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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Malachi 4

 

 

Verse 1

Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Ver. 1. For, behold, the day cometh] This chapter should not be divided from the former; for here God’s different dealing with the righteous and the wicked, proposed in the former verse, is further amplified by various effects of Christ’s coming in the flesh. And if any ask, saith an interpreter, how this was verified of that his first coming? we answer, It was an initial or incipient stage, and by way of preparation, then; and shall be consummate in the day of the last judgment. This day comprehendeth all that time that is called by the apostle, "the ends of the world," 1 Corinthians 10:11, and "the world to come," Hebrews 2:5; all the administrations of Christ’s kingdom, from his incarnation to the end of all things, which also is at hand, and, as it were, under view already. "Behold, the day," that notable day, so long looked for by the Jews, who boasted of a Redeemer, and promised themselves all possible comforts then: Tunc enim Deus nos dignabitur clarissima visione, saith Jachiades on Daniel 12:4, tunc intelligemus res ipsas prout sunt: Then shall we have a most clear vision of things as they are, &c. Lo, that day cometh; not such a day as you imagined, but like that in Amos, "A day of darkness, and not light: even very dark, and no brightness in it," Amos 5:20. A day that shall burn like an oven; Nebuchadnezzar’s oven, seven times more heated than it was wont, Daniel 3:19. This day is come, the end is come, it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come, Ezekiel 7:6. It was fulfilled in part upon this people at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and their miserable exile ever since for their unbelief. Howbeit, all these are but the beginning of sorrows; their present sorrows but a typical hell, "the pile whereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of fire, doth kindle it," Isaiah 30:33. It is said to be "prepared for the devil and his angels," Matthew 25:41, as if the all-powerful wisdom did deliberate, and, as it were, sit down and devise most tormenting temper, for that most formidable fire. The fire of the last day shall surely be very terrible, when all the world shall be on ablaze with fire, and wicked men shall give account with flames about their ears, with the elements melting and falling like scalding lead or burning bell metal on their heads. But all this will be but a shadow or spark of that fire of hell, the smoke whereof ascendeth for ever and ever, Revelation 19:3. Some have held the fire of hell to be no true material; and corporeal fire but metaphorical, of a type known to God. qualem novit Deus. The most conspire in the contrary tenet; because bodies are to be punished by it. How spirits are also thus tormented, as the rich glutton’s, Luke 16:24, Austin sits down and admires the mystery; he tells us that for vehemence of heat it exceeds our fire, as far as ours doth fire that is painted on a wall (De Civ. Dei, lib. 21, c. 10). I would we had not cause to complain that preaching of hell is but as the painting of fire; which men can look on and handle without harm or fear. Surely he that observes the impiety of this age may say to us, as Cato did to Caesar, Credo, quae de inferis dicuntur, falsa existimas, I believe you think hell to be a very fable, Esse aliquos manes nec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum aere lavantur (Juven.).

And all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, &c.] Those proud whom you pronounced happy, Malachi 3:15, because jolly, and full of worldly prosperity, rich and renowned; those workers of wickedness, whom you looked upon as set up, built upon a firm basis: God shall abase every one that is lifted up, he shall repay the wicked doer to his face, Deuteronomy 7:10, and into his bosom, Isaiah 65:6. Whatever arrows are in the bow string will one day fly and hit, and strike deep. They shall be as stubble, saith the text, as stubble that is fully dried, Nahum 1:10, even when they be folden together as thorns. "Who would set these briers and thorns against me in battle?" saith the Lord: "I would go through them, I would burn them together," Isaiah 27:4. Did he not deal so by Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Herod, the primitive persecutors? &c. Those mighty Magnificos that here seemed fortes, ferrei, et aenei, strong, and made up, as it were, of brass and iron, shall appear to be but as stubble, that cannot stand before God’s fire.

The day that cometh shall burn them up] Heb. Shall so burn them ut flamma ex ipsis excitetur, as to set them aflame. Here Christ burns up his enemies with invisible judgments, inward terrors and torments, pangs and plunges, a very hell in their consciences, a foretaste of eternal torment (as was to be seen in Belshazzar, and our Richard III). But what will they do at the last day, when the law they shall be judged by is a fiery law, Deuteronomy 33:2, the tribunal of fire, Ezekiel 1:27, the judge a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29, his attendants flaming seraphims, his pleading with sinners in flames of fire, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, the place of punishment a lake of fire fed with a river of brimstone? Isaiah 30:33; what can be the fruit of such a fiery proceeding but utter excision? Surely this fire will leave them neither root nor branch.


Verse 2

Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

Ver. 2. But unto you that fear my name] What shall be the condition of graceless persons hath been said already. Now, for the righteous, that they have not served God in vain, it shall well appear by the many benefits they shall reap and receive by Christ; five whereof are here recited. 1. Imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which is compared to the enlightening of this lower world by the beams of the sun 2. Remission of sins, which is compared to the healing of diseases. 3. Regeneration, which is likened to a sick man’s walking forth when he is somewhat recovered. 4. Spiritual growth as calves of the stall. 5. Victory over all enemies, corporal and spiritual, which shall be trodden under-foot, as ashes of the furnace, Malachi 4:3.

