He who walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.
all, but especially to the young.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN US GREAT POWER OVER ONE ANOTHER. There are two sources of power we exercise.
1. That of ideas. As we speak or write to one another, we impart ideas to the mind; and as thought lies beneath feeling, and feeling beneath character and conduct (see homily on Proverbs 12:5), it is clearly of the gravest consequence what ideas we do instil into the mind of another. These ideas include information or knowledge, the presentation of motive and inducement, new aspects in which things are regarded, new views and conceptions of life, etc.
2. That of influence. As we associate with one another, we influence one another by
(1) the character which commands respect;
(2) affectionateness of disposition;
(3) charm of manner;
(4) strength of will;
(5) superiority in age or in social position;
(6) facility and force of utterance.
All these are elements of influence; they are sometimes united, and in combination they become a great moral force.
II. CLOSENESS OF INTIMACY SHOWS THIS POWER AT ITS HEIGHT. When two "walk together because they are agreed;" when there is a close and intimate union of heart. with heart, of mind with mind, - there is an opening for the exertion of a power immeasurably great. Friendship has done more than anything else to enlarge or to warp the mind, to save or to betray the soul, to bless or to corrupt the life. The influence of a beloved friend or of a favourite author is wholly beyond calculation, and is almost beyond exaggeration. We give ourselves to one another; we impress our mind upon one another; we draw one another up or we drag one another down. Hence -
III. IT IS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE THAT WE CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS WELL. The friendships we form will either make or mar us. We shall certainly be conformed in spirit and in character to those whom we admit to the sanctuary of our soul; our lives will move with theirs toward the same goal; and we shall share their destiny for good or evil. How needful, then, that we bring to this choice our whole intelligence, our greatest care, that we do not let the accidents of locality or family connection or business association decide the intimacies of our life! There is no action on which our future more decisively depends than on this choice we make; let youth and young manhood (womanhood) look well to it. He that walketh with wise men will himself be wise, and he will reap all the fruits of wisdom; but the companion of fools, of those who fear not God and who honour not man, of the irreligious and the immoral, will be destroyed with a terrible, because a spiritual, destruction.
IV. HOW WISE TO WALK THE PATH OF LIFE WITH A. DIVINE FRIEND! - with him who himself is "the Wisdom of God;" intimacy with whom will draw our spirit up toward all that is worthiest and noblest; whose presence will ensure guardianship from all serious evil, and enrichment with every true blessing, and will gladden with all pure and lasting joy. - C.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY WALKING WITH THE WISE?
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.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyedI. 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.)
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.
1. It means, to converse with the writings of the wise.
2. To choose wise persons for our companions and to lose no opportunity of receiving their advice and instruction. Providence may appoint a good man's station amongst sinners, either for a trial of his integrity, or to give him opportunity to use his best endeavours to reclaim them. Civil communities, so absolutely necessary for mankind, are composed of good and bad in such a variety of degrees that there are few good without some bad qualities, and few bad without some good ones. Men are disposed to seek society and to form acquaintances, larger or lesser, for their worldly concerns and for their mutual satisfaction and entertainment. This general inclination, or instinct, operates freely and variously, and for the most part it induces men to seek those who are of a like character and disposition with themselves.
II. THE INFLUENCE AND EFFICACY WHICH SUCH CONDUCT HATH TOWARDS THE ATTAINMENT OF WISDOM. Conversation hath a considerable share in forming the tempers and manners of men. Their behaviour and their moral and religious dispositions depend much on the company they keep. The influence which the behaviour and discourse of others hath upon us may be ascribed to two causes.
1. A desire of being agreeable to those with whom we are familiar.
2. To the force of example. And the nearer the example is the more force it acquires.
(John Jortin, D. D.)
1. Wisdom is that rectitude of mind which enables a man to judge what are the best ends, and what are the best means to obtain those ends. They are wise in the highest sense who possess a knowledge of God, and of spiritual truth.
2. Wisdom includes a reverent obedience to the Divine commands, and an earnest concern for personal salvation.
II. THE METHOD OF THE ASSOCIATION ADVISED. That we walk with wise men; hold mental intercourse and fellowship with them. Two modes by which this association may be formed.
