28. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted. In him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they not serve nor worship any god except their own God.
28. Loquutus est Nebuchadnezer, et dixit, Benedictus Deus ipsorum, nempe Sadrach, Mesach, et Abed-nego, qui misit angelum suum, et eripuit, servavit, servos suos, qui confisi sunt in ipso, et verbum regis mutarunt, 1 et tradiderunt corpora sua, ne colerent, vel adorarent omnem deum, 2 praeter Deum suum.
This, indeed, is no common confession, but the event proved how suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar was acted on by impulse, without having, the living root of the fear of God in his heart. And I repeat this again, to shew that repentance does not consist in one or two works, but in perseverance, as Paul says, --
"If ye live in the Spirit, walk also in the Spirit."
Here he requires constancy in the faithful, by which they may shew themselves to be truly born again of God's Spirit. Nebuchadnezzar celebrated the God of Israel as if inspired by an enthusiasm, but at the same time he mingled his idols with the true God, so that there was no sincerity in him. So when the impious feel God's power, they do not dare to proceed with obstinacy against him, but wish to appease him by a false repentance, without putting off their natural disposition. Thus we readily conclude Nebuchadnazzar to be always the same, although God extracted from him this confession, -- Blessed, says he, be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego! Why does he not rather speak of him as his own God? This may be excused, had he really devoted himself to the God of Israel, and abjured his former superstitions. As he does not act thus, his confession is worthless; not because he wished to obtain men's favor or good opinion by what he said, but he deceived himself after the manner of hypocrites. He pronounces the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to be blessed if he really felt this, he must at the same time curse his idols, for the glory of the one true God cannot be extolled without all idols being reduced to nothing. For how can God's praise exist without his being solely conspicuous? If any other deity is opposed to him, his majesty is already buried in complete obscurity. Hence we may collect that Nebuchadnezzar was not touched with true repentance when he blessed the God of Israel. He adds, Who sent his angel, and delivered his servants. Here Daniel shews more clearly the absence of conversion in Nebuchadnezzar, and his failure to embrace the God of Israel, and worship him with sound and complete surrender of his affections. Why so? Because piety is always founded upon the knowledge of the true God, and this requires instruction. Nebuchadnezzar knew the God of Israel to be majestic from the display of his power, for he had such a spectacle presented to him as he could not despise, if he wished. Here he confesses that Israel's God was mighty, since he was taught it by a miracle; but this, as I have reminded you, is not sufficient for solid piety, unless instruction is added, and occupies the first place. I allow, indeed, that miracles prepare men to believe, but if miracles only occurred without the knowledge of God being added from his Word, faith will vanish away -- as the example sufficiently remarkable here sets before us. We term the faith of Nebuchadnezzar to be but momentary, because while his senses were fixed upon the miracle, he was content with the spectacle, without inquiring into the character of the God of Israel, and the bearing of his law. He was not anxious about a Mediator; hence he neglected the chief point of piety, and rashly seized upon one part of it only. We clearly observe this in many profane men, for God often humbles them, to induce them suppliantly to fly to him for safety; but meanwhile, they remain perplexed by their own senses; they do not deny their own superstitions, nor regard the true worship of God. To prove our obedience to God, we must, uphold this principle -- nothing pleases him which does not spring from faith. (Romans 14:23.) But faith cannot be acquired by any miracle, or any perception of the Divine power; it requires instruction also. The miracles avail only to the preparation for piety or for its confirmation; they cannot by themselves bring men to worship the true God. This is surprising indeed, when a profane king says the angel was sent by God.
