Daniel 3:25
As soon as the fierce tempest in Nebuchadnezzar's mind had expended its little force, there succeeded the calm of exhaustion. The tyrant is transformed into a servant, and appears like a docile child. Something has produced a strange impression on him - perhaps the sudden burning of his own officers, perhaps the unbending fortitude of the three Hebrews, perhaps the natural reaction from high-wrought excitement. Abandoning royal pomp, he visits himself the fiery furnace, that he may discern the wreck of human life wrought by foolish violence. An unexpected sight awaits him.

I. PERSECUTION IS HARMLESS TO THE SAINTS. Their experience is not always uniform. God seldom follows precisely the same course twice. The bodily life of the oppressed is not always preserved. Yet, in every case, it is true that no real harm is done to them. Often -

"Persecution has dragged them into fame,
And chased them up to heaven." On this occasion the material flame, though heated sevenfold, was not nearly so vindictive and deadly as the fiery rage of the king. He had summoned into his service one of the most destructive elements of nature, but it would not obey him. The flame did them no harm: it did them good. It consumed their bends; it did not singe their clothes. It gave them liberty. It brought them new experience. It put a new sceptre into their hands, and made them kings of nature. They were mightier men than ever. It admitted them into new society, and brought an angel into their circle. God himself gave them new evidence of his presence, his tender concern for them, and his all-sufficient power, Now it is evident that fire has no consuming property of its own. It is a property given and maintained by God. All the forces of nature are like the manuals of an organ touched by a Divine hand. By faith in God these men "quenched the violence of fire."

II. PERSECUTION OF THE SAINTS GIVES OCCASION FOR THE MIRACULOUS INTERPOSITION OF GOD. All opposition raised against God only brings out the greater resources of his omnipotence. Satan's oppression of our race gave scope for the redemptive miracle. Creation is miracle, for the like was not before. Providence, which is but a continuous act of creation, is a miracle. Granting that there is a God, there is nothing unreasonable in miracle. Whenever God is pleased to work, if ordinary methods fail, extraordinary methods are forthwith introduced. No occasion is more fitting for the introduction of miracle than persecution. God has identified himself with his people, and injury done to them is resented as injury done to him. Nor are we to think only of the miracle wrought on the material flame or on the living bodies of these men. That is a narrow view of miracle. There was miraculous agency also displayed in the mind, the temper, and the conduct of these oppressed Hebrews. It was not natural that they should submit to human injustice without a word. It was not natural, but supernatural, that they showed no vindictive spirit nor indulged in any language of personal triumph. Their modesty and self-forgetfulness were as miraculous as their faith. With the ending of the persecution came the ending of the angel's visit.

III. PERSECUTION PATIENTLY ENDURED PRODUCES CONVICTION IN THE UNGODLY. The king himself was overcome by astonishment. He could not believe the evidence of his eyes. He could scarcely trust his memory. Hence he summoned his princes and counsellors to his assistance. He appeals to their recollections. He requires them to see, to investigate, and to understand these strange facts for themselves. In their presence the king himself (not a deputy) entreats these injured Hebrews to come out of the mystic flame. He prays to them whom just now he cruelly condemned. The king styles them, not fanatics, miscreants, traitors - he styles them "servants of the most high God." Yes, of that God whom he had awhile despised. The proof of Divine succour and of supernatural protection is complete, undeniable, overwhelming. And, with candour of mind, Nebuchadnezzar yields himself to the evidence. - D.







Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire.
The narrative of the glorious boldness and marvellous deliverance of the three holy children, or rather champions, is well calculated to excite in the minds of believers firmness and steadfastness in upholding the truth in the teeth of tyranny and in the very jaws of death. Let young men especially, since these were young men, learn from their example both in matters of faith in religion, and matters of integrity in business, never to sacrifice their consciences. To have a clear conscience, to wear a guileless spirit, to have a heart void of offence, is greater riches than the mines of Ophir could yield or the traffic of Tyre could win. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and inward contention therewith. An ounce of heart's-ease is worth a ton of gold; and a drop of innocence is better than a sea of flattery.

I. The place WHERE GOD'S PEOPLE OFTEN ARE. In the text we find three of them in a burning fiery furnace, and singular as this may be literally, it is no extraordinary thing spiritually, for, to say the truth, it is the usual place where the saints' are found. The ancients fabled of the salamander that it lived in the fire; the same can be said of the Christian without any fable whatever. It is rather a wonder when a Christian is not in trial, for to wanderers in a wilderness discomfort and privation will naturally be the rule rather than the exception. It is through "much tribulation" that we inherit the kingdom.

