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and how it befits us to fore-arm any who may be under our charge, before they are constrained to go forth amidst the trials of an ensnaring world. The consideration of the case, in short, will enable me to illustrate, by way of exemplification, that second text which I quoted to you in the opening of my last discourse, in which the Almighty delivers his testimony so explicitly respecting the necessity and utility of religious education: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."*
When Jehoiakim, king of Judah, was defeated and taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar, that monarch carried away certain of the Jews to Babylon; and, among the rest, some young persons of the seed-royal and of other noble families of Judah. Perhaps he had observed the acuteness and ready understanding of some of these youths; but be this as it may, he thought that he might make them serviceable in his realm, and he resolved to spare no pains in doing so. He gave orders, therefore, to the chief of the eunuchs, whose name was Ashpenaz, to look out those among them who seemed most promising, and who had received the best education hitherto, and to educate them for three years more in the learning and tongue of the Chaldeans. "And
* Prov. xxii. 6.
the king appointed them," it is said further, daily provision of the king's meat and of the wine which he drank so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king." Among those who were selected, there were four young persons of the tribe of Judah—namely, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishäel, and Azariah. They are several times called children, but in Scripture this expression seems to be used with latitude, and Daniel and his companions may have been at this time seventeen or eighteen years old. Their education had clearly been taken good care of already by their parents, especially by the effectual inculcation of sound general principles. But now the king put them under the guardianship of a chief officer of his own, to be fitted by such particular course of study as might seem most suitable to the end proposed, for employments of state. This officer, when he undertook the charge, was pleased, in the first place, to change their names. The circumstance is worth noticing, because there seems to have been a design in it. Daniel signifies God my judge; Hananiah, the grace of the Lord; and all their names, as was very usual with the Jews, are compounded with some or other of the Hebrew words which stand for God. But the chief of the eunuchs, as if to make them forget their relation to the Lord, and to intimate
that he wished them to embrace the religion as well as to learn the language of the Chaldeans, gave them names, the first of which certainly was derived from Bel, the chief idol of Babylon, and perhaps the rest from some other idols. For to Daniel he gave the name of Belteshazzar, and Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishäel, he called, severally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
But let us here pause a moment, to remark upon the situation in which these young men were placed. Certainly it was a situation of very great peril and hazard to their souls. They had been taken from their country, from their parents and natural guardians, from their kindred, and from the ordinances of God:-and just at that time of life which is justly looked upon as the most critical when the passions are becoming strong, and the judgment usually is weak, and the character is not fully formed, and the mind most easily receives impressions-just at this age of immaturity and inexperience, they are brought into the palace of an absolute and idolatrous prince-brought into a state of complete dependence upon him—placed where everything would be done to make them forget the God of their fathers-exposed to all the temptations which arise from a sumptuous and luxurious style of living, and subjected to be misled by the pride of
human learning, and by the hope of preferment, and of the favour of the great.
In such a condition, it is clear that they would need sound principles, much prudence, much watchfulness, and, above all, much grace from God. We are now to see how far they were possessed of these endowments.
It has been noted already that a portion of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank, was appointed for them daily. But here, doubtless without any bad meaning on the part either of the king or his officers, there was a trial and a snare for them. You know, that by the ceremonial law of Moses, then in force, several sorts of meats in common use among other nations were prohibited to the Jews as unclean. It was very usual also for the heathen to make their banquets upon meats which had been offered or dedicated to their idols; and the Jews were strictly forbidden to be partakers of such feasts, lest they should thereby appear to countenance idol worship. But many of the king's dishes would hardly fail to consist, in part at least, of these unclean meats; and his wine, as well as his viands, might very probably have been presented in the idol's temple, and part of it poured out for a libation upon the altar. But, at all events, a luxurious, self-indulgent course of
living would very ill become these young persons-captives, as they were, in a foreign land; afflicted, as they had need to be, and humbled for the low estate of their native country lying under the wrath of God; and providentially called, as they appeared to be, to exhibit among idolaters such moderation and sobriety of demeanour as might befit the worshippers of Jehovah, and best manifest the excellency and purity of the one true religion. Daniel, therefore, saw very clearly what course it became him to take; that he must keep at the utmost distance, not only from evil, but even from the appearance of evil. He knew that he could have no right to dispense with any the least of God's ordinances, merely because it might be only ceremonial; and he knew that it was his duty, to the very utmost of his power, to do all things to God's glory. "He purposed in his heart, therefore, that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine that he drank." This was his resolution, to which, no doubt, some such considerations as I have stated brought him. And then, the next thing to be done was to carry it into execution. Now observe his manner of proceeding. He did not reject with rudeness what was proffered him in good will; nor disdain the king's meat, as if it were an abomination to his superior holiness. But "he re