Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

try, but of conquerors of his country; and men not of his own religious faith. And the virtues he exhibited were not alone in public life, and under the extensive observance of men ; but, as will ever be the fact, with men of sound piety towards God, in every walk of life. We briefly notice some of these, in the order in which they arise, in the perusal of the book of Daniel.

We first find him showing his soundness and steadiness of principle, in relation to the luxurious living which was provided for him, at the king's cost ; thus giving a testimony to the conscience of Nebuchadnezzar, on the "temperance in all things ” which becomes every man, whether near the throne, or upon it. This was all done, too, with the respectfulness and reasonableness of a man who joined good sense with his piety; and putting the matter in question to the test of experiment. He cheerfully made himself useful to the government, on every occasion when his services were called for, or when he could, with propriety, offer them. On the issuing of a hasty and unjust decree, by Nebuchadnezzar, he respectfully but decidedly protested against it, and carried directly to the foot of the throne, a temperate but earnest petition, for favor to a set of men, in danger from the royal displeasure; showing that he was not afraid to speak of mercy to a despot, in the moment when his sword was lifted for the stroke of unrighteous vengeance.

At the same time, it is worthy of notice, how kindly he felt for the perplexities of his royal master; and enlisted the prayers of his pious associates in his behalf. While in his whole manner he was unexceptionably respectful, it should be remarked with what simplicity and honesty he spoke to a king of the true origin of his power and glory; and of the supreme power and glory of God, as the “ King of kings, and Lord of lords.” á God removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” “ The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, strength, and glory. - There is a God in heaven, that maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar, what shall be in the latter days.” “ The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.” And here let it be observed, how pious, upright and plain-spoken faithfulness will command respect, and constrain the acknowledgment of God, from a man in authority and honor. Paying to Daniel the most marked deference, Nebuchadnezzar said to him, "of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings.”

2

“ Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, and extol, and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment; and those that walk in pride, he is able to abase.” Daniel was at the farthest possible distance from pleasing himself with evil coming from God upon a ruler, though deserved ; on the contrary, he felt tender compassion towards him, as about to come under “ the rod of the Almighty.” “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies," was his tender-spirited preface to his interpretation of a dream which forewarned Nebuchadnezzar of his prostration and expulsion to a “dwelling with beasts of the field.” He fully acknowledged all which was illustrious in a ruler. “Thou, O king, art grown and become strong; for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven.” At the same time, with most unshrinking faithfulness, he predicted divine judgments to come upon him for sin : “till (said he) thou know that the Most High ruleth ;” and adding, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.”

These traits of character and conduct thus far manifested under the government of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel also carried with him under that of Belshazzar and Darius; besides other traits, which we can little more than name. He was independent of all the influences of favoritism and gifts, while he was most cheerful and ready to do his duty. He told a haughty and profligate king, of the sins of his father, before him, as well as of his own; and yet, did it in such a manner, that a “chain of gold about his neck,” and a proclamation of him as "third ruler in the kingdom,” was not considered as forfeited. Such was his blamelessness as a subject of government, that when his watchful enemies “sought to find occasion against him concerning the kingdom,” they “could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.” And they were compelled to acknowledge among themselves, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” When the envy of his enemies had succeeded in obtaining a most unrighteous decree, aimed directly at himself, he had the moral courage to move as straight onward in the path of duty to his God, as though nothing had happened. When he knew that the writing was signed, which would consign bim to a den of lions," he went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees, three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks to God, as he did aforetime.' His perfect and principled respectfulness to Darius, did not leave him, even in the hour of unjust suffering, nor when a miraculous protection by the divine power, might have tempted him to do otherwise. “O king, live for ever ; my God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him, innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” In short, if we can ever, with propriety, speak of a frail man, as exhibiting “the beauty of holiness," we may do so in this case ; and ascribe to the piety of the man, the brightness of the virtues he exhibited as a subject of government.

Paul is another example, full of instruction. He brought with him into life, a spirit as violent and untamed, as ever had place in the heart of man. But when the grace of God changed his heart, it appeared in every situation and relation in which he is presented before us.

