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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.
Ver. 1. Behold, I will send my messenger ] It is well observed by the learned, that this whole prophecy of Malachi, though distinguished, as now, into several chapters, yet is but one entire sermon, at once delivered. Those atheists that asked in the precedent verse (and they did it with an accent too, that they might not be slighted), "where is the God of judgment?" are here fully answered; and that they might the better attend, they have it with a note of pregnancy, "Behold, I will send," &c. q.d. differtur quidem iudicium sed non aufertur. Tandem veniet, profecto veniet. Judgment comes not as soon as you call for it; but come it will, be sure it will. For, behold, I send, in the present tense, my messenger, the Baptist, and, at his heels, as it were, Messiah, the Prince, who shall reform and rectify all disorders. "For judgment," saith he, "come I into the world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind," John 9:39 . And then, you that call for judgment shall have enough of it; when ye see my messsenger, harbinger, or herald, know that I am hard at hand. "Behold": this is set here as the sound of a trumpet before some proclamation, to arouse men’s attention.
I will send ] Heb. I do send, or, am sending; though the thing was not done till four or five hundred years after; but in God’s purpose and promise it was a done thing already. All things are present with him, for he is a pure act; his whole essence is wholly an eye, or a mind; he is all things eminently, exemplarily, and contains all things in himself. Hence he knows temporal things after an eternal manner, mutable things immutably, contingent things infallibly, future things presently. Hence he calleth things that yet are not, as if they were, Romans 4:17 ; and this, as in the works of creation, renovation, resurrection, so in the accomplishment of his promises, which we must not antedate, as we are apt to do; but learn to live by faith, Habakkuk 2:2 . Possibly the calendar of heaven hath a post-date to ours. Strive to be strong in faith, and glorify God.
My messenger ] Not Christ, as Eusebius doted (lib. 5, de Demon. Evang. cap. 28), nor Messiah, the son of Joseph, that is, of the tribe of Joseph, as Rabbi Abraham would have it (for the Jews foolishly expect two Messiahs, one the son of David, and the other the son of Joseph), nor an angel of heaven, as Rabbi David interprets it, according to Exodus 23:20 ; but John Baptist, as our Savidur expounds himself Matthew 11:10 , who is here called Christ’s messenger, or angel, by reason of his office: one by whom he would manifest his mind to his people. "He was a burning and a shining light," John 5:35 , or lamp, and shone for a season, till the Sun of righteousness came in place: as lights and candles are of good use till the sun riseth. See 1 Samuel 3:8 .
And he shall prepare the way ] Expurgabit, everret, emundabit. He shall clear the way, sweep it, accoutre or dress it. He shall remove all rubs and remoras out of the way, he shall pare and pave a path for Christ into the soul, open those everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in; he shall make "ready a people for the Lord," Luke 1:17 . Man’s heart is full of mountains and valleys, Luke 3:5 . These must be levelled ere Christ can be admitted: and that is not done but by repentance unto life. As John Baptist was Christ’s forerunner into the world; so must repentance be his forerunner into the heart: for he that repenteth not, the kingdom of heaven is far from him; so that he cannot see it (as the Hebrew word here used imports he must do), for his lusts that hang in his light, פנח viam aperture et oculis intuentium conspicuam faciet.
And the Lord whom ye seek ] Dominator, that Lord paramount, of whom David speaketh, Psalms 110:1 , and for whose sake Daniel desireth to be heard, Daniel 9:17 . Messiah the Prince, Daniel 3:25 , the Prince and Saviour, Acts 5:31 , Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36 , the God of judgment, whom they called for, Malachi 2:17 , and whom they are said to seek for. As God, he is not very far from any of us, saith Paul, Acts 17:27 , not so far as the bark is from the tree; for in him we all live, and move, and subsist. And as Godman, he
shall suddenly come to his temple ] Suddenly, that is, in the fulness of time (which is but a short time in respect to the long expectation of the patriarchs), and speedily after John Baptist’s birth; suddenly also, because unexpectedly to the most, who stood amazed at his preaching, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter, &c.? To his temple he came, when presented there to be circumcised, Luke 2:21-39 , when he put forth a beam of his Divinity there, in his disputation with the doctors, Luke 2:46-49 . But especially when he purged the temple; 1. By his doctrine, Matthew 5:1-12 ; Matthew 15:1-20 ; and 2. By his discipline, John 2:14-16 ; John 12:12 ; at which time, "Tell ye the daughter of Sion," saith God, "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass," Matthew 21:5 ; not upon a stately palfrey, a as an earthly potentate. And that was the very cause that these in the text, that are said to see him when they had him among them, could by no means think well of him, in respect of his mean and despicable condition. They had a certain notion of the Messiah, and were in expectation of him, and of temporal deliverance and felicity by him, of which, when disappointed, they were as blank as the time they saw the hoped issue of their late Jewish virgin turned to a daughter; or when they saw Mahomet eat of a camel; whom till then, when they saw him arising in such power, they were ready to cry up for their long looked for Messiah (Dr Hall’s Peacemaker).
Even the messenger of the covenant ] viz. Of the covenant of grace; for in Christ God reconciled the world to himself. And of this covenant Christ is the angel, or messenger, because, 1. He revealeth it, and we must take heed how we slight it, Hebrews 2:3 , shift it, Hebrews 12:25 Hebrews 12:2 . He mediateth it, 1 Timothy 2:5 , and in and by him it hath accomplishment, 2 Corinthians 1:20 . Hence, Isaiah 9:6 , he is called the Prince of peace, and, according to the Septuagint there, the Angel of the great counsel: Mεγαλης της βουλης αγγελος . Let all that would receive mercy from God get into Christ, and so into covenant; for as the mercy seat was no larger than the ark, so neither is the grace of God than the covenant of grace; and as the ark and mercy seat were never separated, so neither are such from God as are found in Christ.
Whom ye delight in ] They delighted in his day, the better sort of them, though afar off, John 8:56 ; they anticipated him, and were recognised by him, Hebrews 11:13 . They promised themselves, through Christ, malorum ademptionem, honorum adeptionem, freedom from all evil, and fruition of all good. Hence he is called, "the desire of all nations," Haggai 2:8 . The Church in the Canticles saith he is totus desiderabilis, altogether desirable, Song of Solomon 5:16 . The Church in Isaiah desires him with her whole soul, Isaiah 26:9 ; Isaiah 64:1 ; as impatient of further delays, crieth out, "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence." "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down, righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation," &c., Isaiah 45:8 . Lo, what earnest rantings and disquieting ways were in those ancient believers after Christ, what continual sallies, as it were, and egressions of affection.
Behold, he shall come ] He shall, he shall; nay, he is even come already: for so the Hebrew hath it, Hinneh ba, behold, he is come; methinks I even see him. A like text there is Habakkuk 2:3 . The duty required is, wait; the promise is delivered doubled and tripled: It shall speak, it will come, it will surely come. Nay, doubled again: It shall not lie, it will not tarry. It is as if God had said, Do but wait, and you shall be delivered, you shall be delivered, you shall be delivered; you shall, you shall. Oh the rhetoric of God! oh the certainty of the promises! A Lapide’s note is not here to be passed by. This word "Behold" signifieth that this coming of Christ in the flesh should be, 1. New, admirable, and stupendous. 2. Sure and certain. 3. Desirable and joyful. 4. Famous and renowned.
Saith the Lord of hosts ] And that is assurance good enough; for hath he said it, and shall he not do it? Here is firm footing for faith; and men are bound to rest in God’s Ipse dixit. He spoke for himself. Abraham did, and required no other evidence, Romans 4:16-22 . He cared not for the deadness of his own body or of his wife’s womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief. No more must we, if we will be heirs of the world, with faithful Abraham. God’s truth and power are the Jachin and Boaz, the two pillars whereupon faith must repose; believing God upon his bare word, and that against sense, in things invisible, and against reason, in things incredible.
a A saddle-horse for ordinary riding as distinguished from a war-horse; esp. a small saddle-horse for ladies. ŒD
Mal 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 fullers’ soap:
Ver. 2. But who may abide the day of his coming? ] The prophet Isaiah asketh "Who shall declare his generation?" Isaiah 53:8 , that is, the mystery of his incarnation (that habitatio Dei cum carne, which the magicians held impossible, Dan 2:11 ); or the history of his birth, life, and death (as some sense it), whose tongue shall be able to speak it or pen to write it? Who can think of the day of his coming? so the Vulgate reads this text; viz. of all the glory, graces, benefits of that day? But the Hebrew word is the same as Proverbs 18:14 "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity"; and is so rendered here by the Chaldee and Kimchi. Who can sustain or abide the day of his coming, sc. in the flesh? What wicked man will be able to endure it? for, "he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" (that is, the consciences of carnal men glued to the earth), "and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked," Isaiah 11:4 . And this is spoken of the Branch that grew out of the root of Jesse, Isaiah 11:1 , when that goodly family was sunk so low, as from David the king to Joseph the carpenter. With what terror struck he the hearts of Herod and all Jerusalem by the news of his nativity! Matthew 2:3 . And si praesepe vagientis Herodem tantum terruit, quid tribunal iudicantis? If Christ in the cradle were so terrible, what will he be on the tribunal? The text that troubled those miscreants was Micah 5:2 , which some (taking tsagnir in the neuter gender) render thus: And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, it is a small thing to be among the princes of Judah; out of thee shall come a ruler, &c. This Herod and his complices could not hear of without horror; as neither could that other Herod, of the fame of Christ’s mighty works, Matthew 14:1-2 , such a glimpse of divine glory shone in them. "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness surpriseth the hypocrites"; and they run as far and as fast as they can from Christ, with these frightful words in their mouths: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who shall abide with the everlasting burnings?" The ruffian soldiers were flung flat on their backs when he said no more but, "I am he," John 18:6 . Quid autem Iudicaturus faciet, qui iudicandus hoc fecit? What will he do when he comes to judgment, who was thus terrible now that he was to be judged? (August.). Oh that the terror of the Lord might persuade people to forsake their sins, and to kiss the Son, lest he be angry. Though a lamb, he can be terrible to the kings of the earth; and though he break not the bruised reed, Matthew 12:20 , yet his enemies he will break with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings, &c., Psalms 2:9-10 . And as the sun, moon, and eleven stars in Joseph’s vision did obeisance to him; so let our souls, bodies, all our temporal, natural, moral, and spiritual abilities, be subject and serviceable to Christ, as ever we hope to look him in the face with comfort.
And who shall stand when he appeareth? ] Heb. at the sight of him. True it is that Christ, coming to help us in distress, for the want of external pomp in his ordinances, and worldly glory in his ministers and members, and splendour of human eloquence in his doctrines, is despised by those that form and frame to themselves a Christ like to the mighty monarchs of the earth; like as Agesilaus, King of Spartans, coming to help the King of Egypt, was slighted in that country for his lowly clothes and contemptible outside. But if the centurion were worthy of respect, because he loved the Jewish nation, and built them a synagogue; shall not Christ much more, even as prince of the kings of the earth, since he loved us, and washed us with his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, Revelation 1:5-6 ; by whom also he is made unto us righteousness (imputatively), wisdom, sanctification, and redemption, effectively, by way of inherency and gracious operation? "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" as the men of Bethshemesh once said, 1 Samuel 6:20 . Who would not fear this King of nations, saith Jeremiah, Jeremiah 10:7 , this King of saints? saith John, Revelation 15:3-4 , for to him doth it appertain; since there is none like unto him; neither can any stand before him when he appeareth, any more than a glass bottle can stand before a cannon shot. O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before this Lord our maker, Psalms 95:6 . If we harden our hearts he will harden his hand, and hasten our destruction. There is no standing before this lion, no bearing up sail in the tempest of his wrath: you must either be his subjects or his footstool; either vail to him or perish by him. "Thine arrows are in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee," Psalms 45:5 . What a world of miseries have the refractory Jews suffered, and do yet, for rejecting the Lord Jesus! They might have known, out of their own cabalists (besides Daniel’s seventy weeks, and other Scripture evidences), that the Messiah was among them; for it is there expressly recorded that Messias should come in the time of Hillel’s disciples; one of whom was Simeon the Just, who embraced the child Jesus in his arms; who also foretold that that child was "set for the ruin and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which should be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed," Luke 2:34-35 ; and to the same purpose, 1 Peter 2:7-8 . But before them both, our prophet here.
