So the King of Heaven bitterly regretted that he had ever made man to walk upon the Earth, for he had fallen into filth, and he took a fierce revenge when he destroyed all the creatures that he had made. He rued having ever raised them up and given them life, and then he regretted having had to destroy them so harshly. And so he made a covenant with mankind, in accordance with his true intentions and through the generosity of his heart, that he would never again destroy every living creature on the Earth, whatever sins had been committed. And that vow has never been withdrawn, however wonderfully he has punished wicked men thereafter for this accursed evil, this poison and vicious filth that corrupts a man’s soul with error and prevents him ever from seeing his Saviour with his own eyes, or in the fury of his anger fiercely destroyed a wealthy land for that very same fault, as you shall shortly hear. God hates all sin like the stink of hell, but none distresses him so much as perverted sex, prostitution, permissiveness and contempt for oneself. Whoever indulges in sex for pleasure and feels no shame, must be killed mercilessly!
Consider, man, although you are foolish, but reflect sometime, if you will, whether he who put such a glint in everyone's eyes was born blind? Or if he gave everybody ears when he can't hear anything himself? Wouldn't it be a wonder if this was the case? Then don't assume it. Believe it to be untrue. Accept that there is nothing so secretly done that it escapes his notice and that there is no man so careful and so discrete in what he does that the perception of his actions does not carry at once to God. For he is a searching deity and the foundation of everything, probing at all times to the very core of his creation. And where he finds a man to be fair and clean inside, with a wholesome and honest heart, he honours that noble person and shows him his calm and steady side. But with the others he deals harshly and expels them from his world. And concerning the punishment for those who have indulged in deeds of shame, God is so disgusted by this particular sin that he wastes not a moment, shows no mercy and kills quickly, as will be seen shortly, when I tell you of a tragedy that once took place.
Old Abraham was sitting on the ground outside the door to his house beneath an oak tree one day. The sun was shining brightly and Abraham was resting there in the heat, beneath the shade of the leaves, when he became aware of three men approaching on the road. They looked noble and generous and were of handsome appearance, and how much so will be evident in a moment, for Abraham, as he lay under the leaves, when he saw them, quickly got up and went to greet them as though they were God himself.
"Noble Lord," he said to them all. "If ever your man on Earth deserved a reward, then stay awhile, I humbly beseech you. May I dare ask that you don't pass by this poor wretch before you have spent some time with your man and rested in the shade. I shall quickly have water fetched so that I can wash your feet. Rest here on this root and I shall hurry off and get you a morsel of bread to comfort your heart."
"Let it be as you wish," said the three men. "We will wait for you by the roots of this great tree."
So Abraham hurried into the house and called to his wife Sarah to be swift for once: "Get three measures of flour and make dough, divide it quickly into naans and put them under the hottest cinders to cook. Then, while I get something ready for the slaughter, fan the fire so that we can prepare a meal."
Then Abraham went to his cowshed and brought out a calf that was bound to be tender, asked that it be skinned and told his servant to cook it quickly. And as the man hurried off to do this, Abraham took the cloth off his head, cast a clean cloth over the ground, placed the three naans upon it and set some butter beside them. Then he placed jugs of milk upon the cloth, the meat on a platter, with accompanying sauces, and like a servant of high standing, he served his three guests with a calm and courteous disposition, with the best food that he was able to bring to them.
God made good cheer. He was pleased with his friend and they praised the meal, the three of them as one, while Abraham, his head bare and in all humility, served food to the men who possess every divine power. Then, when the food had been removed and it was customary to make conversation:
"I shall come here again, Abraham, before your life's light has dimmed on this Earth." they said. "And then Sarah will conceive and bare you a son, who will be your heir and shall be the father of a worthy people who will be held in great honour and respect, a people who shall hold as their heritage all that I have granted to men."
Then Sarah, hiding behind the door, laughed to herself in derision and thought: "Do you believe that through sex we might bring this about? Are you advocating that we have sex, and I so far beyond that age, and also my husband?" For Scripture says that both Sarah and her husband Abraham were very old indeed, and their attempts to have a family had long failed. Sarah was barren.
