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The Sleepless Night
"On that night could not the king sleep!"-no very unusual thing this, as regards kings. The poet, referring to Jacob at Bethel, says: ,
"Kings are often waking kept,
Rack'd with cares on beds of state;
For he lay at heaven's gate." And who has not read the mournful soliloquy of one of our English kings, who envied, amidst his restless tossings, the sleep of the toiling peasant and the wave-rocked seaman!
“ The king could not sleep!” What a common-place observation! what an ordinary occurrence, to be thus recorded in the inspired volume! yet the thing was of God, and His own pen hath written it. Events of amazing magnitude hung upon this incident; God's whole scheme of providence was interwoven with this little circumstance.
“ The king could not sleep!” neither could Darius, after he knew the consequences of his foolish edict. But Ahasuerus had not thus acted: nothing particular oppressed him so that he could not sleep. True, a few days before, he had hastily sold a portion of his subjects to their murderous enemy; but pleasure and business had, perhaps, banished this in a great measure from his mind. The day before he had been at a banquet with his beloved queen and his favourite courtier; and had retired, well pleased, to rest, anticipating a renewal of the banquetting on the following day,
But still the king could not sleep, and there were many more beside him in the same condition, and who had abundant cause for their unrest. Perhaps his favourite could not sleep on account of ambition and revenge. The thought of himself at the banquet, and Mordecai on the gallows, might well keep him awake. The queen, notwithstanding all her apparent cheerfulness, could not sleep for sorrow. In many once happy homes, there was no sleep for some. True, the little children would sleep, ignorant of what impended over them; but mothers sat all the weary night, and dropped the burning tear on their dimpled cheeks. Fathers, too, had lost their wonted firmness, and hung in deep sorrow on the necks of their loved ones. It was a night for weeping, and not for sleeping. O king, it is but right that thou shouldst keep thy vigils with those whom thy thoughtless cruelty has so fearfully injured!
“The king could not sleep that night.” It was a night of crisis ; the turning-point in a nation's history. In the morning their sorrows were to commence, so had malice willed it; then the first execution, the precursor of thousands, was to take place. The scaffold was already erected; the victim was marked out, and the cruel, wily foe, like a fawning leopard, was just about to spring upon his prey. But all the designs of the crafty were overturned; all the fears of the doomed ones were scattered ; and all the mistakes of the thoughtless king rectified by the simple fact, " that he could not sleep that night." How clearly is the hand of God to be seen in little things!
When the king could not sleep, what did he do? he read, or rather he caused others to read to him. Did he indulge a hope that the monotony of the reader's voice would lull him into slumber? If so, he was disap
pointed, for he soon got interested in the subject. It referred to himself, and gave a detailed account of a plot against his life. The names of the conspirators, and the name of him who discovered their treachery, and thus saved the sovereign's life, were duly recorded. Upon inquiry, he found that, though his enemies had been punished, his deliverer had not been rewarded. His conscience accused him of ingratitude, and he asked himself in what way he should reward the man who had saved his life.
Thus the night wore away and the morning dawned. It was scarcely full day, when the king's favourite, intent on his cruel work, was already at his monarch's door, ignorant of what had been going on within. He was admitted, and a question from his sovereign raised his ambitious expectations to the highest pitch, but the next words crushed him down as with a thunderbolt. He must not oppose the command, and to obey it was more bitter than death. That was a memorable day; the royal city of Shushan was roused; and thousands upon thousands thronged to see the despised Jew riding on the king's charger, clad in royal robes, and to hear the doleful cry of the unwilling herald, repeating through every street the words which he had designed for himself: "Thus shalt it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour !" The procession finished, Haman returned to his house in heaviness, and from thence went to the queen's banquet. Then came discovery and despair; his wickedness came upon his own head—the king's favour was turned to wrath, and that night Haman slept the sleep of death.
But that night, most probably, the kirg could sleep; he had done two acts of justice that day worthy of a king; he had shaken off a pernicious incubus, and recognised a real friend. And that night the queen and her honoured uncle proved the truth of the sweet words, “So He giveth His beloved sleep.". God had owned their confidence, and worked with them beyond all their expectations. And that night many a Jewish mother smiled through her tears, and blessed the name of Esther. And many a Jewish father lifted up his drooping head and blessed the God of Abraham, who had not said in vain, “I will bless him that blesseth thee, and curse him that curseth thee ;” and uttered his heart's gladness in the words of David, “The Lord is righteous, who hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked ;" and all felt persuaded that He who had begun to work on their behalf, would “perfect that which concerned them.” Nor were their expectations vain. God did appear.“ The Jews had joy and gladness
, and a feast, and a good day” (Esther piii. 17), and their enemies were all confounded.
