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elation of spirit, prompting to daring and generous deeds, but marked with precipitation and haughtiness. During his forty years' exile, his pride was subdued, his zeal was tempered by self-command, he was qualified for interposing between the haughty tyrant and the helpless victims of his oppression; and
the man Moses was meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Vanity appears to have been the vice to which Joseph was most addicted, or under the dominion of which he was in the greatest danger of falling. His personal beauty, his early endowments, the dreams of future glory which haunted his pillow, his father's partiality, and even his brethren's envy, had all a tendency to feed a passion so natural to the youthful breast. Had it not been checked, who can say into what follies, or even vices, it would have betrayed him ? If he had been suddenly raised to honour, or had he fallen into the hands of artful and interested flatterers, the counsellor of Pharaoh might have turned out a courtly coxcomb, and the favourite son of Jacob a spoilt child of larger growth. But the sore and repeated humiliations he met with not only mortified but subdued his vanity, so that when he was exalted in due time, he was able to bear all the honours heaped on him with meek and humble dignity, not for personal ostentation, but to the glory of God and the good of mankind.
It is one of the greatest proofs of the advantages resulting from sanctified affliction, that it sometimes produces such a change on the temper and dispositions of a man, as to render it extremely difficult to discover the vice to which he was originally inclined. To those who had known Moses only from the time that he undertook the conduct of Israel, what a surprise must it have been when they witnessed him at Rephidim smiting the rock violently, and crying, “ Hear, ye rebels ; must we bring you water from the rock ?” Ahl that was a flash, produced by a sudden temptation reaching, in an unguarded moment, the remains of an old fire, long smothered, but not yet extinct.
III. Affliction, while it purifies and strengthens the higher, serves to improve the softer qualities of the mind. To fit a person for great deeds, he must possess the hardy virtues of patience and constancy, and the nobler qualities of disinterested devotion to the public, and an independence of mind raising him above the mastery of external circumstances. Without these there can be no patriotism, sacred or secular. Not to tax your patience, I shall confine the illustration to one of the qualities mentioned, which, in its pure and unalloyed state, is more precious than the gold of Uphaz. Selfishness is one of the most subtle principles in our nature, and appears under a great variety of modifications. It is not so difficult to find persons who are elevated above the servile fear of danger, and the sordid love of gain ; but how rare the man of whom it can be truly said, that he is “good without show, above ambition great!” The storm which overtook the fugitive prophet, and engulfed him in a living grave, set him free from the fear of man, but not from that selfishness which led him to conceive a mortal chagrin at the supposed discredit reflected on his ministry by the clemency of heaven. To purify their minds from this alloy, Providence causes its elect ones to pass through the furnace of affliction, and it is not until they have suffered a series of keen disappointments, and humiliating reverses, that, extricated from “ the last infirmity of noble souls,” they mount to the region of pure and disinterested benevolence. Repeatedly baulked, as Joseph was, in their most sanguine hopes, stript of all in which they boasted, cut off from all whom they loved, and cast off by all in whom they confided ; deserted, betrayed, persecuted; they are made to feel the vanity and deceitfulness of the world, and their souls are disenchanted and disenthralled from its fairest and most fascinating allurements. Its applause is as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal to him who has experienced its hollowness and insincerity. Its sweetest incense is insipid, yea nauseous, to him who has seen it lavished on the most worthless, or who has himself felt its intoxicating and deleterious effects. Shall he court or feed upon the airy, light, inconstant, deceitful, polluted breath of public favour, whose heart yet aches from the reproaches with which it has been broken--whose face still reddens with the recollection of the shame which covered it-whose best actions have been calumniated—his purest motives misrepresented and his most unfeigned professions branded as hypocrisy and a lie? O, no ! his soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler, and is already in mid-heaven, and, still looking upward, scents celestial odours, and seeks the honour that cometh from God only. But sanctified affliction, while it raises the person
above all that is low and earthy in his motives, does not incapacitate him for acting his part on earth, or for mingling with suffering and erring mortals. He comes out of tribulation a nobler being, but still a human being. It has taught him that he is a man, and to look upon nothing that flesh is heir to as foreign or indifferent to him. While it hardens the soul to virtue, it softens the heart and melts it to pity and love. In this manner was Joseph qualified for being the almoner to the famished Egyptians, the protector of his brethren, and the tender nurse of his aged parent. He “knew the heart of a stranger," and what it was to be in straits, and suspected, and falsely accused, and treated as a felon; and, therefore, he felt sensitively and strongly for such as were in these circumstances. This appears from the whole of his conduct to his unnatural brothers, but from no part of it so much as that which succeeded the burial of Jacob; when, dreading that, after that event, he might resent their former cruelty to him, they sent a deputation to him to say that their father, before his decease, had charged them, in his name, to beg forgiveness of their trespass. “Joseph wept when they spake unto him.” The drops that fell from his eyes at this time were more precious indications of a tender heart than all the tears with which he bedewed the necks of his brethren when he made himself known to them. Ah ! my brethren, you know not that you now wound my heart more deeply than did all your unkindness at Dothan. Forgive your trespass ? That I cannot now do. It was done long ago; and the deed was ratified on that day when, unknown to you, I listened to your penitential confession, since which time the trace of the offence has not passed across my remembrance except in thanksgivings to Him who over-ruled it for good to me and to you. So saying, he “comforted his brethren, and spake kindly to them.” And as he did so; his “ stern rugged Nurse”* dropped a tear on her favourite child, and she turned not aside to hide it.
But, my friends, I would have given you a partial view of the character of Joseph, and concealed one important element that enters into the characters of all who belong to the same class, unless I added, as I now do,
In the last place—that sanctified adversity produces strong confidence in God. We find Joseph, from the first time he is introduced to our notice, acting under the influence of the fear of God; but this filial fear grew, in the course of his trials, into unshaken confidence in the favour and help of the Almighty. He had been in deaths oft; but he who had shown him great and sore troubles, quickened him again, and brought him again from “the depths of the earth.” The depth of the distresses into which he was plunged had the effect of disengaging him from the vain confidence which he was apt to place in himself or in other men ; the height of his deliverances confirmed his confidence in that divine arm which had been so visibly displayed in his behalf. To this we find the venerable patriarch referring when he poured his dying benediction on the head of Joseph, and the crown of the head of him that was separated from his brethren :-“ The archers sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him ; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, who kept watch around the stone of Israel.”
It is this high but well-grounded confidence which has raised the characters of those illustrious men whose names are enrolled in the inspired records or in the pages of the faithful history of the church, who have done, and dared, and suffered, and sacrificed so much for the honour of God and the best interests of mankind.
Gray's Ode to Adversity.
This divine principle is the basis upon which are reared that patience, and constancy, and fortitude, and courage, and magnanimity which have risen above all Greek, above all Roman fame. It imparts to those who possess it a strength of mind beyond that which constitutionally belongs to them. It arms them with omnipotence itself; for, in every thing to which they are called, they are “ strong in the Lord and the power of his might.” And though clothed with humility, and ready to acknowledge they are nothing, yet through Christ strengthening them they can do, and dare, and suffer every thing for the glory of God and the salvation of men. Such were those “ who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” * And such was he who
first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.- Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” f
From this subject we may see
1. One way in which Providence authenticates the call of its chosen ministers. It is not enough to warrant a person to undertake a public service, especially of an arduous and extraordinary kind, nor is it enough to warrant others to countenance him in undertaking it, that he feels a strong inclination to the work. This, allowing that it proceeds from the purest motives, may be enthusiastic, or founded on a very mistaken estimate of his gifts. There is a course of preparation which persons must go through to fit them for the occupation to which they are destined; and that is the completest course which is practical as well as didactic. Luther, no doubt with a special regard to the circumstances of his own time, but not exclusively, makes one of the three qualifications for a preacher of the gospel to be temptation, an art which is not to be acquired in any college or hall of divinity. The advocates of the papacy were accustomed to press the reformers on the le
* Heb. xi. 33, 34.
† 2 Tim. iv. 16, 17.