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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Study Guide
Introductory Information: A sermon is a speech given by a preacher in a house of worship. A sermon is a
type of oratory, or formal public speaking. Keep in mind these features of an oratory:
It is persuasive.
It appeals to the emotions of listeners.
It addresses the needs of listeners.
It calls for listeners to take action.
It uses colorful language.
Also, you need to look for archetypes drawn from myth, literature, and tradition. Remember that archetypes
are patterns, images, and character types that are common in stories and cultures around the world.
Summary: Edwards’ sermon tells about God’s anger toward the sinners in his audience. He compares God’s
anger to floods and to a bow bent ready to shoot an arrow. The only thing that keeps God from dropping
sinners into the fire is his mercy, according to Edwards. He tells the people that they can be reborn and save
themselves from the anger.
What are some clues in the reading which help you understand this was a sermon rather than a
narrative? In other words, what phrases give you an idea of the purpose of this reading?
What would happen to the members of Edwards’ audience if God let them go?
What is the definition of omnipotent? Be sure you can use this word in a sentence in case you have a
context clues quiz question.
Which listeners are in the hands of an angry God, according to Edwards?
How does Edwards approach his listeners? Is he trying to be emotional or intellectual? How do you
Look at the second paragraph. Of what does Edwards believe his congregation is not “sensible”?
The emotional appeal of the sermon comes from the archetypes that Edwards uses. Try to find at
least two archetypes in the paragraph that starts with “The bow of God’s wrath is bent.”
One technique used in a sermon is repetition, or repeating the same idea for effect. Look over the
paragraph which begins with “O, sinner! Consider the fearful danger…”and look for an idea/ideas
that are repeated.
What is the meaning of dolorous? What about ineffable?
What will happen to listeners who continue in an unconverted state?
How do you think a contemporary audience would react to this type of “fire and brimstone” biblical
What mood or feeling is created by the images of water on page 88?
In what ways do these images of the fury of water help convey Edwards’ message?
Note on the Afterlife: Edwards’ belief in the afterlife is typical of the followers of most major
religions. According to the ancient Greeks, people who led a good life were sent to Elysium, a
paradise filled with sunny fields. Ancient Egyptians, too, believed in the afterlife as an agricultural
land of plenty. In Norse mythology, heroes slain in battle went to Valhalla. In Buddhism and in
Hinduism, the soul is reincarnated (reborn in another body or form) until it achieves a state of
spiritual perfection.
What is the meaning of mediator? What about induce? Again, could you define these words from
Throughout this sermon, Edwards has painted a frightening picture of God’s power and anger. In
the paragraph that begins with “How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the
danger…,” Edwards begins to talk to the congregation about mercy and the opportunity for hope.
Why does he do this?
As an example of persuasive oratory, this sermon ends with a call to action. What does Edwards
encourage his listeners to do?
For additional preparation, refer to the questions at the end of the sermon. See if you are confident in your
ability to answer them. If not, please see me! I’m more than willing to help before or after school.