4. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
4. Et scietis quod miserim ad vos hoc mandatum ut sit (vel, ut esset; sed magis placet, ut sit; est, ad assendum, ad verbum; ergo ad assendum pactum meum, si posset dici Latine,) pactum meum cum Levi, dicit Iehova exercituum.
Here he addresses in particular the priests; for though the whole people with great haughtiness resisted God, yet the priests surpassed them. And we know how ready men are to turn to evil whatever benefits God may bestow on them. It has been then a common evil in men from the beginning of the world, to exalt themselves and to raise their crests against God, when they found themselves adorned with his benefits: but we know that the more any one is bound to God the more thankful he ought to be, for our gifts are not our own, but the benefits by which God binds us to himself.
|What best thou as thine own?| says Paul, |thou best then no reason to glory.|
(1 Corinthians 4:7)
This evil however has ever prevailed among men -- that they have defrauded God of his glory, and have turned to an occasion of pride the favors received from him. But it is an evil which is very commonly seen in all governors; for they who are raised to a high dignity, think no more that they are men, but take to themselves very great liberty when they find themselves so much exalted above others. Thus kings and those in authority seem to themselves to be above the common order of men, and presumptuously disregard all laws; they think that everything is lawful for them, as no one opposes their willfulness. The same thing is also to be seen in teachers. For when God favored the priests with the highest honor, they became blinded, as it will hereafter be seen, by that favor of God, that they thought themselves to be as it were semi-gods; and the same thing has taken place in the kingdom of Christ.
For how have arisen so great impieties under the Papacy, except that pastors have exercised tyranny and not just government? For they have not regarded the purpose for which they have been called into their office, but as the name of pastor is in itself honorable, they have dared to raise themselves above the clouds, and to assume to themselves the authority of God himself. Hence it has been, that they have dared to bind consciences by their own laws, to change the whole truth, and to corrupt the whole worship of God: and hence also followed the scandalous sale of justice. How have these things happened? Because priests were counted as angels come down from heaven; and this same danger is ever to be feared by us.
This then is the vice which the Prophet now refers to; and he shows that the priests had no reason to think that they could shake off the yoke, Ye shall know, he says, that to you belongs this command. We indeed see what they objected to Jeremiah,
|The law shall not depart from the priests nor counsel and wisdom from the elders.| (Jeremiah 18:18.)
These are the weapons by which the Papists at this day defend themselves. When we allege against them plain proofs from Scripture, they find themselves clearly reproved and convicted by God's word; but here is their Ajax's shield, under which they hide all their wickedness, retailing as it were from the ungodly and wicked priests what is related by Jeremiah, |The law shall not depart from the priests;' we are the Church, can it err? is not the Holy Spirit dwelling in the midst of us? I am with you always to the end of the world,' (Matthew 28:20;) did Christ intend to deceive his Church when he said this to his Apostles? and we are their successors.| The Prophet now gives the answer, Ye shall know, he says, that to you, belongs this cornmand
And he adds, not without severity, that my covenant may be with Levi; as though he had said, |On what account are ye thus elated? for God cannot get a hearing for himself, yet ye say that the covenant with Levi is not to be void, as though God had put Levi in his own place, and divested himself of all authority when he appointed that tribe, and made you ministers of the temple and teachers of the people; is he nothing? What was God's purpose when he honored you with that dignity? He certainly did not mean to reduce himself to nothing, but, on the contrary, his will was, that his own right should remain entire and complete. When therefore I reprove your vices, and show that ye are become vile, and as it were dung, that ye are defiled by everything disgraceful, -- when I make these things openly known, I do not violate the covenant made with Levi. God then justly summons you before his tribunal, and strips you of your honor, in order that the covenant he made with Levi may be confirmed and ratified.| This is, as I have said, a severe derision.
But we may hence learn a useful truth. The Prophet briefly teaches us that the priestly office takes away nothing from God's authority, who requires a pure and holy worship, and that it lessens in nothing the authority of the law, for sound doctrine ought ever to prevail. So at this day, when we resist the Papal priests, we do not violate God's covenant, that is, it is no departure from the order of the Church, which ought ever to remain sacred and inviolable. We do not then on account of men's vices, subvert the pastoral office, and the preaching of the word; but we assail the men themselves, so that due order may be restored, that sound doctrine may obtain a hearing among men, that the worship of God may be pure, which these unprincipled men have violated. We therefore boldly attempt to subvert the whole of the Papacy, with this full confidence, that we lessen nothing from the authority of teaching, nor in any way defraud the pastoral office; nay, order in the Church, the preaching of the truth, and the very dignity of pastors, cannot exist, except the Church be purged from its defilements, and its filth removed. Thus must we say also of those unprincipled men, who are too nearly connected with us, or too near us, and I wish they were wholly extinct in the world: but how many pests conceal themselves under this covering, or under this mask -- |What! are we not the ministers of the word?| So say you who are without any principle; I wish ye were in your dung, or in your cells, where formerly ye too much corrupted the world; but now the devil has brought you forth into the Church of God, that ye may corrupt whatever had hitherto remained sound. As then there are many at this day who boast of this honor -- that they are ministers of the word, and pastors, and that they teach the gospel, they ought to be checked by this answer of the Prophet -- that when all their corruptions are fully and really cleansed away, then confirmed and ratified will be the compact which God would have to be valid with his Church and with the ministers of his word. He then adds an explanation --