When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes.
(A. M. Symington, B. A.)
I. MORDECAI WAS EXCEEDINGLY AFFECTED AT WHAT THE KING HAD COMMANDED (ver. 1). See the stirring benevolence of this man, the sweet philanthropy which dwelt in his soul, and how deeply he felt the common calamity, which resulted from his own conscientious doings. There is nothing new in the Lord's people meeting with adversities and troubles in this life. "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."
II. IN THE DEPTH OF HIS GRIEF, MORDECAI "CAME EVEN BEFORE THE KING'S GATE, CLOTHED WITH SACK CLOTH" FOR NONE MIGHT ENTER INTO THE KING'S GATE CLOTHED WITH SACKCLOTH (ver. 2). Amusements or diversions are one class of spiritual idols to which many of the sons of men render homage. The wise man informs us that a scene of unbroken enjoyment is not the best for the interest of the soul. "It is better to go to the house of mourning," etc. "for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart." Do as the saints of old did; we never hear them saying, "I will rejoice in the world"; but "I will rejoice in the Lord," "I will rejoice in Thy salvation." "In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." "My soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."
III. Mordecai, though he could not enter within the king's gate with his signals of distress, WENT AS NEAR IT AS HE DARED TO GO, WITH THE VIEW OF ACQUAINTING ESTHER, BY MEANS OF HER ATTENDANTS, WITH THE IMPENDING DANGER. As soon as she heard of his mournful habit, she sympathised with him, and sent him raiment instead of his sackcloth, that he might resume his place. We cannot but admire two things which the grace of God had wrought in this woman — her condescension and gratitude. She was now a queen. Providence had placed her on the summit of worldly greatness, yet did she not disregard one of her subjects in distress. She kindly inquired into the cause of his sorrow. Her gratitude also was lovely. Mordecai had acted the part of a tender father towards her, when she was cast a parentless child on the wide world. She does not now forget that tenderness.
IV. MORDECAI SENT BACK TO ESTHER TIDINGS OF THE SITUATION IN WHICH HE, AND SHE, AND THEIR PEOPLE WERE PLACED (vers. 7, 8). Esther was now in a station, high and influential, and she is here charged to use her influence on the side of right and justice, and against oppression and tyranny. It is delightful to behold power thus employed! Power is a mighty weapon, and effects great things either to the injury or benefit of the community.
V. ESTHER SENT AGAIN TO MORDECAI, TO TELL HIM THAT SHE HAD NOT FOR A CONSIDERABLE PERIOD BEEN INVITED TO THE ROYAL PRESENCE, AND THAT TO GO UNINVITED WAS CERTAIN DEATH.
VI. NOTWITHSTANDING WHAT ESTHER SAID, MORDECAI WOULD BY NO MEANS HAVE HER NEGLECT THE WORK WHICH HE HAD ASSIGNED HER (vers. 13, 14). We learn a few particulars from these words.
1. That Mordecai had a strong belief that God would interfere for His people in this case.
2. That we are not to flinch from our duty by reason of the danger which we incur by its performance. It is easy to walk in the way while it is smooth and easy, but it must be walked in also when it is rough and thorny.
3. That the work of the Lord shall prosper, whether we endeavour to promote it or otherwise. "Deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place: but thou," etc. God is never at a loss for instruments to accomplish His will. If we neglect the honour, He will make others willing to spend and to be spent in His service.
VII. WE COME NOW TO ESTHER'S ANSWER (vers. 15, 16). Fasting and prayer were resorted to on this occasion. Spiritually performed, they never fail of success. United prayer, as in these cases, and in that of Peter, who was about to be killed by Herod, is omnipotent. Like Esther, let us work and pray. These duties must ever be associated. To work without praying is Pharisaism and presumption. To pray without working is insincerity and hypocrisy. Like Mordecai, let us counsel others to do their duty, heedless of all temporal consequences, and pray that they may have power from on high for its due accomplishment.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. SORROW CANNOT BE PREVENTED. Sibbes says, "None ever hath been so good or so great as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles." Thomas Watson observes, "The present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman's life is subject to storms. Man is born to trouble; he is heir-apparent to it; he comes into the world with a cry and goes out with a groan."
II. SORROW CANNOT BE EXPLAINED. In its general aspect sin is the cause of sorrow. When we come to particularise we find ourselves at fault. Eternity is the only true and complete interpreter of time. Heavenly joys only can make plain the meaning of earthly sorrows.
III. SORROW CANNOT BE HIDDEN. Emotion is as much part of our God-given nature as intellect. The man who does not feel is a man with the better part of manhood destroyed. Feeling must sooner or later find an expression. It is better not to hide our sorrows. Trouble concealed is trouble increased.
IV. SORROW CANNOT BE CONFINED. It passes from nature to nature; from home to home. This community of feeling, this susceptibility to sorrow, speaks to us of our brotherhood. We are members one of another.
V. BUT SORROW CAN BE MITIGATED.
1. By believing that the threatened trouble may never come.
2. By believing that God knows how to effect a deliverance.
3. By believing that sorrow may be made productive.As the waters of the Nile overflow the surrounding country, and open up the soil, end prepare it for the reception of the rice seed, so the waters of sorrow should overflow and open up the otherwise barren soil of our nature, and prepare it for the reception of the seed of all truth in its manifold bearings. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
Clothed with sackcloth.
I. WE CONSIDER FIRST THE RECOGNITION BY REVELATION OF SIN. Sackcloth is the outward and visible sign of sin, guilt, and misery. What is popularly called sin, certain philosophers call error, accident, inexperience, imperfection, disharmony, but they will not allow the presence in the human heart of a malign force which asserts itself against God and against the order of His universe. Intellectual masters like Emerson and Renan ignore conscience; they refuse to acknowledge the selfishness, baseness, and cruelty of society. Men generally are willing to dupe themselves touching the fact and power of sin. We do not unshrinkingly acquaint ourselves with the malady of the spirit as we should with any malady hinting itself in the flesh. The sackcloth must not mar our shallow happiness. In the vision of beautiful things we forget the troubles of conscience as the first sinners hid them. selves amid the leaves and flowers of paradise; in fashion and splendour we forget our guilty sorrow, as mediaeval mourners sometimes concealed the cerements with raiment of purple and gold; in the noises of the world we become oblivious of the interior discords, as soldiers forget their wounds amid the stir and trumpets of the battle. Nevertheless sin thrusts itself upon our attention. The creeds of all nations. declare the fact that men everywhere feel the bitter working and intolerable burden of conscience. The sense of sin has persisted through changing generations. The sackcloth is ours, and it eats our spirits like fire. More than any other teacher, Christ emphasised the actuality and awfulness of sin; more than any other He has intensified the world's consciousness of sin. He never sought to relieve us of the sackcloth by asserting our comparative innocence; He never attempted to work into that melancholy robe one thread of colour, to relieve it with one solitary spangle of rhetoric. He laid bare its principle and essence. The South Sea Islanders have a singular tradition to account for the existence of the dew. The legend states that in the beginning the earth touched the sky, that being the golden age when all was beautiful and glad; then some dreadful tragedy occurred, the primal unity was broken up, the earth and sky were torn asunder as we see them now, and the dew-drops of the morning are the tears that nature sheds over the sad divorce. This wild fable is a metaphor of the truth, the beginning of all evil lies in the alienation of the spirit of man from God, in the divorce of earth from heaven; here is the final reason why the face of humanity is wet with tears. Instead of shutting out the signs of woe, Christ arrayed Himself in the sackcloth, becoming sin for us who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; He establishes us in a true relation to the holy God; He restores in us the image of God; He fills us with the peace of God. Not in the spirit of barren cynicism does Christ lay bare the ghastly wound of our nature, but as a noble physician who can purge the mortal virus that destroys` us. We go to Him in sackcloth, but we leave His presence in purity's robe of snow, in the heavenly blue of the holiness of truth.
