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the fault, it was the misery, of these poor Jews, that they were dispersed ; and now their dispersion is made an argument of their extirpation : therefore must they be destroyed from the earth, because they were scattered over the earth. As good, so evils, draw on each other. That, which should plead for pity in the well-affected, is a motive to cruelty in savage minds. Seldom ever hath extremity of mischief seized, where easier afflictions have not been billeted before. All faithful Jews had wont to say unto God, Have mercy upon us, O God, and save us, for our soul is full of contempt, and we are scattered amongst the heathen ; and here this enemy can say of them to Ahasuerus, “ Destroy them, for they are scattered ; root them out, for they are condemned." How much better is it to fall into the hands of God, than of men ; since that, which whets the sword of men, works commiseration in the Almighty !
Besides the dissipation of the persons, " Their laws are diverse from all people : all other people live by thy laws; they only by their own: and how can this singularity of their fashions but breed disorder and inconvenience? Did they live in some corner of the earth apart, the difference in religion and government could not import much; now, that they are dispersed amongst all thy subjects, what do these uncouth forms of theirs, but teach all the world to be irregular? Why should they live under thy protection, that will not be governed by thy laws?" Wicked Haman! what were the laws of Israel, but the laws of God? If this be a quarrel, what shall the death of the Jews be other, than martyrdom? The diversity of judgment and practice from the rest of the world, hath been an old and envious imputation cast upon God's Church. What if we be singled from others, while we walk with God? In matters lawful, arbitrary, indifferent, wisdom teacheth us to conform ourselves to all others; but where God hath laid a special imposition upon us, we must either vary, or sin. The greatest glory of Israel was their laws; wherein they as far exceeded all other nations, as heaven is above earth; yet, here their laws are quarrelled, and are made the inducements of their destruction. It is not possible, that the Church of God should escape persecution, while that which it hath good is maligned; while that offends, which makes it happy.
“ Yet, that they have laws of their own, were not so unsuffer. able, 'if, withal, they did observe thine, O king; but these Jews, as they are unconformable, so they are seditious: They keep not the king's laws." Thou slanderest, Haman, keep their own laws, if they kept not the king's; for their laws call them to obedience unto their sovereigns, and adjudge hell to the rebellious. In all those hundred and seven and twenty provinces, king Ahasuerus hath no subjects, but them. They obey out of conscience; others, out of fear. Why are they charged with that, which they do most abhor? What can be the ground of this crimination? Ahasuerus commanded all knees to bow to Hamap. A Jew only refuses. Malicious Haman! He, that refused to bow unto thee, had sufficiently approved his loyalty to Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus had not been, if Mordecai had not been a good subject. Hath the king no laws, but what concern thine adoration? Set aside religion, (wherein the Jew is ready to present, if not active, yet passive obedience,) and name that Persian law, which a Jew dares break. As I never yet read or heard of a conscionable Israelite, that hath not passed under this calumniation ; so I cannot yield him a true Israelite, that deserves it. In vain doth he profess to acknowledge a God, in heaven, that denies homage to his deputy, on earth.
It is not for the king's profit to suffer them. Worldly hearts are not led by good or evil, but by profit or loss; neither have they grace to know, that nothing is profitable but what is honest; nothing so desperately incommodious, as wickedness. They must needs offend by rule, that measure all things by profit, and measure profit by their imagination. How easy is it, to suggest strange untruths, when there is nobody to make answer! False Haman, how is it not for the king's profit to suffer the Jews? If thou construe this profit for honour, the king's honour is in the multitude of subjects ; and what people more numerous than they? If for gain, the king's profit is in the largeness of his tributes; and what people are more deep in their payments? If for service, what people are more officious ? How can it stand with the king's profit, to bereave himself of subjects, his subjects of their lives, his exchequer of their tributes, his state of their defence? He is a weak politician, that knows not to gild over the worst project, with a pretence of public utility. No name under heaven hath made so many fools, so many villains, as this of profit.
