Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (... continued from file 4) Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Third. I repeated yesterday the last verse of the first chapter, but I did not explain it. The Prophet declares here, that all who dealt deceitfully and unfaithfully with God were under a curse; and at the same time he specifies the kind of fraud practiced; they chose from the flock such as were diseased or defective to offer as sacrifices to God. It was indeed a proof of extreme dishonesty thus perversely to mock God: for as we have seen no man would bear such an insult. Then the Prophet, in order at once to complete what he had begun, distinctly says, that they were all accursed. The verb , necal, means in Hebrew, to think; but it is taken almost at all times in a bad sense: hence interpreters have not improperly rendered it here, deceitful; but the deceit the Prophet meant to express is of this kind - when men craftily contrive for themselves vain pretences; for when they can cover their baseness before the world, they think that they are at the same time absolved in heaven. The Prophet then says, that they who think that they can escape God's judgment by such artifices are under a curse. I come now to the kind of fraud they practised, If there be, he says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb or a ram, when he vows, then what is corrupt he offers to Jehovah. He then means, that though they pretended some religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere and honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow made to God; they thought that they might be reduced to poverty, if they were too bountiful in their sacrifices. Hence then the Prophet proves that they offered to God with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right motive. We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require fat or lean beasts, because God valued either the blood or flesh of animals on its own account, but for the end in view; for these were the performances of religion by which God designed to train up the Jews for the end contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they were so sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to conclude, that they were gross and profane despisers of God, and had no concern for religion. The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith Jehovah, and my name is terrible' among the nations. God declares here that his majesty was of no account among the Jews, as though he had said, "With whom do you think that you have to do?" And this is what we ought carefully to consider when engaged in God's service. We indeed know that it is a vice which has prevailed in all ages, that all nations and individuals thought that they worshipped God, when they devised foolish and frivolous rites according to their own fancies. If then we have a desire to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is; for his majesty will raise us up above the whole world, and cease will that audacity which possesses almost all mankind; for they think that their own will is a law, when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God. The greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not worship him according to the perceptions of our flesh, but offer him only what is worthy of his celestial glory. He again repeats what we have before observed, though it was disregarded by the Jews, - that he was a great king through the whole world. As then the Jews thought that sacrifices could not be offered to God, such as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem, and in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is a great king even in the farthest parts of the world. It hence follows, that God's worship would not be confined to Judea, or to any other particular part of the world; for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now follows CHAPTER 2. 1. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse Your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 1. Et nunc ad vos praeceptum hoc, O sacerdotes,_ 2. Si non audieritis et non posueritis super cor, ut delis gloriam nomini meo, dicit Iehova exercituum, mittam (copula hic abundat) in vos maledictionem, et maledicam benedictionibus vestries, atque etiam maledixi eam (est mutatio numeri, pro eas,) quia non ponitis super cor. Though the priests did not sin alone, yet it is not without reason, as we have said, that they were regarded as the first in wickedness; for it was their office to correct what the people did amiss. Their dissimulation had the effect of encouraging the common people to sin: hence the Prophet accuses them especially as the authors of impiety; and this is what the words intimate, if they are rightly considered. To you, he says, O priests. They might have indeed exonerated themselves, or at least transferred a part of their guilt to others: "Oh! what can we do? for we see that the people are growing cold in God's worship; it is better that imperfect sacrifices should be offered than none at all." As then they might by evasion have somewhat