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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Genesis 19

 

 

Verses 1-3

Genesis 19:1-3

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom

The eve of judgment to the righteous

I.
THE RIGHTEOUS MAN IS FOUND IN THE WAY OF DUTY.

1. The duty of his calling.

2. The duty arising from the relations of human life.

II. THE RIGHTEOUS MAN IS SEPARATE FROM SINNERS. In the world, but living above it. This separateness, which is necessarily the mark of the righteous character, involves:--

1. Sorrow for the spiritual state of men alienated from God.

2. A principle which regulates choice of companionship. A good man will avoid the contagion of evil example, and be attracted to that which is most Godlike. (T. H. Leale.)

Angel work in a bad town

I. THE REASONS WHICH JUSTIFIED THIS SUPREME ACT OF DESTRUCTING.

1. It was a merciful warning to the rest of mankind.

2. Moreover, in this terrible act, the Almighty simply hastened the result of their own actions.

3. Besides, this overthrow only happened after careful investigation.

4. There is this consideration also--that, during the delay, many a warning was sent.

5. It is worthy of notice that God saved all whom He could.

II. THE MOTIVES OF THE ANGELS’ VISIT.

1. The proximate or nearest cause was their own love to man.

2. The efficient cause was Abraham’s prayer.

3. The ultimate cause was God’s mercy.

III. THE ANGELS WENT TO WHERE LOT WAS--to Sodom. As a ray of light may pass through the foetid atmosphere of some squalid court, and emerge without a stain on its pure texture, so may angels spend a night in Sodom, surrounded by crowds of sinners, and yet be untainted angels still. If you go to Sodom for your gains, as Lot did, you will soon show signs of moral pollution. But if you go to save men, as these angels did, you may go into a very hell of evil, where the air is laden with impurity and blasphemy, but you will not be befouled. No grain of mud shall stick.

IV. THEY WERE CONTENT TO WORK FOR VERY FEW. It has been said that the true method of soul-winning is to set the heart on some one soul; and to pursue it, until it has either definitely accepted, or finally rejected, the Gospel of the grace of God. We should not hear so many cries for larger spheres, if Christians only realized the possibilities of the humblest life. Christ found work enough in a village to keep Him there for thirty years. Philip was torn from the great revival in Samaria to go into the desert to win one seeker after God.

V. THEY HASTENED HIM. Let us hasten sinners. Let us say to each one: “Escape for thy life; better lose all than lose your soul. Look not behind to past attainments or failures. Linger nowhere outside the City of Refuge, which is Jesus Christ Himself. Haste ye; habits of indecision strengthen; opportunities are closing in; the arrow of destruction has already left the bow of justice; now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)

I. THE WARNING.

1. How given. The messenger an angel! The deliverance of one man from a temporary calamity worthy of an angel’s powers. The great privilege of those who are permitted to save souls from eternal death. We have had many warnings. Prophets, apostles, &c., &c. “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast,” &c.

2. To whom given. Lot. Even he, an imperfect man, shall be saved. “Not one of these little ones shall perish.” “None shall by any means pluck you out of My Father’s hand.”

3. Its nature. Unprecedented. Startling. Life and death. Several cities to be destroyed.

4. When given. On the eve of the event predicted. No time for saving property. Life the only thing to be carried away. Presently the time will come when we can carry nothing away with us. Are we now prepared? We may have but a short warning, or none at all.

II. THE ESCAPE.

1. Lot receives the warning. Informs his sons-in-law. They ridiculed it. Scoffers. Many make a mock at sin. Still worse to make a mock of religion. Many do even this. Their “day is coming.” Was there any cause in Lot for their scoffs? Had they not sufficient reason, in his known character, to believe him? Imperfect piety has little influence. Probably his influence in Sodom was not very great.

2. He lingered.

3. Compulsion was needful. The angels had to lead him forth. Strange that men need to be coerced into accepting a great deliverance. Yet this brand was plucked from the burning. Men have to be compelled to come in, &c.

4. Even then Lot did not wish to go as far as he could from destruction, but to remain as near as possible.

III. THE JUDGMENT.

1. The people were employed, as usual, in their pleasures, labours, or sins. Did not think their end was so near. So will it be at the judgment of the world. Death may overtake us unawares.

2. Lot being at a safe distance, the fearful tempest commenced. Fire destroyed the city, and water soon flowed over and submerged the smoking ruins.

3. Lot’s wife, looking back, was changed into a pillar of salt. None who are on the way to heaven can look back longing on the world they leave without injury. Old attachments are thereby strengthened, and new occupations, &c., are made distasteful. Such declension displeasing to God.

1. The wonderful mercy of God for even imperfect Christians.

2. The duty of thankfully receiving the warning He sends.

3. The duty that lays upon us of warning men “to flee from the wrath to come.”

4. God’s great love in providing a deliverer for us. (J. C. Gray.)

Angels’ word to Lot

1. Their humanity.

2. Their power.

I. THAT THEY HAVE A NATURE SUPERIOR TO HUMAN INFIRMITIES.

II. THAT THEY REGARD PARENTS AS ESPECIALLY BOUND TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF THEIR FAMILIES.

III. THAT THEY REGARD SIN AS TOUCHING THE HEART OF THE GREAT GOD.

1. God being omniscient is cognisant of every sin.

2. God being holy must be pained by every sin.

IV. THAT THEY REGARD THEMSELVES AS DIVINELY COMMISSIONED TO INFLICT CALAMITIES WHERE THERE IS SIN. Conclusion:

1. Life is solemn.

2. God is great.

3. Sin is ruinous. (Homilist.)

The character of Lot

Lot’s character is a singularly mixed one. With all his selfishness he was hospitable and public-spirited. Lover of good living, as undoubtedly he was, his courage and strength of character are yet unmistakable. His sitting at the gate in the evening to offer hospitality may fairly be taken as an indication of his desire to screen the wickedness of his townsmen, and also to shield the stranger from their brutality. From the style in which the mob addressed him it is obvious that he had made himself offensive by interfering to prevent wrongdoing. He was nick-named “the Censor,” and his eye was felt to carry condemnation. It is true there is no evidence that his opposition had been of the slightest avail. How could it avail with men who knew perfectly well that, with all his denunciation of their wicked ways, he preferred their money-making company to the desolation of the hills, where he would be vexed with no filthy conversation, but would also find no markets? Still it is to Lot’s credit that in such a city, with none to observe, none to applaud, and none to second him, he should have been able to preserve his own purity of life and steadily to resist wrong-doing. It would be cynical to say that he cultivated austerity and renounced popular vices as a salve to a conscience wounded by his own greed. That he had the courage which lies at the root of strength of character became apparent as the last dark night of Sodom wore on. To go out among a profligate, lawless mob, wild with passion and infuriated by opposition--to go out and shut the door behind him--was an act of true courage. His confidence in the influence he had gained in the town cannot have blinded him to the temper of the raging crowd at his door. To defend his unknown guests he put himself in a position in which men have frequently lost life. In the first few hours of his last night in Sodom there is much that is admirable and pathetic in Lot’s conduct. But when we have said that he was bold and that he hated other men’s sins, we have exhausted the more attractive side of his character. The inhuman collectedness of mind with which, in the midst of a tremendous public calamity, he could scheme for his own private wen-being is the key to his whole character. He had no feeling, lie was cold-blooded, calculating, keenly alive to his own interest, with all his wits about him to reap some gain to himself out of every disaster; the kind of man out of whom wreckers are made, who can with gusto strip gold rings off the fingers of doomed corpses; out of whom are made the villains who can rifle the pockets of their dead comrades on a battle-field, or the politicians who can still ride on the top of the wave that hurls their country on the rocks. (M. Dods, D. D.)

Lot’s hospitality

Lot would fain have been as hospitable as Abraham. Deeper in his nature than any other consideration was the traditional habit of hospitality. To this he would have sacrificed everything; the rights of strangers were to him truly inviolable. Lot was a man who could as little see strangers without inviting them to his house as Abraham could. He would have treated them handsomely as his uncle; and what he could do he did. But Lot had by his choice of a dwelling made it impossible he should afford safe and agreeable lodging to any visitor, lie did his best, and it was not his reception of the angels that sealed Sodom’s doom, and yet what shame he must have felt that he had put himself in circumstances in which his chief virtue could not be practised. So do men tie their own hands and cripple themselves so that even the good they would take pleasure in doing is either wholly impossible or turns to evil. (M. Dods, D. D.)


Verses 1-38

DESTRUCTION OF THE CITIES OF THE PLAIN

Genesis 19:1-38

WHILE Abraham was pleading with the Lord the angels were pursuing their way to Sodom. And in doing so they apparently observed the laws of those human forms which they had assumed. They did not spread swift wings and alight early in the afternoon at the gates of the city; but taking the usual route, they descended from the hills which separated Abraham’s encampment from the plain of the Jordan, and as the sun was setting reached their destination. In the deep recess which is found at either side of the gateway of an Eastern city, Lot had taken his accustomed seat. Wearied and vexed with the din of the revellers in the street, and oppressed with the sultry doom-laden atmosphere, he was looking out towards the cool and peaceful hills, purple with the sinking sun behind them, and letting his thoughts first follow and then outrun his eye; he was now picturing and longing for the unseen tents of Abraham, and almost hearing the cattle lowing round at evening and all the old sounds his youth had made familiar.

He is recalled to the actual present by the footfall of the two men, and little knowing the significance of his act, invites them to spend the night under his roof. It has been observed that the historian seems to intend to bring out the quietness and the ordinary appearance of the entire circumstances. All goes on as usual. There is nothing in the setting sun to say that for the last time it has shone oh these rich meadows, or that in twelve hours its rising will be dimmed by the smoke of the burning cities. The ministers of so appalling a justice as was here displayed enter the city as ordinary travellers. When a crisis comes, men do not suddenly acquire an intelligence and insight they have not habitually cultivated. They cannot suddenly put forth an energy nor exhibit an apt helpfulness which only character can give. When the test comes, we stand or tall not according to what we would wish to be and now see the necessity of being, but according to what former self-discipline or self-indulgence has made us.

How then shall this angelic commission of enquiry proceed? Shall it call together the elders of Sodom-or shall it take Lot outside the city and cross-examine him, setting down names and dates and seeking to come to a fair judgment. Not at all-there is a much surer way of detecting character than by any process of examination by question and answer. To each of us God says:

"Since by its fruit a tree is judged,

Show me thy fruit, the latest act of thine!

For in the last is summed the first, and all, -

What thy life last put heart and soul into,

There shall I taste thy product."

It is thus these angels proceed. They do not startle the inhabitants of Sodom into any abnormal virtue nor present opportunity for any unwonted iniquity. They give them opportunity to act in their usual way. Nothing could well be more ordinary than the entrance to the city of two strangers at sunset. There is nothing in this to excite, to throw men off their guard, to overbalance the daily habit, or give exaggerated expression to some special feature of character. It is thus we are all judged-by the insignificant circumstances in which we act without reflection, without conscious remembrance of an impending judgment, with heart and soul and full enjoyment.

First Lot is judged. Lot’s character is a singularly mixed one. With all his selfishness, he was hospitable and public-spirited. Lover of good living, as undoubtedly he was, his courage and strength of character are yet unmistakable. His sitting at the gate in the evening to offer hospitality may fairly be taken as an indication of his desire to screen the wickedness of his townsmen, and also to shield the stranger from their brutality. From the style in which the mob addressed him, it is obvious that he had made himself offensive by interfering to prevent wrong-doing. He was nicknamed "the Censor," and his eye was felt to carry condemnation. It is true there is no evidence that his opposition had been of the slightest avail. How could it avail with men who knew perfectly well that with all his denunciation of their wicked ways, he preferred their money-making company to the desolation of the hills, where he would be vexed with no filthy conversation, but would also find no markets? Still it is to Lot’s credit that in such a city, with none to observe, none to applaud, and none to second him, he should have been able to preserve his own purity of life and steadily to resist wrong-doing. It would be cynical to say that he cultivated austerity and renounced popular vices as a salve to a conscience wounded by his own greed.

That he had the courage which lies at the root of strength of character became apparent as the last dark night of Sodom wore on. To go out among a profligate, lawless mob, wild with passion and infuriated by opposition-to go out and shut the door behind him-was an act of true courage. His confidence in the influence he had gained in the town cannot have blinded him to the temper of the raging crowd at his door. To defend his unknown guests he put himself in a position in which men have frequently lost life.

In the first few hours of his last night in Sodom, there is much that is admirable and pathetic in Lot’s conduct. But when we have said that he was bold and that he hated other men’s sins, we have exhausted the more attractive side of his character. The inhuman collectedness of mind with which, in the midst of a tremendous public calamity, he could scheme for his own private well-being is the key to his whole character. He had no feeling. He was cold-blooded, calculating, keenly alive to his own interest, with all his wits about him to reap some gain to himself out of every disaster; the kind of man out of whom wreckers are made, who can with gusto strip gold rings off the fingers of doomed corpses; out of whom are made the villains who can rifle the pockets of their dead comrades on a battlefield, or the politicians who can still ride on the top of the wave that hurls their country on the rocks. When Abraham gave him his choice of a grazing ground, no rush of feeling, no sense of gratitude, prevented him from making the most of the opportunity. When his house was assailed, he had coolness, when he went out to the mob, to shut the door behind him that those within might not hear his bargain. When the angel, one might almost say, was flurried by the impending and terrible destruction, and was hurrying him away, he was calm enough to take in at a glance the whole situation and on the spot make provision for himself. There was no need to tell him not to look back as his wife did: no deep emotion would overmaster him, no unconquerable longing to see the last of his dear friends in Sodom would make him lose one second of his time. Even the loss of his wife was not a matter of such importance as to make him forget himself and stand to mourn. In every recorded act of his life appears this same unpleasant characteristic.

Between Lot and Judas there is an instructive similarity. Both had sufficient discernment and decision of character to commit themselves to the life of faith, abandoning their original residence and ways of life. Both came to a shameful end, because the motive even of the sacrifices they made was self-interest. Neither would have had so dark a career had he more justly estimated his own character and capabilities, and not attempted a life for which he was unfit. They both put themselves into a false position; than which nothing tends more rapidly to deteriorate character. Lot was in a doubly false position, because in Sodom, as well as in Abraham’s shifting camp, he was out of place. He voluntarily bound himself to men he could not love. One side of his nature was paralysed; and that the side which in him especially required development. It is the influence of home life, of kindly surroundings, of friendships, of congenial employment, of everything which evokes the free expression of what is best in us; it is this which is a chief factor in the development of every man. But instead of the genial and fertilising influence of worthy friendships, and ennobling love, Lot had to pretend good-will where he felt none, and deceit and coldness grew upon him in place of charity. Besides, a man in a false position in life, out of which he can by any sacrifice deliver himself, is never at peace with God until he does deliver himself. And any attempt to live a righteous life with an evil conscience is foredoomed to failure.

And if it still be felt that Lot was punished with extreme severity, and that if every man who chose a good grazing ground or a position in life which was likely to advance his fortune were thereby doomed to end his days in a cave and Under the darkest moral brand, society would be quite disintegrated, it must be remembered that, in order to advance his interests in life, Lot sacrificed much that a man is bound by all means to cherish; and further, it must be said that our destinies are thus determined. The whole iniquity and final consequences of our disposition are not laid before us in the mass: but to give the rein to any evil disposition is to yield control of our own life and commit ourselves to guidance which cannot result in good, and is of a nature to result in utter shame and wretchedness.

Turning from the rescued to the destroyed, we recognise how sufficient a test of their moral condition the presence of the angels was. The inhabitants of Sodom quickly afford evidence that they are ripe for judgment. They do nothing worse than their habitual conduct led them to do It is not for this one crime they are punished: its enormity is only the legible instance which of itself convicts them. They are not aware of the frightful nature of the crime they seek to commit. They fancy it is but a renewal of their constant practice. They rush headlong on destruction and do not know it. How can it be otherwise? If a man will not take warning, if he will persist in sin, then the day comes when he is betrayed into iniquity the frightful nature of which he did not perceive, but which is the natural result of the life he has led. He goes on and will not give up his sin till at last the final damning act is committed which seals his doom. Character tends to express itself in one perfectly representative act. The habitual passion, whatever it is, is always alive and seeking expression. Sometimes one consideration represses it, sometimes another; but these considerations are not constant, while the passion is, and must therefore one day find its opportunity-its opportunity not for that moderate, guarded, disguised expression which passes without notice, but for the full utterance of its very essence. So it was here: the whole city, small and great, young and old, from every quarter came together unanimous and eager in prosecuting the vilest wickedness. No further investigation or proof was needed: it has indeed passed into a proverb: "they declare their sin as Sodom."

To punish by a special commission of enquiry is quite unusual in God’s government. Nations are punished for immorality or for vicious administration of law or for neglect of sanitary principles by the operation of natural laws. That is to say, there is a distinctly traceable connection between the crime and its punishment; the one being the natural cause of the other. That nations should be weakened, depopulated, and ultimately sink into insignificance, is the natural result of a development of the military spirit of a country and the love of glory. That a population should be decimated by cholera or small-pox is the inevitable result of neglecting intelligible laws of health. It seems to me absurd to put this destruction of Sodom in the same category. The descent of meteoric stones from the sky is not the natural result of immorality. The vices of these cities have disastrous national results which are quite legibly written in some races existing in the present day. We have here to do not with what is natural but with what is miraculous. Of course it is open to any one to say, "It was merely accidental-it was a mere coincidence that a storm of lightning so violent as to set fire to the bituminous soil should rage in the valley, while on the hills a mile or two off all was serene; it was a mere coincidence that meteoric stones or some instrument of conflagration should set on fire just these cities, not only one of them but four of them, and no more." And certainly were there nothing more to go upon than the fact of their destruction, this coincidence, however extraordinary, must still be admitted as wholly natural, and having no relation to the character of the people destroyed. It might be set down as pure accident, and be classed with storms at sea, or volcanic eruptions, which are due to physical causes and have no relation to the moral character of those involved, but indiscriminately destroy all who happen to be present.

But we have to account not only for the fact of the destruction but for its prediction both to Abraham and to Lot. Surely it is only reasonable to allow that such prediction was supernatural; and the prediction being so, it is also reasonable to accept the account of the event given by the predictors of it, and understand it not as an ordinary physical catastrophe, but as an event contrived with a view to the moral character of those concerned, and intended as an infliction of punishment for moral offences. And before we object to a style of dealing with nations so different from anything we now detect, we must be sure that a quite different style of dealing was not at that time required. If there is an intelligent training of the world, it must follow the same law which requires that a parent deal in one way with his boy of ten and in another with his adult son.

Of Lot’s wife the end is recorded in a curt and summary fashion. "His wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." The angel, knowing how closely on the heels of the fugitives the storm would press, had urgently enjoined haste, saying, "Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain." Rapid in its pursuit as a prairie fire, it was only the swift who could escape it. To pause was to be lost. The command, "Look not behind thee" was not given because the scene was too awful to behold, for what men can endure men may behold, and Abraham looked upon it from the hill above. It was given simply from the necessity of the case and from no less practical and more arbitrary reason. Accordingly, when the command was neglected, the consequence was felt. Why the infatuated woman looked back one can only conjecture. The woful sounds behind her, the roar of the flame and of Jordan driven back, the crash of falling houses and the last forlorn cry of the doomed cities, all the confused and terrific din that filled her ear, may well have paralysed her and almost compelled her to turn. But the use our Lord makes of her example shows us that He ascribed her turning to a different motive. He uses her as a warning to those who seek to save out of the destruction more than they have time to save, and so lose all." He which shall be on the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife." It would seem, then, as if our Lord ascribed her tragic fate to her reluctance to abandon her household stuff. She was a wife after Lot’s own heart, who in the midst of danger and disaster had an eye to her possessions. The smell of fire, the hot blast in her hair, the choking smoke of blazing bitumen, suggested to her only the thought of her own house decorations, her hangings, and ornaments, and stores. She felt keenly the hardship of leaving so much wealth to be the mere food of fire. The thought of such intolerable waste made her more breathless with indignation than her rapid flight. Involuntarily as she looks at the bleak, stony mountains before her, she thinks of the rich plain behind; she turns for one last look, to see if it is impossible to return, impossible to save anything from the wreck. The one look transfixes her, rivets her with dismay and horror. Nothing she looked for can be seen; all is changed in wildest confusion. Unable to move, she is overtaken and involved in the sulphurous smoke, the bitter salts rise out of the earth and stifle her and encrust around her and build her tomb where she stands.

