Psalm 119:59
I thought on my ways; "Let a man examine himself;" "I called my own ways to remembrance" (Prayer-book Version). There are two directions in which the important duty of self examination is abused and made mischievous.

1. It may be turned into introspection, which concerns itself only with moods and feelings.

2. It may be conducted in the light of fictitious human standards of goodness. The first is the error of sentimental religion; the second is the error of ceremonial religion. Both are mischievous in the same way. They nourish untruthfulness. The one forces feeling, the other exaggerates frailties into sins. The true sphere and the true standard of self-examination need to be presented.

I. THE TRUE SPHERE OF SELF-EXAMINATION. It is that of a man's conduct in his relationships; not that of a man's thoughts and feelings. It is that which a man has beyond himself, which, nevertheless, bears the impress of himself, upon which he can look, which he can appraise. A man cannot examine his own thoughts and feelings; but let thought find expression in act, and feeling put tone and character on the act, then the man can exercise judgment. Thought and feeling are too variable ever to be arrested for examination. They are the "secret things which belong only to God." Illust.: what weakness is brought into Christian lives by introspection! It makes a particular type of religious life, and leads in a subtle form of trusting the self instead of trusting God. True self-examination is "considering our ways." We can estimate the conduct of others; we can estimate our own. We cannot estimate the feelings of others; we cannot estimate our own.

II. THE TRUE STANDARD OF SELF-EXAMINATION. There are three possible standards that are manifestly unworthy.

1. The priestly standard, provided for the confessional.

2. The sectarian standard, which manufactures an experience through which all must pass.

3. The personal standard, which a man shapes according to his particular disposition and temperament. The true standard is twofold.

(1) The revealed idea of right conduct in the relations of life. That was the standard wholly for the psalmist, and in part for us.

(2) The revealed model of right conduct in relations - the Lord Jesus. That is the standard especially provided for us; and it was the full obedience of God's will. - R.T.

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.
I. The WAY INTO a godly life. "I thought." Wonderful act is this; an act which no creature on earth bug man can perform. By thought he has created the civilized world. Let a man think on his "ways" in relation to God, and the fires of penitence will be kindled within him.

II. The URGENT NEED of a godly life (ver. 60). When a man reflects profoundly on his ways, he will feel that there is no time to lose; the question of his duty to God becomes terribly urgent.

1. The interests involved are momentous.

2. Much time has been lost.

3. The future is very short and uncertain (Proverbs 27:1).

III. The EARTHLY TRIALS of a godly life (ver. 61). Few good men pass through this life without being victimized in some way by the wicked (John 16:33; John 15:18; 2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22).

IV. The IRREPRESSIBLE JOYS of a godly life (ver. 62). The joys of a godly man are like the waves of the spring tide, they rise at times beyond the level and break over the barriers. They are "filled with all joy and peace in believing." "At midnight Paul and Silas prayed," etc.

V. The VAST FELLOWSHIPS of a godly life (ver. 63). "All them that fear Thee!" How many are the godly? A multitude which "no man can number." A good man has the fellowship of the good,

VI. The INFINITE RESOURCES of a godly life (ver. 64).


Homiletic Review.
I. REFLECTION. "I thought," etc. When a sinner once begins to think he finds many things to think about, as —

1. His long-continued neglect of God.

2. The fearful number of his sins.

3. The many duties he has neglected.

4. The world of light, mercy and grace he has resisted.

5. The many favourable opportunities he has for ever lost.

6. God's amazing forbearance and unwearied efforts to bring him to repentance.

7. The anxiety felt for him all these years while he felt none for himself.

II. REFORMATION. "And turned my feet," etc. Thinking of no use unless it prompts to action. Many a soul takes the first step, but not the second. Here the devil makes a bold stand, and plies all his arts to retain his hold on the sinner.


1. Multitudes lose their convictions of sin by hesitancy and delay.

2. One of the strongest tendencies of human nature is to pug off turning to God.

3. The devil cares not how a man thinks, or weeps, or resolves, if he can but induce him to wait a little longer! Not so with the psalmist. He made haste, and delayed not his obedience. So will every sinner do, if he means to be saved.

(Homiletic Review.)

I. RIGHT THINKING — "I thought on my ways."

1. That this thought upon his ways caused him dissatisfaction is evident; or otherwise he would not have turned.

2. This right thinking upon our ways will suggest a practical change. My soul, sin even now hath not profited thee while it is in the bud, what will it be when it ripens, and its scattered seeds fly over the whole of my being, and turn that which should be a fruitful field into a tangled mass of weeds? Surely it is time for a change.

3. The retrospect we take of our life should suggest that any turn we make should be Godward — "I turned my steps unto Thy testimonies." It is no use turning if you do not turn to something better.

II. RIGHT TURNING which grows out of right thinking. "I turned my feet unto Thy testimonies."

1. Here observe how complete this turn was. A man may turn his head, and turn but little; he may turn his hand — there is not much movement of the whole body in that; but when he turns his feet, he turns himself completely. The turn we sinners all need is a whole turn. The nature must be changed.

