ZWT - 1899 - R2411 thru R2552 / R2491 (161) - July 1, 1899
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Vol. XX. JULY 1, 1899. No. 13.
"The Bishop of London on
Daniel in Babylon.................................165
In the Fiery Furnace..............................168
Weighed in the Balances...........................172
Attendants at Indianapolis Convention
Should Secure Quarters......................162
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WILL YOU ATTEND THE INDIANAPOLIS CONVENTION?
--NOTIFICATIONS-- SHOULD BE RECEIVED PROMPTLY TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS. THE CITY WILL BE CROWDED WITH EPWORTH LEAGUERS.
Arrangements are completed for a Convention of believers in the Second Coming of the Lord and the Plan of the Ages,--to be held at Indianapolis, Ind., July 21st to 23d, as follows:--
The Railroad fare will be one-half the usual, except from a few points which will add $2 to the one fare for round trip. All passenger trains run into Union depot, which is about three blocks distant from the meeting place of the Convention-- "Shover's Hall," on Market Street, between Delaware and Alabama Avenues.
Accommodations--good and clean--have been arranged for, at the very reasonable rate of ninety-five cents per day, at "Barton's Hotel," No. 29 Virginia Ave. Such ZION'S WATCH TOWER readers as cannot afford even this modest sum, will be entertained free, by the Indianapolis friends, with great pleasure. Those who ride to the hotel can take any car leaving the Union depot and should ask for "transfer" when they pay their fare. A "Reception Committee" will meet all the friends at the Barton Hotel--except during convention hours, when it will be at Shover's Hall, as above mentioned.
The following program will be followed closely as practicable:
Friday, July 21st.--The opening "rally" will be at 10 A.M., conducted by Brother C. A. Owen--an opportunity for getting generally acquainted. At 3 P.M. the assembly will be addressed by the Editor of this Journal from the text--"Looking for the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (`Titus 2:13`.) At 7:30 P.M. an address on the Ages and Dispensations of the divine plan, illustrated by the Chart of the Ages, may be expected.
Saturday, July 22d.--Testimony Meeting at 8 A.M. Preaching at 10:30 A.M. by the Editor of this Journal: subject, "The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus." (`Rom. 8:2`.) At 3 P.M. a discourse by Bro. M. L. McPhail--"Sanctify them through thy Truth." At 7:30 P.M. a discourse from the Chart.
Sunday, July 23d.--Testimony Meeting 8:30 A.M.; at 10:30 a discourse by Bro. M. L. Staples on "The Offence of the Cross;" at 3 P.M., "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ," by the Editor; at 7:30 P.M., "Preserving the Unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace"--several speakers.
All who love the Lord, trust in the precious blood and wait for his Kingdom, are cordially invited to attend this Convention which recognizes only the one Church and her one Lord, one faith and one baptism. All such will please address the WATCH TOWER SOC'Y as soon as they know definitely that they will attend, stating in few words who will be of their party, and whether or not they will stop at the hotel. There will be an opportunity for symbolizing baptism.
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"THE BISHOP OF LONDON ON 'GETTING ON.'"
"THE Bishop of London possesses a mind of unusual interest, and everything that he says is worth paying attention to, whether we agree with it or not. In addressing the pupils of the Philological School the other day, he took as the subject of his remarks, 'Success in Life.' Considering his own career, one might expect that he would justify, and possibly glorify, success, for few men of our generation have risen more rapidly and achieved such brilliant success as he. But the Bishop did not take that line of thought at all, and we are glad that he did not. Enough and too much has been written for boys as to the way in which they may regard the world as their oyster to open at their will. Strength, instead of purity, of will has too often been represented as the most desirable of attainments. Now we do not doubt for one moment that this element of great will-power is an important element in the building up of character. Without it nothing can be achieved that is worth achieving. But mere strength of will may, and often is, accompanied by the worst traits in human character. We need not accept all the deductions of Schopenhauer to agree with him that what he calls the 'will to live' is a root of all the crime, sensuality, and base unsatisfied longings which make up the carnal side of human nature.
"It is true that Nature itself implants this forceful 'will to live' in every one of us, and that without it the human race would soon cease to exist when confronted with the terrific forces of the material universe. It is true that great and beneficent discoveries are due to the persistence of this intense will in us. It is even further true that many noble qualities, and no little of the social and the humanizing elements in life, are intimately connected with a powerful will. Many of the great human scourges of the race have, unconsciously and unintentionally, done immense good for mankind through the possession of this vast overflowing energy. 'There shall be no Alps,' said Napoleon in his selfish desire to conquer Italy, and the result was the wonderful roads which connected Northern and Southern Europe. If ever there was an example on a colossal human scale of the 'will to live,' it was embodied in Peter the Great, an awful and drunken barbarian; but see what he did for Russia. In this world, whose ultimate problems we do not pretend to solve, the 'will to live,' with all its potential consequences, is a great fact without which the human race would gradually die out.
"Now the successful man, in the ordinary sense of the word, is he who develops in himself in an abnormal degree this 'will to live.' We in the Western world scarcely recognize that this 'will to live' carried to great lengths is not only not universal among mankind, but is rather exceptional in its operations. It is the brute inheritance, at least on one side, against which some of the great religions of the world have contended, and contended with success. The East as a whole finds in the quiescence of the will, in its passive submission to a vast and supreme Power, the solution of the problem of life. Even among Western peoples the average man lives with content amid the
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'petty murmur of his bourg' rather than contends for the great material prizes of life, or what are supposed to be such. It is well that this is so, for if every one were fired by the ambition of a successful general, or politician, or merchant, the competition among men would be so terrible that, from another point of view, annihilation would be the lot of humanity. Men would not be able to stand the strain, nor would Nature afford the mass of them the opportunity for attaining, or even seriously striving for, the object of their ambition. Earth would become a hell, and this green
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globe would witness tragedies compared with which the most awful in history would dwindle into insignificance. Most men are, happily for themselves and for their fellows, contented, like the Apostle, with food and raiment, and taking the world as a whole, they live the lives of decent and faithful fathers, sons, husbands, and friends. Ambition is the mark of a comparative few, and what are called the prizes of life are contended for by an insignificant minority.
"We say that this is well, and the Bishop of London is evidently in agreement with our position, for he does not think that success in life usually develops the best qualities among men. It is indeed true, as Wordsworth said, that it is dangerous to look on tyrants with a dazzled eye, and one might add that it is not quite safe for most men to take as their models those who are generally estimated to be successful men. There can be, as the Bishop said, no absolute rule as to what one should do to gain success. One may spend one's life in the most praiseworthy diligence, and yet die poor, unknown, and be accounted by the world as a failure, tho happily the world's coarse judgments do not constitute the final court of appeal. One may master all science, one may be a great thinker, and yet pass away from these noises of earth unrecognized, and even laughed at, by one's fellow-men.
"It has been reserved for few great men to attain renown in their own lifetime. They have been hated and ridiculed, while the shallow charlatan has won the success of his age. This is, indeed, such a truism, that one does not need to dwell on the fact. If we are to measure character, genius and worth by the standard of success, we should have to say that the great men of the world have been among the least successful men. What does seem to us to ensure success is some overplus of human energy with which a man is born, and which cannot be created in him afterwards, and which is directed towards the attainment of objects that can be best appreciated by the average man. There is a general demand in the world at any given time for a kind of mechanical talent rising at times to genius, but of a variety which can be estimated by common people, and which can apply itself to objects of general desire. He who possesses this kind of overplus of human energy is the successful man, because he holds a monopoly of what all desire and of what all can appreciate. To him all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, and he soon finds out that he can play the best game of them all in some particular line.
