The Young Man Leaving Home

by John Angell James, 1844


1. I select as the first whom I particularize, those who have left or are soon to leave their native country, whether for a permanent residence abroad, or only for a season. Numerous and very different are the causes which lead to this temporary or permanent departing. In some cases it is a mere curiosity to see the world; in others a restless, dissatisfied, and indolent disposition; in others a still worse cause. While in some it is a step to which they are called by the plans of Providence, and which circumstances render, if not absolutely necessary, yet every way proper. Whatever may lead to it, however—it is always a course of danger, and sometimes of sorrow. That young man who can step from his native shores into the vessel which is to bear him to a distant part of the earth; who can see the land of his nativity recede from his view, until its spires, hills, and its cliffs are lost amid the mighty waste of its waters; who can utter his adieu to the friends and scenes of his childhood, which he very probably may never revisit; who can undertake the perils of the sea, and the danger of tropical climates, all without some degree of heart sickness, or, at least, evident sadness—must have a heart too cold and too hard to be at present the residence of piety and virtue—and affords little hope for the future. Insensibility under such circumstances proves a callous mind—while sadness and even sorrow are an honor, and not a weakness—to the youth who rather weeps than utters his last adieu.

If it is a sinful cause that takes you to sea—you will have time for reflections upon the voyage. Use it well. As you pace the deck, with the moon and the stars speaking silently to you of God, think of your course, meditate upon your conduct; give conscience permission and time to speak—and listen to its voice. Imagine you see your godly mother on the deck, pointing to heaven, and saying, through her tears, "Repent my son, repent, and come back to us! We wait to receive you to our arms—and to our hearts!" Hear that gentle voice coming to your ears when nothing else is heard but the whistling of the wind, the dashing of the waves, and the creaking of the masts and rigging. Many a youth in those solemn moments has considered his evil ways, and turned from them to God. Cut off from many temptations and his ungodly companions—he has had wisdom given him to be sorry for the course he had run—has resolved to forsake it, and has returned home when the voyage was over—to heal by his good conduct, the wounds which he had inflicted by his wicked behavior, on the hearts of his parents.

But if these scenes are not enough to awaken reflection, and to startle conscience from her slumber, may I hope that the roar of the tempest will do it? Then, when the vessel, with her sails torn, and her masts injured, is being driven before the fury of the gale, towards the rocky shore—and the horrors of shipwreck and a grave among the monsters of the deep are before you—then think of your ways, then look back upon your wicked career, and cry to God for mercy through Christ! If you perish at sea—perish praying for pardon through the blood of the Lamb! Or if you survive the storm, let its perils never be forgotten, nor the purposes and good resolutions which in the hour of danger it led you to form. Do not as some unhappy youths do, smile at your fears and remorse—when you find that the vessel has outlived the tempest and you are safe.

It is by no means uncommon for young men of unstable minds, and indolent roving habits, when tired of the restraints of home, and the remonstrances of parental authority—to disregard them all, and enlist into the ARMY. It is often a dreadful and desperate change. Some few, and but few instances have occurred, in which it has been followed by reformation, and these youths have either risen in their profession, or returned reclaimed, to their father's house. This book may perhaps be read by some who have thus left the quiet scenes of home and trade—for the wanderings, turbulence, and dangers of a soldier's life. Oh what a contrast must you often draw, perhaps with a sigh or a tear, between the moral and affectionate inhabitants of the home you have left—and the base licentious companions with whom you are compelled now to associate; between the comforts of your father's house—and the tent or the barracks, where you now lodge; between the kindness and loving treatment of your relatives—and the stern, unsoftened authority of a military officer!

Unhappy youth! to have been reckless of all this, and to have exposed yourself to such annoyance, degradation, and wretchedness! Think of your ways! Look back upon the past with calmness, impartiality, and penitence. It is not yet too late to amend your conduct, and return to civil life. You have now much time for reflection. During those hours of the day which are spent upon some long and tiresome march; or of the night which you pass in solitude, pacing the sentinel's measured ground, when darkness shrouds you, or the storm is rolling its thunders over you, and darting its lightnings around—reflect, oh reflect upon your ways!

