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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 19:13



Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

Adam Clarke Commentary

From presumptuous sins - Sins committed not through frailty or surprise, but those which are the offspring of thought, purpose, and deliberation. Sins against judgment, light, and conscience. The words might be translated, Preserve thy servant also from the proud; from tyrannical governors, i.e., from evil spirits - Bishop Horsley. So most of the versions understand the place.

Let them not have dominion over me - Let me never be brought into a habit of sinning. He who sins presumptuously will soon be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Then shall I be upright - Let me be preserved from all the evil that the craft and malice of the devil or man work against me, then shall I continue to walk uprightly, and shall be innocent from the great transgression - from habitual sinning, from apostasy, from my easily-besetting sin. He who would be innocent from the great transgression, must take care that he indulge not himself in any. See Bishop Horne. Most men have committed some particular sin which they ought to deplore as long as they breathe, and on account of the enormity of which they should for ever be humbled.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Keep back thy servant also - Restrain thy servant; or, do not suffer him to commit those sins.

From presumptuous sins - The word used here is manifestly designed to stand in some respects in contrast with the secret faults mentioned in the previous verse. The word - זד zêd - means properly that which is boiling, swelling, inflated; then proud, arrogant; with the accessory notion of shameless wickedness or impiety. Gesenius, Lexicon. The word is rendered proud in Psalm 86:14; Psalm 119:21, Psalm 119:51, Psalm 119:69, Psalm 119:78, Psalm 119:85, Psalm 119:122; Proverbs 21:24; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 43:2; Malachi 3:15; Malachi 4:1. It does not occur elsewhere. The prevailing thought is that of pride, and the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one‘s own strength. The word does not mean open sins, or flagrant sins, so much as those which spring from self-reliance or pride. The prayer is substantially that he might have a proper distrust of himself, and might not be left by an improper reliance on his own power to the commission of sin. This also is said in view of the extent and spirituality of the law of God - expressing the earnest desire of the author of the psalm that he might not be left to violate a law so pure and holy.

Let them not have dominion over me - Let them not reign over me; that is, let them not get the mastery or the ascendancy over me. Let me not become the slave of sin; so subject to it that it shall domineer over me. Sin often secures that kind of triumph or mastery over the mind, making a slave of him who yields to it. The pious man alone is a true freeman. He is emancipated from the dominion of sin, and walks in true liberty: see John 8:32, John 8:36; Galatians 5:1.

Then shall I be upright - Hebrew: I shall be perfect. On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at Psalm 19:7. It means here that he would be truly a servant of God; or, that he would have this evidence that he was a friend of God, that he was kept from the indulgence of secret faults, and from open transgressions - that is, his piety would have completeness of parts; or, it would be shown to be true and genuine. It cannot be demonstrated from the use of the word that he supposed that he would be absolutely perfect or free from all sin. See the note at Job 1:1.

And I shall be innocent - This does not mean that he would be absolutely innocent, or free from all sin; but it means here, as it is explained in the following phrase, that he would be innocent of the great transgression, or would be free from that.

From the great transgression - Margin, as in Hebrew, much. It does not, refer to any one specific offence, but it means that he would be free from the transgression which would exist if he were not cleansed from secret faults, and if he were not kept back from presumptuous sins. He would be saved from the great guilt which would ensue if he should give unchecked indulgence to secret faults, and if he should be allowed to commit the open sins which were the result of pride and over-weening self-confidence.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 19:13

Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins.

A conjunction of requests

I. There may and should be a conjunction, even of great petitions and requests (at once) unto God. David ends not at that request (keep me from secret sins), but goes on also, O Lord, keep me from presumptuous sins; he multiplies his suits according to the multiplicity of his necessity and exigence. There be divers qualities about our prayers.

1. One is an urgent fervency.

2. Importunity.

3. Patient perseverance.

4. A variety or multiplicity of matter, like as a patient who comes to the physician, we may and should open not; only one want, but all our wants; and crave help not in one thing, but in every thing: we should multiply requests.

Reasons hereof are these:

1. God can hear every request as well as anyone. A multiplied request as well as a single request: for He takes not, nor observes things by discourse, where one notion may be an impediment to the apprehension of another, but all things (by reason of His omniscience) are equally at once present unto Him.

2. Nay, He can grant many and great requests as easily as the single and smallest petition. The greatest gift comes as freely and readily out of His hand as the most common mercy.

3. Christ is as ready and able to implead many and great requests as well as some and inferior.

4. God hath for this end made manifold promises; therefore we may put up many and great requests at once.

5. Lastly, God is rich in mercy, and plenteous in compassion; His mercies are often styled manifold mercies.

II. That even a good christian should have a fear of great sins as well as a care of secret sins. “Keep me also from presumptuous sins.” Reasons whereof may be these.

1. The latitude of original sin, which as it is yet remaining in the best, so it is in them an universal fountain naturally apt to any vile inclination.

2. The instances of great transgressions: even those saints who have been as the highest stars have left behind them their twinklings and sad eclipses. Now when cedars fall, should not the tender plants tremble? if the sins of others be not our fear, they may be our practice; what the best have done, the weakest may imitate if they do not hear and fear. He is a wise and sincere Christian who resists the smallest, and fears the greatest sins: Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins. I observe from the words absolutely considered--

III. That a good man is God’s servant. “Thy servant,” etc. Servants, not of force, but of affection.

IV. That we are God’s servants, should be used to move the Lord to help us against sins.

V. That our special relations to God should be special reasons to work a care not to sin against God. The very nature of sin carries along with it a condemnation of sinning, because sin formerly is a transgression, an enemy, and a rebellion, which alone is an inglorious thing. Again, the laws and threatenings of God should be “as forcible cords to draw off the heart from sin. And again, all the mercies and goodness of God should exasperate the heart against sin. Again, all the attributes of God might hold us. Now, with these this also may come in, namely, the specialty of our relation to God, that we are His children. Reasons whereof are these--

1. Admissions of sinnings here do diffuse a greater ingloriousness to God: sin is more darkening in a white cloud than in a black, as a spot is more eminently disgraceful in a fair than in a foul cloth.

2. Their great sinnings do make them the sorer wounds and work: no sinning wounds so deep as such which have more mercy and goodness to control them. Oh then, let us improve our interest in our God. Should such a man as I flee, said Nehemiah; so then, should such a man as I sin thus, walk thus, live, do thus? Why? God is my God, He is my Father; I am His child, His servant. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Presumptuous sin

1. This is a prayer to be delivered from gross and undisguised sins. “Secret sins” are subtle and hidden; presumptuous sins are open, glaring, outrageous. But are the people of God in any danger from coarse and notorious sins? It is well to remind ourselves that there is no temptation we can treat lightly. The world today is full of those who have grievously fallen.

2. Another act of presumption against which we must guard is the unnecessary exposure of ourselves to temptation and harm. The foolhardiness of some is surprising. They expose themselves to sceptical influences, to worldly entanglements, to animal indulgences, to many yawning abysses which threaten body and soul. Myriads perish through standing on the slippery places and dizzy heights of temptation.

3. A branch of presumptuous sin is to treat negligently our secret faults. The presumptuous sin is often first one of those secret faults mentioned in the preceding verse; it is the secret fault matured and ripened. The mistake is that we are not sufficiently impressed by the faint, hidden evil, and we do not make immediate and serious efforts to deal with it. It is thus that our faults increase in magnitude and deepen in colour. Safety lies in dealing with the earliest aberrations of our mental, emotional, and physical nature, and not giving them opportunity to strengthen and display themselves. The Kingdom of Heaven is first as a grain of mustard seed; but we forget that the kingdom of hell in its beginnings is equally microscopic. A medical authority has recently declared that elephantiasis is often occasioned by the bite of the mosquito.

4. Another sin of presumption is to face the natural and inevitable perils of life without availing ourselves of every possible advantage of vigilance and defence. The diver does not descend into the depth without being sure of his panoply. Nothing is more remarkable in nature than the way in which animals and plants are armed against their enemies. The most ferocious thorns and spines protect cacti from destruction by the wild quadrupeds of their desert home. Protective mechanics of a most complicated order are found in a number of plants, which would otherwise be endangered and perhaps entirely destroyed by the attacks of ravenous snails. And God has not left us without a “whole armour”; it would be very unlike Him if He had. But alas! we often neglect to fortify ourselves; we go into a dangerous world with sandals, sword, helmet, and breastplate missing.

5. It is essentially an act of moral presumption to live in a low state of spiritual power. There is no presumption greater than to live with a cold heart, a weak faith, a vacillating purpose. We invite failure and ruin. We are free from harm and condemnation as we live full of power and enthusiasm. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Of presumptuous sins

Everything evinceth the Almightiness of the great Creator. Three instances--

1. The glorious fabric of the spangled vault above us.

2. The vicissitude of day and night.

3. The excellencies of that great minister of nature, the sun; considered in the comeliness and beauty of his person, in the force of his incredible swiftness, in the largeness of his walk, in the universality of his influence. The Bible, or hook of holy writ, is described by its several names and titles. Note the terms and appellations, the qualities described, and the effects or operations. The third book is the conscience. What finds he there? A foul blurred copy, that he is puzzled how to read. The conscience being convicted of sin, where there is any sense of true piety, the soul will address itself to God for pardon, that it may be cleansed from secret faults; and for grace, that by its restraints and preventions and assistances it may be kept back from presumptuous sins, and, if unhappily engaged, that it may be freed at last from the dominion of them. There is here a request, and the ground of it, which is the advantage and benefit thence arising.

Consider two propositions.

1. That the very best of men, without Divine restraints, are liable to the worst of miscarriages, even presumptuous sins. Secret faults are such as hide themselves, the common errors and frailties of our life: sins of infirmity, constitution, and temper; sins of surprise. Deliberation and consent make any sin to be a presumptuous sin. The course of sin is, the invitation of the sensual appetite, the inclination of the will, a force upon the judgment, a full consent, the act itself. This is aggravated into presumption when the daring sin gets the dominion and power over a man. From act it proceeds to delectation; this leads to new acts, and at last objuration and final impenitence. Note the ways and means God uses either to restrain and keep back men from committing presumptuous sins, or to rescue and recover them from under the dominion of them. These are partly on account of providence, partly from common morality, and partly from special grace. The best of men are still men, partakers of the same common nature with other men. They have the same affections and passions, the same fleshly appetites, which many times betray them into the same inconveniences.