Deeply interesting and instructive is this divine narrative. The name of God is not found in the Book of Esther, but the hand of the Lord is to be seen everywhere throughout it. Who can read it without exclaiming, “ This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes ?”
Let us endeavour to bring this history to bear upon the circumstances of the Jew at the present time. How remarkable is the fact of the distinctress of Israel from all other people! Balaam had foretold this: "The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." He also said, “I cannot curse them, for they are blest." Haman said, “I will try to curse them,” and he perished in the attempt. But first he describes them, and in doing this he verifies the truth of prophecy, and draws a portrait of the people which is still a correct likeness : « There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people of all the provinces
of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people" (iii. 8). Still are they scattered, and still are their laws diverse. But their gathering must come. The blessed period must arrive, when, whatever national distinctions may obtain,
there shall be one Lord and His name one;" and even now “in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew; but Christ is all and in all.” “There is no difference;" " the same Lord over all is rich unto all who call upon Him.”
" In privilege, in prospect one,
Alike in Jesus blest;
They meet upon His breast.
Doth Jew or Gentile find;
Which heart to heart doth bind,” Let us labour by every means to bring them into this glorious fraternity, this blessed bond of union; for as Haman's description still holds good, so does the Lord's direction, and the apostle's precedent, "Beginning at Jerusalem." “ To the Jew first.”
There is a sleepless Eye still watching over this people, so wonderful from the beginning hitherto. God has not cast them off.
No! men may say, “This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after,” but “He that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep,” and “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock.” The hearts of all are in His hands, and He can dispose all to work out His merciful designs, and He will do so to His own glory. Then let us hope for Israel's full salvation, and earnestly labour now, “if by any means we may save some.” Here is a field in which God bids us work, and we should diligently use the most likely means. This is a post of honour which we should be anxious to occupy. The words which faithful Mordecai addressed to Esther are not without application to us : “ If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place” (iv. 14.) But Esther did not hold her peace; she ventured her life for her people, and succeeded. She was influenced by obedience to her uncle, and love to her nation. “How can I endure,” she exclaims, “to see the evil that shall come unto my people ? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred ?” (viii. 6.) She was not content to remain herself in safety and affluence, while her nation was in danger. And can we endure to see millions of Jews remaining in their present fearful state, without making an effort for their deliverance: There is a sentence still hanging over them; a fearful one, a deserved one, and imprecated too by themselves : “His blood be on us and on our children !" but even this sentence shall be reversed, and has been already in many instances. Let us, then, go unto the King of Heaven on their behalf; we need not fear a repulse. He will stretch out Bis sceptre of grace, and be well-pleased to hear our supplications, “ Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come; for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof” (Psalm cii. 13, 14).
Then will the Lord say: “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her” (Isa. lxvi. 10). Well may they rejoice; for then will man be blessed, and God glorified. “Lo, the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.”
Dear reader, just two questions, in closing. Did you ever spend a sleepless night with the thought that God's righteous sentence overhangs you, and that you are condemned to die? If you have never done so, may that restless night soon come! Then look to Jesus, on whom that sentence fell; believe on Him, and then be for ever free from condemnation; rejoice in Him, who is the alone Saviour and Redeemer. If such is your happy case, did you ever pass any sleepless hours, asking, “What shall I do for Him who hath thus loved me?" If you rejoice, with Paul, in God's great salvation, and sing “who shall condemn," “who shall separate from the
. love of Christ,” ought you not to be able in some measure to say with him in the next chapter, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart?" This deep sorrow was on account of his Jewish brethren ; it was most acceptable in the sight of God, and showed how deeply he was in sympathy with Him, who "beheld the city and wept over it." May grace be given us to go and do likewise !
RECEIVED FOR REVIEW. "History of the Jewish Nation after the Destruction of Jerusalem,” by Dr. Edersheim.—" Lectures on the Book of Ecclesiastes,” by Rev. Benjamin Weiss. —Packet of books published by J. Groom.
[An accident and slight indisposition have prevented the Editor from inserting two or three intended articles. For this he asks the kind forbearance of our readers, while he is grateful that the missionaries' journals supply ample materials for the allotted space, well adapted to sustain interest in the cause, and to excite an increase of faith and action, of prayer and praise. The most entire confidence may be placed in the truthfulness of the statements presented, although motives of prudence and delicacy forbid the insertion of personal and local names.]
Missionary Intelligence, &r.