II. WE CONSIDER THE RECOGNITION BY REVELATION OF SORROW. Sackcloth is the raiment of sorrow, and as such it was interdicted by the Persian monarch. We still follow the same insane course, minimising, denying suffering. Society sometimes attempts this. Literature sometimes follows the same cue. Goethe made it one of the rules of his life to avoid everything that could suggest painful ideas. Art has yielded to the same temptation. Most of us are inclined to the sorry trick of gliding over painful things. When the physician prescribed blisters to Marie Bashkirtseff to check her consumptive tendency, the vain, cynical girl wrote: "I will put on as many blisters as they like. I shall be able to hide the mark by bodices trimmed with flowers and lace and tulle, and a thousand other things that are worn, without being required; it may even look pretty. Ah! I am comforted." The real secret of the power of many of the fashions and diversions of the world is found in the fact that they hide disagreeable things, and render men oblivious for awhile of the mystery and weight of an unintelligible world. There is no screen to shut off permanently the spectacle of suffering. When Marie Antoinette passed to her bridal in Paris, the halt, the lame, and the blind were sedulously kept out of her way, lest their appearance should mar the joyousness of her reception; but ere long the poor queen had a very close view of misery's children, and she drank to the dregs the cup of life's bitterness. Reason as we may, suffering will find us out, and pierce us to the heart. We will not have the philosophy that ignores suffering; witness the popularity of Schopenhaur. We resent the art that ignores sorrow. The most popular picture in the world to-day is the "Angelus" of Millet. We will not have the literature that ignores suffering. Classic religions had little or nothing to do with the sorrows of the million; the gods reigned on Mount Olympus, taking little note of the grief of mortals. Christianity boldly recognises the sad element in human nature. Christ makes clear to us the origin of suffering. He shows that its genesis is in the error of the human will; but if suffering originate in the error of the human will, it ceases at once if the erring will be brought into correspondence with the primitive order of the universe. Christ has power to establish this harmony. Dealing with sin, He dries up the stream of sorrow at its fountain. By the authority of that word that speaks the forgiveness of our sin, He wipes away all tears from the face of such as obey Him. Christ gives us the noblest example of suffering. So far from shutting His gate on the sackcloth, once more He adopted it, and showed how it might become a robe of glory. Poison is said to be extracted from the rattlesnake for medicinal purposes; but infinitely more wonderful is the fact that the suffering which comes out of sin counterworks sin, and brings to pass the transfiguration of the sufferer. It is a clumsy mistake to call Christianity a religion of sorrow — it is a religion for sorrow.
III. WE CONSIDER THE RECOGNITION BY REVELATION OF DEATH. We have, again, adroit ways of shutting the gate upon that sackcloth which is the sign of death. Some would have us believe that through the scientific and philosophic developments of later centuries the sombre way of viewing death has become obsolete. The fact, however, still remains, that death is the crowning evil, the absolute bankruptcy, the final defeat, the endless exile. If we are foolish enough to shut the gate on the thought of death, by no stratagem can we shut the gate upon death itself. Christ displays the fact, the power, the terror of death without reserve or softening. He shows that death is unnatural, that it is the fruit of disobedience, and by giving us purity and peace He gives us eternal life. He demonstrates immortality by raising us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. Here is the supreme proof of immortality: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto the Father." The moral works are the greater works. If Christ has raised us from the death of sin, why should we think it a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? If He has wrought the greater, He will not fail with the less. Christ bringing life and immortality to light has brought about the great change in the point of view from which we regard death, the point of view which is full of consolation and hope. Once more, by boldly adopting the sackcloth Christ has changed it into a robe of light. We cannot escape the evils of life. Wearing wreaths of roses, our heads will still ache. "The king sighs as often as the peasant"; this proverb anticipates the fact that those who participate in the richest civilisation that will ever flower will sigh as men sigh now. Esther "sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take his sackcloth from him, but he received it not." In vain men offer us robes of beauty, chiding us for wearing the robes of night; we must give place to all the sad thoughts of our mortality until we find a salvation that goes to the root of our suffering, that dries up the fount of our tears. Christianity gives such large recognition to the pathetic element of life, because it divines the secret of our mighty misfortune, and brings with it the sovereign antidote. The critics declare Rubens had an absolute delight in representing pain, and they refer us to his picture of the "Brazen Serpent." The writhing, gasping crowd is everything, and the supreme instrument of cure, the brazen serpent itself, is small and obscure, no conspicuous feature whatever of the picture. Revelation brings out broadly and impressively the darkness of the world, the malady of life, the terror of death, only that it may evermore make conspicuous the uplifted Cross, which, once seen, is death to every vice, a consolation in every sorrow, a victory over every fear.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
For none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
And in every province... there was great mourning among the Jews.
Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment.
Then called Esther for Hatach, one Of the king's chamberlains.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
And to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
But I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther.
(A. M. Symington, B. A.)
Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
Then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
1. It was a time of great trial for the people of Israel.
2. The time tested the sincerity of Esther's affection for Mordecai, and brought that into immediate demonstration.
3. The time also tried the sincerity of Esther's affection for her nation. The truly pious heart will cherish an universal love. The wants and sorrows of all mankind are the subjects of its sympathy and its concern. But true religion especially exalts and enlarges domestic love, and love for our country and nation. The more truly the heart is engaged for God the more earnestly will it feel the sorrows and needs of those who are near to us. Have we wealth? We have those connected with us who are poor and suffering. Have we station or knowledge? It is no Christian heart which has no fellowship in suffering and no tenderness for woe. Yet we sadly see a hardness of heart often attendant on exalted conditions. Men seem to feel that they have been elevated by their own efforts, and that inability to do the same in others is in some degree a crime which ought to be punished by suffering. They invent every possible excuse for withholding their demanded aid.
4. The time displayed her entire disinterestedness of spirit, and her trust in God. She resolved to put the request of Mordecai into immediate operation. Mere self-indulgence would have delighted in her own state of luxury and enjoyment, and have shut her ears and her heart against the cries and woes of her people. To preserve this people she must hazard her own life. Beautiful is this illustration of a disinterested and devoted spirit. I am content to perish to gain the great end of blessing to others which I have before me. Such was the love of our Divine Redeemer for us. "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the Cross and despised the shame."
