John Calvin, Commentary on Malachi

Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Fifth. Zechariah and Malachi

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America

                             ON THE
                        PROPHET MALACHI


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-ninth

     The Book of Malachi follows, whom many have imagined to have been
an angel, on account of his name. We indeed know that Melac, in Hebrew
is an Angel; but how absurd is such a supposition, it is easy to see;
for the Lord at that time did not send angels to reveal his oracles,
but adopted the ordinary ministry of men; and as iod, is added at the
end of the word, as it was usual in proper names, we may indeed hence
conclude that it was the name of a man; at the same time I freely allow
that it may have been added for some particular reason not known to us
now. I am more disposed to grant what some have said, that he was Ezra,
and that Malachi was his surname, for God had called him to do great
and remarkable things.

     However this may be, he was no doubt one of the Prophets, and , as
it appears, the last; for at the end of his Book he exhorts the people
to continue in their adherence to the pure doctrine of the Law: and
this he did, because God was not afterwards to send Prophets in
succession as before; for it was his purpose that the Jews should have
a stronger desire for Christ, they having been for a time without any
Prophets. It was indeed either a token of God's wrath, or a presage of
Christ's coming, when they were deprived of that benefit which Moses
mentions in Deut. xviii.; for God had then promised to send Prophets,
that the Jews might know that he cared for their safety. When therefore
God left his people without Prophets, it was either to show his great
displeasure, as during the Babylonian exile, or to hold them in
suspense, that they might with stronger desire look forward to the
coming of Christ.

     However we may regard this, I have no doubt but he was the last of
the Prophets; for he bids the people to adhere to the doctrine of the
Law until Christ should be revealed.

     The sum and substance of the Book is, - that though the Jews had
but lately returned to their own country, they yet soon returned to
their own nature, became unmindful of God's favor, and so gave
themselves up to many corruptions; that their state was nothing better
than that of their fathers before them, so that God had as it were lost
all his labour in chastising them. As then the Jews had again relapsed
into many vices, our Prophet severely reproves them, and upbraids them
with ingratitude, because they rendered to God their deliverer so
shameful a recompense. He also mentions some of their sins, that he
might prove the people to be guilty, for he saw that they were full of
evasions. And he addresses the priests, who had by bad examples
corrupted the morals of the people, when yet their office required a
very different course of life; for the Lord had set them over the
people to be teachers of religion and of uprightness; but from them did
emanate a great portion of the vices of the age; and hence our Prophet
the more severely condemns them.

     He shows at the same time that God would remember his gratuitous
covenant, which he had made with their fathers, so that the Redeemer
would at length come. -This is the substance of the whole: I come now
to the words.-

                      THE PROPHET MALACHI


1. The burden of the word of the Jehovah on Israel, by Malachi,-

     They who explain mesha, burden, as signifying prophecy, without
exception, are mistaken, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for prophecy
is not everywhere called a burden; and whenever this word is expressed,
there is ever to be understood some judgment of God; and it appears
evident from Jer. 23:38, that this word was regarded as ominous, so
that the ungodly, when they wished to brand the Prophets with some mark
of reproach, used this as a common proverb, "It is a burden,"
intimating thereby that nothing else was brought by the Prophets but
threatenings and terrors, in order that they might have some excuse for
closing their ears, and for evading all prophecies by giving them an
unhappy and ominous name.

     As we proceed it will become evident that the doctrine of Malachi
is not without reason called a Burden; for as I have stated in part,
and as it will be more fullv seen hereafter, it was necessary that the
people should be summoned before God's tribunal, inasmuch as many sins
had again begun to prevail among them, and such as could not be
endured: and for this reason he says that God's judgment was at hand.

     But under the name of Israel he refers only to those who had
returned to their own country, whether they were of the tribe of Judah
and Benjamin, or of the tribe of Levi. It is nevertheless probable that
there were also some mixed with them from the other tribes: but the
Jews and their neighbors, the half tribe of Benjamin, had almost alone
returned to their country, with the exception of the Levites, who had
been their guides in their journey, and encouraged the rest of the
people. They were yet called Israel indiscriminately, since among them
only pure religion continued: but they who remained dispersed among
foreign and heathen nations, had as it were lost their name, though
they had not wholly departed from the pure worship of God and true
religion. Hence, by way of excellency, they were called Israel, who had
again assembled in the holy land, that they might there enjoy the
inheritance promised them from above.

     The word hand, as we have observed elsewhere, means ministration.
The meaning then is, that this doctrine proceeded from God, but that a
minister, even Malachi, was employed as an instrument; so that he
brought nothing as his own, but only related faithfully what had been
committed to him by God from whom it came. It then follows

2. I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet ye say, Wherein best thou
loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved
3. And I hated Esau, and laid his molmtains and his heritage waste for
the dragons of the wilderness.

4. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and
build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall
build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of
wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord has indignation for
5. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be
magnified from the border of Israel.

6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a
father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?
saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And
ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

2. Dilexi vos, dicit Jehovah; et dixistis, In quo dilexisti nos? Annon
frater Esau erat ipsi Jacob? dicit Jehovah; et dilexi Jacob,

3. Et Esau odio habui; et posui montes ejus solitudinem, et
haereditatem ejus serpentibus desertum (alit vertunt, deserti.)
4. Si dixerit Edom, Attenuati sumus, sed revertemur, et aedificabimus
deserta: sic dicit Iehova exercituum Ipsi aedificabmlt, et ego diruam,
et dicetur illis, Terminus impietatis et populous cui infensus est
Iehova in perpetuum.

5. Et oculi vestri videbunt, et vos dicetis, Magnificabitur Iehova
super terminum Israel. (Addendus etiam sextus versus, saltem initium:)

6. Filius honorat patrem, et servus dominum suum; et si pater ego, ubi
honor meus? et si dominus dgo, ubi timor mei? dicit Iehova exercituum.

     I am constrained by the context to read all these verses; for the
sense cannot be otherwise completed. God expostulates here with a
perverse and an ungrateful people, because they doubly deprived him of
his right; for he was neither loved nor feared, though he had a just
claim to the name and honor of a master as well as that of a father. As
then the Jews paid him no reverence, he complains that he was defrauded
of his right as a father; and as they entertained no fear for him, he
condemns them for not acknowledging, him as their Lord and Master, by
submitting to his authority. But before he comes to this, he shows that
he was both their Lord and Father; and he declares that he was
especially their Father, because he loved them.

     We now then understand the Prophet's intention; for God designed
to show here how debased the Jews were, as they acknowledged him
neither as their Father nor as their Lord; they neither reverenced him
as their Lord, nor regarded him as their Father. But he brings forward,
as I have already said, his benefits, by which he proves that he
deserved the honor due to a father and to a master.

     Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have made an appeal
to the Jews on another ground; for had he not manifested his love to
them, they were yet bound to submit to his authority. He does not
indeed speak here of God's love generally, such as he shows to the
whole human race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been
freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people, they yet forgot
this honor, and despised the Giver, and regarded what he taught them as
nothing. When therefore God says that he loved the Jews, we see that
his object was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised the
singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to press that
authority which he possesses over all mankind in common. God then might
have thus addressed them, "I have created you, and have been to you a
kind Father; by my favor does the sun shine on you daily, and the earth
produces its fruit; in a word, I hold you bound to me by innumerable
benefits." God might have thus spoken to them; but as I have said, his
object was to bring forward the gratuitous adoption with which he had
favored the seed of Abraham; for it was a less endurable impiety, that
they had despised so incomparable a favor; inasmuch as God had
preferred them to all other nations, not on the ground of merit or of
any worthiness, but because it had so pleased him. This then is the
reason why the Prophet begins by saying, that the Jews had been loved
by God: for they had made the worst return for this gratuitous favor,
when they despised his doctrine. This is the first thing.

     There is further no doubt but that he indirectly condemns their
ingratitude when he says, In what hast thou loved us? The words indeed
may be thus explained - " If ye say, or if ye ask, In what have I loved
you? Even in this - I preferred your father Jacob to Esau, when yet
they were twin brothers." But we shall see in other places that the
Jews by evasions malignantly obscured God's favor, and that this
wickedness is in similar words condemned. Hence the Prophet, seeing
that he had to do with debased men, who would not easily yield to God
nor acknowledge his kindness by a free and ingenuous confession,
introduces them here as speaking thus clamorously, "Ho! when hast thou
loved us! in what! the tokens of thy love do not appear." He answers in
God's name, "Esau was Jacob's brother; and yet I loved Jacob, and Esau
I hated."

     We now see what I have just referred to, - that the Jews are
reminded of God's gratuitous covenant, that they might cease to excuse
their wickedness in having misused this singular favor. He does not
then upbraid them here, because they had been as other men created by
God, because God caused his sun to shine on them, because they were
supplied with food from the earth; but he says, that they had been
preferred to other people, not on account of their own merit, but
because it had pleased God to choose their father Jacob. He might have
here adduced Abraham as an example; but as Jacob and Esau proceeded
from Abraham, with whom God had made the covenant, his favor was the
more remarkable, inasmuch as though Abraham had been alone chosen by
God, and other nations were passed by, yet from the very family which
the Lord had adopted, one had been chosen while the other was rejected.
When a comparison is made between Esau and Jacob, we must bear in mind
that they were brothers; but there are other circumstances to be
noticed, which though not expressed here by the Prophet, are yet well
known: for all the Jews knew that Esau was the first-born; and that
hence Jacob had obtained the right of primogeniture contrary to the
order of nature. As then this was commonly known, the Prophet was
content to use only this one sentence, Esau was Jacob's brother.

     But he says that Jacob was chosen by God, and that his brother,
the first-born, was rejected. If the reason be asked, it is not to be
found in their descent, for they were twin brothers; and they had not
come forth from the womb when the Lord by an oracle testified that
Jacob would be the greater. We hence see that the origin of all the
excellency which belonged to the posterity of Abraham, is here ascribed
to the gratuitous love of God, according to what Moses often said, "
Not because ye excelled other nations, or were more in number, has God
honored you with so many benefits; but because he loved your fathers."
The Jews then had always been reminded, that they were not to seek for
the cause of their adoption but in the gratuitous favour of God; he had
been pleased to choose them - this was the source of their salvation.
We now understand the Prophet's design when he says, that Esau was
Jacob's brother, and yet was not loved by God.

We must at the same time bear in mind what I have already said - that
this singular favour of God towards the children of Jacob is referred
to, in order to make them ashamed of their ingratitude, inasmuch as God
had set his love on objects so unworthy. For had they been deserving,
they might have boasted that a reward was rendered to them; but as the
Lord had gratuitously and of his own good pleasure conferred this
benefit on them, their impiety was the less excusable. This baseness
then is what our Prophet now reprobates.

     Then follows a proof of hatred as to Esau, the Lord made his
mountain a desolation, and his inheritance a desert where serpents
dwelt. Esau, we know, when driven away by his own shame, or by his
father's displeasure, came to Mount Seir; and the whole region where
his posterity dwelt was rough and enclosed by many mountains. But were
any to object and say, that this was no remarkable token of hatred, as
it might on the other hand be said, that the love of God towards Jacob
was not much shown, because he dwelt in the land of Canaan, since the
Chaldeans inhabited a country more pleasant and more fruitful, and the
Egyptians also were very wealthy; to this the answer is - that the land
of Canaan was a symbol of God's love, not only on account of its
fruitfulness, but because the Lord had consecrated it to himself and to
his chosen people. So Jerusalem was not superior to other cities of the
land, either to Samaria or Bethlehem, or other towns, on account of its
situation, for it stood, as it is well known, in a hilly country, and
it had only the spring of Siloam, fiom which flowed a small stream; and
the view was not so beautiful, nor its fertility great; at the same
time it excelled in other things. for God had chosen it as his
sanctuary; and the same must be said of the whole land. As then the
land of Canaan was, as it were, a pledge of an eternal inheritance to
the children of Abraham, the scripture on this account greatly extols
it, and speaks of it in magnificent terms. If Mount Seir was very
wealthy and replenished with everything delightful, it must have been
still a sad exile to the Idumeans, because it was a token of their
reprobation; for Esau, when he left his father's house, went there; and
he became as it were an alien, having deprived himself of the celestial
inheritance, as he had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. This
is the reason why God declares here that Esau was dismissed as it were
to the mountains, and deprived of the Holy Land which God had destined
to his chosen people.

     But the Prophet also adds another thing, - that God's hatred as
manifested when the posterity of Esau became extinct. For though the
Assyrians and Chaldeans had no less cruelly raged against the Jews than
against the Edomites, yet the issue was very different; for after
seventy years the Jews returned to their own country, as Jeremiah had
promised: yet Idumea was not to be restored, but the tokens of God's
dreadful wrath had ever appeared there in its sad desolations. Since
then there had been no restoration as to Idumea, the Prophet shows that
by this fact the love of God towards Jacob and his hatred towards Esau
had been proved; for it had not been through the contrivance of men
that the Jews had liberty given them, and that they were allowed to
build the temple; but because God had chosen them in the person of
Jacob, and designed them to be a peculiar and holy people to himself.

     But as to the Edomites, it became then only more evident that they
had been rejected in the person of Esau, since being once laid waste
they saw that they were doomed to perpetual destruction. This is then
the import of the Prophet's words when he says, that the possession of
Esau had been given to serpents. For, as I have already said, though
for a time the condition of Judea and of Idumea had not been unlike,
yet when Jerusalem began to rise and to be repaired, then God clearly
showed that that land had not been in vain given to his chosen people.
But when the neighbouring country was not restored, while yet the
posterity of Esau might with less suspicion have repaired their houses,
it became hence sufficiently evident that the curse of God was upon

     And to the same purpose he adds, If Edom shall say, We have been
diminished, but we shall return and build houses; but if they build, I
will pull down, saith God. He confirms what I have stated, that the
posterity of Edom had no hope of restoration, for however they might
gather courage and diligently labour in rebuilding their cities, they
were not yet to succeed, for God would pull down all their buildings.
This difference then was like a living representation, by which the
Jews might see the love of God towards Jacob, and his hatred towards
Esau. For since both people were overthrown by the same enemy, how was
it that liberty was given to the Jews and no permission was given to
the Idumeans to return to their own country? There was, as it has been
said, a greater ill-will to the Jews, and yet the Chaldeans dealt with
them more kindly. It then follows, that all this was owing to the
wonderful purpose of God, and that hence it also appeared, that the
adoption, which seemed to have been abolished when the Jews were driven
into exile, was not in vain.

     Thus then saith Jehovah of hosts, They shall build, that is,
though they may build, I will overthrow; and it shall be said to them,
Border of ungodliness, and a people with whom Jehovah is angry for
ever. By the border of ungodliness he means an accursed border; as
though he had said, "It will openly appear that you are reprobate, so
that the whole world can form a judgment by the event itself." By
adding, A people with whom Jehovah is angry or displeased, he again
confirms what I have said of love and hatred. God might indeed have
been equally angry with the Jews as with the Edomites, but when God
became pacified towards the Jews, while he continued inexorable to the
posterity of Esau, the difference between the two people was hence
quite manifest.

     Noticed also must be the words, ad-olam, for ever: for God seemed
for a time to have rejected the Jews, and the Prophets adopt the same
word som, angry, when they deplore the condition of the peep]e, who
found in various ways that God was angry with them. But the wrath of
God towards the Jews was only for a time, for he did not wholly forget
his covenant; but he became angry with the Edomites for ever, because
their father had been rejected: and we know that this difference
between the elect and the reprobate is ever pointed out, that when God
visits sins in common, he ever moderates his wrath towards his elect,
and sets limits to his severity, according to what he says, "If his
posterity keep not my covenant, but profane my law, I will chastise
them with the rod of man; but my mercy will I not take away from him."
(Ps. 89: 31-33; 2 Sam. 7:14.) But with regard to the reprobate, God's
vengeance ever pursues them, is ever suspended over their heads, and
ever fixed as it were in their bones and marrow. For this reason it is
that our Prophet says, that God would be angry with the posterity of

     He adds, Your eyes shall see. The Jews had already begun in part
to witness this spectacle, but the Prophet speaks here of what was to
continue. See then shall your eyes; that is, "As it has already
appeared of what avail gratuitous election has been to you, by which I
have chosen you as my people, and as ye have also seen on the other
hand how it has been with your relations the Edomites, because they had
been rejected in the person of their father Esau; so also this same
difference shall ever be evident to you in their posterity: see then
shall your eyes.

     And ye shall say, Magnified let Jehovah be over the border of
Israel; that is, "The event itself will extort this confession, - that
I greatly enhance my goodness towards you." For though tokens of God's
grace shone forth everywhere, and the earth, as the Psalmist says, is
full of his goodness, (Ps. 104: 24;) yet there was in Judea something
special, so that.our Prophet does not in vain say, that there would be
always reasons for the Jews to celebrate God's praises on account of
his bounty to them more than to the rest of the world. And the Prophet
no doubt reproves here indirectly the wickedness of the people, as
though he had said, - "Ye indeed, as far as you can, bury God's
benefits, or at least extenuate them; but facts themselves must draw
from you this confession - that God deals bountifully with the border
of Israel, that he exercises there his favour more remarkably than
among any of the nations."

     After having briefly referred to those benefits which ought to
have filled the Jews with shame, he comes at length to the subject he
had in view; for his main object, as I have already stated, was to
show, that it was God's complaint that he was deprived of his own right
and in a double sense, for the Jews did not reverence him as their
Father, nor fear him as their Lord. He might indeed have called himself
Lord and Father by the right of creation; but he preferred, as I have
already explained, to appeal to their adoption; for it was a remarkable
favour, when the Lord chose some out of all the human race; and we
cannot say that the cause of this was to be found in men. Whom then he
designs to choose, he binds to himself by a holier bond. But if they
disappoint him, wholly inexcusable is their perfidy.
     As we now understand the Prophet's meaning, and the object of this
expostulation, it remains for us to learn how to accommodate what is
taught to ourselves. We are not indeed descended fronm Abraham or from
Jacob according to the flesh; but as God has engraved on us certain
marks of his adoption, by which he has distinguished us from other
nations, while we were yet nothing better, we hence see that we are
justly exposed to the same reproof with the Jews, if we do not respond
to the calling of God. I wished thus briefly to touch on this point, in
order that we may know that this doctrine is no less useful to us at
this day than it was to the Jews; for though the adoption is not
exactly the same, as it then belonged to one seed and to one family,
yet we are not superior to others through our own worthiness, but
because God has gratuitously chosen us as a people to himself. Since
this has been the case, we are his; for he has redeemed us by the blood
of his own Son, and by rendering us partakers, by the gospel, of a
favour so ineffably great, he has made us his sons and his servants.
Except then we love and reverence him as our Father, and except we fear
him as our Lord, there is found in us at this day an ingratitude no
less base than in that ancient people. But as I wished now only to
refer to the chief point, I shall speak to-morrow, as the passage
requires, on the subject of election: but it was necessary first
briefly to show the Prophet's design, as I have done; and then to treat
particular points more at large, as the case may require.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only designed to give us a
life in common in this world but hast also separated us from other
heathen nations, and illuminated us by the Sun of Righteousness, thine
only begotten Son, in order to lead us into the inheritance of eternal
salvation, - O grant, that having been rescued from the darkness of
death, we may ever attend to that celestial light, by which thou
guidest and invitest us to thyself; and may we so walk as the children
of light, as never to wander from the course of our holy calling, but
to advance in it continually, until we shall at length reach the goal
which thou hast set before us, so that having put off all the filth of
the flesh, we may be transformed into that ineffable glory, of which we
have now the image in thine only-begotten, Son. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventieth.

     We saw yesterday what the object of Malachi was in reminding the
Jews that they were loved and chosen by God; it was, that he might the
more amplify their ingratitude for having rendered such an unworthy
reward for so great a favour of God: as he had preferred them to all
other nations, he had justly bound them to perpetual obedience; but
they had shaken off the yoke, and having despised God had given
themselves up again to many corruptions, as we have yesterday stated.
But I reminded you at the same time, that the Prophet refers not here
to those benefits with which God favours indiscriminately all mankind,
but brings forward the adoption by which he had set apart the seed of
Abraham as his peculiar people.

     But that it may appear more fully how just this expostulation was,
let us first observe, that it is one kind of obligation that God has
created us men in his image and after his likeness; for he might have
created us dogs and asses, and not men. Adam, we know, was taken from
the earth, as other animals were: then as to the body there is no
difference between men and other creatures. When it is said that God
breathed into man the breath of life, we ought not to dream as the
Manicheans do, that man's soul is by traduction; for so they say,
affirming that man's soul is from the substance of the Deity; but Moses
on the contrary understands that man's soul was created from nothing.
We are born by generation, and yet our origin is clay; and the chief
thing in us, the soul, is created from nothing. We hence see that we
differ from animals because God was pleased to create us men. He
therefore will justly charge us with ingratitude, if we do not serve
him; for it was for this end he created us in his own image.

     But there is here mentioned a special favour - that the Lord took
to himself the seed of Abraham, as it is said in the song of Moses,
that all nations are God's, but that he had cast his line to set apart
Israel for himself. (Deut. 32: 9.) Though then the whole world was
under God's government, it was yet his will to choose one family. If
the cause be enquired, it is not to be found in men; for all were
created from the earth, and souls were implanted in their bodies
created from nothing. Since it was so, we see that the difference arose
from the fountain of gratuitous favour - that God preferred one race to
the rest; and as we stated yesterday, Moses often repeats this - that
the Jews were not chosen because they were more excellent than other
nations, but because God gratuitously loved their fathers. (Deut. 7:
7.) By love he means gratuitous favor.

     Malachi then does not consider here that the Jews had been chosen
before other nations on the ground of their own merit; for if he
granted this, they might have objected and said - "Why dost thou remind
us that God has favoured us more than other nations, since he deemed us
worthy, and rewarded our merit?" But the Prophet takes it as admitted,
according to what I have already said, that the Jews were by nature
like other nations, so that their different condition did not proceed
from themselves, or from their own worthiness, but from the gratuitous
love of God.

     A third step is also to be noticed here; for God selected a part
only from the very race of Abraham, as Esau and Jacob were brothers,
and Esau was first according to the order of nature, for he was the
first-born; and yet God rejected him, and appointed the favour of
election to be in the posterity of Jacob. This third step then was

     These things ought to be carefully considered. Men are peculiarly
bound to God, because he might have created them asses and dogs, and
not men; but it has pleased him to form them in his own image. The
second step is, that he chose the race of Abraham, when his empire
extended over all nations without exception: for how was it that God
chose to be the father and savior of one people only, when the whole
world was under his authority? Here shines forth, as I have already
said, his gratuitous favour; and in addition to the testimonies of
Moses, it is often said in the Psalms that God loved the fathers, that
he did to them what he had not done to other nations, that he made
known his judgments to them. (Psalm 147:19.) There are many passages in
which God commemorates his favor to the Jews, because it pleased him to
distinguish them from other nations, while yet the condition of all by
nature was wholly the same. Now the third step which Malachi mentions
ought to be carefully noticed - that God not only promised to be a God
to Abraham and to his seed, but also made a difference between the very
sons of Abraham, so as to reject some and to choose others; and it is
on this point that Paul dwells in the ninth chapter to the Romans; for
he says, that not all who are of Israel - that is, who derive their
origin from him - are true and legitimate Israelites, but those who are
called. For it was Paul's object to refute the Jews, for they boasted
that they were a holy people, though they wilfully rejected Christ and
his gospel. For when the apostles proved that the Redeemer promised had
been sent, the proud answer in the mouth of the Jews was this - "Are
not we the Church of God? but we do not acknowledge this Christ whom ye
would thrust upon us." As then the Jews, through this false pretence,
despised the favour of God, and sought to trample Christ as it were
under foot, Paul repels this arrogance, and shows that they excelled
not the nations, except by virtue of a gratuitous adoption, and that
this adoption was to be so extended to the whole race of Abraham as yet
to be confined to a certain number.

     In the same manner do the Papists act in the present day. As they
estimate faith by external tokens, they haughtily object to us, and say
that they are the Church; as though a general promise were sufficient
without the Spirit, who is justly called the Spirit of adoption, by
whom God seals it within, even in our hearts.

     Now Paul adds evidences of the fact, and brings forward the
instance of Jacob and Esau. Of the twin brothers, one, he says, was
chosen, and the other passed by; and yet both were the sons of Abraham.
It then follows that there is a third step in election, as I have
already stated. Now from this third proceeds a fourth - that God takes
some of the sons of Jacob, whom he has chosen before the foundation of
the world, and others he rejects; and of this fact Paul adduces a sure
proof, or assigns an evident reason: God preferred Jacob to his
brother, the first-born, but not on account of any merit: if then the
free mercy of God availed so much in the election of Jacob, it follows
that the same still prevails with reoard to his posterity. If it be
again asked, whence comes it that some are faithful and others are
reprobate, the answer is, because it so pleases God. Hence Paul ascends
higher and says, that before they were born, and had done neither good
nor evil, it was said, the elder shall serve the younger; and then he
brings forward this prophecy - "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I

     If then we wisely consider the whole passage, we shall find what I
have stated - that from the third step we may proceed to a fourth, and
that is, that from the sons of Jacob God chose whom he pleased and
rejected others; for when he chose Jacob, God was not bound to him any
more than he was before. The same promise was indeed repeated to Jacob,
which had been given to Abraham; but from Abraham proceeded Ishmael,
who was rejected, we know, from God's Church; and the same was the case
with the other sons of Abraham. Isaac was alone chosen. But Isaac, the
father of Esau and Jacob, was not able at his own pleasure to retain
them both; but here the free and hidden election of God appeared, so
that Esau was rejected, and Jacob remained as the legitimate heir to
the divine favour.

     We now then more fully understand uhat the Prophet means: he does
not charge the Jews with having shaken off every fear of that God, in
whose image they had been created; but he enhances their ingratitude,
because they gave no response to the free adoption of God, for they had
been chosen from all other nations, and not only this, but they had
been separated again from the very race of Abraham, and this was their
second election. Another thing must also be added respecting their
gratuitous election; for the reproof of the Prophet would not have been
received, except God in his adoption had regard only to his own favour;
for if we grant that either Jacob or Abraham had merited anything, what
the Prophet says, Was not Esau Jacob's brother? would not have availed.
An answer might have been readily given, "He was indeed his brother,
but his virtue being meritorious set him before his brother." But the
Prophet here presses this point on the Jews - that having been bound by
so many benefits, they yet were become as it were spurious; for they
had degenerated from the favor which God had conferred on them. We
hence see that by these words of the Prophet it is sufficiently proved
- that Abraham had been chosen by God in preference to all other
nations, Isaac in preference to his brother Ishmael, and Jacob in
preference to Esau.

     And Scripture is full of proofs on the subject, and experience
also sufficiently demonstrates the truth. Moses says, that it wss not
by their own virtue that they excelled other nations, for they were a
rebellious and a stiff-necked people. Though God then knew the perverse
character of that nation, it yet pleased him to make them an example of
his wonderful goodness. There is therefore no reason for us to seek any
other cause for adoption except the will of God. And since the election
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was gratuitous, it follows that each one
is freely chosen whoml God separates from the whole body; and thus we
come to the fourth step; for what is said here, that Jacob was chosen,
ought not to be confined to his person, but what he had in common with
his posterity. Jacob then was chosen - for what purpose? that his
children might be God's holy and peculiar people. Now if we consider
his whole offspring, we shall find that all who descended from Jacob
were not legitimate Israelites, for the greatest part of them were
rejected. As then many who derived their origin from Jacob, were not
less reprobate than Esau, it follows that God's free favor and
gratuitous mercy prevails as to individuals: and this is the subject
which Paul discusses in the ninth chapter to the Romans.

     It seems hard to many, that God should choose some and not all,
and that he should regard no worthiness, but of his own free will
choose whom he pleases, and reject others. But whence comes this
objection, except that they wish to restrain God and subject him to
their own judgment? But we must come to the principle to which I have
referred. If it seems unreasonable to them that one of two should be
chosen and the other rejected, how can they defend the justice of God
(if need there be of their apology) with regard to an ass and man? for
as I have said, they both proceeded, both asses and men, from the same
lump as to their bodies. Every vigor and strength in the ass has been
created by the hidden power of God: and as to the soul of man, though
its essence is immortal, it has yet been created from nothing. Now,
then, let these wise censors answer for God in this case, whom they
think to be exposed to many calumnies, when we say that men's salvation
depends on his will, so that he rejects some and chooses others.

