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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 14:12

 

 

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 which seemeth right unto a man - This may be his easily besetting sin, the sin of his constitution, the sin of his trade. Or it may be his own false views of religion: he may have an imperfect repentance, a false faith, a very false creed; and he may persuade himself that he is in the direct way to heaven. Many of the papists, when they were burning the saints of God in the flames at Smithfield, thought they were doing God service! And in the late Irish massacre, the more of the Protestants they piked to death, shot, or burnt, the more they believed they deserved of God's favor and their Church's gratitude. But cruelty and murder are the short road, the near way, to eternal perdition.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-14.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A way … - The way of the fool, the way of self-indulgence and self-will.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/proverbs-14.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 14:12

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

Forelookings

It seems strange that all the dangers of this mortal state should be concentrated upon man. The dangers in all the realms below man are very few, and very simple, and very brief in their scope. Man, who is called the noblest of God’s creatures, is perpetually stumbling; is perpetually warped, biassed, perverted, tangled; is perpetually threatened with sudden destructions of every kind. He is the sublimest spectacle in his integrity and greatness, and the most wretched in his wreck and ruin. Man is more complex than the animals. He lives in a higher sphere. He is equipped accordingly. He varies most because he has the most power of variation, and because the combinations possible to one so richly endowed are almost infinite. All men alike are brought into life in a state of helplessness and ignorance. It is not true that all men are born equal or alike. There are unquestionable hereditary tendencies. All are born alike in this: that they have to begin and find out the ways of life. It is not possible for any parent to transmit the whole of his experience to his children. So, in the beginning of life, God’s voice sounds to every one, as in the text, “Beware, all ways are not alike safe.” But how should ways seem right and yet be wrong? There are many things whose nature does not disclose itself at once. Illustrate cubs of tigers. A large part of evil lies in excess in things good. If you trace one and another of the great mature powers of men, you will find that, if they act thus far, and under certain dominant influences, they are beneficial; but that otherwise they are vicious. So men are often deceived in the ways of life, as they look upon them at first, because the point where good breaks off, and evil begins to be developed, is not easily discerned. There are ways that seem right to men, but are very dangerous. In general, it is true that pleasure is the fruit of obedience. Punishment (speaking generally) is an indication of transgression, and pleasure is a sign of obedience. Nevertheless, it is also true that pain sometimes indicates the highest degree of virtue. To suffer is to be a man. But there is much evil which is known for evil as soon as it is seen, but which, before manifesting itself openly, runs through what may be called an incubation. Illustrate infectious disease. The most inconsequential elements of life are those that report themselves quickest, with superficial results; the most fundamental and radical elements do not report themselves until they have had a long period of development. It is a fact that men are busy with their fellow-men to beguile them. In this life we act on each other, far more than we are acted on by great natural agents. It is a great danger to any young man to be conceited in his own wisdom and in his own strength. Those who think they have a strength and a wisdom which others have not, and act accordingly, perish because they are fools. No man is safe who does not give heed to the Word of God and to the presence of the Lord. You are perfectly safe so long as you live with a consciousness that God looks upon you. (H. Ward Beecher.)

The way which seemeth right

In consequence of the paralysis of the natural conscience, the phenomenon indicated in the text is of constant occurrence. Reference is not to the course of the open sinner, but to that of the mistaken and self-deceiving man. There are persons whose course lies just short of that degree of divergence from right, where the conscience begins to protect, and yet is sure, as every divergence must, if followed, to lead very far from it at last. Observe that the text does not say that these apparently right ways are themselves the ways of death, but that they end in the ways of death. The ways of which we are to speak are mainly of two kinds; errors in practice and errors in doctrine.

1. A life not led under the direct influence of religion. The man who, however many virtues he may possess, however upright he may be in the duties of life, however carefully he may attend to the duties of religion, does not receive it into his heart, nor act on its considerations as a motive. This is a way of life which usually seems right to a man. It describes the ordinary, unexceptionable citizen of a peaceful and religious age. But this way must end in the ways of death. One day they must come into the presence of God, and stand before Him. Wherewith shall they come? They have left God out of their calculation. That neglect is a way of death.

2. Those who, believing from the heart, and living in the main as in God’s sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the gospel. This case is found even in the very strongholds of the profession of religion. It may be illustrated by all the violent partisanship which is so characteristic of our day. The case is found again in the class of persons who, while professing zeal for religion in general, nourish unscrupulously some one known sin, or prohibited indulgence. But He whom we serve will not have a reserved life, but a whole one.

3. There is a class of persons who deal with erroneous doctrine as the other class with deficient practice. These plead that each should conscientiously arrive at his own conclusion, and respect that conclusion as sacred. But this involves much more than is suspected at first sight. The issue of what has been said is this, and it is a lesson by no means unneeded in the present day, that whether we consider practice or belief, each man’s deeming is not each man’s law; every man’s deeming may be wrong, and we can only find that which is right by each one of us believing and serving God, as He has revealed himself to us in Christ. There is but one way that is true; but one, and that is the way everlasting. (Dean Afford.)

Wrong ways followed in spite of warning

And yet the man who takes what seems to him a right way (but is wrong) will be punished if he follows it, for his perverted conscience may arise from his desertion of God, and his refusal of the light He offered. (J. W. Nutt, M.A.)

Deceitful ways

Unconcern, which is charming in the child, is ridiculous and guilty in the man whose decisions are likely to involve fearful consequences for himself and for others; want of foresight is a crime for the man who holds in his hands the fortunes of others or the destinies of a state. There are ways that lead to death. Each of us has come into contact with beings whose excesses have led to a premature end; others still occupy a place in the world, but their ruined health, their weakened faculties, show that they are dead while they live. But there are beings who are attacked neither in their life nor in their strength, nor in their apparent dignity, and who are none the better for all this. The artful, the selfish, who think only of self, may possess all kinds of earthly blessings; their life may be rich, brilliant, full of enjoyment, admired of men. Does this mean that they have not entered upon a wrong path? Worldly morality is a loose net which retains certain sinners, but allows the most guilty to escape. Many a way that leads to perdition may seem to us right. Men argue that the way a man follows must seem to him right, and so they persuade themselves that they will be accepted of God. In this there is a mingling of truth and error. But sincerity in ignorance or error has never saved any one from the often terrible consequences which such ignorance or error may entail. Societies are based upon this axiom, “No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law.” (E. Bersier.)

