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Daniel 1:16

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat … - Doubtless permanently. The experiment had been satisfactory, and it was inferred that if the course of temperance could be practiced for ten days without unhappy results, there would be safety in suffering it to be continued. We may remark on this:

I. That the experiment was a most important one, not only for the object then immediately in view, but for furnishing lessons of permanent instruction adapted to future times. It was worth one such trial, and it was desirable to have one such illustration of the effect of temperance recorded. There are so strong propensities in our nature to indulgence; there are so many temptations set before the young; there is so much that allures in a luxurious mode of life, and so much of conviviality and happiness is supposed to be connected with the social glass, that it was well to have a fair trial made, and that the result should be recorded for the instruction of future times.

II. It was especially desirable that the experiment should be made of the effect of strict abstinence from the use of “wine.” Distilled liquors were indeed then unknown; but alcohol, the intoxicating principle in all ardent spirits, then existed, as it does now, in wine, and was then, as it is now, of the same nature as when found in other substances. It was in the use of wine that the principal danger of intemperance then lay; and it may be added, that in reference to a very large class of persons of both sexes, it is in the use of wine that the principal danger always lies. There are multitudes, especially of young men, who are in little or no danger of becoming intemperate from the use of the stronger kinds of intoxicating drinks. They would never “begin” with them. But the use of “wine” is so respectable in the view of the upper classes of society; it is deemed so essential to the banquet; it constitutes so much, apparently, a mark of distinction, from the fact that ordinarily only the rich can afford to indulge in it; its use is regarded extensively as so proper for even refined and delicate females, and is so often sanctioned by their participating in it; it is so difficult to frame an argument against it that will be decisive; there is so much that is plausible that may be said in favor or in justification of its use, and it is so much sanctioned by the ministers of religion, and by those of influence in the churches, that one of the principal dangers of the young arises from the temptation to indulgence in wine, and it was well that there should be a fair trial of the comparative benefit of total abstinence. A trial could scarcely have been made under better circumstances than in the case before us. There was every inducement to indulgence which is ever likely to occur; there was as much to make it a mere matter of “principle” to abstain from it as can be found now in any circumstances, and the experiment was as triumphant and satisfactory as could be desired.

III. The result of the experiment.

(a) It was complete and satisfactory. “More” was accomplished in the matter of the trial by abstinence than by indulgence. Those who abstained were more healthful, more beautiful, more vigorous than the others. And there was nothing miraculous - nothing that occurred in that case which does not occur in similar cases. Sir John Chardin remarks, respecting those whom he had seen in the East, “that the countenances of the kechicks (monks) are in fact more rosy and smooth than those of others; and that those who fast much, I mean the Armenians and the Greeks, are, notwithstanding, very beautiful, sparkling with health, with a clear and lively countenance.” He also takes notice of the very great abstemiousness of the Brahmins in the Indies, who lodge on the ground, abstain from music, from all sorts of agreeable smells, who go very meanly clothed, are almost always wet, either by going into water, or by rain; “yet,” says he, “I have seen also many of them very handsome and healthful.” Harmer‘s “Observa.” ii. pp. 112,113.

(b) The experiment has often been made, and with equal success, in modern times, and especially since the commencement of the temperance reformation, and an opportunity has been given of furnishing the most decisive proofs of the effects of temperance in contrast with indulgence in the use of wine and of other intoxicating drinks. This experiment has been made on a wide scale, and with the same result. It is demonstrated, as in the case of Daniel, that “more” will be secured of what men are so anxious usually to obtain, and of what it is desirable to obtain, than can be by indulgence.

(1) There will be “more” beauty of personal appearance. Indulgence in intoxicating drinks leaves its traces on the countenance - the skin, the eye, the nose, the whole expression - as God “meant” it should. See the notes at Daniel 1:15. No one can hope to retain beauty of complexion or countenance who indulges freely in the use of intoxicating drinks.

