Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.
I. WHAT THE DIVINE LAW TAUGHT THE PSALMIST. (Vers. 12, 13.)
1. His manifold sins and errors. "Who can understand his errors?" Who can tell how often he offendeth? Our sins and mistakes are greater in number than we can understand or reckon. Our moral infirmity is greater than we can estimate.
2. That he was largely an ignorant transgressor. "Cleanse thou me from the sins that I know not of." Arising from self-deception and self-ignorance. Others see in us what we cannot see in ourselves. The proud and covetous and unjust do not think themselves so. Cleanse us from the pretence to virtues which we have not.
3. To pray for deliverance from the temptation to deliberate sins. That he might not commit presumptuous, wilful sin. He does not ask for the pardon of such sins, but to be restrained from them. "If we sin wilfully after that we have come to the knowledge of the truth," etc. No sacrifice in the Jewish Law for such sins.
II. THE LAW GREATLY REWARDS THE STEADFASTLY OBEDIENT. (Vers. 11, 14, 15.)
1. By giving them an increasing spirit of consecration. "Let my words and meditations and actions be more and more acceptable in thy sight." Obedience leads to further obedience, and longs for nothing short of being perfectly acceptable to God.
2. By giving a more perfect consciousness of God's acquaintance with our thoughts and ways. The whole passage shows that, as well as the fourteenth verse. The disobedient think they can hide their ways from God. "How doth God know?" The obedient know that all things are naked and open before him; and rejoice in the thought, because they are aiming at what is acceptable to him.
3. By revealing God as a sure, faithful Redeemer from all evil. A rock is the image of faithful stability, and means that God will not swerve from his promise of redemption. The disobedient are the unbelievers; they attribute their own mind to God, and so cannot trust him. - S.
Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
1. Faults unknown to ourselves. If we are trying to follow Christ, and live a straight and honest and pure life, we find difficulties at every turn. Temptations are strewn thickly around on every path. Unknown sins are the most dangerous to the soul. Sins noted and marked upon our memories are less likely to be ruinous to the soul than those secret sins which elude the observation.
2. Faults known to ourselves, but known only to ourselves. Each lives three lives: the life by which we are known to the world, the life by which we are known to our household, and the life known only to ourselves. All sins are, to a certain extent, presumptuous. Sins of presumption, properly speaking, are sins of will, knowingly and wilfully committed. It is a sin of presumption to act as if we needed no mercy.
(T. Somerville, M. A.)
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.
(Bishop Thorold.)1. Man's ignorance of himself is the result of man's ignorance of God; and the knowledge of God comprehends the knowledge of man. If a man would "understand his errors," he must first know Him who can forgive, correct, and prevent them. A capacity of spiritual discernment is essential to man knowledge of himself.
2. Man's knowledge of his ignorance is the first stage in his educational progress towards the possession of wisdom, and the first expression of that knowledge is prayer.
3. A tendency to err in thought, in word, and in action, combined with the inherent deceitfulness of sin, is the secret of the unfathomable mystery of human error, — unfathomable, that is, by any sounding line of mere human intellect or human conscience. A tendency to err produces error. A biassed ball cannot run straight. The deceitfulness of sin, however, rather than this tendency, is the preponderating element in the unknowableness of one's own errors. Sin usually wears a disguise, and often a man does not know his own sin. The sinful heart is a cunning logician.
4. To "understand one's errors," one must know the fact of the universal defilement of sin consequent upon the fall.
5. The "errors" of a man include "secret faults" and "presumptuous sins." To sin knowingly is to sin presumptuously. A secret fault is one unknown to others or ourselves — to either or to both. It is a mockery for a man who has not searched himself to ask God to search him.
6. All true wisdom, possessed or attainable by any one of the human race on earth, involves constant self-scrutiny and constant prayer. Men must be advised to look both within and without. It is because we look within that we also look without.
7. All true wisdom is increasing wisdom, for it involves increasing sanctification, and included in sanctification ,is the joy of a heavenly fellowship.
1. The occasion of it. David was now looking into the law of God, and a beam of that light had darted into his conscience. The Word of God has a secret, unavoidable power upon the soul to convince it of sin. In the Scripture is presented a transcendent rule of holiness, the infinite purity and sanctity which is in God Himself. The soul, seeing this, is at once convinced of infinite impurity. In Scripture there is an exact rule of holiness prescribed. The law forbids all sin, and enjoins all holiness. It is a spiritual rule, not resting only in an outward conformity. It keeps secret thoughts under awe. The law of God is operative, not as a dead letter: it has an active power to work upon the heart. The Spirit of God goes along with it, and makes it quick, and powerful, and sharp, and mighty in operation. As to the —
2. Nature and purpose of David's perplexity; it may be resolved into these three expressions.(1) It is the speech of a man who confesses his ignorance; he knows not his errors.(2) It is the speech of him who sees many errors in himself, and suspects more, and is astonished at the consideration of them.(3) He utters his thoughts with a sighing accent, and groans within himself at the sense of them. As to the matter of this question, take it thus — Who understands the nature of all his actions, whether they be erroneous or not? Or thus — Who ever yet kept such a careful account in his conscience as to register the just number of his sins? Or thus — Who understands the many aggravations that may make a seemingly small sin out of measure sinful? What is the ground whence arises this difficulty of discerning errors? Chiefly from these three. The Divine excellency of the law of God. The marvellous subtlety and closeness of man's spirit. The falsehood of Satan, his depths of deceitfulness. Use the subject for conviction, and for consolation.
(Bishop Browning.)I. TO ACQUIRE A KNOWLEDGE OF OUR SINFULNESS IS EXCEEDINGLY DIFFICULT. This may be inferred from the fact that very few acquire this knowledge, and that none acquire it perfectly. We learn, both from observation and from the Scriptures, that of those sins of the heart, in which men's errors or sinfulness principally consist in the sight of God, they are all by nature entirely ignorant. Men will not come to the Saviour because they do not feel their need of Him. It is difficult to get a knowledge of our sin, for the influences of the Divine Spirit are represented as necessary to communicate this knowledge. But it would be needless to convince men of sin if they were not ignorant of their sins. Mankind are so blind to their own sinfulness, so ignorant of their true characters, that the Spirit of God alone can remove this blindness.
II. SHOW WHY IT IS SO.
1. Because men are ignorant of the Divine law. By the law is the knowledge of sin. St. John says, sin is a deviation from the law. But mankind are naturally ignorant of the Divine law. They are alive without the law. He who would understand his errors must understand the Divine law.
