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Written by John R. Respess   

THE DECREE

Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews; write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring, for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse. Then were the king’s scribes called, and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces; and it was written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, and the letters were sent by posts on horseback, and riders on mules and young dromedaries, wherein the king granted 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, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. So the posts went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. The decree was given at Shushan the palace.

This was a grant of spiritual power to the Jews, of faith to them against their enemies. This special grant could have been made to none save to Jews—or spiritual people. There was something in the Jews that made it peculiarly applicable to them, and none but them. It was not a grant making them Jews, but a favor, which of all the king’s subjects none but Jews needed or could appreciate. It was like the words of Peter coming to the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple. Peter did not make him lame; he was born lame; he was in a needy and helpless condition as every man born of the Spirit feels to be, and feels just as he really is. And not really more helpless than any other man, but is made by the new birth to realize his helplessness as his true state on account of sin, which the unregenerate do not realize in their unregeneracy. There was something in that lame man that was not there of his own will; and a something that set him apart as a vessel of mercy; and the words of Peter, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” were therefore peculiarly applicable to him. They were words from the king to him by Peter; written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s ring, and directed to the helpless man. Peter had faith to speak them; was, in fact, so to speak, commanded to speak them to the lame man. It was what the poor man had long desired, and mourned because he found it not. And Peter took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength; and. he leaping up stood. How often it is that strength is imparted to the weak by words of encouragement, exhortation and faith. Peter’s strength lifted the weak brother up, so that he stood on his feet and not only stood on his feet, but walked. He made progress, and entered into the temple. Have we not often seen the lame at the gate, and perceived the spirit of faith in them; and do we risk anything in taking them by the right hand, identifying their weakness with our strength, and imparting strength to them, so that they become strengthened to confess their faith to the church? Has not the King so written and commanded? Thus we are often comforted in comforting others with the comfort wherewith we have been comforted ourselves of God.

The king commanded Mordecai, the Jew, to write to the Jews, as it liketh you; and there was no question in the king’s mind as to how and what he would write; the king had no fear that Mordecai would write anything to them derogatory to the king’s honor, or to the hurt of the empire, or in hatred to the Jews or of any of the king’s subjects. He knew that he loved the Jews, and that he was faithful to the throne, and that his writing would be imbued with the spirit of love to his kindred, and of fidelity to the king. And when Peter and John saw the lame man there was no doubt as to their action in his behalf they could not help identifying themselves with him; they understood his case, and knew of the remedy, and had it by faith for him. Nor could the Samaritan resist identifying himself with the Jew who had been beaten and robbed, and left half dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho; the Priest and Levite, his natural brethren, entered not into his condition; had no sympathy and fellowship for him, and passed him without notice. And yet they were what the world calls good men; but they had never suffered from sin; had never been stripped, beaten and impoverished; they had never been lame, but always able to walk—to do good, and had been doing it all their life. They did not know what their prophet (they claimed him) meant when he said, The lame take the prey. So all the Jews were but as the lame man at the gate; they were helpless, and doomed; they had no power to deliver themselves; their enemies were stronger than they were. But when the letters came from Mordecai by the king’s posts they knew that Haman was dead and Mordecai was in his stead; and they had no fear of Mordecai, for he was a Jew, and knew what a Jew was. They received strength in their feet and their ankle bones, and they were enabled to stand for their life, and to gather together in the king’s name and Mordecai’s spirit. If one could chase a thousand, a hundred could put ten thousand to flight; such was the increased strength in gathering together that their enemies would melt away from before them as the frost before the noonday sun. So if Haman, the Jews’ enemy, has wrought mischief amongst God’s people, and the command comes to them in the king’s name to gather together and stand for their life, how certain will be the victory, and how great the spoils! Gather together, and for a purpose, for their life. It was no holiday frolic when the Jews might have been seen coming from all directions, and gathering together into one place as if preconcerted; they naturally; or we should say spiritually, went to the same point, and they were together, the same in need, the same in faith and trust; all looking to the king through Mordecai, their kinsman. And then they had the power of the king; for the lieutenants, rulers and deputies had been written to by Mordecai. There was unity; unity amongst themselves, and unity with the king, Mordecai and Esther. The king had taken them by their right hand and lifted them up, and they stood, and the arms of their hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.

