Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 12)
    Lecture One Hundred and Eighty-first.  
         We saw in the last lecture that no works of the 
    faithful please God, except through a gratuitous 
    acceptance: it hence follows, that nothing can be 
    ascribed to merits without derogating from the grace of 
    Christ; for if the value of works depends on this, that 
    God is our Father and is reconciled to us in Christ, 
    nothing can be more absurd than to set up works, which 
    ought to be subordinated to this paternal favour of God.  
         We now see how these two things harmonise - that 
    reward is promised to works, and that works themselves 
    deserve nothing before God; for though God can justly 
    reject them, he yet regards them as acceptable, because 
    he forgives all their defects. Thus have we brief stated 
    the reason why our works are approved by God; they are 
    not so on account of any worthiness, but through his 
    favour alone; for there is no work which would not on 
    account of its imperfection be displeasing to God, were 
    he to require that it should be according to the rule of 
    his law. Hence God departs from his own law and turns to 
    mercy, that he may regard works as acceptable, which 
    otherwise could not, being defective, stand before his 
    presence. It now follows -  

    Malachi 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between 
    the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth 
    God and him that serveth him not.   
         This verse at the first view seems to be addressed 
    to the faithful; for there never has been a turning as to 
    the reprobate: but as the word has a wide meaning, the 
    passage may be suitably applied to the whole people, 
    according to what we find in Zechariah, "They shall see 
    him whom they have pierced;" for we have said that this 
    might be understood both of the good and of the bad. So 
    also the whole people might be viewed as addressed in 
    these words. But when we more minutely examine all 
    circumstances, it seems that Malachi more particularly 
    addressed the ungodly, and checked again their furious 
    blasphemies; for we find almost the same sentiment 
    expressed here, as when he said, "The Lord whom ye expect 
    shall come to his temple, and the angel of the covenant 
    whom ye seek;" and at the same time he showed that the 
    coming of Christ, which they said was advancing too 
    slowly, would not be such as they desired or looked for. 
    "Let not this delay," he says, "be grievous to you; for 
    everything terrible which his majesty possesses will be 
    turned on your heads; for he will come as an angry judge 
    and an avenger: ye therefore in vain hope for any comfort 
    or alleviation from his presence."  
         So also he says in this place, Ye shall see this 
    difference between the just and the unjust; that is, "Ye 
    shall find that God does not sleep in heaven, when the 
    ungodly grow wanton on the earth and abandon themselves 
    to every kind of wickedness: experience then will at 
    length teach you, that men shall not thus with impunity 
    become insolent against God, but that all your wickedness 
    must come to a reckoning." When therefore he says, that 
    they would find the difference between the godly and the 
    ungodly, he means that they would find by the punishments 
    which God would inflict, that men are not permitted to 
    indulge their own depraved desires, as though God slept 
    in heaven, forgetful of his office. Their blasphemy was, 
    "In vain is God worshipped; what is the benefit? for we 
    have kept his charge, and yet the proud are more happy 
    than we are." As then they accused God of such a 
    connivance, as though he disregarded and cast away his 
    own servants, and showed favour to the wicked, Malachi 
    returns them an answer and says, "Ye shall see how much 
    the good differ from the evil; God indeed spares the 
    wicked, but he will at length rise to judgement, and come 
    armed suddenly upon them, and then ye shall know that all 
    the deeds of men are noticed by him, and that wickedness 
    shall not go unpunished, though God for a time delays his 
         We now then perceive the Prophet's meaning - that 
    the ungodly who clamour against God, as though he made no 
    account either of the just or of the unjust, shall find, 
    even to their own loss, that he is one who punishes 
         As to the verb turn, I have already said that it has 
    a wide meaning, and does not always mean repentance or 
    the renovation of man: it may therefore be taken as 
    signifying only a different state of things; as though he 
    had said, "The dice shall be turned, and such will be 
    your condition when God shall begin to execute his 
    judgement, that he will then manifestly show that he has 
    not forgotten his office, though he does not immediately 
    hasten to execute his judgements." Ye shall return then 
    and see. Yet if any one prefers to regard returning as 
    the feeling of God's judgements, by which even the 
    ungodly shall be touched, though without repentance, the 
    view will not be unsuitable, and I am disposed to embrace 
    it, that is, that the Lord will shake off the stupidity 
    in which they were sunk, and will correct their madness, 
    so that they will not dare to vomit forth so insolently 
    their blasphemies, as they had been wont to do: Ye then 
    shall return; that is, "I will make my judgement known to 
    you, and ye shall not rush on headlong as wild beasts, 
    for being taught by facts, ye shall learn the difference 
    between the good and the bad."  
