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consumed with terrors.”—If, therefore, we linger and look back, we may be suddenly overtaken and seized with destruction.
7. There is nothing in Sodom that is worth looking back upon. All the enjoyments of Sodom will soon perish in the common destruction; all will be burnt up. And surely it is not worth the while to look back on things that are perishing and consuming in the flames, as it is with all the enjoyments of sin; they are all appointed to the fire. Therefore it is foolish for any who are fleeing out of Sodom to hanker any more after them ; for when they are burnt up, what good can they do? And is it worth the while for us to return back for the sake of a moment's enjoyment of them, before they are burnt, and so expose ourselves to be burnt up with them?
Lot's wife looked back, because she remembered the pleasant things that she left in Sodom. She hankered after them; she could not but look back with a wishful eye upon the city, where she had lived in such ease and pleasure. Sodom was a place of great outward plenty; they ate the fat, and drank the sweet. The soil about Sodom was exceedingly fruitful; it is said to be as the garden of God, Gen. xii. 10. And fulness of bread was one of the sins of the place, Ezek. xvi. 49.
Here Lot and his wife lived plentifully; and it was a place where the inhabitants wallowed in carnal pleasures and delights. But however much it abounded in these things, what were they worth now, when the city was burning? Lot's wife was very foolish in lingering in her escape, for the sake of things which were all on fire. So the enjoyments, the profits, and pleasures of sin, have the wrath and curse of God on them : brimstone is scattered on them : hell-fire is ready to kindle on them. It is not therefore worth while for any person to look back after such things.
8. We are warned by messengers sent to us from God, to make haste in our flight from Sodom, and not to look behind us. God sends to us his ministers, the angels of the churches, on this grand errand, as be sent the angels to warn Lot and his wife to flee for their lives, Gen. xix. 15, 16. If we delay or look back, now that we have had such fair warning, we shall be exceedingly inexcusable and monstrously foolish.
The use that I would make of this doctrine is, to warn those who are in a natural condition to flee out of it, and by no means to look back. While you are out of Christ, you are in Sodom. The whole history of the destruction of Sodom, with all its circumstances, seems to be inserted in the scriptures for
our warning, and is set forth for an example, as the apostle Jude says. It, in a lively manner, typifies the case of natural men, the destruction of those that continue in a natural state, and the manner of their escape who flee to Christ. The Psalmist, when speaking of the appointed punishment of ungodly men, seems evidently to refer to the destruction of Sodom, Psalm xi. 6. “Upon the wicked, God shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest : this shall be the portion of their cup."
Consider, therefore, you that are seeking an interest in Christ, you are to flee out of Sodom. Sodom is the place of your nativity, and the place where you have spent your lives. You are citizens of that city which is full of filthiness and abomination before God, that polluted and accursed city. You belong to that impure society. You not only live among them, but you are of them, you have committed those abominations, and have so provoked God as you have heard. It is you that I have all this while been speaking of under this doctrine ; you are the inhabitants of Sodom. Perhaps you may look on your circumstances as not very dreadful; but you dwell in Sodom. Though you may be reformed, and appear with a clean outside, and a smooth face to the world; yet, as long as you are in a natural condition, you are impure inhabitants of Sodom.
The world of mankind is divided into two companies, or, as I may say, into two cities: there is the city of Zion, the church of God, the holy and beloved city; and there is Sodom, that polluted and accursed city, which is appointed to destruction. You belong to the latter of these. How much soever you may look upon yourselves as better than some others, you are of the same city; the same company with fornicators, and drunkards, and adulterers, and common swearers, and highwaymen, and pirates, and Sodomites. How much soever you may think yourselves distinguished, as long as you are out of Christ you belong to the very same society ; you are of the company, you join with them, and are no better than they, any otherwise than as you have greater restraints. You are considered in the sight of God as fit to be ranked with them. You and they are altogether the objects of loathing and abhorrence, and have the wrath of God abiding on you : you will go with them and be destroyed with them, if you do not escape from your present state. Yea, you are of the same society and the same company with the devils, for Sodom is not only the city of wicked men, but it is the hold of every foul spirit.