1. First, there is the furnace which men kindle. As if there were not enough misery in the world, men are the greatest tormentors to their fellow men. The elements in all their fury, wild beasts in all their ferocity, and famine and pestilence in all their horrors, have scarcely proved such foes to man, as men themselves have been. Religious animosity is always the worst of all hatreds, and incites to the most fiendish deeds; persecution is as unsparing as death, and as cruel as the grave. At times the Christian feels the heat of the furnace of open persecution. Another furnace is that of oppression. In the iron furnace of Egypt the children of Israel were made to do hard bondage in brick and in mortar; and doubtless many of God's people are in positions where they are little better than slaves. There is also the furnace of slander.

2. Secondly, there is a furnace which Satan blows with three great bellows — some of you have been in it. It is hard to bear, for the prince of the power of the air hath great mastery over human spirits; he knows our weak places, and can strike so as to cut us to the very quick. He fans the fire with the blast of temptation. Then he works the second bellows of accusation. He hisses into the ear, "Thy sins have destroyed thee! The Lord hath forsaken thee quite! Thy God will be gracious no more!" Then he will beset us with suggestions of blasphemy; for while tormenting as with insinuations, he has a way of uttering foul things against God, and then casting them into our hearts as if they were our own.

3. And thirdly, there is a furnace which God himself prepares for His people. There is the furnace of physical pain. A furnace still worse, perhaps, is that of bereavement. Then, added to this, there will crowd in upon us temporal losses and sufferings. The business which we thought would enrich, impoverishes.

4. The context reminds us that sometimes the Christian is exposed to very peculiar trials. The furnace was heated seven times hotter; it was hot enough when heated once; but I suppose that Nebuchadnezzar had pitch and tar, and all kinds of combustibles thrown in to make it flame out with greater vehemence. Truly at times the Lord appears to deal thus with His people. It is a peculiarly fierce heat which surrounds them, and they cry out, "Surely I am the man that hath seen affliction — I may take precedence of all others in the realm of sorrow."

5. I do not like to leave this point without observing, too, that these holy champions were helpless when thrown into the furnace. They ware cast in bound; and many of us have been cast in bound, too, so that we could not lift hand or foot to help ourselves. Pretty plight to be in! Who does not shudder at it! Certainly none of us would choose it; but we have not the choice, and as we have said with David, "Thou shalt choose mine inheritance for me," if the Lord determines to choose it for us among the coals of fire, it is the Lord, lot Him do what seemeth Him good. Where Jehovah places His saints they are safe in reality, although exposed to destruction in appearance.

II. WHAT THEY LOSE THERE. Look at the text, and it will be clear to you that they lost something. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego lost something in the fire — not their turbans, nor their coats, nor their hosen, nor one hair of their heads or boards — no; what then?

1. Why, they lost their bonds there. Do observe: "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire." The fire did not hurt them, but it snapped their bonds. Blessed loss this! A true Christian's losses are gains in another shape. Now, observe this carefully, that many of God's servants never know the fulness of spiritual liberty till they are cast into the midst of the furnace. Shall I show you some of the bonds which God looses for His people when they are in the fire of human hatred? Sometimes He bursts the cords of fear of man, and desire to please man. When persecution rages, it is wonderful what liberty it gives to the child of God. Never a freer tongue than Luther's! Never a braver mouth than that of John Knox! Never a bolder speech than that of John Calvin! Never a braver heart than that which throbbed beneath the ribs of Wickliffe!

2. Again, when Satan puts us in the furnace, he is often the means of breaking bonds. How many Christians are bound by the bonds of frames and feelings; the bonds of depend-once upon something within, instead of resting upon Christ the great Sacrifice. Fierce temptations may be like waves that wash the mariner on a rock — they may drive us nearer to Christ. It is an ill wind which blows no one any good; but the worst wind that Satan can send blows the Christian good, because it hurries him nearer to his Lord. Temptation is a great blessing when it looses our bonds of self-confidence and reliance upon frames and feelings.

3. As for the afflictions which God sends, do they not loose our bonds? Doubts and fears are more common to us in the midst of work and business than when laid aside by sickness.

