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The good queen is astonished with this art come to the kingdom for such a time constant humiliation of so dear a friend ; | as this?" and now she sends Hatach, a trusty, though The expectation of death had not quelled a pagan attendant, to inquire into the oc- the strong heart of faithful Mordecai: even casion of this so irremediable heaviness. It while he mourns, his zeal droops not; there should seem Esther inquired not greatly in- could have been no life in that breast, which to matters of state ; that which perplexed this message could not have roused. all Shushan, was not yet known to her: What then? is it death that thou fearest her followers, not knowing her to be a Jew- | in this attempt of thy supplication? what ess, conceived not how the news might con- other than death awaits thee in the neglect cern her, and therefore had forborne the of it? There is but this difference: sue, and relation. Mordecai first informs her, by her thou mayest die; sue not, and thou must messenger, of the decree that was gone out die. What blood hast thou but Jewish? and against all her nation, of the day wherein | if these unalterable edicts exempt no living they must all prepare to bleed, of the sum soul, what shall become of thine ? And which Haman had proffered for their heads, canst thou be so vainly timorous, as to die and delivers the copy of that bloody edict, for fear of death? to prefer certainty of charging her now, if ever, to bestir herself, | danger before a possibility of hope? Away and to improve all her love, all her power, with this weak cowardice, unworthy of an with king Ahasuerus, in a speedy and hum- | Israelite, unworthy of a queen! But if ble supplication for the saving of the life, faint-heartedness or private respects shall not of himself, so much as of her people. seal up thy lips, or withhold thine hand
It was tidings able to confound a weak from the aid of thy people; if thou canst so neart; and hers so much the more, as she far neglect God's church, know thou that could apprehend nothing but impossibility God will not neglect it: it shall not be in of redress. She needs but to put Mordecai the power of tyrants to root out his chosen in mind of that which all the king's servants seed; that Holy One of Israel shall rather and subjects knew well enough, that the work miracles from heaven, than his inhePersian law made it no less than death, for ritance shall perish upon earth : and how whomsoever, man or woman, that should just shall it then be for that jealous God to press into the inner court of the king un- take vengeance upon thee and thy father's called: nothing but the royal sceptre ex- , house, for this cold unhelpfulness to his distended, could keep that presumptuous of-tressed church? Suffer me, therefore, to fender from the grave. For her, thirty days adjure thee, by all that tenderness of love were now passed, since she was called in wherewith I have trained up thine orphan to the king; an intermission, that might infancy, by all those dear and thankful rebe justly suspicious, whether the heat of spects which thou hast vowed to me again, his first affection were thus soon of itself by the name of the God of Israel whom we allaved towards her; or whether some sug- serve, that thou awaken and stir up thine gestions of a secret enemy, perhaps this holy courage, and dare to adventure thy life Agagite, might have set him off; or whe- | for the saving of many! It hath pleased the ther some more pleasing object may have Almighty to raise thee up to that height of laid hold on his eyes. Whatever it might honour, which our progenitors could little be, this absence could not but argue some expect : why shouldst thou be wanting to strangeness, and this strangeness must needs him, that hath been so bountiful to thee? imply a danger in her bold intrusion. She yea, why should I not think that God hath could bewail, therefore, she could not hope put this very act into the intendment of to remedy, this dismal day of her people. thine exaltation, having on purpose thus This answer in the ears of Mordecai sound-seasonably raised thee to the throne, that ed truth, but weakness; neither can he thou mayest rescue his poor church from take up with so feeble a return: these oc | an utter ruin? casions require other spirits, other resolu- ! O the admirable faith of Mordecai, that tions, which must be quickened by a more shines through all these clouds, and, in the stirring reply: “ Think not with thyself, thickest of these fogs, descries a cheerful that thou shalt escape in the king's house, glimpse of deliverance! He saw the day of more than all the Jews; for, if thou alto-their common destruction enacted; he knew gether holdest thy peace at this time, then the Persian decrees to be unalterable ; but, shall there enlargement and deliverance withal, he knew there was a Messiah to arise to the Jews from another place, but come: he was so well acquainted with God's thou and thy father's house shall be des. covenanted assurances to his church, that troyed; and who knoweth whether thou he can, through the midst of those bloody resolutions, foresee indemnity to Israel, ra- | God, before whom she had humbled her. ther trusting the promises of God, than the self, made her so much more beautiful, as threats of men. This is the victory that she had been more dejected; and now, with overcomes all the fears and fury of the world, a winning confidence, she walks into the even our faith.