2. Another cause is the nature of the human mind. It is like the eye which, while it perceives other objects, cannot see itself (save in a mirror). Men find it difficult to examine themselves.
3. Another cause is the prevalence of self-love. Every man is extremely partial ill judging himself, and exceedingly unwilling to discover his own faults.
4. The deceitfulness of sin is another cause.
5. Another is the effects which sin produces upon men's understandings and consciences. These faculties are the eyes of the soul, without which he can discern nothing. Just so far as sin prevails in the heart and life, so far it puts out or darkens these eyes of the mind with respect to all spiritual objects; so that the more sinful a man really is, so much the less sinful does he appear to himself to be.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
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.)
I. EXPLAIN THE QUESTION. We all own that we have errors, but who of us can understand them? They mingle with our good, and we cannot detect them so as to separate them. And this not only in our feelings, but in our actions. And their number, guilt, aggravation — who can understand this? Let each one think of his own errors and their peculiar wickedness.
II. IMPRESS IT ON THE HEART. In order to a man's understanding his errors he must understand the mystery of —
1. The fall. Here is a piece of iron laid upon the anvil. The hammers are plied upon it lustily. A thousand sparks are scattered on every side. Suppose it possible to count each spark as it falls from the anvil; yet who could guess the number of the unborn sparks that still lie latent and hidden in the mass of iron? Now your sinful nature may be compared to that heated bar of iron. Temptations are the hammers; your sins the sparks. If you could count them (which you cannot do), yet who could tell the multitude of unborn iniquities — eggs of sin that lie slumbering in your souls. And so we are not to think merely of the sins that grow on the surface, but if we could turn our heart up to its core and centre we should find it as fully permeated with sin as every piece of putridity is with worms and rottenness. The fact is, that man is a reeking mass of corruption. His whole soul is by nature so debased and so depraved that no description which can be given of him even by inspired tongues can fully tell how base and vile a thing he is.
2. God's law especially in its spiritual application. It is exceeding broad.
3. The perfection of God.
5. The Cross. George Herbert saith very sweetly — "He that would know sin, let him repair to Olivet, and he shall see a Man so wrung with pain that all His head, His hair, His garments bloody be. Sin was that press and vice which forced pain to hunt its cruel food through every vein." You must see Christ sweating, as it were, great drops of blood. You must drink of the cup to its last dregs, and like Jesus cry — "It is finished," or else we cannot know the guilt of our sin.
III. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
1. The folly of hoping for salvation by our own righteousness.
2. Or by our feelings.
3. What grace is this which pardons sin! Blessed be God, the spotless flood of Jesus' merit is deeper than the height of mine iniquities.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist."Error," what a word, what a thing! It is the foundation stone of Satan's kingdom in the world; ay, and by it be builds up and sustains his empire in the world. Two things are suggested here concerning the soul's errors —
I. THEY ARE MYSTERIOUS. "Who Call understand his errors?"
1. They are mysterious in their origin. Wire can explain the genesis of error?
2. They are mysterious in their number. Who can count them? They baffle all human arithmetic.
3. They are mysterious in their working. How Wondrously they work!
4. They are mysterious in their influence. Who shall tell the influence of one error, on one individual, on society, on the universe?
II. THEY ARE POLLUTING. "Cleanse Thou me." Errors stain the conscience and the heart, they are moral filth.
1. The cleansing of the soul from error is a work of supreme urgency. "Cleanse Thou me." Without this cleansing there can be no true liberty, dignity, or happiness, no fellowship with God, no heaven.
2. The cleansing of the soul from error is the work of God. "Cleanse Thou me." We cannot cleanse ourselves, though our agency in the matter is indispensable. "Create ill me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
I. SOME KNOWLEDGE OF ONE'S ERRORS IS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION. Such as —
1. Will awaken the soul of man.
2. Drive him out of all the refuges of lies to which he will betake himself for salvation.
3. Convince him that he is utterly helpless and deserves to perish.
4. Make him come to Christ and accept the Gospel. But when men are brought to all this, then they ask —
II. WHO CAN UNDERSTAND HIS ERRORS? For —
1. He cannot understand the errors that he knows — their nature, their variety, their number, their aggravation, their demerit.
2. Of many of his errors he has no knowledge at all. See how long men remain in sin and are not disturbed by it. Conclusion: How humbled should we be. How forbearing is God. How precious Christ's redemption. How mighty the work of the Holy Spirit. How thorough in its working true faith is. But how little of it there is.
(J. R. Anderson.)
I. THE HUMILIATING CONFESSION IMPLIED IN THE PSALMIST'S QUESTION. It is implied that no man can understand his errors. And reasons for this are —
1. The infinite purity of God's law, surpassing our comprehension.
2. Self-love, which makes him tender and partial in estimating his own faults.
3. The impossibility of recollecting every instance, even of undoubted transgression. They are so many, so varied, so secret.
II. THE HUMBLE PETITION WHICH FOLLOWS THIS CONFESSION. David knew that none of his sins were hidden from God, though they might be from himself. And he knew that they defiled and polluted his soul. Hence his prayer. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which alone can cleanse us. Turn, therefore, in confession and penitence to Him.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
I. INQUIRE WHY IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO KNOW OUR OWN FAULTS. We may know an act to be a sin, and yet not know all the moral evil that is in it. But —
1. One reason why we know so little of ourselves is, that so few reflect.
2. Another is, our thoughts are so fugitive.
3. Our feelings are so mixed as to their character.
4. Pride and self-love.
5. Our dislike of that which excites, as our sins do — painful feelings. Remorse is an intolerable pain. And so is the "looking for of judgment."
6. We judge ourselves by the flatteries of others;
7. And by the ordinary conduct of men.
8. Failure to apply to ourselves the true standard of rectitude. "I was alive without the law once." How, then, ought we to watch our hearts and continually seek the grace of God.
II. THE IMPORT OF THIS PRAYER. It is for deliverance not only from known, but from hidden sins also. And there is a two-fold cleansing —
1. That of expiation.
2. That of sanctification. Not only do we need pardon, but the continual purification of our souls.Conclusion —
1. The best evidence of the existence of a holy nature is the sincere and prevailing desire of perfect holiness. A gracious state is not proved by the persuasion that we have attained it, but by the ardent, habitual desire after it.
