That ungodly Friends and Relations are great Hin∣derances of ones Conversion, with some helps or Directions to those that are thereby kept in their Sinnes.
EZEK. 33. 11.
THe next Mountain to be made low, that so way may be made for our tur∣ning to God. is The Temptation of evill and wicked companions. Some have desires and resolutions to come to God, and leave their sins; but then they have carnal friends, and prophane neighbours, they stop them in the way, or else they live in wicked families, in ungodly places, where no fear of God is: and these presently like Herod, kill all the young Motions and Desires that may be in any mans heart, lest their Kingdome and glory goe down: so that we may say, Evill and ungodly companions are that deep ditch out of which few doe recover. But yet if thou applyest thy self to the Throne of Grace, and importune for divine strength, thou wilt finde it not onely possible but easie to break these bonds, and come out of Egypt. Therefore to take thee off this excuse, let us consider this temptation of evill company and acquaintance.
Page 432 First, It cannot be denyed, that ungodly friends, especially if in near relations, * as Father, Mother, husband, wife, &c. are wonderfull impediments in the way to heaven. Many had in all probability, been turned to God, if they had had bet∣ter parents, better k•nred, lived in better families, where Piety and Religion might be more incouraged, and a good example given thereto. It was a great advantage to Timothy, That he had a Mother and a Grandmother, both godly, and so from a youth he was acquainted with the Scriptures, 1 Tim. 1. 5. And it is as heavy a judgement, where Children can see nothing but wickednesse and impiety in those who are their Superiors, or to live among men that are prophane enemies to godli∣nesse; Now the reasons why such men so yoked with unrighteousnesse do hardly throw it off, are,
First, From the nature of a man, who is a sociable Creature. Its a natural pro∣perty to joyn in society with those amongst whom he liveth, and by that means * doth easily partake of their sins. Therefore one great means of Conversion, is to set our selves apart from company, To commune with our own hearts and be still, Psal. 4. that upon this retirement we may come to a right and •ound judgement in all things, Prov. 18. 1. Through desire a man having seperated himself interme•leth with all wisdome. Man therefore being a sociable creature, its the greatest part of prudence and wisdome that can be to make choise of his company, to see who they are that he acquaints with, for he will quickly be coloured, and receive the impres∣sion that others put upon him. Aristotle said, That he who lived alone, was 〈◊〉 a God or a Devil, because retirednesse would much improve a man, either in wick∣ednesse or piety; but that holdeth not in every respect; for many times wicked∣nesse is incerased and drawn out by companying with others.
Secondly, Because evill acquaintance putteth so great a demur to Conversion, Therefore the Scripture is so diligent, in giving many exhortations to avoid all the So∣ciety*of wicked men. If any man be a Drunkard, an Adulterer, a riotous person, no not to eat with such an one, 1 Cor. 5. 11. Not to eat, that is, to have no familiar, voluntary and unnecessary acquaintance with him, that may incourage him and im∣bolden him in his sin: so, If any walk disorderly, from such withdraw, that there∣by the person offending may be ashamed, 2 Thes. 3. 11. And Solomon the mirror of all wisdome, is very frequent in Precepts, concerning the Adulterous woman; The young man must not come near her dwelling, he must passe on the other side of the street, keep off from such place as places of the plague, and dangerous infecti∣ons. So where unjust violent men are brought in, Prov. 1. entising the young man to cast in his lot with them, he is warned to have nothing to do with them, he must avoid them, as the bird doth the snare that is laid for her. Hereupon the Psalmist begins his first Psalm with the blessednesse of that man, who doth not sit nor walk in the company of the ungodly, Ps. 1. 1.
Thirdly, Therefore ill company is dangerous, because sin is of an infecting conta∣gious nature; it quickly spreads through a family, through a parish, especially if any e∣minent*in place and office give an example to wickednesse. The ground of that Church-censure, Excommunication, is the contagion of other mens sins; Purge out the old leven, that was in the incestuous person, 1 Cor. 5. 7. And why? because a little leven leveneth the whole lump: he that toucheth pitch, cannot but be defiled with it. He that lieth in the dung-hil cannot but smel of it: so then thy delight with ungodly, and prophane men, cannot but in time make thee as black as they. Why should not men be as much afraid of being infected with sin, as with a contagious disease? but onely we are carnal, fearing the evil of the body, which is death, but not the evil of the soul, which is sin and damnation. Oh then say, Why am I such an enemy to my soul? How can I ever turn to God as long as I live here, delight in such men? How can I ever go into Canaan, if I leave not this Egypt?
