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at length, wear out all serious impressions, than frequenting loose and vicious company? Let me beseech you, therefore, in the words of the apostle Peter, to "beware, lest ye alfo, being led away with the "error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfast"ness (a)." But frequenting the company of the wicked, is not only apt to weaken, and, at length, eradicate, all serious impressions; it has likewise a tendency to stir up the mind against the power and lise os religion. Look abroad into the world, and judge for yourselves. Observe, for instance, a good perfon, 'who has been pioufly educated: No fooner does he frequent bad company, than he begins to look upon prayer, and other religious duties, as unnecessary, and to think his parents too severe, when they endeavour to make him abandon his sinsul pursuits. Having now become licentious in his behaviour, and libertine in his opinions, he is ready to think a godly minister too stiff and precise, because he faithsully reproves the lovers of pleasure; and thus, by degrees, he not only loses all that regard for religion, and the people of God, in which he was brought up, but, at length, walks with considence in the counsel of the ungodly, and sits in the scat of the scornsul. I do not ask you, whether this be really the case or not. The fact is too evident to be denied, too melancholy not to be lamented. Many who have had a religious education, nay, who once discovered a fober and serious disposition, by falling into loose and profane company, have not only lost all relish for religion and virtue, but seel in themselves a distaste, and, what indeed would appear incredible, if it were not consirmed by experience, a contempt of every thing serious and facred. And this will still appear with greater evidence, if you consider likewise, that frequenting bad company is a fad inlet to all manner of sin, and often leads men into the practice of the most shamesul and pernicious vices. "Be not de"ceived," fays the apostle; "evil communications

^ corrupt

-{«) i Vet. iii. IJ.

"corrupt good manners." There is in all men a natural inclination to vice; and every one acquainted with himself, knows how difficult it is to resist this inward propensity, even with the assistance of good instruction, and virtuous example. How much more difficult then, must it be to resist it, amidst the insinuating arguments, and ensnaring examples of prosane and vicious company! Difficult, did I say? nay, it is almost impossible; for the corruption of our nature is like tinder, apt to catch sire, and be kindled by the least spark of temptation. Can a man touch pitch, and not be desiled? Can he walk through the flames, and not be burnt? No more can they who associate themselves with the impious workers of iniquity, escape being hurt by their contagious principles and conduct. How often have we seen men, through the influence of bad company, trifle away their precious time, day after day, in idleness and dissipation! How often have they, by this means, learned to blaspheme the name of God; to prosane and pollute the Sabbath; to dishonour parents, and speak evil of dignities; to injure their neighbour in his character and person; to debauch, to trick, to rob, to steal, to lie, to deceive, and to covet unlawsul gain! How many have lamented these things upon a deathbed or a scaffold, and cursed the day that introduced them to the company of those,- by whose conversation and example, the foundations of their religion and their morals had been overthrown!

And now, ta you that are the prosessors of religion, and were yesterday at the table of the Lord, I would address myself on this subject. You have heard what that obedience is which the gospel requires; and, as communicants, you are under the most solemn obligations to perform it: nay, you have declared in the presence of the omniscient Jehovah, and even appealed to him as the witness of your sincerity, that you will deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present world. 'Would you then be saithful to God in

keeping keeping his commandments, avoid, as much as shalt be in your power, all loose, prosane, and licentious company mix not with their society: beware, especially, of cultivating an intimate acquaintance with them, " lest," as the wise man expresses it, " you "learn their way, and get a blot to your fouls ?* This is the advice of the Spirit of God to you, and it is inculcated with a peculiar earnestness of expression: "Enter not," says he, "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 (a)." Let me intreat you to consider what an absurd thing it is; how inconsistent with your character and prcsession,if, while you pretend to be the friends and disciples-o/ Christ, you associate yourselves with his enemies! For, what sellowship hath righteousness with unrighteoujaefs? what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? How indecent is it, nay, what a contradiction, to be-seen to-day at the table of the Lord, and to-morrow, among the workers of iniquity! To join, at one time, with the saints, in Christian communion, and, at another, with the ungodly, in drinking the intemperate cup, in their wanton songs, and prosane jests! Are not such shamesul hypocrisy and salsehood, a reproach and a condemnation? How can you answer it, you careless prosessors, to God, to the world, or to your own consciences? You consirm the insidel in his unbelief, you harden the sinner in wickedness, and give occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme. I charge you, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who mall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, as you have named the name of Christ, that you depart from all iniquity. And I intreat you in the most earnest manner, and even, for God*s sake, beseech you, that you guard against the insectious company of the wicked; and ever say, with the Psalmist, in our text, "Depart "from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keep the com^ mandments of my God."


ovf perhaps' you will fay, What! shall we be singular and precise? Shall we Be pointed out as. separatists ffom the way of the world?' This will draw upon us"£he odium and the censure of all our acquaintance; nay, it will expose us to seoxn and* ridicule,' aiid may even be prejudicial to our temporal interests.—I acknowledge, indeed,- that in things lawsul, or at least indifferent, singularity ought to be avoided. But, in things wkere your duty to God is concerned, you must neither be ashamed, nor asraid to be singular. Is singularity, in this case, to be deemed a reproach? Does any man, suppose a physician, a lawyer, a divine, or. a tradesman, reckon it an affront to him, to be pointed out as one of singu>lar eminence in his own prosession? And shall a Christian, whose prosession is, of all others, the most excellent, think it a disparagement to him, a thing that he needs to be ashamed os, to be remarked and taken notice of by others, as one singularly eminent in religion? He that can think fo, must have a mean spirit, and a vitiated taste. Remember, that if you make it your chief care to please men, you cannot be the servants of Christ. You must therefore get above the sear of the world, and the shame of practising strict godliness j and study, above all things, to approve yourselves unto God; for it is by his judgment you must stand or fall. And if God be for you, who can be.against you? On the other harid, if he be against you, who can be for you? or what 'advantage can you derive from the favour - and friendship of men, if he be your enemy?

And now, to conclude, would you be preserved from the ensnaring arts of the wicked, in order to keep the commandments of God j—

1. Labour to maintain a sirm belief of the important truths of religion, and to live always under a lively and affecting impression of them. For nothing tends more to corrupt the minds and morals of men, than atheism and insidelity: And, even though yoa v have have not come the length of disbelieving the principles of religion; yet, if you neglect to consider them, if you suffer them to lie, as k were, dormant in your minds, and take no care to live under their influence, you will be continually in danger of being made a prey by every vile and worthless seducer.

2. Be always on your guard against the folicitations of such as would draw you into bad company: And beware of trusting to the sirmness of your own virtue, as if you were able to stand secure against all the wiles which they may employ to ensnare you. Believe it, it will be dangerous for you to try'the experiment; fot God may leave you, and then all your good refolutions will be ineffectuaL

Lastly, Pray much to/God, in the name of Christ, that he, by his grace, may preserve you from the snares ef the wicked. Make frequent use of that petition in the Lord's prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but "deliver us from evil:" For, except you depend upon God, and earnestly implore the assistance of his. grace, all your caution and 'watchsulness will be ia vain.

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