Friday, June 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ daniel-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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It pleased Darius to set over the Kingdom.
Daniel and his enemies
Darius appointed an entirely new administration, but it does not appear that he made any material change in the financial system of the Empire. Daniel we may call the First Lord of the Treasury. Daniel s high reputation was confirmed by experience of his wisdom, integrity, and self-renouncing devotion to the public good. The King intended to set him over the whole realm, to give him all the power over the several departments of the State, that would have enabled him to enforce obedience, and to punish dereliction This would have involved a grand official revolution, and the transpiring of such an intention of the King was enough to alarm the hundred and twenty chief publicans, and raise up the whole body of presidents and princes against their watchful chief. A plot was planned and executed. They came tumultuously to the King, on the strength of a conspiracy. This could hardly have taken place under the rule of a Sardanapalus or a Nabonadius. Daniel’s enemies saw no remedy for their discontent, except in procuring his immediate ruin. Darius was a very weak-minded and vain-glorious prince. The conspirators knew how to play upon his weakness. They proposed to him an easy method of rising above every rival, at least for one happy month, during which time not even Cyrus shall be permitted to receive a prayer. No man, no god even, shall be approached in the language of petition. Their object, however, the King does not perceive. As to the kind of death denounced on recusants, it is apparent, from the testimony of Quintus Curtius, that lions were kept in dens at Babylon, and produced on festive occasions, With regard to the immutability of the laws of the Medes and Persians, that can only mean that, when law was made, the King could not change it, but he might, nevertheless, find, or even make, another law to counteract its force. Did Darius believe, or did he only struggle to persuade himself, that the God of Daniel would deliver him, as he once delivered three of his fellow-captives from the fiery furnace? Or did he only ejaculate a wish that God would deliver him? For the Chaldee may mean either . . . One word in Daniel’s answer to the King, from the den, conveys an intimation that his enemies, not content with charging him with disobedience to the King’s monstrous decree, had also endeavured to fix on him a suspicion, if not a direct accusation, of dishonesty, in spite of their previous confession to one another, that “they could find none occasion nor fault.” Now there can be no suspicion. The loyalty of Daniel, even to so insignificant a king as Darius, shines no less clearly than his faithfulness to God, leaving to all generations a bright example of loyalty, a virtue commended by the supreme example of our blessed Saviour, and strictly inculcated by the spirit of inspiration, through His servants the apostles. (W. H. Rule, D.D.)
Of whom Daniel was first.
The promotion of Daniel
Men have to pay for all exaltation; a sense of responsibility comes with it where it is honest and worthy, and men do not ascend to the primary positions instantly, but gradually, and as they ascend they become accustomed to the air, so that when they do reach the throne it seems as if they had but a step to take from the common earth to the great altitude. Thus we are trained, graduated, perfected, not by suddenness, abruptness, not by any vulgarity of government, but by that fine shading and graduation which is all but imperceptible, and which only makes itself known in all the fulness of its reality and value when we are prepared to accept the throne, the crown, the sceptre, humbly, modestly. How could Daniel bear all this exaltation? Because it was nothing to him: He had been in prayer. The man who prays three times a day, really prays, whose window opens upon heaven, cannot receive any honour; he cannot be flattered. If Darius had asked him to take the throne it would have been but a trifle to Daniel. A man who has been closeted with God cannot be befooled by earthly baubles and temporal vanities. It is with these things as with miracles. So with this greatness of such men as Daniel; it is not greatness to them: it is but a new responsibility, another opportunity for doing good, a larger opening for higher usefulness. The man should always be greater than his office; the author should always be greater than his book; the picture should be nothing compared with the picture the artist wanted to paint. The musician does well to set aside his thousand-voiced organ because it is useless when he wants to express the ineffable. If we prayed aright, if we loved God truly, then all honour would be accepted with an easy condescension, and every gift and recognition and promotion would be used with modesty, and every honour given by men would not be despised, but would be used to the promotion of the highest ends of being. It is thus the Daniels of the world sit upon their thrones; verily, they sit upon them; they use them, they are mere temporary conveniences and symbols to them; the real king is intellectual, spiritual, moral, sympathetic, invisible, divine. It is useless for us to wish to be what Daniel was; we shall be what Daniel was, and where he was, when we have the same qualifications. The universe is not being built by an unskilled carpenter; it is being constructed--I mean that inward and spiritual universe of which all other universes are but the scaffolding--by a divine Builder; and He will not put the top stone in the foundation, or the foundation stone in the pinnacle; He will put us just where we ought to be. Daniel and Paul, Peter and John, the seraph all aflame, the cherub all contemplation, each will have his place. O foolish soul, do not build thyself into God’s wall; let the Builder handle thee, and be glad that thou hast any place in the spiritual masonry. (Joseph Parker, D.D.)
The Second Throne; or Character Honoured
Daniel shows us that the law of life is this--character shall be honoured with respect, confidence, high place, and success. If the law does not work out these results, in any particular case, it must be because of some special hindrance. Sooner or later every man finds his place, and gets what he is worth. Life is not a lottery. In speaking of Daniel’s honour, it will at once appear that it was political, And we need more Godly men in high places. Daniel did not reach his position by any sudden spring. He had lesser offices first, in which his faithfulness was proved. Daniel won his position because “an excellent spirit was in him.” Before dealing with the honours that wait on character, a word must be said on the relation between talent and character. These two things are often separated. Men of genius are not always men of character. Byron is an extreme instance of this. And men of character are not always men of talent. We have very often to say, “Yes, he is a very good man, but not very clever.” No man of genius can afford to despise character; and no man of character should rest until he has added to it ability and skill. Daniel took every advantage of Persian culture, and in him we find talent and character blended. With what honour then will God, and the world, crown good character?
I. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS RESPECT. And that is far better thing than position, riches, and fame. Have character rooted in God, and if men mock you to the face, you may be sure that in your deep heart they think of you as Balaam did of Sarah. The respect in which the good man is held comes out when he is dead.
II. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS MATERIAL BLESSINGS. This is not an invariable rule. Some cannot bear the risks of prosperity. Many of us do well to pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Yet it is generally true that character wins the places of trust, and character keeps the places it gains. Illustrated by Joseph and Obadiah. But how does God honour character? With His approval, and with the sense of that approval in a man’s own soul. With His special acceptance in the world to come. By making it witness for him here on earth; as in this case of Daniel God makes the men of character to be in His world as “salt,” as “cities on hills,” and as the “Light.” Their highest honour lies in their influence, their witness, and their work. (Robert Tuck, B.A.)
The Power of Christian Principle
It is the silent but continuous and irrepressible power of Christian principle which really tells upon the world around us. It is not a mere syllogism that will convert a sceptic. It is not a powerfully constructed argument that will alone convert a Roman Catholic; it is not such specimens of Christianity as Church and Chapel often furnish, which make men feel that Christianity is the ambassadress of God, and the benefactress of mankind. It is when the world sees Christianity softening all, sweetening, subduing, sanctifying, inspiring, directing all--giving its tone, shape, colour, and freshness to all; it is when the world sees Christianity in self-sacrifice--in submitting our own temper and inclinations to those of others--in giving way and suffering, rather than appearing to dictate and presume--it is in the quiet by-paths of human life, that Christianity acts with the greatest force, and in which, if detected by the sceptic, he owns that there is there the finger of God, the evidence of a power greater and holier than human. So Darius saw Daniel’s Christianity; he understood not his sublime creed, but he appreciated his honesty, his integrity, his truthfulness, his faithfulness. The world itself, if it do not practice, yet appreciates faithfulness and integrity. The merchant on the exchange understands character, when he neither studies nor subscribes a creed. Hence the pulpit is not the only place for preaching. (John Cumming, D.D.)
The Supremacy of Character
“This Daniel”--what surprises and scorn, what bitter jealousy and mortification, rankles beneath this apparently simple allusion. That this Hebrew stranger and captive should have won any place at court; that when admitted he should be allowed to defy its customs; that he so gained the favour of his royal master as to be called into his most intimate counsel, and to be placed above those who had preceded him in office--these circumstances constituted a grievance of no common magnitude, and for which there was no forgiveness. What led to the rapid promotion of one who had neither rank or friends to recommend him? On this point a clear and satisfactory explanation is afforded. “Because an excellent spirit was in ‘this Daniel’, the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” What have we here but a signal testimony to the intrinsic sovereignty of character, a testimony which ever succeeding age reveals with greater calmness and recognises with deeper veneration. It has been affirmed that the religion of the day is reverence for character. The archbishop of Canterbury, in addressing a mass meeting of working men in connection with the Church Congress, and pleading for the establishment of more satisfactory relations between employers and employed, warned his hearers against seeking, from the enactments of Parliaments or the rules of trades unions, for the solution of problems which could only be effectually met by a “conversion of character” alike in masters and servants. What, then, do we understand by this word so constantly upon, the lips of great leaders in Church and State? Strange to say, we search for it in vain in our translation of the Bible, and only find it once in the original text. But many of you are aware that it comes to us from a Greek word which signifies a graving tool. The first mention of such a thing occurs curiously enough in connection with the act of Aaron in making the golden calf. Though he would fain have us believe that the molten gold took that peculiar shape of its own accord, it appears in evidence that he “fashioned it with a graving tool”--a “cheret” as it was called in the Hebrew tongue--in which we distinctly trace the original derivation of our word “character.” At first, then, this term stood for an instrument--a means to an end. But by a very natural transition it came to be applied to the result. From the tool attention is inevitably directed to the work of art, from the pencil to the painting, from the chisel to the finished sculpture. We preserve, however, the original use of the word when speaking of a man of parts. We say, “He is a character,” thereby signifying that he impresses others, that he cannot be overlooked, that he is indeed a graving tool with the added element of life. It is, in fact, this power of impressing others by the force of our own personality that distinguishes man from the brute creation. Charles Dickens once remarked that “some very fine ladies and gentlemen might as well have been born caterpillars for any good they do, or any impression they make on the world.” But, dear friends, God has not placed us here to be caterpillars lazily crawling over the smooth surface of things, and leaving no trace behind. He intends that we should be carving tools; that under His hand, and each in his own sphere, we should press heavily upon and cut deeply into this disordered world, seeking to shape it more after the mind and will of its Lord. This brings us at once to the practical question. We cannot stop at the tool.
That is often a very rude and primitive affair. But the design or inscription written or graven therewith, what vast and varied possibilities are there? Even animals can make marks after a fashion--as some of us possibly know by experience--very ugly and painful ones. But they can usually be predicted. Every youth secretly hopes to make his mark and to pass for something in the world. What sort of a mark will be yours. No one can predict that. We can only hope and pray. Much might be said as to the elements of character, for, as Bishop Butler reminds us, it is, of a complex nature, there being greater variety of parts in it than there are features in a face. “Giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. These being the elements which make a manly and Christian life a word may be said as to their cultivation. Human nature is the raw material out of which character has to be manufactured, and very tough stuff it is. It has to pass through the mill a good many times before it is good for anything. Not forgetting the requirements mentioned by the apostle in the passage just quoted, we may add one or two others that go to the making of a man. One important factor is Labour. Dr. Arnold insisted that the difference between one man and another was not usually ability but energy; and Lord Lytton tells us that he made it a rule never to trust to genius for what could be won by toil. Another and most unwelcome agent in this process is trouble. “Great sufferings,” says a powerful writer, “swell the soul to gigantic proportions.” This had probably much to do with the strength of Daniel. Simplicity of aim, sincerity of aim, and modesty of manners are also essential to a healthy nature. And so is a perfectly trained will. The importance of arriving at and adhering to an intelligent decision cannot be too strongly emphasized. We are all acquainted with the description of the irresolute man who wastes the first half of the day in hesitating which of two courses to take, and the other in reproaching himself for not having taken the other. Only when all these qualities are present and active; only when those springs of action--our thoughts, desires, and affections--are cleansed by the Spirit of God and fed by communion with Him, do we attain our complete and destined development. We fall short of our own capabilities if we fall short of God. The result of this varied discipline and careful training is to exhibit what comes out so clearly in the life of Daniel. One of the most accomplished scoundrels of the last century declared that he would give ten thousand pounds for a character, because he could make above twenty thousand by it. Considered even from this sordid standpoint character represents capital, commands credit, and is a negotiable asset. The day has passed when is this land a man could rise to the highest place in the estimation of his fellows merely by the circumstance of noble birth. He must be and do something. Merchants and tradesmen often complain of the havoc and loss entailed by excessive competition. But there is a rising market for moral integrity and a brisk demand for it. To men of different callings I often put the question, “Is there s good prospect now for a young fellow in your business?” And the answer is almost invariably this, “Yes, he may do nicely if he is square, sober, and industrious; there are so many of the other sort, you know.” So it is vice not virtue that is the drug on the market. Cleverness minus character--the world reeks with it. Most of the world’s woes are in fact traceable to this pestilence, Satan himself being the chief example and promoter of it. In the hour when, after sufficient trial, it becomes known that you at least can be depended upon, you will become a person of importance. The world surely needs and is waiting for such as you. King Darius had that gift so essential to a ruler--the power to discern moral excellence. And finding it, he had a courage to utilise and reward it. He is worthy to be king who prizes virtue above rank. Hence “this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” Only when men of sincere conviction, high principle, and indisputable integrity are at the helm of affairs is there any hope for the prosperity of any people. Not politics, not commerce, not creed, but character is the supreme test of prosperity and the harbinger of peace. When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice. Thus the welfare of nations comes at last to be simply a matter of the individual spirit and conduct. (A. E. Hutchinson.)
Because an excellent spirit was in him.
The man of an “excellent spirit,” or of a good conscience
All men have what we call a conscience, something within that concerns itself with the right and wrong of actions. A good conscience is something more than a sincere conscience. Many sincere consciences are bad consciences. We learn here certain facts concerning the man of a good conscience, or excellent spirit.
I. THAT HE IS INFLEXIBLY HONEST IN ALL HIS WORLDLY TRANSACTIONS. Where there is true loyalty to God, there will be honesty towards men.
II. THAT HE OFTEN EVOKES THE ANTAGONISM OF UNJUST MEN. What led to the Crucifixion of Christ but this?
III. THAT HE IS INVINCIBLE IN HIS LOYALTY TO HEAVEN. In extreme danger he did nothing, but just went on with his ordinary life.
IV. THAT IS A DISTURBING FORCE TO THE SOUL OF HIS PERSECUTORS. The king had a miserable night.
V. THAT HE IS EVERMORE IN THE SAFE KEEPING OF HEAVEN. Daniel ascribed his deliverance to an angel. What better angel has God in his universe than a good conscience?
VI. THAT HE IS SURE TO MEET WITH A RETRIBUTIVE VINDICATION. What became of the enemies of Daniel?
VII. THAT HE IS THE BEST AGENT TO BRING THE WORLD TO TRUE WORSHIP. “Then King Darius wrote unto all people,” etc. Learn
(1) That the right thing is always the strongest thing.
(2) That the right thing is always the expedient thing. (Homilist)
An excellent spirit
It was not mere talent that raised Daniel to his high position. No doubt he was a shrewd, able, and clever man. Intellect, like ice, is colourless. Let a young man have large mental capacity, it will not weigh for much, if that be all. His real strength or weakness is closely linked with his moral nature; the heart, even more them the brain, determines the man. In Daniel we see a man whose conscience holds a tight rein over his lower nature; we see that stern loyalty to principle is not inconsistent with the urbanity and courtesy of the perfect gentleman; we learn that the busiest man may be a man of prayer; that fervent piety may be sustained under circumstances most unfavourable to its growth; that a robust faith in God can carry one through the most trying outward conditions it is possible to experience. This “excellent spirit” was
1. A spirit of self-control. He kept his body under. He held the mastery of his animal nature. He laid an iron hand upon his appetites and passions here is a lesson on a temperate and physiological habit of life that young men would do well to attend to, who propose to invest any capital in their brains.
2. A spirit of genuine piety, He was, above all, a man of God. I believe that his convictions were the fruit of early training. To him, God was a reality, a living and reliable friend, to whom he could take every difficulty, and on whom he could trust in every danger. It was this that carried him through. It was his “excellent spirit” that led to his preferment. His piety actually led to his promotion.
3. A spirit of unshaken faith in God. All through his troubles, he never lost confidence in God, never failed to betake himself to him in prayer. Daniel’s faith in God was too deep mud strong to suffer any serious shock from spurious philosophy. (J. T. Davidson, D.D.)
A Man of Excellent Spirit
The key to Daniel’s splendid fidelity may be found in the statement of my text, repeated in other parts of the book, “an excellent spirit was in him.” This statement literally means that in Darnel spirit predominated, was uppermost, was enthroned. We are accustomed to use the word “excellent” with other values and intentions, all of which may be right in certain connections. For instance, we say “excellent” means fine, noble, admirable. Yet the etymology of the word has another signification. Excellent is something that excels, goes beyond, predominates, and the word lying beyond this word excellent carries exactly that meaning. We may with perfect accuracy, read our text thus--it would not be rhythmic or admirable as a translation, but it would at least be accurate--“A spirit that excelled was in him” a spirit that jutted out was in him. Not flesh, but spirit was the chief thing. This is evident at the very beginning of the book of Daniel. Not king’s dainties, not wine from the king’s table; these are not the principal things, but rectitude, which means life harmonising with the infinite and the true and the eternal. The principal thing in Daniel was not the physical, though he was fair, ruddy, and splendid; spirit was the dominant factor in the personality of this man. Daniel was not a man who thought of himself within the physical, as possessing a spirit; he thought of himself within the spiritual “as possessing” a body. “An excellent; spirit was in him.” He was a man who began his life in the spiritual, and from that centre governed the material. Darnel was a man proportioned after the pattern and ideal of Deity. He recognised in himself and in all his relationships the supreme quality, to be spirit. “A man of an excellent spirit.” Let us examine the qualities of fruit “manifested in the life-story of the man in whom spirit excelled and was the principal thing. I want to say four things about Daniel, as revealing that life where spirit excels, is dominant, is enthroned. The man of excellent spirit, in whom spirit excels was
(1) a man of purpose;
(2) a man of prayer;
(3) a man of perception;
(4) a man of power.
Two things tell the cause, two things describe the effect. The cause is found in the fact that this man of excellent spirit was a man of purpose, and a man of prayer; and the effect is seen in that he was a man of perception and a man of power. Purpose and prayer, these are the words that indicate our own responsibility. Perception and prayer, these are the words that declare what will follow in some way in the life of every man in whom spirit is dominant, and who, therefore, is a man of purpose and a man of power. Daniel was a man of purpose. “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat,” (Daniel 1:8.) Notice carefully what this means. Purpose is at the beginning of everything. Directly he found himself in a place of peril “he purposed m his heart.” That is a matter of supreme importance. Thousands of men drift into evil courses for a lack of a definite and positive committal of themselves to some position, for lack of having purpose, something in their heart. To delay at the first consciousness of perilous surroundings is to compromise presently, and, unless we are very careful, it is finally to apostatise. Purpose in a man’s life is all important. It affords him anchorage in the time of storm, creates for him a base in the day of battle. To have committed oneself to some definite thing is always of value whatever walk of life you are in. In every walk of life, when a man has formed his purpose, he is halfway to victory. This is so with a boy who is looking forward to his life work. When he knows what his purpose is, he is half-way to victory. Every man has, underlying his life somewhere, a purpose. But Daniel found it, named it, announced it, stood by it. It is quite impossible for s man to live without a purpose of some sort. Purpose lies at the back of will, and purpose operates through all activity. Some men have a score of purposes, but never one named, defined, announced, to which they are committed. Daniel’s purpose was a very simple one, and yet sublime; simple in its expression, sublime in its great underlying reach. What was the simple purpose announced as he came down into the midst of the Chaldean Court and its corruption? “I will not touch the king’s dainties, I will not drink the king’s wine.” That is the simplicity of the purpose, but not the sublimity of it. What underlay it? “He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s dainties, nor with the wine which he drank.” He purposed in his heart that his spirit was the supreme thing. He would not permit fleshly indulgence of any sort to rub the bloom from spiritual life, to weaken the nerve of spiritual endeavour, to dim the vision of spiritual outlook. Daniel’s deepest purpose was that of loyalty to God, expressed in separation from the corrupting influences of his position; and because at the beginning he stood there, through all the coming days he was strong and victorious. To-day, amid the allurements and enticements of a godless age, let every man purpose in his heart that he will be loyal to Jesus Christ. That is the simple purpose for to-day. You and I live in a much easier age than Daniel did, with forces far more potent than had Daniel. This age may be more complex in its temptations, more subtle and insidious in the way it is likely to spoil men. But it is also an age when true life is become possible because of the simplicity of the purpose is just that I commit myself to Christ; I am His, avowedly; His, confessedly His. I will follow Him. That is the first and the simple purpose to which I invite every man. Remember that the purpose of loyalty to Christ, formed in the heart, confessed with the lip, is simply the centre from which a man is to correct everything else in his life. Purpose loyalty to Christ, affirm it, and then from that centre you are to begin to construct your circumference and set the externalities of your life right. I meet scores of men who say, I try, but I fail. I want to be a Christian, but this or the other thing stands in my way.” I reply, “You are not to do these things to be a Christian; you are to become a Christian to do these things.” Do not attempt to construct your circumferences in order to be in right relationship with your centre. Find your centre in order to correct your circumference. We have not forgotten how impossible it is to form a circumference until we have found the centre. Daniel was a man of prayer. Nothing stands out more clearly than this fact. When the interpretation of the king’s dream was asked, he called his friends together into a compact of prayer, asked them to pray with him, that he might have the necessary light for interpretation. As the story moves on it reveals the truth that he was a man who had regular habits of prayer, who three times a day turned his face towards old Jerusalem, thought on God, spoke to God.. Here we touch the secret that underlies his fulfilment of purpose. Strong purpose is only powerful in execution as we are dependent upon God. The heart may be firmly determined to loyalty, but, unless we know how to lean hard upon God, the forces against us will prove too much for us. A man meaning to do right and depending on God is absolutely invincible. What lies behind the fact of a man’s praying? First, his sense of personal limitation; secondly, his profound conviction of Divine sufficiency. What is prayer with these things lying in the background? It is the use of the means of communication between his weakness and God s power, his limitation and God’s sufficency. Now, if you desire to live this life in which spirit excels, the life of victory and of power, to have purpose is not enough. You and I must recognise our own limitation, frailty, weakness. In the days of our young manhood we feel so self-sufficient. We can do the high thing, the noble thing in our own strength. Oh, that God may reveal to you at once that this is not so, that the life godless is always sooner or later a failure and a wreck! Was there ever man of stronger personality or individuality, apart from Christ, than Saul of Tarsus? Yet he confessed, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” Be that as it may, unless you learn the secret of dependence on God, sooner or later, on one side or other of your nature, you will be wrecked and ruined. I shall never tell you that all you have to do is to realise your own manhood and fight the battle and conquer. I am here to tell you evil is too strong for you, that the forces that lure are the forces that ruin. In your own strength you cannot overcome. But there is another truth, the truth that Daniel knew, the truth that God and Daniel were stronger in combination than all Chaldean corruption and idolatrous evil, the truth that you and God in London are invincible against all the forces that will sweep against you. Doubtless I speak to some who have fallen, who have sinned, and they know it. I take you back to the point of your fall, and tell you that your fall was due to your independence. Had you been a dependent soul, trusting in God, recognising His power, communicating with Him by prayer, always leaning hard upon Him, you would have won where you failed. Form habits of prayer, Daniel prayed with his face towards Jerusalem every day. I urge you to have special times, special seasons; I urge you to continue in prayer. Then follow the two results I have mentioned. A spirit of perception. There is no doubt that the gift of interpretation which Daniel received was specially bestowed by God for special purposes. The immediate application to us is, that to the man who has made his purpose and prays, there will be given a clarity of vision which will enable him to accomplish the divine work allotted to him. It may be, as in the case of Daniel, that of interpretation, or it may be in some other department. The thing is that the man will be of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. Have you not felt that you need spiritual perception to discern between right and wrong, and that quickly? How often a man says, “I had done it before I knew it; I had fallen before I was conscious of the temptation.” But to the man of purpose and prayer there comes a growing keenness of insight, sensitiveness of soul, quickness of perception in the commonplaces, and a keen vision in the crises of life, special illumination from God flashing upon the pathway, saving him in the moment of his peril. Finally, Daniel was a man of power; first, as we have seen, in small things, but also in great things. I am not suggesting that if you take this position of purpose and maintain it, take this life of prayer and follow it, that if you have this quick, keen perception of God by the Holy Spirit, you will come to a place of worldly power. It certainly is remarkable that this man held office in three kingdoms--in Babylon, in Media, and Persia. The man of purpose, the man of prayer, the man of perception, was recognised by the men of his age and trusted, and put into places of power, and, as the text says, “the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” I am not saying that will necessarily follow, but I am saying that the man of purpose, of prayer of perception, becomes the man of power--power that enables him to say No. The highest courage is not the courage of the battlefield; it is moral courage--the power to say No. The thing that nerves a man to say No in the presence of temptation is the fact that he has taken his stand and is a man of purpose, is perpetually a man of prayer, and, therefore, a man of perception, seeing the issues, understanding the virtues, and able to say No when the moment comes. Our age wants men who are superior to it, not men who are driven by it. (G. Campbell Morgan, D.D.)
The Uncompromising Young man
The grandest object for human contemplation is s noble character. A lofty type of a true and regal man, great and good, is humanity’s richest heritage. Such is the character which is the subject of our present study. We cannot contemplate it without feeling the fires of inspiration kindle in our hearts. Daniel is a model character for the study and imitation of all who would achieve anything worthy in life. The foundation of all Daniel s after-greatness and success is true personal merit. If God favours and honours him, it is because of a subjective ground for such favour in himself; and the same favour awaits everyone who would bear himself in similar manner. What awaits young Daniel in his new sphere of life? A test of character which thus early exhibits his uncompromising spirit, and unswerving fidelity to the truth he holds. Daniel, though firm of purpose and invincible in his integrity, is yet well-mannered and courteous. An incorruptible conscience does not imply a sour temper, or incivility of manners. Daniel’s religion and temperance proved no hindrance to his advancement, but helped him up the way of promotion. This praying Daniel is a young man of highest honour and truest humility. The lofty courage, the sublime moral heroism of this Daniel deserves special notice, as seen in the later acts of his eventful life. Never did man occupy so high a position who was more deserving of it. But honour and merit are always targets for the malicious arrows of envy. Daniel’s colleagues seek occasion for his overthrow, but seek in vain for any fault in his character or administration. They have to declare there is but one point at which he can be assailed, and that is, his fidelity to God! Thus true and faithful to the last was Daniel. What Daniel’s God was to him, that He will be to you. Learn to honour and serve the God of Daniel; learn that true principle is true expedience; learn that the busiest man may be a praying man; learn to do right, though the heavens fall. (C. H. Payne, D.D., LL.D.)
One of the most dangerous beliefs of the present day is that an earnest religious life is not compatible with success in business, or with promotion in public life. The success and promotion of Daniel, and of Joseph, Moses and Samuel, prove that an upright life, lived in fellowship with God, is not a hindrance, but a help to success in life. A life of piety and obedience to God cultivates in us the best possible business habits--diligence, integrity, patience, control of temper, control of appetite, an interest in the welfare of others, and a trustful confidence in ourselves, as the result of firm reliance on God. See some of the principles illustrated in the life of Daniel.
1. It is always safe to do right. There are many who think otherwise. They will try to soothe conscience by saying that they approve the right, and that, under more favourable circumstances, they would certainly do it. But swerving from duty makes it easier to do wrong again; and there lies the danger. When we are resolutely doing God’s will, He will open up a way for us. A man of weak faith and weak will, yields to circumstances, and excuses himself by saying that he could not help it. We should rule circumstances, and not allow circumstances to rule us. Fortune follows in the footsteps of faith.
2. Daniel’s love of private prayer. That man is always strong for duty, and strong against temptation, who has learned to prevail with God! Daniel not only maintained communion with God in spirit, but he had also stated times for prayer. His public life was upright and beautiful, because his inner life was devout and prayerful. He made it the habit of his life to take everything to God in prayer. Special times for private prayer may soon enable the Christian to live constantly in the atmosphere of heaven.
3. Daniel’s decision of character. A man may be pious and prayerful, and yet, if he lacks decision of character, he is liable to be led into any form of evil. What the world and the Church want to-day are men who have some backbone in them; men who will do right, and do it at all hazards.
4. Daniel’s Faithful Friendship. When he was promoted by the king he did not forget his three companions.
5. Daniel’s Contentment and Resignation to his lot. We find no murmur or complaint that God dealt hardly with him in allowing him to be carried away captive. He was able to see the providence of God in his captivity. No man has ever risen in life by repining at his lot, and by spending his strength in lamenting over lack of opportunity. Daniel’s success depended largely upon that contentment that always accompanies a loving confidence in God, and cheerful submission to His will.
6. Daniel was most courteous and amiable in his manner. This gave him great power over men. He was a true gentleman--that is, he was both gentle and manly. He was too manly to be weak and irresolute; and he was too courteous to be coarse and offensive. Courtesy and gentleness give a man great power over his fellow men.
7. Daniel’s Business Fidelity. Some narrowly pious people would have said that he had far too secular duties on his hands. They would necessarily interfere with his spirituality of mind and his intercourse with God. Daniel did not think so. Because he gave himself to prayer he could busy himself with secular things and not suffer; and because he was so busy with secular affairs he needed his frequent seasons of prayer. It was because Daniel lived in the presence of God that he was able to leave such a noble record of the administration of the affairs of the kingdom We may make Daniel’s life our own, if we have Daniel’s faith, and trust as Daniel trusted. (S. Macnaughton, M.A.)
Then the Presidents and Princes sought to find occasion against Daniel.
The Hebrew Confessor
It is the nature of the carnal mind, even to hate God, and so it hates that which has God in it. His enemies hated Daniel on account of his faith: Amidst the rabble of deities, gods and goddesses, with all their splendour, and all their circumstantial authority, in Babylon, he was true to his worship of the one living God, true to Jehovah, and true to the covenant, true to the counsel of God, which was then working under all events, and flashing up from time to time, through all secrecies, giving hints of what was understood to be when Christ himself would come; and the mighty spirit of revelation rose in the soul of Daniel. There was nothing in Daniel’s life that ought to have excited hatred. All through life he had maintained his stedfastness of holy life; and they hated that holy life. They hated him also, because he was a man of rare gifts. Notice the effect of the conspiracy. It brought out Daniel s confession: In consequence of his confession, Daniel was thrown into the den of lions. Would you be ready, if the call were to come forth to the lions for Christ’s sake, could you be ready? (C. Stanford)
Daniel: His Trial and his Triumph
I. Let us look at the conduct of there Presidents and Princes as affording illustrations of THE LENGTHS OF WRONGDOING TO WHICH THE SPIRIT OF ENVY, WHEN IT IS ONCE YIELDED TO, WILL CARRY MEN.
II. Let us see, in their speech concerning Daniel, an instance of THE TRIBUTE WHICH, IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER, VICE IS ALWAYS COMPELLED TO PAY TO VIRTUE.
III. Let us meditate upon the feeble and wicked compliance of the king with their blasphemous request, as revealing THE POWER OF FLATTERY TO LEAD MEN ASTRAY.
IV. Let us study the behaviour of the man of God in the hour of trial, that we may ADMIRE HIS COURAGE, IMITATE HIS SPLENDID EXAMPLE, AND, BY GOD’S HELP, MAKE HIS GLORIOUS VICTORY OURS. (Anon.)
There are four things relating to the proposed statute which are worthy of being noted.
I. One is the influential character of the deputation. It consisted of presidents and satraps, two presidents and perhaps a considerable number of the satraps. It is not likely that all the one hundred and twenty satraps were present in Babylon at one and the same time. The deputation therefore consisted of the highest and most influential officers of state.
2. Another is the turbulence of their zeal. They are said to have “assembled together,” or rather, as in the margin, “came tumultuously.” They approached the king in his palace, not with calm deliberation, but in stormy haste. And the excited eagerness of such influential men, especially as the kingdom had been only recently subjugated and received, could not fail to impress the king.
3. Another is that the proposed statute was recommended by the whole body of his rulers. This was certainly false, as Daniel, the wisest ruler of them all, had never been consulted; and possibly there were others, especially in the remote provinces. It seems, however, likely that all the rulers who were consulted were of one mind as to the desirableness of getting such a statute, and of thereby effecting the favoured Jewish statesman. Such a representation on the part of this influential and resolute body of men would naturally have much weight with the king.
4. And another is the high honour which the statute would confer on Darius. He was to be regarded not only as a god, but as the god for the period of a month. This certainly was a most extraordinary proposal; but it would not seem so extraordinary to Darius as it does to us. His grandfather, Deioces, the king of the Medes, sought to inspire hie people with the idea that he was more than a man; and it was the belief of the Persians that their kings were an incarnation of the Deity. Their proposal was thus in the line both of the popular belief and of the king’s natural desire for self-exaltation. (Thomas Kirk)
Religion behind righteousness
These presidents should have said, A religion that keeps Daniel so right in his action and policy must be a good religion, although we cannot understand its metaphysics, and although it is opposed in deadly hostility to all our Babylonian and Chaldean conceptions and imaginings. Why not reason so in modern civilization? Here the Christian has great opportunity, for doing good; he may not be able to explain the metaphysics of his Christianity, but what a chance he has for verifying its morality! And to morality the whole thing must come at some point or other. A man can never be so transcendently pious as to take out a licence to be wicked. If you are not correct in your accounts you cannot be correct in your prayers. Your piety is a mistake and a farce if it be not upheld and elucidated with dazzling illustration by your behaviour. Men then in some instances will be constrained to say that a piety which expresses itself in such conduct must be good. Through your morality men may come into God s own sanctuary; through your noble behaviour men may begin to inquire about the Cross which accounts for it: that is your chance. The penetration which belongs to metaphysical reasoning you may not possess; the power which inheres in expository and hortatory eloquence may not be your gift; but the humblest, youngest, simplest man may show what his Christianity has done for him by his industry, his punctuality, his faithfulness, his obedience, his reliableness in all circumstances, his ability to bear the test of every analysis and every pressure. So thus we may form ourselves, by the grace of God, into a great body of witnesses, each in his own way, explaining the divine kingdom, and accounting for the holiest conduct in human life. (Joseph Parker, D.D.)
The Envious Presidents
Lessons to be learnt.
1. That marked outward peculiarities of worship afford a ready subject of attack! Elaborate ceremonials oftentimes vex the minds of plain and practical men, and stir up all kinds of strife and controversy. Therefore it is well not to assign an undue importance, or an undue prominence, to outward ceremonials.
2. That we should not be ashamed frequently and openly to make confession of our faith. The days of religious persecution are past, it is hoped never to return. But the days when a religious profession excites ridicule and scorn are by no means vanished. Many a man who could not be tempted out of his faith has been laughed out of it.
3. That impiety ever is at war with piety, and injustice with justice. Good and evil can never agree together, they must ever be at war.
4. That all of us, like Daniel in the Scriptures, and like Christian, in the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” must pass through the lions to the palace beautiful. This world oftentimes in our hour of gloom seems to us but a den of darkness, a den filled with the wild beasts to which our sins and errors may be fully compared. If we walk along the narrow road of life, we see on both sides dangers and roaring lions, temptations and snares of all kinds, ready to overwhelm us. If we but advance, we shall find that the dangers which appeared to threaten us disappear, the mouths of the lions are stopped, the lions, it may be, are chained. (R. Young, M.A.)
Except we find it against him concerning the law of him God.
Fruit in Old Age
This ancient story is as vital and beautiful as ever. Each deed of holy courage, each life of truth and purity, lives on in recorded or unrecorded influence. He works (immortal as He who inspired it), in one generation after another with the “power of an endless life.” Beautiful the thick blossomed trees of spring, but not to be compared for the beauty of usefulness with the fruit-weighted trees of autumn Beautiful the piety of youth with its sweet promises, but more beautiful the piety of aged men and women when, so many tempests outlived, they “still bring forth fruit in old age.” What fruit do we find m Daniel’s old age?
I. AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT. In him, and seen to be in him. For be a man’s spirit excellent or the reverse, it cannot be hidden. It comes out. The churl, the cruel, the malignant man, may mask the spirit, and hypocritically appear what he is not. But such are often surprised into conduct in which the real bad spirit is revealed; or they weary of playing a part. The spirit of Daniel was the secret of his elevation by Darius. How it showed itself is not told. He was a man of rare sagacity, and of incorruptible integrity. He had a kingly soul, with a spirit that thrilled his very silences, looks, tones, with excellence. We are more as forces in the world, than speakers and toilers. The Spirit we are of is an essential part, the largest part of our influence. It is the eloquence of tone and look and silence--it is ourself. Let the spirit be right and the life will be.
II. FAITHFULNESS TO DUTY. Daniel had enemies. They plot against him. He was faithful to his earthly master, because in all faithful to his Master in heaven. The secret of his faithfulness was that very piety through which his foes sought to assail, and take his life from the earth. There still is the secret of well doing, and continuance in well-doing, whatever be the station.
III. PRAYERFULNESS. Busy had been Daniel’s life. But he was never too busy to pray thrice a day. From this habit, not even peril of death could daunt him. Daniel knew that the writing was signed, but it made no difference. For he knew also the helpful and sublime privilege of prayer. The baffled king sought by delay to save Daniel. It was in vain. The den probably was an underground cave. This method of punishment is attested by the discovery of statues and bas-reliefs among the ruins of Babylon. Daniel was willing to meet his fate. Prayer to God was the necessity of his life. Life might be surrendered rather than prayer. Life fruitful is ever life prayerful.
IV. TRUSTFULNESS. What a moment when the aged prophet was cast into the den! Daniel was calm. He trusted in God. From early youth, through manifold perils, Daniel had trusted in his God. He had never been put to confusion, nor would he be now. The angel Jehovah was with him. (G. T. Coster.)
The authority of conscience
Fault-finding is not a difficult science. A practised critic will find blemishes in the most beautiful works of men. The judges of a century ago who passed capital sentence on cases that were more than doubtful consoled themselves by the reflection that there was enough in every man to justify a hanging. So strong has been the sense of human guilt that it had been satisfied with nothing less than theories of total depravity. Many countries have sought for stainless statesmen, many masters for spotless servants, many Churches for immaculate ministers, but the supply has not been equal to the demand. And every fresh failure has only served to intensify the depth of the conviction that the best men have in them the principle of evil. And I go further and say that this conviction has forced itself on those who have not set themselves to find out the faults in others. Our failings, as a rule, are so obvious that the most charitable must acknowledge them. It does net need a jealous or envious eye to detect our flaws. And if this is true of our experience of private life, it is doubly so of public life. The “fierce light that beats upon a throne,” beats with no less fierceness upon the guiders of a throne. Their most private failings are magnified into public evils. It might also be said that a public man has no privacy. The more widely a man is known the larger is the circle of his critics. Daniel was a public man. He was one of the three presidents of Darius’s kingdom, and we are told “the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” It would not have been easy to play perfectly so exalted a part before the most friendly spectators. But they who watched Daniel were hostile in the worst degree. Theirs was no manly, open hostility, that thought his actions wrong, and opposed them because they thought so. Theirs was a mean, underhand, jealous and envious hostility, that could not bear to see virtue rewarded. And for them the sting was in the virtue. Daniel was faithful. His conduct would bear the severe scrutiny of his enemies. We do not suppose this to mean that Daniel was no sinner, but there was no open departure from righteousness and justice which could be made the basis of an impeachment. There remained one chance of striking a blow at the man they hated. Daniel was a religious man. His religion was a part of his life. They knew him well enough to know that on no consideration would he forsake or neglect his religion. We have here, I think, a very striking illustration of a very great truth that conscience derives its power over men as it is recognised by them to be a law of their God. The gospel of Christ appeals to the most savage and slavish of people, as well as to the most civilised, because it appeals to those great principles of our nature that distinguish us as mankind. And of all our common qualities, conscience is one of the most undeniable. With more or less distinctness it defines for every class of men certain broad lines of right and wrong. But it is evident that its power over us will depend on how we regard it. It may be to some a mere uncomfortable sensation that may be removed in time; the result of a passing feeling of sorrow for harm done or wrong tolerated. In such a ease it is not likely to speak with much force. But to others it is sacred with the monitions of God Himself. They have seen an inner law in all men, and have agreed that there was a great Lawgiver. They have heard an inner voice calling them to righteousness, and have felt there was somewhere a Source of righteousness. The history of the world is full of instances of the conduct that is the result of these two ways of regarding conscience. Its Pilates, even when to the reproaches of their consciences have been added superstitious fears, have washed their hands and declared themselves innocent of just blood it was in their power to save. But its Luthers, when they might have stood aloof and declared their innocence of declines and practices that had degraded the Church, felt compelled to suffer persecution with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. If the world has had its King Johns who could consent to make their kingdom tributary to the Pope, and hold their crown from his command, it has also had its William the Silents who for the sacred cause of liberty could endure all personal sacrifice that they might finally bequeath to their successors the inheritance of a free people, whose rights were assured, and whose consciences were respected. Again I say, obedience to conscience as to the law of God makes the hero. I plead that there is no way in which we can better serve our Master. Here, if in any way, is our best opportunity of serving our day and generation. We live at a time when, with shame be it said, in many trades custom has done its best to condone dishonesty: to patronise sham commodities has become general; many an honest living has beech ruined by unfair competition; cheapness of material has been secured by lavish expenditure of human suffering. There is very serious danger that our national conscience may become dull as our national sins become common. There is very serious danger lest good Christian people should act the part of Pilate through mistrust of their powers to stay the wrong. There is very serious danger lest we should become so accustomed to hear the voice of pain as to shut our ears to its cry and be absolutely dumb. We pass on to notice how the law of God is superior in authority to the law of man, and how the law of man only derives its validity and authority as it reflects and realises the law of God. Daniel’s enemies saw that it was possible to frame a law that Daniel’s conscience would not permit him to obey; and they knew that no matter what penalties were attached, if obedience to the law of man meant disobedience to the law of God, Daniel would be s law-breaker rather than be false to his religion. Now, how would the opinion of a certain class of people regard Daniel? They say the law is sacred: obedience to the law is imperative. They who go to Rome must do as Rome does. They must at least bow down to the house of Rimmon, even if it was only an outward formality. It is possible to act like a heathen and think like a Christian. God regards the heart--and to Him lip-service is insignificant, the worship of the heart is everything. Outward formality is nothing, inwardly reality is all. To them, then, Daniel’s action may have been brave and grand, but it was the action of a fanatic, not of a careful and prudent man. Christian manhood shrinks in horror from conformity even in appearance to the false. It may be the law of the country, but no country has a right to make the law. Nay, human law has its province: there are certain broad rules of morality that no one has a right to transgress. But human law has no right to interfere with man’s religion: here he passes into a sacred realm; here his relationship is with God. Oh, that our characters may so bear the scrutiny of our enemies that our religion may be in their eyes our only fault? In a sense our lives are public ones. A godless world will eagerly pounce on any un-Christian conduct, and make it an occasion against us. (C.S.Horne, M.A.)
A Tribute from Enemies
I. THE VERY UNFAVORABLE SOIL IN WHICH A CHARACTER OF SINGULAR BEAUTY AND DEVOUT CONSECRATION MAY BE ROOTED AND GROW. What sort of a place was that court where Daniel was? Half shambles and half pigsty. Luxury, sensuality, lust, self-seeking, idolatry, ruthless cruelty were the environment of this man. In the middle of these there grew up this fair flower of a character, pure and stainless, by the acknowledgment of enemies, and in which not even accusers could find a speck or a spot. There are no circumstances in which a man must trove his garments spotted by the world. There were “saints in Caesar’s household.” It may sound a paradox, but it is a deep truth that unfavorable circumstances are the most favorable for the development of the Christian character. For that development comes, not by what we draw from the things around, but by what we draw from the things in which we are rooted, even God himself, in whom the roots find both anchorage and nutriment. The more we are thrown back on him, and the less we find food for our best selves in the things about us, the more likely is our religion to be robust, and thoroughgoing, and conscious ever of his presence. He that has vitality enough within him to keep hold of Jesus Christ has thereby power enough within him to turn enemies into friends, and unfavorable circumstances into helps instead of hindrances. Purity, and holiness, and communion with God do not depend on environment, but upon the inmost will of the man.
II. THE KEEN CRITICS THAT ALL GOOD MEN HAVE TO FACE. In this man’s case their eyesight was meaded by the microscope of envy and malice.
However unobtrusive and quiet a Christian person’s life may be, there will be some persons standing close by who, if not actually watching for his fall, are at least by no means indisposed to make the worst of a slip, and to rejoice over an inconsistency. We do not need to complain of that. There will always be a tendency to judge men who by any means profess that they are living by the highest law, with a judgment, that has very little charity in it. And it is perfectly right that it should be so. Be content to be tried by a high standard.
III. THE UNBLEMISHED RECORD. These men could find no fault. They were very poor judges of his religion, and they did not try to judge that; but they were very good judges of his conduct as Prime Minister, and they did judge that. The world is a very poor critic of my Christianity, but it is a very sufficient one of my conduct. If we call ourselves Christians, we are bound, by the very name, to live in such a fashion as that men shall have no doubt of the reality of our profession, and of the depth of our fellowship with Christ. And it is by our commom conduct men will judge us.
IV. OBEDIENT DISOBEDIENCE. The plot goes on the calculation that, whatever happens, this man may be trusted to do what his God tells him; no matter who tells him not to do it. Daniel brushes the preposterous law of the poor, shadowy Darius on one side, in order that he may keep the law of his God. If earthly authorities command what is clearly contrary to God’s law, a Christian is absolved from obedience, and cannot be loyal unless he is a rebel. Obedience to God needs always to be sustained. In our little lives, the motto, “This did not I, because of the fear of the Lord,” is absolutely essential to all noble Christian conduct. These people calculated upon Daniel, and they had a right to calculate upon him. Could the world calculate upon us? (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
The Example of Daniel
Daniel is presented to us as a man, as well as a prophet of God. In the Bible men are seen as they really are, and the changes which grace made in their natural characters, are easily traced. Through a long life, Daniel’s was a record of consistent, firm, unflinching fidelity. What was the clew? In four aspects we may view him
I. IN CHILDHOOD, There is intense personality of teaching in the example here presented. As he was a child of the captivity, so are we. We are heirs of another kingdom. That kingdom is to come; we are to be trained for it. Parents are to follow a higher standard than this world can give. As the Chaldean lore of Daniel was all sanctified by piety, you are to see that the wisdom which is from above is made prominent in the training of your child for God.
II. IN HIS YOUNG MANHOOD. In Daniel’s treatment of himself young people may learn a useful lesson. Self-indulgence emasculates moral as well as physical vigour. The purity of innocence retained is better than that which comes by repentance and pardon.
III. AS A MAN, FULLY OCCUPIED. He was a statesman, and scientist as well. No man in this city is as busy to-day as was he. Yet he found time to pray thrice a day. He took time, and so may you.
IV. IN THE DEN OF LIONS. It was his prayerful communion with God that now risked his spiritual life and fortified him against perils which otherwise would have destroyed him. The den of lions was, indeed, a historic reality. Yet it was no less a figure of the tribulations into which our Lord Jesus and all his followers are thrown. We are powerful if we are in communion with God, and powerless if we attempt to cope with Him alone. (Bishop W. C. Doane.)
Eminent Piety and Efficiency in Business not incompatible
Daniel is a man fitted to excite our admiration at whatever point in his remarkable career we regard him. Two things in the text invite our attention.
I. THE HONORABLE TESTIMONY BORNE BY HIS ENEMIES TO HIS EFFICIENCY IN OFFICE. By the death of Belshazzar, and the conquest of Babylon, Darius, the Mede, had added an extensive territory to his empire, teeming with a numerous population. Such an addition required a corresponding increase in the staff of officials requisite for its management. Darius, admiring the administrative talents of Daniel, and having unbounded confidence in his character, formed the purpose of making this Daniel prime minister over the whole empire. Hence arose a conspiracy among Daniel’s associates in office. They have become jealous of Daniel, and seek his downfall.
1. The enemies of Daniel had powerful motives to seek his downfall. Motives impure indeed, but powerful. The spirit of envy had seized them. It cost them something to tolerate the Jewish statesman as an equal, but they could not brook his being their superior. Promotion to him was degradation to them.
2. They had ample scope. When men are bent on doing mischief, they can generally succeed, even where the sphere is limited, and the chances comparatively few. Shortcomings in accounts, and cases of maladministration on the part of Daniel could not have escaped the quick eye of his two rivals. Errors of this kind would have served their purpose. But they found “none occasion nor fault.”
II. THE LAST RESORT OF HIS MALICIOUS ENEMIES. They basely plot for his ruin concerning his religion. The cowardly conspiracy, together with its terrible recoil on the conspirators, is fully developed in the remainder of the chapter. The enemies of Daniel are “taken in their own trap, and are fallen into the pit their own hands have digged.”
1. There was another chance, and that chance lay in the man’s religion. Daniel was known to be eminently devout. Prayer was the element of his soul’s existence. Thorough honesty and honour might sufficiently explain the accuracy of Daniel’s accounts. But his religion was something beyond common honesty and honour. Without true religion, without a life of prayer, without a life of faith on the son of God, and obedience to his commands, without a life in which the moral nature shall have its share of attention, in which the soul shall get spiritual culture, and preparation for the future, your life, however satisfactory in other respects, is an incomplete thing, and if persisted in, will eventually prove a failure.
2. Daniel’s religion was reliable. His enemies and rivals knew this, and matured their plans accordingly. They saw in Daniel an honest and fearless professor of religion; a man of decision, the tone of whose piety was elevated, whose religious habits and exercises were fixed and punctual. They could make his frequent prayers to God a sure basis of calculation, in forming their schemes for his overthrow. Nor did they over-rate his constancy.
3. Eminent piety and thorough efficiency in business are not incompatible. Some have a notion that personal religion and proficiency in any trade or profession cannot go together. And, indeed, we do not always find piety and skill united. It need not be that the two are separated. And religion supplies the highest motives for the efficient discharge of all duties.
III. Religion not only places us under the power of mighty motives, IT ALSO SUPPLIES IN ITS HOLY EXERCISES THE BEST PREPARATION FOR MEETING THE CLAIMS OF OUR EARTHLY CALLING. There is a wear and tear of the system incessantly going on, in the pursuit of any trade or profession which demands occasional relief. The wheels of life want oiling. There is a fountain of strength free to all. Daniel knew its power. He found relief at the throne of grace, in his prayers and regular communings with God. Three times a day he retired and prayed. Here was the secret of his strength. Our religion, while it is spiritual, is practical.
IV. SUCH A COMBINATION REFLECTS HONOUR ON RELIGION, AND MATERIALLY AIDS ITS ADVANCE. Manifest discord between the religious profession and the common life, dishonours the name of Christ, creates doubt in the minds of men as to the power of His truth, fills their minds with a false and unfavourable impression of its general influence, and thus tends to strengthen those prejudices, already too strong, which prevent their forming a just estimate of a true Christian life. In this respect we have all to confess manifold deficiencies. Let us, however, remember and imitate Daniel’s conduct, and we may yet render the cause of Christ important service. Combine thorough effciency in business with all the exercises of piety, and you will in your own person demonstrate that the two things can co-exist. (David Jones, B.A.)
The True Believer’s Conflict with, and triumph over, the world
Human nature is the same in every age; the same alike in principle and in practice. It is no wonder that Daniel’s exaltation should prove a source of enmity, and that those who were placed in a lower point of dignity should seek occasion against him, that so they might accuse him to their common Master. Still there are many who watch for the failing of the righteous man.
I. WHAT THE BELIEVERS MAY EXPECT FROM THE WORLD. The world is very little altered since the days of Daniel. Occasion against the believer is sought with equal earnestness, though not perhaps, with equal openings. This enmity should not come out on the Christian as a strange and unexpected thing. It should enter into his reckoning.
II. WHAT THE WORLD WILL EXPECT FROM THEM. It is evident from the context what opinion had been formed concerning Daniel’s moral character, by those who had leagued together to compass his overthrow. We should take heed that we knowingly afford no vulnerable point, no exposed and unguarded quarter, on which we may be assailed by the envenomed arrows of the ungodly. Like Job, we should put on righteousness that it may clothe us. To this a great auxiliary is singleness of mind. The human mind is so constituted that man is always under the guidance and control of some one master-principle to which all Others are subordinate or subservient. To realise consistency of conduct we should seek unity of motive.
III. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCES THAT MAY RESULT HERE, AND THAT WILL RESULT HEREAFTER. If actions be ours, consequences, even as to the present life, are in the hand of God alone. It is ours to purpose, but he fulfils. (T. Dale, A.M.)
The Incorruptible Courtier
There are two kinds of courage recognised among men. There is another kind of courage, often idolised, that seems a compound of rashness and foolhardiness, that delights in going anywhere and undertaking anything. There is another kind of courage which we call moral courage, which is of the highest and noblest character; a courage dependent wholly on the mental and not on the physical characteristics. Observe
1. The baseness of envy. Daniel’s character was, long ere this, fully established in Babylon. Darius had promoted him. We can easily imagine how distasteful such a promotion must have been to the Persian nobles. How hard do we find it to bear quietly the promotion of others. Let us tremble lest anything in the advancement or welfare of others excites a malign sentiment in our minds, lest we come to envy them that which, by the appointment of providence, has become theirs, and which they have a right honestly to keep and to enjoy:--the moment such a disposition arises in our minds, that moment are we Daniel’s persecutors, without the power.
2. Daniel’s Crime. In what way his ruin was to be accomplished does not as yet seem clear to those who have resolved on that view. Possibly they were not as incorruptible as he. Possibly they had consciences that allowed them to do what Daniel’s conscience forbade him to do. How very unpleasant it is to have an upright person near us when we want to do wrong! Very perplexing and annoying this Jew Daniel, a perpetual decalogue before them, telling them they have broken all its precepts. He must be removed. To get rid of him, however, will require considerable skill, nothing less than the invention of a new crime hitherto unheard of in the annals of idolatry.
3. The rash-resolve of a weak king. On the side of his self-importance the poor king was caught; He forgot the impiety of the request, and established the statute framed by Daniel’s enemies.
4. Daniel’s unmoved perserverance. All through his life he has been a man of prayer. Prayer is with him a necessity of his nature. Learn a lesson here. Religion must be all, or it is nothing. Every day of your life it will say to you, what Daniel s said to him, “Without me ye can do nothing,” and the religious life which in youth was your calm and deliberate choice, whose power and beauty you so imperfectly apprehended, will then become the necessity of your nature, the secret of your happiness, the source of your inspiration and the blessing of your house.
5. Darius the Mede had gone too far to retract. He is obliged to think now, after the act is done, instead of thinking beforehand, and he cannot sleep.
6. An interposition by miracle God had sent his angels and the mouths of the lions had been shut. How this was done we know not, nor can there be much profit, in our speculations on the matter. But it was done. If any of you ever resolve to serve God, never fear the lions’ den that may come. God will interpose in some marvellous way at the right time; a friend will be raised up that will be as an angel of God; troubles will disappear as soon as you meet them. God says, “Them that honour me I will honour.” (W. G. Barrett.)
The Character of Daniel
I. HIS CHARACTER.
1. His consistent integrity. For this we have the evidence of his enemies.
2. His habitual piety.
(1) His habits of prayer.
(2) His praying looking toward Jerusalem.
3. Daniel’s special confidence in God. Not professed with his lips, but calmly and touchingly exhibited in his actions.
II. GOD’S MYSTERIOUS DEALINGS WITH HIM.
1. They were deeply mysterious. God permits his enemies to succeed. So God often deals with the world; in his Church; with individual Christians; and with his own son he did so deal.
2. See Daniel delivered and God’s dealings explained. Consider the effects of this deliverance on Daniel; on the King; on the enemies of God; on the people and cause of God. Apt representation of God’s universal providence--all things shall terminate as He wills, and shall glorify Him-in the world at large; in the Church. Individuals continually perceive the blessed results of their afflictions, trials, darkness, and fears. How truly this was shown in the Son of God, need hardly be observed. Let the timid, the undecided, or the inconsistent, go and study the character of Daniel. Let them confess their faith as he did. (F. Close, M.A.)
Seeking Cause of Offence
It is the penalty of greatness that envy ever follows in its path. Nor is goodness any protection. In Daniel there was very much to abate envy. It was probably upon its becoming manifest that the King intended to raise Daniel to still higher honour, and to “set him over the whole nation,” that the anger of the satraps became too violent for restraint. They resented it, not because they were corrupt, and Daniel’s honesty kept them from enriching themselves, but more probably because they were ambitious, and deemed that it was a slight to the conquerors to give the highest office in the realm to one of a race vanquished by those whom they had now defeated. Daniel was a slave in their eyes, and was he now to rule over those who had beaten his masters? National antipathies are ever things difficult to control. And they have a good side; for patriotism is closely allied with them. These envious men sought their opportunity, first of all, in matters respecting the Kingdom. Eagerly they watched Daniel’s administration, and hoped to find something neglected, or some failure. There was no probability of their discovering corruption or partiality, but they did hope to find something that might have been managed more skilfully. And they sought in vain. They despaired of finding anything against him save “concerning the law of his God.” The word used for law is not the old Hebrew name Thorah, but a late word, used only here, and in Ezra and Esther. Of the Thorah of Moses these men knew nothing, but they had heard of Daniel’s religious practices, and they felt that dislike with which men commonly regard the rites and usages of other forms of worship. And one thing is very remarkable. They were convinced that Daniel so valued his prayers and devotions that he would endure any loss or punishment rather than discontinue them ever for a time. Doubtless they called him a fanatic, and despised him for being narrow-minded. But fanatic is a term often applied to men of strong convictions. The words “assembled together” would better be, “came tumultuously.” As if they would take the King by storm; moved with a fervid zeal to honour their beloved Darius. They had consulted among themselves, and had been moved to make this urgent demand by an outburst of feeling which had hurried their whole body to this tumultuous proceeding. They so wrought on the vanity of Darius that their request was granted. The outward semblance of the request was permission throughout a lunar month to acknowledge Darius as the sole deity to be invoked by prayer. The Persian kings claimed to be representatives of Pennized, and as such had a sort of right to divine honours. To Darius this deification of his person seemed not unreasonable.
1. Daniel does not go out of his way to show his determination to honour his God before his king. He simply persists quietly in a practice which he felt to be his duty. Come what would, he must honour God at any risk and st every cost.
2. Daniel prayed thrice a day. We might have expected prayer only at the morning and evening sacrifices. It has been objected that three times was a Parsee, not a Jewish custom. But see Psalms 55:17; and for mid-day prayer, see Acts 10:9. (Dean Payne-Smith.)
Consulted together to establish a royal statute.
