PUritan Literature

The Puritan Tradition

Puritan writers had their own purposes for recording history. They believed writing should be useful, a tool to help readers understand the Bible and guide them in their daily lives. For this reason, logic, clarity, and order were more prized in writing than beauty or adornment. One Puritan compared adorned writing to stained-glass windows. “The paint upon the glass may feed the fancy, but the room is not well lighted by it.” Using a familiar, down-to-earth metaphor such as this to make a deeper point is a common feature of Puritan writing. The direct, powerful, plain language of much of American literature owes a debt to the Puritans.

What keeps you in line?

A sense of morality probably keeps you from cheating on a test. In other words, you know cheating is wrong. But there are other reasons for behaving morally. Some people are anxious to please. Others fear the consequences of breaking the rules. Jonathan Edwards uses fear to get his point across in the sermon you’re about to read. Is fear the best motivator?

Literary Analysis

A sermon is a form of religious persuasion in which a speaker exhorts listeners to behave in a more spiritual and moral fashion. Like all sermons, Jonathan Edwards’s is shaped by

purpose—why Edwards delivers the sermon

audience—whom Edwards is addressing

context—when and where Edwards delivers the sermon

As you read Edwards’s sermon, look for passages that reveal his purpose, his audience, and the context for his delivery.

Reading Skill: Analyze Emotional Appeals

Emotional appeals are messages designed to persuade an audience by creating strong feelings rather than by providing facts and evidence. Writers often use tone, imagery, and figurative language to make these types of emotional appeals:

• appeal to fear, which taps into people’s fear of losing their safety or security

• appeal to pity, which takes advantage of people’s sympathy and compassion for others

• appeal to vanity, which relies on people’s desire to feel good about themselves

As you read, use a chart like the one shown to record examples of language used to appeal to the audience’s emotions.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

by Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was an American revivalist preacher, philosopher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Like most of the Puritans, he held to the Reformed theology. Wikipedia
Born: October 5, 1703, East Windsor, CT
Died: March 22, 1758, Princeton, NJ