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“pilgrimage of days, few and evil,” Jacob leaned for solace and support on " the son of his old age,' “his joy and his crown of rejoicing."
And what had they to announce, even under the specious veil of falsehood ? That his hopes were crushed for ever- - that he, for whom his spirit yearned, had perished by the beasts of prey-that the garment “ of many colours,” in which he had too fondly arrayed him, bore upon it the bloody trace of his untimely end.
“ And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins; and “all his sons and all his daughters rose up"—they gathered round the disconsolate old man—to proffer their aid ; to mingle in his sorrows; to “comfort him” who “refused to be comforted”—who cried aloud in his despair, “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning."
“ Thus his father wept for him.” And how strange it is to mark in the circle of his comforters the very men who had inflicted the wound ! They affected to feel a real sympathy in the woes which they themselves had caused to be concerned for the health and comfort which they themselves had deliberately and relentlessly destroyed.
Shall we say that this was mere hypocrisy? our estimate would probably be wrong. The desolation of their father was the natural—the inevitable—but it may not have been the anticipated result of their actions. Our minds, when inflamed by passion, can but seldom clearly and steadily contemplate the most obvious bearings of our own conduct. In their blind resentment, they resolved to destroy the Son ; they considered not how the blow might recoil upon the Father.
It is one of the necessary consequences of the complex relations of social life, that scarcely any injury is confined to the individuals against whom it is professedly directed. That individual is always connected by a variety of links to many others, who are interested in his supportwho are dependent on his friendship—who feel, by a secret sympathy, the remotest evils that affect his character or his fortunes. And, indeed, in any mind which is not wholly insensible to every juster movement, it is this consideration which, apart from higher motives, should act with a repressive force upon the slightest workings of resentful feeling. For, assume the worst, the person whom you regard as your adversary may have inflicted upon you a series of injuries, so deep and so unmerited, that, at the bare thought of them, every mental string still quivers with agony; but, ask yourselves, what imparted to these injuries their acuteness and power? what has barbed the sting of their remembrance ? was it not the anxiety, was it not the humiliation and distress which they entailed not upon you, but upon others, whose happiness was far dearer to you than your own? And even were religion silent, is it not this reflection which stays and forbids resentment? Can you commit the very injustice which you deplore and deprecate? In your impatience to strike him who has injured you, will you also wound him from whom you have received no injury—some distant form of affection, which follows him with anxious eye, which bears him upon the heart in the daily thoughts and in the midnight prayer? Again—the immediate object of your attack may, in your estimation, be destitute of every redeeming quality; but how many are there united to him by closer ties, possessing a nearer insight into his character, who view him in a more gentle light, who remember much it was not given to you to witness-kindly traits which you have never seen,kindly words which you have never heard-warmer feelings in the stillness of domestic retirement-purer aspirations in the sacredness of domestic worship? And were all these endearments wanting, how many, by their natural position in society, look up to him as their guide, hang on him as their protector, weep when he weeps, and sink when he sinks ? And, if your wrath cannot spare him, will they not rise before you,-friends, children, parents,—will they not intercept the blow, and cast you into a milder and a better mood? Alas! is there any so hardened, so overborne by the strong tide of passion, who would give scope to one vindictive feeling, if he could but see the collected evil of his own acts—if he could but carry his thoughts into scenes which are not the less real because they are not discerned— if he could but pierce the recesses of the distant home, where many a mourner—to him unknown, but not by him uninjured-laments the woes which he himself would comfort, for he is utterly unconscious that he himself has caused them?
To return to our narrative. Years rolled on, and the arm of the Lord brought wondrous things to pass; Joseph, thus sold and abandoned, rose rapidly to affluence, to honour, to regal favour and exalted rank.
And what was the state of bis brethren ?
All this time their thoughts must have been frequently troubled and disquieted. But still, in the stir and giddy revelry of the world, there was much to prevent the entire operation of this feeling. Conscience is never extinct; but there are seasons when its powers are more keenly felt—when it seems, like the fabled fury, to start as from a frightful dream, to shake before us its avenging fires, to dilate its form and lineaments of wrath. And such seasons are usually those of adversitysickness and sorrow, and “the days of darkness, which be many."