How important it is that God’s people gather together, especially in times of trial; it is then that they that fear the Lord speak often one to another, and a book of remembrance is written before him for them that fear him, and that think upon his name. (Mal. iii.) They strengthen one another; and the weak receive strength from the strong, and the strong from the weak. It may be but a little word spoken in faith that shall raise the helpless one to his feet; it may be but a little handful of wheat scattered that had been hoarded up, that yields now a hundredfold sown into the, broken heart of the helpless.

 

WHAT GOD HATH WROUGHT!

And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor; and in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.

Behold what God hath wrought! When the king and Haman sat down to drink (iii. 15) the city of Shushan was perplexed; Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes, and cried in the midst of the city with a loud and bitter cry, and the Jews in every province and city mourned, fasted and wept, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. But now what a change there is; what a change had been wrought by the execution of Haman, the elevation of Mordecai, and the intercession of Esther and the commandment of the king! The commandment of the king granting the Jews in every province and city the power to gather together and to stand for their life against the power of their enemies that should assault them. Where the sword of a king is there is power; and when the commandment of the king went forth to the Jews to gather together and stand for their life, it was as when God said, Let there be light, and there was light; the ability to do it went with the decree, as it went with the words of Christ, “Come forth,” to dead Lazarus, and Lazarus came forth. And the Jews rejoiced; and Mordecai rejoiced; he was clothed in the apparel of joy; and the king’s city Shushan rejoiced with the same joy of the Jews in every city; her perplexity was gone, and light and peace and love had come in its stead; and the Jews whithersoever the commandment and decree came had joy for mourning and the garment of praise for heaviness. It was a wonderful change wrought by Mordecai’s labor of love, and the intercession of Esther and the decree of the king. Peace with the king through Mordecai reigned in every Jewish heart; the king’s commandment was now unto life that was before unto death, and the Jew could do now what before would have ‘been death to do; he could now raise his hand against his enemy in the king’s name, whereas before it would have been to raise it against the king. The sinner could do now what before only the righteous man could do; he can do it in the name of his righteous kinsman, Mordecai; Mordecai’s strength is made his strength, and his enemies Mordecai’s enemies and the king’s enemies. And the feeblest Jew at such a time has the strength of his mighty kinsman arrayed in royal apparel with a great crown of gold, and in him he stands in the presence of the king, crowned with joy and honor, without a spot or blemish.

And whatever confusion there may be amongst God’s people, when the commandment of the King goes forth to them to gather together and stand for their life, they will do it. Pride, envy and selfishness will be gibbeted as Haman was; and every hindering cause will fall before the assault of faith and love as the walls of Jericho fell flat before God’s host, encompassing them about. The attack of faith is irresistible; no enemy can stand before it, not even a son of Anak.

But as we design treating of the struggle of warfare in the next chapter, we will devote the remainder of this chapter to the “many of the people of the land becoming Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.”

They became Jews like Rahab, the harlot, became a Jew; a Jew by faith; and iii the same way the Gentiles became Jews; “for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly.”— Rom. ii. It was faith that made Rahab a Jew. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not when she had received the spies with peace. Heb. xi. And the reason why she received them in peace was in her own words to the spies, because— I know that the Lord hath given you (the Jews) the land and that your terror is fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you, &etc. Josh. ii. .

