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…
A magnificent man was Daniel. Among all the Old-Testament saints he towers colossal. Many of the foremost of them were guilty of sins which the Bible holds up to severest reprobation, but no such stain is on Daniel's escutcheon. No doubt he had his faults, for he was only human, but in so far as the record goes he stands forth as one of the most superb specimens of manhood that the world has ever seen. Some men escape reproach because of the obscurity that envelops their lives. Daniel walked in the fierce white light that beats popular impression that a crop of wild oats is a proper preparation for a crop of wheat, upon a throne. Others continue comparatively pure because so situated that they are never specially exposed to the fiery ordeal of temptation. Daniel, however, walked upon the high places of the earth where the going is always perilous, and spent his life in the encompassment of the soft seductions and perilous intrigues of an Oriental court. He was a man of broadest culture, versed in all the learning of his times, and there was no small learning in his times, and yet he never lost his head nor allowed himself to be lured away from the simple faith of his pious fathers. He lived a hundred years, during seventy of which he overtopped all the men of his time. Such a record as was made by this man is perhaps without a parallel in all the history of the human race. His is "one of the few, the immortal names, that were not born to die" And how came it to pass that he distanced all competitors and forged to the front, and in spite of all the machinations of men and devils stayed there so long, governing governors and swaying a royal sceptre over mighty empires? One word tells the story, and that one word is: Purpose. It distinguished him in early youth, for at the time to which my text refers he was still so young as to be called a child. I would discourage no greybeard who, having long played the fool, resolves to lead a nobler life, but the time to begin is at the beginning. The idea that one can afford to give to inanities and frivolities and vices all one's earlier years before beginning to gird one's loins for life's proper work, is a mischievous delusion of the devil. Far be it from me to inveigh against such innocent diversions as furnish recreation for both mind and body. God hath given us all things richly to enjoy, and amusement has its place and use. But amusement etymologically means "turning away from the Muses," who were supposed to preside over life's noblest intellectual pursuits; but what becomes of the Muses when a man's whole life is a turning away from them? Ay, and what becomes of the life itself? There may be generous aspirations, but they never eventuate in heroic action, for the lack of determined will and persistent purpose. Brains count for something, but most men fail, not for the want of brains, but for want of purpose. Opportunity counts for something, but it is the man with a purpose that sees and seizes the opportunity, and is the creator rather than the creation of his circumstances. Education counts for something, and any young man is a fool who in such an age as ours neglects to avail himself of the splendid equipment which may so easily be his. But education is not everything. How many college graduates are only genteel loafers — too genteel to soil their dainty hands with any sort of honest work. Patience, pluck, persistence, those are the things that win. A foolish thing it is for a man to curse his fate and blame his "unlucky stars," or gnash his teeth and shake his fist behind the back or in the face of the hated plutocrat; to arraign the laws of the land, and, like Samson, in his blind fury, seek to tear down the pillars on which rests the whole fabric of society. Possibly there may be something the matter with society, but in all probability there is very much more the matter with him. Doubtless there are degenerates and incompetents who are lacking in ability to bring things to pass, but most men have facilities enough to win victories if only their faculties were brought into the field under the marshalship of a single, central, and imperial purpose. Hitherto I have spoken only of the material and intellectual achievements that relate to life upon this little planet. Yet this is not the whole of life, but only its beginning. How brief the glory of mere earthly triumphs! A mighty purpose nerved the arm and guided the destiny of the masterful man who wrote: "I came, I saw, I conquered." Here's the splendid mansion of a multi-millionaire. He was born in the manger poverty, but he purposed to be rich. He girded his loins and set his teeth, and dug and delved and denied himself, and sacrificed everything, including, it may be, honour and life's sweetest charities. It was gold that he was after, and he got it — heaps of it — and he died with his hands full of it, but death broke his grip, and he left it to his hungry heirs. A great thing is it to have an aim in life, but "he aims too low who aims below the stars." But what a thing it is to have an aim above the stars! Such was Daniel's. His eye was fixed upon the highest goal of being, and so beginning with his earliest youth and persevering to his latest breath he "purposed that he would not defile himself." And no man can be a Christian without entering into sympathy with that heroic spirit. For, mark you, Christianity is not something just let down from Heaven, like the sheet which Peter saw in a vision. It is not a something with which the inert soul is mysteriously dowered. I grant that the grace of salvation is the gift of God, but no man ever yet was saved against his will or without his will being roused to supreme activity. The crisis of destiny was reached and passed by the prodigal son when he said, "I will arise and go to my father." If there is anything on earth that requires heroic purpose it is to humiliate oneself by the acknowledgment of wrong-doing. To bow the knee and humbly cry "Peccavi" is the hardest thing that ever mortal undertook, and it requires the courage of a Daniel to do it. And to right about face in all life's plans and pleasures and pursuits is not by any means an easy task. To become a Christian means something more than the acceptance of salvation at the hand of mercy — that is a cheap sort of salvation, that costs nothing, and is actually worth no more than it costs. To be a real Christian means the loyal and loving surrender of one's whole being for time and eternity into the hands of a gracious and Almighty Sovereign, not only for salvation, but for service. We have dwelt ordinarily quite too much upon the rest and too lithe on the yoke, and so we have belittled and belied religion and brought it into contempt by eliminating from it all that appeals to the heroic element in human nature. Let the truth be frankly and fearlessly told, and let all men know that while it is easy enough to be a mere professor of religion, yet to be a real Christian, to follow hard after the Captain of Salvation in the fight for the truth and the right, against the world, the flesh, and the devil, requires as sternly heroic a purpose as that which girded Paul and Daniel when they had to confront the lions. Think you that the lions are all dead, or that they have lost their teeth and claws? The devil's minions are everywhere abroad, and he that would be a Christian must be willing to endure hardship as a good soldier, for from start to finish it is a fight with principalities and powers, and the rulers of this world's darkness; and he who would wire the victory and be crowned with glory will need all that the grace of God can do for him and the girding of a high and holy religious purpose. Let all heroic souls who are willing to enlist upon such conditions fall into line beneath the banner of the cross.
(P. S. Henson.)
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.