20. And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God;
20. Et adhuc ego loquens, 1 et precarer, et confiterer peecatum meum, et peccatum populi mei Israel, et prosternerem, 2 precationem meam coram Jehova Deo meo, super montem 3 sanctuarii Dei me.
21. Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
21. Cum, inquam, loquerer in precatione mea, tunc vir Gabriel quem videram in visione principio voluntam volatu, tetigit me circa tempus oblationis vespertinae.
As to the translation, some take it as I do; others say "flying swiftly," implying fatigue and alacrity. Some derive the word for "flying" from Pwe, gnof, which signifies to fly, and they join it with its own participle, which is common Hebrew; others again think it derived from Pey, yegnef; signifying to fatigue, and then explain it metaphorically as flying hastily. 4
Here Daniel begins to shew us that his prayers were by no means useless, nor yet without their fruit, as Gabriel was sent to elevate his mind with confidence, and to lighten his grief by consolation. He next sets him forth as a minister of the grace of God to the whole Church, to inspire the faithful with the hope of a speedy return to their country, and to encourage them to bear their afflictions until God should open a way for their return. Next, as to ourselves, we need not wonder at God's refusing at times an answer to our prayers, because those who seem to pray far better than the rest scarcely possess a hundredth part of the zeal and fervor required. On comparing our method of prayer with this vehemence of the Prophet, surely we are in truth very far behind him; and it is by no means surprising, if, while the difference is so great, the success should be so dissimilar. And yet we may be assured that our prayers will never be in vain, if we follow the holy Prophet at even a long interval. If the limited amount of our faith hinders our prayers from emulating the Prophet's zeal, yet God will nevertheless listen to them, so long as they are founded in faith and penitence. Daniel says, therefore, While I was as yet speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel. First of all, we must notice how the Holy Spirit here purposely dictated to the Prophet, how God's grace would be prepared for and extended to all the wretched who fly to it and implore it. The Prophet, therefore, shews why we are so destitute of help, for if pain occasions so much groaning, yet we never look up to God, from whom consolation is always to be sought in all evils. He thus exhorts us to the habit of prayer by saying his requests were heard. He does not bring forward any singular example, but, as I have already said, he pronounces generally that the prayers of those who seek God as a deliverer will never be either vain or unfruitful. I have shewn how our supplications do not always meet with either the same or equal attention, since our torpor requires God to differ in the help which he supplies. But in this way the Prophet teaches us how those who possess true faith and repentance, however slight, will never offer up their prayers to God in vain.
He next adds what is necessary to conciliate God's favor, namely, that men should anticipate God's judgment by condemning themselves. So he asserts, He confessed his sin and that of his people. He does not speak here of one kind of sin, but under the word ajx, cheta, he comprehends all kinds of wickedness; as if he had said, when I was confessing myself as steeped in sin and drowned in iniquity, I confessed the same on behalf of my people. We must notice also the phrase, the sin of my people Israel. He might have omitted this noun, but he wished to testify before God to the Church being guilty and without the slightest hope of absolution, unless God, whom they had so deservedly offended, was graciously pleased to reconcile them to himself. But the first clause is more worthy of notice, where Daniel relates the confession of his own sins before God. We know what Ezekiel says, or rather the Spirit speaking through his mouth. (Ezekiel 14:14.) For God names the three most perfect characters which had then existed in the world, and includes Daniel among them, although he was then living. Although Daniel was an example of angelic justice, and is celebrated by so remarkable an honor, yet, if even he were before me, and were to entreat me for this state, I would not listen to him, but I would free him only on account of his own righteousness. As, therefore, God so extols his own Prophet, and raises him on high as if he were beyond all the pollution and vices of the world, where shall we find a man upon earth who can boast himself free from every stain and failing? Let the most perfect characters be brought before us -- what a difference between them and Daniel! But even he confesses himself a sinner before God, and utterly renounces his own righteousness, and openly bears witness to his only hope of salvation being placed in the mere mercy of God. Hence Augustine with much wisdom often cites this passage against the followers of Pelagius and Celestius. We are well aware with what specious pretenses these heretics obscured God's grace, when they argued that God's sons ought not always to remain in prison, but to reach the goal. The doctrine indeed is passable enough, that the sons of God ought to be free from all fault, but where is such integrity really found? Augustine, therefore, with the greatest propriety, always replied to those triflers by shewing that no one ever existed so just in this world as not to need God's mercy. For had there been such a character, surely the Lord, who alone is a fitting judge, could have found him. But he asserts his servant Daniel to be among the most perfect, if three only are taken from the beginning of the world. But as Daniel casts himself into the flock of sinners, not through any feigned pretense or humility, but when uttering the fullness of his mind before God, who shall now claim for himself greater sanctity than this? When, therefore, I confess my sins before the face of my God. Here surely there is no fiction, whence it follows that those who pretend to this imaginary perfection are demons in human shape, as Castalio and other cynics, or rather dogs like him.
