In the third year of Cyrus.
1. That God prepares his people for special trial by special grace. His assistance is ever beforehand with our emergency. The relation of this portion of God's word to the circumstances of the people under Antiochus is precisely that of all his promises to our trials, temptations, and necessities. Every promise of God is a prophecy.
2. That faith in the Invisible is essential to our getting the full benefit of Scripture. Much may be gained from it in history and in morals, even if we should repudiate everything that is supernatural in its pages. To obtain the utmost benefit from its words, we must accept its revelation of that which is hidden from mortal sight. The promises of Jesus are not to us like the legacies of one long dead. They are the assurances of a living and present, though unseen friend, and when so accepted they are full of power. The Bible will be to us no better than the moral maxims of Antoninus or Epictetus, unless we receive its revelation of the unseen in connection with its forecasts of prophecy and promise.
(William M. Taylor, D.D.)
I ate not pleasant bread.
The Study.About a hundred years ago, a man of God thus wrote in his diary: "I was enabled to persevere in prayer till I saw so much need of Divine help, that I knew not how to leave off, and had forgot I needed food. — D. Brainerd." Strange intensity of desire! He who felt it must have been far above most Christians of our age. Who of us could thus record the longings of his soul? We feel that this is reality. There is no insobriety or wild excitement here. All is calm and deep. We are listening to the utterances of a soul that has got into conscious contact and vital fellowship with God; and who, in the profound enjoyment thus entered on, has lost the consciousness of this outer world in which he is still a dweller. Happy saint! Who would not tread thy footsteps, and thus get as competely within the veil as thou! All thy religion was amid realties and certainties. There was no distance, no dimness, no vagueness in thy intercourse with the Father of Spirits. How much of our religion is made up of shadows and incoherencies! how much of our intercourse with God is vague and distant; a groping after something which we seem never to reach, instead of being living, personal, conscious intercourse between our souls and God!
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision.
purposes, he is raised into a supra-mundane state of soul.
I. THE SCENE: "the vision." We have no positive data for speaking dogmatically as to what may be the composition of the visible nature of angels. We associate them with spiritual orders of God's creatures; but as to man, he has a dual nature; within, spirit; without, a material body. In the wise and gracious purposes of our God, He has seen fit to take man into His counsels, and to make known to him His purposes. Taking, as we must, a broad view of this interesting fact, the Almighty uses a variety of means for communicating His mind and intentions to the children of men. The colours and forms, the harmonies and utilities of nature of imaging and voicing through the senses the wisdom, power and beneficence of God. The potent impact of the Spirit's influence upon the mind of prophet and apostle has furnished us with the inimitable truths of this great book, the Bible, which infinitely surpasses the best productions of the human intellect. In dreams, when deep sleep has fallen upon men, hath the Lord made Himself known to and encouraged His faithful servants. Visions too, have their place among the methods of revealing. Dreams and visions evidently belong to the same class of phenomena; and yet are there not shades of difference? Dreams are what come to us when we are asleep; visions come oftentimes in moments of waking. In dreams men have had the symbols of things; in visions, the things themselves. Visions evidently belong to a higher and more direct order of celestial manifestation. Visions seem to hold in mysterious suspension the ordinary processes of thought and feeling, unfolding to the mind new worlds of knowledge. We have all read those marvellous visions of Old Testament history: Isaiah standing with speechless awe before the vision of God; Ezekiel encircled in the vast and wondrous region of visionary mystery, now looking into hidden chambers of abomination, then with seer-like eye peering among apparently conflicting wheels. Daniel sees in vision things which are to be. In this supreme fact we have the significance and symbol of life. Situated as we are in the midst of vast circles and orders of beings and ideas, all true life, which is essentially progressive, is made up of "visions"; and by these we attain the true "ascent of man," passing up from shadows into light, and from the unknown to the known. A life of progress is one of constant waking. So far as the things of to-morrow and the knowledge of the future are concerned, we are now asleep. The hopes of future good which we now cherish are foreshadowing dreams, the dawning of these hoped for events are visions brightening things up to blessed realities. Thus we live and grow. Men are somewhat in the habit of pooh-poohing dreams, and of relegating visions to the region of superstitious fancies or even imbecile hopes. All the truth, however, is not with such men, nor all wisdom either. I say, dream on, only see to it that your dreams are pure and true, and be careful that your visions take their light from above. The purest ascent of life is often adumbrated by visions of hope and longing; and as we exercise faith and put forth effort, they crystallize into shape and become real possessions. God gives us visions of what we may be; by them we are roused to search and make inquiry, and then to believe; and so visions of a free spirit and a clean heart which the Lord gave us yesterday become our norms of character and life to-day. Note a few points in Daniel's vision. It appears he was reduced to a very low state so far as enjoyment was concerned. Luxurious food, and exhilarating drinks were put away (ver. 3). Visions do not generally come in fulness of body. It is when the physical is chastened that the spiritual ascends. It