Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel
I. We have here an illustration of the fact THAT WHEN THE CRISIS COMES GOD GIVES HIS PEOPLE GRACE TO MEET IT. Doubtless Esther looked forward with much trepidation to the moment of her entering in before the king. When the time came she found that the way was clear. This is far from being an uncommon experience with the children of God. That which in the prospect is most formidable turns out to be in the reality most simple. The women at the sepulchre. When God asks us to perform some dangerous duty, we may rely that the way up to the duty will be made open to us, and that strength will be given to us for its discharge. "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." "As thy days so shall thy strength be." "My grace is sufficient for thee."' How often have these promises been made good to Christians in these days. It is a time of extremity; the enemies of truth are bitterly assailing the very citadel of the faith, and now a stand has to be made which shall determine the issue for years. The eyes of all humble Christians are turned to one singularly gifted man; all are saying that, like Esther, he has come to the kingdom for such a time as this. But he is full of anxiety and trepidation. At length he consents to lift the standard and enter on the conflict, and when the time comes he is carried away out of himself, and so sensibly helped by the Spirit of God that he sweeps everything before him on the resistless torrent of his eloquence. Or there is a terrible disease invading the frame; it cannot be cured, and if let alone it will issue in a lingering illness and painful death. There is nothing for it but a critical surgical operation, and yet from that the patient shrinks. At length, however, the consent is given. It is to be performed on a certain day and at a certain hour. The meanwhile is given to prayer, and all the friends and relatives are requested, each in his own closet, to join in the supplication. Then when the hour strikes the diseased one walks with a strength that is not her own into the room, and gives herself into the hands of the surgeons, saying, "Living or dying, I am the Lord's." The shrinking is gone, the fear is subdued, and there is nothing but a calm heroism, which is the gift of God for the occasion. Or, yet again, a difficult duty is to be performed — a brother to be expostulated with for some serious sin, or to be warned of some insidious danger. But we do not know how he will take it, and the question comes to be whether our effort to save him may not aggravate the danger to which he is exposed. Who will undertake the task? There is one who, of all others, seems to be the fittest; but the very idea of it fills him with anxiety. How shall he pro. ceed? There is nothing for it but prayer; and in the faith that God will answer he goes forward. He finds the way marvellously opened. He has a most satisfactory interview. All his fears are dispelled — he has saved his brother.
II. WHEN THE HEART IS NOT RIGHT WITH GOD A LITTLE MATTER WILL MAKE A GREAT MISERY. Happiness does not consist in the bearing of others towards us, but in the relation of our own souls to God. A self-centred heart cannot avoid misery. The one thing needful to happiness is a new heart.
III. WHEN A LITTLE MATTER MAKES A GREAT MISERY, THAT IS AN EVIDENCE THAT THE HEART IS NOT RIGHT WITH GOD.
IV. IT IS A GREAT MISFORTUNE WHEN A MAN'S WORST COUNSELLORS ARE IN HIS OWN HOUSE. A good wife would have turned his thoughts in another direction. Here, then, is a beacon of warning for all wedded wives. Let them beware of adding fuel to a fire already burning far too strongly in their husbands' hearts, as Zeresh did here. When they see those whom they love best going in the way of envy or passion or revenge, let them exert themselves wisely, yet firmly, to alter their determination. And let those husbands who have wives that are wise enough to see when they are going astray, and brave enough to endeavour to keep them from doing that which is wrong, thank God for them as for the richest blessings of their lives. A wife who is merely the echo of her husband, or who, as in the instance before us, only seconds and supports that which she sees he is determined upon, is no helpmeet for any man.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE BOWED FORM OF THE SUPPLIANT QUEEN. To bend the knees for others is the noblest attitude possible for the children of men. What shall be said of the selfish pietist who prays, "Forgive us our trespasses," and gives no heed to the multitudes who lie in darkness and the shadow of death? What shall be said of those Christians who "don't believe in missions"? When the ship Algona went down and the captain made off with one of the boats, leaving forty-eight passengers to drown, the whole world stood in horror of him. It is far better to sing "Rescue the perishing" than to make too much of "When I can read my title clear." A glorious award awaits those who in self-forgetfulness have adventured all in behalf of their fellow-men.
