“Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”—Psalm 19:13
All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God. But there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The fact is, that while all transgression is a greatly grievous sinful thing, yet there are some transgressions which have a deeper shade of blackness, and a more double scarlet-dyed hue of criminality than others. Now the presumptuous sins of our text are just the chief of all sins: they rank head and foremost in the list of iniquities. It is remarkable, that though an atonement was provided under the Jewish law for every kind of sin, there was this one exception: “But the soul that sinneth presumptuously shall have no atonement; it shall be out off from the midst of my people.” And now, under the Christian dispensation, although in the sacrifice of our blessed Lord there is a great and precious atonement for presumptuous sins, whereby sinners who have sinned in this manner are made clean, yet, without doubt, presumptuous sinners, dying without pardon, must expect to receive a double portion of the wrath of God, and a more wonderful manifestation of the unutterable anguish of the torment of eternal punishment in the pit that is digged for the wicked.
I shall this morning, first of all, endeavor to describe presumptuous sins; then, secondly, I shall try, if I can, to show by some illustrations, why the presumptuous sin is more heinous than any other; and then thirdly, I shall try to press the prayer upon your notice—the prayer, mark you, of the holy man—the prayer of David: “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
I. First, then, WHAT IS PRESUMPTUOUS SIN? Now, I think here must be one of four things in a sin in order to make it presumptuous. It must either be a sin against light and knowledge, or a sin committed with deliberation, or a sin committed with a design of sinning, merely for sinning’s sake, or else it must be a sin committed through hardihood, from a man’s rash confidence in his own strength. We will mark these points one by one.
1. A sin that is committed willfully against manifest light and knowledge is a presumptuous sin. A sin of ignorance is not presumptuous, unless that ignorance also be willful, in which case the ignorance itself is a presumptuous sin. But when a man sins for want of knowing better—for want of knowing the law, for want of instruction, reproof, advice, and admonition, we say that his sin, so committed, does not partake to any great extent of the nature of a presumptuous sin. But when a man knows better, and sins in the very teeth and face of his increased light and knowledge, then his sin deserves to be branded with this ignominious title of a presumptuous sin. Let me just dwell on this thought a moment. Conscience is often an inner light to men, whereby they are warned of forbidden acts as being sinful. Then if I sin against conscience, though I have no greater light than conscience affords me, still my sin is presumptuous, if I have presumed to go against that voice of God in my heart, an enlightened conscience. You, young man, were once tempted (and perhaps it was but yesterday) to commit a certain act. The very moment you were tempted, conscience said, “It is wrong, it is wrong”—it shouted murder in your heart, and told you the deed you were about to commit was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Your fellow-apprentice committed the same sin without the warning of conscience; in him it was guilt—guilt which needs to be washed away with the Saviour’s blood. But it was not such guilt in him as it was in you, because your conscience checked you; your conscience told you of the danger, warned you of the punishment, and yet you dared to go astray against God, and therefore you sinned presumptuously. You have sinned very grievously in having done so. When a man shall trespass on my ground, he shall be a trespasser though he have no warning, but if straight before his face there stands a warning, and if he knowingly and willingly trespasses, then he is guilty of a presumptuous trespass, and is to be so far punished accordingly. So you, if you had not known better; if your conscience had been less enlightened, you might have committed the deed with far less of the criminality which now attaches to you, because you sinned against conscience, and consequently sinned presumptuously.