And why, it may be asked, did not all the inhabitants of Jericho believe in and fear the God of the Jews as Rahab did? They had all heard of his wondrous works in behalf of the Jews; and how was it that only Rahab had faith and the others believed .not? There was a difference between her and them, and it was not a difference in the hearing of the word in the letter, for that was the same to all, and it produced a degree of fear in all; but only in Rahab was the fear an irresistible one. Felix trembled when he heard Paul preach of the judgment to come; it was a fear wrought in him by Paul’s preaching, and a fear that he could control; but when the Holy Spirit begets a fear in the sinner’s heart, it is an irresistible one, and a fear that the sinner cannot control, but one that controls him. For if it is not irresistible the sinner will always put it away like Felix did for a convenient season.—Acts xxiv. Under the influence of this work of the Spirit, the sinner will seek God with his whole heart; he seeks as seeking for his life; the Lord becomes a necessity to him, as with the woman who sought Jesus on the coasts of Sidon (Matt. xv.), saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; but he answered her not a word; and the disciples besought him to send her away; but she would not be discouraged, she came and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me! She was a Gentile, but a Jew in the spirit. She had great faith. It was a case of necessity with her, as with Jacob wrestling with the angel till daybreak; he couldn’t cease until the blessing came (Gen. xxxii), and as with Naaman the Syrian, he couldn’t turn back until he was cleansed, because to do it was to die with the leprosy. (2 Kings v.) We have not experienced the literal bondage of Egypt and literal deliverance from it, but we have in spirit; nor have we left our country and father’s house as Abraham did literally, but we have in spirit, and know the struggle Abraham had in forsaking nature and its endearments at the irresistible call of God to go to a country he had not hitherto known; we know the struggles he had, and how at last he had to leave from necessity. We can read between the lines, read that which is not written in the Book, and know how they felt in their journeyings in this world of sin. We know how Rebecca felt when she was asked, Wilt thou go with this man?  and she said, I will go (Gen xxiv); and though it may seem to the inexperienced reader that she left her home and all she had hitherto known without a struggle, we know that there was a struggle, or had been, with her natural feelings before she overcame them and turned away from them. And we also know that there was a struggle with the apostles and early disciples when Jesus called them, though “they straitway left their nets and followed him,” as if there were no struggle; but they did it by the Spirit and not the flesh, and there must have been a struggle as it was and is with us; for it is only by faith that we are enabled to overcome the flesh, to deny self, take up the cross and follow Christ. These things are not written in the word, but they are written in our hearts. And thus it was with Rahab; she had not crossed the Red Sea literally as the Jews had, but she had in spirit, for she feared God, the God of Jacob, whilst the other inhabitants of Jericho had no fear of God before their eyes. She was not as they were, though she had been as they were; she was changed, and could receive the spies and hide them as friends, whilst her fellow-countrymen sought them as enemies to kill them. To do this she must have faith, and to have faith she must have experience, for faith is evidence of things not seen; and evidence differs from testimony in that evidence is testimony that convinces of the truth. All testimony does not convince, but testimony such as the woman at the well of Samaria had, when Jesus told her of things in her heart, was to her evidence, for she had the witness in herself. Rahab, therefore, was prepared to receive the spies, and she did it by faith; that is, there was a struggle of course, but she was made willing to give up her people and to become impoverished to save her life. So it was with the many people of the land; the fear of the Jews fell upon them, so that they also stood for their life. And with them it was no doubt a more bitter struggle than with the Jews, for they stood with the Jews against their natural kindred, and it was a necessity with them, as it was a necessity with the Jews. So it was with Rahab the harlot, and Ruth the Moabitess, and with the Gentiles in the early days. The Jews or the early disciples were made to give up all for Christ, their kindred and self-righteousness, and it was a hard struggle, so hard that it could only be done by faith. The Gentiles also gave up all for Christ, but they did not have so much to give up as the Jews had; the Jews had to give up their life, to speak, in giving up their early training in the ceremonial law and traditions of the elders, the temple and temple service, their exclusiveness and self-righteousness, and to be made willing to consort with the Gentiles, whom they had been taught to hold as unclean; and to be cut off and lose their individuality, and to be engrafted with the Gentiles and merged into them. Thus their fall became the riches of the Gentiles, as Haman’s fall became the riches of these Jews in the flesh, and the “many people of the land” who became Jews in spirit; so that the Jews’ enemies became their enemies, and the Jews’ struggle their struggle. So the affliction that Haman brought upon the Jews really turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so to speak. And so it has been oftentimes with God’s people, and so it will be again. There is a good day ahead for the church, though for the time being the “winds are contrary.” Yet God will glorify himself in her, and there may be many of the “people of the land,” hidden ones, in whose heart God has wrought, will fear the God of Jacob, and their shame and pride be so overcome that they will become Jews or Primitive Baptists.

It will be a good day; a day in which there will be gladness and joy, a feast day; and in which Mordecai will go out from the presence of the King in royal apparel.

 

