Sin and Grace in Hamlet

Just a short observation.

In Act 2, Scene 2 of Hamlet the players arrive and we have a brief performance. Afterwards, Hamlet asks Polonius to look after his guests…

Hamlet's request is plain enough…

'Tis well: I'll have thee speak out the rest soon. Good my lord, will you see the players well bestow'd? Do you hear, let them be well us'd; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time: after your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.

…but Polonius is so impressed…

My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

Hamlet's answer is profound,

God's bodykin, man, much better: use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.

Shakespeare understands human nature well. We are sinners – if we got what we actually deserved then we would all get flogged! Instead, Hamlet appeals to Polonius' “honour and dignity” – it's an appeal to act graciously according to Polonius' nature. So it is with the gospel.

Isaiah 48:9-11 For my own name's sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. 10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

As with Polonius, the grace that God gives is bound up with his name and reputation. How could God possibly not save?

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