For he is like a refiner’s fire] Intimating that the times of the Messiah would be discriminating, shedding times; and that he would separate the precious from the vile, the gold from the dross, the sheep from the goats: that Nabal should no more be called Nadib, the vile person liberal, the churl bountiful, Isaiah 32:5 ; but that good people should be discerned and honoured; hypocrites detected and detested, as was Judas, Magus, Demas, &c., slit up and slain by Christ’s two-edged sword, by his presence and preaching. Surely "his fan is in his hand," though the devil and his imps would fain wring it out, "and he will throughly purge his floor," mali in area nobiscum esse possunt, in horreo non possunt (Augustine), he will drive the chaff one way and the wheat another; for what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord, Matthew 3:12 Jeremiah 23:20 ; he will purify the souls of his saints, "in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren," 1 Peter 1:22 . So that they shall be united to such, and separated from sinners. Fire, we know, congregat homogenea, segregat heterogenea; for what fellowship hath light with darkness? The spirit of Christ, called a spirit of judgment and of burning, washeth away (lo, here refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap) the filth of the daughter of Zion, and purgeth the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, Isaiah 4:4 . By filth and blood understand their excessive bravery, mentioned Isaiah 3:1-26 , which now they had learned to call by another name, since their own names were written among the living in Jerusalem, Isaiah 4:3 . And here God made good to them that which he had promised, Isaiah 1:25 , that he would purely purge away their dross, and take away all their tin; and that though their sins were as scarlet, they should be white as snow; though red like crimson, they should be as wool, Isaiah 3:18 . Fuller’s soap (or soap weed, Saponaria, as some render it) is of singular use to fetch out stains and spots, and to whiten wool: so much more is the blood and spirit of Christ to whiten sinful souls, and to make men his candidates, ut fiant Candidati Dei. Such were those Corinthians 1 Corinthians 6:11 "Such were some of you" (that is, as bad as bad might be, lepers all over), "but ye are washed," sc. by that fuller of souls, Christ Jesus. And if any ask, How washed? It follows, "but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name," that is, by the merit of the Lord Jesus, "and by the spirit of our God." The Jews in their Talmud hammer at this, when they question, what is the name of Messias? Their answer is, Hhevara, leprous ( sc. by imputation, 2Co 5:21 Isaiah 53:6 , whence also he is said by one to be Maximus peccatorum, the greatest of sinners), and he sitteth among the poor in the gates of Rome, carrying their sicknesses, according to that, "Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses." There are two things in guilt. 1. The merit and desert of it: this Christ took not. 2. The obligation to punishment: this he took, and so he became sin, that is, bound to the punishment of sin; which also he suffered, even to the effusion of his blood (that true Pactolus, agreement or rather Jordan), whereby he hath cleansed his people from sins, both guiltiness and filthiness. We have inveterate stains, which will hardly be got out till the cloth be almost rubbed to pieces: corruption cleaves so close to us, that fire and fuller’s soap is but needful to fetch it off, Jeremiah 13:23 . Nature and custom have made our spots like that of the leopard, which no art can cure, no water wash off; because they are not in the skin only, but in the flesh and bones, in the sinews and in the most inner parts. Hence David prayeth again and again to be washed thoroughly, to be purged with hyssop, to be washed and wrung in this fuller’s soap of Christ’s blood, and with the clean water of his Holy Spirit. This is the only true purgatory, the king’s bath, the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, Zechariah 13:1 . Here Christ washeth his, not only from outward defilements, but from their swinish nature; that when washed clean they may not (as else they would) wallow in the next guzzle. Here are those sovereign muddifying waters of the sanctuary, which so wash off the corruption of the ulcer, that they cool the heat, and stay the spread of the infection; and by degrees heal the same. Hither poor sinners need not come, as to the pool of Bethesda, one by one, but as Turks to their Mahomet, Papists to their Lady, by troops and caravans, true Christians to their All-sufficient Saviour, how much more! In that pool of Bethesda the priests used to wash their sacrifices; because no unclean thing might come within the temple. The water was of reddish colour, and ran into that place in great abundance; and therefore it was called, saith one, the house of effusion. This shadowed out that every one of Christ’s sheep must be washed in the pool of his blood before they can be meet sacrifices, an offering unto the Lord in righteousness, as it is in the next verse. Other blood stains what is washed in it; this blood of the spotless Lamb whiteneth as fuller’s soap, and purifieth from all pollution of flesh and spirit, Revelation 7:14 "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood," 1 John 5:6 . The priests of the old law were consecrated first with oil, and then with blood; so was Christ, first with the Spirit, Isaiah 61:1 , and then with his own blood, for our benefit.
Mal 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.
Ver. 3. And he shall sit as a refiner ] i.e. He shall stick to the work, and not start from it, "till he bring forth judgment to victory," Matthew 12:20 , that is, till he have perfected the work of grace begun in his people (for he is "author and finisher of their faith," Heb 12:2 ), and by patience made them "perfect and entire, wanting nothing," James 1:4 . Christ, who is the God of all grace, and hath called them to his eternal glory, will, after they have suffered awhile in his furnace, or refining pot, Pro 17:3 of afflictions, "make them perfect, establish, strengthen, settle them," 1 Peter 5:10 , yea, make all grace to abound toward them; "that they always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work," 2 Corinthians 9:8 . For which holy purpose Christ, our refiner, hath his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem, Isaiah 31:9 , his conflatories and his crucibles, wherein his third part being brought through the fire, shall be refined as silver is refined, and tried as gold is tried, Zechariah 13:9 "that the trial of their faith" (who have glorified him in the very fires, Isa 24:15 ), "being much more precious than that of gold that perisheth, may be found to praise and honour and glory," 1 Peter 1:7 . True gold will undergo the trial of the seventh fire, which alchemy gold will not. Christ Jesus, after that he hath been to his people as a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap, that is, after that he hath justified and sanctified them also in some part, will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, that is, he will be serious, accurate, and assiduous in scouring them from corruption by correption, in purging out the remnants of sin by affliction sanctified. "For by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin," Isaiah 27:9 . Christ hath bought off all her corruptions, redeemed us from all iniquity, Titus 2:14 , and God will have the price of Christ’s blood out; what the word purgeth not the rod must: like as what evil humours summer purgeth not out by sweating, winter concocts by driving in the heat. And as winter is of use for mellowing the ground, and for killing worms and weeds, &c., so is the cross sanctified for quelling and killing fleshly lusts that fight against the soul. He that holds the winds in his fist, stays his rough wind, Isaiah 27:8 , and lets out of his treasury such a wind as shall make his young plants fruitful, and blow away their unkindly blossoms and leaves. Black soap makes white clothes, if God set in and set it on with his battle door, as that martyr phrased it. Foul and stained garments are whitened and purified by laying abroad in cold frosty nights. Scouring and beating of them with a stick beats out the moths and the dust; so do afflictions corruptions from the heart. Aloes kills worms; so do bitter crosses crawling lusts. Rhubarb is full of choler, yet doth mightily purge choler. Hemlock is a deadly plant, yet the juice applied heals ignis sacer accursed fire, and hot corroding ulcers, and much assuageth the inflammation of the eyes. The sting of a scorpion, though arrant poison, yet is an antidote against poison. Nothing is better to cure a leprosy than the drinking of that wine wherein a viper hath been drowned. The viper (the head and tail being cut off) beaten and applied cures her own biting. Affliction is in itself an evil, a fruit of God’s wrath, and a piece of the curse. Christ alters the property to his, and makes one poison antidotary to another, and cures security by misery; as physicians often cure a lethargy by a fever. Every affliction sanctified rubs off some rust, melts off some dross, empties and evacuates some superfluity of naughtiness, strains out some corruption, Job 10:10 . Christ strains out our motes, while our hearts are poured out like milk, with grief and fear; he also keeps us from settling on the lees, by emptying us from vessel to vessel, Jeremiah 48:11 : when the wicked have no changes, and therefore they fear not God; they come not in trouble like other men, therefore they face the heavens, and their tongues walk through the earth, Psalms 73:5-9 . All that are Christ’s people are sure of sore and sharp afflictions, fiery trials and tribulations, piercing and pressing crosses, Psa 34:19 James 1:2 . He will be sure to plough his own ground, whatsoever becomes of the waste; and to weed his own garden, though the rest of the world should be let alone to grow wild. He will cast his purest gold into the fire of affliction; but they shall lose nothing by it. Gold cast into the fire wasteth not, cast into the water rusteth not. No saint was ever the worse for his sufferings, but the better; the least that can come of it is to do good duties with greater zeal and larger affection, Isaiah 26:9 . Now, who would not fetch such gold out of a fiery crucible?
And he shall purify the sons of Levi ] Whom he had before faulted, Malachi 1:6-14 ; Malachi 2:1-10 . Or he may mean the ministers of the gospel, called priests and Levites, Isaiah 66:21 . Or, rather, all the royal priesthood of God’s people, whose office is to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:5 ; 1 Peter 2:9 Romans 12:1-2 . Now for these, Christ, 1. Of bad makes them good, as he did Joses the Levite, Acts 4:36 , and many priests, Acts 6:7 . He makes them pass under the rod, and so brings them into the bond of the covenant, Ezekiel 20:37 Ezekiel 20:2 . Of good he makes them better and brighter, he pours them forth as molten metal, so the Septuagint read this text. Gold that is melted in the furnace is not only purified, but also made malleable; yea, fit for the mould. Their hearts are brought down, they speak as out of the ground, Isaiah 29:4 , in a low language, and like broken men; they put their mouths in the dust, they lie low at Christ’s feet, and say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Thus haughty Hagar, humbled by affliction, hearkeneth to the angel, and submits to her mistress; that young gallant, that in the pride of his prosperity, in the ruff of his jollity, would not be warned; when his flesh and his body was consumed, when his bones clattered in his skin, and the mourners expected him at the doors, he is of another mind, and he may be talked with, Proverbs 5:11-13 ; then, like the beaten viper, he casteth up his poison both of high mindedness and of earthly mindedness, and if you have any good counsel to give him, he is ready to receive it. See the like, Job 33:19-21 , &c.
And purge them as gold and silver ] Colabit eos , saith the Vulgate. He shall strain them, as some liquor or liquid matter; so that the purer part shall go through the strainer or colander, and the dregs may be left, Sic Apuleius Neque illi, ait, norant colere arvum, vel colare aurum. The same thing is again and again promised, as for more certainty sake, so to show that the purity should be very great in the days of the gospel. Howbeit for the comfort of his poor people, who are conscious of more dross than good ore, Christ hath promised that he will refine them, but not as silver, Isaiah 48:10 , he will not be overly exact with them, he will not mark all that is amiss, he will not contend very much, lest the choice spirits of his afflicted people should fail before him, Isaiah 57:16 : when the child swoons in the whipping Christ lets fall the rod, and falls a kissing it, to fetch life into it again. As it is a rule in medicine still to maintain nature; so God is careful still to keep up his people’s spirits by cordials; though he purge them sometimes till he bring them almost to skin and bone, that there may be a spring of better blood and spirits.
That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness ] Or a right offering, a pure worship, holy duties from a right principle and to a right purpose. Two things make a good Christian, good actions and good aims. Though a good aim doth not make a bad action good (as we see in Uzza), yet a bad aim makes a good action bad, as we see in Jehu. If God’s work be not duly done, we may meet with breaches instead of blessings, 1 Chronicles 15:17 . David failed but in a ceremony; yet God was angry. Jehu’s zeal was rewarded in an act of justice, quoad substantiam operis, in regard of the substance of the work; and yet punished as an act of policy, quoad modum, for the perverse end. Let no man measure himself by the matter of things done; for there may be malum opus in bona materia, an evil work in a good matter: works materially good may never prove so formally and eventually. Religion is a curious clock work; if but one wheel be distempered, all may go wrong. David in numbering the people omitted that duty, Exodus 30:12-15 , and thence the plague.
Mal 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.
Ver. 4. Then shall the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem ] That is, of the Latin Church, and of Rome, saith Ribera. A partial fancy of a Popish interpreter boldly propounded, barely proved; and therefore as he affirmeth without reason, so he may be dismissed without refutation. Understand it rather of the whole Church wheresoever, in cities or countries; and observe that neither Judah nor Jerusalem, however highly honoured or favoured otherwise, shall have their offerings accepted in heaven, unless their hearts be first purified by faith. Till then their sacrifices, Romans 12:1 , how specious soever, are neither living (but dead works, as the author to the Hebrews calls it) nor holy, that is, pure and unpolluted, 1 Corinthians 7:34 , unless themselves be partakers of the grace of light, 1 Peter 3:7 , and can boldly say, with David, "Preserve my soul; for I am holy," or one whom thou favourest, Psalms 86:2 ; cf. Psalms 4:3 , he makes this the ground of his hope, that his prayer should be heard, that the Lord looked upon him as a godly person. God regards not the prayer if the man be not right. The blood of a sheep and of a swine are like; yea, it may be the blood of a swine is better and sweeter than of a sheep, yet was it not to be offered, because of a swine, see Heb 13:10 Philippians 4:18 Joh 15:16 Psa 147:11 Isaiah 62:4 Hebrews 11:6 . Look how light, saith Chrysostom, maketh all things pleasing to men; so doth faith to God. True faith is like the salt that healed the waters, 2 Kings 2:21 . O pray Christ to cast in a cruseful of it into our hearts, or else we lose all our services; nay, we do worse than lose our labour, for displeasing service is double dishonour; we do but take pains to go to hell. See Trapp on " Mal 1:9 " See Trapp on " Mal 1:10 "
As in the days of old, as in former years ] i.e. As the sacrifices of Abel, Abraham, Aaron, &c., as the prayers and holy performances of David, Elijah, Samuel (who is thought to be the same with Pethuel, Joel 1:1 , which signifieth a persuader of God, and that he was so called because he could have what he would of God), Cornelius, Paul, &c., were very effectual and available, and did wonders even to the opening and shutting of heaven, as Elihu to the opening of the doors of leviathan, Job 41:14 , as Jonah to the delivering even graves of their dead, as Hebrews 11:35 , &c., so they shall be still as effectual as those ancient saints: we "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water," Hebrews 10:22 . See Jam 5:16-18 Hosea 12:4 . The prophet, speaking of Jacob’s wrestling with God by weeping, and his prevailing by praying (so that he was knighted for his good service, and dubbed Israel, or a Prince of God), subjoins, for our comfort, God found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us. So, then, what encouragement, access, and success Jacob had at Bethel, the same have we; provided that we so carry the matter that it may be said of us, as Psalms 24:6 , This is the generation of them that seek him; of them that seek thy face: this is Jacob; provided that, as Jacob wrestled in the night, and alone, and when God was leaving him, and upon one leg; so do we, amidst all difficulties and discouragements.
