The words are few, and the sentence short; no one in Scripture so short. But it fareth with sentences as with coins, they that in smallest compass contain greatest value are best esteemed; and in sentences, those that in fewest words comprise most matter, are most praised. Which, as of all sentences it is true; so specially of those that are marked with memento. In them, the shorter the better, and the carried away, and the better kept; and the better called for when we need it. And such is this here; of rich contents, and withal exceeding, compendious. So that, we must needs be without all excuse, it being but three words and but five syllables, if we do not remember it.
The sentence is our Saviour's, uttered by Him upon this occasion. Before in verse 18, He had said that 'the days of the Son of Man should be as the days of Lot,' in two respects: 1. In respect of the suddenness of the destruction that should come; 2. and in respect of the security of the people on whom it should come. For the Sodomites laughed at it; and Lot's wife, it should seem, but slightly regarded it. Being then in Lot's story, very fitly and by good consequence out of that story, He leaveth us a memento before He leaveth it.
[61/62] There are in Lot's story two very notable monuments of God's judgment. 1. The lake of Sodom and 2. Lot's wife's pillar. The one, for punishment of resolute sin; the other of faint virtue. For the Sodomites are an example of impenitent wilful sinners; and Lot's wife of imperseverant and relapsing righteous persons. Both these are in it; but Christ, of both these, taketh the latter only. For two sorts of men there are, for which these two items are to be fitted: 1. To those in state of sin that are wrong, the lake of Sodom. 2. To those in state of grace that are well, if so they keep them, Lot's wife's pillar. To the first in state of sin, Moses propoundeth 'the vine of Sodom and grapes of Gomorrah', quæ contacta cinerescunt, 'that if ye but touch them turn to ashes.' To the other in state of grace, Christ here, Lot's wife's pillar. To the one Jeremy crieth, qui cecidit, adjiciat ut resurgat. To the other St. Paul, Qui stat, videat ne cadat. Agar, that is departed from Abraham's house with her toward Egypt, the Angel calleth to return, and not to persevere: Lot's wife, that is gone out of Sodom, and in the right way to Zoar, the Angel willeth to persevere and not to return. So that to them this memento is by Christ directed, that being departed from the errors of Ur are gone out from the sins of Sodom, are entered into the profession of the truth, or into the course of a virtuous life. So that, if we lay it ourselves, we shall lay it upright; that Lot's wife be our example, and that we sprinkle ourselves with the salt of her pillar, ne putrescamus, that we turn not again to folly, or fall away from our steadfastness. And, if it be meant to us, needful it is that we receive it. A point no doubt of important consideration and necessity, as well for religion to call on, as for our nature to hear of. First, for religion: her glory it is no less to be able to shew antiquos Discipulos, 'old professors,' as Manson was, than daily to convert and make new proselytes. And therefore, with Christ, we must not ever be dealing with venite ad me; but sometimes too, with manete in me. That hath his place--not ever with stimuli, 'goads' to incite mento, but otherwhile with clavi, 'nails' to fasten them in. For, as nature hath thought requisite as well the breasts to bring up as the womb to bring forth; and philosophy holdeth tueri of [62/63] no less regard than quærere; and with the lawyers, habendum is not the only thing, but tenendum needful too; and the physician as careful of the regiment, and fearful of the recidivation [=relapse], as of the disease and cure; so Divinity is respective to both--both to lay the groundwork surely, ne corruat, 'that it shake not' with Esay's nisi credideritis, and to roof it carefully, ne perpluat, 'that it rain not through' and rot the principals, with Paul's si permanseris, alioquin excideris et tu.