3. When on account of sin the conscience is again burdened, we must turn again to the blood of Christ.
4. Remember many of our sins are hidden, but they lead on to presumptuous sins.
(A. Alexander, D. D.)I. THE QUESTION. "Who can understand his errors?" "Error" is one of the mildest words we use to describe wrong-doing. Sin, guilt, wickedness, iniquity, seem to be terms that carry heavy blame along with them; but when we say of a man merely that he is "in error," we consider we are speaking leniently. And yet "error" really conveys, perhaps, a clearer idea of what sin in its essence is than any of the other words. For what is error but the straying out of a path, the wandering from a way? There is no better definition of sin. The soul has a way, a path, designed for it, just as a planet has an orbit. The difference between the star and the soul is, that the one keeps to its appointed course while the other wanders; but when we ask why this is so, when we try to find out the cause of such unlikeness of behaviour, we touch one of the deepest senses in which it is possible to ask the question, Who can understand his errors?
1. Who can understand error as such? Why should that be true of the human soul which is true of nothing else that is or lives, so far as we know, namely, that it is able to break the law?
2. Who can understand his errors, in the sense of understanding the way in which the principle of sin works in the heart, and manifests itself in the life?(1) How often men, in the bitterness of their souls, cry, What can have possessed me that I should have said or done thus or so? They cannot imagine their true selves having said or done the thing, and so they fall back upon the fancy that some other being came in and took unrightful possession of the conscience, usurped it, thus making possible that which would have been impossible had the lawful sovereign continued on the throne. But this only shows how little we know ourselves, how hard it is for us to understand our errors.(2) When we take into account hereditary tendencies and dispositions, when we consider how much easier it is for one person to resist the temptation to intemperance, or violence of speech, than for another, the problem becomes still more complicated.(3) Letting go the past altogether, when we try to distinguish between the various sources from which, and channels through which, our temptations approach us, how embarrassed we find ourselves. We are conscious that some of our temptations come directly through the channels of sense; we see that others, such as the allurements of ambition and the attractions of praise, touch us from the side of "the world," so-called, or society; while of still others we can only say that they either originate in our own spirits or else are communicated by contact with other spirits, of whose nearness at this time or that we are ignorant. Yet when we have conceded the justice of this analysis, it remains exceedingly difficult to decide, in any given instance, from Which one of the three possible sources the temptation which happens for the moment to be pressing us with its vehement appeals has come. It is a point in favour of a beleaguered army if the general in command only knows on which side to anticipate the next attack, but where there is uncertainty about this, or what is worse, where there is the fear that the assault may come from all quarters at once, there must be corresponding loss of heart.
II. THE PRAYER. "Cleanse Thou me," etc. Here is the help, just here. Invite the Saviour of the soul to enter in through the gateway of the soul, and to take up His dwelling there. There is no one who comprehends a piece of mechanism so well as the inventor and the maker of it. You may call this a rough figure of speech, and yet, up to a certain point, it is a just one. The soul is, indeed, something much better than a watch; but still the watch and the soul have this much at least in common: each has had a maker, and it is only reasonable to say that no one can possibly understand the thing made so thoroughly as the one who made it. But note carefully the precise point where the soul has the advantage of the watch. It is here; the watchmaker touches the wheels and springs from without. He handles them with most marvellous dexterity, to be sure, but still, after all, it is only handling. The Maker of the soul can do more than handle His workmanship. He has the added power of entering in and dwelling within it, yes, actually within it, as intimately as the life power dwells within the very juices of the plant, making it lily or carnation, anemone or violet, each after its kind. Those cures are the most effectual that heal the man from within. Surface remedies are proverbially disappointing. Defects of constitution, deeply concealed flaws of nature, yield only to healing forces that, like an atmosphere breathed in, penetrate to the very inmost sources of life. It is so with the secret faults, the hidden flecks, the unnoticed weaknesses which mar the wholeness and sap the strength of the spiritual man. We need to breathe in more of God if we would breathe out more of goodness. We need to have within our veins and bounding in our pulses more of the blood of Christ if we would have the blood of Christ save us indeed, for it is not by an outward washing that God is making ready a people for Himself, but by that inward cleansing which begins at the heart.
(W. R. Huntington, D. D.)i.e. with light and knowledge, and then, as it is with colours when the sun shines, you may see them, so these a man can see and know, and confess them particularly to be transgressions; there are other sins, which are committed either in the times of ignorance or else (if there be knowledge) yet with inobservance: either of these may be so heaped up in the particular number of them that, as a man did (when he did commit them), take no notice of them, so now after the commission, if he should take the brightest candle to search all the records of his soul, yet many of them would escape his notice. And, indeed, this is a great part of our misery, that we cannot understand all our debts: we can easily see too many, yet many more, he as it were dead, and out of sight; to sin is one great misery, and then to forget our sills is a misery too: if in repentance we could set the battle in array, point to every individual sin, in the true and particular times of acting and re-acting, oh how would our hearts be more broken with shame and sorrow, and how would we adore the richness of the treasure of mercy which must have a multitude in it, to pardon the multitude of our infinite errors and sins.
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)
Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.Bernard roundly says, "All life is a temptation," which means that it is a history of attacks and resistances, victories and defeats, in spiritual things. How could we ever expect to hear the praise, "Well done, good and faithful servant," if we had gained no victories over self? And how shall we gain them without effort? Temptation has various sources — our own weakness, Satan's plots, and God's purposes. Examination shows that temptation is allowed for in God's plan. Still, we are not to think God is Himself the author of temptation. The fact is, temptation has different meanings and objects, according to the different sources from which it comes. It was from mere malignity Satan tempted Job. It was from party spirit and self-sufficiency the lawyers questioned Christ, tempting Him. It is from coveting that those who would be rich fall into temptations; but when God allows us to be tempted, His trials are for our good, to disclose our weakness, to increase our strength, to rebuke our waywardness, or bring back our wandering steps. Even in their fails God's love pursues and overtakes His children. The first thing for us to do is to discover what is our temptation and our tempter. There are inveterate habits of thought, speech, and conduct which are chronic temptations one has hardly a knowledge of, and no will to resist. And here, in these, are the great battlefields for us; and the discovery of these to us is a special occasion of God's grace to us. When you have found out your special sin, the next thing is to enter the lists against it in a solemn way, a solemn and prepared way. We want the Holy Spirit's help to know what cannot otherwise be known, the sin which doth most easily beset us. This is to be prayed for, and waited for, and worked for, and part of the prayer must be the attitude of the praying life, a watching soul, a secretly self-questioning soul, a retirement into a sort of inner oratory in one's own self, there expecting and asking that God may show us ourselves, and enable us to discover, judge, and disapprove ourselves.