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
I. THAT GREAT ADVANTAGES ARE CONFERRED FOR A DIVINE PURPOSE. Talents, position, influence, wealth.
II. THAT GOD REQUIRES THAT SUCH ADVANTAGES SHOULD BE FAITHFULLY USED FOR THE PROMOTION OF HIS PURPOSES.
III. THAT SUCH DIVINE PURPOSES CANNOT BE FRUSTRATED.
IV. THOSE WHO FRUSTRATE DIVINE PURPOSES SHALL BE INJURED.
V. LEARN THAT A FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF DUTY MUST BRING RICH RESULTS.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
1. To a question. Brother, will you separate your interests from those of your people and your God? Do you mean to say, "I shall look to my own salvation, but I cannot be supposed to take an interest in saving others"? In such a spirit as that I do not say you will be lost, but I say you are lost already. It is as needful that you be saved from selfishness as from any other vice.
2. To a second question: If you could separate your interests from those of the cause of God, would you thereby secure them?
3. Remember, for your humiliation, that God can do without you.
4. As God can do without us, it may be He will do without us.
5. How will you bear the disgrace, if ever it come upon you, of having suffered your golden opportunities to be despised?
II. CONSIDER —
1. To what some of you have been advanced.
2. Why the Lord has brought you where you are.
3. At what a time it is that you have been thus advanced.
4. Under what special circumstances you have come where you are.
5. With what singular personal adaptations you are endowed for the work to which God has called you.
III. ASPIRE. "Who knoweth," etc. When Louis Napoleon was shut up in the fortress of Ham, and everybody ridiculed his foolish attempts upon France, yet he said to himself, "Who knows? I am the nephew of my uncle, and may yet sit upon the imperial throne," and he did so before many years had passed. I have no desire to make any man ambitious after the poor thrones, etc., of earth, but I would fain make you all ardently ambitious to honour God and bless men.
1. If thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this, be con fident that thou art safe.
2. If God has a purpose to serve by a man, that man will live out his day and accomplish the Divine design.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. That the college graduate of to-day, who has completed a four years' course of liberal training in a well-equipped and thoroughly-manned institution of learning comes into a kingdom.
2. The college graduate of to-day comes into his kingdom at a time of marvellous and portentous significance.
3. Our time, with its sudden transitions, is fraught with danger to all classes of society, but to none more than to those who till the soil.
(C. S. Walker, Ph. D.)
I. THAT THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE HIGHEST GOOD OF MAN. This is shown —
1. In the advent of Christ for the world's salvation.
2. The spread of the gospel and the conversion of the Gentiles.
3. The restoration of peace between nations and the final destruction of slavery.
II. THE HIGHEST GOOD OF MAN IS SECURED INDEPENDENTLY OF MAN'S INDIVIDUAL CONDUCT. The stream of human agency is like a river, ever flowing and ever changing. One drop in the stream cannot say, "When I am gone the channel will be dry." No sooner is room made than another follows, and the channel is ever full. So it is in the history of man. God's providence will secure workers.
III. THAT MEN ARE PLACED BY GOD IN SUCH POSITIONS THAT THEY MAY SECURE FOR THEMSELVES THE HONOUR OF HELPING GOD IN HIS PROVIDENTIAL WORK.
IV. IN NOT MAKING USE OF OUR PROVIDENTIAL POSITION WE EXPOSE OURSELVES TO FEARFUL EVILS.
V. THAT IN MAKING USE OF OUR PROVIDENTIAL POSITIONS, WE SHALL REQUIRE SPECIAL QUALIFICATIONS, AND SHALL HAVE THE SYMPATHY AND CO-OPERATION OF A HOLY UNIVERSE, AS WELL AS THE COMMENDATION AND BLESSING OF GOD. Notice —
1. That in doing our duty we show the possession of the highest and noblest moral qualities.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1). (Evan Lewis.)
(2) (3) (4) 2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1). (Evan Lewis.)
(3) (4) 2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1). (Evan Lewis.)
2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1). (Evan Lewis.)
2. That in doing our duty we have the help of a holy universe (Esther 6:1).
: —The text presents for our consideration —
I. A FIRM CONVICTION OF AN OVERRULING PROVIDENCE.
II. THE RECOGNITION OF HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITIES IN THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-SACRIFICE WHICH ENABLES MEN TO RE ACCEPTABLE INSTRUMENTS IN THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT.
(Prof. E. J. Wolf, D. D.)
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
: I. THAT RUNNING THROUGH THE PROVIDENCE OF THIS WORLD THERE IS A GRACIOUS DIVINE PURPOSE FOR ITS ULTIMATE SALVATION. 1. Mordecai believed in the indestructibility of the Jews. This was with him evidently a religious faith. This faith must have been founded on one or more of the promises of God. 2. This purpose of the preservation of the Jews is but a branch and a sign of another and grander purpose — a purpose to gather and save the whole world. This types itself in the kingly history; gleams in the prophet's vision; breathes in the holy psalm; speaks out in the Acts of the Apostles; runs through all the epistles, and sighs up to heaven in that last apocalyptic cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." II. THAT RICH AND RARE OPPORTUNITIES OCCUR IN THE PROGRESS OF THINGS, BY WHICH BELIEVING MEN ARE ALLOWED TO COME EFFECTUALLY "TO THE HELP OF THE LORD AGAINST THE MIGHTY." We must spread the gospel or lose it. Our moral opportunities, our seasonable times for action, are very precious, are very brief, and when they are gone they cannot be renewed. So it is at times with Churches, with societies, and with nations. III. THAT THE NEGLECT OF SUCH PROVIDENTIAL CALLS HAS A TENDENCY TO BRING DESTRUCTION. Mordecai probably had in view a general principle of retribution, acting at all times, but sure to act swiftly and terribly in a case like this. This principle has its fullest application to the ungodly. The way, the hope, the expectation, the works, the memory, and saddest of all, the soul of the wicked shall perish. Let a Christian man neglect opportunities and hold truth in unrighteousness, and what will happen to him? He perishes as to the real power of his life. It is the same with Churches, etc. No Church, etc., can live except as they continue to be in harmony with the purpose and the providence of God. Where are the seven Churches in Asia? IV. THAT OBEDIENCE WILL BRING ELEVATION AND BLESSING. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THAT RUNNING THROUGH THE PROVIDENCE OF THIS WORLD THERE IS A GRACIOUS DIVINE PURPOSE FOR ITS ULTIMATE SALVATION.
1. Mordecai believed in the indestructibility of the Jews. This was with him evidently a religious faith. This faith must have been founded on one or more of the promises of God.
2. This purpose of the preservation of the Jews is but a branch and a sign of another and grander purpose — a purpose to gather and save the whole world. This types itself in the kingly history; gleams in the prophet's vision; breathes in the holy psalm; speaks out in the Acts of the Apostles; runs through all the epistles, and sighs up to heaven in that last apocalyptic cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
II. THAT RICH AND RARE OPPORTUNITIES OCCUR IN THE PROGRESS OF THINGS, BY WHICH BELIEVING MEN ARE ALLOWED TO COME EFFECTUALLY "TO THE HELP OF THE LORD AGAINST THE MIGHTY." We must spread the gospel or lose it. Our moral opportunities, our seasonable times for action, are very precious, are very brief, and when they are gone they cannot be renewed. So it is at times with Churches, with societies, and with nations.
III. THAT THE NEGLECT OF SUCH PROVIDENTIAL CALLS HAS A TENDENCY TO BRING DESTRUCTION. Mordecai probably had in view a general principle of retribution, acting at all times, but sure to act swiftly and terribly in a case like this. This principle has its fullest application to the ungodly. The way, the hope, the expectation, the works, the memory, and saddest of all, the soul of the wicked shall perish. Let a Christian man neglect opportunities and hold truth in unrighteousness, and what will happen to him? He perishes as to the real power of his life. It is the same with Churches, etc. No Church, etc., can live except as they continue to be in harmony with the purpose and the providence of God. Where are the seven Churches in Asia?
