But the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they do not know what makes them stumble.
I. SIN AND DARKNESS. (Ver. 19.) We may say that:
1. Sin is darkness. It is
(1) the ignorance of the mind; it is
(2) the error of the heart - it is the soul's supreme mistake, misreading, misunderstanding every one and everything from the highest to the lowest.
2. Sin spreads darkness
(1) over the soul of the sinner himself, blinding his eyes, distorting his vision, confusing his perceptions;
(2) over the souls of others, leading them into the darkness of folly, superstition, wrong doing.
3. Sin leads to the ruin which attends darkness; it ends in making the sinner blind to the true character of his own transgressions: "They know not at what they stumble;" blind, also, to the final issue of his guilt: they know not into what they stumble - into what a "blackness of darkness."
II. WISDOM AND LIGHT. (Ver. 18.) By "the just" in this verse we understand not particularly the man who is equitable in his dealings with his fellows, but the good and wise man - the man who, in the fear of God, seeks to act with rectitude in all his relations. This man is closely associated with the light.
1. Knowledge is light, and heavenly wisdom is the truest and best knowledge - that of God, and of the human soul, and of the path of eternal life.
2. That which reveals is light, and heavenly wisdom is the best and most beneficent revealing power. The wise, the "just" man is "making manifest" (see Ephesians 5:13) the highest, the most far-reaching, deep-descending truths. He does this
(1) by his direct endeavour to instruct;
(2) unconsciously, by the influence of his life. "The life is the light of men" in our case as in his who was "the Life made manifest."
3. The light of the just man grows ever stronger and more illuminating: it "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." With added opportunities of inquiry and acquisition, with multiplied privileges, with more of Divine discipline, with increase of power resulting from the exercise of spiritual faculty, there is
(1) growing light within, burning more steadily and lustrously; and
(2) advancing influence for good which flows forth in wider, deeper, and larger streams. - C.
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.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
I. THE DARKNESS WHICH SINNERS ARE INVOLVED. It cannot be owing to any deficiency in their natural powers, nor to any want of intellectual information. The darkness is moral darkness; it lies not in their understandings, but in their hearts. Moral depravity always produces moral blindness. While sinners remain under the entire dominion of a wicked heart, they are altogether blind to the moral beauty of the character, of the works, of the providence of God.
II. SINNERS ABE INSENSIBLE OF THE OBJECTS OVER WHICH THEY ARE STUMBLING AND FALLING. Spiritual blindness is the same in all sinners, at all times; and has the same dangerous and destructive tendency.
1. They are insensible that they stumble at the great deceiver.
2. They are not sensible that they are stumbling at one another.
3. That they stumble at Divine providence.
4. That their common employments are dangerous objects, over which they are stumbling and falling.
5. They are no less blind to the nature and tendency of their religious performances.
6. The moral blindness of sinners insensibly leads them to stumble at the preaching they hear.
7. They are blind to the blindness of their own hearts, which are insensibly leading them to blackness and darkness for ever.Improvement —
1. If sinners are so blind and insensible to the dangerous objects with which they are surrounded, and over which they are stumbling, it is not strange, that they generally live so securely and joyfully.
2. If all sinners are involved in such moral darkness as makes them insensible of their dangerous and perishing condition, then it is not strange that they are so displeased at having their danger clearly pointed out.
3. If sinners are blind to the objects which are insensibly leading them to destruction, then they are in extreme danger of being finally lost. All things conspire to destroy them, because they abuse all things with which they are connected and concerned.
4. If sinners are constantly growing blinder and blinder, and more insensible of the things which are leading them to ruin, then they are entirely in the sovereign hand of God, who may save or destroy them, according to His holy and righteous pleasure.
5. It is owing to the distinguishing and astonishing grace of God that any are saved.
6. Inquire whether sinners have ever been made the subjects of God's special grace.
(N. Emmons, D.D.)
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.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
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