Daniel 1:3
The name and the nature of a king are not always yoked together. Jehoiakim had been professedly a king, but was, in truth, a slave. Daniel and his companions, though led into exile as captives, had within them kingly qualities, which could not be degraded by strangers. As living water from the flinty rock will rise through every kind of strata, and find its way to the surface, so, through all adversities, innate nobleness will assert its imperial power. If a counterfeit king has become a captive, one from among the Jewish captives shall become a real king - a true man, whom all ages shall admire and follow. There is set before us in this passage -

I. A POLICY REALLY ROYAL. This King of Babylon, unlike the majority of Eastern monarchs, did not abandon himself to voluptuous ease. It must have required some force of character to withstand the customs, precedents, and temptations of the luxurious palace. Yet, however stupendous the difficulty, Nebuchadnezzar rose above it. We can easily imagine the formidable array of prejudices which the Chaldean nobles would present to this new policy of the king. Was not such a plan unheard of in the entire history of the empire? Was it not a departure from the path of cautious prudence to introduce foreigners, and foreign captives, into the councils of the court?

1. It was a policy characterized by far-seeing wisdom. Already the Chaldeans had risen out of a state of barbarism, and had begun to appreciate knowledge and intellectual skill. They had learnt to observe with accuracy the motions of the stars. They had attained to considerable skill in architecture and sculpture. They knew something of the science of government. The king was a foremost man in the march of intellect. He knew that, in many respects, the Hebrews excelled his own countrymen. In agriculture, in instrumental music, in historical composition, especially in possessing the gift of prophecy, the Hebrews held the palm. Conscious that the triumphs of peaceful science were nobler and more enduring than martial victories, Nebuchadnezzar sought to strengthen and embellish his reign with all the learning and talent which he could secure, it was the Elizabethan period in Chaldean history. Although the idea had not yet been embodied in aphoristic words, the monarch had a vague feeling that knowledge was power.

2. It was a policy inspired by public spirit. In an age when Oriental sovereigns sought to use the machinery of government for their own personal advantage, Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been primarily concerned for the well-being of his people. When jealous mainly for their high prerogatives, kings have judged it safer to keep their subjects in a condition of ignorance, to the end they might render mechanical and servile obedience. This Chaldean king was a man of broader mind. He identified himself with the nation. His interest and its interest were one. He found his joy, not in personal indulgence and obsequious flattery, but in the advancement of the common weal. While he forgot himself, in his desire to elevate the nation, he was unconsciously sowing the seed of future fame.

3. It was a policy marked by catholic generosity. It was a part of his plan to obliterate the distinctions of nationality among his subjects - to merge all into one. This badge of servitude it was his wish to obliterate. Were net these Hebrews as richly endowed with intellectual capacity as the Chaldeans? Had they not special aptitude for some of the sciences? Would not their gilts and services benefit the state-politic? And would not the entire body of exiles be more content in their lot if their own nobles were honoured with a place at court? This generous policy of Nebuchadnezzar may yet serve as a pattern to our modern rulers. It is paltry meanness and contemptible pride which seek to repress the intellectual energies of men who happen to have been born under other skies.

II. AN IMPERFECT METHOD. The method which the king adopted was partly wise and partly unwise. There was wisdom in the arrangement that a maintenance should be supplied for these young nobles. The sustenance of life must always be the first care of men; and, until the necessities of hunger are met, no time nor energy can be spared for the researches of science or the acquisition of learning. But it was very unwise that the appetites of these young men should be pampered with royal dainties. It was perilous to the morals of these young men that their passions should be excited with royal wine. Very likely this king was a materialist in philosophy, and imagined that artificial excitements of the brain provoked the mind to loftier efforts. This was a perilous error. Frugal fare, simple habits of life, abstemiousness at the table, are most conducive to vigour of intellect and tranquillity of feeling. Long before the stage of intoxication is reached, imperceptible injury is done by stimulants to brain and nerve. More mischief is wrought by want of thought than want of will. Further, these young men were designated by new names. We might have supposed that this was done to obliterate national distinctions, or to allay the prejudice of the Chaldean nobles. But, inasmuch as the former names (at least of those mentioned) had incorporated in them the name of Israel's God, and inasmuch as the new names bore some allusion to Chaldea's idols, it is more likely that religious pride had prescribed these appellations. By conferring on these young men names which honoured their own deities, the Chaldeans supposed that their deities would reciprocate the honour by conferring on the bearers of their names some portion of their spirit, Yet to be labelled "saint' has never served to secure a saintly nature.

