In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah.Jeremiah 4:4, 12, 13, 14). This threatening God now began to execute. Literally, "judgment began at the house of God." Having entered the temple, Nebuchadnezzar carried away part of the vessels of the Lord's house. These he took into the land of Shinar, the ancient name of the region in which Babylon was situated, and placed them in the treasure-house of his god. Considering the place from which these vessels had been taken, and to whose service they had been consecrated for ages, they may certainly be regarded as one of the most remarkable trophies that ever a conqueror presented at the shrine of his deity. But victories obtained over God's people, when they are also triumphs over God himself, will in the end be found pregnant with disaster. Thus, when the Philistines took the ark captive, God glorified himself in a very remarkable manner. And, when he summons the nations to the overthrow of Babylon, one reason mentioned is, to take vengeance on her for what she had done to his temple. "Make bright the arrows; gather the shields; the Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; for his device is against Babylon to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance of his temple." In a subsequent chapter of the Book of Daniel, we shall meet again with these vessels, and see them prostituted, by an impious monarch, to bacchanalian purposes. Jerusalem was taken in the third year of Jehoiakim. We are not, however, to suppose that this was the end of his reign. Having humbled himself, and promised to pay tribute to the king of Babylon, he was restored to his throne, and reigned seven years. Having then rebelled a second time, Jerusalem was again taken, and he bound in chains, to be carried to Babylon, but died by the way. The final overthrow of Jerusalem did not take place till the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign, about eighteen years after this period. When we consider that the sins of the Jewish people were so numerous, varied, and aggravated, and that they had been accumulating for ages, it might have been expected, that they would have suffered the seventy years of threatened captivity, from the time when the final stroke of vengeance came upon them, in the reign of Zedekiah. But, "for the sake of the elect, the days were shortened." The seventy years of the Babylonian captivity did not begin when the temple was destroyed, but when the vessels of the temple were taken away — not when the nation was removed, but when Daniel and a few others of noble birth were carried into Babylon.
I. Nebuchadnezzar invested Jerusalem, and took it, by the union of his own skill, and the courage of his army, and yet it is here said, "the Lord gave Jehoiakim into his hand." From this, we may learn, that there is a twofold agency concerned in all the events that take place in this world, — the agency of man on the earth, and the agency of God in the heavens. This twofold agency, however, is not co-ordinate. God and man are not possessed of equal efficiency in the production of events, Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem, but it is the Lord who gives Jehoiakim into his hand. Jehovah is the God of gods, and the King of kings, the First Cause of all events, as well as the First Cause of all beings. Men may form their plans, and gratify their passions, with the most entire freedom from all control, and yet they will only do "what God determined before to be done." This is the fundamental truth of religion, whether natural or revealed; the denial of which shows as great a lack of philosophy, as of piety. If the material, or intelligent, creation, was in any respect independent of God, this would sap every rational ground of confidence and composure. I know few duties more necessary to be inculcated, than this, of connecting outward events with the Divine government. Jehovah is, to a great extent, practically deposed from his throne of providence. Even many who profess to believe in his supremacy, "put a reed into his hand for a sceptre." Speculations on the state of the world too generally overlook the influence of God in the affairs that are occurring. In contemplating the world and its affairs, we should beware of looking only to the hand of man. Let us look beyond the creature, to the Creator.
II. The political causes, that led to the overthrow of Jerusalem, are apparent to all. These causes are not stated in the Book of Daniel. They are, however, fully developed in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. In mentioning irreligion, as the radical cause of God's controversy with Judea, it is unnecessary to produce proofs of the assertion from Scripture. While the outward forms remained, there was such a want of true godliness, that Jehovah loathed and abhorred his own ordinances. And, when a people cease to fear God, or decline in this, their national character will begin to lower. They will cease to be distinguished for those loftier sentiments, which have their origin in the more strictly spiritual department of human nature, and which, more than anything else, tend to cherish wisdom, courage, genius, and patriotism. When the religious feeling of a country begins to decline, it will be marked by a growing disregard for God's holy day. Sabbath desecration is placed prominently among the causes of God's wrath against Judah. Religion is the parent and the nurse of all genuine morality. As might have been expected, from the low state of religion, we find the prevalence of immorality stated as one cause of this calamity that came upon Judea. "Run ye," said God to Jeremiah, "to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it "(Jeremiah 5:1-6). Zephaniah in like manner represents the corruption of manners as extending to all classes. "Her princes within her," says he, "are roaring lions, her judges are ravening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons; her priests have polluted the sanctuary and done violence to the law." There are some sins particularized by all the prophets. Among these none is mentioned more frequently than deceit. With the prevalence of this the prophet Jeremiah was so affected, that at the beginning of the ninth chapter of his book, he breaks forth in these heart-rending strains, "O that mine head were waters," etc. (Jeremiah 9:1-8). Covetousness is specified as another sin (Jeremiah 6:12, 13). Covetousness is represented as producing fraudulent dealing, and corrupting the sources of justice, because of which the Lord was displeased (Micah 6:10, 11). Pride and luxury are also mentioned (Isaiah 3:16-24). The prevalence of immorality, and particularly, the prevalence of deceit, covetousness, and luxury, may, generally, be considered as symptomatic of the last stage of nations. These operate disastrously in two ways. First, They expose to danger, because they are offensive to God. Secondly, They operate, naturally, to produce a dissolution of the social body. Luxury has the same influence on the social health, that an Asiatic climate has upon an European frame; it enervates and debilitates, and causes premature decay, and death. And deceit is like a secret poison, pent up within the bowels of the empire, and gliding fatally, yet imperceptibly, through its veins. And covetousness is like a vulture preying on a diseased and disabled victim, while its blood is still warm, and its breath has not gone forth. And general immorality is like begun mortification, a disease that has no successor in the list of maladies. Irreligion and immorality, when combined, never fail to produce a bitter and malignant aversion to the cause of holiness and truth, and to their adherents. Before the overthrow of Jerusalem, the spirit of irreligion did not exist in a state of apathy. It was roused to great fierceness; it stood forth in the form of malignant contumacy, and defiance against the Lord. His warnings were rejected, his denunciations were scorned, his prophets were persecuted.
III. We shall only mention two things illustrative of the circumstances in which the captivity came.
1. The overthrow of the Jewish state came gradually. Manasseh was first carried captive, then Josiah was slain in battle, Jerusalem was then taken four times by the enemy, twice in the days of Jehoiakim, again in the days of his son, and finally in the reign of Zedekiah. From this we may learn, that national destruction is sometimes a gradual thing. It comes in successive shocks, some at a greater interval, and others at a lesser interval. We are not to suppose, because the sins mentioned prevail in any land, that it shall be instantly overthrown. It is with nations as with individuals, — the impenitent person shall perish, but God may spare him to a good old age. Caution is, therefore, necessary, lest we should commit the honour of Christianity, as good men have often done, by denouncing judgment as certainly at hand. Sin will assuredly Bring it; but the times and the seasons are in the Father's hands.
2. A second thing very observable is, that before each of these successive shocks of national disaster, God made use of means to promote the reformation of the country. Before the calamities that came upon the land, in the days of Manasseh, godly Hezekiah, had endeavoured, during a lifetime, to promote a revival of true religion. The reign of Josiah immediately preceded this disaster in the days of Jehoiakim. In the interval between the death of Josiah and the destruction of the temple, they were warned by divinely-commissioned prophets. Among others, God employed Jeremiah, a man in whose character, zeal for God was finely united with tenderness to man. And it has been God's ordinary way, to use means for reforming nations, before their overthrow. The flood came and swept away the ungodly world, but did not God give them warning? Nineveh was not overthrown till she was called to repentance by the ministry of Jonah. If God's government be a moral government, then moral evil must be the cause of all physical sufferings, and of all political difficulties. Moral evil is the crime, the political evil is the punishment. Moral evil is the disease, political evil is but the symptom.
I. INTRODUCTORY. Nebuchadnezzar is called king, but he was not yet the reigning sovereign of Babylon. He shared the throne in conjunction with his father Nabopolassar. His accession to the sole sovereignty was some two or three years later (compare chapter 1, verse 5, with verse 18, and chapter 2, verse 1). This captivity is here said to have taken place during the third year of Jehoiakim, while Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1) places it in the fourth. Both statements are true. Daniel reckons the three completed years. Jeremiah the fourth upon which Jehoiakim had just entered. There were three deportations of the Jews in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; this — the first — in , a second in , and the third when Jerusalem was destroyed in This captivity appears to consist of nothing more than a number of hostages carried to Babylon, among whom was Daniel and his three friends, whose history, more particularly of the first, is given in this book.
II. THE CAPTIVES.
1. They were of noble birth. They were selected of the king's seed and of the princes. Daniel himself was probably of the blood-royal, as we learn in 1 Chronicles 3:1, that David had a son of that name. Josephus says he was the son of Zedekiah. It was a sad day at Jerusalem when the most promising of the young nobility, in whom the hopes of the nation were centred, were carried away captive to Babylon.
2. They were distinguished by personal beauty. The orientals connected a handsome form with mental power. This, alas! is not always true. Neither spirituality nor intellect appears to be partial to beautiful tenements; but sometimes the purest gem is found in the commonest setting. When , now an elderly man, becomes acquainted with Charmides, the loveliest youth in Athens, he is so deeply touched by the charms of this paragon that at first he knows not what to say. Recovering his self-possession, however, the sage speaks worthily of himself, telling Charmides that the fairest form needs one addition to make the man perfect — a noble soul. History makes it more than doubtful whether the, Grecian did not fail here; but about the Jewish youth there is no doubt whatever.
(John Taylor. The Jewish traditions represent Daniel as a tall, spare man, with a beautiful expression.
3. They were intelligent and well instructed. They are represented as "skilful in wisdom," "cunning in knowledge," and "understanding science": by which is probably meant that they had been well taught in the knowledge of their day and had discovered an aptitude for deep studies. The Babylonian king designed to induct them into all the lore of the Chaldeans, in order to wean them away from the worship of God and make them subverters of Israel's national faith. If, therefore, they should be the future prophets of heathenism to their own people, it was necessary that they should be skilful and wise; and if he, indeed, had any such ulterior designs, it must be confessed he chose his instruments well. But there was an element in their previous training which he either overlooked or held too cheaply. If a Jewish youth was taught in science and earthly knowledge, he was yet far better instructed in the truths of his religion. Nebuchadnezzar will find it difficult to eradicate this deeply-planted faith; and the issue will show that, with four of them at least, he makes lamentable failure.
4. They were very young. But God can strengthen the hearts of the young and make the mouths of babes and sucklings to render him praise. Doubtless many a mother, parting with her offspring and sending them forth into life, or to the temptations of collegiate halls, can find comfort in this reflection.
III. THE PROSPECTS OF THESE CAPTIVES. Considered from a world-standpoint there were two sides to their future. There were elements of deep sorrow, and elements which might be regarded by some as mitigations of their lot.
1. They were exiles. This word is enough to excite our sympathies. So long as the sentiment of patriots remains, exile will be among the saddest of words. But chiefly to the Jew was exile a bitter misfortune. Not only patriotic sentiments, but religious, contributed to darken the life of one who was borne away from his loved Jerusalem, where stood that Holy Temple in its glorious beauty, the visible centre of the worship of Jehovah. Some of the psalms of the captivity reveal the depth of this great sorrow to a Jew, particularly that beautiful song: "By the rivers of Babylon" (Psalm 137).
2. They were cut off from hope of posterity. They were significantly given into the care of the "prince of the eunuchs," and the ordinary practice of oriental courts leaves us little doubt of their fate. This, moreover, had been prophesied (2 Kings 20:18).
3. They were to be taught all the wisdom of the Chaldeans. No doubt much of the Chaldaic learning was valueless, but it is undeniable that they cultivated many useful arts and sciences. Daniel and his friends would learn new languages unfolding to them new literature. They would be trained in arts of divination by which they could obtain power over kings, and princes, and the common people. They would be taught the science of astronomy, which at that day the Chaldeans had carried beyond any people. They would be educated in the science of politics, rendering them necessary to rulers as advisers. All this knowledge would of itself give them caste among this new people, would elevate them to position and power.
4. They were to occupy honourable positions in the court of the king. This opens up many prospects which might fire the ambitions of youth. We can well imagine, then, that if these had been godless youths this prospect of power, stimulating their ambitions, might have suited to offset the horrors of exile; yet we may be sure that there was not one of them who would not have given all the wealth and splendour of Nebuchadnezzar's court for one brief day on the hills of Judea, among the comrades of their childhood.
IV. A LESSON. The prince, their keeper, shall endeavour to make of these Jewish captives, Chaldean sages, and he begins this endeavour by changing their names. These four are named for the four chief deities of Babylon. Bel — the Chief-god, the Sun-god, the Earth-god, and the Fire-god. To render this change of character and religion complete all their external relations are correspondingly changed, and a whole new set of influences are brought to bear upon them. And yet, change what they would, they could not reach the heart. It is beyond man's power to do that. How powerless man stands before the spirit of his fellows!
(The Southern Pulpit.)
2 Kings 23:34-36, we learn that Jehoiakim was raised to the throne of Judah by Pharaoh-Necho king of Egypt. He continued tributary to Egypt three years, but in his fourth year, which was the first year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, a great battle was fought near the Euphrates between the Egyptian and Babylonian kings, and the Egyptian army was defeated. This victory placed all Syria under the Chaldean government; and thus Jehoiakim, who had been tributary to Egypt, now became a vassal of the King of Babylon. (Jeremiah 25:1, and Jeremiah 46:2; 2 Kings 24:1). After three years, the King of Judah rebelled against the King of Babylon, who came against Jerusalem, and besieged and took it, as soon as his engagements with other wars allowed him to direct his attention to Jewish affairs. The land of Shinar was the ancient name of Babylon.
(W A. Scott, D.D.)
Children in whom was no blemish.I. THE HISTORY OF DANIEL'S FIRST APPEARANCE. —
1. It is evident that this lad had come in with the others when Nebuchadnezzar led home his captives from the smoking ruins of Jerusalem.
2. Suddenly comes a summons for this young Hebrew to take a position at court (vers. 3-5). Nebuchadnezzar appears to have determined to bring forward into his service some of this captive race. Quite likely his reasons were these:(1) He desired to gain the advantage of outside talent; the long siege had taught him the stubbornness, gifts, and availability of the Jewish character.(2) He planned to propitiate the whole race by choosing some of their number for high office; while so strong an element of his population was in a sort of sullen opposition to his government, there was always danger around the throne.(3) He wished to add the strange power of their divine inspiration to such forces of magic as he held under his control now (ver. 20).
3. The group of companions thus strangely thrown together has enough of picturesqueness in it, if nothing else, to attract attention. Only three besides Daniel are mentioned by name, but there were others associated in the transaction. It is always a serious moment when any young man is summoned to come to the front. Good men are often found in the unlikeliest places, even in our day.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF DANIEL'S PERSONAL ENDOWMENTS (ver. 4).
1. For one thing, he was finely fashioned in figure and stature. This makes us think how the Israelites once admired Saul, the son of Kish, when he came to the throne; and how the same wayward people afterwards went into rebellion with Absalom, won by his height and his hair.
2. He was nobly born. These all were to be "of the king's seed, and of the princes," when the selection was made. Some say that Daniel was a descendant of Hezekiah, concerning whose Sons it was once predicted that they should reign in Babylon. We need not reason much concerning birth or rank, for God's choice of us is all we can wish."
3. He was liberally educated. That counts grandly in the career of each young man; for knowledge is power. The Israelites were not an intellectual race, as a whole; most of the people were farmers, and had flocks and fields; it was an agricultural nation, rather than a scientific. But Daniel had been taught to study, and had learned to think.
4. He was religiously trained. Those old Jews made thorough and honest work of this part of their duty. Here our golden text comes in with all its power: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word."
5. He was studious in taste. There is an expression in the narrative which is very significant (ver. 20). We are told that when in consultation with these Hebrew advisers, the king found them ten times better than his magicians and astrologers; the original word is "hands"; they were ten hands above them in wisdom and understanding; they were, hand over hand, superior to them in common-sense and, intelligence.
