Psalm 139:23
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.
God's Scrutiny Longed ForAlexander MaclarenPsalm 139:23
God All-SeeingPsalm 139:1-24
God and OurselvesW. Hoyt, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God OmniscientWeekly PulpitPsalm 139:1-24
God's Exhaustive Knowledge of ManT. W. Chambers, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God's Knowledge of ManW. G. T. Shedd, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God's Omniscience and OmnipresenceH. Woodcock.Psalm 139:1-24
God's PresenceArchbishop Temple.Psalm 139:1-24
Lord, Thou Knowest AltogetherS. Conway Psalm 139:1-24
The All-Seeing and All-Present OneHomilistPsalm 139:1-24
The All-Seeing GodMonday Club SermonsPsalm 139:1-24
God's Thoughts Concerning UsG. F. Humphreys.Psalm 139:17-24
God's Thoughts of UsH. Johnson, D. D.Psalm 139:17-24
God's Unexpressed ThoughtsR. Roberts.Psalm 139:17-24
Our Thoughts About God's ThoughtsPsalm 139:17-24
Precious ThoughtsR. Roberts.Psalm 139:17-24
The Precious Thoughts of GodA. C. Price.Psalm 139:17-24
The Thoughts of the Infinite Appreciated by ManHomilistPsalm 139:17-24
Thoughts of GodRobert Tuck, B. A.Psalm 139:17-24
God the Heart-SearcherJames Hamilton, M. A.Psalm 139:23-24
God's SearchT. De Witt Talmage.Psalm 139:23-24
God's Searching DesiredS. Conway Psalm 139:23, 24
Imperfections DetectedR. Venting.Psalm 139:23-24
Man Accountable for His ThoughtsN. L. Frothingham.Psalm 139:23-24
Man Addressing GodM. Braithwaite.Psalm 139:23-24
On Being Known of GodA. Mackennal, D. D.Psalm 139:23-24
Our SearcherW. Birch.Psalm 139:23-24
Our ThoughtsR. Tuck Psalm 139:23, 24
Prayer for Self-KnowledgeC. Bradley, M. A.Psalm 139:23-24
Prayer to God to Search the HeartW. Howels.Psalm 139:23-24
Request for God's SearchingC. Short Psalm 139:23, 24
Search Me, O GodA. Maclaren, D. D.Psalm 139:23-24
Self-ExaminationB. Beddome, M. A.Psalm 139:23-24
Self-ExaminationB. Beddome, M. A.Psalm 139:23-24
Self-ExaminationRobert Philip, D. D.Psalm 139:23-24

In these verses we seem to be standing by a fair river, a very river of the water of life - full, flowing, beautiful, fertilizing; a joy to all beholders and all who dwell by it. And as we look back at the former parts of this "crown of the psalms," as it has been called, we see the lofty spiritual heights from whence this river has flowed down; we realize the glorious truths about God - his omnipresence and omniscience - which are the source from whence this prayer we are to consider has sprung. But such thoughts about God have not always such results. They are terrors to the mind of the godless, and of all who are not walking in the light of the Lord. Hence the truths taught in this psalm serve as a test of our own spiritual condition. Are they welcome to us, or the reverse? They cannot be welcome to an ungodly soul, but they are to such as him who wrote this psalm. Now, in our text, note -


1. That there has been a previous searching of ourselves. Here is one great excellence of this prayer - it compels sincerity. For how can the sin-loving man pray, "Search me, O God!" when he can see quite plainly himself what he is? And how, "See if there be," etc., when there is no "if" at all? It is only those who, like Peter, can lay bare their hearts, and say, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee," that can thus pray. We do not say that a man must be sinless, but he must be sincere. Can we pray this prayer?

2. That our searching is not sufficient. It is implied, what all experience proves so surely, that none of us can understand his errors; and we ever need God to cleanse us from our secret, hidden, and so, to us, unknown faults. "The heart is deceitful above all things;... who can know it?" None but God can.


1. In the heart. Our life is visible to others and to ourselves, and our words audible, but our hearts are neither. The seeds of conduct and character are so minute, so seemingly insignificant, our motives are of such mingled, mixed nature, so chameleon-like, that we are baffled.

2. In the thoughts. "Try me... thoughts." They need to be tried; they often seem right when they are not so. Judas was, no doubt, self-deceived in this way, thinking his thought to be right when it was all evil. And God does try them; he is ever applying his tests and revealing us to ourselves, as the moonlight reveals the ship that crosses its path, as the lightning reveals the unseen precipice. And he does this for gracious purposes, that so we may be led to betake ourselves to this prayer.

