(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 30) Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-third. Zechariah 13:2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. Here the Prophet mentions another effect, which would follow the repentance of the people, and which the Lord also would thereby produce. There was to be a cleansing from all the defilements of superstitions; for the pure and lawful worship of God cannot be set up without these filthy things being wiped away; inasmuch as to blend sacred with profane things, is the same thing as though one sought to take away the difference between heaven and earth. No religion then can be approved by God, except what is pure and free from all such pollution. We hence see why the Prophet adds, that there would be an end to falsehoods and all errors, and to the delusions of Satan, when God restored his Church; for the simplicity of true doctrine would prevail, and thus abolished would be whatever Satan had previously invented to corrupt religion. We hence learn what I have just stated - that God cannot be rightly worshipped, except all corruptions, inconsistent with his sincere and pure worship, be taken away. But we must at the same time observe, that this effect is ascribed to God's word; for it is that which can drive away and banish all the abominations of falsehood, and whatever is uncongenial to true religion. As then by the rising of the sun darkness is put to flight, and all things appear distinctly to the view, so also when God comes forth with the teaching of his word, all the deceptions of Satan must necessarily be dissipated. Now these two things ought especially to be known; for we see that many, who are not indeed ungodly, but foolish and inconsiderate, think that they give to God his due honour, while they are entangled in many errors, and refrain not from superstitions. Others, more politic, devise this way of peace - that they who think rightly are to concede something to tyrants and false Prophets; and thus they seek to form at this day a new religion for us, made up of Popery and of the simple doctrine of the gospel, and in this manner as it were to transform God. As then we see that men are so disposed to mix all sorts of things together, that the pure simplicity of the gospel may be contaminated by various inventions, we ought to bear in mind this truth, - that the Church cannot be rightly formed, until all superstitions be rejected and banished. This is one thing. We may also deduce hence another principle - that the word of God not only shows the way to us, but also discovers all the delusions of Satan; for hardly one in a hundred follows what is right, except he is reminded of what he ought to avoid. It is then not enough to declare that there is but one true God, and that we ought to put our trust in Christ, except another thing be added, that is, except we warn men of those intrigues by which Satan has from the beginning deceived miserable mortals: even at this day with what various artifices has he withdrawn the simple and unwary from the true God, and entangled them in a labyrinth of superstitions. Except therefore men be thus warned, the word of God is made known to them only in part. Whosoever then desires to perform all the duties of a good and faithful pastor, ought firmly to resolve, not only to abstain from all impure doctrines, and simply to assert what is true, but also to detect all corruptions which are injurious to religion, to recover men from the deceptions of Satan, and in short, avowedly to carry on war with all superstitions. This was what Zechariah had in view when he said, In that day, that is, when God would restore his Church, perish shall the names of idols, so that they shall be remembered no more. By this last expression he sets forth more clearly what I have just stated, that the pure worship of God is then established as it ought to be, and that religion has then its own honour, when all errors and impostures cease, so that even the memory of them does not remain. It is indeed true, that superstitions can never be so abolished, so that no mention of them should be made; nay, the recollection of them is useful - "Thou shalt remember thy ways," says Ezekiel, "and be ashamed," (Ezek. 16: 6.) But by this form of speaking Zechariah means, that such would be the detestation of superstitions, that the people would dread the very mention of them. And hence we may learn how much purity of doctrine is approved by God, since he would have us to feel a horror as at something monstrous, whenever the name of an idol is mentioned. He then refers to false teachers, I will exterminate, he says, the Prophets and the unclean Spirits from the land. The connection here is worthy of being noticed; for it hence appears how all errors arise, even when a loose rein is given to false teachers. It is indeed true I allow, that the seed of all errors is implanted in each of us, so that every one is a teacher to deceive himself; for we are not only disposed to what is false, but rush headlong into it: it is the corruption of our nature. But at the same time when liberty is taken to teach anything that may please men, the whole of religion must necessarily be corrupted, and all things become mixed together, so that there is no difference between light and darkness. God then here reminds us, that the Church cannot stand, except false teachers be prevented from turning truth into falsehood, and from pealing at their pleasure against the word of God. And this is what ought to be carefully observed; for we see at this day how some unprincipled men adopt this sentiment - that the Church is not free, except every one is