In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that troubled his spirit, and sleep deserted him.
Daniel 1:21, i.e. Daniel's public life with Daniel's preparation, it may be well here to notice what his preparation had been.
1. At home, and the associations of Jerusalem.
2. Knowledge of previous revelations (see Daniel 9:2).
3. Moral victory at a crisis of history.
4. Experience of life at one of its great centres - Babylon - the court.
As indicating the difference between Ezekiel's standpoint and that of Daniel, note Ezekiel dates from the years of the Captivity - for him, in comparative obscurity, the years dragged on wearily - Daniel, by the reigns of kings in whose court he was. Daniel's experience grew with the years, and he became increasingly fit to receive political revelations - revelations as to the rise and fall of empires.
1. The discrepancy looks at first sight glaring enough; i.e. as to the dates. Still, with our idea of the sacred writings, we should be justified in believing:
2. That some explanation would be forthcoming, if we knew all the loots. Of the propriety of this assumption, we shall have a striking illustration in the recent clearing up of' the special critical difficulty of ch. 5.
3. One might fairly conclude that Daniel is quite as reliable an historian as any other author.
4. The seeming discrepancy is clear evidence that Daniel, and none other, is the writer; for these two dates would never have been admitted in a form apparently contradictory, coming so close to each other as to challenge attention, if the author had been an impostor. Daniel writes straightforwardly the truth, unconscious of the possible misconstruction of his words. This unguardedness of style is a sure sign of the credibility of a living witness, and of the genuineness of any book.
5. There are several explanations forthcoming, one specially credible (see Exposition).
6. Our feeling in relation to discrepancies real or apparent, will doped entirely on our moral attitude in relation to revelation. The believer will treat them lightly; the captious and unbelieving will make the very most of them (see Alford on receipt of one of Colenso's volumes, in 'Alford's Life').
II. THE PREPARATION. There were subjective conditions of the dream which argue a certain nobility in Nebuchadnezzar. Dreams grow out of waking thought; and, though this dream was supernatural, we may well believe it was naturally conditioned. The mood of the king created a certain receptivity for Divine revelation (ver. 29).
1. The cares of empire weighted his soul.
2. His mind projected itself into the far future. (Ver. 29.)
3. Thoughts of present responsibility and visions of the future were enter-rained. To all, such high thoughts come at some time or other; but not all entertain them. We may drown them in frivolity, or quench them by intoxication. When God comes to a soul with thoughts worthy of its nature, it is for the soul to open wide its portals and let the glory in. About this young conqueror there was a certain grasp and elevation of mind.
III. THE DREAM. Here, at present, we ignore its contents; we are supposed, indeed, not to know it: and consider only generally whether, and to what extent, the dream may become the article of Divine communications to man. In a complete, discussion, we should have to cite the following testimonies: Those of:
1. Psychology. The nature and origin of dreams should be elucidated, with the view to a just estimate of the testimonies which follow. Sufficient wilt be found for homiletic purposes in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dict.,' art. "Dreams."
2. Scripture. These inductions seem valid:
(1) "That Scripture claims the dream, as it does every other action of the human mind, as a medium through which God may speak to man["
(2) "That it lays far greater stress on that Divine influence by which the understanding also is affected. In dream, the imagination is in the ascendant; the reason, dormant.
(3) That dream as a medium of Divine communication is inferior to prophecy.
(4) That dreams, therefore, were granted:
(a) To the heathen rather than to the covenant people of God.
(b) To the latter only during their earliest and most imperfect individual knowledge of him.
(c) Only in the earliest ages, and less frequently as the revelations of prophecy increase.
(d) Almost invariably require an interpreter. These last four points are all illustrated by the dreams in the Book of Daniel.
3. Experience. The reference here is to that modern experience, of which we may be either the subjects or the observers. Even in a Christian civilization like ours, the superstitious regard fur dreams is so common, that the following truths may well be insisted on:
(1) That dreams should never for us stand in the place of revelation.