THE JEWS IN SHUSHAN

The Jews in Shushan arose on the 14th day of the month Adar, and slew their enemies (300 men) and hanged Haman’s ten sons on the gallows. The power or faith to do this work was granted them by the King, at the petition of Esther. It was a work that pertained exclusively to the Jews in Shushan. No other Jews could do it, nor could they do it, only as power was granted them by the King. Because they, as Jews in Shushan, living near Mordecai and Esther and of the Queen’s household by authority of the King, had enemies unknown to Jews in the Provinces, and such enemies as could only be overcome by faith, or by the Spirit, according to the word or law. The work of a minister of the gospel can be done only by faith or an additional grant of power from the great King. Certain members of the church are called by the Spirit to this work. They are not called nor qualified by the church for this work, but the power, or qualification to do it, is granted them by the Lord. It is a spiritual work, but it is also a work authorized by, or according to the word, and is contrary to the flesh. It is like Jacob’s work in blessing Joseph’s sons (Gen. xlviii.); it is a cross-handed one, or a work contrary to the flesh. If Jacob had guided his hands by his fleshly feelings, he would not have crossed them so as to lay his right hand upon Ephraim’s head and his left upon Manasseh’s, the first born, because he knew that Joseph wished his right hand laid upon Manasseh’s head; and he loved Joseph and it was a cross or a great self-denial to displease him; but by faith he overcame self to the glory of God and the good of Joseph. Jacob had grace to do it—he was on his death-bed and near the great King upon the Throne and was, therefore, able to do it. It was a trial that pertained exclusively to him as the head, or patriarch, of his family; it could not possibly pertain to any other human being. Whilst his father, Isaac lived, it pertained to him, as the head of his family, and Jacob could not then have done the work he did in giving the blessing of the first born to his seed that should succeed him. But, when in the providence and purpose of God, he, himself, was called to succeed his father, then the works that none other but he could do were required of him; and, like his father, Isaac, bestowed the blessing of the first born, contrary to his fleshy inclinations. And it is so with the ministers of God to this day. They are servants of the church by the will, or authority, of God, as the Jews were servants of the Queen by authority of the King; and have labors and responsibilities that none but they can have; and their labors and responsibilities are not all to the same or equal extent. A young minister cannot possibly have the same degree of responsibility that an older one has, and when one assumes it, it is most likely of the flesh, and not a cross-handed and self-denying work. My father used to tell me when a boy how great a parent’s love for a child was, but I could not understand it then. I knew how I loved my parents, but not how they loved me, for God had not yet revealed it to me, but He did in time reveal it to me. He revealed it to me when He gave me children of my own, and then I knew how my father loved me. And so with Jacob; there pertained a work to be done and that could be done by him only and in his old age and last hours.

The work of the minister is a special work that requires special grace to do it. Like the Jews in Shushan, living near Mordecai and Esther, who were next to the King and, therefore, the least of all and the servants of all, so the Jews in Shushan were more conformed to Mordicai and Esther, for the nearer the throne the greater the humility and self-denial, and the greater the humility the greater the wisdom and the greater the sense of need and insufficiency, and also the greater the temptation to exaltation through the abundance of the revelations. This Paul experienced when he says of himself, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet me lest I should be exalted above measure.”— 2 Cor. xii. It is not at all likely that other Christians, nor even the other Apostles, had this buffeting to the extent that Paul did, for none could have it without the same measure of revelations. Paul was the greatest of all the Apostles, but made himself, or God’s grace did, the least of all, and, therefore, the servant of all. “For,” said he, “I am the least of the Apostles, but by the grace of God, I am what I am. I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”—l Cor. xv. That is to say grace was given him to do it, and, therefore, it was required of him, and in doing it he did no more than the others did who did all that was required of them. And so it was with the Jews in Shushan and the Jews in the Provinces, and so it is in the church. The minister does his work and so the least member—the one offers a kid, the other a dove, and one does as much as the other, for each does all that is required of him. The sacrifice is the same, whether the offering be big or little; if it be little, the sacrifice is great, and if it be an ox, it is great. The Jew who offered a bullock made no greater sacrifice than he did who offered a dove— the dove was a confession of poverty and the bullock a sacrifice of riches. The effect was to humble each of them. The learned minister sacrifices worldly aspirations and opportunities of worldly honor, and the unlearned one’s sacrifice is to expose his ignorance; the temptation to the learned one is to become exalted from his learning, and to the unlearned one to be cast down from lack of it and to envy his learned brother. But they are made equal in position, if not in gifts; the learned is made low, the other is lifted up, nor should they despise and envy one the other, for both are God’s servants and are brethren. Paul preached and labored in writing more than they all, but none of the other Apostles and ministers found fault with him for it. It was a necessity God laid upon him and woe was to him if he did it not.—1 Cor. viii. 16. Paul, himself, was “glad the gospel was preached, whether in pretense or in truth, and I therein do rejoice, yea and will rejoice.” —Phil. i. 18. But some, brethren, seem to be afraid it will be preached too much.

