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the king, that Mordecai may be hanged thereon ; then go thou in merrily with the king, unto the banquet.

I do not hear them say; “ Be patient awhile. Thou hast already set Mordecai his last day. The month Adar will not be long in coming. The determination of his death hath made him desperate. Let him, in the mean time, eat his own heart, in envy at thy greatness." But they rather advise of a quick despatch. Malice is a thing full of impatience ; and hates delay of execution, next unto mercy.

While any grudge lies at the heart, it cannot be freely cheerful. Forced smiles are but the hypocrisy of mirth. How happy were it for us, if we could be so zealously careful, to remove the hindrances of our true spiritual joy, those stubborn corruptions, that will not stoop to the power of grace!




The wit of Zeresh had like to have gone beyond the wit of Esther. Had not the working Providence of the Almighty contrived these events beyond all hopes, all conceits, Mordecai had been despatched, ere Esther's second banquet. To-morrow was the day pitched for both their designs. Had not the stream been unexpectedly turned, in vain had the queen blamed her delays ; Mordecai's breakfast had prevented Esther's dinner : for certainly he, that had given to Haman so many thousand lives, would never have made dainty, upon the same suit, to anticipate one of those, whom he had condemned to the slaughter. But God meant better things to his Church ; and fetches about all his holy purposes, after a wonderful fashion, in the very instant of opportunity; He, that keepeth Israel, and neither slumbereth nor sleepeth, causeth sleep that night to depart from him, that had decreed to root out Israel.

Great Ahasuerus, that commanded a hundred and seven and twenty provinces, cannot command an hour's sleep.' Poverty is rather blessed with the freedom of rest, than wealth and power. Cares and surfeit withhold that from the great, which presseth upon the spare diet and labour of the meanest. Nothing is more tedious, than an eager pursuit of denied sleep; which, like to a shadow, flies away so much faster, as it is more followed. Experience tells us, that this benefit is best solicited by neglect ; and soonest found, when we have forgotten to seek it.

Whether to deceive the time, or to bestow it well, Ahasuerus shall spend his restless hours in the Chronicles of his time. Nothing is more requisite for princes, than to look back upon their own actions and events, and those of their predecessors. The examination of fore-passed actions makes them wise ; of events, thankful and cautelous.

Amongst those voluminous registers of acts and monuments, which so many scores of provinces must needs yield, the book shall open upon Mordecai's discovery of the late treason of the two eunuchs: the reader is turned thither, by an insensible sway of Providence. Our most arbitrary or casual actions are overruled by a hand in heaven.

The king now feels afresh the danger of that conspiracy ; and, as great spirits abide not to smother or bury good offices, inquires into the recompense of so royal a service; What honour, and dignity, hath been done to Mordecai, for this? Surely Mordecai did but his duty. He had heinously sinned, if he had not revealed this wicked treachery ; yet Ahasuerus takes thought for his remuneration. How much more careful art thou, O God of all Mercies, to reward the weak obedience of thine, at the best, unprofitable servants !

That, which was intended to procure rest, sets it off. King Ahasuerus is unquiet in himself, to think that so great a merit should lie but so long neglected : neither can he find any peace in himself, till he have given order for a speedy retribution. Hearing therefore by his servants, that Haman was below in the court, he sends for him up, to consult with him, What should be done to the man, whom the king delighteth to honour.

O marvellous concurrence of circumstances, drawn together by the infinite wisdom and power of the Almighty! Who, but Haman, should be the man? And when should Haman be called to advise of Mordecai's honour, but in the very instant, when he came to sue for Mordecai's hanging ? Had Ahasuerus but slept that night, Mordecai had been that morning advanced fifty cubits higher than the earth, ere the king could have remembered to whom he was beholden.

What shall we say then, to reconcile these cross passions in Ahasuerus? Before he signed that decree of killing all the Jews, he could not but know, that a Jew had saved his life; and now, after that he had enacted the slaughter of all Jews, as rebels, he is giving order to honour a Jew, as his preserver. It were strange, if great persons, in the multitude of their distractions, should not let fall some incongruities.

Yet, who can but think, that king Ahasuerus meant, upon some second thoughts, to make amends to Mordecai?

Neither can he choose but put these two together; “ The Jews are appointed to death, at the suit of Haman : this Mordecai is a Jew; how then can I do more grace to him, that hath saved my life, than to command him to be honoured by that man, who would spill his ?"

When Haman heard himself called up to the bedchamber of his master, he thinks himself too happy, in so early an opportunity of presenting his suit; but yet more in the pleasing question of Ahasuerus ; wherein he could not but imagine, that favour forced itself upon him with strange importunity; for how could he conceive, that any intention of more than ordinary honour could fall besides himself? Self-love, like to a good stomach, draws to itself what nourishment it likes, and casts off that which offends it.

Haman will be sure to be no niggard, in advising those ceremonies of honour, which he thinks meant to his own person. Could he have once dreamed, that this grace had been purposed to any under heaven, besides himself, he had not been so lavish, in counselling so pompous a show of excessive magnificence. Now, the king's own royal apparel, and his own steed, are not sufficient, except the royal crown also make up the glory of him, who shall thus triumph in the king's favour. Yet all this were nothing, in base hands. The actor shall be the best part of this great pageant : Let this apparel and this horse be delivered to one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal, whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour. Honour is more in him that gives, than him that receives it. To be honoured by the unworthy is little better than disgrace. No meaner person will serve to attend this Agagite, in his supposed greatness, than one of the noblest princes. The ambition is too high-flown, that seeks glory in the servility of equals. The place adds much to the act. There is small heart in a concealed honour. It is nothing, unless the streets of the city of Shushan be witnesses of this pomp, and ring with that gracious acclamation. The vain hearts of proud men can easily devise those means, whereby they may best set out themselves. Oh, that we would equally affect the means of true and immortal glory!