III. THE KING'S METHOD SECRETLY MODIFIED. The sum-total of earthly wisdom never resides in one man - not even in a king. No mortal has a monopoly of goodness. Daniel and his companions, though young, had already learnt that self-restraint is the surest path to health and usefulness and joy. One part of our nature is to be cultivated; one part of our nature is to be crucified. Every inclination and tendency which has its terminus in self - in self-pleasing or self-elevation - is to be repressed and curbed. Every disposition and energy which has its terminus in others - especially in God - should be fostered. Besides, it is very likely that the food furnished by the king had, in some way, been associated with idol-worship. On this account, it may be, the royal viands were supposed to possess some special virtue. These loyal servants of Jehovah would not consent to sanction this idolatrous belief. They declined to be partakers in other men's sins. Moreover. God had taken the pains to give to Israel minute directions what animals they might eat, and what flesh they might not eat. The use of blood in food was prohibited. They were not to eat such animals as had been strangled. Hence Daniel and the others were bound by an earlier and a higher allegiance, which they had resolved not to violate. They had not the power of choice left. In religions duty they were bound to the King of heaven. "They were willing to render unto Caesar those things which were Caesar's, but they were determined also to render unto God the things which were God's." We may often obtain by a conciliatory request what we cannot obtain by an imperious demand. Modesty of deportment is a grace peculiarly befitting the young. It is a false estimate of dignity when men suppose they must be self-assertive, arrogant, and unyielding. Persuasive kindness wields the mightiest sceptre. "The meek shall inherit the earth." Sweet amiability in Daniel was blended with firm principle, as luscious dates adorn the stately palm. Very likely Daniel had tacitly resolved not to violate his conscience, whatever the prince of the eunuchs might urge. But he would try gentler measures at first. He would not defeat his own ends by precipitate speech. Words, once uttered, are not easily recalled. The excellences of Daniel had already gained for him a place in the heart of this chamberlain, and the influence over this officer which Daniel had virtuously gained was used for his companions as much as for himself. The fruits of our goodness, others share in. We cannot live wholly for ourselves. The human race is an organic body, the several parts of which are united by ligaments of mutual service and reciprocal interest.

IV. THE OPERATION OF SELFISH FEAR. This palace official seems to us a man mild and placable, but a slave of formal routine. The maxim of his life was this - That which has been from time immemorial must continue world without end. To presume to offer a suggestion to his royal master was an offence bordering on treason. It had never occurred to him to question the wisdom of previous kings and chamberlains. Of course viands coming from the royal larder, and consecrated to the gods, must feed and vitalize human brains. It would be rank impiety to doubt it. So men hand down beliefs and customs from age to age, without bringing them to the test of practical utility. Their business runs daily in some narrow groove, and they become so completely the creatures of habit that all the energies of mind are lulled into inglorious sleep. "Let well alone" is one of their easy-going adages; forgetting that there is a "better" and a "best." This subordinate prince does not attempt to reason on the merits of the case. He is not willing to tolerate in these Hebrew youths the exercise of intelligence, judgment, or conscience. At once, he thinks exclusively of the injurious effect upon himself: "I fear my lord the king." Had he argued that he had a duty to the king, which obligation required him to fulfil, there would have been an element of nobleness in his attitude. Or had he showed anxiety for the risk of loss these young men ran, it would have been commendable. But this fear for himself is mean and despicable. Indeed, the service he had engaged to perform was one beyond his power to carry into effect without the consent of these youths themselves. This chamberlain could have spread the students' table with the prescribed food and wine, but no human power could have compelled these youths to partake. With the spreading of the periodic repast, the chamberlain's duty would properly have terminated; but he was confronted with a difficulty be had not expected, and showed the weakness of his character by giving way at once to selfish fear. If he found that his royal master required of him unreasonable or impossible service, he could surely have requested his sovereign to relieve him from that post, and place him in some other position. A loss of official station is not necessarily a disgrace: it is often an honour. A good man need fear no one save God.

"Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear."

V. THE EXPERIMENT PROPOSED. Daniel readily proposed a plan which might quiet the chamberlain's fears. He suggests that an experiment be made for ten days only, during which time he and his comrades should diet on vegetable food and water.

1. It was a reasonable suggestion. The question at issue was one that could be brought to the test of practical demonstration, and controversy would be saved by such an appeal. An hour of experiment is more fruitful than years of speculative reasoning. The eye is not always a safe arbitrator. No organ is so easily deceived. But in this case the eye was a competent judge. A competition was instituted between self-indulgence and self-restraint. The virtue of abstemiousness was placed upon its trial, and we do well to note the result.

2. Nor can we close our eyes to the fact that Daniel regarded this self-abstinence as a branch of religious duty. No department of our daily life is beyond the reach of conscience. As each ray of sunshine, and each flake of snow, contributes its quota to the autumnal harvest; so each act in a man's life, even the most trivial, produces its effect upon his interior nature - contributes either to his nobleness or to his degradation. There are occasions when men use this plea of conscience dishonestly. They make conscience a mask wherewith to hide inclination and self-will. But Daniel was a true man. Transparency of motive was a jewel that glittered on his brow.

3. Daniel proposed this ordeal in the exercise of full confidence in God. He had, without doubt, already proved in himself the benefit, bodily and mentally, of simple diet. Never, until now, had he been brought rote the circle of such fascinating temptation; and now it was to be seen whether his faith in God would bear the trial. Yes! his faith was not only food-proof, but even fire-proof. Full sure was he that "man did not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." One wiser than himself, and kinder than any human friend, had, with blended authority and love, decreed what might and what might not be eaten, and Daniel knew that devout obedience would secure a certain blessing. "He that doubteth is condemned if he eat."

VI. OBSERVE THE SUCCESSFUL RESULT. The experiment terminated favourably on their health. They were both "fairer and fatter in flesh" than their competitors. Physical beauty, as well as physical strength, is to be adequately valued. Both are gifts of God; their possession ought to awaken thankfulness. Both may lead to sin. We must distinguish between natural appetites and acquired depraved tastes. To satisfy natural appetite is to do the will of God; to pander to needless cravings is to violate Divine authority. There is a large amount of pleasure arising from robust health, although the quality of this pleasure is none of the highest. To make the development of the body - the attainment of physical perfection - a study, during the growing years of youth, is a religious duty. The possession of perfect health, and the enjoyment arising therefrom, are within the reach of the poorest born. The dainties and effeminacies prevalent in marble palaces hinder, rather than help, the perfection of physical beauty. Daniel's simple pulse had more worth than the king's delicacies. Real hunger furnishes the best condiments.

1. The prizes of virtue are manifold and cumulative. Daniel's frugal diet brought its own inward satisfaction. Ten days' trial showed a perceptible advantage over the self-indulgent. That advantage increased during every succeeding day, until, at the end of three years, the results in health and strength and comeliness were incalculable. Meanwhile, the power of self-control over other inclinations and passions had largely increased, and this brought new delight. The consciousness that their God was right and kind in requiring this discipline of the appetites, increased their reverence and love, made them more resolute in their heavenly allegiance. They felt they were on the ascent to true nobleness and final honour, whatever temporary obscurity might arise. Their knowledge grew. Their wisdom ripened. Even foreigners and rivals rendered them real respect. Conquests over the difficulties of Chaldean learning were daily acquired, and they hailed, with glad anticipation, the approach of a royal test. They held their heads aloft, with a sense of manly greatness, when summoned into the presence of their king. "Better is he that ruleth his own spirit than he who taketh a city."

2. Then over and above this natural success and joy there was a special reward conferred by the hand of God himself. He who constructed the human mind knows well the avenues by which to gain access to all its chambers, and is able to enrich, illumine, and beautify any part. To doubt this would be infidelity, To these four young men God gave "skill in all learning and wisdom;" to Daniel in particular he gave special inspiration, a royal imagination, power to unravel dreams. We are prone to think that in the shadowy, weird territory of dreamland the reign of law is not known. Yet we err. Every wild phantom of the human mind is a link in the chain of cause and effect. Only a poet can fully appreciate true poetry. Only a man o! imaginative genius can resolve the problems of dreams. This is a God-given power - a species of inspiration.

