And it shall be, when the LORD your God shall have brought you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac…
I. THAT A JUST SENSE OF THE SUPREME BEING IS THE BEST SECURITY FOR A MAN'S VIRTUE. I say a just sense, because wrong apprehensions of the Deity have generally had a very unhappy influence on the interests of virtue; as is evident to everyone who compares the religion and manners of the heathen world. This was probably the reason why Moses was so solicitous to suppress all personal representations of the Deity through his whole economy; he knew very well that the people would naturally borrow their idea of God from the representations they saw of Him, and that the idea of their God would be the measure of their morality. There are few things that have contributed more to the extent of vice than the hope of secrecy, which vanishes at the very apprehension of a Being who seeth in secret. But our idea of the Deity stops not here; we consider Him not barely as a spectator of our actions, but as a judge of them too; and he must be an insolent offender, indeed, who will dare to commit a crime in the sight of Him who he knows will judge him, who he is sure will condemn him for it. The hope of reward and fear of punishment add fresh vigour to the cause of virtue.
II. THIS SENSE OF GOD IS OFTEN MUCH EFFACED, SOMETIMES ABSOLUTELY LOST, IN A STATE OF EASE AND AFFLUENCE. The observation of Moses has its foundation in nature, is evident to experience, and confirmed by a greater than Moses, who tells us how difficult it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God; and we find how difficult it is for those who have them not to trust in them. When we are under any immediate presence of affliction, when we are despised and deserted by men, we look upon God as a present help in trouble; but that exigence is no sooner over than we begin to see Him at a great distance. We no longer call to heaven for that satisfaction which we can now find from earth, but depend upon the second cause for that support which can never be attained but from the First. We begin to fancy ourselves established even beyond the reach of providence, or the possibility of change. There is something in the very nature of ease which is apt to enervate the mind and introduce a languid effeminacy into all its faculties. The senses, by an habitual indulgence, gain ground upon the understanding and usurp the province of reason, which must inevitably decline in proportion as the sensual affections prevail; the spirit becomes less willing as the flesh grows more weak; we sink into an indolent oblivion of our Maker, and fall amongst the number of those who are "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." It is obvious to observe here, that as every corruption in our principles is followed by proportionate decay in our practice, so every corruption in our practice is attended with an equal decay in our principles; from whence it appears that religion and virtue are inseparably united, they must flourish and fall together; they are lovely in their lives, and in their deaths they cannot be divided.
III. A STATE OF EASE AND AFFLUENCE, AS IT TEMPTS US STRONGLY TO LOSE, SO IT LAYS US UNDER GREATER OBLIGATIONS TO RETAIN AND IMPROVE THAT SENSE OF GOD UPON OUR MINDS. You, who inhabit great and goodly cities which you did not build, who inherit houses full of all good things which you did not fill; you, whose fortunes seem to be showered upon you directly from heaven, while others are forced by the sweat of their brows to raise them from the earth; as you are blessed with higher degrees of the bounties of God, so are you more eminently obliged to preserve a stronger sense of them. Your duty increases with the eminence of your station, and your obligations to it are multiplied by the number of your advantages.
IV. I shall now point out to you, in the last place, SOME OF THOSE MEANS WHICH SEEM MOST LIKELY TO PRESERVE AND IMPROVE THOSE CONCEPTIONS UPON OUR MINDS. And I think there can be no better than those which Moses recommends to the Israelites in vers. 6, 7. When you thus begin and end sour day, when you thus open your morning and close your evening, you cannot absolutely forget the Lord, especially if you make Him the subject of your conversation too. The next direction is, to teach the commandments of God to your children; but a man cannot well teach that to another of which he is ignorant himself. And every time you endeavour to imprint a sense of God upon the minds of your children, you must necessarily make so strong an impression of it upon your own that you can never be able to forget the Lord.
(T. Ashton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,