Lot’s wife by her death proclaims that if we crave to make the best of both worlds, we shall probably lose both. Her disposition is not rare and exceptional as the pillar of salt which was its monument. She is not the only woman whose heart is so fixedly set upon her household possessions that she cannot listen to the angel-voices that would guide her. Are there none but Lot’s wife who show that to them there is nothing so important, nothing else indeed to live for at all, but the management of a house and the accumulation of possessions? If all who are of the same mind as Lot’s wife shared her fate the world would present as strange a spectacle as the Dead Sea presents at this day. For radically it was her divided mind which was her ruin. She had good impulses, she saw what she ought to do, but she did not do it with a mind made up. Other things divided her thoughts and diverted her efforts. What else is it ruins half the people who suppose themselves well on the way of life? The world is in their heart; they cannot pursue with undivided mind the promptings of a better wisdom. Their heart is with their treasure, and their treasure is really not in spiritual excellence, not in purity of character, not in the keen bracing air of the silent mountains where God is known, but in the comforts and gains of the luxurious plain behind.

We are to remember Lot’s wife that we may bear in mind how possible it is that persons who promise well and make great efforts and bid fair to reach a place of safety may be overtaken by destruction. We can perhaps tell of exhausting effort, we may have outstripped many in practical repentance, but all this may only be petrified by present carelessness into a monument recording how nearly a man may be saved and yet be destroyed. "Have ye suffered all these things in vain, if it be yet in vain? Ye have run well, what now hinders you?" The question always is, not, what have you done, but what are you now doing? Up to the site of the pillar, Lot’s wife had done as well as Lot, had kept pace with the angels; but her failure at that point destroyed her.

The same urgency may not be felt by all; but it should be felt by all to whose conscience it has been distinctly intimated that they have become involved in a state of matters which is ruinous. If you are conscious that in your life there are practices which may very well issue in moral disaster, an angel has taken you by the hand and bid you flee. For you to delay is madness. Yet this is what people will do. Sagacious men of the world, even when they see the probability of disaster, cannot bear to come out with loss. They will always wait a little longer to see if they cannot rescue something more, and so start on a fresh course with less inconvenience. They will not understand that it is better to live bare and stripped with a good conscience and high moral achievement, than in abundance with self-contempt. What they have always seems more to them than what they are.


Verses 4-11

Genesis 19:4-11

But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door

The eve of judgment to sinners

I.
THEIR WICKEDNESS IS UNABATED.

1. It extends to all classes of the community.

2. It includes the most shameful lusts.

3. It opposes the righteous to the last.

II. THEY EXPOSE THEMSELVES TO INFLICTIONS WHICH FORESHADOW FUTURE JUDGMENTS. Blindness-moral as well as physical.

III. THEIR CONDUCT OFTEN BECOMES A SOURCE OF DANGEROUS PERPLEXITY TO THE RIGHTEOUS (see Genesis 19:5; Genesis 19:8). Lot was prepared to violate one duty in order to maintain another. Let a man do right, and put his trust in God. (T. H. Leale.)

Shamelessness of sinners

Their shameless speech to have the men brought out that they might know them, very notably discovereth unto us the impudency that sin effecteth in time, when it once getteth rule. Surely it taketh all modesty, and shame, and honesty away, and proveth the saying to be most true: Consuctudo peccandi tollit sensum peccati. The custom of sin taketh away all sense and feeling of sin. At the beginning men shame to have it known what they do, though they fear not to do it, and they will use all cloaks and covers that possible they can to hide their wickedness. But at last they grow bold and, impudent, as these men did, even to say what care we. And why? Certainly because this is the course of sin in God’s judgment, that it shall benumb and harden the heart wherein it is suffered, and so sear up the conscience, and conceit in time, that there shall be no shame left, but such a thick vizard pulled over the face, that it can blush at nothing, either to say it or do it. Behold these brazen-brewed wretches here, who, after long use of sin (no doubt at first more secret), are now come to require these men openly and to tell the cause, that they might know them without all shame or spark of shame, in, and at so horrible abomination. Marvel not then any more, that the adulterer blusheth not, the drunkard shameth not, nor the blaspheming swearer hideth not his face. You see the reason; custom to do evil in that kind hath utterly bereaved him of feeling and shame as it did these Sodomites. A heavy and fearful case for God’s plague is even at the door of such people, as you see it was here for these Sodomites. It was well said of him that said it, if God take from a man his bodily eye that he cannot see, or his bodily ear that he cannot hear, every man seeth the judgment and perceiveth the loss; but when God in wrath taketh away the inward eye and ear of the mind and heart, that what sin soever he committeth, he neither seeth, nor heareth, nor feeleth, no man thinketh this a plague, or any rod of God. But O fearful plague! etc. (Bishop Babington.)

Mild speech to pacify

In Lot’s going out to them, shutting the door after him, and calling them brethren, we may note a godly discretion and wisdom in dealing to pacify outrageous beasts. Fire quencheth not fire, but milder and softer speeches many times, and most times appeaseth disorder, though here it could not, for the strength of sin that had so mightily possessed them. To brute beasts are overcome with fair speeches, and become tame; a soft answer breaketh anger, when a cutting tongue stirreth up wrath. Full of grace is that man and woman that can be mild and sweet to effect goodness. (Bishop Babington.)

Blindness.

1. Physical. They lost the power of distinct vision.

2. Mental. They were the subjects of illusions. The imagination was diseased, so that they were deceived by false appearances. They acted as distracted persons.

3. Moral. They madly persisted in their designs, though an act of Providence had rendered it impossible of accomplishment.

Judgment at hand

The Scriptural signs that the judgment is near are:--

1. That God abandons men or communities to out-breaking and presumptuous sins.

2. That warnings and chastisements fail to produce their effect, and especially when the person grows harder under them.

3. That God removes the good from any community--so, before the flood, so before the destruction of Jerusalem.

4. The deep, undisturbed security of those over whom it is suspended. (Gosman.)

God’s time to strike

Many a one is hardened by the good word of God, and, instead of receiving the counsel, rages at the messenger; when men are grown to that pass, that they are no whir better by afflictions, and worse with admonitions, God finds it time to strike. (Bishop Hall.)


Verse 12

Genesis 19:12

Hast thou here any besides?
--

A solemn inquiry concerning our families

I. Such a question as this APPEALS TO OUR NATURAL AFFECTION. Surely, unless we have lost manhood, we love our kindred and desire their good. We have not yet become like the ostriches in the wilderness, which care not for their young. Our flesh has not congealed into marble, nor are our hearts become like millstones; we have a very tender concern for those united to us by ties of nature, and esteem them as parts of ourselves. What parent is not glad to see his children in good health? We will watch them all through the weary night when they are ill, and can we not pray for them when they are sick with sin? Parents, be parents indeed. Brothers, act a true fraternal part. Sisters, let your tender love find a fitting channel. Husbands and wives, let your conjugal union awaken you to tenderest emotions. Let every fond relationship stir us to care for others, while the inquiry is made: “Hast thou here any besides?”

II. The question is one which AROUSES HOLY SOLICITUDE. To provoke you to earnest solicitude this morning, let me remind you of times when we should be anxious about our friends and children.

1. When first we ourselves look to Christ, we should care for others. We would not eat our morsel alone, lest it grow stale through our selfishness. This wood drops with honey; we cannot eat it all, let us call others to taste its sweetness.

2. Then there are times of Christian enjoyment.

3. Me-thinks when we are downcast, when our soul is filled with bitter trouble, then also is an appropriate season to pray for others. God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends, and he may turn our captivity when we do the same.

4. It may also help to stimulate this holy solicitude, to think of how we shall feel in regard to our children and friends when they come to lie sick.

Can we gaze upon their pallid countenances without bitter reproaches for our past supineness?

5. Think, again, how you would care for your friends if you were yourself this morning very nigh unto death. You cannot come back from heaven; if you have neglected a duty, you cannot leave heaven to perform it.

III. Such a question as this is calculated to EXCITE US TO ANXIOUS EFFORT for mere solicitude without effort is not genuine. A man must not pretend that he cares for the souls of others so long as he leaves one stone unturned which might be the means of blessing them.

1. It seems to me, then, that if we are in a right state of heart this morning, one of the first things we shall do will be to tell those dear to us of their danger. Let not thy friend perish through ignorance. Tell him that whosoever cometh unto Christ He will in no wise cast out; that there is life in a look at the crucified Saviour; that whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. Preach no salvation by works; but preach faith, and works only as the fruit of faith; and let the doctrine that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost be clearly set before thy friend’s face.

2. Remember it is not enough coldly to warn them of danger and doctrinally to teach the remedy. There are many who will go so far; but I hold, my brethren and sisters, that we are bound to use a constraint with our friends. Do not misunderstand me--only a loving and a tender constraint, such as these angels used with Lot. Press them, plead with them, take them by the hand. I remember an old man who was a nursing-father to all the young men in the parish where he lived. This one thing he used to do; there was scarcely a lad whom he would not know and speak to, and there was a time with most of the lads when he specially sought to see them decided. Suppose one of them was going away to London, he would be sure to ask him to have a cup of tea with him. “You are going away, John,” he would say; “I should not like you to go without spending an evening with me.” If it was a fine sunshiny evening, he would say, “You know I have often talked to you about the things of God, and I am afraid that as yet there has been no impression produced. You are going to London, and will meet with many temptations, and I fear you may fall into them, but I should like to pray with you once before you go. Let us walk down the field together.” There was a tree, an old oak tree, in a solitary place, where he would say, “To help you to recollect my words better, we will pray under this tree.” The young and the old knelt together, and the old man poured out his soul before God; and when he had wrestled with

God, and talked with his young friend, he would say, “Now, when I am dead and gone, you will perhaps come back to the place where you lived when a youth; let that tree be a witness between God and your soul, that here I wrestled with you; and if you forget God, and do not give your heart to Christ, let that tree stand to accuse your conscience till it yields to the entreaties of Divine love.” Now here was a using of what I have styled constraint; but it is not a constraint, as physical force; of course that is never to be used; but the constraint of spiritual force, Divine love, and earnestness. May I ask whether we have all done our duty in this matter?

IV. Our text FOSTERS A VERY CHEERING HOPE. It says, “Hast thou here any besides?” as much as if it would say, “Hope for them all. Why should they not all be brought out of Sodom? Why should one be left behind?”

V. The text SUGGESTS A VERY SOLEMN FEAR, namely, that there may be some in our households who will not be saved. Ah! young men and women; ah! you who are fathers of Christian children, but not converted yourselves; you who are godless daughters and unregenerate sons of Christian people, you are lost now, you may be lost for ever l Lot’s sons-in-law were consumed, and why not you? Saved shall the patriarch be, but not saved the patriarch’s son, except he shall flee out of Sodom. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Lessons

1. While God blinds the wicked, He maketh way for His servants to escape.

2. Sweet is the providence, and solicitous is the care of God by His angel over His saints to save them.

3. Sons and daughters fare the better with God for being related to holy parents.

4. God calleth His, and all that are near and dear to Him, out of the place upon which vengeance is determined (Revelation 18:4).

5. Approaching vengeance discovered should make saints quit themselves from among the wicked (Genesis 19:12).

6. When the cry of sins groweth great against God’s face, it is time for saints to haste from thence.

7. Jehovah commissions destroyers to blot out the wicked in the earth. 8, Good angels are sometimes commissioned to destroy the wicked as well as to save the righteous. (G. Hughes, B. D.)


Verse 14

Genesis 19:14

He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law

Danger despised

I.
LET US ATTEND TO THE EXHORTATION ADDRESSED BY LOT TO HIS SONS-IN-LAW. THERE IS A CLOSE PARALLEL BETWEEN THEIR SITUATION AND OUR OWN.

1. We are living, like them, amongst wicked men.

2. We are exposed, like them, to Divine judgment.

3. We are plied, like them, with overtures of mercy.

II. LET US ATTEND TO THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SONS-IN-LAW OF LOT RECEIVED HIS EXHORTATION. THERE IS A CLOSE PARALLEL BETWEEN THEIR CONDUCT AND THAT OF MANY OF OURSELVES.

1. Like them, we reject as mockery the demonstration of our danger.

2. Like them, we reject as mockery the offer of a method of escape.

3. Like them, we reject as mockery all earnestness in pressing on our attention the means of deliverance.

III. LET US ATTEND TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SONS-IN-LAW OF LOT RECEIVED HIS EXHORTATION. THERE IS A CLOSE PARALLEL BETWEEN THEIR DOOM AND OURS IF WE DIE IN A STATE OF UNBELIEF. Here we may appeal--

1. To the declarations of the Almighty.

2. To the facts of history. The old world. The cities of the plain.

3. To the dictates of reason.

4. To the attributes of God. His truth and holiness. (G. Brooks.)

Lot’s message to his sons-in-law: an illustration of the preacher’s message to the ungodly world

The context strikes several things forcibly on our attention.

1. The incongruity between the material and moral departments of existence in this world. In Sodom we find natural beauty and harmony in conjunction with moral deformity and discord.

2. The amazing power which prayer has with the Governor of the Genesis 18:23-33).

3. The existence of a moral government in connection with the conduct of man.

4. The deep interest of angelic intelligences in human history.

I. LOT’S MESSAGE TO HIS SONS-IN-LAW WAS ALARMING IN ITS NATURE. “The Lord will destroy the city.”

1. Their peril was great.

2. Their peril was the result of sin.

3. Their peril was just at hand.

4. Their peril at this moment was unavoidable.

II. HIS MESSAGE TO HIS SONS-IN-LAW WAS FOUNDED ON THE DIVINE AUTHORITY.

1. The danger of which the gospel preacher warns the unconverted is not a dream of his own; it is a fact of Divine revelation.

2. The proclamation of this danger to the unconverted is not optional on the preacher’s part; he is bound by heaven to do it

III. His MESSAGE TO HIS SONS-IN-LAW WAS SCEPTICALLY RECEIVED.

1. The appearance of things remaining unchanged. “Since the fathers fell asleep,” &c.

2. The force of old associations.

3. A false trust in the mercy of God. (Homilist.)

Disregard of religion and its consequences

Lot’s sons-in-law were probably void of faith and of the fear of God, minding only the things of this world, and resolved not to leave the possessions and conveniences which they enjoyed in that wicked country. And if so, they might easily frame to themselves objections to their father’s counsel, and a plea for their own conduct. But they learned, when it was too late, that his advice was sober and true.

I. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS, AS NOTHING IS MORE CERTAIN, THAN ARE THE TRUTHS WHICH RELIGION PRESENTS TO OUR CONSIDERATION.

II. And yet, secondly, THERE ARE MANY WHO TREAT RELIGION WITH DISDAIN AND DISREGARD. In worldly affairs persons are seen to act usually with attention and earnestness; they made a due use of their reason, and consider what they are about. Thus they act, not only in things of great consequence, relating to their life, their health, their liberty, their fortunes, their family, their honour and credit, but even in slighter matters, to obtain a small profit, or to escape a small inconvenience. Nothing is neglected, nothing is put off to an uncertain day; instruction is attentively received and put in execution. But as to religion, there is not this zeal and activity; it is not carefully weighed, scarcely can it obtain a fair hearing; favourable opportunities are neglected, opportunities which slip away, and are never to be recalled, and everything that should be done is left undone.

III. Let us consider, thirdly, WHENCE PROCEEDS THIS STRANGE INDIFFERENCE AND NEGLECT. It proceeds in a great measure from want of faith, which is an evil more common than is imagined. Some men there are who have received good natural abilities, which they employ to bad purposes. Of these talents God giveth them the use, and the devil teacheth them the application. They argue themselves out of their religion, and then apply themselves to debauch the minds of others, and to treat serious and sacred things with levity, licentiousness, and ridicule. Pernicious books and corrupt conversation spread the contagious disease. (J. Jortin, D. D.)

On the guilt and the consequences of despising the Divine threatenings

I. Let us, in the first place, ATTEND TO THE EXHORTATION ADDRESSED BY LOT TO HIS SONS-IN-LAW. “Up; get you out of this place: for the Lord will destroy this city.” Consider what was the situation of these men. They dwelt in a city subject to the dominion of sin. They dwelt in a city which, in consequence of its sinfulness, deserved immediate destruction; in a city which, when time and opportunity abundantly sufficient for trial and repentance had been afforded, was devoted to immediate destruction. The Divine mercy still extended to them one respite, one opportunity, one warning more. Such, then, is your situation. Such is the situation of every one who hears the sound of the gospel. Contagion surrounds you; destruction lies before you. You are defiled, miserable, and helpless. Yet still there is a call of mercy; still there is a way to escape. The God whom you have offended places deliverance within your reach. The Son of God becomes man, and gives His life to purchase your salvation.

II. Consider, in the next place, THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SONS-IN-LAW OF LOT RECEIVED HIS AWFUL ADMONITION. He seemed unto them as one that mocked. Their conduct discloses to us their character. They had evidently set their hearts on the worldly advantages which, in their apprehension, attended the place where they resided; and they made little account of its wickedness. In many respects the conduct of a large portion of the world bears at this day a close resemblance to that of the sons-in-laws of Lot, and arises from the same principles. When the great doctrines of the gospel are proposed as comprehending and disclosing the appointed method of salvation; what numbers disregard or despise them! When the holy commandments of God are explained and enforced as indispensably and in every particular binding upon every man, what numbers withhold their assent from the strictness of such interpretations of the Scriptures! When the terrors of the world to come are displayed, when the wrath and vengeance of God are revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, what numbers refuse to credit the tremendous truth! The minister of the gospel seemeth unto them as one that mocketh.

III. Consider, in the third place, THE CONSEQUENCES OF TREATING AS AN IDLE TALE, AS THE WORDS OF ONE THAT MOCKETH, THE DECLARATIONS OF ALMIGHTY GOD. They brought ruin upon themselves and their posterity. (T. Gisborne, D. D.)

Lessons

1. Good fathers make haste in midst of dangers to keep their children from destruction, being fore-warned of God’s judgments.

2. Gracious parents are earnest with children to press on counsels for their good and safety.

3. Near relations in the flesh, though wicked, yet are dear unto gracious souls to save them.

4. Faith concerning God’s judgments revealed will put gracious hearts upon hastening others out of them.

5. Places of habitation when they be places of vengeance, as well as of sin, must be abhorred and forsaken by God’s saints.

6. Cities though ever so strong and stately cannot secure sinners from ruin. It and they shall perish.

7. Jehovah is the author of destruction upon places of wickedness, who cannot be resisted.

8. God sends messengers of salvation sometimes to the vilest of men, to Lot’s sons, &c.

9. God, His messengers, and His messages of vengeance, are all but scorns and derisions to wicked men.

10. Secure scorning of destruction from God is the immediate forerunner of it, as here. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The last night in Sodom

If you had been in Sodom on that solemn, awful evening you would never have suspected it. There was nothing outwardly to show that terrible scenes were at hand, even at the door. No weird omens were observed that night; no strange sounds disturbed the superstitious. No fiery sword was seen hanging over the city, in token that the sword of the Almighty’s wrath was at last unsheathed. No signs appeared in the sun as he sank peacefully to rest. The cattle came lowing home from the fields, and the sheep-dogs barked, and the voices of children at play were heard. And then darkness fell; and the chirping of a myriad insects rose on the stillness of the Eastern night; and the stars looked down upon the quiet scene; and the moon shone, for the last time, on the great doomed city. But within Lot’s dwelling a solemn conference was being held, and Lot’s heart was heavy and disturbed. Full of sadness was he for the heedless, unrepenting people; full of anxiety for those dear to him in that place. And then he hurried out in the darkness to warn his relatives, and to urge on them immediate flight; and they--how true to life it all is!--laughed at him! They treated the matter as a fine joke, and the more earnest his entreaties, the more boisterous grew their mirth. And so the night wore on, and then the day began to break, and the angels hurried, nay, forced Lot out of the city. But with the morning light the scoffer waxed bolder still. “What of thy coward fears of the night, O righteous Lot?” he mockingly begins, but the words die away on his lips. Ah! what means this strange, unearthly gloom--this lurid, awful flame, in which earth and heaven seem joined in one? What this terrible sense of suffocation--this scorching, choking downpour? The lightning plays, and the thunder rolls--shock upon shock is felt--shriek rises upon shriek--confusion, horror, uproar! Woe! woe! woe! . . . A few hours later, and a silence still more awful . . . And the sun, as he rides high in the heavens, looks down upon a smoking mass of desolation--“And the smoke of the city went up as the smoke of a furnace!” (J. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)

Warnings disregarded by sinners

What a chance (which never came again) the sons of Lot missed that evening! But do you know what they said? They said he was an alarmist! “The old man is in his dotage,” laughed one,” and some one has been frightening him.” “Never heed him,” cried another, “he is ever thus, croaking about the wickedness of the place, and telling us we are all going to be destroyed. He has been saying it for years--and nothing has ever happened yet!” Ah, that’s just where it is! “Nothing has ever happened yet!” And so, when the preacher warns the open sinner of his danger, and urges him to escape from his sin--to escape for his life--he is laughed at, and he is called an alarmist. But every one who has ever tried to press home a truth that has been unwelcome--to warn people of a danger that they would rather believe to be impossible--has been called an Alarmist. Noah was an “Alarmist.” Lot was an “Alarmist.” The prophets who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem were “Alarmists,” and many a one who foresaw and foretold the Indian Mutiny of 1857 was called an “Alarmist.” And so, at the risk of being called an “Alarmist” I would take up and echo this cry. Art thou living in a Sodom of wilful sin--a Sodom of uncleanness, or drunkenness, or not?--then “Escape for thy life!” (J. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)

As one that mocked

Look at Lot going through the streets of Sodom at midnight to warn his sons of the approaching destruction of the city, only to be reviled and mocked by them. Mr. Moody once said that he remembered being in an American city a few years ago, and there came unto the after-meeting an old grey-headed man, who for years had been wandering from God. In early life that old man had walked with God, and had found fellowship with Him; but for a number of years past he had been wandering in the darkness and agony of sin. He (Mr. Moody) said to him, “God is very merciful, and He will forgive you,” and gave him a number of passages of Scripture, and sat up with him until midnight. About that hour the light broke in upon the old man, and the Lord restored to him the joy of his salvation, and the old man went on his way rejoicing. The next night the old man came into the meeting looking the very picture of despair; he did not think he had ever seen a sadder countenance, and he asked him what his trouble was. The old man replied that he had spent the most wretched day of his life. His family had grown up and lived in that city. He had that day wandered from house to house, and had not seen a child who did not mock him. The old man added that he now realized what he had done; he had taken his children into the world, and could not get them out again.


Verse 15

Genesis 19:15

When the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot

Hastening Lot

I.
THE RIGHTEOUS NEED TO BE HASTENED.

1. In what?

2. Why?

3. By what means?

II. THE SINNERS NEED TO BE HASTENED.

1. Sinners are very slow, and apt to linger.

2. Our business is to hasten them.

3. We have many arguments with which to hasten them. May the Holy Spirit make them see--

The lingerer

I. WHY IS IT, THAT IN THE ESCAPE OF THE SOUL, MEN SO LINGER?

1. The first cause is the entanglement of their affections with worldly things.

2. Another cause of Lot’s irresoluteness would be the refusal of his sons-in-law and of their wives, his daughters, to escape with him.

3. Other causes of lingering there may be peculiar to yourselves.

II. Need I point out to YOU THE PERIL OF LINGERING? It is strikingly illustrated by the narrowness of Lot’s escape. How nigh he was to the fate that overtook his wife! How closely his reluctance, which the angels had to force, must have approached to her disobedience, which they had to punish! And how affecting this separation! She who left Sodom with him was not to enter Zoar with him. (H. Allon.)

A reason for haste

A Christian tradesmen bethought him that he had never spoken to a certain regular customer about his soul, though the man had called at his shop for years. He determined to plead earnestly with him the next time he came in his way. There was no next time; his customer died suddenly, so that he saw him no more. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Spiritual concerns first

When a young man made an open profession of the gospel, his father, greatly offended, gave him this advice: “James, you should first get yourself established in a good trade, and then think of the matter of religion.” “Father,” said the son, “Jesus Christ advises me differently; He says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’” (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Urgency needed

Brother,” said a dying man, “why have you not been more pressing with me about my soul?” “Dear James,” replied the brother, “I have spoken to you several times.” “Yes,” was the answer, “you are not to blame; but you were always so quiet over it; I wish you had gone on your knees to me, or had taken me by the neck and shaken me, for I have been careless, and have nearly slept myself into hell.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

No time to lose

The poor needle-woman with her inch of candle has work to finish. See how her fingers fly, for she fears lest she should be left in darkness, and her work undone. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Inducement to hasten

Do not some professors cause sinners to loiter by their own loitering? A man taking a seat at the Tabernacle came to the minister and said, “Sir, do I understand that if I became a seat-holder I shall be expected to be converted?” “Yes,” was the reply, “I hope you will, and I pray that it may be so. Do you object?” The answer was, “Oh, sir, I desire it above everything.” Was not the man hastened by the general feeling of hopefulness which pervaded the Church? Assuredly there is much in the atmosphere which surrounds a man. Among warm-hearted Christians it is hard for the careless to remain indifferent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 16

Genesis 19:16

He lingered

Perilous procrastination

I.
I MUST BEGIN BY SPEAKING TO THE PERSON WHO IS LINGERING HIMSELF. I should like to ask you, my beloved friend, if this matter about which you are still hesitating is not of vital importance to you? Do you think you ought to put off all preparation for the future that awaits you? If I knew that some one was about to defraud you of your estate, and that unless you were diligent about it you would lose all your property, I think I should say to you, “Bestir yourself.” If I knew that some deadly disease had begun to prey upon your constitution, and that if neglected it would soon gain an ascendancy with which ‘twere hard to grapple, I think I should say, “Go to the physician. Do not delay; for bodily health is a boon to be prized.” I can scarcely recall the details of a little incident in Russian history which might illustrate the emergency: but the fact, as far as my memory serves, was this. The Czar had died suddenly, and in the dead of the night one of the counsellors of the empire came to the Princess Elizabeth and said to her, “You must come at once and take possession of the crown.” She hesitated, for there were difficulties in the way, and she did not desire the position; but he said, “Now, sit down, Princess, for a minute.” Then he drew her two pictures. One was the picture of herself and the Count thrown into prison, racked with tortures, and presently both brought out to die beneath the axe. “That,” he said, “you can have if you like.” The other picture was of herself with the imperial crown of all the Russias on her brow, and all the princes bowing before her, and all the nation doing her homage. “That,” said he, “is the other side of the question. But, to-night, your Majesty must choose which it shall be.” With the two pictures vividly depicted before her mind’s eye she did not hesitate long, but cast in her choice for the crown. If you decide for Christ, and trust in Him, you shall enter into the bliss of those who for ever and for ever, without admixture of grief, enjoy felicity before the throne of God. To my mind, there ought to be no halting as to the choice.

II. LET ME REMIND THE LINGERER THAT WHILE HE LINGERS HE ENDANGERS THE SOULS OF OTHER PEOPLE. When Lot lingered--he was defeating his own purpose, and doing the worst imaginable thing, if he wanted to convince his sons-in-law that he spake the truth; for while he lingered, they would say, “The old fool does not believe it himself, for if he did believe it, he would pack up and haste away; nay, he would take his daughters by the hand and lead them out of the city at once.” But, hark ye, man, with what face dost thou reprove others whilst thou art not decided thyself? Where is thy consistency? Let me venture to make one other observation here. I should not wonder if the death of Lot’s wife might not partly be attributed to Lot himself. If you think that this is a severe reflection, I would remind you that she must have seen her husband hesitate. Oh, undecided father! I should dread to have thee think, in years to come, “The loss of my children’s souls was due to my procrastination.” Alas, it may be so--it may be so!

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH GOD IS PLEASED AT TIMES TO ROUSE THE LINGERERS. Let us pray for them, that they may by some means be hastened. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lingerers hastened

I. First, I have to speak TO GOD’S MESSENGERS. I hope they are very numerous in this church. Every believer should be an ambassador from heaven.

1. I speak solemnly to you who have wept over Jerusalem, and who are proving your true love to souls by your exertions for them, and I remind you, in the first place, that it is a glorious work to seek to save men, and that for its sake you should be willing to put up with the greatest possible inconveniences. The angels never hesitated when they were bidden to go to Sodom. They descended without demur and went about their work without delay.

2. Note again--I still speak to those who are messengers of God to men’s souls--when you go to lost souls, you must, as these angels did, tell them plainly their condition and their danger. “Up,” said they, “for God will destroy this place.” If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.

3. When we have affectionately and plainly told the sinner that the wages of his sin will be death, and that woe will come upon him because of his unbelief, we must go farther, and must, in the name of our Lord Jesus, exhort the guilty one to escape from the deserved destruction. Observe, that these angels, though they understood that God had elected Lot to be saved, did not omit a single exhortation or leave the work to itself, as though it were to be done by predestination apart from instrumentality. How impressive is each admonition! What force and eagerness of love gleams in each entreaty!

4. Learn, still further, from the case before us, where words suffice not, as they frequently will not, you must adopt other modes of pressure. The angel took them by the hand. I have much faith under God in close dealings with men; personal entreaties, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do wonders.

5. I thought, as I read my text, that it gave us a striking example of doing all we can. Lot and his wife, and the two daughters--well, that was four--the angels had only four hands, so that they did all that they could--there was a hand for each. You notice the text expressly says, they took hold of the hand of Lot, and the hand of his wife, and the hand of his two daughters. There were no more persons, and no more helping hands, so that there was just enough instrumentality, but there was not a hand to spare. I wish there were in this church no idle hands, but that each believer had both hands occupied in leading souls to Jesus Christ.

6. Observe, also, that as those angels set us an example in using all their power, so they also encourage us to perseverance, for they ceased not to exhort till they had brought Lot out of danger. We must never pause in our efforts for any man till he is either saved or the funeral bell has tolled for him.

7. I will say no more to these messengers of God except this, that we ought to remember that we are the messengers of God’s mercy to the sons of men. The text tells us, “The Lord being merciful unto him.” The angels had not come to Lot themselves; they were the embodiment and outward embodiment and outward display of God’s mercy. Christians in the world should view themselves as manifestations of God’s mercy to sinners, instruments of grace, servants of the Holy Spirit. Now, mercy is a nimble attribute. Justice lingers; it is shod with lead, but the feet of mercy are winged. Mercy delights to perform its office. So should it be with us a delight to do good to men.

II. To You, O LINGERERS, I NOW SPEAK, hoping to be the means, by God’s grace, of driving you out of this lingering.

1. I shall begin--O you that are baiting between two opinions--by asking you, Wherefore do you linger? Lot, I think, loitered because he had much property in and around the city. As to Lot’s daughters, I know not why they lingered, but, peradventure, there were some very dear to them in the city. Do you reply that you do not believe in the danger? Then am I indeed sorry for you, for the danger is none the less sure. Do you linger because you doubt the way of escape? Or, perhaps, you think you do not need it. It is possible that the reason why you linger is, that you indulge some favourite sin. Yet, perhaps, I have not touched the right reason for your lingering. You, perhaps, are subject to an idleness of spirit, a natural inaction and lethargy. I think in most cases this is the root of the matter. You are not bestirred about soul affairs, you are too idle to come to decision. But you must come to it or die. I fear me, that in some cases, though I know not of many in this place, I fear me that this whole matter is despised. If religion be a lie, do not pretend to believe it; say so, and be honest, and take the consequences; but, if it be true, act upon it.

2. Well, I have put the question, Wherefore do you linger? but now I want to say two or three words to you, and they shall be to this effect--Wherewith shall we hasten you? These few considerations, hurriedly offered, I hope will not be forgotten.

Lot: a beacon

I. WHAT LOT WAS HIMSELF.

1. Lot was a true believer--a converted person--a real child of God--a justified soul--a righteous man. Is any one of my readers a traveller in the narrow way which leads unto life? So also was Lot.

2. Before we pass on, let us remember that a true Christian may have many a blemish, many a defect, many an infirmity, and yet be a true Christian nevertheless. We do not despise gold because it is mixed with much dross. We must not undervalue grace because it is accompanied by much corruption.

II. WHAT THE TEXT TELLS US ABOUT LOT’S BEHAVIOUR. “He lingered.” Now, there are many Christian men and Christian women in this day very like Lot. There are many real children of God who appear to know far more than they live up to, and see far more than they practise, and yet continue in this state for many years. Wonderful that they go as far as they do, and yet go no further I They hold the Head, even Christ, and love the truth. They like sound preaching, and assent to every article of Gospel doctrine, when they hear it. But still there is an indescribable something which is not satisfactory about them. They believe in heaven, and yet seem faintly to long for it; and in hell, and yet seem little to fear it. They love the Lord Jesus; but the work they do for Him is small. They hate the devil; but they often appear to tempt him to come to them. They know the time is short; but they live as if it were long. They know they have a battle to fight; yet a man might think they were at peace. They know they have a race to run; yet they often look like people sitting still. They know the Judge is at the door, and there is wrath to come; and yet they appear half asleep. Astonishing they should be what they are, and yet be nothing more! And what shall we say of these people? They often puzzle godly friends and relations. They often cause great anxiety. They often give rise to great doubts and searchings of heart. But they may be classed under one sweeping description--they are all brethren and sisters of Lot. They linger.

III. THE REASONS THAT MAY ACCOUNT FOR LOT’S LINGERING.

1. He made a wrong choice in early life.

2. He mixed with sinners when there was no occasion for his doing so.

IV. WHAT KIND OF FRUIT LOT’S LINGERING SPIRIT BORE AT LAST.

1. He did no good among the inhabitants of Sodom.

2. He helped none of his family, relatives, or connections towards heaven.

3. He left no evidences behind him when he died. (Bishop Ryle.)

Lessons

1. Saints by infirmity may delay their own salvation, when hastened by the messengers of God. Flesh may hinder and delay.

2. Providence orders His angels to take hold of hands to deliver, when they cannot persuade hearts. Works shall do what words did not.

3. God’s angels leave not the conduct of His saints until they set them without danger.

4. God’s free grace and mercy to His servants is the only cause of all their deliverance by angels (Genesis 19:16). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Folly of procrastination

The Spanish proverb says, “That which the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the beginning.” The wise with a good grace what the fool with an ill; the one to much profit, what the other to little or none. A word worth laying to heart; for, indeed, that purchase of the sybilline books by the Roman king, what significant symbol it is of that which at one time or another, or, it may be, at many times, is finding place in almost every man’s life; the same thing to be done in the end, the same price to be paid at the last, with only the difference that much of the advantage, as well as grace, of an earlier compliance, has passed away. (Archbishop Trench.)

Impious lives contagious

The impious lives of the wicked are as contagious as the most fearful plague that infects the air. When the doves of Christ lie among such pots, their yellow feathers are sullied. You may observe that in the oven the fine bread frequently hangs upon the coarse, but the coarse very seldom adheres to the fine. If you mix an equal portion of sour vinegar and sweet wine together, you will find that the vinegar will sooner sour the wine than the wine sweeten the vinegar. That is a sound body that continues healthful in a pest-house. It is a far greater wonder to see a saint maintain his purity among sinners than it is to behold a sinner becoming pure among saints. Christians are not always like fish which retain their freshness in a salt sea; or like the rose which preserves its sweetness among the most noisome weeds; or like the fire which burns the hottest when the season is coldest. The Lord’s people, by keeping evil company, are like persons who are much exposed to the sun--insensibly tanned. (J. Secker.)

Golden moments

In the life of every individual there are moments of such transcendent interest that they may be called golden. Several years ago the writer heard an aged minister state that, while Dr. Dwight was president of Yale College, two young men who listened to those masterly discourses which have since been published, were deeply impressed with a sense of their sinfulness and peril. One proposed to the other that they should call on the Doctor, and talk with him. They started arm-in-arm. When they reached the doctor’s house, one refused to enter. The other went in. He who remained out of doors returned to his room, but from that time ceased to manifest any interest. “He who entered,” said the speaker, “became a Christian and a minister, and is now addressing you.” He improved the golden moments, while his bosom-friend permitted them to roll by unheeded, little imagining they exerted upon his destiny an influence undying. In the great revival of 1831, a gentleman of my acquaintance, who had been a sea-captain, and could use more profane language in an hour than any other man I ever knew, became impressed with a sense of his sinfulness. He felt that the time had come when he must decide whether the prayers of his wife should be answered, or not. He was doing an extensive mercantile business, but he sent a note to his partner, stating that he should be detained at home, and should not be at the store, and did not wish to be disturbed. He shut himself in his room, determined not to leave it till he had settled the all-important question to his own satisfaction. Golden moments were passing through his hour-glass, while in one room his wife was pouring out her earnest supplications, and in another he thought on his ways and turned his feet to the testimonies of God, and made haste to keep His commandments. When he left that chamber the question was settled aright, and settled for ever. His face shone like that of Moses. He had been in communion with the Most High. In that same year a lawyer was convicted of his sinfulness, and was anxious to be a Christian. On a certain evening he attended a cottage prayer-meeting, and took a seat by the side of the writer. He had been in the meeting but a few moments, when he became exceedingly agitated, and very soon took his hat and left the house. Towards the close of the meeting he returned. He soon arose and said: “I wish to be a Christian. I am determined to be one. After I entered this room, a transaction which occurred several years ago came to my mind, in which I wronged a man. My conscience, stirred by the Spirit of God, would not let me rest till the matter was settled. I have been and arranged the matter to the entire satisfaction of both parties, and I am now at peace with God and man.” How golden were the moments he spent in being reconciled to the man whom he had injured! During those few moments his destiny was sealed. Had he not improved them aright, he would not have known the pleasure of having a conscience void of offence, nor the comforting assurance of God’s favour. In that same year a young man who had been halting between two opinions for a length of time attended a religious meeting in Albany, and heard one of the impassioned discourses of Dr. Kirk. He left the church in company with an earnest Christian friend. They walked along in silence till they reached a street corner, where they were to separate. On parting the friend asked, “What is your decision?” The answer was, “I will serve the Lord.” That young man became a Christian, and at length a minister of the gospel, Never did he regret the decision he made on that street corner while the golden moments were rolling along. Were not the moments golden which were spent by Queen Esther while pondering the question whether to go in unto the king at the risk of her life? Who can estimate the influence and the importance of that decision! Had she not employed those moments aright, her life and the lives of her nation would have been sacrificed. (American Sunday School Times.)

Benefits of discipline

But, O what followeth in the next words: As he prolonged the time, they caught him by the hand and brought him out. So, so, it is a thousand times needful that we should be drawn violently, when we will not come willingly. And then see here a secret, and lay it to your heart. Your riches, your honours, your friends, pleasures, wife, children, and such like, are taken from you in part or in all. You marvel at it, and think, peradventure, you are quite out of the Lord’s favour, for else this great change in your estate would not be. But fear not--rather remember what you read here: Lot prolonged to do what he should, as his case was, and the Lord caught him by the hand and brought him out. Haply as your case hath been, you have prolonged to do what the Lord willed you, and these things that you have lost were some let unto you to hold you back; the Lord, careful that you should not perish, has in this your change, done no other to you than He did to Lot when He caught him by the hand. Verily He hath even so caught you to bring you by this means, from what and whence He would have you come, because whilst you enjoyed these, you forgot yourself, prolonged and trifled the time, and danger grew on; that it must be otherwise with you, or else the Lord’s judgment light upon you, amongst others whom His justice would punish, and that God would not, and therefore hath rid you thus away--even thus I say, draw you more forcibly by the want of these benefits, because as long as you enjoyed them, words would not work with you. Be not afraid, then, of adversity, but be schooled by it, to get you out of Sodom, and to obey the Lord’s will and bidding: for to this end hath He caught you by the hand, effectually, though not bodily, if you be His. And when once you are out, you shall find Him slack His force again most certainly, and comfort you as shall be good, with riches, honours, friends, pleasures, wife, children, and every needful blessing. Then shall you find it true, what the prophet Daniel assureth you, No good thing verily shall be withheld from them that live a godly life. (Bp. Babington.)

The Lord being merciful unto him

Lot’s escape from Sodom

I. It is natural to speak, first, of THE NEED LOT HAD TO ESCAPE OR, OF THE JUDGMENT BY WHICH THE CITY WAS OVERTAKEN. It is God’s way to be long-suffering. Judgment is a work He does not love. His will is that none should perish. But the cup of Sodom was now overflowing; nor was there any longer hope of its repentance. It was fully time that God’s abhorrence of iniquity should be made to appear. Mercy to surrounding tribes and succeeding generations in danger of falling into like depths demanded this. When nations, cities, families, or individuals become hopeless in their impiety and corruption, when remedial agencies no longer promise good, what, then, shall a just, righteous, and good ruler do? Is it not a startling warning of the just judgment sure to overtake all sin unpardoned, because unconfessed and unforsaken?