IV. THAT OBEDIENCE WILL BRING ELEVATION AND BLESSING.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THAT THE MAN WHO USED THESE WORDS WAS EVIDENTLY WELL AWARE THAT THE CAUSE OF GOD WAS NOT DEPENDENT ON THE AIDS OF MEN. This is evident if we consider —
1. The meanness of the instruments and the greatness of the work to be done.
2. How absolute are the promises of God, which show His determination to bless His people.
3. The power of God. These considerations ought to teach the instruments to be humble, and they ought also to confirm the faith of the people of God.
II. THAT HIS PROVIDENCE DOES RAISE UP SUITABLE INSTRUMENTS TO CARRY FORWARD HIS WORK.
III. THAT IT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE INSTRUMENTS TO GIVE THEMSELVES UP TO THE WORK. We are not only to study the book of God to know what is our duty in general, but also the book of providence to know what is the particular duty He designs us to do. We ought to study —
1. Our particular talent.
2. Our sphere.
3. Our circumstances.
4. The times.
IV. THAT AN AWFUL DOOM RESTS ON THOSE WHO LISTEN NOT TO THE CALL OF PROVIDENCE.
1. We shall lose the satisfaction of doing good.
2. We shall not prosper.
(1) (2) 3. There is an intimate connection between the degrees of glory in heaven and the exercises of activity here. (W. H. Cooper.)
(2) 3. There is an intimate connection between the degrees of glory in heaven and the exercises of activity here. (W. H. Cooper.)
3. There is an intimate connection between the degrees of glory in heaven and the exercises of activity here.
(W. H. Cooper.)
: —God's providential purpose; man's present opportunity; that is how I read the lesson of this marvellous history. A purpose clearly written on the face of events and to be readily deciphered from their grouping. Moses at the Red Sea heard a voice telling him to stretch his rod over the sea, that a way might be made for the ransomed to pass over. Now we have no voice; but circumstances gather about us, the rod is thrust into our hand, and we miss our deliverance if we do not see that we must wave the rod. We are not in intellectual and religious infancy. We ought to be able to discover without any warning voice what God's purpose is, and what our opportunity is worth.
I. AS TO LIFE ITSELF, HUMAN EXISTENCE; ENTRY UPON IT IS A COMING TO A KINGDOM. Living now, we are conditioned by the time and circumstances of to-day. Our days have fallen on a time different from all that have gone before, unique in this particular, if in nothing else — the power of public opinion. In former days but one man here and there seemed to have a kingdom to enter upon, a few men swayed the nations, a few men seemed to be inspired to deeds which raised them into leaders of the people. But now the rulers in name are the ruled in fact. The government is governed and the people control everything. It is a great thing to live now. Literature and science pour their wealth out before us. By these things we have the chance of being better men in some directions of thought and of exerting a mightier influence in the world than our fathers could exert. Some men might just as well have lived hundreds of years ago, for any appreciation they seem to have of the privileges and demands of the time. No time is like another in all its details. We have to make it what it shall be. By the impulse of an earnest life, by the influence of holy character, by brief words spoken and little deeds done according to our opportunity, must we do something to mould that public opinion which is omnipotent.
II. AS CHRISTIANS WE HAVE COME TO A KINGDOM. Christianity has always presented two aspects, the offensive and the defensive. In the old days of national warfare, when ships were made of wood, rough-wrought cannon and shot were sufficient means of attack. But with the iron-plating has necessarily come improvement in the means of destruction. As the ship becomes more exposed to the danger of improved appliances she must be more scientifically defended. We sometimes smile as we see the way in which truth used to be asserted and defended. We now see that truth is its own best defence.
I. IN ORDER TO MEET THE SPECIAL DEMAND OF THIS AGE YOU NEED TO BE AN UNMISTAKABLE, AGGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN. Of half-and-half Christians we do not want any more. A great deal of the piety of the day is too exclusive. It hides itself. It needs more fresh air, more outdoor exercise. There are many Christians who are giving their entire life to self-examination. They are feeling their pulses to see what is the condition of their spiritual health. How long would a man have robust physical health if he kept all the day feeling his pulse instead of going out into active, earnest, every-day work? I was once amid the wonderful, bewitching cactus growths of North Carolina. I never was more bewildered with the beauty of flowers, and yet when I would take up one of these cactuses and pull the leaves apart the beauty was all gone. You could hardly tell that it had ever been a flower. And there are a great many Christian people in this day just pulling apart their Christian experiences to see what there is in them, and there is nothing left in them. This style of self-examination is a damage instead of an advantage to their Christian character. I remember when I was a boy I used to have a small piece in the garden that I called my own, and I planted corn there, and every few days I would pull it up to see how fast it was growing. Now, there are a great many Christian people in this day whose self-examination merely amounts to the pulling up of that which they only yesterday or the day before planted. If you want to have a stalwart Christian character, plant it right out of doors in the great field of Christian usefulness. The century plant is wonderfully suggestive and wonderfully beautiful, but I never look at it without thinking of its parsimony. It lets whole generations go by before it puts forth one blossom; so I have really more admiration when I see the dewy tears in the blue eyes of the violets, for they come every spring. Time is going by so rapidly that we cannot afford to be idle. A recent statistician says that human life now has an average of only thirty-two years. From these thirty-two years you must subtract all the time you take for sleep, and the taking of food, and recreation; that will leave you about sixteen years. From those sixteen years you must subtract all the time that you are necessarily engaged in the earning of a livelihood; that will leave you about eight years. From those eight years you must take all the days, and weeks, and months — all the length of time that is passed in sickness; leaving you about one year in which to work for God.
II. To meet the duties this age demands of you, you must, ON THE ONE HAND, AVOID RECKLESS ICONOCLASM, AND ON THE OTHER HAND, NOT STICK TOO MUCH TO THINGS BECAUSE THEY ARE OLD. Do not take hold of a thing merely because it is new. Do not adhere to anything merely because it is old. There is not a single enterprise of the Church or the world but has sometime been scoffed at. There was a time when men derided even Bible societies, and when a few young men met in Massachusetts and organised the first missionary society ever organised in this country there went laughter and ridicule all around the Christian Church. They said the undertaking was preposterous. And so also the work of Jesus Christ was assailed. People cried out, "Who ever heard of such theories of ethics and government? Who ever noticed such a style of preaching as Jesus had?" Many have thought that the chariot of God's truth would fall to pieces if it once got out of the old rut. And so there are those who have no patience with anything like improvement in church architecture, or with anything like good, hearty, earnest church singing, and they deride any form of religious discussion which goes down walking among every-day men rather than that which makes an excursion on rhetorical stilts. Oh, that the Church of God would wake up to an adaptability of work! There is work for you to do, and for me to do, in order to this grand accomplishment. Here is my pulpit, and I preach in it. Your pulpit is the bank. Your pulpit is the store. Your pulpit is the editorial chair. Your pulpit is the anvil. Your pulpit is the house scaffolding. Your pulpit is the mechanic's shop.
