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it not only practised, but loved :-Loved better than holiness, better than God; loved perhaps better than money, than reputation, than life. Shall we not be apt to think favourable of it, if we continually see so many love it. Possibly they go further, and rejoice and triumph in it. The drunkards have their songs; and glory in being lower than brutes. The sabbath breaker triumphs over the more conscientious, as if he had most sense of the two. Will not this produce a fondness for these sins, if we associate with them. And if we hear the sin defended; a multitude of arguments urged with the assurance of reason, with wit, and drollery, it is no wonder if we begin to approve it, and our perverted judgements incline to think it right. Is it not as dangerous to the soul's health, to take in such poisonous sentiments, as it is to the body's health to take hemlock? Therefore avoid bad company.
2. Such society tends to make us lose our constancy in religion; as the stomach which is continually loaded with trash, loses its relish for,' and power of digesting, better food. Religion teaches us to pray to God in private; and there is no true
religion in persons, who do not attend constantly and seriously to it. We are to have a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men, in all honesty, sobriety, and pure conversation. And the public worship of God must be attended with seriousness and diligence. In all these respects, how much mischief is done by bad company. By ridicule they deride the godly as overstrict, as though a man could take too much care of his soul. Knowing that a serious argument against godliness cannot be maintained, they attempt to laugh away those truths, which they cannot confute. They despise the ministers of religion, they hate its services, they ridicule and nick name its professors, and whoever will acknowledge himself serious and pious, must expect to become their laughing stock. They shake our constancy too by their solicitation; to pervert a person, and make him as bad as themselves is their ambition; like their father the devil, whose joy it is to see them so busy in his service. They will entreat a man to join a party on the Lord's day, or in a manner force him to adopt some dishonest measure, and, with a zeal worthy a better cause, persevere against all refusals, till
they can make him forget his conscience, his religion, and his God. By their hindrance of our time too, they break in upon our better duties: When they stay with us at the time we should be in our closets, or keep us with them when God calls us to his company: When they press upon us business, or pleasure, at seasons which ought to be devoted to spiritual things, they bring on us a forgetful habit, and teach us to be uncertain, inconstant, and careless, about things the most serious, certain, and important.
And most of all do they injure us by the dissipation their company brings upon the mind, unfitting it for religious exercises. A mind much engaged in mirth and jollity, will but little relish repentance and godly sorrow. When the imagination is filled with the memory of a past carousal, or the expectation of approaching festivity, it will not be in tune to those sentiments of self denial, despising of worldly enjoyments, and longing for heavenly glory, which become the christian; he will be apt to prefer songs to psalms, public chat to private prayer, and the means of gratifying his sensual appetites, to the means of grace, of life, and of salvation.
As the soul cannot live spiritually with. out the word and ordinances of God, which are its food; bad company, which either deprives us of them, or renders them useless, ought by all means to be avoided. If we become inconstant and inattentive in. religion, religion will do us no good: any more than a man's having food in his hand, but never eating it, would satisfy his hunger, or keep him alive.
3. The society of wicked persons leads us to forget our souls and eternity. Concerns which the wicked hate to think of; their disrelish to which is shewn, whenever they are mentioned, either by a profane jest, or a sullen gloom.
Yet if the worth of any thing can bind us to remember it, our soul should never be forgotten; it is of more value than all the world. He that will remember his health, and forget his soul; who will take care of his money, and neglect his more precious soul; lock up a diamond from theives, and leave his soul a pray to the devil and sin; acts an absurd part indeed. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul!"
We should remember too its danger; it is lost in sin, and in danger of being eternally lost in hell. A sinner is like a
sick man at the point of death; it is true a remedy is provided, and Christ the physician can heal the disorder; but you will not find him among your gay companions. You will be more likely there to lose, not only him, but all sense of your need of him.
The soul's wants should make us remember it; but it is the body's wants which occupy the care of the wicked. What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be cloathed? is their enquiry. If we join them, this will become our enquiry too, till the souls poverty, wretchedness, blindness, nakedness, are forgotten; and the season of their supply, the present fleeting life, is over, and we begin eternity.
Eternity! that is what we should begin now, in serious thought and preparation. What business so important as this? Should we pass this eternity with the wicked companions whose society is now so dear to us, it must be in hell, Remember that, if their noise and ribaldry will let you, when next you join their seducing assembly.
Eternity! it is the most certain thing that can engage our thoughts. Were we