II. But we must pass to consider, next, WHY IT WAS THAT OF ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THAT WICKED CITY, LOT SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO ESCAPE. “‘The Lord being merciful to him.” “Thou hast magnified Thy mercy, which Thou hast showed unto me in saving my life.” Poor as was the quality of Lot’s religion, he had some measure of that which is real. He did not lose all faith in the true God.

III. Thus we are brought to speak of some things which appear with respect to THE MANNER OF LOT’S ESCAPE.

1. With very great difficulty. To the very last God’s messengers must use urgency and compulsion! So He must, and does, with many an irresolute believer. Often He graciously applies the rod.

2. But Lot’s escape was not only with great difficulty, it was also with much bitter sorrow and painful loss.

IV. The narrative thus briefly considered abounds in LESSONS of the greatest practical importance.

1. The long-suffering of God may be worn out. Judgment is then sure.

2. None whom mercy can rescue will be suffered to perish. Lot, the most imperfect of believers, was saved.

3. To subordinate religious fidelity to worldly advantage or pleasure is always a costly and often a fatal mistake.

4. In rescuing others, one may sometimes have to use a sort of loving violence; “pulling them out of the fire.”

5. It is possible to be “almost saved, but lost.” (H. M. Grout, D. D.)

The deliverance of the righteous in the time of judgment

I. GOD MAKES KNOWN TO THEM THE WAY OF DELIVERANCE.

1. God’s way of deliverance is often against our will.

2. God’s way of deliverance does not destroy the necessity for our own exertion.

3. God’s way of deliverance is only effective through His mercy.

II. GOD IS READY TO DELIVER OTHERS FOR THEIR SAKES.

1. Hence the righteous can offer salvation to the last.

2. Our efforts may be unavailing.

III. IN THE MIDST OF ABOUNDING CORRUPTION ONLY THE FEW ESCAPE.

1. The tremendous power of evil.

2. God’s great judgments upon mankind.

IV. THE RIGHTEOUS CAN ONLY BE SAVED OUT OF THE SCENES OF INIQUITY, NOT IN THEM. (T. H. Leale.)

Lot’s escape from Sodom

I. THE FORBEARANCE OF GOD. This is seen--

1. In the patience of God with the Sodomites, in sparing them so long.

2. In the willingness to save these wicked cities for even ten righteous persons.

3. In the question (Genesis 19:12).

4. In the loving compulsion by which Lot and his family were urged to escape.

5. In the condescension manifested in granting Lot’s request.

6. Such forbearance is very noticeable in view of the terrible doom with which it was connected.

II. THE PERVERSITY OF MAN. This is seen--

1. In the continued hardness of the Sodomites.

2. In the mocking unbelief of Lot’s sons-in-law.

3. In the hesitancy of both Lot and his family to leave the doomed city.

4. In Lot’s lack of faith in God’s power to keep him in the mountain as well as in Zoar.

III. THE CONDITION OF SALVATION. The answers to the following questions will reveal it:

1. Why were not Lot’s sons-in-law saved from the doom of

Sodom?

2. Why was not Lot’s wife caught in the destruction of Sodom?

3. How did Lot and his daughters ultimately escape the fate of the Sodomites?

Lessons:

1. Lot, in the choice of Sodom for a residence, furnishes an example of the folly of worldly wisdom.

2. Lot’s sons-in-law furnish an example of the inevitable doom that awaits all who scorn the warnings of God’s messengers.

3. Lot’s wife is an example of the inevitable fate of those who outwardly, but reluctantly, conform to the requirements of the gospel, but whose heart is in the world.

4. The destruction of Sodom is an illustration of the doom that awaits this world and every impenitent soul.

5. The urgency to flee to the Divine refuge is graphically portrayed in the impassioned words of the angels (Genesis 19:17). (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Three stages in Lot’s life

I. LOT GOING IN THE DIRECTION OF SODOM. People generally go in the direction of that which is wrong before they thoroughly go into it.

II. LOT DWELLING IN SODOM.

III. The omnipotent mercy of God Almighty, DELIVERING HIM OUT OF SODOM. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

Lot’s flight from Sodom

I. WE ARE HERE TAUGHT THE REALITY AND MAGNITUDE OF THE DANGER TO WHICH THE SINNER IS EXPOSED. The reality of the sinner’s danger is proved by the express statements of the Word of God, and by the struggles of conscience, as the Almighty’s vicegerent, even in the unregenerated heart.

II. THE MEANS EMPLOYED BY GOD TO AWAKEN THE SINNER TO A TRUE SENSE OF THE REALITY AND MAGNITUDE OF HIS DANGER. Holy Spirit is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last in the work of arousing from their death-like lethargy the prison-bound thralls or slaves of Satan. At one time He comes upon the sinner as an armed man, and attacks directly the stronghold of infidelity in the heart, and throws down every barrier by which it was guarded. At another time--and this is the more usual mode of His operation--the Sanctifier executes His office of bringing transgressors out of darkness into His marvellous light through the instrumentality of the dispensations of God’s providence, and of the faithful preaching of the Word by his called, tried, and appointed messengers.

III. THE STATE OF THE SINNER’S MIND WHEN HE HAS BEEN AWAKENED, IN THE MANNER ALREADY POINTED OUT, TO A RIGHT SENSE OF HIS LOST AND DESPERATE CONDITION (see 2 Corinthians 7:11).

IV. THE ENLIGHTENING AND QUICKENING SPIRIT HAYING BEGUN THE GOOD WORK, IS PLEDGED TO CARRY IT ON AND COMPLETE IT. (R. Jeffrey.)

I. THE PRELIMINARIES OF THE DELIVERANCE.

Lot’s deliverance

II. THE MANNER OF THE DELIVERANCE.

III. THE SEQUEL TO THE DELIVERANCE. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The folly of lingering

When a man hath to go over a river, though he ride once and again into the water and come out, saying, I fear it is too deep for me, yet, considering that there is no other way for him, he resolves to venture, for, saith he, the longer I stay the higher the waters will rise, and there is no other way for me--I must go through at the last, why not at the first? And so he ventures through. Thus it is with you. You say, “Oh, but my heart is not humbled; oh, but I am a great sinner; and should I venture upon Jesus Christ?” Will this heart be more humbled by keeping from Jesus Christ, and wilt thou be less a sinner by keeping from Him? No, certainly, for the longer you stay from Christ, the harder it will be to venture on Him at the last. (W. Bridge.)

The danger of delay

Serious things to-morrow,” said a distinguished individual against whose life a plot was laid. One of the confederates, relenting, had sent a notice of the plot by a messenger who had particular instructions to deliver it personally, and to state that the letter must be read immediately, as it was on a very serious matter. The messenger, however, found the person against whose life the plot was laid in the midst of a convivial feast. The letter and message were both faithfully delivered; but the man of mirth and wine laid it aside, saying, “Serious things so-morrow!” The morrow he never saw, for that night the assassin plunged the deadly weapon into his heart. So many put away from them the serious warnings of the gospel, and perish in their sins.


Verse 17

Genesis 19:17

Escape for thy life; look not behind thee

Delays are dangerous

I.
AN ALARM. “Escape for thy life.”

1. Lot’s life was in imminent danger. So is the life of every unconverted man.

2. But Lot had timely warning to escape from the impending storm, and so has every sinner.

3. Lot’s escape was to be effected in haste; and if he had not left the place at that time, he would have been destroyed with the wicked.

II. A CAUTION.

1. “Look not behind thee.”

2. “Neither stay in all the plain.”

III. AN EXHORTATION. “Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.”

1. Those who flee to Christ find a place of safety.

2. Those who escape to Jesus Christ shall find rest.

3. Those who escape to Christ are blessed with peace. (Benson Bailey.)

Delay in religion

I. THE GREAT CRISIS IN THE HISTORY OF THE SOUL.

1. We illustrate this by the case of Lot, as here described.

2. We apply this to the ease of undecided persons.

II. THE CAUSE OF THIS LINGERING IN RESPECT TO RELIGION.

1. The cause of Lot’s lingering is evident.

2. The reason why some linger on the subject of religion.

III. THE SIN AND DANGER OF LINGERING, AS IT RESPECTS RELIGION.

1. The sin committed against God.

2. The dangerous consequences of this halting in religion. (The Evangelical Preacher.)

The awakened sinner

I. I wish to speak of the MEANS by which a sinner is awakened from his spiritual slumber--from that deathly lethargy in which every human being lies by nature. The means, I hesitate not to consider, is the Word of God. Other things may assist in giving entrance to the Word, but it is by the Word, as a rule, that God’s Holy Spirit works in convincing the sinner of his sin. It matters not how the sinner gets the Word, so that he do get it.

II. Having spoken of the means employed to awaken the sinner’s conscience, we proceed to consider the ANXIETY which is the result. A sense of sin is produced; and sin is felt to be as a heavy burden pressing upon the soul.

III. How important that such an anxious soul should receive proper INSTRUCTION! HOW precious, then, the opportunity of meeting with a Christian friend! I have said that it is by means of the Word of God that the sinner is awakened, that the Holy Spirit proceeds in commencing that process whereby we are brought “out of darkness into marvellous light”; let me add, that there is a connection between the Bible and human agency. God’s plan of converting the sinner is by the preaching of the Word; and it is in this way generally that conversions are effected.

IV. We suppose the awakened sinner, thus instructed, to make his ESCAPE. Be has many temptations to remain. But one thought, one anxiety, overpowers all; life, eternal life, is his motive and his object. (W. M.Whittemore.)

Run for your life

1. My text, in the first place, suggests urgency on the part of all those who would induce people out of their sins. Why was not the angel more polite? Why did he not coolly and formally invite Lot and his wife to leave that city? The angel was in earnest.

2. My subject also suggests that the mere starting gives no security. Lot had started out of the city, but he might have perished half-way before he got to the mountains. Men start for heaven, but do not always get there. If my house be burning, and I take a bucket of water and put out the flames in this, and that, and yonder room, while I leave the flames in another room, I might as well have wasted no strength and brought no buckets of water at all. And if a man is only half saved, he is not saved at all.

3. The text suggests further, that a man, after being persuaded out of sin, sometimes looks back.

4. My text suggests that some men, having started, loiter by the way. They tarry in the plain. They are too lazy to get on. You know that men, in order to get on in this world, must deny themselves, and work hard; must go through drudgery, that after awhile they may have luxuries. If we get to heaven it will be by gathering up all the energies of our souls and hurling them ahead in one persistent direction. In mid-ocean, on the China going out at midnight, the “screw” stopped. “What’s the matter?” everybody cried. People rushed out to see why the “screw” had stopped in mid-ocean. Something wrong, or it would not stop in the middle of the Atlantic. So it is a bad sign when men voyaging towards heaven stop half-way. It is a sign of infinite peril. (Dr. Talmage.)

The angels’ admonition to Lot

I. “Escape for thy life.” This was the general admonition. It was not a small matter which was at stake. It was his life.

II. “Escape for thy life.” Are you aware of the guilt and danger of a sinful, worldly life? Remember the treasure which you have at stake; even your life; not the life merely of your body, but the life of your soul; the everlasting happiness of your immortal spirit. Be in earnest in this great work of saving your precious, your immortal soul. Be active, be diligent. Let nothing turn you from your purpose. Lay hold on eternal life. Attend especially to the three directions attached to the general admonition.

1. “Look not behind thee.” Renounce for ever all thoughts of returning to that state of sin and death from which you are beginning to escape. Suffer not your mind, even for a moment, to reflect with complacency on those pursuits, pleasures, or companions, from which you must for ever separate. Having once set your face toward heaven, O! look not back on Sodom. “Remember Lot’s wife.”

2. “Neither stay thou in all the plain.” Think it not enough to have escaped from Sodom, but remove to the greatest possible distance from everything connected with that devoted place. Think it not enough to have renounced old habits of sin, to have broken off from the commission of gross offences, from openly profane and irreligious practices: but have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Allow not yourself to remain within the forbidden regions of self-indulgence and worldly gratification.

3. “Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” If there were no place of safety to which you could flee, and be at peace, then indeed would your efforts to escape be in vain, and my endeavours to assist you fruitless. But, blessed be God I there is a place of safety, a refuge provided for you, where you may be secure from the impending ruin, and may delight yourself in the abundance of peace. Lot was directed to a mountain whither he might escape and be in safety. You are directed not to a mountain, but to Jesus Christ: He is a hiding-place from the storm, a covert from the tempest. Would Lot be safe if he should flee to the mountain? Whosoever flees to Jesus Christ shall be delivered from the wrath to come. He shall be delivered from all the consequences of sin, from the punishment which it has incurred, from the power which it has obtained in the heart. Do you ask how you are to flee to Christ? You are to flee to Him in your mind, with your heart, with all the desires and affections of your soul. You are to flee to Him in faith, believing His word and promises, and casting yourselves upon His mercy and power. (E. Cooper, M. A.)

The last night of Sodom

Tarry all night”: “Escape for thy life.” The words of man and the words of angels. The man, a master of courtesy and hospitality; the angels, ministers of mercy and of vengeance. The man speaks of house and home and feasting and rest; the angels speak of impending wrath and swift destruction. The man persuades to the enjoyment of a quiet evening in a luxurious clime, and promises the return of a beautiful day; the angels would hasten an escape from a scene of enchantment and delight, at the sacrifice of all earthly possessions. The man speaks from mere feeling and a vivid impression of things as they are passing before his eyes; the angels speak of things as they are--and behind the calm and peaceful aspect of the closing day, they see the fiery tempest of the coming morn. Such is the contrast between feeling and fact, shadow and substance, appearance and reality. So unlike and allied to each other are the sensual and the spiritual; the earthly and the heavenly; the aspect of peace and safety, and the near approach of danger and destruction. Such is the difference between the judgment of man, who is all involved in the cares and toils and pleasures of the passing day, and the judgment of beings who stand outside the range of our mistakes and temptations, and who see the affairs of time in the light of eternity This awful lesson in sacred history may be all summed up in two words. The one is from man and the world; the other is from heaven and God. One says to the careless and the worldly, “Tarry, he at ease, enjoy yourself while you can”; the other says, “Escape for thy life.” One says, “Wait, be not alarmed; make yourself comfortable where you are”; the other says, “Haste, look not behind thee; flee to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” One says, “Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry”; the other says, “Thou fool! this night thy soul may be required of thee.” The question which every one must answer for himself is always this, Which of these two voices shall I obey? To many it seems like mockery to talk of danger to the young and the gay, the healthful and the happy. But who was the mocker on the peaceful night when the cities of the plain rioted in pleasure for the last time? All the seductions and falsehoods of temptation, and all the dangers and sorrows of perdition, are bound up in that one word--wait. The voice of love speaks to the careless in terms of terror and alarm. God’s patience will not always last. The day of grace must have an end. And with many it is much shorter than they expect. (D. Marsh, D. D.)

Illustration of the sinner’s state, duty, and prospects

I. THE DANGER TO WHICH THE SINNER IS EXPOSED.

1. It is real. Not imaginary.

2. It is imminent. Not distant. Nearer and nearer every day.

3. It is tremendous. Not slight.

II. THE POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE FROM THE DANGER TO WHICH THE SINNER IS EXPOSED.

1. It is proved by the invitations addressed to him in the Bible. Numerous, earnest, pathetic.

2. It is proved by the revelation of the work of Christ, on which these invitations are founded. That work is a mountain, if that be the proper emblem of strength, stability, immutability.

3. It is proved by the experience of all believers. Fire-escape. Life-boat.

III. THE NECESSITY OF PROMPT AND DECISIVE ACTION ON THE PART OF THE SINNER, IF HE WOULD ESCAPE FROM THE DANGER TO WHICH HE IS EXPOSED.

1. His flight must be instantaneous. Without procrastination.

2. His flight must be rapid. No delay.

3. His flight must be persevering. The city of refuge.

IV. THE URGENCY OF THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THE SINNER SHOULD BE INDUCED TO ESCAPE FROM THE DANGER TO WHICH HE IS EXPOSED.

1. The magnitude of the interests at stake. “Life! life! eternal life!”

2. The exclusiveness of the gospel method of salvation. No other name.

3. The happiness of escape. Beneficial results to ourselves and others. Address

Escape for thy life

I. You must escape for your life--THE LIFE NOT OF THE BODY BUT OF THE SOUL.

1. The everlasting welfare of your soul is in danger.

2. To effect your deliverance you must escape yourselves.

3. You must be in earnest.

4. You must sacrifice everything that stands in your way.

II. Look NOT BEHIND.

1. He who has once left this sinful world ought to give up all thoughts of return.

2. Look not behind you for the sake of your former companions.

3. Look not back to relieve yourself of the sense of guilt which weighs upon you.

4. Look not behind lest you should never advance beyond your present position.

III. STAY NOT IN ALL THE PLAIN. Delay not--

1. In hope of a better opportunity.

2. In reliance upon your good intentions.

3. Because you have begun to attend to religion.

4. Though you have been brought to reel deeply about religion.

5. For a more thorough conviction of sin.

6. Through discouragement and despondency.

7. Because you hope you are a Christian. (J. Day, D. D.)

Saved as by fire

There is such a fate as being saved, yet so as by fire, going into the brightness with the smell of fire on your garments. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Escape for thy life

When danger is behind us we should strain all our powers to escape from it as Indians or settlers do to escape from the prairie fires in America. A tribe of Indians, who were swift of foot, once gave a white man they intended to kill a chance to escape by running whilst they all pursued him. He ran with such mad haste that he managed, though with great difficulty, to escape. Look not behind thee,. . . lest thou be consumed Genesis 19:17).

Look not behind

The ancients told a fable about Orpheus who, they said, could move men and beasts, birds and fishes, and even trees and rocks by his wonderful music; that when his wife Eurydice was bitten by a serpent and had died, then Orpheus followed her into the infernal regions and there played his music with such exquisite skill that even Pluto (who was said to be the stern and inexorable king of hell) and his grave wife Proserpina were moved to such pity that they gave Orpheus leave to take his wife back to the world again on condition that he did not look around whilst they ascended. As, however, they were rising, the fable says he looked round, either from love, or doubt, or forgetfulness. The result was he saw his much-loved wife for a moment, but then she vanished from his sight for ever. If we look and turn back to the world or sin, we shall lose God’s favour and blessings, and we may lose our souls for ever.

No time for delay

A man was once shut up in prison, loaded with chains, and condemned to be hung. He had been taken a prisoner in war by a cruel tyrant, and knew that there was no hope for him if he could not in some way make his escape. In the dead hour of night, when all his guards were sound asleep, and not a footstep was to be heard around his prison, the door of his dungeon was opened, his general entered and took off his chains, and said to him, “Haste thee, escape from this place. I have, at immense expense and terrible exposure of my life, entered this prison to save you. Follow me, and I will guide you safely. But you have not a moment to lose. An hour’s delay may prove for ever too late.” What will you think when I tell you that the prisoner said, “Let me think about it--wait a little while”; and then actually refused to go with him? Who was to blame for that man’s death, but himself? This is precisely the way that sinners, condemned and bound by Satan to be shut up in the dark prison of despair, act when Jesus, the great Captain of our salvation, comes to set them free. A great warrior was once persuaded by his enemies to put on a beautiful robe which they presented him. Not suspecting their design, he wrapped himself tightly in it, but in a few moments found that it was coated on the inside with a deadly poison. It stuck to his flesh as if it had been glued. The poison entered into his flesh so that in trying to throw off the cloak he was left torn and bleeding. But did he for that reason hesitate about taking it off? Did he stop to think whether it was painful or not? Did he say, “Let me wait and think about it awhile”? No, he had more sense than that. He tore it off at once, and threw it from him, and hastened away from it to the physician. Sinner, this is the way you must treat your sins if you would be saved. And do it now. “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” A sprightly boy, who was the pride of his master, who was loved by all his fellow-servants, once came to me to talk about his soul’s salvation. He had heard that to live in sin was to live in rebellion against God and in great danger. He felt that he was a sinner. He knew that he ought to forsake his sins. He talked freely with me about himself. Before we parted he promised to begin the service of God the next day. He went off to his business. I saw no more of him for about three months. As I was riding along one day his master met me and asked me to go in and see William, for that was his name, who was very sick. I found him very ill, and about to die. Surely, said I to myself, he is prepared and willing to go, for I remember his promises and good resolutions to begin the next day. I said to him, “William, I hope Christ is precious to you now?” “Oh! sir,” said he, “I have no hope in Christ! I fear I am lost. I resolved when I saw you last to repent and be a Christian the next day. But the next day brought something that prevented me, and caused me to put it off till the next day still, and so I thought at the end of every day that I would begin the next day. But every day passed on and closed in the same way, And here I am yet, a hardened sinner, and in the arms of death.” I tried to tell him about Jesus as his Saviour. I prayed for him. And while I was repeating some precious promises from the Word of God, he turned to me and said, “Oh! sir, it is too late; I am lost. I cannot be saved now. Tell my fellow-servants not to put off another day making their peace with God.” Scarcely had he given this testimony of the danger of delay, when he was overcome by stupor and delirium, and thus died in darkness and impenitence. (Bp. Meade.)

