Изображения страниц

mischief; possessing authority unfettered by change! How exquisite the happiness which legal restraint; possessing power not prompt- fills every faculty of the soul, and whose ed by goodness, not tempered by mercy, not measure is eternity! But though Jacob be deigning to stoop to the sacred rights of man- satisfied to live and to die in Egypt, he feels kind? Do we not see, in the hardships which and expresses the natural desire of all inen, under the following reign the posterity of that his ashes should rest in death with the Israel endured from Egyptian despotism, the venerable dust of his forefathers. Perceiving danger of extending regal authority beyond therefore in himself the decay of nature, and the limits of reason? And thus, in the justice the approach of dissolution, he sent for his of Providence, the family of Joseph first felt beloved son, and bound him by a solemn oato the rod of that tyranny, which, with his own to carry his dead body to the cave of Machhands, he had established and aggrandized. pelah; that he too, in death, might become Absolute sway can never be deposited with an additional pledge to his family, that God safety in any hands, but in his, who is con- would in due time make good to them that stantly employing his power for the salvation possession of Canaan which he had promised. of men, not their destruction. But we turn Having obtained this security, his heart is from a scene, which it is impossible to con- at rest; and for himself he has no further template without both regret and resent worldly concern. But the symptoms of apment; happy to reflect, that we live in a proaching dissolution are now upon him, country, where law, not will, is the rule of sickness, weakness, and loss of sight. All government; where the voice of royal the authority and wealth of Egypt cannot reprerogative is drowned and lost, in the stern- pel these irresistible invaders. Old age is a er, louder proclamation of, “ Thus it is writ- disease which death only can cure. But, ten.” We hasten from the vast, depopulated even in old age and death, Jacob's early afregions of state politics, to the pleasanter, fections are his constant and remaining ones, fairer fields of private life.

Rachel and Joseph, and his two sons, Ephraim Jacob's last days are by far his best. Seven- and Manasseh. So long as the vital fluid teen years of unrutħed tranquillity he passed visits his heart, the memory of his beloved in Egypt, enjoying the most pure and com- Rachel vibrates upon it. The last beams of plete of all human gratifications that of his expiring eyes seek for her image and rewitnessing the prosperity, and experiencing presentative, her son and grandchildren: and the attachment of a favourite and dutiful even Benjamin seems, for a while, forgotten. child. But how comes it to pass, that periods Soon that wounded heart shall beat no more, of happiness shrink into so little a measure and those weary eyes shall close in everlastin description, while scenes of wo lengthening peace. themselves out both to the sufferer, and to The sickness of his father being reported the relator? We record our mercies on the to Joseph, he instantly quits every other emsand of the sea-shore, which the washing of ployment, and, attended by his two sons, every wave smooths again, and the perishing hastens to visit him to receive his last dying memorial is obliterated and lost. Calamity commands, his dying paternal benediction, we engrave upon the rock, which preserves and to cherish and soothe his departing the inscription from age to age.

spirit with that cordial of cordials, filial But the famine has long been over, and tenderness and love. Though nature was why has not the patriarch thought of return- come to its lowest ebb with our patriarch, ing again to the land of his fathers? Young grace was in full springtide. men love to ramble from place to place; but of the body could not discern the nearest old age is steady and stationary. "Removal objects, could not even distinguish the song was attended with increasing difficulty every of Joseph, but the eye of the spirit, the spirit day, from the increase of his age and infirmi- of prophesy that was in him, penetrated ties, and from the number of his family. Be- through the shades of night, and contemplasides, Joseph's presence was become neces- ted, with clearness and accuracy, ages the sary to the government of Egypt; and to part most remote; persons, situations, and events with him again, had been much worse than the most distant. death. In a word, the whole was of the In this last and tender interview with his Lord, who was now laying the foundation of beloved son, he declares his intention to a fabric of wonders which should astonish the raise the children who had been born to him the next generation, and every future age of in Egypt, to their hereditary rank and hothe world, by the report of them. One hun- nour in Israel; and he bequeaths to Joseph dred and thirty years of wo, and seventeen a particular possession which he had ac, of confort and happiness, come both at length quired by conquest in Canaan: “Moreover I to a period. Let the wretched think of this, have given to you one portion above thy and bear their affliction with fortitude; let brethren, which I took out of the hand of the prosperous consider it well, that they the Amorite, with my sword, and with my

be not high-minded, but fear.” How dread- bow;"* deeming him entitled, and not with ful is that misery which issues in despair of

