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sufferer, and lightened the sensations of fear, and pain, and shame: but this cannot be the case with those which proceed from the Judge of all the earth; and while Belshazzar heard this warning, he felt that it was as impossible to repel this charge as to escape this doom. Men in passing sentence sometimes employ strong terms in describing the offender's crime, and in some cases may have used the language of exaggeration, but Jehovah's warnings are expressed with simplicity, and are felt more terrible on that account, as requiring no pomp of words to stamp them with solemnity or to heighten their terror.
4. It was a warning in which no hope of mercy was exhibited. There was not merely no intimation that it was possible, by any particular course, to escape the impending destruction, but no direction was given how his soul might be saved from the wrath to come. In various warnings of Scripture we find this expressed; but in this one there is not the least gleam of salvation. When Daniel had interpreted the dream to his grandfather, he concluded thus: "O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity;"* but he gave no exhortation of this kind to Belshazzar; for he was aware that for him there was no hope. But it may be said, Why was this warning given if his case was desperate? To this it may be answered, that it was an open testimony of the displeasure of Jehovah at the contempt
which had been manifested to his name and worship, and was adapted to make the strongest impression in favour of the true religion on the successful besiegers.
In the warning given to Saul there was no admonition to repentance, and in Christ's warnings to Judas he holds not up to him the least idea of mercy. When he foretold to Peter his shameful fall, he said to him, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren;" but to Judas he saith, "The Son of man goeth, as it is written of him: but wo to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."* There are persons still who, by their audacious contempt of holy and merciful admonitions and restraints, have so provoked God, that for them "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful lookingfor of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
5. It was the last warning which Belshazzar received. He had received many admonitions already, in the various references which had been made before him to the signal chastisement of his grandfather; in the rebukes of his own conscience; in the disasters of his reign; in the approach of the enemy that was encamped around his capital; and in the various attempts they made to enter it: but these had all been disregarded. Instead of being humbled, he had become more audacious, and, instead of trembling for his throne and for his life, he had anticipated nothing
* Matt. xxvi. 24.
but the destruction of his enemies, and the extension of his empire. The Monitor, who had long struggled with him, had now written the last sentence, and uttered the last voice of admonition, and he was now abandoned of God to his fate.
6. It was quickly realized in Belshazzar's ruin. Twelve months elapsed betwixt the warning given to Nebuchadnezzar, and his expulsion from human society to all the degradation of wild insanity; but in that very night after this warning was Belshazzar slain. When we think how the respite of twelve months after his warning was of no avail in bringing his grandfather to repentance, we will see no reason to imagine that any delay would have made Belshazzar more wise. When Jonah cried in Nineveh, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" word came to the king, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes, and called his people to fasting and prayer; and though no intimation of mercy was given in the warning of Jonah, they said, "Who can tell if God will turn, and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" But no such grief was felt, no such mandate was issued by Belshazzar. We see indeed in his conduct to Daniel some indications of honourable feeling. He did not act like Ahab when he gave this order respecting Micaiah, who foretold his defeat and fall at Ramothgilead, Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction, until I return in peace;" but conferred on Daniel the rewards he had promised. If he did this to propitiate
the God whom he served, it was the only measure he adopted for that purpose, and it was impossible that, after such a warning, he could have much hope of its efficacy.
II. Let us now set before you some of the important lessons which this warning suggests.
1. It shows us, that it is the province of Jehovah to fix the continuance, and to bring to a close the power of empires. Beyond the period which he hath set for their continuance, no wealth, nor skill, nor valour, can prolong their existence. He employs instruments in the subversion of empires, and beyond them superficial inquirers never look; but it is Jehovah who calls them forth to action, and gives them direction and vigour. Is a kingdom overthrown by the rising of its subjects? It is he that loosens them from the restraints which kept their violent passions in awe, and permits them to rush to the most destructive excesses. Is it overthrown by the assaults of potent enemies from without? It is he who summons them to the field, and prepares their way before them.
In speaking of the revolutions of kingdoms, the wise men of this world confine their attention to the oppressions which made the yoke of princes intolerable; to the artifices by which the hearts of subjects were alienated from their rulers; to those habits of luxury which enervated them, and rendered them an easy prey: but let us recollect that these and other causes are guided by his hand who hath wisdom and might for his; who changeth the times and the seasons; who removeth kings, and who setteth up kings. Let
it not be thought that this representation gives a license to rebellion in states, or to their invasion by neighbouring powers. In such scenes men act, not with a view to God's purposes, for they know them not, and have no intention to fulfil them, but from the impulse of their own passions, and an overruling Prodence makes the wrath of man to praise him. Afflicted nations may be comforted by this truth,— Riches are not for ever, neither doth a crown endure to all generations. They may live to hear the cry,"How hath the oppressor ceased!" or should they die in a land of bondage, their children may be free.
The history of the world presents us with other instances, besides this one in the text, of God's terminating kingdoms and dynasties. Empires, which seemed likely to stand while sun and moon endured, have crumbled down like a house of clay, and not a trace remains that here their palaces stood, their ships rode, or their banners waved. How quickly did the empire of Alexander fall to pieces! His death was the signal for disunion among his generals; and the dominion which had been hastily acquired was as hastily lost. In our own day the empire of France seemed likely to spread its power over the whole continent of Europe, and nation after nation we saw lured by its arts, or subjugated by its arms; nought but Britain remained the opponent of its ambition and rapacity; but how quickly did its influence pass away! Its galling yoke was broken in pieces by the nations over whose necks it was fixed. That nation is now confined to its former limits, and its leader in battle and conquest has perished as an exile and a cap