3. The ways. "See if... way in me." The prayer confesses that a man's ways are in him before he is in them. There were evil ways he knew - behind him, and he had gone in them; around him, many were going in them; before him, seeking to attract him. But all this did not matter so long as they were not in him. That the ship should be in the water is all right; but for the water to he in the ship! It is what is in us which is all-important.

III. THE ULTIMATE OBJECT OF THIS PRAYER. That he might be led "in the way everlasting."

1. There is such a way - the way of the everlasting God.

2. And the ways of God are fitly so called. Other ways may go on for a long distance, but they are cut short at last.

3. All joy, goodness, and strength are in these ways; all that the heart can desire, all that can bless our fellow-men, and that can glorify Christ.

4. And in these ways we need to be "led," not merely have them shown to us. Many see them, but do not walk in them; and none ever will unless the Lord leads them. But this he is most willing to do. If sincerely we pray this prayer, his leading has begun. - S.C.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.
: —


1. Reverence manifested. "O God." He realized God's presence, and his soul was filled with awe.

2. Thorough investigation invoked. "Search me," etc. Not that God was to thus obtain information unknown to Him before; but the asker, penetrated with a sense of sinfulness, desires God to search his heart, that the heart — with all its tendencies, passions, evils — may become known to himself through God's inquest.


1. Severe testing. "Try me."

2. Moral discrimination. "Know my thoughts," etc.


1. Spiritual ignorance confessed.

2. Divine condescension besought.

3. Perpetual guidance implored.

(M. Braithwaite.)

: — This is the language of prayer; but it is prayer almost in the tone of a challenge. Taken in connection with its context, it is a claim on the part of the speaker to a spotless innocence. The words of the psalmist are, in the full sense, proper only in the mouth of His Divine Son and Lord. Has, then, the text no meaning for the sinful, struggling followers of Christ? Yea! the followers of the Messiah are His members as well as followers. The prayer of our text, then, is not out of place in the mouth of a true-hearted Christian. He may offer it. In the name and strength of his Divine Surety and Head he is bound continually to cherish the spirit of one whose soul will break forth into the prayer, "Search me, O God," etc.

I. TO KNOW HEARTS BELONGETH ONLY TO THE LORD. This is an attribute distinctively His own, not shared in any measure with any created being.

1. God's knowledge of the heart differs from that which man or angel has in this, that it is immediate. God knows, — as it were, sees, — the very spirit, and its every act and state. Man knows only certain outer signs which the spirit makes, from which he infers its thoughts and feelings.

2. The knowledge of God, and of God alone, is unintermittent and all-piercing. It alone is eternal in duration of exercise, and it alone is able to compass the infinite relations even of one spirit. And to be the Searcher of hearts is to have an incessant and all-piercing glance into the inner being and most extended relations, not only of one spirit, but of all spirits, human and angelic. To form, therefore, a truthful estimate of the moral character of any one soul, the Searcher of hearts must know the attitude it would assume if brought into the presence of each creature, and also the attitude it would assume to every manifestation of His own infinite nature.

II. HE KNOWS THE HEART NECESSARILY: He cannot but know it.

1. Then to Him are known all the dark mysteries of iniquity which men carry about locked up in their breasts. You yourself may sometimes forget it; He never does; and He intends with a changeless purpose to discover you to the whole world in due time, to put you to open shame, and bring you to condign punishment. Struggle no more in the fruitless labour to conceal your sin. In shame and sorrow of deep repentance hasten to make confession to the Searcher of hearts; to make confession not only of your black secret, but of all the ills with which your life is filled. Cast yourself upon His mercy. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin."

2. Then all hypocritical profession of the faith is vain. You may be wickedly deceiving yourselves as well as your fellow-men, like the young man in the Gospel ready to say of the commandments, "All these have I kept from my youth up," and in truth very near the kingdom of heaven; but the Lord marks with unerring certainty that beloved lust, that precious thing of earth, reserved, which you will not give up for Christ. And it, no matter how trivial, no matter how godlike, digs a gulf fathomless and bridgeless between you and life.

3. The Lord searcheth the heart; and, if so, "the Lord knoweth them that are His." With this truth Paul comforted himself and Timothy amid the desponding thoughts with which the apostasy of certain flaming professors in the Church of Ephesus was crushing them. With this truth, too, comfort yourself, O child of God, amid the painful doubts which the humble heart is so ready to entertain of its own sincerity and steadfastness.

(James Hamilton, M. A.)

: — Note the psalmist's —

I. INTREPIDITY. Here is a man determined to explore all the recesses of his own heart. Did Bonaparte, did Nelson, did Wellington ever propose to do this? Were all the renowned heroes of antiquity present I would ask them all if they ever had courage to enter into their own hearts. If you stood upon some eminence and saw all the ravenous and venomous creatures that ever lived collected before you, it would not require such courage to combat them as to combat with your own heart. Every sin is a devil.