"In a world such as ours, how far is it wise to encourage that kind of talent? Religion, as we have said, over most of the Eastern world has persuaded countless millions of people that this kind of success is not worth while. Buddhism and Brahminism have indoctrinated a large proportion of the human race with a positive contempt for the kind of existence which alone seems worth having for a member of the New York Stock Exchange. Indeed, if we contemplate the two varieties of mankind from a spiritual, instead of a physical, point of view, we might be led to doubt whether the human race had a common origin. There seems absolutely nothing in common between the two types.
"On the one hand, we see the action dictated by the strong will, by the 'will to live' endowed with keen intelligence and a rather low standard of aspiration. On the other side, we see a being who is striving-- for what? For the cessation of all will, for the attainment, not of material commodities, not even of mental good, but of entire peace and calm, and to him all the efforts of human life in our busy civilization seem entirely purposeless and even absurd. Are we to take the extreme Oriental view, or must we accept the standard of the strong will as believed in and acted upon by the busy men of our busy world? If the latter is a true theory of life, then we must accept the successful man as our hero, even tho we cannot teach our youths how to imitate his example.
"We think there is a mean between these extremes, as there is between most extremes. We cannot annihilate 'the will to live,' because existence itself on our planet depends upon its mysterious operation. Neither can we desire the larger development of the 'will to live,' the will carried to an abnormal point, as in a very great general or financier, among average men. All that we want among average men, as Hegel said, is that they should be good men in all the fundamental relations of life. If they happen to achieve that reward which, as Coleridge says, so rarely comes to merit, well and good.
"But it is well that most men should not go out of their way to seek rewards. So long as they are standing on the ground of right, they are safe; but the moment they quit that point of moral vantage for the perilous peaks of human ambition, they are usually lost. They must not, then, put forth the abnormal 'will to live,' but neither must they crush that will without which human life would be empty of all positive content. No, what is really needed among men is a pure will, a will cleansed of all that degrades life while prolonging it and extending its relations. This was the best Greek idea, it is also the Christian idea, which comes to men, not as taking away the real content of life, but as giving life more abundantly; but life which can control those fiery courses of the soul instead of leaving them to their own ungoverned sway. On the whole, therefore, we say with the Bishop that success in life is a dubious object of desire, since it is connected inextricably with so much that wars against the soul. But we must not, as the Germans say, throw away the baby along with the bath. We must accept the will, but we must give to it that direction and noble purpose which render it truly free."
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DANIEL IN BABYLON.
JULY 9.--`DANIEL 1:8-21`.
"Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself."
DANIEL is set before us in the Scriptures as one whom the Lord loved. His standing with the Almighty is strikingly presented through the Prophet Ezekiel, where the Lord, speaking of the sureness of his judgments about to come upon the land of Judah, said, "Tho these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness." (`Ezek. 14:14`.) These words were spoken by Ezekiel shortly before the desolation of Jerusalem, while Daniel was in Babylon, where he had risen to a position of great prominence; and his fame no doubt had reached his home.
Daniel was carried captive with Jehoiachim, king of Judah, and many of the nobility of the land of Israel, eighteen years before the final captivity in the days of Zedekiah, when the land was left desolate without an inhabitant, and the seventy years of desolation began. Daniel was fourteen years old when carried captive to Babylon, and consequently lived to the extreme age of over one hundred years.--`Dan. 1:21`.
The Book of Daniel is one of those against which the "higher critics" expend special energy, some being inclined to call it a fiction, while others declare it to be a history of the period of Antiochus Epiphanes (over three hundred years after Daniel's death) and that it was written by some unknown writer who attached Daniel's name as a disguise. Modern science and the higher critics are very much opposed to anything in the nature of positive prophecy--anything claiming to be of direct divine inspiration, and in any sense of the word attempting to foretell the future. The Book of Daniel is preeminently marked with these characteristics, and hence it, more than any other book of the Old Testament, has the reprobation of these gentlemen. But the Lord forewarned us, through the Apostle and the Prophet, of these wise men, whose wisdom would become a trap and a snare unto them, so that "the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid [obscured]."--`Isa. 29:14`; `1 Cor. 1:26-29`.
Our Lord also pointed out that these things are hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes --made clear to those who make no boast of wisdom according to the course of this world. (`Matt. 11:25`.) How true to facts we find this to be! While many of the great and learned are stumbling themselves into higher criticism and other forms of infidelity, the Lord's "little ones," meek, humble, teachable from the Father's Word, are being instructed, and are growing in
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grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
To those who have clearly in mind the presentations and interpretations of Daniel's prophecies as presented in MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOLS. I., II. and III., there is no need for elaborate arguments to prove that this wonderful Book of Daniel is not a fiction, but more wonderful by far than any fiction that could have been written. And to them it will be useless to declare it a history of events which transpired 167 B.C. and falsely set forth as a prophecy by Daniel; for they see fulfilments, past, present and to come, far larger and grander and more wonderful than anything which occurred at the date named--they see in these fulfilments unmistakable evidence of superhuman intelligence, and that, as Daniel declared, the most high God therein revealed the secrets of his plan still future.
Our lesson proper finds Daniel with others of the Jewish captives in Babylon, where, according to custom, the king had made choice of a number of the most promising of the captive youths to pass a three-years' course of education in the sciences, Babylon being at this time the center of learning. The object in this was no doubt two-fold: the Babylonian monarch thus attempted to associate with his empire the learning and skill of the world, and to promote a friendly feeling as between Babylon and the various countries over which it held sway, that foreign nations might feel the greater interest in Babylon as the center of the world-empire, and be the more contented with the laws and regulations which proceeded therefrom, knowing that some of their own nation stood before the king as his counsellors or secretaries--magicians, astrologers and wise men, as they were then called.
The choice of the four young Israelites was no doubt a subject of divine providence, and from their names we may infer that they were all children of religious parents, the compounds of their names so signifying, as follows: Daniel, "God is my Judge;" Hananiah, "God is gracious;" Mishael, "This is as God;" Azariah, "God is a helper." Thus did the Lord, overthrowing a nation for its wickedness, make special provision, even in its captivity, for those of that nation who were faithful to him. In choosing these four Jews for the Babylonian college course the prince of the eunuchs, according to custom, gave them new names, to break their identity with their native homes and to establish an identity with the kingdom of Babylon; hence he named them Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
From the first Daniel seems to have been the specially favored of these favored four--he was favored of the Lord in that, while all four were specially blessed, his portion included visions and revelations; he was specially favored by the prince of the eunuchs who had these youths in charge, as we read, "Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs" (`vs. 9`). We are not to understand
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that this favor both with God and man was something wholly outside of Daniel himself; on the contrary, it is proper for us to infer that by birth (heredity) and by natural training of godly parents Daniel had a noble, amiable, winsome character, which not only prepared him the better to be the Lord's mouthpiece, but which also made him moderate, discreet and amiable toward all with whom he had to do.
What a lesson is here, not only for young people, but also for parents! How necessary it is that those who seek divine service shall endeavor to attain to characteristics pleasing to God! And if any find themselves wholly without friends, how proper it is that they should suspect that some measure of the fault lies in themselves; and how proper it would be that all such should seek to cultivate amiability and suavity at the expense of everything except principle! Only Ishmael was to have the experience of every man's hand against him, and his hand against every man, and those who have Ishmael's experience have need to fear that they have Ishmael's disposition, and should forthwith diligently seek grace at the throne of mercy whereby to overcome ungainly qualities and idiosyncrasies.
