A Calvinist who believes in predestination, Jonathan Edwards wants his congregation to realize that God controls their fates. His direct statement that propounds his purpose is this:
...there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
Over and over Edwards emphasizes the vulnerability of the Puritans whom he addresses. He wants them to feel that they are "abominable" in God's sight and beg God for His mercy. Furthermore, his repetition of the word "nothing" emphasizes and exaggerates the dangers of damnation. By impressing his congregation with the spiritual peril in which they exist, Edwards hopes to persuade those who have been weak in their Christian faith to change and, thereby, experience a profound spiritual transformation.
So powerful and terrifying were the images of spiders and snakes--for which many have a natural repugnance--and the fires of hell that burn and rage with "divine wrath," that Edwards's sermon caused many of his congregation to scream and even flee the church before he finished.