was when Peter was hungry that he had the vision which prepared the way for his visit to the Gentiles. Daniel saw a certain man (ver. 5). This could be none other than the Christ, as we may gather from Revelation 1:13, 15, where he appears in similar form to John at Patmos. He was "clothed in fine linen," as the high priest was on the day of Atonement, thus showing that He is the High Priest of our Profession. "Whose loins are girded with fine gold." "Girded" ready for work. "With fine gold," proof that everything of Christ is best, and that the best of everything is all too unworthy of Him. We have also a description of His form. "'Body like the beryl," a precious stone of an azure colour. "His face as the appearance of lightning," a terror to evil-doers. "Eyes as lamps,' seeing all things. "His arms and His feet like in colour to polished brass," prophetic of the brightness and power of the message of His gospel. "The voice of His words like the voice of a multitude." The words of this new life are destined to overcome and supersede all other systems.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES: "alone." In this remarkable experience and wondrous manifestation Daniel was alone. No other eye could follow this brilliant unfolding of God. Looking at this fact superficially there may occur a feeling of sadness; but looked at more deeply, it is seen to be inevitable. As every man has personality and individuality, so has he his loneness. While there are affinities or connecting links between man and man, there are dividing lines between all the individuals composing the human family. Science teaches that between every two particles of matter, even in the hardest substance there is space; in like manner between men there are bridgeless gulfs, so that the one cannot pass over to the other. While this is true of the general mass of men, it is more strikingly manifest in the higher forms and better conditions of mind and spirit. Best men and men at their best must needs be alone. He who progresses rapidly and soars loftily must be alone, inasmuch as he leaves the multitude behind. How true this is in the growth of intellect and the enlargement of heart, in the constraints of love and the sublimities of faith! He who waits on others will find progress slow work. In the larger commonwealth of intellectual and moral life God deals with the man, not with the mass. The individual stands directly related, and personally responsible, to his Maker; and in proportion to his realization of the possibilities of his own being will he be alone. The thinking man climbs heights and reaches lofty peaks at the far down foot of which lie panting the mass of puny men. The man of close communion with God and self and truth basks in a light that would dazzle to blindness men of weaker vision. Much of best life must be lived in "splendid isolation." The world's great reformers and deep thinkers have lived alone, because they have been far in advance of their own age. While there may be the loneness of weakness and eccentricity, still, in the main, lone souls are rendered such by their superiority and by the revelations they receive from the "Father of lights." The Bible furnishes us with striking examples. Mark the happy oblivion and lofty loneness of Enoch who walked with God, and he was not for God took him." Note the elevation of Joseph in those prophetic dreams which excited the jealous ire of his brethren. Alone Elijah stood on Mount Carmel, and discomfited the prophets of Baal. Alone Paul was caught up into the third heaven. Alone John witnessed the prophetic visions of Patmos. Alone, aye, alone! down in the depths of His great soul Christ sorrowed and suffered, wept and sighed, bled and died. Alone He trod the winepress of the wrath of God. Thus "alone" are wrought out and made manifest the highest intents of the holiest purposes of our supreme moral Ruler. Have we not here, by implication at least, a word of caution? We are so prone to censure if not condemn all who do not conform to our pattern of thought. Christianity, brotherliness, and forbearance will prompt a tender consideration for such persons. As Daniel was left "alone" when the "vision came," I gather that in the ordinary routine of life he had companionship; but in the supremely extraordinary, when he stood in the midst of the splendour of vision, he was "alone." So men in the ordinary littlenesses and the common superficialities of small living may find plenty of fellows, but when they step up into the light of God and see "Visions," they are left "alone." It may be that you are exercised in mind from similar considerations, and you wonder why God has made you so much unlike the rest of mankind. You wish you could be as others are. Foolish desire! As wise for the eagle to wish it were an ostrich, or the lark to covet the blinking sombreness of the owl! Take your apportionment and even your peculiarity from God, and be not discontented nor discouraged with yourself. I observe here that the souls light, purity and power, consist in communion with God. Daniel lived in intimate fellowship with the Almighty. Hence he was conditioned for receiving a vision; and while less devout and less noble souls were unfitted for a new revelation and unprepared for s new truth, and terrified at a brighter light, he had a mind and heart adapted to the improved conditions which came with the "vision," and stood unflinchingly amid this unearthly brightness. Thank God! heaven is not far removed into the dim distances of remotest space, but is nigh, even here, to the devout and reverent believer. Oh! had we pure hearts, spiritual minds, single eyes, and right spirits, we should find ourselves in the midst of heavenly surroundings. Be it ours to seek a loftier place, a fuller life, and "a closer walk"; then shall we have "visions" and experience days of heaven upon earth.
O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.
1. How religion dignifies and ennobles our nature, when it is entertained in its power and purity. Compare Daniel with the nobles, princes, and great ones of Babylon.
2. Do you possess a similar character Let me urge you to imitate the conduct of Daniel.
(E. Payson, D.D.)