It is only when we are hated because of our loyalty to the truth (directly or indirectly) that we are to take satisfaction therein, or to think that we are suffering for righteousness' sake. As the Apostle points out, some suffer as evil-doers and as busy-bodies in other men's matters, or because of ungentleness, uncouthness, or lack of the wisdom of moderation, which the Lord's Word counsels. (`1 Pet. 4:15`; `Phil. 4:5`; `Jas. 1:5`.) We are not to forget, however, that rudeness, which is an element of selfishness, may be more quickly dispelled from the heart than from the life, and all should take encouragement from the thought that God, and his people who view matters from his standpoint, judge the sons of God not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit or intention of their minds, their hearts, and have patience with the weaknesses of the flesh, where there are evidences that the new mind is endeavoring to bring the flesh under its control.
Of these four Jewish companions, Daniel seems from the first to have been leader, and his leading seems to have been in the right direction. In a new land, under new conditions, a shallow character would be likely to be thoroughly spoiled. First, the fact of being chosen, even in the probationary sense, to be of the king's council was certainly a great honor; and the tendency to a shallow mind would have been toward vanity, bombast, pride, haughtiness, etc., qualities which would have hindered real progress in the school, and thus would have made him less likely to be the king's ultimate choice as counsellor: but still more important, it would have separated between him and God, for God resisteth the proud and showeth his favor to the humble.--`1 Pet. 5:5`.
Daniel might have said to himself, as some would have said,--I am now far from the land of Israel; I am identified with the Babylonish court, and I therefore may profitably forget and neglect the laws of God, and consider them as having been applicable to me only in my own country, and that here, far from the land of promise, I may do in all particulars as the better Babylonians do. But, on the contrary, Daniel very wisely resolved in his heart that, since his nation had been cut off from the Land of Promise because of disobedience to God, he would be ever careful to do those things which would be pleasing to the Almighty: and, as we shall see, he soon found a place for his new resolutions.
The portion of food provided for these college students by the king's command was good--far better, probably, than they had been used to previously;--nor was Daniel's mental objection to it instigated by self-denial, but wholly by religious duty. The Israelites, under their Law Covenant, were forbidden to eat certain articles of food in common use amongst other nations, for instance, swine's flesh, rabbit flesh, eels, oysters, etc., and indeed all flesh that was not killed by being allowed to bleed to death: for the Law specially forbade the use of blood under any circumstances or conditions. The food of the king's household was not prepared along these lines, and the young Hebrew perceived that he could not hope for any change in these respects, and he was too wise to even find fault with them. He saw rightly enough that the divine Law that was upon him as a Jew did not apply to Gentiles, and he made no efforts to interfere with the general arrangements.
Daniel's request, therefore, was a very simple one, viz., that he be permitted to have a very plain and inexpensive diet, called "pulse," which no doubt was prepared as a part of the general household meal. If the request could be granted, no one would be specially inconvenienced, and yet Daniel would thus preserve himself from "defilement" under the terms of the Jewish Law. It would appear that Daniel's companions, influenced by his decision, joined with him in this request. The prince of the eunuchs, while desirous of favoring Daniel, feared his own position if, as he surmised, this simple diet would prove insufficient for the boys, and lead to a breakdown of their health during the period of study. But finally it was arranged with the melzar (or butler) that the matter of diet should be tested for ten days.
Here Daniel's faith in God showed itself. He was confident that, even tho such a diet might not be the most desirable in every respect, yet, inasmuch as it was
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the only course open to them whereby they could preserve themselves from violation of the divine Law, therefore God would specially supervene to the extent necessary, and in this, it seems, he was not disappointed. There is a lesson for all of the Lord's people here. It is our duty not only to study the Lord's will, but also to consider well the circumstances and the conditions which surround us, and to seek to adopt such a moderate course in life as would first of all have divine approval, and secondly, cause as little trouble, inconvenience and displeasure to others as possible, and then to confidently rely upon the Lord's supervising wisdom and providence.
When we read, "As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams," we are not to understand that this skill and learning was wholly miraculous, like the understanding in visions and dreams, which was to Daniel only. Rather, we are to judge that under what we might term natural laws four boys who had enough character to undertake such a course of self-denial for righteousness' sake would have also courage and strength of character in respect to all their affairs and studies. We are to surmise that their determination in this matter of their food, that they would rather deny themselves than violate God's Law, would mean to them a mental and moral discipline which would be helpful in all the
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affairs of life.
And there is a lesson in this for every Christian. Many are inclined to think of the little things of life as being unimportant, but everyone who attains to any proficiency in any department of life surely learns that his attainments were in considerable degree the result of determined will-power, and that it is well-nigh impossible to be strong in will-power in respect to important things if lax and pliable in respect to things in general, even tho less important. Habit is a wonderful power, either for good or evil, and the boy or girl, the man or woman, who has not learned self-control in respect to little things, indeed all things, cannot expect to be able to exercise self-control upon the greatest and most important affairs merely.
In other words, applying this matter to Christians, we might say that he who wants to be an "overcomer" at all, must make the attempt all along the line on every point, great or small, where conscience and principle call for it. It is he who is faithful in things that are least who may be expected to be found faithful also in things that are greater: and this evidently is the Lord's view of this matter. From the Lord's standpoint, all of the affairs of this present life are little in comparison with the future things. Hence he is calling for "overcomers" whose general faithfulness to principle, even in small things, will give evidence of the disposition, the character, to which may be entrusted the great responsibilities of the Kingdom glory, honor and immortality. --`Luke 16:10`; `Matt. 25:23`.
At the end of the three years' college course, when Daniel was seventeen, came the examination before the king, and as should have been expected, Daniel and his companions, faithful to the Lord, seeking first his will, were found to be far in advance of their companions, and were accepted to the king's council. We might draw a lesson here, without in any sense of the word intimating that it was typified, for we do not so think. We might say that there is a certain correspondence as between the position of Daniel and his associates and the position occupied by all those who have been called of the Father to joint-heirship in the Kingdom, with Jesus Christ our Lord. Not all who are called, nor all who undertake the course of training, have the promise of acceptance: on the contrary, many are called, few will be chosen. But the character of those who will be chosen in many respects corresponds to that of Daniel and his companions. All are not leading spirits, as was Daniel, nor are all given to visions and revelations and interpretations, as was he; but all will have the same spirit of devotion to principles of righteousness, which devotion will be tested under divine providence, step by step, through the narrow way, as they seek to walk in the footsteps of him who set us an example-- our Daniel, our Leader, our Lord Jesus. Let all, then, who have named the name of Christ, depart from iniquity, let all such be faithful: "Dare to be a Daniel."
Another thought is that clean spiritual provender is important to the Lord's flock, and that those who have come to a knowledge of the truth should abstain from all food that is defiled. If this shall seem to restrict the bill of spiritual fare, and the opportunities for mingling with the Babylonians at their table, it will have its compensating advantages nevertheless, for the Lord will bless to the spiritual good of his faithful ones even the plainest of spiritual blessings and opportunities. Let a test be made, after the manner of Daniel and his companions, and see whether or not those who feed upon the clean provender of the Lord's Word, and who reject the more sumptuous arrangement and defiled food of Babylon will not be fairer of countenance spiritually, even after a short test. But let us not suppose that anything would be gained by simply abstaining from the Babylonian portion and starving themselves spiritually. Whoever abstains from the popular and defiled supply must seek and use the simple and undefiled food which the Lord in his providence supplies, otherwise their last state of spiritual starvation will be worse than the first.
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IN THE FIERY FURNACE.
--JULY 16.--`DAN. 3:14-28`.--
"Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us."
