« PreviousContinue »
from one kingdom to another people; he suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” And the words before us proves how he supplied them in distress.
They suffered from one of the sorest judgments that can ever befal humanity. The whole staff of bread was broken, and famine was sore in the land, and prevailed in all the neighbouring countries, and continued seven years. But the Lord called for it. The expression not only reminds us that evil cometh from the Lord as well as good, but shows us the sovereignty and ease with which he brings it. All calamities are at his disposal ; and if He speaks, they must obey him. Practical infidelity is often connected with nominal faith. People talk nationally of inexhaustible resources, of invincible armies and navies; but there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord. If He calls for an enemy, his way will be made prosperous : every thing will favour him. If He calls for continued rain, the precious grain perishes in the earth. It is the same with continual sunshine; as they knew by experience who procured themselves ceiled houses, while the house of God lay waste: * And I called for a drought upon the land and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.
Bui, before the famine commenced, God had arranged things for the relief of the sufferers. Joseph was the man sent before them to be the succourer and the saviour, and his mission was from God. Ile sent him. It seemed to be entirely the affair of his brethren, who hated and envied him ; but the hand of the Lord was in the whole; and Joseph himself acknowledged it when he disclosed himself:
And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land : and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but Ğod: and he hath made me a father 10 Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." Thus, though they sold him, God sent him. They were the instruments, but he was the agent. They acted wickedly, but he was righteous.--Yet, what was the character under which he was sent to provide ? Was he employed as an ambassador? A commissioner ? A corn-factor ? No. He was sold as a servant. His brethren sold him for a servant to the Ishmaelites—and little did the purchasers know with what a precious charge they were entrusted ; little did they think that the lad they saw weeping as he walked, or rode on the camel, was to be the saviour of Egypt and Canaan. And the Ishmaelites sold him for a servant to Potiphar--and little did his master imagine that he was ever to bow the knee to one he had bought for money. There is nothing out of hell, and there is nothing in it, equal to the malice and rage of "an imperious whorish woman. His mistress, disa ppointed in her cruelty, accuses him, and he is imprisoned. And a circumstance is here mentioned which the history omits: “Whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in irons.” Look at that slave in the dungeon, galled with his heavy chains. Will he ever stand before Pharaoh ? And ride in the second chariot of the kingdom ? And be lord of all the land of Egypt? There seemed to be no prospect of this. There he lies, day after day, month after month, year after year, with no probability of the fulfilment of his dreams, which he had been taught to regard as prophetic— until the time that” Pharaoh's "word came,” to deliver him, “the word of the Lord tried him," that is, the promise of God, by which he engaged to advance him. The accomplishment was 'delayed; things waxed worse and worse; and thus his confidence, patience, and resignation, were sorely exercised. Note, As we try God's word, so God's word tries us; and happy if, when we are tried, we come forth as gold; and the trial of our faith proves more precious than that of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire. This was the case with Joseph. His destination secured him, and the merciful mediation for which he was designed required not only his enlargement but his elevation. Therefore the king not only released him, but “made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance”-one of the most remarkable events recorded in all history.
We may consider this dispensation two ways. First, as an instance of the wonder-working providence of God on the behalf of his people. “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon
them that hope in his mercy.” Let those that live more immediately as dependants on his care remember that they have no reason to despond. The world is his and the fulness thereof. Who has seen the righteous forsaken, or their seed begging bread ? Ravens fed Elijah. And the widow's oil and meal wasted not. We are not indeed to look for such miracles; but He who performed them is not far from any one of us, and He is as powerful as ever, and sooner all nature shall change than one of his promises fail.
Secondly, as a representation of the Saviour's grace with regard to our spiritual straits. In view of these, he was set up from everlasting. In the fulness of time he came to his own, but they received him not. They despised and rejected him, and sold him for thirty pieces of silver. But he was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. He made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant, and actually died upon a cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him.
What was the elevation of Joseph ? Jesus has all power in heaven and in earth. Many others were relieved by Joseph's advancement : but it was peculiarly designed for the salvation of his father's house. Jesus is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe -He is the head over all things unto his body the church. It hath pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell. Therefore to Him let us go, and from his fulness receive, and grace for grace. For a time Joseph's brethren knew not that he was the governor, and had all the corn at his disposal ; otherwise they would have gone down earlier, and have appealed to a brother's heart. Yet perhaps one thing might have checked them—a consciousness of their baseness towards him. How can we ever look him in the face ? But suppose they had known that he had more than forgiven them; and when he saw them would fall on their necks and kiss them: then they would have gone down, confident, yet feeling much more of their unworthiness than before. Thus should we apply to the Lord Jesus; with hope, rendering us more sensible of our vileness. But let us not keep away from Him. He invites us
He assures us that while He has plenty we shall not want. Because He lives we shall live also. Let us remember the relation in which He stands to us; and see where and what He now is. In what distress will not this encourage us? “Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen ; and have the keys of hell and of death."
JANUARY 31.—"In many things we offend all."-James iii. 2. To exemplify this in our conviction, we must estimate our offences according to the mind of God, and not by a human judgment. When David says, " Who can understand his errors ?” he means to intimate that no one can be fully acquainted with them. We are too full of self-love; and are too averse to dwell on the discovery of our faults. The heart is not only desperately wicked, but deceitful above all things; and has a thousand artifices to delude us into a more favourable opinion of ourselves than we deserve. Hence we excuse many evils; we question the guilt of others; and as to those we consider really sinful, we do not condemn them according to their aggravations. From various causes therefore, we see only a small part of our sins; and we must not suppose we appear in the eyes of God as innocent as we are in our own-In his sight the very heavens are not clean. And does he set our iniquities before him, our secret sins in the light of his countenance ?