Think of the mother at home, whose rest is broken, or whose dreams are troubled at that moment by thoughts of her far-off soldier son. Or, when sailing in the crowded transport with your regiment to some distant, and perhaps unhealthy, colony—dwell upon the cause of your being thereupon the troubled ocean, borne every moment farther and farther from the land of your birth. Or, when the evening order is given to prepare next morning to mount the breach and storm the besieged town, or to take the field of battle against the marshaled foe—let conscience, long asleep—awake and speak! Oh, in that dreadful hour—what voices cry, "Repent, repent!" Then think, how near you may be to death and eternity! When the roll shall be called over to the survivors, no exulting "Here!" may follow the repetition of your name—but a dreadful silence seem to say, "Dead! Slain!" And if not slain, left to groan away a few days or weeks of miserable existence in a crowded hospital—amid the most horrid sights and sounds of mortal woe.

But without the battle or the storm—a soldier's life in tropical climates is fearfully perilous. Spectators have wept as they have seen the 'handful of soldiers' landed on the shores of their native country—and the 'thousand strong' reduced to the fifty or the hundred gaunt and emaciated invalids. And where were the rest? Left amid the sands of the East, or the charnel houses of the West Indies!

Let those who in their petulant resistance of parental authority, or their sullen submission to the restraints of home, meditate such a change as this! Think of the consequences of the rash act of 'enlisting' before they commit it, and may those who in an unguarded moment have committed it, do the best, and all that is left them—to bring good out of evil. Let them avoid 'desertion'—this will only expose them to greater evils. Their first business is, "Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." True religion will soften the rigor of their situation—and prepare them for future danger and distress—or make way for their return to their father's house. Honorable dismission from the service is what they should seek—and in order to this, they should commend themselves to their superiors as having learned wisdom by experience, and as being prepared to settle down to habits of application, and the pursuits of business.

But if a discharge cannot be obtained, let them reconcile themselves to the disquietudes, dangers, and distress of their situation—by the recollection that they were the authors of their own misery—by a line of conduct that will conciliate the affections of those around them, and help their advancement—and especially by true penitence and piety, which will, when every other source of comfort is closed—open in any situation—streams of consolation whose waters will never fail. Let them become good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and his service will soften the hardships of every other.

The moral dangers of foreign residence are most imminent. You are then not only more than ever, and farther than ever, removed from parental inspection and restraint—but you are removed also from the control of friends and of public opinion. You will have an opportunity—if you choose to embrace it—for gratifying to the greatest excess every sinful youthful passion, and every criminal appetite. And multitudes are swept into an early grave abroad in consequence of their enormous lusts—or else become confirmed forever in habits of immorality!

The motives which lead young men to sea are rarely laudable, and often criminal—as the following impressive fact will prove. Read it with attention.

Two young men, the children of pious and wealthy parents, felt themselves exceedingly displeased at the restraints of their parents. In their madness, or in their folly, they determined leave their home, and stole away to sea. News of this step was transmitted to the Rev. John Griffin, and he was requested to make diligent inquiry—and on finding them, to use every possible means to induce them to return. After some search, he found them among wicked companions. After much persuasion, he induced them to leave that wicked house, with the intention of accompanying him to his house. One of them, on the way, looked in Mr Griffin's face, somewhat amusingly—but with much obstinacy said, "I recognize you—you are a minister—I will not go with you!" But Mr Griffin now interposed with much firmness, and at length succeeded in bringing both of them to his house. He now pleaded with them, with tears of pity—he implored them with the feelings of a parent—he warned them as a Christian minister. One of them was overcome with the pastor's humility, and force of his subduing and fatherly eloquence.

The youth who promised to return, went back, and it is believed became a respectable and pious man. The other obstinately refused to return, and on his finally, after much patient persuasion, persisting in the expression of his determination to go to sea, Mr. Griffin said, "Well, young man, if you go, remember it is in disregard of the persuasive tears of your family, and the advice and remonstrance of your friends. I can now do no more for you, than remind you solemnly in the words of Scripture—Be sure your sin will find you out!" The obstinate young man acted on his expressed determination—and his younger brother returned to his home alone.

