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Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me : then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
THESE words are part of a very interesting and important prayer, put up by the devout and pious psalmist, upon meditating on the purity, holiness, and extent of the law of God, and comparing himself with it.
It is a prayer very important to be adopted, by every one of us ; and is worthy of our present and frequent meditation.—Having spoken, in a most animated manner, upon the efficacy, utility, and excellent nature of the law of God, and all his requirements, he adds, “ more to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold-sweeter also than honey and the loney-comb-moreover by them is thry servant warned;" that is, instructed and admonished.-I am led hy them to a knowledge of my sins, as being numcrous and dangerous, and justly exciting the divine displeasure. According to the words of the apostle, “ By the law is the knowledge
of sin.” Moreover, by them is thy servant warned. In keeping them there is great reward. Upon the review and consideration of the exact purity of God's law, and comparing himself with it, the psalmist, in a kind of astonishment, and with an implied censure of himself, exclaimed, “ Who can understand his errors ?" As if he had said, thy law, O God, is holy, just, and good, but I am a poor, sinful wretch, falling infinitely short of it, and condemned by it-my sins are innumerable, that I cannot understand them-I cannot comprehend the number, or the kinds, or all the heinous aggravations of them. Or, as expressed in another place, “ Innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, that I cannot look up—they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me." With this view, and under a sense of his dependence, and the necessity of divine influences, he adds, « Cleanse thou me from secret faults ;" that is, from the guilt of such sins as are unknown or unperceived -sins of ignorance; and probably all such sins are respected and included under the terms errors, and secret fuults, as are not properly presumpiuous sins. For le adds in the next verse, keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me." Keep back, that is, restrain or withdraw. The word is eniphatical, and denotes our natural and great proneness to the worst of sins ; and the need of divine grace and restraints, as a bridle to keep us from rushing into them. « Let them not have dominion over me ;" That is, let them not prevail. If, at any time, I fall into presumptuous sins, let me speedily rise again, by cordial and thorough repentance ; and not give myself :o the practice of them.-" Then shall I be upright, and shall be innocent from the great transgression.” That is, this will be an evidence of my sincerity; and I shall have the consolation, that although I am not absolutely perfect, but am encompassed with many infirmities; yet,
that I am an upright person, or such an one as thou wilt accept, or treat as innocent-in a state of justification and pardon, through him who is my strength and Redeemer, as he suggests in the succeeding
Dr. Owen, speaking on this passage, observes as follows : “ The design of the psalmist here is, to be preserved in such a state and condition, that he may be upright before God. To be upright before God, is what God requires of us in the covenant of grace, that we may be accepted with him, and enjoy the promises thereof. He that is so, will be freed from the great transgression, or that abundance of sin, which is inconsistent with the covenant love and favor of God. And hereunto three things are required. 1. A constant sense and humble acknowledgeinent of sin. “ Who can understand his errors.” 2. Daily cleansing from those defilements which the least and most secret sins are accompanied withal. - And 3. A preservation from presumptuous sins. Where these things are, there a man is upright, and hath the covenant ground of his communion with God. And whilst believers are preserved within these bounds, though they are defiled by sin, yet there is not any thing therein inconsistent with their union with Christ.” What I propose further, in discoursing upon the words of the text is,
1. To explain what we are to understand by presumptuous sins.
II. What is implied in being under the dominion of presumptuous sins.
III. Show that those, who are under their dominion, are not the children of God, and do not enjoy his favor.
I. I am to explain, what we are to understand by presumptuous sine. I would observe,
That presumptuous sins, are sins against light and knowledge. They are such sins as are known and evident; and are practised with allowance and deliberation such as are committed with a resistance against the checks of conscience, and with contempt Loth of God's commands and judgments. Such was the sin of David in the case of Uriah, to which he seems to have a reference, and prays to be kept from yielding himself to the dominion of such sins and miscarriages.
There are sins which are not presumptuous. Sins. of ignorance are not presumptuous. We all, without any doubt, commit many sins which may be called sins of ignorance--we have no thought or idea, in the commission of them, that they are sinful ; if we had, it may be we should have turned from them with abhorrence. Nevertheless, we are sinful in the commission of them, we are criminal in not discerning our duty.
St. Paul was guilty of great wickedness in persecuting the Church of Christ; yet it was the sin of ignorance. He verily thought, that in so doing he did God service. Had he believed or felt a conviction of conscience, that they were the Church of God, and with that conviction had persecuted and opposed. them, his sin would have been presumptuous, and farmore aggravated. Again;
it is doubtless the case, that persons may, at times, fall into known sins, and yet not sin prosumptuously. A person, through the subtilty of Satan, and the strength and suddenness of temptation, may
be induced to commit known sin, which, at the same time, he may be said not to allow. “ For that which I do, said the apostle, I allow not.” Thus true Christians sin daily, through infirmity, and the suddenness and strength of temptation—they do many things which they allow not, and are guilty of many
sinful imperfections and short-comings in duty ; so that they have daily occasion to say with the psalmist, “ Who can understand his errors, cleanse thoi me from secret faults.” And this will be their language and feelings ; and in a view of their numerous imperfections and frequent deviations, they will exercise an habitual humiliation and contrition.
Presumptuous sins are not sins of ignorance, nor such known sins and imperfections, as persons may fall into, through surprise and the suddenness of temptation, while they allow them not, and do exercise a godly sorrow in view of them. But they are the sins of those, who rush, knowingly, into temptation, and presumptuously expose themselves, where they know there is danger. They are sins committed against light and knowledge, with deliberation, and practised with allowance. But, to prevent misunderstanding, and that those who are under the dominion of sin may not misimprove what has been said, so as to excuse and justify themselves, it may be proper to add a few words, in limitation of the foregoing observations relative to sins of ignorance. It is not all sins which we do not certainly know to be sinful, which can with justice be called sins of ignorance. Many imagine that they may; and will attempt to excuse themselves for venturing upon a sinful action or practice, by saying they do not know it to be sinful ; meaning, however, no more, than that they have their doubts, they have not certain or demonstrative knowledge, that it is displeasing to God. When, at the same time, it is a sin against light, and against great light. They have suíficient evidence before them, to evince its sinfulness ; and they secretly think and feel it to be sinfultheir consciences are secretly convinced, however they may pretend to the contrary. Such sins are not sins of ignorance. These sins which are contrary to sufficient information and instruction, and contrary to the dictates of our own consciences, or the real