Psalm 90:8

The word used is a singular one, and may be rendered "our secret" (character). "God needs no other light to discern our sins by but the light of his own race. It pierceth through the darkest places; the brightness thereof enlighteneth all things, discovers all things. So that the sins that are committed in deepest darkness are all one to him as if they were done in the face of the sun. For they are done in his face, that shines more, and from which proceeds more light than from the face of the sun. So that this ought to make us the more fearful to offend; he sees us when we see not him, and the light of his countenance shines about us when we think ourselves hidden in darkness." "These words have a singular force if written by Moses, who saw the splendour of God, and carried away upon his person its manifest tokens."

I. SECRET SIN REGARDED AS THAT WHICH WE WOULD GLADLY CONCEAL FROM OTHERS. Secrecy is always suspicious. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Secrecy may be duty; in public spheres it may be wise policy; but when a man, in private life, does not wish any one to know what he is doing, he is generally found to be doing something wrong. The burglar, the coiner, the sensualist, want secrecy. They work in the dark; they go under feigned names; they hide themselves in the great cities; they devise all sorts of excuses to account for their time. If they succeed in deceiving their fellows, surely their ways and works are "naked and open" to God, whose "eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."

II. SECRET SIN REGARDED AS THAT WHICH WE TRY TO CONCEAL FROM OURSELVES. This point requires more searching treatment.

1. Natural disposition, and errors in education, prevent men from recognizing the sinfulness of their own sins.

2. Conscience may be blunted so that it is no longer keen to witness against sin.

3. Strong will to continue in sin sets men upon persuading themselves that their sin is not sin. Illustrate from the sins of drinking, slandering, envying, etc. A man may deceive himself, but God quickly tears away his "refuges of lies." God knows the man who does not know himself. He puts the secrets into the "light of his countenance."

III. SECRET SIN REGARDED AS THAT WHICH WE TRY TO CONCEAL FROM GOD. As did Adam, by hiding among the trees. Men say, "The Lord shall not see;" but no man ever yet succeeded in closing the eye of Heaven. Men's most desperate effort is to assert and prove that there is no God, and so no observer of their sin. They never really succeed. Infidelity is the hopeless attempt to get rid of a God who sees, and will be sure to judge. - R.T.

Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.
God and men view objects through a very different medium, and are placed with respect to them in very different situations. God is present with every object; He views it as near, and therefore sees its real magnitude. But many objects, especially those of a religious nature, are seen by us at a distance, and of course appear to us smaller than they really are. God sees all objects just as they are; but we see them through a deceitful medium, which ignorance, prejudice and self-love place between them and us. If you are willing to see your sins in their true colours; if you would rightly estimate their number, magnitude and criminality, bring them into the hallowed place, where nothing is seen but the whiteness of unsullied purity, and the splendours of uncreated glory; where the sun itself would appear only as a dark spot, and there, in the midst of this circle of seraphic intelligences, with the infinite God pouring all the light of His countenance round you, review your lives, contemplate your offences, and see how they appear.

I. Bring forward our INIQUITIES, that is, our more gross and open sins, and see how they appear in the light of God's countenance. Have any of you been guilty of impious, profane, passionate, or indecent, corrupting language? How does such language sound in heaven? in the ears of angels, in the ears of that God, who gave us our tongues for noble purposes? Have any of you been guilty of uttering what is untrue? If so, bring forward all the falsehoods, all the deceitful expressions, which you have ever uttered, and see how they appear in the presence of the God of truth. Have any of you been guilty, either at home, or in foreign countries, of perjury, or false swearing? If so, you may here see the awful Being whom you mocked, by calling Him to witness the truth of a known deliberate lie. And how, think you, such conduct appears in His eyes? Have any of you been guilty of fraud, injustice, or dishonesty? If so, bring forward your dishonest gains; hold out the hands which are polluted by them, and see how they look in heaven, in the presence of that God, who has said, Let no man overreach or defraud his brother in any matter; for the Lord is the avenger of all such.

II. Bring OUR HEARTS into heaven, and there, laying them open to view, see how they will appear in that world of unclouded light, and unsullied purity. Surely, if all the evil thoughts and wrong feelings which have passed in countless numbers through either of our hearts, were poured out in heaven, angels would stand aghast at the sight, and all their benevolence would scarcely prevent them from exclaiming in holy indignation, Away with him to the abode of his kindred spirits in the abyss! To the omniscient God alone would the sight not be surprising.

III. Take a similar view of OUR SINS OF OMISSION. Our whole lives present one unbroken series of duties neglected, of favours not acknowledged. And, oh, how do they appear, when we review them in the light of God's countenance! But the duties which we owe to God are not the only duties which we are required, and which we have neglected to perform. His law also requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves. And this general command virtually includes a great number of subordinate precepts; precepts which prescribe the duties of the various relations that subsist between us and our fellow-creatures. And how far have we obeyed these precepts? Oh, how much more might we have done than we actually have done, to promote the temporal and eternal happiness of all with whom we are connected! Nor do our sins of omission end here. There is another Being whom we are under infinite obligations to love, and praise, and serve with supreme affection. This Being is the Lord Jesus Christ, considered as our Redeemer and Saviour. who has bought us with His own blood. We are required to feel that we are not our own, but His; to prefer Him to every earthly object. Every moment, then, in which we neglected to obey these commands, we were guilty of a new sin of omission.

