Our Undiscovered Faults
J. R. Miller, 1894
"How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from my hidden faults." Psalms 19:12
The Bible speaks of sins of ignorance. So there are sins which we commit, of which we are not conscious. In one of the Psalms, there is a prayer to be cleansed from secret or hidden faults. So we have faults which are not seen by ourselves.
Then we all have in us many things, both good and bad, which our fellow-men cannot see—but of which we ourselves are aware. We cannot reveal ourselves perfectly, even to our own bosom companions. With no intention to hide anything, even desiring to live a perfectly open life, there will yet be many things in the inner depths of our being, which our nearest friends cannot discover. No one but ourselves, know the motives which actuate us. Sometimes neighbors praise our good deed—when we know well that the good was blurred by a self-seeking intent. Or others may criticize something we do, charging us with a wrong spirit—when we know in our heart, that it was true love which prompted it.
We are both better and worse than others think us to be! The BEST things in godly lives, do not flash their beauty before human eyes. None of us can ever show to others, all in us that is worthy. There are countless stars in the depths of the sky which no human eye ever sees. Human lives are deeper than the heavens in which the stars are set; and in the depths even of the most commonplace soul, there are more splendors unrevealed to human gaze, than are revealed. Who is there who says all the truth he tries to say, when he attempts to speak of or for his Master? What singer ever gets into his song all the music that is in his soul, when he sings? What painter ever transfers to his canvas all the loveliness of the vision which fills his heart? What Christian ever lives out all the loyalty to Christ, all the purity and holiness, all the gentleness and sweetness, all the unselfishness and helpfulness, all the grace and beauty—which he longs to show in his life? Even in those who fail and fall in defeat, and whose lives are little but shame and sin—there are yet gleams of beauty, like the shattered fragments of a once very noble ideal. We do not know what strivings, what penitences, what efforts to do better, what tears of sorrow, what hungerings after God and heaven, there are in the heart even of the depraved, in whom the world, even nearest friends, see nothing beautiful. No doubt in every life, there is some good, which human eyes cannot see.
But there is EVIL, also, which our friends cannot detect—things no one suspects—but of which we ourselves are painfully aware. Many a man goes out in the morning to be loved and welcomed by his friends, and praised and honored by the world—yet carrying in his own breast the memory of some deed of sin or shame committed in secret the night before! "If people only knew me," he says, "as I know myself—they would scorn me instead of trusting me and honoring me." All of us are conscious of miserable things hidden within us—secret evil habits wrought into life, the play of unholy thoughts and feelings, the rising up of ugly passions and tempers, the movements of pride, vanity, self-conceit, envy, jealousy, doubt, which do not reveal themselves to any other eye. There are evils in everyone, of which the person himself knows—but which others do not even suspect.
But there also are FAULTS, unlovely things and sins in our hearts, of which we ourselves are unaware. There is an eye which pierces deeper than our own into our souls. In one place Paul says, "I know nothing against myself: yet am I not hereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord." It is not enough to be innocent of conscious transgression; there are sins of ignorance. Only God sees us through and through. We must live for his inspection and approval.
We cannot see our own FAULTS—even as our neighbors see them. The Pharisee in his prayer, which really was not a prayer at all, spoke much of other people's sins—but saw none in himself. We are all much like him. We are prejudiced in our own favor. We are very charitable and tolerant toward our own shortcomings. We make all manner of allowance for our own faults, and are wonderfully patient with our own infirmities. We see our good things magnified; and our blemishes in a light which makes them seem almost virtues. So true is this, that if we were to meet ourselves some day on the street—the self which God sees, even the self which our neighbor sees—we probably would not recognize it, as really ourselves. Our own judgment of our life, is not unmistakable. There is a self which we do not see.