Shall the Sun of righteousness arise] So Christ is called (as by other prophets, Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 60:19, Luke 1:78, John 8:12), to signify the joy of God’s elect at the sight of him, Psalms 84:11; as those that have long lain in darkness count it a pleasant thing to see the light. A "Sun of righteousness" he is said to be, 1. As asserting and vindicating the righteousness of God, called in question by those blasphemers. 2. As bestowing upon his people a double righteousness (imputed and imparted), as the sun doth his light, John 1:16. It is further said here, that he shall arise, that is, he shall appear and show himself on earth, who now lieth hidden, as it were, in heaven; as the material sun doth under the horizon. God was manifested in the flesh, 1 Timothy 3:16. Manifested out of the bosom of his Father, out of the womb of his mother, out of the types of the law. In his nativity he came forth as the sun doth, as a bridegroom out of his chamber. In the whole course of his life he rejoiced as a giant to run his race. He enlightened and warmed the dark and dry hearts of men, he filled them with the fruits of righteousness, John 15:5. He could not be stayed or stopped in his course; he made his gospel to run and be glorified. He was and is still in continual motion for the good of his Church; as the sun in heaven is for the good of the world. He went under a cloud in his passion, and brake forth again in his resurrection. From heaven he daily darts forth his beams of righteousness, and showers down all spiritual blessings in heavenly privileges, Ephesians 1:3. The sun sucks up foul water from the earth, draws it up into the air, not to hold it there; but first purifies it, and then distils it down again with a fattening and fructifying property. Hereupon the thankful earth brings forth most fair and fragrant fruits and flowers, &c. Semblably, this "Sun of righteousness" took on him our sins and miseries, sordes nostras induit, assumed our human nature, not to retain it, and glorify it in himself alone, but that we might be con-glorified, and, in the mean time, filled with those fruits of holiness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God, Philippians 1:10. And as the sun, the nearer he runs to the earth the weaker he is in operation, as in winter time, but the higher in heaven the more effectual; so, while Christ was not yet ascended, the Holy Ghost and his graces were not in that full measure imparted, nor Churches gathered, as afterwards, John 7:39. Lastly, at that last and great day he will show himself in special manner a "Sun of rlghteousness"; clearing all obscurities, bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, causing his people’s most holy faith, that now lies hidden in great part, to be found to praise, honour, and glory, cheering up their spirits after manifold tribulations, healing all their spiritual maladies; for he comes with healing under his wings and making them as so many Samsons, whose name signifies a little sun, in the noon of their full strength, Ipse est ergo noster Apollo sanitatis praeses. For the righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, Matt, xiii. I shall shut up this discourse with that observation of an ancient: When the Sun of righteousness was yet in his mother’s womb, he might be said to be in Virgo; when on the cross, in Taurus; when he rose from death, in Leo; when he shall come again to judgment, in Libra. And as when the sun is in Libra the day is of an equal length; so, when Christ cometh, all shall be perfected.

With healing in his wings] That is, in his beams. This implies sickness in all to whom Christ comes; the world being, as it were, a great hospital or Nosecomium (though few feel it), and that true of every person that is spoken of the whole people, Isaiah 1:5 "The whole head is sick," &c. O my head, my head, said the Shunammite’s son: my belly, my belly, saith the prophet, my leanness, my leanness, &c. And surely it were happy if men would be more sensible of their malady, and make out to this Jehovah Rophe, this Almighty Physician, that lacks neither will nor skill to cure all that come unto him, Exodus 15:26. See him hanging out his tables, as it were, and setting to sell his eye-salve, Revelation 3:18, for there he begins the cure, Acts 26:18. Hear him, 1. Complaining of our dulness, backwardness, frowardness, Jeremiah 8:22, Ezekiel 24:13, Hosea 7:12. Wishing we had more care of our poor souls. "Oh that this people were wise," &c. "Why will ye die?" 3. Threatening, Ezekiel 24:13 4. Promising, Hosea 14:4, Matthew 11:28 5. Performing, Psalms 103:3, 2 Chronicles 30:20. Lastly, providing all sorts of physic for us; preventing, purging, restoring, corrosives of the law, lenitives of the gospel, plaisters of his own blood, for here Sanguis medici est curatio phrenetici; and requiring us no more but to come unto him, as they of old did to the brazen serpent, with sorrow for sin, and faith in his name, having a good opinion of our physician, and casting ourselves wholly upon him for cure; calling upon him, as blind Bartimaeus did, and crying out as that martyr did at the stake, Son of God, shine upon me; and immediately the sun shone out of a dark cloud so full in his face, that he was constrained to look another way. What shall I say more? this blessed "Sun of righteousness" must be sought in the west, if we will get the kingdom (as Statio’s servant in Justin did by the advice of his master, whom he had preserved); upon the cross, I mean, and in the state of his abasement; so shall we be sure to find healing in his wings, that is, the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit conveying the virtue of Christ’s blood to the conscience, as the beams of the sun do the heat and influence thereof to the earth; thereby calling out the herbs and flowers, and healing those deformities that winter had brought upon it.