II. THE OUTSTRETCHED SCEPTRE. It means to us that the great King is ever ready to hear intercessory prayer. In the rabbinical legend of Sandalphon an angel is represented as standing at the uttermost gates of heaven, one foot on a ladder of light. He is listening for a mother's appeal, the sob of a burdened heart, the cry "God be merciful to him!" On hearing these voices of intercession he bears them aloft, and they turn to garlands as he lays them before the feet of God. It stands in the nature of the case that God should be most willing to hear unselfish prayers.
III. THE SEQUEL. The Jews were saved and the Feast of Purim instituted in recognition of this deliverance. The world waits to be won by Christian intercession. When General Grant was languishing on his bed of pain, no message of sympathy touched him more than that from an aged quaker: "Friend Grant, I am a stranger to thee. I would not intrude upon thy suffering, but I am anxious for thy soul. Trust in Jesus; He will not fail thee." The abundant entrance into heaven is for those who by prayer and its supplementary effort have wrought deliverance for others. At the close of the American Civil War, when Lincoln went down to Richmond, the freedmen loosed the horses from his carriage and dragged it through the streets, shouting, "God bless Master Lincoln!" He had broken their chains, and this was a slight expression of their gratitude. In the apportionment of the honours of heaven there is nothing comparable with this, "He hath saved a soul from death!"
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
I. ROYAL APPAREL MAY COVER A SAD HEART.
II. THE ROYALTY OF FAITH SUSTAINS IN SADNESS. Faith possesses the true alchemy which can transmute the base metal of sadness into the celestial gold of abiding gladness. The sick saint; the imprisoned martyr; the lonely missionary bereft of wife and child on a foreign shore; the pastor labouring amongst an unresponsive people — all acknowledge the sustaining power of faith.
III. THE ROYALY OF FAITH LEADS TO DARING VENTURES. Abraham was ready to offer up his only-begotten son; Esther was ready to offer up herself. Hers was a Divinely inspired faith, worthy of a place among those celebrated in Hebrews.
IV. THE ROYALTY OF FAITH IS GREATER THAN THE ROYALTY OF MERE CIRCUMSTANTIALS. The Caesars and the Neros do not now rule — the Pauls and the Peters do. Faith is better and mightier than weapons of war, words of wisdom, or the gilded trappings of earthly royalty.
V. THE ROYALTY OF FAITH COMMANDS SUCCESS.
VI. THE ROYALTY OF FAITH SWAYS THE GOLDEN SCEPTRE.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
And the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand
1. Ahasuerus held out the sceptre to his queen, who had never offended him, nor been unfaithful to him; but Jehovah holds out His sceptre to the unfaithful.
2. But the king not only bade the queen to his presence, but made her a bountiful offer. "What is thy request? It shall be given thee to the half of my kingdom." This offer he makes three times over. Surely the Lord wrought marvellously herein, and in His goodness to His people, exceeded their largest expectations. God grants a kingdom to His people, and that an everlasting kingdom — their crowns fade not away, their purses wax not old. Their riches cannot be corrupted by moth and rust, and thieves cannot deprive them of their treasures. Their joy no one taketh from them, and their pleasures are those which are at God's right hand for evermore. Oh! let us approach the heavenly King in the all-powerful name of the one Mediator, and fervently pray for these imperishable blessings.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THE SCEPTRE IN THE HANDS OF CHRIST. We read that He is "head over all things," and more than this, "head over all things to the Church." He holds that sceptre for them — for their protection — for their highest and best interests. Christ is on the throne! The steps which lead to that throne ought to assure us what He is, now that He is there. The Cross best explains Christ. His character in all its transparency and purity, its glory and beauty, fitted Him to reign over all. But we want more than a righteous King; more than a true King! Love must be on the throne which is to sway the hearts of men, and "herein is love."
II. IN ALL APPEALS TO HIM WE TOUCH THAT SCEPTRE.
1. When we touch that sceptre, we prove that we believe His Word. It is certain that actions bespeak faith more than words. Do we believe in Christ's purposes of mercy? Do we believe that all the vice, misery, wrong, around us, Christ desires to do away with? that it grieves His heart more than it ever can ours? We must believe this in the light of His Incarnation, coming into this world as He did to seek and to save that which was lost. When we touch His sceptre, we proclaim our belief in His mercy, we come to the King as those who know that He is the same Saviour that walked this world, and went about doing good, and preached deliverance to the captives everywhere.