(2) Should be disregarded entirely, when contravening the truth as it is in Jesus"
(3) That God may see fit by dream to prepare the mind for the future.
(4) That there seems well-authenticated instances in which the coming event has been imaged in dream. Surely he who made the soul can have access to it by night or by day, directly or mediately, as he will In the application of these truths to our own life, the greatest spiritual wisdom will be necessary.
IV. THE SEARCH. We do not agree with Keil, that the king remembered the dream, and was intent on testing the value of the interpretation by making the interpreter tell also the dream itself; nor with the reasons he assigns for that interpretation. We believe that the dream was gone from memory, yet leaving behind such an impression that the king would recognize it on its being described, and also leaving behind an idea of its tremend us import, and a conviction that its origin was Divine. Here note:
1. The mission of oblivion. "God sometimes serves his own purposes by putting things out of men's minds, as well as by putting things into their minds." By the king's forgetfulness Daniel came to be honoured, and in him the God of Daniel.
2. The adaptation of Divine revelations. From Daniel 2:4 to Daniel 7:28 the language of the book is Chaldee; as though God would throw open the revelation through Daniel to the people of Babylonia as well as to the Jew. After ch. 8. the language reverts to Hebrew, for the communications are then chiefly for Israel. This adaptation one instance of what obtains universally.
3. The infirmities of even noble minds. There were many elements of greatness about Nebuchadnezzar; but all shaded by:
(1) Superstition. Seeking for light where no light could be found - from the magi of various grades.
(2) Unreason. Demanding both dream and interpretation. A certain sort of wisdom might interpret; but only the omniscience of God could recover the dream.
(3) Cruelly. Many instances besides that in this chapter.
V. THE FAILURE. (Ver. 11.) Observe:
1. The error into which exalted intellect may fall. "Gods" imply polytheism.
2. The truth which may shine through error. The magi were aware:
(1) Of the omniscience that is essential to Deity.
(2) Of the limitation that belongs to the creature. The flesh is a veil that hides from us much of the spirit-world.
VI. THE DOOM. Cruel as was the edict on the part of the king, there was, nevertheless, a sort of rough justice on the part of God's natural government of the world, in consigning to punishment the practicers of imposition and traders on the superstitious fear, of men. "They sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain suggests how oft the innocent are caught in the consequences of the sin of others. - R
Nebuchahnezzar Dreamed Dreams.
1. How poor and wretched a creature is a man left to the power of fierce and ungovernable passions! How contemptible a figure does the great King of Babylon make in demanding what was impossible! Hot-headed and furious men are generally without reason, and deaf to all remonstrances. How blessed are your privileges, that you live under constitutional laws, and are not subject to the arbitrary power of a tyrant! Magna Charta, Habeas Corpus, and trial by jury are blessings that cannot be too highly valued.
2. In the rise and fall of nations, shadowed forth in prophecy, and presented in history, it is of great importance to bear in mind the fact that the Supreme Being does rule over all the inhabitants of the world, and yet does no violence to the free agency of any rational creature. The mightiest planets in the highest heavens sweep round in their orbits at his bidding, and so arise and fall the mighty dynasties of our race, both in ancient and modern times, and in both the Old and New World. Not a few seem to think that God's providence was concerned with ancient nations, but has ceased to take notice of modern nations. This is nothing but practical atheism. God is not less vigilant and supreme now, in the midst of our inventions and improvements, than He was in the days of Jerusalem and Babylon. The celebrated and pious Bogue was in the habit of saying, when he took up the papers in the time of Napoleon the Great, to read what was passing: "Let us see how God governs the world."
3. In the history of nations there are always two classes of interests and facts very distinct, and yet exercising over each other a powerful influence. I mean political and religious events. The first relates to kings, emperors, rulers, cabinets, and forms of government; the second relates to the moral character, religious sentiment of the people, and pertains to the salvation of their souls and the condition of the Church of the living God. These interests must necessarily exercise over each other a powerful influence. The history of nations and the history of the Church of Christ reflect mutually the state of the other.
