DEVICE 12: TO CHOOSE WICKED COMPANY, TO KEEP WICKED SOCIETY
And oh! the terrible godlessness and wickedness that Satan has drawn men to sin—by moving them to hang out with and befriend proud people.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To meditate, until your hearts are affected, on those commands of God which expressly require us to shun the society of the wicked (Eph. 5:11): ‘ Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’; (Prov. 5:14-16): ‘Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. 15 Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. 16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.’ 1 Cor. 5:9-11, 2 Thess. 3:6, Prov. 1:10-15. Turn to these Scriptures, and let your souls dwell upon them, until a righteous anger be raised in your souls against fellowship with worldly men. ‘God will not take the wicked by the hand,’ as Job speaks (34:20; 30:24). Why then should you? God’s commands are not like those who are easily reversed—but they are like those of the Medes, they cannot be changed. If these commands are not observed by you, then they will eventually be witnesses against you, and millstones to sink you, in that day that Christ shall judge you. The commands of God must outweigh all authority and example of men. (Jerome).
￼Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That their company is very infectious and dangerous, as is clear from the scripture above mentioned. Oh, how many have lost their reputations, and lost their estates, and strength, and God, and heaven, and souls—by associating with wicked men! As you shun a stinking carcass; as the seaman shuns sands and rocks, and reefs; as you shun those who have the plague-sore all over them, so should you shun the society of wicked men. As weeds endanger the corn, as bad infections endanger the body, or as an infected house the neighborhood—so does wicked company the soul. (Prov. 13:20).
Eusebius reports of John the Evangelist, that he would not allow Cerinthus, the heretic, in the same bath with him, lest some judgment should abide them both. A man who keeps ill company is like him that walks in the sun—tanned insensibly.
Bias, a heathen man, being at sea in a great storm, and perceiving many wicked men in the ship calling upon the gods: ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘refrain prayer, hold your tongues; I would not have your gods take notice that you are here; they sure will drown us all if they could.’ Oh, sirs, if a heathen can see so much danger in the society of wicked men, and can you see none?
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, To always look upon wicked men the way Scripture describes them. The Scripture calls them lions for their fierceness, and bears for their cruelty, and dragons for their hideousness, and dogs for their filthiness, and wolves for their subtleness. The Scripture styles them scorpions, vipers, thorns, briars, thistles, brambles, stubble, dirt, chaff, dust, dross, smoke, scum. (2 Tim. 4:17, Is. 11:7, Ezek. 3:10, Matt. 7:6, Rev. 22:15, Luke 13:32, Is. 10:17, Ezek. 2:6, Judges 9:14, Job 21:18, Psalm 83:13, Psalm 18:42, Ezek. 22:18, 19, Is. 65:5, Ezek. 24:6.)
It is not safe to look at wicked men as they describe themselves by, or by their self flattery; this may hoodwink the soul—but looking at them under the names and notions by which Scripture describes them, may preserve the soul from frequenting their company and delighting in their society. Do not tell me what this man calls them, or how such and such count them; but tell me how does the Scripture call them, how does the Scripture count them? As Nabal’s name was, so was his nature (1 Sam. 25:25), and, as wicked men’s names are, so are their natures. You may know well enough what is within them, by the apt names that the Holy Spirit has given them. Such monsters are wicked men—which should make their company to all who have tasted of grace and God’s love, a burden and not a delight.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan, is, solemnly to consider, That the society and company of wicked men have been a great grief and burden to those precious souls that were once glorious on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven (Psalm 120:5, 6): ‘Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.’ So Jeremiah: ‘Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.’ (Jer. 9:2). So they distressed Lot’s righteous soul by their filthy conversation’ (2 Pet. 2:7); they made his life a burden, they made death more desirable to him than life, yes, they made his life a lingering death. Guilt or grief is all that godly gracious souls get by talking with wicked men.
‘O Lord, don’t let me go to hell, where the wicked are: for Lord, you know I never loved their company here’—said a gracious gentlewoman, when she was dying.