Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

receive superstitious impressions, their spirits | tentates of the earth, and marshals the whole are considerably affected by the vision of the host of heaven is bringing his own word to night; not doubting, that it portended the pass, and performing his own pleasure. The speedy approach of some great good or evil. chief butler, we may suppose, readily proJoseph attending them in the morning, in mised Joseph his best services when he the course of his duty, observed the deep should be again restored to place and power, concern which was engraved on their counte- but like a true courtier, he thinks no more nances; and sympathy being always one of of his promise, nor of his fellow prisoner, after the native effüsions of an honest heart, he his own turn was served. So selfish, so kindly inquires into the cause of it. thoughtless, so ungrateful is man! Had he

By the way, how pleasant is it to observe been under no personal obligation to the this excellent young person with so much young stranger, for his tender assiduities cheerfulness and good nature performing the while in confinement, and for the agreeable humble offices of a gaoler's servant? He and certain intelligence which he received was accustomed to be waited upon, to be from him of his approaching deliverance, ministered unto; but duty calls, and with common humanity, awakened by the simple alacrity he ministers to the necessity of tale of innocence and misery which he had others. But what do I see ? An under gaoler told, ought to have prompted his immediate starting up all at once into an interpreter of and most earnest exertions in his behalf. And dreams, possessing a sagacity that reaches yet he suffers two full years to linger away, into futurity, directed and taught by a Spirit without caring to reflect whether such a perwhose piercing eye penetrates into eternity, son existed or not. And when he thinks of and discerns all the wonders of the world him at last, it is not the generous recollection unknown! How much wiser, how much of kindness and attachment; but the selfish more noble, how much more excellent, are remembrance of courtly adulation, eager to they who live in communion with God than gratify his prince, not to rescue talents, and other men! For though they do not all at-innocence, and worth, from unmerited optain the gift of prophesy, the gift of working, pression. Pharaoh hanged him not for the miracles, the gift of speaking with tongues ; offences which he had committed against his yet they all are dignified by the spirit of sovereign, but for his forgetfulness and inprayer, the spirit of adoption, “the spirit gratitude to Joseph, let him be hung up an of faith, the spirit of love, and of a sound object of detestation and contempt to all gemind."

nerations of mankind. Joseph, from the different complexion of How very differently do God and men often their several dreams, and inspired no doubt judge of one and the same object! If there by wisdom from above, predicts their ap- be in all Egypt a person more forlorn and proaching doom; the speedy restoration of inconsiderable than another, it is an Hebrew the one to his former trust and dignity; a slave in a dungeon. But “God raiseth the sudden and ignominious death to the other. poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out Nothing but inspiration could have borne of the dụnghill, that he may set him with Joseph through a declaration so bold and de- princes.” Pharaoh himself now begins to act cisive, and which was to be brought to the a part in this wonderful drama. For kings, awful test of confirmation or disappointment in the hand of God, are only instruments of in so short a space as three days. So confi- an higher order, and of more extensive opedent is he of the certainty of his interpreta- ration. Kings are liable to hunger and thirst tion, that he founds all his hopes of enlarge- like other men; kings must sleep, and may be ment upon it. And there is something inex-disturbed by dreams like other men and pressibly tender and pathetic in his applica- thus it happened to the mighty sovereign of tion to the chief butler to that effect, but Egypt. With vision upon vision, in one think on me when it shall be well with thee, night, was his rest troubled; the strange coand show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and incidence and mysterious import of which make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring greatly perplex his waking thoughts. In a me out of this house. For indeed I was country teeming with gods, and overrun with stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: superstition, no circumstance was overlooked and here also have I done nothing, that they which in any manner seemed to portend a should put me into the dungeon."*

future event. No wonder then that the The event justified the prediction; and it prince, who has not always the best informed is an awful and affecting illustration of the nor the firmest mind of any man within his observation of the wise man, “the king's dominions, should be rendered uneasy by a lieart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers repetition of dreams, so singular in themof water: he turneth it. whithersoever he selves, so similar to, and yet so unlike one will.”+ A youth, a stranger, a prisoner, could another. It is not less wonderful, that in a have no power over the counsels of Pharaoh. country so prolific of magicians and soothBut the power which controls all the po- sayers, not one should be found bold enough' * Gen. X. 14, 15.