Fourthly, He that is joyned in ungodly acquaintance, doth hardly turn to God, be∣cause*there is not onely evil got by them, but this is also a sure demonstration of that mans naughty and evil heart. For it is the old rule, simile, simili, gaudet; similitude Page 433 is a cause of love; and therefore if ye see a man delight in the society of that man, who is prophane and wretched, that man is so too in his heart and disposition; for though many men will not outwardly be drunk or swear, yet if they love those that do so, it is plain their dispositions are against godlinesse as well as others: so that as David having a godly heart, did evidently demonstrate this by that expression, His delight was in the Saints of the earth, Psal. 16. 3. So it is a sure demonstration of a wicked man, though he may not do outward wickedness, yet if he keep company with those that do it. The Apostle makes it a sign we have passed from death to life, If we love the brethren, 1 Joh. 3. 14. and if we love those that live in the exer∣cise of all evil, it is a sign we are still in the state of death: separate therefore thy self from that evil society, if thou wilt turn at any time to God.
Fifthly, Therefore do evil companions so greatly hinder conversion, because they are*daily hardening and encouraging one another in an evil way. Thus they emboldened one another that said, Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall dye: and the A∣postle alleadging this, saith, Evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Cor. 15. 33. For as the godly are recorded in Scripture as so many live •oals put together, enflaming one another with fire from heaven, thus those that feared God spake often one to another, sath Mal. 3. 15. and in Esai, 23. they are calling upon one ano∣ther, Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord, we will go also: So the contrary is with wicked men, they put presumption and desperate boldness into one another; they hearten one another. Where any hopeful seeds of good motions are rising up, they presently pull them up: What, you grow precise? What, you turn me∣lancholy? What matter is it what Ministers preach? They must have something to say; thus they are able to blast all, and one wicked companion is able to do more hurt, then many sermons good.
Lastly, Therefore are those, who are joyned in evil fellowship, hardly converted to God, because men are moved by examples, especially of a multitude. Where corcuption is universal, there not to be carried down the stream, argueth life of grace: Exam∣ples affect more then precepts, because they are visible and obvious to the eye, Thus Peter is said to comple some men to Judaize, by his example meerly, Gal. 2. 31. especially examples are more potent and violent, when they are general: Therefore you have a speciall command in this case, Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, Exod. 23. 1. In corrupt ages, where sin like a deluge doth overflow, then to have some men apply themselves to God, is a great wonder. Thus it is spoken as a great matter after that all flesh had corrupted his waies, Then began men to call upon the Lord, Gen. 4. 26. as some expound it; Then some men began to set up the pure worship of God. Well, though this be such a mountain in the way, yet several con∣siderations may make thee easily climbe over it.
First, You have the example of some who have lived in prophane places, have been*compassed about with all wickednesse, yet these even out of hell have cryed unto God and drawn near unto him. Thus Hezekiah was born of a wicked Father, King Ahaz, and all the family was likely very much corrupted, because he did after all the abo∣minations of the heathens. Yet how wonderfully doth God bring a clean thing from an unclean! Thus in Nero's Court, who was the monster of men, and no doubt but his family a monster of families, especially for cruelty and bloody perse∣cution of the Church of God, yet the Scripture tells us, there were a company of Godly men, even in Nero's Court, Phil. 4. 22. Thus also Nicodemus a Pharisee, and a great man in the Pharisees counsels, yet he feareth God, and is not drawn aside by their examples. Do not thou therefore put it off, and say, if I lived somewhere else, if I had any to joyn with me, to take my part, I would then turn to God, but now I must do as those with whom I live, else there is no abiding for me: speak not thus, for the Scripture recordeth those that have broken through greater difficulties then thou art in, neither if thy heart were right, could this stop thee.
Secondly, Lay this down for a rule, that it is not so much a friend, a father, a*neighbour, as the divel in and by these that doth thus tempt thee to keep from God: For Page 434 such is his subtilty to destroy thee, that he layeth all baits, and useth the most like∣ly instruments that may undo thee, as we see he did thus from the beginning: He doth not imediately set upon Adam, but upon Eve, and by her seduceth him. Oh, If Adam had perceived the Divel tempting him by her, How resolutely would he have gainsaied her? Rev. 10. It is said, The Divel should throw some of the Saints into prison, How so? The Divel would stir up the malice and venom of wicked men against them; especially this Truth is manifested by our Saviour when Peter took him aside, and disswaded him from the suffering which he was to undergo; see what entertainment our Saviour giveth him, Get thee behinde me Satan, for thou savorest not the things of God, Mat. 16. 23. Oh thus should thy zeal and anger work: It is not thy friend, thy father, thy husband, thy neighbour, but the Divel in all these, that seeks to destroy thy soul.
Thirdly, Remember this, that Christ makes it a fundamental qualification in e∣very one that would be his Disciple, to hate father, and mother; and brother, and sister,*for his sake, Luke 14. 26. Be not then startled at this: Oh my parents, my kindred, my friends would never endure me, should I turn to God, and live a holy strict life. Think of this Text; he that hates not the dearest relations for Christs sake, is not worthy of Christ. Therefore our Saviour calls for a man to cut off his right hand, to pull out his right eye, Mat 5. 30. the dearest things in the world, that may be an offence to him, and keep him from God; for as Christ saith, It is better to go with one eye, and one hand to heaven, then both eye and hands to hell. It is better to go with the frowns and anger of thy dearest friends to heaven, then with all their love to hell. Never then urge this any more, I dare not for my friends, for my acquaint∣ance; for thou canst never be Christs Disciple, if any thing be dearer to thee then Christ. We see Christ himself, though a pattern of all holinesse, yet when his mo∣ther would have had him done something when it was not Gods time, Woman, saith he, What have I to do with thee? Joh. 2. not mother, but woman, and what have I to do with thee?
Fourthly, Whensoever the Lord begins to shake and trouble thy heart for sin, and thou art thinking of another life, to take another course; then it is thy speci•* duty not to ask counsel and advice with carnal & unregenerate friends: alas they think thou art mad; now thou wilt be undone; they know not what such troubles for sin mean: Why then shouldst thou discover thy disease to such who are no Physiti∣ans? Take rather Pauls example, when God wrought wonderfully from heaven to convert him, He obeyeth God imediately, and never consulted with flesh and blood, Gal. 2. Thus do thou: Doth God by the Ministry, by Preaching, convince thee of thy sinful waies, of becoming a new man, give up thy self to this call imediately? Do not consult with flesh and blood? But as Eliah when he threw his cloke upon Elisha, and the spirit of God moved his heart, he presently followeth Eliah, will not go home to take leave of his friends, but imediately followeth him: so let it be with thee. And we see when some proffered voluntarily to follow Christ, onely they desired to bid farewell to their friends, and one asked leave but to go and bury his dead Father, that our Saviour rejected them, Mat. 21. 22, and would admit of none of these excuses: so that these instances should teach thee, when God by his Mi∣nisters calls thee from thy sins, never to ask counsel at home, never to enquire what my kindred and acquaintance will say, but presently follow God.
Fifthly, Doth the strife and variance thou shalt have with thy Naturall friends and acquaintance move thee? Oh, Consider that Christ hath foretold this a long*while ago, and therefore be thou the more encouraged to endure such assaults. Mat. 10. 31, 32. 30. 35. Our Saviour there instructing his Disciples how they ought to confesse him before all men, least they should be amazed to see the jars and contentions that will be because of godlinesse: He tels them, I am come to set a man at variance against his Father, and the Daughter against the Mother; and a mans foes shall be they of his own houshold: mark this Text, for it may seem very offensive and harsh. Shall Christs Doctrine be a make-bate? shall that set families Page 435 all on a fire, and a contention? This seemeth to be little credit to his Doctrine. But it will be thus, not from the Nature of Christs Doctrine, for that is a Doctrine of peace with God, and peace with men: but wheresoever his Truth is received in the practical power of it, such is the violent opposition even of the dearest friends against it that are not godly, that it raiseth up all their hatred and violence against it. Hence we read in Ecclesiastical history, that sometimes even children have been persecutors of their Fathers: Let not then thy spirit sink under this, That by thy turning to God, and condemning the wicked waies that the family liveth in where thou art, thou shalt make much contention, stir up an hornets nest; for this is no more then Christ hath foretold. Considering the venemous, and malicious disposi∣ons men have naturally against God and his truth, it cannot be otherwise; onely let this teach thee wisedome, and courage to prepare for a storm.
