My son, if sinners entice you, consent you not.…
The condition and circumstances in which we are placed here are such that society is necessary to the happiness, if not to the very being, of mankind. Besides this necessity, which compels us to seek assistance from society, there is a natural inclination which strongly prompts us to it. Solomon, having observed this absolute necessity of friendship and society, and of what high importance it is to choose friends and companions rightly, hath, in this Book of Proverbs, given many rules concerning that choice, of which the text is one. "Walk not in the way of sinners"; enter not into any friendship with wicked men. I shall show the dangers of evil, and the advantages of good, company.
1. As the foundation of all, let me mention, first, the authority of the Holy Scriptures, choosing a few out of the many passages to this purpose with which the sacred writings abound. "Make no friendship," saith Solomon, "with an angry man, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." To this purpose the prophet expostulates very sharply with Jehoshaphat concerning the alliance into which he had entered with Ahab, a wicked and idolatrous king: "Shouldst thou love them that hate the Lord?" There is something very strong and solemn in the adjuration used by St. Paul to the Thessalonians: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly."
2. To this authority of Holy Scripture I add the confirmation of reason, to show that we ought to be careful in the choice of companions from this consideration, that the nature of a man's friends or company must be of great consequence to his well-being. And this appears from hence, because they always have an extraordinary influence, not only upon his own temper and behaviour, but upon all his chief concernments. Now, comfort in distress is one of the chief advantages that may be gained by friendship, and one of the principal ends proposed by it. But how can this be hoped for from any wicked person? However agreeable his temper may be to a mind at ease, however soothing his discourse to the ear of the prosperous, yet can it bring little comfort to a troubled spirit. Besides, the only support in adversity is religion, the firm belief of a wise and good Providence, directing all things to the best ends. And how is it possible for a man to administer comfort from this consideration who lives in rebellion against that great Being? or how can one who hath any love to religion delight in the company of him who disclaims or disregards it? Even our interest is injured by intimacy with wicked men; for being guided by their passions and sacrificing their most sacred obligations to their vices, they are inconstant and insincere, and likely to betray our interests who neglect and forfeit their own. Whereas, in conversing with the good man, there are many advantages. His known sincerity secures us from the anxiety of suspicion; the principles upon which he acts remove all fears of change in him. Reputation, it is evident, cannot be obtained by living in familiarity with wicked men. Friendship either finds or makes men alike; and the world justly supposes that we resemble those with whom we live in strict intimacy. For this reason nothing can be of greater use to our character than a close union with wise and good men. From what hath been said may be drawn some observations worthy of our attention and care.
1. We should fix in our minds a right sense of the great use which may arise to us all from society and mutual converse.
2. All among us who may be considered in the different relations of parents or masters ought to be careful, not only for ourselves, but for those who are committed to our charge or dependent upon us, in the choice of companions.
3. We should labour to acquire those good qualities which are most proper to fit us for receiving and giving improvement by company. Such as candour and ingenuousness of mind, by which we are brought readily to acknowledge our own mistakes and to do justice to the perfections or pre-eminence of another. Such, likewise, is humility, a virtue which makes us inclined to listen and learn. We should also study to bring advantage to company, as well as receive from it; to which end we should establish a persuasion of our truth, honesty, and good-nature.
Parallel VersesKJV: My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.