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guide. "A man is known by the company he keeps," is a trite saying, but full of good
It is, indeed, generally true, that men's characters are chiefly formed by the manners of those with whom they associate. Although serious religion is not much the cast of the times or of young persons, yet there are those, I doubt not, among us, who can look back with thankfulness to Almighty God for the happy circumstance of their lives, which brought them into the particular situation, where they became connected with those whose conversation and example were the means of saving them out of the broad way of vice which leads to destruction.
And many may have cause to regret the day which threw them in the way of others, who made a custom of jesting on religion and things serious; who by degrees made them less careful, not only of worshiping the great God in public, but also neglectful of their private devotions; whose conversation reduced them afterwards to look upon some sins with indifference, and at length to make little scruple of any but such as would bring some
worldly inconvenience or public infamy upon
As all persons, therefore, have their acquaintance and a choice in them, we should be particularly cautious how we make that choice; that it may be with those from whom we may receive advantage and assist ance in the ways of virtue, or who may be assisted by us, which will be equally for our benefit; and that we may have the satisfaction of saying before our Maker, with the pious Psalmist, (cxix. 63.) "I am a companion of all those that love thee, and keep thy commandments*."
*That excellent man, Lord Chief Justice Hale, who had been dissipated in his early youth, though never an immoral character, was by a kind providence saved from the danger of companions, who might otherwise have been a snare to him. I have always a satisfaction in mentioning his great name here. The story is so remarkable that I shall repeat it, and hope all to whom it may belong, will profit by it.
"He did not" (says Bishop Burnet, who writes his history,)" at first break off from keeping too much company with some vain people, till a sad accident drove him from it; for he, with some other young students of the law, being invited to be merry out of town, one of the company called for so much wine, that notwithstanding all
To help us in this constant watchfulness over our inmost thoughts, that no evil principles or impure desires gain admittance or be harboured there, we must further be careful that we are always innocently if not usefully employed.
We are creatures that cannot be wholly inactive; our thoughts, at least, will be busy about one thing or other; and if they be not turned to that which is good and useful, they will wander and fix themselves upon what is
It was the laudable practice of the ancient
that Mr. Hale could do to prevent it, he went on in his excess till he fell down as dead before them, so that all that, were present were not a little affrighted at it, who did what they could to bring him to himself again. This did particularly affect Mr. Hale; who thereupon went into another room, and, shutting the door, fell on his knees and prayed earnestly to God, both for his friend, that he might be restored to life again, and that himself might be forgiven for giving such countenance to so much excess; and he vowed to God that he would never again keep company in that manner. His friend recovered, and he most religiously observed his vow to his dying day. This wrought an entire change on him. Now he forsook all vain company, and divided himself between the duties of religion and the
Jews to bring up all persons to some ingenious mechanic trade, even those who were destined for learned professions, or who were in the most affluent circumstances. Their view in it was to provide against the uncertainty of human things, that they might always have some beneficial employment, to which they might turn themselves for their maintenance and support; and also to prevent the baneful effects of idleness, and of having nothing to do in their intervals of leisure, which they wisely looked upon as one great inlet to the depravity of human nature, and the mischiefs produced by it in the world. And, by the way, it may perhaps account for their descendants, the present race of Jews among us, the lower sort of them I mean (the same which may be said of many Christians like them), being so generally profligate
studies of his profession: in the former of which he was so regular, that for six-and-thirty years he never once failed attending public worship on the Lord's day: this observation he made when an ague first interrupted that constant course; and he reflected on it, as an acknowledgement of God's great goodness to him, in so long a continuance of his health." An example in all respects worthy of imitation.
and unprincipled, because they have no fixed constant employment, but lead a wandering unsettled life, and fall into all wickedness, for want of something to keep them out of idleness and constantly engaged.
To be more particular on this important lesson of purity and virtue, there is this further call for virtuous diligence, with a view to moral purity, for our being always active and employed about something useful or innocent; because, by having nothing to do, we contract a slothful disposition and aversion to labour, which makes us the easy prey of every vain suggestion and temptation, and also unfits us for the discharge of the duty which we owe to our Maker.
For this demands a searching inquiring mind; that we may be able to discover him in his works and in his revealed word. It requires pains and industry to come at this necessary knowledge, as indeed there is nothing valuable in the world to be attained without it.
And it is moreover obvious, that by slothfulness and disuse our mental powers are enfeebled, and we become incapable of any