Escape for thy life!

“For thy life!” Ah, brethren, were it only the life of your body that you knew to be in jeopardy, you would not hesitate, you would not tarry. You would escape from a burning house, you would leap from a sinking ship, and leave all you have in the world behind you. “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” One instance of the truth of these words. A young officer doing duty with an Indian cavalry regiment when tiger shooting one day, “missed his mark,” and soon found himself in the tiger’s clutches. It was an anxious moment--few of his friends being at hand. As a sportsman of experience the young man knew well that his best course was to lie quietly and sham death. The tiger surveyed his prey, looked around, and thinking all was safe, set to work to make its meal. Taking the young officer’s hand in his mouth he deliberately devoured it, and the arm was eaten to the elbow before help arrived. Had the victim moved, or uttered even a groan, the tiger would have put an end to his existence before going on with his repast. Of course the shattered arm had to be removed from the shoulder, but that brave officer lives, and holds at this present moment a post of honour under the Government. Now imagine the suffering endured by him whilst lying, quite conscious, in the power of a voracious “man-eater”! Why do I tell you this? To ask you what it was that strengthened him to such an act of heroism. It was love of life--it was “for his life”! (J. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)

Escape

It is a rather popular word with young people. At the head of a newspaper paragraph or of a chapter in a story it instantly commands attention. We at once think of a convict’s escape from prison, or a backwoodsman’s escape from Indians, or a mail-steamer’s escape from icebergs. But observe--what are all these escapes from? The convict escapes from weary confinement; the backwoodsman from hated foes; the mail-steamer from dreaded peril. No necessity to urge escape from these. (E. Stock.)

Look not behind thee

This demand seems somewhat strange to us; for we would rather expect that the angels would summon them to look at the cities while God was executing judgment on their wicked inhabitants, in order to show them His power. But the words of the angels to Lot rest on a certain idea found among many ancient nations. To witness with human and profane eyes God’s holy acts was regarded as fatal to the beholder. We find this fact as it existed among the old Hebrews expressed in many passages of the Old Testament. Moses, as soon as he hears the voice, “I am the God of thy father,” out of the burning bush, hides his face, being afraid to look upon Eloheem. When the Lord revealed Himself in fire and smoke on Mount Sinai, the children of Israel were forbidden to break through the bounds to gaze on the Lord, lest they perish. Gideon ( 6:22) andManoah ( 13:22) feared that they might die because they had seen the angel of the Lord. Even Isaiah, when about to be consecrated by Jehovah for his prophetical office, exclaims, in the aspect of the throne and of the all-covering magnificent garment of God: “Woe is me! for I am undone, for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Indeed, the Divine holiness is a devouring fire to men regarded as sinners (Isaiah 33:14). Even the seraphim, according to the immense contrast between the Creator and His creatures, cannot stand the holy God and cover their face Isaiah 6:2). Similar to the Jewish is this conception among heathen nations. The Greeks and Romans were not accustomed to look back while performing certain sacred rites; and the classical legends are full of examples in which this ceremony is observed. Tiresias, the famous diviner of Thebes, consulted by Alcmena, daughter of Electryon, king of Mycenae (now partly re-excavated), ordered her to burn the two dreadful dragons which her son, a boy of only ten months, had killed, and to send the ashes over the river. There the servant should spread them in the clefts of the rocks, and after that come back without turning his back. Thus Theocritus tells us in the twenty-fourth book of his idylls. Another case is recorded by Ovid. When Deucalion and Pyrrha, the only two persons who were saved out of the deluge according to the Greek tradition, consulted the ancient oracle of Themis regarding the restoration of mankind, they received the answer: “Depart from the fane, veil your heads, loosen your girded vestments, and east behind you the great bones of your parent” (that is, the stones of the earth). And in one of the most beautiful of the old myths the turning back of the person in question was not less fatal than in the case of Lot’s wife. Orpheus, who struck the lyre so wonderfully as to move the very rocks and trees, mollified even the rulers of the lower regions, and obtained permission to take back to the world of light his beloved wife, the nymph Eurydice, who had died from the bite of a serpent, on the condition that he was not to look back before reaching the tontines of the Hades. But curious, like the wife of Lot, Orpheus broke this condition shortly before his wish was fulfilled, and Eurydice vanished from his sight to return to the kingdom of darkness. (H. V. Hilprecht, D. D.)

Escape from destruction

It is related that once the city of Pleurs stood in a quiet valley of the Alps, beneath the shadow of the snow-covered mountains, a pleasant and prosperous town. Above it hung the avalanche threatening destruction. One night a wakeful man heard the ominous sound breaking on the still air, which heralds the descending mass of ice. Starting from his repose, he awoke his daughter, and with her hastened towards the city gate. There she recollected that her casket of jewelry had been left in the house, and turned back to secure the treasure. In another moment the overwhelming deluge of the avalanche fell with the voice of thunder between father and daughter, burying the city beneath it, When the morning dawned, the spires of the churches alone rose above the cold, white grave of the just before busy town. The maiden perished with her idol, while he who sought to save her escaped. (Tract Journal.)


Verses 18-22

Genesis 19:18-22

And Lot said unto them, Oh! not so, my Lord

The infirmities of the heirs of salvation

I.
THESE INFIRMITIES ARE SEEN DURING THE PROGRESS OF THEIR DELIVERANCE.

1. The infirmity of fear (Genesis 19:19).

2. Wilfulness (Genesis 19:20).

3. Forgetfulness of past mercies.

4. A lingering selfishness.

II. GOD IS GRACIOUS TOWARDS SUCH INFIRMITIES (Genesis 19:21).

III. THERE ARE CERTAIN CONDITIONS WHICH FIT THEM FOR SUCH MERCIFUL INDULGENCE.

1. When they have already commenced the flight from danger.

2. When, though they have not reached it, they are still seeking a sure refuge.

3. When they are satisfied not to rest in anything short of God’s command. (T. H. Leale.)

Lessons

1. Gracious souls in their weaknesses will acknowledge the freeness and greatness of God’s mercy to them.

2. Infirmity yet turns such confession aside, to a wrong use, even to desire things against God’s will.

3. Saving souls alive in the midst of destructions is a free and great mercy.

4. Weakness of faith and strength of sense may make God’s Word seem impossible unto His servants.

5. Infirmity of faith creates many fears of evil even against God’s promise.

6. Saints through infirmity apprehend death where God clearly promiseth and giveth life. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lot’s prayer as contrasted with that of Abraham

Abraham had never prayed for himself with a tithe of the persistent earnestness with which he prayed for Sodom--a town which was much indebted to him, but towards which, for more reasons than one, a smaller man would have borne a grudge. Lot, on the other hand, much indebted to Sodom, identified indeed with it, one of its leading citizens, connected by marriage with its inhabitants, is in no agony about its destruction, and has indeed but one prayer to offer, and that is, that when all his fellow-townsmen are destroyed, he may be comfortably provided for. While the men he has bargained and feasted with, the men he has made money out of and married his daughters to, are in the agonies of an appalling catastrophe and so near that the smoke of their torment sweeps across his retreat, he is so disengaged from regrets and compassion that he can nicely weigh the comparative comfort and advantage of city and rural life. One would have thought better of the man if he had declined the angelic rescue and resolved to stand by those in death whose society he had so coveted in life. And it is significant that while the generous, large-hearted, devout pleading of Abraham is in vain, the miserable, timorous, selfish petition of Lot is heard and answered. It would seem as if sometimes God were hopeless of men, and threw to them in contempt the gifts they crave, giving them the poor stations in this life their ambition is set upon, because He sees they have made themselves incapable of enduring hardness, and so quelling their lower nature. An answered prayer is not always a blessing, sometimes it is a doom: “He sent them meat to the full: but while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest of them.” Probably had Lot felt any inclination to pray for his townsmen he would have seen that for him to do so would be unseemly. His circumstances, his long association with the Sodomites, and his accommodation of himself to their ways, had both eaten the soul out of him and set him on quite a different footing towards God from that occupied by Abraham. A man cannot on a sudden emergency lift himself out of the circumstances in which he has been rooted, nor peel off his character as if it were only skin deep. Abraham had been living an unworldly life, in which intercourse with God was a familiar employment. His prayer was but the seasonable flower of his life, nourished to all its beauty by the habitual nutriment of past years. Lot in his need could only utter a peevish, pitiful, childish cry. He had aimed all his life at being comfortable, he could not now wish anything more than to be comfortable. “Stand out of my sunshine” was all he could say when he held by the hand the plenipotentiary of heaven, and when the roar of the conflict of moral good and evil was filling his ears--a decent man, a righteous man, but the world had eaten out his heart till he had nothing to keep him in sympathy with heaven. Such is the state to which men in our society, as in Sodom, are brought by risking their spiritual life to make the most of this world. (M. Dods, D. D.)


Verse 20

Genesis 19:20

Is it not a little one?
--

Is it not a little one?

God warns us to flee from the low level life of sin to the mountain of purity and peace. A word spoken by a friend, something read in a letter or book, joy, sorrow, anything God can use as His angel or messenger to call us away from the land of sin. And we are willing to do so on condition that we may keep that one little sin that doth so easily beset us. There is one habit which conscience tells us is not quite right, but which could only be broken by a painful struggle. Oh, let me keep this sin (is it not a little one?), and all other sins I shall put away! But this sort of compromise is impossible. The contagion of any one conscious sin, however small, will poison the whole soul. God will have all of a man’s heart, or none of it. Let us think of some of the reasons why we should try by God’s grace to put away those little sins which we have been comparing to the little Zoar for which Lot pleaded.

1. The first reason is because in God’s sight there is no such thing as a little sin. He is of purer eyes than to behold with tolerance any evil. Then we ought to reflect that doing conspicuous good actions and abstaining from great sins cannot prove our love to God as much as doing small duties and abstaining from little sins. The test, therefore, of a fine character is attention to what are called the small matters of conduct.

2. Another reason why we should be afraid to harbour little sins is because they lead to great ones. The very absence of crime and great sin which, it present, might have shocked us into repentance, may lull us into a sleep of fatal security and self-righteousness. To prevent this, let us adopt a high standard of Christian excellence, and endeavour to reach it by attention to small things. Every one who is at all in the habit of self-examination must be conscious of such within him--indolence, vanity, ill-temper, weakness, yielding to the opinion and ridicule of the world, the temptation of bad passions, of which we are ashamed, but by which we are overcome. Let each of us consider what his peculiar infirmity is, and though the Zoar be a little one, and though it be hard to part with, resolutely determine to give it up to destruction. Let us remember, that if ever we are to have a character capable of enjoying the mountain of holiness, we must not now despise the day of small things. Character is built, like the walls of an edifice, by laying one stone upon another. A mountain is ascended by setting one footstep after another up its steep face; if there be an occasional backward slip, a lesson of caution is learned, and the lost path is regained with determination. Holiness is not a rapture; it is a steady living to God, one step at a time, and every one higher up. (E. J. Hardy, M. A.)

Little sins

The most lamentable consequences in a Christian’s life often date their origin from some small act which is suffered to grow into a principle; from some incidental occurrence which ministered temptations that were heedlessly encouraged; or from a failure in habitual watchfulness in something which was considered unimportant in its influence.

I. THIS INATTENTION TO LITTLE THINGS WILL BE DISCOVERED IN THE FREQUENT EXCITEMENTS OF A NATURALLY IRRITABLE TEMPER. That ardour of temperament which gives the ability for great achievements, opens also the source of great sorrows. Our trials of temper are usually found in small incidents; chiefly in the little and private concerns of domestic life.

II. THIS DISREGARD OF LITTLE THINGS WILL BE EXHIBITED IN THE MANY SMALL AND UNNECESSARY INDULGENCES WHICH CHRISTIANS TOO OFTEN ALLOW THEMSELVES FOR APPETITE OR EASE. How often are such indulgences made the substance of a permanent and unchangeable habit?

III. THIS INATTENTION TO SMALLER THINGS WILL BE DETECTED IN THE LIGHT AND UNIMPROVING RECREATIONS AND AMUSEMENTS, WHICH ARE OFTEN ALLOWED,

IV. YOU MAY DISCOVER THIS INATTENTION TO SMALLER MATTERS IN RELIGION, IN AN INCREASING SPIRIT OF IDLENESS AND SLOTH. The Zoar of indolence will be no refuge. It may be made the prison of bondage. It can never be the abode of peace. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Little things

This is the question which we are always asking with regard to the events of our lives. Something crosses the stream of our existence and diverts its current into another channel, a trifle we call it, in our blindness; but it is no such thing, there are no such things as trifles; little things make up the history of mankind and the history of individuals, but they are not trifles; the vast machinery of the universe turns upon very little wheels, but they are none the less important for all that. A little message flashed along the telegraph wire plunges two great nations into war, and dislocates half Europe; a little word spoken in anger makes a man a murderer, or loses a prodigal an inheritance; a little look of penitence, a single tear from remorseful eyes, heals the breach between two friends and make them one again; a little plaything or a little trouble alters the whole current of a child’s thoughts, so a little larger plaything or a little deeper trouble sweetens or embitters the life of men who are but children of a larger growth, Never, then, underrate the importance of little things; they are to your lives and fortunes what the acorn is to the forest oak, what the little spring in the Cotswold Hills is to the great river at your doors. Look at the little troubles of life; they cause more of the grumbling in the world than its great trials. It is marvellous how wretched and discontented a little change of weather makes us, a shift of wind, a change of temperature paralyzes one, and makes another ill-tempered. God’s hand is concerned in the little things, remember, as well as in the great. He makes the grain of sand as well as the mountain, the same hand lets the sparrow fall to the ground, and destroys the armies in the war. Little sins are the most dangerous of all sins, just as some tropical reptiles are the most deadly because difficult to detect from their smallness. Let me try to bring some of these little sins under the microscope, that you may see how dangerous and ugly they look. Grumbling we have spoken of; next look at thoughtlessness, and little sins of commission and omission constantly excused with the words, “is it not a little one?” or “I never thought of it.” Again, there is procrastination--some duty is to be done, a little one, some small debt is to be paid, seine small memorandum to be put down, some visit to be made, and we put it off till to-morrow, till the to-morrow which never comes, and when some calamity or loss arises from the neglect our pitiful plaint is “I never thought of it.” So with little unkindness; it is not often, I believe, that we wound and injure people of deliberate malice, but many a fair fame is tarnished, many a happy home broken up, many a life-long quarrel caused by thoughtlessly uttered words about our neighbours. We cannot be too careful in judging or giving an opinion of the qualities of others. Let us bring another sin beneath the microscope--bad temper. I know not if I may safely call it a little one, it has an ugly aspect and is capable of an endless amount of mischief. In many a household there is this little bitter drop of bad temper spoiling all the meals, blackening all the social pleasures, fading all the flowers of joy and happiness. It is easy to call it an infirmity of temper, or to say it is only a manner, but it is an infirmity which, if neglected, grows to great lengths, and a manner is all by which we can judge most people; it is the outward man which is presented to us, and although a man’s heart may be very kindly disposed to us, it is scarcely likely for us to know it or appreciate it if his manner be unkind. This manner is one of the little things which is of vast importance. Another of the little sins which affect the home circle greatly is want of forbearance; bear and forbear is the best maxim for home; “let them first learn to show piety at home” is the best text. Close akin to this last sin is that of censoriousness, of finding fault perpetually with the details of your home life. There is yet another so-called little sin, of which I must speak--the breaking and re-forming of good resolutions. This is no little sin, believe me, it is the sin which has ruined millions, the sin of trusting in ourselves instead of in God’s constant help. But I pass on to say a word, in conclusion, on the exceeding danger of little sins as regards our spiritual life. They sap and undermine it, just as the constant fretting of a tiny stream of water will wear away stone and wooden piers; just as tiny insects will eat through a ship’s timbers and destroy her. If a man procrastinates, habitually defers any duty, how will he prepare for the great day, when will he begin to set his house in order? If we indulge in unkindly judgments and remarks about our neighbours, how can we approach the Holy Communion when we are told to be in love and charity with our neighbour; how, if we continually break our good resolutions, can we be said “ to intend to lead a new life”? How can we come to Church in a proper frame of mind, how can we hope to get any good from the services, if we have just left a scene of ill-temper, harsh language, and bitter thoughts at home? No, such things cannot be. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

Little sins

1. With regard, then, to this temptation of Satan concerning the littleness of sin, I would make this first answer: the best of men have always been afraid of little sins. Yea may have read of that noble warrior for Christ, Martin Arethusa, the bishop. He had led the people to pull down the idol temple in the city over which he presided; and when the apostate emperor Julian came to power, he commanded the people to rebuild the temple. They were bound to obey on pain of death. But Arethusa all the while lifted up his voice against the evil they were doing, until the wrath of the king fell upon him of a sudden. He was, however, offered his life on condition that he would subscribe so much as a single halfpenny towards the building of the temple; nay, less than that, if he would cast one grain of incense into the censer of the false God he might escape. But he would not do it. He feared God, and he would not do the most tiny little sin to save his life. They therefore exposed his body, and gave him up to the children to prick him with knives; then they smeared him with honey, and he was exposed to wasps and stung to death. But all the while the grain of incense he would not give. He could give his body to wasps, and die in the most terrible pains, but he could not, he would not, he dared not sin against God. A noble example I Now, brethren, if men have been able to perceive so much of sin in little transgressions, that they would bear inconceivable tortures rather than commit them, must there not be something dreadful after all in the thing of which Satan says, “Is it not a little one?” Men, with their eyes well opened by Divine grace, have seen a whole hell slumbering in the most minute sin.

2. We all see in nature how easily we may prove this--that little things lead to greater things. If it be desired to bridge a gulf, it is often the custom to shoot an arrow, and cross it with a line almost as thin as film. That line passes over and a string is drawn after it, and after that some small rope, and after that a cable, and after that the swinging suspension bridge, that makes a way for thousands. So it is ofttimes with Satan.

3. Another argument may be used to respond to this little temptation of the devil. He says, “Is it not a little one?”, “Yes,” we reply, “but little sins multiply very fast.” Like all other little things, there is a marvellous power of multiplication in little sins. Years ago there was not a single thistle in the whole of Australia. Some Scotchman who very much admired thistles--rather more than I do--thought it was a pity that a great island like Australia should be without that marvellous and glorious symbol of his great nation. He therefore collected a packet of thistle-seeds, and sent it over to one of his friends in Australia. Well, when it was landed, the officers might have said, “Oh, let it in; ‘is it not a little one?’ Here is but a handful of thistle-down, oh, let it come in; it will be but sown in a garden--the Scotch will grow it in their gardens; they think it a fine flower, nodoubt--let them have it, it is but meant for their amusement.” Ah, yes, it was but a little one; but now whole districts of country are covered with it, and it has become the farmer’s pest and plague. It was a little one; but, all the worse for that, it multiplied and grew. If it had been a great evil, all men would have set to work to crush it. This little evil is not to be eradicated, and of that country it may be said till doomsday--“Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth.” Happy would it have been if the ship that brought that seed had been wrecked. No boon is it to those of our countrymen there on the other side of the earth, but a vast curse. Take heed of the thistle-seed; little sins are like it.

