4. And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him diligently and to them that keep his commandments.
4. Rt oravi Jehovam Deum meum, et confessus sum, 1 et dixi. Quaeso Domine Deus magne et terribilis, custodiens foedus et misericordam diligentibus ipsum, et custodientibus praecpeta ejus.
Here Daniel relates the substance of his prayer. He says, He prayed and confessed before God. The greatest part of this prayer is an entreaty that God would pardon his people. Whenever we ask for pardon, the testimony of repentance ought to precede our request. For God announces that he will be propitious and easily entreated when men seriously and heartily repent. (Isaiah 58:9.) Thus confession of guilt is one method of obtaining pardon; and for this reason Daniel fills up the greater part of his prayer with the confession of his sinfulness. He reminds us of this, not for the sake of boasting, but to instruct us by his own example to pray as we ought. He says, therefore, he prayed and made confession. The addition of "my God" to the word Jehovah is by no means superfluous. I prayed, he says, to my God. He here shews that he did not utter prayers with trembling, as men too often do, for unbelievers often flee to God, but without any confidence. They dispute with themselves whether their prayers will produce any fruit; Daniel, therefore, shews us two things openly and distinctly, since he prayed with faith and repentance. By the word confession he implies his repentance, and by saying he prayed to God, he expresses faith, and the absence of all rashness in throwing away his prayers, as unbelievers do when they pray to God confusedly, and are all the while distracted by a variety of intruding thoughts. I prayed, says he, to my God. No one can use this language without a firm reliance on the promises of God, and assuming that he will prove himself ready to be entreated. He now adds, I entreat thee, O Lord. The particle ana, ana, is variously translated; but it is properly, in the language of grammarians, the particle of beseeching. O Lord God, says he, great and terrible. Daniel seems to place an obstacle in his own way by using this language; for such is the sanctity of God that it repels us to a distance as soon as we conceive it in the mind: wherefore this terror seems to be removed when we seek a familiar approach to the Almighty. One might suppose this method of prayer by no means suitable, as Daniel places God before his eyes as great and formidable. It seems something like frightening himself; yet the Prophet deserves a due moderation, while on the one hand he acknowledges God to be great and terrible, and on the other he allows him to keep his covenant towards those who love him and obey his statutes. We shall afterwards see a third point added -- God will receive the ungrateful and all who have departed from his covenant. The Prophet joins these two things together.
With reference to the epithets great and terrible, we must maintain what I have already stated, namely, the impossibility of our praying rightly, unless we humble ourselves before God; and this humility is a preparation for repentance. Daniel, therefore, sets before himself the majesty of God, to urge both himself and others to cast themselves down before the Almighty, that, in accordance with his example, they may really feel penitent before him. God, therefore, says he, is great and terrible. We shall never attribute just honor to God unless we become cast down, as if dead, before him. And we ought diligently to notice this, because we are too often careless in prayer to God, and we treat it as a mere matter of outward observance. We ought to know how impossible it is to obtain anything from God, unless we appear in his sight with fear and trembling, and become truly humbled in his presence. This is the first point to be noticed. Then Daniel mitigates the asperity of his assertion by adding, keeping his covenant, and taking pity upon those who love him. Here is a change of person: the third is substituted for the second, but there is no obscurity in the sense; as if he had said, Thou keepest thy covenant with those who love thee and observe thy statutes. Here Daniel does not yet fully explain the subject, for this statement is too weak for gaining the confidence of the people; they had perfidiously revolted from God, and as far as related to him, his agreement had come to an end. But Daniel descends by degrees and by sure steps to lay a foundation for inspiring the people with assured trust in the lovingkindness of God. Two points are embraced in this clause: first of all, it shews us there is no reason why the Jews should expostulate with God and complain of being too severely treated by him. Daniel, therefore, silences all expressions of rebellion by saying, Thou, O God, keepest thy covenant. We must here notice the real condition of the people: the Israelites were in exile; we know how hard that tyranny was -- how they were oppressed by the most cruel reproaches and disgrace, and how brutally they were treated by their conquerors. This might impel many to cry out, as doubtless they really did, "What does God want with us? What, the better are we for being chosen as his peculiar people? What is the good of our adoption if we are still the most miserable of all nations?" Thus the Jews might complain with the bitterest grief and weariness of the weight of punishment which God had inflicted upon them. But Daniel here asserts his presenting himself before God, not to cavil and murmur, but only to entreat his pardon. For this reason, therefore, he first says, God keeps his covenant towards all who love him; but at the same time he passes on to pray for pardon, as we shall afterwards perceive. We shall treat of this covenant and the Almighty's lovingkindness in the next Lecture.
Grant, Almighty God, as at the present time thou dost deservedly chastise us for our sins, according to the example of thine ancient people, that we may turn our face to thee with true penitence and humility: May we throw ourselves suppliantly and prostrately before thee; and, despairing of ourselves, place our only hope in thy pity which thou hast promised us. May we rely on that adoption which is founded on and sanctioned by thine only-begotten Son, and never hesitate to come to thee as a father whenever we fly to thee. Meanwhile, do thou so thoroughly affect our minds, that we:may not only pray to thee as a matter of duty, but truly and seriously take refuge in thee, and be touched with a sense of our sins, and never doubt thy propitious disposition towards us, in the name of the same thy Son our Lord. -- Amen.
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, tyrb, berith, and dox, 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: --