† Prov. xxi. 1. to affix a meaning, or guess at an interpreta

tion. Was it that the true God confounded , describable charın in true wisdom, in unafand silenced their vain imaginations ? or that fected goodness, that forces approbation, and Pharaoh, dissatisfied with their idle conjec- carries the heart captive at once. There is tures, and prompted from above to make far- a native dignity in virtue, which, while it ther inquiry, rejected the usual modes of so- never assumes, nor pushes itself forward, is. lution, that, heaven-directed, Joseph might never timorous, embarrassed or awkward. emerge out of obscurity to save a great na- Joseph possesses unaffected ease and comtion, to preserve his father's house in famine, posure in the presence of Pharaoh and all the and to fulfil the prediction and promise made court; and the court on this occasion, we to Abraham, concerning the future fortunes have reason to think, was a very splendid, of his posterity ?

public, and crowded one. So good a thing it The king's vexation interests and affects is to have the heart established by the fear the whole court. And then for the first time, of God. It casts out every other fear. But the chief butler bethinks himself of his faults. the days of his depression are now ended, and of his promise, and of his obligations to and every step he has trod through this valhis fellow prisoner, and relates in the hearing ley of humiliation, is a progress made to the of the king, the very extraordinary circum- glory that follows. , And here we break off

, stances of his own imprisonment and enlarge- having conducted Joseph to the right hand ment; of his dream, the interpretation and of the throne; and beholding him ready to the issue. He is of consequence led to men- mount the second chariot, while admiring tion the character and situation of the inter- nations proclaim before him, “ bow the preter. This instantly effects for Joseph, knee.” what his friendship, had it been exerted, per The next Lecture will exhibit the son of haps would not have produced an immediate Jacob in all the splendour of high life ; armed order to set the prisoner free, and to bring with all the authority of a minister of state, him without delay into the royal presence. possessing a plenitude of power over the When men can be subservient to the inte- whole kingdom of Egypt. rest, the pleasure, or the ambition of princes, Turn for a moment from Joseph, and bethey are in the sure road to preferment; and hold a greater than him. “ The prince of a man is often more indebted for success to this world came, and found nothing in him.” a fortunate incident than to a righteous cause. Temptation addressed to “the lust of the Joseph's affairs are now in a train such as his flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of warmest friends could wish; and again we life," had from his lips an instant repulse,"it see another saying of the wise man verified: is written, it is written." “ In his humilia“ Seest thou a man diligent in his business ? tion his judgment was taken away;" he sufHe shall stand before kings, he shall not fered as a malefactor, though " he did no sin, stand before mean men."*

neither was guile found in his lips.” He was Pharaoh's expectations are not disappoint- condemned and put to death upon a false aced. He relates his dreams; and God, the au- cusation. From the triumphant ignominy thor of the visions, and who had sent the in- of the cross, he dispenses life and death to terpreter and the explanation, by the mouth his fellow-sufferers; paradise to the one, of Joseph unfolds its meaning and import. everlasting shame to the other. · "Who hath Pharaoh's dream had puzzled himself and all known the mind of the Lord, or, being his Egypt by its first aspect; but now that it is counsellor, hath taught him ?" explained, how easy, how simple, how appli- begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Facable, how natural every thing appears! The ther, he hath declared him.” “No man greatest discoveries, after they are made, ap- knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to pear so obvious and so plain, that every one whom the Son shall reveal him.” “ He made is ready to wonder he did not hit upon it first; himself of no reputation, and took upon him and this, instead of diminishing, greatly en- the form of a servant, and was made in the hances the merit of the first discoverer. likeness of men. And being found in fashion Upon the manifestation of the import of Pha- as a man, he humbled himself and became raoh's redoubled vision, it is found, that God, obedient unto death, even the death of the who had given formerly to two of the ser Wherefore God hath also highly exvants an intimation of their approaching fate, alted him, and given him a name which is was now giving to the sovereign a premoni- above every name; that at the name of Jesus tion of the visitations of his providence, to every knee should bow, of things in heaven, this great, populous, and wealthy empire. A and things in earth, and things under the previous notice of good renders it a double earth; and that every tongue should confess blessing; a warning of evil prepares us to that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God meet it, and thereby diminishes its weight. the Father."* “ Fools and slow of heart to

Joseph's interpretation carried conviction believe all that the prophets have spoken: along with it; and Pharaoh immediately re- ought not Christ to have suffered these solves to act upon it. There is a certain un- things, and to enter into his glory?" + "To * Prov. xxij. 29.