But, oh! how much greater is the sin, when man not only has the light of conscience, but has also the admonition of friends, the advice of those who are wise and esteemed by him. If I have but one check, the check of my enlightened conscience, and I transgress against it, I am presumptuous; but if a mother with tearful eye warns me of the consequence of my guilt, and if a father with steady look, and with affectionate determined earnestness, tells me what will be the effect of my transgression—if friends who are dear to me counsel me to avoid the way of the wicked, and warn me what must be the inevitable result of continuing in it, then I am presumptuous, and my act in that very proportion becomes more guilty. I should have been presumptuous for having sinned against the light of nature, but I am more presumptuous when, added to that, I have the light of affectionate counsel and of kind advice, and therein I bring upon my head a double amount of divine wrath. And how much more is this the case, when the transgressor has been gifted with what is usually called a religious education; in childhood he has been lighted to his bed by the lamps of the sanctuary, the name of Jesus was mingled with the hush of lullaby, the music of the sanctuary woke him like a matin hymn at morning; he has been dandled on the knee of piety and has sucked the breasts of godliness; he has been tutored and trained in the way he should go; how much more fearful I say, is the guilt of such a man than that of those who have never had such training, but have been left to follow their own wayward lusts and pleasures without the restraint of a holy education and the restraints of an enlightened conscience!
But, my friends, even this may become worse still. A man sins yet more presumptuously, when he has had most special warning from the voice of God against sin. “What mean you?” say you. Why, I mean this. You saw but yesterday a strong man in your neighborhood brought to the grave by sudden death; it is but a month ago that you heard the bell toll for one whom once, you knew and loved, who procrastinated and procrastinated until he perished in procrastination. You have had strange things happen in your very street, and the voice of God has been spoken loudly through the lips of Death to you. Ay, and you have had warnings too in your own body; you have been sick with fever, you have been brought to the jaws of the grave, and you have looked down into the bottomless vault of destruction. It is not long ago since you were given up; all said they might prepare a coffin for you, for your breath could not long be in your body. Then you turned your face to the wall, and prayed; you vowed that if God would spare you, you would live a godly life, that you would repent of your sins; but to your own confusion you are now just what you were. Ah! let me tell you, your guilt is more grievous than that of any other man, for you have sinned presumptuously, in the very highest sense in which you could have done so. You have sinned against reproofs, but what is worse still, you have sinned against your own solemn oaths and covenants, and against the promises that you made to God. He who plays with fire must be condemned as careless; but he who has been burned out once, and afterward plays with the destroying element, is worse, than careless; and he who has himself been scorched in the flame, and has had his locks all hot and crisp with the burning, if he again should rush headlong into fire, I say he is worse than careless, he is worse than presumptuous, he is mad. But I have some such here. They have had warnings so terrible that they might have known better; they have gone into lusts which have brought their bodies into sickness, and perhaps this day they have crept up to this house, and they dare not tell to their neighbor who stands by their side what is the loathsomeness that even now doth breed upon their frame. And yet they will go back to the same lusts; the fool will go again to the stocks, the sheep will lick the knife that is to slay him. You will go on in your lust and in your sins, despite warnings, despite advice, until you perish in your guilt. How worse than children are grown-up men! The child who goes for a merry slide upon a pond, if he be told that the ice will not bear him, starteth back affrighted, or if he daringly creepeth upon it how soon he leaves it, if he hears but a crack upon the slender covering of the water! But you men have conscience, which tells you that your sins are vile, and that they will be your ruin; you bear the crack of sin, as its thin sheet of pleasure gives way beneath your feet; ay, and some of you have seen your comrades sink in the flood, and lost; and yet you go sliding on, worse than childish, worse than mad are you, thus presumptuously to play with your own everlasting state. O my God, how terrible is the presumption of some! How fearful is presumption in any! oh! that we might be enabled to cry, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
2. I said again, that another characteristic of a presumptuous sin was deliberation. A man, perhaps, may have a passionate spirit, and in a moment of hot haste he may utter an angry word of which in a few short minutes he will sincerely repent. A man may have a temper so hot that the least provocation causes him at once to be full of wrath. But he may also have a temperament which has this benefit to balance it, that he very soon learns to forgive, and cools in a moment. Now, such a man does not sin presumptuously, when suddenly overcome by anger, though, without doubt, there is presumption in his sin, unless he strives to correct that passion and keep it down. A man, again, who is suddenly tempted and surprised into a sin which is not his habit, but which he commits through the force of some strong temptation, is guilty, but not guilty of presumption, because he was taken unawares in the net and caught in the snare. But there are other men who sin deliberately; there are some who can think of a lust for weeks beforehand and dote upon their darling crime with pleasure. They do, as it were, water the young seedling of lust until it grows to the maturity of desire, and then they go and commit the crime. There are some to whom lust is not a passer-by, but a lodger at home. They receive it, they house it, they feast it; and when they sin they sin deliberately, walk coolly to their lusts, and in cold blood commit the act which another might haply do in hot and furious haste. Now, such a sin has in it a great extent of sinfulness, it is a sin of high presumption. To be carried away, as by a whirlwind of passion, in a moment is wrong; but to sit down and deliberately resolve upon revenge is cursed and diabolical. To sit down and deliberately fashion schemes of wickedness is heinous, and I can find no other word fitly to express it. To deliberate carefully how the crime is to be done, and, Haman-like, to build the gallows, and to set to work to destroy one’s neighbor, to get the pit digged that the friend may fall into it and be destroyed, to lay snares in secret, to plot wickedness upon one’s bed—this is a high pitch of presumptuous sin. May God forgive any of us, if we have been so far guilty!
