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merely passes in our own minds has in a manner no existence, and
may almost persuade ourselves to think we are innocent: but in the presence of God all such subterfuges are no better than the fig-leaves of our first parents. When he judgeth, he will over
Ver. 16-19. The men, as they are called, according to their appearance, now take leave of the tent, and go on their way towards Sodom. Abraham, loth to part with them, went in company, as if to bring them on their way. While they were walking together, Jehovah, in the form of a man, said unto the other two, (who appear to be created angels,) Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do? Two reasons are assigned for the contrary. First: The importance of his character. He was not only the friend of God, but the father of a great nation, in which God would have a special interest, and through which all other nations should be blessed. Let him be in the secret. Secondly : The good use he would make of it. Being previously disclosed to him, he would be the more deeply impressed by it: and according to his tried and approved conduct as the head of a family, would be concerned to impart it as a warning to his posterity in all future ages. As the wicked extract ill from good, so the righteous will extract good from ill. Sodom's destruction shall turn to Abraham's salvation : the monument of just vengeance against their crimes shall be of perpetual use to him and his posterity, and contribute even to the bringing of that good upon them, which the Lord had spoken concerning them. The special approbation with which God here speaks of family religion, stamps a divine authority upon it, and an infamy upon that religion, or rather irreligion, which dispenses with it.
Ver. 20, 21. JEHOVAH having resolved to communicate his design to Abraham, proceeds to inform him as follows: Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto me ; and if not, I will know. This language, though spoken after the manner of men, contains much serious and important instruction. It teaches us, that the most abandoned people are still the subjects of divine government, and must, sooner or later, give an account ; that impiety, sensuality, and injustice, are followed with a cry for retribution ; that this cry is often disregarded by earthly tribunals ; that where it is so, the prayers of the faithful, the
of the oppressed, and the blood of the slain, constitute a cry which ascendeth to heaven, and entereth into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth; and finally, that in executing judgment, though God will regard these cries, especially where they wax greater and greater, as this is afterwards said to have done ; yet, as they may be
partial and erroneous, be will not proceed by them as a rule, but will avail himself of his own omniscience, that the worst of characters may have no cause to complain of injustice.
Ver. 22–33. It is natural to suppose that the mind of Abraham must be forcibly impressed with this intimation. He would feel for his poor ungodly neighbours; but especially for Lot, and other righteous men whom he might hope would be found among them. At this juncture, the men, that is, two out of the three, (Chap. xix. 1.) went towards Sodom; but the third, who is called Jehovah, continued to converse with Abraham. The patriarch standing before him, and being now aware that he was in the presence of the Most High, addressed him in the language of prayer, or intercession. A remarkable intercession it is. We remark, (1.) Abraham makes a good use of his previous knowledge. Being made acquainted with the evil coming upon them, he stands in the gap, and labours all he can to avert it. They knew nothing : and if they had, no cries, except the shrieks of desperation, would bave been heard from them. It is good to have such a neighbour as Abraham ; and still better to have an Intercessor before the throne who is always heard. The conduct of the patriarch fur. nishes an example to all who have an interest at the throne of grace, to make use of it on behalf of their poor ungodly countrymen and neighbours. (2.) He does not plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake, or because it would be too severe a proceeding to destroy them; but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them. Had either of the other pleas been advanced, it had been siding with sinners against God, which Abrabam would never do. Wickedness shuts the mouth VOL. V.
