Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening: Sermons & Biography

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  • 0:05 Jonathan Edwards
  • 1:20 The Great Awakening
  • 2:05 Sinners in the Hands...
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Jonathan Edwards was an American minister whose sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' became one of the most famous sermons of the 18th century. In this lesson, we'll look at Edwards' sermon and analyze it for Puritan beliefs and style.

Jonathan Edwards

In 18th century America, life was changing. The British colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut were growing in population as more and more British moved from England to America. And, with more people came more luxuries and an easier life than the previous hundred years had brought.

In the midst of this changing America, Jonathan Edwards became known as one of the great philosophers and ministers of the nascent colonies and one of the founders of the religious revival movement of the mid-1700s, known as the Great Awakening. Edwards was born in Connecticut in 1703, the only son of a preacher and the daughter of a preacher. Edwards was valedictorian of his class at Yale, and went on to seminary to become a preacher himself.

Jonathan Edwards was a founder of the Great Awakening.
Jonathan Edwards

In the 1720s and early 1730s, Edwards became concerned that the people of the colonies had lost their focus on God. Instead, he thought they were being distracted by the worldly goods that had become more plentiful as new colonists and traders flowed into Massachusetts and Connecticut with more regularity. He became a founding and central figure in a new religious revival known as the Great Awakening, during which time he delivered his most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The Great Awakening

In the early 1700s in America, life was starting to change. A century before, the American colonies were mostly religious, but the early 18th century saw the scientific advancements and philosophies of Europe make their way to the shores of the New World. The Age of Reason, a European movement of philosophy and science, began to influence the once-religious Americans. In response, a new movement called the Great Awakening or the First Great Awakening sought to revive religion in England and the British colonies in America. From 1730 to 1760, Puritan ministers began to preach fiery sermons from their pulpit and from the streets of the colonies, and people began to find religion again.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

In the midst of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards stood in front of a congregation in Enfield, Connecticut and gave a sermon that would become the most famous Great Awakening sermon and one of the most famous sermons in American history. Originally, Edwards had given the same sermon to his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts, but it did not make a major impact. But, in July of 1741, while visiting the congregation in Enfield, Edwards felt called to give the sermon again. This time, the congregation reacted with passion, often interrupting him to call out and ask how they could be saved.

The sermon, titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, described the fire and brimstone waiting for sinners in Hell. Edwards begins with the Bible verse Deuteronomy 32:35, 'Their foot shall slide in due time.' Edwards begins by relating this verse to the Puritan belief in predestination, or the idea that God controls the world and the humans in it.

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