Again, when a man continues long in sin, and has time to deliberate about it, that also is a proof that it is a presumptuous sin. He that sins once, being overtaken in a fault, and then abhors the sin, has not sinned presumptuously; but he who transgresses to-day, to-morrow, and the next day, week after week, and year after year, until he has piled up a heap of sins that are high as a mountain, such a man, I say, sins presumptuously, because in a continued habit of sin there must be a deliberation to sin; there must be at least such a force and strength of mind as could not have come upon any man if his sin were but the hasty effect of sudden passion. Ah! take heed, ye that are sodden in sin, ye that drink it down as the greedy ox drinketh down water, ye who run to your lust as the rivers run to the sea, and ye who go to your passions as the sow to her wallowing in the mire. Take heed! your crimes are grievous, and the hand of God shall soon fall terribly on your heads, unless by divine grace it be granted to you to repent and turn unto him. Fearful must be your doom if unpardoned, God should condemn you for presumptuous sin. O “Lord, keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sin.”
3. Again: I said that a presumptuous sin must be a matter of design, and have been committed with the intention of sin. If at your leisure at home you will turn to that passage in the book of Numbers, where it says there is no pardon for a presumptuous sin under the Jewish dispensation, you will find immediately afterward a case recorded. A man went out on the Sabbath-day to gather sticks; he was taken in the act of Sabbath-breaking, and the law being very stringent under the Jewish dispensation, he was ordered at once to be put to death. Now, the reason why he was put to death was not because he gathered sticks on the Sabbath merely, but because the law had just then been proclaimed, “In it thou shalt do no manner of work.” This man willfully, out of design, in order, as it were, to show that he despised God—to show that he did not care for God—without any necessity, without any hope of advantage, went straight out, in the very teeth of the law, to perform, not an act which he kept in his own house, which might perhaps have been overlooked, but an act which brought shame upon the whole congregation, because, infidel-like, he dared to brazen it out before God; as much as to say, “I care not for God. Has God just commanded, ‘Ye shall do no manner of work?’ Here am I; I do not want sticks to-day; I do not want to work; not for the sake of sticks, but with the design of showing that I despise God, I go out this day and gather sticks.” “Now,” says one, “surely there are no people in the world that have ever done such a thing as this.” Yes, there are; and there are such in the Surrey Music Hall this day. They have sinned against God, not merely for the pleasure of it, but because they would show their want of reverence to God. That young man burned his Bible in the midst of his wicked companions—not because he hated his Bible, for he quivered and looked pale at the ashes on the hearth when he was doing it; but he did it out of pure bravado, in order to show them, as he thought, that he really was far gone from any thing like a profession of religion. That other man is accustomed sometimes to stand by the wayside, when the people are going to the house of God; and he swears at them, not because he delights in swearing, but because he will show that he is irreligious, that he is ungodly. How many an infidel has done the same—not because he had any pleasure in the thing itself, but because out of the wickedness of his heart he would spit at God, if it were possible, having a design to let men know that though the sin itself was cheap enough, he was determined to do something which would be like spitting in the face of his Maker, and despising God who created him! Now, such a sin is a masterpiece of iniquity. There is pardon for such a one—there is full pardon to those who are brought to repentance; but few of such men ever receive it; for when they are so far gone as to sin presumptuously, because they will do it—to sin merely for the sake of showing their disregard of God and of God’s law, we say of such, there is pardon for them, but it is wondrous grace which brings them into such a condition that they are willing, to accept it. O that God would keep back his servants here from presumptuous sins! And if any of us here have committed them, may he bring us back, to the praise of the glory of his grace!
