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DISCOURSE XIV.

THE LAST WARNING.

DANIEL v. 25—28. And this is the writing that was

written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing : Mene ; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

HISTORY records various premonitions which have been given to men of their approaching fate. In some cases they were the result of malignant artifice, in others the suggestions of faithful friendship. In some cases they were delivered by the oracles of superstition; in others, the presentiment has been supposed to arise from the influence of the divine Spirit ; and in not a few it was the gloomy foreboding of a disordered imagination and of a fearful heart. Such presages have confounded the sagacity of the wise and paralyzed the arm of the brave, and they have produced that inaction, feebleness, and despair, which have secured their fulfilment.

The most famous instance of such premonitions, which is to be found in profane history, is that given to Brutus. When the army which he commanded was about to march into Greece to fight for the freedom of his country, as he sat alone in his tent by a dim light and at a late hour, and while the whole army was sleeping around him, he was surprised by the sudden appearance of a terrible spectre by his side. He asked, What art thou, God or man, and what is thy business with me? To which the phantom replied, “ I am thy evil genius, Brutus, and thou shalt meet me at Philippi !" At that place, Brutus, in shame and despair after defeat, fell upon his sword and died.

How striking is the resemblance betwixt this man's warning and fate, and that of Saul, king of Israel ! When that unhappy man went to inquire of a woman that had a familiar spirit, as to the result of his approaching conflict with the Philistines, the form of Samuel rose before him, and thus addressed him:-“ The Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy; and hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David. More over, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me. If we pass on to Mount Gilboa we shall see Saul perishing by his own hand, after witnessing the discomfiture of his army and the slaughter of his sons.

In the words of our text, we have a warning addressed to a guilty monarch, in a manner too open and public to be ascribed to delusion on his part, or to imposture on that of others,-a warning which silenced in a moment the roar of impious mirth, which no soothsayer pretended to explain, which

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1 Sam. xxviii. 18, 19.

Daniel laid open in all its terrible import, and which the transactions of the succeeding night did most fully and fatally realize. This is a passage rich in instruction, and may we all learn from it not to be high-minded, but to fear.

In this discourse I shall make some remarks explanatory of this warning, and shall then illustrate some of the important lessons which it suggests.

I. In making some remarks explanatory of this vision, I observe, in the first place, that it was an intimation to Belshazzar of the termination of his reign. It announced to him, not merely a calamity by which his throne might be shaken, or a banishment and captivity from which he might return, and resume his power, but its final close. His courtiers had flattered him with the assurance of a long and prosperous reign; and this was a hope he had fondly cherished and proudly maintained; but now he is told that his reign was come to an end, and should be terminated in his destruction. This was not directly expressed, but it was implied in the warning. At that period the sparing of the lives of captive princes was rare, and the establishment of a new dynasty was thought to be most effectually secured by the slaughter of all the connexions of the old. The doubling of this word intimated the absolute certainty of the predicted ruin. In this warning, too, it was intimated, , that his kingdom should be given to the rivals whom he hated, whose siege of his capital he had hitherto resisted with success, and whose power and skill he had lately so presumptuously defied. This is a cir

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cumstance which has often imbittered the last hours of falling greatness, that its honours should adorn the head of a rival, and that they should enjoy those scenes of delight which they had prepared for themselves. Such was the intimation which was made to Saul, when he was told that David, the object of his jealousy and hatred, should succeed him in the throne from which he was to be cast down in disgrace and ruin. Whatever the world may say to flatter the prosperous in their course, it hath no anticipations to encourage them in its close.

2. In this warning of Belshazzar there is an intimation of Jehovah's estimate of the worthlessness of his character: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and thou art found wanting.” In these words there is supposed to be an allusion to a custom which long prevailed in some kingdoms of the East, of weighing the monarch in a balance, in the presence of his grandees, on the return of his birth-day. A traveller mentions his being present at a scéne of this kind, and says,--" That the scales in which the king was weighed were plated with gold, and so was the beam on which they hung, by great chains, made likewise of that precious metal. The king, sitting in one of them, was weighed first against silver, then was he weighed against gold, and after that against jewels, laid in silken bags, on the contrary scale. By his weight, of which the physicians keep yearly an exact account, they presume to guess the present state of his body, of which they speak flatteringly, however they think it to be."

But we must understand this part of the warning, not merely as an intimation from Heaven that he was near to death, in opposition to the flattering assurances of length of days which he was accustomed to receive from his physicians, but that, in opposition to the eulogies heaped on him as if he was the best of kings, Jehovah declared him destitute of all true excellence, and charged him with the grossest wickedness. He had fancied himself superior to all human control.. No voice of censure had ever reached his ear; nor was he aware that his subjects of all ranks looked to him with any other feelings than those of unmingled admiration. Now he is told that the omniscient God had marked all his feelings, and schemes, and conduct ; that to him he was responsible, and must quickly give an account; and that, whatever he might think of himself, in the long-cherished presumption of his heart, the Ruler of the World had condemned him as a sinner, whose transgressions were aggravated by the station he had disgraced, and by the mercies which he had abused.

3. In this warning the connexion betwixt his sins and his punishment is strongly marked. It is placed in the middle of it, to intimate, that for his wickedness were these judgments denounced, and that it was this which was hurrying him to ruin. God doth neither threaten nor punish, as man sometimes does, from caprice, but from the dictates of strict and impartial justice ; and while earthly monarchs have sometimes punished without assigning any reasons, and in other cases upon false accusations, God renders to every man according to his deeds. In the case of sentences and punishments among men, the consciousness of innocence hath sometimes borne up the

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