And ye shall go forth] To show that yo are thoroughly healed, ye shall rise up and walk. Where the Spirit is, there is liberty, 2 Corinthians 3:17. Live things love to be stirring; and those that are restored to health after sickness are not satisfied till they can go about their business in their accustomed strength, Quod sanitas in corpor, id sanctitas in corde. Holiness is to the soul what health is to the body. Let men make it out that Christ Jesus hath wrought a cure upon their souls, by being active and abundant in his work. Life consists in action. Isaiah 38:16 "O Lord, by these things, and in all these things, is the life of my spirit," saith Hezekiah; and, if ye do my commandments ye shall live in them, saith the Lord; as the fish lives in his element, as the lamp lives in the oil, and as the creature by his food. Up, therefore, and be doing; live betime, live quickly, and apace. Some men live more in a day than others in a month; as wise men speak more in two words than a fool in two hundred; or as one piece of gold is more worth than twenty of brass. Devise what to do for God, as David did, Psalms 116:2; serve out your time as he, Acts 13:36, do not idle it out wear out, do not waste out; flame out, do not smother out; burn out, be not blown out. Be not buried alive, as Job 27:15, hissed out of the world, Job 27:23, as Vacia in Seneca ( Hic situs est Vacia). Fall not from the tree of life as leaves in autumn, as that sapless fellow Nabal did; and as those withered trees in St. Jude, "Without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." God expects that, acted first by him, we should act as the inferiors do ( Ut acti agamus), when moved by the superiors; that, when he hath infused sap, we should fructify; that, when he hath tuned us and doth touch us, we should make music; when he hath once made us willing, he requires that we both will and work that which is good in his sight. When we set victuals before a hungry man we expect he should eat it. Nature teacheth the sucking child to draw the breast when it is once put to the mouth; and to labour for its living, as we use to say (Aug.). He that made us without us doth not save us without us; but expects that our wills, which at first conversion were merely passive, should be afterwards active in adding to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5, in working out our salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12. Herein we work the work of him that sent us, as our Saviour did; we finish the work which he gave us to do, John 17:4. This work is to magnify him with our bodies, whether it be by life or death, Philippians 1:19; yea, to glorify him in our bodies, and in our spirits, which are his, 1 Corinthians 6:20. God sells us increase of grace for sweat, saith one. He gives it as Boaz gave Ruth grain, Malachi 2:14-17. He could have given her at first an ephah of barley, and it had been no more charge to him; but he will have her gather it, glean it, beat it out, use her endeavour, and that should be the price she should pay for it. So here God’s people healed must go forth or leap about, use legs and have legs, &c. "This I had, because I kept thy precepts," Psalms 119:56. What had he? but an ability to keep God’s law, Psalms 119:55; he kept it because he kept it; for every new act of obedience fits the soul for a following act, Romans 6:19. And to you that hear shall be more given, Mark 4:24.

And grow up as calves of the stall] Ye shall battle and thrive both in flesh and fat, as R. David expounds it; your souls shall be flourishing and fair liking; as waters of the sanctuary, they shall rise higher; as trees planted in God’s paradise, they shall bring forth new fruit every month, Ezekiel 47:12, John 15:2; as the morning sun, they shall shine more and more unto the perfect day, Proverbs 4:18, when the wicked, by growing worse and worse, 2 Timothy 3:13, stumble in darkness, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, so that they lie down in sorrow, Isaiah 50:11. The blessing on man in the first creation was Increase and multiply; in the second, Grow in grace, Isaiah 61:8; Isaiah 61:11. A Christian hath his degrees of growth, and his several ages, of childhood, youth, or well grown age, full grown, and old age, 1 John 2:14. These things write I unto you that believe in the name of the Son of God, that ye may believe in the name of the Son of God, saith the same apostle, 1 John 5:13, that is, that ye may grow in that belief, as ye grow in days and years, proceeding from faith to faith, Philippians 3:14; as the Church in the Canticles hath her first light like the day dawning, her second beauty like the moon, her third degree like the sun, Song of Solomon 6:10. A Christian, though in some sense perfect, yet hath he still his Plus ultra, and may take for motto Charles V’s Ulterius, Further yet; he must be still adding grace to grace, that he may have an entrance further and further into Christ’s kingdom, 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:11, as by steps and stairs they went up to Solomon’s temple. And the apostle there gives us to understand that those that thus add not to their stock of grace shall have little comfort either from the time past, for they shall forget that they were purged from their sins; or from thoughts of the time to come, for they shall not be able to see things far off, 2 Peter 1:9, because they delight not in high flying, as eagles; their wings, as the ostrich’s, do little more than bear them above ground. Many care for no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, soul and hell asunder. This is a low and unworthy strain, and comes not near that of St Paul, who set up for his mark the resurrection of the dead, Philippians 3:10, that is, that perfection of holiness that accompanieth the resurrection. To the attaining hereunto he followed hard on, reaching forth, and stretching out head, hands, and whole body, to lay hold on the high prize proposed unto him, Philippians 3:12-14, and would have all men to be thus minded. Runners in a race look not how much they have run, but how much remaineth; and although moderate in the beginning (for hot at hand seldom holds out), yet the nearer they grow to the goal the Faster they speed their course; that their last days may be their best days; accounting that day lost wherein they have not some sensible comings in from Christ; like as good husbands, in dead times when stirrings fail, are discontented when they have had no takings.


