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as anxious to preserve it, as the miser to SERM. preserve his gold. If he is accused of an vices or follies, of which he knows himself to be innocent, he complains of the injury to his reputation, as an injury to his fortune: but what ground would there be for such anxiety, or such complaint, if it were not observed, in general, that to be well spoken of, facilitated and forwarded our advancement, while the contrary, in an equal degree, prevented or retarded it?
But I have already proved that our characters are hurt by bad company, and therefore it follows of course that the injury is extended to our fortunes also. Let the ambitious, the covetous, those who aspire after dignity or wealth, think of this, and if they have no better motive for declining the society of the vicious, let them decline it as they have regard to the gratification of their favourite passion; let them be restrained by their interest, if they have Y 4
SERM. lost their virtue. Bad company may like. XXII.
wise hurt our advancement in life another way, as it usually involves us in idleness and extravagance, and leads us to dissipate, or, at least, to neglect to improve, the provision bequeathed us by our ancestors; but this is so self-evident, that I shall not dwell on it..
I go on then to prove what I asserted, in the next place, that bad company is dangerous to our quiet. Let us suppose a man of religion and virtue to cherish an intimacy with one, whom he knows to be deficient in both these respects; let us suppose that he is induced to it, either by the hopes of reforming him, by some latent sparks of goodness which he may imagine that he has seen in him, or merely on account of the pleasure which he may take in that ease and elegance of manners, which the vicious sometimes possess; qualifications which, it is well known, are not in
compatible with the most abandoned profli. SERM.
XXII. gacy! Let us suppose that the first men. W tioned person is so established in his integrity and reputation, that neither suffer from the connexion, still I assert that his quiet is in danger, for that he cannot reasonably expect, but opportunity and passion inviting, his companion will take the same liberties at his expence, which he well knows he has often done at the expence of others. As he who takes a viper frequently to his bosom, though he may awhile escape with impunity, will one time or other certainly repent of his rashness; so let that man beware, who has made choice of a confirmed vicious character for his intimate, for however strong in appearance his attachment be, if appetite or interest invite, he will certainly sting him to the heart.
Vice is of a very base and ungenerous nature; it is governed solely by self, and is
SERM. therefore totally incapaple of true friendXXII.
ship; it may frequently put on its semblance, but sooner or later, if occasion arise, it will afford evidence too convincing, how far remote it is from possessing the reality. Can any reliance be placed on him, who lives in a continued state of disobedience and ingratitude to his Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, that he will not, when any imaginary pleasure or profit may accrue to him by it, betray or even ruin his fellow-creatures. But if, added to this state of rebellion towards God, he has been known in his general commerce with his brethren to be false and treacherous, is ít not the height of folly in any individual to expose his family and affairs to his machinations, under the vain hope that he should belie his general conduct to be true to him alone? Yet, in spite of all the examples of broken faith, of the honour of relations violated, and important trusts betrayed, with such pleasing outward talents is the SERM. libertine frequently endowed, that there is are multitudes of unsuspecting persons, who are constantly making the experiment, though the event almost as constantly turns out in the interruption or ruin of their quiet.
But the injury to our character, to our fortune, and to our quiet, which arises from bad company, is of trivial importance, in comparison of that which remains to be considered.—Bad company is prejudicial to our morals, and of consequence dangerous to our eternal salvation. Man is, by nature, prone to imitation; this is observed by every wise parent, and turned as much as possible to their children's advantage, by every good one. Those teachers and those companions are always selected who, it is believed, will set the fairest and most virtuous examples. Much depends on the observance of this caution ; our manners, both in childhood