine willingly on sinners, nor... (full context)
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The wrath of God is like dammed water: the longer it is pent up, the greater its force once... (full context)
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Wrath, Mercy, and Grace Theme Icon
...or earnest (but improper) religious conviction, a person is “in the hands of an angry God” until they are awakened to Christ. Whether or not the audience is convinced of this,... (full context)
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God holds sinners over the pit of hell just as one would hold a spider over... (full context)
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...to Christ. He asks the congregation to consider the following things concerning the danger of God’s wrath. (full context)
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...that threatens them is not the wrath of man, but the wrath of the “infinite God.” This wrath is immeasurably greater than the wrath of kings, whom people tend to deeply... (full context)
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2. The wrath of God is itself frightening, but it is the fierceness and fury of that wrath that must... (full context)
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The fierceness of God’s wrath implies that it will be inflicted without pity: God will not have compassion for... (full context)
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Edwards notes that God is ready to pity the congregation, as today “is a day of mercy.” Once this... (full context)
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“How awful are these words,” Edwards says of “the words of the Great God,” quoting a passage from the Book of Isaiah in which God promises to tread on... (full context)
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3. Sometimes, just like kings desire to demonstrate the force of their wrath, God wants to show people how good his love is and how terrible is his wrath.... (full context)
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...inconceivable”—everything said about it on earth is only a “faint representation” of the power of God’s anger. (full context)
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Edwards begs those who are not yet born again to consider how much of God’s wrath they have accumulated and how horrible it would be to be passed over for... (full context)
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Theology and the Human Condition  Theme Icon
...Thus, this day is one of both great promise and great danger. Edwards notes that God seems to be “hastily gathering” his people on earth, and that, as such, it’s likely... (full context)