     But as to general election, there is the same difficulty to
satisfy the judgment of men: for as we have already said, there is no
difference between men but what arises from hidden election. They
indeed imagine in this case a foreknowledge as the mother of election:
but the notion is extremely foolish and puerile. They then say, that
some are elected by God and some are rejected, because God, to whom
nothing is hid, foresees what every one will be. But I now ask, Whence
is it that one is virtuous, while another is vicious? If they say, from
free-will, doubtless creation is anterior to free-will: this is one
thing. Then we know that in Adam all men were created alike; for how is
it that we are all exposed to eternal death, and that the vengeance of
God extends over us all, and at this day prevails through the whole
world? How is this, except that the condition of us all originally is
one and the same? It follows then, that if Adam stood upright, all men
would be alike in their integrity. I do not now speak of special gifts:
for there would have been, I allow, a difference of endowments had
nature remained perfect; but as to eternal life the condition of all
would have been the same. Now after the fall of Adam we are all lost.
What can then be more foolish and absurd than to imagine that there is
some virtue in man by which he excels others, since we are all equally
accursed in the person of Adam? For who hath made thee to excel, saith
Paul? He proves that there is no excellency in man, except what
proceeds from the bounty of God only, and as I have stated, the reason
is quite manifest.

     For either original sin does not belong to all men, or God cannot
foresee that this man will be just and that man unjust. Why? All are
naturally reprobate in Adam and liable to eternal death, and the reason
is evident, for nothing is found in men but sin. The foreknowledge of
God then cannot be the cause of our election, for by looking on the
whole race of man, he finds them all under a curse from the least to
the greatest.

     We see then how foolishly do they talk and prattle who ascribe to
mere and naked prescience what ought to be ascribed to the good
pleasure of God. That God made himself known to the race of Abraham,
that he designed to deposit his law with the Israelites - all this was
his peculiar favour, and no other reason can be assigned for it except
gratuitous adoption. God then favoured the children of Abraham with
this privilege, because it so pleased him: for if we say that they were
worthy, and by their virtue rendered themselves deserving, the Holy
Spirit does in the first place everywhere speak against us, and in the
second place experience and facts, for the obstinacy of that people was
extraordinary. But we ought to be satisfied with the authority of
Scripture, since God makes known and illustrates his favour by this
instance - that he loved Abraham and his children, that is, that he was
favourable to the Jews through his own goodness only, and this is what
we shall hereafter see still more clearly. Let this then remain as a
fixed principle - that the cause of our election is notlling else but
the mere favour of God. If we seek a cause apart from God, when we
enquire about our election, we shall wander in a labyrinth.

     That the same principle holds as to individuals, I have already
proved. It ought indeed to be sufficient for us, that Paul passes from
the person of Jacob to individuals among his posterity. For he adduces
as it wet e an instance in the two brothers, in order to convince us
that no one is chosen on account of his own virtue, but according to
the good pleasure of God: nor was it necessary to state these
circumstances - that one was chosen when the brothers were not yet
born, and when they had not done either good or evils that it was not
through works but through him who called, except he meant to prove
this, that it is in God's power to choose whom he wills and to reject
whom he wills. But as Augustine reminds us, nothing can be imagined
more absurd than that notion, with which many are pleased, that God has
foreknown what men will be, for Paul excludes such foreknowledge as the
cause which he infers, that it was not owing to works but to him who
called, that God preferred the one to the other, for neither of them,
while in their mother's womb, had done either good or evil.

     Paul brings also a confirmation from another declaration of Moses,
"I will pity whom I will pity, and mercy will I show to whom I will be
merciful. "By these words God clearly declares that it was in his power
to reject whom he pleased of the seed of Jacob, and to choose whom he
pleased. What then he had before said respecting one man, God now
applies to the whole seed, for he speaks not there of foreign nations,
but of that holy and chosen people. When God threatened with ruin all
the children of Abraham, Moses humbly deprecated this, lest he should
annul his own covenant: God answered him, "I will pity whom I will
pity," - what does this mean? that there is no other cause why God
retains some for himself and rejects others, than his own will. The
repetition may seem superfluous and frigid, "I will pity whom I will
pity," but it is very emphatical; as though he had said, "I might have
chosen for myself another from the world and not Abraham, but I have
according to my own good pleasure adopted him; and Ishmael might have
been as dear to me as Isaac, but it has been my will that the blessing
should rest on Isaac; when he also had begotten two children, I
repudiated the first born and choose Jacob, and now from the posterity
of Jacob I will choose for myself whom I please, for there is to be
found no other cause but my will, 'I will then pity whom I will pity,
and mercy will I show to whom I will be merciful.'" If then in this
case men will contend with God, and would know why he chooses this
rather than that man, the answer he gives is, that the cause is to be
found in his mercy alone, for he is bound to no one.

     We now see how the folly of those vanishes away who would have
foreknowledge to be the cause of election; and also that they who
murmur against God, are sufficiently refuted by this reason, that it is
in his power either to choose or to reject, inasmuch as he is under
obligations to none.

     As to reprobation, the cause of it is sufficiently manifest in the
fall of Adam, for, as we have said, we all fell with him. It must still
be observed, that the election of God is anterior to Adam's fall; and
that hence all we who are rescued from the common ruin have been chosen
in Christ before the creation of the world, but that others justly
perish though they had not been lost in Adam; because God appointed
Christ the head of his Church, in order that we might be saved in him,
not all, but those who have been chosen.

     And with regard to the proof, it is not necessary here to bring
together the mass of passages found in scripture, for this would be
endless. But there are, however, some remarkable passages, by which it
is sufficiently evident that some are chosen from the whole world as
well as from the race of Abraham, according to God's good pleasure
only, and that others are rejected, and that there is no other cause to
be found but his will; for our election is hid in the eternal and
secret counsel of God, and founded on Christ, and reprobation is also
hid in the judgment of God. Now if we wish to penetrate into this
mystery, we must know that it is a great and unfathomable abyss: here
all our ideas vanish away. In the meantime, however, God does not lose
his liberty to choose and reject whom he pleases.

     With regard to election, the ninth chapter to the Romans ought to
be sufficient, or rather the three chapters, for Paul pursues the same
argument to the end of the eleventh chapter, and then exclaims that the
riches of God's wisdom and goodness are incomprehensible, and that his
judgments are untraceable. He speaks also of the elect in the first
chapter to the Ephesians; and the sum of what he says is, that all the
faithful had been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world,
and through the good pleasure of God only, in order that he might show
in them the glory of his goodness.

     By no refinements can they escape who attempt to darken this
truth; for Paul very clearly and briefly declares that the whole world
has not been chosen, but the faithful, who are afterwards favored with
the Spirit of adoption: and thus sufficiently is that fancy refuted,
that the election of God ought to be connected with his promises. I
wonder that men of learning, endued with judgment and versed in
scripture, so frigidly pass over the subject, and that they are not at
least moved when they see that they give to many the occasion of
foolishly going astray, and that some take hence the opportunity to
calumniate. We must, however, declare what this passage requires - that
those are very unwise who seek to subvert or overthrow the eternal
election of God by this contrivance - that God addresses all men
generally, "Come unto me" - "I am your Father." Since God then offers
his grace to all by the external preaching of his word, they will have
it that all are elected: but Paul says, that we are believers, because
we have been elected. If then it be asked, why some obstinately reject
the grace of God, and others embrace it in the spirit of meekness, Paul
assigns the reason, and it is this - because God illuminates those who
believe, inasmuch as he has chosen them before the creation of the
world. It then follows that God so speaks generally, as that the
efficacy of the doctrine still depends on his secret good pleasure; for
whence is faith, but from his peculiar favor? and why does he not
communicate his grace to all? even because he has not chosen all. We
see that Paul thus proceeds step b,y step, that he might teach us that
faith emanates from the fountain of free election; and he raises up
election into the highest eminence to show that it is not right to
enquire into its cause. Thus much about election.

     As to reprobation, I know that many greatly dislike this doctrine
- that some are rejected, and that yet no cause can be found in
themselves why they thus remain disapproved by God. But there is here
need of docility and of a meek spirit, to which Paul also exhorts us,
when he says, "O man, who art thou who answerest against God?" (Rom. 9:
20.) For were it lawful to investigate the cause, surely Paul, who had
been taken up to the third heaven, might have showed us the way; but he
is here silent and drives us away from the indulgence of a bold and an
over curious spirit. Since the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul
restrains the presumption of men, that they may not dare to go beyond
this step - that God hardens whom he wills and rejects whom he wills,
why do men leap beyond this, except they wilfully seek to carry on war
with God? and yet they pretend modesty, and under this pretext they
seek to bury the doctrine of election; we ought, they say, to speak
soberly of mysteries. This last sentence I allow fully; but what is our
sobriety but our docility? that is, when we embrace what God declares
in his word, and never allow ourselves to investigate more than what he
teaches us. But they would extinguish God's word; nay, they dare openly
to pronounce blasphemies against God, and to find fault with the
Spirit, who has spoken by the prophets and the apostles.

     We indeed see that there are many devils who preach modesty, when
their object is to suppress the light and this chief doctrine, the main
basis of our salvation; and they extort wicked edicts from the ignorant
and the slumbering, as though it were in the power of men, by babbling
about things unknown, and by barbarously mixing all things together, to
thrust God as it were from his celestial throne. This is horribly
monstrous, and ought to be detested by all; for it would be better that
all the empires of the world should be swallowed up in the lowest
depths, than that mortal creatures should raise themselves up as it
were into heaven, and attempt to penetrate into the secret things of
God. But, however, when the whole world either assail this doctrine by
barking, or seek to subvert it by threats and terrors, or when all in
various ways manifest their rage, and when they roll thunders who seem
to themselves to be very powerful, it behoves us to hold fast this
doctrine, that God alone is the author of our salvation, because he has
been pleased freely to elect us, and also that he possesses power over
all the human race, so that some, according to his will, are elected
and some are rejected, and that he ever acts justly, and holds secret
the cause both of election and of reprobation. But it is no wonder that
we are so blind, for we are stupid by nature, nay, blind altogether;
and were we angels, it would be still our duty reverently to regard the
manifold wisdom of God, which no human minds, no, not even angelic
minds, can fully comprehend. Other things we must defer.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou best been pleased to adopt us as thy
people for this end, that we may be ingrafted as it were into the body
of thy Son, and be made conformable to our head, - O grant, that
through our whole life we may strive to seal in our hearts the faith of
our election, that we may be the more stimulated to render thee true
obedience, and that thy glory may also be made known through us; and
those whom thou hast chosen together with us may we labour to bring
together, that we may unanimously celebrate thee as the Author of our
salvation, and so ascribe to thee the glory of thy goodness, that
having cast away and renounced all confidence in our own virtue, we may
be led to Christ only as the fountain of thy election, in whom also is
set before us the certainty of our salvation through thy gospel, until
we shall at length be gathered into that eternal glory which He has
proctored for us by his own blood. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-first.

6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a
father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?
saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And
ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
7. Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we
polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
8. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye
offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy
governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the
Lord of hosts.

6. Filius honorat patrem, et servus dominum suum: si pater ego, ubi
honor meus? et si dominus ego, ubi timor mei? dicit Iehova exercituum
ad vos, 0 sacerdotes, qui contemnitis nomen meum: et dixistis, In quo
contempsimus nomen tuum?
7. Qui of offertis super altare meum panem pollutum; et dixistis, In
quo polluimus te? Quum dicitis, Mensa Iehovae ipsa est contemptibilis
(vel, despecta.)
8. Si obtuleritis caecum ad immolandum, non malum est? et si claudum
vel mutilum obtuleritis, non malum est? Offer hoc nonc (vel, agedum,
vel, quaeso; dubioe est significationis, offer ergo, obsecro, hoc)
praefecto tuo, an complacebit ei in te, vel suscipiet faciem tuam,
dicit Iehova exercituum.

     God as already proved that he had by many favours been a Father to
the Jews. They must have felt that he had indeed bound them to himself,
provided they possessed any religion or gratitude. He now then
concludes his address to them, as though he had said, that he had very
ill bestowed all the blessings he had given them; and he adopts two
similitudes; he first compares himself to a father, and then to a
master. He says, that in these two respects he had a just cause to
complain of the Jews; for he had been a father to them, but they did
not in their turn conduct themselves as children, in a submissive and
obedient manner, as they ought to have done. And farther, he became
their master, but they shook off the yoke, and allowed not themselves
to be ruled by his authority.

     As to the word, Father, we have already shown that the Jews were
not only in common with others the children of God, but had been also
chosen as his peculiar people. Their adoption then made them God's
children above all other nations; for when they differed nothing from
the rest of the world, God adopted them. With regard to the right and
power of a master, God, in the first place, held them bound to him as
the Creator and former of the whole world; but he also, as it is well
known, attained the right by redemption. That he might then enhance
their crime, he not only expostulates with them for having abused his
favours, but he charges them also with obstinacy, because they
disobeyed his authority, while yet he was their Lord.

     He says, that a son who honours his father, and a servant his
master. He applies the same verb to both clauses; but he afterwards
makes a difference, ascribing honour to a father and fear to a master.
As to the first clause, we know that whenever there is authority, there
ought to be honour; and when masters are over servants, they ought to
be honoured. But in a subsequent clause he speaks more distinctly, and
says, that a master ought to be feared by a servant, while honour is
due to a father from a son. For servants do not love their masters; not
being able to escape from their power, they fear them: but the
reverence which sons have for their fathers, is more generous and more
voluntary. But God shows here, that the Jews could by no means be kept
to their duty, though so many favours ought to have made it their sweet
delight. God had indeed conciliated them as much as possible to
himself, but all was without any benefit. The majesty also of God ought
to have struck them with fear. It was then the same, as though he had
said, that they were of so perverse a nature, that they could not be
led to obedience either by a kind and gracious invitation, or by an
authoritative command.

     The Lord then complains that he ass deprived by the Jews of the
honour which sons owe to their fathers, as well as of the fear which
servants ought to have for their masters; and thus he shows that they
were like untameable wild beasts, which cannot be tamed by any kind
treatment, nor subdued by scourges, or by any kind of castigation.

     He then adds, To you, 0 priests. It is certain that this complaint
ought not to be confined to the priests alone, since God, as we have
seen, speaks generally of the whole race of Abraham: for he had said
that Levi was advanced to the sacerdotal honour, while the other
brethren were passed by; but he had said also, that Jacob was chosen
when Esau was rejected; and this belonged in common to the twelve
tribes. Now it ought not, and it could not, be confined to the tribe of
Levi, that God was their father or their master. Why then does he now
expressly address the priests? They ought indeed to have been leaders
and teachers to the rest of the people, but he does not on this account
exempt the whole people from blame or guilt, though he directs his
discourse to the priests; for his object was to show that all things
had become so corrupt among the people, that the priests were become as
it were the chief in contempt of religion and in sacrileges, and in
every kind of pollution. It hence follows that there was nothing sound
and right in the community; for when the eyes themselves are without
light, they cannot discharge their duty to the body, and what at length
will follow?

     God then no doubt shows that great corruptions prevailed and had
spread so much among the people, that they who ought to have been
examples to others, had especially shaken off the yoke and given way to
unbridled licentiousness. This then is the reason why the Prophet
condemns the priests, though at the beginning he included the whole
people, as it is evident from the context.

     We must at the same time bear in mind what we have elsewhere said
- that the fault of the people was not lessened because the sin of the
priest was the most grievous; but that all were involved in the same
ruin; for God in this case did not absolve the common people, inasmuch
as they were guilty of the same sins; but he shows that the most
grievous fault belonged to the teachers, who had not reproved the
people, but on the contrary increased licentiousness by their
dissimulation, as we shall presently find again.

     He says that they despised his name; not that the fear of God
prevailed in others, but that it was the duty of the priests to reprove
the impiety of the whole people. As then they allowed to others so much
liberty, it appeared quite evident that the name of God was but little
esteemed by them; for had they possessed true zeal, they would not have
suffered the worship of God to be trodden under foot or profaned, as we
shall presently find to have been the case.

     It then follows, Ye have said, In what have we despised thy name?
As the Prophet at the beginning indirectly touched on the hypocrisy and
perverseness of the people, so he now no doubt repeats the same thing
by using a similar language: for how was it that the priests as well as
the people asked a question on a plain matter, as though it were
obscure, except that they were blind to their own vices? Now the cause
of blindness is hypocrisy, and then, as it is wont to do, it brings
with it perverseness; for all who deceive themselves, dare even to
raise their horns against God, and petulantly to clamour that he too
severely treats them; for the Prophet doubtless does not here relate
their words, except for the purpose of showing that they had such a
brazen front and so hard a neck, that they boldly repelled all
reproofs. We see at this day in the world the same sottishness; for
though the crimes reproved are sufficiently known, yet they, even the
most wicked, immediately object and say that wrong is done to them; and
they will not acknowledge a fault except they be a hundred times
convicted, and even then they will make some pretence. And truly were
there not daily proofs to teach us how refractory men are towards God,
the thing would be incredible. The Prophet then did no doubt by this
cutting expression goad and also wound the people as well as the
priests, intimating that so gross was their hypocrisy, that they dared
to make shifts, when their crimes were openly known to all.

     Ye have said then, by what have we despised thy name? They
inquired as though they had rubbed their forehead, and then gained
boldness, "What does this mean? for thou accuses us here of being
wicked and sacrilegious, but we are not conscious of any wrong." Then
the answer is given in God's name, Ye offer on mine altar polluted
bread. A question may be here asked, "Ought this to have been imputed
to the priests as a crime; for had victims been offered, such as God in
his law commanded, it would have been to the advantage and benefit of
the priests; and had fine corn been brought, it would have been
advantageous to the priests?" But it seems to me probable, that the
priests are condemned because like hungry and famished men they seized
indiscriminately on all things around them. Some think that the priests
grossly and fraudulently violated the law by changing the victims -
that when a fat ram was offered, the priests, as they suppose, took it
away, and put in its place a ram that was lean, or lame, or mutilated.
But this view appears not to me suitable to the passage. Let us then
regard the meaning to be what I have stated - that God here contends
with the whole people, but that he directs his reproofs to the priests,
because they were in two ways guilty, for they formed a part of the
people, and they also suffered God to be dishonoured; for what could
have been more disgraceful than to offer polluted victims and polluted

     If it be now asked, whether this ought to have been ascribed as a
fault to the priests, the answer is this - that the people then were
not very wealthy; for they had but lately returned from exile, and they
had not brought with them much wealth, and the land was desolate and
uncultivated: as, then, there was so much want among the people, and
they were intent, each on his advantage, according to what we have seen
in the Prophet Haggai, (ch. i. 4,) and neglected the temple of God and
their sacrifices, there is no doubt but that they wished anyhow to
discharge their duty towards God, and therefore brought beasts which
were either lame or blind; and hence the whole worship of God was
vitiated, their sacrifices being polluted. The priests ought to have
rejected all these, and to have closed up God's temple, rather than to
have received indiscriminately what God had prohibited. As then this
indifference of the people was nothing but a profanation of divine
worship, the priests ought to have firmly opposed it. But as they
themselves were hungry, they thought it better to lay hold on
everything around them - "What," they said, "will become of us? for if
we reject these sacrifices, however vicious they may be, they will
offer nothing; and thus we shall starve, and there will be no
advantage; and we shall be forced in this case to open and to close the
temple, and to offer sacrifices at our own expense, and we are not
equal to this burden." Since then the priests spared the people for
private gain, our Prophet justly reproves them, and says, ye offer
polluted bread.

     It was indeed the office of the priests to place bread daily on
the table; but whence could bread be obtained except some were offered?
Now nothing was lost to the priests, when they daily set bread before
God, for they presently received it; and thus they preferred, as it was
more to their advantage, to offer bread well approved, made of fine
flour: but as I have said, their own convenience interposed, for they
thought that they could not prevail with the people - "If we irritate
these men, they will deny that they have anything to offer; and thus
the temple will be empty, and our own houses will be empty; it is then
better to take coarse bread from them than nothing; we shall at least
feed our families and servants with this bread, after having offered it
to the Lord." We hence see how the fault belonged to the priests, when
the people offered polluted bread, and unapproved victims.

     I have hitherto explained the Prophet's words with reference
chiefly to the shew-bread; not that they ought to be so strictly taken
as many interpreters have considered them; for under the name of bread
is included, we know, every kind of eatables; so it seems probable to
me that the word ought to be extended to all the sacrifices; but one
kind is here mentioned as an example; and it seems also that what
immediately follows is added as an explanation - ye offer the lame and
the blind and the mutilated. Since these things are connected together,
I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of
offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar;
but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the
altar. And why God designates by bread all the sacrifices may be easily
explained; for God would have sacrifices offered to him as though he
had his habitation and table among the Jews; it was not indeed his
purpose to fill their minds with gross imaginations, as though he did
eat or drink, as we know that heathens have been deluded with such
notions; but his design was only to remind the Jews of that domestic
habitation which he had chosen for himself among them. But more on this
subject shall presently be said; I shall now proceed to consider the

     Ye offer on my altar polluted bread; and ye have said, In what
have we polluted thee? The priests again answer as though God unjustly
accused them; for they allege their innocency, as the question is to be
regarded here as a denial: In what then have we polluted thee? They
deny that they were rightly condemned, inasmuch as they had duly served
God. But we may hence conclude, according to what has been before
stated, that the people were under the influence of gross hypocrisy,
and had become hardened in their obstinacy. It is the same at this day;
though there be such a mass of crimes, which everywhere prevails in the
world, and even overflows the earth, yet no one will bear to be
condemned; for every one looks on others, and thus when no less
grievous sins appear in others, every one absolves himself. This is
then the sottishness which the Prophet again goads - Ye have said, In
what have we polluted thee? He and other Prophets no doubt charged the
Jews with this sacrilege - that they polluted the name of God.

     But it deserves to be known, that few think that they pollute God
and his name when they worship him superstitiously or formally, as
though they had to do with a child: but we see that God himself
declares, that the whole of religion is profaned, and that his name is
shamefully polluted when men thus trifle with him.

     He answers, when ye said, literally, in your saying, The table of
Jehovah, it is contemptible. Here the Prophet discovers the fountain of
their sin; and he shows as it were by the finger, that they had
despised those rites which belonged to the worship of God. The reason
follows, If ye offer the blind, he says, for sacrifice, it is no evil.
Some read the last clause as a question, "is it not evil?" but he, the
mark of a question, is not here; and we may easily gather from the
context that the Prophet as yet relates how presumptuously both the
priests and the whole people thought they could be acquitted and obtain
pardon for themselves, "It is no evil thing if the lame be offered, if
the blind be offered, if the maimed be offered; there is nothing evil
in all this." We now then understand what the Prophet means.

     But the subject would have been obscure had not a fuller
explanation been given in these words, The table of Jehovah, it is
contemptible. God does here show, as I have before stated, why he was
so much displeased with the Jews. Nothing is indeed so precious as his
worship; and he had instituted under the law sacrifices and other
rites, that the children of Abraham might exercise themselves in
worshipping him spiritually. It was then the same as though he had
said, that he cared nothing for sheep and calves, and for any thing of
that kind, but that their impiety was sufficiently manifested, inasmuch
as they did not think that the whole of religion was despised when they
despised the external acts of worship according to the law. God then
brings back the attention of the Jews from brute animals to himself, as
though he had said, "Ye offer to me lame and blind animals, which I
have forbidden to be offered; that you act unfaithfully towards me is
sufficiently apparent; and if ye say that these are small things and of
no moment, I answer, that you ought to have regarded the end for which
I designed that sacrifices should be offered to me, and ordered bread
to be laid on my table in the sanctuary; for by these tokens you ought
to have known that I live in the midst of you, and that whatever ye eat
or drink is sacred to me, and that all you possess comes to you through
my bounty. As then this end for which sacrifices have been appointed
has been neglected by you, it is quite evident that ye have no care nor
concern for true religion.

     We now then perceive why the Prophet objects to the priests, that
they had called the table of Jehovah contemptible; not that they had
spoken thus expressly, but because they had regarded it almost as
nothing to pervert and adulterate the whole of divine worship according
to the law, which was an evidence of religion when there was any.

     Now it may seem strange, that God one while so strictly requires
pure sacrifices and urges the observance of them, when yet at another
time he says that he does not seek sacrifices, "Sacrifice I desire not,
but mercy," (Hos. 6: 6;) and again, " Have I commanded your fathers
when I delivered them from Egypt, to offer victims to me? With this
alone was I content, that they should obey my voice." He says
afterwards in Micah, "Shall I be propitious to you if ye offer me all
your flocks? but rather, O man, humble thyself before thy God." (Mic.
6: 6.) The same is said in the fiftieth Psalm, in the first and the
last chapters of Isaiah, and in many other places. Since then God
elsewhere depreciates sacrifices, and shows that they are not so highly
esteemed by him, why does he now so rigidly expostulate with the Jews,
because they offered lame and maimed animals? I answer, that there was
a reason why God should by this reproof discover the impiety of the
people. Had all their victims been fat or well fed, our Prophet would
have spoken as we find that others have done; but since their
faithlessness had gone so far that they showed even to children that
they had no regard for the worship of God - since they had advanced so
far in shamelessness, it was necessary that they should be thus
convicted of impiety; and hence he says, ye offer to me polluted bread,
as though he had said, " I supply you with food, it was your duty to
offer to me the first-fruits, the tenths, and the shew-bread; and the
design of these external performances is, that they may regard
themselves as fed by me daily, and also that they may feed moderately
and temperately on the bread and flesh and other things given them, as
though they were sitting at my table: for when they see that bread made
from the same corn is before the presence of God, this ought to come to
their minds, 'it is God's will, as though he lived with us, that a
portion of the same bread should ever be set on the holy table:' and
then when they offer victims, they are not only to be thus stirred up
to repentance and faith, but they ought also to acknowledge that all
these are sacred to God, for when they set before the altar either a
calf, or an ox, or a lamb, and then see the animal sacrificed, (a part
of which remains for the priests,) and the altar sprinkled with blood,
they ought to think thus within themselves, 'Behold, we have all these
things in common with God, as though clothed in a human form he dwelt
with us and took the same food and the same drink.' They ought then to
have performed in this manner their outward rites."

     God now justly complains, that his table was contemptible, as
though he had said, that his favour was rejected, because the people,
as it were in contempt, brought coarse bread, as though they wished to
feed some swineherd, - a conduct similar to that mentioned in
Zechariah, when God said, that a reward was offered for him as though
he were some worthless hireling, (Zech. 2: 12) - "I have carefully fed
you," he says," and I now demand my reward: ye give for me thirty
silverings, a mean and disgraceful price." So also in this place, Ye
have said, the table of Jehovah, it is polluted. There is an emphasis
in the pronoun; for God shows that he by no means deserved such a
reproach: " Who am I, that ye should thus despise my table? I have
consecrated it, that ye might have a near access to me, as though I
dwelt in the visible sanctuary; but ye have despised my table as though
I were nothing."

     He afterwards adds, Offer this now to thy governor; will he be
pleased with thee? God here complains that less honour is given to him
than to mortals; for he adduces this comparison, "When any one owes a
tribute or tax to a governor, and brings any thing maimed or defective,
he will not receive it." Hence he draws this inference, that he was
extremely insulted, for the Jews dared to offer him what every mortal
would reject. He thus reasons from the less to the greater, that this
was not a sacrilege that could be borne, as the Jews had so
presumptuously abused his kindness; and hence he subjoins

9. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us:
this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the
Lord of hosts.

9. Et nunc deprecamini quaeso faciem Dei, et miserabitur nostri; (e
manu vestra factum est hoc;) an suscipict ex vobis faciem, dicit Iehova

     He wounds here the priests more grievously, - because they had so
degenerated as to be wholly unworthy of their honourable office and
title; "Go," he says, "and entreat the face of God." All this is
ironical; for interpreters are much mistaken who think that the Prophet
here exhorts the priests humbly to ask pardon from God, both for
themselves and for the people. On the contrary, he addresses them, as I
have said, ironically, while telling them to be intercessors and
mediators between God and the people; and yet they were profane men,
who on their part polluted the whole worship of God, and thus subverted
the whole of religion: go thou and entreat, he says, the face of God.
This duty, we know, was enjoined on the priests; they were to draw nigh
to the sanctuary and present themselves before God as though they were
advocates pleading the cause of the people, or at least intercessors to
pacify God. Since then they were in this respect the types of Christ,
it behoved them to strive themselves to be holy; and though the people
abandoned themselves to all kinds of wickedness, it yet became the
priests to devote themselves with all reverence to the duties of their
calling; and as God had preferred them to their brethren, they ought
especially to have consecrated themselves to him with all fear; for the
more excellent their condition was, the more eminent ought to have been
their piety and holiness. Justly then does the Prophet here inveigh so
severely against them, because they did not consider that they were
honoured with the priesthood, that they might entreat God, and thus
pacify his wrath, and reconcile to him miserable men: Go, he says, and
entreat the face of God; forsooth! he will accept your face. We now
understand the real meaning of the Prophet.

