The Young Man Leaving Home

by John Angell James, 1844

The Sources of DANGER to
Young Men Away from Home

It is well to know what these are, and where they lie—that you may know how to avoid them. Ignorance on such a subject, would be itself one of the chief dangers. In many cases—to know our perils is itself one way of avoiding them. Steadily, then, contemplate the following—

1. You are in danger of falling into evil—from the removal of parental inspection, admonition, and restraint. It must be admitted, that home itself is sometimes a scene of peril to morals and true religion. In some homes, young people see and hear very little but what is calculated to do them harm. Parental example is on the side of sin, and almost everything that is said or done is of a nature likely to produce impressions unfavorable to piety—and perhaps even to morality. Where this is the state of things, removal is a benefit, and not a few have reason to be thankful for having been transplanted from such unChristian houses, into families where God is feared and piety is exemplified. If this be your case, rejoice in the dispensation of Providence, which has rescued you from such imminent danger, and planted you in a soil more congenial for the cultivation of true piety. Happy youth! to be thus snatched from the vortex of perdition at home, and brought into the way of salvation abroad. O prize your privileges, and improve your opportunities!

Many a young man, who, at the time of leaving home, wept over the necessity which caused him to leave the scenes of his childhood, and to go from beneath the wing of his parents, has lived to consider it the brightest era of his life, inasmuch as it took him away from scenes of moral danger, and led him to the means of grace and the path of eternal life. And in looking back upon the way of Providence, and upon his own feelings and ignorance of what awaited him, has exclaimed, "You bring the blind in a way that they knew not, and lead them in paths that they have not known; you make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight."

This, however, is not applicable to all families. If there are some parents who take no care about the religious or even moral character of their children, who neither set them good examples, nor deliver to them any instruction, nor impose upon them any restraint—but who allow them the unchecked gratification of their passions, and the unreproved commission of sin—there are many others who act a wiser and a better part. In most instances, parents are moral; in many they are pious—and while the former are anxious to keep their sons from vice, and train them to virtue—the latter go farther, and endeavor to bring them up in the fear of the Lord.

Many who will read these pages know this by experience. You have been brought up in habits of rigid morality. Your parents have been solicitous to form your character on a right basis. You have been long familiar with the voice of instruction, admonition, and warning. You have been the constant subject of a parental concern which you could neither be ignorant of, nor mistake. If you were seen in company with a stranger, or with a youth of doubtful character, you were questioned and warned. If you brought home a book, it was examined. If you stayed out at night later than usual, you saw a mother's anxious eye turned upon you, and heard a father's voice, saying, "My son, why so late, where have you been?" In short, you felt yourself within the range of an ever-present inspection, and under the pressure of a never-relaxing restraint. The theater and other places of pollution were strictly forbidden—and indeed you felt little inclination to visit even the environs of those haunts of vice. Morning and evening you heard the Scriptures read, and the voice of prayer ascend to God, and ascend for you. With such examples, under such instruction, and amid such scenes—you had no opportunity, and felt no disposition, to be immoral. Sometimes you thought, perhaps, that the restraint was too severe, and the care too fastidious; but then you said, "It is all for my good," and you submitted to it.

All this is now over—you have left, or are leaving home. The moment has arrived, or is past, and will never be forgotten, when those arms which sustained your infant frame were thrown around your neck, and pressed you to the bosom that nourished you, while a mother's faltering voice exclaimed, "Farewell, my boy;" and a father, always kind—but kinder then than ever, prolonged the sad adieu, and said, "My son, I can watch over you no longer. May the God whose providence removes you from your father's house, be your protector, and preserve you from the evils of this sinful world. Remember, that, though my eye cannot see you—His can, and ever does. Fear Him!"

And there, young man, you now are, where your parents' hearts trembled to place you, amid the snares and perils of this evil world; where your father's inspection cannot reach you—nor your mother's tearful eye behold you.

Perhaps you are in a family where no prayer is presented, nor even the form of true religion observed; where you are left to yourself, little or no care being taken of your morals or pious principles; and where, provided you serve your employers with industry and honesty—you may choose your own companions, recreations, and places of resort.