2. When we touch that sceptre, we bespeak its aid; we imply confidence in its power. We manifest cur consciousness that there is a greater power than that of evil: that Jesus must and will reign. It were sad to live were it otherwise. We who know Christ for ourselves, have confidence in His ability to realise the ideal of the Inspired Word, "Godliness is profitable for all things: having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
3. When we touch that sceptre, we imply our oneness of spirit with Him. Many would like to touch other sceptres, and turn their purposes of success into golden achievements. See how men wait on others. But Christ's purposes are moral and spiritual purposes. His kingdom is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and we say by our touch of His sceptre, "Master, we do desire this end; deliver our people from slavery, from the plots of our Hamans, from the desires which would destroy their peace of mind, hinder their happiness, and harm their souls hereafter. Oh! King Jesus, we are one with Thee!"
4. When we touch that sceptre, we imply that Christ loves us. We love Him, and He loves us. We know that the fact of His love to us will make our petitions powerful before Him.
III. THE SCEPTRE MAY BE TOUCHED BY THE HUMBLEST HAND. Yes; and it often is. Poor and humble saints, weak and afflicted saints, that can do little else, can pray. Not through door-keepers, and past stately sentinels, do we reach the Royal Pavilion! No! Esther goes straight in to the king. So may we! The privilege of prayer itself is not more wonderful than the freeness of it. The Heavenly Royalty needs no poor pageantry of outward state. You can touch that sceptre. You can come in, and be face to face with the King.
IV. THIS SCEPTRE IS NOT SWAYED BY US, BUT TOUCHED BY US. Esther touched it! And then the king said unto her, "What wilt thou, Esther?" And thus it is with us. It pleased the king to grant her widest request. But still it was the king's will. And so it is with us. I would ask this question: Who would dare to touch the sceptre, if the touch was to turn to swaying it? Not I! Not you! No; you know enough of life to wish at all events its government taken out of your hands. We touch the sceptre, but we do not take it. No. That moment an awful consciousness would come over us, and we should flee from mountain to city, to be absolved from the responsibility. We might seem to benefit ourselves, but whom might we not harm? We might seem to gain a transitory good, but what beneficent laws of the universe, working for the common good, might we not endanger? It is a comfortable thing to be able to cast all our care upon Christ.
V. IN SWAYING THAT SCEPTRE CHRIST CAN OVERCOME ALL THE DESIGNS OF OUR ENEMIES. The danger seemed great to the company of Jews in the Persian empire, but in one brief hour the darkening cloud had disappeared, and Esther had "come to the kingdom for such a time as this."
(W. M. Statham.)
What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. With respect to the largeness of the offer. "Even to the half of my kingdom," the king said, "will thy request be granted." "All things are yours," it is said to believers; and it may well be said, since Jehovah gives Himself to them as their God, and Christ is theirs, and the Spirit dwells in them.
2. But then as Esther was afraid all at once to ask what she most desired, so God's people are often slow or afraid to avail themselves to the full of their privilege of asking. Many are contented to live from year to year with little more to uphold them than an indistinct hope that they shall reach heaven at last, when, if they would but take home God's promises in all their freeness and richness, they might be able to rejoice in Him as their portion. But perhaps it may be that as Esther did not feel herself in a condition all at once to close with the king's most liberal offer, so some among us, for other reasons than the feeling that it would be presumptuous, may be exercised in the same way with respect to spiritual privileges.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
I. There must be METHOD in prayer. "What is thy petition?" Self-examination is especially beneficial as we are about to approach God. Prayer with too many is too much like the hurried salute given to a passing friend; or it is like the quick march of an army past the royal standard. It is often little better than counting beads strung on a cord; or as one turning a praying wheel. More strength in prayer would be obtained by more method in prayer.
II. There must be ASSURANCE in prayer. Not merely the assurance that God is ready to hear prayer, but the assurance that we "have found favour in the sight of the King." Esther desired to feel her ground sure here. How shall we know if our heavenly King is favourable to us? By looking to the unspeakable gift. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly." The gift of Christ implies the gift of all things needful.
III. There may be HESITANCY in prayer. Not the hesitancy of doubt, but of deliberation. That is sometimes the truest prayer, when the heart is too full for utterance.