4. But one more point, and I think I shall have explained these presumptuous sins. A presumptuous sin also is one that is committed through a hardihood of fancied strength of mind. Says one, “I intend to-morrow to go into such-and-such a society, because I believe, though it hurts other people, it does me no hurt.” You turn round and say to some young man, “I could not advise you to frequent the Casino—it would be your ruin.” But you go yourself sir? “Yes.” But how do you justify yourself? Because I have such strength of principle that I know just how far to go, and no further. Thou liest, sir; against thyself thou liest; thou liest presumptuously in so doing. Thou art playing with bombshells that shall burst and destroy thee; thou art sitting over the mouth of hell with a fancy that thou shalt not be burned. Because thou hast gone to haunts of vice and come back tainted, much tainted, but because thou art so blind as not to see the taint, thou thinkest thyself secure. Thou art not so. Thy sin, in daring to think that thou art proof against sin, is a sin of presumption. “No, no,” says one; “but I know that I can go just so far in such-and-such a sin, and there I can stop.” Presumption, Sir; nothing but presumption. 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. I would no more think of subscribing a farthing to a man’s ascent in a balloon, than I would to a poor wretch cutting his own throat. I would no more think of standing and gazing at any man who puts his life in a position of peril, than I would of paying a man to blow his brains out. I think such things, if not murders, are murderous. There is suicide in men risking themselves in that way; and if there be suicide in the risk of the body, how much more in the case of a man who puts his own soul in jeopardy just because he thinks he has strength of mind enough to prevent its being ruined and destroyed. Sir, your sin is a sin of presumption; it is a great and grievous one; it is one of the masterpieces of iniquity.
Oh! how many people there are who are sinning presumptuously to-day! You are sinning presumptuously in being to-day what you are. You are saying, “In a little time I will solemnly and seriously think of religion, In a few years, when I am a little more settled in life, I intend to turn over a new leaf, and think about the matters of godliness.” Sir, you are presumptuous. You are presuming that you shall live; you are speculating upon a thing which is as frail as the bubble on the breaker; you are staking your everlasting soul on the deadly odds that you shall live for a few years, whereas, the probabilities are, that you may be cut down ere the sun shall set: and it is possible, that ere another year shall have passed over your head, you may be in the land where repentance is impossible, and useless were it possible. Oh! dear friends, procrastination is a presumptuous sin. The putting off a thing which should be done to day, because you hope to live to-morrow, is a presumption. You have no right to do it—you are, in so doing, sinning against God, and bringing on your heads the guilt of presumptuous sin. I remember that striking passage in Jonathan Edwards’ wonderful sermon, which was the means of a great revival, where he says, “Sinner, thou art this moment standing over the mouth of hell, upon a single plank, and that plank is rotten; thou art hanging over the jaws of perdition, by a solitary rope, and the strands of that rope are creaking now.” It is a terrible thing to be in such a position as that, and yet to say, “to-morrow,” and to procrastinate. You remind me, some of you, of that story of Dionysius the tyrant, who, wishing to punish one who had displeased him, invited him to a noble feast. Rich were the viands that were spread upon the table, and rare the wines of which he was invited to drink. A chair was placed at the head of the table, and the guest was seated within it. Horror of horrors! The feast might be rich, but the guest was miserable, dreadful beyond thought. However splendid might be the array of the servants, and however rich the dainties, yet he who had been invited sat there in agony. For what reason? Because over his head, immediately over it, there hung a sword, a furbished sword, suspended by a single hair. He had to sit all the time with this sword above him, with nothing but a hair between him and death. You may conceive the poor man’s misery. He could not escape; he must sit where be was. How could he feast? How could be rejoice? But O, my unconverted hearer, thou art there this morning, man, with all thy riches and thy wealth before thee, with the comforts of a home and the joys of a household; thou art there this day, in a place from which thou canst not escape; the sword of death above thee, prepared to descend; and woe unto thee, when it shall cleave thy soul from thy body! Canst thou yet make mirth, and yet procrastinate? If thou canst, then verily thy sin is presumptuous in a high degree. “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
II. And now I come to the second part of the subject, with which I shall deal very briefly. I am to try and show WHY IT IS THAT THERE IS GREAT ENORMITY IN A PRESUMPTUOUS SIN.
