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the several occurrences of this beautiful relation; and as I pass along, to draw from them such inferences and reflections as may poflibly be of some service to us with regard to our own future conduct.
The history of Joseph may indeed, with the utmost propriety, be called the history of Virtue, of virtue deferted, persecuted, and oppressed, struggling through a variety of afflictions and temptations, supported throughout by the interposition of Divine Provi. dence, at length emerging from darkness and despair to light and life, rising superior to all its calamities, and shining forth in the utmost splendor of power, affluence and profperity.
Joseph, the elect and favourite of God, pre-ordained by the Almighty as a chosen instrument to set forth his divine goodness, was the youngest son of the patriarch Jacob: he is introduced to us by the inspired writer in his early youth : when he was but seventeen years old we find him feeding the flock with his brethren. The first circumstance recorded of him is, that the lad was with the fons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilp!, his father's wives ; and Jo. Jeph brought urto his father teir evil report. The feeds of virtue which were sown in his mind began even in this tender age to sprout forth in an abhorrence of vice, riot, and debauchery. He saw founeihing in the conduct of his brethren and companions which dis
pleased and disgusted him, which the natural openness of soul, ever attendant on this period of life, strongly prompted him to difclose: and accordingly we find that he brought to his father their evil report; that is to say, he acquainted Jacob with their ill conduct; the natural consequence of which was to bring on him the hatred and ill-will of his brethren: and thus it ever happens to the good and virtuous; those who detect vice and falsehood are sure to be persecuted and oppressed by the vicious and the false, who feldom forgive the witnesses of their guilt, or the discoverers of their hypocrisy. But another circumstance conspired also to render Joseph the unhappy object of envy and obhorrence. Ifrael, we are told, loved Joseph more than all his children; and the reason is immediately added, because he was the child of his old age.
We Thall find in the course of the history, that the extraordinary regard and tenderness which Jacob expressed for his darling Joseph, instead of contributing to the happiness of his child, was the source of all his misery; from whence we may observe, as we pass along, that providence doth frequently seem (as in the case before us) by a kind of interfering justice, to punish the unwarrantable partiality of parents in the unequal distribution of love and affection towards their children; which one would think might convey fome useful reflections to those who come A 2
after them. How many amongst us every day imitate the folly of Jacob, in loving to excess the children of their old age! How few are happy in seeing that fondness so amply repaid as in the example of Joseph. So weak and fo short-lighted is man, that the very means which he makes use of to procure to himself pleasure and satisfaction, are often the visible and only cause of all his trouble and calamity. Thus the love of Ifrael for his son Jofeph, by raising the jea. lousy of his brethren, involved him in that whole series of misfortunes which afterwards befel him. The coat of many colours, which we are told his father had made for him, immediately pointed him out as an object of envy. This mark of superiority might, however, have passed unnoticed and unpunished, had not another far more prevailing diftinca tion alarmed and awakened their animosity. Joseph dreamed a dream: Behold, said he to his brethren, we were binding Sheafs in the field, and lo, my fheaf arose and flood upright; and behold your pheaves siood round about, and made obeisance to my fheaf. There is a remarkable propriety in this dream, which I do not remember to have been observed, and which yet fufficiently appears in the sequel of the story; namely, the visible allusion which the image carries with it to the dearth of corn in Judea: they were binding sheaves in the field, and their fheaves nade obeifance to my sheaf. This dream, we may
observe, demanded no extraordinary capacity in the interpretation of it: the meaning of it was extremely obvious, and could not poffibly be mistaken by them, being no less than a plain and positive prediction of Joseph's future fortune, the superiority which he was born to enjoy over them, and their total submission to him; a circumstance which worldly wisdom (a wisdom he was a stranger to) would doubtless have persuaded him to conceal: he foon, indeed, found reason to repent his unguarded disclosure of it; for, being sent a little time after hy his father on a message of love and friendship to his brethren, to see whether it was well with them and with their flocks, they began to shew their jealousy and hatred of him. Envy, that worst of human pafsions, seized upon them; a passion fo malignant in its nature, that no ties can bind, no laws restrain, no considerations, how powerful soever, soften or controul it. In vain did justice, honour, and piety, plead for an innocent unoffending brother: they considered him ouly in the light of a powerful and dangerous rival, and, as such, were resolved to embrace the first opportunity that offered itself to destroy him : and when they saw him afar off, they conspired against him to flay him ; and they faid one to another, Behold this dreamer cometh; come now therefore and let us pay him, and cast him into some pit; and we will say some evil beast hath devoured him, and we Mall see what will come of his dreams. The bitter farcasm at
the end of this speech sufficiently points out to us the cause of this inhuman resolution, which they would probably have executed without the least remorse, but that one of them felt some compunction of mind, and diffuaded them from it. Reuben, who alone had ftill some remains of affection for his brother said unto them, Sled 119 blood, but caft him into this pit that is in the wilderness: this was, we must acknowledge, a fate scarce milder than that to which he had already been devoted: but Reuben had, it seems, made this proposal with a view of saving Joseph, and delivering him to his father. With this proposal the rest of these unnatural brethren, (however unwillingly) at last complied; and after stripping him of that coat which 'had already given them so much uneasiness, cast him into the pit. Reuben, probably with a design to watch his opportunity of aslifting his unhappy brother, had retired: when a thought struck into the mind of J'idah, on seeing the Ishmaelites coming down from Gilead, that a favourable occasion now presented itself of making every thing sure with regard to themselves, and selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites. To this they unanimously agreed, imagining, no donbt, that by this means they might as effectually prevent the accomplishment of his prediction, as if they had destroyed him; it being highly improbable that a slave in a foreign country should ever, by a reverse of fortune, arrive