Verse 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. This earnest and humble prayer teaches us that saints may fall into the worst of sins unless restrained by grace, and that therefore they must watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. There is a natural proneness to sin in the best of men, and they must be held back as a horse is held back by the bit or they will run into it. Presumptuous sins are peculiarly dangerous. All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God; but there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The fact is, that while all transgression is a greatly grievous and sinful thing, yet there are some transgressions which have a deeper shade of blackness, and a more double scarlet dyed hue of criminality than others. The presumptuous sins of our text are the chief and worst of all sins; they rank head and foremost in the list of iniquities. It is remarkable that though an atonement was provided under the Jewish law for every kind of sin, there was this one exception: "But the soul that sinneth presumptuously shall have no atonement; it shall be cut off from the midst of the people." And now under the Christian dispensation, although in the sacrifice of our blessed Lord there is a great and precious atonement for presumptuous sins, whereby sinners who have erred in this manner are made clean, yet without doubt, presumptuous sinners, dying without pardon, must expect to receive a double portion of the wrath of God, and a more terrible portion of eternal punishment in the pit that is digged for the wicked. For this reason is David so anxious that he may never come under the reigning power of these giant evils.
Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. He shudders at the thought of the unpardonable sin. Secret sin is a stepping stone to presumptuous sin, and that is the vestibule of "the sin which is unto death." He who is not wilful in his sin, will be in a fair way to be innocent so far as poor sinful man can be; but he who tempts the devil to tempt him is in a path which will lead him from bad to worse, and from the worse to the worst.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 12-13. See Psalms on "Psalms 19:12" for further information.
Verse 13. Keep back thy servant also from all presumptuous sins. He doth desire absolutely to be kept from "presumptuous sins;" but then, he adds by way of supposition and reserve, that if he could not by reason of his naughty heart be kept from them, yet that they might not have full power and dominion over him. Thomas Manton.
Verse 13. Keep back thy servant. It is an evil man's cross to be restrained, and a good man's joy to be kept back from sin. When sin puts forth itself, the evil man is putting forth his hand to the sin; but when sin puts forth itself, the good man is putting forth his hand to heaven; if he finds his heart yielding, out he cries, O keep back thy servant. An evil man is kept back from sin, as a friend from a friend, as a lover from his lover, with knit affections and projects of meeting; but a good man is kept back from sin, as a man from his deadly enemy, whose presence he hates, and with desires of his ruin and destruction. It is the good man's misery that he hath yet a heart to be more tamed and mastered; it is an evil man's vexation and discontent, that still, or at any time, he is held in by cord or bridle. And thus you see what David aims at in desiring to be kept back from presumptuous sins, namely, not a mere suspension, but a mortification, not a not acting only, but a subduing of the inclination; not for a time, but for ever. Obadiah Sedgwick.
Verse 13. Keep back thy servant, etc. Even all the people of God, were they not kept by God's grace and power, they would every moment be undone both in soul and body. It is not our grace, our prayer, our watchfulness keeps us, but it is in the power of God, his right arm, supports us; we may see David praying to God that he would "keep" him in both these respects from temporal dangers ( Psalms 18:8-9 ; "keep me",) etc.; where he doth not only pray to be kept, but he doth insinuate how carefully God keeps his people, and in what precious account their safety is, even as "the apple of the eye," and for spiritual preservation he often begs it. Though David be God's "servant" yet he will, like a wild horse, run violently, and that into "presumptuous sins," if God "keep" him not "back," yea, he prayeth that God would "keep" the particular parts of his body that they sin not: "keep the door of my lips" (Ps 141:3); he entreateth God to "keep" his lips and to set a watch about his mouth, as if he were not able to set guard sure enough: thus much more are we to pray that God would "keep" our hearts, our minds, our wills, our affections, for they are more masterful. Anthony Burgess.
