But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up."
I. LOYALTY TO GOD RESISTS THE ENCROACHMENTS OF HUMAN AUTHORITY. "In this matter," they affirmed, it did not concern them to answer the king. They had no answer that would be palatable to imperious arrogance. In all other matters they were prepared to render honest obedience and dutiful service. But "in this matter," touching the love and worship due to God, no other course was open than to obey God rather than man. Plainly had Jehovah said, "Thou shalt not make any graven image, nor bow down to it;" and they had responded, "All that the Lord hath commanded us will we do." It was an abuse of human authority, an encroachment on the prerogatives of Deity, to set up forms of belief or objects of worship. This is tyranny, offensive both to God and to men. Only a spirit of mean subserviency will silently submit to such arrogance. Manly courage will follow the simple rule of Jesus Christ, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
II. LOYALTY TO GOD IS CONFIDENT OF DIVINE SUCCESS. In true service of God we learn to know him, and increased knowledge leads to stronger faith. Obedience is the main portal to the temple of Divine truth. The closer we come to God, the clearer vision of his power and greatness we obtain, and the stronger grows our assurance that we have an interest in his friendship. We do not know who God is if we are not confident that he is well able to protect us in every emergency. But the faith of these men was stronger yet. They believed that God was sustaining them in this decisive resolve, and would, in some way, appear so as to vindicate their honest fidelity. How they should be delivered, they did not know; but they were well assured that ten thousand modes of relief were open to God, and they could leave the plan of campaign with their Commander-in-chief.
III. LOYALTY TO GOD IS ENTIRELY AN UNSELFISH PRINCIPLE. Assured, though these Hebrews were, that deliverance would come; yet, even if it had been otherwise, they would not have altered their line of conduct. Whether heaven be the outcome of pious loyalty to truth, or whether it be not, renewed men can act no other than they do. Let philosophers argue as plausibly as they please, they cannot persuade the conscience that moral obligation is a phase of self-interest. A good man does not pursue virtue for the sake of what he can get, however remote the expectation be. Nevertheless, the kindness of God has decreed that virtue, faith, holiness, shall bear sooner or later the fruits of abundant joy. And so these champions of Divine truth boldly avowed to the king that, come what might - fire or freedom, grief or gladness - they would have no complicity with idols. They would buy the truth at any price; they would sell it at none. They could die, but they dare not sin. - D.
That we will not serve thy gods.
(H. Irwin, B.A.)
(R. J. Campbell, M.A.)
1. These Israelites were true to their principles, in spite of difficulties, and in the face of opposition. They were just as loyal and true in Babylon as ever they had been in Jerusalem. They kept their religion as pure and undefiled as captives as ever they did as free citizens. Circumstances were tremendously against them, but they were the kind of men who did not give way to circumstances. Popular opinion was mightily against them, but they were the kind of men that are uninfluenced by wrong public opinion. They had grit as well as grace; pluck as well as piety.
2. There are a good many people who are good enough so long as they are surrounded by good influences, but get them away from those influences and into temptation and they fall. Some men, who are very good citizens in Jerusalem, lose all their piety as soon as they get down to Babylon. The men who possess decision of character and firmness of purpose are the men who stand where others fall. Young men come here to our city from their country homes. Some advance to positions of responsibility and honour; others sink into lives degraded and low. What is the difference? The difference lies not in the circumstances that surround these men, but in the characters that they possess.
3. That young man is safe, wherever you put him, who has the consecrated courage, the God-like determination, the heroic devotion to principle, that these three young men had. To tell what will become of a man, inquire not so much into his surroundings, but look at the man himself and see how he is made. When that young man leaves your home to go to a distant city, look not at the reputation of that city so much as at that young man's character, if you would read his future. Young men, into your lives trying hours will come; into your experiences untoward circumstances will be thrust. But you will have no experience more trying, and be placed in no circumstances more difficult, than were the three Judean captives. And they found that the God whom they worshipped, at home, and to whom they were true abroad, did not forsake them in the hour of Nebuchadnezzar's rage, but in the very midst of the fiery furnace He was with them, and from all harm He safely delivered them. Their God is your God. He who gave them strength to resist will give you power to overcome.
(C. G. Mosher.)
