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Written by John R. Respess   

 

ESTHER’S SACRIFICE

And so I will go in unto the king, which is not according to law, and if I perish I perish.

When Mordecai’s cry in the street reached Esther in the king’s house, she was exceedingly grieved. Had it been the cry of a prince or noble, or of any subject of the king, high or low, it would have excited her interest as queen; but the cry of Mordicai went like a flash to her heart—because she loved him. Her interest in him was more than the mere official interest of the queen in the subject; it was the interest of an affectionate child in a tender and beloved parent; an interest such as Titus, Timothy and Onesimus would have in Paul as an endeared spiritual father. There was recently in this State an appalling railroad disaster, in which many persons were killed and wounded, and our interest and sympathy were naturally excited to some extent in reading it. But how different were the feelings of that mother and child looking upon the mangled remains of a child and father. To them, it was an irresistible call to unutterable grief; because there was a tie between the mother and her mangled son that was not between us and that son, and her grief for her son was such as we could not feel, and was not required to feel. There is a relationship in spirit taught in the scriptures, whether much experienced in this day or not, between the children of God, more sacred and enduring than any natural tie; for it shall never be dissolved. It is one that often requires them to forsake natural parents, wives and children, to minister to and suffer for and with those of no natural kin to them; one that makes the obligations of grace higher and. more binding than the obligations of nature. It was such a relationship that existed between Christ and his beloved elect that could not be dissolved, even by her disobedience that caused him to forsake heaven and the glory of the Father, and to become a servant unto death for her. Their cry, so to speak, reached him in the Father’s house, in heaven, as Mordecai’s reached Esther in the king’s house, and as Mordecai was troubled, so should Esther be troubled. Esther’s maids and chamberlain were unable to tell the nature or cause of Mordecai’s trouble, only that he was in sackcloth and crying loudly and bitterly in the street. The first impulse of her heart was to relieve him by sending him a change of raiment, and taking away his sackcloth. But that was easier said than done; and it showed that she had not yet entered fully into his trouble, else she would have known that no outside change would relieve him of it. It was said to us once: “Believe, believe, only believe, and you’ll have peace!” to which we replied, “I know it, but I can’t believe.” Esther could not go to Mordecai, in her own person—the honor of the king and the dignity of her own position forbade it. It would have been as if siding with him against the king. Her love for Mordecai did not warrant a violation of law and propriety in his behalf; nor does our love for brethren warrant a violation of law for them.