Let me take any one of the sins: for instance, the sin against light and knowledge. There is greater enormity in such a presumptuous sin than in any other. In this our happy land it is just possible for a man to commit treason. I think it must be rather difficult for him to do it, for we are allowed to say words here which would have brought our necks beneath the guillotine, if they had been spoken on the other side the Channel; and we are allowed to do deeds here which would have brought us long years of imprisonment, if the deed had been done in any other land. We, despite all that our American friends may say, are the freest people to speak and think in all the world. Though we have not the freedom of beating our slaves to death, or of shooting them if they choose to disobey—though we have not the freedom of hunting men, or the freedom of sucking another man’s blood out of him to make us rich—though we have not the freedom of being worse than devils, which slave-catchers and many slave-holders most certainly are—we have liberty greater than that, liberty against the tyrant mob, as well as against the tyrant king. But I suppose it is just possible to commit treason here. Now, if two men should commit treason—if one of them should wantonly and wickedly raise the standard of revolt to-morrow, should denounce the rightful sovereign of this land in the strongest and most abominable language, should seek to entice the loyal subject of this country from their allegiance, and should draw some of them astray, to the hurt and injury of the common weal; he might have in his rebellious ranks one who had joined incautiously, not knowing whereunto the matter might tend, who might come into the midst of the rebels, not understanding the intention of their unlawful assembling, not even knowing the law which prohibited them from being banded together, I can suppose these two men brought up upon a charge of high treason: they have both, legally, been guilty of it; but I can suppose that the one man who had sinned ignorantly would be acquitted, because there was no malignant intent; and I can suppose that the other man, who had willfully, knowingly, maliciously and wickedly raised the standard of revolt, would receive the highest punishment which the law could demand. And why? Because in the one case it was a sin of presumption, and in the other case it was not so. In the one case the man dared to defy the sovereign, and defy the law of the land, willfully, out of mere presumption. In the other case not so. Now, every man sees that it would be just to make a distinction in the punishment, because there is—conscience itself tells us—a distinction in the guilt.
Again: some men, I have said, sin deliberately, and others do not do so. Now, in order to show that there is a distinction here, let me take a case. To-morrow the bench of magistrates are sitting. Two men are brought up. They are each of them charged with stealing a loaf of bread. It is clearly proved, in the one case, that the man was hungry, and that he snatched the loaf of bread to satisfy his necessities. He is sorry for his deed, he grieves that he has done this act; but most manifestly he had a strong temptation to it. In the other case the man was rich, and he willfully went into the shop merely because he would break the law and show that he was a law-breaker. He said to the policeman outside, “Now, I care neither for you nor the law; I intend to go in there, just to see what you can do with me.” I can suppose the magistrate would say to one man, “You are discharged; take care not to do the like again; there is something for your present necessities; seek to earn an honest living.” But to the other I can conceive him saying, “You are an infamous wretch; you have committed the same deed as the other, but from very different motives; I give you the longest term of imprisonment which the law allows me, and I can only regret that I can not treat you worse than I have done.” The presumption of sin made the difference. So when you sin deliberately and knowingly, your sin against Almighty God is a higher and a blacker sin than it would have been if you had sinned ignorantly, or sinned in haste.
