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deadly aspect which reigns around this lake. In other respects, the ground about it, however, is not marshy; and its waters are limpid and incorruptible, as must be the case with a dissolution of salt." He informs us that on the shore of this lake, were found, "fragments of sulphur and bitumen, which the Arabs convert into a trifling article of commerce; as also hot fountains and deep crevices, which are discovered at a distance by little pyramids built on the brink of them. We likewise find a sort of stone, which, on rubbing, emits a noxious smell, burns like bitumen, receives a polish like white alabaster, and is used for the paving of court-yards. At intervals, we also meet with unshapen blocks, which prejudiced eyes mistake for mutilated statues, and which pass with ignorant and superstitious pilgrims for monuments of the adventure of Lot's wife: though it is no where said that she was metamorphosed into stone, like Niobe, but into salt, which must have melted the ensuing winter."
This attentive audience will not fail to notice the striking similarity of the description which Volney here gives, of the deadly appearance of this lake and its borders, embracing the salt, the sulphur, the bitumen, and the subterranean fire, and that which Moses gave of the same place, at a period 3000 years distant from the date of this writer. So that this particular part of the Mosaic history is not only supported, but the prediction of its future desolation and barrenness is clearly confirmed by an unbeliever and despiser of revelation, who stood high for his learning and acuteness, in the ranks of deistical (or rather, atheistical) philosophy.
His allusion to Lot's wife, and the pillar of salt, deserve a passing notice. He tells us that if it were a pillar of salt, it must have melted the ensuing winter." All this may be admitted, without invalidating a syllable of the Mosaic account, for he makes no mention of the length of time which this monument continued. Mr. Volney might have spared himself the trouble, therefore, of assigning a reason for its early removal. But, let us observe-Mr. Volney appears to have been acquainted with the Hebrew, and other original languages, and therefore could not have been ignorant of the true meaning and
proper application of the word which Moses employed to designate the change which constituted Lot's wife a monumental reproof of unbelief and disobedience. We would willingly excuse this writer from an intention to trifle with the necessary want of information among the most numerous class of his readers, (who, of course, must be unacquainted with the Hebrew,) if we were in possession of any means to accomplish the object, without violating the dictates of reason and conscience; but this we shall not presume to do; for he must have known, that from time immemorial, the Hebrews have ranked sulphur, nitre and bitumen, under the general name of salt. Had he have stated this fact, his readers might readily have formed the conclusion that a monument composed of sulphur, nitre and bitumen, would naturally resist, for a considerable time, the power of the seasons, to bring on, and finally to accomplish its entire destruction. This would allow of an opportunity for multitudes to visit the scene of desolation, and to make accurate observations on what they there beheld.
The history of the overthrow of these cities might have been given by Moses, without the mention of the fate of Lot's wife; and it would therefore be strange that Moses should mention such an astonishing circumstance, unless it were a notorious fact; since he must have seen that any serious and well-founded doubts of this part of his narrative, would tend directly to cast suspicion on the whole history. I am therefore constrained to believe that this pillar remained for ages; and that it was seen and acknowledged by multitudes.
While we are upon the story of Lot's wife, it may not be improper to mention an heathen form of exorcism, preserved by Alexander Trallianus, a philosopher and physician of the sixth century; which he gives in the following words, "In the name of God, who turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt." Here you find heathens, confirming, by their rites, the plain and simple fact recorded by Moses.
I shall add to these the declaration of Christ, who tells his disciples, St. Luke xvii. 29. that "the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from
heaven, and destroyed them all." This fact, he employs in his charge to his disciples, to leave Jerusalem as soon as they should see the signs fulfilled which were to precede the destruction of that ill-fated city and to render the admonition still more impressive, he adds, verse 32, "Remember Lot's wife." To discredit the story of Lot's wife, we are not only under the necessity of setting aside the testimony of Moses, the uniform belief of the Jewish nation for more than 3000 years, with the addition of the evidence drawn from heathen rites; but we must directly confront the divine authority and truth of the Son of God!
Such evidence of the fact concerning Lot's wife as I have been able to select with convenience, is now before you And is there any evidence to disprove the fact ? It will not be pretended by any man who values his reputation for historical knowledge. It is therefore left for you to decide whether you will reject this testimony, array yourselves against the Redeemer of the world, believe the whole history false, without a particle of testimony to support your reason in so doing; and what is still more absurd, to believe against all the evidence which has ever been adduced in support of the fact.
