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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,
When the heart is all resign'd,
"Tis the solemn feast of feeling,
"Tis the sabbath of the mind."
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
"Watches every number'd hair,
And all our steps attends."
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
might have sinned, to all appearance, with advantage to his worldly interests, and without the knowledge of his father. They sprang from "the fear of the Lord," which is, "to depart from evil;" and "happy is the man that" thus "feareth always."
"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt," Gen. xli, 41.
THE history of Joseph has been popular in all ages; and no wonder. The pen of uninspired man never succeeded in delineating a character of equal excellence. And his is drawn in a manner so touchingly simple; there is such an admirable keeping of character; such a train of wonderful, yet not improbable events, throughout; such variety of beauty to engage each man's peculiar affection, that we find, as might have been expected, youth affected by his virtues and trials; age, with his filial reverence; the man of study, with his fortitude; the worldling, with his sudden elevation; and the pious, by his exemplary self-denial in one instance, and his deep piety through the whole of his public life.
In the prison, where we last left him, Joseph remained for two or three years after the butler's restoration. His last hope of deliverance was, probably, extinguished. During the whole of this period, we learn nothing concerning him; but we may infer, from the whole of his recorded history, that he grew in favour, both with God and man. The sweetness of his disposition was mani
fest in all his conduct; and (what is exceedingly rare) was accompanied with an unusually fervent piety, and an understanding well cultivated and well furnished. With the character of a philosopher, and the spirit of a saint, he would employ his thoughts, not in useless and unavailing regrets, but in planning and executing schemes for his own improvement and the benefit of others. He might have his moments of depression, when saddening recollections stole across his mind; but his remembrance of the past was not imbittered by a consciousness of unrepented iniquity. He could trust in God, and God blessed him. Though plunged into the depths of adversity; though all its waves and billows rolled over him; yet he rose superior to them all.
After a considerable time, the Egyptian king had two remarkable dreams, which made a deep impression on his mind. It was in vain he tried to forget them; and it was equally in vain he sought an explanation of them. He summoned all the magicians of Egypt, men who cultivated astronomy and the sciences, who affected a skill in astrology, and professed to foretel future events from the aspects of the stars; but they failed to divine the matter, and the monarch's anxiety and gloom were apparent to every one. It was now that the chief butler called to mind the happy interpretation of his dream, which he had received from the Hebrew youth. Hoping at once to discharge an obligation to a benefactor, and to confer one on his sovereign, he frankly told the whole of the circumstances which had occurred before his liberation. The case
was too much in point to be overlooked. It was the exact moment in which the ear of Pharaoh was open to such a communication. He immediately sent for