I. First, then, let us consider THE CASE OF DANIEL, who was "a man greatly beloved." Because Daniel was greatly beloved of God, he was early tried, and enabled to stand. While he was yet a youth, be was carried into Babylon, and there he refused to eat the king's meat, or to drink the king's wine. "I must stand fast, even in the smallest matter, in keeping to the law of the Lord my God." If thou art enabled to do that, thou art a man greatly beloved. Afterwards, Daniel was greatly envied, but found faultless. He was surrounded by envious enemies, who could not bear that he should be promoted over them, though he deserved all the honour he received. If, when they sift you through and through, their eager, evil eyes cannot detect a fault; and they are obliged to fall back upon abusing you for your godliness, calling it hypocrisy, or some other ugly name, you are a man greatly beloved. Further, Daniel was delivered from great peril. He was cast into the lions' den because he was a man greatly beloved of God. If your trial should be like going into a den of lions, if you are a man greatly beloved of God, you will come out again. No lion shall destroy you; you are perfectly safe. The love of God is like a wall of fire round about you. Once more, Daniel was a man greatly beloved, and therefore he had revelations from God. Do not open your eyes width wonder, and say, "I wish that I had all the revelations that Daniel had." Listen to what he says: "I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me;" and again: "As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me; but I kept the matter in my heart." The revelations he received actually made him ill: "I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it." He whom God loves will see things that will astound him; he will see that which will almost kill him; he will see that which will make him faint and sick well nigh unto death. "Let me see visions of God whatever it may cost me. Let me have communion with him even though it should break my heart, and crush me in the dust." I will make only one more remark upon Daniel's case, and that is this, he stood in his lot. Because he was a man greatly beloved, he had this promise with which to close his marvellous book, "Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." He is a man greatly beloved, but he does not understand all that God has revealed. The next time you get studying some prophecy of Scripture, which you cannot make out, do not be troubled; but hear the voice of God saying, "Go thy way. Wait awhile. It will all be plain by-and-by. God is with thee."
II. In the second place. I am going to speak of THE CASE OF EVERY BELIEVER who is also greatly beloved of God, Every believer has been called out from others. Look at the hole of the pit whence thou wast digged. Who but God, the Giver of all grace, has made thee to differ from the ungodly around thee? Therefore, adore him for his matchless mercy, His distinguishing grace. Remember, too, that if thou hast been called out from a sinful world, and transformed into a child of God, this is the token that thou hast been chosen from the beginning. Remember, too, that in the fulness of time, thou wast redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. Thou hast been also pardoned, and put among the Lord's children. I feel sure that your heart is speaking now, even if your tongue is silent, and it says, "Indeed, as a pardoned man, I am greatly beloved." Since the Lord forgave your sin, you have been a praying man, and God has heard your prayers. We have the entree of the King's palace at will. Are we not men greatly beloved? Beside that, remember that the Lord has upheld you until now. In your pilgrim path, how many times your feet have almost gone! When I think of all our experiences in the way in which the Lord hath led us, I can truly say of all his people that they are men and women greatly beloved. As surely as we are in Christ to-night, we shall be with Christ by-and-by. Oh, men greatly beloved, to have such a future as this before you, ought to make your heaven begun below!
III. THE CASE OF SPECIAL SAINTS, those who are in a special sense men greatly beloved. There are some men who are, as I said at the beginning of my discourse, elect out of the elect. Remember, that Christ had seventy choice men, his disciples; but then he had twelve choicer men, his apostles; and he had three of these, who were with him when the others were not; and out of these three he had one John, "that disciple whom Jesus loved." His love is so sweet, that, while I would be grateful to be even outside the seventy, so long as I might be among the five hundred brethren who saw him after he rose from the dead, yet I would then have the ambition to get in among the seventy; and not for the honour of it, but for the love it would bring, I would like to be one of the eleven; and for the same reason I would fain to be one of the three, and I would, above measure, be thankful if I might be that one whom Jesus loved. Have you not the same holy inspiration? Well, now, let me tell you that, if you would be among the choicer spirits, greatly beloved of God, you must be men of spotless character. The next point is, that men who are greatly beloved are men of decision When Daniel had the lions' den in prospect, because of his faithfulness to God, "he went into his house; and his window being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." Next, if you would be men greatly beloved of God, beyond all the rest of his people, on whom special shinings of his face shall come, you must be much in communion with him. If a man is to be greatly beloved of God, he must live above the world, as Daniel did. Daniel became a prince, a governor, a man of substance and position; but when Belshazzar promised to clothe him with scarlet, and to put a gold chain about him neck, if he could read and interpret the writing on the wall, he said to the king, "Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another." Daniel did not want them. Once more, men who are greatly beloved by the Lord live wholly for God and for God's people. You see nothing of selfishness about Daniel.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It kept him from doing wrong. Illus. from his refusal to eat the King's meat, and to cease from praying. With us there should be decision in telling the truth; in keeping the Sabbath, about stealing, etc.
2. It helped him to be good. How Daniel influenced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
3. It made him successful. He went to Babylon a poor boy, about sixteen or seventeen years old, but God blessed him for the decided way in which he always did what he believed to be right.
(R. Newton, D.D.)
