|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 38||Part 1|
Malachi 1:11, "For from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense is offered up unto my name, and a pure offering, saith the Lord of Hosts." The Christians maintain that this prophecy bears upon their faith, which has been so extensively diffused in the world.
Refutation.óWe do not discover in these words of Malachi any allusion to the faith of Christianity, which had no existence at the era of the prophet. We know well that Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, were contemporaneous, and lived about three hundred years anterior to Jesus. At the time of the last prophet, the Gentiles were worshipers of the heavenly constellations, and of idols representing those constellations. It was not, however, the intention of Malachi to expatiate on the abominations of Idolatry, but he merely delivered a reproof to the sinners of Israel who offered up loathsome sacrifices, and thereby profaned the name of the Almighty. Hence he says (chapter 1:12), "But ye are profaning it by saying, The table of the Lord is polluted, and the fruit thereof, even the meat, is contemptible." Subsequently the prophet reproaches the people, and says, (chapter 1:13) "And ye bring an offering which has been stolen, and the lame and the sick." Whoever reads with attention to the lesson of the prophet, will find that he rebukes the Israelites for their having acted worse in their sacrifices to God, than the Gentiles toward their idols. In this reproof he accords with Ezekiel 5:7, "And ye have not dealt in the fashion of the Gentiles that are around you." While the Israelites neglected to imitate what was laudable in the worship of the Gentiles, they blindly followed their reprehensible practices, and, therefore, Ezekiel blames his people by saying (chapter 11:12), "In my statutes ye have not walked, and after my judgments ye have not acted, but ye have acted after the customs of the Gentiles that are around you." "And in every place incense is offered up unto my name." Hereby a comparison is made between the sordidness in the sacrifices of the Israelites and the greater liberality of the idolaters in their offerings to their false gods. For if the latter had been asked to whom they paid those tokens of reverence, they would have answered, to a divine power that governs the destinies of mankind, and, therefore, they were filled with awe and devotion, in spite of all their errors. But although those Gentiles had not a pure and an elevated idea of the Supreme Being, they were able to act agreeably to his revealed will; and, therefore, the prophet was justified in declaring in the name of the Lord, "For my name is great among the Gentiles." But since a worship cannot be approved in which a creature is put on an equality with the creator, the Gentiles would only find favor by acquiescing in the sublime belief of an omnipresent and omnipotent Deity; for such a belief alone affords real gratification to the reasoning mind and to the wishful heart. Hence Malachi 3:4, goes on to say, "And the sacrifices of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old, and in former years." The means of finding favor in the eyes of the Almighty will only then increase when religious obstacles shall be removed. The favor of the Lord is therefore contingent on the purity of His worshipper, consequently Malachi declares (chapter 3:3), "And he shall sit as a refiner and as a purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." It is natural, that the sons of Levi and the priests should be prominently noticed in this prophecy, for those spiritual guides of the people were the very men who were designated "as the despisers of my name." Those who lead the way to sin must also by their example naturally be the first to meet with punishment. The verse which heads this chapter has a beautiful parallel in Psalm 113:3, "From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is praised. The Lord is high above all nations." It could not be said, that David included all contemporaneous Gentile nations in the adoration of the God of Israel; and that he considered all the heathen to be believers in the same Deity. For he condemns the practices in the worship of the heathen in the very same book, saying (Psalm 115:4-9), "Their idols are of gold and of silver, the works of the hands of man; they have mouths and speak not, they have eyes and see not, they have ears and hear not, they have noses and smell not, they have hands and feel not, feet and walk not, they speak not with their throats. Like unto them are those that make them, yea, all those that trust in them. Let Israel trust in the Lord, he is their shield and their help." Nearly the same terms are used in Psalm 135:15-18. We see, then, that the Gentiles, with all their errors, wished to adore a First Cause of all existence; yet the Psalmist, as well as the prophet spoken of above, deemed the faith and the observance of Israel as those strongholds by which the mind of man obtains true eminence and consolation; consequently there is not the slightest motive to forsake the path which our religion points out to its followers, and to adopt a faith so manifestly at variance with our ancient law.