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Home arrow Writers arrow John R. Respess arrow Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 3
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Written by John R. Respess   



Vashti’s fall followed her feast, and could not, therefore, have been, in spirit, a feast in honor of the king. It was in his name, but not in his spirit, else it would have augmented rather than have diminished her humility, reverence and love for him. Her lack, as we have shown, was not in moral, mental or physical beauty, and must, therefore, be sought in some other qualification. To us it is plain, that it was in spiritual qualifications she was lacking. She had ability to fulfill all the moral and mental obligations incident to her position, but her position as queen involved her in spiritual obligations, or the obligations of faith, for which she was not qualified. Her sin, therefore, consisted in assuming obligations for which she had no fitness, and her aspirations in seeking them were fleshly and sinful. Not that it was sinful to be moral and cultivated in mind and person, but in assuming from these excellencies the ability to do the works of faith; as if one of blameless morals, of great mental powers of unsurpassed learning and high social position and wealth should, upon these qualifications only, join the church and be baptized, and thus assume to do the works of faith destitute of the Spirit. The works of faith, prompted by such a spirit, would be a feast to the flesh, and augment fleshly confidence, self-dependence and self-righteousness. They would not only be unacceptable to God, but would be sinful in his sight; because whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. And even a Christian and a member of the church may be guilty, in some degree, of sin in this respect. If one should assume to preach who I had not been called of God to that solemn and responsible work, he would, in the long run, he of no profit to the church, and very probably disgrace himself and confuse the church. It would not matter how cultivated in mind and morals he was, and how blameless in life, he would fail—fail from having assumed obligations for which God, the Spirit, had not qualified him. Saul, the first king of the Jews, is AN ILLUSTRATION IN POINT.

He was called to the high position of king of the Jews from his natural qualifications. He was a head and shoulders higher than any other man in all the land. In strength and courage, moral and physical, he was ahead of any, and seemed, therefore, the best prepared to contend with and overcome the strongest enemies that might come against them. But they overlooked the fact that Israel, a spiritual people, would of necessity have spiritual enemies—enemies that the most perfect moral and mental strength could not overcome, and that could be overcome by faith only; and also, that faith is born or begotten of God, and is not a product of mental and moral training.

Saul did indeed obtain victories for Israel, but they were victories over enemies that were weaker than he was. Tie could obtain no victories over enemies that were stronger than he was, for such victories could be obtained only by faith, and of that he was destitute. He had no such experience as David, who cried, “O Lord, deliver me from my enemy, for he is stronger than I am,” and hence did not know how to fight in faith. He could do moral and mental fighting, but not spiritual fighting. He did not know how to fight Goliath of Gath; he was not able to do it, though he had assumed the ability to do it. Israel, under him, fled forty days in dismay, until Saul’s lack was found in David. God prepared David for that work of faith, and he slew the giant, but not in Saul’s armor, but with God’s weapons; nor to the glory of Israel, but to the glory of God. The power of God and the wisdom of God was shown Israel that day in David’s victory. Israel could not then, nor can the church now, prepare a member to do any more than she can do herself. The prevalent opinion of the religious world, that to contend successfully with infidelity -we must educate our preachers, is the same opinion that called Saul to the throne on account of his natural or worldly qualifications, and which was exploded at the battle of Shocho, when Israel, cowered, trembled and fled in dismay from the giant of Gath. Saul was a giant in Israel, and Goliath a giant of the world. If Saul had great natural powers, Goliath had greater; if he had strong armor, Goliath had stronger. And so it was but a reliance and trust in natural powers in both. If the church should rely upon such things, she would not differ from the world that relies upon them; she would not be relying upon God, but upon the world, and would be a kingdom of the world. But Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Saul also assumed ability to slay the Amalekites, as God had commanded; but he spared that which God had commanded to be destroyed. He spared Agag, the king of Amalek, and it was nothing that he slew all the rest. He could not understand the necessity of slaying Agag. But Samuel, a man of faith, did understand it, and could not spare him; his faith forbade it. All the works of Saul, in slaying that which he did slay, were as. if he slew nothing, or as if he had spared all. As Arminians teach when they say, We are saved by God’s grace, and we can do nothing good; that we are helpless, and our good works do not save us; that God has done all that is necessary to be done, but we MUST ACCEPT THE TERMS OF MERCY OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL, thus giving man the ability to do all at last, and setting up Agag, or the flesh, as king, and sparing him whom God slays in the Christian experience, as Samuel did, that Christ alone should be exalted in the heart as King. That is to say, it is all the work of grace—from the least work to the greatest—from the first to the last; sparing nothing in man, for everything in him is under sentence of death. It is not part works and part grace, but all grace, from the first to the last. Agag is slain, and Christ is set up higher than Agag. This Samuel had learned by experience, but Saul had never learned it. David had been taught it by the Lord whilst in the wilderness with his father’s flock, and he could overcome by faith enemies that were stronger than he was. We do not need faith to overcome enemies weaker than we are; these we can overcome in our own strength. Over such enemies and such only could Saul triumph. He had struggled with and overcame temptations to vice and immorality; he had lived an orderly life, and had been attentive to his father’s business, which were all good; but unsanctified, or not of the Spirit, they only exalted him, and increased his self-confidence and self dependence. But David had not only struggled with those enemies, but had struggled with his natural depravity in the lion and bear, those fierce beasts of prey that make darkness hideous with their brutal cries, as the depraved passions that lie hidden away in the dark recesses of the human heart. Of the strength of depraved nature, the mere moralist knows nothing; against such beasts mere moral resolutions, are but chaff in the wind. Only those who stand by faith in Christ can have the victory over them in the hour of temptation. In a word, there must be spiritual culture, without which mental and moral culture and training are nothing in spiritual responsibilities.

