Images de page
[ocr errors]

Who can

both we, and also our father. They said moreover, unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle." The presentation of Jacob to Pharaoh. "And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh." Reflect upon this event, and not admire the wonder-working Providence of God in bringing it to pass? All this was foreseen and fore appointed but how many agencies were set in motion to produce the result, while the agents themselves were unconscious of the bearing of their respective parts, and were all acting separately from each other, yet all working together-till at last all the discord issued in the finest harmony; and these were the strains to which it was attained: "He hath done all things well." I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." Art thou tempted to despondence? Do the clouds return after the rain? Seest thou no way of escape? Do means fail? Does the providence of God seem not only to forget but oppose the promise? See Joseph the slave, the prisoner, lately in irons, now prime ministe of a powerful and learned nation, presenting his weather-beaten father, whose fears are now dispelled, and every hope and wish of his long-aching heart more than crowned! Is any thing too hard! for the Lord? At evening tide it shall be light.

What did the patriarch on this occasion? "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh."-It was an expression of salutation towards a stranger. Good men are not to be uncivil and rude, and pass this off as sincerity and faithfulness. They ought to be the most genteel people upon earth; for they ought to feel in disposition, the politeness-that is, the readiness to deny themselves, and please and oblige others, which the people of the world express ceremoniously, and often very falsely. The servant of the Lord is to be "gentle towards all men." And we are enjoined to be "courteous."--It was an act of homage towards a sovereign, whose subject he now was. We are all upon a level before God: but religious equality is not to be carried into our relative and civil concerns. The Scripture supports the distinctions of life, and calls upon us to "render to all their due; honour to whom honour, fear to whom fear."-It was an expression of gratitude towards a benefactor, who had promoted his son, and was now willing to receive all his relations, and provide for them in the most fertile region of his empire. The grace that makes us humble, makes us thankful. And while we acknowledge God as the source of all good, we must not overlook those who are the mediums of it.— It was an act of supplication on the behalf of a man who, however highly exalted, stood in need of the favour of God. The less is blessed

of the greater. And Jacob was in this respect greater than Pharaoh-He was the servant of the Most High God-a prophet of the Lord-and who had obtained the name of Israel, because as a prince, he had power with God as well as with man, and could prevail. He therefore invokes the benediction of God upon him; upon his person, upon his family, upon his government, upon his empire-thus delicately and inoffensively leading him to think of the Supreme Being, and to feel his dependance upon him. What is a palace without the blessing of God? His loving kindness is better than life.

DECEMBER 30." And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?"— Gen. xlvii. 8.

We may consider the question as an instance of condescension and kindness on the part of Pharaoh. There is something in majesty that overawes and overpowers those who have been brought up remote from it. Pharaoh was the greatest monarch of the age, and Jacob had been a plain man, dwelling in tents, and acquainted only with rustic life and manners; and he was now at a period too late to acquire new modes of address. A true nobleman can disembarrass those that address him, and inspire them with decent confidence, without lowering the respect they entertain for him: and this is very much done by seizing something with which the inferior is familiar, and in which he feels more at home. Jacob probably dreaded this interview because of the conversation; the king therefore instantly begins upon his age. This would also be pleasing to Jacob. Old people love to talk of early scenes, and of things they saw and heard before others were born. Their years give them a kind of dignity and pre-eminence. Years have in all countries laid a foundation for respect-" Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man.”

But let the preacher bring home this question, especially as we are so near the end of another year, to all who are here present. We I would not have even females excluded. In this quarter indeed we should feel an impropriety in the question if an answer were to be returned aloud. The age of only one woman, even when she died, is mentioned in the Scripture-It were rude to pry where secrecy is so sacred. Years are at variance with personal attraction and impression; and many dislike to be reminded of the failure of their reign. But if by dress and hired tints they try to impose upon others, can they be ignorant themselves? Know they not the real lapse of their time and their influence? Let them therefore be concerned to establish an empire upon something more solid than corporeal charms-Let them cultivate the mind; let them adorn the heart ❤ and life with the graces of the Holy Spirit; let them abound in good works; let them with Mary choose the good part that shall not be taken away from them-Thus they will descend even into the vale of age with honour, and be estimable even in the tomb. Allow me then to ask each of you, "How old art thou?" It is a question which you can answer. There is a great difference between looking backward and looking forward. You know not what a day may bring forth. You cannot tell how long you have to live-But you know how long you have lived. It is a question you


ought to answer. There is nothing of more importance than to know how you stand with regard to the progress of your time. Time is your most valuable possession. Every thing depends upon it; and once gone it can never be recalled. Inquire therefore how much of it is gone; and how much of it probably remains.

The days of our years are threescore years and ten. Few indeed reach this period. But this is the general limit. And beyond it no man has a right to look. Philip Henry therefore, when he had' entered his seventieth year, always dated his letters, "The year of my dying." Yet have not some of you even passed this period? 苏 Are not others near it? And do not even fifty, forty, thirty years, make an awful inroad upon the measure? Are you in early life? You think perhaps that you have many years before you, during which your eye will see good. But do you learn this from Scripture and observation? Do not both these tell you that childhood and youth are vanity? Are you aged? On what distance are you reckoning before you reach your journey's end? Miles? Furlongs ? Feet? There is but a step between you and death. Are you old in sin? Your time is ending, and your work not even yet begun.