2. Presumptuous sins, even in the servants of God themselves, are offences of a damnable and desperate nature. They tincture them with a deep guilt, subvert their spiritual state, and throw them out of God’s favour into disgrace. And this reasonably, because of their ingratitude to God, and the great hurt of their example, as a scandal to religion, by the hardening of wicked men and the discouragement of the pious. (Adam Littleton, D. D.)

The means of moral preservation

What is it to sin presumptuously? The word means, “with a high hand.” Then, to sin presumptuously is to sin in an aggravated degree.

1. To sin in opposition to knowledge is to sin presumptuously. This is not characteristic of all sins. Some sins are products of ignorance.

2. To sin in contrariety to conscience is to sin presumptuously.

3. To sin in defiance of the common operations of the Divine Spirit.

4. To sin after having deliberated about the commission of it.

5. To sin when there is no strong temptation to the commission of it.

6. To sin notwithstanding adverse dispensations of Divine providence are loudly calling for sin to be abhorred and avoided.

7. To sin in the hope of ultimately obtaining mercy. (A. Jack, D. D.)

The nature and danger of presumptuous sins

They are such as have more of wilfulness and malice prepense than of ignorance and infirmity in them; when a man sins with a high hand against the dictates of reason and the checks of conscience, through the stubbornness and perverseness of a depraved, distorted will. Consider the malignant qualities and mischievous effects of presumptuous sinning.

1. They spring from the corruption of the heart, from some evil lust or affection, some predominancy of pride, avarice, or voluptuousness.

2. After sinning in this manner it is very hard to repent.

3. Supposing a man relents soon after, and is disposed to repent heartily and turn to God; yet it will be difficult for him so to heal the breach which those sins have made as to come with delight and humble confidence to God as before. Advice and directions how to avoid these sins.

Avoiding presumptuous sins

1. Be sure never to do anything against the clear light of thine own conscience.

2. Strive to be master of thine own will. We count our horses to be unserviceable until they be broken. It is a great point in the art of education for parents betimes to break their children of their wills.

3. Beware of sinful engagements. A man may have already done some evil from which he cannot handsomely acquit himself, but to his loss and shame, unless he either cover it or maintain it by laying another sin upon it. Seldom doth a man fall into presumptuous sin, but where the devil has got such a hank over him. The only way to get free is to break out of the engagement.

4. Harden thyself with a holy obstinacy and wilfulness. (Bishop Sanderson.)

Presumptuous sins

Some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, but there be some which have in them a greater development of its essential mischief, and which wear upon their faces, as do presumptuous sins, more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. Though under the Jewish law an atonement was provided for every kind of sin, there was none for this. “The soul that sinneth presumptuously shall have no atonement; it shall be cut off.” Very terrible, then, are these sins.

I. What are they?

1. Those that are committed wilfully against manifest light and knowledge. Conscience furnishes often such light; it is the voice of God in the heart. If conscience warn you, and yet you sin, that is presumption.

2. Deliberation is another characteristic of these sins. There are some who can think upon a sin for weeks, and dote upon the thought of it and plan for it, and then when opportunity comes, go and commit it.

3. Long continuance in it.

4. Design. See the punishment of the Sabbath breaker told of in the Book of Numbers. He was punished, not merely because he gathered the sticks on the Sabbath, but because the law had just been proclaimed, “In it (the Sabbath) thou shalt do no manner of work.”

5. The hardihood born of fancied strength of mind. “It won’t hurt me,” say many. But they find that they are hurt. It would be presumption for any man to climb to the top of the spire of a church and stand upon his head. “Well, but he might come down safe if he were skilled in it.” Yes, but it is presumptuous. You have heard how Dionysius the tyrant punished one who had displeased him. He invited him to a noble feast. Rich were the viands that were spread upon the table, rare the wines he was invited to drink. But he was utterly miserable, he sat in his chair in agony. For over his head, immediately over it, there hung a sword, bright and sharp, suspended by a single hair, and he had to sit all the tinge with this sword above him. He could not escape, he must sit where he was. Conceive the poor man’s misery. But you, who will procrastinate, are willingly placing yourself in a position as full of peril, and yet you make mirth.

II. The sinfulness of these sins. It is because they are against light and knowledge, are deliberate and wilfully done.

III. The appropriateness of this prayer. It was the prayer of a saint. “Hold me in, Lord, I am prone to these sins.” See how Paul warns saints against the most loathsome sins. There is enough tinder in the heart of the best of men to light a fire that shall burn to the lowest hell. But how much more have we need to pray this prayer. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The anatomy of presumptuous sins

I. What presumptuous sins are.

1. That presumptuous sinnings are proud adventurings of the heart upon sin; there is a large difference ‘twixt foilings by temptation and adventurings by presumption. Temptation beats down that actual strength of grace resisting: but presumption tramples down the light of the Word opposing. A man doth even try it out with God, and provokes Him to His face; and maintains the devices of his heart against the purity and equity of God’s will.

2. In presumptuous sinnings a man knows the thing and way to be unlawful: and therefore the presumptuous sinner is opposed to the ignorant sinner; the presumptuous sinner holds a candle in one hand, and draws out the sword with the other.

3. The presumptuous sinner adventures against express threatenings.

4. Presumptuous sins do arise from a false confidence; there are two things upon which the presuming sinner doth embolden himself.

5. In many presumptuous sinnings there is a slighting contempt (Numbers 15:30-31): presumptuous sinning is called a despising of the Word of the Lord.

6. Lastly, presumptuous sinning may rise higher than all this, as when a man sins not only knowingly and wilfully, but most maliciously and despitefully against God and Christ (Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 6:6).

II. What that strength is which keeps back regenerate persons prom presumptuous sins; and what difference ‘twixt the restrainings of evil men and this keeping back of good David.

1. Restraint is any kind of stop ‘twixt the inclination and the object; when the nature is inclined to such a thing, and a bar falls in to keep them asunder, this is restraint.

2. Restraint of any agent ariseth from a greater strength of a superior agent: whatsoever keeps a man back from a sinful acting, it is (at that time) whiles a restraint of more actually strong force than the present inclination is; as in the stopping of a stone or water, that which is unequal in strength, a lesser force is not able to keep in the stronger. Though sinful inclinations be strong, yet God can overrule and bound and bind it in.

3. All restraint presupposeth an aptness, a disposition ready to run and get out. The child whose desire is to lie in the cradle is not there said to be restrained; and the tradesman whose shop is his paradise is not therefore restrained from going abroad; but when a servant would be gadding, and yet is kept in, this is restraint.

4. All restraint of sin is from God.

5. All evil men are not equally restrained by God.

6. The restraining of any sinner is an act of a merciful Providence unto him.

7. God doth restrain the good and the bad from sin.

8. God doth diversely keep back or restrain men from particular sins and sinnings: sometimes--

9. The restrainings of good men are exceedingly different from those of evil men. The restrainings of evil men are but as locks upon the out door; and the keeping back of good men is as the lock upon the closet. One is all impedite to the actions, the other is an impedite to the inclinations; one is a bridle upon the lips and bands, the other is a bond upon the heart and disposition. They differ in their efficacy: restrainings of evil men do not impair the state of sin, no more than chains and prisons do the nature of the thief or lions. Mere restraints do not deal justly with sins, they make a stop in one, and leave open a gap for other sins: like a vessel of many holes, though the water break not out in one place, because it is stopped, yet it freely flies out in the rest. So where a man is restrained only, though that sin cannot find a way in that vein, yet it will find a course (like the water which is hindered under ground) another way. But the holdings back by renewing grace do indispose generally and evenly. They differ in the fulness of duration; for mere restraints hold in the nature no longer than the things remain by virtue of which the mind was restrained. Let the fear of death expire, put aside the edge of the law, be sure that shams shall not follow, and the only restrained sinner breaks open school, so that he goes to the sin. But holdings back by renewed grace are cohibitions of the heart upon permanent grounds, namely, the perpetual contrariety twixt God and sin, twixt sin and His will and holiness and goodness and honour. They differ in this, that the heart of a man only restrained doth, being at liberty (like waters held up), pour forth itself more violently and greedily, as if it would pay use for forbearance. They differ thus. An evil man is kept back as a prisoner by force against his will; but a good man is kept back as a petitioner. It is his heart’s desire. Oh, that my ways were so directed that I might keep Thy statutes. It is an evil man’s cross to be restrained, and a good man’s joy to be kept back from sin.

Take what I conceive, briefly thus: God keeps back His servants from sin--

1. By preventing grace, which is by infusing such a nature, which is like a bias unto the bowl, drawing it aside another way.

2. 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.

3. 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: as when in the motions of sin He inflames the heart with an apprehension of His own love in Christ.

4. 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.

5. By doing grace, which is when God effectually inclines the heart of His servants to the places and ways of their refuge, safeties, and preservations from sin.

III. What causes or reasons there should be which might move David to put up this prayer: “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.”

1. If he considered himself, there were sufficient grounds for such a petition, because--

2. In respect of the sins themselves. Amongst which higher ranks of iniquity are presumptuous sins and sinnings, which may appear thus--

3. In respect of others.

4. In respect of God.

Presumptuous sins

A man is guilty of this sin when, without having sufficient strength, he undertakes to do something of himself; or, without warrant, reckons to receive some extraordinary aid from the mercy or power of God. Over-valuing of ourselves as to our own strength, as Peter did; or trusting to the mercy of God without the warrant of a promise, as did the sons of Sceva, is presumption. Sins are distributed into sins of ignorance, of infirmity, and of presumption, as related to the understanding, the will, and the sensual appetite or affections. If the fault lies in the understanding, the sin may be a sin of ignorance. If in the affections, the sin may be a sin of infirmity. Where sin has none of these excuses it is a wilful, that is, a presumptuous, sin. See the sins of Paul before his conversion, of Peter in his denial, of David in the matter of Uriah. Paul’s was a sin of ignorance, Peter’s a sin of infirmity, David’s a sin of presumption. Observe how great and mischievous, presumptuous sins are. They originate from a worse cause than other sins, and thence are more sinful; they produce worse effects, and so are more dangerous. They harden the heart They almost annihilate the conscience. Presumptuous sins cannot be removed by ordinary humiliations. A more solemn and lasting course of repentance is necessary. These sins leave scars behind, like bad wounds, when healed, leave in the flesh.

