Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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Christi&nity to be a haman inTentioQ it ii the most
amiable and useful invention that e?er was im-
posed upon mankind for their good." Hume ac*
knowledges, that " disbelief in futurity, loosens in
a great measure the ties of morality, and may be
supposed, for that reason, pernicious to the peace
of civil societv.** Rousseau confesses, " that if all
were perfect Christians, individuals would do their
duty, the people would be obedient to the laws, the
chiefs just, the magistrates incorrupt, the soldiers
would despise death, and there would be neither
vanity nor luxury in such a state." Gibbon ad-
mits, " that the gospel discouraged snidde, advanc-
ed erudition, checked oppression, promoted the
manumission of slaves, and softened tne ferocity of
barbarous nations; that fierce nations received at
the same time lessons oC fiuth and humanity, and
that even in the most corrupt state of Christianity,
the barbarians learnt justice from the law, and mer-
cy from the gospel"*
And yet with such concessions, and after having

edd such a tribute of praise to the excellence of
hristianity, these miserable men have been so
vile and perverse as to conspire for her destruc-

Thus hfis it been most demonstrably proved that
godliness exerts apowerftil and favorable influence
over the temporal mterests of mankind. Neglect it,
my^ children, and you know not what awaits yon ei-
ther in this world or in that which is to come. De-
cent, and sober, and steady, although not pious, you
may fancy vourselves ftur enoug£ removed ^om
the probaoifity of that wretchedness, which vice
brings with it. But, ah ! in some unguarded mo-
mmd, temptation may be successftil to lead you
astrav ; one vice makes way for another; and the
dreaafiil progress described in the chapter on the
deeeitfulness of the heart, may be realised by 70a.
JNeglect religion, and you will artainlf be rumed
Ibr the world to come, and siof be for the life that
now is. Vice certainly brings hell in its train, and
oftentimes a dreadful earnest of its future torments,
in present poverty, disease and misery.

I reflect wfth tmutterable grief, as I now write,
upon many young men, who were entering life with
the greatest advantages and the brightest prospects,
whom, to use a common expression, fortune fiivored
with her brightest smiles ; but alas t they would not
be happy and respectable, for taking to the ways of
sin, tbev dashed all the hopes of their ftiends, and
wantonly threw away the opportunities which a kind
providence had put within their reach. They first
trent to the theatre, then to the brothel, then to the
tavern, fhey became dissipated, extrava^fant, idle.
tTnhapp^r youth ! I know what they might have
been : respectable tradesmen, pron)erous merchants,
honorable members of society : I know what they
arc: bloated rakes^ discarded 'parmers, uncertificat-
ed bankrupts, miserable vagrants, a burthen to
their fVienos, a nuisance to the commimity, and a
torment to themselves.

Seek religion then; for, as Solomon says in a
passage quoted in the former chapter, '* She is more
precious than rubies : and all things thou canst de-
tire are not to be compared unto her; Length of
days i3 in her right hand; and in her left hand,
rienes and honor. Exalt her and she shall promote
thee ; she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost
embrace her."

>» Bm an interesting work, by Dr. R^n, entitled,
'^llie History of the Efi^ets of Religion on Manr
kihd, in countries Ancient and Modem, Barbarous
tnd Civilized."^ I very particularly recommend the
perusal of this volvme to all young penoDs who can
pfoeofi il.



Mak was made for society, and society is thought
to be essential to his happiness. Adam 4id biu half
eajov the lov^ and untainted scenes of Eden,
while there was no rational companion, to whoai
he could impart the raptures of his soul, and Parar
dise was incomplete till God gave him a friend.^
How much more might it be expected, that now^
when the human bosom is bereft oC its innocence,
man should look out of himself for happiness, and
endeavor to find it in society. Young people espe-
vially, are anxious to form associations of this kind,
and are in imminent danger of choosing compa-
nions that will do them no good. The design of the
present chapter is to put you, my childreB^ on your

Sard against this evil, and to assist you m the se-
ition of those iHeods with whom yon take daily
counsel. This subject has been already adverted to,
but it is of sufficient importance to occupy a sepa-
rate chapter.

1. It becomes you very seriously to reflect on tha
influence which vour companions, of whatevei
kind they are, will certainly have in the formation
of your character.

