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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Malachi 3

Verses 1-3

Malachi 3:1-3

Interpreting this prediction by the event, let us read what it says,

I. As to the manner of the Saviour's coming. (1) He was to come announced by a forerunner. (2) He was to come to fulfil a great commission. (3) He was to come suddenly.

II. Consider what is said of a certain work that the Messiah was coming to accomplish. Looking into the text, we find that it sets before us: (1) The severity of the trials through which Christians may be called to pass. It is a trial by fire. Fire is the symbol of all that our nature most shrinks from, yet it is the symbol of what our nature must pass through. (2) The agency by which the trial is wrought. It is the Lord; therefore let no man's heart fail him: "He" shall do all this. ( a ) He alone appoints it. ( b ) He alone effects it. ( c ) He is present all through the operation of the trial. (3) The utility of the trial. ( a ) It is a sign of preciousness. You never try that which is unquestionably worthless. Do you cast a stone into the crucible? Do you winnow chaff? Do you plough a rock? While the Refiner is subjecting dross to the high heat of adversity, it is only because, mixed with it, He detects a Divine particle which cost the sacrifice of Calvary, which transcends the worth of worlds, and which is destined to shine for ever. ( b ) It is a test of genuineness. Trial is the grand revealer of character, the certain analyst of life. There are depths of undiscovered character in us all. "No man knows what he is until he is tried." ( c ) It is a medium of purification. The dust, the stones, the grains of sand which fire finds in the silver it will not leave there. ( d ) It is a preparative for service. Powers of great usefulness can be educated in no other way. Powers of endurance are unknown, where there has been nothing to endure. Powers of rule belong alone to those who have learned to rule by learning to obey. ( e ) It is the precursor of glory. Cling to the joyful creed, so radiantly distinct in our Gospel revelation, that trial alone belongs to earth, glory alone belongs to heaven; that, "absent from the body," the soul is at once "present with the Lord."

C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 175.

References: Malachi 3:1-3 . W. Jay, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 37. Malachi 3:1-4 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 397. Malachi 3:2 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 31; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 289; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 133.

Verse 3

Malachi 3:3

Under the image of the text is symbolized the whole course of the sanctification of the elect, until, through the searching discipline of God, they attain the perfection to which they are predestined Our Lord's Passion has caused an entire revolution in the experiences and views of mankind. As the Cross, once an object accursed, is now elevated among material forms to be the object of highest reverence; even so suffering in the flesh, from being regarded as the mark of Divine displeasure, is become a means of closest union with God, a seal of His love, a law of highest sanctity. The laws which regulate our purification move along two different lines, each having its counterpart in the passion of our Lord.

I. One form of spiritual chastening is found in the internal discipline, the self-imposed effort involving secret pain, with which the soul, strengthened by the grace of God, subdues its natural emotions in meeting and overcoming trial. To nerve our hearts and overcome in the hour of temptation, and choose the higher course, is the very condition of our sanctification.

II. The outward circumstances in which we are placed have, moreover, their own special office as a further means of spiritual chastening. We are girt about with innumerable influences, from which we cannot escape, which act upon us unceasingly from hour to hour. The fall has caused that close fellowship, that keen sensibility, which were to have been the rich enhancement of every pure joy, to be the occasions of a searching discipline, and ofttimes the aggravations of suffering, in proportion to the prevalence of sin and the multiform workings of our common infirmity.

III. Two incidental results from the imagery employed in the text, to strengthen and encourage the soul in its course of trial. (1) It may have been that the custom of the refiner watching the furnace, to see his face reflected on the surface of the burning mass, as the test of its attaining the required purity, was in the mind of the Spirit when selecting this image, to denote the mystery of our sanctification. Such a custom is a beautiful exemplification of the momentous truth that the object of all spiritual discipline is the restoration of the likeness of God. (2) Silver, in its pure state, is the brightest of all metals. The selection of silver in the text conveys the blessed promise of the exceeding glory with which, even now, humanity is being clothed, as it passes out of great tribulation, its robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 275.

I. Look first at the process: "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and purge them as gold and silver." From this we see clearly that one important truth is assumed, and that is the inherent preciousness of man. That which is not of more or less value no one will take the pains to purify. The Scriptures nowhere, from the beginning, allow you to suppose that they treat man as an insignificant creature. When they introduce him at first it is in great stateliness, as the crown and flower of creation, the last in the ascending series of earthly creatures, and the best. When he fell from holiness and happiness he did not fall from his lordship. That still remained, though often sadly perverted and degraded, a lordship of tyranny and wrong.