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. And ye shall tread down the wicked] Christ, the champion of his Church, hath already won the field, and will shortly set his people’s feet upon the necks of all their enemies. The broken horns of Satan himself shall be the trumpets of their triumph and the cornets of their joy, Romans 16:20. See what honour all the saints have in this respect, Psalms 149:7-9; see what comfort, John 16:33; see what conquests, Romans 8:37. How much more at the last day, when the thrones shall be set, &c., Matthew 19:28. Rabbi David Kimchi understands this text to be temporal victories only. And no wonder, as being a Jew, and minding earthly things, he ascends no higher. Such grasshoppers, if at any time they leap above the earth, they soon fall down to it again; and as they are of the earth, so they speak of the earth, and the earth hears them. Petrus a Figniero writing upon those words in the former chapter, Malachi 3:12 "For ye shall be a delightsome land," Nota modum loquendi, saith he: mark that expression, He saith not your land shall be a delightsome land, but "ye shall be," &c. Forte enim tacite Iudaeos percellit terrain eos vocando. It may be the Lord hereby, closely meets with them for their earthly mindedness; as those that by promise of earthly blessings were soonest prevailed with to serve God, when as these should have been but as steps or stirrups to mount their hearts up to a desire of the things above. Victory in their sense is doubtless a special mercy; and is so promised to the obedient, Deuteronomy 28:13 "The Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and not beneath," &c. Hence the Israelites, delivered from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, sang, "The Lord is a man of war," Exodus 15:3; the Chaldee there hath it, The Lord and victor of wars. The Grecians delivered from the Persians (vanquished and driven out by Themistocles), called their Jupiter thereupon, Eλευθεριος, the deliverer. It was the thankful acknowledgment of generals, captains, and soldiers at Edge Hill fight, that the Lord was seen in the mount, never less of man in such a business, never more of God. But what shall it profit a man to conquer countries, and yet be vanquished of vices? to tread upon his enemies, and yet be taken captive by the devil at his pleasure? 2 Timothy 2:26, to command the whole world, as those Persian kings, and yet were commanded by their concubines, so by their base lusts, by yielding whereunto they give place unto the very devil, and receive them into their very bosoms, Ephesians 4:27, who there hence leads them away naked and barefoot, as the Assyrians did the Egyptians, Isaiah 20:2. How much better Valentinian the emperor, who said upon his death-bed that among all his victories over his enemies this one only comforted him, viz. that by the grace and power of Christ Jesus he that got the better of his corruptions, and was now more than a conqueror, even a triumpher.

For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet] Even the ashes of that stubble burnt in Christ’s oven, Malachi 4:1. This shows their utter and ignominious destruction. And the like is foretold of mystical Babylon, Revelation 18:17-19. Tota eris in cineres quasi nunquam Roma fuisses, sang Sibylla of old. Fiat, Fiat. Our corruptions also shall one day be incinerated (they are already buried, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12), the fiery spirit of Christ will do with the body of sin, as the King of Moab did with the King of Edom, Amos 2:1, burn its bones into lime.

In the day that I shall do this] sc. Partly here, but perfectly at the last day. Meanwhile sin may rebel in God’s people, but it cannot reign. Satan may nibble at their heel, but he cannot come at their head; the world may kill them, but cannot hurt them. "Be of good cheer," saith Christ, "I have overcome the world," John 16:33. All evils and enemies shall co-operate for their good, Romans 8:28.