You belong to that city which is appointed to an awful, inevitable, universal, swift, and sudden destruction; a city that hath a storm of fire and wrath hanging over it. Many of you are convinced of the awful state you are in while in Sodom, and are making some attempts to escape from the wrath which hangs over it. Let such be warned by what hath been said, to escape for their lives, and not to look back. Look not back, unless you choose to have a share in the burning tempest that is coming down on that city. Look not back in remembrance of the enjoyments which you have had in Sodom, as hankering after the pleasant things which you have had there, after the ease, the security, and the pleasure which you have there enjoyed.
Remember Lot's wife, for she looked back, as being loth utterly and for ever to leave the ease, the pleasure and plenty which she enjoyed in Sodom, and as having a mind to return to them again : remember what became of her.—Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness, who were desirous of going back again into Egypt. Numb. xi. 5. We remember the flesh which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks and onions, and the garlick.” Remember what was the issue. You must be willing for ever to leave all the ease, and pleasure, and profit of sin, to forsake all for salvation, as Lot forsook all, and left all he had, to escape out of Sodom.
THE FOLLY OF LOOKING BACK IN FLEEING OUT OF
LUKE XVII. 32.
Remember Lot's Wife.
The doctrine from these words was, That we ought not to look back when we are fleeing out of Sodom.—Having confirmed this doctrine by several reasons, we came to the application of it in a use of warning to sinners in a natural state, and especially to those who are awakened and convinced of the awful state in which they are, and are desirous of escaping the wrath which is to come.
And further to enforce this warning, let me entreat all you who are in this state, to consider the several things which I shall now mention:
1. The destruction of which you are in danger is infinitely more dreadful than that destruction of the literal Sodom from which Lot fled. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in a storm of fire and brimstone, was but a shadow of the destruction of ungodly men in hell, and is no more to it than a shadow or a picture is to a reality, or than painted fire is to real fire. The misery of hell is set forth by various shadows and images in scripture, as blackness of darkness, a never-dying worm, a furnace of fire, a lake of fire and brimstone, the torments of the valley of the son of Hinnom, a storm of fire and brimstone.The reason why so many similitudes are used, is because none of them are sufficient. Any one does but partly and very imperfectly represent the truth, and therefore God makes use of many
You have therefore much more need to make haste in your escape, and not to look behind you, than Lot and his wife had when they fled out of Sodom; for you are every day and every moment in danger of a thousand times more dreadful storm coming on your heads, than that which came on Sodom, when the Lord rained brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven upon them; so that it will be vastly more sottish in you to look back than it was in Lot's wife.
2. The destruction of which you are in danger is not only greater than the temporal destruction of Sodom, but greater than the eternal destruction of the inhabitants of Sodom. For however well you may think you have behaved yourselves, you who have continued impenitent under the glorious gospel, have sinned more, and provoked God far more, and have greater guilt upon you, than the inhabitants of Sodom; although you may seem to yourselves, and perhaps to others, to be very harmless creatures ; Matt. x. 15., “Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
3. Multitudes, while they have been looking back, have been suddenly overtaken and seized by the storm of wrath. The wrath of God hath not delayed, while they have delayed; it has not waited at all for them to turn about and flee; but has presently seized them, and they have been past hope. When Lot's wife looked back, she was immediately destroyed, God had exercised patience towards her before. When she lingered at the setting out, the angels pressed her, and her husband and children, to make haste. Not only so, but when they yet delayed, they brought her forth, and set her without the city, the Lord being merciful to her. But now when, notwithstanding this mercy, and the warnings which had been given her, she looked back, God exercised no more patience towards her, but proceeded immediately to put her to death.
Now God has in like manner been merciful to you. You in time past have been lingering; you have been warned by the angel of your danger, and pressed to make haste and flee; yet you have delayed. And now at length God hath as it were laid hold on you, by the convictions of his Spirit, to draw you out of Sodom; therefore remember Lot's wife. If now after all, you should look back, when God hath been so merciful to you, you will have reason to fear, that God will suddenly destroy you. Multitudes, when they have been looking back, and putting off to another time, have never had another opportunity; they have been suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy.
4. If you look back, and live long after it, there will be great danger that you will never get any further. The only way to seek salvation is to press forward with all your might, and still to look and press forward, never to stand still or slacken your pace. When Lot's wife stopped in her flight, and stood still in order that she might look, her punishment was, that there she should stand for ever; she never got any further; she never got beyond that place: but there she stood as a pillar of salt, a durable pillar and monument of wrath, for her folly and wickedness.
So it is very often with backsliders, though they may live a considerable time after. When they look back, after they