^ We are aU," says Mr.Locke, " akind of came-
lions, that take a tincture from the objects which
surround us." A. still wiser man has told us, that
" He that walkeih with wise men shall be wise, but
a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Hence
he cautions us; " make no friendship with an angry
man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go; lest
thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul."—
These admonitions are founded on the general prin-
ciple, that the example of our cbmpanions will ex-
ert a plastic influence in the formation of our own
character, slow and silent^ perhaps, but irresistible
and successftil : and this influence will be in pro-
portion to the love and esteem we cherish for them.
All nations and all ages have confe^Md the troth
of the sentiment The example of a beloved com-
panion is onmipotept. more especially if he be a
sinful one, because a bad model finds m the depra-
vi^ of our natiire something that prepares it to re-
ceive the impression. One evil companion will
undo in a month, all that parents and teachers have
been laboring for years to accomplish. Here then
pause, and consider that the chanuner, of your as-
sociates will in all probability^ be your own. If vou
do not carry to them a similarity of taste, you will be
Fure to acquire it ; " for how can two walk together
except they be agreed 1"

3. Let me now set before you the dangers to bt
apprehended from bad company.

By bad company I mean all those who are desti*
tute of the fear of Ood ; not .only the infidel, the
profligate, the profane, but those wno are living in
Iht visible neglect of retutum. Now these are not fit
companions for you. They may be respectable and
genteel as to their rank in life ; they mav be grace-
ful and insinuating in their manners; tney may be
persons of fine taste, and cultivated imderstandings;
of facetious humor, and polished wit; but these
things, if connected with irreligious habits, osily
make them the more alarmingly and succcssfhyy
dangerous. They are like &e fair speech, and
lovely form, and glowing colors, which the serpent
assumed when he attacked and destroyed the inno-
cence of Eve. Look throufj^h these meretricions or-
naments, pierce this daazling exterior, and recogi-
nize the substance, the fong, and the venom of the
wily foe. The more external accoaoplidiments any
one has, if he be without the fear of Qod, the greater
is his power to do mischief: and remember, that
when yon have listened to his wijes, and ftel the

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sharpness of his tooth, and the deadly agony of his
Tcnom^ it will be no compensation nor consolation
that you have looked on nis many-tinted skin^ and
have been ruined by the fascination of his charms.
The companions yon are to a7oid then,, are those
who are obvioosly living without the fear of Qod.

Consider the many dangers arising from such as-
sociates. You will soon outlive all sense of serious
pietjr, and lose all the impressions you might have
received from a religious education. These yon
cannot hope to preserve ; you might as soon expect
to guard the impressions you had traced with your
finger on tSe sand from the tide of the Atlantic
ocean. Even they whose religious character has
been formed for years, find it hard to preserve the
spirituality of their mind in irreligious company.
'^ Throw a blazing firebrand into snow or rain,"
sajTS Bolton, " and its brighmess and heat wiU be
quickly extinguished; so let the liveliest Christian
plunge himself into sinful company, and he will
soon find the warmth of his zeal abated, and the
tenderness of his conscience injured.'' How then
can you expect to maintain a sense of religion,
whose habits are scarcely formed, and whose cha-
racter has yet so much of the tenderness and sup-
pleness of youth 1 Do consider your proneness to
imitate: your dread of sin^anty; your love of
praise; your morbid sense of shame. Can vou bear
the sneer, the jest, the broad^ loud laugh 1 With
none to defend you, none to join you in ^bur reve-
rence for piety, what are yon to do single and

In such companv you lay yourselves open to
temptation, and will probably be drawn into a great
deal of guilt. In private and alone, the force of
' temptation and the power of depravity are very
great, but how much greater when aided by the ex-
ample of intimate friends. As united fires bum the
fiercer, and the concentrated virus of many persons
thrown into the same room infected with the plague,
renders the disease more malignant, so a sinfrii
eommuniQr improves and grows in impiety, and
every member joins lus brother^ pollution to his

Nothing is so contagious as bad morals. Evil
communications corrupt good manners. Multitudes
have committed those sins without scruple in soci-
ety, which they could not have contemplated alone
wimout horror. It is difficult indeed to wade against
the torrent of evil example; and in general, what-
ever is done bv the party, must be done by every in-
dividual of which it is composed.

