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…
I. YOUTHFUL PIETY POSSESSED. The piety of the Hebrew youths, the fact that their minds had been brought under the government of vital personal godliness, is distinctly implied and assumed. On this the whole of their history is specifically founded. In what manner it was that they had received the inestimable boon we are not informed. Belonging as they did to the royal house of Judah, or to noble families of that tribe, they probably had enjoyed early advantages, in connection with some instructor who had remained faithful to the Most High in that age of infatuated apostasy; and it may be that the disastrous event of the captivity, which had drawn them from their native scenes to a far distant and a far different land, had operated powerfully and grievously upon them. Some cases indeed may exist in which the germs of pious thought and emotion were implanted at a period so early and in a mode so gentle that the incipient processes of the work have been very indistinct. But then, again, there are other cases, and these perhaps numerous ones, in which the instrumentality, or a large proportion of it, is clear, is defined, is not destined to be forgotten. But then the instrumentality is not so important as the fact. What privileges, and at the same time what responsibilities are yours! My young friends, whose estimate of piety has perhaps been imperfect, and whose habits, it may be, have been utterly and entirely estranged from it, let me remind you solemnly that without delay such piety is indeed requisite, absolutely requisite for you all. Whatever else you may be without, you must not be destitute of religion. All possible inducements, arising from all possible sources, implore you to become what others are, and in entire and cordial dedication to give yourselves unto God.
II. From the notice of youthful piety possessed, we observe again that WE HAVE YOUTHFUL PIETY TRIED. The religion of Daniel and his companions was submitted to a very powerful and decisive test. You observe that their conspicuousness in personal beauty and intellectual accomplishments obviously exposed them to a powerful and a perilous snare. Moreover, their names, which were appellations memorialising the true God, were to be exchanged for others, being the memorials of the idol divinities of Babylon. To Daniel, signifying "God is my judge," was assigned the name of Belshazzar, meaning probably "the keeper of the treasures of Bel." To Hananiah, signifying "the grace of the Lord," was assigned the name of Shadrach, meaning probably "the inspiration of the sun." To Mishael, signifying "he that is the powerful God," was assigned the name of Meshach, probably meaning "devoted to Shah," the Oriental Venus. And to Azariah, signifying "the Lord is a help," was assigned 'the name of Abed-nego, meaning probably "the servant of the shining fire." Thus it was that all remembrance of their allegiance to the true God was to be obliterated; and they were to be drawn into that great vortex of abomination which had well-nigh absorbed the world. But amidst these artful and cruel appliances, appealing alike to their vanity, to their sensuality, to their interests and to their fears, the piety of the heart stood firm; it steadfastly resisted, and it triumphantly overcame. You must understand their abstinence from the more dainty food not only as an act of self-control in regard to appetite, and as a patriotic recognition of the affliction of Israel, they refusing to live in indulgence while their brethren in captivity lived in privation and dishonour, but as a solemn testimony against idolatry and against all compromise with it, and as a solemn testimony on behalf of the true Jehovah, to whom they were dedicated, and by whom they resolved unalterably to abide. Now, youthful piety is never without its difficulties; and many instances occur to us in which it has been; as in the case before us, severely and acutely tried. We may think of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, and of Moses in the court of Pharoah, and of Samuel with the sons of Eli, and of Obadiah in the palace of Ahab, and of Hezekiah under the tutelage of Ahaz. And, my young friends, to whom God has given the inestimable boon of piety, you probably have already discovered the fact indicated in your own history, or you will discover it soon. You may be tried by your own indwelling passions, which, although subjugated by the grace which is in you, have not yet done striving for the mystery: vanity, self-conceit, cupidity, anger, envy, deceit, levity, animal passion and lust. You, may be tried by the hostility of others, on whom by kindred or by civil position you are dependent — parents, guardians, masters, who hate your religion, and who hate what they conceive to be the results of it; attempting, therefore, in the ungenerous malice of domestic and social persecution, to rend you from your faith and your hope. You may be tried by the fascinations of worldly amusement and pleasure: the feast, the dance, the song. You may be tried by opportunities of secular exaltation and honour — of rising high in the ranks of life, of attaining power, and of associating on well-nigh equal terms with the magnates of the land. You may be tried by strange and terrible combinations of evil influence, formed and applied by the great adversary of souls, rushing in upon you mysteriously, impetuously, and suddenly, with an agency almost overwhelming, that must utterly amaze and confound you. Oh! accept the warning, and vigilantly and prayerfully prepare. Let us observe, in the next place, that the trial of useful piety of which we now speak is pertained and arranged by God in wisdom and in kindness. It might seem to some a harsh and an inopportune dispensation; and questioning might be indulged, whether it would not be fair better to wait and postpone the ordeal until he who has to endure it has become more matured in character and more ample in red sources. The test never can be applied to one who has what the Scriptures emphatically term "the root of the matter in him," without the test being found adapted to produce, and actually producing upon character results of the most salutary and beneficial order. It is the discipline which fits the Christian labourer for the field, the Christian pilgrim for the journey, the Christian mariner for the ocean, the Christian combatant for the battle. It leads to acquaintance with self and all other beings; it augments hatred of sin, it exercises patience, it strengthens faith, it quickens action, it encourages prayer, it promotes dependence and reliance upon God. "Endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." "Fight the good fight of faith," whereunto you were called; and "lay hold upon eternal life"; and then but a little while, and He to whom you have been loyal will crown you with the laurels of the conqueror.
