18. My God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolation's, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies.
18. Inclina Deus mi, aurem tuam, et audi: eperi oculos tuos, et respice desolationes nostras, 1 et civitem super quam invocatum est nomen tuum, super eam, 2 quia non propter justitias nostras nos prosternimus preces nostras coram facie tua, sed propter misericordias tuas 3 multas, vel, magnas.
This short clause breathes a wonderful fervor and vehemence of prayer; for Daniel pours forth his words as if he were carried out of himself. God's children are often in an ecstasy in prayer; they moan and plead with God, use various modes of speech and much tautology, and cannot satisfy themselves. In forms of speech, indeed, hypocrites are sometimes superior; they not only rival God's sincere worshippers, but are altogether carried along by outward pomps, and by a vast heap of words in their prayers, they arrive at much elegance and splendor, and even become great rhetoricians. But Daniel here only displays some portion of his feelings; there is no doubt of his wishing to bear witness to the whole Church how vehemently and fervently he prayed with the view of inflaming others with similar ardor. In this verse, he says, O my God, incline thine ear and hear. It would have been sufficient simply to have said, hearken; but as God seemed to remain deaf notwithstanding so many prayers and entreaties, the Prophet begs him to incline his ear. There is a silent antithesis here, because the faithful had seemed to be uttering words to the deaf, while their groans had been continually carried upwards to heaven during seventy years without the slightest effect. He adds next, open thine eyes and see. For God's neglecting to answer must have cast down the hopes of the pious, because the Israelites were treated so undeservedly. They were oppressed by every possible form of reproach, and suffered the most grievous molestation in their fortunes as well as in everything else. Yet God passed by all these calamities of his people, as if his eyes were shut; and for this reason Daniel now prays him to open his eyes. It is profitable to notice these circumstances with diligence, for the purpose of learning how to pray to God; first, when at peace and able to utter our petitions without the slightest disquietude, and next, when sorrow and anxiety seize upon all our senses, and darkness everywhere surrounds us; even then our prayers should be steadily continued in the midst of these great obstacles. And we gather at the same time, while God presses us to the very extremity of our lives, how we ought to be still more importunate, because the new object; of this our severe affliction, is to awaken us amidst our slothfulness. Thus it is said in the Psalms, (Psalm 32:6,) The saint will approach thee in an accepted time. Our opportunity arises when the very vast necessities overwhelm us, because God then stirs us up, and, as I have said, corrects our slowness. Let us learn, therefore, to accustom ourselves to vehemence in prayer whenever God urges and incites us by stimulus of this kind.
He next says, Look upon our desolation's -- of this we have already said enough -- and on the city on which thy name is called. Again Daniel sets before himself the sure foundation of his confidence, -- Jerusalem had been chosen as God's sanctuary. We know God's adoption to have been without repentance, as Paul says. (Romans 11:29.) Daniel, therefore, here takes the very strongest method of appealing to God's honor, by urging his wish to be worshipped on Mount Zion, and by his destining Jerusalem for himself as a royal seat. The phrase, to be called by God's name, means, reckoning either the place or the nation as belonging to God. For God's name is said to be called upon us, when we profess to be his people, and he distinguishes us by his mark, as if he would openly shew to the eyes of mankind his recognition of our profession. Thus God's name was called upon Jerusalem, because his election had been celebrated already for many ages, and he had also gathered together one peculiar people, and pointed out a place where he wished sacrifices to be offered.
He adds afterwards, Because we do not pour forth our prayers before thy face upon or through our own righteousness, (yk ki, "but," is in my opinion put adversatively here,) but on account of thy many or great mercies. Daniel more clearly confirms what was said yesterday, shewing how his hope was founded in God's mercy alone. But I have stated how he expresses his meaning more clearly by opposing two members of a sentence naturally contrary to each other. Not in our righteousness, says he, but in thy compassion's. Although this comparison is not always put so distinctly, yet this rule must be held -- whenever the saints rely upon the grace of God, they renounce at the same time all their merits, and find nothing in themselves to render God propitious. But this passage must be diligently noticed, where Daniel carefully excludes whatever opposes God's gratuitous goodness; and he next shews how, by bringing forward anything of their own, as if men could deserve God's grace, they diminish in an equal degree from his mercy. Daniel's words also contain , another truth, manifesting the impossibility of reconciling two opposite things, viz., the faithful taking refuge in God's mercy, and yet bringing anything of their own and resting upon their merits. As, therefore, a complete repugnance exists between the gratuitous goodness of God and all the merits of man, how stupid are those who strive to combine them, according to the usual practice of the Papacy! And even now, those who do not yield willingly to God and his word, wish to throw a covering over their error, by ascribing half the praise to God and his mercy, and retaining the remainder as peculiar to man. But all doubt is removed when Daniel places these two principles in opposition to each other, according to my former remark -- the righteousness of man and the mercy of God. Our merits, in truth, will no more unite with the grace of God than fire and water, mingled in the vain attempt to seek some agreement between flyings so opposite. He next calls these mercies "great," as we previously remarked the use of a great variety of words to express the various ways in which the people were amenable to his judgment. Here, therefore, he implores God's mercies as both many and great, as the people's wickedness had arrived at its very utmost pitch.
As for the following expression, The people pour down their prayers before God, Scripture seems in some degree at variance with itself, through the frequent use of a different metaphor, representing prayers as raised towards heaven. This phrase often occurs, -- O God, we elevate or raise our prayers to thee. Here also, as in other places, the Spirit dictates a different form of expression, representing the faithful as casting down upon the ground their vows and prayers. Each of these expressions is equally suitable, because, as we said yesterday, both repentance and faith ought to be united in our prayers. But repentance throws men downwards, and faith raises them upwards again. At the first glance these two ideas do not seem easily reconciled; but by weighing these two members of a true and logical form of speech, we shall not find it possible to raise our prayers and vows to heaven, without depressing them, so to speak, to the very lowest depths. For on the one hand, when the sinner comes into the presence of God, he must necessarily fall completely down, nay, vanish as if lifeless before him. This is the genuine effect of repentance. And in this way the saints cast down all their prayers, whenever they suppliantly acknowledge themselves unworthy of the notice of the Almighty. Christ sets before us a picture of this kind in the character of the publican, who beats on his breast aid begs for pardon with a dejected countenance. (Luke 18:13.) Thus also the sons of God throw down their prayers in that spirit of humility which springs from penitence. Then they raise their prayers by faith for when God invites them to himself, and gives them the witness to his propitious disposition, they raise themselves up and overtop the clouds, yea, even heaven itself. Whence this doctrine also shines forth Thou art a God who hearest prayer, as we read in the Psalms. (Psalm 65:2.) In consequence of the faithful determining God to be propitious, they boldly approach his presence, and pray with minds erect, through an assurance that God is well pleased with the sacrifice which they offer. It follows: