“He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Not only to give us an instance of the mighty power and constant faithfulness of the God of the Hebrews, in the deliverance of his confiding people from the decrees of kings, from the violence of fire, from the mouths of lions, and from the jaws of death, were the records made, in the book of the prophet Daniel, which have excited the admiration of the saints in all subsequent ages, but, as we conceive, they were also intended to set forth in metaphor, the important doctrine of the vital union of Christ and his church, and to prefigure what was in the counsel and purpose of God to be more fully developed in the fullness of the dispensation of times.
In replying to the inquiry of our dear brother Montgomery, we might say much in regard to the personal history of the three Hebrew children who were cast into the excessively heated furnace by order of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and draw from their faith and confidence in God, and their fidelity under the most trying circumstances, lessons of great importance to the tried family of God, in all after ages. The inspired writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter, refers to this display of God’s power and providence, as an example of the invincible power of the faith of God’s elect, and classes it among numerous other signal displays of what God hath wrought in days of old, in the defense of his own cause and people.
But we propose briefly to trace in this article what we regard as the figurative import of the subject, and submit such views as we have to the superior judgment of brother Montgomery, and of all who may read.
These three Hebrews or Jews we regard as emblematic of the election of grace, under three dispensations of time, namely, from Adam to Moses, from Moses to the coming of Christ, and from the advent of Christ, or the setting up of his kingdom, throughout the gospel dispensation to the end of the world. While Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, may represent the man of sin, the son of perdition, or rather the spirit which rules and presides over the kingdom of darkness, Babylon, the dominion of this king, with its numerous provinces, is used in Revelation as figurative of anti-Christ, as seated on the scarlet colored beast. At least Babylon will truly represent a place of captivity and bondage to the people of God who are Jews spiritually, and whose circumcision is not outward in the flesh, but in the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God. “For if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Compare this application of the figure under consideration, with what is signified by the three illustrious patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as embodying all the chosen people of God; or what Moses saw displayed in the bush which was, like the three Hebrews, enveloped in the fiery element and yet not consumed, because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dwelt with them in the burning bush, as the form of the fourth dwelt with the Hebrews in the burning fiery furnace. These, with many other striking figures of the Old Testament, exhibit what has ever been witnessed in all ages of the world, namely, that God has chosen his people in a furnace of affliction, and that he is present always with them in all their afflictions to preserve and to deliver them.
In the New Testament we have also substantially the same presentation, in the vision which Peter saw of the sheet which contained the variety of four-footed beasts, and creeping things, which God had cleansed, and which in that case were used to signify to Peter that God had a redeemed, cleansed people in all the kingdoms, and in all the tribes of earth. And as this sheet was at first let down from heaven with all of its contents, so the provisions of grace and salvation contained all the elect of God, before any manifestation was ever made to men on earth, and as the sheet was three times displayed, so the three dispensations of time signified have witnessed the revelations of the bride, the Lamb’s wife, coming down from God out of heaven, and being manifested on the earth as Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world, and which was prepared for the saints before the foundation of the world. And after the third manifestation of the sheet with the same cleansed contents, it was also received together up into heaven, nothing having been added nor aught diminished from what the sheet actually contained when first let down, so we may learn that all the church of God was chosen and sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and ultimately, in the fullness of the dispensation of times, all called with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began; and being all saved and called, and brought experimentally into the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, all are ultimately received up into heaven, as the place of their origin.
The manner in which God’s people are subjected to the fiery trials which Peter says are for the trial of their faith, is well illustrated in the case of the three Hebrews. Their religion and their faith essentially differ from the religion and faith of the world, and their God is quite as distinct from the gods of this world. And while all others can accommodate themselves and their religion to suit the times and fashions of the world, God’s people have always been, now are, and forever will be, a peculiar people. They shall dwell alone, (religiously) and shall not be reckoned with the nations. Because they are the sons of God, the world knows them not, for the world knew not their divine Lord and Master.
