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to any courtier to accuse them of despising dominion, and speaking evil of dignities. Their decent and measured language is a proof that it was dictated by wisdom from above; and that they knew it to be unfit, without a commission from Heaven, "to say to a king, Thou art wicked; "and to princes, Ye are ungodly."
2dly, With composure and presence of mind. Nebuchadnezzar was angry and impetuous. By the frowns of his countenance and the tone of his voice, the witnesses perceived, no doubt, the turbulence of his haughty and overbearing mind. But they were no way disconcerted. Neither anger nor fear disturbed them. The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, ruled in their hearts.The cause in which they appeared needed not the wrath of man to support it; and the fear of God, which is a sedate and composed principle, fortified their minds against the fear of man. The first words they spake, after hearing the menacing speech of the king, are cool and dispassionate, and at the same time firm and decided: "O Nebu"chadnezzar, we are not careful," that is, we are not solicitous, "to answer thee in this matter;" we are in no hesitation about the part which it is our duty to act, and feel no anxiety about the consequence of our disobedience to the command of falling down and worshipping the golden image, though it should be the burning fiery furnace.
Sdly, With confidence in the living God, as God and their God. Far from being ashamed of him, and the testimony which he had established in Israel, they acknowledge his propriety in them, and their interest in him, before a numerous and splendid convocation of his enemies. If their acknowledgement be boasting, it is boasting in the Lord, which is an exercise of faith, resting modestly on the foundation of the grant he had made of himself to Israel, unto the full assurance of understanding. In the hour of temptation and trial, it is of great importance to our success, and comfort in our warfare, to avouch, on good ground and in the presence of enemies, the everlasting God as God and our God. "Now thus saith the "Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed "thee, O Israel, fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I "have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When "thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when
"thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; "neither shall the flame kindle upon thee: For I am the "Lord thy God, the holy One of Israel, thy Saviour." this, and in many other passages, the ground of faith in the hour of trial is clear and firm.
4thly, With stedfastness. From the power and mercy of the Lord their God they had hope of deliverance, notwithstanding the puff of an haughty monarch, "Who is "that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" but, whatever the event might be, they resolved to adhere stedfastly to the law and testimony which he had commanded, and established in Israel. "Our God, whom we serve, is "able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he "will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be "it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy "gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set "up." This was standing fast in the faith, and quitting themselves like men. The king, provoked at their firmness and constancy, discovered his indignation in his looks: Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form "of his visage was changed."-But why do the heathen rage?
5thly, With uprightness. Nothing crooked, nor perverse, nor deceitful, appears in their conduct. Had they consulted flesh and blood, reasons might have been suggested to palliate some deviation from integrity. All that was required was a bow to the image, which hypocrisy would have made with a reserve of the heart to God, and a secret protestation against the compulsion that extorted it. Neither was it an explicit renunciation of their own God, nor a course of service to idols. Nebuchadnezzar would have been pleased with a single prostration, which might have been made in a minute; all would have been safe. But flesh and blood were not consulted. The witnesses were Israelites indeed, in whose conduct there was no guile. Their obligation to the earthly potentate who had lately promoted them, they considered as annulled by their obligation to the Blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. In these circumstances, the uprightness of these illustrious witnesses is conspicuous and exemplary.
Upon these several discussions we observe, First, The mean and unkingly behaviour of the mighty potentate, who projected and authorised the criminal solemnities of that memorable day. The blood rushing to his face, made his countenance all over red as scarlet. Vengeance sparkled in his eyes, with a fierceness resembling the flame of his furnace. He started, he raged, he foamed, he stamped, he stormed, he raved in all the frantic postures of a man that had lost the command of himself. Behold the man who reigned over millions, unable to govern his own mind; and the tyrant, who had led kings in chains, and bound nobles in fetters of iron, enslaved by his own unruly and tyrannizing passions! This was unmanly, unwise, unkingly, ungodly-"Cease ye from man, whose breath is in "his nostrils."
Secondly, Observe the violence of superstition armed with power. Nothing will satisfy it but either the consciences or the lives of upright and holy men. One would have thought, that the king and court of Babylon might have been satisfied with the obeisance of that great assembly, without prosecuting three dissenters of a different nation, and a different religion. This however did not satisfy, and uniformity was demanded with unrelenting and unabating fury, under the penalty of the burning fiery furnace. "The wicked plotteth against the just, and "gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at "him, for he seeth that his day is coming. In his pride the "wicked doth persecute the poor; let them be taken in "the devices that they have imagined. Confounded be all "that serve graven images.".
Thirdly, Observe the distressing alternatives to which faithful witnesses for God have been reduced. One more distressing can scarcely be imagined than that proposed to the witnesses in the plain of Dura. Bow, or burn,-bow to my graven image, said the mighty potentate, or burn in the fiery furnace which I have kindled. Trusting in the Lord their God, they ventured on the last. Their flesh was not of brass, nor their muscles of stone; but the torture of the fire they believed was not to be compared with the everlasting wrath of a sin-revenging God. "God is "jealous, and the Lord revengeth, the Lord revengeth and "is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversa"ries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies."
Fourthly, Observe the goodness of God, in supporting his witnesses in such extremities. What were these three witnesses? In themselves they were weak and timorous as other men. How were they preserved from fainting, and from dishonouring, by unworthy compliances, the testimony for which they appeared? The Lord stood by them, and said, "Fear ye not, for I am with you; be not dismay"ed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, yea I will "help you, yea I will uphold you with the right hand of "my righteousness." "Strengthened with all might "according to his glorious power, by his Spirit in the in"ner man," they stood firm, repelled the wrath of the king and the terror of his furnace, and obtained a glorious victory. The glory of their victory is to be ascribed to his almighty strength; and exemplified the prophecy, "The "people that do know their God shall be strong and do ex"ploits."
Fifthly, Observe the wisdom of counting, before temptations and trials assail our faith, the expense of holding fast our profession unto the end. These princely and faithful witnesses appear to have balanced their accounts of loss and gain before they were summoned to the plain. When they heard the startling alternative-Bow, or burn, they discovered no surprize;-they craved no time to deliberate, no time to consult their friends, no time to prepare for an event that affected their life and honor. These preliminaries being settled before hand, they answered coolly, and without confusion, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we "are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, "our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the "burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine "hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O "king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the "golden image which thou hast set up."
Lastly, Observe the nature and efficacy of faith in God. —1st, The nature of faith in God, which is receiving and résting on the grant which he makes of himself to us as the Lord our God. The revealed and promissory grant, as it stands in the word, faith receives, and accounts a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation. In the Old Testament, the terms in which it is revealed are more narrow and confined; and in the New, broader and more extended. But in both the grant is the same, the object rè
vealing himself in the grant is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself; and the nature of faith is believing, and claiming, and appropriating, what he says to us in the grant, according to the terms in which it is expressed. In this appropriate language the witnesscs speak in the plain to the king, Our God whom we serve.
2dly, The efficacy of faith in God. The efficacy of this principle is mighty. Through it, men weak and timid have resisted unto blood, striving against sin; and through it put to flight the fear of man and the terror of death. Let those who are destitute of this saving grace labor in the use of means to obtain it; and those who have obtained it abound in the exercise of it with thanksgiving. The faith by which the just live, is the same by which the martyrs bled and overcame-it is wrought by the selfsame spirit; it terminates on the selfsame God, re conciling the world to himself in Christ Jesus; and rests on the selfsame record, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.