What images and figure of speech might have helped Edward's listeners to feel the peril of their sinful condition?
Jonathan Edwards uses many vivid images to make and reinforce his point to the members of his congregation. Perhaps the most powerful image is the extended metaphor of God holding the sinner over the pit of hell. “…there is nothing between you and Hell but the air; it is only power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.” This image would have been even more powerful in Edwards’ time than it is today, as Puritan worshippers were regularly exposed to the idea of a fiery hell.
Edwards also uses the idea of sin (wickedness) making a sinner as heavy as lead. He describes the sin weighing down the sinner to the point that if God should let go, “you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf.” Furthermore, he says the best efforts of the sinner to stay out of hell once God decided to let go would be no more effective than “a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.”
Edwards also uses similes and metaphors to draw a clear picture in the mind of his listener. One of these images is the “black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads.” His comparison of God’s anger to a storm is a particularly effective image, as is the image of the destruction of the sinner to a whirlwind: “…and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.” Edwards’ listeners, members of an agricultural society, certainly relate to the ideas of weather and the parts of the grain that are not useful.
Two other important images are the wrath of God being compared to damned waters: “…the waters are constantly rising…there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the water back” and the “Bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string…” Edwards’ images are not only powerful, but they are also everyday images with which every member of his congregation would have had experienc