Needful then for religion, to call on this virtue; and as for religion to call on, so for our nature to be called on. Wherein there is tenellum quid, 'a tender part' not able to endure the cross, for which we need the virtue of patience; so is there also £yikoro/u ti a flitting humour, not able to endure the tediousness of anything long; for which we no less need the virtue of perseverance. The Prophet, in the seventy-eighth Psalm, saith, our nature is as a bow, which, when it is bent to his full, except it be followed hard till it be sure and fast, starts back again, and is as far off as ever it was. The Apostle compareth it to 'flesh,' as it is, which will sine sale putrescere, and if it be not corned, of itself bringeth forth corruption. And to help this our evil inclination forward, there be in all ages dangerous examples to draw us on. The Israelites, after they had passed the Red Sea and all the perils of the desert, and were now come even to the borders of Canaan, even there say, Bene nobis erat in Ægypto, 'We were better in Egypt;' 'let us make a captain and return thither.' The Romans, in the New, as the first so glorious professors that St. Paul saith, 'All the world spoke of their faith, after, when trouble arose,' and St. Paul was called coram, of the same Romans he saith, 'None stood by me, all shrunk away.'
And in these dangerous days of ours, the falling away quite of divers, and some such as have said of themselves with Peter, Esti omnes, non ego; and others have said of them, Esti omnes, non ille. The declining of others, which, as Daniel's image, decay by degrees; from a head of fine gold fall to a silver breast, and from thence to loins of brass, and thence to legs of iron, and last to feet of clay; The wavering and amaze of others that stand in the plain with Lot's wife, looking about, and cannot tell whether to go forward to little Zoar [63/64] or back again to the ease of Sodom; shew plainly that Lot's wife is forgotten, and this is a needful memento, 'Remember Lot's wife.' If then it be ours, and so nearly concern us, let us see, quantum valent hæ quinque syllabæ.
I. First, Christ sending our memory to a story past; of the use of remembering stories in general.
II. Secondly, Of this particular of Lot's wife, and the points to be remembered in it.
III. Thirdly, How to apply those points, that, as St. Augustine saith, condiant nos, ut sal statuæ sit nobis condimentum vitæ, 'that the salt of this pillar may be the season of our lives.'
The Prophet Esay doth call us that stand in this place, the Lord's remembrancers; as to God for the people by the office of prayers, so from God to the people by the office of preaching. In which office of preaching, we are employed as much about recognosce, as about cognosce; as much in calling to their minds the things they know and have forgot, as in teaching them the things they know not, or never learnt. The things are many we have commission to put men in mind of. Some touching themselves; for it is many times too true which the philosopher saith; Nihil tam longe abest a nobis quam ipsi nos, 'Nothing is so far from our minds, as we ourselves.' For naturally, as saith the Apostle, we do para¸¸Úeiiu, 'leak and run out;' and when we have looked in the glass, we straight 'forget our fashion again.' Therefore we have in charge to put men in mind of many things, and to call upon them with divers mementos. Memento quia sicut lutum tu, remember the baseness the frailness of our life how short it is.' Memento tenebrosi temporis, 'remember the days of darkness are coming,' and they be many. All which we know well enough, and yet need to be put in mind of them.
But the storehouse, and the very life of memory, is the history of time; and a special charge have we, all along the Scriptures, to call upon men to look to that. For all our wisdom consisting either in experience or memory--experience of our own, or memory of others, our days are so short, that our experience can be but slender; tantum hesterni sumus, saith Job, and our own time cannot afford us observations [64/65] enough for so many cases as we need direction in. Needs must we then, as he here adviseth, interrogare generationeme pristiam, 'ask the former age,' what they did in like case; search the records of former times, wherein our cases we shall be able to match, and to pattern them all. Solomon saith excellently, Quid est quod fuit? Quod futurum est. 'What is that that hath been? That that shall be.' And back again, What is that that shall be? That that been. Et nihil novum est sub sole, 'and there is nothing under the sun' of which it may be said, It is new, but it hath been already in the former generations. So that it is but turning the wheel, and setting before us some case of antiquity which may sample ours, and either remembering to follow if it fell out well, or eschew it if the success were thereafter. For example, By Abimilech's story King David reproveth his captains for pursuing the enemy too near the wall, seeing Abimelech miscarried by like adventure; and so maketh use of remembering Abimilech. And by David's example, that in want of all other bread, refused not the shew-bread, Christ our Saviour defendeth His disciples in like distress, and sheweth that, upon such extremity, necessitas doth even legem Legi dicere, 'give a law even to the Law itself.'
