Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.
The sense of sin, the joy of pardon, and the yearning for goodness are essential features in the religion of Christ. If the sense of sin gives the deepest pain, the joy of pardon is the sweetest joy. The thought of the Psalmist in this passage is the difficulty for each man of understanding his sins. Error means straying, wandering from the path. There are sins of ignorance and of infirmity, unconsciously, unintentionally done through lack of self-knowledge, or of zealous vigilance against the deceits of the world and the snares of Satan. There are also sins of presumption, done with deliberateness and hardened pride and a sort of insolence against God. There are also sins which do not usually come earliest in the moral history, but which are the inevitable result and penalty of sins of carelessness and infirmity; and which imply, nay, sooner or later create, that awful insensibility which is the sure symptom of spiritual death, and for which no forgiveness, because no repentance, is possible. The sinfulness of sin consists in its being done against the majesty and holiness, and authority and love, of God. The more we know of God the more shall we feel the depravity, the wickedness of sin. The incessancy of it is a very painful and humbling, but incontestable truth. Our sins of omission, which perhaps come most home to us in the riper years of the Christian life; the sins of commission, in which we actually violate the law of God — were they to be brought up against us at the end of a single day, might turn our hair white with shame and sorrow. Its deceitfulness is one of its most malignant and dangerous features. To call good evil is not to make it evil, and to call evil good is not to make it good. Yet we love to have it so, and God answers us according to the multitude of our idols. Nevertheless, when the moral sense is darkened it is on the way to be extinguished. How then shall we keep alive in our hearts the instinct of righteousness, and the sorrowful consciousness of having come short of it? This Psalm shows us that the key of the secret, and the instrument for each of us to use, is the Word of God.
1. Would we feel about sin as God would have us feel, let us pray earnestly and constantly for the Holy Spirit.
2. Let us be on our guard against an artificial, hysterical, self-inspecting, pusillanimous remorse. Let penitence come rather through the habitual contemplation of God in Christ, than by swelling the swamps of our own corrupt nature.
3. The sense of sin, if we would avoid unreality and a sort of complacency in our humbleness, should ever be accompanied with a continuous and strenuous effort to overcome it.
4. St. Paul never forgot his past. We need not forget that we have sinned, if only we have cause to believe that we are forgiven. We may be perfectly clean, though imperfectly holy.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
WEB: Who can discern his errors? Forgive me from hidden errors.