(T. F. Crosse, D. C. L.)
I. WHAT FOLLY YOU ARE GUILTY OF. It is not secret, it is known. God knows it. This world is like the glass hives wherein bees sometimes work: we look down upon them, and we see all the operations of the little creatures. So God looketh down and seeth all.
II. THE MISERY OF SECRET SINS. They who commit them are in constant fear of discovery. If I must be a wicked man, give me the life of a roystering sinner, who sins before the face of day: let me not act as a hypocrite and a coward. A mere profession is but painted pageantry, to go to hell in, the funeral array of dead souls; guilt is a "grim chamberlain," even when his fingers are not bloody red. Secret sins bring fevered eyes and sleepless nights. Hypocrisy is a hard game to play at.
III. ITS SOLEMN GUILT. You do not think there is any evil in a thing unless somebody sees it, do you? If somebody did see, then there would be evil. But to play a trick and never be discovered, as we do in trade, that is all fair. I do not believe that. A railway servant puts up a wrong signal, there is an accident, the man is tried and punished. He did the same thing the day before, but there was no accident, and so no one accused him. But it was just the same; the accident did not make the guilt, but the deed. It was his business to have taken care. Secret sin is the worst of sin, because in his heart the man is an atheist.
IV. THE DANGER OF SECRET SIN. It will grow into a public one. You cannot preserve moderation in sin. The melting of the lower glacier in the Alps is always followed by that of the higher. When you begin to sin you go on. Christians, you dare not spare these secret sins; you must destroy them.
V. I BESEECH YOU GIVE THEM UP. You who are almost persuaded to be a Christian. Will you have your sin and go to hell, or leave your sin and go to heaven? Some say, "You are too precise." Will you say that to God at the last? Secret sinner, in the great day of judgment what will become of thee?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The outside life, in society, among our fellow men. This outside life, comparing with the other inner lives, is lived with a dangerous facility. Society life is lived very easily. And yet it may be one seething mass of rottenness and hypocrisy. Yes, this outside life is easily lived, profession easily made, and easily and spotlessly acted up to, and because of that we find this prayer of the Psalmist does not refer in particular to this outmost circle, although, of course, to this outmost circle all the eddying movements for fouler or cleaner must in time extend.
2. An inner life we live when the door flings to its hinges on the world, the life in our home group, in our family circle. Here we manage to raise a little the society mask; we can almost lift it up and lay it down, and let our eyes look on our real selves. Our surroundings at home are more favourable to the revealing of our true character. The inspection of our home privacy is prejudiced in our favour. But here again there is a Pinchbeck imitation. A saint abroad, they say, may be a devil at home; true, but a devil abroad may be a saint at home. And a saint abroad and a saint at home too may be a devil at heart. The whole role of the saint we can easily act to minutest detail as a member or office bearer of the Church, and the "pious fraud" can be carried through without a hitch in our home circle. The imitation may defy detection from the search of the strongest household microscopes.
3. The inmost life, the region of David's prayer for cleansing, is heart life. Into this privacy not another being is admitted. Here is solitude unbroken. If unbosom we would, we could not. God has walled round the spirit world with the walls unclimbable and unwingable. Nobody knows but Jesus — the battles of the soul, the halting, the stumbling, the fainting, the falling, the fleeing, the thoughts hard, the thoughts bad, the thoughts harsh and hateful, the temptings, the struggles, the sins, the uncleanness — the black poisoned streams pouring from the old death jets of the fountain day by day. Why does David pray for cleansing? What is prayer? It is the appeal to power from powerlessness, the strong cry from helplessness to help. Here in this inmost life faults are truly "secret" — secret from the man himself. That is the bidden plague-spot, and well may we wince when we touch the place. We cannot play the hypocrite here. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." No mask here. Entirely helpless; if we seek cleansing, we must get it outside ourselves. For it we must pray to God. Why, O burdened psalmist heart, needest thou pray for cleansing of secret faults? In most folk's vocabulary "secret" is comfortable, quieting, secure, and safe. Well dost thou know that faults secret to others, and secret to thee, are not secret to God. The prayer is from David's helplessness before the secret faults of his own soul; but the agonising timbre of the petition is from the overpowering sense of this inward depravity and corruption, secret and unknown to him, yet spread out in a terrible roll before Him who cannot look upon the shadow of sin. This staggering thought is one reason for the earnestness of this prayer.
1. There are faults which are secret, because they are bound up with our dispositions and characters. We see every day how blind men become to their own habitual faults.
2. There are secret faults which are due to the influence of our surroundings. There is a law known to naturalists as the law of protective colouring, according to which animals grow into the likeness of their environment. There is such a law in society. Human beings tend to assimilate themselves to the customs and opinions of the world around them. In the business world men do, without hesitation, what they could not do if they applied the law of Christ to the regulation of their daily calling. The society in which we live affects us. It tends to bring us down to its level, and imbues us with its opinions.
3. There are secret faults which consist of undeveloped germs and possibilities of evil that lie lurking in our hearts.How are we to be delivered from these secret faults?
1. Set about the work of self-examination. Careful and judicious self-examination lies at the bottom of all progressive Christianity. It may be done in a morbid, introspective way, but it need not be.
2. We must apply ourselves to the study of the Word of God.
3. We should bring ourselves into the holy presence of Jesus Christ.
4. We must learn to pray the Psalmist's prayer. We cannot cleanse ourselves, we need to be cleansed. Christ must live in us by His Holy Spirit if we are to be cleansed from our secret faults, and to become pure even as He is pure.
(J. C. Lambert.)
1. A ready method of convincing ourselves of the existence in us of faults unknown to ourselves is to consider how plainly we see the secret faults of others.
2. Now reflect on the actual disclosures of our hidden weakness, which accidents occasion. Integrity on one side of our character is no voucher for integrity on another. We cannot tell how we should act if brought under temptations different from those which we have hitherto experienced.
3. This much we cannot but allow; that we do not know ourselves in those respects in which we have not been tried. But further than this: What if we do not know ourselves even where we have been tried, and found faithful? The recorded errors of Scripture saints occulted in those parts of their duty in which they showed obedience most perfect.
4. Think of this too: No one begins to examine himself, and to pray to know himself, but he finds within him an abundance of faults which before were either entirely, or almost entirely, unknown to him. That this is so we learn from the written lives of good men, and our own experience of others. And hence it is that our best men are ever the most humble.
