He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt…
There can be no confidence nor firm trust where men suppose that there is a multitude of gods. For one god may have to yield to another, or may find his power limited by another's dominion. The Greeks of old believed that there wore quarrels and feuds and divisions among the inhabitants of their Olympus, and that one deity might have to sacrifice the interests of his devotees in order to obtain some concession for other favourites. Happy was Israel of old in the belief in one God, and many were the deeds of heroism wrought in the strength of this conviction. Nor can there be peace of mind and calm fortitude where the one god is the mere sum of the being of the universe. To the pantheist God is not a person, omniscient, omnipresent, almighty, who sees and knows and takes interest in all he does. To him God is a blind power, the mere aggregate of the working of nature and man, of whom he is himself part, and into whom he will be finally absorbed. Such a deity has no separate existence, no separate action, no separate knowledge, no personal will, no special sphere of duty. The man may see, but the god, who is the mere sum of all human and animal seeing, himself sees not. Man may work, and nature may employ her physical and vegetative energies, but the sum of all this working can do nothing. Whatever it be, it has not even an existence for and in itself, and can inspire no hope, can give man no courage in danger, no consolation in sorrow, no strength for right action. Such a god is a name, and not a being, and there is no such thing as responsibility to him. And absorption into him at death simply means the ceasing to have a separate existence. In life we are the acting, thinking, energising part of the pantheistic god, to be absorbed into him at death is to fall into unconsciousness. In neither Polytheism nor pantheism is there any nobleness of thought, or anything to make man better and aid him in becoming godlike on earth. It is responsibility to an almighty, omniscient, and just Judge which raises man to the true height of his dignity, as a being endowed by God with free will and a conscience; and the answer to the question why God has made this world such as it is, and placed man in a position so full of difficulty, is to be found in the thought that only by bearing the burden of responsibility can man be made fit for God's service in Heaven. Here, on earth, men rise in moral worth and social influence by responsibility rightly borne; and the whole doctrine of a future judgment, and of eternal rewards and punishments, has for one great purpose the impressing the minds of men with a sense that they are responsible to a righteous Judge for all they think and say and do. It was this sense of responsibility to a personal God which gave these three Jewish martyrs their high courage, their strength to resist a despotic monarch, their calmness and joy in the hour of suffering.
(Dean Payne-Smith, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.