Dan_9:3-10. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes; 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, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have re-belled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgment: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, bat unto us confusion of faces, as at this day: to the men of Judah, and. to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have ice obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before its by his servants the prophets.
THE time for the captivity of the Jews in Babylon was fixed in the prophetic writings: yet, through the incredulity of all who had any influence among them, it was not known. Daniel, however, who at an early age had been carried captive, and who believed the word of God, studied the prophecies of Jeremiah, and understood from them, that the time of deliverance was nigh at hand; since about sixty-nine years out of the seventy, which was the appointed duration of their bondage, had now elapsed [Note: Jer_25:11-12; Jer_29:10.]. Encouraged by this discovery, and well knowing that the deliverance was only to be obtained by prayer [Note: Jer_29:12-14. with 1Ki_8:46-50.], he set himself with all humility and earnestness to seek the Lord. To himself, at all events, this solemn exercise of fasting and prayer was of great service: for, beyond all doubt, it was the means of strengthening his soul for the trial which he speedily afterwards sustained, when cast into the den of lions [Note: Compare ver. 1. with Dan_6:1; Dan_6:4; Dan_6:16.]. There is reason to suppose, too, that it prevailed in no small degree to bring down upon the whole nation the promised blessing.
The account here given us, will lead me to shew,
The concern which he manifested for the welfare of his own brethren—
Though himself placed in a situation of great honour, he was not unmindful of his Jewish brethren. He longed for their deliverance from their sore bondage; and he sought help for them from Him who alone was able to turn the hearts of kings. Let us mark,
The way in which he sought the Lord—
[“He set his face unto the Lord his God;” doubtless turning towards Jerusalem, according to the direction given by Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In this we see his faith in the Lord Jehovah, whom, by this very act, he acknowledged, in the most appropriate manner, as Israel’s God. To him he turned “in fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” Though exalted to the highest station in the court of Darius, and though now at an advanced period of life, considerably above eighty years of age, he not only sought the Lord in prayer, but imposed on himself these austerities, for the purpose of deepening his humiliation before God, and of obtaining a nearer access to him in his supplications. In this he shewed the sincerity of his heart, and the ardour of his soul; and has set an example to all future generations, of the way in which God is to be sought in behalf of a suffering people, and of the way in which national blessings are to be obtained.]
The views which he had of the Deity whom he addressed—
[He contemplated the Deity in all his diversified perfections, as a God of infinite majesty and holiness, and at the same time of unchanging mercy and truth. “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments!” God had shewn himself “great and terrible” in the judgments he had executed upon them; and to all who shall continue to offend him he will prove “a consuming fire [Note: Deu_4:24.].” Yet “to those who should love him, and obey his commandments,” he would shew mercy, according to the full extent of his covenant which he had made with them in Horeb. It must however be remembered, that the attainment of this character was necessary to justify their claim on him for any one of these mercies: nor did he ever venture to implore these blessings for his people on any other condition than that which God had imposed, and which it became his Divine majesty to require.]
The particulars of the prayer which he presented before him—
[Here we notice his humble confession, and his penitential acknowledgment. In his confession, he reiterates the same idea, in a great diversity of terms: “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled.” He goes on to recapitulate particulars: “We have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments; neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” Now, in this he shewed how deeply he laid to heart the iniquities of the nation. Had his sense of it been light, a single expression of it would have sufficed: but it is of the very nature of deep contrition to abase ourselves, and to feel as if no words could ever express the enormity of our guilt. In like manner, whilst he fully justifies God in all the judgments he had inflicted, be takes to himself all imaginable shame, as the proper portion to every individual of his nation, from the highest to the lowest. And, this also he repeats [Note: ver. 7, 8.], as from the fullest conviction of his soul.]
The grounds on which alone he ventured to hope for mercy—
[It was from God’s mercy alone that he could entertain a hope. In himself, or in his people, he could find nothing wherein to ground a plea: but in God he saw every tiling that could justify an assurance of acceptance for all who should come to him aright. “To God belonged mercy and forgiveness,” as being essential to his nature, and the very delight of his soul [Note: Mic_7:18.]. And, though the greatness of their guilt might seem to preclude them from a hope of mercy, and the severity of God’s judgments might appear to indicate that he was implacably offended with them, he particularly declares, that on neither of these grounds had they any reason to despond; for that mercies and forgiveness, to the utmost extent of their necessities, still belonged to him, notwithstanding they had so grievously rebelled against him.”]
