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
         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
         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. 
    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. -

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 8...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-07.txt