Est_3:8-9. And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed.
REVENGE is cruel: but never more cruel than when it has its foundation in mortified pride. In the passage before us, it is carried to an almost incredible extent. Haman occupied the highest post of honour, next to the royal family, in the Assyrian empire. All the subjects in the kingdom bowed down to him. But there was a poor man, one Mordecai, who sat at the king’s gate, and consequently was often passed by Haman, who refused to pay him this homage. At this neglect, Haman was grievously offended. He deemed it an insufferable insult, which could be expiated only by the death of the offender. On inquiring into Mordecai’s habits and connexions, Haman found that he was a Jew: and, conceiving probably that this contemptuous spirit pervaded that whole nation, and accounting it a small matter to sacrifice the life of one single individual, he determined, if possible, to destroy the whole nation at once; and, accordingly, he made this proposal to King Ahasuerus, engaging from his own resources to make up to the king’s treasury whatever loss might arise to the revenue from the proposed measure.
Now this proposal appearing, at first sight, so very extraordinary, I will endeavour to set before you,
The commonness of it—
In every age of the world have God’s people been hated, for the very reasons that are here assigned—
[“Their laws are diverse from those of all other people, neither keep they the laws of the kingdoms where they dwell.” This is true in part. They worship the one true and living God; and obey his laws, which are unknown to the rest of the world, or, at all events, unheeded by them. Of course, whatever laws are inconsistent with the laws of God, they disobey; because they owe to Jehovah a paramount duty of allegiance, and are bound to “obey God rather than men.” On this account they are hated, reviled, persecuted: and, on many occasions, if man could have prevailed, they would have been utterly extirpated. David tells us of confederacies formed for this very purpose by all the nations around Jerusalem, each saying to the others, “Come, let us cut off the Jews from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance [Note: Psa_83:3-8.].” So, in the early ages of Christianity, there were not less than ten strenuous efforts made to attain this object. And at different periods since that time has persecution raged to the utmost extent, to destroy, if possible, all real piety from the face of the earth. How “drunk the Roman Church has been with the blood of the saints,” has been often seen, and would be seen again, if she could regain the power which she once possessed [Note: Rev_17:6.]. She cannot endure that God should be served in opposition to her, and that his laws should be regarded as of superior authority to hers.]
But we need not go back to former ages for an elucidation of this truth—
[Behold any person at this time cordially embracing the faith of Christ, and conforming in all things to his revealed will; and it will soon be found that the same enmity still reigns in the hearts of men against the people of God, as at any former age. True, the cruelties of martyrdom are stayed: but private animosity is indulged as far as the laws of the land wherein we live will admit; and every person who thoroughly devotes himself to God, is made to feel its baneful influence. St. Paul, speaking of Ishmael and Isaac, says, in reference to his own time, “As he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now [Note: Gal_4:29.]:” thus also must I say at this time. Our blessed Lord told us, that “he came not to send peace on earth, but a sword; for that he came to set the nearest and dearest relatives at variance with each other [Note: Mat_10:34-36.].” (Not that this was the intent, though unhappily it is the effect, of his Gospel.) And thus it is, wherever the Gospel is preached with power. There is immediately “a division among the people;” and those who are “obedient to the faith” become objects of hatred and persecution to those who “rebel against the light:” so true is that saying of the Apostle, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution [Note: 2Ti_3:12.].”]
Passing over the inhumanity of this proposal, as being too obvious to be insisted on, I proceed to notice,
The impiety of it—
The very accusation brought against the Jews by Haman shews what is the real ground of enmity against the Lord’s people: it is, that they serve God, whilst the rest of the world bow down to idols; and that, in this determination of theirs, they inflexibly adhere to the dictates of their own conscience. This is universal amongst all the people of the Lord—
[The man that turns aside from the path of duty, through fear of man’s displeasure, has no title whatever to be numbered amongst the children of God. If we fear man, the fear of God is not in us [Note: Luk_12:4-5.]. We must be willing to lay down our life for the Lord, or else we can never be acknowledged as his disciples [Note: Mat_10:37-39.] — — — And this inflexibility we must carry into every part of our duty — — —]
But this preference of God to man is the very thing which gives the offence—
[Where man’s laws and customs are contrary to those of God, man expects and demands submission to his will, rather than to the oracles of God: and if we will not comply with his requisitions, he will use all possible means to compel us. But what is this, but a direct rebellion against God, and an usurpation of his authority? It is, in fact, a contest with God, whether He shall govern the universe, or they. Look at all the Prophets and Apostles, and see what was the ground of the world’s opposition to them. They were ambassadors from God to men; and they were living examples of all that they proclaimed. Hence they were regarded as “the troublers of Israel,” and were represented as enemies to the governments under which they lived [Note: Compare Ezr_4:13. with Act_16:20-21; Act_17:6-7; Act_24:5; Act_28:22.]. It was this adherence to God’s laws that involved the Hebrew youths and Daniel in the calamities inflicted on them; and that subjected all the Apostles, with one only exception, to the pains and penalties of martyrdom. Hence, when Saul breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples, our Lord addressed him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And hence he has declared, in reference to all his persecuted people throughout the world, “He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me [Note: Luk_10:16.].”]
And this leads me to shew,
The folly of it—
Can it be thought that such feeble worms as we shall be able to prevail against Almighty God?
[Hear how God derides the vain attempt: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed; saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion [Note: Psa_2:1-6.].” So said our blessed Lord to Saul also; “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks [Note: Act_9:5.].” The truth is, that “the Lord Jesus holds all his stars in his right hand [Note: Rev_2:1.];” and it is impossible for any man to pluck them thence [Note: Joh_10:28-29.]. “Their life is hid with Christ in God [Note: Col_3:3.]:” who, then, shall get access to it, to destroy it? Haman, with all his power, could not prevail against the Jews, who yet, in appearance, were altogether in his hands. The whole power of the Roman empire, by whomsoever wielded, could not root out the disciples of the Christian Church: “nor shall the gates of hell ever prevail” against the weakest of God’s faithful people [Note: Mat_16:18.]; for “HE will keep them even as the apple of his eye [Note: Deu_32:10.],” and “perfect in every one of them the work he has begun [Note: Php_1:6.],” and “keep them by his own power through faith unto everlasting salvation [Note: 1Pe_1:5.].” However “they may be sifted, not one grain from amongst them shall ever fall upon the earth [Note: Amo_9:9.].” Hypocrites may turn apostates: but of “those who were really given him of the Father, our blessed Lord never has lost, nor ever will, so much as one [Note: Joh_17:12.]” — — —]
Those who are the objects of the world’s hatred—
[Realize the promises which God has given [Note: Isa_33:16; Isa_33:20-22; Isa_41:11-16.]” — — — and then say, “Shall I be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be as grass, and forget the Lord my Maker [Note: Isa_51:12-13.]?” Dear Brethren, know that “He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world;” and that, if you confide in Him, “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.”
We have said, that it is on account of your peculiarities that you are hated. But let not those peculiarities be carried into matters of mere indifference. If to love and serve God, as Elijah did, render you peculiar, then must you, like Elijah, dare to be singular in the midst of an ungodly world. You are not to leave “the narrow path that leadeth unto life, and to go into the broad road that leadeth to destruction,” to compliment or please any man under heaven. In matters that are indifferent I am far from recommending an undue stiffness or singularity: but in relation to every thing substantial, such as living a life of faith on the Lord Jesus, and confessing him openly before men, and devoting yourselves altogether to his service, I say, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]
Those who are unhappily prejudiced against the Lord’s people—
[If you cannot see with their eyes, do not endeavour to make them see with yours, unless in a way of sober argumentation, and of candid reference to the word of God. To have recourse to derision or persecution of any kind will only involve your own souls in yet deeper guilt than you already lie under for rejecting the Gospel of Christ: and our blessed Lord warns you, that “it were better for you to have a millstone hanged about your neck, and be cast into the sea, than that you should offend one of his little ones.” This is the advice I would give you: Search the Scriptures, to see what were the principles by which all the Prophets and Apostles were actuated, and what was the course of their lives: and then compare with them the principle and practice of God’s people now: and if you find, as you will, a general agreement amongst them, though, alas! with a sad disparity in point of actual attainment amongst those of the present day, beware how you imitate the unbelievers of former ages, in opposing the work of God in others: for, if you do not succeed, you only fight against God for nought; and if you do succeed, you will perish under the accumulated guilt of destroying the souls of others; for assuredly “their blood will be required at your hands.”]