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Remarks on the 50th Chapter of Genesis.
This last chapter of the Book of Genesis contains the account of Jacob's funeral-the uneasiness of his sons after his death-the manner in which Joseph removed it-Joseph's command concerning the disposal of his own body—and his death.
V. 1. “And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him."-Some losses may be made up to us in this world ; but, when a parent is taken away, we are deprived of what cannot be restored :-the natural affection, the unwearied love, the disinterested kindness, the prudent advice, which we find always ready in a tender and experienced father, are blessings which we cannot expect to find in any other quarter. Joseph had reason to mourn, when all that was left him of his beloved father was the house of clay, which was soon to return to the dust whence it was taken. Yet while he wept, the bitterness of death was passed ; his father had entered into rest; he had joined Abraham and Isaac in the kingdom of heaven; he had exchanged labour and sorrow for a crown of unfading glory.
Reader, are you in affliction like this ? Are you grieving over the cold and motionless corp ,
which can neither be soothed nor affected by all your lamentations? do you wonder that the fixed and vacant eye no longer rests with tender delight upon
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your countenance ? that the dull and lifeless ear remains indifferent to your severe sorrow? that the stiffened hand is insensible to the pressure of yours? that the lips, which, just before, cheered you with expresssions of lively faith and hope, now, still as marble, utter no sound for your comfort ? that the immoveable countenance seems to say,
“ I have no need of you?" How is this? Whence this extraordinary, this sudden change? The soul, the life, which you delighted in is gone—but it is gone to glory. Strive to follow the departed saint in the glorious abode where his soul now rests. Instead of an afflicted and worn out body, he is now clothed with a garment of righteousness : instead of pain and weariness, there is now fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore. “ He is not dead, but sleepeth;" a bright morning will come; he will awake to new life; this mortal will put on immortality, this corruptible will put on incorruption ; and, though it must now be sown in weakness and dishonour, it shall be raised in power and glory.
V. 2, 3. Joseph ordered that the body of his father should be embalmed. Embalming was an Egyptian custom. The body was opened, and spices and gums of various kinds were put in, and then it was rolled in waxed cloths: by these means it was preserved long after the time when it must naturally have fallen into decay. Many of the bodies so preserved are still found by travellers in Egypt. They are called mummies, and several of them have been brought to this country as curiosities. Some of these are supposed to have been embalmed more than two thousand years ago.
V. 4-6. Joseph did not forget his father's particular request. Love makes us ready and punctual, in fulfilling the wishes of a friend. Joseph's love to his father led him at once to follow his father's wishes. Let every Christian ask himself whether he has within him the proper proof of his love to his heavenly Father, “ that he desires to do
Remarks on the fiftieth Chapter of Genesis. 387 his will." “ If ye love me," says our Lord, " keep my commandments."
V. 11. "And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning, &c.” The name of the place was from that time called Abel-mizraem --that is, Mourning of the Egyptians. This “grievous mourning,” and all the honours done him shew in what consideration the aged patriarch was held at the court of Pharaoh. It was also intended probably as a compliment to Joseph, who, it seems, conducted himself in such a way as to retain all the esteem and favour which his wisdom had, at first, obtained for him.
V. 15. “When Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will, peradventure, hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.' How hard it is silence a guilty conscience! The brothers remembered their crimes against Joseph, though committed so long ago. But how little did they know of their brother's disposition! his generous, sincere, and affectionate temper could not harbour a single thought against them. Perhaps they might judge of his feelings by their own,--for some of them, we know, were of a revengeful disposition; and most of them might feel that it would be very difficult for them to forgive, if they had received such injuries as they had done to Joseph. We all find it hard to understand how others can possess those virtues to which we ourselves are strangers. Can selfish persons, who are always in pursuit of their own interest, understand how a man can give up his ease, his comfort, and his worldly prospects, merely for the sake of doing good to others? But of all difficulties, perhaps, a real, thorough forgiveness of an offence, is what human nature, unaided by divine grace, finds it the hardest to believe in. Whilst there is within, a spirit of envy which delights in seeing or hearing any thing to the disadvantage of one who has wronged us, there is no true forgiveness: and a person, who cannot forgive, is no judge at all of the conduct of those who are kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. But a Christian must have this forgiving spirit, or his profession is but a name, he is to forgive others “as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven him." “ If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses."
V. 16-21. How excellent was Joseph's conduct, whether we consider him as a man, as a brother, as a faithful friend, or as a servant of God! Joseph wept when they spake unto him. The very thought that he could harbour ill-will against them, shocked and grieved him : the supposition that it was necessary for them to entreat forgiveness in his father's name, went to his heart, and drew tears from his eyes ! "Fear not, for am I in the place of God? But, as for you, ye thought evil against me:"-as if he desired to see repentance towards God, in the place of all this humble confession to himself. He seems to say—" Fear not me, I forgive you, but you have offended a greater than your brother; and can I forgive your sins against God ?"
Reader, has not your conduct often been like that of Joseph's brethren? You have a friend whose favour you highly and justly value, yet, in an inconsiderate moment you have given him just cause of offence, you have thoughtlessly acted, as if you felt neither affection nor gratitude towards him; and, you see, by his altered manner, that he is sensible of the neglect or insult. You are quite unhappy, and wretched, because you have offended your friend, and would do any thing to regain his esteem and regard. Your distress is reasonable, and your wish is right. But, now, examine yourself. Have you ever experienced such uneasiness and such sorrow when you offended your Maker? Is your ingratitude to Him a cause of deep and sincere grief to you? If not, how unreasonable is this, and how dangerous
Remarks on the fiftieth Chapter of Genesis. 389 is your state! The anger of an offended God is not the less real because you are insensible of it. You are in a state in which the Scriptures call you to repentance. Seek reconciliation with God, through Christ, as earnestly as the brethren sought pardon from Joseph. Now observe the forgiving kindness of Joseph. “He comforted them, and he spake kindly unto them," he said, “ God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Without excusing their sin, he shews how God had brought about his wise and merciful design, by means of it; and thus attempts to satisfy their minds by leading them to consider themselves the unworthy instruments of bringing about the best and wisest purposes.
V. 23. “ And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation, the children also of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were brought up on Joseph's knees.” Joseph had the happiness of seeing his children's children; and the expression--" were brought up upon Joseph's knees," gives us a picture of the kindness and fondness which, when an old man, he shewed towards his young descendants, 66 Children's children are the crown of old men.' This crown Joseph had.
V. 24–26. Joseph, just before his death, desired his brethren to carry his bones to Canaan. God's promise was, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.” Believing this promise, Jacob had, at his death, desired to be buried in the land which his seed were afterwards to inherit. Joseph, by a still stronger act of faith, gave a charge to his brethren to carry his bones with them when the time should come for God to visit them, and restore them to the land of Canaan. At the time when this command was given, the Israelites were quietly settled in Egypt, but Joseph, believing the promise of God, foresaw that a time would come when they