6. He was eminent in the Divine favour (ver. 17.) The Lord. even then was giving help from heaven to this young man for his calling.
III. THE TEMPTATION TO WHICH DANIEL WAS SUBJECTED (vers. 5-7).
1. The king's plan was this: he designed to swerve these men out from the straight lines of traditional fidelity and belief, and commit them to the orthodox religion of his own country.(1) He adroitly caused their Hebrew names to be changed; from suggesting Jehovah's worship and service, they suggested the following of false gods and profane policies.(2) He proposed a distinct political aggrandizement; these captive slaves were to be admitted at court as the peers of the realm.(3) He offered them free education; they were to be instructed in the Chaldean language and lore.(4) He furnished them full support gratis; he actually descended into details; he "appointed" the portion of provisions, and of the wine he himself was accustomed to drink.
2. But the implied condition was this: the whole thing was an adroit ruse and a snare. It made at least four distinct pledges for an alienation of all that these young Hebrews cherished.(1) They should surrender their religion;(2) They should drift away from their national speech, history, and hope;(3) They should take part with the traditional oppressors of their fathers;(4) Worst, and fatallest, of all, they should enter upon the service of a religion of idolatry.
IV. THE EXPEDIENT OF ESCAPE WHICH DANIEL PROPOSED, (vers. 8-14).
1. Observe carefully what Daniel did not do. He did not decline the chance given him for conspicuous service. He only avoided the embarrassing conditions attached to it. He was willing to be useful, if so splendid an opportunity was offered him; but he would not peril his convictions, nor sacrifice his principles. No young man has any right to refuse an opening in life that is advantageous; he must just accept the gift which in the providence of God comes to him, and then consecrate it to the service of God and his fellow-men.
2. Observe the devoutness and trust of the piety these young Hebrews exhibited.
3. Finally, observe the superb success these young men achieved. The ten days passed; they were "fairer and fatter." But there were now three years more before they should come before the king; and still they trusted God.. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."
(C. S. Robinson, D.D.)
1. The narrative of striking facts and the delineation of celebrated characters, is perhaps, of all methods of instruction, the most effective. No one is ignorant of the power of example both for good and evil. Such is man's nature, that he is more guided by the practice of others than by his own reason. A child writes more easily after a copy than by rule. Men are prone to imitate whatever they see done, be it good or bad, emulating the one and aping the other.
2. Examples inform and impress the mind in a manner more compendious, easy, and pleasant than precepts or any other instrument or way of discipline. Precepts are abstract, naked, powerless — without a hold on either the fancy, sense, or memory; like the shadows of a passing cloud, too subtle to make any great impression, or leave any remarkable footsteps. But example comes home with irresistible power and strikes out its likeness. Precept is the man chiselled out, standing mute in the awful majesty of a statue of Praxiteles; example is the man with the life-speaking eye, the grace of living motion, and the lips parted with instructive lessons. The most successful professors of arts and sciences explain, illustrate, and confirm their general rules and precepts by particular examples. Mathematicians demonstrate their theorems by schemes and diagrams; orators back their enthymemes with inductions; philosophers urge the reason and nature of things, and then throw themselves aback on the practice of Socrates, Zeno, and such like personages. Politics are more easily and clearly drawn out of veritable history than out of books De Republica. Artificers describe models, and set patterns before their learners with greater success than if they merely delivered accurate rules and precepts to them. Nor is the ease at all different when these principles are applied to morals. Seneca says "that the crowd of philosophers which followed Socrates derived more of their ethics from his manners than his words." It is said of , the most learned man of his age, the author of a Hexapla — a man that employed seven amanuenses at once — "that he recommended religion more by his example than by all he wrote." One good example may represent more fully and clearly the nature of virtue than a thousand eloquent descriptions of it. Is it faith we have to acquire? Then we have but to look at Abraham. Is it wisdom, constancy, humility, and resolution? Behold Moses. Is it zeal, patience, perseverance, and piety? Then look at Peter, Paul, and John.
3. Good examples are powerful, because they persuade and incline us to follow them by plausible authority. In a word, examples incite our passions and impel us to duty. It is by reading and studying the lives of those who have distinguished themselves above the rest of mankind, that we may both amuse and instruct ourselves. History has, therefore, done well in immortalizing those men who have, by their talents or genius, or by their enterprise and benevolence, done much for the well-being of their fellow-men. Two important particulars are worthy of being mentioned here and remembered; namely, that the field is open to all, and that special Divine energy is promised to all that will trust in God, and walk in the way of his commandments. Circumstances aid great men, but do not make them. On the contrary, great men make circumstances.
(W. A. Scott, D.D.)
I. WHAT DO WE KNOW OF THE PERSONALITIES OF THESE YOUNG-MEN?
1. They appear to have been nobly born. At all events, if the instructions which Ashpenaz received were literally carried out, that must have been the case. Birth, however, is nothing if it be a man's sole claim upon the esteem of his fellows.
2. But Daniel and his friends were both noble and good, not only of the king's, seed but children of the living God. When one thinks of the temptations to which those of high rank are exposed, it would almost appear that a pious prince is one of the most admirable of men. Of old, man, for his sin, was doomed to labour for his bread in the sweat of his brow. But the curse has proved, in the good providence of God, the greatest boon which fallen man could have bestowed upon him. Let us think with prayerful sympathy of those perils of a life of leisure and temptation to which some by their birth are exposed, while we thank God for our own humbler, and, it may be, safer lot.
3. Then, further, we may gather from the text that the personal appearance of these four young nobles was attractive. They were "children in whom was no blemish, but well-favoured" ( Josephus, Ant. 10; 10, 1). The body, it is true, is only the house which the spirit inhabits. But while the tenant is of infinitely more importance than his dwelling, we have no right to despise either a goodly home or a comely body. If the whole man belongs to God, physical beauty is a gift which the fortunate possessor of it may use for the glory of Him who bestowed it.
4. But the beauty of these young Hebrews was not that of those who have only their faces and forms to recommend them. The powers of their minds were of no mean order (verse 17). Observe here that their knowledge and skill, their learning and wisdom, are directly traced to the hand of the Giver of all good. How apt we are, if we excel our fellows in the matter of intellectual ability, to become proud of our superiority! Ours! It is not ours; it is God's. Did you ever reflect that the mental ability with which a sceptic argues out his conclusions, with which even an atheist seeks to disprove the existence of God, is the glorious gift of God Himself, prostituted to ignoble uses, and turned in defiance against its Maker and Giver? How sure and immovable the truth must be, and how certain, if I may use the expression, must God be of its ultimate triumph, when he allows men to go on year after year using the precious endowments which He has given, and could in a moment take away, for the purpose of endeavouring to overthrow His dominion ever the minds and hearts of their fellows!
5. Once more, here, the story of these comely and accomplished youths touches our deepest sympathies when we read that they were involuntary exiles from their native land. We cannot but think that they loved their country. Who shall, say what sorrows pierced the heart of this young prince, thus, with his companions, doomed to mourn, in the land and at the court of a heathen conqueror, not only his own sad fate, but still more grievously the appalling desolation which had befallen the land of his birth?
II. OF COURSE IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THAT THESE YOUNG EXILES SHOULD HAVE THEIR FAITH SORELY TRIED. The king, with that lavish and somewhat indelicate kindness so often associated with despotic power, doubtless meant them well. He had not, it is true, consulted their feelings in tearing them away from the land of their birth, but in his rough way he desired to treat them kindly. Yet to partake of the food and drink thus provided was just what they could not do. It was not wine as wine, any more than it was meat as meat, that they refused. Times are changed with us now, and our difficulties are not of the precise nature either of these captive Hebrews, or of the early Christians (1 Corinthians 8). But though customs change and ceremonial observances vanish away, principles abide unchanged for evermore. One of the favourite texts in the unwritten and unholy Bible of the world is, "When you are in Rome you must do as Rome does." Few of us dare to be singular. And yet to be right we must often be singular, not in phraseology, or tone, or look, or garb, but in character and conduct. What would some of us have said if we had been placed in the circumstances described in the text? On the one hand, there was food of the daintiest, wine of the richest; on the other, danger of displeasing the king, and perhaps being cast into an Oriental dungeon. Would it have been a thing to be wondered at if Daniel had reasoned thus; "What does it matter? The notions of our father are antiquated. Moses was well enough in his day, but that day is a long time since. Other times, other manners. It's our policy now to please the king." He would have had his meat and drink, but he would have lost his God, turned his back upon his early faith, forgotten his country, become a Babylonian idolater, and his life, unwritten and unsung, would have sunk into the oblivion which his time-serving cowardice deserved.
(J. R. Bailey.)
I. THE BODY. — As they were princes they were chosen to be pages of the king of Babylon. They were to be fed for three years with all the royal dainties. Most boys would have blest their good fortune, and taken their fill of all that was going in the palace. But these Jewish boys refused the king's meat and wine, lest they should eat anything forbidden by their religion. And they grew fairer and fatter than all the children in the palace. Like them, you should religiously think about what you eat and drink. The children who are content with plain food become the healthiest and fairest men and women. You will smile with suspicion when I tell you what is the healthiest place in all Scotland, and perhaps in the world. Sir Robert Christion proves that it is Perth Prison. For every man who dies inside it, about ten men of the same age die outside. Many of the prisoners have uneasy minds, and their lives have been wild, but no matter: they have by necessity what our four boys had by choice, — water, and the plainest food, and splendid health. Their food costs fourpence a day. I was in Richmond, Virginia, shortly after the great war. Nearly the whole city was a mass of blackened ruins. Two things, they said, astonished them during the siege; first, that they could live on so very little; and secondly, that fewer people died in days of starvation, than in days of abundance. They made the same discovery during the cotton famine in Lancashire. Plenty, it seems, harms more by its excesses than poverty by its privations. Your eating and drinking help greatly to form your character; for your diet influences the soul as well as the body. That Turk was much mistaken, who, when about to drink wine, warned his soul to quit the body for a little, lest it should be harmed. How many evils have sprung from luxurious living? It destroyed Rome, after Rome had conquered the whole world. How safe and noble is the spirit of these boys! They did not despise the body, as monks do: in the spirit of the Bible they honoured it as the handmaid of the soul. They were not as those who live to eat, but who eat to live. By keeping under their bodies they escaped being castaways.
II. THE MIND. — They were young thinkers, quickwitted, and eager to learn. Well-favoured and without blemish, they had minds to match their bodies. Your mind is nobler far than your body, and nobler than all the things your eyes behold. The powers of mind are more valued than powers of body by all but savages and stupid people. Often the body is the grave of the spirit; and many value the mind as the minister of the body: they would use it as a sort of chief cook or confectioner for the body. Yet he hardly lives at all, whose mind is not thoughtful. When the mind is not trained or used, man sinks toward the level of the sheep feeding in the pastures, and of the oxen fattening in the stall. His history is made up of nothings. For life without thought is death to all but the body. With many boys and girls the powers of the mind are roused at first as by a kind of sudden conversion. A book, or a conversation, or a lesson, or even a problem in arithmetic — I have known such cases — deeply stirs the mind and makes the youth conscious of new powers. From that day he tastes the sweets of thinking, and burns with the love of knowledge. William Arnot tells that the first time he read a book of his own accord, he was half-intoxicated with the new-found pleasure. Many a writer has used with real affection the words, "my master," as remembering how much he owes to his teacher. Thus also students long ago called their university, "Alma Mater," that is, Bountiful Mother. Their university cherished them into mental health and joy, even as a kind mother cherishes her dear children. Because the powers of the mind are so great you should be careful to read only healthy books. If the books of your boyhood are bad, you will regret the reading of them as long as you live.
III. THE SOUL. — As the mind is nobler than the body, so the soul is nobler than the mind. The soul is the man, the mind is the soul's servant, and the body is the servant's servant. As thought is the life of the mind, so true Christian life is the grandeur of the soul. Their state of body and mind was most helpful to their soul. Their minds were not dulled by over-feeding, nor were their souls clogged with stupid minds. We wonder at their holy lives in such a wicked palace, and at their perfect boldness. The poets speak of a river that preserves the sweetness of its waters amid the bitterness of the sea, and of an animal that lives in the midst of the fire; and such-like were their lives. There is a little insect that gathers around itself a viewless coat of air, and goes down clad in it to the bottom of the sea. The little diver moves about at its ease, unhurt amid the stagnant waters. The grace of God wove such a garment of Heaven's air around these children, that they passed unhurt through the poisoned atmosphere of Babylon. It made them the children of Heaven, and gave them a nobility of nature more than nature can give.
(J. Wells, M.A.)
(H. O. Mackey)
1. Young men may be carried into captivity by their enemies. There is a captivity more galling than the one into which Daniel was transported, it is the captivity of evil habit. Men do not go into that wittingly. Slyly and imperceptibly are the chains forged upon them, and one day they wake up to find themselves away down in Babylon. Men talk of evil habits as though they were light and trivial; but they are scorpion whips that tear the flesh; they make a road of spikes more bloody than the path of a Brahmin; they are the poisonous robe of Nessus; they are the sepulchre in which millions are buried alive. The young are in more peril because they are unsuspecting.
2. Early impressions are almost ineffaceable. Daniel had a religious bringing up. From the good meaning of his name I know he had a pious parentage. When I find what Daniel is in Jerusalem I am not surprised to find what he is in Babylon. The father plans the character of the child, and its destiny for time and eternity; then the son completes the structure.
3. The beauty of Christian sobriety. The meat and the wine that were to come to Daniel's table were to come from the King's table. Daniel had no right to take that food. He chose pulse. It was a miracle that he did not dwindle away. When God for his self-denial puts upon him this benediction he puts a benediction upon all Christian sobriety.
4. The beauty of youthful character remaining incorrupt away from home. If Daniel had plunged into every wickedness of the city of Babylon, the old folks at home would never have heard of it. But Daniel knew that God's eye was on him. That was enough. There are young men not so good away from home as at home. God forbid that any of us, through our misconduct, should bring disgrace upon a father's name, or prove recreant to the love of a mother.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)
1. Some of these were physical. Vigour and beauty were required. Probably Daniel was tall, strong, well-built, handsome.
2. The King required knowledge. "Skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science." They were to be generally intelligent, and in particular, acquainted with the science of their country, namely — music, architecture, natural history, agriculture, morals, theology, and prophecy. There is reason to believe that in many of these departments the Hebrews were in advance of the Babylonians. The King proposed to turn their superiority to account. He was evidently a broad-minded and sagacious man.
3. The next requirement was what we understand by "capacity." "Such as had ability in them to stand in the King's palace." "Ability" is here the Hebrew word for strength, power, resource of almost any kind. The King required general capacity, not overlooking moral qualifications.
4. They were to be teachable. Without that spirit, these tall, handsome men would be but as ornamental logs of wood in the palace of the King. Present attainment in knowledge and in moral culture is as nothing compared with the capacity of receiving more, and power to do more in the future.
(H. T. Robjohns, B.A.)
The Learning and Tongue of the Chaldeans.John Wesley was crossing the seas on his way to Georgia, he found on board a number of German emigrants who were also crossing to the Western lands. He was seized by a passionate desire to speak to them about the love of the Saviour, but he was hampered by the hindrance of an unknown tongue. He did not know German, and so an intimate communion was impossible. There and then he set himself to learn the language. For many hours every day he laboriously pursued the study, until, long before the journey ended, he was able to tell his German brothers the uplifting story of the Christ of God. Keith Falconer was once in great need of information which would enormously help him in his sacred work. He found, however, that the information was buried in the Dutch language, which was altogether unknown to him. There and then he set himself to learn Dutch, and mastered it in order that he might gain the hidden treasure.
(Llewellyn D. Bevan, L.L.B.)
(P. H. Hunter.)
(Dean Payne Smith, D.D.)
(Carl August Auberlen.)