I. In looking at the conduct of these Hebrew confessors, the first circumstance that strikes us is, that THEY DID NOT COURT THIS OPPORTUNITY OF MANIFESTING THEIR ZEAL AND CONSTANCY. The erection of the golden image was not the work of a day. Much preparation was employed, and the scene that was to be exhibited in the plain of Dura was known throughout the length and breadth of the land. But in the midst of all the preparation for this new exhibition of human folly, this insult to the Majesty of Heaven, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not feel it to be their duty to interfere. It was enough for them to utter their testimony to the faith of their fathers when legitimately called to do so, and to show their abhorrence of the idol when commanded to bow down before it. They were prepared for martyrdom, but they did not court it; they were ready to brave and defy the tyrant's rage, but they sought not prematurely to provoke it. That forward zeal, which courts opposition and seeks reproach, forms no part of the Christian character; and to step out of the sphere in which Providence has placed him to censure the errors that prevail in the world, or to make an uncalled-for statement of his opinions and feelings, is going beyond the sphere of legitimate duty, and causes his "good to be evil spoken of." If the Christian adheres to the plain and obvious path of duty, and seeks to lead a holy and blameless life, he will meet with difficulties enough to exercise his faith and patience, and sufficient opportunities of proving and exhibiting the strength and vigour of his principles, without going beyond the sphere of his ordinary calling, or courting unnecessary publicity and distinction.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF THESE HEBREW MARTYRS TO THE ALLUREMENT OF PLEASURE merits our next consideration. A slight examination of their history will satisfy you that they were at that time of life when those attractions wherewith Nebuchadnezzar introduced his golden image have the greatest power over enlightened and cultivated minds. They were not, so far as the history before us testifies, the gross and repulsive pleasures of mere sensualism, wherewith the introduction of the golden image into the number of the Chaldean divinities was celebrated. Pleasures of a more refined and attractive description were held out to allure and deceive the princes and nobles of Babylon. All the charms of Eastern music were employed to recommend this scene of idolatrous folly, and to drown all inquiry concerning the wisdom and propriety of the measure. But these Hebrew captives were superior to the attraction. It is probable that other pleasurable attractions accompanied the powers of music on this memorable occasion; but, of whatever description they were, and whatever passions they addressed, they had no power to suppress or extinguish that fear of God which was the ruling and master sentiment of their souls. They tell us to be on our guard against the seductive influence even of innocent pleasure. "The flute and the dulcimer, the psaltery and the sackbut, the cornet and the harp," were in themselves innocent instruments of delight, and, employed in the service of God, would have filled Shadrach and his companions with hallowed joy; but, prostituted to the purpose of idolatry and sin, their notes were dissonant, and lost to these holy men all their power to please. And thus do they teach us how pleasures, that are in themselves innocent and susceptible of being rendered the ministers of our improvement, are to be estimated. Sin is never so insidious as when it comes attended by these pleasures which in themselves are innocent. Never let your taste for any enjoyment, which in itself may be harmless, reconcile you to scenes or indulgences with which the guilty ingenuity of men may have associated it. Our most favourite enjoyments must be viewed with jealousy, and shunned when we see them prostituted to the purpose of iniquity.
III. In maintaining their fidelity, these pious Hebrews RESISTED ALL THE INFLUENCES OF KINDNESS AND FRIENDSHIP. Throughout all the provinces they were viewed as the favourites of the mighty monarch, and many an envious eye was cast at the eminence they had attained. They were thus bound to the king by the ties of gratitude, and by the prospects of future favour. Men who so truly and deeply feared God could not be deficient in yielding every legitimate honour to the king. But the question which now pressed upon them related to higher interests than the favour of a monarch, and all the honour and wealth he could bestow. Similar sacrifices of worldly interest to religious principle — of the sense of gratitude to the sense of duty — are frequently demanded of the faithful servants of God; and where religious principle and the sense of duty have a proper hold of the heart, these sacrifices are made without hesitation or reluctance. These Hebrew confessors would gladly have retained the favour and friendship of the king of Babylon; but when these could not be retained but at the expense of their religious consistency and by the sacrifice of their immortal interests, they were willing to relinquish them.
IV. When we admire this superiority to the influence of kindness and friendship in the cause of religion, THE FIRMNESS AND MAGNANIMITY WITH WHICH THEY BRAVED DEATH IN ITS CRUELEST FORM MERIT A STILL HIGHER MEASURE OF OUR REGARD. In this moment of uttermost peril, the feeling of self-preservation, the all-powerful instinctive love of life, might have whispered, and doubtless did whisper, some excuse to conscience for compliance with the king's command. Such are the considerations that enhance the faith and fortitude of these confessors. Let us now, in conclusion, turn our attention to the manner in which Heaven honoured their faith and constancy in the hour of trial.