Then Our Lord said, where he sat: "See! Sarah laughs, not believing what I say. Does she think that there is anything at all that is hard for me to achieve? I can tell you with certainty that what I have said to you is true. I shall return to you shortly and prove the truth of it, by sending Sarah a son and heir."
Then Sarah burst out into the open and swore, in all honesty, that she had not laughed at the things that had been said. "Now, enough! Do not lie," said Drighten. "You laughed aloud, but let it pass."
With that, they quickly got up, as though intending to depart, for it was in their mind to travel to Sodom, a city nearby that was set in a valley, no more than two miles from Mambre, where Abraham lived. Abraham travelled with Our Lord, answering his questions and showing him the way. God went along and Abraham went with them, guiding them towards the city of Sodom, that had sinned greatly in the matter of this filth.
"How can I conceal from you the thoughts that lie in my heart, when you are chosen to be the ancestral father of my chosen people, and when your descendents shall fill the Earth and be blessed through you?" asked God, turning to Abraham. "I will show you how angry I am with Sodom, and I'll tell you what I intend to do about it. For the din of that city blares into my ears, and the guilt of Gomorrah is no less. I shall go amongst these people and see for myself whether the sounds that I can hear in heaven truly reveal the extent of their crimes. For they have taught themselves things that I do not like at all; they do the most evil things imaginable with their bodies! Each man takes as his sexual partner another man like himself, and they do things together that only a man and a women should do. I have made for them a natural practice, taught it to them in secret and made it a lynch-pin of my creation. I filled it with sadness but dressed it in the sweetest of miseries, fashioned vicissitudes for lovers and made a passion that could reach to the very heights of ecstasy. And when two people of the right gender are coupled together in this way, a man with his woman, such happiness can come that Paradise itself might bring them little more in the way of bliss! But unless they can honestly play with each other in a quiet, stolen moment, unwatched by anybody, the passion between them might grow so hot that nothing can quench it. And now they have twisted my intentions entirely and scorned nature by their filthy acts. I will strike at them quickly, so that the generations to come will be warned for evermore."
Abraham became frightened when he sensed the hatred in God's voice and anxiously said: "Sir, by your leave, will everybody suffer then, the guilty and the innocent? For has it ever been the custom of he who created us all that the good and the bad should be weighed on the scales in the same pan, and that the wicked and the good should suffer the same punishment? I have fifty good friends in this city, and also in Gomorrah, who have never disobeyed you, but loved honesty. They have behaved reasonably and righteously and have always been ready to serve you. Shall they fall for the crimes that other people have committed and be punished for them? That was never your way, and may it never become the way of such a mild and good-natured God."
"For these fifty," said the Father, "and for your fine words, if they are found to be clean of this filth, I shall show forgiveness, through my grace, and leave them unharmed."
"Ah! Blessed may you truly be!" said Abraham. "So kind and considerate. You hold within your hand the heavens and the Earth. But, as we are on this subject, please don't take it wrongly if I say a little more, I, who am but mud and ashes. But what if five are guilty amongst these fifty and the rest are innocent as I have said; how would this change things?"
"If it is only five short of fifty," said God, "I shall forgive everybody and prevent my hand from hurting a single person."
"And what if forty are innocent and everybody else guilty? Will you do as you threaten and destroy them all?"
"No, if forty are free of all guilt, then I shall stay my hand and remove all thoughts of vengeance, although what they do sickens me.
Then Abraham bowed low and humbly thanked God: "Blessed may You be, Saviour, so gentle in your anger. I am but rotten earth and black dirt, to speak with such a master whose power is infinite; but I have begun with my God and if he thinks it pleasing, and though I may seem like a fool, your magnanimity may serve: so what if thirty men are unjustly punished in those cities? What should I believe of my God then, if he chooses to destroy them?"
God answered: "For thirty together I shall stay my hand, calm my rage and refrain from this carnage, because of your courteous intercession."
"And what if twenty are innocent?" asked Abraham. "Will you unravel them all then?"
"No, if you desire it, I shall give them all grace, if those twenty are honest, and forgive those two cities their foul practices."