extenuated their guilt, the Prophet the more sharply reproves them and says, To you especially is addressed this command, as they ought to have shown to others the right way; for when they dissembled, their connivance was nothing else but a consent; and thus they divested the people of God's fear, and allowed them to corrupt the whole of religion by offering spurious sacrifices. To you then, he says, that is, "Though the whole people is guilty before God, think not that ye are on this account excused; for it behoves you to check this wickedness, for God has set you over the people as their teachers and guides: as then ye have neglected your duty, whatever others have done amiss, falls justly on your heads. For how has it happened that the people have dared to proceed so far in impiety? even because you have no concern for religion; for God has promoted you to the priesthood for this end - to preserve in integrity the worship of his name; but ye know of all the prevailing profanations, and ye hold your peace: To you then is this command." He then adds, If ye will not hear nor lay it to heart to give glory to my name, &e. He seems here to threaten the priests alone; and yet if any one carefully considers the whole passage, he will easily perceive that this address extends to the whole people, in such a way however that it is in the first place directed to the priests; for as I have said the greater portion of the guilt belonged to them. God then denounces a heavy punishment on the whole people as well as on the priests, even that he would send a curse. But that they might not object and say that they were too severely dealt with, God shows how justly he was displeased with them, because they hearkened not nor attended to his warnings. What indeed is less tolerable than not to hear God speaking? But as many thought it enough to stretch the ear, and then immediately to forget what had been spoken, it is added, If ye lay it not to heart, that is, If ye attend not and seriously apply your hearts to what is said. We see then that the Prophet shows how that God had a just cause for severely punishing them; for it was an impiety not to be borne, when he could obtain no hearing from men. But the Prophet shows at the same time what it is to hear God; he therefore adds the latter clause as a definition or an explanation of the former: for God is not heard, if we receive with levity his words, so that they soon vanish away; but we hear them when we lay them on the heart, or, as the Latins say, when we apply the mind to them. There is then required a serious attention, otherwise it will be the same as though the ears were closed against God. Let us further learn from this passage that obedience is of so much account with God, that he bears nothing less than a contempt of his word or a careless attention to it, as though we regarded not its authority. We must also notice that our guilt before God is increased and enhanced, when he recalls us to the right way, and seeks to promote our welfare by warning and exhorting us. When therefore God is thus kindly careful for our salvation, we are doubly inexcusable, if we perversely reject his teaching, warnings, counsels, and other remedies which he may apply. He now adds, I will send on you a curse; and this curse he immediately explains, I will curse your blessings. The word blessing, we know, means everywhere in Scripture the beneficence or kindness of God. God then is said to bless us when he bountifully supports us and supplies whatever is necessary for us. And hence seems to have arisen the expression, that God by his nod alone can satisfy us with all abundance of good things. By blessings then he means a large and an abundant provision, and also rest from enemies, a healthy air, and everything of this kind. Some think that those prayers are intended, by which the priest blessed the people; but there is no reason for this. God then had manifested his favor to the Jews; he now declares that he will deprive them of all his benefits, that they might know that he is not propitious to them. Blessings then are evidences of God's bounty and paternal favor. But he immediately adds, Yea, I have cursed. By which words he proves their senselessness: for they were not even taught by their evils, which yet produce some effect even on fools, who, according to the common proverb, begin to be wise when they are chastised. God then here reproves the stupidity of the Jews; for they had already been deprived of his benefits, and they might have known by experience that he was not propitious to them, but on the contrary an angry judge; and yet they were touched by no penitence, according to what we have seen in the other Prophets. We now understand the import of the words, and at the same time the object of the Prophet: I will then curse your blessings, and what is more, (so I explain ,ugam,) I have already cursed them: but ye are like blocks of wood or stones; for the very scourges avail nothing with you. He again repeats, because ye lay it not on your heart, in order to show that he could not bear the contempt of his word, for it was, as we have said, a sign of extreme impiety. It follows 3. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. 3. Ecce ego corrumpo (vel perdo) vobis semen (vertunt Graeci, brachium; sed decepti sunt in una litera,) et spergam stercus super facies vestras, stercus solemnitatum vestrarum; et tollet vos ad se (alii vertunt, tollet vos ad ipsum; sed coacta est illa expositio.) He confirms here again what he had said in the last verse, - that they would perceive God's curse in want and poverty. The curse of God is any kind of calamity; for as God declares especially his favour by a liberal support, so the sterility of the land and defective produce most clearly evidence the curse of God. The Prophet then shows, by mentioning one thing, what sort of curse was nigh the Jews, - that God would destroy their seed. Some read, but improperly, "I will destroy you and the seed." I wonder how learned men make such puerile mistakes, when there is nothing ambiguous in the Prophet's words. I will destroy then for you the seed; that is, "Sow as much as you please, I will yet destroy your seed, so that it shall produce no fruit." In short, he threatens the Jews with want and famine; for the land would produce nothing when cursed by God.' But as the Jews flattered themselves on account of their descent, and ever boasted of their fathers, and as that preeminence with which God had favoured them proved to them an occasion of haughtiness and pride, the Prophet here ridicules this foolish confidence, I will scatter dung, he says, on your faces: "Ye are a holy nation, ye are the chosen seed of Abraham, ye are a royal priesthood; these are your boastings; but the Lord will render your faces filthy with dung; this will be your nobility and preeminence! there is then no reason for you to think yourselves exempt from punishments because God has adopted you; for as ye have abused his benefits and profaned his name, so ye shall also find in your turn, that he will cover you with everything disgraceful and ignominious, so as to make you wholly filthy: ye shall then be covered all over with dung, and shall not be the holy seed of Abraham." But as they might have again raised a clamour and say, " Have we then in vain so diligently served God? why has he bidden a temple to be built for him by us and promised to dwell there? God then has deceived us, or at least his promises avail nothing, - "the Prophet gives this answer, " God will overwhelm you with disgrace and also your sacrifices." But he calls them the dung of solemnities, as though he had said, " I will cover you with reproach on account of your impiety, which is seen in your sacrifices." Had the Jews any holiness they derived it from their sacrifices, by which they expiated their sins and reconciled themselves to God: but the Prophet says that it was their special ill-savour which offended God, and which he abominated, because they vitiated their sacrifices. Nor is that to be disapproved which some of the rabbins have said, that the Prophet alludes to the oxen, calves, and rams; for when the Jews from various places brought their sacrifices, there must have been much dung from all that vast number. There is then here a striking allusion to the victims themselves, as though he had said, "Ye think that I can be pacified by your sacrifices, as though loads of dung were pleasing to me; for when ye bring such a vast number, even the place itself, the area before the temple, throws an ill-savour on account of the dung that is there. Ye are then, forsooth! holy, and all your filth is cleansed away by means of this dung. Begone then together with the dung of your solemnities; for I will cast this very dung on your heads." We now perceive what the Prophct means: and emphatical are the words, Behold I; for God by these single words cuts off all those pretences by which the Jews deceived themselves, and thought that their vices were concealed from God: "I myself," he says, "am present, to whom ye think your sacrifices to be acceptable; I then will destroy your seed, and I will also cast dung on your faces; all the dignity which ye pretend shall be abolished, for ye think that ye are defended by a sort of privilege, when ye boast yourselves to be the seed of Abraham: it is dung, it is dung," he says. He afterwards shows what was especially the dung and the filth: for when they objected and said, " What! have our sacrifices availed nothing?" he answers, "Nay, I will cast that dung upon you, because the chief pollution is in your sacrifices, for ye vitiate and adulterate my service: and what else is your sacrifice but profanation only? ye are sacrilegious in all your empty pomps. Since then all your victims have an ill-savour and displease me, and as I nauseate them, (as it is also said in the first and last chapter of Isaiah,) I will heap the dung on your own heads, because ye think it to be your chief expiation." He adds at last, It shall take you to itself; that is, " Ye shall be dung altogether; and thus all your boastings, that ye are descended from the holy Patriarch Abraham, shall be wholly useless; though I made a covenant and promised that you should be to me a royal priesthood, yet the dung shall take you to itself, and thus whatever dignity I have hitherto conferred on you shall be taken away." Let us proceed 4. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. 4. Et scietis quod miserim ad vos hoc mandatum ut sit (vel, ut esset; sed magis placet, ut sit; est, ad essendum, ad verbum; ergo ad essendum pactum meum, si posset dici Latine,) pactum meum cum Levi, dicit Iehova exercituum. Here he addresses in particular the priests; for though the whole people with great haughtiness resisted God, yet the priests surpassed them. And we know how ready men are to turn to evil whatever benefits God may bestow on them. It has been then a common evil in men from the beginning of the world, to exalt themselves and to raise their crests against God, when they found themselves adorned with his benefits: but we know that the more any one is bound to God the more thankful he ought to be, for our gifts are not our own, but the benefits by which God binds us to himself. "What best thou as thine own?" says Paul, " thou best then no reason to glory." (1 Cor. 4:7) This evil however has ever prevailed among men - that they have defrauded God of his glory, and have turned to an occasion of pride the favours received from him. But it is an evil which is very commonly seen in all governors; for they who are raised to a high dignity, think no more that they are men, but take to themselves very great liberty when they find themselves so much exalted above others. Thus kings and those in authority seem to themselves to be above the common order of men, and presumptuously disregard all laws; they think that everything is lawful for them, as no one opposes their willfulness. The same thing is also to be seen in teachers. For when God favored the priests with the highest honour, they became blinded, as it will hereafter be seen, by that favour of God, that they thought themselves to be as it were semi-gods; and the same thing has taken place in the kingdom of Christ. For how have arisen so great impieties under the Papacy, except that pastors have exercised tyranny and not just government? For they have not regarded the purpose for which they have been called into their office, but as the name of pastor is in itself honourable, they have dared to raise themselves above the clouds, and to assume to themselves the authority of God himself. Hence it has been, that they have dared to bind consciences by their own laws, to change the whole truth, and to corrupt the whole worship of God: and hence also followed the scandalous sale of justice. How have these things happened? Because priests were counted as angels come down from heaven; and this same danger is ever to be feared by us. This then is the vice which the Prophet now refers to; and he shows that the priests had no reason to think that they could shake off the yoke, Ye shall know, he says, that to you belongs this command. We indeed see what they objected to Jeremiah, "The law shall not depart from the priests nor counsel and wisdom from the elders." (Jer. 18:18.) These are the weapons by which the Papists at this day defend themselves. When we allege against them plain proofs from Scripture, they find themselves clearly reproved and convicted by God's word; but here is their Ajax's shield, under which they hide all their wickedness, retailing as it were from the ungodly and wicked priests what is related by Jeremiah, "'The law shall not depart from the priests;' we are the Church, can it err? is not the Holy Spirit dwelling in the midst of us? 'I am with you alwavs to the end of the world,' (Matt. 28: 20;) did Christ intend to deceive his Church when he said this to his Apostles? and we are their successors." The Prophet now gives the answer, Ye shall know, he says, that to you, belongs this cornmand. And he adds, not without severity, that my covenant may be with Levi; as though he had said, "On what account are ye thus elated? for God cannot get a hearing for himself, yet ye say that the covenant with Levi is not to be void, as though God had put Levi in his own place, and divested himself of all authority when he appointed that tribe, and made you ministers of the temple and teachers of the people; is he nothing? What was God's purpose when he honoured you with that dignity? He certainly did not mean to reduce himself to nothing, but, on the contrary, his will was, that his own right should remain entire and complete. When therefore I reprove your vices, and show that ye are become vile, and as it were dung, that ye are defiled by everything disgraceful, - when I make these things openly known, I do not violate the covenant made with Levi. God then justly summons you before his tribunal, and strips you of your honour, in order that the covenant he made with Levi may be confirmed and ratified." This is, as I have said, a severe derision. But we may hence learn a useful truth. The Prophet briefly teaches us that the priestly office takes away nothing from God's authority, who requires a pure and holy worship, and that it lessens in nothing the