What do his listeners mistakenly feel keeps them from falling into hell?

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This is a good question. Edwards assumes that his hearers do not know what situation they are in. They mistakenly forget that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God, as the title of the sermon makes clear. I would say that is the bulk of the sermon...

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This is a good question. Edwards assumes that his hearers do not know what situation they are in. They mistakenly forget that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God, as the title of the sermon makes clear. I would say that is the bulk of the sermon and where people are mistaken. Therefore, Edwards is at pains to show them that the unconverted person is near hell. Here is a quote:

So that every unconverted Man properly belongs to Hell; that is his Place; from thence he is.

Here is another:

The old Serpent is gaping from them. Hell opens his Mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

The only thing that keeps the unconverted man from hell is the good pleasure of God. Edwards then goes one to say that some people believe that their prudence, care, or wisdom will save them. Edwards burst this opinion as well. He writes:

“There is this clear evidence that Men’s own Wisdom is no Security to them from Death.”

In the end, not ignorance, man’s care, concern, or hard work can help people from hell. Therefore, the only solution from falling into hell is to run away from hell (to God), which is exactly the way the sermon ends.

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Edwards's listeners mistakenly believe that they can keep themselves out of hell by their own actions, their own endeavor. It is Edwards's express purpose in delivering the sermon to disabuse them of such a notion. For each and every believer, however righteous they may feel themselves to be, is a sinner. And as sinners, they are held in the hands of God over the fiery flames of hell. God has absolute sovereignty; there is no one and no thing that can ever diminish his power, his complete freedom of action. He can let any sinner fall into hell any time he chooses, and there's absolutely nothing that anyone can do about it. People labor under the misapprehension that, because they haven't already been consigned to hell, then that means God isn't angry with them. But as Edwards points out, this is a deeply mistaken assumption. God has already prepared the hellish pit, the furnace and the fire, ready at any moment to receive a fresh batch of unrepentant sinners.

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