« PreviousContinue »
portant should be hidden from the rich and the great, the wise and prudent, and revealed only to one person, a sojourner amongst them-How could these things be?
They who have gazed on earthly glories, till they are grown giddy; to whom want and misery are known only by their names; who make every day a day of fulness and indulgence, sitting down to eat, and to drink, and rising up to play; such find no small difficulty in believing, that a world, so delightful as they think this to be, shall shortly be burnt up, and all its beauties wither in a moment. They see that all things continue as they were from the beginning;' and are therefore ready to say, Where is the promise of his coming?' [2 Pet. iii. 4. Thus it is that sinners deceive, or suffer themselves to be deceived, till the destruction predicted, falling upon them, demonstrates, when, alas! it is too late for them to profit by the demonstration, the fallacy of their reasonings, or rather, the vanity of their imaginations. But whether they hear or whether they forbear,' Lot is to deliver the divine message to his sons-in-law; the watchman is to blow the trumpet in Sion; and every Christian is to exhort his brother; after which, the matter must be committed to other hands.
The day now dawned, which was the last the men of Sodom were ever to behold. When the morning arose, the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.'
Let us paraphrase this admonition of the angels, and suppose it addressed by the ministers of God to the sinner, at this penitential season-Arise, O man, repent, and be converted; break off thy sins, and escape from the pollutions of the world, while thy God calls thee, and allows thee time so to do. Perhaps the day hath dawned, which is to be thy last; and the destroying angel is even now come forth, with his sword drawn, to cut thee off from the land of the living, and consign thee to thy portion in the unknown region of separate spirits, waiting, either with joyful hope, or insupportable amazement, for the revelation of the day of God. Arise, therefore, and come
It is observable, that Lot himself, though he fully believed there should be a performance of those things that were told him, yet made not that haste to get out of Sodom, which the
case required. For while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him: and they brought him forth and set him without the city.'
How apt is the sinner to linger and defer his repentance! How often is God forced (as it were) to arrest him by sickness, or some grievous calamity; and so to drag him from perdition! And how merciful is the Lord to that man, whom, by any means, however painful and afflicting, he bringeth forth into safety, and setteth him without the city.' Let such a one hear the voice of his gracious deliverer, saying to him, in the person of Lot, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain: escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed;' escape, O Sinner, for thine eternal life; look not behind thee on the pleasures thou hast left; neither let thine affections stay upon the earth; escape to the Holy Mountain, lest thou be consumed with the world.
Lot, despairing of being able to escape to the mountain, intercedes for the preservation of a little city in the neighbour hood of Sodom; and is accepted concerning it; God being graciously pleased to say, Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing, till thou be come thither.' Therefore, the name of that city was called Zoar; i. e. the little city. 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 judgements, that fall on their country and kindred. 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, perseverance alone can secure him. He that endureth to the end,' and he only, shall be saved.' Of the four who left Sodom, one perished by the way, in heart and affection, turning back to the forsaken city. Within sight of Zoar, stands a pillar of salt, the monument of an unbelieving soul. Remember Lot's wife.
The hour was now come, when Sodom, the gay, the haughty Sodom, should be no more! The sun was risen upon the earth; when Lot entered into Zoar: then the Lord rained
upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven: and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.'—'As it was in the days of Lot, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man'; when that last morning shall dawn, and the sun of righteousness shall arise in glorious majesty upon the earth. No sooner shall he make his appearance, than the heavens, being on fire' at his presence, shall be dissolved and pass away with a great noise; the earth also, with the works that are therein, shall be burned up.' Then shall be fulfilled that which was spoken by the Psalmist, in terms, evidently borrowed from the history before us: Upon the ungodly, he shall rain fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion.' What Sodom is, the world shall be and at the last day, when we shall arise and look towards the place, where its enchanting pleasures and delights, its dazzling beauties and glories, once existed, as 'Abraham arose in the morning, and looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the cities of the plain,' we shall behold a sight like that which presented itself to the Patriarch, the smoke of the country going up like the smoke of a furnace.' But the same all-gracious and merciful God, who, when he 'destroyed the cities of the plain, remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the overthrow,' when he shall destroy this place wherein we dwell, will remember the true Abraham, the Father of us all, our dear Redeemer and Intercessor; and for his sake, if we now repent and believe in him, will save us, in that day, from the ruins of a burning world, and from those fires which are never to be extinguished; that, so being delivered from the wrath to come, and admitted to a participation of the felicities of his kingdom, we may there, with angels and archangels, and the whole company of the redeemed, glorify him for his mercy, through the endless ages of a blessed eternity.
