PREACHED AT THE TEMPLE.
Esther iv. 16.
Go and assemble all the Jews that are found in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and eat not, nor drink in three days, day nor night: I also, and my maids will fast likewise; and so also I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law: And if I perish, I perish.
Next to the eternal and co-essential word of God, Christ Jesus, the written word of God, the Scriptures concern us most; and therefore next to the person of Christ, and his offices, the devil hath troubled the church with most questions about the certainty of Scriptures, and the canon thereof. It was late, before the spirit of God settled and established an unanime, and general consent in his church, for the accepting of this Book of Esther: for, not only the holy Bishop Melito (who defended the Christians by an apology to the emperor) removed this book from the canon of the Scripture, one hundred and fifty years after Christ, but Athanasius also, three hundred and forty years after Christ, refused it too: yea, Gregory Nazianzen (though he deserved, and had the style and title of Theologus, the divine; and though he came to clearer times, living almost four hundred years after Christ) did not yet submit himself to an acceptation of this book. But a long time there hath been no doubt of it; and it is certainly part of that Scripture which is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness1. To which purpose, we shall see what is afforded us in this history of this heroical woman, Esther; what she did in a perplexed and scrupulous case, when an evident danger appeared, and an evident law was against her action; and from thence consider, what every Christian soul ought to do, when it is surprised and overtaken with any such scruples or difficulties to the conscience.
For Esther in particular, this was her case. She being wife to the king, Haman, who had great power with the king, had got from him an edict, for the destruction of all her people the Jews. When this was intimated to her by Mordecai, who pre
1 2 Tim. iii. 16.
sented to her conscience, not only an irreligious forsaking of God, if she forbore to mediate and use her interest in the king for the saving of hers, and God's people; but an unnatural and unprovident forsaking of herself, because her danger was involved in theirs; and that she herself being of that nation, could not be safe in her person, though in the king's house, if that edict were executed, though she had not then so ordinary access to the king, as formerly she had had: yea, though there were a law in her way, that she might not come till she was called, yet she takes the resolution to go, she puts off all passion, and all particular respects, she consecrates the whole action to God: and having in a rectified and well informed conscience found it acceptable to him, she neglects both that particular law, That none might have access to the king uncalled, and that general law, That every man is bound to preserve himself; and she exposes herself to an imminent, and (for any thing she knew) an unescapable danger of death: If I perish, I perish.
For the ease of all our memories, we shall provide best, by contracting all, which we are to handle, to these two parts; Esther's preparation, and Esther's resolution: how she disposed herself, how she resolved: what her consultation was, what her execution was to be. Her preparation is an humiliation; and there, first she prepares, that that glory which God should receive, by that humiliation, should be general; all the people should be taught, and provoked to glorify God; Vade congrega, Go, and assemble all. Secondly, The act which they were to do, was to fast, Jejunate: and thirdly, It was a limited fast, Tribus diebus, Eat not, nor drink in three days, and three nights: and then, this fast of theirs, was with relation, and respect to her, Jejunate super me, Fast ye for me. But yet so," as she would not receive an ease by their affliction; put them to do it for her, and she do nothing for herself; Ego cum ancillus; I and my maids will fast too: and similiter, likewise, that is, as exactly as they shall. And so far extends her preparation: her resolution derives itself into two branches. First, That she will break an human and positive law, Ingrediar contra legem, I will go in, though it be not according to the law; and secondly, She neglects even the law of nature, the law of self-preservation, Si peream peream.
