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brothers, polluted with innocent blood, and which glow and shine upon the page of inReuben, his first-born, his might, and the spiration! with what delight and success beginning of his strength, the excellency of should we then speak, and with what pleasure dignity, and the excellency of power," stain- and profit should ye then lend a listening ed with incest Judah, his fourth son, who had ear! begun to build up a family of his own, but it The story of Jacob, as it proceeds, teaches was by a Canaanitish woman,* whose pro- many useful lessons for the conduct of life; geny involved him in complicated guilt, and and opens many sources of religious instruccovered him with shame-Joseph and Benja- tion. Who would not rather be honest, unmin, fair as the opening blossoms of the ver- suspecting, believing Jacob, than dark, denal rose, and precious as the purple fluid signing, selfish Laban? And yet, who does which visited his sad heart—But alas! the not see the necessity of blending the wisdom highly valued stock which had shot forth of the serpent, with the harmlessness of the these two lovely branches, is prematurely dove? We mourn to think on the prevacut down and withered. His beloved Rachel lence of those fiery and ungovernable pasis no more; and he is deprived of even the sions which separate, and scatter, and alienpoor consolation of reflecting, that her sacred ate those whom God and nature designed to dust slept in the same tomb with that of his ve- live together, and to love one another; and nerable ancestors. But to have the privilege of which robs human life of many instances of pouring his sorrows into the bosom of a father, felicity which might have been in it. Why was the alleviation if not the cure of them. should Isaac and Jacob have lived twenty And he, who by meditation, and faith, and years asunder, to their mutual discomfort prayer, had overcome the world, and lived so and distress? The vile spirit of this evil long in heaven, was well qualified for admi- world arose; the spirit of pride, emulation, nistering the vivifying cordial to the fainting ambition, avarice, fear, revenge, drove Jacob soul, to apply the sovereign balm to the ach- into a miserable exile; and left his father a ing heart of a son, who had been a still forlorn, forsaken, anxious blind old man. greater sufferer than himself.
Happy that poverty, which permits the But the calamities of neither the father parent and his child to cherish each other, nor the son are as yet come to a period; and till the cold hand of death chill the heart. they have still to interchange sorrows for a Happy the obscurity which excludes envy; loss more bitter and oppressive than any and forces not a man to be an enemy to his which they have yet endured. For, in little own brother! more than six years from their re-union; We have seen in the patriarch, a man like while Isaac, now one hundred and seventy ourselves, “ bruised and put to grief;" the years old, was patiently looking for his dis- image of "one greater man," " a man of sormission from this scene of trouble, and pre- rows and acquainted with grief," whose paring to enter the harbour of eternal rest woes commenced in the manger, and ceased he is driven back upon the tempestuous ocean, not till they were lulled to rest in the tomb. and dooined to toil and grieve ten years “ The Son of Man" who “came not to be more of a weary life, deploring an affliction ministered unto, but to minister." which admitted of no consolation, and which heir of all things" who emptied himself, and at length brought his white head with sor- voluntarily assumed “the form of a servant." row to the grave. At this period it was, that " And they gave unto Jacob all the strange Joseph, beautiful and young, Joseph, the de- gods which were in their hand, and all their light of God and man, Joseph, the memorial ear-rings which were in their ears; and Jaof Rachel, the pride of Jacob, the prop of cob hid them under the oak which was by Isaac's old age, disappeared, and was heard Shechem."* “ And Jesus went up to Jeruof no more, till many years after his venera- salem, and found in the temple those that ble grandsire slept in the dust.
sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the Jacob, sinking himself into the dust, under changers of money, sitting. And when he the pressure of a burthen which nature was had made a scourge of small cords, he drove unable to sustain, is at length called to per- them all out of the temple, and the sheep, form the last sad office of filial aflection, and and the oxen, and poured out the changers to lay his hand upon the already extinguish- money, and overthrew the tables: and said ed orbs of his honoured father; willing, and unto them that sold doves, Take these things longing, I am persuaded, to have descended hence, make not my Father's house an house with him into the grave. But not the least of merchandise." | Jacob presented to his eventful part of his history is yet to come. father a numerous and thriving ofispring; It will henceforward be blended with that of but many of them children perverse and corJoseph, which now solicits our attention. O rupted, their father's shame and sorrow. But could we but bring to the study and display when our spiritual lead shall present his of it, a small portion of that native simplicity, redeemed to " his father and our Father, to that divine eloquence, that celestial energy, his God and our God," saying, “ Here am I, * Gen. xxxviii. 2. 18. 24, 25, 26.
