Images de page
PDF
ePub

will have a stronger influence than their words, and the excellence of their religion will best appear by the consistency of their conduct. Let them discover the same integrity and trustworthiness and zeal for their Master's honour, and piety towards God, as Joseph ; and it will be confessed that the Lord is with them of a truth, and they will be honoured and respected. And even men of the world, who despise all professions of godliness, yea, all godliness in itself, will find it to their advantage to have attendants such as these about them; and I trust there are many of those, who are educated in our parochial schools, and instructed in the knowledge of our blessed Saviour from the beginning, who when they go out into life will thus adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.

But to return to Joseph-many were the trials which awaited him. He was the subject of slander and false accusation, and was then sent from the highest station in his master's house to a prison, and was there imprisoned. “ But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison;" so that he was always, through the grace of God given to him, in the favour of those whose concerns he had to manage, and with whom he was connected. First, of his father; beloved and respected by Potiphar; then afterwards again by the keeper of the prison, who trusted all in his hands; and then again by Pharaoh. He was beloved every where; and this was the Lord's doing; and we read that the Lord gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. But this was a most afflicting dispensation to him indeed; he had begun to conceive that his troubles were ended when placed near Potiphar; but the prospect now appears darker than ever, and all seemed as if the question of his brethren was to be realized_" What will become of his dreams ?" I will not dwell on the bodily pain he endured in this state of confinement, though we are told for a time at least that his feet became hurt with fetters—more distressing than his chains were the unjust reproaches brought upon his character, and probably upon his religion too, upon his account; and yet he had no way left to vindicate bis own innocence. A situation such as this is peculiarly grievous to an honourable mind; but perhaps we are all too eager to wipe off the foul aspersions which are cast upon our good name—we see that these very events may work together ultimately for our greatest good: and I have sometimes wondered to see the regret which some good people feel when their conduct is misunderstood or misrepresented; because, if God knows our integrity, we ought to be contented and at peace. Under calumny we ought not to feel over anxious for the clearing of ourselves, for if we abide patiently, the Lord will do this for us—he will make our righteousness as clear as the light, and our just dealing as the noon day-sooner or later he will show on which side the truth lies, and the reproof of his people shall be taken away from off the earth.

If we go down with Joseph into his dreary confinement, we should find him even there supported and comforted—an object not so much of compassion as of envy. Our happiness depends not upon our outward situation ; for the consolation of God can dispel the gloom of a prison. The very chief of the apostles, and his

beloved companion Silas, were beaten with many stripes, thrust into a dungeon, and bound in the stocks, but in the midnight they were singing praises to God. When he giveth grace, who then can make trouble? It is very particularly observed that the Lord was with Joseph. Though treated as a malefactor, loaded with chains, and probably expected to die, yet even then the Lord was with Joseph. What sweetness is there in those words ?- -was with him in a peculiar manner; and is it not written that as God is a present help at all times, so he is “ a very present help in the time of trouble.” We are almost ready to conclude, when we read these expressions, that these prison days were Joseph's best days. If we had beheld this man diseased, afflicted, and in prison, we should have looked upon him with deep concern; but God, who has far more tender compassion for him, left him in a condition from which we should in a moment have delivered him.

After some time, the distresses of his confinement were relieved, and by immediate influence from above the mind of the gaoler favoured him-" the Lord was with him, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” How wonderful is the government of God! He who raises up friends for his own people is in the midst of their most cruel enemies, and even constrains men of the fiercest dispositions and the most savage habits to show a singular kindness towards them. He does it in the course of his providence every day, and to him the praise is due that his faithful servants meet with any regard at all, or enjoy any external comfort or security in such a world as this. To the grace of God also we are taught to ascribe the wisdom, integrity, and meekness of spirit which were so evident in Joseph as to gain him respect where he had the least means to expect it. He appears to have been in a remarkable manner fitted for each place which was appointed him. What do we observe when all the concerns of the prison were left to his care ? We do not see any anxiety for his own character, nor any complaint of the treatment he had received, nor any attempt to recover his liberty when it would have been easy for him to have done it--we admire that humility with which he submitted to oppression, and that faith by which he intrusted his cause to God, and waited patiently for the time of deliverance; and we learn ourselves, or should do so, to apply to the same inexhaustible source of all grace, that we, also, be prepared for every change of situation, and that we view all gifts, whatever they may be, as coming from that source for the honourable discharge of our trust, and our perseverance in every holy practice and disposition.