The minister is charged to take heed to the ministry he has received in the Lord to fulfill it (Col. iv. 17), and to take heed unto himself and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer, to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood (Acts xx.), and to take heed to himself and unto the doctrine. Continue in them, for in so doing he shall save both himself and them that hear him.—1 Tim. iv. 16. He is commanded to be an example to the flock, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; and to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, and to meditate upon these things and give himself wholly to them that his profiting may appear to all; and not to entangle himself with the affairs of this life, that he may praise Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.—2. Tim. ii. He has a double work to do, and such a work to do that no Christian can do without special grace; as a soldier, he has a warfare; as a minister, that which none but ministers have, as the Jews in Shushan had. Paul was absorbed in his work, and if he made tents, it was that his ministry should not be hindered, and not to make money by tent making. He subordinated everything to his ministry, as ministers are commanded to do, and to this end the church should assist them.

The Jews in the Provinces did not obstruct the work of the Jews in Shushan. They were resting and rejoicing in faith whilst their brethren were fighting and hanging ten sons on the gallows in Shushan. Esther prayed for this grace upon the Jews in Shushan; it was a prayer of faith and, therefore, according to the King’s will. To the carnal it might seem that Esther’s petition was inspired by hatred and fleshy revenge upon Haman and his sons; that it was enough that they should be slain and needless to hang them upon the gallows. But she was inspired by the same spirit that Paul was when he said, “Though I, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1.), or hanged upon the tree. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; neither was Esther. She was not ashamed that Haman and his ten sons, with all their moral and mental excellence, should be slain, but that they should also be accursed and be made odious as enemies of God, His truth and of mankind. It was not in her to slay them and hurry them off in secret burial as if ashamed of God’s truth, as though an injustice in God.

There is, at times, a disposition to apologize for God’s discriminating grace, as if there was something in it to be ashamed of, but not when we are spiritual, for then we rejoice in it. Esther proclaimed the King’s justice and mercy in hanging Haman’s Sons as the accursed of the King. God’s hatred of sin is proclaimed in the crucifixion of Christ; that he has no league with sin any more than Ahasuerus had with Haman and his sons, but that he execrated them as enemies of his law and his throne. God’s hatred of sin cannot be exaggerated. His only begotten son He did not shield from the execration of His holy law, because the sins of His people were upon him. He was delivered up to a death of agony and shame to make his grave with the wicked in death, forsaken of God in the hour of his extreme agony. In his humiliation and death, the Father’s justice and mercy were glorified and his people redeemed from the curse, he being made a curse for them. Thus they passed from under the law.

And now came to the Jews, as we may say, a new dispensation. There is now no mixing and mingling of Mordecai with Haman. The old garment was not sewn on to the new cloth. The new wine was not put into old bottles.—Matt. ix. Haman and his Sons had passed away; old things had passed away and all things had become new.

 

THE EXECUTION OF THE DECREE

And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done. Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.

The regeneration of the house of Haman under Mordecai was not yet completed. (The word regeneration is used here in the sense it seems to be used in Matt. xix 28, as meaning renovation, restoration and restitution). The triumph of the Jews over their enemies on the 13th day of the month Adar did not complete it. On that day the Jews in the provinces made a clean sweep of their foes, slaying 75,000, and the Jews in Shushan the palace slew 500; but the Jews in Shushan had enemies that the Jews in the provinces were not called to contend with, and these enemies were not slain on the first day’s struggle, and therefore Esther besought the king that it might be granted to the Jews in the palace to do on the 14th day according to the decree of the 13th day, and that Haman’s ten sons might be hanged on the gallows; and the king commanded it so to be done. Therefore the Jews in Shushan the palace gathered themselves together on the 14th day and slew 300 men in Shushan, and on the 15th day they rested.

The enemies slain on the 13th day were enemies common to all the Jews and to the “people of the land” in sympathy with them or in the spirit of the Jews. It was a day in which they all, official and unofficial, stood for their lives against the decree of death devised against them by Haman, and which had been sealed with the king’s ring and published in the king’s name, and could not therefore be reversed, and which may be illustrated by the struggle and triumph of faith over the decree of sin and death. This struggle was preeminent in Christ; death was made inconceivably horrible to him, as involving not only physical death, but eternal separation from the Father; but he was stayed in the struggle by hope, for David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand that I should not be moved; therefore did my heart rejoice and my tongue was glad; moreover, also, my flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.—Acts ii.

