Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults.
Unless we have some just idea of our hearts and of sin we can have no right idea of a Moral Governor, a Saviour, or a Sanctifier. Self-knowledge is at the root of all real religious knowledge. Self-knowledge admits of degrees. No one, perhaps, is entirely ignorant of himself Most men are contented with a slight acquaintance with their hearts, and therefore a superficial faith. Men are satisfied to have numberless secret faults. They do not think about them either as sins or as obstacles to strength of faith, and live on as if they had nothing to learn.
1. A ready method of convincing ourselves of the existence in us of faults unknown to ourselves is to consider how plainly we see the secret faults of others.
2. Now reflect on the actual disclosures of our hidden weakness, which accidents occasion. Integrity on one side of our character is no voucher for integrity on another. We cannot tell how we should act if brought under temptations different from those which we have hitherto experienced.
3. This much we cannot but allow; that we do not know ourselves in those respects in which we have not been tried. But further than this: What if we do not know ourselves even where we have been tried, and found faithful? The recorded errors of Scripture saints occulted in those parts of their duty in which they showed obedience most perfect.
4. Think of this too: No one begins to examine himself, and to pray to know himself, but he finds within him an abundance of faults which before were either entirely, or almost entirely, unknown to him. That this is so we learn from the written lives of good men, and our own experience of others. And hence it is that our best men are ever the most humble.
5. But let a man persevere in prayer and watchfulness to the day of his death, yet he will never get to the bottom of his heart. Though he know more and more of himself as he becomes more conscientious and earnest, still the full manifestation of the secrets there lodged is reserved for another world.Call to mind the impediments that are in the way of your knowing yourselves or feeling your ignorance.
1. Self-knowledge does not come as a matter of course; it implies an effort and a work. The very effort of steadily reflecting is painful to some men, not to speak of the difficulty of reflecting correctly.
2. Then comes in our self-love. We hope the best; this saves us the trouble of examining. Self-love answers for our safety.
3. This favourable judgment of ourselves will especially prevail if we have the misfortune to have uninterrupted health and high sprats and domestic comfort.
4. Next consider the force of habit. Conscience at first warns us against sin; but if we disregard it, it soon ceases to upbraid us; and thus sins, once known, in time become secret sins.
5. To the force of habit must be added that of custom. Every age has its own wrong ways.
6. What is our chief guide amid the evil and seducing customs of the world? Obviously the Bible. These remarks may serve to impress upon us the difficulty of knowing ourselves aright, and the consequent danger to which we are exposed of speaking peace to our souls when there is no peace. Without self-knowledge you have no root in yourselves personally; you may endure for a time, but under affliction or persecution your faith will not last.
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.