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The words of Joseph, on being told over to him, assured his mind; and, more than all, those waggons which had been sent to convey him and his effects to Egypt put the matter beyond a doubt. “ Then Israel said, It is enough : Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die.”
Here, then, let us be taught that, when at any time our faith is apt to fail, it will be well for us to remember the words of Jesus. Are we sad in spirit, and in heaviness through manifold afflictions ? Let us call to mind those discourses of our Lord in which he comforted his disciples and dismissed their fears. Are we at any time doubtful of his gracious designs towards us ? Let us muse on such sayings as these : “ A woman, when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more her anguish for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now, therefore, have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. These things I have spoken unto you, that ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” When our beloved friends are removed from us by death, and we find that in regard to this world they are as if they had not been, let us consider that, if they have lived a life of faith, they are still alive and blessed. When we look merely at the pale countenance, the rigid features, the motionless hand and the senseless body, it is natural for us to ask, Where now is the spirit that once animated the frame? In such circumstances as these, it is good to remember the words of Jesus, "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” When we are ourselves laid on a dying bed, let the words of Jesus be gratefully remembered by us. If they are, as the outward man decays, the inward man shall be strengthened. True, the valley through which we have to pass is dark and gloomy; the waters which we have to cross are proud and deep ; living friends cannot accompany us, nor can one mortal eye mark our landing. But the words of Jesus, if we remember and believe them, shall suffice to uphold our courage ; for he hath said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life ; and they shall never perish; neither shall any be able to pluck them out of my hand.” Yea more, death itself will be viewed by us as a waggon which He has sent to convey us to His immediate presence. Knowing and believing that He has prepared it, we shall not hesitate to enter ; His own gracious hand has “paved it with love." When its wheels move slowly on, we shall even wish, rather, that their power of motion was increased ; and at every successive stage of our journey we shall have cause to rejoice that we are so much nearer to our heavenly Father's arms.
Observe here, too, the comfortable familiarity with which a good man can speak of his own death ; " I will go down,” says Jacob, “and see my son Joseph before I die.” Jacob was now a hundred and thirty years old ; many changes he had seen, many trials he had undergone ; but he knew well that bounds were appointed to the years of man, and that of him as well as of others the sentence had been written, “dust to dust.” He naturally, no doubt, had the same horror at death that other men have ; he
knew it to be attended with many a circumstance of misery and dishonour ; but he had religion enough to make him think and speak calmly of it notwithstanding. Unlike those who cannot bear to think themselves mortal, and who take it ill to be reminded that they are so, he lays his account with dying, and that soon. Some who even call themselves Christians are so immoderately attached to life, that they are most reluctant even to make a will in regard to their effects; as if, forsooth, the doing so were to hasten their departure hence, they hear counsel to this effect with impatience, and dismiss it with all speed from their minds. Yea, some there even are who dislike to hear from the pulpit a discourse upon death, and to whom every allusion of this nature is distasteful in the extreme. With the Patriarch it was not so. Of his departure he speaks almost rejoicingly. To see Joseph in the end of his days, was indeed an event worth bearing the infirmities of age for. “I will go down and see him before I die.” Thus, too, the aged Simeon, who had so long waited for the consolation of Israel, on taking into his arms the infant Saviour, could exclaim, “ Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”
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JACOB AND HIS DESCENDANTS GO DOWN
ENCOURAGED by a vision which he had beheld in the night season, Jacob rose up from Beersheba, and prosecuted his journey towards Egypt. We may suppose that by the way his mind was much occupied with devout reflections on the goodness and power of that God who had so singularly disappointed his fears, and made his last days happier than his first. That was altogether a most interesting company. An old man with children and children's children going down into a foreign land, a whole society transferring themselves with all their effects to a region comparatively unknown to them! These are at all times affecting circumstances, and seldom has the genius of poetry been more pathetically employed than in describing the varied feelings of hope and apprehension with which the industrious families that once constituted the flower of a country's population bid adieu to their native soil. Old age is not naturally enterprising ; rather would it endure some present grievances, than encounter perils to have them redressed. A very strong motive, indeed, must be brought to bear upon the mind before it can contentedly forego the ease congenial to its state. To see, then, a gray-haired man, a hundred and thirty years old, undertaking and
prosecuting a journey from Canaan to Egypt, and with him his sons, and his sons' sons, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, was enough to awaken in any bosom sentiments of the deepest respect and veneration. But trying to the Patriarch as it must have been to leave Canaan, it was enough to sustain him that Joseph, his long lost son, had sent for him to Egypt, and that the God of his own father Isaac had promised to accompany him. What matters it, then, though we with our families must leave the abodes of the living, when our Redeemer is ready to welcome our arrival to the land in which he dwells, and, the God of our fathers has said, “ Fear not, for I am with
We may not attempt to describe the meeting between Jacob and his illustrious son. For the inspired penman has only told us that “ Joseph fell upon his father's neck, and wept on it a good while.” Only we may easily enough suppose that the heart felt far more than the tongue could utter, and that all Joseph's trials would then be lightly esteemed by him. That hour of restoration to the parent from whom he had so long been separated, would more than compensate him for all the hardships he had borne since the day when he went to seek his brethren. Who, then, shall pretend to guess the joy with which the soul shall be possessed when, the gates of death being once passed, it is restored to the holy embrace of those for whose departure it had deeply grieved, and over whose grave it had shed the tears of what seemed irremediable sorrow! Then will all its cares and bygone sufferings be regarded as things of nought, or remembered only as waters that have passed away.