. Phil. ii. 7-11. Luke xxiv 25, 26. R

· The only

cross.

him that overcometh will I grant to sit with your God kings and priests, and we shall reign me in my throne, even as I also overcame, on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the and am set down with my Father in his voice of many angels round about the throne, throne.'* “ Be thou faithful unto death, and and the beasts and the elders, and the numI will give thee a crown of life.”+

ber of them was ten thousand times ten thouI conclude all in the words of the beloved sand, and thousands of thousands, saying with disciple, who thus describes a more august a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was vision than ever appeared to Pharaoh: “And slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisI beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, dom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the and blessing. And every creature which is elders, stood a Lamb, as it had been slain: in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which and such as are in the sea, and all that are are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, honour, all the earth. And they sung a new song, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy And the four and twenty elders fell down blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and and worshipped him that liveth for ever and people, and nation; and hast made us unto ever."* * Rev. iii. 21. | Rev. ii. 10.

* Rev. v. 6-14.

HISTORY OF JOSEPH.

LECTURE XXXI.

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God

is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled : only in the throne will I be greater than thou.. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck: and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had : and they cried before him, Bow the knee : and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh ; and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.-GENESIS xli. 38–44.

If it be pleasant to observe, in particular | kind. Now the alternate succession of day instances, the providence of God justifying and night, of fair weather and rain, have not its own procedure, by relieving and vindi- greater beauty and utility in the world of cating oppressed innocence, or by precipi- nature, than the successive shades of advertating prosperous guilt from its lofty seat; sity, and sunbeams of prosperity, which apwhat must be the satisfaction and delight of pear on the face of the moral world. beholding the whole plan of Providence un Of this unceasing succession or mixture, folded, every mystery in the divine conduct the lot of individuals, the fortune of nations, explained, and all the ways of God to men the state of the globe, perhaps the system of completely vindicated! A very considerable the universe is composed. Nothing is perpart of our present distress arises from hasti- mitted to continue too long: no being is sufness and impatience of spirit. We are for fered to go too far out of his station. The rushing to the end at once; we will not af balance eternally depends from the hand of ford our Maker and Ruler leisure to open his a Being possessed of infinite wisdom; and own designs, to illustrate his own meaning after a few slight vibrations, the scales We would have the work of Heaven per- speedily bring each other into equilibrium formed in our way; we have settled the again. The swelling of a wave, the rolling whole order of things in our own minds; and of the ship, nay the finger of a child, may for all is wrong that ignorance, fretfulness, and a moment derange the compass; but after presumption are pleased to dislike. Cloudy, trembling an instant or two from point to rainy weather is much less agreeable than point, immediately the needle resumes its serenity; yet it requires but a moment's re- steady, stated northern direction. flection to be convinced that eternal sunshine If there be in history a passage, which would be the reverse of a blessing to marr more than another encourages us patienly