A daily provision of the King's meat.1. That we should abstain from the least appearance of evil. Daniel and his three companions, alone of the royal children, refrained from partaking of the meat that probably had been offered to idols. They would avoid the least appearance of evil. They would model their conduct so that, placed as they were in a conspicuous position, their public profession and public acts should be such as were calculated to incite in the hearts of their humbler captive fellow countrymen, a spirit of patriotism and a spirit of reverence. They determined to take their stand at the very outset on the side of the right, instead of on the side of the expedient, and to resist the very first appearance of evil, however plausible and outwardly harmless these appearances may be. The first step in the path of sin or crime, the first wandering from the path of righteousness, must be carefully guarded against, lest, inadvertently and heedlessly, if not wilfully — we do violence to the dictates of our own conscience, or cause in any way a weak brother to offend.
2. That the road to eminence is through the gate of self-denial. Their countenance appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the King s meat." So in religious matters as well as secular, it is eternally true.
3. That it is not what we receive, but what we assimilate, that enriches us. It is not what we eat, but what we digest, that nourishes the body. It is not what we read, but what we apprehend, that strengthens the mind. It is not what we profess but what we believe, that edifies the soul. Spirituality is not composed of doctrinal accuracy, or of ceremonial observances, but of practical Christian morality, and of unsullied Christian faith.
4. That the issues of events are in the hands of God. Through God's blessing the pulse and water were rendered more powerfully nutritious than the diet provided by the king. God's ways are not as man's ways.
5. That the education of these royal captives is typical of the course of human life. We are sent into this world as into a training school, by the King of kings, that we may be fitly taught the heavenly knowledge, and the celestial language we need to make us able duly to appreciate the beauties and to join in the hallelujahs of the strange land wherein hereafter we are destined to abide. Our great King, too, of His bounty, gives us each our daily bread for body, mind, and soul, and pours out for us freely the wine from the true vine. This heavenly food some grossly abuse, some foolishly neglect, some ascetically reject, simply from human ignorance or conceit. Asceticism in itself, any more than worldly-mindedness in itself, or sensualism in itself, cannot render anyone fit for the presence of the heavenly King. A proud, a vain, an envious, a jealous, an uncharitable heart may beat as well under the hair shirt of the self-torturing flagellist as under the purple robe of the monarch; and Antony in his dreary cell, and Simon Stylites on his lonely pillar may have been as far from the kingdom of heaven as the sensual Belshazzar at his luxurious banquet, or the worldly-minded Pilate in his tesselated hall.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
HomilistRealising Daniel's captivity, we gather three familiar elemental and important lessons: —
I. THAT SEVERE TROUBLES BEFALL THE GOOD. All that Daniel had to endure was in strange reversal of what we might have thought the blameless, noble, devout character of a man so "well-beloved," deserved or needed. This fact may well be a voice to all of us. —
1. Teaching us not to regard the present state of things as final. The social wrongs of this life involve the need of a future life as a justification of a Righteous Governor of the Universe. Daniel was a captive. His coronation is to come.
2. Teaching us not to judge men's character by their circumstances. We may never conclude, because a man is healthy, affluent, famous, that he is, as a cause of all this, unselfish, humble, devout. Nor must we conclude, because a man is wasting with disease, sunk in poverty, obscure amongst even the meanest, that he is therefore false, ungenerous, Christless. You find Daniels among the captives.
3. Teaching us not to be surprised when, notwithstanding our conscious integrity, adversity befalls us. "Think it not strange," etc.
II. THAT STRENGTH OF CHARACTER CAN OVERCOME THE EVIL OF CIRCUMSTANCE. He, though a youth in a pagan and profligate court, was not overborne by its evil influences. There seem in him to have been four sources of strength.
1. His incorruptible conscience. This manifested its present vigour, and prophesied its victorious manhood, when, in his youth, it led him to refuse the king's meats. He who has and obeys a robust conscience, is before a contending world as David was before Goliath.
2. His chosen companions. The three Hebrew youths, fellows in misfortune, were evidently also his companions for counsel and prayer. Men are energized for battle with half a world by the true words, the hallowing influence of but two or three choice souls. The friends of the true heroes of history are amongst the most beautiful clusters of human lives.
3. His direct communications from heaven. "A dream is from God." Daniel's dreams opened another world above him, around him, before him, and under its power he became mighty to do, or to dare, or to bear.
4. His habitual prayers. Some are recorded. It is implied that it was his life-long custom to pray three times a day. Such devotion clothed him as in asbestos garments that, no temptation could burn.
III. THE ADVERSE EXPERIENCES OF ONE PERIOD OF LIFE QUALIFY FOR RIGHT USE OF A SUCCEEDING PERIOD. The ways in which Daniel was, in his youthful captivity, being prepared for successive stages of his life, were very like the ways in which all may be prepared by any adverse days or years for some usefuller, and it may be happier lot in coming times. Such a life as that of Daniel's youth was an apprenticeship for the work of the Statesman, the Dreamer, the man he afterward became. To us this ought to be clearer than to the men of the prophetic age: for have we not read of Jesus, that he was made "perfect through suffering."
The Prince of the Eunuchs gave names.
1. Daniel. His name may be rendered "God my judge." Instead, he was called Belshazzar, derived from Bel. Daniel's estimate of this change may be inferred from the small use he made of it. He appears to have regarded it as no compliment. Thrice happy are they who, like Daniel, have God for their judge. Whenever they are falsely judged, the just Judge can "bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day."
2. Hananiah. This names signifies, "the grace and favour of God." Shadrach, for which it was changed, denotes the same thing in an idolatrous sense — "the favour, or illumination, or inspiration, of the Sun-god." A contrast is thus illustrated between the divine complacency, and the favour and applause of the world. "The God of this world" is worshipped with as much devotion as the Babylonians coveted the shining rays of their great Sun-god. The world's smiles, her caresses, honours, wealth, and pleasures, are the inspirations of the eager devotion of the multitude. In these things consist their sunshine. Contrasted with this is the true light, revealing by its clear and steady rays all dangerous passes, pitfalls, and precipices, whereby so many perish through the glare of sin. And this favour is a light that shines always.
3. Mishael. This name is composed of two Hebrew words which may be rendered "comparable to God," or resemblance to God." The substituted name retains a part of the word, displacing the last syllable, which is the name of Jehovah, by the name "Shak," the chief goddess of Babylon, the goddess of beauty and pleasure. Meshach, therefore, signifies a votary to the chief goddess of beauty and pleasure, who smiles upon all who bear her name. Babylon's goddess still rules with successful sway. Men are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." Too often is the temptation yeilded to by God's spiritual Israel.
4. Azariah. This name may be rendered "God my help." "Abednego" means "servant of the shining light," or "servant of Lucifer." The two names furnish illustrations of the contrasted characters of the servants of righteousness and those of sin. The service of sin is the service of grief. In a course of evil pleasure and pain are twin companions. Light is attractive, sad so is sin; but the light is the effect of fire, and fire burns; so does sin — like the glaring taper alluring to slay the bewildered moth.
Genesis 41:45), and the Assyrians changed the name of Psammetichus II into Nebo-serib-ani, "Nebo Save mo." They therefore made the names of the boys into the names of the Babylonian deities.
(F. W. Farrar.)
But Daniel purposed in his heart.saw God? — and Babylon is so splendidly present to the senses! God is abstract, and Babylon so gloriously concrete. But the spiritual is greater than the material, and the abstract imparts beauty and value to the concrete.
(H. W. Battle D.D.)
I. THERE ARE TEMPTATIONS TO BE RESISTED. — There never was a man yet who had faith, and who had not trials. Wherever there is faith in God, it will be tested at some time or other; it must be so. It cannot be that the house shall be builded, even on the rock, without the rains descending, and the floods coming, and the winds beating upon that house. Now, first, look at Daniel's temptations.(1) In his case, the temptation was very specious. He was bidden to eat the portion of food that, every day, came from the king's table. Could he want any better? He might have fared like a prince. Could he have any objection to that? He had no objection except this, that it would defile him. There were certain foods used by the Babylonians, such as the flesh of swine, the flesh of the hare, and of certain fish, that were unclean, and when these came from the king's table, if Daniel ate them, he would be breaking the law of Moses given in the Book of Leviticus, and thus he would be defiled. Remember that the food which was allowed to Israel was to be killed in a certain way. The blood must be effectually drained from the flesh, for he that ate the blood defiled himself thereby. Now, the Babylonians did not kill their beasts in that way, and the eating of flesh which had not been killed according to the law would have defiled Daniel. More than that, usually such a king as Nebuchadnezzar, before he ate food, dedicated it to his god. Bel-Merodach was greatly venerated by Nebuchadnezzar as god, so that a libation of wine was poured out to Merodach, and a certain portion of food was put aside, so that, in fact, it was offered to idols; and Daniel felt that he would be defiled if he ate of meat which might be unclean, and which was certain to be offered to idols; it would be breaking the law of God, so Daniel would not eat it. But the temptation to do so must have been very strong, for somebody would say, "Why, what difference can it make what you eat, or what you drink?" Others would say, "Why is Daniel so particular? There have been other Jews here who have unhesitatingly eaten the king's meat."(2) Then, the temptation seemed the road to honour. They would say to Daniel, "Surely, if you begin by objecting to what the monarch sends you from his table, you will never get on at Court. People with a conscience should not go to Court." Somebody would whisper in Daniel's ear, "It is the law of the land." Yes, but whatever the law may be, and whatever custom may be, the servants of God serve a higher King, and they have but one rule, and one custom, "We ought to obey God rather than man." In Daniel's case, if he had done what it was proposed to him to do, it would have been giving up the separated life. This is the temptation of the present day. Profess to be a Christian, but float along the common current of the world. Take the name of a Christian, and go to your place of worship, and go through your ceremonies; but do not bring your religion into your business. Act as other people do. This is the temptation of the time. Now, in our own case, what are the particular temptations to which we, as believing men and believing women, are exposed? I cannot go into the question of individuals; but I can imagine some one here who is in a position where he is asked to do what it is not right for him to do. But he says, "I shall be discharged if I refuse to do it. I know others do it, and I must do it." My dear young fellow, allow me to put before you Daniel, who purposed in his heart that he would not eat the king's meat. Sometimes you will find that to be out and out for the right will be the making of you. Any man who speaks the truth will find it the best thing in the long run. So to-day, again, there is the temptation of love for intellectual novelty. And, besides this, we have, nowadays, the temptation to general laxity. People do, even Christian people do, what Christian people should not do; and they excuse themselves by quoting the example of other Christians, or by saying, "We are not so precise as our fathers were." Has God changed? Christians have meat to eat of which the world knoweth not.
II. THERE ARE RIGHT METHODS OF RESISTING TEMPTATION.
1. And the first is that the heart must be set. "Daniel purposed in his heart." He looked the matter up and down, and he settled it in his heart. Before he asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego anything about it, he had made up his own mind. Oh, for a made-up mind! Oh, for the man who knows how to look at his compass, and to steer his vessel whither he ought to go! The grace of God is a great heart-settler.
2. The next thing is, that the life must be winning. Daniel was helped in carrying out his resolution by his own permortal character. God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. Whenever a man is brought into favour and tender love, and is a good man, there is something about him that has commended itself. There are some who have carried firmness into obstinacy, and determination into bigotry, which is a thing to be shunned. Yield everything that may be yielded; give up mere personal whims and oddities; but as for the things of God, stand as firm as a rock about them.
3. Then observe that the protest must be courteously borne. While Daniel was very decided, he was very courteous in his protests. Firmness of purpose should be adorned with gentleness of manner in carrying it out.
4. Next to that, self-denial must be sought. If you will be out and out for God, you must expect self-denial, and you will have to habituate yourself to it. Be ready for a bad name; be willing to be called a bigot; be prepared for loss of friendships.
5. And then the test must be boldly put. Daniel showed his faith when he said to Melzar, "Feed me and my three companions on this common fare; give us nothing else." I think that a Christian man should be willing to be tried; he should be pleased to let his religion be put to the test.
III. THERE ARE CERTAIN POINTS WHICH WILL HAVE TO BE PROVED BY EXPERIENCE. I speak now to you Christian people who hold fast by the old doctrines of the gospel, and will not be, led astray by modern temptations. Now what have you to prove?
1. Well, I think that you have to prove that the old faith gives you a bright and cheerful spirit.
2. Another point that we shall have to prove, is that the old faith promotes holiness of life. There are some who say, "Those people cry down good works." Do we? If you bring them as a price to purchase salvation, we do cry them down. God help us to prove that we are more truthful and more godly than those who have not like precious faith!
3. The next thing is that we must prove that the old faith produces much love of our fellow-men.
4. And then let us prove that the old faith enables us to have great patience in trial. He who believes the doctrines of grace is the man who can suffer.
5. What is wanted is that we who hold the old faith should be in a better state of spiritual health. May every grace be developed.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Ezekiel 14:14, 20.) This should teach us a lesson to the effect that we cannot always judge of one man's actions by that of another. Nor, on the contrary, with the examples of Joseph and Daniel, occupying similar positions in Egypt and Babylon, must we be hasty in judging the possible rightness of taking and continuing in the employment of the enemies of God. The question really is not in whose employ we are engaged, but whether in that employment we are keeping a conscience void of offence, and are using our place, while faithful to our employer, for the glory of God. This certainly did both Daniel and Joseph. There is a striking comparison between the history of Daniel and Joseph. Joseph was the first distinguished man of his house, and we may say that Daniel was the last man of great eminence. In their youth they were both captives, and both true to God and their consciences in circumstances that were very trying. Both obtained favour with their kings, and reached places of great honour and power in the kingdom whither in the providence of God they had been sent as prisoners. It is surprising to note how often young men have played great parts in the world's history; and this is especially true of the history of God's kingdom on the earth. Moses and Joshua were comparatively young men for the age in which they lived; David and Solomon were young men when they were called to assume the greatest responsibilities. John the Baptist and Jesus were young men when they began their ministry, Jesus himself being a mere child of twelve years when he first undertook his Father's business. Saul of Tarsus was a young man when Jesus met, converted, and commissioned him to be the great apostle to the Gentries. Timothy was a mere lad when Paul chose him for his companion, and adopted him as his son. What encouragement is here for young men, and even lads, to enter at once on the work and into the personal service of God!
I. DANIEL UNDER TEMPTATION. — Whether it was a part of the deliberate policy of the king of Babylon to corrupt these young men by feeding them from his own table with the meat and drink which had been offered to idols, and so to wean them away from the religion of their fathers, or whether this circumstance was the providential occasion of developing the faith and character of Daniel and his friends is not a question of great moment. Daniel was, from the very beginning of his career, a true witness for the truth. His temptation was all the more severe from the following circumstances;
1. Because of his youth. — It would not have been so remarkable that he declined to compromise his conscience, had he been a full-grown man, with religious principles and character strong by reason of maturity and long habit of righteousness. Youth is, indeed, purer than manhood, but then, as a rule, it is weaker and more easily led by those under whose power and influence it was brought. Had Daniel yielded here to the first temptation, he would hardly have recovered his faith at a later time. If we win in the first fight with the tempter, we may assure ourselves of victory all through life.
2. Because he was away from home. — One of the worst situations for a young man to find himself in, is to be away from home and home influences, in a strange city, especially when surrounded by those who have no sympathy with the religious training and principles of his home life. In this situation Daniel was placed. What had become of his father and mother, his brethren and kindred, we are not told. Possibly they had been killed in the siege or carried away captive to some other province.
3. Because of his helplessness. — He was not only in a strange land and among strangers, but he was a captive, and wholly at the mercy of the king and his servants. He might have said to himself, and not without some show of reason: "I am not responsible for the things which I do under the command of the king, whose prisoner I am." We have heard young men, who justified themselves for wrong-doing because they were only carrying out the orders of their employers.
4. Because of the subtlety of the temptation — It was a matter of great self-gratulation to Daniel that he has been selected to fill a high place in the service of the king, and that the king had complimented him by directing that he should be fed with meat and drink from his own table. This high distinction would be recognised both by the other prisoners and by the king's officers themselves. To refuse this peculiar mark of the king's favour would have been both ungracious and impertinent on Daniel's part. There is no surer approach to the citadel of man's moral nature than by the gateway of vanity and with the instruments of flattery, especially of the agents be the rich and great. What we might refuse from our inferiors, or even our equals, is not so easily declined if it is offered by our betters.
5. Because of the peril of his position. — Sometimes we can brave the sneer of the ungodly and the arched eyebrows of the less conscientious, where we should not be willing to stand up under peril of life itself. Yet this was Daniel's danger. The favour of God was more to him than life. We do not wonder after this, that, at a later period of his life, he calmly went on-praying with his face towards Jerusalem, even though the den of lions was to be his portion for so doing.
II. STANDING BY A PURPOSE TRUE. —
1. He was true to a godly education. — Perhaps the low state of religion in his own land had served to increase in him the sense of responsibility for an absolutely true course in the matter now before him. No lad would have stood this test if he had not been thoroughly well taught; not in the external virtues of religion, but in its very essence and power. If we parents wish to be absolutely sure of the course our sons will take, when the time comes to send them forth into the world to fight life's battle for themselves, let us be sure that they go out from us rooted and grounded in the truth, and established in the faith of God and his Christ.
2. He was true to his conscience. — It was not only loyalty to home-training, but loyalty to conscience, that stood Daniel in good stead in the hour of trial. In leaving home we leave home influences, but if we have a conscience that has been trained in the fear of God, we shall always take that with us. Home-training will keep us a little while, but a sensitive conscience is a never-failing guide. He is a happy boy or man, whether rich or poor, prince or peasant, who has a conscience like Daniel's. It will stand by and strengthen him in many an hour of trial.
3. He was true to the word of God. — By taking heed to the word of God, a young man will not only cleanse himself from evil ways, but will be able to do something better: even to keep himself safe from being defiled.
4. He was true to his brethren. — Daniel seems to have been the spokesman for the other three young princes, as he was undoubtedly by nature, and perhaps by rank, their leader. Should he give way, his brethren would hardly stand, and so they would be defiled. If he stood fast, they, encouraged by his example, would stand by his side. Daniel was therefore jealous of his influence as of his own soul's peace. He must be a true witness for the sake of others.
5. He was true to God. — A true Christian may always appeal to the results of a Christian walk for its justification. Daniel only asked a trial of ten days. He believed "that God would vindicate his course, and show to the eunuch that in every way it was better to serve God than worship or be compromised with the worship of idols, We may always be sure that God will in the end honour those who honour him.
III. DANIEL VINDICATED AND REWARDED. — God stood by Daniel, his young servant, in this matter, as he had stood by Joseph in Egypt, and even more promptly vindicated his faith. God's favour was shown in three things.
1. In the favour be gave Daniel with the eunuch. — He had already brought him "into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs." God does not wait till the end of our faith to come to our help, but even if there be a purpose in our hearts to be true to him, he gives us preliminary vindication. The early Christians being true to God, won for themselves favour with. the people.
2. By giving them greater physical beauty. — At the end of the ten days' trial, "their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." In the long run, the man who lives on simple fare will show more physical beauty that he who fares sumptuously every day on dainty food. says of these four young men who stood to their purpose, that "they had better health for their spare diet; and their good conscience and merry heart was a continual feast unto them. They had also God's blessing on their coarser fare, which was the main matter that made the difference."
3. By their superior intellectual ability. — At the end of the three years which had been assigned for their special education, they were brought before the king, and he found them "ten times better in all matters of wisdom and understanding than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm." There is hardly a doubt that, if the facts were known.and could be tabulated, it would appear that the intellectual life of Christian people is far in advance of those men of the world who reject God and his counsels, both as to the spiritual life and the general state of the body, promoted by a temperate use of the good things of life. Certainly a wide generalization shows marked superiority in favour of those nations commonly known as Christian, over those which are guided by the superstitions and excesses of heathenism. The general and well-known superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race is due most of all, and first of all, to the influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has trained that race for the civilization and the evangelization of the whole world.
(G. F. Pentecost.)
1. Daniel's act was an indirect avowal of his Hebrew faith. That faith forbade him to eat the food of the Gentiles. But this law was not mainly on account of the food itself. If the bread and wine of Babylon had been as simple in their preparation as the temperate provisions of a pious Jewish home, the Jew might not teach them. It was idolatry that brought a taint upon Gentile food. The blessing of wicked deities, lying vanities, was invoked upon the grain and the grape which the bounty of God had ripened; and to partake of food so contaminated was to the Jew like eating and drinking a lie and a curse. In primitive times eating and drinking represented a man's religion. He ate and drank to the praise of the deity whose providence was supposed to have furnished his table; and all who ate with him were partakers alike of his food and his faith. In refusing the king's meat, Daniel proclaimed himself the follower of another religion. Nebuchadnezzar imagined that a slave had no mind of his own; that his will, his conscience, his person, belonging to his Master and Owner, he must follow whatever religion that Master chose to impose. The poor lad could not resist his exile; he had no power over his own person; but young as he was, no one could touch his will, and no one should force him to violate his conscience. Such is the inalienable prerogative of the mind even of a child. But this law of the Hebrews which forbade them the hospitality of other nations was not a matter of faith only, but of morality. Although many Gentiles were distinguished for the severity of their virtues, yet as nations they were profoundly corrupt. They conceived that the gods who gave them food were exalted by the licence of appetite. The worship of some of these idols consisted in gluttony and drunkenness, of others in the gratification of more shameful lusts. Idolatry is, in its effects, the elevation of the animal in man, and the depression of the intellectual. In avowing his faith to the God of Israel, Daniel upheld in his own conduct the morality of that faith. Not in abstinence only, but in all his conduct he was pure; and the effect of his behaviour upon the distinguished men who were placed over him was a beautiful illustration of our Lord's lesson, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16). Ashpenaz was a man of high rank in Babylon; his position implied culture, wealth, and authority; his eye fell upon the young captive; his shrewd penetration discerned at once a mind and character of singular originality; and, judging by one expression in the history, he must have been charmed even to fascination by the endowments, the grace, and the beauty of Daniel's spirit. Here was a godly youth in the presence of an eminent statesman — a man whose opportunities commanded a wide field in the study of character, who had been mixed up with the splendid licentiousness of a court, with the intrigues of a State, and with the subtle involutions of priestly sorcery, and this veteran of the world was awed by the purity and courage of a youth and a foreigner. The Scriptures attribute this impression to the grace of God: "God brought Daniel into tender love with the prince of the eunuchs." The same is affirmed of the influence of Joseph over Potiphar and Pharaoh. "And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man, and his Master saw that the Lord was with him; and the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake;" and again, Pharaoh said unto his courtiers, "Can we find such an one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" Both Joseph and Daniel were beautiful in person and character, and gifted in mind; but these in themselves do not necessarily conciliate and charm observers. I have known persons who possessed them and yet were unable to gain the love and confidence of others; not because they wanted piety and integrity, but for the lack of graciousness, courtesy, gentleness; in one word, sympathy with those with whom they had intercourse. It is not enough to be good in principle if we are harsh, uncouth, and unlovely in the expression of it, Some people seem proud of the tartness of their manners; they will never be proud of the number or quality of their friends. We must have our medium from God as well as our light; and the medium of a kindly and sympathetic manner is the best reflector for giving a mild and grateful lustre to the light of truth. "Even so lot your light shine before men."
2. Daniel's act was a practical affirmation of the benefits and blessings of Temperance. Some of Daniel's fellow captives, students in the Eunuch's College, ate of the king's meat and drank of the king's wine. It was, and is still, the custom of Oriental courts to pamper young men of this class, to provide their mess with such food as is supposed likely to bring out the ruddiness and beauty of their complexions and to sharpen their minds. There are two things which all monarchs like in their immediate attendants — beauty and intelligence. The education intended to draw out the former is curiously elaborate in Asiatic courts. You will see that this kind of preparation may make a court exquisite, but can never make a man. It is true that the understanding is not neglected: sumptuous dining is considered to be compatible with the most strenuous intellectual exertions. But in the end, when the boys become men and the motives of competition cease to be the spur of study, indolent and luxurious habits generally take possession of the character, and like the thorns of the parable, they strangle the natural growth of the man. But more than this: the youths trained for the service of Nebuchadnezzar were not intended to be mere court favourites, but wise men; in other words, Magi, a comprehensive appellation including statesmen, councillors, astrologers, and soothsayers: men appointed at the monarch's call to interpret a dream, to construe an omen, to read a sign, to register events and observations, to negotiate treaties, to plan festivals, and to direct enchantments. Let me say that stimulants are the snare and not the friends of the intellect. Our greatest works were written by temperate men, or by men in their temperate days. Some of the brightest lights of genius and learning were quenched in intemperance that covered them like the shadows of death. I lift up before you, young people, the example of Daniel; for the hope of the country rests upon you.
(E. E. Jenkins, M.A.)
1. They scrupulously maintained the moral and religious principles that had been imparted to them in their earlier education. They made a supreme regard for the will of God their rule of conduct, even in little things. But when tried, they were found to be pure gold; and their triumph proves that a pious education is one of the greatest blessings that can be bestowed upon youth. If you, young men, have received such an education, be profoundly thankful for it. Nor were they over righteous in this firm but courteous refusal. Nor were they narrow and bigoted sectarians. They were liberal Christians, but not latitudinarians. The Bible and the very nature of the human mind command us to be liberal, but forbid us to be latitudinarian. True liberality of sentiment and largeness of soul are the attributes of strength and conviction of one's own mind. But latitudinarianism gives up essential foundation principles, and says there is no difference between right and wrong — that it is equally a matter of indifference what a man believes, or whether he believes anything at all. Duty is not a thing of latitude and longitude. It is the same thing everywhere. Conscience and God are the same in Paris or Constantinople, as in your New England or Scottish homes. Polar snows or tropical flowers cannot change the eternal principles of rectitude. God's laws, the will of the Supreme Creator, is the only standard of duty. It was not the mere concession of a prejudice, not the mere giving up of some little matters of denominational detail, but the surrender of principle, compromise of truth, apostacy from the true religion, that they were required to submit to. And the lesson taught us is of vast importance. It is that we must not sacrifice conscience, with its awful requirements, to any temporary or worldly convenience. It is better to die of starvation than gain a valuable living by the sacrifice of the soul. Without stern integrity in little things, there is a want of confidence which is fatal to success. A most pernicious delusion prevails with many good people. They are waiting until they can do some great thing, and think that if a great crisis were to come, they would then have nerve to meet it, and do something triumphant. They cannot find, at present, a place large enough for the discharge of their duties. Instead of quietly laying one brick upon the earth, they are constantly building castles in the air; instead of discharging the plain everyday duty which they owe to God and their fellow men, they pass life in looking for some grand occasion for the display of their virtues. The little things that are usually the turning-points of character, they have not apprehended. They have not learned that events which seem at first frivolous and unimportant, may become the "Thermopylae of a Christian's conflict, the Marathon of a nation's being, or the turning-point of everlasting life or of everlasting death." The point with Daniel was to follow his conscience or his appetite; to cease to be an Israelite, or cease to be a favourite of the great King of Babylon. And his determination was soon made to make everything give way to his religion. He would not let his religion bow to the world, but made the world bow to his religion.
2. The next lesson which the Euphrates sends to the Mississippi, and reads to us from the early life of Babylon's vizier or prime minister and his friends is, that a man is no loser for maintaining right principles. The examination of the four Hebrews presents a noble example of the success of prudence, temperance, and a steady regard to religion. These young men did not think, because they were well born and liberally educated, that they might therefore indulge their appetites without control. On the contrary, with heroic steadfastness they made the will of God, even in little things, their rule of conduct. And what was the result? Did Daniel lose any good thing by his firm adherence to principle? Not at all. The very reverse was the result. Daniel's faithfulness to his conscience, his allegiance to his God, his courteous but firm refusal to do what was sinful, was turned to his advantage, even in this world. Them that honour God, He honours. The result of their faithfulness to God was their promotion in the palace, and the favour of the king. What, then, is the true principle of expediency for young men? We answer, True principle is true expediency. Duty is the way of peace and promotion. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you. It is reasonable for young men to ask God for help in mental as well as in spiritual efforts. He is the father of the spirit as well as the maker of the body. In the toil and business of life, and amid all its perplexing difficulties, cast yourself, therefore, upon the Lord's protection, and look to Him for counsel and guidance. It is easy for Him to "illumine what in yon is dark." It is an old saying, that to pray earnestly is to study well.
(W. A. Scott, D.D.)
Martin Luther and John Knox are names which stand for ever identified with glorious struggles for the right. And just one more illustration; wherever the thought of self-sacrificing labour and toil for the sake of ethers, for the sick and the dying and the wounded — wherever that idea is felt to be a power to quicken the pulses and stir the generous emotions of mankind, there the name of Florence Nightingale will be tenderly enshrined. Now I wish to speak for a little on one of those imperishable names, the name of one who is still remembered and still spoken of when children, older and younger, are inspired to deeds of noble daring.
I. The first thing I wish you to notice — is THE ASPECT IN WHICH DANIEL THINKS AND SPEAKS OF WRONG-DOING, OF WHAT TO HIM AND HIS CONSCIENCE WOULD BE SIN. He does not speak of it as disobedience to God, though he felt it to be that. He does not speak of it as disobedience to his parents, as breaking away from the traditions of his fathers and going over to the customs and religion of another country and people; but he speaks of it as defiling himself. He would not defile himself. And I would like to ask you this: do you realise that every wrong thought, every wrong feeling, every wrong word, every wrong deed is not only wrong because it displeases God, but it is a wrong against your own nature, it is inflicting a mischief upon yourself, upon your own being? A stain we plant there which no human alchemy can remove. I have seen in our police-courts, and I have seen on the streets of the city, the forms and features of men so bruised and blackened and bloated that their very personality seemed to be obscured. One almost imagines that their every feature tells a tale of sin and suffering, and the hardship which sin inevitably brings. Slowly, slowly through the long years have those features been changing from the sweet, pure, clean, healthy flesh of a little child; but the strong years have done it, the "strong years passed in the practice of sin, in the act and life and thought and feeling. And what is written on the outward features of men and women who have thus indulged in sin is written as indelibly, though you cannot see it, on the inner nature, the soul and spirit. The German poet Goethe sings of "spirit ears," and he speaks of these ears hearing the thunder of the sunrise, as if the sun rose with a great crash, which the ears of the spirit could hear; but if we had spirit eyes which could see what is going on in the spirit world, and see our own veritable being as God sees it, then we would recognise how all those unhallowed indulgences in thought and feeling and desire, not to speak even of word and act, how all this illicit thought and feeling has written upon our inner nature its own dread and direful mark, and put a stain there which can only be washed out in the "Fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins," and we thank God that "Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." Sin indulged in, even though it be in secret, even though it be only in thought and feeling, sin thus works its inevitable and irretrievable work, and brings about that frightful change which produces such repulsiveness.
II. HOW WAS IT THAT DANIEL ACCOMPLISHED HIS SUCCESS, OVERCAME HIS TEMPTATION, mastered it and trampled it under foot? Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself, that he would not weave across his vision that web which would hide from himself the joy, the peace, the holiness, the triumph, and success which come from communion with the unseen, but really present Jehovah. Daniel purposed in his heart. The greatest danger to which, in my mind, the young men of to-day are exposed, is not that they deliberately walk into temptation or into sin; but because they do not deliberately determine not to do it. It is because they begin their life without any purpose at all, but drift, drift, drift without rudder or compass, without any strong, resolute determination which they have made as in the sight of God, and which they have resolved by God's help to keep, that whatever others do, for them they will not defile themselves. There is no sadder sight to be seen than the number of young men and women who, without any intention or idea that they are going wrong, in their simplicity, which, however, is not guileless simplicity, for they might and ought to know better, but who in their criminal simplicity permit themselves to be ensnared and led into company where they know their ears and eyes and their whole nature will be assailed with that which will defile. It is too late to purpose in your heart not to do it after it is done. It is too late to make a good resolution not to fall after you have fallen, The time to purpose in one's heart not to defile oneself is before the defilement has been produced; when you are sitting at your own fireside in your own room, or on your knees, there and then is the time. It is too late to deliberate when you are face to face with temptation: the excitement is too strong, the power of companionship is too great. One word more: there is no use making a resolution unless it is to be kept. The greatest loss that I can think of in this city, is not the less of money which men spend on that which is not bread, not the loss of labour spent on that which satisfieth not; it is not the loss of life, even, that might be saved if only men and women would act aright — the greatest loss in this city is the loss of mental and spiritual force which is allowed to degenerate into mere drivel, by yielding to the temptations which sap all the mental, intellectual and moral stamina out of the character of our youth. Oh, to see the bright young fellows, the pride of their father, the joy and hope of their mother, who go and throw away the talents God has given them, throw away the noble aspirations of youth, by entangling themselves in scenes and circumstances and aspirations which drag them down; and they become altogether incapable of realising their own aspirations, their own possibilities, because they have allowed themselves to be defiled. This resolution of which I speak must be followed out to be of any service. It is not in resolutions repeated, repeated only to be broken, that you build up a character of force, and strength and power; but it is in solemnly looking at the problems of life, solemnly looking at the circumstances and situations in which you are placed, solemnly confronting the possibilities and temptations that lie before you, and deliberately retaking up your mind, as in God's sight, as to what your duty is, and then purposing, determining, resolving in your heart that you will not be defiled. You will find in that resolution a strength, a help in the hour of temptation.
