Page images
PDF
EPUB

and consequently he was still left in the same darkness as before upon that which he most wished to hear. But when Judah afterwards proceeded to a minute and circumstantial detail of the whole course of their proceedings with their father, and all the grief their father had felt, and all the anguish their father still endured, and all the despair with which the detention of the lad would overwhelm the decaying strength and declining days of their father, the case was then completely altered. In every part of Judah's statement, the existence of his father was taken for granted, in every argument Jacob's unabated love for Joseph and for Benjamin was implied, and in every sentence his sorrow. was painted and his death foreboded, if Benjamin were retained : and all these things were so urged as to defy incredulity. It was impossible to resist the conviction of truth so told, and, “Doth my father yet live," seems to have been the last expiring effort of difficulty and doubt. The assertion of his father being "yet alive,” now came in such an unquestionable shape, that it would have been criminal any longer to resist the fact. There remained, therefore, but the three following courses of conduct to pursue: to release Benjamin out of his sight; or to run the risk of shortening his father's days; or to discover himself at once to his whole family, and send them

down to Jacob the harbingers of joy. To a feeling and affectionate mind like that of Joseph, no time was required for deliberation. He bowed to the law of circumstances and confessed himself, "And he said unto his brethren, I am Joseph. Haste

ye
and

go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, and I will nourish thee, lest thou and thy household, and all that thou hast come to poverty.”

Thus have we endeavoured at once to vindicate and explain the conduct of Joseph in his conduct to his brethren. We have shewn against the enemy of revelation that none of his proceedings originated either in resentment or caprice, and defended him to the best of our power from the misapprehensions of those divines who would represent his motives to have been a desire of retribution or effect.

At the same time we have endeavoured to point out the principles by which we conceive him to have been really guided, and to prove that in every thing he acted as in every thing a wise man would wish to act; in a manner always natural, and always dictated and regulated by the circumstances

which occurred. For this purpose we have followed him through each successive interview and each successive artifice, and found in all, the marks of an understanding spirit and the best moral virtues, of filial piety and fraternal affection, of a forgiving disposition, and a feeling heart. But there is an excellency in man yet brighter and more honourable than any of these, and that is the power of religion in the soul, a habit of looking up to God in every thing, and through every thing to God: and this quality stands particularly conspicuous in the character of the Patriarch. His whole life had been one continued illustration of the mysterious ways of Providence to man. He had dreamt of pre-eminence, and his dreams had been fulfilled, and yet in a manner so wonderful, as just to reverse the poet's words, and teach us that there is a power above us, and about us, which can make the paths of the very grave to lead to glory. He had dreamt that his whole family, the Sun, the Moon and Stars of Israel's domestic sphere, should bow down in obeisance before him ; and we are told that he remembered these dreams, and thus acknowledged God's power and providence, in the very first moment of his brethren's appearance as his suppliants in Egypt. Yet the dream was then but half accomplished, and much more, therefore, would he remember those

“foregone conclusions," when he found them answered almost to the very letter, by the conviction that his father yet lived indeed, yet loved him indeed, and would yet see, and, of course, bow before his princely glory. He then felt, he then expressed his sense of the wonderworking hand that guides us all unseen. He then acknowledged and he then proclaimed that it was the Lord who had made him a ruler in the land and the lord in Egypt. "God,” said he,

hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and God hath made me a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” But why had God made him thus? A less humble heart would have attributed it to the recompence of his own righteousness, to his resistance of temptation, or the wisdom of his ways. An understanding less exercised in meditations upon the workings of Providence, would have thought it enough to trace it to his youthful dreams, and say that thus God's omnipotence had fulfilled what his omniscience had declared. But why had God sent those dreams, and to what purpose had his wisdom so framed his decrees, as to crown Joseph alone with this honour and renown? This was the question which the Patriarch revolved within himself, and we have his answer in the text. “And he said, Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before

you to preserve life. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save you by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither but God.” It would be difficult to say whether his kindness or his piety is more eminent in these words. Upon his kindness, however, I will not dwell. It is beside my present purpose, and each man's heart may be left to appreciate the consolation, yet the anguish which such mercy, and such meekness, and such unmerited forgiveness must have brought home to the wounded and repentant sons of Jacob. But with his piety we are more nearly concerned, and remarkable indeed is the spirit of penetration into the divine counsels, and of reliance on the divine promises, and of esteem for divine privileges which his declaration betrays. A common mind would have thought Pharaoh and his house the objects of God's care in the wonderful provision which was made to meet the coming famine, and that Joseph had been raised up to be an especial blessing to the Egyptian. Joseph himself looked deeper into Providence, and saw in the whole the power of the Almighty stretched forth to save his father's race principally, if not alone in the dispensation, and touched and subdued by the sense of the present Deity, he said, “God sent me before you serve you a posterity in the earth, and to save

to pre

« PreviousContinue »