PROBABLY twenty years elapsed after Daniel and his companions reached Babylon in captivity before the scenes of this lesson were enacted. Meantime Daniel had been raised to a very high position in the empire, as king's counsellor, while his three companions had been made magistrates in the provinces of Babylon. We know that their prosperity did not tend to make them careless of their duties and responsibilities toward God, for otherwise they would not have been able to stand the severe test recounted in this lesson, and which proved a great blessing to them because of their fidelity to the Lord.
King Nebuchadnezzar just before this had won some great victories over surrounding nations--Egypt, Syria, etc.--as he had previously done with Judah, and as the Lord had predicted in the dream which Daniel had interpreted for the King, which showed the Babylonian Empire as the golden head of earthly dominion. His great success no doubt had tended to feelings of pride and a desire for display. Yet these were probably not the only motives which led to the program of the great festival in honor of his victories, and the erection of the great image which all were commanded to worship. Nebuchadnezzar's thought evidently was to unify his empire, and as a step in this direction he desired to unify the religious views and worship of the various peoples under his sway. In this his example was frequently followed subsequently, for all rulers have seemed to grasp the thought that man's mental organization is such that obedience can be best and most lastingly secured through the acquiescence of the religious organs of his mind. In other words, since man is a religious animal, no government of him can be secure and permanent which does not have, directly or indirectly, the support of his veneration. Hence it was that Nebuchadnezzar and others endeavored to associate the Creator and the king together in men's minds, that venerating the One they should respect and serve the other as his representative.
It was no doubt with a view to thus unifying the religious sentiments of his empire that this great feast was arranged, of which the very center of attraction was the great image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. This image, with its pedestal, was ninety feet high and nine feet wide. It was of gold, probably either made hollow or on a base of clay cement. It was located in the Plain of Dura, about the center of the walled enclosure twenty-four miles square, known as the city of Babylon. As it is a level country, and as the structures were comparatively low, the image could probably be seen from every part of the great city.
The appointed time for the festival having come, leading representatives, judges, treasurers, governors, sheriffs, etc., from all the divisions of the empire, clad in the gorgeous garments of the East, were present. A great band had been prepared, composed of all the musical instruments popular at that period, and the command of the king had gone forth that when the musicians should play upon their instruments all the vast concourse of people, representatives of his whole empire, facing the image which he had set up, should fall down and worship it, and thus indicate their loyalty, not only to King Nebuchadnezzar, but also to his gods who had given him the wonderful victories which they were celebrating.
As magistrates of the empire, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were necessarily in the great throng, tho it is quite probable that they, representing different departments, may have been at a distance from each other, each surrounded by his secretaries, assistants, servants, etc. Undoubtedly the object of the festival was clearly discerned by these intelligent men, and the question arose before their minds respecting their duty to God and the conflict of this with the probable requirements of the king. It was a crucial test for them, for they knew that the king's powers were autocratic, and that to cross his will meant death in some form. Nevertheless, they decided that they must be true to God, whatever the cost. It might be that their refusal to prostrate themselves before the image would pass entirely unnoticed by others, or it might be that, even if noticed, the incident might never reach the ears of the king, but such circumstances could make no change in the matter of their duty; whatever others might do, they must not bow the knee to any but the true God. Daniel is omitted from mention here, possibly because, occupying a different position as one of the king's personal staff and household, his conduct would not come so directly in contrast with the general conduct.
Finally, the hour of trial came, when the great king of Babylon was recognized not only as civil but also as religious ruler, and the image which he had set up was worshiped by the various representatives of his empire--except Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Their neglect to bow was quickly brought to the attention of the king, for no doubt these, like all good men, had their enemies: some enemies through jealousy and
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rivalry for the king's favor; other enemies because, perhaps, they had been interrupted or hindered in dishonest practices and contracts with the government. The matter seems to have astounded the king, and hence his inquiry, Is it true, can it be true? Surely, no sane men would be so foolhardy as to oppose my decree, and that in my very presence, and upon such a fete-day as this? Not waiting an answer as respects
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matters of the past, the king voluntarily proposed for them a fresh test of loyalty and submission, nothing doubting but what, now that the matter had come to his attention, they would be moved by fear, not only in respect to their degradation from office, but by the danger of death in the fiery furnace, to render prompt obedience.
Perhaps the king's mind shot a glance backward fifteen years, to the time when the God of the Hebrews, through Daniel, had told and interpreted his dream, a matter which none of the other gods of his wise men could do; and as tho he had this in mind, and wishing to impress the matter upon these three Hebrews who had dared to challenge his power, he made the boast, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" In his arrogance of mind and under the flush of his mighty victories over the greatest nations and mightiest kings, Nebuchadnezzar felt prepared to have a contest even with the unseen and to him unknown invisible powers. He would not be backed down in his own capital city; he would demonstrate his power to inflict a penalty, regardless of what any of the gods might do in retaliation. He would show that he, at all events, had the power in the present time, and in this respect at least was more powerful than any of the gods of whom he had knowledge.
The answer of the three Hebrews was a wise one; seeing from the king's mood that the discussion of the subject would be useless, they did not attempt to retaliate by threatening him with divine vengeance; neither did they attempt to convert the king to Judaism, knowing well that the provisions of the Jewish covenant were not for Gentiles. They simply responded that they were not anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity to argue the matter with the king. They assured him of their full confidence that their God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, and out of the hand or power of even the greatest king of the earth; but they answered, While our God is thus all-powerful we are not by any means certain that he will deliver us; nevertheless, "O king, be it known unto thee that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Angered that his great festal day should be thus marred by even the slightest opposition to his will, the king did not wait to give another opportunity wherein the Hebrews might relent. He saw that it was useless, that they were men of character and determination, and he resolved that he would make an example of them before all the people. The form of his visage or his countenance changed toward these men; whereas once he had admired them, as amongst his ablest counsellors and magistrates, and an honor to his empire, now he hated them, as opponents whose course, if not interrupted, might introduce disorder into his empire, and lead to more or less sedition, if copied by others. In his rage he commanded that the furnace be heated seven times, or to its utmost capacity. The furnace, already heated for the occasion, may have been the one used in melting the gold for the image, and must have been of immense size.
Probably as a mark of his great authority, and to show that even the very greatest of his subjects were subordinate to his supreme authority, the king commanded that these three recalcitrant officials be cast into the fiery furnace by prominent officers of his army --no doubt to teach a lesson respecting the power of the army, and the willingness of its chief representatives to serve the king, as against everybody else.
The Hebrews, bound in their official garb, were evidently cast into the furnace from the top, because it is stated that they fell down bound, while the heat was so intense that it even killed those who cast them into the furnace, possibly by the inhalation of the flames, which might kill them instantly.
The king seemed to be having matters his own way, as usual; even the mighty God of the Hebrews had not delivered these men from his power. And yet the king was solicitous and eyed the furnace, and to his surprise beheld those who had been cast into the furnace bound, walking about free in the flames--seemingly uninjured. More than this, he saw a fourth person there, of most remarkable appearance, which caused the king to think and speak of him as one of the gods. No wonder he was astonished; he was evidently contending with a God of whose powers he had been ignorant.
Nebuchadnezzar showed himself to be a man of broad mind--in his acceptance to the Babylonian college of the brightest youths out of all the peoples taken captive; in his readiness to acknowledge the God of Daniel, when he had received the evidences of his power; so now, realizing that he had made a great mistake in attempting the destruction of three of his most eminent magistrates, and that he was thus defying the great God, Nebuchadnezzar was prompt to make acknowledgement, and approached the furnace, calling out, "Ye servants of the most high God, come forth and come hither." In the presence of the king's courtiers they came forth, and all beheld them that the fire had done them no injury, not even having singed their clothes or their hair. This was indeed a stupendous miracle, and doubtless was valuable in its influence, not only upon the Gentiles, but also upon the Hebrews residing throughout Babylon, who would thus hear of the power of Jehovah in delivering those faithful to him. Whether this had a bearing on the subject or not, we know well that, while idolatry had been one of
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the chief sins of the Israelites before this captivity, there was comparatively little of idolatry in its crude forms in that nation afterward.