If I were disposed to gratify the inquisitive hearer, as to the means by which this strange effect was produced upon Lot's wife, I confess that I should feel inclined to offer them the ingenious solution of Dr. Taylor; who supposes that "the sulphureous storm did not begin to fall upon Sodom, till Lot was safely arrived at Zoar. But his wife looked back before she reached Zoar: When she looked back, Sodom and its plains appeared as pleasant as before. She looked back with affection to the place, and regret at leaving it; according to the import of the original word: This implied unbelief. She stopped by the way, and left her husband to go by himself—she would go no farther, and might be at a considerable distance from Zoar, and so near to Sodom, as to be involved in the terrible shower, and thereby turned into a nitro-sulphureous pillar.
I would not, however, adopt any conjecture, which would imply a doubt of the miraculous power of God; for no supposition aside from the divine interposition can account for this wonderful event.
I have passed by the testimony of Josephus, who de clares that this pillar was standing in his day, and that he had seen it; as well as the marvellous and incredible stories, given by numerous others: for I would not wander into the region of fables for the sake of amusement. I shall therefore return to our general subject; the destruction of Sodom, and the cities of the plain.
The account with which we are furnished in the Bible, informs us that the Lord rained upon them, fire and brimstone; or brimstone inflamed: which, according to some able critics, "signifies, in the Hebrew style of writing, nothing more nor less than lightning.' Admit this interpretation, and the conclusion will follow, that the lightnings of heaven were let loose, and directed to this fatal spot, to accomplish its destruction. That the bed of these cities was bitumen; composed principally of sulphur and mineral pitch, is a truth, fully supported by all historians and travellers of distinction, who have written upon the subject. The direct inference would therefore be, that the lightnings of heaven communicated fire to this combustible and inflammable substance, and not only destroyed the buildings and the inhabitants, but literally burnt up the foundation on which they rested, and gave place to the waters of the lake Asphaltites, so famous in the history of antique ruins.
Some have supposed that a volcanic eruption took place at that time, by which a great quantity of inflamed bituminous matter was thrown into the air, and fell in a shower of fire upon these cities and destroyed them: but this would not account for the sinking of these places, unless we add the probability of an earthquake, of which no mention is made in the narrative of Moses.
It is in vain to wander into the region of conjecture, to find a solution for the numerous inquiries which may be started by inquisitive minds; it is sufficient for our present design to show that abundant testimony is furnished to establish the fact, that these cities were destroyed by fire, and that this destruction was of a character dissimilar to all others. Nothing of the kind, recorded by historians, challenges competition with the destruction of these cities. Pompei and Herculaneum, in Italy, were indeed covered
by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 79 years after the birth of Christ; but they still remain as far above the level of the sea as before, and are again capable of being inhabited. But Sodom and the cities of the plain, have suffered an entire destruction, so that nothing but a miracle could ever restore them.
It was observed by Justin, that the lake of Sodom was unmoved by the winds, by reason of the quantities of bitumen which rose from its bed, and which impeded its navigation. The Arabs and others, have always removed this mineral pitch, as it rose, so that there is now very little to be seen.
Tacitus the Roman historian observes that the traces of fire which consumed these cities were visible in his day; These are his words, "at no great distance are those fields, which, as it is said, were formerly fruitful, and covered with great cities, till they were consumed by lightning the vestiges of which still remain in the parched appearance of the country, which has lost its fertility." The accounts which Pliny and Philo, furnish of these ruins, accord with that which we have quoted from Tacitus.
Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, who flourished about half a century before the birth of Christ, gives a general description of the desolations which reign around this devoted place. In closing his remarks, he says, "The region round about, burning with fire, exhales a stench so intolerable, that the bodies of the inhabitants are diseased, and their lives contracted."
Strabo, a Capadocian historian, who flourished in the reign of Tiberius, thus concludes his remarks upon this lake and the surrounding country: "There are many indications that fire has been over this country for about Masada they show rough and scorched rocks, and caverns in many places eaten in, and the earth reduced to ashes, and drops of pitch distilling from the rocks, and hot streams, offensive afar off, and habitations overthrown; which renders credible some reports among the inhabitants, that there were formerly thirteen cities on that spot, the principal of which was Sodom; so extensive as to be sixty furlongs in circumference; but that by earthquakes, and