From The Christian’s Daily Walk
If you may choose, avoid evil or sinful company and come not into it at all, Prov 1:15, Prov 23:20, Ps 26:4-5. For keeping evil company will:
(1) blemish your name;
(2) expose you often to many hazards of your life and state, 1 Kgs 22:29-32; 2 Chr 18:31, 2nd Chr 22:6-9; Gen 14:11-12; and
(3) always put you in danger to be corrupted by the contagion and infection of it, Prov 22:24-25.
What is meant by Bad Company?
By bad company, I not only understand seducers, and such as are openly profane or riotous; but also such civil men who yet remain mere worldlings, and all lukewarm professors who are strangers to the life and power of religion. For although the sins of these latter men do not carry such a manifest appearance of gross impiety and dishonesty, as those of open blasphemers, drunkards, adulterers, and the like; yet they are not less dangerous to your soul. Your heart will quickly rise against manifest enormous evils, but the other category, by reason of their unsuspected danger, and through that tolerable good opinion which, in comparison, is had of them, will even sooner ensnare and infect you, by an insensible chilling of your spirits, and by taking off the edge of your zeal towards the power of godliness. And so, little by little, these lukewarm professors will draw you to a remissness [negligence or carelessness] and indifference in religion, and to a love of the world.
Your Task is Not to Convert
If you shall think that by keeping evil company, you may convert them and draw them to goodness, be not deceived. It is presumption so to think. Has not God expressly forbidden you such company? Prov 23:20. If you be not necessarily called to be in sinful company, you may justly fear that you will more likely be perverted, Ps 106:34-35 and made evil by their wickedness than they will be converted and made good by your holiness.
When it is Necessary to be in Bad Company
When by reason of common occasions in respect of the affairs of your calling, generally or in particular (such as in church, commonwealth, and family), and you cannot shun all evil company, then:
- Be specially watchful that your conversation be honest, 1 Thess 4:12, unblameable and harmless, Phil 2:15, 16; Eph 5:15-16, even with dove-like innocence, Matt 10:16, that by your good example they may without the Word be brought to love the power and sincerity of that true religion which you profess, 1 Pet 3:1. However, give no advantage to the adversary to speak evil, 1 Tim 5:14, either of you or of your religion; but, by a holy life, stop the mouths of ignorant and foolish men, 1 Pet 2:15. If they nonetheless speak against you, your holy life may shame all that blame your good conversation in Christ Jesus, 1 Pet 3:16.
- Be wise as serpents, Col 4:5; Matt 10:16. Walk cautiously, lest they bring you into temporal evils and inconveniences, but especially lest they infect you with their sin; for a little leaven will quickly leaven the whole lump, 1 Cor 5:6.
How to Avoid Being Adversely Affected by Bad Company
That you may not be infected by that ill company which you cannot avoid, use these preservatives:
- Be not high-minded, Rom 11:20, but fear, lest you do commit the same or the like sin. You are of the same nature and are subject to the same or the like temptations. He that sees his neighbour slip and fall before him had need to take heed lest he himself fall, 1 Cor 10:12.
- Your soul, like that of righteous Lot, should be vexed daily when seeing and hearing their unlawful deeds, 2 Pet 2:8, Ps 119:136-158.
- Raise your heart to a sensible loathing of their sin, yet have compassion on the sinner, Jude 22-23; and so far as you have opportunity, admonish him as a brother, 2 Thess 3:14-15.
- When you see or hear any wickedness, lift up your heart to God, and before him confess it, and disclaim all liking of it, Ps 120:5-6. Pray unto God to keep you from it, and that he would forgive your companion his sin and give unto him grace to repent of it.
Lastly, though you may converse with sinful company, when your calling is to be with them, in a “common and colder” kind of fellowship, by a common love [to all mankind] whereby you wish well to all and would do good to all, yet you must not converse with them with such special and intimate Christian familiarity and delight, Ps 16:3, as you do with the saints that are excellent. Do this, and the Lord can and will keep you in the midst of Egypt and Babel, as he did Joseph and Daniel, if he call you to it.
Do no Linger with Bad Company
As soon as possibly you can, depart out of their company. Depart when you do not find in them the lips of knowledge, Prov 14:7, or when they any way declare that they have only a form, but deny the power of godliness, 2 Tim 3:5. From such turn away, saith the apostle. And so use the preservatives prescribed, or any other as prudence shall direct, so that when you depart your conversation will have not resulted in more evil or less good than when you came together.