Verse 13. Keep back thy servant. God keeps back his servants from sin,
- By preventing grace, which is, by infusing such a nature as is like a bias into a bowl, drawing it aside another way;
- By assisting grace, which is a further strength superadded to that first implanted nature of holiness; like a hand upon a child holding him in;
- By quickening grace, which is, when God doth enliven our graces to manifest themselves in actual opposition; so that the soul shall not yield, but keep off from entertaining the sin;
- By directing grace, which is, when God confers that effectual wisdom to the mind, tenderness to the conscience, watchfulness to the heart, that his servants become greatly solicitous of his honour, scrupulously jealous of their own strength, and justly regardful of the honour of their holy profession;
- By doing grace, which is, when God effectually inclines the hearts of his servants to the places and ways of their refuge, safeties, and preservations from sin, by enlarging the spirit of supplication, and framing the heart to the reverent and affectionate use of his ordinances. Condensed from Obadiah Sedgwick.
Verse 13. Thy servant: as if he had said, "O God, thou art my Lord, I have chosen thee, to whom I will give obedience; thou art he whom I will follow; I bestow all that I am on thee. Now a lord will help his servant against an enemy, who for the lord's service is the servant's enemy. O my Lord, help me! I am not able by my own strength to uphold myself, but thou art All sufficiency" -- "Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins." ... Beloved, it is a great thing to stand in near relations to God; and then it is a good thing to plead by them with God, forsomuch as nearer relations have strongest force with all. The servant can do more than a stranger, and the child than a servant, and the wife than a child... There be many reasons against sinning... Now this also may come in, namely, the specialty of our relation to God, that we are his children, and he is our Father; we are his servants, and he is our Lord: though the common obligations are many and sufficient, yet the special relations are also a further tie: the more near a person comes to God, the more careful he should be not to sin against God. Obadiah Sedgwick.
Verse 13. Presumptuous sins. The Rabbins distinguish all sins unto those committed (ggwfb) ignorantly, and (dyzm) presumptuously. Benjamin Kennicott, D.D., 1718-1783.
Verse 13. Presumptuous sins. When sin grows up from act to delight, from delight to new acts, from repetition of sinful acts to vicious indulgence, to habit and custom and a second nature, so that anything that toucheth upon it is grievous, and strikes to the man's heart; when it is got into God's place, and requires to be loved with the whole strength, makes grace strike sail, and other vices do it homage, demands all his concerns to be sacrificed to it and to be served with his reputation, his fortunes, his parts, his body, and soul, to the irreparable loss of his time and eternity both -- this is the height of its dominion -- then sin becomes "exceedingly sinful," and must needs make strange and sad alterations in the state of saints themselves, and be great hindrances to them in their way to Heaven, having brought them so near to Hell. Adam Littleton.
Verse 13. Presumptuous sins. The distribution of sins into sins of ignorance, of infirmity, and of presumption, is very usual and very useful, and complete enough without the addition (which some make) of a fourth sort, to wit, sins of negligence or inadvertency, all such sins being easily reducible to some of the former three. The ground of the distinction is laid in the soul of man, where there are three distinct prime faculties, from which all our actions flow -- the understanding, the will, and the sensual appetite or affections... The enquiry must be, when a sin is done, where the fault lay most; and thence it must have the right denomination.
- If the understanding be most in fault, not apprehending that good it should, or not aright, the sin so done, though possibly it may have in it somewhat both of infirmity and presumption withal, is yet properly a sin of ignorance.