III. In order to be qualified to meet your duty in this particular age, YOU WANT UNBOUNDED FAITH IN THE TRIUMPH OF THE TRUTH AND THE OVERTHROW OF WICKEDNESS,
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
I. LET US RECOGNISE THE FACT THAT AS SHE HAD HER OPPORTUNITY, SO HAVE WE OURS. If we look around us we must see how God brings certain persons into certain circumstances because they are most fit to be there. One in a family converted. One in a family to whom has been given the seeing eyes and the understanding heart. One in a family more clever, more strong, more amiable than the rest. Why? That that one may fulfil the duties, and meet, not shirk, the responsibilities of that position.
II. LET US LEARN THAT THE FACT OF A DUTY BEING DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS IS NO EXCUSE FOR OUR FAILING TO PERFORM IT HONESTLY.
III. WE MAY LEARN THE SOURCE OF TRUE STRENGTH AND CONFIDENCE.
IV. WE MAY LEARN THAT HAVING SEEN OUR DUTY, AND ASKED GOD'S GUIDANCE AND BLESSING, WE SHOULD FEARLESSLY GO THROUGH WITH OUR TASK. Fearlessly, but wisely, according to the light that is given to us. Esther fortified her soul with trust in God, and then used her own common sense. Esther's judgment was equal to her courage. She knew how to "bide her time.
I. THAT GOD'S CAUSE IS INDEPENDENT OF OUR EFFORTS. Mordecai believed that the record of God's faithfulness in the past gave the assurance that in some way of His own He would prevent the extinction of His people. This is an attitude of mind we should seek to cultivate in reference to the cause of Christ. This cause has the omnipotence of God behind it. He has promised Christ the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession, and, whoever helps and whoever hinders, His word shall not be broken. One man with truth and the promise of God at his back is stronger than an opposing world. The cause of Christ has come through crises when persecution has tried to exterminate it. It has passed through periods of scepticism when learning and cleverness have fancied that they have blown it away as an exploded superstition. Men have had to stand up for it single-handed against principalities and powers, but with it at their backs they have been stronger than all that were against them.
II. THAT WE ARE NOT INDEPENDENT OF IT. We cannot hold back from Christ's cause with impunity. It can do without us, but we cannot do without it. If religion is a reality, to live without it is to suppress and ultimately destroy the most noble part of our being. To live without God is to renounce the profoundest and most influential experience which life contains. If Christ is the central figure in history, and if the movement He has set ageing is the central current of history, then to be dissociated with His aims is to be a cipher or perhaps even a minus quantity in the sum of good.
III. CHRIST'S CAUSE OFFERS THE NOBLEST EMPLOYMENT FOE OUR GIFTS. It is a transfiguring moment when the thought first penetrates a man that the purpose for which he has received his gifts is to help humanity and the cause of Christ in the world. A man enters upon his spiritual majority when he ceases to be the most important object in the world to himself, and sees outside an object which makes him forget himself and irresistibly draws him on. The problem of the degraded and disinherited is pressing on the attention of intelligent minds with an urgency which cannot be disregarded. The heathen world is opening everywhere to the influences of the gospel If you would run in response to this call, do not neglect the preparation. Knowledge is the armour of light in which the battles of progress have to be fought. Life for God in public must be balanced by life with God in secret.
(James Stalker, D. D.)
(W. C. Burns, D. D.)
I. THAT A CRISIS HAS COME OF OVERWHELMING IMPORTANCE IN THE RELIGIOUS HISTORY OF THE WORLD. It is a crisis of magnificent opportunity and also of infinite responsibility. It is a crisis in which unparalleled success may be achieved for the glory of God, or where Churches may be utterly broken and destroyed by their unfaithfulness and disobedience. It is, indeed, the crisis of history; for never have such opportunities for the evangelisation of our own country, or of the heathen abroad, been presented; never have difficulties been so remarkably removed, and never were calls for help so loud and piercing as just now. That I may help you to realise this truth, let me recall a few facts to your remembrance. Within the lifetime of some now here the world was practically closed against the extension of Protestant Christianity. Mohammedanism sealed itself against the truth of Jesus; and the heathen nations of the earth were walled around by prejudice or by prohibitory laws. China and Japan were hermetically sealed against the entrance of Christianity. And now, with our scientific discoveries, our mechanical inventions, our great social movements and combinations, we are sweeping along with a rapidity which it is almost bewildering to contemplate. All this is wonderful beyond realisation. Never did the human race move so quickly. Time after time have the maps of the world been altered and reformed in our day. Now with a startling swiftness the moral map of the world is changing, and no one can presage what will be the next great movement that will command the wonder of mankind. In all these revolutions and developments of the hour, what institution ought to be more concerned than the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Church of to-day is the arbiter of the world's future. It is called on to save idolatrous nations awakening from the sleep of ages from relapsing into the abyss of scepticism. It is summoned to sanctify and beautify the growing intelligence and wealth of barbarous peoples, by suffusing them with the glory of Christian holiness and truth. It is destined to become the harbinger and bestower of liberty, of enfranchisement, of spiritual expansion to classes and masses of the race who have hitherto groaned in bondage and shame.
II. WHAT IS REQUIRED FROM THE CHURCH TO MEET THE PRESSING CRISIS. We have a Church of the times; we need a Church for the times. The Church of the times is far too much formal, aiming at gentility and fashion; the Church for the times must be spiritual and powerful, aiming at evangelistic aggression and the conversion of the world. If the Church will seek a new baptism and enter on a new career of aggressiveness, how soon the most glorious prophecies of time shall be fulfilled it is impossible to realise. "A short work will God make upon the earth." A very brief period sufficed for the destruction of Sennacherib's host and for the downfall of Babylon. It was a short time only that was required for the humbling of Napoleon's pride. And if the Church of God, with her splendour of learning, her ripeness of intellect, her boundless wealth, and her unparalleled vantage-ground, be only faithful and obedient, and ready for the avalanche of opportunities which now present themselves, the progress of the gospel must be far more rapid and glorious than ever before.
(W. J. Townsend.)
I. THAT ALL GENERATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS ARE CREATED FOR THEIR OWN END. We cannot doubt that it was with a definite design that God set up the pillars of the universe. And so with its continued existence. The mighty river of human life which gushed forth in Adam, flows, we are sure, to some goal and makes to some issue. God beholds the vast tide of being sweeping on to a glorious consummation, which He perceives now, and we shall see hereafter, to have been the point to which the current tended from the beginning. This will appear from the continual changes which take place. Why do not men's habits remain always the same? Why does one generation abandon the principles and tastes of its predecessor? How is it that the nineteenth century is not like the sixteenth? Continual change intimates that we are travelling on to an appointed destination. To suppose otherwise would be to suppose God to be a God, not of order, but of confusion. We see traces of this in the several dispensations of religion which God has revealed. The law prepared the way for the gospel; all the wars and conquests of Rome brought the human family into a condition the most favourable for the preaching of the apostles. The Patriarchal, the Levitical, and the Christian dispensations, appear to follow in manifest order, each working up and fading into that which came next. What the world is now is a necessary step to what the world is to be. And what is true of periods of a thousand years is true also of each period of fourscore years. Every generation of human kind is born for an end. We are apt to consider overmuch individual life, not the life of the universe. We see unnumbered ripples on the stream of time, coming and going apparently without cause or effect: God beholds in each ripple an onward flow; that not one could be withdrawn without injury to the symmetry of the great whole. There arises out of all this a very solemn character attaching to our tenure of life. We have our part in a stupendous work, whose limits we cannot discern. We have been launched into being just at the moment when we were wanted. Not to do our own pleasure, but to fulfil a part in working out God's counsels. This is the solemn vocation of each generation.