Our Saviour constantly and anxiously keeps man to the front and at the top of all other things. He set His seal upon the infinite worth of man by taking his nature. The cradle of Bethlehem is the mirror in which man can see his own face as the image of the invisible God. If we were worthless Christ would not sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He sees the dross, and He sees the metal, and He does not cast away the metal because of the dross, but He seeks to cast out the dross from the metal.

II. "He shall purify." Here we see the great aim and purpose of the Gospel. So far as man's own life and character are concerned, there is no other of higher end that the Gospel can contemplate than this our purification. This is the end of our Saviour's incarnation, the end of His teaching, the end of His atoning death, the end of His intercession, the end of all His discipline and providence with respect to us; this is His will, even our sanctification.

It is clear, from the words of our text, that among the agencies through means of which this purity is to be accomplished, one is that of trial trial as if by fire. It is an unspeakable joy to the Christian to know that, as he must be tried in the fire, he is to be tried under the eye, and hand, and heart of his Saviour. We know that a process over which He presides will be conducted with infinite wisdom. He alone knows the nature of the evil which has to be separated, and He alone knows the kind of trials to send.

E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 72.

References: Malachi 3:3 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1575; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 329; F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v., p. 205.

Verse 6

Malachi 3:6

We can all of us, perhaps, look back to occasions when, if God had been pleased suddenly to call us away, in the state in which we were living at that moment, we could only have put our hands upon our lips and confessed that the sentence was perfectly just. Why are we here, the survivors of the thousands and tens of thousands who have gone before us? Every one will at once say, "It is the long-suffering of God." But why is He long-suffering?

The solution which the prophet, or rather which God Himself, gives of this matter is twofold one sovereignty "I am the Lord;" and the other unchangeableness, "I change not."

I. The sovereignty of God is a subject full of comfort to a balanced mind. It lays the base of every man's salvation in the free electing power of God, which is manifested to the individual soul by the outgoings of the Holy Spirit producing certain emotions and feelings in the man's mind. Therefore it is that God loves us with such an unwearied love, because His love preceded our love, and He loved us from all eternity. Sovereignty is the cause of forbearance. Mercy is, by the consent of all nations, the prerogative of the throne. Christ is exalted that He may give remission of sins. His cross justifies the act of forgiveness, and His throne makes it.

II. "I change not." In the hand of God there is a chart laid down and accurately mapped before the foundation of this world was laid. Nothing occurs in this earth which is not the transcript of that chart. It comes from one mind it is wrought out by one man it illustrates one truth, and it reaches to one appointed end. Changing pilgrims through this changing scene, fix your eyes upon the changeless. Rest yourselves on these two grand ideas the foundation of all life and of all peace for ever, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 236.

References: Malachi 3:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 1; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 307; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 461; vol. v., p. 332; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 447; F. Silver, Ibid., vol. x., p. 221.

Verse 7

Malachi 3:7

I. This is one of those verses which show most clearly and graciously the forethought of our heavenly Teacher, in providing for us the Old Testament: (1) in that words spoken on a particular occasion to the Jews are made to convey a heavenly warning and message to Christians of all generations at all times; (2) in that Almighty God here, as in many other places, furnishes comfort and instruction beforehand to that bitterest of cares and doubts, the care and doubt which must hang over those who feel that they have grieved His Spirit, received in baptism, by wilful sin, and having been partakers of the heavenly gift, have fallen away and trodden Christ, His grace, His warnings, His example, under foot.

II. "Wherein shall we return?" Instead of submitting at once to God's reproof, the Jews of Malachi's time make answer, and pretend to argue the matter with Him; they go on as if they did not understand what was said, as if their conscience did not smite them at all. The reply in the text, "Wherein shall we return?" may be taken in the like sense, as if they who were reproved were not aware of any particular reason why they should be called to repentance. Or it may be understood in a milder and better meaning, as spoken by a person really in doubt, wishing to repent, but hardly knowing how to begin. Either way, it is a manner of speaking and thinking which one meets with every day in our times. For the benefit of both sorts of answerers, God's wisdom has condescended to point out, by what follows in the prophet, the right course to be pursued. The particular sin which he here reproves in them is their robbing God of His tithes; and when they say, "Wherein shall we return?" this is His Divine command, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house," etc. That is, Make a courageous effort and force yourself to do those things which are most contrary to the particular sins against which conscience warns you. Do not stand waiting and hesitating, and asking how you must set about the work of repentance, but at once begin exercising yourself in whatever most contradicts the bad tendencies which you cannot help being aware of. Only let us begin courageously and at once, and persevere humbly and patiently; for the journey is great for us, the time is short, and we, alas! are far behind.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. iv., p. 311.

References: Malachi 3:7 . M. Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 286; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 176; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times, " vol. x., p. 231; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p. 236.

Verse 8

Malachi 3:8

I. (1) Heaven is not the only domain of God's vast property. All here on earth belongs to Him as well. If all belongs to God, then comes in the liability to commit robbery against Him. For, it may be, that there shall be no general habitual sense and acknowledgment of His sovereign claims; no feeling that all does so belong. This is the comprehensive spirit and principle of the wrong toward Him, and will go into many special forms; this state of mind is a general refusal to acknowledge His law. (2) Coming to a more particular account of what may justly be called "robbing God," we may say that it is so, for anything to be suffered to have a stronger power over us than His will, so that that shall obtain from us what His will obtains not; whether it be our own inclinations or the opinions of men or the spirit, customs, example of the world.

II. A few plain particulars should be specified of what we cannot withhold from God without this guilt. (1) One plainly at first sight is, a very considerable proportion of thought concerning Him. (2) Fear, of the deepest, most solemn kind, is due to God. (3) Will a man refuse the gentler affections love, gratitude, humble reliance? These affections are to be given to go out to something. And are they just to go out to a few inferior objects close around us, and stop there, quite absorbed? Is it to the perfect excellence, the supreme goodness, the transcendent beauty, that the soul of man is to be indifferent and insensible? (4) Each and every precept of God's law tells of something we may refuse Him, namely, obedience; and a temptation stands close by each.

III. It is not for His own sake (in any sense intelligible to us) that God requires our homage, service, and obedience. It is for our sake; because all the things He requires will be for our good, here or hereafter, not only because He will so, but by the nature of the case. To be conformed to the will of God, to be delighted in performing services to Him, to be animated with the love of holiness and all that is good, and hatred of sin this would be to be happy (in heaven itself), and therefore required. In robbing God men iniquitously and fatally rob themselves.

J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 339.

References: Malachi 3:8 . W. Baird, The Hallowing of our Common Life, p. 22.Malachi 3:8-18 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 293.

Verse 10

Malachi 3:10

I. God has ever connected the enjoyment and use of certain blessings with the observance of His ordinances, and with obedience to His requirements.

II. Although God has thus connected blessedness with obedience, and with the observance of His ordinances, the people of God have often neglected them, neglected institutions founded for their benefit and neglected Divine precepts and prohibitions.

III. Such neglect often brings spiritual adversity and sometimes exposes to sore affliction.

IV. Our awaking to the knowledge that we have not all that God has promised, and to the consciousness of spiritual adversity, should be immediately followed by searchings of heart.

V. The discovery of the neglect and the disobedience as the cause of our particular adversity should be instantly followed by supplying the omission. To this God speaks by the text, "Prove Me." Prove Me, not by asking Me for some new commandment but by obeying the old neglected commandment not by seeking new paths, but by returning to the old paths.

S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 4th series, No. 2.

References: Malachi 3:10 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 362; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 329. Malachi 3:14 . Fountain, Aug. 5th, 1880.

Verse 16

Malachi 3:16

In the text the prophet describes the method used by good men to confirm themselves in their faith. "They that feared the Lord," he says, "spake often one to another." It was their surest means, by God's grace, of resisting the temptation, of their enemy, and so it is ours. It was the greatest earthly blessing of their lives, and so it is of ours. An earthly blessing indeed it ought scarcely to be called, for it reaches from earth to heaven. The communion of saints which is begun here will go on for ever and ever; only that whereas now they who fear the Lord speak to one another of Him, hereafter He will himself join their company, and they shall be one with Him and in the Father.

It has been well observed, that when Christ sent forth His seventy disciples during His own lifetime to preach the Gospel through the cities of Judah, He sent them forth two and two together. What the Apostles needed in their journeys as preachers of the Gospel, we need equally on our journey through life. The great object for which Christians were formed into a Church or society was that they might afford to one another a mutual comfort and support. But even where the feelings of Christian brotherhood were strongest towards the whole society of Christians, still there was room for individual friendships of a yet closer kind; where the comfort and support would be yet dearer and more effectual.

I. Consider the support comfort to be derived from our communion with the Church or society of Christians. Every Christian ought to feel that between himself and a man who is also a Christian there is a natural connexion of the closest kind. How often do we see that similarity of tastes in some worldly matters bring two persons together, in spite of every difference of station, of manners, and even of general character. How much more should this be the case, when the point of agreement is that one thing needful, in comparison with which everything else fades into nothing!