"Gracious Lord," said Abraham. "One more word and I shall endeavour to help these men no further. But if ten trusty men in these cities are busied about your business, will you moderate your anger and wait to see if reconciliation is possible?"
"I will," said God.
"Thank you," replied Abraham.
Then Abraham stopped and walked no further. God continued along the grassy path and Abraham followed him with his gaze, and as he watched Our Lord he called out anxiously: "Gentle master, if you would take heed of your servant, my dear nephew Lot lives in that city. He lives in Sodom, your lowly servant, among those men who have committed all these heinous crimes. If you destroy this city, please allow your rage to abate enough to have mercy upon him."
"Then Abraham turned back towards the lake of Mambre, weeping in sorrow. And there he lay all night at home, unable to sleep for worry, while God sent his spies into Sodom. He sent two angels into the city, that very evening. They had the appearance of two young men walking about together. Lot saw them from a porch door that he was sitting against, alone, near to the splendid city gates. He was dressed in fine clothes and as he stared into the street, which was a main thoroughfare, he saw these two handsome young men laughing and joking together. They seemed strong and noble young men, with beardless chins, hair like raw silk, hands and faces as white as the wild rose and with intelligent eyes. Their clothes were white and fitted them perfectly, with not a stain nor a blemish upon them, for they were angels and the man watching them from the porch realised this. He rose at once, hurried over to them, bowed low and said:
"Sirs, I urge you, please come and stay with me at my house tonight. Come to your servant's humble abode, please do, and I will send for a bath so that you can wash your feet. Come just for this night and you can be on your way tomorrow morning."
But the two young men said that they had no plans to lodge in any house for the night but wished to remain in the street, and that the stars would make a good enough roof for them both.
But Lot was persistent and so courteous that at last they agreed to stay the night with him. Lot brought them quickly to his house, which was richly furnished for he was a wealthy man, and they were generously welcomed by his wife and by his two lovely daughters who were pretty, good-natured and dressed in very fine clothes. Lot quickly summoned servants and arranged for food to be prepared: "And make sure that whatever you cook is unleavened and that there is no salt or anything like that in anything you serve," he instructed.
Lot's wife became a little angry, I think, when she heard these instructions. She thought to herself: "This displeasing servant is ordering me to leave the salt out of the sauces, but it seems completely unreasonable that others should go without, just for the sake of these two ignorant young men!" So she added salt to all her dishes, against her husband's instructions, and scorned these guests, who knew well what she was doing.
Why did this wretched woman so anger Our Lord?
Everybody at the table was quickly served, and the happy, well-mannered guests pleased everyone with their courtesy. They made delightful conversation until it was time to wash, and then the trestles and boards were stacked against the wall. But then, when the guests had been sitting only a short while after the meal and had no thoughts yet of retiring to bed, the whole town was roused. Everyone who could wield a weapon, weak or strong, began to surround Lot's house with the intention of seizing the two strangers. They arrived in great numbers at Lot's gateway, beat at the walls with great clubs and shouted into the building: "If you wish to stay alive, Lot, then you will deliver to us those two handsome young men whom you have inside, so that we can get our dicks into them and give full vent to our desires, for it is the custom in Sodom to do this to passing travellers."
God! They spat and shouted such offensive filth! They boasted so openly of what they would do that the wind and the air and the entire world still stinks with the breath of it! Lot was disgusted and distressed, his heart shrank within him and he cringed in shame. He knew the perverted habits of these people, but never before had his sorrow run so deep. "Alas!" he cried, and rose up from his bench and hurried to the wide gates. God! He gave no thought to his own safety as he rushed through his doorway to challenge these people. He went through the door and shut it firmly behind him. Then he spoke reasonably to the men who were gathered there, hoping that through courtesy and in a quiet tone he might go some way to cooling their ardour and quenching the flames of their terrifying lust.
