Psalm 19:11

The former part of the psalm is a comparison and a contrast between God's revelation of himself in nature and in his Law. Now the psalmist passes on to consider his own relation to the Divine Law; what light it throws upon his character and circumstances, and what rewards it bestows upon those who abide in the steadfast observance of it.


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.


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.

By them is Thy servant warned.
We are not to confuse the imperfections of religious professors with the unchangeable sovereignty of the Divine laws.


1. Those which relate to the heart of man. We are told its deceitful character.

2. Examples in human character. They, as well as the words of Scripture, warn us against sin.

3. Those that come from the truth of eternity and of judgment to come.


1. It is present in the conscience; and

2. Prospective, in heaven.

3. And it is great in comparison with our deserts.

4. And in obedience itself there is great reward.

(W. D. Horwood.)

At Tramore, near Waterford, a place where the Atlantic breakers dash with sublime fury against the rocks, there are on the headlands three towers, and on the middle one stands what is called "The Metal Man." This is a figure made of metal, and painted to resemble a sailor. With his finger he points to some very dangerous rocks that are to be shunned. There are rocks in life's troublesome sea that are ready to shipwreck the bodies and souls of the young.

In keeping of them there is great reward.
In this Psalm David speaks of the two great books by which God administers instruction. The volume of nature. The volume of inspiration. Having enlarged on the excellent properties and glorious effects of the Divine Word, he illustrates its value by a comparison with the things of this world, by the results of his experience, and the infinite advantage connected with the observance of it. David possessed, in the Scriptures then extant, an abstract of all those glorious truths revealed to ourselves, and an abstract of sufficient clearness to guide him to God, to peace, to holiness, to heaven. The possession of the Scriptures, however, is not sufficient to bring the soul to God. These statutes must be kept as well as possessed, for it is in keeping them that there is great reward. The book not only supplies ideas, it also raises the character of the humble student. The Scripture is a book of privileges. There is not a Christian but is entitled to all the clustering promises which grow on this tree of life. Practice is necessary to complete our duty to the Scriptures. All religion hinges upon this point. The Psalmist says, "In keeping of them there is great reward." Reward is that which is earned by an equivalent, or that which is a suitable recompense for the action performed. But the reward of observing the Word of God is not merely a consequence, neither is it earned by what can be claimed as an equivalent. They are rewards of grace, both in this life and in the future life.

(T. Kennion, M. A.)


1. As to the mind; to be pious and religious brings a double advantage to the mind of man. It tends to the improvement of our understandings. It raises and enlarges the minds of men, and makes them more capable of true knowledge. It improves the understandings of men by subduing their lusts and moderating their passions. Intemperance, sensuality, and fleshly lusts debase men's minds. Religion purifies and refines our spirits. Freedom from irregular passions doth not only signify that a man is wise, but really contributes to the making of him such. Religion also tends to the ease and pleasure, the peace and tranquillity, of our minds. This is the natural fruit of a religious and virtuous course of life. Religion contributes to our peace, by allaying those passions which are apt to ruffle and discompose our spirits; and by freeing us from the anxieties of guilt and the fears of Divine wrath and displeasure.

2. Religion also tends to the happiness of the outward man. The blessings of this kind respect our health, or estate, or reputation, or relations.

II. RELIGION CONDUCETH TO THE ETERNAL HAPPINESS AND SALVATION OF MEN IN THE OTHER WORLD. The consideration of future happiness is our most powerful motive. How religion conduces to happiness in the new life is seen from —

1. The promises of God; and

2. From the nature of the thing. It is a necessary disposition and preparation of us for that future life. When all is done there is no man can serve his own interest better than by serving God.

(J. Tillotson, D. D.)

