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GEN. xix, 17.
Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain. Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.”
THESE are aweful words. They have a strangely
solemn sound about them. They speak of escape and deliverance, but it is escape from fire which comes so near as that it almost scorches those who are delivered from it. They tell of succour, but at the same time they have a voice which seems to say, 66 In the midst of life we are in death ; of whom may we seek for succour but of thee, O Lord ?”
They are the words of an angel who was sent by God to save Lot from great and impending danger. But they are not addressed to Lot only. They speak that universal language which addresses' all when it addresses one. Who is there of us that could have helped feeling as he heard them read this morning ? • Those words are not for Lot only. The angel speaks to me. He tells me that as I walk upon the earth I walk over fires which are sleeping under me. He warns me that my life is in danger. “Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." ;
We are living in Sodom, in the midst of sin and sinners. The world in which we live is like Sodom, because, as Saint John says, it "lieth in wickedness.” It is not, perhaps, quite so bad as Sodom, for the wickedness of Sodom was eminent above that of all places when all around were very bad; but it is so bad that Sodom may fitly be taken as a specimen of what the world is. And we are placed in the midst of it, with sin about us, as Lot was placed in Sodom, surrounded by its corruptions, touched by its influences, in danger of being caught by its snares.
Men are apt to think that the world is not so bad as it is sometimes painted. Such strong statements as those which I have just made are sometimes looked upon as overdrawn and too highly coloured. The world, it is said, is better than is often fancied. Well, however that may be, Sodom was bad enough. At least, the strongest words could not exaggerate the state of Sodom. Nothing could be worse than these cities. Here were Sodom and Gomorrha, places of some considerable size, containing some thousands of inhabitants, “ cities of the plain,” and they were só bad, so utterly fallen away from God, so given over to corruption, that not only were there not fifty, or forty, or thirty, or twenty righteous persons among all those thousands, but there were not ten. Had there been but ten righteous men within them, they would have been spared from utter destruction for the sake of those righteous ten, but there were not
• There was but one, and that one a stranger ! At least, there can be no doubt that “the men of Sodom were sinners before the Lord exceedingly." And if Sodom and Gomorrha could be so bad that out of many thousand persons
there was only one
good man, and that man very far from perfect, perhaps, after all, it may not be so very untrue to say that the world as a whole is given to wickedness; not always so foul or so excessive as that which made Sodom a conspicuous example of the Divine vengeance, but wickedness so great as may well deserve the anger of an all-pure and all-holy God.
Here, then, we are, like Lot in Sodom. living in a world which at the best is a whitewashed sepulchre, fair without, but full of dead men's bones within. And this world will perish. The fire did not more surely cover Sodom and blot it out of existence, so that the spot on which it stood is no longer known, than fire will consume the earth and make it nothingness. There will be no second flood of water. The bow in the cloud is the standing image of the Divine mercy, and water is now the sign and token of eternal life. The world will not again be drowned with water. But there shall be a flood of fire. A deluge of fire shall drown the whole
“ All these things ” which now we see be dissolved.” “ The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth, also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” Destruction is coming. Sooner or later-God only knows how soon or how latethe world will vanish. The world, with all its riches, and pomps, and vanities, will pass away. Everything which is not made eternal through union with Him who is everlasting will be fuel for devouring fire.
I. It is when thoughts like these have impressed themselves upon us that the words “ Escape for thy life" come home to us with thrilling power. A mine
is under us, ready to explode at any moment. We are walking on the edge of a volcano, from which smoke is issuing and fire is preparing to burst out. What can we do? An angel answers, “Escape.”' “ Escape for thy life.” “Stay not where you are,' He says to those who still are sojourning within the city, · Escape, ye who love the world; escape from your present condition. Get out from Sodom; you are in danger of death eternal. The most dreadful state, the most fearful miseries, will be your portion if you continue where you now are. Flee from the wrath to come. The flames of hell are approaching you. The worm which never dies is preparing to devour you. Escape. Desire salvation earnestly. Ask to be guided in the ways of holiness. Seek the door of heaven, Linger® not, but be off at once, taking with you all others whom you can, “thy sons and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in this city, bring them out of this place.” Delay not a moment. If you delay an instant you may be too late. “Now is the accepted time ; behold, now is the day of salvation.” To-day is yours; to-morrow is not yours. Words are not able to describe your danger. Set yourself free. Escape.' So the angel speaks.
And the angel adds the reason, for thy life“ Escape for thy life.” “It is not for nothing that I urge thee. Thy life is in danger. The thing which above all besides is dearest to thee, the thing for which everything else is valued,—it is thy life which is at stake. If the fire reaches thee thou losest everything, for thou losest life; nor only the life of thy poor body, but the life of thine undying soul.' “Escape for thy life.” Yes, and be content if thou
escapest with thy life. If thou losest everything besides, what matter if thou savest thine all-precious soul ? “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?” likewise, what shall it hurt a man if he loses all the world and saves his soul? Thou mayest have to leave everything behind thee. Thou mayest be called upon to forsake all that thou hast, father and mother, houses and lands. Thou mayest be asked to make the greatest sacrifices, but what matter if, with Lot, thou art saved? Who would " dwell with everlasting burnings?” Who would be consumed in the fire “prepared for the devil and his angels ?” Thou must lose thy life, thou must part with much which seems now dear, to save thy life; but let all perish if only thou canst make thy soul sure. Let God's angel be thy leader; let him take thine hand and lead thee, and bring thee out and set thee without the city. It may cost thee a pang or two to enter into life, but what is the sorrow of a few moments to pains which are endless ? What is the loss of earth if, by losing earth, thou gainest heaven?' Escape for thy life! The message comes from heaven, and he who brings it is an angel. Escape for thy life! The voice that speaks to thee is an angel's voice. And oh! that I might be that angel to those of you who still are loving Sodom. Oh! that I had power to persuade you that it is worth an effort to save your own souls. Oh! that many now caught in Satan's snares might soon have cause to say, « Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler, the snare is broken and we are delivered.” And what a deliverance ! Deliverance from chains and slavery; admission into the blessed freedom of the sons of God.