allowed with impunity to promulgate whatever he pleases, and that it is the greatest cruelty to punish a heretic; for they would have all liberty to be given to blasphemies. But the Prophet shows here, that the Church cannot be preserved in a pure state, and, in a word, that it cannot exist as a healthy and sound body, except the rashness and audacity of those who pervert sound and true doctrine be restrained. We now then understand the import of this verse - that in order that God may be alone and indeed be rightly worshipped, he will take away and banish all idols and all superstitions, and also, that he will exterminate all ungodly teachers who pervert sound doctrine. He calls them first Prophets, and then unclean spirits. The name of Prophets is conceded to them, though they were wholly unworthy of so honourable a title. As ungodly men ever boast themselves in an audacious manner and hesitate not to pretend God's name, that they may more boldly proceed in deceiving: hence it is, that Scripture sometimes concedes to them a name which they falsely claim. So also the word spirit is sometimes applied to them - "Prove the spirits, whether they are of God: every spirit that denies that Christ has come in the flesh, he is a liar." (1 John 4: 1.) John doubtless adopted this mode of speaking according to common usage; for all false teachers claimed this title with great confidence, and maintained that all the errors they spread abroad were revealed to them by the Spirit." Be it so then, but ye are lying spirits." Now then as to this title, there is no obscurity in what the Prophet means: and by way of explanation he adds the unclean spirit, that he might distinguish those vile men from the faithful ministers of God; as though he had said, "They indeed declare that they have drawn down the Spirit from heaven; but it is the spirit of the devil, it is an unclean spirit." Now as Zechariah declares, that this would be in the Church of God, we learn how foolish the Papists are, who are content with the mere title of honour, and claim to themselves the greatest power, and will have themselves heard without dispute, as though they were the organs of the Spirit. What right indeed do they pretend? that they have been called by the Lord. The same reason might have been assigned by these unprincipled men, whom it was necessary to drive away, in order that the Church might rise again. It then follows that we are not to consider only what name a person has, or with what title he is distinguished, but how rightly he conducts himself, and how faithfully he performs his duties and discharges the office of a pastor. Let us proceed - Zechariah 13:3 And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. The same concession is made in this verse, where Zechariah speaks of the office of prophesying: he indeed confines what he says altogether to false teachers, for he takes it as granted that there was then no attention given to God's servants, inasmuch as false spirits had conspired together, so that nothing pure or sound remained in the Church. As then a false and diabolical faction had then prevailed, Zechariah calls them Prophets as though they were all such, for they were heard as the Lord's servants during that disorder of which mention is made. But he proceeds farther in this verse than before, and says, that there would be so much zeal in God's children when renewed by his Spirit, that they would not spare even their own children, but slay them with their own hands, when they saw them perverting the truth of God. Zechariah no doubt alludes to the 13th chapter of Deuteronomy, where God requires such a rigorous severity in defending pure doctrine, that a father was to rise up against the son whom he had begotten, that a husband was to lead his wife to death rather than to indulge his love and to pardon impiety, in case the wife solicited him or others to forsake God. The Lord then would have all the godly to burn with so much zeal in the defence of lawful worship and true religion, that no connection, no relationship, nor any other consideration, connected with the flesh, should avail to prevent them from bringing to punishment their neighbours, when they see that God's worship is profaned, and that sound doctrine is corrupted. This was the rule prescribed by the law. Now after religion had been for a time neglected, and even trodden almost under foot, Zechariah says, that the faithful, when they shall have repented, would be endued with so much zeal for true religion, as that neither father nor mother would tolerate an ungodly error in their own son, but would lead him to punishment; for they would prefer the glory of God to flesh and blood, they would prefer to all earthly attachments that worship which ought to be more precious to us than life itself. But it must at the same time be observed, that this zeal under the reign of Christ is approved by God; for Zechariah does not here confine what he teaches to the time of the law, but shows what would take place when Christ came, even that this zeal, which had become nearly extinct, would again burn in the hearts of all the godly. It then follows, that this law was not only given to the Jews, as some fanatics verily imagine, who would have for themselves at this day a liberty to disturb the whole world, but the same law also belongs to us: for if at this day thieves and robbers and sorcerers are justly punished, doubtless those who as far as they can destroy souls, who by their poison corrupt pure doctrine, which is spiritual food, who take away from God his own honour, who confound the whole order of the Church, doubtless such men ought not to escape unpunished. It would be