Christ did not violate law in behalf of his people, else the church would not have been redeemed by his sacrifice, for it would have been a sacrifice dishonoring to the Father; but he honored the law, and in honoring it he honored the Father. He was related to both the Father and his children—the church. He loved both, and his work of obedience to the Father brought the church into unity with his Father, so that she could cry with him, my Father! and thus they are One in Him. So the church is taught to honor the law, which is holy; to honor the Law that condemns her as well as the grace that saves her. Both are alike holy. The church is to honor Christ’s law in her Order as well as the doctrine of grace, for Christ is in both; he is as much in our works of obedience as in our doctrine, and we honor him as much in the one as in the other. But we are to worship neither doctrine nor order, but Christ. The sun warms the earth, and clothes and feeds man and beast; without it both would die. But it is not the source of life and therefore not to be worshipped as some people in the past have done; but we are to look beyond the sun to the creator of the sun and worship him for the sun. We thus trace the sun and all blessings, both natural and spiritual, to the author of them all. Our salvation depends not upon what we believe, but upon our relationship to Christ; and therefore not upon our obedience, but upon his; and believing this, we rejoice in him and worship him. There are troubles, both natural and spiritual, from which expressions of love and sympathy will not deliver us. If a brother be in need of food and raiment, we cannot relieve him by saying “be filled,” and “be clothed;” but to relieve him we must do something for him. In doing we show we have faith indeed. To fill the needy with words is but to add to his trouble. Faith, as applied to Christians, often means more than simple belief; it comprehends the works as well as the belief of the Christian. When Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” he meant that he had not only believed in Christ, but had lived as a believer should. Esther’s faith, as well as Mordecai’s, required to be tested. To say to a brother “be filled,” is no evidence of faith in God or love for Him; anybody can say that much; but to give him of our poverty is faith and trust in God and love to our brother. It is a test of it. Anybody can obey the promptings of nature; a mother by nature loves her child, and a man his friend; but no man by nature loves his enemy. It is contrary to nature to do it, and can be done only by one under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit, under a law higher and holier than natural law. God, therefore, requires his people to do more than natural men can do, and to believe what natural men will not and cannot believe; because he gives them the ability, and it being of God and, not of them, it glorifies him and not them. And do and suffer as much as they may, they dare not boast of it. God’s people are enabled to believe in things not seen, in things contrary to natural experience and human reason, and often to do things that natural prudence forbids. But it may be asked, Is not God the author of natural law and the answer is that he is; he is the creator, regulator and upholder of all things animate and inanimate. But he is also the author of the spiritual law by which his chosen people, who by sin are children of wrath, even as others, and were created as others, and as others are under the same natural law, he is the author of that spiritual law, the law greater than, and contrary to nature, by which they are begotten of him and become his sons and heirs as well as his creatures. The law by which the parent loves the child, and by which the planets revolve in their orbits, as well as the higher law by which the revolution of the planets is reversed, and the natural law held in abeyance and made subject to it, he is the author of, though the one be contrary to the other. God is the author of the natural law of conception and generation in the propagation and multiplication of the human species. But he is greater, so to speak, than the law of nature as the builder is greater than the house he builds; greater in his spiritual law than in natural law. By his spiritual law Sarah conceived Isaac when it was impossible by his natural law, and contrary to it; and thus the seed of Abraham—the promised seed—was propagated and multiplied; and this is yet the spiritual law. It is God’s natural law that the shadow shall go forward on the dial; but to save Hezekiah, he made it go backward ten degrees. This is the law of grace; and this is meant when it is said that God repents. When the shadow went back ten degrees the whole universe was reversed; the sun, moon and stars turned back in their orbits, else there would have been a universal wreck of all worlds. When the sun stood still on Gideon, the whole universe stood still; there was not a planet, little or big, that moved until Joshua had vanquished the enemies of God. As impossible as these things may seem to human science and man’s reason, they are not impossible with God. It is as possible with him to control the sun, moon and stars— the creatures of his hand—as it is to control man and beast. He could stop the worlds as easily as he could infuse life into the crawling worm. All the scientists in world could not make one little ant that races over the floor, or the rose at my window that sheds its fragrance on the air; nor can they tell how it is made.. One of these little creatures is as great a display of infinite power and wisdom as the sun is itself. Whatever God does or has done is right and holy, whether it be to save few or many, to give life or take it; to make the sun go backward or forward, or to make Gideon’s fleece wet and then reverse it and make it dry. God is seen in both, though the one be contrary to the other. And our faith is often so tried that we know not which to believe, or whether to believe either, when in fact we are to be1ieve both. And this human reason forbids, and therefore no man by reason or human wisdom shall know God.

When Mordecai, as Job, “looked for good then evil came; and when he waited for light then came darkness” (Job xxx). But in this way—contrary to nature— God elevates his people; elevates by humbling them,  and in humbling draws them nearer to him. Christ was highly elevated by his suffering and humble obedience. And we shall find that Mordicai, though now smiting his breast in sackcloth, that he shall yet be raised higher than even to the king’s gate; shall be elevated next to the king. Joseph for his righteousness was cast into prison; but it was that he should be prepared for elevation to the king’s house. God’s people shall not trust in their own fidelity, though it be of God, it is not God; and it shall not separate them or stop them short of him, but rather be made to lead them nearer to him, but not according to their natural expectation but contrary to it, or according to grace.

Draw me and we will run after thee (Songs iv.) was the cry of the church in olden time, and is yet. I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee (Jer. xxxi). But such drawing! It is a reversal of nature; it is making nature, like the sun, stand still whilst the struggle goes on that it shall be a triumph of grace over nature. So it was with Jonah in the whale; he was taught in that way to say, Salvation is of the Lord! According to natural law he would have been dead and possibly partly absorbed by the fish. But instead of being made a feast to the whale he was a torment, driving him to the bottom of the sea and steering him as a vessel to shore and making him, no doubt, so deathly sick that he vomited Jonah up on dry land. Nature was stayed so that it would have been as easy for Jonah to have digested the whale as the whale Jonah; and, no doubt, the whale was as glad to get rid of Jonah as Jonah was of him.