1. A presumptuous sinner rarely escapes without some outward affliction.

2. Presumptuous sins are often scandalous, leaving an indelible stain on the offender.

3. Presumptuous sins leave a sting in the conscience of the sinner. How may we avoid such sins?

The nature, danger, aggravations, and cure of presumptuous sin

I. When is a man guilty of this sin?

1. When sin is committed against the powerful dictates of his own conscience and the clear conviction of the Holy Ghost.

2. When sin is upon long deliberation and forecast, plotting and contriving how it may be accomplished. When the affections are calm and quiet, no hurrying and perturbation of passion to cause the sin.

4. The temptations, and our behaviour under them, will show when the sin is presumptuous. Were but sinners truly apprehensive of their wretched estate, how they stand liable every moment to the stroke of Divine justice, how that there is nothing that interposeth betwixt them and hell but only God’s temporary forbearance of them, truly it were utterly impossible to keep them from running up and down the streets like distracted persons crying out with horror of soul, “Oh, I am damned, I am damned”; but their presumption stupefies them, and they are lulled asleep by the devil; and though they live in sin, yet they still dream of salvation; and thus their presumption flatters them, till at length this presumption ends then, where their damnation begins, and never before.

II. Some aggravating considerations concerning these sins.

1. They do exceedingly harden and steel the heart to go on in them, making men resolute and secure, or else leaving them desperate They cry out with Cam, My iniquity is greater than can be forgiven. Despair of pardon oftentimes exasperates to more and greater offences. As if a thief, when he is robbing of a man, should argue with himself, “If I am detected of this robbery it will cost me my life; and if I murder him I can but lose my life”; just so do many argue: “My sins are already so many and so great, that I cannot avoid damnation for them; it is but in vain for me to struggle against my own fate and God’s decrees. It is too nice a scruple, since God hath given me up to the devil, for me not to give up myself to sin.” And so away they go to sin; and sin at random, desperately and resolvedly. Oh, horrid hardness!

2. They brazen the face with most shameless impudency (Isaiah 3:9; Jeremiah 6:15). For they will dare to commit foul sins publicly and knowingly. Others will boast and glory in them, and yet others will boast of wickednesses they never dared to commit. As cowards brag of their exploits in such and such a combat which yet they never durst engage in, so there are a generation in the world who dare not, for the terror of their consciences, commit a sin, that yet will boast that they have committed it; as if it were a generous and honourable thing to be called a daring sinner.

3. What if God should cut off such in the very act of their sin, giving them no space for repentance?

4. How hard it is to bring presumptuous sinners to repentance and reformation. Certainly, they that dare sin when they see hell before them, there is no hope that they will leave sinning till they see hell flaming round about them, and themselves in the midst of it.

III. The best christians are prone to them. This we may learn from--

1. The examples of others. See Noah, David, etc.

2. The pressing exhortations against them in the Bible.

3. The irritating power that the law hath (Romans 7:6). Our corruptions have made us combustible matter, that there is scarce a dart thrown at us in vain; when he tempts us it is but like the casting of fire into tinder, that presently catcheth; our hearts kindle upon the least spark that falls; as a vessel, that is brimful of water, upon the least jog, runs over. Satan hath got a strong party within us, that, as soon as he knocks, opens to him and entertains him. And hence is it that many times small temptations and very petty occasion draw forth great corruptions; as a vessel that is full of new liquor, upon the least vent given, works over into foam and froth; so, truly, our hearts, almost upon every slight and trivial temptation, make that inbred corruption that lodgeth there swell and boil and run over into abundance of scum and filth in our lives and conversations.

IV. It is God’s power only that can preserve the christian from presumptuous sin.

1. We should have thought that such dreadful sins would be easily kept at arm’s length. For such sins generally give notice and warning to prepare for resistance. And natural conscience doth especially abhor and more oppose them. And the fear of shame and infamy in the world often holds men back, as doth often the fear of human laws and penalties. And yet--

2. We still do greatly need this prayer, “Keep back,” etc., as Scripture and experience alike attest. But--

3. Some may object, if we have no power to keep from these vices, why doth God complain of us for doing what we cannot help doing, and which He only can preserve us from? But we say that a man has power, as, for example, to rise up if he be seated; no one would deny such power, and yet he cannot exercise it unless God excite and rouse it in him, for “in Him we live and move and have our being.” All our powers are latent and sleepy until God rouse them up.

V. How God keeps men back from presumptuous sins.

1. Frequently by a strong hand of Providence upon them,--as

(i) shortening the lives of sinners (Psalms 64:6-7; Ecclesiastes 8:13); or

(ii) by cutting short their power (Psalms 76:5; John 7:30; Hosea 2:6); or

(iii) by raising up opposition to them, as when Saul would have put Jonathan to death, the people would not let him; or

(iv) by diverting men from their purpose (Daniel 11:30), as He did Joseph’s brethren from killing him.

(v) By removing the object against which they intended it, as Peter from Herod. And there are other ways still. But what woeful estate wicked men are in whom not grace but only Providence restrains. How we should thank God for such providences for others and for ourselves. But--

2. God keeps men back by His grace. And this He does by either restraining or sanctifying grace.

These differ--

1. In respect of the subject. Restraining grace is common, and works upon wicked men as well as others. As in Esau, who was restrained from hurting Jacob (Genesis 20:6). But none but the children of God have sanctifying grace.

2. In their nature and essence. Sanctifying grace is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God (Jeremiah 31:33, and 1 John 3:9; Matthew 12:35). But restraining grace has no such habit and principle, but is only occasional and temporary.

3. In their operation. Sanctifying grace keeps the soul from sin by destroying it; restraining, only by imprisoning it. The former strikes especially at the sins of the heart, the latter only hinders the sins of the life. Sanctifying grace engages the will against sin; but restraining grace only rouses up the conscience against it. Now, a wicked man may Sill against his conscience; but it is impossible that he should ever sin against his will. That is continually set upon sin; and were it not that God sometimes raiseth up natural conscience in him to oppose his corrupt will, he would every moment rush into the most damning impieties without any of the least regret or sense of it. When the devil presents a sin to the embraces of the will, and when the will closes with it, and all the faculties of the soul are ready to commit it, God sends in conscience among them. “What, Conscience, art thou asleep! Seest thou not how the devil and thine own devilish heart are now plotting and contriving thine eternal ruin?” This rouses conscience, and makes it storm and threaten, and hurl firebrands into the face of sin, while it lies in the very embraces of the will; and, though it cannot change the will from loving it, yet it frights the will from committing it. This is the most usual way which restraining grace takes for the prevention of stir, by sending in conscience to make strong and vigorous oppositions against it.

VI. Application of all this

1. How erroneous to ascribe our preservation not to the grace of God, but to our own will.

2. How we ought to praise God if we are preserved from these sins.

3. How we should guard against provoking God to withdraw the influence of His grace from us. He will never utterly forsake us; but yet He may so far depart from us as that we may have no comfortable sense of His presence, nor any visible supports from His grace. We may be left a naked and destitute prey to every temptation; and fall into the commission of those sins out of which we may never be able to recover ourselves to our former strength, comfort, and stability. We may fall, to the breaking of our hones; and we may rise again, possibly, but it will be to the breaking of our hearts. (E. Hopkins, D. D.)

Intentional sins

These stand contrasted with unconscious sins, or those committed ignorantly. See Deuteronomy 1:43, which contains a direct charge of wilful and intentional sins. Sins of ignorance are told of in Deuteronomy 4:2. But we speak of the former, and would note--

I. Their guilt. For--

1. They are the embodiments of forethought.

2. Are the result of desire.

3. Are prompted sometimes by circumstances.

4. Are committed with the hope of escaping the consequences;

5. And against the voice of conscience.

6. They are antagonistic to God; and are

7. The greatest of all sins.

II. Their restraints.

1. Providence (Genesis 20:6).

2. Truth.

3. Divine influence.

4. Mediation, the intercessory life of Christ.

III. The relation of prayer to these restraints. Prayer is--

1. Power.

2. The greatest power.

3. It is exerted in harmony with a preconcerted plan of salvation.

IV. The value of prayer to him who prays against these sins.

1. Freedom--“Let them not have dominion over me.”

2. Rectitude--“I shall be innocent.” (J. H. Hill.)

Presumptuous sins

It is a humiliating thought that even good men are prone to commit sins of presumption. Iniquity is of a progressive character, a growing evil, and from thoughtless sin we advance on until we come to these, the worst of all.

I. What are we to understand by “presumptuous sins”?

1. They are to be distinguished

2. Let us examine more particularly what are presumptuous sins.

II. How necessary it is for us to be kept from presumptuous sins. Because of its virulence it is greatly to be dreaded. And there is great danger even of Christians falling into such sin. Man is prone to self-confidence. “Take heed to yourselves,” says our Lord. One sin allowed brings others. Of all sins this is most difficult to cure. For it benumbs the conscience and perverts the judgment. Cherish a deep sense of the sinfulness of these sins, and that will make you sincere and earnest your prayer. (E. Summers.)

Presumptuous sinning

I. What are presumptuous sins?

1. Sins committed against the light of our understanding and the plain dictates of our conscience.

2. When committed with deliberate contrivance--with purpose of heart. We “make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

3. Sin upon slight inducements and small provocations.

4. Sin in spite of correction, rebukes, and obstacles which God throws in their path. Balaam. Ahaz.

5. Systematic sin, by an abuse of God’s free mercy in the Gospel. These are the worst of all.

II. Good men are liable to these sins. This is David’s prayer. He knew that he was liable. And so are nil good men. For--

1. See the exhortations addressed to them.

2. Facts recorded about them.

3. The prayers they offer.

III. How God answers this prayer.

1. By natural means, such as moral and religious education--a regard to reputation. Fear of public punishment and disgrace.

2. Providential restraints. God puts, at times, obstacles in our way; or diverts the mind; or renders it essential to us to practise diligence and frugality; or removes the object of temptation. A wise minister used often to say, “We ought to be thankful for the graces of providence as well as the influences of grace.”

3. Spiritual and gracious methods. Giving the new heart and causing us to delight in the law of God. (George Clayton.)

On the nature of presumptuous sins

I. What these presumptuous sins are. Three parts go to make up such a sin--

1. That a man undertake an action known by him to be unlawful or at least doubtful.

2. That, notwithstanding, he promise to himself security from the punishment due to it.

3. That he do this upon motives utterly groundless and unreasonable. He cannot plead ignorance nor surprise,

II. Instances of such sins. Of the most notable kind are--

1. To sin against the goodness of God manifesting itself to a man in great prosperity. What ingratitude this.

2. To sin when God is judging and afflicting us. When He is trying to hold us back from our sins. What is this but to wage war with God?