"What is the chief good?" was the great inquiry of the ancient schools; and the different answers to this question formed the principal distinctions amongst the various sects of philosophy. Happiness is the end of all the pursuits of men; it is the object of all their sighs. Yet are they almost always disappointed in the means which are taken to obtain it. They follow the dictates of their passions. And it is not till after they have sought it in vain through every form of false pleasure that they come at length to find it, where alone reason and religion have concurred to place it, in obedience to God and a life of virtue. Here the anxious mind finds a calm and settled peace which it had not known, and which it could not know amid the agitations of the world. I purpose, in this discourse, to confine my view to the internal comforts that flow from religion. It offers the highest satisfactions to the mind; it yields the purest pleasures to the heart; it introduces serenity and peace into the breast; and finally, it affords a source of happiness which is always within our power, which is secure from the vicissitudes of life, and which shall be eternal.

(S. S. Smith, D. D.)

Compare this text with the saying of Paul, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable." Where, then, is the present reward of keeping God's commandments? There might be a reward hereafter; how could there be one now? What are we to say to this apparent contradiction? St. Paul was supposing a case; we must ascertain what his supposition was not, and what it was. Take a man whose whole soul was in his religion, who upheld himself in every trial by the consolations of the blessed hope. He has staked everything on the truth, and having surmounted a thousand obstacles and made his way through a thousand foes, and offered his body on the altar of the living God, he is pressing on with rejoicing and elevated spirit. Tell him that there is no resurrection, and no hope in Christ for an after state of being, and what then? That man would be most miserable if he took into his heart your message. You may say that in shutting out the future we still leave the present; but the present is the foretaste of the future. In cutting off the streams you destroy the fountain. If such a man were told that after fighting through life he would be vanquished in death, what would be left him of gladness? Who, then, shall rival the Christian in misery if, after setting out in the expectation of a blessed immortality, he discovers that only in this life is there hope in Christ? Our object has been to show that there is nothing in the quoted words of St. Paul which militates against the fact alleged in our text, and in other parts of Scripture, that, in respect of present happiness — happiness during this life — the godly have the advantage over the ungodly.

(Henry Melvill, B. D.)

You will observe the Psalmist does not say after, but in the keeping of the commandments there is great reward. That reward is the pleasure which lies in God's service now, not in the payment which is judicially made for it afterwards; just as the eye is regaled in the instant by sights of beauty, or the ear by the melody which falls upon it.


1. There is the happiness that flows direct from the sense of doing or having done what is right. The testimony of a good conscience. There is a felt and present solace in the taste of that hidden manna which it administers.

2. The affections of the heart which prompt to obedience. For love, whether it be towards God or towards men, is blessed. In its play and exercise there is instantaneous joy; there is delight in the original conceptions of benevolence, and delight also in its outgoings, whilst malignity, envy, and anger do but rankle the bosom. And we can confidently appeal, even to ungodly men, for the truth that in the grovelling pursuits, whether of sense or avarice, they never experienced so true a delight as in those moments when their spirit was touched into sympathy with other spirits than their own. And not only of love, but of all the other virtues, the same can be said. They one and all of them yield an immediate satisfaction to the wearer. The moralities of the human character are what make up the happiness and harmony of the soul. They are the very streams of that well which, struck out in the bosom of regenerated man, spring up there into life everlasting.

II. THE ADVANTAGE OF THE REWARD BEING IN, AND NOT AFTER, THE KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS. Suppose it had been after, and quite distinct from that enjoyment of which we have spoken, and which lies directly and essentially in the obedience itself. This can easily be imagined — a heaven of gratification to the senses as a reward for holiness. Virtue then would be so much work for so much wages; heaven would not be looked for as a place of holiness, but as the price that is given for it. The candidates of immortality would be so many labourers for hire. And it would be no evidence at all of the love which you have for a work, that you have a love for its wages. It makes all the difference whether or no we love our work. Sordidness and sacredness are not wirier apart. This is so in common and ordinary work. How much more when it is the service of God that is in question!


1. It releases you altogether from the law as a covenant. It tells you that you are not to work for heaven, because that heaven is secured to you in another way. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We could never pay for it, and therefore God gives it to us. And how blessed this is even for our characters as the subject of God's will. The old economy of "do this and live" makes up the. very spirit of bondage, and of low mercenary bargaining. With the fears of legality, the sordidness of legality is sure to make entrance again into the heart. Hence the only access to a sinner's heart for the love of holiness in itself is by making him the free offer of heaven as an unconditional gift, and at the same time making him understand that it is, in truth, holiness and nothing else which forms the very essence of heaven's blessedness. These are the things which constitute the difference between the real and the formal Christian. The inferior creatures may be dealt with by terror or by joy as well as he; his very obedience may proceed from the earthliness of his disposition. Much of the Christian may be put on; but the question is, if you delight in the law of God after the inner man, or whether you obey it because of consequences? Whether you are allured to holiness by the beauty of its graces, or by the bribery of its gains? Surely there is nothing noble in him who labours for the reward that comes after keeping the commandments, and thinks not of the "great reward" that comes "in keeping the commandments."

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

David, Psalmist
Conscious, Danger, Enlightened, Keeping, Moreover, Reward, Servant, Warned
1. The creatures show God's glory
7. The excellence of the divine law
12. David prays for grace

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Psalm 19:7-11

     1100   God, perfection
     1613   Scripture, purpose
     4303   metals
     5548   speech, divine
     8236   doctrine, purpose
     8409   decision-making, and providence

Psalm 19:7-14

     5376   law, purpose of
     5830   delight

Psalm 19:9-11

     5499   reward, divine

Psalm 19:11-13

     1613   Scripture, purpose

Secret Faults
'Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.' PSALM xix. 12. The contemplation of the 'perfect law, enlightening the eyes,' sends the Psalmist to his knees. He is appalled by his own shortcomings, and feels that, beside all those of which he is aware, there is a region, as yet unilluminated by that law, where evil things nestle and breed. The Jewish ritual drew a broad distinction between inadvertent--whether involuntary or ignorant--and deliberate sins; providing atonement
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Open Sins
'Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.'--PSALM xix. 13. Another psalmist promises to the man who dwells 'in the secret place of the Most High' that' he shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh at noonday,' but shall 'tread upon the lion and adder.' These promises divide the dangers that beset us
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

"The Sun of Righteousness"
WE SHOULD FEEL QUITE JUSTIFIED in applying the language of the 19th Psalm to our Lord Jesus Christ from the simple fact that he is so frequently compared to the sun; and especially in the passage which we have given you as our second text, wherein he is called "the Sun of Righteousness." But we have a higher justification for such a reading of the passage, for it will be in your memories that, in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul, slightly altering the words of this
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871

Secret Sins
Now, David, having seen God's law, and having praised it in this Psalm, which I have read in your hearing, he is brought, by reflecting on its excellency, to utter this thought, "Who can understand his errors?" and then to offer this prayer, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." In the Lateran Council of the Church of Rome, a decree was passed that every true believer must confess his sins, all of them, once a year to the priest, and they affixed to it this declaration, that there is no hope of pardon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857

Presumptuous Sins
I shall this morning, first of all, endeavor to describe presumptuous sins; then, secondly, I shall try, if I can, to show by some illustrations, why the presumptuous sin is more heinous than any other; and then thirdly, I shall try to press the prayer upon your notice--the prayer, mark you, of the holy man--the prayer of David: "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. " I. First, then, WHAT IS PRESUMPTUOUS SIN? Now, I think here must be one of four things in a sin in order to make it
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857

Sin Immeasurable
The subject of this morning--our own sin, and the error of our own hearts, is one which we sometimes think we know, but of which we may always be quite sure that we have only began to learn, and that when we have learned the most we shall ever know on earth, the question will still be pertinent, "Who can understand his errors?" Now, this morning I propose first of all, very briefly indeed, to explain the question; then at greater length to impress it upon our hearts; and lastly we will learn the
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 6: 1860

Prayer and the Word of God (Continued)
"Some years ago a man was travelling in the wilds of Kentucky. He had with him a large sum of money and was well armed. He put up at a log-house one night, but was much concerned with the rough appearance of the men who came and went from this abode. He retired early but not to sleep. At midnight he heard the dogs barking furiously and the sound of someone entering the cabin. Peering through a chink in the boards of his room, he saw a stranger with a gun in his hand. Another man sat before the fire.
Edward M. Bounds—The Necessity of Prayer