II. INTEGRITY. He wished to know all his sins, that he might be delivered from them.


1. He prefers his prayer to God Himself. God is the only Being in the universe that knows Himself — that peruses Himself in His own light. In the same light He sees all other beings; and hence it follows that, if other beings see themselves truly, it must be in the light of God.

2. He begins with his principles: his desire is to have these tried by a competent Judge, and to have everything that is evil removed from them. This is an evidence of his wisdom. The heart and its thoughts must be made right before the actions of the life can be right.

IV. EARNEST DESIRE. "Lead me in the way everlasting."

1. The way Thou hast marked out for salvation.

2. The way of Thy law, in all the purity and spirituality of its requirements.

(W. Howels.)

: — This heart is a labyrinth more intricate than the mausoleum of the ancient kings. There are in our souls doors that have never been opened, languages which have never been translated, enigmas that have never been solved, monsters that have never been hunted down, and it was in the appreciation of that fact that the author of my text cried out, "Search me, O God, and try me." I propose to show some of the ways in which God explores a man, and the use that comes of it.

1. God searches a man by His Holy Spirit. Here is a man who feels he is all right. A few inconsistencies, perhaps, and a few inaccuracies; but upon the whole he is in tolerably good condition. The Holy Spirit seizes him. Why now does he tremble? Why now that grief-struck look? Why now can he not sleep at nights? The Holy Spirit has come upon him. He finds there are inhabitants in his soul that he never dreamed of. The reptiles begin to uncoil and to hiss at him. The man says, "Can it be that I have been carrying such a nature as this forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years?" And he immediately begins to apologize, and he reviews the better points of his character. He says, "I don't owe a man a dollar." God says by His Holy Spirit, "You have robbed me of your whole lifetime." The man says, "I am not arrogant, I don't take on airs." The Holy Spirit says, "You are too proud to kneel." The man says, "I am moral." The Holy Spirit says, "You have had many an unclean thought." The man rouses up. He says, "I must get away from this; I must get into the fresh air. I must go to business." The Holy Spirit says, "You cannot go to business; this is the mightiest of all businesses — the business of the soul." Then all the past sins of the man's life come before him troop by troop. From that point many repent and live. From that point many turn back and die.

2. God searches a man by prosperity. He was amiable, he was kind, he was generous, he was useful, while he was in ordinary circumstances; but by sudden inheritance, or by the opening of railroad communication with his land, or by some stroke of commercial genius, he gets a fortune. God is going to search that man by his prosperities; He is going to see whether he will be as humble in the big house as he was in the small one; He is going to give him enlarged resources, and see whether his charities will keep pace with those resources. When he was worth so much he gave so much. He is worth twice as much now. Does he double his charities? God says, "I will explore that man, I will try that man, I will search that man." Fifteen years ago the man said, "What good I would do if I only had the means!" He has the means now. What does he do? Of every dollar we make God demands a certain percentage. If we keep it back, it is at our peril. The old story of the miser who died in his money-chest, because the lid accidentally fell down and fastened him in, was a type of ten thousand men in our day who are in their own money-vault finding their sepulchre. Whatever be the style of your prosperity, by every dollar Shall you make, by every house that you own, by every commercial success that you achieve, God is searching you through and through.

3. God explores a man by adversity. Some of you are going through that process now. You say, "How beautiful it is when a man's fortunes fail to see him throw himself back on spiritual resources." Yes, it is very beautiful, but it is hard to do. There are many people who suppose they have Christian faith, when it is only confidence in government securities. They think they have Christian joy, when it is only She exhilaration that comes from worldly successes. God, after a while, sweeps His hand across the estate, and it is all gone. The man first scolds the banks. He says they are not clever; they ought to have allowed him a discount. Then he scolds the Congress, because it imposed a tariff. Then he scolds the gold-gamblers, because they excited the markets. He does not understand that all the time God has him personally in the crucible.

4. God explores us often through the persecutions of the world. How we admire all those pictures which represent the sufferings of Christi Why? Because we admire patience, and we admire it although we may have but very little of it ourselves. And we sit down on the Sabbath, and we study patience, and we say, "Give us patience. What a beautiful grace it is — patience!" and on Monday morning a man calls you a liar, and you knock him down! That is all the patience you have. How little we understand how to bless those who curse us. It is the general rule — an eye for an eye,. grudge for grudge.

