19. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
19. Tunc rex in aurora, 1 surrexit cum illucesceret, et in festinatione, 2 ad speluncam leonum venit.
20. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
20. Et cum appropinquasset ad foveam, ad Danielem in voce tristi, aut, lugubri, clamavit, loquutus est rex, et dixit Danieli, Daniel serve Dei viventis, Deus tuus quem tu colis ipsum jugiter, an potuit ad servandum te a leonibus? 3
Here the king begins to act with a little more consistency, when he approaches the pit. He was formerly struck down by fear as to yield to his nobles, and to forget his royal dignity by delivering himself up to them as a captive. But now he neither dreads their envy nor the perverseness of their discourse. He approaches the lions' den early in the morning, says he, -- that is, at dawn, before it was, light, coming during the twilight, and in haste. Thus we see him suffering under the most bitter grief, which overcomes all his former fears; for he might still have suffered from fear, through remembrance of that formidable denunciation, -- Thou wilt no longer enjoy thy supreme command, unless thou dost vindicate thine edict from contempt! But, as I have said, grief overcomes all fear. And yet we are unable to praise either his piety or his humanity; because, though he approaches the cave and calls out, "Daniel!" with a lamentable voice, still he is not yet angry with his nobles till he sees the servant of God perfectly safe. Then his spirits revive, as we shall see; but as yet he persists in his weakness, and is in a middle place between the perverse despisers and the hearty worshippers of God, who follow with an upright intention what they know to be just.
Grant, Almighty Father, since thou shewest us, by the example of thy servant Daniel, how we ought to persevere with consistency in the sincere worship of thee, and thus proceed towards true greatness of mind, that we may truly devote ourselves to thee. May we not be turned aside in any direction through the lust of men, but may we persist in our holy calling, and so conquer all dangers, and arrive at length at the fruit of victory -- that happy immortality which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
WANT of time compelled me to break off our last Lecture at the point where Daniel relates how the king approached the cave. Now he reports his words, -- O Daniel, servant of the living God! thy God whom thou worshipest constantly, has he been able to deliver thee? says he. Darius declares the God of Israel to be the living One. But if there is a living God, he excludes all those imaginary deities whom men fancy for themselves by their own ingenuity. For it is necessary that deity should be one, and this principle is acknowledged by even the profane. However men may be deluded by their dreams, yet they all confess the impossibility of having more gods than one. They distort, indeed, God's character, but they cannot deny his unity. When Darius uttered this praise of the God of Israel, he confesses all other deities to be mere fictions; but he shews how, as I have said, the profane hold the first principle, but afterwards allow it to escape entirely from their thoughts. This passage does not prove, as some allege, the real conversion of King Darius, and his sincere adoption of true piety; for he always worshipped his own idols, but thought it sufficient if he raised the God of Israel to the highest rank. But, as we know, God cannot admit a companion, for he is jealous of his own glory. (Isaiah 42:8.) It was too cold, then, for Darius simply to acknowledge the God whom Daniel worshipped to be superior to all others; because where God reigns, all idols must of necessity be reduced to nothing; as also it is said in the Psalms, Let God reign, and let the gods of all nations fall before him. Darius then proceeded so far as to devote himself to the true and only God, but was compelled to pay the greatest respect to Israel's God. Meanwhile he always remained sunk in his own superstitions to which he had been accustomed.
He afterwards adds, Thy God, whom thou worshipest continually, could he free thee from the lions? He here speaks doubtfully, as unbelievers do, who seem to have some ground for hope, but no firm or sure persuasion in their own minds. I suppose this invocation to be natural, since a certain secret instinct naturally impels men to fly to God; for although scarcely one in twenty leans upon God's word, yet all men call upon God occasionally. They wish to discover whether God desires to assist them and to aid them in their necessities; meanwhile, as I have said, there is no firm persuasion in their hearts, which was the state of the mind of King Darius. Could God deliver thee? says he; as if God's power could possibly be doubted! If he had said, Has God delivered thee? this would have been tolerable. For God was not bound by any law to be always snatching his people from death, since, we very well know, this rests entirely with his good pleasure. When, therefore, he permits his people to suffer under the lusts of the impious, his power is by no means diminished, since their liberation depends upon his mere will and pleasure. His power, therefore, ought by no means to be called in question. We observe, that Darius was never truly converted, and never distinctly acknowledged the true and only God, but was seized with a blind fear, which, whether he would or not, compelled him to attribute the supreme honor to Israel's God. And this was not an ingenuous confession, but was rather extorted from him. It now follows: --