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SECTION VI. The clemency and amiable character of the patriarch JOSEPH.
1. No human character exhibited in the records of Scripture, is more remarkable and instructive than that of the patriarch Joseph. He is one whom we behold tried in all the vicissitudes of fortune ; from the condition of a slave, rising to be ruler of the land of Egypt; and in every station acquiring, by his virtue and wisdom, 'favour with God and man. When overseer of Potiphar's house, his fidelity was proved by strong temptations, which he honourably resisted.
2. When thrown into prison by the artifices of a false woman, his integrity and prudence soon rendered him conspicuous, even in that dark mansion. When called into the presence of Pharaoh, the wise and extensive plan which he formed for saving the kingdom from the miseries of impending famine, justly raised him to a high station, wherein his abilities were eminently displayed in the publick service.. * 3. But in his whole history, there is no circumstance so striking and interesting, as his behaviour to his brethren who had sold him into slavery. The moment in which he made himself known to them, was the most critical one of his life, and the most decisive of his character. It is such as rarely occurs in the course of human events; and is calculated to draw the highest attention of all who are endowed with any degree of sensibility of heart.
4. From the whole tenour of the narration it appears, that though Joseph, upon the arrival of his brethren in Egypt, made himself strange to them, yet from the beginning he intended to discover himself; and studied so to conduct the discovery, as might render the surprise of joy complete. For this end, by affected severity, he took measures for bringing down into Égypt all his father's children.
5. They were now arrived there ; and Benjamin among the rest, who was his younger brother by the same mother, and was particularly beloved by Joseph. Him he threatened to detain; and seemed willing to allow the rest to depart. This incident renewed their distress. They all knew their father's extreme anxiety about the safety of Benjamin, and with what difficulty he had yielded to his undertaking this journey.
6. Should he be prevented from returning, they dreaded that grief would overpower the old man's spirits, and prove fatal to his life. Judah, therefore, who had particularly urged the necessity of Benjamin's accompanying his brothers, and had solemnly pledged himself to their father for his sa fe return, craved, upon this occasion, an audience of the governour; and gave him a full account of the circumstances of Jacob's family.
7. Nothing can be more interesting and pathetick than this discourse of Judah. Little knowing to whom he spoke, he paints in all the colours of simple and natural eloquence, the distressed situation of the aged patriarch, hastening tu the close of life ; long afflicted for the loss of a favourite son, whom he supposed to have been torn in pieces by a beast of prey; labouring now under anxious concern about his youngest son, the child of his old age, who alone was left alive of his mother, and whom nothing but
the calamities of severe famine could have moved a tender father to send from home, and expose to the dangers of a foreign land.
8. “If we bring him not back with us, we shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant, our father, with sorrow, to the grave. I pray thee therefore let thy servant abide, instead of the young man, a bondman to our lord. For how shall' I go up to my father, and' Benjamin not with me? lest I see the evil that shall come on my father.”
9. Upon this relation Joseph could no longer restrain himself. The tender ideas of his father, and his father's house, of his ancient home, his country, and his kindred, of the distress of his family, and his own exaltation, all rushed too strongly upon his mind to bear any farther concealment. “He cried, Cause every man to go out from me; and he wept aloud."
10. The tears which he shed were not the tears of grief. They were the burst of affection. They were the effusions of a heart overflowing with all the tender sensibilities of nature. Formerly he had been moved in the same manner, when he first saw his brethren before him. “His bowels yearned upon them; he sought • for a place where to weep. He went into his chamber; and then washed his face and returned to them.”
11. At that period his generous plans were not completed. But now, when there was no farther occasion for constraining hinself, he gave free vent to the strong emotions of his heart. The first minister to the king of Egypt was not ashamed to show, that he felt as a man, and a brother. “He wept aloud; and the Egyptians, and the house of Pharaoh, heard him."
12. The first words which his swelling heart allowed him to pronounce, are the most suitable to such an affecting situation that were ever uttered ;—“I am Joseph ; doth my father yet live ?"—What could he, what ought he, in that impassioned moment, to have said more? This is the voice of nature herself, speaking her own language; and it penetrates the heart; no pomp of expression; no parade of kindness; but strong affection hastening to utter what it strongly felt.