In such company you will throw yourselves out
ef the way or repentance and reformation. The
little relish yon once had for devotional exercises
will 800O be lost Your Bible will iall into desae-
mde, the house of Qod will be neglected, and pious
friends carefullv shunned. Should an occasional
revival of your ierioas feelings take place under a
sermon, or the remonstrances of a friend, the]r will
be immediately lulled again to repose, or banished
from joxki bosom by the presence and conversation
of an irreligious companion.

In many cases evil society has destroved for ever
even the Umgoral interests of those who have fre-
quented it. Habits Of dissipation, fdly, and extra-
vagance have been acqnir^; character has been
mined, business neglected, poverty and misery en-
tailed. But if this should not ensue, the influence
of evil association will go to ruin your souls, and
sink you to perdition. A companion of fooU shall
be destroyed ; their path is the way to hell, going
down to thfi chambers of death. Yes ; if you con-
nect yourselves with them, they will drag you into
the vortex of their own ruin, as the3r sink in the
golf j(^ perdition. Is there the companion on earth
whose society yon will seek or retain at this droad-

fril hazard 1 Is there ont, for the sake of whose
friendship you will be willinf to walk with him to
the bottomless pit 1 What though you could have
the society of the first poets, philosophers, wits, and
fashionables of the ase, and yet were to lose your
own souls, what would this profit you 1 Will it
soothe the agonies of your spirit in those re^ons of
horrible despair, to remember what yon enjoyed in
the company or vour gay companions on earth 1
Alas ! alas ! all tnat rendered your intercourse on
earth delightful, will then come to a final end.
There will be no opportunities granted yon to mi-
tify your sensual desires togeuer; no delicious
food, no intoxicating liouors; there are no amusing
tale& no merry songs there; no feast of reason nor
the now, of soul there; no coruscations of wit will
'mliven the gloom of hell : no ^y fancy will brighten
the darkness of eternal despair, no sallies <^ humor
shall illumine the blackness of everlasting night;
" but there shall be weeping and wailing and gnaw-
ing of teeth; the worm that never dies, and the fire
that is never quenched."

What mincf but His, who comprehends the uni-
verse in his survey, can conceive the multitudes
that have been mined for both worlds by the infln-
ence of bad companv. Their names have been re-
corded on every roll of infamy, and found in everv
memorial of guilt and wretchedness. The records
of Uie workhouse and the hospital; of the jails and
the hulks ; or the gallows and the dissecting-room,
would declare the mischief; and could we look into
the prison of lost souls, a crowd of miserable ghosts
would ineet our eye, who seem to utter in groans of
despair, this sad confession. "We are tlie wretched
victims of evil associations.''

In the large and populous town where Providence
has fixed my lot, I nave had an extensive sphere of
observation ; and I give it as my decided convic-
tion and deliberate opinion, tkiU umproper assocurits
art the most tuecossjul tneans which are emfUyed hy
SttUm for the ruin ofmen>*s souls.

The advice then which I offer is this :

1. Be not over anxious about society. Do not
take up the opinion that aU happiness centres in a
friend. Many of you are biased with a happy
home, and an SA^remble circle round your own nre-
side.* Here seek your companions, in your parents,
your brothers, and sisters.

3. Determine to have no companion rather than
an improper one. The one case is bnt a privation
of what is pleasant, the other is the possession of a
positive eviL

3. Maintain a dignified bnt not proud reserve.
Do not be too fhmk and ingenuous. Be cautions
of too hastily attaching yourselves as friends to

• Let me here address a word to parents. Asyoo
would not drive your children to seek imprqper
companions abroad, seek to make them contented
and nappy at home. Render their own house plea^
sant to them, and they will rarely feel a desire to
seek happiness in the houses or others. Be yon
their companions and friends, and they will not be
anxious to seek foreign ones. As far as circum-
stance will admit, be much at home yourselvsGL
and that will keq) your children there. Spend
what evenings you can in the bosom of your £imily.
Point out to your children what books to pemse.
Read with them and to them. Converse with thsm
in a free and engaging manner. Do not be honse-
hold tyrants; dnvSigyonr children fVom your pre-
sence by severity, petulance, and ill humor; bnt
conduct Yovaseives with that affectioQ and aflbbility
which shall render your return welcome to yonr
family, and draw yonr children in a little crowd of
smiling faces round yon the moment you enter te

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others, or them to yon. Be ]x>lite and kind to all,
bat commanicative and familiar with few. Keep
your hearts in abeyance, till your jodgmtet has
most carefally examined the characters of those
who wish to be admitted to the circle of yoor ac-
qoaintance. Neither mn nor jump into friendships,
Dat walk towards them slowly and caationsly.

4. Always consalt your parents about yonr com-
panions, and be guided by their opinions. They
iiaTe yoor interests at heart, and see Amber than
yon can.

5. Cultivate a taste for reading and menttd im-

I»rorement; this will render you independent of
irin^ society. Books will alwa)rs furnish you with
intelligent, usefal, and elegant friends. No one can
be dull wno has access to tbe works of illustrious
inthors, and has a taste for reading. And after all,
there are eompar^vely few ^hose society will so
richly reward us pa itas silent converse with the
miffhty dead.

o. Choose none for your Iptimate companions but
those who are decidedly pious, or persons of very
high moral worth. A scrupulous regard to aU the
duties of morality; a high reverence for the Scrip-
tures; a belief in their essential doctrines; a con-
stant attendance on the means of grace, are the
lotaeU qualifications which you should require in
the cfaaraeter of an intimate friend.

Perhaps I shall be asked one or two ouestions on,
this subject, to whieh an answer ought to be re-
turned. " If," say you, ** I have formed an acquaint-
ance with a young friend before I had any serious
impressions upon my mind, ought I now to quit his
society, if he still remains destitnte of any visible
regard to religion 1" First try, by every eflTort
which affection can dictate, and prudence direct
to impress his mind with a sense of religion j if,
after a while, jrour exertions should be unavailing,
candidly teH him that, as you have taken different
views of things, and acquired difSsrent tastes to
what you formerly possessed, and that as yon have
fSuled to bring him to your way of living, and can
no longer accommodate your pursuits to his, con-
science demands of you a separaticm from his so-
ciety. Sir Matthew Hale, one of the most upright
and able judees that ever sat upon the bench, was
nearly ruined by his dissolute companions. When
yotmg, he had been very studious and sober ; but
the players happening to come to the town where he
walstndjrin^, he became a witness of their perform-
ance^ by which he was so captivated, that tiis mind
lost Its relish for study^aufl he addicted himself to
dissipated company, when in the midst of his as-
sociates one day, it pleased God to visit one of them
with sudden death. Sir Matthew was struck with
horror and remorse. He retired and prayed, first
for his friend, that if the vital spark were not fled,
he might be restored ; and then for himself, that he
might never more be found in such places and com-
mmy as would render him unfit to naeet death.—
Prom that day he quitted all his wicked compa-
nions, walked no more in the way of sinners, but
devoted himself to piety and literature.

I shall be asked again probably, *' What am I to
do, if I can find in my situation no individual of my
own rank and circumstances in life, who is a par-
taker of true piety; ought I in this case, to associate
with those who are much below me. and who can-
not be my companions in any thing but piety 1" In
reply to this, I observe, that it is character which
constitutes respectability, and not the adventitious
circumstances of fortune or rank: and to conduct
ourselves in anv degree as if we were ashamed of
the followers of Christ, because they are poor, is an
offence against our divine Lord. To forsake prayer
** meetings, benevolent institutions, Sunday schools,
or places where the gospel is preached, merely be-

cause we find none there of sufficient fortime to as-
sociate with us: to treat our poorer brethren with
cold neglect and haughty distance; to refuse to be
seen speaking with them, and to them, as if they
were boieath us; this is most manifestly wrong ;
for it is carrying the distinctions of the world into
the church. StflL however, as reli^on was never
intended to level these distinctions, it mi^ht not be
adviseable to choose botom eampanians from those
who are far below us in worldly circumstances.
Some inconvenience would arise from the practice,
and it would occasion, in many cases, the ways oi
godliness to be spoken ill ofl

