DANIEL; Or, The Young Man's Purity
James Smith, 1856
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." Daniel 1:8
Purity of heart springs from the presence, power, and operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul. By nature we are entirely polluted, and altogether depraved. In us, that is in our flesh, there dwells no good thing. Our nature is a corrupt thing — rotten at the heart's core. Unable to restore ourselves to purity, and unwilling for God to do so — we are naturally and invariably averse to all spiritual excellence.
We are in bondage to sin.
We live in sin.
We love sin.
We enjoy sin.
Regeneration produces a radical change.
It makes us new creatures.
It begins in the heart.
It appears in the life.
It changes the bent of the mind — and the whole course of the life.
Hence we are said to be "created anew in Christ Jesus." And without this radical change — no one is a Christian; for "if any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new!"
Daniel was a young man of noble descent — he was of the king's seed; but he was a captive in an enemy's country. He was far away from his father-land, and deprived of all the ordinances which his fathers enjoyed. He was selected for the king's of Babylon's service, and was to be prepared to stand in the king's presence.
Daniel was now exposed to powerful temptations. He was nearing imminent danger. But he possessed a principle in his heart, which led him to fear God, love holiness, and determine to act in character. He was a partaker of the grace of God. The Holy Spirit had consecrated his soul for his temple. He would, therefore, act from principle — and not be ruled by passion, pride, or expediency. He realized that God was his Father — that as one of the seed of Abraham, he was in covenant with God. This led him to reverence the divine Word. He had heard it read; he possessed at least a part of it; his life was regulated by it, and his heart was under the influence of it. This was his preservative. This was his lamp in a dark place. This was his guide in a pathless desert.
Just so, when young people reverence God's Word, read it with care, and make it the rule of their lives — they are evidently sanctified within, and preserved from innumerable evils without.
Daniel believed the divine promise. Many promises were made to the poor captives, that God would be "a little sanctuary to them; and would cause the enemy to treat them well;" and that he would do them good by their afflictions. But one promise had especial prominence given to it. It stood out in bold relief. It seemed to throw light on the dreary road, and sunshine into the troubled bosom. It came warm from God's loving heart, and was radiant with his grace and mercy. On it the weary head might rest, and the languishing spirit repose. It reads thus: "Do not be afraid — for I am with you. Do not be discouraged — for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand!" (Isaiah 41:10)
Daniel in faith, received this as from God's mouth; he believed it heartily; and his faith was the confident expectation of things hoped for, the full persuasion of things not seen. This led him to obey the divine precepts.
Just so, he who has faith in the gospel, will always observe the law. Saving faith always produces good works. It is the source of all evangelical obedience. It is the spring from which flows whatever things are lovely, pure, honest, true, just, and of good report. Faith is the prolific parent of all that glorifies God's name, or adorns man's character.
Daniel, though young — was resolute and determined. He was not carried about by every wind, or influenced by every temptation. His resolution was formed seriously, for his situation was solemn. It was no doubt the result of much prayer — earnest, fervent, believing prayer. It was therefore decided. His heart was fixed. His purpose was formed. He would obey God — rather than man. He would yield to man — as long as man's requirements did not cross God's precepts — yet no longer. Nebuchadnezzar would have all he could lawfully claim; but conscience should be sacred to the Lord. The authority of God would be pre-eminent. He would maintain his profession as a Jew, not change his religion with his circumstances, or conceal it for fear of reproach. He carried a Jew's heart into Babylon — and would observe God's law there, as well as in Judea. He would resist every temptation to defile himself.
He would not eat food, or drink wine which had been offered to the idols, though brought from the king's table, and presented by the king's command. He would sooner brave the king's wrath, and suffer whatever punishment he might please to inflict.
Yet he would be courteous. He would entreat, before he would boldly refuse. True courage is always united with sincere humility. Resolution for God — must be coupled with due respect to man. He who fears God most — will most endeavor to avoid offending man.
The conduct of Daniel was most exemplary. He requested, as though he was afraid to refuse; and yet his heart was resolutely set to obey God before man. He won the esteem, the favor, the tender love of Melzer, the chief official, who was set over him; and secured the presence and blessing of his God, which was far better.
My young friends, here is an admirable example for you. Take the man greatly beloved of his God for your model. Set the Lord always before your face. Fear his displeasure. Court his smile. Carry out your principles. Act up to your profession. Be respectful, kind and courteous in all your conduct — but yet be stern, steady, and determined when the honor of the Lord is at stake. Fear not to be singular in your decision for God, in your devotion to God, or in your activity for the cause of God. Never conceal your Christian character or principles — when you first enter upon a new situation; but let it be seen at once — that you are God's child, Christ's servant, the temple of the Holy Spirit; and that God's Word, not man's customs, is the rule of your life.