To enter into the first part, the assembling of the people; though the occasion and purpose here were religious, yet the assembling of them was a civil act, an act of jurisdiction and authority. Almost all states have multiplied laws against assemblies of people, by private authority, though upon pretences of religious occasions. All conventicles, all assemblies, must have this character, this impression upon them, that they be legitima, lawful: and, legitima sola sunt, quw habent authoritatem principis, only those are lawful which are made by the authority of the state. Aspergebatur infamia Alcibiades, quod in domo suo facere mysteria dicebatur. There went an ill report of him, because he had sacrifices, and other worships of the gods, at home in his own house: and this was not imputed to him, as a schismatical thing, or an act of a different religion from the state, but an act of disaffection to the state, and of sedition. In times of persecution, when no exercise of true religion is admitted, these private meetings may not be denied to be lawful: as for bodily sustenance, if a man could no otherwise avoid starving, the schoolmen, and the casuists, resolve truly, that it were no sin to steal so much meat as would preserve life; so, those souls, which without that, must necessarily starve, may steal their spiritual food in corners, and private meetings: but if we will steal either of these foods, temporal or spiritual, because that meat which we may have, is not so dressed, so dished, so sauced, so served in, as we would have it; but accompanied with some other ceremonies than are agreeable to our taste; this is an inexcusable theft, and these are pernicious conventicles.
When that law was made by Darius', that no man for thirty days should ask any thing of God or man, but only of the king; though it were a law that had all circumstances to make it no law, yet Daniel took no occasion by this, to induce any new manner of worshipping of God; he took no more company with him to affront the law, or exasperate the magistrate; only he did as he had used to do before; and he did not disguise, nor conceal that which he did, but he set open his windows, and prayed in his chamber. But in these private conventicles, where they will not live voto aperto, that is, pray so, as that they would be content to
4 Dan. vi.
be heard what they pray for; as the Jews in those Christian countries, where they are allowed their synagogues, pray against Edom, and Edomites by name, but they mean (as appears in their private catechisms) by Edom, and Edomites, the Christian church, and Christian magistracy; so when these men pray in their conventicles, for tho confusion, and rooting out of idolatry and antichrist, they intend by their idolatry, a cross in baptism; and by their antichrist, a man in a surplice; and not only the persons, but the authority that admits this idolatry, and this antichristianism. As vapours and winds shut up in vaults, en- i gender earthquakes; so these particular spirits in their vaultprayers, and cellar-service, shake the pillars of state and church./ Domus mea, domus orationis; and Domus orationis, domus mea: My house is the house of prayer, says God; and so the house of prayer must be his house. The centurion, of whom Christ testified, That he had not found so great faith even in Israel*; thought not himself worthy, that Christ should come under his roof; and these men think no roof, but theirs, fit for Christ; no, not the roof of his own house, the church: for I speak not of those meetings, where the blessed children of God join in the house, to worship God in the same manner, as is ordained in the church, or in a manner agreeable to that: such religious meetings as these, God will give a blessing to; but when such meetings are in opposition, and detestation of church-service, though their purpose, which come thither, do not always intend sedition, yet they may easily think, that none of those disciples is so ill a natural logician, but that he comes quickly to this conclusion, that if those exercises be necessary to their salvation, that state that denies them those exercises deals unjustly with them: and when people are brought to that disaffection, it is not always in their power that brought them together so far, to settle them or hold them from going farther. In this case which we have in hand, of Esther and Mordecai's assembling all the Jews in Shusan, which was the principal city of Persia, where the residence of the princes was, (Persepolis was a metropolitan city too; but only for the treasure, and for the sepulchres of their kings; but the court was at Shusan.) If when they had been
* Matt. viii. 10.
assembled, and their desperate case presented to them, that an edict of a general massacre was going out against them, was it not more likely (judging humanly, and by comparison of like cases) that they would have turned to take arms, rather than to fast and pray for their deliverance: how good soever their pretence (and perchance purpose) be, that assemble people, and discontent them, the bridle, the stern, is no longer in their hands; but there arise unexpected storms, of which, if they were not authors in their purpose, yet they are the occasioners? In Esther's case, the proceeding was safe enough; for they were called to see, that the queen herself had undertaken their deliverance, their deliverance was very likely to be effected; and therefore it became them to assist her purpose with their devotion, expressed first in fasting.