Lastly, as Ahasuerus reaps nothing but disprofit by the lives of the Jews, so he shall reap no small profit by their deaths: I will pay ten thousand talents of silver, to the king's treasury, for this execution. If revenge were not very sweet to the malicious man, he could not be content to purchase it at so high a rate. How do we see daily, that the thirst hereof carries men to a riotous prodigality of estate, body, soul! Cruel Haman! if thou couldst have swimmed in a whole sea of Jewish blood, if thou couldst have raised mountains of their carcases, if thou couldst have made all Persia thy shambles, who would have given thee one farthing for all those piles of Aesh, for all those streams of blood ? yea, who would not rather have been at charge, for the avoiding of the annoyances of those slaughtered bodies, which thou offerest to buy at ten thousand talents? It were a happy thing, if charity could enlarge itself but so much as malice ; if the preservation of mankind could be so much beholden to our bounty, as the destruction.
Now, when all these are laid together, the baseness and dispersedness of the people, the diversity of the laws, the irregularity of their government, the rebellion of their practice, the inconvenience of their toleration, the gain of their extirpation, 'what could the wit or art of man devise more insinuative, more likely to per"suade? How could it be but Ahasuerus must needs think, since he could not suspect the ground of this suit, “ What a zealous patriot have I raised, that can be content to buy off the incommodity of the state, at his own charge! How worthy is he rather of the aid, both of my power and purse! Why should I be feed, to ease my kingdoms of rebels? The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as seemeth good to thee.” Without all delay, the secretaries are called to write the warrants; the king's ring is given to seal them; the posts are sent out to carry them into all provinces; the day set, wherein all Jews, of all ages, of both sexes, through the hundred and seven and twenty provinces of the king, shall be sacrificed to the wrath of Haman,
In all the carriage of Ahasuerus, who sees not too much headiness of passion ? Vashti is cast off for a trifle; the Jews are given to the slaughter for nothing : his rage in the one, his favour in the other, is too impotent. He is not a worse husband, than a king:
The bare word of Haman is enough to kill so many subjects. No disposition can be more dangerous in great persons, than violence of affection mixed with credulity.
Oh the seeming inequality of human conditions! The king and Hamun sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed. It is a woeful thing, to see great ones quaff the tears of the oppressed; and to hear them make music of shrieks.
With what lamentation, do we think, all the synagogues of Jews, through the world, received this fatal message of their proclaimed destruction! How do they bemoan themselves, each to other! How do their conjoined cries fill heaven and earth!
But, above all, what sackcloth and ashes could suffice woeful Mordecai, that found in bimself the occasion of all this slaughter? What soul could be capable of more bitterness, than he felt? while he could not but think, “ Wretched man that I am! it is I, that have brought all this calamity upon my nation. It is 1, that have been the ruin of my people. Woe is me, that ever I put myself into the court, into the service of a Pagan. How unhappy was I, to cast myself into these straits, that I must either honour an Agagite, or draw a vengeance upon Israel! Yet how could I imagine, that the flame of Haman’s rage would have broke out so far? Might that revenge have determined in my blood, how happy should I have been! Now, I have brought death upon many thousands of innocents, that cannot know wherefore they die. Why did I not hide myself rather, from the place of that proud Amalekite! Why did I stand out in contestation, with so overpowerful an enemy? Alas! no man of Israel shall so much as live to curse me : only mine enemies shall record my name with ignominy; and say, 'Mordecai was the bane of his nation.' Oh, that my zeal should have reserved me for so heavy a service! Where now are those vain ambitions, wherewith I pleased myself in this great match of Esther? How fondly did I hope, by this undue means, to raise myself and my people! Yea, is not this carnal presumption the quarrel, that God hath against me? Do I not therefore smart from these Pagans, for that I secretly affected this uncircumcised alliance? Howsoever it be, yet, O God, what have thy people done? Oh, let it be thy just mercy, that I may perish alone.
In these sad thoughts did Mordecai spend his heart, while he walked mournfully in sackcloth, before that gate, wherein he was wont to sit. Now, his habit bars his approach. No sackcloth might come within the court. Lo, that, which is welcomest in the court of heaven, is here excluded from the presence of this earthly royalty: A broken and contrite heart, o God, thou wilt not despise.
Neither did it a little add to the sorrow of Mordecai, to hear the bitter insultations of his former monitors : “ Did we not advise thee better? Did we not fore-admonish thee of thy danger? See now the issue of thine obstinacy. Now see, what it is for thine earthen pitcher to knock with brass ? Now, where is the man, that would needs contest with Haman? Hast thou not now brought thy matters to a fair pass? Thy stomach had long owed thee a spite, and now it hath paid thee. Who can pity thy wilfulness? Since thou wouldst needs deride our counsel, we will take leave to laugh at thy sackcloth.” Nothing but scorns, and griefs, and terrors present themselves to miserable Mordecai. All the external buf. fets of adversaries were slight, to the wounds that he hath made and felt in his own heart.
The perpetual intelligences, that were closely held betwixt Esther and Mordecai, could not suffer his public sorrow to be long concealed from her. The news of his sackcloth afflicts her, ere she can suspect the cause. Her crown doth but clog her head, while she hears of his ashes. True friendship transforms us into the condition of those we love; and, if it cannot raise them to our cheerfulness, draws us down to their dejection.
Fain would she uncase her foster-father of these mournful weeds, and change his sackcloth for tissue ; that yet, at least, his clothes might not hinder his access to her presence, for the free opening of his griefs.
It is but a slight sorrow, that abides to take in outward comforts. Mordecai refuses that kind offer; and would have Esther see, that his affliction was such, as that he might well resolve to put off his sackcloth and his skin at once; that he must mourn to death, rather than see her face to live.
The good queen is astonished, with this constant humiliation of so dear a friend; and now she sends Hatach, a trusty, though a Pagan, attendant, to inquire into the occasion of this so irremediable heaviness. It should seem Esther inquired not greatly into matters of state. That, which perplexed all Shushan, was not yet known to her. Her followers, not knowing her to be a Jewess, conceived not how the news might concern her, and therefore had forborne the relation. Mordecai first informs her, by her messenger, of the decree, that was gone out against all her nation ; of the day, wherein they must prepare to bleed; of the sum, which
Haman had proffered for their heads; and delivers the copy of that bloody edict; charging her, now, if ever, to bestir herself ; and to improve all her jove, all her power, with king Ahasuerus, in a speedy and humble supplication, for the saving of the life (not of himself so much, as) of her people.
It was tidings able to confound a weak heart; and hers, so much the more, as she could apprehend nothing, but impossibility of redress. She needs but to put Mordecai in mind of that, which all the king's servants and subjects knew well enough, that the Persian law made it no less than death for whomsoever, man or woman, that should press into the inner court of the king, uncalled. Nothing, but the royal sceptre extended, could keep that presumptuous offender from the grave. For her, thirty days were now passed, since she was called in to the king ; an intermission, that might be justly suspicious. Whether the heat of his first affection were thus soon, of itself, allayed towards her; or, whether some suggestions of a secret enemy, perhaps his Agagite, might have set him off; or, whether some more pleasing object may have laid hold on his eyes; whatever it might be, this absence could not but argue some strangeness, and this strangeness must needs imply a danger in her bold intrusion. She could bewail therefore, she could not hope to remedy, this dismal day of her people. This answer, in the ears of Mordecai, sounded truth, but weak.
.. ness; neither can he take
with so feeble a return. casions require other spirits, other resolutions, which must be quickened by a more stirring reply: Think not with thyself, that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place ; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed. And who knoweth, whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this
The expectation of death had not quailed the strong heart of faithful Mordecai. Even while he mourns, his zeal droops not. There could have been no life in that breast, which this message could not have roused.
“ What then? Is it death, that thou fearest, in this attempt of thy supplication? What other than death awaits thee, in the neglect of it? There is but this difference; sue, and thou mayest die; sue not, and thou must die. What blood hast thou, but Jewish? And if these unalterable edicts exempt no living soul, what shall become of thine ? And canst thou be so vainly timorous, as to die for fear of death? to prefer certainty of danger, before a possibility of hopes? Away with this weak cowardice, unworthy of an Israelite, unworthy of a queen. But if faintheartedness or private respects shall seal up thy lips, or with. hold thine aid from the hand of thy people ; if thou canst so far neglect God's Church; know thou, that God will not neglect it. It shall not be in the power of tyrants, to root out his chosen seed. That Holy One of Israel shall rather work miracles from heaven,