I. In looking at THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTER OF RELIGIOUS DECISION, as it is illustrated in this history:
1. It appears to be lofty in its principle. It is quite evident that in this ease it was not exercised in order to gratify some mere impulse of feeling. It did not spring from a foolish wish to affect singularity, nor from a mere determination to oppose the king's authority. No; but it was a noble stand in defence of the rights of conscience — it was a firm resistance of an unjust demand — it was a lofty determination to obey God rather than man. Had Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach and his companions to perform some difficult, but lawful service, we believe they would have performed it; but desirous as they were of obeying him, they dare not do this, at the certain risk of disobeying God — they knew that Jehovah had infinitely higher claims upon their obedience than any earthly king — they knew that in the decalogue they wore expressly and solemnly commanded to avoid the sin of idlolatry, and not even the imperious mandate of a Nebuchadnezzar, nor yet the fiercest manifestations of his displeasure, could make them swerve from their duty, or shake their constancy to the King of kings. I say, their decision, in this matter, was lofty in its principle. It was so, because it was based upon an intelligent sense of duty. Reason and judgment and conscience were arrayed on the side of principle; while all that worldly wealth could offer, and all that worldly power could indict, were enlisted on the aide of expediency. Was it not noble in these men, under such circumstances, to stand firm by their principles? But, again, their decision was lofty in principle because it was an assertion of the inalienability of man's right at all times to think and to act for himself in all matters of religion. What right had the Babylonian king to enact laws on the subject of religion? As the monarch of an earthly kingdom, it is true, he had a temporal jurisdiction over his subjects, and he had a perfect right to exercise it. But you perceive Nebuchadnezzar was not content with this. Accustomed to wield the iron sceptre of despotism over the bodies of men, he vainly wished to control their spirits too. But Nebuchadnezzar had yet to learn a most important lesson — he had yet to learn that there is a power in the spirit of man to burst asunder the chains that would enslave it — he had yet to learn the supremacy of conscience, and the power of religious principle to enable a man to press toward his object even with death itself in view.
2. I would remark that religious decision, as it is illustrated in this history, appears to have the character of uncompromising firmness. Throughout the whole of the conduct of Shadrach and his companions there does not appear the smallest indication of a wish to accommodate matters or to effect a compromise between principle and expediency. But, further, let us follow them to the presence of the haughty king, before whom they were soon dragged at the impeachment of their bloodthirsty foes; and here, how striking the scene. See them confronted by everything most adapted to intimidate and appal human nature. Once more, if we follow them on to the last and most fearful trial of their constancy, we shall see the uncompromising firmness of their religious decision. But even this barbarous mandate did not shake their constancy. They saw the fury of the king — they heard his cruel command — but they were unmoved.
II. THE IMPORTANT TIME OF ITS MANIFESTATION. It requires only a limited historical acquaintance with the state of the world at the time when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were called to act their parts upon it — to know that it was a time of great mental degradation and moral debasement. There seemed to be at that period a concentration of effort on the part of the powers of darkness to quench the last spark of vital religion yet remaining upon earth, and by a desperate piece of policy to plunge in yet deeper gloom an already too fearfully benighted world, and Shadrach and his companions seem to have been the appointed instruments in the hands of God of defeating this infernal policy, and of preserving this only remaining spark from utter extinction. Was not that a critical season, when, before an assembled universe they were called to combat the confederated power of darkness, and to vindicate the insulted majesty of Jehovah? It was for these men, by their conduct, to show whether the whole family of man should be publicly led captive by the devil at his will, or whether, by boldly standing forth as witnesses for God, the work of darkness should be arrested, and Satan deprived of his triumph. And here let me ask, before passing on, whether the present period of time be not one which pre-eminently demands the manifestation of religious decision on the part of the professed servants of God.