3. To sin when the sin is clearly discovered to us in the Word of God, and when God has wrought in us conviction concerning it.

4. To sin when God’s providence is seeking to thwart it and, as it were, lies cross to the commission of it. As when Pharaoh would go after the Israelites notwithstanding God made him know He would not have him do so.

5. When conscience has checked, warned, and remonstrated against such sin. It is to resist God’s Spirit.

6. When we know that by such sin we destroy all our joy in God, and all our happiness and power in serving Him.

7. When we go back again and again to the same sin. Flies are accounted bold creatures, for drive them off from a place as often as you will, yet presently they will be there again. But for a man who has by God’s grace been rescued from some gross sin to go back to it--what hope is there of that man’s being saved?

III. Consider some remedies against these sins.

1. Try to get deep apprehension and persuasion of the evil of sin generally. To this end see what evil sin hath wrought.

2. Then let a man reflect seriously upon God’s justice.

3. Think how men would be exasperated if we were to deal with them so.

IV. Why does David thus earnestly pray? He prays against them as so many pests, so many direful causes of God’s wrath, so many devourers of souls. And he thus prayed because--

1. Of the danger of falling into these sins. Our nature so prone to them. Men measure their beliefs by their desires. Most men are of a debonair, sanguine, jolly disposition, so that where despair has slain its thousands presumption has slain its ten thousands. And the greatness of the mercy of God leads men to presume, for it is more manifest than His anger, and Satan is ever busy to put men in such sins (1 Chronicles 21:1; Luke 22:3; Acts 5:8).

2. The sad consequences of them. They grow by indulgence. They waste conscience and so are hard to cure. They bring down greater judgments than any others. They are big with confusion, disaster, and curse. God must thus confound an audacious sinner in his course. (Robert South, D. D.)

Let them not have dominion over me.--

What dominion of sin doth import

Dominion is given sometimes to God, sometimes to Christ as Mediator, sometimes to man over man, sometimes to Satan over man, sometimes to death, which is said to rule, and sometimes to sin, when it is betwixt sin and the sinner, as betwixt a king and his subjects. As a reigning king hath dominion, so sin, it acts in all things like a king.

1. It hath possession: original sin of our hearts; actual sin of our lives.

2. Hath a title, our forsaking of God, and voluntary election and compact.

3. Hath a throne, our souls.

4. Hath servants, our members.

5. Hath a council, our carnal wisdom and corrupt reasonings.

6. Hath power to give laws, and see them executed. Paul speaks of the law in his members, and the law of sin (Romans 7:21-22).

But more distinctly for the better understanding this, observe these particulars--

1. That dominion properly is the right and power of a lord over a servant; it is a word implying superiority and subjection, one who hath authority to command, and another whose condition is obediential, and to serve.

2. Observe that dominion is two fold: it is--

3. Observe that there is a two-fold dominion. One is lawful, such a dominion and subjection which the Word and will of God doth or will warrant. Another is unlawful, and as it were usurped.

4. Consider that the dominion of sin doth imply two things.

Sin may be said to have dominion--

1. In reflect of assent: when the understanding subjects itself to his motions a man may apprehend sin as working, and yet he may not embrace, but resist that working of sin. And then it is not sill in dominion, but subjection puts up sin into the throne. And here, too, we must again distinguish of that subjection of assent which denominates dominion, that it is not a mere passive subjection (as when a man is taken prisoner), but an active subjection, a subjection of approbation, as when a servant hears the will of his master, and he likes it so.

2. In respect of the consent of the will, when the will declares itself expressly as a party for sin. Here now falls in a subtle and deep inquiry whether all resistance impairs dominion, and no resistance doth always infallibly argue it. I answer briefly to the first. That all resistance doth not prejudice dominion. A man may hold a firm league with sin in his heart, though sometimes in some particulars he may skirmish and quarrel. There is therefore a double resistance, or denying with sin. One is collateral and accidental; which doth not arise from an immediate contrariety of nature, but from a contrariety of effects. Another is natural and immediate; which depends on an holy nature implanted in the soul, which opposeth sin as a thing formally evil and displeasing to God. This resistance doth prejudice sin in its dominion, but the former doth not. No resistance. Both imply the consent to be plenary, and therefore sin to be in dominion: when the estate of the soul is such, that no contrary quality stands ‘twixt the command of sin and the obedience of a sinner, it is easy to point who is lord of the house; and indeed, what doth more palpably demonstrate dominion than a quiet subjection?

But yet another question is raised, whether a good man, in whom sin hath not dominion, may not yield a plenary consent of will: which if, then plenary consent argues not dominion.

1. It is possible that he may sin willingly.

2. That there is a double concourse of the will’s consent to sin. One is real, when in truth the whole inclination of the will is for sin, and where it is thus there sin is in dominion. Another is sensible, which is an observed acting of the will as embracing, and leaguing it with sin; when all is a corrupt inclination and consent. Now here I conjecture, that possibly sin may not always have dominion, where yet, for the present, and for a particular, the whole sensible part of the will seems only for sin. My reason is this, the resistances of grace are secret and more hidden; and again, when the soul is hurried to a sin in the heat of temptations and passions, it is not easily able to observe every secret and transient regretting and opposition.

3. You must distinguish ‘twixt dominion of sin, and twixt a strong inclination to sin: dominion of sin is a thing more natural, but the strong inclination may be preternatural.

4. Lastly, you must distinguish ‘twixt facts, and ‘twixt courses; and ‘twixt particular, and ‘twixt general intentions; and ‘twixt too much yielding, and a plenary yielding and resignation. The will may come on to sin (where it hath not dominion) in respect of facts; and by a particular intention, and by a partial yielding: but where the will comes on as to a course, and with a general intention, and with a plenary yielding, there is dominion. Thus of the dominion of sin in respect of the will. The dominion of sin may be considered in respect of the work or service; the working of sin, and obedient acting of it, doth also include and express its dominion; hence they, in whom sin hath dominion, are said to serve sin, and they are said to obey sin, and they are said to commit sin, and they are said to do the work of the devil (John 8:44). Again, we must distinguish of obedience to the commands of sin. One is simple and absolute: which is when to sin, though it be not every particular thing which a man doth, yet it is a principal thing unto which he applies himself: as that is a man’s trade, not presently which he looks upon or deals in, but wherein he doth principally and chiefly deal in, unto which he applies the current and strength of his stock. Another is cursory or transient: as a bee may light upon a thistle, but her work is to be gathering at flowers: or a sheep, may be in the dirt, but its work is to be grazing on the mountains, or in the meadows: or an honest traveller may be beside the way in a wood, or in an house, but his work is to go on in the king’s road. So is it possible for a man, in whom sin hath not dominion to touch upon sinful facts.

5. I conjecture: that it is fit to add one thing more in the general about the dominion of sin, as respecting its powerful commands that it is either--

Why David prays against sin in dominion

Remember that precedent distinction of actual dominion, which comprehended a particular prevalency over the soul for particular acts of sinning: and of habitual dominion which intimated the full resignation of the heart to the commands of corruption. In both respects there may be great reasons why any man should pray against the dominion of sin.

I. Against actual dominion.

1. Because though actual dominion doth not infallibly testify the person to be bad: yet it is ever a breaking forth of what is very bad; forasmuch as the action in this case is but sin acted. Now consider--

2. Actual dominion, though it doth not always conclude the absence of grace, yet it always impairs and weakens the strength of grace.

3. Because actual dominion though it doth not always cut off the union, yet it may and doth disperse and check the comforts. It is an eclipse, though it be not a night.

4. Because actual dominion (especially of great sins, and over a David) is accompanied with great prejudice to Divine glory: the better the man is, the more dishonourably foul his offendings are.

II. Habitual dominion.

1. Habitual dominion decides the estate: the question of a man’s soul is, whose servant he is, whether he belong to God and Christ, or to sin and Satan. Now, particular failings do not determine this, but the dominion of sin doth, his servants we are whom we obey.

2. There is no dominion in all the world so vile: whether you consider it--

1. In the commands of sin; or

2. In the service of the sinner. The commands of sin are the vilest commands.


1. They are illegal.

2. They are purely sinful: all its edicts and desires are but rebellions.

3. They are extremely unreasonable.

1. The service of sin: it is the most disloyal service in respect of God renouncing Him, denying Him His due, and conferring it on His only enemy.

2. It is the most injurious service to our souls.

3. It is the basest service.

4. It is the drudgingest service. A man who is a servant to sin, he is at the command of every lust.

5. It is a most unprofitable service. Though in some service there may be but an uncertain gain, yet in the service of sin there is a most certain and great loss; what profit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed (Romans 6:21).

6. It is a most uncomfortable service. How oft is the servant of sin in the depths of fear and in the heights of trouble; his very sinnings are more his torments than his joys. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

It is an hard thing to get off the dominion of sin.

Sin is a strong man, it hath possession, and goes not out by entreaty or bribe, but it must be by force, by one that is stronger. I assure you, that the almighty God must reveal His own arm, and He must cast down strongholds, He must work a kind of a miracle, or else sin will still be a lord, and the sinner will be a servant to his lusts. A man may change any master soever, and with more ease than sin. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

A man may deceive himself about the dominion of sin

There are many erroneous deceits.

