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day to day (2 Peter ii. 8). It is not only said his righteous soul was vexed, which is passive; but he is said to vex himself at their wickedness, which is an active word. Injuries done to God should touch us no less nearly than injuries done to ourselves; it will be a continual grief and vexation of heart to us. Well then, how can their company be acceptable to us, unless we have a mind to vex and bring trouble upon ourselves ?
6thly, Our familiarity with them may be a means to harden them in their sin, and our withdrawing a means to humble them: “ Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thes. iii. 6, 14). While you accompany freely with them, you seem tacitly to approve their doing, and make them more obstinate in their way. An alien from the faith may be melted with kindness; but a brother that walketh disorderly is more ashamed if you withdraw from him, whereas, otherwise, you seem to show approbation. “He that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 1!), as he seemeth to countenance them in their damnable errors. But now, when a man lives as an outcast from God's people, this may work upon his heart. Society with God's children is not only a duty, but a privilege; by the loss of this privilege, we are to make them sensible of the evil course wherein they are.
7thly, The great judgments that follow evil company: therefore we must not voluntarily cry up a confederacy with them : “ Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. xviii. 4). In conversing with the wicked, there is a double danger, infection of sin and infliction of punishment: “A companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov. xiii. 20); not only fools, but their companions. Lot, living among the wicked Sodomites, he suffered with them; you know when Sodom was assaulted, Lot was taken prisoner, and his goods plundered as theirs were (Gen. xiv. 12). Jehoshaphat, being associated with Ahab, was in danger of death (1 Kings xxii. 37). The Heathens were sensible that wicked men were marked out for vengeance. The Athenians would not wash in the same bath with the persecutors of Socrates. So Polycarp would not go into the same bath with Cerinthus, but said, 'The enemy of truth is here; let us depart hence, lest the bath fall down upon us.'
Use I.—Reproof of their foolhardiness that rush upon evil company, and fear nothing. What! are your hearts so good, that you think scorn that any company should hurt you? Consider, is sin grown less dangerous than it was, or are we come to such a height of perfection as to be above temptation to sin ? Or have we so good a command of ourselves, that we need not take such care of our company? that we shall do well enough, though we play about the cockatrice's hole, and run into all companies and societies without fear : Good David here in the text is fain to proclaim, “ Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity," and to banish them out of his company; and David exceeded us in holiness, and surely we live in more wicked days than he did. See how it succeeded with Peter: he would venture into the high priest's hall, and sit with the company there; and how did it succeed with him? It brought him to a denial of Christ. Eve was bold with the serpent, and the Virgin Mary shamefaced with an angel (Luke i. 29, 30); and you know how it fell out both with the one and the other; one was a means to ruin all mankind, and the other to repair it. What is the matter? is not sin the same it was? and is not human nature as bad as ever? What spells and charms have we about ourselves, that the people of God had not heretofore? Or are we more fortified, and so are less watchful? Shall we be running still upon the pit's brink, and show how far we can go and not fall in ? Are all those cautions out of date that bid us shun the occasions of sin, and is not evil company one of the chiefest of them? Yet some men can frolic it in all companies, revel and dance, run to plays, and no harm they think of all this. Solomon says, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away" (Prov. iv, 14, 15). See how he heaps up words. Did he trifle and speak needlessly when with such earnestness he pressed this, that we would be careful of associating with wicked men ? Surely no; and yet men are for all companies, as if there were no danger to their souls.
USE II.-Let us be persuaded to shake off the society of the wicked. Depart from them that depart from God, and would draw you along with them; but chiefly should we shun them, because bad company is the pest and bane of godliness. Under the law, a man that had a running issue, whoever touched him was unclean (Lev. xiv. 4); and so it is here ; you are defiled by your conversing with them: men of different humours, spirits, interests, how can they agree? Either you must abate somewhat of your zeal, or you can never suit if you enter into friendship with them. You cannot deal so plainly against their sins, or gainsay them in their evil practices, but will wax cold by little and little. If you be in defiance with them, that will make way for calumny and all manner of injuries; therefore it is better never to begin acquaintance with them. Consider again, if none of this fall out, yet their company will be a loss to you: as it spendeth time and hindereth you of many opportunities of religious privacy and service of God, so, if no other way you had a loss by them, they would not better you; for they are not company you expect to gain by. As he said, Nunquam ad te accedo, quin doctior recedam, quin sanctior ; I never came to such a one, but I went away more learned and holy; certainly, a Christian should choose such for his company, that he might say, 'I go away more holy;' otherwise, his company would be a loss to us.
