For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come to my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?
Esther felt that her work was not yet done. An overconfident and sanguine disposition might have taken for granted, as we do in the mere retrospect, that all else which was requisite would follow as matter of course. She had met as yet no rebuff, had suffered no failure. Each move, well considered beforehand, had been crowned with success, surpassing the utmost that she or Mordecai had dared to imagine. In the flush of personal success, and of joy because of the safety and great promotion of Mordecai, she does not forget the larger family of her "people" and "kindred." The fearful decree is not reversed. It still overhangs the heads of thousands upon thousands. Esther feels that her mission will not be fulfilled until she has obtained the abrogation of the decree, and secured the lives of her people. In all the methods she had employed hitherto a remarkable calmness and circumspection are observable. But now a change is visible in favour of a demonstrativeness which it must have required very strong effort to keep up to this time in such restraint. Esther "fell down at the feet of the king, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman, and his device that he had devised against the Jews (ver. 3). This change is interesting to observe, as occurring at the time when thought and affection left self and home for the scattered kindred of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces. This verse is the irrepressible outcry of true patriotism. It is the expostulation of vivid and tender sympathy. It is the argument of a forcible principle of our nature, which oversteps the boundaries of the personal and the domestic in order to travel much farther, and to embrace the national. It mounts by the stepping-stones of self-love and sacred family love to the love of vast numbers of those never seen nor personally known, yet in some special sense related. The passage suggests, by a leading illustration, the general subject of patriotism; and we may notice -
I. WHAT TRUE PATRIOTISM IS.
1. It is evidently an original and ultimate principle. As soon as ever it was possible it showed its existence The fact of its presence, and operative presence, has been visible in all ages, traceable in all kinds and degrees of civilisation - among the barbarous, and among the most advanced and elevated nationalities.
2. It is a principle of a high moral kind. A form of love above the sympathy which is between individual and individual, above that which lies between those born of the same parents, and, on the other hand, falling short of that universal love of man, as such, which is one of the very highest teachings of Christianity.
3. It is a somewhat quickened regard for those united to us by community of race. A stronger interest in their welfare and advantage is marked by it, while divested as far as possible of any conscious reflex action or benefit to self. This affection was no doubt exceedingly strong in the Jewish race, was at Esther's time greatly intensified by adversity and persecution and natural causes, but owed its most determined hold to distinctly Divine purpose.
II. THE USE OF PATRIOTISM IN THE INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER.
1. It must be enlarging to the heart. It must expand the affections in their outlook, which then seek the various and the distant instead of ever keeping at home. It must give greater and freer exercise to the more important moral elements of our nature.
2. It must operate ever as a distinct corrective to some portion of the dangers of selfishness. There is much selfishness in our self-love; there is often not a little even in the family and domestic circle; sympathies may run round indeed, but in too narrow a circle. But the circle is immensely widened by this community of interest, while yet kept within a manageable area.
3. It is able to give enough natural motive to the awakening of moral energies, which without it would have found no sufficient appeal. In point of fact, some of the grandest displays of human force, and among them that of the present history, have been due to it.
III. ITS USEFULNESS TO PUBLIC SOCIETY. There will be a vast amount of this necessarily entailed indirectly and unconsciously, as arising from the previous considerations; but, in addition, manifest practical use on a large scale will also result.
1. It secures the prospect of bringing together to one point a great aggregate of force in emergency. It is like public opinion in action, seasoned by genuine affection.
2. It is equal also to the converse of this, spreading, as in Esther's example, the willing benefit, the critical advantage of opportunity, of one loving, praying heart, over a vast area.
3. Pervading the whole mass of mankind, it so divides it up and so allots it, that in place of unwieldiness a well-knit-together organisation is found. Thus it offers a strong and very traceable analogy to the body with its members.
IV. THAT IN PATRIOTISM WE HAVE ANOTHER EVIDENCE OF DIVINE DESIGN IN THE STRUCTURE OF HUMAN SOCIETY. For -
1. It cannot possibly be attributed to mere human arrangement or compact.
2. It does not at all really contravene either the descent of all from one head, or the fact that "God has made of one blood all nations of the earth."
3. Its operation is not malevolent, setting "nation against nation." It is beneficent, and is ever growing to show itself more and more so, leading up to mutual service, mutual dependence, and mutual love, to the attainment of which it were very hard to see any other way so compact, so sure. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?