1. In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.
1. Anno uno, id est, primo, Darii filii Assueri e semine Medorum, qui rex fuit constitutus, 1 in regno Chaldaico.
2. In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years In the desolation's of Jerusalem.
2. In anno primo, inquam, 2 regni illius, ego Daniel intellexi in libris numerum annorum, de quibus fuerat sermo Jehovae, ad ad Jeremiam prophetam, 3 ad implendum desolationem Jerusalem annos septuaginta.
3. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.
3. Et levavi faciem meam ad Dominum Deum, ut quaererem oratione et precationibus, 4 cum jejunio, sacco, et cinere.
In this chapter Daniel will explain to us two things. First, how very ardently he was accustomed to pray when the time of redemption, specified by Jeremiah, drew nigh; and next, he will relate the answer he received from God to his earnest entreaties. These are the two divisions of this chapter. First, Daniel informs us how
Grant, Almighty God, as in these days thou hast called us to a similar lot to that which the fathers under the Law formerly experienced, and as thou didst confirm them in patience, and arm them for constancy in warfare, and render them superior in all conflicts with Satan and the world. Grant, I pray thee, that we at this day, whom thou wishest to be joined to them, may become proficient in thy word. May we look forward to bearing the cross throughout our whole life. May we be prepared for the contest, and prefer miserable affliction under the standard of the cross, to spending a secure and luxurious life in our own enjoyments,:and thus becoming deprived of that hope of victory which thou hast promised us, and whose fruit thou hast laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
We began to say yesterday, that the faithful do not so acquiesce in the promises of God as to grow torpid, and become idle and slothful through the certainty of their persuasion that God will perform his promises, but are rather stimulated to prayer. For the true proof of faith is the assurance when we pray that God will really perform what he has promised us. Daniel. is here set before us as an example of this. For when he understood the time of deliverance to be at hand, this knowledge became a stimulus to him to pray more earnestly than he was accustomed to do. It is clear then, as we have already seen, that the Prophet was diligent and anxious in this particular. He did not deviate from his usual habit when he saw the greatest risk of being put to death; for while the king's edict prohibited every one from praying to God, he still directed his face towards Jerusalem. This was the holy Prophet's daily habit. But we shall perceive the extraordinary nature of his present prayer, when he says, he prayed in dust arid ashes. From this it appears, how God's promise stirred him up to supplication, and hence we gather what I have lately touched upon, -- that faith is no careless speculation, satisfied with simply assenting to God. For the stupid seem to assent by outward hearing, while true faith is something far more serious. When we really embrace the grace of God which he offers us, he meets us and precedes us with his goodness, and thus we in time respond to his offers, and bear witness to. our expectation of his promises. Nothing, therefore, can be better for us, than to ask for what he has promised. Thus in the prayers of the saints these feelings are united, as they plead God's promises wherein they entreat him. And we cannot possibly exercise true confidence in prayer, except by resting firmly on God's word. An example of this kind is here presented to us in Daniel's case. When
From this we should learn two lessons. First, we must perseveringly exercise our faith by prayers; next, when God promises us anything remarkable and valuable, we ought then to be the more stirred up, and to feel this expectation as a sharper stimulus. With reference to the fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. we may shortly remark, how the holy fathers under the law were in the habit of adding extraordinary ceremonies to their prayers, especially when they wished to confess their sins to God, and to cast themselves before him as thoroughly guilty and convicted, and as placing their whole hope in their supplication for mercy. And in the present day the faithful are justified in adding certain external rites to their prayers; although no necessity either can, or ought to be laid down beforehand in this case. We know also, the, Orientals to be more devoted to ceremonies than we are ourselves. And this difference must be noticed between the ancient people and the new Church, since Christ by his advent abolished many ceremonies. For the fathers under the Law were, in this sense, like children, as Paul says. (Galatians 4:3.) The discipline which God had formerly instituted, involved the use of more ceremonies than were afterwards practiced. As there is this important difference between our position and theirs, whoever desires to copy them in all their actions, would rather become the ape than the imitator of antiquity. Meanwhile, we must notice that the reality remains for us, although external rites are abolished. Two kinds of prayer, therefore, exist; one which we ought to practice daily, in the morning, evening, and if possible, every moment; for we see how constancy in prayer is commended to us in Scripture. (Luke 18:1; Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.) The second kind is used, when God denounces his wrath against us, or we have need of his special aid, or seek anything unusual from him. This was Daniel's method of praying when he put on sackcloth, and sprinkled himself with ashes. But as I have treated this subject elsewhere, I now use greater brevity.
