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ken and dispersed in the field, is hung up, in the sacred record, before the Church of the living God, for encouraging us to fight the good fight. When we look stedfastly at it, we are at a loss to say whether the grace or the power of God in it be most illustrious-his grace, which supported three friendless men in a strange land, against an opposition so formidable and desperate; or his power, which, by a stupendous miracle, brought them unhurt through their fiery trial.
In this first discourse, we will attempt to give some ac count of these illustrious men, whose names are in the text, and their praise in the church,-of their testimony, and their manner of maintaining it; and conclude with a few observations on these discussions.
We will, in the FIRST place, give a short account of the illustrious men, whose names are in the text, and their praise in the church. With respect to number, they were only three; a small number to appear for the Lord God of Israel in opposition to the idolatry of the king, and the court, and the empire of Babylon. By nation and profession they were Israelites, who had been carried to Babylon in the captivity of their country. They were of the tribe of Judah, and are commonly believed to have been of the king's seed, or royal family. Their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and their Chaldean names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They were in places of power and trust in Babylon, having been recommended by Daniel to the favour of Nebuchadnezzar; and then was fulfilled the word of the Lord by Isaiah to Hezekiah, "Of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which "thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be "officers in the palace of the king of Babylon."
Sometime after their promotion, Nebuchadnezzar erected an image of gold of an immense size, and commanded his whole empire to worship it as a God. The motives. which excited him to it probably were, to make an ostentatious display of the abundance of his wealth; to frustrate the exposition of his dream, related in the preceding chapter; to abate the jealousies of his people, on account of his favour to Daniel and his friends; and to prove himself a zealous defender of the gods of the empire, which his late confession of the supremacy of the God of Israel,
might render dubious. The height of the image was three-score cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits.— This tall and expensive statue was set up in the province of Babylon, in a plain called Dura; and the king, in the frenzy of his zeal, resolving that the magnificence of its dedication should bear some proportion to the greatness of its height, issued an order to the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to attend him and his court in the plain of Dura. When this numerous assembly of great men convened in the plain, a herald opened the business of the day, by crying aloud, that it was the king's pleasure they should fall down and worship the image, and that disobedience would be punished the same hour with the burning fiery furnace. The authority of the king, the terror of the furnace, and the superstition of the multitude, operated universally, and the whole assembly fell down and worshipped a figure that was the work of the goldsmith. It doth not appear that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were in the plain.Had these princely foreigners been in it, the king himself must have been the witness of their disobedience, and no formal impeachment or accusation would have been exhibited against them. The facts probably were: These three foreigners, being officers in places of trust and honour, were comprehended in the edict of the king, respecting the worship of the image; they did not appear in the plain with the rest of the officers of the crown, in obedience to the edict; their enemies envied their posts and honours, and took that opportunity to accuse them before the king. Nebuchadnezzar hearing this, and not suspecting the motive of the accusers, ordered them to be seized, and brought before him in the plain. When they were brought before him, he let them know what had been laid to their charge, insinuated that he would overlook what was past if they were now ready to fall down and worship the image; but that, if they again refused, they shouldinstantly be cast into the burning fiery furnace, adding a defiance both impious and impotent, "Who is that God "that shall deliver you out of my hands?" to which he received the firm and dignified reply in our text. This is our account of these illustrious men;-mèn illustrious for their birth, being princes of the blood royal of Judab; il
lustrious for their faith, which stood firm in the presence of a menacing and exasperated monarch; and illustrious for the testimony which they held, and through which they
In the SECOND place, We shall give come account of the Testimony which these illustrious men held, and through which they overcame. It was not a testimony of their own framing. The Lord God of Israel framed and wrote it, and commanded it to be observed. "He estab "lished a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, "which he commanded our fathers that they should make "them known to their children." That branch of the testimony for which these princely witnesses appeared, had not only been written on tables of stone by the finger of God; but, according to his promise, was written in their hearts. It had been put into the ark of his testimony, which was now lost; but it was also put into their minds by his Holy Spirit, out of which it could not be erased.→ Isaiah, prophecying of this appearance for the honour of the God of Israel in the plain of Dura, encourages the witnesses to come forward with their testimony, without fearing the wrath of the king, or the heat of the furnace. "Ye "are my witnesses saith the Lord, and my servant whom I "have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and un"derstand that I am he: before me there was no god form "ed, neither shall there be after Me." "Fear ye not, nei"ther be afraid-ye are even my witnesses. Is there a "God beside me? yea there is no god, I know not any." "I am the First, and I am the Last, and beside me there "is no God."
