What is the dominant image in the opening paragraph of Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God? What generalization does Edwards make about all people? Why?
The dominant image in the opening paragraph of the Reverend Jonathan Edwards's sermon to his congregation is the idea that, like the "wicked, unbelieving Israelites" mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:35, members of his following have been unfaithful and also are on "the slippery slope" of damnation. Edwards makes the generalization that there is a close connection among all people in their sinfulness, and they will "slide" in their faith if they are not diligent in their worship of God and adherence to His laws.
Since all men and women are descended from Adam and Eve, all can sin equally. Therefore, Rev. Edwards makes the comparison of his congregation with the Israelites. He tells his congregation,
There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of Hell, but the mere pleasure of God.
To impress this idea upon his listeners, Edwards employs strong and frightening imagery and harsh condemnations. Also, his congregation knows of the punishments that the Israelites suffered and they become terrified by the images of their hanging by a gossamer thread over the fiery pits of hell. To increase this fear, Edwards describes their being "ten times more abominable in God's eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours," and that "the bow of God's wrath is bent...and it is nothing but "the mere pleasure of God" that holds the arrow back.
By generalizing that his congregation is like the Israelites and are subject to the wrath of God in similar fashion, Edwards generates such terror of hell and damnation in the hope that his people will repent and become saved.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial