Daniel 3:12
But there are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon--Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego--who have ignored you, O king, and have refused to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up."
Sermons
The Ceaseless Creation of GodsH.T. Robjohns Daniel 3:1-13
The Working of Base and Bitter EnvyJ.D. Davies Daniel 3:8-12
Christians UnconquerableSignal.Daniel 3:12-18
Courage and FidelityW. Reading M. A., W. Jay.Daniel 3:12-18
Devotion to PrincipleD. J. Burrell, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
Is it TrueDaniel 3:12-18
Nebuchadnezzar's Golden ImageC. P. Reichel, D. D.Daniel 3:12-18
On the Conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-NegoChristian ObserverDaniel 3:12-18
Pious YouthW. A. Scott, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
Religious IntoleranceC. Leach, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-NegoD. Kelly, B. A.Daniel 3:12-18
The Duty of Religious ProfessionDaniel 3:12-18
The Fiery FurnaceG. F. Pentecost, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
The Fiery Furnace; Or, True Principle ExemplifiedJ. H. Hughes.Daniel 3:12-18
The Fiery TrialOriginal Secession MagazineDaniel 3:12-18
The Golden ImageWilliam White.Daniel 3:12-18
The Hebrew YouthsW. R. Inglis.Daniel 3:12-18
The Importance of a True CreedDean Payne-Smith, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
The Martyr SpiritP. H. Hunter.Daniel 3:12-18
The MartyrsJ. B. Brown, B.A.Daniel 3:12-18
The Nonconformists of BabylonW. J. Macdonald.Daniel 3:12-18
The Nonconformists of BabylonW. M. Taylor, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
The Power of Youthful PietyCaleb Morris.Daniel 3:12-18
The Refusal to Worship the Golden ImageJ. Parsons.Daniel 3:12-18
The Three Hebrew YouthsC. Neil, M.A.Daniel 3:12-18
The Three Hebrew YouthsT. Kidd.Daniel 3:12-18
The Three Jews in BabylonJ. Foster.Daniel 3:12-18
The Three Witnesses on the Plains of DuraF. Thorne.Daniel 3:12-18
The Three Witnesses on the Plains of DuraH. J. Hastings, M.A.Daniel 3:12-18
The Trial of FireJ. T. Murray.Daniel 3:12-18
The True Way of Treating Sin, and What Comes of ItWayland Hoyt, D.D.Daniel 3:12-18
Three HeroesJohn Williams.Daniel 3:12-18
Three Names High on the Muster-RollDaniel 3:12-18
Three NoncomformistsF. James.Daniel 3:12-18
The men of Chaldea, who plumed themselves with great titles, but possessed little souls, were not content with rendering servile homage to the king's golden image; they must needs turn informers against those who had the courage of religious conviction. While true religion ennobles a man every way, superstition dwarfs intellect and soul - emasculates a man. A gnat may sting to madness a mettled war-horse, and some men who are impotent to do good are busy with venting malicious spite on nobler natures than their own.

I. ENVY IS THE NATURAL CHILD OF SELFISHNESS - the base progeny of a base parentage. Under pretence of solicitude for the king, they were chiefly anxious to berid themselves of formidable rivals. These accused persons were foreigners, captives, and had been raised to eminent offices by virtue of their personal merits. But the little-minded native aristocrats could not endure this competition for royal honours, and were willing enough to degrade and injure good men, if only they could promote their own worldly interest. That is a despicable vice which has selfishness for its root. The envious man is ashamed to own his real object.

II. ENVY STOOPS TO USE THE MEANEST ARTS. These Chaldeans invented a new name, a name of opprobrium, by which to designate these hated rivals. As the foes of Christ invented the name of "Christian" as a byword and a reproach, so these Chaldean informers used the word "Jew" as a stigma of disgrace. Further, they sought to flatter the king with all the arts of sycophancy. They flattered his greatness, his love of power, his bigotry, his religious zeal, his autocratic will. The best friends of a monarch are those who speak in his ear at proper times most unpalatable truths, and seek wisely to abate the growth of imperious tyranny. But these men, with ingenious skill, sought only to inflame the baser passions of the king. They reminded him that his royal authority was outraged; that his gods were dishonoured; that his honour, as a truthful monarch, was a; stake. No stone was left unturned by which to gain their nefarious end. Theirs was a busy zeal, worthy of a nobler object.

III. ENVY MAGNIFIES THE SUPPOSED FAULTS OF OTHERS. From what appears in the narrative, there was no occasion for these Chaldean magnates to make any accusation against the Hebrews. It was no part of their office to become public prosecutors. The idolatry of that age was extremely tolerant. Every nation and people were allowed to worship their own gods. If these Chaldean satraps had cherished a spark of generosity in their breasts, they would have argued thus: "These Hebrews have a religious faith of their own. Let them worship what and how they please." But it is very probable that these officious governors had themselves instigated the king to make this cruel decree, and had narrowly watched its effect upon the conduct of the Hebrew youths. Now they think they have caught them in a deadly snare. Now they will exaggerate their offence before the king. Now they will accuse them, not only of withholding homage from the new idol, but with dishonour to all Chaldea's gods - with utter contempt of the king himself.

IV. ENVY IS BLIND IN FORECASTING RESULTS. These envious men proceeded upon the principle that they foresaw and foreordered the course of events. Clearly it seemed to them, the series of events was as certain as the links in a chain. The king would be incensed. These Hebrew youths would be destroyed. Themselves would be promoted to honour. But though the first step was successful, and their whole plan seemed about to bear its expected fruit, lo! miscarriage and disappointment I If they could succeed in circumventing and slaughtering these innocent men, they would have proceeded To accuse Daniel also. But the executors of the royal mandate were the only persons slain. The Hebrew youths enjoyed in the furnace the presence of a heavenly Companion and Guest. The God of the Hebrews received royal homage and public regard. The envious satraps were put to silence and to shame.

V. ENVY IS UNSCRUPULOUS AS TO OTHERS' SUFFERING. If only it can gain its paltry end, it cares not how much suffering of body and of mind it inflicts on others. They knew that the penalty decreed for non-compliance with the idolatrous practice was arbitrary and cruel; but what cared they? They might have foreseen that if these three Hebrew notables should suffer death, it would be the beginning of fiery persecution against the whole nation of Israel; but what cared they? Their pride and ambition were wounded by the elevation to office of these young Hebrews, and if they could only bring about their rivals' downfall, they were unscrupulous what amount of suffering would befall the Hebrews. Envy has ever been a deadly foe to brotherly love. - D.







They serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
In last chapter we read of an image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in vision. In this chapter our attention is directed to an actual image which that monarch erected in honour of his gods. This image was made of gold. We cannot suppose the whole structure to have consisted entirely of that metal. Rich as Nebuchadnezzar was, neither he nor any other prince possessed so much disposable wealth as would have been required in order to construct a figure of solid gold of equal dimensions with that mentioned in this passage. We should suppose that the structure consisted of a pedestal or shaft surmounted by an image, that the image properly so called was made of gold, that the pedestal was formed of some baser material, and that the height refers solely to the elevation of the image from the ground, and not to its size. This image "was set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon." Some suppose that Dura was the name of an extensive plain in the neighbourhood of the capital. Others, of high authority in Scriptural geography, are of opinion that it was some enclosure within the city adjacent to the temple of Bolus. From the passage itself we would be disposed to infer that it must have been without the city and at some distance, for if it was within the walls of Babylon there was no need of stating, as is here done, that it was "in the province of Babylon." Various opinions have been entertained respecting the end that Nebuchadnezzar had in view in the erection of this image. Some are of opinion that he wished to claim for himself a place among the gods, and that the image was erected as the outward symbol of his deification. Nebuchadnezzar was evidently an aspiring man. We see no reason to suppose that Nebuchadnezzar intended by this image, publicly, avowedly, and formally, to claim Divine honours for himself. If such had been his intention, it would, doubtless, have been distinctly announced in the proclamation by which his subjects were enjoined to give it worship. The refusal of the three children to worship the image is spoken of by their accusers as a refusal to worship the king's gods. It is thus apparent from the testimony of all the parties concerned in this matter, that the image was erected in honour of the king's gods. In all ages, and in all lands, whose political history is known to us, religion has been degraded into an engine of state and an instrument of tyranny. Hence professed atheists have affirmed that religion is a mere invention of rulers to hold mankind in subjection. This assertion is self-destructive The fact that rulers made use of religion as a means of upholding and strengthening their government, evidently implies that religion had a previous existence, and that they had recourse to it as an instrument of policy on account of the great influence which they had perceived it to possess over the minds of men. National uniformity in matters of religion has ever been the idol of politicians. Conformity to the established religion has been one of the most common tests of loyalty. There can be little doubt that in setting up this image Nebuchadnezzar had a similar end in view. It was not erected simply as a mark of reverence to his idols, but also, we may conceive, as a political expedient to strengthen and consolidate his government, by promoting uniformity of religion among his subjects. To him it would probably appear that this step was not only warranted by the ordinary reasons in behalf of uniformity, but demanded by the peculiar state of the Babylonian empire. A great part of that empire had been newly acquired. It was composed of many nations, Jews, Egyptians, Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, Edomites. Posts under his government and places in his army would be held by persons from all these countries. To unite a kingdom so variously composed, and obtain the permanent ascendancy over countries so newly acquired, nothing would appear more likely than to bring all his subjects to be of one religion. The religion, whether of an individual or a nation, is the most permanent link of connection between the present and the past. Religion exerts a powerful influence in the formation of character; so long, therefore, as these varied nations retained a diversity of opinions, they would never be thoroughly amalgamated into one empire. The image being erected, Nebuchadnezzar commanded all in authority under him, princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to his dedication. Being convened, "An herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." In this proclamation there are two things: First, The command to fall down and worship the image; which extended to all persons specified, without exception. Secondly, The penalty denounced against such as refused. Viewed in the light of the Divine law, this proclamation was most tyrannical. It was a violent outrage on the most sacred rights of human beings. But by this proclamation, Nebuchadnezzar constituted himself supreme dictator in religion to his whole realm; thereby he usurped the prerogatives of the Godhead, by interposing his authority between the conscience of the creature and the will of his Creator. To command his subjects to fall down and worship the image, was to convert law, the bulwark of liberty, into an engine of oppression. But how much more odious and detestable does his conduct appear when we think of the dreadful penalty annexed to the proclamation! In this case, penal laws are always criminal, in the sight of God. It is always wrong to attempt to propagate religion by force. It is contrary to the nature of religion. It is contrary to the nature of man. It is most foolish and inexpedient in point of policy. To attempt to propagate religion by force is to make might the standard of right, which is opposed to man's nature as a reasonable being, and to the worship of God as a reasonable service. And what could be more foolish? It is attempting an impossibility. Force cannot reach the mind. Force may make cowards, it may make dissemblers, it may make hypocrites and apostates, but it never did, and never can make a convert. What, therefore, can be more inexpedient in a government than to persecute men for adhering to their religion? Is not the success of such a measure the memorial of a nation's ignominy? For, when persons are thus induced to fall down and worship what they believe to be wrong, do they not proclaim that they are sacrificing their integrity, that they are violating their consciences, that they are time-servers and apostates, and that. they are men in whose principles no dependence can be placed, when interest and duty are disjoined. The law enacted by Nebuchadnezzar was most tyrannical, most unreasonable in itself, and most inexpedient in point of policy. The command of Nebuchadnezzar met with the most prompt compliance. What a lamentable spectacle was this, to see the rulers of a great nation bending before tyranny — to see rational and immortal beings doing homage to a figure formed of inanimate materials — to see the creatures of God worshipping a creation of man! And yet, with three exceptions, the whole assembled mass fall down and worship it as one man. The thrre exceptions were the excellent companions of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Unawed by the presence of the king, unseduced by the terrors of the burning fiery furnace, they refused to fall down and worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. This act was warranted and demanded by the moral law. In the second commandment it is written, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," etc. In the bustle of that extensive scene, the king of Babylon saw not their neglect. But despotical kings are always encompassed by minions, who, in such a case, are forward to act the part of spies and informers. "Then certain Chaldeans came near and accused the Jews." Incapable of accounting for their conduct on any known principle of court politics, they endeavoured by artful insinuations to represent their conduct to the king in the most odious light, Nebuchadnezzar probably felt proud of the fine spectacle which the .plains of Dura that day presented. His spirit, we may conceive, rose within him with the swell of the music and the plaudits of the worshippers. His pride would be flattered by the reflection that he was the lord of this assembly of rulers. This information, therefore, came upon him like a thunderbolt out of a cloudless sky. And how did these Jews act when their God is thus insulted, and the alternative imposed upon themselves of bowing to the image or burning in the furnace? They quitted themselves like men. Many valuable lessons may be deduced from this passage, particularly in regard to the manner in which we should adopt, and the spirit in which we should adhere to a profession of religion. There are few things in which men act with greater frivolity than in regard to the solemn matter of making a profession of religion. There are many who fall in with whatever is most popular. Others adhere to whatever is most fashionable among the upper classes of society, and would rather walk on the broad path of destruction with fashionable men than on the narrow way of life without them. How often have human laws enjoined what the Divine law prohibits? How often have God's people been persecuted because they were unwilling to render unto Caesar the things which are God's? There are seasons when it is no easy matter to obey God rather than man. It may bring ruin on our fortunes and reproach upon our names. It may expose us to a violent and untimely death. But even in these cases we ought to surrender our lives rather than part with our conscientious convictions. In such an emergency natural courage will "faint and fail." The formalist will become a coward; the hypocrite will become an apostate; and no man can stand securely but he who has confidence in the Divine character, and on the ground of this confidence is able to resign himself implicitly to the Divine management.

(William White.)

First we have a state religion persecuting the people for their religious opinions, and threatening them with death if they do not comply with its decrees. The second thing that strikes us is the measures taken to popularise the king's religion, and persuade the people to embrace it. These measures were two-fold. They were seductive and minatory. They were directed to the sensual tastes and natural fears of man. If the voluptuous swells of music from all kinds of instruments could not cause the people to fail down and worship Bel, why then the furnace was to do its work. And have we nothing like this in our times? The king desired these young men to conform to his decree, but did not prove to them the truth of his religion. There were many flattering arguments which these young men might have urged against the conviction of their earlier education, and in favour of complying with the king's command, which they did not urge, nor even seem to have allowed to have so much as a moment's consideration. They might have said — but they did not so say — that it was their duty to obey the king, and worship the image, for this was the established religion of the empire. They chose to obey God rather than man, God alone is Lord of the conscience. These young men might have urged also — but they did not do so — that it was most expedient to bow down and worship the image. Mark their situation. They were captives in the hands of an absolute Oriental monarch, who could take off their heads at any minute, and no one ever ask why or wherefore. They were, moreover, advanced to places of power, where they were able, perhaps, to do many kind things for their suffering countrymen. They remembered their old Hebrew Catechism, which had taught them that God had said to them, "Thou shalt not bow down to any idol gods, nor worship them." It is plainly taught in God's Holy Word that right is always true expediency. It may not seem to be so; but it will always be found so in the end. Nor did these three Hebrew youths urge that they were compelled to obey the king's commandment because they were under great personal obligations to him. He had shown them much kindness, and heaped honours upon them; but their duty to God was stronger than gratitude to the king. Employers, parents, teachers, and benefactors may lay you under great personal obligations; but you must follow your conscience in the matter of religion. "He that loveth father or mother more than me cannot be my disciple." Nor did they urge that they would be out of fashion, and marked for their singularity, if they did not worship this golden image. Singularity assumed for the sake of being singular or famous is contemptible, and indicates a weak mind; but to be singular as a necessary result of not sinning as others do, is worthy of a Christian. When duty requires us to be singular, then we must not hesitate. Do not mind that the multitude are against you, if God be with you. "If sinners entice thee," God says, "consent not." "Follow not the multitude to do evil." Nor did these young men urge the terrible penalty to which they were exposed by disobeying the king's commandment. Is there any young man here who is saying to himself, "I would become a Christian; I wish to save my soul; but if I do, I must give up such and such pleasures; I must shut up my shop on Sunday, and quit my lake rides on the Lord's day?" And what if it does cost you all these pleasures to save your soul? Would it not be better to be thrown into the fiery furnace than to have both body and soul cast into hell for ever? "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Your privileges are greater than those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Gospel has unfolded to you its grace, glory, and riches. How then can you escape if you neglect so great salvation? But why, think you, did these young men refuse to obey the royal decree?

1. They could not obey it because of the force of their religious impressions.

2. Consistency of character and of profession forbade them to worship idols. They were Hebrews. They had avowed Jehovah to be their God. They could not obey the king without denying the God of their fathers. What satisfaction would it have been, think you, to their pious parents, who in their homes at Jerusalem had taken so much pains to instruct them in the law and in the worship of the true God, could they have seen how firmly their sons adhered to the principles they had implanted with so many fears, and tears, and prayers? Never allow yourselves to imbibe any creed or do anything inconsistent with your mirth, education, privileges, and destiny.

3. These Hebrew youths refused, because they were sustained by the hope of deliverance. "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flames kindle upon thee." They believed that God would make all things work together for their good. The special lessons from the fiery furnace of Dura to the young men of the nineteenth century are:

I. IN THE COURTEOUS BUT FIRM REFUSAL OF THESE HEBREW YOUTHS, WE HAVE A MODEL FOR THEM IN LESS PAINFUL CIRCUMSTANCES. When God's providence calls for martyrs, then He will give grace sufficient for the crisis. The principle, however, must be well settled, that if the day comes when you are required to give up your liberty or religious freedom, or perish in the field of battle or at the stake, you would firmly prefer the latter. The prior point, in our times of freedom from persecution, is to become the true followers of Christ. There are not wanting authors and public teachers who argue that these young men should have complied with the wishes of the king, because the religion of Bel was the established religion of the empire. As loyal subjects, they should have embraced the same religion that was professed by their king. This is the old worm-eaten effete doctrine, that the government or the king is the head of the church, and the keeper of the consciences of the people. Such is not the teaching of the Bible. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world; nor has He given to any human power the authority of enacting laws for Him. The Scriptures are the only rule of faith. Mormonism prevails in Utah; if I go to the Salt Lake, must I turn Mormon? Brahminism is the established religion of certain parts of India and China, must the English and Americans that go thither become Hindoos? If you live in Constantinople, must you, therefore, become a Mohammedan? If you live in Paris, is it right for you to become an Infidel, Papist, or Socialist; or if in Germany, a Pantheist or a Protestant, simply because any one of these may be the established or prevailing creed around you? It is monstrous to suppose that a man's duty to his Creator is to be decided by any such standard as this. The only authority binding on the conscience is the authority of God. It is the most potent element of social or individual life. It may be tossed upon the billows of popular fury, or east into the seven-fold heated furnace of persecution, or be trampled to the dust by the iron heel of despotism; but it is absolutely imperishable. "Hers are the eternal years of God." Nor can those die who fall in her great cause.

II. AS CHRISTIAN YOUNG MEN YOU HAVE, THEREFORE, THE GREAT CONSOLATION OF KNOWING THAT THE GREATEST EFFORTS OF THE MIGHTIEST MEN ARE UTTERLY UNAVAILING AGAINST THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. All the power of earth and hell cannot burn out one single truth from God's word; nor can all the popes and assemblies, cabinets, and armies on the globe add one single doctrine or precept to the Bible necessary to salvation.

III. Learn then, and though this lesson has been taught before, I must repeat it, that true expediency is true principle. "The path of duty is the path of safety." "Honesty is the best policy." It was so with Joseph. It was so with Daniel and his three friends. It has always been so with the great and the good. Whatever God calls you to do or to suffer, fear not to obey. He will be with you in whatever He calls you to. If He calls you to enter the fiery furnace, hesitate not one moment. He will be with you, and either sustain you or deliver you, or make it conducive to your higher and future good.

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

In the second chapter, which immediately precedes the history of the golden idol, we have an account of a prophetic vision granted to Nebuchadnezzar, and in which were foreshadowed the destinies of the four great secular empires whose foundation succeeded the foundation of the kingdom of Israel, and preceded the foundation of Christianity. Now in this vision it is to be remarked that these empires were exhibited to the king under the guise of a great statue or image. And explaining the meaning of this strange and tremendous apparition, Daniel addresses the king thus: "Thou art this head of gold." Now there is a circumstance in the description of the golden idol set up in the plain of Dura in the next chapter which has greatly puzzled commentators, and has been used by some critics to throw discredit on the whole narrative. This circumstance is the utter disproportion of the idol. Assuming it to have been a human figure, how can we imagine a statue representing a human figure sixty cubits high and only six cubits broad? a statue, the height of which is exactly ten times its breadth? Now to me, this monstrous disproportion seems at once to hint at a different conception of what the idol was. I believe it to have been a representation of the image the king had shortly before beheld in his prophetic dream. But, mark you, not of the whole of that image. The other parts of the terrible apparition had been explained by Daniel as denoting other kingdoms less exalted by nature, less glorious in appearance than that of the Babylonian monarch. He was "the head of gold." Accordingly the image he set up in the plain of Dura was, I conceive, a representation not of the whole image of the vision, but simply of the head of gold, elevated on a pedestal of the same metal, tall enough to exhibit it completely to the whole multitude convened to worship it. The image of the plain of Dura was, in other words, the image of the prophetic dream, so far as it concerned Nebuchadnezzar's self; it was the representation of himself as the mightiest sovereign the world had ever seen, or ever was to see; and the adoration he demanded for it was a deification of mere worldly power and grandeur in his own person. This hypothesis will appear less startling when we recollect that Oriental kings were often — indeed, generally — considered as emanations from the Deity, incarnations of His attributes; and were approached with exactly the same forms of adoration as were used to the Deity they represented or embodied. And in this case, the representation of the king's superhuman power and grandeur might actually seem to be authorised by the prophetic vision from which Nebuchadnezzar had adopted it. Viewed in this light, we can at once perceive why all the great officials of the empire, the princes, captains, judges, sheriffs and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled to its dedication — of the people at large nothing is said — and why such an extraordinary and terrific punishment was denounced on those who might refuse to prostrate themselves before it. The official who would not adore the consecrated representation of his own monarch's power and place in the history of the world might justly, according to Oriental notions, be regarded as a traitor. Nothing but disloyalty could refuse the worship demanded. Why should he not display to all his officers of state the disclosures made to him by the Divinity and explained by the master of the magicians? Why not require Divine honours to be paid to the Divinely revealed representation of his own great place In the destinies of the world — in the history of the human race? Assuming this conception of the connection between the vision of the second chapter and the idol of the third chapter to be correct, how significant a hint does it not give us of the propensity of the human heart to turn even God's benefits into poison! Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, like Pharaoh of Egypt, had been made the recipient of superhuman knowledge, though on a far grander scale than Pharaoh. He had been favoured with a disclosure of the destinies not of one single kingdom, but of all secular power whatever, previous to the advent of the Christ. But, instead of giving heed to the impressive warning, instead of a salutary lesson of humility, a conviction of the nothingness of all mere worldly power, he had been so puffed up with being told that he was the first and the greatest of those temporal powers that were so soon to be destroyed by the great spiritual Power, as to convert the very emblem of warning into an emblem of daring and blasphemous impiety. God interposes by miracle, not in every case where such interposition might seem desirable, but only in cases peculiar and critical — cases which mark epochs and decide great destinies. Now such an one was pre-eminently the case of the three youths in the burning fiery furnace. God's people had been completely subjugated by the mighty autocrat of Babylon. Had the three Jews perished in the furnace destined to annihilate all who would not pay Divine honour to the embodiment of human power, the cause of God might, perhaps, have been lost; His people might have been so discouraged that not a remnant would have maintained the truth. Here, then, was a worthy case for Divine interposition.

1. Individually we learn from the behaviour of the three Jews before the terrible King of Babylon, that we have nothing to do with expediency when principle is at stake. How plausibly might they not have reasoned themselves into compliance had expediency been consulted! They were no politicians. They simply asked, Hath God forbidden His people to bow down and worship idols, or hath He not? If He hath, no reasoning can make that right which He hath said is wrong. And as the command was plain and direct, they felt their obedience to it must be plain and direct. Let this magnificent example of heroic steadfastness in the path of duty teach us that simple but difficult lesson how to say NO when we are tempted or threatened in order to make us do what we are aware is wrong. The man who has learned that lesson can go through the fiery furnace of this world unscorched, unharmed, without even the smell of its flame passing on him; for One shall walk beside him who has also overcome temptation — One whose form shall be indeed "the form of the Son of God!"

2. The same considerations apply with added force and on a grander scale to the case of Christ's Church on earth and every part thereof. The history of that church is one of the strangest and. saddest ever written by human passion and human error on the course of time. How the very consolations of God, the sweet ordinances of the Gospel, have, by the cunning of God's adversary and the fierce narrowmindedness of man, been transformed into whips of scorpions, with which loveless zeal and arrogant pride have scourged generation after generation, they know too well who know anything of the story of Christianity.

(C. P. Reichel, D. D.)

?: — If you would become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ it will be well for you to count the cost. It was our Lord's custom to bid men consider what his service might involve. His frequent declaration was, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." If we count upon ease in this warfare we shall be grievously disappointed; we must fight if we would reign. One reason of this is that the world, like Nebuchadnezzar, expects us all to follow its fashions and to obey its rules. The god of this world is the devil, and he claims implicit obedience. Sin in some form or other is the image which Satan sets up and requires us to serve. The tyranny of the world is fierce and cruel, and those who will not worship its image will find that the burning fiery furnace has not yet cooled. The world's flute, harp, sackbut, and psaltery must sound for you in vain. A nobler music must charm your ears and make you bid defiance to the world's threatenings. The true believer's stand must be taken, and he must determine that he will obey God rather than man. The love of the world and the love of God will no more mix than oil and water. To attempt a fusion of these two is to bring confusion into your heart and life. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to Nebuchadnezzar, so will true believers say to the world: "We will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Now, if you can refuse to sin, if you can refuse even to parley with iniquity, it is well with you. If you stand out for truth and righteousness, your conscience will approve your position, and this in itself is no small comfort. It will be an ennobling thing for your manhood to have proved its strength, and it will tend to make it stronger. Peradventure some of you may say, "We will not bow before the gods of the world, but we will worship God only; we will follow Christ, and none beside." This is a brave resolve; you will never regret it if you stand to it even to the end. We are glad to hear you speak thus; but is it true? "Is it true?" It is very well to profess, but "Is it true?"

I. Follower of Christ, be ready for the question "Is it true?"

1. Do not reckon to live unnoticed, for a fierce light beats about every Christian. You will be sure to meet with some one or other whom you respect or fear, who will demand of you, "Is it true?" Nebuchadnezzar was a great personage to these three holy men; he was their despotic lord, their employer, their influential friend. In his hands rested their liberties and their lives. He was, moreover, their benefactor, for he had set them in high office in his empire. Many young Christians are tried with this temptation. Many worldly advantages may be gained by currying favour with certain ungodly men who are like little Nebuchadnezzars; and this is a great peril. They are bidden to do wrong by one who is their superior, their employer, their patron. Now comes the test. Will they endure the trial hour? They say that they can endure it, but is it true? Nebuchadnezzar spoke in peremptory tones, as if he could not believe that any mortal upon the earth could have the presumption to dispute his will. He cannot conceive that one employed under his patronage will dare to resist his bidding; he demands indignantly, "Is it true?" He will not believe it! He must have been misinformed! You will meet with persons so accustomed to be obeyed that they think it hard that you do not hasten to carry out their wishes. The infidel father says to his boy, "John, is it true that you go to a place of worship against my wishes? How dare you set up to be better than your father and mother?" Often ungodly men profess that they do not believe in the conversion of their fellow workmen. Is it true, John, that you have become religious? A pretty fellow! Is it true? They insinuate that you are off your head, that your wits have gone wool-gathering, and that you are the dupe of fanatics. You will not be able to go through life without being discovered; a lighted candle cannot be hid. There is a feeling among some good people that it will be wise to be very reticent, and hide their light under a bushel. They intend to lie low all the war time, and come out when the palms are being distributed. They hope to travel to Heaven by the back lanes, and skulk into glory in disguise. How was it Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came up to the front when the king's command was given? They could not consistently keep back. They were public men, set over provinces, and it was needful that they should set an example. Rest assured, my fellow Christians, that at some period or other, in the most quiet lives, there will come a moment for open decision. Days will come when we must speak out or prove traitors to our Lord and to His truth.

2. To be fully prepared to answer the enquiry of opposers, act upon sound reasons. Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Be able to show why you are a believer in God, why you worship the Lord Jesus Christ, why you trust in His atoning sacrifice, and why you make Him the regulator of your life. Ask the Lord to help you to go to work with Bible reasons at your fingers' ends; for those are the best of reasons, and bear a high authority about them; so that when the question is put to you, "Is it true?" you may be able to say, "Yes, it is true, and this is why it is true. At such a time God revealed Himself to me in His grace, and opened my blind eyes to see things in a true light." When the mind is established, the heart is more likely to be firm. Know your duty and the arguments for it, and you are the more likely to be steadfast in the hour of temptation.

3. Next, take care that you always proceed with deep sincerity. Superficial profession soon ends in thorough apostasy. Only heart-work will stand the fire. We need a religion which we can die with.

4. This being done, accustom yourself to act with solemn determination before God on every matter which concerns morals and religion. Many very decent people are not self-contained, but are dependent upon the assistance of others. They are like the houses which our London builders run up so quickly in long rows; if they did not help to keep each other up they would all ramble clown at once, for no one of them could stand alone. How much there is of joint-stock-company religion, wherein hypocrites and formalists keep each other in countenance. Where things are not quite so bad as this, yet there is too little personal establishment in the faith. So many people have a "lean-to" religion. If their minister, or some other leading person were taken away, their back wall would be gone, and they would come to the ground. We have need nowadays to set our face as a flint against sin and error. We must purpose in our own heart what we will do, and then stand to our purpose. Happy he who dares to be in the right with two or three. Happier still is he who will stand in the right, even if the choice two or three should quit it. He who can stand alone is a man indeed; every man of God should be such.

5. Once more, when your determination is formed act in the light of eternity. Do not judge the situation by the king's threat and by the heat of the burning fiery furnace, but by the everlasting God and the eternal life which awaits you. Let not flute, harp, and sackbut fascinate you, but hearken to the music of the glorified. Men frown at you, but you can see God smiling on you, and so you are not moved. It may be that you all be discharged from your situation unless you can wink at wrong and be the instrument of injustice. Be content to lose place rather than to lose peace. Now I am sure that these good men believed in immortality, or they would never have dared the violence of the flames. These brave men dared the rage of an infuriated tyrant because they saw Him who is invisible, and bad respect unto the recompense of the reward. You also must come to live a great deal in the future, or else you will miss the chief fountain of holy strength. God make us champions of His holy cause! Heroism can only be wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. Humbly yielding your whole nature to the power of the Divine Sanctifier, you will be true to your Lord even to the end.

II. But now, secondly, IF YOU CANNOT SAY THAT IT IS TRUE, WHAT THEN? If, standing before the heart-searching God at this time, you cannot say, "It is true," how should you act? If you cannot say that you take Christ's cross, and are willing to follow Him at all hazards, then hearken to me and learn the truth.

1. Do not make a profession at all. If it be not true that you renounce the world's idols, do not profess that it is so. It is unnecessary that a man should profess to be what he is not; it is a sin of supererogation, a superfluity of naughtiness.

2. If you have made a profession, and yet it is not true, be honest enough to quit it; for it can never be right to keep up a fraud. A false profession is a crime, and to persevere in it is a presumptuous sin. Will you, then, go back to your old ways?

3. I am sure you will if you cannot answer the question of my text; but remember, that in so doing you will have to belie your consciences. Many of you who are not firm in your resolves yet know the right. You will never be able to get that light out of your eyes which has shone into them from God's word. You can never again sin so cheaply as others; it will be wilfulness and obstinacy in your case.

4. Remember also that by yielding to the fear of man you are demeaning yourself. There shall come a day when the man that was ashamed of Christ will himself be ashamed; he will wonder where he can hide his guilty head.

5. If your avowal of faith in Jesus and opposition to sin is not true you had better withdraw it and be silent; for by a groundless pretence you will dishonour the cause of God, and cause the enemy to take up a reproach against His people. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had stood before Nebuchadnezzar and had made a compromise, it would have dishonoured the name of the Lord. Suppose they had said, "O king, we believe in Jehovah, but we hardly know what to do in our peculiar circumstances. We desire to please thee, and we also dread the thought of the burning fiery furnace, and therefore we must yield, though it greatly grieves us." Why, they would have cast shame upon the name of Israel. O, do not talk about principle, and then pocket your principles because they are unfashionable, or will cost you loss and disrepute. If you do this you will be the enemies of the King of kings.

6. I want you to remember also that if you renounce Christ, if you quit Him in obedience to the world's commands, you are renouncing eternal life and everlasting bliss. You may think little of that to-night, because of your present madness; but you will think differently before long. Soon you may lie on a sick bed gazing into eternity, and then your estimate of most things will undergo a great change.

III. But now, thirdly, let us consider what follows IF IT BE TRUE. I hope that many here can lay their hands upon their hearts, and quietly say, "Yes, it is true; we are determined not to bow before sin, come what may."

1. Well, then, if it is true, I have this much to say to you: state this when it is demanded of you. Declare your resolve. This will strengthen it in yourself and be the means of supporting it in others. Is it true?

2. Then joyfully accept the trial which comes of it. Shrink not from the flames. Settle it in your minds that, by Divine grace, no loss, nor cross, nor shame, nor suffering, shall make you play the coward. Say, like the holy children, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." They did not cringe before the king, and cry, "We beseech thee, de not throw us into the fiery furnace. Let us have a consultation with thee, O king, that we may arrange terms. There may be some method by which we can please thee, and yet keep our religion." No; they said, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." You may lose a great deal for Christ, but you will never lose anything by Christ. You may lose for time, but you will gain for eternity; the loss is transient, but the gain is everlasting.

3. If it be true that you are willing thus to follow Christ, reckon upon deliverance. Nebuchadnezzar may put you into the fire, but he cannot keep you there, nor can he make the fire burn you. The enemy casts you in bound, but the fire will loosen your bonds, and you will walk at liberty amid the glowing coals. You shall gain by your losses, you shall rise by your down-castings. Many prosperous men owe their present position to the fact that they were faithful when they were in humble employments. Do right for Christ's sake, without considering any consequences, and the consequences will be right enough. If you take care of God's cause, God will take care for you.

4. If you will stand up for Jesus, and the right, and the true, and the pure, and the temperate, and the good, not only will you be delivered, but you will do great good. This Nebuchadnezzar was a poor piece of goods; yet he was compelled to acknowledge the power of these three decided and holy men. The man who can hide his principles, and conceal his beliefs, and do a little wrong, is a nobody. He is a chip in the porridge; he will flavour nothing. But he who does what he believes to be right; and cannot be driven from it — that is the man. You cannot shake the world if you let the world shake you; but when the world finds that you have grit in you, they will let you alone. Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to feel the influence of these men.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE SINGULAR CONDUCT OF THESE YOUTHS. There stand three men upright — when all are bowing — who dare to disobey the king's command — who know a higher authority than that of any earthly potentate... Well for us if we have learnt to judge our actions otherwise than by the popular voice and popular example. If our inquiry is, not what saith the multitude, but what saith the Lord.

II. THE SINGULAR TRIAL OF THESE HEBREW YOUTHS. The punishment which Nebuchadnezzar pronounced against those who should disobey his decree was that they should be cast into a burning fiery furnace. This form of punishment seems to have been common in Babylon. Jeremiah speaks of "Zedekiah and Ahab whom the King of Babylon roasted in the fire." That it was so, is moreover evident from the fact that the furnace was to be heated "seven times more than it was wont to be heated." It was in the face, then, of such a terrible doom that these youths determined to stand true to their God — that they refused to conform to the idolatry with which they were surrounded. What a trial of their faith; and what strong faith must theirs have been which enabled them in the face of all this to remain "stedfast and unmoveable." "Though he slay them, yet will they trust in Him." Nebuchadnezzar, unfortunately, is not the only one who has presumed to dictate a religion to his fellows, and sought to enforce his command by the stern logic of the flames. Not long ago we visited the old city of St. Andrews, and saw where Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart suffered amid the fires "for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ — the reek from the faggots infecting as many as it did blow upon." And, as we east our eyes over the continent of Europe, many similar spectacles rise to view. Now in France it is a Shuch, in Bohemia a Huss; and has not Spain of late been but reaping the harvest which it sowed when kings and nobles gathered themselves together and looked with unpitying eye upon the followers of Christ suffering amid the blazing piles?

III. THE SINGULAR DELIVERANCE OF THESE HEBREW YOUTHS

(W. R. Inglis.)