5. But let a man persevere in prayer and watchfulness to the day of his death, yet he will never get to the bottom of his heart. Though he know more and more of himself as he becomes more conscientious and earnest, still the full manifestation of the secrets there lodged is reserved for another world.Call to mind the impediments that are in the way of your knowing yourselves or feeling your ignorance.
1. Self-knowledge does not come as a matter of course; it implies an effort and a work. The very effort of steadily reflecting is painful to some men, not to speak of the difficulty of reflecting correctly.
2. Then comes in our self-love. We hope the best; this saves us the trouble of examining. Self-love answers for our safety.
3. This favourable judgment of ourselves will especially prevail if we have the misfortune to have uninterrupted health and high sprats and domestic comfort.
4. Next consider the force of habit. Conscience at first warns us against sin; but if we disregard it, it soon ceases to upbraid us; and thus sins, once known, in time become secret sins.
5. To the force of habit must be added that of custom. Every age has its own wrong ways.
6. What is our chief guide amid the evil and seducing customs of the world? Obviously the Bible. These remarks may serve to impress upon us the difficulty of knowing ourselves aright, and the consequent danger to which we are exposed of speaking peace to our souls when there is no peace. Without self-knowledge you have no root in yourselves personally; you may endure for a time, but under affliction or persecution your faith will not last.
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
Christian Observer.Various causes contribute to conceal from a man his faults.
I. A DEFECT OF KNOWLEDGE. Many sin against God without being conscious of it. Where ignorance is unavoidable there sin may be excusable; but a man who would avail himself of this plea must make it appear that his ignorance was not owing to any want of care on his part to find out the law. One principal cause that our sins are so much concealed from our view is, that we form our standard of what is right, not from the pure and holy law of God, but from the general opinion of our fellow sinners. The custom of the world is our guide.
II. THE WANT OF A RIGHT DISPOSITION OF MIND. While we were flattering our pride with the hope of having done everything right, we may have deceived ourselves in the very idea of right. The want of right dispositions is a subject little considered. We are often under the influence of desires and tempers positively evil, without knowing it, through the deceitfulness of sin and of our own hearts. Consider this subject as the means of rendering us humble. And let it make us watchful.
(Thomas G. Selby.)
I. RECOMMEND THE IMPORTANT DUTY OF EXAMINING INTO OUR LATENT IMPERFECTIONS. And this because the growth of character is so gradual. Not all at once do we become vicious, and certainly not all at once do we attain the summits of virtue. We are in a great measure the children of discipline, and therefore the sooner this begins the better. Our great perils are not from the temptations of the open day, but those which are from within. These are the parents, of almost every evil deed. How important, then, to attend to these "secret faults.
II. SPECIFY SOME OF THOSE SECRET FAULTS TO WHICH WE ARE APT TO BE INATTENTIVE. They assume all manner of disguises, and the mind will throw false glosses over its own deformity. The mean rapacious wretch will call his conduct prudence, temperance, and provident wisdom. The gloomy bigot will despise the warm, steady devotion of the rational Christian. Pride will call itself independence of spirit; and meekness and gentleness will be branded as meanness and pusillanimity. But above all things, we should attend to the nature and the grounds of our satisfactions and pleasures, our griefs and vexations, in the intercourse we carry on with the world.
III. POINT OUT SECRET FAULTS WHICH, THOUGH CONSCIOUS OF THEM OURSELVES, WE INDUSTRIOUSLY KEEP FROM THE EYES OF THE WORLD. There is hypocrisy in these, and hence they are worse than others. As, for instance, courtesy in order to deceive, a wicked affectation of Christian gentleness. These are wolves in sheep's clothing. Such are religious from mere worldly motives. They are hypocrites. Yet those who take no care to cleanse themselves from errors of this sort must live and act under a state of the most wretched bondage to the world. All is sacrificed to appearance. The passions, indeed, may be often mortified and suppressed, though not from a sense of religious duty (for then it would be virtue), but from "respect of persons," or the fear of losing some advantage. Men who are thus wedded, as it were, to sin are often as cruel and oppressive as they are selfish and hypocritical. Though they cringe to power, and flatter to deceive; yet they will frequently retire from the insults and vexations of the world within the circle of their respective authority, and there vent their angry and malignant passions with redoubled vehemence and malice.
IV. THE CORRECTION OF THESE EVILS. Live as in the sight of God, before whom the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed. We may deceive men, but we cannot deceive Him. A time will shortly come when we shall be convinced that there is but "one thing needful," which is the mercy and protection of God, through the merits and atonement of Christ our Lord. The fashion and the appearance of this world will then be so strangely reversed that, among many good and faithful servants who are worthy to enter into the joy of their Lord, we shall see some whose merits we thought highly of shrink from the awful trial of the last day, and vanish like smoke before the wind; while the meek and humble virtues of those whom we might have overlooked and neglected, or perhaps despised, shall shine forth like the sun in His kingdom.
(J. Hewlett, B. D.)I. WHAT ARE THEY? — They stand opposed to open and presumptuous sins. They relate particularly —
1. To the secret bias of the heart to evil. There is what may be called latent guilt; a propensity of the soul never yet developed, but which new circumstances may call forth.
2. To unholy thoughts which we intend no other person shall know.
3. To those sinful emotions and affections which rise up in the best hearts almost involuntarily, and against which the pure mind struggles. Old habits of evil will torture for a long while the renewed soul.
4. To these plans of evil which are not prosecuted to their completion. Providence hinders them, or else they would be carried out.
5. Those crimes which are perpetrated in darkness or under disguise.
II. SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH SIN IS CONCEALED.
1. Men design to conceal them. And we have the power to conceal our purposes. Society could not exist if we had not such power. The body becomes the shield of the soul, to guard our plans from the observation of all other minds but that of God. But this power of concealment may be abused for purposes of evil, and often is so. But such concealment of guilt is difficult. God has placed in the human frame by nature certain indications of secret guilt; and He meant that where that guilt existed it should betray itself for the well-being of society. He designed not only that the conscience should check the offender, but He implanted in the frame itself certain indications of guilt which He intended also to be a safeguard of virtue. Now, one great art in this world is to obliterate the natural marks of guilt from the human frame, and to counterfeit the indications of innocence. The object is so to train the eye that it will not reveal the secret conviction of crime; so to discipline the cheek that it will not betray the guilty by a sudden rush of blood there; so to fortify the hand and the frame that they will not by trembling disclose the purposes of the soul. But he drills and disciplines himself, and his eye is calm, and his countenance is taught to be composed, and he speaks and acts as if he were an innocent man, and buries the consciousness of the crime deep in the recesses of the soul. Soon the brow is like brass, and the frame is schooled not to betray, and the living indexes of guilt which God had affixed to the body are obliterated, and the conscience is seared, and the whole man has departed from the beautiful form which God made, and has become an artificial and a guilty thing. Again. The arts of polished and refined life, to a melancholy extent, have the same object. They are so arranged as to conceal rancour, and envy, and hatred, and the desire of revenge. They aim not to eradicate them, but to conceal them.