The Faith of Daniel Tested
It was common for the Chaldeans to administer capital punishment by burning. To the Persians, who were worshippers of fire, this was regarded as something of an abomination, and hence they destroyed their condemned criminals by casting them to savage beasts. Whatever may have been the deficiences of this Darius, he had the shrewdness to find out the best and most competent man in Babylon to serve him as his prime minister. He made Daniel chief of the three presidents. Such a man, in such a position, administering affairs with rigid exactness and impartiality, strictly honest himself and tolerating no dishonesties or falsities in others, and ever growing in the esteem of his king and in favour with the people, could not, in the nature of things, escape the envy and malice of those who suffered by comparison, and who found him in the way of their selfish ambitions. It is part of the disease that is upon depraved humanity to be dissatisfied and unamiable toward the excellences and honours of others. It is loath to bear anything above itself. It is their delight to humiliate those who happen to be more favoured than themselves. But see what the true fear of God will do for a man! With all the determination of the malignants to ruin Daniel, they could find no fault in him. Piety was rooted in him, and it wrought for him a pureness, dignity and integrity of life and character on which the most envious tongues could obtain no hold. They could sustain no charges against him as a man, or against his administration. His devotion to his God made him true in all his life and faithful to all his trusts. Having satisfied themselves of the impeccable integrity of Daniel, both as a man and as a competent officer, the eyes of these plotters should have been opened to their unreasonableness in wishing to overthrow him. But when the devil of selfishness, envy and malice takes possession of the heart, no charms of virtue, no beauties of goodness, no adornments of innocence, no excellences of merit, are sufficient to cast him out or break his dominion. The more convinced these men were of Daniel’s unimpeachableness, the more desperate they became in their determination to destroy him. Look at the cunning baseness of their proceeding. The movement of these conspirators was to prove how much they were devoted to the sublimest honour of their sovereign, and to induce him to unite with them in establishing some royal decree which should memorialize his divine dignity, and bring to him the sacred reverence which belonged to his person. The holding of the laws of the Medes and Persians to be unalterable was founded on the assumption that the king is something of a deity, and can make no mistakes. And this divinity of their king these men professed to be most anxious to bring forward, and to have impressed upon all the subjects of the realm. Such was their scheme. It had a heathen lie for its basis; it was a huge hypocrisy in its suggestion; and it was nothing but a scheme of cold-blooded murder to destroy the greatest, best and purest man in the kingdom. Great was the king’s sorrow when he found who was struck by his insane decree. But vainly did he now reproach himself for his wicked folly. He had played the fool. He had permitted himself to be flattered into a measure which was now about to put out of the world the most faithful friend he had on earth. Under the Medo-Persian laws Daniel could not be delivered. Sycophants and flatterers are always tyrants in their hearts. They will oppress when they get the power. But Jehovah can bring to naught the machination of princes, and shut the mouths of lions. And in this case he did both. Learn from this that there is righteous and merciful God at the helm of things, however crooked or unevenly they may seem to go. This is a mixed world. Excellence and virtue do not exempt from earthly ills and adversities. Learn also, how we may best conduct ourselves with reference to all these things. From early youth Daniel gave himself to God; he was diligent in his devotions; and always dared to obey God rather than man. (Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)
Therefore King Darius reigned the Writing and the Decree.
A Hero in Babylon
The Jews passed into the hands of the conqueror of Babylon, and became the subjects of the great Cyrus, whose viceroy at Babylon is called in the Bible by the common name of Darius. The Persians were not idolaters. They believed in two principles the good and the evil, and they held that the former of these principles was visibly incarnate in the person of their kings. Hence arose the unalterableness of the royal edicts of the Medes and Persians. They could not be changed without reflecting on the sacred character of the king. This pretension enables us to understand the strange decree about prayer. It was promulgated in order that Darius might obtain from his new subjects in Babylon recognition of himself as the supreme personage, the representative of the supreme God. It was to wring from the conquered, idolatrous Babylonians an acknowledgment of the conqueror’s Divinity. Observe that it was a negative, not a positive, decree. They were not commanded by it to worship any other god, they were not even required by it to pay any divine honour to the king. Persecution was not attempted; open apostasy was not required. Why, we may ask, should Daniel have fallen into a trap it was so easy to avoid? He need not drop one petition out of his daily prayers. He need not, by word or gesture, pay blasphemous honour to the new sovereign. Why should he obtrude his disobedience? There is something unspeakably sublime in the line taken by that Hebrew courtier, Daniel. No fanatic, no headlong zealot, but the wisest and most diplomatic of statesmen, and the farthest sighted of men, calmly continued his religious habits precisely as afore-time. Compare the Apostles before the Sanhedrin saying “We ought to obey God rather than men.” There was no balancing of consequences, no thought of compromise. Most of us have some idea of what truth is, of the rights and claims of truth, and, above all, of the deepest truth given to us to know that which is the hope of our own spiritual life. We have an idea that we are ourselves in possession of some truth--that we know something which is important, sacred, sublime; something which others in the world do not know relating to this subject,--but which of us will dare to say that he has a deep hold, and a passionate love of truth, such as inspired these men to resist for the sake of it, and to strive against falsehood and sin? These are days of loose beliefs and hazy views, days when it is fashionable to be an honorary member of all creeds. To one who is infected with the indifferentism of such a time, the stand made by the heroes of the Book of Daniel must seem little better than fanatical folly, and sheer waste of life. So must all martyrdom appear to the man who is a spectator and not a disciple, who has never understood the claims or felt the value of the truth he professes to hold. Babylon has fallen, but it has had its counterpart in every age, for it is the type of that world, with its still subtler pomps and vanities, in which you and I have to pass through our probation; go where we will we cannot escape from it. It sets up its idols and demands worship for them; it has issued its imperious edicts, and attaches formidable penalties to the defiance of them. This will ever be the secret of moral victory--the victory which will overcome the world, even unto the end--our faith. The true self cannot be touched with the mightiest of persecutors or the cruellest of inquisitors,--the true self which comes from God, and belongs to God, and witnesses for God, cannot be delivered to the tormentors. It defies captivity; it is indestructible and immortal. (Canon Duckworth.)
The Edict of Darcius
We find that Darius--who was probably one of the high military commanders engaged in the siege of Babylon--takes the kingdom, while Cyrus is off conquering other parts of the world. As soon as he attains the throne he makes his arrangements for governing the country. He divides the kingdom into one hundred and twenty provinces; and he appoints a prince or ruler over each province; and over the princes he puts three presidents to see that these rulers do no damage to the king, and do not swindle the government. And over these three he places Daniel, as president of the presidents. Very possibly Darius knew the man. He may have been in former days at the court of Nebuchadnezzar; and if so, he probably considered Daniel an able and conscientious statesman. We do not know how long he held that position. But sooner or late the other presidents and the princes grew jealous, and wanted Daniel out of the way. It was as if they had said, “Let us see if we cannot get this sanctimonious Hebrew removed: he has ‘bossed’ us long enough.” You see he was so impracticable: they could do nothing with him. There were plenty of collectors and treasurers; but he kept such a close eye on them that they only made their salaries. There was no chance of plundering the government while he was at the head. “If we had matters in our own hands it would be different; for King Darius does not know half as much about the affairs of this empire as does this old Hebrew: and he watches our accounts so closely that we can get no advantage over the government. Down with this pious Jew!” Perhaps they worked matters so as to get an investigating committee, hoping to catch him in his accounts. But it was no use. Now I want to call your attention to the fact that one of the highest eulogies ever paid to a man on earth was pronounced upon Daniel at this time by his enemies. These men were connected with the various parts of the kingdom, and on laying their heads together they came to this conclusion--that they could “find no occasion against this Daniel, except they found it against him concerning the law o his God.” What a testimony from his bitterest enemies! Would that it could be said of all of us! Young man, character is worth more than money. Character is worth more than anything else in the wide world. I would rather have such a testimony as that borne of Daniel than have all that this world can give. The men said, “We will get him out of the way. We will get the king to sign a decree; and we will propose a penalty. It shall not be the fiery furnace this time. We will have a lions’ den--a den of angry lions; and they will soon make away with him.” Probably these plotters met at night, for it generally happens that if men want to do any downright mean business they meet at night; darkness suits them best. The chief-president himself was not there: he had not been invited to meet them. Very likely some lawyer, who understood All about the laws of the Medes and Persians, stood up, and talked something after this fashion: “Gentlemen, I have got, I think, a plan that will work well, by which we may get rid of this old Hebrew. You know he will not serve any but the God of Abraham and of Isaac.” We know that very well. And if a man had gone to Babylon in those days he would not have had to ask if Daniel loved the God of the Bible. I pity any man who lives so that people have to ask, “Is he a Christian?” Let us so live that no one need ask that question about us. And these plotters said one to another, “Now, let us get Darius to sign a decree that if any man make a request of any God or man--except of the King Darius--for thirty days, he shall be put into the lions’ den. And let us all keep perfectly still about this matter so that it won’t get out. We must not tell our wives, for fear the news may get about the city. The king would never sign the decree if he found out what the object was.” Then they may have said, “We must draw it so tight that Darius will not be able to get out of it after he has once signed. We must make it so binding that if the king once signs we shall have that Daniel in the lions’ den: and we will take good care that the lions shall be hungry.” When the mine is all ready, the conspirators come to the king, and open their business with flattering speech: “King Darius, live for ever!” When people approach me with smooth and oily words, I know they have something else coming--I know they have some purpose in telling me I am a good man. These plotters, perhaps, go on to tell the king how prosperous the realm is, and how much the people think of him. And then, perhaps, in the most plausible way, they tell him that if he signs this decree he will be remembered by their children’s children--that it would be a memorial for ever of his greatness and goodness. “What is this decree that you wish me to sign?” And running his eye over the document he says “I don’t see any objection to that.” “Will you put your signet to it, and make it law?” He puts his signature to the decree, and seals it with his seal There was probably a long preamble, telling him how popular he was; saying that he was liked better than Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar. They most likely tickled his vanity, and told him that he was the most popular man that had ever reigned in Babylon; and then they may have gone on to tell him how attached they were to him and his rule, and that they had been consulting together what they could do to increase his popularity and make him more beloved; and now they had hit upon a plan that was almost sure to do it. If you touch a man’s vanity he will do almost anything; and Darius was like most of the human race. They touched his vanity by intimating that this would make him great. It was not only Daniel they were thus going to get out of the way, but every conscientious Jew. There was not a true Jew in the whole of that wide empire who would bow down and worship Darius; and these men knew that: and so they were going to sweep away at a stroke all the Jews who were true to their faith. They hated them. And I want to tell you that the world does not love Christians nowadays. The world will persecute a man if he attempts to live the life of a true Christian. The world is no friend to true grace: mark that! A man may live for the world, and like the world, and escape persecution. But if the world has nothing to say against you, it is a pretty sure sign that God has not much to say for you; because if you do seek to live unto Christ Jesus you must go against the current of the world. And now they are ready to let the news go forth; and it is not long before it spreads through the highways of Babylon. The men of the city knew the man: knew that he would not vacillate. Daniel was none of your sickly Christians of the nineteenth century; he was none of your weak-backed, none of your weak-kneed Christians; he had moral stamina and courage. I can imagine that aged white-haired Secretary of State sitting at his table going over the accounts of some of these rulers of provinces. Some of the timid, frightened Hebrews come to him, and say: “Oh, Daniel, have you heard the latest news ?” “No. What is it ?” “What! have you not been to the king’s palace this morning?” “No! I have not been to the palace to-day. What is the matter?” “Well, there is a conspiracy against you. A lot of those princes have induced King Darius to sign a decree that if any man shall call upon any God in his kingdom within thirty days he shall be thrown to the lions. Their object is to have you cast into the den. Well now, just you get out of Babylon. Or, if you stay in Babylon, do not let anyone catch you on your knees. And if you will pray, close that window, draw a curtain over it; shut the door, and stop up every crevice. People are sure to be about your house listening.” And some of our nineteenth century Christians would have advised after the same fashion:--“Cannot you find out some important business to be done down in Egypt, and so take a journey to Memphis? or can you not think of something that needs being looked after in Syria, and so hurry off to Damascus? Or, surely you can make out there is a need for your going to Assyria, and you can make a stay at Nineveh. Or why not get as far as Jerusalem, and see what changes fifty or sixty years have wrought? Any way, just be out of Babylon for the next thirty days, so that your enemies may not catch you: for, depend upon it, they will all be on the watch. And, whatever you do, be sure they do not catch you on your knees.” How many men there are who are ashamed to be caught upon their knees! Men have not the moral courage to be seen praying. Ah, the fact is--we are a pack of cowards: that is what we are. Shame on the Christianity of the nineteenth century! it is a weak and sickly thing. Would to God that we had a host of men like Daniel living to-day! I can picture that aged man, with his grey hairs upon him, listening to the words of these “miserable counsellors,” who would tempt him to “trim,” and “hedge,” and shift--“to save his skin,” as men say, at the cost of his conscience. And their counsel falls flat and dead. I can fancy how Daniel would receive a suggestion that he should even seemingly be ashamed of the God of his fathers. “They will be watching you; they will have their spies all around. But if you are determined to go on praying, shut up your window; close all your curtains stop up the keyhole, so that no one can look through to see you on your knees, and so that no one can overhear a single word. Accommodate yourself just a little. Compromise just a little.” That is just the cry of the world to-day! It is, “Accommodate yourself to the times. Compromise just a little here; and deviate just a little there, just to suit the opinions and views of a mocking world. True as steel, that old man goes to his room three times a day. Mark you, he had time to pray. There is many a business man to-day who will tell you he has no time to pray. “If you have so much business to attend to that you have no time to pray, depend upon it you have more business on hand than God ever intended you should have.” But look at this man. He had the whole, or nearly the whole, of the King’s business to attend to. Yes, he could take up the words of the fifty-fifth Psalm, and say:
“As for me, I will call upon God;
And the Lord shall save me.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud;
And he shall hear my voice.”
So Daniel went to his room three times a day: he trod that path so often that the grass could not grow upon it.” He goes to pray as aforetime; and he has his windows open. Like Paul, in later days, he “knew whom he had believed”; like Moses, he “saw Him who is invisible.” He knew whom he worshipped. There was no need to trace back the church records for years to find out whether this man had ever made a profession of religion. See him as he falls upon his knees. He is not careful to inquire whether there are any outsiders, or whether they can hear. There are men listening there near the open window: the hundred and twenty princes have taken good care of that. (D.L.Moody.)
Now when Daniel knew that the Writing was signed.
The grandeur of the Book of Daniel is not only the sweep of these majestic visions which opened the mysteries of future time, but the vivid portrait it holds before us of a man who has all the springs of his actions in faithfulness to God:--A man so thoroughly forgetful of himself that the one only question which rises in him, when anything is to be done or suffered, is whether that thing is his Lord’s will. If it is, no doubt remains; nothing is to be said or thought about costs and consequences. If it is not, no consequences will justify it. The probable consequences of our actions are one proper test, among others for deciding, in doubtful cases, before we act, whether a given course is, or is not according to God s will; but when that last point is once settled, whether by Scripture, an enlightened conscience, or any rightful authority, the expected consequences can never furnish ground for hesitation. What is right is to be done. What will come of doing right--whether dens of lions or chairs of state--is not our concern. Still, the weakness of human virtue makes men more prompt and stedfast in well-doing, if they know beforehand how it will come out, and that no hurt will be found upon them. Recall Daniel’s four great experiences. Each of these four sorts of hostility to Christian faithfulness has its ever-present examples.
1. The royal meat, dishes, and wine-vessels, in the low opportunities of the flesh, tempting the senses to excess
2. The golden image set up on the plains of Dura, as the thousand-fold attractions of outward possession and prosperity, office and station sanction the lust of them.
3. The princely court and crown and ceremony of Babylon, over-riding common consciences, in the whole fascination and imposing influence of earthly power, invested with the highest advantages and brilliant paraphernalia of social distinction.
4. The decree of an idolatrous worship, in everything among us which goes to put man in place of God, man’s opinions in place of Gospel truths, and human fancies for a revealed and justified faith. We need not use the hard names, which describe the extreme indulgences and servitudes of these four formidable passions; we need not say, gluttony, avarice, sycophancy, or infidelity. Let us choose moderate words, and try to put it home to ourselves fairly, just as it is. Look at the same four thus: sins of the appetites; sins of selfish accumulation; sins of inordinate desire for position; sins of religious laxity and negligence. These beset us all, with all the artful and boundless possibilities of growth, mastery, perdition of the soul. Over all these perilous tempters we are shown here one steadfast and victorious master--religious fidelity. It wears in this saintly prophet a peculiar charm. It is a fidelity intensified, yet without boasting or pretension, incorruptible without self-confidence, fixed without obstinancy, patient without pusillanimity, invincible in front of men and princes, but humble and docile as the pet of’ the Lord. For a fidelity like this there is an involuntary and almost universal admiration among men that fall farthest short of it. So far the best sentiments of human nature second the requirements of our religion. Place a Daniel, an Elijah, a Gideon, or a Joshua before them, and they see, they confess the stamp of greatness on his spirit. So far the Bible and the soul answer to each other. The same divine hand that has wrought this feeling into the common human heart has woven traces of it into human history.
The four successive steps which mark the birth and growth of each great cause, institution, or reformation among men, are these:
1. The great truth wakened m the mind of some man or men, in the form of an idea, and a faith by the Spirit from whom all good gifts come.
2. The jealous and the selfish opposition of worldly interest--the Pharaohs and Caesars and Herods, the Nebuchadnezzars and Belihazzars, the scribes and Pharisees, of Society, of the state, and even of the church--carrying on a determined warfare with the light.
3. The triumph of fidelity, brave and patient.
4. The general recognition and confession of the glory and beauty of the faithful life. Only let in time enough after a man sacrifices himself for a true principle, and the common testimony of men will honour him. More than that, it will not effectually and unanimously honour anything else on earth, but such fidelity. It is one of the most striking proofs that a righteous God really rules the earth, to see this constant reversal of human judgements going on--the humble exalted, and the rejected canonised. Recall the case of Bernard Palissy, a poor, but thinking and believing mechanic of France, thrown into the old Bastile, on St. Bartholomew’s day, for his Protestanism. Charles the Ninth came to visit and threaten him in the prison, saying to him, “Palissy, I am forced to give you up to death, unless you renounce your religion.” “Forced!” answered the triumphant prisoner; “they that force you, King Charles, cannot force me. I can die, and so I am free. But you and all your nation cannot compel me, simple potter as I am, to bend my knee to an idol, or a lie.” Everybody knows whence the spirit in that man came, and everybody acknowledges its power. Men are heard to say, “There are terrible times coming.” It may be so, we know nothing of the future. But prosperity is a harder test of fidelity to Christ than misfortune. But instead of looking out for dangers that shall imperil men’s souls when worse days come, we should be wiser if we were looking for them just where we are. In business, in politics, in company, in families, in schools, the question will have to go forth once more like a dividing sword, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Many persons are now pleading for mild and liberal exhibitions of Christian conviction. The greater truth is, we are all servants answerable only for doing declared duties, for confessing Christ before men, and seeking not our own glory, and being found faithful unto death. Ours is not to order results, but to do duties. The prophet stands in just this trial-place of his holy independence The special peril of this sort of character, is that it becomes conscious of its strength, proud of its independence, and before it is aware, substitutes the human heroism of self-reliance for the holy fidelity of Christ’s self-sacrifice. How many high examples of Christian courage have fallen by that cunning temptation--the humility of the cross vanished! See in Daniel the graceful freedom from that ostentation of conceited and opinionated firmness. Christian fidelity is as meekly dependent on God as it is fearless of his enemies. (Bishop Huntington, D.D.)
The Character of Daniel
I. HIS PIETY. It was not mere profession. It was in the heart, real, deep, and vital. He had brought his religion into Babylon, and it grew and flourished in that most unfavourable climate. It was tried--and tried severely, and it is only by trials such as those which Daniel endured, that a man’s religion is proved to be sincere. He was so devoted, and so holy and excellent a character, because he was a man of prayer. The remarkable thing about his piety is, that it made him a thoroughly consistent character.
II. HIS PERSECUTION. Though he was a good man, he had many enemies. A man may be hated and persecuted, merely because he is religious.
III. HIS UNCOMPROMISING DECISION. He had never yet swerved from the path of duty--that duty which he owed to God, all the time that he had been at Babylon. If lie had yielded, or seemed to yield, by not praying, as he did before, what would his enemies have said of him? Doubtless, that his principles were not worth much, his religion was no better than that of others. What then does he do? Precisely what he did before.
IV. THE BOLDNESS OF DANIEL ARISING FROM HIS CONFIDENCE IN GOD. He looked at the lion’s den, and was not afraid of it. He knew that God could be with him there. O this cold, calculating prudence, this worldly forethought! It thinks only of the present. Let it not enter--never let it be once harboured in your breasts. Act with decision, act with uncompromising boldness: do your duty at all times, and under all circumstances, and leave results to God.
V. HIS WONDERFUL DELIVERANCE. The king did all he could to save his servant; and was delighted when he found Daniel’s God had proved able to protect him. Adhere then to your principles, at all times and under all circumstances; adhere to those principles that will answer conscience, and practise them at all times, and under all circumstances, and then God will give you his blessing. (William Girling.)
Daniel,--or the Believer in Persecution
Daniel’s example is left as an encouragement in stripping off the incumbrances of worldlings and sin, so that we may witness steadfastly in our career till we receive the seed of faith, even the salvation of our souls. In Daniel we have a believer persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and delivered from the hands of his persecutors, and blessed in his very tribulation.
1. The encouragement this narrative affords us to make a faithful and becoming stand for the truth, and, 2, against any encroachment upon its sacred boundaries. It will be necessary
(1) to make a stand for the truth.
(2) To make a stand for the sufficiency and supremacy of the
(3) To make a stand for the sinner’s justification by faith alone.
(4) To make a stand for the fact of Christ’s one true holy universal Church.
(5) To make a stand for simplicity and spirituality in the outward circumstances, and inward essence of worship.
(6) To make a stand against the introduction of worldly principles into the Church.
(7) To make a stand against all that would not minister to edification in the devotional exercises of the sanctuary. (C. Marshall, M. A.)
Character and Conduct of Daniel
In all ages the truth has had its champions, those who have stood for righteousness and for God. It seems quite right to say that God has never left himself without witnesses. This text comes from the lip of one who was a brilliant example.
I. DANIEL’S CHARACTER. It may be almost doubted if any one in the Old Testament of whom we learn as much was so entirely free from faults and sins. No one can doubt for a moment that Daniel was subject to the infirmities which mark our poor human nature; but the blemishes are not recorded. The character of Daniel appears all the more beautiful if we consider where and when the owner is supposed to have lived. In an Eastern Court. Learn,
1. This man is a marvellous example to us all. His pure life is a proof that God can keep his people in all positions.
2. This man’s good life in high office shows that faithfulness to God is quite consistent with the faithful discharge of proper duties in the highest office. Daniel did not neglect religious duties, yet he did not neglect his duty to his King.
3. This man’s conduct teaches us that our first duty is to conscience and God. Here is a man who cares more for God than for his own ease, comfort, and safety. This was the spirit of the martyrs.
II. DANIEL’S TRIALS. His were real. And yet he does not seem to have felt them much. Some of the holiest and best men have had crosses to bear. All the saints of God, ancient and modern, have had them.
III. DANIEL’S CONDUCT UNDER TRIAL. He kept silence while the plot was being hatched. He did exactly what he was accustomed to do when the decree was signed.
IV. DANIEL’S DELIVERANCE. It was as complete and glorious as were his obedience and faith. The deliverance is a remarkable illustration of the power of faith and prayer. More things are wrought by prayer than some men think. Do not lose your belief in a God who hears and answers prayer. (Charles Leach, D.D.)
Daniel a man of religious principle
I. THIS CASE TEACHES YOU THAT GOD SOMETIMES ALLOWS HIS PEOPLE TO BE PLACED IN SITUATIONS IN WHICH THEY ARE SHUT UP BY HIS PROVIDENCE EITHER TO SUFFER OR TO SIN.
II. LEARN FROM DANIEL TO POSSESS YOUR SOUL IN PATIENCE AND PRUDENCE IN THE DAYS OF SEVERE TRIAL. Daniel adds nothing, by way of insult, to his persecutors, nor of defiance toward his sovereign, nor yet does he omit any thing from fear of danger. He worships God just as he had been accustomed to do. It is sometimes said Daniel did wrong in disobeying a law which had been passed by the highest legislative power in the country. First, I have no sympathy with the “higher law” faction of our times; but it is certainly clear that the foundation of all law is the will of God. Governments are ordained of God. The will of God is aback of and above all social compacts or civil enactments. Secondly, as all the authority which man possesses over man is derived from God, so that authority is limited by the Divine law, and therefore the laws of man only bind when they are not inconsistent with the law of God. The moment any decrees of man require what God has forbidden, or forbid what God has commanded, they cease to be binding upon the conscience, and in such cases it is our solemn duty to protest against them, and to disobey them. Resistance and passive obedience may be pressed to a point when they become sinful. The edict of Darius, thirdly, was tyrannical, and opposed to the plainest commands of God. It would have been, therefore, sinful in Daniel to obey it.
III. Learn then, young men, THE DUTY OF SURRENDERING YOURSELVES AT ONCE CORDIALLY AND WITH A WHOLE-HEARTED MAGNANIMITY TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. Daniel kept back nothing. He did not waver or hesitate. But as soon as his hour of prayer comes, though he knows the decree is signed, he goes to his chamber, there to offer his protest against this impious decree, and to give his testimony for the supremacy of his God. Why do you peril your life, Daniel, for a mere form? why will you make yourself a martyr for the little matters of keeping your windows open, kneeling down, and speaking your prayers aloud? Surely, you are not going to sacrifice your splendid emoluments and high station by refusing to obey the king for the short space of thirty days. Consider too, O mighty man! chief of the presidents, how valuable your life is to others. Consider how much you owe to your countrymen, whose cause is in your hands, and to the Church of the Living God. Surely, you will not put in peril all these great matters by such obstinacy. How many, or which, or whether any of these pleas were suggested to Daniel, I know not. There are always plausible apologies at hand for treachery to the immortal soul, and treason to God; but no one can doubt how Daniel replied to such cowardly proposals, if indeed any one ventured to name them to him. I would rather refrain from praying altogether, than pretend to neglect it while I was secretly engaged in it. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
Daniel, a Model
The character of Daniel is a very noble one. His princely spirit shone in his captivity. He was one of those noble natures that no circumstances can keep from rising to the proper level
I. HIS UNIMPEACHABLE INTEGRITY. Not even his most virulent enemies could find occasion against him or detect a flaw.
II. HIS UNFAILING FIDELITY.
III. HIS UNFLINCHING COURAGE. He served his God without ostentation on the one hand or concealment on the other.
IV. HIS HABITUAL PIETY. He was not hardened by his captivity nor exalted by his honour.
V. HIS CHILDLIKE FAITH. He never distrusted his Lord’s purposes, plans or power. (Homilist.)
Daniel: the Man and the Book
Daniel was a heroic believer. He was marked by
I. FAITH. This was the life of his life.
1. His faith was an early possession. As a youth he believed in right, and in the Invisible God of right. It was this principle that was the moulding force in his boyhood’s character, conquering all that was adverse to him in the temptations of his masters, or the example of his companions, and compelling the admiration and trust of those who could not understand the secret spring of his conduct.
2. His faith was cherished in adverse circumstances. Not only was there the temptation to paganism, and materialism, and animalism which Babylonish life cast like so many meshes about the young captive, but there was the deprivation of all the ordinary outward aids to religious faith. No temple, no ceremonial, no sacrifice came to his aid. He had solely to depend on the personal but, thank God, inalienable “means of grace,” of private prayer.
3. His faith discovered in him a glorious future. He had visions of the colossal dynasties of men falling under the blessed dominion of the Son of Man.
4. His faith realised the Invisible Present. True faith ever does that, even though it cannot always descry the future. His faith saw God, Duty, Conscience. And so, whilst it was, in its visions of the future, “the substance of things hoped for,” it was, in its perception of the present, “the evidence of things not seen.” He was marked by,
II. HUMILITY. He does not talk of his faith; he simply and, as in the act before us, with all the simplicity of naturalness, manifests it. Dr. Pusey strikingly calls attention to this reserve of Daniel “Chief statesman of the first empire in the world, he has not recorded one single voluntary act of his own.” Notice,
1. The signs of his humility. He says little of himself or his exploits; his book tells much more of what befell him than of what he did.
2. The producing cause of this humility. It was doubtless his faith, his vision of the unseen present and the unseen future, that hushed and awed and humbled him. Just as grandeur of scenery hushes all thoughtful men, making them feel nothing amid its immensities so the scenery of the invisible world and the sight of the Invisible God abashes all pride, and quickens, in Daniel as in Isaiah, the spirit that cries, “Woe is me: I have seen the Lord of Hosts.” Unbelief may be proud, half belief may be conceited, thorough belief is ever reverent and lowly.
III. CONSTANCY. The very name of Daniel has come to be a synonym for resolution and endurance. And deservedly, for his faith enabled him to be firm.1. In spite of subtle temptation. The great ordeal of his life was much more searching than that which came to the three Hebrew youths. They were challenged to open idolatory; and they nobly refused, choosing rather the “burning fiery furnace.” Daniel was invited simply to neglect prayer to the true God. He was constant,
2. In spite of protracted trial. There were repeated efforts on the part of the envious and the malign. There was a long-continued captivity. He taught, and he worked, even as he prayed, at the end just “as he did aforetime.” He was marked by--IV. COURAGE. This is involved in constancy, and yet is so conspicuous that it commands separate notice. Evidenced by
1. His openness.
2. His dignity.
3. His calmness. The spirit of the worked towards the godly remains unchanged. (U. R. Thomas.)
Lessons from the history of Daniel.
1. In order to succeed in life a man must possess decision of character. Sir Fowell Buxton says, “The longer I live the more I am certain that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant, is energy, invincible determination, a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory.” The reason why so many men fail in life is want of purpose. They start for a certain goal, and then allow themselves to be diverted from their purpose.