Then we cannot see into the FUTURE, to know where the secret tendencies of our life are leading us. We do many things which to our eyes appear innocent and harmless—but which have in them a hidden evil we cannot see. We indulge ourselves in many things which to us do not appear sinful—but which leave on our soul a touch of blight, a soiling of purity—of which we do not dream. We permit ourselves many little habits in which we see no danger—but which are silently entwining their invisible threads into a strong cable, which some day shall bind us hand and foot. We omit self-denials and sacrifices, thinking there is no reason why we should make them, unaware that we are lowering our standard of living, and permitting the subtle beginnings of self-indulgence to creep into our heart.
There is another class of hidden faults. Sin is deceitful. No doubt there are many things in most of us—ways of living, traits of character, qualities of disposition—which we consider, perhaps, among our strong points, or at least fair and commendable things in us—which in God's eye are not only flaws and blemishes—but sins! Good and evil in certain qualities—do not lie very far apart. It is quite easy for devotion to principle—to shade off into obstinacy. It is easy for self-respect, consciousness of ability—to pass over into miserable anger, when the truth is, he is only giving way to very bad temper. It is easy to let gentleness become weakness, and tolerance toward sinners tolerance toward sin. It is easy for us to become very selfish in many phases of our conduct—while in general we are really quite unselfish.
For example: A man may be giving his life to the good of his fellows in the larger sense, while in his own home he is utterly regardless of the comfort and convenience of those nearest to him. Outside the home—he is polite, thoughtful, kindly; within the home—he cares not how much trouble he causes, exacting and demanding attention and service, and playing the petty tyrant, instead of the large-hearted, generous Christian. Who of us does not have secret blemishes—lying alongside his most shining virtues? We do not see them in ourselves. We see the faults cropping out in our neighbor, and we say, "What a pity, that so fine a character is so marred!" And our neighbor looks at us and says, "What a pity that with so much that is good—he has so many marring faults!" Sin is deceitful.
The substance of all that has been said is, that besides the faults our neighbors see in us, besides those our closest friends see, besides those of which we ourselves are aware—all of us have undiscovered errors in our life—hidden, secret faults, of which only God knows.
If we are living truly, we want to find every flaw or blemish there is in us—of whatever kind. He is a coward who shrinks from the discovery of his own faults. We should be glad always to learn of any hidden unloveliness in ourselves. Someone says, "Count yourself richer that day in which you discover a new fault in yourself—not richer because it is there—but richer because it is no longer a hidden fault; and if you have not yet found all your faults, pray to have them revealed to you, even if the revelation must come in a way which hurts your pride."
It is dangerous to allow any faults, however small—to stay in our life; but hidden faults are even more perilous, than those of which we are aware. They are concealed enemies, traitors in the camp, unrecognized, passing for friends! No good, true, and brave man—will allow a discovered sin of fault to stay unchallenged in his life. But undiscovered sin lurks and nests in a man's heart, and breeds its deadly evil in his very soul. Before he is aware of its presence, it may eat out the heart of his manhood, and poison the very springs of his being.
Hidden faults, remaining undiscovered and uncured in us—will hinder our spiritual growth, and we shall not know the reason for our moral weakness, or lack of power. They will also defeat the working out of the divine plan in our life. When Canove, the great sculptor, was about to begin work upon his statue of Napoleon, it is said that his keen eye saw a tiny red line running through the upper part of the splendid block of marble, out of which he was to carve the statue. The stone had been brought at great expense from Paris for this express purpose. Common eyes saw no flaw in it—but the sculptor saw it, and would not use the marble.
May it not be so ofttimes, with lives which face great opportunities? God's eye sees in them some undiscovered flaw or fault, some tiny line of marring color. God desires truth in the inward parts. The life which pleases him must be pure and white throughout. He who clings to discovered faults, refusing to cast them out—or he who refuses to let the candle of the Lord search out the hidden faults in him, that he may put them away—is marring his own destiny. God will not use him for the larger, nobler task or trust—for which he had planned to use him. The tiny red line running through the marble, causes it to be set aside and rejected. What shall we do? God alone can know our hidden faults. We must ask him to search our hearts and try our ways—and to cleanse our lives of whatever evil thing he finds in us. Our prayer should be—"Who can discern his errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults." "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24