† John ii. 13-16
* Gen. xxxv. 4.
and the children thou hast given me," the he may show mercy;" our“ Redeemer parental eye shall discern in them "neither liveth," " he is risen again, he is even at the spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing.” Our right hand of God, he also maketh interces Father in Heaven ever lives, “exalted that sion for us."
HISTORY OF JACOB AND JOSEPH.
LECTURE XXI X.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age : and he made
him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they haied him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.-GENESIS Xxxvii. 3, 4.
The history of mankind exhibits an un- | lessons which it teaches; or the mighty ceasing contention between the folly and consequences, both near and remote, which wickedness of man, and the wisdom and resulted to the family of Jacob, to the Egypgoodness of God. Men are continually striv- tian monarchy, and to the human race, from ing to outdo, to mortify, and to hurt one incidents, at first insignificant and seeminganother; but a gracious Providence, by op- ly contemptible, but gradually swelling into posing spirit to spirit, interest to interest, magnitude, embracing circle after circle, force to force, preserves the balance, and extending from period to period, till at length supports the fabric. His sovereign power all time and space are occupied by them. and matchless skill, produce exquisite har Isaac was now as good as dead; calmly mony from the confused, the contending, looking forward to his latter end; alive only discordant tones of human passions. He to sentiments of piety and of pain. And controls and subdues a diversity, which Jacob was, through much difficulty and disthreatened disorder, separation, and destruc- tress, at last settled in the land wherein his tion, into a variety which pleases, which father was a stranger; increased in wealth, unites, which cements and preserves man- rich in children, rich in piety, but advanced kind. And a more consolatory, a more com- in years, and loaded with afriction. Jacob's posing, a more satisfying view of the divine family, the salt of the earth, was itself in a Providence we cannot indulge ourselves in, very putrid and corrupted state; and the than this merciful superintendence which it heads of the twelve tribes of Israel were condescends to take of the affairs of men, themselves very bad men. The unhappy and of every thing that affects their virtue father endeavours to soothe the anguish or their happiness. The disorders which arising from the ill behaviour of his grownprevail in the natural world, under the sub- up sons, by the pleasing prospects which the duing hand of heaven, range themselves into more amiable qualities of his younger chilorder and peace. The convulsions which dren opened to him. shake and disturb the moral world, directed, The sacred historian introduces to us the checked, and counterbalanced by a power favourite character of Joseph with wondermuch mightier than themselves, subside into ful art and skill. From the very first motranquillity, through the very agitation and ment we become interested in him. He is violence they had acquired. “Surely, the long expected son of beauteous Rachel Lord, the wrath of man shall praise thee, -his mother was dead-he had now attainand the remainder of wrath thou shalt re- ed his seventeenth year—and he was the strain.” When the tumult is over, and the darling object of his father's affection. Janoise ceases, religion rears up her head, and cob's affection, however, has not blinded him says, in the words of Joseph to his brethren, so far, as to bring up even his favourite in
but as for you, ye thought evil against me, idleness. Little does that man consult either but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass the credit or the comfort of his son, who as it is this day, to save much people alive."* breeds him to no useful employment: for in
We are now come to a passage of the dolence is the nurse of vice, the parent of sacred history of uncommon beauty and im- shame, the source of misery. Unfortunately portance. Whether we consider the sim- , for him, however, Joseph is associated in emplicity and grace of the narration, the affect- ployment with persons whose conversation ing circumstances of the story, the interest- was not likely to improve his morals, and ing and instructive views of the human heart whose dispositions toward him did not prowhich it unfolds, the many plain and useful mise much to promote his happiness; “ the
lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the
* Gen. 1. 20.
sons of Zilpah, his father's wives;" who, these or any of these be wanting. Let them alas ! seem to have inherited much more of know early, and hear frequently, that cleanlithe spirit of the bond woman who was their ness and decency are virtues which they mother, than the freeman who was their fa- ought to acquire and to practise : but that & ther. What were the particulars of their curiously ornamented body is, to a discernill conduct we are not told: but Joseph ob- ing eye, nothing but the indication, and the served it, was grieved and offended, and re- wretched, tawdry covering of a naked soul. ported it to his father.
