Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.
It is no supposition, but an unquestionable fact, that to not a few of us, from the first moment of existence, there has been present, not beneath the roof but within the breast, a mysterious resident, an inseparable companion, nearer to us than friend or brother, yet of whom, after all, we know little or nothing. Many are the reasons why we should be acquainted with our moral nature. Other portions of self-knowledge we may with comparative harmlessness neglect, but to neglect this is full of peril. And we can never depute the work to another. Unnoticed error in the heart, unlike intellectual deficiencies, not merely affects our temporal condition or our social reputation, but may issue in our eternal ruin. Yet a man's moral defects are most likely to elude his own scrutiny. There is a peculiar secrecy, an inherent inscrutability, about our sins. It is the peculiar characteristic of moral disease, that it does its deadly work in secret. Sin is a malady which affects the very organ by which itself is detected. One reason why the sinful man does not understand his errors is —
I. THAT SIN CAN BE TRULY MEASURED ONLY WHEN IT IS RESISTED. So long as evil reigns unopposed within it will reign m a great degree unobserved. Resistance m the best measure of force. Sin's power is revealed only in the act of resistance. When the softening principle of Divine love and grace begins to thaw the icy coldness of a godless heart, then it is that the soul becomes aware of the deadly strength of sin. Then comes the feeling of an hitherto unrealised burden.
II. SIN OFTEN MAKES A MAN AFRAID TO KNOW HIMSELF. A man often has a latent misgiving that all is not right with his soul, yet, fearing to know the whole truth, he will inquire no further. Most men prefer the delicious tranquillity of ignorance to the wholesome pains of a self-revelation. Easily alarmed in other cases, men become strangely incurious here. With many, life is but a continuous endeavour to forget and keep out of sight their true selves.
III. THE SLOW AND GRADUAL WAY IN WHICH, IN MOST CASES, SINFUL HABITS AND DISPOSITIONS ARE ACQUIRED. There is something in the mere fact of the gradual and insidious way in which changes of character generally take place, that tends to blind men to their own defects. Everyone knows how unconscious we often are of changes that occur by minute and slow degrees, as in the case of the seasons. How imperceptibly life's advancing stages steal up on us! Analogous changes equally unnoted, because equally slow and gradual, may be occurring in our moral nature, in the state of our souls before God. Character is a thine of slow formation. Each day helps to mould it. In a thousand insignificant sacrifices of principle to passion, of duty to inclination, a man's moral being has been fashioned into the shape it wears.
IV. AS CHARACTER GRADUALLY DETERIORATES, THERE IS A PARALLEL DETERIORATION OF THE STANDARD BY WHICH WE JUDGE IT. As sin grows, conscience declines in vigour, and partakes of the general injury which sin inflicts on the soul. Sin, in many of its forms, has an ugly look at first, but its repulsiveness rapidly wears off by familiarity. The danger of self-ignorance is not less than its guilt. Of all evils a secret evil is most to be deprecated, — of all enemies a concealed enemy is the worst. However alarming, however distressing self-knowledge may be, better that than the tremendous evils of self-ignorance.
(Principal Caird, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.