« PreviousContinue »
your father well, the old man of whom ye spake: is he yet alive?” And they answered, “Thy servant, our father, is in good health, he is yet alive :" and they bowed down their heads and made obeisarce.
Hitherto you observe all had passed in disguise. The brethren of Joseph knew nothing who they were speaking to ; and Joseph was careful to preserve the secret. You will now take notice how this affected disguise was broken, and how Joseph found himself forced, as it were, from the resolution he had taken, of keeping his brethren in ignorance of his person. He had proposed, you read, to detain Benjamin ; the rest being perplexed beyond measure, and distressed by this proposal, Judah, approaching Joseph, presented a most earnest supplication for the deliverance of the child; offers himself to remain Joseph's prisoner, or slave, in his brother's place; and, in the conclusion, touches, unknowingly, upon a string which vibrates with all the affections of the person whom he was addressing : “How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come upon my father.” The mention of this circumstance and this person subdued immediately the heart of Joseph : and produced a sudden, and, as it should seem, an undesigned premature discovery of himself to his astonished family. Then, that is, upon this circumstance being mentioned, Joseph could not refrain himself; and, after a little preparation, Joseph said unto his brethren, “I am Joseph.”
The great secret being now disclosed, what was the conversation which immediately followed ? The next word from Joseph's mouth was, father yet live ?” and his brethren could not answer him; surprise had overcome their faculty of utterance. After comforting, however, and encouraging his bre
“ Doth my
thren, who seemed to sink under the intelligence, Joseph proceeds: “ Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not, and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, and there will I nourish thee (for yet there are five years of famine), lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and all that ye
have seen: and ye shall haste, and bring down my father hither.”
It is well known that Jacob yielded to this invitation, and passed over with his family into Egypt.
The next thing to be attended to is the reception which he met with from his recovered son. " And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, in Goshen ; and presented himself unto him, and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face; because thou art yet alive.” Not content with these strong expressions of personal duty and respect, Joseph now availed himself of his power and station to fix his father's family in the enjoyment of those comforts and advantages which the land of Egypt afforded in the universal dearth which then oppressed that region of the world. For this purpose, as well as to give another public token to his family, and to the country, of the deep reverence with which he regarded his parent, he introduced the aged patriarch to Pharaoh himself. “ And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh : and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” And the Sovereign of Egypt received a benediction from this venerable stranger.—“ And Joseph (the ac
( count proceeds) nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families."
It remains to be seen, how Joseph conducted himself towards his father, on the two occasions in which alone it was left for him to discharge the office and testify the affection of a son: in his sickness, and upon his death. “And it came to pass, we read, after these things, one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick : and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.” Joseph delayed not, you find, to leave the court of Pharaoh, the cares and greatness of his station in it, in order to pay the last visit to his dying parent; and to place before him the hopes of his house and family, in the persons of his two sons.—“ And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto ine, and I will bless them. (Now the eyes of Israel were dim, so that he could not see.) And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them and embraced them : and Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face : and lo! God hath showed me also thy seed. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.” Nothing can well be more solemn or interesting than this interview: more honourable or consoling to old age; or more expressive of the dignified piety of the best of sons, and the greatest of men.
We now approach the last scene of this eventful history, and the best testimony which it was possible for Joseph to give of the love and reverence with which he had never ceased to treat his father, and that was upon the occasion of his death, and the honours which he paid to his memory; honours, vain no doubt
to the dead, but, so far as they are significations of gratitude or affection, justly deserving of commendation and esteem. « And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. And Josepn fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father; and the physicians embalmed Israel. And the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days. And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house : and there went up
with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company. And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan ; and there they mourned with a great and a very sore lamentation; and he made a mourning for his father seven days.”
Thus died, and thus was honoured in his death, the preserver of the Jewish nation, who, amidst many mercies, and many visitations, sudden and surprising vicissitudes of afflictions and joy, found it the greatest blessing of his varied and eventful life that he had been the father of a dutiful and affectionate son.
It has been said, and, as I believe, truly, that there is no virtuous quality belonging to the human character, of which there is not some distinct and eminent example to be found in the Bible ; no relation in which we can be placed, no duty which we have to discharge, but that we may observe a pattern for it in the sacred history. Of the duty of children to parents, of a 'son to his father, maintained under great singularities and variations of fortune, undiminished, nay, rather increased by absence, by distance, by unexampled success, by remote and foreign connexions, you have seen, in this most interesting and conspicuous of all histories, as amiable an instance as can be met with in the records of the world, in the purest, best, ages of its existence.