« EdellinenJatka »
wickedness, it is not because he is indifferent to moral distinctions, but because he has wise and good purposes to serve; because he would have men to look higher than the high places of this world; and because he would put to proof the "spirit that is in man." Let not, then, the promiscuous irregularities of the present life weaken, but rather strengthen, our faith in the Divine superintendence. Joseph, even when suffering wrongfully in the hands of his brethren, is happier than they. Although more powerful, they are, in point of real dignity, far inferior to him. The sense of integrity is better to him than all riches ; and, even if he should have died in their hands, he would but have exchanged a world of care for one of endless joy. Their malice could not reach his better part; and, after cruel indeed, but still only temporary suffering, he would have passed into a region where there are pleasures for evermore. As it was, they could not harm one hair of his head ; for the Lord had yet work for him to do upon the earth, and their worst designs were providentially counteracted. Be it ours, then, under the most adverse and apparently inexplicable dispensations of Providence, to trust the matter entirely in our Maker's hands ; and, when we are at any time tempted to wonder at the course which he adopts, let us satisfy our doubts by the consideration, that The Judge Of All, The Earth Will Do Right. God is his own interpreter, and he will make plain his way. His way is on the waters, indeed, and his footsteps are not known. But what we know not now we shall know hereafter.
2. We may hence observe, that God often works out his designs by means that seem least likely to bring them about.—He had determined that Joseph should, at a future period, be ruler over all the land of Egypt, and that his father's children should bow down before him. And this their evil treatment of his person was one link in the great chain of Providence. But for this, he would not have been taken down to that land in whose history he was afterwards so conspicuously to shine. The evil, indeed, was theirs, but the good issue was of the Lord, whose prerogative it is to educe order from confusion, and to take the wise in their own craftiness. So, too, from the blackest of all crimes ever perpetrated beneath the sun, he has caused the highest blessings to flow. The crucifixion of his son Jesus was a deed so horrid, that even inanimate nature was, as it were, palsy-struck when it took place. As if to present a contrast to the hearts of men, the rocks rent; and, as if in shame at the foul enormity, the sun hid his face at noon. Yet from this very act, atrocious beyond all description in itself, to God the greatest glory, and to man the highest good, have redounded. That fiendish malice which instigated the Jewish nation to the murder of the Holy Child Jesus, was made the instrument of bringing about a glorious redemption for thousands and tens of thousands. Not that he either approved of their wickedness, or laid any restraint upon their choice. God forbid that any man should suppose so; but that, while he left them to their own bad wills, he so overruled the whole as at once to glorify his own justice, establish the ultimate honour of his Son, and provide for the eternal salvation of a multitude which no man can number.
DANGER AND DELIVERANCE.
In the preceding chapter we have traced a few of the analogies that obtain between the character and trials of Joseph and those of Jesus Christ, the Beloved of his Father, and the rejected of his brethren; and we now go on to take a view of the strange manner in which the wicked designs of those young men were counteracted. The majority intended to kill him; but God, who had great work for him to do, overrules their malice, and opens up for his youthful servant a door of escape.
"It came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, the coat of many colours that was on him; and they took him and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery, and balm, and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood ?" &c—Genesis xxxvii. 23-26.
1. They stripped him of his coat, the coat of many colours, that was on him.—Ever since that garment had been given him to wear, the sigh of it had pro
voked the worst passions of their nature. It mattered not that a father's love had been exercised in the making of it, and that a father's hand had put it on. To render it hateful in their estimation, it sufficed that the wearer of it was more deserving of honour than they; and so, envying him, they detested it. It was associated in their minds with a feeling of their own inferiority, and they could not look on it but with aversion.
Had they been possessed of proper affection towards their venerable father, they would have spared the garment for the old man's sake. Or had their minds been at all influenced by common discretion, they would have considered that he was at liberty to do as it pleased him with his own. But by neither of these principles were they moved. As if it were nothing either to do despite to paternal feeling, or to question the privileges which belonged to Jacob as a man, they strip Joseph of his coat—the coat of many colours—which with much care the good old man had wrought, and on which, with pleasurable emotions, he had often gazed. The action was as unfilial towards Jacob as unbrotherly towards Joseph.
Yet, bad and unjustifiable as the deed was, it has often been repeated by those who would not scruple to condemn it as thus exemplified. Almighty God, the Father of Spirits, has oftentimes distinguished his children by visible tokens of regard. One man he has endowed with rare powers of intellect, another with choice eloquence, a third with vivid imagination. Yet has it as frequently happened, that by the envious world these gifts have been contemned, and the persons who enjoyed them have been assailed by the foulest epithets which calumny could invent. Their title to eminence has been questioned by some, and their worth depreciated by others. Those who fell far short of their attainments have sought to despoil them of their just fame, and have done what they could to render them vile in public estimation. Thus, because John the Baptist leads a retired life in the desert, they say he has a devil; because Paul preaches Jesus and the resurrection, the Athenians deride him as a babbler, and Festus charges him with madness; because Stephen speaks with a wisdom and a spirit which they are unable to resist, his adversaries suborn men to say that they have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. In short, the very qualities, whether of mind or heart, by which good men are specially distinguished, provoke the envy and depreciating resentment of the bad.
But especially was it so in regard to Jesus, the beloved Son of God in human nature. To him the Spirit was not given by measure. He was anointed with the oil of gladness above all his fellows. His was a garment in every respect unspotted by the flesh— undefined by one stain of original or actual sin he was fairer than the sons of men. From the fall downward, prophetic intimations were given of his advent; but, when in the fulness of time he did come, these announcements were maliciously perverted. The Baptist had, in unambiguous terms, pointed him out as the Lamb of God, that should take away the sin of the world, but few believed his report. An audible voice from Heaven gave greater testimony to him than John; and the Spirit, descending upon him like a dove, on the banks of Jordan, gave ocular demon