Daniel 6:1

Now when Daniel knew, etc. (ver. 10). Daniel stands here before us a magnificent instance of strength of soul (Psalm 138:3). We have also the advantage of seeing him contrasted with a blameworthy and contemptible weakness, as well as with something worse - with weakness passing into wickedness.

I. STRENGTH. As exhibited by the saint, statesman, and prophet. See it:

1. Advancing to the throne in common life. The new organization included a hundred and twenty satrapies; over these three presidents in close relation to the king; of these Daniel was "one (not the first"). But he stood out in bold relief against the other ministers of the crown. By intelligence, experience, industry, and piety, he moved at once to the front (ver. 3). Religion king in every realm. Fidelity in common things (ver. 5).

2. In the absence of egotism. Shallow scepticism charges Daniel with egotism, partly on the ground of ver.

3. The tables may here well be turned on the adversary. Considering the exalted power and position of Daniel, that we have here too autobiography, the absence of self-allusion and self-praise is wonderful, and that throughout the book. Besides, this seeming self-praise was necessary to account for the action of enemies. Moreover, moral greatness does not quite preclude all allusion to self (Numbers 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Nehemiah throughout).

3. In Daniel's continuance in the habit of saintly life. (Ver. 10.) Note:

(1) The simplicity of action. "He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed."

(2) The absence of ostentation. No opening of the windows in order that all might see. To have so done would not have been to exhibit religious courage, but foolhardiness. Such conduct would have been bravado. Religious courage is a calm, wise, brave thing. Picture the palace-house of one so great; the parlour on the roof; the lattices closed (as in hot climates) towards the east and south, but open (at least in the early hours, perhaps always) on the west, and intentionally "toward Jerusalem."

(3) The fearlessness of consequences.

(4) The reason of the act. "Because [Chaldee] he had done so aforetime." The persistence of the strong. "What he was as a dear little child, when his mother taught him, and prepared him with prayers and tears for the perils of Babylon - albeit she did not know he was to live the hard life of an exile - that he is now, though his hair be grey and his body bent with years." One holy, consistent life.

4. In the permanence of his patriotism. "Toward Jerusalem."

5. In the grandeur of his faith. After all these years and vicissitudes, the home of his soul was still in the Hebrew tradition - in the Hebrew history, literature, prophecies, liturgies, etc,

II. WEAKNESS. As illustrated in the character and conduct of the king. The moral weakness of the man appears:

1. In the evasion of responsibility. There is evident an indisposition to uttered to the affairs of government, which are left in the hands of officials. No surer mark of moral weakness than to leave what should be alike our duty and honour to others - possibly to the incompetent.

2. Accessibility to flattery. Keil's view of the proposal of ver. 7 commends itself to us, that it referred only to "the religious sphere of prayer. On this assumption the king would be regarded as the living manifestation of all the gods, of the conquered nations as well as of Persia and Media; and the proposal was that all prayer to all divinities should for thirty days be stayed save to this divinity - the king. The inflated vanity which could accept so obsequious homage!

3. Pliability to the will of others. (Ver. 9.) He had not the courage to live his own life, to think his own thoughts, and act them out.

4. Indifference to suffering. Weakness of soul means usually the weakness of every part - a feeble, emotional nature, at least on its nobler side, as well as weakness of intellect, conscience, will. Note the den of lions" (vers. 7, 24). Deficiency of sympathy, leading on to frightful cruelty, is oft the result of feeble moral imagination. No child or man could torture insect or man who vividly realized the exquisite agony.

5. The violence of passion. (Vers. 14, 18-20, 24.) Take the violence of his grief and indignation alike.

6. Moral helplessness. What an humiliating picture have we in vers. 14, 15 1 (The speech of the conspirators is clearly prompted by what they had observed on the part of the king - an attempt to evade the law, vers. 19, 20.)

III. The strength of Daniel, his magnanimity, is here set, not only against the weakness of the king, but also against the darker background of WICKEDNESS exhibited by those who conspired against the prophet. Moral weakness is not far off deep depravity; e.g. the depravity of Ahab - perhaps the weakest character in the Old Testament. Observe:

1. The vision given to these men. Of a saintliness like that of Daniel - elevated in its devotional life, ripe with the maturity of years, clearly manifesting itself in common scenes, excellent beyond all praise by their own admission (ver. 5). A beam, a ray from the holiness of God.

2. The Divine aim in the vision. Beneficent and moral we may be sure. To awaken admiration; to bring home the sense of defect; to lead to penitence; to arouse to efforts after likeness.

3. The human frustration of that aim, What was intended for salvation became the occasion of moral ruin, the cause being the deep depravity of these hearts. Note:

(1) The audacity of their aim. Men usually come to perpetrate great crimes step by step. These aimed at the ultimate of evil from the first - the utter ruin and destruction of the prophet.

