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Zechariah 13:2

2. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

2. Et erit in die illo, dicit Iehova exercituum, Excidam (vel, delebo) nomina simulachrorum e terra, et non erunt in memoria amplius; atque etiam Prohetas et spiritum immundum auferam (vel, exterminabo, ad verbam est, transire faciam) e terra.

 

Here the Prophet mentions another effect, which would follow the repentance of the people, and which the Lord also would thereby produce. There was to be a cleansing from all the defilements of superstitions; for the pure and lawful worship of God cannot be set up without these filthy things being wiped away; inasmuch as to blend sacred with profane things, is the same thing as though one sought to take away the difference between heaven and earth. No religion then can be approved by God, except what is pure and free from all such pollution. We hence see why the Prophet adds, that there would be an end to falsehoods and all errors, and to the delusions of Satan, when God restored his Church; for the simplicity of true doctrine would prevail, and thus abolished would be whatever Satan had previously invented to corrupt religion.

We hence learn what I have just stated — that God cannot be rightly worshipped, except all corruptions, inconsistent with his sincere and pure worship, be taken away. But we must at the same time observe, that this effect is ascribed to God’s word; for it is that which can drive away and banish all the abominations of falsehood, and whatever is uncongenial to true religion. As then by the rising of the sun darkness is put to flight, and all things appear distinctly to the view, so also when God comes forth with the teaching of his word, all the deceptions of Satan must necessarily be dissipated.

Now these two things ought especially to be known; for we see that many, who are not indeed ungodly, but foolish and inconsiderate, think that they give to God his due honor, while they are entangled in many errors, and refrain not from superstitions. Others, more politic, devise this way of peace — that they who think rightly are to concede something to tyrants and false Prophets; and thus they seek to form at this day a new religion for us, made up of Popery and of the simple doctrine of the gospel, and in this manner as it were to transform God. As then we see that men are so disposed to mix all sorts of things together, that the pure simplicity of the gospel may be contaminated by various inventions, we ought to bear in mind this truth, — that the Church cannot be rightly formed, until all superstitions be rejected and banished. This is one thing.

We may also deduce hence another principle — that the word of God not only shows the way to us, but also discovers all the delusions of Satan; for hardly one in a hundred follows what is right, except he is reminded of what he ought to avoid. It is then not enough to declare that there is but one true God, and that we ought to put our trust in Christ, except another thing be added, that is, except we warn men of those intrigues by which Satan has from the beginning deceived miserable mortals: even at this day with what various artifices has he withdrawn the simple and unwary from the true God, and entangled them in a labyrinth of superstitions. Except therefore men be thus warned, the word of God is made known to them only in part. Whosoever then desires to perform all the duties of a good and faithful pastor, ought firmly to resolve, not only to abstain from all impure doctrines, and simply to assert what is true, but also to detect all corruptions which are injurious to religion, to recover men from the deceptions of Satan, and in short, avowedly to carry on war with all superstitions.

This was what Zechariah had in view when he said, In that day, that is, when God would restore his Church, perish shall the names of idols, 170170     [עצבים], from [עצב], to work, to labor, because of the labor taken to form and adorn them. As to the “names,” see Exodus 23:13; Deuteronomy 12:3; Psalm 16:4. — Ed so that they shall be remembered no more. By this last expression he sets forth more clearly what I have just stated, that the pure worship of God is then established as it ought to be, and that religion has then its own honor, when all errors and impostures cease, so that even the memory of them does not remain. It is indeed true, that superstitions can never be so abolished, so that no mention of them should be made; nay, the recollection of them is useful —

“Thou shalt remember thy ways,” says Ezekiel, “and be ashamed,” (Ezekiel 16:6.)

But by this form of speaking Zechariah means, that such would be the detestation of superstitions, that the people would dread the very mention of them. And hence we may learn how much purity of doctrine is approved by God, since he would have us to feel a horror as at something monstrous, whenever the name of an idol is mentioned.

He then refers to false teachers, I will exterminate, he says, the Prophets and the unclean Spirit 171171     Or, “the spirit which pollutes,” or, “the polluted spirit.” It is rendered “the unclean ([ακαθαρτον]) spirit,” by the Septuagint, a phrase used often in the gospels. The word [טמא], polluting, or polluted, stands opposed to [קדש], holy, applied to the divine Spirit. If it be rendered polluting, the effect produced by it is designated, or, if polluted, the character of the Spirit itself. It is no doubt the same with the “lying spirit,” mentioned by Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:13. “He thus calls,” says Drusius, “either the emotions excited in the heart by the evil spirit, i.e., Satan, or the impure doctrine of the false prophets which proceeds from the impure spirit.” — Ed. from the land. The connection here is worthy of being noticed; for it hence appears how all errors arise, even when a loose rein is given to false teachers. It is indeed true I allow, that the seed of all errors is implanted in each of us, so that every one is a teacher to deceive himself; for we are not only disposed to what is false, but rush headlong into it: it is the corruption of our nature. But at the same time when liberty is taken to teach anything that may please men, the whole of religion must necessarily be corrupted, and all things become mixed together, so that there is no difference between light and darkness. God then here reminds us, that the Church cannot stand, except false teachers be prevented from turning truth into falsehood, and from pealing at their pleasure against the word of God.

And this is what ought to be carefully observed; for we see at this day how some unprincipled men adopt this sentiment — that the Church is not free, except every one is allowed with impunity to promulgate whatever he pleases, and that it is the greatest cruelty to punish a heretic; for they would have all liberty to be given to blasphemies. But the Prophet shows here, that the Church cannot be preserved in a pure state, and, in a word, that it cannot exist as a healthy and sound body, except the rashness and audacity of those who pervert sound and true doctrine be restrained.

We now then understand the import of this verse — that in order that God may be alone and indeed be rightly worshipped, he will take away and banish all idols and all superstitions, and also, that he will exterminate all ungodly teachers who pervert sound doctrine.

He calls them first Prophets, and then unclean spirits. The name of Prophets is conceded to them, though they were wholly unworthy of so honorable a title. As ungodly men ever boast themselves in an audacious manner and hesitate not to pretend God’s name, that they may more boldly proceed in deceiving: hence it is, that Scripture sometimes concedes to them a name which they falsely claim. So also the word spirit is sometimes applied to them —

“Prove the spirits, whether they are of God: every spirit that denies that Christ has come in the flesh, he is a liar.”
(1 John 4:1.)

John doubtless adopted this mode of speaking according to common usage; for all false teachers claimed this title with great confidence, and maintained that all the errors they spread abroad were revealed to them by the Spirit.” Be it so then, but ye are lying spirits.”

Now then as to this title, there is no obscurity in what the Prophet means: and by way of explanation he adds the unclean spirit, that he might distinguish those vile men from the faithful ministers of God; as though he had said, “They indeed declare that they have drawn down the Spirit from heaven; but it is the spirit of the devil, it is an unclean spirit.” Now as Zechariah declares, that this would be in the Church of God, we learn how foolish the Papists are, who are content with the mere title of honor, and claim to themselves the greatest power, and will have themselves heard without dispute, as though they were the organs of the Spirit. What right indeed do they pretend? that they have been called by the Lord. The same reason might have been assigned by these unprincipled men, whom it was necessary to drive away, in order that the Church might rise again. It then follows that we are not to consider only what name a person has, or with what title he is distinguished, but how rightly he conducts himself, and how faithfully he performs his duties and discharges the office of a pastor. Let us proceed -


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