Neither must we judge of the number of our offences only by our remernbrance of them. We are affected with recent transgressions; but we are not struck with those we were guilty of ten or twenty years ago. And wherefore? Though they are past as to us, they are not so as to God. Nothing is future, nothing is past, with Him - With Him everything is present—and we are at this very moment committing those sins with Him, with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. Though we have forgotten a countless multitude of our offences, God has forgotten none of them. They are all recorded in the book of his remembrance-and could we consult this awful register of our lives from the beginning, with all the sins of youth and manhood, of secrecy and openness, of infirmity and wilfulness, of purpose and accomplishment; and could we peruse one chapter, or one verse only, we should exclaim-we cannot answer Thee for one of a thousand of our transgressions. “Innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.'
Have we not in many things offended all_First, in our disregard of the Lord Jesus? Secondly, in the neglect and formality of our devotion ? Thirdly, in the coldness and contractedness of our cha
rity? Fourthly, in the non-improvement and mis-spending of our time? Fifthly, in our behaviour under the discipline of the rod ? Sixthly, in our “temper-flaws unsightly ?" Seventhly, in the license of our tongues ? It would be easy to multiply the counts in the indictment. Surely a little reflection upon each of these will convince us of the guilt here acknowledged.
But in what manner should we utter the confession ? For the words are not always used as James and his brethren used them. Some use them as a kind of censure upon others, rather than as a reflection upon themselves: yea, their aim is to screen themselves as culprits in the commonness of the delinquency. Hence, when their conduct is accused, or a monitor reminds them of their misdoings, O, say they, none are exempt from failings; even the best err; in many things we offend all. Others use them without perhaps a bad design; yet they use them vaguely and unimpressively -it is mere lip-service-it comes from nothing—and leads to nothing. But if we properly feel the sentiment we utter, it will be accompanied with deep repentance and godly sorrow-It will make us sensible of our need of the Saviour, and endear to our souls the cross and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ-It will hide pride from us, and fill us with self-abasement-It will dispose us to receive and invite reproof- It will keep us from murmuring and repining under divine correction-It will make us tender towards the infirmities of others—It will elevate our views to heaven, and send forth our desires after a state in which we shall never, never sin -and-It will awaken us to caution, carefulness, and zeal: for though we cannot attain perfection here, we may much reduce our imperfections; and should be concerned to make all possible progression in the divine life. Here, as all our offence arise from the depravity of our nature, our business must be to seek for more grace to mortify the principle of sin--for how can we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ? And as grace uses means, we must inquire where we have most frequently erred, and how we have been most easily overcome; and atch pray lest we enter into temptation.
FEBRUARY. FEBRUARY 1.4" At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”—2 Tim. iv. 16.
This was a very trying case. He was a prisoner, and had appealed unto Cæsar. He had to appear before the tribunal of Nero, the greatest and the most cruel monarch of the earth, to defend himself against one charge, for which he had suffered as an evil doer even unto bonds. His friends should have rallied around him, encouraging him by their kindness, emboldening him by their presence, exculpating him by their testimony, or softening his judges by their tears and entreaties. It was the custom among the Romans for the connexions of the accused to appear in court in mourning, to show their regard for the prisoner
, and to influence the tribunal by their depositions, or their importunity; and sometimes the train that attended them was very large and imposing. But Paul appeared on the day of trial like an outcast, entirely disowned-when he looked around, he saw no one in his favour--the abandonment was extreme -no man stood by him—but all forsook him! Yet this gives the Apostle an opportunity to display the excellency of his principles and temper—“I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." Hence we may observe,
First-It is 'no unusual thing for a man to be deserted in the hour of trial. The rich have many friends; but the poor useth en treaties, and often useth them in vain. Some seem to act as if they thought a brother was born for prosperity, instead of adversity. Thus the garden is not forsaken while it abounds with flowers and fruits, but in the dreariness of winter. Are you suffering under such desertion ? Remember, your brethren have drunk of this bitter cup before you. In his deep distress, David heard that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. And what was the complaint of Job ? “My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm, they vanish : when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place." Is it the Scripture only that is continually saying to us, “ Čease from man ?”
Secondly-See the frailty of good men. For such the persons complained of were, notwithstanding their infirmity on this occa sion : and therefore Paul distinguishes them from the hardened persecutor and blasphemer of whom, as an Apostle, he speaks in the verse preceding: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom beware thou also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” Men may be backsliders and not apostates: they may act weakly and not wickedly, or so as to do despite to the Spirit of grace. Thus these persons were friends at heart; their defection was only temporary; and they would soon grieve over it. But the best of men are but men. The. agency that makes them holy leaves them human. There is nature in them as well as grace. And what affecting and humiliating changes do they sometimes betray! Who could have thought that Elijah, after telling Ahab to his face of his abominations, and slaying all the false prophets, should flee at the threatening of Jezebel, and pray to be released from life? Who, that had seen Peter in the presence of the Roman soldiers draw his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest's servant, could have believed that the very same man, a few hours after, would be so overcome with fear, at the question of the damsel in the judgment-hall
, as to say, with oaths and curses, I know not the man? So these brethren, when they heard that Paul was coming to make his appeal, went down to meet him as far as Appii-Forum and the three taverns; and when Paul saw them he thanked God, and took courage : yet consulting with flesh and blood, and thinking how many had lately suffered, they yielded to apprehension, and not one of them justified the hope they had excited. Lord, what is man!
Thirdly-How becoming and lovely is a forgiving disposition! However leniently the conduct of these forsakers of Paul may be treated, they were very blameworthy. There was much in their defection to irritate his mind, especially considering what was their duty towards one who was suffering for the cause they professed, and the pretensions of friendship which they had made. Nothing is more feli, more resented, than injury in the hour of want and distress,