(E. Payson, D.D.)

I. SIN IS INWARD AND OUTWARD LAWLESSNESS. It is disloyalty in heart and life. A black and bitter thing leading to black and bitter consequences.


1. From themselves — and will hardly admit that some evil deeds are sins under their peculiar circumstances.

2. From society generally.

3. From God Himself, who sees and knows their sins in all their enormity and aggravated character.

III. IN ATTEMPTING TO CONCEAL THEIR SINS MEN ARE DOOMED TO COMPLETE FAILURE. They are already "before Thee" — even "our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance."

1. It is so with all our personal sins.

2. With family sins.

3. With Church sins.

4. With national sins.


1. Against ourselves — deeply injuring our moral nature.

2. Against our fellows — lowering the moral tone of society.

3. Against God — who is increasingly wronged and outraged.

V. MEN OUGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR SIN. Private sin. Public sin. All sin of every kind and character should be penitently confessed to God. "Thou hast," etc.

VI. GOD HAS A COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF ALL SIN COMMITTED AGAINST HIM. It is in the very light of His countenance.

1. We have only a partial knowledge of sin, — in ourselves, in our friends, in society generally.

2. We have dim and imperfect conceptions of sin at best; for human lights are always changing, but God sees sin in itself and in the light of His own countenance, which never disguises evil.

3. We cannot prevent God seeing and knowing our sin. He Himself places it before His own eyes in all its nakedness and reality. What, therefore, must be the ultimate shame and misery of those who persist in sin? Therefore repent and believe the Gospel.

(W. Unsworth.)

If you were to take this church, as it is in ordinary daylight, and seek to inspect the secret impurities with which its atmosphere abounds, your sight would be unable to detect them. It would be the same if in broad daylight you were to examine the cleanest drawing-room in the cleanest house in this city; the sight would detect no uncleanliness in its atmosphere, it would appear perfectly pure. But now let a bright ray of sunlight stream through the church or through the drawing-room. Look into the beam! What do you see? Why, a new world: a multitude of motes, innumerable particles of dust, vast quantities of impure matter all floating about in the atmosphere which seemed so clean! In the broad, common light they lay concealed, but in the bright, sunny beam the secret things are discovered, and live and move before our gaze. Are there any secret things in our worship which need to be revealed? Do we worship in the light of God's countenance, or in the light of mere tradition and custom? What more sweet and beautiful than the bringing of a gift to place upon God's altar! It seems so spiritually pure and sound. We often regard it as a sign of moral and spiritual health. But worship is not so superficial a thing that it can be so superficially judged. Worship which may pass muster in a worldly light reveals its impurities in a more searching spiritual light. Every worshipper who passes into the light of God's countenance is met by this bold challenge, "Has thy brother aught against thee?" and that is a challenge which searches us through and through. "First, be reconciled to thy brother." Our secret relationships are held up in vivid clearness before us, and their rectification is an essential condition in all acceptable worship. Now let us pass from our worship to our social fellowship. Look at the dim, thick light in which social life is lived. The darkness is sufficiently tempered to enable us to detect prominent crimes, presumptuous sins — outrage, murder, and obtrusive forms of lust. But in this dim, thick light how much can be concealed, how many deformities, how many crooked dispositions, how many perverse purposes, how many malicious designs, how many revengeful spirits! Social life is poor because social light is dim. If we water a stronger social life we must have an intenser light, in which secret uncleanness will rise up to be judged. Here is a ray from God's countenance (Matthew 5:39). Flash that through social life, let that light play on our relationships; would any horrible crookedness be revealed? It is not a business motto. It is not a social maxim. Here is rather the maxim of the world, "Pay a man back in his own coin." A man can do that and not violate the current standard of social morality. He may do it and yet live up to social light. But if such action will satisfy society, it does not satisfy God. "Pay a man back in his own coin!" That is not how the great God pays us! (Psalm 103:10). That was not the way of Christ (1 Peter 2:23). That was not Paul's way (1 Corinthians 4:12). The Lord purposes for us a clean, sweet, wholesome, social life, free from all secret foulnesses, and we can only obtain it by permitting the light of His countenance to fall upon us, and bringing our life into conformity with its great requirements. There is a bright side to all this, and I want to close with a gentle and encouraging word. The light which thus brings into prominence the secret sins also brings into prominence the secret virtue. The good Lord takes the candle and sweeps the house, not just to find the dust, but find the piece of silver! No bit of silver is lost. Every bit of secret goodness is seen in the light of His countenance.

(J. H. Jowett, M.A.)

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