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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 16:25

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Adam Clarke Commentary

There is a way that seemeth right - This whole verse is precisely the same as that Proverbs 14:12.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https: 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 16:25

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

A way of death

I. Multitudes judge of duty by the standard of their own moral sentiments and feelings, and therefore the way of death is thought to be right.

1. Sin first defiles the principles and then the conduct.

2. Sin has therefore brought down the ideal as well as the visible standard of duty among men.

3. Men thus rise and sink in their apprehensions of God’s law, as they rise and sink in their own moral and spiritual attainments.

4. The more polluted, therefore, the man, the more will he think the way of death to be right.

II. Multitudes judge of duty by the standard of common practice and opinion, and therefore the way of death is thought to be right.

1. The standard of the world is the average performances of duty.

2. This is the standard employed for most worldly or social purposes. It decides the reputation; the fitness for any society; the relationship; the situation.

3. Men identify this standard with the Divine, and determine by it eternal things.

4. Having stood the judgment of his fellows, man supposes that be can stand the judgment of God.

III. Multitudes judge of duty, and of the safety of a course of conduct, according to the belief that the Divine Law-giver accepts of compensation in one department for wrongs done in another.

1. Few love equally every form of sin. It does not consist with constitutional bias; outward circumstances; the pursuits of life; formed habits; the energy of the nature; the idols of the heart.

2. Many, therefore, attempt to balance their deficiency, and imagined excess, in duty.

3. This is impracticable (James 2:10). All is God’s. The law is one. The loved sin is the test.

IV. Multitudes judge of duty According to the principle that whatever tends to present and temporal advantage is defensible.

1. Many appear to think that this world is altogether insulated.

2. They therefore confine their views to those objects of pursuit which it presents.

3. They suppose that they have acted their part well when they have escaped from the stage with approbation.

4. The way of such seems right, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

V. Multitudes judge of the safety of a course on the principle that all is well that ends well.

1. This is a common and destructive perversion of truth.

2. The offers of grace are only for the present.

3. Every instance of rejection increases guilt, hardens the heart, and tends to bring about a death of indifference.

VI. Multitudes judge of duty according as it bulks in the eye, and therefore the way of death is thought to be the right way. Illustrate from--

1. The relative duties of the moral law.

2. Charities--religious societies.

3. The business of worship. It may be added that multitudes misinterpret Scripture. (James Stewart.)

A way may seem right, yet lead to hell

Imagine a large company travelling through a gloomy forest, attended by a faithful and well-informed guide. The course becomes rugged and dreary, while on either hand ways open which are wide, verdant, and picturesque. The travellers wish to deviate, and perceiving their guide determined to pursue his own course they leave him. But they soon learn the way they have chosen is full of dangers. The allurements which seduced them vanish. This is a true picture of human life. We all have erred and gone astray; multitudes have perished irrecoverably.

I. Mark the man of pleasure. “God is not in all his thoughts.” He tells us that, as we are sure only of the present, we need seek nothing higher than the gratification of our natural desires; that religion may perhaps serve as a lamp through the dark valley and shadow of death, but cannot fail, on the bright eminence of life, to appear unnecessary and obtrusive. Such language opposes the whole tenor of that religion which inculcates faith, patience, contrition, and self-denial, and leads to the grosset habits of the drunkard and the fornicator, concerning whom an apostle declares, “they shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

II. Mark the thoughtless and indifferent person--the man who, being too indolent, too timid, or too superstitious to think and act for himself, borrows his system of doctrines and forms of worship from a long train of credulous ancestors or the opinions prevalent around him which are considered the most reputable. “I am right,” he exclaims, “or all these are wrong. If I do err, it is in the company of those whom I have chosen as my perpetual companions.” The way may seem right, it may save labour, and serve his present convenience; but death lurks at the end. The fool shall be destroyed, and his companions also; the destruction of transgressors shall be together.

III. Mark the formalist. I mean one who is a strict observer of all the outward ceremonies of religion; the faithful adherent to her most minute forms. He divides the circle of the day; on one side he puts all his devotion, and thither he looks for comfort when conscience disturbs him for the follies so distinctly marked on the other side. He does not take with him into the world a principle which will enable him to resist temptation; and when he has fallen into sin he goes back to his formal services, thinking these may be a sufficient atonement. Or, perhaps, being habitually restrained within the bounds of decorum, he flatters himself that he is regenerated. Formality is a slow but effectual poison; it is a dead and putrid carcass laid upon the altar of Him who demands a “living sacrifice.”