Now let us suppose one more case. In the heat of some little dispute some one shall insult a man. You shall be insulted by a man of angry temper; you have not provoked him, you gave him no just cause for it; but at the same time he was of a hot and angry disposition; he was somewhat foiled in the debate, and he insulted you, calling you by some name which has left a stain upon your character, so far as epithets can do it. I can suppose that you would ask no reparation of him, if by to-morrow you saw that it was just a rash word spoken in haste, of which he repented. But suppose another person should waylay you in the street, should week after week seek to meet you in the market-place, and should, after a great deal of toil and trouble, at last meet you, and there, in the center of a number of people, unprovoked, just out of sheer, deliberate malice, come before you and call you a liar in the street; I can suppose that, Christian as you are, you might find it necessary to chastise such insolence, not with your hand, but with the arm of that equitable law which protects us all from insulting violence. In the other case I can suppose it would be no trouble to forgive. You would say, “My dear fellow, I know we are all hasty sometimes—there, now, I don’t care at all for it; you did not mean it.” But in this case, where a man has dared and defied you without any provocation whatever, you would say to him, “Sir, you have endeavored to injure me in respectable society; I can forgive you as a Christian, but as a man and a citizen I shall demand that I am protected against your insolence.”
You see, therefore, in the cases that occur between man and man, how there is an excess of guilt added to a sin by presumption. Oh! ye that have sinned presumptuously—and who among us has not done so?—bow your heads in silence, confess your guilt, and then open your mouths, and cry, “Lord have mercy upon me, a presumptuous sinner.”
III. And now I have nearly done—not to weary you by too long a discourse—we shall notice THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THIS PRAYER—”Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
Will you just note, that this prayer was the prayer of a saint, the prayer of a holy man of God? Did David need to pray thus? Did the “man after God’s own heart” need to cry, “Keep back thy servant?” Yes, he did. And note the beauty of the prayer. If I might translate it into more metaphorical style, it is like this: “Curb thy servant from presumptuous sin.” “Keep him back or he will wander to the edge of the precipice of sin. Hold him in, Lord; he is apt to run away; curb him; put the bridle on him; do not let him do it; let thine overpowering grace keep him holy; when he would do evil, then do thou draw him to good, and when his evil propensities would lead him astray, then do thou check him.” “Check thy servant from presumptuous sins.”
What then? Is it true that the best of men may sin presumptuously? Ah! it is true. It is a solemn thing to find the Apostle Paul warning saints against the most loathsome of sins. He says, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, inordinate affection,” and such like. What! do saints want warning against such sins as these? Yes, they do. The highest saints may sin the lowest sins, unless kept by divine grace. You old experienced Christians, boast not in your experience; you may trip yet, unless you cry, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Ye whose love is fervent, whose faith is constant, whose hopes an bright, say not “I shall never sin,” but rather cry out, “Lord, lead me not into temptation, and when there leave me not there; for unless thou hold me fast I feel I must, I shall decline, and prove an apostate after all.” There is enough tinder in the hearts of the best men in the world to light a fire that shall burn to the lowest hell, unless God should quench the sparks as they fall. There is enough corruption, depravity, and wickedness in the heart of the most holy man that is now alive to damn his soul to all eternity, if free and sovereign grace does not prevent. O Christian, thou hast need to pray this prayer. But I think I hear you saying, “Is thy servant a dog, that I should do this thing?” So said Hazael, when the prophet told him that he would slay his master; but he went home and took a wet cloth and spread it over his master’s face and choked him, and did the next day the sin which he abhorred before. Think it not enough to abhor sin, you may yet fall into it. Say not, “I never can be drunken, for I have such an abhorrence of drunkenness;” thou mayest fall where thou art most secure. Say not, “I can never blaspheme God, for I have never done so in my life;” take care; you may yet swear most profanely. Job might have said, “I will never curse the day of my birth;” but he lived to do it. He was a patient man; he might have said, “I will never murmur; though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;” and yet he lived to wish that the day were darkness wherein he was brought forth. Boast not, then, O Christian; by faith thou standest. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
But if this need to be the prayer of the best, how ought it to be the prayer of you and me? If the highest saint must pray it, O mere moralist, thou hast good need to utter it. And ye who have begun to sin, who make no pretensions to piety, how much need is there for you to pray that you may be kept from presumptuously rebelling against God.
