The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
1. We will consider the man who admits the principles of religion in speculation, but contradicts them in practice. His way is darkness. Light, indeed, has come to him; but he loves darkness rather than light. He is not guided by the dictates of reason, or the precepts of revelation; but pursues a course in direct opposition to both. He never knows what course he shall next pursue; for he cannot tell what the next impulse will be — what gust of passion will take him, or what wind of temptation will drive him away.
2. Let us consider the hypocrite, who, without integrity of heart, assumes the external form of religion His way is dark and slippery. He believes that there is such a thing as religion, and that it is a matter in which he is really concerned. He views a future state as certain, and preparation for it as immediately important. His heart is, indeed, full of love to this world; but, since he must leave it, he wishes to have a good hope in the view of another. He is sure he should enjoy himself and his earthly treasures much better if he could only free his mind from this painful bondage to the fear of death — this troublesome apprehension of the wrath to come. He applies himself to obtain that tranquil state which seems so desirable. He has no more love to religion than he used to have. Terror only has awakened him from his guilty slumbers. It is not the temper of godliness, it is only the pleasure of a good hope, which is the immediate object of his desire. He gains his hope by self-deception, and maintains it by self-flattery.
3. To consider the wicked man in another point of view; as believing the great truths of natural religion, but discarding revelation. His way is covered with darkness. He has no light to direct his eye or guide his steps. With respect to the nature, condition, and means of future happiness, an awful uncertainty attends him. There is no ground on which his faith can stand; no support on which his hope can lean.
4. There is another view which we are to take of the wicked. We will consider them as renouncing the great principles of natural religion, the existence and government of God, moral obligation, and a future retribution. There are some such infidels as these; but their way is covered with darkness, more gloomy and dismal than that which involves the path of other transgressors. What peace and satisfaction can a mortal feel without a persuasion that there is a wise, just, and good Being, who made and governs the world, and that this Being is his friend? With this persuasion he may possess a cheerful serenity amidst all the vicissitudes of life; for to the virtuous God is a present help in trouble, and all things will He turn to their advantage.
(J. Lathrop, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.