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weakness ; neither can he take up with so feeble a return: these occasions require other spirits, other resolutions, which must be quickened by a more stirring reply ; “Think not with thyself, that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews ; for, if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed; and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this ?”
The expectation of death had not quailed the strong heart of faithful Mordecai ; even while he mourns, his zeal droops not; there could have been no life in that breast, which this message could not have roused.
What then ? is it death that thou fearest in this attempt of thy supplication ? what other than death awaits thee in the neglect of it? there is but this dif.. ference, sue and thou mayest die, sue not and thou must die: what blood hast thou but Jewish ? and if these unalterable edicts exempt no living soul, what shall become of thine ? and canst thou be so vainly timorous, as to die for fear of death ? to prefer certainty of danger, before a possibility of hopes ? Away with this weak cowardice, unworthy of an Israelite, unworthy of a queen. But if faint-heartedness, or private respects, shall seal up thy lips, or withhold thine hand from the aid of thy people ; if thou canst so far neglect God's church, know thou that God will not neglect it: it shall not be in the power of tyrants to root out his chosen seed; that Holy One of Israel shall rather work miracles from heaven, than his inheritance shall perish upon earth ; and how just shall it then be for that jealous God to take vengeance upon thee, and thy father's house, for this cold unhelpfulness to his distressed church! Suffer me, therefore, to adjure thee, by all that tenderness of love wherewith I have trained up thine orphan infancy,
by all those dear and thankful respects which thou hast vowed to me again, by the name of the God of Israel whom we serve, that thou awaken and stir up thy holy courage, and dare to adventure thy life for the saving of many. It hath pleased the Almighty to raise thee up to that height of honour, which our progenitors could little expect; why shouldst thou be wanting to him, that hath been so bountiful to thee? yea, why should I not think, that God hath put this very act into the intendment of thine exaltation 1; having on purpose thus seasonably hoisted thee up tó the throne, that thou mayest rescue his poor
church from an utter ruin?
Oh the admirable faith of Mordecai, that shines through all these clouds, and, in the thickest of these fogs, descries a cheerful glimpse of deliverance! He saw the day of their common destruction enacted; he knew the Persian decrees to be unalterable ; but withal, he knew there was a Messiah to come; he was so well acquainted with God's covenanted assurances to his church, that he, through the midst of those bloody resolutions, foresees indemnity to Israel; rather trusting the promises of God than the threats
This is the victory that overcomes all the fears and fury of the world, even our faith.
It is quarrel enough against any person, or community, not to have been aidful to the distresses of God's people. Not to ward the blow, if we may, is construed for little better than striking. Till we have tried our utmost, we know not whether we have done that we came for.
Mordecai hath said enough: these words have so put a new life into Esther, that she is resolute to hazard the old ; “Go gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law,
and if I perish, I perish.” Heroical thoughts do well befit great actions. Life can never be better adventured, than where it shall be gain to lose it.
There can be no law against the humble deprecation of evils; where the necessity of God's church calls to us, no danger should withhold us from all honest means of relief. Deep humiliations must make way for the success of great enterprises ; we are most capable of mercy, when we are thoroughly empty. A short hunger doth but whet the appetite, but so long an abstinence meets death half way, to prevent it. Well may they enjoin sharp penances unto others, who practise it upon themselves.
It was the face of Esther that must hope to win Ahasuerus; yet that shall be macerated with fasting, that she may prevail. A carnal heart would have pampered the flesh, that it might allure those wanton eyes; she pines it, that she may please.
God, and not she, must work the heart of the king. Faith teaches her rather to trust her devotions, than her beauty.
ESTHER SUING TO AHASUERUS.
The Jews are easily entreated to fast, who had received in themselves the sentence of death ; what pleasure could they take in meat that knew what day they must eat their last? The three days of abstinence are expired; now Esther changes her spirits, no less than her clothes : who that sees that face and that habit, can say she had mourned, she had fasted? never did her royal apparel become her so well. That God, before whom she had humbled herself, made her so much more beautiful, as she hath been more dejected; and now with a winning confidence, she walks into the inner court of the king, and puts herself into that forbidden presence; as if she said, Here I am with my life in my hand; if it please the king to take it, it is ready for him. Vashti, my predecessor, forfeited her place for not coming when she was called ; Esther shall now hazard the forfeiture of her life, for coming when she is not called. It is necessity, not disobedience, that hath put me upon this bold approach ; according to thy construction, o king, I do either live or die, either shall be welcome. The unexpectedness of pleasing objects makes them many times the more acceptable: the beautiful countenance, the graceful demeanour, and goodly presence of Esther, have no sooner taken the eyes,
than they have ravished the heart of king Ahasuerus : love hath soon banished all dreadfulness; “And the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand.” Moderate intermission is so far from cooling the affection, that it inflames it. Had Esther been seen every day, perhaps that satiety had abated of the height of her welcome; now, three and thirty days' retiredness hath endeared her more to the surfeited eyes of Ahasuerus.
Had not the golden sceptre been held out, where had queen Esther been? The Persian kings affected a stern awfulness to their subjects; it was death to solicit them uncalled. How safe, how easy, how happy a thing it is to have to do with the King of heaven, who is so pleased with our access, that he solicits suitors: who, as he is unweariable with our requests, so is infinite in his beneficences !
How gladly doth Esther touch the top of that sceptre by which she holds her life! And now, while she thinks it well that she 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.” Commonly, when we fear most, we speed best; God, then, most of all, magnifies his bounty to us, when we have most afflicted ourselves. Over-confident expectations are seldom but disappointed, while humble suspicions go
laughing away. It was the benefit and safety of but one piece of the kingdom that Esther comes to sue for, and behold Ahasuerus offers her the free power of the half. He that gave Haman at the first word, the lives of all his Jewish subjects, is ready to give Esther half his kingdom ere she ask. Now she is no less amazed at the loving munificence of Ahasuerus, than she was before afraid of his austerity: “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will."
It is not good to swallow favours too greedily, lest they either choke us in the passage, or prove hard of digestion. The wise queen, however she might seem to have a fair opportunity offered to her suit, finds it not good to apprehend it too suddenly, as desiring, by this small dilation, to prepare the ear and heart of the king for so important a request.
Now all her petition ends in a banquet : “If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.” It is an easy favour to receive a small courtesy, where we offer to give great. Haman is called, the king comes to Esther's table; and now highly pleased with his entertainment, he himself solicits her to propound that suit, for which her modesty would, but durst not solicit him. Bashfulness shall lose nothing at the hand of well-governed greatness.
Yet still Esther's suit sticks in her teeth, and dares not come forth without a further preface of time and expectation ; another banquet must pass ere this reckoning can be given in. Other suitors wait long for the delivery of their petition, longer for the receipt of their answer. Here the king is fain to wait for his suit: whether Esther's heart would not yet serve her to contest with so strong an adversary as Haman, without further recollection; or whether she desired to get better hold of the king, by endearing him with so pleasing entertainments; or whether she