1. By studying their writings.
2. By cultivating their personal friendship.
III. THE VALUE OF THE PROMISE SECURED. "Shall be wise." He shall rise, by association, to the attainment of the same character as that with which he has been connected. If we be rendered wise, we have —
1. The possession of dignity.
2. The capacity of usefulness.
3. The certainty of happiness.
I. HE THAT WALKS WITH RELIGIOUS MEN WILL BECOME RELIGIOUS. The term "walk" signifies a continued course of conduct, or a manner of living, in which men persevere till it becomes habitual. The place to which every religious person is travelling is heaven. All who would walk with them must make heaven the object of their pursuit. The only way to heaven is Jesus Christ. All who walk with religious persons must agree in assenting to this truth.
1. The fact that a person chooses to associate with religious characters, in religious pursuits, proves that he is already the subject of serious impressions.
2. He who walks with religious persons, will see and hear many things which powerfully tend to increase and perpetuate those serious impressions.
3. One who walks with religious men must be the subject of serious impressions for many years successively. He who continues to walk with religious men to the end of his life will become religious.
II. A COMPANION OF SINNERS SHALL BE DESTROYED. That is, one who chooses for his associates persons who are regardless of religion.
1. Such an one is the subject of no religious impressions; he has few, if any, serious thoughts.
2. Such an one takes the most effectual way to prevent any serious impressions ever being made on his mind.
3. Such an one takes the most effectual way to banish those serious thoughts that do come.
4. Such an one gets confirmed in habits and feelings opposed to his ever becoming religious.
(E. Payson, D.D.)
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
1. Shun the sceptic.
2. Shun the companionship of idlers.
3. Shun the perpetual pleasure-seeker. Rather than enter the companionship of such, accept the invitation to a better feast. The promises of God are the fruits. The harps of heaven are the music. Clusters from the vineyards of God have been pressed into the tankards. Her name is religion. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Homilist.I. THE GRAND FELLOWSHIP IN LIFE'S PATH. Though fools crowd the path of life, there are many "wise men" here and there. Who are the wise men?
1. The men who aim at the highest end of existence. What is the highest end? Not wealth, pleasure, fame, etc. The highest end of man, the only worthy end, is eternal perfection of character, spiritual assimilation to God's perfection. Who are the wise men?
2. The men who employ the best means to reach that end. Who are the wise men?
3. The men who devote the best time in the employment of those means.
II. THE GLORIOUS ASSIMILATION IN LIFE'S PATH. "Shall be wise."
1. There is a transforming power in the ideas of the truly wise. The ideas of "wise men" are like the rays of the sun — warm, bright, touching all into life. In the Bible you have these ideas in their mightiest form.
2. There is a transforming power in the sympathies of the truly wise. Sympathy is a mighty power. Even a touch of it in the dropping tear, the faltering voice, the quivering lip, will often move a soul to its centre. The sympathies of the wise man are deep, spiritual, genuine, Christlike. They are morally electric.
3. There is a transforming power in the example of the truly wise. All moral character is formed on the principle of imitation. But we imitate only what we love and admire; and the character of the wise man has in it what alone can command the highest love and admiration of the soul. It has moral beauty — the beauty of the Lord.From this subject we learn —
1. That the choice of companions is the most important step in life.
2. That godly literature has an inestimable value.
3. That the Church institution is a most beneficent appointment.
(Alexander Davidson.)I. WHAT MAY BE MEANT BY WISE MEN AND FOOLS. Not learned men and illiterate men. A wise man is one who proposes to himself the most valuable ends, and pursues them by the best means. A fool is one who either has no worthy ends in view, or does not pursue them by proper means. The prudent is the wise man. The inconsiderate is the fool. The wise man is the true believer and holy soul; and the fool is the impenitent sinner, who rejects Christ and His salvation.
II. WHAT IS IT TO WALK WITH WISE MEN OR FOOLS?
1. It is to love and choose their company.
2. To seek and frequent their company.
3. To make them our intimate friends, and to fall in with them.
III. THE ADVANTAGES OR DISADVANTAGES OF WALKING WITH WISE MEN OR FOOLS. As to walking with wise men —
1. It is a great part of wisdom to choose such.
2. It is a means of growing wiser.
3. He who really is the companion of the wise will certainly himself be wise.As to walking with fools —
1. The companions of fools walk in the way which leads to destruction.
2. They are continually in the utmost danger of destruction.
3. If they continue they shall certainly be destroyed, with them, for ever and ever.
(John Guyse, D. D.)Leviticus 11:24), but he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11), signifying a bad man to be the most dangerous of all other creatures. The apostle styles wicked men to be such as are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) even whilst they live (1 Timothy 5:6.) There are four things wherein most men place their welfare, some or all of which every rational man doth propose to himself in the choice of his friends. These are reputation, safety, comfort, profit.