II. VERY COMMONLY A MAN'S LIFE WORKS UP TO, OR HANGS UPON A CERTAIN CRITICAL MOMENT. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Oh I they are words which may well sound in the ears of the soul, at many a sick-bed, at many an event of inferior importance in our earthly career. How did Abraham live seventy years in his father's house an ordinary man, till the mysterious moment when the voice said to him, "Come out from thy kindred"? and on what he did at that strange bidding hung not only his, but the world's history! How did all David's life turn upon the incident, that at the moment when he chanced to visit his brethren in the camp, at that moment Goliath came out with his defiance of the living God! And so with ourselves: there are in almost every man's life turning-points upon which all hangs. Who cannot look back and discern times and seasons when, if he had acted otherwise, his whole after-life would have been altered? And thus in religion — whether a man be lost or saved will frequently depend upon a step taken at a particular crisis; all subsequent steps grow out of that step. True that every hour of our lives is an hour when good and evil are set before us. There are strong temptations occurring at intervals, which, well got over, leave a man's heart for a long time at liberty; which, if not resisted, lead from deceit to deceit-from sin to sin — until there is no getting the feet out of the net. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Sometimes a man's whole life may be traced afterwards to have led up to one such moment. His education, his tastes, his companionships may all be discerned to have been the instrumentality of drawing him into the wilderness for his one great conflict with the adversary.
(J. B. Woodford, M. A.)
Homilist.The thought to a devout man is always supreme — thou art come here for such a time — for such a purpose. Thy steps are ordered of the Lord. Thy talents, thy character, thy place in society have all been shaped and settled, with a special adaptation to the Divine purpose. "Nothing walks with aimless feet." As in the human body every function, so in the Divine government every Christian is placed to do a work which none else can do, and his Lord's eye is ever on him. While this is his victory over every base fear, and discouraging thought, his faith, his confidence that God has called him to his proper work, will sustain him in it.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan.
Sermons by Monday Club.The spectacle presented reminds us —
I. THAT IN NEITHER PLACE NOR FORTUNE HAS ANY ONE SECURITY AGAINST TRIAL AND DANGER. The palace may be a prison to its inmate, the hut cannot exclude the approaches of a grief.
II. THAT ONE REASON NOT ONLY FOR GIFTS OF PLACE AND FORTUNE, BUT FOE EXPERIENCES OF TROUBLE ALSO, MUST BE THAT WE MAY HELP OTHERS IN THEIR PERILS. Power and opportunity measure obligation. Even sorrow and peril as they enrich and mellow the nature, enhance the power to help and bless.
III. THAT RISK AND DIFFICULTY DO NOT EXEMPT FROM DUTY OR RELEASE FROM OBLIGATION. It is told of the Duke of Wellington that, in one of his campaigns, an officer awoke him to say to him that a certain enterprise to be carried into effect that night was impossible. As the officer was going on to give reasons for this opinion, the Duke replied, "Bring me my order-book." Turning over its leaves, he said, "It is not at all impossible; see, it is down in the order-book." Whereupon he lay down to sleep again. Risks are not to be unprovided for. Difficulties are not to be despised; but had there been none to run great risks, to undertake in the face of great hardships, prophets and apostles had been few. There had been no Elijah or Daniel, no John the Baptist or Paul the apostle, no Luther or Knox.
IV. THAT HELPING TO SAVE OTHERS IS OFTEN THE BEST WAY TO INSURE OUR OWN SALVATION. The teaching of experience and history is that mere self-seeking is self-ruin. There is such a thing as the solidarity of human interests. The capitalist thrives best when he promotes the weal of the labourer, the labourer when he regards the interests of his employer. To save my children I must help to save my neighbour's. To one who inquired if the heathen can be saved if we do not give them the gospel, the apt reply was, "A much more practical question for us is whether we can be saved if we do not help to give it them." An eminent statesman early professed his Christian faith, and, for some years maintained a godly walk. After a time he ceased to be religiously active, and allowed his light to be hid. While not renouncing his faith, yet his Christian character did neither himself nor Christ any honour. One evening he dropped into a little school-house gathering, and at the close he introduced himself to the preacher, and after an earnest conversation with him, he said, "Sir, I would give all the fame I now have, or expect to have, for the assurance of that hope of which you have spoken to-night." To be ourselves saved we must help to save others.
V. OF THE TRUE SOURCE OF COURAGE AND HELP IN PERPLEXITY AND ILL. Although no distinct mention of prayer is made, yet it is evidently implied. It is an instinct of the human heart to resort to the Hearer of Prayer. In its distress the soul cries unto God. When a great steamship was hourly expected to sink in mid-ocean we are told that all on board gave themselves to prayer.
VI. THAT GOD'S PROVIDENCE IS ALWAYS OVER HIS PEOPLE FOR GOOD.
(Sermons by Monday Club.)
1. Esther's heart was moved not to shrink from manifest duty. "Add to your faith, virtue," courage, a manly and determined purpose to carry out its calls to their utmost extent. Stop not to ask leave of circumstances, of personal convenience or indolent self-indulgence, but go forward in your appointed work. How prone we are to shrink from disagreeable or dangerous duty. How many excuses we are able to frame for our neglect. How easy it becomes to satisfy our sinful hearts that God will not require that which it is so difficult or so dangerous to perform. Fly from no duty when the word and providence of God call you forward. Go on, and trust yourself to God.
2. Esther's heart was moved to sincere dependence on God. Prayer seems the natural voice of danger and sorrow. The ancient philosopher said, "If a man would learn to pray, let him go to sea." The hour of the tempest will be to multitudes a new lesson in their relations to God. When men are in affliction and trouble they are easily led to cry unto God. Esther and her maidens prayed. What if the husband does not or will not bless his household? Cannot the mother and the wife collect her children and her maidens for prayer?
3. The king's heart was moved to listen and to accept her. The clouds have passed, and the Lord whom she loved has given her a token for good. This is the power of prayer, the work of providence, the influence of grace. The king's heart is in the hands of the Lord, and as the rivers of water, He has turned it according to His will. What a lesson in providence is this! The same power which leads to prayer, and supports us in prayer, at the same time works over other minds and other things to make an answer completely ready for our enjoyment. How easily can God remove all the stumbling-blocks out of the way of His children! "What art thou, O, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." Anticipated difficulties suddenly vanish; enemies whom we had expected are not found; the things which apparently threatened our hurt turn out to our advantage; and blessings which we had not dared to hope for crowd around our path. Thus Paul found it at Rome.
4. God moved Esther's heart to great wisdom and prudence in her management of the undertaking she had assumed. Peculiar wisdom anal skill often are imparted to us in answer to prayers for the accomplishment of the work of the Lord. Our dependence and prayer have no tendency to make us headlong or rash. We are still to employ all the proper means and agencies which our utmost wisdom will suggest to attain the end we have in view. True piety in the exercise of its faith and love and hope towards God, is the highest wisdom. It unites all the wisest calculation and effort of man with all the goodness and power of God. It is a fellowship, a partnership with God in which He furnishes all the capital, and employs our sanctified labours alone; in which we strive to be faithful, and He promises to bless.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Moray Club Sermon.I. WE NOTE THE FACT THAT EVERY ONE HAS SOME SPECIAL MISSION. Esther's special mission was to avert the destruction which threatened her people. Is it true that all have some such peculiar charge? We read of the decisive battles of the world and their commanders; of the dominating philosophies and their masters; of the ruling arts and their teachers; of the controlling religions and their high-priests; of the great reforms and their leaders. Yet these elect ones are but as a handful of sands to the grains which make the shore, For the rest, mere existence seems to be its own end and object. But it is not so. A persistent pressure is in and on every heart to enter into secret communication with God, and linking its weakness with His strength, exerts a blessed influence which, like the sound-waves, goes on endlessly. That hour of audience with its Maker is its greatest possibility. For that, at least, it has a special mission. From Him it receives what almost might be called "sealed orders." Saul of Tarsus was given his at Damascus, and so he went to Jerusalem, not knowing how they would read as he opened them there. So every Christian goes his way, till we find Henry Martyn preaching Christ to the Hindus, Isaac Newton solving the problem of the apple's fall, Leigh Richmond writing "The Dairyman's Daughter," George Muller erecting his orphanage, Mary Lyon opening collegiate doors to her sisters, and Abraham Lincoln issuing the emancipation proclamation. And though not yet widely observed, the prayers, counsels, and inspirations by which gifted souls have roused, led, and saved society originated in the closet, and kitchen, and field, where the godly parent or teacher has fulfilled a holy and particular mission. The successful general is feted and praised. Every soldier in the ranks is just as essential to the victory. Every individual, however insignificant, has his momentous obligation. The child's hand in the lighthouse tower may turn the helm of a whole navy, that it is not strewn along the reefs.
II. NOTE THE FACT THAT LOVE FOR OTHERS IS WORTHY LOVE OF SELF. To lose one's love of life, comfort, and honour in the greater love of the life, comfort, and honour of his kin is counted the highest of human virtues. Mettus Curtius, in spurring his horse into the yawning chasm to save Rome, was not the first nor the last to hold the welfare of the many above that of the individual. "We have no religion to export," meanly argued a legislator against the Act of incorporation of the American Board. "Religion," was the profound reply, "is a commodity which the more we export the more we have."
III. NOTE THE NEED OF TIMELY PREPARATION FOR OUR WORK. Then — always — the idea has prevailed that united petitions, like the volume of the sea, would be mighty, while the solitary plea, like the single drop, would be null. Jesus promised answer when two or three were agreed in their request. Spiritual momentum, like physical, seems to be proportioned to the quantity of soul multiplied by its eagerness. The Church has upborne its ministers, and made them speak with authority when it has been praying with them. Individual preparation must also be made. Esther must fast no less than her people. She does all she can to pave the way for a favourable reception of her cause. Jacob's present of flocks and herds, sent forward to placate Esau, with the greeting "and behold he is behind us," fitly represents the forethought and tact which oftenest gains its end. We may call it "policy"; but what harm, if it be not bribery?
IV. NOTE THE REWARD OF VENTURING IN A GOOD CAUSE. The supreme hazard gains the supreme desire. The fearless champion of a full and free religious life oftenest triumphs. St. Patrick before the Druid chieftain; Wickliffe before the angry bishops, and Luther before the Diet, succeed, when others of as noble wish, but of less courage, must have failed. Into the densest heathenism the soldier of the Cross penetrates, and a redeemed people build their monument of thanksgiving, not for his piety simply, but for his bravery. Holy causes seem often to clothe their advocates in such shining dress, that assaulting powers are abashed at the sight.
(Moray Club Sermon.)
I. HUMAN OBLIGATION TO SUGGESTION. By far the majority of the imports into the soul and life of the world are marked "via suggestion." As the present holds in it the past, so suggestion is the essential of progress, the root of accomplishment, the spur of duty. Compute, if you can, the poet's debt to suggestion; Burns and the mouse, etc. The prime factor of invention is suggestion. Men see something, hear something, touch something, and in a flash an idea springs full-armed and captures the mind. The eye suggests the telescope, the heart the engine. Is naval architecture to be completely revolutionised? Is the new leviathan to be the future type of ocean steamers? Subtract the suggestion of a whale's back, and what then? Human experience is largely the outcome of suggestion. Mordecai could not command Queen Esther, but he could pace in sackcloth before the palace gate. He could send a message to the queen making an entreating, pitiful suggestion.
II. THE STRUGGLE WHICH ENSUES IN CARRYING A SUGGESTION OVER INTO PRACTICE. Carlyle has said, "Transitions are ever full of pain." Thus the eagle when it moults is sickly, and to attain his new beak must harshly dash off the old one upon the rocks. There is no more critical experience for a human soul than when a suggestion lodges in it; especially When it means the readjustment of all our spiritual furniture, burying of cherished plans, crucifying selfish ambition, stripping off desire, defying danger, releasing power, and making us risk the sarcasm, the scorn which are ever the pall-bearers of failure. This gives scope for the true heroism of life, a heroism which finds its choicest exhibit, not in those who have the leverage of a great enthusiasm and who are consciously beneath the eyes of a great multitude, but in those duels between souls and suggestions fought out in the solitude of the human breast. Thus John Knox, when summoned in public assembly to the ministry, rushes from the congregation in tears to enter, in his solitary chamber, upon a struggle which should last for days, but the outcome of which should be a face set like a flint. Thus Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel shrink and wrestle but obey. Thus Esther hesitates and excuses herself on the ground of personal danger, till at last the suggestion rides over her soul roughshod, and in the heroism of a great surrender she declares, "So will I go in unto the king... and if I perish, I perish."
III. THE AVAILING OF ONE'S SELF OF ALLIES IN THE EXECUTION OF A DETERMINED PURPOSE. Esther made three allies.
1. With herself. She knew her royal spouse was impulsive; she knew he was susceptible. And so, bent on subduing him, she bedecks herself with jewels, and right royally attired stands in the court. Impulse leaps, susceptibility flames: "She obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre."
2. With her husband. In the execution of a worthy purpose one may find and may avail himself of the ally which resides in that which is to be overcome. It makes a deal of difference how you take hold of a thing. The handle of a pail is the water-carrier's ally; he may despise it and fare worse! Said one of the keenest logicians in this country, "In entering upon a debate, find, to begin with, common ground with your antagonist, something you can both accept — a definition, a proposition, or if nothing else, the state of the weather." Here is a deep truth. There are natural allies in the enemy's country; it is strategy, it is generalship, to get into communication with them. Esther recognised her ally, and so she approached her husband, not with entreaty or rebuke, but with invitation. The suggestion of a feast prepared under her direction in honour of his majesty was the warder within the castle of the fickle king's soul, who would not fail to raise the portcullis of his will to admit the entrance of a queen's desire.
