Edwards was interrupted many times during the sermon by people moaning and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?”. Although the sermon has received criticism, Edwards’ words have endured and are still read to this day. Edwards’ sermon continues to be the leading example of a First Great Awakening sermon and is still used in religious and academic studies.
Since the 1950s, a number of critical perspectives were used to analyze the sermon. The first comprehensive academic analysis of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was published by Edwin Cady in 1949, who comments on the imagery of the sermon and distinguishes between the “cliché” and “fresh” figurative images, stressing how the former related to the colonial life. Lee Stuart questions that the message of the sermon was solely negative and attributes its success to the final passages in which the sinners are actually “comforted”. Rosemary Hearn argues that it is the logical structure of the sermon that constitutes its most important persuasive element. Lemay looks into the changes in the syntactic categories, like grammatical tenses, in the text of the sermon.
Lukasik stresses how in the sermon Edwards appropriates Newtonian physics, especially the image of the gravitational pull that would relentlessly bring the sinners down. Gallagher focuses on the “beat” of the sermon, and on how the consecutive structural elements of the sermon serve different persuasive aims. Choiński suggests that the rhetorical success of the sermon consists in the use of the “deictic shift” that transported the hearers mentally into the figurative images of hell.
Ironically, Jonathan Edwards wrote and spoke a great deal on heaven and angels writes John Gerstner in “Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell,1998” and those theme are less remembered, namely “Heaven is a World of Love”.