Mal 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.
Ver. 5. And I will come near to you to judgment ] q.d. You conceit me a great way off, and put far from you the thoughts of my coming, having been so bold as to ask, "Where is the God of judgment?" &c. "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me." Not, as you desired, to avenge you of your enemies, but, as justice requireth, to be avenged of you for your impieties which I have here billed up against yon. And that ye may not think to escape, know that as I am a Judge at hand, so a present witness, testis festinantissimus, a most swift witness, to evict and punish you, for your most secret sins. So, then, however the Lord spare long, yet he will be at length both a hasty witness and a severe Judge against those that abuse his patience; he will not always stand them for a sinning stock, but pay them home for the new and the old, Jeremiah 6:6 Micah 1:3 . God owned a revenge to the house of Eli; and yet, at length, by the dilation of Doeg, takes occasion to pay it. It is a vain hope that is raised from the delay of judgment; no time can be any prejudice to the Ancient of days. If his word sleep, it shall not die; but after long intermissions, breaks forth into those effects which men had forgotten to look for, and ceased to fear. The sleeping of vengeance causeth the overflow of sin, Ecclesiastes 8:11 , and the overflow of sin causeth the awakening of vengeance, Psalms 50:21 , so that sometimes he strikes before he gives any further warning; as Absalom, intending to kill Amnon, spake neither good nor evil to him. Subito tollitur qui diu toleratur. He was suddenly destroyed who was tolerated for a long time. Till the fiery serpents, God had ever consulted with Moses, and threatened before he punished. Now he strikes and says nothing. The anger is so much more by how much less notified. Still revenges are ever most dangerous and deadly, when God is not heard before he is felt (as in hewing of wood the blow is not heard till the axe be seen to have struck); or if he be heard to say, as Nehemiah 1:9 , what do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end affliction shall not arise up the second time; it is a sign he is implacably bent, and means to have but one blow. The wicked’s happiness will take its end surely and swiftly. The end is come is come, is come, saith Ezekiel, Ezekiel 7:2 . The Lord is come near to you to judgment, and he will be a speedy witness. Judge and witness both; which in men’s courts cannot be; but God, being infinitely both wise and holy, may be and will be both witness and judge against the workers of iniquity; and when they are (as Adonijah’s guests were, 1Ki 1:41 ) at the height of their joys and hopes, he confounds all their devices, and lays them open to the scorn of the world, to the anguish of their own guilty hearts and the dint of his own unsupportable displeasure which is such as none can avert or avoid.
“ Ad poenam tardus Deus est, ad praemia velox,
Sed pensare solet vi graviore moram.
Poena venit gravior, quo mage sera venit. ”
Against the sorcerers ] Or diviners, wizards, necromancers, &c. See the various sorts forbidden, and to be punished, Deuteronomy 18:10 . By God’s law such might not be suffered to live Exodus 22:18 , yet did this evil prevail in Israel 2Ch 33:6 Jeremiah 27:9 ; and here, it was done by unlawful means, as Saul said to the witch, "Divine unto me by the familiar spirit," 1 Samuel 28:8 ; and it was a thing hateful to God even as high rebellion, 1 Samuel 15:23 , since the ground of this familiarity is a diabolical contract overt or covert, explicit or implicit. It is fitly called the black art, for there is no true light in them that use it, Isaiah 8:19-20 , they depart from God and his testimony, ib., and so tempt the devil to tempt them. This was Saul’s sin, for which the Lord killed him, 1 Chronicles 10:13 , and hath threatened to cut off all from among his people that do inquire of such, Leviticus 20:6 . Thou hast been partaker with the adulterer, Psalms 50:18 ; so are such with sorcerers. Surely the wounds of God are better than the salves of Satan; as Ahaziah found it. And they which in case of loss or sickness, &c., make hell their refuge, shall smoke and smart for it in the end. Satan seeks to them in his temptations, they in their consultations seek to him; and now that they have mutually found each other, if ever they part it is a miracle; he is an unspeakably proud spirit, and yet will stoop to the meanest man or woman to be at their command (the witch of Endor is twice in one verse, 1 Samuel 28:7 , called the mistress of the spirit, because in covenant with him), whereby he may cheat them and their clients of salvation. Every one that consults with him worships him, though he bow not, as Saul did; neither doth that old manslayer desire any other reverence than to be sought unto.
And against the adulterers ] Sept. The adulteresses. Adultrinum, quasi ad alterum, aut alterius torum, going up to another man’s bed, as Reuben did, and was severely sentenced for it, Genesis 49:4 . It was to be punished with death, even by the law of nature; because the society and purity of posterity could not otherwise continue among men. Nebuchadnezzar roasted in the fire Zedekiah and Ahab, two false prophets of Judah, because they committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, Jeremiah 29:22-23 . The Egyptians used to cut off the nose of the adulteress; the prophet alludes to this Ezekiel 23:25 . The Athenians, Lacedaemonians, and Romans were very severe against this sin, as Plutarch recordeth in his Parallel Lives. The old French and Saxons also, as Tacitus tells us. By God’s law they were to be stoned to death; and the high priest’s daughter was to be burned for this fault, Leviticus 21:9 , a peculiar punishment, and not to be paralleled in the whole law. If men fail to fall upon such (it is a heinous crime, saith holy Job, and an iniquity to be punished by the judges, Job 31:11 ), God himself will do it, Hebrews 13:4 , and did it effectually, 1 Corinthians 10:8 , and on the filthy Sodomites, Genesis 19:24-28 , and on Charles II, King of Navarre, who was much addicted to this sin, which so wasted his spirits that in his old age he fell into a lethargy ( Venus ab antiquis, λυσιμελης , dicta. See Pro 5:8 ). To comfort his benumbed joints he was bound and sewn up in a sheet steeped in boiling aqua vitae. water of life (alcohol). The surgeon having made an end of sewing him, and wanting a knife to cut off his thread, took a wax candle that stood lighted by him; but the flame, running down by the thread, caught hold on the sheet, which, according to the nature of the aqua vitae, burned with that vehemence, that the miserable king ended his days in the fire. But say the adulterer be neither stoned nor burned, yet God usually stoneth such with a stony heart, Hosea 4:11 , which is a most fearful judgment; and when they die burneth them with the hottest fire in hell, Proverbs 2:18 ; the whore’s guests go down to the dead; Heb. el Rephaim, to the giants; to that part of hell where those damned monsters are. See 2Pe 2:4 ; 2 Peter 2:10 , and mark the word chiefly.
And against false swearers ] A sin of a high nature, condemned by the height of nature, and punished by the heathens. Periurii poena divina exitium; humana, dedecus; this was one of the laws of the twelve tables in Rome. God punisheth perjury with destruction; men, with disgrace. Tissaphernes, the Persian general, being overcome by Agesilaus, King of Spartans, craved three months’ truce, and had it; they both sware to be quiet on both sides. Tissaphernes soon broke his oath; but Agesilaus religiously kept it, saying, that gods and men would favour him for his fidelity, but curse and execrate the other for his perjury. God showed Zechariah a flying roll, long and large, ten yards long, and five broad, full of curses against the false swearer, with commission to rest upon his house, which he holds his castle, and where he thinks himself most secure, Zechariah 5:3-4 . Michael Paleologus, Emperor of Constantinople, made the Greek Church acknowledge the Pope’s supremacy, and did many other things contrary to his oath; and, therefore, lieth obscurely buried, shrouded in the sheet of defamation, saith the historian. So doth Rodulphus, Duke of Sueveland, who, by the Pope’s instigation, broke his oath of allegiance to Henry the emperor, and by the cutting off of his faithless right hand lost his life. So doth Sigismund, the emperor, for his false dealing with John Huss: Ladislaus, King of Hungary, for his perjurious setting upon Amurath, the Great Turk, at the battle of Varna, where he was deservedly defeated. What a blur was that to the old Romans, if true, that Mirchanes, the Persian general, should say of them, Romanis promittere promptum est, &c.: The Romans will promise anything, and swear to it, but perform nothing that makes against their profit. There were at Rome such as could lend an oath at need; and would not stick to swear that their friend or foe was at Rome and at Interamna both at once. How slippery the Papists are, and how bloody, both in their positions and dispositions, is well known to all. But God is the avenger of all such; because they call him to witness a falsehood; and dare him to his face to execute his vengeance, see Zechariah 8:17 .
And against those that oppress, &c. ] Either by denying, diminishing, or delaying their wages. The Vulgate rendereth it, Who calumniate, or make cavils to detain wages, which is the poor hireling’s livelihood, whereupon he setteth his heart, Deuteronomy 24:15 , and maintaineth his life; which is, therefore, called the life of his hands, because upheld by the labour of his hands, Isaiah 57:10 . He gets it, and eats it; and is in his house like a snail in his shell; crush that, and you kill him. This is a crying cruelty, James 5:4 , and hath a woe against it, Jer 22:13 James 2:13 . Laban is taxed for it, Genesis 31:7 ; and for those that are guilty, if they mend not, and make restitution, Master Latimer tells them they shall cough in hell.
The widow ] A calamitous name: she is called in Hebrew, from her dumbness, Almanan; because death, having cut off her head, she hath lost her tongue, and hath none to speak for her. A vine whose root is uncovered thrives not; so a widow, the covering of whose eyes is taken away, joys not. God, therefore, pleads for such as his clients, and takes special care for them; the deacons were anciently ordained specially for their sakes, Acts 6:1 1 Timothy 5:3 ; and Pharisees doomed to a deeper damnation for devouring widows’ houses, Matthew 23:14 ; and magistrates charged to plead for the widow, Isaiah 1:17 , as judge Job did, Job 31:16 ; and all sorts to make much of her, and communicate to her, Deuteronomy 24:19-21 .
And the fatherless ] We are orphans and fatherless, saith the Church, Lamentations 5:3 . And we are all orphans, said Queen Elizabeth (in her speech to the children of Christ’s Hospital); let me have your prayers, and you shall have my protection. That hospital was founded by her brother, King Edward VI, for the relief of fatherless children, after the example of the ancient Church, which had her orphano trophi, orphan breeders. With God the fatherless findeth mercy, Hosea 14:3 , and all his vice-gods are commanded the like, Psalms 82:1-4 , unless they will consult shame and misery to their own houses, and, Joab-like, leave the leprosy to their little ones for a legacy. Better leave them a wallet to beg from door to door than a cursed hoard of orphans’ goods.
And that turn aside the stranger ] The right of strangers is so holy (saith Master Fox) that there was never nation so barbarous that would violate the same. When Stephen Gardiner had in his power the renowned Peter Martyr, then teaching at Oxford, he would not keep him to punish him; but when he should go his way, gave him wherewith to bear his charges.
And fear not me ] This is set last, as the source of all the former evils. See the like, Rom 3:18 Psalms 14:1 , where atheism and irreligion is made the root of all the sin in the world. God’s holy fear is to the soul as the banks are to the sea or the bridle to the horse; it was so to Isaac, who reigned in the reverent fear of God, when he saw that he had done unwilling justice, dared not reverse Jacob’s blessing, though prompted to it by natural affection and Esau’s howlings, Genesis 27:33 . It was so to Job, Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel, &c., who could easily have borne out their oppressions by their greatness. And indeed whereas other men have other bits and restraints, great men, if they fear not God, have nothing else to fear; but dare obtrude and justify to the world the most malapert misdemeanours, because it is facinus maioris abollae (Juvenal), the fact of a great one, who do many times as easily break through the lattice of the laws as the bigger flies do through a spider web, as Anacharsis was wont to say of his Scythians. Hence Jethro would have his justice of peace to be a man fearing God, Exodus 18:21 ; and this qualification he fitly placeth in the midst of the other graces requisite to him, as the heart in the body, for conveying life to all the parts, or as a dram of musk perfuming the whole box of ointment, Exodus 18:21 . Nothing makes a man so good a patriot as the true fear of God’s blessed name, and a zealous forwardness for his glory, goodness, and good causes. This, this alone is it that can truly beautify and adorn all other personal sufficiencies, and indeed sanctify and bless all public employments and services of state. Whereas, on the contrary, sublata pietate, fides tollitur, take away piety, and fidelity is gone; as we see in the unjust judge, Luke 18:2 , in Abraham’s judgment of the Philistines, Genesis 20:11 , and in Constantinus Chlorus’s experiment of his counsellors and courtiers; whence that famous maxim of his, recorded by Eusebius, He cannot be faithful to me that is unfaithful to God; religion being the ground of all true fidelity and loyalty to king and country. Hence that close connection, "Fear God. Honour the king"; and that again of Solomon, "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king; and meddle not with them that are given to change," Proverbs 24:21 .
Mal 3:6 For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Ver. 6. For I am the Lord, I change not ] I am Jehovah. This is God’s proper and incommunicable name. It imports three things: 1. That God is of himself. This Plato acknowledged, calling God το ον , and το ον οντως . Julius Scaliger, by a wonderful word, calleth God αυταυτον , One that hath his being or existence of himself, before the world was, Isaiah 44:6 Isaiah 44:2 . That he giveth being to all things else, for in him they both are and consist. He sustains all, both in respect of being, excellences, and operations, Hebrews 1:8 . The greatest excellences in us do as much depend upon God as the effigies in the glass upon the presence of the face that causeth it. 3. That he giveth being to his word, effecting whatsoever he speaketh. Hence, when either some special mercy is promised, or some extraordinary judgment threatened, the name of Jehovah is affixed. See Exo 6:3 Isa 45:2-3 Ezekiel 5:17 . The ancient Jewish doctors make this distinction between Elohim and Jehovah. By Elohim, say they, is signified Middah din, a quality or property of judgment. By Jehovah, middath Rachamim, a quality or property of mercy. And hereunto they apply that text, Psalms 56:10 , In God (Elohim) I will praise the word, in Jehovah I will praise the word; that is, sive iure agat mecum, sive ex aequo et bono, whether he deal strictly with me, or graciously, I will praise him howsoever. But this distinction, as it holds not always; so not here. For, to show the certainty of the judgment denounced Malachi 3:5 , is this subjoined, "I am Jehovah," &c. And if Jehovah come of Hovah (which signifies contrition or destruction), as Hieronymus from Oleastro will have it, what can be more suitable to the prophet’s purpose? it is somewhat like that in Isaiah 13:6 , Shod shall come from Shaddai, destruction from the Almighty, or from the destroyer, as some interpret God’s name, Shaddai.
I change not ] I am neither false nor fickle, to say and unsay, to alter my mind, or to eat my word, Psalms 89:34 . The eternity of Israel cannot lie, nor repent, said Samuel to Saul (and it was heavy tidings to him, as Ahijah said to Jeroboam’s wife, I come unto thee with heavy tidings); for he is not a man that he should repent, 1 Samuel 15:29 . Men are mutable, and there is no hold to be taken of what they say. Of many it may be said, as Tertullian of the peacock, all in changeable colours; as often changed as moved. Italians all, as Aeneas Sylvius said of Italy, Novitate quadam nihil habet stabile, there is no taking their words. Of a certain pope and his nephew the story is told, that the one never spake as he thought, the other never performed what he spake. But God is not a man that he should repent; or if he do, it is after another manner than man repents. Repentance with man is the changing of his will; repentance with God is the willing of a change. It is mutatio rei non Dei, effectus non affectus, facti non consilii. God’s repentance is not a change of his will, but of his work. It noteth only (saith Mr Perkins) the alteration of things and actions done by him, and no change of his purpose and secret decree, which is immutable. What he hath written he hath written (as Pilate said peremptorily), there is no removing of him. If the sentence be passed, if the decree be come forth, none can avert or avoid it, Zephaniah 3:3 . Currat ergo poenitentia ne praecurrat sententia (Chrysolog.). Go quickly and make an atonement, as Moses said to Aaron, Numbers 16:46 "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel," Amos 4:12 . Mitte preces et lachrymas cordis legatos; meet him with entreaties of peace, agree with him quickly; who knows if he will return, and repent? "for he is gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil," Joel 2:13-14 . It should seem so indeed by this text; for, even while he is threatening, and ratifying what he had threatened, his heart is turned within him, his repentings are kindled together, Hosea 11:8 . And hence the following words,
Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed ] A strange inference (considering the sense and occasion of the foregoing words, as hath been set forth), and not unlike that, Hosea 2:13-14 "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim … she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord. Therefore" (mark that "Therefore"), "behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her. And I will give her," &c. So Isaiah 57:17-18 "For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly," &c. "I have seen his ways, and will heal him." Ways? what ways? his covetousness, frowardness, &c.; and yet I will heal him. I will deal with him not according to mine ordinary rule, but according to my prerogative. If God will heal for his name’s sake (and so come in with his non obstante, as he doth, Psa 106:8 ), what people is there whom he may not heal? Well may these sinful sons of Jacob be unconsumed; well may they have for their seventy years’ captivity seven seventies of years, according to Daniel’s weeks, for the re-enjoying of their own country; and God’s mercies shall bear the same proportion to his punishments, which seven, a complete number, hath to a unity, Ezekiel 20:8 ; Ezekiel 20:14 ; Ezekiel 20:22 ; Ezekiel 20:44 . Provided that they return to the Lord that smote them (as in the next verse), for else he will surely punish them seven times more, and seven times, and seven to that, Leviticus 26:21 ; Leviticus 26:23 ; Leviticus 26:27 , &c.; three different times God raiseth his note of threatening, and he raised it by sevens, and those are discords in music. Such sayings will be heavy songs; and their execution heavy pangs to the impenitent.
Mal 3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept [them]. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Ver. 7. Even from the days of your fathers, ye are gone away from mine ordinances ] The more to magnify his own mercy (by a miracle, whereof they had hitherto subsisted, by an extraordinary prop of his love, and longsuffering), God sets forth here their utter unworthiness of any such free favour, by a double aggravation of their sins. First, their long continuance therein, so that their sins were grown inveterate and ingrained, and themselves aged and even crooked therein, so that they could hardly ever be set straight again.
From the days of your fathers, &c. ] q.d. Non hoc nuper facitis: nec semel ut erroris mereamini veniam: sed haereditariam habetis impietatem, &c., as Jerome paraphraseth this text. You are no young sinners; it is not yesterday, or a few days since, you transgressed against me; you are a seed of serpents, a race of rebels; you are as good at resisting the Holy Ghost as ever your fathers were, Acts 7:51 . Secondly, their pervicacy and stiffness: they would not yield or be evicted. But ye say, wherein shall we return as if they were righteous, and needed no repentance. Still they put God to his proofs, as Jeremiah 2:35 , and show themselves an unpersuadable and gainsaying people, Isaiah 65:2 ; and this had "been their manner from their youth," Jeremiah 22:21 , when they were in Egypt, they served idols there, Ezekiel 16:26 . In the wilderness they tempted God ten times, and hearkened not to his voice, Numbers 14:22 . Under their judges, and then their kings, they vexed him, and he bore with them "till there was no remedy," 2 Chronicles 36:16 . After the captivity they do antiquum obtinere, and are found guilty here of various omissions and commissions, calling for "a just recompence of reward," Hebrews 2:2 . All which notwithstanding, Deus redire eos sibi non perire desiderat (Chrysolog.). God soliciteth their return unto him here by a precept and a promise, two effectual arguments, if anything will work; and ratifieth all with his own authority, which is most authentic, in these words, "saith the Lord of hosts." A style often given to God, as elsewhere in Scripture, so especially in these three last prophecies to the people returned from Babylon, because they had many enemies, and therefore had need of all encouragement. For God is called the Lord of hosts, quod ille numine suo et nomine terreat terras, temperet tempera, exercitusque tam superiores quam inferiores gubernet, to show that he hath all power in his hand, and doth whatsoever he pleaseth in heaven and earth (Alsted). See Trapp on " Mal 3:17 " , doctr. 1, and for the doctrine of returning to God (from whom we have deeply revolted) by repentance. See Trapp on " Zec 1:3 "
But ye said, Wherein shall we return? ] This was their pride, proceeding from ignorance; they were rich and righteous, as those Laodiceans Revelation 3:17 , not in truth, but in conceit, vainly puffed up by their carnal minds, drunk with self-dotage, as Luke 16:15 . Hence they stand upon their slippers, and none must say, Black is their eye. Sin is in them as in its proper element, and therefore weighs not ( Elementum in suo loco non ponderat ); till, by long trading in wickedness, they grow to that dead and dedolent disposition, Ephesians 4:14 , their heart fat as grease, their conscience cauterized, 1 Timothy 4:2 , that is, so benumbed, blotted, senseless, filthy, and gangrenous, that it must be seared with a hot iron; whereupon it grows so crusty and brawny, that though cut or pierced with the sword of the Spirit, it doth neither bleed nor feel; and though handfulls of hell fire be flung in the face of it, yet it starts not, stirs not; but is deprived of all even passive power, and so satanized, that there is no help for them.
Mal 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Ver. 8. Will a man rob God? ] Adam pillage Elohim? frail weak man seek to supplant (so the Septuagint render it) the great and mighty God? Giant-like boldness! Cacus met with his match when he robbed Hercules. Mercury, say the poets, had a mind to steal Jupiter’s thunderbolts, but dared not meddle, lest he should punish as Prometheus for stealing fire; or lest they should burn his fingers. The eagle in the fable, that stole a piece of flesh from the altar, and carried it together with a live coal, that stuck to it, to his nest, set his young and all on fire. Dionysius, that robbed his god, was cast out of his kingdom, though he was wont to boast, that he had it bound to him with chains of adamant. Belshazzar paid dearly for his bousing in the bowels of the sanctuary. Cardinal Wolsey, and five of his servants, employed by him in embezzling consecrated goods, though perhaps to better purposes, came all to fearful ends, as Scultetus noteth, and thereupon wisheth, Utinam his et similibus exemplis edocti discant homines res semel Deo consecratas timide attrectare. "It is a snare to the man that devoureth that which is holy," Proverbs 20:25 . They may be compared to those who, being of a cold and phlegmatic stomach, eat hard and choleric meats; well they may please their palates, but it cannot be for their health: no more can the murdering morsels of such sacrilegious persons, as, devouring holy things, have their meat sauced and their drink spiced with the bitter wrath of God. See Job 20:23 . Polanus reads the text thus, Will a man rob his gods? q.d. Will any heathen do so? did not they that worshipped idols abhor sacrilege? Was it not one of the laws of the twelve tables in Rome, Sacrum sacrove commendatum qui clepserit rapseritque, parricida esto, Let every sacrilegious person pass and be punished for a parricide? And doth not Cicero affirm those laws, that they did exceed all the libraries of the philosophers in weight and worth? Did not those old idolaters freely bestow their most precious things upon their idols, Eze 16:16-19 Exodus 32:3 , yea, their very children in sacrifice to Moloch, or Saturn? 2Ki 16:3 ; 2 Kings 17:17 ; being as mad upon their idols as ever was any wicked wanton upon his harlot, lavishing out of the bag? &c. And are not our modern idolaters and Papists as bountiful to their he saints and she saints? so that their churches are not able to hold their vowed presents and memories, but that in many places, as at Loretto, Sichem, &c., they are fain to hang their cloisters and churchyards with them? Shall they in their petitions to our parliaments plead for favour and forbearance upon this ground, because their ancestors, they say, bestowed so great cost upon this land for church maintenance; and shall it be said (now that they are worthily cast out), Possidebunt Papistae, possident Rapistte, Wicked Papists had them, ungodly Rapists have them; Improprietaries, I mean, that hold by an improper title, and all others that appropriate that to them and theirs which the Almighty is invested in. This is here instanced as a capital crime, and called robbing God, as well it may; forasmuch as ministers’ maintenance (being tithes) is called the Lord’s, and holy to the Lord, Leviticus 27:30 , because separated from man and man’s use, and therefore might not be altered, Leviticus 27:28 . Or if any had a mind to redeem them, they were bound to add to the price every fifth penny above the true value, Leviticus 27:31 . Let all those look to this, whether impropriators, false patrons ( latrones robbers rather), or others, that, either by force or fraud, rob God of his right ( Nunquid homo fraudabit Deum? sic vertunt Aquila, Symmachus et Theodotion ); detaining part of the due at least, as Ananias and Sapphira did; God hath a Quare Impedit against them, which one day they must make answer to.
Yet ye have robbed me ] Because ye have robbed my ministers, who are in my stead, 2 Corinthians 5:20 , and in whom he receiveth tithes, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth, like as did Melchisedec, as a priest and tithe taker, and type of Christ Hebrews 7:7-9 . And as God is sensible of the least courtesy done to a prophet to reward it, even to a cup of cold water, Matthew 10:42 (so that he is a niggard to himself that scants his beneficence to a minister), so for those that wrong and rob them, that deny them that double honour of countenance and maintenance that he hath appointed them, and hold them to hard allowance; muzzling the ox, or giving him but straw at the best, for treading out the grain; they will dearly answer it before God, who holds all done to them as done to himself. Surely, as David could not but feel his own cheeks shaven and his own coat cut in his ambassadors; they did but carry his person to Hanun; so here. And as there was never any king so poor and weak but thought himself strong enough to revenge any wrong done or abuse offered to his ambassadors ( Legati quod erant appellati superbius, Corinthum Patres vestri totius Graeciae lumen extinctum esse voluerunt. Cic. pro lege Man.); so the king of heaven will not fail to curse with a curse whole nations that forget God and forsake his Levites, Deuteronomy 12:19 , it being all one to God to deal in this case against a nation or against a man only, Job 34:29 .
In tithes and offerings ] He had told them before they had robbed him; or, as some read it, stabbed him as with a daggar. And here they should have confessed the action and craved pardon. But because they did nothing less, standing upon their justification (as before often), God descends to the particular wherein they robbed him, "In tithes and offerings." The original hath it, Tithes and offerings, without the particle ( in ); and it is as if the Lord should say, you may easily know my meaning without so many words, but that you love to contest. You cannot be ignorant that the Levites, for want of maintenance, are fled every man to his field, and so my work and worship is left undone. Good Nehemiah was sensible of it, Nehemiah 13:10 , and because he knew that by this means religion itself would be soon undermined and overturned, he contended with the rulers, and made all the people pay their tithes; and this he worthily reckons among his good deeds, praying God to remember him for it, and not wipe it out Nehemiah 13:14 . Hezekiah, that great reformer showed the like zeal in commanding the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and Levites, that they might attend upon the law of the Lord (so the Vulgate), that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord, so we read, 2 Chronicles 31:4 ; that is, that they might not follow their callings heavily for want of maintenance, but cheerfully bend themselves wholly to the service of the Lord. And here (as Ferus once wished for the Romish synagogue) I would we had some Moses, said he, to take away the evils of the times; non enim unum tantum vitulum sed multos habemus, for we have not one golden calf, but many; so have we of these times cause to wish we had some zealous Nehemiahs and Hezekiahs to stickle and stand for Christ’s ministers, not defrauded of their due maintenance only (a sign of gasping devotion), but trampled upon by the foul feet of the basest of the people, as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things. Tithes, they say, are Jewish; but if Melchisedec tithed Abraham by the same right whereby he blessed him, Hebrews 7:6 , and if tithes by all laws of God, nature, nations, have been hallowed to God, as Junius and other modern divines allege and argue; and, lastly, if things consecrated to God’s service may not be alienated, out of case of necessity, Pro 20:25 Galatians 3:15 ; it will appear to be otherwise. Or if tithes be Jewish, and yet ministers must have a maintenance (Christ having so ordained, 1Co 9:14 ), and that both honourable, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 , and liberal, Galatians 6:6 , how else shall they be given to hospitality? 1 Timothy 3:2 (if they be not hospitable they will be despicable); how will men satisfy their consciences in the quota pars, the particular quantity they must bestow upon them? The Scripture speaketh only of the tenth part. Sed manum de tabula. Enough of this, if not more than enough.
Mal 3:9 Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole nation.
Ver. 9. Ye are cursed with a curse ] Vulgate: Ye are cursed with penury and scarcity of victuals, according to Deuteronomy 28:23 , &c., and so great was this people’s poverty, that they were forced for food to sell not their fields only, but their sons and daughters, Neh 5:1-5 They had pinched on God’s side, and he had paid them home in the same kind; they thought in the famine to have kept the more to themselves, and they had the less for keeping from him that which was his. A just hand of God upon all church robbers; for the most part they are always in want and needy, their wealth melting away as snow before the sun, and their fields of blood, purchased with the spoils of Christ, proving as unfortunate and fatal to them as the gold of the temple of Tholose did to Scipio’s soldiers, of which whoever carried any part away never prospered afterwards. What get men by such a detiny that shall prove their fatal destiny? Say they leave the gold behind them, yet they are likely to carry the guilt to hell with them, James 5:1-2 ; yea, to cough in hell, as Latimer phrased it, unless they make restitution; to digest in hell, what they have devoured on earth, as Austin. Because Pharaoh saith, the river is mine own, therefore, saith God, I will dry up the river, Ezekiel 29:3 ; Ezekiel 29:9 . The merchant that denieth to pay his custom forfeits all his commodities: so here.
For ye have robbed me ] And therefore I have cursed you. God never punisheth people but there is just cause for it, could they but see it; but that they are hardly drawn to, as here, and Isaiah 26:11 ; the root of the matter is in themselves, as Job speaks in another case; the plague of their own hearts, 1 Kings 8:38 , procureth them all the mischief, and may say to them, as the heart of Apollodorus, the tyrant, seemed to say to him; who dreamed one night that he was flayed by the Scythians, and boiled in a caldron, and that his heart spake to him out of the kettle, it is I that have drawn thee to all this (’ Eγω σοι τουτων αιτια ). Let men, therefore, when under any misery, lay their hand upon their heart, thrust their hand into their bosom, with Moses, they shall be sure to bring it out leprous; let them turn short again upon themselves, and say every man, What have I done? what evil have I committed, or, at least, admitted? what good have I omitted, or intermitted? Profane Esau, beguiled of the blessing, cries out of his father’s store, of his brother’s subtlety; not a word of his own profaneness in slighting and selling his birthright; he had forgot since he did eat and drink, and went his way, Genesis 25:34 . The Jerusalem paraphrast adds, that he also despised his portion in the world to come, and denied the resurrection. But this he never taketh notice of. So Pompey, beaten by Caesar out of the field, blamed the Divine providence for his ill success, when he should rather have assaulted his own reckless security (that he never considered into what place he were best to retire if worsted), and especially his sacrilege not long before the defeat, when he sacked Jerusalem, and ransacked the temple, 1Ma 9:54-56; 2Ma 3:24-25 ; 2Ma 4:39-42 ; 2Ma 5:15-16 ; 2Ma 13:4 ; 2Ma 13:8 ; 2Ma 15:30 ; 2Ma 15:34 . He might have considered what became (a little before his time) for the same offence of Alcimus, Heliodorus, Lysimachus, Antiochus, Menelaus, and Nicanor, all notorious church robbers, and all hanged up in gibbets, as it were, for an example and admonition to all that should come after. Sacrilege is a snare (saith Solomon, Pro 20:25 ), that, 1. catcheth suddenly; 2. holdeth surely; 3. destroyeth certainly. Cavete.
Even this whole nation ] The disease was grown into an epidemic, like that which physicians call corruptio totius substantiae, the entire nature is diseased, or that which the prophet Isaiah also complaineth of, Malachi 1:5-6 "The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint," &c. This sin of sacrilege was grown national; there was a conjuncture of all sorts in this wickedness; a rabble of rebels they were, ripe for judgment; yea, though God’s judgments were upon them, yet they persisted, Nehemiah 13:18 , and increased wrath, Ezra 10:14 . God had smitten them, but they sorrowed not, Jeremiah 5:3 ; but to be revenged on him, as it were, for laying famine upon them, they took away his tithes.
Mal 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].
Ver. 10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse ] All, whether pecuniary or personal, all, and of every kind.
Into the storehouse ] The standing place for tithes, as it is called, Nehemiah 13:11-13 , the tithe barn, as the Vulgate hath it.
That there may be meat in my house ] Tereph from whence Pροφη , and the English, prey; that there may be maintenance for my ministers; enough not for themselves only, but for to be distributed to those that are about them ( Cibus qui discerpi, dividi, distribuique potest ); that they may not eat their morsels alone, that they may not be slaves to others, servants to themselves; that they may not "bite with their teeth, and cry, peace," teach for hire, and divine for money, Micah 3:5 ; Micah 3:11 , that is, be fain to maintain themselves with sordid and unworthy flatteries. Balaam, the false prophet, rode with his two men, Numbers 22:22 . God’s Levite had one man, Judges 19:11 . Augustine lived neither like a lord, for he ate his meat in wooden and marble dishes; neither lived he like a beggar, for he used to eat with silver spoons. What pity was it that Luther was forced to cry out in his comment on Genesis 47:1-31 , Nisi superesset spolium Aegypti quod rapuimus Papae, omnibus ministris verbi fame pereundum esset. Quod si sustentandi essent die contributione populi misere profecto et duriter viverent. If it were not for the spoil of Egypt which we have snatched from the Pope, all the ministers of the word must have been famished. For if they should be put to live upon the free contribution of the people, they would certainly have a miserable hard living of it. Alimur ergo, &c. We are maintained then, as I said, of the spoils of Egypt; and yet that little that we have is preyed upon by the magistrates; for the parishes and schools are so spoiled and peeled, as if they meant to starve us all. Thus Luther. Melancthon comes after him and complains in the year 1550, Principes favebant Luthero: sed iam iterum videtis ingratitudinem mundi erga ministros, &c.: The princes did at first favour Luther; but now ye see again the unkindness of the world to the ministers of the word. Calvin was so ill dealt with at Geneva (together with other faithful ministers there), that he was forced once to say, Certe si hominibus servivissem, &c., Truly if I had served men in my ministry I had been very ill requited. But it is well that I have served him who never fails his own; but faithfully performeth with the better whatsoever he hath promised them. Our Doctor Stoughton observed, that the manner of very many in the city was to deal with their ministers as carriers do with their horses, viz., to lay heavy burdens upon them, and then to hang bells about their necks; they shall have hard work and great commendations, but easy commons; be applauded for excellent preachers, have good words, but slight wages (Serm. on 1Sa 2:30 ). Thus in the city; but what measure meet men within the country! Hear it from a country minister’s mouth. How many thousands in this land (saith he) stand obnoxious in a high degree to the judgments of God for this sin of sacrilege, which is the bane of our people and blemish of our Church! Some there are who rob God of his main tithes, yet are content to leave him still the lesser; they pluck our fleeces, and leave us the taglocks, a poor vicarage tithes, while themselves and children are kept warm in our wool, the parsonage. And others, yet more injurious, who think that too much; would the law but allow them a pair of shears, they would clip the very taglocks off. These (with the deceitful tailor) are not content to shrink the whole and fair broad cloth to a dozen of buttons, but they must likewise take part of them away, and hem the very shreds, which only we have left. After they have fully gorged themselves with the parsonage grains they can find means, either by unconscionable leases or compositions, to pick the vicarage bones, &c. Thus he, and much more to the like purpose. Our blessings (saith another eminent divine, Dr Sclatter) are more than those of old, our burden less. And yet how unwilling comes even a little to the most painfull minister! And those that, upon a kind of conscience, pay other duties, think all lost that goes to the maintenance of the ministry; and that with such repining, as if that were money of all other worst bestowed.
And prove me now herewith ] Dignatio stupenda, A wonderful condescension, that God should call upon man to take experiment of him, to make but a trial, to put it to the proof whether he will not prosper the penitent. This is somewhat like that other passage, Psalms 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good," &c., or that, "Come, and let us reason together." Oh the never enough adored depth of God’s goodness, that he should stoop so low to us clay and dirt, dung and worms’ meat! He is so high, that he is said to humble himself to behold things done in heaven, Psalms 113:6 . If he look at all out of himself, to see but what the angels do, he doth therein abase himself. That he will deal so familiarly with us (who are no better than so many walking dunghills) as to bid us prove him what he will do for us, this deserves acknowledgment and admiration in the highest degree. Should he have used martial law with these malapert miscreants in the text that had robbed him of his rights, and not only have reproved them and cursed them with a curse of penury, but have (Draco-like) written his laws in blood upon them, he might have justified his proceedings. But thus to commune with them, and not only to prescribe them a remedy for removal of the curse, Bring ye all the tithes, &c., but thus to persuade with them, and to permit them to prove his bountifulness in giving, and his faithfulness in keeping promise with them, and that with an oath, as some conceive, Subest iurandi species (Figuier).
If I will not open the windows of heaven ] Then never believe me more. What a wonderful goodness was this! Surely we may well say of it, as Chrysostom doth of the happiness of heaven, Sermo non valet exprimere: experimento opus est; we can never sufficiently praise it, but must take the counsel he gives us, and prove it, "Prove me," &c. There is an unlawful and damnable proving or rather provoking of God, when men separate the means from the end, holiness from happiness, will needs live as they list, and yet presume they shall be saved by the unknown mercies of God. Such were those that "tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies," Psalms 78:56 , like as before they had lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert, Psalms 106:14 ; while, bearing themselves overly bold upon their external privileges, they refused to observe his statutes and keep his laws. This sin, in the New Testament, is called "tempting the Spirit of the Lord," Acts 5:9 . Ananias and Sapphire did so, when by a cunning contrivance they would needs prove and make trial whether God could discover and would punish their hypocrisy; so did Judas the traitor, when he boldly demanded, "Is it I, Lord?" So do all gross hypocrites that present unto God a carcase of holiness, like Ham, or that cursed deceiver, Malachi 1:14 . Such also as refuse Christ’s offers of grace; and when he bids them, as here, prove him, if upon their obedience in the laws of his kingdom he will not open the windows of heaven and rain down righteousness upon them, even mercies without measure; and (for confirmation) wills them, as once he did wicked Ahaz, "Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, ask it either in the depth or height above"; they churlishly answer him in effect as he did, "I will not ask, neither will I try the Lord." Whereupon the prophet that made the motion, in a holy indignation, "Hear ye now," saith he, "ye house of David, Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?" Isaiah 7:12-13 .
If I will not often you the windows of heaven ] Vulgate: the cataracts, or floodgates, or spouts of heaven; meaning the clouds, those bottles of rain, which God here promiseth to shower down abundantly, tanta copia, impetu, et fragore, ut ruere potius quam fluere videatur (Corn. a Lapide). A phrase noting great plenty, 2 Kings 7:2 , for in those hot countries drought ever made a dearth. Hence the proud Egyptians, whose land is watered and made fruitful by the overflow of the river Nile, were wont in mockery to tell the neighbouring nations, that if God should forget to rain they might chance to starve for it. They thought the rain was of God, but not the river. God therefore threateneth to dry it up, Eze 29:9 Isaiah 19:5-6 , and so he did (Ovid.):
“ Creditur Aegyptus caruisse iuvantibus arva
Imbribus, atque annis sicca fuisse novem. ”
To teach both them and us, that both plenty and scarcity, drought and rain, are his work; he carries the keys of the grave, of the heart, and of the windows of heaven, the clouds, under his own belt. Vessels they are as thin as the liquor which is contained in them. There they hang and move, though weighty with their burden. How they are upheld, and why they fall here and now, we know not, but wonder at it, as God’s handiwork. In the island of St Thomas, on the backside of Africa, in the midst of it is a hill, and over that a continual cloud, wherewith the whole island is watered. In the middle region of the air, God hath made darkness his secret place: his pavilion round about him is dark waters and thick clouds of the sky, Psalms 18:11 . These he weighs by measure, so that not a drop falls in vain nor in a wrong place, Job 28:15 "When he uttereth his voice there is a multitude (or noise) of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain," &c., Jeremiah 10:13 . A wonderful thing surely, that out of the midst of water God fetcheth fire, and hard stones out of the midst of thin vapours. This is the Lord’s own doing, and it is (worthily) marvellous in our eyes. "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can give rain? or can the heavens give showers?" (so the naturalists will needs have it; but what saith the prophet?) "Art not thou he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things," Jeremiah 14:22 . A pious resolution surely, and that which the Lord here would have this people to take up; viz. in the way of his judgments to wait upon him, Isaiah 26:8 , and walk before him, to honour him with their substance, and with the firstfruits of all their increase. So should their barns be filled with plenty, and their presses burst out with new wine, Proverbs 3:9-10 "The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself," Proverbs 11:25 .
God will pour him out a blessing ] Because he is a soul of blessing, as the Hebrew hath it in that place of the Proverbs last cited, and he shall have rain enough, Ipse pluvia erit, as Kimchi rendereth the last words there. He shall be a sweet and seasonable shower to himself and others. "Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock, and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden, and they shall not sorrow any more at all," Jeremiah 31:12 . O precious promise, every syllable whereof drops myrrh and mercy! Abraham, that father of tithe paying (so we may call him, as the Hebrews call Jacob the father of vows, because he is the first we read of in Scripture that vowed a vow unto the Lord), had this promise of abundance plentifully performed unto him. So had Constantine, the first Christian emperor, the Church’s great benefactor. Bonus Deus, saith Augustine, Constantinum Magnum tantis terrenis implevit muneribus quanta optare nullus auderet: The good Lord filled Constantine the Great with so many temporal blessings as never any man dared wish for (De Civ. Dei, l. v. c. 25.).
There shall not be room enough to receive it ] Ita ut dicatis satis est, so that you shall say, It is enough: thus the Chaldee rendereth it. Rabbi Abraham, you shall have more than enough, as the Sareptan had, 2 Kings 4:4 , the cruse never ceased running till there was no room. Borrow of thy neighbours, saith the prophet, but shut the doors upon thee. It was time to shut the doors, saith one, when many greater vessels must be supplied from one little one. She had a prophet’s reward with a witness, Non tantum quod sufficiat, sed etiam quod supersit. Rab. David. Ultra sufficiens (Montan.). And so had the Shunamite. Her table and bed and stool was well bestowed: that candlestick repaid her the light of her future life and condition; that table the means of maintenance; that stool a seat of safe abode; that bed a quiet rest from the common calamities of her nation. So liberal a pay master is God: his rewards are more than bountiful; he will not be overcome by his creature in liberality, James 1:5 . They shall be sure to have their own again with usury, either in money or money’s worth. What they want in temporals (a sufficiency whereof they shall be sure of, if not a superfluity) he will make up in spirituals, joy and peace through believing, as much or more than heart can hold. Some holy men have so over abounded exceedingly with joy, that they have been forced to cry out, Hold, Lord, stay thine hand, &c, their spirits were even ready to expire with an exuberance of spiritual ravishment; as the Church in the Canticles was sick of love, and therefore calls to the ministers, Song of Solomon 2:5 , to stay her from sinking and swooning, to bolster her up, being surprised with a love qualm; as the Queen of Sheba, rapt with admiration, had no more spirit in her; as Jacob’s heart fainted when he heard the good news of Joseph alive. Bernard, for a certain time after his conversion, remained, as it were, deprived of his senses, by the excessive consolations he had from God. Cyprian and Austin testify the like of themselves.
a A matted lock of sheep’s wool, esp. one of those about the hinder parts; ŒD
Mal 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.
Ver. 11. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes ] Caterpillars, cankerworms, and such hurtful creatures. God’s terrible army, as they are notably set forth in their march and mischief, Joel 2:2-5 ; cf. Joel 1:4 , to tame his rebels, to ease him of his adversaries, and to avenge him of his enemies, Isaiah 1:24 . These he will rebuke (for every creature is at his beck and check), as he "rebuked the Red Sea and it was dried up," Psalms 106:9 , and as he rebuked the winds, Matthew 8:26 , the fever, Luke 4:39 , the devil, Matthew 7:18 , he will say unto them, Abite actutum hinc, Get you hence, and that is enough, for they are all his servants, Psalms 119:91 . He is the great Centurion, or rather Lord of hosts, that saith to this creature, "Go, and he goeth," and to another, "Come, and he cometh," &c. If he do but say, Who is on my side, who? all creatures look out at their windows, as ready prest to do his pleasure; neither is there any so mean among them, or so despicable, that cannot, if set on by him, make the proudest on earth stoop, and say, "This is the finger of God." But of this see more in the 1st Doct. on Malachi 3:18 . Let all that look for God’s blessing, either upon their persons or possessions, make their peace with God (the genealogy of grain and wine is resolved into him, Hos 2:22 ), and bring him all his tithes into the storehouse, &c., lest he blast their fair hopes, cut off the meat from their mouths, take his own and be gone, take away his grain in the time thereof, and his wine in the season thereof, &c., Hosea 2:9 . The Jews in our Saviour’s time, suis malis edocti, were punctual in paying their tithes, even to a pot herb, Matthew 23:23 . And at this day, though not in their own country, nor have a Levitical priesthood, yet those of them that would be reputed religious do distribute, in lieu of tithes, the tenth of their increase unto the poor: being persuaded that God doth bless their increase the more: for their usual proverb is, Decima ut dives fiat, tithe and be rich. Of the young Lord Harrington (the last of that name) it is reported by Mr Stock, who preached his funeral, that he constantly gave the tenth of his yearly revenue to pious and charitable uses. And of reverend Mr. Whately, minister of Banbury, it is likewise recorded in his life, that he set apart and expended for many years before he died for good uses the tenth part of his yearly comings in, both out of his temporal and ecclesiastical means of maintenance; and that he never thrived in his outward estate till he took that course. Besides the sweet comfort that the spirits of his wealth thus distilled, as it were, brought to his conscience, both in life and at death; and the blessing of a good name left behind him, according to that which follows next in the text, "And all nations," &c.
Mal 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
Ver. 12. And all nations shall call you blessed ] viz. For the abundance of outward comforts and commodities, by the which the nations measured man’s happiness, saying, "Blessed is the people that is in such a case," Psalms 144:15 . Cyprus was for this cause anciently called Macaria, that is, the blessed country, as having a sufficiency of all things within itself; and England was called Regnum Dei, the kingdom of God, or the Fortunate island, and Englishmen Deires, as that were set safe, de ira Dei, from the wrath of God. In the time of Pope Clement VI (as Robert of Avesbury testifieth), when Lewis of Spain was chosen prince of the Fortunate Islands, and for the conquest thereof was to raise an army in France and Italy; the English agent at Rome, together with his company, departed and got home, as conceiving that the prince was bound for England, than the which they thought there was not a more fortunate island in the world. Of the island of Lycia, Solinus saith that all the day long the sky is never cloudy but that the sun may be seen there, Lyciam Horatius claram dicit. Semper in sole sita est Rhodes, The Rhodes is ever in the sunshine, saith Aeneas Sylvius. And of Alexandria in Egypt, Ammianus Marcellinus observeth, that once in the day the sun hath been seen to shine over it. I confess the same cannot be said of England. I remember also what I have read of a certain Frenchman, who returning home out of England, and being asked by a countryman of his that was bound for England, what service he would command him into this country? Nothing but this, said the other; when you see the sun have me commended to him; for I have been there two months and could never see him in all that time: Per duos enim menses quibus ibi fui, Solem mihi videre non licuit (Garincieres de tabe Anglica, p. 84). Likely he was here in the deep of winter. For at summer solstice Tacitus, in the Life of Agricola, hath observed that the sun shineth continually in Brittany, and neither setteth nor riseth there; but passeth so lightly by us by night that you can scarce say we have any night at all, Ut finem atque initium lucis exiguo discrimine internoscas. But if we speak of the sunshine of God’s grace and favour, either for spirituals or temporals, as Delos is said by Solinus to have been the first country that had the sun shining upon it after the general deluge, and there hence to have had its name, Nomenque ex eo sortitam (Polyb. c. 17), so was England one of the first islands that both received Christ and that shook off Antichrist. And for temporal blessings, all nations shall call us blessed, and count us a delightsome land indeed, a land of desires, such as all men would desire to dwell in, for the exceeding fruitfulness and pleasantness of it; it being the court of Queen Ceres, the granary of the Western world, as foreign writers have termed it, the paradise of pleasure and garden of God, as our own chronicler. The truth is, we may well say of England, as the Italians do of Venice, by way of proverb: He that hath not seen it cannot believe what a dainty place it is, and he that hath not lived there some good time cannot understand the worth of it. Our Mr Ascham, schoolmaster to Queen Elizabeth, had lived there some time, and had soon enough of it; for though he admired the place, he utterly disliked the people for their loose living. And the like, alas, may be too truly affirmed of us. We live in God’s good land, but not by God’s good laws; we eat the fat and drink the sweet, but we sanctify not the Lord God in our hearts, we live not as becometh Christians. Our hearts, like our climate, have much more light than heat, light of knowledge than heat of zeal; our lukewarmness is like to be our bane, our sins our snuffs, that dim our candlestick, and threaten the removal of it. O si fiat id in nobis (saith one) quod in sole videtur, qui quibus affulserit, iis etiam calorem et colorem impertire solet! Oh that the Sun of righteousness would so shine upon us, as to warm us, and transform us into the same image from glory to glory, as by his Spirit! Oh that he would set up his own kingdom here more and more among us! Then should we be more happy than the Israelites were under the reign of King Solomon, or the Spaniards under their Ferdinand III, who reigned thirty-five years, in all which time there was neither famine nor pestilence in the land.
Mal 3:13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken [so much] against thee?
Ver. 13. Your words have been stout against me ] Or, re-enforced, or strongly confirmed. Superant me verba vestra, so some have rendered it. By your hard and hateful words you have been too hard for me, as it were. And it is as if God should say, I have given you my best advice to break off your sins, and to bring me my tithes, that I might bless you both with store and honour. But I have lost my labour; I see well, my sweet words are worse than spilt upon you, who are so hardened in your error and blasphemy, that you are still clamouring and casting out odious words against me, Proverbs 23:8 . Verba quid incassum non proficientia perdo? Once before you had set your foul mouths against me, and, like so many wolves (that were wood), you held up your heads and howled out these ugly words, "Every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them," Malachi 2:17 ; was it possible that the wit of malice could devise so high a slander? And now you are at it again, creaking like doors that move upon rusty hinges, nay, clattering and blustering out such hellish and hideous blasphemies, as at the hearing whereof it is great wonder if the heavens sweat not, earth gape not, sea roar not, all creatures conspire not to be avenged upon you; as the very stones in the wall of Aphek turned executioners of those blasphemous Syrians, when as, being but ignorant pagans, their tongues might seem no slander.
your words have been stout against me ] Yea, stouter and stouter; your wickedness frets like a canker, and increaseth still to more ungodliness, 2 Timothy 2:17 . Evil men and deceivers grow worse and worse, 2 Timothy 3:13 , as being given up by God, Romans 1:28 , acted and agitated by the devil, Ephesians 2:2 , serving divers lusts and pleasures, Titus 3:3 , which to satisfy is an endless piece of business. Neither let any here say, they were but words that these are charged with, and words are but wind, &c., for words have their weight, and are marvellously provoking. Leviter volant, sed non leviter violant. The fly lightly but they do not outrage lightly. You shall find some, saith Erasmus, that if death be threatened, can despise it; but to be belied they cannot brook, nor from revenge contain themselves. "As a murdering weapon in my bones," saith David, "mine enemies reproach me," Psalms 42:10 . Desperate speeches and blasphemies that impose upon the Lord anything unbeseeming his majesty, a thing common among the Jews even to this day, he can by no means do away with. See how God stomacheth such proud contumelious language, Psalms 73:11 ; Psa 94:4-11 Zep 1:12 Ezekiel 9:9 . See how he punished it in him that bored through his great name, Leviticus 24:11 . Ludovike, commonly called St Lewis, caused the lips of blasphemers to be scared with a hot iron. Philip, the French king, punished this sin with death, yea, though it were committed in a tavern. The very Turks have the Christians’ blaspheming of Christ in execration; and will punish their prisoners sorely when as, through impatience or desperateness, they wound the ears of heaven: yea, the Jews, in their speculations of the causes of the strange success of the affairs of the world, assign the reason of the Turks prevailing so against the Christians to be their blasphemies; and among other scandals and lets of their conversion are all those stout words darted with hellish mouths against God in their hearing, so ordinarily and openly, by the Italians especially, who blaspheme oftener than swear, and murder more often than revile or slander. Andrew Musculus, in his discourse entitled The devil of blasphemy, hath a memorable story of a desperate dice player in Helvetia, A. D. 1553, at a town three miles distant from Lucerna; where, on a Lord’s Day, three wretched fellows were playing at dice under the town wall. One of them, named Ulricus Schraeterus, having lost a great deal of money, swore that, if he lost the next cast, he would fling his dagger at the face of God. He lost it, and, in a rage, threw up his dagger with all his might toward heaven. The dagger vanished in the air, and was seen no more; five drops of blood fell down upon the table where they were playing, which could never be washed out (part of it is still kept in that town for a monument); the blasphemer, to say the best of him, was fetched away presently body and soul by the devil, with such a horrible noise, as frightened the whole town. The other two came to a miserable end shortly after. The truth of this relation is further attested by Job Fincelius and Philip Lonicerus, Theat. Histor. p. 142.
Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? ] Chald. What have we multiplied to speak before thee? As if they should say, It is not so much that we have spoken that thou shouldest make such a business of it. Nothing more ordinary with graceless men than to elevate and extenuate; great sins with them are small sins, and small sins no sins; when as every sin should swell like a toad in their eyes, and the abundant hatred thereof in their hearts should make them say all that can be said for the aggravation and detestation of it; since there is as much treason in coining pence as bigger pieces; because the supreme authority is as much violated in the one as in the other. But this sin of theirs was no peccadillo, as appeareth by the following instance:
Mal 3:14 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?
Ver. 14. Ye have said, It is vain to serve God ] Vulgate: He is vain that serves God. Ye are idle, ye are idle, said Pharaoh to the Israelites, when they would needs go sacrifice; and to Moses and Aaron, Ye let the people from their works. Anything seems due work to a carnal mind saving God’s service; that is labour lost, time cast away, they think. But this is their want of spiritual judgment; they see not the beauty of holiness, they taste not how good the Lord is; they discern not things that are excellent; they measure all by present sight, sense, and taste, as do children, swine, and other brute creatures; and, therefore, they themselves are vani et vanissimi, as an expositor here speaketh, vain, and most vain, and that for two reasons, and in two respects. First, for that they take themselves to be servers of God. Secondly, they stick in the bark, serve him with the outside only, honour him with their lips, and not with their hearts; they bring him vain oblations, empty performances, serve him with shows and formalities which he delights not in, nay, he rejects them with infinite scorn, as he did the Pharisees’ devotions, Luke 16:15 , because they were but skin deep, and not heart sprung; therefore they were not a button the better for them. God loves and looks for truth in the inward parts, Psalms 51:6 ; he looks that men should do his will from the heart, Ephesians 6:6 , and serve him in their spirits, Romans 1:9 , in doing whereof there is great reward, Psalms 19:11 praemium ante praemium, reward before the reward, that commendation of a good conscience; this the stranger meddleth not with, conceives not, the wealth of God’s pilgrims standing more in jewels and gold, things light of carnage, and well portable, than in house and land. His servants have that here that doth abundantly pay them for their pains beforehand; righteousness being its own reward; and they knowing within themselves that they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, Hebrews 10:34 . But hereafter oh the rich recompense that God shall make them! oh the heaped up happiness of such at the last! when these vain talkers in the text, and all that are of their mind, shall roar out Nos insensati, We fools counted their lives madness; but now, &c. See Trapp on " Mal 3:16 " doctr. 5.
What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance? ] The Chaldee hath it, Quod mammon adepti sumus? what mammon or wealth have we gained? Mammonists are all for gain, their very godliness is gain, still they have an eagle’s eye to the prey when they seem to fly highest toward heaven; if they may not get by God they soon grow weary of his work. Whatever shows they make of better, sure it is their belly is their god, they mind earthly things. These will follow the chase, as Jonathan, till they meet with the honeycomb; or as a cur follows his master till he meet with a carrion. These come to Christ (as that young Pharisee did) hastily, but they go away heavily; because they consider not that with the Lord are durable riches, Proverbs 8:18 ; and that godliness, as it hath many crosses, so it hath many comforts against them ( Virtus lecythos habet in malis ); like as no country hath more venomous creatures than Egypt, none more antidotes. This these sensualists, having not the Spirit, understand not; and hence their complaint of a disappointment; casting a slur upon God’s housekeeping, as those spies did upon the promised land, and ready to run back into Egypt to their flesh pots, garlic, and onions there, Numbers 11:5 ; Numbers 14:4 . Lo, this is the guise of graceless persons, with whom that is the best religion that brings greatest advantage in the things of this life. If the ark bring a blessing with it, as it did to Obed Edom, it shall be looked upon as worthy of entertainment; but if a plague of poverty come with it these Philistines will be glad to rid their hands of it. The garishness of honour, wealth, and pleasures do so dazzle their eyes, that they think it the only happiness to have and to hold. Such fools they are, and such great beasts, if David may judge, Psalms 73:22 , to fly a fool’s pitch, and to go hawking after that which cannot be had, as Solomon saith, Proverbs 23:5 ; or, if had, yet cannot be held, as being of swiftest wing, and as soon gone as a post that passeth by. Godliness hath the promise of both lives; and we read of some godly men in Scripture that were richer than any other. But God will have it sometimes to be otherwise, that godliness might be admired for itself; and to show that his people serve him not for commodity, Job 1:9 . But that none serve God for nought, no, not so much as shut a door or kindle a fire; see before, Malachi 1:10 .
That we have kept his ordinances ] Which if they had done indeed, they would never have thus bragged, much less blasphemed; they would have accused themselves, and not the Divine providence; they would have said, with holy Ezra, And this is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass; and thou, our God, hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve. Mightest thou not be justly angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? Ezra 9:13-14 . Thus the good wheat falls low at the feet of the farmer, when the chaff whiffles and flies at his face. Thus the sheep, when shorn, bleats and looks downward; whereas the hunger-bitten wolf looks up and howls against heaven. Hypocrites use to wrangle with God and expostulate the unkindness of his nonacceptance of their services, as Isaiah 58:8 "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?" God was, in their opinion, far too short and much behind with them; and, therefore, much to blame, and they must give him the telling of it: they do so; and they have their answer. So they shall have here in the following verses, and the next chapter, which ought not to be divided from this, as some conceive. They upbraid the Lord, as with their observances, so with their humiliations.
And that we have walked mournfully ] Or, in black, the habit of mourners; whence that of the heathen orator, Athenienses non nisi atrati, &c.; The Athenians are never so good as when they are all in black; that is, under some heavy affliction. And a great statesman of this kingdom had this verse written upon his study door,
“ Anglica gens est optima flens et pessima ridens. ”
Great Britain, all in black, is in its best condition. But what is it to wear sackcloth, and walk softly, with Ahab, when he had sold himself to do wickedly? 1 Kings 21:27 ; what is a humbling day without a humbled heart? not only an irreligious incongruity, but a high provocation; like Zimri’s act, when all the congregation were weeping before the door of the tabernacle. Surely God may say to such pretenders, as Isaac did to his father, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a sacrifice?" or as Jacob did to his sons that brought him the bloody coat, Lo, here is the coat, but where is my child? your garments are black, but your hearts and lives are much blacker. Go, "cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubleminded. Be afflicted," in good earnest, "and mourn" to some purpose, "and weep," soak and souse yourselves in tears of true repentance; let your sorrow for sin be deep and downright: "turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to heaviness," James 4:8-9 . And then come, let us reason together, saith the Lord. All these unkind contestations shall cease, and all loving correspondencies shall pass between us. God had said so much as all this before to them, Malachi 3:7 ; Malachi 3:10-11 . Sed surdo fabulam, their adamant was too hard to be mollified. Their bulrushes, though bowed down for a day, while some storm of trouble was upon them, was now so perked up, as if it would threaten heaven: witness their continued contumacy, their robust language in the next verse also, stouting it out still with God.
Mal 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.
Ver. 15. And now we call the proud happy ] Such as, boiling and swelling with spite and spleen against God and his people, deal arrogantly and insolently, doing wickedly with hands earnestly, Exodus 18:11 ; Exodus 21:11 , and working their own ends confidently and daringly; these we call and count happy, because wealthy and well underlaid, as they say, because they live in the height of the world’s blandishments. But the whole book of Ecclesiastes is a clear and full confutation of this fond conceit, had they but ever read or regarded it. How can the proud person be happy that hath God for his professed enemy? what was all Haman’s honour to him when the king frowned upon him? what was Ahab the better for his ivory palace, his gold, and his jewels in every place, when the heaven was brass above, the earth iron beneath? Surely God abhorreth pride as an abomination of desolation; and though he preserveth the faithful, yet sooner or later he plentifully rewardeth the proud doer, Psalms 31:23 . Like metal in the fire, when they shine brightest they are nearest to melting; and, like a bulging wall, they will shortly fall. Swelling is a dangerous symptom in the body, so is pride in the soul. Tolluntur in altum, ut lapsu graviore ruant. Neither are they, therefore, to be reputed ever a whit the more happy because they come not in trouble like other men, but prosper in their wickedness. for God is never more angry with such than when he seems best pleased. Pharaoh had fair weather made him, till he was in the midst of the sea; fatting cattle are but fitting for the meat market. Never was Jerusalem’s condition so desperate as when God said unto her, My fury shall depart from thee, I will be quiet and no more angry, Ezekiel 16:42 . Nor Ephraim’s, as when he said, "I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom." And, "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone," Hosea 4:14 ; Hosea 4:17 , sc. till I come and fetch my full blow at him. Clement of Alexandria cites Plato expressing himself thus: Although a righteous man be tormented, although his eyes be dug out, yet he remains a blessed man; and the contrary:
They that work wickedness are set up ] Heb. They are built up, sc. in posterity, and prosperity of all sorts. The Psalmist expresseth it thus: "They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes," Psalms 17:14 . Thus God built the midwives houses, that is, he gave them children, for their mercy to these newborn babes, Exodus 1:21 . Thus he builded David a house, 2 Samuel 7:12-13 . And thus those that return to the Almighty have a gracious promise that they shall be built up, Job 22:23 . That these stout and stiff stigmatics were built up and prospered, though (after so sweet an invitation) they turned not to him that smote them, we need not wonder, since it is their portion, as David showeth, all they are like to have or must ever look for. Besides, is not God the true proprietary of all? Is not the earth the Lord’s purse with the fulness thereof, and may he not do with his own as he pleaseth? Matthew 20:15 . Add hereunto that what wicked men have, they have it with a curse, and for mischief; their table is a snare to them; they are like to pay dearly for their sweet morsels, as Haman did for his wine at Esther’s banquet. Bernard calls the wicked man’s prosperity misericordiam omni indignatione crudeliorem, a misery more cruel than any adversity, Psalms 91:8 . Austin affirmeth, Nullum mare tam profundum, quam est Dei cogitatio ut mali floreant, &c.: No sea is so deep as the Divine dispensation that good men should suffer, bad men prosper. They are built up with blessings, as they say the Phoenix builds her nest with hot spices, wherein she is afterwards burned. They build as those at Babel, and feather their nests, as if their lives were riveted upon eternity; but as their foundation is laid upon kiln, so brimstone is scattered upon their habitations, Job 18:15 . If the fire of God’s wrath but touch it, all will be quickly consumed. Dioclesian, that bloody persecutor, despairing of ever rooting out the Christian religion, as he had endeavoured to do, gave over his empire in a discontent, and decreed to lead the rest of his life quietly. But he could not escape so; for, after that, his house was wholly consumed with lightning, and a flame of fire that fell from heaven, he, hiding himself for fear of the lightning, died within a little after (Euseb. de Vita Constant. lib. 5). "Their inward thought is" (saith the Psalmist of such wicked atheists) "that their houses" (honours, riches, nephews) "shall continue for ever; and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their houses after their own names"; as Cain called his newly built city of Enoch, after the name of his son, that he might leave him Lord Enoch of Enoch. "Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish," Psalms 49:11-12 . The use to be made hereof see Malachi 3:16 "Be not thou afraid when" (a wicked) "one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased."
Yea, they that tempt God are even delivered ] Still these miscreants are grunting out their grudges against God. What this sin here instanced, viz. of tempting God, is, hath been shown before. See Trapp on " Mal 3:10 " Here it is to be taken for an audacious daring of God to take vengeance, as Numbers 16:23-35 . These very worst sort of sinners are sometimes not only spared, but prospered, Jeremiah 12:1 . Their ephah is not yet full, their iniquity not found to be hateful enough yet. But the wicked is kept (by the patience of God) unto the day of destruction; and shall be brought forth to the day of wrath, as condemned malefactors are to execution, some by a back door and byways, others through the market place; so here. He that hath stolen a good horse rides gallantly mounted for present, till shortly after, followed close by hue and cry, he is soon apprehended, sentenced, and brought to condign punishment. And this is the very state of presumptuous sinners, and will be. I know well, that "because sentence is not presently executed, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are set in them to do wickedly," Ecclesiastes 8:11 . Felix scelus virtus vocatur calls evil virtue (Cicero), as we see here, The proud are called happy, because, for present, in prosperity. See the like Jer 44:11 Genesis 30:18 . Dionysius, after the spoil of an idol temple, finding the winds favourable in his navigation, Lo, said he, how the gods approve of sacrilege. But the weakness of this argument see set forth by Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:1-3 . See Trapp on " Ecc 9:1 " See Trapp on " Ecc 9:2 " See Trapp on " Ecc 9:3 " God gives outward things to the wicked no otherwise than as if a man should cast a purseful of gold into an outhouse. He gives them riches to furnish their indictment out of them; as Joseph put his cup into their sack to pick a quarrel with them and lay theft to their charge. The sunshine of prosperity ripens their sin apace, and so fits them for destruction. Let God, therefore, be justified, and every mouth stopped.
Mal 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.
Ver. 16. Then they that feared the Lord, &c. ] Then, when all flesh had corrupted their ways, Genesis 6:12 , and the whole world turned atheists. Then, when there was no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land, none to speak of, but that it was even darkened with profaneness, Hosea 4:1 ; as Egypt was with those very grievous locusts that covered the eye thereof, Exodus 10:14-15 . Then, when the faithful city was become a harlot, Isaiah 1:21-22 ; her silver turned into dross, her wine mixed with water; her people not dilute only, but dissolute; herself ex aurea facta est argentea, ex argentea ferrea, ex ferrea terrea, as one once said of Rome, of gold become silver, of silver iron, of iron earth, or rather muck.
Then they that feared the Lord ] Those few names that had not defiled their garments in so foul a season, Revelation 3:4 ; but had kept themselves unspotted of the world, undefiled in the way; so as that wicked one had not touched them, 1 John 5:18 , had not thrust his deadly sting into them, had not transformed them into sin’s image. These stood up to stickle for God, to stop the mouth of blasphemy, and to stablish one another in persuasion of God’s holy truth, and constant care of his dear children.
Spake often one to another ] Montanus renders it, Tunc vastati sunt timentes Dominum; sc. ab impiis et atheis impune eos invadentibus; that is, Then were those that feared the Lord wasted and destroyed, viz. by those wicked atheists, who fell from fierce words to bloody blows; so the word is used, 2 Chronicles 22:10 Psalms 2:5 . But this is far set, and nothing so agreeable to the mind of the Holy Ghost here, as our English, after other approved translations. It is the same word that is used Malachi 3:13 . Those spoke not so much against God as these did for him, and about him to each other, for mutual confirmation, that that which was halting haply might not be turned out of the way, but healed rather, Hebrews 12:13 . Great is the benefit of Christian conference for strengthening the weak knees, and comforting the feebleminded. "How forcible are right words!" Job 6:25 . One seasonable truth falling upon a prepared heart hath often a strong and sweet operation; as some speeches of Staupicius had upon Luther: of whom the story is told that he was much cheered up by conference with an old priest discoursing about justification by faith, and explaining the Articles of the Creed to him. Latimer, likewise, was much furthered by hearing Bilney’s confession, and having frequent conference with him at Heretics’ Hill, as the place where they most used to walk in the fields at Cambridge was called long after. Surely, as a little boat may land a man into a large continent; so may a few good words suggest matter sufficient for a whole life’s meditation. This Satan well knows, and, therefore, as he did what he could to keep God and Daniel asunder, Daniel 6:7 , so he doth still to keep the saints one from another, that they may not build up themselves in their most holy faith, pray in the Holy Ghost, pull one another out of the fire, Judges 1:20 ; Judges 1:23 . How were the apostles persecuted for their Christian meetings; the primitive Christians banished and confined to isles and mines, where they could not have access one to another, as Cyprian complains; the poor saints here in times of Popery, meeting as they could for mutual edification; and, therefore, accused of sedition; for prevention whereof it was ordained that, if men should flock secretly together above the number of six, they should be attached of treason; so the Protestants at Milcenburg, in Germany, were forbidden upon pain of death to speak together of Scripture matters (Luth. Epist.). And at Nola, the Jesuits straitly charged the people not to talk of God, either in good sort or in bad. See more of this in my treatise on these words, called The Righteous Man’s Recompence, chap. iv. doctrine 3, annexed to this commentary.
And the Lord hearkened and heard ] He not only heard, but hearkened, or listened; Gestus hic est diligenter auscultantis, Isaiah 32:3 . It imports, not only attention of body, but intention of mind (as when a man listeneth as for life, and makes hard shift to hear all), and retention of memory. For which purpose also a book of remembrance is here said to be written before him, or by his appointment. Liber monumenti, A book of acts and monuments, in allusion to the custom of kings: see Esther 2:23 . Tamerlane, that warlike Scythian, had always by him a catalogue of the names and good deeds of his servants, which he daily perused, and whom he duly rewarded; not needing by them, or any others in their behalf, to be put in remembrance. Much less doth the Lord, who bottles up the tears of his people, files up their prayers, puts all their holy speeches and practices on record, that he may make all honourable mention of them at the last day, in that great amphitheatre, that general assembly; not once remembering any of their misdeeds, Mat 25:35 Hebrews 8:12 . See more of this in the Righteous Man’s Recompence, chap. v., vi.
And that thought upon his name ] That had God before their eyes, Psalms 10:8 , that minded his glory, 1 Corinthians 10:31 , that thought upon his commandments to do them, Psalms 102:18 ; that can truly say, with the Psalmist, "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!" Psalms 139:17 . See more of this verse in my Righteous Man’s Recompence, chap. vii. doct. 16.
Mal 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.
Ver. 17. And they shall be mine ] By peculiar right: Et suum cuique pulchrum: we all affect and admire our own things most. God chooseth them for his love; and loves them for his choice. I will be a Father unto them; and they shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty, 2 Corinthians 6:18 , which is all one with that here, "They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts." Concerning all which see my Righteous Man’s Recompence, Part II chap. i. iii.
In the day when I make up my jewels ] viz. From the world’s malignities and misusages. They shall not plunder him of his jewels, rob him of his chief treasure. None shall take or pluck them out of Christ’s hands, John 10:29 , they that attempt it shall find it a work not seizable. When one desired to see Great Alexander’s treasure, he bade one of his servants show him not his gold and silver, but his friends. "Henceforth I call you not servants … but I have called you friends," John 15:15 . And a friend is as a man’s own soul, Deuteronomy 13:6 . The Church is the dearly beloved of God’s soul, Jeremiah 12:7 , yea, his dearly beloved soul, as the Septuagint and Vulgate render it, &c. See my Righteous Man’s Recompence, Part II chap. ii.
And I will spare them ] Or, indulge them, as David did Mephibosheth, 2 Samuel 21:7 . See my Righteous Man’s Recompence, Part II. chap. iv., v.
Mal 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.
Ver. 18. Then shall ye return and discern ] You wicked blasphemers, that have slandered God’s housekeeping, and brought up an evil report of his providence and justice; as if in managing the matters of the world he were less equal or less careful: you, I say, shall return, not to your right minds by a thorough conversion, by an entire change of the whole man, from evil to good (alas for your misery, it is past time of day with you for any such good works); but you shall alter your opinions when your eyes are once unsealed by the extremity of your sufferings (as the mole’s eyes are said to be, when pangs of death are upon her), to see and acknowledge a sensible difference between the righteous (ever more "excellent than his neighbour," let him dwell where he will, Proverbs 12:26 , because "sealed up to the day of redemption" Eph 4:30 ), and the wicked, who is but a vile person, an ουτος (let him be great as Antiochus Epiphanes the great King of Syria); between him that serveth God, accounting it the highest honour to be his vassal, as Constantine, Theodosius, and Valentinian (the emperors) called themselves Daniel 11:21 , Vasallos Christi repersentives of Christ (Socrat.), and him that serveth him not, but casteth off the yoke of his obedience, being a son of Belial; and counteth it the only liberty to live as he wishes, and not to be ruled by God.
Then shall ye return ] Then, when it is too late, when the day of grace is past, the gales of grace gone over, the gate shut, the drawbridge taken up. Then shall ye, wretched lingerers and loiterers, Epimetheuses, experts in hindsight, wise after the fact, that come in at length with your fool’s Had-I-know, return; not as the prodigal did, who seasonably and savingly came to himself, Luke 15:17 , having been before utterly bestraught, and quite beside himself, by the deceitfulness of sin, called foolishness of madness, Ecclesiastes 7:25 ; nor as those true converts mentioned in Solomon’s prayer, that bethink themselves and repent, and make supplication to their judge, 1 Kings 8:47 ; but as Judas, who, while he played alone, won all, but haunted with the furies of a guilty conscience, which would needs make one with him, he repented after a sort, with a poenitentia sera Iscariotica, as Pareus calleth it, had some after thoughts, but not to a transmentation; μεταμεληθεις , Matthew 27:3 ; some inward wamblings, but they boiled not up to the full height of a godly sorrow, and therefore came to nothing. Or, is James Abbes, with his hideous All too late, all too late; so these wicked ones in the text, when they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, and themselves thrust out; Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and themselves in the burning lake; Christ’s poor despised fellow sufferers shining "forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," and themselves cast out into outer darkness, Matthew 13:43 ; then shall they change both their mind and their note; then shall their odious blasphemies be driven back again down their throats, and then made to say, with Pharaoh, Exodus 9:27 "The Lord is righteous," and so are all his people, Isaiah 60:21 , but I and mine associates are wicked, and therefore deservedly wretched. We once counted the proud happy, but now we see that of David verified which erst we believed not: "Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed," for that they "erred from thy commandments,"Psalms 119:21; Psalms 119:21 . We looked upon the righteous as calamitous, as worms and no men; as the nullificamen populi (Tertullian’s expression), fit to be set with the dogs of the flock, and as the offscouring of all things; but now we can vote with that man of God and say, "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and the sword of thine excellency? and thine enemies are now found liars unto thee, for thou treadest upon their high places," when they are trodden underfoot as unsavoury salt, Deuteronomy 33:29 . Woe unto us spoilers! for now we are spoiled. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who can abide with everlasting burnings?" Isaiah 33:1 ; Isaiah 33:14 Jeremiah 4:13 . Behold, the day is come that burneth as an oven, Malachi 4:1 , and we are now "as stubble fully dried," that it may burn the better, Nahum 1:10 . We are put away (even all the wicked of the earth) like dross, Psalms 119:119 , thrust away as thorns, 2 Samuel 23:6 , placed as vile things under Christ’s feet, Psalms 110:1 . When the righteous shine as bright as silver upon the celestial shelf (as that martyr, John Careless, said), and surpass us as far as the lily doth the thorns, Song of Solomon 2:2 , or as the gold doth the coals in the goldsmith’s shop; yea, they are the throne of Christ, Exodus 17:16 , his jewels, Malachi 3:17 , his ornament, the beauty of his ornament, and that set in majesty, Ezekiel 7:20 , a royal diadem on the head of Jehovah, Isaiah 62:3 ; and so they shall one day appear to be, though now they do not, 1 John 3:2 ; it shall be no hard matter to discern them.
Between the righteous and the wicked ] Here they are together in the Church militant, and ever have been. "Sinners in Zion," Isa 33:14 sacrificing Sodomites, Isaiah 1:10 , a devil in Christ’s family, John 13:10 . All men have not faith, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 , all the Lord’s people are not holy, Numbers 16:3 , that any are it is a just wonder. "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" Job 15:14 . None are so but such as are arrayed with that fine white linen and shining, the righteousnesses of the saints, Revelation 19:8 , that twofold righteousness, imputed and imparted, of justification and of sanctification. See both, 1 Corinthians 6:11 , and seek after both by Christ’s merit and Spirit, by his value and virtue. He is Jehovah our righteousness, Jeremiah 23:5 , and of his fulness ye all receive, John 1:16 . He it is that makes us to differ from the wicked of the world, that have hearts full of hell, and are ever either hatching cockatrice’s eggs, or, at best, weaving spider’s webs; vanity or villany is their whole practice. The best among them would serve God, and yet retain their lusts too; as Solomon thought he could follow sinful pleasures, and yet keep his wisdom. And with such we must converse while in this world. Tares will be with the wheat, goats among the sheep, righteous and wicked together. God permits it so to be for the glory of his free grace, and for the trial and exercise of his people. Our care must be the greater; for evil men endanger good men, as weeds do the corn, as bad humours the blood, or an infected house the neighbourhood. We must resolve, as Joshua, to serve the Lord, howsoever; because a difference shall be one day set between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. Where we see, that not serving of God, not sacrificing, is a sin, Ecclesiastes 9:2 . Not robbing only, but the not relieving of the poor was the rich man’s ruin. Not gluttony only, but overmuch abstinence may overthrow the body. Omission of diet breeds diseases; so doth omission of duties; and makes work for hell, or for the Physician of our souls. "Let us therefore have grace, whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear," Hebrews 12:28 . Serve him as old Zechariah in his canticle saith we should do, Luke 1:74-75 . First, out of sense of his dear love in our deliverance by Christ; whereinto the deeper we dive the sweeter. This will make us love to be his servants, Isaiah 56:7 "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," Romans 12:12 , Servati sumus ut serviamus. Secondly, serve him without fear, slavish fear; serve him with a holy security, in full assurance of his gracious assistance and acceptance; yea, though through infirmity we miss or mar his work, yet he will spare us, Malachi 3:17 . Thirdly, serve him in holiness and righteousness, in all parts and points of duty; show your integrity both for subject and object; not picking or choosing your work, nor sticking at anything, but willing in all things to please God. He doth not God’s, but his own will, that doth no more than himself will. Fourthly, serve him sincerely, in holiness and righteousness (before him, or, as in his presence). Set the Lord ever at your right hand; look him full in the face, approve your hearts and lives unto him, do him but eye service, and it sufficeth. Fifthly, serve him constantly, all the days of your lives, hire yourselves to him for term of life; why should you desire to shift or fleet? where can you mend yourselves, either for fairness of work or fulness of wages? "Can the son of Jesse give you vineyards," &c., said Saul to his servants; so may God say, Can the world do for you as I both can and will if you cleave to me with full purpose of heart? Sure it cannot, &c.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Malachi 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27