“Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah : Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names, for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar, and to Hananiah of Shadrach, and to Mishael of Meshach, and to Azariah of Abednego.”-DANIEL i. 6, 7.
ONE of the marks of sterling worth in a man, is the courage to do rightly and to live modestly in the midst of fashionable splendour and luxurious indulgence. To choose and to follow thetrue path in ordinary circumstances is virtuous and cornmendable; for in all conditions there are temptations to hinder progress, and in all characters weaknesses to guard, which need care and fortitude, if we would walk steadily on the path that leads to life. But, in the palace of a great king, where superabundance invites to ease and self-indulgence; where wealth clothes itself with magnificence, and the vain and the ostentatious assemble, and claim the court as their own peculiar arena, to deviate from fashion is to provoke dislike. However meekly virtue may bear itself among glittering crowds, its purity is felt as a reproach, and hence it needs a high degree of courage to be simple without singularity, to be just, temperate, true, conscientious, and modest, in all atmosphere tainted with prodigality, flattery, and parade.
Daniel and his youthful friends exhibited this rare virtue. The court of Nebuchadnezzar must have been an extremely brilliant one. Babylon stood unrivalled in the days of that mighty monarch, the capital of a vast empire, upon which genius and wealth had combined to lavish all their embellishments. The grandeur which art had there exhibited, especially in the great extension effected by Nebuchadnezzar, has excited the admiration of ancient historians, as we find it inflated with pride the great king himself when he uttered the memorable words, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty.”
Daniel and his companions had been selected from the crowd of captives from Jerusalem, and treated with tenderness, and might thus have been expected to be induced by gratitude to fall into the habits of those around them, especially when those habits were such as to commend themselves to thoughtless gaiety and youthful inexperience. But Daniel and his three friends were a model to young men. They shewed how great men–true men—are made. They were abstemious amidst abundance; self-denying and thoughtful, where they were moved to be giddy and reckless; determined to preserve themselves pure and unspotted in the world. Thus, as in the case of Joseph, their great ancestor, did noble youth lend to noble manhood, and Babylon, in the proudest noontide of its glory, saw young men walking firmly amidst its blandishments, true to their God, and faithful in their obedience to His Divine Will.
Jerusalem had been overthrown, her temple ruined, and the fire no longer burned on the sacred altar; but these youths were exhibiting amidst Gentile voluptuousness their nation’s truest glory, the glory of training men to serve the Living God. From such men in due time would restoration come. To avoid stimulating food, and especially stimulating drinks, is ever the path of safety for young men. The strong health, the bounding energy, the warm passions of youth, need no extra stimulation, and a sound body, the chaste but vigorous dwelling-place of a sound mind, the abode of health, and the servant of the soul, is best secured, as in the case of these noble Hebrew youths, on plain but sufficient food.
The history of Daniel and his friends, illustrates also the arrangements of Divine Providence, in preserving always a virtuous remnant, from which, as seed, when one dispensation of religion has ended, another can take its rise. Infinite Mercy and Truth are never left without a witness in the world. The Lord’s flock may thus become a little flock, but the promise is nevertheless given, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This provision of a virtuous few, the remnant or the remains of a dispensation which has in general lost its light, its strength, and its goodness, is frequently referred to in the Word, “Except the Lord had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah ” (Isa. i. 9). ” And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah, shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: for out of Jerusalem shall go for the remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall do this” (Isa. xxxvii. 31, 32).
There is a beautiful account in the prophecy of Micah of the blessed influence on the world at large of a truly heavenly-minded few. They make little noise, and no ostentation. They rather do great things than talk them. They are modest and gentle, but they are the “salt of the earth.” “And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people, AS A DEW from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men ” (Micah v. 7). The remnant tarrieth not for men, but they wait upon the Lord and renew their strength. They ask neither councils, parliaments, nor congresses what they ought to believe, but they meditate upon the Word of the Lord day and night. They are the poor in spirit, whose is the kingdom of heaven. They are the pure in heart, who see God. They follow not a multitude to do evil. They are content to be right with two or three, rather than wrong with all the world. Daniel and his companions were the remnant still left of Israelites indeed, and the Lord honoured and blessed them, as He always will those who maintain His truth against popular error and popular guilt. They may be a poor and despised minority for a considerable time, but minorities who love and follow the truth are honoured as the creators of majorities in after days, and the Lord will remember them in the day that He makes up His jewels (Mal. iii. 17).
Let us take these lessons from the letter of the Divine Word; especially let the young keep before their minds the pure youth, the noble manhood, and the grand career of Daniel and his young friends, that they too may become strengthened in the path of purity and right, bear witness for the truth, like Joseph, Daniel, and a long line of worthy youths, be examples of all that is good in manhood, and through a saintly old age, make the last preparation for heaven.