1. For reputation or honour. Wicked men are fools in the phrase of the text; and what credit can a wise man expect by conversing with fools? On the other side, good men are the excellent of the earth. Such alone are truly noble and magnanimous. And therefore whoever would propose to himself honour and reputation in his society must make choice only of such companions.
2. For safety. The text tells us that a companion of fools shall be destroyed. If any one shall persuade himself that he can enjoy their company, and yet escape their contagion, he may as well think to suspend the natural operation of fire; whereas on the other side, every one fares the better for the company of those that are good. They are the lights of the world, the salt of the earth, the pillars of a nation, those that stand in the gap to prevent an inundation of judgment. Potiphar's house was blessed for Joseph's sake (Genesis 39:5), and all the passengers in the ship were saved from drowning for St. Paul's sake (Acts 27:24).
3. For comfort. This is one of the principal ends of friendship, to ease and refresh a man amidst the anxieties of life; and there is nothing of greater efficacy to this purpose. But now this cannot be expected from any wicked person; whereas, on the other side, those that are wise in the phrase of the text are the most delightful company that are.
4. And lastly, for profit. There is nothing to be expected from such friends but the increase of our sins and of our punishments; whereas in conversing with those that are good there are these advantages —(1) Their example will by degrees insinuate into the mind, and obtain the force of precepts, exciting us to a holy emulation.(2) Their very presence will affect us with some kind of awe against evil.(3) Their conference, wholesome and savoury, administering grace to the hearers.(4) Their counsel, faithful, and wise, and hearty.(5) Their prayers powerful, ready. And it is not easily imaginable what an advantage that is, to have a praying friend or companion.There are three lessons I would briefly insist upon in the application of it.
1. That we would take notice of the great benefit to be obtained by the right improvement of society and mutual converse with one another.
2. That we of this place would be careful, both for ourselves and those committed to our charge, in the right choice of our friends and Company.
3. That we would labour for those proper qualifications and abilities which may render us acceptable and useful in our conversing with others. There are four conditions, amongst many others, that are more especially suitable to this purpose —(1) A readiness to communicate, according to the gifts we have received, so ministering the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.(2) Humility. That is a sociable grace, lovely in itself, and acceptable to all.(3) Prudence, in distinguishing of men's tempers, prejudices, infirmities; in discerning of the right seasons and advantages to do good amongst them.(4) Ingenuity and candour of disposition, in owning of our own weaknesses or faults, another's gifts or pre-eminences.
I. OF NECESSARY INTERCOURSE WITH THE WICKED.
1. In society and trade. Conversation is permitted in buying, selling, and following out ordinary commercial transactions.
2. We may have intercourse with others for their good. Christ Jesus conversed with sinners to gain them.
II. AVOID UNNECESSARY FAMILIARITY. Avoid the sins of the ungodly. If impelled by position, connection, or business to associate, beware of compliance in sin. The nearest tie cannot sanction participation in sin. Many reasons dissuade from undue familiarity. You cannot be familiar and escape contagion. The conversation of the wicked has more power to corrupt than the conversation of the good to ameliorate. These observations are peculiarly addressed to the young whose habits are, forming, whose character is moulding.
III. SOME CLASSES OF DANGEROUS CHARACTERS TO BE AVOIDED BY THE YOUNG MAN.
1. Beware of the idle. Idleness exposes to all forms of temptation.
2. Beware of the selfish and covetous. There is grave danger that you be affected with this spirit, and your sole determination be by all means to get wealth. Covetousness is a deceitful sin. It leads to innumerable evils.
3. Beware of the loose and erroneous. Those who are neglecting religion. The Sabbath-breaker. Those naturally disposed to error.
4. Beware of those who frequent suspicious places. Choose for companions persons of moral worth, those who fear the Lord.
Christian Weekly.When General Nicholson lay wounded on his death-bed before Delhi, he dictated this last message to his equally noble and gallant friend, Sir Herbert Edwardes: "Tell him I should have been a better man if I had continued to live with him, and our heavy public duties had not prevented my seeing more of him privately. I was always the better for a residence with him and his wife, however short. Give my love to them both!"
(G. H. Salter.)
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