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Depart from me, ye evil-doers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.—Ver. 115.
MOST of the passages of this psalm are directed to God himself; but now he speaks to carnal men, shaking them off, as Christ will at the last day. His speech is then, Mat. vii. 22, ‘Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity;’ and so saith David, ‘Depart from me, ye evil-doers.’ Whether David speaks this for his own sake, or for others’ instruction, as he doth many things in this psalm, I will not dispute. But certainly the drift of this verse is to show, that if we intend to walk constantly with God, we should keep at a distance from wicked men. Separation from them is necessary for a conjunction with God. If they be not God’s, they should be none of yours, for you are his: ‘Depart from me, ye evil-doers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.’ Here—
1. Take notice of the persons to whom he speaks, ye evil-doers.
2. What is said; he renounceth all commerce with them, depart from me.
The reason of this renunciation, for I will keep the commandments of my God.
Where you may note—
[1.] The fixedness of his resolution, I will.
[2.] The matter resolved upon, I will keep the commandments, which they broke or made light of, and so their friendship and company was a hindrance to him.
[3.] The inducing consideration, my God; he is the comfort and refuge of my soul, more than all men are to me. Friends are dear, but God should be dearer. None is ours so much as he is; he is my God, therefore it is him that I will please; my God’s commands I will conform myself to.
All the business is to show on what grounds David bids the evil doers depart from him.
1. It is either because of his confidence in God; as ver. 114, ‘Thou art my hiding-place and my shield,’ therefore depart. He did not fear their disturbance or persecution, because God would protect him, so as he should peaceably and cheerfully attend his service. This form of speech is so used, Ps. vi. 8, ‘Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping;’ that is, Now I reckon not of your assaults and molestations; my God will carry me through his work. Or—
2. It is a renouncing of their aid and assistance offered upon ill terms; and so the meaning would be, that he would not stand by their interest, or cry up a confederacy with them, and admit of any other ways of safety but what were fully consistent with his duty to God. Depart from me, as repelling their temptations and carnal counsel. Christ saith to Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, when he came with carnal counsel; so David saith, Depart from me; you labour in vain to draw me to commit wickedness with you: I must keep in with my God, not with you: do his commandments, not follow your fancies. Or—
3. It is a renouncing of all society with them, lest he should be corrupted by their evil examples or their carnal suggestions and enticements. He seems to speak this as fearing a snare and hindrance by their company and intimacy. This is the consideration that I prefer. The points may be two:—
1. That they which would have God for their God must keep his commandments.
2. They that would keep his commandments must avoid the company of the wicked.
Doct. 1. They that would have God for their God must keep his commandments.
This point I shall soon despatch, for it often comes in this psalm.
1. A covenant relation inferreth a covenant duty. You know the tenor of the covenant runs thus, ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,’ Jer. xxxi. 33; Ezek. xi. 20; Zech. xiii. 9; and other places. Where observe this: the stipulation is mutual; there is something which God offers, and something which God requires. A covenant is not made up all of promises; there is a stipulation of obedience, as well as a promise of happiness; and both must concur: a keeping the commandments must be, as well as taking hold of the privileges of the covenant: Ps. ciii. 18, ‘To such as keep his covenant, that remember his commandments to do them.’ Both must concur.
But let us observe distinctly what God offers and what God requires.
[1.] What God offers: He offers himself to be our God; that is, to be a God to bless, and a God to govern and rule; and so the offer of God infers not only dependence upon him as he will be a God to bless, but subjection to him as he will be a God to rule and govern. Those that would have God’s blessing must be under his dominion, for the notion of our God implies a sovereign as well as a benefactor; he doth not leave us to our liberty to live as we list, for then he is not God nor supreme. Therefore it is but equal and reasonable he should rule and govern, and we obey.
[2.] But what he requires; that maketh it the more plain. You shall be my people; that noteth separation from all others, and a dedication to God’s use, and a walking according to the tenor of that dedication: Deut. xxix. 9, 10, ‘This day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God; therefore obey the voice of the Lord thy God, and keep his commandments, to love him, obey him, fear him, trust in him.’ Well, then, as God offers himself to be a God to rule and govern us according to his will, so we, in giving up ourselves to be his people, resign ourselves up to his government.