Seven several times we are called upon to do it: 1. Memento dierum antiquorum, saith Moses. 2. Recordamini prioris Seculi--Esay. 3. State super vias antiquas--Jeremy. 4. Investiga patrum memoriam--Job. 5. Exemplum sumite Prophetas--James. 6. Rememoramini dies priscos--Paul. 7. Remember Lot's wife--Christ here; that is, to lay our actions to those we find there, and of the like doings to look for like ends. So read stories past, as we make not ourselves matter for story to come.
Now of and among them all, all our Saviour Christ after a special manner commendeth unto us this of Lot's wife. Of which thus much we may say, that is is the only one story, which of all the stories of the Old Testament He maketh His choice of, to put in His memento; which He would have them which have forgotten to remember, and those that remember never to forget, Oft to repair to this story, and to fetch salt from this pillar: that they lose not that they have done, and so perish in the recidivation of Lot's wife.
[65/66] Then to descend into the particulars. I find in stories two sorts of memento 1. Memento et fac, 'remember to follow;' 2. Memento et fuge, 'remember to fly the like.' Mary Magdalene's ointment, an example of one; Lot's wife saltstone, an example of the other. Or to keep us to this story, Lot looked not back, till he came safe to Zoar: memento et fac. Lot's wife did, and died for it: memento et fuge.
The verse before sheweth, why Christ laid the memento upon her. Mº karabb£tw mº episrey£tw, that we should not turn or return back, as she did; that we should not follow her, but when we come at this pillar, turn at it and take another way. That is, we should 'remember Lot's wife,' but follow Lot; remember her, but follow him.
Now in either of both mementos, to follow, or to fly, we always enquire of two points, and so here, 1. quid fecit, 2. quid passa est; what they did whose story we read, and how they sped--the fact and the effect. The fact, vice or virtue; the effect, reward or punishment.
Both which concerning this unfortunate woman we find set down in one verse, in the nineteenth verse of Genesis, what she did; 'that she drew back,' or 'looked back'--this was her sin. The effect, that she was turned into a salt stone; this was her punishment. And these two are the two memoranda concerning her to be remembered. First of her fault.
The Angel had given charge to Lot and his company, in the seventeenth of that chapter, 'Scape for your life, stay not in the plain, look not once behind thee lest thou perish.' 'Scape with your life'--She trifled for all that as if no peril were. 'Stay not on the plain,' yet stayed she behind. 'Look not back lest thou die.' She would and did look back, to die for it. So that she did all that she was forbidden, and regarded none of the Angel's words, but despised the counsel of God against her own soul. This was her sin, the sin of disobedience, but consisteth of sundry degrees by which she fell, needful all to be remembered.
1. The first was that she did not severe custodire mandatum Dei, 'strictly keep her to the Angel's charge,' but dallied with it and regarded it by halves; that is, say what he would, she might use the matter as she would; go, or stay and look [66/67] about as she list. Such light regard is like enough to have grown of a wandering distrust; lest happly, she had left Sodom in vain, and the Angel feared them with that which should never be. The sun rose so clear and it was so goodly a morning, she repented she came away. Reckoning her sons-in-law more wise in staying still, than Lot and herself in so unwisely departing. Which is the sin of unbelief, the bane both of constancy and perseverance. Constancy in the purpose of our mind, and perseverance in the tenor of our life.