- If the main fault be in the affections, through some sudden passion or perturbation of mind, blinding, or corrupting, or but outrunning the judgment -- as of fear, anger, desire, joy, or any of the rest -- the sin thence arising, though perhaps joined with some ignorance or presumption withal, is yet properly a sin of infirmity. But if the understanding be completely informed with knowledge, and not much blinded or transported with the incursion of any sudden, or violence of any vehement perturbation, so as the greatest blame must remain upon the untowardness of the will, resolvedly bent upon the evil, the sin arising from such wilfulness, though probably not free from all mixture of ignorance and infirmity withal, is yet properly a wilful presumption, such a presumptuous sin as we are now in treaty of. Rules are soonest learned and best remembered when illustrated with fit examples; and of such the rich storehouse of the Scripture affords us in each kind variety and choice enough, whence it shall suffice us to propose but one eminent of each sort. The men, all of them for their holiness, of singular and worthy renown: David, St. Peter, and St. Paul. The sins, all of them for their matter, of the greatest magnitude: murdering of the innocent, abnegation of Christ, persecution of the church: Paul's persecution a grievous sin, yet a sin of ignorance; Peter's denial a grievous sin, yet a sin of infirmity; David's murder, a far more grievous sin than either of both, because a sin of presumption. St. Paul, before his conversion, whilst he was Saul, persecuted and wasted the church of God to the utmost of his power, making havoc of the professors of Christ, entering into their very houses, and haling thence to prison, both men and women; and posting abroad with letters into remote quarters, to do all the mischief he could, everywhere with great fury, as if he had been mad, breathing out, wherever he came, nothing but threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. His affections were not set against them through any personal provocations, but merely out of zeal to the law; and surely his zeal had been good had it not been blind. Nor did his will run cross to his judgment, but was led by it, for he "verily thought in himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus;" and verily his will had been good had it not been misled. But the error was in his understanding, his judgment being not yet actually convinced of the truth of the Christian religion. He was yet fully persuaded that Jesus was an impostor, and Christianity a pestilent sect, raised by Satan, to the disgrace and prejudice of Moses and the law. If these things had indeed been so, as he apprehended them, his affections and will, in seeking to root out such a sect, had been not only blameless but commendable. It was his erroneous judgment that poisoned all, and made that which otherwise had been zeal, to become persecution. But, however, the first discernable obliquity therein being in the understanding, that persecution of his was therefore a sin of ignorance, so called, and under that name condemned by himself. 1 Timothy 1:13 . But such was not Peter's denial of his Master. He knew well enough who he was having conversed so long with him, and having, long before, so amply confessed him. And he knew also that he ought not, for anything in the world, to have denied him. That made him so confident before that he would not do it, because he was abundantly satisfied that he should not do it. Evident it is, then, that Peter wanted no knowledge, either of the Master's person, or of his own duty; and so no plea left him of ignorance, either facti or juris. Nor was the fault so much in his will as to make it a sin properly of presumption. For albeit de facto he did deny him when he was put to it, and that with fearful oaths and imprecations, yet was it not done with any prepensed apostasy, or out of design, yea, he came rather with a contrary resolution, and he still honoured his Master in his heart, even then when he denied him with his tongue; and as soon as ever the watchword was given him by the second cock, to prefer to his consideration what he had done, it grieved him sore that he had so done, and he wept bitterly for it. We find no circumstance, in the whole relation, that argues any deep obstinacy in his will. But in his affections, then! Alas! there was the fail! A sudden qualm of fear surprising his soul when he saw his Master so despitefully used before his face (which made him apprehensive of what hard usage himself might fall under if he should there and then have owned him) took from him for that time the benefit and use of his reason, and so drew all his thoughts to this one point -- how to decline the present danger -- that he had never a thought at so much liberty as to consult his judgment, whether it were a sin or no. And this, proceeding from such a sudden distemper of passion, Peter's denial was a sin properly of infirmity. But David's sin, in contriving the death of Uriah, was of a yet higher pitch, and of a deeper dye than either of these. He was no such stranger in the law of God as not to know that the wilful murder of an innocent party, such as he also knew Uriah to be, was a most loud crying sin; and therefore nothing surer than that it was not merely a sin of ignorance. Neither yet was it a sin properly of infirmity, and so capable of that extenuating circumstance of being done in the heat of anger, as his uncleanness with Bathsheba was in the heat of lust, although that extenuation will not be allowed to pass there, unless in tanto only, and as it standeth in comparison with this fouler crime. But having time and leisure enough to bethink himself what he was about, he doth it in cool blood, and with much advised deliberation, plotting and contriving this way and that way to perfect his design. He was resolved, whatsoever should become of it, to have it done; in regard of which settled resolution of his will, this sin of David was therefore a high presumptuous sin. Robert Sanderson (Bishop of Lincoln), 1587-1662-3.
