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ever appeared so great, or evinced such bare-faced and coldblooded murder as this !
Bearing in mind that Esther herself was a Jewess, and that there was not a single exception made to the unalterable decree, we at once perceive that her own ruin was involved in common with the rest of her doomed nation. Had the king been aware of this fact, we may readily infer that he would have made at least one exception to the heralded death-decree of Haman. But, through zeal to gratify the wishes and thus redress the supposed wrongs and grievances of his flattering minion, he went 80 far—as much, no doubt, through ignorance as stupidity-as to sign the death-warrant of his own beautiful and beloved Queen.
The dread consternation experienced by the Jews upon the announcement of this decree, is exemplified to some extent, by the conduct of Mordecai, who "rent his clothes, and put on sack-cloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.” We are also further informed that “there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sack-cloth and ashes."
Esther's conduct towards Mordecia in the midst of these trying circumstances, was that of a devoted child to a distressed and broken-hearted parent. His grief was hers; and the Jews' danger was her distress. She sent raiment to clothe him—to exchange for his habiliments of mourning, that he might receive "the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and thus be comforted. But Mordecai, like the Prophet of Israel, would not be comforted, because of the evil that was about to come upon them as a people. And as a last resort, he appeals to Esther, as she values her own life, to intercede with the king in their behalf. Esther no doubt cheerfully responded to the entreaty in her heart; yet at the same time she felt the exceeding great risk of venturing into the presence of the king, uncalled for. As an excuse, therefore, for not at once complying with the urgent request of Mordecai, she plead the rigor of the Persian law respecting the appearance of any one, and especially a female, before the king, without a legal or official summons. To this seemingly reasonable and significant excuse, Mordecai answers in those truly sublime, purely christian, and deeply prophetic words : “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 ?” In these words we have an expression of the most unbounded confidence in the promises of God respecting the preservation and security of his people Israel. Deliverance, it is most unequivocally asserted, will surely come; and if Esther is not the means of bringing it, the Almighty will interpose in some other way for their rescue. In the latter clause especially, we have a most brilliant outburst of faith in the over-ruling Providence of God. The form of the question, "and who knoweth," &c., implies far more than a mere supposition or probability that the hand of God underlay the whole concatenation of strange events that brought Esther to the proud position which she now occupied. It proves itself, to us at least, to have been a prophetic declaration concerning the whole truth and secret that was yet to be revealed.
If even Esther would have had any disposition previously to disregard the cries and entreaties of her people, it is not easy to see how she could have withstood an appeal filled with as much pathos and eloquence as this. But her heart and deepest sympathies were all the while with the race of her kindred; and we may suppose, the only reason why she faltered at all to act promptly in the case, was the temerity of her youthful heart, and the great danger connected with the attempt. But this last appeal of Mordecai more than overcame all her fears and doubts; and with a firm reliance upon Him who rules all events for His own glory, and with an equal assurance of the righteousness of her cause, she resolved to make the trial. Willing to sacrifice her life, if need be, in the service of her people, she boldly met the crisis-yielding to the force of the reasoning, that she could but perish if she went; yet if she failed to make the trial her destruction was even more certain still.
Exhorting all the Jews, therefore, to follow the example of herself and chamberlains, in fasting for three days and nights as a process of preparation for the decisive hour, she assures them of her determination to importune the King-concluding her declaration with those admirable, awfully solemn and significant words, "if I perish, I perish!”
Never did a more heroic or philanthropic expression escape the lips of murtal. True to her trust and resolve, she appeared before the King at the appointed time, not knowing whether this issue would be life or death. But she triumphed : and in her triumph-not less signal-we are reminded
of the beautiful allegory of Una and the Lion in Spenser's "Færy Queen." The fierce lion, thirsting for blood, was so overpowered with the beauty of Una
that, instead of making her a prey to his ravenous appetite,
"He kissed her weary feet,
And licked her lily hands with fawning tongue;
O how can beauty master the most strong!
And simple truth subdue avenging wrong!" As she entered the royal court the golden sceptre was extended towards her, as a signal that she had found favor and success with the King. And it was then, we may imagine, with feelings of almost overpowering joy and thankfulness, that she touched the top of the sceptre, as a suppliant, and entered into the first step of negotiation for her wronged and afflicted kindred. So much gratified, indeed, was the King at her presence-indeed of the contrary, as she had reason to apprehend—that he offered to satisfy her desire, though it should be at the sacrifice of half of his colossal empire. But, to his great surprise, instead of having a large demand made upon his proffered generosity, her simple wish and request was, tha: himself and Haman should attend a banquet which she had prepared for their entertainment. Puffed up (like pride always is before a fall) and blinded by the special honor which he conceived was thus designed to be conferred upon him, and feeling his favoras he supposed-growing stronger with the royal pair, and his importance of more account, Haman thought not, nor had he the most distant apprehension of the sad end that was to grow out of this seemingly joyful beginning. To-morrow he was again invited to a banquet of Esther. Ab, how these tokens of honor must have pandered to his vain and self-conceited spirit! But during the intervening night, whilst Haman was plotting the speedy destruction of Mordecai, and was feasting upon the joyful anticipations of the morrow, the King was troubled (we may suppose by some divine or supernatural influence): and, as if to while away the sleepless hours, he commanded the "records of the Chronicles” to be brought; and as they were read, a disclosure was made that resulted in the exalting of the humble and the debasing of the proud. Impatient for the morning light to dawn, that he might hasten to inform the King of the arrangements he had made for the execution of Mordecai on the gallows, Haman appeared in the court early: inflated with the prospects of having complete revenge, and with the enjoyments of the day before 'him. But how differently had the counsels of that night resulted for the destiny of him, with whom they were both directly concer -ed ! The one had planned Mordecai's instant death; the other his highest honor and
distinction. What a signal instance of the folly of man serving to confirm and magnify the wisdom of God!
But instead now of being made the object of greater royal distinction, Haman had to experience the mortification of leading the richly caparisoned horse of the King, as he bore Mordecai, now clad with royal insignia, alɔng in his triumphal parade through all the streets of the city, crying, as he had supposed it would be done unto himself, “Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the King delighteth to honor.” Disappointed, chagrined and deeply mortified, Haman came again, but only after earnest solicitation, to the second banquet of the Queen: but it was only to receive another impetus to hurl him down to the pit of destruction, into which he had commenced to fall with such a fearful plunge. Upon Esther now making known her full request, which the king had promised not to deny her, Haman was ordered to be taken forth and hanged on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai. A righteous retribution !—every one will exclaim-visited upon one for whom we can exercise but little sympathy. Truly shall the wicked be taken in their own net; and their feet shall be tangled in the snares which they have laid for others. The ring with which Ahasuerus had signalized the promotion of Haman, was now placed upon the hand of Mordecai, at his exaltation to the place which his fierce despiser and persecutor had so recently occupied.
But, notwithstanding the ring-leader in the contemplated bloody tragedy against the Jews was removed, yet the edict that had gone forth throughout all the provinces, and which could not be countermanded or revoked, was still in force. In view of this, Esther was emboldened to make one more request of the king for the salvation of her people. And after recounting what had been decreed against them according to the indictment of Haman, she appeals to the king in the following touching language: “How can I endure to see the evil that shall come upon my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred ?"
Though not able to remand or alter the decree, as was the law among the Medes and Persians, the king now granted every privilege and assistance to destroy the effect it would otherwise have, by an active counter movement. Swift as messengers could carry them, letters were dispatched to every province : “Wherein the king gran 'd the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them."
Then were the hearts of the Jews made glad. Instead of mourning they now had joy, and their bitter grief was turned into rejoicing, because they were permitted to stand in an honorable defence of their rights and lives against their enemies. Nerved for the fatal struggle by the encouragement of the king, the justness of their cause and the endearments of life, with all its pleasing associations, they resisted boldly unto victory; and thus evaded their threatened desolation and ruin.
Thus ends the crisis through which the Jews were called to pass during the reign of Queen Esther. And from all the events connected with it, no one can fail to recognise the over-ruling care of God for the good of His people. The deposition of Queen Vashti—the selection of Esther as her successor—the continued troubles of Haman with Mordecai, and the final complete triumph of the latter, to the utter destruction of the former, together with all his wicked plots and devices--the casting of Pur or the lot by Haman to decide the day upon which his plans were to go into execution against the Jews, and by which the time was delayed for eleven long months—and, in short, all the prominent acts and scenes connected with the whole historycould not have been the result of mere chance or the concurrence of fortuitous circumstances. We must perceive in it all the hand of God, and His wisely directing Providence.
Yet no character or event connected with the whole, appears so prominent as our little Queen Esther. She is emphatically the Heroine of the Tragedy. She was the chosen instrument in the hands of God for the accomplishment of His purposes. And a more fitting one-though apparently weak-for the times and circumstanoes we cannot well conceive of. In addition to a wise and prudent head, she possessed the graces and virtues of a most noble heart. And when even viewed from a christian stand-point, she stands out in these respects almost without a parallel.
To some of these virtues and prominent traits we have already directed particular attention. And it remains for us yet to specify more particularly a few of these as they have come before us in this second part of our subject.
We notice in the first place, then, the tender devotion which she ever continued to cherish and manifest towards her paternal Mordecai. In no situation, circumstances or extremities, did she forget the duty she owed to him as her father. How different is this to the conduct of many children, who, when raised