III. THE BENEFICIAL RESULTS resulting from religious decision, as illustrated in the history before us. Had opportunity permitted, we might have dwelt upon the beneficial consequences resulting from this decision to the individuals themselves who exercised it. It was not only a manifestation of their consistency, and a proof of the reality of their religion, but it secured them the respect of the king, and it opened up a way for still greater aggrandisement and worldly honour. We might still further have enlarged upon the effect of this decision upon the minds of the captive Jews at Babylon. Doubtless, those of the Hebrews who had bowed down to image, through a time-serving policy, would be ashamed of their inconsistent and guilty course, while such as had done thus through a vacillation and conscious weakness would be inspired with a fresh energy and zeal. We might also have shown you at length the mighty change which this manifestation of decision tended to effect in the views and purposes of the proud king of Babylon; and, doubtless, also in the views and purposes of those by whom he was surrounded. Oh! let us ever remember that with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego we are called to stand forward before an ungodly world as witnesses for God, and that, as His professing people, our every action has an influence directly or indirectly upon the destiny of the world. If we are faithful to our trust, a stamp of reality shall be given to our religion which shall convince the most unwilling, and convert the world; but if we are unfaithful, the reign of darkness shall be perpetuated, and Satan shall triumph. Let me conclude in the language of a well-known writer: "Of this, Christians, you may rest assured, you cannot stand neutral. Every moment you live you are testifying for or against religion. Every step you take you tread on cords that will vibrate through all eternity. Every time you move yon touch keys whose sounds will re-echo over all the hills and dales of Kenyon, and peal through all the dark caverns and vaults of hell. Every moment of your lives you are exerting a tremendous influence that will tell on the immortal interests of souls all around you. Are you asleep, while all your conduct is exerting such an influence?"
(G. W. Pegg.)I. THE PRINCIPLE FOR WHICH WE CONTEND SHOULD BE TRUE. This should be our first consideration. The standard of right or wrong is the Bible. These young men had not now to investigate whether idolatry was allowable or not. Though the revelation of the Divine will, which they had, was not so full and clear as that with which we are favoured, it was quite decisive on this subject — and they knew it. We, too, ought to be familiar with the Scriptures, so that when any line of conduct is proposed to us we may be able instantly to say whether or not we ought to pursue it.
II. TRUE PRINCIPLES SHOULD BE MAINTAINED AGAINST ALL OPPOSITION.
III. TRUTH SHOULD BE MAINTAINED IN THE SPIRIT OF LOVE. This. is of great consequence, and is often neglected. But if we fail in spirit and manner:
1. We injure our cause before men; who soon perceive our inconsistency, and put a small price upon our bad-tempered exhortations.
2. We deprive ourselves of Almighty help; without which our most earnest efforts will be vain.
IV. THERE ARE ABUNDANT ENCOURAGEMENTS FOR US THUS TO MAINTAIN RIGHT PRINCIPLES. These young men were encouraged by an assurance that God's power and goodness were exercised on their behalf. They knew that God was "able," and would deliver them out of the king's hand.
V. GLORIOUS RESULTS WILL FOLLOW THE CONSISTENT MAINTENANCE OF RIGHT PRINCIPLE. In the case before us, the confessors were themselves preserved and honoured, and the God whom they served was glorified.
1. We ask ourselves what it was which gave these three men the power to withstand the will of this great monarch, and stand firm though they were alone in the midst of an assembled world? And the answer is obvious. It was simply that they felt the importance of the truth for which they witnessed. They knew that they were upholding the true religion against the false.
2. Here, then, is the lesson which the scene teaches us; that we have laid upon us the duty of witnessing to the truth; and that in order to be able to witness to the truth, we must have an inward perception of the value of the truth to be witnessed to. We are told particularly in Scripture that this is one of our great duties as servants of God. The whole Jewish nation entrusted with the oracles of God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego bore witness, as they did in this striking manner, to the truth of the unity and spiritual nature of God, and against the worship of idols, they fulfilled their special duties as Jews, and did what God had sent the Jewish people into the world to do. And we Christians, too, are told in Scripture that we are to be witnesses to the truth, as the Jews were to be, though to a higher truth than the Jews had. Our Lord Himself had this as one of His great offices (John 18:37). And the Apostles (1 John 1:1-3). And all Christians are invested in a measure with office of witnessing to the truth of the Christian revelation (Matthew 5:16).
3. And as Christians have the office imposed upon them, so they are placed in a world which tries that office severely, and opposes great temptations to, and brings an overwhelming influence to bear against, the performance of that duty. The scene described in the Book of Daniel is indeed a symbolical one. The great Babylon which arrayed itself in majesty on that occasion, and set up its golden idol, has fallen, but there is another Babylon which still goes on, and always will go on till Christ comes again to judgment. As imposing, and as carnally majestic, great and sublime as ever. Go where we will it follows us. And what a powerful influence does it exert upon our minds — very same influence as that which tried the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego on plain of Dura. Doubtless they felt the commanding force of that great spectacle, and had feelings and natural weaknesses of men. It was influence of the visible world which they resisted.