5. God sometimes explores us by sickness. From other misfortunes we can run away, but flat on our backs, pain in the head, in the heart, in the limbs, we cannot run away. No school, however well endowed, however supplied with faithful instructors and professors, can so well teach you as the school of a sick-bed. People wonder at the piety of Edward Payson, and Richard Baxter, and Robert Hall. How did they get to be so good? It was sanctified sickness.

6. God tries us with bereavement. He searches a man by taking away his loved ones. An author describes a mother who had lost her children, saying to Death, "Why did you steal my flowers?" Death said, "I didn't steal them; I am no thief; I transplanted them." "Well," said the mother, "why did you wrench them away so violently?" And Death said, "They would never be wrenched away but that you held on to them so violently." Oh! how hard it is when our friends go away from us to realize that they are not stolen, not wrenched, but transplanted, promoted, irradiated, emparadised. But unless you have had bereavement you do not know what a bad heart you have. We do not know how much rebellion of soul we possess until God comes and takes some of our loved ones away.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

: — You may say to your clerks, "Now let us search into our accounts and balance our books," but while you are doing it do not forget to pray, "Lord, search me."

I. LET US ASK THE LORD TO SEARCH OUR PRINCIPLES. Our government have now appointed officers to see that ships which are outward-bound are not deeper in the water than the "load-line" of safety. Now, like a ship, every man has a load-line; and he says within himself, "Beyond that line I will not go." Nevertheless, many men do go beyond their lead-line, and founder in the sea of vice. Every man draws the line somewhere; and, alas! it is generally as far off the standard directed by Christ as it can possibly be. Men make "load-lines" for themselves, and say, "I am all right on this side the line." But what does the Bible say about it? Is your line in the correct place for the salvation of your soul? A thief will steal, and draw his line, saying, "I will not hurt or murder anybody." Most men draw a line of conduct somewhere, and say, "I am all right so long as I do not pass beyond that line." How important to pray this prayer, "Search me, O God!"

II. LET US ASK OF GOD TO SEARCH OUR PROFESSION. You may say, "Ah, I have got you there; I make no profession." Don't you? Why, you must be a rogue indeed if you make no profession of honesty or gratitude. What, have you never told anybody you were thankful to God for having created you? Are you not thankful to Jesus for having died for you? Christianity means honesty, virtue, truth, gratitude to God, and helpfulness to our neighbour; and do you make no profession of these? Well, if you don't I should not like to meet you in a lonely road at night. Of course you make professions. You profess to be honest, upright, and lovable. Now, let us ask God to search our professions. Do we act accordingly?

III. WE ALSO SHOULD ASK GOD TO SEARCH OUR LIVES. We often fall and wander from the way. The text goes on to say, "and see if there be any wicked way in me." But we need not say "if"; we know full well that there is much wickedness in us. It may be the Lord will show us that we need to be more resolute. O brothers, be decided to give up sin. Rouse yourselves! It is all nonsense for you to complain clay after day, saying, "I cannot help myself!" Have you not the power of God to help you?

IV. WE OUGHT TO ASK GOD TO SEARCH OUR CHARACTER. Do you remember reading of the Californian mine swindle? Some men went into the interior and plastered pieces of silver upon the rocks. Then they got up a grand Mining Co. Limited, and people believed them. Engineers saw the silver on the rocks and then reported favourably of it: it was all a sham. But it is not so in your case. You are not barren rock. There is a streak of gold in every man. If it were not so Christ would not have told us to preach the Gospel to every creature. God has given you the power of noble manhood, and you shall not be disappointed if you press towards it. If you strive for the manhood that thinks nobly, speaks truthfully, and lives virtuously, you shall attain it.


(W. Birch.)

: —

I. TRUE RELIGION HAS ITS SEAT IS THE HEART. The man of real godliness has not only "a name to live," but he lives. There is a consistency in his character. The Gospel not only enlightens his understanding, but shines into his heart; not only delights his imagination, but captivates his affections. It makes his conscience tender, his thoughts humble, peaceful, holy.

II. HENCE THE TRULY RELIGIOUS MAN IS ANXIOUS TO KNOW THE REAL STATE OF HIS HEART. True, he may find this self-examination painful and humiliating, but this makes no matter to him. He feels that he has the salvation of an immortal soul at stake, and he is not to lose that soul for the sake of being kept easy in his follies and proud in his sins.

