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It now only remains,
V. That I call to your remembrance the awful destruction, which befel Lot's wife, because she looked back from behind him. “She became a pillar of salt.”
A pillar sometimes signifies a monument, and salt denotes perpetuity: hence, as some suppose, the phrase may import, that she was made a perpetual monument of God's wrath. So a covenant of salt, is an everlasting covenant. Others apprehend, that being seized by the sulphureous storm, she was stiffened and petrified into a statue resembling her natural shape; and was called a pillar of salt, because she was metamorphosed into the likeness of such a pillar.
Let either of these be the intention of the phrase, we are taught by it thus much, that for her disobedience to the plain warning of God, she was suddenly destroyed and made a lasting example of God's wrath against impenitent and presumptuous sinners.
The danger of apostacy, after hopeful convictions and promising resolutions, is represented to us, not only by this sad example, but also by many awful declarations of scripture. “If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary.” “If we draw back, it is to perdition. God's soul will have no pleasure in us.” “If after we have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Christ, we are again intangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with us than the beginning.” “He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
We hence learn, that they who relapse into sin after hopeful beginnings, are in a state awfully dangerous.
Such, unless they are renewed to repentance, will justly receive an aggravated condemnation. They oppose the convictions of their own minds, suppress the feelings of conscience, violate their solemn vows and promises, and resist the Spirit of God. Hence they are threatened with a punishment singularly severe, except they repent.
And the recovery of such sinners is peculiarly doubtful. When they have begun to apostatize, where will they stop ? Vice stands on a precipice. Every step is down the hill. One step urges forward another. The farther it advances, the more difficult is the retreat. Lot's wife fell behind in her flight; being behind, she looked back, lost her resolution, and turned to save her substance. Ye, who have been awakened to serious resolutions; if you feel your resolutions failing, your temptations returning, and your lusts reviving, remember Lot's wife, who, yielding to one temptation after another, fell back irrecoverably into the flames of Sodom. When, after convictions of danger and a resolution to escape, you turn about, you give new advantage to the tempter, who will draw you back into destruction. By an active motion forward, you will best defeat his seducing influence, and escape his fiery darts.
By relapsing into a course of sin, you harden your hearts." Nothing so soon produces stupidity of conscience, as doing violence to its convictions. Thus also you resist the Spirit of grace, and provoke it to retire. And woe unto you, when God departs from you. It is in the sickness of the soul, as in diseases of the body; a relapse, after hopeful symptoms of recovery, is more dangerous than the first attack. The constitution is more debilitated, the distemper more fixed, and medicines less efficacious.
And now, let the things which have been spoken, be brought home to your consciences in a serious application.
Have you not been warned to flee from the wrath to come ? Has not God spoken to you by his providence, word and Spirit ? Has he not set before you strong proofs of a future judgment ? Has he not given you an awful representation of the strange punishment which awaits the guilty ? Has he not repeated to you his warnings and pressed them upon you with affection and earnestness ? Has he not assured you, that the time of your probation is short and uncertain ? Has he not pointed out to you the way in which you may escape the danger that threatens you?
What effect have his warnings and instructions produced ? If you feel their force, comply with their design. “Escape for your
lives; look not behind you ; stay not in all the plain ; flee to the mountain, lest you be consumed."
Flatter not yourselves, that you shall have peace, while you walk in the imagination of your hearts. Let no worldly trifles divert you from the care of your souls. Dare not to trespass on God's commands and break through his prohibitions. Presume pot on his patience, nor trust to future opportunities. Rest not in partial amendments, or past convictions. Let no worldly connections seduce you into sin, nor any difficulties and oppositions discourage your pursuit of heaven. Remember the warnings and threatenings of God and lay them deeply to heart. Think of the examples of his wrath against the impenitent, especially against apostates; and work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
If you were in the situation of Lot's wife, just without the walls of the desecrated city; if you beheld the storm of fiery sulphur gathering thick around it and over it; if you saw the vivid fires flashing down from above, and kindling into flames the bituminous substance of the soil on which the city stood; if you were met on every side with the shrieks of despairing mortals, the crash of falling houses, and the convulsions of the cleaving ground; would you not think it time to flee? Would you not wonder at the stupidity of any who should stand within the confines of the storm to gaze at the tremendous scene?-Remember, there is a scene foretold far more tremendous than this, at which you must appear, and which may be near at hand. Apply, then, the warning, and obey the counsel of the angel to the family of Lot, and escape, lest you be consumed.
THE OPENING GRAVE CONTEMPLATED AND IMPROVED.
JOB XVII. 1.
The graves are ready for me.
Thus spake Job in a time of sickness and adversity; and thus
keep themselves in readiness for the grave.
The disease with which Job was afflicted was of such a nature
with his friends, we find, that he had given up the hopes of recovery. He felt like one in the last conflict of a dissolutionlike one who saw the solemn preparation making for his interment.
Job, though a man of great piety, yet found the same stupifying effect, as many others find, froin a long course of prosperity. In his more happy days, too insensible of human weakness, and too unmindful of the uncertainty of the world, he said, “ I shall die in my nest; I shall multiply my days as the sand; for,” adds he,“ my root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch, and my glory was fresh in me.” But when he saw his glory fading, and perceived his nature decaying, world were now full in his view. He considered his life as extinct, and the grave as opened for the reception of his flesh. It would be well, that we all, in our happiest circumstances, and especially under certain threatening appearances, should accustom ourselves to similar contemplations on human frailty, and our own near approach to the grave. For,
1. Every one may say, “ The grave is ready for me.” This circumstance is not peculiar to the aged and infirm: it is common to all.
So short is the life of man, that the time of death cannot be really remote, though to some it may seem so. In the verse next preceding our text, Job says, “ When a few years are come, then shall I go the way, whence I shall not return." But he immediately corrects the expression, as if a mortal man might hardly talk of years. “When a few years are come ?--Nay, my days are extinct.”—What are a few years to a man who knows that he must die, and that eternity is before him? Job, for the period in which he lived, was not an old man; there were then with him men much elder than his father. But impressed with a sense of the vanity of man, he thinks, the few years, which might possibly remain to one of his age, scarcely worth bringing into the reckoning.
This life, though considered by itself, or compared with the duration of an insect, may seem something, yet contrasted with eternity, vanishes into nothing. “My days,” says David, “ are an hand-breadth, mine age is as nothing before thee. Surely every man, at his best state, is altogether vanity.” “A thousand years, in thy sight,” says Moses, “are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch of the night.” · Life is almost an imperceptible part of our existence. It is only our entrance into being. We here but just open our eyes, and begin to live. Our real life--that duration which properly deserves the name, is beyond the grave-it is in another world. This part of our existence is so short and transient, that, in the first moment of it, the grave is near it is ready for us. Job lived in an age, when human life far exceeded our present term;