IV. There must be SUBMISSION to the Divine will in prayer. "I will do to-morrow as the king hath said."
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
Let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to-morrow as the king hath said.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Then went Haman forth that day joyfulI. HAMAN'S GLADNESS. It arose —
1. From a false estimation of himself.
2. From a false estimate of his position.
II. HAMAN'S USE OF HIS EYES. He saw, but not correctly. Pride casts a film over the mental vision. Prejudice lessens the power of vision. Green-eyed jealousy cannot see correctly. He could not see that stubbornness rightly read meant integrity of purpose.
III. HAMAN'S CONSEQUENT CHANGE OF STATE. A false use of the eyes has its penalties. No faculty can be perverted without bringing retribution.
IV. HAMAN'S POWER OF SELF-CONTROL. The power of self-control is not to be despised, but the power of self-conquest is a nobler achievement.
V. HAMAN'S RESOURCE IN TROUBLE. It is observable how many bad men have attached themselves to wives who have stuck to them in all circumstances.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
: —Be not so cruel as speak to him of to-morrow! Let the wicked enjoy their bright to-day — it is the only bright to-day which they will ever have. Yes, to-morrow! Let worldly men fear and prepare for their last to.morrow! "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.
Nevertheless Haman refrained himself.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
And when he came home
And Haman told them of the glory of hie riches, and the multitude of his children.
I. A GOOD RECKONER, UP TO A CERTAIN POINT. Look at Haman's statement: Riches — children — position — honour. These represent the ideal of happiness to a large majority of men. The whole is stated correctly, but the result is false.
II. A BAD RECKONER, because —
1. He places too high an estimate on the mere material.
2. He does not take into account the unknown quantity.
3. He over-estimates his own deserts.
4. He is bad at subtraction. He enumerates his blessings as four, and his drawback as one. He subtracts one from four, and makes nothing the strange result.
5. He is defective in multiplication.Haman made more of Mordecai's refusal to render him homage than it deserved. Discontent is always an unreliable multiplication. It makes evils where there are none, and more of existing evils than it ought to do.
III. THE DISCONTENTED MAN UNKNOWINGLY MAKES A GOOD COMPUTATION." All is vanity and vexation of spirit" is the statement of those who have taken their fill of this world's good things, and have forgotten God their maker.
(W. Burrows, B. A.).
Yet all this avalleth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.
1. We see every possible advantage of condition and power conceded to him. God allows the cause opposed to Him to have all the means of apparent triumph and success, so that if such opposition may ever prevail, it shall have the fullest opportunity. When He would show us the vanity of the world He allows it to heap up every possible means of gratification and pleasure. When He would show us the security of piety He permits every possible difficulty and objection to be in its way. Haman shall complain of no want on his side of any instrument which might render his triumph certain. And then, in defiance of all his power and his craft, God will overturn all his schemes. Could the wickedness of man ever succeed, it must in circumstances like his. He was rich; unlimited wealth seemed to be in his control. For a single grant of power he offered the king ten thousand talents of silver, nearly twenty millions of dollars. Not only rich, he was highly exalted in station. No subject of the monarch equalled him in rank or in the influence which his station gave. Rich and exalted, he was powerful also. The king had given him his own ring. All the powers of government in the kingdom were thus placed in the hands of Haman. In this high condition he was flattered and honoured by universal homage. "All the king's servants that were in the king's gate bowed," etc. And as we survey his condition we exclaim, "What gratitude such a man must owe to God! What blessings he might bestow upon his fellow-men." But Haman had no heart for gratitude, no love for mankind. He was an enemy to God, to His people, and to His truth. The controlling spirit of his wicked heart was selfishness. "Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished."
2. We see the small amount of Haman's alleged deficiencies. "Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence." What an illustration of the prosperity of this world. It is impossible that any earthly portion should be free from every cause of complaint. The decay and sorrow which human sin produces must everywhere in some shape be found. It is left as a token of God's authority, as a test of man's submission, as a teacher of contentment and humility in the midst of occasions for pride and self-indulgence. There is to every man a Mordecai in the gate, an unbending and unsubmissive difficulty of some kind in human life, to guard the children of God from the ruin which prosperity would bring, and to awaken the sinful to a consciousness of the insufficiency of an earthly portion, and the importance of something higher and something better than earth can give. Less than Haman's sorrow no living man can have. But this fact of trial in human condition is always a constantly recurring one. It was so here. Day by day Haman must pass the gate, and Mordecai could not be avoided. The sorrow is small, but it is ever present, like a broken tooth, or a missing step in the stairs on which we must habitually pass. It can never be forgotten. A submissive mind receives it as a call for acknowledgment and humility. A rebellious mind makes it an occasion of complaint, and the same annoyance hardens the heart in rebellion and impiety. Let us make a friend and teacher of every Mordecai in our way. We shall never he without him.