2. Success begets jealousy. Daniel’s excellent spirit was a crime in the eyes of the other officials. Scripture says, “Jealousy is the rage of a man.” “Substitute for jealousy an everlasting emulation. Seeing others good let us try to be better. Seeing others industrious, let us work more hours. Seeing others benevolent, let us resolve on giving a larger percentage of our means for charity.”
3. Learn how to meet trouble. When trouble came, what did Daniel do? He went into his house and prayed. He placed the matter before the Most High. How differently men act when in trouble! The real man does what Daniel did. “There is only one explanation of the mystery of sorrow possible, and that is, that life’ is an education.” Then learn from each trial.
4. Sin always brings punishment. “It is a terrible thing to have done evil. It comes up again from ten thousand points.” Look at the brethren of Joseph after thirteen years. Life is uncertain, and the unexpected often happens. Do not lose everlasting happiness for any earthly consideration. Look at the end--keep your eyes on the unfading crown, and then sin will lose its attraction. (Ernest R. Gill.)
Daniel and the Den of Lions
Such an exalted station as Daniel occupied would put to the test the spirit and, character of this servant of God. There are great temptations in high places. Daniel’s integrity and uprightness gave him supremacy above all others. The favour shown to him, a foreigner and a Jew, soon excited an envious spirit in the breasts of the other courtiers. They began to plot against Daniel. They could find no occasion in his official conduct; so they sought to make occasion in connection with his religion. Darius was an easy monarch, ambitious and fond of flattery, and his courtiers thought that by proposing to him a plan that should flatter his pride, show his power over the people, and be a test of their allegiance to him, while they entirely concealed from him their designs against Daniel, they should be able to prevail. They gave him no time to deliberate--no opportunity of consulting with Daniel. They had it all prepared to present before him; they entreat him at once to sign the writing, and the decree: Without suspecting anything of the kind, he consented to sign what his envious courtiers intended to be the death-warrant of the favourite counsellor. How did the servant of God conduct himself under these peculiar circumstances? Daniel saw that there was but one course for him, he must simply and unostentatiously go forward; just do “as he had done aforetime.” A striking admonition against subterfuges in duty and devotion; against contrivances at once to quiet conscience, and preserve an immediate self-interest. Here we see what is the real spirit of a genuine religion; it is a firm, decided, steadfast, regard to God and His will, whatever may arise. There is such a thing as a religion which bends to circumstances, which turns with the wind and tide. That which is inward and vital abides under all the varied circumstances in which its possessor may be placed. Real principle stands the test, and becomes the stronger and the brighter the more it is tried. Again notice that the spirit of a true religion is a spirit of devotion. Here was the secret of his consistency and excellency of character; he had much communion with his God, and he drew down wisdom and grace from the fountain above that supplied him for every emergency, guided him through every difficulty, strengthened him for every duty, and supported him in every scene of danger. Learn also, when found in the path of duty, to leave everything with God. Daniel appears not to have been anxious about the event; he was only concerned about pleasing God--all the rest he can leave. The great thing for us all is to know the will of God, and do it. (Thomas Coleman.)
His Windows being Open in his Chamber towards Jerusalem.
The Open Windows
The open window assists our thoughts. As they take wing into the broad expanse, they gain freedom and enlargement; just as a bird imprisoned in a room flings itself with a thrill of song into the free air and sunshine. Sitting there, his mind could spurn the limitations of space and time. The favour or displeasure of the Persian king mattered but little to him. The chamber of life with some of us may seem poor and straitened enough, but God has given us windows in it with a distant outlook upon brighter and fairer scenes. And these windows we must keep open, and sit at them, or kneel at them, forgetting the loneliness and weariness of Babylon’s exile in the prospect of some fair Jerusalem of joy, and love, and faith.
1. First and foremost of those windowed outlooks with which God has so graciously endowed us, is that of FAITH. The prophet said he “saw visions of God,” and if he did, it must have been through this window of faith, because through it eternal realities become as though they were present. Other windows may become closed or dim; the more reason why we should keep steady and bright this blessed outlook of faith into things spiritual and eternal.
2. There is another window through which the soul may look out upon the ideal and the fair; and that is the window of HOPE. The natural attitude of the human soul is an expectant one. Hope is an important element in the Christian life. Life will go merrily on under the power of a sunbeam on a distant spot in the path. Through the window of hope we see the breaking of a golden dawn upon the distant prospect; the narrow chamber of earthy circumstances gives place to sweeter possibilities, which may become present realities under the transforming influence of Christian hope.
3. Then there is the window of MEMORY. It may be that Daniel was not unmindful of this outlook into past scenes and associations. To be often at the window of memory keeps the heart young amid the ageing and withering influences of the present. (G. Onslow.)
Daniel’s Undaunted Courage
Daniel had been exalted to very great worldly prosperity, but his soul had prospered too. Oftentimes outward advancement means inward decline. Tens of thousands have been intoxicated by success. Though they bade fair in starting in the race of life to win the prize, they were tempted to turn aside to gather the golden apples, and so they missed the crown. It was not so with Daniel--he was as perfect-before God in his high estate as in his lowlier days; and this is to be accounted for by the fact that he sustained the energy of his outward profession by constant secret communion with God. He was, we are told, a man of excellent spirit, and a man abundant in prayer; hence his head was not turned by his elevation, but the Lord fulfilled in him his promise to “make his servants’ feet like hinds’ feet, that they may stand upon their high places.” Yet, although Daniel preserved his integrity, he did not find a position of greatness to be one of rest. As the birds peck at the ripest fruit, so his envious enemies assailed him; and as the most conspicuous warriors must attract the arrows of the foe, so the honours of Daniel brought upon him the enmities of many. Better to pine with Lazarus than feast with Dives, for the love of God more than compensates for temporary disadvantages. Better an ounce of divine grace than a ton of worldly goods. Though the good things come not as the left-handed blessings of outward prosperity, be thou more than content if thou win the right-handed benediction of spiritual joy.
I. First, let me invite your attention to DANIEL’S HABITUAL DEVOTION: it is worthy of our study. We might never have known of it if he had not been so sorely tried, but fire reveals the hidden gold. Daniel’s habitual devotion. We are told that aforetime, before the trial, he had been in the constant habit of prayer. He prayed much. There are some forms of spiritual life which are not absolutely essential, but prayer is of the very essence of spirituality. He that hath no prayer lacks the very breath of the life of God in the soul. Daniel always had subjects for prayer and reasons for prayer. He prayed for himself that in his eminent position he might not be uplifted with pride, might not be taken in the snares of those who envied him, might not be permitted to fall into the usual oppressions and dishonesties of Eastern rulers. He prayed for his people. He saw many of the house of Judah who were not in such prosperous circumstances as himself. He remembered those who were in bonds, as being bound with them. He pleaded, for the return from the captivity, which he knew was ordained of his God. He prayed for the glory of his God, that the days might come when the idols should be utterly abolished, and when the whole earth should know that Jehovah ruleth in heaven, and among the sons of men. We read next, that with all his prayers he mingled thanksgiving. Do observe it, for so many forget this, “He prayed and gave thanks to God.” Surely, it is poor devotion which is always asking and never returning its gratitude! Am I to live upon the bounty of God, and never to thank him for what I receive? Good Daniel had learned to praise as well as to pray, and to offer to God that sweet incense which was made of divers spices, of earnest desires and longings mingled with thanksgivings and adorations. It is worthy of notice that the text says, Daniel prayed and gave thanks “before his God.” This enters into the very soul of prayer--this getting before God. I shall not care if you do not use a single word, if you feel the majesty of God to be so overwhelming that words are out of place; and silence becomes far more expressive when you bow with sobs and tears, and groanings that cannot be uttered. That little word “his” I must not let slip, however. He prayed and gave thanks before his God. He spake not to God merely as God who might belong to any man and every man, but unto his God, whom he had espoused by a solemn determination. “His God.” Why, it seems to me to bring up that word “covenant”--his “covenant God,” as though he had entered into covenant with God according to the language of the Most High, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Yes, here lies power in prayer, when a man can talk with God as his covenant God. Some other particulars in the text are not quite so important, nevertheless, observe that he prayed three times a day. That does not tell you how often he prayed, but how often he was in the posture of prayer. Doubtless he prayed three hundred times a day if necessary--his heart was always having commerce with the skies; but thrice a day he prayed formally. It has been well said that we usually take three meals in the day, and that it is well to give the soul as many meals as the body. We want the morning’s guidance, we need the eventide’s forgiveness, do we not also require the noontide’s refreshment? If you find from morn till eve too long an interval between prayer, put in another golden link at mid-day. Notice, also, the posture. That, also, is of little consequence, since we read in Scripture of men who prayed on the bed, with their face to the wall. We read of David sitting before the Lord. How very common and acceptable a posture was that of standing before God in prayer! Yet there is a peculiar appropriateness, especially in private prayer, in the posture of kneeling. It seems to say, “I cannot stand upright before Thy majesty; I am a beggar, and I put myself in the position of a beggar; I sue of Thee, great God, on bended knee, in the posture of one who owns that he deserves nothing, but humbles himself before Thy gracious majesty.” One more observation. We are told that Daniel kneeled upon his knees with his windows open towards Jerusalem. This was not done with any view to publicity. It may be that nobody could see him, even when his window was open, except the servants in the court. I suppose the house to have been erected as most Eastern houses were, with an open square in the centre! and though he would be looking towards Jerusalem, the windows would be looking into the court, where he could only be observed by those who were residents in the house or visitors on business. Probably his fellow counsellors knew the hour which he usually set apart for devotion, and therefore called in so as to find him in the act. The window being open towards Jerusalem may have been suggested by the prayer of Solomon, when he asked that if the Lord’s people were banished at any time, when they sought the Lord with their faces towards that holy place, God would hear them. It may have helped him also to recollect that dear city towards which every Jew’s heart turns with affection, even as the needle trembles towards its pole. The thought of its ruin assisted his earnestness, the recollection of its sin humbled him, and the promises concerning it comforted him. He turned towards Jerusalem. And what does this say to us? It tells us that we ought to take care when we pray, to have our window open towards Calvary.
II. We must now turn to a second consideration, DANIEL’S ACTION UNDER TRIAL. There is nothing that kings and queens are much fonder of than meddling with religion. Though the Prussian king tried to make a number of watches all tick together, and could not do it, yet notwithstanding the experiment and its failure, there are always evil counsellors who would force mens’ consciences to keep stroke. Folly is in the throne when monarchs patronise or oppress religion. Caesar always muddles when he meddles with the things of God. When this act of uniformity was passed, several course, were open to Daniel. He might, for instance, have said, “This does not answer my purpose. I have a high position in society. I am chief president over all these dominions, and though I am willing to suffer something for my religion, yet gold may be bought too dear, and therefore I shall cease to pray.” He might have found many precedents and many companions. What crowds, when it has come to a question between life and truth, between honour and Christ, have made the evil choice and perished infamously? Daniel does not seem to have raised that question. Yet he might have said, “Well, well, we must be prudent; God must be worshipped certainly, but there is no particular reason for my worshipping Him in my usual room, nor even in the city where I live; I can retire in the evening, or find some more secret spot in my own house, and especially there is no occasion to open the window. I can pray with the window shut, and I shall be just as acceptable before God. I think, therefore, I shall keep my conscience clear, but not obtrude my religion in these evil days.” Daniel did not so reason; he was a lion-like man, and scorned to lower his standard in the presence of the foe. He would not seek the secrecy which prudence might have suggested. Still, it might have suggested to him that he could pray inwardly. Prayers without words are just as acceptable to God; could not he do this? He felt he could not, inasmuch as the decree was not inward, and the king’s opposition to religion was not inward. He did not believe in opposing outward falsehood by an inward truth. Observe with care what Daniel did. He made up his mind to act as he had done aforetime. Note how quietly he acted. He did not say to any of his enemies, “I mean to carry out my convictions.” Not at all; he knew that talk was lost upon them, so he resorted to actions instead of words. Note again, how he acted unhesitatingly--immediately! He did not pause; he did not ask for time to consider what he should do. In matters of perilous duty, our first thoughts are best. When there is anything to be lost by religion, follow out the first thought of conscience, namely, “Do the right.” Who needs to question where duty points the way? Where God commands, there is no room for reason to raise cavils. It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good. You will observe also, that Daniel did not act under excitement, but with a full knowledge of the result. The record expressly hath it--“When Daniel knew that the writing was signed.” Many people will do right in a hurry, and under strong excitement will go further than they would have done in cold blood; but Daniel, probably shut out from the council by some crafty device of the counsellors, no sooner heard that the statute stood good than, without parley, his resolution was formed, and his mind made up. I like that word, and most go back to it again “as he had done aforetime.” Here he makes no alteration; he takes not the slightest possible notice of the king’s decree. If you have worshipped God under the smile of your Christian friends, worship him under the frown of the ungodly. If you have, as a tradesman, pursued a course of honest action in more prosperous times, do not for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, tamper with that honest course because the times have changed.
III. Let us turn to the third point, with which we conclude, THE SECRET SUPPORT OF DANIEL. There was something in the man which gave him this backbone; there was a secret something which made him so magnanimous. What was it? It resulted from several things. It sprang from the fact that Daniel’s religion was not the offspring of passion, but of deep-seated principle. You will notice that, after this long drought which we have had the flowers in our gardens are drooping much, but the forest trees are as verdant as if showers had been failing every day in the week. Is not this because they strike their roots deeper in the soil, and suck nourishment from provision which is not exhausted by the heat of the sun? So there are some men whose religion is like the flower which lives upon the surface--they soon dry up when the sun of persecution burns; but there are others who, like the forest trees, send down their roots into the deep soil of principle, who know what they know, have learned thoroughly what they have learned, and hold fast what they have received, and these, in the time of trial, are sustained by springs of secret grace, and their leaf is not withered. Because the Holy Ghost has inwrought into Daniel’s spirit the principles of faith, he was sustained in the time of trial; but I doubt not that Daniel was also supported by what he had read of the works of God in the olden times. Besides, the prophet’s spirit was sustained by what he had himself seen. He had been brought in close contact with the three holy children who were brought before Nebuchadnezzar. His own experience helped to strengthen him. He had this conviction, that God could deliver him, and that if God did not deliver him, yet still such was his love to the God of Israel that he would be content to give himself to die. It is blessed to have such a confidence as this. You good people who are tried, and who may expect to be tried yet more, you will never stand unless you come to this: “God can deliver me; but if he does not deliver me, still I am well content to be a sacrifice for Jesus’ sake.” Daniel failed not, because his love to his God rested deep in his inmost heart: it had become part and parcel of himself, and, sustained by the two hands of love and faith, he was graciously upborne over the rough and thorny places. Remember that Daniel is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus had enemies who sought to destroy him; they could find nothing against him except, “touching his God.” They accused him of blasphemy, and then afterwards, as they did Daniel, they brought a charge of sedition. He was cast into the den, into the grave: his soul was among the lions. Now, if Daniel is a type of Christ, and the Lord Jesus is the great representative Man for all who are in him, you, believer, must expect, that there will be those who will attack you, who will assail you especially in your religion. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Windows towards Jerusalem
That was Daniel’s ‘native land.’ Daniel kept his window open toward Jerusalem, because it was the capital of sacred influences. But Daniel at the window is not standing and looking out, he is kneeling and looking out. Daniel found that a man can see farther on his knees than on tiptoe. There is another Jerusalem toward which you and I will do well to keep our windows open. It makes one heavenly-minded to think much of heaven. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Daniel facing the lions’ den
I. Our first point will be that DANIEL’S PRAYERFULNESS WAS THE SECRET OF HIS POWER. Daniel was always a man of prayer. If you saw him great before the people, the reason was because he was great before his God. He knew how to lay hold of divine strength, and he became strong. He knew how to study divine wisdom, and he became wise. We are told that he went to his house to pray. This showed that he made a business of prayer, and finding it neither convenient to his circumstances nor congenial to his mind to pray in the midst of idolaters, he had chosen to set apart a chamber in his own house for prayer. It is well to have, if we can have, a little room, no matter how humble, where we can shut to the door, and pray to our Father who is in heaven, who will hear and answer. He was in the habit of praying thus three times a day. Perhaps he thought that this was prudent economy, for, if he had so much to do, he must pray the more; as Martin Luther said, “I have got so much to do to-day that I cannot possibly get through it with less than three hours of prayer.” So, perhaps, Daniel felt that the extraordinary pressure of his engagements demanded a proportionate measure of prayer to enable him to accomplish the weighty matter he had on hand. A singularity in his manner is noticeable here. He had been in the habit of praying with his windows open towards Jerusalem. Thus openly did he ignore the decree! With such a royal courage did he lift his heart above the fear of man, and raise the conscience above the suspicion of compromise. He loved Jerusalem, and his prayers were for it. Hence he looked that way in his prayer. And I think also he had an eye on the altar. We worship with our eye to Christ. Oh, for Daniel’s prayerful spirit!
II. We pass on to DANIEL’S DIFFICULTIES, OR THE PRIVILEGES OF PRAYER. Daniel had always been a man of prayer; but now there is a law passed that he must not pray for thirty days, for a whole calendar month. I think I see Daniel as he reads the writing. Not proud and haughty in his demeanour, for, as a man used to govern, it was not likely that he would needlessly rebel; but as he read it, he must have felt a blush upon his cheek for the foolish king who had become the blind dupe of the wily courtiers who had framed a decree so monstrous. Only one course was open to him. He knew what he meant to do; he should do what he always had done. Still let us face the difficulty with a touch of sympathy. He must not pray. Suppose we were under a like restriction. Why, some people will say, “I will give it up.” Ah, and there are some who would boastfully say, “I will not give it up,” whose bold resolve would soon falter, for a lions’ den is not a comfortable place. Many thought they could burn in Queen Mary’s days that did not dare to confront the fire. Now it is a great privilege that we enjoy civil and religious liberty in our favoured land; that we are not under such cruel laws, as in other times or in other countries laid restrictions upon conscience; and that we may pray, according to the conviction of our judgment and the desire of our heart.
III. Having thus dwelt upon Daniel’s difficulty, I now want to draw your attention to DANIEL’S DECISION. The king says he must not pray. Daniel did not deliberate for a single minute. When we know our duty, first thoughts are the best. I greatly admire one feature in Daniel’s decision. He did not alter his accustomed habit in any single particular. Without disguise and without parade he pursued the even tenor of his way. He does not appear to have taken council of his friends, or to have summoned his servants, and charged them not to let any intruder come in. Neither did he adopt any measure to escape his enemies. Not one jot of anxiety did he betray. His faith was steadfast, his composure unruffled, his conduct simple and artless. Doubtless Daniel felt that he was the greatest man in Persia, if he, a worshipper of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, failed in any degree, he would set a bad example to others, and greatly discourage any poor Jew who might have grace enough to stand out, provided his example led the way. Persons who occupy high positions should know that God expects more of them than of other people. It might be asked, perhaps, “Should not Daniel obey the king?” Certainly kings’ laws are to be respected; but any law of man that infringes the law of God is, ipso facto, null and void at once. It is the duty of every citizen to disregard every law of earth which is contrary to the law of heaven. So Daniel felt that the risk of being put into a den with lions was nothing to the risk of being put into hell, and he chose the smaller risk, and in the name of God he went straight on. Look at John Bunyan when they bring him up before the magistrates and tell him he must not preach! “But I will preach,” said he, “I will preach to-morrow by the help of God.” “But you will be put in prison again.” Never mind, I will preach as soon as I get out.” “But you will be hanged, or kept m prison all your life.” “If I lie in prison,” said he, “till the moss grows upon my eyelids, I can say nothing more than this, that with God’s help, I will preach whenever I get a chance.” Do not tell me that these are non-essentials. To men who will follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, even the opening or the shutting of a window, if need be, is essential. Be jealous over what are called “trifles.” They may be mere straws, but they show which way the wind blows.
IV. Our last point is DANIEL’S DELIVERANCE. With that we will conclude. The evil that threatened Daniel did come. He was to be put into a lions’ den, and into a lions’ den he was put. So, young man, you say, “I will not do wrong.” You hope to escape unscathed. Yet it may be that you will be discarded by your friends, and discountenanced by your associates. Expect it, go through it. If you are a tradesman, and by saying you will not submit to an evil custom of the trade you will become a loser, be willing to be a loser; expect that the lions’ den will be there, and that you will be put into it. Daniel came there, but there was not a scratch upon him when he came out of it. What a splendid night, he must have spent with those lions! I do not wonder that in after days he saw visions of lions and wild beasts; it seems most natural that it should; and he must have been fitted by that night passed among these grim monsters to see grand sights. Daniel had a smooth time of it afterwards. The counsellors never troubled him again; the lions had taken care of them. There would be no more plotting against him. Now, believe me, to be decided for the right is not only the right thing but the easiest thing. It is wise policy as well as true probity. If you will not yield an inch, then somebody else must move out of the way. If you cannot comply with their proposals, then other people will have to rescind their resolutions. So you will find that, if you suffer, and perhaps suffer severely at first, for decision of character, you will get speedy recompense for all you endure, and a grand immunity in the future. There will be an end to the indignities that are offered you. Give the world an inch, and it will take many an ell. Be resolved, therefore, that no inch you will give, that to the lions’ den you would sooner go than there should be equivocation, prevarication, or anything approaching to falsehood. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Opened Window, or Character Formed
The history of the world is mostly the history of individual lives, and the influence they exerted. It is not so much the story of the movements of masses, as of masses under leaders. This may be illustrated in
(1) the characteristics of nations;
(2) the acquisition of new territories;
(3) the influence of one nation on another;
(4) in science and philosophy, in morals and in Church history.
This view must, however, be set under due qualifications. It is also true that great men can but find expression for the spirit of their age, as is shown in the case of Luther. The Reformation was in Germany before Luther found it a voice. Daniel one of the best illustrations of this point--on what a man is must depend what he does, and what he is must depend on his relations with God. Daniel is heroic from both the secular and the sacred standpoints. The thing impressed by his story is the value, force, and assured triumph of sterling character. Is character a gift, or a growth? Is it something with which we are endowed, or something which we have to culture? It may be likened to a tree, and under that figure we now consider it.
I. THE ROOTINGS OF CHARACTER. Stability and vigour depend on rooting. The character of Daniel threw down two chief rootings of principle. It held fast by and fed itself on this:
1. A noble life must be ruled by something better than world-maxims; but to live by them is like trying to make a boat lie still on the heaving sea.
2. No shame, only strength and honour, can ever come by cleaving to God. It is sad and strange that ever young folk should think that shame can attach to a life of faith and prayer. Illustrate by contrasting the tree roots twining only about themselves, or clasping firmly the rich and fertile soil.
II. THE BRANCHINGS OF CHARACTER. The manifestations of it in the duties and responsibilities of life. Character well rooted, shows, above the soil, moral strictness, trustworthiness, judgment, truth. Illustrate Daniel’s power of decision, and also Joseph’s. Show the relation of decision, as an element of character, to the act of decision in religion.
III. THE FLOWERING OF CHARACTER, or the lighter manifestations of it in the intercourse and relationships of life. Hanging on the branches are such things as peace, joy, purity, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, all the graces of the spirit. Daniel’s character then was rightly founded. His decision for God involved a God-fearing, prayer-loving life. Look in at that opened window of Daniel’s house, and see how Godly character was nourished. There we find the secret of strength for the overcoming of all temptation. Daniel believed in God, and sought him. (Robert Tuck, B.A.)
The Open Window
What was the good of praying at this window that looked towards Jerusalem? Jerusalem was five hundred miles away across the wide Assyrian plain. You could not see it from Babylon. You brought it no nearer by gazing into the blue distance. Why be so careful about this open window? At best it was a piece of sentiment. And what use is there in idle sentiment? But all sentiment is not idle. There is a kind of sentiment which is foolish and worse than useless. But sentiment will sometimes prove to be of extraordinary power, and there is a sentiment which is not inconsistent with the finest manhood and the most impressive dignity of character. If it helped him, when he was praying, to remember that there, far away in the distance, was Jerusalem, why should he not accept the help? We may not think that it would have helped us very much. We may say that we could have prayed anywhere. But that is not the question. If it helped him, that was enough. There was a great deal in his circumstances and pursuits to shut out from him the vision of his early days. And if, among all the scenes of his daily life, in which was so much that was distracting, so much that was evil, it helped him, and kept him true to the past and true to God, to have that window open, who is going to smile at him? Who will condemn him? I think, on the contrary, that we might well imitate him. We who may be carried by the force of circumstances far away from our old home, and from things that were sacred to us in our childhood, may very fitly and reasonably see to it that we do not let those old and sacred things pass utterly away from our thoughts. It is good for us, too, to have an open window towards Jerusalem. There are those who, amid the stress and storm of life, have lost all remembrance of their Jerusalem. It is out of sight, out of mind. Heaven lay about them in their infancy. God seemed to be near to them when they were little children. Things spiritual and eternal were realities. The eye was clear. The ear was open to the divine voices. The heart was warm. The conscience was sensitive. Life was full of sacred meanings. But they were carried into a new world where other voices were heard and other influences were at work. Then the shades of the prison-house began to close upon them. The spiritual eye grew dim. Who can guess how many people there are to-day, middle-aged, prosperous people, who have been cut adrift from the Jerusalem of their early days and have almost forgotten how they once felt. They are much to be pitied. It is the experience of Daniel which suggests the association of these two things. For Jerusalem was to him first his old home, and next, in a special sense, the home of God on the earth. And there must be many whose experience would compare with his in this respect. They are to be congratulated. For there is nothing for which we have better reason to be thankful in after-life than for fathers and mothers who made us feel in our childhood that God was about us, and that our home was the gate of heaven. There are those who do not seem to believe in any such necessity. It was said by Napoleon that Jerusalem did not come within the sphere of his operations. It is what many say in effect. They do not trouble about religion. They can do well enough without it. They have plenty to interest them in this wonderful world without the religious interest. It may not be so with others. Very well. Let each follow where his own taste and fancy lead him. Let him who is religiously disposed occupy himself with religious matters. As for them, they prefer to concern themselves with things of a more practical kind. I think, however, that those who talk in that light fashion are making a very grave mistake. For, after all, life must be a dull and poor affair if we are wholly without religion. Alas for us, if we are without any kind of heavenly vision! Man cannot live by bread alone. If, then, it is our wisdom not to forget Jerusalem, what are some of the windows through which we may look towards that fair city? Prayer, let me say first, is such a window. Heaven lies about us now, and ever will, as the air and the sunlight are about the houses we dwell in. But if we keep the windows shut, the air will not come in; and if we keep the shutters up, the light will not come in. Therefore, men throw back these shutters, and fling open wide the windows, that the glory and the freshness of the sunlight world out of doors may come in. And that is what we do when we pray. Obedience is another window by which we may look into this divine glory. If you are living a selfish and worldly life, you cannot expect to have any deep sense or clear vision of eternal things. You are refusing to listen to the voice of the Highest. But repent and obey the call of duty, and as you follow where duty leads you will begin to get some glimpse into the deep things of God. The way of duty is the way of peace, and it is the way of light. Let any man follow Christ closely, and the moment will come when Christ will, as it were, turn and look upon that faithful follower and make him feel that he is indeed at the gate of heaven. There are many causes that may account for it. But the rule is that obedience to duty is a true window to the soul, a window that looks towards God, and through which God will shine upon us for our infinite comfort and help. Another window that looks towards Jerusalem is the Bible. What does the Bible mean to us, I wonder? It means different things to different persons. Another window looking towards Jerusalem is Sunday. The world for many is like Babylon. It is full of cares, full of distractions, full of appeals to elements other than the highest in human nature, and their pleasures and recreations, though, it may be, innocent enough, are often not such as to raise and dignify the soul; and it is well if when they come into church they find it to be as the delectable mountains from which the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem may be at least dimly descried. A church may serve many noble uses and not the least profitable is that which it serves when it enables men who are often in darkness, and who feel that they are remote from the best and highest things to look for a little time into the world of spiritual realities, and to feel, upon the jaded mind and dull heart, the vivifying breath of the Spirit of God. (A. H. Thomas, M.A.)
Every man ought to form, early in life, good religious habits, and especially habits in relation to private, personal and intercessory prayer. They should be carefully arranged in view of his actual daily circumstances, opportunities, and needs, they should be maintained with a stedfast regularity, even at heavy cost of self-denial, and there should be a constant and a holy anxiety lest they should degenerate into mere forms, and the spiritual life and feeling in them fade down, or fade out.
I. MAKE GOOD PRAYER-HABITS. It is of the first importance that these should be formed early in life; and you may well be reminded of the duty that lies on all parents, school teachers, and often nurses, in regard to the shaping of early prayer-habits. When life has become fixed, relations are settled, and habits are formed, it is hard indeed to get new shapings and fittings when the duty of daily prayer is brought home to us. Those parents do an unspeakable good for their children, who, from the dawn of intelligence, make prayer as essential as daily bread. Prayer habits should be formed carefully, with due estimate of our circumstances, and relations, and opportunities. And our prayer-habits should, include all the kinds of prayer which make up this Christian duty. There are proper habits of confession, of thanksgiving, of petition, and above all, of intercession; and they will never come to any man as an accident; they are the blessed fruitage of thought, and strife, and care.
II. WHEN YOU HAVE MADE GOOD PRAYER-HABITS, YOU MUST KEEP THEM. It is only necessary to state this very important addition, and to say: Beware of slight negligences and failures. There is nothing in our life which we need to maintain so resolutely. Let Daniel show you that quietly, simply, unostentatiously, you should persist in praying just when, and where, and how, you have arranged to pray. (Robert Tuck, B.A.)