III. WHAT SAINTS DO THERE. "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire." Walking! They are walking — it is a symbol of joy, of ease, of peace, of rest — not flitting like unquiet ghosts, as if they were disembodied spirits traversing the flame; but walking with real footsteps, treading on hot coals as though they were roses, and smelling the sulphureons flames as though they yielded nothing but aromatic perfume. Enoch "walked with God." It is the Christian's pace, it is his general pace; he does sometimes run, but his general pace is walking with God, walking in the Spirit; and you see that these good men did not quicken their pace, and they did not slacken it — they continued to walk as they usually did; they had the same holy calm and peace of mind which they enjoyed elsewhere. Their walking shows not only their liberty, and their ease, and their pleasure, and their calm, but it shows their strength. Their sinews ware not snapped, they were walking. These men had no limping gait, they were walking, walking in the midst of the fire.

IV. WHAT THEY DID NOT LOSE THERE. The text says, "And they have no hurt." They did not lose anything there.

1. But we may say of them first, their persons were not hurt. The child of God loses in the furnace nothing of himself that is worth keeping. He does not lose his spiritual life — that is immortal; he does not lose his graces — he gets them refined and multiplied, and the glitter of them is best seen by furnace-light.

2. The Christian does not lose his garments there. You see their hats, and their hosen, and their coats were not singed, nor was there the smell of fire upon them; and so with the Christian: his garment is the beauteous dress which Christ himself wrought out in His life, and which He dyed in the purple of His own blood. As it is not hurt by age, nor moth, nor worm, nor mildew, so neither can it be touched by fire. I know you dread that furnace — who would not? — but courage, courage, the Lord who permits that furnace to be heated will preserve you in it, therefore be not dismayed!

