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V. The story of Belshazzar's feast.
All these stories are told with exquisite literary art, and are the classic examples of manly purity and integrity of purpose.
In the story of their refusal to eat of the king's meat we have the theme of loyalty to one's religious customs, even where the principles involved are not of the first importance. The distinction of clean and unclean meat was a minor matter, but it was a part of their religion, and, therefore, not to be lightly set aside.
Integrity is a great word; by etymology it signifies untouched, unbroken, whole; and it thus expresses that strict and punctilious regard for righteousness that refuses to compromise, but defends the outposts as well as the citadel of the soul. It is well put first in the stories of Daniel, for nothing is more fundamental in character. Youth especially is vulnerable at this point. It is apt to yield too easily on minor matters; it fears the reproach of bigotry, and seldom realizes the insidious nature of sin, or the force of evil associations. Integrity is the feature of character portrayed by this and two others of these stories,the story of the three young men who refused to worship the image of the king, and were cast into the fiery furnace; and the story of Daniel's bold stand for freedom of worship and his consequent casting to the lions.
Few stories ever written are so widely known, or so much admired; for the appeal they make to our admiration of the quietly heroic is very strong and very simple. Their deliverance is spectacular enough, but their conduct is free from ostentation. In all these stories the heroism consisted in the quiet, unobtrusive, loyalty to conscience and religious faith. It is probable that the character of these men, as shown by these stories, accounts for this book being classed with the Hagiography, rather than with prophecy, though the latter part of the book is all
The other three stories contain prophecy, but are more strictly biographical; they are more immediately stories of Daniel than predictions of events; but their permanent value is due to the latter rather than the former feature.
The vision of the great image of gold and silver and brass and iron mixed with clay is well accounted one of the wonderful revelations of the Old Testament. Few prophecies are so definite, and fewer have been so literally fulfilled.
The four kingdoms symbolized by the four metals which composed the great image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream are easily identified as the Babylonian, of which Nebuchadnezzar was king, then the Medo Persian, then the Grecian, then the Roman. And, in the time of the Roman Empire, Jesus was born king of the Jews, and established the kingdom "which shall never be destroyed."
In the fact that this kingdom is described as a “stone cut out of the mountain without hands," we have the intimation that it would be not of human origin, but the immediate work of the will and act of God.
The story of Belshazzar's feast is probably the most brilliant bit of tragedy ever written in any language, as may be proved by the strong impression it has made on the imagination of so many generations of men--probably no historic incident is so widely familiar.
The second part of the book differs from the first in that Daniel is not the hero, but the author. He speaks in the first person and writes of his own experience only to certify the genuineness of the revelations which God gave by him.
The prophecies are exceedingly obscure and are not interpreted with any certainty. Most of them seem to deal with the far distant future, with the tumult of the nations and the fall of kings and empires, and the final triumph of the kingdom of God in all the earth.
Prophecies so vague and so highly symbolic are naturally an attractive field for visionary and spectacular minds and have been the subject of a great variety of erratic and fantastic theorizing; but about all that can be certainly affirmed is the absolute confidence of the prophet's hope: hope for the full and final glory of those things for which the seed of Abraham stood.
But the parts of the book that are of special interest in relation to the other books of the hagiography are both simple and instructive. Their ethical import is clear and forceful, presenting in attractive form the excellence and beauty of moral integrity and religious loyalty.
Such are, in briefest outline, the varied messages of these holy writings; a brilliant cluster of the most beautiful gems of literature; a galaxy of precious truths that shine upon the dark and sinful world. But more than that, they form a systematic and harmonious scheme, a full-orbed revelation of the divine ideal of human life, suitable to every age and every land; composed of truth unchanging as the pole star, as immutable as God.
In Ruth we have the glory of the commonplace, the sweetness of the simple life.
In Esther, depicted in more brilliant colors, is the dramatic heroism of self-sacrifice for the public good, the artistic expression of the sentiment, "a public office is a public trust," and social eminence means opportunity for service.
In Job, poetic art is at its highest; and its message is well worthy of its fine presentation-confidence in God and the wisdom of bringing every thought into subjection to the obedience of Him.
The Psalms are the responses of the soul that has such confidence, and the joy of such obedience.
The Proverbs give the light we need to shine upon our daily path, that we may “let our way be established and ponder the path of our feet.” The “Preacher" shows the emptiness of things "under the sun," and sums the duty of man in two great
simple words, "Fear God and keep his commandments."
Then Canticles sings the old sweet song of love, the favorite theme of song since men began to sing. A song too often smirched with beastiality and lust; but here, in all its purity, it has its place among the lovely things wherewith God blessed the race of man.
In Lamentations, the weeping prophet, whose tears fall day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people, sings still a psalm of hope unquenchable, and confidence invincible, that the mercies of the Lord shall fail not, while day and night endure.
“They are new every morning;
And, last of all, the charming stories of the book of Daniel stir the blood and brighten the eye with admiration of a manly heroism that knows no compromise, nor counts the cost of loyalty to conscience, and the preservation of Integrity.
So this group of ancient classics of the Hebrew race "sings to one clear harp in divers tones” the glory of living on a plane exalted to the dignity of human destiny, as human destiny is planned and purposed by the great Creator.
THE FULLNESS OF THE TIME
HERE are two great events of human history-two that stand so high above all others that they are lonely by their own grandeur. The first of these
was the creation of man in the image of God. The second was the coming of the Son of God to take our nature and become man.
These facts were not mere accidents of human history; nor were they the result of any process of evolution. Yet they were not mere arbitrary interventions of divine sovereignty. Both were articulated with the whole world's history. Both were epoch making events,-points of new departure, to which the evolution of the race led up, and from which the course of human history runs in new channels, but ever onward to the goal ordained for man before the world was made.
It is impossible for us, poor creatures of a day to comprehend the thoughts of God. "It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than sheol; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
Yet God has never left us in utter darkness. He gave us an instinct of righteousness. Our first parents in the Garden of Eden knew that "God hath said", and in all the ages "the work of the law was written in men's hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them.”
But though men are without the excuse of ignorance, they had misused their knowledge and corrupted their affections, till they could neither clearly see the truth nor love the good which they could apprehend. And for the great love wherewith he