1. His early piety. He could not have been more than fourteen years of age when, with his three companions, he was sent to be educated at the college of the Chaldeans. Yet even then he had learned to love Jehovah, and to make the divine law the rule of his fife. It has come to be believed in our day that early piety is a simpering, sentimental thing, betokening the existence in its subject both of physical and mental weakness. Daniel s piety did not interfere with his pre-eminence. You will make a terrible mistake if you suppose that piety unfits you for life, or imagine that its existence in youth is an abnormal thing, that indicates the presence of disease. There is nothing so healthy, or so wholesome, as to give yourselves early to the world. The ease of Daniel is not exceptional. In all such as Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel, and Daniel, and in some degree also in Timothy, there is a full rounded completeness of character, a well-balanced equilibrium of disposition, which you look for in vain in those who have been converted in late life.
2. His devoutness in prayer. This comes out first in connection with the recovery and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's forgotten dream. But it was the habit of his life to wait at stated times on God. This helps to explain much of his conduct. We cease to wonder at his boldness before Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius, when we learn that he maintained such constant communion with his God. Alas! the recreative influence of devotional retirement is now neither sought nor valued as it ought to be.
3. Decision of character. This habit of decision grew up in him, and was fed in him, by the communion of prayer. He learned to look at things as in the sight of God, and he carried that test with him through life. God was more to him than all else.
4. His diligence in business. His prosperity was not the result of any accident, but was the consequence of the perseverance land integrity by which he was distinguished. What is religion? Is it not the process of self-formation, according to the purest model, and from the loftiest motives? And if that be so, does not public life give the noblest opportunities for its practice? Consider what religion does for a man. It brings him under the influence of the most powerful motives. It opens his eyes to the sight of the invisible God; and so it sends him to work for him. But is there anything in that to paralyse industry or to overlay diligence ? Do not you believe that your allegiance to God will ultimately interfere with your commercial success. Even if it did, it would still be your duty to be true to him. But it does not. Let us pray for Daniel's faith, and let us cultivate his devotional spirit. Then we shall be able to manifest his firmness in the face of temptation, and to practice his diligence in the details of common life. Let us carry his business energy into our religious duties, and his devout spirit into our business transactions.
(William M. Taylor, D.D.)
Oh, Daniel understand the words that I speak unto thee, and ,stand upright;. for unto thee am I now sent
I. REVERENCE. — Daniel thought he was showing a deeper reverence in bowing himself to the earth, but while prostration may signify reverence and humility it may also indicate craven fear, and such prostration is not a fitting attitude for the servant of God. What father wishes his child to crawl at his feet ? It would be poor tribute to one's fatherhood. In the awful presence of the Most High, man cannot be too reverent, but he can be too fearful. Dread of God hinders approach to God. He who is sincerely obedient is truly reverent. Reverence is a question of temper it is a condition of heart, rather than a posture of the body.
II. RECEPTIVITY. — This signifies that the heart and mind are alert, that the face is toward the light. In earthly courts, servants stand to receive their orders; the posture indicates watchfulness, "hearingness," and should the privileged servants of the Almighty be less ready. less responsive? But this receptivity suggests an absence of fear and dread. Should not men dread God? Yes, and no. They who know the right and do the wrong, they do well to fear. When we remember our darkness and our guilt, we do well to be filled with fear. But can the fear be removed? As we learn of the Son Who is the Way, and rely upon His mediation and sacrifice: so are we brought to know the Father, and the soul finds its home in Him.
III. RESPONSIVENESS. — Daniel knew that in all the mystery about him there was a purpose, and, as the terror caused by his strange surroundings passes, his confidence returns. Faith must precede following. As Daniel's faith increased, so was the purpose revealed. Our faith prepares the way for the unfolding of the Divine will. Daniel was caused to stand before Jehovah's messenger, for the one exalted purpose of service. "O Daniel," the man of heaves seemed to say, "fear not, thy prayer has been heard; stand and hearken, and I will cause thee to become My interpreter, My prophet." And service holy and exalted is the purpose of the Divine calling to-day. Nationally, the call comes to us. To the nation the God of nations says, "Give heed to my voice. Let my word be in the front of your national life. Remember Me in all your laws and statutes. Honour Me, and I will honour thee." Personally, the call comes to us, "Understand — stand upright, for unto thee am I now sent." Are we obedient? The three foundation words of our text are the foundation words of character: Reverence — for the deep things of the Kingdom of God; Receptivity — that is, the open ear, the open heart and the alert spirit; and Responsiveness — that is, joyful obedience to His will, and to that we are called.
And to chasten thyself before thy God.
Homilist.I. Its action on SELF. It is concentration of soul. "Set thy heart" is setting the whole soul to the work.
1. Concentration to spiritual study. "Set thy heart to understand." To understand what ? Thyself, thy capabilities, thy moral obligations, thy spiritual condition.
2. Concentration to correction. "To chasten thyself." Quench corrupt lusts, conquer wrong prejudices, expel pernicious errors, etc.
