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Here anather 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 THE 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 menGOD THE SON.
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
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 ministry, 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 shewing, that, instead of being gods, they were but creatures in the hand of God.
Whatever, then, others may suffer in trials, if
we can enter into the furnace for Christ's sake, and look for his promised presence therein,--and learn to glorify his Great Name, what have we to fear? We may fear ease and self indulgence: we may fear worldly pleasure and wealth : á sense of our weakness will teach us how much we ought to fear that which is so suited to our corruptions: but, not a hair of the head shall perish, of those who suffer for his Name! Christ will sit as a refiner; and, when he puts us into the fire, we should say to him, “ This trial, this fire, is thy servant. Command it to purify, and let my bonds be burnt thereby. Command it to burn up my lusts, my corruptions; and to set my soul at liberty."
Let us learn, then, Brethren, to stand in the spirit of these men; in the same spirit of dependence which they manifested: and, instead of fearing the trial, let us remember the awful consequences of the alternative.
IV. We may learn, once more, from this passage, that, when God sends to a man that support which he promises in the furnace of affliction, that man becomes a WITNESS for God :-an invaluable beacon, as it were, to a benighted world.
These men gave their testimony, doubtless, for their God: but there was something to be done. The most effectual sermon is sometimes preached by a providence. A minister may, with much
pains, make his point as plain as possible; yet men will feel unconcerned, till God speaks by a fact: and then they seem like persons just awakened.
Such was the case before us. Whatever these men had to say, it made no impression; but when the king saw the fact, he rose up in haste, was astonished, and spake to his counsellors:—men in utter darkness and ignorance, like himself, till this blaze of light burst on their consciences.
Oh, that men, who are so forward to preach to the world, would preach in wisdom! Let them fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life. Oh, that they would walk as the children of God through their trials !—That they would support their Christian Character, and demonstrate the reality of religion: then would they preach effectually; and shew the holy support which they receive, as a light in a dark world.
Experienced Christians have told me, that they were not so much convinced by a preacher, or a book; as by a fact: that they marked, and kept their eye on some humble, upright, pious Christian; living above the world, while greatly tried in it; and demonstrating that he was an overcomer of the world, by the principle of grace within him.
Brethren! if you are called into the furnace of affliction, above all take care with whom you walk there, and how you walk. If you enter the furnace in your own strength, much more from