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

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his sermon, Edwards makes it clear that the will of God keeps sinners from falling into hell.

The opening paragraph of the sermon argues that divine judgment determines whether an individual reaches heaven or hell.  Edwards points to how "the vengeance of God" played this role with "wicked unbelieving Israelites."  In Edwards's mind, when God feels that human beings have engaged in transgression, his anger determines an individual's fate. In order to receive such works, Edwards argues that humans must endear themselves to the divine. 

The sermon's first paragraph is deliberate in the way it captures the reader's attention.  Edwards contrasts God's wrath with images of "God's wonderful works."  No matter what human beings do, Edwards is emphatic that individuals will "slide" or ascend based on what God decides. In the sermon's opening paragraph, Edwards creates a vision of God that is omnipotent.  He sees and knows all. 

It is the will of God that keeps sinners from entering hell.  The opening of the sermon is blunt in who holds the power in the relationship between people and the divine.  Edwards wants to change the minds of those who believe that they control their fate.  To these people, Edwards directly argues that God's power keeps people from sliding into hell or condemned to it.


droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edwards' sermon seeks to impress upon the faithful the fact that God is, at no point, "under any obligation to keep any natural man" out of hell, and that indeed the natural state of all men is to be condemned to hell. This is, Edwards says, implied by the suggestion that their feet are only waiting to "slip" into that pit: they stay out of it only because "God's appointed time has not come," and are saved only "at the mere pleasure" of God himself.

The opening paragraph makes a concise case which Edwards then goes on to explain over the course of the sermon that follows. It laments that the Israelites did not understand the words spoken to them, that they would fall "in due time." Edwards then goes on to assert in the sermon that it is folly for men to devise their own plans to escape damnation, without realizing they are entirely at the whim of God.

Read the study guide:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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