Verse 13. Presumptuous sins. David prays that God would keep him back from "presumptuous sins," from known and evident sins, such as proceed from the choice of the perverse will against the enlightened mind, which are committed with deliberation, with design, resolution, and eagerness, against the checks of conscience, and the motions of God's spirit: such sins are direct rebellion against God, a despising of his command, and they provoke his pure eyes. Alexander Cruden.
Verse 13. Then shall I be innocent from the great transgression. It is in the motions of a tempted soul to sin, as in the motions of a stone falling from the brow of a hill; it is easily stopped at first, but when once it is set going, who shall stay it? And therefore it is the greatest wisdom in the world to observe the first motions of the heart, to check and stop it there. G. H. Salter.
Verse 13. The great transgression. Watch very diligently against all sin; but above all, take special heed of those sins that come near to the sin against the Holy Ghost; and these are, hypocrisy, taking only the outward profession of religion, and so dissembling and mocking of God; sinning wilfully against conviction of conscience, and against great light and knowledge, sinning presumptuously, with a high hand. These sins, though none of them are the direct sin against the Holy Ghost, yet they will come very near to it: therefore take special heed of them, lest they, in time, should bring you to the committing of that unpardonable sin. Robert Russel, 1705.
Verse 13. Let them not have dominion over me. Any small sin may get the upper hand of the sinner and bring him under in time, and after that is once habituated by long custom so as he cannot easily shake off the yoke, neither redeem himself from under the tyranny thereof. We see the experiment of it but too often, and too evidently in our common swearers and drunkards. Yet do such kind of sins, for the most part, grow on by little and little, steal into the throne insensibly, and do not exercise dominion over the enslaved soul till they have got strength by many and multiplied acts. But a presumptuous sin worketh a great alteration in the state of the soul at once, and by one single act advances marvellously, weakening the spirit, and giving a mighty advantage to the flesh, even to the hazard of a complete conquest. Robert Sanderson.
Verse 13. To sin presumptuously is the highest step. So in David's account; for first he prays, Lord, keep me from secret sins, which he maketh sins of ignorance, and then next he prays against presumptuous sins, which, as the opposition shows, are sins against knowledge; for says he, "if they get dominion over me, I shall not be free from that great offence," that is, that unpardonable sin which shall never be forgiven: so as these are nearest it of any other, yet not so as that every one that falls into such a sin commits it, but he is nigh to it, at the next step to it. For to commit that sin, but two things are required -- light in the mind, and malice in the heart; not malice alone, unless there be light, for then that apostle had sinned it, so as knowledge is the parent of it, it is "after receiving the knowledge of the truth." Hebrews 10:27-28 . Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 13. Happy souls, who, under a sense of peace through the blood of Jesus, are daily praying to be kept by the grace of the Spirit. Such truly know themselves, see their danger of falling, will not, dare not palliate or lessen the odious nature, and hateful deformity of their sin. They will not give a softer name to sin than it deserves, lest they depreciate the infinite value of that precious blood which Jesus shed to atone its guilt. Far will they be from flattering themselves into a deceitful notion that they are perfect, and have no sin in them. The spirit of truth delivers them from such errors; he teacheth them as poor sinners to look to the Saviour, and to beseech him to keep back the headstrong passions, the unruly lusts and evil concupiscences which dwell in their sinful natures. Alas! the most exalted saint, the most established believer, if left to himself, how soon might the blackest crimes, the most presumptuous sins, get the dominion over him! David had woeful experience of this for a season. He prays from a heartfelt sense of past misery, and the dread of future danger, and he found the blessing of that covenant promise: "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 . William Mason, 1719-1791, in "A Spiritual Treasury for the Children of God."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 12-13. The three grades of sin -- secret, presumptuous, unpardonable.
Verse 13. See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 135. "Presumptuous Sins."
Verse 13. (last clause). The great transgression. What it is not, may be, involves, and suggests.