Here the question assumes a spiritual import. Christians are new creatures. They are born again. How old are we in grace? We have lived really no longer than we have lived to God, a life of faith, hope, holiness, and love. Where then are we in the Divine life? What are we in the family of God? Are we little children, or young men, or fathers in Christ?

Christian! how old art thou? "Old enough to be wiser and better. I blush to think how great my advantages have been, and how I have misimproved them. How long have I been in the best of all schools, and how little have I learned? Lord, clothe me with humility. Enable me to present thee a broken heart and a contrite spirit which thou wilt not despise."

"What have I done for him that died

To save my wretched soul?

How have my follies multiplied,
Fast as my minutes roll,"

What am I to do this evening?

"Lord, with this guilty heart of mine

To thy dear cross I flee;

And to thy grace my soul resign,

To be renewed by thee."

Aged Christian! What says your answer to this question!Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed. A few more descending suns, and "thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw herself; for God shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy sojourning shall be ended."

DECEMBER 31." And Jacob said unto Pharaon, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." Gen. xlvii. 9.

THERE is something very simple and affecting in this representation. It places life before us under the image of a pilgrimage. Such Jacob's life was literally. We find him perpetually changing his residence. He never occupied a mansion. What the Apostle

says of Abraham applies also to Isaac and Jacob: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." This fine passage shows us that Jacob was a pilgrim, not only or principally because of his outward condition, but his spiritual experience. He was allied to another and a nobler world by birth, by his possessions there, and by his advancement towards it.

Life indeed is a pilgrimage, even naturally considered. We never continue in one stay. We pass through successive periods of being; through days, and weeks, and years; through infancy, youth, manhood, and old age; and then we go down to the grave. In this sense none are residents here; all are travellers, hastening the way of all the earth.

But the figure is more strikingly true, if taken in a religious sense. The progression we have just mentioned is not the choice or wish of the multitude: and we can hardly call a man a pilgrim who is driven by force, and carried along as a prisoner or a captive; he only deserves the name who has an object in view, and which he is anxious to attain, and towards which he is voluntarily moving. Others are men of the world,"

"Their hope and portion lies below,
"Tis all the happiness they know."

But the Christian has his "conversation in heaven," and can sav, "What others value, I resign,

Lord 'tis enough that thou art mine:

I shall behold thy blissful face,

And stand complete in righteousness."

But Jacob attaches to his pilgrimage two properties. First, brevity-"Few have the days of the years of my life been." Yet he had lived one hundred and thirty years. But Isaac had lived one hundred and eighty; and Abraham one hundred and seventy-five and Terah two hundred and five. And what were these ages com pared with those before the Flood? And what were those compared with eternity! Yet this properly applies much stronger to our life than to the life of Jacob. There is not a man now living who expects to reach one hundred and thirty. The sacred writers have employed every image importing shortness of duration to characterize the hastiness of our continuance here. A flood. tale. A vapour. A weaver's shuttle. An eagle pouncing on his prey. What is it then when compared with the grand purposes of life-The salvation of the soul! The glorifying of God! The serving of our generation! Surely we have not a moment to lose! And as in a letter, if the paper is small, and we have much to write, we write closer, so let us learn to economize and improve the remaining moments of life.


The second is, misery. Not only "few," but "evil," says he, have the days of the years of my life been." His history verifies the assertion. At what period was he not called to suffer, from his early leaving his father's house down to the hour when, in the anguish of his soul, he cried, "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me?" But this attribute belongs not to Jacob's life only. "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." From this sorrowful experience none are exempted. Evil enters the palace as well as the cottage. Solomon, the happiest of mortals as to means and opportunities of enjoyment, tells us not only that "all is vanity," but "vexation of spirit." We are often tempted to discontent by comparisons; yet perhaps the very persons we envy are envying every one else. "The heart," and the heart alone, "knoweth his own bitterness." Let us not promise ourselves in life what life has never yet realized. No condition will answer a high degree of expectation.,

Let us go forth into a new portion of our time, sober in our hopes (with regard to creatures, but with confidence in God. If he is the rock, they are broken reeds. If he is faithfulness and truth, they, at their best estate, are altogether vanity. And that we may be 1 prepared for all that awaits us, let us seek that grace which can sustain us in the evil hour of adversity, and turn death itself into a blessing. Without this all the evils of time will issue in the miseries of eternity.

"This seems a gloomy view of life." But is it not a true one? -Yet it is not unmingled with good, much good. Our mercies are new every morning. And it becomes us to be thankful that in a world so full of evil we have had, during the months we are closing, so many exemptions, deliverances, alleviations, and comforts.

Besides, this was not our original state, but the consequence of sin. Moral evil produced natural evil. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin"-" Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

This state too is not our final one-unless we choose to make it so. The Gospel places within our view, and within our reach, regions of perfect ble sedness, where it shall be said, "The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more."

Nor should it be forgotten that the evils of life themselves are rendered useful. What is the effect of sin is also "the fruit to take away sin." The world, even as it now is, is capable of seducing the heart-What would it be if it presented nothing but attraction and indulgence? This changes the aspect of our condition; and not only prevents despondence and murmuring, but enables us to say, it is good for me that I have been afflicted. O how the suffering of the present time endears the Scripture! The throne of grace! The sympathy of Jesus! The glory to be revealed! -Here is one alleviation more. If the days of our pilgrimage be VOL. II.


« PrécédentContinuer »