         The just, and he who serves God, mean the same 
    person. We hence learn that there is no justice where 
    there is no obedience rendered to God. The first thing 
    then in a good and an upright life, is to serve God; for 
    it would be but of little benefit to be harmless towards 
    men, when his right is denied: and we know that God is 
    not rightly served but according to what his law 
    prescribes. We must then always come to this, - that men 
    must obey God, if they desire to form their life aright. 
    Now follows -   

    Chapter 4. 

    Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall 
    burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that 
    do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh 
    shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it 
    shall leave them neither root nor branch.   
         He confirms the previous verse, for he denounces 
    ruin on all the reprobate and the despisers of God; and 
    he also confirms what I have mentioned, - that he sets 
    this threatening in opposition to the slanders which they 
    commonly uttered against God, as though he had ceased to 
    discharge his office as a Judge. Though indeed he speaks 
    in the third person, yet he is not deficient in force 
    when he says,  
         Behold, come shall the day, which shed consume all 
    the ungodly, as a hernia oven the stumble. The comparison 
    is very common which the Prophet uses, when he says, that 
    the ungodly shall be like stubble: I trill not therefore 
    quote passages which must be well known, and they are so 
    many that there is no need to adduce here either two or 
    three of them. The vengeance of God is also often 
    compared to fire and to a flame; and we know how fierce 
    and how dreadful an element is fire, when it lays hold on 
    wood or some other dry material. Hence according to the 
    common usage of Scripture, the Prophet says, that the day 
    of the Lord would be like an oven, and that the ungodly 
    would be like stubble. The demonstrative particle, 
    Behold, shows certainty, Behold, I come. The present time 
    is put here for the future, a common thing in Hebrew. But 
    the Prophet called the attention of the Jews as it were 
    to what was present, that his prophecy might not appear 
    doubtful, and that they might understand that God's 
    vengeance was not far distant, but already suspended over 
    their heads.  
         There is however a question as to the day which he 
    points out. The greater part think that the Prophet 
    speaks of the last coming of Christ, which seems not to 
    me probably. It is indeed true that these and similar 
    expressions, which everywhere occur in Scripture, have 
    not their full accomplishment in this world; but God so 
    suspends his judgements, as yet never to withhold from 
    giving evidences of them that the godly may have some 
    props to their faith: for if God gave no specimen or 
    proof of his providence, it would immediately occur to 
    our minds, that there is to be no judgement; but he sets 
    before us some examples, that we may learn that he will 
    some time be the judge of the world. It seems then to me 
    more probable, that the Prophet speaks here of the 
    renovation of the Church: for the wrath of God was then 
    at length more kindled against the Jews, when they had 
    alienated themselves from Christ; for their last hope and 
    their last remedy in their evils was the aid of the 
    Redeemer, and it was for the rejection of his favour that 
    the Jews had to feel the dreadful punishment of their 
    ingratitude. No sin could have been more atrocious than 
    to have rejected the offered favour, in which their 
    happiness and that of the whole world consisted. When the 
    Prophet then says, that the day would come, be refers I 
    think to the first coming of Christ; for the Jews made a 
    confident boast of the coming of a Redeemer, and he gives 
    them this answer - that the day of the Lord would come, 
    such as they did not imagine, but a day which would 
    wholly consume them, according to a quotation we have 
    made from another Prophet, "What will be the day of the 
    Lord to you? that day will not be light, but darkness, a 
    thick darkness and not brightness." (Amos 5: 18.) The day 
    of the Lord will be an unhappy event to you, as though 
    one escaped from the jaws of a lion, and fell at home on 
    a serpent. So in this place he says that the day would 
    come, which would consume them like an oven.  
