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The Saviour's promise is sufficient—But would you hear the testimony of one who viewed its accomplishment ? You shall hear it
• I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb; blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God, for ever and ever. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white, in the blood of the Lamb'- These are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace-makers, the afflicted, and the persecuted— These are they, who, in the days of their flesh, denied themselves, took up their cross daily, and followed Jesus,' in the way that leadeth unto life; that way on which the Lord hath promised his blessing, even life for evermore.'
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
CHARACTER OF JOSEPH. Gen. xlv. 5, 8.--Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with your
selves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.-So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.
[Text taken from the First Lesson of the Evening Service.] No human character, exhibited in the records of Scripture, is more remarkable and instructive than that of the Patriarch Joseph. He is one whom we behold tried in all the vicissitudes of fortune ; from the condition of a slave, rising to be ruler of the land of Egypt; and in every station acquiring, by his virtue and wisdom, favour with God and man. But in his
whole history there is no circumstance so striking and interesting, as his behaviour to his brethren, who had sold him into slavery. The moment in which he made himself known to them, that moment at which we are now to contemplate him, is such as rarely occurs in the course of human events; and is calculated to draw the highest attention of all, who are endowed with any degree of sensibility of heart. Let us consider the sentiment which Joseph utters in the text, under two views, each of which is very instructive to all Christians : I. As a discovery of his cordial forgiveness of his brethren ; and, II. As an instance of his dutiful attention to the providence of God.
I. The most cordial forgiveness is here displayed. I shall not recapitulate all the preceding history respecting Joseph and his brethren. From the whole tenor of the narration it appears, that though Joseph, upon the arrival of his brethren in Egypt, made himself strange to them, yet from the beginning he intended to discover himself; and studied so to conduct the discovery, as might render the surprise of joy complete. For this end, by affected severity, he took measures for bringing down into Egypt all his father's children. They were now arrived there, and Benjamin among the rest, who was his younger brother by the same mother, and was particularly beloved by Joseph. Him he threatened to detain, and seemed willing to allow the rest to depart. This incident renewed their distress. They all knew their father's extreme anxiety about the safety of Benjamin, and with what difficulty he had yielded to his undertaking this journey. Should he be prevented from returning, they dreaded that grief would overpower the old man's spirits, and prove fatal to his life. Judah, therefore, who had particularly urged the necessity of Benjamin's accompanying his brothers, and had solemnly pledged himself to their father for his safe return, craved, upon this occasion, an audience of the governor, and gave him a full account of the circumstances of Jacob's family.
Nothing can be more interesting and pathetic than this discourse of Judah, as it is recorded in the preceding chapter. Little knowing to whom he spoke, he paints, in all the colours of simple and natural eloquence, the distressed situation of the aged patriarch, hastening to the close of life; long afflicted for the loss of a favourite son, whom he supposed to have been torn
in pieces by a beast of prey; labouring now under anxious concern about his youngest son, the child of his old age, who alone was left alive of his mother, and whom nothing but the calamities of severe famine could have moved a tender father to send from home, and expose to the dangers of a foreign land. If we bring him not back with us, we shall bring down the grey hairs of thy servant, our father, with sorrow to the grave. I pray thee, therefore, let thy servant abide instead of the young man, a bondman to our lord. For how shall I go up to my father, and Benjamin not with me lest I see the evil that shall come on my father.'
Upon this relation, Joseph could no longer restrain himself. The tender ideas of his father and his father's house, of his ancient home, his country, and his kindred, of the distress of his family, and his own exaltation, all rushed too strongly upon his mind to bear any further concealment. He cried, Cause every man to go out from me; and he wept aloud.' The tears which he shed, were not the tears of grief. They were the bursts of affection. They were the effusions of a heart, overflowing with all the tender sensibilities of nature. Formerly he had been moved in the same manner, when he first saw his brethren before him. His bowels yearned upon them; he sought for a place where to weep. He went into his chamber, and then washed his face and returned to them. At that period his generous plans were not completed. But now, when there was no further occasion for constraining himself, he gave free vent to the strong emotions of his heart. The first minister to the king of Egypt was not ashamed to show, that he felt as a man, and a brother. • He wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard him.”
The first words which his swelling heart allowed him to pronounce, are the most suitable to such an affecting situation which were ever uttered ; 'I am Joseph: doth my father yet live?' What could he, what ought he, in that impassioned moment, to have said more? This is the voice of nature herself, speaking her own language; and it penetrates the heart: no pomp of expression-no parade of kindness—but strong affection hastening to utter what it strongly felt. ·His brethren could not answer him ; for they were troubled at his presence.' Their silence is as expressive of those emotions of repentance and shame, which, on this amazing discovery, filled their breasts,
and stopped their utterance, as the few words which Joseph speaks, are expressive of the generous agitations which struggle for vent within him. Never was there a situation of more tender and virtuous joy, on the one hand ; nor, on the other, of more overwhelming confusion, and conscious guilt. In the simple narration of the sacred historian, it is set before us with greater energy and higher effect, than if it had been wrought up with all the colouring of the most admired modern eloquence.
When Joseph had a little recovered himself from the first transports of emotion, he proceeds to explain his situation to his brethren, and to show them the beneficent purposes, for which he conceived himself to be raised by providence into power. The apology which he makes in the text for their former cruelty, is uncommon and remarkable. Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So, now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God; and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house; and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.' This apology was, in truth, no satisfactory excuse for their envy and jealousy; for though the over-ruling providence of heaven had so directed the course of events, as to render their bad intentions subservient to a happy issue, yet the badness of the intention originated entirely from themselves. But the sentiment in the text is to be considered as a colour, which the generous humanity of Joseph prompted him to throw on the conduct of his brethren. He calls upon them to rejoice in his prosperity, and, instead of dwelling on a painful recollection of their own crime, to join with him in acknowledging and adoring the hand of the Almighty.
How different is this amiable spirit which Joseph discovers, from that harsh and ostentatious superiority, which too often accompanies the pretended forgiveness of injuries among those, who call themselves Christians! They are ready to say, that, for their part, they pardon the wrongs which have been done them; they wish that the persons who have committed them, may be able to forgive themselves ; they leave them to God and to their own conscience. By the severe suggestions which they throw out, they discover the inward bitterness of their spirit ; and artfully gratify resentment, at the time when they VOL. I.
profess to exercise forgiveness. Whereas the great and good man, whose character we now consider, effaces all memory of the crimes which he pardons. He seeks to alleviate the remorse of his brethren by an extenuation of their guilt ; and, while he is preparing to make their circumstances comfortable, studies at the same time to render their minds easy and tranquil.
This was not merely a transient emotion with Joseph, owing to the first burst of affection on discovering himself to bis brethren. We have a clear proof, from a remarkable transaction which passed many years after this period, of his disposition continuing the same to the end of life. It is recorded in the last chapter of this book, that when Jacob died, his sons began to be seized with fear concerning the treatment, which they might receive from their brother. The guilty are always suspicious. • They said among themselves, Peradventure he will now hate us, and requite all the evil which we did unto 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, hastening 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.' (Gen.i. 21.]
The striking example of forgiveness, which the 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. 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