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"And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city," Gen. xix, 15.
LoT was, in many respects, very unlike his great kinsman, Abraham. He was by no means a generous or heroic man. His were not the piety and the faith of his uncle. And yet there were some amiable circumstances in his conduct; such, for instance, as his following the patriarch into Canaan; and his kind reception of the two strangers, when he dwelt in Sodom. But by far the greater part of his conduct bespoke a selfish and a covetous mind: and one thing, above every other, is remarkable throughout all the notices we have of his life, namely, that he was of a weak and irresolute temper of mind, susceptible of any and every impression, without long retaining the traces of the most powerful.
If we keep this leading remark in view, that irresolution and inconstancy (the one as the cause, the other as the effect) were the principal infirmities in his character, we shall then be able to account for several of his actions which, otherwise, would appear enigmatical. Smitten with the noble qualities of his kinsman, and overcome by his generous condescension, his heart overflowed with gratitude and admiration; so much so, that having learned that Abraham meditated a removal into some distant land, in consequence of a divine admonition to that effect, he volunteered his services to follow in his train; as though, like Abigail, when David
sent for her, he had counted it an honour to wash the feet of the servants of his Lord. His uncle did not decline his offer; and they accordingly went together; Lot partaking of all the fatigues and all the vicissitudes of Abraham's life and journey. Upon their return from Egypt into Canaan, Lot was now grown rich, having greatly increased in flocks; and, being advised by Abraham, in a most generous manner, to leave him, he meanly determined to desert the man whose existence he had formerly identified with his own; the man to whom he had looked up with that awe and veneration, most painfully felt by a little mind; the man to whom, under God, he owed every thing he had, and every thing he knew. May I venture a conjecture? Perhaps, one reason for his leaving Abraham was, that he felt himself hurt by the comparison; and even his own servants must have seen the difference between the kinsmen. A weak mind, in the presence of a great one, is often depressed, as fire is extinguished by the light of the sun. By a weak, I do not mean an uninformed mind. Many a man of inferior attainments is truly amiable, and has the essentials of genuine great
It were frivolous to object that Lot could not do otherwise. Might he not have requested Abraham to exercise such a degree of authority over both their husbandmen as to restore the general tranquillity? and that too without any unmanly concession on his part, for Abraham had been a father unto Lot. Surely his conduct, on this occasion, is enough to provoke the suspicion, that he only accompanied the patriarch into Canaan that he might share his temporal blessings.
But the most. grievous part of his offence is yet to be told. When his uncle gave him his choice of pasture
ground, he saw there was a great difference between the fertile plains of Jordan and the less fruitful valley in which they then were. He felt a warfare in his soul. On one hand, gratitude and reverence told him that he should cede the better share to Abraham; and, on the other hand, avarice and selfishness whispered delightfully the charms of the abundant plain. Now, he would relinquish the mean idea of choosing the latter, and congratulate himself on his internal conquest. In the next moment, he would abandon the generous emotion, until, at length, covetousness having got full possession of his soul, he took the plain fair as the garden of Eden. O! how he would feel the stings of remorse, as, step by step, he withdrew from Abraham! His sin would appear exceedingly sinful; but his emotions were only transient.
Of the circumstances that followed the battle of the kings, as Lot was rather passive than active, we need not take any notice. Were we, indeed, desirous of amusement, the subject would admit of description and decoration. But our end is moral instruction.
The description given us of Sodom and Gomorrah proves the exceeding beauty and fertility of that region. The soil was very rich and the vegetation luxuriant and abundant. It had the advantage of a serene sky, and an almost vertical sun. And its streams were so abundant and numerous as to entitle the land to be called a "well-watered garden." The entailed curse, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," was scarcely felt there; for very little culture was required by the land. Surely then the inhabitants were as exempt from moral stain as the land was from the entailed curse! Surely this would be the golden age of comparative innocence and justice! Surely the lingering traces of
innocence as well as of fertility were here! No such thing. The people were "sinners before the Lord exceedingly." They surpassed and outdid all others in iniquity. Hear it, ye ends of the earth! This highly favoured people, whose land was full of all good temporal things, were empty of all spiritual good. Abundance begat ease, and relaxed the industry of labour: idleness gendered effeminacy; and a torpor of every intellectual perception, and an apathy of moral feeling were alone conspicuous. The most unnatural lusts were indulged without a blush. The awful purity and delicacy of Scripture language forbid the mention of their crimes, otherwise than in general terms. But we learn that they were such as to bring down a signal display of the divine vengeance; not only for the punishment of the guilty individuals, but also that as many as were afar off, and as many as were near, might know of a surety that the Lord, he is God; and cannot behold iniquity with any approbation or allowance.
Lot abode long among this people; and submitted to their company and acquaintance, that he might enjoy their temporal blessings. "Religion in the heart," saith one, "is like a spark kept alive in the ocean." When our situation is providential, we may confidently hope the divine aid. When we choose our own situation, and walk into danger with our eyes open, we must take the consequence. Wide is the difference between the confidence of faith and the presumption of folly. Two angels, set their faces toward Sodom, and arrived there in the evening. Lot was sitting in the gate of the city, and arose, on perceiving the strangers, to invite them into his house. His courteous invitation was at first declined; but at length they yielded to his importunity, and consented to turn aside with him.
Immediately an abundant repast was prepared for the strangers. The duty of hospitality is very highly rated in the east: and is the more necessary, since there are few caravansaries, or houses of public entertainment. The entertainment of strangers was considered a paramount duty, in every simple clan, insomuch that the host was bound to defend his guests with life. When the feast was concluded, and the family were about to retire for the night, a clamour was heard without of a mob demanding that the strangers should be brought out to them. Lot sought in vain to pacify them, with proposals carried to the most unjustifiable lengths. The rage of the people increasing, the angels came, and drew Lot within the house; and then smote the multitude with blindness; and, thereby, freed the family from any farther annoyance. The angels now informed Lot of the divine intention to destroy the cities of the plain. They urged him to leave the place; and to take with him all who were dear to him. He went to his sons-in-law; but he seemed to them "as one that mocked." They were much too wise to be disturbed. "And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city." Still Lot lingered. And it was not until after repeated admonitions, and a permission to tarry at Zoar, that he set out in good earnest.
On his arrival at Zoar, the awful judgment immediately took place. "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord, out of heaven." The plain was full of sulphur. Now the lightnings poured in sheets from above, the sulphur was inflamed. Probably some dreadful eruptions took place from the bowels of the earth; and