4. Finally, here you are taught where to go in all cases of difficulty. How did Daniel obtain the knowledge of the lost dream? By asking for it. He prayed to God. He sought help in the right direction. We do not, indeed, expect miracles now, yet we do expect answer to prayer.
(W.A. Scott, D.D.)
I. We will consider THE DREAMER. The dreamer of the text was an Eastern monarch. There he is in secure possession of his throne. Famed as a skilful soldier and victor, he is the mightiest monarch on the face of the earth. Babylon, the seat of his empire, the place of his throne, is among the most imposing and great of the ancient cities of the world. This is the home of this royal dreamer. See him in the midst of it. Seated on his throne, around him stand his chief men of state, his eunuchs, priests, princes, and captains, all in their many-coloured and glittering garbs. He is troubled. What has gone wrong? Has some part of his kingdom broken out into rebellion? Has the death-plague seized upon his friends and chief councillors? Nay, he has had a dream, a simple dream. The world owes a great deal to its dreamers. Some have blessed the world by the great victories which they won. What a great and noble company the dreamers make. John Bunyan dreamed the "Pilgrim's Progress," a book which, next to the Bible, which it illustrates, has had a larger circulation than any other book in the world. That was a grand dream, and the world owes much to it. Columbus was a dreamer. He had visions of another and a great land across an unexplored and unknown ocean. Sir Christopher Wren was a dreamer. He had a vision of St. Paul's, and it grew up in the city of London.
II. THE DREAM. The dreamer was a mighty monarch. The dream was worthy of the dreamer.. However great the dreamer, the dream was not less so. He Went to rest that night with his mind full of great and important thoughts. He thought of what wars had been, and wondered what wars would be. He knew himself secure on his throne then. But did he think that soon he would be gone? He wondered "what should come to pass hereafter." It was a great dream. No idolater ever had a greater dream, and but few men any so great. He went out far beyond himself. The present did not satisfy him. He wanted to pull back the curtain and see what was beyond. Have we not all had dreams like this? Think you that this king was the only man who ever felt dissatisfied with the present? Have not we all tried to look beyond? I have had a vision of God; it may have been a dream, but I have thought about Him. I have looked around me in the world, and have seen traces of Him. The great mountains and the mighty ocean, which I have seen in the majesty of its fury, have said something to me of the greatness of God. I seem to have had visions of love, and mercy, and pity, but I can't quite find out myself, I want some one to interpret. I can't myself quite solve it all. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" asks one in ancient days who also had dreams about God. Then I have had dreams of the soul and its destiny. I have dreamed of "what shall come to pass hereafter." Then I have had visions and dreams of a future in which justice and righteousness shall prevail, in which the glaring iniquities and wrongs of this present life shall all be set right. But have we not had dreams of another sort? Sometimes we have felt with sorrow and shame our own weakness and badness. We have become conscious that we were out of harmony with things around us. There is a something within us which speaks to us. Call it conscience or anything else — there it is. I have dreamed of forgiveness, how to get it, and where. Who can tell me? Who can interpret for me all these dreams of mine? Is there any Daniel whom I can call into court who shall reveal to me all these secrets?
III. THE INTERPRETATION of this dream. Daniel was able to tell the king his dream, and also to expound it. And what an exposition it was! Kingdom succeeds kingdom, monarch follows monarch. The Babylonian head of gold, the Persian breast of silver, the Grecian thighs of brass, and the Roman legs of iron, all come and go as Daniel expounds the dream.. There are two things we must note in this interpretation.
