From “The Flight into Egypt,” Sermon IX, Sermons for the Church Year (1876)
O how full of deep and loving mysteries is that history of Joseph! One of the first of the Bible-stories that we have heard, how then we hung on it for its earthy interest; and the fuller insight which God gives us into the hidden meaning of those Old Testament annals, how more and more we see, not Joseph, but Christ; not the dreamer, but the Savior; not the lord of Egypt, but the king of heaven and earth. An one lesson — a lesson that ought to go directly to a sister’s heart, is t be learnt from the very place wherein these deeds were done.
Turn Holy Scripture through, from one end to the other; from Genesis to Revelation, Egypt is the type of the world. In Genesis, Isaac is told, “Go not down to Egypt.” In Revelation, we read that the dead bodies of the two witnesses, slain under Antichrist, “shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Again and again, Egypt is the broken reed which not only fails but wounds; and one of the prophets — Jeremiah — died a martyr to his warning against seeking a refuge in that land. It fell under the curse of Ham and Canaan; it is the perpetual antagonist of God’s Israel.
Then why, in this one story, does it so clearly and unmistakably stand out as the type of heaven? Dear sisters, there is a reason, and a reason that it does one’s heart to realize: Egypt shall cease, as it were, to be Egypt, if Joseph is there.
Let the Lord Jesus only be in any place, and that place, for the time being, is heaven. That is a lesson which your own hearts ought to, and I hope do, teach you. It is because he whom we love is in heaven, that we desire to be there ourselves. It is not as if among the many blessings of that country which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered not the heart of man to conceive, this were the greatest, that we shall see him as he is. O no! Therefore it is heaven, because he is there! He, not in that sense in which, as God, he is everywhere; not even in that sense in which, though being everywhere, he might more especially reveal himself and manfest his glory in this or that place, but because he is also there as man and that can only be in one particular locality, else he were not true man. Egypt loses its very nature, if Joseph dwells there; earth would become heaven, if our Lord thus manifested himself to us in it.
John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was an English Anglican priest and scholar, an important leader in the Catholic revival. He founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, a religious order for Anglican women, and translated numerous hymns and liturgical texts from Latin and Greek, while also writing numerous books on historical, devotional, and liturgical subjects. He is commemorated on August 7 on the calendars of several Anglican churches. This sermon, from a posthumously published volume, was preached to the sisters at Sackville College.