What is the direct statement in which Edwards sets forth the purpose of his sermon?

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Edwards states that:

whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

By natural man, Edwards means any person who has not become a Christian and been saved by making a confession of faith that Christ is his lord.

Edwards is stating that the purpose of his sermon is to illustrate that an unsaved individual can at any moment be plunged into the fires of hell. Edwards goes to great pains to describe how the unsaved live: they are like people trying to cross over a great fire on a very rickety bridge that is missing planks: they could at any step fall through the rotting planks to perish horribly. Or they are like a spider dangled over a fire, or like people walking on an unstable shore, liable at any time to slip into the pit of a raging inferno.

Edwards is graphic in illustrating the plight of the unsaved. He does this to try to bring people to Christ. To him, there is no middle ground between eternal damnation and salvation.

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The direct statement of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is set down by Edwards in the "Application" section of the sermon. Here, he explicitly announces his purpose in subjecting his audience to such a sustained attack of hellfire and brimstone:

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.—That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you.

Edwards is deeply disturbed by what the sees as the growing materialism and moral laxity of the supposedly God-fearing folk of New England. As a fire-breathing Calvinist, he believes that Hell literally exists, a hideous place full of fiery torment, of wailing and gnashing of teeth. He wants to concentrate the minds of his auditors on the terrible fate that awaits them should they fail to repent of their sins. To that end, he uses especially lurid imagery to convey the full force of the terrors that sinners can expect to encounter in the infernal world below. At the same time, Edwards holds out the prospect of redemption. He wants his listeners to know that, though their fates have been pre-determined by the Almighty, they still have within themselves the power to abandon the sinful lives into which so many of them have fallen and return to the path of righteousness.

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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.

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