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. --Ps. xix.
The Heavens declare the Glory of God.--Ps. xix. Thy glory, Lord, the heavens declare, The firmament displays Thy skill; The changing clouds, the viewless air, Tempest and calm Thy word fulfil; Day unto day doth utter speech, And night to night Thy knowledge teach. Though voice nor sound inform the ear, Well-known the language of their song, When one by one the stars appear, Led by the silent moon along, Till round the earth, from all the sky, Thy beauty beams on every eye. Waked by Thy touch,
James Montgomery—Sacred Poems and Hymns

The Law and the Testimonies. --Ps. xix.
The Law and the Testimonies.--Ps. xix. Thy law is perfect, Lord of light! Thy testimonies sure, The statutes of Thy realm are right, And thy commandments pure. Holy, inviolate Thy fear, Enduring as Thy throne: Thy judgments, chastening or severe, Justice and truth alone:-- More prized than gold,--than gold whose waste Refining fire expels; Sweeter than honey to my taste, Than honey from the cells. Let these, O God! my soul convert; And make Thy servant wise; Let these be gladness to my heart,
James Montgomery—Sacred Poems and Hymns

the Spacious Firmament on High
[970]Addison's: John Sheeles, c. 1720 Psalm 19 Joseph Addison, 1712 The spacious firmament on high, With all the blue ethereal sky, And spangled heavens, a shining frame, Their great Original proclaim. The unwearied sun from day to day Does his Creator's power display, And publishes to every land The work of an almighty Hand. Soon as the evening shades prevail, The moon takes up the wondrous tale, And nightly to the listening earth Repeats the story of her birth; Whilst all the stars that round
Various—The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA

The Promises of the Law and the Gospel Reconciled.
1. Brief summary of Chapters 15 and 16. Why justification is denied to works. Argument of opponents founded on the promises of the law. The substance of this argument. Answer. Those who would be justified before God must be exempted from the power of the law. How this is done. 2. Confirmation of the answer ab impossibili, and from the testimony of an Apostle and of David. 3. Answer to the objection, by showing why these promises were given. Refutation of the sophistical distinction between the intrinsic
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Letter xxii. St. Ambrose in a Letter to his Sister Gives an Account of the Finding Of...
St. Ambrose in a letter to his sister gives an account of the finding of the bodies of SS. Gervasius and Protasius, and of his addresses to the people on that occasion. Preaching from Psalm xix., he allegorically expounded the "heavens" to represent the martyrs and apostles, and the "day" he takes to be their confession. They were humbled by God, and then raised again. He then gives an account of the state in which their bodies were found, and of their translation to the basilica. In another address
St. Ambrose—Works and Letters of St. Ambrose

The Progress of the Gospel
Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world. T he heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) . The grandeur of the arch over our heads, the number and lustre of the stars, the beauty of the light, the splendour of the sun, the regular succession of day and night, and of the seasons of the year, are such proofs of infinite wisdom and power, that the Scripture attributes to them a voice, a universal language, intelligible to all mankind, accommodated to every capacity.
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

The Dryness of Preachers, and the Various Evils which Arise from their Failing to Teach Heart-Prayer --Exhortation to Pastors to Lead People Towards this Form Of
If all those who are working for the conquest of souls sought to win them by the heart, leading them first of all to prayer and to the inner life, they would see many and lasting conversions. But so long as they only address themselves to the outside, and instead of drawing people to Christ by occupying their hearts with Him, they only give them a thousand precepts for outward observances, they will see but little fruit, and that will not be lasting. When once the heart is won, other defects are
Jeanne Marie Bouvières—A Short Method Of Prayer And Spiritual Torrents