indeed better to grant license to thieves and sorcerers and adulterers, than to suffer the blasphemies which the ungodly utter against God, to prevail without any punishment and without any restraint. And this is evident enough from the words of our Prophet. And little consideration do they also show, who immediately fret from a regard to their own relatives. When faithful ministers and pastors are constrained to warn their people to beware of the artifices of Satan, they seek to bury every recollection of this, because it is invidious, because it leads to reproach. What if their children were to be drawn forth to punishment? How could they bear this, though they might remain at home; for they cannot attend to a free warning from their own pastor, when they find that impious errors are reproved, which we see prevailing, I say not in our neighbourhood only, but also in our own bosom and in the Church. Let them then acknowledge their own folly, that they may learn to put on new courage, so that they may make more account of the glory of God, and of the pure doctrine of religion, than of their own carnal attachments, by which they are too fast held. And this is also the reason why the Prophet says, who have begotten him, and he repeats it twice: nor was it in vain that God had those words expressly added, "The husband shall not suffer the wife who sleeps in his bosom to go unpunished; nor shall the father pardon his son whom he has begotten, nor the mother her own offspring, whom she has nourished, whom she has carried in her womb." (Deut. 13: 6, 9.) All these things are said, that we may learn to forget whatever belongs to the world and to the flesh, when God's glory and purity of doctrine are to be vindicated by us. Now the Prophet shows clearly that all this is to be understood of false teachers, for he adds, For falsehood hast thou spoken in the name of Jehovah. And at the same time the atrocity of their sin is here pointed out; for if we rightly consider what it is to speak falsehood in the name of Jehovah, it will certainly appear to us to be more detestable than either to kill an innocent man, or to destroy a guest with poison, or to lay violent hands on one's own father, or to plunder a stranger. Whatever crimes then can be thought of, they do not come up to this, that is, when God himself is involved in such a dishonour, as to be made an abettor of falsehood. What indeed can more peculiarly belong to God than his own truth? and it is his will also to be worshipped by us according to this distinction: God is truth. Now to corrupt pure doctrine - is it not the same thing, as though one substituted the devil in the place of God? or sought to transform God, so that there should be no difference between him and the devil? Hence the greatest of all crimes, as I have already said, does not come up to this horrible and monstrous wickedness. For how much does the salvations of souls exceed all the riches of the world? and then, how much more excellent is the worship of God than the fame and honours of mortals? Besides, does not religion itself, the pledge of eternal life, swallow up in a manner every thing that is sought in the world? But most sacred to us ought to be the name of God, the sanctifying of which we daily pray for. When therefore what is false is brought forward in the name of God, is not he, according to what I have already said, as it were violently forced to undertake the office of the devil, to renounce himself, and to deny that he is God? We hence see the design of the Prophet, when he shows that there is no place for pardon, when the ungodly thus wantonly rise up to pervert pure doctrine, and so to confound all things as wholly to destroy true religion. He adds, Pierce him shall his father and his mother who have begotten him. It is much harder to kill their son by their own hands than to bring him to the Judge, and to leave him to his fate. But the Prophet has taken this from the law - that so much zeal is required from the faithful, that, if it be necessary, they are to exterminate from the world such pests as deprive God of his own honour, and attempt to extinguish the light of true and genuine religion. It follows - Zechariah 13:4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive: Zechariah proceeds with the same subject, but in other words and in another mode of speaking, and says, that so great would be the light of knowledge, that those who had previously passed themselves as the luminaries of the Church would be constrained to be ashamed of themselves. And he farther shows how it was that so great and so gross errors had arisen, when the whole of religion had been trodden under foot, and that was because Satan had veiled the eyes and minds of all, so that they could not distinguish between black and white. And such ignorance has been the source of all errors under the Papacy. How great has been the stupidity of that people, as they have indiscriminately admitted whatever their ungodly teachers have dared to obtrude on them? And in their bishops themselves, and in the whole band of their filthy clergy, how great a sottishness has prevailed, so that they differ nothing from asses? For artisans, and even cowherds, surpass many of the priests and many of the bishops, at least in common prudence. While then there was such ignorance in these asses, there could not have been any difference made between truth and falsehood. And then when they put on fine rings, and adorn themselves with a forked metre and its ornaments, and also display their crook, and appear in all their pontifical splendour, the eyes of the simple are so dazzled, that all think them to be some new gods come down from