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Otis Kamara Professor Name Subject 22 Oct 2012 American Literature 1. Jonathan Edwards. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is designed as a sermon, that is, an extended comment to a quote from the Bible. This comment could be read as a narrative or as an argument…
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For this, he makes 2 rhetorical parallels: one is between some of his listeners and the wicked Israelites, and the other is between them and the narrator. The first one clarifies the Biblical metaphor of a sliding foot, that is, a state of being constantly exposed to God’s anger and protected only by His “meer Pleasure” (Edwards and Smolinski 5). The second one is a widely used public speaking technique: the indirect speech from the part of those people whom a speaker wants to influence. Edwards describes the arguments of the unconverted people the following way: Almost every natural Man that hears of Hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own Security… every one lays out Matters in his own Mind how he shall avoid Damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his Schemes won’t fail. (Edwards and Smolinski 9-10) This way, the speaker identifies with the unconverted listeners or even with all of his listeners, even the converted ones, who behave not piously enough. The identification is negative: those who “are out of Christ” (Edwards and Smolinski 12) are the protagonist of this narrative, and their function as a protagonist is not to be a positive example but rather to show how awful are the consequences of the absence of certain positive actions. This type of texts is widely used in Biblical narratives (Bratcher). As for the antagonist in the plot, there is a controversy that does not permit to state plainly that this is God. As Bratcher points out, God is always present in Biblical narratives as the central character. In this story, God is impersonated and shown in action: infuriated, He is holding sinners over the pit of flames. Still, this does not mean that God is seen as an equal part on the literary playground of Edwards’ text. He is an objective power beyond human rich, the power that has unquestioned influence on the world around and has a superior capability of self-control (as God in this sermon keeps from wreaking His wrath). This status of the figure of God is in line with Enlightenment deism: for the thinkers like Samuel Clarke, John Toland, Anthony Collins, and even John Locke, God’s power and will is prior to ethic systems; hence, this is Him who dictates the right behavior (Bristow). From this ethical perspective, the antagonist of unconverted human beings in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is their own liability to “fall by themselves” (Edwards and Smolinski 4), their “Wickedness” (Edwards and Smolinski 7). This situation is close to inescapable, as human beings are seen as naturally inclined to wickedness. They have responsibilities, while God is not responsible for anything (Edwards and Smolinski 9). The only way to influence this terrible condition, that is, to become a part of agreement with God (thereby attaining at least some promises from Him) is to accept the existence of Christ as an embodiment of “the Promises of the Covenant of Grace” (Edwards and Smolinski 11). “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is also a refined argument; alongside the powerful metaphoric pattern, it has a list of reasons that have to prove that non-Christians really have no alternative. Two Enlightenment trends of the sermon have already been mentioned. One is its deism: for Edwards, conversion to Christianity is a natural act, the one that is justified by the world order. He frequently uses ... Read More
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