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kingdom of men;” and He giveth earthly thrones to “whomsoever he will;” and sometimes setteth up over nations “the basest of men.” The doctrine taught is, that the most High God is the supreme ruler over the nations and the kingdoms of the earth; and as his wisdom and justice may direct, he roots out and pulls down, or builds up and plants; no power on earth can obstruct his designs. The illustration of this much-neglected truth, I shall draw from a slight survey of the Book of Daniel, in which our text lies, and make such inferences in passing, as may tend to instruct, reprove, or admonish.
I. Daniel himself, the writer of this book, strikingly exemplifies how the Divine Ruler can and does employ some of all ranks and conditions of men as his special and beloved servants on earth. Kings and courtiers, shepherds and fishermen, philosophers and unlettered men, have, according to Sacred Writ and the history of the church, all been especially employed by divine Providence. The kings, David and Solomon, were writers of parts of divine Revelation; Daniel and Joseph, were courtiers or statesmen, under heathen monarchs; and this Daniel was twice declared, by a divine message, to be “a man greatly beloved” in the heavenly world;—a clear proof that no secular duties, nor any station in society, is incompatible with the service of God. Daniel was, when a young lad, carried away (as a prisoner by a victorious army that had ravaged his native country,) to a foreign land, and there appointed to the menial duties of the royal harem. And from the age of eighteen till ninety, he served the pagan princes of successive dynasties with fidelity, and at the same time preserved a conduct that was pleasing to Heaven. The Jews, of late years, being grieved that Daniel's prophesies point so clearly to Jesus of Nazareth, as the true Messiah, will not allow him the title of prophet, alleging as a reason, that he lived as a courtier, instead of living secluded from mankind, as did the prophets Elijah and others. But Heaven did not, because he was a courtier, withhold from him the gift of prophesy; and therefore how futile is it in man to with
hold the name. Beside, our Saviour has designated him “Daniel the prophet,” Matt. xxiv. 15. There are those in our day who despise the poor and unlettered, as if Heaven never employed them, as he did formerly the prophet Amos, who was a herdsman, and the fishermen of Galilee, who were the first Missionaries of the Saviour; and there are those in the lower walks of life, who seem to think that kings and statesmen cannot be faithful servants of the most High. But a review of sacred history, and human records, will shew, that there is no reason for such a supposition; nor is it often necessary to quit one's station in society, in order to serve the Lord; but it is practicable to serve him whereever we are, whilst we faithfully purpose, as did Daniel, not to defile ourselves, nor to be unfaithful in the things that concern our God. Daniel was a man of prayer, and neither flattery nor frowns could turn him aside. He would not desist from prayer to save his life; although it would have been no very artful subterfuge to substitute for his usual devotions, mental prayer, unknown to man; or to have retired to his closet, and shut to the door. But no, when his enemies at court, who envied the influence of the captive Jew, obtained the foolish and impious decree, that no person in the empire should for thirty days ask a petition of God or man, but only from the king; Daniel, knowing the decree was signed, went into his house, kneeled upon his knees three times a day, with his chamber windows open towards Jerusalem, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. For he thought it not right to conceal his prayers on this occasion, nor to act a lie, or do what implied an untruth, as a discontinuance of his usage would have been. Whilst praying, he was discovered, and suffered the penalty of his disobedience to the king's commands, for he obeyed a higher authority. He was cast in amongst lions, but the lions in the den could not hurt him: For the most High hath power, either to employ the ordinary course of nature in his government, or to stop it, or to change it, as he sees fit. He bids the ravenous lions not devour, and the fiery furnace not burn, and it is done. Daniel came forth unhurt from the den;
and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would not worship the king's golden image, walked in the midst of the burning fiery furnace and felt no harm. They trusted that God would see meet to deliver them; but if not, they were prepared to suffer. Their courage and firm resistance to the royal mandate did not arise from a foreknowledge that they should be delivered; but from faith in the divine power, and submission to the divine wisdom. “Our God, said they, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,” and out of thy hand, O king; “but if not”—if he should not see fit to do so, beit known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. They trusted in God and were delivered. These examples shew that the divine government, or providence, extends to individuals, and if to some individuals, why not to all individuals Individuals constitute nations, and great affairs arise from small beginnings. A general providence implies a particular providence, as effects imply a cause ; or as the motion of a great machine implies attention to the minute wheels. The character of Daniel, president of the empire; of Shadrach, and his two friends, who also held offices under government; of Nehemiah, cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, king of Persia; and the extraordinary circumstances which occurred to them, gave them, in all probability, such influence in the empire, as must have contributed to ameliorate the condition of the Jews in captivity, and, eventually, was the means of obtaining decrees for their restoration. Nor may we omit here the name of Esther, the captive Jewish orphan girl, who was raised by Providence to be queen of Persia, and the saviour of her nation. And be it observed, that the enemies of these just persons, of Daniel, of Shadrach, of Mordecai, and Esther, fell into the pit which they dug for the innocent. Daniel's malicious and intended murderers were themselves devoured by wild beasts; those who heated the furnace were themselves burnt; and wicked Haman was hanged on his own gallows; for God knoweth (however complicated the case) how to deliver the righI have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my eounsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you :—for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” In these passages of Sacred Scripture, the good and the evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us; the path of wisdom, and the path of folly; the different conduct and fate of the humble learner, and of the proud scorner. “A man’s pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” (Prov. xxix. 23.) Therefore, (chap. iii. ver. 5.) “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.—Be not wise in thine own eyes; but in all thy ways acknowledge the Almighty, and he will direct thy paths.” (2.) But the humble and teachable disposition so strongly inculcated, does not imply an easy acquiescence with whatever any body may suggest; quite the reverse! It is accompanied by a firm resistance to the enticements of evil men and bad women. (Prov. i. 10.) “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” If they say, “Cast in thy lot among us—let us all have one purse,' and so entice you to steal or to rob, “Walk not thou in the way with them: refrain thy foot from their path, for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.” (Prov. ii. 10) “When wisdom entereth into thy heart and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee, and deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things”—who rejoices to do evil, and delights in the frowardness of the wicked; and will deliver thee from the strange woman, from the abandoned woman, who flattereth with her words, who forsaketh the guide of her youth (her father or her husband,) and forgetteth the covenant of her God;—for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. (Prov. v. 2.) “Her feet go down to death, and her steps take hold on hell;” therefore, O man, remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house, “Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel— lest strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a stranger,” and thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed (by loathsome disease), and remorse extort from thee the exclamation— “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof–I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” He who does not firmly resist the fair speeches of impudent and abandoned women, (Prov. vii. 21.) “goes after her as an ox to the slaughter, or a fool to the correction of the stocks; for her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” (Prov. ix. 17.) “The simple fool who turneth into her house, knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” This strong language is dictated by divine wisdom, to confirm the resolution of those who have any regard for their own honour or welfare in this world, or any concern for the salvation of their souls. . . o (3) And the same divine wisdom which so strongl dehorts men from a licentious life, recommends honourable marriage and conjugal fidelity; for nuan's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. (4.) Another path of wisdom pointed out in this Sacred Book, is prudence and diligence in temporal and secular concerns. An improvident thoughtlessness, carelessness about the future, is condemned by an allusion to that feeble insect the ant, Prov. vi. 6. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise, which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” If the feeble insect, without guide, overseer, or ruler, provides for itself, how inexcusable is it in a man to live in a careless, improvident manner, and squander in riot and dissipation, what should afford him support when he is sick or unemployed.