JOSEPH'S BRETHRE CO VICTED BY CO SCIE CE. BY REV. W. THISTLETHWAITE, M.A. Genesis xlii. 21.

And they said we are verily guiUy concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his sovl when he besought us; and we would not hear : there/ore is this distress come upon us. This verse affords a striking proof of the power of conscience^ and shews that however it may be overpowered, by the present force of some evil desire or temper, or however it may seem to lie dormant for a time, it will hereafter awake, and speak so as to be heard; it will rouse up the recollection of his offences in the transgressor's mind, and make him fear for the consequences. We here see also something of the rewards of sin. Men can T5

418 Joseph's brethren commit it without fear or remorse; they have a temporary pleasure in it ; it gratifies some unholy propensity of our fallen nature ; it seems therefore to he pleasing to the flesh ; but ere long it will exhibit its poisonous and painful nature ; it will bite like like a serpent, and sting as an adder ; for the present it may be rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, but it will soon prove bitter as wormwood and grapes of gall. We will therefore now trace the circumstances winch produced this conviction of conscience in the brethren of Joseph, for they were the speakers of the text which I have read to you. Joseph, as we saw in the last sermon, had interpreted Pharaoh's dreams to predict that seven years of abundant plenty would be

succeeded by seven years of extraordinary scarcity. He had therefore been appointed by the king to lay up a store of provision while the years of prosperity lasted, and had been invested with almost supreme power over the whole land o( Egypt In due time the years of dearth came on, and it was so general and so severe, that not only Egypt, but the

CO VICTED BY CO SCIE CE. 419 neighbouriiig countries were reduced to a Mate of famine. It extended to the land of Canaan, and as the same precaution had not been used there, the family of Jacob, eren m the second year of its continuance, was in great distress. The report had reached them that there was com in Egypt, for Joseph had opened his storehouses, and was beginning to sell it to all who applied. Jacob therefore said unto his sons, '' Why do ye look one upon another ? Behold I have heard that there is com in Egypt : get you down thither, and buy for us from thence ; that we may live and not die." We see here man's natural fondness of life, and the care which he will take for its preservation. The form^ is an instinct common to all creatures as well as man, and the latter is his duty. But man is a being far superior to the brutes. He has reason as well as instinct; he can look forward to the future, as well as feel his present wants ; and he has another and . an eternal state of existence for which it is his still higher duty to provide. The holy scriptures point out to him his spiritual necessities.

420 Joseph's brethren and the peiiishing condition of his soul ; they also shew him where relief is to he found and set hefore him the bread of Ufe^ of which if he eat he shall live for ever ; and they

warn him not to labour, — ^that is not to labour exclusively, or even principally, — ^for the bread which perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life. And it is his wisdom and du(y to avaU himself of this information, and to apply himself earnestly and diligentiy to obtain a supply of grace and spiritual blessings for his soul. Let him feel that he is in a perishii^ state ; but let him be told where there is provision. Then let him not sit still in inactivity ; let him not waste the precious opportunity in idleness or unprofitable complaint; but let him earnestiy set himself to the work which is before him, and lay hold on eternal life. The sons of Jacob were admonished by their father, " Why do ye look one upon another, Behold, I have heard there is com in Egypt, get you down thither, and buy for us fit,m thence, that we may live and not die." Thus reasoned the lepers also in the great famine of

CO VICTED BY CO SCIE CE. 421 Samaria, as is written in the seventh chapter of the second book of Kings, when that city was surrounded by a Syrian army, " They said one to another, why sit we here until we die ? If we say, we will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there : and if we sit still here, we die also. ow therefore come, and let us fall into the host of the Syrians : if they save us alive, we shall live ; and if they kill us, we shall but die." So they went and discovered that the Syrians had deserted their camp, under an alarm cast upon them by God, and they found enough to save not only their own lives, but the lives of their countrymen too. So may we say to all, but especially to those who more nearly resemble in state the sons of Jacob, and are become sensible of their pressing need and dangerous condition, why do you look one upon another with despair? Why do you pore

over your misery, and stand looking upon your danger, when you have heard that in Christ there is life and salvation. Go and seek help from him, from whom help may

422 JOSEPH'S BRETHRE be had^ even from him, in whom dwdleth all the follness of God, in whom are all the storehoosea of grace and mefcjr, and who is able to supply all jonr need out of his own riches. Yon have heard of the manner in which Jacob exhorted his desponding sons ; Uds is the manner in which I speak to you* Upon this they set ont on their jonmey, and in due time they appeared before the governor of the hmd. Knowing the rank which he held in Egypt, but little supposing that this was their own iU-treated brother, they approached him with the rererence which was due to his high station : '^ Joseph's brethren came, and bowed themselyes before him, with their faces to the earth/' ow the dreams of Joseph, which he had hod above twenty years before in his father^s house are accomplished. ow they, who took such pains, and incurred such guilt to prevent it, are voluntarily, though unconsciously, fulfilling it. Thus it is that providence governs the world. . Verily there is a God that ordereth all things according to the counsels which he has formed. Who can

