Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (... continued from file 6) Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-fifth. We said yesterday, that the priests of the ancient Church were made its guides on the condition that they faithfully discharged their office, and further, that when wicked priests who acted perfidiously in their office boasted of their dignity, this false pretence was to be deemed as nothing, the title being claimed without the reality. These two things we have explained. We must now see whether this applies to the state and discipline of the Christian Church. The Papists deny this, for they wish to rule freely and with unbridled license, and to perform nothing to God, as though their very dignity nullified his authority; but they cannot shake off the yoke, except they deprive God of all his right. Nor is it a wonder that they act in this way; for even under the law the Prophet had a hard contest with ungodly priests, who had fallen away from the duties of their office, their calling being ever in their mouths, though they very far departed from the law which God had prescribed to them. There is therefore nothing new in the case of the Papists, who seek to be free from every law, that they may do whatever they please and despise all reproofs; for they indeed possess power, and that tyrannical and barbarous. But what they say we ought to disregard, for God declares from above what we here read in the Prophet's words, - that he so rules the Church, that he is supreme above all mortals. It was not God's will, most surely, after Christ's coming in the flesh, to abandon the care and government of his Church, nor was it his will to be forced to submit as a private individual. If then the authority of God remains at this day safe and secure, it follows that nothing is changed in this respect as to his right over the priesthood. Whatever authority they pretend, who would be deemed pastors of the Church, they must necessarily so continue in their station as faithfully to perform the office which has been committed to them from above; for as God has raised them to that great honour, so he has also stipulated with them, that they should faithfully rule the Church. But if the Papal clergy compare themselves with the Levitical priests, they will find that the latter had the advantage; for God, as it is well known, instituted an hereditary priesthood under the law. His purpose was, that after the coming of Christ pastors should be made by the suffrages of the Church; but the Levitical tribe claimed this honour as their own right under the law; for God had deposited the right and honour of the priesthood in that tribe. If then the Papists contend that more is due to them than to the Levitical priests, their claim is absurd; for there is no hereditary right, so that sons succeed their fathers in the ministry or pastoral office. We hence see that if a comparison be in this respect made, the priesthood under the law was as to succession far more important. And we know also what God had promised to Aaron and to his successors. From Aaron the dignity passed to the posterity of Phinehas, and he seems to have been favoured, and also his descendants, with an unalienable right. But God here expostulates with the priests, because they had violated the compact; and hence he says that he was no longer bound to them, because they had become covenant-breakers and apostates. Let now the Pope, with all his party, pretend what they please, most certain it is, that all they can allege vanish into nothing compared with the lofty claims which the Levitical priests might have apparently made. The Pope says that the apostolic seat was fixed at Rome, because it was said to Peter, "Thou art Peter," &c. (Matt. 16:18.) I will not stop here to refute trifles of this kind; for there is no need of many words in discussing this point - whether this ought to be confined to the person of Peter, or whether it is to be extended to others; as it is not there stated. He says that Peter was a Roman bishop. Though this be conceded, (which yet can be easily disproved by history,) it does not follow that the primacy by a sort of hereditary right was transferred to all Roman bishops. Hence the succession, of which they proudly boast, is a mere fume. But were we to grant all they require, we must make this exception, - that the priesthood was not fixed to the place, so that every one called the bishop of the Roman Church should at the same time obtain the primacy, and be reputed head of the whole Church. We must also in the second place see what sort of thing is the Papal priesthood; for though that beast appoints his own priests, it follows not that it is the ordination of Christ: nor is it anything like it. For what is a priest under the Papacy? even one who sacrifices Christ, that is, who robs Christ of that honour which the heavenly Father has confirmed to him by a solemn oath. Christ was called a priest; and this honour, as I have just said, was confirmed to him by an oath. All the Papal priests are inaugurated into their office, it at they may sacrifice: "We give to thee power to offer appeasing sacrifices;" for thus they inaugurate them: and such words are suitable to the Papists; for those magical superstitions, which the Romans