Nebuchadnezzar's acknowledgement of the God of the Hebrews, who sent his messenger and delivered his servants that trusted in him, is very simple and very beautiful. He rejoiced in the noble character of these men, and at once made a decree "that every people, nation and language which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be a dung-hill; because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort." And furthermore, he promoted these faithful men to still higher positions, for they had still more of his confidence respecting their integrity. Men who would thus hazard their lives for conscience' sake could be trusted in the most important positions.
It is not necessary that we determine this incident to have been a type and look for correspondencies to its every feature. Without so determining, the Lord's people may readily find in it many valuable lessons and suggestions. Not all of God's people are in such prominent positions as were these Hebrews; and not many have testings of exactly the same kind as were theirs, with a literal fiery furnace before their eyes. Nevertheless, there are trials before the Lord's people to-day that are fully as severe. Who will not agree that questions respecting a public acknowledgement of an idol and thus a public disavowal of the true God would be a point more quickly and more easily decided by nearly everyone than some of the subtle temptations of our day? For instance, various idols are set up all over Christendom, each of which, it is claimed, represents the true God, and each of which demands worship in honor and substance.
Babylon the literal was in ruins long before the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos was shown in prophetic vision the mystic or symbolic Babylon "which reigneth over the kings of the earth" to-day. The provinces of Babylon to-day are the various civilized nations --really "kingdoms of this world;" but deluded into calling themselves and thinking themselves kingdoms of Christ--"Christendom." And parallels to the king and the image are also presented in Revelation-- they are religious systems symbolically described as "the beast and his image."--`Rev. 13:15-18`.
Without at present examining the symbols in detail we note the fact that worship of this symbolic beast and his image are to be the great test or trial upon professing Christians in every province of symbolic Babylon in the end of this age: indeed, the testing is even now in progress. And we have the same inspired record as authority for the statement that only those who refuse to render worship to those powerfully influential religious systems (symbolized by "the beast and his image) will be counted by the Lord as "overcomers" and be made his joint-heirs as members of his elect Church. --See `Rev. 20:4`.
As already pointed out, the "beast" represents not Roman Catholics (the people) but the Roman Catholic system, as an institution: and the image represents not Protestants (the people) but the consolidation of Protestant systems, as an institution. We have pointed out* that the first step in the formation of this symbolic image of Papacy was taken in A.D. 1846 in the organization of the Evangelical Alliance, and that the second step must come shortly in an active living cooperation of Protestants as one system; and that this infusion of life will result from the Episcopal Church or Church of England joining or affiliating with other Protestants under some general arrangement similar to the Evangelical Alliance.
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While the severest testings will follow the giving of life to the consolidated image, in the near future, the testing has already commenced with many, for "Churchianity" is more and more demanding reverence and support, and those who absolutely refuse to worship its images are already exposed to fiery trials;-- social ostracism and financial boycotts. Prominent amongst these is the Roman Catholic idol; that church sets itself as the representative of God, and demands worship, obedience and contribution to its funds. It is one of the most popular as well as one of the most arbitrary of idols. The Greek Catholic Church is another idol: the Anglican is another; and the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc., etc., all similarly demand worship, obedience and revenue. They have "pooled their issues," to a certain extent, so as not to war upon each other's devotees, but they unite in warfare against all who do not bow the knee to some such idol (who reverence and worship only the Almighty God, and recognize his only begotten Son as the only Head and Lord of the true Church, whose names are only written in heaven--not on earthly rolls of membership.) --See `Heb. 12:23`.
All who refuse to worship before any of these images are threatened with a fiery furnace of persecution, and the threat is generally carried out as thoroughly as circumstances will permit. In the "dark ages," when Papacy had a monopoly of the "church" business, it meant torture and the stake, as well as social ostracism. To-day, under a higher enlightenment, and especially because of competition for worshipers, matters are not carried to the same extreme, thank God! Yet in many instances there are evidences that the same spirit prevails, merely restrained by changed circumstances and lack of power. Still, as many are witnesses, there are
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*MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III., p. 119.
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methods of torture which serve to intimidate many who would scorn to bow the knee to a literal visible idol. Thousands to-day are worshiping at the various shrines of Christendom who in their hearts long to be free from the sectarian bondage of fear--who fain would serve the Lord God only, had they the courage. And there are some the world over who, with a courage not less than that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, declare publicly that the Lord God alone shall have the worship and the service which they can render. None, perhaps, know better than the writer the various fiery experiences to which these faithful few are exposed-- boycotted socially, boycotted in business, slandered in every conceivable manner, and often by those of whom they had least expected it, who, according to the Lord's declaration, say "all manner of evil against them falsely." --`Matt. 5:11,12`.
But with these, as with the three Hebrews of our lesson, the chief trial is in connection with their faith; after they have taken a firm stand for the Lord and his truth they may indeed be bound and have their liberties of speech and of effort restrained, and they may indeed be cast into the fiery furnace, but nothing more than these things can be done to them. As soon as they have demonstrated their fidelity to God to this extent, their trials and troubles are turned into blessings and joys. As the form of the Son of God was seen with the Hebrews in the fiery furnace, so unseen, the Lord is present with those who trust him and who, because of faithfulness to him and to his Word, come into tribulation. How beautifully this is expressed in the familiar hymn,
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
And sometimes even the worldly can realize that the Lord's people in the furnace of affliction are receiving a blessing, and sometimes thus our Heavenly Father's name is glorified in the world, as in Nebuchadnezzar's experience. Sometimes the Lord's people who are bound, restrained of liberty to proclaim the truth, find, as did those Hebrews, that the fire burns the cords and sets them free, and really gives them larger opportunities to testify to the glory of our God than they could have had by any other course.
The Lord's providences vary, and it is not for his people to decide when shall come remarkable deliverances, and when they shall apparently be left entirely to the will of their enemies without any manifestation of divine favor on their behalf. Note, for instance, the fact that, while the Lord interposed to deliver these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace, he did not interpose to prevent the beheading of John the Baptist, altho of the latter it is specifically declared, "There hath not arisen a greater prophet than John the Baptist." We remember that, while Peter was delivered from prison by the angel of the Lord, James was not delivered, but was beheaded. We remember also that Paul's life was miraculously preserved on several occasions, and that the Apostle John, according to tradition, was once cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped uninjured, while on other occasions dire disaster came upon the Lord's faithful ones, and that quickly, as in the case of Stephen, who was stoned.
It is not, therefore, for us to predetermine what shall be the divine providence in respect to ourselves; we are to note the point of right and duty and to follow it regardless of consequences, trusting implicitly in the Lord. This lesson is most beautifully set forth in the language of the three Hebrews, who declared to King Nebuchadnezzar that their God was entirely capable of delivering them from his power, but that, whether he chose to do so or not, they would not violate their conscience. It is just such characters that the Lord is seeking for, and it is in order to their development and testing that multiform evil is now permitted to have sway.
