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the infinite wisdom and power of the Almighty! Who, but Haman, should be the man? And when, should Haman be called to advise of Mordecai's honour, but in the very instant, when he came to sue for Mordecai's hanging? Had Ahasuerus but slept that night, Mordecai had been that morning advanced fifty cubits higher than the earth, ere the king could have remembered to whom he was beholden.
What shall we say then, to reconcile these cross passions in Ahasuerus ? Before he signed that decree of killing all the Jews, he could not but know, that a Jew had saved his life; and now, after that he had enacted the slaughter of all Jews, as rebels, he is giving order to honour a Jew, as his preserver. It were strange, if great persons, in the multitude of their distractions, should not let fall some incongruities.
Yet, who can but think, that king Ahasuerus meant, upon some second thoughts, to make amends to Mordecai ?
Neither can be choose but put these two together; “ The Jews are appointed to death, at the suit of Haman : this Mordecai is a Jew; how then can I do more grace to him, that hath saved my life, than to command him to be honoured by that man, who would spill bis ?”
When Haman heard himself called up to the bedchamber of his master, he thinks himself too happy, in so early an opportunity of presenting his suit; but yet more in the pleasing question of Ahasuerus; wherein he could not but imagine, that favour forced itself upon him with strange importunity; for how could he conceive, that any intention of more than ordinary honour could fall besides himself ? Self-love, like to a good stomach, draws to itself what nourishment it likes, and casts off that which offends it.
Haman will be sure to be no niggard, in advising those ceremonies of honour, which he thinks meant to his own person. Could he have once dreamed, that this grace had been purposed to any under heaven, besides himself, he had not been so lavish, in counselling so pompous a shew of excessive magnificence. Now, the king's own royal apparel, and his own steed, is not sufficient, except the royal crown also make up the glory of him, who shall thus triumph in the king's favour. Yet all this were nothing, in base hands. The actor shall be the best part of this great pageant: Let this apparel and this horse be delivered to one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal, whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour. Honour is more in him that gives, than him that receives it. To be honoured by the unworthy is little better than disgrace. No meaner person will serve to attend this Agagite, in his supposed greatness, than one of the noblest princes. The ambition is too high flown, that seeks glory in the servility of equals. The place adds much to the act. There is small heart in a concealed bonour. It is nothing, unless the streets of the city of Shushan be witnesses of this pomp, and ring with that gracious acclamation. The vain hearts of proud men can easily devise those means, whereby they may best set out themselves. Oh, that we would equally affect the means of true and immortal glory!
The heart of man is never so cold within him, as when, from the height of the expectation of good, it falls into a sudden sense of evil. So did this Agagite. Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate : let nothing fail of all that thou hast said. How was Haman thunder-stricken with this killing word, Do thou so to Mordecai ! I dare say, all the honours, that Ahasuerus had heaped upon Haman, cannot countervail this one vexation.
Doubtless, at first, he distrusts his ear; and then muses, whether the king be in earnest : at last, when he hears the charge so seriously doubled, and finds himself forced to believe it, he begins to think, “ What means this inconceivable alteration? Is there no man, in all the court of Persia, to be picked out for extraordinary honour, but Mordecai? Is there no man to be picked out for the performance of this honour to him, but Haman? Have I but one proud enemy in all the world, and am I singled out to grace him? Did it gall me to the heart, and make all my happiness tedious to me, to see that this Jew would not bow to me, and must I now bow to him? That, which he would rather die, and forfeit the life of all his nation, than do to me, notwithstanding the king's command; shall I be forced, by the king's command, to do unto him? Yea, did he refuse to give but a cap and a knee to my greatness, and must I lacquey so base a fellow through the streets : must I be his herald, to proclaim his honour through all Shushan? Why do I not let the king know the insolent affronts, that he hath offered me? Why do I not signify to my sovereign, that my errand now was for another kind of advancement to Mordecai? If I obtain not my desired revenge, yet at least I shall prevail so far, as to exempt myself from this officious attendance, upon so unequal an enemy. And yet, that motion cannot be now safe. I see the king's heart is, upon what ground soever, bent upon this action. Should I fly off never so little, after my word so directly passed, perbaps my coldness or opposition might be construed, as some wayward contestation with my master: especially, since the service, that Mordecai hath done to the king, is of a higher nature, than the despite, which he hath done to me. I will, I must give way, for the time. Mine humble yieldance, when all the carriage of this business shall be understood, shall, Í doubt not, make way for mine intended revenge. Mordecai, I will honour thee now, that, by these steps, I may ere long raise thee many cubits higher. I will obey the command of my sovereign, in observing thee, that he may reward the merit of my loyalty, in thine execution.”
Thus resolved, Haman goes forth, with a face and heart full of distraction, full of confusion ; and addresses himself to the -attiring, to the attending, of his old adversary, and new master, Mordecai.
What looks, do we now think, were cast upon each other, at their first greeting! Their eyes had not forgotten their old language. Certainly, when Mordecai saw Haman come into the room where he was, he could not but think: “ This man bath long thirsted for my blood, and now he comes to fetch it. I shall not live to see the success of Esther, or the fatal day of my nation. It was known that morning in the court, what a lofty gibbet Haman had provided for Mordecai ; and why might it not havecome to Mordecai's ear? What could he therefore now imagine other, than that he was called out to that execution ? But, when he saw the royal robe that Haman brought to him, he thinks, “ Is it not enough for this man to kill me, but he must mock me too? What an addition is this to the former cruelty, thus to insult and play upon my last distress !” But, when he yet saw the royal crown ready to be set on his head, and the king's own horse r chly furnished at his gate, and found himself raised by princely hands into that royal seat, he thinks, “ What may all this mean? Is it the purpose of mine adversary, that I shall die in hate? Would he have me hanged in triumph?” At last, when he sees such a train of Persian peers attending him, with a grave reverence; and hears Haman proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour; finding this pomp to be serious and well meant, he imagines, in all likelihood, that this unexpected change proceeds from the suit of his Esther. Now, · he begins to lift up his head, and to hope well of himself and his people; and could not but say within himself, that he bad not fasted for nothing.
Oh the wonderous alteration that one morning hath made in the court of Persia! He, that was yesternight despised by Haman's footmen, is now waited on by Haman and all his fellow princes. He, that yesternight had the homage of all knees but one, and was ready to burst for the lack of that, now doth obeisance to that one, by whom he was wilfully neglected. It was not Ahasuerus, that wrought this strange mutation : it was the overruling power of the Almighty, whose immediate hand would thus prevent Esther's suit, that he might challenge all the thank to himself. While princes have their own wills, they must do his; and shall either exalt or depress, according to divine appointment.
I should commend Haman's obedience, in his humble condescent to so unpleasing and harsh a command of his master, were it not, that, either he durst do no other, or that he thus stooped for an ad. vantage. It is a thankless respect, that is either forced, or for ends. True subjection is free and absolute; out of the conscience of duty, not out of fear or hopes.
All Shushan is in a maze, at this sudden glory of Mordecai; and studies how to reconcile this day with the thirteenth of Adar.
Mordecai had reason to hope well. It could not stand with the
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honour of the king, to kill him, whom he saw cause to advance : neither could this be any other, than the beginning of a durable promotion ; otherwise, what recompence had an hour's riding been, to so great a service?
On the other side, Haman droops, and hath changed passions with Mordecai. Neither was that Jew ever more deeply afflicted with the decree of his own death, than this Agagite was with that Jew's honour. How heavy doth it lie at Haman's heart, that no tongue, but his, might serve to proclaim Mordecai happy! Even the greatest minions of the world must have their turns of sorrow. With a covered head, and a dejected countenance, doth he hasten home; and longs to impart his grief, where he had received his advice.
It was but cold comfort, that he finds from his wife Zeresh and his friends : If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him. Out of the mouth of Pagans, o God, thou hast ordained strength, that thou mayest still the enemy and the avenger. What credit hath thy great name won with these barbarous nations, that they can out of all experience make maxims of thine undoubted protection of thy people, and the certain ruin of their adversaries! Men find no difference in themselves. The face of a Jew looks so like other men's, that Esther and Mordecai were not, of long, taken for what they were. He, that made them, makes the distinction betwixt them; so as a Jew may fall before a Persian, and get up and prevail ; but if a Persian, or whosoever of the Gentiles, begin to fall before a Jew, he can neither stay nor rise. There is an invisible hand of Omnipotency, that strikes in for his own and confounds their opposites, o God, neither is thy hand shortened, nor thy bowels straitened in thee. Thou art still and ever thyself. If we be thy true spiritual Israel, neither earth nor hell shall prevail against us. We shall either stand sure, or surely rise ; while our enemies shall lick the dust.
HAMAN HANGED; MORDECAI ADVANCED. HAMAN's day is now come. That vengeance, which hath hitherto slept, is now awake ; and rouseth up itself to a just execution. That heavy morning was but the preface to his last sorrow; and the sad presage of friends is verified, in the speaking. While the word was in their mouths, the messengers were at the door, to fetch Haman to his funeral-banquet.
How little do we know what is towards us! As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snured in an evil time, when it fal. leth suddenly upon them.
It was, as Haman conceived, the only privilege of his dearness, and the comfort of his present heaviness, that he only was called
with the king to Esther's banquet, when this only was meant for his bane. The face of this invitation is fair, and promiseth much; and now, the ingenious man begins to set good constructions upon all events. “ Surely," thinks he, “ the king was tied in his honour, to give some public gratification to Mordecai. So good an office could deserve no less, than an hour's glory. But little doth my master know, what terms there are betwixt me and Mordecai. Had he fully understood the insolencies of this Jew, and should notwithstanding have enjoined me to honour him, I might have had just cause to complain of disgrace and disparagement; but now, since all this business hath been carried in ignorance and casualty, why do I wrong myself, in being too much affected with that, which was not ill meant ? Had either the king or queen abated ought of their favour to me, I might have dined at home: now, this renewed invitation argues me to stand right in the grace of both: and why may not I hope, this day, to meet with a good occasion of my desired revenge? How just will it seem to the king, that the same man, whom he hath publicly rewarded for his loyalty, should now be publicly punished for his disobedience !"
With such like thoughts Haman cheers up himself; and addresseth himself to the royal banquet, with a countenance, that would fain seem to forget his morning's task. Esther works her face to an unwilling smile upon that hateful guest; and the king, as not guilty of any indignity that he hath put upon his favourite, frames himself to as much cheerfulness, as his want of rest would permit. The table is royally furnished, with all delicate confections, with all pleasing liquors. King Ahasuerus so eats, as one, that both knew he was and meant to make himself, welcome; Haman so pours in, as one, that meant to drown his cares,
And now, in this fulness of cheer, the king hungers for that long-delayed suit of queen Esther. Thrice hath he graciously called for it; and, as a man constant to his own favours, thrice hath he, in the same words, vowed the performance of it, though to the half of his kingdom. It falls out oftentimes, that when large promises fall suddenly from great persons, they abate by leisure, and shrink upon cold thoughts: here, king Ahasuerus is not more liberal in his offer, than firm in his resolutions; as if his first word had been, like his law, unalterable, I am ashamed to miss that steadiness in Christians, which I find in a Pagan. It was a great word, that he had said; yet he eats it not, as over-lavishly spoken; but doubles and trebles it, with hearty assurances of a real prosecution ; while those tongues, which profess the name of the true God, say and unsay at pleasure; recanting their good purposes; contradicting their own just engagements upon no cause, but their own changeableness.
It is not for queen Esther to drive off any longer. The same wisdom, that taught her to defer her suit, now teaches her to propound it. A well chosen season is the greatest advantage of any actions; which, as it is seldom found in haste, so is too often lost in delay. Now therefore, with a humble and graceful obeisance,