And so it happened in the present instance. The brethren of Joseph, compelled by a wasting famine to seek assistance in the land of Egypt, perceived in their own experience the real character of cruelty and injustice. Disguising the relation in which he stood to them, he treated them with unexpected harshness—regarded them as spies-bound Simeon before their eyes, and required the young Benjamin as the only condition of deliverance. It was then, when, broken by affliction, that they are described-and how true to nature is the description-as touched with a sense of their crimes, as revolving on those indignities and wrongs, which the sorrows of others had but faintly discovered to them, which their own sorrows so vividly revealed. “ And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear, therefore is this distress come upon us.”
Their present fears, it is true, by a series of events with which you are familiar, were soon, in a great measure,
relieved. They found protection and plenteousness where the first appearances were those of want and disgrace. But are we to imagine that their after-feelings retained no trace of that internal trouble which changes every art of malevolence into its own punishment ? Far from it. Their subsequent history, brief as it is, bears evidence of a different state.
It was an affecting sight when the patriarch Jacob was about to close his earthly pilgrimage; when full of years and “leaning upon bis staff," he called his sons around his bed of death, and declared with prophetic power the events which should befall them " in the last days.” None in that sad group could have remained unmoved. Joseph himself must have suffered the sore trials which it is appointed unto all men to endure. If even the sinless Jesus “ wept” at the grave of Lazarus, how much more must erring man, to whom death presents not merely the dark images of grief, but not unfrequently of contrition and reproach! But even if we suppose that Joseph was not exempt from the ordinary condition of humanity, how many and how soothing must have been his consolations. He had cheered the evening of his father's life,-he had heard the sounds of joyful transport at his safety,--and, now could all the loud applause of the world excite emotions of so deep a joy as those outpourings of parental benediction which burst from the dying lips of Jacob : “ The God of thy father shall help thee, and the Almighty shall bless thee, with blessings from heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: the blessings of thy father have prevailed over the blessings of thy progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brethren.”
But, what must have been their sensations, who had dishonoured his grey hairs and rent from him his dearest hopes. What must have been Reuben's, when Jacob reverted to his deeds of insult and defilement. What Simeon's, and Levi's, when he recalled their murderous anger, and the grievousness of its remembrance still weighed upon his spirit in the struggles of death : “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united. .... Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel.”
Such were the sounds of woe which burdened the last words of their father; and can we imagine that they ceased to re-echo through every portion of their joyless life? “ He was gone hence, and no more seen," and they might indeed, in painful remembrance of that dismal scene, moan bitterly and implore a blessing, but it was all too late, “the living, the living," they may bless thee, but “there is no turning again ;"—the grave cannot give thanks,—" death cannot celebrate.”— Repent as we may, “this is a lamentation, and it shall be for a lamentation."
Their history discloses another and last proof that they who imagine evil are ever full of fluctuation and distrust; that the cup of trembling is ever at their lips, and they must drink its bitterness to the dregs.
“And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil that we did unto him.” The comfort—the protection which they had experienced, had been unable to dispel suspicion and misgiving. They imagine that this forbearance could not have arisen from forgiveness of their cruelty, but from a considerate regard for the emotions of a parent. They sue again for mercy,—they entreat him piteously by every softer record, and by every holier recollection in the name of their common faith, and through the power of a dying father's command.
Such is Guilt If it meets with resentment, it suffers from external evils; if with forgiveness, from internal reproaches. “Verily there is no peace for the wicked." They “fear day and night," and have “ assurance of life.”
It appears then, in every light, that their history exemplifies the great truth which it was my object to establish,—that the Malevolent passions are a source of perpetual Misery ;—that, by a divine provision, whoever impairs the happiness of others shall, in the very act, destroy his own.
And now consider, in conclusion, the conduct of Joseph.
The “archers" that had "sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him,"—they were before him-helpless, who had refused him help, homeless, who had bereaved him of his home. He might have cast them into their own pit, and snared them in their own devices. But, on the contrary, he “wept when they spake unto him.” He wept to think of their friendless state, still more perhaps at the sad effects of evil passions, and the shame and confusion which they engender.
