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ally to implore the aid and assistance of divine grace. David, though a strong and mighty saint, yet durst not trust himself alone to grapple with a corruption or a temptation; and, therefore, in the sense of his own weakness, he prays the Lord to keep him: Keep thou thy servant.
And, then, from the reason, Keep me from Presumptuous Sins, lest they get dominion over me; or, let them not get dominion over me: observe,
Fourthly. That, the frequent commission of presumptuous and daring sins, will subject the soul to the reigning power and dominion of sin.
But I shall not handle each of these by themselves; but give you the sum and substance of them all in one, and so prosecute that. Which is this:
That THE BEST SECURITY, WHICH THE BEST OF GOD'S CHILDREN HAVE FROM THE COMMISSION AND FROM THE DOMINION OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS, IS ONLY THEIR OWN FERVENT PRAYERS AND GOD'S ALMIGHTY GRACF.
In the Prosecution of this doctrine, I shall endeavour to shew you, When it is that a man is guilty of Presumptuous Sins, and wherein the Nature of such sins consists.
I. WHEN A MAN IS GUILTY OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS.
1. Then a Sin is Presumptuous, WHEN IT IS COMMITTED AGAINST THE POWERFUL DICTATES OF A MAN'S OWN CONSCIENCE AND AGAINST THE CLEAR CONVICTION OF THE HOLY GHOST.
When conscience is awakened in conviction, and rings aloud in men's ears, "The ways thou livest in are grossly sinful, the end of them is hell and death: thou wadest through the dearest blood of thine own soul, if thou goest on. Seest thou not how guilt dismally stares thee in the face? Seest thou not how the mouth of hell belches out fire, and flames, and brimstone against thee? Stop, therefore: I here, as God's officer, arrest thee:” If now, when conscience thus calls, and cries, and threatens, men will yet venture on, this is most bold and daring presumption. To disobey the arrest, but of the king's officer, is a most pre
sumptuous crime: how much more, therefore, to disobey the arrest of conscience; which is the chief and supreme officer of God, and who commands in the name, yea, in the stead of God, as it were, in the soul!
And yet, truly, who among us is not, in some kind or other, guilty of this presumption? Sirs, if God should now come down in terrible majesty in the midst of us, and if he should ask every man's conscience here, one by one, "Conscience, wert thou ever resisted? wert thou ever opposed in executing thine office, to this and to that soul?" where sits the person, whose conscience must not answer, "Yes, Lord, I accuse him: I testify to his very face, I have often warned and admonished him, 'Oh, do not venture upon this or that action: there is sin, there is guilt lies under it: there is wrath and vengeance, that will follow it: oh pity, oh spare thine own soul: this sin will everlastingly ruin thee if thou committest it?"" And, what! didst thou commit it notwithstanding all this?" "Yes, Lord: while I was laying before him all the arguments, that the thoughts of heaven and hell, of thy glory and his own happiness, could administer; yet, so presumptuous was he, as to fall upon me thine officer; and these stabs, these gashes and wounds I received, while I was admonishing him, and warning him in thy name."
O Sirs, a thousand times better were it for us, that we never had consciences; better, that our consciences were utterly sear ed and become insensible; better, that they were struck for ever dumb, and should never open their mouths more to reprove or to rebuke us; better, that we never had had the least glimmering of light to distinguish betwixt our duty and what is sin; than thus desperately to outface and stifle our convictions, and to offer violence to our consciences, and presumptuously to rush into the commission of sin in despite of all these: better, men had no consciences at all, or that they were given up to a seared and reprobate sense; than to sin thus in despite of their consciences. What says our Saviour, Luke xii. 47? That servant which knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.
There are Two things, wherein it appears that all sins against conscience and against convictions are Presumptuous Sins.
1. Because, in all such sins, there is a most horrid contempt of the authority and sovereignty of the Great God.
And what higher presumption can there be, than for vile
worms to set at nought the authority of that God, at whose frown heaven, and hell, and earth tremble? The voice of conscience, rightly informed by the Scripture, is the voice of God himself: it is God speaking in a man, and whispering to a man's very heart. As Moses was the interpreter betwixt God and the Israelites, so conscience is the interpreter betwixt God and us. Would it not have been, think you, a most desperate presumption, and a most daring affront against the majesty and sovereignty of God, while he was with his own voice pronouncing the Ten Commandments, with thundering and lightning and earthquake, from Mount Sinai, for the Israelites to have been notoriously breaking and sinning against every one of those Commandments, as he spake them? Truly, though now God delivers his will and commands to us, not immediately by his own mouth, as then he did, but by conscience his interpreter; yet, while we know that conscience speaks to us in the name of God, it is as much fearful presumption for us to slight the voice of conscience, as if we should slight the voice of God himself speaking from heaven immediately to us.
And that is the first thing.
2. By sinning against our consciences and against our convictions, we make it very evident, that we stand in no awe nor dread of any such thing as hell and eternal damnation.
