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the highest degree. Columns of smoke are seen at certain times to rise from it, and it is said, that in some parts of it ruins of buildings may still be seen*. Profane historians, as well as the scriptures, bear witness to the calamity which befell these cities. Tacitus says, “ that where " the Dead Sea now is, there were formerly fruit“ ful fields and large cities, which were after" wards consumed by thunder and lightening.”+ Josephus says, that the things which are related of Sodom are confirmed by occular inspection, there being still visible relicks of the fire fent from Heaven, and the shadows of the five cities I. In the book of Wisdom (xth chapter and 7th verse) it is said of the inhabitants of Sodom, that the waste land which yet smoketh, and the plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness, bear testimony to their wickedness.
But it is most to my present purpose to give you an account of the notice which, in the verse before my text, the Deity is represented as giving to Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom, and the intercession which Abraham is represented as making for Sodom. In the 17th verse, Jehovah is described as saying, Shall I bide from Abraham that thing
• See Mr. Maundrell's Travels, page 84, 85. + Tacit. Hift. Lib. v. cap.
Jof. de Bell. Jud. Lib. iv. cap. 8.
which I do? seeing that in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; and I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they fall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. In the 22d verse we are told that Abraham drew near and said, Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous persons within the city: Wilt thou not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to say the righteous with the wicked. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ? --- And Jehovah said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous, then I will spare all the place for their fakes. -- And Abraham answered and said, Bebold now, I have taken upon me to speak to the Lord, who am but duft and ashes. Peradventure there mall lack five of the fifty righteous : Wilt thou destroy all the city for the lack of five ? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.— And Abrabam spoke yet again and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And the Lord said, I will not destroy it for the sake of forty.- And Abraham said again, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Peradventure there shall be thirty found there.--- And the Lord said, I will not destroy it if I find thirty there.And. Abraham said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord. Peradventure there Mall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty. -—And Abraham said, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once.
Peradventure ten fall be found there. And the Lord said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
Such is the account in this chapter. I suppose there is no occasion for telling you, that it is not to be understood, that there was on this occasion exactly such a dialogue as this between Abraham and the Governor of the World. It is, I apprehend, a kind of parabolical representation, contrived to impress our minds, and to convey,
after the manner of the oriental nations in antient times, a more distinct and forcible instruction. Indeed, the whole account in this and the next chapter of the appearance of Jehovah to Abraham, of Abraham's intercession, of Jebovah's replies, of his promise to spare Sodom had there been found in it but ten righteous persons, and of the extraordinary care which was taken, by the interposition of heavenly messengers, to provide for the deliverance of righteous Lot; I say, this whole account is adapted, with the most striking propriety and energy, to convey to our minds some of the most useful and important lessons. It is, without doubt, founded on real facts, the manner only of telling these facts being to be considered as disguised and veiled by a mixture of allegory. Nor should we at all wonder at such a manner of relating facts, did we know how the antients wrote history, or by what methods the memory of important events was
preferved and transmitted from one generation to another before the invention of letters.
The remarks I have now made fhould be attended to in reading many of the other accounts in this book of Genefis; and particularly those of the Creation, the Fall, and the Deluge.-But waving all observations of this kind, I would take occasion from the account I have read, to desire you to consider a circumstance in the scripture history which is very remarkable, and which distinguishes it from all other histories ; I mean, the tendency which it has to display the justice and spotless holiness of the Deity, as the moral governor of the world. Other histories carry our views no higher than second caufes, or the natural means by which events are produced; but this history constantly and uniformly carries our views to the first cause, and leads us to conceive of the providence of God as guiding the course of nature, and of his love of righteoufness, and hatred of iniquity, as the springs of all the blesfings enjoyed by nations, and of all the calamities which befall them. Thus, in the present instance, we are taught distinctly that the cause of the destruction of Sodom was the anger of the Deity against the inhabitants for their wickedness; and we are further led to form the most lively ideas of this truth, by being acquainted that had there been in it but ten righteous perfons it would have been saved. The natural
Causes which produced its destruction would, in this case, either never have existed, or their ope. rations would have been so directed as to suspend or prevent the calamity they produced. Nothing certainly can be more unreasonable, than to conclude that because an event has been brought about by natural means, therefore the hand of God has not been in it; or that, because we can trace the blessings and the sufferings of beings to certain powers, which are their immediate causes, therefore they can be under no direction from the moral government of the first and supreme cause, A little philosophy may incline a person to this conclusion; but a deep insight into philosophy, and an enlarged view of the laws and constitution of nature, will convince us of the contrary. Irreligion and atheism must be derived from miserable inattention and ignorance. True knowledge will necessarily make us devout, and force us to acknowledge that God is the cause of all causes, that his power is the source of all efficacy in nature, and his righteous providence the guide of all that happens.
But to return to the remark which occasioned these observations.-The Scriptures, I have said, direct us to conceive of God's love of righteoufnefs and aversion to wickedness, as the principles which influence him in determining the fates of kingdoms. He regards communities with particular favour, on account of the number of vir