Unsafe ways

The wise man is not here speaking of gross wickedness. It is of the deceitful path. Is there only one such way?

I. The way of wilful ignorance. This is very commonly thought a safe way, but its end is death. How constantly ignorance is pleaded as an excuse for neglecting religion. Ignorance that is voluntary is sinful.

II. The way of formality. An outward form and imitation of godliness, without any inward spiritual feeling. But professions can never deceive God, and the way of formal religion offends Him.

III. The way of doing one’s best. This is often thought to be the right way; yet it is equally ruinous. What do men mean by “doing their best”? Alas! it commonly means doing something less than God requires. In numberless instances, doing the best means “doing nothing at all.”

IV. The why of uncovenanted mercy. Men own that they are sinners, and deserving of punishment, but they speak peace to themselves, saying, “God is merciful.” It is true that God is merciful, but there is a particular way in which alone that mercy is offered to sinners. God has never said that He will spare the unconverted, the impenitent, the unbelieving, the ungodly.

V. Thy way of good intentions. A man resolves to seek God; and that, too, in God’s own way, by true repentance, faith in Christ, and by a life of holy obedience. But he stops with the resolves. That way is a way of death. (J. Jowett, M.A.)

The way and the end

We are all travellers. Our journey occupies our lifetime. Its end depends upon the way we take. The endings are but two. Yet many go heedlessly on. They love the way, and they are pleased to think well of it.

1. It is the way in which they were born.

2. They see many walking in this way.

3. It is a way which is most pleasing to them.

4. It is an easy way to walk in.

5. It is a way which is profitable to self.

How shall we know this way of death? It is the way of sin. It is the course of this world. It is the way of indifference to the things of eternity. (The Christian Treasury.)

A temper of caution

The text holds good in commerce, in theological thought, in moral conduct, in social relationships; indeed, it holds good along the whole circle of human relation and experience. What is the lesson which such a state of affairs conveys to the wise and understanding heart? It is that life should be spent in a temper of caution; when we seem most secure we may be most exposed to danger; not only is our enemy a roaring lion, whose voice can be heard from afar, he is also a cunning and silent serpent, drawing himself towards us without making any demonstration, and not revealing himself until he is within striking distance. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The seeming right often ruinous

Many of the ways which men pursue cannot even “seem right.” The way of the habitual blasphemer, Sabbath-breaker, debauchee, etc., can scarcely appear right to any man. What are the ways that often seem right to men, but are ruinous?

I. The conventionally moral way seems right, but is nevertheless ruinous. Civilised society has its recognised rules of life. These rules recognise only the external life of man. They take no cognisance of thought, feeling, desire, and the unexpressed things of the soul. Industry, sobriety, veracity, honesty, these are the extent of its demands, and if these are conformed to, society approves and applauds. Without disparaging in the least this social morality, we are bound to say that what is conventionally moral may be essentially wrong. It may spring from wrong motives, and be governed by wrong reasons. The Scribes and Pharisees of old were conventionally right. Albeit they were rotten to the core. The end of such a way is death. Death to all the elements of well-being.

II. The formalistically religious way seems right, but is nevertheless ruinous. Religion has its forms, it has its places, and its times of worship, its order of service, its benevolent institutions. A correct and constant attendance to such forms are considered by thousands as religion itself. It is mechanism, nothing more. The motions of machinery, not the actions of the soul. There is no life in it, and it cannot lead to life, but to death.

III. The way of the selfishly evangelical seems right, but is nevertheless ruinous. There is no true religion apart from a living faith in Christ. But the thing that is come to be called evangelical is to a fearful extent intensely selfish. Its appeals are all to the hopes and fears of men. Its preaching makes men feel, but their feelings are all concerned for their own interest; makes men pray, but their prayer is a selfish entreaty for the deliverance from misery, and the attainment of happiness. “He that seeketh his life shall lose it.” Conclusion: Right and wrong are independent of men’s opinions, what seems right to men is often wrong, and the reverse. Men are held responsible for their beliefs. A wrong belief, however sincere, will lead to ruin. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Moral colour-blindness, or the seeing things truly

Not a few persons have received a genuine surprise on being told, after an examination, that they were affected with colour-blindness, h much larger number might experience a far greater shock on learning that they are suffering from moral colour-blindness. The eye that fails to distinguish colours may be exceptionally good in judging of form, and unusually keen in detecting objects at a distance. The victim of colour-blindness may even name colours so correctly that for a long time his defect escapes notice. So the person that is morally colour-blind is frequently one distinguished for remarkable shrewdness and foresight; he is quite an oracle as to what is prudent in business and in good taste in social life. He names the virtues and vices as other people do, and his verdicts on conduct seem so generally to tally with the truth that his weakness is not suspected by others, and is entirely hidden from himself. Yet the moral colour-blindness goes to much greater length than does the ordinary trouble. Its radical evil is in a failure to distinguish black and white, a defect exceedingly rare in the physical eye. When the fault is betrayed, even in the slightest degree, in judgments on nice points, it is a sign of something deep-seated and serious, which will lead one to pronounce a lie white, and to call evil good and good evil. The revelation of its true nature may come, as the revelation of the other colour-blindness has sometimes come, in some terrible wreck that means ruin to many others as well as to the one at fault. Too much care in this matter cannot be exercised in regard to any one, whether in his own behalf or in behalf of those whose safety depends in large measure on his seeing things truly. There is a terrible danger in following a colour-blind leader. There is one advantage and encouragement for the morally colour-blind. The defect is not, in their case, organic; and, while it may develop with startling rapidity if neglected, it is possible to overcome it. Its detection, as well as its cure, depends on the most careful and constant testing by the truest standards and on hourly aid from the great Physician. (Christian Age.)

The way seems right, but is wrong

A sailor remarks, “Sailing from Cuba, we thought we had gained sixty miles one day in our course, but at the next observation we found we had lost more than thirty. It was an under-current. The ship had been going forward by the wind, but going back by current.” So a man’s course may often seem to be right, but the stream beneath is driving him the very contrary way to what he thinks.