V. WHO WAS WITH THEM IN THE FURNACE. There was a fourth, and he was so bright and glorious that even the heathen eyes of Nebuchadnezzar could discern a supernatural lustre about him. "The fourth," he said, "is like the Son of God," What appearance Christ had put on I cannot tell, which was recognisable by that heathen monarch; but I suppose that He appeared in a degree of that glory in which He showed Himself to His servant John in the Apocalypse. You must go into the furnace if you would have the nearest and dearest dealings with Christ Jesus. Whenever the Lord appears, it is to His people when they are in a militant posture. The richest thought that a Christian perhaps can live upon is this, that Christ is in the furnace with him. I know that to the worldling this seems a very poor comfort, but then if you have never drank this wine you cannot judge its flavour. What must it be to dwell with everlasting burnings! One's heart beats high at the thought of the three poor men being thrown into that furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, with its flaming pitch and bitumen reaching upwards its streamers of flame, as though it would set the heavens on a blaze; yet that fire could not touch the three children, it was not consuming fire. But, be ye warned, there is One who is "a consuming fire," and once let Him flame forth in anger, and none can deliver you. He calls to you to leave your sins and look to Him, and then you shall never die, neither upon you shall the flame of wrath kindle because its power was spent on Him, and He felt the furnace of Divine wrath, and trod the glowing coals for every soul that believeth in Him.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Now, what I want to derive from the passage as an illustration is this — that there are two aspects of life; one which is here described, as Nebuchadnezzar described it to his counsellors, and as they acknowledged that it was; and the other as it appears to the eye of faith, which is represented to us by this king, who had his eyes opened to see that which apparently his counsellors did not see. The three men, then, being cast into the furnace of fire, may be taken as instances of daily commonplace life; that which Nebuchadnezzar himself was enabled to perceive may be taken as that interpretation and glorification of the ordinary facts of everyday life which the Bible, which religion, and which emphatically Christianity is enabled to cast over all the circumstances of our existence here. Now this may be taken as a pattern of all the circumstances of life. There is the ordinary, the commonplace, the matter-of-fact, the prosaic way of looking at everything; and as things are so looked at, they show very much as the natural features of this city do on one of our dull, foggy November mornings. There is nothing to delight, there is no poetry, there is no light about them; they all seem dull, and dead, and leaden. But, then, there is another aspect, and that is such as the king had his eyes open to perceive; and you observe that what he saw was something totally different from what things were to the eyes of his counsellors, and from what they were as he thought they must be. He said, "Lo, I see four men." There is another there. These men are not alone; they are not left to grapple with the violence of the flame; they have a friend with them; and, moreover, as they were cast bound, so now he perceives that they are loosened, he sees them also walking in the midst of the fire. Observe that they were there exposed to all these mighty flames. He allowed them to go down into them, but they were walking about in the fire and they had no hurt. So it is with Christian life. The Christian is not delivered out of temptation; he is not one of those who are never exposed to trial; there is no exemption wrought on his behalf; he has his lot with other men; he takes his part with other men; and sometimes his lot and part are worse than those of other men, or at least they appear to be so. But yet he is enabled to walk about in the midst of the fire. Now there are those persons who always take the commonplace, matter-of-fact view of life, and they are the tedious people. I know no people so tedious, so difficult to get on with, as those who always see things in their dull, grey light, precisely as they are; whereas those who can throw into the commonplace and into the ordinary the glamour of a Divine existence and of a higher life, who can throw poetry into the scene — those are the people who are interesting, those are the people who know with whom it is a joy and a privilege to be. Then, again, observe very often we may be in the midst of danger and not know it. Who can tell how many dangers he has been preserved from? It is quite possible that many of us from time to time walk over difficulties and dangers of which we have no notion, and we probably never discover that we have been preserved from difficulty and danger. Is not this the case with many of us? Or, on the other hand, it is possible for us to walk in the midst of danger and to know that we are in the midst of danger, as these men knew they were; and then sometimes we are not conscious of that unseen, invisible protection which is nigh unto us. Now I want you to learn to see this, to believe in it. We, as Christians, walk by faith, and not by sight, and there should be no emergency and no trial into which the Christian comes in which he should feel himself left alone; he should always know that there is someone there with him, a mighty friend, the strongest of the strong, and that the form of that unseen one is like the Son of God. Oh, it is only the Word of God, it is only the power of religion, it is only the truth of Christianity and the presence of the grace of God, which can thus throw .into the ordinary, the dull, and the commonplace the light of the glory of the Sun of Righteousness, which tips everything with gold, and makes everything to shine as with the light of the glory of Kenyon. That, and that alone, can make life glorious; that, and that alone, can steel your heart so that you may bear up under all opposition, and under all trials, and may quit yourselves like men in the day of the Lord. That question, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" could be answered only in one way — "True, O king!" But it was the grace of God, it was the mystery of the promise of God and the presence of God which enabled that great king to say, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, anal they have no hurt; the smell of the fire has not passed on them. It had no power to damage or injure them because there was One with them who was mightier than the flames, and the form of that fourth Mighty One was like the Son of God." Now, it is a very remarkable thing that in this Book of the Prophet Daniel, the fourth and last of the four great prophets, we have such an extraordinary foretaste, if I may say so, of the coming Gospel of Jesus Christ. But when the king here says, "The fourth is like that of the Son of God." it is impossible, and we see ourselves that it is impossible, that he can mean one of those persons who are called by a figure of speech "sons of God." He must mean the Son of God, who is, by eminence and excellence, the only begotten Son of' God, the one who is made in God's imago and God's likeness, who is of God and from God, and who stands in the exact relation to God that a child stands to his father. Such, then, is the glorification which is offered to every Christian for all the times of life. Life, no doubt, for everyone under the most advantageous circumstances, has its dull aspect. "We all knew what it is to travel along a road which has no variety, which is nothing but monotonous from beginning to end, and we feel the effect of such journey on our spirit. Life has such journeys for us all, even under the most favourable circumstances. What we want is not to have those circumstances altered — because it may be that they never will be altered, and certainly when we most feel their monotony they are not so likely to be altered — but what we want is something which will make us proof against their dulness and monotony, something which will give us strength to cope with them, something which will shed the sunlight of eternal day over the darkness and gloominess of the morning spread upon the mountains, and will kindle for us by it a glorious day in which and through which we may walk from hour to hour with the presence of Him whose form is like that of the Son of God. Now, have you this presence of the Son of God with you? I am quite sure you want Him. I am sure there is no one whose heart does not yearn after a friend. Sometimes one solitary friend is worth a mine of wealth to us, and if we have got one such friend we may count ourselves rich. Now, there is such a friend for every one of us in the person of the Son of God, who is also the Son of man, "so pitying found." That Son of man and Son of God is very near to every one of us; and if we would see Him we must have our eyes open as this great king's eyes were opened. It is only by faith that we can behold Him. We are not told that these three men even knew that there was a fourth with them. It was only given to one man to see that fourth, and it was only given to him to recognise in Him the form "like that of the Son of God." The Son of God may be with us now. He is with us now, because He has promised to be with us. What we want to make us strong is to know that He is with us, and to feel that the form of that Son of God is indeed the form of the Son of man, who was crucified for us, who rose from the dead for us, and who now sitteth at the right hand of God, evermore to make intercession for us. But, pray that your eyes may be opened, that in every want that you have in this life, in every trial and temptation, you may ever feel that the Son of God and the Son of man is with you.

