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REMARKS ON MALACHI 3:8.

Covington, GA., April 15, 1860.

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”

Though Malachi was one of the minor prophets, yet his testimony is profitable and instructive to the saints. It was the burden of the word of the Lord to Israel. He mentions the distinguished favors of God to Jacob and his seed, which is Israel, and of his love to Jacob and his posterity in distinction from Esau, whose land was consigned to barrenness and drought. He reproves the Jews for their ungrateful and unbecoming conduct towards their God, and declares that the Gentiles shall be called to the knowledge of the truth; and charges the Jews with profanation and weariness of the worship of God, and with offering him sacrifices blemished and corrupted. Chap. I. He points out to the Priests their neglect of instructing the people; reproves the marriage of strange wives, and their frequent and groundless divorces. Chap. II. After informing them of the near approach of the Messiah, to refine and purify them, he rebukes the Jews for their sacrilege and blasphemy, and declares the Lord’s distinguished regard for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name, and, in a time of general corruption, walked in his way. Chap. III. He concludes with a prediction of terrible judgments on such Jews and others who would not receive the promised Messiah, and of signal and special mercy to those who should believe on him, and speaks of John the Baptist’s coming under the name of Elijah the prophet, to make ready a people prepared to receive the Lord’s Christ. Chap. IV.

Before entering into an exposition of the text, we will remark that National Israel was a Theocracy, or a government under the immediate direction of God, and governed by laws and ordinances which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Blessings were promised and curses denounced upon them for their obedience, or disobedience as the reward, or penalty annexed to that conditional covenant they were under. There was no eternal salvation promised, nor everlasting damnation pronounced upon them in that covenant, nor by any of its laws. When they were obedient they were blessed in basket and in store, in their out-goings and in-comings with a plenty of corn and wine. God prospered them and went forth at the head of their armies. But when they were disobedient they were cursed in their basket and store, in their out-goings and in-comings, and famine was sent upon the land and cut off their corn, wine and oil, and the Lord caused them to flee before their enemies. This was repeatedly verified relative to their course as God’s National people. It should be remembered that no other nation sustained the same relation to Jehovah as Israel did.

In the text they are charged with robbing God. Robbery is a violent felonious taking from the person or presence of another. This is its common application. In the sense of our text it signifies to withhold what is due. A question is asked, will a man rob God, or in other words, withhold that which is due to God? He says, yet ye have robbed me, or withheld that which was due. But they in their wickedness and folly say, wherein have we robbed thee, or withheld from thee? He replies, in tithes and offerings.

We will here state that to the tribe of Levi was assigned the Priesthood. The tithes, or tenth part of the seed of the land and of the fruit of the tree, and also of the flock and cattle, were assigned to the Levites, after deducting the first fruits of the land, and the firstlings of the flocks for their offerings and sacrifices. These tithes were holy unto the Lord. Lev. 27:30,32. As the Levites had no inheritance among their brethren the tenth in Israel was given them for an inheritance. Num. 18:21, Deut. 14:27-29. And to the priests were allowed a tenth part of the portion given to the Levites in general. Num. 18:26-29, Neh. 10:38.

These tithes and offerings had an immediate connection with the priesthood; and were separated from a common to a sacred use, and were devoted or dedicated to the service of God to maintain the worship of God under that typical dispensation. While the Priests and Levites were devoted to the service of the Lord, they received tithes from their brethren, the children of Israel, agreeable to the word of the Lord. The offerings also were an essential part of the service rendered by the people as expressive of their devotion to God. When the tithes were brought into the storehouse, and the offerings punctually attended to, and performed, their course was approved of God.

The question arises, why did the Israelites or Jews withhold the tithes and offerings, or in other words, rob God? We answer, through covetousness, which is idolatry. Through their self-righteousness and inordinacy, they made use of them to gratify their carnal lusts and sordid ambition, in false worship and idolatrous practices, which occasioned the inquiry in our text. To make use of that which God has set apart, or consecrated to a holy purpose to gratify a covetous self-righteous spirit, is robbing God, and is idolatry. And yet that hypocritical nation would try to justify their vile course by great pretensions to the service and worship of God, by the inquiry wherein have we robbed God, or withheld that was due? And when reproved and rebuked by the prophets, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, they manifested their spite and venom against the prophets by persecuting them unto death.