2. Many secret sins are concealed because there is no opportunity of carrying the purpose into execution.
3. Others, because the man has never yet been placed in circumstances which would develop his character. Were they so placed it would be seen at once what they were.
III. SOME REASONS WHY WE SHOULD ADOPT THIS PRAYER.
1. Because we specially need the grace of God to overcome them. If only by the grace of God we can be kept in the paths of external morality, what protection is there in the human heart against secret sins?
2. Such secret faults are peculiarly offensive to God, and we should therefore pray to be cleansed from them. The guilt of the wicked plan is not annihilated or diminished in the view of the Searcher of hearts, because He chooses to arrest it by His own Providence or because He never allows the sinner the opportunity of accomplishing it.
3. And I add, finally, that we should pray for this, because if secret faults are indulged they will sooner or later break out like smothered fires, and the true character of the heart will be developed. Fires uncap a mountain, because they have been long accumulating, and can be confined no longer. A judge on the bench, like Bacon, shocks the world by the undisputed fact that he has been bribed. The community is horror-stricken, and we feel for the moment like distrusting every man, and doubting all virtue and all piety, and we are almost led to conclude that all our estimates of human character on which we have heretofore acted are false, and we begin to distrust everybody. But such painful disclosures are not departures from the great principles of human nature. There is a maxim that no one suddenly became eminently vile. These lapses into sin are but the exponents of the real character of the man, the regular results of a long course of guilt. And so our cherished faults will one day manifest themselves, unless they are checked and removed by the grace of God and the blood of atonement.
IV. IN CONCLUSION.
1. Distrust yourself, for "Who can understand his errors?"
2. Be humble. Others have fallen, so may you.
3. We have much to dread at the revelations of the day of judgment. With no consciousness of sinfulness but such as I believe common to man, with the recollection of the general aim of my life to do right, with great occasion for thanksgiving that I have been preserved from the open vices that have ruined so many who began the career of life with me, yet I confess to you that if there is anything that I should more than all other things dread, it would be that the record of all my thoughts and feelings should be exhibited to the assembled universe in the last day. That the universe would acquiesce in my condemnation on such a revelation I have no manner of doubt, And if there is any one thing for which I desire to give unfeigned thanks more than others, it is that through the blood of Christ those sins may be blotted out; and that through the infinite mercy of God the secret sins of which I am conscious may never — no NEVER — be disclosed to assembled worlds.
( A. Barnes, D. D.)
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
I. CONFESSION OF SIN. There are —
1. Secret faults. The heart is deceitful above all things: who can know it? Amazed at the inward corruptions you discover, again and again in wonder you well may ask, "Who can understand his errors? — who can count the number of the one-fourth part of his secret faults?" Some persons think there is no harm in what they in their ignorance call "errors," or "little sins." But "little sins, suppose them to be so, are very dangerous. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A little staff may kill a giant. A little leak will sink a man-of-war. A little flaw in a good cause mars it. So a little sin, if unforgiven, will bar up the doors of heaven, and set wide open the gates of hell. Though the scorpion be little, it will sting to death a lion; and so the least sin will destroy you forever, if not pardoned by the blood of Christ." Watching, therefore, your heart, you will resist every kind of sin, and bring it into subjection to the obedience of Christ. But secret faults, if indulged, will break forth ere long into open sins. These are what David here confesses as —
2. Presumptuous sins. David knew what he said when he thus spake. He knew that lust, when it is conceived, bringeth forth sin, and that sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. David had not forgotten the deceit, the lying, the murder, the adultery, most awful sins of presumption, of which he himself had been guilty in the matter of the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
II. SUPPLICATION OF PARDON. He prays to be delivered —
1. From the guilt of sin.
2. The power of sin. "Keep back from presumptuous sins." David knew that, were it not for the restraining grace of God, there was no sin which he might not be tempted to commit. 0h, what a scene of sin and misery this fallen world of ours would become were it not for this preventing power of God! See the ease of Abimelech in regard to Sarah. Laban in regard to Jacob. And yet more does He hold back His people; David from destroying Nabal.
III. DEVOTEDNESS OF LIFE. He singles out two things.
1. Edifying discourse. "Let the words of my mouth," etc.
2. Devout reflection.
3. He recognises the mainspring of all true religion. "O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." We all need a Redeemer.
(C. Clayton, M. A.)
I. "SECRET FAULTS," WHAT ARE THEY? Not those which are concealed from mankind, but those which are secret from the offender himself. That these are meant is evident from the opening of the verse, "Who can tell how oft he offendeth?" There would be no reason in the question if the sins were only those which other people did not know of. He must mean those which he himself knew not off Looking back upon the sins of his past life, David finds himself, as many of us must do, lost and bewildered in their number and frequency. And besides these, there were many which were unnoticed, unreckoned, and unobserved. Against these he prays.
II. BUT CAN THERE BE ANY SUCH SECRET SINS? Yes, because habit makes us so familiar with them by repetition, that we think nothing at all of them. These are not notorious crimes but ordinary sins, both of omission and of commission. We may neglect any duty till we forget that it is one. And so with sins of commission. Serious minds are shocked with observing with what complete indifference and unconcern many forbidden things are practised.
III. BUT ARE THEY NOT, THEREFORE, SINS? If there be no sense and perception of them, are they yet sins? If it be denied that they are, then it is only the timorous beginner who can be brought to account. It is not that the reasons against the sin have lessened or altered, but only that they, by frequent commission of the sin, have become insensible of it. If the sense be the measure of the guilt of sin, then the hardened sinner is well off indeed. These secret sins, then, are sins. Then —
1. Let us join in this prayer, "Oh, cleanse," etc.; and
2. See the exceeding great danger of evil habits of all kinds.
(Archdeacon Paley, D. D.)
