Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Daniel, a Man Greatly Beloved
By Thomas Ken (16371711)
From a Sermon preached at Whitehall 1685
YOU have seen how Daniel served his God; and you are next to see how he served his prince, I may add, the people too; for the prince and the people have but one common interest, which is the public prosperity; and none can serve the prince well, but he does serve the people too: and Daniel served his prince and not himself; the love of God had given him an utter contempt of the world. And this made him despise Belshazzars presents, Thy gifts be to thyself, and thy rewards give to another; to show, that it was a cordial zeal for the king and not self-interest, that inclined him to his service. This was evident in all his ministry; insomuch, that when the Medean presidents and princes combined in his destruction, he had so industriously done the kings business, was so remarkably righteous a person, so faithful in the discharge of his duty both to king and people, so beneficent to all, so sincerely sought the good of Babylon, was so forward to rescue an injured innocence, as he did Susanna; so tender of mens lives, that he was never at rest till he saved all the wise men of Babylon, when the decree was gone out for their massacre; so careful of their peace and prosperity that he sat in the gate of the king to hear every mans cause, and with great patience and assiduity to do justice to all: he had behaved himself so irreproachably, that they could find no occasion nor fault in him concerning the kingdom; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
For this reason, when no accusation, no slander could stick on him from the law of the land, the conspirators resolve to take advantage against him from the law of his God, and put Darius upon making that impious decree, That whoever should ask any petition of God or man for thirty days together, save of the king, should be cast into the den of lions. It was a decree which was one of the greatest pieces of flattery imaginable: nothing could better please a proud infidel king, than to be deified. It was the most opportune device in the world, to try whether the Babylonians would pay an entire obedience to their new Medean emperor: it was a kind of idolatry, the most plausible that could be invented. To worship an idol, such as Bel, or such as Nebuchadnezzars golden image was, that had been a test too gross; and a man may much more rationally worship himself than a creature of his own making. To worship an animal that had motion and strength, such as the dragon, was better than to worship a lifeless trunk; yet this had been to sink the worshipper infinitely beneath the beast he worshipped; but to worship a king, that is much more defensible; the very statues of kings have been venerated, even by Christians, and met with solemn processions and placed in their very temples; insomuch, that from the honour there paid to the images of emperors, an analogical inference was afterwards made, for the introducing of the images of saints and martyrs in churches. But to worship the king himself, seems much more allowable, especially such a king, the greatest monarch on earth, who has power of life and death, who in dominion, in rewards and punishments, was the liveliest image of God in the world; who was able to hear and grant the petitions there offered him; if any idolatry can be excusable or venial, it is certainly this. And nothing could ever be thought on, so ensnaring to Daniel, as this project of the Medean princes. Not to worship the king had been to show him a personal dishonour; and it was grievous for Daniel personally to affront Darius, who had been so gracious, and indulgent a master to him. Not to pray to God for thirty days together, and yet to pray to the king in his stead, had been all the while to renounce God, and to exalt a creature into his throne. On the one hand, the den and the lions threaten him; on the other, the bottomless pit, and the damned spirits.
In this strait in which Daniel was, could no expedient be found? What if he had worshipped the king, that worship might be interpreted allegiance, rather than idolatry; or it was only worshipping God in the king that represented him; or he might for thirty days together petition the king to repeal his ungodly decree, and to worship the true God; and all the time, secretly, and in a corner, or mentally, he might have worshipped God; any one of these expedients had reconciled all, had gratified the king, secured Daniel, and defeated all his enemies. But Daniel knew none of these salvos, none of these reserves and evasions; he durst not deny God and scandalise all good people, by giving that divine worship to the king which was due only to God. Religion was his tenderest care, and he had hitherto kept it inviolable; and would never communicate with either the Babylonian or the Medean or the Persian idolatries. A great love made him greatly zealous for God his beloved; and the more publicly God was dishonoured, the more publicly Daniel resolved to own him; and prayed three times a day in his chamber, on his knees, more conspicuously than ever, with his windows open towards Jerusalem; not for ostentation, but example. When his duty to God, and obedience to his king stood in competition, though it was an inexpressible grief to the good man, that ever there should be such a competition, he obeyed God, and patiently suffered the kings displeasure, in being cast into the lions den, from whence God did miraculously deliver him; and even the king himself, by congratulating his deliverance and destroying his enemies, showed afterwards that he loved Daniel the better for loving his God better than his king; for sagacious princes best measure the fidelity of their subjects, from their sincerity to God.