3. This leads us to mark the effect of this one exception upon Haman's feelings and mind. This single deficiency completely destroyed all his enjoyment and peace. To make a man happy whose heart is astray from God is impossible. Whatever of earthly bounties may be given, there is the secret feeling of remorse and consciousness of guilt which nothing can silence or dismiss. The mind is in rebellion against the only power which can give it peace.
4. All these circumstances in Haman's condition showed how small was his temptation to crime. Haman had no reasonable excuse, no motive but in his own wicked heart, for the course of crime on which he was to enter. It was simply the working of malicious wickedness, his own fretful, hateful temper. Mordecai did him no injury, diminished none of his real advantages or possessions. Such is the process of yielding to the suggestions and claims of a sinful temper. It leads us from one step to another in the course of sin, until the sinner is ensnared in unexpected guilt, and entangled in crimes hideous in their aspect and beyond his power to escape. It may be the appetite for gain, the haste to be rich, which pushes him on to every sacrifice of duty, and through every species of fraud and every scheme of attempted concealment, till God suddenly reveals the whole plot and the man is ruined beyond recovery. Let no young man feel that he is safe from temptation to the worst of crimes in allowing the power for a moment of such a spirit. Watch against its first encroachment. Cultivate, as the rule of life, high and pure motives, habits of self-control, refusal to receive affronts or to take offence at the errors or neglect of others.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
I. HOW MISERABLE IS VICE WHEN ONE GUILTY PASSION IS CAPABLE OF CREATING SO MUCH TORMENT! We might reason from the constitution of the rational frame, where the understanding is appointed to be supreme and the passions to be subordinate, and where, if this due arrangement of its parts be overthrown, misery as necessarily ensues as pain is consequent in the animal frame upon the distortion of its members. Had this been a soliloquy of Haman's within himself, it would have been a sufficient discovery of his misery. But when we consider it as a confession which he makes to others, it is a proof that his misery was become insupportable. For such agitations of the mind every man strives to conceal, because he knows they dishonour him. Other griefs and sorrows he can with freedom pour out to a confidant. When he suffers from the injustice or malice of the world he is not ashamed to acknowledge. But when his suffering arises from the bad dispositions of his own heart; when, in the height of prosperity, he is rendered miserable solely by disappointed pride, every ordinary motive for communication ceases. Nothing but the violence of anguish can drive him to confess a passion which renders him odious, and a weakness which renders him despicable. To what extremity in particular must he be reduced before he can disclose to his own family the infamous secret of his misery! In the eye of his family every man wishes to appear respectable, and to cover from their knowledge whatever may vilify or degrade him. Attacked or reproached abroad, he consoles himself with his importance at home; and in domestic attachment and respect seeks for some compensation for the injustice of the world. Judge, then, of the degree of torment which Haman endured by its breaking through all these restraints and forcing him to publish his shame before those from whom all men seek most to hide it. How severe must have been the conflict. Assemble all the evils which poverty, disease, or violence can inflict, and their stings will be found by far less pungent than those which such guilty passions dart into the heart. Amidst the ordinary calamities of the world the mind can exert its powers and suggest relief. And the mind is properly the man; the sufferer and his sufferings can be distinguished. But those disorders of passion, by seizing directly on the mind, attack human nature in its stronghold, and cut off its last resource. They penetrate to the very seat of sensation, and convert all the powers of thought into instruments of torture.
1. Let us remark, in the event that is now before us, the awful hand of God, and admire His justice in thus making the sinner's own wickedness to reprove him, and his backslidings to correct him. Sceptics reason in vain against the reality of Divine government. It is not a subject of dispute It is a fact which carries the evidence of sense and displays itself before our eyes. We see the Almighty manifestly pursuing the sinner with evil.
2. Let us remark also, from this example, how imperfectly we can judge, from external appearances, concerning real happiness or misery. All Persia, it is probable, envied Haman as the happiest person in the empire; while yet, at the moment of which we now treat, there was not, within its bounds, one more thoroughly wretched. Think not, when you behold a pageant of grandeur displayed to public view, that you discern the ensign of certain happiness. In order to form any just conclusion you must follow the great man in the retired apartment, where he lays aside his disguise; you must not only be able to penetrate into the interior of families, but you must have a faculty by which you can look into the inside of hearts.