Fasting is not a mere human imposition, as some have calumniated it to be: the commandments of it are frequent from God to his people, and the practice of it even amongst the Ninevites, upon Jonah's preaching, is expressed to be rigid and severe, Let neither man nor beast taste any thing, nor feed, nor drink water, but let man and beast put on sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God It is true, that they found often that their fasts did no good; but when they expostulate it with God, Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest it not, we have punished ourselves, and thou regarded it not1; they received a direct answer from God, Behold, in the days of your fast you seek your own will, and require all your debts; when ye fasted and mourned, did ye fast unto me*? To place therefore any part of our righteousness, or to dignify the act of fasting, with the name of merit or satisfaction, did then, and will always corrupt and alter the nature of a true and acceptable fast: and therefore we detest the definition of a fast in the Roman church, Abstinentia secundum formam ecclesiw, intuitu satis faciendi, pro peccatis, et acquirendi vitum wternum; That fasting is a satisfaction for sins, and an acquisition of life everlasting. But since the reason of fasting remains, the practice must remain still: for when Christ excused his apostles for not fasting, as the disciples of John Baptist, and as the pharisees did,
he did not say that fasting is taken away; but he said, The bridegroom was not taken away; but he should be taken away and they should fast1. When occasions press us, fasting is required at our hands: Caro mea jumentum, My flesh is my beast; via Christus, and Christ is the way I am to go; Nonne cibaria ferocienti detraham*? If it be too wanton, shall not I withdraw some of the provender I Et fame domem, quem ferre non possum, If I cannot govern him, shall I not endeavour to tame him? And therefore, though by reason of former abuses, it be a slippery doctrine, the practice of fasting, (for scarce any man puts himself to much fasting, but he is ready to tell God of it, with the pharisee, I fast twice a week: and from Hierome's praise of it, Jejunium non est virtus, sed gradus ad virtutem, That though fasting be not a virtue, yet it is the way to virtue; we come a step farther with Chrysostom, In choro virtutum, extremum sortitur jejunium, That though fasting bo the last of virtues (except Chrysostom mean by extremum, the first) yet it is one; yet Sanctificate vobis jejunium*, Fast with a holy purpose; and it is a holy action. As you are bid to cast your bread upon the waters, for many days after you shall find it again1*; so also cast your fasting upon the waters, look for no particular reward of it, and God shall give you a benefit by it in the whole course of your lives.
But the jejunate, fasting itself, hath not so much opposition as the tribus diebus, that it must be three days; the certain days and the limiting of the time, that is it that offends. All men, will say that fasting is necessary to all men; but not this proportion, and this measure to all men alike. They are content with that of Augustine, Ego in ecangelicis et apostolicis Uteris totoque; instrumen to novo revolvens, video prwceptum esse jejunium, As often as I consider the Gospel, every where I find commandments for fasting"; but they will have the rest too: Quibus diebus oportet, aid non oportet jejunare, prwceptum Domini et apostolorum non video definitum, Upon what days we should fast, says he, I see no commandment of Christ or the apostles: and it is true, there is no express commandment for it; but there is an express commandment to hear the church. In the Old Testament God
7 Luke v. 33. 8 Augustine. 0 Joel i. 34. 10 Eccles. xi.
gave express commandment, dejejuniis stativis; certain fixed and anniversary fasts: The tenth of the same month shall be a holy convocation unto you, et affligetis animas vestras, ye shall humble your souls; and every person that doth not that, that same day, shall even be cut off from his people". The disease which they had is hereditary to us; concupiscences in the flesh, and coldness in the service of God: and though it may be true, that the church cannot know my particular infirmities, nor the time when they press me; yet as no physician for the body can prescribe me a receipt against a fever, and bid me take it such a day, because perchance at that day I shall have no fever; yet he can prescribe me certain rules and receipts, which if I take at his times, I shall be the safer all the year: so our spiritual physician, the church, though she cannot know when my body needs this particular physic of fasting, yet she knows that by observing the time which she prescribes, I shall always be in the better spiritual health. As soon as the church was settled, fasts were settled too: when in the Primitive church they fixed certain times for giving orders, and making ministers, they appointed fasts at those times; when they fixed certain times for solemn baptism, (as they did Easter and Whitsuntide) they appointed fasts then too; and so they did in their solemn and public penances. So also when Christians increased in number, and that therefore/Jjesides the Sabbath-day, they used to call them to church, and to give the sacrament upon other days too; as soon as Wednesday and Friday were appointed for that purpose, for the sacrament, they were appointed to be fasted too. And therefore when St. Cyril says, Vis tibi ostendam, quale jejunare debes jejunium? Jejuna ab omni peccato. Shall I tell you what fast God looks for at your hands, fast from sin; yet this is not all the fasting that he exacts, (though it be indeed the effect and accomplishment of all) but he adds, Non ideo hoc dicimus, We say not this, says he, because we would give liberty, Habemus enim quadragesimum, et quartum, et sextum hebdomadw diem quibus solemniter jejunamus, We have a fixed Lent to fast in, and we have Wednesdays and Fridays fixed to fast in. In all times, God's people had fixed and limited fasts, besides these fasts which were enjoined upon emergent
"Levit. xxiii. 27.