Of Deeper Matters, and God's Hidden Judgments which are not to be Inquired Into
"My Son, beware thou dispute not of high matters and of the hidden judgments of God; why this man is thus left, and that man is taken into so great favour; why also this man is so greatly afflicted, and that so highly exalted. These things pass all man's power of judging, neither may any reasoning or disputation have power to search out the divine judgments. When therefore the enemy suggesteth these things to thee, or when any curious people ask such questions, answer with that word of the Prophet,
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ

The Pietist and the Perfectionist.
"He chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness."--Heb. xii. 10. Sanctification is a gracious work of God, whereby in a supernatural way He gradually divests from sin the inclinations and dispositions of the regenerate and clothes them with holiness. Here we meet a serious objection which deserves our careful attention. To the superficial observer, the spiritual experience of God's children seems diametrically opposed to this professed gift of sanctification. One says:
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Concerning Continence Also Itself Hath it not Been Most Openly Said...
43. Concerning continence also itself hath it not been most openly said, "And when I knew that no one can be continent unless God give it, this also itself was a part of wisdom, to know whose gift it was?" [2177] But perhaps continence is the gift of God, but wisdom man bestows upon himself, whereby to understand, that that gift is, not his own, but of God. Yea, "The Lord maketh wise the blind:" [2178] and, "The testimony of the Lord is faithful, it giveth wisdom unto little ones:" [2179] and, "If
St. Augustine—Of Holy Virginity.

In the examination of this subject I will-- I. Point out the common distinction between regeneration and conversion. 1. Regeneration is the term used by some theologians to express the divine agency in changing the heart. With them regeneration does not include and imply the activity of the subject, but rather excludes it. These theologians, as will be seen in its place, hold that a change of heart is first effected by the Holy Spirit while the subject is passive, which change lays a foundation for
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

The Knowledge of God Conspicuous in the Creation, and Continual Government of the World.
1. The invisible and incomprehensible essence of God, to a certain extent, made visible in his works. 2. This declared by the first class of works--viz. the admirable motions of the heavens and the earth, the symmetry of the human body, and the connection of its parts; in short, the various objects which are presented to every eye. 3. This more especially manifested in the structure of the human body. 4. The shameful ingratitude of disregarding God, who, in such a variety of ways, is manifested within
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Need of Scripture, as a Guide and Teacher, in Coming to God as a Creator.
1. God gives his elect a better help to the knowledge of himself--viz. the Holy Scriptures. This he did from the very first. 2. First, By oracles and visions, and the ministry of the Patriarchs. Secondly, By the promulgation of the Law, and the preaching of the Prophets. Why the doctrines of religion are committed to writing. 3. This view confirmed, 1. By the depravity of our nature making it necessary in every one who would know God to have recourse to the word; 2. From those passages of the Psalms
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Word
The third way to escape the wrath and curse of God, and obtain the benefit of redemption by Christ, is the diligent use of ordinances, in particular, the word, sacraments, and prayer.' I begin with the best of these ordinances. The word . . . which effectually worketh in you that believe.' 1 Thess 2:13. What is meant by the word's working effectually? The word of God is said to work effectually when it has the good effect upon us for which it was appointed by God; when it works powerful illumination
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The Shepherd-King
'And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt them mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel! fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons. 2. And Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. 3. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Conversion of all that Come.
"Turn Thou me and I shall be turned." --Jer. xxxi. 18. The elect, born again and effectually called, converts himself. To remain unconverted is impossible; but he inclines his ear, he turns his face to the blessed God, he is converted in the fullest sense of the word. In conversion the fact of cooperation on the part of the saved sinner assumes a clearly defined and perceptible character. In regeneration there was none; in the calling there was a beginning of it; in conversion proper it became a
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Effectual Calling
'Them he also called.' Rom 8:80. Q-xxxi: WHAT IS EFFECTUAL CALLING? A: It is a gracious work of the Spirit, whereby he causes us to embrace Christ freely, as he is offered to us in the gospel. In this verse is the golden chain of salvation, made up of four links, of which one is vocation. Them he also called.' Calling is nova creatio, a new creation,' the first resurrection. There is a two-fold call: (1.) An outward call: (2.) An inward call. (1.) An outward call, which is God's offer of grace to
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

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