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Exhortation to Choose Life

11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.


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11. For this commandment, which I command thee. This declaration is like the preceding, and tends to the same end; for Moses commends in it the Law, on account of its easiness; because God does not propound to us obscure enigmas to keep our minds in suspense, and to torment us with difficulties, but teaches familiarly whatever is necessary, according to the capacity, and consequently the ignorance of the people. Therefore, in Isaiah 45:19 He reproves the Jews for having wandered in darkness through their own depravity and folly; because He had not spoken to them in secret, nor said in vain 275275     In A. V., it will be remembered, the words, “in vain,” are connected with “Seek ye me.” “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.” to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me. But Moses here invites them to learn, because they had an easy and clear method of instruction set before their eyes, and would not lose their labor; for we know that it is very often made an excuse for idleness, if great labor without much profit is to be applied to deep and difficult studies. Moses, therefore, declares that the Law is not hard to be understood, so as to demand inordinate fatigue in its study; but that God there speaks distinctly and explicitly, and that nothing is required of them but diligent application. More-over, he thus takes away from them every pretext for ignorance, since, with so much light, they cannot err, except by wilfully blinding themselves, or shutting their eyes. Whence, also, we gather, how impious are the babblings of the Papists that the Scripture is beset by thick darkness, and how wicked is their driving away the people from approaching it, as if it were some labyrinth. Surely they thus must needs accuse the Holy Spirit of falsehood, who so abundantly asserts its comprehensibleness, (claritatem,) or else they malign itself by their blasphemous taunts. But if the ancient people were left without excuse, unless they kept in the right way, when they had the Law for their mistress and director, our stupidity must be worthy of double and triple condemnation, if we do not make progress in the Gospel, wherein God has opened all the treasures of His wisdom, as far as is sufficient for salvation. The Sophists276276     Les Theologiens de la Papaute. — Fr. improperly and ignorantly wrest this passage to prove the freedom of the will. (They allege277277     Added from the French. ) that Moses here declares the precepts of the Law not to be above our reach. What? Does he state that the keeping of them is within the compass of our strength? Surely the words convey nothing of the sort; neither can this sense be elicited from them, if his intention be duly weighed. For he merely encourages the Jews, and commands them to be diligent disciples of the Law, because they will easily understand whatever is enjoined by God therein. But the power of performance is a very different thing from understanding. Besides, Paul, with very good reason, accommodates this passage to the Gospel, (Romans 10:8;) because it would profit nothing to comprehend the doctrine itself in the mind, unless reverence and a serious disposition to obey be superadded. But he takes it for granted, that to have a good will is so far from being in our own power, that we are not even competent to think aright. Hence it follows, that what is here stated falls to the ground as frivolous, and spoken to no purpose, if it be applied simply to the Law. Paul also considers another thing, viz., that because the Law requires a perfect righteousness, it cannot be received by any mortal fruitfully; for however any one may study to obey God, yet he will still be far from perfection; and, therefore, it is necessary to come to the Gospel, wherein that rigorous requirement is relaxed, because, through the interposition of pardon, the will to obey is pleasing to God instead of perfect obedience. For Paul insists on the latter verse, “The word is nigh in the mouth, and in the heart, that the people may do it.” Now, it is clear that men’s hearts are strongly and obstinately opposed to the Law; and that in the Law itself is contained only a dead and deadly letter; how then could the literal doctrine have a place in the heart? But if God, by the Spirit of regeneration, corrects the depravity of the heart and softens its hardness, this is not the property of the Law, but of the Gospel. Again, because in the children of God, even after they are regenerated, there always abide the remainders of carnal desires, no mortal will be found who can perform the Law. But in the Gospel God receives, with fatherly indulgence, what is not absolutely perfect. The word of God, therefore, does not begin to penetrate into the heart, and to produce its proper fruit in the lips, until Christ shines upon us with His Spirit and gratuitous pardon. Wherefore Paul most truly concludes that this is the word of faith which is preached in the Gospel; both because the Law does not efficaciously lead men to God, and because the keeping of it is impossible, on account of its extreme rigor. But this is the peculiar blessing of the new covenant, that the Law is written on men’s hearts, and engraven on their inward parts; whilst that severe requirement is relaxed, so that the vices under which believers still labor are no obstacle to their partial and imperfect obedience being pleasant to God.

