to bring Queen Vashti before him, wearing her royal crown, to display her beauty to the people and officials. For she was beautiful to behold.
I. AN ABSOLUTE TYRANT. He occupied a position of unlimited authority, and exercised his authority in an arbitrary manner. Note -
1. That the possession of absolute power is in itself a great wrong. It is a violation of the inalienable rights of communities that any man through the mere accident of birth - or even through his own superior abilities - should become an irresponsible ruler over them; and history shows that this violation has always been fraught with disastrous consequences.
(1) It subordinates the common weal to individual interest. The well-being of society is possible only on the supposition that the good of the greatest number should be of the first importance, and that individuals should be willing to sacrifice everything if necessary for its attainment. Despots, however, proceed on the supposition that everything exists for their private benefit - extensive territories, the wealth of nations, and even the lives of their subjects.
(2) It tends to make the ruler himself capricious. To expect a man to be moderate, reasonable, and just at all times in such a position is to make too great a demand on human nature; the temptations to which he is exposed are more than an ordinary mortal can withstand.
(3) It tends to make the people servile and unprincipled. Where one will is supreme there is nothing certain: law, justice, rectitude become meaningless; duty resolves itself into pleasing the potentate, who holds the power of life and death in his own hands. The natural outcome of this is the spread of meanness, duplicity, dishonesty among all classes, from the highest to the lowest. The apologists of despotism sometimes refer to the position of a father in his family in justification of the institution. But a father is not absolute in the widest sense; and even if he were, the danger inseparable from the possession of so much power is neutralised by the love he bears for his own flesh and blood.
2. The use made of absolute power in the case before us. This is a most ignoble passage in the life of a king of such high pretensions.
(1) He seemed to assume that no consideration was due to anybody but himself. The sole purpose of the prolonged festivities was to gratify his own vanity. And when he thought that the presence of the queen would add to his own pleasure, he never paused to consider whether it might not be painful to the queen herself. Selfishness makes men thoughtless, unjust, and cruel, even to those who have the strongest claims upon their tenderness.
(2) He commanded what was unlawful according to the accepted notions of the time. Eastern women led a secluded life, and were not permitted to expose their countenances to the gaze of strangers. Besides, for a modest woman to display her charms in the presence of drunken revellers was a degradation from which she must have recoiled with unutterable aversion.
(3) He afterwards punished as disobedience what was really obedience to a higher law of duty. The queen was deposed simply for daring to protect her honour. In this respect she takes her place among, a noble band - the glorious army of martyrs, who, rather than violating their consciences at the bidding of bloodthirsty tyrants, submitted to imprisonment, torture: and death. Wrong can never really flourish. It may appear prosperous to superficial observers, but a deeper knowledge of the state of things must reveal the penalty which it entails. This king, amidst the dazzling splendours with which he surrounded himself, might have imposed upon his fellow-men, and made them gaze with longing eyes upon the elevated position which he occupied; but after all there are unmistakable indications here that the absolute tyrant was -
II. AN ABSOLUTE SLAVE. We find that -
1. He was a slave of his appetite. "The king's heart was merry with wine;" he had taken more drink than was good for him, and was beginning to feel the effects of it. A sorry spectacle! He who ought to have set a pattern of dignified demeanour to those beneath him, degrading himself below the level of the brute creation. Millions have done and are doing the same thing. Alexander conquered the world, but a lawless appetite conquered Alexander.
2. He was a slave of his passions. "The king was very wroth, and his anger burned within him." Accustomed as he was to be implicitly obeyed, he could not endure his will to be thwarted. The demon within him was roused, and he was no longer master of himself; he must obey the promptings of unreasoning rage, however much he might regret it in calmer moments. Truly, "he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
3. He was a slave of his pride. He was induced to depose the queen because he imagined that his dignity had been compromised. No doubt he loved her, and it must have cost him a pang to be separated from her, but pride would not allow him to revoke his decree. Like King Herod, who preferred to behead John the Baptist rather than confess that he had made a foolish oath. He may have called it courage to himself, but it was in reality the most contemptible cowardice. - R.
