But the soul that does ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproaches the LORD…
I. THE DEFINITION. We take, first, the case of an individual who sins against the positive remonstrances of his conscience; and we say that he sins presumptuously. We have all, at one time or another, withstood the clearest and most decisive suggestions of conscience. We have all proved the power of inclination, when it has come up in a pleasing shape, to bear down a consciousness of what is right, whether by an invention of some ingenious subterfuge, or by some weapons of unblushing hardihood. We could give no better definition of conscience than that it is evidently the vicegerent of Deity. And what then is presumption? Where shall it be found, if we describe not as presumptuous the conduct of the man who walks one way whilst the voice of the internal monitor summons him to walk another? Let us advance to other instances. The guilt of a sin is in a great degree to be estimated by the strength of the temptation which solicits its performance. But if you take the generality of men, you will find they scarcely need any temptation at all to induce them to sin. They may be said to give the devil no trouble, but to strike their colours without firing a shot: a breath of air will make them swerve from allegiance. There must be presumption, and that too of an enormity not easily measured, in conduct which is marked on one side with such contempt of God that men will obey His despisers even without strong inducement; and on the other, such neglect of the soul, that they surrender it without requiring anything in exchange. Now let us glance at the third sort of presumptuous sins. If I wantonly expose myself to temptation, then, though I may afterwards struggle hard before I yield, I shall sin presumptuously. It were better to see Christians — especially young ones — so distrustful of themselves that they might pass for timid, than so overweening of their own strength as to thrust themselves into danger. Take a still more general case — where a man goes on sinning, calculating either that it will be time enough by and by to repent, or that God will prove at last too merciful to execute His threatenings — most assuredly that man sins presumptuously. If he reckon on uncovenanted mercies, what is this but presumption?
II. BUT WHEREIN, YOU WILL NOW ASK, LIES THE PECULIAR GUILT AND DANGER OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS? Why should David pray so earnestly to be kept from them? Why should our text be so emphatic in its condemnation? We will just take in succession several cases of presumptuous sins, and endeavour to answer the question in each. If, in the first place, it be sinning presumptuously to sin against conscience and conviction, there must be special guilt when a man does a thing in spite of the warnings of the delegate of God; he strips himself of every excuse of ignorance or inadvertence; and hence a special guilt. But conscience also will grow less sensitive, in proportion as it be less heeded. If, again, it be sinning presumptuously to sin on slight temptation, surely there must be peculiar guilt, inasmuch as there must be a readiness, nay, even an eagerness, to fail in spiritual matters. He is indeed guilty who is flung in wrestling with a giant, forasmuch as God is ready to give strength in proportion to the opponent; but what shall we say of him who is flung in wrestling with a dwarf? Then is there not peculiar danger and peculiar guilt in sinning on slight temptation, inasmuch as a man grows confirmed in habits of sin? For the moment sin becomes habitual, the breaking loose from it becomes miraculous. If you take our third class of presumptuous sins — sins, the result of temptation that we have ourselves sought, or at least not avoided, who sees not the guilt, who perceives not the danger? Christ would not throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, because it was unlawful to tempt the Lord. Yet we do that from which the Mediator indignantly recoiled, when we enter into scenes, or mingle with companies which we know likely to minister incentives to passions, or oppose hindrances to piety. Such is the guilt: and the danger is that of growing familiar with vice after having been vanquished by it. Mixed with the world, let the world once seduce you, and the world will appear to you not half so formidable as before, and not half so pernicious. Thus sinning presumptuously, through presumptuously exposing yourselves, you will be more and more inclined to continue the exposure, and the presumption, as it were, will propagate itself; and your danger will be that of growing apathy: issuing, at last, in total apostacy. Again, there is one other class. If I continue sinning in the vain hope that there will be time hereafter for repentance, or because I calculate that God will be too merciful to punish, I incur a special guilt, inasmuch as I trifle with the Almighty, or mock the Almighty; and I run a special risk as I deal with possibilities as though they were certainties, or stake on a minute chance the results of a long hereafter. So that, surveying successively the several descriptions of presumptuous sins, we bring out in each case the same result; and we are forced to pronounce that he who sins presumptuously — whether the presumption consist in withstanding conscience, or in yielding to slight temptation, or in seeking peril, or in reckoning on future repentance or future mercy — he who sins presumptuously, deserves, and may expect to have it said of him, "The soul that reproacheth the Lord, shall be out off from among His people."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.