Some time later, when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he recalled Vashti and what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.
consumed its fuel, and the hot wrath cools down quickly because it has devoured its prey. These results are irreparable, though the loss they speak, the guilt they fix, the crime they mark, men gladly turn away from - results indeed often incalculable. This passage calls attention to the subject of memory's visitations. We may make a distinction between memory's visits and its visitation. The former often sweet and often welcome, even when most touched with the spirit of sadness; but the latter heralding for the most part reproof, remorse, and the retributive. Let us observe -
I. HOW MEMORY MAY BE HELD IN ABEYANCE; RATHER, UNDER CERTAIN TREATMENT, HOLDS ITSELF IN ABEYANCE. There is a sense in which it neither holds itself in abeyance, owing to any unconscious affronts we offer it, nor is held in abeyance by any distinct and defined efforts of our own. For is it not a thing worthy to be observed, as one of the evidences of a wise and merciful Creator, that memory itself does not insist on an equable exertion of all its power. Wide as its jurisdiction, it is abundantly evident that it is not all equally travelled. Its hemispherical chart shows only some strongly-marked places; multitudinous as the names engraved on its latitude and longitude, - yes, even innumerable, - they were, as regards the enormous majority of them, but very faintly graved, and they become soon enough illegible, indiscernible. The few things which we judge most important to be remembered, we charge ourselves with special pains and by special methods to remember. If memory were obliged to retain all that it had ever taken cognisance of, it is evident that it would choke up all other present exercise of our faculties, and would imperiously stop the working of the mental machinery. It would bring all to a deadlock. On the other hand, and to our present point, there are things which, instead of needing our study and effort and rational methods in order to charge memory to retain them, will need some soporific treatment if memory is to be disarmed. All our grand mistakes, all our vivid joys, all our vivid sorrows, all our vivid warnings, all our vivid experiences, of almost every kind - the startled moment, the hairbreadth escape, the pang of irretrievable failure, the moment of supreme success, Ñ all these and their likes write themselves with ink that suffers no absolute effacing, even for the present life; and though it does suffer itself to be dimmed, obscured, and over-written, so as a while to be illegible, this is gained only by methods intrinsically undesirable, very unsafe, very forced. These works of memory are of nature's own quickening, and to try to stifle their due utterance is of the nature of a premeditated offence against nature. It is, with rare exceptions, at an indefensible risk that we consciously dare this, or by any species of recklessness court it. Of the devices of Satan in this sort let us not be ignorant, that we may be the rather forearmed. Some of the methods of dimming memories that should not be dimmed are illustrated forcibly in the history of Ahasuerus' present conduct; as, for instance -
1. The blinding force of the storm of "wrath," of hate, of intemperateness, of lust.
2. The stupefying force of sensuality, of bodily indulgence, and excess of luxuriousness.
3. All headstrong recklessness - the defiant disposition that "neither fears God nor regards man."
4. The enfeebled conscience, and, of necessity, much more the temporarily paralysed conscience.
5. The imperious yoke of self-seeking in all we think, and of supposed self-interest.
6. A heart already callous, hardened by habit, familiarised with sin. These and other causes frighten away the most useful messages of memory, weaken her wings, and she is not to be depended upon to alight with the needed whispers of either warning or encouragement. It is one of the worst of signs, one of the most ominous warnings of approaching spiritual disaster, when memory in certain directions abnegates her rights; offended and grieved, holds herself in the background; or, rudely repelled, seems awhile to accept the law of banishment pronounced against her.
II. HOW AT AN UNSUSPECTED MOMENT MEMORY RE-ENTERS THE SCENE, WITHOUT DEROGATION OF ITS RIGHTS, AND WITH ADDED EFFECT. It was so to a remarkable degree now. The "wrath," with some concomitant auxiliaries, which had held memory awhile at bay, was subsided, and memory with silent majesty walks in. Its figure is not dim, its utterance is not indistinct, its indictment is not vague. No; the trial must be called on, the debt must be demanded, and interest must be added to debt. With what skilful brevity, of amazing power to suggest, the position is put before us. "Ahasuerus remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her." The arbitrary, licentious man could depose the woman who resolved to maintain her own and her sex's rightful dignity and modesty, but he could not depose his own memory. She was a mistress still, and one who stuck closer than an ill-treated, dishonoured wife. Affection helps memory; he sees with his inner eye the woman he had loved so well once to prefer her to all, and to make her wife and queen. Conscience perhaps in some part helped memory, as memory certainly was paving the way for the future work of conscience. The figure of Vashti was before his inner eye, but she herself was not. The law of Mede and Persian stood in the way, crumpled up the law of right, stifled the dictate of affection, and smothered the muffled, incoherent accents of conscience. The hall of trial is in his own disordered breast, but the essentials of the trial are present there nevertheless. He remembered Vashti, and "what she had done" - nothing worthy of divorce, of punishment. All the reflection was upon himself, fell back with a heavy thrust on himself. He remembered Vashti, "and what was decreed against her" - an iniquitous decree, a decree not merely injurious to her, but also to himself and his reputation henceforward down through all the world's time. This is what memory's visitation was now for Ahasuerus, and memory left him in the most appalling condition in which a human heart can be ever left - left him drifting into a woeful BLANK. He missed Vashti. He could not replace her. He has decreed for himself a void which cannot be filled, even though a better object be offered for the void. Memory leaves him again awhile when it has forced this conviction on the unwilling victim, that he has stricken himself sore, and that on himself his "decree" has recoiled. - B.
After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)I. THE REGRET OF THE KING FOR HIS RASH AND UNWARRANTABLE ACT. He was sensible that he had committed injury and that he had not only wronged Vashti, but also made himself a sufferer.
1. He could not devise a remedy. There are wishes that even the most powerful despots cannot get gratified, and limits to their will that even they cannot pass over.
2. The law of the Medes and Persians must stand.
II. THE EXPEDIENT WHICH HIS COUNSELLORS SUGGESTED TO FREE HIM FROM HIS DIFFICULTY. Learn —
1. When men suffer themselves to be carried away by the impulse of any violent passions, they may commit acts which cannot afterwards be remedied, and which they themselves may have especially to lament.
2. It forms no excuse for sin committed, that the transgressor had reduced himself to a condition in which he ceased to retain his full consciousness of the distinction between right and wrong. Take an illustration from the history of Saul. He failed to improve his privileges; the Spirit of the Lord departed and the evil spirit took possession of him — slew prophets, etc. He was held responsible because he had laid his heart open for the reception of the evil spirit.
3. Repentance may come too late.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
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