(Luke xvii. 32.)
A Communication over my signature, on the above words, was published in the Signs Of The Times in 1891, but by request of a dear sister in Canada I will write again on the same subject, although my views remain unchanged. After I was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry I fully decided in my mind that I would not use the same Scripture the second time as a text, but in looking over the things in the storehouse of my memory I find a large pile of unfulfilled promises. I find also in that storehouse a promise that I will be more careful in the future in making promises, for I have discovered that (notwithstanding the good intention) all such promises are of the flesh, and therefore do not endure.
The words quoted are the words of Jesus, which he preached to his disciples in the days of his flesh, when he told them of the dreadful things that should happen in his last days upon the earth, in which he reminded them of the days of Noe, when the flood destroyed the living upon the face of the earth, except the eight souls saved in the ark, and also reminded them of the destruction of Sodom, and of the four righteous who were saved therefrom. In which connection he enjoins upon them to “Remember Lot’s wife.” These are solemn words, deep with warning, yet full of precious promise.
“Remember.” What a flood of memories break in upon us at this word from the Lord! We scan the pages of the book of our unprofitable life, in which our weaknesses and infirmities are laid bare, and with the dear old prophet of old, “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” We remember the Ebenezers and Bethels set up along our pathway, to remind us that there the Lord remembered us in mercy, restrained our evil passions and kept us from sure destruction. Just before the death of Moses, he wrote that memorable song as recorded in Deuteronomy xxxii.; he embodied these words: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” By that process which we call christian experience we are made to remember that we are dust. We remember, too, his marvelous works which he hath wrought in us. We remember the name of the Lord, for in his name we obtain mercy. We remember when we were poor, blind beggars, and he took us from the dunghill and set us among princes. But why “Remember Lot’s wife “! Does it not correspond with our own travel from darkness to light? Her’s is a character that has stood throughout all ages as a memorial to poor pilgrims who pass that way, and as our minds are brought to contemplate the sad result of her disobedience, so the very remembrance is a lesson learned to the girding up of our loins, and although we have to learn the lesson many times, yet each time we remember we are still strengthened to hold on our way. In this character which we are to remember, there are three things to be considered: first, the wicked city from which the woman fled; second, the act of disobedience and its results; third, the working of all the circumstances together for good to them that love God. Sodom represents clearly “the whole world [which] lieth in wickedness.” A city doomed to destruction; a multitude of people, all actuated by the same spirit of the flesh, eating and drinking, giving in marriage, seeking riches and honor and glory unto themselves, fulfilling the desires and lusts of the flesh, loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. In that wicked city, as in the world in all ages, there was a little remnant according to the election of grace, (Lot and his family) they were in the city, yet not of it. The things which they loved the people of the city hated (righteousness and holiness); they lived unto themselves quietly and peaceably, giving no cause for the exhibition of hatred and spitefulness which was manifested by the people of the city. In other words, the church was the hidden treasure in the field of the world of that wicked city, which was to be sought out by the angels of God who visited Abraham on their way to destroy the city. Abraham, a patriarch of God, pleaded for the little city within the great wicked city, and his prayers were answered. Every child that is born of God (from above) of the generation of Jesus Christ, is baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The stronger man cometh and binds the strong man and destroys his goods (burns the wicked city), and the child escapes through the avenue of grace.
The act of disobedience and its results: The angels of God came to Sodom, found the little remnant in the great city, warned them to flee from the wrath to come. After receiving the message, Lot visited his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, saying, “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one who mocked unto his sons in law.” Only the circumcised in heart can receive the warning messages of love and mercy from the Lord. Then the angels said to Lot, “Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.” When they had gotten them out of the city, and out of the plain round about, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” It was at this dreadful time that Lot’s wife “looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” By which kingdom we understand him to mean, not the heaven of immortal glory, but the kingdom which he has set up within us. Let us try for a moment to enter into the feelings of that poor, heartbroken mother, when she turned her back upon her own daughters who were left in the burning city. When each one of us has been called upon to deny ourself and take up our cross, surely the thing which is the hardest for us to turn away from is that which we have loved the most in the flesh, that which has entwined itself most closely about our heart, that which is a part of our very life. In the case of Lot’s wife every natural mother will truly say, I would have done as she did. Let us then remember her in her affection, her weakness, and the love which was hers naturally for her children. Can any one of us say, I am strong, I have never looked back! Then does not our fellowship go out to this poor woman in her weakness! “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” This she did in direct disobedience of the commandment of the angel of the Lord, who said: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” The becoming a pillar of salt is of the most important significance, it stands as an unalterable truth in proof of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Let us remember her always as “salt,” and every grain of salt has full fellowship for every other grain, and however much it loses its savor by and through disobedience, it continues always to be salt, it never changes to some other substance. The causes therefore by which the savor of the salt is lost are those which bring tribulation, sorrow and affliction upon the fleeing one from the burning city. In the hour of weakness he falls from his first estate, he looks back to the place from whence he came; his comfort and joy and consolation are all taken from him, and he becomes a standing pillar of warning, and of remembrance of his own weakness, and a memorial of the tender forbearance and pity and compassion and loving-kindness of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore all who pass by the “pillar of salt” will “Remember Lot’s wife,” not with censure and derision, but with love, forbearance and tender pity, as doth the Father. When we think we are strong, and may not fall from looking back, then do we discover how weak we are. Often are we unconscious how strong are the earthly ties which are pulling us away and making ns unfit for the kingdom. It is a hard thing to say, yet it is true, that there are some of the Lord’s people who (by reason of their peculiar weaknesses) cannot live in the visible church, yet the fellowship of the Spirit remains and is never destroyed. The working of all the circumstances together for good to them that love God. This is marvelous in our eyes, to think that we are recipients of such wondrous grace. Whether we sorrow or whether we rejoice, the circumstances which lead to either condition work for our ultimate good. The peculiar character of the conditions which led the wife of Lot to disobey in looking back does not make the sin less sinful; so in the rejoinder to remember her we are to look beyond the mere fact that it was one of the salt of the earth who looked back, but we must look to the inner life of her who yielded to great and manifold temptations, even greater than any presented to us, and we have fallen. We often make the mistake of looking tor perfection in our brethren; all our perfection is in Christ Jesus the Lord. The righteousness with which we are clothed as children of the Most High is the righteousness of Christ; it was because of this that Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt, and not to a pillar of some other material. Out of the carcass of the lion Sampson obtained sweet honey; so the treasure of the, sweet and rich grace of our God is found in earthen vessels, “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” So, remembering Lot’s wife, may we by strength of grace be enabled to gird up our loins, press forward and turn not back.
B. F. COULTER.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 11
JUNE 1, 1908.