Young persons of good habits should take great
heed that they do not, by insensible degrees, t)eoome
dangerods characters to each other. That social
turn of mind, which is natural to men, and espe-
cially to young persons, may perhaps lead them to
form themselves into little societies, particularly at
the festive setuxm of the year, to spend their even-
ings together. But let me entreat you to be cautions
haw you spend them. If your games and your cups
take up your time till yon entrench on tl^e night,
and perhaps on the morning too, you will quickly
corrupt each other. Farewell th^ to prayer, and
every other religious exercise in secret. Farewell
then to all my pleasing hopes of vou, and to those
hopes which your pious parents nave entertained.
Yon will then become examples and instances of
all the evite I have so largely described. Plead
not that these things are lawfbl in themselves : so
are moMt of those in a certain degree which, by their
abuse, prove destructive to men's soals and bodies.
If you meet, let it be for rational and Christian con-
versation ; and let prayer and other devotions have
their frequent place amoQg you ; and jf you say or
think that a mixture of these will spoil the company,
it is high time for you to stop your career, and caJl
yourselves to an account; for it seems by such a
thought that you are lovers of pleasure much more
than lovers of God. Some of those things may ap-
pear to have a tincture of severity^ but consider
whether I could have proved myselfmithful to yoo.
and to him in whoee name I speak, if I had omitted
the caution I have now been giving you. I shall
only add that, had I loved you less tenderly, I
should have warned you more c(My of thi5 dan-
gerous and deadly snare.*


Tms invention of the art of printing forms an era
in the history of mankind, next in importance to the
promulgation of the law, and the publication of the
gospel. Until this splendid gift was bestowed upon
man, books, which were all in manuscript, were cir-
culated witnin a comparatively narrow sphere, and
knowledge was in the possession of only a privileged
few. This invaluable art, however, rendered the
fountains of information accessible to all, and gave
opportuni^ to the poorest pf our race, to slake their
mental thirst at the deepest and purest streams of
truth. There wa^ a time when ignorance was ra-
ther a misfortune* than a reproach ; and when, in-
deed, a craving after information would, with many,
have been rauier a caiamity than a benefit, since
the means of satisfying the appetite were beyimd
their reach. The state of thm^ is altered now,
and almost a whole circle of science may be pur-
chased for a few shillings. Education is also much

• See Df, Doddridge's sermon, entitled " A Dbh
suasive fVom Keeping Bad Company."

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improved and extended. Under these circam-
stances, ignorance is'a deep reproach ; and a yoang
person who can sofifer days and weeks to pass with-
out taking up a book, is a pitiable spectacle of dolt-
ish inanity. CnltlTate, then, mj children, a taste
for reading: and in order to this, there mast be a
thirst after mformation. " Knowledge," says Lord
Bacon, " is power ;*' and if it were not power, it is
pleasure. It gives us weight of character, and pro-
cures fQr us respect, {t enables i|s to form an opin-
ion with correcmess, to state it with dei^mess, to
offer it with confidence, and to enforce it with ail-
ment It enlarges the sphere of our usefuhiess, by
raising the degree of our influence. Other things
being equal, that man will be the most useful who
has tne greatest measure of information. Here I
shall offer some directions for your ^dance in the
selection of books. Books may be divided into two

First, such as relate to religion.

Of these, the Bible of course occupies the supreme
place^ an elevation exclusively its own. It is, as its
title signifies, the book;— the standard of all right
sentiments; the judge of all other works. Sir Wil-
liam Jones, that prodigy of learning, wrote on the
fly-leaf of his Bible these remarks : " I have care-
fully and re|[ularly perused these holy Scriptures,
and am of opinion tnat the volume, independently
of its divine origin, contains more sublimity, purer
morality, more important history, and finer strains
of eloquence, than can be collected from all other
books, in whatever language they may have been
written." Salmatius. the learned antagonist of Mil-
ton, said on his death-bed, " that were he to begin
life again, he would spend much of his time in read-
ing David's psalms and Paul's epistles." What-
«ver books you neglect, n^ect not the Bible. What-
ever other books you read, read this. Let not a day
pass without perasing some portion of holy writ.
Read it devoutly ; not from curiosity, nor with a
view to controverey: but to be made wise unto sal-
vation. Read it witn much praver. Read it with
a determination to follow its guidance wheresoever
it leads.*

In addition to the Bible, there are many unin-
spired religious books whicn I recommend. In the
class of bifigraphf, Hunter's Scripture Characters is
a most fhscinatin^^ production. Brook's Lives of
the Puritans, Gilpm's Lives of the Reformers, Cox's
Life of Bielancthon, are all useful and interesting.
Mr. Williams' Life and Diary will show you how

Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 55 of 121)