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brethren. But time, place, and circumstances should be observed, would any remind them of their evil conduct, and make them ashamed and penitent for what they have done. If any would reprove others, or tell them of their faults in faithfulness, and for their good, they should seek to do it with a spirit and with wisdom, as Joseph did. Says Solomon, Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. It is very important, that words of reproof be fitly spoken to answer some wise and salutary purpose.
With decision, faithfulness, and meekness may we learn to inform our fellow mortals of the errour of their ways.
3d. The history of Joseph will show, that it is proper
for mankind to speak of their prosperity, when they would bring to view the goodness of God, or console their fellow mortals. When, through the smiles of Providence, any have attained the varied blessings of life, it is proper, at certain times, for them to mention to their friends, how the Lord has prospered them. It is neither for the benefit, nor is it the duty of man to be always speaking of his misfortunes. Prosperity has a claim to a portion of his words, as well as adversity. To be frequently mourning or repining at the allotments of Providence as is the manner of some, is certainly sinful.
And a person may speak of his enjoyments and success, in the language of boasting instead of gratitude and thankfulness. To show the vanity and impiety of such conversation, let us notice the expressions, and from these, view the spirit of the king of Babylon, who is called Nebuchadnezzar. As he was walking in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon, The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and for the honour of my majesty ? From such an air, views, and language every sensible and pious man cannot but wish to be delivered. The spirit and manner of Joseph will appear a most beautiful con
trast. Whilst he mentions his prosperity and honour, meekness and gratitude are apparent. The goodness of God and the consolation of his afflicted father, are most conspicuous in the words of his speech. To his troubled brethren he says, God sent me before you, to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you, that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and Lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. 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, and tarry not. How do humility, humanity, and a sense of entire dependance on God for all the blessings of life, shine forth in this address! Joseph was indeed highly exalted, but his heart was not lifted up with pride in the height of his prosperity. Let his example then be proposed for imitation. When abounding in the good things of life, let the manner and history of Joseph have their proper influence.
4th. The history of Joseph and his brethren, is calculated to give us some proper views of the important duty of forgiveness. Joseph was of a forgiving spirit, and when he had sufficiently tried and proved them. he was ready for a reconciliation. He had recourse to various expedients in order to bring them to a sense of their wickedness, to humble them, and excite repentance for their sin, before that he expressed forgive
He possessed a forgiving temper, during the whole course of trial, but, before he would exclaim, I am Joseph your brother, he must have evidence of their compunction and abasement.
When he saw that they were sufficiently humbled, and about to be overwhelmed with grief on the account of their aggravated sin, he addresses them with words of consolation. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life. The conduct of
Joseph towards his brethren, in this respect, is godlike, and an excellent pattern for our imitation. The Lord is a gracious and merciful God, abundant in compassion; but he never has, and never will pardon any who have rebelled against him, before they are brought to true, evangelical repentance. In like manner is the duty of forgiveness inculcated upon mankind abundantly in the holy scriptures. If others have trespassed against us, and they confess their faults, or exhibit evidence of genuine repentance, they are to be forgiven. Even against our enemies we are not to cherish a spirit of enmity and revenge, but a friendly and forgiving spirit. Some injuries do, indeed, demand reparation; but where true penitence is, there is also always a disposition, to make restitution. Even the sacred volume does not demand the expression of forgiveness, till there is confession of fault, or a manifestation of sorrow for the wrong. When we are required to forgive our enemies, the true import is, that we should exercise a forgiving and not revengeful disposition; that if they exhibit repentance, we should put forth the act of forgiveness. As we would hope to obtain the pardon of our sins from God, when we confess and forsake them, so we should be ready to do towards our enemies; and more than this, certainly is not required. The Lord is pleased to see penitent, returning prodigals, and such only does he forgive. So we should heartily desire to have our enemies, even those who have greatly injured us, become at peace, be reconciled ; and when they manifest a spirit of penitence, we should manitest the spirit of the gospel, a spirit of forgiveness.
5th. This subject is calculated to give us clear and striking views of the perfect righteousness and adorable mercy
Whatever excellent or amiable natural talents any possess, they must be born again or they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. However engaging or pleasing the manners of any may be in
the view of men, without that repentance which is unto life, they must perish. On the other hand, if sin shall have polluted the soul like that of Manasseh, or Mary Magdalene, and it be created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, it will triumph with seraphs in eternal life. Neither the number nor magnitude of our sins will exclude us from immortal bliss, if we have repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the adoring grace and mercy of God, by godly sorrow and repentance unto salvation, some of the greatest sinners and vilest wretches that have ever lived, have been received to mansions above, to sing for ever the glorious songs of redeeming love. Unless the heart be renewed by grace, there can be no qualifications to prepare for heaven. But to every penitent, believing soul, the language of its Maker is, I am thy reconciled God, thine everlasting inheritance, and eternal, glorious recompense of reward. Amen.
A VAIN CURIOSITY REPROVED.
John, xxi. 22. What is that to thee? follow thou me. The directions of the word of God are as varied as the circumstances of man require. They are suited to his fallen state; and calculated to lead him in the pathway of life. The blessed Saviour was ever ready to give salutary counsel; and his instructions discover superiour excellence, because they were so wisely and timely given. He who spake as never man spake, on every occasion was faithful, and would direct the attention and pursuit of man to his dearest interest for time and for eternity. No favourable opportunity was unimproved, nor seasonable instruction withheld. His words were ever fitly spoken, whether of compassion or severity; of encouragement or rebuke.
After having put the question to Peter three different times, Lovest thou me, he adds, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkest whither thou wouldst; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following, which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is