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than of respect and kind applause, yet had she then in her hopes designed bim to a just revenge. Little do we know, by outward carriages, in what terms we stand with either God or man.
Every little wind raiseth up a bubble. How is Haman now exalted in himself with the singular graces of queen Esther ; and begins to value himself so much more, as he sees himself higher in the rate of others' opinion !
Only surly and sullen Mordecai is an alloy to his happiness; no edict of death can bow the knees of that stout Jew; yea, the notice of that bloody cruelty of this Agagite hath stiffened them so much the more. Before, he looked at Haman as an Amalekite, now as a persecutor. Disdain and anger look out at those eyes, and bid that proud enemy do his worst. No doubt Mordecai had been listening after the speed
of queen Esther; how she came in to the king, how she was ! welcomed with the golden sceptre, and with the more precious
words of Ahasuerus ; how she had entertained the king, how she pleased; the news had made him quit his sackcloth, and raised his courage to a more scornful neglect of his professed adversary.
Haman comes home, I know not whether more full of pride, or of rage; calls an inward counsel of his choice friends, together with his wife; makes a glorious report of all his wealth, magnificence, height of favour, both with the king and queen; and, at last, after all his sun-shine, sets in this cloudy epilogue, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.” It is seldom seen, that God allows, even to the greatest darlings of the world, a perfect contentment; something they must have to complain of, that shall give an unsavoury verdure to their sweetest morsels, and make their very felicity miserable.
The wit of women hath wont to be noted for more sudden, and more sharp. Zeresh, the wife of Haman, sets on foot that motion of speedy revenge, which is applauded by the rest: “ Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou to the king, t'at Mordecai may be hanged thereon; then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet.” I do not hear them say, Be patient a while, thou hast already set Mordecai his last day, the month Adar will not be long in coming, the determination of his death hath made him desperate, let him in the mean time eat his own heart in envy at thy greatness; but they rather advise of a quick dispatch. Malice is a thing full of impatience, and hates delay of execution, next unto mercy. While any grudge lies at the heart, it cannot be freely cheerful. Forcedismiles are but the hypocrisy of mirth. How happy were it for us, if we could be so zealously careful to remove the hinderances of our true spiritual joy, those stubborn corruptions that will not stoop to the power of grace!
Mordecai honoured by Haman. The wit of Zeresh had like to have gone beyond the wit of Esther ; had not the working Providence of the Almighty contrived these events beyond all hopes, all conceits, Mordecai had been dispatched ere Esther's second banquet. Tomorrow was the day pitched for both their designs; had not the stream been unexpectedly turned, in vain had the queen blamed her delays, Mordecai's breakfast had prevented Esther's dinner; for certainly he that had given to Haman so many thousand lives, would never have made dainty upon the same suit, to anticipate one of those whom he had condemned to the slaughter. But God meant better things to his church, and fetches about all his holy purposes, after a wonderful fashion, in the very instant of opportunity. “ He that keepeth Israel, and neither slumbereth nor sleepeth,” causeth sleep that night to depart from him that had decreed to root out Israel. Great Ahasuerus, that commanded an hundred and seven and twenty provinces, cannot command an hour's sleep. Poverty is rather blessed with the freedom of rest, than wealth and power. Cares and surfeit withhold that from the great, which presseth upon the spare diet and labour of the meanest
. Nothing is more tedious than an eager pursuit of denied sleep, which, like to a shadow, flies away so much faster, as it is more followed. Experience tells us, that this benefit is best solicited by neglect, and soonest found, when we have forgotten to seek it.
Whether to deceive the time, or to bestow it well, Ahasuerus shall spend his restless hours in the chronicles of his time.
Nothing is more requisite for princes, than to look back upon their own actions and events, and those of their predecessors ; the examination of fore-past actions makes them wise, of events, thankful and cautelous.
Amongst those voluminous registers of acts and monuments, which so many scores of provinces must needs yield, the book shall open upon Mordecai's discovery of the late treason of the two eunuchs: the reader is turned thither, by an insensible sway of Providence. Our most arbitrary or casual actions are overruled by a hand in heaven.
The king now feels afresh the danger of that conspiracy; and, as great spirits abide not to smother or bury good offices, inquires into the recompense of so royal a service: “What honour and dignity bath been done to Mordecai for this ?” Surely Mordecai did but his duty; he had heinously sinned, if he had not revealed this wicked treachery; yet Ahasuerus takes thought for his remuneration. How much more careful art thou, O God of all mercies, to reward the weak obedience of thine (at the best) unprofitable servants !
That which was intended to procure rest, sets it off: king Ahasuerus is unquiet in himself, to think that so great a merit should lie but so long neglected; neither can he find any peace in himself, till he have given order for a speedy retribution: hearing therefore by his servants, that Haman was below in the court, he sends for him up to consult with him,“ What should be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour ?” O marvellous concurrence of circumstances, drawn together by 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 inorning 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 he choose but put these two together; the Jews are appointed to death at the suit of Haman; this Mordecai is a sit 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 his?
When Haman heard himself called up to the bed-chamber 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 himn with strange importunity : for how could he conceive that any intention of more than ordinary honour could fall besides himself? Selflove, 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 ineant 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 show 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 upworthy 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 anbition is too bigh-flown, that seeks glory in the servility of equals.
The place adds much to the act; there is small heart in. a concealed honour : 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. O 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 thunderstricken with this killing word! “Do thou so to Mordecai.” I dare say, all the honours that Abasuerus 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 unconceivable 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 lackey so base a fellow through the streets ? must I be his herald, to proclaim his bonour 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 eneny. 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, perhaps 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 an higher nature, than the despite which he hath done to me. I will, I must give way for the time; mine