(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?"