(2) The recklessness of their counsel. If there be no law sufficient to crush, they will make one.

(3) The pertinacity of their pursuit of their miserable object. Shown in their dealing with the king (ver. 15).

(4) The meanness of their conduct. Over that parlour on the roof of Daniel's palace-home a watch must have been meanly set.

(5) The mercilessness of their cruelty. (Vers. 16, 17.)

4. The judgment that befell. (Ver. 24.) - R.

It pleased Darius to set over the Kingdom.
Darius appointed an entirely new administration, but it does not appear that he made any material change in the financial system of the Empire. Daniel we may call the First Lord of the Treasury. Daniel s high reputation was confirmed by experience of his wisdom, integrity, and self-renouncing devotion to the public good. The King intended to set him over the whole realm, to give him all the power over the several departments of the State, that would have enabled him to enforce obedience, and to punish dereliction This would have involved a grand official revolution, and the transpiring of such an intention of the King was enough to alarm the hundred and twenty chief publicans, and raise up the whole body of presidents and princes against their watchful chief. A plot was planned and executed. They came tumultuously to the King, on the strength of a conspiracy. This could hardly have taken place under the rule of a Sardanapalus or a Nabonadius. Daniel's enemies saw no remedy for their discontent, except in procuring his immediate ruin. Darius was a very weak-minded and vain-glorious prince. The conspirators knew how to play upon his weakness. They proposed to him an easy method of rising above every rival, at least for one happy month, during which time not even Cyrus shall be permitted to receive a prayer. No man, no god even, shall be approached in the language of petition. Their object, however, the King does not perceive. As to the kind of death denounced on recusants, it is apparent, from the testimony of Quintus Curtius, that lions were kept in dens at Babylon, and produced on festive occasions, With regard to the immutability of the laws of the Medes and Persians, that can only mean that, when law was made, the King could not change it, but he might, nevertheless, find, or even make, another law to counteract its force. Did Darius believe, or did he only struggle to persuade himself, that the God of Daniel would deliver him, as he once delivered three of his fellow-captives from the fiery furnace? Or did he only ejaculate a wish that God would deliver him? For the Chaldee may mean either... One word in Daniel's answer to the King, from the den, conveys an intimation that his enemies, not content with charging him with disobedience to the King's monstrous decree, had also endeavured to fix on him a suspicion, if not a direct accusation, of dishonesty, in spite of their previous confession to one another, that "they could find. none occasion nor fault." Now there can be no suspicion. The loyalty of Daniel, even to so insignificant a king as Darius, shines no less clearly than his faithfulness to God, leaving to all generations a bright example of loyalty, a virtue commended by the supreme example of our blessed Saviour, and strictly inculcated by the spirit of inspiration, through His servants the apostles.

(W. H. Rule, D.D.)

Of whom Daniel was first
Men have to pay for all exaltation; a sense of responsibility comes with it where it is honest and worthy, and men do not ascend to the primary positions instantly, but gradually, and as they ascend they become accustomed to the air, so that when they do reach the throne it seems as if they had but a step to take from the common earth to the great altitude. Thus we are trained, graduated, perfected, not by suddenness, abruptness, not by any vulgarity of government, but by that fine shading and graduation which is all but imperceptible, and which only makes itself known in all the fulness of its reality and value when we are prepared to accept the throne, the crown, the sceptre, humbly, modestly. How could Daniel bear all this exaltation? Because it was nothing to him: He had been in prayer. The man who prays three times a day, really prays, whose window opens upon heaven, cannot receive any honour; he cannot be flattered. If Darius had asked him to take the throne it would have been but a trifle to Daniel. A man who has been closeted with God cannot be befooled by earthly baubles and temporal vanities. It is with these things as with miracles. So with this greatness of such men as Daniel; it is not greatness to them: it is but a new responsibility, another opportunity for doing good, a larger opening for higher usefulness. The man should always be greater than his office; the author should always be greater than his book; the picture should be nothing compared with the picture the artist wanted to paint. The musician does well to set aside his thousand-voiced organ because it is useless when he wants to express the ineffable. If we prayed aright, if we loved God truly, then all honour would be accepted with an easy condescension, and every gift and recognition and promotion would be used with modesty, and every honour given by men would not be despised, but would be used to the promotion of the highest ends of being. It is thus the Daniels of the world sit upon their thrones; verily, they sit upon them; they use them, they are mere temporary conveniences and symbols to them; the real king is intellectual, spiritual, moral, sympathetic, invisible, divine. It is useless for us to wish to be what Daniel was; we shall be what Daniel was, and where he was, when we have the same qualifications. The universe is not being built by an unskilled carpenter; it is being constructed — I mean that inward and spiritual universe of which all other universes are but the scaffolding — by a divine Builder; and He will not put the top stone in the foundation, or the foundation stone in the pinnacle; He will put us just where we ought to be. Daniel and Paul, Peter and John, the seraph all aflame, the cherub all contemplation, each will have his place. O foolish soul, do not build thyself into God's wall; let the Builder handle thee, and be glad that thou hast any place in the spiritual masonry.

(Joseph Parker, D.D.)

Daniel shows us that the law of life is this — character shall be honoured with respect, confidence, high place, and success. If the law does not work out these results, in any particular case, it must be because of some special hindrance. Sooner or later every man finds his place, and gets what he is worth. Life is not a lottery. In speaking of Daniel's honour, it will at once appear that it was political, And we need more Godly men in high places. Daniel did not reach his position by any sudden spring. He had lesser offices first, in which his faithfulness was proved. Daniel won his position because "an excellent spirit was in him." Before dealing with the honours that wait on character, a word must be said on the relation between talent and character. These two things are often separated. Men of genius are not always men of character. Byron is an extreme instance of this. And men of character are not always men of talent. We have very often to say, "Yes, he is a very good man, but not very clever." No man of genius can afford to despise character; and no man of character should rest until he has added to it ability and skill. Daniel took every advantage of Persian culture, and in him we find talent and character blended. With what honour then will God, and the world, crown good character?

I. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS RESPECT. And that is far better thing than position, riches, and fame. Have character rooted in God, and if men mock you to the face, you may be sure that in your deep heart they think of you as Balaam did of Sarah. The respect in which the good man is held comes out when he is dead.

II. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS MATERIAL BLESSINGS. This is not an invariable rule. Some cannot bear the risks of prosperity. Many of us do well to pray, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." Yet it is generally true that character wins the places of trust, and character keeps the places it gains. Illustrated by Joseph and Obadiah. But how does God honour character? With His approval, and with the sense of that approval in a man's own soul. With His special acceptance in the world to come. By making it witness for him here on earth; as in this case of Daniel God makes the men of character to be in His world as "salt," as "cities on hills," and as the "Light." Their highest honour lies in their influence, their witness, and their work.

(Robert Tuck, B.A.)

It is the silent but continuous and irrepressible power of Christian principle which really tells upon the world around us. It is not a mere syllogism that will convert a sceptic. It is not a powerfully constructed argument that will alone convert a Roman Catholic; it is not such specimens of Christianity as Church and Chapel often furnish, which make men feel that Christianity is the ambassadress of God, and the benefactress of mankind. It is when the world sees Christianity softening all, sweetening, subduing, sanctifying, inspiring, directing all — giving its tone, shape, colour, and freshness to all; it is when the world sees Christianity in self-sacrifice — in submitting our own temper and inclinations to those of others — in giving way and suffering, rather than appearing to dictate and presume — it is in the quiet by-paths of human life, that Christianity acts with the greatest force, and in which, if detected by the sceptic, he owns that there is there the finger of God, the evidence of a power greater and holier than human. So Darius saw Daniel's Christianity; he understood not his sublime creed, but he appreciated his honesty, his integrity, his truthfulness, his faithfulness. The world itself, if it do not practice, yet appreciates faithfulness and integrity. The merchant on the exchange understands character, when he neither studies nor subscribes a creed. Hence the pulpit is not the only place for preaching.

(John Cumming, D.D.)