IV. Mark the self-confident man. None that I have mentioned are in greater danger.

1. There are rich men who delude themselves with the vain conceit that silver and gold, and the things which silver and gold procure, render them independent of God. Not all their splendid array, and sumptuous fare, and bowing menials, and princely estates, will save them from lifting up their eyes, being in torments.

2. Men of intellectual capacity are peculiarly prone to self-confidence. It were wicked to disparage reason; but may it not be overrated? It is s guide, but surely not through regions it has never visited. It is a luminary: so likewise is the moon, and so are the stars; but can we, therefore, dispense with the sun?

3. There are the self-confident who trust in their fancied rectitude.

V. Mark the subject of partial conviction, the man who mistakes remorse for repentance, and a state of alarm for the unfailing pledge of salvation. They have mourned, and watched, and been oppressed with dread. At length, however, they became tranquil. They were received with due form into a Christian society. But they soon settle down into heartless regularity; their conscience keeps pace with their profession, till at length they come to regard it as a sin to doubt respecting their good estate, and are offended at every faithful admonition. But the gospel has had no practical and saving efficacy upon their hearts. Woe unto them who are thus at ease in Zion, who despise the warning contained in the text!

VI. Is there a better way--a way which leadeth to life? Jesus the Son of God has opened it; He suffered, bled, and died that He might secure it for us. He is the way of pardon, of peace, and of salvation. He is the way that leads to heaven and glory. (R. Elton, D.D.)

Mistaken views

This is the age of specialists; and one of the most important departments is that which deals with the eye and its defects. We hear in this connection of heredity; the different effects of town and country life, with their near and remote objects; the results of overwork and unhealthy surroundings, etc. So with the inward eye and the vision of the moral life. Here also we have shortsightedness, discrepancy of focus, stealthy cataract; the inflammation that makes light an agony; the eye that exaggerates and sees double, and that which makes everything seem insignificant and far away; and there is an eye that dotes on the dark end of the spectrum.

I. Honest and dishonest error. The text confines our attention to honest derangement of vision, or what claims to be such. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man.” The seat of the trouble is in the man, not in the way. The way remains where it is, and he chooses it and walks into it.

II. Inherent difficulties. Many of our troubles in moral vision arise from the inability to see distance. Some things are present, others are past. It is easy to put paint on paper, but it is aerial perspective that makes a picture. Again, errors of judgment are due to the fact that we give fixed measurements to things that are themselves in motion: growing larger or smaller, advancing or receding. Closely connected with this is the weak eye for angles and the feeble sense of proportion. If we could only see it, there is a difference between self and society, between party and mankind, between time and eternity.

III. Decision and indecision. Under given conditions a diminished area always makes a brighter disc. Microscopic objects have no mist. Downrightness is always a desirable thing, especially for emergencies that come suddenly and only once. It means health to its possessor and safety to those who know what to expect. It draws to itself unattached particles, and has an incisive momentum that bruises into softer substances. “Yes” and “No” are great civilisers. But clearness that is gained by exclusion may cost too much. When the narrowing process begins it goes on, and self is always the most tempting centre; in fact, the only terminus. It is sometimes difficult for robust natures to see it, but strength of conviction does not necessarily mean correspondence with fact. And fact is the chief thing.

IV. The culpablity of mistaken views. Where and when is the error found blameworthy? Not directly in the region of intellect and its knowledge, but in that of the will and its preferences and energies. The individual error becomes a process and the process becomes a system. There is first light defied and then light debased. This belongs to us, not to circumstance. “Business is business”--how much that is made to cover and countenance? “Others do it, and why should not I?” The same man will always say with regard to any loved indulgence, “This is safe for me, and what have I to do with others?” If we pass from difficulties of the personal life we find the same obscurity or obliquity of view in things that affect communities, nations, and Churches. There was the slavery question, over which the British Parliament struggled for many years, and for which America poured out its blood. So with the great temperance question of to-day. (G. M. Mackie, M.A.)