1. The Christ kingdom symbolised by the stone cut from the mountain without hands.
2. The second thing I wish to note is that this Christ prefigured by the mountain stone is the interpreter of all my dreams of God, the soul, and a future state. In His school I get my answer. I have been to other schools and could not learn. Nebuchadnezzar summoned all his wise monk They were accustomed to interpret dreams, but they were perplexed now. When I come to Christ He interprets my dream. Be not only reveals God to me, but He tells me of His love and kindness. God is love. God is a Father. God cares for me. Jesus Christ tells me how I can be at peace with God through Himself. He tells me about things which are to come to pass. Jesus Christ is God's answer to all my questions, and visions, and dreams.
(C. Leach, D.D.)
The Southern Pulpit.I. THE DREAM. The first verse states that this vision occurred in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; i.e., in the second year of his solo sovereignty. His father, Nabopolassar, being now dead, the empire devolved upon Nebuchadnezzar alone.
1. The dream reveals the nature of his ambitions. It shows that his mind was busy with projects of conquest, and the cares of government, and the hopes of secure power. How natural that these engrossing thoughts of his waking hours should pursue him in sleep and give complexion to the visions of the night.
2. But the dream was sent by Divine agency. It was not only natural, but also supernatural. This is not the first nor only time that God has vouchsafed to make his revelations to heathen minds. Balaam is a notable instance of prophetic gifts bestowed upon unworthy persons. All extraordinary channels of Divine communications were no doubt selected for a purpose; and while the light of revelation shines steadily upon his own chosen people, yet he vouchsafes occasional flashes upon other minds to illuminate some truth which may be best illuminated in that way.
3. The dream is forgotten. Strangely given, it was strangely recalled. The honour shall be God's and God's alone. God will show by an infallible sign that it is His revelation, and will not suffer the Chaldean sages to tinker with its interpretation. Nothing remained but the disturbing sense of having seen strange things, and an abiding conviction that these things were closely related to his destiny. To whom shall he turn in his perplexity?
II. THE DEMAND. We may well imagine the surprise and alarm of the sooth-sayers and magicians when they become acquainted with the nature of the king's demand. Had they been quite sure that the king had indeed forgotten his dream they might have very easily invented one to satisfy him; but I suppose they were apprehensive lest this was only a snare cunningly placed by this intelligent monarch to expose their duplicity. It seemed to them the safer plan, then, not to hazard so dangerous an expedient, but to declare their inability to do more than interpret the dream when told. The king, however, reiterates his demand.
1. The Chaldeans maintain that this demand is unjust in that it was without precedent. There is a true and a false law of precedent. It is undoubtedly true that whoever demands or enacts a new thing, a thing counter to existing usages, must have strong and unquestionable reasons for such a course. There are always presumptions against novelties and innovations, and one who appeals to custom has an undeniably strong ground to rest upon. On the other hand, the law of precedent can create nothing more than presumption. It still leaves the reason of the thing to be inquired into. It is probable the imperious temper of this monarch would not be baulked by an appeal to customary usages.
2. They further maintain the injustice of this demand on the ground that it is beyond human power to comply with it. They say: "There is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." Some have supposed this declaration that the dwelling of the gods "is not with flesh" to be indicative of scepticism. It was the cardinal belief of the Babylonians that the gods were very near to men. Their temples, and sacrifices, and priestly rites proceeded upon that belief. These Chaldeans, then, are supposed, under the influence of their great peril, to betray here their utter disbelief in these hollow mockeries. And the lesson is drawn from it: "Alas, that this unbelief should so often, in Christian as well as in Pagan times, have found a nest for itself so near the altar!" But I would rather believe that these Chaldeans, whose studies brought them in contact with the mighty works of God, had more exalted conceptions of the deity than those which prevailed among the masses.
3. In this view the demand was not so unreasonable as the Chaldeans would make it appear. They had wilfully imposed upon both king and people, laying claim to mysterious arts by which they could read secret things; and had no doubt taken care that this faith in their powers should be implicit and well-nigh unlimited. They could scarcely complain, then, when they are taken at their word. Skilled in plausibility and ambiguity, they no doubt relied on these powers to cover up a failure when one occurred, and to impose successfully upon the credulity of the king.
