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Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"

Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God": A Casebook

Wilson H. Kimnach
Caleb J. D. Maskell
Kenneth P. Minkema
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq3j7
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  • Book Info
    Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"
    Book Description:

    Designed specifically for the classroom, this volume presents the accurate and definitive version ofSinners, accompanied by the tools necessary to study and teach this famous American sermon. With an introduction aimed at students and teachers and commentary that draws on fifty years of team editorial experience of Yale'sWorks of Jonathan Edwards, it provides both context and interpretation, and addresses the concerns and questions of a twenty-first century audience.

    The book contains questions for in-class discussion, a chronology of Edwards's life, and a glossary. In addition, curricular materials and video mini-presentations are available on a dedicated Web site. This casebook represents a innovative contribution to the art of teaching Edwards to a new generation of readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15500-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    “A most terrible sermon, which should have had a word of gospel at the end, though I think ’tis all true.” This is what the English theologian and hymn writer Isaac Watts (composer of “Joy to the World” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”) wrote on his copy of Jonathan Edwards’s sermonSinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Watts, who was Edwards’s correspondent and a promoter of his works, used the wordterriblein the eighteenth-century sense of “terrifying,” but there were many commentators then—and even more today—who would apply the more modern usage of...

  4. The Story of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
    (pp. 1-16)
    WILSON H. KIMNACH

    The birth ofSinners in the Hands of an Angry God, often called the “Enfield sermon,” is here vividly, if impressionistically, described in the diary of the Reverend Stephen Williams, a ministerial colleague of Jonathan Edwards’s from the nearby town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The scene is hardly what one might expect of a New England meeting-house at the conclusion of the Puritan epoch. Moreover, one might wonder why “dear” Jonathan Edwards was raising hell in someone else’s pulpit, or why he had a band of ministers with him. This problematic context ofSinnersmust be kept in mind if we...

  5. A Theological Primer
    (pp. 17-32)
    CALEB J. D. MASKELL

    Jonathan Edwards believed that the world is most fully understood when it is understood theologically. In keeping with that understanding, he preached to his Northampton congregation twice a week or more for nearly a quarter of a century on various dimensions of his theological vision, one that he believed formed a holistic picture of God’s world and the role of humans in it. As such, when we readSinnerstoday, we are reading a document that for its original hearers was located within a highly developed theological context. Terms likeGod, sinners, andhell, as well as aspects of the...

  6. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
    (pp. 33-50)

    In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed, v. 28, “void of counsel,” having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.

    The expression that I have chosen for my text, “Their foot shall slide in due time,” seems to imply the following things, relating...

  7. Companion Texts by Edwards
    (pp. 51-110)

    The selections by Edwards in this section are a mixture of private notebook ruminations, intimate letters, and more public statements from sermons, letters, published reports, and treatises. They range from one of Edwards’s earliest compositions, “Of Being” (1721), to his final work,The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended(1758), and are meant to provide a wider view of Edwards’s thought and beliefs—to demonstrate in his own words thatSinners in the Hands of an Angry Goddoes not sum up the tone and substance of his worldview. At the same time, these selections help frameSinners, illustrating...

  8. Contemporary Documents
    (pp. 111-130)

    The documents printed in this section, written by eighteenth-century individuals who participated in or witnessed the religious revivals, are crucial to helping us understand the charged atmosphere and tumultuous times in whichSinnerswas preached. Taken from sermons printed at the time or from handwritten manuscripts, these accounts either reconstruct the days immediately before and afterSinnerswas delivered or provide descriptions of the actual event.

    To help modern readers, the selections below have been lightly edited—abbreviations have been expanded, spelling has been regularized, and punctuation has been provided where necessary. Footnotes identify figures who appear just once while...

  9. Interpretations
    (pp. 131-182)

    The excerpts presented here from various writers over the past two centuries reflect the ebb and flow of opinion on Edwards and on his sermon, viewed as famous or infamous depending on who is writing and when. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, we see Edwards held up by followers and the like-minded for his piety, his role in revivalism, and his defense of “true” religion. More ambivalent approaches to Edwards and to the entire Puritan legacy are represented by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Emily Dickinson, inheritors of that legacy who rejected it but could never quite...

  10. Chronology of Edwards’s Life
    (pp. 183-184)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 185-190)
  12. Resources for Teaching
    (pp. 191-194)
  13. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 195-198)
  14. Original Sources for Texts
    (pp. 199-202)
  15. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 203-204)