Pompeii: "A City of the Dead."

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
IN September, 1900, I was, with others, walking for hours one day through the streets of Pompeii, and through the museum which contains so many things brought to light by the excavations which have been going on for one hundred and fifty years. Before that it was a tradition, a thing to be believed. History said that such a place had existed, that in A.D. 79 it was destroyed by lava from Mount Vesuvius. But many might have said, “It is only a myth, a fable, the invention of man,” just as many say now with a supercilious air, “What? do you believe in the Flood? Do you really mean that you are so credulous?” And they laugh to scorn one who says, “Yes, I believe it, for God says it.” Now, Pompeii is a grim reality. Opened to view, we walked its streets, gazed on its immense Coliseum, entered its houses and shops, saw the very places where the loaf was found, and the chemist’s bottles and the hundreds of other things now gazed upon with intense interest by thousands who go to Naples and come away filled with wonder at the never-to-be-forgotten scene—its walls fresh as if they were painted yesterday: its baths, theatres, and even the counters of admission: its saloons, furniture, and lamps, but all silent as death. The petrified forms of those who died were found, showing how they were endeavoring to escape when the dire catastrophe occurred. Death overtook them. Let one who saw it and heard describe the fearful scene: “You could hear the screams of women, the wailing of children, the shouts of men. Some prayed for death. Many lifted their hands to the gods. Yet more concluded there were no gods anywhere, that now had come the last and endless night. Fire there was, then darkness again, and a heavy downpour of cinders: we shook them off, or we should have been buried and even crushed by their weight.” Thus Pliny wrote at Misenum, whilst ashes, mud, and earthquake accomplished the total ruin of Pompeii. We can imagine the frenzied, maddened condition of the people as in a few hours death overtook them, and they, with their city, were buried deep beneath the mud and lava that came from the terrible volcano. There is abundant evidence in this unburied city that God’s righteous judgment came down upon its inhabitants because of their sins.
Among other skeletons found were two, one of a man, the other of a large dog, lying on the top of the man as if he had taken up that position in its efforts to save his master. On a collar which encircled his neck was found an inscription, by which it appeared its name was “Delta,” and it belonged to one Severinus. He had saved his master’s life on three occasions. First, when nearly drowned: second, when attacked by robbers; and third, by destroying a she-wolf, whose cubs its master had taken in a grove near Herculaneum. Now they had perished together. The willingness of the dog to save told itself by its position, but it was helpless in a day like that.
How a walk through silent streets like those of Pompeii impresses on one, man’s utter helplessness! What a city in its luxury and vice! What awful evidence remains of its fearful iniquity? Sins, as of Sodom, went up to God and cried aloud for judgment. Not always does He act. The silence of God leads many to think that judgment will never come. We read in the Scriptures of one flood, one torrent of brimstone and fire as on Sodom, yet we know full well that others have been guilty as the sinners who lived then. These were temporal judgments, resulting in the death of the body, God’s distinct judgment of sin on the earth: but THE JUDGMENT of the Great White Throne (see Rev. 20) will involve vast multitudes in awful ruin. The Second Death will then overtake the sinner, and there will be no escape. Nothing, then, will avail to deliver.
Oh! sinner, think of it. Christ alone can save. He says, “NOW.” Now, He can save you. He died for sinners. His object was to save the lost. However vile, He will save you. How helpless you are! How hopeless your condition apart from the finished work of Christ. What love when He gave Himself to deliver the sinner from the unending torments of the damned! How in that dread moment of judgment the past will come before the sinner! not only the past as to his life of sins—that would be terrible—but, above all, the opportunities of the past, the Call of God rejected, the Love of Christ refused, the Blood of Christ trampled upon, pressing, groaning, fainting, trampled upon as the inhabitants of Pompeii attempted to escape amid a darkness appalling to a degree, one by one was overcome, it passes description.
Sinner, can you imagine what “the Great White Throne” day will be—what of terror, of speechless dismay? God save you from it! Yet that salvation can only be yours as you shelter beneath the Blood of Christ. Lose not a moment. Trust Him: then you shall never perish.
R. T. H.