To bring Vashti the queen before the king.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. Behold the thorough dissatisfaction which attends its joys. See the conscious wretchedness which limits all its pleasures. Man finds an inherent and inseparable element of dissatisfaction in all the scenes of his earthly joys. They do not, they cannot meet his wants. He awakes always to find that his soul is empty, and sad in the consciousness of the fact. Ahasuerus is just as unsatisfied with all his magnificent display and with his six months' pompous festival as the poorest subject of his realm is with his own hard lot. unlimited opportunity of indulgence is nothing, while there is a limited capacity to enjoy and an unlimited craving for enjoyment. Such was Ahasuerus. His heart was empty of joy though filled with madness. He imagines a new spectacle which will awaken a new admiration. He commands his seven chamberlains "to bring Vashti the queen before the king, with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty, for she was fair to look on." But he is not alone. Where is the feast or where the provision of the world for human gratification in which there is nothing left for the heart to desire? Ahasuerus is but a specimen. His folly has been multiplied in myriads of instances, and in every variety in the scale of imitation. It only shows what emptiness there is in the whole of this scheme of sensual gratification.
2. Behold the bitter disappointment. "Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains." Refused to come! — what a disappointment to morbid, vulgar curiosity! What a fall to intoxicated pride! But it was a noble specimen of woman's dignity, modesty, and virtue. All his indulgence is forgotten — the happiness of his palace has passed away. The worldly heart is empty and vexed with itself. His dream of glory has vanished. Its beauty and splendour have withered completely for him. One "dead fly" has destroyed the fragrance of the whole provision. But is this a peculiar case in the disappointment which it describes? Was Ahasuerus the only victim of such conscious mistake in the midst of indulgence? You see the madness, the disappointment in the sensual heart which worldly indulgence everywhere produces. Go where you will, as far as you will, still desire anal imagination press further on. Something is yet demanded to complete your attainment. This is the inevitable law of the result in human pleasure. The brightest portion leaves something still to ask. The highest attainment is as unsatisfying as the lowest.
3. Behold the degradation to which this disappointment has brought its victim. The king is wretched in the presence of them all Ahasuerus is degraded, but he has degraded himself. The man who has sacrificed his virtue, his integrity, his self-respect, may be sure that, sooner or later, his sin will find him out. But this is another lesson in the chamber of worldly indulgence. This is the habitual end of a life of mere sensual gratification. Personal degradation is its habitual result — in some shape or other its final, inevitable result. Moral, outward degradation frequently! Intellectual, conscious degradation, social degradation! what can be more degrading than such a subjection? What can be more degrading than such a slavery to brute appetite and sensual display? It is the defiling and destroying of a mind that might be elevated to God and educated for glory.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)1. In the first place I want you to look upon Vashti the queen. A blue ribbon rayed with white, drawn around her forehead, indicated her queenly position. It was no small honour to be queen in such a realm as that. Hark to the rustle of her robes! See the blaze of her jewels! And yet it is not necessary to have palace and regal robe in order to be queenly. When I see a woman with stout faith in God, putting her foot upon all meanness and selfishness and godless display, going right forward to serve Christ and the race by a grand and glorious service, I say, That woman is a queen, and whether she comes up from the shanty on the common or the mansion of the fashionable square I greet her with the shout, "All hail, Queen Vashti!" When Scarron, the wit and ecclesiastic, as poor as he was brilliant, was about to marry Madame de Maintenon he was asked by the notary what he proposed to settle .upon Mademoiselle. The reply was, "Immortality; the names of the wives of kings die with them; the name of the wife of Scarron will live always." In a higher and better sense upon all women who do their duty God will settle immortality! Not the immortality of earthly fame, but the immortality celestial. And they shall reign for ever and ever! Oh, the opportunity which every woman has of being a queen! The longer I live the more I admire good womanhood. If a man have a depressed idea of womanly character he is a bad man, and there is no exception to the rule. The writings of Goethe can never have any such attractions for me as Shakespeare, because nearly all the womanly characters of the great German have some kind of turpitude.
