Henry Scudder on Keeping Company (in General)

From The Christian’s Daily Walk. Scudder was a member of the Westminster Assembly and a Presbyterian.

When you are in company, of any sort, you must walk with God.

In whatever company you are, your conversation in word and deed must be such as may procure:

1. glory to God, Matt 5:16,
2. credit to religion, 1 Tim 6:1, and
3. all mutual, lawful, content, help, and true benefit to each other, Gen 2:18.

For these are the ends, first, of society; and secondly, of the variety of the good gifts that God has given unto men to do good with, 1 Cor 17:7-25.

To attain these ends, your conversation must be, holy, humble, wise, and loving.

Your Conversation Must Be Holy

First, it must be holy, 1 Pet 1:15. You must, as much as in you is, prevent all evil speech and behavior which might else break forth, being careful to break it off, if it be already begun in your company. Suffer not the name and religion of God, nor let your brother’s name be evil spoken of; but in due place and manner vindicate each. Be diligent to watch, and improve upon all fit opportunities of introducing pious and useful conversation, as may tend to the practice and increase of godliness and honesty.

Your Conversation Must Be Humble

Secondly, your conversation must be humble. You must give all due respect to all men, according to their several places and gifts; reverencing your betters, submitting to all in authority over you, 1 Pet 2:17, Eph 5:21; esteeming others as better than yourselves, in honor preferring them before you, Phil 2:3; condescending unto, and behaving respectfully towards, those of meaner rank, Rom 12:16.

Your Conversation Must be Wise

Thirdly, you must be wise and discreet in your carriage towards all, and that in diverse particulars.

1. Be not too open, nor too reserved; not over suspicious, 1 Cor 13:7, nor over credulous, John 2:24, Jer 40:14-16. For the simple believes every word, but the prudent looks well to his going, Prov 14:15.

2. Apply yourself to the several conditions and dispositions of men in all indifferent things, as far as you may without sin against God or offense to your brother, becoming all things to all men, 1 Cor 9:19-23; suiting yourself to them in such a manner, that if it be possible, you may live in peace with them, Rom 12:18, and may gain some interest in them, to do them good. But far be it from you to do as many, who under this pretense, are for all companies: seeming religious with those that are religious; but profane and licentious with those that are profane and licentious; for this is carnal policy, and damnable hypocrisy, and not true wisdom.

3. Intermeddle not with other men’s business, 1 Thess 4:11, but only upon due and necessary occasion.

4. Know when to speak and when to be silent, 1 Tim 5:13. How excellent is a word spoken in season! Eccl 3:7. As either speech or silence will make for the glory of God, and for the cause of religion, and good one of another, so speak and so hold your peace, Prov 15:23, Prov 25:11.

5. Be not hasty to speak, Prov 29:11, nor be much in speaking, Prov 17:27, Eccl 10:14, but only when just cause shall require. For as it is a shame and folly to a man to answer a matter before he hears it, Prov 18:13, so is it for any to speak before his time and turn, Job 32:4-6. Likewise consider, that in the multitude of words there is an opportunity for sin; but he that refrains his lips is wise, Prov 10:19.

6. Be sparing to speak of yourself or your actions, to your own praise, except in case of necessary apology, 2 Cor 12:11, and defense of God’s cause maintained by you, and in the clearing of your wronged innocency, or needful manifestation of God’s power and grace in you. But then it must be with all modesty, giving the praise unto God, Phil 4:12-13. Neither must you cunningly hunt for praise, by debasing or excusing yourself and your actions, that you may give occasion to draw forth commendations of yourself from others. Thus seeking of applause implies pride and folly. But do praiseworthy actions, seeking the praise of God, that God may be glorified in you. Then you shall have praise of God, Rom 2:29, whatever you have of man. However, follow Solomon’s rule: Let another praise thee, not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips, Prov 27:2.

7. As you must be wise in your carriage towards others, so you must be wise for yourself. This is to make a good use of yourself in all things that occur in company. The good you see in others should be a matter of joy and thankfulness to God, and be an opportunity for you to imitate, Rom 12:9. But when you see evil, let it be a matter of grief and humiliation, and a warning to you, lest you commit the like. After all, you are made of the same mold that others are, and are liable to the same temptations. If men report good of you to your face, repress those speeches as soon and as wisely as you can, giving the praise of all things to God, Gen 41:15, 16, Acts 11:23, knowing that this is but a temptation and a snare, Prov 27:14, and a means to breed self-love, pride, and vain-glory in you. If this good report be true, bless God that he has enabled you to deserve it, and study by virtuous living to continue it. If this good report be false, endeavor to make it good by being thereafter answerable to the report.

8. If men report evil of you to your face, be not so much inquisitive as to who raised it, or how to confute them or clear your reputation amongst men. Rather make a good use of it to your own heart before God. For this evil report does not rise without God’s providence, 2 Sam 16:11. If the report be true, then see God’s good providence; it has been given that you may see your error and failings, so that you may repent. If the report be false, yet ponder if you have not run into the appearance and occasions of those evils. Then say to yourself, “Though this report be false, yet it comes justly upon me, because I did not shun the occasions and appearances.” This should humble you and cause you to be more circumspect in your ways. But if neither the thing reported be true, nor have you given occasion for it, still see God’s wise and good providence, not only in discovering the folly and malice of evil men, who raise and take up an evil report against you without cause, but in giving you warning to look to yourself, lest you deserve thus to be spoken of. And how do you know, but that you should have fallen into the same, or the like evil, if by these reports you had not been forewarned? Make use therefore of the railings and revilings of an enemy, 2 Sam 16:10-12; though he be a bad judge, yet he may be a good reminder to you; for you shall hear from him those things of which flatterers will not, and friends, being blinded, or overindulgent through love, do never admonish you.