13. “His brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence." Their silence is as expressive of those emotions of repentance and shame, which, on this amazing discovery, filled their breasts, and stopped their utterance, as the few words which Joseph speaks, are expressive of the generous agitations which struggled for vent within him.
14. No painter could seize a more striking moment for displaying the characteristical features of the human heart, than what is here presented. Never was there a situation of more tender and virtuous joy, on the one hand; nor, on the other, of more overwhelming confusion and conscious guilt. In the simple narration of the sacred historian, it is set before us with greater energy and higher effect, than if it had been wrought up with all the colouring of the most admired modern eloquence.
BLAIR. SECTION VII.
ALTAMONT. The following account of an affecting, mournful erit, is related
by Dr. Young, who was present at the melancholy scene. . The sad evening before the death of the noble youth, whose
last hours suggested the most solemn and awful reflections, I was with him. No one was present, but his physician, and an intimate whom he loved, and whom he had ruined. At my coming in, he said, “You and the physician are come too late. I have neither life nor hope. You both aim at miracles. You would raise the dead!"
2. Heaven, I said, was merciful—“ Or,” exclaimed he,-"I could not have been thus guilty. What has it not done to bless and to save me!-I have been too strong for Omnipotence! I have plucked down ruin.” I said, the blessed Redeemer,—“Hold ! hold! you wound me!-That is the rock on which I split:-1 denied his name !"
3. Refusing to hear any thing from me, or take any thing from the physician, he lay silent, as far as sudden darts of pain would permit, till the clock struck: Then with vehemence he exclaimed; “Oh! time! time! it is fit thou shouldst thus strike thy murderer to the heart!-How art thou fled for ever!-A month!Oh, for a single week! I ask not for years ! though an age were too little for the much I have to do.”
4. On my saying, we could not do too much: that heaven was a blessed place - “So much the worse.-'Tis lost! 'tis lost ! Heaven is to me the severest part of hell !” Soon after, I proposed prayer,-"Pray you that can, I never prayed. I cannot prayñor need I. Is not Heaven on my side already? It closes with my conscience. Its severest strokes but second my own."
5. Observing that his friend was much touched at this, even to tears(who could forbear? I could not)—with a most affectionate look he said, “Keep those tears for thyself. I have undone thee.Dost thou weep for me? that is cruel. What can pain me more ?"
6. Here his friend, too much affected, would have left him.“ No, stay-thou still mayst hope ; therefore hear me. How madly have I talked! How madly hast thou listened and believed! but look on my present state, as a full answer to thee, and to myself. This body is all weakness and pain; but my soul, as if stung up by torment to greater strength and spirit, is full powerful to reason; full mighty to suffer. And that, which thus triumphs within the jaws of immortality, is, doubtless, immortal-And, as for a Deity, nothing less than an Almighty could inflict what I feel.”
7. I was about to congratulate this passive, involuntary confessor, on his asserting the two prime articles of his creed, extorted by the rack of nature, when he thus, very passionately exclaimed :-“No, no! let me speak on. I have not long to speak.-My much injured friend ! my soul, as my body, lies in ruins ; in scattered fragments of broken thought.
se for the past, throws my thought on the future. Worse dread of the future, strikes it back on the past. I turn, and turn, and find no ray. Didst thou feel half the mountain that is on me, thou would struggle with the martyr for his stake; and bless Heaven for the flames !—that is not an everlasting flame; that is not an unquenchable fire."
9. How were we struck! yet, soon after, still more. With what an eye of distraction, what a face of despair, he cried out! " My principles have poisoned my friend; my extravagance has beggared my boy! my unkindness has murdered my wife !-And is there
another hell? Oh! thou blasphemed, yet indulgent LORD GOD! Hell itself is a refuge, if it hide me from thy frown!"
10. Soon after, his understanding failed. His terrified imagination uttered horrours not to be repeated, or ever forgotten. Andere the sun (which, I hope, has seen few like him) arose, the gay, young, noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont, expired!
11. If this is a man of pleasure, what is a man of pain? How quick, how total, is the transit of such persons! In what a dismal gloom they set for ever! How short, alas! the day of their rejoicing !--For a moment they glitter-they dazzle! In a moment, where are they? Oblivion covers their memories. Ah! would it did ! Infamy snatches them from oblivion. In the long living annals of infamy their triumphs are recorded.