In all of this we see, with most unquestionable evidence,
The concern which we should manifest for our own souls—
For our nation we ought most assuredly to feel as Daniel felt, and to act in their behalf as he acted [Note: This idea should be opened at some length on a Fast-day, in reference to the particular state of the nation at the time.] — — — And now that the time for the restoration and conversion of the Jews is so near approaching, ought not we to make our supplication to God for them in the very way that Daniel did? — — — I hesitate not to say, that our obligation to seek their spiritual and eternal welfare is not a whit inferior to that by which Daniel was impelled to seek their temporal deliverance [Note: This, if it were preached on the subject of the Jews, must, of course, be greatly amplified; if not, it may be altogether omitted.].
The salvation of our souls is at all times, and under all circumstances, an object worthy to be sought with our whole hearts. Let me then urge upon you,
The study of the Scriptures in reference to the great work of redemption—
[Daniel, though immersed in business of the most important nature, found time, yea, made time, for the study of God’s blessed word; and by study he ascertained the period fixed for the Jews’ deliverance from bondage. And should not we, however occupied, find time for the study of the Scriptures, that we may know all that God has spoken respecting that infinitely greater deliverance, the redemption of our souls? The object of his inquiry was nothing in comparison of that to which our attention should be turned. Shall we, then, plead as an excuse, that we have not time? Shall any thing under heaven be suffered to stand in competition with that in which all the glory of God is displayed, and on which the everlasting salvation of our souls depends? I say, it is a shame that the sacred volume, which contains all these mysteries, is so neglected by us, or so superficially and negligently perused. And I call on all of you to lay this matter to heart; and now with all diligence to “search the Scriptures,” in which ye think ye have, and in which assuredly ye have, eternal life revealed to you.]
An application to God for mercy with all humility and earnestness—
[Daniel was considerably above eighty years of age when he arrayed himself “in sackcloth and ashes,” and betook himself, in the most solemn manner, to fasting and prayer. Shall we then account this service too self-denying for us? Did he mourn so deeply for the sins of others, and shall we not mourn for our own? Shall a short ejaculation be thought sufficient for us, when scarcely invention itself could furnish terms sufficient to express his sense of their guilt? Shall we offer excuses for ourselves, when he, the holiest man that day on earth, was filled with shame and confusion of face? Think with yourselves, what would be your feeling, if God now, by revelation, made known to tins assembly all that had ever passed in your hearts? Would you not be filled with contusion? Would you not be glad to hide your heads, aye, and to spend the remainder of your days in solitude, unknowing and unknown? Why then do you not abase yourselves before God? He views you, not as we do, but as ye really are: and if your eyes be opened to discern your real character, I hesitate not to say that you will “lothe yourselves,” yea, and “abhor yourselves in dust and ashes.” Nor will ye account a whole life of prayer and supplication too much to obtain the mercy of your God.]
An entire casting of yourselves upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus—
[Remember, that God must be sought as he is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. The temple, towards which Daniel turned his face, was a type of Christ, “in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells,” and through whom alone the Father is accessible to sinful man. “There is no way to the Father, but through Christ [Note: Joh_14:6.];” “but of those who come to God through him, not one shall ever be cast out [Note: Joh_6:37.].”
You must be especially careful to renounce every other plea. It you rely in any measure whatever on your own righteousness, you never can find acceptance with him [Note: ver. 18.]. If Daniel relied entirely on the mercy of his God, so must you. The Apostle Paul “desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, hut the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Php_3:9.].” Be assured that you must do the same: and if you resemble him in this, you shall, like him, experience the mercy of your God abounding towards you, yea, and super-abounding in proportion as your iniquities have abounded. In particular, guard against limiting the mercy of your God, or accounting the greatness of your sins any ground for despondency: for “mercy belongs to God, notwithstanding you have rebelled against him [Note: 1Ti_1:16. Rom_5:20-21.], and notwithstanding you have so long slighted the offers of mercy which he has “sent you by his servants the prophets.” This is, indeed, a great aggravation of your guilt: but still, in the view of all the guilt you have ever contracted, I declare to you this day, that, provided only you will believe in Christ, and give yourselves up to him, “though your sins have been as scarlet, or of a crimson dye, they shall become white as wool, and white as the spotless snow.”]