2. Again, I want you to consider Vashti the veiled. Had she appeared before Ahasuerus and his court on that day with her face uncovered she would have shocked all the delicacies of Oriental society, and the very men who in their intoxication demanded that she come, in their sober moments would have despised her. As some flowers seem to thrive best in the dark lane and in the shadow, and where the sun does not seem to reach them, so God appoints to most womanly natures a retiring and unobtrusive spirit. God once in a while does call an Isabella to a throne, or a Miriam to strike the timbrel at the front of a host, or a Marie Antoinette to quell a French mob, or a Deborah to stand at the front of an armed battalion crying out, "Up! Up! This is the day in which the Lord will deliver Sisera into thy hands." And when women are called to such outdoor work and to such heroic positions God prepares them for it. When I see a woman going about her daily duty — with cheerful dignity presiding at the table; with kind and gentle but firm discipline presiding in the nursery; going out into the world without any blast of trumpets, following in the footsteps of Him who went about doing good — I say, "This is Vashti with a veil on." But when I see a woman of unblushing boldness, loud-voiced, with a tongue of infinite clitter-clatter, with arrogant look, passing through the streets with a masculine swing, gaily arrayed in a very hurricane of millinery, I cry out, "Vashti has lost her veil."
3. Again, I want you to consider Vashti the sacrifice. Who is this that I see coming out of that palace gate of Shushan? She comes homeless, houseless, friendless, trudging along with a broken heart. Who is she? It is Vashti the sacrifice. Oh, what a change it was from regal position to a wayfarer's crust! Ah! you and I have seen it many a time. Here is a home empalaced with beauty. All that refinement and books and wealth can do for that home has been done; but Ahasuerus, the husband and the father, is taking hold on paths of sin. He is gradually going down. Soon the bright apparel of the children will turn to rags; soon the household song will become the sobbing of a broken heart. The old story over again. The house full of outrage and cruelty and abomination, while trudging forth from the palace gate are Vashti and her children. Oh, Ahasuerus, that you should stand in a home by a dissipated life destroying the peace and comfort of that home!
4. Once more, I want you to look at Vashti the silent. You do not hear any outcry from this woman as she goes forth from the palace gate. From the very dignity of her nature you know there will be no vociferation, Sometimes in life it is necessary to make a retort; sometimes in life it is necessary to resist; but there are crises when the most triumphant thing to do is to keep silence. Affliction, enduring without any complaint the sharpness of the pang, and the violence of the storm, and the fetter of the chain, and the darkness of the night — waiting until a Divine hand shall be put forth to soothe the pang and hush the storm and release the captive. An Arctic explorer found a ship floating helplessly about among the icebergs, and going on board he found that the captain was frozen at his log-book, and the helmsman was frozen at the wheel, and the men on the look-out were frozen in their places. That was awful, but magnificent. All the Arctic blasts and all the icebergs could not drive them from their duty. Their silence was louder than thunder. And this old ship of the world has many at their posts in the awful chill of neglect, and frozen of the world's scorn, and their silence shall be the eulogy of the skies, and be rewarded long after this weather-beaten craft of a planet shall have made its last voyage. I thank God that the mightiest influences are the most silent. The fires in a furnace of a factory or of a steamship roar though they only move a few shuttles or a few thousand tons, but the sun that warms the world rises and sets without a crackle or faintest sound. Travellers visiting Mount Etna, having heard of the glories of sunrise on that peak went up to spend the night there and see the sun rise next morning, but when it came up it was so far behind their anticipations that they actually hissed it. The mightiest influences of to-day are like the planetary system — completely silent. Don't hiss the sun!
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Therefore was the king very wroth
(J. Parker, D. D.)I.
II. III. (J. Trapp.) (Scientific Illustrations, etc.) (Scientific Illustrations, etc.) (J. Parker, D. D.) (J. Parker, D. D.)
III. (J. Trapp.) (Scientific Illustrations, etc.) (Scientific Illustrations, etc.) (J. Parker, D. D.) (J. Parker, D. D.)
(Scientific Illustrations, etc.)
(Scientific Illustrations, etc.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)