« السابقةمتابعة »
humble yieldance, when all the carriage of this business shall be understood, shall, I 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 hath 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 have come 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, it is not enough for this man to kill me, but he must mock me too: what an addition is this to the foriner 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, richly 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 state? would he have hanged me in triuinph? 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 had not fasted for nothing. O the wondrous 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 bimself: while princes have their own wills, they must do bis ; and shall either exalt or depress according to divine appointment. · I should commend Haman's obedience, in his humble condescent to so unpleasing and barsh a command of his master, were it not, that either he durst do no other, or that he thus stooped for an advantage. 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 fears or hopes.
All Shushan is in amaze 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 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 ; otherways, what recompense 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 sorrows.
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 thine 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 rouzeth up itself to a just execution ; that heavy mourning 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 snared in evil time, when it falleth 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 was only meant for his bane. The face of this invitation was 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 krow what terms there are betwixt me and Mordecai; had be 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 inyself in being too much affected with that which was not ill meant? had either the king or the 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 unguilty of any dignity 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 Abasuerus 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 be eats it not, as over lavishly spoken, but doubles and triples it with hearty assurances of a real prosecution ; while those tongues, which profess 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 action, which, as it is seldom found in haste, so is too often lost in delay. Now, therefore, with an humble and graceful obeisance, and with a countenance full of modest fear and sad gravity, she so delivers her petition, that the king might
necessity that both forced it upon her, and wrung it from her. “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king,
see it was
and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.” Expectation is either a friend or an enemy, according to the occasion : Ahasuerus looked for some high and difficult boon; now that he hears his queen beg for her life, it could not be but that the surplusage of his love to her must be turned into fury against her adversary; and his zeal must be so much more to her, as her suit was more meek and humble. “ For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish; but, if we had been sold for bondmen, and bondwomen, I had beld my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage. Crafty men are sometimes choked with their own plots. It was the proffer of ten thousand talents wherewith Haman hoped both to purchase his intended revenge, and the reputation of a worthy patriot; that sum is now laid in his dish, for a just argument of malicious corruption : for well might Esther plead, If we Jews deserved death, what needed our slaughter to be bought out? and if we deserved it not, what horrible cruelty was it to set a price upon innocent blood? it is not any offence of ours, it is only the despite of an enemy that hath wrought our destruction.
Besides, now it appears the king was abused by misinformation : the adversary suggested, that the life of the Jews could not stand with the king's profit; whereas their very bondage should be more damage to the state, than all Haman's worth could countervail. Truth may be smothered, but it cannot die; it may be disguised, but it will be known; it may be suppressed, but it will triumph.
But what shall we say to so harsh an aggravation? Could Esther have been silent in a case of decreed bondage, who is now so vchement in a case of death? Certainly, to a generous nature, death is far more easy than bondage; why would she have endured the greater, and yet so abhors the less? was it for that the Jews were already too well inured to captivity, and those evils are more tolerable wherewith we are acquainted ? or, was it for that there may be hopes in bondage, none in death? surely either of them were lamentable, and such as might deserve her humblest deprecation.
The queen was going on to have said, But, alas! nothing will satisfy our bloody enemy, save the utter extirpation of me and
my nation : when the impatient rage of the king interrupts her sentence in the midst, and, as if he had heard too