Original Secession Magazine.
Not unwisely did an old Scottish matron once remark, that "It is easy to utter the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, when there is plenty of bread in the house." If, however, one has no supply, and is without the means of procuring a morsel, strong faith is required to present the supplication aright. Similarly, it may be averred that it is easy to confess Christ when no pains and penalties are attached to the avowal of belief in Him. Most probably the self-confident and boastful would fail in such a testing time; while the meek and retiring would be borne through, because constrained by felt weakness to lean on the Almighty arm. It has been often and truly said, that dying grace is not given till the dying hour; neither is the grace of humble boldness in the cause of the Lord fully conferred, till there arise an occasion demanding its exercise. Twenty-three years appear by this time to have passed since Daniel was elevated to the position of ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and his three special friends made governors of subordinate districts. Meanwhile, much prosperity had been experienced by the empire in all departments. Nebuchadnezzar, it is believed, had during these years overcome not a few kingdoms bordering on his own. Egypt had fallen under his sway, exactly as Jeremiah had prophesied; and to the west or the south of Chaldea there were none strong enough to dispute the sovereignty of the king of Babylon. Forgetting the lesson that had been taught him by his dream regarding the compound image, he began to fancy that to his idol-god Bel, or Baal, his great success was wholly due. Evidently without asking advice from Daniel, he proposed to force all who were under his government to do homage to this idol. As many various nations had been compelled to submit to himself, he was resolved that they should also worship his god. Where was Daniel at this period? Possibly he had already told his master that he must be excused from attending at the dedication of the image; and as the king could not run the risk of losing his services, his absence was permitted. Possibly he may have been in attendance of the monarch during the worship of the idol, and refused to bow down before it; but his great influence prevented anyone from daring to accuse him. But much more probable is it that he was absent from the capital, and engaged at a distance in connection with some pressing business of the State. He may have been even sent away purposely by the king, and thus have had no opportunity of taking part with his brethren in their protest against idolatry. Had he been present, we may well judge that he would either have stood beside them, as being guilty like themselves, or, if unaccused himself, would have used his utmost efforts with Nebuchadnezzar on their behalf. The monarch was much excited. He caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to be instantly brought before him. Plainly did he repeat his command, that bow they must to his idol, or die.

I. WE SHOULD PREFER SUFFERING TO SIN. To have bowed the knee to the golden image on the plain of Dura would have been an aggravated transgression on the part of any of the sons of Jacob. They knew well that there was no other God but the God of Israel, and the first and second commandments of the moral law strictly forbade such an act. Better to run the risk of the threatened punishment than, by yielding, to dishonour their Creator, and cast away their souls. Marvellously were these confessors of Jehovah rescued from the devouring fire; for the Lord, whom they honoured, had great purposes to serve by their preservation. Suppose, however, they had been burned to ashes, would they have been losers by their fidelity? Assuredly not! Only the sooner had they reached the rest that remaineth to the people of God. An early confessor of the Lord Jesus was summoned to the presence of the Emperor of Rome, and threatened with banishment, if be dared to remain a Christian. "Me thou canst not banish," was the noble answer, "for the world is my Father's house." "But I will take thy life," said the Emperor. "Nay, but thou canst not, sire, for my life is hid with Christ in God." a I will deprive thee of thy treasures," continued the Emperor. "I have no treasures that thou canst seize," was the response, "for my treasure is in heaven, and my heart is there." "But I will drive thee away from man, and thou shalt have no friend left," "Nay, that thou canst not," replied the bold and faithful witness, "for I have a Friend in heaven, from whom thou canst not separate me. I defy thee. There is nothing thou canst do to hurt me." Where the risk of loss is greatly less than in the case in which we have just referred, it is always far better to suffer than to sin. The draper lad in the north of Ireland, who would not assist his employer to cheat a customer, and was turned adrift in consequence, was no loser by his integrity. Through this very circumstance he became a minister of the gospel, and afterwards rose to an eminent position in his profession. There is little likelihood that any of us will be exposed to such a fiery ordeal as the three Jews in Babylon. We may, however, have to meet with much petty persecution, if we faithfully follow the Lamb, and show by our lives that we are His.

II. LET US TAKE CARE THAT WE FOLLOW NOT DOWN BEFORE THE GOLDEN IMAGE ERECTED AMONGST OURSELVES. Not in Britain only, but in every land under the sun, does this idol lift up its head. Those who worship at its shrine probably embrace by far the largest number of every kindred, and tribe, and nation. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," says Jehovah. Yet in the very temple of God is this idol set up by its votaries, and crowds of worshippers devotedly bend the knee. No sweet music of sackbut, or psaltery, or harp, is needed to induce men to adore. This idolatry is even considered respectable. In America this idol is irreverently known by the name of "The Almighty Dollar"; with us it is simply called wealth or money. A mercantile man, who had an extensive acquaintance with various classes of the community, used to state it as his serious opinion that the love of money ruins perhaps more souls than even strong drink. Like other sins, this mammon-worship never dwells alone. In due time it becomes the fruitful parent of many vile things, which will, ultimately, develope into scorpions, to torment the soul that nourished them. How comforting it is to know that imperishable and unalienable wealth can be had simply for the accepting. "The GIFT of God is eternal life, and this life is in His Son."

(Original Secession Magazine.)

How long after the events recorded in the last chapter the setting up of this great image took place, it is impossible to tell. The presumption is, however, that several years had elapsed. The building of this huge image to the favourite god of Nebuchadnezzar, probably the god of battles, was most likely to celebrate and commemorate, with suitable splendour, the final triumph of his arms over all the nations of the earth (v. 4). The profound impression made upon his mind by the recalling and interpretation of his awful dream by Daniel seems to have faded away, since we find him setting up an image of gold and requiring all his subjects to worship it. This was a tyrannical act of uniformity, intended to consolidate the religion as well as the politics of the empire. We do not know where Daniel, Ezekiel, and other eminent Israelites were at this time, or how far the mass of captive Jews complied with this decree; but it seems that the three young princes, who with Daniel had been faithful in refusing to eat the king's meat, and who had been subsequently elevated to high political office in the province of Babylon, refused, or at least failed, to do homage to the idol.

I. THE RAGE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR. Nebuchadnezzar was at the summit of his power; he had introduced a great statue, in the form of an image of his god of battle, to celebrate his universal sovereigns; his decree of universal obedience to his god, which was also an act of homage to himself, seems to have been generally obeyed. The defection of these princes from obedience seems to have reminded him that, after all, there were those who looked beyond him and higher than his fancied god for a true king. There were but two courses open to him. He must either at once recognise the right of the Hebrews to their religious liberty or he must suppress them. To do the former would be to unsay and undo all that was involved in the great celebration now going on; whereas, by summarily enforcing the decree of uniformity, especially upon the persons of the high officers of state, he thought he might increase his power, and by one stroke of severity bring all his subjects unto submission. There are several points of evidence that his conscience was aroused as well as his anger. When we refuse to obey conscience, we are always apt to fly into a rage and do the thing forbidden by conscience with ten times more violence. This king of Babylon is only the type of all the world-powers that have succeeded him, who have been enraged against the faith of God's elect, and have sought to destroy that faith by Violence.

1. The arrest of the three princes. "Then they brought these men before the king." How often since have the children of faith been accused and brought before kings and their magistrates, to give an account of their faith and answer for their disobedience to some ungodly and tyrannical decree uttered for the purpose of destroying the "faith once delivered to the saints." The very means of which heathen kings make use to suppress the faith, is made the instrument of God for its universal spread.

2. The fearful alternative. The king seems, after all, to have greatly respected these princes, and secretly desired to find a way of escape for them. The sight of them and the remembrance of their faithful service and of the peculiar marks of Divine favour which had been bestowed upon them for a moment cooled down his rage.

3. The vain boast of the king. "And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" This bit of vain boasting reminds us of the speech of Pharaoh to Moses: "Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2.) Also of the defiant proclamation of Sennacherib to Hezekiah and Jerusalem: "Who are they among all the gods of the countries that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?" (2 Kings 18:35.) And yet God destroyed Pharaoh, and put a hook in Sennacherib's nose by which He led him in ignominy back to his own city, to perish miserably at the hands of his sons. How empty the boasts, how unbounded the folly of men who challenge Jehovah to conflict!

II. THE DEFENCE OF THE PRINCES.

1. Not careful to answer. "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." Had the Holy Spirit already whispered in their hearts the instruction which Jesus afterward gave His disciples? "When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you, in that same hour, what ye shall speak." (Matthew 10:19.) How calmly these young men stood there before the king! God will answer for us when the emergency comes. Argument will not avail against your arbitrary power over us, or against the injustice of your tyrannical decree.

2. Their confession of faith. "Our God whom we serve." In making their answer, they distinctly announced that they believed in the one only and true God, and Him they served. This was their, justification for not bowing down to the idol which the king had set up, nor worshipping any of his gods. Their faith was not speculative, but real. It dominated their lives, and secured their glad service. The full power of faith does not always manifest itself until the time of need comes, but, when once the emergency arises, faith springs to the fore and asserts itself.

3. Their confidence in God. "If it be so, our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." Notice this, that though their faith was absolute as to God himself and their relation to Him, yet it was not absolute as to their deliverance out of the fiery furnace, only as to God's ability to deliver them.

4. Ready to die. If the worst came to the worst, they were quite ready to die.

III. IN THE FURNACE AND OUT AGAIN. God does not promise His saints immunity from suffering in this world; on the other hand, He tells us that He has chosen us in a furnace of affliction.

1. The princes are cast into the furnace.

2. An awful warning. Now a strange thing happened. As the three men who bore these princes to the furnace approached the open door to cast down their helpless victims, a sudden draught of air sent out a volume of flame which slew them on the spot. God seemed to give warning then and there that it was a dangerous thing to touch His saints or do them harm.

3. The astonishment of the king. A while ago he was in a furious rage; now we see him trembling with astonished fear. Not only did the swift death that overtook his three mighty men startle him, but as he looked into the raging flames he saw a wondrous sight. Here was a fact on which he had not counted. By some mysterious power the young men "had quenched the violence of the fire" (Hebrews 11:34), and they were accompanied by the presence of another man, who seemed to have them under his protection. It is not necessary for us to attempt any discussion of this marvellous miracle of deliverance. Whether there was an actual and objective fourth man in the furnace with the three princes, and whether that fourth one was the very Son of God come down in a temporary bodily form, as perhaps the angel of the Lord, or whether the king saw a vision, is of no material importance. That there was a miracle is clear from the fact of the safety of the princes in the flame. There is nothing antecedently impossible in the literal truth of the whole matter. "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?" (I. Peter 3:12, 13.)

(G. F. Pentecost, D.D.)

I. THE UNHOLY OBJECT THAT WAS OFFENSIVE TO THEIR CONSCIENCES

It was like a proud, arrogant, Eastern despot, with an ever victorious army, to signalise a great triumph, by setting up some great colossal image. It was more than a memorial, it was a deification of himself. These Babylonian monarchs were not content with being kings or even priests, they must be gods, the object of their people's veneration. It helped them to keep their iron heel upon the necks of their subjects, and feed their own vanity.

II. THE NATURAL HATRED OF THEIR ENEMIES. This was their chance. They had been watching and waiting for this. It is no wonder that they seized upon it with avidity. There is no love among the children of darkness for the sons of light. The saved of the cross have ever their cross to carry. There are shopmates and associates who are never slow to make you the butt of all their spleen, and to pour out all the malice of their soul upon you. The high offices which these youths held in the State exposed them to the greater vehemence of persecution. It is the way of the world to foster hostility against those above them, and to seek an opportunity to overthrow such. There are men who will sneak into power over your heads, if there be no other way. Yet it is better to endure with Christ than to go alone without Him.

III. THE REFUSED DOOR OF ESCAPE. When their accusers had laid the charge before the king, there seems reason to believe that the king's first flush of anger was at the sense of his possible loss — he could not endure to think that three of his most capable rulers had been so foolish as to expose themselves to death. He could afford to lose a whole host of such accusers better than lose one Hebrew youth. Possibly, also, the shrewd king saw through their too thinly veiled jealousy. Anyhow, the king offered them a way of escape. His words in effect suggest what we pleasantly call diplomacy, "Just say you blundered, you did not properly understand the meaning of my edict, and I will have the whole ceremony gone through again for your sakes, then you can bow down and save yourselves." Many of us would have fallen into that trap; it was so ingenious a compromise. It needed great decision of character to answer that aright. One day the officer came to Bunyan in his prison, on Bedford Bridge, and said, "Now, Bunyan, if you like to go free, you can; there is only one trifling condition imposed,, and that is that you abstain from preaching." "If that is it," answered Bunyan, "then I cannot go out free, for as sure as I reach yonder field, I shall stand up and preach Christ." That one condition was the impossible condition. You have your battles to fight, perhaps the issues are not so clear as in the cases before us, yet I pray that you may be quick to discern the right from the wrong, and swift to do the right.

IV. Now a great moral courage like this must be born of GREAT CONVICTIONS. With Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, convictions were worth having, and worth dying for. To these youths, God was greater, higher than the king. God was first, the king second. Their first consideration was not their prospects, but their duty. He has not the martyr spirit who acts indifferently. When you do not bow to the world's edict, expect not to be credited with conscientious convictions, it will be put down to obstinacy. When John Bunyan refused to keep silent, he was obstinate. When these Hebrews refused to worship idols, they were obstinate. So their persecutors say, but posterity has accorded them justice, and declared it an act of conscience; a spirit of fidelity to God.

V. THREE THINGS THAT CREATED THEIR NOBLE CONDUCT.

1. They made religion a personal thing. It was not a matter of the state or community, but of realised individuality; and personal responsibility to God. No other but a personal religion is worth the name. No other will save your soul.

2. They had repented towards God, and put their trust in Him. They had turned from evil with mind and heart, and set themselves to seek righteousness.

3. They put eternal things before temporal. They saw the world in its true light, and took it at its true estimate. The eternal endures, the temporal passes away.

(F. James.)

I. THEY HAD CONVICTIONS. They were not merely Israelites in name; they believed in Israel's God'. It would not be surprising if, so far from home and under such adverse conditions, the memory of their ancestral religion had gradually ceased and their devotion faded out. But their piety was more, apparently, than an inheritance; it had, before their transportation, been ingrained m heart and conscience and life. If religion be a mere matter of form, it may be changed as readily as one changes his coat; but when it takes possession of the soul it keeps company with a man for ever. Hence the importance of convictions. They believed in God, in the truths which He had revealed to them, in the moral responsibilities which He had imposed upon them. The word "belief" is, by some, derived from the Saxon by-lifian, that is, the thing we live by.

II. THEY WERE LOYAL TO THEIR CONVICTIONS. They were called on to pass through a most trying ordeal. The day of the dedication of the golden image was at hand. What should they do?

1. They might avoid all trouble by joining in the acclamations of the multitude and prostrating themselves before the golden image.

2. They might prostrate themselves as a mere matter of form, saying, "After all, religion is of the heart; and God will know that inwardly we are devoted to Him." But compromise, in a question of right or wrong, is the subterfuge of the weak and unworthy.

3. The only alternative was to stay indoors that day. Why not? Then must they have said to one another, "We are three cowards.", God wanted them to go out into the plain of Dura and preach a sermon on heroic piety.

III. GOD TOOK CARE OF THEM. He always takes care of His own. Here is a sure word of promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

(D. J. Burrell, D.D.)

Christian Observer.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were three very young men, worshippers of the true God in a heathen land. They were exposed to much persecution and distress on account of their religion, yet they were enabled to act with faithfulness and prudence "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation." The true Christian will be obliged to stem the surrounding stream; there will, there must, be opposition; if he were of the world, the world would love its own; but because he is not of the world, but is chosen out of the world, therefore the world will hate him. Now let us imagine a person, and especially a young person, such as were the three individuals mentioned in the text, in such circumstances. How difficult oftentimes and painful the line of duty! How much need is there of some animating example, or affectionate and faithful advice, to keep such a person from offending against conscience, and forgetting his obligations to his Redeemer! To be faithful where ethers are unfaithful — to worship God truly in a family, a parish, a neighbourhood, In which almost all around us conspire to forget Him. It can be performed only by the aid of Him who is at once a Comforter and a Sanctifier. It appears from the narrative, that Nebuchadnezzar the king set up a golden image, and commanded all his subjects to fall down and worship it. In like manner, in the present clay, is sin in its various shapes an idol which the world delight to serve. By nature we are its slaves and votaries; and it is not till we have learned, like those three young men, to come out from the world and to worship the true God, that we begin to feel the burden of this service. New idols are constantly presented to confirm the sinner in his slavery, and to tempt the true Christian from his allegiance to God. Babylon surely abounded with idols enough; yet a new one must be set up for the occasion; and thus the world is always varying its temptations. Whatever be the last evil custom, the last new mode of sinning, men are expected to follow it. Thus, no sooner was the command given, than "princes, judges, governors, captains, treasurers, sheriffs, counsellors, and rulers," with the people at large, all with one accord eagerly flocked to the idolatrous rite. These three persons only are mentioned as not complying with the order — a proof that even the most youthful Christian ought not to be ashamed of religion, or to reject it; namely, because there may be but few around him who think as seriously as himself. Should all the rich, the wise of this world, the gay, the splendid, be against serious religion; should a thousand new baits and allurements be added to seduce us from it; should unsuspected dangers and persecutions, spring up every moment around our path; yet we may learn from the example before us a lesson of faith, and constancy, and reliance upon God. These three young men, we find, did not court martyrdom or persecution; they did not break out into violent invectives against other persons; they gave no willing offence — thus teaching another most useful and important lesson. The Christian is not to affect anything that may justly draw down the opposition of the world. He ought, as much as in him lies, to live peaceably with all men — but where this is impossible, and the offence arises entirely from the side of the world who dislike his earnest piety, without being able to impeach his character or conduct, he may learn from the example before us how to act so as at once to glorify God and to preserve his own peace of mind. Behold, then, this illustrious example! Firm and decided for Jehovah, these three martyrs approached the eventful spot. Life or death was the alternative. No human way of escape was open before them. Thus tempted to waver, on the one hand, by dread of torments and death, they might also be allured, on the other, by hopes of reward. They might even be ready to plead that the sacrifice was but small. These and various other reasonings might naturally enter their minds; and, had not Faith been powerfully in exercise, would, doubtless, have overcome their resolution. But this Divine grace was able, amidst all, to preserve them. Were this Divine grace existing in full vigour in our minds, even the youngest and most timid Christian would be able to withstand all the artifices of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and to say with Joshua of old, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Instead of being ashamed or afraid of confessing the name of a crucified Redeemer, and of living as becomes His faithful disciples, we should use the decided language before us; and, placing our whole trust and confidence in the supporting arm of an all gracious Father, should learn to do everything, and bear everything, rather than forsake the cause of our Redeemer. There are four things which are often powerful obstacles in the path of the youthful Christian; namely, the allurements of pleasure, the commands of authority, the dread of persecution, and the specious solicitations of friendship and kindness. All these occurred in the case before us; and to a far greater degree than usually, or indeed ever, takes place in the present age.