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.
2 TIM. iii. 4.-Lovers of pleasures, more than lovers of God. To what period of time, and to what particular persons, the sacred writer here alluded, it is neither easy nor material to determine. But there is a question which it is very material, and but too easy, for most of us to answer: whether the description in the text may not be justly applied to ourselves? [The consideration of this question has a stronger claim upon our attention, as we have entered into the solemn season of Lent; a season which should be distinguished by abstinence from the usual gaieties and amusements of life.]
At present, I shall confine myself to that sort of pleasures, which are usually styled innocent. Do not even our most allowable diversions sometimes end in sin, though they may not begin with it? Does not an immoderate fondness for these trival things insensibly weaken and corrupt our hearts, and lead us, by imperceptible steps, to a temper of mind, and a course of action, essentially wrong? The fact is, a state of neutrality in religion, an insipid mediocrity between vice and virtue, though it is what many would be glad to take up with, is an imaginary state: at least, is very seldom, if ever, to be found in a life of gaiety and dissipation. The man who is constantly engaged in the amusements, can scarce ever escape the pollutions, of the world. In his eager pursuits of pleasure, he will be sometimes apt to overshoot the mark, and to go farther than he ought, perhaps than he intended. Even they who are most in earnest about their future welfare; who have taken care to fortify their minds with the firmest principles of religion; who constantly endeavour to keep alive their hopes and fears of futurity; to guard with the utmost vigilance every avenue of the mind, and secure all the issues of life;' even these, I say, are sometimes unable, with all their caution and circumspection, to prevent surprise; with all their strength and resolution to withstand the violence of headstrong passions
and desires; which often burst through all restraints, and beat down all the barriers, that reason or religion had been a long time raising up against them. What then must be the case, when all the impressions of religion are, by the continual attrition of diversions, worn out and effaced; when the mind is stripped of all prudential caution; no guard left upon the imagination; no check upon the passions; the natural spring and vigour of the soul impaired, and no supernatural aid to strengthen and support it? What else can be expected, but that we should fall an easy prey to the weakest invader, and yield ourselves up to the slightest temptation? When the unclean spirit cometh, he finds every thing within prepared for his reception, empty, swept, and garnished: and he taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first;' he begins in gaiety and ends in vice.
Let us, however, take this question upon the most favourable grounds: let us allow it possible for you to run round for ever in the circle of gaiety, without ever once striking into the paths of vice. Is this, do you think, sufficient for salvation? If your amusements as effectually choke the good seed as the rankest weeds of vice, can you with any propriety call them innocent? Do you imagine that God, who is a jealous God,' will bear to be supplanted in your affections by every trifle; or that he will be content with your not taking up arms against him, though you do him not one single piece of acceptable service? The utmost you can plead, is a kind of negative merit, the merit of doing neither good nor harm; and what reception that is likely to meet with, you may judge from the answer given to the unprofitable servant, who produced his talent wrapt up in a napkin, undiminished, indeed, but unimproved: O thou wicked servant, wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? It is not enough merely to abstain from gross crimes. It is not enough to enjoy yourselves in an indolent harmless tranquillity; to divide matters so nicely as to avoid equally the inconveniences of vice, and the fatigues of virtue; to praise religion in words, to love it perhaps in speculation, but to leave the trouble of practising it to others. Indifference in any good cause is blameable. In religion, in the Christian religion, it is insupportable. It does violence to