3. Unjust are our complaints of the promiscuous distribution made by providence of its favours among men. From superficial views such complaints arise. The distribution of the goods of fortune, indeed, may often be promiscuous; that is, disproportioned to the moral characters of men: but the allotment of real happiness is never so. For to the wicked there is no peace. They are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. They travail with pain all their days. Trouble and anguish prevail against them. Terrors make them afraid on every side.
II. HOW UNAVAILING WORLDLY PROSPERITY IS, SINCE, IN THE MIDST OF IT, A SINGLE DISAPPOINTMENT IS SUFFICIENT TO EMBITTER ALL ITS PLEASURES. We might at first imagine that the natural effect of prosperity would be to diffuse over the mind a prevailing satisfaction which the lesser evils of life could not ruffle or disturb. We might expect that as one in the full glow of health despises the inclemency of the weather, so one in possession of all the advantages of high power and station should disregard slight injuries, and, at perfect ease with himself, should view in the most favourable light the behaviour of others around him. Such effects would indeed follow if worldly prosperity contained in itself the true principles of human felicity. But as it possesses them not, the very reverse of those consequences generally obtains. Prosperity debilitates instead of strengthening the mind. Its most common effect is to create an extreme sensibility to the slightest wound. It foments impatient desires, and raises expectations which no success can satisfy. It fosters a false delicacy, which sickens in the midst of indulgence. By repeated gratification it blunts the feelings of men to what is pleasing, and leaves them unhappily acute to whatever is uneasy. Hence the gale, which another would scarcely feel, is to the prosperous a rude tempest. Hence the rose-leaf doubled below them on the couch, as it is told of the effeminate Sybarite, breaks their rest. Hence the disrespect shown by Mordecai preyed with such violence on the heart of Haman. Upon no principle of reason can we assign a sufficient cause for all the distress which this incident occasioned to him. The cause lay not in the external incident — it lays within himself; it arose from a mind distempered by prosperity. Let this example correct that blind eagerness with which we rush to the chase of worldly greatness and honours. Let the memorable fate of Haman suggest to us also how often, besides corrupting the mind and engendering internal misery, they lead us among precipices and betray us into ruin. At the moment when fortune seemed to smile upon him with the most serene and settled aspect she was digging in secret the pit for his fail. Prosperity was weaving around his head the web of destruction. Success inflamed his pride; pride increased his thirst of revenge; the revenge which, for the sake of one man, he sought to execute on a whole nation, incensed the queen; and he is doomed to suffer the same death which he had prepared for Mordecai. An extensive contemplation of human affairs will lead us to this conclusion, that among the different conditions and ranks of men the balance of happiness is preserved in a great measure equal; and that the high and the low, the rich and the poor, approach, in point of real enjoyment, much nearer to each other than is commonly imagined. In the lot of man mutual compensations, both of pleasure and of pain, universally take place. Providence never intended that any state here should be either completely happy or entirely miserable. If the feelings of pleasure are more numerous and more lively in the higher departments of life, such also are those of pain. If greatness flatters our vanity, it multiplies our dangers. Ii opulence increases our gratifications, it increases, in the same proportion, our desires and demands. If the poor are confined to a more narrow circle, yet within that circle lie most of those natural satisfactions which, after all the refinements of art, are found to be the most genuine and true.
