Imatges de pàgina

the administration of affairs being entirely in his hands. And Joseph's brethren came, says the scripture, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. How visible is the finger of God in this whole transaction! how doth it verify the observation of the inspired writer in the words of my text, that the Lord was with Joseph, directing every incident, and guiding every event towards the increase of his honour, and the advancement of his happiness. Those who had, so cruelly and despitefully used him, are now intreating his favour, and suing for his protection (they bowed themselves down before him.) Thus, by a train of extraordinary circumstances, sufficiently pointing out the interposition of Divine Providence, was the prophetic dream of Joseph miraculously fulfilled: His brethren bowed down before him; those cruel and unnatural brethren, who imagined they had reduced him to the lowest state of servitude, were now suppliant at his feet, relying entirely on his will, and totally dependent on his bounty. And this, my brethren, is a triumph which frequently awaits, even in this world, on the good and virtuous. Those who have persecuted and oppressed others, are, by the providence of God, which fo ordains it, obliged, by a reverse of fortune, to repent of their ill treatment, and to bow down before those they have injured. Such may ever be the fate of the proud and cruel, who persecute and op


press; and such it undoubtedly will be, either in this life, or in that which is to come. We are told, Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him. It is, indeed, scarce probable, that after so long an absence, his person, circumstances, name, every thing fo altered, they could have recollected him; and it is almost as improbable, all things considered, that he should not remember them. He who inflicts the wound, may never think of it after it is given; but he who receives, will

generally carry with him such impressions of it, as cannot easily be forgotten. At such a time, what must have been the emotions, the tender feelings, and situation of such a heart as Joseph's! Love and fear, surprize and astonishment; all those mingled passions at once surrounding him, how wonderful was his presence of mind on the occasion! He was resolved to delay the discovery of himself to a more proper opportunity; he assumes fufpicions therefore which he had not, the better to conceal those which he had ; and told them that they were spies, come to see the nakedness of the land; a supposition which, if we consider the situation of the country, might be admitted with the utmost propriety, as that part of Egypt, which bordered on Canaan, and that only, laid open to invasion, so that they mighî have taken this opportunity of seeing whether famine had so reduced Egypt, as to render her an easy prey to an ambitiolis neighbour. This suspicion naturally pro


duced that explanation which Joseph wanted; when they replied to it, that they were all Sons of one father; a circumstance sufficient to convince him that they came on no bad de. sign, as it would have been highly absurd to imagine that any one man would send all his family on so hazardous an enterprize. He then questions them severely about their younger brother, and threatens to keep them all there till he came. His most folicitous enquiry after his favourite Benjamin, gives us indeed room to imagine that Joseph strongly suspected them of some unfair practices with regard to him. He might well, indeed, suppose, that the same cruel dispoGition of which he had himself felt the fatal effects, might have prompted them to some attack on his life also : he insists, therefore, on their fetching him immediately, and in the mean time orders them into strict confinement.

A treatment thus apparently severe had the effect which might be expected; it filled them immediately with reflections which they had not for a long time entertained. It was now above thirteen years since they had fold Joseph into Egypt, and during all that time they had, perhaps, never thought about him : but they were now themselves on the point of being reduced to the same state, and on the same spot too, even in the land of Egypt. Every thing conspired to call to their minds the heinousefs of their


offence, and to point out the justice of the impending punishment; and they said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguis of his soul when he befought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. Nothing could be more striking, or more natural, than this reflection. But affliction is, indeed, the best of masters : when misfortune comes upon ourselves, then, and seldom till then, do we begin to feel for the calamities of others. Whilst fortune and friends smile upon us, whilst pleasure delights, lux. ury allures, and prosperity enervates, the conscience is lulled into forgetfulness, the mind grows remiss and negligent of her duty, the heart loses all its sympathetic tenderness, and becomes insensible to the feel. ings of humanity ; but no sooner is the wholesome draught of affliction administered, than the soul awakens from its lethargy, the voice of conscience is loud and clamorous, and the heart is again alive to every tender and delicate sensation : then we begin to look back on our past actions, and when we are reproached from within, cry out with Joseph's brethren, we have been guiliy, and therefore is this distress come upon

been very

[ocr errors]

Whilft virtue remains to comfort, and innocence to support us, there are very few dangers that can affright, very few calamities that can totally depress the heart; whilft,


on the other hand, nothing so much increases terror as guilt; nothing so much heightens and aggravates misfortune as the conscious. ness of having deserved it. Joseph was fold to llavery, and sent to prison : his honour and integrity, the inward complacency and satisfaction always attendant on the pure and uncorrupted mind, enabled him to bear his sufferings with firmness and intrepidity : but when his brethren were in trouble, guilt enhanced their sorrow, and augmented their punishment.

Can we not then, from this circumstance, draw an useful admonition to ourselves ? Should not their example alarm our self-love, excite our compassion, and open our hearts to a proper feeling of the diftreffes of our fellow-creatures ? When the poor and destitute cry to us for succour, when the fick and the afflicted folicit our aid and protection, let us listen to their prayers, give ear to their complaints, and endeavour to relieve them; and, above all, let us be kindly-affectioned to those of our own houshold. Let no illfounded jealousy and animofities be suffered to loosen the bonds of nature, or break the ties of kindred and relation; always remembering, that if we are cruel, hard-hearted, cold and insensible to others, we must expest, in our turn, to find them one day the Tame towards us : that affifiance which we will not lend we may be obliged to borrow, and be denied that pity which we refuse to

« AnteriorContinua »