When Daniel perceived the period of deliverance at hand, he not only prayed as usual, but left all his other occupations for the purpose of being quite at ease and at leisure, and thus he applied his mind exclusively to prayer, and made use of other aids to devotion. For the sackcloth and the ashes availed far more than mere outward testimony; they are helps to increase our ardor in praying, when any one feels sluggish and languid. It is true, indeed, that when the fathers under the Law prayed with sackcloth and ashes, this appearance was useful as an outward mark of their profession. It testified before men, how they came before God as guilty suppliants, and placed their whole hope of salvation in pardon alone. Still this conduct was useful in another way:. as it stirred them up more eagerly to the desire to pray. And both these points are to be noticed in Daniel's case. For if the Prophet had such need of this assistance, what shall be said of our necessities? Every one ought surely to comprehend how dull and cold he is in this duty. Nothing else, therefore, remains, except for every one to become conscious of his infirmity, to collect all the aids he can command for the correction of his sluggishness, and thus stimulate himself to ardor in supplication. For when Daniel. according to his daily custom, prayed so as to run the risk of death on that very account, we ought to gather from this, how naturally alert he was in prayer to God. He was conscious of the want of sufficiency in himself, and hence he adds the use of sackcloth, and ashes, and fasting.
I pass by what might be treated more diffusely -- -how fasting is often .added to extraordinary prayers. We conclude also, how works by themselves fail to please the Almighty, according to the fictions of the Papists of these days, and also to the foolish imaginations of many others. For they think fasting a part of the worship of God, although Scripture always commends it to us for another purpose. By itself it is of no consequence whatever, but when mingled with prayers, with exhortations to penitence, and with the confession of sinfulness, then it is acceptable, but not otherwise. Thus, we observe Daniel to have made use of fasting correctly, not as wishing to appease God by this discipline, but to render him more earnest in his prayers.
We must next notice another point. Although Daniel was an interpreter of dreams, he was not so elated with confidence or pride as to despise the teaching delivered by other prophets. Jeremiah was then at Jerusalem, when Daniel was dragged into exile, where he discharged the office of teacher for a long period afterwards, so that Babylon became a kind of pulpit. 5 And Ezekiel names him the third among the most excellent servants of God, (Ezekiel 14:14,) because Daniel's piety, integrity, and holiness of life, were even then celebrated. As to Jeremiah, we know him to have been either just deceased in Egypt, or perhaps to be still living, when this vision was offered to Daniel, who had perused his prophecies previously to this occasion. We observe also, the great modesty of this holy man, because he exercised himself in reading the writings of Jeremiah; and was not ashamed to own how he profited by them. For he knew this prophet to have been appointed to instruct himself as well as the rest of the faithful. Thus he willingly submitted to the instruction of Jeremiah, and ranged himself among his disciples. And if he had not deigned to read those prophecies, he would have been unworthy to partake of the promised deliverance. As he was a member of the Church, he ought to have been a disciple of Jeremiah, so in like manner, Jeremiah would not have objected to profit in his turn, if any prophecy of Daniel's had been presented to him. This spirit of modesty ought to flourish among the servants of God, even if they excel in the gift of prophecy, inducing them to learn from each other, while no one should raise himself above the common level. While we are teachers, we ought at the same time to continue learners. And Daniel teaches us this by saying,
We must now remark The Time Of This Prophecy-
He says, then,
"This shall be my rest for ever," and
"Ye shall possess the land for ever." (Psalm 132:14.)
When they were cast out and dispersed throughout the various countries of the earth, it seemed as if the covenant of God had been abolished, and as if there was no further advantage in deriving their origin from those holy fathers to whom their land had been promised. For the purpose of meeting these temptations, God fixed beforehand a set time for their exile, and Daniel now recurs to this prediction. He adds,
1 Verbally, was crowned, ie, was king. -- Calvin.
2 He repeats the words, the first year. -- Calvin.
3 Some translate the word
4 Some take "prayers and supplications" for the accusative sense. -- Calvin.
5 A turn of expression rather unexpected. The Latin text is quasi suggestus; and both the French editions translate comme une chaire pour prescher. -- Ed.
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