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py of his venom, it will be no compensation, nor consolation, that you have looked on his many-tinted skin, and have been ruined by the fascination of his charms. The companions you are to avoid then, are those who are obviously living without the fear of God.
Consider the many dangers arising from such associates. You will soon outlive all sense of serious piety, and lose all the impressions you might have received from a religious education. These you cannot hope to preserve ; you might as soon expect to guard the impressions you had traced with your finger on the sand, from the tide of the Atlantic ocean. Even they whose religious character has been formed for years, find it hard to preserve the spirituality of their mind in irreligious company. a blazing fire-brand into snow or rain," says Bolton," and its brightness and heat will be quickly extinguished ; so let the liveliest christian plunge himself into sinful company, and he will soon find the warmth of his zeal abated, and the tenderness of his conscience injured." How then can you expect to maintain a sense of religion, whose habits are scarcely formed, and whose character has yet so much of the tenderness and suppleness of youth? Do consider your proneness to imitate ; your dread of singularity; your love of praise ; your morbid sense of shame. Can you bear the sneer, the jest, the broad loud laugh! With none to defend you, none to join you in your reverence for piety, what are you to do single and alone ?
In such company you lay yourselves open to temptation, and will probably be drawn into a great deal of guilt. In private and alone, the
force of temptation and the power of depravity are very great, but how much greater when aided by the example of intimate friends. As united fires burn the fiercer, and the concentrated virus of many persons thrown into the same room infected with the plague, renders the disease more malignant, so a sinful community improves and grows in impiety, and every member joins his brother's pollution to his own.
Nothing is so contagious as bad morals. Evil communications corrupt good manners.
Multitudes have committed those sins without scruple in society, which they could not have contemplated alone without horror. It is difficult indeed to wade against the torrent of evil example, and in general, whatever is done by the party must be done by every individual of which it is composed.
In such company you will throw yourselves out of the way of repentance and reformation. The little relish you once had for devotional exercises will soon be lost. Your bible will fall into desuetude, the house of God will be neglected, and pious friends carefully shunned. Should an occasional revival of your serious seelings take place under a sermon, or the remonstrances of a friend, they will be immediately lulled again to repose, or banished from your boson by the presence and conversation of an irreligious companion.
In many cases, evil society has destroyed for ever even the temporal interests of those who have frequented it. Habits of dissipation, folly, and extravagance have been acquired ; character has been ruined, business neglected, poverty and misery entailed. But if this should not ensue, the influence of evil association will go to
ruin your souls, and sink you to perdition. A companion of fools shall be destroyed; their path is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. Yes, if you connect yourselves with them, they will drag you into the vortex of their own ruin, as they sink in the gulf of perdition. Is there the companion on earth whose society you will seek or retain at this dreadful hazard? Is there one, for the sake of whose friendship you will be willing to walk with him to the bottomless pit? What though you could have the society of the first poets, philosophers, wits, and fashionables of the age, and yet were to lose your own souls, what would this profit
Will it soothe the agonies of your spirit in those regions of horrible despair, to remember what you enjoyed in the company of your gay companions on earth? Alas! alas! all that rendered your intercourse on earth delightful, will then come to a final end. There will be no opportunities granted you to gratify your sensual desires together; no delicious food, no intoxicating liquors; there are no amusing tales, no merry songs there; no feast of reason nor the flow of soul there; no coruscations of wit will enliven the gloom of hell : no gay fancy will brighten the darkness of eternal despair, no sallies of humour shall illumine the blackness of everlasting night; “ but there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched.”
What mind but His, who comprehends the universe in his survey, can conceive the multitudes that have been ruined for both worlds by the influence of bad company. Their names have been recorded on every roll of infanıy,
and found in every memorial of guilt and wretchedness. The records of the workhouse and the hospital; of the jails and the hulks ; of the gallows and the dissecting-room, would declare the mischief; and could we look into the prisons of lost souls, a crowd of miserable ghosts would meet our eye, who seem to utter in groans of despair, this sad confession, “ We are the wretched victims of evil associations."
In the large and populous town where Providence has fixed my lot, I have had an extensive sphere of observation; and I give it as my decided conviction, and deliberate opinion that improper associates are the most successful
are employed by Satan for the ruin of men's souls.
The advice then which I offer is this :
1. Be not over anxious about society. Do not take up the opinion that all happiness centres in a friend. Many of you are blessed with a happy home, and an agreeable circle round your own fire-side. * Here seek your companions, in your parents, your brothers and sisters.
2. Determine to have no companion rather than an improper one. The one case is but a privation of what is pleasant, the other is the possession of a positive evil.
* Let me here address a word to parents. As you would not drive your children to seek improper companions abroad, seek to make them contented and bappy at honie. kender their own bouse pleasant to them, and they will rarely feel a desire to seek happiness in the houses of others. Be you their companions and friends, and they will not be anxious to seek foreign ones. As far as circumstances will admil, be much at liome yourselves, and that will keep your children there. Spend what evenings you can in the bosom of your family. Point out to your children what books to peruse. Read writh ihem and to them. Converse with them in a free and engaging manper. Do not be household tyrants ; driving your children from your preseuce hy sevetity, petulance, and ill humour: but conduct yourselves with bat afection and affability, which shall render your return welcome to your family, and draw your children in a little crowd of smiling faces round you the moment you enter the room.
8. Maintain a dignified but not proud reserve. Do not be too frank and ingenuous. Be cautious of too hastily attaching yourselves as friends to others, or them to you. Be polite and kind to all, but communicative and familiar with few. Keep your hearts in abeyance, till your judgement has most carefully examined the characters of those who wish to be admitted to the circle of your acquaintance. Neither run nor jump into friendships, but walk towards them slowly and cautiously.
4. Always consult your parents about your companions, and be guided by their opinions. They have your interests at heart, and see further than you can.
5. Cultivate a taste for reading and mental improvement; this will render you independent of living society. Books will always furnish you with intelligent, useful, and elegant friends. No one can be dull who has access to the works of illustrious authors, and has a taste for reading. And after all, there are comparatively few, whose society will so richly reward us as this silent converse with the mighty dead.
6. Choose none for your intimate companions but those who are decidedly pious, or persons of very high moral worth. A scrupulous regard to all the duties of morality; a high reverence for the scriptures; a belief in their essential doctrines; a constant attendance on the means of grace, are the lowest qualifications which you should require in the character of an intimate friend.
Perhaps I shall be asked one or two questions on this subject, to which an answer ought to be returned. “ If,” say you,“ I haye formed an