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GENESIS XXXIX. 9.
How can I do this great wickedness, and sin
In the last sermon we saw that Joseph became the purchased slave of Potiphar, one of the principal men of the King of Egypt. He would seem to others, and might suppose himself to be in a forsaken and oppressed state. But he had a friend and a patron of mighty power, who soon appeared for his help “ The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man;" and « The Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hands." His master seeing this “ made him overseer over his house; and all that he had he put into his hand.” From that time all Potiphar's affairs flourished exceedingly. “ The Lord
blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house and in the field." Therefore his master left the entire management of every thing to him, and took no further thought himself of any of his con
And thus Joseph appears to be in favour both with God and man.
But let no one boast himself of to-morrow, for he knows not what a day may bring forth. A severe trial was preparing for Joseph, one which brought him into great trouble, and would have caused him to make shipwreck both of faith and holiness, had he not been impressed with a deeply pious feeling, and sustained by the grace of God. He was a goodly person, and well favoured; and his master's wife conceived a sinful passion for him. She lost no time in making it known to him, and was shameless enough to offer herself to him. Here, independent of any thing else, many would have seen another stepping-stone to aggrandisement. Having the entire and unsuspecting confidence of his master, and the illicit and secret love of his mistress, he might have said, who will now advance so high and rapidly as I? But the Lord
gave him more grace: and the answer by which he replied to her infamous proposal is a beautiful specimen of honour and religion. “ He refused, and said, unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; there is none greater in this house than I, neither hath he kept any thing back from me but thee, because thou art his wife : how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?” In this answer of Joseph we may see the light in which he regarded the sin to which he was now tempted.
1. He looked upon it as a grievous offence against his master, which would be heightened by base ingratitude. Without adverting to her great culpability in the matter, he shewed her that he felt it would be a heinous crime on his part, if he, a servant, should dishonour his master, especially such a master as Potiphar had been to him. He reminded her of the rank to which his master had raised him in the household, of the confidence which he reposed in him, and of the liberal kindness which he had shewn him, withholding nothing from him but her, because she was his wife. How disgraceful would it be to him! what a dishonourable act! what base ingratitude! He could not bear the thought of injuring his master so deeply. Alas, how much of this true honour is wanting in many of those who almost claim to be exclusively considered as men of honour. Eagerly do they catch at any appearance of advances which may be made to them, and do not scruple to alienate the affections of the wife of their friend, or to carry dishonour into the family of their benefactor. Little regard indeed is shewn to their vaunted feeling of honour, when it enters into competition with the gratification of lawless desire.
2. But Joseph took a still higher view of the sin to which he was tempted. He considered it as a great wickedness, and a sin against God. The principle of religion is far more powerful than the principle of honour or justice. Joseph remembered that there was not
only a duty which he owed to his master, but one still higher which he owed to his maker. It was this consideration which proved his preservative. He was afraid to do wickedly; he dared not to sin against God. If honour required him to be faithful to his master, much more did religion oblige him to be faithful to God: if gratitude bound him not to sin against the former, how much more strong ought that feeling to be towards God! if the reverence which he owed to his master's station ought to secure him from insult, how much more ought the majesty of God to restrain him from committing any offence against Him! This principle in Joseph's mind, now in full influence and operation at the proper time, was the very same as that which produced such bitter repentance in David, when he had actually sinned with the wife of Uriah. Though he had offended grievously against Uriah, and Bathsheba, and himself, and all his people, yet all these reflections seemed to be swallowed up in that deeper guilt which he had contracted by having sinned against God. You perceive this