and submissively to wait for the end, to fol-, plexion they be, to influence the conduct of low and submit to the conduct of Providence, life, so as to induce us to neglect our duty, it is the story of Joseph the son of Jacob. to vex and disquiet ourselves, or disturb What man of humanity would have refused others, is absurd, superstitious, and wicked. to lend his helping hand to rescue the inno There are three particulars in this part of cent youth from the fury of his unnatural the history of Joseph, which have exercised brothers, to pull him up out of the pit, and to the learning and ingenuity of critics and restore him to his father again? Who would commentators. First, whether the Hebrew not gladly have sacrificed a part of his subword, Abrech, translated in our version, “ bow stance to purchase his release from Egyptian the knee,” had not better have been renderservitude? What friend to truth and virtue ed, as the word will bear, “tender father:" but would have rejoiced to vindicate his cha- an appellation descriptive of his office and racter from the vile aspersions of his infa- character; dignity and gentleness united, mous mistress, and to save him from unde-Secondly, it is inquired, what is the exact served punishment? What heart, alive to import of the name which Pharaoh gave to the feelings of gratitude, but would have se- Joseph upon his promotion ? It was customaconded the application of the chief butler,” ry for eastern princes and nations to distinfor his immediate enlargement ? But all guish by new titles, persons who had renderthis would have been precipitate, rash, and ed themselves illustrious by superior abilities, absurd. His fond father himself could not or splendid and important actions; as in the have conducted his favourite son to the ho- case of Daniel and the three other children nours which he attained, by a way so certain, of the captivity. That which was given to so safe, and so honourable. Whether we re- Joseph, according to some, is an Egyptian gard Joseph himself, or the interests of his expression which signifies “ Saviour of the father's family, or the welfare of Egypt, or world,” and this, if just, conveys a high idea the good of the human race, Providence, of the importance which the king ascribed to when we come to the issue, it is found, has Joseph's information and advice. Others secured, promoted, and succeeded them all, contend that it signifies no more than "rein its own wise and gracious method, in- vealer, or expounder of secrets.' This last finitely better than they possibly could have interpretation has the most numerous, perbeen by all the sagacity and foresight of man. haps the most respectable support. The

By the wonderful steps then which we third particular alluded to, involves in it have seen, behold Joseph exalted to the right something like a censure of Joseph, as if, hand of Pharaoh, made lord over all Egypt, hurried away by motives of ambition and the lives, the conduct, the liberties, the pro- pride, he had been eager to form an improperty of millions entrusted to his care, sub- per and dangerous matrimonial connexion jected to his authority. Behold him married with an idolatrous woman, nay, the daughter to a princess, arrayed in vestures of fine li- of a man who by profession, as priest of On, nen, a gold chain about his neck, the royal or Heliopolis, the city of the Sun, was consignet in his hands, riding through the land cerned to support and promote an idolatrous in the second chariot, while admiring nations worship. The critics who advance and bow the knee before him. Behold the dream maintain this opinion, represent Joseph as a which boyish vanity, perhaps at first sug- mere timeserving sycophant, imbibing in a gested, which fraternal jealousy so keenly moment the spirit and manners of a court, reprobated, and so sternly avenged, which a and sacrificing principle to conveniency. I father's wisdom was constrained to check confess, myself so partial to this amiable and and reprove, and which incredulity, no doubt, excellent man, that without hesitation I unwould treat as the idle chimera of a disturb- dertake to meet this charge; and would aled imagination, is verified and brought to lege in his behalf, that, as the Spirit of God pass. When we observe so many of the im- no where reprehends this conduct, which in portant events of Joseph's life turning upon cases deserving blame is done freely and the hinge of dreams and their interpretation, without reserve, so we ought not, without we are taught to think respectfully of every just cause, and perfect knowledge, to find method by which God is pleased to commu- fault; charity obliging us “to think no evil," nicate the knowledge of his will to mankind. where we can think well; to put the bes* And, when our own dreams, as they some-construction on what is doubtful, and to judge times do, either call us to duty, or convince of what is pot clear and explicit, by that us of sin; when they recal to our memory which is. When I see Providence blessing what is past, or admonish us of what is to this union by the birth of two sons, raised in come, so that we may profit thereby, we process of time to a double rank of dignity ought to consider them as warnings from and importance in Israel, it is impossible for Heaven, and the voice of God. But to at- me to think uncharitably of the union itself, tend to and seek a meaning in every wan- which was the origin of that blessing. What, dering of a sleeping fancy is silly and child- did Joseph acknowledge God so closely in ish; and to suffer them of whatever com- every thing, even to the very naming of his