Or, if more favorably situated, and your lot is cast in a pious family, still what is the instruction of a employer, compared with that of a father—or the care of a mistress compared with that of a mother? Away from home, a wickedly inclined youth will find opportunities for the gratification of his evil propensities in situations the most friendly to virtue. His wicked heart, rejoicing in the absence of his parents, will make that absence an incentive to sin. Ever and always the whisper will come from within, "My father is not here to see it; my mother will not know it; I am not under inspection now, restraint is over; I can go where I like, associate with whom I please, and fear neither rebuke nor reproach."

O young man, think of the unutterable baseness of such conduct as this. Ought you not to despise yourself, if you could thus basely, as well as wickedly, take advantage of a father's absence—to do that which you know would excite his strongest reprobation, and afflict him with the bitterest grief, if he were present. Yet multitudes are thus base and wicked, and have gone from their parents to ruin themselves forever! Act, young man, act as you would do—if you were conscious that your father's eye were upon you!

2. Your danger is increased by the spirit of independence and self-confidence, connected, as of course it must be, with much ignorance and inexperience, which young men are apt to assume, when they leave their father's house, and go out into the world.

"Paternal rule is now over; my parents are not at hand to be consulted or obeyed; and if they were, it is time for me to think and act for myself. I am my own master now. I am a young man, and no longer a child. I am capable of judging, discriminating, and determining between right and wrong. I have the right, and will exercise it, of forming my own standard of morals, selecting my own models of character, and laying down my own plans of action. Who has authority to interfere with me?"

Such probably are your thoughts, and they are encouraged by many around you, who suggest that you are not always to go under parental care—but ought now to assert your liberty, and act like a man. Yes, and how many have employed and abused this liberty to the most criminal and fatal purposes—it has been a liberty to destroy all the habits of virtue formed at home—to subvert all the principles planted with such care by parental solicitude—and to rush into all the evil practices, against which the voice of warning had been raised from boyhood.

Many young men have no sooner been freed from parental restraint, and become their own masters, than they have hurried to every place of amusement, resorted to every species of wicked entertainment, initiated themselves into all the mysteries of iniquity, and with unwholesome curiosity to know, what it is bliss to be ignorant of—have entered into fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

Happy, happy had they been, had they considered that an independence which sets them free from parental advice and control—is the bane of piety, morality, and felicity—and has proved, where it has been assumed, the ruin for both worlds of multitudes of once hopeful youths. Wise is that young man, and blessed in all probability will he be, who, though he has left his father's house, and has arrived at the age of maturity, feels it his privilege, as well as his duty—to look up to his parents as his counselors, his comforters, and, in some respects, his rulers; who allows the restraints of home to follow him abroad; and who, amid the dangerous intricacies of life, is thankful to accept the offices of a judicious father—to be the guide of his youth.

Independence of one kind, I mean financial support, is that which every youth, sensible of what is due to himself, as well as to his parents, will be eager to acquire. It is a noble and generous ambition that dictates the wish to be self-supported. Some young men have disgraced themselves in the estimation of all who knew them, by depending on upon the industry and resources—and those but limited too—of parents, whose delight in their children made them willing to endure any labor and suffer any privations on their account. I know nothing more base, or cruel, than for a youth thus to take advantage of the strength of parental love, and to keep a father chained to the oar of labor, and to drain him of his last dollar—to support himself in idleness, or to supply the means of his luxurious extravagance. Disdain, young man, the thought of living by the sweat of your father's brow, and the wear and tear of his flesh and blood, his bones and muscles. Be industrious and frugal, that as soon as possible you may be, in this respect, your own master, and your own supporter.

3. The numerous incentives to vice with which every place—but especially the metropolis and large provincial towns, abound, and the opportunities of concealment which are to be found there—are a source of great danger.

At the head of all these must be placed the THEATER, which is there to be found in all its most powerful attractions and most destructive fascinations. Nothing too strong, or too bad, can be said of the injurious tendency of the stage; nor too earnest or impassioned in the way, and with the intent, of warning young men from venturing within its precincts. It is emphatically, and by way of eminence—the broad road and wide gate that lead to destruction!