Sixthly, How many times do evil and wicked men, though never so great one with*another, fall out in deadly enmity about worldly sinfull matters! For although these Swine and Bears do many times agree well among themselves, especially against godliness, which they look at as the common enemy, yet there is no true love among wicked men; they hang together as ropes of sand, any matter of profit, lust, or pride, will presently make them rage at one another. Now what shouldst thou care for the love and friendship of such men, who can love no body but for self-re∣spects? The Heathens have excellently debated this, that there is no friendship a∣mong wicked men, but onely good men; for when profit or pleasure is the knot that tyeth them, that is easily broken; when wicked men agree, it is not peace, but conspiracy. Never then let that dishearten thee: Oh if I set my face for godlinesse, be once accounted in the number of those that walk strictly, all my neighbours will reproach me, every ones mouth will be open. Art thou so weak a Creature to re∣gard this? their love is not worth the owning; no wicked man can love another, but for carnal ends; and therefore they are very hypocrites, and secret back-biters of one another where it makes for their advantage: so that in this thou shewest thy self unworthy of Christ: there are many men that its a glory to be spoken against by them, and it would be a mans dishonour to have their good word, yea, a man should presently say as the heathen, nunquia mali feci? what evil have I done that such a man commends me?
Seventhly, Consider this thou who art hindred by natural friends and carnal * acquaintance, that if thou forsakest these to cleave to God, Thou wilt never repent of thy losse. For Christ will be in stead of a Father, Husband, or the most necessary friend that can be. Thou wilt finde thou hast made an happy exchange; for what friend could quiet thy conscience, forgive thy sin, support thy spirit, fill thee with spiritual joy? Now Christ will do all these: imbrace that promise, for it is worthy of all acceptation, Mat. 19. 29. Every one that forsaketh Houses, Sisters, Father, or Mother for my sake, &c. shal receive an hundred fold in this life, and shall inherit ever∣lasting life. Here will be a two-fold satisfact•ion, thou wilt have in this life an hun∣dred fold comfort for that one comfort thou hast forsaken, though indeed Mark addeth, it will be with persecution. Oh then never think thou shalt be undone, thou shalt lose all the favour and love of thy friends, for thou dost but part with a drop to have an ocean; and consider that comfortable place also, Mat 12. 50. For who∣soever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother: suppose thy friends will never own thee more, never take thee for bro∣ther, or sister more, yet see Christ will be these, thou wilt be in a more comfortable relation.
Eightly, Consider that all thy merry company will be so far from easing thy torment,*that they will encrease it the more when thou comest indeed to be forsaken by God. When thou lyest a dying, ready to give a dreadful account to the great God, What will thy companions say? They will come and stand by the bed side, and take thee by the hand, remember we have been thus merry together, we have plaid these pranks; Oh miserable and wretched comforts! thou wilt cry out, What doth all this avail Page 434〈1 page duplicate〉Page 435〈1 page duplicate〉Page 434〈1 page duplicate〉Page 435〈1 page duplicate〉Page 436 me now I am a dying, and know not what wil become of me? Oh I have no ease, no quietnesse, What shall I do? Oh I cannot abide to see you, I cannot endure to look on you, you bring all my wickednesse to my mind. Thus it will be with thee, if God do but in the least manner awaken thy secure conscience.
Let the Use be, first of Admonition to you that are Parents, Masters, Friends, or Neighbours, take heed of checking and quenching any little spark of a good moti∣on that God may work in your children and servants: It is an heavy sin to murther their bodies, but far greater to murther their souls, and yet thou dost this, when thou canst not abide to see in thy wife, child, or servant, any desire to become a new crea∣ture. Thou callst it Melancholy, madness, folly, and thou despisest it in thy heart. Oh know this is to act the Divels work in an high degree: As Herod sought to kill Christ as soon as he was born, so thou endeavourest spiritually to kill Christ in the heart of him who is almost converted. There is too much of this divelish wicked∣nesse in the world; men that had rather see their friends and neighbours, any thing in the world, then professe godlinesse.
Use 2. Of comfort to those who will cleave to God, and follow Christ, though they have all the hatred of their friends, though parents, husbands, make them have a wearie and sad life, yet they love Christ more then all: Oh blessed art thou above others, thou art a kinde of a Martyr; all the hardship and grief thou goest through for godlinesse, it is a Martyrdom: The Scripture giveth thee many encouragements in this way.
Use 3. Of Exhortation to all those who are intangled by evil companie, by un∣godly societie. Oh come out of that Egypt, come from that Babylon; never ex∣pect to be Christs Disciple till thou leave that accursed followship. What is it to be affected at a sermon, to be almost perswaded on the Sabbath day, and then pre∣sently after to fall into the companie of those that hate and abhor pietie. Oh hadst not thou better say to them, depart from me, I will know you no more, then have Christ say to thee, Depart into everlasting fire, I know you not: And know godlinesse will help thee to excellent companie, to excellent mirth: A good Con∣science is a continual feast: Thou wilt enjoy God, Christ will dwell with thee. The innumerable companie of Angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, will be of the same fellowship with thee; Oh what an happie exchange wilt thou quickly finde.