Beliefs important; or sincerity no safeguard

Two men were talking together of their beliefs, when one of them petulantly remarked to his Christian brother: “I don’t care what your creed is. I am an agnostic. It makes no difference what a man believes if he is sincere.” Oh, yes, it does. Let us see. A family was poisoned recently by eating toadstools which they sincerely believed to be mushrooms. Three of them died. Did it make no difference? A man endorsed a note for a friend whom he sincerely believed to be an honest man. He was a scoundrel, and left him to pay the debt. Did it make no difference? A traveller took the wrong train, and went to Scotland instead of to Brighton. Did it make no difference? If a man is sincere he will take pains to know the truth. For where facts are concerned all the thinking in the world will not change them. A toadstool remains a toadstool, whatever we may think about it. (Sunday Companion.)


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 14:12". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-14.html. 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."

Literally and eternally true, this proverb stands as one of the Lighthouses of Proverbs. It was true of Absalom and Ahithophel; and it is true of many a worldly and irreligious man today.


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

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-14.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man,.... As the way of sin and wickedness does, it promising much carnal pleasure and mirth; there is a great deal of company in it, it is a broad road, and is pleasant, and seems right, but it leads to destruction; so the way of the hypocrite and Pharisee that trusts to his own righteousness, and despises others, and even the righteousness of Christ; or however does not submit to it, but tramples upon him, and counts the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and so is deserving of sorer punishment than the profane sinner; yet on account of his good works, as he calls them, fancies himself to be in a fair way for heaven and happiness; so Popery, through the pomp and grandeur and gaudiness of worship, through the lying miracles of the priests, and the air of devotion that appears in them, seems to be a right way;

but the end thereof are the ways of death; which lead unto eternal death; for that is the wages of sin, let it appear in what shape it will.


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

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-14.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

end thereof — or, “reward,” what results (compare Proverbs 5:4).

ways of death — leading to it.


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.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/proverbs-14.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

12 There is a way that seemeth right to one,

But the end thereof are the ways of death.

This is literally repeated in Proverbs 16:25. The rightness is present only as a phantom, for it arises wholly from a terrible self-deception; the man judges falsely and goes astray when, without regard to God and His word, he follows only his own opinions. It is the way of estrangement from God, of fleshly security; the way of vice, in which the blinded thinks to spend his life, to set himself to fulfil his purposes; but the end thereof ( אחריתהּ with neut. fem.: the end of this intention, that in which it issues) are the ways of death. He who thus deceives himself regarding his course of life, sees himself at last arrived at a point from which every way which now further remains to him leads only down to death. The self-delusion of one ends in death by the sentence of the judge, that of another in self-murder; of one in loathsome disease, of another in a slow decay under the agony of conscience, or in sorrow over a henceforth dishonoured and distracted life.


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

Bibliography
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-14.html. 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

We have here an account of the way and end of a great many self-deluded souls. 1. Their way is seemingly fair: It seems right to themselves; they please themselves with a fancy that they are as they should be, that their opinions and practices are good, and such as will bear them out. The way of ignorance and carelessness, the way of worldliness and earthly-mindedness, the way of sensuality and flesh-pleasing, seem right to those that walk in them, much more the way of hypocrisy in religion, external performances, partial reformations, and blind zeal; this they imagine will bring them to heaven; they flatter themselves in their own eyes that all will be well at last. 2. Their end is really fearful, and the more so for their mistake: It is the ways of death, eternal death; their iniquity will certainly be their ruin, and they will perish with a lie in their right hand. Self-deceivers will prove in the end self-destroyers.


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.

Bibliography
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-14.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The ways of carelessness, of worldliness, and of sensuality, seem right to those that walk in them; but self-deceivers prove self-destroyers. See the vanity of carnal mirth.


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.

Bibliography
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-14.html. 1706.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

Right — There are some evil courses which men may think to be lawful and good.

The end — The event shews that they were sinful and destructive.


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.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/proverbs-14.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM

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

Proverbs 14:12

I. There are ways that lead to death.—Each of us has come into contact with beings whom excesses have led to a premature end; others still occupy a place in the world, but their ruined health, their weakened faculties, show that, to use the words of St. Paul, ‘they are dead while living.’ The death in question here is the condition of a creature who has willingly separated itself from God.

II. Many a way that leads to perdition may seem to us to be right.—(1) In the order of things temporal it is evident that sincerity in ignorance or error has never saved any one from the often terrible end of a life not led under the direct influence of religion. (2) Take the case of those who, believing from the heart and living in the main as in God’s sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the Gospel. These ways seem right unto those who are following them. (3) Errors of doctrine. There is nothing in life for which we are so solemnly accountable, as the formation of our belief.

Dean Alford.

Illustration

‘The self-deception of many men in regard to their courses, imagined to be heathful, but in reality leading to eternal ruin. As Melanchthon says, “the admonition relates to the mistiness and weakness of man’s judgment, and his many and great errors in counsel, for it is manifest that men often err in judging and in their deliberations. Now they are deceived either by their own imaginations, or by the example of others, or by habit, etc., and being deceived, they rush on all the more fascinated by the devil, as is written of Judas in John 13:27.”’


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/proverbs-14.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

Ver. 12. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man.] Sin comes clothed with a show of reason; [Exodus 1:10] and lust will so blear the understanding, that he shall think that there is great sense in sinning. "Adam was not deceived"; [1 Timothy 2:14] that is, he was not so much deceived by his judgment - though also by that too - as by his affection to his wife, which at length blinded his judgment. The heart first deceives us with colours; and when we are once a-doting after sin, then we join and deceive our hearts, [James 1:26] using fallacious and specious sophism, to make ourselves think that lawful today which we ourselves held unlawful yesterday, and that we are possessed of those graces whereto we are perfect strangers.