CO VICTED BT CO SCIE CE. 423 stay. his hand or counteract his will? AU things and all persons do and must fulfil his pleasure. ow Joseph would remember his dreams, and would see how a wonder-working God can accomplish his own will by means that at the time may appear the most opposed to it. ow the whole plan of Providence

would break in upon his view, and he would at once see, how the pit into which he was cast, the journey of the Ishmaelites to whom he was sold, the vicious inclinations of Potiphar's wife, the offences and confinement of Pharaoh's servants in the same prison -with himself, the dreams of the king, the plenty and the famine, were all so many links in &. one mbroken ciaia of Rorideneo, «, many steps of the ladder which reached up to heaven and ended in the eternal counsels of God. His heart would be full of admiration and faith. For " Joseph knew his brethren," though they knew not him. Various circumstances might cause this : he might be apprized of their coming, while they had not any knowledge of his exaltation, or even of his

424 JOSEPH'S BRETHRE existence ; he was but a youth, and they in their manhood when they had last parted^ so that the alteration would be great in him^ and but little in them; they would appear before him in the usual dress in which he had been accustomed to see them, while he would be arrayed in all the splendour of an Egyptian nobleman ; he would examine them at his ease, but they would be filled with awe in his presence. Yet though he knew them, he made himself strange to them, and spake roughly to them, and pretended to consider thenr as spies come to see the state of the country, with intent of some future hostile invasion. We may suppose that he treated them thus to examine what was their present disposition. ay, it is not too much to suppose, that he might have some intimations from God how to conduct himself towards them. They respectfully disowned the character of spies; they assured him that they came with no political views, but only to buy food; they told him that they were all the

sons of one man, thereby intimating that they were not ministers or appointed servants

CO VICTED BY CO SCIE CE. 425 of any king, true men and not spies. Stfll he affected to disbelieve them. Then they endeavoured to convince him of their real character and object by thus detailing more minute particulars of their family. ^* Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not." This would be information exceedingly interesting to Joseph. He thus learned that his venerable £a.ther was still alive, and that his own brother Benjamin was not only in life, but the object of his father's special care. He saw a way by which he might have 4liat beloved brother brought to him; and to put it into effect, without discovering himself to them, he affected still to discredit their words, and would thus put them to the proof. One of them, he said, should be sent to bring their youngest brother, the rest should be kept in prison till his return; if the appointed messenger returned with his brother, well ; or else the case would be clear, (hey were spies. Into prison therefore they were all cast, and there they laid three

428 JOSEPH'S BRETHRE reproaches, *^ Spake I not unto 70a, saying. Do not sin against the child, and je would not hear ? Therefore behold also, his blood is reqnired." Here is a consideration which may well help to deter us all from the conunission of sin, namely, the fear that afterwards our consciences will fix it upon us. This thing is yery common. Often has an offender been filled with painful recollections of the most severe kind, when he has

been thrown into trouble and pain on any other account Grod seems to him then to be reckoning with him, and in a time when he can least stand against him. In the days of his prosperity and health he passed lightly on his way notwithstanding his sins; he forgat them himself, and therefore seemed to think that Grod had forgotten them too. But he finds to his consternation that they rise up against him in the loneliness of the sick chamber, in the hour of piercing pain, or the season of worldly loss and trouble. Then they appear to be ever before him, and to come with increased severity because of their previous delay. Ah ! my brethren be

CO VICTED BY CO SCIE CE. 429 assured that our sins are never blotted out of the book of God's remembrance, never carried into a land of forgetfulness, or cast behind his back into the depths of the sea, until they have been humbly confessed to him with the feelings of deep contrition and trae repentance, and pardon has been obtained for them through the atoning sacrifice of the blessed Jesus. They can only be washed away in his blood : otherwise they will stand out against us in the registry of heaven : they will cleave to us while we live, and distress us when we die, and go with us into the eternal world, and to the judgment seat of Christ, and be our curse and condemnation for ever. I pray you to let this consideration deter you from sin, among the many others which reason so strongly against it. All these their self-reproaches were heard by Joseph, though they knew not that he understood them, and it affected him greatly ; it brought tears into his eyes, so that he was obliged to leave them, that he might conceal his agitation. o doubt they were tears of joy, of joy like that which is felt by the