It is idle to talk of what the drama and the stage may, in the hands of moralists, become. I speak not of playhouses in the land of Utopia—but of such as now are to be found in ours, and of such as you, my reader, will attend, if you go to any.

The staple matter of which the ordinary run of dramatic representations are composed, is altogether adapted to corrupt the youthful mind—by appealing to the most inflammable, powerful, and dangerous of its passions. 'Tragedy', with whatever fine passages and occasional lofty sentiment it may be adorned, is usually calculated to produce pride, ambition, and revenge. While 'comedy', such as is most suited to the public taste, and therefore most in demand, is the school for intrigue, lust, and licentiousness. It is not, however, the subject matter only of the play itself that is corrupting—but the representation of it upon the stage, with all the accompaniments of the theater. Not only is the lesson wicked—but the teacher and the school-fellows are wicked too. It is wicked in every way—borrowing every possible aid to render it still worse—it is vice recommended by the charms of music, painting, architecture, oratory, and eloquence—with all that is fascinating in female beauty, and dazzling in elegant costume.

Think of the audience—that many of them are honest, virtuous, and respectable members of society, I allow; but how large a portion of it is of a contrary description! Is there anywhere such a collection of the wicked, such a condensation of vice—as at the theater? Is it not there that the immoral meet to make their sinful engagements? Is not the profligate, of whatever grade or kind, sure to meet his partner there? Is it not the harlot's resort, the place of convocation for those miserable beings, whose ways lead down to the chambers of death and the pit of destruction, and who there swarm in the lobbies, and crowd the benches?

It were easy to enumerate the evils, though they are many and great—to which frequenting the theater will expose you. It is expensive—and will thus drain your finances. It leads to other expensive sins, such as drunkenness and debauchery, which, besides being evil themselves, will consume the fruits of your industry. It is sure to lead you into bad company. It generates a feverish imagination, and destroys a right balance of character. It raises the passions above their proper tone, and thus induces a dislike for those grave and serious subjects of life which have nothing but their simplicity and importance to recommend them. It kindles wicked and base appetites, and creates a constant hankering after their indulgence. It not only hardens the heart against true religion, so that a theater-loving man never becomes pious, until he is persuaded to abandon these amusements—but it gradually benumbs the conscience into an insensibility to good morals. Through the power of the unwholesome propensities, and ungovernable desires, which it produces—it often urges on to licentious conduct, so that a youth who frequents the playhouse is almost sure to fall a victim to the lips of the immoral woman, for "the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. But the result is as bitter as poison, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to hell."

Myriads of young men have had to date their ruin for both worlds from the fatal night, when, against the dissuasions of parents, and the remonstrances of conscience, they ventured within the walls of a theater! Let earnest, affectionate, importunate entreaty prevail then—to induce you to abstain from this road to perdition!

If you will not take my testimony, hearken to that which is furnished by witnesses more competent, from experience—to give evidence. It is said of Sir Matthew Hale, one of the greatest and most upright judges that ever sat on the bench, "that he was an extraordinary proficient at school, and for some time at Oxford; but the stage-players coming there, he was so much corrupted by seeing plays, that he almost wholly forsook his studies. By this he not only lost much time—but found that his head was thereby filled with vain images of things; and being afterwards sensible of the mischief of this, he resolved, upon his coming to London, never to see a play again—to which resolution he constantly adhered."

Augustine, the celebrated Christian author, confesses, with a noble frankness—that it was at the theater he imbibed the venom which so corrupted his heart and polluted his life during his early years.

"There is no part of theatrical economy," says one, "with which I am unacquainted; and it is my personal and complete knowledge of that economy which forces upon me the conviction, that were another Ezekiel to arise, and another angel descend—to exhibit to him the greater and greater abominations of this land—he would reserve for the astonished and indignant prophet a display of the iniquities of a London theater, as the last and most fearful chambers of wickedness."

