« AnteriorContinua »
eth over us in the hour of distress, and is always able, if we confide in him, to remove it from us.
We fee in what manner he ex. tricated the unhappy Joseph from difficulties apparently insuperable: we shall perceive the same divine power again interposing to save his beloved favourite from still greater dangers,
and a more imminent destruction. In the prosecution of this history, we shall find the circumstances growing every inftant more interesting, more serious and pathetic, abounding with still more frequent instruc. tion. I shall therefore dwell with pleasure on every one of them, and endeavour to draw from them that moral use and improvement which will most naturally result from them, and which it was most probably the intention of the inspired writer to inculcate.
But this, as it would exceed the limits of our present time, must be deferred to another opportunity. I shall therefore conclude this discourse with this single reflection, that an upright and virtuous course of life is almost sure, as we see from the history before us, to meet its reward in this life, though, perhaps, not in so exemplary a manner as in the case of Joseph: but though it should not, we ought not to be discouraged; for the conscious approbation of our own hearts not only amply repays us for any sacrifice we make to virtue, but whatever may be our lot here, such a life will certainly secure to us endless felicity hereafter.
last discourse on these words, I brought down the history of Joseph to that remarkable period wherein the providence of God had raised him to the highest honour and preferments in the court of Pharaoh. He who had so lately called for pity, was now, by an astonishing change of fortune, become an object of envy and admiration : he seemed to have baffled, as it were, the power of the waves, and to be landed safely in the harbour of peace and prosperity, when a violent and unexpected Itorm arose, which drove him once more into the ocean, and almost overwhelmed him.
The attractions of Joseph's person were, it seems, no less striking and singular than those of his mind. That beauty which had already been fo prejudicial to him, and which was probably the cause of Jacob's partial affection, became again the source of sorrow and misfortune.
Such is the unhappy lot of human nature, that we are frequently ruined and betrayed even by the perfections of it. Those external accomplishments which are fo fervently wished for, and so folicitously preserved, but too often prove a dangerous and a deitruc : tive pre-eminence, which Joseph sensibly and fatally experienced ; for the wife of Potiphar no sooner cast her eyes upon, than she conceived a violent and shameful passion for him, which no considerations of honour, duty or gratitude, could prevail on her to restrain. This, we must acknowledge, was the strongeft test of his integrity, and the severest trial of his virtue. Youth and beauty, power and interest, ambition and opportunity, conspired to urge him on to the commission of lin: but thole well-grounded principles which had hitherto directed all his actions, together with that divine grace which assisted him in them, now enabled him to relift, and to overcome, the powerful temptation. He could not bear the thought of injuring, in so tender a point, the best and most indulgent of masters. How, says he to her, can I do this great wickedness, and fin againsi God ?-Here let us stop a moment to reflect on the conduct of this amiable youth. When he was now, as it were on the very brink of destruction, he starts back with horror at fight of the precipice before him, fummons the powers of reason and religion to his aid, and cries out, How can I do this great wickedness,
and sin against God? What a noble leffon of instruction may these words afford us: what a fair pattern and standard has Joseph left to pofterity ; and how much less of lin and forrow would there be in this world, were men to follow fo excellent an example! If, when any dangerous temptation attacked, any darling passion folicited us, we would but stop a moment only to repeat this short sentence, how can I do this great wickedness, and fin against God? what answer would our hearts return to this severe and penetrating question? that answer, doubtless, which Joseph's did ; that to commit the fin, whatever it was, would be ingratitude to the best and most generous of masters, (for such God is to us all) who committeth all that he hath to our hands, and keepeth back nothing from us which we ought to wish for or desire. But the followers of vice are too rapid and precipitate in their pursuit of it, ever to stand fill in the journey: they rush on without fear, without reluctance or remorse. To fuch, however, if they are not past all reflection, I would point out the consequences of this seasonable deliberation in the good and conscientious Joseph, who refifted the arts of the feducer, and was in the end amply rewarded for it, by blessings which, though not immediately bestowed, were carefully reserved for him.
Such, indeed, hath been the degeneracy and corruption of mankind in every age, that
it is generally dangerous, oftentimes destructive, to be fingularly virtuous, which Joseph sufficiently experienced. He hearkened not unto her, but refused to hear the voice of the charmer; and his refusal was attended with its natural consequence. The transition of violent pafsions from one to the other is extremely rapid : her love was quickly changed into hatred, and all the softness of affection into the bitterest and most implacable resentment. The despised and incensed wife of Potiphar was now resolved to persecute that virtue which she could not fubdue, and to ruin that innocence which she was unable to betray. She artfully ac. cused him therefore of a crime, which, from his abhorrence of a vice fo detestable, and the natural confequences of it, no temptation could ever induce him to commit; and by impofing on the credulity of her husband, and Nanciering Joseph, at once secured and enhanced the affection of the one, and fatiated her revenge on the other. Her accusation, confirmed by a circumstance very firong in her favour, (the garment which she had wrefted from him) easily procured her a firm belief: and when Joseph's master heard the words of his wife, his wrath was kindled, and he took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound; and he was there in the prifm. Thus was Joseph cast down on a sudden from the heighth of glory and happiness, to the lowest and most abject