The eye

* Gen. xlviii. 22.

out much appearance of reason, to the double before you," says Joseph to his brethren,“ to portion of the first born. For his mother preserve life." " I go," says Jesus to his disalone was the wife of Jacob's choice. And ciples, "to prepare a place for you. And if had the course of reason and justice taken I go and prepare a place for you, I will come place, he should have had no children but by again and receive you unto myself, that her. The posterity of Rachel, then, had an where I am, there ye may be also."* Ja undoubted claim of preference, considering seplı despatches chariots and wagons to con that in strict equity the whole would have vey the feeble and infirm part of his father's belonged to them. At the same time he family to the land of Goshen; and supplies predicted the future fortunes of his grand- them with all necessary and comfortable children by Joseph; and, Heaven-instructed, provision by the way. It being expedient foretells, that the younger should in time ob- for Christ to go out of the world, he promises, tain the pre-eminence in rank, populousness, and he sends the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, and importance over the elder.

to show his people things to come, “to lead And now nothing remained but to declare them into all truth,” saying of him, “He and publish his last will, or rather the will shall glorify me: for he shall receive of of God respecting his posterity, for many mine, and shall show it unto you. All things generations to come. But this would re- that the Father hath are mine: therefore said quire a much larger space than is now left I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it for it. And we cannot conclude our dis- unto you.”+ “ Thou hast ascended on high, course without having brought Jacob and thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast reJoseph somewhat nearer to the times which ceived gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious they foresaw and foretold; and to the glori- also, that the Lord God might dwell among ous and exalted person, from resemblance to them."| “He that descended, is the same whom they derive all their dignity and con- also that ascended up far above all heavens, sequence.

that he might fill all things. And he gave Joseph sold into Egypt, degraded into the some, apostles: and some, prophets; and condition of a servant, exalted from the dun- some, evangelists; and some, pastors, and geon to the right hand of the throne, invested teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, with power, drawing his perishing kindred for the work of the ministry, for the edifying unto him, and bestowing upon them a pos- of the body of Christ. Till we all come in session “in the best land,” still prefigures to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge us, Jesus “humbled and made of no reputa- of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto tion," " betrayed and sold into the hands of the measure of the stature of the fulness of men,” “lifted up,” on the cross, and thence Christ."'$ to a throne above the skies: “ascending on Is your heart, O Christian, like Jacob's, high, receiving gifts for men,” attracting an ready to faint, through unbelief, or through elect world unto him, to give them "an in- an excess of joy? Let your spirit, with his, heritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and revive as you ponder the exceeding great that fadeth'not away."

and precious promises" of the gospel in your Their eyes were holden, that they should soul, as you consult the sacred record, as not know him."*—“And it came to pass as your evidence brightens up, as the first fruits he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and of the Spirit are given and tasted. From blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. Canaan there is a going out, from Goshen a And their eyes were opened and they knew going out, as an entering in; but from the him, and he vanished out of their sight. Canaan that is above, there is no more "goAnd they said one to another, Did not our ing out:" "they are before the throne of heart burn within us while he talked with us God, and serve him day and night in his by the way, and while he opened to us the temple, and he that sitteth on the throne scriptures?"

shall dwell among them. They shall hun“And when all the land of Egypt was ger no more, neither thirst any more, neither famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyp- for the Lamb which is in the midst of the tians, Go unto Joseph: what he saith to you, throne shall feed them, and shall lead them do."! “The Father judgeth no man: but unto living fountains of waters: and God hath committed all judgment unto the Son. shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”H That all men should honour the Son, even _“He which testifieth these things, saith, as they honour the Father. He that honour- Surely, I come quickly; Anien. Even so, eth not the Son, honoureth not the Father come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord which hath sent him."8 “God did send me Jesus Christ be with you ah. Amen."

† John xvj. 14, 15. * Luke xxiv. 10. + Ver. 30-32.

