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of which is, to the last degree, self evident. It is not easy indeed to conceive of what infinite benefit and advantage to the community are the good morals and conversation of one truly pious and conscientious Christian; the worfe and more licentious the age is in which he lives, the more useful may be his example, and his influence the more extensive; if he is cautious in his words, chaste and pure in his discourse, and ordereth his conversation aright, he may correct the profligate, reform the wicked, and convert the infidel.
But let us turn to the other side of this infiructive leífon, and mark how dreadful are the effects of bad example. Human nature is so prone to evil, that it needs
temptation or encouragement to it; evil principles and practices are soon propagated, and if they find any countenance and approbation from those whom we converse with, will easily bear down all the opposition which education, reason, or even the principles of religon itself, can raise against them. Cum a man, says Solomon, take fire in his boom and not be burnt ? Sin is the cement of friendship between finners; what but polluted waters therefore can How from a polluted fountain? How hard is it, even for a good man to preserve the purity and fobriety of his mind amidst riots, drunkenness, and intemperance! and if a virtuous man can hardly stand on flich slippery ground, how easily are those thrown town who are of themselves too prone to cil, and too fond of temp. tation!
Since then the friends whom we affociate with, and the company wę keep, are of the utmost consequence and importance to us, let us fee whether some useful rules may not be laid down on this head, which may be of fervice to us with regard to our future conduct.
Enter not, says the wise man, into the path of the wicked, and go not into the way of evil men, avoid it, pass not by it, but, turn from it, and pass away:-withdraw yourselves, says the Apostle, from every brother that walks disorderly; if any brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortio.. ner, with such a one do not eat.
But here it may perhaps be objected, that in this case we may foon find ourselves obliged to renounce the world, and bid adieu to fociety; our situation will resemble that which St. Paul mentions: I wrote unto youl, fays he, in an epistle, not to keep company with fornicałors; yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolators, for then muft ye needs
out of the world. But even if we should grant that we must keep ill company or none, doubtless it is far better to abstain from all society, than to be corrupted with all the vices of it. Retirement is not, ought not ever to appear dreadfulto a Christian; he need not complain of folitude, who can converse with his Maker and his Redeemer; a good man may meet God, like Ifaac, in the fields, or like Mofes, in the desart: he may enjoy communion with him, like David in his bed cham
her, or Jofeph in the dungeon. No solitude can be so dismal or so horrid as that fociety which infects the heart, or darkens the understanding. No provocation or infolence can be half fo injurious as that conversation which promotes vice and debauchery, and betrays us into a love of this world, and a forgetfulness of God. There is, it must be acknowledged, in men of wit, parts, and genius, whose con. versation is so much fought after, a tendency towards profanenefs and debauchery; they are too apt to give a loose to their imaginations, to let go the reins of judgment, and sport in the regions of fancy, riot, and licentiousness. Such conipanions the sober and serious Chriftian cannot too carefully avoid; the path in. deed is strewed with flowers to all, but the snakes of vice and folly lurk beneath them, and will render our way full of danger, and preg. nant with calamity.
If the true Christian appears in every thing we do or say, if the beauty of holiness shines forth in our converse, we shall foon fee that the good will seek and love us; if we estrange ourselves from the niodes and habits of a vicious world, their vanities and impertinencies will insensibly vanish from us, and only real worth and goodness will adhere to us.
But if, after all, the business and affairs of this world irrefiftibly draw us into the company and conversation of the wicked; ali that we can do, and all that will be required of 115, is not to have any fellowship or communion witi diem in their vices, but as far as we
can to discountenance and reprove them. We should carefully consider what ought to be the true end and design of society amongst Chriftians. Surely not merely to eat and drink together, to laugh and trifle away our precious moments. The Scripture points out to us much nobler purposes and designs of conversation, which tells us, that our speech should be fuch as may administer grace to the hearers; that we should build up one another in holy faith; comfort and exhort one another continually; and surely it would be more de. lightful, as well as more beneficial to us, if, instead of cenfures and reflections, news and impertinence, folly and vanity, our conversation should now and then take a more serious turn, and be employed on some nobler subject, more becoming the genius and hope of a Christian; if we took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends.
I would not by this be understood to mean that all the common accidents and affairs of life, or matters even of amusing and divertive nature, should be totally excluded from our discourse, but that morality and religion should be the general and chief tendency of it, and should always so far preserve their influence over it, as to prevent the intrusion of
every thing that is profane; licentious, and immoral.
It is hard to conceive how a good Christian should want either matter or opportunity for pious discourse; he must suffer the course of God's Providence to rafs without obfervation
or remark; he must be a stranger to the works of nature, and utterly unread in the history of human affairs : he must be unacquainted with the Book of God; he must have reflected very little on the temptations of the world, and the defects and infirmities of his own nature, who could want matter for good discourse. The man of letters, the man of business, the man of pleasure, never wants matter; it is strange that the Christian alone should be thus barren, he who should abound in wisdom and underítanding, who has every hour matters of the highest importance on his hands, and who may be entertained with more and richer pleasures than the most fortunate Epicurean could ever boast; and still less, one would imagine, could he reasonably complain of the want of opportunity, which every day and every hour would constantly afford him. But alas! we are apt rather to thun than to seek occasions; all rious and religious matters have long since been banished out of fashionable company and discourse, confined within the narrow and dirty channel of trifling and impertinence.
But is not this, my brethren, a very near approach to being ashamed of Christianity? and if it be, how ihall we escape that dreadful fentence which is pronounced against us in holy writ? IV hofpever shall be ashamed of me, and of my neord's, in this wicked and adulterous gene7771201, of him also shall the Son of Man be asamei when he cometh in the glory of his Father.
In the primitive times of the Gospel religiOus conversation had the most surprising effi