Esther 1:16
And in the presence of the king and his princes, Memucan replied, "Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the princes and the peoples in all the provinces of King Xerxes.
CounselW. Dinwiddle Esther 1:15, 16
Court InfluenceD. Rowlands Esther 1:16-18
Counsel NeededG. Lawson., G. Lawson.Esther 1:16-20
Courtiers Forsake a Failing CauseW. Burrows, B. A.Esther 1:16-20
Evil Actions Do not Terminate in ThemselvesA. B. Davidson, D. D.Esther 1:16-20
Fashions Travel DownwardA. B. Davidson, D. D.Esther 1:16-20
FlatterersT. McEwan.Esther 1:16-20
FlatterersA. B. Davidson, D. D.Esther 1:16-20
Hasty CounsellorsT. McEwan.Esther 1:16-20
The Folly of Trusting in ManSketches of SermonsEsther 1:16-20
The Nemesis of AbsolutismW. F. Adeney M. A.Esther 1:16-20
The Result of Sensual IndulgenceS. H. Tyng, D. D.Esther 1:16-20
The Vicissitudes of LifeT. De Witt Talmage.Esther 1:16-20
Unalterable Judgments FoolishJ. S. Van Dyke, D. D.Esther 1:16-20
Unjustifiable DivorceF. Hastings.Esther 1:16-20
The Parody of LegislatureP.C. Barker Esther 1:16-22

We may admit the general truth of a principle, and yet deny its application to a particular case. Doubtless wrong-doing on the part of the queen might have exerted an unwholesome influence upon other women, but it by no means follows that her conduct in the present instance was open to this objection. On the contrary, might not her bravery in maintaining the honour of her sex in the face of so much danger strengthen the hands of others when placed in similar difficulties? The subject suggested by this passage is the responsibility of greatness. Let us inquire -

I. WHAT CONSTITUTES GREATNESS. By greatness we mean, in a general way, the position of a man who for certain well-defined reasons towers above the rest of his fellow-men. Evidently, therefore, it may be of various types.

1. The greatness of position. Some are born heirs to titles and kingdoms. Distinction is thrust upon them before their wishes are consulted. Their lives mingle with the web of history simply on account of their birth.

2. The greatness of wealth This differs from the preceding in that it is confined to no favoured class. A man may have a most humble origin, and yet through industry and perseverance may become a millionaire.

3. The greatness of genius. This is the gift of God. It resembles that of position, in that men are born into it; but it also resembles that of wealth, in that it is fully enjoyed only through labour. John Milton would have been a genius had he been "mute and inglorious;" but it was the effort he put forth in producing 'Paradise Lost' that made him immortal.


1. The fact that the great are members of society. No member of society, however great or however humble, can be independent. His actions touch his fellows at so many points that they have a right to control his conduct to that extent.

2. The great determine their own actions. No man is a mere puppet of circumstances. A high position may involve conditions which hamper the will, but they cannot rob it altogether of its freedom. In so far then as actions are free the agent is responsible for them.

3. The great exert an influence. This is true of all, but especially of the great. And this was the point on which Memucan so emphatically insisted.

(1) Influence is independent of our will. We can shape our own conduct, but we cannot regulate its effects upon others. We cannot plead that we never desired it, when we are charged with ruining others by our example, for those who copy us as a rule do not ask our permission. Does the subject of a deadly fever desire to spread infection?

(2) The influence of the great is powerful in proportion to their greatness. They are the observed of all observers. They are cities set on a hill which cannot be hid. Jeroboam son of Nebat made Israel sin, and the wickedness of the people for several generations was attributed to the influence of his example.

(3) It is far easier to influence for evil than for good. The effect produced upon an object is as much due to the object itself as to the power exerted. A blow that would leave iron uninjured might shatter glass to atoms. The original bias of the human heart is toward evil, so that it needs little help in that direction. No great eloquence is required to persuade the miser to hoard his money, or the spendthrift to squander his substance. This subject has a practical application. What is true of the great with regard to influence is true of all to some extent. It is true that a taper is unspeakably less than the sun, but it produces the same effect in its own sphere as the larger luminary does in his.

1. Ministers of religion exert an influence. Not merely in the pulpit, but in their intercourse with the world.

2. Parents exert an influence. Their actions will generally produce a deeper impression than their words.

3. Associates exert an influence. Men are constantly brought together in the various pursuits of life. In the workshops in the market-place, in the transactions of business, each man is unconsciously contributing his share to the making or the marring of the characters of those with whom he comes in contact. - R.

And Memucan answered before the king.
If they had been wise, as counsellors ought to be, they would have been in no haste to give judgment in a matter so important as that which was submitted to them. They would have delayed till passion had cooled, and right reason had been restored. But, half-intoxicated they proceeded to give judgment at once, falling in with the humours of royalty, and hastening to do what could not afterwards be recalled.

(T. McEwan.)

It is the punishment of despots to be surrounded by flatterers, and the words of counsellors are but the dicta of their whims and conceits.

(T. McEwan.)

There is a general lesson suggested by what passed between the king and his counsellors as to the danger of flattery. It is natural to all men to desire to have their opinions confirmed and approved by others. The feeling of self-approbation, which forms one element of happiness, is gratified and strengthened when several persons give their verdict in favour of a choice which we have made or a course of action which we have judged it right to pursue. But then, when men occupy exalted stations, and have it in their power to reward richly those who are in any way instrumental to the advancement of their comfort and happiness, they are exposed to the very serious calamity of having counsels and opinions poured into their ear for the purpose of pleasing them, and not of presenting truth to them or guiding them rightly through difficulties. There is hardly any one, indeed, who is exempted from the influence of flattery. It is less and less exercised as wealth and power diminish; but when a man is possessed of anything that can afford gratification to others, he will find some to fall in with his wishes and approve of his opinions, until all he has is expended. Perhaps it is in the condition of absolute poverty alone that the voice of flattery is not heard. Whether we have or have not wherewithal to bribe others to our way of thinking and feeling, and to secure their approval of our conduct, certain it is that we have a flatterer in our own hearts whose insidious attempts to mislead us we should guard against most anxiously. In every man there is a conflict between inclination and the power of conscience. This conflict arises and is carried on without reference to a man's religious knowledge or belief. The heathen were as conscious of it as those are who possess the oracles of God. When unlawful desire prompts in one direction, there is another influence, the natural conscience, which points in a different way, and has its strong arguments to repress the cravings of desire. Now all the reasonings against the conviction of what is right are just so many self-flatteries by which we are seduced into sin. And their strength is too great. They put a false colouring upon the objects of human pursuit, they make what is wrong appear right and what is hurtful seem innocent, and thus the maxim is verified, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." We may wonder at the folly of Artaxerxes in allowing himself to be guided by the judgment of men who only spoke what they supposed would please him! But all men have as good reason — yea, Christ's own people have as good reason — to wonder at the strange flatteries by which at one time their progress heavenward is interrupted, and at other times their will is enlisted on the side of what is positively evil.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

1. The flattery and the falsehood of the world. The king is surrounded by admirers and friends. They are "wise men who knew the times." One faithful but persecuted woman is the object of their hostility and the subject of their counsel. But ah, where is the faithful man among them all? Why is there no one to take the side of persecuted innocence and injured virtue? What an aspect this council exhibits of the mind and motives of guilty men! How rarely do the rich and great listen to the voice of truth or find the fidelity of real friendship! To maintain the side of truth and virtue against wealth and pride and power in the world is a signal mark of the great and noble mind. Thus hand joins in hand in the perpetration of human sin. Is this peculiar? Nay, this is the transgression with which the world aboundeth. What swarms of flatterers hang about the path of self-indulgent youth! See that daughter of wealth and fashion. How is sheled on from step to step in the blandishments of her career. There is none to restrain, none to warn, and she has no real friend to whom she can be induced to listen. Memucans abound wherever appetite asks an excuse for the gratification it seeks.

2. See the total want of domestic confidence, the violation of that pure and mutual family dependence which follows in the train of earthly selfishness and sensuality. What a reason this prince of the kingdom of Persia gives for his cruel and unjust advice! "This deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women," etc. Memucan's grand fear alleged is that all the wives in Persia will prove either too virtuous to be degraded or too rebellious to be governed. Nothing marks a debased and consciously criminal mind more clearly and habitually than its suspicion and incredulity of the virtue and integrity of others. This painful and disgraceful fact is brought before us in our present illustration. It is the family relation of which Memucan speaks. What is it that maintains in our households the spirit and dominion of mutual confidence? I answer, not the world or the pursuit of the world, but the power of true religion. Take this great principle of life and truth from the household, let the world rule there in its pride of covetousness, or in its lust of indulgence, and how soon and how thoroughly are domestic happiness, dignity and peace sacrificed and cast away! Mutual suspicion, recrimination, alienation, separation, divorce, hatred, persecution, murder, all follow in the legitimate train of succession as natural and too often habitual results. Half the talent and ingenuity of the world is exercised in plans for counterworking and over reaching the schemes of other people, or in self-defence against their violence or fraud. What an exhibition this makes of human sin! The children of the world expend their life and time and powers in suspecting, watching, guarding, forestalling each other.

3. The actual crime to which this course of indulgence in sensuality must lead. The king assents at once to the cruel and unjust advice which he receives. "The saying pleased the king and princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan." The self-indulgent monarch finds himself involved in the grievous injustice and wrong which has been the result of his own sin. This is the regular process through which the worldly and the ungodly habitually travel. I do not mean to say that they are all allowed to attain this result of open crime. The providence of a gracious God often interposes to keep men back from the results of their own choice. Merciful indeed is this inter position. Who can tell to what an extent of wickedness a rebellious world would run but for the interference of this unseen Divine restraint? But such a restraint is a special and peculiar interposition in the case of individuals. When intemperance sinks into poverty and rejection — when fraud and robbery bring the victim to a felon's cell — when vanity and indecorous exposure prove the destruction of female virtue — when anger and revenge result in bloodshed and murder — men are not astonished. They recognise in all these the natural issues of the principles we have traced.

4. See how surely the day of regret must come to human guilt. The king has finished his purpose and the advice of his attendants. But he is far from peace. Sin can never satisfy the sinner. "After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her." Human wrath cannot last for ever. The whirl of the excitement passes, and then comes the bitterness of the memory of sin. The soul is filled with remorse — literally, a biting, gnawing of itself. It is the fearful result of human sin. This is the chamber of the world. In all these there comes the question that will be answered, "What fruit had ye then of those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of these things is death." This is ever the result. What remembered follies crowd upon the mind! The soul looks inward and holds communion with itself. A thousand Vashtis are remembered, what they have done and what they have suffered. It is a deeply convincing hour. New and wonderful light is poured in upon the conscience. This is the end of the sensual indulgence of the world.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

: —






(W. Burrows, B. A.)

Sketches of Sermons.
Ahasuerus was guilty of it. Remark that this practice —





1. There is no safety in man.

2. To put your trust in the Lord.

(Sketches of Sermons.)

Not only kings, but also private persons, often need wise counsels, especially when they are hurried away by their passions. But our loss is, that at such times we are uncommonly unfit to receive counsel.

(G. Lawson.)Fit counsellors few: — Every man is not fit to be a counsellor.

(G. Lawson.)

For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women
Fashions and maxims usually go downward from one class of society to another. Customs, adopted by the higher orders as their rule, gradually make their way until at length they pervade all ranks.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

"What the queen doth will be done by all," was his statement, and we must feel the truthfulness of it. It embodies a maxim peculiarly applicable to the followers of Christ. They are supposed to be separate from the sinful world by the very circumstance of their being Christ's. Then, if they become worldly — if they act inconsistently — their acts do not terminate in and with themselves. What they say and do produces effects far beyond their Own calculation and their own sphere. A word spoken for Christ may bear fruit where they would not have been prepared to look for such a result.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

Among the laws of the Persians and the Medea, that it be not altered.
He who prides himself on never reversing his judgments should be extremely cautious about forming them. Obstinacy may refuse to change its opinions; wisdom will be guilty of no such rashness.

(J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)

And let the king give her royal estate unto another
Perhaps you look back upon scenes different from those in which now from day to day you mingle. You have exchanged the plenty and luxuriance of your father's house for privation and trials known to God and your own heart. The morning of life was flushed with promise. Troops of calamities since then have made desperate charge upon you. Darkness has come. Sorrows have swooped like carrion birds from the sky, and barked like jackals from the thicket. You stand amid your slain, anguished and woe-struck. Rizpah on the rock. So it has been in all ages. Vashti must doff the spangled robes of the Persian Court, and go forth blasted from the palace gate. Hagar exchanges Oriental comfort for the wilderness of Beersheba. Mary Queen of Scots must pass out from flattery and pomp to suffer ignominious death in the Castle of Fotheringay. The wheel of fortune keeps turning, and mansions and huts exchange, and he who rode in the chariot pushes the barrow, and instead of the glare of festal lights is the simmering of the peat fire, and in place of Saul's palace is the rock, the cold rock, the desolate rock. But that is the place to which God comes. Jacob with .his head on a stone saw the shining ladder.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

We cannot but remark upon the facility with which divorce took place in that land of Persia. We cannot be too thankful that we live not where such unjust laws obtain. Nor can we too zealously guard the sacred obligations of wedded life. Perhaps many cases of unhappiness might be traced to a similar cause to that which brought about the separation of Ahasuerus and Vashti. Any mere trifle becomes sufficient as an excuse for separation. We have heard of a quarrel and divorce taking place because one asserted that there were a certain number of windows in a house opposite and the other denied it. Each maintained their point with obstinacy, and neglected to settle their difference by counting them.

(F. Hastings.)

The character of Ahasuerus illustrates the Nemesis of absolutism by showing how unlimited power is crushed and dissolved beneath the weight of its own immensity. The very vastness of hie domains overwhelms the despot. He is the slave of his own machinery of government. But this is not all. The man who is exalted to the pedestal of a god is made dizzy by his own altitude. Absolutism drove Caligula mad; it punished Xerxes with childishness. The silly monarch who would decorate a tree with the jewellery of a prince in reward for its fruitfulness, and flog and chain the Hellespont as a punishment for its tempestuousness, is not fit to be let out of the nursery. When the same man appears on the pages of Scripture under the name of Ahasuerus, his weakness is despicable.

(W. F. Adeney M. A.)

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