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YOUNG MEN CAUTIONED AGAINST BAD COMPANY.
1 Cor. xv. 33.
Evil communications corrupt good manners.
AMONG the many dangers against which we all have to guard, those especially who are just setting out on the journey of life, and beginning to think themselves their own masiers, one of the most destructive is that which arises from keeping bad company. Evil communications, says the apostle, corrupt good manners.
Even those whose characters appear to be in some degree formed, who have made some progress in the ways of holiness, and whose manners as yet are comparatively good, cannot keep bad company without danger of being corrupted. Where, however, the character is still unsettled, and the manners instead of being good are rather disposed to follow the guidance of appetite, or passion, or fancy, without regard to religion, such danger becomes still greater.
The pernicious effects of keeping bad company proceed from several causes. One of the principal of these is the power and force of example.
Of the power of example no one is ignorant. We know how almost all men, especially those whose character have the pliancy and easiness of youth, are apt to imitate, almost involuntarily, the example of those with whom they associate. If the companions, with whom young men principally live, are in their conduct governed by the laws of sound reason and genuine religion-by a regard to the will of God-such conduct will have a satisfactory influence upon all who associate with them. They will become more and more confirmed in good principles, and right habits and dispositions; and while they promote their own happiness and well being, will grow in favour with God and
He, says the Scripture, he that walketh with wise men shall be wise";—and he that, like David, resolves to be the companion of those that fear God and keep his commandments, will catch from them something of the spirit by which they are actuated, and will probably become good from the force of good example. If, on the other hand, any one, one especially who as yet is young and inexperienced, is unhappily thrown much into the society of men who make light of all the precepts and sanctions of religion, great indeed is the danger of his being corrupted by them. It is probable that from his parents and his teachersindeed from the suggestions of his own consciencehe has received some notions of right and wrong, some good impressions, which, at first, will be greatly shocked by what he sees and hears upon coming among such evil associates. But soon his right principles and right feelings will be weakened, perhaps entirely effaced, by communication with such men, and his own passions and appetites and lusts will prompt him to throw off like his companions the restraints laid on them by religion and conscience.
a Prov. xxii. 20.
The dread and the hatred of sin is, of course, greatly lessened by seeing it commonly practised, especially when practised by those with whom the young man intimately associates. When he sees them without fear indulging all their corrupt desires, and giving free scope to debauchery and sensuality, he will too soon be encouraged to run with them to the same excess of riot.
His natural appetites are as strong as theirs, and their example embeldens him to give way to his appetites, without trying to control them.
But he will be corrupted, not only by the actual example of his bad companions, but by the language which they are in the habit of using ;---not only by what they do, but by what they say. They are in the habit of constantly indulging in that foolish talking and jesting, which St. Paul speaks of as inconsistent with the Christian character. In their corrupt communications they freely and without shame speak of sensual indulgences, and of sins which ought not to be named among Christians, with careless levity, and as a matter of jest and merriment. Nothing tends more than such conversation to break down all the safeguards of virtue, and to grieve and drive from us the good Spirit of God. A thoughtless young man is apt to be taken by the appearance, which his loose associates put on, of caring for nothing, and of making a jest of things which are held in respect by soberminded and sensible men. In the latter days, says the apostle, shall be scoffers, walking after their own lusts a. Men who are bent upon walking after their own lusts, are in great danger of becoming scoffers, of getting a habit of laughing and joking about things most awfully serious. Their ignorance and their folly possibly may even be carried so far as to induce them to treat religion itself with contempt, and to say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.—What is the Almighty, that we should serve him; or what profit shall we have if we pray unto him?
The living much with one man of this character is likely to be attended with most hurtful consequences; and the danger is dreadfully increased when such companions are many. The influence of bad example of course becomes more powerful and more contagious from numbers. Men in general are easily swayed by the example of those in whose company they are. In spite it may be of the suggestions of reason and common sense, and of the checks of conscience, they weakly suffer themselves to be led away by their associates. They weakly think and say that they must do as others do, that they cannot stand out
a 2 Pet. iii. 3.
from the rest, without reflecting on the real nature and certain consequence of such foolish and unmanly conduct. They should rather remember the solemn injunctions of Scripture, Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. The example of numbers furnishes no excuse for bad conduct, nor will it lessen the punishment of guilt hereafter. When numbers join together for any sinful purpose, the injury is so much the greater to thepeace and well-being of society, and may even in this world require to be visited with a punishment proportionably heavy. And in the great day of retribution, the number of the guilty will be no skreen, no safeguard from the awful sentence of condemnation. Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. Multitudes that have walked together after the way of their own hearts, in the paths of sin and folly, in the broad and easy way that leads to destruction, will together be condemned to that place of torment which is appointed for the wicked, and for those people that forget God.
The companion of fools, says the Wise man, shall be destroyed"; and no men more deserve to be numbered among fools, than those who act in such manner, as if they said in their hearts there is no God, those, who by the working of wickedness, give evident proof that they are without understanding.
One of the burtful—the natural--consequences of associating with bad men, which must not be entirely
• Exod. xxiii. 2.
b Prov. xiii. 20.