By the testimony of the witnesses, we understand the testimony which the Lord established, and commanded to be observed, and which they had received and believed. The words of it are, "Thou shalt have no other gods be"fore me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven "image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water "under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to "them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jea"lous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the "children unto the third and fourth generation of them that
"hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them "that love me, and keep my commandments.”
These words were a testimony established in Jacob, and a law appointed in Israel, by the Lord their God. By this law and testimony, the descendants of that ancient house, in all generations, and in all countries in which they might be residing, were inhibited to acknowledge any other god before their own God, and to make graven images and to bow down themselves to them, and serve them as gods. The reason inserted in the law satisfied the conscience of every pious Israelite: "For I the Lord thy God "am a jealous God." In this reason, the witnesses in the plain of Dura would recollect Jehovah, the name which had been known in Judah, and great in Israel; his interest and propriety in his people, as the Lord their God, and his zeal against graven images; his righteousness in visiting the idolatry of the fathers upon the children, and his mercy shewed to the thousands that loved him, and received, and observed the testimony which he established, and the law which he appointed in Israel. Encouraged and awed with the sovereign reason in it, the princely wit-nesses entered the plain in the boldness of faith, stood be, fore an haughty monarch without meditating terror, and spake with the dignity of men who feared Him that would not give his glory to another, nor his praise to an image of gold in the plain of Dura.
With the Psalms of David and the prophecies of Isaiah. they were doubtless acquainted. Passages in these oracles of truth and piety, which suited their circumstances, the Remembrancer, we suppose, brought to their mind, for emboldening them to hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of their hope firm unto the end. In the Psalms of David are these passages: "The Lord is great and "greatly to be praised, he is to be feared above all gods: "For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made "the heavens." "Confounded be all they that serve graven
images, that boast themselves of idols." "Wherefore "should the heathen say, where is now their God? But "our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he "hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work "of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; "eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, "but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not
"They have hands, but they handle rot; feet have they, "but they walk not, neither speak they through their "throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is "every one that trusteth in them." In the prophecies of Isaiah, we find these and several other passages of the same import. "They have no knowledge that set up the "wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that "cannot save." "They lavish gold out of the bag, and "weigh silver in the balance; and hire a goldsmith, and he "maketh it a god; they fall down, yea they worship. They "bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him and set him "in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not "remove; yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not an"swer, nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this "and shew yourselves men, bring it again to mind, O ye "transgressors. I am the Lord, and there is none else, "there is no god beside Me." Under that dispensation, in Babylon, as in Jerusalem, believers lived by the word; and by these, or words like these, the witnesses entered the plain without trembling, spoke to the king without stammering, stood upright Lefore the image without falling down, and heard of the burning fiery furnace without changing colour..
In the THIRD place, We shall attempt to give some account of their manner of maintaining the established testimony, which they received, believed, and held fast. In their manner, we behold beauties which commend the abundance of grace, and afford patterns of imitation to the end of the world. Though these beauties be obvious to the pious and believing, ye will wish to hear some of them particularized. The witnesses, in maintaining their tes timony for the honor of the God of Israel, conducted themselves,
1st, With discretion. Nebuchadnezzar, in his haughtiness and bigotry, added rudeness and insolence to idolatry, and impiously challenged the might of the God of Israel "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my "hands?" The witnesses, however, neither call him tyrant, nor idolater, nor oppressor, though, in fact, he was all three. On the contrary, they express themselves discreetly and mildly: "O Nebuchadnezzar!" "O king!" In their language they give no occasion to irritation, nor