It is in vain to educate your children—vain to train them in mind and morals, with a view that it will prepare them for heaven. They must be born again; they must have spiritual life. But we would not be understood as disparaging education and morality, for we do not so design; but would teach that nothing short of God’s grace will regenerate them, and without which they will be lost, even though they were taught to speak with the tongue of men and angels, and had all knowledge and knew all mysteries, all their moral, mental and physical culture would be as a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal in their eternal salvation. Nor will it do our children any good to teach them to assume responsibilities for which they are not qualified. It would be requiring more of them than they would be able to perform, and our love for them should forbid such a requisition upon them. No prudent father would put his son into a worldly position even, for which he is not prepared, and much less should he put him into a spiritual position for which he is unqualified; that is, to put him into the position of a Christian, or induce him to assume the responsibilities of that high calling because of his moral and mental ability and training; for instead of doing him good, it would be a positive injury to him. The calling of a Christian is the highest one in the world, as the calling of Vashti was the highest in the empire of Ahasuerus; and if she, possessing mental, moral and physical culture in its highest excellence, fell for lack of capacity to fill it, is it reasonable that one now, with equal capacity, shall attain to an excellence of which she fell short? Nay; though one “be full of wisdom and perfect in beauty;” “though thou hast been the garden of God; though wast in the holy mountain of God, and hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of flue ;”if thy wisdom and beauty are such as lifts up thy heart, “I will cast thee down.”—Ez. It is absurd to say that the assumption of Christian obligations will prepare men to fulfill them; that is to say, by joining the church one gets to be a Christian.

Hurrying people into a profession of Christianity and imposing obligations upon them simply because of their mental and moral training, and for which such training does not and cannot prepare them, is an injury to them, to religion and society at large. It is not inspired by the word of Christ who taught that the cost must be counted up, whether one with ten thousand could contend successfully with one with twenty thousand against him. But the effort of this day is to hurry people into these great responsibilities without deliberation. It is not therefore a matter of wonder that many thinking men look upon Christianity as a failure, seeing they judge its truth from such examples as Vashti, or those who have been called to assume its high responsibilities from moral and mental education, destitute of its Spirit. It is to be lamented that those who possess the true Spirit of Christianity are but little known in the world, and when known are looked upon with scorn. Their voice is indeed unheard by the world, and is as but the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But the Sam Jones’ of the day give voice to the craze of the age, manifesting the gross spiritual darkness of the so called Christian world. But it seems to be a law of God that his truth is manifested in the world, not by numbers but by the character of the few professing it in the Spirit. It is said that one drop of nitric acid will dissolve a pin, but diluted in a tumbler of water its power is destroyed; and so by Christianity, its true and proper influence upon mankind is destroyed by dilution—by so many assuming its obligations destitute of its true Spirit.