The seeming right

Our difficulty in life is often with things that seem to be right. Where they are obviously wrong there is no need for hesitation, but where probabilities are in their favour we must pause and consider. How far does our own experience confirm the doctrine of the text?

1. Does not the way of self-protection seem to be right? To a certain extent it is right. Pressed unduly it becomes practical atheism.

2. Does not the way of physical persecution for truth’s sake seem to be right? If man is teaching error why not burn him, or otherwise put a forcible end to his ministry?

3. Does not the way of self-enjoyment seem right.

4. Does not the way of judging by appearances seem right? What can be better? What can be simpler?

5. Does not the way of self-redemption seem right? Is it not brave and spirited to say that we take our own recovery into our own hands? This is the fatal error of mankind. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help.”


1. Lean not to thine own understanding. The coiled scorpion may be mistaken for an egg.

2. Seek higher than human counsel. Be religious. Put thy whole life into the keeping of God. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Distrust appearances. Even when the way seems right stand still and commune with Heaven. “Except Thy presence go with me, carry me not up hence.” (J. Parker, D.D.)

Sincere belief no safeguard

See that man who is just too late, or the other, who was sitting quietly at his breakfast when he heard the departing signal. Neither can believe he is in fault. Oh, no! his watch is right. The conductor hurried the train; the agent’s watch is out of order.

1. There has been error. His watch was wrong, after all. He did not take care to set it by the true standard. Men fail of success because they adopt wrong principles. They blame the Bible, the Church, the ministry; anything, anybody, everything, everybody, rather than self.

2. Our sincere belief that we are right will not save us. God has a certain fixed, and immutable, and holy law. If we follow his teachings we shall be safe; but if we follow our own notions He makes no provision for our faults; we are left to suffer.

3. There are favoured times for obtaining God’s favour. (Christian Treasury.)

Beware of imperceptible currents

The currents of the sea are found to run in all directions, east, west, north, south, being formed by various causes--the prominence of the shores, the narrowness of the straits, the variations of the wind, and the inequalities at the bottom. These currents are of the most material consequence to the mariner, without a knowledge of which he could never succeed. It often happens that when a ship gets unknowingly into one of these everything seems to go forward with success, the mariners suppose themselves every hour approaching their wished-for port, the wind fills their sails, and the ship’s prow seems to divide the water, but at last by miserable experience they find that instead of going forward they have been all the time receding. The business of currents, therefore, makes a considerable article in navigation, and the direction of their stream and their rapidity has been carefully set down. (Scientific Illustrations.)

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 16:25". The Biblical Illustrator. https: 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death."

(See comment under Proverbs 14:12).

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. The same is said in Proverbs 14:12, and is here repeated because of the excellence, importance, and usefulness of the observation, and to excite an attention to it; that men may be more diligent to look into their ways, and be more cautious where and how they walk, and be more considerate and thoughtful of the issue of them. See Gill on Proverbs 14:12.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

(Compare Proverbs 14:2).

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

A group of six proverbs follows, four of which begin with אישׁ , and five relate to the utterances of the mouth.

25 There is a way which appears as right to a man;

But the end thereof are the ways of death.

This verse = Proverbs 14:12.

Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". https: 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

This we had before (Proverbs 14:12), but here it is repeated, as that which is very necessary to be thought of, 1. By way of caution to us all to take heed of deceiving ourselves in the great concerns of our souls by resting in that which seems right and is not really so, and, for the preventing of a self-delusion, to be impartial in self-examination and keep up a jealousy over ourselves. 2. By way of terror to those whose way is not right, is not as it should be, however it may seem to themselves or others; the end of it will certainly be death; to that it has a direct and certain tendency.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https: 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

This is caution to all, to take heed of deceiving themselves as to their souls.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". https: 1706.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

Ver. 25. There is a way that seemeth right to a man.] This we had before, totidem verbis, in Proverbs 14:12; {See Trapp on "Proverbs 14:12"} And think not this a vain repetition; but know that it is thus redoubled, that it may be the better remarked and remembered. Nothing is more ordinary or more dangerous than self-delusion. To deceive another is naught, but to deceive thyself - which yet most men do - is much worse; as to belie one’s self, kill one’s self, &c., is counted most abominable. To warn us therefore of this greatest wickedness, it is that this sentence is reiterated.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 25. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, when his conduct, in his own judgment, is good and fitting, but the end thereof are the ways of death; his judgment being wrong, his error leads him into destruction. cf Pro_14:2.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https: 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 16:25

Our difficulty in life is often with things that seem to be right.

