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the power of their arms.
He encourages & spirit of repentance, and animates them to return to the service of the God of Jacob, by representing, in a prophetic vision, the rebuilding of the temple, and restoration of the true wor; ship, the destruction of idolatry, as well as their happy possession of the abode of their ancestors,
Although the prophecies of Daniel chiefly relate to future times, and to events in which Gentile nations were to become partakers, the services which he rendered to the captive Jews were eminently great. The superiority of his wisdom over all the men in the realm, renowned for that quality; the facility with which he interpreted dreams that were inexplicable by others; his conscientious adherence to the worship of the true God, in defiance of every threat and every suffering, not only raised his seputation in the court of his sovereign, but extended their beneficial effects over the children of the captivity. When " the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon," we may rest assured, that he would seek the prosperity of the Lord's people. We learn accordingly, that he obtained leave to place Shadrach, Meshach;
and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon. When his enemies sought his destruction, by a proposal with which they knew he could not comply, but to which the king, in an hour of vanity, consented, the persevering piety of Daniel gained him an universal conquest. He was miraculously preserved from the destruction which his enemies thought to be inevitable, while they were caught in the snare they had invidiously laid ; and this miraculous preservation not only triumphed over the decree of the sovereign, but over his mind also. He was taught by it to revere the God of the Hebrews; for “ he made a decree that in every dominion of his kingdom, men should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel." A decree of this kind, rendered the captives honourable in the eyes of their conquerors ; was a pledge that they would be treated with the kindness, which should enable them to bear their captivity with patience, and prepare the way for their subsequent release.
Upon the eve of their return to Judea, and during that important period, the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi, were raised up to persuade, animate, counsel, reprove, assist. . By their aid the people were enabled to forin the boldest resolutions, and encounter many perils ; thus did they finally rebuild the temple, and reinstate the worship of the true God, in the midst of numberless dangers and difficulties.
Through the whole of the divine ceconomy respecting this people, from their emigration out of Egypt to their return from the Babylonish captivity, embracing a period of nearly nine hundred years, a succession of holy men and prophets was thus appointed, who were endowed with qualifications precisely adapted to the exigencies of every stage. Notwithstanding the diversity of their gifts, the object
It was uniformly their aim to preserve or reinstate true religion; and to counteract the disposition to apostatize that was so prevalent among this people. They were authorized to direct, to counsel, to punish, to predict punishment, to encourage or to reward, ac. cording to the exigencies of the case, or the tenor of conduct. Some of these prophets were enabled to penetrate deeply into futurity. They foresaw calamities in the midst of prosperity; destruction in the midst of security; and future deliverance through the gloom of present consternation and distress. Although many of their predictions were expressed in figurative and obscure terms, yet no obscurities concealed the judgments which were denounced against impiety, or the promises of felicity to the obedient. The style and manner of these prophets were perfectly adapted to the character of those ruder times, and to the capacities and conceptions of an ignorant and perverse people, while they possessed an elevation suited to the cause which animated their breasts, soaring far beyond compositions merely human. To conquer the prevalent insensibility of this people, they borrow images and allusions from every part of nature, from every habit and custom with which the people were most familiar, and which were most correspondent with their prevalent ideas. As powerful hurricanes will rouse chaff and dust from the earth, to a height that creates sublimity, thus did the impetuous. earnestness of their expostulations, give an elevation and grandeur to images most adapted to the comprehension of the populace, without stooping to a refined attention to the materials of which they were composed. Sometimes with an indignant tone, and in sarcastic language, they pour contempt upon the folly of " saying to the work of men's hands, be ye our gods.” Sometimes they attempt to alarm and terrify by a denunciation of judgments; and to inspire reverential awe by representing the
Creator of all things, in the plenitude of his power, and insuperable majesty. At others, their counsels, reproofs, admonitions, were delivered in such pathetic strains of eloquence, as must have affected every mind that was not callous to the influence of moral suasion. The adorable attributes of the God who demanded their service, are placed in contrast with the contemptible images, and nonentities, whom the heathens vainly worshipped. The infinite benignity of his nature, is opposed to the ferocity of the gods that required human victims, and inspired their votaries with insufferable terror. To win upon the ingenuous affections of the heart, they condescend to expostulate, as if they were asking a favour in behalf of the great Jehovah ; as if his felicity could be augmented by their welfare. In a word, the grandeur, the importance of true religion, the stupidity of pagan superstitions, and the still greater stupidity of the Israelites in giving them the preference, are represented in such animated language, that nothing remained to complete the folly of this obdurate people, but the prevalent indifference and contempt with which such admonitions were received.
Yet these pious efforts were not in vain. They greatly checked the profligacies of the