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MAN A ŠINNER.
GENESIS xlvii. part of ninth verse.
“ Few and evil have the days of the years of my
Most true it is, my dear brethren, that we have here no continuing city: that all things around us are fast falling into decay, and that yet once a little while, and we ourselves must depart, sinking into the universal ruin. The return of every day is well calculated to remind us of this simple but important truth : but days return so often, and the lessons they bring with them are so common, that they have ceased to make any lively impression. The same may be said of weeks and months.
Years, however, are of more consequence; the term of the longest life of man consists of
* This Sermon was preached on the first Sunday of a new year.
but a few of them; and if our hearts were not hard indeed, the opening of a new year would speak to us with irresistible solemnity. It would direct our eyes back to the first year in which we entered into this world, and forward to the eternity which we must spend when our years in this world shall have closed for ever. It would cause us to weigh temporal with eternal things, and to remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he said, “ What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”
The words of our text were spoken by the patriarch Jacob, in his first interview with the king of Egypt; and the history of the circumstances connected with them, is interesting and instructive. In the watchful providence of Jehovah, the cruelty of Jacob's sons to their brother Joseph, was overruled for good, in the end, to the whole family.
After much and protracted suffering, Joseph was exalted in the court of Pharaoh, and made a blessing not to the Egyptians only, but also to all the neighbouring 'nations. Under his prophetic management, Egypt was largely supplied with corn, while the surrounding countries were oppressed by a grievous famine. Among the applicants for food who came from a distance into Egypt, were Joseph's brethren. This led, through a variety of most interesting details, to their change of residence, and removal with their father, into that land where it had pleased God so marvellously to prosper their injured but still affectionate brother. When Joseph heard of his father's approach, he made“ ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father to Goshen, and presented himself unto him: and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.” On their arrival Joseph immediately proceeds to inform the king, and then brings in his father to the royal presence. There was doubtless something venerable about the appearance of the aged Patriarch, and the Egyptian monarch seems to have been struck by it,
" Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage, are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been; and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage." Few and evil! The life of man, the life of Patriarchs, of Jacob, Isaac, and of Abraham, is but as a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away. It is as an hand-breadth; as a dream in the night; as a tale that is told; as the grass of the field, and the fair but fading flower of the grass.
Such are the expressions used in Holy Scripture to describe our present life, and the images they set before us, are but too faithfully verified by our own experience. Where is the family of the children of Adam who have not been forced to feel the truth of this in some of their branches? Look around! the gilded prospects of length of days, and increase of wealth: the ambitious views of advancement in the world: the tender and affectionate anticipations of domestic happiness: all blighted! all dispersed as falling leaves before the autumnal storm. The beloved parent snatched away from an helpless offspring: the husband or wife falling into an untimely tomb, and leaving an afflicted partner to mourn in heart-withering solitude: the sweet pledges of mutual love, the darling children surrounding the table like olive plants in the bloom of health and youth, exciting in the bosom of a fond father a glow of admiration, and causing the tear of anxious joy to start into the eye of a tender mother-these dear ones, these cherished flowers lopped from the stem, just when their opening beauties were beginning to expand under the rising sun. O child of Adam! boast not of to-morrow: thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Few indeed are the days of the years of thy life.