$ Eph. iv. 10–13. 1 Gen. xli. 35. John v, 22, 23.

| Rev. xxii. 20, 21.

John xiv. 2, 3.
I Psalm lxviii. 18.
| Rev. vii. 15.-17.



And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which

shall befall you in the last days. And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.Genesis xlix. 1. 33.

It is the wise ordinance of nature, that and warned by that Spirit who had been his men should wish and endeavour to live as comforter in all his tribulations, he summons long as they can. A life even of pain and his children to his presence, and, with a misery extinguishes not the love of lite. Nay, mixture of paternal severity and tenderness, the mind by a sort of pleasing delusion, anxiety and confidence, administers his last creates to itself an imaginary immortality, dying counsels to them. and strives to extend its mortal interest and It belongs to another province than that of existence yond the grave.

Hence the history, to illustrate and expound this address anxiety of men, to provide for their families of the expiring patriarch to his sons. Indeed, and friends that subsistence and comfort, it is a passage of perhaps as much difficulty which they are never to see them enjoy. as any in scripture. The imperfect knowHence the trembling forebodings of pater- ledge we have of the sacred language, the nal solicitude about his surviving offspring. abundant use made of metaphorical and figuHence the hope that glistens in the dying rative expression, allusion to historical facts, eye, the blessing and the prayer that quaver which are either not recorded at all, or on the faltering tongue, and the last gush of rather hintea than related, together with the joy that visits the scarcely palpitating heart. natural ambiguity and obscurity of prophesy,

At every period of existence, we are think- all concur here to render Jacob's meaning ing of some future period of existence; and in many places hard to be understood, if not we fondly carry the feelings of the present totally inexplicable. Instead therefore of hour into the distant scenes of life; as if spending your time, and abusing your pawe could be susceptible of pleasure and pain tience, by dry unprofitable criticism on points after we have ceased from feeling. The which we frankly acknowledge we do not child connects, in idea, the amusements of comprehend, we shall endeavour to look his inexperienced age with the attainments through the passage just as it stands in the of maturer years; the dying father continues common translation, into the dying patriarch's to live in his oifspring; and, till we are in- heart, and observe how the affections of the deed gone, we dream and dream of being man blend themselves with the sagacity and longer here.

penetration of the prophet. We have attended the progress of the Following the order of nature, he addresses patriarch Jacob through the various stages himself first to Reuben, and fondly recollects of a life unusually long if we reckon woes the first emotions which filled his heart on for years, and compare it with the present becoming a father. He speaks to him as standard of longevity; but short if we con- raised up and destined of Providence to birthsider the antediluvian scale; short, if we right honours and privileges, but as having consider to what a span the history of it degraded and dishonoured himself by a base shrinks; short, if we compare it with eter- unnatural crime, and therefore rejected of nity. The sun has shone upon his head at God. And thereby men are instructed, that length, but not till it is covered with gray no superiority of birth, of fortune, of abilities, hairs. He has found his Joseph again, and can counterbalance the weight of atrocious even embraced his sons; but not till the wickedness. In this censure, the shame, hands are reduced to do the office of the sorrow, resentment and regret of a dying eyes. He walks down the steep of life in father seem to mingle their force. tranquillity, but his limbs tremble under him. The two next sons of Jacob had associated His favourite son is wise and good, exalted together for the perpetration of an unheardto deserved honours; but his advancement of piece of cruelty, impiety and deceit. Jacob has its foundation in the unexampled villany had sharply reproved them at the time it was of nine of his brothers. He is now arrived committed, and now gives his dying testimoat that point to which the sorrows and joys ny against their barbarous and perfidions of life equally tend, in which all events of conduct, in terms of just indignation and abwhatever complexion must finally issue. horrence, and prophetically threatens them Feeling in himself the approach of dissolution, with division and dispersion