III. HOW WEAK HUMAN NATURE IS WHICH, IN THE ABSENCE OF REAL, IS THUS PRONE TO CREATE TO ITSELF IMAGINARY woes. Let it not be thought that troubles of this kind are incident only to the great and the mighty. Though they, perhaps, from the intemperance of their passions, are peculiarly exposed to them, yet the disease itself belongs to human nature, and spreads through all ranks. In the humble and seemingly quiet shade of private life, discontent broods over its imaginary sorrows, preys upon the citizen no less than upon the courtier, and often nourishes passions equally malignant in the cottage and in the palace. Having once seized the mind, it spreads its own gloom over every surrounding object; it everywhere searches out materials for itself, and in no direction more frequently employs its unhappy activity than in creating divisions amongst mankind and in magnifying slight provocations into mortal injuries. Those self-created miseries, imaginary in the cause but real in the suffering, will be found to form a proportion of human evils not inferior, either in severity or in number, to all that we endure from the unavoidable calamities of life. In situations where much comfort might be enjoyed, this man's superiority, and that man's neglect, our jealousy of a friend, our hatred of a rival, an imagined affront, or a mistaken point of honour, allow us no repose. Hence discords in families, animosities among friends, and wars among nations. Hence Haman miserable in the midst of all that greatness could bestow. Hence multitudes in the most obscure stations for whom providence seemed to have prepared a quiet life, no less eager in their petty broils, nor less tormented by their passions, than if princely honours were the prize for which they contended. From this train of observation which the text has suggested, can we avoid reflecting upon the disorder in which human nature plainly appears at present to lie? Amidst this wreck of human nature, traces still remain which indicate its Author. Those high powers of conscience and reason, that capacity for happiness, that ardour of enterprise, that glow of affection, which often break through the gloom of human vanity and guilt, are like the scattered columns, the broken arches, and defaced sculptures of some fallen temple, whose ancient splendour appears amidst its ruins. In this view let us with reverence look up to that Divine Personage, who descended into this world on purpose to be the light and the life of men; who came in the fulness of grace and truth to repair the desolation of many generations, to restore order among the works of God, and to raise up a new earth and new heavens, wherein righteousness shall dwell for ever. Under His tuition let us put ourselves; and amidst the storms of passion to which we are here exposed, and the slippery paths which we are left to tread, never trust presumptuously to our own understanding. Thankful that a heavenly Conductor vouchsafes His aid, let us earnestly pray that from Him may descend Divine light to guide our steps, and Divine strength to fortify our minds. Fix, then, this conclusion in your minds, that the destruction of your virtue is the destruction of your peace. At your first setting out in life, especially when yet unacquainted with the world and its snares, when every pleasure enchants with its smile, and every object shines with the gloss of novelty, beware of the seducing appearances which surround you, and recollect what others have suffered from the power of headstrong desire. If you allow any passion, even though it be esteemed innocent, to acquire an absolute ascendant, your inward peace will be impaired. From the first to the last of man's abode on earth, the discipline must never be relaxed of guarding the heart from the dominion of passion. Eager passions and violent desires were not made for man. They exceed his sphere. They find no adequate objects on earth, and of course can be productive of nothing but misery.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
I. ITS MISSION. Have you ever felt in a yacht that the masts and the sails could not stand the strain of wind much longer? But the skipper at the helm laughs down your fears, for he knows how much lead is on the keel, or how much centre-board is down. Bulk is planted in that boat somewhere on purpose to steady it when the wind draws on for a blow. In some such way has jealousy been planted in human nature to steady the character when flaws of temptation or gusty currents of animalism strike us. In its existence we find the reason for monogamy and marriage faithfulness and domestic happiness and concord. Why should we be jealous if the Christian view of marriage is false? God has placed this Cerberus-like attribute, this watch-dog instinct, chained but barking, at the door of domestic happiness on purpose to guard the honour and sanctity of those within.
II. ITS CURSE. Any force perverted becomes an evil, and when jealousy steps an inch beyond its lawful limits, then it becomes the direst curse. It is just like the mission or the curse of any strong drug or medicine. Any instinct or attribute which becomes inflamed or enlarged and assumes an undue prominence, causes trouble in the character, in the same way in which any enlarged or congested organ asserts itself with pain and irritation in the physical system. And when jealousy passes beyond its proper sphere and rankles in the nature like some smouldering back-log, it lights up every new object which is thrown upon it. It is like a secret fever, which burns and keeps one hot amid all sorts of cool surroundings, as when Haman said, "Yet all this availeth me nothing so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." It assumes many varying forms. It appears as tribe jealousy with its clannish smallness; it appears in the countless bickerings of society, in the pride of caste, and in that vulgar pride which rejoices in trampling upon caste; it is the great motive power of ambitious and scheming women; it gives the cud of reflection to innumerable artists, painters, musicians, and business men. It is with the physician in consultation with his fellow physician as they finger the pulse of their dying patient. It is with the warring lawyers, in strife over the sentence upon the accused murderer; it defiles the sacred chancel, it defiles the pulpit steps; it makes us think hard things of our brethren. In all these instances it is a moral malaria within the soul. It is the sight of the hated Mordecai sitting at the gate. The old Goth Alaric was called the scourge of God, as he came thundering down the plains of Lombardy. But jealousy is a greater scourge than the old Goth. It is the root of all our domestic troubles. Jealousy means pride; it means selfishness; it means inordinate self-conceit; it means being first all the time; it means a blighted life and a miserable old age. If you want to please yourself you can count up what you save and all you have got, as Haman did, and yet all this will avail you nothing every time you see the one you are jealous of sitting where you want to be. But if you cast these demons out — jealousy, selfishness, self-conceit — if you sink yourself and throw overboard for ever this thought of always being first, a whole new world of life and honour will be before you.
