Deuteronomy 4:9

For New Year’s Morning 1774


Deuteronomy 4:9

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.

Who would have thought it needful to caution not to forget such great things as they had seen?  But the Lord knew and experience had already proved, that their hearts were forgetful, evil and perverse.  But the exhortation is to us likewise.
1. Believers have seen great things, which if duly remembered would powerfully constrain, preserve and animate them in the Lord’s way.  Such things as none can see but themselves, because they only have eyes to see.  The Lord works wonderfully, but how can the blind see?
  1.1 You have seen the evil of sin
    Sufficient it should seem to make it hateful for ever.  You have seen it as the cause of all misery, of the death of Jesus.  You have seen and felt it, in its bitterness and danger in your own souls – in conviction and backsliding.
  1.2 You have seen the love of Christ
    Many hear of it, but to you it has been revealed.  How seasonable and welcome its first discovery.  Perhaps you then thought it impossible to forget what you saw.  You have seen it since - in secret and public - it has refreshed your heart, healed your wounds, lightened your burdens and comforted you under sorrows.
  1.3 You have seen the Lord’s faithfulness to his promises.
    Could you not say, my heart has trusted and I have been helped?
  1.4 You have seen the wisdom and goodness of God in his providence, how he manages and overrules, causes light to shine out of darkness, and brings good out of seeming evil.
  1.5 You have abundantly seen the vanity and emptiness of the creature.  How little good they can afford, and how little harm they can do us while we are in the path of duty.  Experience has shown you that they are only what the Lord is pleased to make them.
  1.6 You have seen the importance and reality of the great things within the veil.
    How happy should we be in ourselves.  How exemplary to others, how honourable in our profession, could we act consistently with these views, each of which has been confirmed to us by the experience of the last year.  But:
2. We are apt to forget what we have seen, or else:
  2.1 How could any who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, be careless and venture some in their walk, venturing upon things which have at least the appearance of evil and perhaps such as are really so – and which once they would as soon have gone into the fire as have countenanced?
  2.2 The indifference that is apt to grow towards the means of grace proves this forgetfulness.  Why not always precious, since always needful and always commanded?
  2.3 It appears likewise from distrust and impatience under trials.  Could we judge of them from what we have known of ourselves or of the Lord, we should submit to the heaviest and hope under the darkness.
  2.4 So likewise from the eagerness with which the world is sometimes pursued by those who have formerly seen, that mountains of gold and silver could not make amends for the interruption of communion with God.
  2.5 Again, from the faintness of zeal and the little concern for the glory of God.  Too often God’s people have sunk so low, that if they could maintain a sort of confused, unfelt hope of being well at last, they have thought of little else.
3. We are therefore to take heed, the heart is deceitful, the world ensnaring, Satan watchful.  But how?  The best care we can take of ourselves is to entreat the Lord to take care of us.  But there are means, within our reach, and in the use of them he has promised to bless us, Psalm 127:1. [1]
  3.1 to commune with our hearts and review our ways. The Lord complains, My people will not consider.
  3.2 reading the Scriptures. This will bring things to our mind.
  3.3 frequency at a throne of grace. If these things are neglected, the power of religion will decline.
One means of good for ourselves, and a duty incumbent upon those who have families, is mentioned in my text, Thou shalt teach.

If you have seen these things, will you not desire your children should see them too?  If you are affected with the dreadful disorderly state of the youth, will you not do all in your power to lessen the evil?

If you have not children, you have relations, friends and acquaintances.  Try to help them.  How knowest thou O man, etc [2].

If you have not seen the things which the Lord shows his people, it is time you should pray, Lord open mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death [3].


[1] Psalm 127:1 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
[2] 1 Corinthians 7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
[3] Psalm 13:3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;


From Newton's pocket sermon notebook, N11, Cowper & Newton Museum, Olney, Bucks
© Marylynn Rouse 2000


Marylynn Rouse, 20/01/2014