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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 3:6-7

6. And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying,

6. Et contestatus est Angelus Iehovae Iehosuam dicendo,

7. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.

7. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Si in viis meis ambulaveris, et custodiam meam custodieris, tu quoque judicabis domum meam (vel, gubernabis; [dvz] est judicare, sed verbum illud refertur ad quodlibet regimen, ut alibi visum; gubernabis ergo domum meam, hoc est, praeris Templo meo;) atque etiam custodies atria mea: et dabo tibi transitus inter istos qui adstant.

Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his appropriate dress and splendor; and he teaches us, that it was not done simply as a favor to man, but because God purposed to protect the honor of his own worship. This is the reason why the angel exhorts Joshua; for it behaves us ever to consider for what end God deals so liberally with us and favors us with extraordinary gifts. All things ought to be referred to his glory and worship, otherwise every good thing he bestows on us is profaned. And this is especially to be regarded when we speak of his Church and its government; for we know how ready men are to turn what God gives to his Church to serve the purpose of their own tyranny.

It is God's will that he should be attended to when he speaks by his servants and those whom he has appointed as teachers. But we see from the beginning of the world how ambitious and proud men under this pretense exercised great tyranny, and thus expelled God from his own government: nay, the vassals of Satan often arrogate to themselves a full and unlimited power over all the faithful, because God would have the priesthood honored, and approves of a right discipline in his Church. As then Satan has in all ages abused the high eulogies by which God commends his Church, this exhortations, now briefly given by the Prophet, ought always to be added; for it is not God's will to extol men, that he himself might be as a private individual and give up his own place and degree, but that the whole excellency bestowed on the Church is intended for this purpose -- that God may be purely worshipped, and that all, not only the people, but also the priest, may submit to his authority. Whatever glory then belongs to the Church, God would have it all to be subservient to his purpose, so that he alone may be the supreme and that rightly. We now then perceive the Prophet's design.

And to give some weight to what is taught, he says, that the angel bore witness; for the word used is forensic or legal: one is said to bear witness to another, when he uses, so to speak, a solemn protestations. In short, bearing witness differs from a common declaration, as an oath, or an appeal to lawful authority, is interposed, so that the words are sacred. It was then the design of the holy spirit by this expression to render us more attentive, so that we may know that not a common thing is said, but that God interposes an oath, or some such thing, in order to secure more reverence to his order or command.

Protest then did the angel of Jehovah to Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if my charge thou wilt observe, etc. The angel now briefly teaches us, that the priests do not excel, that they may exult at pleasure; but he interposes a condition, that they are to exercise faithfully their office, and to obey the call of God. We then see that those two things are united -- the dignity of the priesthood, and the faithfulness which God's ministers, who have been called to that office, are to exhibit. Hence they who seek to domineer without control, do thereby sufficiently show that they are not the lawful priests of God; for Joshua typified Christ, and yet we see how God bound him by a certain condition, lest relying on his honor and title he should take to himself more than what was lawful or right.

If Joshua, who was a type of Christ, together with his successors, was not to regard himself dignified, but in order to obey God, we hence see how foolish and even abominable is the arrogance of the Pope, who, being content with a naked title, seeks to reduce the whole world to himself, as if God had given up his own right.

But let us at the same time see what he means by ways and by charge. These two words ought, no doubt, to be confined to the office of the priest. God commands us all in common to follow where he leads us; and whatever he prescribes as to the way of leading a godly and righteous life may be called a charge; for the Lord suffers us not to wander and go astray, but anticipates errors and shows what we are to follow. There is then a general charge with regard to all the faithful; but the priestly charge, as I have already stated, is to be confined to that office. We yet know that men are not raised on high by God, that he may resign his own authority. He indeed commits to men their own offices, and they are rightly called the vicars of God, who purely and faithfully teach from his mouth: but the authority of God is not diminished when he makes use of the labors of men and employs them as his ministers. We hence see that the priestly charge is this -- to rule the Church according to the pure Word of God.

