The Young Man Leaving Home

by John Angell James, 1844


You are preparing, in your present situation—to act the part to which Providence may have destined you upon earth; and it is every way probable, according to the natural course of events, that in a few years you will be found at the head of a household of your own. This opens to you not only an interesting scene—but also an important and very responsible one. From the nature and constitution of society, the destiny of one generation is powerfully affected by the conduct of that which precedes it. The husband influences the wife—the father the child—and the employer the servant.

Consequently, of how much significance is the character of the head of a family! How many households are scenes of discord and wretchedness, and are at length reduced to poverty and ruin—by a drunken, pleasure loving, or idle father! How many who enter life with the fairest prospects of comfort and success, throw all away by sin! They draw some lovely and virtuous young woman into the companionship of life with them, see a family rising around—and are bound by every tie of justice and honor to provide for the comfort of their wife, and the prosperity of their children. But they had acquired habits of indolence or extravagance in youth, and all goes wrong—until ruin drives them from that home, which industry and sobriety would have enabled them to maintain. At length the wife dies of a broken heart—and the children become vagrants in the world. True religion would have prevented all this, and preserved that home to be a scene of order, peace, plenty, and respectability!

But even where things do not reach this point, and there is neither vice nor poverty—but morality, and success—still think of a family without true religion, an atheistic household, in which there is no family worship, no instruction, no regard to eternity—a mere temporal society—though followed with eternal consequences! Every father and mother is answerable to God for the souls of their children—and oh! what an account will those who are ungodly have to render to him at the day of judgment! What an eternity will such parents have to spend in the bottomless pit—with those children whose souls sank there through their guilty neglect!

True religion will fit you to preside with dignity over your household—it will add the sanctity of the Christian to the authority of the parent—and render obedience, on the part of your children—more pleasant and easy, as given to one who has such high claims to it. How will your family prayers tend to keep up, in all other respects, family order! Piety will strengthen and soften every domestic tie, as well as consecrate every domestic occupation. True piety will lighten the cares of business, brighten the scenes of prosperity, and yield consolation in the dark season of family sorrow. If called to leave your wife and family—it will mitigate the pang of separation, by the prospect of eternal union in a world where death has no power. Or if required to surrender a pious wife or children—it will prevent the sting of that sorrow which has no hope. What a bliss then to a family, what a benignant and heavenly inhabitant—is sincere, consistent, eminent piety—as it shines forth in the form and character of a godly father and employer!

And now, young man, let me entreat you to consider what is the true character of your present life—viewed in relation to the life that is to come. Are you now at home—or are you away from home? Let the poet answer. "Strangers into life we come, And dying is but going home!"

This present world is not our HOME—and unhappy is the man who makes it such. Heaven is the home of immortal man. During the whole time we are upon earth, we are away from home; and away from it, that we may prepare, like a child at school, or a youth in his apprenticeship—to go at length finally and fully to possess and enjoy it. This present world is not your REST. How short and uncertain is your continuance upon earth! You cannot remain many years, you may not remain one; for what is your life but "a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away!" At a moment's notice you may die! A flash of lightning—a heart attack—a ruptured blood vessel—the overturn of a boat or a carriage—may plunge you suddenly into eternity! You are suspended over that vast gulf by 'the brittle thread of human life!' Instead of living to old age—you may not live to be twenty! Instead of living to be a employer—you may die before your apprenticeship is finished. Place your finger on your pulse and say "If this stop—and any second it may stop—I am instantly in heaven or hell!"

Can you call this present world home? Ought you to feel at home here? Should you wish to consider this your home? For what a home is it—but such a one as he had whose dwelling was among the tombs? Home! What! would you desire it to be such, where there is so much to disturb, distress, and annoy? No! God has provided some better thing for us! Heaven, I repeat, is the home of immortal man!

It is to this to which the hope of the pious in every age has aspired; and the prospect of which has cheered them amid all the sorrows of life. "Two more stiles," said the martyr, as he walked across the fields to the place of execution, "and I shall be at home!—at my Father's house!" "I am going home!" is the common and joyful exclamation of many dying Christians. And what a home! The home of saints, of martyrs, of angels, of Christ, of God!

What is the PREPARATION for such a home? True religion—nothing but true religion. That home is a holy one. Heaven is in fact the home of true religion itself—for this present world is only in a wayfaring pilgrimage state. True religion is a heavenly visitant upon earth, traveling back to her native skies, and will never be at rest until she finds herself in the presence of God, her Divine Parent. Nothing, therefore—but true religion, can prepare a soul for heaven. You may have a good knowledge of the arts; you may have a competent, or even profound acquaintance with learning and science; you may have great public talents, which fit you for action and for influence among your fellow men. But what have these things to do with preparation for heaven? What reference have they to the eternal state?

Nothing but holiness will prepare you for a holy heaven! Would a knowledge of trade, agriculture, or science, prepare anyone, without the knowledge and manners of a courtier—to reside at a royal court? How much less in heaven! No, it is sincere, experimental piety alone, which can prepare you to enter into the presence of God. This 'heavenly character' must be acquired on earth—or it can never be acquired at all. Begin then at once. It is a preparation for eternity—and who can commence such a work too early? You may have but little time allotted for this transcendently momentous affair. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go." Live for eternity—live for heaven—and the only way to do this, is to live by faith.

Once in heaven, you will never leave it! There will be no going out forever!. You will leave your Father's house no more! The celestial family will never break up! Once at home there, you will be at home forever!

But neglect true religion, and you can never be admitted to the regions of blessed immortality. Your parents may be there—but you will be excluded, and shut up in outer darkness forever! I can imagine you in the day of judgment, pressing to lay hold upon the hand of your father—but he turns from you as from an object of disgust, exclaiming, "Your father no longer." You then direct an imploring eye to the mother who bore you, and laying hold on her robe, piteously exclaim, "My mother, do you not know me?" Gathering up her garment of light, she shakes you off, with the dreadful disownment, "I know not the enemies of my Lord." They pass to the right hand of the Judge—while you, by a power you cannot resist, are sent to the left! And what remains? You will present from that day the melancholy spectacle of an outcast from heaven—a homeless immortal—a vagrant in the universe—a wretched wanderer through eternity!