4. Once again; little sins, after all, if you look at them in another aspect, are great. A little sin involves a great principle. Suppose that to-morrow the Austrians should send a body of men into Sardinia. If they only send a dozen it would be equal to a declaration of war. It may be said “Is it not a little one?--a very small band of soldiers that we have sent?” “Yes,” it would be replied, “but it is the principle of the thing. You cannot be allowed with impunity to send your soldiers across the border. War must be proclaimed, because you have violated the frontier, and invaded the land.” It is not necessary to send a hundred thousand troops into a country to break a treaty. It is true the breach of the treaty may appear to be small; but if the slightest breach be allowed, the principle is gone. The principle of obedience is compromised in thy smallest transgression, and, therefore, is it great. Now I am about to speak to the child of God only, and I say to him, “Brother, if Satan tempts thee to say, ‘Is it not a little one?’” reply to him, “Ah, Satan, but little though it be, it may mar my fellowship with Christ.” Is it a little one, Satan? But a little stone in the shoe will make a traveller limp. A little thorn may breed a fester. A little cloud may hide the sun. A cloud the size of a man’s hand may bring a deluge of rain. Avaunt Satan! I can have nought to do with thee; for since I know that Jesus bled for little sins, I cannot wound His heart by indulging in them afresh. Ah, my friends, those men that say little sins can have no vice in them whatever, they do but give indications of their own character; they show which way the stream runs. A straw may let you know which way the wind blows, or even a floating feather; and so may some little sin be an indication of the prevailing tendency of the heart. An eternity of woe is prepared for what men call little sins. It is not alone the murderer, the drunkard, the whoremonger, that shall be sent to hell. The wicked, it is true, shall be sent there, but the little sinner, with all the nations that forget God, shall have his portion there also. Tremble, therefore, on account of little sins. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The danger of little sins

I. LITTLE SINS LEAD ON TO GREAT ONES. Some years ago the Bradfield reservoir sprang a tiny leak. It was so small that it was disregarded. Neglected, it grew larger, until one night the bank was swept away, and a mighty torrent let loose that destroyed houses and mills, an immense amount of property and many lives, flooded the town of Sheffield, and has left a burden of debt on that town to this day. Not long ago a gentleman, hurrying along one of the streets of Manchester, slipped and fell, slightly grazing one of his fingers. He saw the wound, but thought it too slight for care. The blood was poisoned by contact with some rubbish on which he had fallen, and in a few weeks his whole system became charged with it, and he expired in terrible agony. Little sins indulged, spared, neglected, have shown equal power of growth. A little leaven has leavened the whole lump. Learn the story of the inmates of our jails, workhouses, lunatic asylums, and you will see how little sins end in great sins; in poverty, crime, insanity and utter ruin.

II. LITTLE SINS DESTROY OUR PEACE AND HINDER OUR GROWTH IN GRACE. A little splinter of wood, a tiny thorn buried in the flesh and neglected will produce intense agony. The story is told of a whole train being stopped on the railway between Perth and Aberdeen by the loss of one little pin. And equally sad results are produced in us by little sins.

III. LITTLE SINS DESTROY OUR INFLUENCE. We are Christ’s “living epistles,” known and read of all men. Many a man has lost all influence for good, undone his own efforts, through little slips and want of care about the minor moralities. It was not the Philistines but Delilah that robbed Samson of his power.

IV. LITTLE SINS NEED MORE EFFORT AND WATCHFULNESS TO OVERCOME THAN GREAT ONES. (J. Ogle.)

Lot’s false reasoning

The natural conclusion from God’s mercy, which he acknowledges, would have been trust and obedience. “Therefore I can escape,” not “but I cannot escape,” would have been the logic of faith. The latter is irrationality of fear. When a man who has been cleaving to this fleeting life of earthly good wakes up to believe his danger, he is ever apt to plunge into an abyss of terror, in which God’s commands seem impossible, and His will to save becomes dim. The world first lies to us by “You are quite safe where you are. Don’t be in a hurry to go.” Then it lies, “You never can get away now.” Reverse Lot’s whimpering fears, and we get the truth. Are not God’s directions how to escape promises that we shall escape? Will He begin to build, and not be able to finish? Will the judgments of His hand overrun their commission, like a bloodhound which, in his master’s absence, may rend his friend? “We have all of us one human heart,” and this swift leap from unreasoning carelessness to as unreasoning dread, this failure to draw the true conclusion from God’s past mercy, and this despairing recoil from the path pointed for us, and craving for easier ways, belong to us. “A strange servant of God was this,” say we. Yes, and we are often quite as strange. How many people awakened to see their danger are so absorbed by the sight that they cannot see the cross, or think they can never reach it? God answered the cry, whatever its fault, and that may well make us pause in our condemnation. He hears even a very imperfect petition, and can see the tiniest germ of faith buried under thick clods of doubt and fear. This stooping readiness to meet Lot’s weakness comes in wonderful contrast with the terrible revelation of judgment which follows. What an idea of God, which had room for this more than human patience with weakness, and also for the flashing, lurid glories of destructive retribution! Zoar is spared, not for the unworthy reason which Lot suggested,--because its minuteness might buy impunity, as some noxious insect too small to be worth crushing; but in accordance with the principle which was illustrated in Abraham’s intercession, and even in Lot’s safety; namely, that the righteous are shields for others, as Paul had the lives of all that sailed with him given to him. God’s “cannot” answers Lot’s “cannot.” His power is limited by His own solemn purpose to save His faltering servant. The latter had feared that, before he could reach the mountain, “the evil” would overtake him. God shows him that his safety was a condition precedent to its outburst. Lot barred the way. God could not “let slip the dogs of” judgment, but held them in the leash until Lot was in Zoar. Very awful is the command to make haste, based on this impossibility, as if God were weary of delay, and more than ready to smite. However we may find anthropomorphism in these early narratives, let us not forget that, when the world has long been groaning under some giant evil, and the bitter seed is grown up into a waving forest of poison, there is something in the passionless righteousness of God which brooks no longer delay, but seeks to make “a short work” on the earth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Wedges

“When a man cleaves a block he first pierces it with small wedges, and then with greater; and so doth the devil make entrance into the soul by degrees. Judas first purloineth and stealeth out of the bag; then censureth Christ as profusely lavishing. What needs this waste? This was not only a check to the woman, but to Christ Himself. Lastly, upon Christ’s rebuke, he hates Him, and then betrays Him to His enemies.” There is no dealing with the devil except at arm’s length. Those little wedges of his are terribly insinuating because they are so little. Keep them out or worse will follow. Occasional glasses lead on to drunken orgies; occasional theatre-going grows into wantonness and chambering; trifling pilfering soon grows to downright theft; secret back-slidings end in public abominations. The egg of all mischief is as small as a mustard-seed. It is with the transgressor as with the falling stone--the further he falls the faster he falls. Again we say beware of the little wedges, for they are in crafty hands, and our utter destruction may be compassed by them. Even iron safes have been forced when little wedges have made room for the burglar’s lever. Take heed of the plea, “Is it not a little one?” O my Saviour, let me net fall little by little, or think myself able to bear the indulgence of any known sin because it seems so insignificant. Keep me from sinful beginnings, lest they lead me on to sorrowful endings. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Dangerous to remain in the neighbourhood of old sins

Camping down upon the edges of a sin from which a man has just escaped, is dangerous work. A person in such a position is like one who, upon finding himself in the running current of a river which is rising, swollen by heavy rains, struggles desperately until he reaches its banks, and there settles himself in false security. In the morning the waters of the freshet are booming about him, and he flies to the meadow, a little higher. But the floods are out, and they rise and rise, faster than he can run, and the man who, by fleeing at once to the mountains when he came up from the river, would have been saved, by tarrying upon the lowlands, perished. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 23

Genesis 19:23

The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar

The lessons of a day

I.
THE ABSURDITY OF LETTING SECULAR MOTIVES GOVERN MEN’S CONDUCT. Lot went to Sodom because he thought it a secularly desirable place. (Genesis 13:10.) He went there, and there his own piety was injured, his own children contaminated, and the partner of his own bosom became a victim of Divine judgment. The beauty of his home was his curse. The spirit of Lot is still common.

II. THE INCONGRUITY BETWEEN THE PHYSICAL AND MORAL SCENERY OF THE WORLD.

1. The abnormal state of human society.

2. The necessity of a retributive period.

3. A man’s external circumstances are no true signs of character.

III. THE TREMENDOUS FORCE OF OLD ASSOCIATIONS.

1. The local.

2. The social.

3. The secular.

IV. THE FUTILITY OF HUMAN REASONING CONCERNING THE WAYS OF GOD.

1. God may deviate from the laws of nature; lie cannot from His word.

2. God has deviated from the laws of nature; He has never from His word.

V. THE DETERMINED ANTAGONIST OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT TO SIN. (Homilist.)

The forbearance of God

1. Sunshine and midnight are alike great opportunities of God. They are as the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud to the whole race of man. By their dumb mouths God speaks to us, and their silent movement, without a sound, warns us of His presence, His love, and His providence. It was when God’s servant, weak, failing, and infirm, shattered and broken, in deep sorrow, led by an angel, had placed his trembling foot-steps on the rock; it was then, when he had come safely out of the blazing city, and the lurid fires glared in the sky; when at last, though oh! how long, how lingeringly, the aged patriarch had emerged from his deep trouble; then the sun arose upon the earth.

2. Few characters in the Bible are more full of comfort than Lot’s. Weak in disposition, faulty in his general life, erring after repeated warnings, irresolute even when he stood on the verge of ruin, God was yet willing to save him.

3. In the beginning he showed tendency, distinct and clear. He loved ease, comfort, wealth, worldly possessions, and beauty. He followed disposition. That disposition was not sinful--it was weak. It erred on the side of what multitudes (and those the good) admire--kindness, easiness, gentleness, affability, lack of severity. It was exactly the reverse of the disposition of Abraham. All doubt as to the end of Lot, and his position in eternity, is removed by the verse which declares, on the warrant and in the words of St. Peter, that “God delivered just Lot,” who was “a righteous man.” His escape is called a deliverance, and the act of God is spoken of as a means used to remove Lot from the sinful examples of Sodom and Gomorrha. (E. Monte, M. A.)

The righteous delivered

Thus, in times of public calamity, there is often some little Zoar provided for them that love God, where they are wonderfully preserved from the judgments that fall on their country and their kindred. The Roman armies which surrounded Jerusalem, to execute on it the vengeance predicted, drew off, in an unaccountable manner, as if their design had been to give the Christians contained within its walls an opportunity of withdrawing to a little adjoining city, called Pella, which proved a Zoar to them, from whence they beheld the Roman eagles fly again to the destined prey, to be left no more till they had devoured it. And what is the church upon earth, but a Zoar, a little city (is it not a little one?) spared at the intercession of its Lord? Here the penitent, not yet strong enough to escape to the heavenly mountain, findeth rest and refreshment, and is invigorated to pursue his journey. Hither let him escape, and his soul shall live. But let him bear in mind, that in making his escape, perseverence alone can secure him. “He that endureth to the end,” and he only, “shall be saved.” (Bishop Horne.)


Verse 24-25

Genesis 19:24-25

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven--

The destruction of Sodom

I.
DIVINE JUDGMENT IS DISCRIMINATIVE.

The Scripture will not have us fall into the belief that there is no radical difference between the good and the evil. It would have us know that they are as unlike as the wheat and the chaff. Divine judgments are a winnowing-fan to separate the two. If the sifting and winnowing process which goes on in this world is only partially accomplished, yet it is carried far enough to let us know that some time it will be completed.

II. DIVINE JUDGMENT, THOUGH LONG DELAYED, IS AT LAST PRECIPITATED BY PRESUMPTUOUS SINS. The men of Sodom, lusting after God’s messengers, launched upon themselves the fire and brimstone. They hastened and fixed the city’s doom. No doubt, God’s judgments are exactly timed. The hour and minute of visitation are determined. But the timing has been done by One who foreknows the moral history of men. He has set a bound for human iniquity. It cannot be passed. He knows at what hour it will be reached. Until that hour judgment impends; then it falls. Let Joab escape punishment for the murder of Abner, and, so far from coming to repentance, he will be found reddening his hand with the blood of Amasa. Yet his second crime hastens on the time when the horns of the altar will not be for him a sanctuary of refuge. Let Napoleon

III. succeed in his transcendent crime of founding the Second Empire in France, and thereafter he will despise the will of the people, in destroying the freedom of the press, and will hasten the hour of doom by all the surprising splendours and follies of the Imperial court at Compiegne. The Bible reiterates the lesson for all rulers, all governments, all individuals: that a limit of transgression has been fixed, beyond which judgment waits. Presumptuous sins, therefore, hasten the hour of judgment.

III. AMONG PRESUMPTUOUS SINS WE MUST NUMBER DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LORD’S DIRECT COMMAND. This was the sin of Lot’s wife. No doubt she loved Sodom.

IV. DIVINE JUDGMENT, WHICH IS PRECIPITATED BY ACTS OF PRESUMPTUOUS SIN, IS SOMETIMES AVERTED FOR THE SAKE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. What would have been realized in Sodom, had ten righteous men dwelt there, was done in Zoar when Lot and his two daughters made it a place of refuge. The little city of Zoar was saved for-their-sake. A leaven of goodness saved it.

V. THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS OF THIS WORLD ARE NOT FINAL. We might be inclined to say, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, that their wickedness was sufficiently punished. The sweeping tempest of fire did its strange work throughly, but our Lord has left some sobering words (Matthew 10:15) to teach that this sudden, awful event was not the day of judgment for Sodom. In that day it shall be “more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for some who, despising the sin of the Sodomites, have yet sinned against greater light.” (W. G. Sperry.)

The destruction of the cities of the plain

I. IT WAS SUDDEN.

1. AS regards the object of it.

2. Not as regards the Author of it.

II. IT WAS THE DIRECT ACT OF GOD.

1. The destruction was predicted.

2. The destruction was, in its nature, extraordinary.

III. IT WAS COMPLETE. Utter ruin, and absolutely without remedy. Learn:

1. That God’s judgments, though deserved, tarry long.

2. That without timely repentance, His judgments are sure to fall. (T. H.Leale.)

The overthrow of Sodom

The “brimstone” of the Authorized Version is probably rather some form of bituminous matter which could be carried into the air by such an escape of gas, and a thick saline mud would accompany the eruption, encrusting anything it reached. Subsidence would follow the ejection of quantities of such matter; and hence the word “overthrew,” which seems inappropriate to a mere conflagration, would be explained. But, however this may be, we have to recognize a supernatural element in the starting of the train of natural causes as well as in the timing of the catastrophe, and a Divine purpose of retribution, which turns the catastrophe, however effected, into a judgment. So regarded, the event has a double meaning.

1. In the first place, it is a revelation of an element in the Divine character and of a feature in the Divine Government. To the men of that time, it might be a warning. To Abraham, and through him to his descendants, and through them to us, it preaches a truth very unwelcome to many in this day--that there is in God that which constrains Him to hate, fight against, andpunish evil. The temper of this generation turns away from such thoughts, and, in the name of the truth that “God is love,” would fain obliterate the truth that He does and will punish. But if the punitive element be suppressed, and that in God which makes it necessary ignored or weakened, the end will be a God who has not force enough to love, but only weakly to indulge. If He does not hate and punish, He does not pardon. For the sake of the love of God, we must hold firm by the belief in the judgments of God. The God who destroyed Sodom is not merely the God of an earlier antiquated creed. “Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” Again this event is a prophecy. So our Lord has employed it; and much of the imagery in which the last judgment is represented is directly drawn from this narrative. So far from this story showing to us only the superstitions of a form of belief which we have long outgrown, its deepest meaning lies far ahead, and closes the history of man on the earth. We know from the lips which cannot lie, that the appalling suddenness of that destruction foreshadows the swiftness of the coming of that last “day of the Lord.” We know that in literality some of the physical features shall be reproduced; for the fire which shall burn up the world and all its works is no figure, nor is it proclaimed only by such non-authoritative voices as those of Jesus and His apostles, but also by the modern possessors of infallible certitude--the men of science. We know that that day shall be a day of retribution. We know, too, that the crime of Sodom, foul and unnatural as it was, is not the darkest, but that its inhabitants (who have to face that judgment too) will find their doom more tolerable, and their sins lighter than some who have had high places in the church, than the Pharisees and wise men who have not taken Christ for their Saviour. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Lessons from the destruction of Sodom

I. WHAT AN EVIL IS SENSUAL AND SEXUAL POLLUTION. It is remarkable that God has severely punished the cities most chargeable with these sins. Lucknow is said to be the Sodom of India, and it has of late been terribly punished, although through the instrumentality of hands many of them unclean themselves. Some of the cities in the West Indies and South America, which have been destroyed by earthquake, were peculiarly stained by such pollutions; and if accounts be true, Cuba, on this principle, may well stand in awe of the judgments of God. Of all the cities on the continent, the two which have suffered most in war have been its two most licentious cities, namely, Vienna and Paris.

II. How MUCH STILL DEPENDS UPON A FEW IN A LARGE CITY, AS WELL AS IN A COUNTRY. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Even Omnipotence pauses, in its path of just vengeance, till the righteous are out of its way (Genesis 19:22). Let the thought that there are still so few righteous in the earth exert a humbling influence on our minds. We know not what is God’s required proportion now, it was in Sodom’s day tens to tens of thousands; perhaps it is so still, and how serious the question. Is it because the required proportion of righteous is found, or is it out of mere forbearance that God does not arise terribly to punish the world, and how long, if it be mere forbearance, may this forbearance last?

III. LET US FLEE TO THE ZOAR OF CHRIST. (G. Gilfillan.)

Destruction a moral necessity

To find out whether the judgment is right we must find out the moral conditions which called it forth. And first, it is important to observe that this judgment was preceded by an inquiry of the most unquestionable completeness and authority. Hear this Genesis 18:20-21). You see, therefore, that we are only following the Lord’s own example, in asking for information as to moral conditions. It is, then, deeply satisfactory to know that the judgment was preceded by inquiry. In the next place, the revelation made respecting the moral condition of Sodom is appalling and revolting, beyond the power of words to describe. Let us put the case before ourselves in this way: Given a city that is full of corruption, which may not be so much as named; every home a den of unclean beasts; every imagination debauched and drunk with iniquity; every tongue an empoisoned instrument; purity, love, honour, peace, forgotten or detested words; judgment deposed, righteousness banished, the sanctuary abandoned, the altar destroyed; every child taught the tricks and speech of imps; prizes offered for the discovery of some deeper depth of iniquity or new way of serving the devil;--given such a city, to know what is best to be done with it? Remonstrate with it? Absurd! Threaten it? Feeble! What then? Rain fire and brimstone upon it? Yes! Conscience says Yes; Justice says Yes; concern for other cities says Yes; nothing but fire will disinfect so foul an air, nothing but burning brimstone should succeed the cup of devils. Just as we grasp the moral condition with which God had to deal do we see that fire alone could meet wickedness so wicked or insanity so mad. This view is important not only historically as regards Sodom, but prospectively as regards a still greater judgment. This is no local tragedy. The fire and brimstone are still in the power of God; not a spark has been lost; it is true to-day and for ever that “our God is a consuming fire”! (J. Parker, D. D.)