     And now, he says, he will have mercy on us. Here also the Prophet
derides them, because they boasted that they could prevail through
their own high dignity to render God propitious; forsooth! he says, he
will have mercy on us. But this is done by your hand, [i.e., by you.]
"Do ye raise up your hands to God? and will he on seeing you be
pacified towards you? As then ye are polluted, ye are unworthy of the
honour and office, in which ye so proudly glory."

     He does not however, as we have already said, extenuate the fault
of the people, and much less does he exempt them from guilt who were
implicated in the same crimes; but he shows that the state of things
was wholly desperate; for the common people disregarded God, and the
priests, neglecting to make any distinctions, received every sort of
victims, only that they might not be in want: he shows them that the
state of the people was extremely bad, as there was no one who could,
according to what his office required, pacify God. Will he then receive
your face? The Prophet seems to allude to the person of the Mediator;
for as Christ had not as yet appeared, when the priest presented
himself before the altar, it was the same as though God looked on the
face of one, and became thus propitious to all. On this account he
says, that the priests were not worthy that God should look on them,
since they had polluted his sanctuary and corrupted his whole service.
For the same purpose he subjoins -

10. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught?
neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure
in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at
your hand.

10. Quis etiam in vobis qui claudat ostia, et non incenditis altare
meum gratis? non mihi placet in vobis, dicit Iehova exercituum; et
oblationem non habebo gratam e manu vestry.

     He goes on with the same subject, - that the priests conducted
themselves very shamefully in their office, and that the people had
become hardened through their example, so that the whole of religion
was disregarded. Hence he says, that the doors were not closed by them.
Some interpreters connect the two things together - that they closed
not the doors of the temple, nor kindled the altar for nothing; and
thus they apply the adverb , chenam, to both clauses; as though he had
said, that they were hirelings, who did not freely devote themselves to
serve God, but looked for profit and gain in everything: and this is
the commonly received explanation. But it seems better to me to take
them separately and to say, Who does even shut the doors? not however
for nothing, and the copulative , vau, as in many other places, may be
rendered even: and yet ye kindle not for nothing my altar; as though
God had said, "I have fixed your works; ye are then to me as hired
servants; and now since I have ordered a reward to be given to you
whenever ye stand at my altar, why do ye not close my door?" Some
render chinam, in vain, and give this explanation "Who closes the
doors? then kindle not afterwards in vain my altar;" as though God
rejected the whole service, which had been corrupted by the avarice or
the sloth of the priests, and by the presumption of the people.

     It is indeed certain that it is better to separate the two clauses
so that the adverb , chinam, may be confined to the letter; but there
may yet, as I have said, be a two-fold meaning. If we render , chinam,
in vain the import is that the Prophet declares that they laboured to
no purpose while they thus sacrificed to God contrary to his law for
they ought to have attended especially to the rule prescribed to them:
as then they despised this, he justly says, "Offer not to me in vain;"
and thus the future tense is to be taken for the imperative, as we know
is the case sometimes in Hebrew.

     But no interpreter seems to have sufficiently considered the
reason why the Prophet speaks of not closing the doors of the temple.
The priests, we know were set over the temple for this reason - that
nothing polluted might be admitted; for there were of the Levites some
doorkeepers, and others stood at the entrance; in short, all had their
stations: and then when they had brought in the victim it was the
office of the priests to examine it and to see that it was such as the
law of God required. As then it was their special office to see that
nothing polluted should be received into the temple of God, he justly
complains here that they indiscriminately received what was faulty and
profane: hence he rightly declares (for this seems to me to be the true
exposition) "Offer not in vain." He then draws the conclusion, that the
priests lost all their labour in thus sacrificing, because God would
not have his name profaned, and justly preferred obedience to all
sacrifices. He therefore denies that they did any good in slaying
victims, because they ought in the first place to have attended to this
- not to change anything in God's word and not to deviate from it in
the least. But I cannot now proceed farther.


     Grant, Almighty God, that as thou best been pleased in thine
infinite mercy not only to choose from among us some to be priests to
thee, but also to consecrate us all to thyself in thine only begotten
Son, - O grant, that we at this day may purely and sincerely serve
thee, and so strive to devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may be
pure and chaste in mind, soul, and body, and that thy glory may so
shine forth in all our performances, that thy worship among us may be
holy, and pure, and approved by thee, until we shall at length enjoy
that glory to which thou invites us by thy gospel, and which has been
obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-second:

     I could not yesterday finish the complaint which God made against
the priests - that no one of them closed the doors of the temple, so
that it might continue pure from all defilements; for as their avarice
was insatiable, they indiscriminately admitted all sorts of
profanations: hence he comes to this conclusion - "Offer not hereafter
in vain;" for by saying, Kindle not my altar, he means that they spent
their toil to no purpose in offering sacrifices, because God required
his worship to be performed according to the prescription of his law. I
omit now the two other expositions I mentioned yesterday; for it seems
to me that the Prophet meant, that the priests wearied themselves in
vain while daily offering victims, because the Lord repudiated their
service as impure and vicious.

     He now adds, I am not pleased with you,' and an offering I will
not accept from your hand. In the first clause he says that they were
not approved by God, or did not please him; and then he adds, that
their offerings were rejected; for where there is no pure heart, there
we know all works are impure. For we must remember what Moses says -
that Abel pleased God together with his sacrifices, (Gen. 4: 4;) and we
have seen in another Prophet, that is Haggai, that what is highly
esteemed by men is an abomination to God, when he is not worshipped in
sincerity and truth, (Hag. 2: 15). Our Prophet now means the same thing
- I am not pleased with you, and I regard not as acceptable the victims
from your hand. It now follows

11. For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the
same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place
incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name
shall be great among the heathen saith the Lord of hosts.

11. Quia (vel, certe) ab ortu solis usque ad occasum magnum nomen meum
inter gentes; et in omni loco suffitus offertur nomini meo, et oblatio
munda; quia (vel, certe, est eadem particula) magnum nomen meum inter
gentes, dicit Iehova exercituum

     Here God shows that he no longer cared for the Jews, for he would
bid altars to be reared for him everywhere and through all parts of the
world, that he might be purely worshipped by all nations. It is indeed
a remarkable prophecy as to the calling of the Gentiles; but we must
especially remember this, - that whenever the Prophets speak of this
calling, they promise the spread of God's worship as a favour to the
Jews, or as a punishment and reproach.

     The Prophets then promised to the Jews that the Gentiles would
become allied to them; so does Zechariah, "In that day lay hold shall
ten men on the skirt of the garment, and will say to a Jew, Be thou our
leader; for the same God with thee will we worship." (Zech. 8:23.) It
would have been then the highest honour to the Jews had they become
teachers to all nations, so as to instruct them in true religion. So
also Isaiah says, that is, that those who were before aliens would
become the disciples of the chosen people, so that they would willingly
submit to their teaching. But as the Jews have fallen from their place,
the Gentiles have succeeded and occupied their position. Hence it is
that the Prophets when speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, often
denounce it as a punishment on the Jews; as though they had said, that
when they were repudiated there would be other children of God, whom he
would substitute in their place, according to what Christ threatened to
the men of his age, "Taken away from you shall be the kingdom of God,
and shall be given to another nation." (Matt. 21: 43.)

     Such is this prophecy: for our Prophet does not simply open to the
Gentiles the temple of God, to connect them with the Jews and to unite
them in true religion; but he first excludes the Jews, and shows that
the worship of God would be exercised in common by the Gentiles, for
the doctrine of salvation would be propagated to the utmost extremities
of the earth.

     This difference ought to be noticed, which interpreters have not
observed, and yet it is what is very necessary to be known; and for
want of knowing this has it happened that passages wholly different
have been indiscriminately blended together. The Prophet then does not
here promise, as we have often stated in other places, that the whole
world would be subject to God, so that true religion would everywhere
prevail, but he brands the Jews with reproach, as though he had said,
"God has repudiated you, but he will find other sons for himself, who
will occupy your place." He had repudiated in the last verse their
sacrifices, and we know how haughtily the Jews gloried in the holiness
of their race. As then they were inflated with so much pride, they
thought that God would be no God except he had them as his holy Church.
The Prophet here answers them, and anticipates their objection by
saying, that God's name would be celebrated through the whole world:
"Ye are a few people, all the nations will unite in one body to worship
God together; God then will not stand in need of you, and after he
rejects you his kingdom will not decay. Ye indeed think that his
kingdom cannot be safe, and that his glory will perish except he is
worshipped by you; but I now declare to you, that the worship of God
will flourish everywhere, even after he shall cast you out of his

     We now then see what the Prophet means when he says, that Great
will be the name of God from the rising to the setting of the sun. It
is simply said in Ps. 113:3 "From the rising to the setting of the sun
wonderful shall be the name of God." There indeed it is only a promise,
but here the Prophet includes the punishment which the Jews had
deserved, as though he had said, that after they were rejected by God
on account of their ingratitude, the Gentiles would become holy to God,
because he would adopt them instead of that wicked and ungodly people.

     But I have said, that the calling of the Gentiles is here clearly
proved, or may with certainty be elicited from this prophecy, for this
reason, because the name of God cannot be great without the teaching of
the truth. It is therefore the same thing as though the Prophet had
said, that the law which had been given to the Jews would be proclaimed
among all nations, so that true religion might spread everywhere: for
the basis of true religion is to know how he is to be worshipped by us,
inasmuch as obedience is better than all sacrifices. And it is
necessary always to begin with this principle - to know the God whom we
worship: and hence Christ himself, in the fourth chapter of John,
condemns all the religions which then prevailed in the world, because
men presumptuously worshipped gods devised by themselves. Since then it
is necessary that the worship of God should be based on the truth, then
God declares that his name would become renowned in every place, he
doubtless shows that his law would be known to all nations, so that his
will might be known everywhere, which is, as we have said, the only
rule of true religion.

He afterwards adds - Everywhere shall be offered incense to my name,
and a clean offering. Why? Because my name shall be great. The
repetition is not useless; for it was a thing then incredible, inasmuch
as God had not in vain separated the Jews from the rest of the world;
nor was it an ordinary commendation, when Moses said in the fourth
chapter of Deuteronomy - "Show me a nation to whom God draws nigh as
lie does to you: this then is your nobility and your excellency, to
have a God nigh and friendly to you." Hence also it is said in Psalm
147: 20 - "He has not done thus to other nations; his judgments has he
not made known to them." It was then the peculiar privilege of the race
of Abraham that God was known and worshipped by them. The very novelty,
then, of what is here said might have closed the door against this
prophecy; and this is the reason why the Prophet repeatedly confirms
what it was then difficult to believe - the name of God, he says, shall
be great in every place.

     We must also bear in mind that God cannot be rightly worshipped
except he is known, which Paul confirms when he says - "How shall they
call on him in whom they have not believed?" for except the truth
shines forth, we shall grope like the blind, and wander through devious
ways. There is therefore no religion approved by God except what is
based on his word.

     Moreover the Prophet, by, minchah, offering, and by incense, means
the worship of God; and this mode of speaking is common in the
Scriptures, for the Prophets who were under the law accon modeled their
expressions to the comprehension of the people. Whenever then they
intend to show that the whole world would come to the faith and true
religion - "An altar," they say, "shall be built to God;" and by altar
they no doubt meant spiritual worship, and not that after Christ's
coming sacrifices ought to be offered. For now there is no altar for
us; and whosoever builds an altar for himself subverts the cross of
Christ, on which he offered the only true and perpetual sacrifice.

     It then follows that this mode of speaking ought to be so taken,
that we may understand the analogy between the legal rites, and the
spiritual manner of worshipping God now prescribed in the gospel.
Though then the words of the Prophet are metaphorical, yet their
meaning is plain enough - that God will be worshipped and adored
everywhere. But what are the sacrifices of the New Testament? They are
prayers and thanksgivings, according to what the Apostle says in the
last chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. There was also under the
law the spiritual worship of God, as it is especially stated in the
fiftieth psalm; but there were then shadows connected with it, as it is
intimated in these words of Christ - "Now is come the hour when the
Father shall be worshipped in spirit and in truth." (John 4: 13.) He
does not indeed deny that God was worshipped in spirit by the fathers;
but as that worship was concealed under outward rites, he says that now
under the gospel the simple, and, so to speak, the naked truth is
taught. What then the Prophet says of offering and incense availed
under the law; but we must now see what God commands in his gospel, and
how he would have us to worship him. We do not find there any incense
or sacrifices.

     This passage contains nothing else than that the time would come
when the pure and spiritual worship of God would prevail in all places.

     And thus it appears how absurd are the Papists, when they hence
infer that God cannot be worshipped without some kind of sacrifice; and
on this ground they defend the impiety of their mass, as though it were
the sacrifice of which the Prophet speaks. But nothing can be more
foolish and puerile; for the Prophet, as we have said, adopts a mode of
speaking common in Scripture. And were we to allow offering and incense
to be taken here literally, how could , minchah, offering, be the body
and blood of Christ? "Oh!" they say, "it is a sacrifice made of bread,
and wine was added. Oh! Christ has thus commanded." But where has he
said " sacrifice?" They again deny that it is bread? for they say that
it is transubstantiated into the body of Christ: now then it is not a
sacrifice of bread, nor of fine flour; for the form only, visible to
the eyes, and without substance, remains, as they imagine. There is in
the meantime no reason for us carefully to discuss a subject so clear;
for as we have seen in Joel - "In the last days I will pour my Spirit
on all flesh, and prophesy shall your sons and your daughters; your old
men dreams shall dream, and your young men visions shall see." (Joel 2:
28.) So also we find what is similar in this place; for the Apostles,
though not taught by visions, were yet we know illuminated; and then
visions were not given commonly at the commencement of the gospel, nor
dreams; they were indeed very rare things. What then does Paul mean?
For he speaks of the whole body of the Church, as though he had said
that all, from the least to the greatest, would be Prophets. Did they
become Prophets by visions and dreams, whom God illuminated by the
doctrine of the gospel? By no means. But Joel, as I have said,
accommodated what he said to the time of the law. So also in this place
the Prophet, by offering and incense, designates the spiritual worship
of God. Let us now proceed-

12. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is
polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

12. Et vow polluistis illud, quum dicitis, Mensa Iehovae polluta est;
et proventus ejus (vel, fructus; alii vertunt, sermonem) contemptibilis
cibus ejus.

     This verse may be confined to the priests, or it may be extended
to the whole people; for both views are appropriate. As to my own view,
I doubt not but that the Prophet here reproves with additional severity
the priests, and that at the same time he extends his reproof to the
people in general. We saw in our yesterday's lecture how religion had
been polluted by the priests, and how impiously they had profaned the
worship of God: but this was the general sin of the whole people, as we
shall presently see. Let us then know that the whole people, as well as
the priests, are here reproved: but as a crime in the priests was more
grievous, they being the occasion of sacrilege to others, the Prophet
assails them in an especial manner, Ye, he says, have polluted my name.

     He gives a reason, and at the same time enhances their guilt: for
they might have complained, that God not only put them on a level with
the Gentiles, but also rejected them, and substituted aliens in their
place. He shows that God had a just cause for disinheriting them, and
for adopting the Gentiles as his children, for they had polluted God's
name. He at the same time amplifies their sin, when he says, "The
Gentiles, by whom I have been hitherto despised, and to whom my name
was not made known, will soon come to the faith; thus my name shall be
great, it shall be reverently worshipped by all nations; but ye have
polluted it." It was certainly very strange, that the Jews, peculiarly
chosen and illuminated by the doctrine of the Law, so presumptuously
polluted God's worship, as though they despised him, and that the
Gentiles, being novices, rendered obedience to God as soon as they
tasted of the truth of religion, so that his glory became through them

     He afterwards shows how the name of Gog was polluted, Ye say, The
table of Jehovah is polluted; that is, ye distinguish not between what
is sacred and profane: for he repeats what we noticed yesterday, - that
the Jews thought it a frivolous matter, when the Prophets taught them
that God was to be worshipped with all reverence. It is not however
probable, that they openly uttered such a blasphemy as that the table
of God was polluted; but it is easy to conclude from what is said, that
God's table was profaned by them, for they made no account of it. The
holiness of the table ought to have been so regarded by the Jews, as
not to approach the sanctuary without true repentance and faith; they
ought to have known that they had to do with God, and that his majesty
ought to have deeply touched them. When therefore they came to the
temple, and brought with them their uncleanness like swine, it was
quite evident that they had no reverence for the temple, or the altar,
or the table. According to this sense then are the words of the Prophet
to be understood, - not that the Jews openly mocked God, but that the
holiness of the temple was with them of no account.

      With regard to the Table, we stated yesterday, that when God
ordered sacrifices to be offered to him, it was the same as though he
familiarly dwelt among the Jews, and became as it were their companion.
It was the highest honour and an instance of God's ineffable goodness,
that he thus condescended, so that the people might know that he was
not to be sought afar off. And for this reason the less excusable was
their impiety, as they did not consider that sacrifices were celebrated
on earth, that their minds might be raised up above the heavens: for it
is to this purpose that God descends to us, even to raise us above, as
we have elsewhere stated. It was then an extremely base and shameful
senselessness and stupidity in the Jews, that they did not consider
that God's table was set among them, that they might by faith penetrate
into heaven, and know it to be even before their eyes.

     As to the words, Its fruit is his contemptible food, we must
observe, that some render , nib, word, and bring this passage from
Isaiah, "I have created the fruit of the lips, peace, peace," (Isaiah
57: 19.) The verb , nub, means to fructify; hence , nib, is fruit or
produce. Were we to grant that it is metaphorically taken for word, yet
I see no reason why we should depart from its simple and real meaning.
For first there will be a relative without an antecedent, , nibu, his
word; and then there will be a change of number; for they apply it to
the priests, his word, that is, the word of them - of whom? of the
priests. It is common, I know, in Hebrew, to put a relative without an
antecedent; but as I have said, nothing requires this here. The most
suitable rendering then is, Its provision, that is, of the altar, is
the contemptible food of God. I take then the words to mean this, that
a speech of this kind was often in the mouth of the people as well as
of the priests, - "Oh! the provision for the altar is any kind of meat;
be not so anxious in your choice, so as to offer the best animals; for
God is satisfied even with the lean and the maimed."

     And here again God reproves the impiety and contempt of the
people; and at the same time he condemns their avarice, because they
took the worst of their animals to offer in the temple, as though they
lost everything they consecrated to God.

     Why he calls the sacrifices the meat or food of God, we now
sufficiently understand. Only this ought to be observed, that the
impiety of the people was evident, as they were so unconcerned in their
duties; for God had not in vain instituted sacrifices and other rites.
The contempt then of the signs openly showed not only the negligence of
the people, but also their contempt of all religion. Were any one at
this day to regard as nothing outward teaching and the sacraments,
would he not prove himself to be an impious despiser of God? Yet
religion, I allow, does not consist in these things; for though
hypocrites pretend the most ardent zeal, they yet profane the name of
God, whenever the truth sounds in their ears and the heart is not
touched, and when they come to the Lord's table and are at the same
time alienated from Christ. These things I allow; but as no true
servant of God can despise these ordinances, which on account of our
common infirmity are useful to us, and without which we cannot be as
long as we sojourn in this world, whosoever derides our simplicity in
frequenting God's house, or if silent abstains from doing so, and
regards such a practice as nothing or as unimportant, he is thus, as I
have said, proved guilty of impiety. This is the reason why the Prophet
so sharply reproves the Jews, because they said that the provision for
the altar was God's contemptible food. It follows

13. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed
at it, saith the Lord of hosts: and ye brought that which was torn, and
the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept
this of your hand? saith the Lord.

13. Et dixistis, Ecce fatigatio (alii vertunt, Ecce ex fatigatione,) et
sufflastis in illud, dicit Iehova exercituum; et obtulistis raptum et
claudum et debile; et obtulistis Minchah (hoc est, oblationem;) an
gratam hanc habebo e manu vestra, dicit Iehova.

     He pursues the same subject - that the worship of God was despised
by them and regarded as almost worthless. We must bear in mind what I
have before stated - that the Jews are not reprehended here as though
they had openly and avowedly spoken reproachfully of God's worship; but
that this was sufficiently evident from their conduct; for they allowed
themselves so much licentiousness, that it was quite manifest that they
were trifling with God, inasmuch as they had cast off every fear of him
and all reverence towards him.

     Ye have said, Behold, labour. This may apply to the whole people,
or to the priests alone. It is commonly explained of the priests - that
they complained that they had a hard office, because they were
continually in the temple and constantly watched there, and were much
occupied in cleaning the vessels.

     The monks at this day under the Papacy, and the priests, boasting
of themselves, say, "While all others sleep, we are watching; for we
are constant in prayers." Forsooth! they howl at midnight in their
temples; and then by massing and by doing other strange things they
imagine that they are seriously engaged in pacifying God. In this sense
do some understand this passage, as though the priests, in order to
commend their work, alleged that they laboured much in God's service,
and as though God had enjoined on them many and difficult things. But I
prefer applying this to the whole people, and yet I do not exclude the
priests; for the Prophet here condemns both, and shows that it was
wearisome to them to spend labour in worshipping God, that they
considered it weariness, as we commonly say, Tu le fais par courvee.

     And the import of what follows is the same, Ye have snuffed at it,
that is, through disdain. Some give this rendering, "With sorrow have
ye moved him;" and the verb is in Hiphil, and is often taken in this
sense. The verb , nephech, is properly to snuff; and it is here in
another conjugation; but even in Hiphil it has this meaning, and cannot
be taken otherwise. Now they who render it, to move or touch with
sorrow, are under the necessity of turning the words of the Prophet to
a sense the most foreign and remote, even that the priests, extremely
greedy of gain, compelled the common people to bring sacrifices, and
thus extorted sacrifices, but not without sorrow and lamentation. We
see how forced this is: I therefore wholly reject it. Some have
hammered out a very refined sense, which is by no means suitable, "Ye
have snuffed at it," that is, Ye have said indeed that the victims are
good and sufficiently fat; and yet ye may by breath blow them into the
air. Others render it, to cast down, because they threw the sacrifices
on the ground. But what need there is of departing from the common
meaning of the word, since it is easy to conclude that both the priests
and the people are here condemned, because the worship of God was a
weariness to them, as we snuff at a thing when it displeases us. The
behaviour then of the fastidious is what the Prophet meant here to
express. The passage will thus be very appropriate, Ye have said,
Behold weariness! Ye have snuffed at it: then he adds, -

     Ye have offered the torn, and the lame, and the weak. These words
prove the same thing - that they performed their duty towards God in a
trifling manner by offering improper victims: when they had anything
defective or diseased, they said that it was sacred to God, as we find
it stated in the next verse. Some improperly render , gazul, a prey,
what had been unjustly procured, as though he had said, that they
offered victims obtained by plunder: but I wonder how they could thus
distort the words of the Prophet without any pretence. He mentions here
three kinds - the torn, the lame, and the maimed or the feeble. Who
then does not see that the torn was an animal which had been torn by
wild beasts? When therefore they had an animal half dead, having been
torn by wolves, they thought that they had a suitable victim: "I am
constrained to offer a sacrifice to God, this lamb is very suitable,
for the wolf has devoured a part of it, and it has hardly escaped: as
then it is maimed, I will bring it." The Prophet then calls those torn
victims which had been lacerated by the teeth of wild beasts.

     We now understand the import of the words; but we must remember
what I have said - that God required not the performance of external
rites, because he had need of meat and drink, or because he set a great
value on these sacrifices, but on account of their design. The
sacrifices then which God demanded from his ancient people had in
themselves nothing that promoted true religion; nor could the odour of
sacrifices of itself delight God; but the end was to be regarded. As
then God ordered and commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, that he
might exercise his people in penitence and faith, it was for this
reason that he valued them. But when the people had fallen into gross
contempt of them, that they brought to God, as it were to insult him,
the maimed and the lame, their extremely base and intolerable impiety,
as I have already said, was made fully evident. This is the reason why
the Prophet now so vehemently chides the priests and the whole people;
they offered to God such sacrifices as man would have rejected,
according to what we noticed yesterday. It then follows -

14. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and
voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great
King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the

14. Maledictus autem dolosus, qui dum est in grege sua masculus, et
vovet et sacrificat corruptum Iehovae; quia Rex magnus ego, dicit
Iehova exercituum; et nomen meum terribile in gentibus.

I cannot finish to-day, for I should be too long.


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou dost not keep us at this day under
the shadows of the law, by which thou didst train up the race of
Abraham, but invitest us to a service far more excellent, even to
consecrate ourselves, body and soul, as victims to thee, and to offer
not only ourselves, but also sacrifices of praise and of prayer, as
thou hast consecrated all the duties of religion which thou requirest
from us, through Christ thy Son, - O grant, that we may seek true
purity, and labour to render, by a real sincerity of heart, our
services approved by thee, and so reverently profess and call upon thy
name, that really fulfilled in us may that be which thou best declared
by thy Prophet - that thy name shall be magnified and celebrated
through the whole world, as it was truly made known to us in the person
of thine only begotten Son. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Third.

     I repeated yesterday the last verse of the first chapter, but I
did not explain it. The Prophet declares here, that all who dealt
deceitfully and unfaithfully with God were under a curse; and at the
same time he specifies the kind of fraud practiced; they chose from the
flock such as were diseased or defective to offer as sacrifices to God.
It was indeed a proof of extreme dishonesty thus perversely to mock
God: for as we have seen no man would bear such an insult. Then the
Prophet, in order at once to complete what he had begun, distinctly
says, that they were all accursed.

     The verb , necal, means in Hebrew, to think; but it is taken
almost at all times in a bad sense: hence interpreters have not
improperly rendered it here, deceitful; but the deceit the Prophet
meant to express is of this kind - when men craftily contrive for
themselves vain pretences; for when they can cover their baseness
before the world, they think that they are at the same time absolved in
heaven. The Prophet then says, that they who think that they can escape
God's judgment by such artifices are under a curse.

     I come now to the kind of fraud they practised, If there be, he
says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb or a ram, when he vows, then
what is corrupt he offers to Jehovah. He then means, that though they
pretended some religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere
and honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow made to God;
they thought that they might be reduced to poverty, if they were too
bountiful in their sacrifices. Hence then the Prophet proves that they
offered to God with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered
was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right motive.

     We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require fat or lean
beasts, because God valued either the blood or flesh of animals on its
own account, but for the end in view; for these were the performances
of religion by which God designed to train up the Jews for the end
contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they were so
sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to conclude, that they were
gross and profane despisers of God, and had no concern for religion.

     The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith Jehovah, and my
name is terrible' among the nations. God declares here that his majesty
was of no account among the Jews, as though he had said, "With whom do
you think that you have to do?" And this is what we ought carefully to
consider when engaged in God's service. We indeed know that it is a
vice which has prevailed in all ages, that all nations and individuals
thought that they worshipped God, when they devised foolish and
frivolous rites according to their own fancies. If then we have a
desire to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is; for his
majesty will raise us up above the whole world, and cease will that
audacity which possesses almost all mankind; for they think that their
own will is a law, when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God.
The greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not worship
him according to the perceptions of our flesh, but offer him only what
is worthy of his celestial glory.

     He again repeats what we have before observed, though it was
disregarded by the Jews, - that he was a great king through the whole
world. As then the Jews thought that sacrifices could not be offered to
God, such as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem, and
in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is a great king even
in the farthest parts of the world. It hence follows, that God's
worship would not be confined to Judea, or to any other particular part
of the world; for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all
nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now follows


1. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
2. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give
glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse
upon you, and I will curse Your blessings; yea, I have cursed them
already, because ye do not lay it to heart.

1. Et nunc ad vos praeceptum hoc, O sacerdotes,_
2. Si non audieritis et non posueritis super cor, ut delis gloriam
nomini meo, dicit Iehova exercituum, mittam (copula hic abundat) in vos
maledictionem, et maledicam benedictionibus vestries, atque etiam
maledixi eam (est mutatio numeri, pro eas,) quia non ponitis super cor.