I. Does not the way of self-protection seem to be right? To a certain extent it is right; pressed unduly it becomes practical atheism.

II. Does not the way of physical persecution for truth's sake seem to be right?

III. Does not the way of self-enjoyment seem right?

IV. Does not the way of judging by appearances seem right?

V. Does not the way of self-redemption seem right? This is the fatal error of mankind.

Application: (1) Lean not to thine own understanding. (2) Seek higher than human counsel. Put thy whole life into the keeping of God.

Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 187.

References: Proverbs 16:31.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 156. Proverbs 16:32.—J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 71. Proverbs 16:33.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 354; F. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 141. Proverbs 17:1-7.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 121. Proverbs 17:8-15.—Ibid., p. 133. Proverbs 17:12.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 104. Proverbs 17:16.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 11.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Proverbs 16:25. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.

THE testimony of an inspired prophet respecting the human heart is, that it “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” This testimony, as far as it respects the world at large, we all are ready to confirm. We see that in the great mass of mankind there is a propensity to deceive, not others only, but themselves also. They are often unconscious of principles by which they are manifestly actuated: and as often take credit to themselves for virtues which they do not really possess. Persons who have made considerable attainments in self-knowledge, are yet by no means free from this infirmity: the Apostles themselves, on more occasions than one, betrayed by their conduct, that “they knew not what spirit they were of.” Nor does this proneness to self-deceit discover itself only in relation to individual acts, wherein men may be supposed to be biassed either by their interests or passions: it extends itself to men’s whole character, and leads them to form a most erroneous judgment of their state: it leads them to “call evil good, and good evil; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness; to put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” But it may be thought, that, if a man be deceived by his own heart, a less degree of criminality will attach to his actions, and he will have less reason to apprehend the displeasure of God. This however is not true: for we are responsible to God for the judgment we form of good and evil: and if we err, after all the means of information he has given us, we must be willingly deceived, and abide the consequences of our folly. To this effect Solomon speaks in the words before us: he concedes that “a way may appear right to a man;” but he tells us, nevertheless, that “the end thereof will be death.”

This assertion of his is not to be understood of one particular way only: it is a general assertion, that is applicable to a great variety of cases, or rather, I should say, to every kind of way that is followed by man and condemned by God. Of course we cannot enter into all the cases which might be specified: it will be sufficient to notice two or three ways, which are the most commonly followed, and most fatal in their issue.

I. The first way to which we would call your attention is that of gay licentiousness.

We cannot suppose any person so ignorant as really to think that licentious gaiety is right: but there are millions who do not think it materially wrong. Criminal excesses and indulgences are palliated by the mild appellations of conviviality and youthful indiscretion: and they are deemed necessary to the well-being of society. They are even made subjects of boasting; and persons who through age and infirmity are disabled from pursuing their former courses, will yet repeat them in effect, by glorying in the remembrance of them, and encouraging others in the same career. So far from condemning these things in their minds, the generality will laugh at those who are scrupulous enough to doubt the lawfulness of such courses: and if any one were bold enough to bear a decisive testimony against them, he would instantly be characterized by some opprobrious name. To suppose that such indulgences, if restrained within moderate bounds, would subject a man to the wrath of Almighty God, would be considered as bordering on insanity: and every one is encouraged to regard such innocent liberties (as they are called) as perfectly compatible with a well-grounded hope of salvation.

Let us then inquire what foundation there is for such a confidence. Does God say nothing in his word respecting the issue of such ways? or does he speak of them in the same gentle terms? No: not a syllable of this kind is to be found in all the sacred records. A general caution is given us by Solomon in reference to carnal indulgences of every kind: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment [Note: Ecclesiastes 11:9.].” The general warning given by St. Paul is plainer still; “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die [Note: Romans 8:13.].” Lest we should mistake his meaning, he frequently enumerates the works of the flesh: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: these,” says he, “are the sins, of the which I tell you before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God [Note: Galatians 5:19-21.].” But because men are ready to offer vain pleas and excuses for such things, he particularly guards us against laying the smallest stress on any surmises of our own, or any suggestions of others: “Let no man,” says he, “deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 5:6.].” But Moses, and after him the Prophet Jeremiah, meet the case in the most pointed terms: “It shall come to pass,” says Moses, “when a man shall hear the words of this curse, and shall bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of my heart: the Lord will not spare him: but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man; and all the curses that are written in this book shall come upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven [Note: Deuteronomy 29:19.].”