The Propriety of Daniel’s Conduct
It may be said,
1. That Daniel was chargeable with rebellion, because knowingly, and avowedly he violated a law which had been passed by the highest legislative power in the country. We reply that God is the supreme lawgiver, that all the authority which man possesses over man, is derived from God, and limited by the divine law, and therefore the laws of man only bind when they are not inconsistent with the law of God. The moment they command what God has forbidden, or forbid what God has commanded, they cease to be obligatory upon conscience, and in such cases, so far from being sinful to disobey them, to do so is a solemn duty. The edict of Darius, being palpably opposed to the plainest commands of God, Daniel, in refusing to serve such a law, only acted the part which was incumbent on every loyal subject of the Most High.
2. It may be said, that Daniel might have prayed unto God in the heart, in despite of his enemies, and God would have heard him. Or, if he wished to pray unto him with the lips, he ought to have retired into some secret place; or at least, if he prayed in his own chamber, he should have allowed the windows to remain closed during these thirty days. Was it not, therefore, sinful in him to pray so ostentatiously as he did? Was not this unnecessarily to expose his life to danger? Was it not to forget that God is a spirit, and to place too much dependence upon that bodily service which profiteth little? We remark that, while the Scriptures assert that bodily service profiteth little, they nowhere assert that it profiteth nothing. There are occasions, when bodily exercise profiteth much, in which it is even a better test of a person’s devotedness to God, than the inward frame of his mind. When God calls upon us to believe with the heart unto righteousness, no outward action, such as fasting, or praying with an audible voice, or the giving of our goods to feed the poor, or even the giving of our bodies to be burned, will be accepted by him as a substitute for faith. On the contrary, when God in his providence calls upon us to make confession of him before men, no inward frame of spirit, neither faith, nor love, nor self denial, nor heavenliness of mind, will be accepted by him as a substitute for our open and visible adherence to the cause of his truth, and of his glory. In a time of trial, a testing-time, it is not the reward feeling of loyalty to God, it is the outward manifestation of this; it is not the image of God in the heart, it is his “name on the forehead,” which proves an individual to belong to the “called, and chosen, and faithful.” Apply these remarks to the case in hand. Praying to God in the spirit was not prohibited, but only such prayer as came under the observation of men. Persons were not interdicted from believing in God, but only from rendering to him the outward acts of homage that were due unto his name. The point, therefore, on which the authority of God and man came into collision, was about the external acts of Divine worship. God had said “In all thy ways acknowledge thou me, and I will direct thy steps.” Darius and his nobles, on the other hand, said, thou shalt not ask a petition of God for thirty days. In the present instance, therefore, loyalty to God could not be evidenced by what was inward, but only by what was outward, not by believing with the heart, but by confessing with the lips. The attitude of Daniel’s body while praying, nay, the position of the windows of his chamber, was as important in the sight of God as the inward devotion of his soul. If he had shut his windows, if he had ceased to kneel, if he had ceased to speak to God with his lips, and rested content with the utterances of the heart, this would have been to homologate (approve, give assent to) the impious decree, and to deny God before men. That edict invaded the rights of Jehovah, not by prohibiting them from worshipping him in their hearts, but by forbidding them to worship him with their bodies. Bodily-service was therefore the only evidence of heart-loyalty to God, and worship that was purely spiritual would have been looked upon as the homage of a coward and a traitor--of a man who wished to serve two masters. Considering the weight of Daniel’s character, and the importance of his situation, it will appear that a peculiar responsibility attached to his conduct in this emergency. Any indecision, any appearance of compliance with the decree, would have been productive of most baneful consequences. We may learn, from the passage before us, that God sometimes places his people in such situations that they must either sin or suffer. Learn also, that when God, in his providence, couples our performance of any duty, with circumstances of trial, the discharge of the duty thus circumstanced, is the test of our fidelity. And we may learn, that even when the performance of duty exposes to danger our adherence unto God should be open and avowed. (William White.)
Dean Stanley writes,--“Daniel is, to all outward appearances, an Eastern sage rather than a Hebrew prophet. Well did the traditions of his country-men represent him as the architect of Ecbatana, or even of Sura, as buried in state--not, like the other saints of the captivity, in a solitary sepulchre, but in the stately tower which he himself had built, in the tombs of the Kings of Persia. Well did the mediaeval legends make him the arch-wizard interpreter of dreams. Rightly did the Carthusian artist at Dijon represent him amongst his exquisite figures of the prophets in the garb, posture, and physiognomy of an Oriental magnate. Well did Bishop Ken, when he wished to pourtray an ideal courtier before the Stuart Kings, take the man greatly beloved: ‘Not of the sacerdotal but royal line; not only a courtier and a favourite, but a minister--one that kept his station in the greatest resolutions, reconciling policy and religion, business and devotion, magnanimity and humility, authority and affability, conversation and retirement, interest and integrity, heaven and the court, the favour of God and the favour of the King.’”
I. DANIEL AS A MAN OF PRAYER. It was his characteristic feature. How regular and stedfast he was in private prayer. He was willing to suffer, but he would not give up his prayer. What a strength for toil and duty he found it ever to be! Note his example of praying in the very midst of daily business.
II. DANIEL AS AN INTERCESSOR. So a type of Christ. He took up his nation’s burden on himself; made himself a representative, and pleaded with God on the nation’s behalf. In the same way good people now take upon their own hearts the troubles and sins of their times, and speak to God just what the people around them ought to be feeling and saying. Illustrate by the work of the High Priest, and of Jesus, our Great High Priest. Without being appointed to the office, each one of us may become an intercessor.
III. DANIEL AS A CONFESSOR. Or as one who gives an example of making confession. This is the sign of penitence and humility. Only when men have learned thus the lessons of God’s judgments can his restorations come. How full, sincere, and hearty are Daniel’s confessions! Observe that in our Lord’s prayers, or conversations, there is no sign of confession. Explain why, and why confession is such a necessary part of our prayer.
IV. DANIEL AS A PLEADER. Especially dwell upon his example of importunity, as illustrating our Lord’s parable of the unjust judge. The pleading is to be found in verses 18, 19 shows how graciously God hears and answers such prayers as Daniel’s. (Robert Tuck, B.A.)
The Way of Success in -Prayer
Ill success in prayer is so common that men scarcely know it is ill success; they pray and nothing comes of it, so they are not disappointed. They take fruitlessness as the rule, and do not travel back to ask why prayer should be fruitless. In the history of opinion, Daniel has an unique place. When we look to Daniel for teaching we look to a man placed by his own age, which is apt to find out a man’s inconsistency, supreme in spiritual achievement. What was, then, the meaning of Daniel’s ritual in prayer?
1. He sought to place himself in the presence of God. To look away towards Jerusalem was to be delivered from servitude to the splendours of Babylon by the apprehension of a greater splendour. We need to remember the disadvantages with which we commonly start in our prayer; how disinclined our spirits are, and how ill the common circumstances of life prepare us for it. Our tempers have have been fretted, our interests scattered, our judgments debarred; we have been meeting men on a low level of mutual mistrust, or in the interchange of social frivolities. And all of this has to be got rid of before prayer can have its perfect work. The larger soul in us must be called out, that we may even see what the objects of prayer may be. There are prayers offered which, without intention, exhibit every possible fault. They are irrelevant to the situation, asking what is not needed, and omitting what is needed; they are fretful instead of jubilant; their tone is distrustful, as if God were trying to outwit us. And nothing can sweep such prayers away except the noble use of memory. How can you thank God if you have not sought to remember all His benefits? What could Daniel look to? One object filled the hearts of all the Jewish patriots, a lamentable object. Their glorious city, of ancient story, and solemn observance, was desolate. The city was a heap of ruins; desecrated by sin first, and now by heathen conquest, and the land kept Sabbath in an awful loneliness. And Daniel strained his eyes across the endless plains, that sight filled his mind, and drew from him the importunate cry:--“How long, O Lord? “ If his daily life furnished no other matter for prayer, there was matter enough in this.
2. After exercise in the thought of the presence of God, there is no discipline so necessary as this of letting visions of need rise before the mind. There should be pity given to the man who says he does not know what to pray for, and ampler pity for his neighbour who asks for what he does not want. The world is full of need, and its cry rises continually before God, sounding in the ears of all who can hear. There is no need of seeking or of refining in petitions; one day of life brings us into contact with need of all sorts--the helplessness of little children, the sigh of men overtasked, the care which has furrowed the brow and bent the shoulders, the satisfaction with a selfish life, the servitude to evil passion; there is no crushing the images of need which flit past our eyes even in the street. And a little thought deepens the awe; in ourselves we know so dark a world of discontent and defeat, of reproach and fruitless effort, of fear and sin, and all the men and women about us repeat the same story. And outside is a whole world of gloom, of life without colour or joy, of men without God or hope. And rising a little, we see to the farther horizons embracing the great world which does not know the very name of Christ, and which is full of horrid cruelties. We may not shut our eyes to it in prayer; the world needs joy. And as we watch like Daniel, the thoughts of that overwhelming need thronging in upon us will wring from us prayers rising to passion. To have all that sorrow pressing on our heart would bring madness with it; our comfort is in being permitted to share the burden with Him whose heart is pierced as ours, and who by His strength has marked for it all a blessed end. (W.M. Macgregor, M.A.)
Prayer better than life
God’s people are not often found in the high places of the earth. They do not covet such distinctions. But when he is
pleased to call them to posts of worldly honour, he gives them strength according to their day. Daniel’s elevation was remarkable. What a testimony do worldly men sometimes give to the value of religious characters! Darius the Mede soon found out his value. But he had enemies. He had only one vulnerable point--one point in which his character was open to attack from an ungodly world. His enemies said, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.’” What a testimony did these men give unconsciously to the character of him they hated. But how could these men make Daniel’s religious character a handle against him? Explain their ingenius plot. How did Daniel meet it? He was a man of prayer--he lived by prayer--he was frequent, fervent, zealous in the exercise--his hours of prayer were his most precious hours--and as for parting with this privilege, as for laying it aside for thirty days together, he would sooner part with life itself. Let worldly people plead necessity as an excuse for interrupting their devotions; the godly man knows no necessity so great as that of seeking God from day to day. Might not Daniel have evaded such a law as this, by praying to God in secret? He evidently felt that this was an occasion to show that he was not ashamed of his religion, and not to be deterred from it. He would not even seem to be obedient to a wicked law which went to rob the God of heaven of the worship due to him. Note the description given of Daniel’s prayers. One thing to remark, upon, is their frequeney--three times a day. Another thing is, he prayed before his God--prayed as in God s presence, as one who was really speaking to his God. Daniel’s prayers were attended with thanksgiving. This is the Apostle’s rule. Philippians 4:6). Notice his posture. “Kneeled.” A posture surely best befitting creatures like ourselves when we go as beggars to our Great Creator. Daniel prayed with his face toward Jerusalem. That circumstance in his devotions we are not called to imitate. The rule for us to follow is to have an eye to Christ in all our prayers. The rest of Daniel’s history is a grand exhibition of what the Lord can do both in his saints and for them. Questions.
1. What do you think of Daniel?
2. What do you think of Daniel’s God? (A. Roberts, M.A.)
Fearlessnes and perseverance in prayer
Daniel made no secret of his prayers; he might have made excuses to his conscience, he might have said to himself that during those thirty days it would be better for him to pray without the possibility of being observed; to keep up his prayers secretly, and avoid openly breaking the King’s decree. But Daniel was too honest to make to himself any such false excuses; he was not ashamed to confess his God openly. He prayed and gave thanks before his God. Faithful as Daniel was to the King, and attentive as he was to his interests, there was a point at which his obedience stopped. In all worldly matters he was ready to give way, but once bid him dishonour his God, and he was instantly inflexible. No love of worldly prosperity, no fear of human punishment could shake him. Here you see the secret of Daniel’s character. He was a man of prayer. Daniel knew what it was to draw near to God--day by day to live in his presence--to look up to him--to seek his favour and protection--to make him and not man the standard to which he referred allhis thoughts and words and actions. This has ever been the mark of the saints of God in all the ages. And if there is any true life in our soul, we also shall live in the constant habit of prayer. Consider what prayer is. It is the link which connects us with the next world--with the unseen yet ever present God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Once give up prayer, and you cut yourself off from God, you create a silence between your soul and God, you become a stranger to God, and God Ceases to speak to you. But if we are really in earnest about our prayers, we may be quite sure that the devil will raise up obstacles in our path--that he will endeavour to hinder us in one way or another. Sometimes he tries to frighten us. But why should any of us be ashamed of our religion, or of saying our prayers? Sometimes it will seem to people that they have not time to pray; that their duties are so numerous, and so pressing, they have no leisure, no time to themselves. This is almost certainly a false excuse. It is entirely their own fault that they do not find or make time. Our time, really, very much depends on ourselves. If it is the ease, that we have very little time we can call our own, yet let us do our diligence gladly to give God of that little. There are those who complain that they are much hindered by wandering and idle thoughts in prayer, and perhaps they are tempted to think that it would be better to leave off praying than to go on in spite of the thoughts which trouble them in their devotions. But something may be done in this matter by a vigorous effort on our own part; a great deal lies in the power of the will. There are others who are tempted to give up prayer, because they do not, as they say, find such comfort and enjoyment in prayer as they expect. They cannot attain a sense of God’s presence; they seem dull, and cold, and lifeless in their prayers. This may be the effect of some sin or self-indulgence, and if so, the remedy lies in greater strictness of life, and watchfulness over self; but it may be also that it is a trial sent by God to test their faithfulness. Let them persevere. And let us not be discouraged if God does not at once answer our prayers--if we ask, and for a time receive not. It is certain that God hears every prayer addressed to him. He will be sure to answer, in his own wise way. You can scarcely go wrong, if you continue instant in prayer; if you give up prayer you enter on the road which leads to destruction. Let nothing then be allowed to hinder you from your prayers. (S. W. Skeffington, M.A.)
The Characteristics of Daniel’s Piety
Daniel was equally distinguished for probity in his secular calling, as for fidelity towards God. If you would act your part well on great emergencies, it is necessary that you should attend to everyday duties. To overlook them is at once a proof of something radically defective in the judgment and character.
I. THE REGULARITY OF HIS DEVOTION. In a man of leisure this praying three times a day would have been less remarkable. Daniel was not in private life. But, without being neglected, business was made to yield to piety. Prayer, so far from increasing his difficulties, was his consolation under them. It is the mental inquietude of a life of business which much more than bodily exertion tends to oppress the faculties.
II. THE PLACE OF HIS DEVOTION. It would have been less wonderful had Daniel been thus regular in religious observances at Jerusalem. There were all the incitements which place and example supply. But the unpropitious character of Daniel’s situation did not influence him in the discharge of his duty.
III. THE POSTURE OF HIS DEVOTION. No particular attitude is essential to the acceptance of the petition of a sincere suppliant. If the inward, spiritual qualities essential to devotion are wanting, it matters not what are the outward positions. But everything should be avoided that savours of irreverence, or which is incompatible with fixedness of mind in devotional exercises. Kneeling is well suited to the nature of the exercise--prostration of body will correspond with humility of mind!
IV. THE HEROISM OF HIS DEVOTION. It was the heroism of the confessor and martyr rather than of the soldier. Apparently reasonable excuses for yielding a little in this matter of prayer might have been found. Daniel allowed no weak accommodation to circumstances. We are not to do evil that good may come. Disobedience to what God enjoins, can never be required in order to the fulfilment of his purposes.
V. THE GRATITUDE OF HIS DEVOTION. He “prayed and gave thanks.” Prayer has been well defined as the “offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.” The situation of Daniel might appear, at first sight, ill adapted to the exercise of thanksgiving, however proper on fitting occasions, that duty might be. But a devout heart will discover reasons for gratitude when others can perceive nothing but occasions of lamentation. No condition of life is really so disastrous as to be incapable of suggesting motives of thankfulness to a spiritual mind. For the stream of life has always its interminglings of alleviation and comparative good. He could think of past mercies; and that he had been kept by divine grace. And he could be thankful for an opportunity of bearing witness to the religion of the God of Israel. Improvement.
(1) Let Christians in general, and persons in active pursuits in particular, learn regularity in the exercises of devotion.
(2) Let us cultivate a regard for the authority of God, as a motive to devotion.
(3) Let us cultivate faith in prayer.
(4) Be grateful that you are exempted from the evils which Daniel experienced. (R. Brodie, A.M.)
Daniel’s Daily Prayers
Daniel is one of the brightest and loveliest characters of Scripture biography. He seems to have been the only prophet who enjoyed a large share of worldly prosperity.
I. THE DEVOTIONS OF DANIEL.
1. The character of his devotion. In token of his humility, and of his veneration for the divine majesty whom he approached, he kneeled on his knees. See also his confession of sin; recognition of the divine mercies; and pleading importunity. Daniel’s prayers were pious and patriotic. They were accompanied with thanksgiving. Praise is comely.
2. The scene of Daniel’s devotions. His chamber. He chose seclusion: yet his windows were open towards Jerusalem. Not that he courted attention, but that he conformed to the established mode of Jewish devotion.
3. The seasons of his devotion. Three times a day. Prayer is a preparation for our every-day duties in life. Daniel is an example to men of business.
II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH DANIEL MAINTAINED HIS DEVOTIONS. He was faithful to his God and his religion. The Prime Minister was not compelled to profess the State idolatry. Daniel acted most advisedly. His spirit was one.
1. Of enlightened piety. Martyrdom he held preferable to the suspension of his hallowed communion with God.
2. Of courage. He feared God, and none but God. He braved all dangers, uninfluenced by the favours of his royal benefactor. Allowing no temporising considerations. His was the courage, of piety.
3. Of prudence. He did not invite persecution. Nothing insolent, nothing ostentatious, nothing disloyal, was in Daniel. He obeyed the monitions of conscience. He prayed, as before.
III. THE RESULTS.
1. To Daniel.
2. The spread of Jehovah’s honour. The name of the living God is made known in all the empire.
3. The restoration of Judah followed the prayers of the faithful; e.g., of Daniel. (W. L. Thornton, M.A.)
Daniel at Prayer
1. DANIEL’S DEVOTIONS. He prayed. Prayer is said to be a calling, crying, knocking, seeking, asking, making supplication, pouring out of the heart, lifting up of the soul, lifting up holy hands, making intercession, etc. Daniel
1. Humbled himself when he prayed. The being whom we address, the circumstances in which we stand, the punishment we deserve all serve to inspire us with humility.
2. He confessed his sins, and the sins of his people, when he prayed; So did David and Jeremiah. This is the most effectual way to obtain pardon.
3. He deprecated punishment, and implored mercy, when he prayed. Sin deserves punishment,--God might justly pour out his indignation upon us. We have no appeal but to his mercy, through the blood of the covenant.
4. He pleaded with God when he prayed. We may plead with God also; plead his mercy, his promises, the sacrifice of his Son, and his glorious intercession in heaven.
5. And Daniel gave thanks. We can always find reasons and subjects for thanks to God. Daniel thanked him for what he was in himself--for what he did in the kingdom of providence, and for what he had done for him.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE PERFORMED THEM.
1. He went into his house, and into his chamber. The Jews were accustomed to set apart rooms as oratories, or places of devotion. Each house had generally one of these rooms, a chamber, most removed from noise and disturbance. Retirement is necessary to prayer.
2. He prayed and gave thanks three times a day. He evidently had stated times for private devotions.
3. He kneeled upon his knees and praised. The position of the body is not of so much importance in devotion as the disposition of the mind. The Scriptures sanction different attitudes of prayer.
4. He looked towards Jerusalem when he prayed. The meaning of this will be understood by referring to the consecration of the temple. (Kings 8:44-48) Hence all those who were in Jerusalem turned towards the temple when they prayed, and all those who were in foreign lands opened their windows toward Jerusalem in performing their devotions.
5. Daniel’s prayers were regularly performed. “As he did aforetime.” Inconstancy is the fault of multitudes. There was a decision of character, and a uniformity of conduct, in Daniel, which all should be anxious to emulate.
III. THE PECULIAR CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH HE WAS PLACED.
1. Be was in a foreign land, far from his native country.
2. He was surrounded by the most; inveterate and designing men, who meditated his ruin. Men who envied his popularity sought to find occasion against him, and did their utmost to persecute him, even unto death. Yet he maintained his integrity, stuck close to his devotions, and served his God with a constancy that nothing could destroy.
3. He was in high life, surrounded with temptations to pride, infidelity, idolatry, and a whole train of evils that swarm amidst the splendours and dissipations of a court. But he was innocent from the great transgression of apostatizing from God.
4. He was involved in most important business. He had the affairs of a kingdom to transact. How often is the urgency and press of business made an excuse for the neglect of religion.
5. He was prohibited from praying by a cruel, senseless and atheistical decree. But nothing could shake the steadfast purpose of Daniel’s soul.
IV. THE INFERENCES TO BE DRAWN FROM THE WHOLE.
1. Whoever you are, and wherever you live, learn (if you serve God) to prepare your heart for temptation. Enemies you have. Temptations you must endure.
2. Whatever snares may be laid for your feet, never swerve from the line of duty.
3. The way of duty is the way of safety.
4. Persecutors often defeat their own object.
5. The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Daniel in Prayer
We have here recorded an action of great piety and religious courage. The account here given of the prophet’s piety, who “kneeled upon his knees three times a day,” is a description of his religious exercises, not only for thirty days, but during, his whole life. “He prayed, and gave thanks, as he did aforetime.” And upon this knowledge of his usual and daily course of devotion, the plot of his enemies was founded. We here see a person of great endowments of nature, and improvements of learning, eminent for skill in civil and sacred affairs, taking more delight in the humble exercise of prayer, than in all those high speculations of science for which his mind qualified him; or in the public honours, to which has station entitled him; or in the ease and repose, which his great age seemed to require, in the vacancies of business. For this exercise, he allotted a considerable part of every day; and seems to have made his high offices, and large employments, a reason for increasing, rather than an excuse for omitting his prayers. Another thing that offers itself to our consideration, is the firmness and deliberate courage of this good man. His usual exercises of devotion were now under the interdiction era law, and he was not one of those who pay no deference to the laws of men: the proper power of the magistrate he allowed, but not that of commanding what God forbade, or of forbidding what he commanded. The firmness and fortitude are shown in his continuing in all simplicity his fixed prayer habits. He retired. He kneeled. He did this three times a day. He both prayed, and gave thanks. (T.Townson, M. A )
Constacy in Religion
It is peculiarly pleasing and useful, to be able to contemplate an instance of genuine, decisive, impartial, persevering, unrebukable religion before God and the Father. Such an one we have in Daniel. He had doubtless his infirmities; for there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not; but nothing is alleged against him. I do not remember that any other individual recorded in the Scriptures has entirely escaped censure.
I. THE EMPLOYMENT OF DANIEL. It was pious. He prayed and gave thanks before his God. He was not one of those who are satisfied with morality without godliness. He well knew, that our greatest connections are with God; and that with him we have principally to do. He was a good neighbour, a good citizen, a good master and a good magistrate; but this did not excuse him from the worship of God.
1. He prayed. Prayer is the breathing of the desire towards God. Words are not essential to the performance of it. The expediency, the necessity, of prayer, results from our indigent, and dependent state. We need mercy and grace. God has determined, and revealed, the method in which he will communicate the blessings he has promised. In this appointment, his wisdom appears as conspicuous as his sovereignty; and his goodness as clearly as his wisdom. Nothing can be so beneficial to us as prayer is, not only by the relief it obtains, but by the influence it exerts; not only by its answers, but by its energy. Beyond everything else that is instrumental in religion, it improves our characters, it strengthens our graces, it softens and refines our tempers, it contributes to our spirituality, and promotes our holiness.
2. He gave thanks. This should always attend prayer. Whenever we go to God for new favours, we should be careful to acknowledge old ones. While we implore deliverance, we should be grateful for alleviations and supports. I am sorry to say, that this is so commonly neglected. There is no state that does not require gratitude. There is always much more to be grateful for, than to complain of--however afflicting our circumstances may be.
3. Daniel did all this “before his God.” By which we are to understand, that he placed himself in his religious exercises under the eye of Jehovah, and realised his presence. When we engage in devotional exercise, whether public or private, we are considered as withdrawing from the world, and appearing more immediately before God. And to impress our minds with this truth is the way to secure our profit. It will banish hypocrisy, and formality and carelessness; and unite our hearts to fear God’s name.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ACTION.
1. As regards the place. “He went into his house.” Every house not only may be, but should be, a house of prayer. In every family there ought to be an altar. And Daniel worshipped God alone, in privacy.
2. The posture. “He kneeled.” Though “bodily exercise profiteth little,” God is to be glorified in our bodies, as well as in our spirits. Kneeling seems to be the most proper and advantageous posture of devotion. It preserves us more from distraction, it is more expressive of reverence, humility and submission.
3. The direction in which he performed his devotion. His windows were open towards Jerusalem. Here we see the love a pious Jew bore to his native land, and the city of his solemnities. He hoped for the release and restoration of the Jews. Hence in his prayers he always remembered Zion, and would give God no rest till he established, and till he made Jerusalem a praise in the earth. A public spirit is a great excellency.
4. The Frequency of the exercise. He did it “three times a day.” This is little enough, considering the demand, “Pray without ceasing.” Habitual devotion is what we should seek to maintain; but, with many people at least, that which may always be done, is never done.
5. The constancy and invariableness of the practice. “As aforetime.” There was nothing new in it. It was not an extraordinary fervour, produced by the spur of the occasion. It was not occasional impulse; but the regular effects of principle and disposition. Daniel was a man of vast business but he could find time for prayer--three times a day.
III. THE KNOWLEDGE THAT ENHANCED THE VALUE OF THE PERFORMANCE. We all know that an action we admire, would not discover the same degree of principle in all circumstances. When a man is surrounded with honour and applause--then--to think of himself soberly--this evinces his humility. When a man is insulted and injured--then--to rule his own spirit, and render blessing for cursing--this marks his patience and meekness. When a man sees his danger, but says “none of these things move me,” this is the trial and the triumph of his conviction and resolution. Daniel knew that the writing was signed, yet he determined to stand his ground. Whence we learn, that no danger should hinder a man from doing his work. Some, no doubt, would press Daniel to yield. Some would plead loyalty. Some would plead usefulness. Some would have recommended a plan of accomodation. When Sir Thomas Abney was Mayor of London, he made no scruple at the Lord Mayor’s feast, to rise in the evening and inform the company that he was going to withdraw, to perform the worship of God in his family, after which he would return again. Daniel by his example, rendered himself peculiarly useful. He obtained by this example the most distinguished honour. Whatever the world may think, there is a reality in religion; and it more than indemnifies its followers. (William Jay.)
On the Devotions of Daniel
Daniel, as his enemies expected, honoured God rather than man, set at nought the imperious mandate, and punctually performed his accustomed devotions with a fearlessness of the results that did him honour.
1. THE COURAGE AND STEDFASTNESS OF DANIEL. Christians in any state, should, to a certain extent, submit, for the sake of quiet, even to overstrained demands, and to regulations which their judgment may disapprove. Yet there are bounds to this forbearance; and a faithful servant of God will be content to endure any extremities, though with due reverence to the powers that be, sooner than comply with orders that violate conscience, or that clash with the discharge of paramount and higher duties.
II. THE RETIREMENT OF DANIEL, AND HIS SPIRIT OF DEVOTION. What was his moral regimen? Retirement. Three times a day he withdrew into solitude, to compose his thoughts, to plume his ruffled spirits, to adjust his principles, and to commune with his God.
III. THE TOPICS OF HOLY DANIEL’S MEDITATION AND DEVOTION. There would be direct reflection towards his active services; for he would judge contemplation to be preparatory to usefulness, as the leaves precede the fruit. This eminent example is pregnant with various instruction. Note the courage and stedfastness, the importance of devout retirement, which is the nursery of genius, the school of meditation, the forge of profound thought, of lofty enterprise, and of solemn purpose. Note also the religious turn of Daniel’s meditations. Indicated by his looking towards Jerusalem as he prayed. (J Grant, M.A.)
Daniel in Babylon
The text states the result of the scheming of his enemies, so far as Daniel’s conduct was concerned. He altered not his course in the smallest degree. We observe in him no levity; no sarcastic defiance of the unrighteous law; no vain boasting of his superior religious knowledge; but a calm, serious, steady perseverance in the worship of God, which he knew that he could not neglect without exposing himself to a punishment infinitely more terrible than any that the courtiers of Babylon could devise, or the King of Babylon inflict.
I. THE NATURE OF DANIEL’S DEVOTIONS. “He prayed, and gave thanks before his God.”
1. He prayed of all religious duties there is not one that is more important than prayer. It is, in fact, essentially connected with the origin and progress of personal goodness, with all spiritual blessings and enjoyments; and with the right discharge of our several obligations. Prayer is the grand means of receiving acceptance with God, and a participation of his holiness. The promises of Scripture are addressed to our faith, and their fulfilment is granted to persevering and believing prayer, and to that only. Numerous are the duties enjoined on us by the law and gospel of God. We cannot render to him acceptable obedience but under his gracious aid; nor will that aid be vouchsafed but in answer to prayer. Various are the evil influences which are perpetually erected upon the minds of good men, to draw them aside from the path of obedience. By the power of God only can they be preserved. The seasonable interposition of that power is to be sought in earnest prayer. Many are the sorrows connected with our present state of probation. Only by prayer can these afflictions be sanctified. It is by prayer especially that the people of God express their sympathy with the general misery of the world. Man was created for intercourse and communion with God. Whatever may be the dictates of what is called “natural religion,” the revelation which God has made of himself in his word directly tends to impress the minds of men with the necessity of prayer, and to encourage them in this holy duty.