3. The day of public manifestation at length arrived. As there is many a starting-point in human affairs, so there is many a goal. The first presupposes and determines the second. "The king came in to see his Hebrew guests." It was only fitting that he should. Every pert of human life is probation - trial, which has respect to honour or to disgrace. Though the end may seem far distant, yet this is only seeming. The end is really near. Righteous judgment is ever proceeding. This Chaldean monarch was, in this matter, a model prince. In many aspects of this event we have a striking forecast of the final judgment. With marked condescension, the king "communed" with these captive Hebrews, and was so far impartial in his just estimate as to confess publicly their diligent industry and their superior attainments. "He found them ten times better than all the magicians in his realm." Such knowledge as they professed was real. They made no pretensions to what was beyond their power. They did not boast of access to arcana of nature or of Divine providence really closed against them. They admitted the confines of real knowledge; they confessed the limitations of the human mind. Pretended skill is only contemptible. The truly great man is as ready to acknowledge his ignorance as his knowledge. Only a fool is unwilling to give this reply to many inquiries, "I do not know."

4. The eminence which Daniel justly attained was permanent. Real greatness, like the granite rock, is enduring. Suns rose End set, years came and went; kings flourished and fell; changes swept over all the empires of Asia; but Daniel, throughout the allotted period of his life, maintained his power and pre-eminence. Nor did his regal influence disappear with his dying breath; 'twas not interred in his tomb. It lived on: it lives still. The noble qualities of Daniel have reappeared in others, age after age. The tyranny of monarchs, in the East and in the West, have been held in check by him. "Being dead, he yet speaks," yet rules! His name stands on Heaven's beadroll among, the most saintly of his race - with Samuel and with Job. In his own identical person he has lived a continuous and a progressive life in a higher sphere than this. There he occupies a throne; his hand holds a sceptre; his head is surmounted with a diadem. The voice of the Highest has said to him, "Be thou ruler over ten cities." In his own glad consciousness, his prophetic words have been fulfilled, "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Evanescence is a quality of what is worthless, Faith is the seed of which the full development is "life everlasting." - D.







Children in whom was no blemish.
I. THE HISTORY OF DANIEL'S FIRST APPEARANCE. —

1. It is evident that this lad had come in with the others when Nebuchadnezzar led home his captives from the smoking ruins of Jerusalem.

2. Suddenly comes a summons for this young Hebrew to take a position at court (vers. 3-5). Nebuchadnezzar appears to have determined to bring forward into his service some of this captive race. Quite likely his reasons were these:(1) He desired to gain the advantage of outside talent; the long siege had taught him the stubbornness, gifts, and availability of the Jewish character.(2) He planned to propitiate the whole race by choosing some of their number for high office; while so strong an element of his population was in a sort of sullen opposition to his government, there was always danger around the throne.(3) He wished to add the strange power of their divine inspiration to such forces of magic as he held under his control now (ver. 20).

3. The group of companions thus strangely thrown together has enough of picturesqueness in it, if nothing else, to attract attention. Only three besides Daniel are mentioned by name, but there were others associated in the transaction. It is always a serious moment when any young man is summoned to come to the front. Good men are often found in the unlikeliest places, even in our day.

II. THE DESCRIPTION OF DANIEL'S PERSONAL ENDOWMENTS (ver. 4).

1. For one thing, he was finely fashioned in figure and stature. This makes us think how the Israelites once admired Saul, the son of Kish, when he came to the throne; and how the same wayward people afterwards went into rebellion with Absalom, won by his height and his hair.

2. He was nobly born. These all were to be "of the king's seed, and of the princes," when the selection was made. Some say that Daniel was a descendant of Hezekiah, concerning whose Sons it was once predicted that they should reign in Babylon. We need not reason much concerning birth or rank, for God's choice of us is all we can wish."

3. He was liberally educated. That counts grandly in the career of each young man; for knowledge is power. The Israelites were not an intellectual race, as a whole; most of the people were farmers, and had flocks and fields; it was an agricultural nation, rather than a scientific. But Daniel had been taught to study, and had learned to think.

4. He was religiously trained. Those old Jews made thorough and honest work of this part of their duty. Here our golden text comes in with all its power: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word."

5. He was studious in taste. There is an expression in the narrative which is very significant (ver. 20). We are told that when in consultation with these Hebrew advisers, the king found them ten times better than his magicians and astrologers; the original word is "hands"; they were ten hands above them in wisdom and understanding; they were, hand over hand, superior to them in common-sense and, intelligence.

6. He was eminent in the Divine favour (ver. 17.) The Lord. even then was giving help from heaven to this young man for his calling.