2. From this grew the second. That she began to tire and draw behind, and kept not pace with Lot and the Angels. An evil sign. For ever fainting is next step to forsaking; and sequebatar a longe, a preparative to a giving clean over. Occasionem quærit, saith Solomon, qui vult discedere an amici, 'he that hath not list to follow, will pick some quarrel or other to be cast behind.'
3. This tiring, had it grown of weakness or weariness or want of breath, might have been borne with; but it came of another cause, which is the third degree. It was, saith the text, at least to look back, and to cast her eye to the place her soul longed after. Which sheweth, that the love of Sodom sticked in her still; that though her feet were come from thence, her heart stayed there behind; and that in look and thought she returned thither, whither in body she might not; but possibly would in body too, if as Nineveh did, so Sodom had still remained.
4. Looking back might proceed of divers causes, so might this of hers, but that Christ's application directs us. The verse before saith, 'Somewhat in the house;' something left behind affected her, of which He giveth us warning. She grew weary of trouble, and of shifting so often. From Ur to Haran; thence to Canaan; thence to Egypt; thence to Canaan again; then to Sodom, and now to Zoar; and that, in her old days, when she would fainest have been at rest. Therefore, in this wearisome conceit of new trouble now to begin, and withal remembering the convenient seat she had in Sodom, she even desired to die by her flesh-pots, and to be buried in 'the graves of lusts;' wished them at Zoar that would, and herself at Sodom again, desiring rather to end her life [67/68] with ease in that stately city, than to remove, and be safe perhaps, and perhaps not in the desolate mountains. And this was the sin of restlessness of soul, which affected her eyes and knees, and was the cause of all the former. When men weary of a good cause which long they have holden, for a little ease or wealth, or I wot not what other secular respect fall away in the end; so losing the praise and fruit of their former perseverance, and relapsing into the danger and destruction from which they had so near escaped.
Behold, these were the sins of Lot's wife, a wavering of mind, slow steps, the convulsion of her neck: all these caused her weariness and fear of new trouble--she preferred Sodom's ease before Zoar's safety, 'Remember Lot's wife.'
This was her sin; and this her sin was in her made much heinous by a double circumstance, well worth the remembering; as ever weighty circumstances are matter of special regard, in a story specially. 1. One, that she fell after she had stood long. 2. The other, that she fell even then, when God by all means offered her safety, and so 'forsook her own mercy.'
Touching the first. These 'winter brooks,' as Job termeth flitting, desultory, Christians, if they dry; these 'summer fruits,' as Amos, if they putrify; these 'morning clouds,' as Hosea, if they scatter; these 'shallow rooted corn,' if they wither and come to nothing, it is the less grief. No man looked for other. Pharaoh with his fits, that at every plague sent upon him is godly on a sudden, and 'O pray for me now;' and when it is gone, as profane as ever he was, beginning nine times, and nine times breaking off again;--he moves not much. To go farther. Saul that for two years, Judas that for three, Nero that for five kept well, and then fell away, though it be much yet may it be borne. But this woman had continued now thirty years, for so they reckon from Abraham's going out of Ur to the destruction of Sodom. This, this is the grief, that she should persist all this time, and after all this time fall away. The rather, if we consider yet further, that not only she continued many years, but sustained many things in her continuance, as being companion of Abraham and Lot in their exile, their travel, and all their affliction. This is the grief, that after all these storms in the [68/69] broad sea well passed, she should in this pitiful manner be wrecked in the haven. And when she had been in Egypt, and not poisoned with the superstitions of Egypt; when lived in Sodom, and not defiled with the sins of Sodom; not fallen away for the famine of Canaan, nor taken harm by the fullness of the city of the plain; after all this, she would lose the fruit of all this, and do and suffer so many things all in vain; this is the first. Remember it.
