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of the Divine pleasure, related to God in an everlasting covenant, sealed by the precious blood of his Son, there is nothing on earth or in heaven which their interest really requires but he is ready to make it subservient to them; and yet how often has his church been in such a low condition that, like the family of the Patriarch in the Holy Land, when their supplies failed, it has existed more by the sufferance of those who have not known God than by any temporal resources of its own. At the very time that its comfort has been diminished, fresh demands have been made upon it, by which a still further reduction has taken place, and some of the greatest trials occasioned. Yea, as in the case of the father of Joseph, its afflictions have proceeded from its own circle, and fears have been entertained of its entire destruction. Christ has been wounded in the house of his friends. * But still, all this while God has been with his cause to preserve and guide it: His unerring hand has made discordant circumstances to harmonise with each other, and in a way of which men could have no conception he has been bringing good out of the evil, and making himself more fully known as the God of providence as well as of grace. The Divine superintendence conducting the affairs in the life of Joseph was typical of the providence of God with regard to the Christian church,
II. In its nature, or the way in which that Providence effects its end. · The first thing in this respect calling for observation, is the mystery by which it is cha
* Zech. xiii. 6.
racterised. So far as this
So far as this property is involved, God's ways in the world agree with his word. In the revelation he has given, it is his object not only to make himself known, but also to distinguish his communication by such features as shall be adapted to our nature and disposition. He both governs the world, and that also in such a way as to interest men in the
operations of his hand. Now few things awaken our attention more than the singularity of an event. Hence, as for that reason, there are mysteries in his word (introduced partly to answer this end, as well as partly rendered necessary by the character of what is revealed), so we find the same with regard to his Providence. It is not only obscure from its very nature, but there are designed obscurities to attract attention and excite admiration.
Never was this seen to be the case more than in the history of Joseph. Who would have predicted, from the circumstances of his early life, such distinction as attended the close of his earthly career. How unlikely to human foresight were his sufferings and privations to lead to his future glory. So far from this, they seemed to indicate the reverse ; yet it was with a view to this end they were appointed, and to its accomplishment they were made subservient by that God “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;" * who does not “afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men;"† and who has declared, that “all things work together for good to them that love God, and to them who are the called according to his purpose." #
• Eph. i. 11. + Lam. iii. 33. Rom. viii. 28.
The agents by whom the sufferings of Joseph were inflicted, although the sons of a pious parent, and related to him as brethren, were wicked men, and never was there a greater manifestation of human depravity than that made by them. They were not content with hating without a cause, and planning the death of one who was entitled to their fraternal affection; but as if their malice could not be satisfied when they saw the anguish of his soul, they sat down to eat, and then mocked the anticipated grief of their venerable parent, of which they had been the cruel cause.
With the sin of their design and conduct in plotting the destruction of their brother, God, of course, is not in the slightest possible degree chargeable, although he made it subservient to his own purposes, "for he cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."* They were perfectly free in what they did, and therefore accountable for their conduct: hence Joseph properly charged them with intending it for evil, though God meant it for good.+ the same with respect to them as all other bad men with whose conduct the providence of God is conversant,-he made use of them, as they were to bring about the end that was to be effected; and every incident, however insignificant it may appear in itself, was a contributing part of the whole. Every movement was a link in this chain, which could not be severed from the rest without endangering the whole.
Such is the nature of the providence of God with regard to the life and history of him of whom Joseph was a type: “Great is the mys, * James i. 13.
f Gen. 1. 20.
tery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”* How wonderful that the Son of God should be selected to die for sinners! What mystery attended his entrance into the world, and the events of his early history! He was the most virtuous and holy of characters; yet he suffered from the hands of evil men, who without cause were his enemies, and they were persons who stood related to him as brethren. It was by them his ruin was planned, nor would they rest until they had taken his life. They said, “ His blood be on us and on our children.”+ Who, except such as were under a Divine influence, would have predicted that the sufferings and death of Jesus of Nazareth, with all the painful circumstances by which his early history was characterised, were laying the foundation for a character so renowned on earth and in heaven as his, and that everlasting glory with which, as the Mediator, he is now crowned.
Equal to the indignity offered to the Saviour himself has been that experienced by his cause and people; and it is quite clear that persecuition and opposition will attend them continually; but all this, for which neither Christianity itself nor its Author is responsible, has been, and will still be, overruled for the accomplishment of God's eternal purposes in the salvation of his people. The wisdom exercised in harmonising those things is now seen in part, but it is in the close of the whole scene that the full disclosure will be made. Then we shall see how the things which the enemies of God and his people have meant for evil have been overruled for
* 1 Tim. iii. 16. + Matt. xxvii. 25.
good,—that he has made the “wrath of man to praise him, while the remainder of wrath he has restrained.”* The conduct of God in the history of Joseph may be considered as prefiguring Divine Providence with respect to the Christian church,
III. In the honour and glory that will result from its exercise.
There is no pressure that men feel like that of temporal privations and want. They will think themselves secure if these be imagined far from them; and if for a time their supplies have been interrupted or cut off, and the enjoyment of them renewed, they will honour the man by whom they are restored. In exalting Joseph, therefore, Pharaoh and his people only did that which all men in like circumstances would do, and which a common sense of gratitude would dictate, although the amount of dignity conferred upon him was peculiar, and such as the circumstances would hardly account for without a reference to the hand of God making him a type of Christ in his exaltation as “head of his church," " And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had: and they cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt."-" And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said
* Psa. lxxvi. 10.