2. He “gave thanks before his God.” Thanksgiving to God is a very delightful part of religious duty, and one which always accompanies the excuse of true prayer. The men who pray aright receive many blessings from God; and these kindle their hearts feelings of lively gratitude to the Giver of all good. The spirit and habit of thanksgiving to God are peculiar to those who, being born from above, are made new creatures. Thanksgiving to God refers to the benefits which we have received from him. These benefits are numerous beyond calculation; they are inconceivably great; and they are all absolutely unmerited and free. Daniel’s thanksgivings were not interrupted by any of the calamities that he met with.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THEY WERE PERFORMED.
1. They were performed in his chamber. He courted not the public attention. There are sins, imperfections, wants, and temptations, of which we are individually conscious, and which it is our duty fully and freely to confess to God; yet many of them it would be highly improper distinctly to specify, either in the domestic assembly, or the public congregation.
2. His devotions were performed on his knees. No wise man will despise the outward decencies and proprieties of divine worship. With reverence end humility all our attitudes, the very tones of our voice, should strictly correspond.
3. Daniel performed his devotions with his face towards Jerusalem. Partly because of his affectionate regard for his native land. It seems, however, to have been a common Jewish custom.
4. His devotions were performed with frequency and regularity. This is a proof of sound wisdom, as well as of an eminently devout spirit.
5. His devotions were performed with unswerving fidelity and perseverance. The history of Daniel presents
(1) a proof of the power and sufficiency of divine grace.
(2) Observe the manner m which he obtained the grace.
(3) Be careful to show the benefits of prayer in the uprightness of your lives.
(4) Note how the “Lord trieth the righteous.” (T. Jackson.)
Daniel was a man greatly beloved of God. Though an unbending advocate for truth and righteousness, though a thorough opposer to idolatry, he was raised by a holy providence to the first station under the Persian Monarch. It is worthy of notice that the ungodly ordinarily assail the servants of the Most High, in those particulars respecting which God has claimed their services. Obedience to the moral law, or to any positive statute of Christ’s Kingdom, has often been an occasion of calling forth their severe censure, and awakening a determination to overthrow them. There was one characteristic of Daniel which had not escaped the knowledge of these presidents and princes. They knew that he was a man of prayer, They understood that he was so attached to his work, as not easily to be driven from it. They supposed that he could not live thirty days without prayer. You will readily see what opinion the Babylonian idolaters had of the piety of Daniel. Here was a time when the mind of Daniel must have been brought to look distinctly at the consequences of perseverance in calling upon God. He could look forward to the day when, from his high elevation in the government, he should be taken and cast alive into the den of lions. See how he might have reasoned with himself, and excused, yielding, and giving up his prayer habits for a time. He might have adopted the opinion that, under such circumstances, compliance with forms is not essential. But the prophet could not be turned aside from true worship of Jehovah. He never seems to have sought for a way in which he might evade, on the one hand, a full performance of his duty to God, and on the other, the vengeance of Babylon. It is as impossible to have a spirit of prayer, which does not put its possessor into the attitude and the work of prayer, as it is to have a principal of natural life which does not set the heart to beat, the blood to circulate, and the limbs to move. Prayer should ordinarily put into undivided and combined use the feelings, the thoughts, and the tongue. This last was the manner in which Daniel prayer. Will you now go to Daniel’s God, and take him to be your God? The care which he showed to Daniel, the protection which he gave to this servant in an hour when the ungodly rushed upon him to destroy him, ought to commend him to your affection and confidence. He is worthy to be believed, obeyed, and adored. To those who call on his name, he will surely reveal himself in hours of calamity and distress. But remember the example of the prophet and walk in his steps. In some respects the lives of the saints illustrate portions of duty, which could not be exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ. Though Jesus was a perfect example of obedience to the law, and in this respect ought to be followed, yet he could not be a pattern of the exercise of the Christian graces, for he had no occasion to repent, believe, or humble himself for sin. But all these Christian graces are illustrated in the feelings and actions of the ancient saints; and hence they are set before us everywhere in the New Testament as examples. While you meditate on this wonderful man, and on his wonderful deliverance, walk in his steps. Be neither intimidated, nor flattered, nor deluded into an abandonment of such prayer as that of the prophet. Let the warmth of internal piety control, and bring them into the work of supplication; and as it flows forth, let it employ your members as instruments of righteousness, and let your tongues call upon God, and speak his praise. (J. Foot, D.D.)
The Efficacy of Prayer
To be prepared for the future, and to make some provision against the contingencies and misfortunes of life, is a duty, the propriety of which we all admit. The same principle operates on most of us with regard to religion. We have a consciousness, a conviction that existence does not terminate with death, and therefore to the prudent and thoughtful the future seems to demand the most anxious attention and most careful preparation. There is, therefore, in most minds, a desire to secure some ground of hope, some interest in the favour of that great and awful Being into whose hand we are again to commit the disembodied spirit, and who regulates all the affairs of the world, and the business of life. It must be the height of human felicity to have in addition to other grounds of confidence, the persuasion that we are under the mighty guardianship of God, and have, in the assurance of his power and love, a remedy for those evils which are beyond bureau control. Christ came to sweep away at once every obstacle and every doubt as to the character of God. We require you to associate God with all your affairs, to look to Him in all your distresses, to rely upon Him in all your difficulties. The Almighty is just what the psalmist describes when he calls Him a “refuge,” and a “very present help in trouble.” Man, from his circumstances and necessities, is constantly in need of such a refuge, of timely aid, of present help. It is of importance to know how this assistance may be reached, how this shelter may be secured. The answer is simple and obvious, by prayer. Prayer is the password which admits us into the presence of God; prayer is the spring which sets in motion the beneficent machinery of the invisible world, the summons which stirs the throng of ministering spirits, and causes them to rush down to our rescue. Prayer is the putting forth an appeal which, though weak in its argument, is irresistible with God, which moves Him at once to exercise His power on our behalf, and His mercy in our salvation. Daniel came to be placed in circumstances of great danger, and had a wonderful escape. The enemies of Daniel were just those which everybody finds who is in a better position than his neighbours. The charm which he employed, the miraculous help he called forth, was simply--“He kneeled upon his knees, and prayed before his God, as he did aforetime.” Such is an instance which the Scriptures supply, to show the power and success of prayer. It only remains for me to urge you to acquire and make trial of the prayerful gift. We are all more or less acquainted with the duty, but not many of us are aware of its comfort and value. When a man’s heart is filled with the love of God, he delights in prayer he derives his happiness from it. Prayer is with him the breathing of the soul--the means by which he obtains his spiritual food--the channel by which he carries on converse with his dearest and best friend. What food is to the body, what sunshine is to the earth, what health is to the sick, and joy to the sorrowing, such is the privilege and happiness of prayer to the Christian believer. Hence Daniel would allow nothing to hinder him from his prayers. He could bring himself to do without comforts and luxuries, so as to live on pulse and water; he could afford the loss of rank and honours, and the favour of his sovereign; he could even risk the peril of the lion’s den, but he could not live without conversing with his God.” This too is the custom, this the solace, of the true believer now. Whatever the form of temptation which assaults him, whatever the sorrow that befals him, he can find relief from all. If you approach him in prayer, all his power, and all his goodness will be exercised on your behalf. (A. O. Wickstead, M.A.)
It has commonly been taught that prayer consists of four parts--adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition. There is a fifth part, total surrender to God. If you would know whether there is anything in prayer, try an experiment of prayer of the genuine sort. At a later stage of the progress of the soul towards the attitude of the complete consent of all its faculties to the supremacy of conscience, it usually happens that secret meditation and secret prayer have been measurably reduced to a habit.. The time then speedily comes when, not merely in glimpses of light, but with considerable steadiness, the man desires to see the truth, even in relation to his own most secret sins; a period arrives when he is no longer willing to feed himself upon sophistries; he wishes to face the facts of existence as they are. This wish is propounded when he is most completely alone, and most penetratingly conscious of the Divine Omnipresence. The point to be proved is the value of secret meditaton, and prayer. The single proposition by which the point is proved, is that secret meditation and prayer have a peculiar adaptedness to secure the commencement of continuation of Christian life in the soul. This proposition is itself supported by four considerations.
1. Their peculiar adaptedness to promote religious thoughtfulness.
2. Their peculiar tendency to secure the supremacy of conscience.
3. Their peculiar adaptedness to preserve in the soul a sense of the Divine Omnipresence.
4. Their influence is attested by all that is known of the inner life of the best examples of religious experience among men. It is no new theological doctrine that God changes the soul according to the laws of the soul. (Joseph Cook.)
Daniel’s Time of Trial
1. In the eagerness of rationalism to discredit the Book of Daniel, exception has been taken to the practice of praying at the three points of the day. Such a devotional plan is said to have filtered from India “into the neighbouring countries of the West,” and that not until Maccabean times. But the objector had forgotten Psalms 55:17, or has to move it also to a later date. To ascribe this praying thrice to a Parsee origin is to forget that Parsee worship is a worship not merely at the turning-points of the day, but a worship of those portions of time.
2. This chapter contains a vivid picture of human nature, corrupt nature. The fact than Daniel was placed “above the presidents and princes” excited their envy. But what a witness we have in Daniel’s integrity, that his enemies could find nothing to lay hold of except “concerning the law of his God.” Then the shadow creeps again across the scene; and the intoxication of power, and the fascination of flattery and vain glory, is a sickening spectacle of human folly and deceit. See how Daniel behaved under the circumstances.
I. HIS CALMNESS.
1. There was enough to call up resentment. He was marked out as a victim by a secret cabal.
2. He did not angrily complain or demand any explanation. He retired to his chamber and prayed to God.
3. Calmness is the result of confidence in God.
4. Prayer was nothing new; it was the prophet’s habit. The affairs of state, and the vast concerns which demanded his attention, did not thrust aside the claims of God. He found time for prayer, and turned to the fountain of light for guidance in the discharge of his daily duties.
II. HIS DEVOTION.
1. Its regularity. “All nations and all faiths of cultivated men have chosen the twilight hour, morning and evening, for their devotion.” Though the midday prayer was not so general, yet pious souls at noontide refreshed themselves with an act of divine communion.
2. The posture. Kneeling. The higher spirituality which affects to disregard the posture of the body in acts of worship, finds no countenance in the Scriptures.
3. The direction. “Toward Jerusalem.” Perhaps in obedience to the law Deuteronomy 12:11), or to the Sotomonic injunction (1 Kings 8:44). Thus reminded of God’s promises.
III. HIS COURAGE.
1. The open windows are evidence that Daniel did not wish to hide his actions.
2. His faithfulness to God is more meritorious when his history is taken into account. Lessons.
(1) The warning against the subtle sin of envy must not be over-looked.
(2) The calmness of the prophet, and his immediate turning to God at this dire crisis, have the link of connection which has cause to effect. Calmness in difficulties is the product of confidence in and communion with God.
(3) Daniel’s devotion is exemplary in its regularity, reverence and direction. The windows open “towards Jerusalem” should remind us of the heavenward gaze of the soul in time of prayer.
(4) Those who plead circumstances as an excuse for their moral and spiritual failure should contemplate the courage and faith- fulness of Daniel amid an environment full of difficulty and danger. (The Thinker.)
Religion in a Busy Life
It is always interesting to catch a glimpse of the private life of a distinguished man. A public career is seldom a revelation of character. History is constantly reversing the partial imperfect judgments of a passing generation: Heroes are destroyed or ennobled, as conduct is traced to its motives, and as motives discover character. A single passage of Holy Scripture conducts us to the private room of an Oriental statesman, and permits us to observe his daily life.
1. We see a statesman at prayer. Prayer is the best evidence of religion. Religion begins in the prayer of penitence, and it culminates in the prayer of “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Therefore we have a right to conclude that Daniel was a religious man. He had ever been loyal to God, and had ever enjoyed the restraints and encouragements of religion. He held firmly to the religion of his ancestors. He was not ashamed to be known as a godly man! His career was certainly a remarkable one. The religion of the Bible, as we see it in Daniel, is adapted to a busy life. Indeed, the concerns or occupations of a busy life demand the restraints and encouragements which this religion imposes. Besides religion places the present life in true relations to another the future life. Religion consoles us when we are disappointed, and cheers us when we are sad, and makes us conscious of God’s help and blessing, and teaches us the great lesson that to be is better than to yet; to possess a noble character is the purpose of our existence. The offering of a noble character is the best tribute that a mortal can render to God, who creates, preserves, redeems, and sanctifies.
2. As we observe that the windows of Daniel’s chamber are open toward Jerusalem. There the glory of God rested upon the mercy seat, which could be reached only through the appointed mediation of the High Priest. The redemptive idea was thus emphasized. Jerusalem was the city of redemption, because it had the temple. The pious emotions of devout men turned instinctively to Jerusalem, where the sacrifices were constantly offered. And through Christ we have access to the Father. His redemption is a constant appeal. The redemptive element in the divine character is always attractive. Men do not get very near to God, nor do they ever keep very near to him, unless they feel the constraint of redemptive love.
3. As we learn that Daniel is accustomed to kneel in his chamber three times each day, we are impressed with the necessity of frequent and stated seasons of prayer. Note the frequency and the regularity of this busy man’s prayers. Have your stated seasons of prayer, and then believe that, at any hour, and in any place, you may cry unto God, and that he will hear you.
4. As we watch the enemies of Daniel, who rejoice that they have succeeded in their designs against him, we realise that the calm fulfilment of duty will ever meet with opposition, which God is able to over-rule. When Daniel knew that the work of his enemies was accomplished, what did he do? Moved calmly forward with the momentum of his devoted life, entering his chamber each day as usual, and praying there as he had been accustomed to pray. The pressure of an emergency was not to be the occasion of his fall. He was in God s hands. And the duty of prayer was evident. The conclusion of the whole matter is, to bring God consciously into life; to live with reference to his approval; to exercise a wise discrimination; to advance calmly but steadily; to be religious in the market place, and in the parlour, as well as in the sanctuary--such are a few of the lessons which we may carry away with us as we turn from the Chamber of Daniel, and go again to meet the toil and the conflict of a busy world. (Henry M. Booth, D.D.)
For Young Men
From this event in Daniel’s life we learn,
I. PRINCIPLE IS THE CENTRAL POWER OF LIFE. The principle which distinguishes morally between men is a conviction of the difference between right and wrong, ascertained on good grounds, and carried out in the details of life. The orderly, irreproachable character of Daniel’s behaviour in ordinary matters is remarkable. We sometimes meet people with great principles who do not seem to have discovered the application of them to their usual habits. It is by doing small and common things with uncommon care that we form the habits by which the highest end is attained. Daniel’s conduct was guided by principle. This will become plain if we notice where he lived. His neighbours were pagans, and their scoffing jests, and unrestrained licentiousness were at variance both with the profession and the practice of a godly life. Mark also how Daniel was occupied. The common excuse for the neglect of religious duties, that men have no time for them; strikingly refuted by the instance before us. Then look at what Daniel was threatened with. Principle must have had a strong hold of his heart to enable him to resist his fears. There were so many loopholes by which a less resolute heart might have escaped the danger. Seldom is a situation outwardly so sublime as Daniel’s; but we greatly err if we forget that there are parallels to it on every side of us. If there are no lions’ dens, there are the snares of business, and the power of fashion, and the fear of the world’s laugh.
II. PRINCIPLE IS NOURISHED BY HABITS OF DEVOTION. Daniel’s case not only enforces the duty of prayer, but explains its nature, and in every aspect in which we look at him as he prays, we are instructed by the sight. See what we learn about the manner of prayer. The need of privacy and retirement. The attitude--kneeling. The frequency of the praying. Observe what we can gather concerning the matter of prayer. In so far as it consisted of supplication, we easily imagine what he would pray for. He addressed God as “his God.” How instructive it is to learn that Daniel gave thanks. Three thoughts in conclusion.
(1) True prayer cannot exist without faith.
(2) Faith cannot exist without prayer, prayer is the first, the best, the habitual exercise of faith.
(3) Young men have need of both faith and prayer.
Let them try the good old plan of principle as the central power, and prayer as the unfailing oil by which that principle is lighted. It was thus that our ancestors made such strong men in contending for their faith. They were men of one Book, and they were much given to prayer. Let young men take with them faith in Daniel’s God, with prayer to Him as their Father and Friend, and they will step forth to labour on the opening fields of life, hearing their Master’s voice, “My son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” (A. MacEwen, D.D.)
The Man of Prayer
Are we taught to pray that those good things which by nature we cannot have, may yet by the goodness and peace of the Spirit be worked in us? Then there is offered to us the life of Daniel--the man especially of prayer, and by a consideration of the circumstances in which Daniel was placed, the fidelity with which he persisted in supplication to God, and the deliverances which were wrought for him, we learn how very much the prayer of the righteous availeth, and that God is indeed both a hearer and an answerer of prayer. This prayer was the characterising pecularity of Daniel.
1. No changes of life, or of abode, or of companions, could interrupt or shake the constancy of his adoration to God, and his hourly sense of dependence upon the Almighty.
2. Notice the example which Daniel has set us in his habit of prayer. How frequently he prayed. The posture he assumed in prayer. His indifference to the observations of wicked men. In conclusion, I would explain what are the blessings which you may look for, if you do imitate him (A. Gatty, M. A.)
The Force of Prayer exemplified in Daniel
Daniel appears from first to last to have kept innocent, and to have done what was right before God. The explanation is in the text. Daniel was a man of prayer. The Lord whom he sought upheld his goings. This was the secret of Daniel’s strength, his habit of daily earnest prayer.
1. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his chamber and set open its windows toward Jerusalem. That opening of the window was a mark that Daniel kept true to the worship of his fathers, and was not to be induced by any threat or promise, to go after other gods and serve them. In this, he is a pattern to us.
2. The text says, he “kneeled upon his knees.” His custom was to worship God with his body, soul and spirit; to omit nothing in his act of worship, which might serve to express the earnestness of his supplication, and the depth of his humility.
3. Notice the frequency of his prayer. “Three times a day.” At nine, at noon, and at three in the afternoon. No doubt, Daniel lived a life of constant communing with God; but, with this, he had fixed hours for distinct acts of devotion. How is it then that we are found neglecting prayer? We might all of us find a few minutes in every day, for lifting up our heart to God.
4. Daniel had long been in the habit of praying. He did now only what he had been accustomed to do aforetime. Prayer was not a new thing to him--not something taken up in haste, and on an emergency, but the regulardaily practice of his life. This teaches us a lesson. If we are to know the privilege and blessing of communion with God--if we are to have God always at hand for our support and succour, we must accustom ourselves betimes to call upon him. (R. D. B. Rawnsley, M.A.)
Daniel continuing in Prayer
There is an instance of true courage rising out of right principles. It was not defiant, not obtrusive; but calm, cool, strong. Daniel was eighty-five years old. Though great, he bowed before God. Though busy, he found time to pray. Though wise, he did not escape envy.
I. LOOK AT HIS WORSHIP.
1. It was his established custom. Not commencing with the danger. Not ceasing before the danger.
2. It was in his chamber. Where he retired into his individuality. Where he returned to his nationality. Where he reverted to his inferiority.
3. It was on his knees. (18). So Stephen (Acts 7:60); Peter (Acts 9:40); Paul (Acts 20:36); Christians at Tyre (Acts 21:5); Solomon 1 Kings 8:54); Jesus (Luke 22:41). The attitude of humility. The posture of reverence. The position of creaturehood.
4. It was towards Jerusalem. His Father’s God. His native temple. His heart’s home.
5. It was three times a day. So David (Psalms 55:17). Punctuality. Continuity. (21). Frequency.
II. LOOK AT HIS TEMPTATION. The king asks no homage. The cessation only for a season. The conditions very severe.
III. LOOK AT HIS SUPPORT. God may interpose. If not, death sets him free for heaven. Whether he lives or dies, God glorified.
IV. LOOK AT HIS DELIVERANCE. His own heart cheered. Israel’s spirits raised. The monarch’s testimony given. Jehovah’s name made known. The servant of God stands out in glorious contrast. Flatterers, plotters, are round him. He in his integrity, sincerity, simplicity, faith, has shamed them all. (John Richardson, M.A.)
People imagine that Daniel went into his house, and opened his windows that everybody might see him. This was not the fact. To have done so would not have been religious courage, but foolhardiness and ostentation. Such conduct would have been mere bravado, a trifling with death. Religious courage is a calmer, wiser, braver thing. In a warm climate, the windows would be, as a matter of course, open, as we throw wide our windows in the summer. In later times, perhaps at the time of the captivity, the houses of Jews were built with an upper chamber, a room not in common use, a room in which to receive guests, and to which the people of the house might retire for meditation and prayer. Dr. Robinson’s description of the house of the American consular agent at Sidon may help us to conceive aright of Daniel’s house at Babylon. “His house was a large one, built upon the eastern wall of the city; the rooms were spacious, and furnished with more appearance of wealth than any I saw in the country. An upper parlour, with many windows, on the roof of the proper house, resembled a summer palace, and commanded a delightful view of the country towards the east, full of trees and gardens and country houses, quite to the foot of the mountains.” Into such a chamber Daniel was wont to retire. Perhaps this was known to be the habit of his life. The windows (similar to our venetian blinds) were usually open, so they must be open now, for to seem to forego a duty or a principle is to forego it! (H. T. Robjohns, B.A.)
The Necessity of Prayer
One of the first things we notice about Daniel is his persistence in prayer to his God. He was a man, not of intermittent but of constant prayer. In the Old Testament we find examples of prayer, but not express commands to pray. Daniel not only prayed regularly, but he persisted in doing so, in the face of the enmity of the great ones of the kingdom, in defiance of the very edict of the Viceroy, Darius himself, and with the knowledge that he would be exposed to great peril, perhaps to loss d life in consequence. Though he was not actually a martyr, he was one in spirit, if not in reality. It is not always easy to find sufficient moral courage to persist manfully in one’s duty to God in the face of difficulties and dangers. The world in general attaches a higher value to physical than to moral courage; but in this, as in so many other cases, its judgment is quite wrong. There are sure to be many occasions in our daily life, in which we shall all need this moral courage. Some of us have it naturally in higher degree than others: but the weakest of us has a way to obtain strength from God, in which he can clothe himself as in unpenetrable armour--and that way is prayer. Another trait in Daniel is the unostentatious manner of his piety. We do not read that he ever paraded his love of God before the eyes of those who were around him, or that he made a show of it in public. His religion was of that quiet and unobtrusive kind which insensibly wins the hearts of those who behold it, and convinces them of its earnestness and reality. The same spirit of modest and retiring devotion he showed all through his life. It would be well indeed if Daniel’s modest and unobtrusive piety were imitated more generally than it is now-a-days. We live in an age of deception and sham. Men appear to have arrived at the conclusion that no success can be achieved in any way without constant advertisement--self-advertisement. It seems to have come to this--that no man is to be considered worthy of any regard who does not trumpet forth his own merits in the loudest key. Not only in public but in private there seems to be a lessening of that reverent respect which should enshroud all that relates to God and his holy religion. There is another lesson we may learn from the history of Daniel, and that is, that God will not forsake those who truly love and worship him. But if we would have Daniel’s reward, we must also have Daniel’s faith; and if some now-a-days think that they are forsaken by their Heavenly Father, they must search and try their hearts and see whether the fault be not their own, before they presume to doubt the power of the Almighty to help them, for he will not listen to those who pray to him to him with their lips and not their hearts, as he has commanded them to do. The Jewish prophet did not try to temporise, to obey Darius and the dictates of his own conscience at the same time--he saw clearly what his duty was, and persisted manfully and honestly in carrying it out. Let us too try to serve God with singleness of heart, and uprightness of purpose, let us be, as Daniel was, prayerful, resolute, full of genuine and unostentatious piety, so that we may have the continual countenance of God with us, as he had. (E. Martin Venn, B.A.)
Piety and Business Compatible
This incident yields us a glimpse of the ordinary tone and temper of Daniel’s mind. “As he did aforetime.” Piety gets reckoned sometimes as a supernumery grace, as though, without it, religion could reach as fine a point as is needful, practical, or practicable. The general scope of piety is not hard to appreciate. It is a subjective matter. It relates less to what a man is seen to do outwardly to relations than he is supposed to sustain inwardly. Daniel’s piety betrayed itself by his thrice daily devotions, and otherwise. It consisted not so much in his belief in God, as in his constant intimacy with Him. He was a man whose integrity was beyond question; but quite beside this, God stood near to him, and was very real and personal to him. Piety denotes the holy affection with which we draw nigh to God, and in response to which he draws nigh to us. The common disesteem of piety proceeds from its supposed inutility. Character is rated as an utility, piety only as a luxury. Nowadays the utilities and the humanities are sharply discriminated. Piety is treated as a kind of annex to character. Another ground of the disfavour is that piety is so easily shammed. Piety is a matter between man and God, and so can be assumed with considerable ease and safety. But the greatest hindrance to piety is the half-formed, suspicion, that piety, all things taken into account, is not exactly practicable. Very likely we have not any of us got this matter so exquisitely adjusted that we can both pray in such a way as not to lose interest in our business, and do business in such a way as not to lose interest in our prayers. There are two or three principles, in the recognition of which all successful efforts at adjustment of piety and business will have to proceed.
1. A Christian, to be such in anything like its New Testament sense, has left him no choice to stop short of anything less than spiritual-mindedness. Devoutness, prayerfulness, entrance into God’s intimacy, or call it by whatever name you will, is not a thing that Gospel Christianity can don and doff at its option. Christianity is not believing that there is a God; it is believing God; and so, fresh from the start, it is a matter surely personal between him and us. We begin to be Christians by drawing near to God. If we are trying to be Christians without being spiritually-minded Christians, we are attempting to compose the music of our religious life in a key nowhere set in the Holy Word. Such piety is no matter of unpractical extravagance. And our existence is not met by listening on occasion, to the devout supplications and spoken communings of any who may happen to be standing in fellowship with God. His spiritual-mindedness is valid for him, not for ethers. Devoutness is not transferable.
2. Whatever our secular occupation may be, provided always it is a proper one, that we are to thrust ourselves into with just the came intensity of energy and heartiness of resolve! We shall never make a success of life, and compose its contradictions, by entering into its business pursuits with halfheartedness. It is in us, whatever vocation we have chosen, to enlist in it all our powers. We run against ineradicable instincts when we do otherwise. Of course, there is an extreme to which this might be pushed that would work mischief. Much confusion has come from assuming that secular life and religious life, necessarily work at cross purposes, so that what is taken from one is added to the other. On the contrary, a man’s chances for holiness are bettered by his laborious intercourse with things, as certainly a man’s chances in business are enhanced by his intimacy with God. Piety regularly retrogrades when it draws away from the business and contracts of secular life. Hermit religion is spindling and stalky, like wheat grown in the shade. (Charles H. Parkhurst, D.D.)
If we consider the prophet’s situation, it will surely teach us much concerning both the frequency and the mode in which we ought to pray. Daniel was in a heathen country. He had much and laborious occupation. His situation was one of danger. The question now before us is not so much whether we ought to pray, as in what manner we should fulfil this essential duty. Remember that upon this occasion he was in much tribulation. Yet with all his prayers he offered also a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Let us abhor the sin of ingratitude. Perhaps you complain that the duties of your station in life, duties which you cannot lesson or omit, render it impossible for you to give that attention to those religious services which you feel to be due from the creature to his Creater. Take a lesson from busy Daniel, O that we may have his wisdom in discerning that no intensity of business can justify or palliate the neglect of prayer and praise. Learn also that this man who prayed “three times a day,” acted thus “as he did aforetime”; and our services should be systematic, frequent, and persevering. There was no unusual fervour in Daniel’s prayers and praises under these unusual and unexpected trials. If rule and system be necessary to the success of worldly transactions, surely, we might infer their important use in all the concerns of religion. As to the mode or manner of prayer, we notice that Daniel, when he prayed, attended to certain forms. He opened the windows of his chamber. He kneeled upon his knees. He looked towards Jerusalem. Enough has been said to prove that, however willing Daniel was to obey the laws of the land when not in opposition to the laws of God, he was determined, if the case required, to die rather than dishonour his God; being anxious only that God should be magnified in his body, whether it were by his life, or by his death. (Beaver H. Blacker, M.A.)
The Character of Daniel
In every age there have been witnesses for God men who have stood pre-eminent among their brethren for piety, rising above the ordinary level of spiritual attainment, and shedding around them, in the midst of darkness, the steady light of a holy conversation. The exigencies of times required that such faithful witnesses for the true God should be raised up by a special providence, should be qualified for the task assigned to them, and carried through all its difficulties with credit to themselves, and to the cause in which they were embarked. The histories of such eminent individuals are preserved, on the imperishable record of inspiration, for the instruction of future ages. Their examples are held forth as models of imitation; and in this manner, “though dead,” they “still speak to the world and to the Church,” in the language of reproof, of encouragement, and of faithful admonition. The words of the text stand connected with a very distinguished character.
1. The history of Daniel. One of the children of the captivity, who showed early signs of genius. A circumstance soon occurred which at once proved the strength of his faith, and the supernatural character of his gifts, while it brought him into notice, and paved the way for his future advancement. Interpreting the forgotten dream of the king. His exalted station only rendered his piety more conspicuous, and its practical exertions useful on a larger scald. When Darius became King, he honored Daniel with high trust. Then came the envious scheme to destroy him, which seemed to succeed. It was a scheme characterised at once by impiety and absurdity. Daniel remained calm and unmoved amid the dangers which now surrounded him. The paramount rights of conscience and God, he fails not to respect. God defends his faithful servant. The time of man’s extremity is often the time when God signally interposes in behalf of his people, and at this particular time and place, a supernatural testimony to the true religion, in the person of its distinguished representative, was essentially necessary. The effect on the mind of Darius was deep and powerful.
2. Lessons of practical piety, which the conduct of Daniel, in the instance before us, is designed and fitted to furnish to our minds.