Saith the Lord of hosts] Who hath also said, "Heaven and earth shall pass, but not one jot or tittle of my word," &c.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. Remember ye the law of Moses] viz. Now henceforth, in the end of prophecy, for Malachi knew that after him until the days of John Baptist no prophet should arise. Hence this exhortation, to read and remember the law, as leading them to Christ; the law, I say, in all the parts of it; not excluding the prophets, those interpreters of the law, and most excellent commentaries thereupon, with like reverence to be read and received. The Jews at this day read in their synagogues two lessons; one out of the law, by some chief person, another out of the prophets, correspondent to the former in argument, but is read by some boy, or lowly companion; for they will in no sort do that honour, neither attribute they that authority, to any part of the Bible, that they do to their law. But "this their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings," as the Psalmist speaketh in another case, Psalms 49:13. Two things offer themselves to our observation from these first words. First, the little coherence that this verse hath with the former; the prophet choosing rather to fall abruptly upon his most needful, but too much neglected, duty of remembering the law, than not at all to mention it. See the like Romans 16:17, where the apostle breaks off his salutations, to warn them of their danger by seducers; and that done, returns thereto again. Secondly, in the Hebrew word rendered remember, there is, in many Bibles, a great Zain; to show, as some think, the necessity and excellency of this duty of remembering the law of Moses (Buxtorf. in Comment. Maser. c. 14). {Hebrew Text Note} It is well enough known, that since the fall man’s soul is like a filthy pond, wherein fish die soon and frogs live long; profane matters are remembered, pious passages forgotten. Our memories are like sieves, or nets, that retain chaff and palterment, let go the good grain, or clear water; God’s word runs through us, as water runs through a riven vessel. And as hour glasses, which no sooner turned up and filled, but are presently running out again to the last sand, so is it here. And yet the promise of salvation is limited to the condition of keeping in memory what we have read or heard, 1 Corinthians 15:2. And David’s character of a blessed man is, that he meditateth in the law day and night, Psalms 1:2.

Hoc primum repetens opus, hoc postremus omittens ”( Hor. Ephesians 6:1-24).

Bishop Babington had a little book, containing three leaves only, which he turned over night and morning. The first leaf was black, to remind him of hell and God’s judgments due to him for sin; the second red, to mind him of Christ and his passion; the third white, to set forth God’s mercy to him through the merits of his Son, in his justification and sanctification. The law of the Lord, as it is perfect in itself, so it is right for all holy purposes, Psalms 19:7-8. It serves to reveal sin, Romans 3:20; Romans 7:9, shows the punishment due to sin, Galatians 3:10, scourgeth men to Christ, Galatians 3:24; and is a perfect rule of obedience; it being so penned that every man may think it speaks de se, in re sua, as Athanasius saith of the book of Psalms; and must therefore be of all acknowledged to be Yεου ευρημα, God’s own invention (Demost.). Moses was but the penman only, though it be here called his law; because God gave him the moral law written with his own hand, Deuteronomy 10:2, adding it to the promise made to Abraham, that thereby guilt being discovered, &c., men might acknowledge the riches of free grace and mercy; and that they might walk, as Luther hath it, Galatians 3:19, in the heaven of the promise, but in the earth of the law (that, in respect of believing, this of obeying); that they might live as though there were no gospel, die as though there were no law; pass the time of this life in the wilderness of this world under the conduct of Moses, but let none but Joshua (Jesus) bring them over to Canaan the promised land. This the generality of the Jews could not skill of (though the moral law drove them to the ceremonial, which was then Christ in figure, as it doth now drive us to Christ in truth), they would needs have Moses for a saviour; and being ignorant of God’s righteousness (wilfully ignorant), they go about to establish their own, Romans 10:3, and so lose all. They jeer at an imputed righteousness; and say, That every fox must pay his own skin to the flayer. They blaspheme Jesus Christ, and curse him in a close abbreviature of his name; and call those among them that convert to Christianity, Meshumadim, that is, lost, or undone (Buxtorf. syn. Jud. cap. 5). Moses’ law they extol without measure; it must not be written on any parchment but what is made of the skin of a clean beast; nor read but in a clean place. No man must touch it but with the right hand, and not without a kiss of reverence. They usually carry it in procession about their synagogue, with many ornaments of crowns and sceptres, the children kissing it as it passeth by them. No man must sit in the presence of it, nor so much as spit before it (Schicard. de iure leg. Hebr.). Whereas the gospel of grace they utterly reject and abominate, as a volume of vanity (Evangelium Avan-gelaion); that Italian translation that they had of the New Testament is called in, and taken from them, for their horrible abuse of it; this being still the twelfth article of their creed, I believe, with a perfect faith, that the Messiah is yet to come. No marvel if the apostle would not have us ignorant, "that blindness in part is happened to Israel," Romans 11:25. That lesser part, or rather particle, of them that are proselyted to our religion, they pretend that they are none other than poor Christians hired to impersonate their part. And yet they give complete dispensation to counterfeit Christianity, even to the degree of priesthood. In the day of their expiation, their Rabbi doth absolve them from all their perjuries and deceits used against Christians. He also assures them they are not bound to keep any oath but what is sworn upon their own Torah, or law of Moses, brought out of their synagogue; to the reading whereof they depute one third part of their day; and wherein they are generally so expert, that they have it as ready as their own names ( Facilius quam nomen suum recitati. Joseph. Cont. Appio. lib. 2). The mischief of it is, that they are too much affixed to it, and will needs be saved by it; which the law cannot do for them, as being weak through the flesh, Romans 8:3. The law is a yoke of bondage, as Jerome calleth it; and they who look for righteousness from hence are like oxen who toil and draw and when they have done their labour are fitted for slaughter. Luther fitly calleth such drudges the devil’s martyrs; they suffer much and take much pains to go to hell. And in another place he saith, Qui scit inter Legem et Evangelium distinguere, gratias agat Deo, et sciat se esse Theologum. He that can rightly distinguish between law and gospel hath cause to praise God; and may well pass for a divine.

