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deceived. Leah was made to personate Rachael, as Jacob had personated Esau. Thus was Jacob treated. But the treatment raised him into a saint. And those who feel their sins may know from his example that there is no sin so great but God's love will cure it for them, and no depth so low from which He will not raise them to the greatest and most glorious height. The young, especially, who feel their great infirmities, may find a great encouragement in Jacob's history. However many and however great their faults may be, they need not despair of overcoming them. If they seek a Father's blessing, and place themselves beneath His care, asking Him by loving correction to make them great, He will reform them by His sharp yet kindly discipline, and He will shape them after His own image by His firm yet gentle hand.
Learn we, then, from this story, that nature without grace is but a fading flower, and that the fear of God is the only soil in which a character can ripen and bear good and living fruit. There is no good which will not languish and die beneath the influence of strong temptation, if grace is lacking. There are no faults which may not wither, and be exchanged for shining graces, when the heart is in its right place and fears God.
CONSCIENCE AN ACCUSER.
GEN. xlii, 21.
“And they said one to another, we are verily guilty 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
THE speaker here is conscience.
The tongues which speak are the tongues of Joseph's ten brothers; but the same faculty is astir, at one and the same time, in every one of them, and brings all of them at once to the same conclusion, that the cause of this distress in which they now find themselves is nothing else but the deed which they had done to Joseph some twenty years before. The blood of Joseph whom they had slain in will and sold in deed, was crying out within their hearts against them, and was being required by God at their hands. Their sin, though long forgotten, had found them out. They had never been sorry for it. They had never confessed that it was sin, or repented of it. To use the figure in the Proverbs, they had eaten and wiped their mouths and said, I have done no wickedness. And conscience was now saying to them, “If you
have forgotten your wickedness, there is One above who has a long memory and forgets nothing.' It is a striking
instance of that reflexive energy of conscience by which it bears its witness against unremembered sin ; and I think that it may do us all good to dwell upon it during this season, when we are reading Joseph's history, and ought also to be humbling ourselves because of all our sins.
About twenty years before these words were spoken, eleven brothers, sons of Jacob, were together in a lonely region, without a single witness of the acts which they might do. Joseph, the youngest of the eleven, had but just joined them, having been sent from a distance by his father to see how his brothers
He was a great favourite with his father, because he was the son of Rachel; and his brothers were jealous of him, by reason partly of his father's fondness, and also because of dreams which God had sent him, to intimate his future exaltation, not only above themselves his brethren, but even above his father Jacob.
And now the jealousy which had long been ran kling within them, attained so great a height that they resolved upon
his death. An opportunity was given. He was alone with them. It was easy to account for his death without rousing suspicion. They said, therefore, “ Come now and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say some evil beast hath devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams." From this deliberate act of murder they were turned by Reuben, who seems to have had no share in their malicious purpose, and who proposed, instead, that they should let him into a pit in which was no water, intending when they were gone to take him up and restore him to his father. To this they agreed. But when the deed was just done, and they had coolly sat down to eat bread, as though nothing strange had happened, a company of traders came in sight, and suggested to Judah a new mode of dealing with him. He proposed that they should sell the lad to these merchants; for, said he,“ he is our brother and our flesh.” They all consented to the proposal. Joseph was sold accordingly; and its future governor was sent to Egypt as a piece of merchandize.
This was twenty years before. And now, twenty years after, the eleven brothers meet again. Ten of them,—the same ten who sold him,-preserved by God's forbearance in spite of their sin, are now in prison and at the foot of Joseph; while Joseph whom they had sent out of their sight, as they thought for ever, is the greatest man in all the country, and their lives are hanging in his hands.
What a strange revolution of the wheel of Providence! The wonders of fiction are nothing to the wonders of fact. If one had said when Joseph was descending into that 'deep pit, from which escape appeared impossible, or even when the bargain with the merchants had been just concluded,—Ah, ye may may do as ye please, but a time is coming when your lives shall be at Joseph's mercy, and ye shall be as good as slaves in Joseph's hands,' he would have seemed as great a dreamer as Joseph had himself been. Yet there is the fact. The ten brothers are in ward and Joseph is governor of all the land of Egypt.
And yet, stranger still, is their remembrance of the sin which they had done so long before. Twenty years ago they had thought to kill and had actually sold Joseph. What had they to do now with an act which had happened then? They did not know Joseph. There was nothing in this governor of Egypt to remind them of the dreaming lad whom they had sold to be a bond-slave. His position, the change of outward aspect which lapse of years had wrought upon him, perhaps also his dress, contributed each their part in obliterating every thought of likeness to the brother from whom they had parted now so long before. To connect together these two persons, and see in them one and the same man, was the last thought which would have entered into their minds. And yet they said, “ We are verily guilty 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 !” They connected together their past conduct and present suffering as cause and consequence. In their own distress they thought on the distress of their brother. The cries which they heeded not, although they rent the air, came borne to them from that distant period, as on the wings of the wind. The anguish with which his soul was wrung seemed now their own accuser. His prayers, to which then they would not listen, now haunted the chambers of their memory, like uneasy spirits which would not rest. The wilderness was now before them. The pit, the company of merchants, the bargain, the sale, the captivity,—they saw it all as fresh, as clear, as vivid as though all had happened yesterday, or was now happening. They knew their guilt. For the first time through all those twenty years, they saw, they felt, they said, “We are verily guilty.”