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…
What, then, did they do which you may imitate?
1. They scrupulously maintained the moral and religious principles that had been imparted to them in their earlier education. They made a supreme regard for the will of God their rule of conduct, even in little things. But when tried, they were found to be pure gold; and their triumph proves that a pious education is one of the greatest blessings that can be bestowed upon youth. If you, young men, have received such an education, be profoundly thankful for it. Nor were they over righteous in this firm but courteous refusal. Nor were they narrow and bigoted sectarians. They were liberal Christians, but not latitudinarians. The Bible and the very nature of the human mind command us to be liberal, but forbid us to be latitudinarian. True liberality of sentiment and largeness of soul are the attributes of strength and conviction of one's own mind. But latitudinarianism gives up essential foundation principles, and says there is no difference between right and wrong — that it is equally a matter of indifference what a man believes, or whether he believes anything at all. Duty is not a thing of latitude and longitude. It is the same thing everywhere. Conscience and God are the same in Paris or Constantinople, as in your New England or Scottish homes. Polar snows or tropical flowers cannot change the eternal principles of rectitude. God's laws, the will of the Supreme Creator, is the only standard of duty. It was not the mere concession of a prejudice, not the mere giving up of some little matters of denominational detail, but the surrender of principle, compromise of truth, apostacy from the true religion, that they were required to submit to. And the lesson taught us is of vast importance. It is that we must not sacrifice conscience, with its awful requirements, to any temporary or worldly convenience. It is better to die of starvation than gain a valuable living by the sacrifice of the soul. Without stern integrity in little things, there is a want of confidence which is fatal to success. A most pernicious delusion prevails with many good people. They are waiting until they can do some great thing, and think that if a great crisis were to come, they would then have nerve to meet it, and do something triumphant. They cannot find, at present, a place large enough for the discharge of their duties. Instead of quietly laying one brick upon the earth, they are constantly building castles in the air; instead of discharging the plain everyday duty which they owe to God and their fellow men, they pass life in looking for some grand occasion for the display of their virtues. The little things that are usually the turning-points of character, they have not apprehended. They have not learned that events which seem at first frivolous and unimportant, may become the "Thermopylae of a Christian's conflict, the Marathon of a nation's being, or the turning-point of everlasting life or of everlasting death." The point with Daniel was to follow his conscience or his appetite; to cease to be an Israelite, or cease to be a favourite of the great King of Babylon. And his determination was soon made to make everything give way to his religion. He would not let his religion bow to the world, but made the world bow to his religion.
2. The next lesson which the Euphrates sends to the Mississippi, and reads to us from the early life of Babylon's vizier or prime minister and his friends is, that a man is no loser for maintaining right principles. The examination of the four Hebrews presents a noble example of the success of prudence, temperance, and a steady regard to religion. These young men did not think, because they were well born and liberally educated, that they might therefore indulge their appetites without control. On the contrary, with heroic steadfastness they made the will of God, even in little things, their rule of conduct. And what was the result? Did Daniel lose any good thing by his firm adherence to principle? Not at all. The very reverse was the result. Daniel's faithfulness to his conscience, his allegiance to his God, his courteous but firm refusal to do what was sinful, was turned to his advantage, even in this world. Them that honour God, He honours. The result of their faithfulness to God was their promotion in the palace, and the favour of the king. What, then, is the true principle of expediency for young men? We answer, True principle is true expediency. Duty is the way of peace and promotion. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you. It is reasonable for young men to ask God for help in mental as well as in spiritual efforts. He is the father of the spirit as well as the maker of the body. In the toil and business of life, and amid all its perplexing difficulties, cast yourself, therefore, upon the Lord's protection, and look to Him for counsel and guidance. It is easy for Him to "illumine what in yon is dark." It is an old saying, that to pray earnestly is to study well.
(W. A. Scott, D.D.)
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.