Moses my servant] A far higher title than son of Pharaoh’s daughter; for this was to be Pharaoh’s God, Exodus 7:1, and higher than the kings of the earth, Psalms 89:27. No marvel though Moses so esteemed it; when Numa, king of Romans, a heathen did; and Augustus the emperor, cui gratius fuit nomen pietatis quam potestatis, saith Tertullian, he preferred piety before monarchy ( του θεου υπηρεσιον βασιλευειν ενομιζεν. Flat.); so did those succeeding emperors, Constantine, Valentinian, and Theodosius, who called themselves Vassallos Christi, the vassals of Christ, as Socrates reporteth. It was noted, as a great both presage and desert of Darius’s ruin, when in his proud embassy to Alexander he called himself the king of kings, and cousin of the gods; but for Alexander, he called him his servant. That was worse in John Oneal, father to the Earl of Tirone, that rebel, A.D. 1598, who blasphemously inscribed himself in all places; I, great John Oncal, cousin to Christ, friend to the Queen of England, and foe to all the world, &c. What big bubbles of words were these, as Peter calls them. His pretended successor styleth himself the servant of God’s servants; and one day in the year, in an apish imitation of our Saviour, washeth certain men’s feet. But he acteth as Dominus regnorum mundi, Lord of the kings of the world, which is one of the devil’s titles; and can endure to be called by his parasites Dominus Deus noster Papa; Our Lord God the Pope. Moses held it honour enough to be the servant of the Lord, and yet he was Vir Deo longe acceptissimus quo nihil habuit antiqua aetas, mitius, sapientius, sanctius; highly accepted in heaven, and the most meek, wise, and holy man that antiquity ever had or mentioned, as Bellarmine himself acknowledgeth.

Which I commanded him in Horeb] Moses then was not the law maker, as Solon, Lycurgus, Zaleucus, &c., but only God’s minister to utter what he would have him deliver; or, at utmost, a mediator, Galatians 3:19, not of expiation, for so Christ only, but of communication of the law to all Israel, Exodus 20:19, wherein he was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, Hebrews 3:5 famulus ingenuus, a servant of the better sort, a man of worship, as the word there seemeth to import ( Yεριπων ex verbo Yεραπευειν). The place where Moses received the law is mentioned, Horeb (the same with Sinai, Acts 7:30, Exodus 19:1; Exodus 19:18), to remind them of the terror of the Lord on that mountain, when God came down upon it with ten thousand of his saints; "from his right hand went a fiery law for them," Heb. a fire of law, Deuteronomy 33:2. And surely that fire wherein the law was given, and shall one day be required, is in it still, and will never out. Hence are those terrors, which it flasheth in every conscience that hath felt remorse of sin. Every man’s heart is a Horeb; and resembleth to him both heaven and hell. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law," 1 Corinthians 15:56.

To all Israel] And it is reckoned as a singular privilege to that people, Nehemiah 9:14, Romans 9:4. Prosper’s conceit was, that Iudaei Jews were so called because they received Ius Dei, the law of God. Josephus calleth their commonwealth a theocracy, or God government. That of Philo is not so solid, that their law was given in a wilderness, because it is to be learned in a wilderness, seeing there we cannot be hindered by the multitude. But what a wretched conceit is that of the Jews at this day, that the law of nature shall bring to heaven those that observe it; but the Hebrews (unto whom the law of Moses was peculiarly given) by keeping it, shall have a prerogative of glory! How shall the lion of the tribe of Judah roar upon them at that day, and say, "Do not think that I will accuse you: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust," John 5:45. Get you to him whom ye have chosen; but cold comfort ye are like to have from him; a very froward generation he ever found you, children in whom is no faith, Deuteronomy 33:20.

With the statutes and judgments] That is, with the ceremonial and judicial law. But what meant that false Rabbin to add to this text these following words, Quamdin non venit dies iudicii, Till the day of judgment comes (R. David); as if men were bound till then to the observation of the ceremonial and judicial law? But it is ordinary with those Jewish doctors to corrupt the text for their own purpose; adding and altering at their pleasure. The judicial law was fitted to the Jews, and was the best that they could suffer, as Solon said of the Athenian laws. The ceremonial law was their gospel, pointing them to Christ; and therefore abolished by him, as having no use in the Church after his death, but by accident. As for the moral law (called here by an excellency the law of Moses), it is established for ever in heaven, Psalms 119:89; and albeit some duties of certain commandments shall cease when we come to heaven, yet the substance of every one remaineth. This perpetuity of the moral law was noted by engraving it in stone, Exodus 34:27, 2 Corinthians 3:7. The Jews have a saying, That God hath more respect to the letters of the law than to the stars of heaven, and Christ either alludes to or confirms it in that saying of his, Heaven and earth shall pass before one jot or tittle of the law pass. Think not that I am come to destroy the law (viz. the moral law) or the prophets, who press moral duties, as explainers of the law; they do as it were unfold and draw out that arras which was folded together before, Matthew 5:17. These therefore, together with the law of Moses, must be daily and duly read and remembered. Jerome calls the books of Kings his own; because by the frequent use and reading of them, he had got them by heart, and as it were made them his own ( Lege Melachim meum; meum, inquam meum: quicquid enim didicimus et tenemus nostrum est. Prolog. in lib. Reg.). Of Paula he testifieth, that she had most of the Scriptures by heart ( Scripturas sanctas memoiter tenebat). Of Nepotian likewise, that with daily reading and continual meditation he had made his heart Bibliothecam Christi, the library of Christ. See my True Treasure, p. 315.