Esther’s prayer for the Jews in Shushan was inspired by necessity; it was not a desire of the flesh, but one contrary to it; her faith forbade slackness of hand against her enemies, the enemies of her people and her God. God had cursed Amalek, and commanded Israel to exterminate him; to slay him, root and branch, father and son, little and big, oxen and sheep, and to spare none and nothing of him; to spare neither him nor his wealth, which is the same as to say now that neither the doctrine nor the works of Arminianism shall be spared, little nor big, oxen nor ass, good nor bad. And Esther had by grace the spirit to do the commandment in the simple faith that it was right to do it because God had commanded it. The Jews had realized it in their captivity. Amalek had been exalted in Haman and his ten sons to the highest pitch of eminence in the empire until his doctrine dominated it and threatened the subversion or the destruction of the Jews. It had been resisted first by Mordecai in the king’s gate, and drove him in sackcloth into the street of the city, crying with a loud and bitter cry, so that it reached Esther in the king’s house, and spread out as a mantle of sorrow over all the Jews to the remotest province of the empire.

And it was so under Saul, the first king of Israel; he was a carnal king, and slew only such enemies as would glorify the flesh in slaying, and was therefore the nearer destruction in every one slain; as all are in works prompted by the Arminian spirit, for the more of them they do the further they go from God. He slew the Amalekites, but spared Agag, the king, and a few of the best of the cattle for the Lord, which was as if we should say that salvation was wholly of grace, and yet spare some of the best works of men as conducive of grace, or as means of grace, making salvation at last in some unseen way hinge upon them instead of grace. There is as much difference in doing things as means of grace and in doing them as obligations of grace as there is between life and death and light and darkness. Baptism done as an obligation of grace is acceptable to God; but done as a means of grace is an abomination in his sight, and so of all other duties of Christians. All, therefore, slain by Saul were slain in the wrong spirit, and it would have been better to have done nothing at all than what he did, for what he did was disobedience to God. During all his long reign Israel was confused and distressed, as she always is under a fleshly spirit or rule. David, the anointed of God, with a price upon his head, fled from him for his life, hiding in dens and caves with a little band of followers, and was pursued by Saul, who sacrificed the peace and unity of God’s people to his envy and hatred of David and his fleshly ambition.

But there were many thousands of Israel under Saul in sympathy with David as there were of the “people of the land” in sympathy with Mordecai and the Jews. Some of these helped David against a band of rovers that spoiled him; and the number multiplied as the distresses and disorders increased, so that when Saul at last destroyed himself a great host, like the host of God, of armed men that could keep rank fell to him out of all Israel, and came to Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul to David according to the word of the Lord. In all these years of distress God was preparing his people out of their sight for the righteous reign of David, so that when the time for the renovation of the kingdom came it was renovated almost before they knew it. And in this is foreshadowed the regeneration when the Son of man sat in the throne of his glory in the gospel day.

There had been no doubt much worldly conformity to Haman whilst he was in power, so that it at last became a struggle of life and death to the Jews to free themselves of it, and the 75,000 slain was a good riddance to them; and though it diminished their number, it increased their strength by consolidating it; and the loss in number was no doubt more than regained in “the people of the land” added to them by the struggle in cutting them off. In this way a door was opened for the “people of the land” to become identified with the Jews, as a way was opened by the fall of the Jews for the “people of the land,” or the Gentiles, to be brought into the kingdom of Christ in the gospel day. The dead branches were taken off, and the living ones purged to bear more fruit. This was done in the breaking off of the carnal Jews and the grafting in of the Gentiles into the same root (Rom. xi.), so that the same root bears the gospel church that bore the church in the wilderness; and the gates of hell have never prevailed against it in the past, and never will in the future. If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed; and know ye not that they which are of faith the same are the children of Abraham. (Gal.)

The Jews that were cast away in the regeneration of the Son of man were as the 75,000 slain under Mordecai, and their loss was more than supplied by the bringing in of God’s elect from amongst the Gentiles. And if in God’s purpose the fullness of the Gentiles shall arrive, or when all of the elect amongst them shall have been called, then if there shall be a remnant of the elect amongst the Jews, the Gentiles themselves shall fall or be broken off through fleshly pride and unbelief, as the carnal Jews were, and the elect Jews be grafted in again into own olive tree. So that whatever changes, disorder distresses may arise, and whatever the number carnal Israel be cut off and cast away, God will not cast away his people which he foreknew, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, for there has been and will be a remnant, according to the election of grace, and it will be saved. No change of dispensation will add one to or diminish ore from the elect number.

In connection with the foregoing subject, Elder Harper, of Alabama, asks the following questions, and we answer them in this place as a continuance of the subject we are treating on. We realize that the questions are hard to answer, hard for us at least to do it, and beg that wherein we may err or come short of satisfaction to ourself or others, that our brother or some other brother may give us the benefit of his light on the subject, and show us our error:


(1) If there was regeneration under the law dispensation, was not the aw of God written in their hearts? and if so, why was the second covenant called a new one, and in what sense was it better, or established upon better promises?