Some time after, a letter was delivered to Mr. Griffin one morning by a sailor, who stated that it had come from a prisoner in a ship, not far away, who had been sentenced to death. Mr. Griffin immediately went to that ship. On his arrival at the ship, he was conducted to the prisoner, who was found confined, and heavily ironed. He said, "Well, young man, I have come at your request, and I hope to do you good; but why did you send for me? I do not know you." "Oh, sir—don't you recognize me? Don't you remember, some time ago, saying to a young man in your own parlor, who refused to return home with his brother—Be sure your sin will find you out?" Mr. Griffin's feelings may be more easily conceived than described.

The youth's offence, was that of having violently struck his captain while on duty, which, especially in a time of war, was considered a crime so dangerous, from its tendency to traitorous mutiny, that it was generally supposed the death sentence would be executed. But no serious personal injury on the individual officer had been inflicted; and considering 'a youth' to be the offender, mercy might be pleaded for. At least, such was the opinion of Mr. Griffin. Without having excited any hopes in the mind of the condemned youth, or having even informed him at all of his intention, he at once resolved to use his utmost exertions to procure the pardon of the unfortunate young man—or at least the mitigation of his punishment.

In kind consideration of his application, and of simultaneous ones on the part of the family—the fatal sentence was remitted, and not only the life of the youth spared—but a free pardon generously granted.

The news of this did not, it is understood, arrive until early on the morning appointed for the execution. Mr. Griffin was permitted to be the person first to disclose this happy news to this hitherto hopeless youth. It would be in vain for anyone not present to attempt to portray the intensely interesting character of this blessed scene. It is more likely to be productive of a true effect on the mind of the reader—to leave the matter for his own imagination.

The fact just given is replete with salutary warning to all young men—not to neglect the advice of pious parents—nor to violate the commands of God. While, at the same time, it admonishes them, if unhappily they have done so—to repent of their sins, and to alter their course—instead of fleeing from parental restraint to the dangers of a seafaring life. Wherever they go, their sins follow after them—and sooner or later will find them out. In some few cases, the fugitive who has, like Jonah, fled from duty to sea, has been overtaken by the fearful visitations of the Almighty, and brought to repentance by a mixture of judgment and mercy. But in by far the greater number of instances, those who betake themselves to the sea, under the influence of indolence, unsettledness, or sin—become abandoned in character—and miserable in circumstances.

There are some who are gone, or about to go abroad, at the call of duty. Their course of life lies that way, and they are yet happily free from vice, and even from unsteadiness of temper. To such I would say–Do not leave your native land without real and decided religion as your companion in travel—or if you have left it without this friend, protector, and guide, instantly seek its possession. True religion will soften the pang of separation from your relatives, will open a source of happiness on the voyage, and will cover you with a protecting shield, amid the dangers of a foreign land. As you travel, or as you dwell among a strange people, often alone and without a friend with whom to converse, you will feel, and sadly feel, your forlorn and desolate condition—and when the hour of sickness comes, and you are laid up with a fever or consumption in a land of strangers, oh, think of the long nights and weary days of restlessness and pain, with no mother, no sister near to nurse and comfort you, no, none but strangers, and they perhaps, speaking a language you do not understand! will not true religion be needed then? Would not true religion soothe you then? Yes, it would be your nurse, your friend, your comforter, your support!

What can more beautifully or affectingly prove and illustrate the power of true religion in the most trying circumstances and appalling danger, than this touching fact. Let me therefore entreat you to seek the same source of consolation. Not only take the Bible in your trunk—but its influence in your heart. Cut off from the means of grace, surrounded by Pagan, Mohammedan, or Popish rites—all of them superstitious, and some of them polluting—you will be in danger of losing all sense of piety when you need it most. Fear God, and you will be safe and happy, wander or rest wherever you may; for He is there—reverence his presence, obey his authority, enjoy his favor, and you are blessed. You may die, and leave your bones in a foreign land; but, as one of the sages of antiquity said, "Every place is equally near to heaven."

