Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.
Undiscovered sins. The Psalmist is thinking that, beyond the range of conscience and consciousness, there are evils in us all.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.