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the Example of my Friend, whose Integrity I know, and the Esteem and Affection I have for him is apt to beget in me a value for every thing he approves, and inclines me to be pleas'd with what he does. But these Arguments are too many and too copious to be dwelt on, I content my self therefore only to have mention'd them, and will lay before you but this one single Consideration: A good Life in a Companion is - qertainly a mighty Motive and Encouragement to us; for while we behold our Friends discharging the parts of good Christians, we fee in them not only what we ought to do, but what we may do. Whatever is possible to them, is possible to us too; for they are clad with the fame Frailties and Passions, expos'd to the fame Temptations, and have no other Assistances than what we have, or may have. In them we have plain Demonstration of the Truth and Power of Religion -, We can no longer imagine that Faith is a meer Speculation or Amusement, or Vertue a meer Pretence or Name; Under der these Convictions we shall either come to a Resolution oar selves to do ourDnty, or shall suffer the daily Repoaches of our own Minds. This-is the natural Influence of Example; it Instructs, it Reproves, Exhorts, and if it doth not Prevail, it Condemns. Thus St. Paul, Heb. 12. i. Wherefore being compassed abouj with such a cloud of Witnesses let us lay aside every weight, and the Sin that does so easily be/et us. And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Where the Apostle plainly teaches, that if the Faith and Patience of Martyrs and Confessors, do not move us to imitate their Vertues, they will certainly serve to upbraid and condemn us at the last Day; and certainly the Examples of the Living, and those our Familiars and Friends, cannot but have as much Force and Power in them, as those of the Dead: Nay, much more for the Reasons I have already suggested. Will not our own Hearts be apt to reason thus with us, on every Reflexion we make on the Vertues of our Friend -, What am I doing? Can he and I go
to to the same place at last? he pursues a Crown by Works of Faith, and shall I obtain it by the Works of Darkness? he seeks a Heaven by the labour of Love, and the patience of Hope; and shall I gain it by Sloth and Idleness, by Sensuality and Looshess? he mortifies the Body while I indulge it -, he prays and contends, and paste's his Life in holy fear, while I am careless and unconcerned about a future state. His Conduct is regular, his Discourse heavenly, the bent of his Soul is towards that which is good; but how little do I mind these things? How hard is it for me not to let him see that I am wholly set upon the Pleasures and Profits of this World? What do I mean? am I indeed in the right, and he in the wrong? is Religion indeed but a well devised Fable? Alas! I see the contrary. I see that there is Truth and Reason on his side; I cannot but reverence him, and think him happy; I cannot but own that he follows his Reason, I my Lust and Fancy. How uneafie these kind of Soliloquies must be, and how naturally they will end, either in reforming our Follies, or
B in in breaking oft* and quitting a Conversation which gives us so much trouble, you cannot but see.
I have done with the Influence of good Company, I am next to consider that of bad. This Subject, after what I have in general said, does not require long insisting on. Daily Experience is too plain, too sad a proof of this Truth, That Sin is catching and Infectious: That Human Nature is so prone to Evil, that it needs very little Temptation or Incouragement to it: That ill Principles and Practises are soon propagated \ and if they find any Countenance and Approbation from those we converse with, they will easily bear down all the Opposition which the Modesty of a Civil Education, the weak Impressions of Reputation or Decency, or the Checks of Natural Reason can raise against them; nay, Holiness it self, unless well grown, and deeply rooted, can scarcely resist the Contagion which ill Company spreads. Can a Man (faith Solomon) take fire into his Bosom, and his Cloaths not be burnt? Prov. 6. 27. And evil Communication (faith St. Paul) corrupts
good Manners, i Cor. 15. but we shall be more sensible of the pernicious Esfects of ill Company, if we consider these two or three Things.
1. Sin is the Cement of. the Friendships and Intimacies of Sinners; Vice is the Subject of their Conversation, and some Sensuality or other, makes up the Diversion and Entertainment of such Company. And how can it be Otherwise? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketb, Matth 12.32. What can the Mouth utter but Sin and Folly, when the Heart is full of Wantonness, Lust, Pride, Envy, Ambition, Sottishness, or Vanity? what but polluted Streams can flow from a polluted Fountain? what but Evil can an Evil Man bring forth out of the evil Treasure of the Heart? Matth. 12. 35. how hard is it then even for a good Man to maintain the Charity and Dignity of his Mind, where Censures and Slanders, malicious Wit or Trifling and Impertinence, make up the Conversation? How hard is it, even for such a one to preserve the Purity and Sobriety of his Mind? where Riot and Luxury is the Business B 2 they