I think I see the ill effect of Jacob's fondJacob is not wholly irreprehensible in this. ness on Joseph himself. What could have It was imprudent to trust a well-inclined suggested those dreams of his own superioriyoung man, at that delicately dangerous sea- ty, the recital of which was so offensive to son of life, far, or long out of his sight, and his brothers, and which drew from his father in such company. It was wrong to en- himself check and reproof? Nothing but courage in Joseph a spirit of censoriousness the petulancy of his waking thoughts buoyed and self-conceit. It was madness to add up by confidence in paternal preference and fuel to those resentments, which his ill-dis- favour. It will be said, that they were intiguised partiality to this son of his old age mations from above, of his future greatness had already kindled in the breasts of his and eminence. It is readily admitted. But other children. But his understanding seems of what stuff does the foreknowledge and quite blinded by love for the boy; and he power of God frame prognostics and predicproceeds from weakness to weakness. As tions? Sometimes, perhaps often, of the if he had not raised up enemies enough to violent propensities and desires of men's him, by countenancing in him the odious minds. And many events seem to have been character of tale-bearer, he goes on to ex- predicted, not because they are to come to pass, pose him to the hatred of all the family, by but they come to pass because they have been dressing up his darling in “a coat of many predicted. The dreams themselves are the colours."
natural working of a young mind, inflated What a foundation of mischief was here by indulgence. The repetition of them, laid! The brothers must have been much where they were sure to occasion disgust, less inflammable than they were well known marks a simplicity, an innocence, a boyish to be, not to have taken fire at this indiscreet, thoughtlessness and indiscretion, which it this ridiculous distinction. And Joseph him- were cruel severely to censure, but which self must have possessed a mind much more wisdom can by no means approve. And, the firm and more enlightened than seventeen whole taken together, the prognostic with generally discovers, not to have felt at least the realization, the cause with the effect, the some transient emotions of vanity, insolence, prophesy with the event, form a wonderful and self-sufficiency, in being thus favoured and instructive contrast of the weakness of above the rest. The father was therefore man, and the power of God; the meanness injurious to all, but most to himself. His of the materials, and the magnificence of the house is now in flames, and he himself has fabric; the feebleness of the instrument, and fired the train. Parents, as ye love your rc- the force of the hand which employed it. pose, as you value your children, as you Though Jacob was not altogether pleased would have them dwell together in unity, as with the spirit which these dreams and the ye would not put a dagger into a brother's rehearsal of them discovered, yet they had hand to shed a brother's blood, guard your- a very different effect upon him and upon selves well against partial affections: or if his sons. They envied and hated him the unhappily you have conceived them, conceal more; he “observed the saying.” Whether it from every eye, let not the favourite see from a father's partial fondness, or instructed it
, let not his rival suspect it. Let reason, by that Spirit, who afterwards disclosed fulet religion, let that very partiality itself turity to him, down to the gathering of the teach you to be wise and just. Parents, as people to Shiloh, he considered the doubling ye prize the understanding, the virtue, the of the vision, and its coinciding purport, as true dignity of your children, let them never portending something great and good to his be taught to think that dress confers conse- beloved child; and he sits down patiently to quence, that finery implies worth, that the wait the issue. And we shall presently find body deserves more attention than the mind. it was hastening towards its conclusion in a Let not even your daughters be led, through course much more rapid, and by means much your silly vanity, to believe that any part of more extraordinary than any which he could their excellence consists in the splendour of possibly apprehend. their appearance. But still inculcate upon By this time the power of Jacob's family them, that a mind stored with virtues, with was grown so great, or the terror inspired modesty, meekness, gentleness, patience, by the cruel murder of the Shechemites was humility, is, both to God and man, a sight so far effaced, that his ten eldest sons adveninfinitely more pleasing than the most beauti- ture into the neighbourhood of that city to ful person adorned with jewels and lace, if feed their flocks. The distance from Beersheba, where Jacob dwelt, being considera- | dreamer cometh.” Well has our blessed ble; their absence being extended to a length Lord cautioned his disciples against the use of time that created anxiety, and though their of contemptuous expressions one to another. apprehensions might, a solicitous father's For however slight and insignificant a hard