In his sermon, Jonathan Edwards uses simple, everyday images to impress on listeners the severe and ever-present danger of falling into hellfire. In one potent metaphor, he describes the peril as follows:
Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen.
This paints a vivid picture of walking across a rotting bridge that hangs over a sea of hellfire just below, a structure which at any moment might give beneath you so that you would plunge into the flames. This is a frightening tableau of immediate, life-threatening danger. It is also a familiar image: most listeners would be well acquainted with the experience of standing on a structure, whatever it might be, that broke or threatened to break under their weight.
In a simile, Edwards likens human destruction, without God's grace, as
like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
In this simile, a high wind or tornado would come up and lift a multitude of people away just as the wind does the chaff or waste materials from the harvest, such as corn husks. This is not a highly relatable image for most of us in the industrialized twenty-first century, but people who farmed for a living would quickly be able to conjure a familiar picture of the farm waste blowing away. They would know how ordinary and simple this occurrence is and not wish it to be their own fate. Further, this simile would bring to mind the many biblical passages in which God separates the wheat from the chaff and throws the chaff on the fire.