3. With time. There is a ministry in wise delay; haste is not of necessity success. Is procrastination the thief of time? Then precipitation is the assassin of it. To work and wait — to wait for the order, the chance, the moment to strike, was a lesson Esther had learned by heart, and so she refused to unbosom her petition till the hour struck. When Leyden was besieged by the Spaniards the inhabitants sent word to the enemy that they would eat their left arms and fight with their right before they would surrender. At last, in their extremity, they told the governor they must surrender. "Eat me, but don't surrender," was the heroic reply. Then some one thought of cutting the dykes and flooding the enemy's camp; they did it, rushed upon the enemy in the confusion, and out of apparent disaster snatched a glorious victory.
I. THAT IN THE EXIGENCIES OF RELIGION AND OF GOD'S KINGDOM, THE CHURCH MAY DEMAND OF US THE DISREGARD OF PERSONAL SAFETY.
II. THAT WHEN GOD GIVES US A MISSION WHICH WE ARE WISE ENOUGH TO SEE AND TO FULFIL, THEN WE MAY HUMBLY EXPECT THAT HE WILL ACCOMPLISH BLESSED RESULTS BY THE FEEBLEST INSTRUMENTS.
(W. E. Boggt, D. D.)
I also and my maidens will fast likewise
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
And so will I go in unto the king
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
The Study and the Pulpit.I. THE PREPARATION: fasting and prayer.
1. Fasting is abused by the Church of Rome, therefore disused by many who belong to the Church of Christ. Deep feeling will make fasting natural. Moses (Exodus 34:28), Elijah (1 Kings 19:7, 8), Christ (Matthew 4:2), fasted forty days each. See Ezra's fast (Ezra 8:21, 23). Directions how to fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Paul was given to fasting (2 Corinthians 6:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Fasting is useless without faith. The Pharisee (Luke 18:12).
2. Prayer. Three days' special prayer. The Jews in their synagogues. Esther in the palace. With what humility, sorrowful confession, and earnestness did they pray!
II. THE RESOLUTION: "So will I go in unto the king," etc. There are some points of resemblance and of contrast between the case of Esther and that of the poor sinner.
1. Points of resemblance.
(1) (2) (3) 2. Points of contrast. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) 1. Warning. Danger threatens. 2. Instruction. Prepare. 3. Encouragement. (The Study and the Pulpit.)
(2) (3) 2. Points of contrast. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) 1. Warning. Danger threatens. 2. Instruction. Prepare. 3. Encouragement. (The Study and the Pulpit.)
(3) 2. Points of contrast. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) 1. Warning. Danger threatens. 2. Instruction. Prepare. 3. Encouragement. (The Study and the Pulpit.)
2. Points of contrast.
1. Warning. Danger threatens. 2. Instruction. Prepare. 3. Encouragement. (The Study and the Pulpit.)
1. Warning. Danger threatens.
2. Instruction. Prepare.
(The Study and the Pulpit.)
And if I perish, I perish.
The Study and the Pulpit.I. THE IMPENDING DANGER.
1. A wicked, crafty, designing foe.
2. An irrevocable decree of destruction.
3. No visible way of escape,
II. THE BOLD RESOLUTION.
III. THE SOLEMN PRELIMINARY: fasting and prayer.
IV. THE SUCCESSFUL ISSUE.
1. Life spared.
2. Enemy is destroyed.
3. Honour is given.
(The Study and the Pulpit.)
I. OBSERVE THE QUEEN'S MODESTY — her extraordinary prudence at the very moment that she is most successful. Her request was a simple invitation to have the king come to a banquet of wine the next day, and as a mark of regard for his preferences, she wishes him to bring Haman.
II. In Esther's fasting and prayer and pious courage we see THAT FAITH AND PIETY ARE NOT ALWAYS SHORN OF THEIR FRUITS UNDER UNFAVOURABLE INFLUENCES; they may flourish in a palace. In a chaotic state of society a pious man may have greater difficulties to overcome in maintaining a godly walk, but then, in overcoming these difficulties, he will gain a greater degree of spiritual strength.
III. QUEEN ESTHER WAS A TRUE REPRESENTATIVE WOMAN. Every one is raised up as she was, not to be a Sultana, and do just the work she did, but to do his or her own work. Every one has a duty to perform — a post to maintain — a lot to fulfil.
IV. It may sometimes be our duty to ourselves, our country, our fellow-men and our God to put our LIVES IN JEOPARDY FOR THE TRUTH, OR FOR THE CHURCH, AND FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS. True piety ought to make men brave.
V. WE SHOULD NEVER FEAR TO DO OUR DUTY. The God whom we serve is able either to sustain us under our trials or to deliver us out of them. Why should we yield to the fear of man that bringeth a snare, seeing that we are in the hands of Him who holdeth the hearts of all men and of devils in His hand?
VI. THE PRIVILEGE AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER.
1. As Henry remarks, here is an example of a mistress praying with her maids that is worthy of being followed by all housekeepers and heads of families.
2. And we are here encouraged to ask the sympathy and prayers of others when we undertake any great or perilous enterprise. The king's favourite was her greatest enemy. But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even His own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
VII. ONE OF THE GRACIOUS DESIGNS OF AFFLICTION IS TO MAKE US FEEL OUR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. A gracious result of trials to the people of God is that it drives them to prayer. But the court of heaven is not like that of Persia, into which there was no entrance for those that were in mourning or clothed with sackcloth. Such could not come near the palace of Ahasuerus. But it is the weary, the heavy-laden, and the sorrowing that are especially invited to the throne of grace, and invited to come boldly. "Is any among you afflicted," saith the apostle James, "let him pray."
(W. A. Scott, D. D.)
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
1. The Christian should make no concealment of his piety. If Esther dared to reveal her religion, asking her maidens to unite in imploring the interposition of Jehovah, surely the Christian ought not to cloak his.
2. Sympathy shown to the suffering is advantageous to the giver as well as to the receiver.
3. Those who resist the evidence that the Church is not infrequently in a condition calling for immediate deliverance are enemies of true religion, not friends.
4. Christians should possess moral heroism.
5. If desirous of securing deliverance for the Church, we should endeavour to impress upon each a keen sense of personal responsibility.
6. We should endeavour to sustain those who are passing through trials for us. Mordecai and the Jewish people engaged in prayer while Esther exposed herself to death on their behalf.
7. Assurance of deliverance should impel to the performance of present duty.
(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
I. II. III. (R. P. Buddicom.)
II. III. (R. P. Buddicom.)
III. (R. P. Buddicom.)
(R. P. Buddicom.)
I. THE RESOLUTION OF A FATALIST WHO ACTS UPON THE PRINCIPLE THAT WHAT IS DESTINED TO BE MUST BE. II. THE RESOLUTION OF DESPERATION, WHICH FEELS "MATTERS CANNOT BE WORSE, and to have done the utmost may bring relief, while it cannot possibly aggravate the evil."
II. THE RESOLUTION OF A PERSON PROSTRATED UNDER DIFFICULTIES, AND YET, WITH A VAGUE HOPE OF DELIVERANCE, saying, "I will make one effort more, and if that fail, and all is lost, I can but die." Esther's purpose was framed in a spirit altogether different. It was the heroism of true piety, which in providence shut up to one course, and that, full of danger, counts the cost, seeks help of God, and calmly braves the danger, saying, "He will deliver me if He have pleasure in me; if not, I perish in the path of duty."
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
(A. T. Pierson.)