I. HOW IS IT THAT SIN IS ABLE TO EXERCISE THIS CHEATING, DELUDING POWER UPON US? Oftentimes great faults seem small faults, not sins but peccadilloes, and small faults seem no faults at all to us; or, worse than this, that men walk altogether in a vain show, totally and fatally misapprehending their whole spiritual condition, trusting in themselves that they are righteous, with a lie in their right hand, awaking only when it is too late to the discovery that they have fallen short altogether of the righteousness of God.
1. Sin derives its power altogether from ourselves. It has a friend and partisan in us all. Hence we are only too ready to spare it and to come to terms with it, and not to extirpate it root and branch as we should. Our love of ease leads to this. Obedience is often hard and painful. But compliance with sin is almost always easy. Then, again, there is our love of pleasure. The Gospel of the grace of God says, Mortify your corrupt affections; do not follow nor be led by them. They war against the soul; and you must kill them or they will kill you. Hard lesson to learn! unwelcome truth to accept! And then, there is our pride. Every natural man has a certain ideal self which he has set up, whether he knows it or not, in the profaned temple of his heart, for worship there — something which he believes himself to be, or very nearly to approach to being. And this ideal self, as I have called it, is something which he can regard with complacency, with self-satisfaction, and, on the whole, with admiration. Will a man willingly give this up, and abhor himself in dust and ashes?
II. HOW SHALL WE DELIVER OURSELVES FROM THESE SORCERIES OF SIN, these delusions about ourselves?
1. And as a necessary preliminary to any such endeavour, I would say, Grasp with a full and firm faith the blessed truth of the one sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction made for your sins. You will never dare to look your own sins full in the face till you have looked up to the Cross of Calvary, and seen a Saviour crucified there for those sins of yours. Till then you will be always seeking cloaks, palliations, excuses for sin, playing false with your conscience, and putting darkness for light. You will be open to the thousand suggestions that it is not that horrible thing which indeed in God's sight it is.
2. Then remember, that He who made the atonement for your sins, the same is also the giver of the Spirit which convinces of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. Throw open the doors and windows of the house of your soul. Let the light of God, the light of the Holy Ghost, search every nook, penetrate every recess, find its way into every chamber. Ask of God, ask earnestly and continually, for this convincing Spirit. There is nothing else which will ever show us to ourselves as we really are. Those Pharisees of old whom He who reads the secrets of all hearts denounced as whited sepulchres, do you suppose they knew themselves to be hypocrites, actors of a part, wearers of a mask, wholly different in the sight of God from that which they were in one another's sight and in the sight of an admiring world? Ab, no! he is but a poor hypocrite who only deceives others; the true hypocrite has managed also, and first, to deceive himself. So it was, no doubt, with those whom I speak of. Probably nothing seemed more unjust to them than this charge of hypocrisy which the Lord persisted in bringing against them; so deceitful and desperately wicked are these hearts of ours.
(R. Chenevix Trench, D. D.)-examination is most necessary to the knowledge of our sins, but it of ten happens that with all our search some sins may escape our notice. As in temporal concerns, men often know that by a long course of prodigality, and many expensive vanities, they have contracted a great debt upon their estates, and have brought themselves to the very brink of poverty and distress, and yet, when they try to consider of their condition, find themselves utterly unable to state their accounts, or to set forth the particulars of the debt they labour under; but the more they endeavour to recollect, the more they are convinced that they are mere strangers at home, and ignorant of their own affairs. So in spiritual concerns likewise. Such was David's feeling as expressed in the text. Whenever men doubt their own sincerity and due performance of religious acts it is extremely difficult to reason with their fears and scruples, and to dispossess them of the misapprehensions they have of their own state and condition. Such suggestions as bring ease and comfort to their minds come suspected, as proceeding from their own or their friends' partiality; and they are afraid to hope, lest even to hope in their deplorable condition, should prove to be presumption, and assuming to themselves more than in reason or justice belongs to them. But when we can show them men of approved virtue and holiness, whose praise is in the Book of Life, who have struggled with the same fears and waded through even the worst of their apprehensions to the peaceful fruits of righteousness, it helps to quicken both their spirits and their understanding, and at once to administer knowledge and consolation. And for this reason we can never sufficiently admire the wisdom of God, in setting before us the examples of good men in their lowest and most imperfect state. Had they been shown to us only in the brightest part of their character, despair of attaining to their perfection might incline us to give over the pursuit, by throwing a damp upon our best resolutions. But when we see how God raised them up from their low estate, then heavenly joy and peace often spring from the lowest depth of sorrow and woe. Now let us observe —
I. THAT THE SECURITY AND EFFICACY OF REPENTANCE DO NOT DEPEND UPON A PARTICULAR RECOLLECTION OF ALL OUR ERRORS. What are secret sins? They are —
1. Negligences. These often surprise us in our devotions, for we find our fervour and attention gone. We are not conscious of it at the time; the fault is secret to us.
2. Ignorances also. There is no conscious intent, as in sins of presumption.
3. But our sins may partake of the malice of the will, and yet escape the notice of the understanding. For habit, custom, long usage in sin will so deaden conscience that we lose the very sense and feeling of sin.
4. Being partakers in other men's sins, which we are when by our ill example they have been led to sin. Then we share with them in the guilt of their iniquity. How far our influence spreads, to what instances and what degrees of vice, how many we seduced by our example, or hardened by our encouragement, is more than we can tell, and. yet not more than we shall answer for. Those who are thus entered in our service, and sin under our conduct, are but our factors. They trade for us, as well as for themselves; and whatever their earnings are, we shall receive our due proportion out of the wages of their sin. This is a guilt which steals upon us without being perceived; it grows whilst we sleep, and is loading our account even when our bodies are in the possession of the grave. The higher our station and the greater our authority the more reason have we to fear being involved in this kind of guilt; because in proportion to our authority will the infection of our example spread; and as our power is great, our encouragement will be the more effectual. But then, on the other side, the good men have done shall live after them, and be placed to their account. It shall be part of their joy to see how others have been blessed through their means.
II. THE GUILT WE CONTRACT BY THEM. There is guilt, else David had not prayed, "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults." They are sometimes the most heinous of all. The guilt of sin does not arise from the power of our memory, nor is it extinguished by the weakness of it. The consequence from the whole is this. That since many of our sins are secret to us, they can only be repented of in general; and since many of our secret sins are very heinous, they must seriously and solemnly be repented of.
(T. Sherlock, D. D.)