Esther could reach Mordecai through the king’s chamberlain. In sending Hatach to him she afforded Mordecai lawful access to her in the king’s house. Hatach was the king’s minister and the queen’s servant by the will or authority of the king; and he could do nothing even for the queen that would be a violation of the king’s law. And the same is true of the gospel minister; he is the servant of the church by the will of God; and the church as Esther the queen was, is officially higher or nearer the throne; yet the minister who serves her is the king’s minister; so that his service to the church is obedience to God. Hatach, in communicating with Mordecai by Esther’s command, was doing his duty to her the king. Thus Esther was taught by Mordecai, and the king’s minister became Mordecai’s minister to Esther. It is God’s order that his regenerated people shall be taught by teachers of his appointment. He calls and qualifies them and they go in his name by authority of the church as Hatach went, and they speak his words.

The adorable and mysterious Trinity is here faintly presented to us and its necessity, in the king, Esther and Mordecai. That we might have access to the Father Christ identified himself with us in our nature; not that it was the beginning of his relationship with us, but rather the manifestation of it. And as Mordecai in the street crying with loud and bitter cry identified himself with every Jew in the king’s empire so that his cry was in effect their cry, so was the sacrifice of Christ in a sense the sacrifice of every member of the elect body, little and big, man and woman. And Esther was equally related to Mordecai and to the king, for she loved both and the king loved her, and by her Mordecai had access to the king for his people. It was not, there-fore, that Esther heard Mordecai as a matter of law, but it was also a matter of love. So that the spirit of love, which is the Spirit of God, bound the three together in one spirit and they were one, and the Jews one in them, and therefore nothing could harm the Jews that would not harm them. And they were thus bound together before Haman got his decree against the Jews, bound by the marriage covenant according to law, a marriage based upon love of the king and Esther, that higher law that nothing could dissolve to which Paul refers when he says that nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Sin did for a time separate God’s people from him, but it did not separate them from his love; but it was overruled in such a way as to show to them how great his love was for them. In Mordecai, therefore, the Jews had access to the King; by means of her chamberlain Mordecai had access to Esther, and teaching her, impressed her with a sense of her high calling, and the object of it and her obligations to the King and her people. It is God’s order to teach his people by his chosen and qualified ministers. He taught Cornelius by Peter and the Gentiles by Paul; and teaches his people to this day by them. It is not for us to ask why it is so, but rather to rejoice that it is so; that God has ordained means by which his people shall be instructed and comforted. Cornelius was a child of God before Peter was sent to him by command of the Spirit; it was because he was a child that Peter was sent’ to him to instruct and comfort him. So it was that Christ’s people were chosen in him before he came into the world to them, and therefore he came into the world to save them.