We must therefore cling to this principle: no man, even if semi-angelic, can approach God, unless he conciliates his favor by sincere and ingenuous confession of his sins, as in reality a criminal before God. This, then, is our righteousness, to confess ourselves guilty in order that God may gratuitously absolve us. These observations, too, respecting the Israelites concern us also, as we observe from the direction which Christ has given us to say, Forgive us our trespasses. (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4.) For whom did Christ wish to use this petition? Surely all his disciples. If any one thinks that he has no need of this form of prayer, and this confession of sin, let him depart from the school of Christ, and enter into a herd of swine.
He now adds, Upon the mountain of the sanctuary of my God. Here the Prophet suggests another reason for his being heard, namely, his anxiety for the common welfare and safety of the Church. For whenever any one studies his own private interests, and is careless of his neighbor's advantage, he is unworthy to obtain anything before God. If, therefore, we desire our prayers to be pleasing to God, and to produce useful fruit, let us learn to unite the whole body of the Church with us, and not only to regard what is expedient for ourselves, but what will tend to the common welfare of all the elect people. While, therefore, says he, I was yet speaking, and in the midst of my prayer. It appears that Daniel prayed not only with his affections, but broke forth into some outward utterance. It is quite true that this word is often restricted to mental utterance; for even when a person does not use his tongue, he may be said to speak when he only thinks mentally within himself. But since Daniel said, When I was yet speaking in my prayer, he seems to have broken forth into some verbal utterance; for although the saints do not intend to pronounce anything orally, yet zeal seizes upon them, and words at times escape them. There is another reason also for this: we are naturally slow, and then the tongue aids the thoughts. For these reasons Daniel was enabled not only to conceive his prayers silently and mentally, but to utter them verbally and orally.
He next adds, Gabriel came; but I cannot complete my comments on this occurrence to-day.
Grant, Almighty God, that we may learn more and more fully to probe ourselves, and to discover the faults of which we are guilty: nay, may the serious weight of our wickedness truly humble us when we come into thy sight, and call upon thee even from the lowest depths. May we never cease to hope for thy grace; may we be elevated by that hope to the highest heavens, and be firmly assured that thou wilt always prove thyself a propitious Father to us. And as thou hast granted us a Mediator who may procure favor for us from thee, may we never hesitate to approach thee familiarly, through reliance on him. Whenever our miseries induce us to despair, may we never succumb to it; but with unconquered fortitude of mind, may we persevere in invoking thy name and imploring thy pity, until we perceive the fruit of our prayers, and after being freed from all warfare, may we at length arrive at that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven, by the same, Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
Lecture Forty Ninth
In the last Lecture we explained the appearance of the angel to Daniel, who satisfied the eagerness of his desires. For he prayed with great earnestness when he perceived the time to have elapsed which God had fixed beforehand by the mouth of Jeremiah, while the people still remained in captivity. (Jeremiah 25:11.) We have shewn how the angel was sent by God to the holy Prophet, to alleviate his sorrow and to remove the pressure of his anxiety. He called the angel a man, because he took the form of a man, as we have already stated. One thing only remains -- his saying, the vision was offered to him about the time of the evening sacrifice. Already seventy years had passed away, during which Daniel had never observed any sacrifice offered; and yet he still mentions sacrifices as if he were in the habit of attending daily in the Temple, which was not really in existence. Whence it appears how God's servants, though deprived of the outward means of grace for the present moment, are yet able to make them practically useful by meditating upon God, and the sacrifices, and other rites, and ceremonies of His institution. If any one in these days is cast into prison, and even prohibited from enjoying the Lord's Supper to the end of his life, yet he ought not on that account to cast away the remembrance of that sacred symbol; but should consider within himself every day, why that Supper was granted us by Christ, and what advantages he desires us to derive from it. Such, then, we perceive were the feelings of the holy Prophet, because he speaks of these daily sacrifices as if then in actual use. Yet we know them to have been abolished, and he could not have been present at them for many years, although during that period the Temple was standing. Now let us go forward, --