Daniel 3:6-7

6. And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

6. Et quisquis non prociderit 1 et adoraverit, caderm hora, 2 projicietur in inedium fornacem ignis ardentis, vel, ardenteng.

7. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

7. Itaque simulatque, aedem hora atque, audierint omnes populi vocem cornu, fistulea, citharea, sambucae, psalterii et omniurm instrumentorum musices, prociderunt omnes populi, gentes et linguae adorantes imagmem auream, quam erexerat Nebuchad nezer rex.


We see how Nebuchadnezzar wished to establish among all the nations under his sway a religion in which there, should be no mixture of foreign novelty. He feared dissension as a cause of disunion in his empire. Hence we may suppose the king to have consulted his own private ease and advantage, as princes are accustomed to consult their own wishes rather than God's requirements in promulgating edicts concerning the worship of God. And from the beginning, this boldness and rashness have increased in the world, since those who have had supreme power have always dared to fabricate deities, and have proceeded beyond this even to ordering the gods which they have invented to be worshipped. The different kinds of gods are well known as divided into three -- the Philosophical, the Political, and the Poetical. They called those gods "Philosophical" which natural reason prompts men to worship. Truly, indeed, philosophers are often foolish when they dispute about the essence or worship of God; but since they follow their own fancies they are necessarily erroneous. For God cannot be apprehended by human senses, but must be made manifest. to us by his own word; and as he descends to us, so we also in turn are raised to heaven. (1 Corinthians 2:14.) But yet philosophers in their disputes have some pretexts, so as not to seem utterly insane and irrational. But the poets have fabled whatever pleases them, and thus have filled the world with the grossest and at the same time the foulest errors. As all theaters resounded with their vain imaginations, the minds of the vulgar have been imbued with the same delusions; for we know human dispositions are ever prone to vanity. But when the devil adds fire to the fuel, we then see how furiously both learned and unlearned are carried away. So it; happened when they persuaded themselves of the truth of what they saw represented in their theaters. Thus, that; religion which was founded on the authority of the Magi was considered certain by the heathen, as they called those gods "Political" which were received by the common consent of all. Those also who were considered prudent said it was by no means useful to object to what the philosophers taught concerning the nature of the gods, since this would tear asunder all public rites, and whatever was fixed without; doubt in men's minds. For both the Greeks and Latins, as well as other barbarous nations, worshipped certain gods as he mere offspring of opinion, and these they confessed to have once been mortal. But philosophers at least retained this principle -- the gods are eternal; and if the philosophers had been listened to, the authority of the Magi would have fallen away. Hence the most worldly-wise were not ashamed, as I have mentioned, to urge the expulsion of philosophy from sacred things.

With regard to the Poets, the most politic were compelled to succumb to the petulance of the common people, and yet they taught at the same time what the poets reigned and fabled concerning the nature of the gods was pernicious. This, then, was the almost universal rule throughout the world as to the worship of God, and the very foundation of piety -- namely, no deities are to be worshipped except those which have been handed down from our forefathers. And this is the tendency of the oracle of Apollo which Xenophon 3 in the character of Socrates so greatly praises, namely, every city ought, to worship the gods of its own country! For when Apollo was consulted concerning the best religion, with the view of cherishing the errors by which all nations were intoxicated, he commanded them not to change anything in their public devotions, and pronounced that religion the best for every city and people which had been received from the furthest antiquity. This was a wonderful imposture of the devil, as he was unwilling to stir up men's minds to reflect upon what was really right, but he retained them in that old lethargy -- "Ha! the authority of your ancestors is sufficient for you!" The greatest wisdom among the profane was, as I have said, to cause consent to be taken for reason. Meanwhile, those who were supreme either in empire, or influence, or dignity, assumed to themselves the right of fashioning new deities; for we see how many dedicated temples to fictitious deities, because they were commanded by authority. Hence it is by no means surprising for Nebuchadnezzar to take this license of setting up a new deity. Perhaps he dedicated this statue to Bel, who is considered as the Jupiter of the Chaldeans; but yet he wished to introduce a new religion by means of which his memory might be celebrated by posterity. Virgule 4 derides this folly when he says:

