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law and if I perish, I perish.

:

17 So Mordecai went his way,

and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

LECTURE 753.

How graciously God hears and grants our prayers.

The grief of Mordecai was not merely concern for his own danger; he felt for the danger of all the Israelites. And doubtless he felt most deeply that it was by reason of his own behaviour to Haman that this severe edict had gone forth. And whether he had done right or wrong in refusing his obeisance to this Agagite, it would in any case wring his heart to have become the occasion of suffering and death to all his countrymen. No wonder therefore that his cry was loud and bitter, his mourning signal and notorious. No wonder that he urged upon Esther the duty of interceding with the king, at whatever risk of danger to herself. But what a strange source of risk is this, that a wife might not so much as go in to speak unto a husband uninvited! To what a height of arrogance does sinful man raise up his vain and selfish thoughts, when elated by an office of unlimited authority! "All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre that he may live." And this monstrous regulation extended it seems even to the queen. How ought it to make us ashamed of ever arrogantly refusing to be accessible even to the most vile of our fellow creatures! How ought we to be shocked at hearing of such pride and cruelty in man, when we remember that the great King of kings, who sitteth on his glorious throne in the inner court of heaven, ruling over all the provinces in the world, and over all the worlds in the universe, is ever willing to hear the humble petition of us his unworthy creatures! Day after day we are called to come in; and to make known our requests unto Him. And ever as we kneel before his footstool and ask with faith according to his will, his hand holds forth the golden sceptre, his mercy gives us pardon, confidence, and life.

Esther's first banquet. Haman's discontent.

1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's house and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of

the house.

2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. 3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.

4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.

5 Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

6 And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.

7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is;

8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition,

and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.

9 Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.

10 Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife.

11 And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.

13 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.

14 Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.

LECTURE 754.

The peril of harbouring hatred in the heart.

Thus far God has blessed the means adopted by queen Esther, her fasting, and the fast which the Jews kept in her behalf, her courage also in venturing, as Mordecai suggested, to approach the king uncalled for. The king has stretched out the sceptre, and her life is safe. He has promised to grant her petition. And her whole object appears to be gained. Why then is her request no more than that the king and Haman should partake of her banquet? And why, when the king repeats his promise, and enquires, "What is thy petition?" why does Esther as yet ask no more than that the king and Haman should come again to her banquet on the morrow? Doubtless she felt, that haste might injure the cause she had in hand; and that it was better to confirm the king's favourable regard, before venturing to put herself into collision with one whom he so much esteemed as Haman. Let her caution teach us, that it is often our duty, even in the best work we can have in hand, to submit to delay, and to wait for the best season of action; if we would receive the success which we desire.

Esther is now full of hope. Haman too is in no small measure gladdened by the distinguished notice which the queen has taken of him. "Yet all this," he remarks, "availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." A striking instance of the vexation of spirit which comes of hatred, malice, and uncharitableness! In vain should we have riches, honour, health, or any manner of prosperity, in vain even in respect to happiness on earth, if we harbour enmity in our hearts against any one of all our fellow creatures. The poison rankling in the veins is not more sure to undermine the precious life, than hatred is to blast the fair enjoyment of those good things which make life valuable. And whether or no, hatred thus indulged lead, as in the case of Haman, to a plot against the life of the object hated, we know from the words of the apostle that "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." 1 John 3. 15. He is so in God's sight, by reason of the enmity which is in his heart, even if he put it not into execution with his hands. How carefully then ought we all to watch, that we owe no one any grudge! How greatly ought we to fear, if there be any one whose prosperity is hateful in our eyes, lest this come of our having hatred in our hearts!

Haman is appointed to do honour to Mordecai.

1 On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles: and they were read before the king.

2 And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.

3 And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.

4 And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

5 And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.

6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?

7 And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour,

8 Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:

9 And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of 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 street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.

10 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 spoken. 11 Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.

12 And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.

13 And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, 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.

14 And while they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.

LECTURE 755.

The machinations of our adversary turned to our honour. "On that night could not the king sleep." No greatness could exempt him from the infirmities of nature. Or rather, the cares of greatness helped to rob him of that natural repose, which is seldom interrupted by the hardships of the poor. "And he commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king." See how signally God's providence was here at work! In reading the records they came to the mention of Mordecai's past services. And when the king would fain consult with some one about the honour to be bestowed on Mordecai, behold " Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him." When the question was proposed to Haman, "What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?" he thought in his vanity that the king must surely mean himself; and thus he became the means of heaping the highest honours he could think of on the man whom he detested in his heart. Nor is this an uncommon case, where enmity is unjustly harboured, and maliciously indulged. The acts of persecution to which it leads being borne with calm endurance, and requited by sincere forgiveness, become instrumental, through God's blessing on the trials of the sufferer, not only to his greater credit here, but to the increase of his glory in the world which is to come.

Nay, is not this the case with enmity more bitter than that of man towards his fellow? Might not this be the result of all the plots and machinations of our adversary the devil? Let but our hearts be firm, and our purpose resolute, that we will not bow down to him for any consideration. Let us but do our duty faithfully and stedfastly to our heavenly Master. And behold however sore those trials may be, in which Satan works for our destruction, however deeply he may lay his plans, however implacably he may harbour his malevolence, yet all shall through God's overruling grace work together for our greater glory, by the increase of our patience, and faith, and love. And whilst the adversary, defeated in his malice, is driven back to that endless torment, to which it is his study to bring us, the redeemed of the Lord, the true seed of God's people, unconquered, and through grace unconquerable, experience the happy lot of those whom He that is the King of kings "delighteth to honour."

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