The ministration of condemnation that Israel was under was glorious, and revealed the holiness, purity, and righteousness of God in his law and justice. The covenant, laws, rites, ceremonies and carnal ordinances binding upon Israel under that dispensation, they were under obligation and bounden duty to observe and keep throughout all their generation. In the keeping of them God was glorified. Any departure, either in withholding what was due to God or substituting some works of their own invention, was punished upon the transgressor according to the nature of the transgression. And upon this principle of punishment God was also glorified in the final rejection and overthrow of the Jewish nation in his wrath and vengeance.

The old covenant dispensation with its rituals, ceremonies, carnal ordinances, meats, drinks, new moons, holy days, and its sabbaths, have passed away, for they were the shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Upon the same principle the tithes and offerings have ceased by the bringing in of a better and more glorious dispensation established upon better promises. It is the ministration of life and peace, and brings eternal salvation to sinners upon the principle of an unconditional covenant. The Lord Jesus appeared as the Great High Priest of his people, and abolished the hand-writing of ordinances, nailing them to his cross, magnified and honored the law that his people were under, and by the offering of himself upon the cross, made an atonement for all whom he represented, with whom the new covenant is made, and who are all redeemed by his precious blood. As the Mediator of the new covenant he said, “Lo, I come, {in the volume of the book it is written of me,} to do thy will O God. Above when he said, sacrifice and offering, and burnt offerings, and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will O God. He taketh away the first {covenant} that he may establish the second {covenant.} By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.” Therefore the saints under the New Testament dispensation have not come to Mount Sinai that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness, and tempest. But as Paul declared to his Hebrew brethren, “But ye are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the First-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” This is experimentally applicable to the saints now as formerly.

The church of God is under law to Christ, the law of love and obedience to his commands, and are to follow him as their Leader, Commander, and as the Captain of their salvation. His doctrine, laws, precepts and ordinances are binding upon them to observe and keep, and is called the faith once delivered unto the saints. It is the duty and privilege of the ministry to present Christ in their preaching as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in so doing they render to God the honor and glory due to his holy name. To withhold this testimony, and preach a conditional system relative to eternal salvation, or a system of means, agencies and instrumentalities, based upon the works of the creature which feeds, pampers and strengthens men in their own righteousness, is robbing God, or withholding from him the glory which is due. The work of the ministry is a holy work, ordained of God for his glory, and the good of his people, and shall it be prostituted to the avarice, covetousness and gratification of a carnal law ambition? The Scriptures are the only text book we have on record, and shall it be prevented from its legitimate use and meaning to feed a covetous disposition? Alas! Alas! How much speculation there is in religious matters in our day. Men enter the ministry for the sake of a living, are called “Reverends,” and “D.D’s,” and schools, colleges and seminaries are established to educate such men for the ministry. And when they are prepared and sent out to preach as a matter of course they do not preach Christ, but teach for doctrines the commandments of men. They pervert the Scriptures by representing that they teach what they do not teach, and wickedly represent that the salvation of sinners is dependent upon the use of means and efforts of men, and in this way beguile unstable souls, and lead the simple and unwary astray. The introduction of religious novels and romances in the shape of tracts and Sunday School books, is a part of the machinery which is used to deceive and draw away the minds of many from the truth. Tradition and the writings of men are made more the standard of religious belief than the Scriptures of truth. The distinction of clergy and laity is observed to mark the superiority of the clerical fraternity, and the inferiority of the private members of the church. Modern missionism is established without any Scripture proof, and hundreds of honest people, for aught we know, will contribute their substance to its support, and think they are doing that which is acceptable to God. Large monies are raised to extend for religious purposes, so called, and to evangelize the world through the means of Bible, Tract and Mission Societies and Sunday School Unions. A large portion of the preaching of our day is on these subjects, and all those who will not contribute to sustain such societies and men, are charged with robbing God by withholding their money from what they profanely call the Lord’s treasury. Sometimes they will use the text which we have at the head of this article, and pervert its meaning to carry out their selfish purposes, and occasionally trouble some of the dear saints with their pernicious application of the Scripture. Much more could be said in the way of describing the hypocrisy, and wickedness of the age in religious matters, but it is not a pleasant subject to dwell upon. In our early experience we endured a great fight of afflictions, surrounded as we were by the elements of scholastic divinity, and aristocratical religious popularity with which New England abounds. Pride, fashion, vain-show and popularity is the order of the day, and we speak of it, not to ridicule and to stigmatize any class of people, but with grief we express it.

