According to the first paragraph, what keeps sinners from falling from hell?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first paragraph establishes the theme that Edwards will strike throughout the sermon.  It is the "grace" of the divine that prevents individuals from "sliding" into the fires of Hell.  Edwards makes the argument that those who "live under the means of grace" are prevented from descending into the pit of infernal condemnation.  Individuals owe their being in the world to the divine.  From the first paragraph of the speech, Edwards constructs an interesting paradigm.  On one hand, individuals must possess the power to change their ways, to reform their paths of sin and transgression.  Yet, the final verdict which prevents them from going into Hell  is one rendered by the divine.  This condition of being in the world is reflected in the very first paragraph of Edwards' sermon.

It is in this "cultivation from heaven" where human redemption lies.  While human beings have the power to change, the prevention of their "slide" is completely determined by the will of the divine.  When individuals can understand this in light of God's intense anger at the path of transgression that has been chosen, Edwards feels that individuals will better understand their fragile condition and pledge themselves accordingly to the will of the divine:

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed, ver. 28. void of counsel, having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.

This becomes the fundamental paradigm of both Edwards sermon and the condition of humanity at this point in their existence.  It is important enough for Edwards to communicate in the opening of his work and essential enough for humans to grasp.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial