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ordinance. The previous decree could not be recalled, for the laws of the Medes and Persians were unchangeable; but to the Jews, in every portion of the Persian dominions, was granted the power to combine, and to fight for themselves and their families against all who should dare to assault them, and to seize the property of those whom thus they might slay. Extremely absurd it is that any human laws should be unalterable, for earthly rulers and legislators are not perfect in wisdom, or foresight, or judgment. The best course, however, was followed that circumstances would allow, namely, the permission to repel force by force. With all speed was the new decree prepared and despatched by royal couriers, who were ordered to make all possible haste to their respective destinations.
The publication of the tidings of the changes at Court, and the proclamation of the new royal commandment, were truly like life from the dead to the Jews. When it became known that the Queen and the Prime Minister were both of the Hebrew race, it was at once perceived that the interests of all belonging to that people would be carefully conserved. Many therefore became proselytes to Judaism, because of the worldly advantages which such a step appeared likely to confer. Because of the dreadful prospect before them, the Jews had been overwhelmed for a time with despair, but now their mouring was turned into dancing. And so it is with the soul that has felt its sinfulness, and its righteous exposure to wrath infinite and eternal, when the glad tidings of salvation are heard and understood. Then from the liberated heart bursts out the joyful thanksgiving, “O Lord, I will praise Thee : though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid : for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my
salvation." The trying day, the 13th of the 12th month, came at length, and the Jews stood boldly for their lives. Whereas under Haman all the subordinate officers of the government took part against the Hebrews, they now universally supported them.
It was quite legal on the fixed day to attack the Jews, but it was also legal for the attacked to defend themselves and destroy their foes. As of these foes there were slain no less than 75,800, there must have been a wide spread effort to carry into effect the decree obtained by the Agagite. Very probably a large proportion of the slain were Amalekites, for it is easy to understand how the members of that nation would still feel bitter hatred towards their ancient enemies, the bitterness being greatly intensified by the downfall of Haman and the elevation of Mordecai the Jew.
The unselfishness of the victors was remarkable. Though legally
entitled to seize for themselves the property of those who had attacked them, and whom they therefore slew in self-defence, they laid not their hands on the spoil. They fought simply for life, not for gain.
In accordance with the injunction of Esther and Mordecai, a new national Jewish festival was from this period observed. Held on the 14th and 15th days of the 12th month, it was called the feast of Purim. Haman had cast pur (that is, the lot) for the utter destruction of the Jews, and lo, Divine Providence had graciously over-ruled the matter for their preservation, and the down-putting of their foes. As became such a joyous season, while presents to each other prevailed among the wealthy, gifts to poorer brethren were not forgotten; and it is well to note that whether we are feasting or fasting, kindness to needy friends and neighbours is always becoming.
The feast of Purim is still celebrated by the Hebrews in grateful remembrance of their national deliverance. During it the whole of the Book of Esther is publicly read in their synagogues. Would that while perusing this and other portions of the Old Testament, the veil were taken from their faces! Would that they knew the Son of David, who wrought for them, and for all nations, a greater deliverance still than what He gave them in Esther's days! The time will come when they shall understand who it was that their fathers entreated Pilate to crucify; and looking on the pierced One, they shall mourn in bitterness as for a first born. Soon may that happy period arrive, for it shall be to the world as life from the dead !
The power and influence of Mordecai increased daily, and his fame as an able and upright administrator filled the realm. Living, not for himself, but for the glory of God, and the good of His people, he was honoured over the whole kingdom, and peculiarly reverenced by the house of Jacob.
So ends the Book of Esther. Not once in any form is the name of Jehovah to be found within its pages; but His goings are to be discerned there as clearly as in the world around us. Everywhere in the heavens above, and in the earth on which we tread, are the movements of the Almighty Creator and Preserver to be beheld, if only we are willing to trace His footsteps; and peculiarly manifest is His unceasing care of the chosen race in the history which we have been considering
Happy is the man that sees the hand of his reconciled God in every incident of his daily walk. To him even crosses and trials are tokens of fatherly love, and thus he can bear them with an equanimity unknown by the heart that looks only on the troubled waves, rolling hither and thither on the ocean of life. To enjoy repose amidst the present faith
unceasing commotion of the world, our souls must be resting in the grace which bringeth forgiveness. 0! let us now acquaint ourselves with Him who lifted up His Son upon the cross, and made Him a curse for us, in order that He might put us again among His confiding children. Then shall peace that passeth understanding keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Just as Haman and all who supported his unrighteous cause met in due time their just recompense, so at length shall all the enemies of the Lord and of His people perish. Here it often seems as if Providence gave a premium to the wicked, and frowned on His own humble followers. The end will, however, make all plain enough. For the
may be often sorely tried ; but when God comes forth to judgment to save all the meek of the earth, His honour shall be vindicated, and His love to His own trusting people be marvellously glorified. In that great and dreadful day it will be found that those who took not Christ's side, and ranged not themselves under His banner during their mortal lives, were really against Him; and surely it becomes each soul seriously to inquire, “On whose side am I? Who is my master? Whom do I obey ?" Ah! if we have not gone over from willing service to the world, and sin, and Satan, and self, and enlisted among the soldiers of Christ, how shall we face the SaviourKing when He appears on the great white throne ?
The Lord listens to the prayers of His trusting children, and delivers them in good time out of all their troubles. It was so with the Jews in the dominions of Ahasuerus, and so it has been in all ages of the world. It is at this point specially worthy of notice, that the method by which the Hebrews were delivered shadowed forth one phase of the salvation of God to sinners. When the transgressor flees for refuge to the Redeemer, and clings to Him for safety, pardon and acceptance are at once bestowed through Christ's obedience unto death. The victory over temptation from without, and over sin dwelling within, is not, however, usually given without a conflict on the believer's part.
The decree has gone forth that he shall stand for his life against his enemies. In the case of the Jews, we observed that all the officers of the Government took their side and helped them. Better help far has the believer! It is written, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Every day is the promise fulfilled to the soul that appeals to his Father in Christ for assistance in the contention against corruption. Ere long shall the final battle be fought, and the final and eternal victory be achieved. Satan shall be bruised under our feet, by the power and grace of God within us and upon us.
Here again there crops out the testing question as to whether we
are God's children in reality or not? Are we resisting the devil, and trying hard to crucify the flesh, calling the while on our SaviourGod for help? If we cannot say
“ Yes” to such an inquiry, pray whose side must we be on?
The sweet Jewish myrtle that bloomed so pleasantly in the palace of Ahasuerus, and her faithful cousin Mordecai exhibited in their lives the excellence of childlike faith in Jehovah. In the most exalted positions that men or women can occupy on earth, as well as in the lowly sphere which they originally filled, they walked before the Lord, and sought His glory and the welfare of their fellow-creatures. Happy, useful, and honoured in every relation of life, they were both signally employed by the Supreme Director of all things for the promotion of His cause among men.
Well has John Foster said that "the grandest use of a life on earth is the opportunity it gives of advancing the glory of God."
What then are we living for? Is it to make money, to win worldly honour or fame, to eat and drink and enjoy ourselves like butterflies among flowers ? Alas ! for us if we have no higher aim. The winter of death will spoil all our grandeur and gaiety ; ånd how soon or how suddenly its cold, dark shadow may fall upon us cannot be foreseen. Is it asked how we may spend our days in such a manner as to ennoble existence here, and make it but the stepping stone to never-failing joy? Apostolic lips reply :-“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts; and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him." Or if it is desired to have the lesson in a metrical form, its essence may be found in some quaint and simple lines that are worth repeating here :
“ Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see ; And what I do in any thing
To do it as for Thee.
'A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine ;
Makes that, and the action fine.
"This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold; For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for le s be told.”
“THE PRINCIPLES, POSITION, AND PROSPECTS OF THE
SECESSION CHURCH IN IRELAND.”—A REPLY. [The fo'lowing letter was addressed to the Editors of the Reformed Presbyterian Witness, the critique to which it is a reply having appeared in that periodical. As they declined to insert it unless greatly curtailed, and as the writer very naturally could not agree to that, we willingly give it a place in our pages, seeing the articles so adversely reviewed were published in this Magazine. We declined to admit Mr. M‘Donald's paper, mainly on the ground that we deemed it undesirable that an open controversy should be thus raised over points that have for years been, and still are, under the consideration of the Union Committees of the Reformed Presbyterian and Original Secession Synods. But since the conductors of the organs of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, both in Scotland and Ireland, have opened their pages to what we can only regard as an unprovoked and unworthy attack upon the position of the Original Secession Church, we cannot of course refuse to give every facility in our power to those who are able and ready to vindicate that position, however much we may deprecate strife where there should be nothing but concord. -- ED.)
Sirs,—Will you kindly allow me space for a reply to the critique by Mr. John M‘Donald, which appears in your issue for March, on my articles in the Original Secession Magazine on the above subject ? Were I sure that all the readers of Mr. M‘Donald's critique bad examined for themselves the paper ke reviews, I would not be very anxious about a reply, as I consider in that case one would be little needed. But as he presents me and my paper in a very unfair, and in some respects in a very absurd light, I feel called upon to offer something in my own defence, particularly as the review is loaded, and pointedly levelled, with heavy charges of ignorance, mis-statement, and misrepresentation.
Mr. M‘Donald finds fault with my paper for two reasons. he thinks, by defect and by excess—it states too little and too much. It is defective because it does not exhibit, as he expected it would, the points in dispute between Reformed Presbyterians and Seceders. In fact he insinuates that Seceders have no distinct standing but on the ground of their difference with Reformed Presbyterians—that their diferences with other churches are scarce worth mentioning, and since the points on which we disagree with other Presbyterians are enlarged upon, and those whereon we differ from Reformed Presbyterians are not, the paper seems to him “to fail altogether in presenting the distinctive principles of the Secession Church.” Well, if it be true that Seceders have no distinctive principles but those that divide them from Reformed Presbyterians, it is equally true that Reformed Presbyterians cannot call any of their principles “distinctive," but those that divide them from Seceders. The paper, Mr. MỘI nald thinks, should have been written with special view to the removing of the differences which