The second is no whit inferior; that at that instant she woefully perished, when God's special favour was proffered to preserve her; and that when of all other times she had means and cause to stand, then of all other times she fell away. Many were the mercies she found and felt at God's hands by this very title, that she was Lot's wife. For by it she was incorporated into the house and family, and made partaker of the blessings of the faithful Abraham. It was a mercy to be delivered from the errors of Ur; a mercy, to be kept safe in Egypt; a mercy, to be preserved from the sin of Sodom; a mercy, to be delivered from the captivity of the five kings; and this the last and greatest mercy, that she was sought to be delivered from the perishing of the five cities. This no doubt doth mightily aggravate the offence, that so many ways before remembered by God in trouble, she so coldly remembered Him; and that now presently, being offered grace, she knoweth not the day of her visitation; but being brought out of Sodom, and warned of the danger that might ensue, having the Angels to go before her, Lot to bear her company, her daughters to attend her, and being now at the entrance of Zoar, the haven of her rest; this very time, place, and presence, she maketh choice of to perish in, and to cast away that which God would have saved; in respect of herself, desperately; of the Angels, contemptuously; of her husband and daughters, scandalously; of God and His favours, unthankfully; forsaking her own mercy, and perishing in the sin of wilful defection.
'Remember Lot's wife,' and these two; 1. That she 'looked back,' after so long time, and so many sufferings. 2. That she 'looked back,' after so many, so merciful, and so mighty protections. And remember this withal, and so mighty protections. And remember this withal. that she 'looked back' only, and went not back; it would, it may be, [69/70] but that it was all on fire. But, whether she would or no, or whether we do or no, this forethinking ourselves we be gone out, this faint proceeding, this staying in the plain, this convulsion of the neck, and writhing the eyes back; this irresolute wavering, whether we should choose either bodily pleasures in perishing Sodom, or the safety of our souls in little Zoar, was her sin; and this is the sin of so many as stand as she stood, and look as she looked, though they go not back; but if they go back too, they shall justify her, and heap upon themselves a more heavy condemnation. So much for the sin, which we should remember to avoid.
Now for her punishment, which we must remember to escape.
This relapse in this manner, that the world might know it to be a sin highly displeasing His majesty, God hath not only marked it for a sin, but salted it too, that it might never be forgotten.
The wages and punishment of this sin of hers was it, which is 'the wages of all sin,' that is, 'death.' Death in her sure worthily, that refused life with so easy conditions, as the holding of her head still, and would needs looks back and die.
The sound of death is fearful, what death soever; yet it is made more fearful four ways, which all be in this of hers.
1. We desire to die with respite: and sudden death we fear, and pray against. Her death was sudden;--back she looked, and never looked forward more. It was her last look.
2. We desire to have remorse of sin ere we be taken away; and death, in the very act of sin, is most dangerous. Her death was so. She died in the very convulsion; she died with her face to Sodom.
3. We would die 'the common death of mankind, and be visited after the visitation of other men;' and an unusual strange death is full of terror. Here was so. God's own hand from Heaven, by a strange and fearful visitation.
4. Our wish is to die, and to be buried, and not to remain a spectacle above ground, which nature abhorreth. She so died as she remained a spectacle of God's wrath, and a by-word to posterity, and as many as passed by. For until Christ's time, and after, this monument was still extant, and remained underfaced so many hundred years. Josephus, a writer of good [70/71] account, which lived after this, saith Isto/rrhka a_t»u e"ti g_r k_i uûu diaame/uei: 'I myself have seen and beholden it, for it stands to be seen to this day.' A reed she was; a pillar she is, which she seemed to be but was not. She was melting water; she is congealed to salt. Thus have we both her fault and punishment. Let us remember both; to shun the fault, that the penalty light not on us.
Now this pillar was erected, and this verdure given it, for our sakes. For, among the ways that the wisdom of God uses to dispose of the sin of man, and out of evil to draw good, this is one and a chief one, that He suffereth not their evil examples to vanish as a shadow, but maketh them to stand as pillars for ages to come, with the heathen man's inscription: Ej eme/ tij _re/wu eÙseb»j e"dtw. 'look on me, and learn by me to serve God better.'