But the end thereof are the ways of death.] Via multiplex ad mortem. The very first step in this evil way was a step to hell; but the journey’s end, if men stop not, or step not back in time, is undoubted destruction. Some flatter themselves, as Micah. [ 17:13] They flee to "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord": and think to take sanctuary and save themselves there from all danger, as the Jews fable that Og, king of Bashan, escaped in the flood by riding astride upon the ark without; wherein it falls out oft, as it did with the riflers of Semiramis’s tomb, who, where they expected to find the richest treasure, met with a deadly poison; or as it doth with him that, lying asleep upon a steep rock, and dreaming of great matters befallen him, starts suddenly for joy, and so breaks his neck at the bottom. As he that makes a bridge of his own shadow cannot but fall into the water, so neither can he escape the pit of hell who lays his own presumption in place of God’s promise, who casts himself upon the unknown mercies of God, &c.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-14.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, the way of sin, at the outset, being apparently straight and smooth, but the end thereof, what it finally leads to, are the ways of death, for transgression invariably leads to mortal ruin.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/proverbs-14.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 14:12

I. There are ways that lead to death. Each of us has come into contact with beings whom excesses have led to a premature end; others still occupy a place in the world, but their ruined health, their weakened faculties, show that, to use the words of St. Paul, "they are dead while living." The death in question here is the state of a soul condemned by Him who sees the most hidden recesses of our being, and whose judgment none can alter; it is the condition of a creature who has willingly separated itself from God.

II. Many a way that leads to perdition may seem to us to be right. Nothing is better calculated to disturb the superficial optimism in which so many of our fellow-men find a delusive security than the firm conviction of this fact. In their opinion, that a man may be saved, he must be sincere; in other words, the way he follows must seem to him to be right. (1) In the order of things temporal it is evident that sincerity in ignorance or error has never saved anyone from the often terrible consequences which such ignorance or error may entail. Societies are based upon this maxim: "No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law." Moreover, this axiom is graven in nature itself. Nature strikes those who violate its laws, and never takes into consideration their state of ignorance or good faith. (2) God is not an inexorable fatum. God takes into account the inward condition of each being, his ignorance, his involuntary errors. Therefore, if any should ask whether a man who is mistaken shall be saved or not if he is absolutely sincere, we shall answer that we are inclined to believe it; and that a way cannot lead to eternal death the man who has entered upon it believing it to be right and true. But this conclusion should reassure no one, for the point in question is precisely to discover if we are indeed absolutely sincere in the choice we make; now, the more I study men, the more I study myself, the more clearly do I perceive that nothing is more uncommon than this sincerity of which we speak so much, and of which so many people make a merit. None are entitled to say, "This way seems right to me, therefore I can enter upon it without fear." We must first of all examine whether we do not call right that which is simply pleasing to us, that which attracts us and flatters our secret instincts.

III. In every human life there are solemn hours when divergent paths open before us. On the choice we then make depends our entire future. When we find ourselves before an opening path, we must stop, measure it at a glance, and never enter it unless we may do so with the peace of a conscience that feels it is accomplishing the will of God.

E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 399.


Among the indications that we are not what we once were, there is, perhaps, none more decisive in its testimony than the depravation of the natural conscience. It is in consequence of this paralysis of the conscience that such an assertion as that in the text points to a phenomenon of constant occurrence among men.

I. The text does not say these apparently right ways are themselves the ways of death, but that they end in the ways of death.

II. The "ways" are mainly of two kinds—errors in practice and errors in doctrine; the former by far the most abundant, but the latter by no means so rare as to bear passing over in considering the subject. (1) The first practical error is that of a life not led under the direct influence of religion. I speak of the man who, however many virtues he may possess, however upright he may be in the duties of life, however carefully he may attend to the outward duties of religion, does not receive it into his heart nor act on its considerations as a motive. This is a way of life which usually seems right unto a man. He wins esteem from without, and has no accusing conscience within. But he is not a religious man. He has not the fear of God before his eyes. This approved way must end in the way of death. Improbable as it may seem that the correct liver, the blameless and upright man, should perish at last, it is but a necessary consequence from his having put by and rejected the only remedy which God has provided for the universal taint of our nature, by which taint, if not purged out, he must, as well as the rest of the unrenewed and ungodly, be ruined in the end. (2) Take the case of those who, believing from the heart and living in the main as in God's sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the Gospel. These ways seem right unto those who are following them. (3) Errors of doctrine. There is nothing in life for which we are so deeply and solemnly accountable, as the formation of our belief. It is the compass which guides our way, which if it vary ever so little from truth, is sure to cause a fatal divergence in the end. Whether we consider practice or belief, each man's deeming is not each man's law; every man's deeming may be wrong, and we can only find that which is right by each one of us believing and serving God, as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 50.


I. There is a theory very much in fashion, that if a man acts according to his convictions, he cannot be brought into condemnation. The principle here involved is simply this, that a man's own ideas are his own standard, that he is a law unto himself, that if he does violence to his own views of truth and error, good and evil, he is reprehensible, but that if he be fully convinced in his own mind that is at once a bar to his condemnation. The text offers a strong protest against this theory, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man;" but, notwithstanding his sincerity, notwithstanding his convictions, the end thereof are the ways of death.

II. If we shall be judged not only as to whether we have acted by the guidance of conscience, but also whether our conscience was a right conscience; there flows from this the doctrine that conscience itself is a thing we are bound to train, and cherish, and educate, in order that it may never mislead us; a man is, in short, responsible for his conscience. It is a mysterious law of our spiritual nature that we have to mould and train our own proper guide. God has given conscience for our direction, but it remains with ourselves to secure that we be directed by it aright.

Bishop Woodford, Sermons in Various Churches, p. 83.


References: Proverbs 14:12.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 378; J. Thain Davidson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 369. Proverbs 14:13-24.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 387.


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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/proverbs-14.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 14:12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man This is an admonition of the weakness of men's judgments, and of all human counsels, which mistake much, and lead men frequently into ruin: "Shadows too often cheat us of the reality," says one of the ancient Greeks; against which there is no remedy but the word of God, and invoking his direction.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/proverbs-14.html. 1801-1803.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 784

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE WAY OF SALVATION

Proverbs 14:12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death [Note: This was written a great many years after that on Proverbs 16:25. without any consciousness that the subject had been treated by the author before: and, though it goes over some of the same ground, yet as it contains much new matter, he has here inserted it.].