1. One is the unsensibleness of its power: when a man feels no violence of sinful inclination, no stirrings, no opposition, no commands, but there is a calm and quietness in his spirit and in his way, which could not be as he thinks if sin had dominion and rule on him. Now, this is a deceit; for--

2. Another deceit may be a freedom from many courses of sinful actings. Though a man doth not all evil, and his way or course is not universally spreading in all the kinds of sinning, yet sin may rule in that man, it may have dominion; forasmuch as--

No dominion in the world like that of Christ

1. None so holy.

2. None so gracious; He doth not exact beyond what He gives.

3. None so peaceable; His very service is a kind of wages to the obedient.

4. None so assisted; His commands are accompanied with strength and spirit.

5. None so rewarded; no man serves Christ too much or for nought.

6. Lastly, be thankful, for if dominion be off, then damnation is off. There is no condemnation (saith Paul). (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Differences ‘twixt the dominion and victory of sin

First, particular victory depends upon inequality of actual strength, but dominion depends upon the fulness of a corrupt nature. Secondly, particular victory is a sudden act, but dominion is a more sober work. Thirdly, where the sinning owes itself not to dominion, but to particular victory, or tyranny, there the person, when he comes to himself, feels the yoke and would shake it off. 4. Therefore in the fourth place, if it be but victory, the person is not only troubled at his fall, not only loathing of his actions, but he is actively working, he is using his victorious weapons to raise up himself, to free himself again; he is grieved at the bondage, desires liberty, and will fight hard for it. Lastly, if it be but particular victory, the soul will rise again, and it will not rise without revenge. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Differences ‘twixt acts germinated and custom in sin

1. Where the renewed acts of sin owe themselves to custom, there the possession is both strong and quiet.

2. Where the renewed acts are acts of custom, there the acting is natural and easy.

3. Where the renewed acts owe themselves to custom, there a man is not easily brought off. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

How to be kept from the dominion of sin

1. For the first let us inquire what keeps up and strengthens the natural dominion of sin, and accordingly work against it. There are four things which do it--

2. What may demolish and break down the natural dominion of sin.

3. Against actual dominion. Thus for directions against the natural dominion of sin. Now I proceed to some helps against actual dominion, which is the particular prevalency of a Sin into act. Let me premise a proposition or two, and then you shall have the special directions themselves.

2. Get a sound and uncorrupt judgment: there be three cases in which a man is apt to fall under the actual dominion of sin. One is, when he thinks or says that the sin is little. Another is, when he saith that his own strength is great. A third is, when he assures himself of easy pardon and recovery. (O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Then shall I be upright.

The anatomy of uprightness

That it should be the great bent, aim, desire, and endeavour of a man to be upright (Genesis 17:1). I am the Almighty God, walk before Me and be thou upright.

I. What it is to be upright. The heart is upright when it is sincere, and then it is sincere when it is unmingled: there is a difference ‘twixt adherence and commixture. To the purest lana there may adhere some thread or spot uncomely, but in commixture the qualities or substances are in a sort mutually confounded; sin adheres or cleaves to the nature of the most upright person, but yet it mingles not, it is a thing which the renewed heart is thrusting off; it would be rid of it, the new nature, like a spring, is working it off, so that a man may be said to be upright whose heart will not suffer any sin to incorporate or settle itself. Uprightness is a sound and heavenly frame or temper of a gracious heart or spirit given by God, by which graces are acted, sins are opposed duties are performed affectionately, directly, and plainly, in reference to God, and not for by respects. It is a temper or frame of the heart, a composition, as it were, in which methinks two things may be observed. One, that uprightness is not a single or transparent act or motion: I think that even an hypocrite, whose heart is rotten, abominable, may yet, as step out into actions materially good, so feel motions within him both against what is evil, and unto what is good, he may (either through the force and power of evidence and conviction in his judgment, or through the unresistible actions of his inlighted and stirred conscience, or through the great desire of a glorious blessedness) have many fits and inward humours of being good and doing good. But all this is passion, and not temper: the philosopher in his rhetorics accurately distinguishes ‘twixt the readiness which springs out of a natural complexion, and that which ariseth out of a violent anger and passion which soon fades off, being not rooted in nature, but in distemper: so is it with the hypocrite. But uprightness is a temper and frame, like an instrument well tuned, or if that hit not full, like a complexion, which is a uniform (if not principle yet) instrument of actions. It is like that leaven, of which Christ spake, which invades the whole lump, it sweetly seasons and disposes the whole man for God, as the bent of the stone is to the centre, and of the fire to ascend. Another, that unrighteousness is rather a general influence in the graces than any distinct grace: I will not make this point a controversy, only, so far as I yet apprehend, uprightness is rather the temper of a grace, than the grace itself; it is not fear, but fear rightly tempered and ordered; it is not love, but love rightly set; it is not desire, but this orderly carried. It is a sound and incorrupt and heavenly frame of heart. A thing may be termed sound or solid either when it is real, not light, slight, superficial, or when it can abide trial: as true gold is really so and not in colour only, and if you reduce it to the touchstone you shall find it so: if you cast it into the fire, etc. The last thing which I would observe in uprightness is its end and scope. I pray you to remember that uprightness causeth a threefold reference of our services: one is to God’s precept, that’s the square and rule and compass of upright motions. Another is to God’s glory, that’s the spring which turns the wheels, the wind which blows the sails: it is for Christ’s sake, said Paul: and whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, said he again. A third is to God’s acceptance and approbation, so that God will accept, and commend and approve (2 Corinthians 5:9); we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him (2 Corinthians 10:18). Now I proceed to a second question, why we should strive and aim at (as David here did) and endeavour to be upright. There are abundant reasons thereof; I will deliver a few unto you. First, this uprightness is the great thing which God looks for (John 4:23). Nay, secondly, this is it which the Lord looks at (Jeremiah 5:3). Thirdly, this seems to be the only thing that God expects (1 Samuel 12:4); only, fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart (Deuteronomy 10:12). Fourth, uprightness doth bring the whole man unto God; it is that which commands all, and carries all with it. Fifth, God judgeth of a man by his uprightness. Would you be paid with counterfeit gold? doth the show please you without the substance? will the compliments of men satisfy you without a real friendship? will a gaudy rotten house content you, which hath no solidity and goodness? would you take the words of your servants, and their legs as sufficient? while their hearts are false in their callings. Nay, would you be content that God should make a show only, a pretence that he would pardon you, and help, and comfort, and save you; and yet deny you real love, real mercy, real comfort, real help and salvation, then think how God should take shows from you without uprightness of heart. Therefore I pray you take some pains with your hearts, bring them to the balance of the sanctuary, weigh them there, reduce them to the rule, try them there, whether they be upright or no. Let me premise a few particulars which may prepare and quicken you to this trial for uprightness of heart. First, there is no deceit or error in the world of more dangerous consequence than for a man to deceive himself, and to err about the right temper of his soul. A man may mistake himself in the depth of his riches, or the altitude of worldly friendship, or latitude of his intellectual qualifications and abilities; he may think himself rich, and favoured, and learned when perhaps he is not so; but these mistakes are about nostra, not about nos; ours, but not ourselves, and the danger may be only a tempest, but not a shipwreck. But for a man to deceive himself about his heart, about his soul; why, what hath he more? what hath he like them? They are fundamental errors; if a man lays a rotten foundation instead of a sound, all his building at length sinks to the ground. If a man sets forth in a fair ship, whose bottom is unsound and leaking, he loseth himself in the voyage. What a fearful day will judgment be! how will it make the soul to tremble, when it hath no more time now but to see, and eternally bewail its own errors and deceits w O Lord, saith that oppressed man, I have deceived my own soul, I thought myself thus and thus; but my heart hath deceived and beguiled me. Thirdly, an hypocrite may go very far, and therefore the more reason have we to see that our hearts be upright. Again consider, that it is a very difficult thing to be upright: though it be that acceptable frame of spirit so pleasing to God and so comfortable (as we may hear) to us, yet it is not so easy to be upright, whether you consider--

1. That deceitfulness which is in man’s heart (Jeremiah 17:9), q.d. there is not such a cunning thing as it, not a thing in all the world which can delude us so easily. Oh, how difficult! many by aims and indirect ends do often present themselves, that it is with us as with boys in writing, we draw many crooked lines, or as with them in archery, we shoot by hither or beyond or beside the mark; it is not easy to do good because God commands it, or only because He may be glorified.

2. That spiritualness which is required in upright motions; I tell you that the very soul must act itself, if the heart or way be upright: not only his lips, but his spirit must pray; not only his ear, but his heart must hear; he must not only profess against sin, but his soul must hate and abhor it. Lastly, to be upright is a possible thing, a man may attain unto it. But, you will say, if the case be so, how may one know that he is indeed upright? There are many discoveries of it; I pray you to observe them, and try yourselves by them.

You will make conscience of the least sins. I conceive there are five things about our duties and services which may manifest the uprightness of our hearts, namely--

How to obtain and maintain uprightness.

I. Motives to persuade us. Means to direct and help us.

1. God regards you not, if you be not upright; His eyes are upon the truth.

2. The Word of God condemns you; if you be not upright, it will not acquit you.

3. Your conscience will secretly reproach and vex you in the day of your calamity.

II. The means of uprightness. Directions for the getting of it.

1. If ever you would have upright hearts, you must then go to God for them.

2. If you would find uprightness in you, then get an exceeding and predominate love of God and His ways. Love is of great force and influence to a man’s ways and actions, is like the rudder which doth master the ship in the motion, it can turn and wind it any way; so doth love prevail with the soul; it hath a command over it. The want of uprightness comes from the want of love; as the falseness of a woman to her husband grows upon want of conjugal love; it is the love of the world which draws a man so often aside. If a man could love God above all, he would delight to walk with Him, he would be careful to please Him, fearful to offend Him, ready to obey Him, would be kept in for God, he would not make so many strayings, he would mind God’s glory more.

3. Get to hate sin; a secret love of sin will draw the soul aside.

For the second which respect the preserving means, take these directions.

1. First, if you would preserve uprightness, you must preserve an holy fear of God; I will put My fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from Me (Jeremiah 32:1-44).

2. If you would preserve uprightness, then you must get and preserve humbleness of spirit.

3. If you would get and preserve uprightness, then get your hearts to be crucified to the world. Hypocrisy and worldliness are seldom far asunder.

4. Now, to all that hath been said, let me add a few daily meditations, which may be of great force to keep us in upright walking.

It is an hard thing to ascribe unto God the Original of excellencies, that He is God, and that power, might, and glory, and obedience belongs unto Him, that He made us, and not we ourselves, and that our beings as they are depending upon His power, so our ways upon His rule; and He is Lord of lords, all are under Him, and, being the universal efficient, He ought also to be our universal end. God is set up above all other--

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 19:13". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;

Let them not have dominion over me:

Then shall I be upright,

And I shall be clear from great transgression."

Presumptuous sins are the same as willful sins, against which there is a stem warning indeed in Hebrews 10:26-31. Willful sins derive their temptation from thoughts that, "Maybe God will not care, just this once," or that, "Oh, we are under grace and not under law," or some other self-deception. The Lord says, "We are under law to Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:21).