2. ORPHANS. For you my tenderest sympathies are awakened, and my most affectionate anxieties engaged. You are, indeed, away from home; for you have no home but that which you occupy as an apprentice, shopman, or clerk. The grave has closed over your father and mother; and that habitation once the scene of your childhood, and which you then never entered but with delight—is now the residence of strangers. That threshold you will never cross again. A father's hand, a mother's smile, will welcome you no more to that abode. But you can never pass it even now, without looking up to the chamber window, within which the quiet nights of childhood were slept away in comparative innocence and peace, and saying with a sigh,
"My mother,
'Life has passed
With me but roughly,
since I saw you last.'"

Oh! this is a cold and selfish world! Those who would have loved and befriended you, if not for your own, yet for your parents' sakes, have forgotten you; and perhaps, even in the circle of your relatives, you find scarcely anyone who interests himself in your behalf. There was an orphan of old, who cheered himself thus, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." He found it so, and left his experience upon record for your encouragement and hope. Go to the same God by faith, by trust, and prayer—and seek his favor, his guardianship, and guidance. He will be your Friend, and never forsake you. He will be a Father to you, and will never be removed by death. He styles himself, and it is one of his tenderest titles, "The father of the fatherless." His friendship will be more than a compensation for all you have lost, and he will raise up other friends on earth for you.

What have you lost in earthly parents—which cannot be more than made up in God? "What have I lost," you say, "what have I not lost? They were my dearest, my kindest, my most valuable friends—their counsels guided me, their care protected me, their daily converse was the joy of my life, their sympathy revived me, and their bounty supplied my needs. And now that they are gone, how justly may I say, that my dearest comforts and hopes lie buried with their precious remains!"

Well, but cannot God counsel you, protect you, converse with you, sympathize with you, supply you—far more effectually than they did? Your father and mother are dead—but God, your heavenly Father, can never die. If you commit your way to him, by holy fear and earnest prayer, he will guide you through all the intricacies of life, protect you amid its dangers, comfort you under its sorrows, and conduct you safely, notwithstanding your gloomy prospects, through this mortal life, until you come at last to your Father's house in peace. Seek to have God for your Father, and you will never lack a friend. Choose true religion, and you will never lack a portion. Unite yourself with the church of Christ, and you will never lack a home.

But, at the same time, you should be told that you can expect no safety—but from piety. Left at an early age without the guides and guardians of your youth, without the check and restraint that even a distant father, while he lived, imposed by his correspondence, you will be an object for Satan's wiles, and for the arts of those who lie in wait to deceive. There are many who date their ruin from the day of their parents' death, and consider that event as the commencement of their downward career. Some have plunged into drunkenness to hush their sorrows, increased by the selfishness and unkindness of friends—while others, who had hitherto felt a parent's admonitions an impediment to a life of sin, have rushed into vice, as soon as this obstacle was removed by death. If either of these dangers be yours, may your parent's venerable figure appear to your imagination, as troubled by your misconduct, and warn you from a course of sin, which, if persisted in, will lead to destruction. You have lost them for a season, and will you by sin lose them forever?

3. Pious young men. You form a happy and an important class, if not a numerous one. Rich and sovereign mercy has called you out of darkness, and made you the children of light. Bless God, that while so many are walking according to the course of this world, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind—you are walking in the ways of godliness and peace. And while you are thankful, be humble, be circumspect, and prayerful. You are, and will be exposed to great and painful trials of your steadfastness. Perhaps you are placed in a situation, where you find not one like-minded with yourself. You alone are "faithful found among the faithless," and will need great grace to stand your ground against the annoyance, ridicule, and opposition, with which your religion will be assailed, by a set of mirthful, wicked and profane youths.