III. THE TEMPTATION TO WHICH DANIEL WAS SUBJECTED (vers. 5-7).

1. The king's plan was this: he designed to swerve these men out from the straight lines of traditional fidelity and belief, and commit them to the orthodox religion of his own country.(1) He adroitly caused their Hebrew names to be changed; from suggesting Jehovah's worship and service, they suggested the following of false gods and profane policies.(2) He proposed a distinct political aggrandizement; these captive slaves were to be admitted at court as the peers of the realm.(3) He offered them free education; they were to be instructed in the Chaldean language and lore.(4) He furnished them full support gratis; he actually descended into details; he "appointed" the portion of provisions, and of the wine he himself was accustomed to drink.

2. But the implied condition was this: the whole thing was an adroit ruse and a snare. It made at least four distinct pledges for an alienation of all that these young Hebrews cherished.(1) They should surrender their religion;(2) They should drift away from their national speech, history, and hope;(3) They should take part with the traditional oppressors of their fathers;(4) Worst, and fatallest, of all, they should enter upon the service of a religion of idolatry.

IV. THE EXPEDIENT OF ESCAPE WHICH DANIEL PROPOSED, (vers. 8-14).

1. Observe carefully what Daniel did not do. He did not decline the chance given him for conspicuous service. He only avoided the embarrassing conditions attached to it. He was willing to be useful, if so splendid an opportunity was offered him; but he would not peril his convictions, nor sacrifice his principles. No young man has any right to refuse an opening in life that is advantageous; he must just accept the gift which in the providence of God comes to him, and then consecrate it to the service of God and his fellow-men.

2. Observe the devoutness and trust of the piety these young Hebrews exhibited.

3. Finally, observe the superb success these young men achieved. The ten days passed; they were "fairer and fatter." But there were now three years more before they should come before the king; and still they trusted God.. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."

(C. S. Robinson, D.D.)

1. The narrative of striking facts and the delineation of celebrated characters, is perhaps, of all methods of instruction, the most effective. No one is ignorant of the power of example both for good and evil. Such is man's nature, that he is more guided by the practice of others than by his own reason. A child writes more easily after a copy than by rule. Men are prone to imitate whatever they see done, be it good or bad, emulating the one and aping the other.

2. Examples inform and impress the mind in a manner more compendious, easy, and pleasant than precepts or any other instrument or way of discipline. Precepts are abstract, naked, powerless — without a hold on either the fancy, sense, or memory; like the shadows of a passing cloud, too subtle to make any great impression, or leave any remarkable footsteps. But example comes home with irresistible power and strikes out its likeness. Precept is the man chiselled out, standing mute in the awful majesty of a statue of Praxiteles; example is the man with the life-speaking eye, the grace of living motion, and the lips parted with instructive lessons. The most successful professors of arts and sciences explain, illustrate, and confirm their general rules and precepts by particular examples. Mathematicians demonstrate their theorems by schemes and diagrams; orators back their enthymemes with inductions; philosophers urge the reason and nature of things, and then throw themselves aback on the practice of Socrates, Zeno, and such like personages. Politics are more easily and clearly drawn out of veritable history than out of books De Republica. Artificers describe models, and set patterns before their learners with greater success than if they merely delivered accurate rules and precepts to them. Nor is the ease at all different when these principles are applied to morals. Seneca says "that the crowd of philosophers which followed Socrates derived more of their ethics from his manners than his words." It is said of , the most learned man of his age, the author of a Hexapla — a man that employed seven amanuenses at once — "that he recommended religion more by his example than by all he wrote." One good example may represent more fully and clearly the nature of virtue than a thousand eloquent descriptions of it. Is it faith we have to acquire? Then we have but to look at Abraham. Is it wisdom, constancy, humility, and resolution? Behold Moses. Is it zeal, patience, perseverance, and piety? Then look at Peter, Paul, and John.

3. Good examples are powerful, because they persuade and incline us to follow them by plausible authority. In a word, examples incite our passions and impel us to duty. It is by reading and studying the lives of those who have distinguished themselves above the rest of mankind, that we may both amuse and instruct ourselves. History has, therefore, done well in immortalizing those men who have, by their talents or genius, or by their enterprise and benevolence, done much for the well-being of their fellow-men. Two important particulars are worthy of being mentioned here and remembered; namely, that the field is open to all, and that special Divine energy is promised to all that will trust in God, and walk in the way of his commandments. Circumstances aid great men, but do not make them. On the contrary, great men make circumstances.