As we found in David the lack in Saul, and in Esther the lack in Vashti, so in the gospel we shall find the lack in the law. The wisdom of David was of a much higher order than Saul’s, and being greater, embraced all that was good in Saul’s, as the greater embraces the less. David’s was divine wisdom; he was taught of God and was therefore enabled to achieve what no man could by human teaching and excellence. This is why wayfaring men, though fools in worldly learning, do not err in divine things, whilst princes of worldly learning stumble and fall at the word. It is not of course to be understood that because an unlearned man possesses spiritual wisdom, that he has also worldly knowledge and understands the sciences. He may be wholly ignorant of letters or earthly wisdom, which is itself of God, but infinitely inferior to the wisdom from above which conforms the sinner to the divine mind, humbling his heart. One learned in the sciences would be a prince even amongst Christians, in that sort of wisdom; but it would not by any means change his heart and prepare him to fulfill the responsibilities of faith. He could safely assume the responsibilities of a professorship in an institution of worldly learning and sustain himself; but he would be, with all his learning, as incapable of honoring Christ in Spirit as his Saviour, as the unlearned Christian would be incapable of explaining the law of gravitation. A man may be a very learned man and a very wicked man; a community of learned men might be an immoral one; but a community of real Christians, though deficient in worldly learning, would be a moral society; moral from principle, and thus be a benefit to society. We repeat that Christianity produces the highest order of civilization; because it checks effeminacy, waste, extravagance, hypocrisy, idleness, oppression, and builds up industry, honesty, economy, and all morality and robustness of thought and action. Christ teaches him neither to Waste his time nor his substance; and that it is as much his duty to provide an honest living as it is to be baptized.

A great many so-called (ministers not alluded to) Christians of the Vashti type, think they may go to meeting weeks at a time and neglect their business, and that God approbates such idleness because it is religious, as if religion consisted in going to meeting and ended when meeting was over. But the truth is that Christ’s religion is as much in the field, the store-room and work shop, as it is in the church house; and no church house religion is worth a penny that does not abide with a man in all the business of his life. A Christian would be glad to spend a great deal of his time in the public worship of God with his brethren; he would esteem it a great privilege, but his Christian duties as a husband, father or child, often forbid such enjoyments. He does not go to meeting as if he conferred a favor on God by going, but the privilege of going he esteems a favor of God to him. There is all the difference in the world ‘between the mere outward going and the going in Spirit. The mere outward profession will fail in time of trial and persecution, whilst the profession in Spirit will be intensified by trials and persecution. He who goes merely in form can give it up without regret, whilst he who goes in Spirit has no rest in disobedience. The one is a mere convenience whilst the other is a necessity. David had faith; by this he succeeded where Saul failed; he persevered when Saul turned back. Saul could quit, but David could not. The mere letter disciples could turn back from Christ, but the Spirit disciples could not; they could not give up eternal life, and therefore could not turn away from Christ; the others having it only in form or profession, could do without it, especially when it involved them in trials and persecutions. The religion of the Hebrew children brought them into the fiery furnace, but the trial did not destroy them; it rather purified them; but it destroyed those who cast them in, because they had no faith; the children had faith and quenched the violence of the fire. Thus they honored the king, whilst Vashti, being destitute of faith, dishonored him. David shouted in triumph, but Saul fled in dismay. David’s righteousness, strength or faith was of God, but Saul’s was of Israel; as our unspiritual educated theologians are encased in armor provided in the armories or shops of the church—so-called; in theological schools designed to equip and send forth champions against the giants of infidelity, and from whom they fly as Saul fled from Goliath, and as they have in these late days fled from Tyndall and Huxley in evolution. They cannot stand against them, and those only can stand who have faith; faith that God has given, that puts to flight the armies of the aliens under mere human reason and learning.



She disobeyed him when her obedience would most have honored him. She would have honored him, and delighted in it, had she have had the spirit of her profession: His great men, princes, nobles, and servants, were gathered together to behold her beauty; to see her in royal robes with the crown upon her head; and when every one was upon the tiptoe of expectation, and listening with, bated breath for the first footfall of her approach, lo! every eager face radiant with expectation, was covered in blank dismay; every head was bowed in shame by Vashti’s audacious disobedience! The king was set at nought and treated with contempt with his whole empire. The offence was a grave one; the highest that could be committed, because committed by the most exalted subject; therefore the king was wroth, and his anger burned within him. It may be thought, without reflection, that the offence was a small one, a simple refusal to show her beauty to the king’s princes and servants. But if it were a little thing, so much the greater was the offence, because so much the easier to have done; a little thing that the lowest peasant in all the empire would have been glad to have done, but one which the most exalted woman, even the queen and wife refused to do. Shall her punishment be less because the thing required was little to do? It ought to be greater, because a thing impossible was not required. There was no excuse for her disobedience, because she had aspired to and assumed all the responsibilities of her high position. It seemed to be a little thing that our great father Adam did that brought death into the world and all our woe. He assumed to keep the law given him by his Creator; and it was a thing seemingly easy to do, but a little thing to refrain from. No necessity of his being required its violation; he was physically, mentally and morally perfect; subject to no pain or ill, and could remain in that happy state as long as he refrained from eating the forbidden fruit. But he disobeyed and lost all; he was not now what he was before, and could never be again. Before he was rich and lacked nothing; had no pain or fear of death; but now he is bankrupt and cursed with pain and want, to end in death; and is at enmity with his Creator, charging him with his sins and woes.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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