         He says that all the proud and the workers of 
    iniquity would be like stubble. He repeats their words, 
    but somewhat ironically; for when they had said before 
    that the proud were happy, they regarded themselves as 
    being far from being such characters. Isaiah also in like 
    manner condemned hypocrites, because they exposed to 
    contempt their own brethren; for the worshippers of God 
    were at that time in great reproach among the Jews; yea, 
    hypocrites disdainfully treated the godly and the 
    upright, as though they were the dregs and filth of the 
    people. So also they said, "Behold, we are constrained, 
    not without great sorrow, to look on the happiness of the 
    ungodly; for the proud and the despisers of God enjoy 
    prosperity, they live in pleasures." The Prophet now 
    answers them ironically and says, "Ye shall see the 
    difference which ye so much wish; for God will consume 
    the proud and the ungodly." He says this of them; but it 
    is, as I have stated, as though he had said, "When your 
    mask is taken away, Ye shall see where impiety is, that 
    it is even in you; and therefore ye shall suffer the 
    punishment which you have deserved." This is the return 
    which he had before mentioned: for though the ungodly do 
    not seriously and sincerely return to God, yet they are 
    forced, willing or unwilling, to acknowledge their 
    impiety when God constrains them. Hence after they had 
    been constrained to examine their own life, God visited 
    them with the punishment they most justly deserved, 
    though judgement had been invoked by themselves.  
         He now adds, And it will leave neither root nor 
    branch. He means here that their ruin would be complete, 
    as though he had said, that no residue of them would be 
    found. As he had made them like stubble, so he mentions 
    root and stalk; for branch is improper here, as he speaks 
    of stubble, and branches belong to trees. The meaning, 
    however, is not obscure, which is - that such would be 
    the consumption that nothing would remain. This, indeed, 
    properly belongs to the last judgement; but, as I have 
    said, this is no reason why God should not set before our 
    eyes some evidences of that vengeance which awaits the 
    ungodly, by which our faith may be more and more 
    confirmed daily.  
         With regard to God's name, which is mentioned twice, 
    he reminds us that God does not execute his judgements in 
    an even or a continued course, but that he has a fixed 
    time, now for forbearance, then for vengeance, as it 
    seems good to him. Whenever then the day of the Lord is 
    mentioned in Scripture, let us know that God is bound by 
    no laws, that he should hasten his work according to our 
    hasty wishes; but the specific time is in his own power, 
    and at his own will. On this subject I lightly touch 
    only, because I have explained it more fully elsewhere. 
    It follows -  

    Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun 
    of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye 
    shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.   
         The Prophet now turns his discourse to the godly; 
    and hence it appears more clearly that he has been 
    hitherto threatening those gross hypocrites who arrogated 
    sanctity to themselves alone, while yet they were 
    continuing to provoke God's wrath; for he evidently 
    addresses some different from those previously spoken of, 
    when he says, Arise to you, &c.; he separates those who 
    feared God, or the true servants of God, from that 
    multitude with whom he has been hitherto contending. 
    Arise, then, to you who fear my name, &c.  
         There is to be noticed here a contrast; for the body 
    of the people were infected as it were with a general 
    contagion, but God had preserved a few uncontaminated. As 
    then he had been hitherto contending with the greatest 
    part of the people, so he now gathers as it were apart 
    the chosen few, and promises to them Christ as the author 
    of salvation. For the godly, we know, trembled at 
    threatenings, and would have almost fainted, had not God 
    mitigated them. Whenever he denounced vengeance on 
    sinners, the greater part either mocked, or became angry, 
    at least were not duly impressed. Thus it happens that 
    while God is thundering, the ungodly go on securely in 
    their sinful courses; but the godly tremble at a word, 
    and would be altogether cast down, were not God to apply 
    a remedy.  
