A Warning For The Last Days
SODOM was situated in a beautiful and fertile plain, and reveled in an abundance of everything that nature and art could bestow. The inhabitants of Sodom seemed to be strangers to want and to work. A poor man was not permitted to become an inhabitant of the city. He was driven out by abuse, or if not driven out, was the victim of an iniquitous plan that compassed his ruin. The people of this wicked city took no thought for the future life. Idleness and wealth and love of excitement carried them into every excess of pleasure and indulgence. The sensual, animal nature was cultivated, and as, like the world before the flood, the imagination of their hearts was evil, and evil continually, they set their minds to work to find out new, unnatural ways whereby they might gratify their abominable, corrupt passions.
Inspiration gives a testimony concerning the corrupt condition of the world before the flood. The Bible says: "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." Before the flood they employed all their powers for the gratification of base passions, and cast contempt upon the law of God, and as it was in the days of the flood, so it was in the time of Sodom. They would not admit for a moment that their devotion to sensual pleasure brought upon them guilt and danger. They knew not that the cloud of divine wrath, which their sin had for years been loading, was about to break forth in vengeance upon them.
Before the time of Sodom's overthrow, two angels visited Abraham and were courteously entertained. As they were passing on their way to Sodom, Abraham accompanied them, and they revealed to the patriarch the errand for which they had come,--to destroy Sodom. They told Abraham that because of the grievous wickedness of the inhabitants, the city was to be destroyed. Abraham knew that Lot was in this place, and although he had been taught of God, he could not believe that the inhabitants of Sodom were so utterly corrupt. He began to plead that the righteous should not perish with the wicked, that if a certain number of the godly were there, the city might be spared. Pleading for the city, he decreased the number of righteous that would be likely to be found in the city, until he reached the number of ten. But although God would have spared the city if ten righteous persons could have been found there, that number could not be made up to redeem the city.
As the evening draws on, the men of Sodom see the two messengers approaching, but as they have concealed their heavenly character, they appear as common men coming in from the country to visit Sodom. If the veil could be removed from our eyes we should often see in the form of men, the powerful messengers of mercy or of wrath among us. They warn, they caution, they reprove, they protect from a thousand dangers, and yet we know not that the angel's blessing has come to us.
As the angels draw nigh unto Sodom, only one man manifests an interest in the strangers. Lot welcomed them in, invited them to his house. He was ignorant in regard to the character of these men, and knew not the terrible errand upon which they had come; but the courtesy which he manifested was in harmony with his character, and he was saved from the general ruin. Had he appeared indifferent to these strangers, he would not have secured to himself such help as only the angels can give. Many a house has been closed to strangers who were God's messengers of hope, and blessing, and peace. In neglecting the commonest duties of life, withholding kindness and courtesy and hospitality, we miss the richest blessings heaven has to bestow.
When the men of Sodom saw that Lot opened his doors to these strangers, that he did not treat them with derision and contempt, they were stirred with passion. As Lot in Eastern fashion bows in deference, and invites them to share his home, they taunt and jeer. Lot was a man of great wealth, but in showing respect to these travelers he did not meet the mind of these ease-loving Sodomites. They crowded about the house of Lot, and as the crowd increased, vile speeches were made which revealed the state of corruption that existed among the people, and the worst suggestions were received and acted upon. The crowd became more clamorous in their cries to have Lot bring forth the strangers to them; for they had become so base through the indulgence of evil passions, that every good thought had been uprooted, and reason was so clouded that they would even do violence to the angels of heaven.
The angels had come to see if there were any in the city who were not corrupted, and could be persuaded to flee from the impending doom that threatened Sodom. That night the evil doers added the last drop to their cup of iniquity, and the wrath of God could no longer be delayed. The night of the destruction of Sodom the inhabitants of the city were doing that which they had been doing through all their past life. They were no more base and dissolute and corrupt than on other nights when strangers had entered their city; but there is a point beyond which there is no reprieve, and that night the inhabitants of Sodom passed the mystic boundary that decided their destiny. Lot expostulated with them at his door, and refused to permit them to do violence to the strangers who were in his house. But the evil doers had no idea of being restrained from accomplishing their purpose, but thought to beat Lot to the ground, and get access to the strangers. Before this was done, the angels drew Lot into the house, and smote the men with blindness, so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
The angels then told Lot what was their errand, and made known to him that God would bring destruction upon the wicked city. Lot believed the word of the angels, but his family was reluctant to receive their message, for they had so long lived in sight and sound of wickedness that their senses were blunted to the grievous character of sin. Lot had afflicted his soul for the debasing sins that the Sodomites were continually committing, and yet even he had not thought their sin was of the debasing character it was, nor deemed that it was so firmly seated as to yield to no remedy. He begs permission of the angels to go forth and warn his daughters and sons-in-law who live in the city. He made his way through the rabble, who were prevented from injuring him by the power of the angels, and gave his message to his children. With grief and terror he begs them to leave the doomed city, and flee with him ere its destruction shall be accomplished, but they look upon him as upon one who is mad, coming to them with such a message at the midnight hour. They laugh at his fears, and think some horrible nightmare has crazed his brain. They will not trouble themselves about the matter, but treat it as a joke, and these who will not receive the message, sleep on, heedless of the last warning of their lives.
