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where they will bitterly repent that com. pany which led them into sinful courses. "?
6. Another evil of keeping bad coinpany is, that persons are not only urged to sin, but to excel in it. Their own natural lusts would urge them to evil, but in company one urges another on, till they do all the evil that is in their power. If one man swears a bolder oath than usual, the rest will soon learn it: if one man drinks till he cannot stand, the rest for company sake guzzle, till like swine they fall down together: or if a wild abomi, nable project be proposed, none will chuse to be behind hand, or seem more afraid, than he who first started it. Siis
Nay, an emulation will arise, who shall be the vilest, who shall set a pattern of infamous singularity, and be the most outrageous in bidding defiance to common decency; to those precepts of religion which they cannot deny; to those horrors of hell which they know are too true; and to that God who made, and will at last condemn them. Many a thing is done in company, which none of the party, if alone, would have dared to meddle with. They fear the laugh of their companions, more than the frown of a holy an, Almighty God. Remember those who are beyond others in guilt, must expect to be beyond others in punishment. Those who are highest in iniquity, will sink lowest in future misery. The more active, the more bold, the more persevering in sin now, the heavier will your chains be then, the fiercer will the fames burn.
7. And how often does the keeping bad company harden the heart against ree pentance. All sin is of a hardening nature, and renders the mind insensible of its misery, and unconcerned about its danger, Yet when a man commits sin in private, the voice of conscience will sometimes be heard, and he may fear to commit it again, But in company, the voice of conscience is overcome by the noise of mirth ; and the qualm which might operate to the sinner's conviction, is stifled in its birth by the shame of appearing singular. To do as others do, is more frequently our rule, than to do as we ought to do. And if so, we should keep company with those whom we may imitate with safety; and the danger of keeping bad company is in this very evident. To repent of that sin in which all our companions glory, is difficult indeed. " Come out therefore from among them, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will be a father to you, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Habits of sinful company are not easily broken through. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots; neither can those who are accustomed to do evil, learn easily to do well. On the first appearance of a sinner's repentance, all his associates will exert themselves to prevent his return to God, with sneers, persuasions, or execrations. And when those whom a person has long regarded as his friends, unite to oppose his separating from them, how great is the danger that he will comply; and either forget repentance utterly, or put it off to a more convenient season : although every time it is so put off, it is rendered more and more difficult to attain.
Now repentance, and fạith, are the only medicines to cure the sin sick soul. Except ye repent, and believe, ye shall perish. A sinner is turned from God : his heart is turned from him, he does not love him : his ways are turned from him, he does not serve him. Repentance is the soul's turning to God, being sorry that he has disobeyed him so long ; looking to Christ to forgive it, and resolving, by the grace
of God, wherein he has done evil, he will do so no more.
God will grant no mercy to sinners, but in a way of repentance. As you wish God to have mercy upon you, avoid those who would hinder your repenting. They cannot be your friends, they are your worst enemies, who have given you poison, and now would prevent your taking that medicine, which alone can save you from death and destruction. • The danger therefore of keeping bad company, lies in these particulars. It leads persons to abate their hatred and fear of sin, which is ruin to their principles. It leads them to abate their constancy in religious' duties, which is starving the soul. It causes them to forget, eternity, which breaks down the strongest guard against sin. It brings them to desire sinful ple -sures, which weaken and debase the min l., It prompts them to join in sinful ways, which makes God their enemy. It urgs them to exceed in sin, which prepares the heavier vengeance for them. And it tenis to harden them against repentance, whiclı. is the only remedy that can save them from that spiritual and eternal death, which is the consequence of their sin.
Secondly. Let us enquire what is the destruction threatened to such ; "a companion of fools” he “ shall be destroyed.”
We will consider this destruction, as it . relates both to this world and the next.
1. In this world they bring upon themselves ruin, as to their principles. It teaches them to call good evil, and evil good, Every object they look at they mistake, like a lunatic, whose reason is perverted, who hates those he ought to love, and desires every thing that can do him harm. •
It ruins their conscience. They come at last to have no sense of sin, no fear of hell. They carry, as it were, a lie in their right hand; become stupid, and in. sensible. They are described as having hearts of stone ; nay, as being dead in tresspasses and sins,
It ruins their earthly blessings. All that a sinner has is cursed, because himself is 80. His body is cursed; his soul is cursed; his estate is cursed ; his business, his plea. sures, his sleeping, and his waking hours, are all cursed. (See the 28th chap. of Deut.) How terrible a sinner's case is, even as to earthly things, however he may abound in them!
It destroys all spiritual pleasures. There