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"All these things are against me."—Genesis xlii. 36
So thought Jacob when informed of Simeon's imprisonment, and given to understand that nothing but the parting with Benjamin could effect his liberation. What with Joseph's loss, Simeon's detention in Egypt, and the likelihood, as to him it seemed, of Benjamin's removal, he found himself in deep distress, and hastily concluded that there was some design in Providence to work out the ruin of his house; but in this he was mistaken. All these things were intended for his good, and turned out so in the end. The sale of Joseph (a matter as yet unknown to him) was so managed by Divine Providence as to save himself and many otheis alive in time of dearth. The detention of Simeon was the means (who can doubt it?) of bringing that once unmerciful youth to repentance for his cruelty; and this was better for himself and Jacob too in the end, than if he had been dismissed with the rest of his brethren, to lead a life of thoughtlessness, or to feel the anguish of remorse only when it might be too late to profit by it. The removal of Benjamin, likewise, for a season from his presence was to be, though he knew it not, the occasion of his being again restored to that beloved child whose supposed death he had lamented so passionately and mourned so long. Ignorance of the Divine purposes blinded his judgment to the true merits of the case before him; and so, although every circumstance was contributing to his future good, he, with a natural, perhaps, but certainly unjustifiable peevishness, exclaimed, " All these things are against me."
A little more reflection might have taught the Patriarch that the behaviour of the Egyptian Governor was not altogether so inexplicable as he had at first imagined. Egypt, he might have considered, was chiefly liable to invasion from that quarter whence his sons pretended to have come. It had already, if history can be depended on, suffered much from a colony of shepherds, who, not without great difficulty were at length expelled from it; and, as all the neighbouring countries were now oppressed with famine, while it alone was in the enjoyment of plenty, there was much, he might have considered, to awaken the Governor's suspicions. The confinement of Simeon, therefore, might, for aught he knew to the contrary, be expedient on political grounds. At all events, it was premature to pronounce positively as yet upon the issue. Jacob's fears, however, got the better, in the meantime, of all such considerations. Who can wonder at it? or who that knows what a parent's heart is can fail to discern in this, the excess of his passion, the workings of a kind and amiable nature?
The mistake into which Jacob fell is far from being a rare one among the children of God. One affliction after another befals them; one wound being healed, a second is inflicted; one painful bereavement is succeeded by another, it may be, yet more severe. The clouds return again after the rain, and life is almost a succession of sorrows. In such painful circumstances their minds are perplexed within them, and, like the Patriarch of old, they exclaim, "All these things are against us." Yet are the very calamities which they deplore working out, although they know it not, their real good. The time, too, will come when they themselves shall be made to see and acknowledge this. How often have aged saints, on looking back over all the way by which the Lord their God led them, seen cause to rejoice on those very events and circumstances which at one time they thought almost too much for them to bear. And surely, if it is so even upon this side of heaven, we may reasonably suppose that it will be much more so there, inasmuch as a deeper insight shall be gained into the plans and purposes of Providence; more accurate conceptions formed of what is fit and right; more comprehensiveness of judgment to embrace the schemes of mercy and perfect willingness of heart to acquiesce in them. Then shall all mists of error and prejudice be dispelled; the authority of Truth shall be paramount; and the once-bewildered intellect shall repose undoubtingly on the bosom of Infinite Mercy. It will then appear to every happy soul that the methods taken were precisely those which best corresponded with its nature; that the discipline which it most complained of was that for which it had greatest reason to be thankful; and that the heaviest strokes which fell upon it were but designed to mould it into such a form of beauty as might harmonise with the glorious building of which it is a part. Here, because good men know only in part, they say "All these things are against us." Then, because that which is in part is done away, they readily and cheerfully acknowledge, "All was well and wisely ordained." One tear or pang the less would have taken from the fulness of their joy. It is seen, and thankfully owned, . that to have been spared any particular trial of which they complained would not have been truly desirable, and the statement of the inspired apostle is fully understood that " The light afflictions which are but for a moment, work out a great and eternal weight of glory."
Complain not, then, ye children of God, that now ye are in heaviness through manifold tribulations. Say not that the darkest passages of your history are either significant of the divine displeasure, or that they shall ultimately be disadvantageous to yourselves. It may be distressing enough to see your fairest prospects blighted, and your dearest attachments broken; but even then God has better things in store for you, and, if you but wait patiently, he will bring them to pass. "It is against us," you say, when your riches take to themselves wings and flee from you as an eagle towards heaven. Not so, however, if thus your hearts are disengaged from things precarious in their nature, and you are more disposed in consequence to prize the treasures which moth cannot corrupt nor thieves destroy. "It is against us," you say, when the friend on whom you had depended proves faithless to his promises, and abandons you when you most need his aid. Not so, however, if thus you were taught the useful lesson of withdrawing your confidence from man and placing it in God, whose promises are exceeding precious. Better, surely, that you should be undeceived in time, than that you should go down to the grave with a lie on the right hand. Better that you should know how frail the reed of Egypt is while you are yet in the land of peace, than that it should go into your hands and pierce them only when you pass through the swellings of Jordan, and no physician is in view to heal the wound. "It is against us," you say, when you are left to languish for months or years in the confinement of a sick chamber, shut out from the pleasures of active life, and prevented from following the labours of your calling. Not so, however, if thus you are made more capable of sympathising with the griefs and pains of others, if you are brought to meditate more seriously than you did in days of health upon the great end of your being, and if the sickness of the body is rendered instrumental in working out the recovery of the soul. "It is against us," you say, when one tie after another that you deemed sacred is broken by the hand of death, when the desire of your eyes is taken from you, and the little ones whom you held so dear are made to fall like flowers before the nipping blast. Not so, however, if thereby you are drawn closer to your God and Saviour; if thus your heart is dispossessed of its idols, and you are induced to think more of that heaven in which the buds of promise, that were blasted here, shall revive to bloom eternally. No, verily, if you are the children of God, all these things are for you. The discipline may be harsh, but it is salutary. The draught may be bitter, but the taking of it is health. But a little while and you shall be made to acknowledge that in righteousness, in faithfulness, and in mercy, the Lord thus dealt