         Hence our Prophet softens the severity of the 
    threatening which we have observed; as though he had 
    said, that he had not announced the coming of Christ as 
    terrible for the purpose of filling pious souls with 
    fear, (for it was not spoken to them,) but only of 
    terrifying the ungodly. The sum of the whole is briefly 
    this - "Hearken ye," he says, "who fear God; for I have a 
    different word for you, and that is, that the Sun of 
    righteousness shall arise, which will bring healing in 
    its wings. Let those despisers of God then perish, who, 
    though they carry on war with him, yet seek to have him 
    as it were bound to them; but raise ye up your heads, and 
    patiently look for that day, and with the hope of it 
    calmly bear your troubles." We now understand the import 
    of this verse.  
         There is indeed no doubt but that Malachi calls 
    Christ the Sun of righteousness; and a most suitable term 
    it is, when we consider how the condition of the fathers 
    differed from ours. God has always given light to his 
    Church, but Christ brought the full light, according to 
    what Isaiah teaches us, "On thee shall Jehovah arise, and 
    the glory of God shall be seen in thee." (Is. 60: 1.) 
    This can be applied to none but to Christ. Again he says, 
    "Behold darkness shall cover the earth," &c.; "shine on 
    thee shall Jehovah;" and farther, "There shall be now no 
    sun by day nor moon by night; but God alone shall give 
    thee light." (Is. 60: 19.) All these words show that Sun 
    is a name appropriate to Christ; for God the Father has 
    given a much clearer light in the person of Christ than 
    formerly by the law, and by all the appendages of the 
    law. And for this reason also is Christ called the light 
    of the world; not that the fathers wandered as the blind 
    in darkness, but that they were content with the dawn 
    only, or with the moon and stars. We indeed know how 
    obscure was the doctrine of the law, so that it may truly 
    be said to be shadowy. When therefore the heavens became 
    at length opened and clear by means of the gospel, it was 
    through the rising of the Sun, which brought the full 
    day; and hence it is the peculiar office of Christ to 
    illuminate. And on this account it is said in the first 
    chapter of John, that he was from the beginning the true 
    light, which illuminates every man that cometh into the 
    world, and yet that it was a light shining in darkness; 
    for some sparks of reason continue in men, however 
    blinded they are become through the fall of Adam and the 
    corruption of nature. But Christ is peculiarly called 
    light with regard to the faithful, whom he delivers from 
    the blindness in which all are involved by nature, and 
    whom he undertakes to guide by his Spirit.  
         The meaning then of the word sun, when 
    metaphorically applied to Christ, is this, - that he is 
    called a sun, because without him we cannot but wander 
    and go astray, but that by his guidance we shall keep in 
    the right way; and hence he says, "He who follows me 
    walks not in darkness." (John 8: 12.)  
         But we must observe that this is not to be confined 
    to the person of Christ, but extended to the gospel. 
    Hence Paul says, "Awake thou who sleepest, and rise from 
    darkness, and Christ shall illuminate thee." (Eph. 5: 14) 
    Christ then daily illuminates us by his doctrine and his 
    Spirit; and though we see him not with our eyes, yet we 
    find by experience that he is a sun.  
         He is called the sun of righteousness, either 
    because of his perfect rectitude, in whom there is 
    nothing defective, or because the righteousness of God is 
    conspicuous in him: and yet, that we may know the light, 
    derived from him, which proceeds from him to us and 
    irradiates us, we are not to regard the transient 
    concerns of this life, but what belongs to the spiritual 
    life. The first thing is, that Christ performs towards us 
    the office of a sun, not to guide our feet and hands as 
    to what is earthly, but that he brings light to us, to 
    show the way to heaven, and that by its means we may come 
    to the enjoyment of a blessed and eternal life. We must 
    secondly observe, that this spiritual light cannot be 
    separated from righteousness; for how does Christ become 
    our sun? It is by regenerating us by his Spirit into 
    righteousness, by delivering us from the pollutions of 
    the world, by renewing us after the image of God. We now 
    then see the import of the word righteousness.  