4. It is a great gain to the cause of truth when impositions are detected. So, then, Nebuchadnezzar deserves praise for pressing this matter to a decisive issue. The cause of religion no doubt suffers a shock when priestly pretensions are thrown in the crucible and tested, but it rises from such shocks to greater stability, and usefulness, and power.
III. THE DECREE. Whatever may be said of his demand, certainly the decree of the king is indefensible. These wise men had done nothing worthy of death. Moreover, there were many among the Chaldeans who laid no claim to magic powers, but who contented themselves with the sciences, as patient and laborious students, and it was not only manifest injustice, but strange impolicy to include them in this sweeping condemnation. Yet more, why should Daniel and his friends, who had but just passed their novitiate and who had not been consulted at all, share their fate? But rage is blind and knows no discrimination. There are not wanting some, as an illustration of this spirit, who would obliterate Christianity because of unworthy Christians; and no one can estimate what man has suffered from this stupid lack of the power of rational discrimination.
IV. CONCLUSION. What a striking picture is here presented us of Nebuchadnezzar and his wise men trying, by human devices, to arrive at the mind of God! How we yearn for man when we behold his boundless aspirations confronted by his impotent nothingness! But it was well that human skill should first exhaust its resources in endeavouring to know the mind of God. It was a proper prelude to God's revelation, this confession of impotence: "There is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." It is a law of God's providence that He will not intervene until man has discovered his own absolute inability, and felt his imperative need.
(The Southern Pulpit.)
1. The first is knowledge of human nature. Let me ask you to put yourselves for the moment in the position of those who had this somewhat unreasonable demand made upon them. Their answer to his demand was very simple and fair. "We are perfectly ready," they said, "to interpret your dream, but our ministrations extend thus far; tell us the dream and we will tell the meaning." But the king, whose vision was elevated, perhaps, by the dream which he had experienced, began to see that he was surrounded by those who were in a large measure but charlatans; and prompted by this, he perhaps insists all the more pertinaciously on the condition. "You profess to be able to interpret my dreams. How do I know that your interpretations are true? Tell me what the dream was, and I can verify your accuracy. In other words, vindicate your pretensions in a sphere where I can test them, and then I will be able to give you my faith in the sphere where I cannot test them. I cannot verify your interpretations, but I can verify your statement of what passed through my mind. You profess to explain my life to me, and all the destiny that awaits it; if it be in your power to do this, show, first, that you understand me, and then I will believe that you can unfold my destiny." And that, in itself, when you come to study it, is no unfair condition. It may be unreasonable in the circumstances in which it was used, but there is a vein of reason, and there is a vein of fairness in it; for when you reflect upon it there is no power in a man to teach and to speak concerning the future, unless he has a certain knowledge of the present. The man who can read deepest into the circumstances and the situation of the present is the man who is far the more likely to be able to forecast the future. You would not entrust your case to the doctor who had no knowledge of your symptoms. You would believe that the man, and the man only, who could read into your symptoms, would be able to track the probable development of the disease. It is the same in nature. The naturalist cannot predict a harvest except he understands the nature of the seed, and it is just in proportion as he is possessed of the power of insight that he is possessed of the power of foresight. That is taught us in the pages of history. As long as men thought, as it were, to out-manoeuvre Nature, and to read her secrets by ignoring her face, they simply courted defeat. These were the astrologers, the charlatans of science; but the moment they took up the other attitude, and began to scan closely the features of nature, and sought earnestly to understand the meaning of her thoughts, they began to discover her laws, and discovering them they had the power by which they could predict what would be the evolution of those laws. And if that be true in the law and order of nature, has it its counterpart in the moral order also? Place ourselves for a moment in the position of the king. Daniel comes and unfolds to him the vision. That splendid vision, that noble and colossal figure, represented what had passed through the king's mind, not that night only, but every night. It had been the dream of his life, the splendour and the magnificence of his position; the glorious headship which he held over the empire which he thought his own, from the high 'vantage ground of which he looked down in