Esther’s unity with Mordecai was developed more and more until she realized the obligation of it to be so high that it was a natural impossibility to fulfill it, and that it could only be fulfilled by grace and not by law. She felt her insufficiency; and strange as it may seem, the more she felt her insufficiency and unfitness the better she was prepared to do the work required of her. The more she unconsciously displayed her sense of unfitness to Mordecai, the more she confirmed him that she was fit, and that her work would be acceptable to the King and save her people. She was not wrought up into this frame of mind of her own natural will, but was brought into obedience when she could no longer resist. Mordecai impressed her that she could not escape the doom of the Jews, for she was a Jew, even if she was in the King’s house, and that if she held her peace then deliverance would come to them, and she and her father’s house would be destroyed. This is the faith of God’s people as expressed by Mordicai, that God’s people will certainly be delivered. And he also encouraged her, telling her that he believed she had been elevated to the throne for this, very emergency of the Jews. There was no envy in Mordecai’s bosom at Esther’s elevation; he loved her and her people too well to envy her higher ability to serve them. He was thankful for it, that God had endowed another of his people with ability to serve them in a higher way than he could. How thankful the people of God should be to him for faithful, humble, unselfish and suffering ministers. When we think of some of them now in old age, whose lives have been lives of affliction, self-denial and poverty, we would be more thankful than we are if we could that God has given us such men, especially as we have come so far, so very far short of it our-self. But we are often saddened that they are so much unappreciated and neglected. But Esther was wrought up to it at last, and she sent Mordecai word to gather the Jews together and fast for me night and day three days, and I and my maidens will fast likewise; and I will go in unto the King, which is not according to law, and if I perish I perish. The Spirit brings us to it in due time; and when it is done nature is stayed; nature is unfed, neither eats nor drinks; it fasts and is brought down; the sun stands still and is turned back whilst the struggle against nature goes on. It is a reversal of nature’s law; it is not of the natural spirit, but of the Spirit greater and holier than nature. Three days and nights lay Jonah in the belly of the fish; three days and nights was Christ in the heart of the earth; and three days and nights was nature held in abeyance whilst Esther cried to God. On the third day she arose and went in unto the King, and shout, ye Jews, far and near, even to the ends of the earth, that your redemption from death was secured by Esther’s offering for you. And they would have shouted if they had known it; but it was not yet revealed to them. And the King held out the golden scepter to Esther, which was a pledge of the deliverance of every Jew.


ROYAL APPAREL

Now it came to pass on the third day that Esther put on her royal apparel and stood in the inner court of the King’s house, and the King sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, etc.

Esther put on royal apparel. Royal apparel signifies the official authority that kings, queens and rulers of men are vested with. The every day clothing of kings and queens is like that of other people; it is of finer linen and purple than is worn by common people, but not finer than is worn by rich people generally. The members of the church, when assembled as a church, may be said to be clothed in royal apparel. They are assembled to transact business that can only be done by church authority; such business as cannot be done lawfully even by members of the church in their individual capacity. The pastor of the church is clothed in royal apparel when he is set apart by the church, according to the laws of Christ, to preach, administer the ordinances, and take the oversight of the flock of Christ. His acts as such, are not individual acts, bat official acts. A believer in Christ is clothed in royal apparel when he confesses faith in Christ, and is baptized into the church by church authority; he is then under a responsibility to God and his brethren, greater than he was under before, and is entitled to the benefits and privileges of the church to which he was not before entitled. These benefits, privileges and responsibilities are not and cannot pertain to unbaptized persons. Royal apparel is such as pertains exclusively to the royal family; and others, however rich, may not clothe themselves with it, and to do it would be to assume royal rights in contempt of royal law, and would be insubordination to law and order. Each one when becoming a member of the church takes an oath, so to speak, of allegiance to Christ, and renounces all governments of men for the government of Christ. Not that he renounces family government, or civil government, but that he is bound by the government of Christ to be subject to civil government, and as such, is really under but one government, and that is Christ’s government. The President of the United States is clothed with apparel that pertains exclusively to his office as the chosen head of the federal government. Before his election and inauguration as president, he could not have exercised the power of the president; to have done so, would have been a usurpation of authority and rebellion against the government. It would have been treason. After the expiration of his term of office, his dame to an act of Congress would have no more authority than the name of any other citizen. His official name is not simply Grover Cleveland but is Grover Cleveland the President. He is the President of the whole people; of Democrats and Republicans, of believers and unbelievers, and of poor and rich. As President, he cannot know one section of country to the hurt of another section, or one class of citizens to the injury of another class. He is bound to serve all, of every class and party and section— North and South—and secure to them the rights and privileges of the government of which he is the head. His personal feelings as a man are, or should be, swallowed up in his official obligations and responsibilities. And so it is in the church; personal and partisan feelings and interests should never sway the minister in his official acts, nor the church in her acts. They are acting for Christ, and are bound to adhere strictly to his law, both in letter and spirit. Mere feeling is not their guide, but they are to try their feelings, or the spirit they are under, by the word or law of Christ. There is danger lest we be governed altogether by our feelings, and thus make them or the spirit we are under the sole test of our fellowship, which is an error. We are commanded to try the spirits to see whether they are of God or not; and if they lead us to violate the law or word of Christ, we may be sure they are wrong. The word is the test of our feelings, whether they are of God or not. There could hardly be a greater delusion sent upon us than for us to reject brethren who comply with the law or word of Christ, simply because our feelings do not accord with their acts; if their acts are according to the word, it is not our province to judge and reject them by our feelings, for our feelings are often an unsafe guide.