dangers, as this of Esther. In which there is a harder circumstance than this, that it was a fast limited to certain days; for it is, Jejunate pro me, Fast you for me. And these words may seem to give some colour, some countenance to the doctrine of the Roman church, that the merits of one man may be applied to another; which doctrine is the foundation of indulgences, and the fuel of purgatory: in which they go so far as to say, That one man may fee an attorney to satisfy God for him; he may procure another man to fast, or do other works of mortification for him": and he that does so for his client, Sanguinem pro sanguine Christo reddit, He pays Christ his blood again, and gives him as much as he received from him; and more, Deum sibi debitorem efficit, he brings God into his debt, and may turn that debt upon whom he will; and God must wipe off so much of the other man's score, to whom he intends it. They go beyond this too; that satisfaction may be made to God, even by ourselves after our death: as they say, when they had brought Maximilian the emperor to that mortification, that he commanded upon his deathbed, that his body should be whipped after he was dead; that purpose of his, though it were not executed, was a satisfaction of the justice of God. And (as error can find no place to stop at) they go yet farther, when they extend this power of satisfaction even to hell itself, by authorizing those fables, that a dead man which appeared, and said he was damned, was by this flagellation, by his friend's whipping of himself in his behalf, brought to repentance in hell, and so to faith in hell, and so to salvation in hell.
But in the words of Esther here is no intimation of this heresy; when Queen Esther appoints others to fast for her, she knew she could no more be the better for their fasting, than she could be the leaner, or in the better health for it; but because she was to have benefit by the subsequent act, by their prayers, she provokes them to that, by which their prayers might be the more acceptable and effectual, that is, to fasting. And so because the wholo action was for her, and her good success in that enterprise, they are in that sense properly said to have fasted for her: so that this jejunate super me, as the word is, gnalai1*, super me, in my
behalf, is no more but orate pro me, pray for me; and so St. Hierome translates these words, orate pro me, pray for me. And therefore, since prayers is the way which God hath given us to batter heaven, whether facta maim Deum oramus, et vim gratam ei facimus1', whether we besiege God with our prayers, in these public congregations, or whether we wrestle with him hand to hand in our chambers, in the battle of a troubled conscience, let us live soberly and moderately; and in bello, and in duello, here in the congregation, and at home in our private colluctations, we shall be the likelier to prevail with God; for though we receive assistance from the prayer of others, that must not make us lazy in our behalfs; which is Esther's last preparation, she bids all the people fast for her, that is, for the good success of her good purposes; but not the people alone, she and her own maids will fast likewise.
Qui fecit te sine te, non sakabit te sine te, is a saying of St. Augustine, never too often repeated; and God and his church are of one mind; for the church that did baptize thee without thy asking, will not fast for thee, nor pray for thee, without thou fast and pray for thyself. As in spiritual things, charity begins with ourselves, and I am bound to wish my own salvation, rather than any other man's; so I am bound to trust to my making sure of my salvation, by that which I do myself, rather than by that which I procure others to do for me. Domus Dei, damns orationis; we have inestimable profit by the public prayers of the church, the house of God; but as there is Deus, et domus ejus, so there must be Ego, et domus mea, I and my house mil serve the Lord". I also and my maids will fast likewise, says Esther, in her great enterprise; for, that which the original expresses here, by gnalai, for me, the Chaldee paraphrase expresses by gnimmi, with me: she was as well to fast as they. It was a great confidence in that priest that comforted St. Augustine's mother, Fieri non potest, ut filius istarum lachrymarum pereat, It is impossible that the son, for whom so good a mother hath poured out so devout tears, should perish at last; it was a confidence which no man may take to himself, to go to heaven by that water, the tears of other men; but tu et domus tua, do thou and thy house