II. The text should be true of the society of Christians in general, but it is, and ought to be, much more so of those who take sweet counsel together, and are bound to one another by the closest ties of personal friendship. He who is without Christian friends loses the most powerful earthly instrument by which he is saved from temptation and encouraged to good. Few men, if any, can keep their hearts fixed as they ought to do, on God and on Christ. They cannot encourage as they should do the workings of the Holy Spirit within them, without sometimes speaking out of the abundance of their heart, and pouring forth to others the thoughts which most engross them. Therefore it is the interest, and if it be the interest in spiritual matters it is the duty, of every Christian to endeavour to secure the blessing of a Christian friend.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 190.

I. The prophet Malachi lived some time after the restoration of the Jews to their own country, and the building of the second temple, when they had been brought back from the captivity in Babylon. He was the last of all the prophets, and flourished about four hundred years before the coming of Christ. Of this period of four hundred years, therefore, the Bible tells us nothing; nor, as far as the Jews are concerned, can we learn much about it from any other quarter. We know only that they were left during this time just under similar circumstances to those in which we ourselves are living now. I mean, that they were left in a state of trial, to see how far they would make use of the means of grace already given; that the revelation of God was for the time completed; miracles were at an end and prophecies were at an end; there was in their hands the volume of the Law and the Prophets, and in that written word alone were they to seek for the knowledge of God's will. At the same time they were taught to look forward to some future day when God should again visit them in a more open manner, and should establish a state of things far better and more perfect than that which actually existed. We see at once how exactly this corresponds with the condition in which we ourselves are placed now. The history of the Bible mentions further a third case similar to the two which I have noticed: the state, namely, of the Jews, for another period of nearly three hundred years, from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the ministry of Samuel.

II. Twice then already have the servants of God had their term of patient waiting; twice have they had to struggle with the temptations of the world, with no other weapons than the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And twice has experience shown that their faith and their struggles were not in vain; and that the Lord in whom they trusted was able and willing to save them to the uttermost. If we are longer waiting for the fulfilment of the promise, yet its language is more positive and clear than it ever was before, and the blessings to which it directs our hope are of a nature far more valuable. He who looks for complete certainty and the removal of every difficulty in the way of our belief in Christ, is confounding earth and heaven together. There we shall enjoy perfect knowledge, and our service will be one of untroubled love; but here we must walk by faith, not by sight, and the enemy of our souls will never cease his assaults against them.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 181.

Religious conversation.

I. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another." (1) Then. The context tells us that the time spoken of was an evil time. So prevalent was sin, so bold, and apparently so prosperous, that people were beginning to say, "It is vain to serve God." (2) " They that feared the Lord." It is a sufficient description of the good, be they many or few, that they are those who fear God. In times of difficulty and discouragement they spake often one to another. It does not expressly say what about; but it is implied that they spoke to one another as those that feared the Lord; as those who had a common cause, and that common cause the cause of good, the cause of God. They tried the experiment of sympathy, of combined counsel, and combined action too.

II. Religious conversation should begin in God's worship. Here at least we can communicate one with another on the common basis of the fear of God, and take in large supplies of strength and faith at the very Fountain-head of both.

III. Another way in which all who fear God ought also to speak often one to another is in the privacy of true friendship, when to one faithful ear you can confide something of your personal difficulties and temptations, and exchange that sympathy which is always strengthening, even where it may seem to be rather the confession of weakness.

IV. "The Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him." Let us remember that for every idle word we speak we shall give account in the day of judgment. Of all the sayings written down from Christ's lips in the Book of God, none surely is so terrible in its sound as that which declares: "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 316.


I. The comfort and value of Christian friendship. Who is there that has ever analyzed his emotions that has not felt how large a portion of his joys spring from the fount of sympathy? In solitariness there is no happiness; and there is hardly to be found in Scripture a more touching exhibition of the solicitude of our Divine Parent for our happiness than is to found in these words: "God setteth the solitary in families." The friendships of the world are bound only by the ropes of selfish sand, and mayhap, when reliance strains upon them, will give way. But the blessed communion of saints is formed of the golden links of a holy love and godly principle. A friendship which coheres by virtue of a mutual love of Christ can never be sundered.

II. The prevailing power of intercessory prayer. Herein it is that Christian friendships are so incomparably superior to the friendships of the world. Happy is the man who can reckon among his friends one, two, three, who are in favour with God, and who can go with him and for him to the throne of grace, and who have interest, so to speak, in the court of heaven. When the secrets of this mysterious world are laid open at a future day we shall be astonished to find what the intercessory prayers of the "hidden ones" have done, and how kings and statesmen, how churches and pulpits, have been influenced by the electric touches of these secretly spoken supplications which have gone up from the hearts of kneeling cottagers, and have entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.

R. Glover, By the Waters of Babylon, p. 91.

I. Godliness is here presented as the firm basis of confederation and communion.

II. The godly spoke (1) of God's holy name; (2) of His awful power; (3) of His precious promises; (4) of His immutable truth.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 20.

Reference: Malachi 3:16 . W. Arnot, Good Words, 1862, p. 441.

Verses 16-17

Malachi 3:16-17

There are three main features of this description in the text.

I. The book of remembrance. Probably the rudiment of this idea is to be found in Ezra 6:1-5 . There was a roll found on a critical occasion, "in the palace which is in the province of the Medes," the remembrance of which the Jews would not willingly let die. But what chiefly concerns us is the fundamental thought. The Lord knew these men by name. Those who, like them, stake all on fidelity to God, who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, are the upper ten thousand of the universe, the peerage of heaven, through eternity.

II. There is the recognition of their sonship. "I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."

III. The day shall come when the book shall be brought forth, when the names shall be read out before an assembled universe, and shall shine as headstones of beauty in the new creation through eternity.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 29.

The text is an evident and happy illustration of the advantages of Christian fellowship. It would appear that in the olden time Christian fellowship, or the communion of saints, was: (1) commonly practised; (2) divinely noticed; (3) blessed by reward.

I. One great purpose of the Saviour's incarnation and of the call and authority of His disciples was to establish a Gospel Church. The central thought the great necessity of churchmanship is union with Christ, participation in the benefit of His dying, transformation through the influence of His Spirit. But this spiritual change is effected in human hearts. Human hearts have in them chords of sympathy and a strong social instinct, so that, by inevitable and congenial affinity, like will yearn for like. Hence arises organization, the gathering together of those who think alike, who acknowledge the same supreme obligation, who are inspired by the same majestic hope, and who travel to the same assured and glorious recompense of reward.

II. (1) One purpose which seems essentially involved in the possession of spiritual Christianity is the bearing witness for Christ. This would seem to necessitate an organized system of testimony. (2) Another thing which seems to necessitate Church membership is respect for the memory of Christ; and for the ordinances which He appointed of perpetual obligation in His Church. His object was to separate a people, not merely as the recipients of His truth, but as the instruments of its extension, and at once its depositary and its herald. He appointed, moreover, initiatory and confirmatory sacraments: Baptism as the gate of entrance; the Eucharist as the banquet of the faithful, and as the renewal of the consecrating vow. But the sacraments are dispensed in the Church, and in the Church only. (3) Again, the Church exists for purposes of spiritual aggression. She is to preach the Gospel of the kingdom for a witness unto all nations. It is manifest that this work, to which its charter of incorporation binds it, can be accomplished only by associated efforts. It is our duty to avow ourselves of the Church rather than of the world, and to throw in whatever we possess of energy, and influence, and zeal with one or other of the troops which are displaying the common standard of the Cross.

W. Morley Punshon, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 267.

Reference: Malachi 3:16 , Malachi 3:17 . W. Arnot, Good Words, 1862, p. 443.

Verse 17

Malachi 3:17

I. Notice the finding of the jewel. Just as the diamond and the gold are hidden among the rocks and earth, mud and sand, and are only found by great labour and trouble, so God's jewels are lost and hidden among vile sins and earthly habits, and shut up in hard, stony hearts; it is with great trouble He discerns them. He sent His Son down from heaven to seek His lost jewels; and He had to come and work in the muddy river-beds and in the dark earth and rocky mines to find them.

II. The fashioning of the jewel. Jesus finds His jewels and snatches them out of their sins, but they are not yet fit to be worn by God. He has to give them over to a most skilful Artificer who purifies and polishes them, and forms them into jewels fit for God to wear. This is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit uses a great variety of means to fashion God's jewels: (1) Water; water is used to cleanse the diamond and the gold. What is the water which the Holy Ghost uses? It is the Word (Ephesians 5:25-27 ). (2) Fire; the fire which the Holy Spirit uses is affliction. Affliction melts hearts, and then they flow into God's mould.

III. The wearing of the jewel. Kings and great people who have many jewels keep most of them locked fast; but on great occasions, such as a coronation day, they bring them all out. So there is a day coming when God is to gather together all His jewels and wear them before all eyes. (1) He will rejoice in the beauty of His jewels. (2) He will rejoice in them as a display of His wealth of love.

J. Stalker, The New Song, p. 131.

References: Malachi 3:17 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 403; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 295; H. V. Macdona, Penny Pulpit, No. 568; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 447; vol. iv., p. 311.Malachi 3:18 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1415.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Malachi 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary".