« PreviousContinue »
tempests. The deep depravity of his nature is unveiled. He can describe the workings of his inherent pollution only by saying, " Deep calleth unto deep." He is wellnigh overwhelmed; his heart sinks within him; his courage fails. Now to a Christian in such circumstances, how appropriate the promises of all needful
grace and strength! They are like cold water to a thirsty soul. When he reads the declaration of Christ, that his followers “shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand,” it inspires him with new hope and fresh courage. He girds on his armor, and goes forth to the conflict, humbly trusting that, through Christ, he shall yet come off more than conqueror, over sin, and death, and hell. The assured hope of victory does not, as some seem to suppose, paralyze his efforts, and make him resign himself up to sloth. Far from it. It nerves his arm ; quickens his pace; and rouses up all the energies of his soul. Christians in these and similar circumstances have a right to the consolation which flows from this doctrine. It is their peculiar privilege.
In bringing these remarks to a close, let me admonish Christians that they are beset with dangers great and real ; that they have need to watch and pray without ceasing; that they have a great and difficult work to accomplish; and that the evidence of their union with Christ will not be full and complete till the conflict is ended, the victory won. Have you, then, suffered the love of the world, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, to lead you captive ? Have you lost that delightful sense of the Divine presence and favor which you once enjoyed ? Have prayer and secret communion with God become a weariness? Are you running greedily after the riches and honors and pleasures of this fleeting world? Has the fear of man driven you from the post of duty, and made you relinquish what, as a Christian, you could not relinquish without violating your covenant vows ? Then let me tell you, that you have no right to take encouragement from the doctrine of the saints' perseverance in holiness; it does not apply to you: but if there be truth in the Bible, your soul is in danger. Many a poor deluded mortal has suffered shipwreck in the very seas which you are now sailing. Here, too, the foot of many a Christian has slipped, and he has fallen, oh how low! has pierced himself through with many sorrows, and perhaps gone down to the grave in the bitterness of his spirit. Ah! survey these melancholy wrecks. Recollect those which you yourself have witnessed; and remember the solemn admonition, “ Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “ He that endureth to the end shall be saved."
If you are disposed to quiet yourself in your wanderings, on the ground that you were once converted, and shall therefore be saved; there is fearful evidence that you are yet in your sins, and have no part nor lot in the great salvation. Oh, then, rouse up, awake to righteousness, and sin no more. “ Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” For thus saith the Lord, “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.” “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “If we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance : seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Genesis xlv. 28.--And Israel said, it is enough : Joseph my son is yet
alive; I will go and see him before I die.
The same sons who had practised an ingenious falsehood to convince Jacob that Joseph was dead, afterward found it more difficult, by telling the truth, to convince him that Joseph was yet alive, and the governor of all Egypt. There is a natural caution in the human mind against admitting the evidence of a delightful discovery; for the dawn of hope concerning a great benefit awakens fear lest it should fail to be made our own; and the heart vibrates between confidence and diffidence until the evidence is reviewed, and becomes too clear to admit of doubt. While the patriarch listened to the story of his sons, concerning the greatness of Joseph, his heart fainted with doubt; but when he went forth from his tent, and saw the wagons which Joseph had sent, his spirit revived, and he said, " It is enough"-I am satisfied : “Joseph
yet alive." This discovery of Joseph removed from the mind of Jacob a load of grief, which the old man had long sustained, and even cherished with sacred fondness; for his tenderest affections were ever connected with Rachel and Joseph, both of whom had been early taken from him. He had refused to forget them : but now he was comforted. He was sure that Joseph was yet alive, and a man of great power in Egypt, and he prepared for his journey,
But between the departure of Joseph from his father and this discovery of him in Egypt, there was a long and mysterious chasm of which Jacob knew nothing, but which he was anxious to explore. He wished to hear by what marvellous course his son had been preserved alive, and how he
my son is
had made his way to the station he now filled. You may naturally suppose him questioning his sons, whenever they halted in their journey through the wilderness of Arabia, towards the city of the King of Egypt.
His sons knew more of this matter than they wished to relate. They had kept the secret from their father for a long course of years ;
and even now they had no inclination to reveal it. They found themselves in an extremely painful attitude. They were urged by the pressure of famine, and the fear of Joseph, to take their father down to Egypt; but, in doing so, they were sure that their father would learn every thing from his favorite son, and, possibly, they might both turn against the whole family and punish them. Guilt is ever distrustful ; it throws its own shadow on those around, and then fears to confide in them. The guilty brothers were afraid and ashamed to confess their former treachery ; their forced and late repentance might be doubted : and yet they were more afraid of their brother than of their father; therefore they resolved, if possible, to obtain the forgiveness of their father while on the way to Egypt, and to secure him as their mediator with Joseph.
But how shall they break the disgraceful secret? There was one of them who had not consented to their wickedness until it was done. Reuben had intended to deliver Joseph from the pit, and restore him to his father ; though, after he failed in that, he joined with his brethren in the falsehood about finding the bloody garment. He could most safely open the matter to the old man, and plead for his brethren, because he would not be pleading for himself.
But when Jacob knew that Joseph had entered Eg as a slave, it was more than ever mysterious how he had risen to be governor of all the kingdom! There is a melancholy pleasure in reviewing the hardships of our friends, when we see them restored to happiness. The tears shed by Jacob, at the thought of Joseph having been a slave, were mingled with joy, and he was eager to learn the steps of his elevation from slavery to power and honor.