inner court of the king, and puts herself into It is quarrel enough against any person, that forbidden presence; as if she said, or community, not to have been aidful to “ Here I am, with my life in my hand : if the distresses of God's people. Not to it please the king to take it, it is ready for ward the blow, if we may, is construed for him. Vashti, my predecessor, forfeited her little better than striking. Till we have place for not coming when she was called : tried our utmost, we know not whether we | Esther shall now hazard the forfeiture of her have done what we came for.
life, for coming when she is not called. It Mordecai hath said enough: these words is necessity, not disobedience, that hath put have so put a new life into Esther, that she me upon this bold approach; according to is resolute to hazard the old : “Go, gather thy construction, O king, I do either live or together all the Jews that are present in die ; either shall be welcome.” The unexShushan, and fast ye for me, and neither pectedness of pleasing objects makes them eat nor drink three days, night or day; Imany times the more acceptable: the beau. also and my maidens will fast likewise, and tiful countenance, the graceful demeanour so will I go in unto the king, which is not and goodly presence of Esther, have no according to the law; and if I perish I sooner taken the eyes, than they have raperish.” Heroical thoughts do well befit vished the heart of king Ahasuerus: love great actions. Life can never be better hath soon banished all dreadfulness: “And adventured, than where it shall be gain to the king held out to Esther the golden lose it.
sceptre that was in his hand.” Moderate There can be no law against the humble intermission is so far from cooling the affecdeprecation of evils : where the necessity tion, that it inflames it. Had Esther been of God's church calls to us, no danger seen every day, perhaps that satiety had should withhold us from all honest means abated of the height of her welcome; now, of relief. Deep humiliations must make three and thirty days' retiredness hath enway for the success of great enterprises : we deared her more to the surfeited eyes of are most capable of mercy, when we are Ahasuerus. thoroughly empty. A short hunger doth Had not the golden sceptre been held but whet the appetite; but so long an ab-out, where had queen Esther been? The stinence meets death half-way, to prevent it. Persian kings affected a stern awfulness to Well may they enjoin sharp penances unto their subjects: it was death to solicit them others, who practise it upon themselves. uncalled. How safe, how easy, how happy
It was the face of Esther that must hope a thing it is, to have to do with the King of to win Ahasuerus; yet that shall be mace- / heaven, who is so pleased with our access, rated with fasting, that she may prevail. A that he solicits suitors! who, as he is uncarnal heart would have pampered the flesh, weariable with our requests, so he is infinite that it might allure those wanton eyes: she in his beneficences ! pines it, that she may please. God, and How gladly doth Esther touch the top not she, must work the heart of the king. | of that sceptre by which she holds her life! Faith teaches her rather to trust her de- and now, while she thinks it well that she votions, than her beauty.
may live, she receives, besides pardon, favour: “ What wilt thou, queen Esther, and what is thy request ? it shall be given
thee, even to the half of the kingdom." AHASUERUS.
