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CLIX. THE DANGER OF PRESUMPTUOUS SIN. Numb. xv. 30, 31. The soul that doeth aught 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. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off: his iniquity shall be upon him.
EVERY command of God is to be obeyed: and it is no excuse to say we were ignorant of the command. We know that there is a God to whom we are accountable: we know that he has given us a revelation of his will; and it is our duty to acquaint ourselves with all that he requires at our hands. Even in reference to human laws, it is no excuse to say that we were ignorant of them. We are supposed to be acquainted with them: and if we violate them in any respect, the penalty is from that moment incurred. A merciful judge may consider our ignorance as a reason for mitigating, or even for remitting, the penalty: but the law knows nothing of this: its enactments are valid; its sanctions attach on every one that transgresses them: and every one feels interested in upholding its authority. Thus it was under the Mosaic Law; even where the ordinances were so numerous, that they could scarcely be remembered by any, except those who were altogether devoted to the study of them. Yet, if any person transgressed through ignorance, he must, as soon as he was informed of his error, bring the appointed offering, in order to obtain forgiveness of his fault”; and, if he refused to bring his offering, he must be cut off, as a presumptuous transgressor. For sins of presumption, of whatever kind they might be, there was no atonement whatever prescribed. It did not become God to spare one who could deliberately set himself against his authority: and therefore it was expressly commanded that the presumptuous sinner, whoever he might be, should be cut off.
To illustrate this subject, I shall shew, I. The danger of presumptuous sin under the Law
Presumptuous sin is not to be understood of every sin that is committed wilfully; but of those sins which, as the marginal translation expresses it, are committed “ with a high hand:” such, for instance, as that of Pharaoh, when he set himself directly against God, saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord; neither will I let Israel go.” It is such also as David characterizes under the following terms: “ The tongue that speaketh proud things; namely, of those who have said, With our tongue will we prevail: our lips are our own: who is Lord over usb?”
The person committing this sin was doomed to death. No sacrifice was appointed for him: whatever injunction it was that he thus determinately opposed, whether it belonged to the ceremonial or moral law, he must suffer death for his offence. It is probable that the sentence executed, by God's own command, against the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath-day was intended to illustrate this. His offence might appear but slight; namely, gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day: but, as it was done in a known and avowed contempt of the divine will, he must be stoned to death
Now, how can it be accounted for, that so severe a judgment should be executed for doing any thing presumptuously? It was considered as reproaching, and pouring contempt on, God himself; 1. As unreasonable in his commands
[A man who sets himself avowedly against any command, does, in fact, complain of that command as unreasonable and unjust. A man, through infirmity, may fall short in his obedience, whilst he acknowledges that the law which he violates is holy and just and good; but if he set himself against the command itself, it must, of necessity, be from an idea that it imposes an unnecessary restraint, or, at all events, that it may well be dispensed with for his convenience.]
2. As weak in his threatenings
[No one who could form the least idea what " a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God” would despise his threatenings. But there is a vague notion in the minds of men, that God will never execute them. Thus David describes these poor deluded men : “ The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts: Thy ways are always grievous: thy judgments are far above, out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at themd.” Would it be right for God to bear such an indignity as this ?] 3. As altogether unworthy of any serious regard
[Were the mind duly impressed with any of the perfections of the Deity, we could not possibly treat him with such contempt. His power and majesty would awe us into fear; his love and mercy would engage our admiration : and though wę might still be far from that entire submission to his will which he requires, it would not be possible for us to set ourselves in array against him, and to "run upon the thick bosses of his buckler e.
Conceive, then, of a creature thus rising against his Creator, and you will readily see why presumptuous sin should be thus severely punished.]
But let us proceed to mark, II. The still greater danger of it under the Gospel
True it is, that under the Gospel we have a sacrifice for presumptuous sins as well as others: but if the Gospel be the object of our contemptuous disregard, we cannot possibly be saved, but must perish under a most accumulated condemnation.
1. Because a contempt of the Gospel is in itself more heinous than a contempt of the Law
[The Law contained innumerable ordinances, the reason of which, few, if any, could comprehend: and St. Paul, in comparison of the Gospel, calls them “weak and beggarly elements." But the Gospel is the most perfect display of God's wisdom and goodness that ever he revealed to mortal
It exhibits the works and offices of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the gracious influences of the Spirit : and, if they be despised by us, there can be no hope. For thus saith the Lord : “He that despised Moses' Law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of
d Ps. x. 4, 5.
e Job xv. 25, 26.
56 If we
the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace"? "]
2. Because a contempt of the Gospel is, in fact, a rejection of the only means whereby sin can be forgiven
[Whither shall a man flee, who rejects the Saviour ? “ What other sacrifice for sin” will he ever find, or what other
way to the Father?” Well does the Apostle say, sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Eli's reproof to his sons puts this matter in the clearest light: “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, in despising his sacrifices, who shall entreat for him b?"] APPLICATION 1. Be thankful, then, that ye live under the Gospel
[To you “all manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven." How presumptuous soever your past iniquities may have been, they may all be “ blotted out as a morning cloud, and “cast into the very depths of the sea." This could not be so confidently spoken under the Law of Moses : but to you I declare it with confidence, that “the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse from all sin;" and that “all who will believe in him shall be justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the Law of Mosesk.”]
2. Be earnest in prayer with God, that, whatever means he may find it expedient to use, he would keep you from
presumptuous sin[This was David's course: Keep thy servant from presumptuous sins: let them not have dominion over me: so shall I be upright, and innocent from the great offence?.” Be assured you need to use this prayer, and will need it to your dying hour. David's attainments were great: yet he felt the need of crying continually, “ Hold thou me up, that my footsteps slip not." So do ye continually: and you may then hope that God will “ keep you from falling, and present you
faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy m."]
? Heb. x. 28, 29.
& Heb. x. 26, 27.
h 1 Sam. ii. 25.
THE SABBATH-BREAKER STONED.
Numb. xv. 32—36. And while the children of Israel were in
the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath-day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation: and they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.
IN great communities, instances of flagrant transgression will occur; nor can any mercies or judgments from God prevent them. Nothing but divine grace can keep individuals in the path of duty. The presumption of those, who, in opposition to the divine command, had gone up to the hill-top to engage the Canaanites, had been severely punished: and though God had since given instructions respecting the particular offerings which should at a future period be presented for sins of ignorance, he had expressly declared, that presumptuous sins should be punished with death; and that no offering whatever should be accepted for them. Yet, behold, scarcely had this declaration been given, before a man was found profaning the Sabbath-day: for which offence he was made a signal monument of divine vengeance.
His crime and punishment, which are specified in the text, lead us to notice the guilt and danger of profaning the Sabbath. Let us consider, I. The guilt
According to the estimate of mankind in general, the profanation of the Sabbath is but a slight offence: but, in fact, it is a very heinous sin. It is, 1. An unreasonable sin
[Consider who it is that requires the observation of the Sabbath. It is that God who made us, and endowed us with all our faculties, and upholds us every moment, maintaining