(Sir Samuel Chisholm.)
Thou knowest that Thou hast formed me
With passions wild and strong;
And list'ning to their witching voice
Has often led me wrong.That still expresses the mind of many, and one hears it frequently just now, all sorts of excuses being pleaded for sin. The scientist has no doubt truth on his side, but he has not all the truth. Heredity is not fate. What we have received from our parents does not weave around us a web from which we can never escape, through which we can never break. If it be true that we belong to God as well as to them, the sins of our fathers are only ours when we make them our own by our own will. The mistake of Burns and all who, like him, listen to the "witching voice" is in listening. He should have put his fingers in his ears. Some of you young men here to-night are, perhaps, in places of employment or in circumstances otherwise far from favourable to your leading godly lives. You are brought into contact with roughness, with profanity, with those who make light of God's name and Christ's religion. And I grant you at once that it is not easy to keep straight and do the right thing and bear the right testimony always in the right way. It needs Daniel's purpose in your heart; it needs a heart set on the doing of God's will; it needs the new heart and the right spirit; it needs the power of the grace of God that cometh down from above. We have seen, then, that Daniel's purpose asserted itself over the crushing effects of misfortune and calamity, and over the subtle ensnaring power of evil surroundings. Let us now see, thirdly, how — and this was the greatest test of it — how it made itself felt in the very smallest details of his life. Now most men would have yielded, as most men in similar circumstances do yield, to the influences thus brought to bear on these four youths; they would have been so enamoured of the king's favour and the luxury of their new position that they would have been only too glad to have accepted it and thought themselves exceedingly well off. But now and again there would be found one of sterner stuff who would not be as mere wax in the conqueror's hands. And such were found in Daniel and his three companions. "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank." Daniel had religious scruples about his eating and drinking. And the meaning for us of the stand he made is this — that religious principle should regulate the smallest details of our life. It is not narrowness; it is not faddism; it is not over scrupulousness; but it is fidelity to the highest duty, it is fidelity to God, when you set down your foot about a small matter, as it may seem to others, and say, No, I dare not do it, little as it is and pleasant as it might be, because thereby I should be mixed up in a practical denial of God. "So did not I because of the fear of God," is a motto which will require from many of you here abstinence from many things which it might be much easier to accept. It is the worst kind of weakness to sink below the level of what we know we ought to be. It invariably brings that loss which is the worst of all losses, the loss of respect for self. President Garfield once said, "I do not think of what others may say or think about me; but there is one man's opinion about me which I very much value, and that is the opinion of James Garfield. Others I need not think about; I can get away from them; but I have to be with him all the time. Ha is with me when I rise up and when I lie down, when 1 go out and when I come in. It makes a great difference to me whether he thinks well of me or not." Some would have said Daniel should have been thankful for his mercies. But Daniel saw it in another light. He had to preserve his good opinion of himself, his self-respect, his fidelity to God, which he saw he would have destroyed had he used the food and wine. You see, then, what religious principle can do for a man. You see how it can preserve him, how it can make him bold as a lion, how it can steady his life and make it consistent all through, one great harmony. My brother, you are not right till you can reduce the whole of your life to this one principle of the fear of God, till you are able to bring every action to this great touchstone. Then your path becomes straight as an arrow, no longer wavering, crooked, trembling, zigzag, now this way now that, but straight. It is the man without purpose that goes on a different tack according as the wind blows from one quarter or another. He is a boat without a rudder, tossed about by the storm, buffeted, driven helplessly on to the rocks. He is a horseman without a bridle, carried by the animal in him whither it will. He is a wanderer over a tangled moorland, without a guide, where path crosses path and roads diverge in endless confusion, and yawning deep black ditches come at every step. One of the greatest discoveries of modern times is the reign of law. It has been found that in the world of Nature nothing happens by chance; everything obeys fixed laws, moves on under definite calculable arrangement. That is a great discovery. It enables us to reckon with Nature when we can place this thing and the next in their right places, and attribute each to its uniform cause. When everything is thus fixed by law it cannot be moved, nothing can go wrong, everything moves on towards its accomplishment, doing its work, filling its place, never losing its way. It is like a river bound for the ocean. That is a great discovery, and it is a parable of what every life should be. But what a contrast is presented when you think of the world of outside Nature and the world of human nature! On the one hand you have everything moving on, working in perfect harmony and in eloquent silence — never a jarring note heard, never a momentary pause in the ceaseless movement: one great vast harmony in praise of the Creator. On the other hand, when you turn to human nature, what a contrast! What a jumbled, jarring, discordant, disjointed world God looks down upon in His human creatures! And yet we were made to be a harmony too, only giving back sweeter music to the Creator. My brother, if your life is to be a true harmony and no longer false, if it is to be conformed not to the law of sin and death but to the law of God, you must have such purpose in your heart as Daniel's, and let it rule you. That is the greatest thing in the world — a heart that purposes always to serve God. That is the one thing needful. There is no other principle that takes account of all the facts. Some of them may be good enough for this world, but they are no use for that which is to come. The grand thing about Daniel's principle is that it is profitable for the present and it is life eternal for the future. That it is profitable in the present is strikingly seen in the course of this history. Do not any of you be afraid of the consequences of being faithful to God. The last thing I shall ask you to notice in connection with this incident is the great influence which Daniel exerted. That is seen, first of all, in the influence which he exerted upon his superior officers. In accordance with the Old Testament way of putting things, that good influence is said to have been brought about in this way, that God gave Daniel great favour in the sight of the officers. That is only the Old Testament way of saying that Daniel's consistent, godly, upright life proved a great power on those who were over him. But more than his influence on his officers was the influence on his companions. That is seen in the spell which his strong character cast over them so that they were ready to stand by him and to strengthen him.
(D. Fairweather, M.A.)
The Southern Pulpit.We must now follow the fortunes of these noble youths, as in the retinue of the victorious monarch they are carried away captive to Babylon. Their young eyes look on new scenes. They pass through countries where the ruins of antiquity contrast strangely with present magnificence and splendour. They pass through Syria, the old hereditary enemy of Israel, but whose power is now broken as it had broken before the power of Israel. They pass through the fertile plains of the Euphrates, and doubtless, here and there, on their melancholy journey, they meet remnants of the lest tribes, scattered by former captivities. They pass on into the dread East, to the Jew almost a terra incognita, a land of which but little was known, save that out of it came forth the grim-visaged men of war whose coming brought terror and desolation to Judea. They pass on to Babylon, at that time the most splendid city of the world, with its palaces, and defences, and gardens, its luxuriance, and magnificence, and wealth. We may imagine these youths duly installed in the palace of the Chaldean priests, and engaged in that curriculum of study which was to result in making them wise and learned in all the arts and sciences then known and cultivated. How much to dazzle the imagination! What new philosophies! What wisdom! What new customs and habits of life! And we can well understand that they could not long remain in this altered condition of things before something would arise which would put their principles to the proof. Certainly we may expect that Babylonian customs will not long run smoothly with Jewish principles. He who has principles in this life has not long to wait before those principles will run counter to something, and put the man to the test, whether he will cleave to his principles or not.
I. THE FACTS GIVEN IN THE HISTORY.
II. THE TEMPTATION TO WHICH THEY WERE SUBJECTED. This temptation was manifold in its character.
1. There was the temptation of fear. We must suppose them courageous youths, indeed, if they were not accessible to the sentiment of fear. Their master was a tyrant and a despot, accustomed to have his slightest whim obeyed as law. He could ill brook conscientious scruples he could scarcely understand; and the slightest provocation would suffice to awaken in his bosom a wrath that knew no pity, and that delighted, when aroused, to trample upon human life. The prince of the eunuchs, although he was high in favour and authority, knew how to tremble before the wrath of his monarch, and expresses a just estimation of it when he answers Daniel, "Ye make me endanger my head to the king."
2. There was the temptation of isolation. Hitherto they had been surrounded by restraints, which made it comparatively easy to be true to the law. Then all the external circumstances of their life fortified them in their religious observances. But now how changed is all this. Suddenly they find themselves standing alone. All the props upon which they had hitherto leaned are taken away. The assistances of virtue are removed. They have none to depend upon but themselves and their God. They have no trusted adviser, no learned and astute rabbi to whom they may apply for a solution of this ethical problem. They must take counsel of their own heart. "Everybody else does it," is a formula of vindication sufficiently familiar.
3. There was the temptation of gratitude. It is true they were captives, but, barring this, a son could hardly have been more generously treated than were they. Food from the king's table was a distinguished mark of honour. No doubt everything was done that could mitigate the evils of captivity. Future distinction was to be conferred upon them. Present advantages were liberally bestowed. No prince of the realm could have had better opportunities for improvement and prospective advancement. It is a property of noble minds to yield to the suggestions of gratitude. When the world makes onslaught on our virtue there is an instinct of opposition in us that arouses us to fight; but when the world comes coaxing, and overwhelming us with kindness, we are cheated into thinking it base ingratitude not to yield to its suggestions.
4. There was the temptation that comes from conscious inferiority. We have the force of this temptation exemplified in the conduct of Cranmer. When we behold that good and great man (as he truly was, notwithstanding his sad fall) hesitating to commit that act of recantation, which is so dark a stain upon his character, the poet makes him exclaim: "What am I, Cranmer, against whole ages?" He is plied with countless authorities; his tempters make it appear that all the world is against him. "Who am I, then, that I should oppose the world?" marks the submission of an independent soul. Better had he learned with Luther, "One with God is a majority." This temptation was also doubtless felt by Daniel. The wisdom, vast learning, and intellectual greatness of the sages of Chaldea must have made a deep impression on his young mind, and we can readily imagine him, "Who am I, a beardless child, to oppose my convictions to the wisdom of all these?" And how often in life do we find young men forsaking their religion and giving themselves to scepticism, because an honoured professor in their college is an unbeliever, or because some man whom they highly esteem for learning, or wisdom, or intellect, flouts the Bible!
5. There was the temptation of self-interest. Holy easy is it to stifle conscience with the sophistries of Satan! Assuredly, then, we can measure the dynamic force of this temptation to which Daniel was subjected by our observation of the conduct of men.
III. THEIR INCORRUPTIBILITY. It is a grand sight to see a man cleaving to principle, abiding by what he believes right, even though he should stand alone, when influences seductive and influences coercive bear strongly upon him. Fear strives to overmaster him, but he scorns fear and answers: "I fear none but God." Temptation then comes in new guise, puts on softer attire, poses in the character of virtue, and urges the claims of gratitude; but his just spirit detects the false under the true, and replies: "My God is first," Then the cloak of modesty is borrowed, and self-depreciation is lauded up, and the man is asked if he thinks himself greater than the great, wiser than the wise, more learned than the sages; but his answer is prompt, "I am nothing: these principles are God's, not mine." Then temptation identifies itself with self, and pleads the man's cause against himself, until the man begins to think he is arrayed not only against all others, but also against himself, his own being divided; but I say it is glorious when he can declare, "I sacrifice myself; dearer to me are the laws of God than my own worldly interests." Such a spectacle of moral heroism does Daniel afford. Our admiration of his conduct is heightened by two considerations:
1. His youth. To find these qualities in a beardless boy is astonishing, and lends a heightened charm to the spectacle.
2. His moderation and temperate conduct. We hardly know which to admire most in his conduct, the fortiter in re, or the suaviter in modo. He "purposed in his heart," but sought by winning persuasion to effect his purpose.
IV. SOME LESSONS. Among other things we may learn here:
1. The advantages of early training. We sometimes doubt its efficacy; but we see here that under God's blessing a child may exhibit steadfast and notable piety.
2. The power of influence. Observe the effect of Daniel's influence upon his three friends. It is a blessed thing when the influence of a youth among his comrades is thrown on the side of virtue.
3. That God blesses the faithful. (Ver. 17.) Fidelity to principle, or, what is the same thing, fidelity to the laws of God, may bring even temporal rewards.
4. The advantages of temperance. (Ver. 15.) Observe that the steward feared, lest a temperate diet would result in unhealthiness. How completely was he mistaken! Daniel and his friends thrive all the better for pulse and water.
(The Southern Pulpit.)
(P. S. Henson.)
2 Kings 10:16. The other or mildest form had first been tried by the Babylonian king. This consisted in levying tribute. Very often certain choice young persons were selected and taken back by the victorious general as specimens of the people he had overthrown. Daniel and his three companions, who are mentioned in this and the third chapter, were on this principle taken back to Babylon. People often foolishly say in contempt of education that God does not need man's learning. But the intimation of the divine record confirms the famous reply, that "Even if God does not need man's learning, still less does he need man's ignorance." When God was about to lead his enslaved people out of Egypt, by his providence he sent Moses into Pharaoh's household to learn everything that Egypt knew. When the New-Testament Church was to be organized and spread all over the great empire, he sent Saul, a free-born Roman citizen, out of intelligent Tarsus up to Jerusalem, that at the feet of Gamaliel he might learn what he would need to know when he should be transformed into the apostle Paul. So here are these four taken to the Babylonian capital that they might have the best instruction the nation could afford. The Babylonian king compares wonderfully well with a vast number of modern parents and government officers. To him two things were needful to make up an acceptable civil officer — namely, a healthy body and an educated mind. He would furnish his own provisions and his own teachers, and then no boy could complain of bad food or poor opportunities. This was genuine civil-service reform. Was the ambition of these boys stirred by the chance thus given them? Where are the boys of fifteen whose hopes would not quicken them to do their very best in these circumstances? It must have been with some such thoughts as these that Daniel and his boyish companions first confronted the question of eating the king's meat and drinking the king's wine. The average boy would have gone ahead and never cared. The average man or woman would have said, "What difference does it make?" The average politician would have said, "It will never do to offend the king's officer." But thoughtlessness is a sin. Boys and girls, as well as young gentlemen and ladies, are bound to think. As we shall see, success came of thinking. When a boy first tries to shoot birds on the wing he usually fires too quickly. He must learn to stop an instant and steady himself before he fires. So it is in all life, It may be but a moment for thought, but that moment of self-possessing, reassuring thought may be of infinite value. As for these four young men, they foresaw what was coming and made up their minds about it. Our hero seems to have been a born leader, and he led here. With him it was not an open question. He "purposed in his heart" — not with the stubbornness of self-will, but with the resolution of deep conviction. His three companions stood by him. Whether with God or not, certain it is that with man politeness pays. It gave this open-hearted boy the "favour and tender love" of Melzar, his present master. That same trait of character, coupled with his integrity and ability, held for him the confidence of King Nebuchadnezzar in after years when God made Daniel his mouthpiece to reprove the king's iniquities and pride. Iniquity and insolence may seem to prosper for a time, and the lions' den open for Daniel's feet; but at last the hungry lions make a meal of the good man's foes. When Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself with the king's meat, it was purely a question of principle. He did net then know that his course was wise. It seemed utterly foolish. King Nebuchadnezzar and Melzar both believed that the popular opinion of the day was all right in saying that wine and fat meat were necessary for a clear complexion and a quick brain. The same false notion is widely held now about lager beer and tonics. Is it true? Ask the health records. You will find cholera, yellow fever, diphtheria and the rest give explicit answer that they can much more easily carry off the tipplers and topers than those who have not burnt out their constitutions with these slow fires. The poor envy the rich the food on their table, and the rich envy the poor the food that is digested. Boys think it is big to smoke cigarettes, but the doctors say it stunts their growth and poisons their blood. You may not wish to obey Nature's hearth laws, but you cannot defy them and escape. The health and brain-power of the Jews would teach the Gentiles a lesson if the Gentiles were not so heedless. Many will doubt this statement and stubbornly stick to Melzar's notion, that if they restrict themselves to Daniel's diet they will soon become worse-looking than others which are "of their set." Well, why not take Daniel's way of settling it? Just try it. But be sure and have Melzar's honesty, and when the experiment proves you are mistaken give it up. I have a most profound respect for honest old Melzar. It is net an easy thing to give up to a boy when the boy is right and you are wrong. It was specially risky with Melzar, for if he blundered his head was the forfeit. No pride of his own opinion controlled him. We must not forget, however, in our enthusiasm over Daniel's triumph in physical beauty and his splendid victory in intellectual learning, that he knew nothing of all this when he made his decision. With our knowledge of the outcome any of us could have the courage to insist on vegetables instead of the king's idol-polluted meat and wine. We must remember, however, that with this youth, of twelve to twenty at the outside, it was wholly a matter of duty. As no shame or pain is so deep as a mother's humiliation over wayward, wicked children, so no joy is sweeter than that which mothers feel when their children, on their own responsibility and out of their own force of character, choose the right and do it. Boys and girls, suppose your mothers knew you as well as you know yourselves, would they weep for joy, or shame? At last the day of decision came. It always does — a day of final judicial inspection, when the uses to which opportunities have been put are revealed, and the estimate is to be made up of all past conduct. Daniel was to stand before the king, and be not only inspected but examined by the king. These Hebrew young men, of now sixteen or twenty, mere found ten times better than their best. Here was the foreshadowing of what Daniel was hereafter to do. They had boasted of their soothsaying insight into dreams until "Chaldean" had become synonymous with "wise man." When, then, the king, as is related in the next chapter and ninth verse, put to them a crucial test of their powers by which he could certainly know the value of their interpretation, they were all at fault. Their gods were proven utterly ignorant. Daniel's humility is as beautiful as his faith and greatness.
(G. P. Hays, D.D.)
I. DANIEL'S PRINCIPLE. "I am a child of God, and as such I belong to God in my entire being." (2 Timothy 2:21.) Such was Daniel's principle — it was faith in the testimony of God; the certainty of being one of His children; and it was thereby he triumphed. And it is here, at the very commencement, that the religion of Daniel, of a soul sealed by the Holy Spirit, differs essentially from that of those fearful and double-minded disciples who, believing only part of the testimony of God, dare scarcely hope for salvation, and place the certainty of it only after a long course of labours and of sacrifices. How am I to believe, cries out such a disciple, that I am already in grace and that God has made me His child! Let me be purer, more cut off from the world, and then shall I be able to presume that I belong to Him, and believe in His grace. But that disciple, so far as he shall continue to hold to that course of human righteousness, will never be anything more than a slave of the law. Will you render to God those filial acts of obedience of which you speak if you are not first sealed with the Spirit of adoption which produces them? Must not the sap of the tree be celestial before the fruits of Heaven can be gathered on it? "So also," St. John says, "you will never render to God what love alone can render Him, so long as fear and its torments are found in you." (1 John 4:18.) Raise them, to employ that figure still, raise the pyramid of your obedience on the broad and solid base of your adoption of Jesus. Such was the assurance of Daniel. such was the principle of his obedience. Happy and holy liberty of grace, glorious privilege with which the Spirit of adoption enriches the believer, through communion with his Saviour! (Psalm 119:32.) He will be called, perhaps, presumptuous; it will be said that he is wanting in sobriety, prudence, and the humble trust which every sinner ought to have, and he will be told again and again that he exposes himself to serious falls. Daniel and the other children of God will answer together and without fear: "Ye err, not knowing what the grace of God is." (1 Corinthians 6:20.)
II. DANIEL'S COURAGE. There was fidelity, and there was the courage which it demanded of him. For let us not think that it was very easy for Daniel and his companions to make up their minds to what they resolved on. It may have been a comparatively trifling matter to renounce exquisite dishes and to choose the most simple ones; but it was not a trifling matter to them to free themselves from the order of a jealous king, whose slaves they were, seeing that by this course they endangered their lives. Of this they were not ignorant, for the chief of the eunuchs had made them aware of it (Daniel 1:10). What the tower was to cost was therefore well calculated by them before they commenced to build; and they did not put their hands to the plough till they had well seen and well measured the length of the furrows in the field. (Luke 14:28; Luke 9:62.) How many times must they have spoken among themselves of their duty and of its consequences? How many times did not the excuses and the pretexts of the flesh, the weaknesses of their heart, the promises and the threatenings of the world, and the love of life come, either to obscure their minds or shake their constancy? How many times were they not wont mutually to exhort one another to be faithful. No, it was not inconsiderately that Daniel advanced to the combat, and it was no longer in his own strength. It was in his heart that he resolved on it, it was from the Word and Spirit of the Lord that he drew his courage and his perseverance. "My son, give me thy heart," says eternal wisdom to him whom it teaches. (Proverbs 23:26.) "Thou shalt serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart," the Lord repeats to His children. (Deuteronomy 10:12.) (Psalm 119:69.) (Deuteronomy 5:29.) (Psalm 86:11.) Weigh then all your anchors, O disciples who wish to set sail! Detach your hearts from the impure shores of earth, and, if it is necessary, pluck them away, and that without delay and without pity; if it is true, at least, that you have resolved to surrender yourselves to the heavenly breezes, to the always equable and always favourable breath of the Holy Spirit. What do you fear? Is it not the wind of the grace of God which will never separate you from this world except to bring you near Heaven? Daniel resolved in his heart not to defile himself, and Daniel succeeded therein, because, having first given his heart to his God, it was also from his God that he drew his strength and his courage. With what? you perhaps ask. What are those dishes and that forbidden wine to us; or when indeed are we seen to take them? Ah, shall I answer you; it is not that the table of the prince of this world is unknown or poorly furnished! It is erected, it is uncovered before the eyes of the world and of all peoples, for all desires and for all lusts and hungerings, even the most irregular: meat and beverages are lavished there, to draw to it, to nourish and satiate at it, all passions and all inclinations. It is there that sensuality, voluptuousness, and luxury; it is there that drunkenness, gluttony, and dissoluteness; it is there that cupidity, avarice, and egotism; it is there that ambition, ostentation, pride, and arrogance; it is there that vanity, with its falsehoods, its ruses, and its hypocrisy; it is there, in a word, that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are invited, in the name of pleasure and of glory, be gratify all their appetites, all their inclinations, all their folly!
III. ISSUE OF DANIEL'S FIDELITY. It did not result in shame, but in the favour and good pleasure of God — in the most confirmed prosperity. Oh! what perfect peace, what profound rest, what sweet and serene assurance, is shed abroad in the soul of the faithful, since he honours his God, by trusting in Him! There is the goodwill of the Lord to calm every trouble, to drive away and scatter every disquietude. There is the testimony and the seal of Thy Spirit, O mighty Saviour! who says to Thy child that Thou art with him and that Thou dost guard him! Such were the sentiments and such was the joy of Daniel and his brethren. They saw all their prayers heard, all their desires accomplished; but, above all, they saw the name of their God honoured and magnified in presence of His enemies. What, indeed, did these servants of the Most High seek? Certainly, it was not to gain their cause before unbelievers. What value could they have set on the esteem or admiration of those who did not fear the Lord! Neither was it of being virtuous before the world, and hence taking so much the more delight in themselves. Never did that impure thought enter hearts which the Holy Spirit ruled. But what concerned them was that their God, that good Father, was feared, was obeyed, was loved; it was that the homage of their faith should be ascribed to Him without reserve; it was that in the light of His truth, their filial love should render to Him the reverence due to His majesty, and the sacrifice of their entire being. Such an offering was pleasing to the Lord. "Go then;" shall I say to you, "in the name of our Lord, go and do as Daniel did." Like him, you are hers below in a noviciate, in a time of probation, preparing to appear before the King of Zion. Let your principle also be faith, let your strength also be the Word and the Spirit of your God, let your expectation also be the deliverance of the Lord! Let your hand, therefore, go forth and overturn, as Daniel's did, the cup which sin presents. No delay, friends of the Saviour! No concealed compounding with evil, no treachery, no duplicity of heart towards Him who loved you perfectly, who is perfectly holy, and who will have no offering but that which the freest will presents Him. Is not the thought of what He has done here below for your soul, and of all that He will yet do in eternity, enough to bind your whole heart and all your desires in obedience to Him? Will greater benefits be needed to gain for Him your affections, to make Him deserving of all your gratitude, and thereby of all your self-devotion? Had Daniel a God more beneficent, or a Saviour more worthy of being loved, than He whom you adore? I know well that, in the judgment of the flesh, these vegetables, with which Daniel was content, are a mean and contemptible food. What dishes were such herbs! What foolish abstinence was such a sobriety! What health, what strength can he pretend to have who condemns himself to them? So will the "pulse" of the Gospel ever be despised and dishonoured — that nourishment which grows in the garden of the Lord, and which His Spirit presents by His Word to the happy children of His house. But the result, O mocking world! If you do not know, I am going to tell you, and it will be by facts. See these faithful Hebrew youths, stronger and fresher than all the others. See also, now, those sincere Christians, those disciples whom the Lord Jesus calls "His friends" (John 15:14), because they do everything which He commands them, because they touch no dishes of the world, because they are content with the "pulse" of wisdom and of holiness, and judge of their state. Do they appear to you feeble, sad, unhappy? or rather, do they not in some sort publish by their peace, their joy, their habitual sweetness; by the equality of their character, the purity of their manners, and the sweetness of their deportment; by their sustained piety; by their charity unfeigned; by their firm and glorious hope; and their patience and their humility, that their souls are full of life, and that their vigour is certainly that which comes from God; whilst those of their brethren who eat at the table of the world, know neither the vigour of faith, nor the health of peace, nor the serenity of hope? It will not be long that you will have to renounce the dishes of the world and its beverages. Think, oh! think seriously, my brethren; think with affection, what will be those years of renunciation of the world, and of attachment to what the Holy Spirit points out and commands you, when you shall have no more time, no more years, nor days — when you shall have ended this short voyage, and eternity shall have conmenced to your soul? Yes, think of that, and see if it is not just to God, and good to yourselves, in every way, even for this world but especially for eternity, that, having to go before your Saviour and King, you should, while you are still here below, purpose in your heart not to defile yourselves with the meats nor with the wine of this world, and, like Daniel, honour your Lord, by being subject to him!
I. Daniel and his three friends illustrate the POWER OF PRINCIPLE. It would be safe to prophesy concerning these four lads that when they entered that heathen city they would soon fall into the ways of the people and yield to the circumstances, and become like their captors. For it was a kind of life that appealed to sensibilities of youth. Physical enjoyments of every kind presented themselves before these inexperienced young men. Moral restraints were absent. Public sentiment was against all such restraints, and they could indulge in whatever they desired without fear of offending social customs. We are agreeably disappointed, therefore, when Daniel and his friends take a decided stand on a matter of conscience. They refused to eat the meat and wine set before them by the eunuch having them in charge. They know that meat and wine were used in idol worship, and they had been brought to abhor idolatry. They knew also that the food of the king's table was not the most wholesome. In view of these two facts they agreed to refuse the king's food. It was a daring thing for them to make their stand against the rules of a king's palace, but principle was at stake, and they dared all for principle. Many may think it was a small matter upon which to raise an issue, but a great principle often lies concealed within a trifle. It is a comparatively insignificant thing for any one of us to stamp a piece of silver with the die of the United States, but it is an set involving the whole question of treason to one's government, and treason is no trifle. Daniel knew that if he quieted his conscience on this small matter he would yield all the way through. Principles are to be declared at once. It is sometimes half the battle. The young man just beginning his mercantile career had best let his scruples be known at once to his fellow clerks, and it will save him many temptations. They will not be likely to want him to become a companion in evil. The commentator tells us that Daniel was only fourteen years old when he was carried away to Babylon. If this is so, it only proves conscientiousness is not a matter of years. Parents may trust their children amid the most perilous influences, provided they have been thoroughly trained and are acquainted with moral distinctions. We can give our children no more valuable gift than correct principles. Money, education, social standing, are nothing in comparison with them.
II. We remark next this experience of Daniel is A PLEA FOR SIMPLICITY OF LIFE. Daniel was satisfied to eat the plain food to which he bad been accustomed at home. Rich and delicate viands were partaken of by all within the royal palace; he was content with a few plain vegetables. He was thus a constant rebuke to the gluttons and epicures who made a god of their food, for he proved that health and physical comfort did not depend on the variety and costliness of that which was eaten. We cannot estimate the value of his example in that luxurious, extravagant court. How it must have opened the eyes of the young courtiers whose lives were given over to the gratification of bodily desires! Daniel speaks no less forcibly to the young people of to-day, for they are in danger of spending too much thought and money on artificial wants. Too large a part of the earnings of our young men and women is spent upon non-essentials. Neither utility nor comfort demands them. It requires grit to live in an unostentatious manner, to cut down expenses, to cast aside the yoke of unnecessary wants; but it is a great relief when once the freedom has been gained.
III. This narrative also shows THAT YOUNG MEN CAN SERVE THEIR GOD BY SERVING THE STATE. Daniel consecrated his skill and ability to the securing of good laws and to the guidance of their administration. The making and administering of law is noble work, and when so much depends on legislation as in our country there is need that young men consecrate their powers to this important service. Politics must be rescued from the unworthy and self-seeking, and lifted to the high place where they belong. All of God's early lawmakers and rulers were able and good men, — Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, — men of breadth of view, integrity, and faith. The idea that the conduct of government can best be served by selfish and cunning men is totally false. Men are beginning to realise the wide opportunity for serving God afforded by a political calling.
IV. This lesson also suggests the PRESERVING POWER OF RELIGION. Daniel carried his religion into all the departments of his life. He glorified God in his daily life and commended his religion to the heathen king by manliness and fidelity. He was a faithful servant of the king because of his religious belief. His religion gave him self-control and practical wisdom. Young men should not hesitate to subject their whole plan of life to God's scrutiny — to ask His blessing on their business, their professional duty, and their social obligations. The professional, commercial, artistic, literary world needs men who know how to pray in connection with their work. May Daniel teach us how to do it!
(E. S. Tead.)