Esther, when clothed in royal apparel, was no longer Esther the Jew, and the King’s wife and the cousin of Mordicai, but she was Esther the queen. She was elevated above fleshly influences, and freed from fleshly trusts. Her personality was, so to speak, swallowed up in her official character. She would not have presumed to stand before the king in her own righteousness or personality as a Jew, or the wife of the king, as he sat clothed in. majesty upon the royal throne in the inner court. That would have been to seek his favor from the fleshly relationship she bore to him. But as queen, she could neither desire nor seek favor of the king as his wife merely, nor favor for Mordecai and the Jews merely as her kinsmen; but as queen, she sought justice for Mordecai and the Jews as the king’s subjects, upon the same footing as other subjects of the king; and not for them, to the detriment of any other class of the king’s subjects. If Haman’s charge against them, that it was not for the king’s profit to suffer them, and that it was for the good of the empire to destroy them, was true, then let them be destroyed. But, if on the contrary, they are faithful subjects of the king, and Haman’s charge against them was false, then let them be secured in the rights and privileges of the king’s government. This was the issue. As queen, this was Esther’s duty, apart even from any fleshly relationship she bore Mordecai and the Jews. It was her duty to seek the good and well-being of every class of the king’s subjects, whether Jews or Persians; and however much she Loved Mordicai and the Jews, she durst not, as queen, seek favors for them to the hurt of the throne. If the Jews or any class of the king’s subjects were, to her knowledge, oppressed, it was her duty, however poor and despised they might be, to seek relief for them against their oppressor, however great and potential he might be. This, Haman, had to her knowledge, done against the Jews; and therefore, prompted by the spirit and word of Mordecai, a sense of duty to the king as his queen, and of obligation to the Jews as the king’s subjects, and of love to them as her brethren, she approached him solemnly into the inner court, clothed in royal apparel, as he sat in awful state upon the royal throne, the judge of quick and dead, of Jew and Syrian, of saint and sinner.

It was death to approach him presumptuously, or to I seek that which was forbidden, and hence Esther, with the consciousness that though clothed as queen she was still but a poor Jew under the decree of death, could only do it impelled by an irresistible necessity. It was death to do it, and death not to do it. As the high priest approached God before the mercy seat, within the most holy place, so Esther approached the king. Into that holy place none might enter, save the high priest only and alone, and he not without preparation. Blood was shed for him and for Israel, whom he represented before God. To enter within the vail, he must be clothed with the holy vestments pertaining exclusively to his office, so that he entered not merely as a man, but as the high priest of God, and could, therefore, no more accept or present an unclean offering for his wife or son than for any other Jew; for as God’s priest he no more knew his own wife before God -than any other man’s wife. He stood before God in Israel’s stead, and before Israel in God’s stead, and could accept nothing of them that God would reject, and offer nothing unclean from them to God. His vestments were holy, and the sinful man was lost or hidden in the holy priest. But as an individual, in the bosom of his family, with his every-day clothes on, so to speak, he was the same as any other Jew; he had the same fleshly love and care for his wife and children, and the same depraved nature to contend with as any other man. He could not prefer in the Spirit, one above another, and was bound to condemn sin in his own son, as he was sin in another man’s son. It was for a violation of this law that the house of Eli was cut off from the priesthood, “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”—I Sam. iii.