While such testings have been in progress to a considerable extent throughout this entire Gospel age, the Scriptures clearly indicate to us that in some special sense all of the Lord's people will be tested in the "harvest" or closing time of this age. Our Lord speaks of it, likening our Christian faith to a house, and represents the trials in the end of this age as a great storm which will beat upon every house, with the result that all that are founded upon the rock will stand, and all founded upon the sand will collapse. The Apostle Peter speaks of this trial-time, saying, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which shall try you, as tho some strange thing happened unto you." (`1 Pet. 4:12`.) We are to expect a testing in the end of this age, just as there was a testing of the Jewish nominal church in the end of its age. As in that testing there was a thorough, complete separating of the "wheat" from the "chaff," so here the separating will be complete between the "wheat" and the "tares," as our Lord declares. (`Matt. 13:24-30`.) Throughout the age the "wheat" and the "tares," by divine arrangement, have been permitted to grow side by side; but in the "harvest" the separation must occur, that the "wheat" may be "garnered," received to the Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul, also, speaks of this time of fiery trial, and, likening the faith and works of a zealous Christian to a house built of gold, silver and precious stones, he declares that the fire of this day, in the end of this age, shall try every man's work of what sort it is, and shall consume all but the genuine faith and character structures. (`1 Cor. 3:11-15`.) But we are to
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remember that such loyal characters grow not suddenly, in a few hours or days--mushroom-like,--but are progressive developments, fine-grained and strong like the olive-tree.
Looking back, we cannot doubt that the step of self-denial recorded in our previous lesson,--taken for conscience' sake by the Hebrews,--had much to do with the development in them of the staunch characters illustrated in this lesson. Likewise we who have become "new creatures," reckonedly, in Christ, know that we are to be tested (if our testing has not already commenced), and should realize that only as we practice self-denials in the little things of life, and mortify (deaden) the natural cravings of our flesh in respect to food, clothing, conduct, etc., will we become strong spiritually and be able to "overcome."
Many deal slackly with themselves in respect to little violations of their consecration vow, saying,-- "What's the use" of such carefulness and so different a life from that of the world in general? Ah! there is great use in it, for victories in little things prepare for greater victories and make them possible: and on the contrary, surrender to the will of the flesh in the little things means sure defeat in the warfare as a whole. Let us remember the maxim laid down by our Great Teacher--that he that is faithful in the things that are least will be faithful also in the things which are great. And this is the operation of a law, whose operations may be discerned in all the affairs of life.
Our Lord expresses the same thought, saying,-- To him that hath (used) shall be given (more), and from him that hath not (used) shall be taken away that which he hath. If we start on a Christian life ever so weak in the flesh and weak in spirit, we will find that faithfulness in the little things will bring increasing strength in the Lord and in the power of his might. But it is in vain that we pray, "Lord, Lord," and hope for great victories and the "crown of rejoicing," if we fail to do our best to conquer in the little affairs of daily life. In other words, our testing is in progress from the moment of our consecration, and the little trials are but preparations for greater ones which, when faithfully attained, we will be able to reckon with the Apostle as light afflictions which are but for a moment, and which are working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.--`2 Cor. 4:17`.
The answer of the Hebrews to Nebuchadnezzar,-- "Our God whom we serve," is worthy of note. They
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not only acknowledged God and worshiped him, but they additionally served him, according as they had opportunity. And so it will be found to-day: those who have the necessary strength of character to refuse to worship human institutions and thereby to "suffer the loss of all things," counting them but as loss and dross, that they may win Christ and be found finally complete in him, as members of his glorified body, and joint-heirs in his Kingdom, not only practice self-denials, but gladly serve and confess the Lord in their daily life. Rightly appreciated, a profession of love for the Lord would always be a profession of service to his cause. Whoever is not rendering some service to our King in the present time of multiplied opportunities has at very most the "lukewarm" love that is offensive to the Master.--`Rev. 2:4`; `3:16`.
Let us resolve, dear brethren, as did the three Hebrews of this lesson, that we will worship and serve only the Lord our God--that we will neither worship nor serve sectarianism, in any of its many forms, nor mammon, with its many enticements and rewards, nor fame, nor friends, nor self. God "seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth," is the declaration of our Lord and Head.--`John 4:23,24`.
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WEIGHED IN THE BALANCES.
JULY 23.--`DAN. 5:17-31`.
"God is the Judge."--`Psa. 75:7`.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S kingdom, altho very prosperous, and wealthy by the gathering of the spoils of centuries from the great surrounding nations, was of short duration. Secular history mentions the father of Nebuchadnezzar as the founder of new Babylonia, and quite a number of Bible students have thus been misled to reckon the "Times of the Gentiles" as beginning before Nebuchadnezzar's time in the days of Nabopolasser. But while it is doubtless true that that monarch was prominently identified with the organization of Babylonia, the "Times of the Gentiles" could not have begun in his day, because God still had his own typical Kingdom in the earth, as represented by the Jews--down until Zedekiah's captivity to Nebuchadnezzar, 606 B.C. We should remember that the "Times of the Gentiles" merely means the times or years in which the world's affairs are delivered over to Gentile supremacy, between the time of the removal of God's typical kingdom and the time of the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom October, 1914.* This Bible view of the matter is further confirmed by the fact that the ruins of Babylon show the name of Nebuchadnezzar on the bricks of the principal palaces, and thus give evidence that it was under his administration that the empire reached its
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I. Chap. 13; VOL. II., Chap. 4.
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zenith, or became, in the language of the dream, the golden head of the image, which represented Gentile dominion.--`Dan. 2:38`.
Secular history seems to give the name of Nabonidus, as king of Babylon, at the time of its fall, but the Scriptures make no mention of this name, giving us instead Belshazzar, denominating him the son of Nebuchadnezzar. Two explanations are possible: Belshazzar may have been the son of Nabonidus and the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, or Nabonidus may have been his original name, and Belshazzar a name adopted when he assumed the office of king; or reversely, Belshazzar may have been his original name, and the one by which Daniel and the people at home would speak of him, while Nabonidus may have been the name he assumed officially as king. At all events the name that appears on the tablets is Nabonidus, while the name which Daniel gives repeatedly is Belshazzar, a name of the same signification as that given to Daniel, who was called Belteshazzar, both words signifying "Favored of God." We can safely hold to the Scriptural account, assured that time will justify our confidence in this, as it has done in other matters.
At the time of our lesson, Babylon, the capital city of Babylonia, was the most wonderful city in the world. The following observations respecting it are from the pens of others. "Nebuchadnezzar converted his capital, Babylon, into one of the most magnificent and beautiful cities of antiquity." "Herodotus, who visited it about B.C. 450 [nearly a century after the date covered by our lesson], while its walls and buildings were still perfect, describes it as forming a square of nearly fourteen miles on each side." "The walls surrounding the city, according to Herodotus, were three hundred feet high and eighty feet broad. A hundred gates, with their great posts, leaves and sills of brass, and their bars of iron, permitted entrance to the city." "Such a city was never seen before, and was the work of Nebuchadnezzar. The bricks marked with his name, and the inscriptions which he wrote, being hidden in the ruins, have now come forth from their grave as witnesses to the truth of God's Word." "In those days Babylon was the metropolis of the world, the center of commerce, art and wisdom." "The great plain on which it lay, a Paradise of fertility and cultivation, was intersected by countless canals, both small and great, serving alike for irrigation and navigation." "Babylon was a university city. The wealth of the world poured into the coffers of the Babylonian merchants."
Such wealth and prosperity were likely to beget luxurious ease on the part of the Babylonians, as they also excited the cupidity and ambition of enemies. Accordingly, the Medes and Persians had consolidated; and their army under Cyrus for several months had been besieging Babylon, whose citizens, however, felt quite secure behind their immense walls, and amply provisioned for a longer siege than it was supposed any army could enforce. So great was the confidence of the king of Babylon in the strength of his capital that he made a great feast to a thousand of his lords.