Commonly, when we fear most, we speed
best; God then most of all magnifies his The Jews are easily entreated to fast, bounty to us, when we have most afflicted who had received in themselves the sen ourselves. Over-confident expectations are tence of death: what pleasure can they take seldom but disappointed, while humble susin meat, that knew what day they must eat picions go laughing away. It was the benefit their last? The three days of abstinence and safety of but one piece of the kingdom, are expired: now Esther changes her spirits, that Esther comes to sue for; and, behold, no less than her clothes : who, that sees Ahasuerus offers her the free power of the that face, and that habit, can say she had half: he, that gave Haman, at the first mourned, she had fasted? Never did hier word, the lives of all his Jewish subjects, royal apparel become her so well. That is ready to give Esther half his kingdons,
CONTEMPLATION VI. —ESTHER SUING TO
ere she ask. Now she is no less amazed | How is Haman now exalted in himself with at the loving munificence of Ahasuerus, the singular graces of queen Esther! and than she was before afraid of his austerity: begins to value himself, so much more, as “ The king's heart is in the hand of the he sees himself higher in the rate of other's Lord; as the rivers of water, he turneth | opinion! it whithersoever he will." It is not good Only surly and sulien Mordecai is an allor to swallow favours too greedily, lest they to his happiness: no edict of death can either choke us in the passage, or prove bow the knees of that stout Jew; yea, the hard of digestion. The wise queen, how-notice of that bloody cruelty of this Agag. ever she might seem to have a fair oppor | ite hath stiffened them so much the more. tunity offered to her suit, finds it not good | Before, he looked at Haman as an Amaleto apprehend it too suddenly, as desiring, kite, now as a persecutor. Disdain and by this small dilation, to prepare the ear anger look out at those eyes, and bid that and heart of the king for so important a re- proud enemy do his worst. No doubt Morquest.
decai had been listening after the speed of Now all her petition ends in a banquet: queen Esther: how she came in to the “ If it seem good unto the king, let the king; how she was welcomed with the king and Haman come this day unto the golden sceptre, and with the more precious banquet that I have prepared for him.” It words of Ahasuerus ; how she had enter. is an easy favour to receive a small cour-tained the king, how she pleased : the news tesy, where we offer to give great. Haman had made him quit his sackcloth, and raised is called; the king comes to Esther's table: his courage to a more scorpful neglect of and now, highly pleased with his entertain- his professed adversary. ment, he hiinself solicits her to propound Haman comes home, I know not whether that suit, for which her modesty would, more full of pride or of rage; calls an inbut durst not solicit him. Bashfulness shall ward counsel of his choice friends, together lose nothing at the hand of well-governed with his wife; makes a glorious report of greatness. Yet still Esther's suit sticks in all his wealth, magnificence, height of fa. her teeth, and dares not come forth with-vour, both with the king and queen; and, out a further preface of time and expecta at last, after all his sunshine, sets in this tion; another banquet must pass, ere this cloudy epilogue: “ Yet all this availeth me reckoning can be given in. Other suitors nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew wait long for the delivery of their petition, sitting at the king's gate." It is seldom seen longer for the receipt of their answer: here that God allows, even to the greatest dar. the king is fain to wait for her suit. Whe-lings of the world, a perfect contentment: ther Esther's heart would not yet serve her something they must have to complain of, to contest with so strong an adversary as that shall give an unsavoury verdure to Haman, without fuller recollection; or whe- | their sweetest morsels, and make their vers ther she desired to get better hold of the felicity miserable. king, by endearing him with so pleasing en- The wit of women hath wont to be noted tertainments; or whether she would thus for more sudden, and more sharp. Zeresh, ripen her hopes, by working in the mind of the wife of Haman, sets on foot that motion king Ahasuerus a foreconceit of the great- of speedy revenge, which is applauded by ness and difficulty of that suit, which was the rest : « Let a gallows be made of fifty so loath to come forth; or whether she cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou to meant thus to give scope to the pride and the king, that Mordecai may be hanged malice of Haman, for his more certain ruin: | thereon; then go thou in merrily with the howsoever it were, to-morrow is a new day king unto the banquet." I do not hear them set for Esther's second banquet, and third say, Be patient a while: thou hast already petition.
set Mordecai his last day, the month Adar The king is not invited without Haman. will not be long in coming; the determinaFavours are sometimes done to men with a tion of his death hath made him desperate, purpose of displeasure: doubtless Haman let him in the meantime eat his own heart tasteth of the same cates with his master; in envy at thy greatness. But they rather neither could he, in the forehead of Esther, advise of a quick despatch. Malice is a read any other characters, than of respect thing full of impatience, and hates delay of and kind applause, yet had she then in her execution, next unto mercy. While any hopes designed him to a just revenge. Little grudge lies at the heart, it cannot be freely do we know, by ontward carriages, in what cheerful. Forced smies are but the hypo. terms we stand with either God or man. crisy of mirth. How happy were it for us,
Every little wind raiseth up a bubble. I if we would be zealously careful to remove the hinderances of our true spiritual, not to smother or bury good offices, inquires joy, those stubborn corruptions that will into the recompense of so royal a service : not stoop to the power of grace!
" What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?". Surely Mordecai
did but his duty; he had heinously sinned, CONTEMPLATION VII.-MORDECAI HONOURED if he had not revealed this wicked treachery: BY HAMAN.
yet Ahasuerus takes thought for his remu.
neration. How much more careful art thou, The wit of Zeresh had like to have gone O God of all mercies, to reward the weak beyond the wit of Esther: had not the work. / obedience of thine (at the best) unprofitable ing Providence of the Almighty contrived servants! these events beyond all hopes, all conceits, | That which was intended to procure rest, Mordecai had been dispatched ere Esther's sets it off: king Ahasuerus is unquiet in second banquet. To-morrow was the day himself, to think that so great a merit should pitched for both their designs; had not the lie but so long neglected; neither can be stream been unexpectedly turned, in vain | find any peace in himself, till he have given had the queen blamed her delays: Mordecai's order for a speedy retribution. Hearing, breakfast had prevented Esther's dinner; therefore, by his servants, that Haman was for certainly he that had given to Haman below in the court, he sends for him up to so many thousand lives, would never have consult with him, “ What should be done made dainty upon the same suit to antici. to the man whom the king delighteth to hopate one of those whom he had condemned nour?" O marvellous concurrence of cirto the slaughter. But God meant better cumstances, drawn together by the infinite things to his church, and fetches about all wisdom and power of the Almighty! Who his holy purposes, after a wonderful fashion, but Haman should be the man ? and when in the very instant of opportunity: “ He should Haman be called to advise of Morthat keepeth Israel, and neither slumbereth decai's honour, but in the very instant when nor sleepeth," causeth sleep that night to he came to sue for Mordecai's hanging ? Had depart from him that had decreed to root Ahasuerus but slept that night, Mordecai out Israel. Great Ahasuerus, that com had been that morning advanced fifty cubits manded a hundred and seven and twenty | higher than the earth, ere the king could provinces, cannot command an hour's sleep. bave remembered to whom he was beholden. Poverty is rather blessed with the freedom What shall we say, then, to reconcile these of rest, than wealth and power. Cares and cross-passions in Ahasuerus ? Before he surfeit withhold that from the great, which signed that decree of killing all the Jews, he presseth upon the spare diet and labour of could not but know that a Jew had saved the meanest. Nothing is more tedious than his life; and now, after that he had enacted an eager pursuit of denied sleep, which, the slaughter of all Jews as rebels, he is like to a shadow, flies away so much faster giving order to honour a Jew as his preas it is more followed. Experience tells us, server. It were strange, if great persons, in that this benefit is best solicited by neglect, the multitude of their distractions, should and soonest found when we have forgotten not let fall some incongruities. to seek it.
Yet who can but think that king Aha. Whether to deceive the time, or to bestow suerus meant, upon some second thoughts, it well, Ahasuerus shall spend his restless to make amends to Mordecai? neither can hours in the chronicles of his time. Nothing he choose but put these two together : the is more requisite for princes, than to look | Jews are appointed to death at the suit of back upon their own actions and events, and Haman ; this Mordecai is a Jew: how then those of their predecessors; the examination can I do more grace to him that hath saved of fore-past actions makes them wise - of my life, than to command him to be ho. events, thankful and cautelous.