(1) An edifying example of well-principled and well-regulated devotion. Daniel, though a great man, was not ashamed to acknowledge a higher and greater than himself; to cherish towards him the sentiments and feelings of ardent piety, and to bow the knee in his presence, in the attitude of prayer. Prayer he recognised as a duty, and cherished as a source of consolation. Along with his petitions he “gave thanks.” This was his ordinary practice.
(2) A noble example of stedfastness in the faith. Daniel knew that the decree was signed, and even a man of sincerity in the main might have thought himself warranted, in a case so trying, to have used a little management to secure his life, and yet not violate his principles. Plans and schemes, plausible as they might appear, would not do for Daniel. They all proceeded on the principle of concealment, or omission of duty, or a change in the usual manner of doing it, and all from the fear of man, which bringeth a snare. Daniel was a public man, and the representation of the more religious part of his countrymen, and the most prominent witness to the honours of the true God, in the midst of surrounding idols. The eyes of many were, therefore, on him; and had he failed, or appeared to fail now, when his principles were brought so decidedly to the test, “it would have been as when a standard bearer fainteth.” Individuals of less decided character, and moving in a lower and more obscure sphere, might act with caution and reserve, but Daniel, who was a veteran in the army of the saints, and who had so many eyes upon him, must act with more courage, and for this very reason too, that he knew the law to be made expressly for him. He resolves not even to come short of his ordinary and accustomed duty. Our temptations to hide our religion from others are trifling in the extreme when compared with Daniel, and the good men of other days. So that our guilt is exceedingly magnified if it be so that we conceal our religious views for fear of displeasing those whom we wish to serve. Even now the disciples of the Redeemer may be called to suffer persecution. The sneer of ridicule may be pointed at their superior sanctity. In the ordinary commerce of life, there will be trials of faith, and Christians may be called to hold fast their integrity, at some considerable expense. The world loves consistency, and Daniel, through a long life of tried integrity, commanded the respect of his most determined enemies.
(3) We have in Daniel a practical illustration of the grand principles whence all true devotion, and all genuine piety must flow. Daniel prayed with his window open towards Jerusalem. Here is in this the pious recognition of Jehovah, as, in the most affecting and important sense, the God of Israel. The mercy seat is recognised as the symbol of divine mercy to mankind, and as typical of that “throne of grace,” sprinkled with the blood of the Redeemer, to which “we have access with boldness, through the faith of him.” (Robert Burns, D.D.)
Daniel in Babylon
Never, surely did the spirit and power of devotion shine forth with greater lustre, than at this time, in the person of Daniel, upon his knees, in such circumstances. Nothing ever ought to make us omit our daily devotions. It had been no wonder to have seen Daniel devout in Jerusalem. For there was the temple, the true church and worship. But he was now in a strange, heathen land. Perhaps, we think we have too much business upon our hands, to spare time for our devotions. Time is very precious with most people, when they are to perform their devotions; and if they have not enough for everybody, they generally make free, in the first place, with their Creator. Let these men of business consider the case of Daniel. It would puzzle one to conceive a man in a situation that would afford him less leisure. Yet all this business did Daniel discharge faithfully and punctually, and found time to pray, and give thanks before his God, thrice every day constantly. And this he continued to do, even when the law was passed, which made it certain death. We may learn from this great example, as to the place, posture, time, and matter of our daily devotions. Prayer and thanksgiving were the two parts of Daniel’s daily service. Constancy in prayer can open the way to all blessings. (Bishop Horne.)
Character aided by prayer
Evidently trials of moral integrity and earnest religiousness have been as keen in days of old as in our own time; and the power whose tone and force they embalm is a power which is available for us.
I. THE CHARACTER REQUIRED OF RELIGION IN THE WORLD IS A COMBINATION OF FIDELITY TO GOD AND FIDELITY TO MAN--OR GODLINESS WITH UPRIGHTNESS. There maybe fidelity to man where there is not fidelity to God; but we cannot reverse this statement, and yet accord the truth. For a man to be faithful to his Lord, and unfaithful or deceiving towards his fellow-men, is simply impossible. The impenetrable gulf is, however, attempted. The man who fulfils what is due to his fellow-men, and also that which is due to God--who wears the worthiness belonging to morality, and the dignity belonging to spirituality--he alone represents the true character of religion in the world. Like a stately, tree, he strikes his roots downwards to draw all that is adapted to his life from the soft; and spreads his boughs, and opens his leaves, to catch the rain and the light of heaven. Such an one was Daniel. His enemies regarded him as a servant of God so firmly attached to him, that he would endure any loss in preference to being unfaithful. Surely such should be the views taken of every religious man.
II. HIS RELIGIOUS CHARACTER IS OFTEN DISLIKED. Daniel was no favourite with the other officers of the Median despot. I do not doubt that the dislike was rather to his uprightness than to his godliness. The secret homage which is paid to righteous proceedings prevented those high officials from directly attacking Daniel’s administration. They scheme to overturn it by means of his fear of God. Uprightness is certainly worth something in our market, though it is not found at every stall. It may be as well to add that there is often a qualification of this dislike, in that worldly men are not always unwilling to use the consciousness and ability of a godly man. In trying circumstances they are known to pass by their most intimate friends and confide their cases to him who, by his fidelity to God and man, has been a butt for their frivolity, yet compelled their respect.
III. THERE IS A WAY OF SECURING THIS RELIGIOUS CHARACTER. Supposing a man to be the possessor of the right character, how is he to maintain it notwithstanding all oppositions? Undoubtedly by his help who has impressed the character upon him. One of the methods he has chosen is prayer. Daniel was not wrongly judged by his enemies, and his course sets prayer in its human aspect before us. How prayer keeps step with the unswerving march of God’s established laws, neither Scripture nor speculation determines. God enjoins, teaches, and hears prayer, and our concern is more with the right employment of this mighty instrument than with the way in which it operates on the government of God, if it is to be a support to godliness and uprightness.
1. Prayer demands a decisive step. Daniel went to pray at once. He went to pray undisguisedly.
2. Prayer must express various convictions. Daniel made it the medium of showing dependence upon, and the gratitude towards God. He affords an instance of the morally sublime. The conviction that God can help forms our addresses to him into requests; the conviction that he has helped, and will help, constitutes the framework of thanks.
3. Prayer should have suitable aids. Daniel kneeled, with his face toward Zion.
4. Prayer should be frequent. Daniel set apart three times a day for this exercise. And he did so, not under the pressure of threatening calamity, but from a settled desire of his soul. (D. G. Watt, M.A.)
The Prayer of Daniel
When we contemplate the character of Daniel, one thing to be remembered is, that by the grace of God he was what he was. He was not only a moral and virtuous man, in the highest degree in which morality and virtue have ever been displayed by men, but he was a man of spiritual godliness. With God’s special grace, Daniel could not have been what Daniel was, any more than Paul would have been what he became by grace. There was spiritual life in his soul. Without the regenerating, and sanctifying, saving grace of God, you may be amiable in your disposition and conduct, respected and honoured as useful members of society, but you cannot, because you are such, conclude that the life of God is in your souls. The chief points in the religious character and conduct of Daniel are his courage and consistency. See in him the wide difference between godly fear, and natural cowardice and terror. Godly fear was the very thing which made Daniel brave and fearless? The true fear of God, is another name for the love of God. This fear, this love, dismissed all other fear from Daniel’s soul. If there is one situation more than another in which it is difficult to hold peaceful communion with God, it is where we know and feel ourselves to be watched by the eyes and ears of scoffers, who hate personal religion, and ridicule prayer, and what they think overmuch righteousness. But Daniel’s soul was able, resolutely and devoutly, to meet such circumstances, and to rise above them; so courageous, so consistent, so calm was he in the service of God, through the grace which was given to him. See also, in Daniel, how the grace of God is able to preserve a man, as it did him, in the midst of earthly prosperity and power, from the manifold snares which surround them. (Henry S. Richmond, M.A.)
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself.
The Nemesis of Flattery
Daniel sought neither publicity, nor avoided it. He was too well acquainted with the methods of Oriental government to suppose that his disobedience to the King’s decree could be concealed. Because he had given God his, heart, he sought no evasions. He would have been untrue to his own feelings if he had cared for his own selfish ease and safety more than for God’s honour. But he made no parade, or ostentatious exhibition of his piety. Amidst all the weighty cares and pressure of public business, this holy man found time for regular prayer. (verses 12-14) Alas! Poor King! But a day or two ago he had scaled the giddiest height of human ambition. His courtiers had made him divine. Darius the infallible! It must be very trying to an infallible personage to have any of the ills that flesh is heir to--such as a headache--and not be able to predicate for certain what will cure it. There was something worse here. These courtiers had snared Darius with his own vanity. So much adulation for bait, and when it was taken the trap would fall, and the King be caged. The Persian law rendered him impotent. He might repent, but repentance availed nothing. As a rule this Medo-Persian law probably worked well. It was intended as an obstacle to the too hasty enactment of a law. But the tumultuous entry of the conspirators demanding leave to pay him extravagant honour, was too much for Darius’s prudence. He fondly imagined that their flattery was genuine, and that it arose from heartfelt respect for his great qualities. And now he was “sore displeased with himself,” for he felt that he had been weak indeed. He had let himself be duped. Our sins, and even our follies, punish us with just retribution. For vain Darius there was self-contempt. By a just retribution God uses our own vices and weakness as the scourge wherewith He punishes us. Were we wise we should take the warning. But it is in vain that the moralist warns us that only the edge of folly’s cup is tinged with honey, and that the long drought which follows ever grows in bitterness, and must be drained to the last foul dregs. But this, with us, is not inevitable. We do not stand, like Darius, sorrowful, reluctant, displeased with ourselves, labouring to escape, but with no outlet for deliverance. For us Christ has died, and he is our way of safety, our door for admittance into the fold of the free, and also our strength. He gives swiftness to the weary feet, power to the feeble arms, peace to the aching heart. (Dean Payne Smith.)
Conscience at Work
Why this uneasiness? Is he afraid of foreign invasion? Does he dread some internal rebellion or has disease assailed his constitution? No. His uneasiness arises, not from his body, but from his soul; not from his kingdom, but from his conscience. In the matter of Daniel’s condemnation, he had acted a most unworthy, most unkingly, most unmanly part. No sooner is the act completed, than his heart reproached him with his weakness, and his conscience accused him of his sin. Why was he, on any account, accessory to the death of an innocent man? Why did he suffer a faithful servant to be basely betrayed and murdered? Why did he consent to tarnish his honour, to compromise his dignity, by becoming the reluctant accomplice, and the degraded tool, of envious and perfidious men? The more he broods over the matter, he becomes the more excited, till the fever of his mind was communicated to his physical frame, and rendered sleep impossible. From this we may learn, that sin, even when yielded to from weakness, will leave guilt upon the conscience, which sooner or later will cause uneasiness and pain. Conscience, it is true, may be so debilitated and exhausted by habits of sin, that it may allow the sinner to lie long under guilt without raising an accusing voice. God, however, can at any moment quicken it by one single beam of light, and so kindle and inflame it, that the most hardened sinners in Zion shall tremble, and fearfulness seize the most seared and hardened among the hypocrites. And when conscience is once quickened, the guilty man cannot escape from its accusations. Wherever he goes, he carries his accuser in his bosom. And the conscience will never be truly pacified, until it is sprinkled by the atoning blood of Jesus, and purified by the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost. When in this state of mind, Darius used no carnal methods to silence the voice of his inward monitor. He gave it full scope. He communed with his heart in the night season. “Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him.” The conduct of this heathen king reproves many, who, when their consciences are quickened by the word read or preached, or by some dispensation in providence, use means to lull it asleep, such as pleasure, or company, or dissipation. When conscience speaks, let us ever attend. Give ear to her faintest whispers. Be not afraid to listen to her loudest accusations. These may work your soul’s eternal health. Those times, when a man’s conscience is specially awakened, ought to be regarded as constituting eras of incalculable importance in his history as an immortal being. Let us, in such cases, looking up to God for wisdom to guide, and for grace to strengthen, endeavour to perform the first duty pointed out by the light which we have, and in the way of doing so, we will ever see the light shining before us, as we advance, and ever shining more and more, the farther we proceed. (W. White.)
The Conscience of the Wicked King
Study the character of Darius.
I. HIS VANITY. He was proud of his position and power. He was attacked on his weak side. He would not make himself a god, but merely assumes God’s prerogative for thirty days. But the one bad step brought its calamity; for sins are social--one of them is never alone. One of his presidents would worship his God all the time. The king sees the evil, but too late. He had done wrong, and he is now the slave of wrong. So with every man. Selfishness is his weakness. If he gives way, the first stone of his dungeon is laid. Then comes the unexpected evil; that one sin brings another. In any crisis, small or great, when the question is between Christ and ourselves, if we do not crucify self, we open the long avenues of guilt, of which often there is no shutting afterwards.
II. HIS PERPLEXITY. The king’s conscience is aroused. Daniel! he cannot do such a thing with him, he must not do it. But he cannot help it. Surely Daniel can be saved. No--not even that. Then comes the actual evil. He cannot go back, he must go forward. He sinks lower, to sins of deed--weakness, cowardice, and even blasphemy.
III. HIS REMORSE AND GOOD INTENTIONS. The king was sorry. Surely he was penitent. Now the tide was turned. Darius makes a new decree: the God of Daniel must be served, and no other. But we are not told that he turned to the Lord, that he learned His law, or kept it. So with us when the cloud breaks and the passion has spent its force, then the reaction comes, and repentance and remorse. If we repent partially, not because we have sinned against God, but have disturbed our own conscience or brought disgrace upon ourselves, if we are ready to go back to temptation afresh, then a new cloud hangs, threatening night. Come, not to boast, but to be forgiven; not to offer, but to receive. (W. Murdoch Johnston, M.A.)
And set his heart on Daniel to deliver him.
Darius and Daniel; or the Necessity of an Atonement
Why could not Darius deliver Daniel? He was an absolute monarch, and had the whole power of the realm at his control. His inability did not arise frown a want of disposition. The king was most sincerely disposed to deliver him, if he could. He passed sentence upon Daniel with great and evident reluctance. There are many things which a monarch, however powerful, cannot consistently perform. An absolute monarch may be so surrounded with checks and restraints, that he has really less liberty than almost any of his subjects. He cannot abrogate his own laws, or trifle with his own authority, or introduce principles of administration which shall go to encourage transgression, or to release his subjects from their obligations el obedience. There were but two ways in which Darius could deliver Daniel. The one was by rescinding and disowning his rash decree; and the other by forbearing to execute it, or, which is the same, by pardoning Daniel. In the first case he would have dishonoured the law, and disgraced himself for passing such a law. Could he not forbear to execute his rash decree? Could he not give this beloved officer a full and free pardon? Nay, he could not pardon Daniel, even if Daniel would consent to be pardoned, without dishonouring his entire system of government, weakening its authority, and exposing it to contempt. The consequence was, that the transgressor of the law must feel its penalty, and Daniel must go into the den of lions. The case of Darius and Daniel goes to illustrate another case, in which we are personally and immensely interested. We are the rightful subjects of an absolute Monarch--the mighty Monarch of the universe. He has issued good laws for the regulations of our hearts and lives, and has annexed to them a just, but a dreadful penalty. These laws we have broken; this penalty we have all incurred. In what way can we be delivered? True, our Sovereign has physical power enough to deliver us, for He is omnipotent. And He can have no pleasure in our ruin, for He is infinitely benevolent. Still, there are some things which He cannot with propriety do. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot disgrace Himself. He cannot bring dishonour upon His holy law. He cannot do anything to weaken His authority in the eyes of those whom He rules, anything to invite or encourage transgression. How then are we, who have broken the law of God, and incurred its penalty, to be delivered? The laws of God are perfectly good laws; to set them aside would be inconsistent with His holiness. If God were not infinitely wiser than men, and infinitely more benignant and merciful, there would be no hope. What Darius could not do for Daniel, God has been able to do for us. He has devised a way in which His holy law can be honoured, and its authority maintained, and yet the penalty be remitted to penitent transgressors. By the voluntary sufferings and death of Christ, in place of the transgressor, the violated law has been honoured, and a way of deliverance opened. Sinners cannot be saved without an atonement, and they can be saved in no other way than by an atonement. (E. Pond, D.D.)
That no decree nor statute that the king establisheth may be changed.
These men were constitutional persecutors. They were constitutional liars. Some men are nothing if not constitutional. They would die for constitution; they dream of constitutional order: these men who are so addicted to constitution precedent and usage could kill a man. That is the difficulty we always have to deal with. You cannot convert a scribe: with man this is impossible; with God all things are possible. Once let a man become the victim of the letter, and the case is hopeless. See how these men deport themselves: all for a law, nothing for a life; on the one side full of constitutional obedience, on the other without feeling in reference to a human soul, a brother’s life; only shed man’s blood, but keep the letter of the law. The great complaint we have to make against this in all ages and countries, that it has about it a taint of respectability. You cannot get at the scribe on account of the scroll which he holds us between you and him.He is not worth getting at. He has the law, the chapter, the verse, the letter; he has no genius of law, no spirit of liberty, no inspiration and enthusiasm of human nature. The thing that was given to him as a hint, a help, a temporary assistance, is pressed so as to become an excuse, if not a defence, in the matter of murder. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; the law was made for man, not man for the law. We must take care how we throw things out of proportion and perspective, how we overweight the one side or the other; let us see what it is that is really involved: if it is criminality, it must be put down; if it is a difference of judgment, if it is an exercise of conscience, then we must see what relation the law has to such spiritual or intellectual relationships and possessions and responsibilities. What is God always doing? Setting law aside. That seems strange. Certainly, God must be strange. God’s Government must be immeasurable in its inner thought, in its outward relation; it must be under his hand; it must lie well within the sweep of his omnipotence. (Joseph Parker, D.D.)
Then the King commanded and they brought Daniel.
The Example of Daniel
It is the property of pure religion to invest the man who possesses it with excellencies which bear no resemblance to the “fashion of the world.” His ambition rises beyond all human distinctions. Those endowments of mind and of character which arrested the admiration of Darius, and induced the smile of his complacency, awakened at the same time the direful spirit of envy in the breast of his courtiers, who could not endure to contemplate the rising glory of the “man whom the king delighted to honour.”
1. The text records the sentiments of an inspired prophet respecting the interference of human authority in the concerns of religion. Daniel honoured the King, but would not render to him the homage which interfered with the claims of God and the rights of conscience. Does it become Christians to evince less of fortitude and firm decision of soul?
2. In the temper and conduct of Daniel we may learn how all good men should act under the rod of oppression. To lawful authority obedience is due; but to yield submission to the will of a capricious tyrant, arrayed in the trappings of assumed and self-constituted authority, to a task dreadfully irksome to a reflecting mind. Absolute power cannot govern the region of the soul. If the Christian had power, he has no disposition to render evil for evil. His temper is that of meekness, and peace, and goodwill towards men. He, therefore, is not fitted to subvert establishments and to dethrone tyrants. His spirit gives him patience to endure, but inspires no feeling of resistance; and he prefers being made the victim rather than the agent of vengeance.
3. The case of the afflicted prophet reminds us how religious persecution defeats its object, by extending the cause which it is intended to repress. It was Daniel’s fortitude in subduing misfortunes, and his faith which conquered death, that made his religion popular.
4. The holy fortitude and triumph of the persecuted prophet, show that God affords support to his servants under the pressure of their heaviest trials. (Chap. 6:16, 28) (S. Curwen.)
The Den of Lions
The precedency given to Daniel did not suit the mind of the other presidents and princes for various reasons. They were still jealous of the power of this foreign worshipper of Jehovah, and doubtless they were well convinced that, so long as Daniel had the final authority over the treasury accounts, there would be small chance for them to enrich themselves at the expense of the king’s exchequer. They therefore immediately formed a plot for Daniel’s overthrow. They perfectly understood that they could not sustain any ordinary charge against this man of blameless character and spotless integrity. So they resorted to craft. If Daniel was to be caught at all, it must be through his religious fidelity. The light that had shone so steadfastly and brilliantly in that great city for more than sixty years was not now to be hidden under a bushel. He disdained to condescend to unworthy compromises or cowardly evasions.
I. DANIEL DELIVERED TO THE LIONS. In the delivery of Daniel, to be cast into the den of lions, we are reminded at once of the similar fate which befell the three young princes, his early friends. Darius had been more boastful in the decree which made him god for thirty days, than had Nebuchadnezzar, who only ordered that his god should be worshipped by everybody; yet he had less power than his more modest predecessor. We cannot but reflect on the latent sarcasm involved in the boasted despotic power of earthly monarchs. Their power is always absolute to do evil, but limited to do good. Zedekiah could consent to the imprisonment of Jeremiah, but said he had not power to deliver him out of the hands of the nobles, his enemies. Herod had power to deliver John the Baptist to the executioner, but no power to save him from the result of his rash vow. Pilate seemed to have no power to save Jesus from his malicious enemies, but had power to deliver Him to the cross. And so we might further illustrate this power for evil, this impotence for good, when it is vested in the hands of the kings of the earth; but these cases will suffice. It was thus that Darius exercised his power and exhibited his powerlessness, when he ordered Daniel to be cast to the lions.
1. The king’s speech.
“Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” Thus he shifted responsibility from his own hands upon the God of Daniel, whom he had denied. So perhaps Herod hoped that somehow John the Baptist might be delivered out of Herodias’ hands. So perhaps Pilate may have thought. Darius seemed not only to desire that God would deliver Daniel, but had a strong hope that he would. Perhaps Daniel had told him how, forty or fifty years before, God had delivered his three friends out of the fiery furnace; for Darius seemed to know a good deal of Daniel and his God. But this good-will, and even this gleam of faith in the power of God to deliver his servant, did not excuse his own evil act in delivering the innocent to death. If God does not interpose to frustrate our evil doings or overrule them for good, that does not make our sin the less, though it brings equal glory to God.
2. The double sealing of the den.--“And a stone was brought and laid upon the month of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.” This reminds us very much of what the rulers of the Jews did when Jesus was buried. Did these lords fear that somehow Daniel would come out of that den of lions? It would almost seem so. There is always a fear in the heart of those who fight against God that he will defeat them.
II. THE DISTRESS OF THE KING.
1. A troubled conscience.--“The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and his sleep went from him.” It was well that he did so; though it had been better had he boldly delivered Daniel. How often, when we weakly yield to sin, and suffer the torture of an offended conscience, we try to compensate for our sin by some acts of self-denial. If the fasting was a sign of repentance, it was well; but if it was simply to ease the pain of conscience, and seek in that way to atone for the evil, it was a mere mockery. We are so often quick to sin and slow to repent; prompt in doing wrong, but dilatory in making reparation. We are not sorry that the king had a bad night of it. We have had bad nights ourselves, and know how he felt. On the other hand, we cannot but think how differently the night was spent, by Daniel. Peter slept quietly in his gaol while the angel was coming to deliver him; and Paul and Silas waked the prison’s echoes with nightly song. Happy children and servants of God, who can be at peace, can sleep soundly or sing gleefully in lion’s den or prison’s dungeon, while the monarch persecutors spend nights with tortured consciences in their splendid palaces!
2. A morning drive.--“The king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste to the den of lions.” He could not spend the whole night in his bed. With the first suggestion of dawn he was up and his chariot was ordered, and he drove in haste to the place where Daniel was quietly reposing with the lions and God’s angel. This indeed is a strange spectacle, for the monarch of the world thus to be attending upon a condemned servant of God. The spirit of God working in the conscience of Darius, compelled him to do the same thing; as once before the fear of Zedekiah brought him to the dungeon of Jeremiah, the imprisoned prophet. God knows how to bring down the head of the proud as well as how to lift up the humble. Happy we if we also may always repent in time.
3. The king’s lamentable cry.--“O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” The king was deeply distressed and in an agony of anxiety. He had admired Daniel, and had listened to the old prophet’s teaching concerning Jehovah. It all came back to him now; and he was both ready to publicly confess the excellency of the believer’s character, and the dignity and sovereignty of the believer’s God. In this “lamentable cry” there was both penitence and acknowledgment. What a splendid character he gave to Daniel: “Servant of the living God, whom thou servest continually.” He also confessed God in a wonderful way: “The Living God.” Thus he brushed aside all the pretensions of the idol gods, and gave honour to Jehovah. Daniel’s teachings had not been in vain.
III. DANIELS’S TRIUMPH. That must have been a welcome sound to the king’s ear, when the voice of Daniel answered back in clear, calm, and humbly triumphant tone, “O king, live for ever.” Human nature would have been inclined to have added. “But no thanks to you.”
1. Praise to God.--“My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me.” In this he takes pains to ascribe his deliverance to his God. Here is a strong emphasis upon the fact that the Living God is not to be confounded with the false gods of the heathen. He is a God of providence, who watches over his servants and keeps his promise with them.
2. A defence of his innocency.--“Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, I have done no hurt.” Daniel does not boast of his goodness, but would set before the king that the favour of God to his servants in such a case is not regardless of the law of righteousness. Daniel had honoured God at a time when the world-power was denying and deriding him.
3. Daniel delivered out of the den.--Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel out of the den.” Thus was Daniel delivered out of the den, and out of the hands of his enemies. His character was vindicated, and better still, his God was magnified and honoured.
IV. THE EDICT OF THE KING. God has never left the world without a witness for him; and now the last witness is being given to the nations by the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When this testimony is complete he will take to himself his great power, and finish the work in righteousness; he will set up his King upon the double throne of heaven and earth, and reign therein world without end. (G. F. Pentecost, D.D.)
The Den of Lions
Almost every bas-relief exhumed in recent years, has some figure of the lion. Dens of them were kept for the royal pleasure, or to be the swift executioners of the realm. Here, in this lesson, is a series of striking contrasts, between the King and his Jewish officer.
1. The one does wrong and hopes; the other does right and trusts. The deification of rulers was their general, as still the Russians regard the Tsar, and till lately, the Japanese the Mikado. The jewelled crown and sceptre were the signs of omnipotence. Darius had the ideas of his own time. In a way, he believed in his own divine nature. The flattery of courtiers was pleasing, and the imposing displays, in capital and campaign, helped to foster the self-delusion. It would never do for the Median lord to confess a mistake. We turn to look at that sincere, calm soul, whose love for his home wavered not through a life-time. A life of devotion was not to be abandoned because of any proclamation from men. Spiritual communion was as essential, after the famous behest, as before it was issued.
2. The one regards death as a sure agent, the other as under divine control. The love of life is an instinct. No one in his senses courts death. The taking of life is the last dread resort of the civil law. The unscrupulous ruler can rely on it to work his will. Daniel felt that if God had more for him to do in witnessing to the truth here, all the brute creation could not harm him. Death is not a certain victor when it suddenly confronts us.
3. The one decreed a universal religion; the other preached and practiced it daily. The safety of Daniel was proof enough to the king that the God of Daniel was no myth, but the living God. So he published an edict, demanding of all homage to Jehovah. But piety can never be the fruit of proclamation. In striking contrast with such, pretensions and wholesale religionism, there went forth, from the testing place, the plain lover of God, and preacher of righteousness, to take up his responsible duties as before, and to kneel in grateful acknowledgment of Jehovah’s protection and furtherance. (De Witt S. Clark.)
O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
The Lions’ Den
The empire of Babylonia and Chaldea passed into the hands of a new dynasty, and King Belshazzar was slain in a night-assault upon his capital. On that very night he had clothed Daniel in scarlet, and made him the third ruler in the kingdom. This was providential; for, had Daniel been in obscurity, he would have been little likely to attract the notice of Darius; but, observing him in the palace, clothed in scarlet, Darius would naturally ask who he was, and enquire into his antecedents. The fame of his wisdom would he quickly told. Hence it was not at all surprising that Darius took great notice of Daniel, weighed his character, observed his conduct, and, after a while, exalted him to be prime minister of his realm. Daniel’s prosperity and honours excited the envy of the courtiers. Can they discover a flaw in his accounts? Can they question the impartiality of his judgment? Can they detect a lack of loyalty in the administration of his government? Can they find fault with his private life? Nay; but is there nothing against him? Is Daniel such a four-square man that he is more than a match for them? At length the devil, who does not often run short of devices, puts them up to a fresh plot. O Satan, thou art full of all subtlety! “Let us contrive a new law,” say they, “that shall bring his piety and his patriotism into conflict.” They managed to involve the king himself in their iniquitous device, and to entangle him in such a way that he must either sacrifice his favourite courtier, or compromise his own truthfulness, and violate the sacred traditions of the empire. A royal statute was framed, and a decree published, forbidding any petition to be asked of God or man for thirty day. How preposterous! But when was there ever a despot who was not, sooner or later, deserted of his wits? The passion for power, when indulged without restraint, will lead a man to the utmost foolishness, and urge him to a madness of vanity. There are many, nowadays, who hate nothing so much so a religious man. All the epithets in the catalogue of scandal are too good for the man who offers homage to God in everything. An infidel may be reputed honest, intelligent, and worthy of respect; but a genuine Christian is at once denounced as a hypocrite. So they told the king that the laws of his empire must be kept inviolate; good, loyal souls as they were, that would not have a statute broken for the world! There is an end to your monarchy if your royal proclamations are not to be respected! God, in his providence and grace, preserved his servant.