of intercession; or if any should presume to speak, it would be of no account. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job should plead for the ungodly, they would not he heard. Righteousness only will bear to be made a plea before God. But how then, it may be asked, did Cbrist make intercession for transgressors ? Not by arraigning the divine law, nor by alleging aught in extenuation of human guilt; but by pleading his own obedience unto death! (3.) He cbaritably hopes the best with respect to the number of righteous characters even in Sodom. At the outset of his intercession, be certainly considered it as a possible case, at least, that there might be found in that wicked place fifty righteous : and though in this instance he was sadly mistaken, yet we may hope from hence that in those times there were many more righteous people in the world than those which are recorded in scripture. The scriptures do not profess to be a book of life, containing the names of all the faithful; but intimate, on the contrary, that God reserves to himself a people, who are but little known even by his own servants. (4.) God was willing to spare the worst of cities for the sake of a few righteous characters. This truth is as humiliating to the haughty enemies of religion, as it is encouraging to its friends ; and furnishes an important lesson to civil governments, to beware of undervaluing, and still more of persecuting and banishing, men whose concern it is to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.* Except the Lord of hosts had left us a remnant of such characters, we might ere now have been as Sodom, and made like onto Gomorrah! If ten righteous men had been found in Sodom, it had been spared for their sakes : but alas, there is no such number! God called Abraham to Haran, and when he left that place, mention is made, not only of the substance which he had gathered, but of the souls which he had gotten. But Lot, who went to Sodom of his own accord, though he also gathered substance, yet seems not, by his residence in the place, to have won a single soul to the worship of the true God.
* Chap. vi, 11. pp. 69, 70.
THE DESTRUETION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH.
Ver. 1, 2. The two angels who left Abraham communing with Jebovah, went on their way till they came to Sodom. Arriving at the city in the erening, the first person whom they saw appears to have been Lot, who was sitting alone, it should seem, at the gate of the city. They had found Abraham also sitting alone, but it was at his own tent door. Lot, whose house was in the city, bad probably no place where he could be out of the hearing of those whose conversation vexed his righteous soul : he therefore took a walk in the evening, and sat down without the city gate, where he might spend an hour in retirement. Seeing two strangers coming up to him, he behaved in much the same courteous and hospitable manner as Abraham had done. Bowing himself with his face towards the ground, he said, Behold now, my lords ; turn in I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. This was lovely; and the contrast between this and the conduct of his neighbours shows, what was suggested in the former chaper, the genuine fruits of true religion. What is said to be the customary hospitality of the age and country, was far from being practised by the other inhabitants of Sodom. But, though Lot bad given them so kind an invitation, they seemed determined not to accept of it-Nay, said they, but we will abide in the street all night. This might be either for the purpose of being eye-witnesses of the conduct of the citizens, or to express their abhorrence of the general character of the city ; as when the prophet of Judah
was sent to Bethel, he was forbidden either to eat bread, or drink water, in that place. 1 Kings xiii. 8-17.
Ver. 3. After being greatly pressed, however, by Lot, they yielded to his importunity, and entered into his house ; where he made them a feast, as Abraham had done, and they did eat.
Ver. 4, 5. But while things were going on well with respect to Lot, the baseness of his neighbours soon betrayed itself. A little before bed-time they beset the house; not for the purpose of robbing, or insulting them in any of the ordinary ways of brutal outrage--this bad been bad enough, especially to strangers—but to perpetrate a species of crime too shocking and detestable to be named; a species of crime wbich indeed bas no name given it in the scriptures, but what is borrowed from this infamous place.
Ver. 6—9. The conduct of Lot, in going out and expostulating with them, was in several respects praiseworthy. His shutting the door after him, expressed how delicately he felt for his guests, though at present he does not appear to bave considered them in any other light than strangers. It was saying in effect, “Let not their ears be offended with what passes abroad; whatever is scurrilous, obscene, or abusive, let me hear it, but not them. His gentle and respectful manner of treating this worst of mobs, is also worthy of notice. He could not respect them on the score of character; but he would try and do so, as being still his fellow creatures and near neighbours. As such he calls them brethren, no doubt boping, by such conciliating language, to dissuade them from their wicked purpose. But when, to turn off their attention from his guests, he proposes the bringing out of his daughters to them, be appears to have gone too far. It is not for us to go into a less evil, in the hope of preventing a greater ; but rather to consent to no evil. It might be owing to the perturbation of his
. mind ; but probably, if he had not lived in Sodom till his mind was almost familiarized to obscenity, he would not have made such a proposal. Nor had it any good effect. He only got him. self more abused for it; and even his gentle remonstrance was perversely construed into obtrusive forwardness, and setting himself up for a judge, who was merely a sojourner among them. Persuasion has no force with men who are under the dominion of