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then be that, instead of the theocratic element having been too strong, at any time, in the politics of the world, it has always been far too weak; and that to this weakness we owe very much of the vagueness and imbecility of politicians, as well as very much of the unfair dealings and dangerous pretensions of priests? Yes, brethren, of priests; for the priest, who is sent into the world to testify that God is the King of the earth, may set up himself to be the king of it; he may secularize the Universe, that he may be the one spiritual person in it. If he does so, he will assuredly become, in the most radical and dreadful sense, secular himself. And if you acknowledge his falsehood, if you submit to be secularized by him,—if you say that your civil transactions have nothing to do with God—he will establish his power over you; not a divine, godly power, but a very earthly, sensual, devilish power. Believe priests to be perpetual witnesses in their words, lives, sacraments, that you all of you stand in a direct relation to God, that you all of you are in covenant with Him, that every work of yours is a vocation from Him, that no part of your civil transactions is indifferent to Him, or can be excluded from his cognizance. Believe this, that politicians may possess manly strength and freedom, true insight and foresight, that they may recognise the past as connected with the present, and the present as the seed of the future. The Bible in its first book, and through after pages of it, is teaching you this political lesson; this is the lesson which we find
opening upon us in the family-records of the book of Genesis; this is the lesson which the law will more fully unfold; this is the deepest secret of the prophetical lore. Cast it away, and every new experience of the world, instead of giving you fresh light, will only be a fresh riddle; every new power you acquire in the world of sense will make you inwardly feebler; every new society you establish will only reproduce the weakness and rottenness of the old. Confess it, embrace it, act upon it, and every experience may be welcomed as part of the divine teaching, to correct past errors, to prepare blessings for the time to come; every discovery, every machine that gives you a victory over matter, will be a fulfilment of the divine promise and covenant; every colony that you send forth will raise up a race of men to till, subdue, enlighten, and civilize the earth.
And do not fancy that, in using this language, I am speaking as a Jew, not as a Christian; as a reader of the history of Joseph, not as a reader of the Sermon on the Mount, and the Epistles of St. Paul. The Sermon on the Mount brings into clear light and manifestation that divine and fatherly kingdom of which Joseph saw the first glimpse when he became the teacher of Pharaoh, and the preserver of Egypt. It invites men to be like their Father in Heaven. It was spoken by one having authority, who shewed forth that image in which man was created; who fulfilled the office of prophet, because He was the Son of Him to whom the past, the present, and the future, are known; who exhibited the office of a king, because he was the Son of the King eternal, immortal, invisible; who created man to rule over the works of His hands. And the Epistles of St. Paul declare how He ascended on high, how He sent His Spirit to dwell among men, to endue them with gifts of wisdom and foresight, to fit them for all offices of obedience and government. The Gospel does indeed disclose to us a society consisting of all kindred and nations; but it confirms the witness of the old dispensation, that every special kindred and nation is grounded on the name and stands in the might of Him who raised up a prisoner to inform princes of His will, and to teach senators wisdom.
JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN.
Preached at Lincoln's Inn, 4th Sunday in Lent, March 30,1851.
Genesis XLV. 7, 8.
God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
WE finish this afternoon our yearly readings in the book of Genesis. I do not think we could find any words which exhibit its character more perfectly than those which I have taken for my text. They belong expressly to the life of Joseph. But Joseph, contemplated in that aspect in which I purposely omitted to speak of him last Sunday, is himself the most perfect embodiment of patriarchal history, the point of transition from it to the subsequent national history.
I. 'God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth.' The brethren of Joseph were standing before him. To them he seemed to owe all that had been wretched in his past years; the unexpected change he might naturally attribute to his own faith, continency, wisdom, or to a new and opposite set of circumstances. But that natural conclusion was an impossible one to a child of the covenant who believed it to be true. He must refer the whole series of events, those which were linked to the sins of others, those which looked like the result of his own virtues, to God. How he could do this, and yet regard the wrong doings of his brothers as very heinous and needing punishment—how he could do it, and yet feel that faith, obedience, moral strength, are the conditions of all greatness and victory for man—we may consider presently. I wish you only to observe now that he did take this course, that he did refer the whole order and purpose of his existence, all that had been adverse to it, all that had been prosperous in it, to God. And you will not fancy that his words implied a lazy acknowledgement of some ultimate cause to which it is convenient that all agencies, influences, operations, should be traced, lest we should be overwhelmed with their multitude. No such philosophical necessity had ever occurred to the mind of the Hebrew shepherd. When he was alone, when he was amidst his brethren, when they contrived his death, when they made him a slave, when he grew to be trusted and tempted, when he was in prison, when he was telling dreams, a living present Guide and Teacher had revealed Himself to him, as the One whom it was his privilege to know, and of whom his life was to testify in all its conditions of poverty