The heart of man is never so cold within him, as when, from the height of the expectation of good, it falls into a sudden sense of evil. So did this Agagite. Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate : let nothing fail of all that thou hast said.

How was Haman thunder-stricken with this killing word, Do thou so to Mordecai ! I dare say, all the honours, that Ahasuerus had heaped upon H’aman, cannot countervail this one vexation.

Doubtless, at first, he distrusts his ear; and then muses, whether the king be in earnest : at last, when he hears the charge so seriously doubled, and finds himself forced to believe it, he begins to think, “ What means this inconceivable alteration? Is there no man, in all the court of Persia, to be picked out for extraordinary honour, but Mordecai? Is there no man to be picked out for the performance of this honour to him, but Haman? Have I but one proud enemy in all the world, and am I singled out to grace him? Did it gall me to the heart, and make all my happiness tedious to me, to see that this Jew would not bow to me, and must I now bow to him? That, which he would rather die, and forfeit the life of all his nation, than do to me, notwithstanding the king's command ; shall I be forced, by the king's command, to do unto him? Yea, did he refuse to give but a cap and a knee to my greatness, and must I lacquey so base a fellow through the streets : must I be his herald, to proclaim his honour through all Shushan? Why do I not let the king know the insolent affronts that he hath offered me? Why do I not signify to my sovereign, that my errand now was for another kind of advancement to Mordecai? If I obtain not my desired revenge, yet at least I shall prevail so far, as to exempt myself from this officious attendance, upon so unequal an enemy. And yet, that motion cannot be now safe. I see the king's heart is, upon what ground soever, bent upon this action. Should I fly off never so little, after my word so directly passed, perhaps my coldness or opposition might be construed, as some wayward contestation with my master : especially, since the service, that Mordecai hath done to the king, is of a higher nature, than the despite, which he hath done to me.

I will, I must give way, for the time. Mine humble yieldance, when all the carriage of this business shall be understood, shall

, I doubt not, make way for mine intended revenge. Mordecai, I will honour thee now, that, by these steps, I may ere long raise thee many cubits higher. I will obey the command of my sovereign, in observing thee, that he may reward the merit of my loyalty, in thine execution.”

Thus resolved, Haman goes forth, with a face and heart full of distraction, full of confusion; and addresses himself to the attiring, to the attending, of his old adversary, and new master, Mordecai.

What looks, do we now think, were cast upon each other, at their first greeting! Their eyes had not forgotten their old language. Certainly, when Mordecai saw Haman come into the room where he was, he could not but think : hath long thirsted for my blood, and now he comes to fetch it. I shall not live to see the success of Esther, or the fatal day of my nation.” It was known that morning in the court, what a lofty gibbet Haman had provided for Mordecai ; and why might it not have come to Mordecai's ear? - What could he therefore now imagine other, than that he was called out to that execution? But, when he saw the royal robe that Haman brought to him, he thinks, "Is it not enough for this man to kill ine,

66 This man

but he must mock me too? What an addition is this to the former cruelty, thus to insult and play upon my last distress ! But, when he yet saw the royal crown ready to be set on his head, and the king's own horse richly furnished at his gate, and found himself raised by princely hands to that royal seat, he thinks, “What may all this mean? Is it the purpose of mine adversary, that I shall die in hate? Would he have me hanged in triumph?” At last, when he sees such a train of Persian peers attending him, with a grave reverence; and hears Haman proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour ; finding this pomp to be serious and well meant, he imagines, in all likelihood, that this unexpected change proceeds from the suit of his Esther. Now, he begins to lift up his head, and to hope well of himself and his people ; and could not but say within himself, that he had not fasted for nothing

Oh the wondrous alteration that one morning hath made in the court of Persia! He, that was yesternight despised by Haman's footmen, is now waited on by Haman and all his fellow princes. He, that yesternight had the homage of all knees but one, and was ready to burst for the lack of that, now doth obeisance to that one, by whom he was wilfully neglected. It was not Ahasuerus, that wrought this strange mutation: it was the overruling power of the Almighty, whose immediate hand would thus prevent Esther's suit, that he might challenge all the thank to himself. While princes have their own wills, they must do his; and shall either exalt or depress, according to divine appointment.

I should commend Haman's obedience, in his humble condescent to so unpleasing and harsh a command of his master, were it not, that, either he durst do no other, or that he thus stooped for an advantage. It is a thankless respect, that is either forced, or for ends. True subjection is free and absolute; out of the conscience of duty, not out of fear or hopes.

All Shushan is in a maze, at this sudden glory of Mordecai; and studies how to reconcile this day with the thirteenth of Adar.

Mordecai had reason to hope well. It could not stand with the honour of the king, to kill him, whom he saw cause to advance: neither could this be any other, than the beginning of a durable promotion; otherwise, what recompense had an hour's riding been, to so great a service?

On the other side, Haman droops, and hath changed passions with Mordecai. Neither was that Jew ever more deeply afflicted with the decree of his own death, than this Agagite was with that Jew's honour. How heavy doth it lie at Haman's heart, that no tongue, but his, might serve to proclaim Mordecai happy! Even the greatest minions of the world must have

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