It is sufficiently evident from heathen writings that something was always known about angels. This was, as it were, a kind of anticipation and previous persuasion, since all people are persuaded that angels exist, so that they had some idea of angels., although but a partial one. For, when a short time ago Daniel said the fourth appearance in the furnace was called by the king of Babylon "a son of a god," then, as I have explained it, Nebuchadnezzar professed some belief in angels. He now says more expressly, God sent his angel. As angels afford supplies to the elect and the faithful, I treat the subject here but shortly, since I am not in the habit of dwelling upon ordinary passages. It is enough for the present passage to shew how the impious, who have learnt nothing from either God himself or from piety at large, were yet imbued with these principles, since God is accustomed to use the assistance of angels to preserve his people. For this reason Nebuchadnezzar now says; the angel was sent by God to deliver his servants. He next adds, who trusted in him; and this is worthy of notice, since it is added as a reason why these three men were so wonderfully preserved, through reposing all their hopes on God. Although Nebuchadnezzar was very like a log or a stone with relation to the doctrine of faith, yet God wished by means of this stone and log to instruct us, to inspire us with shame, and to reprove us of incredulity, since we are unable to conform our lives to his will, and to approach all dangers boldly, whenever it becomes necessary. For if we are thoroughly persuaded that God is the guardian of our life, surely no threats, nor terrors, nor death itself, should hinder us from persevering in our duty. But distrust is the cause of slothfulness, and wherever we deflect from a straightforward course, we deprive God of his honor, by becoming backsliders, while some want of faith betrays itself and is palpably apparent. Hence let us learn, if we wish our life to be protected by God's hand, to commit ourselves entirely to him, since he will never disappoint us when we confide in him. We saw how doubtful about the event Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were; but their doubt did not diminish their hope and confidence. They were placed in this alternative -- either God will take us from rite furnace, or, if we must die, he will preserve us for some better state, and gather us into his kingdom. Although they dared not persuade themselves that he would notice them yet they reposed their lives in the hand and care of God. Hence they are deservedly complimented by Nebuchadnezzar, when he said, -- They trusted in their God, and afterwards, they changed the king's edict, that is, reduced it to nothing, and abrogated it, because they were endued with greater power. For whoever rests in God, easily despises all mankind, and whatever is lofty and magnificent in the world. And this context is worthy of observation, since faith ought to be put as a foundation, and then fortitude and constancy must be added, with which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were endowed; because any one who reposes upon God can never be moved aside from the discharge of his duty; and however numerous the impediments which may occur, he will be borne aloft on the wings of his confidence. He who knows God to be on his side, will be superior to the whole world, and will neither wonder at the scepter and diadems of kings, nor dread their power, but rather surpass all the majesty of the earth which may oppose him, and never to turn aside from this course.
He afterwards adds, they delivered up their bodies instead of worshipping or adoring any god except their own God. That very thing which the king is compelled to praise in these three men, at this day many who boast themselves to be Christians wish to escape. For they fancy their faith to be buried in their hearths, and bring forth no fruit of their profession. There is no doubt God wished these things to be related by his Prophet, to shew the detestable cunning of those who wish to defraud God of his lawful honor, and at the same time shelter themselves from his gaze, lest he should notice their insult. Such as these are unworthy of being convinced by the word of God, but Nebuchadnezzar is here appointed their master, censor, and judge. And we must diligently remark this, -- Nebuchadnezzar praises these three, because they refused to worship any other god except their own. Why then did he mingle together a great multitude of deities? For he did not depart from his own errors and give himself up entirely to the God of Israel, and embrace his worship in its purity. Why then does he praise in others what he does not imitate? But this is far too common; for we see virtue praised and yet frozen to death, as in this instance, for many are willing to offer him lip-service. (Juvenal, Sat. 1.) Although Nebuchadnezzar seemed here to speak seriously, yet he did not consider himself; but he took away all pretext for excuse, since he could not afterwards pretend ignorance and error, after asserting with his own mouth that no other god ought to be worshipped. Hence he may cause those who now wish to be called Christians to be ashamed, unless they depart far away from all superstitions, and consecrate themselves entirely to God, and retain his worship in its sincerity. We must remember then how King Nebuchadnezzar does not simply praise the constancy of these three men, because he does not acknowledge any god, for he does reckon the God of Israel to be a true deity. Hence it follows, that all others were fictitious and utterly vain. But he spoke to no purpose, because God did not thereby touch his heart, as he usually works in his elect when he regenerates them. It follows, --