1 Corinthians 15:33
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
I. THE CONTAGION WHICH IS DIFFUSED BY BAD EXAMPLES, AND HEIGHTENED BY PARTICULAR CONNECTIONS WITH PERSONS OF LOOSE PRINCIPLES OR DISSOLUTE MORALS. This, in a licentious state of society, is the most common source of those vices and disorders which so much abound in great cities. It is indeed disagreeable to contemplate human nature in this downward course of its progress. But it is always profitable to know our own infirmities and dangers. There are few but who set out at first in the world with good dispositions. The warmth which belongs to youth naturally exerts itself in generous feelings and sentiments of honour; in strong attachments to friends, and the other emotions of a kind and tender heart. At that period they repudiate whatever is mean or base. It is pleasing to them to think of commanding the esteem of those among whom they live, and of acquiring a name among men. But, alas! how soon does this flattering prospect begin to be overcast. How many pass away some of the most valuable years of their life tossed in a whirlpool of what cannot be called pleasure so much as mere giddiness and folly. There are certain degrees of vice which are chiefly stamped with the character of the ridiculous and the contemptible; and there are also certain limits beyond which if it pass it becomes odious and execrable. If to the other corruptions which the heart has already received be added the infusion of sceptical principles, that worst of all the evil communications of sinners, the whole of morals is then on the point of being overthrown. For every crime can then be palliated to conscience, every check and restraint which had hitherto remained is taken away. Miserable and deluded man! to what art thou come at the last? Dost thou pretend to follow nature, when thou art contemning the laws of the God of nature? when thou art stifling His voice within thee, which remonstrates against thy crimes? when thou art violating the best part of thy nature by counteracting the dictates of justice and humanity?
II. This brings me to the next head of discourse; TO SUGGEST SOME MEANS THAT MAY BE USED FOR STOPPING IN TIME THE PROGRESS OF SUCH MISCHIEFS; to point out some remedies against the fatal infection of evil communications.
1. The first and most obvious is, to withdraw from all associations with bad men, with persons either of licentious principles or of disorderly conduct. The circumstances which chiefly attract the liking and the friendship of youth are vivacity, good humour, engaging manners, and a cheerful or easy temper; qualities, I confess, amiable in themselves, and useful and valuable in their place. But I entreat you to remember that these are not all the qualities requisite to form an intimate companion or friend. Something more is still to be looked for; a sound understanding, a steady mind, a firm attachment to principle, to virtue, and honour. As only solid bodies polish well, it is only on the substantial ground of these manly endowments that the other amiable qualities can receive their proper lustre. Destitute of these essential requisites they shine with no more than a tinsel brilliancy. Allow me to warn you that the most gay and pleasing are sometimes the most insidious and dangerous companions.
2. In order to prevent the influence of evil communications it is farther needful that you fix to yourselves certain principles of conduct, and to be resolved and determined on no occasion to swerve from them. Setting the consideration of religion and virtue aside, and attending merely to interest and reputation, it will be found that he who enters on active life without having ascertained some regular plan, according to which he is to guide himself, will be unprosperous in the whole of his subsequent progress. But when conduct is viewed in a moral and religious light, the effect of having fixed no principles of action, of having formed no laudable standard of character, becomes more obviously fatal. From hence it is that the young and thoughtless imbibe so readily the poison of evil communications, and fall a prey to every seducer. They have no internal guide whom they are accustomed to follow and obey; nothing within themselves that can give firmness to their conduct. They are, of course, the victims of momentary inclination or caprice.
3. As a farther corrective of evil communications, and as a foundation to those principles which you lay down for conduct, let me advise you sometimes to think seriously of what constitutes real enjoyment and happiness. Your days cannot be entirely spent in company and pleasure. Seize that sober hour of retirement and silence. Indulge the meditations which then begin to rise. Cast your eye backwards on what is past of your life; look forward to what is probably to come. Think of the part you are now acting, and of what remains to be, acted, perhaps to be suffered, before you die. If your hearts secretly reproach you for the wrong choice you have made, bethink yourselves that the evil is not irreparable. Still there is time for repentance and retreat; and a return to wisdom is always honourable. Were such meditations often indulged, the evil communications of sinners would die away before them; the force of their poison would evaporate; the world would begin to assume in your eyes a new form and shape.
4. Let me once more advise you to look forward sometimes beyond old age; to look to a future world. Amidst evil communications let your belief and your character as Christians arise to your view. Think of the sacred name in which you were baptized. Think of the God whom your fathers honoured and worshipped; of the religion in which they trained you up; of the venerable rites in which they brought you to partake.
(H. Blair, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
WEB: Don't be deceived! "Evil companionships corrupt good morals."