14 Tertullian. ls Josh, ult, 15.
serve the Lord; teach thine own eyes to weep, thine own body to fulfil the sufferings of Christ; thine own appetite to fast, thine own heart, and thine own tongue to pray. Come and participate of the devotions of the church; but yet also in thy chapel of ease, in thine own bed-chamber, provide that thyself and thy servants, all thy senses, and all thy faculties, may also fast and pray; and so go with a religious confidence as Esther did, about all thy other worldly businesses and undertakings.
This was her preparation. Her devotion hath two branches; she was to transgress a positive law, a law of the state; and she neglected the law of nature itself, in exposing herself to that danger. How far human laws do bind the conscience, how far they lay such an obligation upon us, as that, if we transgress them, we do not only incur the penalty, but sin towards God, hath been a perplexed question in all times, and in all places. But how diverse soever their opinions be, in that, they all agree in this, that no law, which hath all the essential parts of a law, (for laws against God, laws beyond the power of him that pretends to make them, are no laws) no law can be so merely a human law, but there is in it a divine part. There is in every human law, part of the law of God, which is obedience to the superior. That man cannot bind the conscience, because he cannot judge the conscience, nor he cannot absolve the conscience, may be a good argument; but in laws made by that power which is ordained by God, man binds not, but God himself: and then you must be subject, not because of wrath, but because of conscience. Though then the matter and subject of the law, that which the law commands, or prohibits, may be an indifferent action, yet in all these, God hath his part; and there is a certain divine soul, and spark of God's power, which goes through all laws, and inanimates them. In all the canons of the church, God hath his voice, ut omnia ordine fiant; that all things be done decently, and in order; so the canon that ordains that, is from God; in all the other laws he hath his voice too, ut pie et tranquille vivatur, that we may live peaceably, and religiously, and so those laws are from God: and in all, of all sorts, this voice of his sounds evidently, qui resistit ordinationi, he that resists his commission, his lieutenancy, his authority, in law-makers appointed by him, resists himself. There is no law that is merely human, but only lex in membris, the law in our flesh, which rebels against the law in our mind; and this is a rebellion, a tyranny, no lawful government. In all true laws God hath his interest; and the observing of them in that respect, as made by his authority, is an act of worship and obedience to him; and the transgressing of them, with that relation, that is, a resisting or undervaluing of that authority, is certainly sin. How then was Esther's act exempt from this 2 for she went directly against a direct law, that none should come to the king uncalled.
Whensoever divers laws concur and meet together, that law which comes from the superior magistrate, and is in the nature of the thing commanded, highest too, that law must prevail. If two laws lie upon me, and it be impossible to obey both, I must obey that which comes immediately from the greatest power, and imposes the greatest duty. Here met in her, the fixed and permanent law, of promoting God's glory, and a new law of the king, to augment his greatness and majesty, by this retiredness, and denying of ordinary access to his person. God's law, for his glory, which is infinite and unsearchable, and the king's law, for his ease, (of which she knows the reason, and the scope) were in the balance together; if this law of the king had been of anything naturally and essentially evil in itself, no circumstance could have delivered her from sin, if she had done against it. Though the law were but concerning an indifferent action, and of no great importance, yet because God's authority is in every just law, if she could not have been satisfied in her conscience, that that law might admit an exception, and a dispensation in her case, she had sinned in breaking it. But when she proceeded not upon any precipitation, upon any singular or seditious spirit, when she debated the matter temperately with a dispassioned man, Mordecai; when she found a reservation even in the body of the law, that if the king held up his sceptre, the law became no law to that party, when she might justly think herself out of the law, which was (as Josephus delivers it) Ut nemo ex domesticis accederet, That none of his servants should come into his presence uncalled; she was then come to that, which only can excuse and justify the breaking of any law, that is, a probable,
if not a certain assurance, contracted bond fids, in a rectified conscience, that if this present case, which makes us break this law, had been known and considered when the law was made, he that made the law would have made provision for this case. No presuming of a pardon, when the law is broken; no dispensation given beforehand to break it, can settle the conscience; nor anyother way, than a declaration well grounded, that that particular case was never intended to have been composed in that law, nor the reason and purpose thereof.