God’s people, under the gospel, are all priests in Christ. They are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar (or purchased) people, that they should show forth the praises of God, who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. They are a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.—I Pet. ii. They are, all and each, priests clothed in holy vestments, and may each say:

“Tis Christ instead of me is seen,

When I approach to God”

As it was the queen in royal apparel, instead of the Jew, that was seen when Esther stood in mute supplication before the royal throne. Thus clothed in Christ, the sins of God’s people are covered, and they, so to speak, take Christ’s place and he takes theirs, and may say in faith:

“Thus, though a sinner, I am safe;

Christ pleads before the throne,

His life and death in my behalf,

And calls my sins his own. “

But, Esther, though queen, and clothed in royal apparel, had not lost her identity as Esther the Jew; she was still Esther the Jew, as well as Esther the queen, as God’s people are when clothed with the spirit—they are still in the flesh. It is the same man that now has faith, who once did not have faith. It is not two men, but one man with two natures, and the one contrary to the other, as it was with Paul, when he said: “Now, if I do that I would not (two I’s), it is no more I that do it, hut sin that dwelleth in me. Sin is still there, as the body of death.” Christ was made sin for his people, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him. Esther could not prevail against Haman, as Esther the Jew; she could overcome only in Esther the queen. The king did not love and choose Esther because she was a Jew; he did not know her as a Jew; nor did God love and choose his people because they were sinners— sin was not the cause of his love for them. And Haman’s sin was that in unrighteously decreeing the destruction of the Jews, he decreed the destruction of the queen, and thus attacked the king upon the royal throne; as people do to this day in condemning God’s people, they attack the throne of God itself, and will be judged for it instead of being judged for disbelieving the gospel.

 

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Then the king said unto her, what wilt thou, Queen Esther, and what is thy request? And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said, etc.

Thus far Esther, the queen, had progressed righteously, both in letter and spirit. She approached the king as queen, which signified that her petition was not I a personal one, but a public one, or one that pertained to the kingdom. Had she approached the king merely as his wife, she would have gone clothed as a wife into the apartments pertaining to him as a husband, and would have been received as a wife, and her request would have been restricted to her own personal household. It would have been, so to speak, not a church matter, but a family affair. But this was a public matter—one that pertained to others as well as herself and one that pertained to the king’s empire or the spiritual subjects of his government over whom he reigned as king of saints; as God who reigns over all, both the just and the unjust, reigns over the church to whom alone of all his creatures, he has committed spiritual responsibilities. A king may grant his wife’s request as any other husband may; but he may no more grant the requests of his own family to the injury of others than any other husband; because to do so would be a violation of his own law, and would be a greater sin in him than in his greatest and most powerful prince; and a greater sin in a subject of great dignity and power than in one of less dignity, and so on down to the lowest and most ignorant subject of the empire.

As it is a greater sin, in a member of the church to do wrong than it would be in an unregenerate person, and a greater sin in a bishop than in a deacon, and a greater one in a deacon than in an aged member, and a greater one in an aged member than in a young member of the church. Because to whom much is given much is required, and more being given to the church than to the world, more is required of the church. If the light in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! In this case, the king extended the scepter to the queen, and it was as when God approbates our official conduct, or when we do things by faith according to his word or law. A minister or member of the church may not ask the church to receive his wife or friend into membership destitute of faith; no odds how much she may desire it, or how much he may love his wife, or how otherwise she may be worthy, or how much the church may esteem the pastor, she may not follow him into error; she could not do it, because to do so would be a violation of the law of Christ. But if the pastor’s wife was regenerate, and sought the church as Esther sought the king, then the golden scepter would be extended to her in her reception as it was extended to Christ, because she would come clothed in the apparel of faith. But it would be a violation of God’s law to receive her or do any other act simply from fleshly consideration or .fleshly love; as it would also be equally a violation of Christ’s law to reject any from such considerations, no odds how low their worldly estate. If they were the poorest and blackest Ethiopians in the world, and sought the church in the spirit of Christ as a refuge in distress, to reject them would be to reject Christ. Coming in faith, they will be received whatever their worldly condition, where Christ reigns. But if loved in the flesh, it would be a double delight to extend to them the blessings and privileges of the church; as Paul wrote to Philemon, of Onesimus to receive him not now as a servant, but above a servant—a brother, beloved both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So was Esther now to the king, much more than a wife, and was beloved both as a wife and a queen; and as the minister’s or any other member’s wife or friend, after regeneration and joining the church would be loved both as a wife and a Christian.

But whilst the church is precious to the Lord as King of saints, he would no more grant unlawful requests to her than he would to the world; nor would the church in his spirit approach him with such petitions. It would be to ask and receive not, because asking amiss; it would be to approach Him in a carnal spirit, one at enmity to Him. No Christian can pray in faith for anything contrary to God’s word. If we should pray that we might never die it would be in vain; but we may pray for dying grace. If we should pray that we might not have tribulations, or that we might do the works of faith without a struggle, it would all be in vain, because contrary to his word; but we may pray for patience in tribulation, and for grace to wrestle with sin and unbelief. We can attain in the flesh to no higher life than one of faith, which is one of warfare. And discouraging as it may seem, yet it is true, that the more purely we may live the more we shall struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil.

And though the church is made up of individuals, it is no longer individuals, but a body of itself having members as eyes, ears, mouth, etc. It is an official body and can do as a church what all the members as individuals could not do; as Esther did for the Jews what all the Jews together could not do; and as Christ did for the church what all the church together could not do. The pastor is a member of the body, but he is not the body, and though he is an important member of the body as the right eye and right hand is of the natural body, yet it sometimes becomes necessary to sever him from the body, however painful the operation, in order to save the body.

The love of the king for the queen was of a more exalted character than the love of the husband for the wife. God loves the gates of Zion—the church—more than all the dwelling places of Jacob (Ps. ciii.); that is, the church is a more exalted and responsible body than all individual Christians; and from her flow the influences that flow from Christ to her that regulate the personal conduct of the members. To expect individual conduct, however good, to regulate the church, would be to expect the servant’s conduct to regulate the master’s, the subject’s conduct to regulate the ruler’s, and the inferior’s conduct to regulate the superior’s. It would be to reverse God’s order and put the servant on horseback as the prince, and the prince on foot as the servant. The precious ointment ran down from the head to the beard and to the skirts of Aaron’s garment.—Ps. cxxxiii. It was more important that Esther should honor the king than that the noblest princess should; because Esther’s example would flow down to the princes, and so on to the lowest woman in the empire. The church is the light of the world, and needs no worldly light to ascend to her to make her shine brighter, but it is a light brighter than the brightest worldly light, for God shines in her as the sun shines in the natural world. It is important that personal Christian conduct should be good, but it is more important that the church should be pure.

God dwells in Zion in his laws and ordinances; the church is a refuge for the distressed as David was in the cave Adullam for the distressed under Saul. It is in the church that Jesus meets with his people in the sacred feasts; it is there that lepers are yet cleansed, in a sense, the lame made to walk, the blind to see, devils cast out, and the dead raised up; and it is there that the gospel is yet preached to the poor; and we have felt thankful that there is yet left in this sinful world a sanctuary for the oppressed and broken-hearted sinner. The church should be kept pure; it should be a place fit for the visitation of the Lord; but through the infirmity of nature and the powers of evil, the light of the church often grows very dim. The church, in the day of her first love, went astray, and we are glad that we have the record, else we would be in despair. Not that we want a precedent as our excuse to go astray, but to teach us that we are not to look for perfection in this world, and to have forbearance towards erring churches even. If a church gets wrong as a church we are not to cast her away, because she may repent as a church.

