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intimation that so many years, or months, or days had only to elapse when he must fall under the stroke of death, could prosecute with becoming steadiness of aim the labours of his secular calling, or so duly unite regard for the things of eternity with attention to the temporal welfare of those who should survive him, as to maintain in their relative position the contending claims thus asserted on his mind ? It is, on the contrary, the mixture of certain and uncertain elements that contributes, under Providence, to preserve the moral nature of human actions. Were it otherwise, they would partake more of mechanical than of rational qualities. Men would act rather from physical necessity than from intelligence or choice ; and the higher powers of our nature should have no scope for exercise. To some one of my readers, adversity may even now be at the door. To one that least expects the summons, the call may this very night be given, Come forth to meet the Bridegroom. But, “ naming none, the voice speaks more authoritatively to all.”
And as an accurate foreknowledge of calamity would not, on the whole, be good for man, so neither would the certain prescience of good. It would take away the relish of enjoyment, and spoil the pleasure which springs from sudden and only half-anticipated comfort. Hope itself would be contracted in its exercise, and its pleasures abridged. The sweetness of every mercy would be absorbed before it came; and so, both in point of diminished joy and multiplied sorrow, would we be losers by such an arrangement.
We have sometimes been charmed to witness in humble life the working of that fine philosophy which can extract honey from the bitterest herb, and “ see good in every thing.” It was but lately that we chanced to see a tender-hearted mother mourning for a lovely child. The education which she had received was simple--she knew not the philosophy of the schools. “She knew, and knew no more, her Bible true.” But its revelations had brought into lively exercise the instinctive sagacity of her nature; and we were constrained to admire and reverence the wisdom, not unaccompanied with deep emotion, which expressed itself thus" Oh, had I known but a. month beforehand that my dear boy was to be taken away from me, I believe I should have gone distracted. In all likelihood, my own grief would have hastened his end. The very strength of my affection might have destroyed him. At all events, the oftener that I looked upon his lovely face, my heart would have bled to think that I should so soon see it no more. My very rest would have been broken, and his every smile would have tortured me. But God is merciful; His way is always the best; and I can even thank him that he let me remain hopeful so long.” Such, indeed, is the simple but sublime philosophy of many an unlettered man. It were well if those who have become acquainted with the refinements of education always reasoned as justly. Then should they see cause daily for adoring the wisdom, and submitting themselves to the will, of Him who,
“ From seeming evil still educes good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In all things let us trace his wisdom. Through life and in death let us resign ourselves to his disposal.
Assured that he always does what is right, let us trust ourselves in his keeping. Instead of seeking to be wise above what is written, let us make the pertinent use of that which he has revealed. Instead of idly speculating upon what he has not permitted us to know, let us set our hands and hearts diligently to what he has commanded us to do. Instead of wondering whether many shall be saved, let us strive and pray to be ourselves of the number. Instead of conjecturing where the heaven is in which just men dwell, let us try to get there. Instead of vainly fancying what they do, let us labour to be fitted for the employment. Let us be more anxious to avoid the torments of hell than prone to speculate upon their nature. Let us, in one word, profit by what we do know, and leave all else to Him “who maketh all things work together for good to them that love him.” There are many profound mysteries which it is not yet given us to scan. But if we patiently continue in well-doing, we shall know even as now we are known. Vainly do we wish that messengers from the dead would come to tell us their modes of being and habits of enjoyment. Vainly do we wish that the veil were for a moment drawn aside. Such knowledge is as yet too high for us
“But Time will tell us all, and Time will tell us best."
THE FIRST MEETING.
VERY wonderful are the workings of Providencevery unexpected the ends brought about by simple and ordinary means. The evils of famine are sorely felt in countries round about, but in all the land of Egypt there is bread. The plenty that abounds there is owing, under God, to the sagacity of Joseph, whom his own brethren had maliciously sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites. The information that there is corn in Egypt brings thither the inhabitants of neighbouring lands, and, among others, the ten sons of Jacob. For what will not men do to avert the horrors of starvation ? Little did they suppose when they set out upon their journey that they were to stand in the presence of him whom they had once ridiculed as an idle dreamer, and bow themselves down towards the earth before one whose prophetic intimations of superiority they had long since so cruelly avenged. We know not what formed the subject of their conversation by the way, nor what their anticipations were as to the success of their errand. Probably, they had no apprehension of the result—no misgivings as to the reception which they were to meet with. They were just doing what many others had done already; and, so far as appearances were concerned, they had nothing to fear. Their business was simply a matter
of buying and selling. Their sacks being filled with corn, and the price of it being paid down, they had nothing more to do than resume their journey homeward. What was Egypt, with its governor, its people, and its customs, to them, who were separated from it by birth, manners, and religion? It is likely, therefore, that they were little, if at all, concerned about the issue. The ways of God, however, are higher than the ways of man. They are now to do the very thing which twenty years ago they laughed at as utterly incredible. They are to fulfil the very dreams which they had done so much to counteract—they are to address him as Lord, whom they abhorred to acknowledge as a Brother-yea, more, they are now to feel upon themselves the weight of blood, and be pricked to the heart for a crime which before had cost them no uneasiness.
“ And Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, from the land of Canaan to buy food. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies ; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come,” &c.-Genesis xlii. 7.
Here were now the persons who had wrought much mischief to Joseph completely in his power. He had but to signify to those about him the precise way in which he wished them to be punished, and his pleasure would be obeyed. Without entering into any explanation of his conduct, he might have commanded the darkest dungeon in the land to receive them as his