It is of vast importance, that you should at once, and without hesitation, let it be seen and known that you fear God. Let there be no attempt to conceal your principles or your practices. Let those with whom you are to associate, know at your first entrance among them, that you profess to regard the claims of true religion. If you begin by concealing your principles, it will be extremely difficult to exhibit them afterwards, and thus your life will be wretched under the stings of conscience reproaching you for cowardice, and the dread of open avowal. Moreover, you will often be obliged, or tempted at any rate, in order to keep up the delusion—to do things which you know to be wrong, and thus bring much remorse into your bosom. Remember who has said, "Whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Pray much, and pray earnestly and believingly, for moral courage. Entreat of God to be with you. Beseech him to stand by you, and uphold you with a strength greater than your own.

You will be in imminent peril without great watchfulness. Every ingenious art and device will be tried to shake your constancy. The licentious or skeptical book will often be placed in your way. You will be besieged, and if the smallest breach be made, in even the outworks of your character, the advantage will be plied against you until the whole is carried by storm or surrender. The first temptation presented by your companions will be to small offences—to matters of doubtful or debatable propriety, and if these succeed, they will become more bold. Steel your heart against ridicule. Betray no irritability. Bear all with dignified meekness. Petulance will only provoke to greater annoyance. Forbearance on your part will be most likely to induce them to desist. They will soon feel, that it is useless to laugh at a man, who accounts their scorn his praise, and who glories in their reproach as his honor; and they will at length respect the firmness of mind, strength of principle, and heroism of character—which their assaults can neither break nor bend.

It will tend much to your defense and stability, by inspiring them with respect, if you are skillful in your business, and possess a well-cultivated mind. Strive to be superior in all that constitutes the clever tradesman or professional man, and the well informed man. Convince them, that although true religion is the enemy of sin—it is the friend of all that can benefit and adorn humanity. Study well and deeply the evidences of revealed religion, and make yourself intimately acquainted with the method of meeting all the objections of the popular infidelity of the day.

But especially be consistent. Let your piety be unvarying and universal, and interwoven with the whole texture of your character. It should produce, not only the fear of God—but the love of man—it should blend the amiable and the devout, the cheerful and the serious, the useful and the happy. You should seek, by the steady consistent influence of example, as well as by the occasional and well-timed persuasion of direct address—to reclaim those who are gone astray. You should judiciously and affectionately warn your associates, who are seeking the pleasures of sin—of their danger. You may be honored to convert them from the error of their ways, and save their souls from death. It is astonishing what small means may sometimes do much good, even when nothing is said, and where it is only the power of example that operates.

As a proof of this, I will mention a fact which I know to have occurred in the history of a well-known and successful minister of the gospel. At the time of leaving home, he was strictly moral, and had some veneration for godliness; but soon became careless and indifferent. He could not, however, give up all attention to the welfare of his soul. It was his custom to retire to his room for prayer on Sundays between the public services of true religion; neglecting it at all other times, and being ashamed to pray in the presence of his fellow apprentice. Aware of the sinfulness of his conduct, and lacking the courage and resolution to change, he earnestly and sincerely besought God to raise up someone in the house to help and guide him in this momentous concern. After a time, a third apprentice was taken into the business. The first night he slept in the house, on retiring to bed, he fell on his knees, and continued some time in prayer. The effect of this upon the mind of the youth, whose history I am relating, was instantaneous and powerful. It seemed to him as if a voice, in impressive accents, said, "Behold the answer of your prayer—there is the individual sent to guide you into the way of true religion."

Serious reflection followed; his conscience was awakened; his heart was stirred; and decided piety was at length the result. He was introduced by his companion to a circle of pious friends, and after a year or two, exchanged secular for sacred pursuits, went to college, became a minister of the gospel, and has been greatly honored by the usefulness both of his preaching and his publications. And I have heard him say, that he traces up all his usefulness to the prayer of that youth, who had the moral courage to bend his knee and acknowledge God before his new companions, from whom he plainly saw he should receive no countenance in the habits of piety. This fact should be a motive and an encouragement to those who have any sense of true religion never to conceal it—but to let their light shine before others, that they, seeing their good works, may glorify God their heavenly Father.