(2) “More” clearness of mind and intellectual vigour can be secured by abstinence than by indulgence. It is true that, as was often the case with Byron and Burns, stimulating drinks may excite the mind to brilliant temporary efforts; but the effect soon ceases, and the mind makes a compensation for its over-worked powers by sinking down below its proper level as it had been excited above. It will demand a penalty in the exhausted energies, and in the incapacity for even its usual efforts, and unless the exhausting stimulus be again applied, it cannot rise even to its usual level, and when often applied the mind is divested of “all” its elasticity and vigour; the physical frame loses its power to endure the excitement; and the light of genius is put out, and the body sinks to the grave. He who wishes to make the most of his mind “in the long run,” whatever genius he may be endowed with, will be a temperate man. His powers will be retained uniformly at a higher elevation, and they will maintain their balance and their vigour longer.

(3) the same is true in regard to everything which requires vigour of body. The Roman soldier, who carried his eagle around the world, and who braved the dangers of every clime - equally bold and vigorous, and hardy, and daring amidst polar snows, and the burning sands of the equator - was a stranger to intoxicating drinks. He was allowed only vinegar and water, and his extraordinary vigour was the result of the most abstemious fare. The wrestlers in the Olympic and Isthmian games, who did as much to give suppleness, vigour, and beauty to the body, as could be done by the most careful training, abstained from the use of wine and all that would enervate. Since the temperance reformation commenced in this land, the experiment has been made in every way possible, and it has been “settled” that a man will do more work, and do it better; that he can bear more fatigue, can travel farther, can better endure the severity of cold in the winter, and of toil in the heat of summer, by strict temperance, than he can if he indulges in the use of intoxicating drinks. Never was the result of an experiment more uniform than this has been; never has there been a case where the testimony of those who have had an opportunity of witnessing it was more decided and harmonious; never was there a question in regard to the effect of a certain course on health in which the testimony of physicians has been more uniform; and never has there been a question in regard to the amount of labor which a man could do, on which the testimony of respectable farmers, and master mechanics, and overseers of public works, could be more decided.

(4) the full force of these remarks about temperance in general, applies to the use of “wine.” It was in respect to “wine” that the experiment before us was made, and it is this which gives it, in a great degree, its value and importance. Distilled spirits were then unknown, but it was of importance that a fair experiment should be made of the effect of abstinence from wine. The great danger of intemperance, taking the world at large, has been, and is still, from the use of wine. This danger affects particularly the upper classes in society and young men. It is by the use of wine, in a great majority of instances, that the peril commences, and that the habit of drinking is formed. Let it be remembered, also, that the intoxicating principle is the same in wine as in any other drink that produces intemperance. It is “alcohol” - the same substance precisely, whether it be driven off by heat from wine, beer, or cider, and condensed by distillation, or whether it remain in these liquids without being distilled. It is neither more nor less intoxicating in one form than it is in the other. It is only more condensed and concentrated in one case than in the other, better capable of preservation, and more convenient for purposes of commerce. Every “principle,” therefore, which applies to the temperance cause at all, applies to the use of wine; and every consideration derived from health, beauty, vigour, length of days, reputation, property, or salvation, which should induce a young man to abstain from ardent spirits at all should induce him to abstain, as Daniel did, from the use of wine.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The interest we think we make for ourselves, we must acknowledge to be God's gift. Daniel was still firm to his religion. Whatever they called him, he still held fast the spirit of an Israelite. These youths scrupled concerning the meat, lest it should be sinful. When God's people are in Babylon they need take special care that they partake not of her sins. It is much to the praise of young people, not to covet or seek the delights of sense. Those who would excel in wisdom and piety, must learn betimes to keep the body under. Daniel avoided defiling himself with sin; and we should more fear that than any outward trouble. It is easier to keep temptation at a distance, than to resist it when near. And we cannot better improve our interest in any with whom we have found favour, than to use it to keep us from sin. People will not believe the benefit of avoiding excess, and of a spare diet, nor how much they contribute to the health of the body, unless they try. Conscientious temperance will always do more, even for the comfort of this life, than sinful indulgence.
Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 147-50

