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son; and now it seemed as if his blood cried from the earth for vengeance. The very tidings which gladden the hearts of hundreds in the land are as daggers to his soul. The fabric which he had daubed with untempered mortar falls at once into ruin before the report that a great prophet has appeared, and he, who but a day before had dismissed from his bosom the fear of retribution, exclaims, in an agony of alarm 6 This is John whom I beheaded.” Ahab, in like manner, following the counsel of a woman yet more worthless than himself, gets possession of Naboth's vineyard. Its rightful owner is falsely accused, unrighteously condemned, and cruelly put to death. The king goes down to the inheritance of the murdered man, and imagines that he has nothing more to do than enjoy it in peace. He bids care and remorse be gonemanticipates high satisfaction from the field so unrighteously acquired, and sees nothing before him but undisturbed enjoyment. Elijah, the prophet, however, faces him unexpectedly there. The king's countenance changes, and his heart fails him for fear. The ghost of the murdered man seems to stand before him, and to the prophet, whose presence called it up, he can but stammer forth the bitter exclamation, “ Hast thou found me, O! mine enemy." And thus, too, the brethren of Joseph are, by the unlooked for adversity which befel them, brought to a quick and painful consciousness of bygone sin. True, indeed, they were innocent of the political crime with which the governor of the land charged them ;-as far as that was concerned, they suffered without cause. But there was another crime, far worse and more highly aggravated, for which
they now felt they deserved to suffer. Their sin had now at length found them out, and it could not be complained of that, as they had formerly plotted mischief against the innocent, they should, though clear in the matter at present imputed to them, be dealt with by the governor as offenders. How could they now appeal with boldness either to Justice or to Mercy, who had on that memorable occasion shown themselves so inaccessible to the demands of both ? What wonder that a stranger treated them so sternly, when they, to their own brother, had proved so heartless ? That man who now spake so roughly to them might have peculiar reasons of his own for entertaining suspicion of them ; reasons which, though quite unsatisfactory, might yet be natural enough. But it had not been so with them in the day of Joseph's calamity. They knew well his meek and amiable nature; they had no shadow of reason to distrust him ; they had, on the contrary, every conceivable reason to respect his candour and love his simplicity of heart. Though guiltless, therefore, of bad designs against the governor of Egypt, they had been “verily guilty" of a far more atrocious offence, and it seemed as if the day of retribution were now come.
Let not the sinner seek to flatter himself into the persuasion that this is an extraordinary case. To every deliberate transgressor of his laws, the Almighty hath said, Be sure your sin shall find you out. A man may indeed bribe conscience to a temporary quiet; but this will not always do ; sooner or later it will awake for vengeance, and give him practically to understand that there can be no solid peace to the wicked. Has he wronged his neighbour, and at length forgotten the
injustice? In the day of his own adversity, conscience will suggest to him, as to Joseph's brethren, that he has been “verily guilty.” Has he, by following the counsel that caused to err, turned the joy of his mother into bitterness, or brought down the grey hairs of a religious father with sorrow to the grave ? The conviction will disturb his midnight slumbers in an hour when he thinketh not; and, when called upon to follow them to the house appointed for all living, will it be as if a voice issued from the tomb, saying, Hast thou not hurried us hither? Has he seduced a fellowcreature from the paths of virtue to those of immorality and shame; and, after many a long year, has the base deed almost escaped the memory of the neighbourhood where he dwells ? yet will his own dying bed be rendered uneasy with the remembrance, and it will be as if he heard the Judge standing by the side of it, saying, Now must the blood of that ruined maiden be demanded at thy hands. Has he lived in the habitual neglect of God's worship, and, in the face of solemn warnings, cast off all serious apprehensions ? yet will the days of sickness come, and with them an accusing angel to remind him of opportunities lost, of talents abused, and of counsel set at nought. Truly, as Bishop Hall has observed, “nothing doth so powerfully call home the conscience as affliction, neither doth there need any other art of memory for sin besides misery.” It is well for men when their convictions of guilt, thus awakened by adversity, terminate in the repentance which needeth not to be repented of, and not in that sorrow of the world which worketh death.
But alas ! how often is it otherwise! How often
is the subsequent behaviour of those who, for a while, have been seriously affected, an awful commentary upon the statement of scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked! You shall see men in the world whose self-complacency frequently goes and comes. The last agonies of a neighbour's death-bed do sometimes, when they stand by, awaken within their minds a presentiment of their own mortality, and, when they assemble to convey him to his long home, and witness at his grave the execution of the universal sentence, Dust to dust, they do, for a moment feel themselves interested in the solemnities of death, and cannot help the conviction that ere long, other men shall assemble round their own graves, and, the last offices being performed, leave them to silence and forgetfulness, even as they themselves are about to go to their business and their homes. When the tale of some sudden calamity is told them in reference to others whom they have intimately known, they are made for a moment to apprehend as if there were but a step between themselves and death; or, when they sit under a moving sermon upon righteousness and judgment to come, like Felix, they for an instant tremble and acknowledge it to be an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. These solemnities of feeling do often, nevertheless, disappear with the occasions that excited them, and no more influence the ordinary affections of the heart than the fall of a leaf into the stream can alter or suspend the course of its waters. How frequently, too, in the sick chamber have we seen men determining that if their days should be prolonged, they would spend them after another fashion-crying mightily
unto God that he would spare them to recover strength -and calling the beds on which they lay to witness that if he did, they would never be unmindful of his mercy! And yet did not their resolutions wax fainter as their frame grew stronger, and, turning in a great measure to their old ways, did they not forget alike the dispensation which awoke their fears and the obligations to amendment with which they bound themselves ? Alas! the gourd, which grows up one night and perishes the next, is but too faint an emblem of of the heart's fickleness. The meteor that flashes through the midnight sky is scarce more evanescent than the resolutions and purposes of man.
It should be remembered, however, that if serious convictions are let slip, it would have been better never to have felt them. It was not an alleviation, but an aggravation of the guilt of Felix, for example, that he once felt upon his spirit the power of a world to come. Better would it have been for him that he had never heard the great apostle of righteousness, and never been impressed to terror with his statements, than having heard, and having been impressed, to harden his heart again in the wickedness which he, for an instant, felt to be so perilous. Thus it would have been with Joseph's brethren, had they gone their way without cherishing the convictions awakened in their bosoms. Better that they had never experienced them at all, if they had proved only like the morning cloud and the early dew ;-and so, too, reader, will it be with you, if, instead of keeping alive your apprehensions of danger till they terminate, with God's grace, in thorough reformation, you allow them to disappear with the reason that excited them. Be it