He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Conversation has ever had a mighty influence on the conduct of human life. The regulation of it has, in all ages, demanded the utmost prudence and caution.
I. MEN GENERALLY BECOME SUCH AS THE COMPANY THEY KEEP. All men are naturally lovers of themselves, and therefore the most effectual way of endearing and obliging one another is by mutual respects and compliances: no man can make his court more effectually to another than by falling in with him in opinion and practice, approving his judgment, and observing his inclinations: this is that which flatters our self-love, the predominant principle in our natures; this is that which renders society agreeable and friendship lasting. Ere we can be pleased ourselves, or please others, we must be mutually fashioned and moulded into an agreement and conformity of principles and morals, we must be acted and governed by the same affections and inclinations, and moved and led by the same desires and passions. Hence the proposition that men generally are such as their companions are. Two things in wise men never fail to work upon their friends and acquaintances.
1. Good discourse. What light, what strength, what pleasure does it minister! How it awakens the conscience and purifies the heart! "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge." Such discourse "ministers grace unto the hearers."
2. Good example. Virtue never appears so beautiful and lovely as in action. It is represented with much more life in the practice of a wise and good man than it can be in rules and precepts. The excellences and perfections of a friend are very strong incitements to emulation and very sensible reproofs of our remissness. A good life in a companion is certainly a mighty motive and encouragement for us. We see in him not only what we ought to do, but what we may do. Whatever is possible to him is possible to us.As to the influence of bad company, it is clear that sin is catching and infectious; ill principles and practices are soon propagated.
1. Sin is the cement of the friendships and intimacies of sinners.
2. Ill company naturally instils and propagates vicious principles, worldly maxims, sensual carnal improvements.
3. Ill company creates confidence in sin.
II. HAPPINESS IS THE FRUIT OF WISDOM, AND MISERY OF FOLLY. Both reason and revelation and experience tell us that sin is fruitless and dishonourable. Righteousness fills the mind with peace and joy; sin tortures it with contradictions and unreasonable passions, with the guilt and the terrors of the Lord.
III. ADVICE AS TO KEEPING COMPANY.
1. We must be very cautious what company we keep.
2. We must endeavour to make the best use of it.
3. We must be fully persuaded that the due government of ourselves in this point is a matter of the highest moment.
Parallel VersesKJV: He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.