And an high benefit it is for us, that He not only embalmeth the memory of the just for our imitation, but also powdereth and maketh brine of the evil for our admonition; that as a scent from Mary Magdalene's ointment, so a relish from Lot's wife pillar, should remain to all posterity.
Profane persons, in their perishing, God could dash to pieces, and root out their remembrances from off the earth. He doth not, but suffereth their quarters, as it were, to be set up in stories, ut pæna impii sit eruditio justi, 'that their punishment may be our advertisement.' Poureth not out their blood, nor casts it away, but saves if for a bath, ut lavet justus pedes in sanguine peccatoris, that the righteous may wash their footsteps in the blood of the ungodly;' that 1all,' even the ruin of the wicked, 'may cooperate to the good of them that fear God.' This woman, in her inconstancy, could He have sunk into the earth, or blown up as saltpetre, that no remembrance should have remained of her. He doth not, but for us and for our sakes He erecteth a pillar: and not a pillar only to point and gaze at, but a 'pillar or rock of salt,' whence we may and must fetch wherewith to season whatsoever is unsavoury in our lives. And this, this, is the life and soul of memory; this is wisdom--the art of extracting salt out of the wicked, triacle out of vipers, our own happiness out of aliena pericula; and to make those that were unprofitable to themselves, profitable to us. For sure, though Lot's wife [71/72] was evil, her salt is good. Let us see then how to make her evil our good; see if we can draw any savoury thing from this example.
1. That which we should draw out, is perseverance, Muria virtutum, as Gregory calleth it, 'the preserver of virtues,' without which, as summer fruits, they will perish and putrify; the salt of the covenant, without which the flesh of our sacrifice will take wind and corrupt. But St. Augustine better, Regina virtutum, 'the Queen of virtues;' for that, howsoever the rest run and strive and do masteries, yet perseverantia sola coronatur, 'perseverance is the only crowned virtue.'
2. Now perseverance we shall attain, if we can possess our souls with due care, and rid them of security. Of Lot's wife's security, as of water, was this salt here made. And if security, as water, do but touch it, it melts away presently. But care will make us fix our eye, and gather up our feet, and forgetting that which is behind, tendere in anteriora, 'to follow hard towards the prize of our high calling.'
3. And, to avoid security, and to breed in us due care, St. Bernard saith, Fear will do it. Vis in timore securus esse? securitatem time; 'the only way to be secure in fear, is to fear security.' St. Paul had given the same counsel before, that to preserve si permanseris, no better advice than noli altum sapere, sed time.
Now, from her story these considerations are yielded, each one as an handful of salt to keep us, and to make us keep.
First, that we see, as of Christ's twelve which He had sorted and selected from the rest, one miscarried: et illum gregem non timuit lupus intrare, 'and that the wolf feared not to seize, no, not upon that flock;' and as of Noah's eight that were saved from the flood, one fell away too; so, that of Lot's four here, and but four in all, all came not to Zoar--one came short. So that of twelve, of eight, of four; yea, a little after, of two, one is refused; that we may remember, few there be that scape from Sodom in the Angel's company; and of those, few though they be, all are not safe neither. Who would not fear, if one may perish in the company of angels!
Secondly, that as one miscarrieth, so not every one, but one that had continued so long, and suffered so many [72/73] things, and after all this continuance, and all these sufferings, falls from her estate, and turns all out and in; and by the inconstancy of one hour maketh void the perseverance of so many years, and as Ezekiel saith, 'In the day they turn away to iniquity, all the former righteousness they have done, shall not be remembered.'
Thirdly, that as she perisheth, so at the same time that Sodom; she by it, and it by her. That one end cometh to the sinner without repentance, and to the just without perseverance. One end to the abomination of Sodom, and to the recidivation of Lot's wife. Et non egredientes, et egredientes respicientes; 'they that go not out of her perish, and they that go out of her perish too if they look back.' Lacus Asphalities is a monument of the one; Lot's wife's salt-stone a memorial of the other.