And he increases the number of deities by altars. For he means, however men may erect numerous altars on earth, they cannot increase the number of the gods in heaven. Thus, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar increased the number of the deities by a single altar, that is, introduced a new rite to make the statue a monument to himself, and his own name famous as long as that religion flourished. Here we perceive how grossly he abused his power; for he did not consult his own Magi as he might have done, nor even reflect within himself whether that religion was lawful or not; but through being blinded by pride, he wished to fetter the minds of all, and to compel them to adopt what he desired . Hence we gather how vain profane men are when they pretend to worship, God, while at the same time they wish to be superior to God himself. For they do not admit any pure thought, or even apply themselves to the knowledge of God, but they make their will law, just as it pleases them. They do not adore God, but rather their own fiction. Such was the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar, as appears from his own edict.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent to collect all the satraps, generals, and prefects, to come to the dedication of the image, which King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. The name of the king is always added, except in one place, as though the royal power raised mortals to such a height that they could. fabricate deities by their own right! We observe how the king of Babylon claimed the right of causing the statue to be worshipped as a god, while it was not set up by any private or ordinary person but by the king himself. While, the royal power is rendered conspicuous in the world, kings do not acknowledge it to be their duty to restrain themselves within the bounds of law, so long as they remain obedient to God. And at this day we see with what arrogance all earthly monarchs conduct themselves. For they never inquire what is agreeable to the word of God, and in accordance with sincere piety; but they defend the errors received from their forefathers, by the interposition of the royal name, and think their own previous decision to be sufficient, and object to the worship of any god, except by their permission and decree. With respect to the dedication, we know it to have been customary among the heathens to consecrate their pictures and statues before they adored them. And to this day the same error is maintained in the Papacy. For as long as images remain with the statuary or the painter, they ax not venerated; but as soon as an image is dedicated by any private ceremony, (which the Papists call a "devotion,") or by any public and solemn rite, the tree, the wood, the stone, and the colors become a god! The Papists also have fixed ceremonies among their exorcisms in consecrating statues and pictures. Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, when he wished his image to be esteemed in the place of God, consecrated it by a solemn rite, and as we have said, this usage was customary among the heathen. He does not here mention the common people, for all could not assemble in one place; but the prefects and elders were ordered to come, and they would bring numerous attendants with them then they bring forward the king's edict, and each takes care to erect some monument in his own province, whence it may spread the appearance of all their subjects worshipping as a god the statue which the king had erected.

It now follows -- All the satraps, prefects, generals, elders, treasurers, and magistrates came and stood before the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. It is not surprising that the prefects obeyed the king's edict, since they had no religion but what they had received from their fathers. But obedience to the king weighed with them more then reverence for antiquity; as in these times, if any king either invents a new superstition, or departs from the papacy, or wishes to restore God's pure worship, a sudden change is directly perceived in all prefects, and in all countries, and senators. Why so? Because they had neither fear God nor sincerely reverence him, but depend on the king's will and flatter him like slaves, and thus they all approve, and if need be applaud, whatever pleases the king. It is not surprising then if the Chaldean elders, who knew nothing experimentally of the true God or of true piety, are so prone to worship this statue. Hence also, we collect the great instability of the profane, who have never been taught true religion in the school of God. For they will bend every moment to any breezes, just as leaves are moved by the wind blowing among trees; and because they have never taken root in God's truth, they are necessarily changeable, and are borne hither and thither with every blast. But a king's edict is not simply a wind, but a violent tempest, and no one can oppose their decrees with impunity; consequently those who are not solidly based upon God's word, do not act from true piety, but are borne away by the strength of the storm.

It is afterwards added -- A herald cried out lustily, or among. the multitude. This latter explanation does not suit so well -- the herald crying amidst the multitude -- -since there were a great concourse of nations, and the kingdom of Babylon comprehended many provinces. The herald, therefore, cried with a loud voice, An edict is gone forth for you, O nations, peoples, and tongues. This would strike them with terror, since the king made no exception to his command for every province to worship his idol; for each person would observe the rest, and when every one sees the whole multitude obedient, no one would dare to refuse; hence all liberty is at an end. It now follows, -- When ye hear the sound of the trumpet or horn, harp, pipe, psaltery, sackbut, etc., ye must fall down and adore the image. But whoever did not fall down before it, should be cast the same hour into a burning fiery furnace. This would excite the greater terror, since King Nebuchadnezzar sanctioned this impious worship with a punishment so severe; for he was not content with a usual kind of death, but commanded every one who did not worship the statue to be cast into the fire. Now, this denunciation of punishment sufficiently demonstrates now the king suspected some of rebellion. There would have been no dispute if Jews had not been mixed with Chaldeans ,and Assyrians, for they always worshipped the same gods, and it was a prevailing custom with them to worship those deities whom their kings approved. Hence it appears that the statue was purposely erected to give the king an opportunity of accurately ascertaining whether the Jews, as yet unaccustomed to Gentile superstitions, were obedient to his command. He wished to cause the sons of Abraham to lay aside sincere piety, and to submit to his corruption's, by following the example of others, and framing their conduct according to the king's will and the practice of the people among whom they dwelt. But we shall treat this hereafter.