3. Concentrated to devotion. "Before thy God," doing the whole as under the eye of God. Truthful, earnest, solemn.
II. Its action on GOD. God observes all this soul work. He is interested in it and He is represented as being influenced by it. God here says to Daniel, "Thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words." The idea is, because thou hast been disciplining thy soul, I am come to answer thy prayers. True soul discipline is essential to successful prayer. "If thou prepare thine heart and stretch out thine hands towards him; if iniquity be in thine hand, put it away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles, for there shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear. Because thou shalt forget thy misery and remember it as waters that pass away; and thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning."
Thy words were heard
I. THE OCCASION WAS ONE OF DISAPPOINTMENT AND PERPLEXITY. High were the expectations raised by the decree of Cyrus. But year after year passed and no deliverance came.. Then Darnel spent three weeks in retirement, self-denial, and prayer. Mysterious dispensations of providence are permitted to thwart our fair expectations. Adverse changes take place which disappoint our hopes. Wise ends are answered by these trials of our faith and patience. Whenever God tries us, and by whatsoever means, he gives an opportunity for the exercise of graces and virtues, which are thus not only proved but also improved.
II. THE COURSE DANIEL PURSUED UNDER THE TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES. Three things are specified in our text.
1. Inquiry. He did set his heart to understand, that he might find out the path of duty; what to do and what to recommend. If in similar circumstances we search, we shall probably find some errors to be corrected, some negligences and sins to be repented of, some feelings to be humbled for, or some attainments to be pursued, which might have been overlooked or forgotten had not the Almighty arrested us in our career.
2. Humiliation. He chastened himself before his God. His fasting was an outward sign of inward humiliation, and also calculated to promote it. A voluntary devotedness to extraordinary exercises of piety in his judgment was called for by the extraordinary circumstances of the times. And God was pleased to honour his servant by a gracious regard to his offerings.
3. Prayer. "Thy words are heard." No doubt, words of prayer. In the day of trouble there is a peculiar need and call for prayer. In such reasons we feel most dependent upon God; and then there is often a more than ordinary disposition to pray.
III. THE SUCCESSFUL RESULT. This is described in our text.
1. He is bidden not to fear. No doubt his fears had been strong concerning the execution of the monarch's decree. In this present world, so full of uncertainty, it is not to be expected that we shall be altogether without our fears as to what may befal us. The best way of soothing the mind is to do as Daniel did, refer the case to God, with humility, prayer, and holy trust.
2. Daniel was assured that his prayers were heard. And this is the privilege of all the devout. His promise to hear their prayers not only denotes attention to them, but acceptance of them.
3. Daniel received divine manifestations in answer to his prayers. He was honoured by the heavenly visitant. Reviewing the whole we find in this subject an instructive comment on the gracious assurance that they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Daniel's strength was renewed, his courage was revived, his hopes were brightened, when he had waited upon his God.
Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.
The Thinker.It has been shown that Daniel's doctrine of the angels is to be found, much of it, in both the Old Testament and the New. The existence of the angels, their number, their nature and occupation, are all amply revealed in the Word of God. The text describes a mysterious contention; and the arrival of an invaluable ally.
I. THE CONTENTION.
1. It has been a common belief that every man has an unseen attendant, a guardian angel. This guardianship appertains to man in his natural order.
2. This lesson appears to teach that not only individuals, but nations and kingdoms, have their angelic guardians. We see, behind the curtain, how spiritual beings are interested in, and seek to direct, the movements of nations.
3. The angel of the Persians, having their good first in view, would have detained the Jews in captivity, so that by their longer residence the heathen might gain some knowledge of the true God.
4. The angel of the Hebrews, on the other hand, urged their release and restoration to their own land, lest through long delay, they should be drawn aside from the worship of God to idolatry.
5. Some have gone further than this, and have thought that the angels are God's ministers which supply the motive force to the natural world.
II. THE ALLY. "Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me."
1. There is a limit to angelic knowledge of what is God's will.
2. Michael is the guardian of the church. (see Jude 1:9, Mess. 4:16: Revelation 12:7).
3. Michael appears to have been the guardian angel of the Hebrews.Lessons,
1. The subject reminds us of the existence of an invisible world, which is interested in mankind.
2. There may be divergence of opinion and judgment upon matters about which the will of God has not yet been revealed, without sin or loss of charity.
3. As soon as the will of God is known, angelic contention at once ceases.
4. The thought of the presence of these spiritual beings, especially in our churches, may aid us to worship God, and quicken our perceptions of a supra-sensuous world, and of the majesty of him, whose name is "The Lord of Hosts." —
And He strengthened me.
I. IT CHEERS US WHEN WE LABOUR UNDER A SENSE OF LONELINESS. Some feel alone because they are the only ones of their house who serve the Lord. Well, there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. The child of God as he grows in grace becomes more lonely. But there are no heights of attainment which Jesus has not surpassed. It falls to the lot of some Christians to stand alone in their contention for the faith. In all our work He is our companion.
II. IT IS SWEET TO FEEL THE TOUCH OF THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST WHEN WE ARE HUMBLED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. A blessed extinction of self makes room for infinite love. There is not one covenant blessing but what, if we understood it, would have a humbling effect upon us. At such times of self-annihilation it is strengthening to the mind to feel the touch of that hand, and to perceive that He who is our God is also very near to us.