This feast would seem to have been in the nature of a boast in the greatness of Babylon; and as tho to emphasize his power and to remind his nobles and lords of how none of the gods of the surrounding nations had been able to deliver their peoples out of the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had called for the vessels of gold and silver brought from the Jewish Temple, and these were profaned by drinking therefrom to the honor of Bel, the god of Babylon.
In the midst of the revelry of the feast, the king, his counsellors and lords were astonished to see a part of a hand writing certain fiery letters upon the wall of the palace. The revelry ceased, a hush of fear came over all; the flush of confidence upon the king's face gave place to one of terror; he trembled and called for the advice of the wise men to interpret the wonderful message, but they were unable to explain the matter satisfactorily. Even if they had deciphered the letters and words, they had no interpretation to offer, because from their standpoint any other meaning than the true meaning would have been more reasonable; nothing would have seemed further from the truth to Babylon's wise men than the message which these miraculously written words conveyed. The king was greatly disappointed, but his mother came to his assistance, informing him of Daniel, who had given to his father, Nebuchadnezzar, an interpretation of a dream, when all the wise men of Babylon had failed, and accordingly Daniel was sent for.
The aged Prophet, at this time about ninety years of age, as an officer of the kingdom doubtless resided in one of the palace buildings near by, and in response to the king's command he stood before them. The king, realizing the importance of the message, manifested his anxiety by offering, first to the astrologers, and now to Daniel, a great reward for the interpretation --to be robed in royal purple, with a royal golden chain as insignia of rank, and to be third in dignity and power in the empire. The first thing in the lesson which strikes us is the nobility of God's servant, in renouncing all claim to these gifts as a reward for the service of interpreting God's message. "Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known the interpretation."
We may stop here long enough to take a valuable lesson, to the effect that all who would be the mouth-pieces
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of the Lord, and speak forth his Word, should, like Daniel, do so without stipulation of compensation. Only from this standpoint can any hope to be entirely free and untrammeled in speaking words of truth and soberness which may be very distasteful to those who inquire the mind of the Lord. Had Daniel thanked the king for the promised gifts, and thus accepted them as a reward for his service, he would have felt obligated to the king to such an extent that it might have warped his judgment, or have weakened his expression of the Lord's message. And the king in turn would have felt that, having paid for the information, it should be a smooth, favorable message. And just so it is with some of the Lord's true servants in mystic Babylon. They have the opportunity presented to speak the Lord's Word; yet many of them are handicapped by reason of having received honors and robes, and are more or less inclined to hide and
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cover the message now due to Babylon in this its Laodicean epoch. They are bound by the chain of gold around their necks.--`Rev. 3:14-22`.
The aged Prophet displayed gentleness as well as fearlessness in the delivery of his message. It was stated as kindly as the truth would permit, but the truth was not withheld by reason of fear. He recounted to the king his father's exaltation to power, and ascribed it not to the god of Babylon, but to the God of Israel. He reminded him of how pride had been his father's downfall, resulting in his degradation to bestial conditions for seven times (seven years--corresponding to the seven times, i.e., 2520 years, of Gentile domination). He reminded Belshazzar of how in the end his father had acknowledged the God of heaven as the real ruler amongst men, and then he charged home to the king that instead of profiting by this experience, of which he well knew, he had lifted up his heart to pride, had ignored the only true God, and had even brought what he knew were the sacred vessels of Jehovah's service, to profane them in the worship and glorification of idols--"gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood and stone, which see not nor hear nor know." He pointed out to the king that he had thus dishonored and defied "the God in whose hand [power] thy breath is [the God of all life--`Acts 17:28,29`], and whose are all thy ways [who has full power to control your course]." This true God he had not glorified, but dishonored.
By thus kindly but plainly showing the king the truth, the Prophet prepared the way for the exposition of the fateful words--"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." Mene was repeated twice, probably for the sake of emphasis--Numbered! Numbered!--the limit of the time of your dominion has expired. Tekel --short weight, lacking. Peres signifies divided, and its plural form, Upharsin, gives the thought of broken or crushed into pieces--destroyed. Nothing in the word peres signifies Medes and Persians, but the Prophet knew from the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's vision that the Babylonian dominion would be followed by the Medo-Persian kingdom, and he also knew that the Medes and Persians were already besieging the city.
So far from being offended with the plain words of the Prophet, Belshazzar seems to have felt their truth, and gave command that the honors already promised should be bestowed upon Daniel. But meantime other matters were transpiring in his capital, of which the king and his lords were unaware, so that the fulfilment of the doom written upon the palace wall was close at hand.
While the Babylonians were feasting and reveling in fancied security, Cyrus, the general of the united forces of the Medes and Persians, having studied up a plan of attack, had already caused a great ditch to be dug above the city, to divert the waters of the River Euphrates into a new channel. This river flowed through the center of Babylon diagonally, and was protected by enormous gates of brass, which were supposed to be equally as impregnable as the three-hundred-foot wall. Indeed, it would appear that the Babylonians had never a fear of attack from the river, and had left it comparatively unguarded; consequently, when Cyrus had diverted the stream into the new channel he found little difficulty in marching his troops under the brass gates into the city, so that at the very time the revelry was progressing in Belshazzar's palace the soldiers of Cyrus were taking possession of the entire city, and very shortly after Daniel's interpretation of the writing the troops reached the palace, Belshazzar was slain, and the new empire of Medo-Persia was inaugurated--"without fighting," as the tablets declare. Thus did great Babylon fall suddenly --"in one hour."
The thoughtful Bible student must of necessity have always in view the many correspondencies which the Scriptures institute between literal Babylon and mystic Babylon, and when studying the account of the fall of literal Babylon his attention is naturally drawn also to the foretold fall of mystic Babylon in the end of this age. Indeed, he must be comparatively blind who cannot see that the wonderful prophecies which speak of the fall of Babylon (`Isa. 14:22`; `Jer. 50` and `51`) were not wholly fulfilled by Cyrus the Persian. The fall of literal Babylon, while it was sudden, and while it made a great commotion amongst the nations, lacks much of filling to the full the prophetic picture. Much of the prophecy still waits for fulfilment in mystic or symbolic Babylon to-day; and this
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fact is abundantly supported by the prophecies of the Book of Revelation, written centuries after the fall of literal Babylon, which unmistakably refer to symbolic Babylon, and use language almost identical with that of Jeremiah.--See `Rev. 16:19-18:24`.
It will be noticed, further, that, as literal Babylon sat upon the literal River Euphrates, so mystic Babylon is said to sit upon the waters, peoples. It should be noticed, also, that as the literal city was captured by the diversion of the literal waters, so symbolic Babylon is to fall by reason of the diversion of the symbolic Euphrates, which in `Rev. 16:12`, it is foretold, shall be "dried up--that the way of the kings of the East might be prepared."
The kings of the East, or kings from the sunrising, are, we understand, the kings of Christ's Kingdom, who are also priests--the body of Christ, the Royal Priesthood. "Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth." From this standpoint of view, Cyrus and his army, overthrowing literal Babylon, was a figure or illustration of Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, who with his faithful will shortly overthrow mystic Babylon, and take possession of the world in the name of Jehovah, to establish the Kingdom for which he taught us to pray, "Our Father...,thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
This likeness of Cyrus to Messiah is not merely in the particulars noted. It should be remembered that the name, Cyrus, signifies "the sun," and that thus in his name he reminds us of the prophecy of Christ,--"The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams." Moreover, there were sundry very remarkable prophecies respecting Cyrus, made long before he had come into prominence. Through the Prophet `Isaiah (44:28`) the Lord speaks of Cyrus as his shepherd, who would lead back Israel, and again (`45:1-14`) he calls him his anointed, saying, "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, Jehovah, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by name; I have surnamed thee, tho thou hast not known me." In this prophecy Cyrus is evidently indicated, and yet just as evidently a greater than he is indirectly referred to, viz., the Prince of the kings of the earth, who in Revelation is shown as drying up the symbolic Euphrates and destroying symbolic Babylon, and delivering spiritual Israel. And the time for the fulfilment of the symbol is clearly indicated, by the drying up of the Euphrates under the sixth vial of the "Day of Wrath:" and the fall of Babylon under the seventh vial, resulting in the liberty of all of God's people from the thraldom, through false doctrine, which has been upon them for lo, these many years, is portrayed as resulting.
Babylon literal fell because, when tried in the balances by the Lord, she was found wanting: mystic Babylon falls for a similar reason. Literal Babylon never was Israel, but the Israelites were for a time swallowed up in Babylon; likewise, mystic Babylon never was spiritual Israel, tho for a long time spiritual Israel has been in captivity to mystic Babylon. As the same Cyrus who overthrew literal Babylon made the proclamation which permitted literal Israel to return from captivity, so it is the King of kings who, upon taking his great power as earth's new King will set free all of the Lord's people--and in advance he sends the message to those who have ears to hear, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of demons and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird....Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."--`Rev. 18:2-4`.
The great feast which preceded the fall of Babylon would seem to correspond well with the great denominational union expected soon, and the season of rejoicing which will accompany it. The gold and silver vessels of the Lord's house which were profaned may fitly represent not only the precious truths of divine revelation, but also the Lord's consecrated people --the golden vessels representing the "little flock," and the more numerous silver vessels representing the "great company." What may be the character of the defilement and injury of these is of course problematical, but in any case we remember that those consecrated vessels were all highly honored, and restored to the Temple by Cyrus, and likewise we know that not only the truths of divine revelation will all be cared for by our Lord, but also that all that are his shall be glorified in the spiritual Temple which he will rear shortly.
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Your kind favor of the 9th received, and the announcement of Brother McPhail's visit is much appreciated by all the friends here in Philadelphia. Your letter was read and discussed at our meeting, and we decided to have an all-day meeting on Sunday, the 9th of July, with intermissions for lunch; and evening meetings on Friday and Saturday; all to be held at our usual meeting-place, Dover Hall, Marshall and Susquehanna aves. Please tell Bro. McPhail to come to my house on his arrival at Philadelphia.
I am glad to be able to say that all our meetings are smooth and harmonious: so much so as to be a little different from what we might Scripturally expect:
but perhaps this is for a pleasant alternation to the ruggedness of the past few years. I take this opportunity of thanking you for the rich semi-monthly feasts of which we are the recipients from our present Lord through your agency; and I hope I may lay the lessons well to heart and never lose sight of the responsibility which accompanies the knowledge of the truth, but always realize that this is my day of judgment and try to be faithful to my consecration to his will.
I enclose a clipping which is strikingly corroborative of the Laodicean period of the nominal church, and yet this gentleman will in all probability refuse to be enlightened from God's Word on the strange inconsistencies of which he complains.
Sr. Walker unites in love to yourself and all those associated with you in "the work of the Lord."
Yours in Christ, SMITH WALKER--Philadelphia.
DEAR BROTHER:--Last Sunday I gathered up the rest of my Bible vs. Evolution pamphlets, slipped tracts into each one, left dinner to cook itself and went down to the Baptist church to make a beginning of distribution. The 500,000 pamphlets weighed on me, and I felt uneasy at doing so little toward the work. It was Children's Day, and services were prolonged, so I stood for half an hour, with what patience and fortitude I could, beset by inducements to give it up for that day, and nearly breaking down, when I heard the children in a responsive exercise saying, "Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Had no difficulty in waiting after that, and disposed of the pamphlets to the first ones who came down the stairs. All but one were kindly received; one woman passed by with her head up, but it did not disturb me. I hurried home, to find things all right, my absence had caused no trouble, and I am not sure it was known. The Lord was merciful; for this had seemed to me an impossible thing for me to do, but while I was waiting I felt that I must not let anything prevent my carrying out what I had planned to do, or perhaps I could never have attempted it again. The obstacles have been so many and great; but when it seemed that I was a little willing to be prevented, then I felt I must overcome at any cost, or grieve the spirit.
I have been letting no day pass without at the very least three witness-bearings to the truth of the Kingdom, and am greatly pleased when the number rises to seven or more, as it sometimes does. Generally, when I make opportunities in the morning, the Lord sends me others later in the day. If evening comes before I have given any testimony, I am unhappy and do not think I could rest, if I did not mail before retiring at least three missionary envelopes with tracts. It gets to be meat and drink to do the Lord's will. I am glad there are so many ways of serving. I want to say "Any service, anywhere;" and think it has been good for me that I had not money to put into the harvest-work lately, for it has compelled me to give tracts as something I still could do, and from which I felt I had no right to shrink. It has been a valuable training, undoubtedly, in addition.
The Lord's peace is with me richly to-day. I have felt conscious of the presence of the heavenly Caretaker and, as it seemed, of the kindly down-looking of hosts of happy saints. I have felt almost ready to put away every fear at last. I belong to Christ, and I rejoice to find that God is true. His Word shall abide. That same Jesus whom I have seen slighted and decried and explained away and talked down and forgotten, by the people for whom he gave his very breath in unappreciated love,--he shall surprise them with goodness in power shortly. "Every knee" and "every tongue"! I praise his name! My health is better of late, maybe since my immersion. That seemed a relief to my mind.
The June 1st TOWER is very excellent and helpful. And also The Wonderful Story, very prettily finished and illustrated.
Wishing you all things good in the Lord's service,
Your sister in him,
ALICE L. DARLINGTON,--Pennsylvania.
MY DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--I have just closed a meeting in Madison Co. which was the most interesting held there in a long time. I preached for them three days, and at the close of the meeting baptized five. I tried an hour and a half to explain the significance and beauty of the symbol, and I hope they understood what they were doing.
Appointments are being arranged for me to make another trip to Santa Anna in July, and I hope to be able to fill them. If I go I want to hold meetings in Milano, Goldthwaite and Mullen.
Oh how I do thank the dear Lord that he has seen fit to use me, yes, even me, in the service of the truth and those who love it! I do esteem it a grand privilege to be accounted worthy of a place in the harvest of this age. I think of the apostles who, when they were whipped for preaching Jesus, departed rejoicing that they were counted worthy to receive stripes for his name.
My poor heart leaps for joy when I think of seventeen years ago in comparison with the present. Then I stood (so far as I then knew or know yet) almost alone, and in the ministry entirely alone. Now I look at the pile of good letters on my table from interested ones in different parts of Texas, and I read them with wet eyes and cheeks, as my heart rejoices to discern "the same mind" in the writers as I follow the lines of their letters.
We are glad that we have been "able to stand" in these seventeen years of trial, and to-day thank God our lamp is burning, and we have oil in our vessel. We have borne reproaches, our name has been cast out as evil, we have been slanderously reported and persecuted; but we rejoice, knowing that it was for "his sake." Again, how light these afflictions were compared with his peace! Oh this blessed peace! "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee."
Oh how we feast, as we come to the table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies! His grace has been sufficient for us at all times. I think and rejoice over these things. God bless you! Let us look up; our redemption draweth nigh. Yes, we can say of each other, "whom having not seen we love." I seem to have known you since April, '83.
My love goes out to, and my prayers up for, all who love our dear Lord. Yours, in the Lord's service,