Let us now rise to contemplate this Divine history in its higher and more spiritual point of view. For Israel’s contact with Babylon is fraught with instruction, and with warning for every age. The earthly Babylon, in its greedy ambition, its wide-spread dominion, its vast extent, its unparalleled pomp and splendour, its hierarchy of priests, and its priest-king—for the King of Babylon was supreme Pontiff of Nebo, the sun-god, as appears from his history now deciphered in the arrow-headed characters disentombed from buried Chaldea-was in all respects the antitype of the mystic Babylon which St. John saw in vision, and which has displayed itself in Christianity in awful lineaments of superstition and cruelty, too palpable to be ever mistaken or forgotten.
Babylon was the type of the lust of spiritual dominion, seeking power at first by a diligent acquisition of the knowledge of holy things, and a great zeal in the ministration of the ceremonies and the externals of religion. Babylon can receive the truth, and be most vehement in the proclamation of it, can be most zealous for souls, and for the progress of religion, and yet the real source of all this zeal, be lust of power. Babylon is called the Lucifer, the light-bearer, the son of the morning, on account of this pristine zeal for religion. Yet, within, there may lurk a lust such as the prophet describes when he says further, “‘Thou hast said in thine heart I will descend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isa. xiv. 13). The approaches of this lust are insinuating, subtle, and smooth; very zealous forGod, and goodness, in a certain way. But, when this tremendous lust has developed itself, it becomes the most audacious, the most extravagant, and the most cruel of the insanities by which the human race has ever been infested and cursed.
The hateful ambition of the warrior would spare, where the ambitious priest would slay. Dunstan, Dominic, Torquemada, Bonner, these are names which have become appellations at horror, for they exhibited Babylon full blown; Babylon the great, with mystery on her forehead, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth, drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. The treatment of Daniel and his three friends, in the spiritual sense, is a description of the manner in which the Babylonish persuasion treats the Word, and the three great essentials of religion, charity, faith, and good works, in seeking to make them subservient to its ambitious views.
The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, burning the house of the Lord and the king’s house, carried away the monarch, put out his eyes, and bound him in chains, keeping him captive in prison, in Babylon, to the day of his death (Jerem. lii. 11). Part of the vessels of the house of God were carried away, and brought into the treasure-house of the Babylonish god Nebo (Dan. 1. 2), whose name appears in the word Nebuchadnezzar, and many other names which occur in the Divine history. This destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon represented the entire desolation of true religion, when true religion has been weakened by unworthiness in those who profess it, and their disregard of its virtues and its aims. A time of judgment and condemnation surely comes on those who are unfaithful to the light; at length their eyes are put out, the very faculty of understanding truth becomes lost. This terrible result is announced often in the Word, and is meant when we read in the warning to the the church of Ephesus, “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. ii, 5). Where Babylonish pride and pomp prevail, all true and genuine regard for that new birth which changes the human character, spiritualizing the mind and heart, and planting heaven in the soul, is kept down and imprisoned as inimical to the parade and mummery which constitute the paraphernalia of Babylon, bewitching the senses, but leaving the inner man untouched.
Some of the vessels of the house of God were carried to Babylon, and added to the treasures of their idol god. The names of Christianity, and such parts of religious knowledge as can be made serviceable to further the aims of ambition, decked out in gaudy religious forms, are taken and used. The splendour of the high priest, the incense, the washings of the Mosaic law, the names of distinguished persons, the Divine names, the Virgin, Peter and the Apostles, and certain parts of the letter of the Word, are used and paraded, but for purposes very different from those of true religion.
Very much astonished, indeed, would the lowly and modest mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, have been to find her history travestied, and herself transformed into the likeness of the queen of heaven of the Babylonians, whose worship, when it tainted Israel, was so sternly denounced by the prophet (Jerem. iv. 4). So, with other Scriptural persons and phrases, they are the vessels of the house of the Lord carried to the treasure-house of the god of Babylon, and, mixed up with contemptible rags, relics, and forms, they constitute the means of amusing and deluding the vulgar, who are kept ignorant that they may the better remain obedient to devices and influences so poor and weak, yet to minds fond of show so alluring as these.
Daniel, the young prophet, represented the Word; the three friends, the three grand essentials of religion, like Peter, James, and John in the Gospels. They are said to be ofthe king’s seed, children in whom there is no blemish, but well-favoured and skilful in all wisdom, because these principles are indeed derived from the King of kings, and are full of wisdom and heavenly skilfulness imparted from Him. They are said to be intended to be prepared for the Babylonish court, and to add to its splendour by being fully devoted to the king, by eating of the king’s meat and drinking of the king’s wine for three years (verse 5). The provision of the king’s meat consists of the delights of ambition; the wine of Babylon is the inebriating persuasion that it is charming beyond all other charms to have millions submissive to your nod, to say to this man go, and he goeth, and to that one come, and he cometh. It is the flattering potion for which the conqueror thirsts and pants, and which he procures often at an appalling cost of tears and blood. This wine of Babylon is formed of a witching mixture, of a few truths, so blended with the spirit of proselytism, and so spiced with flattering deference to the splendid tastes of the great, and the weaknesses and vices of the multitude, that the desire to be greatest may be fully attained; and religion, whose very essence is humility, and whose very spirit is the love of use by ministries for the good of others and the sacrifice of self, comes out with claims for lordship, before which all other ambitions are pale and weak. The greatest of the earth are required to kiss the feet of the pretended representative of the Lowly One, who washed the feet of His disciples; and the lowliest priest claims to be higher than the proudest potentate, as if religion of any kind was not the destroyer of the lust of being greatest, by the virtue of being useful, not for self-aggrandizement, but from the truth and goodness of Him who only is wise, Who only is good, and Whom to serve is life eternal.