(Dean Stanley.)

And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. —
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.)

The concluding words should read not "the Son of God," but "a Son of God." Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen, ignorant of the high religious teachings of the Jews, and certainly not acquainted with the Christian doctrine of the second Person in the Trinity. The fourth figure in the furnace struck him as Divine in its beauty, majesty, glory, a godlike form.

I. A REVELATION IN A FIERY FURNACE. Whether the startling appearance were an angel, or Christ before His incarnation, or any other mode of Divine manifestation, it was in any case a revelation of God.

I. God only needs to be revealed to be seen. He exists always; He is seen at rare intervals. He is not more existent when seen than when unseen. The veil hides His light, but does not extinguish it. All we need is that the veil should be lifted. Then the ever-present God will be recognised.

2. God is revealed in the fiery furnace of trouble. Invisible writing starts into appearance when held to the fire. Characters suddenly flash out in their true light at seasons of storm, terror, and pain. God reveals Himself in critical moments of agony and need.

3. The revelation in the fiery furnace is seen by the outside world. The three youths are not alone favoured with the cheering vision of the Heavenly presence. Nebuchadnezzar also sees the wonderful appearance. Indeed, it is he only who is expressly stated to have observed this additional figure in the furnace. God was revealed by means of the faithful Jews, but so that the heathen world might behold Him. The vision of God in the passion of Christ is open to the gaze of the world, and may arrest the attention of those who are blind to the daily revelation of the Divine in nature. May not this fact be an explanation of the mystery of suffering? We take too narrow and personal a view of the mission of pain. It has larger and wider ends than the sufferer's own private advantage. May not others be called to endure pain that through the flames that kindle about their own souls the light of Goal may flash out upon their fellow-men?

II. DIVINE FELLOWSHIP IN HUMAN TROUBLE.

1. God is with His people in their troubles. He does not only look down from Heaven. Pity from the serene altitude of perfect bliss may only aggravate the torture of those who are writhing in the torture-chamber of affliction. But we are told of God that in all His people's afflictions He is afflicted. Christ came into the world to suffer with men. He was with St. Stephen in the council chamber, with St. Paul in the gaol at Philippi.

2. The comforting Divine presence is dependent on the fidelity of God's people. There are troubles in the midst of which we dare not expect to see the cheering radiance of our Saviour's countenance. If He appears in them at all, our consciences tell us that it must be with a look of grief or anger, and a voice saying, "What doest thou here?" The trouble which we bring upon ourselves by heedless indifference or culpable disobedience to the will of God invites no comforting Divine fellowship.

3. The Divine presence in trouble is a security against all real harm. The cruel flames play about their would-be victims as harmlessly as forest leaves. Sects the presence of Christ and all will be well.

(W. F. Adeney, M.A.)

Sceptical criticism has railed out against all this, as showing too much of the wonderful to be believed. But with the Almighty one thing is no harder than another. He can make a blazing sun in the heavens with as much ease as make a daisy in the meadow. Some have urged that it was unfitting the Deity to show such wonders here. But who can decide what is, and what is not, becoming to a Being whose thoughts no man can fathom? And when we consider that millions of His chosen people were then in servitude in that empire; that the great object of their being there was to purge them of their idolatries; that no ordinary ministries for this purpose existed; that here was a great and mighty people that knew not God, destitute of any effectual means of being made acquainted with His superior majesty and power; and that here was an assembly of all their heads and chiefs, who would thus be made to see His signs, and to become the attestors and heralds of the miracle to all parts of the mighty realm — there certainly would seem to be reason .enough that here and now, if anywhere or ever, the greatest wonders of the God of Heaven should be enacted. Who can say that there was not ample occasion for just such a display of the Eternal omnipotence? And see also the effect. A decree went forth from the throne to "every people, nation, and language," reciting the wonder, proclaiming the majesty of Jehovah, and forbidding, on pain of death, the speaking of "anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego." And these men were thenceforward promoted and honoured by the empire as the living witnesses of the living God.

(Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)

Homilist.
I. IMMENSELY TRIED. "Walking in the midst of the fire."

II. MORALLY UNCONQUERABLE. Not all the influence of the monarch and his ministers could break their purpose, or make them unfaithful to God. You can't conquer a true soul.

III. ESSENTIALLY UNINJURABLE. "And they have no hurt." "Who is that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good!" "Fear not him that can kill the body."

IV. DIVINELY ACCOMPANIED. "The form of the fourth is like the Son of God." What a sight for the monarch! Did it not rouse his conscience, think you? God always accompanies His people. "Lo, I am with you alway."