"My generous friends," he began. "Your conduct is too unfriendly! Stop this bold clamour! Stop menacing my guests. For shame! You bring harm upon yourselves. If this is all a good-humoured joke, then it has gone on long enough. Let me introduce you to the pleasures of a more natural occupation. I have a treasure in my house, my two fair daughters. They are unmarried maidens and virgins both of them, the prettiest two girls in all of Sodom. They are attractive girls, sexually mature and ready to be introduced to men. If you will play with these pretty girls it will bring you more pleasure. I will give you my two daughters, who I am sure will be happy, inventive and accommodating. Play with them as you please, and leave my guests alone."
But this hot and licentious crowd made such a screaming din that their noise thrust itself unwelcomely into Lot's ears: "Don't you know that you live here as a stranger," they cried menacingly, "a foreigner, an outsider? We will smash your head in! Who appointed you to be our judge and to criticise our behaviour? You were not born here, although you have taken our money to make yourself rich."
They clamoured and shoved, yelled into his ears and frightened him with the sheer weight of their numbers until suddenly, the two young men ran boldly to the door, knocked it open and raced towards the crowd. They took hold of Lot and bundled him back through the doorway, securing the door stone-tight behind them with heavy bars. Then they blew a spell towards these cursed people so that they all staggered about blindly, losing all memory of where the doors were; but they stayed all night searching nonetheless. But at last, each of them made his way towards the place of sleep that was closest to hand, having failed to find any release for his sexual urges. But they were soon awakened, all those who lived there, by one of the ugliest catastrophes that the Earth has ever suffered.
When the darkness of night began to give way to the first glimmer of dawn, the two angels woke Lot with some urgency and told him to get up as quickly as he could. Lot swiftly got dressed, his heart racing. Then the angels told him to gather up everything of value that he had:
"Bring your wife and your servants and your two fair daughters, for we invite you, Sir, to make a bid to save your life. Get quickly out of this district before you are caught up in something awful. Take your household and find a hill, go on foot, keep looking ahead of you and don't turn around for one moment to look behind you. Don't pause for anything at all but go as quickly as you can, and don't stop until you come to a habitation. For we intend to make this city suffer. We are going to vigorously exterminate all these wicked people and ruin the land, and everybody within it. Sodom will sink into the ground, the rocks beneath Gomorrah will collapse into hell and every part of this region will be reduced to rubble."
"Lord, what can I do?" cried Lot in fright. "If I try to escape on foot, how can I hide from God? How can I shelter from the fierceness of his blast, which will burn everything? Should I creep away from my Creator towards I know not where, only guessing whether his enmity will attack me from the front or from the rear?"
"Our Father shows you no enmity, Lot. Rather, he has raised you safely above all that he condemns. Now choose for yourself a place to go that might protect you, and he will save it for your sake. You are the only one who is going to be saved amongst all this filth, for your uncle Abraham has pleaded for you."
"Lord, may your adoration grow on this Earth!" cried Lot. "There is a city hereabouts called Segor, lying at the summit of a round hill. I would like, if God would allow it, to escape to this place."
"Then go quickly," said the angel, "and don't stop until you get there. Take those you wish to take, your wife and your dependants, and make your way there without looking back. For this land shall be destroyed not long after sunrise."
Lot awakened his wife and his daughters, and the two men whom his daughters were to marry, but the men thought it all a joke, couldn't take it seriously and wouldn't get up. So the angels urged forward the four of them with fearful threats and shepherded them through the outer door: Lot, his wife and his two daughters. And these were the only ones to be saved from the five noble cities. These angels guided them by the hand past the gates, assured them of the danger and urged them to hurry: "Get going as quickly as you can, or you will be caught up in this catastrophe!"