(W. A. Scott, D.D.)

I. WHAT DO WE KNOW OF THE PERSONALITIES OF THESE YOUNG-MEN?

1. They appear to have been nobly born. At all events, if the instructions which Ashpenaz received were literally carried out, that must have been the case. Birth, however, is nothing if it be a man's sole claim upon the esteem of his fellows.

2. But Daniel and his friends were both noble and good, not only of the king's, seed but children of the living God. When one thinks of the temptations to which those of high rank are exposed, it would almost appear that a pious prince is one of the most admirable of men. Of old, man, for his sin, was doomed to labour for his bread in the sweat of his brow. But the curse has proved, in the good providence of God, the greatest boon which fallen man could have bestowed upon him. Let us think with prayerful sympathy of those perils of a life of leisure and temptation to which some by their birth are exposed, while we thank God for our own humbler, and, it may be, safer lot.

3. Then, further, we may gather from the text that the personal appearance of these four young nobles was attractive. They were "children in whom was no blemish, but well-favoured" ( Josephus, Ant. 10; 10, 1). The body, it is true, is only the house which the spirit inhabits. But while the tenant is of infinitely more importance than his dwelling, we have no right to despise either a goodly home or a comely body. If the whole man belongs to God, physical beauty is a gift which the fortunate possessor of it may use for the glory of Him who bestowed it.

4. But the beauty of these young Hebrews was not that of those who have only their faces and forms to recommend them. The powers of their minds were of no mean order (verse 17). Observe here that their knowledge and skill, their learning and wisdom, are directly traced to the hand of the Giver of all good. How apt we are, if we excel our fellows in the matter of intellectual ability, to become proud of our superiority! Ours! It is not ours; it is God's. Did you ever reflect that the mental ability with which a sceptic argues out his conclusions, with which even an atheist seeks to disprove the existence of God, is the glorious gift of God Himself, prostituted to ignoble uses, and turned in defiance against its Maker and Giver? How sure and immovable the truth must be, and how certain, if I may use the expression, must God be of its ultimate triumph, when he allows men to go on year after year using the precious endowments which He has given, and could in a moment take away, for the purpose of endeavouring to overthrow His dominion ever the minds and hearts of their fellows!

5. Once more, here, the story of these comely and accomplished youths touches our deepest sympathies when we read that they were involuntary exiles from their native land. We cannot but think that they loved their country. Who shall, say what sorrows pierced the heart of this young prince, thus, with his companions, doomed to mourn, in the land and at the court of a heathen conqueror, not only his own sad fate, but still more grievously the appalling desolation which had befallen the land of his birth?

II. OF COURSE IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THAT THESE YOUNG EXILES SHOULD HAVE THEIR FAITH SORELY TRIED. The king, with that lavish and somewhat indelicate kindness so often associated with despotic power, doubtless meant them well. He had not, it is true, consulted their feelings in tearing them away from the land of their birth, but in his rough way he desired to treat them kindly. Yet to partake of the food and drink thus provided was just what they could not do. It was not wine as wine, any more than it was meat as meat, that they refused. Times are changed with us now, and our difficulties are not of the precise nature either of these captive Hebrews, or of the early Christians (1 Corinthians 8). But though customs change and ceremonial observances vanish away, principles abide unchanged for evermore. One of the favourite texts in the unwritten and unholy Bible of the world is, "When you are in Rome you must do as Rome does." Few of us dare to be singular. And yet to be right we must often be singular, not in phraseology, or tone, or look, or garb, but in character and conduct. What would some of us have said if we had been placed in the circumstances described in the text? On the one hand, there was food of the daintiest, wine of the richest; on the other, danger of displeasing the king, and perhaps being cast into an Oriental dungeon. Would it have been a thing to be wondered at if Daniel had reasoned thus; "What does it matter? The notions of our father are antiquated. Moses was well enough in his day, but that day is a long time since. Other times, other manners. It's our policy now to please the king." He would have had his meat and drink, but he would have lost his God, turned his back upon his early faith, forgotten his country, become a Babylonian idolater, and his life, unwritten and unsung, would have sunk into the oblivion which his time-serving cowardice deserved.

(J. R. Bailey.)