Sermons by Monday Club.A nation's most splendid characters appear in its darkest hours. This is especially true of the chosen people with whom God made a covenant, and it made it certain that he would never leave them wholly in the power of their enemies. Hence we see, all along the Old Testament history, great deliverers raised up when all seemed lost. They purified religion. They broke the oppressor's yoke. They told of the coming Saviour. A wonderful group of great men was seen during the very night of the nation's history when for seventy years it was in captivity among a heathen people. During most of this time Jerusalem was a heap of ruins, and there was no altar of sacrifice. One of the greatest characters of human history arose like a star at this time in Daniel. Among the first captives Nebuchadnezzar carried over to Babylon, there was a company of royal children who were exceptionally attractive, educated and fit for public service. The conqueror determined to use their abilities for his own profit. We should remember that Daniel began life with high natural qualifications for his great work, and that he was attractive and beautiful, and capable to wield great affairs. So God uses natural abilities for his service. Great goodness requires great ability. At this time Daniel was about fourteen years old. He and the company with him had rich food and wine furnished them from the royal tables. How wonderful that a boy of that age, when one is usually so heedless and self-indulgent, should put himself upon a course of simple diet and abstinence from wine! Observe it was not a question with the boy Daniel whether meat itself was suitable human food, but whether meat defiled in heathenish modes of preparation was fit for a servant of God. It was a religious as well as a sanitary measure which he undertook when he respectfully requested his master to allow him a plain vegetable diet. It was an act of faith. But, besides this, he rejected wine, which was not forbidden by the law. Priests at certain times, and those under Nazarite vows, drank no wine; but the mere drinking of wine in itself was not looked upon in the law with favour or disfavour. It did not ceremonially defile one to drink, as it did to eat meat that had been killed in the heathen way, and served up with offerings to the false gods. The wine was unnecessary and tempting. Both were rejected by one who had in him the stirrings of the prophetic instinct, and who felt called of God to a spiritual service. Now, the greatness of Daniel, shown at this early date, was the cause of his vows of abstinence. These vows were not the cause of his greatness. Others, and tens of thousands of our youth, grow up strangers to wine and to "king's meat," without becoming famous leaders of God's people. High spiritual aims, communion with God, capacity to understand mysteries and discern the signs of the times, seem naturally to call for a plain and severe sort of living. We think of the Nazarites, like Samuel, who never touched wine. Elijah lived roughly. John the Baptist had locusts and wild honey for his food when he prepared the way of the Lord; and, while Jesus came eating and drinking, we must remember that his ineffable purity left him free to use what we easily abuse. If the pure in heart see God, surely the pure in body are fitted to be the organs of the Spirit, are free to obey his voice, and more quick to hear what he says. We should remember, too, that this course was adopted on religious grounds. We must also believe that it was maintained through a long life by religious faith. It was Christian temperance. Of course, it was all very singular in a king's palace. The higher one goes in the social world the more rigid the rules of etiquette and fashion are; and in the palaces of kings one might say they amount to a law that cannot be broken with safety. It snowed a great soul in Daniel to dare resist the mighty current around him, and live simply. Many a weak young man falls into intemperance, taking his first glass at a woman's hands, because he is afraid to show ignorance of social customs, or a scrupulousness that attracts notice. The regimen was used for three years with great success. During this time the boys were learning the Chaldean language, quite unlike their own Hebrew, so that they could speak with the king and the court. They also studied whatever of science there was to be learned, as Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. We read that God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom. What the four youths gained at their books was so clarified by prayer, by dependence on God, by pure actions, and by plain living, that they rapidly advanced. God helped them. Over the gate of one of the colleges at Oxford is the motto, "The Lord is my Light." Luther said, "To pray well is to study well." The mind that is unclogged by rich food and wine is strong to grapple with hard problems. The Great Light sends down kind and quickening rays. When the three years were passed, all the selected youths went up to the king for examination. He talked with each one of them, with the result that Daniel, and his three friends who had joined him in his vows, were selected to stand before the throne and give advice upon all matters of wisdom and understanding. It was essential to the great part he was to play as prime minister and God's representative that he should meet the astrologers on their own ground, and surpass them all, just as Moses had done in the Court of Pharaoh. This greatness of soul, shown by the abstinence of the boy Daniel, was attested and exhibited through a long and illustrious career. Some lessons may be emphasized in the study of this very early part of Daniel's life in Babylon.
1. Saints may be found in kings' houses. If we had been looking through the world in ancient days to find men of faith and prayer, we should never have dreamed of finding any such in the luxurious pagan palace of the Pharaoh at Memphis. Yet Joseph was there, praying and working for his God, surrounded by the pride of life, but untouched by it. So one would have passed by the court of Babylon as the last place where true piety could be nurtured, and yet there were men of God in highest station. The monarchs they served worshipped idols. There was feasting and revelry. There were sights from which the angels turned away. And yet in the heart of it all there was faith in God, humble living in His sight, and abstinence from wine and strong drink. So, I imagine, if we should search to-day for the brightest examples of piety, we should feel that it was quite in vain to look in the houses of the millionaires of our land, or of the titled rich of other lands, or in the courts of kings. God has His hidden ones, and often they are hidden in the blaze of the world's prosperity.
2. Godliness is profitable for all things. It carries power with it which nothing else can give. Men instinctively reverence the self-denying spirit which young Daniel and his companions showed at court. Those who live altogether under the powers of this world feel reverence for those under the powers of the world to come. Those who command themselves, command others.
3. But we see, above all other truths, how God exalts his servants. We may well draw useful lessons in temperance, uprightness, courtesy, purity, and studiousness from the boyhood of Daniel. But we see the mighty hand of God in guiding the king to place him among the chosen youths, in permitting him to live unlike the rest, in giving him favour with his master and skill in his studies, in causing him to be selected for wisdom and exalted to the chief place in the gates. It is all of God. Even the noble purpose not to be defiled by the king's meat found its place in the boy's heart through grace from on high, and it was kept alive there by the same power. And, therefore, we may well take up Daniel's own words, and say, "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: he revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him."
(Sermons by Monday Club.)
(R. J. Campbell, M.A.)
Daniel 11:32.) Turn to the story again for another lesson. "Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs." His way was greatly smoothed for him because his ways were so winsome. He was so likeable, so loveable. A man who calls himself a Christian has no business to be us prickly as a hedgehog or as ugly to touch as a stinging nettle. A man may be resolute without being as stubborn as a mule or an ass. The ugliest thing in the world is an ugly religion — that kind of assumption of superiority, that suspects everything, that carries its head as if sniffing heresy, that looks its condemnation at everybody and everything. We are to please men with edification. Strength is much, but it is not all. God's graces go in pairs, and strength is to be wedded to beauty. Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Do not forget that the Bible teaches us to pray that God would make us beautiful. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Because Daniel could not go all the way that those about him wanted him to he would go all the more gladly where he could. They may not have liked his religion, but they could not help liking him. It is a poor religion that acts like a thunderstorm, and turns the milk of human kindness sour wherever it goes. As true as steel, yet out of steel sun do not fashion only swords, but things as delicate as the hair-spring of a watch. Be gentle, be courteous, be ready to help, be quick to do anybody anywhere a good turn, and make that as much part of your religion as it is to be honest. Then turn for a moment from Daniel to think of his companions, I do not mean in the least to reflect upon these brave youths when I say that it is certainly possible that we might never have heard of them if it had not been for Daniel His bold stand made it easy for them to follow where he led. We are responsible for our influence, and that we can never measure, never know. If you will be true to your God and be true to your better self there are many about you who will take a stand because you do. And note the prudence of his proceeding. He requested the prince that he and his companions might have simple fare, just pulse to eat and water to drink — porridge you may call it if you will. It was a courteous request and courteously received. But the prince of the eunuchs feared to grant it. "What will the king say when he sees your faces so much more woe-begone than those about you?" "Well," said Daniel, "let us put the matter to the test. For ten days let us have this simple fare, and you shall see for yourself as to our looks and see if we are sadder than those about us." So it was settled. And at the end of the time they were found fairer and fatter than those about them. One is reminded of what Dr. Johnson said in Scotland. Said Boswell, "Men here eat what we give horses in England." "Yes," replied Johnson, "and where will you find such men or such horses?" "Nature," says old Matthew Henry, "is content with little, grace with less, but sin with nothing." Nobody will believe in a religion that makes people sadder than those who are without it. The sunshine of God's favour must shine forth from the face if men would bless the world. A cheery face preaches a sermon seven days long, and nobody tires of it. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom. So let us listen to the words of the grand old Book that here find a living picture: "My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments. For length of days and long life and peace shell they add to thee. So shalt thou find good understanding and favour in the sight of God and man."
(M. G. Pearse.)
Original Secession Magazine.At the first epoch of the captivity of Judah, when Jehoiakim was King in Jerusalem, a goodly number of the scions, or younger branches, of the royal family, and of the Jewish nobility, were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Of the handsomest and cleverest of these, a selection was made by the conqueror's orders to serve in his palace as chamberlains or attendants. Thus was fulfilled the word of the Lord, spoken by Isaiah fully a hundred years previously to Hezekiah, that the descendants of his own body should be led away captive, and become eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18). Of the noble captives thus chosen to serve as attendants upon Nebuchadnezzar, four are specially named — Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Daniel was perhaps the handsomest, and certainly he had the greatest natural talents of the whole, besides being their leader in all that was amiable and pious. The first manifestation of their earnest desire to obey the laws of Jehovah was in regard to the food appointed for them. Rather would they have poorer food by far, if thus they kept the commandments of their Creator, than indulge in dainties without having the blessing of heaven. Not only on the bodily condition of the young men did the blessing of heaven descend, but Jehovah smiled upon their mental powers, and endowed them with knowledge and ability beyond all their contemporaries. No doubt the simplicity of their style of living would help rather than hinder their studies. Plain diet and abstinence from wine would leave their perceptive faculties unclouded. They would know nothing of the miseries of indigestion, or of the lassitude that follows indulgence in intoxicating beverages. For more than seventy years afterwards Daniel lived in Chaldea, an honoured servant of Jehovah. Let us consider some practical lessons deducible from the brief portion already surveyed.
I. "MAN'S GOINGS ARE OF THE LORD;" AND HIS OVER-RULING IS ALWAYS GOOD. Was it so in the case of Daniel and his three friends of royal and noble blood? To be dragged far away from their dear native land, and held captive amidst idolaters, surely such an experience could not be good? Without doubt it was for the glory of God, and the eternal benefit of these pious young men, that their lot was cast in Babylon. The lifework of a flower is to blossom and shed its perfume, wherever its Maker may plant it, whether in a lovely garden or in a desolate wilderness. Its sweetness is never wasted, though no eye but that of its Creator look upon it. And so with the children of heaven. At home or abroad, in congenial company or amid the prejudiced and the scoffing, in crowded city or in solitude, their eyes are turned to their Father's face, and they muss ever be about their Father's business. Was the Divine over-ruling good for that poor black boy whom the Lord permitted to be snatched from his wild but free home on the Gold Coast of Africa, and sold as a slave in Jamaica? Oh! the bitter tears he shed for many days, the curses he poured upon the head of his purchaser, and invoked on the cruel task-master that drove him daily to work on the sugar plantation! By-and-bye, however, he found his way to a chapel where black people worshipped. There he heard of One who, though God over all, was, nevertheless, in human form, scourged am a slave, and crucified as a malefactor, that He might make our peace with offended Deity. The love that sent the Saviour to ransom lost sinners, the love that led the Redeemer to endure the wrath due to our transgressions, filled the poor black boy's heart. Peace that passeth understanding, from that hour, kept his mind night and day, and he "felt like singing all the time." It was easy for him then to work, for he had a rest remaining for him above; and even in the midst of his toils he was as happy as man can be on earth. So far from fretting thereafter against the Providence that had permitted his being sold into slavery, he thanked God for it every day of his life; and continually did he pray that his father and mother, too, might be brought as slaves to Jamaica, there to learn about the love of Jesus. Let us delight ourselves in the Lord and in His will. Let us sweetly submit ourselves to His disposal, and seek only how to walk worthy of Him in the path he chooses for us.
II. WE SHOULD DARE TO BE SINGULAR WHEN GOD CALLS US TO BE SO. For quiet and comfort most people have occasionally to conform to customs that do not meet their own taste. Singularity is often the characteristic of a weak or erratic mind, and sometimes the result of mere self-conceit. Where no moral principle is involved, and where deviation from the fashion would only occasion gossip about us, it is generally best in some measure to follow the crowd. But when the following of the customs of our place and time leads to questionable doings, or to positive transgressions of God's laws, there comes into operation our Master's general order, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Yes! it is a cross we are called to carry, but we bear it in worthy company. Balaam prophesied of the children of Israel that they should dwell as a people alone, and should not be reckoned among the nations. To promote this separation from the idolaters who surrounded them was one special object of the ceremonial law. Mingling with the heathen, they learned only evil. "Israel shall dwell in safety alone," said Moses, in his farewell words to the much-loved tribes that sprang from Jacob. Daniel and his friends, even when placed by Providence in the very midst of idolaters, forgot not where their safety lay. They therefore stood aloof from everything which was in opposition to God's law. Happy the man who faithfully follows their example! (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
III. MAN LIVETH NOT BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD. It is not the abundance of our dainties that sustains life, but God's blessing. If we would but taste and see that God is good, if we would but accept His love freely offered in Jesus, and let Him make us altogether His own, ah! then, plain food and humble circumstances would render us happier far than the rich and great who know Him not. On ourselves, and on all we have, His blessing would evermore abide; and "life in His favour lies."
(Original Secession Magazine.)
(N. D. Hillis, D.D.)
I. THE ROOT OF THE TRIUMPHANT LIFE IS HOLY PURPOSE. "But Daniel purposed in his heart," etc. Those ancient monarchs were wise winners and compactors of kingdoms after their sort. When they conquered some foreign country they even violently welded it into homogeneity with the kingdom over which they already ruled. They did this by deporting the inhabitants of the conquered country to their original kingdom, and by importing into the conquered country great masses of their own already loyal subjects. Also, from the families of the best blood and largest influence of the conquered country they selected certain young men, carried them to their own court, subjected them under their own eye to special courses of education, showered upon them royal favours, fed them with such viands as graced even the royal table, attached them to themselves in the strongest way, and when their course of education was completed, weighted them with high official duty. Thus these rulers sought to rub out the lines of cleavage of race and of religion which otherwise had split their peoples. Thus Daniel, a young Hebrew of probably about seventeen years, had been treated — carried from captured Jerusalem to triumphant Babylon (Daniel 1:3-7); and there was appointed Daniel and his captive companions a daily provision of the king's meat and of the wine which he drank.
1. This was an utmost honour. To eat with one or to eat what a lifted one partook of meant much in that Oriental society. In no way could one more thoroughly express his gracious favour to another than by sending him a portion of that which he himself was eating; and to do it daily was the constant expression of continued favour.
2. There were dietary reasons also underneath the royal grant. The king wanted them fed with the best that they might become the best. But for the Hebrew youth Daniel there was special trouble about the king's meat and the king's wine.
I. It was food selected without reference to the precise Mosaic ritual concerning meats clean and unclean. Because meats which the Divine legislation declared unclean were to be found even upon a king's table, they were not beyond the jurisdiction of a Divine law for a Hebrews 2.. It was customary among the pagans when they ate to throw a small part of the viands and wine upon the hearth as an offering to the gods, thus consecrating the whole to them. To partake of such food would be to a Hebrew the sanctioning of idolatry. And that word "purposed" is, in the original, significant. It means purposed in the sense of set, placed, as when you put down a thing, and leave it there and have done with it. There was no debating about Daniel's purpose. Think how many specious persuasions might set themselves at uncompacting his purpose.
1. He was a young man. His refusal might easily be charged to youthful rashness. How preposterous the thought that he, a boy, should fling himself against the mighty King of Babylon!
2. He was away from home.
3. He was in very peculiar circumstances — a captive, and of the king a special protege.
4. Such refusal would be dreadfully inconvenient. Every day the king's viands were coming — every day to have to refuse!
5. It would damage his prospects — here was the only line of advancement possible for him.
6. It was plainly dangerous.
7. In itself it was only a little matter, etc. But notwithstanding Daniel "purposed in his heart," etc.; and the subsequent life of Daniel was according to the hand of this purpose he then laid upon his life's helm. He would not transgress. He would not do wrong. You cannot got the bloom of a genuinely triumphant life out of any other root.
II. Consider, as we gaze upon this Bible specimen of a triumphant life, THAT A GENUINELY HOLY PURPOSE PROMPTS ALWAYS TO ACTION CONFORMABLE WITH ITSELF, AND SO THE LIFE IS MADE TRIUMPHANT. Turn again to our Scripture, "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself," etc., therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself; and when the prince of the eunuchs feared and objected, he proposed a way in which the defiling might be missed. And such action, conformable with purpose, makes purpose purpose, and rescues it from being but a poor and sickly sentiment. Ah! the Apostle James was right, conduct is the test of faith (James 2:14-23); and just here is a frequent trouble: what we call our religious purpose is too much merely religious sentiment. It lacks the verve and vigour and granitic quality of a genuine purpose, because we do not act out that "therefore;" because purposing does not bloom into doing. When we are called to any special sacrifice that we may not defile ourselves with the king's meat, we have only a lavender sentiment with which to meet the sacrifice. But not thus can we live the really triumphant life. Holy purpose and holy action — these are always its essential elements.
(Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)
(G. T. Coster.)
(H. T. Robjohns, B.A.)
(C. H. Parkhurst.)
I. HIS EARLY DECISION. He purposed (resolved) not to defile himself with the king's meat. He put a restraint on his self-indulgence. It was the evident intention of Babylonians to wean Daniel and his companions from their patriotic and religious principles. The new names given to them suggest this. Great advantages attend early decision. It is half the battle. It was not his learning that gave Daniel this wisdom or decision. It was God's grace.
