Sermons yesterday and today...

(Tim, w/thanks to Dave M.) Here's a good explanation why "modern readers" will find Jonathan Edwards' sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, "a difficult text." The explanation is from the most recent E-mail newsletter produced by The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University:

Jonathan Edwards' (in)famous (sic) sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is among the most anthologized pieces of American literature. It is taught in most American literature survey courses in high school and college as the classic example of a Puritan sermon. As a result, it forms the only impression that most people have of Jonathan Edwards.

In spite of the obvious benefits to the legacy of Jonathan Edwards from this wide anthologizing, "Sinners" is a difficult text to engage, understand, and teach. The language is relentless and challenging. Its form and content is unfamiliar to most modern readers. Most of all, the text itself is specifically designed to provoke fear and discomfort in its hearers. All of these factors contribute to making "Sinners" a difficult text to read in 2008.

But difficult texts are often important texts that careful study. While "Sinners" is not representative of the full orb of Jonathan Edwards' thought, it is Edwards' most famous text and will no doubt continue to be studied and taught for many years to come.

Pastors and elders, would the souls under your care understand Edwards' sermon, or would they also find it "difficult?"


An english teacher from our congregation (Claire) uses this sermon to bridge to other works of Edwards and to prompt some great discussion. She loves teaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

I cannot imagine the coddled congregations of America would be able to understand why God would even be upset let alone angry. Sad really. Pastors have unfortunately told their sheep that there is not such things as wolves.

Bradley Beatty and Long is the standard American Literature anthology. The only selection from Edwards in the edition which I have seen reprints the first half of the sermon--"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and complete omits the second part of the text--Edwards conclusion.

Most students miss the three little dots at the end of the text, and so, I suspect, do a lot of their teachers.

My brother noticed the dots and went to the University Library and got the whole text of the sermon. Most students won't do that.

Perhaps a new Edwards reader is overdue.

There is, I understand a publishing project to print some of Edwards manuscript sermons. Someone should take on the task of making Edwards work available to the current generation.

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