12. Thy sufferings, poor Altamont! still bleed in the bosom of the heart-stricken friend--for Altamont had a friend. He might have had many. His transient morning might have been the dawn of an immortal day. His name might have been gloriously enrolled in the records of eternity. His memory might have left a sweet fragrance behind, grateful to the surviving friend, salutary to the succeeding generation. .
13. With what capacity was he endowed! with what advantages, for being greatly good! But with the talents of an angel, a man may be a fool. If he judges amiss in the supreme point, judging right in all else, but aggravates his folly ; as it shows him wrong, though blessed with the best capacity of being right.
DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS.* The vices and follies of men should excite compassion rather
than ridicule. Democritus. I FIND it impossible to reconcile myself to a melancholy philosophy.
Heraclitus. And I am equally unable to approve of that vain philosophy, which teaches men to despise and ridicule one another. To a wise and feeling mind, the world appears in a wretched and painful light.
Dem. Thou art too much affected with the state of things; and this is a source of misery to thee.
Her. And I think thou art too little moved by it. Thy mirth and ridicule bespeak the buffoon, rather than the philosopher. Does it not excíte thy compassion, to see mankind so frail, so blind, so far departed from the rules of virtue?
Dem. I am excited to laughter, when I see so much impertinence and folly.
Her. And yet, after all, they, who are the objects of thy ridicule, * Democritus and Heraclitus were two ancient philosophers, the former of whom laughed, and the latter wept, at the errours and follies of mankindo
include, not only mankind in general, but the persons with whom thou livest, thy friends, thy family, nay even thyself.
Dem. I care very little for all the silly persons I meet with ; and think I am justifiable in diverting myself with their folly.
Her. If they are weak and foolish, it marks neither wisdom nor humanity, to insult rather than pity them. But is it certain, that thou art not as extravagant as they are?
Dem. I presume that I am not; since, in every point, my sentiments are the very reverse of theirs.
Her. There are follies of different kinds. By constantly amusing thyself with the errours and misconduct of others, thou mayest render thyself equally ridiculous and culpable.
Dem. Thou art at liberty to indulge such sentiments; and to weep over me too, if thou hast any tears to spare. For my part, I cannot refrain from pleasing myself with the levities and ill conduct of the world about me. Are not all men foolish, or irregular in their lives?
Her. Alas! there is but too much reason to believe, they are so: and on this ground, I pity and deplore their condition. We agree in this point, that men do not conduct themselves according to reasonable and just principles : but I, who do not suffer myself to act as they do, must yet regard the dictates of my understanding and feelings, which compel me to love them; and that love fills me with compassion for their mistakes and irregularities. Canst thou condemn me for pitying my own species, my brethren, persons born in the same condition of life, and destined to the same hopes and privileges ? If thou shouldst enter a hospital, where sick and wounded persons reside, would their wounds and distresses excite thy mirth? And yet, the evils of the body bear no comparison with those of the mind. Thou wouldst certainly blush at thy barbarity, if thou hadst been so unfeeling as to laugh at or despise a poor miserable being, who had lost one of his legs: and yet thou art so destitute of humanity, as to ridicule those, who appear to be deprived of the noble powers of the understanding, by the little regard which they pay to its dictates.
Dem. He who has lost a leg is to be pitied, because the loss is not to be imputed to himself: but he who rejects the dictates of reason and conscience, voluntarily deprives himself of their aid. The loss originates in his own folly.
Her. Ah! so much the more is he to be pitied! A furious maniac, who should pluck out his own eyes, would deserve more compassion than an ordinary blind man.
Dem. Come, let us accommodate the business. There is something to be said on each side of the question. There is every where reason for laughing, and reason for weeping. The world is ridiculous, and I laugh at it: it is deplorable, and thou lamentest over it. Every person views it in his own way, and according to his own temper. One point is unquestionable, that mankind are prepos terous : to think right and to act well, we must think and act differently from them. To submit to the authority, and follow the example of the greater part of men, would render us foolish and miserable.'
Her. All this is, indeed, true ; but then, thou hast no real love or feeling for thy species. The calamities of mankind excite thy