So, when the conscience of Esther was, and so when the conscience of any particular Christian, is, after due consideration of the matter, come to a religious and temperate assurance, that he may break any law; his assurance must be grounded upon this, that if that law were now to be made, that case which he hath presently in hand, would not be included by him that made that law, in that law; otherwise to violate a law, either because, being but a human law, I think I am discharged, paying the penalty; or, because I have good means to the king, I may presume of a pardon in all cases, where my privilege works any other way, than, as we have said, (that is, that our case is not intended in that law) it had been in Esther, it should be in us a sin to transgress any law, though of a law-nature, and of an indifferent action. But upon those circumstances which we mentioned before, Esther might see, that that law admitted some exceptions, and that no exception was likelier than this, that the king for all his majestical reservedness, would be content to receive information of such a dishonour done to his queen, and to her God; she might justly think that that law, intended only for the king's ease, or his state, reached not to her person, who was his wife, nor to her case, which was the destruction of all that professed her religion.
It was then no sin in her to go in to the king, though not according to the law; but she may seem to have sinned, in exposing herself to so certain a danger as that law inflicted; with such a resolution, Sipeream,peream, If I perish, I perish. How far a man may lawfully, and with a good conscience, forsake himself, and expose himself to danger, is a point of too much largeness, and intricacy, and perplexity to handle now: the general stream
Vol. vr. o
of casuists runs thus, that a private man may lawfully expose himself to certain danger, for the preserving of the magistrate, or of a superior person; and that reason might have justified Esther's enterprise, if her ruin might have saved her country; but in her case, if she had perished, they were likely to perish too. But she is safer than in that; for first, she had hope out of the words of the law, out of the dignity of her place, out of the justice of the king, out of the preparation which she had made by prayer; which prayer, Josephus (either out of tradition, or out of conjecture and likelihood) records to have been, that God would make both her language and her beauty acceptable to the king that day: out of all these, she had hope of good success; and howsoever if she failed of her purpose, she was under two laws, of which it was necessary to obey that which concerned the glory of God. And therefore Daniel's confidence, and Daniel's words became her well, Behold, our God is able to deliver me, and he will deliver me; but if he will not, I must not forsake his honour, nor abandon his service: and therefore, Si per eam, per eam, If I perish, I perish.
It is not always a Christian resolution, Si peream, peream, to say, If I perish, I perish: I care not whether I perish, or no: to admit, to invite, to tempt temptations, and occasions of sin, and so to put ourselves to the hazard of a spiritual perishing; to give fire to concupiscencies with licentious meditations, either of sinful pleasures past, or of that which we have then in our purpose and pursuit; to fuel this fire with meats of curiosity, and provocation; to blow this fire with lascivious discourses and letters, and protestations, this admits no such condition, si pereas, if thou perish ; but periisti, thou art perished already; thou didst then perish, when thou didst so desperately cast thyself into the danger of perishing. And as he that casts himself from a steeple, doth not break his neck till he touch the ground; but yet he is truly said to have killed himself, when he threw himself towards the ground: so in those preparations, and invitations to sin, we perish, before we perish, before we commit the act, the sin itself: we perished then, when we opened ourselves to the danger of the sin; so also, if a man will wring out, not the club out of Hercules' hands, but the sword out of God's hands; if a man will usurp upon God's jurisdiction, and become a magistrate to himself, and revenge his own quarrels, and in an inordinate defence of imaginary honour, expose himself to danger in duel, with a Si peream, peream, If I perish, I perish, that is not only true, if he perish, he perishes; if he perish temporally, he perishes spiritually too, and goes out of the world loaded with that, and with all his other sins; but it is also true, that if he perish not, he perishes; he comes back loaded both with the temporal, and with the spiritual death, both with the blood, and with the damnation of that man, who perished suddenly, and without repentance, by his sword.
