Part 1

Section 6—Deuteronomy 32:29.

O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.

These words were made use of to contradict the doctrines of absolute election, particular redemption, and unfrustrable grace in conversion; it is intimated,[1] that, on supposition of these doctrines, they would represent the God of sincerity and truth as full of guile and hypocrisy, when he earnestly wishes and desires the welfare of men, and that they have spiritual wisdom; and yet he himself has decreed to leave them without a Savior, and without means of being spiritually wise; which is all one as though he had passionately wished they had been of the number of his elect, when he himself, by an absolute decree from all eternity, had excluded them out of that number. In answer to which, let it be observed,

I. That it ought to be proved that God does passionately wish the spiritual and eternal welfare of all mankind; or desires that every individual of human nature might have spiritual wisdom to know his spiritual estate, and consider his latter end; since it is evident that he does not afford to every son of Adam the means of being spiritually wise, and it is certain that these words to not express such an universal wish; for they only regard a part of mankind, either the people of Israel, or the adversaries of Israel, as will be seen hereafter; and therefore, being spoken only of some, and not of every individual of men, cannot militate against the election and redemption of some only.

II. It ought to be proved that God wishes or desires the spiritual welfare of, or spiritual wisdom for any, but those whom he has chosen to eternal life, whom Christ has redeemed by his blood, and to whom the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of themselves and Christ is given; or in other words, that God wishes and desires the spiritual welfare of such, and spiritual wisdom for such, who, in the event, are not eternally saved.

III. It ought to be considered whether these words regard the spiritual welfare of any, or contain in them a wish for wisdom and understanding in spiritual things; or rather, whether they do not only regard things temporal, and the knowledge of them, as will quickly be made to appear.

IV. Supposing the words to contain a wish for wisdom and understanding in spiritual things, such a wish must be ascribed to God, not properly, but by an anthropopathy (the attributing of human emotions, passions, sufferings to God; ed.), or after the manner of men; wishes and velleities (a very low degree of desire or volition; ed.) are improperly, or in a figurative way, attributed to God; nor do they suppose any imperfection in him, nor sufficiency in his creatures; nor do such necessarily imply that it is his will to give that wisdom he wishes for; nor do they lay him under obligation even to afford the means of spiritual wisdom; but as a man wishes for that which is grateful and agreeable to him, so when God wishes for spiritual wisdom in men, it only implies that such wisdom in them would be well-pleasing to him. Besides, such a mode of speaking may be used either by way of complaint of ignorance, or as expressing pity for it, or as upbraiding with it; and that in order either to bring to a sense of it, and encourage to apply to him for wisdom, who gives it liberally, or to leave inexcusable. But,

V. The words are not delivered in the form of a wish, but are an hypothetical proposition. The Hebrew word wl signifies if,[2] and the whole verse should be rendered thus:—If they were wise, they would understand this, they would consider their latter end;and supposing them to be understood in a spiritual sense, the meaning is, had they been wise to do good, as they are to do evil, they would have understood the things that belong to their spiritual peace and welfare, and would have seriously considered the last issue and end of all things, and themselves; but they are not wise in things divine and spiritual, and therefore have no understanding of them; nor do they consider the end of their sinful actions; nor the end of their days, how short it is, how nigh at hand; nor that awful judgment that will follow after death; nor their final doom, nor whither they shall go, to heaven or hell. Though,

VI. After all, the words are to be understood of things temporal, and not of what concerns the spiritual and eternal welfare of any. Instances of God's goodness to the people of Israel are at large recited in verse 14. After that, their many sins against God and great ingratitude to him are mentioned in verses 15-18, which drew God's resentment and indignation against them, expressed in threatenings of many severe judgments, verses 19-25, which he would have executed on them, but that he feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this (v. 27), for he knew that they were a nation void of counsel: neither was there any understanding in them (v. 28), for if they had been wise, they would have understood this,that the destruction of the people of Israel was of God, and not of them; for otherwise,[3] how should one chase a thousand, that is, one Gentile a thousand Israelites; and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? (v. 30). They would also have considered their own end, or what must befall them in length of time; that as God had cut off and destroyed his people Israel for their sins, so they might expect the same destruction for iniquities of a like kind. Now since this is the plain and obvious sense of the words, they cannot be used with any propriety in the controversy about the doctrines of distinguishing grace.


[1] Whitby, p. 181, 222, 223; ed. 2. 177, 216, 217.

[2] The three Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan, and Jerusalem, render it by wla, if; as do also R. Sol. Jarchi, R. Aben Ezra, and R. Levi ben Gersom, in loc. So Noldius in Concord. partic. Ebr, Chal. p. 503, translates the words, Si saparent. intelligerent ista; so the Arabic and Syriac versions. The Septuagint seems to have read al for lw, since they render them ouk ejronhsan su ienai, they were not wise to understand: so the Samaritan version.

[3] Vid. Vatablum in loc,

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