2. The turning of the text is also a practical one. "I turned my feet:" I did not merely say, "I turned my eyes," bug I showed the reality of the change of heart by change of life.

3. It must be, moreover, a Scriptural turn, too. "I turned my feet unto Thy testimonies." There is a spurious conversion which is not true conversion to God. A man may have another heart and yet he may not have a new heart. We read of King Saul that he had another heart, but he remained unsaved. A man may change his idols; he may change his sins, but may not be changed in heart.

4. The turning was immediate. The actual point of the conversion is instantaneous. I am walking through a wood, and I am going wrong; well, I pause and look about, but whenever I actually turn there is a critical moment when I turn, is there not? It may be that I take some time to consider and look about me; but when I do actually go back there is a particular moment when I turn and take the first step. I desire that this present moment may be the instant of conversion to each one of you who are dead in sin. You have been thinking of your ways, now may you turn your feet to His testimonies. This must be the work of grace. The omnipotent power of God must turn you to Himself.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Self-examination is to man a work of much difficulty, and one to which he feels a strong repugnance. To think upon his ways, to "bring his doings in review before him, is too serious and self-denying an employment for him, and he is never disposed to turn to it. The reason is obvious: he dreads the issue of it.

I. IF GOD THINKS UPON OUR WAYS, IT SURELY BEHOVES US TO THINK UPON THEM. If we are accountable to Him for our doings, it would be but reasonable now to sit in judgment on ourselves.

II. WHATEVER EVILS WE NOW DISCOVER BY THE EXERCISE OF SELF-EXAMINATION MAY BE REMEDIED. The sins which are detected may be repented of and forgiven. But if these things are suffered to lie hid till the day of the Lord reveal them, the discovery will come too late.

1. Think upon your past ways. They are past, but not forgotten. The record of them has been kept.

2. But if it tax your memory too much to recall forgotten hours, and the labour seems too great to ponder over what is so obscured by distance, then look at what is immediately before you. Think of your present ways: your life and conversion at this time.

III. If we thus engage in the work of self-examination, the same important result will, through the blessing of God, follow from it, namely AMENDMENT OF LIFE. Self-examination, when honestly pursued, will discover to us our need of amendment, and the conviction of this is the first step in the way to it. For when once the conscience has been disturbed by the discovery of evil, it will not be pacified till it is in process of being cured. The result will be an improvement which has its seat in the heart, and makes itself visible in the life and conversation.

(G. Bellett.)

I. ITS EXERCISE. The text supposes that we look at our "ways" as sinful and needing reformation. Such the fact. Conscience, experience, and revelation testify that "we have all gone astray," etc. Think, then, upon —

1. The essential evil of a sinful course.

2. The boundless aggravations of our sins.

3. The fearful and fatal end of a sinful life.

II. ITS RESULTS. Such thoughtfulness will —

1. Convince us of our sinfulness, and lead us be the only Saviour. The longings of the soul only satisfied in God.

2. Maintain constancy of fixed principle. Illustrate from the "three Hebrew youths."

3. Inspire inflexibility of purpose and steadiness of progress.

(James Foster, B. A.)


1. This thinking on our ways may signify a general survey and examination of our lives; respecting indifferently our good and bad actions. And this, no doubt, is an admirable means to improve men in virtue, a most effectual way to keep our consciences continually waking and tender.

2. This thinking of our ways may particularly and specially refer to the sins and miscarriages of our lives.(1) The taking of a particular account of our sins, together with the several circumstances and aggravations of them.(2) A hearty trouble and sorrow for them; "I thought on my ways;" that is, I laid them sadly to heart.(3) A serious consideration of the evil and unreasonableness of a sinful course.(4) A due sense of the fearful and fatal consequences of a wicked life.(5) A full conviction of the necessity of quitting of this course.(6) An apprehension of the possibility of doing this.

II. THE SUCCESS OF THIS COURSE. It produced actual and speedy reformation. I do not say that this change is perfectly made at once. A state of sin and holiness are not like two ways that are just parted by a line, so as a man may step out of the one full into the other; but they are like two ways that lead to two very distant places, and consequently are at a good distance from one another; and the farther any man hath travelled in the one, the farther he is from the other; so that it requires time and pains to pass from the one to the other. Conclusion: —

1. Consideration is the proper act of reasonable creatures (Isaiah 46:8).

2. This is the end of God's patience and longsuffering towards us — to bring us to consideration.

3. Consideration is that which we must all come to one time or other. When we come to die, then we shall think of our ways with trouble and vexation enough; and how glad would we then be, that we had time to consider them? And, perhaps, while we are wishing for more time, eternity will swallow us up. To be sure, in the other world, a great part of the misery of wicked men will consist in furious reflections upon themselves, and the evil actions of their lives. But, alas l it will then be too late to consider; for then consideration will do us no good.

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

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