But to pursue this argument a little further. To give some observations; then some helps against evil company.
First, Some observations.
1st, This concerns young ones especially, and those that are not in a radicated state of grace. Indeed, it concerns all. If you mean to keep close to God, you must divorce your heart from them, but chiefly young ones that are either left to choose, or not confirmed in their choice; for the danger to them is greater than to others. Oh! how many young ones are undone by carnal company! Eusebius tells us of a young man that was bred up under St. John, who by evil company was not only drawn to be a robber, but the prince and captain of robbers (Euseb., lib. 3, c. 23), until St. John went out and met him. And Gregory the Great speaks of Gordiana, his own aunt, that was drawn off from the love of God, and the strictness of a holy life, after the death of her two sisters, Tharsylla and Æmiliana, by her companions. And St. Augustine, lib. 8, Confess., cap. 8: Quem fructum habui miser aliquando in iis quæ nunc recolligens erubesco, maxime in illo furto, in quo ipsum fertum amavi, nihil aliud ; et ipsum essel nihil, et ego eo miserior, et tamen solus id non
fecissem. Sic recordor animum tunc meum, solus omnino id non fecissem, ergo amavi consortium eorum cum quibus id feci: O Lord, what cause have I to be ashamed, when I remember these things; especially the theft, where I loved the theft for the theft's sake! What was the gain but a few apples stolen? and yet, saith he, I had never done it if I had been alone; oh! it was the company of them that drew me into this theft: then afterwards it was my companions drew me to this. O nimis iniqua amicitia ! seductio mentis investigabilis ; O cruel friendship! when they said, Come, let us go and do it; I was ashamed not to be shameless and evil as they. Well then, in this waxen age, youth are above all to avoid the company of evil-doers.
2ndly, We must not only take heed that we be not inured to evil, but also that we be not deadened to that which is good. Example may corrupt us either way. Neglect of God will keep us out of Heaven, as well as profaneness. Now, alas! how easily are we leavened with deadness and formality by our company! Frequent society with dead-hearted formalists, or persons merely civil and moral, whose conference is empty, unsavoury, barren, may much divert our hearts from Heaven, and do us a great deal of mischief. The Apostle tells us we should “consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works" (Heb. x. 24). Our dulness and backwardness is such, that we need the most powerful helps.
3rdly, Of all evil company, the company of seducers, those that cause divisions and offences in the church and broach novel opinions, ought to be avoided : “ Mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. xvi. 17). If any may bring another doctrine,“ receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 John ii. 10); and men that are given to “ perverse disputings," " from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. vi 5). Error is more catching than vice, and more spreading. It is more catching, the face of it being represented with the loveliness of some pretence or other, whereas foul actions are found hateful and more contrary to natural conscience. And besides, it is more spreading. Vice is like a duel, it killeth but one ; error is like a war, that destroys many at once; therefore we should not be familiar with these. Erroneous apprehensions in religion carry a marvellous compliance with a man's natural thoughts.
4thly, It is not enough to avoid bad company, but we must choose that which is good. A man must have friends, the use of them in this life is very great. Man is a sociable creature, as Aristotle speaks. Company and friendship we must have. Christ himself was not without his peculiar friends; there was Peter, James, and John, that were the flower of the apostles, that were conscious to his transfiguration and his agonies. We must have our friends and our society, so that the advantage of good company is very great: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise" (Prov. xiii. 20); their example will allure and excite to holy emulation, and their counsel and instruction will be a great help in the business of religion. Even Saul, being among the prophets, had his raptures (1 Sam. xix. 23); so living in the company of godly men, and seeing, hearing, and conferring with them of good things, leaveth some impression.
Secondly, Some helps and considerations.
Ist, Consider what is our chiefest good. This is principium universalissimum. The last end or chiefest good is the principle which doth influence all our actions. And certainly, if men fix their last end aright,
it will have an influence upon all they do, our company, our business, our recreation, our holy duties. Well now, consider, what is your chiefest good and your last end? If pleasure were our chiefest good, and if we had nothing else to do but to pass away the time, and to get rid of melancholy, there would need no great care in the choice of our company ; but enjoying the blessed God, that is our last end and chiefest good; everything must be answerable, to help you to Heaven.
2ndly. A sincere resolution to walk with God, to keep in with God. firmly set; for here David saith, “Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keep the commandments of my God." His resolution was set, therefore he shakes them off. When Ruth's resolution was set, Naomi left off persuading. When Paul's company saw his resolution, that he went bound in the spirit, they ceased, saying, “ The will of the Lord be done" (Acts xxi. 14). So this will fortify against all suggestion; they will be discouraged from haunting you more, when you are resolved.
