The Anatomy of Secret Sins
Psalm 19:12
Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.

I. IN WHAT RESPECT ARE SINS CALLED SECRET? For the resolution of thin know that sins hath a double reference. Either to God, and so really no sin nor manner of sinning is secret. Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord; do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord (Jeremiah 23:24); it is true, that wicked men with an atheistical folly imagine to hide themselves and their sinful ways from God, they seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? (Isaiah 29:15) But really it is not so, though the cloud may somewhat eclipse the light of the sun, and though the dark night may shut it forth altogether, yet there stands no cloud, nor curtain, nor moment of darkness or secrecy twixt the eyes of God and the ways of man. The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings (Proverbs 5:21). Or to man, and thus indeed comes in the division of sin into —

1. Open; and

2. Secret. Now, in this reset sin may be termed secret diversely —

1. In respect of the person sinning: when his very sinning is (formally considered) hidden from himself; he doth a thing which is really sinful, but to him it is not apprehensively so. What outrages did Paul breathe out against the Church in times of his ignorance which he did not know to be acts of sin.

2. In respect of the manner of sinning, and thus sins may be termed secret.

(1) When they are coloured and disguised, though they do fly abroad, yet not under that name, but apparelled with some semblances of virtues.

(2) When they are kept off from the stage of the world they are like fire in the chimney; though you do not see it, yet it burns; just as 'twixt a book shut and a book opened, that which is shut hath the same lines and words, but the other being opened, every man may see and read them.

(3) When they are kept, not only from a public eye, but from any mortal eye. But what were those secret sins from which David desired to be cleansed? Nay, that is a secret; he doth not instance in anyone, because his desire is to be freed from everyone; he speaks indefinitely.

II. BUT WHAT IS THAT TO BE CLEANSED? There be two expositions of it.

1. One is that he desires to be justified, to be pardoned those sins. And indeed, the blood of Christ which justifies is a cleansing thing, it wipes off the guilt.

2. Another is that he desires more to be sanctified, and that inward actings or motions might be subdued. And observe, he doth desire to be cleansed, he doth not desire to be dipped only into the water, or sprinkled; he doth not desire only to be a little rinsed.Where observe by the way three things.

1. First, he who hath received true grace needs more grace: our lives need to be still reformed, and our hearts still to be cleansed.

2. Again, the progress and perfection of cleansing the soul appertains to God as well as the beginning. The physician must go through with his cure, or else the patient will relapse.

3. Lastly, persons truly holy and sensible desire yet further measures of holiness.


1. Because secret sins will become public sins if they be not cleansed. It is with the soul as it is with the body, wherein diseases are first bred and then manifested; and if you suppress them not in their root, you shall shortly see them to break out in the fruit: or as it is with fire catching the inside of the house first, and there if you do not surprise it, it will make way for itself to get to the outside. Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin (James 1:15). But when they come to public and visible actings, then they are a copy, they are exemplary sins; and like the plague infecting Other persons, others are capable to imitate them, and so more souls are tainted; and God now receives a common dishonour.

2. Secret sins are apt to deceive us most, and therefore cleanse these.

(1) Because we have not that strict and spiritual judgment of the inwards of sin, as of the outwards; many times we conceive of them as no sins at all.

(2) And because most men decline sin upon outward respects, which do not reach the actings of secret sins; shame and fear, and observance are great, and the only restraints to many. They do not live in and visibly commit such sins, because they like not shame and are afraid of punishment.

(3) The strength of sin is inward, therefore labour to be cleansed from secret sins.The strength of a sin —

1. Lies in its nearness to the fountain, from whence it can take a quick, immediate, and continual supply; and so do our secret sins, they are as near to original sin as the first droppings are to the springhead.

2. It lies in the acceptance of the affections: love and liking set sin upon its throne.

3. It lies in the confidence of commission: now a man doth take more heart and boldness to commit secret sins than open.

4. It lies in the iteration and frequency of acting, for sin often repeated and acted is like a cable double in strength by the manifold twistings.

5. The principal object of God's eye is the inward and secret frame of the soul, therefore labour to be cleansed from secret sins (Psalm 66:16). If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me (Psalm 51:6). Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts.

(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

WEB: Who can discern his errors? Forgive me from hidden errors.

Sin Unmeasurable
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