anxiety not being quite laid to rest, he thinks or ridiculous name at first sight may appear, proper to send Joseph from Hebron, to inquire it proceeds from an unkind heart, and parafter their welfare, and to bring him word takes of the nature of murder. again. Unhappy father and son ! little did It is no uncommon thing for men who have they think the parting of that day was to be quite got over every scruple of conscience, for such a length of duration. Blind that we and all sense of duty, still to retain some reare to futurity! We “cannot tell what a gard to decency; and to respect opinion and day may bring forth.” The last meeting, the appearances after the heart is become perlast parting; the last coming in and going fectly callous. Though they can remorseout; the last time of speaking and of hear- lessly resolve on shedding blood, they have ing ; the last of every thing must soon over- not confidence enough to avow their violence take us all. Joseph accordingly leaves his and barbarity, but craft and falsehood must father's house, never, never to return to it be called in, to cover their villany from the more, and goes forth in quest of his brethren. eye of the world. “Come, now, therefore,
Our tender affections are now strongly ex- and let us slay him; and cast him into some cited for the hapless youth. A lad of seven- pit, and we will say, some evil beast hath teen, who had never till now been from be-devoured him: and we shall see what will neath the protection of paternal care and become of his dreams."* That there should tenderness; whose face “the wind of Hea- have been one of the ten capable of conven” had never hitherto “visited too rough-ceiving and suggesting such a deed of horly;" whose spirit mortification had never ror, had been wonderful; but that only one galled, whose heart affliction had never yet of ten should rise up to intercede for the unpierced ; thrown at once into the wide world, happy victim, exceeds all belief. We almost missing his way in an unknown country, ex- lose the remembrance of Reuben's filthiness, posed to savage beasts, or more savage men; in his good-natured attempt to save his brocoming at length to the place of his destina- ther. If there were something of deceit in tion, but disappointed of finding what he the proposal which he made to the rest for this looked for there; and finally falling into the purpose, it was on the side of virtue, and calls hands of butchers, where he expected bro- at least for pardon, if not for commendation. thers. If ever there were an object of com- Joseph was now at hand. And O how difpassion, it is now before us. I observe his ferent his reception from what he fondly exyoung heart flutter with joy, when, after all pected! “They stript Joseph out of his his wanderings and anxieties, he descries his coat, his coat of many colours that was on brothers, and their tents, and their flocks afar him. And they took him, and cast him into off. I see the tear of tenderness rush to his a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no eyes, while he delivers his father's greeting, water in it.”+ With truth has the wise and tells the tale of his youthful sorrows and man said, “ the tender mercies of the wicked mistakes upon the road. I see his blooming are cruel.” The demons of envy and revenge countenance flushed with delight an atis- have taken possession of their hearts. In vain faction, at the thought of being again among he weeps, in vain he prays, in vain employs friends, of having once more a protector. the tender names of father and brother, to Ah cruel, cruel disappointment! They have win their pity. The coat, the odious coat, been plotting his ruin, they have devoted him the badge of a partial father's fondness, steels to death. He comes to them with words of their breasts. They strip it off with more peace, with kind and affectionate inquiries of savage joy than ever the doating parent after their health and prosperity. They meet felt of satisfaction in seeing him put it on, or him with looks of aversion, with words of the hapless youth himself in wearing it. The contempt and hatred, with thoughts of blood. horror of being cast alive into a pit to perish
The history of Jacob's family exhibits a with hunger, is not to be conceived, much shocking view of manners and of society at less expressed. What must it then have that period. They digest and execute a plan been to a heart like Joseph's, tremblingly of murder, with as much coolness as we alive to the keenest sensations of pain ; acwould an improvement in agriculture, or an quainted, till then, only with gentleness and adventure in trade. It is no wonder the poor indulgence, and now dreadfully awakened to Shechemites found no pity at their hands, perceive the full extent of his misery? Inwhen they are so lost to the feelings of na- stant death had been mercy to one in such a ture, humanity, and filial duty, as to deliber- situation. ate and determine, without ceremony or re
As if they had done nothing, they sit down morse, upon their own brother's death. The unconcernedly to eat bread. Savage montrifling incident of the dreams lies rankling sters! Could the moderate cravings of their in their bosoms. “Behold," say they, “ this
† Gen. xxxvii. 23, 24.
