: Joseph did not long enjoy this respite from his late misfortunes, before a new one overtook him; arising too from the same cause from which the former sprang, --his beauty and his virtue. The goodliness of his person so inflamed the eyes and mind of his mistress, that throwing aside the modesty of her sex, she openly solicits him to dishonour his master's bed. The answer he returned her upon this occasion deserves to be particularly recorded:-“ Behold, says he, my master “ wotteth not what is with me in the “ house, and liath committed all that he “ hath to my hand : there is none greater “ in this house than I ; neither hath he

kept back any thing from me, but thee, 6 because thou art his wife: How then " can I do this great wickedness, and sin “ against God?"

This was an answer, which might have drawn a blush of shame and self-reproach into the cheek of female modesty ; but it had no other effect upon this abandoned woman than, as has too often been observed in such cases, to change her disap

pointed pointed lust into the keenest malice. She had found herself too weak to rob him of his virtue, and therefore resolved to rob him of his liberty, and, perhaps, of his life too; and for this purpose procures his imprisonment by laying a charge against him, which was just the reverse of truth. After a long confinement, the fame of his extraordinary and supernatural wisdom at length reached the cars of Phataoh, who not only delivered him from prison, but also advanced him to be his Prime Minister, and the absolute dispenser of all his favours, observing him to possess many virtues deserving of so high a trust... .

During this his unlooked-for elevation of fortune, the sons of Jacob were sent by their father, in a time of famine, to buy corn in Egypt; who, as all others that came upon the same errand, were of course introduced into the presence of Joseph The difference of habit, the alteration which age had made in his countenance and stature, the place where they found him, and above all his present exaltation, would naturally contribute as much to conceal Joseph from the knowledge of his brethren, as the sameness of their dress, their language, their number, their air and persons, would make them known to him, who had not left them till they were all at their full growth. But, in order to bring them to a just sense of their cruelty to him, and to extort from them a true account of the condition of their aged father and little brother, whom they had left behind, he suppresses, for the present, the struggles of nature and the yearnings of his bowels, speaks roughly to them, accuses them of being spies, puts them in ward for three days, and then dismisses them with an order to bring Benjamin to him; at the same time taking Simeon from them, and binding him before their eyes, as an hostage for their performance of what he required of them; concluding perhaps with great probability, that his father's fondness had been no less fatal to Benjamin, than it had like to have been to himself, by equally exposing him to the envy and cruelty of his brethren. Very natural and affecting is the reflection, which the treatment they met with extorted from their awakened consciences; *6 We are verily guilty concerning our “ brother, in that we saw the anguish of “ his soul, when he besought us, and we 56 would not hear: therefore is this distress “ come upon us.” No wonder then, that the heart of Joseph was here melted with pity and tenderness, that he was forced to turn himself from them, and weep!


Home they now return to their father, with the sad tale of their surprizing adventures, who, at last, though with extreme reluctance, consents to the hard condition required of him, to send back his beloved son Benjamin with them; but not without declaring at the same time, that if any evil should befall him, it would bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave....

The sight of this beloved youth, the son of Joseph's own mother, was almost an over-match for the studied art of Joseph, and had well-nigh forced him out of his concealment. However, he com


mands himself for the present, till he had fully obtained the ends he had proposed to himself in the feigned character he had assumed. He entertains them all at his table with a free and generous, and Benjamin with a distinguished, hospitality: But just before they were setting out on their return, he orders his silver cup to be conveyed privately into the sack of the youngest, then seizes him for the pretended theft, and, by way of punishment, demands him in bondage, Upon which trying occasion, how forcible is the plea of Judah in belalf of the supposed criminal! The passion and energy of which is greatly heightened, if we reflect on the near relation betwixt the pleader and the judge. With what humility and submission does he address himself to Joseph

O, my Lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, " speak a word in my Lord's ear, and let • not thine anger burn against thy ser“ vant; for thou art as great as Pharaoh.” Thou art as great and powerful, as we are low and distressed; and we know, that we lie wholly' at thy mercy, either to spare or punish thy servants! How beautifully then


« ElőzőTovább »