And is not that boldness? Is not that presumption? You scorn, possibly, to be such puling, whimpering sinners, as to be affrighted with such bugbears as everlasting torments, and everlasting wrath and vengeance. You know the wages of sin is death; and that the ways you take lead down to the chambers of destruction: and, yet, though God and the Devil stand in the way, you will through. Are not these, think you, bold and presumptuous sinners, that will go on in sin, though hell-fire flashes in their faces? Though God should cleave the ground upon which they walk, and through that chink should give them a view of hell; though they should see the damned tumbling up and down in those torments, and hear their yellings, and shriekings, and roarings; yea, though God should point them out a place in hell, and tell them, "Look, Sinner, yonder is a place kept void, and heated from the beginning of the world for thee :" yet are there, some such bold and daring wretches, that they would outbrave all this, and would sin in despite either of heaven or hell. Yea, and which is a most sad and dreadful consideration, some there are, whose consciences are already brimfull of extreme horror
and anguish; and yet they will venture upon those sins, that have caused that horror. And are not such, presumptuous sinners? They give their consciences wound upon wound; and, though sometimes they roar bitterly, yet they will sin outrageously, even then when they roar and smart for sin. So that this is a clear evidence of a Presumptuous Sin, when a sin is committed against a man's own conscience, against knowledge, and against conviction. This makes a sin to be a presumptuous sin, when conscience cries out murder, murder, soul-murder; when it beseeches, with tears of blood that they draw from it, to desist from their sins, and yet is not heard nor regarded. This is presumptuous sinning; sinning, with a high hand, and with a brazen forehead.
ii. Then a man sins presumptuously, WHEN HE SINS UPON LONG DELIBERATION AND FORECAST; PLOTTING AND CONTRIVING WITH HIMSELF, HOW HE MAY ACCOMPLISH HIS SIN.
Some sins are committed merely through a sudden surprise: a temptation comes upon the soul unawares, and finds it unprovided to make any resistance: and so it prevails.
So it was with the Apostle Peter. His apostacy and perjury were indeed very dreadful: yet he was overcome by a sudden surprise. He had no foregoing thoughts and purposes to deny his Master: yea, his resolution was, to own and confess him to the very death: and, therefore, though his sins were foul sins, yet they cannot be called Presumptuous Sins; but rather sins of weakness and infirmity.
And so there are divers Christians, that are overtaken with faults against their resolutions and prayers; yea, and contrary to their own expectations. Now the sins of such persons are not Presumptuous Sins: but then a sin becomes presumptuous, when it is committed after long deliberation, premeditation, and fore
There is a twofold deliberation, that makes a sin presumptuous.
1. When a man sins, after he hath deliberated with himself, whether he shall sin or not: when, upon debating the case at length, after much pondering and consideration, he consents to sin.
And thus, though St. Peter denied his Master upon a sur prisal, yet Judas betrayed him upon deliberation. Now this is
desperate presumption, to sin, when a man ponders and considers with himself, and weighs the reasons on both sides, whether he shall sin or not. And yet, truly, of such Presumptuous Sins as these are, we may all of us be found guilty. Ask but yourselves did you never commit a sin, after you had weighed in your deliberate thoughts all circumstances: putting in the beneficial consequences, the pleasure, profit and credit of sin, in the one balance; and the dangerous and destructive consequences, that wrath and hell that are due to sin, in the other balance? Who of us all can acquit himself, from being guilty of sinning, after such comparisons as these have been made; after the due weighing both of sin and our duty? and, yet, have we not chosen the sin before our duty? Truly, to sin after such deliberate comparisons as these are, is a provoking and a Presumptuous Sin.
2. When men do deliberate and contrive, how they may sin to the greatest advantage, how they may make the most of their iniquities: when they plot and contrive with themselves, how they may squeeze and draw out the very utmost of all that pleasure and sweet that they imagine sin carries with it: this makes that sin a Presumptuous Sin.
Thus, those drunkards contrived to prolong their sin: Isaiah Ivi. 12. Come ye, say they, we will fetch wine, and.....fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. Here they forecasted to make as great advantage as they could of their drunkenness, and to get as much pleasure out of it as they could. This is most presumptuous sinning. Thus, the prophet Jeremiah also speaks of those, that were wise to do evil: Jer. iv. 22. that could improve sin to the very utmost; and could get more out of a sin by their husbanding of it, than another could that had not that skill and mystery: these are wise to do evil. And such are Presumptuous Sins: when men stretch and strain their wits brimfull of sinful devices, either so as they may reap most from them, or so as they may keep their wickedness secret from the observation and notice of men, then they sin presumptuously. Do not, therefore, flatter yourselves, that, though indeed you are sinners, as who indeed is not? yet, you sin only through weakness and infirmity. Ask your own consciences: did you never sin, or do you not use to sin, upon premeditation and forecast? When you have conceived sin in your own hearts, do you not nurse it and nourish it there, till you find some fit opportunity to commit it; plotting