What Dominion of Sin Doth Import
Psalm 19:13
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright…

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 —

(1) Original and absolute, and this is when the Lord hath a natural, and prime, and irrespective title.

(2) Derivative, and depending, and limited: such is the dominion which God hath given man over the creatures.

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.

(1) One is singular power, and strength joined with authority.

(2) Another is quiet, willing, and total yielding of subjection to that authority, law, and command of sin: when a man is as cheerfully prepared to obey his lusts, as any subject is to embrace the commands of his prince.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 —

(1) Habitual, where sin in the course behaves itself as a king, it rules, and commands, and disposeth of the person to its base services and lusts.

(2) Actual, and this is not properly its dominion, though it be miscalled so, yet to give a little scope to freeness of language, I will call it an actual dominion, which is rather a particular prevalency of acts, than a sovereignty or dominion in the nature, when though the heart and nature have surrendered themselves to Christ as the only Lord, and to His will as the only law, yet in many particulars sin gets the better over grace, though it cannot be said to rule, yet it may be said to conquer. Against which, if I mistake not, David doth here principally bend himself when he prays "Let not them have dominion over me," that is, not only let them not rule, but which is beyond that, let them not so much as prevail over me.

(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me. Then I will be upright. I will be blameless and innocent of great transgression.

The Nature, Danger, Aggravations, and Cure of Presumptuous Sin
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