4. Such being the office, then, which Christians have, and such the temptations under which they have to exercise it, what is, as a matter of fact, the way in which this duty is performed? Do we find Christians showing by their lives, and by the objects they pursue here, their belief in eternity, witnessing to the great truth of the Gospel dispensation, that our Lord by His resurrection from the dead brought life and immortality to light? or do we not find that the great rule of all action adopted by them is to do as other people do, to think as other people think, and to aim at getting what all other people strive to get? That is to say, do not the great mass of people do exactly the same thing that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would have done, if at the proclamation of the herald, and at the sound of the music, they had fallen down and worshipped the golden image?
5. The office of witness, however, to Divine truth, rejected as it is by the generality, as if it were something more than could be expected of men, is a privilege as well as a duty, and brings, if it is faithfully executed, great rewards to those who execute it. We cannot conceive anything more sublime than the triumph of the three great witnesses in this chapter. It is one of the great triumphs of faith, one of those great anticipations of the final triumph of good over evil, which Scripture has recorded for our encouragement. (Moses, Elijah, etc.) The men were bound, the furnace was heated, etc. (Describe result.) The strength of the whole earth was gone in a moment, in the presence of One who was walking in the midst of the fire, and whose form was like the Son of God.
6. Here was, indeed, a triumph of that faith which bears witness to the truth; and, as I have said, this scene is symbolical. It is the figure of a deep truth which holds now, and which we may apply to ourselves. Men know the truth, but they will not witness to it. Yet, we may venture to say, and with certainty, that never, on any occasion, by any one of the humblest servants of God, was this office of witness to the truth executed without a reward. In the adversity a companion; in the fire walking with him the Son of God.
(Canon Mozley.)I. Concerning THE OBJECT OF OUR FAITH. By these holy writings we know and acknowledge Him to be the Lord our God in Christ.
1. He is the Lord, whose name alone is Jehovah.(1) His existence. When Moses asked his name, this revelation was made, "I am that I am," which imports that He is the existing One, who is and who was, and who is to come, without variableness or shadow of turning. Assurance of His existence is an high attainment in the life of faith, and essentially necessary to our worshipping and glorifying Him as God. This we infer from the repetitions of these solemn words, "Ye shall know that I am the Lord"; and from the words of the apostle, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."(2) His glory. The excellency of His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, is the glory in Him which faith beholds, believes, acknowledges, admires, and adores. In the exercise of it, believers sometimes rejoice in one of His attributes, and sometimes in another, as these appear suited to their temptations and trials. The three witnesses before the king of Babylon rested in his power, and goodness, and sovereignty; "Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us." But faith embraces the whole of His excellencies, as the revealed and transcendent glory of its great object.
2. The object of faith is the Lord "our God." He says in the ear of His people, "Be not dismayed, for I am thy God"; and hearing His speech, they say, "This God," who speaketh in His holiness, is "Our God." Would ye have an example? ye will see one in the eighteenth Psalm: "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
3. The object of faith is the Lord our God in Christ. In the faith of sinners this consideration of Him is essentially important. Without a mediator of righteousness, atonement, and reconciliation, we can have no intercourse with Him in believing. "By Christ we believe in God, who raised Him from the dead, that our faith and hope might be in God." This consideration of the object of faith is not peculiar to the New Testament. Though the revelation of it was comparatively dark, the first believer, and all that followed, had it before them, and saw it truly. God was then, as He is now, in Christ. The witnesses in Babylon saw anal believed in Him as in Christ; and in the furnace had a sensible proof of it.
II. Concerning THE GROUND OF FAITH. The ground on which we stand and build in believing, is the record or testimony of God, revealing Himself to us as the Lord our God in Christ. This record, testimony, or witness, faith believes to be true, receives as good, rests in as sure, and builds on with appropriation, according its address with full assurance of its stability. The truth is, faith can neither stand nor build on any other ground. Unless we have His own testimony before us, we cannot glorify Him in believing. It would be presuming, and not believing, to call Him our God on any other ground. Though the faith of believers doth not fix them always on the same passage, they always build on some passage of the revealed testimony. They never change their ground, but do not always build on the same spot. In the Testimony which is the ground of faith there is an order that ought not to be overlooked, since according to it the exercise of faith is to be regulated. The glorious Object, in the front of the law, says, "I am the Lord thy God"; and in the body of the particular commandment, which turned to His witnesses in the plain of Dura for a testimony, He repeats it, saying, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." Upon hearing this gracious declaration from His throne, faith proceeds, and boldly advances its claim, saying, "This God is our God." In this very order the witnesses proceed, and add to their faith virtue.