Yet unknown though they are by the world, all the religion of the world is originated, planned and designed so as to oppose them. In the getting up of old Nebuchadnezzar s religious excitement, we trace the very elements of the religious excitements which now prevail in modern anti-Christ. First a god, composed of gold, is set up and dedicated, its splendor and cost are well calculated to fascinate the worshipers of mammon, and secure the adoration of the lovers of the precious metal, who bow down before it, and ascribe to it a power to control the destiny of men, as gold and silver are deified by will-worshipers at the present time, who ascribe to such corruptible things the power of securing the salvation of the world. Then to make the golden idol still more popular with the deluded sons of men, every possible appeal is made to their carnal senses. The princes and the nobility, the aristocracy and the rulers of darkness of this world, are called together to lend their aid and influence to the magnificence of the golden deity. All manner of musical instruments which have charms for human or carnal ears, are put in requisition to lend attractions to the scene, and for all those for whom neither the image nor the music have sufficient power to charm, the burning fiery furnace is prepared in order to awe into submission all who have conscientious scruples, and a death warrant is prepared for all dissenters, and the object is the extermination from the earth of all who will not worship the beast or its image. How well our Arminian neighbors have copied the type presented in our text, will be seen by observing the basis of their modern idolatry to be gold, or its equivalent. Money is called for and collected for the professed and undisguised object of saving souls from everlasting perdition. The image assumes the imposing form of a Mission Society, a Tract or a Bible Society, or a combination of all these humanly invented societies as so many heads or horns to the image. The great men of this world, the rich, the learned and the popular, are courted, and the most magnificent and costly temples are built and decorated with all that can charm the carnal eye. Worldly honor, fame and pecuniary emoluments are offered, and then if the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery and dulcimer, are deemed too antiquated for the progressive age, the more modern instruments of organs, bells, fiddles, and such other instruments as are used at the circus and theatre, for attracting the admiration of the thoughtless and the vain, are added.
But with all the attractions of gaudy temples, golden idols, popular and fashionable devotees, musical instruments, foppish preachers, and man-pleasing preaching, modern anti-Christ cannot well do without a large quantity of terror. The furnace must be heated, and the dissenter admonished of his doom if he still refuses to comply with the terms of peace. Fall down and worship the image, and you shall be caressed, but refuse to do so at your peril. Fire and brimstone is lavishly dealt out by modern wire-pullers, and every appeal is made to terrify into compliance the timid and the weak; but where these threats of future wrath fail to intimidate, the rulers of the darkness of this world in rage command that their furnace be heated at least seven times hotter than it is wont to be heated, and the mightiest energies of all the Babylonish agents are commissioned to cast the Hebrews, or those who trust in the living God, into the midst of the burning furnace. To let loose their slanders, reproaches, persecutions, ridicule and proscription upon all who question the real deity of their golden idols.
But thus far all the engines of destruction prepared by the powers of darkness for the extinction of the church of God, have failed, utterly failed, because God is in the midst of his Zion, therefore she shall not be moved, her God will help her, and that right early. He is in the midst of his little flock and where two or three, as in the case of the Hebrews, are gathered together in Christ’s name, though it be in the midst of a burning fiery furnace, there is he also in their midst, as he was in the midst of the three Hebrews in their fiery trial. Before we close, we will remark that the king of Babylon is never to be trusted, his edicts commanding his subjects throughout the provinces of his vast empire to worship the God of the Jews, betrayed the same ignorance and murderous propensity as that commanding them to worship his image. All that the monarchs or governments of the earth are required to do for the church of God, is to let her alone. The God whom we serve is able to sustain his own cause, and to deliver his children out of the hand of the kings and potentates of the earth who shall dare to molest them.
How this heathen king knew that the form of the fourth whom he saw, was like the Son of God, we shall not attempt to explain, only that he was made to see and confess that there was a power there displayed far beyond what any being inferior to the Son of God could display, and like Balaam, he was obliged to speak the words which God put in his mouth.
One word more. These men of God are seen by their persecutors walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt. This has astonished the enemies of God’s people in all ages; the bush is all on fire, but it is not consumed. The fire of opposition rages, and its wrathful flames envelop the saints, but still they walk on at large; the cords by which they were bound hand and foot are burnt off, but they have no hurt, their hair is not singed, nor has the smell of fire attached to them. Their enemies are consumed, but they are delivered and promoted, and show in the sequel of their trial what all the saints of God must witness, that “All things do work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Middletown, N. Y.
July 15, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 118 - 123