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II. Escape, however, alone is not sufficient. There may be escape, and yet, after escape, there may be return to danger. There may be relapse, and what so dangerous as a relapse? The soul, weakened by long sickness and wasted by the ravages of sin, may come round to a state of restoration, and begin to get mastery over its sore disease. And yet it may relapse, , resigning itself once more to the enemy, who returns to it with double power. The strong man armed may be ejected from his palace by one who is stronger, and yet
he may return again with seven spirits more wicked than himself and enter in and dwell there, until the last state of that man is worse than the first. It is added, therefore, " look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain.”
There must be no lingering in the outskirts of Sodom, as though it was a dear place, and as though the soul would cling to it as closely as it could, although delivered from it. There must be no looking back, no turning of the eyes upon the past with that longing look which is itself love, and which proves that the treasure has been left behind there, the heart loitering where the treasure is. There must be no staying in the plain, no keeping upon the level of the world, no flatness in the spiritual life, no tameness of spirit, as if the soul was aiming at being as much as it could upon a level with the world without being of it; as though ardour in religion was unwise, and zeal was dangerous, and enthusiasm fanatical, and the great thing was to keep quiet, and avoid singularity, and shun offence. No! when Sodom is left it must be left for ever. Not a look must be thrown back; not a wish may turn towards it. Its pleasures and its shows must be forgotten. The memory of that in it which seemed lovely must be blotted out. To stay upon the borders, the angel would teach us, is to perish as certainly as if we were in the centre of the furnace and in the focus of the fire.
Nor have we only words to teach us. We have that which is better than words. We are taught by example. Lot was a good man, but he had a worldly wife. His own soul, during his stay in Sodom, was “ vexed with their unlawful deeds.” He was living among its people, but he hated and abjured their sins. Not so his wife. She had been loth to leave the place, although an angel's voice had warned her. She believed not his tidings because her heart was evil, and therefore was too blind to see truth and too deaf to hear it. It was therefore with many a pang that she had left Sodom, and when the angel of mercy laid his hands upon her and drew her, as much by force as by persuasion, out of the midst of approaching fire, her heart was a traitor to her body; and though her body left Sodom, it left her mind behind her there. She loved its pleasures and its pomps. The deceitfulness of its wealth had charmed her. The sounds of its songs were as sirens to her. It had won her heart, and she was blind to everything except to that which her heart loved, and on which her longings rested.
She stopped, therefore. While Lot was hurrying on, his worldly wife loitered. She was in no hurry to leave it. She had no fear about its destiny. She loitered, therefore. She lingered in the plain. She Aled and she fled not. Her mind was double ; she was halting “ between two opinions.” At last she halted. She thought of disobeying the angel; she played with her temptation ; she came as near it as she could without yielding, and then at last she yielded. She halted. She stayed her footsteps. She thought a moment, and then she thought that one look could scarcely matter. She looked back, and the vengeance of God came down upon her. The fire reached her and “ she became a pillar of salt.” And there she stood upon the plain, a standing monument of God's anger, a warning, as long as time lasts, that to be saved is not enough unless we keep in the way of salvation ; that it is better for men
not to have known the way of righteousness than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them." But it happened unto her “according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again ; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire !"
What a warning to us all is Lot's wife ! “ Remember Lot's wife" is a perpetual warning, given once by Our Lord to His Church, to keep ringing in its ears for ever. Remember Lot's wife. Learn from her the danger of relapse. Be taught by her most sad example how dreadful it is to know the way of life, and to have tasted “ the powers of the world to come,” and yet after all to fall away. Oh, it is hard to live as if we knew that fire is coming! As it was in the days of Lot,_" they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded ; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all,” so it is now. Men eat, and drink, and buy, and sell, and plant, and build ; and in the midst of it all the Judge knocks. The hand of death is laid upon them, and before they are ready they are
before their Judge. And even of those who have thought at some time, how many cease thinking ? Instead of leaving all for Christ's sake, taking His counsel, they go from the housetop to take their stuff away. They go from the field to get something which is left behind them. They forget Lot's wife. They remember not that “ whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” They know not, they feel not, that we must escape from death eternal as we would escape from a ship on fire. Will ye stay by the ship from which the flames are bursting, and which must sink ere many hours are over to the bottom of the unfathomable deep? Or will ye take to the boat and be thankful to the God of heaven, if ye stand at length upon dry land, as poor, perhaps, as when ye entered earth, as bare of every earthly good as ye will be when earth is over for
and ye have nothing for your property but the shroud which wraps you in the all-levelling tomb ? It matters not how much we lose if we do not lose ourselves.
III. But this is not all, and we need to know more. “ Escape for thy life! look not behind thee.” This is all well. But whither shall we flee? "To the mountain.” The place of safety is a high place. Religion is not a mean thing, levelling men down to one poor level; it is a high thing, lifting men up to one glorious height. It is the one elevating influence, which raises men above the mean thoughts, and grovelling appetites, and base desires, into which they fall by nature, and sets before them high aims, and reasonable objects, and animating hopes, and heavenly desires. Without religion men sink to a
level with the brute creation. By faith they mount to heaven and to the throne of God.
The mountain of safety is Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ set up on Calvary, erected upon a hill that every eye might see it, is the tree of life on which a world may live. The Church of Christ, which is the city set upon a hill that cannot be hid, the Christian Zion, built upon apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ for its foundation and corner-stone, is the ark of safety in which we may escape the deluge of consuming fire. Holiness, inwrought within us by the Holy Spirit, and carrying us above the death of sin into the likeness of God our Father and Redeemer, is the height to which we must fly for shelter. In short,—to sum up all that I might say in one word our mountain is Christ. The height to which the angel points us, the shelter to which the angel guides us, the deliverance which the angel gives us, is to be found in Christ; in Christ, and in none but Christ. None but He can save us from consuming fire. Whatever elevates men, and lifts them from the meanness and valley of degradation into which sin has brought them, has its origin in Him. He came to earth to be our mountain. He was Himself a mountain, towering high above all other men, the greatest of all the sons of Adam and the Son of God. Nothing equal to Him, nothing at all approaching to His marvellous power, and admirable wisdom, and compassionate tenderness, was ever seen on earth. All who came near Him were made better by the contact. The guiltiest sinners were drawn out of their sins by the force of His winning dignity. To see Him was to conceive a desire for holiness. To hear Him was to be made