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NATURE, DANGER, AGGRAVATIONS, AND CURE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RESTRAINING AND SANCTIFYING GRACE,
IN EFFECTING THEREOF.
NATURE, DANGER, AGGRAVATIONS, AND CURE OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINNING, &c.
PSAL. xix. v. 13.
KEEP BACK THY SERVANT ALSO FROM PRESUMPTUOUS SINS: LET THEM NOT HAVE DOMINION OVER ME.
HAVING, in my former subject, treated of abstinence from those things that have in them the appearance of evil, I shall now, from the words read to you, speak something also of those things that are apparently evil: that, as you have already, in part, seen what Christian prudence and circumspection is required, your conversations be not offensive; so, here, you may also see what fervency of prayer, what measure of grace quisite, that they be not grossly wicked. In the verse immediately before the Text, the Psalmist prays, that God would cleanse him from his secret faults; that is, from sins of ignorance, whereof he knew himself to be guilty in the general, though in particular he knew not what they were. In this verse, he prays, that God would keep him from Sins of Presumption. The connection of these two requests is somewhat remarkable, and may afford us this pertinent and profitable Observation:
That SIN IS OF A GROWING AND ADVANCING NATURE.
From weakness to wilfulness, from ignorance to presumption, is its ordinary course and progress. The cloud, that Elijah's man saw, was at first no bigger than a hand's breadth; and it threatened no such thing as a general tempest: but yet, at last, it overspread the face of the whole heavens: so, truly, a sin, that, at first, ariseth in the soul but as a small mist, and is scarce discernable; yet, if it be not scattered by the breath of prayer, it will at length Overspread the whole life, and become most tempestuous and
raging. And therefore David, as one experienced in the deceit. fulness of sin, doth thus digest and methodize his prayer: first, against secret and lesser sins; and, then, against the more gross and notorious; as knowing the one proceeds and issues from the other; Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults; and this will be a most effectual means, to preserve and keep thy servant from Presumptuous Sins.
And this Observation may be gathered from the connection of the two requests.
But I shall not insist on that.
The words are a most sincere and affectionate prayer: and, in them, are observable,
First. The Person, that makes it. And that is not a vile notorious sinner; one, that used to be overcome by presumptuous sins: but David, a man after God's own heart, eminent for holiness and piety: Keep back thy servant, says he, from Presumptuous Sins.
Secondly. The Request and Petition itself. And that is, that God would keep him, not from sins of common frailty and daily infirmity, such as no man's holiness can exempt him from: but from sins of presumption; from daring and ranting sins, such as one would think, that no man, that hath the least holiness in him, could ever commit: Keep back thy servant from Presumptuous Sins.
In this Petition Two things are evidently implied.
First. That strong propension, that there is in the best, to the worst sins.
Were it not so, what need David pray for restraining grace? Keep back thy servant. Lord, my corruptions hurry me with all violence into the greatest sins: they persuade, they force, they drag, they draw, they thrust forward; and now, now I am going and yielding: but, Lord withhold me: put a curb and check upon these violent and headstrong corruptions of mine: keep back, keep me back from Presumptuous Sins.
Secondly. It implies that utter impotency, that the best lie under, to preserve themselves from the foulest sins, without the special aid and assistance of divine grace.
My heart is not in my own hands: my ways are not at my own disposal: I cannot stand longer than thou upholdest me: I cannot walk longer than thou leadest me: if thou withdrawest thine everlasting arms from under me, I shall stumble, and fall, and tumble headlong into fearful precipices, into vile impieties,
into hell and perdition itself; and, therefore, Lord, do thou keep me do thou, by thy omnipotency, supply my impotency: by thy power keep me from what mine own weakness will certainly betray me unto: Keep back thy servant from Presumptuous Sins.
These two things are implied and couched in the petition itself.
Thirdly. In the Text we have the Reason also why David prays so earnestly against presumptuous sins. Which reason carries in it the form of a distinct petition by itself: Keep back thy servant from Presumptuous Sins: let them not have dominion over me. But yet it may be well understood as a reason of the foregoing request: Therefore, Lord, keep me from Presumptuous Sins; lest, by falling into the commission of them, I fall also under the power of them; lest, by prevailing upon me, they get dominion and sovereignty over me. And, in this reason also, we have a hint of the still encroaching nature of sin: from the allowance of little and secret sins, it proceeds to the commission of gross and presumptuous sins; and, from the commission of these, it proceeds to dominion over him: and, therefore, if we would not be slaves to our lusts and vassals to the Devil, we had need all of us, to pray with David, Lord, keep us from secret sins, lest they break out into open and presumptuous sins; and, Lord, keep us from Presumptuous Sins, lest they get dominion
From the words thus divided and opened, several useful Observations may be raised.
As, first, from the Petition itself, we may observe these Two doctrinal points.
First. That, in the very best Christians, there is great proneness and inclination to the very worst sins. David himself prays for restraining grace, to keep him from presumptuous sins.
Secondly. Observe, It is not our own power, but only divine grace, that can preserve us from the most horrid and vile sins. Those sins, that we now abhor the very thoughts of; yet, were we but left to ourselves, and were but divine grace abstracted from us, even those sins we should commit with all greediness. And, then, from the Person who makes this prayer and request unto God, observe,
Thirdly. That, Because the strongest Christians are too weak of themselves to resist the greatest sins, therefore they ought continu