The probable physical causes of the destruction of the cities of the plain

With reference to the causes of the destruction of the cities, these are soclearly stated in a perfectly unconscious and incidental manner in Genesis 19:1-38., that I think no geologist, on comparing the narrative with the structure of the district, can hesitate as to the nature of the phenomena which were presented to the observation of the narrator, Nor is there any reason to suppose that the history is compounded of two narratives giving different views as to the cause of the catastrophe. On the contrary, the story has all the internal evidence of being a record of the observations of intelligent eye-witnesses, who reported the appearances observed without concerning themselves as to their proximate causes or natural probability. We learn from the narrative that the destruction was sudden and unexpected, that it was caused by “ brimstone and fire,” that these were rained down from the sky, that a dense column of smoke ascended to a great height like the smoke of a furnace or lime-kiln, and that along with, or immediately after the fire, there was an emission of brine or saline mud, capable of encrusting bodies (as that of Lot’s wife), so that they appeared as mounds (not pillars) of salt. The only point in the statements in regard to which there can be doubt, is the substance intended by the Hebrew word translated “brimstone.” It may mean sulphur, of which there is abundance in some of the Dead Sea depths; but there is reason to suspect that, as used here, it may rather denote pitch, since it is derived from the same root with Gopher, the Hebrew name, apparently, of the cypress and other resinous woods. It is scarcely necessary to say that the circumstances above referred to are not those of a volcanic eruption, and there is no mention of any earthquake, which, if it occurred, must in the judgment of the narrator have been altogether a subordinate feature. Nor is an earthquake necessarily implied in the expression “overthrown,” used in Deuteronomy 29:1-29. Still, as we shall see, more or less tremor of the ground very probably occurred, and might have impressed itself on traditions of the event, especially as the district is subject to earthquakes, though it is not mentioned in theological narrative. The description is that of a bitumen or petroleum eruption, similar to those which, on a small scale, have been so destructive in the regions of Canada and the United States of America. They arise from the existence of reservoirs of compressed inflammable gas, along with petroleum and water, existing at considerable depths below the surface. When these are penetrated, as by a well or borehole, the gas escapes with explosive force, carrying petroleum with it, and when both have been ignited the petroleum rains down in burning showers and floats in flames over the ejected water, while a dense smoke towers high into the air, and the in-rushing draft may produce a vortex, carrying it upward to a still greater height, and distributing still more widely the burning material, which is almost inextinguishable and most destructive to life and to buildings. We have thus only to suppose that, at the time in question, reservoirs of condensed gas and petroleum existed under the plain of Siddim, and that these were suddenly discharged, either by their own accumulated pressure, or by an earthquake shock fracturing the overlying beds, when the phenomena described by the writer in Genesis would occur, and after the eruption the site would be covered with saline and sulphurous deposit, while many of the sources of petroleum previously existing might be permanently dried up. In connection with this there might be subsidence of the ground over the now exhausted reservoirs, and this might give rise to the idea of the submergence of the cities. It is to be observed, however, that the parenthetic statement in Genesis 14:1-24, “which is the Salt Sea,” does not certainly mean under the sea, and that it relates not to the cities themselves but to the plain where the battle recorded in the chapter was fought at a time previous to to the eruption. It is also to be noted that this particular locality is precisely the one which, as previously stated, may on other grounds be supposed to have subsided, and that this subsidence having occurred subsequently may have rendered less intelligible the march of the invading army to later readers, and this may have required to be mentioned. It seems difficult to imagine that anything except the real occurrence of such an event could have given origin to the narrative. No one unacquainted with the structure of the district and the probability of the bitumen eruptions in connection with this structure, would be likely to imagine the raining of burning pitch from the sky, with the attendant phenomena stated so simply and without any appearance of exaggeration, and with the evident intention to dwell on the spiritual and moral significance of the event, while giving just as much of the physical features as was essential to this purpose. It may be added here that in Isaiah 34:9-10, there is a graphic description of a bitumen eruption, which may possibly be based on the history now under consideration, though used figuratively to illustrate the doom of Idumea. In thus directing attention to the physical phenomena attendant on the destruction of the cities of the plain, I do not desire to detract from the providential character of the catastrophe, or from the lessons which it teaches, and which have pervaded the religion and literature of the world ever since it occurred. I merely wish to show that there is nothing in the narrative comparable with the wild myths and fanciful conjectures sometimes associated with it, and that its author has described it in an intelligent manner, appearances which he must have seen or which were described to him by competent witnesses. I wish also to indicate that the statements made are m accordance with the structure and possibilities of the district as now understood after its scientific exploration. From a scientific point of view it is an almost vague description of a natural phenomena of much interest and very rare occurrence. Nor do I desire to he understood as asserting that Sodom and its companion cities were unique in the facilities of destruction afforded by their situation. They were no doubt so placed as to be specially subject to one particular kind of overthrow. But it may be safely said that there is no city in the world which is not equally, though perhaps by other agencies, within the reach of Divine power exercised through the energies of nature, should it be found to be destitute of “ten righteous men.” So that the conclusion still holds--“except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” (Sir J. William Dawson.)

The destruction of Sodom by God through natural agencies

A man goes now to the scene of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and tries to establish the fact that it was nothing but a natural volcanic eruption; and by getting rid of the supernatural agency he thinks he has got rid of God Himself. Another goes to the same place, and in his zeal for the supernatural wishes to make out that the veracity of the Bible depends on this kind of occurrence never having happened before. Do we mean, then, that only the marvellous incidents of nature--the fall of a Sodom and Gomorrah taking place at an appointed time--only the positive miracles, are God’s doing, and not the common-place events of every-day life? Nay, God holds all the powers of nature in His hand; small events may be so directed by Him that we shall think them accident; but for all this it is no less certain that the most trifling act of every-day life is directed by Him. What we have to say is this: we agree with the supernaturalist in saying that God did it; we agree with the rationalist in saying that it was done by natural means. The natural is the work of God. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Site of the cities of the plain

The question of the site of the cities of the plain is one that cannot be decided with certainty. The prevalent view is, that they were at the southern end of the sea. The correspondence of the names Usdum, Amra, and Zoghal to Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar, adds weight to this view. Then there is the existence of the salt mountain above alluded to. On the other hand the passage in Genesis 13:10-12, tends to the conclusion that the plain was to the north of the Dead Sea. Mr. Grove, in the “Bible Dictionary,” points out that the mention of the Jordan confirms this: “for the Jordan ceases where it enters the Dead Sea, and can have no existence south of that point”; and on a review of the whole argument he says: “It thus appears that on the situation of Sodom no satisfactory conclusion can at present be come to. On the one hand the narrative of Genesis seems to state positively that it lay at the northern end of the Dead Sea. On the other hand the long continued tradition and the names of existing spots seem to pronounce with almost equal positiveness that it was at its southern end.” Canon Tristram, in his “Natural History of the Bible,” speaks of “the great Jordan valley and Dead Sea basin” as “the most remarkable geological part of the Holy Land.” He holds with M. Lartet that the Dead Sea “is the basin of an old inland sea, larger, indeed, than the present lake, but which has had no connection with the Red Sea since the continent assumed its present form.” He mentions that “bitumen is sometimes found in large masses floating on the surface of the Dead Sea, especially after earthquakes”; and that “there are many hot springs and sulphur springs both on the shores of the Dead Sea and also in its basin, some of which deposit sulphur largely on the rocks around. Most of these hot springs are strongly mineral.” With reference to the site of the cities, he thinks it evident on geological grounds that “the catastrophe which overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah can no more be ascribed to an ordinary volcanic eruption than can the fire and blackness of Mount Sinai. Those cities were not situated where the Dead Sea now is, nor were they swallowed up by it; but standing in the ciccar, i.e., the plain of Jordan, and probably somewhere between Jericho and the north end of the lake, they were destroyed by brimstone and fire rained down upon them by a special interposition of Divine power. The materials for the fire were at hand in the sulphur abounding near and the bitumen with which, dug from the pits of the plain, the houses were probably constructed, or cemented.” (W. S. Smith, B. D.)


Verse 26

Genesis 19:26

But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar Of salt

The cause and danger of backsliding

I.
THE CAUSE OF BACKSLIDING. Unbelief, leading to

II. THE DANGER OF BACKSLIDING.

1. There is the danger of forfeiting our salvation.

2. The danger of punishment. (T. H. Leale.)

Lot’s wife

I. SHE PERISHED AFTER SOLEMN WARNING.

II. SHE PERISHED BY A LOOK.

III. SHE PERISHED AFTER SHE HAD STOOD LONG, AND HAD ENJOYED GREAT ADVANTAGES.

IV. SHE ILLUSTRATES THE ENORMOUS INFLUENCE OF WORLDLY INTERESTS AND AFFECTIONS. (T. H. Leale.)

Lot’s wife

I. A CHARACTER HIGHLY BLESSED.

1. Association with good people.

2. Remarkable interpositions of Providence on her behalf.

3. Divine aid afforded to escape the danger.

II. A CHARACTER INEXCUSABLY WRONG.

1. Inasmuch as sin in its most detestable forms had been presented to her view.

2. Inasmuch as a special commandment was disregarded.

3. Inasmuch as there was no reasonable inducement to disobey,

III. A CHARACTER SADLY PUNISHED.

1. Separated from the objects of her hope.

2. Held forth as a warning to others throughout the ages.

3. Lost almost within reach of safety. (Homilist.)

The danger of looking back

“Remember Lot’s wife”--

1. In the hour of conviction of sin. “Up! flee for your life!” is the voice of the Holy Spirit. Delay, hesitation, casting longing looks back on a life of sin, then, may be fatal.

2. In the hour of fiery temptation. The only safety is in precipitate flight.

3. When any question of duty is pressed upon you.

4. Amid the assaults of unbelief.

5. Note what Christ says in Luke 9:62 : “No man, having put his hand to the plough,” etc.

Lot’s wife

I. She was made A NOTARIZE AND CONSPICUOUS EXAMPLE OF JUDICIAL INFLICTION SO as to “justify the ways of God to men.” Why was she overtaken by so signal a doom? She was probably not different from others, her fellow-townswomen--the votaries of fashion and the slaves of custom. We possess some intimation of the habits which then existed, and the tastes which then prevailed. “The iniquity of Sodom “ was “ pride, fulness of bread; and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters” (Ezekiel 16:49). No encomium is pronounced on her; but how differently is her partner regarded! (2 Peter 2:4; 2 Peter 2:7-8.) Probably she was frivolous, light, and careless in her conduct; her character made up of negations, rather than of positive vices; and her faults probably originated in the unfavourable influence of the society in which she mingled. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Timothy 5:6). We see a judicial infliction overtaking her conduct, which was marked by the following features.

1. Disobedience. It is the business of principle to obey the right and the rule. It does not matter what the law prescribes, for the majesty which invests the government of God descends on all the acts of His legislation; and it is not for us to question their greater or less magnitude, or their superior or subordinate authority. He shows us what He wills, and it is our part to obey. In the case before us there was to be no idolatry of home--no favourite objects to preserve and bring away. They were to come out quickly and unburdened. The general command was to disregard all; and even the particular precept could not be more distinct: “Escape for thy life! Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain! Escape thou to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17)! Then commenced a struggle in her mind. Here was her disobedience. Only obey the voice of God, and it shall be well; but if thou disobey, ruin will be the result.

2. Ingratitude. It was not ordinary kindness, but particular and pre-eminent that was shown to her husband, herself, and her household. “Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither” Genesis 19:22). As if His fury were stayed till the complete deliverance of these, His favourite charge.

3. Reluctance. Hers was an averted countenance. Are we surprised at this? Think of the awe--the panic--the agitation! Think of the natural instinct which attached her to home. Was it that her heart grudged to leave behind some favourite whose misery excited her pity and commiseration? None of these feelings are manifested. But there is a wistful and hankering look. Her eye seems enamoured of what she must abandon; the objects of vanity--her companionships--whatever she coveted--her pursuits--herfriends--her abode--her flocks--all that she was leaving; and though she saved what was of greater value, her heart went after her covetousness Ezekiel 33:31); and it was all concentrated in that look.

4. Distrust. Might it not be a false alarm? Might it not be well to pause and examine?

5. Indecision. This paralyzes all, and is unaccountable in such a case as hers. See how the waves threaten to surround her! Yet she wavers, instead of hastening her retreat.

II. Why are we to “Remember Lot’s wife,” but that there was SOMETHING IN HER CONDUCT TO REBUKE AND INSTRUCT US?

1. How small a thing may prevent our salvation! Lot’s wife may have been gay and volatile--nothing more.

2. The increased misery of perishing within the reach of recovering mercy. Lot’s wife was in the track of safety. All was promise and hope.

3. The evil of a careless state of mind. Lot’s wife was not fully possessed of the fear proper to her situation. Led by the example of those among whom she dwelt, she had no just view of the evil of sin. Left by her companions, she thought to return; but the resolve was too late! Advance was as helpless as retreat!

4. The misery of apostasy. Many have a disposition to what is right; but there is nothing fixed--no true change. How many have been thus hindered in their course! They were almost persuaded to be Christians Acts 26:28), but they “looked back”; and our Lord indicates that this disposition leads to condemnation (Luke 9:62).

5. The fearful state of mind when God leaves the sinner and abandons him to his own will. In the case of Lot’s wife, God could do no more, and the angels went on. The last desire for deliverance left her. She “looked back”--stopped--and stood still for ever! (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)

Lot’s wife

I. THE TEXT SHOWS THAT ACTIONS MAY BECOME PUNISHABLE, WHICH TO US MAY SEEM MOST HARMLESS AND EXCUSABLE. No doubt there are some things which have happened in each of our lives which stand out more prominently than others, and we can remember these with ease, and with a constant recurring memory. They are the mountains and hills (so to speak) in our mind-scenery which come before us ever so plainly; but the little rivulet, or the humble stone, or the half-hidden bush is passed over and seldom thought of. And such is the case with human life, we overlook or forget the smaller things of every-day existence, while we lay a great emphasis upon what we consider more deserving of our attention. But it is the little transactions of the day which make up the character, which form it, and give to it its destiny. It is the oft-repeated habit which grows into strength, and stamps its image upon our hearts and minds, whether good or bad. It is the word of anger which, like a spark, kindles into flame our fiercest passions, while the word of kindness will soothe the feelings of ill temper and carry comfort into the most troubled bosom. A look, a simple pressure of the hand, and even sometimes a well-known footstep, will do much to change the history of a life. Yet, after all, God looks deeper into our doings than what meets the eye or falls upon the ear of sense. He is a Searcher of the heart, of its intents and motives; and according to its principles, which lie beneath the disturbed and restless surface of human actions, so does He acquit or condemn us, commend or disapprove. Thus with regard to Lot’s wife, it was not the mere turning back of her body, or the look of her eye, which He condemned, but the motives which prompted these actions, and made them the instruments of her own evil wishes, and of the wrongful feelings which stirred within her soul. Hence, if the eye should become the instrument of sin, pluck it out; or, if the arm should lead us to offend, cut it off.

II. We observe here THAT THE SIN OF LOT’S WIFE FOUND HER OUT WHATEVER THAT SIN MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Did her heart long to remain with the people of the cities whom God had cursed? She became a fixture to the spot where such a wish was encouraged. Did she depreciate or condemn the judgment which wrapt the cities in flames? She is made to share their fate, only in another form. Would she rather return to the place from which she was commanded to flee, and so brave the curse which God had declared against it? Then let her steps be arrested in death, and her folly become a monument of warning to others who would follow her example. Did she, by looking back in direct opposition to the orders not to do so, care nothing about the interposition of angels, nought of the Divine goodness and mercy in providing for her and her household a refuge and a place of rest and security? Then let her insensibility and ingratitude become marked by turning her into a lifeless and insensible pillar of salt. And thus we often find that there is a correspondence between the act of disobedience and the judgment which follows it.

III. THE FATE OF LOT’S WIFE WAS SUDDEN, QUITE UNEXPECTED. It came upon her in an instant. In the very act of turning she was struck by the hand of death. There came to her no note of warning of the calamity, and the momentary change allowed no time for thought, for reflection, or for shrinking fear. But it is not the suddenness of death we have most to dread, it is the being unprepared for such a change. It is this we have most to fear.

The manner and form of the death of Lot’s wife may be regarded comparatively of little consequence, but the state of mind in which the destroyer found her is of the utmost importance.

IV. WE LEARN FROM OUR SUBJECT THE EVIL OF TURNING BACK IN THE PATH OF DUTY.

V. The body of Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt seems to point to the COMPARATIVE INSIGNIFICANCE OF THE HUMAN BODY, AND TO CAST A SORT OF CONTEMPT UPON IT. But suppose its rigid fixture to the ground may be considered a symbol of the fixity of the human character in death! (W. D.Horwood.)

Lost near safety

In an October day a treacherous calm on the northern coast is suddenly followed by one of the fiercest storms within the memory of man. Without warning signs a squall comes sweeping down the main, and the ocean leaps in its fury like a thing of life. The heavens seem to bow themselves, and form a veil of mirk and gloom; and above the voices of the storm is heard the cry of those on shore, “O God of mercy, send us those we love!” But, alas! there are those for whom that prayer cannot now avail; for floating spars and bodies washed ashore from which all life is sucked tell too plainly that some home is desolate, some spirit crushed. And now a mighty shout is heard, and all eyes again turn towards the sea, for through the darkness of the storm a boat is seen struggling towards the shore, now lost to sight, and again borne on the crest of the wave, nearer and yet nearer the harbour’s mouth. The climax now approaches in this wild race for life; and hearts are high with hope or chilled with fear, for the next wave must either bear them into safety or send them to their doom. See! there it comes, threatening in its vastness and twisting in its progress like some hideous thing of night. A cold sweat breaks out on those on shore, for the boat is lifted on its boiling crest and dashed with resistless fury against the stonework of the pier; and as a mighty cry of anguish rises, the men clinging to the wreck wave to their friends a last adieu, who, close at hand, stand agonized spectators of the scene! Yes, they have surmounted all the dangers which have proved fatal to their fellows, only to miss the friendly hands stretched out to save, and perish before the eyes, and be washed up lifeless at the very feet, of those they love. In all such cases the grief of onlookers, and of all who mourn their loss, is augmented by the thought that though so near to safety they yet were lost. Remember that to be near the harbour-mouth is not to be safe in its shelter--that though near to the kingdom of heaven you may never enter therein; and that, in so far as your final salvation is concerned, being near to Christ is no better than being far away, if it never lead to a complete surrender of your heart to Him. (W. Landels, D. D.)

Lot’s wife: a warning

All which bewray and show that they were never in heart soundly reformed, how glorious soever their outward show was for a time. Fear we, then, ever to look back with Lot’s wife I Fear we to return to those old vices and sinful corruptions wherewith we have been stayed! Fear we to frequent that company, to lust or long for those poisoned pleasures which heretofore have given us a fall, or at least endangered us, for as the Lord liveth that smote this woman (Lot’s wife) we shall be smitten first or last, and stand as spectacles of His wrath for evermore. Now, as you have heard what she did, so hear, I pray you, what she suffered. She looked back, and the Lord turned her into a pillar of salt. That which respecteth the punishment itself is that it was just and most due to her. For, first, she was delivered with her husband and daughters out of Sodom, and brought forth by the angels’ own hands. Then she was warned that she should not look back, nor abide in all the plain, lest she perished, which was a fair warning. Thirdly, even hard by, as it were, there was appointed a city to them whither they might easily go, and should be most safe. Fourthly, she had going with her husband and children, whom, both for wife’s affection and mother’s, she should joyfully have accompanied. But all this she neglecteth, and therefore justly perisheth. This biddeth us to-day to beware, and, hearing the word of the Lord, not to harden our hearts. Without doubt, if we perish, we perish justly, and it is not the Lord’s blame, but our own fault that it is so. “Remember Lot’s wife,” saith our Saviour Christ, in Luke, “and let him that is in the field not turn back to that he has left behind”; and remember Lot’s wife say I to you, to continue in safety without revolting, and the Lord grant that her salt may season our lives for ever. (Bishop Babington.)

Lessons from the history of Lot’s wife

I. First, RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES DO NOT CONSTITUTE SALVATION. Never forget that. Some of us rest too much on our religious privileges. I read of Pharaoh being nine times brought under conviction, and yet he perished. I read of Judas being associated with the Christ of God for more than three years, listening to words that angels came down to listen to, and contemplating the model of human and Divine perfection, witnessing Him opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, and yet he perished. And here I read of Lot’s wife, for thirty years associated with the people of God, almost pressed by angels to the very gates of Zoar, and yet she perished; and God made her a pillar of salt, to be an everlasting monument of the fact that religious privileges and associations cannot save.

II. Religious privileges, when they are not made a blessing to us, WHEN THEY DO NOT EFFECT THE END INTENDED BY THEM, INCREASE OUR CONDEMNATION AND AGGRAVATE OUR RUIN. That is a solemn passage in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. I would far rather stand before the judgment-seat of God by-and-by a poor African from the barren waste of Africa, where the gospel message was never known, and the story of the blood of Christ never told, and throw myself upon His mercy, than I would take the stand of one of you professing Christians! who, in that day, will have nothing to answer when the King shall say, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?”

III. TO LOOK BACK FROM THIS POSITION OF KNOWLEDGE IS TO GO BACK, and so the Lord interprets it. To he outside Sodom is not enough, to he disentangled from the world is not enough, you must be in Christ, or you are Hot saved. Mechanical obedience, bodily exercise is not salvation; her body was near to Zoar, but her affections were in Sodom, and she perished--“Remember Lot’s wife.” (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

Lessons

1. The time of vengeance on the wicked may be that of severe judgment upon the righteous who haste not from it.

2. Nearest relations may be sometimes the greatest crosses to God’s saints.

3. Rebellion against God’s express commands and threatenings is a provoking evil.

4. It is very evil to have withdrawing hearts from God’s salvation and inclining to the wicked’s destruction.

5. God sometimes meets with rebellion and apostasy in the very act, and judgeth it.

6. Eminent sins are answered sometimes with eminent judgments.

7. God can turn flesh into salt and stones, and He alone.

8. God maketh some of His severe acts of punishment to be perpetual examples against sin in all ages. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The sin and punishment of Lot’s wife; or, the sinner under conviction still in danger

Here let me tell you that conviction for sin and conversion to God are two very different things. A sinner under conviction is a sinner waked up to his guilt and danger. A sinner converted is a sinner who has hasted away to Christ for pardon and mercy, who is made safe in the strong mountain of God’s love and grace.

