“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”—Deuteronomy 5:29.

I. These vehement desires of God for the good of these people, are said to be irreconcilable with his decrees of election and reprobation; and supposing those decrees, they are represented[1] to be hypocritical: to which may be replied:

1. For God passionately to wish good things, even salvation itself, for some, and not for all, is no ways contrary, but perfectly agreeable to the doctrine of election. If any thing is said to the purpose, as militating against that doctrine, it ought to be said and proved, that God has vehemently desired the salvation of all mankind; of which these words can be no proof, since they only regard the people of Israel, who were the fewest of all people. As for those scriptures which represent God as willing all men to be saved[2], and not willing that any should perish, they will be considered in their proper places.

2. It might seem repugnant to these decrees, and to imply hypocrisy and guile, could any instance be produced of God’s passionately wishing the salvation of such whom the Scriptures represent as rejected of him, given up to a reprobate mind, and as vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, or who are not eventually saved; but none will say, such were the people whose good and welfare are vehemently desired in this passage of Scripture. For,

3. These are the most improper instances that could have been pitched upon: since they were a peculiar people to the Lord, whom he had chosen to be a special people to himself, above all people upon the face of the earth[3].

II. These passionate wishes also, supposing the doctrine of particular redemption, are said to represent[4] as full of guile, deceit, insincerity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy; to which I answer,

1. The doctrine of particular redemption is the doctrine of the Scriptures. Christ died not for all men, but for some only; who are called his people, his sheep, his church, unless all men can be thought to be the people, sheep, and church of Christ.

2. The blasphemous charge of guile, deceit, insincerity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy, ought to be removed from God, who cannot lie, deceive, dissemble, or deny himself; who is a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he. Nor,

3. Does such a passionate wish for the good of these people, whom God had so great a regard for as to redeem from Egyptian bondage, imply any thing of this nature, supposing the doctrine of particular redemption for, as has been observed in answer to former question, it ought to be proved, that God has ever used such expressions of desire for the salvation of all mankind, and particularly of such who are not saved; in which number none will choose to put the people of Israel, especially since it is said[5], that all Israel shall be saved. And,

4. After all, these words do not express God’s desire of their eternal salvation, but only of their temporal good and welfare, and that of their posterity; for their eternal salvation was not to be obtained by works of righteousness done by them, by their fear or worship of God, or by their constant universal obedience to his commands. They were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we. Their fear of God, and obedience to his will, issued indeed in their temporal prosperity, and on this account were strictly enjoined them; that so they might live, and it be well with them, and they prolong their days in the land they were going to possess, as appears from verse 33; and with a view to this, God so ardently desired these things in them, and to be done by them.

III. Such pathetic[6] expressions are thought to imply, that God gives to all men sufficient grace for conversion, and to militate against the necessity of the unfrustrable operation of his grace in that work.

1. Admitting that the saving work of conversion is here wished for; such a wish does not necessarily suppose that sufficient grace for that work either was or would be given; and if the thing wished for was effected, it does not follow from hence, that this was not performed by the unfrustrable operation of God’s grace.

2. Allowing that this grace, an heart to fear the Lord, and all that is requisite to it, were given to the Israelites; it ought not to be concluded from hence, that all men have the same, or that God wishes the same to all men.

3. We are not to imagine that such velleities and wishes are strictly and properly in God; who here speaks, as R. Aben Ezra[7] observes, by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men; such desires are ascribed to him in the same way as human passions and affections are; as anger, grief, repentance, and the like: nor do such wishes and desires declare either what God does or will do; but what he approves of, and is grateful to him; as are an heart to fear him, and a constant and universal obedience to his commandments.

4. The words are so rendered by some, as that they express no wish or desire in God, but rather what was to be desired by the Israelites themselves; so the Arabic version, it should be wished for by them, that such an heart would continue in them; that is, such an heart as they professed to have in verse 27, when they said to Moses, Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we will hear it, and do it. The Lord takes notice of this declaration, in verse 28: I have heard, says he, the voice of the words of this people, they have well said all that they have spoken; and then adds, according to this version, that a continuance of such an heart to hear and do, should be very desirable by them. Moreover, the words may be rendered as they are by the Septuagint, who will give? and so be considered as an inquiry, as Dr. Whitby himself says[8] who will give them this heart? they could not give it themselves: no creature could give it them; only God could give them such an heart as this. And perhaps this mode of expression may be used on purpose to convince them of their want of such an one, and that God only could give it to them; and therefore they should apply to him for it, and not presume, as they seemed to do, to hearken to his commandments, and obey them in their own strength, and without the assistance of his grace. Or,

5. These words may be considered as an upbraiding of these people with the want of an heart to fear the Lord, and with want of ability, to keep all his commandments, and that always, notwithstanding the vain boasts and empty resolutions they had just now made. In the same manner are we to consider other pathetic expressions of the like nature; such as Deuteronomy 32:28, 29 and Psalm 81:11-13.

[1] Curcellae, Relig. Christ. Inst. 1.6, e. 6, sect. 7, p. 370; Whitby’s Discourse on the Five Points pp. 77, 197; edit. 2. 76, 193.
[2] 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9.
[3] Deut. 7:6.
[4] Whitby, p. 179, 181; ed. 2. 175, 177.
[5] Rom. 11:26.
[6] Whitby, p. 235; ed. 2. 230.
[7] In loc.
[8] Page 235; ed. 2. 230.


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