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face, professing themselves to be his servants, and praying him to forgive the trespasses which they had committed against him. But no such hidden resentment as they dreaded had ever lurked in the soul of Joseph. On the contrary, when he beheld his brethren in this affecting situation, bereaved of their ancient protector, and reduced, as they imagined, to the necessity of holding up their hands to him for mercy, he was overpowered by a tide of tender emotions. Joseph wept while his brethren spake unto him. These affectionate tears alone were sufficient to have assured them of his forgiveness. But hasten." ing also by words to dispel their alarms, he presently added, Fear not; for, though ye thought evil against me, God meant it unto good. Now therefore fear ye not; I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. *
Such was the last incident that is recorded in the life of this eminent personage, than whom you
will find few more distinguished by an assemblage of illustrious yirtues; in the lowest adversity, patient and faithful; in the highest prosperity, beneficent and generous; dutiful and affectionate as a son; kind and forgiving as a brother ; accomplished as a statesman ; wise and provident as a ruler of the land. In such a character you behold human nature possessing its highest honours. The sentiments which it inspires tend to ennoble our minds; and to prevent their imbibing the spirit of those hard, interested, and self-seeking men, with whom the world abounds.
The striking example of forgiveness which the
* Genesis, 1, 21.
text displays, ought frequently to occur to our thoughts, amidst the various occasions of provocation and offence which arise in our intercourse with the world. If one so worthy and amiable, in the days too of his youth and innocence, suffered such cruel treatment from his brothers, ought we to be surprised if, even from our nearest relations, we meet with injustice or ingratitude ? Wrongs and injuries are, more or less, the portion of all. Like Death, they are an evil unavoidable. No station is so high, no power so great, no character so unblemished, as to exempt us from them. In the world, ungrateful men, false friends, and violent enemies, abound. Every wise man ought to prepare himself for what he is to encounter in passing through this thorny region. He is not to expect that he can gather grapes from thistles ; nor to lose the government of his mind, because, in the midst of evil men, he is not allowed to remain, like a secret and inviolable person, untouched and uninjured.
As this view of our situation ought to blunt the edge of passion and impatience, so the alleviating circumstances which reason will suggest, ought to mollify resentment. Think of the various constructions which the actions of men will bear. Consider how different the motives of him who hath given us offence, may have been from those, which, in the heat of passion, we ascribe to him ; how apt all men are to be seduced by mistaken views of interest, and how little ground we have to complain, if, upon a supposed interfering of interests, we suffer by others preferring their own to ours. Remember, that no opinions which you form under the power of resentment can by depended upon as just; and that every
one loads the intentions of his enemy with imaginary degrees of malice.
But, admitting the injury you have received to be ever so atrocious in its nature, and aggravated in its circumstances; supposing it to be even parallel to that which Joseph suffered ; look up, like him, to that divine government under which we are all placed. If forgiveness be a duty which we know God to have required under the most awful sanctions, dare we draw upon ourselves the merited vengeance of that Superiour to whose clemency we are obliged daily to fly? When, with hard and unrelenting dispositions towards our brethren, we send up to Heaven prayers for mercy to ourselves, those prayers return like imprecations upon our heads; and our very devotions seal our condemnation.
The most plain and natural sentiments of equity concur with divine authority to enforce the duty which I now recommend. Let him who has never in his life done wrong, be allowed the privilege of remaining inexorable. But let such as are conscious of frailties and crimes, consider forgiveness as a debt which they owe to others. Common failings are the strongest lesson of mutual forbearance. Were this virtue unknown among men, order and comfort, peace and repose, would be strangers to human life. Injuries retaliated according to the exorbitant measure which passion prescribes, would justify resentment in return. The injured person would become the injurer; and thus wrongs, retaliations, and fresh injuries, would circulate in endless succession, till the world was rendered a field of blood. Of all the passions which invade the human breast, revenge is the most direful. When allowed to reign with full dominion, it is more than sufficient to poison the few pleasures which remain to man in his present state. How much soever a person may suffer from injustice, he is always in hazard of suffering more from the prosecution of revenge. The violence of an enemy cannot inflict what is equal to the torment he creates to himself, by means of the fierce and desperate passions which he allows to rage in his soul.
Those evil spirits who inhabit the regions of misery, are represented as delighting in revenge and cruelty. But all that is great and good in the universe, is on the side of clemency and mercy.
The Almighty Ruler of the world, though for ages offended by the unrighteousness, and insulted by the impiety of men, is long-suffering and slow to anger. His Son, when he appeared in our nature, exhibited both in his life and his death, the most illustrious example of forgiveness which the world ever beheld. If you look into the history of mankind, you will find that, in every age, those who have been respected as worthy, or admired as great, have been distinguished for this virtue. Revenge dwells in little minds. A noble and magnanimous spirit is always superiour to it. It suffers not from the injuries of men those severe shocks which others feel. Collected within itself, it stands unmoved by their impotent assaults; and, with generous pity, rather than with anger, looks down on their unworthy conduct. It has been truly said, that the greatest man on earth can no sooner commit an injury, than a good man can make himself greater, by forgiving it. Joseph, at the moment when we now contemplate him, had entirely under his power all those unnatural brethren who had been guilty towards him of the most cruel outrage which men could perpetrate. He could have retained them for ever in that Egyptian bondage to which they had once consigned him; and have gratified revenge by every accumulation of disgrace which despotic power enabled him to inflict. Had he acted this part, he might for a while have been soothed by the pleasures of his high station; but remorse, in the end, would have stung his soul. Cruelty would have rendered him unhappy within himself, as well as odious to others; and his name would have perished among the crowd of those contemptible statesmen whose actions stain the annals of history. Whereas now, his character stands among the foremost in the ranks of spotless fame. His memory is blessed to all generations.His example continues to edify the world; and he himself shines in the celestial regions, as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever.
Let us now,
II. Consider the sentiment contained in the text, not only as a discovery of cordial forgiveness, but as an expression of devout attention to the conduct of Providence. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God. Remark how beautifully piety and humanity are, in this instance, connected together. As we are told of Cornelius, the good Centurion, that his prayers and his alms, his devotion and his good works, came up together in memorial before God; so here we perceive fraternal affection and religious reverence, mingling in one emotion within the patriarch's heart. In a person of low and vulgar mind, the sensations on such an occasion would have been extremely different. Looking back on the past events of his life, he would have ascribed all the