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God can raise to eminent stations the lowest of the sons of men, and can use the meanest mortals as instruments to effect the grand purposes of his goodness. Revere and trust that providence, which has in me displayed its marvellous wisdom, kindness and power. You see that your Joseph, the lad whom you had doomed to death or perpetual slavery, is employed of God to preserve you and your families from misery and ruin. Go, trace the footsteps of providence, and make thankful returns for the wonders, which you have seen. When you hear the name of your brother, think of the wisdom and goodness of your God."
There are few scenes so wonderful as this; few which bear such striking marks of divine agency. But if we will observe, we may all, in our own cases, see enough to convince us, that there is a divine eye, which watches over us a divine hand, which guides and protects us. Have not many events, which seemed to be against us, been overruled for our benefit? Have we not been mysteriously extricated from difficulties, which baffled our prudence, and supported under burdens, which exceeded our strength? Have not blessings been brought us by unpromising means, and from unexpected sources? Have not afflictions turned to our comfort, and disappointments operated to our success? In all our ways let us acknowledge God, for it is he, who directs our paths. To trace the works of providence toward ourselves, our families and friends is a pious and useful exercise. This will strengthen our faith, enliven our devotion, sweeten our duty, and confirm our hope.
I am Joseph. This is an expression of filial affection; for mark what immediately follows; "Doth my father yet live?" The aged father is first in his thoughts-first in his cares. How tender-how
affectionate-how dutiful the question? He was elevated high in power; but not elevated above his relation to, and solicitude for the old patriarch, from whom he descended. What is his first instruction to his brethren? "Haste ye, go up to my father, and say to him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me Lord of all Egypt. Come down unto me; tarry not. Thou shalt dwell near to me, and I will nourish thee." While all Egypt bowed the knee before him, he could feel the affection and duty of a son to an aged parent, whom he had not seen for more than twenty years.
How diverse from this example is the spirit of those sons, who despise the infirmities and neglect the necessities of their aged parents? When I see a father who is a burden to his children-when I see the poor old man, who, incapable of labor, has incautiously given them all his substance, now tossed from child to child, unwelcome to them all, I lament his hard lot-I wish him a son, who, like Joseph, can say with a dutiful heart, Come, my father, dwell near to me; I will nourish thee." It is the charge of Solomon to his son, "Hearken unto thy father, who begat thee; and despise not thy mother, when she is old." "The eye that mocketh at a father, and despiseth to honor a mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."
Once more: Here is an expression of general benevolence. "I am Joseph, whom ye sold into Egypt.
The mention of his being sold into Egypt, reminds him of his duty as lord of Egypt. "God sent me hither to preserve life." He considered himself as promoted to power, not for his own sake, but for the public good; and to this end he applied the power, which he possessed. VOL. IV.
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Every man, to whom is committed power, wealth, learning, or any other talents, should remember, that he is a steward of the gifts of God; and that it is required of stewards, that they be faithful. We think that men in high office should act for the good of mankind. But the obligation to do good is not confined to distinguished characters. To whom much is given, of them, indeed, much is required. But to whom little is given, of them something is required. Benevolence is a principle, which ought to govern every man, whether in a public, or private station. Every man is to do good, as he has opportunity, and according to the ability, which "If there be a willing mind, God has given him. a man is accepted according to that he hath, and not "And whatsoever according to that he hath not." good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be" rich or poor, "bond He who soweth sparingly, shall reap or free." also sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. Therefore be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not. Always abound in the work of the Lord, for your labor will not be in vain."
PROVERBS iii. 27.
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
GOD has placed men in a state of mu
tual dependence, that there may be occasion and opportunity for mutual beneficence. If there were no need of good to be done, and no ability to do good, benevolence would not be a virtue. There is no man so selfsufficient, but that he needs help from others; and no man so impotent, but that he can give some help to others. And Solomon, in our text, prescribes a rule, by which we may judge, when and how far we are bound to assist one another.
We are first, to inquire, "to whom good is due ;" and then to consider "the power of our hand to do it." Good is due, not to those only, from whom we have received good, or to whom we have made promises, but to those also who are in want. "Labor with your hands the thing which is good, that ye may have to give to him that needeth."
man who needeth, is one who cannot supply his wants by his own labor; for he who can labor is required to give to such as need. There are indeed, reciprocal courtesies and kindnesses, which ought to take place among them who can labor; yea, among the wealthy and opulent, for no man can subsist by himself alone; but good is especially due to the indigent and helpless. And such we may find every day, for "the poor we have always with us, and when we will, we may do them good."
If good is due to such, then the question is, " from whom it is due. Is it due from us?" And here we must inquire, "Is it in the power of our hand to do it?" There are, perhaps, others, whose power is greater than ours. But their power excuses not us. They may not know the case, or may not attend to it, or may think of our comparative power, as we think of theirs. And if every man leaves it to his neighbor to do the good, which ought to be done by somebody, it will never be done by any body. If we see the case which calls for relief, the only question, in which we are concerned is, whether we have power to relieve it. Say not to thy neigh bor, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give thee, when thou hast it by thee." "Give to him that asketh, and from him, that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away."
There are two things implied in this advice of Solomon; one is that we do not evil to any man; the other is, that we do positive good according as we see occasion, and feel ability.
1. If we aim to do good, our first care must be to do no evil.
This branch of goodness is certainly in every man's power. Many plead inability in excuse for not bestowing benefits; but no man can plead inability as an excuse for not abstaining from mischief.