He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
I. WHAT IS IT TO WALK WITH WISE MEN? It is to choose persons of that character for our intimate friends, and voluntarily join in their company and conversation. Walking is the motion which one chooseth. Walking with a person denoteth a friendly communication and delightful society, taking him into our councils, intimating our difficulties to him, seeking his advice and depending on his aid. The mere involuntary presence with the vicious, or being unwillingly deprived of the society of the good, is not a trespass against the rule here recommended. It may be necessary for good men to converse familiarly with the wicked, yet this may be without a participation in their crimes. Our Saviour conversed with publicans and sinners: The present state of human affairs requireth that we associate with men of all characters. And, in nearer relations, scarce is there any so happy as to be free from the company of fools. On the other hand, it is not to be supposed that the mere advantage of any man's providential situation will entitle him to the benefit of walking with wise men. The necessary thing is voluntarily to associate, and of choice enter into intimacies of friendship with the wise. Men of all capacities and conditions show a desire for conversation and society. Everybody wants company. Agreeableness of character and disposition directeth men's choice of company. Walking with wise men imports the improvement of conversation for the purposes of wisdom. Our choice should be determined with regard to virtue.
II. THE INFLUENCE AND EFFICACY OF WALKING WITH WISE MEN AS A MEANS OF ATTAINING WISDOM. Company has a great share in forming the tempers and manners of men. The influence is explained by —
1. A desire to be agreeable to those we converse with. This is powerful in human nature. The desire of approbation is strong.
2. The force of example. Mankind is prone to imitation. To represent religion in precepts does not so powerfully move the affections as when we see it delineated in life. The rules of religious virtue are reduced to practice in men of like passions with us, who also were "compassed" about with infirmities. Though their example is but imperfect, yet it is very worthy of our imitation, and most sensibly reproaches our failures. The nearer the example is the greater force it has. We are specially influenced, not by the example of saints and martyrs, but by the less celebrated instances of piety and virtue in our own familiar acquaintance.Practical reflections:
1. Wise, that is, virtuous and good men, are a great blessing to the world, though they are frequently despised in it. Good lives are the most effectual preachers of righteousness, and continually solicit men to reform.
2. Bad men are not only useless to the greatest purposes of life, but mischievous in society.
3. We ought to be very careful in the choice of our friends and intimate companions. It is not every kind of familiarity among men that is worthy the sacred name of friendship. When founded on selfish, corrupt affections and passions, it is not only vicious, but humoursome, precarious, and inconstant, yielding no solid and abiding pleasure.
(J. Abernethy, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.