 

Your Conversation Must Be Loving

Fourthly, your conversation amongst all must be loving: you should be kind and courteous towards all men, Titus 3:2. Do good to all, according as you have ability and opportunity, Gal 6:10. Give offense willingly to none, 1 Cor 10:32. Do wrong to no man, 1 Cor 6:1-8, either in his name, life, chastity, or estate, or in anything that is his; but be ready to forgive wrongs done to you, Col 3:13, and to take wrong, rather than to revenge, or unchristianly to seek your own vindication.
As you have calling an opportunity, do good to the souls of your neighbors. Exhort and encourage them to well-doing, 1 Thess 5:14. If they show not themselves to be dogs and swine, Matt 7:6; that is, obstinate scorners of good men, and contemners of the pearl of good counsel, you must, so far as God gives you any interest in them, admonish and inform them with a spirit of meekness and wisdom, Lev 19:17. With this cloak of love you should cover and cure a multitude of your companions’ infirmities and offenses, 1 Pet 4:8. In all your behavior towards him, seek not so much to please yourself as your companion, in that which is good to his edification, Rom 15:2.

1. Speak evil of no man, Titus 3:2; nor yet speak the evil you know of any man, except in these or the like cases:

a. When you are thereunto lawfully called by authority.

b. When it is to those whom it concerns, to reform and reclaim him of whom you speak, and you do it to that end, 1 Cor 1:11.

c. When it is to prevent certain damage to the soul or estate of your neighbour, Acts 23:16, which would ensue, if it were not by you thus discovered.

d. When the concealment of this evil may make you guilty as an accessory.

e. When some particular remarkable judgment of God is upon a notorious sinner for his sin. Then, to the end that God may be acknowledged in his judgments and that others may be warned, or brought to repent of the same or like sin, you may speak of the evils of another, Ps 52:6-7. But this is not to speak evil, so long as you do it not in envy and malice to his person, nor with aggravation of the fault more than is cause, nor yet to the judging of him as concerning his final estate.

2. When you shall hear any in your company speak evil of your neighbour, by slandering, whispering, or tale-bearing, whereby he detracts from his good name, you must not only stop your ears at such reports, but you must set your speech and countenance against him, like a north wind against rain, Prov 25:23.

3. When you hear another well reported of, let it not be grievous to you, as if it detracted from your credit; but rejoice at it, inasmuch as God has enabled him to be good, and to do good; all which makes for the advancement of the common cause of religion, wherein you are interested. Therefore, do not envy his due praise.

4. Do not detract from any man’s credit, either by open backbiting, Ps 15:3, or by secret whispering, Prov 16:28, or by any cunning means of casting evil aspersions, whether by way of pitting him, or otherwise. For example, do not first say, “He is good in such and such things; but…”. That “but” mars all.

5. In all communications with men, your speech must be gracious, Col 4:6, that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace rather than vice to the hearers. It must not be profane, nor any way corrupt, Eph 4:29, as defiled with oaths, curses, or profane jests. It must not be flattering, Job 17:5, or detracting; not bitter, not railing, censorious, or injurious to any man, Eph 4:31. It must not be wanton, lascivious, and filthy, Eph 5:3, 4, Col 3:8. It must not be false, Col 3:9; no, nor foolish, idle, and fruitless. For all evil communication does corrupts good manners, 1 Cor 15:33. Remember that we must answer for every idle word which we speak, Matt 12:36. Besides, a man may easily be discerned of what country he is, whether of heaven or of the earth, by his language; his speech will betray him.

6. There is no wisdom or power here below, can teach and enable you to do all, or any of the fore-mentioned duties. This wisdom and power must be had from above, James 3:13-18. Therefore, if you wish to carry yourself in all companies worthy of the gospel of Christ:

a. Be sure that the law of God, and the power of grace be in your heart, else the law of grace and kindness cannot be in your life and speech, Ps 36:30, 31, Prov 31:26. You must be endued, therefore, with the spirit of holiness, humility, love, gentleness, long-suffering, meekness, and wisdom; else you can never converse with all men as you ought to do. For as the heart is, so the conversation will be. Out of the evil heart come evil thoughts and actions, Matt 15:19; but a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and according to the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Matt 12:34-35. A man must have the heart of the wise before the tongue can be taught to speak wisely, Prov 16:23.

b. You must resolve beforehand, as David did, to take heed to your ways, that you sin not with your tongue; and that you will keep your mouth as with a bridle, Ps 39:1. Before your speech and actions, be well advised. Weigh and ponder in the balance of reason all your actions and words before you vent them.

c. Let no passion of joy, grief, fear, anger, etc. get grip upon you and exceed their limits. For wise and good men as well as bad, when they had been in any of these passions, have spoken unadvisedly with their lips, Job 3:3, 23. Ps 106:32, 33, Mark 9:5-6, Jonah 4:8, 9. Mark 6:22-23. And experience will teach you that your tongue never runs before your wit so soon as when you are over-afraid, over-grieved, over-angry, or over-joyed.

d. You must be much in prayer unto God before you come into company, that you may be able to order your conversation aright. Let your heart also be lifted up often to God when you are in company, that He would set a watch before your mouth, and keep the door of your lips, and that your heart may not incline to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity, Ps 141:3, 4; and that He would open your lips, that your mouth may show forth his praise, Ps 51:15; and that you may speak as you ought to speak, knowing how to answer every man, Col 4:6. For the tongue is such an unruly evil, that no man, but God only, can tame and govern it, James 3:8.