ON no topic do men express a greater confidence than on the subject of religion; whilst that, of all subjects that can be offered to our consideration, requires most care in our inquiry, and most diffidence in our decision. All other subjects, as far as they can be determined at all, may be determined by reason; and in the investigation of them, reason is to a certain degree free, both in its deliberations and decisions. But spiritual things must be spiritually discerned: they are out of the reach of reason. Reason must judge whether the things which are presented to it are revealed: but, when that point is ascertained, they must be apprehended by faith alone. Reason can tell us nothing about the mystery of redemption: it is faith alone that can apprehend that, or any of the other mysteries connected with it. Moreover, whilst reason can do so little in favour of religion, all the prejudices, and passions, and interests of mankind are acting in full force against it. Faith and sense are always at variance with each other, and always striving for the mastery; and unless faith be in lively exercise, sense is sure to triumph. Hence the Church of God is inundated with errors of various kinds: and hence we need to have frequently inculcated upon our minds the truth contained in our text, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

In illustration of this truth, I will point out some of those ways, which, though right in the estimation of those who walk in them, will assuredly terminate in death. No other issue will there be to the way,

I. Of sceptical indifference—

[There is a great degree of scepticism prevailing, in reference both to the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, and to all the principal doctrines contained in them: and men of considerable ability have laboured much to invalidate the former, and to explain away the latter. Hence many will say, ‘How can I ascertain what is true, amidst such a conflict of opinions?’ or, ‘How can I depend on any thing, of which so many great and learned men have doubted? Is it reasonable to suppose that God will call us to an account for not admitting what has been so often controverted, and, in the opinion of some, so successfully refuted? Let us rather hope that God, as a God of mercy, will accept us all, though we do not all walk in that precise way, which those who profess a greater reverence for the Scriptures conceive to be right.’

But these hopes will be found fallacious at the last: for there is far more criminality in unbelief, than men in general are aware of. It does not proceed from any want of evidence in the Scriptures, but from an evil bias in the heart of man. There is “an evil heart of unbelief,” which causes us to depart from the living God. Men will not submit to God, but will exalt themselves against him; and think themselves justified in rejecting whatever they, with the short line of their reason, are unable to fathom. What would a philosopher think of a peasant who should argue thus in reference to sciences which he was unable to comprehend? and in what light must God view us, when we presume to sit in judgment thus on the plainest declarations of his word?

But supposing that there were not so much criminality in unbelief, should we be at all the more justified in neglecting our eternal interests? Does not reason itself teach us, that we are amenable to God for our conduct; and that, whether our views of revelation be more or less clear, we should labour incessantly and with all our might to secure his favour? and should we not use all possible means, particularly such as he himself has prescribed, for the attaining of an insight into his revealed will?

However innocent we may imagine our scepticism to be, or however justifiable the indifference connected with it, this way will at last infallibly end in death. The Jews in the wilderness could not enter into the promised land because of their unbelief: and the same cause will operate also to the exclusion of our souls from heaven [Note: Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:11.]. The people who denied the Messiahship of Jesus doubtless thought that they were justified in so doing by a want of evidence: but our Lord said to them, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins [Note: John 8:24.]:” and in like manner he has commanded it to be proclaimed to every child of man, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned [Note: Mark 16:16.].”]

II. Of proud formality—

[Multitudes there are, who, like the Pharisees of old, are extremely attentive to the established forms of religion, and are observant of morality also, as far as it is approved by the world. In relation to these things they may be said to be blameless: and so good is the opinion which they entertain of their own state, that they would, without any fear of being confounded, ask, “What lack I yet?” In this state they are approved and admired of men; and therefore they conclude, that they are equally acceptable in the sight of God also. Persons of this description scarcely ever entertain a doubt, or a fear, but that all will issue well with them at the last. But they will find themselves awfully mistaken as soon as ever they go hence. They will then discover, that their obedience was infinitely more defective than ever they conceived it to be: and that, if it had been as blameless as they imagined, it would still have afforded them no ground of hope before God. Had such attainments as these sufficed, St. Paul needed never to have embraced the Gospel at all: or had they been capable of adding any thing to the righteousness of Christ, he never would have desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which was of the law? How erroneous a way to life this is, will be seen at once in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Few of the formalists of the, present day can say so much in their own favour as he could: he could appeal to God that he was not guilty of such sins as were common in the world, and that, on the contrary, he was observant of many religious duties, “fasting twice every week, and giving tithes of all that he possessed.” Yet, because he viewed his state with self-confidence and self-complacency, he was dismissed without any blessing; whilst the self-abasing Publican was pardoned and justified from all his sins [Note: Luke 18:11-14.]. But thus it ever will be: “God will fill the hungry with good things, but the rich he will send empty away [Note: Luke 1:53.]: “he will resist the proud, but give grace unto the humble [Note: 1 Peter 5:5.].”]

III. Of intolerant bigotry—

[There are not wanting those who imagine that all religion consists in zeal for their own particular sect or party in the Church. Amongst the papists, this error prevails to an awful extent: and happy would it be if it were confined to them; but it is found in protestants also, who are as bitter in proscribing each other, as the papists are in anathematizing them. At what a fearful distance are the churchmen and dissenters separated from each other, from the mere circumstance of their not adopting the same external form of Church government, even whilst they are perfectly agreed in sentiment as to all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity! From the spirit with which they view each other, one would be ready to think that Christ did indeed come to introduce division, not accidentally, but intentionally; not by a separation of his people from the world, but by an alienation of heart from each other. Who has not seen and mourned over the mutual accusations of the two parties, each rejoicing in any evil that can be found in the other, and each wishing the conversion, perhaps I should rather say, the extermination, of the other? And as men hate each other on account of outward forms, so no less are they embittered against each other by a difference in their internal principles; the Arminian hating Calvinists; and the Calvinist despising Arminians! Need I say how much some persons value themselves on the opposition they give to what they call enthusiasm, but what, in fact, is “pure and undefiled religion?” Verily, in persecuting the truth, they think that they do God service: and well pleased they are to render him a service so congenial with the malignity of their own hearts. St. Paul before his conversion was of this very spirit: and our Lord has told us, that in every age such would prove the persecutors and tormentors of his Church [Note: John 16:2.]. But whoever may be wrong, it is not possible for persons of this description to be right: the very spirit which they breathe shews “whose they are, and whom they serve,” even him “who was a murderer from the beginning [Note: John 8:39-44. 1 John 3:11-12; 1 John 3:15.],” and who has been the great instigator of persecution from the time of Cain even to the present hour. Let such persons only see St. Paul’s review of his own conduct in relation to this matter, and he cannot doubt one moment whither this path must lead [Note: 1 Timothy 1:13.]. Or if this convince him not, let him know, that if he possessed all the knowledge and faith and zeal of angels themselves, he would be only as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” because he is destitute of that prime Brace grace is essential to the very existence of true religion in the soul, the grace of love [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.].]

