One of the most powerful sermons on hell ever delivered was preached by Jonathan Edwards on the afternoon of July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut. His text was Deuteronomy 32:35: “their foot shall slide in due time.” Probably no other single sermon has had the effect of this one. It was interrupted by outcries from the congregation - men and women stood up and rolled on the floor, their cries often drowning out the voice of the preacher. Some are said to have laid hold on the pillars and braces of the church, apparently feeling that at that very moment their feet were sliding into hell. Through the night, Enfield was like a beleaguered city. In almost every house, men and women were heard crying out for God to save them.
Some excerpts from this mighty message: God has laid Himself under no obligation, by any promise, to keep any natural man out of Hell one moment. God is under no manner of obligation to keep jom a moment from eternal destruction. So it is that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of Hell. The devil is waiting for them; Hell is gaping for them; the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them and swallow them up. This is the case of every one of you who are out of Christ. That world of misery, that Lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God. There is Hell’s wide gaping mouth open, and you have nothing between you and Hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up. Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downward with great weight and pressure towards Hell. If God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf and your healthy constitution and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell than a spider’s wed would have to stop a falling rock.
“There are the black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God it would immediately burst forth upon you.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present. They increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given. The longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. The waters are continually rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw His hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with omnipotent power. If your strength were 10,000 times greater of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in Hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors your sin, and is dreadfully provoked. You have often offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince, and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to Hell last night, that you werre suffered to awake again in this world after you closed your eyes to sleep. There is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into Hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. Yes, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into Hell. Consider the fearful danger you are in! It is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in Hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder.”