"Children in whom was no blemish." Such as were Joseph, David, Artaxerxes Longimanus, Germanicus, and others, in whom beauty proved to be the "flower of virtue" as Chrysippus called it. Of Galba the Emperor once said, that his good wit dwelt in an ill house, like an excellent instrument in a bad case; whereas Vatinius the Roman was not more misshapen in body than in mind. The heathens also advise us to beware of those whom nature hath set a mark upon.

(J. Trapp.)

I. THE BODY. — As they were princes they were chosen to be pages of the king of Babylon. They were to be fed for three years with all the royal dainties. Most boys would have blest their good fortune, and taken their fill of all that was going in the palace. But these Jewish boys refused the king's meat and wine, lest they should eat anything forbidden by their religion. And they grew fairer and fatter than all the children in the palace. Like them, you should religiously think about what you eat and drink. The children who are content with plain food become the healthiest and fairest men and women. You will smile with suspicion when I tell you what is the healthiest place in all Scotland, and perhaps in the world. Sir Robert Christion proves that it is Perth Prison. For every man who dies inside it, about ten men of the same age die outside. Many of the prisoners have uneasy minds, and their lives have been wild, but no matter: they have by necessity what our four boys had by choice, — water, and the plainest food, and splendid health. Their food costs fourpence a day. I was in Richmond, Virginia, shortly after the great war. Nearly the whole city was a mass of blackened ruins. Two things, they said, astonished them during the siege; first, that they could live on so very little; and secondly, that fewer people died in days of starvation, than in days of abundance. They made the same discovery during the cotton famine in Lancashire. Plenty, it seems, harms more by its excesses than poverty by its privations. Your eating and drinking help greatly to form your character; for your diet influences the soul as well as the body. That Turk was much mistaken, who, when about to drink wine, warned his soul to quit the body for a little, lest it should be harmed. How many evils have sprung from luxurious living? It destroyed Rome, after Rome had conquered the whole world. How safe and noble is the spirit of these boys! They did not despise the body, as monks do: in the spirit of the Bible they honoured it as the handmaid of the soul. They were not as those who live to eat, but who eat to live. By keeping under their bodies they escaped being castaways.

II. THE MIND. — They were young thinkers, quickwitted, and eager to learn. Well-favoured and without blemish, they had minds to match their bodies. Your mind is nobler far than your body, and nobler than all the things your eyes behold. The powers of mind are more valued than powers of body by all but savages and stupid people. Often the body is the grave of the spirit; and many value the mind as the minister of the body: they would use it as a sort of chief cook or confectioner for the body. Yet he hardly lives at all, whose mind is not thoughtful. When the mind is not trained or used, man sinks toward the level of the sheep feeding in the pastures, and of the oxen fattening in the stall. His history is made up of nothings. For life without thought is death to all but the body. With many boys and girls the powers of the mind are roused at first as by a kind of sudden conversion. A book, or a conversation, or a lesson, or even a problem in arithmetic — I have known such cases — deeply stirs the mind and makes the youth conscious of new powers. From that day he tastes the sweets of thinking, and burns with the love of knowledge. William Arnot tells that the first time he read a book of his own accord, he was half-intoxicated with the new-found pleasure. Many a writer has used with real affection the words, "my master," as remembering how much he owes to his teacher. Thus also students long ago called their university, "Alma Mater," that is, Bountiful Mother. Their university cherished them into mental health and joy, even as a kind mother cherishes her dear children. Because the powers of the mind are so great you should be careful to read only healthy books. If the books of your boyhood are bad, you will regret the reading of them as long as you live.

III. THE SOUL. — As the mind is nobler than the body, so the soul is nobler than the mind. The soul is the man, the mind is the soul's servant, and the body is the servant's servant. As thought is the life of the mind, so true Christian life is the grandeur of the soul. Their state of body and mind was most helpful to their soul. Their minds were not dulled by over-feeding, nor were their souls clogged with stupid minds. We wonder at their holy lives in such a wicked palace, and at their perfect boldness. The poets speak of a river that preserves the sweetness of its waters amid the bitterness of the sea, and of an animal that lives in the midst of the fire; and such-like were their lives. There is a little insect that gathers around itself a viewless coat of air, and goes down clad in it to the bottom of the sea. The little diver moves about at its ease, unhurt amid the stagnant waters. The grace of God wove such a garment of Heaven's air around these children, that they passed unhurt through the poisoned atmosphere of Babylon. It made them the children of Heaven, and gave them a nobility of nature more than nature can give.