children, correspondently to the aspects of dictions are accomplished. What seldom the Divine Providence towards him, and can meets, the sovereign and the subject strive we suppose he neglected God in a matter of who shall exalt him most; his domestic feso much higher consequence? Let me rather licity keeps pace with the public prosperity; say, and say it without reserve, that the conscience approves; and God, the great piety, the chastity, the fidelity, the self-God, smiles. If there be a condition of hugovernment of Joseph, in flying from an illi- manity to be desired, to be envied, it was cit commerce with his master's wife, was this.. thus rewarded of Heaven by a virtuous and Shall I stop to express a wonder, that dulasting union with a chaste virgin and a ring all this period, with all the power of prince's daughter. But we dweil too long Pharaoh in his hand, with a heart so tender, on a vindication, which was perhaps alto- and a spirit so dutiful, he should make no atgether unnecessary. To proceed:

tempt to convey to the wretched old man in Joseph has arrived at a station of very high Canaan, intelligence concerning his preserhonour, but it is not to him a post of emolu- vation and his present condition: But I ment and ease merely; and I rejoice to see check myself, when I consider that the whole the same person who diligently and humane- was of the Lord of Hosts," who is wonderful ly served the gaoler as a deputy, and who in counsel, and excellent in working." faithfully managed the affairs of Potiphar as It is worth while to observe, how the style a steward, attentively, humbly, industriously of scripture is adapted to experience, and conducting the interests of a great king, and the nature of things. Years of tranquillity a mighty empire, as a minister of state. On and success glide away imperceptibly: but which I found an observation frequently every moment of pain is observed and felt, made already, I care not how often, that the as it halts along. Accordingly, the history fear of God is the best security of a man's of seven prosperous and abundant years is good behaviour in every situation; and that despatched in a sentence or two; whereas - he is to be trusted in nothing, who has not seven years of famine, as they were more sena conscience in every thing."

sibly felt in their progress, so they afford more Joseph was but thirty years old when he abundant materials to the pen of the histostood before Pharaoh, seventeen of which he rian; and the detail is lengthened out to the had passed under the wing of a fond, indul- reader, as the distress was to the unhappy gent parent, and the other thirteen, at that sufferers. Little do we think of this in the period of life when the heart is most devoted days of health, and ease, and joy ; and thereto pleasure, he had lingered away in all the fore little thankful are we io God for our variety of human wretchedness; but in all multiplied comforts. To instruct us in their the dignity of virtue, all the superiority of value, he is constrained to put forth his hand, wisdom, all the delights, pure and sublime, and either to withdraw or mar them; and of true piety. And now, at an age when we awaken, alas too late, to a sense of our most men are only beginning to reflect and obligations to an indulgent Providence ! act as reasonable beings, we see him raised, The seven years of famine are now comnot by accident nor cabal, nor petulence, but menced, and the honour of Joseph's sagacity by undisputed merit, to a situation, which is established, but by a very different proof. one part of mankind looks up to with desire, When either the promises or the threatenanother with awe, and a third with despair. ings of the word are fulfilled, we have And happy was it for Egypt, that ever this equally a demonstration of the truth and youth, this stranger, this Hebrew was sold faithfulness of God: venerable when he for a slave into its bosom, for “God sent him blesses, and venerable when he punishes a to save much people alive.”

guilty world. Happy the prince, who, cirEgypt gloried that she was not, like other cumstanced, like Pharaoh, can roll the cares countries, dependent on the clouds of Heaven and anxieties of government upon a minister for the fertility of her soil, and the exube- of ability and integrity like Joseph. Happy rance of her crops, but, that she derived her the people, governed by a ruler, who, himself rich harvests from the flux and reflux of her educated in the school of affliction, has learnown river. But in vain had the Nile arisen ed to succour the distressed. to the desired height during the seven suc The beginning and progress of scarcity is cessive years of uncommon plenteousness, described in this part of the sacred history had not the pathetic foresighi of a Joseph with wonderful exactness and energy. It taught both prince and people to take ad- represents men first parting cheerfully with vantage of the favour of Providence, and to their money for food. By and by they are lay a good foundation for the time to come. reduced to part with their lands, their hope, Nothing do men so much abuse as plenty ;/ and security, for years to come, in exchange nothing do they so soon and so severely feel for the subsistence of a day. And, at length, as want of bread. These seven prosperous reluctantly and slow, we behold them suryears seem to compensate to Joseph all his rendering liberty itself for the support of foriner ille. His honour is cleared, his pre- i life.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »