Period 4/ AP English 11
2 October 2014
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” – Rhetorical Analysis
Christian revivalist speaker, Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (July 8, 2014) persuades that his audience is doomed to hellfire if they fail to head his message of repentance. He supports his claim by first using angry and fear inducing diction that is full of imagery, then he uses figurative language to emphasis the images and experiences of hell, and finally he shifts the tone at the end to provide hope for salvation. Edwards’ purpose is to convert individuals in order to bring more people to his view of salvation. He creates an aggressive and fearful tone for an audience of Christians that he believes is sinful and must repent.
In order to create strong diction, Edwards uses long, powerful sounding words to put authority, ...view middle of the document...
Edwards uses several types of figurative language in this passage, including anaphora and similes. The anaphora is used to create emphasis, highlighting the important topics that the audience needs to pay attention to, like “the sun does not willingly shine upon you… the earth does not willingly yield her increase… the air does not willingly serve you for breath” in lines 30-35, as he tells the audience the world and God was not created to serve us. Also, in paragraph 8, another anaphora is used with the word “nothing” which creates a feeling of emptiness, also important for the audience to understand. The similes help to describe the images he establishes, giving visuals such as “the bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string” (56), placing a bow and arrow into people’s mind, and he also compares God’s wrath to water, especially rivers, throughout the sermon, which implies power because water is known as the most powerful and strongest of the elements.
Towards the end of the sermon, beginning in paragraph 11 till the end, Edwards shifts the tone from angry to hopeful, but still somewhat fearful, in order to help persuade the audience even more so. He tells the audience they have an “extraordinary opportunity” (129) to gain repentance. He hopes that their motivation for salvation has not been lost from his aggressiveness, so he must have, or at least act like he has, hopes in them and that this is not the end yet. He exclaims to them, “let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come” (154), telling them God has not evoked his wrath yet and they still have time for repentance. This little bit of hope might give enough motivation for some to repent and listen to Edwards’ words.
Edwards begs those who are already Christians to repent in this sermon, because they are still sinners, and he believes they are extremely selfish. Some might be persuaded by fear; others may be persuaded by hope. Regardless, he is both aggressive and confident in this preaching.