proud contempt upon human kind. His thoughts were read. The man's heart is read; his vision, and all the subtle play of his thoughts is unfolded to him. "The man that can toll me these secrets of my heart is the man into whose hand I will place my destiny and bid him point the way along the track of my life. He can understand what is the outcome of this career of mine who thus understands me." And wherever men have been in the position of prophets of their age, their strength and power has depended upon their capacity to read the minds and the play of thought of the men of their age. If they are not familiar with this life they cannot have any power to deal with the life that lies beyond. The men who stood in their day foremost had an intimate knowledge of human nature. Take, for example, what, after all, is an illustration in the same direction. This Book of God has found its dominion over the minds and the lives of men because it has always displayed itself as a book well read in the deeps of human nature. "I say," said one, rising from the perusal of it, "the person who wrote that Book knew me." "I believe," said one, who was cut off only too early in his splendid and promising career, "I believe it to be God's Book because it is man's Book;" that is to say, it has such a power to fit into the needs of human kind that it vindicates its divine strength because of the very humanity of its methods. And this is what we may call the divine key to the method which God Himself has adopted in the life and pattern of Jesus Christ. He comes into our midst to be the Divine Teacher. He understands men. "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee — I knew the devout aspirations of thy life," and that breaks down the thought. "This teacher understands me. Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the Judge of Israel." Sometimes we feel ourselves a little disheartened. The cynic turns aside and says, "It is true your Christianity is played out, your religion effete." I say it is an unwise thing for a man to echo these doleful plaints. May it not be the case that we have lost touch with humanity, that we have failed to understand human nature as it is before us in the century in which we live; that we have allowed, so to speak, our Christian teaching to grow fossilised, and the fossilised thing has lost its life and the hands and feet of its movement, and it cannot grasp upon the heart of humanity again?
2. But let us look at this second condition — the knowledge of a Divine order. What was the interpretation of the dream? Here stood this colossal figure, glittering with its varied metals. By-and-by, "without hands," came the stone which smote upon it, and then, as in a moment, all the magnificence dropped into pieces, and these huge masses of metal, which had been the admiration of the world a moment ago, are lifted as things light, as "the char upon the summer threshing-floor," and swept away, and the little stone begins to grow, and to take the place of this great image, and to fill the world itself. Of course, you may say the figure represented the empires which were existing and which were to follow — Persia, Greece, Rome, or, if you will have it so, the Egyptian or the Syrian kingdoms; but whatever the historical interpretation, the ethical interpretation is for you and me. That splendid dream, and that magnificent figure which appeared in the king's dream, is the dream of man in all ages; it is the dream of self-realisation. He who dreams is king. He sees that grand figure bearing human form, dominating the plain; and this is the ambition of men in all ages; but as he beholds he sees it in its glory and in its weakness. He sees it in its splendour — there is the effort of man to realise himself. It was so with all those who endeavoured to establish any solid, single monarchy. From the days of Nebuchadnezzar or Nimrod, if you will, to the days of Napoleon, this has been the same dream, "I will take my idea, and I will impress it upon the world, and I will mould that earth and all the creatures that are in it to my will, and I shall dominate all." That is the ambition; what I want you to notice is, that it is the effort of a man to realise self in some form or other. That is an instinct which does not simply breathe into the hearts of' great conquerors, or great founders of monarchies; there is not a human being created with a soul or an intelligence that had not had the dream that he will realise himself. The artist who seeks to cast his ideas on the canvas so as to speak his thoughts in richness and detail to his follow men — he is seeking to realise himself — his own idea painted there. Even in the home life you can see it. This joy of home life has largely its play and its beauty because it is the very thing in which we see that in our children we live again — we realise ourselves in them. This instinct of self-realisation is at the root of man's best ambitions as well as his worst, and as it is at the root of them you can understand why it is, but the life and the form of that which was given him from God; for God Himself, if we may in reverence say it, has made His world but the picture of the same principle in