Then the king's attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king,
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.
And let the king appoint officers
1. We see a youthful female, a poor girl. Her very sex betokens weakness and exposure. But yet woman is called "the weaker vessel," and is so, as the crystal vase is a weaker vessel than the oaken cask, more easily overthrown, more surely injured, more irreparably destroyed, by the power of vicious habit or sinful temptation. To her, exposure to evil is far the heavier, and far more dangerous. Upon her, sorrows press with a far more grievous load. To her, misfortunes come with a far more sharpened power. The wrongs of women have filled every age and every history. But here, when the illustration of rising, conquering piety is brought before us, the subject is a woman; and a woman in her weakest and most forlorn position, a lonely girl. It is enough for us to see and know that God is there, the Father of the fatherless and the God of the widows in His holy habitation.
2. She is an orphan girl. "She has neither father nor mother." What a privilege are parents spared to bless and cheer our maturity I What a joy and cause for thanksgiving is it to be permitted even to shelter and cheer their age in our own home! What solitude, separation, want of confidence, fear, distrust, yea, anguish, often fill up the orphan's heart! Few can sympathise; and even to those few it is impossible to pour out the secret sorrows which are the burden and distress within. But imaginary as the causes may be, the sorrows which they produce are real and abiding. Yet, when we add poverty to the orphan's lot, what increased bitterness do we throw into the cup! An orphan boy may struggle. The very poverty which oppresses him may excite his energies and call out his powers of endurance and of action. His self-dependence is aroused. But an orphan girl in poverty! what human case is habitually harder? Everything in her sex, and everything in her condition, is against her. Her exposure to the wickedness and the arts of the corrupt is the subject of constant observation and of constant dread.(1) That God loves the lowly. Let every imagination which exalteth itself against God be cast down. Be content to allow Him to take you from the dust in all your sinfulness and unworthiness, and to wash and cleanse and save you by His own grace and power alone.(2) Forget not that your honour and happiness will always be promoted by gaining the mind of God in this relation. This surely is the path of happiness for us. The world says, "Happy are the rich, the luxurious, the self-indulgent." God says, "Happy are the poor in spirit, the meek." The weak things of the world, if He choose them, and love them, will confound the things that are mighty.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
I. PROVIDENCE. We must not judge the heathen court of Persia by our standard of morality. Rather let us see how God overrules all these arrangements for the accomplishment of His own purposes.
II. ADOPTION. In ten thousand things the strongest and wisest of us is but a lonely orphan, needing some strong hand to protect us, the pity of some loving heart for our comfort. How blest is he who has learned to say, "Our Father."
III. RECOMPENSE. Think of the joy of Mordecai as he sees his adopted daughter thus uplifted.
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
1. If Mordecai, of his own accord, presented Esther as a candidate for the royal favour, then he acted in opposition to the law of Moses, which forbade that the daughters of Israel should be given to the heathen. It would be no apology for his conduct that he designed by what he did to advance the interests of his nation. What is forbidden by the law must not be done that good may come of it.
2. Many interpreters suppose that those who were commissioned to select the virgins for the king's seraglio executed their office without respect to the feelings of the parties interested. Esther was taken, therefore, without there being any choice left, either to her or Mordecai, in the matter.
3. Others that, as the whole was so manifestly' providential, Mordecai may have received special intimation from heaven to bring his orphan cousin under the notice of the king's officers. There is nothing in the history to warrant this opinion; therefore we embrace the first supposition as the most probable account of the affair.
4. But whatever may have been the feelings of Mordecai and Esther, we see the special workings of providence in her behalf. She obtained favour of the chief of the eunuchs above all the other maidens who had been com mitted to his care, so that, without solicitation on her part, not only was there more than ordinary indulgence toward her, but she was even treated with a degree of respect that seemed, as it were, the prelude to yet higher advancement. The commencement of Esther's life in the palace gave promise of a prosperous issue.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
1. She is a stranger. We find her in a land not her own, though perhaps she was born upon its soil — among a people with whom she has no affinity and no bond of affection. A girl, an orphan, and a stranger. To wander among multitudes with whom we have no connection and no sympathy is often a depression to the brightest spirits. But this poor girl is not a stranger in voluntary journeying — she is a captive. She is a servant of the true God in a land of dark idolatry; a pure, praying girl amidst a people whose licentious profligacy made the most wasting crimes to be no dishonour. But if piety can be made triumphant under circumstances so completely opposed to it, and a child of God can glorify her Father's name, and keep His commandments amidst temptations and difficulties so numerous and pressing, how great will be the responsibility of those who are exposed to no such contests!
2. This orphan stranger, this lonely girl, is also beautiful in person. "The maid was fair and beautiful." This is a gift which all naturally, perhaps not unreasonably, prize. It is God who hath given to the youthful form and face their attractions and their loveliness. One of the marks of His benevolence is here seen. His goodness shines in all these aspects of His power. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Yet the beauty of our daughters is but too frequently a snare. Sin in the heart perverts and corrupts it. It is welcomed as a merchandise for gain. It is nourished as the food for vanity. It is perverted to awaken an earthly taste, and to encourage a carnal mind. It brings an attending exposure to peculiar temptations. Her parents delighted over her childish promise, and called her Hadassah, their myrtle, their joy. They looked forward to great parental delight in her coming bloom, when as a fragrant myrtle they should see her blossoming at their side. But this, alas, they were not to see. She was to bloom for the gaze of other eyes, but not for theirs. Could I lead you off from this outward beauty to think of the fair beauty of the Lord — how much more precious and desirable is that pure and obedient mind which we find united with Hadassah's loveliness of person! Outward beauty we cannot all have, But this higher and more enduring beauty of the Spirit you may all possess.
3. The sole earthly protector of this beautiful orphan was poor and unable to defend her. "In Shushan, the palace, there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai. And he brought up Hadassah," etc. When her father and her mother were obliged to forsake her, the Lord took her up, by providing her a faithful friend in her father's nephew. He took her for his own daughter. But she was really one of God's hidden ones, chosen in His love, to be protected and loved by Him. Never forget this highest security of His protection and His presence. There you are secure for ever. No one can be poor who is rich in faith toward God. No one can be deserted who has the Divine friendship and fellowship.
4. This lonely orphan girl was grateful and obedient: "Esther did the commandment of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him." Happy indeed is such a manifestation of grace as this! You may build with confidence any hope of usefulness and any desired attainment of human excellence upon a character so true. A spirit thus pure, subdued, affectionate and sincere, what may it not do that is lovely, honest, and of good report? It spreads happiness for others around its path. It converts the cares and trials of life into pleasures and delights. It crowns the whole personal walk with loveliness and attractions. But Esther's gratitude to her earthly benefactor was founded on her still deeper gratitude to God. This poor and lonely, but faithful and beautiful girl, God means to raise up to be an eminent blessing and restorer to His people. Her latter end is to be in great prosperity. This is our great lesson now. We are witnessing the purpose and the work of God. He is exalting a child of His own, and showing what He can do with His own, and by His own power. No condition is beneath His notice. No child of grace is below His care. None who love Him can be forsaken or destroyed. We see here a low beginning; none could be more so; but it is a very lovely one. And as we study the course through which God is pleased to lead this child of grace, we shall see Him to be justified in His whole course, and to come forth completely victorious in the work which He hath undertaken. How great is the advantage of having God upon your side, and of being under His special protection and care!
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
1. We may consider the object of this exaltation. This poor Jewish orphan is to be made the Queen of Persia. The change of position is as wide and wonderful as earth can illustrate. Why did God thus select and elevate her? He designed to give to all His people a great illustration of His power and goodness. He would have them see, He would have all to see, how certain and adequate is His protection to those who love and trust Him. But He had further designs in this work. He not only intended to show His goodness to Esther in protecting and rewarding a child whom He loved, He also purposed to make her an eminent blessing to others. She was to be a restorer to her people, a great blessing to her own captive nation. No one is exalted in this world for himself alone. Whatever gifts, or gains, or influence we have, they are for the benefit of others. No man liveth for himself. But how clearly and with what peculiar power does God teach us this truth in the whole plan of Divine redemption. Why has the Lord Jesus lived and died? And why is He still living as a mediator at the right hand of God? "For us," is the only answer to the question. He is exalted on high that He may bestow gifts upon men. This important truth God equally teaches us in our own enjoyment of the blessings which redemption brings to us. He enriches us with all our gifts that we may be made the instruments of enriching others. We should look around and ask, "Whom can I bless? Whom can I serve? To whom can I give even a cup of cold water in my Master's name?" We can never tell how wide may be the appointed influences of such a spirit. We see the end of the Lord, that He is faithful and very gracious, and we may learn from it to understand and to confide in the loving-kindness of the Lord. When the gracious purpose of God comes out in the result of His dispensation, we have no longer any doubt or darkness resting upon His Word.
2. We may consider the circumstances of Esther's exaltation. They were painful and repulsive to her in an extreme degree. Such was the subject of violent compulsion. Such is the true meaning of the term "brought," literally, "brought by force." In this exaltation of the captive orphan, God remarkably overruled and employed the wicked passions of men. The king consulted only his own corrupt desires. His officers combined to minister to his wicked tempers and gratifications. No happiness of others, no peace of violated households, no wretchedness of ruined and discarded youth, was to be considered as an obstacle in the path. The king's commandment and decree must be obeyed. This does not lessen the wickedness of men. However God may restrain and employ them, their purpose is only to sin. And whatsoever results God may bring out of their wickedness, they must bear the guilt of their sin in the same condemnation. God's mercy may compel them to bless His people, and to glorify Himself, while His justice punishes their transgression, and overthrows their own plans of personal gain and glory. Henry VIII. was a monster of crime. His motives appeared to be his own wicked passions alone. He murdered and he married at his pleasure. Yet God overruled the whole result for the establishment of His truth. This glorious Reformation has been often reproached for Henry's crimes. It would be just as reasonable to reproach the deliverance of the Israelites and their subsequent prosperity with the crimes of Pharaoh. God can make even our own pardoned sins and follies to become a blessing to us, and to bring honour to Him.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
1. Mark the simple cause of this exaltation. It was the Divine tribute to her character. Because her ways pleased the Lord, He made her enemies to be at peace with her. Do you ask for success, for happiness, for final triumph? Do you desire a result of blessedness for this life and for the life to come? Embrace the hope which the gospel gives. Go to the fountain which the gospel opens. Enter into the Saviour's ranks and belong to Him. He will carry you safely through every trial and every contest.
2. Mark the way in which this exaltation was accomplished. God gave her favour in the sight of others. An unseen influence and power preceded her in the path through which she was led and prepared her way before her. And now we see the beginning of the turning tide. "When a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." The maiden pleased Hegai, the keeper of the women, and she obtained kindness of him. Everything now is to be in her favour. "The best place in the house of the women" is assigned to her. "Seven maidens meet to be given to her out of the king's house" are appointed her attendants. So easily can your gracious heavenly Father change and order the minds of others concerning you. He can make all your enemies at peace with you. Thus He prepared Pharaoh's daughter to be the defender and the royal nurse for the infant Moses. Thus also He dealt with Daniel and his companions. He gives a pleasant and attractive aspect to religious character, adorns it by His Spirit with traits of meekness and spiritual beauty, makes its influence agreeable and pleasant to those who become connected with it, and in this way makes His servants acceptable to others and a real blessing to many. This system of His gracious government lays out the line of personal duty for you. It is your duty to be a blessing to all persons and at all times.
3. Mark the state of mind which true piety will display under the most trying circumstances. This was beautifully exhibited in Esther as she passed through the trying ordeal which was to lead to her exaltation. Esther showed great self-respect. What is so dignified and refining as true piety? It habitually clothes the character with grace and purity, and the manners with delicacy and elegance. We see the poorest daughters of earth exalted by the transforming power of true religion to a hold on the reverence of all, and often to the admiration and delight of many. True piety is patient, quiet and unassuming. Esther showed a quiet submission to the will of God. She asked for nothing. She desired nothing of all that she saw around her. All the state and magnificence of her new condition were nothing to her. Her mind could find repose only in God. How beautiful is such an example! Remember that Divine promise (Isaiah 26:3): "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Esther showed entire indifference to worldly display. But "when the turn of Esther was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai, the king's chamberlain, appointed." She was contented to leave her whole influence and prospects in her Father's hands, and therefore "she required nothing." This was true modesty, as well as a simple and pious trust in God. Her mind and thoughts were directed to Him, not to herself. What an example was this to youth in the midst of the snares and artificial glare of the world! True adorning is "not the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel, but it is in the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." What attractive beauty there is in a heavenly temper, a lowly spiritual mind! This is a jewel of the Lord's preparation and appointment, and eminently becomes and adorns the children of God. Esther showed a simple and entire trust in God. In the bitterness of her heart's sorrow she had no other protector.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)I. Hadassah, THE ORPHAN. Mordecai took the little tree, growing without shelter from the storm, and planted it by his own hearth.
II. Look next at Hadassah, THE CAPTIVE.
III. Then at Hadassah, THE BEAUTIFUL MAIDEN. Nobody should despise beauty of face; but bad character spoils beauty, whilst beauty of soul may supply the lack of physical beauty.
IV. Last of all, at Esther, THE QUEEN.
V. Let us conclude with A TWOFOLD WISH.
1. May you grow like a myrtle, and resemble it in two qualities: in that it is an evergreen, and always fragrant. Be thou lovely in the dark days as well as the bright; and do thou always cheer thy dwelling with the fragrance of godliness.
2. May you glow like a star, which God has clothed with light and placed so high in the heavens. Do thou walk in light — Christ's light — the light of truth, and love, and holiness; and, finally, shine as a star in heaven, your home for evermore.
(J. Edmons, D. D.): —Esther, in addition to her outward comeliness, was modest, engaging, contented, and possessed all those amiable qualities which adorn the individual, while they make him useful to society. Beauty is one of the gifts of nature; but if it consist only in symmetry of form and fineness of colouring, it is no more than a beautiful statue
; it can only gratify the eye. That which reflects as a mirror the good qualities of the mind can alone form an object of rational attraction.
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