III. Having illustrated youthful piety possessed, and youthful piety tried, we have to observe YOUTHFUL PIETY HONOURED. You have heard how the experiment proposed by Daniel in respect to the food for the prescribed period was blessed by God. You are informed, further, how Daniel and his companions improved under the mental tuition which was administered, though still retaining their religion, and so indicating to us the fact that the pursuit of learning and science may be continued in perfect subservience to the honour of religion, and positively for the advancement of its empire. Additional instances of the honour which is attached to true piety have been preserved to us in the sacred records. The cases which we have cited as instances of trial we can also cite, and we aught to cite, as instances of honour. Remember the case of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, resisting the temptation in the spirit of inquiry, "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Then imprisoned by the revengeful lie of the tempter, but emerging at length from his ignominy and his peril, and set on high to be ruler over the land of Egypt. Remember the case of Moses. We can add to these multitudes of cases more from the annals of the Christian church, and we have memorials around us to this day, all proving that through piety is the pathway to honour. "Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee." With regard to the honour which arises from youthful piety, were we to classify it we might commend to you such arrangements as these. There is honour from the world. It is a mistake to conclude, as it has been hastily concluded, that genuine and decided piety is the parent of privation and disgrace in the world. Humility, amiableness, diligence, integrity, purity, benevolence — these are to men, under God, elements which; employed in the common affairs of life, constitute them the architects of their own fortunes. And then again, there is honour from good men. Those who are devoted to the high service of God in the Gospel of His Son are welcomed cordially and gratefully by the churches of the living Jehovah. There is honour, too, from God, in accordance with His ancient promise, "Them that honour Me I will honour." The honour that arises from the world and the honour that arises from good men He ultimately communicates, and then He imparts further and most delightful communications of His love.
IV. But then we have also to contemplate YOUTHFUL PIETY USEFUL. The decision of the Hebrew brethren, besides being associated with their own personal exaltation, was associated with many and momentous results of benefit and advantage to others. We do not dwell upon what must have been the influence of their example in the sphere in which they moved, but pass to the express and positive records. The immediate recorded result of their decision was an impression made upon the mind of the potentate they served with regard to the claims of the living and true God. We wish the young to remember this one simple fact, that the piety of four young men produced an immense effect upon the interests and destinies of the world. Now, we refer again to the instances of piety which have been selected from the sacred volume as instances of usefulness. They are all, as you must perceive, eminently so. We then proceed to affirm as a fact that in the annals of the church youthful piety has generally been by far the most useful. Then we may proceed further to state that God has given youthful piety for the express purpose of being useful. Those who possess it possess it not as a privilege merely, but as a responsibility — not as a blessing merely, but as an obligation. They possess it, that they may work for Him whom they are called upon to serve, in the advancement of His kingdom, and in the salvation of the souls of their fellow men. They are placed under the government of principles, the legitimate operation of which invokes them constantly to earnest and zealous effort, and which they must carry out into every department of influence, in order that the law of their stewardship may be fulfilled. The opportunities for usefulness on the part of the young are manifestly great. And then, again, the prospects of usefulness are animating. No labour can be in vain; all work forms a part of one grand system, impelling to a grand consummation, when the cause of God and truth shall extend its dominion over the world.
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.