III. IN SORROW, HOW BLESSED IT IS TO PEEL THE TOUCH OF THE MAN'S HAND! Pain of body is the portion of many of God's people. They are seldom long without it. Others endure the affliction of poverty. Some true Christians are naturally of a sombre temperament. There is no abyss of grief into which Jesus has not descended.
IV. THE FACT THAT JESUS IS A MAN, SUCH AS WE ARE, SHOULD GREATLY COMFORT US IN ALL OUR STRUGGLES. It seems hard, this battle of life, this fighting against sin, this contention against inbred corruption. We are apt to think sometimes, "Can we ever win? Is not the battle too difficult?" In such moments look at yonder man who sits upon the throne of God. He is the typical man. "Consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself."
V. WHAT A BLESSED THING IT IS TO LOOK AT THE MANHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST AT TIMES WHEN WE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED BY OUR BRETHREN. Our natural tendency to idolatry leads us to confide in man. Sometimes there have come the discovery that man is only man, and that some men are not saints, though they talk in a saintly manner. At such times it is most cheering to remember that there is one man who will never deceive us. There is one who has not uttered a promise which He will not fulfil, nor won from us a confidence which He will not justify.
VI. THE SAME IS TRUE IN SEASONS OF DOUBT. There is a class of disciples like Thomas, who think much, and are apt to doubt much. They do not love doubts, they hate them, yet their doubts often go very deep, and undermine the most precious doctrines. A sight of my Lord is the sheet-anchor which has held me fast in times of scepticism and doubt. I cannot doubt when I see him.
VII. THE TOUCH OF OUR REDEEMER'S HUMAN HAND COMFORTS US IN THE HOUR OF DEATH. One man has broken from the prison of the grave, and therefore all will who are like him.
VIII. THE MANHOOD OF CHRIST OUGHT TO BE A GREAT COMFORT TO YOU WHEN YOU ARE SEEKING TO DO GOOD AMONG YOUR FELLOW-MEN. This is an awful world, this world of human beings. But Jesus took human nature on Him, and thereby did it the highest honour. He thought it worth while to suffer and die for sinners. Let us think none so bad as to be beyond hope of benefit. Jesus Christ stoops low; so let us do.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. God's strengthening comes through what is divine becoming human. It comes into human relations and human measures. Daniel is represented here as overwhelmed by what he had seen and heard. We cannot take in too much at a time even of the highest and noblest things. They require strength of mind, clearness of intellect, to grasp and to carry them. It is so with knowledge. It is true even of our affections. Just so it is with the presence of God. We cannot dwell too long among the coruscations and flashings of the divine glory. Our week faculties reel and collapse beneath the strain. Too much was unveiled to Daniel. tie became strenghtless. How was he restored? How did he gather strength again? One having the form of a man comes to him and touches him. That human touch gives him strength once more. The gentle touch of love, how it darts right through to our heart's core, and makes our blood tingle. The soothing touch of pity is more eloquent than ten thousand words. It is full of comfort, and gives patience and mighty peace. Daniel was no longer alone. He had a companion — a human companion — with him, and found heartfelt and infinite relief. Who was this human form? We do not know. We are not told that it was an angel. We are not told that it was Christ. In one sense it certainly was Christ, for all living manifestations of God are utterances or syllables, so to speak, of that eternal Word of God, of which Christ is the full and perfect embodiment. Better ask, "What does He mean?" than to press the question, "Who is He?" His appearance means this blessed, consoling, universal fact, that God is not far from men, and that He gives us power both to endure what He lays upon us, and to do His commandments, by coming to us, as Himself in a sense human, as full of human love and sympathy. There is something in God which is very near to us and very dear. He is the light by which we understand. He is the pulse that beats in the centre of our life. He is the soul of our best and purest joy. When God shows us this side of His character — what I may call the human side of it — then we grow strong, and our poverty and weakness pass at once, and pass utterly away. That is true every way. It is true in regard to our sins; and m regards to our temptations. The knowledge that Christ has overcome is there before us. That alone helps me That perfect man is here, the head and crown of humanity, and He will breathe peace and faith, hope and courage, harmony and victory, into you and into me.
(J.F. Stevenson, LL.D.)
O Man greatly beloved.
I. THE NAME GIVEN TO DANIEL. "Greatly beloved." Compare John 21-20. We too are each of us the objects of God's love. (Ephesians 2:4, 5).
II. THE PEACE WISHED UNTO DANIEL. It is that which St. Paul speaks about. (Romans 5:1; Romans 4:25) If you don't feel that you have the peace, trust God, and he will give you consciousness of it.
III. THE THREEFOLD CHARGE. Fear not. Why should you fear? Your Sins are washed away. Christ's righteousness is yours. Be strong. In thy testimony before men. In faith, giving glory to God. Believe, Faith is to be exercised in temporal matters.
(J. Duncan Craig, D.D.)
