The Young Man Leaving Home

by John Angell James, 1844


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8

A youth leaving home! There is something a little melancholy in the idea. Home is one of the most delightful of words, and it is no wonder that it should have become the subject of poetry and song. There is music in the sound; and in every heart that is not yet corrupted—there is a chord that vibrates to the note. It will ever awaken a long train of associations and recollections—painful or pleasant—as may have been the conduct of the individual by whom the word is repeated. It is at home that parents and children, brothers and sisters—as long as Providence permits them to dwell together—mingle in the sweet fellowship of domestic bliss.

But you, whose eye is ranging over these pages, are leaving, or have left, your father's house. You are going, or are gone, away from home. I sympathize with you in the sorrows of that tearful hour of your existence. Well do I remember, even at this distance from the time, the scene which my own home presented, when I finally left it, to embark on life's stormy and dangerous ocean. My mother, one of the kindest and tenderest that ever bore that dear relationship, unable to sustain the parting, had retired to the garden—my sisters wept—my father walked silently by my side to the edge of the town, where I was to take horse and ride to meet the coach that was to carry me to London—while my own heart was almost overwhelmed with emotion, under the idea that I was leaving home, to encounter the anxieties, dangers, and responsibilities of a new and untried course!

In any aspect of the event, it is no trifling or inconsiderable transaction—to leave the scenes, the friends, and the guardians of our childhood—to leave that spot, and its dear inhabitants, with which are associated all our earliest reminiscences—to go from beneath the immediate inspection of a mother's anxious love, and the protection of a father's watchful care, and expose ourselves to the perils, privations, and sorrows that await the traveler on his journey through this world! You ought, as a child, to feel a pang as your mother presses you to her bosom, and sobs out her parting exclamation, "Goodbye, my son!" You ought to feel pensive and sad, as your father squeezes your hand, and turns from you with a heart too full to speak. You ought, as you cross the threshold of that habitation where you have been nurtured so tenderly, to cast a longing, lingering look behind. You would be unworthy of your parents' love, and of home's endearments—if you could leave them without emotion.

Still, however, these feelings are to be guided and limited by reflection. You cannot always remain at home—to be nursed in the lap of domestic enjoyment. You have a part to act in the great drama of life—and must leave home to prepare to act it well. It is the appointment of God that man should not live in idleness—but gain his bread by the sweat of his brow; and you must be placed out in the world to get yours by honest industry. In some few cases, the son remains with the father, and prepares for his future calling at home; but in by far the greater number of instances it is necessary for young men to learn their trade or profession, and to procure their livelihood, by being placed with strangers at a distance from home. This is your case, and in kind solicitude for your welfare, this little volume has been prepared, and is now presented to you, with the prayers and best wishes of the author.