430 JOSEf^H'S BRETHftfi angels of God when a sinner repenteth. Yet he pursned Ins purpose, and haying caused Simeon to be bound before their eyes^ he pr^ared to se^d the others away* Wh;^ Simeon was selected we are not infmned, and where the Scriptures are sQent, we need not conjecture. But he also did another thing to them ; he ordered the money which was paid by them for the com to be placed in the sack of each, unknown to theiti. — Whether he had any further intention beyond that of kindness we do not read, but &e effect was to fill them with perplexity and dismay. As soon as it was discovered in the sack of one of them, their instant exclamation was, ^^ What is this that God Imfh. done unto us ?" They thought that God was in some w:ay:the author of it, and that he was pursning them with evil; and doubtless they went heavily on their way, and full of strange thoughts, till they arrived again before their father in Canaan. There they related all that had happened ; the rough treatment they had received, the suspicion which had Mien on them, the defence they had miade, the terms

CO VICTED BT CO SCIE CE* 431 on which they had been suffered to retam, and the necessity of leaving Simeon behind them. In addition to this distressing rehition tfaej find, upon opening all their saeks, that behold every man^$ bundle of money was in hi^ sack, and this filled both them and their fisrfherwith fear. It seemed, even to Jacob also, that some evil was intended them; and it caused their aged father to break out into this passionate expression of grief and com* plaint, ''Me have ye bereaved of my children^ Josei^ is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away, all these things are

against me/' Joseph already was lost, of the fate of Simeon he had no hope, and should Benjamin go to Egypt, either in the expectation of having Simeon released, or from die hard necessity of purchasing more food, he anticipated that he also would never rc^turn. What distress overwhelmed his spi-* rit! Faith and patience for the time were gone. The venerable man accused his sons, and was ready to fret against his God. In conclusion I would again call your attention, first, to the great point which \

432 Joseph's brethaen have already noticed so much. Reflect on the certainty that punishment attends on sin. See these sons of Jacob whom foimerly we left triumphing over their brother, now receiving the wages of their desert '' The triumphing of the wicked is short'* Thej are here before us conscience-striken^ a«d as full of fear as they before were of guilt. DoubUess this was not the first time that they had felt the sting of conscience : each, no doubt, had often thought With pain and fear of the part he had borne in the transactions of that day, in which they had so misused their brother ; but now the circumstances in which they were placed made the feeling too strong for a solitary confinement in their own individual bosoms, and they openly confessed to one another what they had often previously felt. They are brought into trouble, and they know that they are plagued thus, as the Psalmist says, " because of their offence." ow turn the thought of your mind to some presumptuous and yet prosperous sinner, who seems to own no will but his own, and to live only for his

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own pleasure. Or see some transgressor, who ever appears to be unchecked, unpunished, in health and prosperity, and coming in no misfortune like other people. Be assured that God will nevertheless risit his iniquity. Though sentence * against him may not be executed speedily, yet it will come at last. " Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." Here or hereafter he will sorely be punished. Perhaps in this life, or otherwise certainly in the eternal world, God will enter into judgment with him. Oh ! hear this, all ye who sin, and if ever conscience reproves, let its convictions work within you, till they issue in a sincere repentance^ and an earnest application to the mercy of Jesus. I wish you, secondly, to consider the mistaken judgment which is often formed of the ways of Providence. In this the wicked greatly err. So long as they remain unafflicted, they are undismayed, continue secure in their sins, and often proceed in th^n, not only for a longer time, but also u

434 josbpb's brethren, &c. to & greater degree. But I alao wisli yea particQlarly to notlee, that eren good m«i aften err in tlmy jaclgment of the leays of Providence. Heur Jacob exckiimuig, ^^ Mc hare je bereared of mj children, Joaeph ifl D^^ md Simeon is not, ajid j% wiU take Benjamin away alao. AU tlieBe things wt% againfit me.** Haw gt^eatly vaa he mistaken! They were all for him. All that WQ3 iKKw going on was fer his happineaa aand joy. And oh ! how often, when proiddenoea seem cross, and dat k donds hoirer ojv:w the beiUeyer's path in li&^ and paisiftil disappomt-

mwta and trials come upon him, in hk awn peirson, in faia eartMy circqmstai^ices, or domestic f ektions, Qh \ how often does he faU into despondency, and vechon as grievous afflictions the things, which, pcahaps, if he could see to their end, he would discern to be his greatest merdes. Mkiy G^ help us all to cast our care upi» him^ to bow witti true submission, to ey»y affliction, and to beUeTe in his wisdom, mercy, and l<^e, in every moat trying disp^isation.

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