The Variety of Imagery Used in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Published: 2021-06-17 08:47:00
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In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards uses fear and shame to to create images that help his audience experience the consequences of sinful behavior. One such image is God’s hand holding a spider – a representation of humanity, a collection of sinners – above a hellish flame – a representation of Hell, the seduction of the Devil. Using fear-inducing diction, Edwards describes people as natural sinners and deserving of damnation, but God is graciously holding humanity away from Hell, however, he can send us at any moment. As stated in the text, “…and there is no other Reason to be given why you have not dropped into Hell since you arose in the Morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.” (Edwards 59-61). The message behind this image is that we must pledge ourselves to God for his sacrifice and we as sinners are undeserving yet gracious of his divine care. In my image, I chose to depict this in a much more realistic sense.
My illustration depicts the hand of God holding the Earth and all its inhabitants by a thread, barely above a fiery floor. His hand is tan and the thread is gray, yet the fire is a mixture of red and orange. In the background, there are four distinct layers of color: White (with hints of yellow protruding from God’s hand), blue, green, and brown, all representing the descent from the heavens into Hell below the Earth. In terms of the color, they all were chosen to convey specific descriptions and meanings. God’s tan hand is to represent the good and holiness of white, with a hint of red/orange representing his anger and torment with humanity, although the hand is primarily whiter than redder in color. The gray thread represents the exact divide between heaven and hell; light and dark; white and black, wherein the thread that upholds the Earth is the space between good and evil. The Earth is simply the two colors that compose Earth, green and blue for land and sea. The fire is red and orange with hints of yellow, as to describe a hellscape in which gets more and more humanlike the closer toward the center you get, referencing the layers of hell for each of the sins, as identified in a similar religious text Dante’s Inferno.All the colors and objects used, in combination, are designed to show Edwards’ spider metaphor in a much more realistic and therefore fear-inducing sense, as Edwards aims to do in his sermon. The tan hand is God’s generosity and sacrifice to save humanity, yet doing so with anger and severe hatred toward the sinners of the Earth he is so graciously rescuing. To exemplify his hatred, I placed the Earth very close to the fire, as if God is keeping humanity on edge and further represents Edwards’ implication that God could send humanity to Hell at any waking moment. Lastly, I added the quote from the text in reference at the top of the illustration, reading: “…and there is no other Reason to be given why you have not dropped into Hell since you arose in the Morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.” (Edwards 59-61). Using this fearful message, Edwards warns his audience of the shame and punishment forthcoming behind those who sin, influencing change and moral improvement, so that people may redeem themselves for God’s sacrifice and repay the debt.
The image of God’s hand holding the world by a thread close to a hellish fire reinforces Jonathan Edward’s implication of God’s sacrifice and generosity to sinners of the world, as implied in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It uses an image that incites fear and avoidance of sin to its audience, exactly how Edwards does in his sermon. In addition, the message of the illustration describes his theme of moral betterment and adherence to God’s word in everyday life. This concludes my written piece on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

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