"As I was one day walking out," says an American preacher, "for my accustomed exercise, a gentleman passed me in his carriage, and invited me to ride with him. He is a man of wealth and distinction, and of an elevated and pious character. He came to the city when young, without friends, without money, without reputation, without any extrinsic means whatever of getting started in business. Soon after I took a seat with him, two young men on their way to the theater, with cigars in their mouths, dashed furiously past us. 'There,' said he, 'are two young men going fast to ruin!' This incident turned our conversation upon the expenses and the ruin of young men. He remarked, that most of the young men who came to live in Boston at the time he did, had already gone to ruin. I told him that the interest I felt in them prompted the inquiry, how it came to pass that he escaped, and by what means he had succeeded so well in life? He replied, that when he came to the city, he laid down some rules, which he had steadfastly observed. Among them were the following—That he would always attend public worship on the Sabbath; that he would never read loose and infidel writings, nor visit infidel meetings; that he would devote a portion of his time to some profitable study; that he would be always diligent and faithful in business, however discouraging things might look; that he would not frequent places for amusement; that he would form no alliance with any individuals, until he knew them to be safe and virtuous companions; and that he would not go to the theater until he was forty-five years old, when he supposed he should be above the reach of any injury from that source.

Long before he reached that age he became a Christian man, and of course he now finds higher sources of pleasure than the theater—a place he never visited.

Another youth, who came to the city at the same time and from the same place with him, took lodgings at a house with some theater-going young men, was prevailed upon to go for once, then again, and again. He became loose in his principles and habits—one wrong step led to another, until he went headlong to ruin, and went to an early and infamous grave! And this, he remarked, had been the sad history of many who entered on and began the career in life with him."

I have no need, after this—to add anything, except it be to advise you never to do as some have done to their destruction, and that is—to go once, in order to judge for yourself. Do not taste the poison—to determine how you like it—and to form an opinion of its injurious power. Do not touch the fang of a serpent—to ascertain by examination the sharpness of its tooth. These are matters which it is safer and easier to decide by testimony; and a cloud of witnesses prove that of all the avenues to destruction—not one is more seductive or more certain, than the theater!

But besides the theater, how many other species of corrupt and corrupting amusement are to be found. Need I mention GAMBLING houses, brought down to the level of people of slender means, where the excitement of avarice, and the witchery of a love of play, is kept up—to the destruction of all sobriety of mind and industrious habits.

Is it necessary to speak of the places where young men meet to SMOKE cigars? It may seem to some to be trifling—but I know it is not, to say, that the first cigar a young man takes within his lips may become, and often does become, his first step in the career of vice. A cigar is with young people, the symbol of foppery, and swaggering, and conceit. I knew a youth, the son of a minister, who acquired such a passion for this species of gratification, that it contributed to the ruin of his circumstances, as well as of his character. His income was limited, yet he became greatly in debt for cigars to the tobacconist, at whose house he used to meet a company of youths, as idle as himself. I always grieve and tremble over every young man of my acquaintance whom I see contracting this habit. It often leads to other and far worse things.

Then there are the public gardens, the parks, and the steam-boats to Richmond, to Gravesend, or to Greenwich, those alluring baits for sabbath-breaking, by which millions, as time rolls on, are caught in the snares of Satan, ever lying in wait to deceive and to decoy. "What harm can there be," it is said, "after we have been shut up all the week in a close street, hard at work—to go out on a fine summer day—to enjoy the clear sunshine, the fresh air, and the beauties of creation? Surely our Maker is not such a hard master as to refuse us gratifications so innocent and so healthful." And thus sabbath-breaking, which is a manifest violation of the laws of God, is defended by an appeal to his goodness. Probably there is no means of destroying pious principle, and of leading to immorality, more common than the NEGLECT OF PUBLIC WORSHIP. Let this season be taken from devotion, and given to pleasure, and the character is from that time open to all the inroads of sin, without any check.

BAD COMPANIONS are a source of danger. Perhaps more young men are ruined by this than by any other means that could be mentioned. Many who have left home with a character unsullied, and a mind not only comparatively pure—but really ignorant of the crooked ways of vice—who, simple, artless, and without deceit, would have shuddered at the temptation to any of the grosser acts of sin—have at length fallen sacrifices to the powerful influence of evil associates! Man is a social being, and the propensity for friendship is peculiarly strong in youth—the season when it requires to be watched with greater care than at any other, because of the greater force which it exerts in the formation of character.

