But 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…
(with Chap. 6. ver. Daniel 6:16): — From the historical portion of the book which goes under the name of Daniel, I choose the first and the last scenes, desiring to call your attention to the close connection which subsists between them. In the first of these scenes we see the holy character of the prophet presumed, and in the second we observe it bearing its ripe fruit. It is not always, you know, that the early years of a man's life give promise of what the latter ones are. Daniel's career was consistent throughout. We trace in the commencement of it the principles which actuated and supported him to the end. He had religious scruples with reference to the provision of the king's meat and wine. But all objections might have been escaped, and the food innocently partaken of. He was not bound to inquire what the prescribed diet was, and how treated before it was placed on the table. Daniel, however, not only acted on the law of God, but he loved it, and because he loved it he was resolved to be on the safe side, and was desirous rather to leave a margin beyond the legal restriction than risk the violation of it. Be it observed, in forming a judgment of his conduct, that his main scruple in all probability turned upon a point of conscience. St. Paul was required to settle the question for the primitive Christians. He says the conscientious scruples of weak Christians, while they existed, were bound to be respected; but at the same time he admits that the scruples were weak. "An idol is nothing in the world;" it has no real existence, and that therefore none of God's good creatures can take any defilement from meat being offered to an idol. That sufficiently proves that in the question itself there was no absolute right or wrong. I need scarcely say that the light of the New Testament dispensation had not then shone, and Daniel had not seen at that early period any relaxation of the Jewish ceremonial law. Such is the first record of the life of Daniel. If it stood alone, if we knew no more of it than this, though it might lead us to greatly respect him as a conscientious man, I don't know that that would necessarily prove him to be a saint of God, or even amount to a high principle. Scrupulosity as to little points in externals is, strange to say, very often found in some character who practically sets God at defiance and the moral law, The Pharisees "strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel," paying tithe of mint and anise and cummin with great exactitude, but omitting the weightier matters of the law — judgment, mercy, and faith. But Daniel's scrupulosity was of a totally different order from theirs, and sprang from motives to which they were strangers, which may be gathered from the last recorded passage of his history. This passage contains the well-known account of his being thrown into the lions' den and miraculously preserved there. The crime which was punished with this savage barbarity was offering prayer three times a day in defiance of the law which the first princes had induced Darius to make. Now, we see Daniel, who had begun by making a brave stand on a religious scruple, ending by making a still more brave stand on one of the "weightier matters of the law" — a question of principle if ever there was one. Command the servant of God to live without prayer for thirty days! You might as reasonably command the body to live without air as a devout soul without prayer. Communion with God is the element in which the soul of a righteous man "lives and moves and has its being." As the life of the body consists of respiration and aspiration in repeated acts, taking in air and throwing it out, so the life of the soul consists in repairing unto God by the thought of His presence, and in going out towards Him in the fervent desire of prayer. This is the essential teaching of religion. Come what might of his disobedience to the ungodly statute, Daniel must make his protest, even though the dread lions must be faced. Now, when we read of the sufferings to which the martyrs were subjected we are apt to ask ourselves whether we should have endured under them, whether we should have resisted, as they did, unto blood, striving against sin. Perhaps some light of a practical and edifying character may be thrown on the question by observing in what the course which ends with martyrdom began. That was consistent conscientiousness. Daniel, who set at defiance the ungodly statute, is the same Daniel who, in his early youth, preferred death to risk the violation of the ceremonial law of God. The stuff of which martyrs are made is consistent adherence to principle, even when principle involves personal risk, pain, inconvenience, or martyrdom. Let it be observed, it is quite possible for a man who is steadfast in his attendance to duty to take a mistaken view of what his duty is. Show me the young person who observes the restrictions of God's law conscientiously, and I will show you one who gives promise of that faith which endures unto death. From the principle upon how we should act under circumstances of risk, or ridicule, or inconvenience, we may form some judgment as to whether we should be found steadfast in the martyr's hour if God should call us to it. Only be thou faithful in that which is least, and then thou shalt be faithful also in much; yea, thou shalt be faithful unto death, and Christ shall give thee the crown of life.
Parallel VersesKJV: But 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.
WEB: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.