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Nay we might indeed say to you, how dare you do this great wickedness and sin against God? How dare you bring guilt upon your soul? How dare you provoke the indignation of God? Are you not afraid lest his judgment should seize you in the very act of sin, lest his lightning should smite you, or his earth open her mouth and swallow you up, or lest by some unseen visitation you be stretched in an instant a lifeless corpse? Or if you escape any immediate and temporal punishment, are you not afraid of the future judgment, and of that irrevocable sentence which shall consign you to everlasting fire with the devil and his angels? How dare you to do or even think of that which may be attended with such fatal consequences ?
But although I might speak to you thus, I would rather use more ingenuous and affecting motives, and confining myself to the exact expression of the text would say, How can you do such great wickedness, (let the supposed wickedness be what it may,) and sin against God? How can you bear to sin against one so holy, so beneficent, so merciful, as God is in all things to you and to all his creatures ? Do you not feel that in sinning against him you at once spurn his authority, shew contempt of his laws, abuse his goodness, frustrate the purpose of Christ, grieve and do despite unto his Spirit? How can you be guilty of so complicated an offence? How can you do any one act of that accursed thing, namely sin, from which your Saviour came to redeem you, and on account of which he died for you? How can you thus trample under foot the blood of Christ, crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame? I trust that your hearts will feel these expostulations; that you will be affected by these motives. I trust that from henceforth you will remember the words of Joseph, upon every occasion on which you may be tempted to sin in any way, and exclaim with as much sincerity and decision as he did, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?”
GENESIS XLI. 42. 43.
And Pharaoh took 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 upon 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.
Here is another remarkable change in Joseph's fortune. The poor youth, whom we lately saw cast into prison on a most false accusation, is now become ruler of Pharaoh's house, and lord of all his substance. But the history of Joseph is a history of providence; and strikingly illustrates the manner in which God governs the world by his influence on the minds of all people. God had by certain dreams sent to Joseph, intimated that he should be advanced above all his brethren. Here, you will see how all things are working together towards the bringing forth of that event. Circumstances, in appearance the most contrary to it, are all subserving its accomplishment; and while men of various classes and minds are doing that which is in their own hearts, God is making them to fulfil all his pleasure. And herein is the exhibition of two truths which our limited faculties may not perhaps be able perfectly to reconcile; the first, that while man is accountable for all his actions, God is yet the director of them all; and the second, that while the will of man freely devise and chooses what it pleases, it is devising and choosing according to the will of God, and under his influence.
We proceed to trace the circumstances of the history. We have seen how the wife of Potiphar had met with a repulse from the virtuous, honourable, and religious mind of
Joseph. She felt herself deeply mortified, and her infamous desires becoming changed into other equally sinful passions, she burnt to destroy him. She accused him to Potiphar as if he had been the offender against his honour, and herself the innocent person, and thereby had him cast into prison. But his almighty friend and protector did not leave him nor forsake him.
“ The Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Now all places and persons are just what the Lord pleases to make them. We see, and unhappily we often think too, of nothing but the instrument or second
But we should learn in this as in all things, to walk by faith and not by sight, and to feel that it is the influence of God's spirit on the hearts of others which makes them kind to us. This will not subtract one particle of gratitude which we are bound to feel towards them; while it will also make us to give the glory and praise to God, and teach us to rely on his care and to feel ourselves safe while we conscientiously serve