« EdellinenJatka »
enemies. He might have denied them for days the bare necessaries of life, and let them know experimentally what it was to be cast into a pit where no water could be found; or he might have named them individually by name, and asked, with a stern countenance, whether they did not remember having dealt far more unwarrantably with their own father's son. All this, and much more than this, he might have done with impunity; for “ without him could no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” But Joseph was a person of a better spirit. Prosperity had not corrupted him, nor had even the warm sunshine of royal favour dried up the springs of natural affection in his bosom. Cruel as they had been to him, they were still his brethren ; and if he could but work within them a proper conviction of their guilt, and get them to adore the superintending providence of God, he would find to himself greater satisfaction than in the “ wild justice of revenge.” He accordingly makes himself strange to them—questions them minutely as to their connections and descent-charges them with designs against the government, and appears to entertain great doubts of the story which they told. We shall not attempt to vindicate Joseph, in the present instance, from the charge of affectation. We know that the slightest transgression of truth is unjustifiable upon any grounds of temporary expediency; and Joseph, we have no doubt, saw enough in the behaviour of his brethren to convince him that they were not justly chargeable with that which he imputed to them. But surely that person must be indeed ill-read in the book of the human heart who cannot pardon the infirmity, or even acknowledge that it “leaned to virtue's side.” Who shall assert that the behaviour of Joseph on this occasion was not in exact harmony with the experience of us all : fond, as we are at times, to subdue our own emotions, and awaken those of the friends or acquaintances with whom for long we have ceased to hold intercourse? We maintain not that the thing was unexceptionably rightwe assert only that it was positively natural ; and in support of our position we could appeal to the experience of the returning soldier, who has for a long series of years been separated from the endearments of home, but yet has hoped, even against hope, that he still occupies a place in its sympathies. He comes but, oh ! how changed !-to the sweet valley in which his childhood was reared. He is all impatience to gain the door that had so often in bygone years opened at his call; but yet he lingers by the way, and inquires at all who can give him information, whether there still dwells in such a place the mother that smiled upon his infancy, or the gentle sister whose remembered tenderness had often affected him to tears in troubles where he had none to soothe him. Assured of their existence and welfare, he goes on; but, ere he reaches the dwelling, he determines to assume the appearance of a stranger. Not all at once does he reveal himself to those whom his heart has burned within him to embrace. The tale of other days is told ; the delicate allusion is made to scenes and incidents which love and affection never forget ; he watches their countenances to see whether no symptom of recognition yet be visible; wonders who shall be the first within the family band to discover in him the dear friend of former years; aims at awakening some chord within
their bosoms that shall give back a tone of tendernessand their interest, if not their conjectures, being awakened, throws himself upon their necks to weep. Who that has ever witnessed the subsequent joy can frown upon the little artifice by which, for a short while, the stream of gladness was restrained, that it might afterwards bound forth in a full flood of rapture ? To the stern moralist, then, who can make no allowance for the little affectation which Joseph exercised, we would say, spare or suspend your censure until you have at least read a few leaves more of human feeling and experience. It is nature that prompts the concealmentnature that forbids the veil to be too rashly drawn aside. Let, then, HUMANITY sympathize with the frailty, for NATURE's sake.
Enough is recorded in the sacred history to satisfy us that the piety of Joseph was brought into exercise on this occasion. He remembered, it is said, the dreams which he had dreamed of them. Could he do so without admiring and adoring the hand of Providence ? No he would recognise in all this the superintending direction of that God who had first of all given himn intimations of honour, and then made use of his brethren's malignity to bring those intimations to pass. And when he bethought himself of the indignant reception which the repetition of his dreams met with, the derision and the scorn with which he had been assailed, the discouragement which even Jacob himself had shown to the expectations which he cherished, the pit having no water into which he was so unmercifully thrown, the sale of his person to the Ishmaelites, the dungeon in Egypt into which he was subsequently cast, the strange “ concurrence of events” that had terminated in his promotion, he must have felt as he had never done before, that the purposes of the Almighty could not be thwarted by the cross machinations of men. Here was enough to call forth wonder, adoration, gratitude, and confidence. In remembering his dreams he remembered God by whose inspiration they were given. In remembering his dreams he remembered his affliction. In remembering his dreams he remembered the faithfulness of the Most High.
It were well if we, to whom God has spoken, not by dreams or midnight visions, but by the written oracles of his word, did so treasure up sacred truth in our hearts. The passages which we have learned in childhood should be made use of by us in after years, both for the governance of our conduct, and the strengthening of our belief in the Divine promises or threatenings. When at any time we observe wicked men cut off in the midst of their days, unjust men loaded with shame, liars visited with scorn, licentious men falling victims of prematnre old age, or proud oppressors reduced after a course of violence to degradation and contempt, we ought to regard the event not merely as a natural consequence of the sin which preceded it, but as the positive fulfilment of the written sentence which has gone forth against iniquity. When, on the contrary, we behold the righteous man respected as more excellent than his neighbour, the faithful man trusted above all his fellows, and honoured in the gate among the elder sof the land, the merciful man blessed by the needy that were ready to perish, the temperate man a stranger to many of the diseases which break down the constitution of the profligate,
and the man of persevering industry rewarded with competency or independence, we ought to connect such circumstances, not only with the order which God has established in the world, but with the express intimations which he has given, that "it shall be well with them that fear him.” Our own experience, and the experience of others, might thus be rendered so many instruments of piety-so many commentaries upon the lessons of Scripture. But, if we give no diligent heed to the written word, it will avail us but little to have possessed its treasures. Ours will be the description of the fool who, though many a price be put into his hands to get wisdom, hath no heart thereto.
We may observe, too, that even as Joseph dealt out apparently a measure of severity to his brethren, while yet his purposes were kind, so God sometimes hides his face from bis people, not in anger, but in mercy. Thus did our Blessed Redeemer to the woman of Canaan. She cried unto him saying, “ Lord have mercy on me, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” But he answered her not a word. Still she cries, and even his disciples, in order to get rid of her, make supplication in her behalf; but he answers, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." She even falls down before him, saying, “ Lord help me;" but even yet he vouchsafes not to answer her request yea, he even reminds her of her humiliating descent: “ It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it unto dogs.” But are his purposes, therefore, unmerciful ? No; thus he proves her faith ; and the confession being made, “ Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from