To contract this, and conclude all, if a man have nothing in his contemplation, but dignity, and high place; if he have not virtue, and religion, and a conscience of having deserved well of his country, and the love of God and godly men, for his sustentation and assurance, but only to tower up after dignity, as a hawk after a prey, and think that he may boldly say, as an impossible supposition, Si peream, peream, If I parish, I perish; as though it were impossible he should perish; he shall be subject to that derision of the king of Babylon, Quomodo cecidisti, How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, thou son of the morning1, how art thou cast down to the ground, that didst cast lots upon the nations ".'
But that provident and religious soul, which proceeds in all her enterprises as Esther did in her preparations, which first calls an assembly of all her countrymen, that is, them of the household of the faithful, the congregation of Christ's church, and the communion of saints, and comes to participate the benefit of public prayers in his house, in convenient times; and then doth the same in her own house, within doors, she, and her maids, that is, she and all her senses and faculties;—this soul may also come to Esther's resolution, to go into the king, though it be not according to the law; though that law be, that neither fornicator, nor adulterer, nor wanton, nor thief, nor drunkard, nor covetous, nor extortioner, nor railer, shall have access into the kingdom of heaven, yet this soul thus prepared shall feel a comfortable assurance, that this law was made for servants, and not for sons, nor for the spouse of Christ, his church, and the living members
thereof; and she may boldly say, Si peream, peream; It is all one though I perish; or as it is in the original, Vecasher", qnomodocunque peream; Whether I perish in my estimation and opinion with men, whether I perish in my fortunes, honour, or health, quomodocunque, it is all one; Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God's word shall not pass; and we have both that Word of God, which shall never have end, and that Word of God which never had beginning. His Word, as it is his promise, his Scriptures and his Word, as it is himself: Christ Jesus for our assurance and security, that that law of denying sinners' access, and turning his face from them, is not a perpetual, not an irrevocable law; but that that himself says, belongs to us: For a little while have I forsaken thee, but with great compassion will I gather thee; for a moment in mine anger I hid my face from thee, for a little season, but with everlasting mercy have I had compassion on thee, saith the Lord Christ, thy Kedeemer. How riotously and voluptuously soever I have surfeited upon sin heretofore, yet if I fast that fast now; how disobedient soever I have been to my superiors heretofore, yet if I apply myself to a conscionable humility to them now; howsoever, if I have neglected necessary duties in myself, or neglected them in my family, that either I have not been careful to give good example, or not careful that they should do according to my example, (and by the way, it is not only the master of a house that hath the charge of a family, but every person, every servant in the house, that hath a body and a soul, hath a house, and a family to look to, and to answer for) yet if I become careful now, that both I, I myself, and my whole house, all my family shall serve the Lord; if I be thus prepared, thus disposed, thus matured, thus mellowed, thus suppled, thus entendered, to the admitting of any impressions from the hand of my God; though there seem to be a general law spread over all, an universal war, an universal famine, an universal pestilence over the whole nation, yet I shall come either to an assurance, that though there fall so many thousands on this and on that hand, it shall not reach me; etsi pereant, though others perish, I shall not perish; or to this assurance, Si peream, peream, If I perish by the good pleasure of God, I shall be well content to 17 ItCfrOli and in whatsoever.
perish so; and to this also, Etsi peream, non pereo, Though I perish, I do not perish; though I die, I do not die; but as that piece of money which was but the money of a poor man, being given in subsidy, becomes a part of the royal exchequer: so this body, which is but the body of a sinful man, being given in subsidy, as a contribution to the glory of my God, in the grave, becomes a part of God's exchequer,; and when he opens it, he shall issue out this money, that is, manifest it again clothed in his glory: that body which in me was but a piece of copper money, he shall make a talent of gold; and which in me was but a grain of wheat buried in the earth, he shall multiply into many ears, not of the same wheat, but of angels' food; the angels shall feed and rejoice at my resurrection, when they shall see in my soul, to have all that they have, and in my body, to have that that they have not.