2. In point of gratitude as well as covenant obligation. If God, the other contracting party, were our equal, as he is our superior, yet the kindness we receive from our God should move us to do him all the service we can. His kindness and grace in the covenant should make us fearful to offend: ‘They shall fear the Lord and his goodness,’ Hosea iii. 5; and careful to please God: ‘To walk worthy of God unto all well-pleasing,’ Col. iii. 10. And therefore love is said to keep the commandments: love, which is enkindled by a sense of God’s love to us in the covenant of grace, will put us upon obeying and careful pleasing of God.
Use 1. Information, to show us how we should make sin odious to us, both by way of caution and humiliation; caution against the admission of sin, and humiliation because of the commission of it.
1. Caution. When thou art sinning, remember it is against thy God, who hath made thee, who hath kept thee, who hath bought thee, whom thou hast owned in covenant, who never showed any backwardness to thy good. Is this thy kindness to thy friend, as he said, to sin against God, thy best friend? See, the covenant interest is produced to stir up indignation against the offences of others: Jude 4, ‘They turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness.’ There is very much in that, that the grace of our God should be abused. So Isa. vii. 13, ‘Is it nothing to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?’ Wilt thou grieve the spirit of thy God, and violate his holy law? If we cannot endure an offence in another, much less in ourselves.
2. For humiliation. This should wound us to the quick, to sin against the Lord our God, Jer. iii. 25. Every sin is a breach of covenant. What is simple fornication in others, is adultery in you, or breach of marriage vow: Luke xv., ‘I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.’
Use 2 To press us to behave ourselves to God, as he is the Lord our God. Why?
1. Otherwise you do but mock him: Luke vi. 46, ‘Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ Cui res nomini subjecta negatur, nomini illuditur, saith Tertullian—it is but a mockery of God to give him the title, and deny him the duty included in that title. As the soldiers which saluted Christ with, Hail, king of the Jews, yet at the same time spat in his face and buffeted him; so for us to say, My God: Mal. i. 6, ‘If I be a lord, where is my fear? If I be a father, where is mine honour?’
2. Consider, God will not be mocked, but will avenge the quarrel of his covenant, Lev. xxvi. 25. A people that profess God to be their God, all the judgments that shall come upon them, they come in pursuance of God’s quarrel, because they give God the covenant title, and do not perform the covenant duty. There is hypocrisy in them, in that they call him Our God, and make a show to be his peculiar people, and in the meantime do neither serve him, love him, nor obey him as our God. And there is plain treachery, in that we set up another god, the lust and sin which we would gratify with the displeasure of God; so that we are not a people for him according to the covenant.
3. This God will bear us out in our work: Dan. iii. 17; ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.’ You may promise yourselves all that a God can do for you; therefore let this persuade you to do as David, firmly to resolve, and exactly to observe, all that he hath required of us. First, Firmly to resolve upon a strict course of obedience. I will, saith David in the text; I am resolved of it, whatever cometh on it, or whatsoever temptations I meet with to the contrary. Many are convinced of their evil courses, and that there is a necessity to leave them, but want resolution, therefore are inconstant in all their ways. Secondly, Exactly to observe; I will keep the commandments of my God. He that is our God, it is fit he should be obeyed in all things: Micah vi. 8, ‘Walk humbly with thy God.’ You deny his sovereignty by interpretation, if you stick at any precept of his.
Doct. 2. They that would keep the commandments of God must avoid the company of the wicked.
1. I shall show how far the company of the wicked is to be avoided.
2. Why they that would keep the commandments of God are to do so.
First, How far the company of the wicked is to be avoided. On the one hand—
1. There is necessary civil converse allowed; for otherwise, as the apostle saith, we must needs go out of the world, 1 Cor. v. 10. Necessary converse in buying, selling, trading, performing the duties of our relations, it is allowed.
2. We must not forsake the church because of some wicked men therein. In God’s floor there is wheat and chaff. Saith Augustine, Fugio paleam, ne hoc sim; non aream, ne nihil sim—I fly from the chaff that I may not be it; but I may not, I do not fly from the floor, lest I be nothing. Christ maintained communion with the church wherein there were men corrupt in manners, and bids us to hear those that sit in Moses’ chair, though they say and do not, Mat. xxiii. 1, 2.