(Homilist.)

The Thinker.
I. THEIR TEMPTATION.

II. THEIR FAITHFULNESS.

1. They stood alone (v. 7). Might they not fall in with the current and perform the outward act with inward reserve?

2. Then the terrible alternative: "Ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace" (Daniel 3:15). Nothing more calculated to inspire terror. But, like St. , they "preferred the fire which lasts an hour and then cools, to the perpetual torment of eternal fire." In the same way, the Christian martyrs, St. Lawrence and others, were prepared to undergo terrible tortures of gridiron and flame rather than lose the favour of God by denying Christ. But these "three children" were faithful in the days of the old covenant, when God's love to man had not been made known by Christ, nor did the Spirit of God as yet personally dwell among men; this accentuates their courage.

3. Then note their readiness to endure the torture.

III. THEIR RESCUE.

1. It was miraculous. An old writer enumerates eight miracles in this lesson; but, without going into minutiae, that they were not consumed by the flames could certainly only be owing to Divine intervention.

2. It was the fulfilment of prophecy, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2). "The flame," says St. , "set free the captive, and itself was bound by the captive." The reality of the fire was shown by the molten chains; and the deaths of those who cast the three children into the flames; but the Divine promise was evidenced by their preservation.

3. The mode of the rescue was through the instrumentality of an angel: "The form of the fourth is like the Son of God"; "a son of the gods" (R.V.), that is, an angel. Some ancient interpreters thought Christ Himself was here meant (, St. ), of whom Nebuchadnezzar had heard from Daniel, and thus it would be classed with the "theophanies"; but St. says, "It was in truth an angel." The visible presence of the angel was proof to the king that the deliverance of the three youths was the result of God's protection, and from no deception. Similarly, God delivered Jerusalem from the power of the Assyrians by the ministry of an angel (2 Kings 19:35); the Apostles from prison (Acts 5:19; Acts 12:7); and St. John from the cauldron of flaming oil.

4. The deliverance was complete. Completeness marks all the works of God. There are no half-measures or imperfect contrivances — only the chains are destroyed, not their garments, nor their hair singed, nor the smell of fire had passed upon them (v. 27).

IV. LESSONS.

1. Temptation may be strong, but faithfulness to conscience should be stronger. Temptation, though strong, is never overwhelming or an excuse for sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). The three children were faithful unto death; they were, like St. John, martyrs in will (Revelation 2:10).

2. What Nebuchadnezzar designed is unconsciously carried out by multitudes amongst ourselves. They fall down before the golden image; they worship wealth, and make a god Of "the mammon of unrighteousness"; and this covetousness "is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).

3. Let us admire and imitate the courage of the three children in disobeying the royal mandate, and take the side of Christ and His Church, if ever obedience to the powers of the world should involve a violation of the Laws of God.

4. Let us rejoice in the Divine deliverance. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7). The furnace of Nebuchadnezzar is an image of the "fiery trial" of persecution, of sensual passion, and of affliction; but to those who are faithful, like the three children, temptation and tribulation are times of Divine manifestation, of refinement and election, and of more entire self-surrender. "Behold, I have refined thee, but not as silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10, R.V.).

(The Thinker.)

This transaction is typical. It sets forth the security of God's saints in the hour of their greatest peril — together with the reason of that security. Fire represents trial, persecution, for fire consumes, devours, destroys. A furnace is the very image of destruction in its wildest shape. To have fallen down bound into such a furnace, and straightway to be seen walking about there loose, is the liveliest picture possible of perfect security amid tremendous danger. The presence of a companion, and he the Son of God, explains the rest of the marvel, for it accounts for that safety which before was simply inexplicable.

1. In every trial the victory is promised to faith; the same faith which on the plain of Dura "quenched the violence of fire."

2. The fire of temptation is illustrated by the security of the three children in the furnace. The man is safe, because the Lord is with him.

3. We are here taught to behold the safety of God's elect children in that tremendous day when "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire." God Almighty so preserve us in adversity; so be with us amid temptation; so absolve us in that tremendous day — even for His own mercy's sake!

(Anon.)