"And I shall be clear from (the) great transgression." There is no article in the Hebrew; but evidently some unusually significant transgression is meant. Maclaren explained this as, "A designation for casting off the very pretense of worshipping Jehovah."[12]

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins,.... Some understand these words of persons: the Septuagint, and the versions that follow that, render it "from strangers": such who are strangers to God and godliness; that is, keep from all conversation with them in things sinful, or from others' sins; from having a fellowship with them, being a partaker of them, lest their plagues and punishments should be shared in: others, as the Targum, "from proud men", who are haughty, insolent, and conceited of themselves; lest he should be so corrupted and drawn aside by them: but rather the words are to be understood of sins wilfully, contumaciously, and presumptuously committed; and the petition supposes, that these may be committed by good men, if left to themselves; and that there is a proneness in them to them; and that they would rush into them, were they not kept back and restrained by the powerful and efficacious grace of God: and it also supposes that the saints cannot keep themselves; that God only can keep them from evil; and therefore they pray to him that he would, who does keep them by his power, at least from a final and total falling away

let them not have dominion over me: neither presumptuous sins, nor any other, Psalm 119:133; as they shall not, Romans 6:14; as sin has over wicked men; and they yield a ready obedience to the laws and lusts of it; it reigns over them as a king and tyrant, even unto death: it is something very powerful in good men; it prevails over them, and carries them captive; wherefore they pray it may not have a continued dominion, as it shall not; because they are in another kingdom, and under grace as a governing principle, which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life;

then shall I be upright; in heart, and walk uprightly in conversation; being cleansed from secret faults, and kept from notorious crimes, and gross enormities; and shall exercise a conscience void of offence, both to God and man; and be "perfect", as the word is sometimes rendered, at least comparatively; and absolutely so, as washed in Christ's blood, and justified by his righteousness;

and I shall be innocent from the great transgression; which some understand of pride, others of apostasy; perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost may be intended; though the words may be rendered, "from much transgression"F11רב "multa", Montanus, Rivetus, Gejerus, Cocceius; so Ainsworth. ; and the sense is, that he should be cleared and acquitted of a multitude of transgressions he had been guilty of; or be preserved from much sin, which otherwise he should have fallen into.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Keep back thy servant also from m presumptuous [sins]; let them not have dominion over me: n then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

(m) Which are done purposely and from malice.

(n) If you suppress my wicked affections by your Holy Spirit.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Presumptuous — From known and evident sins, such as are committed against knowledge, against the checks of conscience, and the motions of God's spirit.

Dominion — If I be at any time tempted to such sins, Lord let them not prevail over me, and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. By presumptuous sins he means known and evident transgressions, (469) accompanied with proud contempt and obstinacy. By the word keep back, he intimates, that such is the natural propensity of the flesh to sin, that even the saints themselves would immediately break forth or rush headlong into it, did not God, by his own guardianship and protection, keep them back. It is to be observed, that while he calls himself the servant of God, he nevertheless acknowledges that he had need of the bridle, lest he should arrogantly and rebelliously break forth in transgressing the law of God. Being regenerated by the Spirit of God, he groaned, it is true, under the burden of his sins; but he knew, on the other hand, how great is the rebellion of the flesh, and how much we are inclined to forgetfulness of God, from which proceed contempt of his majesty and all impiety. Now, if David, who had made so much progress in the fear of God, was not beyond the danger of transgressing, how shall the carnal and unrenewed man, in whom innumerable lusts exercise dominion, be able to restrain and govern himself by his own free will? Let us learn, then, even although the unruliness of our wayward flesh has been already subdued by the denial of ourselves, to walk in fear and trembling; for unless God restrain us, our hearts will violently boil with a proud and insolent contempt of God. This sense is confirmed by the reason added immediately after, that they may not have dominion over me. By these words he expressly declares, that unless God assist him, he will not only be unable to resist, but will be wholly brought under the dominion of the worst vices. This passage, therefore, teaches us not only that all mankind are naturally enslaved to sin, but that the faithful themselves would become the bond-slaves of sin also, if God did not unceasingly watch over them to guide them in the path of holiness, and to strengthen them for persevering in it. There is also another useful lesson which we have here to attend to, namely, that we ought never to pray for pardon, without, at the same time, asking to be strengthened and fortified by the power of God for the time to come, that temptations, in future, may not gain advantage over us. And although we may feel in our hearts the incitements of concupiscence goading and distressing us, we ought not, on that account, to become discouraged. The remedy to which we should have recourse is to pray to God to restrain us. No doubt, David could have wished to feel in his heart no stirrings of corruption; but knowing that he would never be wholly free from the remains of sin, until at death he had put off this corrupt nature, he prays to be armed with the grace of the Holy Spirit for the combat, that iniquity might not reign victorious over him. In the end of the verse there are two things to be observed. David, in affirming that he shall then be upright and clean from much wickedness, attributes, in the first place, the honor of preserving him innocent to the spiritual assistance of God; and depending upon it, he confidently assures himself of victory over all the armies of Satan. In the second place, he acknowledges, that unless he is assisted by God, he will be overwhelmed with an immense load, and plunged as it were into a boundless abyss of wickedness: for he says, that aided by God, he will be clear not of one fault or of two, but of many. From this it follows, that as soon as we are abandoned by the grace of God, there is no kind of sin in which Satan may not entangle us. Let this confession of David then quicken us to earnestness in prayer; for in the midst of so many and various snares, it does not become us to fall asleep or to be indolent. Again, let the other part of the Psalmist’s exercise predominate in our hearts — let us boast with him, that although Satan may assault us by many and strong armies, we will nevertheless be invincible, provided we have the aid of God, and will continue, in despite of every hostile attempt, to hold fast our integrity.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 19:13 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.

Ver. 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins] Heb. Withdraw, inhibit, for we are naturally prone to the worst of sins, even the best of us, and to lie buried with the world in a bog of wickedness, adding rebellion to sin, and doing wickedly with both hands earnestly, unless God rein us in, and restrain us from such enormities. Pray we therefore as here, Etiam a superbiis contine servum tuum (Midrash Tillin. in Psalms 19:13). David’s murdering Uriah was a sin of this sort. The Rabbis here observe how the prophet riseth in his request, first for pardon of lesser sins, and then for power against greater; like as a beggar, say they, first craves a little water, and then a morsel of bread. We should do so.

Let them not have dominion over me] Sin will rebel, but it must not reign in our mortal bodies, it must not play King, and bear sway in the soul. Pray hard against that in chief, Ne iniquitas victrix dominetur, that our lusts be not our lords, that vice vanquish us not.

Then shall I be upright] Then, when I have gotten both pardoning and prevailing grace, to be cleansed from infirmities and kept from presumptions and arrogance, which cum temerario ausu et fastu fiunt contumaciter, I shall be upright in God’s account and entire in his obedience.

And shall be innocent from the great transgression] That sin unto death, 1 John 5:16; that wickedness with a witness, for which there remaineth no more sacrifice, Hebrews 10:26, and unto which a way is paved by sins of presumption with a high hand committed against knowledge and conscience.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 19:13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins Though our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head; yet some there are which stand distinguished by an uncommon guilt, and will always be present to our minds, whenever we approach the throne of grace for pardon. These we should particularly lament; against these we should particularly pray, when we seek to God for strength and assistance. In this strain the holy Psalmist continues his devotions. Keep back thy servant also, &c. Bishop Sherlock. Mudge renders the last clause, And clean from great defection: and Fenwick, And be pure from great offences.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture



Psalms 19:13.

Another psalmist promises to the man who dwells ‘in the secret place of the Most High’ that’ he shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh at noonday,’ but shall ‘tread upon the lion and adder.’ These promises divide the dangers that beset us into the same two classes as our Psalmist does-the one secret; the other palpable and open. The former, which, as I explained in my last sermon, are sins hidden, not from others, but from the doer, may fairly be likened to the pestilence that stalks slaying in the dark, or to the stealthy, gliding serpent, which strikes and poisons before the naked foot is aware. The other resembles the ‘destruction that wasteth at noonday,’ or the lion with its roar and its spring, as, disclosed from its covert, it leaps upon the prey.

Our present text deals with the latter of these two classes. ‘Presumptuous sins’ does not, perhaps, convey to an ordinary reader the whole significance of the phrase, for it may be taken to define a single class of sins-namely, those of pride or insolence. What is really meant is just the opposite of ‘secret sins’-all sorts of evil which, whatever may be their motives and other qualities, have this in common, that the doer, when he does them, knows them to be wrong.

The Psalmist gets this further glimpse into the terrible possibilities which attach even to a servant of God, and we have in our text these three things-a danger discerned, a help sought, and a daring hope cherished.

I. Note, then, the first of these, the dreaded and discerned danger-’presumptuous sins,’ which may ‘have dominion over’ us, and lead us at last to a ‘great transgression.’

Now the word which is translated ‘presumptuous’ literally means that which boils or bubbles; and it sets very picturesquely before us the movement of hot desires-the agitation of excited impulses or inclinations which hurry men into sin in spite of their consciences. It is also to be noticed that the prayer of my text, with singular pathos and lowly self-consciousness, is the prayer of ‘Thy servant,’ who knows himself to be a servant, and who therefore knows that these glaring transgressions, done in the teeth of conscience and consciousness, are all inconsistent with his standing and his profession, but yet are perfectly possible for him.

An old mediaeval mystic once said, ‘There is nothing weaker than the devil stripped naked.’ Would it were true! For there is one thing that is weaker than a discovered devil, and that is my own heart. For we all know that sometimes, with our eyes open, and the most unmistakable consciousness that what we are doing was wrong, we have set our teeth and done it, Christian men though we may profess to be, and may really be. All such conduct is inconsistent with Christianity; but we are not to say, therefore, that it is incompatible with Christianity. Thank God! that is a very different matter. But as long as you and I have two things-viz. strong and hot desires, and weak and flabby wills-so long shall we, in this world full of combustibles, not be beyond the possibility of a dreadful conflagration being kindled by some devil-blown sparks. There are plenty of dry sticks lying about to put under the caldron of our hearts, to make them boil and bubble over! And we have, alas! but weak wills, which do not always keep the reins in their hands as they ought to do, nor coerce these lower parts of our nature into their proper subordination. Fire is a good servant, but a bad master; and we are all of us too apt to let it become master, and then the whole ‘course of nature’ is ‘set on fire of hell.’ The servant of God may yet, with open eyes and obstinate disregard of his better self and of all its remonstrances, go straight into ‘presumptuous sin.’