In this state Joseph continued for some years, hoping no doubt that he should yet be released from his confinement, and having respect to the divine intimation he had received in early days, that he should be raised to a station of high rank ; when two of the king's servants, the chief butler and the chief baker, who had offended their lord, were cast into prison and committed to the care of Joseph. In the same night these two persons dreamed a dream which Joseph interpreted, declaring that in three days the butler should be restored to his honourable place, and the other sentenced to death. This was a suitable time for Joseph to do kind offices for the king's butler, whose restoration he had foretold, but, while we

hear Joseph urging his rights and soliciting that justice might be done him, we are struck with his moderation and composure, and thereby learn to suffer with a meek and quiet spirit. So far from dwelling on the injuries he had received, he did not once name his brethren, or his mistress who had been the author of his woes—hear his own words—" Think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house. For, indeed, I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here, also, have I done nothing that they should put me into this dungeon.” The chief butler regained his post, but be forgot Joseph's prayerwhen he had obtained his own liberty and honour, the request of the afflicted never recurred once to him for two full years.

Oh! how deceitful is human friendship,-“ Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” The expectation which Joseph probably had formed from the butler failed him. This was not the appointed season or the way of deliverance—divine wisdom saw fit that his faith should be further tried, and that he should remain in prison two full years longer. Thus it pleases God to defeat our purposes and to delay our projects, that we may maintain a more firm dependence upon him; and we ought, therefore, to submit ourselves and our all to him, and rely upon his determination for time, as well as means, for the consummation of our objects.

But I must not dwell longer on the story. Joseph, after a short time, by a wonderful interposition from above, was released from prison, brought before Pharaoh, advanced by him to the highest worldly grandeur, and made ruler over the whole kingdom. There was at that time a tremendous famine over the whole earth, and Jacob and all his family in the land of Canaan were grievously oppressed by it; but, hearing there was corn in Egypt, he sent down his children to purchase some, and they were sent, like all the rest, to Joseph, who was made ruler over all the land of Egypt. As soon as they were brought before him he instantly recollected them, seeing them altogether, and in the same dress in which he used to see them in their father's house, but they knew him not, and fell down before him, and fulfilled the very dream which had raised their hatred. During some time he proceeded to treat them as spies; but they were now sunk in the deepest affliction, afraid of the horrors of famine, and, though they knew not Joseph, the remembrance of their former guilt came with it, and they said to one another in the hearing of Joseph, little thinking that he understood them, “ We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us and we would not hear, therefore is this distress come upon us; behold, also, his blood is required of us.

Oh, my friends, conscience speaks in the very moment when a wounded spirit can the least bear it. In prosperity and health men forget their guilt; but when afflictions come, then the guilty mind is tortured with the harrowing recollections of bygone crime—the recollection of such unmans a man, and most of all in the hour of trouble. However, not to leave them here, Joseph at last supplied their wants upon condition that they should bring down their brother Benjamin, to prove that their story was a good one, and he kept Simeon also as a pledge of their doing so; and when he had done this, he put their money in their sacks, and said the words of my text, “ Ye shall not see my

face

except your brother be with you.” Now, my friends, it is true that this affecting narrative may be highly instructive, but we should know the history of Joseph only by halves, if we stopped at the bare history, without informing ourselves of the hidden and mysterious - sense, wherein the most essential part of it consists—if we did not go beyond it, and look at it as connected with Jesus Christ,'the beloved brother of the human race, and the main object of all Scripture.

It will be remembered that Joseph was reviled, hated, and persecuted by his brethren, because he testified of their evil conduct and foretold his own glory; that his kindness towards them was rewarded with most cruel ingratitude ; that his life was aimed at; that he was sold for a few pieces of silver ; that through the vilest accusations he was condemned, without an advocate to plead

« PrécédentContinuer »