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our day, was taken when escaping from a chaos of confusion. They had light, and a measure of faith, and this insured a blessing. Sympathy of soul with others about the Lord (unless the eye is kept single), may degenerate into sympathy with one another, and unity occupy the soul instead of the object of union; and thus individuality be crushed for a season-conscience seared, and the torpor of others, affect ourselves. "But the word of God is quick and powerful.” Blessed that it is so!
It is a solemn narrative which is brought before us in the judgment of Belshazzar. A tragic drama in human history! Portraying in vivid colours the careless world on the brink of ruin. Ages have rolled on in unbroken succession, striking events have occurred in the annals of mankind; but so concise a narrative of haughty pride, on the verge of destruction, is hardly paralleled.
Belshazzar had positive warning, and this was disregarded. “A more convenient season” (Acts xxiv. 25), is the plea of some; a pressure of engagements, the apology of others. Sudden destruction is the doom of procrastination. “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed” (Prov. xii. 13). The habit of good may be gradual in attainment, the habit of evil gradual in its development; unlooked-for results occur in both. " Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? At one time, we may blush at the thought;
" at another be hardened for the act. Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins."
The prophet Daniel brings home to the conscience of Belshazzar, that he had slighted reproof and scomed instruction. In verses 18 and 21, God's dealings with Nebuchadnezzar are noticed, and the summary in verse 22," And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this." How effectually does this short notice unravel the history! How it recalled to remembrance the marvellous dealings of the God of Israel with his predecessor on the throne, in the person of Nebuchadnezzar! Surely the chart of his life was retraversed in that moment of agony. How quickened his memory! How vivid
the past! The mysterious ways of Jehovah! His singular power! His arm of protection thrown over his captives in Babylon! In bondage, yet occupying a palace! Hated and despised, yet respected and powerful! Mixed up with the nation, yet dwelling alone! The seed of the patriarchs, expelled their inheritance, because they had broken God's covenant, yet preserved and exalted because of God's promise ! Gorgeous splendour surrounded the youth of Belshaz
The Chaldean empire, with Babylon for its capital, had just reached the zenith of its glory. A succession of conquests, under renowned leaders, and the permission of God in His providence, had brought the then known world, to the feet of the dynasty of Babylon. The head of gold was significant of this. Doubtless the education of Belshazzar had regard to his position and destiny. Near the root of this greatness, events were sufficiently green in man's memory to rouse emulation. A stirring time gives birth to active energies. The symbols of empire and trophies of victory had not faded with age.
Power was consolidated; and the struggle to obtain it, unforgotten as yet, and remembered to give joy, amid the security which success had accomplished. The empire was won, and won for Belshazzar.
Imagination has no place in the records of Scripture. The facts are so full they occupy space in the heart of a man, and colouring them is only to crowd in what is needless. Yet the youth of Belshazzar, and his mind in his youth, would not lack culture. Chaldean historians would bring before him the records of his race, and their contests with Israel Stern battles had been fought, victories won, and defeats sustained. Sudden panic in the moment of triumph! A summons to halt, in the same breath with the charge to advance! Mysterious
! power destroying whole hosts in a night! This and far more, the prince would hear in his boyhood, and Eastern
, colouring would give a charm to the narrative. Then, there was
the cleansing of Naaman the leper, the siege of the prophet in Dothan, the defeat of Sennacherib, and the midnight alarm of the Syrian camp in the days of Ahab. Men can afford to amplify danger, when they
have succeeded in overcoming it, and gather fresh reasons for triumph in the resolute resistance and determined valour, they had finally subdued. But more to the purpose in the life of Belshazzar is recorded in the chapter before us.
The children of Israel, of the blood royal of her kings, were inmates of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Strange wisdom was theirs. To tell of the past is human; to foretell the future, divine.' The Chaldean sages were baffled; the youth of Israel triumphed. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar had departed from him (chapter ii.)—the impression remained. Yet who could bring it fresh to his memory? The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said—“ There is not a man upon earth that can shew the king's matter" (verse 10); but God revealed it to the seed of His chosen (verse 19). Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night-vision (verse 46). And “the king Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and worshipped Daniel”; and “ the king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a Revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (verses 48 and 49). Surely Daniel found that “in God's favour was life, and His loving-kindness better than life.” The captives were lords in the king's household.
The 3rd chapter of Daniel records the triumph of Israel over the image of gold which Nebuchadnezzar the king set up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. The furnace was prepared for the destruction of the witnesses of Jehovah. Yet the guards, who essayed to cast them bound into the fire, were consumed by the heat of the flames without; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, were uninjured within. These marvels would have their influence on the mind of Belshazzar: the conscience of youth is tender, and easily impressed. But the prophet's voice in the hour of his judgments revealed his awful impenitence" And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this”!
But more striking still was the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar the king. Surrounded by greatness, untaught by his dreams, uninstructed at the furnace, unhumbled
by all, he boasted in his glory, as if he alone had achieved it, and magnified his possessions, as though he were sole architect of his fame. Chap. v. 29—" At the end of twelve months Nebuchadnezzar walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?" " While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee” (verses 32 and 33). Verse 34—" And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnetzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.” Thus God wrought on the mind of the first representative of Gentile power. The head of gold was taught to tread softly in the position of empire. In himself both the moral and the precept. It might be when his hair had grown grey he instructed Belshazzar. How marvellous the lesson not less so the instructor. The might of Jehovah had given him dominion, and when seated in dignity he had neglected to own Him. The power of God had visited him in chastisement; yet, marvellous loving-kindness, it was not to crush him. He had lifted himself against God, and assumed His prerogative. God condescended to chasten, and then to restore ; He bruised, that He might heal; He suffered him to become as a beast, that (humbled and lowly) he might henceforth remember he was but of dust. And his understanding returned, and he
gave God thanks, and blessed the King of kings and Lord of lords. And Belshazzar, his successor, was instructed in this ; but, alas! in the words of Daniel, “ he did not humble his heart, though he knew all this."
There are gradations in evil. But Scripture is silent on the career of Belshazzar, until the curtain is withdrawn in the chapter before us. He had given reins to his lusts. Impatient of restraint, like an impetuous steed, he took the bit in his mouth, and disdaining admonition, rushed on in the frenzy of pride. He would be served with the vessels which were consecrated to the worship of Jehovah. In the folly of his heart he would be as God. But the moment of triumph was the hour of judgment. “Did any ever harden themselves against God and prosper."
" Belsbazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles be tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem ; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem ; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make kuown to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied” (Dan. v. 1-9).
Solemn moment! anxious expectancy absorbed the mind of the king.—the mysterious hand and mystic writing disturbed his revels. The music was still — the guests breathless-fear upon all. Their impious effrontery was awed by the finger of God. The inebriate became sober, the dread of judgment was stronger than the fumes of the wine. The careless were attentive, the jocund still, and the quiet of the grave reigned in the chamber of revelry. The hand-writing upon the wall accomplished this
. The rumour spreads (verses 10, 11, 12): “ Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet-house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever.” That voice sounds strangely on the ears of the monarch, She had hurried