And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves that you sold me into this place, because it was to save lives that God sent me before you.
I. THE END IS GOODNESS AND MERCY.
1. To preserve life.
2. To set the seed of the better society in the midst of the corruptions and imperfections of the old.
3. To prepare the way for the higher revelations of the future.
II. GOD'S METHOD OF INSTRUMENTALITIES HIS GLORY.
1. The history of his people, their persecutions, their apparent humiliations, their marvelous victories.
2. The transformation of men, whereby enemies are made friends, &c.
3. The biographies of distinguished servants of God illustrate his grace in bestowing fitness for appointed work.
III. MYSTERIES LOOKED AT FROM A HIGHER POINT OF VIEW BECOME REVELATIONS.
1. Time a great revealer. Wait for the Lord.
2. The narrow circle of a family history taken up into the higher sphere of Divine purposes concerning nations and humanity itself.
3. Ultimate vindication of the spiritual men and spiritual principles as against the merely earthly and selfish aims of individuals or communities. - R.
Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves.
Homilist.Is it allowable, in any case, to forgive ourselves? Some of those who have a proper sense of man's responsibility to his Maker would be inclined at first to say, No. Most of those whose views of man's responsibility are inadequate would at once reply, Yes. It is only too evident, in fact, that they do forgive themselves where they ought not. But does it follow that their reply can never, in any case, be correct? The text implies, on the one hand, that we ought to grieve for our sins; and, on the other, that there is a proper limit to grief.
I. LET US CONSIDER OUR SINS IN THEIR ASPECT TOWARDS GOD, the most serious aspect of all. Acts of enmity and rebellion, treating God's law with dishonour and scorn. Cause enough here for being grieved and angry with ourselves. Yet, if these sins are repented of, and if we have true faith in the Redeemer's blood, there is an appointed balm for this wound.
II. THE EFFECTS OF OUR SINS UPON MAN. "One sinner destroyeth much good" — like an infectious disease introduced into a community. There is not a greater murderer in existence than the man who, through neglect or obstinacy, should introduce a fever into a city. Is the man very much better who sins against other men's souls? Yet we have done this, all of us, in our time; we have sinned against many a soul, and we have occasioned many a pang and many a sin by our sins. On this account, therefore, it well becomes us to be grieved; and yet, as before, not to grieve in the way of despair. For if our sins have been repented of and forgiven, they are not the things that they were, either in God's sight or in their effects upon men.
Christian Age.It were a mockery to tell us that we should have safety by the hand of Omnipotence, in regard to the powers of irrational nature; but that in all that concerns the free or the wicked actions of men, we must rely on ourselves or on chance. It were a crippled and insufficient Providence which should guard us against the serpent or the tornado, but which should leave us to ourselves the moment a moral and responsible agent came upon the stage. Yet this is the strange uncomfortable doctrine which prompts the language heard in many a Christian circle. Which of us has not listened to such words as these: "I could bear this trial if it were ordered of God, but it proceeds from man. It is not Providential, but from wicked human beings." There is in this a sad confusion. Such a government as is here assumed would be no Providence at all; and would render all rule impossible, as excluding the very agencies which are most important. And we venture to say that the Bible teaches no such doctrine. While it abhors the thought of making God the author of sin, it does not exclude sinful acts from His wise and holy plan. While it evermore denies God's participation in the evil of wicked deeds, it still asserts that, in the directing and governing of such deeds, there is a sovereign Providence, working out its own wise and holy ends: "Man's goings are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?" "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps." The wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. Let it be clearly fixed in our minds, as the only true philosophy of this subject, that an act may be wicked as to the intent of its agent, and yet its result may be really intended by God. Were it not so we could have no relief under our worst sufferings, namely, those which we endure from depraved and malignant human creatures. But these also are Providential. Joseph's brethren committed a great sin. This none can deny, so far as they were concerned. Yet was it strictly and particularly Providential: "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Moral and Religious Anecdotes.Archbishop Cranmer appeared almost alone in the higher classes as the friend of truth in evil times, and a plot was formed to take away his life. The providence of God, however, so ordered it that the papers which would have completed the plan were intercepted and traced to their authors, one of whom lived in the archbishop's family, and the other he had greatly served. He took these men apart in his palace, and told them that some persons in his confidence had disclosed his secrets, and even accused him of heresy. They loudly censured such villainy, and declared the traitors to be worthy of death; one of them adding, that if an executioner was wanted he would perform the office himself. Struck with their perfidy, after lifting up his voice to heaven, lamenting the depravity of man, and thanking God for his preservation, he produced their letters, and inquired if they knew them. They now fell on their knees, confessed their crimes, and implored forgiveness. Cranmer mildly expostulated with them on the evil of their conduct, forgave them, and never again alluded to their treachery. His forgiveness of injuries was so well known, that it became a byword, "Do my lord of Canterbury an ill-turn, and you make him your friend for ever."
(Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)
God did send me before you. —
I. That God governs the world we do not — we dare not — doubt; but it is equally true that He governs in a way which we should not have expected, and that much of His handiwork appears strange. So strange, indeed, that we know that it has been in all times, and is in our time, easy to say, God cares not, God sees not; or even to adopt the bolder language of the fool, and say "There is no God." Scriptural illustrations of the same kind of contradiction as we have in the text are to be found —(1) in the case of Esau and Jacob;(2) in the manner in which the hardheartedness and folly of Pharaoh were made to contribute to the carrying out of God's designs concerning the Israelites;(3) in the circumstances of our Lord's sorrowful life on earth, and especially the circumstances connected with His shameful and yet life-giving death.
II. Our own lives supply us with illustrations of the same truth. Who cannot call to mind cases in which God's providence has brought about results in the strangest way, educing good from evil, turning that which seemed to be ruin into blessing, making even the sins and follies of men to declare His glory and to forward the spiritual interests of their brethren? We see human causes producing effects, but we may also see God's hand everywhere; all things living and moving in Him; no sparrow falling without His leave; no hair of one of His saints perishing.
(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)I. The story of Joseph is to all men for ever the best proof of the working of the hand of Providence.
II. As through the life of Joseph, so through our life, there are threads which connect the different scenes and bind together the destinies of the different actors.
III. This history and the inspired commentary on it in Psalm 105. teach us the wonderful continuity of God's plan and the oneness of the thread that binds together the histories of Israel and of Egypt.
1. God's absolute control over all creatures and events.
2. That while sinners are encouraged to hope in His mercy, they are left without excuse for their sin.
3. That God orders all human affairs with a view to the preservation of His sacred and gifted family — the Church.
I. We are to consider, THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOES ASCRIBE THE ACTIONS OF MEN BOTH TO THEMSELVES AND TO GOD. It will be universally allowed that the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to themselves. It ascribes to Abel his faith, to Cain his unbelief, to Job his patience, to Moses his meekness. Having just premised this, I proceed to adduce instances in which the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to God as well as to themselves. The first instance that occurs is in the history of Joseph.
II. THY PROPRIETY OF ASCRIBING HUMAN ACTIONS TO BOTH HUMAN AND DIVINE AGENCY. Human agency is always inseparably connected with Divine agency. And though it may be proper in some cases to speak of man's agency alone, and of God's agency alone, yet it is always proper to ascribe the actions of men not only to themselves, but to God. The propriety of the Scripture phraseology on this subject is so plain and obvious, that it is strange so many have objected against it, and endeavoured to explain it away. But since this is the case, it seems very necessary to show —
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF ASCRIBING THE ACTIONS OF MEN TO GOD, AS WELL AS TO THEMSELVES. We have no reason to suppose that the sacred writers would have used such a mode of speaking, unless it were necessary and important. It is the design of God, in all His works, to set His own character, and the character of all His rational and accountable creatures, in the truest and strongest light. This leads me to observe —
1. It is a matter of importance that the actions of men should be ascribed to themselves. They are real and proper agents in all their voluntary exercises and exertions.
2. The importance of ascribing men's actions to God as well as to themselves. He is really concerned in all their actions; and it is as important that His agency should be brought into view as that theirs should be brought into view; for His character can no more be known without ascribing His agency to Himself, than their characters can be known without ascribing their agency to themselves.Improvement:
1. In view of this subject, we learn when it is proper to ascribe the actions of men to themselves, and when it is proper to ascribe them to God. Whenever men are required or forbidden to act, and whenever they are approved or condemned for acting, there is a propriety in ascribing their actions to themselves, without any reference to the Divine efficiency. It is their own free, voluntary agency, which alone constitutes their virtue or vice, and which renders them worthy of either praise or blame. Though they always act under a Divine influence, yet that influence neither increases their virtue nor diminishes their guilt, and of consequence ought never to be brought into view when they are to be praised or blamed for their conduct. But when the power, wisdom, goodness, or sovereignty of God in governing their views and actions are to be displayed, then it is proper to mention His, and only His, agency in the case.
2. Since the Scripture ascribes all the actions of men to God as well as to themselves, we may justly conclude that the Divine agency is as much concerned in their bad as in their good actions.
3. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then it is easy to form a just and full view of Divine Providence. If God is actually concerned in all human actions, it necessarily follows that He constantly and absolutely governs the moral as well as the natural world.
4. If it be true that all the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then it is proper to submit to God under all the evils which He brings upon us by the agency of created beings.
5. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then God will be glorified by all their conduct. Whether they have a good or bad intention in acting, God has always a good design in causing them to act in the manner they do.
6. If the actions of men may be ascribed both to God and to themselves, then we may see the duty and nature of true repentance.
7. Finally, if it be true that the actions of men may be properly ascribed both to God and to themselves, then it is of great importance for mankind to believe and acknowledge this truth.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
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