4. PRODIGALS. By this term, I mean those young men who find their picture drawn by the pencil of inspiration in that most touching and beautiful of all our Lord's parables, usually denominated the "Prodigal Son." Oh, could I hope that some of this class will read these pages, I should entertain the further expectation that what I now address to them would be the means, under the blessing of God, of conducting them from the paths of sin—to those of wisdom, piety, and peace. You have left your father's house, because, perhaps, you could not endure its rules and restraints, and have well-near broken your father's heart—after having considerably impoverished his circumstances by your idleness, extravagance, and dissipation—and you are still going on in the career of vice and destruction.

Permit me to plead with you, first on your own account. I need not ask if you are happy; for it is impossible you should be, unless folly, sin, and shame can make you so. Oh no, there are moments when you are awakened by reflection to the horrors of your situation, and, under the united influence of remorse and despair, are ready to put an end, by suicide—to your miserable existence. You have proved the deceitfulness of sin, which promised you pleasure—and has inflicted unutterable misery. You have found the yoke of Satan to be galling iron to your neck—instead of the happy freedom under which his service was set forth to captivate your youthful imagination. Rise, deluded, degraded, and half-destroyed youth—against these murderous tyrants, who have brought you to the brink of the pit—but have not yet, with all their artifice and cruelty, thrust you into it! You are not yet irrecoverably ruined for earth—nor enclosed in the prison of hell. Bad as you are, there is hope for you—yes, even for you! Turn, oh turn, from the road that leads to destruction!

Think, I beseech you, upon your parents, not quite but almost crushed into the grave by your evil ways. It is not yet too late to restore their peace of mind, so long broken by your misconduct; nor the elasticity of their frame, so heavily pressed down by years of trouble—brought on by your guilty wanderings. "None but a parent's heart can know the anguish of parting with a sweet babe." But there is an agony deeper and more inconsolable than that. It is occasioned by a wicked son. I have seen one mother pour forth, from a heart which no consolations could reach, tears of bitterness over a perverse and wicked son, and have heard her say, "Would that my son had died in his infancy!" Hasten, hasten, young man, that by your reformation you may spare your mother the anguish of saying with her last breath, "I am dying of a broken heart—my son, my wicked and unhappy son, has killed me!"

Unless you soon repent and arise and go to your father, and say, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in your sight," you will lie down in the grave of a parricide, and have inscribed, by the finger of public infamy, upon your tomb, if a tomb shall be given you, "Here lies the murderer of his father and his mother!"

The last stab, however, is not yet given to them; the dagger of your unkindness, and your profligacy, has not yet reached a vital part, and all their other wounds may be alleviated if not perfectly healed—by your reformation. Yes, that venerable pair may yet say, if you will permit them to do so, by your conversion to God, and consequent holiness, "It is fit that we should make merry—for this our son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found." Brothers, who had long since disowned you, as far as they could do it, may yet restore you to their fraternal love. Sisters, who once regarded you as their joy and boast, when they saw you leave your father's home, a fair and promising youth—but who, in your fallen condition, could never hear your name pronounced without blushes and tears, shall again, if you repent, exclaim with throbbing hearts, "My brother!" O prodigal, return! Return by true repentance and faith to God, your Father in heaven, and in the same state of mind to your father on earth. Both are looking out for you—both will receive you—both will rejoice over you!

Numerous instances might be mentioned to awaken hope, and encourage this return. Do not despair of amendment. Do not say, there is no hope. None, not even you—are too bad to be reclaimed. Read the beautiful parable to which I have already referred. What prodigal can wander further, sink lower, or seem more out of the way of recovery, or more remote from the region of hope—than he was? Yet he was restored! And why was the parable spoken, and why was it written—but to encourage hope, in cases seemingly the most deplorable and abandoned?

I knew a case, which is both a salutary warning against sin, and an encouragement to those who have gone far and long astray—to consider that it is never too late to repent. One winter evening as I was sitting by my fire, I heard a knock at the door, from a person who wished to speak to me. I went out, and found a shabby-looking, dirty, squalid creature, who, after some apology for the intrusion, introduced himself as the son of ——. I had heard for many years of his evil career, and lamented it, for his father's sake, who was an eminent minister of the gospel, as well as for his own. Although I had known him in his better days I did not recognize him in his prodigal appearance. As soon as he was seated in the dining-room, and I had the opportunity more clearly to see his degradation and wretchedness, I burst into tears, and he too was affected to see that the knowledge of his wicked career had not extinguished all my sympathy for his misery. I fed him, and he departed.