Now permit me to ask, For what end are these things written? is it merely to alarm and terrify us? Can we conceive that God would falsify, in order to keep us within some decent bounds? Is there any necessity for him to resort to such an expedient; or could he do it in consistency with his own perfections?

Here then we are reduced to this dilemma; either to believe that the word of God is full of the most palpable falsehoods from one end to the other, or to acknowledge that the confidence of ungodly men is unfounded, and their hope delusive. Choose ye the former alternative if ye please: but you must excuse me if I embrace the latter. Believing as I do the word of God to be true, I must believe, and must exhort you also to believe, that they who make light of sin “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” The drunkard, the swearer, the whoremonger, in short the careless sinner, may “think his ways right;” but, if there be any truth in the word of God, they shall end in death. The express declaration of God concerning them is, “The end of those things is death [Note: Romans 6:21.].”

II. The next way to which I would call your attention, is that of proud unbelief.

Associated with loose morality will be found, for the most part, a contemptuous disregard of the Gospel. Ungodly men feel no need of it; they see no excellency in it; they consider it as unworthy of their attention; and they leave it as a proper field for the discussion of angry disputants, or the contemplation of wild enthusiasts.

If any urge the necessity of faith in Christ, they either contend, that, having been educated in the belief of Christianity, they have all the faith that is necessary; or they cut the matter short, and tell us in a word, “His faith cannot be wrong, whose life is in the right.” As to the idea of their salvation depending on the exercise of faith, they cannot for one moment endure it: nothing is too bad to be spoken of so preposterous an opinion: and all who maintain such a sentiment are set down as designing hypocrites, or as gloomy fanatics.

Thus confident are they that their way is right.

But what saith the Scripture to these things? Does God himself lay no stress on the exercise of faith? Does he leave us at liberty to embrace or reject his Gospel as we please? Having given us his only-begotten Son to die for us, and set him forth to be a propitiation for sin through faith in his blood, does he attach no guilt to unbelief? Does he represent the contemners of his Son as in the same predicament with those who receive him? Nothing of this kind can be found in all the book of God. It may be called candour: but there is no such candour in the inspired volume. That calls every thing by its proper name, and assigns to every thing its proper character: and the unbelief which is thought a matter of so much indifference by the world at large, is declared to be the infallible source of ruin to all who indulge it. But let the Scriptures speak for themselves: “He that believeth on Christ is not condemned: but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God:” and again, “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” In conformity with these declarations is the whole tenour of sacred writ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” says our Lord: “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden! and I will give you rest.” “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” To the same effect is the testimony of his Apostles: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” “There is not salvation in any other: there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.”

What now shall we say to these things? Is there any difficulty in understanding these passages? I know, it is fashionable with many to represent the doctrines of the Gospel as so abstruse and intricate that no one of common discernment can understand them. But what intricacy is there here which the most unlettered man in the universe may not understand? Men may invent subtleties on any subject: and on this among the rest: but there is nothing here which is not plain and easy to the most common apprehension. Christ has made an atonement for our sins: and he calls us to seek salvation through his blood and righteousness. He tells us, that “having N 2 no sin of his own, he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God m him” And when he sent his disciples to go and preach this Gospel to every creature, he added, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”

What shall we say then? Shall we believe what the Lord Jesus Christ has so strongly affirmed? or shall we believe the surmises of ungodly men, and, as St. John expresses it, “make God a liar?” Even if there were no such strong assertions to guide us, our own reason might tell us, that God, after having given his only dear Son to die for us, would never leave it a matter of indifference whether we believed in him or not: but when we find the testimonies of Scripture so plain and so express on the subject, we must conclude, that the unbelief which men so proudly and impiously justify, will issue in the everlasting confusion of those who indulge it.