(2) What was meant by the Jews’ own olive tree?

(3) Why must the Jews be broken off that the Gentiles might be grafted

in; and what was it that grafted them in?

(1) I suppose from the form of his question that Brother Harper means by regeneration the new birth; and if he does, I should say that there was personal or individual regeneration under the old covenant, not by it, but during its existence. Strictly speaking, regeneration seems to me to mean more than the new birth; it means, in my mind, a continuance of the new birth to the perfect day of faith in which the new born man is freed from the old covenant. Now, a man may be born again, and yet not freed from it perfectly; may be born again, and be like the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple, unable to walk and enter into it. And this is even now the condition, perhaps, of many who have been born of the Spirit, and was the condition of those born of the Spirit under the old covenant and before it was given. The apostles were born of the Spirit, and were following Christ in the regeneration, but it was not completed in them until after the day of Pentecost, and the church was freed from the old covenant service and established upon the better promises, or the promises of the covenant of grace that was older in purpose than the Sinaiatic covenant, but the latter was first in time, as it is first in the Christian experience. The apostles were very ignorant of the nature of Christ’s kingdom, though born again; so ignorant of it that they supposed that the exclusion of the Gentiles from salvation was to be perpetuated under it; and Peter, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, was taught better by the vision of the sheet let down from heaven in preparation for his going to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, to preach to him and baptize him.—Acts x.

The reason I say that there was regeneration in the sense of the birth of the Spirit during the old or Sinaiatic covenant, and even before it, is because there were many throughout all these ages, from Abel down, who had faith and believed in Christ; and this no man in the past or present could have done except by revelation of the Spirit of God, which comprehends the new birth. God’s truths are eternal truths; as true before they were revealed or taught to man as they were afterward; and if it is true under the gospel that none can be saved without the new birth, it was true under the law. It is not to be understood that the principles of eternal salvation differ in one age or dispensation from another dispensation; eternal salvation is made no more certain or easy under the gospel than it was under the old covenant; for it required the same election of grace then that it does now, but it is brought to light under the gospel, whilst then it was hidden, in a great measure, but it was the same truth then that it is now.

Abel offered to God an acceptable offering by faith, and to do this now, the same spirit of faith is required that was given to Abel. See xi chapter of Hebrews, wherein many saints are named as having faith and doing the works of faith. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, looking for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. By faith Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having us, should not be made perfect. They were as the lame man at the gate, but unable to enter within the temple.

The service under the old covenant was a letter service; it is now in the so-called churches of the world that teaches and expects salvation by works. There is no difference in the spirit of the work done now, if baptism or any other gospel work be done in the letter only, than when the kid or the bullock was offered in the letter under the old covenant. Their religion was taught them as it is now in the Sunday-school and church, and as grammar and arithmetic is taught. Every child born was a Jew by nature, and entitled to citizenship in the commonwealth by natural birth, claiming heaven and God’s favor from their natural advantages, as people do now; and they were amazed when Christ taught them that even if they were born of Abraham, that they must be born again to get to heaven.

The service under the old covenant was burdensome; it was exacting, unrelenting and inflexible; there was no mercy in it. It was like our civil law, which is based in a great measure upon it; it cannot forgive sin. If one was guilty of murder, adultery or idolatry, penitence and confession would not relieve him of the penalty; he must be stoned to death, crying for mercy. Achan confessed his guilt in stealing the golden wedge and hiding it and the Babylonish garment, but he was stoned to death with the confession on his lips. It was an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; there was no mercy to unrighteousness in it; the yoke was grievous and the burden heavy.

But under the new covenant, there is mercy and forgiveness of sin. The penitent adulteress that was brought to Jesus was sent away in peace; the woman that was a sinner washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and kissed them in love; penitent publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of heaven, whilst the self-righteous Pharisees were thrust out. The yoke of Jesus is easy and the burden is light.

Many under the old covenant, and before it was given, rejoiced in the mercy and love of the gospel; the prophets spake of it and rejoiced in it; and to have done this they must have felt the need of it. The scribe that came to Jesus (Mark xii) and said, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus said to him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven. It is righteousness, and joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.

