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But how did Joseph bear his new dignity? Even in the bosom of a court, in the midst of unwonted adulation, and exposed to a thousand temptations, of which a proud confidence in his talents was not the least; he was enabled to retain his integrity, his humility, and his piety. A court was, probably, then, what it has been ever since, the grave of virtue. Its pestilential vapour enervates and destroys the moral constitution. We have heard of men who resided in places where the plague slew its thousands daily, and where death was glutted with its prey, who yet escaped unhurt. And such a one was Joseph-upright, conscientious, godlike, even in a court! His rigid and impartial historian, Moses, mentions not one circumstance to his discredit. His situation was a very difficult one. The eyes of the whole nation were upon him. The elevation to which he was so suddenly raised, the rapid accumulation of his honours, the circumstance of his having been a Hebrew and a shepherd, and, above all, the prophecy which he had delivered, and on the fulfilment of which his safety depended, were all calculated to awaken jealousy and suspicion; and seven years had to elapse before the predicted period of famine would arrive. Not one in a thousand could have survived the snares of such a situation. But Joseph stood

"Firm as an iron pillar strong,
And steadfast as a wall of brass."

During the seven years of plenty, numbers, seeing the uncommon abundance year after year, and conceiving the recurrence of the Nile's overflow to be as certain as the rising of the sun, would laugh at Pharaoh's precautions. But, at length, to the astonishment of all, in

the eighth year of Joseph's vice-royalty, the Nile did not overflow and there was a famine, not only in Egypt, but, it is said, in all the earth, probably in all the land of Egypt and its neighbourhood. Joseph now opened his storehouses, and began to sell the corn he had treasured up; for the people cried unto Pharaoh, and Pharaoh directed them to Joseph.

The famine extended to Canaan; and Jacob's family began to be in want. A report having reached them that there was corn in Egypt, the sons of Jacob set out to purchase bread for their father, themselves, and their little ones. During this long interval we hear nothing of the venerable patriarch. Undoubtedly the multitude of his sorrows, and the recollection of his loss, though the impression had been weakened by the obliterating hand of time, still pressed heavily upon him. The anguish of his soul, when first he beheld "the coat of many colours," stained with blood, could never be wholly forgotten. And now famine was superadded. His ten sons, by his direction, went down into Egypt, and stood before Joseph, whom, on account of the alteration effected by the lapse of several years, the change in his dress, &c., they knew not; but who, in an instant, recognised them. The first of his dreams was now fulfilled-they bowed before him. Resolving to supply their need in the end, but wishing first to gratify his filial curiosity respecting his father, and to remind them of their cruelty, he did not make himself known to them; but questioned them with an appearance of rudeness, as though they were spies, confined them for three days, and then dismissed them with abundance of corn, secretly returning their money in their sacks. But first, he bound Simeon before their eyes, and retained him as a hostage, till they should verify their

assertions, that they were true men, ten out of eleven sons, by bringing their younger brother, Benjamin, before him. This proceeding greatly distressed them; and conscience, which had been silent while every thing went on with its accustomed regularity, now brought their faults to their remembrance, and led them to general confession. "We are verily guilty," said they, "concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear. Therefore is this distress come upon us." Little did they imagine they were in the presence of that injured brother; or that he well understood their language and their allusion, while they believed they were speaking in a tongue unknown in Egypt! How keen are the stings of conscience!

The nine brethren returned, meeting with one inexplicable and ominous circumstance by the way, namely, the discovery of the money of one of them, in the mouth of his sack; and a similar discovery in all the sacks, at the end of their journey. They reported all they had heard and seen to their aged parent, whose heart was still exquisitely sensitive to the bitter trials he was called to sustain. Callous, indeed, must that heart be that can read the last three verses of the forty-second chapter of Genesis unmoved. What a moving picture of distress! There is something tenderly touching in the grief of an aged person, especially if he be a character of worth and piety. His grief uttered no loud complaint. Nature was unable to be vehement. But his look is one that speaks unutterable things, in the expression of its sorrow. His tears flow silently over his aged cheek. His reverend gray locks hardly shade his downcast eye. And as he smites his brow in agony, he exclaims, "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye

will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me." That man must be dead to every feeling that endears and ennobles humanity, who, with such a scene before his eyes, does not weep with him that weeps.

The supply which the children of Israel had brought out of Egypt was soon exhausted; and they were under the necessity of returning for more. The old patriarch felt acutely at parting with Benjamin; but seeing no alternative, he let him go. An account of their second journey must, however, be reserved for another lecture.

There is one subject which forcibly arrests our attention in reviewing this history; and that is, the nature of those supernatural dreams which Pharaoh and his servants had, as well as Joseph. Without doubt, our dreams are generally nothing more than the wild wanderings of the imagination. They are often occasioned by our bodily or constitutional circumstances. Often they are influenced by impressions made upon us during the preceding day; or even by the dispositions which we ourselves cultivate. It has been observed that the tenour of our involuntary thoughts will always manifest to us the current of our dispositions; that if, for instance, our piety be sincere and ardent, our thoughts, unbidden, will dwell on subjects suitable thereto; and vice versa. But, perhaps, this rule is not strictly applicable to our dreams. Evil thoughts are often suddenly injected into our minds by the enemy of our souls; and why not evil dreams!

If we remember that, at the period of history we have been engaged in considering, the characters of God's original law upon the human heart had been greatly effaced; that the greater part of mankind were idolaters; that even the chosen family had not received

the law of ordinances; much less had "life and immor tality been brought to light by the gospel," we shall not wonder so much that God should convey some intimations of his will by means of a dream; and that he should enable some individuals who "feared God and wrought righteousness," to explain its meaning, and to refer all the glory to God alone. The interpretations of dreams were very important links in that chain of providential occurrences which conducted Joseph to his exalted station, and which brought Israel into Egypt→→ events which were fraught with the most important consequences. "But we have a more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place."

What an illustration does the history of Joseph, even as far as we have pursued it, afford of the truth of that delightful saying, "All things work together for good to them that love God." This is the case with the undue fondness of a friend, as in that of Israel for Joseph; with the envy and jealousy, the malice and cruelty of men, as in the conduct of Joseph's brethren; the false accusations of the ungodly, and the unmerited severity inflicted in consequence, as was that of Potiphar toward his young and attached servant, through the slander of his wife; the ungrateful forgetfulness of those on whom benefits have been conferred, as when the chief butler "remembered not Joseph, but forgat him." O! how wonderful are the ways of Him who "doeth all things well," and "maketh even the wrath of man to praise him." All these things served, at once, to promote the elevation of Joseph, and to prepare him, in his high, as well as in his low estate, to bring glory to God.


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