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Is the last Lecture Daniel said that he prayed and confessed Now, in narrating the form of his prayer, he begins by confession. We must notice this, to enable us to understand the scope which Daniel had in view, as well as the special object of his prayer. This is the kind of beginning which he makes, — the people are guilty before God, and suppliantly pray for pardon; but before the Prophet comes to this entreaty, he confesses how the people were most severely and justly chastised by the Lord, as they had so grievously and variously provoked his anger. First of all, he calls God terrible, for I have recited and translated his words. When the Prophet desires to attract God’s favor towards himself, he begins by bringing forward his majesty. By these words he stirs up himself and the rest of the faithful to reverence, urging them to approach the presence of God with submission, to acknowledge themselves utterly condemned, and to be deprived of all hope except in the mere mercy of God. He calls him, therefore, great and terrible, in order to humble the minds of all the pious before God, to prevent their aspiring to any self-exaltation, or being puffed up with any self-confidence. For, as we have said elsewhere:, the epithets of God are at one time perpetual, and at another variable, with 1;he circumstances of the subject in hand. God may always be called great and terrible; but Daniel calls him so here, to stir up himself and all others to humility and reverence, as I have previously remarked. Then he adds, He is faithful in keeping his covenant and in shewing pity towards all his true worshippers. I have referred to a change of person in this clause, but it does not obscure the sense or render it in any way doubtful. I have explained how these words also testify to the absence of all cause why the people should murmur or complain of being treated too harshly. For where the faithfulness of God to his promises has once been laid down, men have not the slightest reason to complain when he treats them less clemently, or frustrates them because they are found fallacious and perfidious; for God always remains true to his words. (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3.) In this sense Daniel announces that God keeps his covenant towards all who love him. We must next notice, how he adds the word “pity” to “covenant.” He does not put these two words as differing from each other, ברית, berith, and חסד, chesed, but unites them together, and the sentence ought to be understood by a common figure of speech, implying that God made a gratuitous covenant which flows from the fountain of his pity. What, therefore, is this agreement or covenant and pity of God? The covenant flows from God’s mercy; it does not spring from either the worthiness or the merits of men; it has its cause, and stability, and effect, and completion solely in the grace of God. We must notice this, because those who are not well versed in the Scriptures may ask why Daniel distinguishes mercy from covenant, as if there existed a mutual stipulation when God enters into covenant with man, and thus God’s covenant would depend simply on man’s obedience. This question is solved when we understand the form of expression here used, as this kind of phrase is frequent in the Scriptures. For whenever God’s covenant is mentioned, his clemency, or goodness, or inclination to love is also added. Daniel therefore confesses, in the first place, the gratuitous nature of the covenant of God with Israel, asserting it to have no other cause or origin than the gratuitous goodness of God. He next testifies to God’s faithfulness, for he never violates his agreement nor departs from it, as in many other places God’s truth and faithfulness are united with his clemency. (Psalm 36:6, and elsewhere.) It is necessary for us to rely on God’s mere goodness, as our salvation rests entirely with him, and thus we render to him the glory due to his pity, and thus it becomes needful for us, in the second place, to obtain a clear apprehension of God’s clemency. The language of the Prophet expresses both these points, when he shows how God’s covenant both depends upon and flows from his grace, and also when he adds the Almighty’s faithfulness in keeping his agreement.
He adds, Towards those who love thee and keep thy commandments We must diligently notice this, because Daniel here drives away the whole people from the defense which many might put forward, hypocrites willingly become angry with God; nay, boldly reproach him because he does not either pardon or indulge them. Daniel, therefore, to check this pride and to cut off every pretense for strife on the part of the impious, says, God is faithful towards all who love him He admonishes us thus: God is never severe unless when provoked by the sins of men; as if he had said, God’s covenant is firm in itself; when men violate it, it is not surprising if God withdraws from his promises and departs from his agreement, on perceiving himself treated with perfidy and distrust. The people, therefore, are here obliquely condemned, while Daniel testifies to God’s constancy in keeping his promises, if men on their part act with good faith towards him. On the whole, he shews how the people were in tumult, when God altered his usual course of kind and beneficent treatment, and put in force instead his severest vengeance, when the people were expelled from the land of Canaan which was their perpetual inheritance. Daniel here explains how all blame must be removed from God, as the people had revolted from him, and by their perfidy had violated their compact. We see, therefore, how he throws the blame of all their calamities upon the people themselves, and thus absolves God from all blame and all unjust corer, labors. Besides, the Prophet shews how the special object of the worship of God is to induce us to love him. For many observe God’s law after the manner of slaves; but we ought to remember this passage, God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7.) When, therefore, hypocrites are violently drawn towards obedience, the Prophet here distinguishes between the true worshippers of God and those who discharge their duty only in a perfunctory manner:, and not from the heart. He asserts the principle of worshipping God to be a diligent love of him, and this sentiment frequently occurs in the writings of Moses. (Deuteronomy 10:12.) We must hold, therefore, the impossibility of pleasing God by obedience, unless it proceeds from a sincere and free affection of the mind. This is the very first rule in God’s worship. We must love him; we must be prepared to devote ourselves entirely to obedience to him, and to the willing performance of whatever he requires from us. As it is said in the Psalms, (Psalm 119:24) Thy law is my delight. And again, in title same Psalm, David states God’s law to be precious to him beyond gold and silver, yea, pleasing, and sweet beyond even honey. (Psalm 119:72, 103.) Unless we love God we have no reason for concluding that he will approve of any of our actions: all our duties will become corrupt before him, unless they proceed from the fountain of liberal affection towards him. Hence the Prophet adds, To those who keep his statutes External observance will never benefit us, unless the love of God precede them. But we must notice this also in its turn; — God cannot be sincerely loved by us unless all our outward members follow up this affection of the soul. Our hands and all that belong to us will be kept steady to their duty, if this spontaneous love flourish within our hearts. For if any one asserts his love of God a thousand times over, all will[ be discovered to be vain and fallacious, unless the whole life correspond with it. We can never separate love and obedience It now follows: —
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