When the four Hebrew youth were receiving an education for the king's court in Babylon, they did not feel that the blessing of the Lord was a substitute for the taxing effort required of them. They were diligent in study; for they discerned that through the grace of God their destiny depended upon their own will and action. They were to bring all their ability to the work; and by close, severe taxation of their powers they were to make the most of their opportunities for study and labor. MYP 147.1

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Ellen G. White
The Sanctified Life, 21-3

The character of Daniel is presented to the world as a striking example of what God's grace can make of men fallen by nature and corrupted by sin. The record of his noble, self-denying life is an encouragement to our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist temptation, and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the right under the severest trial. SL 21.1

Daniel might have found a plausible excuse to depart from his strictly temperate habits; but the approval of God was dearer to him than the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate—dearer even than life itself. Having by his courteous conduct obtained favor with Melzar, the officer in charge of the Hebrew youth, Daniel made a request that they might not eat of the king's meat or drink of his wine. Melzar feared that should he comply with this request, he might incur the displeasure of the king, and thus endanger his own life. Like many at the present day, he thought that an abstemious diet would render these youth pale and sickly in appearance and deficient in muscular strength, while the luxurious food from the king's table would make them ruddy and beautiful and would promote physical and mental activity. SL 21.2

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Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 241-4

During their three years of training, Daniel and his associates maintained their abstemious habits, their allegiance to God, and their constant dependence upon His power. When the time came for their abilities and acquirements to be tested by the king, they were examined with other candidates for the service of the kingdom. But “among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Their keen apprehension, their choice and exact language, their extensive knowledge, testified to the unimpaired strength and vigor of their mental power. Therefore they stood before the king. “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” MYP 241.1

God always honors the right. The most promising youths from all the lands subdued by the great conqueror had been gathered at Babylon, yet amid them all the Hebrew captives were without a rival. The erect form, the firm, elastic step, the fair countenance, the undimmed senses, the untainted breath—all these were insignia of the nobility with which nature honors those who are obedient to her laws. MYP 241.2

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Ellen G. White
Counsels on Health, 66-9

What if Daniel and his companions had made a compromise with those heathen officers, and had yielded to the pressure of the occasion by eating and drinking as was customary with the Babylonians? That single instance of departure from principle would have weakened their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. Indulgence of appetite would have involved the sacrifice of physical vigor, clearness of intellect, and spiritual power. One wrong step would probably have led to others, until, their connection with Heaven being severed, they would have been swept away by temptation.... CH 66.1

The life of Daniel is an inspired illustration of what constitutes a sanctified character. Bible sanctification has to do with the whole man.... It is impossible for any to enjoy the blessing of sanctification while they are selfish and gluttonous. These groan under a burden of infirmities because of wrong habits of eating and drinking, which do violence to the laws of life and health. Many are enfeebling their digestive organs by indulging perverted appetite. The power of the human constitution to resist the abuses put upon it is wonderful; but persistent wrong habits in excessive eating and drinking will enfeeble every function of the body. Let these feeble ones consider what they might have been had they lived temperately and promoted health instead of abusing it. In the gratification of perverted appetite and passion, even professed Christians cripple nature in her work and lessen physical, mental, and moral power. Some who are doing this, claim to be sanctified to God; but such a claim is without foundation.... CH 66.2

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Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 256

The powers of the youth are mostly dormant, because they do not make the fear of God the beginning of wisdom. The Lord gave Daniel wisdom and knowledge, because he would not be influenced by any power that would interfere with his religious principles. The reason why we have so few men of mind, of stability and solid worth, is that they think to find greatness while disconnecting from Heaven. MYP 256.1

God is not feared, and loved, and honored, by the children of men. Religion is not lived out, as well as professed. The Lord can do but little for man, because he is so easily exalted, is so ready to think himself of consequence. God would have us enlarge our capabilities, and avail ourselves of every privilege to unfold, to cultivate, to strengthen the understanding. Man was born for a higher, nobler life than that which he develops. The period of our mortal existence is preparatory to the life which measures with the life of God. MYP 256.2

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Ellen G. White
My Life Today, 75

Living by Principle Not Inclination

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Daniel 6:4 ML 75.1

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