III. THE SINCERE CHRISTIAN IS NOT CONSCIOUS OF HAVING WITHIN HIS HEART ANY ONE CHERISHED SIN, It is one thing to have iniquity entering the breast, and another thing to harbour it and have it reigning there. St. Paul felt a sinful "law in his members," but he felt it as "warring against the law of his mind," as opposed to the habitual frame of his soul, to that holy and heavenly principle which made him "delight in the law of God after the inward man," and enabled him to "walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Every Christian also feels the same warfare within. Sin tempts and harasses him, and sometimes brings him into captivity, but it cannot hold him in bondage; it cannot make him quietly submit to its hated laws. We soon see the prisoner struggling with his vile oppressor, and bursting its bonds. Trampling his lusts underneath his feet, we hear him exclaim, "I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord."

IV. YET HE OFTEN SUSPECTS HIMSELF OF SOME UNDETECTED INIQUITY. The best of our actions, the brightest of our graces, the most holy of our dispositions, the most fervent of our prayers, and the most ardent of our praises, are blended with so much that is evil that we despair of separating the one from the other, and are often ready to faint with disquietude and fear."

V. IS THE MIDST OF HIS PERPLEXITIES THE SINCERE CHRISTIAN HAS A FIRM AND LIVELY BELIEF THAT GOD KNOWS HIS HEART. Like David, he knows that "the Lord searcheth the hearts," and "understandeth the thoughts," and "compasseth the path," and is "acquainted with the ways" of the children of men; and, like David, he is willing to be searched, and prays to be tried by this omniscient God.

VI. HE APPLIES TO GOD FOR SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND INSTRUCTION, He can show us wherein we are right in our judgment of ourselves, and wherein we are wrong; what there is to be brought low in us, and what to be raised up; what we must endeavour to get rid of, and what to obtain. Laying open our hearts, He can discover to us the sin which is lurking there, and, like a worm at the root, secretly marring our comforts and withering our graces; and, shining on the work of His own hands, He can make visible to us the wails of that spiritual temple which He has begun to raise up for Himself within our souls.

VII. HE WHO SEEKS INSTRUCTION OF GOD MUST BE WILLING TO SUBMIT HIMSELF TO GOD'S GUIDANCE. We often pray for instruction without being mindful of the necessity of this submission. Our supplications are sincere, but we know not what we ask. We forget that the Saviour employs various methods of showing His children their hearts. Affliction, frequent and severe affliction, is the school into which prayer often brings a man, and in which he first learns to know himself and his God. It is in the furnace that the gold is proved and distinguished from the secret dross. But the path of tribulation is not the only path which we must be content to enter. If we wish our prayers to be answered, we must be prepared to walk in "the way everlasting." And what is this way? It is that way of access to the Father in which the patriarchs and prophets, the glorious company of the apostles and the noble army of martyrs drew near to Him — the way of reconciliation through the blood of His Son. It is that highway which is called in the Scriptures "the way of holiness."

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

: — This psalm is a psalm of gladness, or deep and tranquil satisfaction in the all-searching God. It is full of humility, the profound humility of one who feels that he cannot hide himself from God. But profound as is the lowliness, equally marked is the joy of David that God knoweth him altogether. The end of the psalm is a prayer; David does not deprecate the searching of his heart by the all-seeing One, he invokes it.

I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LOYALTY. This is the subject suggested by the context. David is declaring that he has neither sympathy nor part with the wicked. "Do not I hate them," etc. He appeals to God whether this is not so. "Search too," etc. Am I not right in affirming my love for Thee? Is not my heart set upon my God? Are not all my thoughts for Thine honour? The consciousness of sin, rather than that of righteousness, is the distinguishing mark of Christian experience; nor will this contrast between Jewish and Christian piety seem strange to those who compare the Gospel with the law. The sanctity of Jesus makes all our righteousness appear as filthy rags. The love of God is far more searching than the precepts of the stony table; the heart that might have been unmelted at the demands of law is broken by the claims of affection. The loyalty that might pass unreproved, did we but think of what we are bidden, proves but poor as an expression of our gratitude, our response to God's affection. The Hebrew saint contrasted himself with the sinner; Christians, searched by the Spirit of holiness and love, rank themselves among transgressors. We have to bewail many a failure, many an imperfection, but a loyal-hearted Christian should be true to himself and declare his devotion too. At least the heart is firm in its allegiance; whatever your folly and your weakness, you mean, with all sincerity, to serve God. Now, it is an immense comfort to us to be able to rest on God's perfect knowledge of our loyalty to Him. He knows the heart that is set on serving Him; He can distinguish between ignorance and ill-intent; He is not misled by the result; He sees integrity of purpose, and marks the desire to hold true to Him; and He will bring out the righteousness of His servants, making it clear as the light. He will also correct the hidden faultiness (ver. 24).

II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF OUR STRUGGLES. One of the reasons why we should not judge our fellows is that we do not know the men. We see the temptation yielded to; we know not the many temptations that have been resisted, how hard was the struggle to resist. The compassionate God takes account of all this; and hence, for the returning sinner, it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men. Signs of feeble piety, too, we can mark. God knows all that makes even that feeble piety a very victory of faith. We note the uncertainty of temper, we hear the captious phrase; only one eye takes note of the depression and bitterness of soul out of which this is wrung. How hard is the ignorance of the world; how hard, too, the inconsideration of the Church! God does not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax. Here, too, mark — the refuge of the struggling spirit is not in self-sufficiency, not in self-justification. It is a perilous thing to balance our failures with our temptations. We are not the proper judges of ourselves; our leniency would be our undoing. We need not only to be searched but also to be purged, and He is at once compassionate and firm. "Search me, O God, and know my heart" — see it all; what is pitiful as well as what is evil — try me, and know my thoughts: and see," etc.

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF GOD'S THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF OUR SINS. You know how frank confession becomes when all motive to concealment is gone. A wise parent who has detected his child in a fault which must be taken notice of will at once tell the little one he knows all. With fatherly sensitiveness for a child's conscience, he will remove the motive for concealment, that the confession may be full. God's perfect knowledge of our sins takes away the motive, because it removes the possibility, of concealment. He who has feeble conceptions of God's searching vision will be full of evasions; he will be full of self-deceit. The complete conviction of transgression follows, and does not precede, the feeling that God knows it all; for honesty in our dealings with ourselves we need to be searched of God. The Gospel offers immediate cleansing to the conscience; and its cleansing virtue lies very much in the fact that it brings so near to the sinner the God who has searched him, and who knows him altogether. It begins by speaking to us of our sins, with most considerate sympathy our Father shows Himself aware of all the pollution we would confess. The Cross of Christ supplies us with the self-condemnation we require, and with the condemnation speaks of tenderness and pardon.

IV. THE POWER WHICH OUR EVERY GOOD RESOLVE DERIVES FROM THE FACT THAT WE CAN MAKE IT KNOWN TO GOD. Such things crave an utterance; we are more faithful because we are pledged. But we may not speak of them to men: lest we become vain; lest after failure put us to shame; lest our good resolutions evaporate in mere talk. There is sweetness, too, and force in our uttering our love to God, our devotedness to Him. Of these things, also, we may not speak to our fellows, yet they must be breathed into some ear. We can ask our God to mark them, and we are confirmed in them by the fact that they have been noted of Him.

V. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE FACT THAT HE WHO KNOWS US THOROUGHLY IS OUR HELPER AND OUR LEADER. A map is something for the traveller, but children-travellers as we are, we want the guide and controller of our way with us. "See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." There is one way, and only one, to blessedness and goodness. God's way is the same and everlasting. Why, then, are we wanderers? Why are we not always making progress therein? Alas! there are ill ways within us; it is our way to be indolent, wilful, to run after deceitful pleasures, to stray in folly, to sit down in sloth: and our leader knows it; and He will search these out and bring us past our perils. God will help us; that is our confidence and joy. We shall go on, well and truly on, for we have One above to lead us.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

Why should the psalmist ask for what he has just declared to be necessary from the very relation of men to God? Is he asking anything more than he declared to exist apart from his asking? Or, what is the meaning of his prayer? Now, the answer to these questions must be guided by two considerations. One is that the prayer for searching is only a part of the psalmist's desire, and the answer to it will be but the first step in the process of which he longs to be the subject. Search, in order to cleansing, is what he asks; and that is more than necessary to Divine omniscience. Again, the prayer is not merely a petition. It is the expression of a willingness to submit to the search. He began by recognizing the fact; he ends by welcoming it; rejoicing in it and desiring to experience it in his own case.

I. THE LONGING FOR THE DIVINE SEARCH. There used to be a contrivance in some prisons, where solitary confinement was the rule, by which somewhere or other in the wall there was a little hole at which, at any moment, the eye of the jailor might be glued. And men have gone mad because they sat there and felt that they were never free from possible inspection. To a great many of us, "Thou God seest me" is as unwelcome as the consciousness of the little hole in the wall and the jailor's eye was to the criminal. We think of God as an inspector, a spy, a jailor; and we shrink and shut up all the petals of our hearts that He may not see what is there. Adam and Eve concealed themselves in the garden; and their sons and daughters are made cowards by their consciences, so that "Thou God seest me" is an unwelcome thought to very many of us. But it may be made a welcome one. If we are quite sure that the Eye that looks upon us is the Eye of a loving Father we shall not shrink from it, but turn to Him, and say, "There must be wisdom with Thee; Thou lookest with other and clearer eyes than ours, and Thou shalt look me through and through." But we have here not only the thought of welcome, but I think there is suggested, too, that of helping God in His search by frank confession. A man that says truly, "Search me, and know my heart," will not be unwilling to go to God and make a clean breast of it, and tell all that he knows of his weakness and his sin.