With no further delay, they left quickly and reached the hill long before the sun had risen. Then God in his anger began to stir some wild weather in the sky. He called upon the winds; they rose up in a rage and wrestled loudly together, coming from every direction at once. Clouds gathered and rose in great towers, lightening flashed all around and a kind of rain beat down, a thick torrent of red-hot fiery flakes and lumps of sulphur mixed with a smoke that stank like the devil. All around Sodom and the land surrounding it, as far as Gomorrah, the ground trembled with this rain. Abdama and Syboym as well, these fair cities, all was enveloped by this rain. Everything was roasted and scorched by it, and the skin of all the people in these cities began to peel from their flesh. And when hell heard the hounds of heaven, God was wonderfully pleased and quickly opened the great bars of the abyss, and the whole district collapsed into ravines, and all the cliffs shattered into little pieces, like a book falling apart with all the pages scattering everywhere. And then a smell of sulphur engulfed everything and the cities and all the districts around them began to sink into hell. There was nothing the people could do when they realised what was happening. They began to scream for mercy and wail so much that the clouds resounded with their cries. Lot and his wife and daughters heard this sound as they made their way towards Segor; the women were terrified by it and hurried away as fast as they could, never daring to turn around. Lot and his two lovely daughters kept their faces fixed firmly ahead of them, but his wife did not do as she had been told. She glanced behind her for a moment to see what was happening. She looked over her left shoulder towards Sodom and at once she was turned into stone, a rigid statue of salt, and her form can still be seen.
Lot and his daughters continued onwards, unaware of what had happened, and soon arrived at Segor. At once they praised God for protecting his servants from such anger, and loved him with joyful arms held aloft. The disaster was over by then. All those in the cities had been burned and damned and totally destroyed. The men of Sodom had run out to see what was going on, straight into that sea of ash and terror, and quickly suffocated. Nothing was saved except for Segor, which lay on a hill. Lot's wife had been transformed on the hillside, reduced to a stone statue that had the taste of salt, because of her two misdemeanours. Firstly, she had served salt before God at the supper, and secondly, she had looked behind her although expressly forbidden to do so. For the one misdemeanour she was reduced to rock, and salt for the other, so that all the animals of the plain could take their pleasure licking her.
Abraham rose early that morning. He had spent a sleepless night worrying about Lot and now went quickly to the place on the road where he had parted from God the previous day. Looking towards Sodom, which had been of all cities on Earth the most pleasant, approaching even to the Earthly Paradise which God had created, he saw that it had fallen into a pit that was as black as pitch. A stench arose out of this blackness and ashes flew about on updraughts of air in the way that happens when a furnace full of light cinders suddenly boils into conflagration when the fuel underneath it is poked into life. It was a violent vengeance that annihilated these places and wrecked such a fair folk, when the land sank around them.
The place where these five cities were once located is now a sea, one that is murky and grey and completely static and lifeless. Dark, seething and turbid, unpleasant to be near, it is like a stinking stench intended to put a stop to sin – a sea that always reeks of sin and causes one to recoil. It is called the dark Dead Sea, for its deadly deeds haunt it still; it is broad and bottomless and as bitter as gall and nothing that lives can remain in that lake. Moreover, it contravenes all the rules of nature, for if you throw a lump of lead into it, it will float, but if you place a feather on its surface this will sink down through the water. And where the waves roll to the shore and wet the ground, nothing green can ever grow, no grass, no trees and no shrubs. And if any man is sentenced to death by drowning and is thrown into that water, even if he might spend a month beneath the surface he will still be alive in that lake, for it is an evil place and he can never drown. The place is cursed by nature and the clay and the soil of its shores is caustic and harsh, like bitumen and soda, sulphur and horrible things like that. And the water casts up great frothy lumps of waxy asphalt, like the stuff that apothecaries sell. Such is the shore beside this sea, a corrosive soil that eats away flesh and rots bones.
There are trees beside this lake of deceit, beyond the reach of the water, and they flourish and bear beautiful blossom and the most wonderful fruit that it is possible to see on Earth, such as oranges and pomegranates and other delights, more richly-coloured than anyone can imagine. But when they are squeezed or bitten into or cut in half, there is nothing inside them but dry ashes. All this is a lesson and a sign of the wicked work that Our Father took vengeance for, because of the filth of these men, so that every person may understand, who loves this Lord.
If our gracious Lord likes His amusements to be clean, and if you wish to be accepted in His court, to see Christ on His throne and look upon His sweet face, then I can give no clearer council but that you pursue a clean life. Jean de Meun in his Romance of the Rose has written a speech for a man who would like to further his chances of winning the lady he loves, and advises us to: "Study her and observe how she behaves and what pleases her the most. Then copy her in everything she does, in her mannerisms and in the way you conduct your life. Follow her every step. And if you dedicate yourself to this, however evil she may be, she will admire your conduct when it is so much like her own."