. But this,

which was, and intended to be a severe, dental circumstance, Providence exalts into punishment to themselves, turned out in the the mighty hinge on which the fate of emaccomplishment of the prediction, as the pires and of worlds depends. Men bend bepunishments of Heaven often are, an un- fore a throne and despise virtue; God pours speakable honour and benefit to their poste- respect upon goodness, and tramples upon a rity. Levi in particular, “ divided in Jacob, throne. and scattered in Israel,” was thereby render I must now express a wish, which I ought ed only more illustrious and important, being to have done earlier in my discourse, namely, dignified as the priests and ministers of the that those who attend the Lecture of this most high God, in the presence of all their evening, had with attention previously pebrethren. The crime of Reuben affected rused the whole of this forty-ninth chapter his descendants to the latest posterity. For of Genesis. As without at least a general they never regained their original advantage | knowledge of it, much of what has been said, of birth; never furnished judge or general, and still may be said, will possibly be unin. priest, prophet, or prince to Israel ; but the telligible: and one great, perhaps the princioffence of Levi was expiated in his own per- pal end of the Lecture, will be obtained, if son, and reached not in its effects to his off any are thereby induced to search the scripspring. The moral consequences of guilt tures more carefully, and to compare spiritual ought in justice to extend to the guilty things with spiritual more diligently. themselves alone; but the civil effects may Jacob then, guided by the spirit of propheand often do involve the innocent; and that sy, as lately in preferring Ephraim to Manaswithout any imputation of justice. The son seh, and not following his own spirit, which ought not to suffer death for the murder would gladly have given the preference to which his father has committed; but he may Joseph, as his father's partiality would have forfeit forever his hereditary honours by his set Esau before himself, assigns the kingdom father's treason.

to his fourth son, with a profusion of images By what apparent title was Judah, the and emblems significant of power, authority, fourth son of Jacob, raised to a supremacy and plenty. “ Judah, thou art he whora thy over his brethren? Neither his moral cha- brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in racter, nor intellectual abilities, neither the neck of thine enemies: thy father's chilnatural pre-eminence nor parental partiality dren shall bow down before thee. Judah is a seem to confer upon him this high distinction. lion's whelp; from the prey my son thou art It must therefore simply be resolved into the gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a will of Him who “doth according to his will lion, and as an old lion: who shall rouse him in the armies of heaven, and among the in- up. “A lion's whelp, a lion, an old lion; habitants of the earth: and none can stay his garments washed in wine, and clothes in hand, or say unto him, What doest thou."* blood of grapes; eyes red with wine, teeth It was of Providence, who raiseth up one, white with milk,” is the strong figurative and bringeth another down. But how came language employed by a prophetic father, to Jacob acquainted with this? The son on represent the invincible force, the secure digwhoin he conferred the double portion of nity and majesty; the rich abundance, allotprimogeniture; the son whom he early dress- ted of God the disposer of all things, to this ed out in a coat of many colours; the son of prerogative tribe. his Rachel; the son of his old age; the son But the prediction of importance above all already so near a throne and still nearer to the rest, is that which we have in the tenth his heart, would undoubtedly, could a father's verse, “The sceptre shall not depart from fondness have disposed, succeeded to the Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, royal dignity, or the sanctity of the priest- until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the "hood, or the still higher dignity of giving birth gathering of the people be.” Now, whatto the promised Messiah, or to all the three. ever difficulties may occụr in the solution of But the purposes of Heaven do not always particular words and phrases in this prophesy, keep pace with the destinations of men. it is certain the patriarch has his mind filled They conform not themselves to the conclu- with an object peculiarly great ; that he fore. sion of human reason, or the propensities of sees regal and legislative power conferred the human heart. Not gentle and forgiving on this branch of his family, for a long suc

Joseph, but stern, unrelenting, merciless cession of ages, and until the arrival of a Levi

, gives birth to a race of priests. And certain distinguished person or event, exlewd, incontinent, incestuous Judah, not pressed by the term Shiloh, who should make ciaste, modest, self denied Joseph, becomes a remarkable change in the state of Judah's the father of kings, and the progenitor of family, and of the world in general. And of Shiloh. For what with men is all essential, all the persons and events that have appearall important; is with God only some little ed from the death of Jacob to this hour, to petty circumstance. And what human un- none are the words, with any degree of proderstanding treats as merely a casual, acci- priety, applicable, but to Jacob's Son and

* Gen. xlix. 8, 9

[ocr errors]

* Dan. iv. 35.

