Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.
There is no kind of knowledge which it is so important for a man to possess as knowledge of himself. No man can be blind to himself without sooner or later having to pay serious penalty for such blindness. The best of the ancients regarded self-knowledge as the very beginning of wisdom, just as they regarded self-mastery as the very beginning of practical virtue. It is said that , on one occasion, excused himself from giving attention to some important questions, on the ground that he could not possibly come to know such things, as he had not yet been able to know himself. There, the grand old heathen felt, was the true starting place of all true knowledge. Wisdom, like charity, began at home. There are few things, judging at first sight, of which a man might be supposed to have fuller and more accurate knowledge, than he has of his own mind and character. The subject of study is always within his reach. To avoid self-thought is impossible. To the great majority of men the subject is one of perennial and engrossing interest. Nature has so ordained it that, in many important respects, the object of greatest concern to every one of us is himself. History may be a blank to a man, science a name, literature and art dark and mysterious as the grave; but himself! — here surely the man is at home, or he is at home nowhere. The Psalmist, however, is of a widely different opinion. Of course, a certain amount of self-knowledge is thrust upon us all. Much ignorance of self, too, is corrected by our contact with men and things. Many a false and foolish notion is thus ruthlessly swept away as the years pass on. Life and God are great teachers; and, unless a man be a hopeless fool, they compel him to learn something of himself. Still, the exclamation of the Psalmist hits off an universal fact. "Who can understand his errors?" There is a touch of pensive surprise in the words, as if he had just had an unwonted revelation of himself, as if he had just made discovery of faults and sins hitherto hidden from him. He had no idea that there was so much lingering mischief within. He is not quite sure that he has seen the worst yet. By "secret faults" the Psalmist does not mean guilty things, that is, things of actual wickedness done in secret. Open transgression is the path of death. Secret transgression is more deadly still. By "secret faults' he means faults hidden away, not from others, but from ourselves. And it is more than probable that such "faults" exist in all of us. It is no uncommon thing to see a man blind as a bat to some infirmity of temper, some coarseness of manner, some infatuation or rooted prejudice, conspicuous as the sun at noonday to his friends, and not quite so pleasant! Another evidence of this lack of self-knowledge is to be found in the grave discoveries we sometimes make of our actual character and condition. The matter is sometimes brought home to us by the faithfulness of a friend. It may come through the home thrust of an enemy. Our hope is in God. The head need not have turned grey before we discover that, in a world like this, "it is not in man to order his steps aright." Happy he who once and forever abandons the fruitless task, finds his way to a Saviour's side, shelters beneath the Rock that is higher than he.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.