It is old in purpose, but new in development; it is better because it takes hold of Christ as fulfilling the law and as extending mercy and pardon to those condemned under the law. In the law there was no hope for them, but in the gospel there was mercy for the helpless under the law. For a sinner to confess his sins under the law was to invite death, but to confess them with penitence under the gospel is to find favor. It is infinitely superior and more perfect as adapted to the lost, the penitent and helpless, the lame, halt, deaf and blind; it lifts them up, binds up their wounds and pours in oil and wine; it makes the ankle bones of the lame man strong so that he leaps up and stands and• enters into the temple rejoicing in Christ.

 

(2) What is meant by the Jews’ own Olive Tree?

I think Christ is meant, because he was of the natural seed of Abraham, and it is Christ into which we are all grafted by the spirit and which bears us all, both Jews and Gentiles. The graft is not according to natural grafting because it is grafting a bad branch into a good stock, the natural method being to graft a good branch into a bad stock. And thus the Jew and Gentile are made one in Christ.

 

(3) Why must the Jews be broken off?

They were broken off because of unbelief; they believed in the shadow instead of the substance because they were—the great mass of them—destitute of the true spiritual design of the covenant they were under. But there was a remnant that did believe and were not east away. Simeon and Anna believed in the holy child as God’s salvation. The remnant that was saved was brought to experience the necessity of grace as much as any Gentile was. They had as we might say a double experience; they had to be converted from the law and converted to Christ whilst the Gentile who had never been under the law did not have that struggle. It is illustrated in the case of Naomi and Ruth; Naomi had a double travail of soul; she went from Bethlehem to Moab and returned from Moab to Bethlehem, whilst Ruth only left Moab for Bethlehem. In Bethlehem they were made one in Ruth’s son, and he became Naomi’s son and the nourisher of her old age; and thus whilst she could no longer bear in herself she bore in Ruth; and thus the fall of her family became the riches of Ruth, and Ruth’s son inheriting Elimelech’s estate.

So did the Jews experience in captivity; their return enabled them to rebuild the temple in a spirit that the first temple was not built in. It was rebuilt in a spirit of humility, unworthiness, and a sense of God’s mercy to their unrighteousness that was unknown to them before the captivity. It was now a temple of praise to God for mercy to their sins.

So it was with the Jews saved in the gospel day; they had a deeper sense of the failure of the law than the Gentiles did who had never been under the law; and this is why Paul could proclaim with zeal and sincerity that salvation was by grace without the deeds of the law, and count all his fleshly righteousness as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ—and it was no doubt the reason why the Jews in the palace required another’s days struggle that the Jews “afar off,” the Gentiles—did not have, and why they were enabled to hang Haman’s ten sons on the gallows as accursed of God. They had keenly and bitterly felt it.

 

THE FEAST OF PURIM

The Feast of Purim grew, as we might say, out of the very circumstances that preceded and surrounded it. As the day of peace and rejoicing in the Christian’s experience springs Out of the trials and afflictions that preceded it; and as night gives, place to the light of day, making the light so much the brighter from the I darkness that prevailed before. It was as the harvest-time to the Jews, when the grain had been gathered into the threshing-floor; the grain that had been sown and had been watered with the cold rains and snows of winter; that had been at first but the tender blade, that had seemed to wither in the frozen ground, but grew, though the snow covered it, and took root downward until the stalk appeared, and then the full corn in the ear-ripened into the golden grain and was gathered into the barns. It was harvest time! There was rejoicing, for there was something to live upon—it was a feasting time and a time of giving gifts to the poor. All hearts were softened and humbled and filled with love—the stingiest man was made liberal. As my father said to I me years ago, The season had come when the hickory bark could be stripped from bottom to top, that before could only be gotten off in little strips, for God had said to the hickory to yield his bark, and it yielded it freely.

And God had said to the Jews, Rejoice, and they rejoiced. So they kept the Feast of Purim. It was established among them by Esther and Mordecai, as an ordinance to be observed in all their generations, and is a memorial of God’s goodness in turning the wicked device of Haman against the Jews upon his own head and his sons. This Feast, instituted nearly 2,500 years ago, is still observed by the literal Jews, though it was not one of the Feasts of the law that required them to go up to Jerusalem to keep, as the Passover and other Feasts were. The fact that it is kept to this day by the fleshly Jews is a strong confirmation of the inspiration of the Book of Esther, as well as of the whole of the Old Testament, as is also the fact of the dispersion of the Jews a fulfillment of the prophesies concerning them. Mordecai did not, therefore, lay upon them a burden in instituting this Feast, but something to do that was a delight to do when in the Spirit. It was like the yoke of Jesus to his people when they are in his Spirit—the yoke is easy and the burden is light.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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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.