"This Daniel" — what surprises and scorn, what bitter jealousy and mortification, rankles beneath this apparently simple allusion. That this Hebrew stranger and captive should have won any place at court; that when admitted he should be allowed to defy its customs; that he so gained the favour of his royal master as to be called into his most intimate counsel, and to be placed above those who had preceded him in office — these circumstances constituted a grievance of no common magnitude, and for which there was no forgiveness. What led to the rapid promotion of one who had neither rank or friends to recommend him? On this point a clear and satisfactory explanation is afforded. "Because an excellent spirit was in 'this Daniel', the king thought to set him over the whole realm." What have we here but a signal testimony to the intrinsic sovereignty of character, a testimony which ever succeeding age reveals with greater calmness and recognises with deeper veneration. It has been affirmed that the religion of the day is reverence for character. The archbishop of Canterbury, in addressing a mass meeting of working men in connection with the Church Congress, and pleading for the establishment of more satisfactory relations between employers and employed, warned his hearers against seeking, from the enactments of Parliaments or the rules of trades unions, for the solution of problems which could only be effectually met by a "conversion of character" alike in masters and servants. What, then, do we understand by this word so constantly upon, the lips of great leaders in Church and State? Strange to say, we search for it in vain in our translation of the Bible, and only find it once in the original text. But many of you are aware that it comes to us from a Greek word which signifies a graving tool. The first mention of such a thing occurs curiously enough in connection with the act of Aaron in making the golden calf. Though he would fain have us believe that the molten gold took that peculiar shape of its own accord, it appears in evidence that he "fashioned it with a graving tool" — a "cheret" as it was called in the Hebrew tongue — in which we distinctly trace the original derivation of our word "character." At first, then, this term stood for an instrument — a means to an end. But by a very natural transition it came to be applied to the result. From the tool attention is inevitably directed to the work of art, from the pencil to the painting, from the chisel to the finished sculpture. We preserve, however, the original use of the word when speaking of a man of parts. We say, "He is a character," thereby signifying that he impresses others, that he cannot be overlooked, that he is indeed a graving tool with the added element of life. It is, in fact, this power of impressing others by the force of our own personality that distinguishes man from the brute creation. Charles Dickens once remarked that "some very fine ladies and gentlemen might as well have been born caterpillars for any good they do, or any impression they make on the world." But, dear friends, God has not placed us here to be caterpillars lazily crawling over the smooth surface of things, and leaving no trace behind. He intends that we should be carving tools; that under His hand, and each in his own sphere, we should press heavily upon and cut deeply into this disordered world, seeking to shape it more after the mind and will of its Lord. This brings us at once to the practical question. We cannot stop at the tool. That is often a very rude and primitive affair. But the design or inscription written or graven therewith, what vast and varied possibilities are there? Even animals can make marks after a fashion — as some of us possibly know by experience — very ugly and painful ones. But they can usually be predicted. Every youth secretly hopes to make his mark and to pass for something in the world. What sort of a mark will be yours. No one can predict that. We can only hope and pray. Much might be said as to the elements of character, for, as Bishop Butler reminds us, it is, of a complex nature, there being greater variety of parts in it than there are features in a face. "Giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. These being the elements which make a manly and Christian life a word may be said as to their cultivation. Human nature is the raw material out of which character has to be manufactured, and very tough stuff it is. It has to pass through the mill a good many times before it is good for anything. Not forgetting the requirements mentioned by the apostle in the passage just quoted, we may add one or two others that go to the making of a man. One important factor is Labour. Dr. Arnold insisted that the difference between one man and another was not usually ability but energy; and Lord Lytton tells us that he made it a rule never to trust to genius for what could be won by toil. Another and most unwelcome agent in this process is trouble. "Great sufferings," says a powerful writer, "swell the soul to gigantic proportions." This had probably much to do with the strength of Daniel. Simplicity of aim, sincerity of aim, and modesty of manners are also essential to a healthy nature. And so is a perfectly trained will. The importance of arriving at and adhering to an intelligent decision cannot be too strongly emphasized. We are all acquainted with the description of the irresolute man who wastes the first half of the day in hesitating which of two courses to take, and the other in reproaching himself for not having taken the other. Only when all these qualities are present and active; only when those springs of action — our thoughts, desires, and affections — are cleansed by the Spirit of God and fed by communion with Him, do we attain our complete and destined development. We fall short of our own capabilities if we fall short of God. The result of this varied discipline and careful training is to exhibit what comes out so clearly in the life of Daniel. One of the most accomplished scoundrels of the last century declared that he would give ten thousand pounds for a character, because he could make above twenty thousand by it. Considered even from this sordid standpoint character represents capital, commands credit, and is a negotiable asset. The day has passed when is this land a man could rise to the highest place in the estimation of his fellows merely by the circumstance of noble birth. He must be and do something. Merchants and tradesmen often complain of the havoc and loss entailed by excessive competition. But there is a rising market for moral integrity and a brisk demand for it. To men of different callings I often put the question, "Is there s good prospect now for a young fellow in your business?" And the answer is almost invariably this, "Yes, he may do nicely if he is square, sober, and industrious; there are so many of the other sort, you know." So it is vice not virtue that is the drug on the market. Cleverness minus character — the world reeks with it. Most of the world's woes are in fact traceable to this pestilence, Satan himself being the chief example and promoter of it. In the hour when, after sufficient trial, it becomes known that you at least can be depended upon, you will become a person of importance. The world surely needs and is waiting for such as you. King Darius had that gift so essential to a ruler — the power to discern moral excellence. And finding it, he had a courage to utilise and reward it. He is worthy to be king who prizes virtue above rank. Hence "this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." Only when men of sincere conviction, high principle, and indisputable integrity are at the helm of affairs is there any hope for the prosperity of any people. Not politics, not commerce, not creed, but character is the supreme test of prosperity and the harbinger of peace. When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice. Thus the welfare of nations comes at last to be simply a matter of the individual spirit and conduct.

(A. E. Hutchinson.)

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