3. Concerning the exercise of faith. In the exercise of faith there is:(1) The knowledge of its glorious Object, in the revealed grant which He makes of himself in Christ, as the Lord our God. True faith includes true knowledge of its Object, the only living and true God. And these witnesses understood what they affirmed, when they said, "Our God, whom we serve." They knew their God, understood the grant He had made of Himself to them, and believed that in receiving it they were not setting their seal to an untruth.(2) In the exercise of faith there is a persuasion that the Divine grant is faithful and true. The persuasion is wrought in the heart by the Spirit of faith, and grounds itself upon the grant in the word of faith.(3) In the exercise of faith there is a conviction that everyone, to whom it is revealed and known in the word of truth, is warranted and commanded to believe and receive it. This conviction is clear, and, in believing, appears and operates in the mind with all the force and beauty of truth. The terms of the grant are without limitation.(4) The exercise of faith includes the trust, or rest of the heart in the grant, both as it is faithful and true, and worthy of all acceptation. "The Lord is my God, according to His word." Doubts disperse, fears flee away, the storm in the conscience calms, and peace and joy spring up in the heart, which pass all understanding. From these discussions, concerning the object, the ground, and the exercise of faith, we infer:
1. That believing God is warrantable and authourised exercise in all extremities. Warrantable, because it is allowed; authorised, because it is commanded.
2. That the gratuitous deed, which is the ground of believing, proceeds upon a ransom found, and an atonement made. Grace reigns in it. The reign of grace, however, is a righteous administration.
3. We infer the immorality of unbelief. By many in the visibles church unbelief is not held to be an immorality. Discipline cannot lay hands upon it, nor are ministers able to do anything but cry against it, It is, notwithstanding, a crying immorality, denying the truth of God in His word, despising the loving kindness of the Saviour of the world, resisting the spirit of holiness, and drowning in destruction and perdition multitudes of precious souls.
I. IN THE PULPIT. The tide of change, of insidious and seductive error, of worldliness and spiritual declension, is rising high and beating fearfully against the old foundations of faith, and spirituality, and a godly life. The pulpit of to-day is assailed by more potent and dangerous influences than if we were in the midst of fiery persecution. To stand firm for God and truth, and "the simplicity that is in Christ" — to lift high the banner of righteousness and wage uncompromising war with sin and error in every form — requires the heroism of apostles and martyrs. Would to God our pulpits everywhere, in city and country., responded to the demand.
II. IN ALL THE WALKS OF PRIVATE, CHRISTIAN LIFE. This a day that puts to a severe test the fidelity of the heart to Christ. Oh, there are so many false Christs in the world, false standards of duty, counterfeit experiences, "lying and seducing spirits," evil examples and declensions, and so much "conformity to the world," and worship of "mammon," and lowering of the standard of discipleship, that to meet the full demands of Christ-likenees and Christ's service calls for more heroism than it would to face the stake! Alas, how little of it, comparatively, do we see!
III. IN THE GREAT MISSIONARY WORK, TO WHICH GOD IS CALLING HIS PEOPLE.
IV. IN THE MART OF BUSINESS. Terrible is the strain here, and how many fail and go down in the awful wreck and rain of character, many of them, too, bearing the name of Christ; and all because they have not true manliness, true courage, to face temptation and disaster — have not heroism sufficient to live up to the principles of righteousness.
V. IN PUBLIC LIFE, IN POLITICS, IN ALL PLACES OF HONOUR AND TRUST. Heroism is here demanded, and heroism of the genuine stamp. Dare to do right, though office be lost, or election fail, or poverty come, or clamour assail. To do right is to win! To do or connive at wrong is to lose, always!
(J. M. Sherwood.)
Nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up
1. The man of the world bows down before the golden image. He adores that which seems nearest to himself. Popularity, and power, and place are foremost in his thoughts. He makes an idol of the world. Nothing is "real" in his sight which cannot be coined into money, and which will not aid him in his ambitious plans.
2. The Christian has full scope for the exercise of the determined spirit manifested by the Hebrew youths, in a consistent walk with God. "All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If you are what you ought to be, no degree of prudence and reserve will free you altogether from the opposition and malice of an ungodly world. It seems, at first thought, a hard lot; but it has its blessings.
(John N. Norton.)
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