Lastly, that as one perisheth, and that such an one, so that she perisheth at the gates, even hard at the entry of Zoar; which of all other is most fearful--so near her safety, so hard at the gates of her deliverance; remember, that near to Zoar gates there stands a salt-stone.
These very thoughts, what her case was these four ways, and what ours may be who are no better than she was, will search us like salt, and teach us, that as, if we remember what we have been, we may, saith St. Bernard, erubescere; so, if we remember what we may be, we may contremiscere; that we see our beginnings, but see not our ending; we see our stadium, not our dolichum. And that, as we have great need to pray with the prophet: 'Thou have taught me from my youth up until now--forsake me not in my old age, now when I am grey-headed;' so we had need stir up our care of continuing, seeing we see it is nothing to begin except we continue; nor to continue, except we do it to the end.
Remember, we make not light account of the Angel's serva animan tuuam; blessing ourselves in our hearts, and saying, non fiet tibi hoc; we shall come safe, go we never so soft, Zoar will not run away.
Remember, we be not weary to go whither God would have us--not to Zoar, though a little one, if our soul may there live; and never buy the ease of our body, with the [73/74] hazard of our soul, or a few days of vanity with the loss of eternity.
Remember, we slack not our pace, nor stand still on the plain. For if we stand still, by still standing we are meet to be made a pillar, even to stand still, and never to remove.
Remember, we look not back, either with her on the vain delights of Sodom left; or with St. Peter on St.John behind us, to say, Domine, Quid iste? both will make us forget our following. 'None that casteth his eye the other way,' eßqetoj, 'meet' as he should be, 'meet for the Kingdom of God.'
But specially remember we leave not our heart behind us, but that we take that with us, when we go out of Sodom; for if that stay, it will stay the feet, and writhe the eye, and neither the one or the other will do their duty. Remember, that our heart wander not, that our heart long not. This care, if it be fervent, will bring us perseverance.
Now, that we may the better learn somewhat out of her punishment too; let us also, that as to her, so to us, God may send some unusual visitation, and take us suddenly away, and in the act of sin too.
Remember the danger and damage; it is no less matter we are about, than perdet animam. Which if we do, we frustrate and forfeit all the fruit of our former well-continued course; all we have done is vain. Yes all that Christ hath done for us is in vain; Whose pains and sufferings we ought specially to tender, knowing that supra omnem laborem labor irritus, 'no labour to lost labour;' and Christ then has lost His labour for us.
Remember the folly; that 'beginning in the Spirit' we 'end in the flesh;' turning our backs to Zoar, we turn our face to Sodom; joining to a head of fine gold feet of clay, and to a precious foundation a covering of thatch.
Remember the disgrace; that we shall lose our credit and account while we live, and shall hear that of Christ, Hic homo, and that other, Quid existis in desertum videre? 'A reed shaken with the wind.'
Remember the scandal; that, falling ourselves, we shall be a block for to make others full; a sin no lighter, no less, nor lighter than a mill-stone.
[74/75] Remember the infamy; that we shall leave our memory remaining in stories, among Lot's wife, and Job's wife, Demas and Ecebolius, and the number of relapsed, there to stand to be pointed at, no less than this heap of salt.
Remember the judgment that is upon them after their relapse, though they live that they do even with her here obrigescere, 'wax hard and numb,' and serve others for a caveat, wholly unprofitable for themselves.
Remember the difficulty of reclaiming to good; 'seven evil spirits' entering instead of one, that their 'last state is worse than the first.'
And lastly, remember that we shall justify Sodom by so doing, and her frozen sin shall condemn our melting virtue. For they in the wilfulness of their wickedness persisted till fire from Heaven consumed them; and they being thus obdurate in sin ought not she, and we much more, to be constant in virtue? And if the drunkard hold out till he have lost his eyes, the unclean person till he have wasted his loins, the contentious till he have consumed his wealth, Quis pudor quod infelix populus Dei non habet tantam in bono perseverantiam, quantam mali in malo! 'What shame is it, that God's unhappy people should not be as constant in virtue, as these miscreants have been, and be in vice!'
