The Martyrs
Daniel 3:12-18
There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…

Men of this strain are of native right the captains of the great host of God. They are the men sent to lead it when formed, to rally it when broken, and to inspire it by their own conduct in the field. The men who can say, Whether I succeed or fail, as the world counts success or failure, whether I suffer or triumph, whether I die or live, one thing I do, the will of God as far as it is made known to me; and one thing I will not do, the will of the world, the flesh, and the devil, form that living core of strength and valour in Christ's army. The presence of these Jewish youths at the Chaldean court is a conspicuous instance of the visible interposition of a Divine hand in the government of the world. The Jew was the living witness of the care of God for the political welfare of men. We are prone to underrate the influence of the Jew on the world of his time. We see him narrow, selfish, and exclusive, and we easily overlook the remarkable influence which he exerted at critical moments on the surrounding peoples. Joseph's work in Egypt is really but a specimen of the work which that people, willingly or unwillingly, were compelled to accomplish for mankind. In Daniel probably the influence culminated, until the whole commission was read out by St. Paul. The crisis which Daniel records is one of the chief pivots of universal history.


1. These men had attained to the condition in which conviction had passed beyond the reach of perturbation or question. The everlasting hills were not so firmly rooted as the belief in the God of Heaven, and the essential blessedness of serving Him, was rooted in those young hearts. The rending in pieces of the whole world system around them would have shattered none of their dearest beliefs and hopes (Psalm 46:1-5). Their God made the world, and could make new worlds at His pleasure; but He was the same, from everlasting to everlasting, and His word must stand, whatever else in the universe might fall.

2. They were themselves of that temper, and had come to that strength and unity of character, that they could declare, There are things which we cannot say, there are things which we cannot do, whatever be the cost; it is blankly impossible; here strand we; we can do no other, God help us. I say they were of that temper, and they had come to that strength and unity of character. There must be both to make such martyrs, such witnesses for the God of Heaven as these. If this must be, it must be. God help us; it must be. We cannot speak, we cannot do, this awful lie. "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

3. There must abide in all martyr spirits an unwavering faith in the omnipotent hand of God. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us." His power to rule is clear to us as sunlight. He may choose to help us now, and signally deliver. He may choose to let us suffer, but nothing can shake our belief in His Power to save. We are sure that His will must be done; His cause must triumph; His servants, His soldiers, must be crowned. It may be here; it may be there; we do not question Him; times are in His hand. But here or there it will be, as surely as He reigns. A man may say with unconquerable firmness, I cannot do this thing, I will rather die, even when he believes that death is annihilation. But this faith is essential to the joyous spirit of Christian martyrdom; the exultation in prospect of a death of pain and shame which broke forth in the words, "I am ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." To die thus, one must believe that that for which he dies will reign, and he with it, in eternity.

II. We shall better understand the temper of these men WHEN WE COMPARE IT WITH A RECORD WHICH DESCRIBES VERY FAITHFULLY THE QUALITY OF MUCH THAT GOES BY THE NAME OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE (Genesis 28:16-22). "Bless me, prosper my journey, bring me home again, and I will serve thee," were the terms of Jacob's covenant in Bethel. But if the cross be heavy, the self-denial hard, the battle long and stern, the cry is, Why hast thou brought me forth? "Is not this that" we said unto thee, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?" How grandly beside these terms of bargain rings out the clear defiance of the text. Many a man enters on the pilgrim path in the belief that God will make his way smooth, pleasant, prosperous, and ends by being so wedded to truth and righteousness that he would say quite calmly with these men, "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Do not be disheartened if you find faith waver in the hour of trial. At the opening of a battle, when the first bullets begin to patter, the boldest soldier draws himself together. When his blood is warm, he thinks of them no more than of summer rain-drops. Pray to the Master that thy faith fail not.

III. Let us look at THE SCHOOL IN WHICH MEN ARE TRAINED TO SUCH GOD-:LIKE VIGOUR AND COURAGE which it was God's will that they should practise in great things. They were as resolute against little compliances as against great ones. It is a grand mistake to think that men can leap in one moment of high excitement to such a glorious height of strength and courage. Nothing but trained Christian manhood can endure such strain. Idols! the world is full of them. Golden idols, too, and daily throngs bow down their souls to worship. Are you trained to say, That I cannot do, that trick I cannot practise, that lie I cannot tell, that lust I will not indulge, that worldly success I will not clutch at, though life were hanging on it. I cannot do it; God help me!

(J. B. Brown, B.A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

WEB: There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.

The Martyr Spirit
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