Now and then we meet with a youth who is so engrossed with business, so intent on cultivating his mind, or so reserved in disposition, as to have no desire for companions; but by far the greater number are fond of society, and eager to enjoy it; and, if not extremely careful in the selection of their friends, are in imminent peril of choosing such as will do them harm. It is next to impossible, young man, for you to remain virtuous in wicked company. Good morals cannot long be retained in habitual communion with those who are mirthful and wicked. It is like carrying money into the company of thieves, who will be sure to rob you of it. Your good conduct will render them uneasy; it will reprove them, accuse them, and exasperate them; and they will never cease until they have made you as bad as themselves. The more agreeable, amiable, and intelligent they are, the more dangerous and ensnaring is their influence.

A youthful profligate, of elegant manners, lively humor, amiable temper, and intelligent mind—is Satan's most polished instrument for ruining immortal souls! Once give your company to such an associate, and you are in the coils of a serpent, or at any rate in the spell of the basilisk's deadly gaze—from which nothing but Omnipotence can pluck you! You may for some time be kept from imitating him in his excess of riot, and prevented by the last efforts of a yet surviving conscience—from going all his lengths in sin—but you are in the track of his footsteps, following at a distance, while he is perpetually looking back, and by smiles and beckonings rallying your courage, and cheering onward your yet timid and reluctant feet.

No evil companions are to be so much dreaded, as those who dwell under the same roof! How frequently is it the unhappy lot of young men piously brought up, and in every respect hopeful as to morality, and perhaps as to piety also—to be fixed in the same house—to eat at the same table—to sleep in the same room—as some youths of wicked and infidel principles. They are thus brought into immediate contact with sin, and exposed at once to all the virulence of its contagion! What strength of moral constitution does it require to resist the danger! They breathe the infected atmosphere—and continually touch the pestilential person!

Take the testimony of one who left his father's house strictly moral, and with much veneration for true religion—but whose dark and winding course led him at last into the vicinity of the gallows. "In my employer's house," says he, "there were three young men employed, besides myself. One of them, a mirthful, respectable youth, was a great favorite with my employer. He was my room-mate. Of course this led to friendship—and from him I received the first tendency to extravagance and dress, which laid the foundation of my ruin. He was extremely wasteful in his habits; but from the respectability of his connections, no suspicion was excited that his supplies were not equal to his expenses. By him I became gradually familiarized to scenes of pleasure and wastefulness, which soon exceeded my means of support; but I never dreamed of having recourse to dishonest means to meet expensive indulgences. I soon found that I would be involved in great financial difficulties, and began to withdraw from his company, and associated as much as possible with my brother and a cousin of mine in the city.

"A circumstance, however, soon occurred, which threw the 'forbidden fruit' in my way, and my integrity could not resist the temptation. After being about two years in my situation, I was sent, on one occasion, with a parcel to a gentleman, for which I was to receive the money. Such parts of the business had often fallen to my lot. On this occasion, however, in the hurry of business, without the least dishonesty of intention, I forgot to give the money to my employer, and did not discover the money in my pocket until some time afterwards, several weeks at least. I was much alarmed at the circumstance, and knew not how to act. I was afraid to mention the matter to any one. I determined to let the money remain where it was, and if no inquiry was made, at length to use the money for myself. Thus I fell into the snare."

And thus he commenced a career of dishonesty, the end of which will be related in the sequel.

I might mention another case, illustrative of the same fact, of the danger of a bad companion in the house; but happily the danger was escaped in this instance. I knew a youth, whose parents felt the greatest concern for their child, whom they were about to situate away from home. He had been carefully educated, from his earliest years, in habits of morality and piety. His school had been selected with special reference to the plan laid down at home—for the formation of his character. But now this lovely youth (for he was most lovely) must leave home, and go out into the world. How anxiously did the father read the advertisements to find one which commanded all the advantages of a pious employer, and a godly minister! He succeeded, and a most excellent Christian he found, with whom to place his son. The family was what a Christian family should be; and the other apprentice staying with that family, also was supposed to be all that could be wished as a companion for a youth just leaving the parental roof—for he was the son of a minister, and unsuspected as to his moral principles.