heaven. Hence these prelates were beyond measure proud, until God stripped off their mask: and now their ignorance is well known, and no one among the common people is now deceived. How then is it, that many are still immersed in their own errors? Because they wish to be so; they close their own eyes against clear light. The kings themselves, and such as exercise authority in the world, desire to be in their filth, and are indifferent as to any kind of abomination; for they fear lest in case of any innovation the common people should take occasion to raise tumults. As they themselves wish to remain quiet, hence it is that they defend with a diabolical pertinacity those superstitions which are abundantly proved to be so. And the people themselves neither care for God nor for their own salvation. Hence then it is, that almost all, from the least to the greatest, regard these asses, who are called prelates, as the most ignorant, and yet they submit to their tyranny. However this may be, the Lord has yet discovered the shame of those who had been a little while ago almost adored. This is what Zechariah now declares, Ashamed, he says, shall all the Prophets be in that day, every one for his own vision, when they shall have prophesied. And the concession, of which we have spoken, is not without reason; for when the brawling monks about thirty years ago ascended their pulpits, or the prelates, who theatrically acted their holy rites, there was nothing, but what was divine and from heaven. Hence with great impudence they boasted themselves to be God's messengers, his ministers, vicars, and pastors; though the name of pastors was almost mean in their esteem; but they were Christ's vicars, they were his messengers, in short, there was nothing which they dared not to claim for themselves. The Prophet ridicules this sort of pride, and seems to say, "Well, let all their trumperies be prophecies; and all their babblings, let these be for a time counted oracles: but when they shall thus prophesy, the Lord will at length make them ashamed, every one for his vision." It follows, And they shall not wear a hairy garment that they may lie; that is, they shall not be solicitous of retaining their honour and fame, but will readily withdraw from courting that renown which they had falsely attained. It appears from this place that Prophets wore sordid and hairy garments. Yet interpreters do not appropriately quote those passages from the Prophets where they are bidden to put on sackcloth and ashes; for Isaiah, while announcing many of his prophecies, did not put on sackcloth and ashes, except when he brought some sad message. The same also may be said of Jeremiah, when he was bidden to go naked. But it was a common thing with the Prophets to be content with a hairy, that is, with a sordid and mean garment. For though there is liberty allowed in external things, yet some moderation ought to be observed; for were I to teach in a military dress, it would be deemed inconsistent with common sense. There is no need of being taught as to what common decency may requite. The true Prophets accustomed themselves to hairy garments in order to show that they were sparing and frugal in their clothing as well as in their diet: but they attached no sanctity to this practice, as though they acquired some eminence by their dress, like the monks at this day, who deem themselves holy on account of their hoods and other trumperies. This was not then the object of the Prophets; but only that by their dress they might show that they had nothing else in view but to serve God, and so to separate themselves from the world, that they might wholly devote themselves to their ministry. Now the false Prophets imitated them; hence Zechariah says, they shall no more wear a hairy garment, that is, they shall no more assume a prophetic habit. His purpose was, not to condemn the false Prophets for wearing that sort of garment, as some have supposed, who have laid hold of this passage for the purpose of condemning long garments and whatever displeased their morose temper; but the Prophet simply means, that when purity of doctrine shall shine forth, and true religion shall attain its own honour, there will be then no place given to false teachers; for they will of themselves surrender their office, and no longer try to deceive the unwary. This is the real meaning of the Prophet: hence he says, that they may lie. We then see that hairy garments are condemned on account of a certain end - even that rapacious wolves might be concealed under the skin of sheep, that foxes might introduce themselves under an appearance not their own. This design, and not the clothing itself, is what is condemned by Zechariah. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 13:5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. He describes repentance in this verse more fully. When Paul wished to exhort the faithful to newness of life, he said, "Let him who has stolen, steal no more; but rather work with his own hands, that he may relieve the wants of others." (Eph. 4: 18.) Paul notices two parts of repentance, - that thieves are to refrain from acts of dishonesty and wrong, - and that they ought to labour in order to aid others and relieve their wants. So also Zechariah mentions these two particulars, - that false prophets will give up their office, - and that they will then spend their labour in doing what is right and just, supporting themselves in a lawful and innocent manner, and affording aid to their brethren. Having spoken already of the former part, he repeats the same thing again, I am not a prophet. It is then the first thing in repentance, when they who had been