He could reply with the utmost dignity to the magistrates, who, after having beaten him and his associate - openly uncondemned,” would, to save themselves disgrace, “ thrust them out privily ;” with honest firmness declare his rights as a citizen ; when about to be scourged, a Roman, without trial, and standing " at Cæsar's judgmentseat,” he could maintain his right to fair trial, and assert his innocence, with as much firmness, independence, and energy of demand, as any man. And yet, when the provoking command of the high priest had drawn from him the hasty speech, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall," see how quickly and humbly he recalled it, when he found to whom he was speaking; and with what frankness he recited the law, binding him and every other man, “ thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” His interview with Felix, shows him a man of a most faithful spirit, as ready to press the commands of God upon a profligate ruler. His defence before Agrippa, and his treatment of the king, on that occasion, is one of the richest specimens of Christian courtesy, to be found in history, sacred or profane.

Isaiah may be mentioned as another example. So much of his character as can be found in sacred history, presents him before us as uniting eminent holiness before God, with great dignity of character among men. And, as a subject, he was worth more to Hezekiah, than all the princes who stood about his throne. In times of darkness and difficulty, he knew how to help his king take courage, and “strengthen himself in the Lord his God.” When Hezekiah's pride had gone into a display of his resources to the ambassadors from Babylon, he inquired into the matter, and reproved his royal master for his good.

master for his good. When hypocrisy showed itself in high places, he knew how to list his voice and say, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom : give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” His estimate of human greatness, as in the hands of God, is peculiarly impressive, when he says to Judah and Jerusalem, “Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, the prudent and the ancient ; " predicting the disastrous changes which should befall the government and the country. Still more impressive is his picture of wicked greatness, defeated; which he drew for the king of Babylon; “How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.” And after a description of the relief of the oppressed, in his overthrow, he proceeds, following him beyond death, to say, “ Hell, from beneath, is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming : it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth ; it hath raised up from their thrones, all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols; the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee." By the sick bed of Hezekiah, he knew how to give the faithful warning, “ set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live," and to “cry unto the Lord,” in earnest prayer for him. When he saw selfish pride in a ruler, he could go and say to him, " what hast thou here ? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock. Behold the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely lower thee," "drive thee from thy station,” “pull thee down.”

[ocr errors]

While thus showing to earthly rulers who and what they were, he pointed them to another, in contrast with themselves, and said, “ Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness.

In the life and character of David, there are some instructive facts. He lived under the government of Saul, long after he was anointed king in Saul's stead ; and he lived in the exhibition of conduct and character, peculiar for a man in such circumstances. He consented to be a soldier under him in the field ; fighting his battles; hazarding his life for the success of Saul's arms. When Saul was in trouble, from “ the evil spirit” sent upon him as in a state of reprobacy, David tasked his own skill as a musician, to quiet the unhappy man. His whole conduct was of such an unexceptionable character, as to attach to himself Saul's own son in a most ardent affection ; and constrained him to say to the king, "Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good ;wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?” When Saul “cast his javelin at him,” repeatedly, he simply took care of his own life, without the least retaliation, or change in the loyalty of his conduct. After having repeatedly escaped with his life, from the hands of Saul, seeking his blood; and been hunted from one part of the kingdom to the other with a band of soldiers; and had repeated opportunities to take Saul's life, as being completely in his power ; he yet keeps up in his heart all his respect for him as “the Lord's anointed," against whom nothing should tempt him to lift his hand. One of the most vindictive acts in David's life, was, his causing to be put to the sword the murderer of Saul, while he rebuked him saying, "How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed ;” “thy blood be upon thy head.” And the whole circle of Hebrew elegy does not furnish a more beautiful specimen of tender and honorable lamentation for the dead, than that of David for Saul and Jonathan, commencing “ The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places; how are the mighty fallen!”

It would be interesting to go into the examination of the examples of Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Micaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Nehemiah, Ezra, Mordecai, Esther, with Jeremiah and others of the prophets; as also of many other individuals, whose

« ZurückWeiter »