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THE FATE OF LOT'S WIFE-A WARNING TO SINNERS.
LUKE XVII. 32.
Remember Lot's wife.
The example of Lot's wife, who perished by delay in her flight from Sodom, our Lord improves as a warning to his disciples, against delay in their flight from the impending ruin of Jerusalem: And it may be applied to impenitent sinners in general, as a call to hasten their escape from the wrath to come.
In the case of Lot's wife, there are several things worthy of their consideration and remembrance; such as the warnings which were given her—the instructions which were added—her conduct under them--the causes of this conduct—and the consequences which ensued.
We have already considered the warnings and instructions given to this woman.
III. Consider the course which she took. This deserves to be remembered.
1. In consequence of the heavenly warning, she set out to esoape from the devoted city. So far she did well. She did not treat with contempt the Divine message, like her sons-in-law, to whom Lot seemed as one that mocked, when he told them God
would destroy the city. She at first discovered a hopeful disposition. She heard the warning; she saw the impression which it made on her husband; influenced by his example, and probably by his advice, she set out with him to flee from the desecrated city to a place of safety. It is a great advantage to sinners to live in connection with some pious and holy person. His example, admonitions and counsels will have considerable influence, and may be the means of recovering them out of the snare of the destroyer. Through the influence of a good education, wholesome instructions, seasonable reproofs, and awakening providences, sinners are often brought to serious convictions and hopeful resolutions; which, sometimes, prove the beginning of a religious life. It is not every sinner, that dares to treat with mockery the means used for his repentance. Some are really reformed, and many are checked and restrained by those human reproofs and heavenly warnings, which others insolently trample under foot.
2. It is to be observed, that Lot's wife, though she began her flight from Sodom, yet looked back in disobedience to the Divine command. She did not run with constancy, but loitered in her way, and perished in the flames of the city. In this respect she is an emblem of those sinners to whom it may be said, in the apostle's words, “ Ye did run well; who did hinder you?”
Some set out in religion with a reserve in favour of particular sins. True conversion is a turning from all sin to the whole service of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; all things are become new."
He who makes a determined exception against any Divine command, or in favor of any known iniquity, has never experienced a real conversion; but the love of sin still reigns in him. While the sinner feels a sense of guilt and danger pressing on his conscience, and hears the terrors of God's wrath sounding in his ears, he thinks, that nothing shall any longer detain him in his present awful state. He resolves upon a speedy repentance, and he actually begins to reform his life. But when he comes to the trial of renouncing some favorite pleasure, and mortifying some ruling lust, his resolution perhaps fails him: He spares the sin, and loses his soul. Thus Lot's wife, while ministering angels urged her flight, endeavored to escape from the impending storm. But, when she came to the trial of parting with all that she possessed, her heart relented ; she turned back and perished.
3. Her looking back may import dilatoriness. She looked back from behind him. There are few who wholly cast off the thoughts of religion. There are few who would dare finally to renounce it. Most men believe, or, at least, suspect, that there is some truth and importance in it; and they intend, sooner or later, to engage in it as their greatest concern. The intention is wise ; but many are slow to execute it; and while they delay, the intention is forgotten, and the opportunity lost. “When Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come, Felix trembled, and said, Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” But we do not learn that he ever found this convenient season. When Christ said to a certain man, “ Follow me," he, in reply, intimated an intention to follow him, but asked leave to wait, till he had buried his father. Another professed a resolution to follow him ; but wished to be excused, till he could go home, and take leave of his friends. But Jesus said, “No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back," no man, who, being convinced of his duty, deliberately neglects it,“ is fit for the kingdom of God.”
4. The woman's looking back toward Sodom, imports unsteadiness and inconstancy.
There are some who make the care of their souls only an occasional business. They attend to it only now and then, when some special providence awakens them, or when the world has no demands upon them. They, by turns, look forward, and backward. Their regards are divided between this world and the future, and they are found faulty. Being double-minded, they are unstable in all their ways. Hence they receive nothing from God.
5. It is probable, that Lot's wife, not only looked back, but turned about with an intention to save some part of her substance. This may be collected from the words of our Saviour; “ Let him who is in the field, not return back to save any thing out of his house. Remember Lot's wife."
Some, when they seem to have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, are again entangled therein and overcome, and their latter end is worse than the beginning.
Such was the conduct of Lot's wife; and like her are those sinners, who, awakened to a concern for their souls, form good resolutions, but trifle, delay and perish.
IV. We will consider the causes which might probably operate in her to such a fickle, unsteady, fatal conduct.
1. We may suppose a great degree of unbelief.
Though she did not wholly disregard, yet neither did she fully believe the threatening; at least she doubted its speedy execution ; hence she presumed to delay her flight. So it is still with the careless part of mankind. They hear the words of God's curse; but bless themselves in their hearts, saying, we shall have peace, though we walk in the imagination of our hearts. They cannot be said to believe the awful threatenings of scripture against the impenitent. They read and hear them, and seem to assent to them; at least they will not openly contradict them. But still they indulge in their hearts a secret doubt, whether these threatenings will ever be executed; or, if they should be executed on some, they hope for themselves to escape, either by a future repentance, or by God's abundant mercy; and hence they encourage themselves in present delay. Or if they believe these threatenings as they are expressed in the bible, yet they defeat the influence of them by inattention. If they would seriously consider what awaits them in another world, they would not be so indifferent to their conduct in this. If they sensibly realized what it is to die, they would be more careful how they lived. If at any time the thoughts of death and' eternity crowd into their minds and awaken their slumbering consciences, they dismiss these intruders, as Felix dismissed his preacher, “ Go your way for this time: when I have a convenient season, I will call for you." They entertain a loose, superficial kind of belief, that religion is true, rational and important; but their belief loses all its effect, because they never call it into action by sober reflection and serious consideration.
2. Curiosity might have some influence to turn back the eyes of this woman on the devoted city.
Jonah, after he had denounced destruction against Nineveh, went and sat over against it, till he should see what would become of it. So Lot's wife, having heard that Sodom was presently to be overthrown, might be curious to observe, whether the prediction would be verified, or in what manner and by what means so rich and populous a city should be reduced to ruins.
It is amazing, what trifles engage men's attention, when the salvation of their souls is depending. If Lot's wife ran the hazard of her life, to see and observe the appearance of Sodom in flames, she did not act more absurdly than thousands do, still. To multitudes the little affairs of the world are matters of greater solicitude, than the vast concerns of eternity. How many neglect their souls for the sake of their bodies, and forego their future salvation for some present convenience! How many are more diligent to enquire into the affairs of other people, in which they have no real concern, than to learn the nature of repentance, faith and obedience, which are the terms of eternal life! How many are more busy to acquaint themselves with the things which pass in the families of their neighbors, than they are to examine their own hearts, and prove their own character! How many spend more time in deciding useless controversies than in gaining the knowledge of themselves and their duty!
It is too common a folly among men to employ their thoughts much on matters which little concern them, and to overlook the things, in which they are most essentially interested. This dangerous folly our Saviour often rebuked. When the disciples saw one who was born blind, instead of reflecting on the sovereignty of God, and his distinguishing goodness to them, they enquired, Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Our Lord answered, “ Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."