Testing God

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Chris G

Puritan Board Freshman
I am really struggling discerning the difference between a presumptuous sin and an accidental one. Bear in mind that Owen would seem to class David's adultery and murder as "accidental" insofar as it proceeded from a state of temporary spiritual madness - the implication being that a Christian cannot sin presumptuously.

(1) Now obviously there is the case where a genuine surprise happens.....I am trying to please Christ, and I am surprised by come unclean thought that comes out of nowhere. It flashes through my mind, often disturbing the emotions, but generally misses the will.

(2) At the other extreme there is the hypothetical case where if, in a perfectly sound frame of mind, I could think upon Christ, and the freedom to live in holiness that is available to me in Christ and cooly reject it - and by implication also reject Christ - tragically demonstrating and confirming a state of reprobation.

But the reality is that if 50% of my falls are clearly in the first category, 0% in the second (or so I hope when I am not doubting my assurance).....then 50% are in a category that people rarely preach on*. In other words, I am tempted to sin to such a degree - whether by God's design or my own sluggish attitude to fighting smaller-scale temptation - that the temptation fills my emotions and makes a breach into my will. I then have a thought "Christ can save me from this, for no temptation is more than I can handle" but the thought seems to be too abstract to be of use to my affections and so out of cowardly laziness I yield to the temptation. It is like seeing an exit sign on a highway - I am too lazy to check my mirrors, turn my wheel and leave the road, though I know I could have done if I had "really" wanted to. Perhaps if I was going slower I would, but the change in momentum required at 120 mph might be too much for me if I am suffering from a bad back.

Now surely this is a variety of "testing God" - but is it a ground for throwing away assurance? It is indeed characterised by cynicism and laziness, but is it by definition hatred of God? Octavius Winslow seems to recognise such a state by comparing a regenerate person testing God to a person's "jealous love" of their spouse - sinful paranoia of adultery proceeding from an imbalance of love and trust, fuelled by the very presence of genuine love.........indeed, I feel more and more of what I believe to be repentance proceeding from godly sorrow every time I commit these kinds of sins.........but such an analysis is so far from describing the average saint's relationship with God that I continue to struggle with assurance.....and I cannot help but wonder whether Winslow is talking rubbish - the analogy is of a marriage close to collapse! After all, Owen does not describe David's adultery and murder in the context of having a mind sound enough to say "God will never give me more than I am able to handle; I have the opportunity of dying to this temptation and being raised by faith to holy freedom." I wonder if such thoughts were recorded in the Bible, we would be a lot less certain about David's salvation than we are?

* (I am indeed aware of good, solid people like Powlison, Welch, Tripp that do describe such sin, but they seem invariably too charitable when it comes to describing their case studies as regenerate.......a lot of them describe me when I was almost certainly not saved.)
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