II. THE LONGING FOR THE DISCOVERY OF HIDDEN SIN, "I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified," said the apostle; "but He that judgeth me is the Lord." Similarly the psalmist does not know what there may be lying, lurking and skulking in the depths of his heart; wherefore he refers himself to God, and asks that He will come and dig into its depths. That suspicion of unrecognized evil in myself is one that we should always carry with us. By arrangement of mirrors a man can see his outward form all round. But you cannot do like that with your souls. The difficulty is that the inspector and the inspected and the instrument of inspection are all one and the same, as if star and astronomer and telescope were one. So no wonder that we make — as every autobiography that ever was written shows that men make — huge mistakes in estimating what we are. There are secret faults in us all. And so the psalmist said, "Lord, I see a bit of myself, but it is only a little bit; and there must be, deep down, many things that I have not detected yet. See, then, if there be any wicked way in me." This prayer for the discovery of the hidden evil is based also on the confidence that God can and will cast out from us all the evil that He discovers in us, and the search for which the devout heart is eager is a search with a view to a purpose — viz. the ejection of the detected evil. There is another thing to be remarked about this prayer for the detection of undiscovered evil, and that is that one way of answering the prayer is by making us more quick to see the hidden sin. The thought that He is searching my heart will make my conscience more sensitive. And one of His ways of answering the petition is to open my eyes that I may behold the unsuspected evil in myself.

III. THE LONGING FOR A DIVINE LEADING UNTO THE EVERLASTING WAY. Into that way we shall be led if we have spread our hearts out before God, and loyally helped Him in His search, and welcomed the blessed light of His face. He will lead us, partly by Providence's pointing our course, partly by ejecting the evil, partly by giving to us new aims, aspirations, and desires; partly by strengthening our feet to run in the paths of holiness which He has before prepared that we should walk in them. The end of the Divine search is the Divine cleansing. God looks upon us in order that He may lead us into the way of peace.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

: —


1. That he had searched and tried himself.

2. That his own searching was ineffectual, or at least not perfectly satisfactory.

3. A firm belief of God's omniscience.


1. We are liable to be mistaken in the ideas we entertain as to our state.

2. Such mistakes are very dangerous. The house built upon the sand not only falls, but falls when it is too late to build another.

3. If God do not search us in a way of mercy, He will do it in a way of wrath, either in this world or the next.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I. "SEE IF THERE BE ANY WICKED WAY IN ME;" — any corruption concealed, any lust harboured, any vicious appetite indulged, any sinful course persisted in. It may refer either to mental errors, or evil practices.

1. It does not imply that the psalmist thought himself entirely free from sin. He knew there was much sin in him, and committed by him: and hence his pathetic lamentations (Psalm 38, and 51.).

2. He hoped that sin was not predominant.

3. Though sin did not reign, yet he was afraid that more sin remained in him than he was aware of.

4. What of this nature he was ignorant of, he desires to be taught (Job 13:23).


1. The object he had in view.

(1)The way of acceptance with God, Christ (John 14:6).

(2)The way of sound doctrine.

(3)The way of instituted worship.

(4)The way of holiness and obedience.

2. The desire.

(1)Need of guidance.

(2)A- sense of his need.

(3)He entertained high and exalted thoughts of God, as every way capable of the work he here assigns to Him

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

: — It is a good sign when we are afraid of self-deception and court the scrutiny of God; when we are willing to know the worst of our own case, and desirous to judge impartially. For by thus examining ourselves, and submitting to Divine examination, believers are distinguished —

I. From the FORMALIST, who will take no notice of the state of his heart in religion. Many, like the Jews of old, go to the sanctuary of God, and sit as His people sit, and hear as they hear, but "their hearts are far from Him." This is no sweeping charge, for if their hearts were "right with God" they would worship Him at home as well as in their sanctuary, and in the sanctuary by sacraments as well as by prayer or praise. It is, therefore, a good sign when the claims of all duties are seriously weighed, and the state of the heart towards and in them is chiefly regarded.

II. From the RECKLESS — those who dare not search their heart before God; they are afraid of its whispers, and conscious that. a full disclosure of its secrets even to itself would be almost as humiliating as the exposure of them to others. Thus the matter will not bear thinking of, and therefore appearances are kept up at all hazards.

III. From the INCONSISTENT, or those who are unwilling to be led out of every "wicked way." It is the grand characteristic of "faith unfeigned" that it is willing to be kept back from all sin and to be led in the way everlasting. "Examine yourselves, therefore, whether ye be in the faith, prove yourselves," etc.

(Robert Philip, D. D.)

: — Here is a beautiful diamond, it is apparently pure white, and it sparkles with lustre. A look with the naked eye and you are satisfied the stone is without fault, a most precious and costly gem of the first water. The expert now puts into your hand a magnifying glass of great power and tells you to look at the centre of the stone, and inquires what you can see, and in reply you say there is a black speck at its very centre. To the natural eye the stone was pure white, entirely without fault; but with the assistance of this powerful glass some startling revelations are brought to light. It is equally true respecting the life of a believer, without any exception. There is a class of people in existence who claim they are capable of a perfect life in this world, and are very enthusiastic in advancing their views in public; but if the mirror of God's truth were put to its proper use it would surely introduce them to the painful mystery of human life, and, under the powerful search-light of the Word, they would be surprised to detect the hidden faults and specks of imperfection in the holiest life.

(R. Venting.)

And know my thoughts.
: —

I. WHILE NO ONE CAN READ THE THOUGHT OF ANOTHER, HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY THE PROCESSES AND CHARACTER OF HIS OWN. The most occult of all sciences is that which concerns itself with questions how we perceive any truth, or receive any impression, or think at all. No object to which you can turn your attention is so full of perplexity as the attention itself that you pay. Whence arise these thoughts, that are drawing their trains perpetually through the mind? What are the laws that govern their intricate and disturbed order? How far are they involuntary and beyond our strongest efforts of control? What sets them in such opposition to one another, and often to our own wish? What makes them so easy and so intractable; so clear and confused; so rapid and slow; bewildered with dreams and delirium, and true and radiant as the light? We have little to answer to questions like these. There is One that knoweth. "Search me, O God, and know my heart."

II. BUT, IMPENETRABLE AS ARE THE THOUGHTS OF MAN, HE IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEM to an extent which it is serious to consider, and which he does not consider enough. There is a proverb that "thoughts pass toll-free." And it is a truth that would be worth the mentioning, where a just liberty is brought into question; where either a political or a religious tyranny has set up the barriers of its proscription against the rights of the mind. It would show that no "receipts of custom," and no iron hindrances can stop the progress of the understanding, which moves on with the confidence of an invisible being, and stays no question. But it is a proverb very ill applied when it gives licence to every roving imagination; when it pretends to hide us from the heavenly inspection; when it encourages the heart to grow libertine; when it denies that we are amenable in this secret region to Him from whom nothing is concealed. What are worldly thoughts but worldliness itself; and corrupt ones but corruptness of mind; and proud ones but haughtiness of heart? Who shall say, then, that thoughts cost nothing?

1. They may cost us our liberty; that very freedom which they profess to enjoy in the greatest perfection. They have their habits, like everything else in man, and may be brought slavishly under the dominion of them. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," is a striking example in the prophet of that figure of speech which reserves for the final word the most emphatic expression. For long after the foot and the hand, and the will itself, are withdrawn from iniquity, these subtle agents may be about their usual work of evil suggestions. They may refuse to retire, haunt with their empty shades the spots where they once stimulated to action, and torment the conscience that they can no longer betray.

2. They may cost us our reason. And what a price to pay for their mismanagement is that I They may be so ardent as to grow wild; or brood upon one point till they have no sight nor power for any other, and the healthy mind shall lose all its soundness.

3. They may cost the innocence of the mind, as well as its sanity; — they alone, though confined ever so closely within the breast. Man does not always judge so, for he is satisfied if the claims he makes are answered. He looks but at the outward appearance. But there is One who looks deeper than that, and to that One the great account is due. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Only they can. The heart is the eye that is made to gaze towards Him; and if that be clouded, the whole heaven is hid, however circumspectly the steps may be directed along the earth. No need of any purpose to do mischief. No need of any perpetrated guilt. Where the thoughts are base, the soul is polluted; where they will acknowledge no discipline, it is nigh to be undone.

III. We make of great account the climate in which we live; and the air and the weather are unfailing topics everywhere. Why will we not make of still greater THAT INWARD TEMPERATURE AND BREATH OF THE SPIRIT BY WHICH WE ARE CONTINUALLY SURROUNDED; — that can carry sunny remembrances through rainy days, and need not mind much the troubles that are abroad and the east wind, since they themselves are "at rest and quiet"? We esteem it of high consequence what house we occupy, and what its accommodations are, — where it is situated, and how it fronts. But the house of his own thoughts is the true dwelling of man. Let it receive none but worthy guests. Let it face the sky where the light is the longest. Let it be built for the ages to come.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

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