(W. Wilberforce Newton.)
I. THE POISON LATENT. There is not a thing on earth but is poisoned. We attain learning, and while attaining it we swallow the poison with which it is infected. We derive honour, but at the same time we lay hold of the seeds of misery which accompany it. Heavy is the head that wears a crown. The baton of power is a symbol of weariness. The seat of honour is a seat of persecution. There is a great system of compensation in life which makes men much more nearly equal than they appear to be.
II. Notice THE SORE FESTERING. This festering grievance was nothing but a sentimental fancy. And such are most of our festering sores. Mental, moral, or bodily maladies are soon got rid of, but visionary troubles — never. A man will recover after small-pox or fever; he will revive after bereavement or sorrow; he will be cheerful after the loss of a leg or the ruin of his pecuniary affairs. But once let him get a sentimental grievance, and he is never the same again.
III. Notice THE SORE WORKING. Death.
(J. J. S. Bird.)
I. THAT THE DISCONTENT THEY EXPRESS IS COMMON WITH PERSONS IN EVERY POSSIBLE CONDITION OF LIFE.
II. ITS EVIL AND RUINOUS NATURE.
III. ITS CONTRARIETY TO THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Homilist.This confession is calculated to impress two things upon us.
I. THAT MATERIAL THINGS CANNOT MAKE US HAPPY.
II. THAT HUMAN HAPPINESS IS ALL TOO EASILY DESTROYED. The work of destruction is, in general, easy. What is a flower worth after you roughly plant your foot upon it? What damage is done to a fair picture by throwing a bottle of ink against it! A servant can by mistake burn in a few minutes a MS. on which years of study were expended by her master. A succession of strokes with a hammer soon disfigure the most skilful and costly piece of furniture that ever was made; and it cannot have escaped the notice of any thoughtful man that human happiness is a flower of amazing delicacy. It takes but little to lay it low. A headache or the scratch of a pin unfits us for enjoying ourselves. An unkind remark renders us miserable for days. A disappointment does the same; and so with scores of other things. Mordecai's want of respect was in itself a small matter; but it sadly interfered with Haman's enjoyment. It had the effect of neutralising, and more than neutralising, all the felicities of his office and condition. He may be compared to the owner of s mansion sitting at a blind window seeing nothing, and all the while there are windows in every room from which excellent views of the surrounding scenery can be obtained if he would only place himself at them and look through them. Haman made the mistake —
1. Of thinking too much about Mordecai's refusal to pay him the honour to which he considered he was entitled.
2. Of setting too high a value on the respect of Mordecai.
(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
elite were expected. The absurdities and vexations of the weak-minded and exclusive are more than equal to those of the excluded. The petty social fanciful annoyances oft make all comforts and possessions to "avail nothing" in the production of real happiness. Enter the shop of that tradesman. What a large business he carries on! Yet he in his soul is not happy. He is envious. He will confess to himself, if not to you, "All this availeth me nothing" so long as a certain competitor in the same business can buy cheaper or make money more rapidly than myself. Go along a country road, and note some pretty homestead nestling among the trees;. surely that must be the abode of content and peace! You approach it, and meeting the occupant thereof, you congratulate him on the beauty of his dwelling-place and charm of the surrounding hills; he, haggard and worn, only replies, "All this availeth me nothing." Look at my neighbour's barn, how much larger, and his crops how much finer than mine! So the warrior or statesman, the preacher and the potentate, are alike discontented. Dissatisfied, successful men! The blessings and privileges they possess are nothing; the trifling lack or annoyance is everything. Their state is as sinful as it is miserable. They are lineal descendants of Haman the Agagite. It is not in the nature of worldly possessions or position to give full satisfaction. If they could, the results would have been injurious to man's moral nature. No thoughts of higher things entering man's mind, he would soon have been degraded to the level of the brute creation.
Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.).