I. The text glitters with A CHOICE TITLE. Daniel is said to be a "man greatly beloved," or as some read it, "a man of desires" — a desirable man towards God, whom God desired to commune with, in whose society the Lord delighted. He was a "man greatly beloved." Now the great love of God to Daniel is very conspicuously seen in his character. I shall not describe his character as the reason why God loved him, far from it, but I shall mention his character as being the effect of God's great love to him. God loved him greatly, and therefore he made him this and that. The first token of the Lord's great love to Daniel which we shall consider was this, God gave him early piety. No one can ever over-estimate the great privilege of being brought to God in childhood or youth. If it were only to be saved from the injury which a course of sin brings upon the mind, if it.were only to escape from the regrets for the past which will arise even when the conscience is in after days purged from sin, if it were only to have saved those precious hours of the early morning of life and to have used them in the Master's cause, if it were only for those three reasons, and they are but part of a great cluster, they are something for which eternally to bless the Special love of God. "O man, greatly beloved, when thou wast a child the Lord delighted in thee." But, secondly, the great love of God to Daniel appeared in his early and thorough nonconformity to the world. Everything was done that could be done to make the young Hebrew forget the God of his fathers. His very name was changed as well as those of the three right worthy companions of his captivity. Everywhere around them they saw idolatry, lust, and crime. There was nothing when they went abroad or when they stayed at home but what would suggest to them the abominations of the heathen. It is always safest if you are at war with a deadly enemy to have a very high wall between you and him. There will be no fault in its being too high if he aims at destroying you. Any division which we establish between us and sin, will never be too broad or too deep. Gentle manners are a fit robe for firm principles. We read, therefore, that Daniel "requested of the prince of the eunuchs, that he might not defile himself." If you are not at the outset thorough for God, I fear you never will be. Christians ought to grow in grace, but I am sorry to say that with many of them they go from weakness to weakness, and all I fear because there is not a sound beginning. Every builder will tell you the necessity of having the foundation laid well. Daniel was a man greatly beloved, because even early he was distinguished for his nonconformity to the world. In after life we find another sweet result of God's love, in his courageous trust in God. He was a man greatly beloved to be such a lion as he was in the midst of all his foes. Coupled with this as another evidence of God's love to him, was his wonderful endurance of prosperity. A further instance of God's great love to him comes out in his firmness under trial. Let me add, that here we ought not to forget that God's grace and love shone conspicuously in making Daniel a man of such continuous devotion. Every day witnessed his constant regularity in prayer. I think that I have shown you that the outward signs of God's love to Daniel were such as many of us have enjoyed in a measure and may enjoy still more, for there are some here who were saved in youth, some who early began to be decided for God, some who have been brave for Christ, and have not denied the faith, who have sustained prosperity, and have endured trial too, and who have by grace been taught to plead with God. Perhaps they will not recognize themselves, but we may be able to recognize them, and call them men greatly beloved. In one word, there was one crowning token of God's love to Daniel, and that is the perfect consistency of his life all through. It is a special mark of a man greatly beloved, when he is consistent from the beginning to the end through the grace of God.
II. I must hasten in the second place, to notice that Daniel became the subject of a COMMON INFIRMITY. He was full of fear on one occasion, and therefore, an angel said to him, "Fear not." I am glad of this, because it teaches us that even the best of men may be subject to very great fears. He was nothing in himself, and owed all his greatness to the grace of God. Those fears on the part of Daniel were not the result of personal trial just then, they came to him indeed, when he had been highly honoured by revelations from God; but his fears sprang from a sight of his Lord, and from a sense of his own unworthiness. You may be a man greatly beloved, and, therefore you may have a clearer sight of the Lord Jesus than other men have; and for that very reason you may feel a greater shame and confusion of face whenever you think of yourself. Recollect how Daniel says concerning himself, "There remained no strength in me, my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength." O if the Lord ever favours you with much love, and with nearness of access to himself, you must expect the other side of it — that is to say, you must feel your own nothingness, baseness, unworthiness — feel as if you were unfit to do anything for God's people, unit even to bear Christ's name, and yet all the while you may be a man greatly beloved, and may be eminently blessed. Perhaps, too, Daniel's great fears had been awakened by the disclosures that had been made to him of the history of the nations, and especially of his own people. He had a peculiar anxiety for his own people. Did you ever get into that state, and begin to look upon the world, and upon the country, and upon the church, and then fall into a fit of trembling? I do assure you it is wonderfully easy to put on the garb of Jeremy, the weeping prophet. Yes, Daniel had seen the history of the world for a long period to come, therefore he was full of fear. And are you full of fear too? Well, it is a part of the lot of men whom God greatly loves that they should bear the troubles of the times. I think too that Daniel's sorrow was occasioned partly by the repetition of those words to him: "The vision is true, but the time appointed is long." It seemed to come over and over to Daniel. "The time is long." I do not know any trouble that presses more heavily on my heart than that. It seems to be a dreadful long while since God has wrought a miracle — such a while since the church has had any great thing done in the midst of her. And if any here have been favoured to be beloved of God, I am sure this will weigh upon them, "How long, Lord, how long? Why tarriest thou?"
