Part 1

Section 7—Psalm 81:13, 14.

O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways; I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.

This passage is produced by the Remonstrants, to prove the resistibility of the grace of God in Conversion;[1] in favor of the delectability of the saints; and by a late writer,[2] as irreconcilable with God's decrees of election and reprobation, and the doctrine of particular redemption; and as proving that men have a sufficiency of ability to do what God wishes they would do. But let it be considered,

I. That, admitting the words contain a wish and desire of God for the spiritual welfare and conversion of men, such a wish can only be ascribed to him in a figurative sense, as has been observed under the preceding section. Wishing cannot be attributed to God in such sense as it is to man, who often wishes for that which is not in his power to perform, and therefore desires it to be done by another, which cannot be said of God without impeaching his omnipotence. When God is said to wish for and desire, as we will suppose here, the conversion and obedience of men, it only implies that these would be grateful and well-pleasing to him; and not that either is in the power of men to convert themselves, and obey the commands of God, or that it is the determining will of God that every individual of mankind should be converted and obey his commands in a way acceptable to him; for then every man would be converted and obey: therefore, such a wish, suppose it as universal and extensive as you please, does not militate against the distinguishing grace of God, in choosing, redeeming, and calling some only; since such a wish only declares what God approves of, and not what he determines shall be.

II. The wish for the spiritual welfare of the persons here mentioned, supposing it to be one, is only for the people of Israel, God's professing people, and whom he calls my people, and not all mankind, or every individual son of Adam, as it ought to have been, could it be thought to militate against the election, redemption, and effectual vocation of some particular persons only; and besides, it would be difficult to prove that these persons spoken of, notwithstanding all their perverseness, rebellion, and misconduct, were not chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and savingly wrought upon by the power of divine grace, and finally saved.

III. The words, if duly examined, will appear not to contain any wish at all, but an hypothesis, or supposition; being to be read thus, If my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I should, etc. R. Sol. Jarchi interprets wl by sa, and R. Aben Ezra by wlya, and the Septuagint by eij; all which signify if:so the Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Vulgate Latin, Junius, and Tremellius, read the words; therefore, as the[3] Contra-Remonstrants have rightly observed, it does not follow from hence, that these people could obey the commands of God; or that the performance of obedience depended on their will; no more than it would follow from such a proposition, if a man keeps the law of God perfectly, he shall be justified by it: therefore it is in the power of man to keep the law of God perfectly; or from this, if a man believes he shall be saved; therefore, faith depends on man's will, or is in man's power. Besides,

IV. The words are not to be understood of the internal work of grace and conversion, and of spiritual and evangelical obedience springing from it, which would have been attended with spiritual and eternal blessings; but of an external obedience to God's commands, which would have been followed with temporal favors; such as subduing their enemies under them, feeding them with the finest of the wheat, and satisfying them with honey out of the rock; in the same sense are we to understand the words in Isaiah 48:18, which usually go in company with these under examination, and are also to be read conditionally; If thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river;as they are by the Targum, the Septuagint, and Arabic versions, by R. David Kimchi, Junius, and Tremellius; and neither the one nor the other regard the spiritual, but temporal welfare of God's people Israel; nor do they contain a wish for that, but a declaration or an asseveration of it, on condition of their obedience to God's commands. The passage in Hosea 11:8, which is sometimes joined with this, is a human way of speaking, as R. Aben Ezra on the place observes; and expresses God's compassionate concern for the temporal welfare of Ephraim and Israel, and not transports of affection, and desire after the spiritual welfare of any, much less of all mankind.


[1] In Coll. Hag. art. 3. 4. p. 216, 219; art. 5 p. 15, ed. Bert.

[2] Whitby, p, 77, 181, 222; ed. 2. 76, 177, 216.

[3] In Coll. Hag. art. 3. 4. p. 232.

Gill Index