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acquaintance with a young friend before I had any serious impressions upon my mind, ought I now to quit his society, if he still remains destitute of any visible regard to religion ?” First try, by every effort which affection can dictate, and prudence direct, to impress his mind with a sense of religion ; if after a while your exertions should be unavailing, candidly tell him, that as you have taken different views of things, and acquired different tastes, to what you formerly possessed ; and that as you have failed to bring him to your way of living, and can no longer accommodate your pursuits to his, conscience demands of you a separation from his society. Sir Matthew Hale, one of the most upright and able judges that ever sat upon the bench, was nearly ruined by his dissolute companions. When young, he had been very studious and sober; but the players happening to come to the town where he was studying, he became a witness of their performance, by which he was so eaptivated, that his mind lost its relish for study, and he addicted himself to dissipated company. When in the midst of his associates one day, it pleased God to visit one of them with sudden death. Sir Matthew was struck with horror and
He retired and prayed, first for his friend, that if the vital spark were not fled, he might be restored ; and then for himself, that he might never more be found in such places and company as would render him unfit to meet death. From that day he quitted all his wicked companions, walked no more in the way of sinners, but devoted himself to piety and literature.
I shall be asked again probably,“ What am I to do, if I can find in my situation no individual
of my own rank and circumstances in life, who is a partaker of true piety; ought I, in this case, to associate with those who are niuch below me, and who cannot be my companions in any thing but piety?" In reply to this I observe, that it is charucter which constitutes respectability, and not the adventitious circumstances of fortune or rank: and to conduct ourselves in any degree as if we were ashamed of the followers of Christ, because they are poor, is an offence against our divine Lord. To forsake prayer-ineetings, benevolent institutions, Sunday schools, or places where the gospel is preached, merely because we find none there of sufficient fortune to associate with us; to treat our poorer brethren with cold neglect and haughty distance; to refuse to be seen speaking with them, and to them, as if they were beneath us; this is most manifestly wrong; for it is carrying the distinctions of the world into the church. Still, however, as religion was never intended to level these distinctions, it might not be adviseable to choose bosom companions from those who are far below us in worldly circumstances. Some inconvenience would arise from the practice, and it would occasion, in many cases, the ways of godliness to be spoken ill of.
Young persons of good habits should take great heed that they do not, by insensible de. grees, become dangerous characters to each other. That social turn of mind, which is natural to men, and especially to young persons, may perhaps lead them to form themselves into little societies, particularly at the festive season of the year, to spend their evenings together. But let me entreat you to be cautious how you spend them. If your games and your cups take
up your time till you entrench on the night, and perhaps on the morning too, you will quickly corrupt each other. Farewell then to prayer, and every other religious exercise in secret. Farewell then to all my pleasing hopes of you, and to those hopes which your pious parents have entertained. You will then become examples and instances of all the evils I have so largely described. Plead not that these things are lawful in themselves ; so are most of those in a certain degree which, by their abuse, prove destructive to men's souls and bodies. If you meet, let it be for rational and Christian conversation; and let prayer and other devotions have their frequent place among you; and if 6 you say or think that a mixture of these will spoil the company, it is high time for you to stop your career, and call yourselves to an account; for it seems by such a thought, that you are lovers of pleasure much more than lovers of God. Some of those things may appear to have a tincture of severity, but consider whether I could have proved myself faithful to you, and to him in whose name I speak, if I had omitted the caution I have now been giving you. I shall only add, that, had I loved you less tenderly, I should have warned you more coldly of this dangerous and deadly snare.*
* See Dr. Doddridge's sermon, entitled "A Dissuasive from keeping bad company."
END OF VOL. I.
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