II. ABIDING CONSISTENCY OF LIFE. This sprang from the early decision. What firmness, fidelity, and piety! Note the testimony of his enemies. Incorruptible in duty, blameless in life. This is the way to honour religion.
III. HELPS TOWARDS THIS CONSISTENCY. The source of it was Divine. There is no other safe or abiding course. But gracious helps are provided.
1. The Word of God. Daniel a student of it (Daniel 9:12). We need a chart for life's voyage, a lamp for life's path.
2. Prayer. Daniel eminent for this. He prayed alone (Daniel 9:3). He prayed with his companions (Daniel 2:17, 18). It was his custom, and was not given up, nor concealed, when a decree issued against it. How can We hope to walk wisely or safely without asking Divine help and guidance?
3. Godly companionship. The four children of the captivity were helps to one another.
(W. Pakenham Walsh, D.D.)
(P. H. Hunter.)
(P. H. Hunter.)
(Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)
Sunday School Times.As a rule, the undefiled man is the best looking man. It is redness of eyes, not dearness of complexion, which marks the lover of wine. The bloat of the beer-drinker gives the lie to every boast of the healthfulness of his favourite beverage. He who takes defiling food and drinks as a cure for his ailments, will have an increase of ailments for which to take the defiling portions. He who will keep himself pure will find himself in best bodily condition through his purity. The truth of this fact has been tested over and ever again in army life, and in life at sea, in expeditions to the frigid and the torrid zones, and in every grade of society from the palace to the hovel.
(Sunday School Times.)
2. Because it was so used as would defile him and his fellows against the word of God; for the heathens, to the shame of many Christians, had their grace after meat, as it were, consecrating their dishes to their Idols before they tasted of them (Daniel 5:4; 1 Corinthians 8:10).
3. They could not do it without offence to their weaker brethren, with whom (they chose rather to sympathise in their adversity than to live in excess and fulness (Amos 6:6).
4. They well perceived that the king's love and provisions were not single and sincere, but that he meant his own profit, to assure himself the better of the land of Judah, and that they might forget their religion. Lastly, they knew that intemperance was the mother of many mischiefs, as in Abram, Esau the rich glutton, etc.
Christian Herald.It is said that when the German Crown Prince went to Bonn University he invoked the displeasure of his colleagues because he would not participate in their drinking habits. The Crown Prince saw his father, the Kaiser, on the subject, and, as a result, the Emperor made it known that in his opinion the students were seriously injuring their health by excessive beer drinking; and he denounced the practice in unmistakable terms. In his temperance the Prince was using his influence aright, and he displayed a spirit akin to that of the apostle, who declared if meat should make his brother to offend he would eat no flesh.
1. They will find, as Daniel did, that religion is an aid to study. When she takes up her habitation in the heart, she will keep the soul calm, the reason clear, the feelings fresh, the taste pure, and secure the Divine blessing on diligence. The objects which religion presents to the mind are the most sublime that can be contemplated, and nourish the heart equally with the understanding.
2. The excellent character of these youths was the direct mean of their success in life.
I. YOUTHFUL PIETY POSSESSED. The piety of the Hebrew youths, the fact that their minds had been brought under the government of vital personal godliness, is distinctly implied and assumed. On this the whole of their history is specifically founded. In what manner it was that they had received the inestimable boon we are not informed. Belonging as they did to the royal house of Judah, or to noble families of that tribe, they probably had enjoyed early advantages, in connection with some instructor who had remained faithful to the Most High in that age of infatuated apostasy; and it may be that the disastrous event of the captivity, which had drawn them from their native scenes to a far distant and a far different land, had operated powerfully and grievously upon them. Some cases indeed may exist in which the germs of pious thought and emotion were implanted at a period so early and in a mode so gentle that the incipient processes of the work have been very indistinct. But then, again, there are other cases, and these perhaps numerous ones, in which the instrumentality, or a large proportion of it, is clear, is defined, is not destined to be forgotten. But then the instrumentality is not so important as the fact. What privileges, and at the same time what responsibilities are yours! My young friends, whose estimate of piety has perhaps been imperfect, and whose habits, it may be, have been utterly and entirely estranged from it, let me remind you solemnly that without delay such piety is indeed requisite, absolutely requisite for you all. Whatever else you may be without, you must not be destitute of religion. All possible inducements, arising from all possible sources, implore you to become what others are, and in entire and cordial dedication to give yourselves unto God.
II. From the notice of youthful piety possessed, we observe again that WE HAVE YOUTHFUL PIETY TRIED. The religion of Daniel and his companions was submitted to a very powerful and decisive test. You observe that their conspicuousness in personal beauty and intellectual accomplishments obviously exposed them to a powerful and a perilous snare. Moreover, their names, which were appellations memorialising the true God, were to be exchanged for others, being the memorials of the idol divinities of Babylon. To Daniel, signifying "God is my judge," was assigned the name of Belshazzar, meaning probably "the keeper of the treasures of Bel." To Hananiah, signifying "the grace of the Lord," was assigned the name of Shadrach, meaning probably "the inspiration of the sun." To Mishael, signifying "he that is the powerful God," was assigned the name of Meshach, probably meaning "devoted to Shah," the Oriental Venus. And to Azariah, signifying "the Lord is a help," was assigned 'the name of Abed-nego, meaning probably "the servant of the shining fire." Thus it was that all remembrance of their allegiance to the true God was to be obliterated; and they were to be drawn into that great vortex of abomination which had well-nigh absorbed the world. But amidst these artful and cruel appliances, appealing alike to their vanity, to their sensuality, to their interests and to their fears, the piety of the heart stood firm; it steadfastly resisted, and it triumphantly overcame. You must understand their abstinence from the more dainty food not only as an act of self-control in regard to appetite, and as a patriotic recognition of the affliction of Israel, they refusing to live in indulgence while their brethren in captivity lived in privation and dishonour, but as a solemn testimony against idolatry and against all compromise with it, and as a solemn testimony on behalf of the true Jehovah, to whom they were dedicated, and by whom they resolved unalterably to abide. Now, youthful piety is never without its difficulties; and many instances occur to us in which it has been; as in the case before us, severely and acutely tried. We may think of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, and of Moses in the court of Pharoah, and of Samuel with the sons of Eli, and of Obadiah in the palace of Ahab, and of Hezekiah under the tutelage of Ahaz. And, my young friends, to whom God has given the inestimable boon of piety, you probably have already discovered the fact indicated in your own history, or you will discover it soon. You may be tried by your own indwelling passions, which, although subjugated by the grace which is in you, have not yet done striving for the mystery: vanity, self-conceit, cupidity, anger, envy, deceit, levity, animal passion and lust. You, may be tried by the hostility of others, on whom by kindred or by civil position you are dependent — parents, guardians, masters, who hate your religion, and who hate what they conceive to be the results of it; attempting, therefore, in the ungenerous malice of domestic and social persecution, to rend you from your faith and your hope. You may be tried by the fascinations of worldly amusement and pleasure: the feast, the dance, the song. You may be tried by opportunities of secular exaltation and honour — of rising high in the ranks of life, of attaining power, and of associating on well-nigh equal terms with the magnates of the land. You may be tried by strange and terrible combinations of evil influence, formed and applied by the great adversary of souls, rushing in upon you mysteriously, impetuously, and suddenly, with an agency almost overwhelming, that must utterly amaze and confound you. Oh! accept the warning, and vigilantly and prayerfully prepare. Let us observe, in the next place, that the trial of useful piety of which we now speak is pertained and arranged by God in wisdom and in kindness. It might seem to some a harsh and an inopportune dispensation; and questioning might be indulged, whether it would not be fair better to wait and postpone the ordeal until he who has to endure it has become more matured in character and more ample in red sources. The test never can be applied to one who has what the Scriptures emphatically term "the root of the matter in him," without the test being found adapted to produce, and actually producing upon character results of the most salutary and beneficial order. It is the discipline which fits the Christian labourer for the field, the Christian pilgrim for the journey, the Christian mariner for the ocean, the Christian combatant for the battle. It leads to acquaintance with self and all other beings; it augments hatred of sin, it exercises patience, it strengthens faith, it quickens action, it encourages prayer, it promotes dependence and reliance upon God. "Endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." "Fight the good fight of faith," whereunto you were called; and "lay hold upon eternal life"; and then but a little while, and He to whom you have been loyal will crown you with the laurels of the conqueror.
III. Having illustrated youthful piety possessed, and youthful piety tried, we have to observe YOUTHFUL PIETY HONOURED. You have heard how the experiment proposed by Daniel in respect to the food for the prescribed period was blessed by God. You are informed, further, how Daniel and his companions improved under the mental tuition which was administered, though still retaining their religion, and so indicating to us the fact that the pursuit of learning and science may be continued in perfect subservience to the honour of religion, and positively for the advancement of its empire. Additional instances of the honour which is attached to true piety have been preserved to us in the sacred records. The cases which we have cited as instances of trial we can also cite, and we aught to cite, as instances of honour. Remember the case of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, resisting the temptation in the spirit of inquiry, "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Then imprisoned by the revengeful lie of the tempter, but emerging at length from his ignominy and his peril, and set on high to be ruler over the land of Egypt. Remember the case of Moses. We can add to these multitudes of cases more from the annals of the Christian church, and we have memorials around us to this day, all proving that through piety is the pathway to honour. "Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee." With regard to the honour which arises from youthful piety, were we to classify it we might commend to you such arrangements as these. There is honour from the world. It is a mistake to conclude, as it has been hastily concluded, that genuine and decided piety is the parent of privation and disgrace in the world. Humility, amiableness, diligence, integrity, purity, benevolence — these are to men, under God, elements which; employed in the common affairs of life, constitute them the architects of their own fortunes. And then again, there is honour from good men. Those who are devoted to the high service of God in the Gospel of His Son are welcomed cordially and gratefully by the churches of the living Jehovah. There is honour, too, from God, in accordance with His ancient promise, "Them that honour Me I will honour." The honour that arises from the world and the honour that arises from good men He ultimately communicates, and then He imparts further and most delightful communications of His love.
IV. But then we have also to contemplate YOUTHFUL PIETY USEFUL. The decision of the Hebrew brethren, besides being associated with their own personal exaltation, was associated with many and momentous results of benefit and advantage to others. We do not dwell upon what must have been the influence of their example in the sphere in which they moved, but pass to the express and positive records. The immediate recorded result of their decision was an impression made upon the mind of the potentate they served with regard to the claims of the living and true God. We wish the young to remember this one simple fact, that the piety of four young men produced an immense effect upon the interests and destinies of the world. Now, we refer again to the instances of piety which have been selected from the sacred volume as instances of usefulness. They are all, as you must perceive, eminently so. We then proceed to affirm as a fact that in the annals of the church youthful piety has generally been by far the most useful. Then we may proceed further to state that God has given youthful piety for the express purpose of being useful. Those who possess it possess it not as a privilege merely, but as a responsibility — not as a blessing merely, but as an obligation. They possess it, that they may work for Him whom they are called upon to serve, in the advancement of His kingdom, and in the salvation of the souls of their fellow men. They are placed under the government of principles, the legitimate operation of which invokes them constantly to earnest and zealous effort, and which they must carry out into every department of influence, in order that the law of their stewardship may be fulfilled. The opportunities for usefulness on the part of the young are manifestly great. And then, again, the prospects of usefulness are animating. No labour can be in vain; all work forms a part of one grand system, impelling to a grand consummation, when the cause of God and truth shall extend its dominion over the world.
I. And what first presents itself to us is that HE WAS A MAN OF AN ABSTEMIOUS LIFE, AND OF THE GREATEST TEMPERANCE. He knew that delicious entertainments, however pleasant to the senses, often tend to hurt the stomach and impair the constitution. When this is the case, why should the poor ever envy the rich, or wish to change conditions? Is not health the first of temporal blessings, and what we had better enjoy, than all the fine things at the tables of the great? Besides, luxury tends not only to enfeeble the body but to enervate the mind. The more we indulge our sensual appetites we weaken our intellectual powers. By pampering our taste it acquires new strength and is apt to engage the whole soul. With what relish does an epicure talk of a fine dish, or of rich wine, and with what pleasure does he partake of them! He enjoys them more than the most rational, intellectual entertainment whatever. It deserves our remark that some of the greatest prophets mentioned in Scripture were remarkable for their humble and plain manner of life. It is recorded of John the Baptist, than whom none greater was born of a woman, "that his daily food was locusts and wild honey" (Matthew 3:4). And it appears from the Gospel that our Lord and his disciples lived on the simplest food. Barley loaves and small fishes were their common entertainment. And why did the blessed Jesus prefer this manner of life when all the creatures were at his command? Why, but to teach us temperance and sobriety, and to set our affections upon things more substantial and valuable. Let us, therefore, be improving our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and in getting them enriched with Divine grace. The greater proficiency we make in the knowledge of Christ the more indifferent we will become about sensual enjoyments.
II. In the second place, concerning the prophet Daniel, THAT HE WAS RENOWNED FOR KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM ABOVE ALL THE WISE MEN OF BABYLON. To have his mind enlightened in the knowledge of God, and his memory stored with Divine truth, were the great objects which engaged his attention, Whilst others were amusing themselves with empty speculations, and employed about trifles, he was contemplating Divine things, and was chiefly conversant with the living oracles of the living God. Was it the wisdom which is from above with which he was chiefly conversant? Do we not approve his taste, and admire his choice? Human science is at best extremely imperfect, and may be called a mixture of error and of folly; but the knowledge of God and His blessed Son is truth itself, and the fruit of it eternal life.
III. Let me remark, in the third place, concerning Daniel, that HE WAS THE ROOTED ENEMY OF IDOLATRY, AND A SINCERE WORSHIPPER OF THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD. Though he lived in the midst of the heathen, he kept himself pure from their abominations and despised their idols. Let our closets bear witness for us how regular we are in our devotions! God forbid that they should appear against us in judgment!
IV. I would remark, in the fourth place, concerning Daniel, that HE WAS A FAITHFUL SERVANT TO HIS PRINCE. Would to God that all in such elevated stations were men of similar worth!
V. I remark, in the fifth place, concerning Daniel, THAT HE DARED TO DECLARE THE TRUTH TO THOSE PRINCES TO WHOM HE DELIVERED IT, HOWEVER MORTIFYING AND DISAGREEABLE TO THEM. Nebuchadnezzar had incurred the displeasure of the Almighty by his pride and arrogance, and it was revealed to him in a dream that he should be deprived of his kingdom, divested of his reason, and reduced to the humbling situation of eating grass and straw like an ox. The king, anxious to know the meaning of the vision, sent for Daniel to explain it, when the prophet told him the awful judgments which awaited him, and pressed upon him the duties of repentance and charity. It argued not a little fortitude to inform an arbitrary prince of the mean and despicable situation to which he was to be reduced, and to be put upon a level with the brutes. But Daniel dreaded not the king's resentment, because he trusted in God. Truth was too important to be concealed, even from a despotic monarch. We, too, are sometimes obliged to preach disagreeable truths; but fidelity to our great Master, and to the souls of men, requires it. We must declare the whole counsel of God, in whatever manner it may be taken.
VI. I remark, in the first place, concerning Daniel, THAT PROVIDENCE INTERPOSED IN A VERY REMARKABLE MANNER WHEN HIS LIFE WAS IN IMMINENT DANGER.
1. From this subject I observe that those who fear God will be taken notice of and respected in the world.
2. I observe that by faithfully serving God we shall most effectually recommend Him to others.
(D. Johnston, D.D.)
1. So the first characteristic of Daniel was his fidelity to religious convictions. Piety, moral integrity, and the favour of God, he preferred to the pleasures and prizes of life.
2. Another trait of Daniel's was judgment, so extraordinary as to make his name proverbial for that quality. His tact, his diplomatic skill, is admirable. Never once does he forget himself. No matter what dilemmas surround him, he is always the judicious, the well-balanced, the equipoised man.
3. But the most pleasing aspect of the personality of Daniel was his humility.
(J. B. Remensnyder.)
(F. W. Farrar, D.D.).