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selves with the wicked and vicious, TVof. I. 14, 1 5. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and <ro not into the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it; turn from it and pass away. 2. ThesT. 3. 6. J\Tov> we command you Brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw your selves from every Brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 1 Cor. 5. 11. But now I have written unto you not to keep Company. If a Man that is called a Brother, be a Fornicator, or Covetous, or an Idolater, or a Railert or a Drunkard, or an Extortioner, with such a one, no not to eat. Nor do the Examples of Holy Men deviate in this point, from the Precepts and Exhortations of the Spirit. Pfal. 26. 4, 5. I have not fate with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.. I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not fit with the wicked. Pfal. 1 ly. 63. I am a companion of all them that keep thy Precepts. And thus it was with other good Men, they did equally covet good, and shun evil Company. Thus Mai. 3. 16. when wickedness abounded, then they that feared the
Lord, tailed often one to another. And in the first times of Christianity, great was the Intimacy and Dearness of the Disciples of Jesus one with another; great was their Abhorrence of all the Works of Darkness, and all Communion and Fellowship with those that practis'd them, as may easily be inferr'd from ABs 2. and 3, and other places of Holy Writ. The Scripture then is plain in this point; And from what I have said, it appears that Reason is so too, unless we can think that Wisdom and Folly, Happiness and Misery, are things indifferent.
But here 'twill be objected, At this rate we shall soon find our selves oblig'd to renounce the World, and quit.all Company. Is not our Cafe much the same with that which St.Paul puts, 1 Cor. 5. 9, 10. I wrote unto you in an Epistle, not to company with Fornicators -, yet not altogether with the Fornicators of the Worlds or with the Covetous or Extortioners, or with Idolaters, for then must ye needs go out of the World? To this I answer.
(i.) Be it granted, as the Objection supposes,that we must keep ill Company or none; in this case I affirm it is far better to keep none. Retirement is not so dreadful a thing to a Christian as some think; the Calm and Peace of the Mind is much more desirable than Noise and Laughter -, and the Quiet and Regularity of Privacy much to be prefered before the Sensuality and Confusion of vicious Company; nor need any one complain of the uncomfortableness of Solitude, who can converse when he pleases with Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles; nay, with God and his Son Jesus. A good Man may meet God like Isaac, in the Fields, or Moses in the Desart; he may enjoy Communion with him, like David, in his Bed-chamber, or Joseph in the Dungeon. The Promise, John 12. 23. is not limited to place; Is a Man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. But on the other hand, in the Company of the wicked we shall never find God, nor ever feel any effects of his gracious Presence, but
shall be exposed to the Attempts and Practises of Evil Spirits, and to the Contagion of Vice. The wise Man, observes, That it is better to live alone, than with a Companion of a rough, intractable, and exasperating Temper: But I am sure there can be no Company, howfroward and rough soever, so fatal to our Happiness, as that which instils Vanity under the Advantages and Opportunities of Friendship: NoSolitude can be so dismal or uncomfortable as that Society which infects the Heart, or darkens the Understanding -, no Provocation or Insolence can be half so injurious, as that which tends to Softness or Debauchery, to the betraying us into a love of this World, and a forgetfulness of God.
(2.) This Objection may have some colour in a Pagan or a Jewish World, but sure it has none in a Christian one. The Church of Christ is not yet left like a Cottage in a Vineyard; our Jerusalemh not yet degenerated to the degree of Jerusalem of old, when God spoke thus of it in the Prophet, Jer. 5.1 Run ye through the streets of Jerusalem,
and see now and know, and seek in the broad streets thereof if ye can find a Man , if there be any that executeth judgment, that feeketh the truth, &C. Nor need we yet pray with the Psalmist, Psal. 12. i. Help, O Lord, for the godly man ceaseth\ for the faithful fail from among the Children of Men: for the Servants of God are yet numerous; nor are they driven to their Secret Chambers, or to the Wilderness, or ashamed to own their Lord and Saviour, or to make an open Profession of the Hope that is in them.
I grant, will you say, that there are good Christians, but they are not easily, they are not every where to be found; but the Worshippers of Pleasure do every where swarm, every where haunt us. There is an easie Remedy for this: Do thy Duty with an humble and unaffected Confidence, with a steddy and unalterable Resolution: Put on the Garb of a Disciple ■, let the Air of a Christian appear in every thing that thou dost, or sayest; let the brightness and beauty of Holiness, that enriches and adorns the Soul, break forth ever and anon in thy C Con