Never lie down in your bed without prayer, because you have to sleep for the first time with a young person with whose principles you are not acquainted. Your conduct on such an occasion may be one of the greatest blessings to that young person, or it may be one of the most dangerous stumbling blocks. Never be ashamed of Christ or his gospel; and take care that you are not a shame to it. Secret influence is often most powerful, and our silent actions often impress more deeply than our words!
Daniel was successful. Melzer allowed him nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink, instead of defiling himself with the king's food; "and the end of the ten days — they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food!"
Thus Daniel honored God — and God honored him. He succeeded with Melzer, and stood high in his estimation — this was something. He succeeded with the king — this was more. But he succeeded with God — this was best of all. He was healthier, he was wiser, he was more honored — than all around him. No Jew rose so high, as Daniel in Babylon; and his elevation was the honor which God put upon his decision, devotedness, and consistency.
The crouching hypocrite is sure to fall, the fawning time-server will be covered with contempt; but the courteous, consistent, and decided Christian — shall win honor on earth, and great will be his reward in Heaven.
Young men . . .
if you would gain the esteem of the wise and godly,
if you would rise to honor and usefulness on earth,
if you would secure God's blessing,
if you would live cheerfully and die happily
— then keep yourselves pure!
Touch not the unclean thing.
Maintain a tender conscience before God —
and a conscience void of offence before man.
Walk as under God's eye!
Keep your passions under control.
Make God's glory the end of every action.
Place the precepts of the New Testament before you as your guide.
Be always decided for God.
Be thoroughly devoted to God.
Remember that you are now sowing; you must reap by and bye, and the crop will answer to the seed. You must give an account of yourself to God; and if you have never practiced self-denial, if you have never crucified the flesh, if you nave never been decided for God among his enemies — what account can you give, when you stand before his solemn face?
Observe, then — faith is the root of purity. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," and it is equally impossible, with any consistency, to serve God. We must believe that he is, or exists, and that he is just what his Word represents him to be. That he is holy, just, gracious, and good. That he . . .
gives grace, and
We must believe that he rewards every one who diligently seeks him — who diligently seeks to . . .
be reconciled to him,
to please him, and
to bring glory to his most blessed name.
Our conduct will be regulated by our faith.
Our faith will be regulated by our communion with God.
Unless, therefore, we walk closely with God — we shall not have much faith in God; and if we have not much faith in God — we shall not be very decided for God, or very active in his ways. Decision pleases God. He never did approve the conduct of the undecided; he never can. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." And again, "I wish that you were either hot or cold." Be one thing — or the other; either decidedly godly — or make no profession of religion! No party . . .
injures the cause of God so much,
or hinders the gospel of Christ so much,
or stumbles weak believers so much,
or hardens sinners so much —
as lukewarm professors, who try to unite the love of God — and the love of the world; and the profession of religion — with the practices of the world.
Every one must be tried, and those who stand the trial — God will honor. Daniel was put to the test when very young; but he nobly stood the trial. Like pure gold, he came out of the furnace shining with holiness and beauty!
Just so, some young people are put to the trial when they first leave the parental roof; some when they first go into a large house of business; some when they fall into the company of fascinating, insinuating, worldly people; some at one time, some at another, and some over and over again. None can escape the temptation; let all, therefore, be prepared. See to it . . .
that your principles are Scriptural,
that your religion originates in regeneration,
that you are rooted and grounded in the truth,
that Christ is in you, the hope of glory,
that your hope is an anchor to you soul, sure and steadfast, and that it enters into that which is within the veil.
Lay your foundation deep — if you would weather the storm. Prepare for Babylon — before you leave Judea. Lay up in store a good foundation for the time to come — that you may lay hold on eternal life.
The times are peculiar;
temptations are powerful;
life is short;
and the future depends on the present.
Be ready for the foe — for he will come!
Look out for the snare — it is laid somewhere in your path!
Flee the temptation — or you will fall into the trap!
Heedlessness is dangerous; presumption is more so. "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Daniel stood in Babylon; but no doubt many fell. Daniel stood on the precipice — while many fell where there was less danger.
Be watchful then.
Be actively employed for God.
Go to him for orders, for wisdom, for success, for society, for sanctity, for all. Fetch everything from God by prayer — and try to turn everything to the Lord's praise by employing it in his service.
More will depend upon the state of the heart — than the situation in which you are placed. More will depend upon the cultivation of devotional habits — than upon the light you have in your head. Get all the knowledge you can — but set a higher estimate upon grace than knowledge!
Finally, my young friends, as Daniel stood forth as an example to all the captive Jews in Babylon, and as a living epistle of God before the Chaldeans; so must you set an example of wisdom, kindness, courtesy, decision, devotion, and activity. And so must you aim to be a living, legible, striking epistle of Christ, known and read of all men, that in your conduct and from your life — all around you may learn what Jesus is, what Jesus loves, what Jesus gives, and what the knowledge of Christ and union to him will produce!