         He adds, And healing in its wings. He gives the name 
    of wings to the rays of the sun; and this comparison has 
    much beauty, for it is taken from nature, and most fitly 
    applied to Christ. There is nothing, we know, more 
    cheering and healing than the rays of the sun; for 
    ill-savour would soon overwhelm us, even within a day, 
    were not the sun to purge the earth from its dregs; and 
    without the sun there would be no respiration. We also 
    feel a sort of relief at the rising of the sun; for the 
    night is a kind of burden. When the sun sets, we feel as 
    it were a heaviness in all our members; and the sick are 
    exhilarated in the morning and experience a change from 
    the influence of the sun; for it brings to us healing in 
    its wing. But the Prophet has expressed what is still 
    more, - that a clear sun in a serene sky brings healing; 
    for there is an implied opposition between a cloudy or 
    stormy time and a clear and bright season. During time of 
    serenity we are far more cheerful, whether we be in 
    health or in sickness; and there is no one who does not 
    derive some cheerfulness from the serenity of the 
    heavens: but when it is cloudy, even the most healthy 
    feels some inconvenience.  
         According to this view Malachi now says, that there 
    would be healing in the things of Christ, inasmuch as 
    many evils were to be borne by the true servants of God; 
    for if we consider the history of those times, it will 
    appear that the condition of that people was most 
    grievous. He now promises a change to them; for the 
    restoration of the Church would bring them joy. See then 
    in what way he meant there would be healing in the wings 
    of Christ; for the darkness would be dissipated, and the 
    heavens would be free from clouds, so as to exhilarate 
    the minds of the godly.  
         By calling the godly those who fear God, he adopts 
    the common language of Scripture; for we have said that 
    the chief part of righteousness and holiness consists in 
    the true worship of God: but something new is here 
    expressed; for this fear is what peculiarly belongs to 
    true religion, so that men submit to God, though he is 
    invisible, though he does not address them face to face, 
    though he does not openly show his hand armed with 
    scourges. When therefore men of their own accord 
    reverence the glory of God, and acknowledge that the 
    world is governed by him, and that they are under his 
    authority, this is a real evidence of true religion: and 
    this is what the Prophet means by name. Hence they who 
    fear the name of God, desire not to draw him down from 
    heaven, nor seek manifest signs of his presence, but 
    suffer their faith to be thus tried, so that they adore 
    and worship God, though they see him not face to face, 
    but only through a mirror and that darkly, and also 
    through the displays of his power, justice, and other 
    attributes, which are evident before our eyes.  Prayer.  
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast appointed thine 
    only-begotten Son to be like a sun to us, we may not be 
    blind, so as not to see his brightness; and that since he 
    is pleased to guide us daily into the way of salvation, 
    may we follow him and never be detained by any of the 
    impediments of this world, so as not to pursue after that 
    celestial life to which thou invitest us; and that as 
    thou hast promised that he is to come and gather us into 
    the eternal inheritance, may we not in the meantime grow 
    wanton, but on the contrary watch with diligence and be 
    ever attentively looking for him; and my we not reject 
    the favour which thou hast been pleased to offer us in 
    him, and thus grow torpid in our dregs, but on the 
    contrary be stimulated to fear thy none and truly to 
    worship thee, until we shall at length obtain the fruit 
    of our faith and piety, when he shall appear again for 
    our final redemption, even that sun which has already 
    appeared to us, in order that we might not remain 
    involved in darkness, but hold on our way in the midst of 
    darkness, even the way which leads us to heaven. - Amen.  

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 14...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-13.txt