formerly used, continue still under the Papacy. We hence see, that when we examine the Papal priesthood according to the rule of Christ, it is altogether profane, nay, wholly sacrilegious. But were their calling lawful, were we to grant that they are pastors of the Church, by a continued succession from the apostles, we must yet deny that they are to be allowed to claim all kinds of liberty and to tyrannize over the Church without being reproved; for whence do they derive such a privilege? We therefore in short draw this conclusion - that what we read here of the Levitical priests not only applies to the Papal priests, but also bears with much more force against them; for they have no hereditary honour, their calling is not true nor legitimate, and they cannot be counted the pastors of the Church; on the other hand, they deprive Christ of his honour, yea, they daily sacrifice and slay him. We hence conclude, that they ought by no means to be suffered in the Church, for the covenant of God ought to remain inviolable; and what is it? that they keep the law of God in their mouth, and be his messengers and interpreters. When we see that these are dumb idols, yea, when we see that they turn the whole truth of God into falsehood, how can this barbarity be suffered? God is excluded, and the devil himself in the persons of men adulterates the whole worship of God, perverts, demolishes, and even reduces to nothing the whole of religion! and he also fills with lies the Church, which ought to be the sanctuary of truth! These things might have been more fully handled; but it is enough briefly to show how foolishly the Papal clergy boast that they possess the honour of the priesthood, when yet it is evident that there is no right, no authority, when faith is not kept with God and with his Church. Let us now proceeds 10. Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 10. Annon Pater unus omnibus nobis? annon Deus unus creavit nos? cur fraudabimus quisque fratrem suum: (alii, cur transgredietur quisque in fratrem suum; alii passive accipiunt, cur decipitur quisque a fratre suo) ad polluendum foedus patrum nostrorum. The Prophet accuses the Jews here of another crime - that they were perfidious towards God and their own brethren, and departed from that pre-eminence into which God had raised them, when they were chosen in preference to other nations to be a holy and peculiar people. This ingratitude the Prophet now condemns by saying, that they all had one father, and that they had been all created by one God. The word Father may be applied to God as well as to Abraham, and some interpreters will have it repeated, which is no uncommon thing in Hebrew: they say then that all had God as their Father, because he created them all; so that the latter clause is taken as an explanation. But it is better, as I think, to apply the word to Abraham, and the passage requires this; for it follows at the end of the verse, that the covenant which the Lord had made with their fathers had been violated; and this will appear still more certain, when we bear in mind the design of the Prophet.' Presently a reproof follows, because they had taken many wives; but the Prophet seems not as yet to mention this vice, but speaks generally, that they did not preserve that purity to which they had been called, for they indiscriminately married heathen wives. As then they mingled without distinction with unbelievers and the despisers of God, the Prophet complains that they were unmindful of that dignity to which they had been elevated, when God deigned to adopt them as his holy people. For thus it happened, that the pre-eminence which Moses celebrates in Deut. 4:8, disappeared, "What nation is so renowned, to whom God draws nigh, as thou seest that he is nigh to thee?" When therefore the Jews rendered themselves vile, the Prophet condemns them for ingratitude. He, at the same time, shows that they were become inhuman towards their brethren, with whom they had been united by a most sacred bond. It then seems probable to me, that God and Abraham are mentioned here, because God had chosen the race of Abraham and adopted them as his people, and also, because he had deposited his covenant with Abraham and the fathers: thus Abraham became, as it were, the mediator of the covenant which God made with his whole race. By thus understanding the subject of the Prophet, it is easier for us to see why he mentions Abraham as well as God. Is there not one father, he says, to us all? that is, "Did not God select us from the rest of the world, when he promised to our father Abraham to be a God to him and to his seed? Since then God's favour has flowed to us from that fountain, what sottishness it is to break that sacred bond by which God has joined us to himself in the person of Abraham?" For when the Jews did not consider that they derived their origin from the holy patriarch, the consequence was, that the covenant of God with them became void and of no effect. This then is the reason why he says, that one God was to them all a Father. And as other nations might have claimed the same privilege, he adds, Has not one God created us? He shows that the Jews had descended in no common or ordinary way from their holy father Abraham, but that God was the maker of his race, that he