3. We are not hindered from endeavouring the good of their souls; whilst there is hope and opportunity to gain them, we may converse with them for their good. Thus Jesus Christ did converse with sinners to gain them: Luke xv. 2, ‘The Pharisees murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.’ It is one thing to converse with sinners to harden them in their sins, another thing to converse with them to gain them to God; as physicians to heal the sick, not as their associates to delight in their company. So we may converse with them with all gentleness, remembering that we ourselves were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, &c. Thus we must not avoid them.
But yet we should avoid them so—
1. That we should not be familiar with them. Eschew all unnecessary voluntary fellowship and familiarity: Ps. xxvi. 4, ‘I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.’ We are not to choose them for our companions, lest we be corrupted and deadened by their example.
2. We are not to enter into a durable relation with them, such as will put us upon continual converse. When we are at liberty, 2 Cor. vi. 15, ‘Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.’ Parents, upon any conveniences of estate or outward emoluments, are not to dispose of their children there where they may necessarily converse with wicked persons: Exod. xxxiv. 15, ‘Thou shalt not take of their daughters to thy sons, lest they go a-whoring after their gods.’ Instances there are many of the great mischief that hath come by entering into these durable relations with wicked men: Gen. vi. 2, ‘The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.’ Men in the visible church are called the sons of God, they that were of the line of Seth;. and they that were of the line of Cain are called the daughters of men: to go in to them, because they are fair, or they are noble, or because they are of our rank, this was the provoking sin that helped to bring the flood upon them. So Ps. cvi. 35, ‘They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.’ Solomon gave an instance that he was corrupted by his wives. So it is said of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, 2 Kings viii. 18, ‘That he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; for the daughter of Ahab was his wife, and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.’ In ecclesiastical stories we read of Valence the emperor, who married with an Arian lady, and so was ensnared thereby, and became a cruel persecutor of the catholics; as the best metals, mixed with baser metals, are embased thereby.
3. If necessitated to keep company with them, because of our dwellings, relations, and business, let us not comply with them in their sins: Eph. v. 11, ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.’ We may freely converse with such as we are bound to by the laws of necessity, but we must converse with them with a great deal of caution, that we may not be ensnared. David had no great liking to his companions, yet he was forced to abide with them in the deserts: Ps. cxx. 5, 6, ‘Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar; my soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.’ The apostle would have the wife to abide with the husband, 1 Cor. vii. 12, and servants to abide with their masters, 1 Peter ii. 18, and children with their parents, Eph. vi. 1; but no tie of that kind doth bind us to partake with them in their sins. And being thus necessitated to their converse, we ought to have the more fear and caution. And thus Joseph lived in Egypt untainted, and Nehemiah in Ahasuerus’s court, and Lot in Sodom, and Daniel in the court of Persia; necessity forced them thither, but all their care was to keep themselves unspotted from the world in the places where they lived.
Secondly, Why they that would keep the commandments of God are to do so.
1. Because it is hard to keep familiarity with them, and avoid and escape the contagion of their example. Example in general hath a great force, especially evil example; the force of example is great. Why? Seneca gives the reason. Homines plus oculis credunt, quam auribus, because an example strikes more upon the heart than a bare word. Man, being a sociable creature, is mightily encouraged to do as others do, especially in an evil example; for we are more susceptible of evil than we are of good. Sickness is sooner communicated than health; we easily catch a disease one of another, but those that are sound do not communicate health to the diseased. Or rather, to take God’s own expression, that sets it forth thus, by touching the unclean the man became unclean under the law, but by touching the clean the man was not purified. The conversation of the wicked hath more power to corrupt the good, than the conversation of the virtuous and holy to correct the lewd. The prophet tells us, Isa. vi. 5, ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.’ We soon increase our pollution by living among them. Josephus relates that Agrippa at first was a lover of virtue and of his country, that he stood for the liberty of the people of the Jews; but by conversing with Caligula the Roman emperor, being intimate and familiar with him, learned his manners; and as he affected divine honours, so Agrippa too, and God smites him with lice, Acts xii. In infected places we get a disease, though we feel it not presently; so secretly our hearts are tainted by example. As a man that walks in the sun, unawares before he thinks of it his countenance is tanned, so our hearts are defiled: Prov. xxii. 24, ‘Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go.’ The furies of passion are so uncomely and so displeasing, that a man would think that he should not take infection there, that the sight should rather deter than invite him; but insensibly we learn their ways when we make friendship with furious and angry men; for saith Solomon, in the next verse, ‘Lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.’ Melancthon saith, By converse familiarly with the wicked, insensibly we grow wicked. He that toucheth pitch is defiled, and a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, 1 Cor. v. 6.
2. They will molest and disturb us in the exercise of godliness by their scoffs and persecutions; you can never be acceptable to them if you live as you should. Why? For you will upbraid their consciences by your lives, dart conviction and reproofs into them; as Noah condemned the world, Heb. xi. 7. Christ saith, The world hates me because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil, John vii. 7. You that live up to your profession, and do not run into the same excess of riot with others, your estrangement of course revives guilt upon their conscience, and therefore not to follow them in all things will be distasteful. As sore eyes cannot endure the light, so they cannot endure you if you are faithful to God. Diversity of humours cannot long agree together. You must either be like them, or be hated by them. You must either jump with them in all things, or expect a greater trouble. Now there is less danger in the flight than fight. Now a total withdrawment is better than a partial compliance.
3. They will seek to pervert us by carnal suggestions and counsels; as the Psalmist speaks, Ps. i. 1, ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.’ Like troublesome flies, they will always be buzzing about us to take share and lot with them, and importunate suitors will prevail at length, Prov. i. 10-15, the enticings of the wicked are spoken of: ‘My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not; walk thou not in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path,’ &c.
4. Familiarity with them will be a blemish and scandal upon your good name. Every man’s company declares what he is. Birds of a sort flock together. So that, if they rob not the conscience, they wound the reputation, and we are polluted and defiled by being of the same society, which a Christian should be tender of. When a scandalous sin breaketh out in the church, the blot lies upon all. The apostle tells us in Heb. xii. 15, ‘When any root of bitterness springs up, thereby many are defiled;’ many are defiled, not only by the contagion of the example, but the imputation of the fault; much more in private and intimate familiarity doth this hold good. A carnal man delights in such as are like him, and run with him in the same folly and sin. But when a man is changed, he will change his company: Ps. cxix. 53, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.’ That is one thing David avoucheth for his innocency. One wicked man falls in with another, as the tenon doth into the mortise, and their spirits suit frequently: Ps. lx. 18, ‘When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.’ There is no such out ward sign to discover our temper.
5. If we have any love for God, and zeal for his glory, their company must needs be grievous and offensive to us; for how can they that love God delight in their company that are always grieving the Spirit of God with unsavoury speeches and a vain conversation? Ps. cxxxix. 21, ‘Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.’ So 2 Peter ii. 8, Lot’s ‘righteous soul was grieved from day to day.’ It is not only said his righteous soul was vexed, which is passive, but he is said to vex himself at their wickedness, which is an active word. Injuries done to God should touch us no less nearly than injuries done to ourselves; it will be a continual grief and vexation of heart to us. Well, then, how can their company be acceptable to us, unless we have a mind to vex and bring trouble upon ourselves?
6. Our familiarity with them may be a means to harden them in their sin, and our withdrawing a means to humble them: 2 Thes. iii. 6, 14, ‘Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly: and if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.’ While you company freely with them, you seem tacitly to approve their doing, and make them more obstinate in their way. An alien from the faith may be melted with kindness, but a brother that walketh’ disorderly is more ashamed if you withdraw from him, whereas otherwise you seem to show approbation. He that biddeth him God-speed is par taker of his evil deeds, 2 John 10, 11, as he seemeth to countenance them in their damnable errors; but now when a man lives as an outcast from God’s people, this may work upon his heart. Society with God’s children is not only a duty, but a privilege; by the loss of this privilege we are to make them sensible of the evil course wherein they are.
7. The great judgments that follow evil company; therefore we must riot voluntarily cry up a confederacy with them: Rev. xviii. 4, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ In conversing with the wicked there is a double danger—infection of sin, and infliction of punishment: Prov. xiii. 20, ‘A companion of fools shall be destroyed; not only fools, but their companions.’ Lot, living among the wicked Sodomites, he suffered with them. You know, when Sodom was assaulted, Lot was taken prisoner, and his goods plundered as theirs were, Gen. xiv. 12. Jehoshaphat being associated with Ahab, was in danger of death, 1 Kings xxii. 37. The heathens were sensible that wicked men were marked out for vengeance. The Athenians would not wash in the same bath with the persecutors of Socrates; so Polycarp would not go into the same bath with Cerinthus, but said, The enemy of truth is here; let us depart hence, lest the bath fall down upon us.1010Irenaeus relates this of the apostle John, giving Polycarp as his authority: Adv. Haer. iii. 3.—ED.