So if you will have love-dealings with God, and love your Lord faithfully, then make yourself clean and conform to Christ's ways, he who is forever polished as smoothly as a pearl. Remember that from the very first he was carried inside a Virgin, and remember by how wonderful a circumstance he was enclosed there. No virginity had been lost, no violence used, and her body was made even cleaner by the presence there of Our Lord. And afterwards, when he was born in Bethlehem, recall the purity in which he came into the world. Was there ever so blissful a refuge as that feeding-trough or any sacristy as bright as that stable? There was no one so happy under God as the woman in that stable, who should have been in such pain. The ordeal that should have been so dreadful was no suffering but a joy, a smell of roses where rottenness is usually found, comfort and singing where screams of pain are usually heard. Angels with musical instruments, organs and pipes, royal ringing lyres, triangular psalteries and the worthy fiddle, in fact everything noble that might gladden a heart, were surrounding my Lady when she was giving birth. Then her beautiful baby was polished so clean that both the ox and the ass worshipped him together. They recognised by his cleanness that his nature was kingly, for nothing so clean had ever been born in a stable before!
And if he came in cleanness, then he continued thereafter and everything that smacked of dirt and wickedness he hated with a passion. He would never touch anything that was steeped in uncleanness or that smelt bad. Yet unclean people came to him, many who were chronically ill, some of them lepers, others who were lame or blind, some with infections, with a palsy or hot with fever, some with dropsy and one or two even who were already dead! All of these came to this courteous man, by themselves or through others, to claim his grace, and he healed them of the things that afflicted them by his gracious speech, for whatever he touched he quickly made well again, and much better than any physician could achieve. For so clean was his touch that it removed every odour and the dexterity of his fingers never needed to use a blade. He could break bread without a knife for this same reason, it parted better in his hands and divided more evenly when he went to apportion it than one could achieve using all the sharp knives of Toulouse! This God and man, whose court you aspire to, is very clean. So how can you hope to arrive in his land unless you are clean? When we are terribly sinful and cruel, every one of us, how can we hope to see this Lord seated upon his throne? Yes, he is merciful, even if you are covered in filth and excrement while you live here on this Earth, and you may shine through confession even if you have lived a life of shame, and purify yourself through penance until you become like a pearl. For the pearl is praised when jewels are on display, although she is not judged to be the most valuable, when gemstones are sold.
The pearl is praised for her clean appearance, which places her foremost above all white stones. For this round precious gem shines brightly, without any blemish or stain – provided it is a good one – and however much she is worn, in this world, she remains unblemished if she is left in peace. If she is consigned to a dusty drawer, unloved and neglected, one need only wash her carefully in wine and by her nature she shall become clean again and whiter than ever she was before. So if someone is fouled by the vicissitudes of fortune, if his soul is stained, he should seek confession and have himself cleansed by a priest, by taking penance, and in so doing obtain a shinier polish even than beryl, or a string of pearls. But beware, if you are washed by the water of absolution and are polished as smoothly as finely-prepared parchment, don't dirty your soul again, for you will displease him sorely if you do, and rouse him to grief and hatred in far greater degree than if you had not been washed in the first place. For when a soul becomes sacred to God, he holds it to be his entirely and regards it as his property. Then if this soul later reverts to crime, he takes it badly, as though it had been stolen by thieves or taken from him unjustly. Beware, then, the terrible vengeance! His anger is ignited when a soul that was once his is found to be unclean.
Although it is but a basin, a bowl or a chalice, a dish or a platter that once served God, to defile it on this Earth is forbidden by Drighten. He is sickened by this, as was made plain a long time ago in Babylon in Belshazzar's time, when a swift and terrible calamity overtook this king. For he defiled the vessels that were kept in the temple and that had been used in the service of God.
If you will let me, I will tell you the fate of this man who would not cherish those vessels, and how it was more dreadful than that of his father, who stole them from the Israelites in the first place.