I. First, I want to set before you DANIEL’S EARLY AND ENTIRE CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. The king said, “Thy God whom thou servest continually.” This was no empty compliment. His scrupulous uprightness had become so habitual that it was like an instinct of his nature. Daniel began to serve God in his youth. They, who give their morning to God, shall find that, in beginning early, they can keep pace with their work all the day. Happy Daniel, thus continually to serve his God from his youth up! For a while, Daniel retires into the shade. You hear nothing of him till Belshazzar ascends the throne, but he is still serving his God; I doubt not, sometimes ministering to his poorer brethren, and visiting the sick; but often in his chamber, by prayer and by study of the Scriptures, seeking and finding communion with the Most High. On a sudden, Belshazzar summons him to his presence. There is a mysterious writing on the wall, which can be read by no eye, and interpreted by no lip, but his. How confidently he speaks, “This is the writing”! And again, “This is the interpretation.” His word commends itself to the conscience; no man dares to gainsay it. He is promoted to the highest honour in the realm; now what will he do? There has been a change of monarchs, but there is no change in Daniel. No time-server, he stand to his principles at all times. “Servant of the living God” is still his title. He had taken for his motto, when he began life, “I serve God” and he retains the motto to his life’s close. The glory of his God was his one object throughout all his days; he never swerved. He is prime minister of the greatest monarch of the age; yet he abhors the idolatry of the heathen, and maintains his allegiance to him who ruleth in the heavens. They can find no flaw in him, though the eyes of envy watch him from early morning to dewy eve. O, it is a hard thing to serve God in high places! Many a man did seem to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour when humbly earning his livelihood by the toil of his hands, and eating his bread in the sweat of his face; but, afterwards, when advanced to ease aria opulence, he turned his back upon his friends, and forsook the Lord. Be very jealous of yourselves If you are rising in the world. Now note the effect of what Daniel did. It is comparatively easy to follow the Lord in bright days; but the sun of prosperity suddenly darkens, and the man of God is encompassed with perils. If he continues in his holy course, he will forfeit the king’s favour, and lose his life in the most dreadful manner. What will Daniel’s determination be? Oh, the true grit is in him! He is a blade of the true Jerusalem manufacture, and is not to be broken. He will do just as he did before. Ah! some of us little know what these pinches mean. There are a few of you who do; you have endured torture without accepting deliverance. Witness the man who has a shop, which brings him in more profit on a Sunday than it does all the rest of the days of the week; and who says, “It must be one thing or the other; I cannot go to the Tabernacle, and keep my shop open too; which shall it be?” His faith proves stronger than his fear. The shutters are closed on the first day of the week. I daresay, had Daniel gone to consult Mr. Prudent Thrifty, and asked his advice, he would have said, “Well, you see, it is a very important thing for us to have you at the head of affairs; I do not think you ought to throw away such an opportunity as you have of doing good. It is not absolutely necessary for you to pray for thirty days! Would it not be better for you to trim a little, and yield a point or two? You do distinguished service to our cause; and, by keeping your position, you will be putting yourself to the non-plus. By compromise you will obtain concessions. Worldly wisdom is worth your study.” At the call of duty, never parley with danger. Here I would remark that the only service to God which is real, genuine, remunerative, is this continual service that sticks at nothing. Any hungry dog will follow you in the streets if you but entice him with a piece of meat, or a bit of biscuit. How closely he keeps to your heels! But, after a while, the bait is gone, and the dog retreats. That is like many a professor. There is some little pleasure in religion, or some advantage, and so he follows Christ but, after a while, there is an attraction elsewhere; and, impelled by greed rather than gratitude, he pursues it. Oh, those time-servers, who look one way and pull the other, like the wherry-men upon the stream! As for Lord Fair-Speech, Lord Time-Server, Mr. Smooth-Man, Mr. Anything, Mr. Facing-both-Ways, Mr. Two-Tongues and all the members of their club, Mr. By-Ends included, the entire company of them will be swept away when the Judge comes with the besom of destruction. I know you feel the force of this truth. How you loathe a friend who will not stick to you in dark times! This is but a picture of yourselves if you try to follow Jesus Christ only when you are in the society of his people, and as easily lend yourselves to sing a frivolous or lewd song when you are with the ungodly. That faith which lives on Jesus only, rests on Jesus solely, builds on Jesus wholly, and shows itself in earnest prayer, will give you a consistency and decision of character that will make you like Daniel in your days.
II. Now, secondly, WHO WAS THIS GOD WHOM DANIEL SERVED CONTINUALLY? Let me ask,--Is Daniel’s God worthy of our worship? I ask the question in all earnestness, because I feel positive that multitudes of men have a religion that, in their own judgment, is hardly worth debating about, far less worth dying for. Is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ worthy of our love and our life? Words are wanting to tell the gratitude and joy that we cherish towards God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in sins. By faith, I understand that the blessed Son of God redeemed my soul with his own heart’s blood; and, by sweet experience, I know that he raised me up from the pit of dark despair, and set my feet on the rock. He died for me; this is the root of every satisfaction I have. You must be the best judges of your own religion, whether or not it is worth suffering for. If it is not full of immortality, I would not advise you to risk your reputation on retaining it. If it is only a fair profession, you may well blush for it as a foul delusion. Then there comes another question,--Is Daniel’s God able to deliver us from the lions? You who are suffering just now for the cross of Christ, you who know what it is to be losers for Jesus, to stand out and to endure pains and penalties as Daniel did,--you are well aware that the lions are fierce and furious creatures. They are not stuffed animals, having the name without the nature of those beasts of prey. So, the sufferings of a Christian are not sentimental, they are real. The lions have sharp teeth, and they would have devoured you, only divine grace has found a means of delivering you out of their mouths. I ask the man, who has given up a profitable appointment because he would not be false to his convictions, whether, on shorter commons, he has not found the sweeter luxury of contentment? I asked him whether he has not enjoyed, on a harder pillow, more refreshing sleep! But should we even dwell among lions till we die, what joy it shall be to leave the lions, and be linked with saints and holy angels in the beatific hereafter! “Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” And with a cheerful shout, loud as the voice of thunder, they cry, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” I look down upon another lions’ den. There, sons and daughters of sorrow are tossed on beds of sickness. Thus they have lain for months, perhaps for years, all hope of health extinguished, all prospect of pleasure passed; their limbs paralyzed, their sight failing, their hearing dull; calamities of every kind have befallen them. God has permitted the great lions of affliction to come howling round. Tell me, ye Daniels, has your God been able to deliver you out of the mouths of the lions? And I hear each one say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” and all in chorus sing, saying “Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord our God hath promised; our shoes have have been iron and brass, and as our days so has our strength been.” Shall I strain my parable too far if I turn my eye upon another lions’ den? It lies in a deep valley. We call this place “the valley of the shadow of death.” Methinks I am gazing now on the forms of shivering men and women as they are dragged down by the lions. One after another my familiar friends descend into the grave; and I ask them, in the hour of their departure, “Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” Calm is their countenance, and clear their voice, as each one chants his solo, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” So, at length, this lions’ den loses all its terror. Then I look into another den; it is almost empty. There is a lion in it,--a grim old lion, but I do not see so much as a bone to tell the tale of itsvictims. Of a sudden, I look upwards, and, lo! I see myriads of immortal souls, and they all tell me, “Our God delivered us from the grave, and rifled the tomb of its prey. By a glorious resurrection, he has brought all his ransomed people forth to meet their Lord at the great day of his appearing. There shall they stand before the throne of God, for he hath broken the teeth of the lion, and rescued all his children from the power of the adversary.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Servant of God Delivered
I. THE KING’S DENOMINATION OF DANIEL is worthy of remark. He does not address him as first of the presidents; but says, “O Daniel, servant of the living God.” This was an honour above any official station--angels and archangels can occupy no higher position. It was better for Daniel to have been a servant of the living God than to have been the first president of Persia. His piety was not a sickly, fitful, feverish, fashionable thing; his devotion was deeply rooted; he served God continually, not occasionally. His religion was so natural to him that he could not hide it; everything he did proved him to be a man that feared and loved God. O, what a living power there would be in religion if it were acted out in our social walks and public conduct, and not shut up to mould all week within the walls of our churches! Why should your labour and talents, influence and time, be principally devoted to the world which is passing away? The surest way to peace, and honour, and usefulness, is in the service of God.
II. THE REASON FOR GOD’S INTERFERENCE IN DANIEL’S BEHALF WAS NOT THAT HIS CONDUCT REALLY MERITED SUCH AN INTERPOSITION. The meaning is, that God, being a witness of his innocence, indicated it by this interposition. You may learn, therefore, from this case, that God is the vindicator of his people.
III. THE PERSONAL PROPERTY IN GOD, referred to both in the king’s words and in Daniel’s reply, is remarkable. The king said to Daniel, “Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” And Daniel replies, “My God hath sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me.” Mark the difference. Darius had heard of God by the hearing of the ear, Daniel was acquainted with him as a friend and father. (W. A. Scott.)
My Lord hath sent His Angel.
Daniel’s Marvellous Deliverances
These words are Daniel’s religious and thankful acknowledgment of his deliverance.
1. Here is a reverend compellation. “O king.” Darius was a heathen prince; an enemy to God’s people; and he here makes a wicked law, forbidding religion, and inforcing to idolatry. Yet the prophet acknowledges and honours him, as his king and sovereign.
2. A loyal and pious salutation. “Live for ever.” He prays for him, wishes him both length and prosperity of life here, and eternity of life and felicity hereafter. He upbraids not the king with tyranny and impiety; charges him not with the cruelty of his usage; threatens him not with vengeance, and judgments from God. He will not pray to the king, but he ceases not to pray for him.
3. Thankful declaration of his marvellous deliverance.
(1) The author; “My God.” Two things: his helper--God. His hold that he lays upon this helper. “My God,” by special service and religion, the God of my faith, and piety, and devotion; by special trust and affiance; by present evidence and experience; by resolution, and engagements of holy thankfulness.
(2) The Instrument. “Sent His angel.” Not my angel, but God’s angel. It is not “the angel came,” but God sent him. This ministry of an angel, in the delivering of Daniel, adds unto it three excellencies. It makes a comfortable deliverance. As a forlorn and forsaken man, he is visited by an angel. It makes a glorious deliverance. Such a saint shall have not only safety, but honour. It makes an irresistible deliverance. There is no disappointing of this salvation.
(3) The manner of this deliverance: how it was wrought. “He shut the mouths of the lions.” God delivers not from the den, but when in it. How did he shut the mouths? By a secret power, weakening or restraining them; or by taming and allaying their fierceness; or restraining or slaking their hunger; or by making the prophet appear awful and dreadful to them.
(4) The measure of the deliverance. Complete.
(5) The motive which God graciously respected. A double innocence of the prophet. General, and particulars to this incident. (Geo. Stradling.)
Daniel’s Deliverance from the Den of Lions
I. THE ANTECEDENTS OF DANIEL’S MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE.
1. They remind us that the penalty of greatness is the envy of inferiors. Daniel was as the sun in the Persian kingdom, showing to all who come under his influence what a good ruler really was. But the intense light of his character was too strong for men whose conduct he then condemned, and who were thus made painfully conscious of their own shortcomings.
2. Envy will seek an opportunity of false accusation. It was the envy of the Jewish rulers which was the foundation of their false accusations against Christ.
3. They remind us that it may be the penalty of moral greatness to be condemned by legal greatness. The law of a nation may be a very strong law because of its great antiquity, but it may be a very wicked law notwithstanding, and whoever obeys it may bring himself under the penalty of a much more powerful and a much older law, the law of moral rectitude--a law older than the creation of man.
II. THE MIRACLE ITSELF. The lions did not act according to the instincts of their nature. This holding back of the appetite of the lions is the more remarkable, because the instinct returned as soon as Daniel’s persecutors took his place in the den. Lessons:
1. The most pressing demands of business are not incompatible with daily waiting upon God in prayer.
2. Escape from trial of our constancy at one time is no guarantee that we shall not be called upon to prove it at another.
3. Sometimes disobedience to man is the highest virtue in the sight of God. When man’s laws are in opposition to God’s, the breaking of them is righteousness.
4. We are in the path of obedience to God, even though the obedience leads to death. (Outlines by a London Minister.)
Daniel’s Preservation from the Lions
For unshaken confidence in his God, zeal in His service, and for His honour, for fearlessness in danger, and for virtuous disregard of all human power and human threatenings, when employed against God and religion, the prophet Daniel is justly conspicuous in Bible history. No character in Scripture has attained more honourable distinction. Three things deserve our attention.
I. THE CONDUCT FOR WHICH DANIEL WAS THROWN INTO THE DEN OF LIONS. Daniel’s enemies contrived to obtain the king’s consent to a wicked decree, binding all men to abstain from worshipping any god, or asking a petition of any god or man, except the king himself, for thirty days. But the prophet, knowing that when human laws are found to clash with the divine commands, it is right to “obey God rather than man,” continued, regardless of consequences, to pray to his God three times a day, as he had heretofore done. In the discharge of his duty to God, he had no real cause for dismay. God, he knew, was with him. Having, therefore, faithfully performed his duty, he submits to the will of his enemies, commits himself to Him that judges righteously, and calmly and steadily leaves the event in His hands.
II. THE EXTRAORDINARY FACT RECORDED, THAT DANIEL WAS TAKEN UP OUT OF THE DEN UNHURT. By this signal preservation of the life of Daniel among the lions, God displayed at once His power over the creatures of the forest which He had made, and His care over His servants when He calls them out to suffer for His cause. Under the protection of the Almighty, Daniel was as safe in the den of lions as he would have been in the palace, and under the protection of Darius. This God is our God for ever and ever. He will still honour and preserve them that honour Him, still bear up and support His faithful people.
III. The reason assigned for the miraculous interposition of God on Daniel’s behalf. “Because he believed in his God.” Mark what honour God puts upon faith. Faith was the spring of Daniel’s holy obedience to God. Faith gave him peace and comfort, and brought down the angel of God into the lions’ den. This holy principle has never failed to attract the divine regard, and to insure the approbation of God. This subject may teach us:
1. The importance, under all circumstances, of stedfast adherence to the path of duty. “Duties are ours, events are God’s.” One common duty of Christians is that of calmly resting under affliction, in patient submission to the will of God.
2. The importance of steady trust in God, especially in the great event of death, that last trial of the Christian.
3. This subject affords a ground of consolation to all faithful Christians in tribulation, and to the surviving friends of the departed saints. (J. Jaques.)
Daniel taken out of the den
His case at first seemed very hard to flesh and blood. But here we see the end of the Lord. All was so over-ruled, that Daniel had no reason to repent of his conduct, or lament the result of it. How much did Daniel’s stedfastness conduce to the glory of God, and the advancement of his cause! Christians never honour God more than in the fires. But the result terminated in Daniel’s own honour and welfare. When taken up, how would every eye be drawn to him. What influence would be attached to his character! What weight to his advice and counsel! He is restored. He is promoted by his Sovereign to a higher station. And who would not have done what Darius did? He who had been faithful to his God, was more likely to be faithful to his king. This is indeed one of the ways in which Godliness naturally conduces to a man’s present advantage. Constantius, the father of Constantine the Great, wished to know the character of those about him. He, therefore, called together before him, all the chiefs in his suite, and ordered them to offer Sacrifices to his gods (he was a heathen), on pain of being deprived of all their honours and functions. The trial was severe. Many sunk under it. They could not give up everything that was dear and valuable. But some were inflexible. They had bought the truth, and they would not sell it at any price. Whatever they suffered, they were resolved to have a conscience void of offence. But what happened? Those who basely complied, he drove from his presence, while those who nobly refused, he entrusted with the care of his person, and placed them in the most important offices, saying: “On these men I can depend--I prize them more than all my treasures.” And we know who hath said: “Them that honour Me I will honour; but they that despise Me “ shall be lightly esteemed. (William Jay.)
Those men which had accused Daniel.
The Bible from first to last is a revelation of God’s active, personal, and intelligent presence in the affairs of men; and its elementary principles without which all approach to God is impossible, are, first, that there is a God, and secondly, that he rewards and punishes. (Hebrews 11:1-40; Hebrews 6:1-20). Daniel recognised the presence of this divine power when he said that “God had sent His angel, and shut the lions’ mouths.” The sole difference between miracle and providence is, that in the former ease the ordinary laws of nature are suspended and interfered with by a higher power; in the latter nature is made to do the will of God in conformity with its usual way of working. And these two ways of acting have had each a suitableness for the times when God used them. The reason of this deliverance Daniel finds in the just government of God. For Daniel’s enemies there was a fearful retribution. They had digged a pit, and fallen into the midst of it themselves. In Daniel’s wonderful preservation both the king and all who had not shared in the crime saw emphatic proof of the guilt of the conspirators. Their own execution was most just, but our feelings revolt at the inclusion in the sentence of their wives and children. But that seems to have been the Persian custom. It is explained by the solidarity of interest between the members of the same family or of the same nation. The sins of one member of a family often involve all in ruin. A whole nation has to pay the penalty of the fault of its statesmen; a whole army is destroyed by the incapacity of its general. But equally all share in the results of the virtues, the wisdom, the ability of their leaders, and it would be a poor world if it were not so. (Dean Payne Smith.)
Men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
The God of Daniel
Religion has furnished the widest field for persecution.
1. The God of Daniel permits His children to be tempted and tried. Generally, trials are regarded as punishments and corrections. What divine end should we regard as attained by undeserved trial and suffering? Many evils befall good people because your bearing under the yoke conveys impressions of himself, and the work of grace in your hearts, which no other ministration can impress on the adamant heart of the ungodly.
2. Trials are also permissible as occasions of the revelation of God’s special presence with His people. Not only was there something extraordinary in Daniel, but there was something more extraordinary around him. The animals were quiet. Daniel was protected by a divine hand.
3. There is here also the principle that faith is the link between the feeble and their God. “Because he believed in his God.” It was faith that saluted the throne on high three times a day. It was faith that brought the assurance all would end well. It was faith that breathed calmness and patience in the breast. It was faith that made the heart rest securely on the Rock of Ages. O for a touch of that ancient faith. The angel of the covenant recognises faith, and helps her in her struggles with sin.
4. Here we see the God-revealing man. The king might have said, “The Daniel of God.” What he said is more revealing, “the God of Daniel.” What an association--the God of Daniel. (T. Davies, M. A.)
He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth.
The Idea of God as affected by Science
The picture formed of the Creator of the world has varied according to the strength or culture of the age through which the idea is passing. To the American Indian God is only a good spirit, the owner of a happy hunting ground larger than their own forests or plains To the Hindoo, God is a great, idle, luxurious prince, passing his time in pleasure or sleep. The Greek Zeus, or the Latin Jupiter, was only a great statesman, and warrior, and judge combined. The greater an age became in its mental and moral development, the richer its offerings to the character of its Deity. The idea of God is always the store-house in which each nation treasures up all its slow accumulations of the true, the beautiful, and the good. It does not follow from this that God is only an intellectual image, a shadow of man’s mind seen externally, just as man may see the shadow of his body in a glass. There are those who declare the idea of God to be only this external projection of human thought. The ever-changing ideas which the human race cherishes as to its deity, prove only that man passes through many gradations of thought, a fact which no more blots out the Heavenly Father than it blots out the stars or the ocean. The modifications which the conceptions of the divine nature constantly undergo ought to be expected, and confessed as perfectly legitimate, in a world where all truth is approached by gradual advances, and where nothing is seen to-day in the colours of yesterday. That each tribe has cherished a peculiar conception of God, and heaven and hell weighs no more against the absolute fact of these entities than the notion of Plutarch that the moon were a bunch of vapour, would destroy belief in the moon as an absolute external reality. The God is unchanging. Man passes from infancy to manhood in the search of the truth. Reflect then upon the wonderful works of God. It touched the spirit of Darius that there was a Being who could accomplish such strange things on earth or in heaven. In the classic ages there seems to have been little conception of divine power. The earth was the centre of a little system, and the stars not far away. So humble was the public estimate of God, that one of the Roman emperors asked the people to declare him a god. It is possible that there was less atheism in early periods than in the present, resulting from the fact that the ideal of God lay nearer to the ideal of man. The gigantic studies of all science and inquiry of late centuries have widened the gulf between man and God by declaring that there is but one God, and that he is measureless, formless, unthinkable. Under the revelations of science the name of God becomes daily laden with power, and indeed has wholly outgrown the grasp, and even the highest imagination, of minds, either scientific or theological. If the universe is so measureless, equally measureless must be its Creator. He must be a God of wonderful work also in the world of spirit. To man, another life seems difficult; to many, it seems impossible. The mystery of futurity is no greater than the mystery of the past. For ages men have been trying to find how life came into the insensate world. The gateway to life is just as impossible as the gateway to a second existence. The Testament has given us a Heavenly Father, science has given us an Almighty. So far, all well. Now the result we fear is, that science is teaching us God is doing all his wonders in regions apart from the soul. Never did any age so need the Christ as our era now clamours for His life and teachings. (David Ewing.)
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
The prosperity of this noble ruler clearly appears from the whole history of his life. Such another instance of long and increasing prosperity in public life, we presume to say, cannot be found in the whole history of man. Successful men has always been revered as well as admired. The Greeks and Romans held those in high estimation who appeared to enjoy the peculiar smiles of the invisible powers. What extraordinary qualities did Daniel possess, which mutually conspired to promote his prosperity in the management of public affairs? This prosperous and excellent ruler possessed
I. SUPERIOR POWERS OF MIND. The Father of spirits has been pleased to display the same sovereignty in the bestowment of intellectual faculties, as in the bestowment of inferior favours. The minds of different men are differently constituted. In Daniel the various natural powers were equally strong and well-proportioned. His quick apprehension and retentive memory were happily united with a strong and penetrating judgment. He acquired knowledge with the greatest ease and rapidity. He was able to excel in every branch of science to which he turned his attention.
II. A LARGE SHARE OF GENERAL INFORMATION, WHICH CONTRIBUTED TO FORM HIM A GREAT AND SUCCESSFUL POLITICIAN. Civil government is extremely complicated and extensive, both in theory and practice. No species of human knowledge is foreign to the business of a statesman, who needs to be universally acquainted with men and things. And he had the best sources of information in his own hands, the sacred books of divine inspiration.
III. EXTRAORDINARY WISDOM. Before he was thirty, his eminent wisdom was universally known and celebrated, not only through the empire, but through all the neighbouring nations. Wisdom is a term of various and extensive meaning; it includes not only invention, but foresight and sagacity.
IV. DANIEL WAS A. MAN OF INVINCIBLE FIRMNESS. This was but the natural effect of his wisdom. He was able to think for himself, to form his own opinions, and to comprehend the nature and tendency of his own designs. This confidence inspired him with irresistible vigour and fortitude, in the prosecution of all his public measures.
V. DANIEL WAS A PATTERN OF INVIOLABLE INTEGRITY. He always aimed to do justice, and to treat every man according to the eternal rule of right. As a ruler, he acted upon principle, in guarding the lives, properties, and characters of his subjects. He derived his moral sentiments from the pure source of divine inspiration. The promotion of justice is the ultimate object of every branch of civil government. The exercise of justice is the indispensable duty of all civil rulers. Fidelity in civil rulers is, of all other virtues, the most acceptable to the people, who universally feel its happy influence in every condition of life. Aristides among the Greeks, Cato among the Romans, and Daniel among the Jews, will be for ever celebrated for their incorruptible integrity.
VI. NOTE DANIEL’S EMINENT PIETY AND DEVOTION. His religion was neither a glowing enthusiasm, nor a gloomy superstition; but a pure and steady principle of universal benevolence. He gave God the supreme affection of his heart; and was neither afraid nor ashamed to profess the true religion, in the midst of a country and a court that were involved in the grossest idolatry. He walked within his house with a perfect heart, and every day called upon God at the head of his family. The first thing suggested by this excellent character is, that great and good rulers are worthy of the highest respect. Who can contemplate the pious, virtuous, and useful life of Daniel, without paying him the sincere homage of the heart? All civil rulers of the same character are equally objects of the highest veneration and regard. The life of Daniel also admonishes civil rulers how much they are capable of doing, to promote the religious as well as civil interests of the people. We may learn, also, that those who sit in the highest seats of government, have no excuse to neglect the profession and practice of vital piety. Real religion is necessary on their own account, as well as on account of those who live under the influence of their powerful example. The faith and piety of Daniel reprove the ignorance and presumption of those politicians who profess and propagate the principles of infidelity. Also learn, that civil rulers had no occasion for the use of art or intrigue in any of their public measures. Those who conduct the intricate affairs of government ought to be wise and prudent, but they should never be artful or designing. And it may further be remarked that civil rulers have sufficient encouragement to be faithful in the discharge of all their public duties. Daniel found, by happy experience, that honesty was the best policy. (N. Emmons, D.D.)
Daniel’s Steadfast Piety
The lives of eminent men are a subject which seldom fails to fix the attention. The admiration excited by their talents and their virtues is a pleasing sentiment; our curiosity is gratified by marking the steps of their fortune; our views are enlarged by tracing the effects of their conduct, and our heart is made better by contemplating the generous principles from which their actions proceeded. No person introduced in scripture is more illustrious than Daniel.
I. THE WISDOM OF DANIEL IS THE FIRST FEATURE IN HIS CHARACTER. That subordination and mutual subserviency which is the best cement of society, arises from the variety in the kinds and measures of wisdom which individuals possess; and the extraordinary degrees of it which raise some men above the rest of their species, are ordained of God to be the blessing or the scourge of the times in which they live. To Daniel was given to understand the secret things which belong to the Lord, and which are wisely and graciously hidden from all except those in whom it pleaseth the Father to reveal them.
1. This wisdom of Daniel was of use to the Jews.
2. To the Babylonians the wisdom of Daniel demonstrated the sovereignty of the true God.
3. To the world, the wisdom of Daniel opens a series of prophecies of general importance.
II. THE PIETY OF DANIEL IS THE OTHER FEATURE OF HIS CHARACTER. By applying this word to express the moral character of Daniel, I mean to intimate that the principles which animated his conduct, are discriminated from a peculiar temperature of constitution, from a sense of honour, from a regard to the opinion of the world, from all the other circumstances which produce the morality of those men who have not the fear of God before their eyes. The word piety marks the sentiment of religion as the support of his integrity, the spring of his exertions, the source of his comfort and hope, the companion and the quickener of every good affection in the breast. Wisdom and piety are not always joined. Daniel confessed upon every occasion, that the superiority of his knowledge was derived from that God who revealeth secrets. The innocence of his life is mentioned with honour by the Jewish writers. Scripture classes him with Noah and Job.
1. The manner in which the piety of Daniel was displayed.
(1) He performed with alacrity the business of his station.
(2) He did not make any sacrifice of his principles.
2. The manner in which the piety of Daniel was rewarded. Were piety in every instance overwhelmed by suffering, our faith in that which is future and unseen might be shaken, and many would be tempted to say that it is vain to serve God. Daniel’s reward was not less eminent than his piety.
(1) Was distinguished by the protection of Heaven.
(2) Daniel was distinguished by the respect of men.
Learn from this example to despise the truckling, time-serving manners of those who shift their principles according to circumstances, and who make it the study of their lives to accommodate their discourse and their actions to the wishes of other men. Dare to be honest; and let your conversation in the world be in simplicity and godly sincerity. Follow the piety of Daniel, who, in all the changes which he saw, did his duty, and held fast his integrity. Do not expect, however, that the general goodwill which you may attain, will never meet with any interruption. You may experience the effects of that rivalship and envy which animated the breasts of those who sought to find occasion against the blameless Daniel. If you have a conscience void of offence, the favour of heaven will furnish you with a shield which all the shafts of malice shall not pierce. (H. Hill, D.D.)
How Daniel Prospered
His temporal prosperity comes clearly and manifestly from his spiritual fidelity. We profess Daniel’s faith; only, with this difference, that we ought really to have a more open vision of God and the verities of eternity than Daniel had. For heaven has been more widely opened since his day to the open eye of a believer’s soul. Notice that when once a man, especially a young man in a great city like this, gives his heart, his destiny, openly, unreservedly, into the hands of a covenant God, his life enters into a wonderful simplicity. Then you have only one thing to do. Blow high or low, come rain or shine, whatever be the circumstances in which you are placed, there is only one thing to be done--and that is in all to keep yourself true to God. Sailing across seas of time and sin to God’s haven in eternity is the plainest sailing. You have simply all the time to keep on the one tack and set the bow the one way. Look at this narrative. There is a man here whose life is threatened. He was the best hated man in the city, and those who hated him were not fools. They baited the trap so skilfully that even King Darius jumped at it, and Darius was no fool either, but they fooled him. They put Darius in a trap. They failed to put Daniel in one. When he knew that the writing was signed, and he knew that if he prayed his enemies would be listening, he just went on praying as aforetime. It is not otherwise with us than it was with Daniel. The world still says, “We could put up with those Christians well enough if it were not for their Christianity.” These men got to see that Daniel was the man he was because he was true to his God. They saw that God was the strength of his mind, as well as the name upon his tongue in worship. A Christian has only one thing to do. “Forgetting the things that are behind, to reach forth unto those that are before,” and he must disregard everything that comes against him as he seeks in the way of whole-hearted consecration to live for God and for eternity, and to do his duty in the world, making God his mark, way and end, and being utterly done with self pleasing. This Daniel was a manor prayer. But Daniel was a busy man. He really had the government upon his shoulders. Yet this man found time three times a day to kneel and pray to the God of heaven. And the best method for the working of a heavy business, for getting through a heavy day’s work, is to be a man of prayer. This principle of prayer--this fixed habit of communion with God--is like the policeman at a busy crossing. In his prayer Daniel “gave thanks.” Think of that! Think of that hunted, badgered, persecuted man on that critical day going in before his God, and saying, “My God, I thank thee!” If you give your heart to Jesus Christ, you will never be without cause of thankfulness. The man who fears God only need have no other fear . . . But suppose the lions had killed Daniel. What then? He still would have work. “They never fail who die in a great cause.” If you are wholehearted towards God, there is no defeat. See John the Baptist. Because he was faithful to God and conscience, his head rolled off the block into the basket. But he did not fail. There is no reverse, there is no possible disaster in any true sense, to the man who, like Daniel, has just one thing to do--to kneel down upon his knees in the high and awful crisis of his history to give thanks to God. (John McNeill.)