It is a horrible thing when the worship of the Lord is turned into the worship of men, and when to bring this about, religion is transformed from being the light of heaven, guiding men rationally to regeneration and to wisdom, into mysteries paralysing the rational faculty, and excusing almost every sin and every folly, if only priestly rule be magnified. The cunning persuasions by which these things are accomplished are the wine of Babylon. The same wine is described in the book of Revelation: “Come hither, I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore, that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the WINE OF HER FORNICATION ” (xvi i. 1, 2). Again, ” And he cried mightily, with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is IN THE PALACE AT BABYLON fallen; is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. And all nations have drunk of the WINE OF THE WRATH OF HER FORNICATION.”
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank, therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself (verse 8). The prince of the eunuchs had the direction of the servants and the arrangement of the court in eastern monarchies, and spiritually be will represent the directing and managing power in the system of Christian Babylon. Daniel’s repugnance to the king’s meat and wine, signifies the aversion of the entire spirit of the Word to the lust of dominion, and to all persuasions leading to or justifying self-aggrandizement. The two systems are as opposite as heaven and hell. The Word abases human pride, and induces innocence, purity, and the love of use. The lust of dominion inflates self-importance even to insanity, and leads weak and erring mortals to deck themselves with gaudy names and meretricious parade, in ostentatious contrast to the meek principles of the Prince of Peace. But Daniel declines for himself and his companions to receive the training, or defile themselves with the dainties and the allurements of Babylon. They are pressed but they remain firm. The prince of the eunuchs regards Daniel especially with love and favour, because the Word, which Daniel represents, is essential to furnish the few texts and the authority upon which spiritual ambition founds its claims. It loves the Word, and it does not love it. It is with them, the beast that is, and is not, and yet is. The Word with spiritual self-seekers IS,—their treasury of means and weapons, IT IS NOT,–as a means of subduing their pride and regenerating their souls, and it IS,—still to confront them at last, and be their judge (John xii. 48).
The alteration of the Word of God, and the adaptation of the great principles of religion to their own purposes, is represented by the prince of the eunuchs changing the names of Daniel, and the distinguished three who were his friends. Daniel, which signifies God’s judgment, was changed in to Belteshazzar, that is, HE WHO LAYS UP TREASURES IN SECRET, —an alteration implying a change from the free and open character of Divine wisdom, to the mysterious closeness which implies there; are vast treasures in Divine: things, but they are the secret property of priests. The change of the other three names is equally significant. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, which, interpreted, are THE MERCY OF JEHOVAH SENT FROM GOD, and HEARKENING TO JEHOVAH, were altered to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that is, Shadrach, a tender nipple; Meshach, that draws with force , and Abednego, or the servant of Nebo.
When a church becornes Babylonish, love, THAT HIGHEST CHARITY, which was the evidence of Jehovah’s mercy, becomes alms-giving—a tender but enslaving nipple. Truth, sent from God, becomes strong persuasion; and obedience to Jehovah, whose service is perfect freedom, is transformed into slavery to the ecclesiastical system. Azariah became Abednego. These three principles, charity, faith, and good works, may still be used, and made to support Babylon, and they will look well upon pulse and water, or supported by the letter of the Word, and give eclat to a system from which they are interiorly foreign, and to which they are interiorly opposed.
Daniel is said to have understanding in all visions and dreams, that is, the Divine Wisdom of the Word instructs in all things which throw light on immortality and revelation from heaven. The other three are said to be ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the realm of Babylon. For “charity, faith, and good works,” however externally regarded, lend force and recommendation to any system into which they are incorporated, far beyond the cunning devices and magical support which it may otherwise receive. These are Divine things, and they speak to human sorrows and to human wants. They commend themselves powerfully to the instincts of the soul, and touch the secret springs of human sympathy with a tenderness far beyond all juggling cleverness. It is the good still left in a fallen church amongst humble pious souls, far better than their doctrines, which prolongs its life, and keeps it lingering on, even when obviously out of harmony with the new age, which the Lord in HIS Providence has given to the world. Daniel is said, at the end of the chapter, to continue even unto the first year of king Cyrus; that is, the Divine Word continues even to the coming of the Lord afresh to found a new church. Cyrus. restored Jerusalem; the Lord restores His church by founding it in a new form, and giving it new prophets. Yet in the old dispensation the Word continues until the very end, and then arises into new glory, for though Nineveh may expire, and Babylon perish, the Word of the Lord abides for ever. Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Let us avoid all contact with Babylon, but walk in the light of that golden city, which is clear as crystal, and glows with the glory of God.
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)