Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

indulgence and mercy : Thou who implorest daily

as look forward to the tribunal of God. The argument extends not indeed so far, as to represent our acceptance with the Deity as entirely suspended upon the candour which we shew in forming our sentiments of others. We know that other graces besides this are requisite, in order to fit us for hea

and that without piety towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all our charity to men will be found defective and vain. But this we know also, that in the heart which is destitute of fairness and candour, the spirit of God certainly dwells not ; and that whatever appearances of religion the uncharitable man may assume, on him the Sovereign of the universe looks with no favour. Thou, who art a man full of frailties, who standest in need, not merely of impartiality in thy divine Judge, but of

ven;

this mercy from Him, and prayest that He would remember thou art dust, and not be strict to mark iniquity against thee ; darest thou, with those very prayers in thy mouth, proceed to judge without candour of thy brethren, and upon the slightest grounds to reprobate and condemn them? O thou hypocrite! (for by what other name can we call thee ?) vain are all thy pretensions to piety. Ineffectual is every plea which thou canst form for mercy from Heaven. The precedent which thou hast established against thyself is decisive. Thou hast dictated the sentence of thine own condemnation.

On the whole, it clearly appears that no part of the government of temper deserves attention more, than to keep our minds pure from uncharitable prejudices, and open to candour and humanity

in judging of others. The worst consequences, both to ourselves and to society, follow from the opposite spirit. Let us beware of encouraging a habit of suspicions, by forming too severe and harsh opinions concerning human nature in general. A great proportion of infirmity and corruption, doubtless, adheres to it; yet tempered also it is with various mixtures of virtue and good affection. Darkened as the Divine Image now is among man. kind, it is not wholly effaced. Much piety and goodness may lie hidden in hearts that are unknown to us. Vice is glaring and loud. The crimes of the wicked make a noise in the world, and alarm society. True worth is retired and modest, and requires particular situations to bring it forth to public notice. The prophet Elijah, in a time of prevailing corruption, imagined that all true religion had forsaken the land. I, even I, only, said he to the Lord, am left to serve thee. But the Almighty, who discerned what was concealed from his imperfect view, replied, Yet have I left me seven thousand men in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal. *

The aged, and the unfortunate, who have toiled through an unsuccessful life with long experience of the falsehood and fraud of evil men, are apt to be the most severe in the opinions which they entertain of others. For such, their circumstances may be allowed to form some degree of apology. But if, in youth and prosperity, the same hard suspicious spirit prevail ; if they who are beginning the career of life set out with all the scruples of distrust ; if, before they have had reason to complain of the world, they betray the diffidence of a jealous, and the malignity of a censorious mind'; sad is the presage which may

* 1 Kings, xix. 18.

thence be drawn of their future dishonour. From such, you have nothing to look for that shall be either engaging in private life, or respectable in public character. To youth it particularly belongs to be generous in sentiment, candid in opinion, undesigning in behaviour, open to the most favourable construction of actions and conduct. Throughout all the stages of life, candour is one of the most honourable distinctions of the human character; it is connected with magnanimity; it is justified by wisdom ; it is suitable to the relation in which we stand to one another. But if reason and humanity be insufficient to restrain us from rash and uncharitable judgments, let that awful denunciation frequently resound in our ears, He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath shewed no mercy, ,

SERMON XXVI.

On the CHARACTER of Joseph.

GENESIS, xlv. 5. 8. Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves

that ye sold me hither ; for God did send me before you to preserve life. So now it was not

you

that sent me hither, but God.

IN this generous manner, Joseph frames an apology

for the unnatural behaviour of his brethren. He extenuates the atrocity of their crime, by representing the happy effects which it had produced. He looks beyond all second causes ; and recognizes, in the wonderful events of his life, the hand of the Almighty. No human character exhibited in the records of Scripture, is more remarkable and instructive than that of this patriarch. He is one whom we behold tried in all the vicissitudes of fortune; from the condition of a slave, rising to be ruler of the land of Egypt; and in every station acquiring, by his virtue and wisdom, favour with God and man.

When overseer of Potiphar's house, his fidelity was proved by strong temptations, which he honourably resisted. When thrown into prison by the artifice of a false woman, his integrity and prudence soon rendered him conspicuous, even in that dark mansion. When called into the presence of

Pharoah, the wise and extensive plan which he formed for saving the kingdom from the miseries of impending famine, justly raised him to a high station, wherein his abilities were eminently displayed in the public service. But in his whole history there is no circumstance so striking and interesting, as his behaviour to his brethren who had sold him into slavery. The moment in which he made himself known to them, that moment at which we are now to contem. plate him, was the most critical one of his life, and the most decisive of his character. It is such as rarely occurs in the course of human events; and is calculated to draw the highest attention of all who are endowed with any degree of sensibility of heart. Let us consider the sentiment which Joseph utters in the text under two views, each of which is very instructive to all Christians. I. As a discovery of his cordial forgiveness of his brethren; and, II. As an instance of his dutiful attention to the Providence of God.

I. The most cordial forgiveness is here displayed. I shall not recapitulate all the preceding history respecting Joseph and his brethren ; as it is well known by every one who has the least acquaintance with the sacred writings. From the whole tenour of the narration it appears, that though Joseph, upon the arrival of his brethren in Egypt, made himself strange to them, yet from the beginning he intended to discover himself; and studied so to conduct the discovery as might render the surprise of joy complete. For this end, by affected severity, he took measures for bringing down into Egypt all his father's children. They were now arrived there ; and Benjamin among

« AnteriorContinuar »