You know the history. But it may not be unprofitable to pause on some points of it, and make the reflections which we may well suppose the father made, as from time to time he listened to the personal narrative of his favorite son.
I. In a few days after leaving his father, Joseph found himself the slave of Potiphar, the captain of the body-guard of the King of Egypt. There was no hope of returning, or of sending, to his father. Now, observe his conduct. Instead of cursing his lot, and yielding to sullen despondency, he at once set himself to make the best of his condition. He applied all his faculties to serve his master, and secure his confidence and kindness. And he was successful. How much happier was he, while rising in his master's esteem by unwearied faithfulness, than his brethren, who were living in luxury, while their father's grief reproached them as often as they saw his face ! Better is slavery in a strange land, with a pure conscience, than liberty and abundance with a guilty mind.
You see, by the conduct of Joseph, that enjoyment can be found in almost any condition, if a man is resolved to accommodate himself to it and improve it. Even hell itself would lose half its terrors, if the possibility and the inclination for improvement and usefulness could there be found. And it is of little importance to the ultimate happiness of life, at how low a point of depression a man begins to improve his condition; for even the worst men find it their interest to employ and reward ability and integrity.
But how came Potiphar to promote Joseph ? The history answers : “ He saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” True piety, religious principle, illustrated by a faithful life, is the best recommendation a youth can offer to one whose confidence he wishes to secure. The youth who enters a city with “ the fear of God before his eyes,” and leads a holy life, is, on that account more likely to be prosperous and happy, than he could possibly be without it.
II. We next find Joseph in temptation, exposed to imminent danger of ruin ; not only enticed under circumstances which promised concealment, but aware that if he declined, he might be ruined in his master's esteem by a false accusation. How true it is, that snares and dangers thicken in the path of promotion and prosperity. They appear in new and unexpected forms, and under fair disguises. They lull suspicion to sleep, they elude all guards but One; and that one stood revealed to Joseph's mind in the hour of his greatest danger, and threw around him that shield of heavenly chastity which averted the shafts of vicious pleasure, and inspired a deep abhorrence of the sin; it was the Holy One, whose voice had called Abraham from his native land; whose blessing was renewed on Isaac; who stood by Jacob's pillow of stones at Bethel, and who now defended Jacob's favorite son from ruin, though he left him to be tried by new suffering in the dungeon of the king's prison.
You see by what power he resisted temptation. The fear of God was before his eyes. “ How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?" He was a pious man. And in the midst of a heathen city, among a vicious and pleasure-loving people, he “ walked with God;" he felt that the Lord was ever about his bed and his path, spying out all his ways, and taking knowledge of the words of his tongue and the thoughts of his heart. This was the power that preserved him. O, how inestimably valuable is this power to a young man, separated from his home, and thrown into the midst of a gay and corrupted city! How manifestly the happiness of a whole family is sometimes suspended on his possessing this holy self-command in the moment of trial ! Such was the case of Joseph, though he knew it not at the time. If this heavenly wisdom dwelt in the breast of all the youth among us, how many fathers would be happy who are now broken-hearted, or filled with anxious care.
III. We next find Joseph in prison. What a strange reward for his faithfulness to his master and his piety to his God! But even in the prison he was not broken by dejection. Though in a much worse condition than at the beginning of his slavery, yet he was not in despair, but immediately applied himself to make the best improvement of it. The keeper of a prison is the last man in the world to confide in those around him. Commitment to prison is a bad recommendation to confidence. But Joseph found the way to his keeper's heart, by making himself useful, and showing faithfulness in all things. Having done all he could to deserve friendship and relief, he waited patiently for the Lord. Bad as his condition was, it was better than that of his guilty brethren; far better than that of his false accuser. The consciousness of suffering wrong, yet suffering patiently, -relying on God for final vindication, is itself the source of more happiness than can ever dwell with a guilty mind in the most favorable circumstances. Years rolled away, and no deliverance came. 6. The chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." But at last, at the very best time, the Lord interposed in a way which left no doubt of his hand being in the work. He showed that “the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, and he turneth it about whithersoever he will." Joseph stands before Pharaoh the approved interpreter, invested with power to govern the kingdom, and second only to the king whose throne he is to support.
IV. Here we are to observe him in a station more trying to his piety and virtue, than any he had before occupied. He might have taken to himself the honor of the interpretation, but he gave it all to God; and therefore God honored him the more. “ Them that honor me, I will honor; but they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” And Pharaoh gave him the significant appellation,-“The man to whom secrets are revealed :" for (said he), “ inasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art; thou shalt be over
The hour of complete triumph to a man who has been wrongfully oppressed, is the most dangerous hour of his life. If there is any lurking malice in his heart, that is the time for it to break out and disgrace him. Potiphar and his treacherous wife were now in the power of Joseph ; he could have degraded or destroyed them; but he was too pious, and too happy, and too well employed, to take even the trouble to render them more contemptible than their own feelings must have made them, as often as they saw him. It was now in his power to have avenged himself on his cruel brethren. He could have commissioned, perhaps, the same company of Ishmaelites who brought him into Egypt, to return through Padan-Aram and destroy their flocks, and rob them of their silver and gold, and murder them, or carry them off and sell them for slaves. But he thought too much of the providence of God, and too much of his early dream, and he loved his father's house too well to yield to the suggestions of revenge. And doubtless he had it in his heart to make himself known to his family, whenever he should see his affairs in Egypt in such a state as to render it expedient. But before