In the New Testament it is recorded that Christ is the Head of the church, the King that reigns in righteousness, and the twelve Apostles are the Princes that rule in judgment. Furthermore, Christ and his Apostles are seated upon their thrones in the kingdom of God or gospel church. All power in heaven and earth is given unto Jesus, who called, qualified and sent forth his Apostles to perform the work assigned them. On the same principle yet he calls whomsoever he will to preach his gospel. He calls sinners by his grace, and his church is composed of living members. He pours out of his Spirit and revives his work when it is his pleasure. And it is the duty and privilege of his people to do what he has commanded them. And the Scriptures are plain to show the way of duty as far as the Holy Spirit teaches. And as there is no record that Christ and his Apostles ever approved, sanctioned, or authorized any other society in religious matters but the church of Christ, the saints and inquirers after truth, need not heed what men and false teachers may say.

To withhold any part of the doctrine of the gospel which is revealed from heaven, simply because fallen man squirms under it, and may call it unprofitable to be preached, is robbery in the sense of our text. God is glorified in the faithful ministry of the word. To be governed by a covetous worldly minded spirit as the professed followers of Jesus, and neglect church privileges, and do as the world does, loan money at usury and take unlawful percent for the sake of gain, is another species of robbery. Loving the praise of men more than the praise of God, seeking for honor, popularity and wealth, is an accursed thing among God’s people. Drunkenness and debauchery, slandering, tattling and backbiting, is degrading not only to the world at large, but is especially so among the professed people of God. It is robbery in a scriptural sense to depart from any principle of truth either in doctrine or practice which God has commanded, for God is glorified in his purpose of love and mercy in his church when the saints walk in the truth, and love one another. The holy things of the kingdom of God relative to the peace and prosperity of Zion are bestowed upon the church for his declarative glory and honor. Therefore we should not rob or withhold from God the glory due to his holy name.

If the tithes and offerings have any figurative application to the gospel church in any respect, we conclude it must be in reference to the ministration of the word, the administration of ordinances, and the practical observance of the rules, precepts, duties, privileges and discipline of God’s house. An attendance upon what God has commanded is in the way of self-denial, and bearing the cross of Christ, and is acceptable only as the heart and soul are engaged in it, and is not grievous to be borne. When faith and hope are in exercise, and the love of God inwardly abounds, the saints are satisfied with what God has declared, and it is a privilege to them to bring their tithes and offerings into the store house or gospel church. The gospel church is a spiritual house to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, and is not a house made of brick, stone, wood, or such materials, but is a building of God, a house not made with hands, whose workmanship is not of men, but of God. It is sacrilege, blasphemy and robbery in the fullest sense, to withhold or add to the worship of God in his house or church, either in doctrine, precept or example, contrary to the statutes and commandments of Zion’s King. The saints are a Royal Priesthood, and the Lord Jesus is Great High Priest, and they {the saints} are kings and priests unto God and his Father, to whom be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

As sister Wilson of Jackson County, GA., requested our views of the text treated upon in this article, we have done about the best we could under the present circumstances, realizing as we do our inability and lack of understanding in the Scriptures of truth.

J.L.P.