This consideration, my dear brethren, and also the fact that our nature has been corrupted by the sin of our first parents, is the basis of the proposition I have undertaken to prove; namely, that he who deliberately frequents bad company cannot long remain good and holy. If we were all so constituted as to be ready to imitate the good qualities we see or hear of in others, what an excellent thing would not that faculty of imitation of ours then be! For in that case it would be a desirable thing for the good and pious to mix with wicked sinners, nor would any good man fear being corrupted by bad example, as the wicked would rather learn from the good. But, alas, deplorable condition of ours! who does not see and experience that we poor mortals, already inclined as we are to evil, are much more likely to be led astray by bad example than to profit by good?
Take a glass of pure and fresh water, and another of muddy, brackish water; mix the two in one vessel, and see what will be the result. Will the dirty water be purified, think you? No, indeed; you would have to wait a long time for such a thing as that to occur. The clean, fresh water will absorb the dirt and salt of the other, and so both will be spoiled. “With the holy thou wilt be holy,” says the Holy Ghost by the Prophet David, “ and with the innocent man thou wilt be innocent, and with the elect thou wilt be elect; ” but no matter how good and holy you are, if you go with the wicked, you will not long preserve your goodness; “with the perverse thou wilt be perverted.“ And again, by the wise Ecclesiasticus: “ He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it; and he that hath fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride.” Mark, my brethren, that the proud man does not learn humility from the humble man, but rather the latter learns pride from the former.
Much more is this to be understood of other vices, to which our evil inclinations are constantly urging us.
The Patriarch Abraham, as we read in the Book of Genesis, thought of procuring a wife for his son Isaac. Isaac was a beautiful, rich, virtuous, and well-reared young man, and the only son of a great patriarch, so that every maiden of the land would have been glad to have been chosen as his wife. But there was not one of them whom Abraham considered fit for the position; and therefore he sent for his steward and said to him: “ That I may make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that thou take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Chanaanites, among whom I dwell.” He then sent him into far-off Mesopotamia, to seek a good and virtuous bride for his son amongst his own kindred.
But is it possible that in such a great and populous country as Chanaan then was no young maiden could be found to suit Isaac? Is it possible that a good woman was such a rarity that not one was to be had amongst the thousands who were in the land?
St. Ambrose, Oleaster, and other authors answer this question by saying that at that time the Chanaanites were, as a general rule, addicted to idolatry. Although Abraham could rest assured of the firmness of the faith of his son and of his whole family, and had not the least reason to fear that they would ever lapse into idolatry, yet he thought, and rightly, too, that, if a heathenish woman came into his house, she would in course of time pervert the whole family and lead them away from God. As Abulensis says in his person, “the son, while he is still young, spends most of his time with his mother. ” Now, if my son Isaac and the rest of my dependents run no risk of being perverted, yet perhaps the heathenish mother may hereafter give her little children an image of a god to play with, so that they and her grand-children even may be infected with idolatry. No, was Abraham’s conclusion, I will not run the risk; any woman to whom even a remote suspicion of idolatry can be attached is not a fit wife for my son, nor should she become a member of my family. Truly, a sensible, prudent, and fatherly decision! For that very reason God afterwards bound the Israelites by an express command not to marry strange women: “You shall not go in unto them, neither shall any of them come into yours: for they will most certainly turn away your hearts to follow their gods.”
Fr. Francis Hunolt - The Penitent Christian 2