University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Jonathan Edwards uses an effective method called the “fire and brimstone” approach, which basically used scare tactics to keep people from straying away from the church. Jonathan Edwards was a master at using literary devices, which horrified but intrigued his audience. He (Edwards) wrote in second person to make each individual feel responsible for their own sins, this strategy allowed Edwards to speak to large groups. Edwards also used extended metaphors to help his audience realize the full extent of their sins. An example of this imagery is, “ The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty the course, when once it is let loose.” (Sinners 1). This metaphor shows the extent that Edwards goes to show parishioners of what God is capable of doing to the Human race if they do not seek salvation.
Edwards uses bandwagon appeal to keep people from leaving the church. He believed that if he could convince enough people that the church is the only way to receive the “grace of god” that it would lead to a mass movement; if enough people went that the rest would follow in their footsteps. Edwards tries to persuade people to return to church by stating that those who attend are happy, “To see so many others feasting, while you are pinning and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit!” (Sinners 1). This method proved to be effective because people returned to the church, they feared for the outcome of their life and sought forgiveness just as their neighbors did. Jonathan Edwards’s beliefs and ideas began to affect people’s everyday lives and restore the church to its former glory.
Jonathan Edwards believes that it is man’s duty to serve God in all aspects. He expresses his view that every man has the will to decide what is right from wrong, good from evil and what God would expect from a devout believer in his book Freedom of the Will. This book essentially breaks down what man desires and the choices man can make, he exposes how all these actions are relevant to the after life. Edwards tries to show that earthly matters will not a provide eternal happiness and that a man’s life on Earth
is a time to prove his worthiness for judgment day by proclaiming “…but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing” (sinners 1).
Jonathan Edwards is known for his vivid depictions of what God’s wrath would be like. This dark imagery gave the public an idea of what their eternal punishment would be like if they did not conform to the holy life of the church. The imagery horrified people because it made people believe that God could damn each and every person to Hell for their sins. An example of the dark imagery is “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood”. (Sinners 1). By saying this Edwards strikes fear into the listener.
Edwards often uses repetition to emphasize his condemnation on society for their lack of faith in the church. For example “You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment” (sinners 1). He stresses the word “nothing” to show that all are helpless and to further belittle each individual. Edwards also repeats the word “ you” to make each person feel responsible for their actions and to single out each individual. Edwards also ensures that each line in his sermons are threatening to create a sense of an ultimatum; conform to the church or burn in Hell for all eternity.
“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, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and
prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock” (sinners 1). This quote shows how Edwards creates a sense of hope for the parishioners but when further analyzed it has a very negative and damning connotation. Edwards tries to portray his belief that God only lets you live because it pleasures him. This provides false hope but in reality he is saying that there is no way for anyone to be saved.