Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

by

Jonathan Edwards

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Jonathan Edwards Character Analysis

Jonathan Edwards, an eighteenth-century preacher and theologian, is the author of the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He is, therefore, the narrator of the text, and his purpose in delivering the sermon is to convince a Connecticut congregation (one notoriously immune to the theology of the Great Awakening) to find salvation by accepting Christ. Edwards is notable for his harsh vision of Christianity, in which hell is a real place, God is righteously furious with mankind and cruelly unmerciful towards them, and Christ’s love is the only hope for salvation. Edwards is known for his deep engagement with theology, and for his evocative use of the English language—indeed, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is known as a rhetorical masterpiece, one that successfully brought much of the unruly congregation to reckon with their faith.

Jonathan Edwards 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 Jonathan Edwards or refer to Jonathan Edwards. 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:
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). 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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Jonathan Edwards Character Timeline in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The timeline below shows where the character Jonathan Edwards 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
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Jonathan Edwards begins to explain the Biblical quotation from Deuteronomy that opened the sermon. The quotation is... (full context)
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1. The Israelites were always vulnerable to punishment (or, as Edwards writes, “destruction”), just as any person who walks in a slippery place is vulnerable to... (full context)
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...moment in which he or she will fall—the fall is always sudden and without warning. Edwards quotes Psalm 73 further, which suggests that sinners are “brought into desolation as in a... (full context)
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...time comes. Once that time comes, they will fall suddenly, just as their weight dictates. Edwards clarifies his metaphor: it is less like a person walking on a slippery surface than... (full context)
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...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 nothing. The lives... (full context)
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...a rebellion, God has no trouble breaking his enemies: there is no defense against God. Edwards compares the powerless enemies of God to “great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind”... (full context)
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...based fundamentally on their lack of proper faith—their bad deeds exist in addition to this. Edwards quotes the Gospel of John to demonstrate that those who do not believe are not... (full context)
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...on earth is equal to, or even greater than, his fury at those in hell. Edwards states that God is doubtless angrier with some people in this very congregation (though those... (full context)
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...or caution, man is always on the brink of death by “innumerable and inconceivable” means. Edwards says that sinners walk on a rotted floor over the pit of hell, and the... (full context)
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8. It’s pointless to try to preserve your own life, Edwards says, and wisdom won’t help you, either. After all, wise men don’t meet untimely deaths... (full context)
Part 2. Application
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Edwards tells the congregation that if they are sinners then they are a burden to the... (full context)
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...until they are awakened to Christ. Whether or not the audience is convinced of this, Edwards tells them that they will know the truth someday, just as those who are in... (full context)
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...offended God unimaginably, and yet it is only God’s will that keeps them from hell. Edwards reminds the congregation that God is the reason they woke up on earth instead of... (full context)
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Edwards urges the congregation to consider what danger they are in: they “hang by a slender... (full context)
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...frightening, but it is the fierceness and fury of that wrath that must be noted. Edwards quotes several Biblical passages that describe this fury, and then remarks, “Who can utter or... (full context)
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Edwards notes that God is ready to pity the congregation, as today “is a day of... (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... (full context)
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...exactly this danger, regardless of how moral and religious they think they are. In fact, Edwards claims, there is “reason to think” that many in the congregation will, indeed, go to... (full context)
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...to be left behind while others are rejoicing, or to be tortured while others sing, Edwards reminds the congregation. (full context)
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Edwards begs those who are not yet born again to consider how much of God’s wrath... (full context)
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Emphasizing the importance of this opportunity to come to Christ, Edwards suggests that denying Christ today will result in a hardening of the heart that will... (full context)