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THE FIERY FURNACE.
DANIEL III. 24, 25.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the King was astonished, and rose up in
haste, and spake, and said unto his Counsellors, did not we cast three Men bound into the midst of the Fire? They answered. and said unto the King, True, 0 King. He answered, and said, Lo! I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the Fire; and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,
THE Book of God abounds in wonders. This history exhibits one of them. A powerful and arbitrary king ordered an idol to be set up, and every one under his authority to bow down to that idol. But some men in his kingdom would not bow down. They durst not.
There is something in the Resolution of a servant of God, which may appear to be perverseness and obstinacy, and will be so called by the world: but it is enough if he knows it to be a zeal for God, a true fear, a determination not to go beyond his duty: he may then safely leave all possible consequences with God. He, who would not bow down, was the same hour to be çast into a burning fiery furnace.
Yet there were
three men in the kingdom, who would endure even that consequence; and therefore they told the king plainly, We are not careful, or anxious, to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king: but, if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship thy golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury-and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated–Then these men were cast into the burning fiery furnace. Watching the process, the king, at length, was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast, &c.
I would collect from this Scripture the following Point of Doctrine:—WHATEVER TRIALS A SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE CALLED TO ENDURE, HE IS SUFFICIENTLY SUPPORTED UNDER THEM, BY
THE ASSURED PRESENCE OF AN ALMIGHTY FRIEND.
I. A CHARACTER is here pointed out. It is the servant of God, a man of grace, a believer, who only can endure fiery trials.
There is a holy principle in such a man, which will enable him to endure every fiery trial.
It is difficult to describe in words the feelings of the heart; but we may insist on the principle called Grace, and Faith, and Zeal, and Love.
These are but different operations of the same principle. They are but like the different features of one particular person.
The Scriptures generally describe this principle as the Life of God in the Soul of Man,—the being made partaker of a divine nature,--the new creature. It is called Grace, because it is divine grace or favour, that implants it in the soul. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart: He opens the sinner's eyes : He shews him his natural condition: He points to the fulness of grace and mercy in Christ Jesus: He opens his ears, while a proclamation of mercy is made to him: He looses his tongue, and puts words into his mouth that he may make a good confession: He strengthens his hand, and gives him work to do,-hardening his breast like a flint, when called to endure trials.
When trials come in, therefore, like mighty waves, and threaten to overwhelm such a man as Lot, such a man as Joseph, such a man as Elijah, the principle of grace, the aid of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, enables them to press forward, in the face of all the obstacles which can be opposed to them by the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Trusting to an Almighty Power, and leaving the consequences in God's hand, these men can say, We are not careful to answer in this matter.
A Christian may be as much tried in the fur. nace now, as in any past age. Smithfield has
lighted up its fires to prove the principle of Grace. Babylon never tried Grace more, that this kingdom tried it, and still does try it. Many a private family has been a fiery furnace to a Christian.
There is, however, a principle implanted in the breast of a servant of God, which enables him to stand fast and abide all consequences. What a proof of this is before us! These three men determined to abide all consequences: but, at the same time, they determined to maintain the faith, and fear, and truth of God.
What instruction, then, is to be derived from this view of the passage? It says-" Expect trials: but fear them not. Shrink not on account of them. Think not your trials mightier than God is, to support you under them. Bow not down to the world's idols, that you may escape the furnace: you will not so conquer; but you will be conquered. Think it not strange, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, for it has been the appointed path in all ages. Expect it; and remember the promise, Thy shoes shall be iron and brass: as thy day is, so shall thy strength be. Tread the footsteps of the flock; and remember, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
Yet I must know but little of Christianity, if I did not know how much easier it is to preach on this subject, than to endure the fiery trial. I would ask, therefore, What is to be our support, when
God shall call us to a special trial? How are we to enter the furnace ? What support shall we find there?
II. The SUPPORT of this sufferer is the second point which we may consider from this Scripture.
We shall see Christ in the furnace. Lo! I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. He, who enters the furnace for the honour of Christ, shall meet Christ in the furnace.
A question here arises : “ When does a man enter the furnace for the honour of Christ ?”
A serious question: for there is no promise to the man who enters it in his own spirit; to gratify his pride, or to support a party. There must be a good cause to make a martyr. Why did these men enter the furnace ? They might have escaped it, but it was set before them with a penalty: they must enter the furnace if they did not bow down to the idol. They were confident of safety, if they entered the furnace to avoid bowing down; but they were not sure of escaping a more dreadful furnace, if they did bow down. It was not for THEM, therefore, to turn, though the penalty was so tremendous. They entered thus the furnace for Christ: that is, as believers in the Messiah ta come, as witnesses for God and his truth.