Many months, however, had not passed before the minister received a letter from the heart-stricken mother of the first boy—to say she had heard from her child, stating that his soul was in imminent peril. He had been under pious impressions, and in much concern about his immortal welfare; but his companion, (the minister's son), proved to be a concealed infidel, concealed, I mean, from his the minister, and his employer. Nightly, when they retired to rest, was this deceiver and tempter instilling into the mind of his younger companion his artful objections against Christianity, and endeavoring to poison him with infidelity. His mind was assailed by one cavil after another, as he could bear them, until the poor boy unable any longer to endure his state of mind, yet afraid to disclose it, wrote home to his mother, exclaiming in an agony, "Oh, mother, I am lost, I am lost, unless you pray for me!" Horror-struck, she addressed the minister immediately upon the subject, and by their joint labors, and the blessing of God upon them, this youth was snatched from the fangs of the destroyer. He acted most wisely in making his parents acquainted with his situation, and imploring their counsel and help. A little longer, and he would, in all probability, have been carried off in triumph, and perhaps have been ruined for both worlds!

Oh, that I could select words sufficiently emphatic to express my entreaties to you to beware of evil companions out of the house—but especially in it! Oh! could you see but a thousandth part of the miserable wrecks that have passed to the regions of unutterable woe by the influence of bad associates—what a commentary would their damnation be upon the passage—"A companion of fools shall be destroyed!"

WICKED WOMEN are as much to be dreaded as bad men—and far more so! I have known some who have been in great jeopardy from female servants. It is of the greatest consequence that a young man should be upon his guard against this danger, and not allow himself to take, or receive, the smallest possible liberty that would entrench upon the most delicate modesty. Profligacy and misery to a vast amount have been the result of a lack of caution in this matter. Towards young women of this description, be always kind—but never familiar; never joke with them; keep them at a proper distance, by keeping yourself so. Not a few have been lost to morality—by not watching against this danger.

Also, how are our towns infested with those miserable women, who, in many cases, are the victims of seduction—and horribly avenge themselves upon their betrayers, by becoming seducers in return! Youthful reader, be upon your guard against this peril to your health, your morals, your soul. Go where you will, this snare is spread for your feet. Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation. Set a strict guard upon your senses, your imagination, your passions. Once yield to temptation, and you are undone—purity is then lost, and, sunk from self-esteem, you may give yourself up to commit all vileness with greediness.

DRINKING PARTIES, though not as common as some other snares, are still sufficiently prevalent to be pointed out as a source of danger. Happily for the morals of our country, an alcoholic is no longer regarded with approval in the better classes of society. Still it is an object of ambition with some misguided youths—to be able to drink alcohol in moderation. What a low and sensual aim. Young man, as you would not lie down in the grave of a drunkard, worn out by disease, and closing your miserable career in poverty and wretchedness—beware of the filthy, degrading, and destructive habit of drinking! Remember the words of the wisest of men—"Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don't let the sparkle and smooth taste of wine deceive you. For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent—it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say—They hit me, but I didn't feel it. I didn't even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can have another drink?"

Study this inimitable and graphic picture of drinking and its consequences. Begin life with a horror of drunkenness; acquire a fear and dread of wine. It is calculated that fifty thousand drunkards die yearly in this country—by insanity and pauperism! Three-fourths of the crimes of the land are the consequences of drunkenness! A large proportion of drunkards begin this dreadful habit in youth. I again say, and with all possible emphasis, begin life with a horror of drunkenness! Watch against a love of wine. As one who has practiced total abstinence for three years, I can, and do recommend it to all people in health, and especially to youth. The young man who has acquired a relish for wine; who always drinks it when he can get it; who drinks as much as is given him, or he can afford to purchase; who avails himself of the dinner or supper party—to go as far as he can without actual intoxication—is already an incipient drunkard. And if he does not stop at once, and practice total abstinence, or, at any rate, watch his propensity, and lay down rules of the most rigid temperance, will, in all probability, become a confirmed drunkard!

IV. Perhaps, the discomfort of your situation exposes you to perils. It is not to be expected by any youth who has had the blessing of a comfortable home, that he should find the same degree or kind of provision made for his enjoyment in any situation in which, on going out into the world, he may be placed. Oftentimes the very reverse occurs, and his new residence presents a melancholy contrast to the house of his father. Perhaps you, my reader, may be thus circumstanced. Your place of abode is so utterly comfortless, that you can scarcely think of home without tears. It is not only that your food is coarse or scanty, your lodging shoddy, and your work hard. You could bear all this, if your privations were made up by the kindness and sympathy of your employer, and your labors were softened by his expressed or obvious satisfaction. But it happens he is a tyrant, whom nobody can satisfy or conciliate, or his wife is an overbearing or nagging woman, whom nothing can please. Many a time you retire to your hard bed, and ill-furnished room, with a spirit discouraged, and a heart half broken.

Oh what a contrast is this cold unfeeling and grinding conduct—to the love of a fond mother, and the solicitude of a kind father! In such a situation, you are in danger of several things likely to be injurious to your moral welfare and future prosperity. Some have been induced by the pressure of their misery to run away. In an unhappy hour, they have listened to the voice of temptation, and have suddenly burst the bonds which they could not unloose, and cast off the yoke which they felt to be intolerable, and run away. This is a desperate and dreadful remedy; and has, in most cases, proved a ruinous one. Never let such a thought be entertained by you for a moment. Bear any unkindness, oppression, and misery—rather than do this.

A youth who runs away from his agreed upon employment, is usually a blighted character for life. He is sunk in his own estimation, and in that of everyone else. What anxiety does such a step bring on his parents, and on all his other friends! Remain then in your place—your term of apprenticeship will soon expire; it is not a captivity for life. Endeavor to sustain your ill treatment with courage and patience. Meekness may vanquish your oppressor.

But perhaps you are a clerk, and not an apprentice, and as you do not dwell in the house of your employer, you are not exposed to the same kind of discomfort and annoyance which those suffer, who do. You live in private lodgings. Your perils are therefore of another kind. Instead of being now surrounded with all the dear companions of home, and delighting in that busy scene of genuine love and tender services, you dwell solitarily among strangers. When the business of the day is over, you go to a cheerless and silent abode. No mother's smiling countenance welcomes you to the fireside; no father's cheerful voice tells or asks the events of the day; no brother or sister calls you by name, and blithely sports with you. Instead of this, you receive no attention but that which is bought with money. You enter your lonely room, eat your joyless meal, and in sadness think of home and days gone by.

Now there is danger here—danger of seeking companions who may be unfit; danger of going out to find amusement in places of wicked resort; or of adopting a course of reading that will only pollute the mind. It is impossible to overrate the peril of a young man who has lately left his father's house, and is living in solitary lodgings in one of our large provincial towns, and especially in the metropolis. If he has not piety to preserve him, or fixed moral principle, or a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge—so as to make books his companions—he is in great temptation! With all the sources of sinful pleasure open around him, and in the midst of a multitude hastening to drink their corruptive waters; with all the seductions near that appeal to every sense, every appetite, and every taste; it is more than probable he will be drawn from his gloomy abode—to those scenes, where all the lights of fashion, folly, and ruin are blazing. The first scruples of conscience being subdued, the temptation being once successful, continuance and advance seem almost necessary.

In addition to the dreariness of solitude, he has now the pangs of self-reproach to bear. And can he sit there night after night—to hear the accusations of that 'internal monitor' whose indignant rebuke he has provoked, and the sentence of that severe judge whose condemnation he has procured? No! He must go again to the sounds of revelry to drown the voice—and to the scenes of mirth to lose the sight—of his dreadful reprover. A young man in lodgings is thus in a situation where nothing but decided piety—or strong moral principle—can be expected to preserve him from temptation.