authority of the law, for sound doctrine ought ever to prevail. So at this day, when we resist the Papal priests, we do not violate God's covenant, that is, it is no departure from the order of the Church, which ought ever to remain sacred and inviolable. We do not then on account of men's vices, subvert the pastoral office, and the preaching of the word; but we assail the men themselves, so that due order may be restored, that sound doctrine may obtain a hearing among men, that the worship of God may be pure, which these unprincipled men have violated. We therefore boldly attempt to subvert the whole of the Papacy, with this full confidence, that we lessen nothing from the authority of teaching, nor in any way defraud the pastoral office; nay, order in the Church, the preaching of the truth, and the very dignity of pastors, cannot exist, except the Church be purged from its defilements, and its filth removed. Thus must we say also of those unprincipled men, who are too nearly connected with us, or too near us, and I wish they were wholly extinct in the world: but how many pests conceal themselves under this covering, or under this mask - "What! are we not the ministers of the word?" So say you who are without any principle; I wish ye were in your dung, or in your cells, where formerly ye too much corrupted the world; but now the devil has brought you forth into the Church of God, that ye may corrupt whatever had hitherto remained sound. As then there are many at this day who boast of this honour - that they are ministers of the word, and pastors, and that they teach the gospel, they ought to be checked by this answer of the Prophet - that when all their corruptions are fully and really cleansed away, then confirmed and ratified will be the compact which God would have to be valid with his Church and with the ministers of his word. He then adds an explanation - 5. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. 5. Foedus meum fuit cum eo vitae et pacis; et dedi illi timorem; et timuit me, et a facie nominis mei contritus fuit. The Prophet now proves more clearly how God violates not his covenant, when he freely rebukes the priests, and exposes also their false attempts in absurdly applying to themselves the covenant of God, like the Papal priests at this day, who say that they are the Church. How? because they have in a regular order succeeded the apostles; but this is a foolish and ridiculous definition; for he who occupies the place of another ought not on that account only to be deemed a successor. Were a thief to kill the master of a family, and to occupy his place, and to take possession of all his goods, is he to be accounted his legitimate successor? So these dishonest men, to show that they are to be regarded as apostles, only allege a continued course of succession; but the likeness between them ought rather to be the subject of inquiry. We must see first whether they have been called, and then whether they answer to their calling; neither of which can they prove. Then their definition is altogether frivolous. So also our Prophet here shows, that the priests made pretences and deceived the common people, while they sought to prove themselves heirs of the covenant which God had made with Levi their father, that is, with the tribe itself. "I shall be faithful," says God, "and my faithfulness will be evident from the compact itself; my compact with your father was that of life and peace:' but it was mutual: ye seem not to think that there are two parties in a compact, and that there is, according to what is commonly said, a reciprocal obligation: but I on my part promised to your father to be his father, and I also stipulated with him that he was to obey me, to obey my word, and whatever I might afterwards require. Now ye will have me to be bound to you, and yourselves to be free from every obligation. What equity is this - that I should owe everything to you and you nothing to me? My compact then with him was that of life and peace; but what is your compact? what is it that ye owe to me? Even what the mutual compact which I made with your father Levi and his tribe requires; perform this, and ye shall find that I am faithful and constant in all my promises." I cannot go farther now. PRAYER Grant, Almighty God that as thou hast been pleased to choose us at this day thy priests, and hast consecrated us to thyself by the blood of thine only-begotten Son and through the grace of thy Spirit, - O grant, that we may rightly and sincerely perform our duties to thee, and be so devoted to thee that thy name may be really glorified in us; and may we be thus more and more confirmed in the hope of those promises by which thou not only guides us through the course of this earthly life, but also invites us to thy celestial inheritance; and may Christ thy Son so rule in us, that we may ever cleave to our head, and be gathered as his members into a participation of that eternal glory into which he has gone before us. - Amen. Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (continued in file 6...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-05.txt .