III. The last way to which we shall direct your attention, is that of cold formality.

Many who have respect for the Gospel as a system, content themselves with yielding to it a bare assent; and persuade themselves that they receive it aright, even though they never are stimulated by it to any extraordinary exertions. As for all that zeal and love and diligence in the service of the Lord Jesus which they behold in some few around them, they account it all a needless preciseness; and they impute it, for the most part, to ostentation or vanity in those who dare to maintain it. To be regular in their attendance on public worship, to fulfil the duties of their station, and to do unto others as they would be done unto, this is enough for them, and more than this they utterly despise. Speak not to them of loving God, of living by faith on the Lord Jesus, of maintaining fellowship with him in the exercise of prayer and praise: speak not to them of walking as Christ walked, of bearing the cross after him, and of rejoicing that they are counted worthy to suffer for him: speak not to them of receiving out of his fulness, of living to his glory, or of growing up into his image: such ideas are quite foreign to their minds: they sound only as the reveries of an over-heated imagination: to aspire after such things would be to be righteous over-much: if such exertions were necessary for the attainment of heaven, what must become of all the world? Their religion lies in a much narrower space; they do as they would be done unto, and they mind their proper business in life: if this will not save them, nothing will: and they have no fear but that, when they shall have finished their course. God will say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servants: enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”

But if these views of a Christian’s duty be right, whence is it that the Christian course is represented in Scripture as so arduous, that the most “righteous persons are scarcely saved,” and with great difficulty? How comes it, that the divine life is compared to a race, that calls for such exertion: a wrestling, that requires such skill: a warfare, that is attended with such labour and danger? What is there, in the kind of life which has been described, that at all corresponds with such images as these? If the way to heaven be so easy that people can walk in it without any material difficulty, how comes it that our Lord has represented the path of religion as strait and unfrequented, and has bidden us to strive to enter in at the strait gate, because many seek to enter in, and are not able? St. Paul, when enumerating many classes of ungodly persons who should arise in the latter days, mentions those who have “a form of godliness without the power;” and in those very words describes the characters which we are now considering. The persons of whom we are speaking, particularly value themselves upon their moderation in religion: as though it were a virtue to love God moderately; to serve our Lord and Saviour moderately; and to seek the salvation of our souls moderately. This was the religion of the Laodicean Church: they determined to guard against all extremes: they would not neglect the service of God altogether; nor would they, on the other hand, engage in it with all their might. And what says God unto them? Does he commend this boasted moderation? No: he says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot! So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Let me not be understood as though I would vindicate any thing that was really enthusiastic: God forbid! The only thing for which I am contending is, that God is to be served, not in a cold, lifeless, formal manner, but with unfeigned delight, and with all the powers and faculties of our souls. We must “yield ourselves living sacrifices to him:” we must endeavour to “walk worthy of him;” and strive to the uttermost to “glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his.” This is the holiness to which we are to attain; and “without this holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

Having specified some of those ways which seem right to the generality of men, but will assuredly end in death, namely, the ways of gay licentiousness, proud unbelief, and cold formality, we would entreat you to contemplate the state of those who walk in them, at that period when they are about to be undeceived.

Whilst they are in health, and the world smiles upon them, their religion, such as it is, will suffice; and their confidence will bear them up. But when sickness comes, and they draw near to the chambers of death, a doubt will not unfrequently arise in their minds, whether they are prepared to meet their God. To dispel these thoughts, they betake themselves to business or pleasure or company, or perhaps to strong drink: but in spite of all the means used to allay their fears, their suspicions will recur with greater force, and excite a wish to know the opinion of some one better informed than themselves: but they are afraid to suggest their doubts, lest they should create an alarm in the minds of others, and impress them with an unfavourable apprehension of their state. The recurrence of these thoughts makes them cling to life: not that life is pleasant to them; but they are afraid to die. Compelled at last by inward uneasiness, they perhaps put to some friend a question respecting the evidences of our acceptance with God. They are then answered in the most confident manner, that, as they have done no harm, and have been very attentive to their duties in life, they have no cause of fear. The satisfaction founded on such an answer as this, soon passes away; and their former fears return. Now perhaps they would be glad to see some person, whose piety they have heretofore ridiculed as needless preciseness: but they are afraid, lest a conversation with him should confirm, rather than remove, their doubts and fears. They wish, but cannot make up their minds, to send for him. Perhaps they suggest the idea to their attendant, but are dissuaded from encouraging it: they are told with increasing confidence, that all is well with them. Perhaps they persevere in their wishes, and a faithful monitor is sent for. The servant of God deals tenderly with them, but at the same time points out the errors they have fallen into, and the importance of seeking salvation in another way. This disquiets them for a time, and makes them doubly earnest about their souls. The faithful monitor repeats his visit: but the officious friends have barred the door against him; or perhaps have over-persuaded the dying man to decline all further interviews, and to venture his soul upon his own delusions. Any excuse is offered: the dying man is asleep, or too ill to see any one: and thus the only remaining hope for the poor man is banished. Such consolations as are founded on error and presumption are administered to the last: and at length the disembodied spirit rushes unprepared into the presence of its God.