1. They overcame, in the first place, the allurements of pleasure. What a festive scene was before them! The "cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music," united their persuasive notes to tempt them to sin. Pleasure assumed all its most winning and seductive shapes to court their compliance. Yet, though in the midst of health and youth, they steadily refused to join the multitude to do evil; they accounted the reproach of Christ better than all the poisoned baits of the world. They were, doubtless, considered by those around them as gloomy and precise persons, who railed at what others thought innocent pleasures — but they knew the side they had taken; they knew also the power and love of their heavenly Parent, and they feared not the result.

2. Neither, again, could the commands of authority tempt them to commit this sin. They were strangers and captives in a foreign land; the hand of power was over them; they were represented as factious persons, as enemies at once to the government and the religion of the country; Nebuchadnezzar, a despotic monarch, was infuriated against them — yet they stood firm. They knew that the first authority to be obeyed is God.

3. The dread of persecution, we have already seen, they also manfully overcame; nor did they less resist the specious solicitations of kindness and friendship. Many a young Christian, who could have braved all the terrors of open persecution, has given way to this temptation, and has for ever ruined his soul, for the sake of that friendship with the world which is enmity against God. Not so these illustrious sufferers. Though they had received innumerable kindnesses from Nebuchadnezzar, and were in the way of receiving many more; though nourished by his bounty, and loaded with his favours; yet when religion was to be the sacrifice, they would not, they durst not make it. The result is well known; God wrought a miracle in their favour; His presence was with them in the fire; while their persecutors were consumed in the very act of casting them into the flames — an awful proof of the danger of opposing the cause or the people of God. Not even the garments of these triumphant confessors were singed; nothing was consumed in the furnace except their bonds. They became more free than they were before they were thrown into the flame; and in like manner the Christian, in the present day, who resolutely bears the cross of his Redeemer, often finds that the more he is persecuted for righteousness' sake, the more he enjoys freedom and happiness in his own mind. His shackles are consumed in the fire, and he is frequently rendered more bold and persevering in the cause of God, by the very efforts which are made to overcome his constancy.

(Christian Observer.)

I. The lessons taught by the narrative of the Holy children.

I. As to the reality of faith.

(1)It resulted in constancy. They were perfectly respectful, and yet absolutely determined on their course.

(2)It resulted in a proper estimation of their duties of loyalty to their sovereign and of devotion to their God.

(3)It resulted in perfect trust that God would keep and sustain them.

2. As to the reward of faith. In their hopes they were not disappointed; for they had the presence of God which saved them. (Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 63:9.)

II. Application of the narrative to our own times. The plain of Dura is a picture of the world; Nebuchadnezzar and his image pourtray the mammon-worship to which mankind is called by common consent and by every device. But the true servants of God refuse; they cannot serve God and mammon.

1. The choice requires a deep and abiding faith, which —(1) Dares to be singular; and —(2) Is courageous, constant, persevering, and fearless. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were not only preserved, but they were also the means of advancing the cause of true religion in the kingdom of Babylon; and so it will be found to be the case with those who suffer for the truth.

(F. Thorne.)

It has sometimes and justly been remarked, that truth is far more wonderful than fiction. Events certainly have transpired in the history of individual men which no fictitious narrative can approach.

I. In the first place, observe, THE MANDATE OF IMPERIAL POWER WHICH HAD BEEN ISSUED. The person from whom the mandate now referred to had emanated, was Nebuchadnezzar, the monarch of the vast and gorgeous empire of Babylon. New in the mandate before us there was heinous and presumptuous sin; and we shall endeavour to notice the elements of which that heinous and presumptuous sin consisted. And we remark —

1. That it was a tyrannical encroachment beyond the just limits of civil authority. The monarch of Babylon had not, nor has any other monarch or person invested with worldly station or worldly power, the right of anywise controlling or attempting to influence the religious professions and religious deportment of his subjects. Human governments were created by Divine arrangement, in order that monarchs might order things aright in their secular or political capacity; and their legitimate power of interference extends only to overt acts which are socially beneficial, on the one hand, or which are socially pernicious and injurious, on the other. Obedience to reasonable commands in this respect is an obligation; but obedience to commands attempting to control opinion and conscience is no obligation at all.

2. Again, you will observe of this mandate, that it was a daring impiety against the majesty and claims of the only true God. You doubtless remember at once the law which that Creator had promulgated in early times, in direct denunciation of the apostacy referred to, pronounced by His own voice and written by His own finger — "Thou shalt not have any gods before Me." "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," etc.

3. Again, you will observe of this mandate, that it was a cruel outrage on the impulses of benevolence and of humanity. To threaten men that if they did not fall down and worship a golden image they should be cast into a furnace of fire there to endure the very worst and most excruciating agonies which the human frame can undergo, was, indeed, beyond expression savage. And here we cannot but observe an illustration of the keenness of despotic power in all periods of time.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS IMPERIAL MANDATE WAS TREATED.

1. And first, you will observe that there was firmness. Let us be "valiant for the truth upon the earth"; and let it be our constant aim, that being "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises," we may indulge the glowing hope of being ultimately united in their glory.

2. And again, you will observe, that besides firmness there was also meekness. There was no ebullition of self-sufficiency or of anger; there was respect for regal dignity and station — there was forbearance, there was quietness, there was readiness to suffer; they resisted the wrong, but they did not rebel against the penalty. It is always important, in advocating the rights of conscience and of religious truth, that in the same manner mildness should be blended with courage, and gentleness with resolution. The want of this spirit among those who have pleaded the right of conscience and of truth has often inflicted deep injury upon the best and the holiest of causes. There has been the indulgence of a rugged dogmatism and vehemence; there has been not seldom a resort to the use of force, the fighting of battles, and an endeavour after retaliation; and even when revenge would have struck deep injury upon both liberty and religion, and would have mournfully retarded and held back the time of their progress and the era of final freedom,

III. THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THE TREATMENT OF THAT MANDATE WAS FOUNDED, AND UPON WHICH IT WAS JUSTIFIED. You will observe, in the analysis of the narrative, that they were principles worthy of the occasion, and amply vindicating the course which was pursued.

1. Observe, there was conviction of their duty and responsibility to God. Their language is — "our God whom we serve." They were endued with reverence and with love to Him, and these principles, associated with the relationship they embodied, prevented by moral necessity that they could be guilty of the glaring impiety of adoring publicly, in the presence of immense masses, a thing graven by art and man's device, created by man's base passions for man's base and bad designs. In the principle in this manner enunciated, you will observe, they took the highest ground under the highest influences — religion, imparted and preserved by the Spirit of God. And this is alone worthy of the occasion when the rights of conscience and of truth are to be vindicated.

2. Again, you will observe also, there was confidence in the power and readiness of God to deliver. We have seen that the monarch of Babylon uttered this challenge — "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?" And then they replied — "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." Let us cherish the confidence now. Let us cherish it for ourselves, and know that "nothing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord." Let us cherish it in behalf of the cause which is to us dear as our immortal spirits — the cause of the Redeemer's glory in the salvation of man and the conversion of the world; and let us never be guilty even .of dreaming of such an era as when the church shall be in danger. False systems, which have usurped the name, may be in danger, but the true church never. Can the throne of the eternal Father be in danger?

IV. THE RESULTS IN WHICH THE TREATMENT THUS VINDICATED AND JUSTIFIED WAS MADE TO ISSUE. You will observe here what a singular combination of circumstances claims from the narrative our regard. The immediate result was the infliction of the punishment. "Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated." Observe the method in which that deliverance was accomplished. Lastly, you must observe the characteristics by which this deliverance was distinguished. It was accomplished by the agency of the Son of God; and its characteristics require to be noticed. It was, you will observe, indisputably attested. There was nothing equivocal in the mode by which the deliverance was known. And this only indicates a general principle in the Divine interpositions — that when God interposes for the welfare and deliverance of His people, there is nothing uncertain; there is not such an intermingling of secondary instrumentalities that we are unable to separate or to discern the interference of the power of the great First Cause; there is always something in every event by which a devout and enlightened mind is able to pronounce "God is here; here is the work of God." And it is a delightful fact in the history of the church now, as it will be in the annals of the church in time to come, that wherever God interferes for the welfare of His people He accomplishes His work thoroughly. We observe again, that the deliverance produced a vast public impression. The impression, as it was immediately produced, is noticed in the last verses of the chapter: "Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own Cod. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon." The decree manifested a mighty impression on the mind of the monarch. Some more especial lessons.

1. And, in the first place, we learn from the narrative before us the value of early piety.

2. Again, we learn also the immense importance of decision for God under the most difficult of circumstances. If the example of these Hebrew youths at this crisis had been wanting, even had their personal piety remained intact, how evil would have been the consequence! Had they with some mental weakness bowed, or had they been absent far away under some plausible pretence or excuse — how different would have been the result! Not a voice to be raised for God amidst that vast assembly, and the honour of God deeply and painfully compromised in that nation and other nations for ages!

3. And then, finally, we learn the folly of opposition to the people and to the cause of God. It cannot be hindered by the blandishments or by the opposition of the world; it stands aloft amidst the wreck of empires, and it suffers not amidst the fury of contending nations; it rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm, and never shall cease its manifestation until it shall establish an empire bounded only by the limits of the universe, and terminating only with the destruction of the world. See to it that you oppose not that, individually, or by combination, which is indestructible. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, and the Lord shall have you in derision"; and so shall it be, until you shall "perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little."

(J. Parsons.)

It is truly a sad and awful spectacle — to behold a great monarch, and the personages representing the population of a great empire, with perhaps a numerous throng of the common people, assembled for such a purpose. Consider what man should be on earth! Reflect, that the right state would have been, that all mankind should be intelligent and solemn worshippers of the true God, of Him alone; the merely right state, below which, the scene becomes a spectacle of horror and misery, for the vital principle of all good is wanting. Think, then, of that great empire, that prodigious multitude of human spirits (and nearly all the rest of mankind being sunk equally low) ready to prostrate themselves in adoration of a figure of metal, from the hands of the artificers. Look at them in such prostrations, all over the world, and say, that man is not fallen! Between that state, and the simply, merely, right state, how awful the difference! In the incalculable human mass of a whole idolatrous world, we are shown here and there an individual, or a diminutive combination of individuals, little shining particles, specimens of what the right state of the world would have been. But if they were specimens of no more than what was right — then, what power of thought can estimate, what language describe — that condition of the general substance, from which they shine out in contrast! The right state of the sun is to be one full orb of radiance; that though there be some small spots and dimmer points, it should be in effect a complete and glorious luminary. Imagine, then, if you can, this effulgence extinguished, and turned to blackness, over all its glorious face, excepting here and there a most diminutive point, emitting one bright ray like a small star. What a ghastly phenomenon! and if it continued so, the utter ruin of the system. But such, in the history before us, we behold the condition of the human race — of which that empire was so large a province. We behold three men true and faithful in the grand essential principle, among the innumerable host that were sunk, debased, and lost, as to that which is the supremely essential matter to man. In other pagan lands, however, in the same age, there was not one such. In Babylon, a few. Observe, it is quite in the nature of things that prevailing evil should be ambitious to prevail entirely. And here it was to be brought to the trial, whether any would dare to refuse to be idolaters, in conformity to the whole great assemblage.. The history of the design on the part of the monarch would be curious if we could know it. How he should conceive such a project. Were there not gods enough in his city and empire for all the worship and offerings for which the people could spare time and cost? The thing least strange in the case, was perhaps (for he was man), that he should forget what he had learned by experience of the God of Daniel, though, by his own confession at the time, "a God of gods," and superior to all known in his empire or in the world. But, then, was the new god to excel both all them and that God too? If not, what need? and what just claim? and what was to make him thus excel? It is a surmise of some learned men ( Grotius) that it might be designed as the act of deifying, on rather of expressing and proclaiming the deification of, his deceased father. At any rate, a very leading prompter in the affair was the monarch's own self-importance. It was for him to show himself lord of even the religion of his subjects. It was for him to constitute a god for them, if he pleased. Then there was the process; an examination of the public, or rather the royal treasures — the gold collected and computed — the consultation and employment of artificers — operations of the smithery — frequent statements or inspections of the progress — perhaps reports circulated through the empire of the grand business that was going on. It is most likely that the imperial mandate to the great man of all the provinces had been despatched some while before, appointing the time; and that the idol was erected but just immediately against the specified day. This grand assembly was summoned for the act of dedication. The great men had been summoned as a kind of representatives of all the people of the empire. Perhaps not one of them failed to be there from any principle of conscience against idolatry. And as to the willingly compliant conduct of the assembly, one is a little disposed to wonder at the king's having made ready such an expedient of persuasion, as that which he points at, to enforce his command — that is, the furnace, which was prepared and conspicuous near the station of the monarch and the idol. He certainly had not been accustomed to experience any disobedience to his commands. Why, then, such an argument of persuasion at hand? This might be for mere despotic pomp — to impress terror of the very thought of such a thing as disobedience. But it may be suspected that this was possibly done at the instigation of the haters of Daniel and his three friends. Their faith was warned of another Monarch, and also of another fire! a proper fear of whom, and of which, will overcome all other fear. "Fear not them who can kill the body, but after that have no more that they can do; but fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." They were certain to be at the place, without any force used by their enemies. They were assured that, in the present case, there must not be allowed a grand triumphant day to idolatry and the impious pride of power — undisturbed by at least a protest in the name of the Almighty. Was it for them, when their eternal Lord was to be dishonoured, to slink away into a base impunity? And, besides, were they to give to their own people, in captivity there, the lesson and example of betraying, even negatively, their religion, the only true one on earth? They knew their duty, and addressed themselves to perform it. It would seem that this duty devolved on them alone. A question might arise concerning the numerous other Jews then in Babylon — what became of them? Were they placed out of account on this grand occasion? It has been conjectured, in answer, that, as this was to be the solemn, primary act of sanctioning, authorizing, establishing, the new worship, the common people might, in this first instance, be left out of the account as being held of no weight; that it was the chief men only of the empire that were wanted, or held of any value for this purpose. There were, then, three men come on the ground under the fearful vocation to brave the authority, and power, and wrath, of a lofty potentate — the indignation of all his mighty lords, and the rage of a devouring fire. We admire heroic self-devotement in all other situations — we are elated at the view, for instance, of Leonidas and his small band calmly taking their station in Thermopylae in the face of countless legions. But here was a still nobler position taken, by men who were fit to take it, because they were sure not to desert it. We may suppose the utmost calmness — the most unostentatious manner in these three men; that belongs to real invincible fortitude. And they had no occasion to begin with parade — to make a flourish of premature zeal! Exhibition enough was to come erewhile! They were "to be made a spectacle to God, and to angels, and to men." There was nothing they could need to say; it was past the time for consulting, questioning, or mutual exhortation. They were in the wrong place, if anything remained to be yet decided. But think of the brief interval of suspense and silence between the conclusion of the herald's proclamation and the first note of the signal-music! What would be their sensations in waiting for it to strike? Think of the intensity of listening! How much the soul may be said to live during such moments, when not amazed and stupified! And at whose dictate — under what conviction — were they thus submissively performing, in appearance at least, the most solemn act that human, that created beings can? The mere dictate of a creature, that was one day to become dust. Thus this proud, and numerous, and lordly assembly acknowledged that neither their bodies nor their souls were their own. But so acknowledged, too, the three men that remained standing upright. Their bodies and souls were not theirs to surrender, to a monarch or to an idol. They belonged to another Power; and to Him their bodies, if He should so appoint, were to be offered in sacrifice on that altar which was flaming full in their view. It were going, perhaps, quite to the extreme of possibility, if we should suppose in them such perfect self-possession that they could look around with regret and compassion on this wide field of prostrate and degraded humanity. But they had not long to look; there were vigilant eyes on them, though it seems not those of the king himself. His devotions were interrupted, and turned into surprise and indignation, by accusers of these three men. These accusers well understood their profession. And then, with the true address of sycophant courtiers, they put the alleged impiety in the form of disloyalty. It was as against him that the offence was committed, more than against the god. "They have not regarded thee, O king!" And this very effective art has never been forgotten by the haters and persecutors of the protestors in behalf of true religion. The three recusants of Babylon were instantly ordered into the royal presence. And the potentate, powerless over the "rage and fury" which agitated him, did yet display some remainder of a reasonable disposition. The truth of the accusation was not to be doubted; but he expressed his amazement at their conduct, as what he could hardly believe against them. He had not long to wait for their decision. "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter"; meaning, "we have no thought or deliberation to give to the alternative; no question or hesitation remains to us; we seek no evasion or delay; our decision is absolute, because our duty is plain." Some learned critics have given, as more exactly expressive of the sense of the original, an altered construction of the two verses together, thus, "Whether our God, who is able to deliver us, shall deliver us or not, be it known unto thee," etc.; thus taking away the apparent expression of their assurance that He would deliver them. We cannot know in what degree they did expect any extraordinary Divine interposition, but this construction of their reply exhibits them in a still higher, completer, character of magnanimity and devotement. In the utmost extremity of fury, he ordered the fire to be augmented to a corresponding intensity. "Seven times hotter" — a phrase not of strict numerical import, but meaning the utmost intensity possible, by means of the most effectual fuel that could in haste be supplied. Our martyr, Ridley, slowly consuming at the stake, earnestly entreated, "Give me more fire — more fire!" The binding of these three men was a very superfluous act. But it had a certain judicial appearance; and it exposed them more formally in the character of criminals and victims. And now the consummation, the crowning sanction, would seem to be added to the establishment and authority of the new divinity and worship by a human sacrifice. But the matter was not so to end. It might so have ended without impeachment of the Divine Governor of the world, with respect to these His faithful servants; for He has a right to demand an absolute martyrdom — an actual surrender of life for His cause, and often has required it. But, in this instance, if it had so ended, it would have appeared to the whole empire like a complete triumph and sanction gained to idolatry. There would be, among the great men of the assembly, much self-congratulation that they were no such insane and desperate fanatics. The personal enemies of these three men (and many such they must have had, who hated them for their incorruptible public virtue) — these, too, had now their moment of lively gratification. But the idolatrous chiefs and lords had not all the delight to themselves, that there was at that moment, on that field — the most animated exultation of all, was glowing amidst the flames of the furnace! It is beyond our faculties to conceive the first sensations of men, suddenly plunged into the midst of a vast mass of fire, of the most raging intensity, in their living, susceptible bodies, which even a spark would have hurt, and yet feeling no pain, no terror. We may imagine a momentary amazement, but quickly changed into a full consciousness of exquisite delight. It is beyond our power, however, to bring such a fact to our comprehension. Consider, it is according to natural laws and relations that pleasure is produced, that is, the constituted condition of human pleasure. But when, in a rare instance, by the Divine will and agency, pleasure is to arise from a perfect and stupendous reversal of those natural laws, we are thrown off from any power and means for estimating that pleasure. The attention of Nebuchadnezzar seems to have continued fixed on the fiery receptacle, perhaps with some relenting for what he had done; possibly with some degree of doubt, or suspense of expectation, respecting the consequence. He seems to have been the first to perceive that his fury, and the doom he had awarded, were frustrated. And with that prompt kind of honesty which appears conspicuous in his character, he was the first to proclaim it. Nebuchadnezzar loudly called them to come forth. Had he any authority to do so? He might have left it to the discretion of their splendid visitant and associate to lead them forth when He should judge it the proper time. This once, they were clearly beyond the monarch's jurisdiction. As to the monarch, that space of fire was as a tract of another world. And besides, they could have no wish to come forth. It was the sublimest, most delightful region they had ever dwelt in yet. At length the three men came out from the fire — their celestial companion being left to depart, like Manoah's angel, who ascended in the flame. They were looked upon by the amazed and humiliated assembly of grandees; and the effect of fire had not passed on their very garments or their hair.

(J. Foster.)

Man is a worshipper. If there were no God before whose shrine he could bend his knees, he would make himself an object of worship. We have a remarkable instance of this in the narrative before us. What was the design of the Babylonian despot in the erection of this colossal image? Two different answers might be given to this question. It was intended either as an expression of his gratitude to the deity who he imagined had so greatly prospered him on the battle-field, or as a representation of himself under the title of the long-expected "Divine Son," or universal sovereign of the world. The fact that he summoned all the great officers of the empire to be present at its inauguration is a clear proof that this was not an ordinary idol. It is not probable that he would thus have ordered all the officers from their labours and posts of duty merely to add to the magnificence and splendour of an ordinary scene. The proud monarch had something of far greater importance in view; he wished to secure for himself the homage of his chief officers, and through them that of his numerous subjects. Then, the terrible punishment threatened upon disobedience to the royal mandate is a further proof of the great importance the Babylonian despot attached to this ceremony. This threat was in perfect keeping with the despotism of Chaldea, and the spirit of that benighted age. But in spite of the severity of the threat, the three Hebrews were found true to their principles, and dared to oppose the king's impiety. How could they pay homage to an idol? Every principle of their religion, every feeling of their heart, revolted against the very thought. The honour due to their God they will not lavish on their monarch.

I. TRUE PRINCIPLES SEVERELY TESTED. Every principle will sooner or later be tried. There is a fiery furnace that will test the principles and motives of every heart. The test in the case of the young Hebrews was peculiarly severe.

1. They had to oppose the will of a powerful benefactor.

2. They had to incur the odium of an excited public.

3. They had to forfeit the honours and emoluments of office.

4. They had to meet death in one of its most terrible forms.

II. TRUE PRINCIPLE NOBLY MAINTAINED.

1. Their calm demeanour. True godliness possesses sweet sustaining power.

2. Their strong faith. Their language was the language of faith; the language of a pious heart firmly confiding in the faithfulness of Heaven. Their faith took hold of two things. The power of God: "Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace." And also His willingness: "And He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." These two elements form the basis of true faith. You confide in that person because you believe him to be both able and willing to befriend you.

3. Their inflexible determination. "But if not, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image."

III. TRUE PRINCIPLE ULTIMATELY TRIUMPHANT. Several very important points were gained by this glorious triumph of true principle.

1. The impious ambition of the monarch was checked.

2. The living personality of the " Divine Son" was established. The deities of the Gentiles were the creations of their own fancy. Nebuchadnezzar had probably no faith in them. But the person whom he saw in the "fiery furnace" was not a myth, but a real living person. The God of Shadrach and his companions was a living person, not an imaginary object we worship not an idea, but a God who has a heart to love us, and an arm to save us.

3. The faith of the weak and the wavering was confirmed. Had their bitter affliction almost driven the poor Hebrew captives into despair? The occurrence on the plain of Dura would revive their hope, and fill them with wonder and gratitude. Many a disconsolate exile would be greatly encouraged, his faith strengthened, and the expiring embers of his religious love fanned into a flame.

4. The welfare of the captive Jews was effectually promoted. Their treatment of the exiles would be more humane and generous; and they would naturally infer that the people whose God would thus interpose on their behalf were not to be despised.

5. The honour of the true God was greatly enhanced. How valuable is vital godliness! It possesses a sustaining power. It brings down upon the soul the richest blessing of God. Be faithful to it. Let its living principles be exemplified in your life.

(J. H. Hughes.)

Babylonia, whither the Jews were led captive by Nebuchadnezzar, was a pagan, idolatrous country, a circumstance which must have been very distressing to God's faithful people, and added very much of bitterness to the anguish of their enslaved condition. It was a trial heavy enough for the peculiar people to have seen their beautiful city of Jerusalem destroyed — their country turned into a waste howling wilderness — and themselves dragged away from their beloved fatherland into a strange, unfriendly clime. It would have been some relief for them, however, if, in the land of their exile, they had found a people whose religious sympathies and practices had been in harmony with their own — or even if their lot had been cast on some desert, uninhabited isle, where, like John in Patmos, they might have worshipped their God without let or hindrance. But how terribly annoying it must have been — at least, to the thoughtful and devout among them — to be dwelling amidst a people wholly given to idolatry! What was the moral effect of the prevailing idolatries of the Chaldeans upon the Jewish exiles, generally, does not appear — probably it was unfavourable. Still, it is very gratifying to learn that there were some men in Babylonia who defiled not their garments, but kept themselves unspotted from surrounding corruption.

I. We learn that EMINENT PIETY MAY BE MAINTAINED AMIDST TRIALS THE MOST SEVERE. We are sometimes tempted to believe that man is the creature of external circumstances — that his character is formed for him — not by him; and that, consequently, he cannot be virtuous, as he is not responsible. The narrative before us is calculated to show the erroneousness of this notion, and to establish the important fact that the freedom of the human mind is not destroyed, nor the moral agency of man set aside, by any circumstances in which he may be placed, save and except such as involve the loss of reason, or the eclipse of the intellect. It is true, indeed, that we are frequently influenced by circumstances — our habits too often reflect the form and colour of those circumstances by which we are from time to time surrounded. It is well when such circumstances as favour the growth of piety and godliness are permitted to shed their hallowing influence upon our character. But, to the force of evil circumstances — those circumstances which in themselves tend to foster the development of ungodliness and sin — we need not, we ought not, by any means, to yield. We are responsible for our character. We must, every one of us, give an account of himself to God. Never let us forget that our God has made us free, accountable agents; that most reasonably He holds us bound to do our every duty constantly and unflinchingly; and at the last day will admit no plea whatever for the infidelity of which we have been guilty in this life. "Many men are lamenting their misfortunes, and wishing that their place was changed, that they might the more easily live Christianly. If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere." The Christian life ever has been, and must be, a self-denying, cross-bearing life; and the future glorious eternal reward of Heaven is for them, and them only, who, through good report and evil report, have followed the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. The three pious Hebrews — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego — were placed amidst sorest trials — as few are in our day — yet they proved faithful to their God. To be dutiful to their God they had to resist the most powerful temptations — to brave most formidable dangers.

1. They had to rebel against royal authority. "King Nebuchadnezzar was what would be called a man of large ideas and vast undertakings. The great empire he had won and consolidated comprised many different nations, with different gods and different forms of religions service. Seeing that all these nations obeyed him as a king, and were subject to his absolute sway, it seemed to him but reasonable that his god should share his triumph, and that, as there was but one civil, so there should be but one religious obedience. He, therefore, determined to set up a vast golden image of his god in the plain of Dura, and that, at a signal given by bands of music, all the persons assembled together in the vast plain at the time of dedication should fall down and worship this image." The religion of Heaven is by no means adverse, but most thoroughly favourable, to civil obedience. Good men have ever been the truest subjects and the best citizens; and the prevalence of godliness among a people is the best guarantee for the stability of the throne that is based on righteousness, and the surest security for the effective carrying out of all such laws as are just and good. But as the sphere of the civil ruler is limited, so are the obligations of the subject The moral sense cannot be bound by Acts of Parliament; the will cannot be coerced by the magistrate's sword. It was a saying of Napoleon Bonaparte — "My rule ends where that of conscience begins." It would have been well if all civil rulers had recognised this principle. Much bloodshed would have been spared. When the laws of men harmonise with the laws of God there can be no difficulty felt by the good man as to duty in respect to them. But if it is attempted to compel obedience to laws diametrically opposed to the laws of God, then there can remain no doubt as to how the good man must act. We must obey God rather than man. Noble men! no reckless revolutionists, no fanatical politicians were they; but men who understood to what extent they were bound to honour man; and who well understood and deeply felt that there was no consideration which could, by any possibility, free them from their obligation to serve God alone.

2. They had to act in defiance of the popular custom. Grand moral spectacle! Truest heroism this! Here is none of your pitiful time-servers who dare not to differ from the multitude by doing right — here is none of your compromising religious duty by an unhallowed seeming to conform to the world. They did not follow bad customs, lest they should be thought singular. They despised the fashionable religion, and were great and good enough, though Jews, to stand true to their fathers' God in the face of a nation of idolaters. Was not that a brave deed? Warriors never did such a noble thing. Earth's proudest heroes never won such laurels, never deserved such fame! If you would be great in the highest and best sense, dare to be good. If there is one spectacle more contemptible than another, it is that mean-spirited soul whom you see timidly, cowardly crouching down to a popular custom which in his conscience he knows to be wrong, and ignobly following a multitude to do evil. It requires little moral courage, publicly and faithfully to stick to duty when it is popular to do so. It is a comparatively easy thing to wear the Christian name and attend to Christian ordinances when and where it is fashionable to do so. But to dare to be singular, to take sides with "the peculiar people," to endure the world's scorn, to do what few only have heart and conscience to do — that demands sterling piety, no common-place devotedness, more than lukewarm love to God and His cause. In the present day the temptations to renounce and ignore religion altogether are not such as martyrs knew. Our danger comes from another quarter. Our perils lie hid beneath such religious pretensions as find general favour. It is fashionable, nowadays, to be religious. Only infidels and "our city arabs" are irreligious now. It is a disgrace not to belong to some church or another. The demand is for something more genuine — a counterfeit religion is too wide spread. The form of godliness is abundant. The power of it is rare indeed. Men will be religious; but they are far more eager to gain the world than to save their souls. While they are serving God after a fashion, their hearts are going forth after covetousness. Custom is, as it has ever been, the stern, unyielding foe of all earnest, spiritual, thorough-going Christianity. Men generally have little sympathy with the heartfelt, life-purifying religion of Jesus Christ. "Business is business" with them, and religion has no right to show its face in the warehouse or workshop, in the counting-house or the exchange. Strict morality will not pay; they cannot afford to do right. Their neighbours resort to the "tricks of trade," and cheat, and tell lies, and deceive; and so must they, or they may as well give up business at once. It is all nonsense to talk to them about applying Christian rules to secular callings. It would be perfectly ruinous! And then, as to social usages and domestic habits, what has religion to do with these things? It is all very well to sing and pray, and go to church, too. But you would never think of turning Puritans, and make religion to bear upon dress — upon our homes, and our amusements! "Style" has to be kept up. Appearances must be preserved. We must not be thought mean, etc. Thus thousands talk, and apologise for the most thorough-going conformity to the giddy, regardless world. I repeat it, he who will be true to his God in these days, must dare to break through unhallowed customs — must be brave enough to differ from others. He who stops to ask himself, What do others do? or, What are the religious opinions and practices of others? cannot be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your Saviour demands of you thorough-going, uncompromising fidelity to truth and equity. He requires you to take His will to be your own rule; and so completely will He have you in subjection to His authority, that, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, you must do all to His glory!

3. They had to resist the demands of self-interest. It was at a severe cost, an immense sacrifice, that they were prepared to fulfil their obligations to the true and living God (v. 6). By this it would appear that death by burning alive was a very ancient punishment for "heresy." It was a customary punishment among the Babylonians. Jeremiah, in denouncing the false prophets, Ahab and Zedekiah, predicted that they should be put to death by the King of Babylon, "And of these shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The Lord make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire." See, then, how terrific the threat by which Nebuchadnezzar sought to promote the worship of his god. What a severe trial of the godly steadfastness of these three pious Jews (v. 13, 15). Would you have wondered if, in such circumstances, they had trembled and proposed to themselves some temporising mode of escape from so dreadful a punishment? Ah, threats cannot intimidate them. This noble answer reminds us of what relates of , that when courtiers persuaded him to preserve his life — for it was with great reluctance that the Emperor devoted him to death — when flatterers on all sides urged him to redeem his life by the denial of Christianity, he answered, "There can be no deliberation in a matter so sacred." So our three heroes declare that they are in nowise concerned to vindicate their conduct, or to deliberate upon the expediency of the step they were taking. "Our consciences are bound to serve the God of heaven alone, and Him only will we worship, despite all consequences." But many can, Peter-like, boast grandly of how bravely they will act. Nothing shall move them from their Christian steadfastness till the crisis comes — till the hour arrives for self-sacrifice, for prompt and self-denying action — then they faint and fall away. Not so the three pious Hebrews. They were none of your talking heroes. Their deeds were as glorious as their words. Are we not too much given to time-serving? Are we not deterred oftentimes from faithfully acting out our convictions by the fear of losing someone's friendship, or of incurring someone's frown? by the fear of suffering the loss of certain worldly emoluments, or of missing certain social advantages? Is our devotedness to Christ characterised by all that manly energy — that indomitable courage that breaks through every barrier, and that conquers every difficulty?

II. We learn what are THE SOURCES AND ENCOURAGEMENTS OF TRUE MORAL HEROISM.

1. All things are possible to them who believe. There is the secret of their heroism. It was not natural animal courage — it was not stoical insensibility — it was not indifference to life — it was not the love of distinction, or ambition for fame — it was faith in God.

2. God is ever present with his faithful people (v. 21-25). We have no reason for supposing that Nebuchadnezzar thought that the fourth person was Jesus Christ, the Son of God; of him he must have known nothing. "A single angel," says Calvin, "was sent to these three men; Nebuchadnezzar calls him a Son of God, not because he thought him to be Christ, but according to the common opinion among all people that angels are sons of God, since a certain divinity is resplendent in them, and hence they call angels generally sons of God. According to this usual custom Nebuchadnezzar says, the fourth man is like the son of a god." No doubt Nebuchadnezzar recognised the Divine interposition in what appeared to him an angel; God was wont by the ministry of angels and otherwise visibly to interpose on behalf of His people, and in a most extraordinary way to effect deliverances for them; and, doubtless, it was God who appeared in human form with the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, to comfort, support, and deliver them, and to convince their enemies that they were under the protection of. Heaven, and, therefore, in safe keeping. We do not look for any palpable manifestations of the Divine presence to attend us in our trials. We look for no miraculous deliverance from the hands of our enemies. Nevertheless, God has promised to be with us to help and succour us, so that we may triumphantly exclaim, "If God be with us, who shall be against us?" "A man in the right with God on his side is in the majority, though he be alone, for God is multitudinous above all populations of the earth." So that you may boldly say, "God is our refuge," "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

3. The social influence of uncompromising fidelity to duty on the part of God's people is mighty (v. 28, 29). We see here the natural working of a truly consistent life. "Ye are the salt of the earth," etc. (Matthew 5:13-16); "The holy seed is the stock of the land" (Isaiah 6:13). "A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange-tree would if it could walk up and down in the garden — swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up in the air." Ah, how many of us do this? How many of us commend to the world the religion we possess by an unbending, consistent life?

4. Distinguished honours shall crown the fidelity of God's people (v. 30).

(John Williams.)

The history of these three young men teach us the following lessons.

1. The children of respectable parents may be reduced to humble circumstances.

2. Children deprived of the protection of parents sometimes rise in the world and prosper.

3. Religion is the best preservative of youth when separated from their parents and friends.

4. The effects of early religious education is generally good. These young men's piety was very vigorous. Consider the power of the piety of these young men.

I. ITS PRINCIPLE. It was attachment to the true God.

1. Their attachment to God was natural, and, therefore, strong. Man was made for God. What is unnatural is weak. Unnatural conformation of body is attended by weakness and pain. The body deprived of the natural means of support soon becomes feeble. Unnatural exercise of social affections wastes them. It is so with the moral powers. Idolatry is not natural to man. It is weakness. It cannot reason; it cannot distinguish between matter and mind. It holds no communion with spiritual worlds; it sinks the spirit; it robs God of His right, and man of happiness. God is to man all that his nature wants.

2. Their attachment was individual.

3. Their attachment was uniform.

II. ITS MANIFESTATIONS. Is wonderful, if we consider.

1. Their destitution of religious means. Without public worship, parental protection exposed to the bigotry, example, society of idolaters.

2. The strength of their temptation.

3. The tenderness of their age. They were little more than twenty.

4. Their number was small. There were only three. But were one in life, death.

III. ITS IMPRESSIONS on those who witnessed it.

1. The king admired their character.

2. Called attention to it.

3. Blessed God.

4. Promoted them.

(Caleb Morris.)

This episode of the three Jews in Babylon is a revelation of the martyr-spirit, and so, centuries after, the Christian writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews included them in his great muster-roll of the heroes of faith, as those who "quenched the violence of fire." They were champions of a cause which has often been contested since in the history of nations, and in none perhaps more sharply than our own. It was the rights of conscience they asserted, as they stood calm and confident before the furious king. They showed what men can do under the dominance of a lofty principle. Life, that was in its prime — dignities of office and sweets of power, that bad been tasted — these they were ready to lay down for conscience sake. No sophistries blinded them to the real point at issue; they could not bow to that heathen idol — not even for the king. They faced the ordeal, and came forth from it victorious; they would have been equally victorious had their bodies been charred in the furnace. Theirs was the dauntless spirit which has been manifested by the martyrs or "witnesses" of all ages. The answer they made to the king of Babylon has found many an echo at the stake or the block. Such, as one instance, were the words spoken by the young Scottish martyr on the scaffold (Hugh M'Kail, 1666). "Although I be judged and condemned as a rebel amongst men, yet I hope, even in order to this action, to be accepted as loyal before God."

(P. H. Hunter.)

For the difficult task of acting upon fixed religious principle, example is more helpful than precept.

I. THESE YOUTHS WOULD NOT, TO SAVE THEIR LIVES, COMMIT EVEN ONE SINGLE ACT OF IDOLATRY (v. 12) Had they not been true servants of God they would easily have quieted their consciences with excuses such as these.