I. IN EVERY MAN ARE SINS OF WHICH THE DOER IS UNAWARE. Few of us are familiar with our own appearance. Our portraits surprise us. The bulk of good men do not know themselves. Evil has the strange power of deceiving us, and hiding from us our acts' real character. Conscience is loudest where it is least needed, and most silent where most required. Conscience wants educating. We bribe our consciences as well as neglect them. Down below every life there lies a great dim region of habits and impulses and fleeting emotions, into which it is the rarest thing for a man to go with a candle in his hand, to see what it is like. Ignorance diminishes criminality, but ignorance does not alter the nature of a deed.
II. THE SPECIAL PERILOUSNESS OF HIDDEN FAULTS. As with a blight upon a rose tree, the little green creatures lurk on the under side of the leaves, and in all the folds of the buds, and, because unseen, they increase with alarming rapidity. The very fact that we have faults in our characters, which everybody sees but ourselves, makes it certain that they will grow unchecked, and so will prove terribly perilous. Those secret faults are like a fungus that has grown in a wine cask; whose presence nobody suspected. It sucks up all the generous liquor to feed its own filthiness, and when the staves are broken there is no wine left, nothing but the foul growth. Many a Christian man and woman has the whole Christian life arrested, and all but annihilated, by the unsuspected influence of a secret sin.
III. THE DISCIPLINE, OR PRACTICAL ISSUES, TO WHICH SUCH CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD LEAD.
1. They ought to take down our self-complacency, if we have any. It should give us a low estimate of ourselves.
2. It should lead us to practise rigid self-inspection.
3. We should diminish as much as possible the merely mechanical and instinctive part of our lives. The less we live by impulse the better. A man's best means of knowing what he is is to take stock of what he does. If yon will put your conduct through the sieve you will come to a pretty good understanding of your own character.
4. One of the surest ways of making conscience more sensitive is always to consult it, and always to obey it. If you neglect it, and let it prophesy to the wind, it will stop speaking before long.
5. Compare yourselves constantly with your model. Do as the art students do in a gallery — take your poor daub right into the presence of the masterpiece, and go over it, line by line and tint by tint. Get near Jesus Christ, that you may learn duty from Him, and you will find out many of the secret sins.
6. Ask God to cleanse us. Revised Version has, "Clear Thou me from secret faults." And there is present in the word, if not exclusively, yet at least predominantly, the idea of a judicial acquittal. So we may be sure that, though our eye does not go down there into the dark depths, God's eye goes; and that where He looks He looks to pardon, if we come to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)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.
III. BUT WHY SHOULD WE DESIRE TO BE CLEANSED FROM SECRET SINS?
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.)1. That true holiness hath a repugnancy and a contrariety to all sins. It is not contrary to sin, because it is open and manifest; nor to sin, because it is private and secret, but to sin as sin, whether public or whether private, because both the one and the other is contrary to God's will and glory, as it is with true light, though it be but a beam, yet it is universally opposite to all darkness: or as it is with heat, though there be but one degree of it, yet it is opposite to all cold; so if the holiness be true and real, it cannot comply with any known sin; you can never reconcile them in the affection; they may have an unwilling consistence in the person, but you can never make then, to agree in the affection.
2. That sanctification is not perfect in this life; he who hath most grace hath yet some sin. Grace, though it may be sound and saving, yet is it not absolute and perfect.
3. Here you may understand the grounds and reasons of the many troubles and heavy complaints of Christians. The main battle of a Christian is not in the open field; his quarrels are most within, and his enemies are in his own breast. When he hath reformed an ill life, yet it shall cost him infinitely much more to reform an ill heart; he may receive so much power from grace at the beginning as in a short time to draw off from most of the former gross acts of sinnings, but it will be a work of all his days to get a thorough conquest of secret corruptions.
4. Then all the work of a Christian is not abroad, if there be secret sins to be cleansed. There are two sorts of duties. Some are direct, which are working duties; they are the colours of grace in the countenance and view of the conversation, setting it forth with all holy evenness and fruitfulness and unblameableness. Some are reflexive, which are searching duties; they appertain to the inward rooms, to the beautifying of them, and reforming of them; for not only the life, but the heart also is the subject of our care and study. I am not only to labour that I do no evil, but also that I be not evil, not only that sin do not distain my paths, but also that it doth not defile my intentions: not only that my clothes be handsome, but also that my skin be white, my inboard parts be as acceptable to God as my outward frame is plausible with man.
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)I. MOTIVES TO ENFORCE OUR CARE. There be many arguments which may justly stir us up to take heed of and to cleanse from secret sins.
1. The Lord knoweth our secret sinnings as exactly as our visible sinnings (Psalm 44:21).
2. The Lord will make manifest every secret thing (Mark 4:22). There is a two-fold breaking out of a secret sin or manifestation of it. One is natural: the soul cannot long be in secret actings, but some one part of the body or other will be a messenger thereof. Another is judicial; as when the judge arraigns, and tries, and screws out the close murder, and the dark thefts: so God will bring to light the most hidden works of darkness.
3. Thy secrets shall not only be manifested, but shall also be judged by God (Romans 2:16).
4. Secret sins are more dangerous to the person in some respects than open sins.For —
1. A man doth by his art of sinning deprive himself of the help of his sinfulness: like him who will carry his wound covered, or who bleeds inwardly; help comes not in because the danger is not descried nor known.
2. If a man's sin breaks out, there is a minister at hand, a friend near, and others to reprove, to warn, to direct.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF SECRET SINS.
1. The more foul the sin naturally is, the worse is the secret acting of it.
2. The more relations are broken by secret sinning, the worse they are, and more to be wared.
3. The more profession a man makes, the worse are his secret sinnings; forasmuch as he carrieth not only a badge, but also a judge on his shoulders.
4. The more light a man hath meeting him in the dark, and secret actings of sin, the more abominable is the sin.
5. The more frequent a man is in secret sinnings, the deeper is his guilt; when he can drive a trade of sin within doors: when it is not a slip, but a course.
III. THE MEANS WHICH HELP AGAINST SECRET SINS.
1. If thou hast been guilty of secret sins, be humbled and repent.
2. Take heed of secret occasions and provocations.
3. Crush the temptations which come from the roots.
4. Get an hatred of sin, which will oppose sin in all kinds, and all times, and in all places.
5. Get the fear of God planted in thy heart. There are three sorts of sins which this fear will preserve a man against. First, pleasant sins, which take the sense with delight. Secondly, profitable sins, which take the heart with gain, but what shall it profit me to win the whole world and to lose my soul. Thirdly, secret sins of either sort.
6. Believe God's omniscience and omnipresence.
7. Get thy heart to be upright.
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
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