This is indeed the character of that Charity "which thinketh no evil," which, exempt from the remotest wish to injure others, harbours no suspicion of such a wish in them,-of that charity which, by every lenient art—by friendly offices-by kindly efforts—by good interpretations of conduct—by covering infirmities—by pardoning errors—hy drawing out every latent excellence—"beareth all things, hopeth all things, believeth all things.” And this we are assured shall never fail. Faith will fade away when the substance is seen. Hope will vanish when the accomplishment is come. But Charity endureth for ever. Time has no dominion over her. Death itself but enlarges her sphere of action, expands her powers, and perfects her enjoyments.
Think not, my brethren, that these mellowed fruits of charity and gentleness, so different from the harsh and acrid produce of the world, were the result of mere constitutional sensibility. They grew out of religious feelings. They sprang from a lively sense of God's presence, and a strict adherence to his laws.
Even in those seats of idolatry, so awfully shadowed forth in prophetic vision, "where every form of creeping things was pourtrayed upon the wall round about,"—where every man bowed down before dark and defiling vanities in “ the chambers of his imagery,"—even there he remembered the God of his fathers, and served him with “ a perfect heart."
And who sowed those principles of faith? who nourished that " tender plant” on which “ the dew of God's blessing” descended which the burning glare of prosperity could not wither, or the "wild sweep of adverse winds” destroy ?
He owed it to the care, the assiduity, the watchful solicitude of a Religious Parent,-of one of those beings who have no thought, no views of temporal happiness which are separate from ours; and who still look forward, amidst all the vicissitudes of life, to the blessed day, when the same forms, which they have known on earth, shall be known in heaven, when those sounds of ineffable joy shall be allowed to intermingle with the ascending praises of angelic hosts : “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given ine!"
This was his debt of love, and well and gratefully did he feel and labour to repay it.
If amidst all his varied qualities and graces there be one which more than any other distinguishes his character, shining forth with a transcendent lustre, it is indeed the force and delicacy of his Filial Love. It reveals itself in all his words and actions. “Is your Father yet alive ?” is the first question which the sight of his brethren suggests ; and no sooner do they return again, than the same anxious inquiry returns : “Is your Father well—the Old Man of whom you spake—is he yet alive ?" And again, it has been well observed, when Judah closes his appeal for mercy with the pathetic words: “How shall I go to my Father and the lad Benjamin be not with me?"-it is at that name that all his studied coldness dissolves,—that utterly unable" to refrain himself"he dismissed his attendants, and made himself known to his brethren, and said, " I am Joseph ; doth my Father yet live ?"
Nor did presence diminish the warm feelings which had lived through long years of absence. At the news of his approach, he hastened with princely pomp to greet him, and hung upon his neck “ a long while” in tears. Nor did he stop here. He continued to honour, to support, to reverence him. And when Jacob's “ eyes were dim for age," he still “ bowed himself before bim” in humble veneration “to the earth ;" and when death had passed over it," he fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him.”
Does not his whole history address us with the persuasive accents of the inspired sage : “My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy 'neck.” For, under God's blessing—in what condition soever you may be cast—in what realms soever you may be destined to wander-it will move before you over the waste of life ; it will guide your distant and, may it be, your untroubled course; it will hold "sweet converse" with the thoughts of day, and in the “ silent watches of the night,” it will still be present to protect and guard; or rather, in the simple and beautiful words of Scripture : When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.'
J. A. J.
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
Art. I.— The History of Christianity, from the Birth of Christ to the
Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire. By the Rev. H. H. Milman, Prebendary of St. Peter's, and Minister of St. Margaret's,
Westminster. 3 Vols. 8vo. London: Murray. 1840. It is now some ten years since there appeared a History of the Jews, the work of the author now before us. The book found considerable favour with the public; and it stands, at this moment, we believe, among the most conspicuous contributions to the Family Library. It was rather suspiciously regarded, however, by the greater part of the