« PreviousContinue »
consistent with the keeper's safety, was allowed him; and he was made a kind of agent, to transact the jailer's business for him. This trust he executed with fidelity and success; for the Lord was with him, and blessed him.
Perpetual imprisonment seemed now to be his destiny; and, though he might weep when the recollection of his father's house came across his mind, it is not improbable that he was, in a great measure, resigned to his fate. And yet how hard was that fate!-a prisoner in a foreign land, precluded from the hope of seeing kindred or friend; shut out from the cheerful face of day; languishing without hope of release; buried alive, while yet the ardour of youth is untamed; loaded with suspicions of the basest crimes; the subject of cruel oppression and malignant revenge; all this must have been very painful to be endured. But it is written," he carrieth the lambs in his bosom ;" and who can limit, or measure, the divine support? And deliverance, in a very unexpected way, was at hand.
Among the prisoners under Joseph's care were two persons of distinction; namely, the chief butler, and the principal baker of Pharaoh. It is said by one commentator, upon I know not what authority, that they were committed to prison on suspicion of having attempted the king's life. On one occasion Joseph observed in both of them an unusual depression of spirit, which, upon inquiry, he found to proceed from a remarkable dream that each had dreamed; and the purport of which not a little perplexed them. Joseph encouraged them to tell him all the particulars of their dreams, saying, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" -intimating thereby that, perhaps, God might, by him, give an explanation of the visions they had seen.
The chief butler then told him, he had imagined himself in a vineyard; that three luxuriant clusters of grapes were before him; "which," said he, "I took, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup; and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand." On this he awoke to the bitter reality of the contrast between his present and former condition. Joseph immediately gave him such an interpretation of his dream as banished his dejection, assuring him that, in three days, his captivity should cease, and he should be restored to his office and his home. "But," said he, "think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me; and make mention of me unto Pharaoh; and bring me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon." The readiness with which Joseph gave this interpretation, the simplicity of the interpretation itself, and the request founded upon it, all together wrought a conviction in the minds of the chief butler and baker of its correctness. The former, doubtless, purposed to use all his influence for the enlargement of his young friend; and the latter hastened to tell his dream, in the hope of an event equally happy. "I also was in my dream," said he, "and behold I had three white baskets on my head; and in the uppermost
basket there was of all manner of baked meats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head." "The three baskets," said the youthful prophet," are three days. Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee." These events occurred exactly as predicted. Within three days the chief butler was
restored to his office; and the deed of death was done upon the chief baker.
Joseph now, naturally enough, looked forward to the speedy termination of his imprisonment; but day after day passed away, until "hope deferred" had made his "heart sick," and he was wedded to despair. "I have made," he would be ready to say, "but a deeper plunge into misfortune. God hath surely forgotten to be gracious; and his mercies are clean gone for ever. My dreams, which, when in Potiphar's house, I thought were about to be realized, are now coming to naught; and their accomplishment seems more distant and more unlikely than ever." And still the buoyancy of youthful spirit, and, still more, the support and smile of God, would check these desponding thoughts; and soothe his mind to the tone of resignation. And when the heart is brought to resign itself into the hand of God, and to say, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good;" then it is that the sufferer proves the grace of God to be sufficient for him.
"When the wounds of wo are healing,
And here we pause in the history.
To young persons, a lesson of unspeakable importance is here held out. They may learn to be resigned to that obscurity which, in early life, must be the portion of nine-tenths of those who, in after life, will make a prominent figure on the public stage: but that obscurity and comparative neglect are, really, little to be regretted. Many a genius, but for these, had been checked in his mid-course by too intense an admira
tion so true it is that few are admired till they cease to be admirable. Had Joseph attained his ultimate exaltation without passing through the intermediate steps, it is probable his conduct would have been different from what we find it. Too warm a sun relaxes exertion.
We are farther taught diligently to cultivate the graces most adapted to our circumstances. The docility and industry of Joseph in Potiphar's house; his reverence for God; his gratitude to his master; his mighty victory over himself; his uprightness and integrity, both there and in prison, will give interest to his story while the world shall last. O that, incited by his example, many may study and imitate his character! Alexander conquered the world; but fell a victim to his own lusts. Joseph subdued himself, and saved a nation.
We may also learn to exercise confidence in the goodness of God, under circumstances the most discouraging. Did we know nothing of Joseph's history more than has been related, we might almost have been led to doubt an overruling providence. Here is innocence persecuted, and piety rewarded with a prison; where, in consequence of his resisting evil, Joseph is permitted to languish during two or three whole years. His father, meantime, mourned his supposed bereavement, and doubtless cast many a heart-rending look at the "coat of many colours" stained with blood. But God had purposes of love, which Jacob lived to see unfolded. His son was taken from him for a season, that he might abide with him for ever: and that in a higher than a literal sense; for had Joseph continued in Canaan, the idol of his father, and the detestation of his brothers, in a situation where fondness and envy might have destroyed the best of dispositions, the
probability is, that he would never have been the heir of Abraham's faith, in life; nor, in death, have been borne to Abraham's bosom. "O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" But supposing Jacob had been gathered to his fathers before the mysterious providences respecting his son had been explained; supposing he had died with the idea that Joseph had passed the flood before him; that circumstance would not have altered the character of the gracious providence which
Let us then learn to trust in God, "though clouds and darkness may be round about him." To a certainty, we shall not live long enough to see every intricacy solved, to have every doubt explained, and every difficulty removed. Before we shall be able to understand many mysterious providences, we must enter into the invisible world. "When I thought to know this," said the psalmist, "it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God." And when we reach the upper sanctuary, we shall know the end. Until then we must "walk by faith, not by sight."
Lastly, let us ask of God "who giveth liberally and upbraideth not," grace whereby, as Joseph did, we may "serve him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear." To this alone was he indebted for the purity, uprightness, and discretion he displayed. These had not their source in his natural disposition, for they never have such an origin. They proceeded not from a regard to his father's peace, or his own reputation; for he