Sivut kuvina

they eat their bread with gladness and drink their wine with a cheerful heart. Then, and not till then, will their prayers and their alms together go up in sweet memorial before God. "But woe," says the prophet Amos, " to them that lie on beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall, that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph."

3. A company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, going down to Egypt.—It is beautifully said by the psalmist David, that a good man's steps are ordered by the Lord. In the extremity of Joseph's anguish, a company of merchants appear in sight. They are on their way to Egypt, prosecuting their worldly business, and that God, who knows the end of a thing from the beginning'of it, renders them the instruments of his servant's preservation. When he has a design to serve, he will not want means to bring it round; and the course of his providence has been so arranged that, at the precise period when it is most expedient to render aid, that aid is vouchsafed. Thus, when Moses was to all human likelihood on the eve of perishing upon the margin of the Nile, Pharaoh's daughter came down to wash herself in the river, and was conducted to the spot where the infant lay. It had been so ordained that he should weep as she looked on; and so in a propitious moment the heart of the heathen princess was moved with compassion on the Hebrew child. Isaac is to human appearance on the point of being slain in sacrifice—the altar is erected and the wood laid in order—the very knife is in his father's uplifted hand—and there seems to be but a breath between him and the eternal world—when lo! of a sudden a voice of mercy is heard from on high, and a ram, caught in a thicket by the horns, is taken as a ready substitute for that child of promise. David is in imminent danger of falling into the hands of Saul —he and his men are encompassed about so that they cannot by ordinary means accomplish their escape; but, just at that instant when the peril is at its height, a messenger comes to Saul himself, saying, "Haste thee and come, for the Philistines have invaded the land." And so Saul, having other pressing business to attend to, leaves David to effect for himself, as he may, a seasonable flight. The righteous Lot, whose soul had been vexed from day to day with the filthy conversation of the Sodomites, is, so far as man can foresee, about to have the sanctuary of his private dwelling profaned by their lawless and violent intrusion; but, in a moment when neither they nor he can expect information, their designs are frustrated; and, being struck with blindness, they weary themselves to find the door. The jealous tyrant of Judea, in order that he may destroy the infant Saviour, commands all the babes of Bethlehem to be slaughtered; but, ere his savage edict can be executed, the holy child and his mother are on their way to Egypt. Peter, having been apprehended and put in prison, sleeps in chains, with one soldier on the right hand and another on the left; the prison, too, is doubly guarded, and it seems as if for the faithful apostle release were utterly impracticable; but, because he has yet more work to do, a way is opened up for his escape. Through the black darkness of his cell a light shines—the chains fall from his hands—the iron gate opens of its own accord—and from one street to another he passes under an angel's conduct, until he gains a comfortable dwelling, where the disciples are gathered together praying.

But it is needless to multiply examples which will readily enough occur to the memories of all who consult Scripture for themselves. The case of Joseph alone, were there no other, shows, beyond all controversy, that, when God wills an end, he makes or finds a way. The brethren of Joseph think to frustrate his dreams, but God designs to fulfil them; and this is but one link in the great concatenation of second causes. Judah takes occasion, from the appearance of the Ishmaelites, to suggest the sale of Joseph; and the others, thinking it well if they can but gratify their revenge, accede to the proposal. Joseph is accordingly sold for twenty, as Jesus was afterwards betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. And so, while they spare his life, they subject him to slavery, which some say is worse than death.

A Father's Grief.

"And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him."—Genesis xxxvii. 34.

We have already had repeated occasions of observing that wonderful concatenation of events and secondary causes which the Almighty made subservient in the case of Joseph, to the future good of the Israelites and of the world at large. And towards the conclusion of the last chapter, we saw how the sacred history of this extraordinary person illustrates the great truth, that, when Providence wills an end, it makes or finds a way. At the very moment when Joseph is on the point of perishing by his brethren's cruelty, a company of merchants pass by; and, the sale of his person being effected, he is brought down to that country in the management of whose affairs he is afterwards to take an active and most distinguished part.

His brethren, having thus got rid of one whom they deemed an insufferable annoyance, bethink themselves of the construction which they must put upon the villanous deed. The coat of many colours which had provoked their envy, is accordingly dipped by them in blood; and with ingenious hypocrisy they present it to their kind-hearted father; affect to wonder whether this be indeed the garment, the history of which they knew full well, and thus awaken the horrible thought in his bosom that an evil beast of the field had rent in pieces the object of his love. The wicked stratagem takes effect accordingly; the singlehearted man suspects not the baseness of their natures, nor imagines them capable either of such barbarous cruelty or of such deep dissimulation. The bloody garment is before him, and cannot be mistaken; the story is so well contrived and so artfully told that no doubt exists in his bosom as to the nature of the calamity which had taken Joseph away. His heart bleeds to think that by so horrible a death Joseph should have perished in the wilderness; and, in the deep anguish of his soul, he exclaims—" It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him. Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces."

Those who are themselves parents can, without much difficulty, put themselves for a little in his soul's stead, and may conceive the wonderful interest which the spectacle of that garment would excite. Ye know, perhaps, what it is to have been bereaved, in the course of Providence, of a beloved and engaging child; and ye can remember that, many days after you laid it in the grave, the eye often rested on the chair which it was wont to occupy, and the raiment which it was accustomed to put on. Every little memorial of its past existence was precious in your estimation; and rather than let it go from your possession you would cheerfully consent to part with the most valuable substance in your house. Yea, is it not true that, if


« EdellinenJatka »