TheRelationship between God and American Literature (Question 2)
JonathanEdwards reigned from 1703 to 1758. He studied theology and wasspecifically affiliated to Calvinism. During one of his sermons,Jonathan Edwards delivered the sermon entitled “Sinners of an AngryGod”. This sermon is among the classic pieces concerning AmericanLiterature that is highly referred to and used by many scholars(Edwards 3-5). On the other hand, Philip Freneau was an American poetwho reigned from 1752-1832. Among his poems, was “On the Religionof Nature” that is also a legendary piece apropos of AmericanLiterature (Axelrad 2-5). Philip was inclined toward Deism thus, hispoem mainly reflected on the Supreme Power of his Deity. Also,Phillis Wheatley, an American Poet reigned from 1753-1784. Shepublished the poem, “To the University of Cambridge, in NewEngland,” which made an impact in the field of American Literature(Wheatley 2). It is necessary to note all the three individualsdelivered messages about God and His Supreme Power. In this paper,there is an analysis of the different ways in which the threeindividuals delineate the nature of God.
Accordingto Jonathan Edwards Sermon, God was Holy. He cast out thoseindividuals who believed to be better than God Himself. He notes thatmost people undermined the Holiness of God thus they do notunderstand His nature. Regardless of the vastness of the sermon, itis intended for those self-centered persons who rarely think aboutothers in the society. Those individuals often focus on theirself-interests and worth and as a result, they forget about God andHis might deeds. Moreover, Jonathan Edwards depicts the Christian Godas righteous. This fact is observed when he urges sinners to seeksalvation from God. He observes that his God offers salvation tosinners hence they should vouch for forgiveness from Him (Edwards35-37).
Furthermore,Jonathan Edwards describes His God as a Savior. His sermon describesthat those persons exposed to danger and destruction are oftensalvaged by God’s mighty hand. According to Jonathan Edwards,“There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out ofHell, but the mere pleasure of God”. The Calvinist is greatlydisturbed by those who deliberately choose the wrong path due totheir stubbornness. Not only does he target his congregation’shearts but, also their heads (Edwards 67).
EdwardsSermon also describes the Christian God as terrifying. He describesthe power of his God to the congregation and depicts his God as anangry one. The people realize that the Christian God is powerful andthat his anger does not tolerate wickedness. Edwards sermon notesthat it is only salvation from Christ that will save the wicked fromgoing to hell. God’s wrath guarantees that the wicked people willundergo eternal punishment. The sinners are at peace with God oncethey ask for forgiveness. In the sermon, Edwards emphasizes that thewrath of God is worse than that of any warrior. It is difficult forpeople to handle His wrath hence it is best to follow His ways.Despite the fact that achieving salvation was not an easy process,Edwards was ready to assist the lost individuals (Edwards 67-70).
AdditionallyGod’s wrath is salient through the imagery present in the sermon.Edwards employs phrases such as “plunge into the bottomless gulf”and “heavy as lead” when describing the fate of sinners. Edwards’sermon depicts that God’s wrath will sweep all sinners off theirfeet. He also incorporates weapons in a metaphorical manner todescribe the ways in which God deals with sinners. Jonathan Edwards’sermon also delineates that the Christian God compares sinners to aloathed insect. His God not only loathes the insect but, is alsoready to throw the insect into Hell fire (Edwards 80).
Nonetheless,Edwards’ sermon also describes the Christian God as a merciful one.He offers forgiveness to those who seek it, and transforms the livesof sinners. The Christian God despises unrighteous people in the sameway that He loves the righteous. With forgiveness, God rescuessinners and this saves them from God’s wrath thus, they avoideternal punishment. The Calvinist urges the unrighteous to take God’swrath seriously to salvage their endangered lives. The sermondescribes that God set the commandments to be followed by humanbeings. It is when people do not follow his rules that his dispenseshis wrath upon them (Edwards 81-82).
TheChristian God is also presented as being omniscient. He is well awareand knowledgeable about humanity, and all matters of human nature.God fully comprehends the downfalls on human beings, and as well astheir sins. It is necessary to note that he knows all individuals ona personal level, and knows all their downfalls, and mistakes. Forthis reason, it is of immense significance that people to follow thecommandments of God.
Edwards’sermon, “Sinners of an Angry God,” is an example of a sermoninclined toward Puritanism. As there is a connection betweenCalvinism and Puritanism most of Edwards’ sermons revolve aroundboth movements. With regard to other sermons the vast imagery usedin “Sinners of an Angry God”, is the most distinguishing factor.The imagery captures inner emotions of the congregation resulting intears and weeping. Also, this imagery focuses on those egotisticalindividuals that only treasure themselves. As aforementioned theybelieve in their strength, abilities, and worth among others (Edwards87).
Accordingto Edwards, human beings have free will thus they can choose theirfate. They have the potential and capability to be righteous andunrighteous. The final decision is dependent on an individual’sdesires. The Calvinist also brings up the original sin of Genesis andstates that no individual is naturally born loving God. It isimpossible for human beings to please God with regard to theirmorality set up. For human beings to naturally please God, theirnature has to be altered by God himself. Therefore, they should beready to obtain the salvation that emanates from God (Edwards 85).
Onthe other hand, Philip Freneau drafted the poem, “On the Religionof Nature”, which describes the nature of God according to Deists.Just like Jonathan Edwards, Freneau’s work is also inclined towardPuritanism. His poem displays another way in which people shouldunderstand the nature of God and His Supreme Power. Edwards’ andFreneau’s concept is the same except, Freneau’s God is not aChristian one. His focus is on understanding God and religion on thebasis of nature rather than religion itself (Axelrad 41). Accordingto the poem, it is not God but, nature that leads people to followthe correct path. Philip Freneau describes that people should notsubscribe to one religion. The poem depicts that human beings shouldworship the Supreme Power that emanates from nature, and all itconstitutes (Axelrad 42-43).
Accordingto his poem, the life of human beings is predetermined by God thusthere is only one path to be followed. There are no obstructions thathinder humanity from living a life free of sin and mishaps. Also, thepoem describes that following nature as the only religion, wouldhinder conflicts about religion. It is salient to note thatphilosophers differ on matters of religion due to the diverseopinions. When human beings subscribe to nature as the only religion,there will be no room for disagreements on the same. Freneau’s poemoutlines that the Supreme Power regarding Deism makes it easier forpeople to lead righteous lives. According to the poem, nature’sreligion has no downfalls thus an individual is free from sin. Itclaims that humanity experiences Heaven before their death (Axelrad45).
Inaddition, Freneau renders his God as one who offers blessings toindividuals. The Supreme Power of Nature gives humanity theopportunity to receive countless blessings. When flowers blossom,rain pours, and plants grow it is often considered a blessing inmost scenarios. In fact, the poem depicts that the magnificent powercomes from the Supreme Being. He emphasizes the beauty of subscribingto one religion clearly observing the perks. Also, it is necessaryto note that Edward’s sermon depicts God as an angry and mercilessfather. Howbeit, Freneau’s poem describes the Supreme Being as aloving mother. In fact, the poem goes ahead to show that the SupremeBeing has the characteristics of Mother Nature (Axelrad 45-49).
Theideas in Phillis Wheatley’s poem closely resemble those of Edwardsand Freneau. Her poem was directed toward Harvard students, and itwas in comparison to her early life as a slave. With regard to God,her poem mainly focuses on shunning away from sin. Phillis Wheatleywas a staunch Christian, who testified about God’s mercy. In herpoem, she urges people to seek for salvation to be right by God(Wheatley 35). Wheatley’s testimony reveals that she was saved byGod and removed from a place of darkness. The poem delineates thather God is merciful thus He saved her from the demise of slavery.According to Wheatley, God does not tolerate sin and all sinners arebound to be destroyed when judgment day come. She informed thestudents that leading a righteous life would be much easier thanengaging in sinful acts (Wheatley 35-37).
Insummation it is salient that the views of the three individuals areinterrelated. According to Freneau and Edwards, human beings werenaturally born sinners, and this is not different from Wheatley’sviews. In fact, she gives deep insight into the deadly nature of thesins committed by those who enslaved her. Additionally, all the threeindividuals urge people to seek salvation for the purposes of abetter after life. According to them, subscribing to sinful waysresults in eternal punishment as opposed to eternal life. They alsorecognize God as merciful regardless of his capabilities of wrath,and punishment. Finally, it is salient that God is considered aspowerful and omniscient by all the three individuals.
Axelrad,Jacob. PhilipFreneau: Champion of Democracy.S.l: s.n, n.d. Print.
Edwards,Jonathan. Sermonsof Jonathan Edwards.Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2005. Print.
Wheatley,Phillis. The Poemsof Phillis Wheatley: With Letters and a Biographical Note., 2010. Web.