This story has a far-reaching suggestiveness. It represents an oft-repeated conflict. It stands as the picture of man in the face of the fierce elements which oppose him — man in his agony, man in his heroism, man, also, in his consolation. It does not need much insight to perceive one aspect of the universality of the story. Man and the fire — that is life. All too soon we say, man is thrust into the fire of pain and suffering. It needs some insight, or some reflection, to perceive the other aspect of its universality. If man and the fire shall be described as life, man and the fire and the Divine presence walking with man in the fire — that is religion. It is something that we are given the power of perceiving a greater than man with man in the fire. Look again at man in the fire. I take man first as an intellectual being. It is by reason of the understanding which the beasts do not possess that there comes an added keenness to human suffering. We have memory, we have anticipation; and out of these come fierce fires to increase our agony. Pain, which comes to the sons of men, comes with an appeal to their consciousness. Man can anticipate, and he knows that the pain which enters into his life to-day is the indication of something which is working there, and he lives in constant dread of its recurrence. From memory and anticipation there comes the agony of retrospect and the agony of suspense. By the very law of our intellectual being we suffer more than the beasts. But would you part with it? Though you know that the capacities with which you are endowed make you capable of the greater suffering, you will not forego the painful gifts. It is precisely as we grow in the scale of being that our power of suffering grows with it. We are reasonable beings, and because we are so we suffer the more. Take man as a moral being. These Hebrews suffered because of their allegiance to a law higher than the law of self-preservation. Why. is it that a man who is conscientious must suffer? It is just because he is conscientious. He cannot demoralize himself, and the law within asserts itself, and makes him face the greater pain. But this proclaims his greatness. He is the greater because he is the witness to a law which is larger, truer, deeper than any of the outside laws that touch the physical world. In another way his sense of right makes him suffer. He must do right, though the world frown, because the Divine law within him is asserting itself over the law outside. His suffering springs from this — his capacity to understand the allegiance which he owes to the higher law. Take man as a spiritual being. Men, in the history of religion, have exhibited a spiritual conscientiousness. There are things which, though not wrong, are wrong to them. The cause is within themselves. Others cannot understand. The man has recognised a law of his being, which is deeper than the law of the Decalogue. Whatever seems to him to drag him down is wrong for him, because hostile to his better life. He is grieved with anything which hinders the spiritual development of his being. In all this the Lord Jesus is our model. Mark Him in His temptation; see the moral standard. Suffering seems to me as Heaven's subpoena, compelling men to bear witness to the Divine which is within, and underneath, to the eternal laws of right, and to the manifestation of a presence like unto the Son of God. What shall be the law by which a man shall pass through the fire, and the smell of fire shall not pass upon him? How few having gone into the fire of life come out unsinged, untouched, the smell of fire not passing on them! Are not men tainted so that you know that they have suffered? They have been singed in the fire. How noble and great seem the few souls that pass through the fire and come forth unharmed! They are the men who held their own in the battle! What is the law? In every universal thing there is some law. The men at whose side the Son of God walks, who are triumphant over the fierceness of the flame, are the men who have had a victory previous to that. Their victory over the fire was preceded by their victory over the multitude. They would not bow down. We must go back further. These men have first been victors over themselves. The man who is victorious over self is the man who is victorious over the world; and the man who is victorious over the world is victorious over the fire that is in the world. That is the law. But when you have discovered a law you are very far from having discovered all you need. Is is not always easy to put the law into operation. What force is at work behind law? In the midst of the fire there was revealed a fourth figure, and his form was like unto the Son of God. In the midst of the fire was the Divine presence. The motive force was the Divine energy, the Divine life, the Divine presence. The law of success is self-control, but the power to make the law effective is in the Divine presence. Life has little meaning unless I recognise that wherever the fire is kindled, there the Divine presence is also. To recognise that is the part of faith; to work and live by that is the power of faith. Another question this truth may answer. We are called upon to suffer, and who will unriddle its pain? The pain is given that the Divine may be made manifest. The cross was to be the symbol of the world's agony, and of the Divine presence also... Then let us cultivate self-control as a protest against the frivolity of life which destroys the heart, against the sensuality of life that corrupts the conscience, against the intellectual dishonesty which disturbs the pure vision of what life ought to be. As we do this, we shall not be alone. He who wore our nature walked before us in the ways of suffering. When the flame shall kindle upon us He will be with us.

(W. Boyd-Carpenter, D.D.)

I. THEIR PREPARATION FOR THE DAY OF TRIAL. It came not unawares. Duty is easy when no lion is in the way. In the narrative we only see the valiant three in the day of trial. Their heart was fixed before it came. With no wavering mind went they out to the plain of Dura. They stood in the evil day because they were well prepared, well-equipped for it. Great men are not known by the world till they are great. So trials are to come on us; sharp temptations. They will reveal our character, of what sort it is. Let us every day be pure, unselfish, Christ-trusting, Christ-copying men. Then every day will be a preparation for the terrible time when temptation will assail us like fire; and we shall stand in the evil day.

