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THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH.
GENESIs XLIx, 22–26. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob: (from thence is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above 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 that was separate from his brethren.
Acts vii, 9–16. And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt, and all his house. Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heared that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out
our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, and were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sychem.
TO enter at large into the beautiful history that connects the preceding Lecture with the subject which we are about to propose for consideration, is not practicable; we must therefore imitate travellers in a foreign country, whose limited time will not permit them to pass through the land in the length and the breadth of it—we must inquire what things are most worthy our regard, and to them bend our attention. There are two events previous to THE History of Joseph, which require us to pause, and to indulge the common feelings of nature, and which cannot fail to impress, because they speak at once to the heart. It is impossible topass through Canaan without turning aside to the land of Moriah, and contemplating the sacred mountain on which a patriarch's faith triumphed over a father's feelings. According to the promise of God, Isaac was born when Abraham was an hundred years old. He, had seen his son preserved from the perils of infancy. His mother had gazed with unspeakable pleasure upon her child—the son of her vows, who was now fast pressing towards manhood. The parents of this amiable youth were looking forwards to a peaceful dismission from the tols of life, and to the happy termination of a tranquil old age. Abraham “planted a grove in Beersheba,” and rested under its shadow. This quiet retreat, alas, is not impervious to sorrow! This delightful scenery resembles the stillness of the air which usually precedes a tempest—it bodes approaching trial. “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him—Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell thee of.”—What a command was this! To stain his hand with the blood of a lanb which he had fed, would be a task to a feeling mind: but the requisition is for a “Son.” To select one from a numerous family, would be a cruel effort. Let the mother look round upon her children, when they are assembled before her like a flock, and say, which she could spare from among them? But the demand is, “take thine only son”—in whom the life of both parents is bound up. To part with an only child for a season, opens the fountain of a mother's tears, and adds to the grey hairs of his father. To lose him by death, is to cause them to go bitterly in the anguish of their soul all their days. What was it, then, to offer an only son as a sacrifice, and to be himself the priest who should plunge the knife into his bosom? But he obeys—obeys without a murmur! He rises early in the morning to immolate his child, and to offer, on the altar of God, all that he held most dear in this world. On the third day, the destined mountain marks its elevation along the line of the horizon, and meets the eye of the afflicted parent. The servants are not permitted to witness the awful scene, the solemnity of
ecution of which they might prevent by force—or, wanting their master's faith, might draw from it inferences unfavorable to religion. At this moment, to awaken in his bosom extreme torture, “Isaac spake unto Abraham his father and said, My father; and he said, here am I, my son. And he said behold the fire and the wood: but where is a lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God shall provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”—But we will no longer attempt to scent the violet, and to paint the rainbow. We must draw a veil over the scene: for who can enter into a father's anguish as he raised his hand against his child? and who shall be bold enough to attempt a description of his rapture, when heaven, which had put his faith to so severe a trial, commanded him to forbear, and indeed provided itself a victim? Before we enter upon the immediate subject of this evening's discussion, humanity requires us to drop a tear, also, over the grave of the once lovely Sarah, who “died in Kirjath-arba.”Twelve years after the trial of his faith, this heavy stroke of calamity fell upon him; “and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.”—Let not the unfeeling, and the gay, break in upon the sacred privacy of domestic sorrow! It is not the semblance of grief, which spreads a cloud over the forehead of yonder venerable patriarch: real and unaffected anguish causes those tears to flow. She had been long the companion of his life—she had shared his joys and sorrows—she had sojourned in tents with him, a stranger in a strange land—she had regarded him with fondness up to her hundred and twenty-seventh year. Her communion and friendship had sweetened his distresses, and lightened his labors. The
dissolving of this long connexion waslooseningthefibres which entwined about his heart; and while he exhibited the resignation of a saint, he felt as a man. Before “the cave of the field of Machpelah” closes its mouth for ever upon the precious dust, let the young and the beautiful come, and look, for the last time, upon the person whose loveliness had kindled desire in every bosom, and had more than once ensnared her husband. Let them gaze upon the dishonor of that, which even time had respected, and age had spared. Let them learn a lesson of humility, while they behold the triumphs of death, and hear a husband entreating “a possession of a burying place, that he may bury his dead out of his sight,” and hide that form from his eyes, which he had never before beheld but with rapturous delight! We pass over the events which occupied the few remaining years of the life of Abraham, and the interesting account of the marriage of Isaac. We leave his two sons, to bury in the grave of their father their mutual animosities; and we commit the dust of that patriarch in silence, to rest by the side of his beloved Sarah, till the morning of the resurrection. We pass over the life of Isaac, whose disposition, according with the kind dispensations of Providence, led him to prefer the tranquillity of domestic life, to the noise of state, and to the applause of fame; and who was “a plain man, dwelling in tents.” In the bosom of his family, old age stole upon him, and he heard the voice of years calling him to rest with his father Abraham. The fraud of Jacob. and the sanguinary disposition of Esau, must alike be overlooked; nor can we pause to comment upon that which might furnish so much instruction—the sad consequences of the deception