Instead, however, of enlarging upon that point, I shall close my few remarks this morning by just addressing myself most affectionately to such of you as are now under a sense of guilt by reason of presumptuous sins. God’s Spirit has found some of you out this morning. I thought when I was describing presumptuous sin that I saw here and there an eye that was suffused with tears; I thought I saw here and there a head that was bowed down, as much as to say, “I am guilty there.” I thought there were some hearts that palpitated with confession, when I described the guilt of presumption. I hope it was so. If it was I am glad of it. If I hit your consciences, it was that I meant to do. Not to your ears do I speak, but to your hearts. I would not give the snap of this my finger to gratify you with mere words of oratory, with a mere flow of language. No, God is my witness. I never sought effect yet, except the effect of hitting your consciences. I would use the words that would be most rough and vulgar in all our language, if I could get at your heart better with them than with any other; for I reckon that the chief matter with a minister is to touch the conscience. If any of you feel, then, that you have presumed against God in sinning, let me just bid you look at your sin, and weep over the blackness of it; let me exhort you to go home and bow your heads with sorrow, and confess your guilt, and weep over it with many tears and sighs. You have greatly sinned, and if God should blast you into perdition now, he would be just; if now his fiery thunderbolt of vengeance should pierce you through, if the arrow that is now upon the string of the Almighty should find a target in your heart, he would be just. Go home and confess that, confess it with cries and sighs. And then what next wilt thou do? Why, I bid thee remember that there was a man who was a God. That man suffered for presumptuous sin. I would bid thee this day, sinner, if thou knowest thy need of a Saviour, go up to thy chamber, cast thyself upon thy face, and weep for sin; and when thou hast done that, turn to the Scriptures, and read the story of that man who suffered and died for sin. Think you see him in all his unutterable agonies, and griefs, and woes, and say this—
“My soul looks back to see
The burdens thou didst bear
When hanging on the accursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.”
Lift up your hand, and put it on his head who bled, and say—
“My faith would lay its hand
On that dear head of thine,
While, like a penitent, I stand,
And there confess my sin.”
Sit down at the foot of his cross, and watch him till your heart is moved, till the tears begin to flow again, until your heart breaks within you; and then you will rise and say—
“Dissolved by his mercy, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I found.”
O sinner, thou canst never perish, if thou wilt cast thyself at the foot of the cross. If thou seekest to save thyself thou shalt die; if thou wilt come, just as thou art, all black, all filthy, all hell-deserving, all ill-deserving, I am my Master’s hostage, I will be answerable at the day of judgment for this matter, if he does not save thee, I can preach on this subject now, for I trust I have tried my Master myself. As a youth I sinned, as a child I rebelled, as a young man I wandered into lusts and vanities: my Master made me feel how great a sinner I was and I sought to reform, to mend the matter; but I grew worse. At last I heard it said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;” and I looked to Jesus. And oh! my Saviour, thou hast eased my aching conscience, thou hast given me peace; thou hast enabled me to say#151;
“Now, freed from sin I walk at large;
My Saviour’s blood’s a full discharge
At his dear feet my soul I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay.”
And oh! my heart pants for you. O that you who never knew him could taste his love now. O that you who have never repented might now receive the Holy Ghost who is able to melt the heart! And O that you who are penitents would look to him now! And I repeat that solemn assertion—I am God’s hostage this morning; ye shall feed me on bread and water to my life’s end, ay, and I will bear the blame for ever, if any of you seek Christ and Christ rejects you. It must not, it cannot be. “Whosoever cometh,” he says, “I will in no wise cast out.” “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” May God Almighty bless you; and may we meet again in yonder Paradise; and there will we sing more sweetly of redeeming love and dying blood, and of Jesus’ power to save#151;
“When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.”