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temptation. Keep your hearts with all diligence. Ye were born in sin even as others; and in those hearts of yours there yet remaineth a spark of falsehood, which if it be not watched, some unexpected gust of temptation will blow up into a blaze. “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."
Holy Scripture records the failings of God's children, to show you what materials your hearts are made of. Walk humbly therefore with God, and let this truth be habitually impressed upon your consciences, that as you cannot give your hearts to God except He be pleased to take them, so you cannot keep them for God except He be pleased to keep them.
Again, brethren, from the history before us learn this; that the end cannot sanctify, or so much as excuse the means. Ye must not “do evil that good may come.” If ye do, your "damnation is just '.” God had
“ ? revealed his purpose of blessing Jacob; but this did not justify Jacob's lie. Such faithful servants of God as have thus fallen, may be zealous, and repent; but though (his grace helping them) they should rise again by repentance ever so speedily, still they are to remember, and be confounded, and not open their mouth any more because of their shame, when the Lord God is pacified towards them for all they have done.
If by the instrumentality of conscience, by the removal of spiritual consolations, or by outward crosses, God scourges them, his act shows his fatherly attentiveness to their well-being; but it shows at the same time their sin, for which it becomes them to be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; to become vile and little in their own sight; to esteem others better than themselves; and to offer unto God all they have to offer, a broken and contrite heart.
Finally, if God would not deprive Jacob of the blessing and the birthright, though by his evil deeds he so richly deserved to lose them, but would allow
9 Prov. xxvii. 19.
1 Rom, iii. 8.
him space for repentance; behold in this a lively pattern of his dealings with yourselves, and adore his tender mercy and forbearance. A blessing has been purchased for you by Jesus Christ, an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled; but if even every wilful sin, not to speak of sins of infirmity, should cause a forfeiture of that blessing, how oft has every one of you forfeited your title to it, since you were brought to seek it through faith in Christ's blood !
But here is your security, “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins ?.” He it is in whom God proclaimeth, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings :.” “In the I
“ Lord we have righteousness and strength, even to him shall men come. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory +.” He prevailed that Jacob should not be cast off; He holdeth our souls in life, and keepeth us in covenant with our God. Apply to Him, day by day, to wash you from your sins in his blood; look to Him to merit for you continual forgiveness; and to his Spirit to strengthen, stablish, settle you; to prevent the wandering of your backsliding and revolting hearts; to keep you through faith unto salvation.
1 John ii. 1, 2.
3 Jer. iii. 22.
4 Isa. xlv. 24, 25.
THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH.
Ps. cv. 17.
“He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a
“The Lord reigneth,” the Psalmist tells us, and therefore, he adds, “let the earth rejoice'.' We shall acquiesce in the fitness of the exhortation, if we will give our minds to serious consideration of the sublime truth on which he builds it. Shutting our eyes to that, we can indeed discern nothing in the events which are passing round us, but the links, as it were, of a broken chain; a chance-medley of accidents and disappointments. “All is vanity and vexation of spirit; that which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered ?" But believing that God is King, how different and how consolatory is the view ! “Clouds and darkness” indeed “are round about Him," so far as to shroud for the present the meaning of most of that which He permits or orders, but “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne 3 ;” and, therefore, we are sure that every thing has a meaning, and a wise and good one too, to be made plain hereafter, if not now.
Ps. xcvii. 1.
? Eccles. i. 14, 15.
3 Ps. xcvii. 2.
“I am the Lord,” He saith, "and there is none else I girded thee, though thou hast not known me—I form the light and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things 4.” And if so, things great and small, past, present, and to come, “fire and hail, snow and vapours,” and “kings of the earth” no less, “and all people,” “time and chance,” as we speak, the whole course of nature, and the inward hearts of men, they are all the ministers of God that do his pleasure; means and instruments which He holds in his hands; controlling, adjusting, balancing, and directing them, till the determinate counsel of his will shall be fulfilled in its season; and one beautiful and beneficent whole is perfected, and his kingdom of everlasting peace is
Holy Scripture has many histories which open this subject to us, showing how God has, in fact, worked in some cases; and thus making it easier for us to believe that He does work in all, though we are seldom permitted to discern the connexion of events, or the particular ends which this or that seeming accident is to further.
The history of Joseph and his brethren, referred to in the text, is of this sort; and a history it is besides so calculated to strike all minds, that none but an extraordinarily dull person can read it without interest, nor any but a very graceless person consider it without profit. I mean at present to confine myself to a general view of it.
Setting aside, for the most part, what is to be gathered from the personal behaviour of the several human actors, I will look at the whole narrative, as illustrating the doctrine of Divine Providence.
The Psalmist has spoken of God's covenant with Abraham; of his promise to give the land of Canaan
: ; to his posterity; and of the marvellous manner in which, during his people’s wanderings, He had “suffered no man to do them wrong,” but had “reproved even kings
Isa. xlv, 5. 7.
for their sakes 5.” He next mentions the grievous famine which overspread the land of Egypt, and the country also where Abraham's descendants sojourned ; and then from the 17th to the 24th verse, he commemorates God's method by which He was pleased, first, to support the chosen family during that distress; and secondly, to keep them together till they should become a people, and it was time to bring them in a body into the land provided for them, and to drive out the Canaanites before them. “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. The king sent,” then, “and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom. Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies 6.
We will look now to the history referred to.
Jacob had twelve sons; and the eleventh, named Joseph, was a youth of seventeen years of age, about one-and-twenty years before the famine came. This Joseph the Lord designed to make his minister for the preservation of the family; and having bestowed, as it should appear, great grace upon him from his childhood, He now began to prepare him, in a more special manner, for his work. But this He did, I wish you to observe, not by any direct or visible interposition ; but, letting things take their natural course, and suffering those whom Joseph lived with to follow the devices and desires of their own minds for the furtherance of their own private ends, He overruled every thing; first, for the training of Joseph up to be such a person as was wanted; and next, for the bringing of him into such a situation, and conferring upon him such powers and
See Ps. cv. 14.
6 Ver. 17-24.