Though the priests did not sin alone, yet it is not without reason, as
we have said, that they were regarded as the first in wickedness; for
it was their office to correct what the people did amiss. Their
dissimulation had the effect of encouraging the common people to sin:
hence the Prophet accuses them especially as the authors of impiety;
and this is what the words intimate, if they are rightly considered.

     To you, he says, O priests. They might have indeed exonerated
themselves, or at least transferred a part of their guilt to others:
"Oh! what can we do? for we see that the people are growing cold in
God's worship; it is better that imperfect sacrifices should be offered
than none at all." As then they might by evasion have somewhat
extenuated their guilt, the Prophet the more sharply reproves them and
says, To you especially is addressed this command, as they ought to
have shown to others the right way; for when they dissembled, their
connivance was nothing else but a consent; and thus they divested the
people of God's fear, and allowed them to corrupt the whole of religion
by offering spurious sacrifices. To you then, he says, that is, "Though
the whole people is guilty before God, think not that ye are on this
account excused; for it behoves you to check this wickedness, for God
has set you over the people as their teachers and guides: as then ye
have neglected your duty, whatever others have done amiss, falls justly
on your heads. For how has it happened that the people have dared to
proceed so far in impiety? even because you have no concern for
religion; for God has promoted you to the priesthood for this end - to
preserve in integrity the worship of his name; but ye know of all the
prevailing profanations, and ye hold your peace: To you then is this

     He then adds, If ye will not hear nor lay it to heart to give
glory to my name, &e. He seems here to threaten the priests alone; and
yet if any one carefully considers the whole passage, he will easily
perceive that this address extends to the whole people, in such a way
however that it is in the first place directed to the priests; for as I
have said the greater portion of the guilt belonged to them. God then
denounces a heavy punishment on the whole people as well as on the
priests, even that he would send a curse. But that they might not
object and say that they were too severely dealt with, God shows how
justly he was displeased with them, because they hearkened not nor
attended to his warnings. What indeed is less tolerable than not to
hear God speaking? But as many thought it enough to stretch the ear,
and then immediately to forget what had been spoken, it is added, If ye
lay it not to heart, that is, If ye attend not and seriously apply your
hearts to what is said. We see then that the Prophet shows how that God
had a just cause for severely punishing them; for it was an impiety not
to be borne, when he could obtain no hearing from men. But the Prophet
shows at the same time what it is to hear God; he therefore adds the
latter clause as a definition or an explanation of the former: for God
is not heard, if we receive with levity his words, so that they soon
vanish away; but we hear them when we lay them on the heart, or, as the
Latins say, when we apply the mind to them. There is then required a
serious attention, otherwise it will be the same as though the ears
were closed against God.

     Let us further learn from this passage that obedience is of so
much account with God, that he bears nothing less than a contempt of
his word or a careless attention to it, as though we regarded not its
authority. We must also notice that our guilt before God is increased
and enhanced, when he recalls us to the right way, and seeks to promote
our welfare by warning and exhorting us. When therefore God is thus
kindly careful for our salvation, we are doubly inexcusable, if we
perversely reject his teaching, warnings, counsels, and other remedies
which he may apply.

     He now adds, I will send on you a curse; and this curse he
immediately explains, I will curse your blessings. The word blessing,
we know, means everywhere in Scripture the beneficence or kindness of
God. God then is said to bless us when he bountifully supports us and
supplies whatever is necessary for us. And hence seems to have arisen
the expression, that God by his nod alone can satisfy us with all
abundance of good things. By blessings then he means a large and an
abundant provision, and also rest from enemies, a healthy air, and
everything of this kind. Some think that those prayers are intended, by
which the priest blessed the people; but there is no reason for this.
God then had manifested his favor to the Jews; he now declares that he
will deprive them of all his benefits, that they might know that he is
not propitious to them. Blessings then are evidences of God's bounty
and paternal favor.

     But he immediately adds, Yea, I have cursed. By which words he
proves their senselessness: for they were not even taught by their
evils, which yet produce some effect even on fools, who, according to
the common proverb, begin to be wise when they are chastised. God then
here reproves the stupidity of the Jews; for they had already been
deprived of his benefits, and they might have known by experience that
he was not propitious to them, but on the contrary an angry judge; and
yet they were touched by no penitence, according to what we have seen
in the other Prophets.

     We now understand the import of the words, and at the same time
the object of the Prophet: I will then curse your blessings, and what
is more, (so I explain ,ugam,) I have already cursed them: but ye are
like blocks of wood or stones; for the very scourges avail nothing with
you. He again repeats, because ye lay it not on your heart, in order to
show that he could not bear the contempt of his word, for it was, as we
have said, a sign of extreme impiety. It follows

3. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces,
even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with

3. Ecce ego corrumpo (vel perdo) vobis semen (vertunt Graeci, brachium;
sed decepti sunt in una litera,) et spergam stercus super facies
vestras, stercus solemnitatum vestrarum; et tollet vos ad se (alii
vertunt, tollet vos ad ipsum; sed coacta est illa expositio.)

He confirms here again what he had said in the last verse, - that they
would perceive God's curse in want and poverty. The curse of God is any
kind of calamity; for as God declares especially his favour by a
liberal support, so the sterility of the land and defective produce
most clearly evidence the curse of God. The Prophet then shows, by
mentioning one thing, what sort of curse was nigh the Jews, - that God
would destroy their seed. Some read, but improperly, "I will destroy
you and the seed." I wonder how learned men make such puerile mistakes,
when there is nothing ambiguous in the Prophet's words. I will destroy
then for you the seed; that is, "Sow as much as you please, I will yet
destroy your seed, so that it shall produce no fruit." In short, he
threatens the Jews with want and famine; for the land would produce
nothing when cursed by God.'

     But as the Jews flattered themselves on account of their descent,
and ever boasted of their fathers, and as that preeminence with which
God had favoured them proved to them an occasion of haughtiness and
pride, the Prophet here ridicules this foolish confidence, I will
scatter dung, he says, on your faces: "Ye are a holy nation, ye are the
chosen seed of Abraham, ye are a royal priesthood; these are your
boastings; but the Lord will render your faces filthy with dung; this
will be your nobility and preeminence! there is then no reason for you
to think yourselves exempt from punishments because God has adopted
you; for as ye have abused his benefits and profaned his name, so ye
shall also find in your turn, that he will cover you with everything
disgraceful and ignominious, so as to make you wholly filthy: ye shall
then be covered all over with dung, and shall not be the holy seed of

     But as they might have again raised a clamour and say, " Have we
then in vain so diligently served God? why has he bidden a temple to be
built for him by us and promised to dwell there? God then has deceived
us, or at least his promises avail nothing, - "the Prophet gives this
answer, " God will overwhelm you with disgrace and also your
sacrifices." But he calls them the dung of solemnities, as though he
had said, " I will cover you with reproach on account of your impiety,
which is seen in your sacrifices." Had the Jews any holiness they
derived it from their sacrifices, by which they expiated their sins and
reconciled themselves to God: but the Prophet says that it was their
special ill-savour which offended God, and which he abominated, because
they vitiated their sacrifices. Nor is that to be disapproved which
some of the rabbins have said, that the Prophet alludes to the oxen,
calves, and rams; for when the Jews from various places brought their
sacrifices, there must have been much dung from all that vast number.
There is then here a striking allusion to the victims themselves, as
though he had said, "Ye think that I can be pacified by your
sacrifices, as though loads of dung were pleasing to me; for when ye
bring such a vast number, even the place itself, the area before the
temple, throws an ill-savour on account of the dung that is there. Ye
are then, forsooth! holy, and all your filth is cleansed away by means
of this dung. Begone then together with the dung of your solemnities;
for I will cast this very dung on your heads."

     We now perceive what the Prophct means: and emphatical are the
words, Behold I; for God by these single words cuts off all those
pretences by which the Jews deceived themselves, and thought that their
vices were concealed from God: "I myself," he says, "am present, to
whom ye think your sacrifices to be acceptable; I then will destroy
your seed, and I will also cast dung on your faces; all the dignity
which ye pretend shall be abolished, for ye think that ye are defended
by a sort of privilege, when ye boast yourselves to be the seed of
Abraham: it is dung, it is dung," he says. He afterwards shows what was
especially the dung and the filth: for when they objected and said, "
What! have our sacrifices availed nothing?" he answers, "Nay, I will
cast that dung upon you, because the chief pollution is in your
sacrifices, for ye vitiate and adulterate my service: and what else is
your sacrifice but profanation only? ye are sacrilegious in all your
empty pomps. Since then all your victims have an ill-savour and
displease me, and as I nauseate them, (as it is also said in the first
and last chapter of Isaiah,) I will heap the dung on your own heads,
because ye think it to be your chief expiation."

     He adds at last, It shall take you to itself; that is, " Ye shall
be dung altogether; and thus all your boastings, that ye are descended
from the holy Patriarch Abraham, shall be wholly useless; though I made
a covenant and promised that you should be to me a royal priesthood,
yet the dung shall take you to itself, and thus whatever dignity I have
hitherto conferred on you shall be taken away." Let us proceed

4. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that
my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.

4. Et scietis quod miserim ad vos hoc mandatum ut sit (vel, ut esset;
sed magis placet, ut sit; est, ad essendum, ad verbum; ergo ad essendum
pactum meum, si posset dici Latine,) pactum meum cum Levi, dicit Iehova

     Here he addresses in particular the priests; for though the whole
people with great haughtiness resisted God, yet the priests surpassed
them. And we know how ready men are to turn to evil whatever benefits
God may bestow on them. It has been then a common evil in men from the
beginning of the world, to exalt themselves and to raise their crests
against God, when they found themselves adorned with his benefits: but
we know that the more any one is bound to God the more thankful he
ought to be, for our gifts are not our own, but the benefits by which
God binds us to himself. "What best thou as thine own?" says Paul, "
thou best then no reason to glory." (1 Cor. 4:7) This evil however has
ever prevailed among men - that they have defrauded God of his glory,
and have turned to an occasion of pride the favours received from him.
But it is an evil which is very commonly seen in all governors; for
they who are raised to a high dignity, think no more that they are men,
but take to themselves very great liberty when they find themselves so
much exalted above others. Thus kings and those in authority seem to
themselves to be above the common order of men, and presumptuously
disregard all laws; they think that everything is lawful for them, as
no one opposes their willfulness. The same thing is also to be seen in
teachers. For when God favored the priests with the highest honour,
they became blinded, as it will hereafter be seen, by that favour of
God, that they thought themselves to be as it were semi-gods; and the
same thing has taken place in the kingdom of Christ.

     For how have arisen so great impieties under the Papacy, except
that pastors have exercised tyranny and not just government? For they
have not regarded the purpose for which they have been called into
their office, but as the name of pastor is in itself honourable, they
have dared to raise themselves above the clouds, and to assume to
themselves the authority of God himself. Hence it has been, that they
have dared to bind consciences by their own laws, to change the whole
truth, and to corrupt the whole worship of God: and hence also followed
the scandalous sale of justice. How have these things happened? Because
priests were counted as angels come down from heaven; and this same
danger is ever to be feared by us.

     This then is the vice which the Prophet now refers to; and he
shows that the priests had no reason to think that they could shake off
the yoke, Ye shall know, he says, that to you belongs this command. We
indeed see what they objected to Jeremiah, "The law shall not depart
from the priests nor counsel and wisdom from the elders." (Jer. 18:18.)
These are the weapons by which the Papists at this day defend
themselves. When we allege against them plain proofs from Scripture,
they find themselves clearly reproved and convicted by God's word; but
here is their Ajax's shield, under which they hide all their
wickedness, retailing as it were from the ungodly and wicked priests
what is related by Jeremiah, "'The law shall not depart from the
priests;' we are the Church, can it err? is not the Holy Spirit
dwelling in the midst of us? 'I am with you alwavs to the end of the
world,' (Matt. 28: 20;) did Christ intend to deceive his Church when he
said this to his Apostles? and we are their successors." The Prophet
now gives the answer, Ye shall know, he says, that to you, belongs this

     And he adds, not without severity, that my covenant may be with
Levi; as though he had said, "On what account are ye thus elated? for
God cannot get a hearing for himself, yet ye say that the covenant with
Levi is not to be void, as though God had put Levi in his own place,
and divested himself of all authority when he appointed that tribe, and
made you ministers of the temple and teachers of the people; is he
nothing? What was God's purpose when he honoured you with that dignity?
He certainly did not mean to reduce himself to nothing, but, on the
contrary, his will was, that his own right should remain entire and
complete. When therefore I reprove your vices, and show that ye are
become vile, and as it were dung, that ye are defiled by everything
disgraceful, - when I make these things openly known, I do not violate
the covenant made with Levi. God then justly summons you before his
tribunal, and strips you of your honour, in order that the covenant he
made with Levi may be confirmed and ratified." This is, as I have said,
a severe derision.

     But we may hence learn a useful truth. The Prophet briefly teaches
us that the priestly office takes away nothing from God's authority,
who requires a pure and holy worship, and that it lessens in nothing
the authority of the law, for sound doctrine ought ever to prevail. So
at this day, when we resist the Papal priests, we do not violate God's
covenant, that is, it is no departure from the order of the Church,
which ought ever to remain sacred and inviolable. We do not then on
account of men's vices, subvert the pastoral office, and the preaching
of the word; but we assail the men themselves, so that due order may be
restored, that sound doctrine may obtain a hearing among men, that the
worship of God may be pure, which these unprincipled men have violated.
We therefore boldly attempt to subvert the whole of the Papacy, with
this full confidence, that we lessen nothing from the authority of
teaching, nor in any way defraud the pastoral office; nay, order in the
Church, the preaching of the truth, and the very dignity of pastors,
cannot exist, except the Church be purged from its defilements, and its
filth removed. Thus must we say also of those unprincipled men, who are
too nearly connected with us, or too near us, and I wish they were
wholly extinct in the world: but how many pests conceal themselves
under this covering, or under this mask - "What! are we not the
ministers of the word?" So say you who are without any principle; I
wish ye were in your dung, or in your cells, where formerly ye too much
corrupted the world; but now the devil has brought you forth into the
Church of God, that ye may corrupt whatever had hitherto remained
sound. As then there are many at this day who boast of this honour -
that they are ministers of the word, and pastors, and that they teach
the gospel, they ought to be checked by this answer of the Prophet -
that when all their corruptions are fully and really cleansed away,
then confirmed and ratified will be the compact which God would have to
be valid with his Church and with the ministers of his word. He then
adds an explanation -

5. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him
for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.

5. Foedus meum fuit cum eo vitae et pacis; et dedi illi timorem; et
timuit me, et a facie nominis mei contritus fuit.

The Prophet now proves more clearly how God violates not his covenant,
when he freely rebukes the priests, and exposes also their false
attempts in absurdly applying to themselves the covenant of God, like
the Papal priests at this day, who say that they are the Church. How?
because they have in a regular order succeeded the apostles; but this
is a foolish and ridiculous definition; for he who occupies the place
of another ought not on that account only to be deemed a successor.
Were a thief to kill the master of a family, and to occupy his place,
and to take possession of all his goods, is he to be accounted his
legitimate successor? So these dishonest men, to show that they are to
be regarded as apostles, only allege a continued course of succession;
but the likeness between them ought rather to be the subject of
inquiry. We must see first whether they have been called, and then
whether they answer to their calling; neither of which can they prove.
Then their definition is altogether frivolous.

     So also our Prophet here shows, that the priests made pretences
and deceived the common people, while they sought to prove themselves
heirs of the covenant which God had made with Levi their father, that
is, with the tribe itself. "I shall be faithful," says God, "and my
faithfulness will be evident from the compact itself; my compact with
your father was that of life and peace:' but it was mutual: ye seem not
to think that there are two parties in a compact, and that there is,
according to what is commonly said, a reciprocal obligation: but I on
my part promised to your father to be his father, and I also stipulated
with him that he was to obey me, to obey my word, and whatever I might
afterwards require. Now ye will have me to be bound to you, and
yourselves to be free from every obligation. What equity is this - that
I should owe everything to you and you nothing to me? My compact then
with him was that of life and peace; but what is your compact? what is
it that ye owe to me? Even what the mutual compact which I made with
your father Levi and his tribe requires; perform this, and ye shall
find that I am faithful and constant in all my promises." I cannot go
farther now.


Grant, Almighty God that as thou hast been pleased to choose us at this
day thy priests, and hast consecrated us to thyself by the blood of
thine only-begotten Son and through the grace of thy Spirit, - O grant,
that we may rightly and sincerely perform our duties to thee, and be so
devoted to thee that thy name may be really glorified in us; and may we
be thus more and more confirmed in the hope of those promises by which
thou not only guides us through the course of this earthly life, but
also invites us to thy celestial inheritance; and may Christ thy Son so
rule in us, that we may ever cleave to our head, and be gathered as his
members into a participation of that eternal glory into which he has
gone before us. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-fourth

     We began in the last lecture to explain what the Prophet says here
of the priesthood, and we have said that the sum of the whole is - that
wicked priests in vain lay claim to the title of honour, who do not
faithfully perform their office; for the compact between God and them
is mutual, inasmuch as God did not institute priests under the law in
order to allow them unbridled liberty, or to deprive himself of every
power; but, on the contrary, he set them over the Church in order to
retain the people in true religion. As then the obligation is, as they
say, reciprocal, there is no reason for the priests to arrogate supreme
power and to deprive God of it. The Prophet then had said, that God's
compact with Levi was that of life and peace, because God, who is
faithful in his promises, had promised to be propitious to the Levites.
Our Prophet therefore calls it the compact of life and peace, because
the Levites had found that God was in every respect kind and bountiful,
whenever they performed their parts.

     He now adds, I gave to him fear, and he feared rne. The
interpreters who consider the preposition for, or, on account of
(propter), to be understood, pervert the whole sense; for fear here is
to be taken for the rule of worshipping God, as though he had said, "I
have prescribed how he is rightly to perform his office." He means then
that God gave to the Levites a knowledge of the way in which he was to
be served, because he would not have them to wander according to their
own notions, but he prescribed to them the duties of their office, as
though he had said, "Ye are indeed endued with no common honour, for ye
are the teachers of the Church; but yet I have laid a restraint upon
you, as I have commanded the people to obey you, so have I commanded
you what to do. Since then I have given my fear to Levi, since I have
prescribed how he is to worship me, is it not now most shameless and
most impious, to boast of the honourable name of priesthood, and at the
same time to be no priests? for what is it to be God's priest, except
to govern the Church as God has commanded? I have then given him my

     And he feared me; that is, he observed the law laid down for him;
and he was contrite before my name; that is, "he conducted himself in a
humble manner, he did not exalt himself by vain pride, that he might
oppress my Church, rule tyrannically, and subvert all due order; but he
was an example of humility, for he owned himself the more bound to me,
because I honoured him with so much dignity as to make him the ruler of
my Church." It afterwards follows

6. The law of the truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in
his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity and did turn many away
from iniquity.

6. Lex veritatis fuit in ore ejus, et iniquites non fuit reperta, in
labiis ejus; in pace et rectitudine ambulavit mecum; et multos redire
fecit (hoc est, convertit) ab iniquitate.

He explains mote fully how Levi responded to God's command, - that he
had the law of truth in his mouth. The chief duty of a priest is to
show the right way of living to the people; for however upright and
holy one may be through his whole life, he is not on that account to be
deemed a priest. Hence our Prophet dwells especially on this point -
that Levi taught the people. He does not speak of Levi himself; for we
know that Levi was dead when Aaron was made a priest. For God does not
here speak of individuals, but of the tribe; as though he had said,
"Aaron and Eleazar, and those who followed them, knew for what end they
were honoured with the priesthood, and they faithfully performed their
duties." The Prophet now explains what God mainly requires from priests
- to show to the people, as I have already said, the way of living a
pious and holy life; but he adopts different words, which yet mean the
same thing.

     The law of truth, he says, was in his mouth. Why does he not
commend the integrity of his heart rather than his words? Had he spoken
of an individual, the Prophet might have justly said, that he who
sought to be an approved servant of God, had conducted himself harmless
towards men; but he speaks of a public office, when he says, that the
law of truth was in his mouth; for he is not worthy of that honour who
is mute: and nothing is more preposterous, or even more ridiculous,
than that those should be counted priests who are no teachers. These
two things are, as they say, inseparable - the office of the priesthood
and teaching.

     And that he might more clearly show that he speaks not of an
ordinary matter, he repeats the same thing in other words, Iniquity was
not found in his lips. We hence see that all this belongs peculiarly to
the sacerdotal office. He afterwards adds, In peace and rectitude he
walked before me. The Prophet here commends also the sincere concern
for religion which the first priests manifested, for they walked with
God in peace and uprightness; they not only carried signals in their
lips and mouth, by which they might have been justly deemed the
ministers of God and the pastors of his Church; but they also executed
faithfully their office. And he alludes to the peace of which he had
spoken: as God then had promised peace to the Levites, so also he says,
that the Levites had lived themselves peaceably before God; for they
did not break the covenant which he had made with them. As then they
had responded to the stipulation of God, he says that they had walked
in peace: but he also mentions how this was; it was, because they had
walked in uprightness.

     And the phrase, , ati, with me, ought to be observed; for it
confirms what I have stated, - that the honour of the priesthood in no
way lessens God's authority, for he keeps the priests devoted to
himself. He intimates then that they were not elevated to such a
height, that their dignity took away anything from God's authority: for
the obligation, which has been mentioned, ought to be mutual: God is
faithful; the priests also must be faithful in their office, and show
themselves to be the legitimate ministers of God.

     He also mentions the fruit of their doctrine; for Levi turned many
from iniquity, that is, he led many to repentance. It afterwards
follows (for this verse ought to be joined) -

7. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek
the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.

7. Certe labia sacersotis custodient scientiam, et Legem requirent ex
ore ejus, quia nuntius Iehovae exercituum est.

     What the Prophet has said of the first priests he extends now to
the whole Levitical tribe, and shows that it was a perpetual and
unchangeable law as to the priesthood. He had said that Levi had been
set over the Church, not to apply to himself the honour due to God, but
to stand in his own place as the minister of God, and the teacher of
the chosen people. The same thing he now confirms, declaring it as a
general truth that the lips of the priest ought to retain knowledge, as
though he had said, that they were to be the store-house from which the
food of the Church was to be drawn. God then did appoint the priests
over his chosen people, that the people might seek their food from them
as from a store-room, according to what we find to be the case with a
master of a family, who has his store of wine and his store of
provisions. As then the food of a whole family is usually drawn out
from places where provisions are laid up, so the Prophet makes use of
this similitude, - that God has deposited knowledge with the priests,
so that the mouth of every priest might be a kind of store-house, so to
speak, from which the people are to seek knowledge and the rule of a
religious life: Keep knowledge then shall the lips of the priest, and
the law shall they seek from his mouth.'

     He shows how it is to be kept; the priests are not to withhold it,
but the whole Church is to enjoy the knowledge of which they are the
keepers. They shall then seek or demand the law from his mouth.

     Law may be taken simply for truth; but the Prophet no doubt
alludes here to the doctrine of Moses, the only true fountain of all
knowledge. We indeed know that God included in his law whatever was
necessary for the welfare of his Church; nor was there anything added
by the Prophets. Our Prophet then so includes every truth in the word ,
ture, law, that he might at the same time show that it was laid up in
what Moses has taught.

     He says in the last place, that the priest is the messenger of
Jehovah. He briefly defines here what the priesthood is, even an
embassy which God commits to men, that they may be his interpreters in
teaching and ruling the Church. What then is a priest? A messenger of
God, and his interpreter. It hence follows that the office of teaching
cannot be separated from the priesthood; for it is a monstrous thing
when any one boasts himself to be a priest, when he is no teacher. The
Prophet then draws an argument from the definition itself, when he says
that a priest is a messenger of God. Then follows the contrast when he

8. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble
at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of

8. Atqui vos declinastis e via, impingere (vel, ruere) fecistis multos
in lege; corrupistis foedus Levi, dicit Iehova exercituum.

     He shows here how far were the priests of his time from fulfilling
that compact which he had mentioned. He hence concludes that they were
unworthy of the honor of which they were so confidently proud, and
under the shadow of which they sought to cover their vices, as though
they were not bound to God, and were at liberty to tread the Church
under foot with impunity. He then shows that it was an extremely
foolish arrogance in them to seek to be exempt from all law, and yet to
regard God and the whole Church bound to them.

     He says first, that they deviated from the way, that is, they
exhibited nothing suitable to their office, on account of which they
were counted priests. He then amplifies their guilt - that they made
many to stumble in the law. He had before said that Levi walked in
peace and uprightness; what he now says is very different - that the
priests, forgetting religion, had first shaken off the yoke. He had
said that Levi restored many from iniquity; but he now says that the
priests made many to stumble.

     He adds in the last place - Ye have therefore corrupted the
covenant. An illative is to be put here, for so ought the sentence to
be explained - "As ye have deviated from the way, and perverted the
whole worship of God, ye have thus violated the compact which had been
sanctioned with Levi; ye have then no reason to boast of vour title of
honour, for succession failed when ye fell away from the faithfulness
of your father Levi." At length it follows

9. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the
people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in
the law.

9. Atqui etiam ego dedi vos probrosos et abjectos toti populo, secundum
quod non servastis vias meas, et extulistis personas in lege.

     The Prophet draws this conclusion - that the priests in vain
gloried in the honour of their office, for they had ceased to be the
priests of God. We may now return to the main point.

     We perceive what the subject is which the Prophet handles here: as
the priests sought by a peculiar privilege to exempt themselves from
all reproof, he assails them in particular; for teaching would have
been useless as to the common people, except the priests themselves
were brought to order. The priests no doubt flattered the people, and
thus attempted to deprive the Prophets of every respect, in order that
their doctrine might produce no effect. This is the reason why our
Prophet so sharply reproves them. But we must consider the state of the
case. The priests said that they had been set, by divine authority,
over the whole Church, and that they could not be deprived of that
honour which they had received from God. They however took only but one
part of the covenant, and yet sought to deprive God of his right. The
Prophet here answers them - that God had indeed favoured them with no
common honour in appointing them the priests of his Church, but that
the compact, which included a mutual stipulation, was at the same time
to be considered; for God had not simply appointed them the guides of
his Church, but had also added a condition.

     We hence see that the hinge of the matter was, that the priests
presumptuously and absurdly laid hold on what favored only their own
cause, and at the same time passed by and cunningly overlooked the
chief thing - that the priesthood was connected with the worship of
God. Now had they attained what they wished, there would have been no
God in the Church, but they would have exercised over it a tyrannical
power. But it has ever been, and is still the will of God, to retain
the supreme power over mortals in his own hand.

     Having now seen the design of the Prophet, we may easily perceive
the import of the whole subject. But before we proceed farther, we must
first observe, that we have here described to us the character of true
and legitimate priests; for the Prophet not only speaks of the office
of priests, but sets before us a living image in which we cannot be
deceived: and hence all who are engaged in the pastoral office may know
what God requires from them. I will only just mention what he first
says - that God gave fear to priests; for I have already given a
sufficient explanation of this by saying, that priests are not to abuse
their right, as though the highest power were granted to them; for God
will not have his Church subject to tyranny, but his will is to reign
alone in it through the ministry of men. The main thing then to be
borne in mind is this - that a rule is prescribed to priests, that
though they preside and possess the first rank of honour among the
people, it is yet under certain conditions.

     We shall now consider only this which the Prophet says - that Levi
faithfully and sincerely performed his office, because the law of truth
was in his mouth, and no iniquiity was found in his lips; to which we
ought yet to add the general truth which immediately follows - that the
priest's lips ought to keep knowledge. It is then a law which cannot be
abolished, that those who are priests or pastors in the Church are to
be teachers. And not unwisely does Gregory apply a custom under the law
to this subject; for we know that appended to the priest's dress were
bells; and it is distinctly commanded by Moses, that the priest should
not go forth without this sound, (Exod. 28: 35.) Gregory, as I have
said, accommodated this to teaching - "Woe," he says, "to us, if we go
forth without sound, that is, if we boast that we are pastors, and in
the meantime are dumb dogs; for nothing is less tolerable than that he
who speaks not in the Church and whose voice is not clearly heard to
the edification of the people, should be deemed a pastor." This is what
a Roman Pope has said. Let those who now proudly and confidently boast
themselves to be his successors, at least give the sound, and let us
hear what they teach: but as their whole power is exercised in cruelty,
it is evident how faithfully they keep God's covenant! But I now return
to the words of the Prophet.

