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tho' they then thought so; for, doubtless, so much goodness and benevolence as shone forth in his nature, now that he was a man, could not lie all of it so deep concealed in his youth, but the sagacity of a parent's eye would discover it; and that, in course, their enmity towards him, was founded upon that which ought to have won their esteem, -That if he had incautiously added envy to their ill-will, in reporting his dreams, which presaged his future greatness; it was but the indiscretion of a youth unpractised in the world, who had not yet found out the art of dissembling his hopes and expectations, and was scarce arrived at an age to comprehend there was such a thing in the world as envy and ambition.-That if such offences in a brother, so fairly carried their own excuses with them; what could they say for themselves, when they considered it was for this they had almost unanimously conspired to rob him of his life,and, tho' they were happily restrained from shedding his blood, upon Reuben's remonstrance,— that they had, nevertheless, all the guilt of the intention to answer for ?-That whatever motive it was, which then stayed their hands, their consciences told them, it could not be a good one, since they had changed the sentence for one no less cruel in itself, and what, to an ingenuous nature, was worse than death, to be sold for a slave :The one was common to all, the other only to the unfortunate.-That it was not compassion which then took place; for, had there been any way open to that, his tears and entreaties must have found it, when they saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought, and they would not hear.
-That if aught still could heighten the remorse of banishing a youth, without provocation, for ever from his country, and the protection of his parent, to be exposed naked to the buffetings of the world, and the rough hand of some merciless
master, they would find it in this reflection, "That the many afflictions and hardships which they might naturally have expected would overtake the lad, consequent upon this action, had actually fallen upon him."
That, besides the anguish of suspected virtue, he had felt that of a prison, where he had long lain neglected in a friendless condition; and where the affliction of it was rendered still sharper, by the daily expectation of being remembered by Pharaoh's chief butler, and the disappointment of finding himself ungratefully forgotten.-And tho' Moses tells us, that he found favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison, yet the Psalmist acquaints us, that his sufferings were still grievous-that his feet were hurt with fetters, and the iron entered even into his soul. And no doubt, his brethren thought the sense of their injury must have entered at the same time, and was then rivetted and fixed in his mind forever.
It is natural to imagine, they argued and reflected in this manner; and there seems no necessity of seeking for the reason of their uneasiness and distrust in Joseph's conduct, or any other external cause, since the inward workings of their own minds will easily account for the evil they apprehended.A series of benefits and kindnesses from the man they had injured, gradually heightened the idea of their own guilt, till at length they could not conceive, how the trespass could be forgiven them ;-it appeared with such fresh circumstances of aggravation, that, tho' they were convinced his resentment slept, yet they thought it only slept, and was likely, some time or other, to awake, and most probably then, that their father was dead, when the consideration of involving him in his revenge had ceased, and all the duty and compassion he owed to the grey hairs and happiness of a parent was discharged, and buried with him.
This they express in the consultation held a mong themselves, in the words of the text; and, in the following verse, we find them accordingly sending to him, to deprecate the evil they dreaded; and either, because they thought their father's name more powerful than their own, in this application or rather, that they might not commit a fresh injury, in seeming to suspect his sincerity, they pretend their father's direction; for we read, they sent messengers unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,-So shall we say unto Joseph,-"Forgive, I pray thee, now, the trespass of thy brethren and their sin, for they did unto thee evil: And now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the GoD of thy father." The address was not without art, and was conceived in such words as seemed to suggest an argument in their favor,-as if it would not become him, who was but a fellow servant of their father's GoD, to harbor revenge, or use the power their father's GoD had given him against his children. Nor was there a reason in any thing, but the fears of a guilty conscience, to apprehend it, as appears from the reception which the address met, which was such as bespoke an uncommon goodness of nature; for when they thus spake unto him,the historian says, he wept. Sympathy for the sorrow and distress of so many sons of his father, all in his power,pain at so open and ingenuous a confession of their guilt, concern and pity for the long punishment they must have endured by so stubborn a remorse, which so many years seemed not to have diminished, the affecting idea of their condition, which had seemed to reduce them to the necessity of holding up their hands for mercy, when they had lost their protector, so many tender passions struggling together at once, overcame him ;he burst into tears, which spoke what no language
could attempt. It will be needless, therefore, to enlarge any farther upon this incident, which furnishes us with so beautiful a picture of a compassionate and forgiving temper, that I think no words can heighten it;- -but rather let us endeavor to find out by what helps and reasoning, the patriarch might be supposed to attain to so exalted and engaging a virtue. Perhaps you will say, "That one, so thoroughly convinced as Joseph seemed to be, of the overruling providence of GOD, which so evidently makes use of the malice and passions of men, and turns them as instruments in his hands to work his own righte ousness, and bring about his eternal decrees,and of which his own history was so plain an instance, could not have far to seek for an argument to forgiveness, or feel much struggle in stifling an inclination against it."-But let any man lay his hand upon his heart, and say, how often, in instances where anger and revenge had seized him, has this doctrine come in to his aid?
-In the bitterness of an affront, how often has it calmed his passions, and checked the fury of his resentment?—True and universally believed as the doctrine is amongst us, it seldom does this service, tho' so well suited for it, and like some wise statute, never executed or thought of, tho' in full force, lies as unheeded as if it was not in being.
It is plain it was otherwise in the present instance, where Joseph seems to acknowledge the influence it had upon him, in his declaration,— "That it was not they, but GOD who sent him.". And does not this virtue shine the brightest in such a pious application of the persuasion to so benevolent a purpose?
Without derogating from the merit of his for bearance, he might be supposod to have cast an eye upon the change and uncertainty of human
affairs, which he had seen himself, and which had convinced him we were all in one another's pow er by turns, and stand in need of one another's pity and compassion:And that, to restrain the cruelties, and stop the insolencies of mens resentments, GoD has so ordered it, in the course of his providence, that, very often in this world
-our revenges return upon our own heads, and men's violent dealings upon their own pates.
That besides these considerations,that in generously forgiving an enemy, he was the truest friend to his own character, and should gain more to it by such an instance of subduing his spirit, than if he had taken a city. The brave know only how to forgive;-it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at.-*Cowards have done good and kind actions,-cowards have even fought-nay, sometimes even conquered ;-but a coward never forgave. It is not in his nature ;-the power of doing it flows only from a strength and greatness of soul, conscious of its own force and security, and above the little temptations of resenting every fruitless attempt to interrupt its happiness. Moreover, setting aside all considerations of his character,-in passing by an injury, he was the truest friend likewise to his own happiness and peace of mind; he never felt that fretful storm of passions which hurry men on to acts of revenge, or suffered those pangs of horror which pursue it. Thus he might possibly argue, and no farther;for want of a better foundation, and better helps, he could raise the building no higher; to carry it upwards to its perfection, we must call in to our aid that more spiritual and refined doctrine introduced upon it by CHRIST; namely, to forgive a brother, not only to seven