created them. Did not he also create the rest of the world? Not in the same manner; for this creation ought to be confined especially to the Church. God has created the whole human race; but he created also the race of Abraham: and hence the Church is often called in Isaiah the work and the formation of God, (Is. 66:21,) and Paul also adopts the same mode of speaking, (Eph. 2:10.) Our Prophet then does not mean that the Jews had been created by God when born into this world, but that they had become his holy and peculiar people. As then God had thus created the Jews, and had given to them one fatller, that being mindful of their origin they might remain united in true religion, the Prophet here reprobates their sottishness in casting away from themselves this invaluable favour of God. Every one dealt falsely with his brother; and thus they violated the covenant of the fathers. As to the verb , nubegad, it has been variously explained by grammarians; but as to what is meant it is agreed, that the Jews are here condemned, because they were not only perfidious to God, but also fraudulent as to their neiohbours: and thus they doubled their perfidy, the proof which was manifest, because they did not act with sincerity towards their brethren. Why then, he says, do we deal falsely with man, that is, every one with his own brother, so that we pollute the covenant of our fathers? Here the covenant of the fathers is to be taken for that separation or laying apart which we have mentioned, by which God had adopted Abraham and his posterity, that they might be separated from all the nations of the world. Hence under this covenant of the fathers is God himself included; and as this has not been perceived, it is no wonder that this passage has been so frigidly explained, and that Malachi has been as it were wholly buried in darkness; though interpreters have tried to bring light, yet the effect has been to pervert the real meaning of the Prophet. But it appears now plain, I think, that the Jews are here said to be guilty of a twofold perfidy - because they rejected the honour offered to them by God's gratuitous election, and also because they acted fraudulently towards their own brethren. It hence followed that the covenant of the fathers, that is, what God had deposited with the patriarchs, that it might come from hand to hand to their posterity, had been violated and made void by their wickedness. We must yet notice what I have already referred to - that the priests are so reproved that the whole people are also included; and this we shall again presently see, and I add also, that the Prophet connects God with Abraham, in order to show that we shall fail to seek God effectually, if we seek him apart from his covenant, and also that our minds ought not to be fixed on men. There are indeed two vices against which we ought carefully to guard. Some, passing by all means, seek to fly upward to God; and so they entertain many vain thoughts and devise for themselves many labyrinths, from which they never emerge. We see how many fanatics there are at this day, who proudly speak against God's word, and yet touch neither heaven nor earth; and why? because they would be superior to angels, and do not acknowledge that they need any helps by which they might by degrees, according to their weakness, ascend up to God himself. Now this is to seek God without the covenant or without the word. This is the reason why the Prophet here unites father Abraham to God himself; it was done that the Jews might know that they were confined by certain limits, in order that they might in humility make progress in God's school, and be carried by degrees into heaven: for God, as it has been said, had deposited his covenant with Abraham. But yet as they might have depended on a mortal man, the Prophet adds a corrective - that they had been created by God; for they were not to separate their father Abraham from the very author of the covenant. This passage then is worthy of special notice; for men from the beginning and in all ages have been inclined to the two vices which I have mentioned; and at this day we see that some indulge their dreams and despise the outward preaching of the word; for many fanatics say, that there is no need of rudiments or of the first elements, since God has promised that the sons of the Church would be spiritual. Hence Satan by such delusions strives to draw us away from pure simplicity of doctrine. It is therefore necessary to set up this shield - that God is not exhibited to us without Abraham, that is, without a Prophet and an interpreter. The Papists are also sunk in the same mud; for they have always the fathers in their mouths, but make no account of God. This is also very preposterous. Let us then remember that God is not to be separated from his word, and that the authority of men is of no account, when they depart from it. And the Prophet confirms the same thing at the end of the verse, when he speaks of the covenant of the fathers; for he does not here simply commend the covenant of the fathers, as the Turks might do, or as it is done by Papists and Jews; but he means the covenant which God had given, and which the holy patriarchs faithfully handed down to their posterity, according to what Paul says in the twenty-second chapter of the Acts, when speaking of his father's religion; he did not speak of it as heathens might do of their religion, but he took it as granted that the law promulgated by Moses was not his invention, but had God as its author. It now follows - 11. Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 11. Perfide egit Iehudah, et abominatio facta est in Israele et Ierusalem; quia polluit Iehudah sanctuarium Iehovae quod dilexit (vel, sanctitatem; dicemus de hac voce) et matrimonium contraxerunt cum filia dei alieni. The Prophet now explains how the Jews departed from the covenant of their fathers, and he exaggerates their sin and says, that abomination was done in Israel; as though he had said, that this perfidy was abominable. Some render the verb , begad, transgressed, and so it is often taken in Hebrew: but as in the last verse the Prophet had said, , nubegad, "Why do we deal perfidiously every one with his brother?" I doubt not but that it is repeated here in the same sense. But as I have already stated, he shows the crime to be detestable, and says that it existed in Judah and in Jerusalem. God had indeed, as it is well known, preferred that tribe to others; and it was not a common favour that the Jews almost alone returned to their own country, while others nearly all remained in their dispersions. He adds Jerusalem, not for honour's sake, but for greater reproach, as though he had said, that not only some of the race of Abraham were subject to this condemnation, but that even the Jews were so, who had been allowed to return to their own country, and that even the holy city rendered itself subject to this reproof, in which the temple was, the sanctuary of God, which was then alone the true one in the whole world. By these circumstances then does the Prophet enhance their crime. But he immediately comes to particulars: Polluted, he says, has Judah the holiness of Jehovah, which he loved;' that is, because they individually indulged their lusts, and procured for themselves wives from heathen nations. Some take , kodash, for the sanctuary or the temple; others for the keeping of the law; but I prefer to apply it to the covenant itself; and we might suitably take it in a collective sense, except the simpler meaning be more approved - that Judah polluted his separation. As to the Prophet's object and the subject itself, he charges them here, I have no doubt, with profanation, because the Jews rendered themselves vile, though God had consecrated them to himself. They had then polluted holiness, even when they had been separated from the world; for they had disregarded so great an honour, by which they might have been pre-eminent, had they continued in their integrity. It may be also taken collectively, they have polluted holiness, that is, they have polluted that nation which has been separated from other nations: but as this exposition may seem hard and somewhat strained, I am inclined to think that what is here meant is that separation by which the Jews were known from other nations. But yet what I have stated may serve to remove whatever obscurity there may be. And that this holiness ought to be referred to that gratuitous election by which God had adopted the Jews as his peculiar people, is evident from what the Prophet says, that they married foreign wives. We then see the purpose of this passage, which is to show, - that the Jews were ungrateful to God, because they mingled with heathen nations, and knowingly and wilfully cast aside that glory by which God had adorned them by choosing them, as Moses says, to be to him a royal priesthood. (Exod. 19:6.) Holiness, we know, was much recommended to the Jews, in order that they might not abandon themselves to any of the pollutions of the heathens. Hence God had forbidden them under the law to take foreign wives, except they were first purified, as we find in Deut. 21:11,12; if any one wished to marry a captive, she was to have her head shaven and her nails pared; by which it was intimated, that such women were impure, and that their husbands would be contaminated, except they were first purified. And.yet it was not wholly a blameless thing, when one observed the law as to a captive: but it was a lust abominable to God, when they were not content with their own nation, and burnt in love with strange women. As however the Jews, like all mortals without exception, were inclined to corruptions, God purposed to keep them together as one people, lest the wife by her flatteries should draw the husband away from the pure and legitimate worship of God. And Moses tells us, that there was a crafty counsel given by Balsam when he saw that the people could not be conquered in open war; he at length invented this artifice, that the heathens should offer to them their wives and their daughters. It hence happened that the people provoked God's wrath, as we find it recorded in Nurn. 25:.4. As then the Jews after their return had again lapsed into this corruption, it is not without reason that the Prophet so severely reproves them, and that he says, that by marrying strange women they had polluted holiness, or that separation, which was their great honour, as God had adopted them alone as his people; and he calls it a holiness which God loved. Thus their crime was doubled, because God had not only bound them to himself, but he had also embraced them gratuitously. For if the cause of the separation be enquired, whether they excelled other nations, or whether they had any worthiness or merit? the answer is, No; but God loved them freely. For by the word love, the Prophet means the mere kindness and bounty of God, with which he favoured Abraham and his race, without regard to any worthiness or excellency. He therefore condemns them for this ingratitude, because they had not only departed from the covenant which the Lord had made with their fathers, but had also neglected and despised that gratuitous love, which ought to have softened even their iron hearts. For if God had found anything in them as a reason why he preferred them to other nations, they might have been more excusable, at least they might have extenuated their fault; but since God had adopted them as his peculiar people, though they were unworthy and wholly undeserving, they must surely have been extremely brutish, to have thus despised the gratuitous favor of God. Their baseness then is increased, as I have said, by this circumstance, - that so great a kindness of God did not turn their hearts to obedience. At the end of the verse the Prophet makes known, as I have already stated, their profanation; they had married the daughters of another god. By way of reproach he calls them the daughters of a strange god. He might have simply said foreign daughters; but he intended here to imply a comparison between the God of Israel and idols: as though he had said, "Whence have these wives come to you? from idols. Ye ought then to have hated them as monsters: had you any religion in your heart, what but detestable to you must have been everything which may have come from idols? but your hearts have become attached to the daughters of false gods." And we find that this vice had been condemned by Moses, and branded with reproach, before the giving of the Law, when he said, that the human race had been corrupted, because the sons of God married the daughters of men, (Gen. 6:2,) even because the posterity of Seth, who were born of the holy family, degraded themselves and polluted that small portion, which was holy and consecrated to God, by mixing with the world; for the whole world had at that time departed from God, except the descendants of Seth. The Lord then had before the Law marked this lust with perpetual disgrace; but when the Law itself which ought to have been like a rampart, again condemned it, was it not a perverseness wholly inexcusable, when the wantonness of the people broke through all restraints? He then adds 12. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of hosts. 12. Excidet Iehova virum qui fecerit hoc, excitantem et respondentem, ex tabernaculis Iacob, et qui adducit oblationem Iehovae exercituum. The Prophet here teaches us, that neither the priests nor the people would go unpunished, because they had mingled with the pollutions of the heathens, and profaned and violated the covenant of God. God then says, Cut off (the word means to scrape off or to blot out) shall God the man who has done this, the mover, or prompter, as well as the respondent. Jerome renders the last words, the master and the disciple; and interpreters vary. Some indeed explain the terms allegorically, and apply them to the dead; but by the mover, I have no doubt, he understands every one who was in power, and could command others, and by the respondent the man who was subject to the authority of his master. The masters then prompted or roused, for it belonged to them to command; and the servants responded, for it was their duty to receive orders and to obey them. It is the same as though the Prophet had said, that God would punish this perfidy, without passing by any, so that he would spare neither the common people nor the chief men: and he also adds the priests, intimating, that the priests themselves would not be excepted. In short, he denounces punishment on the Jews universally, and shows that however prevalent had this impiety become everywhere, and that though every one thought that whatever was commonly practiced was lawful, yet God would become an avenger, and would include in the same punishment both the masters and the servants, and would not exempt the priests, who considered themselves safe by peculiar privilege. The rest to-morrow. PRAYER. Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so inclined to all kinds of wickedness, we may learn to confine ourselves within the limits of thy word, and thus restrain all the desires of our flesh; and that whatever Satan may contrive to draw us here and there, may we continually proceed in obedience to thy word, and being mindful of that eternal election, by which thou hast been pleased gratuitously to adopt us, and also of that calling by which thy eternal election has been confirmed, and by which thou hast received us in thine only-begotten Son, may we go on in our course to the end, and so cleave, by persevering faith, to Christ thy Son, that we may at length be gathered into the enjoyment of that eternal kingdom which he has purchased for us by his blood. - Amen. Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (continued in file 8...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-07.txt .