IV. Of lukewarm attachment to the Gospel—

[Where the Gospel is preached with fidelity, it commends itself to many as true, whilst they yet experience not its saving power on their souls. Yet the very circumstance of their discerning and approving; of it is to them in the place of vital godliness, and an evidence that they are in the way to heaven. But religion is not a mere matter of opinion: it is a principle that pervades the soul, and operates upon all its faculties and powers. See how it wrought in the converts on the day of Pentecost; what new creatures they immediately became! And such will all become, as soon as ever they receive the grace of God in truth. The metaphors by which the Christian life is designated in the Scriptures, sufficiently shew how mistaken they are who rest in a mere approbation of the Gospel without feeling its constraining influence upon their souls: if the running of a race, or wrestling for the mastery, or fighting for one’s life, have any just signification as applied to the Christian’s state, it is impossible for those to be in the way of life who bear no resemblance whatever to persons so engaged: and the total want of anxiety and of exertion which they betray, proves, beyond all doubt, that they are not in the narrow way which leadeth unto life, but in the broad road that leadeth to destruction.]

V. Of unsanctified profession—

[Amongst the little company of the Apostles themselves, there was a Judas: and in all the Apostolic Churches also there were some who “professed that they knew God, but in works denied him.” It must not be wondered at therefore if such exist in the Church at this present day. Indeed the parable of the Sower, and that also of the Tares, teaches us to expect, than Satan will sow tares amongst the wheat, and that it is not possible for man to separate them the one from the other. Unhappily, the persons themselves who are unsound at heart are not conscious of it. Satan so blinds their eyes, that they cannot distinguish between the unallowed infirmities of their nature, and the indulged corruptions of their hearts. Their evil tempers which are unsubdued, are regarded us light and venial frailties: their carefulness about the things of this world is softened down to necessary prudence: and the reigning impurity of their hearts is closed under the veil of temptation. Whatever be their besetting sins, they find some excuse for them; and, because they have a zeal for the Gospel and make some sacrifices for it, they conclude that all is well with them. Having “a name to live,” they have no conception that they can be really “dead.” But such persons need to be reminded of what our blessed Lord has so plainly and forcibly declared, namely, that one single lust retained in the soul, though dear as a right eye or necessary as a right hand, will infallibly plunge the soul into that lake of fire that never shall be quenched [Note: Mark 12:43–48.]. Our blessed Lord has warned us, that the “saying, Lord! Lord!” however confidently we may repeat it, will never avail us, whilst we do not the things which he says: and, that though we may have “cast out devils in his name,” we shall find no acceptance with him in the day of judgment, if we have not really, and unreservedly, mortified the whole body of sin [Note: Matthew 7:21-23. Luke 13:26-27.]. Let all professors of religion know assuredly, that “without holiness, real and universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14.]:” and that, whatever estimate they may form of their own state, “not he who commendeth himself shall be approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:18.].”]

Seeing then that so many mistake the way to heaven,

I will add a few words,

1. To guard you against all erroneous ways—

[There is one great evil which more or less pervades all descriptions of men, and that is, an undue confidence in their own opinions. If they “think a thing to be right,” they conclude that it is right, and will take no pains to ascertain the truth or falsehood of their judgment. They think not of the deceitfulness of sin, or of the blindness of their own hearts, or of the subtlety of Satan; but go on confidently, as if they were in no danger of self-deceit. But why has God so often repeated that admonition, “Be not deceived,” if we are not in danger of being carried away by our own delusions? We are told of many whom a deceived heart hath turned aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” And why should not this be our state, as well as the state of others? We actually see it in others: why then should we not suspect it in ourselves? It is certain that a man may “seem to be religious, and yet deceive his own soul, and have all his religion vain,” because of some one sin that is unsubdued, and unperceived within him [Note: James 1:26.]? I can never therefore too earnestly impress upon your minds the necessity of diffidence in all that relates to your souls. There is but one standard of truth: and by that must every opinion be tried. If the way which you think right will stand the trial of God’s word, it is well: but, if it accord not with that, it will prove delusive in the end, and issue in the everlasting destruction of your souls. Be it ever so specious, it cannot deceive God. To all then I would say, Act in reference to your souls as the mariner does in navigating a dangerous sea: he consults his chart and his compass continually; and, not contented with thinking himself right, he puts his thoughts to the test, and seeks for evidence that he is right. Then may you hope to avoid the rocks and quicksands on which so many thousands perish; and to reach in safety the haven you desire.]

2. To point out the only true way—

[There is a way, which seemeth indeed wrong to the greater part of mankind, which, however, is surely right, and the end thereof are the ways of life. This is the way of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; as Christ himself has told us; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me [Note: John 14:6.].” This indeed is not approved by the world at large: “to the Jews it is a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23.]:” but it is “the good old way, wherein whosoever walks shall find rest unto his soul [Note: Jeremiah 6:16. Matthew 11:28-29.].” Let it not be any matter of astonishment that this way is not generally approved: for it is too humiliating for our proud hearts, and too self-denying for our low and grovelling spirits. Men do not love to renounce all self-dependence, and to have all their wisdom, all their righteousness, and all their strength treasured up in another for their use, to be received daily out of his fulness in answer to urgent and believing prayer. Nor do they like to have that high standard of holiness, which he gives to his disciples as the rule of their life, mid the test of their attainments. But, beloved, this is the only true way to heaven: we must believe in Christ, and live altogether by faith in him, going forward in his strength, and “growing up into him in all things as our living head.” Then, though regarded by men as self-deluding enthusiasts, we shall be approved of our God, and receive at last “the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.”]


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/proverbs-14.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross and affected ignorance, or through partiality or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s will or word; all which are culpable causes of the mistake, and therefore do not excuse the error: but the event showeth that they were sinful and destructive.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-14.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12. This proverb partly repeats that of Proverbs 12:15, and is partly repeated in the proverb recorded Proverbs 16:25.

