« AnteriorContinuar »
nor worship thy golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury—and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated— Then these men were cast into the burning fiery furnace.' Watching the process, the king, at length, 'was asto'nished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast,' &c.
I would collect from this Scripture the following Point of Doctrine :-WHATEVER TRIALS A SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE CALLED TO ENDURE, HE IS SUFFICIENTLY SUPPORTED UNDER THEM, BY THE ASSURED PRESENCE OF AN ALMIGHTY FRIEND.
I. A CHARACTER is here pointed out. It is the servant of God, a man of grace, a believer, who only can endure fiery trials.
There is a holy principle in such a man, which will enable him to endure every fiery trial.
It is difficult to describe in words the feelings of the heart; but we may insist on the principle called Grace, and Faith, and Zeal, and Love.
These are but different operations of the same principle. They are but like the different features of one par
The Scriptures generally describe this principle as the Life of God in the Soul of Man—the being made
partaker of a divine nature—the new creature. It is called Grace, because it is divine grace or favour, that implants it in the soul. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart: He opens the sinner's eyes : He shows him his natural condition : He points to the fulness of grace and mercy in Christ Jesus: He opens his ears, while a proclamation of mercy is made to him: He looses his tongue, and puts 'words into his mouth that he may make a good confession: He strengthens his hand, and gives him work to do-hardening his breast like a flint, when called to endure trials.
When trials come in, therefore, like mighty waves, and threaten to overwhelm such a man as Lot, such a man as Joseph, such a man as Elijah, the principle of grace, the aid of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, enables them to press forward, in the face of all the obstacles which can be opposed to them by the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Trusting to an Almighty Power, and leaving the consequences in God's hand, these men can say, We are not careful to answer in this matter.'
A Christian may be as much tried in the furnace now, as in any past age. Smithfield has lighted up its fires to prove the principle of Grace. Babylon never tried Grace more, than this kingdom tried it, and still does try it. Many a private family has been a fiery furnace to a Christian.
There is, however, a principle implanted in the breast of a servant of God, which enables him to stand fast and abide all consequences. What a proof of this is before us! These three men determined to abide all consequences: but, at the same time, they determined to maintain the faith, and fear, and truth of God.
What instruction, then, is to be derived from this view of the passage? It says—“Expect trials: but
-: fear them not. Shrink not on account of them. Think not your trials mightier than God is, to support you under them. Bow not down to the world's idols, that you may escape the furnace; you will not so conquer; but you will be conquered. “Think it not strange, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,' for it has been the appointed path in all ages. Expect it; and remember the promise, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass : as thy day is, so shall thy strength be.? Tread the footsteps of the flock;' and remember, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
Yet I must know but little of Christianity, if I did
not know how much easier it is to preach on this subject, than to endure the fiery trial. I would ask, therefore, What is to be our support, when God shall call us to a special trial? How are we to enter the furnace? What support shall we find there?
II. The SUPPORT of this sufferer is the second point which we may consider from this Scripture.
We shall see Christ in the furnace. Lo! I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.' He, who enters the furnace for the honour of Christ, shall meet Christ in the furnace.
A question here arises: “When does a man enter the furnace for the honour of Christ ?"
A serious question: for there is no promise to the man who enters it in his own spirit; to gratify his pride, or to support a party. There must be a good cause to make a martyr. Why did these men enter the furnace? . They might have escaped it, but it was set before them with a penalty : they must enter the furnace if they did not bow down to the idol. They were confident of safety, if they entered the furnace to avoid bowing down; but they were not sure of escaping a more dreadful furnace if they did bow down. It was not for THEM, therefore, to turn, though the penalty was so tremendous. They entered thus the furnace for Christ: that is, as believers in the Messiah to come, as witnesses for God and his truth.
Here another question arises: “Was this person, who walked with them, Christ ?”
I answer, that ‘His goings forth were from everlasting—His delights were with the sons of men.? His visits were frequent in the old world, and his visible appearances many. It is said, "The LORD came down-The LORD appeared to Abraham-The LORD wrestled with · Jacob-The Angel OF LORD conversed with Manoah,' but he gave signs of the divine character, that he was the Angel Jehovah.
It is said, “The LORD talked with Moses and the elders of Israel;' yet our Lord told the Jews, that his Father never was visible. No man hath seen God at any time. Who then was the Lord, that was then made visible? Whose goings forth were from everlasting.? Whose delights were with the sons of Men? Who was the Lord that was tempted forty years in the desert? The Apostle tells us that they tempted Christ in the wilderness.
After his coming in the flesh, we find that he arrested Saul the Pharisee: 'Saul, Saul, Why persecutest thou me?' And this same Saul, afterward in his temptation, which was his fiery trial, had no other resource than the grace of Christ. He was in the furnace with him.
It is manifest, therefore, that the person who conducted the whole Mosaic Dispensation was He, whose delights were with the sons of men'-God
Whatever reasons, therefore, the king might have for saying, “The form of the fourth is like the Son of God, whatever he might have learnt from the writings or reports of the Jews, and whatever might be his meaning herein, yet a divine person was found walking with these men: he, therefore, that entereth the furnace for Christ, shall find a divine person walking with him there.
Brethren, when you suffer, see that you suffer for Christ. This will be your honour. Happy are ye, for the Spirit of Glory and of God resteth upon you.' The promise is then to you—When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.' Here was this
' promise literally fulfilled.
I shall never forget the encouragement I received when I was a young man, and had just begun my mi
nistry, when, standing by the dying bed of my mother, I asked her, “Do not you tremble at the thought of entering an unknown world? How do you know what
you shall meet there ?" "It is no matter what I shall meet there. He hath said, 'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt. I will strengthen thee: I will uphold thee.' That satisfies me!"
III. You may gather, thirdly, from this Scripture, the DELIVERANCE, which a suffering servant of God will obtain in fiery trials.
The fire, which makes fuel of every thing not prepared to enter it, only releases the believer, and burns his bonds.
I see,” says the King, “ four men loose! Did not we cast them in bound? The flame has had no effect on them, but it has burnt their bonds. Nay, I see them in the best of company: I see one walking with them like the Son of God."
I have always observed, that, if a man will cleave with purpose of heart to God, God will most peculiarly manifest to him his friendship when most peculiarly needed. I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction—I will make thee a chosen vessel unto me.' Brethren, this declaration, in the full meaning of it, is every day fulfilling. He has walked but a little while in Christianity, who has not seen this. Job was put into the furnace: night and day the man had no peace: he was to be tried in every extremity, except the loss of life. God will bring his followers into the fiery furnace, in order to glorify his name, by their support and deliverance.
Doubtless, he had it in view also to glorify himself, by exposing the idols which the king worshipped ; and showing, that, instead of being gods, they were but creatures in the hand of God.
Whatever, then, others may suffer in trials, if we