Each of these by itself, all these put together will make a full memento, which if she had remembered, she had been a pillar of light in Heaven, not of salt on earth. It is too late for he--we in due time yet may remember it.
And when we have remembered these, remember Christ too that gave the memento; that He calleth Himself Alpha and Omega, not only Alpha for His happy beginning, but Omega for His thrice happy ending. For that He left us not, nor gave over the work of our redemption, till He brought it to consummatum est. And that on our part, summa religionis est imitari Quem colis, 'the highest act of religion, is for the Christian to conform himself, not to Lot's wife, but to Christ, Whose name he weareth.' And though versus amor non sumit vires de spe, 'true love indeed receiveth no manner strength from hope,' but, though it hope for nothing, loveth nevertheless; yet to quicken our love, which often is but faint, and for a full memento, remember the reward. Remember how [75/76] Christ will remember us for it; which shall not be the wages of an hireling, or least-wise for time, and term of years, but aiïej aièuwu, eternity itself, never to expire, end, or determine, but to last and endure for ever and ever.
But this rewards, saith Ezekiel, is for those, whose foreheads are marked with Tau, which, as Omega in Greek, is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and the mark of consummatum est among them; they only shall escape the wrath to come. And this crown is laid up for them, not of whom it may be said, currebatis bene, 'ye did run well;' but for those that can say with St. Paul, cursum consummavi, 'I have finished my course well.'
And, thanks be to God, we have not hitherto wanted this salt, but remembered Lot's wife well. So that this exhortation, because we have prevented and done that which it calleth for, changeth his nature and becometh a commendation, as all others do. A commendation I say; yet not so much of the people, whose only felicity is to serve and be subject to one that is constant--for otherwise we know how wavering a thing the multitude is--as of the Prince, whose constant standing giveth strength to many a weak knee otherwise. And blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we stand in the presence of such a Prince, who hath ever accounted of perseverance, not only as of Regina virtutum, 'the Queen of virtues,' but as of virtus Reginarum, 'the virtue of a Queen.' Who, like Zurabbabel, first by princely magnaminity laid the corner-stone in a troublesome time; and since, by heroical constancy, through many both alluring proffers and threatening dangers, hath brought forth the Head-stone also with the Prophet's acclamation, 'Grace, grace, unto it'--Grace, for so happy a beginning, and Grace for so thrice happy an ending. No terrors, no enticement, no care of her safety hath removed her from her steadfastness; but with a fixed eye, with straight steps, with a resolute mind, hath entered herself, and brought us into Zoar. It is a little one, but therein our souls shall live; and we are in safety, all the cities of the plain being in combustion round about us. Of whom it shall be remembered, to her high praise, not only that of the Heathen, Illaque virgo viry; but that of David, that all her days she served God 'with a [76/77] covenant of salt,' and with her Israel, from the first day until now. And of this be we persuaded, that 'He which began this good work in her, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ,' to her everlasting praise, comfort, and joy, and in her to the comfort, joy, and happiness of us all.
Yet it is not needless, but right requisite, that we which are the Lord's remembrancers put you in mind, that as perseverance is the queen of virtues, quia ea sola coronatur; so is it also, quia Satanas ei soli insidiatur, 'for that all Satan's malice, and all his practices are against it.' The more careful need we to be, to carry in our eye this example, which God grant we may, and that our hearts may seriously regard, and our memories carefully keep it, Ut hæc columna fulciat nos, et hic sal condiat nos, 'that this pillar may prop our weakness, and this salt season our sacrifice,' that it may remembered, and accepted, and rewarded in the day of the Lord! Which, &c.