1. All are obeying the command.

2. After all, it was a political rather than a religious act.

3. If they failed to comply with the royal mandate, their conduct might be misconstrued. But men of religious principle do not ask if they will be misunderstood, but what is their duty to God.

II. THEY REFUSED TO PARLEY ABOUT THE COURSE OF DUTY (v. 16). Our declining even to discuss the course of duty, when it is plainly and instinctively recognised by the conscience, is a proof of religious firmness and constancy.

III. THEY TRUSTED IMPLICITLY IN GOD'S SPECIAL PROVIDENCE OF HIS PEOPLE (v. 17). When our hold upon Divine truth is lessening or weak, we trust to the arm of flesh and useless expediences. Examples: Asa and the physicians (2 Chronicles 16:12); Israel and the chariots of Egypt (Isaiah 31:1). Those whose hearts are fixed, and who prove true in the fiery ordeal of trial, fall back upon their inner lines of retrenchment. They realise the fact that the Lord reigns, and personally superintends the order of events, so that the wrath of man is restrained, and also that God watches with jealous care His own people.

IV. THEY DID NOT CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR CONSTANCY (v. 18). God has not pledged Himself always to work a miracle or to do anything uncommon to deliver His people. As a rule we must not expect such interpositions. If we were perfectly certain of such help, where would be the worth of our holding out for the truth? It was as much a miracle of grace for the three youths to remain constant as it was a miracle of providence that they were kept safely in the fiery furnace. To determine our conduct, altogether irrespective of the consequences which may follow, shows the value of our religious life.

V. THEY HONOURED GOD BEFORE THE WORLD AND GOD ESPECIALLY HONOURED THEM. As unholy compromises and cowardly denials conduct to shame and confusion, so unflinching courage, and acting upon religious principles, leads to happiness and honour. Such is illustrated in the present case.

1. They are safely protected from the slightest harm in the fiery furnace. The very elements are made to respect them (v. 24, 25, 27).

2. The Son of God blesses them with His company (v. 25; Isaiah 43:2; Proverbs 18:10).

3. Their persecuter, Nebuchadnezzar, bestows greater honour upon them (v. 30; Proverbs 16:7). Is our religion one of fashion, form, education, or one of reality and principle? If the former, then in times of trial we shall fall away; if the latter, we shall by God's grace be kept steadfast. Christians should be prepared to face a fiery ordeal of temptation at some period of their career. This will strengthen and purify their faith.

(C. Neil, M.A.)

Hero worship is the one form of religion, if you will allow me to call it so, that binds the whole world. Dare great things, look at them in the face, and at once you are secure of the crown of laurel. What the world has to decide is the highest kind of courage. Some types of hero at once rise to your mind. There is the soldier type, for instance. He will dash through a storm of grape, and stand first upon the enemy's breastwork, covered with wounds. Or here is another, there is the fireman. He will rush through suffocating smoke and scorching heat, and come forth presently with the life he has rescued from the flames. Or here is the coast-guardsman. He will swim through the boiling surf, with a rope in his teeth, to the ship that has been stranded. Noble types of courage all of them — heroes worthy of crosses and of honours. But there is one thing to be said with regard to all these, they have all one strong inducement to heroism — the onlooking and the applause of the spectators. But if you wish to know who the true heroes of men are, ask who are those who dare to do right, simply because it is right, secure of no applause from the world, certain only of disapproval — standing alone. To be honest when honesty is the best policy, to be right when broad lines of right and wrong are marked down and acknowledged by all men, that is good; but to dare to be honest, and good, and true when it is not the best policy, when it is not popular — commend me to the man of this sort for the highest hero. And it was of such heroism that the men in our text are an example. The golden image. No figure emerges from the mist of ancient times more clearly defined than Nebuchadnezzar. He occupies a large space in Scripture, and the disinterred libraries of the East are filled with the records of his glory. While yet only crown prince he had swept in triumph through Syria and Palestine, and inflicted a severe defeat on Egypt. Greater than his victories abroad was his conquest of the magnificent city of Babylon, with its colossal walls and temples, which may justly be called his creation. To a certain magnificence and generosity of character he united vast arrogance, an ungovernable temper, and vindictive cruelty; yet he was so religious that all the records of his deeds are ascription to his god. What is the meaning of this decree? Doubtless, in the first place, it was largely political — a method, not unwise, of uniting the many different elements of his scattered empire, and securing his own supremacy. But it is not difficult to see that Nebuchadnezzar's god was, after all, only a deification of Nebuchadnezzar himself. The true man comes out in such phrases as these: "Is not this the great Babylon which I have built? .... Who is that God, who is able to deliver you out of my hands?" Yes, the image, overlaid with gold, flashing in the sun there, is an image erected to success and human glory. It is the worldly power triumphant. Men and women, the image of Dura is with us still. It is no longer embodied in outward form of idol or king. It is the world spirit, the spirit of earthly glory, wealth, success; and a right lordly spirit it is, towering, like Nebuchadnezzar's image, aloft, and decked out, too, like it, with flashing gold. It has allurement still; it gathers to it still all music, art, and refinement, — everything that delights the senses, and makes the homage of its worshippers easy; but it is arbitrary and capricious as ever. No religion or morality may control it. Its first commandment is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"; and for all its beauty and refinement, it is cruel — oh, deadly cruel. Resist it, and it is swelling with rage. Resist still, and it opens the furnace, no longer the furnace of wood or pitch. We have changed all that. The times are refined, but it has still its deadly enmity, as sharp in the teeth as ever. If it is no longer a furnace, it has sneering and scorning and social ostracism. The image flashes, the music sounds, the king is looking on, and in a moment the vast assembly is prostrate as a field of corn before a sudden tempest. Scythian purple, fine white linen, all kiss the dust. Just so, just so. Always where the world-spirit is upreared the world-power is down with one consent. Character, religion, these matter nothing. Wealth, show, rank, glory, these are your gods, O Israel. What kind of man is he that you ask us to worship? They say that he has broken hiswife's heart; never mind, "bow your heads"; and at once the whole multitude make their universal salaam. Here another splendid equipage comes along. Hats off! It is said, Who is he? What has he done? He has made his fortune. They say he has taken his millions out of the gutter. What does that matter? He is a rich man. Bow your heads; and again there is an universal acknowledgment of the old image of Dura. Our god is Success. This is his great Babylon that he has built. And so, when the music sounds the scene of Dura is repeated in every age, and the golden image is still worshipped by all. Not by all! Thank God, there are heroes still. Let us consider what they had to do. Young men they were, we are told, standing on the very threshold of life. Aye, and when is life ever so sweet? When is the grass so green, and the sun so bright, and that light upon land and sea so pleasant? When is it so difficult to turn one's back upon it, and leave it all? And not only life was before them, but, look you, such a life full of advantage. Would they not say, "God, pardon for once. We find the noise of the multitude, and the wrath of the king, and the allurements of music too much. God pardon us?" They had a very good precedent for it. You remember that when Naaman the Syrian was cured, he said to the prophet, taking the prophet's God to be his in this thing, "The Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing." And the prophet said, "Go in peace." And was there no prophet to say to these men that their sin was very small, and they might go in peace? There was higher than the king there that day. "They endured as seeing Him who is invisible." But we have not yet touched the full height of their heroism. Let us follow the narrative. The tongue of envy is at once set ageing. You will see that the envious tongue is the tongue of the Chaldeans, and you need not wonder at that when you find in the chapter before we have a record of a victory over the Chaldeans at the hands of Jehovah. They cannot bear to be thus humbled, prostrate themselves. You can hear cutting words like these: "Straight-laced!" "Who are they that they should be setting themselves up, indeed!" "Holier than all the rest!" Just so, just so. Do you worship with me? No; you dare to be different. How dare you? Who are you that you should set yourself up that I am wrong and you are right? And so the king heard of it, and was swelling with rage. Don't you wonder at the king? But a little while ago he had said of a truth, "your God is a God of gods and a Lord of lords." And yet it suited him to forget. The former interference of the God of gods had been quite in a line with his policy'. "And if the God of gods and the Lord of lords will interpret my dreams to me, and give me satisfaction, why, I have no objection to His being God of gods; but if He interferes with my lordship, if He sets me down from my pedestal and my golden image, erected to my glory, ah! then who is that God who will deliver out of my hand?" That is the morality of the world, the world's god. They knew God. Well, they had their answer. "Oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." "But if not." Men and women, I wonder if you see the amazing heroism of these three words. What does it mean? Ah! here is what it means. Religion pays. Honesty is the best policy. If you do not get on in this world you will in the next. If you are good, there is Heaven; if you are bad, there is hell. It is best to be good. But if all that arrangement of yours for the reward of good and the punishment of evil were to-night upset, where would your morality be? It is convenient for you to be an honest fellow. You have the repute of your fellows. But that hope beyond — but if not, if there should be no reward for your goodness, if there is no Heaven to keep you up, if there is no hell to terrify you, nothing but right — that is right, whether it is reward or not. I wonder if you would be bold enough to say, "If not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." But marvellous things happen. With startling dramatic power it is put before us in this narrative. "Then Nebuchadnezzar was astonished, rose up and said, "Lo! I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Ah, whatever interpretation you make of that verse, on the whole doctrine the story is true for all time. Truth lives in the furnace. It was a great thing these men had looked forward to when they said, "Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace, and He will deliver us." That was great, but who of men ever thought of this greater thing by far — "Our God is able to deliver us in the furnace." These men went free; nothing was burned but the bonds which their fellows had laid upon them. The lesson of it all is this, that truth — nay, let me say this, to speak in New Testament language — the truth, us it is in Jesus, devotion to Christ, is a thing marked off from the world by as sharp a line as it was in the days of Nebuchadnezzar — and to young men — yes, and old men — there comes the same choice on the one side, the lordly bringing to itself all worldly advantage, surrounding itself still with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, with the furnace not far off, is claiming your allegiance; and by the side is your Lord and Master, asking you to witness and be faithful to Him, to His Person, to His atonement, to His resurrection, to all that He is and all that He has given us; and He has asked of you, "What will you do to-day?" Ah! the world says, "No need to be so sharp; let us have airy notions and ill-defined beliefs; let us have a large margin, wherein it may be lawful now to bow to the golden image, and now to bow to Jehovah." No, no. Keen — keen is the dividing line still — the worship there, Christ here; the music there, the furnace here — and for your choice. God help you in that day when the two forces strive for your allegiance! I say, God help you to say, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so the God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us. But if not, we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image thou hast set up."

(W. J. Macdonald.)

The world crowns with the heroic wreath those who have been distinguished for valour in the field of carnal strife, "but there is something which has tried the souls of men more than the muzzle of a gun ready to pour its contents into the unshielded breast of a soldier." So there have been heroes who never set a squadron in the field, or bared their breast to an enemy's steel flattery and frowns, blandishments and dungeons, and cross and the stake, have had no power to turn them from the right.

I. THE ACCUSATION. No man may expect to escape from calumny. But happy is the man who can be assailed only because of his virtues — his adherence to religious principles. And such is the base passion of envy, that it withers at another's joy, and hates the excellence it cannot reach," and will, therefore, seek to elevate itself by detracting from the reputation of another.

II. THE TRIAL. The trial of these young men was one of the most extraordinary to which men were ever subjected. It was so as by fire. Now, truth and virtue are on trial. What will be the issue? Come, ye angels that excel in strength; come, all the world that hang in hope upon the truth of religion, and await the result. "But if not, be it known unto thee, O king! that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." The answer illustrates:

1. The duty of pleasing God rather than men. "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." But just here the text is found at which so many fail. Men are careful to answer to their fellow-men, rather than to God, for their conduct. Public opinion is the great golden image before which they fall down in worship. Fashion also sets up its great golden image, and commands all to bow down and worship it. It has passed into an aphorism: "You had as well go out of the world as out of the fashion." God says: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." There is also a great golden image set up in the form of prevailing social customs, by which persons are tried whether they will do right or conform to the example of the company they are in.

2. The confidence that God would take care of them if they honoured Him. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery" furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand." And their knowledge of the character of God assured them that no real harm could come to them in the way of their duty to Him. But their answer went further; if it had not, it would have lacked in one great element of force, which we shall see presently. They said: "But if God does not deliver us, we will not serve thy gods." If this had not been added, it might have been said: "No wonder they are so heroic, having the assurance that God would save them from the threatened punishment; in other words, they were willing to serve God as long as they were exempt from suffering; as long as it went well with them in this world." That was the kind of religion that the neighbours of Job thought he had — a mercenary religion.

3. We have in this answer an exhibition of true principle as the foundation of a religious life. Their were governed by principle. "True religion," says Albert Barnes, "is a determined purpose to do right, whatever may be the consequences. Come wealth or poverty, honour or dishonour, life or death, the mind is firmly fixed on doing right." A man who loves what is right, and is determined to do what is right because he has deep down in his soul a recognition of the everlasting blessedness of virtue, is not the one who will want to bring weak excuses for worldly conformity; for doing what he has misgivings in his own mind is not right. He who is in earnest about saving his soul will not frame weak excuses for yielding to temptation. In fine, principle, and not impulse, will be the mainspring of his religious activity. True religion is a determined purpose to live for God, come what may.

III. WE COME NOW TO THE CONDEMNATION AND DELIVERANCE OF THESE YOUNG MEN AS THE FINAL GENERAL PROPOSITION OF OUR SUBJECT. They were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Though they had been so faithful to God, yet He permitted them to be brought into this dreadful place. Now may Nebuchadnezzar utter his infidel sneer: "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Even faith itself may be so tried as to say: "It is vain to serve God; He is so indifferent to our efforts to please Hire, or He is powerless against the world." But do not be in haste to judge. God did not save them from the furnace, but He went with them into it and protected them there. So His people may not be exempt from trials, but they have the presence of Jesus in these trials. "In the world ye shall have tribulation," and through great tribulation ye shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But if He sees that it is necessary that we go into those trials, He will give us blessed compensations. And then, if He sees fit to put us in the furnace in order to purify, and sanctify, and fit us for glory, it is because He knows there is something in us worth the trial. Men do not put dross in the crucible — a thing of no value — and sit there watching over it. Then, if you are in the furnace, there is something in you which God values, and by this process He will develop it. "They walked in the midst of the fire and had no hurt." How true to the history of God's people in all ages of the world-walking in the midst of the fire and not burned. From this we learn that it is not the outward circumstances of an individual that can harm him. His welfare depends upon the inward state of the heart. Hence a Christian has a source of consolation which no earthly influences can turn aside or obstruct. But the same fire which was harmless to God's servants destroyed their enemies. And thus it is that those trials under which Christians are happy are overwhelming to those who have no faith in God. I cannot leave this subject without one more thought. These men were called up out of the furnace. And that was not all; they were promoted in the kingdom. From the fires of trial to which God subjects us, always comes a higher state of life. But this higher state is produced by those experiences which seem so hard to us. We rise upon the wreck of the earthly to the Heavenly. After they were well tried the king came and called these young men out of the trial — out of the furnace. Then the king promoted them in the province of Babylon. And thus will God, when He has seen that we have been suffciently tried, and are fitted for the better world, call us out of the furnace and promote us to the kingdom of everlasting blessedness.

(J. T. Murray.)

Have you not seen in your time men seriously impressed? But after a while they forgot it all, and became at length the most bitter opponents of the truth before which they seemed once to bow. We know, then, what to expect; that some who seem like fish almost landed, will, nevertheless, slip back into the stream. This great king of Babylon was an absolute monarch. His will was law; no man ever dared to dispute with him. Who would differ from a gentleman who could back up his arguments with a fiery, furnace, or with a threat to cut you in pieces, and to make your house a dunghill?

I. First of all, as we think of these three brave Jews, let us consider THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE. They were accused by the Chaldeans, who had so recently been saved from death by Daniel and his three friends. The surest way to be hated by some people is to place them under an obligation. But in this case the wrath of man was to praise God. They might have said to themselves, "It is perfectly useless to resist. We cannot contend against this man. If we submit, we do it unwillingly; and surely, being coerced into it, we shall be but little blamed." It is a bad excuse, but it is one that I have often heard made. "Oh," says a man, "we must live, you know; we must live." I really do not see any necessity for it. Again, they might have said, "We are in a strange land, and is it not written by one of our wise men, 'When you are in Babylon, you must do as Babylon does'? Of course, if we were at home, in Judaea, we would not think of such a thing." Is God the God of this island, and not the God of the Continent? Has He ever given us permission to do abroad we may not do at home? It is a vile excuse, but commonly enough made. They might also have said, "We are in office"; and seeing they were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, they might have found some difficulty in detaching their private religion from their public duty. A man gets elected to a parish vestry, or a council, or a board, and when he once gets to sit on that board, he seems to have left his honesty at home. I say not that it is so always, but I am sorry to say that it has often been so. The official has no sooner put on his robes of office than his conscience has vanished. But, then, they were prosperous men. They were getting on in the world, and I believe that God sent this trial to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, because they were prospering. They might have said, "We must not throw away our chances." Among the dangers to Christian men, the greatest, perhaps, is accumulating wealth — the danger of prosperity. May God grant that we may never turn His mercies into an excuse for sinning against Him! You who are rich have no more liberty to sin than if you were poor. Again, further, they might have excused themselves thus. The putting up of this image was not altogether a religious act. It was symbolical. The image was intended to represent the power of Nebuchadnezzar, and bowing before it was, therefore, doing political homage to the great king. Might they not safely do this? They might have said, "We are pollitically bound." Oh, how often we hear this brought up! You are told to regard the difference between right and wrong everywhere, except when you get into politics; then stick to your party through thick and thin. Right and wrong vanish at once. Loyalty to your leader — that is the point. A very soothing salve for their conscience might have been found in the absence of any command to renounce their own religion. They might have encouraged each other to submit, by saying, "We are not called upon to abjure our God." They need not believe the idol to be Divine, nor confess the least faith in it; in their hearts they might make a mental reservation as they bowed, and they might have whispered to one another, and said that it was a devil, and no God. They might have excused themselves to their own conscience by saying that they prostrated themselves to the music, and not to the idol, or that they made obeisance to the king rather than to his image. Anything, in fact, will serve for an excuse, when the heart is 'bent on compromise; and, especially in these half-hearted days, it is very easy to find a specious reason for a false action, if some temporal benefit is attached to it. Modern charity manufactures a multitude of excuses to cover sins withal. A stronger argument, however, might have been secured from the fact of the universal submission to the decree. "Everybody else is doing it," they might have said. Though millions bowed, what had that to do with them? I ask you to cultivate a brave personality. In the service of God, things cannot go by the counting of heads. They might have said, "It is only for once, and not for long. Ten minutes or so, once in a lifetime, to please the king; such a trivial act cannot make any difference; at any rate, it is not enough to brave the fiery furnace for. Let us treat the whole thing as a huge jest. It would be ridiculous to throw away our lives for such a trifle." Not even for a few minutes in a lifetime would these three brave men deny their God. May their stubborn faith be ours! Another excuse that they might have made was, "We can do more good by living than we can by being cast into than furnace. It is true, if we are burnt alive, we bear a rapid testimony to the faith of God; but if we live, how much more we might accomplish! You see we three are Jews, and we are put in high office, and there are many poor Jews who are captives. We can help them. We have always seen justice done to God's people, our fellow-country-men, and we feel that we are raised to our high office on purpose to do good. Now, you see, if you make us bigots, and wilt not let us yield, you cut short our opportunities of usefulness." If an act of sin would increase my usefulness tenfold, I have no right to do it; and if an act of righteousness would appear likely to destroy my my apparent usefulness, I am yet to do it. But they might also have said, "Real!y, this is more than can be expected of us." Remember what Jesus said to the multitudes who went with him, "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,. and brethren; and sister, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."