Seemeth right unto a man — Pleases him, accords with his taste or judgment.

Ways of death — Plural of intensity; sure way to death. The sentence would be better transposed: The ways of death are the end of it. Perhaps the idea is tacitly conveyed that the one evil way, continuously travelled, branches out into many ways, all leading to death, or, as the Septuagint has it, “the ends of it reach to the depth of hell,” to Hades. Compare Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 16:25; Judges 17:6, seq.; 2 Samuel 6:6.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-14.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Without the additional light of divine revelation we might conclude that any number of courses of action will lead to good ends. Nevertheless, God"s Word helps us see the end of some of these paths so that we can avoid them. Salvation by works is one example of this. As someone once told me, "I was climbing the ladder of success, but then I discovered that it was leaning against the wrong wall." This proverb warns that apparently good roads may prove fatal to the moral life (cf. Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 16:25; Matthew 7:13-14) because their destination is wrong.


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/proverbs-14.html. 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 14:12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man — There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross ignorance, or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s word; all which are culpable causes of the mistake, and therefore do not excuse the error; but the end thereof are the ways of death — The event shows that they were sinful and destructive.


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-14.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Death. How many, under the garb of piety, follow their passions! How many are misled by their singularity, or by unskilful directors! (Calmet) --- We must suspect our own judgment. (Menochius) --- If any Turks, Jews, or heretics, lead a moral good life, it seemeth both to themselves and to other ignorant people that they are in the right way to salvation; but their error in faith leadeth them to eternal damnation. (Worthington) --- The persecutors thought they did God a service by putting the apostles to death. Will they be excused? (Haydock)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-14.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

seemeth right = is pleasing. It only "seems" right, Illustrations: Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:27-33; 1 Kings 14:7-11. Compare Proverbs 3:7); Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:20-24); Jews (Acts 13:50; John 16:2. Compare Paul, Philippians 1:3, Philippians 1:4-7, and 1 Timothy 1:13).

are = is.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-14.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof (are) the ways of death. Good intentions are not a justification for wrongdoing (2 Samuel 6:6). We must search our ways of life, our opinions, and practices, by the test of the Word of God. Judges 17:6, etc., gives an awful illustration of the end of "every man doing that which is right in his own eyes." Compare the prohibition of this, Deuteronomy 12:8.


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-14.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, and yet he will be punished if he follows it, for his perverted conscience may arise from his desertion of God, and his refusal of the light He offered. (Comp. Romans 1:28, sqq.)


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-14.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
12:15; 16:25; 30:12; Matthew 7:13,14; Luke 13:24; Romans 6:21; Galatians 6:3; Ephesians 5:6; James 1:22

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-14.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

WHAT SEEMS TO BE AND WHAT IS

I. Human nature needs more light than is found in the human conscience. The way which "seems right unto a man" may be "the way of death." A mariner who has insufficient light to observe correctly the needle in the compass, may think he is steering for the haven when he is taking the vessel straight upon the rocks. He may be very sincere in his conviction that he is going right, but his thinking so will not make it so. He needs more light than he has. So the light of conscience is not enough to guide a man with certainty in the true and right way. If conscientious sincerity was an infallible guide Paul would not have "delivered to prison" men and women for being followers of Jesus of Nazareth (Act ). The way that in his ignorance seemed right to him, was felt by him to be a "way of death" when his conscience was enlightened. Conscience may be deadened by sin, or warped by prejudice or self-interest; it is not a reliable and certain guide. If it were, it was needless for the Son of God to visit the earth and make known the will of His Father—the revelation of God's will in the books of the Old and New Testaments is a superfluity. The existence of the Bible is explained by the fact which is found to be true by all God-taught men, that "the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23). God, by speaking unto men in "sundry times and in divers manners," and especially "in these last days by His Son" (Heb 1:1) declares plainly that man needs something outside of himself to guide him into that path of righteousness which alone is a way of life. The history of the world confirms this truth. Observation of every-day life tells the same tale.

II. The need of human nature has been fully met. All that the mariner needs in order to keep the vessel's head right is light to see the compass. God in Christ is a sufficient light to man. Paul says: "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co ). Christ Himself tells us that it is those only who "follow Him" who have the "light of life" (Joh 8:12). That the way thus revealed is fully adapted to meet man's need is proved by the results which follow from walking in it. The progress which a sick man makes towards health is the most convincing proof of the efficacy of his physician's treatment. The light which is shed upon men by the revelation of God, and especially by the Gospel, has been proven by its result upon individuals and upon nations, to be all-powerful to turn men from "darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Act 26:18). The way of sin is the way of death—death morally, socially, and physically. The w ay of holiness is the only way of spiritual life to the soul and to the community, and ensures victory over the penalty of bodily death.

