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Jonathan Edwards Sermon and Shakespeares Characters Speech - Book Report/Review Example

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These two texts, Jonathan Edwards' Sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741), and Portia's speech from William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (c1598), represent two views of God in the World. Written over 150 years apart, Shakespeare and Edwards seem to have very different ideas about the nature of God, and his relationship to his most difficult creation, humans…
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Jonathan Edwards Sermon and Shakespeares Characters Speech
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Download file to see previous pages Shakespeare, on the other hand, believed by some to be a Catholic, sees the death of Christ (the metaphorical shedding of blood which Portia is able to prevent in the play), as an indication of the Generous extension by God of mercy to the whole of humanity. Here, salvation can be redeemed through an individual's behavior. Salvation is not determined: instead, each man must work to earn that reward. The renaissance ideal of Justification (From Greek dikaioo: to make righteous) By Faith is clear throughout Shakespeare's play: the suitors must also make the right/righteous choice of boxes, and declare their faith by swearing celibacy, for one example.
Edwards's sermon emphasizes the nature of God's justice upon those who he sees as Sinners. He predicts that most of the people who have died are now in Hell: "They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the bigger part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell" (Edwards, 1741). Edwards, being a Calvinist, sees that most of the efforts of Christians to justify themselves are futile, because God is under no obligation: "God has laid himself under no obligation by any promisebut what are contained in the covenant of grace" (Edwards, 1741). The God of Edwards is not one of benevolence and mercy, but the wrathful judge of those who disobey his laws: "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spiderover the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked." (Edwards, 1741). Edwards' God does not regard Humans as his favorite pets, but rather as something distasteful to him, which he will throw upon the fire as one might a spider, with neither horror nor pity. God is not only wrathful, he is intolerant of human's sins: an easily provoked, vengeful god, whose justice is "The winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God" (Edwards, 1741. There is the possibility of mercy, but Edwards seems to regard it as a limited offer: "Now God stands ready to pity you, this is a day of mercybut once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous crieswill be in vain; you will be wholly lost." (Edwards 1741). Therefore, we can say of Edwards' God that he is wrathful and furious against human sinners; that humans have little opportunity to amend this wrath - only by awakening to the oncoming wrath will a few be saved; and that God has made no promises concerning everlasting life - he is not obliged to protect anyone. This view of God as one who desires justice and vengeance is a typical Calvinist position, where the great majority of humans are doomed to Hell, and God's mercy is limited to a chosen few.
Shakespeare's God is a very different God from that of Edwards. While the 18th century preacher sees God as handing out a very harsh justice on mankind, Shakespeare has Portia compare mercy to "The Gentle rain from Heaven". He implies that, while the powerful might demonstrate that power through fear: "His scepter shows the force of temporal power/an attribute to awe and majesty/wherein doth sit the dread and fear of Kings" (Shakespeare, 1598), in fact, their greater strength comes from Mercy: "But mercy is above this sceptred sway/And earthly power dost then become likest God's/where mercy seasons justice" (Shakespeare, 15 ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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