15. See, I have set before thee this day. A solemn injunction, similar to the foregoing ones, that the Israelites should consider how inestimable a blessing it was that God should have condescended to deposit His Law with them; and that if they did not receive it with reverence, the punishments for such foul ingratitude would be by no means light. For, in order to deprive them of the pretext of error, He separates them from the heathen nations, which through ignorance of the right way vacillated, as in uncertainty, between life and death. He says, therefore, that He has set before their eyes life, and that indeed connected with true and complete happiness; and likewise death with its consequences. Now, there is no one who, under the guidance of nature, would not seek for life and recoil from death; and thence Moses reproaches them with being more than senseless if they should plunge voluntarily into all miseries. Meanwhile, he signifies that he is not addressing to them mere idle menaces, but that his doctrine is armed with the power of God, so that whosoever should embrace it would find salvation in it, whilst none would despise it with impunity. The distribution of the two clauses then follows, viz., that the love of God and the keeping of His Law is prescribed that they may live; but if they turn away from it, their destruction is denounced. It is not, then, without reason that I have called the promises and threats the Sanctions of the Law, because, in order that its authority may be assured to us, it is necessary that both the recompence of obedience, and also the punishment of transgression, should be set before us. By the worship of other gods, he means every revolt from God, as I have observed already. He does not speak of their being “drawn away” to superstition as an excuse for their instability, but rather as an aggravation of their crime, inasmuch as they are carried away by their depraved desires, 287287     Addition in Fr., “comme d’un tourbillon;” as by a whirlpool. and thus desert the truth of God when well acquainted with it.

19. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you. Though the verb is in the past tense, it indicates a present act. It is in order to deal with them with greater urgency that he calls heaven and earth to witness the vengeance of God. In these words he does not address men and angels, as some tamely expound it, but in amplification attributes sense to things inanimate. I pass this over briefly, because I have 288288     See ante on Deuteronomy 4:26, p. 270. treated it more fully before; as also what soon afterwards follows about life and death. For the Law, as respects its doctrine, contains in it life and death; for the reward of eternal life is not promised in it in vain; but since no one is found worthy of the promised reward, Paul justly teaches that the Law ministers death. Still this is accidental, and proceeds not from any fault in the doctrine, but from the corruption of men. Nevertheless, it is asked how, if the corruption of our nature causes that the Law should engender nothing but death, Moses commands us to “choose life,” which the sinner cannot attain to by it? Thence the Papists uplift their crests, both to extol free-will and to boast of merits; as if Moses did not also testify and proclaim the gratuitous mercy of God, and direct his disciples to Christ in order to seek salvation from Him. When, therefore, he speaks of keeping the Commandments, he does not exclude the two-fold grace of Christ, that believers, being regenerated by the Spirit, 289289     “S’adonnent a observer la Loy, et pource qu’ils n’en peuvent venir a bout, qu’ils ne soyent toujours redevables, que leur fautes leurs soyent gratuitement pardonnees;” should devote themselves to the keeping of the Law; and because they could never attain its end, so as not to be always indebted to it, that their faults should be gratuitously pardoned. — Fr. should aspire to the obedience of righteousness, and at the same time should be reconciled freely to God through the forgiveness of their sins. And assuredly, since the same covenant is common to us and to the ancient people, it is not to be doubted but that they “chose life” who of old embraced the doctrine of Moses. At the same time, in so far as his legation was different from the Gospel, he rather insists on the office peculiarly entrusted to him, so that the distinction between Christ and himself might more clearly appear. This is the reason why he more sparingly touches upon justification by faith, whilst he enlarges fully on loving and serving God and fulfilling His Commandments.




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