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advantage of contracting friendships with the good. But before this argument is entered into, it is to be observed that none are concerned in it but such as have a sense of religion and a due regard to virtue : such as have no regard for these are not concerned in it; nor will it be hard to convince the former of their great danger in contracting friendships with men who have prostituted their minds and bodies to the service of sin. For, first, let it be considered that none of our resolutions to keep clear from the pollutions of the company we keep, can give us any security for preserving our innocence: they are often carried into bad company, but seldom or never come off unimpaired; for their foundation being undermined, they themselves must fall to ruin. Resolutions made against sin, because of its heinousness and evil consequences, wear off by conversing with those who have learned to make a mock of sin. When once we come to relish this subject, it is but an easy step to practise what we thus far approve of: nor is it a hard matter to imagine that our fears are but the prejudices of education; and from the example of our friends our treacherous heart will say to us, Behold they sin, and no evil happeneth unto them: this whole point enlarged on, showing that thus seduced we fall asleep in the arms of pleasure, never perhaps to wake, till the last trumpet calls us with all our sins into the presence of God. Secondly: supposing that all these circumstances should not meet to complete our ruin, yet the opportunities for sin which an evil acquaintance affords, are of themselves great temptations : the virtue of men is not always equally strong; and it is the happiness of those who are unacquainted with the ways of wickedness, even when most tempted, to be ignorant how to sin. This guard we lose in the society of wicked men : this point enlarged on, showing how ready they are to second our temptations in order that they may triumph in our fall, and illustrated by the case of a person subject to violent passion, going into the company of one who would place arms in his hand, and rejoice to see the
extravagance of his fury. Thirdly: all acknowlege that there are difficulties in religion, even with all the assistance and advantages that may be had; the nature of the case requires this; for being here in a state of trial, and in order that we may give proof of our virtue, faith, and ready submission to God's will, if there were no difficulty, there would be no trial. Now knowing our all to depend on this trial, it must be extreme folly in any man to refuse any help that may make his work easy, or to expose himself to difficulties that may render its issue more uncertain ; yet this every one does who lays himself open to the art and cunning, and deadly insinuations of evil men, industrious in the bad cause they serve : (Prov. iv. 16. 17.) These verses enlarged on, showing that when the fulness of meat and drink has driven out thought and care, there springs up a brutal courage, which neither fears God nor regards man. Even this sensual indulgence, independent of its consequences, exposes us to the wrath of God: Riotous persons and drunkards shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This crime is heightened by a kind of self-murder, destroying the man formed after God's image, and leaving him in a worse condition than a helpless beast of the field. Should you propose to share these 'enjoyments with the libertines, and guard against all other kinds and degrees of wickedness, yet even this is destructive of the hopes of religion. If you bring but a taste and relish with you for such pleasures, use and custom and example will soon make you a proficient; and you will be surprised too late at finding yourself lost in excesses which you never thought of. Your cheerful nights and succeeding heavy mornings will indispose you for thought and reflexion, and thus your sense of religion will gradually decay. This whole case beautifully laid out, showing how the former comforts of an innocent mind will yield to misgiving fears, and drive a man to desperate intemperance; and then nothing but the extraordinary grace of God can save him; and whether he deserves this, let any one judge. But the
mercies of God, like the sun, rise on the evil and the good, on the just and the unjust. Perhaps then he will awaken you once more to a sense of danger. This is the best thing that can befal you : but could you be sure of this, there is no encouragement in it to enter into the societies of wicked men; for even thus you little think what misery you are preparing for yourself. When immersed in sensuality, the gentle calls of the Spirit will not awaken you; rougher methods are then necessary: this point enlarged on, showing that the methods to be used for rousing a lethargic or apoplectic man, are to be employed in spiritual distempers: by such methods was David called back to himself: this case enlarged on. Yet the external evils and afflictions which we call down on ourselves, will be but a light part of our misery; for when at length we come to see nothing to keep us from everlasting ruin but our slender thread of life, what despair will possess our minds! This awful state enlarged on to the end.
PSALM CXIX. -VERSE 63.
I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep
There is nothing more useful or necessary in the pursuit of virtue and holiness, and indeed in the whole conduct of our lives, than to observe the rules and methods by which men of approved righteousness, who are set forth to us as patterns and examples in holy Scripture, did attain to that perfection which made them the shining lights of the world, and the declared favorites of God. If therefore we look into such examples, and from thence draw rules for our own use, we shall be sure of two very great advantages; namely, that the rules we prescribe ourselves will be both proper and practicable : practicable, because drawn from the practice of men like ourselves; and proper, because we aim at no other end than that which good men before us have attained to by the use of these very means, and consequently, for the attaining of which these rules have already by experience been found to be proper.
This division of the 119th Psalm, from which the text is taken, sets before us the several steps by which David recovered himself from the sin in which he had been involved : in the first verse he declares his choice, Thou art my portion, O Lord;' and his resolution to pursue that choice, “I have said that I would keep thy word : this he knew by sad experience that he was not able to do without the assistance and support of God; and therefore the next step was to apply for his assistance, • I intreated thy favor with my whole heart. Having thus prepared himself, he set diligently to examine his heart, and to form resolutions, and immediately to put those resolutions
into practice: 'I thought on my ways ; I turned my feet unto thy testimonies; I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. This was a good beginning, and these very promising resolutions; but to secure them there was need of patience and courage, and faith towards God. The
way that leads to life is narrow and beset with dangers : and we begin in vain, unless we are prepared to endure hardship like good soldiers of Christ. The next thing therefore he mentions, and which we are to learn from him, is steadfastness when we are tried : • The bands of the wicked,' says he, have robbed me; but I have not forgotten thy law.' He then resolves on a constant and uninterrupted devotion towards God: At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments. After this follow the words of the text, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.'
At first sight this seems to be but a little thing to mention, after so many great attainments spoken of before : after he had remembered his holy resolutions, his immediate and uninterrupted pursuit of them, his constancy and steadiness under affiction, his perpetual devotions, what should lead him to fall so low as to add, that he was careful to keep good company ? What else could lead him to it but his own experience, which had taught him that this care was the great preservative of all his other attainments, without which they would soon waste away, and leave him once more an easy prey to the soft allurements of vice? He knew and had felt how great the contagion of ill company was; and therefore with reason adds, in the last place, that which was his greatest care, the avoiding the society of wicked and voluptuous men : a snare in which he had once already almost perished, and in which he had been intirely lost, had not God sent his afflicting angel to terrify and awaken his conscience, which was stupified with sensual pleasures, and sleeping the sleep of death. So sensible was the holy Psalmist of this danger, that he not only resolved for himself to avoid it, but made it his early care to forewarn his son of it; and such impressions did the repeated admonitions of his father make on the mind of Solomon, that in the book of Proverbs, when he comes to mention this necessary advice of shunning the company