Another step is here taken by the Psalmist. He looks shrinkingly and shudderingly into a possible depth, and he sees, going down into the abyss, a ladder with three rungs on it. The topmost one is wilful, self-conscious transgression. But that is not the lowest stage; there is another step. Presumptuous sin tends to become despotic sin. ‘Let them not have dominion over me.’ A man may do a very bad thing once, and get so wholesomely frightened, and so keenly conscious of the disastrous issues, that he will never go near it again. The prodigal would not be in a hurry, you may depend upon it, to try the swine trough and the far country, and the rags, and the fever, and the famine any more. David got a lesson that he never forgot in that matter of Bathsheba. The bitter fruit of his sin kept growing up all his life, and he had to eat it, and that kept him right. They tell us that broken bones are stronger at the point of fracture than they were before. And it is possible for a man’s sin-if I might use a paradox which you will not misunderstand-to become the instrument of his salvation.

But there is another possibility quite as probable, and very often recurring, and that is that the disease, like some other morbid states of the human frame, shall leave a tendency to recurrence. A pin-point hole in a dyke will be widened into a gap as big as a church-door in ten minutes, by the pressure of the flood behind it. And so every act which we do in contradiction of our standing as professing Christians, and in the face of the protests, all unavailing, of that conscience which is only a voice, and has no power to enforce its behests, will tend to recurrence once and again. The single acts become habits, with awful rapidity. Just as the separate gas jets from a multitude of minute apertures coalesce into a continuous ring of light, so deeds become habits, and get dominion over us. ‘He sold himself to do evil.’ He made himself a bond-slave of iniquity. It is an awful and a miserable thing to think that professing Christians do often come into that position of being, by their inflamed passions and enfeebled wills, servants of the evil that they do. Alas! how many of us, if we were honest with ourselves, would have to say. ‘I am carnal, sold unto sin.’

That is not the lowest rung of the slippery ladder. Despotic sin ends in utter departure.

The word translated here, quite correctly, ‘transgression,’ and intensified by that strong adjective attached, ‘a great transgression,’ literally means rebellion, revolt, or some such idea; and expresses, as the ultimate issue of conscious transgression prolonged and perpetuated into habit, an entire casting off of allegiance to God. ‘No man can serve two masters.’ ‘His servants ye are whom ye obey,’ whomsoever ye may call your master. The Psalmist feels that the end of indulged evil is going over altogether to the other camp. I suppose all of us have known instances of that sort. Men in my position, with a long life of ministry behind them, can naturally remember many such instances. And this is the outline history of the suicide of a Christian. First secret sin, unsuspected, because the conscience is torpid; then open sin, known to be such, but done nevertheless; then dominant sin, with an enfeebled will and power of resistance; then the abandonment of all pretence or profession of religion. The ladder goes down into the pit, but not to the bottom of the pit. And the man that is going down it has a descending impulse after he has reached the bottom step and he falls-Where? The first step down is tampering with conscience. It is neither safe nor wise to do anything, howsoever small, against that voice. All the rest will come afterward, unless God restrains-’first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear,’ and then the bitter harvest of the poisonous grain.

II. So, secondly, note the help sought.

The Psalmist is like a man standing on the edge of some precipice, and peeping over the brink to the profound beneath, and feeling his head beginning to swim. He clutches at the strong, steady hand of his guide, knowing that unless he is restrained, over he will go. ‘Keep Thou back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.’

So, then, the first lesson we have to take is, to cherish a lowly consciousness of our own tendency to light-headedness and giddiness. ‘Blessed is the man that feareth always.’ That fear has nothing cowardly about it. It will not abate in the least the buoyancy and bravery of our work. It will not tend to make us shirk duty because there is temptation in it, but it will make us go into all circumstances realising that without that divine help we cannot stand, and that with it we cannot fall. ‘Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.’ The same Peter that said, ‘Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I,’ was wiser and braver when he said, in later days, being taught by former presumption, ‘Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’

Let me remind you, too, that the temper which we ought to cherish is that of a confident belief in the reality of a divine support. The prayer of my text has no meaning at all, unless the actual supernatural communication by God’s own Holy Spirit breathed into men’s hearts be a simple truth. ‘Hold Thou me up,’ ‘Keep Thou me back,’ means, if it means anything, ‘Give me in my heart a mightier strength than mine own, which shall curb all this evil nature of mine, and bring it into conformity with Thy holy will.’

How is that restraining influence to be exercised? There are many ways by which God, in His providence, can fulfil the prayer. But the way above all others is by the actual operation upon heart and will and desires of a divine Spirit, who uses for His weapon the Word of God, revealed by Jesus Christ, and in the Scriptures. ‘The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,’ and God’s answer to the prayer of my text is the gift to every man who seeks it of that indwelling Power to sustain and to restrain.

That will keep our passions down. The bubbling water is lowered in its temperature, and ceases to bubble, when cold is added to it. When God’s Spirit comes into a man’s heart, that will deaden his desires after earth and forbidden ways. He will bring blessed higher objects for all his affections. He who has been fed on ‘the hidden manna’ will not be likely to hanker after the leeks and onions, however strong their smell and pungent their taste, that grew in the Nile mud in Egypt. He who has tasted the higher sweetnesses of God will have his heart’s desires after lower delights strangely deadened and cooled. Get near God, and open your hearts for the entrance of that divine Spirit, and then it will not seem foolish to empty your hands of the trash that they carry in order to grasp the precious things that He gives. A bit of scrap-iron magnetised turns to the pole. My heart, touched by the Spirit of God dwelling in me, will turn to Him, and I shall find little sweetness in the else tempting delicacies that earth can supply. ‘Keep Thy servant back from,’ by depriving him of the taste for, ‘presumptuous sins.’

That Spirit will strengthen our wills. For when God comes into a heart, He restores the due subordination which has been broken into discord and anarchy by sin. He dismounts the servant riding on horseback, and carrying the horse to the devil, according to the proverb, and gives the reins into the right hands. Now, if the gift of God’s Spirit, working through the Word of God, and the principles and the motives therein unfolded, and therefrom deducible, be the great means by which we are to be kept from open and conscious transgression, it follows very plainly that our task is twofold. One part of it is to see that we cultivate that spirit of lowly dependence, of self-conscious weakness, of triumphant confidence, which will issue in the perpetual prayer for God’s restraint. When we enter upon tasks which may be dangerous, and into regions of temptation which cannot but be so, though they be duty, we should ever have the desire in our hearts and upon our lips that God would keep us from, and in, the evil.

The other part of our duty is to make it a matter of conscience and careful cultivation, to use honestly and faithfully the power which, in response to our desires, has been granted to us. All of you, Christian men and women, have access to an absolute security against every transgression; and the cause lies wholly at your own doors in each case of failure, deficiency, or transgression, for at every moment it was open to you to clasp the Hand that holds you up, and at every moment, if you failed, it was because your careless fingers had relaxed their grasp.

III. Lastly, observe the daring hope here cherished.

‘Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.’ That is the upshot of the divine answer to both the petitions which have been occupying us in these two successive sermons. It is connected with the former of them by the recurrence of the same word, which in the first petition was rendered ‘cleanse’-or, more accurately, ‘clear’-and in this final clause is to be rendered accurately, ‘I shall be clear from the great transgression.’ And it obviously connects in sense with both these petitions, because, in order to be upright and clear, there must, first of all, be divine cleansing, and then divine restraint.

So, then, nothing short of absolute deliverance from the power of sin in all its forms should content the servant of God. Nothing short of it contents the Master for the servant. Nothing short of it corresponds to the power which Christ puts in operation in every heart that believes in Him. And nothing else should be our aim in our daily conflict with evil and growth in grace. Ah! I fear me that, for an immense number of professing Christians in this generation, the hope of-and, still more, the aim towards-anything approximating to entire deliverance from sin, have faded from their consciences and their lives. Aim at the stars, brother! and if you do not hit them, your arrow will go higher than if it were shot along the lower levels.

Note that an indefinite approximation to this condition is possible. I am not going to discuss, at this stage of my discourse, controversial questions which may be involved here. It will be time enough to discuss with you whether you can be absolutely free from sin in this world when you are a great deal freer from it than you are at present. At all events, you can get far nearer to the ideal, and the ideal must always be perfect. And I lay it on your hearts, dear friends! that you have in your possession, if you are Christian people, possibilities in the way of conformity to the Master’s will, and entire emancipation from all corruption, that you have not yet dreamed of, not to say applied to your lives. ‘I pray God that He would sanctify you wholly, and that your whole body, soul, and spirit be preserved blameless unto the coming.’

That daring hope will be fulfilled one day; for nothing short of it will exhaust the possibilities of Christ’s work or satisfy the desires of Christ’s heart.

The Gospel knows nothing of irreclaimable outcasts. To it there is but one unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of refusing the cleansing of Christ’s blood and the sanctifying of Christ’s Spirit. Whoever you are, whatever you are, go to God with this prayer of our text, and realise that it is answered in Jesus Christ, and you will not ask in vain. If you will put yourself into His hands, and let Him cleanse and restrain, He will give you new powers to detect the serpents in the flowers, and new resolution to shake off the vipers into the fire. For there is nothing that God wants half so much as that we, His wandering children, should come back to Him, and He will cleanse us from the filth of the swine trough and the rags of our exile, and clothe us in ‘fine linen clean and white.’ We may each be sinless and guiltless. We can be so in one way only. If we look to Jesus Christ, and live near Him, He ‘will be made of God unto us wisdom,’ by which we shall detect our secret sins; ‘righteousness,’ whereby we shall be cleansed from guilt; ‘sanctification,’ which shall restrain us from open transgression; ‘and redemption,’ by which we shall be wholly delivered from evil and ‘presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Keep back, or restrain, or withdraw; which word is emphatical, and signifies man’s natural and great proneness even to the worst of sins, and the necessity of God’s grace, as a bridle, to keep men from rushing upon them. Having begged pardon for his former errors, he now begs grace to keep him from relapses for the time to come.

From presumptuous sins; from known and evident sins, such as are committed against knowledge and deliberation with design, and resolution, and eagerness, with resistance against the checks of conscience, and the motions of God’s Spirit, and with contempt both of God’s commands and judgments, and so with pride and insolency, which this word signifies. See Exodus 21:14. And such a sin was that of David’s in the matter of Uriah, to which he seems to have an eye, and prayeth to be kept from such miscarriages.

Let them not have dominion over me; if I be at any time tempted to any such sins, Lord, let them not prevail over me; and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again, and not willingly give up myself to the customary practice of them.