     He says, that this law has been fixed by God, and that it cannot
be nullified by any decrees or customs of men, - that the priest is to
keep knowledge in his lips. He farther explains himself by showing that
the priest is to be the keeper of knowledge, not that he may reserve it
for himself, but that he may teach the whole people: they shall seek,
he says, the law from his mouth; and afterwards he confines knowledge
to true doctrine, as it was to flow from the law of God, the only true
fountain of truth; for he had said, that the law of truth was in the
mouth of Levi. It would not then be enough for one to have his mouth
open and to be prepared to teach others, except purity of doctrine be
retained. We hence see, that not only teaching is required from
priests, but pure teaching, derived from the very mouth of God,
according to what is said in Ezek. 3: 17, "Thou shalt receive from my
mouth the word, and shalt declare it to them from me." God shows there
that the Prophets had no such authority as that they could bring forth
anything they pleased, or what they thought would be right, but that
they were so far faithful teachers as they were his disciples alone:
hence he bids him to seek the uord from his mouth; and then he adds,
"Thou shalt declare it to them from my mouth." So also it is said in
Jer. 23: 28, "What is the chaff to the wheat? The Prophet who has a
dream, let him declare his dream; but he who has my word, let him
declare my word faithfully." Here God limits and defines the prophetic
right, as though he had said, that the Prophets were not appointed,
that they might bring anything indiscriminately, but that each,
according to the measure of what was revealed to him, might faithfully
dispense, or deliver, as it were from hand to hand, what he had
received from heaven: for by mentioning two things, it was God's design
to show that no doctrine is to be allowed, except what he himself has
revealed; and he compares to chaff whatever men devise themselves,
while the pure doctrine of the law is to be regarded as the wheat. This
is then the second thing to be noticed in what the Prophet says in this
passage: but we must aIso consider the last thing - that the priest is
the messenger of the God of hosts.

     This seems to have been said in honour of the priesthood; but the
Prophet means that priests have nothing of their own or separate from
God, and that whatever reverence is due to them ought to be referred to
God himself, whose ministers they are. I have said that he reasons from
the definition itself, as though he had said, that every one who would
be a priest must also be a teacher. But we must also observe, that
there is an implied comparison between God and priests, as though he
had said, "Priests can claim nothing for themselves, but as
interpreters of God." Hence, the plain conclusion is, that the
priesthood takes away nothing from God's authority.

     We now see that the Prophet includes in these few words two things
of great importance - that there is no priesthood without doctrine or
teaching, and no priest except he who faithfully performs his office as
a teacher: and secondly, that God resigns not his own right and power
when priests are set over the Church; for God commits to them the
ministration only, and on this condition, that the authority remains in
himself alone; for otherwise the priest would not be the messenger of
the God of hosts. Among other things the Prophet requires also this of
the priests - that they sincerely perform their duties. We indeed know
that many apparently discharge their office, and excel in teaching, and
carefully apply to their duties; but ambition stimulates some and
avarice others. Hence the Prophet lays down another condition - that
they are to walk in uprightness before God; that is, that they are not
only to satisfy men, or to catch at the applause of the world, but to
discharge their office with a pure conscience.

     Thus have I shown that there is here set before our eyes a pattern
by which we may know what God requires from us when he makes us pastors
over his Church.

     Now follows a reprobation of their conduct, for the Prophet says,
Ye have departed from the way. Since he so boldly chastises the
priests, we hence learn that they were subject to reproof; and nothing
is more unreasonable than that the Papal clergy should seek to be
exempt from every law and discipline, for the priests are here called
to order, that they might know their own faults: Ye have departed, he
says, from the way, and then, ye have rnade many to err in the law.
This second thing being added, the priests ought by no means to be
spared. When they sin only privately, though they may by bad examples
corrupt the Church, yet this may somehow be borne with; but when they
corrupt and deprave sound doctrine, when they subvert the order laid
down in the law, they deserve no indulgence. This is the reason why
Malachi so severely and so boldly reproves them.

     He at last adds, Ye have therefore violated the covenant. This
third clause may indeed be explained in two ways, - that the Prophet
proceeds with his reproof, or that he draws a conclusion from the
preceding clauses, - that they were deservedly stripped of all honour,
because they stood not to the covenant. Now this latter exposition is
the most suitable, according to what I have already stated. He then as
I have said, draws this conclusion, that their boasting was foolish,
that they in vain said that they were a holy tribe whom God had chosen
to be a peculiar possession to himself, for he says that the covenant
of Levi had been violated by them; and this clause is set in opposition
to the former, in which he says, ye shall know that my covenant was
with Levi. We said then that the unfaithful ever contrive some disguise
when they are reproved, as though they would deprive God of his right:
so the Levitical priests said, that what God had once established could
not be made void. Under this pretext, that they were of the holy tribe,
they sought to be deemed holy; the Prophet then said to them, ye shall
know that God's covenant is holy, and that ye are not holy. So also in
this place, Ye have violated the covenant of Levi, that is, "ye in vain
pretend that you have been chosen by God, and that the honour of your
priesthood has been confirmed to you; for God intended that his law,
laid down by himself, should be kept. As then ye have violated the
covenant of Levi, ye are no more Levites; as ye are become degenerated
children, your inheritance is rightly taken away from you, and ye are
deprived of the honour of the priesthood.

     And corresponding with this view is what follows, And I have
already rendered (or, will render) you despicable and base to the whole
people, as ye have not kept my ways and had respect of persons in the
law. God first shows that he was now bound by no law, so that he would
not cast away these unfaithful priests who had broken his covenant. He
also adds, that they had respect to persons in the law, for they
coveted gain, and therefore turned to gratify men, and corrupted the
whole truth of religion; and this is indeed a necessary consequence,
when ambition or avarice bears rule, there can then be no sincerity,
and the teaching of true religion will be adulterated. I cannot now
finish. We shall consider to-morrow the difference between the ancient
priesthood and that of the Christian Church.


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast deigned to take us as a
priesthood to thyself, and hast chosen us when we were not only of the
lowest condition, but even profane and alien to all holiness, and hast
consecrated us to thyself by thy Holy Spirit, that we may offer
ourselves as holy victims to thee, - O grant, that we may bear in mind
our office and our calling, and sincerely devote ourselves to thy
service, and so present to thee our efforts and our labours, that thy
name may be truly glorified in us, and that it may really appear that
we have been in grafted into the body of thy orily-begotten Son; and as
he is the chief and the only true and perpetual priest, may we become
partakers of that priesthood with which thou hast been pleased to
honour him, so that he may take us as associates to himself; and may
thus thy name be perpetually glorified by the whole body as well as by
the head. - Amen.

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

     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

     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

     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. -

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-sixth.~

13. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with
tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth
not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

13. Et hoc secundo fecistis, operiendo lachrymis altare Iehovae fletu
et ploratu, eo quod amplius non respicitur ad oblationem, et non
suscipitur beneplacitum e manu vestra.

     The Prophet amplifies again the fault of the priests, because the
people, when they perceived that God was adverse to them, found no
means of pacifying him. And when men have an idea that God is
inexorable to them, every zeal for religion must necessarily decay; and
hence it is said in Psalm1 130:4 - "With thee is propitiation, that
thou mayest be feared." As the people then gained nothing by
sacrificing, they had now nearly fallen off from divine worship. This
evil, a most grievous one, the Prophet says, was to be justly ascribed
to the priests; for as they were become polluted, how could their
persons have been accepted by God, that they might be mediators to
expiate sins and to pacify God?

     This is the real meaning of the Prophet, which none of the
interpreters have perceived. The Rabbins think that the priests are
here reproved, because their wives filled the altar in the sanctuary
with weeping, because they saw that their husbands did not faithfully
treat them, according to the law of marriage; and almost all have
agreed with them. Thus then they explain the verse - Ye have in the
second place done this; that is, "That sin was of itself sufficiently
grievous, when ye suffered lean victims to be sacrificed to me, as it
were in mockery; but in addition to this comes your sin against your
wives, who continually complain and deplore their condition before the
altar of God, even because they are not loved by you, as the right of
marriage requires." They thus refer the tears, the weeping, and
lamentation, to the wives of the priests, which were so cruelly treated
by their husbands: they were not able to do anything else than to fill
God's sanctuary with their constant complaints. Hence they render ,
main oud penut, "I will not therefore regard," or, "no one regards;"
but both versions are not only obscure, but wholly pervert the sense of
the Prophet.

     But what I have already stated is the most suitable - that it was
to be ascribed to the priests that no one could from the heart worship
God, at least with a cheerful and willing mind; for God was implacable
to the people, because the only way of obtaining favour under the law
was when the priests, who represented the Mediator, humbly entreated
pardon in the name of the whole people. But how could God attend to the
prayers of the priests when they had polluted his altar by the filth of
wickedness? We then see the object of this amplification - Ye cover the
altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and wailing. The praises of
God ought to have resounded in the temple, according to what is said -
"Praise, O God, waits for thee in Zion." (Psalm 65:1.) And the
principal sacrifice was, that the people exercised themselves in
contemplating the blessings of God, and in thanksgiving. But he says
that none went forth before the altar with a cheerful mind, but all
were sad and sorrowful, because they found that God was severe and

     And the reason is added - , main oud penut, literally, "Is it not
any more by regarding," &c.? It is easy to see how far they depart from
the meaning of the Prophet who read - "They shall therefore offer no
more;" for is this to be applied to God? Others also, who give this
rendering - "I shall not therefore accept," pervert also the very
letter of the text. But the most appropriate meaning is this - that all
wept and groaned before the altar, because they saw that they came
there without any advantage, that their sacrifices did not please God,
and that the whole worship was in vain, inasmuch as God did not answer
their prayers. The Prophet ascribes the fault to the priests, that God
did not turn to mercy, so as to forgive the people when they
sacrificed. With weeping, then, he says, was the altar filled or
covered, because God received not what pleased him from their hand;
that is, because no victims pleased him which were offered by polluted
and impure hands. He afterwards joins

14. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between
thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt
treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

14. Et dixistis, In quo (vel, super quo)? Quoniam Iehova testificatus
est inter te et inter uxorem adolescentiae tuae, quam tu fraudasti,
(vel, erga quam tu praevaricatus es,) cum tamen ipsa esset consors tua,
et uxor foederis tui.

The Prophet tells us here as before how prone the priests were to make
a clamour, and it is a very common thing with hypocrites immediately to
set up a shield to cover their vices whenever they are reproved; and
hence it appears, that men are in a manner fascinated by Satan, when
they attain such hardness as to dare to answer God, and with
obstreperous words to repel all warnings. Malachi has several times
already used this mode of speaking; we may hence conclude, that the
people had become then so hardened that warnings were of no account
with them. But he mentions one particular, by which it seems evident
that they had lapsed into vices which were not to be borne. There is
indeed no doubt but that he points out one of the many vices which
prevailed. There is then in this verse an instance of stating one thing
for the whole, as though he had said, "Your hypocrisy is extremely
gross; but, to omit other things, by what pretext can you excuse this
perfidy - that there is no conjugal fidelity among you? Were there any
integrity and a sense of religion in men, they would surely appear in
their conjugal connexion; but ye have cast away all shame, and have
taken to yourselves many wives. There is then no ground for you to
think that you can escape by evasions, because this one glaring vice
sufficiently proves your guilt." This is the import of the Prophet's

     We have indeed seen that the priests were implicated in other
vices; the Prophet then does not now charge them with perfidy as though
they were free from other sins, but he meant to show, as I have aready
said, by one thing, how wickedly and shamelessly they sought to evade
God's judgment, though they had violated the marriage pledge, which was
wholly to destroy the very order of nature; for there can be, as it has
been already said, no chastity in social life except the bond of
marriage be preserved, for marriage, so to speak, is the fountain of

     But in order to press the matter more on the priests, he calls
their attention to the fact that God is the founder of marriage.
Testified has Jehovah, he says, between thee and thy wife. He intimates
in these words, that when a marriage takes place between a man and a
woman, God presides and requires a mutual pledge from both. Hence
Solomon, in Prov. 2:17, calls marriage the covenant of God, for it is
superior to all human contracts. So also Malachi declares, that God is
as it were the stipulator, who by his authority joins the man to the
woman, and sanctions the alliance: God then has testifed between thee
and thy wife, as though he had said, "Thou hast violated not only all
human laws, but also the compact which God himself has consecrated, and
which ought justly to be deemed more sacred than all other compacts: as
then God has testified between thee and thy wife, and thou now
deceivest her, how darest thou to come to the altar? and how canst thou
think that God will be pleased with thy sacrifices or regard thy

     He calls her the wife of his youth, because the more filthy is the
lust when husbands cast away conjugal love as to those wives whom they
have married in their youth. The bond of marriage is indeed in all
cases inviolable, even between the old, but it is a circumstance which
increases the turpitude of the deed, when any one alienates himself
from a wife whom he married when a girl and in the flower of her age:
for youth conciliates love; and we also see that when a husband and his
wife have lived together for many years, mutual love prevails between
them to extreme old age, because their hearts were united together in
their youth. It is not then without reason that this circumstance is
mentioned, for the lust of the priests was the more filthy and as it
were the more monstrous, because they forsook wives whom they ought to
have regarded with the tenderest love, as they had married them when
they were young: Thou hast dealt unfaithfully with her, he says, though
she was thy consort and the wife of thy covenant.

     He calls her a consort, or companion, or associate, because
marriage, we know, is contracted on this condition - that the wife is
to become as it were the half part of the man. As then the bond of
marriage is inseparable, the Prophet here goads the priests, yea,
touches them to the quick, when he reproves them for being unmindful of
what was natural, inasmuch as they had blotted out of their minds the
memory of a most sacred covenant. The wife of thy covenant is to be
taken for a covenanted wife, that is, "The wife who has been united to
thee by God's authority, that there might be no separation; but all
integrity is violated, and as it were abolished." He then adds

15. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And
wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to
your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his

15. Et non unum fecit? et exuperantia spiritus illi? et quorsum unum?
quaerens semen Dei: ergo custodiamini in spiritu vestro; et in uxorem
adolescentiae tuae ne transgrediatur (vel, ne fraudes; est mutatio
personoe, ponitur enim tertia persona loco secundoe.)
     There is in this verse some obscurity, and hence it has been that
no interpreter has come to the meaning of the Prophet. The Rabbins
almost all agree that Abraham is spoken of here. Were we to receive
this view a two-fold meaning might be given. It may be an objection, -
"Has not one done this?" that is, has not Abraham, who is the one
father of the nations, given us an example? for he married many wives:
and thus many explain the passage, as though the priests raised an
objection and defended the corruption just condemned by the example of
Abraham, - "Has not one done this while yet an excellency of spirit was
in him?" We indeed know how prone men are to pretend the authority of
fathers when they wish to cover their own vices.

     Others prefer regarding the words as spoken by the Prophet
himself, and at the same time say that there is here an anticipation of
an objection, and think that an occasion for an excuse is here cut off,
as though the Prophet had said, "Did not Abraham, when he was one
alone, do this?" For as the Jews might have adduced the example of
Abraham, the interpreters, whose opinion I now refer to, think that a
difference is here stated, as though he had said, "Ye reason badly, for
every one of you is led to polygamy by the lust of your flesh; but it
was far otherwise with Abraham, for he was one, that is, alone;" and in
Isaiah Abraham is called one on account of his having no children. The
meaning then they think is this, "Was not Abraham forced by necessity
to take another wife? even because he had no child and no hope of the
promised seed. Lust then did not stimulate your father Abraham, as it
does you, but a desire of having an offspring." And they think, that
this view is confirmed by what follows, "And why alone seeking the seed
of God?" that is, the object of holy Abraham was far otherwise than to
indulge his lust; for he sought that holy seed, the hope of which was
taken away from him on account of the barrenness of his wife, and of
her great age. When therefore Abraham saw that his wife was barren, and
that she could no more conceive on account of her old age, he had
recourse to the last remedy: hence the mistake of Abraham might have
been excused, since his object was right; for he sought the seed of
God, the seed in which all nations were to be blessed. Thus far have I
told you what others think.

     I thought twelve years ago that this passage ought to have been
otherwise rendered in the French Bibles, and that , ached, ought to be
read in the objective case; "Has he not made one?" Jerome seems to me
to have had a better notion of what the Prophet means than what others
have taught; but he could not attain the real meaning, and therefore
stopped as it were in the middle of his course. He read the word in the
nominative case, "Has not one," that is, God, "made them? "and then he
added, "And in him alone," that is, Abraham, "was an exuberant spirit."
We see how he dared not to assert anything, nor did he explain what was
necessary. The sense is indeed suspended, and is even frigid, if we
say, "Has not one made them?" but if we read, "Has he not made one?"
there is no ambiguity. It is a common thing in Hebrew, we know, that
the name of God is often not expressed, when he is referred to; for so
great is He, that his name may be easily underderstood, though not
expressed. It ought not therefore to confuse us, that the Prophet
withholds the name of God, and mentions a verb without its subject, for
such is the usage, as I have said, of the Hebrew language.

     I proceed now to explain the meaning of the Prophet. Has he not
made one? that is, Was not God content with one man, when he instituted
marriage? and yet the residue of the Spirit was in him. The Rabbins
take , shar, as meaning excellence; but I know not what reason have
induced them, except that they ventured to change the sense of the
word, because they could not otherwise extricate themselves; for the
mistake, that Abraham is spoken of here, had wholly possessed their
minds. What then is , shar ruch? Excellence of Spirit, say they; but ,
shar, we know, is residue or remnant: what then remains of anything is
called , shar; for the verb means to remain and to lean. Here then the
Prophet takes the residue of the Spirit, so to speak, for overflowing
power; for God could have given to one man two or three wives; inasmuch
as the Spirit failed him not in forming one woman: as he inspired Eve
with life, so also he might have created other women and imparted to
them his Spirit. He might then have given two or four or ten women to
one man; for there was a spirit remaining in him. We now then
understand what the Prophet means at the beginning of this verse.

     But before we proceed farther, we must bear in mind his object,
which was, to break down all those frivolous pretences by which the
Jews sought to cover their perfidy. He says, that in marriage we ought
to recognize an ordinance divinely appointed, or, to speak more
distinctly, that the institution of marriage is a perpetual law, which
it is not right to violate: there is therefore no cause for men to
devise for themselves various laws, for God's authority is here to be
regarded alone; and this is more clearly explained in Matt. 19:8; where
Christ, refuting the objection of the Jews as to divorce, says, "From
the beginning it was not so." Though the law allowed a bill of divorce
to be given to wives, yet Christ denies this to be right, - by what
argument? even because the institution was not of that kind; for it
was, as it has been said, an inviolable bond. So now our Prophet
reasons, Has not God made one? that is, "consider within yourselves
whether God, when he created man and instituted marriage, gave many
wives to one man? By no means. Ye see then that spurious and contrary
to the character of a true and pure marriage is everything, that does
not harmonize with its first institution."

     But some one may ask here, why the Prophet says that God made one?
for this seems to refer to the man and not to the woman: to this I
answer, that man with the woman is called one, according to what Moses
says, "God created man; male and female created he them," (Gen. 1:17.)
After having said that man was created, he adds by way of explanation,
that man, both male and female, was created. Hence when he speaks of
man, the male makes as it were one-half, and the female the other; for
when we speak of the whole human race, one-half doubtless consists of
men, and the other half of women. So also when we come to individuals,
the husband is as it were the half of the man, and the woman is the
other half. I speak of the ordinary state of things; for if any one
objects and says, that bachelors are not then complete or perfect men,
the objection is frivolous: but as men were created, that every one
should have his own wife, I say, that husband and wife make but one
whole man. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, that one man
was made by God; for he united the man to the woman, and intended that
they should be partners, so to speak, under one yoke. And in this
explanation there is nothing strained; for it is evident that the
Prophet here calls the attention of the Jews to the true character of
marriage; and this could not have been otherwise known than from the
very institution of God, which is, as we have said, a perpetual and
inviolable law; for God created man, even male and female: and Christ
also has repeated this sentence, and carefully explained it in the
passage which we have quoted.

     And here the Prophet sharply goads the Jews, as though they wished
to overcome God, or to be more wise than he; Had he not, he says, an
exuberance of spirit? He takes spirit not for wisdom, but for that
hidden influence by which God vivifies men. Could not God, he says,
have put forth his spirit to create many wives for one man? but his
purpose was to create one pair; to make man a husband and a wife: as
God then was not without a remaining Spirit, and yet did not exceed
this measure; it hence follows, that the law of marriage is violated,
when man seeks for himself many wives. The meaning of the Prophet is
now, I think, sufficiently clear.

     It follows, And wherefore one, , vame, eached? The interrogatory
particle , me, refers to the cause, end, form, or manner; we may
therefore properly render it, For what, or wherefore, has God made one?
even to seek the seed of God. The seed of God is to be taken for what
is legitimate; for what is excellent is often called God in Hebrew, and
also what is free from all vice and blemish. He sought then the seed of
God, that is, he instituted marriage, that legitimate and pure
offspring might be brought forth. Hence then the Prophet indirectly
shows, that all are spurious who proceed from polygamy, because they
cannot be deemed legitimate children; nor ought any to be so counted
but those who are born according to God's institution. When a husband
violates his pledged faith to his wife, and takes another; as he
subverts the ordinance of marriage, so he cannot be a legitimate
father. We now perceive why the Prophet says, that it was God's purpose
to unite only one wife to one man, in order that they might beget
legitimate offspring, for he shows by the effect how frivolous were the
evasions which the Jews had recourse to; for however they might
contend, their very offspring would prove them liars, as it would be

     He then draws this conclusion, Therefore, watch ye over your
spirit; that is, " Take heed lest any should deceive the wife of his
covenant." After having shown how perversely they violated the marriage
vow who rushed into polygamy, he here counsels and exhorts them; and
this is the best mode of teaching, to show first what is right and
lawful, and then to add exhortations. The Prophet then endeavoured
first to convince the Jews that they were guilty of a nefarious crime:
for otherwise his exhortation would not have been received, as they
would have always a ready objection, "It is lawful for us to do so, for
we follow the example of our father Abraham; and further, this has been
permitted for a long time, and God would have never suffered it, were
it wrong, to prevail for so many ages among the people: it hence
follows, that thou condemnest what is lawful." It was necessary, in the
first place, to remove all these false pretences: then follows the
exhortation in its proper order, Watch over your spirit; for he speaks
of what has been, as it were, sufficiently proved. It now follows

16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away:
for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts;
therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

16 Si odio habeas (quisque odio habet,) dimittat (i.e., uxorem) dicit
Iehovah Deus Israel; et operit, (vel, texit) violentiam sub vestimento
suo, dicit Iehovah exercituum: ergo custodiamini in spiritu vestro et
ne fraudetis.

     Here again the Prophet exaggerates the crime which the priests
regarded as nothing; for he says, that they sinned more grievously than
if they had repudiated their wives. We indeed know that repudiation,
properly speaking, had never been allowed by God; for though it was not
punished under the law, yet it was not permitted. It was the same as
with a magistrate, who is constrained to bear many things which he does
not approve; for we cannot so deal with mankind as to restrain all
vices. It is indeed desirable, that no vice should be tolerated; but we
must have a regard to what is possible. Hence Moses has specified no
punishment, according to the heinousness of the crime, if one
repudiated his wife; and yet it was never permitted.

     But if a comparison be made, Malachi says, that it is a lighter
crime to dismiss a wife than to marry many wives. We hence learn how
abominable polygamy is in the sight of God. I do not consider polygamy
to be what the foolish Papists have made it, who call not those
polygamists who have many wives at the same time, but those who marry
another when the former one is dead. This is gross ignorance. Polygamy,
properly so called, is when a person takes many wives, as it was
commonly done in the East: and those nations, we know, have always been
libidinous, and never observe the marriage vow. As then their
lasciviousness was so great that they were like brute beasts, every one
married several wives; and this abuse continues at this day among the
Turks and the Persian and other nations. Here, however, where God
compares polygamy with divorce, he says that polygamy is the worse and
more detestable crime; for the husband impurely connects himself with
another woman, and then, not only deals unfaithfully with his wife to
whom he is bound, but also forcibly detains her: thus his crime is
doubled. For if he replies and says that he keeps the wife to whom he
is bound, he is yet an adulterer as to the second wife: thus he blends,
as they say, holy with profane things; and then to adultery and
lasciviousness he adds cruelty, for he holds under his authority a
miserable woman, who would prefer death to such a condition; for we
know what power jealousy has over women. And when any one introduces a
harlot, how can a lawful wife bear such an indignity without being
miserably tormented?

     This then is the reason why the Prophet now says, If thou hatest,
dismiss; not that he grants indulgence to divorce, as we have said, but
that he might by this circumstance enhance the crime; and hence he
adds, For he covers by a cloak his violence. Some interpreters take
violence here for spoil or prey, and think that the wife is thus called
who is tyrannically compelled to remain with an adulterer, when yet she
sees a harlot in her house, by whom she is driven from her conjugal
bed: but this is too strained and too remote from the letter of the
text. The Prophet here, I doubt not, shakes off from the Jews their
false mask, because they thought that they could cover over their vice
by retaining their first wives. "What else is this," he says, "but to
cover by a cloak your violence, or at least to excuse it? for ye do not
openly manifest it: but God is not deceived, nor can his eye be dazzled
by such a disguise: though then your iniquity is covered by a cloak, it
is not yet hid from God; nay, it is thus doubled, because ye exercise
your cruelty at home; for it would be better for robbers to remain in
the wood and there to kill strangers, than to entice guests to their
houses and to kill them there and to plunder them under the pretext of
hospitality. This is the way in which you act; for ye destroy the bond
of marriage, and ye afterwards deceive your miserable wives, and yet ye
force them by your tyranny to continue at your houses, and thus ye
torment your miserable wives, who might have enjoyed their freedom, if
divorce had been granted them."

He concludes again with these words, Watch over your spirit; that is,
"Take heed; for this is an intolerable wickedness before God, however
you may endeavour to extenuate its heinousness."


Grant, Almighty God, that though we daily in various ways violate the
covenant which thou hast been pleased to make with us in thine
only-begotten Son, we may not yet be dealt with according to what our
defection, yea, the many defections by which we daily provoke thy wrath
against us, do fully deserve; but suffer and bear with us kindly, and
at the same time strengthen us that we may persevere in the truth and
perform to the end the pledge we have given to thee, and which thou
midst require from us in our baptism, and that we may each of us so
conduct ourselves towards our brethren, and husbands towards their
wives, that we may cherish that unity of spirit which thou hast
consecrated between us by the blood of thine own Son. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Seventh

17. Ye have weared the Lord with your words: yet ye say, Wherein have
we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the
sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of

17. Fatigastis Iehovam in verbis vestris, et dixistis, In quo
fatigavimus eum? Quum dicitis, Quicumque facit malum gratus est in
oculis Iehovae et in ipsis se oblectat; vel, Ubi Deus judicii?

     The Prophet here reproves the Jews who expostulated with God in
their adversity, as though he had undeservedly forsaken them, and had
not brought them immediate help. Thus are hypocrites wont to do; unless
God immediately assists them, they not only indirectly complain, but
also break out into open blasphemies; for they think that God is bound
to them, and hence they assail him more boldly, and even with greater
freedom and insolence. It is indeed a proof of true piety when we
patiently submit to the judgments of God, and when, as Jeremiah teaches
us by his own example, "we sustain his wrath, because we know that we
have sinned." (Jer. 3:14.) But as hypocrites are conscious of nothing
wrong, (for they flatter themselves, and stupify their own
consciences,) because they examine not themselves, they think that God
acts unjustly towards them when he does not immediately bring them aid.
Such was the dishonesty of the people of whom the Prophet now speaks.

     He says that they had wearied God, that is, that they had been
troublesome to him by their clamorous complaints; for the verb , igo,
means to be weary; he says then that they unreasonably complained of
God's slowness. It is indeed a mode of speaking taken from men, for we
know that no passions belong to God; but as elsewhere God reproves them
because they saddened his Spirit, (Psalm 106:33,) so he says here that
they wearied him. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning.

     But there is a dilemma presented in the words; for the Jews
thought that God favoured the wicked, inasmuch as he did not
immediately punish them, or that he was now unlike himself, and forgot
his own nature. The difficulty or the dilemma appears not at the first
view, as they seemed to have repeated the same thing. But in the first
clause they accuse God of injustice; and in the second they intimate
that there is no God, for he cannot exist without exercising judgment.
Then the passages contains two clauses differing from each other - "God
has either changed his nature, and so is no God, or he favours our
enemies; for he does not immediately execute vengeance." We see then
that they concluded that God either acted unjustly, or that there was
no God. But we have mentioned the cause of this blasphemy - the Jews
did not examine themselves, and therefore did not confess that they
deserved these chastisements. They were like vicious horses, who kick
and fling, though gently treated by their riders.

     But such insolence is now seen in all masked men, who vauntingly
profess religion when they are treated according to their own wishes;
but when God deals more sharply with them, they not only murmur, but
vomit forth, as I have already said, impious slanders against him, as
though he did not render to them the reward due to their just dealings.
Admonished by this example, let us learn that it is true wisdom to
humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, (1 Peter 5:6;) and that
thoughl he may suspend the granting of our prayers, we ought still to
bear, not impatiently, what is hard and severe, and also to subdue our
feelings, and to seek from them the Spirit of meekness, to retain us in
a tranquil submission.

     He says that they still replied - In what have we wearied thee?
Here he strongly reproves their hardness, because they did not become
wise through the rebuke given them, but regarded with scorn the words
of the Prophet, by which we clearly see that they must have been
convinced of their guilt, had they not been doubly stupid. It was an
intolerable reproach cast on God, to say that he favoured the ungodly,
and was pleased with their crimes; for God would thus not only rule as
a tyrant, but also subvert all order. But nothing is more contrary to
his nature than to hold forth his hand to the ungodly as though he had
an alliance with them. As this then was an evident impiety, it was a
monstrous stupidity to ask in what they wearied God; they ought indeed
to have known that he regards nothing as precious as his own honour;
and yet, as though Malachi had unjustly reproved them, they opposed him
with an iron front, according to similar instances which we have before
observed; for though they were covenant-breakers as to marriage, though
they defrauded God in the tenths, though they cunningly evaded the
Prophets, they yet as it were wiped their mouths and asked, In what had
they sinned? The Prophet shows that they were become so hardened in
their contumacy that they daringly rejected all admonitions; for they
did not ask this as though it was a doubtful thing, nor can it be
concluded from their words that they were teachable; but it was the
same as if they were armed, ready for a contest, yea, armed with
effrontery and perverseness; for they no doubt despised and ridiculed
the Prophet's reproof.

     He then answers them - When ye say, Whosoever doeth evil is
acceptable in the eyes of Jehovah, and in them he delights. The word
rendered "acceptable" is "tov", but such is its meaning often in
Hebrew. What they said was, that the ungodly and the wicked pleased
God, even because they covered by false colours their sins, so that
they were not convinced of anything wrong. They then imputed whatever
was evil to their enemies; they did not commonly expostulate with God
because he left sins unpunished, but because they received not his aid.
We hence see that the Jews here did not clamour and contend with God
through hatred of wickedness, but had only a regard to their own
advantages; nor did they condemn the sins of others, except those by
which they received some harm or loss, and that they considered none
wicked except those by whom they were injured. We hence learn that they
did not complain through zeal for what was right, but because they
would have God bound to them to undertake their cause like earthly

     We indeed know that even the godly are sometimes wearied, and
their faith is ready to fail, when things in the world are in a
disturbed and confused state: and this was the case with David, as it
is recorded in the seventy-third Psalm; but there is in the servants
and sincere worshipers of God some concern for what is just and right,
whenever they have such grief and trouble of mind, according to the
case of Habakkuk, when he said, "How long, O Lord!" (Hab. 1:2;) for no
doubt his complaint arose from a right principle, because his desire
was that God should be truly served in the world. But there was nothing
of this kind in the Jews, with whom our Prophet contends here; for as
we have said, there was no hatred of wickedness, but only a care for
their own advantage; they hence said, that the ungodly pleased God,
because God did not immediately interpose when they apprehended some
trouble from their enemies.

     The repetition is a proof of greater bitterness; for they were not
content with one clamorous expression, but added, that God took delight
in them.

     Then follows the other clause, or where is the God of judgment?
They seem not here to reason amiss, that is, from the nature of God.
Men may change their counsel and their design, and remain men still,
for they are subject to inconstancy and fickleness; but to God there
belongs no change. There seems not then to be an impropriety in this -
that there is no God, except he be the judge of the world; for he
cannot divest himself of his office without denying himself. But they
malignantly impeached God; nay, they now insinuate that there is none,
because he had abdicated his judgment; for they took it as granted,
that God had ceased to be the punisher of wickedness, which was most
false; but yet they thought that according to facts it was certain and
clear. Hence they concluded that there was no God, as his divinity must
have been abolished together with his judgment. We hence see to what
extent of insolence they burst forth in their complaints, so that they
either charged God with injustice, or alleged that his divinity was
annihilated. Now follows


1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before
me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even
the messenger of the covenant, who ye delight in: behold, he shall
come, saith the Lord of hosts.

1 Ecce ego mitto Angelum meum, et purgabit viam coram facie mea; et mox
veniet ad templum suum Dominus, quem vos quaeritis, et Angelus foederis
quem vos expetitis; ecce venit, dicit Iehova exercituum.

     Here the Prophet does not bring comfort to the wicked slanderers
previously mentioned, but asserts the constancy of his faith in
opposition to their blasphemous words; as such is its meaning often in
Hebrew. What they said was, that the ungodly and the wicked pleased
God, even because they covered by false colors their sins, so that they
were not convinced of anything wrong. They then imputed whatever was
evil to their enemies; they did not commonly expostulate with God
because he left sins unpunished, but because they received not his aid.
We hence see that the Jews here did not clamour and contend with God
through hatred of wickedness, but had only a regard to their own
advantages; nor did they condemn the sins of others, except those by
which they received some harm or loss, and that they considered none
wicked except those by whom they were injured. We hence learn that they
did not complain through zeal for what was right, but because they
would have God bound to them to Undertake their cause like earthly
    We indeed know that even the godly are sometimes wearied, and
their faith is ready to fail, when things in the world are in a
disturbed and confused state: and this was the case with David, as it
is recorded in the seventy-third Psalm; but there is in the servants
and sincere worshipers of God some concern for what is just and right,
whenever they have such grief and trouble of mind, according to the
case of Habakkuk, when he said, "How long, O Lord!" (Hab. 1: 2;) for no
doubt his complaint arose front a right principle, because his desire
was that God should be truly served in the world. But there was nothing
of this kind in the Jews, with whom our Prophet contends here; for as
we have said, there was no hatred of wickedness, but only a care for
their own advantage; they hence said, that the ungodly pleased God,
because God did not immediately interpose when they apprehended some
trouble from their enemies.
    The repetition is a proof of greater bitterness; for they were not
content with one clamorous expression, but added, that God took delight
in them.
    Then follows the other clause, or where is the God of judgment?
They seem not here to reason amiss, that is, from the nature of God.
Men may change their counsel and their design, and remain men still,
for they are subject to inconstancy and fickleness; but to God there
belongs no change. There seems not then to be an impropriety in this -
that there is no God, except he be the judge of the world; for he
cannot divest himself of his office without denying himself But they
malignantly impeached God; nay, they now insinuate that there is none,
because he had abdicated his judgment; for they took it as granted,
that God had ceased to be the punisher of wickedness, which was most
false; but yet they thought that according to facts it was certain and
clear. Hence they concluded that there was no God, as his divinity must
have been abolished together with his judgment. We hence see to what
extent of insolence they burst forth in their complaints, so that they
either charged God with injustice, or alleged that his divinity was
annihilated. Now follows


Mal 3:1
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before
me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even
the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall
come, saith the LORD of hosts.
    Here the Prophet does not bring comfort to the wicked slanderers
previously mentioned, but asserts the constancy of his faith in
opposition to their blasphemous words; as though he had said, "Though
they impiously declare that they have been either deceived or forsaken
by the God in whom they had hoped, yet his covenant shall not be in
vain." The design of what is announced is like that of the declaration
made elsewhere, "Though men are perfidious and false, yet God remains
true, and cannot depart from his own nature." (Num. 23: 19.) God then
does here gloriously triumph over the Jews, and alleges his own
covenant in opposition to their disgraceful slanders, because their
wicked murmurings could not hinder him to accomplish his promises and
to perform in due time what they thought would never be done; and he
adopts a demonstrative adverb in order to show the certainty of what is
    Behold, he says, 1 send my messenger, who will clear the way
before my face.' This passage ought doubtless to be understood of John
the Baptist, for Christ himself so explains it, than whom no better
interpreter can be found; and since John the Baptist was the messenger
of Christ, the beginning of the verse can be applied to no other
person. Afterwards the Father himself speaks as we shall see: but as he
who appeared in the flesh is the same God with the Father, it is no
wonder that he speaks, and then that the words which follow are spoken
in the person of the Father.
    There is here a striking allusion to Moses, whose office it was to
intercede, that God might not in his just wrath destroy the whole
people; for as then the majesty of God was more than could be borne
without an intercessor, so that the people through fear cried out
"Speak thou to us lest we die," (Ex. 20: 19,) so also now does Malachi
teach us, that there is need of an intercessor, by whom God's wrath
might be mitigated, which the Jews had extremely provoked. This office
John the Baptist undertook, who prepared the Jews to hear the voice of
    By saying that he would send a messenger to clear his way, he
indirectly reproved the Jews, by whom many hindrances were thrown as it
were in the way; as though he had said, "They prevent by the obstacles
they raise up the redemption and the promised salvation to be revealed:
there will therefore be the need of a messenger to clear the way." For
the Jews had introduced impediments, as though they designedly wished
to resist the favor which had been prepared and promised to them. But
how the Baptist performed his work by clearing the way, is evident from
the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, as well as from the Gospels; and hence
may be gathered what I have already said - that God by his fidelity and
mercy struggled with those obstacles which the Jews had raised up to
prevent the coming of Christ.'
    He afterwards adds, And presently shall come to his temple the
Lord, whom ye seek. After having said that he would open a way for his
favor, he now adds, come shall the Lord. He introduces here, not
Jehovah, but the Lord, "Adon"; and hence he speaks distinctly of
Christ, who is afterwards called the Angel or Messenger of the
covenant. But the word "Adon" commonly used for a Mediator, as in Ps.
110, and also in Dan. 9:17; where it is expressly said, "Hear, O
Jehovah, for the sake of the Lord," "lema'an Adonai"; the word is the
same as here, come then shall the Lord. The reason for this mode of
speaking was, because Christ was shown to them under the type which re
presented him. As then the kingdom of David was a representation of the
kingdom of Christ our Lord, it is no wonder that the Prophets designate
him by this title, especially those who were the nearest to the time of
Christ's manifestation. But he is promised by another title, the angel
or messenger of the covenant; but it means not the same here as in the
first clause. He called John the Baptist at the beginning of this verse
a messenger, the messenger of Jehovah; and now he calls Christ a
messenger, but he is the messenger of the covenant; for it was
necessary that the covenant should be confirmed by him. The title of
John the Baptist was then inferior to that of Christ; for though he was
God manifested in the flesh, yet this did not prevent him from being
God's minister and interpreter in order to confirm his covenant; and we
know that the office of Christ consists in confirming and sealing to us
the covenant of God, not only by his doctrine, but also by his blood
and the sacrifice of his cross.
    Malachi then promises here to the Jews both a king and a
reconciler, - a king under tee title of Lord, - and a reconciler under
the title of the messenger of the covenant: and we know it was the main
thing in the whole doctrine of the law, that a Redeemer was to come, to
reconcile the Church to Cod and to rule it.
    And he says that the Mediator was sought and expected by the Jews;
and through him God was to be propitious to them: but this was not said
but ironically. The faithful indeed at this day have all their desires
fixed on Christ, after he has been revealed in the flesh, until they
shall partake at his last coming of the fruit of his death and
resurrection; and under the law we know that the groaning and the
sighings of the godly were towards Christ: but Malachi here, by way of
contempt, checks these unreasonable charges, by which the Jews accused
God, as though he had disappointed their hope and their prayers. For we
have said, and the fact is evident, that God had been presumptuously
and shamefully impeached by them, as though he meant not to fulfil his
promises: hence the Prophet says ironically, and sharply too, that
Christ was expected by the Jews, for they murmured, because God had too
long deferred his coming: "O! where is the Redeemer? when will he be
revealed to us?" Since then they thus pretended that they earnestly
expected the coming of Christ, the Prophet upbraids them with this, and
justly too, for they had expressly manifested their unbelief.
    Behold, he comes, saith Jehovah of hosts. Here he introduces the
Father as the speaker, as it has been already stated; and the particle
"hinneh", behold, is used for the sake of removing every doubt; and
then he confirms what he says by the authority of God. He might have
asserted this in his own person as a teacher; but in order to produce
an effect on the Jews by the majesty of God, he makes him the author of
this prophecy. It follows -

Malachi 3:2
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he
appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap.
    The Prophet in this verse contends more sharply with the Jews, and
shows that it was a mere presence that they so much expected the coming
of the Mediator, for they were far different from him through the whole
course of their life. And when he says that the coming of Christ would
be intolerable, what is said is to be confined to the ungodly; for we
know that nothing is more delightful and sweeter to us than when Christ
is nigh us: though now we are pilgrims and at a distance from him, yet
his invisible presence is our chief joy and happiness. (Rom. 8: 22,
23.) Besides, were not the expectation of his coming to sustain our
minds, how miserable would be our condition! It is therefore by this
mark that the faithful are to be distinguished, - that they expect his
coming; and Paul does not in vain exhort us, by the example of heaven
and earth, to be like those in travail, until Christ appears to us as
our Redeemer.
    But the Prophet here directs his discourse to the ungodly, who
though they seem to burn with desire for God's presence, do not yet
wish him to be nigh them, but they flee from him as much as they can.
We have met with a similar passage in Amos, "Wo to those who desire the
day of the Lord! What will it be to you? for it will be darkness, yea
darkness and not light, a day of sorrow and not of joy." (Amos 5: 18.)
Amos in this passage spoke on the same subject; for the Jews, inflated
with false confidence, thought that God could not forsake them, as he
had pledged his faith to them; but he reminded them that God had been
so provoked by their sins, that he was become their professed and sworn
enemy. So also in this place, Come, the Prophet says, come shall the
Redeemer; but this will avail you nothing; on the contrary, his coming
will be dreadful to you. We indeed know that Christ appeared not for
salvation to all, but only to the remnant, and to those of Jacob who
repented, according to what Isaiah says. (Isaiah 10: 21, 22.) But since
they obstinately rejected the favour of God, it is no wonder that the
Prophet excluded them from the blessings of the Redeemer.
    Who then will endure his coming? and who shall stand at his
appearance? as though he had said, "In vain do ye flatter yourselves,
and even upbraid God, that he retains the promised Redeemer as it were
hidden in his own bosom; for he will come in due time, but without any
advantage to you; nor will it be given you to enjoy his favour; but on
the contrary he will bring to you nothing but terrors; for he will be
like a purifying fire, and as the herb of the fullers. The latter
clause may be taken in a good or a bad sense, as it is evident from the
next verse. The power of the fire, we know, is twofold; for it burns
and it purifies; it burns what is corrupt; but it purifies gold and
silver from their dross. The Prophet no doubt meant to include both,
for in the next verse he says, that Christ will be as fire to purify
and to refine the sons of Levi as gold and silver. With regard then to
the people of whom he has been hitherto speaking, he shows that Christ
will be like fire, to burn and consume their filth; for though they
boasted with their mouth of their religion, yet we know that the Church
of God had many defilements and pollutions; they were therefore to
perish by fire. But Malachi teaches us at the same time, that the whole
Church was not to perish, for the Lord would purify the sons of Levi.
    There is here a part stated for the whole; for the promise belongs
to the whole Church. The sons of Levi were the first-fruits, and the
whole people were in the name of that tribe consecrated to God. This is
the reason why he mentions the sons of Levi rather than the whole
people; as though he had said, that though the Church was corrupt and
polluted, there would yet be a residue which God would save, having
purified them. The words which I had omitted are these -

Malachi 3:3
And he shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall
purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they
may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
    The Prophet says, that Christ would sit to purify the sons of
Levi; for though they were the flower, as it were, and the purity of
the Church, they had yet contracted some contagion from the corruption
which prevailed. Such then was the contagion, that not only the common
people became corrupt, but even the Levites themselves, who ought to
have been guides to others, and who were to be in the Church as it were
the pattern of holiness. God however promises that such would be the
purifying which Christ would effect, and so regulated, that it would
consume the whole people, and yet purify the elect, and purify them
like silver, that they may be saved. He tells us afterwards that the
Levites themselves would need a trial to cleanse them; for they
themselves would not be without filth, because they had mixed with a
perverse people, who had wholly departed from the law, and from the
fear and the worship of God.


Grant, Almighty God, that since we are by nature so prone to rash
judgement, we may learn to submit to thee, and so quietly to acquiesce
in thy judgements, that we may patiently bear whatever chastisements
thou mayest daily allot to us, and not doubt but that all is done for
our well-being, and never murmur against thee, but give thee the glory
in all our adversities; and may we so labour to mortify our flesh, that
by denying ourselves we may ever allow thee to be the only true God,
and a just avenger, and our Father, and that thus renouncing ourselves,
we may yet never depart from the purity of thy word, and be thus
retained under thy yoke, until we shall at length attain that liberty
which has been procured for us by thine only-begotten Son. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-eighth.
    In our last lecture the Prophet delineated the office of Christ,
that hypocrites might know that they in vain complained of the
tardiness of God, as though he had deserted them at the very time of
their extremity. He further said, that there was need of purifying, not
only as to the people, but as to the priests also; and hence it appears
how corrupt the state of things had become among all classes. At the
same time he seems indirectly to reprove hypocrisy, not only in the
common people, but also in the Levites, for there is a contrast to be
understood between the sacrifices they then offered, and those offered
by their fathers.
    By saying then that they would offer to Jehovah an oblation in
righteousness, "minchah bitsdakah", he intimates that their sacrifices
had not been legitimate, for they had become polluted, and hence could
not rightly minister to God. We hence see that the Levites are here
reproved because they had polluted God's service in not offering the
right sacrifices such as he had prescribed in his law. This is not to
be applied to the outward acts only, but also to the feelings and
motives, because they did come to God's altars with minds well
    To offer in righteousness is a mode of speaking common in Hebrew,
and means to offer in a right way, so that there should be nothing
wrong or worthy of blame. By the verb "yashav", to sit, is intimated
continuance; as though the Prophet had said, that corruption was so
deeply fixed in the Levites that it could not in one day or by light
means be purged away: in short, he meant by this one word to exaggerate
the corrupt state of the people, for had only a slight washing been
sufficient, he would have simply said, "he will purify, he will
cleanse, he will cast," or melt, for he uses these three words: but he
says, as I have stated, that he will sit to do these things, in order
to show that he would continue in his work and carry it on for a long
time, because the diseases being so inveterate they could not be easily
healed. We now understand what the Prophet means. He afterwards adds -

Malachi 3:4
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the
LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
    This verse shows, that though he had just spoken of the sons of
Levi, he yet had regard to the whole people. But he meant to confine to
the elect what ought not to have been extended to all, for there were
among the people, as we have seen and shall again presently see, many
who were reprobates, nay, the greater part had fallen away; and this is
the reason why the Prophet especially addresses the few remaining who
had not fallen away.
    But he names Judah and Jerusalem, for that tribe had returned to
their own country, and sacrifices were offered at Jerusalem, though not
with the splendour of ancient times, the state of things having become
much deteriorated among those miserable exiles. Hence the Prophet, that
he might encourage the faithful, says, that though the temple was then
mean, and the worship of God as then performed was unadorned and
abject, yet there was no reason for the Levites or for others to
despond, because the Lord would again restore the glory of his temple,
and really show that what men viewed with scorn was approved by him. It
follows -

Malachi 3:5
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness
against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false
swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in [his] wages,
the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger [from
his right], and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
    Here the Prophet retorts the complaints which the Jews had
previously made. There is here then a counter-movement when he says, I
will draw nigh to you; for they provoked God by this slander - that he
hid himself from them and looked at a distance on what was taking place
in the world, as though the people he had chosen were not the objects
of his care. They expected God to be to them like a hired soldier,
ready at hand to help them in any adversity, and to come armed at their
nod or pleasure to fight with their enemies: this they expected; but
God declares what is of a contrary character, - that he would come for
judgement; and he alludes to that impious slander, when they denied
that he was the God of judgement, because he did not immediately, or
soon enough, resist their enemies: "Oh! God has now divested himself of
his own nature! for his judgement does not appear." His answer is, "I
will not forget nay judgement when I come to you, but I shall come in a
way contrary to what you expect". They indeed wished God to put on arms
for their advantage, but God declares, that he would be an enemy to
them, according to what he also says by the mouth of Isaiah.
    He further says, I will be a swift witness. He sets swiftness here
in opposition to their calumny, for they said that God was slow and
tardy, because he had not immediately, as they had wished, come forth
to exercise vengeance on foreign nations: he, on the other hand, says,
that he would be sufficiently swift when the time came.
    And as there are the like blasphemies prevailing in the world at
this day, this passage may be accommodated to our circumstances. Let us
then know, that though God may delay and connive at things for a time,
he yet knows his own opportunities, so as to appear as the avenger of
wickedness as soon as it will be necessary. But let us ever fear lest
our haste should prove our ruin, for he has no respect of persons, so
as to favour our unfaithfulness and to be rigid towards those who are
hostile to us. Let us take heed that while we look for the presence of
God, we present ourselves before his tribunal with a pure and upright
    He then mentions several kinds of evils, in which he includes the
sins in which the Jews implicated themselves. He first names diviners
or sorcerers. It is indeed true, that among various kinds of
superstitions this was one; but as the word is found here by itself,
the Prophet no doubt meant to include all kinds of diviners,
soothsayers, false prophets, and all such deceivers: and so there is
here again another instance of stating a part for the whole; for he
includes all those corruptions which are contrary to the true worship
of God. We indeed know that God formerly had by his word put a
restraint on the Jews, that they were not to turn aside to incantations
and magical arts, or to anything of this kind; but he intimates here,
that they were then so given up to gross abominations, that they
abandoned themselves to magic arts, and to incantations, and the
juggleries of the devil. He mentions, in the second place, adulterers,
and under this term he includes all kinds of lewdness; and, in the
third place, he names frauds and raping; and if we rightly consider the
subject, we shall find that these three things contain whatever
violates the whole law.
    The design of the Prophet is by no means ambiguous; for he
intended to show how perversely they expostulated with God; for they
ought to have been destroyed a hundred times, inasmuch as they were
apostates, were given to obscene lusts, were cruel, avaricious, and
    And this reproof ought to be a warning to us in the present day,
that we may not call forth God's judgement on others, while we flatter
ourselves as being innocent. Whenever then we flee to God for help, and
ask him to succour us, let us remember that he is a just judge who has
no respect of persons. Let then every one, who implores God's
judgement, be his own judge, and anticipate the correction which he has
reason to fear. That God therefore may not be armed for our
destruction, let us carefully examine our own life, and follow the rule
prescribed here by the Prophet; let us begin with the worship of God,
then let us come to fornications and adulteries, and whatever is
contrary to a chaste conduct, and afterwards let us pass to frauds and
plunder; for if we are free from all superstition, if we keep ourselves
chaste and pure, and if we also abstain from all plunders and all
cruelty, our life is doubtless approved by God. And hence it is that
the Prophet adds at the end of the verse, They feared not me; for when
lusts, and plunder, and frauds and the corruptions which vitiate God's
worship, prevail, it is evident that there is no fear of God, but that
men, having shaken off the yoke, as it were run mad, though they may a
thousand times profess the name of God.
    By mentioning the orphan, the widow, and the stranger, he
amplifies the atrocity of their crimes; for the orphans, widows, and
strangers, we know, are under the guardianship and protection of God,
inasmuch as they are exposed to the wrongs of men. Hence every one who
plunders orphans, or harasses widows, or oppresses strangers, seems to
carry on open war, as it were, with God himself, who has promised that
these should be safe under the shadow of his hand. With regard to the
expressions, it seems not suitable to say that the hire of the widow
and of the orphan is suppressed; there may therefore be an inversion of
the words - they oppressed the widows, the orphans, strangers. It
follows -

Malachi 3:6
For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not
    Here the Prophet more clearly reproves and checks the impious
waywardness of the people; for God, after having said that he would
come and send a Redeemer, though not such as would satisfy the Jews,
now claims to himself what justly belongs to him, and says that he
changes not, because he is God. Under the name Jehovah, God reasons
from his own nature; for he sets himself, as we have observed in our
last lecture, in opposition to mortals; nor is it a wonder that God
here disclaims all inconsistency, since the impostor Balaam was
constrained to celebrate God's immutable constancy - "For he is not
God," he says, "who changes," or varies, "like man." (Num. 23: 19.) We
now then understand the force of the words, I am Jehovah. But he adds
as an explanation, I change not, or, I am not changed; for if we do not
take the verb actively, the meaning is the same, - that God continues
in his purpose, and is not turned here and there like men who repent of
a purpose they have formed, because what they had not thought of comes
to their mind, or because they wish undone what they have performed,
and seek new ways by which they may retrace their steps. God denies
that anything of this kind can take place in him, for he is Jehovah,
and changes not, or is not changed.
    The latter clause is variously explained. The verb "kalah" means,
in the first conjugation, to be consumed; but in Piel, to complete, or
to make an end; and this sense would be very suitable; but a
grammatical reason interferes, for it is in the first conjugation. Did
grammar allow, this meaning would be appropriate, "Ye children of
Israel have not made an end:" Why? "From the days of your fathers,"
&c.: then the verse which follows would be connected with this. But we
must be content with the present reading; and a twofold view may be
taken of it: the copulative "waw" may be taken as an adversative,
"Though ye are not consumed, I yet am not changed:" as though it was
said, "Think not that you have escaped, though I have long spared you
and your sins: though then ye are not yet consumed, as I have borne
with you in your great wickedness, I yet continue to be Jehovah, nor do
I change my nature, and ye shall at length find that I am a just Judge;
though I shall not soon execute my vengeance, punishment being held
suspended, or as it were buried, yet the end will show that I am not
    But the Prophet seems rather to accuse the Jews of ingratitude in
charging God with cruelty or with negligence, because he did not
immediately assist them; and at the same time they did not consider
within themselves that they remained alive because God had a reason
derived from his own nature for sparing them, and for not rendering to
them what they had deserved. The meaning then is this, "I am God, and I
change not; and ought ye not to have acknowledged that wonderful
forbearance through which I have spared you? for how has it been that
you have not perished, and that innumerable deaths have not swallowed
you up? How is it that you are yet alive? Is it because you have dealt
faithfully faith me, so that it behaved me to exercise care over you?
Nay, it is indeed a wonder that I had not fulminated against you so as
to destroy you long ago." We hence see that he upbraids them with
ingratitude for accusing him, because he did not immediately come forth
in their defence: For he answers them and says, that had he been rigid
and vehement in his displeasure, they could not have continued, for
they had not ceased for many successive ages to seek their own ruin, as
we find in what follows, for he says -

Malachi 3:8,9
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have
we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this
whole nation.
    The Prophet expands more fully what he had referred to - that it
was a wonder that the Jews had not perished, because they had never
ceased to provoke God against themselves. He then sets this fact before
them more clearly, From the days of your fathers, he says, ye have
turned aside from my statutes. He increases their condemnation by this
circumstance - that they had not lately begun to depart from the right
way, but had continued their contumacy for many ages, according to what
the apostles, as well as the Prophets in various places, have
testified: "Ye uncircumcised in heart, ye have ceased not to resist the
Holy Spirit like your fathers." (Acts 7: 61.) "Harden not your hearts
as your fathers did; in the righteousness of your fathers walk not."
(Ps. 95: 8.) But I will not multiply proofs, which very often are to be
met with, and must be well known.
    We now understand the Prophet's intention - that the Jews for many
ages had been notorious for their impiety and wickedness, and that they
had not been dealt with by God as they had deserved, because he had
according to his ineffable goodness and forbearance suspended his
rigour, so as not to visit them according to their demerits. It hence
appears how unreasonable they were, not only in being morose and proud,
but especially in being furious against God, when they accused him of
tardiness, while yet he had proved himself to be really a God towards
them by his continued forbearance.
    The words, And ye have not kept them, are added for amplification;
for he expresses more fully their contempt of his law, as though he had
said, that they were not only transgressors, but had also with gross
wilfulness so departed from the law as to regard it as nothing to tread
God's precepts under their feet.
    He then exhorts then to repentance, and kindly addresses them, and
declares that he would be propitious and reconcilable to them, if they
repented. He has hitherto sharply reproved them, because their necks
being hard they had need of such correction; for had the Prophet gently
and kindly exhorted them, they would either have kicked or have set on
him with their horns; be now mitigates his sharpness, not indeed with
respect to all, but if there were any healable among the people he
meant to try them; and hence he offers them reconciliation with God, as
though he had said, "Though God has been in various ways wantonly
offended by you, and though you have repudiated his favour, and have
become wholly unworthy of being regarded by him, yet return, and he
will meet you."
    We have said elsewhere that all exhortations would be in vain
without a hope of pardon; for when God commands us to return to the
right way, our hearts would never be touched, nay, they would on the
contrary turn away, had we no hope that he would be reconciled to us.
This course the Prophet now pursues, when in the person of God himself
he promises pardon, provided the Jews repented.
    God is said to return to us, when he ceases to demand the
punishment of our sins, and when he lays aside the character of a
judge, and makes himself known to us as a Father. We indeed know that
God neither returns nor departs; for he who fills all places never
moves here and there; and we also know that we exist and live in him,
but he shows by outward evidences that he is alienated from us, and by
the same he shows that he is propitious to us; for when he favours us
with fruitful seasons, with peace and with other blessings, he is said
to be near us; but when he lets loose the reins of his wrath, or
exposes us to the assaults of Satan and to the wanton power of men, he
is said to be far removed from us. But this is so well known that I
need not dwell longer on the point.
    The promise which the Prophet states serves to show, that God
would manifest tokens of his paternal favour to the Jews, provided only
they were submissive; but that it would be their own fault, if they did
not find through his blessings that he was their Father. It would be on
account of their sins, which, as Isaiah says, hinder the course of that
beneficence to which he is of his own self inclined, (Is. 59: 2.) And
he bids them to return. Hence the Papists very foolishly conclude, that
repentance is in the power of man's free-will. But God requires what is
above our strength; and yet there is no reason why we should complain
that there is a too heavy burden laid on us; for he regards not what we
can, or what our ability admits, but what we owe to him and what our
duty requires. Though then no one can of his own self turn to God, he
is not on this account excusable, because we must consider whence comes
the defect; and how much soever, as I have already said, a man may
pretend his own impotency, he cannot yet escape from being bound to
God, though more is required of him than he of himself can perform. But
this subject has often been discussed elsewhere. The import of what is
said here is, - that men are not miserable through the unjust rigour of
God, but always through their own sins.
    It follows, Ye have said, In what shall we return? It is an
evidence of perverseness, when men answer that they see not that they
have erred, and that hence conversion is to no purpose required of
them; for this is the meaning of these words, Whereby shall we return?
that is, "What dost thou require from us? for we are not conscious of
any defection; we worship God as we ought: now if our duties are
repudiated by him, we see not why he should so expressly blame us; let
him show in what we have offended; for conversion to him is
superfluous, until we be proved guilty of apostasy, or of those sins
which God determines to punish in us." To this the Prophet answers -
    Will a man defraud the gods? Some give this version, "Will a man
defraud God?" But it is strained and remote from the Prophet's design;
and they pervert the meaning. For I do not see what can be elicited
from this rendering, "Will a man defraud God?" But there are other two
meanings which may be taken. The first is, "Will a man defraud his
gods?" The word "'elohim", though it be in the plural number, is
applied, as it is well known, to the true God; but it is applied also
to idols; and in this place the Prophet seems to me to compare the Jews
to the Gentiles, that their impiety might be made more evident. The
same is the object of Jeremiah, when he says, "Go, and survey the
islands, is there a nation which has changed its gods, while yet they
are no gods." (Jer. 2: 10.) Since their blindness and obstinacy held
fast the Gentiles in darkness, that they continued to worship the gods
to whom they had been accustomed, it was an abominable wickedness in
the Jews, that having been taught to worship the true God, they were
yet continually influenced by ungodly levity, and sought new modes of
worship, as though they wished to devise another god for themselves. So
also in this place the Prophet seems to bring forward the Gentiles as
an example to the Jews; for they discharged their duty towards their
gods; but the Jews despised the supreme and the only true God:
"Behold," he says, "go round the world, and ye shall not find among the
nations so unbridled a liberty as prevails among you; for they render
obedience to their gods, and sacrilege is abominable to them; but ye
defraud me. Am I inferior to idols? or is my state worse than theirs?"
    Some take the word "'elohim" for judges, as judges are sometimes
so named; but this meaning seems not suitable on account of the word,
Adam. As then this word generally means man, the Prophet, I have no
doubt, intimates what I have stated, - that unbelievers, though sunk in
darkness, are yet restrained by reverence and fear from changing their
deity, and that they dare not to show levity when the name only of
their god is pronounced. Since then such humility prevailed among
unbelievers, could the impiety of that people, who had been trained up
in the law, be excusable? a people too, upon whom God had ever made the
doctrine of the law to shine.
    He afterwards adds, Because ye have defrauded me; and ye have
said, Thereby have we defrauded thee? In tenths and in oblations. Here
the Prophet again proves the people guilty of perverseness: it was
indeed hypocrisy, and though gross, it was yet surpassed by impudence;
for they asked, whereby they had defrauded God? and yet this was
evident even to children: for we know, and we have seen elsewhere, that
avarice so ruled among them, that every one, bent on their own profit,
neglected the temple and the priests. Since then they were openly
sacrilegious, how shameless they must have been to ask whereby they had
defrauded God! The thing itself was indeed manifest and commonly known,
so that children could see it. God however deemed it enough to convict
them by one sentence, - that they defrauded him in the tenths and in
the first-fruits; not that any advantage accrued to him from oblations,
as he had no need of any such things; but he rightly calls and counts
that his own which he had appointed for his own service. Since then he
had instituted that order among the Jews, that they might by the tenths
support the priests, and a part also was required for the poor, since
God designed the firstfruits and other things to be offered to him,
that men might thereby be continually reminded, that all things were
his, and that whatever they received from his hand was sacred to him,
he had previously called the bread laid on the table his own, and had
called the sacrifices his own food, as though he did eat and drink. But
as I have already said, we ought to regard the object in view, because
his will was to be thus worshipped, and at the same time to keep as his
own whatever belonged to his service. This then is the reason why he
now complains of being defrauded of the tenths.
    But we know that other sacrifices are now prescribed to us; and
after prayer and praises, he bids us to relieve the poor and needy. God
then, no doubt, is deprived by us of his right, when we are unkind to
the poor, and refuse them aid in their necessity. We indeed thereby
wrong men, and are cruel; but our crime is still more heinous, inasmuch
as we are unfaithful stewards; for God deals more liberally with us
than with others, for this end - that some portion of our abundance may
come to the poor; and as he consecrates to their use what we abound in,
we become guilty of sacrilege whenever we give not to our brethren what
God commands us; for we know that he engages to repay, according to
what is said in Prov. 19: 17, "He who gives to the poor lends to God."


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to choose us as
priests to thyself, not that we may offer beasts to thee, but
consecrate to thee ourselves, and all that we have, - O grant, that we
may with an readiness strive to depart from every kind of uncleanness,
and to purify ourselves from all defilements, so that we may duly
perform the sacred office of priesthood, and thus conduct ourselves
towards thee with chasteness and purity; may we also abstain from every
evil work, from all fraud and all cruelty towards our brethren, and so
to deal with one another as to prove through our whole life that thou
art really our Father, ruling us by thy Spirit, and that true and holy
brotherhood exists between us; and may we live justly towards one
another, so as to render to each his own right, and thus show that we
are members of thy only-begotten Son, so as to be owned by him when he
shall appear for the redemption of his people, and shell gather us into
his celestial kingdom. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-ninth.

Malachi 3:9
Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole
    Malachi pursues the same subject; for he answers the Jews in the
name of God - that they unjustly complained of his rigour as being
immoderate, since they themselves were the cause of all their evils. He
says that they were cursed, but he adds that this happened to them
deservedly, as though he had said - "Be that granted what you say, (for
lamentations were continually made,) why is it that God afflicts us
without end or limits?" God seems to grant what they were wont
reproachfully to declare; but he says in answer to this - "But ye have
defrauded Me; what wonder then that my curse consumes you? As then I
have been robbed by you, as far as ye could, I will render to you your
just recompense; for it is not right that I should be bountiful and
kind to you, while ye thus defraud me, and take from me what is my
    The meaning then is this - that it was indeed true that the Jews
lamented that they were under a curse, but that the cause ought to have
been searched out. They indeed wished their rapines and sacrileges to
be forgiven, by which they defrauded God; but God declares that he
punished them justly in consuming them with poverty and want, since
they so sparingly rendered to him what they owed.
    He mentions the whole nation, and thus aggravates the wickedness
of the Jews; for not a few were guilty of the sacrilege mentioned, but
all, from the least to the greatest, they all plundered the tenths and
the oblations. It hence follows that God's vengeance did not exceed due
limits, since there was as it were a common conspiracy; there were not
ten or a hundred implicated in this sin, but, as he says, the whole
people. It follows -

Malachi 3:10
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in
mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I
will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing,
that [there shall] not [be room] enough [to receive it].
    He at length declares that they profited nothing by contending
with God, but that a better way was open to them, that is, to return
into favour with him. After having then repelled their unjust
accusations, he again points out the remedy which he had already
referred to - that if they dealt faithfully with God, he would be
bountiful to them, and that his blessing would be promptly extended to
them. This is the sum of the passage. They had been sufficiently proved
guilty of rapacity in withholding the tenths and the oblations; as then
the sacrilege was well known, the Prophet now passes judgement, as they
say, according to what is usually done when the criminal is condemned,
and the cause is decided, so that he who has been defrauded recovers
his right.
    So also now God deals with the Jews. Bring, he says, to the
repository (for this is the same as the house of the treasury, or of
provisions) all the tenths, or the whole tenths. We hence learn that
they had not withholden the whole of the tenths from the priests, but
that they fraudulently brought the half, or retained as much as they
could; for it was not without reason that he said, Bring all, or the
whole. They then so paid the tenths as to supply the priests with a
part only, and thus they trifled with God, according to what hypocrites
do, who ever claim to themselves high honour, and try to perform their
duty in such a way as not to discover their own perfidy, and yet they
are not ashamed of the liberty they take to illude God; and of this we
have here a remarkable example. We then see that it is no new or
unusual thing for men to pretend to do the duties they owe to God, and
at the same time to take away from him what is his own, and to transfer
it to themselves, and that manifestly, so that their impiety is
evident, though it be covered by the veil of dissimulation.
    He then adds, Let there be meat in my house. We have elsewhere
explained this form of speaking, and in the last lecture the Prophet
spoke also of the meat of God, not that God needs meat and drink, but
that whatever he has given us ought to be deemed his. We have already
stated, that it has been recorded for our sake, that the Jews offered
bread, and victims, and things of this kind, and that they feasted at
Jerusalem in the presence of God: for what is more desirable than that
God should dwell in the midst of us? and this is often repeated in the
law. But this could not have been set forth to us in a way so familiar,
as when God is represented as in a manner sitting at table with us, as
though he were our guest, eating of the same bread and of the other
provisions: and hence it is said in the law, "Thou shalt feast and
rejoice before thy God." (Deut. 2: 18.) Now as God needs not meat and
drink, as it has been said, and as men in their grossness are ever
prone to superstitions, he substituted the priests and the poor in his
own place, to prevent the Jews from entertaining earthly notions
respecting him. And this kind of modification or correction deserves to
be noticed: for the Lord on the one hand intended to draw men in a kind
manner to himself; but, on the other hand, he proposed to raise their
minds upward to heaven, lest they should ascribe to him anything
unworthy of himself, as is wont to be done, and is very common.
    But, at the same time, he again accuses them of sacrilege, for he
complains that he was deprived of meat; Let there then be meat in my
house; and prove me by this, saith Jehovah, if I wily not open, &c. He
confirms what he said before, and yet proceeds with his promise, for by
subjecting himself to a proof, he boldly repels their calumny in saying
that they were without cause consumed with want, and that God had
changed his nature, because he had not given a large supply of
provisions. God then briefly shows, that wrong had been done to him,
for he admits of a proof or a trial, as though he had said, "If you
choose to contest the point, I will soon settle it, for if you bring to
me the tenths and them entire, there will immediately come to you a
great abundance of all provisions: it will hence be evident, that I am
not the cause of barrenness, but that it is your wickedness, because ye
have sacrilegiously defrauded me."
    Then he adds, If I will not open to you the windows of heaven. It
is the first thing as to fertility that the heavens should water the
earth, according to what Scripture declares: and hence God threatens in
the law that the heaven would be iron and the earth brass, (Deut. 28:
23,) for there is a mutual connection between the heaven and the earth,
and he says elsewhere by a Prophet, "The heaven will hear the earth,
and the earth will hear the corn and wine, and the corn and wine will
hear men." (Hos 2: 99.) For when famine urges us, we cry for bread and
wine, as our life seems in a manner to be dependent on these supplies.
When there is no wine nor corn, we meet with a denial; but the wine and
the corn cry to the earth, and why? because according to the order
fixed by God, they seek as it were to break forth; for when the bowels
of the earth are closed, neither the corn nor the vine can come forth,
and then they in vain call on the earth. The sense is the case with the
earth; for when it is dry and as it were famished, it calls on the
heavens, but if rain be denied, the heavens seem to reject its prayer.
Then God in this place shows that the earth could not produce a single
ear of corn, except the heavens supplied moisture or rain. God indeed
could from the beginning have watered the earth without rain, as Moses
relates he did at first, for a vapour then supplied the want of rain.
Though then rain descends naturally, we are yet reminded here that God
sends it. This is the first thing.
    But as rain itself would not suffice, he adds, I will unsheath,
&c.; for "raq" means properly to unsheath; but as this metaphor seems
unnatural, some have more correctly rendered it, "I will draw out"
Unnatural also is this version, "I will empty out a blessing," and it
perverts the meaning. Let us then follow what I have stated as the
first - that a blessing is drawn out from God when the earth discharges
its office, and becomes fertile or fruitful. We hence see that God is
not only in one way bountiful to us, but he also intends by various
processes to render us sensible of his kindness: he rains from heaven
to soften the earth, that it may in its bosom nourish the corn, and
then send it forth from its bowels, as though it extended its breast to
us; and further, God adds his blessing, so as to render the rain
    He subjoins the words "'ad-beliy-day", which some render, "that
there may not be a sufficiency," that is, that granaries and cellars
might not be capable of containing such abundance. They then elicit
this meaning - that so great would be the fruitfulness of the earth,
and so large would be its produce, that their repositories would not be
sufficiently capacious. But others give this version, "Beyond the
measure of sufficiency." The word "day" means properly sufficiency, or
what is needful, as by inverting the letters it "yad". With regard to
the general meaning there is but little difference. Suitable also is
this version, "Beyond sufficiency;" that is, I will not regard what is
needful for you, as though it were measured, but the abundance shall be
overflowing. It follows -

Malachi 3:11
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy
the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit
before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

    God now again confirms the truth, that he would not in one way
only be bountiful to them. He might indeed distribute to us daily our
food, as we know that he thus fed his people in the wilderness; but his
will is that the seed should rot in the earth, that it should then
germinate, and in course of time grow, until it shoots into ears of
corn; but it is still in no small danger, nay the corn is subject to
many evils before it be gathered into the garner; for the locusts, the
worms, the mildew, and other things may destroy it. God therefore, in
order to set forth his kindness to men, enumerates here the ways and
the means by which food is preserved; for it would not be enough that
the seed should germinate, and that there should appear evidences of a
great produce, the ears being fine and abundant, but it is necessary
that the ears of corn themselves, before they become ripe, should be
preserved from above; for on the one hand the chafers, the locusts, the
worms, and other grubs, may suddenly creep in and devour the corn while
in the field, and on the other hand, storms, and hail, and mildew, and
oilier pestilential things, as I have said, may prove ruinous to the
    Hence God shows here, that he takes constant care of us, and every
day and every night performs the office of a good and careful head of a
family, who always watches for its benefit.
    In the word devourer, I include all the evils to which we see that
corn is subject; he therefore says, he shall not destroy the fruit of
the earth; nor bereaved shall be the vine for you in the fields. The
verb "shachal" properly means to bereave or to deprive; but as this
version, "bereaved shall not be vine," would be harsh, some have
rendered the words thus, "Miscarry shall not vine," which I do not
disapprove: Miscarry then shall not the vine for you in the fields,
saith Jehovah of hosts. It follows -

Malachi 3:12
And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome
land, saith the LORD of hosts.

    This verse is taken from the law, in which among other things God
promises so happy a state to his chosen people, that the nations
themselves would acknowledge in them the blessing of God. There is yet
a contrast to be understood, - that having fallen into such misery,
they were become as it were detestable to all nations, according to
what the law also declares concerning them, "If thou shalt keep my
precepts, all nations shall call thee blessed; but if thou wilt despise
me, thou shalt be a sport to all nations, all shall shake the head and
move the lips; yea, they shall be astonished at the sight of thy
misery, and whosoever shall hear his ears will tingle." (Deut. 28:
1,15.) As then the Jews were consumed as it were in their miseries, the
Prophet says, "If you turn to God, that happiness which he has promised
you shall not be withheld; he has it as it were ready in his hand, like
a treasure that is hidden, according to what is said in Ps. 31: 19,
'How great is the abundance of thy goodness! but it is laid up for them
who fear thee.'" God then means, that he will not prostitute his
blessing to dogs and swine, but that it is always in reserve for his
children, who are teachable and obedient. The nations then shall call
you blessed, for ye shall be a land of desire.
    This promise also is taken from the law, in which God says, that
he had not in vain separated that land from the rest, because it was to
be an example or a representation of his kindness through the whole
world. We indeed know that God has ever been bountiful even to all
nations, so as to satisfy them abundantly with provisions; but the land
of Israel is called the land of desire, or a desirable land, because it
was the special scene of God's bounty, not only as to meat and drink,
but also as to other more excellent blessings. He now adds -

Malachi 3:13-15
13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say,
What have we spoken [so much] against thee?
14 Ye have said, It [is] vain to serve God: and what profit [is it]
that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully
before the LORD of hosts?
15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are
set up; yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered.

    Here again God expostulates with the Jews on account of their
impious and wicked blasphemy in saying, that he disappointed his
servants, and that he made no difference between good and evil, because
he was kind to the unfaithful and the faithful indiscriminately, and
also that he overlooked the obedience rendered to him.
    He says now that their words grew strong; by which he denotes
their insolence, as though he had said, Vous avez gagn le plus haut;
for "chazaq" is to be strong. He means that such was the waywardness of
the Jews that it could not by any means be checked; they were like men
whom we see, who when once seized by rage and madness, become so
vociferous that they will not listen to any admonitions or sane
counsels. At first they murmur and are only heard to whisper; but when
they have attained full liberty, they then send forth, as I have said,
their furious clamours against heaven. This is the sin which the
Prophet now condemns by saying, that the Jews grew strong in crying
against God. They again answer and say, In what have we spoken against
thee? It appears from these so many repetitions that the hypocrisy,
which was united with great effrontery, could not be easily corrected
in a people so refractory: it ought indeed to have come to their minds
that they had wickedly accused God. But they acknowledge here no fault,
"What meanest thou?" as though they wished to arraign the Prophet for
having falsely charged them, inasmuch as they were conscious of no
    He then gives the reason why he said, that their words grew strong
against God, that is, that they daringly and furiously spoke evil of
God; and the reason was, because they said, that God was worshipped in
vain. They thought that they worshipped God perfectly; and this was
their false principle; for hypocrites ever lay claim to complete
holiness, and cannot bear to confess their own evils; even when their
conscience goads them, they deceive themselves with vain flatteries,
and always endeavour to draw over them some veil that their disgrace
may not appear before men. Hence hypocrites seek to deceive themselves,
God, angels, and men; and when they are inflated with the confidence
that they worship God purely, rightly, and without any defect, and that
they are without any blame, they will betray the virulence which lies
within, whenever God does not help them as they wish, whenever he
submits not to their will: for when they are prosperous, God is
hauntingly blessed by them; but as soon as he withdraws his hand and
begins to prove their patience, they will then show, as I have said,
what sort of worshippers of God they are. But in the service of God the
chief thing is this - that men deny themselves and give themselves up
to be ruled by God, and never raise a clamour when he humbles them.
    We hence see how it was that the Jews found fault with God; for
they were persuaded that they fully performed their duty, which was yet
most false; and then, they were not willing to submit to God, and to
undertake his yoke, because they did not consider in how many ways they
had provoked God's wrath, and what just and multiplied reasons he has
for chastising his people, even when they do nothing wrong. As then
they did not seriously consider any of these things, they thought that
he was unjust to them, In vain then do we serve God. These thoughts, as
we have said, sometimes come across the minds of the faithful; but
they, as it becomes them, resist such thoughts: the Jews, on the
contrary, as though they were victorious, vomited forth these
blasphemies against God.
    In vain we serve God; what benefit? they said: for we have kept
has charge, we have walked obscurely, or humbly, before Jehovah of
hosts; and yet we are constrained to call the proud, or the impious,
happy. Here they bring a twofold accusation against God, that they
received no reward for their piety when they faithfully discharged
their duty towards God, - and also that it was better with the ungodly
and the despisers of God than with them. We hence see how reproachfully
they exaggerated what they deemed the injustice of God, at least how
they themselves imagined that he disappointed the just of their
deserved reward, and that he favoured the ungodly and the wicked as
though he was pleased with them, as though he intended the more to
exasperate the sorrow of his own servants, who, though they faithfully
worshipped, yet saw that they did so in vain, as God concealed himself
and did not regard their services.
    That the good also are tempted, as we have said, by thoughts of
this kind, is no wonder, when the state of things in the world is in
greater confusion. Even Solomon says, "All things happen alike to the
just and to the unjust, to him who offers sacrifices, and to him who
does not sacrifice," (Eccles. 9: 2,) hence the earth is full of impiety
and contempt. There is then an occasion for indignation and envy
offered to us; but as God designedly tries our faith by such
confusions, we must remember that we must exercise patience. It is not
at the same time enough for us to submit to God's judgement, except we
also consider that we are justly distressed; and that though we may be
attentive to what is just and upright, many vices still cleave to us,
and that we are sprinkled with many spots, which provoke God's wrath
against us. Let us then learn to form a right judgement as to what our
life is, and then let us bear in mind how many are the reasons why God
should sometimes deal roughly with us. Thus all our envying will cease,
and our minds will be prepared calmly to obey. In short, these
considerations will check whatever perverseness there may be in us, so
that neither our wicked thoughts nor our words will be so strong as to
rise in rebellion against God.


Grant, Almighty God, that since we continue to afford many and various
reasons to induce thee to withdraw thy blessing, and to show thyself
displeased with us, - O grant, that we may patiently bear thy scourges,
by which thou chastises us, and also profit under them, and so contend
with all our depraved affections and the corruptions of the flesh, that
we may become partakers of thy paternal kindness, which thou offerest
to us, and also so taste of thy goodness, which in innumerable ways is
manifested towards us, that it may keep us in the pursuit of true
religion; finally, may our tongues be consecrated to magnify thy
judgement and to celebrate thy justice, that whatever happens to us, we
may always serve thee through our whole life as our Father, and declare
also thy goodness towards us, and confess that we are justly punished
whenever thou visitest us with severity, until we shall at length reach
that blessed rest, which is to be the end of all our evils, and an
entrance, not only into life, but also into that full glory and
happiness, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine
only-begotten Son. - Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Eightieth.

    We saw in our last lecture that the Jews were indignant, because
God did not treat them with more kindness, as they thought that they
rightly performed their duty towards Him. We said that such an
expostulation can never be justly made by men; for though they may find
God rigid, there are yet always many reasons why he should by various
troubles exercise them; but hypocrites seem to themselves to be of all
men the most perfect, though they have only the guise or mask of
religion. They indeed say that they have kept the Law, but when we come
to the test, their emptiness is found out; for the main thing in the
Law is wanting, that is, integrity of heart; nay, in the outward life
they are found to be transgressors.
    However this may be, they boasted that they kept the law, as we
find in this passage, We have kept his charge. The doctrine of the law
is here by a metaphor called a charge or keeping (custodia,) because it
rules us, it confines us also within limits that we may not wander in
uncertainty, it restrains our corrupt desires; in short, it keeps us
under the fear of God and in the best order. Had the Jews considered
this, they could never have dared to ascribe so much to themselves. Now
this word, then commonly used, is adopted by the Prophet, and thus he
shows how little attention they gave to the consideration of God's law;
for they thought that their whole life was conformable to all the
commandments, and. yet they conformed hardly to the thousandth part of
them. They add, We have walked with a dark face or dress. There is here
also a metaphor, for they meant that they had been humble and lowly
before God. It is indeed no ordinary thing in God's service to lay
aside all pride and vain confidence, and to walk humbly with him: but
hypocrites, like apes, imitate what God requires and approves; and at
the same time they say nothing of changing the heart. Fear and sorrow
are required, according to what we have seen in the Prophet Micah; but
hypocrites think that a dejected countenance is enough; and hence they
often pretend sorrow, while they inwardly please and flatter
themselves: and on this account we find in Isaiah, the fifty-eighth
chapter, as well as in this place, that they bring a charge against
God, that he did not regard them, when they walked with a sad
countenance, when they macerated themselves with fastings: in short,
when by various other performances they showed great holiness, they
brought an accusation against God, because he disregarded all these
things, or made not that account of them which they expected.
    Let us then remember, that the Jews were guilty of two errors;
first, they presented to God an empty appearance for true humility, for
they were no doubt swollen with false confidence though they pretended
to be abject and low before God; secondly, they claimed for themselves
more than what was just, for though there may have been some apparent
modesty and submissiveness in them, yet they exceeded due limits; for
we always swell with presumption, at least we are never thoroughly
freed from it. They then falsely pretended, that they walked lowly and
dejectedly before God. It follows -

Malachi 3:15
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set
up; yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered.

    This verse is connected with the last, for the force of these
words, "We have walked sorrowfully before God and have carefully kept
his precepts," does not fully appear, except this clause be added -
that they saw in the meantime that the proud flourished and had their
delights, as though they said, "We strive to deserve well of God by our
services; he overlooks all our religious acts, and pours as it were all
his bounty on our enemies, who are yet ungodly and profane." We now see
how these verses are connected together, for God disappointed the Jews
of the reward they thought due to them, and in the meantime bestowed on
the impious and undeserving his kindness.
    To call any one blessed, as we have before seen, is to acknowledge
that God's blessing is upon him, according to what God had promised,
"Behold, all nations shall call thee blessed." So a changed state of
things is here set forth, for the Jews, when they were miserable,
called others blessed; not that they willingly declared this, but envy
forced them to complain of the cheerful and hamper state of the
Gentiles, who were yet ungodly. And by the proud they meant all the
despisers of God, a part being mentioned for the whole; and they were
so called, because faith alone humbles us. Many unbelievers are indeed
lauded for their humility, but no one becomes really humble without
being first emptied of every conceit as to his own virtues. Some rise
up against God, and rob him of what is his own, and then it is no
wonder that they act insolently towards their neighbours, since they
dare even to raise up their horns against God himself. And in many
parts of Scripture the unbelieving are called proud, in order that we
may know that we cannot be formed and habituated to humility until we
submit to the yoke of God, so that he may turn us wherever he wishes,
and until we cast aside every confidence in ourselves.
    As well as, they said; for "gam" is here repeated, and must be
rendered "as well as," that is, "All who do iniquity as well as all who
tempt God, are built up and are delivered. In the first place what is
general is stated, and then what is particular, and yet the Prophet
speaks of the same persons, for he first calls God's despisers
iniquitous, and he afterwards says, that the same tempted God, which is
more special. The sum of the whole is, - that God's favour was
conspicuous towards the despisers of the law, for they lived
prosperously, and were also delivered, and found God their helper in
    The verb, to build, is taken in Hebrew in the sense of prospering,
and is applied to many things. When therefore any one grows and
increases in honours or in riches, when he accumulates wealth, or when
he is raised as it were by degrees to a higher condition, he is said to
be built up. It is also added that they were delivered, for it would
not be enough to acquire much wealth, except aid from God comes in
adversity, for no one, even the most fortunate, is exempt from every
evil. Hence to building up the Prophet adds this second clause, - that
God delivered the wicked from all evils, as though he covered them
under his shadow, and as though they were his clients. With regard to
the second verb, when he says that the ungodly tempted God, it is, we
know, the work of unbelief to contend with God. The Prophet used the
same word shortly before, when he said, "Prove me in this:" but God
then, after the manner of men, submitted to a trial; here, on the
contrary, the Prophet condemns that insolence which very commonly
prevails in the world, when men seek to confine God, and to impose on
him a law, and to inquire into his judgements: it is in short as though
they had a right to prescribe to him according to their own caprice, so
that he should not do this or that, and which if he did, to call on him
to plead his own cause. We now then perceive what it is to prove or
tempt God. It follows -

Malachi 3:16
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD
hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before
him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

    In this verse the Prophet tells us that his doctrine had not been
without fruit, for the faithful had been stimulated, so that they
animated one another, and thus restored each other to a right course.
They who explain the words - that the faithful spoke, indefinitely,
pervert the meaning of the Prophet, and they also suppress the particle
"'az", then. The very subject proves that a certain time is denoted, as
though the Prophet had said, that before he addressed the people and
vehemently reproved their vices, there was much indifference among
them, but that at length the faithful were awakened.
    We are hence taught that we are by nature slothful and tardy,
until God as it were plucks our ears; there is therefore need of
warnings and stimulants. But let us also learn to attend to what is
taught, lest it should become frigid to us. We ought at the same time
to observe, that all were not moved by the Prophet's exhortations to
repent, but those who feared God: the greater part no doubt securely
went on in their vices, and even openly derided the Prophet's teaching.
As then the truth profited only those who feared God, let us not wonder
that it is despised at this day by the people in general; for it is
given but to a few to obey God's word; and the conversion of the heart
is the peculiar gift of the Holy Spirit. There is therefore no reason
for pious teachers to despond, when they do not see their doctrine
received everywhere and by all, of when they see that but a few make
any progress in it; but let them be content, when the Lord blesses
their labour and renders it profitable and fruitful to some, however
small their number may be.
    But the Prophet not only says that individuals were Touched with
repentance, but also that they spoke among themselves; by which he
intimates, that our efforts ought to be extended to our brethren: and
it is an evidence of true repentance, when each one endeavours as much
as he can to unite to himself as many friends as possible, so that they
may with one consent return to the way from which they had departed,
yea, that they may return to God whom they had forsaken. This then is
what we are to understand by the words spoken mutually by God's
servants, which the Prophet does not express.
    He says that Jehovah attended and heard, and that a book of
remembrance was written before him. He proves here that the faithful
had not in vain repented, for God became a witness and a spectator: and
this part is especially worthy of being noticed; for we lose not our
labour when we turn to God, because he will receive us as it were with
open arms.
    Our Prophet wished especially to show, that God attended; and
hence he uses three forms of speaking. One word would have been enough,
but he adds two more; and this is particularly emphatical, that there
was a book of remembrance written. His purpose then was by this
multiplicity of words to give greater encouragement to the faithful,
that they might be convinced that their reward would be certain as soon
as they devoted themselves to God, for God would not be blind to their
    The Prophet at the same time seems to point it out as something
miraculous, that there were found then among the people any who were
yet capable of being healed, since so much wickedness had prevailed
among the people, nay, had become hardened, as we have seen, to an
extreme obstinacy; for there was nothing sound or upright either among
the priests or the common people. As then they had long indulged with
loose reins in all kinds of wickedness, it was incredible, that any
could be converted, or that any piety and fear of God could be found
remaining among them. This then is the reason why the Prophet says,
that God attended and heard, and that a book was written; he speaks as
though of a thing unusual, which could not but appear as a miracle in a
state of things so confused and almost past hope. The design of the
whole is to show, that the faithful ought not to doubt, but that their
repentance is ever regarded by God, and especially when the utmost
despair lays hold on their minds; for it often distresses the godly,
when they see no remedy to be hoped for; then they think that their
repentance will be useless: hence it is that the Prophet dwells so much
on this point, in order that they might feel assured, that though no
hope appeared, yet repentance availed for their salvation before God;
and for this reason he adds, that this book was written for those who
feared God.
    With regard to the participle "choshvim", the verb "chashav",
means to reckon or to count, and also to think; and so some render it
here, "Who think of his name." And doubtless this is a rare virtue; for
we see that forgetfulness easily creeps over us, which extinguishes the
fear of God, so that we take such a liberty, as though they who forget
God can sin with impunity: and hence it is said often in the Psalms,
that the fear of God is before the eyes of the godly. This seems frigid
at the first view; but he who remembers God has made much progress in
his religious course; and we also find by experience that the mere
remembrance of God, when real, is a bridle to us sufficiently strong to
restrain all our depraved lusts. But as the price of a thing is
attained by reckoning, the other version is appropriate, - that the
faithful value or esteem the name of God. It follows -

Malachi 3:17
And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I
make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son
that serveth him.

    He shows by the issue itself why a book of remembrance was written
- that God in due time would again undertake to defend and cherish his
Church. Though then for a time many troubles were to be sustained by
the godly, yet the Prophet shows that they did not in vain serve God;
for facts would at length prove that their obedience has not been
overlooked. But the two things which he mentions ought to be noticed;
for a book of remembrance is first written before God, and then God
executes what is written in the book. When therefore we seem to serve
God in vain, let us know that the obedience we render to him will come
to an account, and that he is a just Judge, though he may not
immediately stretch forth his hand to us.
    In the first place then the Prophet testifies that God knows what
is done by every one; and in the second place he adds that he will in
his own time perform what he has decreed. So also in judgements, he
preserves the same order in knowing and in executing. For when he said
to Abraham that the cry of Sodom came up to heaven, (Gen. 18: 20,) how
great and how supine was the security of the city. How wantonly and how
savagely they despised every authority to the very last moment! But God
had long before ascended his tribunal, and had taken an account of
their wickedness. So also in the case of the godly, though he seems to
overlook their obedience, yet he has not his eyes closed, or his ears
closed, for there is a book of memorial written before him.
    Hence he says, They shall be in the day I make. The verb is put by
itself, but we may easily learn from the context that it refers to the
restoration of the Church. In the day then in which I shall make, that
is, complete what I have already said; for he had before promised to
restore the Church. As then he speaks of a known thing, he says
shortly, In the day I shall make, or complete my work, they shall be to
me a peculiar treasure. This phrase confirms what I have already stated
- that God has his season and opportunity, in order that there may be
no presumption in us to prescribe to him the time when he is to do this
or that. In the day then when he shall gather his Church, it will then
appear that we are his peculiar treasure.
    Thus the Prophet in these words exhorts us to patience, lest it
should be grievous to us to groan under our burden, and not to find
God's help according to our wishes, and lest also it should be grievous
to us to bear troubles in common with the whole Church. Were one or two
of us subject to the cross, and doomed to sorrow and grief in this
world, our condition might seem hard; but since the godly, from the
first to the last, are made to be our associates in bearing the cross
of Christ, and to be conformed to his example, there is no reason for
any one of us to shun his lot; for we are not better than the holy
patriarchs, apostles, and so many of the faithful whom God has
exercised with the cross. Since then the common restoration of the
Church is here set before us, let us know that a reason is here given
for constancy and fortitude; for it would be disgraceful for us to
faint, when we have so many leaders in this warfare, who by their
examples stretch forth as it were their hands to us; for as Abraham,
David, and other Patriarchs and Prophets, as well as Apostles, have
suffered so many and so grievous troubles, ought not this fact to raise
up our spirits? and if at any time our feet and our legs tremble, ought
it not to be sufficient to strengthen us, that so many excellent chiefs
and leaders invite us to persevere by their example? We then see that
this has not been laid down for nothing, when I shall make, or complete
my work.
    By the words "peculiar treasure", God intimates that the lot of
the godly will be different from that of the world; as though he had
said, "Ye are now so mixed together, that they who serve me seem not to
be peculiar any more than strangers; but they shall then be my peculiar
treasure." This is to be taken, as I have already mentioned, for the
outward appearance; for we know that we have been chosen by God, before
the foundation of the world, for this end - that we might be to him a
peculiar treasure. But when we are afflicted in common with the wicked,
or when we seem to be even rejected, and the ungodly, on the other
hand, seem to have God propitious to them, then nothing seems less true
than this promise. I therefore said that this ought to be referred to
the outward appearance - that the faithful are God's peculiar treasure,
that they are valued by him, and that he shows to them peculiar love,
as to his own inheritance.
    And this mode of speaking occurs in many parts of scripture; for
God is often said to repudiate his people; the word separation, or
divorce, is often mentioned; he is said to have destroyed his
inheritance. Grievous is the trial, when God cherishes as it were in
his bosom the ungodly, and we at the same time are exposed to every
kind of miser; but we see what happened to the ancient Church: let us
then arm ourselves for this contest, and be satisfied with the inward
testimony of the Spirit, though outward things do not prosper.
    He adds, And I will spare them as a man spares, &c. He states here
a promise which ought especially to be observed: it contains two
clauses; the first is, that the Jews who remained alive would render
obedience to God, by which they would prove themselves to be children
indeed, and not in name only: and the second is, that God would forgive
them, that is, that he would exercise pardon in receiving their
services, which could not otherwise please him. And there is no doubt
but that the Spirit of regeneration is included in the words, the son
who serves him; not that the faithful addressed here were wholly
destitute of the fear of God; but God promises an increase of grace, as
though he had said, "I will gather to myself the people who faithfully
and sincerely worship me." Though then he speaks not here of the
beginning of a religious and holy life, it is yet the same as though he
had said, that the faithful would be under his government, that they
might denote themselves to his service.
    The second promise refers to another grace, - that God in his
mercy would approve of the obedience of the godly, though in itself
unworthy to come to his presence. How necessary this indulgence is to
Us, they who are really and truly acquainted with the fear of God,
fully know. The sophists daringly prattle about merits, and fill
themselves and others with empty pride; but they who understand that no
man can stand before God's tribunal, do not dream of any merits, nor do
they believe that they can bring anything before God, by which they can
conciliate his favour. Hence their only refuge is what the Prophet here
teaches us, that God spares them.
    And it must be observed, that the Prophet does not speak simply of
the remission of sins: our salvation, we know, consists of two things -
that God rules us by his Spirit, and forms us anew in his own image
through the whole course of our life, - and also that he buries our
sins. But the Prophet refers here to the remission of sins, of which we
have need as to our good works; for it is certain, that even when we
devote ourselves with all possible effort and zeal to God's service
there is yet something always wanting. Hence it is that no work,
however right and perfect before men, deserves this distinction and
honour before God. It is therefore necessary, even when we strive our
utmost to serve God, to confess that without his forgiveness whatever
we bring deserves rejection rather than his favour. Hence the Prophet
says, that when God is reconciled to us, there is no reason to fear
that he will reject us, because we are not perfect; for though our
works be sprinkled with many spots, they will yet be acceptable to him,
and though we labour under many defects, we shall yet be approved by
him. How so? Because he will spare us: for a father is indulgent to his
children, and though he may see a blemish in the body of his son, he
will not yet cast him out of his house; nay, though he may have a son
lame, or squint-eyed, or singular for any other defect, he will yet
pity him, and will not cease to love him: so also is the case with
respect to God, who, when he adopts us as his children, will forgive
our sins. And as a father is pleased with every small attention when he
sees his son submissive, and does not require from him what he requires
from a servant; so God acts; he repudiates not our obedience, however
defective it may be.
    We hence see the design and meaning of the Prophet, - that he
promises pardon from God to the faithful, after having been reconciled
to him, because they serve God as children willingly, - and that God
also, though their works are unworthy of his favour, will yet count
them as acceptable, even through pardon, and not on the ground of merit
or worthiness.


Grant, Almighty God, that as Satan strives to draw us away from every
attention to true religion, when things in the world are in a state of
disorder and confusion, - O grant, that we may know that thou caress
for us; and if we perceive not this by what we find in the world, may
we rely on thy word, and doubt not but that thou ever watches over our
safety; and being supported by this confidence, may we ever go on in
the course of our calling: and as thou hast deigned to make us
partakers of that evidence of thy favour, by which we know that we are
reconciled to thee in thine only-begotten Son; and being thus made his
members, may we never hesitate cheerfully to offer to thee our
services, however defective they may he, since thou hast once promised
to be a propitious Father to us, so as not rigidly to try what we offer
to thee, but so graciously to accept it, that we may know that not only
our sins, which justly deserve condemnation, are forgiven and remitted
to us, but that thou also so bearest with our infirmities and our
defects in our imperfect works, that we shall at length receive the
reward which thou hast promised, and which we cannot attain through our
merits, but through the sanctification of thy Spirit, and through the
sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Amen.

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 vengeance."
    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 wickedness.
    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.


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.

Lecture One Hundred and Eighty-second.

    Malachi, after having said that the Sun of righteousness would
arise on the Jews, now adds that it would be for their joy, for as
sorrow lays hold on the faithful when they are without Christ, or when
they think him far removed from them, so his favour is their chief
happiness and real joy. Hence the angel when he made known to the
shepherds that Christ was born, thus introduces his message, "Behold, I
declare to you great joy." (Luke 2: 10.)
    Now though the comparison might seem rather unnatural, yet it was
not without reason that the Prophet said that the Jews would be like
fattened calves, for the change of which he speaks was incredible;
hence it was necessary that the subject should be stated in a very
homely manner, that they might entertain hope.
    There is in the words "going forth", an implied contrast, for
anxiety had long held them as it were captives, but now they were to go
forth and be at liberty, according to what takes place when things
change for the better; we then openly declare our joy to one another,
and we seek as it were a wide place for giving vent to our feelings. We
now see why the Prophet says that the Jews would go forth: they had
been before confined as it were within narrow limits, but God would now
give them occasion for rejoicing, according to what Paul says, "Where
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3: 17). It
follows -

Malachi 4:3
And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the
soles of your feet in the day that I shall do [this], saith the LORD of

    When God promises redemption to his Church, he usually mentions
what is of an opposite character, even the destruction and ruin of his
enemies, and he does this on purpose lest envy should annoy or harass
the faithful, while seeing the ungodly prosperous and happy. So also in
this place Malachi says, that the ungodly would be trodden under foot
by the faithful like the dust; and he says this lest the elect, while
lying prostrate under the feet of their enemies and proudly trampled
upon by them, should succumb under their troubles; but they were to
look for what the Prophet declares here, for they were not only to be
raised up by the hand of God, but were also to be superior to their
enemies, and be enabled in their turn to suppress their pride: in
short, he means that they were to be raised above all the height of the
    At the same time, God does not allow his children cruelly to seek
vengeance, for he would have them to be endued with meekness, so as not
to cease to do good to the wicked and to pray for them, though they may
have been unjustly treated by them. But, as I have already said, he
meant here to obviate an evil which is natural to us all, for we are
apt to despond when our enemies exult over us, and rage against us.
Lest then their temporary success and prosperity should deject our
minds, God brings a remedy, and strengthens our patience by this
consideration, - that the state of things will shortly be changed, so
that we shall triumph over the ungodly, who thought us to have been
undone a hundred times; God will indeed visit them with extreme shame,
because they not only fatuitously boast of their unjust deeds, but also
raise up their horns against him.
    Let us proceed; he says, In the day in which I make. He again
restrains their desires, that they might not with too much haste look
forward, but wait for the day prefixed by the Lord. We indeed know how
great is the importunity of men as to their wishes, and how ardently
they seek their accomplishment unless God checks them. Whenever then we
speak of the destruction of our enemies, let us remember that we ought
to regard the day of the Lord, in which he purposes to execute his
judgement. Some, as I have said, give a different version, but the one
I have given is the most probable, and is also more generally approved.
It now follows -

Malachi 4:4
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in
Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgments.

    This passage has not been clearly and fully explained, because
interpreters did not understand the design of Malachi nor consider the
time. We know that before the coming of Christ there was a kind of
silence on the part of God, for by not sending Prophets for a time, he
designed to stimulate as it were the Jews, so that they might with
greater ardour seek Christ. Our Prophet was amongst the very last. As
then the Jews were without Prophets, they ought more diligently to have
attended to the law, and to have taken a more careful heed to the
doctrine of religion contained in it. This is the reason why he now
bids them to remember the law of Moses; as though he had said,
"Hereafter shall come the time when ye shall be without Prophets, but
your remedy shall be the law; attend then carefully to it, and beware
lest you should forget it." For men, as soon as God ceases to speak to
them even for the shortest time, are carried away after their own
inventions, and are ever inclined to vanity, as we abundantly find by
experience. Hence Malachi, in order to keep the Jews from wandering,
and from thus departing from the pure doctrine of the law, reminds them
that they were faithfully and constantly to remember it until the
Redeemer came.
    If it be asked why he mentions the law only, the answer is
obvious, because that saying of Christ is true, that the law and the
Prophets were until John. (Matt. 3: 13.) It must yet be observed, that
the prophetic office was not separated from the law, for all the
prophecies which followed the law were as it were its appendages; so
that they included nothing new, but were given that the people might be
more fully retained in their obedience to the law. Hence as the
Prophets were the interpreters of Moses, it is no wonder that their
doctrine was subjected, or as they commonly say, subordinated to the
law. The object of the Prophet was to make the Jews attentive to that
doctrine which had been delivered to them from above by Moses and the
Prophets, so as not to depart from it even in the least degree; as
though he had said, "God will not now send to you different teachers in
succession; there is enough for your instruction in the law: there is
no reason on this account that you should change anything in the
discipline of the Church. Though God by ceasing to speak to you, may
seem to let loose the reins, so as to allow every one to stray and
wander in uncertainty after his own imaginations, it is yet not so; for
the law is sufficient to guide us, provided we shake not off its yoke,
nor through our ingratitude bury the light by which it directs us."
    He calls it the law of Moses, not because he was its author, but
its minister, as also Paul calls the gospel "my gospel," because he was
its minister and preacher. At the same time God claims to himself the
whole authority, by adding that Moses was his savant: we hence conclude
that he brought nothing of himself; for the word servant is not to be
confined to his vocation only, but also to his fidelity in executing
his office. God then honoured Moses with this title, not so much for
his own sake, as in order to give sanction to his law, that no one
might think that it was a doctrine invented by man. He expresses the
same thing still more clearly by saying, that he had committed the law
to him on Horeb; for this clause clearly asserts that Moses had
faithfully discharged his office of a servant; for he brought nothing
but what had been committed to him from above, and he delivered it, as
they say, from hand to hand. Many give this version, "To whom I
committed, in the valley of Horeb, statutes and judgements;" but I
approve of the other rendering - that God makes himself here the author
of the law, that all the godly might reverently receive it as coming
from him. Horeb is Sinai; but they who describe these places say, that
a part of the mountain towards the east is called Horeb, and that the
other towards the west is called Sinai; but it is still the same
    By saying To all Israel, or to the whole of Israel, he confirms
what I have already said - that he had committed to them the law: that
the Jews might be the more touched, he expressly says, that the law was
given to them, and that this was a singular privilege with which God
had favoured them, according to what is said in Ps 147:20, "He has not
done so to other nations, nor has he manifested to them his
judgements." For the nations had not been laid under such obligations
as the Jews, to whom God had given his law as a peculiar treasure to
his own children. And that no one might claim an exemption, he says, to
the whole of Israel; as though he had said, "Neither the learned nor
the unlearned, neither the rulers nor the common people, can have any
excuse, except they all with the greatest care attend to the law, yea,
all from the least to the greatest."
    What follows may admit of two explanations: for "chukim" and
"mishpatim" may be referred to the verb "zichru", remember; but as he
says Which I have committed, we may take statutes and judgements as
explanatory. As to the subject itself, it signifies but little which
view we may adopt. There is no doubt but that God by these terms
commends his law for its benefits; as though he had said, "The law
includes what the Jews ought rightly to observe, even statutes and
judgements." We know that other terms are used in Scripture, such as
"pekudim", precepts; "mitswot", commandments; and "edutim",
testimonies; but here the Prophet is content brief to remind the Jews
that their ingratitude would be less excusable if they departed from
the law of God, for this would be openly to reject statutes and
judgements; and this is what I have stated, that they were here taught
by the Prophet that the doctrine of the law is profitable, in order
that they might attend to it more willingly. It follows -

Malachi 4:5
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the
great and dreadful day of the LORD:

    The Prophet continues the same subject; for having testified to
the Jews, that though God would for a time suspend the course of
prophetic teaching, they yet had in the law what was sufficient for
salvation, he now promises the renovation of the Church; as though he
had said, "The Lord will again unexpectedly utter his voice after a
long silence." Isaiah speaks on the same subject, prophesying of the
return of the people, when he says, "Comfort ye, comfort my people,
will our God say." (Is. 40: 11) There is an emphatic import in the use
of the future tense. So also in this passage, the Prophet declares that
prophetic teaching would be again renewed, that when God showed mercy
to his people, he would open his mouth, and show that he had been
silent, not because he intended to forsake his people, but as we have
said, for another end. At the same time he shows that the time would
come, when his purpose was to confirm and seal all the prophecies by
his only-begotten Son.
    This passage has fascinated the Jews so as to think that men rise
again; and their resurrection is, - that the souls of men pass into
various bodies three or four times. There is indeed such a delirious
notion as this held by that nation! We hence see how great is the
sottishness of men, when they become alienated from Christ, who is the
light of the world and the Sun of Righteousness, as we have lately
seen. There is no need to disprove an error so palpable.
    But Christ himself took away all doubt on this point, when he
said, that John the Baptist was the Elijah, who had been promised;
(Matt. 11: 10:) and the thing itself proves this, had not Christ spoken
on the subject. And why John the Baptist is called Elijah, I shall
explain in a few words. What some say of zeal, I shall say nothing of;
and many have sought other likenesses, whom I shall neither follow nor
blame. But this likeness seems to me the most suitable of all, - that
God intended to raise up John the Baptist for the purpose of restoring
his worship, as formerly he had raised up Elijah: for at the time of
Elijah, we know, that not only the truth was corrupted and the worship
of God vitiated, but that also all religion was almost extinct, so that
nothing pure and sound remained. At the coming of Christ, though the
Jews did not worship idols, but retained some outward form of religion,
yet the whole of their religion was spurious, so that that time may
truly be compared, on account of its multiplied pollutions, to the age
of Elijah. John then was a true successor of Elijah, nor were any of
the Prophets so much like John as Elijah: hence justly might his name
be transferred to him.
    But someone may object and say, that he is here called a prophet,
while he yet denied that he was a prophet: to this the answer is
obvious, - that John renounced the title of a prophet, that he might
not hinder the progress of Christ's teaching: hence he means not in
those words that he ran presumptuously without a call, but that he was
content to be counted the herald of Christ, so that his teaching might
not prevent Christ from being heard alone. Yet Christ declares that he
was a prophet, and more than a prophet, and that because his ministry
was more excellent than that of a prophet.
    He says, Before shall come the day, great and terrible. The
Prophet seems not here to speak very suitably of Christ's coming; but
he now addresses the whole people; and as there were many slothful and
tardy, who even despised the favour of God, and others insolent and
profane, he speaks not so kindly, but mixes these threatenings. We
hence perceive why the Prophet describes the coming of Christ as
terrible; he does this, not because Christ was to come to terrify men,
but on the contrary, according to what Isaiah says, "The smoking flax
he will not extinguish, the shaken reed he will not break; not heard
will his voice be in the streets, nor will he raise a clamour." (Is 42:
3.) Though then Christ calmly presents himself, as we have before
observed, and as soon as he appears to us, he brings an abundant reason
for joy; yet the perverseness of that people was such as to constrain
the Prophet to use a severe language, according to the manner in which
God deals daily with us; when he sees that we have a tasteless palate,
he gives us some bitter medicine, so that we may have some relish for
his favour. Whenever then we meet with any thing in Scripture tending
to fill us with terror, let us remember that such thing is announced,
because we are either deaf or slothful, or even rebellious, when God
kindly invites us to himself. It follows -

Malachi 4:6
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the
heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth
with a curse.

    This verse may be viewed as containing a simple promise; but I
prefer to regard it as including what is between an exhortation and a
promise. The first thing is, that God reminds the Jews for what purpose
he would send John, even to turn the hearts of men and to restore them
to a holy unity of faith. It must therefore be noticed, that not only
the Redeemer would come, but that after some intermission, as it has
been said, had taken place, the doctrine of salvation would again have
its own course, and would be commenced by John.
    Yet the Prophet seems here to concede to men more than what is
right, for the turning of the heart is God's peculiar work, and still
more, it is more peculiarly his than his other works; and if no one can
change a hair on the head of his brother, how can he renew his heart,
so as to make him a new man? It is at the same time of more consequence
to be regenerated than to be created and to be made only the
inhabitants of this world. John then seems to be here too highly
extolled, when the turning of the heart is ascribed to him. The
solution of this difficulty may be easily given: when God thus speaks
highly of his ministers, the power of his Spirit is not excluded; and
he shows how great is the power of truth when he works through it by
the secret influence of his Spirit. God sometimes connects himself with
his servants, and sometimes separates himself from them: when he
connects himself with them, he transfers to them what never ceases to
dwell in him; for he never resigns to them his own office, but makes
them partakers of it only. And this is the import of such expressions
as these, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted: whatsoever ye shall
bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven," (John 20: 23;) or when Paul
says, that he had begotten the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 2: 15,) he did not
claim for himself what he knew only belonged to God, but rather
extolled the favour of God as manifested in his ministry, according to
what he declares in another place, "Not I, but the grace of God which
was with me." (1 Cor. 15: 10.) But when God separates himself from his
ministers, nothing remains in them: "He who plants is nothing," says
Paul in another place, "And he who waters is nothing, but God who gives
the increase." (1 Cor. 3: 7.) When then is it that teachers are
co-workers with God? Even when God, ruling them by his Spirit, at the
same time blesses their labour, so that it brings forth its fruit.
    We now then see that this mode of speaking derogates nothing from
God, that is, when the minister is said to turn the hearts of men; for
as he implants nothing by his own influence, so God supplies what is
necessary that he may fulfil his office.
    By saying that he would turn the hearts of fathers to sons and of
sons to fathers, he points out not a simple union or consent, for men
often unite together, and yet God reprobates and hates their union; but
the Prophet here has in view the origin of the people, even Abraham and
other holy patriarchs. Had he spoken of the Egyptians or the Assyrians,
or some other nations, this turning would not have been so wonderful;
but when he speaks of the holy and chosen race, it is no wonder that he
mentions it as an instance of the ineffable kindness of God, that they
were all to be gathered and restored from discord to unity, so as to
become united in one faith.
    Since their mutual consent is the subject, we must come to the
fountain; for Malachi takes it for granted, that there was formerly
true religion in that people, that the true worship of God prevailed
among them, and that they were bound together by a sacred bond; but
since in course of time various notions rose among them, yea, monstrous
dotages, since sincerity had become wholly corrupted, he now recalls
them to their first condition, so that sons might unite in sentiment
with their fathers, and fathers also with their sons, and become one in
that faith which had been delivered in the law.
    Were any to object and say, that it was not reasonable that
fathers should join themselves to their apostate sons, for this would
be to approve of their defection, I answer, that there have been some
converted young men who have shown the right way to their fathers, and
have carried light before them. We indeed know that old men, as their
are morose, not only reject what they hear from the young, but are
rendered more obstinate, because they are ashamed to learn. Such a
dispute the Prophet bids to be dismissed, so that all might in their
heart think only the same thing in the Lord.
    Lest I come and smite the land with a curse. Here again the
Prophet threatens the Jews, and indeed vehemently. He was constrained,
as we have said, by necessity, for the torpor of that people was very
great, and many of them were hardened in their perverseness. This is
the reason why God now declares, that the Jews would not escape
unpunished for despising the coming of Christ. And we are at the same
time reminded how abominable in the sight of God is the ingratitude of
not receiving his Son whom he sends to us. If we wish to derive benefit
from what the Prophet teaches us, we ought especially to welcome
Christ, while he so kindly calls us, yea, allures us to himself. But if
the sloth of our flesh keeps us back, let even this threatening
stimulate us; and as we learn that the sin of not embracing Christ when
he offers himself to us, shall not go unpunished, let us struggle
against our tardiness. At all events, let us take heed to kiss the Son,
as in Psa 2: 12, we are exhorted to do.


Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is omitted by thee to help us
onward in the course of our faith, and as our sloth is such that we
hardly advance one step though stimulated by thee, - O grant, that we
may strive to profit more by the various helps which thou hast provided
for us, so that the Law, the Prophets, the voice of John the Baptist,
and especially the doctrine of thine only-begotten Son, may more fully
awaken us, that we may not only hasten to him, but also proceed
constantly in our course, and persevere in it until we shall at length
obtain the victory and the crown of our calling, as thou hast promised
an eternal inherence in heaven to all who faint not but wait for the
coming of the great Redeemer. - Amen.

The End of all the Lectures of John Calvin on the Minor Prophets.

To God the Glory.