previously the servants of Satan in the work of deception, cease to deal in falsehoods, and thus put an end to their errors. Now follows the progress, - that they who lived before in idleness and in pleasures under the pretext of sanctity, willingly devote themselves to labour, and continue no longer idle and gluttonous as before, but seek to support themselves by just and lawful employment. It would not then have been enough for him to say, I am no prophet, had he not added, I am an husbandman; that is, I am prepared to labour, that I may support myself and aid my brethren. A half reformation might probably succeed with many at this day. Were many monks sure that a rich mess would continue to them in their cloisters, and were also the milted bishops and abbots made certain that nothing of their gain and profit would be lost to them, they would easily grant a free course to the gospel. But the second part of reformation is very hard, which requires toil and labour: in this case the stomach has no ears, according to the old proverb. And yet we see what the Prophet says, - that those are they who truly and from the heart repent, who not only abstain from impostures, but who are also ready to get their own living, acknowledging that they had before defrauded the poor, and procured their support by rapine and fraud. The Prophet no doubt speaks of impostors, who were then numerous among the Jews; and there were also women who boasted that they were favoured with a prophetic spirit; and the true prophets of God had to contend with these sorceresses or wise women, who had ever intruded themselves during a confused state of things, and undertook the office of teaching. As then there were at that time many idlers who lived on superstition, rightly does the Prophet send them away to cultivate the land. So at this day there are many brotherlings who hide their ignorance under their hood, and even all the papal clergy, under the sacred vestment, as they call it; and were they unmasked, it might easily be found out, that they are the most ignorant asses. Now, as the Lord has abundantly discovered their baseness, were they to acknowledge that they have been impostors, what would remain for them, but willingly to do what they are here taught? that is, to become husband men instead of being prophets. As to the end of the verse, some retain the word Adam; others render it man; and generally the word Adam means man in Scripture. But they who think that Zechariah speaks of the first man, adduce this reason, - that as this necessity of "eating his bread by the sweat of his face" (Gen. 3: 9) was imposed on all mankind after the fall, so also all his posterity were thus taught by Adam their first parent; but this interpretation seems too far-fetched. I therefore take the word indefinitely; as though he had said, "I have not been taught by any master, so as to become capable to undertake the prophetic office; but I am acquainted only with agriculture, and have made such progress, that I can feed sheep and oxen; I am indeed by no means fit to take upon me the office of a teacher." I take the passage simply in this sense. With regard to the verb "hiknani", "kanah", means to possess, to acquire; but as the word "mekanah", which signifies a flock of sheep or cattle, is derived from this verb, the most learned interpreters are inclined to give this meaning, "Man has taught me to possess sheep and oxen." I am however disposed to give this rendering, as I have already stated, "Man has taught me to be a shepherd." The import of the whole is, - that when God shall discover the ignorance, which would so prevail in the Church, as that the darkness of errors would extinguish as it were all the light of true religion, then they who repent shall become so humble, as to be by no means ashamed to confess their ignorance and to testify that they had been impostors as long as they had under a false pretence assumed the office of prophets. The Spirit of God then requires here this humility from all who had been for a time immersed in the dregs of falsehood, that when they find that they are not fit to teach, they should say, "I have not been in school, I was wholly ignorant, and yet I wished to be accounted a most learned teacher; at that time the stupidity of the people veiled my disgrace: but now the light of truth has shone upon us, which has constrained me to feel ashamed; and therefore I confess that I am not worthy to be heard in the assembly, and I am prepared to employ my hands in labour and toil, that I may gain my living, rather than to deceive men any longer, as I have hitherto done." Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to draw us at this day, by the light of thy gospel, out of that horrible darkness in which we have been miserably immersed, and to render thy face so conspicuous to us in the person of thy only-begotten Son, that nothing but our ingratitude prevents us from being transformed into thy celestial glory, - O grant, that we may make such advances in the light of truth, that every one of us may be ashamed of his former ignorance, and that we may freely and ingenuously confess that we were lost sheep, until we were by thy hand brought back into the way of salvation; and may we thus proceed in the course of our holy vocation, until we shall at length be all gathered into heaven, where not only that truth shall give us light, which now rules us according to the capacity of our flesh, but where also shall shine on us the splendour of thy glory, and shall render us conformable to thine image, through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 31... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-30.txt .