II. THE CONDUCT OF THE THREE IN THE DAY OF TRIAL. They stood in apparent isolation. To do good is easier when we go with the multitude. But when we stand alone, then is the agony. Alone, yet not alone. Christ is the maker of great men, great hearts. Many a young man He is making brave, daring to stand alone amid terrible temptations to impurity.

III. THEIR DELIVERANCE IN THE DAY OF TRIAL. The king's eye is on the furnace, and he sees a fourth, one looking like a son of the gods. We identify with the angel Jehovah the messenger of the covenant. Christ's presence can make even a furnace into paradise. Their deliverer was strong. He will be ours, and save us, if we seek it, from sin, all evil, all that will harm us. Then trust in Him.

(G. T. Coster.)

The events here recorded probably occurred in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. He had just returned from triumphant war, bringing with him the spoil of subjugated nations, and captives without number. At this juncture he was inclined to make a pause. He thought the time was come for the inauguration of a new era. First, however, he must be certain of the allegiance of these races. The foundation must be firmly laid before he proceeds to erect the superstructure on it. So he decided on the ceremonial which took place on the vast plain of Dura. He was known to be a devout man in his way; an enthusiastic worshipper of his god Merodach. The ceremony was no mere idle pageant; it was not only a matter of state policy, it was an act of gratitude, due to the deity to whom he believed himself to owe his victories and his throne. It is well to bear this in mind if we would enter into the real difficulties of both the monarch and his recalcitrant Jewish monarchs. The line of conduct to which the three Jews felt themselves compelled was looked on by Nebuchadnezzar as open rebellion, and an insult both to himself and his god. These Jews had a most painful and distressing alternative before them — either to act in opposition to their own deepest convictions by worshipping an idol, or else to submit to a horrible death. We can imagine their mutual anxiety, conference, and prayer. When the public refusal was made the monarch was infuriated. To be bearded by his own officials at such a moment, in presence of such a multitude, would have tried the patience of more patient men than he was. He had a passionate temper. The king felt that he was committed to a struggle with the God of the Hebrews.

1. We are inclined to praise the indomitable resolution of these young men; but we must go behind them, and realise their trust in the unseen Jehovah, and in the promises of His word. It was that made them manly. The three young men found their way into a spiritual position, which enabled them to endure the wrath of the king, because they could see a greater, although an invisible King behind him.

2. In this chapter we have a duel between the world-power and the Lord God himself. We have in it the Church of God almost at its lowest ebb. We have the world in all the plenitude of its power, and in all the insolence of its authority. Can we over-estimate the value of such a testimony as this to the faithfulness of God? Take away this story of the three children from the Bible, and how infinitely great would have been the church's loss!

3. A thought for ourselves. In some shape we may all of us have to pass through the fire. Any one of us may be tried by the seductions of his senses; the snares of business life, bitter loss and dissappiontment, or the keen edge of long-protracted bodily agony. Let us see to it that we have with us, as we may have, the presence of the personal Christ, of Jesus the great High Priest, the Angel of the Covenant. Then we shall pass through the flame, and it will not gather upon nor burn us. So shall we, in our small way, bring glory to God and strength be ether people.

(Gordon Calthrop, M.A.)

The flame recogised the presence of Him that made it, and bowed reverently before the Son of God, just as on other occasions the waters of the sea owned Him, the winds heard Him, and all nature responded to Him, and obeyed Him. The flame lost its power to consume, because it was commanded not to do so by Him that kindled it at the first. Nature is all pliant in the hand of Jesus. He is the Lord of creation; He has but to speak, and all things will respond in ten thousand echoes, "Speak, Lord thy servants hear." These Hebrew youths, we are told by the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "quenched the violence of fire" by their faith.

(J. Cumming.)

Thou wilt not, Christian, have to pass through the river without thy Master. We remember an old tale of our boyhood, how poor Robinson Crusoe, wrecked on a foreign strand, rejoiced when he saw the print of a man's foot. So it is with the Christian in his trouble; he shall not despair in a desolate land, because there is the foot-print of Christ Jesus on all our temptations, our troubles. Go on rejoicing, Christian; thou art in an inhabited country; thy Jesus is with thee in all thy afflictions, and in all thy woes. Thou shalt never have to tread the wine-press alone.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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