Use 1. Reproof of their foolhardiness that rush upon evil company, and fear nothing. What! are your hearts so good that you think scorn that any company should hurt you? Consider, is sin grown less dangerous than it was? or are we come to such a height of perfection as to be above temptation to sin? Or have we so good a command of ourselves that we need not take such care of our company? that we shall do well enough though we play about the cockatrice’s hole, and run into all companies and societies without fear? Good David here in the text is fain to proclaim, ‘Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity,’ and to banish them out of his company: and David exceeded us in holiness, and surely we live in more wicked days than he did. See how it succeeded with Peter: he would venture into the high priest’s hall, and sit with the company there, and how did it succeed with him? It brought him to a denial of Christ. Eve was bold with the serpent, and the Virgin Mary shamefaced with an angel, Luke i. 29, 30; and you know how it fell out both with the one and the other: one was a means to ruin all mankind, and the other to repair it. What is the matter? Is not sin the same as it was? and is not human nature as bad as ever? What spells and charms have we about ourselves that the people of God had not heretofore? Or are we more fortified, and so are less watchful? Shall we be running still upon the pit’s brink, and show how far we can go and not fall in? Are all those cautions out of date that bid us shun the occasions of sin? and is not evil company one of the chiefest of them? Yet some men can frolic it in all companies, revel and dance, run to plays, and no harm they think of all this. Solomon says, Prov. iv. 14, 15, ‘Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.’ See how he heaps up words. Did he trifle and speak needlessly when with such earnestness he pressed this, that we would be careful of associating with wicked men? Surely no; and yet men are for all companies, as if there were no danger to their souls.
Use 2. Let us be persuaded to shake off the society of the wicked. Depart from them that depart from God, and would draw you along with them. But chiefly should we shun them, because bad company is the pest and bane of godliness. Under the law, a man that had a running issue, whoever touched him was unclean, Lev. xiv. 4. And so it is here; you are defiled by your conversing with them. Men of different humours, spirits, interests, how can they agree? Either you must abate somewhat of your zeal, or you can never suit if you enter into friendship with them. You cannot deal so plainly against their sins, or gainsay them in their evil practices, but will wax cold by little and little. If you be in defiance with them, that will make way for calumny and all manner of injuries; therefore it is better never to begin acquaintance with them. Consider, again, if none of this fall out, yet their company will be a loss to you; as it spendeth time and hindereth you of many opportunities of religious privacy and service of God; so, if no other way you had a loss by them, they would not better you; for they are not company you expect to gain by. As he said, Nunquam ad te accedo, quin doctior recedam, quin sanctior—I never came to such an one but I went away more learned and holy. Certainly a Christian should choose such for his company that he might say, I go away more holy, otherwise his company would be a loss to us.
But to pursue this argument a little further. To give some observations, then some helps against evil company.
First, Some observations.
1. This concerns young ones especially, and those that are not in a radicated state of grace. Indeed, it concerns all. If you mean to keep close to God, you must divorce your heart from them; but chiefly young ones, that are either left to choose, or not confirmed in their choice, for the danger to them is greater than to others. Oh! how many young ones are undone by carnal company! Eusebius tells us of a young man that was bred up under St John, who by evil company was not only drawn to be a robber, but the prince and captain of robbers (Euseb. lib. iii. c. 23), until St John went out and met him. And Gregory the Great speaks of Gordiana, his own aunt, that was drawn off from the love of God, and the strictness of a holy life, after the death of her two sisters, Tharsylla and Æmiliana, by her companions. And St Augustine, lib. viii. Confess. cap. 8, Quem fructum habui miser aliquando in iis quae nunc recolligens erubesco, maxime in illo furto, in quo ipsum furtum amavi, nihil aliud; et ipsum esset nihil, et ego eo miserior, et tamen solus id non fecissem. Sic recordor animum tunc meum, solus omnino id non fecissem, ergo amavi consortium eorum cum quibus id feci—O Lord, what cause have I to be ashamed when I remember these things, especially the theft, where I loved the theft for the theft’s sake! What was the gain but a few apples stolen? And yet, saith he, I had never done it if I had been alone; oh! it was the company of them that drew me to this theft. Then afterwards, It was my companions drew me to this. O nimis iniqua amicitia! seductio mentis investigabilis—O cruel friendship! when they said, Come, let us go and do it; I was ashamed not to be shameless, and as evil as they. When, then, in this waxen age, youth are above all to avoid the company of evil-doers.
