Man Accountable for His Thoughts
Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:…

: —

I. WHILE NO ONE CAN READ THE THOUGHT OF ANOTHER, HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY THE PROCESSES AND CHARACTER OF HIS OWN. The most occult of all sciences is that which concerns itself with questions how we perceive any truth, or receive any impression, or think at all. No object to which you can turn your attention is so full of perplexity as the attention itself that you pay. Whence arise these thoughts, that are drawing their trains perpetually through the mind? What are the laws that govern their intricate and disturbed order? How far are they involuntary and beyond our strongest efforts of control? What sets them in such opposition to one another, and often to our own wish? What makes them so easy and so intractable; so clear and confused; so rapid and slow; bewildered with dreams and delirium, and true and radiant as the light? We have little to answer to questions like these. There is One that knoweth. "Search me, O God, and know my heart."

II. BUT, IMPENETRABLE AS ARE THE THOUGHTS OF MAN, HE IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEM to an extent which it is serious to consider, and which he does not consider enough. There is a proverb that "thoughts pass toll-free." And it is a truth that would be worth the mentioning, where a just liberty is brought into question; where either a political or a religious tyranny has set up the barriers of its proscription against the rights of the mind. It would show that no "receipts of custom," and no iron hindrances can stop the progress of the understanding, which moves on with the confidence of an invisible being, and stays no question. But it is a proverb very ill applied when it gives licence to every roving imagination; when it pretends to hide us from the heavenly inspection; when it encourages the heart to grow libertine; when it denies that we are amenable in this secret region to Him from whom nothing is concealed. What are worldly thoughts but worldliness itself; and corrupt ones but corruptness of mind; and proud ones but haughtiness of heart? Who shall say, then, that thoughts cost nothing?

1. They may cost us our liberty; that very freedom which they profess to enjoy in the greatest perfection. They have their habits, like everything else in man, and may be brought slavishly under the dominion of them. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," is a striking example in the prophet of that figure of speech which reserves for the final word the most emphatic expression. For long after the foot and the hand, and the will itself, are withdrawn from iniquity, these subtle agents may be about their usual work of evil suggestions. They may refuse to retire, haunt with their empty shades the spots where they once stimulated to action, and torment the conscience that they can no longer betray.

2. They may cost us our reason. And what a price to pay for their mismanagement is that I They may be so ardent as to grow wild; or brood upon one point till they have no sight nor power for any other, and the healthy mind shall lose all its soundness.

3. They may cost the innocence of the mind, as well as its sanity; — they alone, though confined ever so closely within the breast. Man does not always judge so, for he is satisfied if the claims he makes are answered. He looks but at the outward appearance. But there is One who looks deeper than that, and to that One the great account is due. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Only they can. The heart is the eye that is made to gaze towards Him; and if that be clouded, the whole heaven is hid, however circumspectly the steps may be directed along the earth. No need of any purpose to do mischief. No need of any perpetrated guilt. Where the thoughts are base, the soul is polluted; where they will acknowledge no discipline, it is nigh to be undone.

III. We make of great account the climate in which we live; and the air and the weather are unfailing topics everywhere. Why will we not make of still greater THAT INWARD TEMPERATURE AND BREATH OF THE SPIRIT BY WHICH WE ARE CONTINUALLY SURROUNDED; — that can carry sunny remembrances through rainy days, and need not mind much the troubles that are abroad and the east wind, since they themselves are "at rest and quiet"? We esteem it of high consequence what house we occupy, and what its accommodations are, — where it is situated, and how it fronts. But the house of his own thoughts is the true dwelling of man. Let it receive none but worthy guests. Let it face the sky where the light is the longest. Let it be built for the ages to come.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

WEB: Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts.

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