Obrazy na stronie

order to bring him to punishment. He needs not call thunder down from the heavens, nor raise any ministers of wrath from the abyss below. He needs only say, Ephraim is joined to his idols ; let him alone : And, at that instant, the sinner becomes his own tormenter The infernal fire begins, of itself, to kindle within him. The worm that never dies, seizes on his heart.

Let us remark also, from this example, how imperfectly we can judge from external appearances, concerning real happiness or misery. All Persia, it is probable, envied Haman as the happiest person in the empire; while yet, at the moment of which we now treat, there was not within its bounds one more thoroughly wretched. We are seduced and deceived by that false glare which prosperity sometimes throws around bad men. tempted to imitate their crimes, in order to partake of their imagined felicity. But remember Haman, and beware of the snare. Think not, when you behold a pageant of grandeur displayed to public view, that you discern the ensign of certain happiness. In order to form any just conclusion, you must follow the great man into the retired apartment, where he lays aside his disguise'; you must not only be able to penetrate into the

We are

interior of families, but you must have a faculty by which you can look into the inside of hearts. Were you endowed with such a power; you would most commonly behold good men, in proportion to their goodness, satisfied and easy; you would behold atrocious sinners always restless and unhappy.

Unjust are our complaints, of the promiscuous distribution made by Providence, of its favours among, men. From superficial views such complaints arise. The distribution of the goods of fortune, indeed, may often be

promiscuous ; that is, disproportioned to the moral characters of men; but the allotment of real happiness is never so, For, to the wicked there is no peace. They are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. They travel with pain all their days. Trouble and anguish prevail against them. Terrors make them afraid on every side. A dreadful sound is in their ears; and they are in great fear where no fear is. Hitherto we have considered Haman under the character of a very wicked man, tormented by criminal passions. Let us now consider him merely as a child of fortune, a prosperous man of the world; and proceed to observe,

II. How unavailing worldly prosperity is, since, in the midst of it, a single disappointment is sufficient to embitter all its pleasures. We might at first imagine, that the natural effect of prosperity would be, to diffuse over the mind a prevailing satisfaction, which the lesser evils of life could not ruffle, or disturb. We might expect, that as one in the full glow of health, despises the inclemency of weather ; so one in possession of all the advantages of high power and station, should disregard slight injuries ; and, at perfect ease with himself, should view, in the most favourable light, the behaviour of others around him. Such effects would indeed follow, if worldly prosperity contained in itself the true principles of human felicity. But as it possesses them not, the very reverse of those consequences generally obtains. Prosperity debilitates, instead of strengthening the mind. Its most common effect is, to create an extreme sensibility to the slightest wound. It foments impatient desires; and raises expectations which no success can satisfy. It fosters a false delicacy, which sickens in the midst of indulgence. By repeated gratification, it blunts the feelings of men to what is pleasing; and leaves them unhappily acute to whatever is uneasy. Hence, the gale which another would scarcely feel, is, to the prosperous, a rude tempest. Hence the rose-leaf doubled below them on the couch, as it is told of the effeminate Sybarite, breaks their rest. Hence, the disrespect shewn by Mordecai preyed with such violence on the heart of Haman. Upon no principle of reason can we assign a sufficient cause for all the distress which this incident occasioned to him. The cause lay not in the external incident. It lay within himself; it arose from a mind distempered by prosperity.

Let this example correct that blind eagerness, with which we rush to the chase of worldly greatness and honour. I say not, that it should altogether divert us from pursuing them; since, when enjoyed with temperance and wisdom, they may doubtless both enlarge our utility, and contribute to our comfort. But let it teach us not to overrate them. Let it convince us, that unless we add to them the necessary correctives of piety and virtue, they are, by themselves, more likely to render us wretched, than to make us happy,

Let the memorable fate of Haman suggest to us also, how often, besides corrupting the mind, and engendering internal misery, they lead us among precipices, and betray us into ruin. At the moment when fortune seemed to smile

him with the most serene and settled aspect, she was digging in secret the pit for his fall. Prosperity was weaving around


[ocr errors]

joyful, and with a glad heart. But behold how slight an incident was sufficient to poison his joy! As he went forth, he saw Mordecai in the King's gate ; and observed that still he refused to do him homage. He stood not up, nor was moved for him ; although he well knew the formidable designs which Haman was preparing to execute. One private man, who despised his greatness, and disdained submission, while a whole kingdom trembled before him ; dne spirit, which the utmost stretch of his power could neither subdue nor humble, blasted his triumphs. His whole soul was shaken with a storm of passion. Wrath, pride, and desire of revenge, rose into fury. With difficulty he restrained himself in public; but as soon as he came to his own house, he was forced to disclose the agony of his mind. He gathered together his friends and family, with Zerish his wife. He told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the King had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the King. He said, moreover, Yea, Esther the Queen did let no man come in with the King unto the banquet that she had prepared, but туself ; and to-morrow also am I invited unto her with the King. After all this preamble, what is the conclusion ?-Yet all this availeth me

« PoprzedniaDalej »