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was the discipline through which he should have become qualified to rule in due time over Pharaoh's house, and to "teach his senators wisdom?" And when, in the bitter anguish of his spirit, poor old Jacob said to his sons, "Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me," who would not have sympathized with him, or who would not have been very reluctant at least to blame him, when he added, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befal him by the way in which ye go, then shall ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave?" But yet, out of all these seemingly jarring elements, out of so many conflicting interests and ill designs, out of so much folly and ignorance, and envy and hatred, and malice and lust, and revenge and pride, and avarice, and regards of men each to his own concerns, irrespectively either of his brethren or of God; out of these things, cemented and knit together into mutual relations and dependencies; through such a multitude of little unnoticeable accidents as an old man making a fine coat for his favourite child, a great man quarrelling with his butler and his baker; out of such things, I say, what did God produce! And what would Jacob, and Joseph, and his brethren, and their families, and Egypt and Canaan, and the neighbouring nations, and the Church, and the whole world have lost, if, when man had cast the lot into the lap, the whole disposing thereof had not been of the Lord"! If his eyes had not been in every place beholding the evil and the good; if a sparrow could have fallen from the house-top without Him; if any thing could have been done and He not the doer of it; if his kingdom ruled not over all; if He were not good to all, and his tender mercies over all his works: Jacob then had been indeed bereaved, and Joseph murdered, whilst his brethren would have died in sin, and famine would have destroyed the na
7 See Prov. xvi. 33.
tions, and the Lord's people would not have become a nation: whereas, instead, all things did in fact work together for good, for time and for eternity. The patriarchs lived and died in peace; Joseph's sons had Jacob's blessing; the whole family dwelt at ease in Goshen, blessed, and a blessing to the Egyptians. That generation died in faith, seeing the promises afar off, and rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. Their posterity were kept together, apart from idolatry; and when at length they had multiplied exceedingly, God made them stronger than their enemies, and brought them out by a great deliverance, and made them a light of the world, and raised up from among them kings and priests, and saints and prophets, glorious examples of faith and piety, holding forth the word of life, till Christ came of their seed at last, "made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons
My Brethren, that is a wise prayer of David's, “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man";" and a wiser still is that which our Lord hath put into our mouths, "Thy will be done, O God, in earth as it is in heaven '." My Brethren, our good God has made the way of duty very plain; and so doing, if ye can receive it, He has made the way of comfort as plain. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and serve Him with all thy strength: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, and do unto all men as thou wouldest they should do unto thee. Looking to the past, thou shalt repent and be converted, that thy sins may be blotted out; and looking to the future, thou shalt believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and having such an high priest, come boldly to the throne of grace, to seek mercy in his name, and obtain grace to help in time of need. This done, thou hast no more to do, for events are God's, and "the eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms 2." He will not suffer thy foot to
8 Gal. iv. 4, 5.
9 2 Sam. xxiv. 14.
be moved, for He that keepeth thee will not slumber. He will not suffer thee to be tempted above that thou art able, but will with the temptation make a way to escape that thou mayest be able to bear it. A thousand may fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee, except it is to be overruled for good. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. And all things are for thy sake, yea all things thine, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are thine, if thou be Christ's, for Christ is God's. Then be careful for nothing; whereinsoever thou art called, there abide with God. You cannot see how God is working for you; neither could Joseph, whilst the work went on; but he believed, and so may you. All his trials yielded afterwards the peaceable fruits of righteousness, when he had been exercised thereby; and so shall yours; his sufferings, were the strong meat by which his soul was fed; and so shall yours be, if Providence calls you to them; his comforts, which came afterwards, brought him nearer still to God; and so shall yours, if you will see God's hand in them. Your circumstances may not resemble his, but trials you must go through; and his history is applicable, and was written for your instruction under them, proving to you that whatsoever they are they may be turned to profit, because He who permits and orders them, is "the same yesterday, to day, and for ever 3." "In whatsoever state ye are therefore, be therewith content." The wise will not wish for change. Believe only with the great Apostle, that ye can do all things through Christ strengthening you, and then with him also ye shall know how to be abased, and how to abound; every where, and in all things, ye shall be instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, and therefore to go on your way rejoicing.
3 Heb. xiii. 8.
See Phil. iv. 11-13.
GEN. xxxix. 9.
"How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" I HAVE before discoursed to you on the history of Joseph and his brethren, and I then considered the whole narrative as illustrating the doctrine of Divine Providence. I intend now to draw some instructions for practice, from consideration of the personal behaviour of the parties named.
There is frequently a grand turning point in the lives of men, when their conduct, in a particular transaction, appears to determine all their future fortunes. So it very clearly was with Joseph, from the account we have of his behaviour under a special temptation. Had he fallen on that occasion, the remainder of his history might have been very different. But the high honour and eminence to which he came in due time took their rise from his faithful dealing then, and from the victory which he obtained through God's grace.
Joseph was intended for a great work. He was to be God's instrument for preserving the lives of the whole posterity of Jacob, now increased to about seventy persons, and for the settling of them in a
situation where they might be kept together apart from idolatry, till the time should be come for giving them possession of Canaan. In order to this, God had permitted the envy of Joseph's brethren to take its course so far as to occasion his being sold as a bondservant into Egypt; but He would not suffer a hair of his head to perish. The Ishmaelites who had bought him of his brethren, sold him again when they arrived in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of the king's guard. And now the Lord proceeded to discipline and train him further for what he was to come to in due season. In very early life Joseph had received great grace, and had brought forth the fruits of grace very hopefully; and though this had not procured for him the good-will of men, it must have been very manifest to himself that God had not forsaken him, and others also were soon made to see the same. Potiphar became in a short time so sensible, not only of Joseph's diligence and fidelity, and capacity for business, but also of his being specially blessed by the Almighty, that he made him overseer of his house. From this time the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and this was so evident, that Potiphar absolutely resigned to him the charge of all his affairs, so that he himself knew not aught that he had, save the bread that he did eat. Joseph therefore had now a measure of Divine acceptance, which called for many thanksgivings, and must have compensated him, in no mean degree, for the envy and ill-will of his own flesh and blood.
But whilst things were in this condition, that befel Joseph which had befallen his forefather Abraham; when he also, being in a state of separation from his kindred, had been blessed with manifest tokens of Divine love. God did tempt, or make trial of Joseph. He did not indeed Himself lay any special command upon him; or require his surrender of any thing which might lawfully be very dear to him; but permitting one, whom Joseph had to do with, to follow the desires of her own evil mind, He so ordered the matter in his providence, that the same question which had been put