Respecting the required adoration, nothing but outward observance was needed. King Nebuchadnezzar did not exact a verbal profession of belief in this deity, that is, in the divinity of the statue which he commanded to be worshipped; it was quite sufficient to offer to it merely outward worship. We here see how idolatry is deservedly condemned in those who pretend to worship idols, even if they mentally refrain and only act through fear and the compulsion of regal authority. that excuse is altogether frivolous. We see, then, how this king or tyrant, though he fabricated this image by the cunning of the devil, exacted nothing else than the bending the knees of all the people and nations before the statue. And truly he had in this way alienated the Jews from the worship of the one true God, if this had been extorted from them. For God wishes first of all for inward worship, and afterwards for outward profession. The principal altar for the worship of God ought to be situated in our minds, for God is worshipped spiritually by faith, prayer, and other acts of piety. (John 4:24.) It is also necessary to add outward profession, not only that we may exercise ourselves in God's worship, but offer ourselves wholly to him, and bend before him both bodily and mentally, and devote ourselves entirely to him, as Paul teaches. (1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.) Thus far, then, concerning both the adoration and the penalty.

It follows again, -- As soon as the burst of the trumpets was heard and the sound of so many instruments, all nations, peoples, and tongues fell down and adored the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Here I may repeat what I said before -- all men were very obedient to the injunctions of their monarchs; whatever they ordered was obeyed, so long as it did not cause complete ruin; and they often bore the heaviest burdens with the view of perfect conformity. But we must remark how our propensities have always a vicious tendency. If King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded the God of Israel to be worshipped, and all temples to be overthrown, and all altars throughout his empire to be thrown down, very great tumults would doubtless have arisen; for the devil so fascinates men's minds that they remain pertinaciously fixed in the errors which they have imbibed. Hence the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and others would never have been induced to obey without the greatest difficulty. But now, on the appearance of the signal, they directly fall down and adore the golden statue. Hence we may learn to reflect upon our own character, as in a mirror, with the view of submitting ourselves to God's Word, and of being immovable in the right faith, and of standing unconquered in our consistency, whatever kings may command. Although a hundred deaths may threaten us, they must not weaken our faith, for unless God restrain us by his Curb, we should instantly start aside to every species of vanity; and especially if a king introduces corruption's among us, we are immediately carried away by them, and, as we said, are far too prone to vicious and perverse modes of worship. The Prophet repeats again the king's name to shew us how little the multitude thought of pleasing God; never considering whether the worship was sacred and sound, but simply content; with the king's nod. The Prophet deservedly condemns this easy indifference.

We should learn also from this passage, not to be induced, by the will of any man to embrace any kind of religion, but diligently to inquire what worship God approves, and so to. use our judgment as not rashly to involve ourselves in any superstitions. Respecting the use of musical instruments, I confess it to be customary in the Church even by God's command; but the intention of the Jews and of the Chaldeans was different. For when the Jews used trumpets and harps and other instruments in celebrating God's praises, they ought not to have obtruded this custom on God as if it was the proof of piety; but it ought to have another object, since God wished to use all means of stirring men up from their sluggishness, for we know how cold we grow in the pursuits of piety, unless we are aroused. God, therefore, used these stimulants to cause the Jews to worship him with greater fervor. But the Chaldeans thought to satisfy their god by heaping together many musical instruments. For, like other persons, they supposed God like themselves, for whatever delights us, we think must also please the Deity. Hence the immense heap of ceremonies in the Papacy, since our eyes delight in such splendors; hence we think this to be required of us by God, as if he delighted in what pleases us. This is, indeed, a gross error. There is no doubt that the harp, trumpet, and other musical instruments with which Nebuchadnezzar worshipped his idol, formed a part of his errors, and so also did the gold. God, indeed, wished his sanctuary to manifest some splendor; not that gold, silver, and precious stones please him by themselves, but he wished to commend his glory to his people, since under this figure they might understand why everything precious should be offered to God, as it is sacred to him. The Jews, indeed, had many ceremonies, and much of what is called magnificent splendor in the worship of God, and still the principle of spiritual worship yet remained among them. The profane, while they invented gross deities which they reverenced according to their pleasure, thought it a proof of perfect sanctity, if they sang beautifully, if they used plenty of gold and silver, and if they employed showy utensils in these sacrifices. I must leave the rest for tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, since we always wander miserably in our thoughts, and in our attempts to worship thee we only profane the true and pure reverence of thy Divinity, and are easily drawn aside to depraved superstition, -- Grant that we may remain in pure obedience to thy word, and never bend aside from it in any way. Instruct us by the unconquered fortitude of thy Spirit. May we never yield to any terrors or threats of man, but persevere in reverencing thy name even to the end. However the world may rage after its own diabolic errors, may we never turn out of the right path, but continue in the right course in which thou invitees us, until, after finishing our race, we arrive at that happy rest which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Fourteenth

1 That is, instantly. -- Calvin.

2 That is, instantly. -- Calvin.

3 Xenophon in Comment., et Cicero de Legibus, lib. 2:§ 8.

4 AEneid, lib. 7 211, ". et numerum Divorum altaribus addit." Heyne reads "addit;" Calvin, "auget."