Bad Company Corrupts Good Character
The picture above is a list of the first four people admitted into membership at Salem Chapel back in 1816. Mary Hargreaves, who occupies the fourth place, was removed two years later on the grounds of ‘associating with the wicked’. How intriguing! Who were these wicked folk? What did they get up to? What form did her association take? The book records no such details; the writer perhaps did not wish to sully his pages with the stench of sin.
It may be that the church leadership were being too hard on this woman. Or, they may have genuinely run out of patience with a church member who risked damaging the chapel’s reputation. If, as pastor of the church, I regularly kept company with people traffickers or drug dealers, I’d hope the members would similarly dismiss me too.
There is of course a valuable lesson here. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says ‘Be not deceived: evil companions corrupt good morals’. People with shady values have a fine ability to spread their ideas and ways of thinking. It’s far easier to pull down than it is to lift up. Psalm 1 likewise states:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. (NKJV)
With whom do you keep company? With whom do you associate? Who associates with you? The true child of God longs to be with fellow believers. The worldling loves the company of worldy-wisemen.
I don’t know what became of Mary Hargreaves. Perhaps I’ll find her later on in the book having had a change of heart. But of this we can almost be certain: the company we seek on earth, God grants us in eternity. Those who do not desire to attend church, pass time with Christians, discuss the things of God, and have fellowship with Him, will not go to heaven because they would not enjoy it there. Those who prefer the company of the godless, the blasphemous, the mockers and the indifferent will be given it when they enter eternity, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 (NIV)