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mind, because, in the midst of evil men, he is not allowed to remain, like a secret and inviolable person, untouched and uninjured.
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 Superior, to whose clemency we are obliged daily to fly? When, with hard and unrelenting dispositions towards our brethren, we send up prayers to heaven for mercy to ourselves, those prayers return like imprecations upon our heads; and our very devotions seal our condemnation.
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 superior 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 bis 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 derout attention to the conduct of Providence. • So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.' Remark how beautifully fraternal affection and religious reverence here mingle 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 adversity which he had suffered, to the perverse treatment of his brothers; and all the prosperity which he afterwards attained, to his own good conduct and wisdom ; and, by consequence, would have remained embittered against the instruments of the one, and filled with pride and self-sufficiency on account of the other. But the elevated and noble mind of Joseph rejected such unworthy sentiments. Contemplating the hand of God in all that had befallen him, he effaced the remembrance of those evil deeds which hari produced his adversity; and for his prosperity he affected no praise to himself, but ascribed it entirely to the will of Heaven. Let us take notice, that this is not the reflection of a private retired man, whose situation might be supposed to favour such devout meditations: it is the reflection of one who was leading a busy and seducing life, in the midst of a court, the favourite of the greatest monarch who was then known in the world. Yet him you behold, amidst the submission and adulation which was paid to him, preserving the moderation and simplicity of a virtuous mind; and, amidst the idolatry and false philosophy of the Egyptians, maintaining the principles of true religion, and giving glory to the God of Israel.
From this union of piety with humanity, which is so conspicuous in the sentiments of Joseph, there arises one very important instruction: that a devout regard to the hand of God in the various events of life, tends to promote good dispositions and affections towards men. It will be found by those who attend to the workings of human nature, that a great proportion of those malignant passions which break out in the intercourse of men, arises from confining their attention wholly to second causes, and overlooking the First cause of all. Hence they are insolent in prosperity, because they discern nothing higher than their own abilities; and in adversity they are peevish and unforgiving, because they have no object on which to fix their view, but the conduct of men who have acted as their enemies. They behold no plan of wisdom or goodness carried on throughout nature, which can allay the discomposure of their mind. As soon as their temper is ruffled, the world appears to them to be a continued scene of disasters and injuries, of confused events, and of unreasonable men. Whereas, to the pious man, the contemplation of the universe exhibits a very different spectacle. He beholds a wise and righteous Governor presiding over all the commotions, which are raised by the tumult of conflicting passions and interests ; guiding, with imperceptible influence, the hand of the violent to beneficent purposes ; accomplishing unexpected ends by the most improbable means ; obliging the wrath of man to praise him ;' sometimes humbling the mighty, sometimes exalting the low; often snaring the wicked in the devices, which their hands have wrought.' Respectful acknowledgment of this divine government controls the disorders of inferior passions. Reverence for the decrees of heaven inspires patience and moderalion. The irritation of passion and resentment will always bear proportion to the agitation, which we suffer from the changes of fortune. One who connects himself with nothing but second causes, partakes of the violence and irregularity of all the inferior movements belonging to this great machine. He who refers all to God, dwells, if we may speak so, in that higher sphere where motion begins; he is subject to fewer shocks and concussions, and is carried along only by the motion of the universe.
How can mildness or forgiveness gain place in the temper of that man, who, on account of every calamity which he suffers
from the ill-usage of others, has no sanctuary within his own breast to which he can make retreat from their vexations; who is possessed of no principle, which is of sufficient power to bear down the rising tide of peevish and angry passions ? The violence of an enemy, or the ingratitude of a friend, the injustice of one man, and the treachery of another, perpetually dwell and rankle in his thoughts. The part which they have acted in bringing on his distress, is frequently more grating to him than the distress itself. Whereas he who, in every event, looks up to God, has always in his view a great and elevating object, which inspires him with magnanimity; his mind lies open to every relieving thought, and is inclined to every suggestion of generosity. He is disposed to say, with Joseph, * It was not you that sent me hither, but God;' with David, “It is the Lord ; let him do what seemeth good in his eyes ;' and with a greater personage than either of these, “The cup which my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?' Hence arises bis superiority to many of the ordinary provocations of the world. For he looks upon the whole of his present life as part of a great plan, which is carried on under the direction of heaven. In this plan, he views men as acting their several parts, and contributing to his good or evil. But their parts he considers as subordinate ones ; which, though they may justly merit his affection, and may occasionally call forth his resentment, yet afford no proper foundation to violent or malignant passion. He looks upon bad men as only the rod with which the Almighty chastens; like the pestilence, the earthquake, or the storm. In the midst of their injustice and violence, he can pity their blindness; and imitate our blessed Lord in praying, • Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'
[Dr. HUGH BLAIR.)
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
CHARACTER OF PHARAOH.
Exod. v. 2. -And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord that I should
obey his voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord.”
[Text taken from the first Evening-Lesson for the Day.) PHARAOH exhibits a picture of one of the most insolent offenders that the world ever beheld,-a most daring opposer of the King of heaven,-carrying on the contest against him, with inflexible obstinacy,-resisting all admonitions, despising the mercy, and defying the wrath of God, till he was made a monument of his vengeance. He is first introduced to our notice in the sacred history, when Moses and Aaron were sent to him with a message from the God of heaven, and demanded for the Israelites the liberty of exercising their religion. [Exod. v. 1, &c.] The requisition was reasonable: nor did Pharaoh call in question their commission; but he repulsed them with the most daring contempt of the divine authority by which they spake; Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go ?' He probably conceived meanly of the God of the Hebrews, having long held that people in the lowest state of oppression; and therefore he most insolently set him at defiance, as if there were nothing to be dreaded from such a God as this.
But is this a singular case? We fear there are multitudes of like character. Man, in his fallen state, affects indepen- . dency, and disdains to yield submission to the will of God himself. Impatient of all restraint even from the highest authority, he says, “Why may I not live as I please? Who is Lord over me? Or what is the Almighty, that I should serve him ?' The ministers of Christ are often rejected with the same insolent contempt, as Moses and Aaron were by Pharaoh. Not a few cast the word of God behind them, with an air of utter indifference, examine not its evidence, and determine not to be awed by it. But may we not admonish sinners to beware, how they undertake to contend with God? Do you ask, “Who is the Lord ? It is he who hath made you, and gave you to