But who can conceive the surprise and horror of the soul at the instant of its separation from the body? Methinks it shrinks back, wishing if possible to hide itself in its former tenement of clay. But the time is come for it to be undeceived. Now it sees the weakness and futility of all its former hopes. Now it sees how erroneous were its views of sin, and its conceptions of true religion. Now it sees that the representations which God had given in his word were true. The self-deceiver now can no longer doubt to what an end his former ways were leading, or whither they will come who follow the paths he trod. To indulge a wish for another period of probation, or even for the smallest mitigation of his misery, now were vain. Gladly would he go back for a moment to the world he has left, to warn his surviving friends, lest they also come into the same place of torment: but that cannot be admitted. The sacred volume is given them for their guide; and if they will follow their own delusions in preference to it, they must abide the consequences. Now despair and anguish seize hold upon him; and he is delivered up a prey to all those horrors, which once he ridiculed as idle tales.

Would we avoid this awful end, let us turn from the paths that lead to it. Let us remember, that the assertions of men, however confident, are of no value, any further than they are founded on the word of God. Let not their light thoughts of sin lead us to tamper with it, or to doubt its issue. Let not their excuses for rejecting Christ prevail on us to neglect his great salvation. Rather, let us embrace him, and glory in him, and cleave to him with full purpose of heart. Let not their standard of religion be ours: let us go “unto the word and to the testimony:” let us see how Christ and his Apostles walked: and though we be ridiculed as precise and righteous over-much, let us persevere in following the path of duty. Let us “stand,” as the prophet speaks, “and ask for the good old way, and walk therein.” Let us seek instruction wherever we can find it: and let us remember, that the broad and frequented path is, according to our Lord’s express declaration, a way that leadeth to destruction; but that the path to life is narrow, difficult, and unfrequented; for “few there be that find it.” In short, let us look forward to the end of our journey. At that we shall soon arrive: and then it will be of no consequence whether we have been honoured for keeping the world in countenance, or despised for putting them to shame. The only thing that will then be of any consequence, will be, whether we be approved of our God. Let this end then be kept in view: let us regulate our ways in reference to it: and let us both by precept and example endeavour to undeceive the world around us. Then shall we be blessings to the generation in which we live, and shall attain that glory which ought to be the one object of our constant pursuit.

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https: 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

This whole verse was delivered before, Proverbs 14:12, and is here repeated, partly for its great importance and usefulness to prevent that self-deceit which is so common and dangerous; and partly to keep men from leaning too much to their own understanding, and to oblige them to seek and receive the good counsels of wise and holy men.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

25. Way that seemeth right — Literally, There is a way straight before a man; but the ways of death are the end of it. It is as if the way branched out into many ways, each one leading to death. This is a repetition of Proverbs 14:12. Some think it is repeated here on account of what precedes concerning persuasive speech, or the power of the tongue; as much as to say, there is never more need of caution than when we are listening to a moving orator, for he makes many things seem innocent which in themselves and in their results are deadly and destructive.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1874-1909.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof (are) the ways of death. The same maxim repeated from Proverbs 14:12, in a different connection (cf. Philippians 3:1). Here it is to warn us that not all words are truly "pleasant words" which seem so to us (Proverbs 16:24). We must therefore willingly give ear to the words of the wise, and not lean upon our own judgment.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https: 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
12:26; 14:12; Isaiah 28:15-19; John 7:47-49; 9:40; Acts 26:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:25". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:

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