Lord, in whom the royal line terminated; in , band of Rachel, before his nerves are forever whose trial and condemnation the posterity unstrung, his eyes forever closed, his tongue of Jacob solemnly renounced all regal and forever silent, dwelling on the name of her judicial authority, and voluntarily submitted beloved offspring, turning the almost exto Cæsar as their sovereign; and to whom, tinguished orbs towards his amiable counteProvidence, by a chain of miracles at first, nance, and straining his darling Joseph in and an uninterrupted interposition, for al- his last embrace. most one thousand eight hundred years, has He has hardly strength left to mention the drawn and united the nations of the earth, name of Benjamin. But nature, while death according to the letter of the prophesy, “ to leaves to Jacob any remainder of her empire, him shall the gathering of the people be.” continues possessed of a sound memory, a We pretend not to say, that the dying patria discerning judgment, and glowing affections. arch had a clear and distinct foreknowledge But she can no more; the voice fails, the of the object; or that his words are a full limbs contract, the breath departs, the artery historical description of the period to which beats no more; the heart of Jacob is at length they refer. It is sufficient for our purpose, at rest. if events which have certainly come to pass, The death of a parent is an event peculiarare such as warrant a sober application of ly affecting. The source of our own life them to a prediction so singular, in circum- seems thereby as it were dried up. While stances so peculiar, and at a period so remote. our parents live, we think we have a barrier

A very close investigation of the history, betwixt us and the grave: but that being recharacter, and local circumstances of the six moved, the bold invader appears advancing tribes whose fathers are next nạmed in order, upon us with hastier strides. If we look would probably be found to justify what their forward, behold no bulwark to defend us ; if prophetic parent here foretold concerning backward, our very children are warning us them. But, with him, we hasten them by, of the necessity of our departure; they press with him to come at a nobler, dearer object; upon our heels, they are ready to lay their where parental affection fixes with peculiar hands upon our eyes. Death ever so long delight; which the understanding, the heart, expected, ever so visibly approaching, neverand the prophetic soul unite to establish, to theless shocks and surprises when it comes exalt, to enlarge.

at length. The only way to do justice to the prophet, Joseph, having given way to a burst of to the prophesy, and to the Spirit which in- sorrow over the lifeless clay of his honoured spired the one to utter the other, is simply to father, sets about the speedy execution of . read the words, and then to ponder them in his solemn trust, in discharge of the oath our hearts. “ Joseph is a fruitful bough even which he had taken. The highest respect a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches we can pay the dead, is to fulfil their living run over the wall. The archers have sorely desires. He accordingly gives commandgrieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. ment to have the body embalmed according But his bow abode in strength, and the arms to the manner of the Egyptians. This pracof his hands were made strong by the hands tice, which had its origin in necessity, deof the mighty God of Jacob: from thence is generated in process of time into the grossest the shepherd, the stone of Israel. Even by ostentation, and the most absurd vanity.the God of thy father, who shall help thee, During the inundations of the Nile, it was and by the Almighty who shall bless thee, necessary to employ art to preserve dead with blessings of heaven above, blessings of bodies from putrefaction, till the waters subthe deep that lieth under, blessings of the sided. But what was at first merely a tembreast, and of the womb. The blessings of porary expedient against the inconveniency thy father have prevailed, above the bles- of heat, moisture, and corruption, at a season sings of my progenitors: unto the utmost when sepulture was impossible, by degrees bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be --refined, shall I say? in the hands of that on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of ingenious people, into a work of infinite skill the head of him that was separate from his and expense. For so silly and vainglorious brethren."* Is there an appearance of in- is the human mind, that it strives for the coherence here, is there a redundancy of gratification of pride, in objects the most expression, is there a mixing of metaphor ? humiliating, and mortifying. We are far It is but the more emphatically expressive of from charging Joseph with acting from a the meltings, the overflowings of an affection- motive so wretched. The journey to Canaan ate heart, collecting its last remains of vigour, was long; it was needful to use the common retarding for a moment the stroke of death, methods, to keep the corpse from becoming returning yet once again but to return no offensive; perhaps he deemed it decent and more—to ancient feelings and propensities ; | wise to conform, in a matter not directly sin. expiring in the contemplation of the lasting ful, to the practice, and to yield to the pre felicity of a dearer self: the lover, the hus- judices of the people among whom he dwell • Gen. xlix. 22–26.

Whatever were his motives, certain it is

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »