Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

thy servant our father in as good health as his ad, vanced age would permit, likewise our wives and children we found well. But we have cause to fear for our father at our return, for it cut him to the heart to part with his youngest son."

“ And this is your younger brother of whom ye spake!” said he,“ God be gracious to thee my son, I hope thy father will have no cause to be sorrowful for sending thee hither.'

He said, but his swollen beart could bear no more. He knew not how to keep from his brother's embrace. Therefore he hasted from the hall, before his brethren could perceive his disorder, and sought a private apartment, where he might give vent to the overflowings of his heart. But that he would prove them whether they retained the same malignant disposition towards Benjamin that they had done towards him, he would have rushed to their embrace and bedewed them with fraternal tears. But, as before, his wisdom superseded his passion, and he concealed his affection for them till he could be satisfied of their temper towards Benjamin.

Having eased his almost bursting bosom, by the briny flood he shed, he washed off the tears from his face, went into dinner with the sons of his father, who all sat at table with him according to seniority, from Reuben down to Benjamin. Thus seated, Joseph sent messes from before him unto them all, beginning at Benjamin and leaving off at Levi, of whose repentance he had had no particular proof. But little Benjamin's mess was a five fold portion, designed to inform him that he had found a friend in the go. vernor of Egypt. So they eat and drank till they were merry in his presence.

But Joseph, in order to prove their regard to his brother Benjamin, contrived to have him arrested as offender, to see what an effect it would have upon them. Accordingly he commanded his steward, saying, "I have not yet done with these men, I must get you to assist me in a scheme which I have devised to put them to a more close trial than before.

cause.

[ocr errors]

Go fill their sacks with corn, and put every man's money in the moạth of his sack, and take this silver cup of mine, and put it into that of the youngest aloug with his corn money. But do it yourself, let'none be privy to it but you and I."

They had not been long departed, before the steward was commanded to take a troop of light horse and pursue them, charge them with the theft, and bring them back unto the governor. Great was their surprise when they looked behind them and saw a company of armed men closely pursuing them. They stopped their cattle, and stood still to enquire the

“ Is this," said the steward, “the manner in which ye foreigners requite the kindness of my lord? Could not you partakeof his hospitality, with. out stealing away his plate. You are possessed of my lord's cup, the silver cup out of which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth. This is basely done to requite his goodness to you with such evil.”

“I am amazed," said Judah," to hear sucha charge from the mouth of my lord. God forbid that any

of the sons of Israel should be guilty of such baseness. Consider, Sir, how unlikely it is that we should be guilty of stealing your lord's cup.

When our money was returned in our sacks unknown to us, we brought it back from the land of Canaan. Had we been dishonestly inclined, why kept we it not to ourselves? How then should we go to steal from thy master either silver os gold? But you are welcome to search and satisfy yourself. And if it be found with us, he with whom it is found shall die, and the rest of us will be content to become bondmen to your master."

“ Be it so," replied the steward, “ be with whom the

cup is found shall be detained a bondman to my master, but all the rest may proceed on their journey. They hasted and unladed their cattle, and the steward began to search, beginning at the sacks of the eldest till he came to Benjamin's sack, out of which to their utter confusion he took his master's silver cup, in the presence of them all, held it up, and said,

Are you now wrongfully charged?". In utter des

pair they rent their clothes, laded their cattle and returned to the city, for they would not go forward without their brother Benjamin.

Joseph was still in the hall, waiting their return, and had collected all the sternness he was master of, into his countenance. “ What is this,” said he, “ that ye have done? Did you suppose that I could not find out your treachery? Is it right in you thus to requite my kindness.”

They all fell prostrate before him with their faces to the earth, and Judah with humble submission thus addressed him: “ Alas! my lord, it will be in vain for us to protest our innocence, seeing the cup was found in our possession. Though the God of governors will not charge us with putting it there. It is not for this, but old iniquity, for which thy servants suffer. It is not thy hand, but that of our God, that is upon us. We confess his judgments to be just. We submit to his sentence, and yield ourselves bondmen in a strange land. Take us, my lord, and dispose of us as you please. Farewell aged and honourable Israel, may Abraham's God be thy divine support, for thou seest thy sons no more for ever. Joseph is not, Benjamin is convicted of felony, and all thy sons are determined not to survive his fate. He shall not bear the guilt of his brethren alone. Farewell beloved wives and tender prattling infants, no more ye fly to the glowing embraces of your husbands and parents! injured Joseph! never did the blood of Abel cry louder for vengeance, than thine doth! Er and Onan are both already fallen victims to avenge thee. And now all the race of Jacob are required. Innocent Benjamin, why should he suffer with his guilty brethren?" So saying, his voice was stopped by his rising sorrow, and he poured forth a food of repentant and griefful tears; and then proceeded: “ Keep us not in suspense, my lord. Let us know our doom, for we are prepared to meet the worst."

“God forbid that I should do injustice to you," " said Joseph, “ in either putting you to death, or

keeping you all for bondmen. Only he with whom the cup was found shall be liable to punishment. And as for the rest of you, go ye home to your father in peace; and come and traffic in the land, whenever ye have occasion. There is a law of certain and punctual equity, which ought to be observed by all in power; and that is on the one hand, not to let the offender pass with impunity; nor on the other, to punish the innocent, however nearly allied to the guilty. I fear God. His law is my rule; it warrants me to punish delinquency wherever it is found; but forbids me at all to oppress the innocent. You ten are therefore at liberty to go where you will; my business is alone with the offender.

Alas! my brother Benjamin,” said Levi; " is all your prepossession in favour of the governor come to this? How was thy simple and honest heart beguiled? O my brother, how false was thy dream that made, as thou thought, the governor's friendly embrace thrill with a warming glow throughout thy whole bosom? O my brother, my brother, I shall never return to Canaan without thee." Judah came forward, and thus implored the chan

“ Alas! my lord; spare the young man, our brother, from bonds, imprisonment, and death. But for the guilt of his brethren, his birth might seem to have promised better prospects. Much might be urged in our brother's defence. He is young, inexperienced, and has seen but little of the world. His conduct has hitherto been unimpeached; and merciful governors do not usually punish with severity, the first fault of any delinquent. It might be urged, that the lad was not present when the sacks were filled; and there is at least a possibility of the cup being conveyed into his sack without his knowledge. Nevertheless, as appearances are strong against him, we stand not to justify ourselves: but rely upon the clemency of my lord governor AL though the guilt may be charged but upon one, the punishment must of necessity fall upon the whole; for our fate is involved in his. Allow me to say it,

cellor's mercy.

for I now speak for life or death, that mercy is the brightest perfection of Deity, and must therefore be the glory of princes and governors: anger and resentment being passions fitted only for slaves and narrow contracted selfish spirits. We have here delivered up ourselves to your lordship, and I think it would not be for the honour of Egypt, for its governor to destroy a number of men who are willing to become indebted for their lives to his mercy and favour. You have already relieved us when we otherwise must have perished for want; be pleased to exercise the same clemency in bestowing a free pardon upon these that are willing to be accounted guilty. What if the God of our fathers, whose wisdom is'unsearchable, and whose judgments are a great deep, should have suffered your servants to fall into these distressing circumstances, on purpose to furnish my lord with further opportunity of exercising his virtue. it will indeed shew a noble disposition in my lord governor, to delight in conferring life and mercy, rather than in taking strict vengeance for injuries sustained by himself.

- Let my lord assure himself, that it is not for our own life and safety that we are thus solicitous. No, life hast lost its principal charms, since such a reproach is brought upon the house of Israel. But it is tenderness for a good old father, already bowed down with a series of adverse providences. And the loss of his children will bring down his honourable grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. I know well what I say, my lord. I have felt the wringings of parental anguish on the sudden loss of my own children. I have seen the insupportable sorrow of my father's spirit upon the loss of his Joseph. And should he be bereaved of Benjamin, in whom his very life is wrapt up, it is easy to see what will follow, Perhaps, my lord, has an aged father alive. Suppose him, my lord, in the place of our father, and ler his hoary hairs be an advocate for an unhappy youth, whose life is in your hand. You have sons, my lord. From your parental tenderness to them, conceive

« ForrigeFortsæt »