Searching The Cellars Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . and see if there be any way of wickedness in me.—Psa_139:23-24.

As you all know, there are a great many formalities connected with the opening of Parliament. I wonder if you know of the special one of which I heard the other day. It has to do with the month of November, and sounds like a bit out of one of your fairytale books.

When a new Parliament is about to assemble, an officer and a troop of the Yeomen of the Guard go with lanterns and search the cellars underneath, and when they report that all is well, business proceeds. A strange old procession it must be—the Yeomen of the Guard with their scarlet tunics and quaint hats, their lanterns flashing searchlights into the dark corners. Tramp, tramp, tramp, we can imagine them passing through the cellars.

How the custom began is quite an old story. More than three hundred years ago, a plot was formed to
destroy the House of Lords, the King, and his Parliament. One man who had a great deal to do with it and at last became the leader in carrying it out, was called Guy Fawkes. Under the House of Lords was a great vault which Fawkes and his friends discovered was to let. They managed to obtain possession of it under the pretext of storing wood. Instead of doing that, however, they got a great many barrels of gunpowder, placed stones and bars of iron on the top of them, and then covered the whole with billets of wood. I do not need to tell you that Guy Fawkes and his confederates were caught and condemned to death. The 5th of November, the day on which they had planned to carry out their wicked designs, was henceforth ordered to be kept as a day of thanksgiving, and to this day English children are reminded of the story by seeing bonfires and fireworks —perhaps also the effigy of Fawkes burned at some street corner. It is a good thing if the children do not get their own clothes and fingers burned as well.

I daresay you will wonder what connection there could be between this story of Guy Fawkes and our text. Well, boys and girls, those old cellars at Westminster are, in a manner, like your heart. God meant the heart of a boy or a girl to be a beautiful place— more beautiful than the Houses of Parliament. He made it that He might dwell in it Himself. He reigns there now, and holds council with you, telling what is right and what is wrong. But there are cellars and dark corners where evil is plotted against God and against His Son Jesus Christ. Often this evil is suggested with words as pleasant and as affable as Guy Fawkes used when he went with his firewood story. He did not go and say, “Let me the cellars that I may blow up the House.” Neither do you hear a voice within you saying, “Tell a lie.” Untruth appears dressed as worldly wisdom. “If you want to get something out of a certain boy who is in the class with you, work upon his weak points, he will yield.” Again the voice of evil suggests: “You have a right to your own things,” and you act towards a little brother very selfishly. Or you read a story you ought not to read, and try to make yourself believe that you are seeking knowledge.

Your mother knew about the cellars and the evil that lurks in their strange dark corners when she taught you to say your prayers. Prayer is needed. What seem to you but little sins are in reality as dangerous as gunpowder. Unless you seek them out, one day you may yield to some sudden temptation and the house in which Jesus Christ was to dwell will fall in ruins.

Let us get the lanterns and search everywhere. These lanterns may be your mother’s words, or the words of Jesus Christ, or God’s voice in your heart. Don’t be afraid to use them when you are by yourself.

A Roman tribune had a house that in many places lay exposed to the eyes of the neighborhood. A man came and offered for a sum of money so to alter it as to remove that inconvenience. “I will give you a sum of money,” was the answer, “if you can make my house conspicuous in every room of it, that all the city may see after what manner I live.” That was the right spirit.

It is impossible for us to search our own hearts thoroughly. One morning we think the evil is gone; we make up our minds we shall never be selfish or untruthful again; but temptations reappear in a new and more subtle form.

God will help us. Many a time you have heard that no one ever truly prayed to Him in vain. Ask God, then, to help you to search out the evil in your heart. Pray this old-fashioned prayer:

“Search me, O God, and see if there be any way of wickedness in me.”

- James Hastings, Children's Great Texts Of The Bible