Himself. The world is God realising Himself in material beauty; the page of history is God realising Himself in moral order, and this Christian revelation is God realising Himself in spiritual splendour to humanity; and I am not surprised if this, the very impulse of God, be self-realisation that He may manifest His greatness and His love, that therefore we, drawing our life from His hand, should be filled with a like instinct. But while this colossal figure in the vision is shown in its splendour, it is also shown in its weakness. This little stone, without hands, should demolish the whole; man's best and noblest dreams, man's most brilliant ambitions, are destined to be overthrown. And why? This stone represents precisely that unseen, that handless power which has not its origin in the conceptions of man, but in the nature of things; it is just the picture of what you see in nature. Man builds his noble shrines, he rears his sumptuous palaces, he spreads abroad the magnificent tokens of his power; but law, re-written deep down in the heart of nature, lays its hand upon all these creations of man's genius, and overturns all that man creates. In the precincts of moral order the law will overturn also; under this condition, all that is up built disregarding God's eternal law must perish. It is not merely because man made it that it must die, but it is that man made it in violation of eternal law. Three laws were violated in its erection — the law of time and growth, the law of righteousness, the law of solidarity. The law of time, because this is that which is built up, made — it does not grow in contradistinction to the stone "without hands." That grows, this is made. That which is made, as it were, is merely built and at variance with the law of growth. The things which are alive grow, and in those things in which there is any moral life there is the capacity of growing. All the best things of this world grow, but the impatience of man hastens them onward. God will make a kingdom, but men with their impatience say, "We will make it in our own time," and therefore at all costs — at the cost of blood, at the cost of righteousness, the kingdoms are made. These empires have perished. Why? Because they violated eternal laws of God; and as surely as the power of natural law can overthrow every shrine of human erection, so surely must every kingdom, every monarch, every race, every nationality, every church die and perish, if it tries to construct itself out of God's due time and out of God's due order. And as it thus violated the law of growth, by the very impatience of its construction, you know that it violated the law of rectitude. Men often imagine that they can do the right thing, but that they can do it in any way they please. There are two sentinels that stand at the outgoing of the temple of God; the one is the sentinel of a right way and the other of a right thing, and you are not permitted to build where God builds for all eternity, unless you be directed by the right thing and also by the right way. The weakness of life, as we often see it, is that men are passionately devoted to some great and noble enterprise, but they undermine the very foundations of their own edifice, because, while they seek the right thing they miss the right way, and that is the secret of many a failure. It sinned also against the law of solidarity. If you look at the construction of this image, you will find that it is merely a piling together: there is no homogeneity about it, it is heterogeneous; I am of gold, and I will be the head of all; I am of silver, and I will be the strength of all; I am of brass and I will be power of fertility to all, and my iron heel shall be planted upon all. Christ has made all men to be of one blood upon the face of the earth, and the kingdom which He establishes shall be built up not with materials which shall represent the dignity, the glory, or the pre-eminence of one nation or one people over another, but that wider and better glory, which is the organisation of humanity unto a loving, living whole. "Then, if that be the doom, as it were, of this dream of humanity," we begin to say, "is it not, then, a sad close to it all?" If the instinct to realise self, that is, to leave some impress of our own upon the world ere we die, be a great and a God-given impulse, and if what we see is the constant overthrow of all our schemes, are we, then, to settle down into a miserable pessimism and say, "It is vain ever to expect the realisation of human dreams?" Nay, not so. This little stone "without hands" takes the place of this overthrown image; it grows; it is the empire of heart, the kingdom which cannot be shaken; and, therefore, there has never passed through human mind a noble and a true dream that God does not see the way to realise. He breaks down our little efforts to realise it that He may substitute His own. Never let us think, then, that we are to be for ever disappointed by incessant and perpetual failures. The world grows old, but with it there grows, also, the everlasting and the ripening purposes of God.
(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)
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