ILLUSTRATION

THE LAST WORDS OF HILDEBRAND.—One of the greatest of the sons of earth (if we measure greatness either by posthumous fame or posthumous influence) lay on his death-bed. Prelates, princes, priests, devoted adherents and attendants stood around. Anxious to catch the last accents of that once oracular voice, the mourners were bending over him, when, struggling in the very grasp of death, he collected, for one last effort, his failing powers, and breathed out his spirit with the indignant exclamation, "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile." … That he went into the unseen world consciously and deliberately with a lie in his right hand, is a supposition utterly inadmissible. Passionate earnestness and intense conviction were stamped upon all his words and works.… He had climbed by the slippery steps of intrigue to the Papal throne, and to set that throne above all the thrones of the earth, and to cause everyone, "both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond," to bow down in the dust before it, was thenceforward his sole aim and object.… It was for this that he enforced that celibacy of the clergy which has ever since been the law of the Church. He found thousands of married priests ministering at her altars in innocence of heart, thinking no sin, and fearing no dishonour.… He commanded them to put away their wives on pain of excommunication, which meant deprivation of all rights, spiritual, social, and human.… One cry of indignation, one prolonged and bitter wail of agony, arose throughout Europe, from the Apennines to the Baltic Sea.… Wives were torn from their husbands, children from their fathers. Popular fanaticism allied itself with Papal tyranny.… There was no pity for worse than widowed wives, and worse than orphaned children flung out upon the cold world to starve. The Pontiff trod his stern, remorseless way over broken hearts.… But he had a dangerous antagonist to encounter.… The Holy Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Church were together to dominate the world. But which of them was to dominate the other? Hildebrand's long contest with Henry IV. may be said to have decided the question. But with what weapons was it fought? We see the gallant Saxons tempted by bribes and promises to revolt, and then, in their hour of distress, treacherously abandoned by him who was at once their ally and "spiritual father," and to whom they addressed in vain those noble and pathetic remonstrances which, even to this day, cannot be read without emotion. Thus Hildebrand "loved righteousness." … But the Pontiff, so stern to his antagonists, could be mild to his allies. Keen swords in strong hands were necessary to support his power, the heaviest swords in Europe were borne by Norman knights. Robert, the conqueror of Sicily, William, the conqueror of England, were the representative men of this fierce and fiery race.… They were bloody, avaricious and unscrupulous. No more cruel conquerors ever turned a fruitful land into a waste, howling wilderness. No more remorseless oppressors ever trod down the poor with a heel of iron.… But their crimes were unrebuked by Hildebrand.… William was "addressed in the blandest accents of esteem and tenderness," while Robert, the tyrant of Sicily, "was embraced and honoured as the faithful ally of Rome." Thus Hildebrand "hated iniquity." That "way" in which he walked all his life long with a consistency of purpose and intensity of energy that moves our admiration, seemed "right unto himself," nay, it seemed to be preeminently the way of righteousness, but what shall we say of "the end thereof."—Etchings from History, by Miss Alcock. See Sunday at Home, February 15th, 1879.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Souls perish always with surprise … But yet the seeming here noted must be taken cum grano. Deep in the lost heart is the knowledge of its "end," rather its "afterpart." The way lasts for ever, and its afterward "is the ways of death!" Deep in the lost man's heart he knows all this, and this makes a dark ground for his gaieties. (See next verse).—Miller.

There are some ways which can hardly "seem right" to any man—the ways, namely, of open and flagrant wickedness. But there are many ways, which, under the biassing influence of pride and corruption, "seem right," and yet their "end" is "death."

I. The way of the sober, well-behaved worldling. He thinks of the law as if it had been only one table, the first being entirely overlooked. He passes among his circle for a man of good character, and flatters himself, in proportion as he is flattered by others, that all is right.… But his way is not the way of life, for God is not in it.

II. The way of the formalist. He follows, strictly and punctually, the round of religious observance.… But his heart has not been given to God. The world still has it. He compromises the retention of its affections for the things of sense by giving God the pitiful and worthless offering of outward homage. But it will not do. Those services cannot terminate in life, which have no life in them.

III. The way of the speculative religionist. From education, or as a matter of curiosity, he has made himself an adept in religous controversy. He holds by the creed of orthodoxy, and imagines that this kind of knowledge is religion. But speculative opinion is not saving knowledge—is not the faith which "worketh by love" and "overcomes the world."—Wardlaw.

Good intentions are not a justification for wrong doing (2Sa ). Jud 17:6 gives an awful illustration of the end of "every man doing that which is right in his own eyes." (Cf. the prohibition of this, Deu 12:8.)—Fausset.

This may be his easily besetting sin, the sin of his constitution, the sin of his trade. Or it may be his own false views of religion: he may have an imperfect repentance, a false faith, a very false creed. Many of the Papists, when they were burning the saints of God in the flames at Smithfield, thought they were doing God service.—A. Clarke.

The self-delusion of one ends in death by the sentence of the judge, that of another in self-murder; of one in loathsome disease, of another in slow decay under the agony of conscience, or in sorrow over a henceforth dishonoured and distracted life.—Delitzsch.

Sin comes clothed with a show of reason (Exo ); and lust will so blear the understanding, that he shall think there is great sense in sinning. "Adam was not deceived." (1Ti 2:14), that is, he was not so much deceived by his judgment—though also by that too—as by his affection to his wife, which at length blinded his judgment. The heart first deceives us with colours; and when we are once a-doting after sin, then we join and deceive our hearts (Jas 1:26), using fallacious and specious sophism, to make ourelves think that lawful to-day which we held unlawful yesterday.… But it falls out with us as with him that, lying upon a steep rock, and dreaming of good matters befallen him, starts suddenly for joy, and breaks his neck at the bottom. As he that makes a bridge of his own shadow cannot but fall into the water, so neither can he escape the pit of hell who lays his own presumption in the place of God's promise.—Trapp.

Some say, surely God will not punish a man hereafter who conscientiously walks up to his convictions, although these convictions be in point of fact mistaken. They err, knowing neither the inspired word of God nor natural laws. Do men imagine that God, who has established this world in such exquisite order, and rules it by regular laws, will abdicate, and leave the better world in anarchy? This world is blessed by an undeviating connection between cause and effect; will the next be abandoned to random impulses, or left to chaos?… It is not even conceivable that the direction of a man's course should not determine his landing-place.… Perhaps the secret reason why an expectation so contrary to all analogy is yet so fondly entertained, is a tacit disbelief in the reality of things spiritual and eternal. We see clearly the laws by which effects follow causes in time; but the matters upon which these laws operate are substantial realities. If there were a firm conviction that the world to come is a substance, and not merely a name, the expectation would naturally be generated, that the same principles which regulate the divine administration of the world now, will stretch into the unseen, and rule it all.… Truth shines like light from heaven; but the mind and conscience within the man constitute the reflector that receives it. Thence we must read off the impression, as the astronomer reads the image from the reflector at the bottom of his tube. When that tablet is dimmed by the breath of evil spirits dwelling within, the truth is distorted and turned into a lie.—Arnot.

There is no way which doth not seem right in his eyes who liketh to go in it. For man is led in all things by a seeming good; and such is the foulness of doing amiss, that it must put on the painted colours of doing right, or else it cannot draw the eyes of man's mind unto it. But it is the not seeing the end which causeth the seeming rightness of the way, and it is to man that it seems so, who is so apt to be deceived. He that hath a long fight, and in the beginning can see the end, he maketh the shortest journey and speedeth the best in it. If the beginning be a due consideration of the end, the end will be a beginning of true joy and comfort. It is not so in the way which seemeth to be right. For being but a way, it is passed and ended, and then begin the ways of death, which are said to be many, because there is an endless going on in them.—Jermin.


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-14.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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