WURTEMBURG. From Rev. P. E. GOTTHEIL: Friday, July 11.-Visited I-- The went to her very soul.* Now she is gone teacher, Mr.M-, received us very kindly to her account, and we would fain hope that and affectionately. Since the last visit, the Gospel which she then heard, and the his wife has been called away into eter. “ stronghold" to which she was then ennity. I mentioned this wife in one of my couraged to flee for resuge, were present to former reports, as having fallen in with her in the agonies of the dying hour. It is her accidentally at H---, she being then in viewing it in this light that the mission. in a very feeble state of health. She then work is made especially precious. We proseemed to receive the consolations of the claim Jesus the sinner's friend, we exhort Gospel with a ready heart; for whilst souls to believe in Him for the forgiveness telling her of the Saviour's love to perish- of sins, we admonish them not to trust to ing sinners, her eyes filled with tears, and she listened with eagerness, as if every word
* JEWISH Herald for 1853, vol. viii.
“ Not by
their own works or merits, lest they be found wanting on the great day-and then we depart and leave the issue with the Lord of the harvest. On returning again, perhaps, after a season, we learn with concern, and not without hope, though with trembling fear, that the soul to which the Gospel had been proclaimed has departed, and that to it we can speak no more. What a solemn lesson to be up and doing! We had a long conversation with the husband of our departed sister, the above-mentioned teacher, Mr. M— He is still in hopes of modern Judaism reviving, from its own vital powers, by its own inherent energies. They (I mean those reflecting Jews who argue like him) seem to expect everything from the power of man, and nothing from the Spirit of God. As long as this is the case, they will and must fail. might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord." Our Jewish brethren have yet to learn this fundamental doctrine in the divine economy, of which the rationalism of the natural heart has not the remotest notion. Mr. M- thinks much of the moral power of rabbinism, or rather its restraining power over the hearts of men. In reality, facts are just to the contrary: those who have obtained an insight into the system of the Talmud, and its practical working on the hearts of its votaries, know that so far from its restraining humau passions, it rather appeals to them, and encourages them for the specific purposes, and tampers with them under the cloak of religion. This is not speaking uncharitably, nor too strongly. Mr. M thinks much of the Word of God, and places it high, but yet he pleads for the Talmud as an excellent auxiliary. What Mr. M--- wants, ia common with many others of his class, and what we urged upon him, is, the study of God's Word, with the single eye of faith, with the view of discovering the truth; not as a Jew secking the establishment of his own system, but as a sinner seeking the way of salvation, the paths of righteousness and peace.
Saturday, 12.-We went to T- and there had some intercourse with Mr. Ethe teacher I have frequently mentioned as being very friendly and kind. He showed the same kind feeling now,
and appears to be growing in knowledge. The experiences be makes at his own school seem to confirm him more and more in the conviction that the present system of rabbivic rule is insufficient for all purposes, except that of sending soul and conscience to sleep. Though advanced much further than the teacher mentioned before, he is not yet entirely freed from influences and fetters, which the force of education and
association from the earliest days almost assimilate with one's nature, and from which only the Spirit of God can deliver a soul. But I trust he may yet be delivered from this snare and thraldom, and enter into enjoyment of that liberty wherewith Christ has come to set the sinner free.
Tuesday, 14.-Went to K-- Wednesday, 15.--Early in the morning an opportunity was afforded to have a long conversation with a Jewish widow, who was friendly to us. Snatches of Hebrew, apothegms, and scriptural sentences, which she interweaved in her speech, though only imperfectly understood by her, as appeared from the application of them, showed us that her earlier education had not been neglected, at least as regards these things. Yet her notions of excellency and probity of character were exceedingly confused and unscriptural; honesty alone can make man happy, and save him for time and eternity, she meant. We showed her from Ezekiel xxxvi. 25-27, what kind of heart alone can stand, and will be approved of, in the sight of God. She also quoted the passage of the rabbis, that “ all Israel is entitled to partake of eternal life;" we showed her the character and position of the true Israelite, the Israel of God. A Gentile Christian of great piety, who was present, spoke much to encourage her, and the Jewess spoke highly of her in her presence, extolling her goodness and excellency of her heart; and she was not a little astonished when that lady assured hier that her own heart was of the basest and most sinful dye, that she hnd daily to humble herself in the sight of God on account of her many sins, daily to ask forgiveness, daily to ask for a new heart; and that whatever she was able to do, that seemed at all approvable, was not hier own, but the Saviour's doing, whom she prayed daily and hourly to dwell in her by His Spirit. The Jewess would scarcely believe that. However, she continued in kindly converse with us, and enabled us to set before her many truths, which she never had heard of before that time. The Christian lady, who had won her heart previously, now seemed to have obtained even a stronger hold on her, and we trust that the intercourse of these two souls will be blessed. How much might individual Christians do in winning the Jewish heart for Christ!
The same morning we walked to N--, a village about two miles from K- We called on the schoolmaster. He is an acquaintance of several years' standing, and had paid me a short visit a few weeks ago, at my own house. He and his family scem pleased, and gave us a hearty wel. come. Our visit could only be short, as his