Then shall I be upright; that will be an evidence of my sincerity, and I shall have this comfort, that although I am not absolutely perfect, but encompassed with many infirmities, yet I am an upright person, and such as thou wilt accept.

I shall be innocent; thou wilt hold me for innocent. Or, I shall be cleansed, or kept pure, as this word primarily signifies.

From the great transgression, i.e. from the guilt of such presumptuous sins, which are indeed very great transgressions, and such as, if accompanied with obstinacy and impenitency, thou wilt not pardon. But as for other sins of ignorance or infirmity, thou wilt graciously remit them for thy covenant’s sake, made with me in and through thy Christ. Otherwise, from much transgression, or from innumerable sins, which usually follow the commission of one presumptuous sin, as David found by his own sad experience.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

Let them not have dominion over me,

Then will I be upright,

And I will be clear from great transgression.’

Indeed he prays that God will keep him, as God’s true servant, from sinning presumptuously. In context this surely means from deliberately disobeying His Instruction. That he does not want to do. Although he recognises that he does sin unwittingly, for he longs to be delivered from the dominion of sin, he wants to be delivered from a wayward heart. We can compare here Paul in Romans 7. It is the attitude of heart and mind that must be right, and then the rest will follow, depending on God’s forgiveness and His activity within (12b, 13a).

It should be noted here that the Psalmist makes clear that his only hope is that God will act in His life. Without that he will have no hope of being true. It is in the end to God that he looks for deliverance.

And the result will be that he will be upright, and will be clear from ‘great transgression’, the kind of sin that finally destroys, sin that is deliberate and habitual (see Numbers 15:30-31). Such sin ‘rules over’ men (John 8:34; Romans 6:12-14) and results in judgment.

‘Presumptious’, that is, ‘whatever is presumptious’, whether sins or actions, which result from pride and arrogance, and are a deliberate flouting of God’s law.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

13. Presumptuous sins—Literally, proudnesses: sins committed with knowledge and passion, such as hinted at Psalms 119:21 : the extreme opposite of the “secret faults,” of Psalms 19:12.

Dominion—This again marks the danger of these haughty sins; they are such as rule the man where they exist. The psalmist deprecates their existence and dominion.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 19:13. Keep back thy servant also — Hebrew, חשׂךְ, chasoch, cohibe, subtrahe, restrain, or withdraw. The word is emphatical, and implies the natural and great proneness of man to commit even wilful sins, and the necessity of divine grace, as a bridle, to keep men from the commission of them. From presumptuous sins — Having begged pardon for his secret faults, including therein, probably, sins of ignorance and infirmity; he now prays for restraining grace, to keep him from sins committed knowingly and deliberately, against the convictions and the remonstrances of conscience and the motions of God’s Holy Spirit. Let them not have dominion over me — If at any time I be tempted to any such sins, Lord, let them not prevail over me; and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again. Then shall I be upright — That will be an evidence of my sincerity, and I shall have this comfort, that though I am still compassed about with many infirmities, yet I am an upright person, and such as thou dost accept. And I shall be innocent — Hebrew, נקיתי, nikkeeti, I shall be cleansed, or kept pure, as this word primarily signifies; from the great transgression — From the guilt of such presumptuous sins, which are, indeed, very great transgressions, and such as, if followed by impenitence and obstinacy, thou wilt not pardon.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Keep back = restrain or hold back; as the motions of the heavenly bodies are controlled. First occurrence Genesis 20:6; Genesis 22:12, Genesis 22:16; Genesis 39:9. Compare 1 Samuel 25:39, &c.

from presumptuous sins. Figure of speech Hypallage. App-6. Hebrew keep back presumptuous [men] from me.

have dominion over = rule, as the sun and moon rule the day and night (Genesis 1:18. Psalms 136:8, Psalms 136:9).

the great = much.

transgression. Hebrew. pasha". App-44.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Presumptuous (sins). He does not say, Cleanse me from presumptuous sins, but keep me back from them. These were not sins to which he was readily prone, but he felt that the "errors" and "secret faults," if not checked and 'cleansed,' would lead on to the "presumptuous" or deliberate sins, from which he therefore prays to be 'kept back.' Others translate the Hebrew [ mizeediym (Hebrew #2086), not mizaariym as the Septuagint ap' allotrioon], 'from the proud,' as in Psalms 86:14; Malachi 4:1. But the anti-thesis to the parallel words, "errors" and "secret faults" - i:e., sins of infirmity-requires the English version, "presumptuous sins" - i:e., sins of deliberation (Deuteronomy 17:12; margin, Daniel 5:20). An analogous distinction appears in the New Testament between sins of negligence and sins of willful resistance of light, for which there remaineth no more sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26-31), Translate, 'presumptuous ones,' referring still to sins.

Dominion over me. Presumptuous sins are personified as tyrants striving to enslave God's servants. How beautifully the promise of God's Word answers to the prayer here (Romans 6:14), "Sin shall not have dominion over you"! So God did keep back from evil Abimelech; also David himself from taking vengeance on Nabal. If David had prayed so in the case of Uriah and Bathsheba, he would have been kept from the great sin of his life.

From the great transgression - even though I still have "errors" and "secret faults" cleaving to me; "the great transgression" is the climax of the "presumptuous sins" (Psalms 19:13) [ pesha` (Hebrew #6588)] - namely, entire falling away from God; 'rebellion' (as the Hebrew is translated, Job 34:37), apostasy. The Hebrew for "innocent" [ niqeeytiy (Hebrew #5352)] is a form of the same word as in Psalms 19:12 [ naqeeniy (Hebrew #5352)], "Cleanse thou me," or 'clear thou me;' 'then shall I be clear of the great transgression.'

Then - i:e., if thou keepest me from presumptuous sins, which are the forerunners of "the great transgression."

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) Presumptuous sin.—The Heb., from root meaning to “boil up” or “over,” is properly masculine, and always elsewhere means proud or arrogant men. (So Symmachus and Aquila.) Hence here explain, “Keep thy servant from the companionship of arrogant men, so that they may not get dominion over me, and lead me away from thy Law.”

The great transgression.—Rather, a great transgression, though even without the article it is possible the particular sin of idolatry is intended.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
Genesis 20:6; 1 Samuel 25:32-34,39
Exodus 21:14; Numbers 15:30,31; Deuteronomy 17:12,13; 2 Peter 2:10
119:133; Romans 6:12-14,16-22
7:10; 11:7; 84:11; Acts 24:16
I shall
18:23; 1 Chronicles 10:13,14
Heb. much.

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Ver. 13. Also from presumptuous ones keep Thy servant, let them not have dominion over me; so shall I be blameless, and remain innocent of great iniquity. From sins of infirmity the Psalmist passes on to sins of deliberation. As for the first he entreats the Divine pardon, so in regard to these he asks the Divine preservation. To the preceding verse the petition, "Forgive us our sins," corresponds; and to this verse, the petition, "Lead us not into temptation." Our Psalm shows us, what a close internal connection subsists between the decalogue and the Lord's prayer. That the verb זוב, with its derived nouns, conveys the idea of intentional, presumptuous, and daring sins, in opposition to such as spring from infirmity, is clear from Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 22 , Deuteronomy 17:12; 1 Samuel 17:28. זֵדִים is the standing designation of those who raise themselves proudly and rashly against God, despise His word, and break His law. The contrast between זדים and שגיאות here, is precisely the same as the contrast between בשגגה and ביד רמה, sinning with a high hand, i.e. openly, freely, and boldly, in Numbers 15:27-31, a passage which forms the basis of the New Testament doctrine of the sin against the Holy Ghost; comp. Hebrews 10:26-28. Just as here, the sphere of forgiveness is confined to the שגיאות, while the Psalmist prays to be kept from the זדים, which would have the effect of putting him out of the state of grace, so there, sacrifices are to be offered only for those who had sinned בשגגה; he, on the contrary, who had sinned ביד רמה, was cut off from his people, "because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and broken His commandment." An example of a sin בזדון, or ביד רמה, is the transgression of him who gathered wood on the Sabbath-day, Numbers 15:32 ss. He was without mercy punished with death. But the sin which, under the Old Testament dispensation, bore so frightful a character, that whosoever committed it forfeited his earthly life, unless he received mercy from God, attained first under the New Testament to its proper completion, in which it inevitably draws after it eternal death. For the greatness of the punishment is determined by the greatness of the internally and externally offered grace.

Presumptuous sin: are here personified as tyrants who strive to bring the servant of God into unworthy bondage to them. That the Lord alone can keep from this servitude, discovers the depth of human corruption. That we are not, with many, to take זדים at once in the sense of insolence, or of wilful sinning, appears from usage, according to which, the word constantly denotes persons; as also from the words, "Let them not have dominion over me," which point to real or imaginary persons. But just as little may we, with others, understand by זדים, real persons. Palpably false is this exposition, when such persons are supposed to be national enemies, and the dominion an external supremacy. In that case, too, the following words, "then shall I be perfect," etc., yield no sense, and the idea in this connection is quite foreign. The interpretation is more tolerable, which takes the dominion in a moral point of view, "keep me from the influence and seduction of daring sinners." But though by this exposition the contrast, so pointedly indicated through גם and the double מן, between sins of infirmity and presumptuous sins, is not entirely destroyed, yet it is made less direct, and is cast into the shade; the having dominion would be something strange (comp. what is said of sin in Romans 6:14); and חשך at least nowhere else is used of preservation from bad company, whereas it is certainly twice used of keeping from sinning, Genesis 20:6, and 1 Samuel 25:39, "and hath kept His servant from evil." To the then there is commonly added, "When I obtain these two." But this is opposed by the פשע, which exclusively refers to the sins described in our verse. It denotes the greatest sin, prop. "apostasy, revolt," such as זדים, bold despisers of God, commit; compare Job 34:37. This exposition is also opposed by תםם, which is properly used only of inherent innocence. The איתם Isaiah 1 pers. Fut. of תםם: comp. on the י, Ewald, p. 466 , Small Gr. § 270. An innocent, blameless person is the Psalmist, notwithstanding his sins of infirmity. נקיתי points back to נקני, in the preceding verse: to be made blameless, and to remain blameless, are the two conditions of salvation. But the realization of the latter, also, can only proceed from God. The expression, "from much or great iniquity," must be supplemented in thought by, "into which I shall otherwise inevitably fall." פשע stands in contrast to the unavoidable smaller transgressions spoken of in the preceding context.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 19:13". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.

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