* Gen. xxxvii. 20.
own appetite fail to remind them of the ants of him whose“ hands were against every wretched state of their poor brother; fail to man, and every man's hands against him," suggest the misery of perishing for want, and he is safer with wild Ishmaelites, than and to awaken compassion in some gentle with bloody, unnatural brothers. From avabosom? Yes; with his piercing shrieks yet rice, if not from pity or affection, they will sounding in their ears, with his piteous, sup- treat him kindly, that they may dispose of plicating looks yet before their eyes, they him to advantage. So much better is a merindulge the commonest, lowest cravings of ciful, or even a mercenary stranger, than an their own nature, and calmly consign him to envious and cruel brother. Reuben, it apa lingering death; the bitterness of which pears, was not present at this consultation, was every instant increased by the slowness bargain, and delivery. He probably stole of its approach. And now, behold the dar- away, when the rest sat down to meat, that ling of Jacob on the very brink of despair; by a round-about path he might arrive at the when Providence, wiser than they were cun- pit where Joseph was hid, and assist him in ning, and more powerful than they were effecting his escape, while the rest were wicked, interposes for his deliverance. otherwise employed. But he had made so
It was so ordered of Heaven, that a tra- large a circuit in order to avoid suspicion, velling company or caravan of Ishmaelitish that the sale was transacted before he came merchants passed by, while they were at to the place, and his benevolent intention dinner, in the course of their traffic to Egypt. was thereby frustrated. He is the only one A thought occurred to Judah, whose heart of the brothers who seems to have felt a sinnow began somewhat to relent, that an op-gle spark of pity for the unfortunate youth, portunity offered of ridding themselves of or of concern for the distress of his aged patheir hated rival, without incurring the guilt rent. What then must his anguish have been, of shedding his blood; namely, that of selling when he came to the pit, and found no Joseph him for a slave to the Ishmaelites; who, he there? From his worst fears however he is knew would carry him along with them into soon relieved, and, bad as it was, rejoices to Egypt, sell him over again for profit, and hear that Joseph was only sold for a slave. thereby for ever prevent the possibility of By common consent it is agreed to conhis return, to detect their villany, and renew ceal, if possible, the whole of this dark scene, his pretensions to superiority over them. They must meet their father again, and to
No sooner was this proposal made than it him something must be said for the non-apwas assented to. And they, who a little pearance of his amiable, his beloved son. I while before made nothing of taking away am not more shocked at their first purpose of their brother's life, with less scruple and cere- blood, than at their artful device to cover it, mony still, take upon them to rob him of his and their awful steadiness and fidelity to liberty; and, as if he had been a bullock, or each other, in guarding so well the dreadful a kid from the flock, sell him for twenty secret. It proves what deep, what deterpieces of silver, into the hands of strangers. mined, what thorough-paced villains they
the wonder-working hand of God! The were. And from such men does the Jewish circumstances which lately seemed to poor nation glory to have sprung! They stain Joseph so untoward and unfavourable, were the variegated coat, the cause of so much working together for the preservation of his jealousy, with blood, which they intend shall life, and paving the way to glory. Had he pass with the wretched father for the blood not wandered in the field, his arrival had of him that wore it; and they send it to Hehappened too early for the passing by of bron as accidentally found in the field in that these merchants to save him. Had he found state, to carry its own doleful tidings with it. his brethren in Shechem, as he expected, in I cannot accompany this fatal pledge to stead of Dothan, he had been out of the track the place of its destination. Who can bear which his deliverers took. " Who can tell to witness the anguish of a miserable old what is good or evil for a man," till the end man sinking under the weight of accumucome, and the mystery of Providence be un-lated wo? All his former griefs admitted folded? These, to the eye of man, are little of consolation. They were more directly accidental circumstances. But they are a from the hand of God, they were in the course part of a vast arrangement, made by Him of nature, they might be cured or endured. “who worketh all things after the counsel of But this stab was mortal; it defied medicine, his own will,” to bring about a great pur- it mocked at length of time. He himself pose. There are wheels almost impercepti- has had the principal hand in this great evil; ble in the great machine, which the untutored and I fear, I fear he suspects the truth, though eye is apt wholly to overlook, but which are he says it not. Beautiful, too much beloved, indeed as necessary to motion as the largest ill-starred Rachel ! once I pitied, now I conand most obvious.
gratulate thee. A gracious Providence has Thus was the jewel of his father's heart in kindness taken thee away from the evil to vilely bartered away as a thing of little value. come. The sight of Joseph's vesture dipped Behold Joseph in the hands of the descend- | in blood, must have proved fatal to thee,