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- the seed of each was as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the sea-shore; and in their seeds have all the nations of the earth been blessed.
Amongst the numerous presumptire proofs of a Providence in this world, one of considerable weight is, that it affords opportunities for the display of God's perfections, and enables him to give frequent intimations of his Divine will. Since in remoter times men were especially ignorant and indisposed to believe in the everwatchful attention which he pays to his crea. tures, and his all-wise superintendence of their concerns, we find the Governor of the world ruling them much more by visible intercourse, and audible indications of his pleasure, than in after ages. The family of Jacob, through the whole of its history, was a field in which God wrought the wonders of his providence; but the Patriarch's son, Joseph, seems to have been a person whose life was especially chosen and ordered to convey to the world important lessons on this subject, and awaken attention with respect to future events. He was in some respects the most illustrious of the house to which he belonged, but his greatness was owing more to the providence of God than to anything in himself. He was, in fact, the child of Providence.
So numerous and striking are the points of resemblance which, without much fancy, may be traced between the person and the history of this distinguished man and those of the Son of God, that very few have doubted the former's being intended to shadow forth the latter. Still it is a fact, that with the exception of a single passage in the book of Genesis, chap. xlix. 24, * (if even that can be said to prove it, there is no express declaration of Scripture to show that they were designed to be considered in that light.
So extraordinary, however, were many of the occurrences of his life,-so much instruction were they capable of imparting to the ancient church, and so easy is the application of which they will admit to the life and history of Christ; that any explanation that might be given which did not regard them as types of good things to come in the fulness of time, would seem to fail to give satisfaction. That all the circumstances recorded of this distinguished person which have been considered to bear a resemblance to those of our Lord were actually intended to represent him, or anything relating to him, may be fairly doubted. It is presumed, that the one great lesson designed to be taught by his history was the providential care of the great Disposer of all things over his church and people. There are three respects in which the providence of God, in the history of Joseph, may be considered as prefiguring that same Providence with respect to the Christian church.
* “ From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel." These words have been variously applied. Some think that as a stone or rock was an emblem of power, it is here applied to God as it is in many other places, and that the reference is to Jacob wrestling with the angel (Gen. xxxiii. 20), as the strong God of Israel was the name under which at that time he made himself known to him; but they think the word shepherd is intended to apply to our blessed Lord, who is the Shepherd of Israel--the Good Shepherd. Others consider it to refer to the state of honour and usefulness to which Joseph was advanced after his suffering. From thence (that is) by this strange method of Providence he became the shepherd and stone -the feeder and supporter-of God's Israel Jacob and his family; and consider Joseph herein a type of Christ. Fuller applies the words to Joseph, and considers it beyond a doubt that in being the shepherd and stone of Israel he was a type of Christ.—See Dr. Adam Clarke, Henry, and Fuller, on Gen. xlix. 24.
I. In the end which that Providence designed. It was to show how the all-pervading care of the Almighty is engaged in preserving his people, and accomplishing his purposes concerning them.
There are two principal characters in which God makes himself known to us; one, that of Creator and Governor of the world; the other, as the Saviour of his people: consequently nothing is of greater importance, next to looking to him as the God of salvation, than that we should have correct views of his providence, exercise dependence upon it, and give him that glory which it is designed to procure to his name and perfections. That he is sometimes regarded in the former of these characters, to the prejudice of the latter, must be admitted ; and it is equally true that he is occasionally honoured in the latter, while he is not duly reverenced in the former. The first of these errors is that of the world ; the latter is too frequently imbibed by God's own people, who are guilty of it not only with respect to their own private affairs, but, what is of more importance, in regard to that great and glorious work which he is carrying on in the earth for
the redemption of mankind; and hence it often comes to pass that he interposes and crosses the natural course of things to awaken attention, and to call forth dependence upon himself. He so conducts his providence that his creatures may, by proper attention to his ways, see that verily there is a God in the earth; and yet the blessings that he bestows are apparently so promiscuously given, that no one can infer with absolute certainty, from any circumstances he may be in, that he possesses any particular character in the sight of God, or so as to lessen the desire for a better or more certain state.
That the Patriarch, Jacob, had experienced enough to convince him of the care of Divine Providence over his family, and of its necessity to bring about the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham, in whose seed “ all the nations of the earth were to be blessed," who has studied his history will require further proof than may be obtained from that source. Still this lesson was not sufficiently impressed upon his mind; hence a long series of events took place in connection with his son Joseph, as well as formerly, and more particularly in regard to himself, to convey the instruction on this subject which God intended to impart. A famine occurs in the land of Canaan, that country to retain which Jacob had made so many sacrifices, and where human happiness was to be expected approaching as near to perfection as in this life it could be obtained. Supplies are to be found nowhere but in a foreign distant country, and of the enemies of
* Gen. xxii, 18.
the people of God, and the only family in the world in which the true religion is maintained becomes dependent upon them, and might not only have been subject to insult and injury, but even the danger of destruction. The Patriarch's sons, from whom was to descend that glorious Person, who is “God over all, blessed for ever,"* are reduced to the necessity of humbly soliciting a temporary supply from the abundant resources of heathen strangers; and when, amidst all this, the principal earthly source of comfort left to Jacob was in his children, and in one more than all the rest, even the dearest of them was taken from him, a calamity so much felt, as to cause him to exclaim, “If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."ufo
But behold in all this the hand of God: “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.". In the darkest period of this night His eye, which never sleeps, was upon his church, and, directed by him, all things were working together for its good. This was the method by which he chose to make himself more fully known, and to augment the enjoyment by which the trial was succeeded; just as the sun, after he has been hidden for a long season, appears, to shine forth with greater brightness and glory.
Who does not see how all this will illustrate the providence of God with regard to the affairs of the Redeemer's kingdom? Since believers are “ chosen in Christ from before the foundations of the world,”S and made the objects * Rom. ix. 5. + Gen. xliii. 14. Rom. xi. 33.
$ Eph, i. 4,