1 Corinthians 15:33
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
This maxim of the heathen poet Menander accords with universal experience, and was worthy, therefore, of being adopted as a portion of the sacred record. The connection is not that in which we should have expected such a maxim; but the occasion of it was this: by a mixture of the corrupt communications of false teachers the Corinthians had been led off from the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. Hence we may learn the necessity of being on our guard in this respect.
I. WHAT ARE EVIL COMMUNICATIONS? We cannot, of course, entirely avoid intercourse with bad men; this would be "to go out of the world" (1 Corinthians 5:10, 11). The intercourse of society must be maintained, without respect to the characters of men, to such an extent as the business of life requires. An unsocial spirit that would lead us, like the Essenes of old, into the solitudes of the wilderness, would be inconsistent with the genius of Christianity and the example of our Lord. But still, we must not, under pretence of yielding to the necessary calls of business, cultivate and cherish that "evil communication" which "corrupts good manners." Those communications may be justly regarded evil —
1. Which have a tendency to taint the purity of the mind by associations of a lascivious and sensual nature.
2. In which religion is not adverted to, or has no hold upon the mind, where the fear of God is evidently dismissed, and there is no scriptural rule of action.
3. Which abounds with objections to Christianity, and is calculated to produce a doubt, either of its Divine origin, or of the certainty of its most important truths.
4. Which is avowedly and aggressively infidel (2 John 9, 10).
5. Which proceed from those whose moral principles are loose, with respect to the great obligations of justice and equity, and who indulge in dishonourable practices.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH EVIL COMMUNICATION OPERATES IN CORRUPTING GOOD MANNERS. It is one of the fundamental laws of nature, that our minds should be subject to perpetual modification from the minds of others. We may determine what society we will keep, but not what influence that society shall have upon us. One of the first feelings of every person who goes into company is to please and be pleased. Hence we plainly perceive that there is a preparation in the very nature of society for an assimilation of our minds to the principles and dispositions of those with whom we converse.
1. Let us suppose, then, that the society into which we enter is not positively vicious, in any other sense than as it is distinguished by a total absence of religion; it is not too much to say that this society will possess a very pernicious influence over any mind. It is dangerous to be accustomed to the absence of religion. Next to the infusion of positive impiety, the most evil element in which the mind can be placed, is that out of which religion is expelled.
2. Suppose the society into which we enter be impure, such communications must corrupt good manners. Must not the primary effect be, at least, gradually to enure the mind to the contemplation of vicious objects, without horror and disgust?
3. Suppose that the society into which we enter be distinguished by a rejection of Christianity, or of its great doctrines. To hear the cause of Christ attacked without being in a situation, in a becoming manner, to undertake its defence, must bare an injurious tendency. Conversation, if we intend to please and be pleased, should never be a scene of continual dispute; we must either relinquish such society or hold our peace.
III. THE CAUTION IS STRONGLY IMPLIED IN THE WORDS, "BE NOT DECEIVED." Be not deceived —
1. By the adduction of false precedents. Our Lord mingled indiscriminately with all descriptions of persons; but do not imagine that it would be safe for you to do so. Recollect the infinite disparity of His situation and character, and yours.
2. By your past experience. You have been frequently exposed to vicious society, and perceived none of these evils. "Be not deceived"; you are very ill judges, it may be, of the state of your own minds; you may imagine that you have received no injury, but what has been the effect of such society on your private devotions? Has it endeared to you the Scriptures, or estranged you from them?
3. By any complacent reference to the time of life at which you have arrived, or the progress in religion which you have already made. At whatever period of life you have arrived, "evil communications" will "corrupt good manners." Solomon, in his youth, feared God, but when old age came upon him, through the contagious example of his idolatrous wives, he forsook the God of his fathers.
4. By any supposed strength of resolution with which you may enter into such society. When confederacies are formed it requires a powerful effort to break them. It is far less difficult to keep out of society than to resist its current.Conclusion: Let me suggest one or two cautions of prudence.
1. Let those who have a serious sense of religion bind themselves with the vows of God, and enter on a solemn profession of them at an early period of life. Let all young persons unite themselves to those whom God has touched by His Spirit, and is guiding, under the convoy of the Captain of salvation, to eternal glory. The Church will willingly receive all such as are desirous of uniting themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant.
2. Let it be remembered, that with those with whom you voluntarily associate here, you shall be associated hereafter by the disposer of all things, for ever. With whom would you have your everlasting portion?
(R. Hall, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.