He therefore adds, Thou also shalt govern my house. This condition then is ever to be observed, when the governors of the Church demand a hearing, even that they keep the charge of God. It is indeed true, that all the ministers of the Word are adorned with honorable titles; but, as I have said, their dignity is degraded if it obscures the glory of God. As then God would have men to be heard, so that nothing may be taken from him, this condition ought ever to be observed, |Thou shalt govern my house, if thou wilt walk in my ways.|

It may however be asked, can priests be rightly deprived instantly of their office when they depart from their duty? To this I answer, that the Church ought, as far as possible, to be reformed; but yet legitimate means ought to be used, so that the Church may reject all the ungodly, who respond not to their duty, nor exhibit due sincerity, nor discharge their office in obedience to God. All then who depart or turn aside from the right course ought rightly to be rejected, but by legitimate authority. But when the majority desire to have pastors, such as cannot but be deemed really wolves, they must be borne with, though unworthy of the honor, and yet so borne with that they be not allowed to oppress the Church with their tyranny, or to take to themselves what belongs to God alone, or to adulterate the worship of God or pure doctrine.

However this may be, none are lawful priests before God, except those who faithfully exercise their office and respond to the calling of God, as we shall hereafter see in the second chapter of Malachi Malachi 2:1. But I am not disposed to enlarge; it is enough to adduce what an explanation of the passage may require. In short, pastors divinely appointed are so to rule over the Church as not to exercise their own power, but to govern the Church according to what God has prescribed, and in such a manner that God himself may always rule through the instrumentality of men.

What he adds, Thou shalt keep my courts, appears not to be an honor to the priest, for it was an humble service to wait in the courts of the temple. But taking a part for the whole, the Prophet includes the charge of the whole temple: and it was no common honor to have the charge of that sacred habitation of God. It is not then improperly added that Joshua would be the keeper of the temple, if he walked in the ways of the Lord. Nevertheless we see at this day how the masked rulers of the Church, under the Papacy, not only disregard the keeping of the temple, but wholly repudiate it, as it seems to be unworthy of their high dignity. I call the charge of the temple, not that which is the duty of overseers, but whatever belongs to the worship of God: but to feed the flock, to discharge the office of pastors, and to administer the sacraments, is to these a sordid employment. Hence the Pope, with all his adherents, can easily bear to be relieved from the charge of the temple; but yet he seeks to rule in a profane and tyrannical manner, and according to his own pleasure. But we here see that the charge of the temple is especially intrusted to the priest, as it was a special honor. We also see on what condition God allowed the priests to continue in their dignity, even on that of walking in his ways.

He afterwards adds, I will give thee passages (intercourses) among those who stand by, that is, I will cause all the godly to admit and freely to receive thee. The angels who stood there, no doubt, represented the body of the Church; for they are mingled with the faithful whenever they meet together in the name of Christ, as Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 11:10. Angels alone then stood by; but it is the same as though God had said, |Thee will all the faithful acknowledge, so that a free passage will be open to thee among them, provided thou walkest in my ways.| And he puts passages in the plural number, for he speaks of continued homage and regard.

The meaning is, that the priest is ever worthy of regard and honor when he faithfully performs his office and obeys the call of God. We may, on the other hand, conclude that all masked pastors ought justly to be excluded, when they not only are apostates and perfidious against God, but seek also to destroy the Church; yea, when they are also voracious wolves and spiritual tyrants and slaughterers. All those who are such, the angel clearly intimates, are not only unworthy of being received, but ought also to be excluded and exterminated from the Church. We now then perceive what I have stated, that whatever excellency belongs to the pastors of the Church ought not to be separated from the honor due to God; for God does not resign his authority to mortals, nor diminish anything from his own right; but he only constitutes men as his ministers, that he may by them govern his Church alone, and be alone supreme. It hence follows, that they are unworthy of honor who perform not faithfully their office; and when they rob God of what belongs to him, they ought to be deprived of their very name; for it is nothing else but the mask of Satan, by which he seeks to deceive the simple. He afterwards adds --

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