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet] Not Elijah the Tishbite, as the Septuagint corruptly read; and the Popish expositors make no small use of it, to prove that the Pope is not antichrist, because Enoch and Elijah are not yet come, and yet are to come in his time, before the day of judgment (as they fondly fable), to preserve the elect in the faith of Christ, and to convert the Jews. But we have better interpreters of this text. 1. An angel, who applies it to John Baptist, Luke 1:17 2. Christ, that angel of the covenant, Matthew 17:10-11; Matthew 11:14. Hear ye him, against all antichrist’s agitators. St Mark begins his Gospel with these very words of Malachi, to let us know that this Elias is the Baptist, who is called Elijah the prophet, because of the like gifts, calling, and ministry, office of reforming habit, people with whom they dealt, &c. The like almost may be said of Luther, a third Elias for boldness, courage, zeal, knowledge, success, &c. But yet we see no footing in this text for Lucas Osiander’s conceit, viz. that the prophet here pointed at Luther as well as at John Baptist; and that men must receive his doctrine, or else look to be smitten with a curse. Howbeit this is more passable and possible than that of the Jesuits, who presume to control Christ’s own exposition; and infer, that as the devil stirred up Luther to call the Pope antichrist, so God raised up them to resist Luther. But what a mad fellow was that Spaniard (of whom Severus Sulpitius writeth) that professed himself, first, to be the prophet Elias, and afterward, when he had gained authority, to be the Christ; carrying himself so cunningly in his collusion, that Bishop Ruffus was led away with the error, believing in him, and adoring him as God; for which he was justly deprived of his dignity! Had we not need receive the truth in the love of it, lest God give us up to the efficacy of error, 2 Thessalonians 2:10? lest being first infatuated, we be seduced, and then being seduced, we be damned, as Austin glosseth on that text?

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord] Great, in respect of the good, and dreadful, or horrible, in respect of the wicked, as Montanus interprets it, paralleling it with Matthew 3:12. Or great, because it shall be a beginning of great changes, both to the godly and the ungodly; and dreadful to the bad, yea, and to the best also at first, till they have recollected and better bethought themselves, as another senseth it; as taking it of the last day, which is the general mistake of Popish expositors, and that upon this ground, because Christ’s first coming was an acceptable time, and a day of salvation. But though it be so to God’s people, yet to others it was terrible, as hath been shown: {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:2"} and is so described, Luke 2:34; Luke 3:9; Luke 3:17; Luke 19:44;, Matthew 21:44; Isaiah 11:4. He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with his two-edged sword he shall slay the wicked. See the like, Revelation 2:16. And by his ministers he doth it still, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, 2 Corinthians 10:6. Vengeance is as ready in Christ’s hand as in the minister’s mouth, for the disobedient. Some read the words thus, Before the day of the great and dreadful Lord come: like as others read that, James 2:1, Have not the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons. Both readings are good, and the text will bear both.


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, &c.] John Baptist’s office and efficacy is here described; he shall, as a powerful instrument (by preaching repentance, Matthew 3:2, and prevailing, as he did, with all sorts, even to admiration; so that all men mused in their hearts, whether he were the Christ or not, Luke 3:10; Luke 3:12; Luke 3:14-15), convert sinners from the errors of their way, reduce them to the faith of the old patriarchs, make them unanimous in the love of God and of one another, and tie them up together, as it were, by his baptism. For the multitude of believers "were of one heart and one soul," Acts 4:32 ( animo animaque inter se miscebantur, as Tertullian phraseth it), neither was there any controversy at all among them, as one ancient Greek copy subjoineth there. Controversies there were great store among the Jews, when the Baptist came. As Joseph found his brethren in Dothan, which signifieth defection, so did he. They were all gone out of the way; and, being led aside by the error of the wicked, they were fallen from their own steadfastness. Many strange opinions and dotages they had taken up, and were woefully divided; specially by those three different sects, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes; which the prophet Zechariah calleth three shepherds: that were to be destroyed in one month, at John’s coming, Zechariah 11:8. The Pharisees were held the best of those three, si ad legem respexeris, saith Tremellius, if you look to the law; and St Paul, who was once a Pharisee of Pharisees, calleth them the most strict sect of the Jewish religion, Acts 26:5 (like those districtissimi Monachi among the Papists); and yet there were seven sorts of Pharisees, as we find in their Talmud. Hence much alienation of affection among them, and great animosities; father hating son, and son father, for truth’s sake, as Matthew 10:35. So powerful should John be in his ministry, that although the leprosy were gotten into their heads, and were therefore held incurable, Leviticus 13:44, yet he should "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord," Luke 1:17. All headstrong and brutish affections should be calmed and corrected, as Isaiah 11:6-8, and the peaceable wisdom from above instilled, James 3:17, so that they shall "endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," Ephesians 4:8. And albeit some jars may fall out (as between Paul and Barnabas), yet God’s people can soon piece again, and reunite. Ut aer percussus non laeditur, imo ne dividitur quidem, sed refundit sese, et spissior redit, &c. As the air, divided by a stone or stroke, soon closeth and thickeneth the more. Certainly there is no such oneness and entireness anywhere as among the saints; their love is spiritual, Song of Solomon 6:9. The very heathens acknowledged that no people in the world did hold together and love one another so as Christians did. Tacitus observeth of the Jews, that there was misericordia in promptu spud suos, but contra omnes alios hostile odium, mercy enough for their own countrymen among them, but hostile hatred against all others: they used to say, that there is no Gentile but deserves to have his head bruised, &c. But John Baptist by his preaching made Jewish Pharisees and Roman soldiers (according to the phrase that Josephus useth of him), to convent, and knit together in baptism ( εν βαπτισμω συνιεναι. Antiq. lib. 18, cap. 7).

Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse] That is, lest coming, I smite, &c. For there is no doubt to be made of his coming; and as little of his smiting, if men amend not. These words menace as many as resisted John’s ministry with utter destruction; "whether it be done against the whole nation, or against a man only," Job 34:29. The Romans came and took away both their place and their nation; not for letting Christ alone, as they feared, John 11:48, but for laying wicked hands upon him, and putting to "death the Lord of life," Acts 2:28. John also preached damnation to them, Matthew 3:7-12, and so did our Saviour, Matthew 23:13-33, whereby eight dreadful woes, as by so many links of an adamantine chain, he draws those irreformable hypocrites down to hell, their place; and then leaves them to be reserved unto judgment. St Jerome was called Fulmen Ecclesiasticum, the Church thunderbolt. Mr Perkins was a most earnest preacher, and would pronounce the word damn with such an emphasis, as left a doleful echo in his auditors’ ears a good while after. And when catechist of Christ’s College, in expounding the commandments, he applied them so home, that he made his hearers hearts fall down, and their hairs to stand up straight almost. And surely this is the way to work upon hard hearted sinners; whence the apostle bids Titus rebuke with all authority; and then turning him to the people (as Calvin senseth it), chargeth them not to despise him for so doing, Titus 1:15. The apostle knew well that men are, for the most part, of delicate ears; and can ill abide plain dealing. Ahab hates Micaiah, and hath him in prison, ever since that dreadful denunciation of displeasure and death, for dismissing Benhadad (for he was, probably, that disguised prophet), for which he was ever since fast in prison, deep in disgrace. But truth must be spoken, however it be taken; and those that will not be pricked at heart ( κατενυγησαν), as Acts 2:37, but take up bucklers to ward off the blow, must have the sword of the Spirit sheathed in their bowels, and bathed in their blood; for in all this we are a sweet savour unto God, 2 Corinthians 2:15, yea, though a "savour of death unto death." The barren earth must be smitten with cursing, and they that mind earthly things ( Terra autem sunt, qui terrena sapiunt, saith Austin) have damnation for their end, so that St Paul cannot speak of them without tears of compassion, Philippians 3:18-19. Oh that it might express from them tears of compunction! Oh that they would be forewarned to flee from the wrath to come! Oh that they would think upon eternity, and by breaking off their sins, disarm God’s indignation justly conceived against them! He therefore threateneth that he may not smite; he proceeds not to punish till there be no remedy, 2 Chronicles 36:16. Crudelem medicum intemperans aeger facit; an unruly patient makes a cruel physician. Oh that we could all resolve to deal by our sins as Lewis, King of France, did by the Pope’s bulls, whereby he required the fruits of vacancies of all cathedral churches of France, about the year 1152; he cast them into the fire, saying, he had rather the Pope’s bulls should roast in the fire than his own soul should fry in hell.

For a conclusion to all, take an observation of Amamas, and before him of Buxtorf; that in many Hebrew Bibles the last verse save one of this prophecy (as also of Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and Lamentations) is repeated again in the end thereof, though without pricks, lest anything should be thought added to God’s word. {Hebrew Text Note} Factum hoc ex Scribarum decreto, &c. This the scribes thought fit to do, either for the dignity of those repeated verses, that the reader might again ruminate and remind them; or else, as some will have it, because all those books end in threatenings and sad speeches. And therefore, lest the Sun of righteousness should seem to set in a cloud, or not to shine upon the departing passenger, they thought fit to leave the verse before to be last; as being sweet and full of comfort, that the reader might, Samson-like, go his way, feeding on that honeycomb.

Laus Deo in aeternum.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Malachi 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/malachi-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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