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SERMON III.

ON FALLING FROM THE GRACE OF BAPTISM.

ST. LUKE, xvii. 32.

"Remember Lot's wife."

THIS warning, taken from the familiar history of the Jews, is a part of our Lord's answer to those that asked when the kingdom of God should come. He warned them that it should come with no outward and visible tokens - with few forerunning signs; and even those such as the faithful alone should read. "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, also, as it was in the days of Lot; 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. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of

man is revealed. 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. Remember Lot's wife." Now, in thus calling up to their recollection the judgments of God in old time, our Lord teaches us to recognise the mysterious movements of His providential order, and to learn the broad analogies by which they are controlled. The flood of waters, and the overthrow of Sodom, were forerunning types of judgments yet to come. In the spirit of prophetic warning He thus foreshewed the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the hair-breadth escape which was then awaiting them. But all these, this also included, were no more than types foreshortened, as it were, one behind the other, of His last coming in the end of the world. Such as they were in suddenness and severity, such, beyond all, shall the last coming be. Such as the escape of Lot, and of the remnant who were faithful in Jerusalem, even such also shall be the saving of the righteous; for the righteous shall "scarcely be saved." Such as the judgment on Lot's wife, such likewise shall be the doom of apostate Christians.

And this is the only point we will now dwell upon. We have in this a warning of a peculiar character; we see in it a type of the just wrath of

1 St. Luke xvii. 26-32.

God against those who, having been once mercifully delivered, shall afterwards fall back. She was, by a distinguishing election of God, and by the hands of angels, saved from the overthrow of the wicked. We, by the same deep counsel of God, have been translated from death to life. She ished in the very way of safety. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. wife is the type of those who fall from baptismal grace.

per

Lot's

As, for instance, of those who, having been made partakers of salvation by baptism into the Church of Christ, fall away from it through the overmastering power of sin. That a man may fall finally, and without hope, from grace given, is broadly written in holy Scripture. Men would fain have it otherwise; and some beguile themselves by the dream, that they magnify the mercies of God in contending that the gifts of grace are indefectible. Let them beware how they offer strange fire upon God's altar. God will be served only of that which His Spirit hath consecrated to Himself. "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned in his trespass that he hath trespassed,

and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die." Again" If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" And once more: "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify unto themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God; but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned."3 Such is the 2 Heb. x. 26.

1 Ezek. xviii. 24.

3 Heb. vi. 4.

gift of a new birth, held in unrighteousness; and such the end to which every baptised man, who lives in wilful and conscious sin, is perpetually tending. The sins of the flesh and of the spirit wound his inmost soul with a keen and poisoned edge; and the wounds rankle inwardly where no eye but God's can reach. There are very many who in the visible relations of life are without reproach, and yet carry within a heart-sin, indulged in secret, which eats into their whole spiritual life with a most deadly corruption. They have been redeemed from death, and predestined to immortality, though they are dying in the very path to life. Such are the sensual, the unchaste, the intemperate, the proud, the revengeful, and the like.

But we must not narrow this warning to the grosser kinds of sin. The disobedience of Lot's wife was not, that she went back to Sodom, but that she looked back. Doubtless she verily thought that she was pressing on to safety; but her heart was not right in her. She was disobedient in will, and in the hankerings and longings of the mind. The unchanged bent of the heart found expression in a slight but significant act. She looked back : and that forbidden gaze betrayed a multitude of unchastened thoughts, and a world of disobedience.

We must, therefore, apply this same warning not only to those who, through the power of

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