Esther, though queen, was also Esther the Jew; and so is the church. Though invested with official authority, it is of the individuals that the official body is made; and when one is dealt with and cut off, it is the individual that is cut off. In her nature she is the individual clothed with Christ, who dwells in her as a body; and as an individual is liable to err, so is the church; and as also an individual member may sin and repent and be forgiven, so may a church. But the sin of a church is one of greater magnitude than the sin of an individual; but it is not of such magnitude as to be unpardonable. If a member of the church sins and hides it, the church does not partake of it; but if she knows it, she must deal with him to purge herself of it. If he repents and confesses it, she forgives him. Nor is it required of her to know that he is sincere in his confession; with that she has nothing to do. It is hers to vindicate the law, and to receive his word as true; it is not required of her to know his heart. If an individual member sins—commits adultery, for instance—and no member knows it, it is not sufficient that he confesses his sin in his closet and withholds it from the church; but he must confess it to the church, to be purged of it. Nor must his confession be of sin generally; but it must be specific. He must confess that he is guilty of adultery, and he will be forgiven. But a member may sin and still be a Christian; and so also may a church sin and still be a church. The church is not infallible. There is danger of getting into error on this point in two ways: danger of underrating the errors of a church and of overrating them. We may underrate them in partaking of them, and overrate them in refusing the erring church after she repents, confesses and turns away from her errors. We should form no union with a church persisting in error, because that would be to gather and partake of her errors; but if she turns away from her errors and comes to us, we may and should receive her. She then comes in a way in which we should extend to her the golden scepter. This is the basis of gospel union and fellowship. The gospel acts of a church are valid until she ceases to be a church, after which she no longer has a right to approach the King as queen; no more than Vashti did after she was put away by the king. The gospel does not require restitution, but penitence and confession. David sinned in having Uriah slain, but when he was convicted and repented of his sin he was forgiven. He was not required to restore Uriah to life, nor was his lawful acts as a sovereign vitiated by his sin. If it had been required of him to restore Uriah to life before he was forgiven, he could never have been forgiven; in fact, there would have been no need of forgiveness. The law requires an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; that is, if you knock my eye out you must restore it, or pluck out your own for mine. There is no forgiveness in the law; but the gospel says to the penitent, Go and sin no more. If you did wrong as a church, confess that sin and do it no more. But it is only of errors she is required to repent. She is not required to repent of her charities to the poor, of affording refuge to the distressed, of the comforts of the preached word to her, of her communions and baptisms. These she can’t undo; nor does the gospel require it of her. But let it be understood that we are speaking of a church of Christ—of a Primitive or Old School Baptist Church, or whatever the name—these holding to the principles held to by them.

Haman had gotten into the church, so to speak, and was the king’s minister and the chief one as pastor; and he had brought in false doctrine. He was establishing the law in the letter of it that kills. But he was recognized as the king’s minister by the queen, and was dealt with according to law before he was cut off. He was not dealt with by surmise, or by the spirit, in disregard of law; for the spirit and word agree as the king and Esther agreed. Neither Esther nor Mordecai sought or wished Haman condemned in violation of law, nor before a hearing. Therefore, when the king asked the queen, What is thy request, Queen Esther f she answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet I have prepared for him. Thus the queen signified that her business concerned the State, or was official, and that Haman’s presence as chief minister was necessary. She honored him, recognizing his official position, for he had not yet been condemned; nor could he be condemned by the Jews, or by Esther even, but only by the king’s law.

Whatever the banquet was, it was a queen’s meeting that required the official presence of Haman with the king. It was a banquet of wine, or a spiritual meeting in which the king’s wine was administered by the Jewish queen or in which the law was administered in the spirit; and in which, if Haman had been what he professed to be, he would have been in unity with the queen and Mordecai, and would have imbibed the concern of Esther in behalf of Mordecai and the Jews; and instead of going forth from it joyful and with a glad heart, he would have gone forth clothed in sackcloth as Mordecai was for his wicked decree against the Jews; and like Paul, have cried out, “For we know the law is spiritual, but I am carnal sold under sin.” But Haman went forth elated as one justified by that which condemned him, and was in the same spirit of Paul when he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. But when he saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against him. If he had been in the spirit he professed to be, he would have fallen at the feet of Mordecai and honored him for his vigilance and fidelity to the king and queen whom he professed to love and serve. But he hated the faithful Jew who had saved the king and empire. With all his zeal and professed love for the king and queen, he hated and sought the destruction of the king’s most faithful subject and the queen’s most dear friend. In the same spirit the self-righteous pharisees in Christ’s day, whose professed love for God was so intense that they could not bear the least infraction of his law, and to whom it was horrible that a suffering brother should be healed on the Sabbath day, yet who were not too good to enter into a murderous conspiracy on the same Sabbath day. But he was encouraged by the favor of the queen to advance further in his evil designs against Mordecai; and at the suggestion of his wife and friends, he erected a gallows upon which to hang Mordecai before he went to the queen’s second banquet. Many are the devices of a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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Purpose

The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.