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by Joseph Sutcliffe
THE BOOK OF DANIEL.
DANIEL, or judge of God, was a proverb. The prophet bearing this name was greatly beloved of heaven, and his wisdom was celebrated through all the east, even while young in years. He was descended from the tribe of Judah, of the seed royal, and kinsman to Zedekiah. Chap. 1:3, 6. Joseph. Antiq. cap. 11. He was carried to Babylon in the first captivity, when but a boy of uncertain age, and about five years before Ezekiel. He lived to a very advanced period of life, having seen five monarchs on the throne of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, Evilmerodach, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus his nephew. 2 Kings 25:27. Daniel 10:1. He died in Babylon, as the fathers say; or in Media, as Josephus affirms. The wheels of providence rolled him to some of the highest honours of the east, and yet he retained an unspotted piety. As a prophet, the ancient rabbins and the holy scriptures place him in the highest rank, to which he is fairly entitled by the sublimity of his predictions. See Ezekiel 14:0, Ezekiel 28:3. Matthew 24:15. Hebrews 11:33-34. But since our Saviour’s time, the Jews have not placed his book among the prophets, because he lived as a satrap rather than a mortified man; yet his great age proves that he was remarkably temperate. Daniel in this instance suffers for Christ, and that because he spake so clearly of his crucifixion, and of the Roman dispersion: Daniel 9:24-27. Nevertheless, this prophecy was very successful in converting the Jews; and on this account the later Jews have put Daniel among their hagiography or holy books. Our Saviour however places him among, the first of prophets.
GENERAL REFLECTIONS ON THE BOOK OF DANIEL.
Christian reader, what little book is this that you have just read? The like is not found in all the earth. It is the production, as regards the parchments, of a prince by birth, of a prophet by grace, and of a statesman of superior wisdom, of incessant application, and spotless purity. He held offices of the highest trust and dignity in the Chaldean and in the Persian empire. He was also inspired and invested with the highest trusts of heaven; and God prolonged his life to show Cyrus the parchment of Isaiah, in which he was named as the rebuilder of the holy temple.
In the second chapter he discloses to Nebuchadnezzar his own dream of the image with the head of gold, and the subordinate parts of the statue, which designated the four great empires that should rule the world, and whose ten toes should touch the ends of time. Historians, ancient historians, who knew not the name of Daniel, have confirmed his words; for empires like these cannot rise, and reign, and fall without a God. In Daniel not the cabinets of the east only, but the counsels of heaven stand disclosed. Whoso readeth let him understand, for the wisdom of God is the lamp of the church.
But Daniel, more the prophet of God than the servant of princes, did not forget to record, that kingdom which should outshine all other empires. In those days, he said, the days of the fourth monarchy, shall the God of heaven set up an everlasting kingdom, which shall not be left to the disposal of other powers. It shall rise, and roll like a stone detached from the superior summit of a rock; it shall break in pieces all other powers, subduing their minds with truth, and winning their hearts with grace. Let then the Romans burn Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem shall live, and live for ever. Let the Goths storm the city of Rome; christianity shall convert them. Let the northern hordes overrun Europe; their bloody and ferocious manners shall be softened by philosophy from heaven. If the Mahommedan conquests were an exception, it was because, in the Arian age, the Saviour was absent; but wait till the consummation, and God shall give those bloody men libations of blood to drink.
Daniel introduces Messiah, the Lord’s only anointed, as making an end of sin by sacrifice, as finishing transgression by burying it in his sepulchre, which he made glorious by his death, and rest in the church. He saw him anoint the Most Holy, like Aaron, first being anointed himself, and then the unction was largely shed on the church in grateful fragrance. Let then the Romans come, let them burn the city, let them make it desolate for ages, God has confirmed his covenant with a new or peculiar people; a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, called by another name. Isaiah 65:15.
Daniel loved his country. Daniel wept and fasted for Zion. Daniel showed his nation from Alexander’s time, the eight Antiochuses, kings of Syria, scourging guilty nations with wars, and the rekindling of fire; and surely it was that they might abstain from gentile wars, and rest under the wings of the Prince of peace, till their Hope should come.
In a word, Daniel, having foretold the determined desolation poured on the city and sanctuary, looked forward to the new and living temple, built with precious gems on Christ the rock. He saw the outward courts, long profaned, cleansed at last. The times to him were named, though much concealed from us. This temple is Israel’s hope. On Zion he left a shining sun, a sun which shall no more go down. Such was holy Daniel when he received, like Moses, the word to go to his rest, in joyful hope of consummation. Such indeed was Daniel’s God, shining like the beryl, arrayed in spotless white, and begirt with burnished gold. What more could Israel ask of a seer?
And thou, oh infidel, whom vengeance spares to sneer at vision, at oracle, at covenant, at God. What is all thy philosophy to us! What is thy rank, and what thy pride. If thou despisest Daniel’s grace, beware of Daniel’s curse; for he has said, “None of the wicked shall understand:” chap. 12:9. But lend attention for once. Canst thou not perceive a divine emanation, shining through the four great monarchies, dispersing the jews, and ultimately dividing the Roman empire, like the ten toes, into about ten kingdoms? Canst thou not also perceive a fifth kingdom, unlike the other kingdoms, begun by a devolving rock from a summit; and not like those powers, begun by wars; and now spreading its banners through every state and nation of the world? Could all this chain of events, wide as the world and lasting as the ages, happen by chance? Are all those combinations of vision the effect of a heated imagination? If otherwise, then know that it is against this God that you are fighting. Take care what you do. Death is near, and hell is wide. But yet hope, the longsuffering of God is salvation to them that wait upon him.
the Fifth Week after Easter