3rdly, Our company will be a great part of our happiness in Heaven: “ Ye are come unto, &c., the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven” (Heb. xi. 22); and they “ shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. viii. 11). Company will be a great part of our happiness, and for the present it will be a great hindrance or a great furtherance; therefore, when we think of this, it will make us choose those with whom we shall converse to all eternity, that we may say, “Now I shall change places, but not my company ; I shall but go from saints to saints.'
4thly, Bad company can yield you no comfort hereafter, when trouble of conscience comes. When your heart begins to wound you, they cannot or will not help: “ What is that to us? see thou to that" (Matt. xxvii. 4). If they draw you to inconvenience, when it comes upon you, they will yield you no relief or comfort. Well, he that considers he is to die and give an account, will not displease God to please men.
SERMON CXXVII. VERSE 116.-Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live ;
and let me not be ashamed of my hope. In the former verse, David had bound himself by a firm resolution to keep the commandments of his God: now presently he turneth to prayer, “Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live; and let me not be ashamed of my hope.” Our purposes and resolutions will not hold out without God's confirming grace. David, that would have the wicked depart from him there, would have God draw nigh to him here. Both are necessary, if we would keep the commands. The company of the wicked, as a great impediment, must be removed, “ Depart from me, ye evil doers ;'' and then the assistance of God must be entreated, “Uphold me according unto thy word,” &c. Two things he begs of God in this verse:
1. Confirmation in waiting.
In the first request there is, 1. The blessing prayed for, confirmation, or sustentation, " Uphold me.” 2. The ground or warrant of asking, “ According unto thy word;” some translations have it, by thy word, making it the instrument of his support. 3. To what end, “ That I may live.”
In the second request, an argument is intimated, that frustration or disappointment of his hope would bring shame.
I. I begin with the first, the blessing prayed for, sustentation and support, “Uphold me.” David speaketh not this with respect to his outward man, as if God should keep him alive, maugre the rage of his enemies. Indeed, God doth uphold his creatures in that sense, by his outward providence and Divine maintenance. But he speaketh this of his inward man, the support of the soul, that God would support him in a way of faith and comfort. In verse 114, “ Thou art my hiding-place and my shield: I hope in thy word ;" now, 'Lord, that I may live, keep up the life of this hope ;' and verse 115, “ I will keep the commandınents of my God.” And now he desires God would support him in a way of courage and obedience. Hence observe,
DOCTRINE.-Sustaining grace is necessary to the saints: confirmation in a state of grace is as necessary to them as conversion to it.
There is a twofold grace which God gives, habitual and actual; either he works upon us infusing grace, per modum habitus permanentis, or else, per modum auxilii transientis.
First, There is habitual grace, called in Scripture the new heart and new spirit (Ezek. xxxvi. 26), and by St. John called onépua ávtă, the abiding seed (1 John iii. 9); and by St. Paul walvi «tiois, the “ new creature” (2 Cor. v. 17). All these expressions intend those fixed and permanent habits which are the principles of holy actions.
Secondly, There is actual grace; for the former is not enough to carry us through all duties, and to uphold us in all the varieties of this mortal condition; why? Quia non totaliter sanat ; habitual grace works not a total, but only a partial cure : though there be the new creature wrought, though there be an abiding seed; yet there is something of sin, and something of the flesh, still left in the soul. Therefore we want perpetual supplies of actual grace. Now, this kind of grace serveth for divers uses.
Ist, To direct us in the exercise of grace formerly received. A ship already rigged needs a pilot; so, although God hath renewed the heart, yet there needs direction how to exercise and put forth that grace that we have received; therefore David, “Oh! that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes !” (Psalm cxix. 5;) and, “ The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God,” &c. (2 Thes. iii. 5.) In the exercise of every grace, we need new directions from God.
2ndly, To excite and quicken the habits of grace. This is like blowing up the sparks of fire that are buried under the ashes. There needs continual excitation, which is often sought by the saints: “ Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy word; and, “ draw me," saith the spouse (Cant. i. 4).
3rdly, This actual grace serves us for this use, to strengthen them in the operation and to facilitate the work. This is that which is expressed Psalm cxix. 32, “ When thou shalt enlarge my heart;" that is, when the inclination of the renewed heart to good things is powerfully set awork, this is like filling the sails with a good wind, which carries on the ship merrily to its port and haven.
4thly, Use to sustain, protect, and defend the grace that we have,