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THE SELLING OF JOSEPH BY HIS BRETHREN.
Is nothing does the Providence of God appear more conspicuous than in the use made of the wicked contrivances of men to accomplish his own benevolent and wise purposes. Good is brought out of evil, curses are turned into blessings. The great Ruler of the Universe manages and directs everything with such a wise economy, that the malignity, the violence, and the carefully-studied plans of men and of devils, are all turned to account in the administration of the affairs of the world. Their designs fail of their intended effect, or, if apparently answering them, are made the means, in their ultimate result, of bringing about events the very reverse of their intentions.
In that most interesting story of Joseph, so inimitable in its simplicity and deeply-touching incidents, this overruling Providence was strik. ingly illustrated. Joseph was the loved son of his father-the son of his old age. He was endeared to him by the death of his mother, and, as he grew up, by that amiableness of disposition so remarkable in his whole life. His brethren were so much his seniors, that nature would have prompted them to look upon him with a tenderer affection than if he had been nearer their own age.
In men advanced to middle age and themselves fathers, there was an utter want of manliness in suffering a feeling of rivalry in their breasts. But yet they could not indulge their aged father in his fond affection, and the superiority of the youth in his traits of moral character, stirred up in their hearts a
deadly malignity. That hatred which arises from envy is most bitter. No generous emotion can mingle with it, or qualify its intensity. It gangrenes the entire heart. It is in the soul a smouldering fire, until it breaks forth in full madness.
Now Joseph had dreamed a dream. While with his brethren he was binding sheaves in the field, his sheaf arose and stood upright, and their sheaves stood round about making obeisance to his sheaf. Again he dreamed that the sun, moon, and eleven stars paid homage to him. These dreams, which seemed to foretell his future elevation, were related to his brethren in the simplicity of his heart. To them they conveyed a meaning; by himself they seem to have been regarded only as curious vagaries of an imagination over which he had in his sleep no control. Yet their hearts, already cankered, and now affected by a mysterious apprehension that the envied youth was destined to become their superior, determined them by one act at once to gratify a malignant revenge, and to silence for ever their apprehensions.
To contemplate the murder of a human being, however alien to our blood, bespeaks a desperate hardness and malignity of heart. Murder is an offence froin which man is restrained grace
of God, till, in his course of wickedness, he has broken loose from all laws, and is abandoned of God for time and eternity.
The brethren of Joseph were kept from this ultimate act of hardened wickedness. They
fancied that some less extreme course would be effectual to defeat what his dreams had foreshadowed. How idly have men, in all ages, contended with their Maker! Finite minds, in their besotted stupidity measuring themselves against infinite wisdom! Man—the creature of a day-his natural vision limited to the things just around him, and his moral vision stretching not an hour into the future-madly attempting to thwart the purposes of Jehovah !
The youth is approaching them. A weari. some journey has at length brought him in sight of those for whom he had wandered over fields and through the wilderness. He had escaped the wild beasts—a new elasticity is in his steps as his eye catches a glimpse of the far-off flock, and of his brethren, their keepers. How little does he imagine what is passing in their hearts ! He comes to them from an aged father to inquire of their welfare. But that father's anxiety is not to be relieved by his report. What mean those clouded brows when the youth approaches with his kindly salutations? Is this the expected return to his greetings? With the exception of Reuben they had already resolved that a neighboring pit should be the grave of the youthful dreamer-to leave him there to a torturing death by famine. But Reuben in his better purpose had resolved to make this pit the means of his deliverance. Yet if Joseph believed his brethren were seriously bent on his destruction, both himself and his eldest brother were alike disappointed. Those were at hand who, with equal readiness, would make merchandize of spices and of human sinews. In the pit it is scarcely possible but the young man looked for deliverance, and was buoyed up by the hope of a speedy return to his fond father. But now slavery stares him in the face—a life of banishment from every early endearment, and of bondage and degradation with no heart of sympathy at hand. To be made merchandize of by those whom he loved-whom he looked to as protectors--for whom his heart beat with the warmth of youthful affection—this was so strange—so unnatural! He appeals to them by every motive-by their common blood-by the grey hairs of his and their father. His tears—his entreaties--his humble, touching prayers up no relentings. This is the ironnerved hate of which envy is the parent. Joseph is sold and borne to a distant land to end his days in dishonored bondage. So at least thought those who should have dared every hazard for his protection.
Now what shall become of the dreams of this dreamer? Under the power of a master, and far distant from his kindred, will the sheaves and the eleven stars, bowing to him in his dreams, ever be realized in the lowly obeisance and humble submissions of these envious brethren? And yet that very sale of Joseph was made, by an unseen, guiding hand, a step to. wards that very superiority which they so much dreaded. The brethren parted—the one into bondage—the others to break the heart of their father and silence his hopes by a wickedly fabricated tale. All felt their parting to be final. But change the scene. A famine is sent upon the land of Canaan to drive these shepherds into the land of Egypt. They go in their distress as suppliants. The garners of Pharaoh overflow with corn. They have been filled by the provident care of one who only on the throne is below the monarch of the Empire. To this man, the governor of all Egypt, the sons of Jacob bow in lowly reverence. He holds their lives in his hands. He is clothed in purple robes, and administers the affairs of a mighty kingdom with unresisted authority. They are lowly shepherds. They could not endure to bow to a youthful brother—the very thought drove them to madness. But they wil. lingly bend the knee before the ruler of Egypt. They stop not to inquire his age or his lineage. It is enough that the sceptre of Pharaoh is in his hands, and that in his abundance the family of Jacob may find an ample supply for their wants. There are no envyings towards this princely governor. He is too far above them for envy to reach—too independent to need their good will. Him they can reverence-him they feel it no degradation to approach as suppliants. He imprisons one of them, and holds him as a hostage for their return with Benjamin. They feel at once their own littleness and his great
And yet this man, unenvied in his royal power, and commanding reverence by the dignity of his person and his station—this man is Joseph whom they sold into bondage. Themselves the sheaves and the eleven stars have made a willing obeisance to him. They, though with most wicked intentions, have helped to work out the decrees of the Almighty—they sold him into slavery; but He who laughs at the short-sightedness of human contrivances had made him a prince and a ruler—theirs was the wickedness and weakness of contrivanceGod's the glory of a wisely and benevolently accomplished purpose.