Anxious and disappointed, Lot returns to his home through the rabble, and finds the angels still waiting, urging that Lot and his family leave the city before the sun is fully risen. As they go out they see no visible token of God's displeasure. Everything seems to say peace and safety. The sun is illuminating the eastern hills with golden beams, and everything in nature seems to say peace. But the words of the angels ring in the ears of Lot, saying, "The Lord will destroy this city." Unbelief did not prevent the destruction of Sodom. Trifling and gayety did not secure its inhabitants against the doom that overtook the wicked city. They flattered themselves that long days of indulgence in sin were yet to be theirs, but in such an hour as they thought not of, ruin encompassed them.
How hard it was for Lot to leave Sodom! Part of his family had to be left behind, and all the wealth he had accumulated had to be sacrificed. He must go out from Sodom a poor man. The labor of years has to be counted in vain. He does not feel the terrible necessity for God's judgment to fall upon the wicked city, and he still lingers. The angels urge his immediate departure; but Lot, stupefied with sorrow for the loss of his children and property, still hesitates. The angels lay hold of his hands, and the hands of his wife and children, and with merciful violence hasten them out of the city. When they reach the city limits, a word of command is given with startling vehemence: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest ye be consumed." A few moments' delay now, a few moments of hesitancy, a few moments' disregard of the warning, will cost the fugitives their lives. They are not even to turn their eyes back to see if their beautiful home has survived the general ruin, or the storm will burst upon them. God has delayed his retributive judgment only that they may escape. What care, what tenderness, to these four who flee from the doomed city!
Lot is confused, terrified, and distracted. He begs to be allowed to rest at a little settlement on this side the mountains. Unbelief sprang up in his heart, and he said: "Oh, not so, my Lord; behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die; behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one; oh, let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar."
But why should Lot not have trusted the mercy of the angels in directing him to escape to the mountains, since he ascribed to them the saving of his life? Lot's stay in Sodom had not tended to increase his faith in God, nor had his intercourse with those who knew not God tended to convert them from the error of their way. He had pleaded that the angels permit him to take up his abode in the city of Zoar, saying, "Is it not a little one? and my soul shall live," as though the God who had directed his escape from Sodom did not understand how to preserve the life he had saved. But what mercy and condescension are manifested by the God of heaven! His request is heard, and his plea granted; yet how much better would it have been to heed the angel's voice, and go to the mountains, as far as possible from the wicked city. The angel bids him to hasten, because the fiery storm would be widespread and terrible.
One of the four fugitives ventures to cast a lingering look behind, to see the coming storm, and the number is less by one; for she stands as a memento of God's wrath, turned into a pillar of salt. Had Lot earnestly and firmly fled to the mountains, as the angels had directed, without pleading for a new plan, his wife would not have transgressed the commandment of the angels, and would have been at his side.
When the first beams of the morning dawn, the inhabitants of Sodom are not aware of the departure of Lot and the angels. They were determined to abuse the strangers, but as they come to the house of Lot, it is found vacant, and the hour of doom comes upon them. And the Lord rains fire and brimstone upon the city, and the beautiful plain that looked like Paradise when the angels passed over it, now looks like a parched and blackened desert. The smoke of the burning goes up like the smoke of a great furnace, and the whole heaven is illuminated with the flames of the great conflagration. Sodom has become a place of desolation and ruin.
The sin of the people rose up to heaven, and because of the iniquity of the people, the Lord poured out the vials of his wrath. The fearful doom of Sodom stands forth as a warning for all time, and especially for those who live in the last days. The destruction of Sodom was a symbol of the destruction that will come upon the finally impenitent, when tempests of fire come from above, and fountains of flame break forth from the crust of the earth. The fate of this ancient city should be a warning to all who live for self, and who corrupt their ways before God. The sin of Sodom is the sin of many cities now in existence, that have not been destroyed as was Sodom. Ezekiel says, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good."
The warning that was given to Lot comes down to us who live in this degenerate age,--"Escape for thy life." The voice of the tempter is crying peace and safety. The evil one would have you feel that you have nothing to fear, and bids you eat, drink, and be merry. Which voice will you heed, the voice of heaven, or the voice that lures you to destruction? The Redeemer of the world, the compassionate Friend of man, discloses to our eyes the fact that there is a sin greater than the sin of Sodom. It is that of sinning against greater light. To those who have heard and have not heeded the gospel invitation to repent and have faith in Christ, the sin is greater than was the sin of Sodom. To those who have professed the name of Jesus, who have professed to know God, and to keep his commandments, and yet who have misrepresented Christ in their daily life and character, who have been warned and entreated, and still dishonor their Redeemer by their unconsecrated lives, the sin is greater than that of Sodom.
Jesus said: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in" Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." The warning of Christ sounds down along the lines to our day. He would arouse the people for whom he gave his life, and attract their attention to himself, the source of all wisdom, righteousness, strength, and hope, and peace. He would have his people let their light shine forth to the world in good works. The sins of Sodom are repeated in our day, and the earth is destroyed and corrupted under the inhabitants thereof; but the worst feature of the iniquity of this day is a form of godliness without the power thereof. Those who profess to have great light are found among the careless and indifferent, and the cause of Christ is wounded in the house of its professed friends. Let those who would be saved, arouse from their lethargy, and give the trumpet a certain sound; for the end of all things is at hand.
The Signs of the Times October 9 & 16, 1893