I. LOT’S WIFE SAW HER DANGER, AND SET OUT TO ESCAPE FROM IT. So the Holy Spirit of God makes many a man see his danger as a sinner, and strives with him, and urges him to flee away from his sins. Many a man, under the warnings of the spirit, sets off in a way to the mount of God, and yet, like Lot’s wife, perishes in the way. Pharaoh; Herod; Felix; Agrippa. I called to see a faithful servant once who was lying and trembling on the verge of death. He was greatly alarmed at the thought of dying unprepared to meet God. He said that the thought of his sins gave him the deepest distress, and that all he wanted was to be a Christian. Before I left him he solemnly promised that if ever he was raised up from that bed of sickness, he would be a Christian the rest of his days. Had he died then, his master and all of us who were there would have said that he died a Christian, and was saved in heaven. But he recovered; and, as he had always been a good and faithful servant, we expected to see the light of a good Christian shining in his life. And he did not altogether forget his promises. I went often to the house of his master, and would sometimes talk with him as he would light me to my room at night. As often as the books were brought out, and the bell rang for prayers, James would be there to join with us in family worship. This practice he kept up for several months. His master told me that during all that time he had been faithful to his promises. He seemed to be a Christian indeed, and all of us thought he would soon join the church. But at last he gradually gave up coming in to prayer. As I had not seen him for a good while, I asked one of the other servants what had become of James. He told me that, but a few days before, he was talking to him about his promises, and that James had said ha did not see the use of so much religion--so much praying--and so much reading the Bible--and so much going to church--and so much hearing sermons read. In fact, James had given up all pretensions to religion. He was just the same wicked man he was before he was sick. Now, this man was like Lot’s wife. He set out in the way to heaven, but he “looked back.” He turned back. He did not, indeed, become a pillar of salt; but he became (what is just as bad) hardened in sin. Two years passed away, and James was taken dangerously ill again. As soon as I heard of it I went to see him. I read the Bible to him; I prayed for him; I talked to him. I did not distress him by reminding him of his old promises. I told him of Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. I begged him to remember that He was able and willing to forgive all sins. I read and explained the parable of the prodigal son. I entreated him to give up his heart to that Saviour, and put all his trust in Him. But his heart seemed to be turned to stone. “No, no,” said he, “I have most wickedly broken my promises to God; I have sinned away my day of grace; He will not now have mercy on me; I have no hope; I do not and cannot feel as I did before; my mind is so dark, and my heart is so hard!” I shall never forget that scene. His fellow-servants stood round the room in silent and solemn fear. They heard his short, heavy breathing, and watched his ghastly countenance until he gave up in the death struggle, saying, with his last breath, “There is no mercy for me.” He had once been keenly sensible of his guilt as a sinner; he had mourned and wept as a sinner; he had promised before God to give up his sins. Like Lot’s wife, he had set off in the way to heaven. He had put his hand to the plough, but looked back. He was hardened in sin, and perished in impenitence. Then let every sinner under conviction take warning, and not rest in his fears or sorrows.

II. Now LET ME WARN YOU AGAINST THIS FALLING AWAY--THIS BACK-SLIDING FROM CONVICTION. “Remember Lot’s wife.”

1. Do not linger in sin, as they did in Sodom. If you are anxious about religion, why should you remain any longer in sin? Why not rise up now, and with firm resolution escape from it? If you will not do this, you can never reach the mountain of salvation.

2. When once you have set out in religion, do not look back. Our Saviour Himself has said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Bp. Meade.)

Looking back

Could God, in showing so much love, not expect faith and reliance? The trial of obedience was small and easy indeed; but it involved the proof whether the rescued family believed the angel, or required personal certainty, before they would follow his guidance; and it was a trial deemed sufficient by ancient nations under similar circumstances. When Orpheus had descended into the lower world in order to ask back his beloved wife Eurydice, Pluto, moved by the magic of his harmonies, gave him the promise that she would be restored to him under condition that he did not turn round to her till he had passed the Avernian valley; and when he disobeyed, she fell back into the regions of hell. Sacred actions, performed in reliance on the omnipotent assistance of the gods, were done with the face averted, as if symbolically to express that the believing mind requires no ocular evidence. We have, therefore, to explain the command here given to Lot from the same notions; it was a proof of faith. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

The fate of Lot’s wife

There was a great difference between the feelings of the elder and the younger branches of Lot’s family on leaving their home. His sons and daughters left it in apparent obedience, but with the spirit of the inhabitants of the plain; it was not so with Lot’s wife. It is not the character of age to accommodate itself readily to fresh circumstances. The old man does not feel inclined to launch himself afresh on the great ocean of the universe to seek new fortunes. He does not easily make fresh acquaintances, or transplant himself quickly from old haunts and homes. To youth there is a future; to old age there remains nothing but the present and the past. Therefore, while youth went on with its usual elastic step of buoyancy and hope, Lot’s wife lingered; she regretted the home of her vanity and luxury, and the lava flood overwhelmed her, encrusted her with salt, and left her as a monument. The moral we are to draw from that is not left us to choose. Christ says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” It is worse to turn back, when once on the safe path, than never to have served God at all. They who have once tasted of the power of the world to come, let them beware lest they turn again. Sin is dangerous, but relapse is fatal. That is the reason why God so marvellously smooths the way for youth. Early joy enables the young man to make his first steps surely, with confidence in his Maker; love, gratitude, and all his best emotions are thus called forth. But if afterwards he falls, if he sinks back again into the world of evil, think you that his feelings will spur him on again in God’s cause? Nay, because at the first time there was hope, the next all the hope is washed out; the stimulus of feeling is weaker because experience has broken down hope; he knows now what those resolves were worth! There is great difficulty in quitting evil after long habit. It becomes a home, and holiness is dull, and cheerless, and dreary. Youth, then, is the time for action--earnest, steady advancement, without looking back. St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it”; and again he shows us the evil of drawing back--“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soulshall have no pleasure in him.” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Lot’s wife

The phenomenon of her transformation remains to this day a mystery. It is believed that she was smothered and stiffened as she stood, looking back, and was overlaid with saline incrustations. Such a result is not at all incredible, apart from the sacred narrative. An atmosphere heavily charged with the fames of sulphur and bitumen might easily produce suffocation, as was the case with the elder Pliny in the destruction of Pompeii. And as no dead body would ever decompose on the shores of this salt sea, if left in such an atmosphere it would become incrusted with salt crystals. Pillars of salt are found in the vicinity, which have formed from the spray, mist, and saline exhalations of the Dead Sea, and are constantly growing larger. Indeed, Josephus attempted to identify one of these with the wife of Lot. The spiritual phenomenon, however, presents no mystery. Lot’s wife looked back. The command was explicit; it forbade looking behind, and the word for “look” implies a deliberate contemplation, steady regard, the look of consideration, desire. She looked back wistfully, longingly. The fact was, her heart was yet in Sodom, where all her treasures were. She had become identified with her home there, and even the wrath of God, poured out in a storm of fire, could not avert her eyes or quicken her steps. Abraham also “looked” toward Sodom, but the word signifies a rapid, and even unintentional or casual, glance. He glanced with grief and awe; she gazed with lodging and regret. She doubtless looked back, as the Israelites did toward Egypt, longing to return, more willing to stay there amid the sins of Sodomites than to abide apart with God. And so her heart’s wish became a fact; her real prayer was strangely answered; where she lingered, there she should stay. She would look back, and henceforth should never look ahead. So sins become habits, and habits encrust us with fixedness, and transform us into immovable pillars, monuments of wrath. God fixed and rooted her where she was; his curse transfixed her, as it blighted, blasted, withered, the barren fig tree; and so Lot’s wife, to this day, is herself the personification of Sodom, its sins and its punishment. The only safe obedience is a prompt, implicit, and exact conformity to God’s command. No part of His word can be unheeded without risk; we may run from one peril only to fall a prey to another. A divided heart is like the “double” eye, and singleness of aim is as important as singleness of vision. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. (A. T.Pierson, D. D.)

Followers of Lot’s wife

Lot’s wife has always had more followers than God’s angels have. Look at the worldly-minded disciples in the Church to-day. Roused by fear to flee from the wrath to come, stirred by the warning of some special providence, or by the pressing entreaty of grace, they profess to leave Sodom behind. But they linger about the edge of destruction. They look back with longing, and linger and loiter on the way.

And you may see them all about you, mere pillars of salt, without life or action, motion or emotion. The world has encrusted them with the salt, not of the saving and savouring sort, but that which represents sterility. If they are saved from the fire, it is so as by fire, and their works are burned up. They have lost their testimony for God, and have become only a warning to backsliders. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

Lot’s wife’s tomb

Her backward look must have been more than momentary, for the destruction of the cities did not begin till Lot was safe in Lear. She must have lingered far behind, and been overtaken by the eruption of liquid saline mud, which, as Sir J. W. Dawson has shown, would attend or follow the outburst of bituminous matter, so that her fate was the natural consequence of her heart being still in Sodom. As to the “pillar of salt,” which has excited cavils on the one hand and foolish legends on the other, probably we are to think rather of a heap than of a pillar. The word does not occur in either meaning elsewhere, but its derivation implies something raised above the level of the ground; and a heap, such as would be formed by a human body encrusted with salt mud, would suit the requirements of the expression. Like a man who falls in a snow-storm, or, still more accurately, just as some of the victims at Pompeii stumbled in their flight, and were buried under the ashes, which still keep the outline of their figures, so Lot’s wife was covered with the half-liquid slimy mud. Granted the delay in her flight, the rest is perfectly simple and natural. She was buried in a horrible tomb; and, in pity to her memory, no name has been written upon it. She remains to all generations, in a far truer sense than superstition dreamed of when it pointed to an upright salt rock as her prison and her monument, a warning of the danger of the backward look, which betrays the true home of the heart, and may leave us unsheltered in the open plain when the fiery storm bursts. “Remember Lot’s wife.” (A Maclaren, D. D.)

Lot’s wife as a type

She is the type of a large class--persons who are convinced of the danger of their position, but not converted to God: professors who occupy a position half-way between Sodom and Lear, thinking it enough to have got away from the corruptions of the world without having got into Christ; thinking it enough to have been brought, as it were, outside the suburbs of Sodom, without having taken refuge in the blood. She looked back from her half-way position and “became a pillar of salt.” (M. Rainsford, B. A.)


Verses 27-29

Genesis 19:27-29

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: and he looked toward Sodom

The righteous man’s retrospect of God’s great judgments

I.
HE REGARDS THEM WITH SOLEMN EMOTION.

II. HE IS SATISFIED WITH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AS SEEN IN THEM.

III. HE HAS SOME COMPENSATIONS IN REGARD TO THEM. Some were delivered. (T. H. Leale.)

Lessons

1. Praying souls are early up to observe God’s answer to their desires Psalms 5:3).

2. Where souls have once met with God, well may they hasten to hear return of prayer from Him there again (verse 27).

3. Saints under God’s indulgence may be solicitous about the state of the wicked to look after them.

4. The righteous see sometimes vengeance executed upon the ungodly, notwithstanding all mediation made with God for them.

5. Where the smoke of sin hath offended God’s eyes, the smoke of vengeance shall arise there.

6. In the midst of pouring out fury on the wicked, God is mindful of the mediation of His saints.

7. One righteous soul may fare the better for the intercession of another. Lot for Abraham.

8. Righteous souls may put themselves in danger of destruction by sitting down among the wicked.

9. The righteous God in His execution spareth, and destroyeth not the righteous with the wicked.

10. Some spectacles of mercy God hath made in snatching them from the midst of His overthrow, as brands out of the burning, as well as He hath made others examples of His vengeance (verse 29). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The smoke of their torments

Early in the morning Abraham sought that favoured spot where but yesterday God had been pleased to manifest Himself, and where he had been favoured with a season of extraordinary communion. Whither should the believer go, but to that choice place, dear to his heart, where he has communed with the Lord? It is a high privilege, the highest which mortals can enjoy, to talk with God, to plead with Him, to use arguments, and to prevail. Such grace had Abraham found. No marvel that he goes back to the place where God had thus drawn nigh to him. Doubtless one reason why he rose early, and went to the place, and looked towards Sodom, was an anxious desire to know how his prayers had speeded. It is remarkable that he does not appear to have observed the storm as it came down from heaven. Hence we may infer how rapid the destruction of the cities must have been. God rained fire out of heaven upon Sodom; it seems to have been done in a moment; the whole plain was destroyed; and all that Abraham saw after he rose up, which was probably just at the sun-rise, was merely the smoke that followed the conflagration. So does God drive His enemies away.

I. WITH WHAT EMOTIONS OUGHT WE TO GAZE UPON THE TORMENTS OF UNGODLY AND IMPENITENT SOULS?

1. Certainly it should always be with an humble submission to the Divine will. The assurance that God is just, even in the midst of His hot displeasure, must ever be cherished. The Judge of all the earth cannot but do right.

2. Surely, too, another emotion, which a glance towards the dreary doom of the ungodly can never fail to prompt, is that of ingratitude. “And why am I not there? They gnaw their fire-tormented tongues in vain: and why am I not there? Did they sin? I have sinned. Did they curse God and die? I, too, have cursed God; and it was a marvel that I did not die.”

3. Should there not also here be deep feelings of humility? Look to the hole of the pit whence thou was digged, and the rock whence God hath hewn thee I What those sinners were, such wert thou.

4. And there is a sensation which must thrill through every nerve, and the thought will sometimes blanch our cheeks with terror, lest we also should come thither. Metinks a glance of the eye towards the smoke of Gehenna would always prompt a holy jealousy over one’s own heart, and a diligent watchfulness of one’s own walk. What sayest thou to this, professor? Thou seest the smoke going up for ever: what if thou shouldst come there after all?

II. Look thou, Christian--if thou canst look--and see there THE EVIL OF SIN. Dost thou start? That is the true harvest of the sowing of iniquity. Come, sinner, I charge thee look at it. This is what sin brings forth; this is the full-grown child. Thou hast dandled it; thou hast kissed and fondled it; see what it comes to. Hell is but sin full-grown, that is all.

1. As the Christian, with downcast and blushing face looks to the place where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched, he is awe-struck with the justice of God. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”

2. Another lesson now comes to us, and one which I hope will be more pleasing, and affect some minds that may not be moved by what we have hitherto said. Looking at the destruction of the wicked, this reflection crosses our minds. We, His people, have been redeemed from destruction! What a price must that have been which redeemed us from such woe and rescued us from such a place of torment!

3. That fearful vision which beclouds my eyes and makes them feel heavy, at the same time presses upon me with a tremendous weight, while I mention another truth. Behold here the solemnity of the gospel ministry, the responsibility of those who listen to it, and the need there is for earnestness in handling divine things. Have I to deal with immortal souls? Then let me not trifle. My brethren in the faith, and sisters, too, with what earnestness should this invest you! Whitfield could say, “When I think of these things, I wish I could stand upon the top of every hackney-coach in London, and preach to the passers by.” We do not preach as if we meant it. I am afraid that we make infidels by our lethargy, and that you Christian people help to prevent the usefulness of the Word of God by the apparent indifference with which you treat eternal things.

III. I am weary with my picture; I am weary with looking into that thick darkness. Let me turn your eyes another way. WOULD YOU BE SAVED? See yonder little hill outside Jerusalem’s streets. God has become Man. He is bearing sin upon His shoulders. Wherefore do I picture this? Why, here is your salvation. You must have an interest in the sufferings of that Man, or you must suffer for yourself for ever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow

Justice blended with mercy

I. THE TERRORS OF GOD’S JUSTICE TOWARDS THE WORLD OF THE UNGODLY.

II. THE TRIUMPH OF GOD’S MERCY TOWARDS THE CHILDREN OF HIS LOVE.

1. He originates the plan of salvation.

2. He overcomes the hindrances and obstacles to salvation which arise in our minds.

3. He will surely bring us to the rest and the refuge which He has prepared for us. (T. H. Leale.)


Verse 30

Genesis 19:30

And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain

The folly of seeking our own choice

Lot was bidden to go to the mountain, but requested that he might be allowed to seek refuge in Zoar.
We only land ourselves in greater difficulties when we act according to the suggestions of our own human wisdom in opposition to the Divine will. Of such conduct we observe:--

I. THE ROOT OF ITS UNBELIEF. Lot could not trust God fully, and therefore the infinite charity of God stooped to his infirmity. We must trust in God, with our whole heart, and lean not to our own understanding. Our faith falls short in so far as we seek to modify the commands of duty by our own wilfulness. Imperfect obedience has its bitter root in unbelief. In the instance of Lot, we see the sad consequences of this timid and imperfect faith. Here we trace the source of the inconsistency and vacillation of his character. Our walk in the path of life and obedience is only steady and sure in proportion as our faith is clear and strong.

II. WE ARE MADE BITTERLY TO REPENT OF IT. “He feared to dwell in Zoar.” He was afraid that the destruction would overtake him even there. That spirit of unbelief which renders our obedience imperfect brings dread. We take alarm, for conscience tells us we have left some ground for fear. To commence following God’s command, and then to impair our obedience by our own foolish will, leads in the end to doubt and uncertainty-to that sense of insecurity in which we feel that nothing is sure and safe.

III. WE MAY BE COMPELLED TO ACCEPT GOD’S WAY AT LAST. Lot finds refuge, at length, in the mountain, where he had been ordered to go at first. A merciful Providence brought him up to the full measures of his duty. He finds, in the end, that it is best to fall in with God’s plan. By a painful discipline we are often brought round to God’s way, and made to feel that what He chooses is best. (T. H. Leale.)

Another wrong choice

On leaving Sodom he was very earnest to have Zoar granted him for a refuge, and to be excused from going to dwell in the mountain; yet now all on a sudden he went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and that for the very reason he had given for a contrary choice. Then he feared some evil would take him, if he went to the mountain; now he “fears to dwell in Zoar.” It is well to know that the way of man is not in himself, and that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. Our wisdom is to refer all to God, and to follow wherever his word and providence lead the way. But why did not Lot return to Abraham? There was no occasion now for strife about their herds; for he had lost all, and but just escaped with his life. Whatever was the reason, he does not appear to have made a good choice. Had he gone to the mountain when directed, he might have hoped for preserving mercy; but going of his own accord, and from a motive of sinful distrust, evil in reality overtakes him. His daughters, who seem to have contracted such habits in Sodom as would prepare them for anything, however unnatural, drew him into intemperance and incest, and thus cover his old age with infamy. The offspring of this illicit intercourse were the fathers of two great, but heathen nations; viz., Moabites, and the children of Ammon. (A. Fuller.)

Lessons

1. Man’s choice of rest and safety crossing God’s command will not content him long.

2. Man, upon the failing of expected comfort in his own way, may be then moved to try God’s

3. Weakness in the best of man may be such as disobediently to do that which sometimes God justly commands; so Lot goeth when God bids not to the place formerly commanded.

4. Naturally man’s own will maketh him move faster than the will of God.

5. Solitary and sad may be the peregrinations and habitations of the best families here below. Lot and his daughters in a cave, not a city.

6. Fear of sin and vengeance and evil to come will make a soul fly from its desired refuge in the world

7. A cave or den in a mountain with God is a better habitation then a palace in a city of sin. Lot chooseth so. (G. Hughes, B. D.)


Verses 31-38

Genesis 19:31-38

And they made their father drink wine

The lessons of Lot’s dishonour

I.
THAT SAINTS WHO HAVE BEEN THE SUBJECTS OF EXTRAORDINARY MERCY MAY YET FALL INTO SIN.

II. THAT IT IS DIFFICULT, EVEN FOR THE BEST, TO ESCAPE THE EFFECT OF EVIL ASSOCIATIONS.

III. THE FOLLY OF A WORLDLY CHOICE.

IV. THE WISDOM OF AVOIDING THE OCCASIONS OF SIN.

V. THE AWFUL DEPTHS OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY.

VI. FLESHLY SINS COVER EVEN A FAIR NAME WITH DISHONOUR. VII. THE DANGER OF EXCITEMENT.

VIII. THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE SCRIPTURE RECORD. (T. H. Leale.)

Lot’s dishonour

The dishonourable end of this good man shows that we are never out of danger while we are upon earth. He whose righteous soul was grieved with the filthy conversation of the wicked, while in a city, is drawn into the same kind of evils himself, when dwelling in a cave! His whole history also, from the time of his leaving Abraham, furnishes an affecting lesson to the heads of families in the choice of habitations for themselves or their children. If worldly accommodations be preferred to religious advantages, we have nothing good, but everything evil to expect. We may, or we may not lose, our substance as he did; but, what is of far greater consequence, our families may be expected to become mere heathens, and our own minds contaminated with the examples which are continually before our eyes. Such was the harvest which Lot reaped from his well-watered plain; and such are the fruits very commonly seen in those who reflect his example! (A. Fuller.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 19:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/genesis-19.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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