noured by that man who would spill his? Amongst those voluminous registers of When Haman heard himself called up to acts and monuments, which so many scores the bed-chamber of his master, he thinks of provinces must needs yield, the book shall himself too happy in so early an opportu. open upon Mordecai's discovery of the late nity of presenting his suit; but yet more in treason of the two eunuchs: the reader is the pleasing question of Ahasuerus, wherein turned thither by an insensible sway of Pro- he could not but imagine that favour forced vidence. Our most arbitrary or casual ac- itself upon him with strange importunity tions are overruled by a hand in heaven, for how could he conceive that any intention
The king now feels afresh the danger of of more than ordinary honour could fall that conspiracy; and as great spirits abide | besides himself? Self-love, like to a good
stomach, draws to itself what nourishment this extraordinary honour but Mordecai. Is it likes, and casts off that which offends it. there no man'to be picked out for the perHaman will be sure to be no niggard in ad-formance of this honour to him, but Havising those ceremonies of honour, which man? Have I but one proud enemy in all he thinks meant to his own person. Could the world, and am I singled out to grace he have once dreamed that this grace had him? did it gall me to the heart, and make been purposed to any under heaven besides all my happiness tedious to me, to see that himself, he had not been so lavish in coun- this Jew would not bow to me, and must selling so pompous a show of excessive I now bow to him? That which he would magnificence. Now the king's own royal rather die, and forfeit the life of all his naapparel, and his own steed, is not sufficient, tion, than do to me, notwithstanding the except the royal crown also make up the king's command, shall I be forced, by the glory of him who shall thus triumph in the king's command, to do unto him? Yea, did king's favour; yet all this were nothing in he refuse to give but a cap and a knee to base hands. The actor shall be the best my greatness, and must I lackey so base part of this great pageant : “Let this ap- a fellow through the streets? must I be his parel, and this horse, be delivered to one herald, to proclaim his honour through all of the king's most noble princes, that they Shushan? Why do I not let the king know may array the man withal whom the king the insolent affronts that he hath offered delighteth to honour, and bring him on me? why do I not signify to my sovereign, horseback through the streets of the city, that my errand now was for another kind and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be of advancement to Mordecai? If I obtain done to the man whom the king delighteth | not my desired revenge, yet, at least, I to honour.” Honour is more in him that shall prevail so far as to exempt myself gives, than in him that receives it. To be from this officious attendance upon so unhonoured by the unworthy is little better equal an enemy. And yet that motion than disgrace: no meaner person will serve | cannot be now safe: I see the king's heart to attend this Agagite, in his supposed is, upon what ground soever, bent upon greatness, than one of the noblest princes. I this action; should I fly off never so liiile, The ambition is too high-flown, that seeks after my word so directly passed, perhaps glory in the servility of equals.
my coldness or opposition might be conThe place adds much to the act; there strued as some wayward contestation with is small heart in a concealed honour: it is my master; especially since the service nothing, unless the streets of the city of that Mordecai hath done to the king is of Shushan be witnesses of this pomp, and a higher nature than the despite which he ring with that gracious acclamation. | hath done to me. I will, I must give way
The vain hearts of proud men can easily for the time; mine humble yieldance, when devise those means whereby they may best all the carriage of this business shall be unset out themselves. Oihat we would derstood, shall, I doubt not, make way for equally affect the means of true and im- mine intended revenge. Mordecai, I will mortal glory! The heart of man is never honour thee now, that by these steps I so cold within him, as when, from the may ere long raise thee many cubits higher. height of the expectation of good, it falls into I will obey the command of my sovereign a sudden sense of evil: so did this Agagite: in observing thee, that he may reward the “ Then the king said to Haman, Make merit of my loyalty in thine execution. haste, and take the apparel, and the horse, Thus resolved, Haman goes forth with as thou hast said, and do even so to Mor-a face and heart full of distraction, full of decai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate; confusion; and addresses himself to the atlet nothing fail of all that thou hast said.” tiring, to the attending of his old adversary, How was Haman thunderstricken with this and new master, Mordecai. What looks, killing word! “ Do thou so to Mordecai." do we now think, were cast upon each I dare say, all the honours that Ahasuerus other at their first greeting? Their eyes had had heaped upon Haman cannot counter- not forgotten their old language: certainly, vail this one vexation. Doubtless, at first, when Mordecai saw Haman come into the he distrusts his ear, and then muses whe- | room where he was, he could not but think, ther the king be in earnest; at last, when This man hath long thirsted for my blood, he hears the charge so seriously doubled, and now he comes to fetch it; I shall not and finds himself forced to believe it, he live to see the success of Esther, or the begins to think, What means this uncon- fatal day ot' my nation. It was known that ceivable alteration? Is there no man in morning in the court, what a lofty gibbet all the court of Persia to be picked out for | Haman had provided for Mordecai; and