II. In the second place, let us assure our own hearts by admiring THE CONFIDENCE WHICH THEY POSSESSED. They expressed it very emphatically and clearly. They had a definite, solid, foursquare faith.

1. First, they said, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." The word "careful" there, does not give you the meaning. Read it, "We are not full of care as to how to answer thee." They did answer very carefully; but they were not anxious about the answer. They did not deliberate. They did not hesitate. They said, "Nebuchadnezzar, we can answer you at once on that point."

2. In the second place, they did not judge it theirs to answer at all. I find that it may read, as in the Revised Version, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter," meaning, "We will not answer you. It is not for us to answer you. You have brought another Person into the quarrel" Then notice what they say. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace."

3. They avowed their faith in the Omnipotent God, knowing that, if He chose, no mighty man of Babylon could ever throw them into that furnace. What is more, they add, "And He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." Whether they burned in the fire or not, they were sure they would be delivered. If any of you are in great difficulty and trouble, tempted, to do wrong, nay, pressed to do it, and if you do what is right, it looks as if you will be great losers and great sufferers; believe this: God can deliver you. He can prevent your having to suffer what you suppose you may; and if He does not prevent that, He can help you to bear it, and, in a short time, He can turn all your losses into gains, all your sufferings into happiness. The Lord has helped us in the past, He is helping us in the present, and we believe that He will help us all the way through.

III. But here is the point that I want to make most prominent — the third one — THE DETERMINATION AT WHICH THEY HAD ARRIVED. "I not," if God does not deliver us at all, "be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Grand language! Noble resolve!

1. They did not pivot their loyalty to God upon their deliverance. They did not say, as some do, "I will serve God if it pays me to do so. I will serve God if He helps me at such and such a time." No, they would serve Him for nothing; theirs was not cupboard love.

2. They resolved that they would obey God at all costs. Let us walk in this heroic path. But some will say, "It is too hard. You cannot expect men to love God well enough to die for Him." No, but there was One who loved us well enough to die for us, and to die a thousand deaths in one, that He might save us. If Christ so loved us, we ought so to love Him. "Well," says one, "I think it is impossible. I could not bear pain." It is possible, for many have endured it. You may never be called to such a trial as that; but still, if you cannot bear the small trials, how would you bear the great ones? To enable us to get the spirit of these three holy men, we must get, first, a clear sense of the Divine presence. It a man feels that God is seeing him, he will not bow his knee to an idol; neither will he do evil; for God's eye is upon him. We must, next, have a deep sense of the Divine law. I have already reminded you of the law. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," etc. Above all, to keep us right, we must have a mighty sense of the Divine love. We shall never obey God till by His grace we have new hearts, and those hearts are full of love to Him through Jesus Christ. "But what did these three men do?" says one; "they simply did not bow their heads, and they were cast into the fiery furnace. What did they do?" They influenced their age, their people, and all time. These three men influenced the city of Babylon, and the whole Babylonian empire, They certainly influenced King Nebuchadnezzar. These three men command the admiration of Heaven and earth. A fool would have pointed at them and said, "There go three fools — gentlemen high in office, with large incomes, and wives and families. They have only to take their cap off, and they may live in their wealth; but if they do not do it, they are to be burnt alive; and they will not do it. They will be burnt alive. They are fools." Yes, but the Son of God did not think so. When He in Heaven heard them speak thus to King Nebuchadnezzar, He said, "Brave, brave men! I will leave the throne of God in Heaven to go and stand by their side"; and invisibly He descended, till where the fires were glowing like one vast ruby, where the fierce flame had slain the men that threw the three confessors into the burning fiery furnace, He came and stood.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The true way of treating sin is by a religion of principle. And that sort of religion is splendidly displayed in Scripture. Out on the plain of Dura is to be lifted a golden image ninety feet in height. It is plated, not solid — and are not all idols plated? Every object of worship, save only God, is hollow and deceiving. Well, the pageant is accomplished. The image stands resplendent. The king is gorgeous on his throne. The highest officers of the kingdom crowd the plain. The music bursts and swells. And all the plain at once is full of prostrate worshippers. Except that three men still stand. They have not fallen. They do not worship. Who are they? They are Hebrew captives from Jerusalem. They have heard the command higher than the king's — "Thou shalt have no other gods before me; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor worship them." They will obey this loftier mandate. And there they stand amid the kneeling host, erect, alone; with firmness on their faces, with faith in their hearts, with God above them, with all the world beneath their feet. Here, surely, is a religion of principle. Not a transient enthusiasm; not simply a decorous, fair-weather profession; not a weak and swaying sentimentality, but a deep, inward, immovable, resistent principle of life, holding the possessors of it to straight and definite courses, and clothing them with heroism. Consider the foundation of such religion of principle. Right doctrine is one of its foundations. Doctrine is something taught. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been taught the truth that Jehovah is supreme. There is an immense importance in right doctrine. Right religion is right theology applied; right practice is right doctrine carried out; right life is right creed lived. You must learn the will of God before you can unfalteringiy do that will. Right resolve is another of the foundations of a religion of principle. Not only must the right doctrine be received, but along with that must go the resolve to practise it at all hazards. The doctrine must not be a seed, carefully wrapped and laid in some secret drawer; it must be a seed planted, and helped upward into growth and bloom and fruitage by all the breezes, and all the showers, and all the sunlight. Right doctrine must, through holy resolution, compel the deed into coincidence with itself. Consider the tests of this religion of principle. It is prompt. Oh, the waste of life, in debating duty! Oh, the weakness of argument and counter argument! Oh, the trouble of the spirit stunned with the noises of disputation with itself. Oh, the clearness and straightness and strength of the life which, looking to Christ for truth, just bravely does the truth at once. Mark the grand promptness of these three Hebrews. "We are determined and decided; wears not careful to answer thee in this matter, O king." This religion of principle is conscientious about small matters.

(Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)

I. WE HAVE HERE AN INSTANCE OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE. The scene of the text is laid in an Eastern land. It would seem that the will of the monarch was supreme. His word was law; he must be obeyed. And this authority was not confined simply to affairs of state; it seems to have entered into the region of religion too. This is always dangerous. It matters but little when it happens; trouble is almost sure to arise unless freedom of thought and. liberty of conscience are entirely surrendered. It was this arrogant claim which kept many states of Europe in the chains of ignorance and superstition far too long. It was this which fired the soul of Luther, and led him to be a reformer. We state with emphasis that in our judgment no man has a right to come between God and. the soul.

1. Every man should be at liberty to worship God. according to his own conscience and lights.

2. The law should protect every man in the enjoyment of this liberty, providing always that he does not interfere with the enjoyment of the same rights and liberties by others. My freedom of action is to be limited by the rights and liberties of others. The king had. a perfect right to set up his image. But when he sought to compel others to do as he did he interfered with their liberties, which should have been the measure of his own. The law should. protect us all alike in our religion, if we do not interfere with the rights of our neighbours.

3. No man should suffer civil disability because of his religious belief.

4. No man should have preference in civil matters because of his religious profession.

II. WE HAVE AN EXAMPLE OF RELIGIOUS FAITHFULNESS.

1. We must be true to our God, even if we have to stand alone. Living as we do in times when religion is popular, and to attend public worship is respectable, we cannot fully realise all it means to stand alone for God.

2. We must be true to our God,, even if it makes us seem untrue to men. These men had received, much in this kingdom. They were the sons of conquered people, men of an alien and foreign race, the children of captivity, and prisoners of war. Royal favour had spared, and saved them. Sad and. painful as it may be to appear ungrateful to those to whom we are under obligation, we must not dishonour our God. It is better to lose the friendship of man than the favour of God.

3. We must be true to God, even if it brings loss upon us. A religion which costs nothing is worth only what it costs. Did Moses consider what he would gain if he made common cause with his own people, whom God meant him to deliver? It may well be doubted. if anyone ever suffers much in the long run through faithfulness to God.

(C. Leach, D.D.)

Men of this strain are of native right the captains of the great host of God. They are the men sent to lead it when formed, to rally it when broken, and to inspire it by their own conduct in the field. The men who can say, Whether I succeed or fail, as the world counts success or failure, whether I suffer or triumph, whether I die or live, one thing I do, the will of God as far as it is made known to me; and one thing I will not do, the will of the world, the flesh, and the devil, form that living core of strength and valour in Christ's army. The presence of these Jewish youths at the Chaldean court is a conspicuous instance of the visible interposition of a Divine hand in the government of the world. The Jew was the living witness of the care of God for the political welfare of men. We are prone to underrate the influence of the Jew on the world of his time. We see him narrow, selfish, and exclusive, and we easily overlook the remarkable influence which he exerted at critical moments on the surrounding peoples. Joseph's work in Egypt is really but a specimen of the work which that people, willingly or unwillingly, were compelled to accomplish for mankind. In Daniel probably the influence culminated, until the whole commission was read out by St. Paul. The crisis which Daniel records is one of the chief pivots of universal history.

I. Let us study THE MARTYR SPIRIT AS HERE REVEALED.

1. These men had attained to the condition in which conviction had passed beyond the reach of perturbation or question. The everlasting hills were not so firmly rooted as the belief in the God of Heaven, and the essential blessedness of serving Him, was rooted in those young hearts. The rending in pieces of the whole world system around them would have shattered none of their dearest beliefs and hopes (Psalm 46:1-5). Their God made the world, and could make new worlds at His pleasure; but He was the same, from everlasting to everlasting, and His word must stand, whatever else in the universe might fall.

2. They were themselves of that temper, and had come to that strength and unity of character, that they could declare, There are things which we cannot say, there are things which we cannot do, whatever be the cost; it is blankly impossible; here strand we; we can do no other, God help us. I say they were of that temper, and they had come to that strength and unity of character. There must be both to make such martyrs, such witnesses for the God of Heaven as these. If this must be, it must be. God help us; it must be. We cannot speak, we cannot do, this awful lie. "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

3. There must abide in all martyr spirits an unwavering faith in the omnipotent hand of God. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us." His power to rule is clear to us as sunlight. He may choose to help us now, and signally deliver. He may choose to let us suffer, but nothing can shake our belief in His Power to save. We are sure that His will must be done; His cause must triumph; His servants, His soldiers, must be crowned. It may be here; it may be there; we do not question Him; times are in His hand. But here or there it will be, as surely as He reigns. A man may say with unconquerable firmness, I cannot do this thing, I will rather die, even when he believes that death is annihilation. But this faith is essential to the joyous spirit of Christian martyrdom; the exultation in prospect of a death of pain and shame which broke forth in the words, "I am ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." To die thus, one must believe that that for which he dies will reign, and he with it, in eternity.

II. We shall better understand the temper of these men WHEN WE COMPARE IT WITH A RECORD WHICH DESCRIBES VERY FAITHFULLY THE QUALITY OF MUCH THAT GOES BY THE NAME OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE (Genesis 28:16-22). "Bless me, prosper my journey, bring me home again, and I will serve thee," were the terms of Jacob's covenant in Bethel. But if the cross be heavy, the self-denial hard, the battle long and stern, the cry is, Why hast thou brought me forth? "Is not this that" we said unto thee, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?" How grandly beside these terms of bargain rings out the clear defiance of the text. Many a man enters on the pilgrim path in the belief that God will make his way smooth, pleasant, prosperous, and ends by being so wedded to truth and righteousness that he would say quite calmly with these men, "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Do not be disheartened if you find faith waver in the hour of trial. At the opening of a battle, when the first bullets begin to patter, the boldest soldier draws himself together. When his blood is warm, he thinks of them no more than of summer rain-drops. Pray to the Master that thy faith fail not.

III. Let us look at THE SCHOOL IN WHICH MEN ARE TRAINED TO SUCH GOD-:LIKE VIGOUR AND COURAGE which it was God's will that they should practise in great things. They were as resolute against little compliances as against great ones. It is a grand mistake to think that men can leap in one moment of high excitement to such a glorious height of strength and courage. Nothing but trained Christian manhood can endure such strain. Idols! the world is full of them. Golden idols, too, and daily throngs bow down their souls to worship. Are you trained to say, That I cannot do, that trick I cannot practise, that lie I cannot tell, that lust I will not indulge, that worldly success I will not clutch at, though life were hanging on it. I cannot do it; God help me!

(J. B. Brown, B.A.)

I. THE IMPIETY OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR IN ERECTING THIS IDOL, and using means to compel all people, especially his captives, to fall down and worship it..

II. The exemplary courage and fidelity of these men, in withstanding the impetuous passion of the king, and suffering all the effects of his rage and fury, rather than yield to the impiety of worshipping his idol

III. The happy issue of their constancy, and triumph of their faith in this conflict.

I. As to the idol itself, though the sacred text says nothing of the shape of it, yet I think it is not doubted but that it was made in the figure of a man; some think it was intended for Bolus, the founder of the Babylonian royal family; others, for Nabopollasser, this king's father; but a third opinion is that it was a model of that image which Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream, in the foregoing chapter, which he might take to be the genius of his kingdom, and which, therefore, he might hope to render propitious to him and his affairs, by dedicating to him this magnificent statue, and through it offering to him Divine honours and adorations. This, indeed, was agreeable enough to the theology of the ancient Gentiles, who thus venerated their peculiar and tutelar deities. But it was more unpardonable in this king than in others, by reason of the long commerce which he had with the Jews, which makes it impossible to conceive that he could be ignorant of this first and greatest article of their religion, that there was but one God, and that He was to be worshipped in a spiritual way, without any material resemblance. He was well acquainted with Daniel and these three men, whom he had appointed to be bred up in his court, and to be fitted for the high offices of his kingdom, to which he quickly preferred them. I will not now stand to enquire how far it may be lawful to enforce the profession even of true religion by temporal penalties. There is a zeal for God, which His own word approves of in magistrates and ministers; and there is a zeal without knowledge, which runs out into a criminal persecution, for which St. Paul says that he obtained mercy, because he acted ignorantly (1. Timothy 1:13). But surely Nebuchadnezzar could not plead this excuse. He must be well acquainted with the religion of these men; he had the greatest obligations to their God, and was bound to them by the laws of hospitality, and by the faithful service which we may justly suppose they rendered him in their respective stations.

II. Let us now turn to the contemplation of THE EXEMPLARY COURAGE AND FIDELITY OF THESE MEN, who withstood the impetuous passion of the king, and chose to suffer all the effects of his rage and fury rather than yield to the impiety of worshipping his idol. This is a plain argument that their hopes were extended beyond this life; for had they thought the fiery furnace could have put an end to their being, and that there should nothing have remained of them for God to reward or punish in another state, I am of opinion they would have bowed to this image rather than have burned for it. For, however some affirm, that truth is so much more beautiful and con-natural to the soul of man than falsehood, that a wise man would prefer it even for its own sake, though nothing was to be expected after this life; yet if it were to be vindicated with the utter extinction of the whole man, and that on the contrary his receding from it would prolong his existence and his happiness, I am apt to think that it would in such case become an allowed rule of wisdom, to recede from the truth when it could not be held without suffering the loss of soul and body for the sake of it. And this was certainty the motive, why these martyrs of the true God did so cheerfully surrender their bodies to the flames, submitting themselves to Him, to live or die, as He saw most conducive to His own glory; firmly believing that if the fire dissolved their bodies, their souls should pass into His more immediate presence, and be made partakers of His immortal felicities. I believe I need not say much to persuade those who have a competent knowledge of the sufferings of holy martyrs, that many of them have given the best evidence that the consolations of God have far exceeded the torments of men in their greatest extremities.

III. THE HAPPY ISSUE OF THESE MEN'S CONSTANCY, and the triumph of their faith in this conflict. The enraged king had power to throw them into the fire, but he had no power to make the fire burn them. The king, when he called to his counsellors upon this occasion, told them that the form of the fourth man was like the Son of God. By this he might mean that he appeared to be a very august, majestic person; a god-like man, as we would say. This is as much as the expression sometimes imports. But because he could not think that a man of flesh and blood could enter there, and preserve the sufferers in such a miraculous manner, he must rather mean that it was some Divine Being sent from Heaven for this purpose. To this it will be objected that it is not credible Nebuchadnezzar knew anything of this Son of God, so as to be able to say that this person was like him. And we may readily allow that he did not; and yet this objection does not at all overthrow our hypothesis. For the king might mean in general that he seemed to be some Divine person; and this person might be the particular and only Son of God, who in all probability appeared upon the earth in human shape upon some occasion long before His incarnation.

(W. Reading M. A.)

I. CONSIDER THE TRIAL OF THEIR OBEDIENCE. It must be allowed that things good in themselves are heightened in value by circumstances. Why was the liberality of the widow commended, whole file rich cast into the treasury? We are told that they cast in of their abundance; but she of her penury cast in all that she had. The man who is not puffed up in the time of prosperity, is the humble man; he who is not cast down when in danger, and when all other men's strength fails, this is the courageous man.

1. They could plead authority. It was their sovereign who commanded them to fall down and worship the image, and good men must be loyal subjects. Yes, but here is a distinction to be made: we must distinguish between civil and religious concerns, and must obey God rather than man. But this conduct has often given to the servants of God a character for insubordination. Thus Jesus was charged with sedition, and Paul with being tumultuous.

2. They could plead obligation. Nebuchadnezzar had taken these captives from among the Hebrews, and had raised them to offices of trust and emolument. Nothing pleads so powerfully as kindness; favours attach the heart, and good men are sensible of obligations. There is no greater trial than to be unable to oblige a friend. "He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me" — this is the trial.

