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THE FOLLY OF LOOKING BACK IN FLEEING OUT OF
LUKE XVII. 32.
Remember Lot's Wife.
Christ here foretels his coming in his kingdom, in answer to the question which the Pharisees asked him, viz. When the kingdom of God should come. And in what he says of his coming, he evidently has respect to two things ; his coming at the destruction of Jerusalem, and his coming at the end of the world. He compares his coming at those times to the coming of God in two remarkable judgments that were past; first, to that in the time of the flood; "and as it was in the days of
; Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” Next he compares it to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ; " likewise also, as it was in the days of Lot, even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
Then he immediately proceeds to direct his people how they should behave themselves at the appearance of the signal of that day's approaching, referring especially to the destruction of Jerusalem. “In that day, he which shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.” In which words Christ shows that they should make the utmost haste to flee and get out of the city to the mountains, as he commands, Matt. xxiv. 15, &c.--"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place; then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains ; let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of the house, peither let him which is in the field turn back to take his clothes."
Jerusalem was like Sodom, in that it was devoted to destruction, by special divine wrath; and indeed to a more terrible destruction than that of Sodom. Therefore the like direction is given concerning fleeing out of it with the utmos. haste, without looking behind, as the angel gave to Lot, when he bid him flee out of Sodom, Gen. xix. 17.“ Escape for thy life ; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain. And in the text Christ enforces his counsel by the instance of Lot's wife. He bids them remember her, and take warning by her, who looked back as she was fleeing out of Sodom, and became a pillar of salt.
* Dated May, 1735.
If it be inquired why Christ gave this direction to his people to flee out of Jerusalem, in such exceeding haste, at the first notice of the signal of her approaching destruction ; I answer, it seems to be, because fleeing out of Jerusalem was a type of fleeing out of a state of sin. Escaping out of that unbelieving city typified an escape out of a state of unbelief. Therefore they were directed to flee without staying to take any thing out of their houses, to signify with what haste and concern we should flee out of a natural condition, that no respect to any worldly enjoyment should prevent us one moment, and that we should flee to Jesus Christ, the refuge of souls, our strong rock, and the mount of our defence, so as, in fleeing to him, to leave and forsake heartily all earthly things.
This seems to be the chief reason also why Lot was directed to make such haste, and not to look behind ; because his fleeing out of Sodom was designed on purpose to be a type of our fleeing from that state of sin and misery in which we naturally are.
We ought not to look back when we are fleeing out of Sodom. The following reasons may be sufficient to support this doctrine:
1. That Sodom is a city full of filthiness and abominations. It is full of those impurities that ought to be had in the utmost abhorrence and detestation by all. The inhabitants of it are a polluted company, they are all under the power and dominion of hateful lusts. All their faculties and affections are polluted with those vile dispositions that are unworthy of the human nature, that greatly debase it, that are exceedingly hateful to God, and that dreadfully incense his anger. Every kind of spiritual abomination abounds in it. There is nothing so hateful and abominable but that there it is to be found, and there it abounds.
Sodom is a city full of devils and all unclean spirits: there they have their rendezvous, and there they have their dominion. There they sport, and wallow in filthiness, as it is said of mystical Babylon, Rev. xviii. 2. Babylon is become the habitation of
devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Who would be of such a society? who would not fee from such a city with the utmost haste, and never look back upon it, and never have the least inclination of returning?
Some in Sodom may seem to carry a fair face, and make a fair outward show ; but if we could look into their hearts, they are every one altogether filthy and abominable. We ought to flee from such a city, with the utmost abhorrence of the place and society, with no desires to dwell longer there, and never to discover the least inclination to return to it; but should be desirous to get to the greatest possible distance from it, that we might in nowise be partakers in her abominations.
2. We ought not to look back when fleeing out of Sodom, because Sodom is a city appointed to destruction. The cry of
a the city hath reached up to heaven. The earth cannot bear such a burden as her inhabitants are; she will, therefore, disburden herself of them, and spew them out. God will not suffer such a city to stand; he will consume it. God is holy, and his nature is infinitely opposite to all such uncleanness; he will, therefore, be a consuming fire to it. The holiness of God will not suffer it to stand, and the majesty and justice of God require that the inhabitants of that city who thus offend and provoke him, be destroyed. And God will surely destroy them; it is the immutable and irreversible decree of God. Не bath said it, and he will do it. · The decree is gone forth, and so sure as there is a God, and he is Almighty, and able to fulfil his decrees and threatenings, so surely will he destroy Sodom. Gen. xix. 12, 13. “Whatsoever thou hast in this city, bring them out of this place; for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it." And in ver. 14—“ Up,
. get ye out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city."
This city is an accursed city; it is destined to ruin. Therefore, as we would not be partakers of her curse, and would not be destroyed, we should fee out of it, and not look behind us, Rev. xviii. 4. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
3. We ought not to look back when fleeing out of Sodom, because the destruction to which it is appointed is exceedingly dreadful : it is appointed to utter destruction, to be wholly and entirely consumed. It is appointed to suffer the wrath of the great God, which is to be poured down from God upon it, like a dreadful storm of fire and brimstone. This city is to be filled full of the wrath of God. Every one that remains in it shall have the fire of God's wrath come down on his head, and into his soul : he shall be full of fire, and full of the wrath of the Almighty. He shall be encompassed with fire without, and full
of fire within : his head, bis heart, his bowels, and all his limbs shall be full of fire, and not a drop of water to cool him.
Nor shall he have any place to flee to for relief. Go where he will, there is the fire of God's wrath : his destruction and torment will be inevitable. He shall be destroyed without any pity. He shall cry aloud, but there shall be none to help, there shall be none to regard his lamentations, or to afford relief. The decree is gone forth, and the days come when Sodom shall burn as an oven, and all the inhabitants thereof shall be as stubble. As it was in the literal Sodom, the whole city was full of fire : in their houses there was no safety, for they were all on fire; and if they fled out into the streets, they also were full of fire. Fire continually came down out of heaven every whereThat was a dismal time. What a cry was there then in that city, in every part of it! But there was none to help; they had no where to go, where they could hide their heads from fire : they had none to pity or relieve them. If they fled to their friends, they could not help them.
Now with what haste should we flee from a city appointed to such a destruction! and how should we flee without looking behind us! how should it be our whole intent, to get at the greatest distance from a city in such circumstances ! how far should we be from thinking at all of returning to a city which has such wrath hanging over it!
4. The destruction to which Sodom is appointed, is an universal destruction. None that stay in it shall escape: none will have the good fortune to be in any by-corner, where the fire will not search them out. All sorts, old and young, great and small, shall be destroyed. There shall be no exception of any age, or any sex, or any condition, but all shall perish together. Gen. xix. 24, 25. “ Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and he overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” We, therefore, must not delay or look behind us ; for there is no place of safety in Sodom, nor in all the plain on which Sodom is built. The mountain of safety is before us, and not behind us.
5. The destruction to which Sodom is appointed, is an everlasting destruction. This is said of the literal Sodom, that it suffered the vengeance of eternal fire ; Jude vii. Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." The destruction that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered, was an eternal destruction : those cities were destroyed, and have never been built since, and are not capable of being rebuilt; for the land on which they stood at the time of their
“ Even as
destruction, sunk, and has been ever since covered with the lake of Sodom, or the Dead Sea, or, as it is called in Scripture, the Salt Sea. This seems to have been thus ordered on purpose to be a type of the eternal destruction of ungodly men. So that fire by which they were destroyed, is called eternal fire, because it was so typically; it was a type of the eternal destruction of ungodly men ; which may be in part what is intended, when it is said in that text in Jude, that they were set forth for an example, or for a type or representation of the eternal fire in which all the ungodly are to be consumed.
Sodom has in all ages since been covered with a lake which was first brought on it by fire and brimstone, to be a type of the lake of fire and brimstone in which ungodly men shall have their part for ever and ever, as we read Rev. xx. 15., and elsewhere.—We ought not therefore to look back when fleeing out of Sodom, seeing that the destruction to which it is appointed is an eternal destruction ; for this renders the destruction infinitely dreadful.
6. Sodom is a city appointed to swift and sudden destruction. The destruction is not only certain and inevitable, and infinitely dreadful, but it will come speedily: “ Their judgment lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not; 2 Pet. ii. 3. And so Deut. xxxii. 35., “The day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." The storm of wrath, the black clouds of divine vengeance even now every moment hang over them, just ready to break forth and come down in a dreadful manner upon them. God hath already whet his sword and bent his bow, and made ready his arrow on the string, Psalm vii. 12. Therefore we should make haste, and not look behind us. For if we linger and stop to look back, and flee not for our lives, there is great danger that we shall be involved in the common ruin.
The destruction of Sodom is not only swift, but will come suddenly and unexpectedly. It seems to have been a fair morning in Sodom before it was destroyed. Gen. xix. 23. It seems that there were no clouds to be seen, no appearance of any storm at all, much less of a storm of fire and brimstone. The inhabitants of Sodom expected no such thing; even when Lot told his sons-in-law of it, they would not believe it; Gen. xix. 14.- They were making merry; their hearts were at ease, they thought nothing of such a calamity at hand. But it came at once, as travail upon a woman with child, and there was no escaping; as ver. 28, 29., “ 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 with wicked men ; Psalm lxxiii. 19.,
“How are they brought into desolation in a moment: they are utterly VOL, VI.