This youth, after being spoiled by his mother, whose only child he was, and who, though she erred in this instance, was in most others, an admirable woman, became wayward at home, and unsettled abroad. He formed some bad associations, and contracted some bad habits, among which was a fatal propensity to drinking. By various plans formed and broken, about settling in business, he wasted all his inheritance, and became dependent on his friends, still retaining his habits of idleness and drinking. One situation after another was found for him, by those whose kindness he defeated in all their attempts to help him; until, at length, wearied in endeavoring to help a man who would not help himself, all were obliged to give him up.

His ruin now was complete. He became a total vagabond, and roamed through the country, herding with the lowest wretches, sometimes begging, and resorting to all kinds of methods to procure a meager sustenance and drag on his miserable life. On one occasion, he called upon a friend of his father's in London, in such a beggarly, filthy condition, that before he could be admitted into the house, a tub of water was placed in an out-building that he might cleanse himself, a change of clothes was given him, and his rags instantly burned. Thus clothed and fed, it was hoped he might now do better, according to his promise—but in a few days, all was pawned, and he was again clothed in rags, that he might drink with the few shillings obtained as the balance in this barter of decent apparel—for that which merely covered his limbs. Thus he went on, until he had become a frequent inmate of workhouses, lock-up houses, and prisons. He had associated with the offscouring of society, had become hardened in vice, and almost stupefied by poverty and woe; and, one would suppose, had been long lost to every sense of decency, and every hope or desire of reformation.

Yet, this prodigal of prodigals, at last found his way back to his heavenly Father's house. In his wanderings, he rambled into a town, where he made himself known to a minister of the gospel, who felt an interest in him for his reverend father's sake. This gentleman, not discouraged or disheartened by the numerous disappointments which had already occurred, took him under his care, clothed him, and procured him support. The prodigal's heart melted under this distinguished kindness; his mind opened to pious instruction; and repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ followed. He lived long enough to make a consistent profession of true religion, and died in the peaceful hope of that blessed world into which "nothing enters that defiles, or works abomination, or makes a lie." His repentance, however, came too late to gladden the spirit of his mother; (his father had died before his wicked course commenced;) her constitution was impaired by grief, and she sank broken-hearted to the grave. What a meeting in the heavenly world—who can imagine it—of this hopeless, disappointed, and sorrow-stricken mother—and this returned prodigal, the source of her deepest grief, and the hastener of her death!

Prodigal son, was there ever a seemingly more hopeless case than this? Is yours more hopeless? Turn, then, from your evil ways. God's mercy, through Christ, is great enough to pardon even your sins, if you truly repent and sincerely believe in the promise of salvation. The Holy Spirit can change even your hard heart, if you wish to be changed, and if you pray in faith for the grace that is necessary to effect it.

If your parents yet live, return to your father's house reformed, and do all that can be done to heal the wounds of his bleeding heart, and to wipe away the tears from your mother's eyes. Make them yet rejoice that you are their son. In the evening of their existence, let there be light. Let their grey hairs go down to the grave, not in sorrow—but in joy! And let it be a consolation to them on their death-bed, that they have received you, penitent and reformed—to their earthly home, and hope to meet you and dwell with you forever in their heavenly mansion!

Or, if your repentance comes too late to halt their progress to the tomb, or cheer their hearts, sickened and saddened with the foreboding that they are parting from you forever—go sorrowfully all your days, at the thought of having shortened their existence by your sins. But still comforted and sustained by the hope that they were among the spirits in heaven who rejoiced over your repentance, and that they gave utterance to their joys among the angels of God, saying, "Rejoice with us, for this our son was dead—and is alive! He was lost—and is found!" There is a home for all truly penitent prodigals, in heaven! And there is a home for all impenitent ones—but it is, in hell!