2. We must not only take heed that we be not inured to evil, but also that we be not deadened to that which is good. Example may corrupt us either way. Neglect of God will keep us out of heaven, as well as profaneness. Now, alas! how easily are we leavened with deadness and formality by our company! Frequent society with dead-hearted formalists, or persons merely civil and moral, whose conference is empty, unsavoury, barren, may much divert our hearts from heaven, and do us a great deal of mischief. The apostle tells us, Heb. x. 24, we should ‘consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.’ Our dulness and backwardness is such that we need the most powerful helps.
3. Of all evil company, the company of seducers, those that cause divisions and offences in the church, and broach novel opinions, ought to be avoided: Rom. xvi. 17, ‘Mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them;’ 2 John 10, ‘If any man bring another doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed;’ 1 Tim. vi. 5, and men that are given to perverse disputings, ‘from such withdraw thyself.’ Error is more catching than vice, and more spreading. It is more catching, the face of it being represented with the loveliness of some pretence or other; whereas foul actions are found hateful and more contrary to natural conscience; and besides, it is more spreading. Vice is like a duel; it killeth but one. Error is like a war that destroys many at once; therefore we should not be familiar with these. Erroneous apprehensions in religion carry a marvellous compliance with a man’s natural thoughts.
4. It is not enough to avoid bad company, but we must choose that which is good. A man must have friends; the use of them in this life is very great. Man. is a sociable creature, as Aristotle speaks; company and friendship we must have. Christ himself was not without his peculiar friends; there was Peter, James, and John, that were the flower of the apostles, that were conscious to his transfiguration and his agonies. We must have our friends and our society, so that the advantage of good company is very great: Prov. xiii. 20, ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise;’ their example will allure and excite to holy emulation, and their counsel and instruction will he a great help in the business of religion. Even Saul, being among the prophets, had his raptures, 1 Sam. xix. 23. So living in the company of godly men, and seeing, hearing, and conferring with them of good things, leaveth some impression.
Secondly, Some helps and considerations.
1. Consider what is our chiefest good. This is principium universalissimum. The last end or chiefest good is the principle which doth influence all our actions. And certainly, if men fix their last end aright, it will have an influence upon all they do; our company, our business, our recreation, our holy duties. Well, now, consider what is your chiefest good and your last end. If pleasure were our chiefest good, and if we had nothing else to do but to pass away the time, and to get rid of melancholy, there would need no great care in the choice of our company. But enjoying the blessed God, that is our last end and chiefest good: everything must be answerable to help you to heaven.
2. A sincere resolution to walk with God, to keep in with God firmly set; for here David saith, ‘Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keep the commandments of my God.’ His resolution was set, therefore he shakes them off. When Ruth’s resolution was set, Naomi left off persuading. When Paul’s company saw his resolution, that he went bound in the spirit, they ceased, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done’ Acts xxi. 14. So this will fortify against all suggestion; they will be discouraged from haunting you more when you are resolved.
3. Our company will be a great part of our happiness in heaven: Heb. xii. 22, ‘We are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven;’ and Mat. viii. 11, ‘They shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.’ Company will be a great part of our happiness, and for the present it will be a great hindrance or a great furtherance; therefore, when we think of this, it will make us choose those with whom we shall converse to all eternity, that we may say, Now I shall change places, but not my company; I shall but go from saints to saints.
4. Bad company can yield you no comfort hereafter when trouble of conscience comes. When your heart begins to wound you, they cannot or will not help: Mat. xxvii. 4, ‘What is that to us? see thou to that.’ If they draw you to inconvenience, when it comes upon you they will yield you no relief or comfort. Well, he that considers he is to die and give an account, will not displease God to please men.
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