(J. Wells, M.A.)

Those raw country lads with the hulking, slouching gait which gives such a look of clumsiness and stupidity just need training. They are the rough material of which a vast deal may be made. You have in them the water-worn pebble which will yet take on a beautiful polish. Take him and send him to a college for four years; let him then become a tutor in a good family, and before long you find him with the quiet, self-possessed air and easy address of the gentleman who has seen the world. Remember this and look with respect on the diamond that only needs to be polished, the people of whom more might have been made.

(H. O. Mackey)

From the beginning of next chapter, it appears, that astrology was a principal branch of learning among the Chaldeans. As Daniel was afterwards appointed master of the magicians, we see no reason to doubt that he was taught this, and the other occult sciences of Babylon. We are warranted, from Daniel's tenderness of conscience, to conclude that he neither believed in astrology, nor practised it; but we see no sin in his becoming acquainted with it, just as we see no sin in a Christian being taught the mythology of Greece and Rome, or in a missionary studying the superstitious of the Hindoos.

(J. White.)

The instructions, which Nebuchadnezzar gave respecting the education of these young men, show that he had the talents of a statesman, as well as of a general, and that he had an enlargement of view worthy of him who was to be the golden-head in the image of empire. It would have been well for the world if he, and all kings and emperors had always showed as much wisdom in the selection, and care about the education, of those who were to rule under them.

(J. White.)

1. Young men may be carried into captivity by their enemies. There is a captivity more galling than the one into which Daniel was transported, it is the captivity of evil habit. Men do not go into that wittingly. Slyly and imperceptibly are the chains forged upon them, and one day they wake up to find themselves away down in Babylon. Men talk of evil habits as though they were light and trivial; but they are scorpion whips that tear the flesh; they make a road of spikes more bloody than the path of a Brahmin; they are the poisonous robe of Nessus; they are the sepulchre in which millions are buried alive. The young are in more peril because they are unsuspecting.

2. Early impressions are almost ineffaceable. Daniel had a religious bringing up. From the good meaning of his name I know he had a pious parentage. When I find what Daniel is in Jerusalem I am not surprised to find what he is in Babylon. The father plans the character of the child, and its destiny for time and eternity; then the son completes the structure.

3. The beauty of Christian sobriety. The meat and the wine that were to come to Daniel's table were to come from the King's table. Daniel had no right to take that food. He chose pulse. It was a miracle that he did not dwindle away. When God for his self-denial puts upon him this benediction he puts a benediction upon all Christian sobriety.

4. The beauty of youthful character remaining incorrupt away from home. If Daniel had plunged into every wickedness of the city of Babylon, the old folks at home would never have heard of it. But Daniel knew that God's eye was on him. That was enough. There are young men not so good away from home as at home. God forbid that any of us, through our misconduct, should bring disgrace upon a father's name, or prove recreant to the love of a mother.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)

It was like the proud spirit of the King to surround himself with all spendour of talent that should throw additional glory on himself and on his throne. Accordingly directions to select candidates for the public service were given to Aspenaz, the chief of the eunuchs. Of him we know nothing more than is stated in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel. He belonged to a class always existing in Oriental courts, often high in royal favour, of large influence, authority and power. This individual appears to have been marked by much wisdom, considerate care, a gracious bearing, and courtly courtesy. That he regarded Daniel with "favour and tender love," should be his passport to our esteem. The King prescribed the qualifications of the candidates.

1. Some of these were physical. Vigour and beauty were required. Probably Daniel was tall, strong, well-built, handsome.

2. The King required knowledge. "Skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science." They were to be generally intelligent, and in particular, acquainted with the science of their country, namely — music, architecture, natural history, agriculture, morals, theology, and prophecy. There is reason to believe that in many of these departments the Hebrews were in advance of the Babylonians. The King proposed to turn their superiority to account. He was evidently a broad-minded and sagacious man.

3. The next requirement was what we understand by "capacity." "Such as had ability in them to stand in the King's palace." "Ability" is here the Hebrew word for strength, power, resource of almost any kind. The King required general capacity, not overlooking moral qualifications.

4. They were to be teachable. Without that spirit, these tall, handsome men would be but as ornamental logs of wood in the palace of the King. Present attainment in knowledge and in moral culture is as nothing compared with the capacity of receiving more, and power to do more in the future.

(H. T. Robjohns, B.A.)

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