III. The CONSOLATIONS which the angel brought to Daniel, and which, in proportion as we are greatly beloved and the subject of like fears, he brings to us. He said to him first, "Peace be unto thee." So he says to every one of the beloved here, — "Peace be unto thee. Why art thou fretting, worrying, tossed up and down in thy mind? Peace be unto thee." Let peace be thine first, because thou art "greatly beloved." Whatever is happening or not happening, thou art greatly beloved. So, be still, be calm, thou art beloved of heaven. And next, fear not, peace be unto thee, God is still ruling — he ruled the world before thou wast born, and accomplished all his will; he will rule it when thou art dead, and fulfil his own decrees. Why dost thou worry thyself? What use can thy fretting serve ? And whereas thou art disturbed about the length of time, — with what dost thou measure? With thine own age of seventy years, or with days and weeks — dost thou measure so ? Hast thou ever seen the measuring line of the Eternal, and dost thou know, that if this world were to last through millions of millions of years, yet it would be but a speck between the two eternities that should precede and follow? God's life is not made up of tickings of the clock! He can wait, he can wait. Then he adds "be strong," as if these fears of Daniel made him weak, and as if it was important that he should be strong. Now, if there is any importance in us at all, and there is not much, certainly anything that we can do in our present place will require of us all our strength. And since our fears decidedly weaken us for all practical purposes they should be shaken off. Hence the angel says twice, "Be strong, yea, be strong;" and, beloved, we ought to be strong in faith, for God deserves it. Fall before the Lord in earnest prayer, and ask him to take away thy fretfulness,and make thee, as thou art greatly beloved, to be strong.
( C. H. Spurgeon)
I. DANIEL'S PECULIAR SITUATION.
1. Exposed to great temptations.
2. Deprived of religious privileges.
3. Exposed to great sufferings for conscience sake.
II. DANIEL'S EXALTED PIETY. Piety will ensure divine, if it does not receive human, approbation. How was Daniel's piety seen?
1. In his conscientious regard to the exercise of devotion. The man who is much with God in secret is likely to be an eminent witness for God in public. Principles produced and strengthened at a throne of grace give stability and firmness of character, that no external opposition can destroy.
2. In his unbending firmness. Decision of character is a great Christian excellence.
3. An unblemished reputation. What lamentable blots disfigure — we might almost say — disgrace the portraits of many, whose moral features are delineated by the faithful pencil of Divine revelation. But no prominent defects in Daniel's character require the aid of the veil of charity. See Daniel 6:4.
III. HIS DISTINGUISHED HONOUR. His piety was no barrier to his preferment.
1. He was the special object of the divine care. As to his body, and as to his soul.
2. Daniel was an eminent witness for God.
3. He was remarkably useful; and
4. He was favoured with extraordinary revelations from the great Head of the Church.
(J. R. Cooper.)
In the scripture of truth.
I. SOME SOLEMN FACTS NOTED IN THE SCRIPTURES OF TRUTH.
1. The moral ruin of man. The universal and dreadful character of man's apostacy from God. The fact is everywhere assumed.
2. The Gospel remedy. Scriptures introduce Jesus Christ — born of a woman — made under the law — agonies — death — priestly character — intercession.
3. The means of application. How shall I become a partaker of this salvation? By faith. Then man is a new creature. His conceptions of God are new — his desires are new — pleasures new — pains new — principles and practices new — prospects new — he is an heir of glory.
4. The doom of the impenitent and unbelieving. (Psalm 9:17; Matthew 23:33; Revelation 21:8.)
II. PARTICULAR APPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT. To five classes of hearers.
1. The Self-ignorant. A man may have much knowledge and yet be totally ignorant of himself. There are some of this class everywhere.
2. The Presumptuous. Those whom the Scriptures call "ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." The men who dream of salvation without the "washing and regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
3. The Self-righteous. The persons who intend, if it is possible, to go to heaven without the merits of the Saviour. A large class.
4. The Anxious. You need consolation, and it is provided. (Matthew 14:30, 31) The all sufficiency of Christ reaches to you.
5. The Believer. The sacred Scriptures congratulate you. They describe your mercy they proclaim your obligations — they point you to your final home.
Homilist.I. The highest LITERATURE on earth. "The Scripture of truth." There are many scriptures, or writings, in the world. They abound and are multiplying. There are the scriptures of fiction, sensuality, romance; but there is only one book out of the millions concerning which you can say "the Scripture of truth," and that is the Bible. The truth is in this book, if anywhere. The truth in relation to man, Christ, God, etc., is here. The truth here is soul-converting, soul-cleansing, soul-strengthening, soul-comforting, soul-ennobling truth.
II. The highest MINISTRY on earth. What is that? Expounding this truth in its relation to men individually. "I will show thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth," says the heavenly messenger. On this earth no man occupies such a sublime office as he who is the enlightened, faithful, and practical expounder of God's truth to men. "I will show thee." The truth of the Scriptures has a relation to all classes of men — the careless, the carnal, the anxious, the self-righteous, the sceptical, the believing, etc. Heaven multiply such expositors!
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