3. They could plead the universality of the example. All around them yielded; and why should they be singular? Singularity, for its own sake, always shows a vain mind, and singularity in little things discovers a weak mind. Decency requires that we should not stand out in little things; but in things important, where a soul is to be lost, and God dishonoured — there we must be "separate, and touch not the unclean thing." A dead fish will swim with the stream; it is a live one only that can swim against it. It was thus that Enoch walked with God alone, and amidst opposition. Thus, Noah was a preacher of righteousness in a sinful world, and Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. You are not afraid to be singular in most things; you are not afraid to be singularly wise — singularly rich — singularly happy! The best wisdom is that "which is from above," and the best happiness is that which is eternal. When you are called on to do good, never ask what others are doing, or what will be said of you.

4. Remark the dreadfulness of the penalty. You sometimes complain that your trials are too much for your virtue. "Oh," you say, "if we follow on in this particular course, we shall" — but let us hear your trials — "we shall be exposed to the burning stake — cast into the lion's den." No, nothing like it. " Shall be deprived of liberty"; nothing like it. "Be reduced to want"; nothing like it. "No; but in order to attend to closet and family devotions," I hear you say, "we must rise a little earlier. Oh! but, if we don't profane the Sabbath, and open our shops on the Sunday, we shall lose some of our customers. If we don't conform to the world, we shall be scoffed at." Eternal God! these are the martyrs of thy religion in our day!

II. THE PRINCIPLE OF THEIR OBEDIENCE. A conduct so tried, and yet so triumphant, must have had principle to support it. A man under the influence of principle will not be under the control of circumstances, nor under the influence of momentary impulse; if a good man errs, he acts from principle. But what armed them? Can we find a principle equal to the effect produced? The servants of God have done great things, and have suffered great trials; and the very thing which has enabled them to suffer is that which some are afraid of, viz., faith. Faith does not lead to licentiousness. It is by faith alone that we can do good works. But faith must have something to lay hold on, and act and work upon. In the faith of these three young men there were three things to act upon.

1. The power of God. "Our God," said they, "is able to deliver us." "He is the Maker of heaven and earth; He has suspended the laws of nature, made iron to swim, and raised the dead; and He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." It was here that the Jews failed; they asked', "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Can He give flesh also?" All nature may change; but His word cannot fail: "He can turn the shadow of death into the morning."

2. It regarded the disposition of God. "He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king!" Perhaps they thought it probable that God would work a miracle in their favour; perhaps they had some inward presentiment of it in their minds; perhaps they concluded this from Scripture. They had doubtless read in the book of Psalms, "I will deliver him and honour him, and I will shew him my salvation." He has engaged to deliver His people in the day of trouble, and He will do it, either here partially or hereafter completely.

3. It regarded a future indemnification in another world. What! did they still persist in their determination — though a painful death was to be the consequence? Yes; but they could not have regaled it as annihilation. If there had been no other world, it would not have become them to have sacrificed life; their martyrdom would, in this case, have been madness. They must, then, have believed in a state of future recompense. Unless we bring the prospect of a future and eternal life to bear upon our conduct, we shall yield to temptation; and it is for want of this that the world leads us astray. When we think of another world, how infinitely superior does it appear to the present life!

III. Notice THE EFFECT OF THEIR OBEDIENCE. How did it end? In promoting the glory of the Master whom they served, and the interests of the religion which they professed. When the people of God suffer in the discharge of their duty, they glorify God, and show how He can deliver those who trust in Him. It resulted in their own honour and advantage. They staid not long in the furnace; but those were golden moments. O what peace and joy in God did they feel! and what holy resolutions did they form while in the furnace? To conclude:

1. Let us be thankful for the biography of the Scriptures — let us be grateful that we have the example of so many good men set before us, who, through faith and patience, do now inherit the promises.

2. If you are the servants of God, His grace is necessary for you. It is happy for us that we live under a paternal government, and are not exposed to the fury and caprice of tyrants.

3. While infidels ridicule you, and the enemies of Christ misrepresent your conduct, there is something in the religion of Christ which will support you; there is a reality in it which can be found in nothing else.

(W. Jay.)

The Church of God has suffered much persecution. This, though in itself an evil, has been productive of good. By persecution the sincerity of religious professors has been tried, the hypocrisy of deceivers has been detected, the graces of good men have been exercised and improved.

I. The CIRCUMSTANCES which occasioned the address. Babylon the renowned capital of the ancient Chaldean empire; a place not less remarkable for its magnificence than its idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen; the royal patron of idolatrous practices; a very powerful and ambitious monarch. And was the object of this imperious prince attained? Did he secure universal compliance? No; these three youths, mentioned in the text, dared to refuse. "Then Nebuchadnezzar, in his rage and fury" — very unfit companions for a king! How little qualified was this man to rule mighty nations, who had no rule over his own spirit! This worm of the earth sets himself in competition with Jehovah! He challenges the Most High, the King of Heaven! He defies the power of Omnipotence! It is the sentiment of an infidel, bloated with pride, and burning with passion.

II. The TEMPER OF MIND discovered in the address. It possesses uncommon beauty, and is highly instructive.

1. Dignified composure. "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." There was nothing in the least disrespectful in this sentence; they were not indifferent to their situation, or inattentive to their language and behaviour; it intimates rather that they were not perplexed about the answer they should give. The king was exceedingly agitated, but we see nothing of agitation in these young men; they were perfectly collected and composed. They did not begin to declaim against the idols of Babylon, or against the iniquity of this sanguinary edict. We notice here the influence of genuine religion; it is the same in all ages, and in all countries. So far as it is possessed, it quiets the mind; it preserves it unruffled; it subdues those angry passions which disturb the breast of many when their will is thwarted, when their inclination is crossed. Do you complain of the want of self-possession, and of command of temper in the presence of those who revile and persecute you?

2. Decided piety. In the presence of an imperious monarch, who was addicted to the practice of idolatry, and determined on reducing all about him to the same way, these youths explicitly avow "the God whom we serve." Yes, the man who loves God in his heart is not ashamed of his attachment, nor is he afraid to declare it on every proper occasion. Decided piety is productive of Christian courage; and this does not consist in rudeness; it does not oblige a man to intrude religious talk into every company, and at every turn; yet, when his principles are violently attacked, when the honour of God and of the Gospel is insulted, the true Christian will not be cowardly, but decided and firm. Beg of God to strengthen this heavenly principle in you, to fortify your hearts and minds, to preserve you from sinful shame, to make you decided and valiant for the truth as it is in Jesus.

3. Believing confidence is remarkably evident. "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." They seem to have had a secret expectation that, should Nebuchadnezzar be suffered to carry his threats into execution, their God, by some means, would rescue them. Whether they had any intimation of this given them from Heaven, we are not certain. They trusted in the living God, and by faith "endured, as seeing Him that is invisible! "Ask yourselves, what is the nature, and what are the grounds of your confidence? Is your hope in God?" Does it rest on His truth, and on the certainty that He will secure His own glory? Alas! the confidence of most is easily shaken, and faith wavers with every wind of trial.

4. Steady resolution, at all events, to obey God rather than man, A variety of considerations might have shaken their constancy, and led them to a compliance. Let us advert here, to the disposition of many professors of religion in the present day. Could not you have got over this difficulty without hazarding your life? Would you not have temporised a little? Would you not have yielded, and then, by some expedient, have settled matters with your conscience? Yes, some have settled much more difficult points.

III. The remarkable EFFECTS which the address produced. On Nebuchadnezzar they were effects of more violent anger; it stirred up all his malignant rage, which appeared in the distortion of his countenance; he was "full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed." Henry remarks: "Would men in a passion but look at their faces in a glass, they would blush at their own folly, and turn their displeasure against themselves." But the day is coming when proud tyrants will be called to account, not only for the cruelties which they have themselves practised, but also for those which they have instigated others to commit; and an awful reckoning it will be." This subject suggests a few words:

1. To young persons. The case of these Hebrew youths conveys instruction to you with peculiar energy, and demonstrates the great necessity of steady religious principle. It is true you live not in the court of Babylon; but you live in a sinful world, surrounded with the enemies of God, and of your souls. An image of gold is not set up which you are commanded to worship; but there are other snares, a variety of other trials, which will put your sincerity to the test, and determine whom you serve. And you, parents, we wonder not that young persons, in the present day, are so yielding to vanity and vice; so content to swim with the stream, and to follow the corrupt fashions of the age; for what should hinder? What should induce them to resist? Their minds are not principled;they are not furnished with religious knowledge; and for want of this, their consciences have little sense of evil, their hearts are not inclined to good, they are left without any effectual restraint.

2. To undecided professors. There are many such; and many do not suspect themselves till they are tried. It is an easy thing to follow religion while the world smiles; but when it frowns, when it threatens, when it reviles and persecutes, then is the secret iniquity of multitudes discovered; their principles are abandoned, and their props give way. Remember, if religion demands anything, it demands the heart. You must be decided, or you are nothing. Is it so, that you are led away by the fascinations of the world? You know nothing of the Gospel as you ought to know.

3. Afflicted, persecuted believers are addressed. To you this subject speaks peculiar encouragement. Never was there a more striking illustration, or a more exact fulfilment of the promise, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." And to you Jehovah speaks, as well as to believers in all ages: "I will be with thee" — "I will deliver thee."

4. Are there any persecutors here? This subject speaks closely to you. And let me remind you of the dreadful end of such characters. See it in the death of Herod, who was eaten up with worms; see it in the doom of Pharaoh, who, with his host, sunk like lead in the mighty waters; and see it in the degraded condition of this haughty Chaldean monarch. Many a man is an oppressor, a persecutor, in his own house. His influence, possibly, does not reach much farther; or he may have that regard to his reputation, and to his worldly interest, which binds him to restrain his passion in his general intercourse with men. But see him in his own domestic circle;observe his temper in his own family; how often rage and fury boil in his breast, anger distorts his countenance, and even Nebuchadnezzar could scarcely be more unreasonable in some of his requirements.

(T. Kidd.)

Let us consider the heroic constancy and fidelity of those devoted servants of God, and endeavour to derive therefrom matter for our instruction and encouragement. Now, I can scarcely conceive a harder trial of faith than what these men were called upon to undergo, or any circumstances fitted to put the truth and reality of their principles to a severer test. Had they been the objects of unrelenting persecution for some time previously, their ease would have been vastly different. Their minds would have been, in some measure, prepared for the fearful crisis which awaited them. For it is well known how a long series of afflictions and trials loosens all the ties which bind us to life, and takes away the bitterness of death. But such was not the condition of the bold and holy confessors we are now considering. Their condition, their outward estate, was happy. They might have been called the children of fortune.. Worldly prosperity had brightened their path — they had been promoted to offices of dignity and trust. It is but keeping within the strictest limits of reason and probability to suppose they had as much to attach them to life. This was a dreadful alternative And here we may pause, and ask, Oh! how would hypocrisy, how would empty profession have shrunk from it? — how would the mere formalist have turned his back? — I had almost said, how would the weak and timid believer have proved himself unequal to the trial? But God's grace was magnified in these men. The fire which consumes the dross only purifies the gold. The holy purpose was fixed. There must be no compromise, no concession; conscience told them the act was wrong. Its voice was paramount. There are those who sneer at those holy records of martyrdoms for the truth, and who would set them down to the score of wild fanaticism, or to the ambition of getting a name. But could it be so in the case before us? What motive could actuate them arising from secular considerations? There were no honours to be obtained by them as dying martyrs — there were the interests of no party to be upheld. They had not the power of the example of others before them to stimulate them to seek a martyr's glorious name. Oh, I should like to see how wild fanaticism, or heated enthusiasm, or the fire of false excitement, could stand such a trial! — how they would demean themselves under such circumstances. No, we must trace the inflexible courage and constancy of these men to a higher and nobler source. And now was the hour of breathless suspense; now it was expected the screams of agony would issue from the fiery furnace. But, no; all was silent as the grave. It could not be that death had done its work so soon. When, lo, the mysterious marvel! — What signet is this that breaks upon the monarch's view? "Were there not three men cast into the fiery furnace?" — but, lo, he sees four men, walking; and the fourth is like the Son of God! Now, it is delightful to see God thus openly putting honour upon the faithfulness of His servants. But this, as well as all other Scriptures, was written for our instruction; and we are not living in an age when the lesson which it is fitted to teach us is no longer needful. It is not because the flames of martyrdom are quenched, or its sword sheathed, that, therefore, the spirit, the uncompromising spirit of the martyrs is no longer needed. No, in every period of the church there is truth to be maintained with uncompromising fidelity; error to be opposed with unhesitating boldness. There is ever a demand for that singleness of purpose, that simplicity of aim, which turns not to the right hand nor to the left, where the interests of truth are concerned. These are times when the principles which were so distinguished in these holy men are as much needed as ever. It is well known how much of latitudinarian sentiments are now abroad. We know well with what plausible arguments opinions may be maintained which are as much opposed to truth as light is to darkness. And it is no ordinary trial of sincerity which awaits the young, especially — when they are thrown into the society of men who are infinitely their superiors in intelligence, and literary attainments, and skill in argument — to maintain their principles with meekness, but with boldness. The Christian is certainly called upon to act a consistent and decided part; to show plainly to whom he belongs; to come out and be separate; to be "a living epistle, known and read of all men." A love of God's truth is his distinguishing character; and a compromise of God's truth, or anything that tends to lessen or to obliterate the boundary marks between truth and error, shall have his unqualified reprobation. The truth of God is what he loves better than the life itself; and that truth is simple and one. It would be well to ask ourselves, occasionally, "What sacrifices do we make in defence of the truth? What do we do and suffer in our Divine Master's cause?" No one can tell how much the interests of true religion may be advanced by the Christian "showing, out of a good conversation, his faith with meekness of wisdom." The believer is bound to advance the cause of his Master, to the utmost of his ability, means, and opportunity. The silent lessons of a holy example are ever powerful. You may be faithful "in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation." The offence of the cross is not yet ceased; and the Christian is called to bear a cross. And it would be well that we should, at times, examine ourselves upon the subject of our trials and exercises for Christ's sake. If we have none, let us examine and search diligently into the cause; take care that our exemption be not owing to compromise or faulty concession — to bowing before the golden image of expediency.

(D. Kelly, B. A.)

We have here:

1. A specimen of religious intolerance. God alone is "Lord of the conscience." A man's faith and worship are things which lie between himself and his Creater. This liberty is my birthright as a man.

2. How religious intolerance may be met. These three young men simply refused to do what Nebuchadnezzar commanded; or, in modern phrase, they met his injunction with "passive resistance." They would not tolerate any excuses, any casuistry. With similar firmness and humility we should meet intolerance yet.

3. An illustration of the support which Jesus gives to His followers, when they are called to suffer for His sake. These young men were entirely delivered, even as Peter was taken out of prison at a later day. God's servants are not always taken out of tribulations, but they are always supported through them.

4. In the matter of religious intolerance, as well as in some other things, the opposite of wrong is not always right. Nebuchadnezzar gave up the attempt to coerce these young men. That was well; but he issued an edict in reference to Jehovah which had in it elements not less objectionable than his command to worship the image. He had no more right to out men to pieces for speaking evil of Jehovah than he had to put Shadrach into the dames for not worshipping his image. Both edicts were alike unjustifiable.

(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)

We may be, and often are, put to trials similar in kind, though perhaps not in degree. If, however, faith and constancy were triumphant in so signal an instance as this, and in circumstances under which frail human nature may have been expected to give way, there is much more reason why they should not give way under less vehement assaults, and with greater advantages on their side. Let us pray to God that our strength may prove equal to our day. In company with idolatry we see tyranny and oppression; these hateful things are always found in union. Observe, too, the zeal with which men who are led by the deceits of Satan propagate their errors. And the cause of truth and godliness ought to be supported by the lawful influence, the fervent prayers; the holy examples, of all in every station, whether high or low... What are the temptations by which we are usually induced to break God's commandments? Some present pleasure that might well be foregone; some convenience that might be easily dispensed with; some gain of money that becomes a loss when obtained; some compliance with the humour of those whom we are wont to look up to with respect, but whose smile is dearly purchased by the sacrifice of principle, and the forfeiture of the favour of God. Inquire lute the principles which actuated these champions for the truth. It was that principle of faith which is so much pressed upon us in the Holy Scriptures. It was that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom. "They endured as seeing Him who is invisible."... We have, in this narrative, a most vivid exhibition of the practical working of faith. Many persons cannot understand why such stress should be laid upon faith. We behold in the case of these faithful servants of God what faith can do. It lifts us above the world, and bears us up against sorrow and adversity.

(H. J. Hastings, M.A.)

Why is it that men like these Jews under the Old Testament dispensation, and Christians now and at all times, are ready to give up life and everything for God? It is because a true religion is the sole thing which enlightens the conscience, and so trains and strengthens it as to invest it with real power in the guidance of our lives. When men have felt their will enlightened by Divine knowledge, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit's indwelling, they then choose God's service so firmly and joyfully that no earthly terrors can shake or move them from their sure foundation. This, then, is what religion does for us. It clothes us with power. Under false religions the conscience remains in a rudimentary state, and though it does approve or condemn, and say this is right and that wrong, it acts but weakly and ignorantly, and is a very feeble monitor. And with so little help men's lives sink down into mean baseness. But a true faith and the Holy Spirit aid to build up the conscience, and give it, first, light, whereby it distinguishes right and wrong clearly; and, secondly, power, so that it speaks to the will with all authority, and says, "This thou shalt do, and this thou shalt leave undone." Conscience had long ago decided, for Shadrach and his companions what their lives were to be. And under its influence they could not abandon the faith which had enlightened the conscience and given it this power; nor could they be false to that God who had been their peace and happiness, and whom they knew to be the sole Almighty Governor both in Heaven and in earth below.

(Dean Payne-Smith, D.D.)

At first Oliver Cromwell's Ironsides were dressed anyhow and everyhow; but in the melee with the cavaliers, it sometimes happened that an Ironside was struck down by mistake by the sword of one of his own brethren, and so the general said: "You wear red coats, all of you." What Cromwell said he meant, and they had to go in their red coats, for it is found essential in warfare that men should be known by some kind of regimental. Now, you that are Christ's, do not go about as if you were ashamed of your Master's service. Put on your red coats; I mean, come out as acknowledged Christians.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The rose of Jericho flourishes amidst surroundings which lack all things wherein plants delight — in the hot desert, in the rocky crevices, by the dusty wayside, and in the rubbish heap. Even more, the fierce sirocco tears it from its place and flings it far out upon the ocean, and there, driven by the storms and tossed by the salt waves, it still lives and grows. So should the Christian grow in any and all circumstances where he may be cast — in sorrow, in hardship, in misfortune, in suffering. A deathless life is in him, and he should be unconquerable.

(Signal.)

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