V. There is another danger to which your new situation may expose you, against which you should be cautioned, and directed to exercise the greatest vigilance; and that is—the violation of the rule of HONESTY. If placed in a retail shop, money will be continually passing through your hands, and much uncounted cash will be within your reach. The temptation may, perhaps, in certain circumstances arise—to appropriate a part of this to your own use. It may be your supply of pocket money is short, and you find yourself below some of your acquaintances in the means of procuring clothes, books or amusements. When the prospect of concealment presents itself, and the pressure of necessity is urgent, especially if aided by the hope and intention of refunding at some future time what you purloin—you are in imminent peril of the sin of embezzlement. Many, very many, have fallen into the snare, and have had their character and prospects blasted forever!

Enter life determined, by God's help—to follow whatever things are honest, true, lovely, and of good report. Let the fear of God, united with the love of the noble, honorable, and dignified—prevent you from ever appropriating to yourself a farthing of your employer's property. Even should you not be detected, how degraded will you feel, if you have in any instance acted the part of a pilferer! It is a painful thing for conscience to cry, "thief!" though a man may be spared the degradation of public exposure. On the other hand, how pleasant will be the recollection through life, that though exposed to many and strong temptations, your hands were pure from dishonesty. Be this your prayer, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me."

An eminent Christian minister, in relating to me the events of his early life, mentioned, with a fervid glow of delight and thankfulness, the victory which he gained in youth over a strong temptation to commit an act of dishonesty. Some circumstances, which need not be here detailed, led him to the resolution of running away from the place where he was serving an apprenticeship. On leaving the house, which he did in the morning before the family were stirring, he had to pass through a small room in which his employer usually sat. On the table lay a small heap of gold, silver and copper, carelessly mixed together, from which, as he was quite sure it was uncounted, a small sum abstracted by himself would not be missed. He stopped and looked at it, and as he looked he coveted. The temptation was strong. He was going out upon the wide world, with scarcely anything in his pocket. His stock of clothes was low—all he had was on his back, and in a bundle in his hand. He reasoned with himself about his scanty means, the certainty that anything he took would not be missed, and the probability of his being able to refund, in more prosperous days, what he might appropriate then, in the season of his necessity—but his better thoughts prevailed, and, gathering up his remaining principles of virtuous integrity, he exclaimed, "No, I am wronging my employer enough in leaving his service; I will not take his money too."

And with only a pittance in his pocket he went out to seek his fortune in the world; but still he had the testimony of his conscience, that, though a runaway, he was, as far as money was concerned, an honest youth. He assured me, that he had never ceased to reflect upon that triumph over temptation with pleasure and thankfulness. His future destiny, perhaps, hung upon that decision. Had he taken any of the money, his conscience might have been benumbed, his heart hardened, his self-respect lost, and his future character have become profligate and depraved.

Reader, you may not, I trust you will not, be placed exactly in the same circumstances of trial as this young man; but opportunities of embezzling your employer's property will often present themselves to you, if so disposed, and I hope you will ever have the principle to resist them.

There is nothing more likely to expose you to this danger than habits of EXTRAVAGANCE. If you should unhappily acquire a taste for expensive dress, or amusements, or wicked gratifications, you are in peril. Dishonesty often begins in luxury. A young man thinks he must be stylish, elegant, fashionable; he looks with envy on those whose means are more abundant than his own, and becomes restless and dissatisfied. He must, he will be equal to them in clothes, furnishings and diversions; but his salary, or his father's allowance, will not meet his needs, and then comes the temptation to embezzlement. Extravagance must have resources; and if they cannot be found by honest means, they will by dishonest ones. A love of ostentation in dress and diversions has led many to the gallows, or to the prison, by prompting first to pilfering, and then to forgery. Be upon your guard then. Avoid extravagance. Dread all vanity in dress. Determine to live within your income. Begin life with the resolution to be neat and respectable—but not luxurious or extravagant. Be it your fixed purpose never to have an article until you can pay for it.

VI. I close this fearful list of perils, by mentioning the prevalence of infidelity, and the zeal and wily arts of its abettors and propagators, as forming another source of danger to youth. There never was an age when infidelity was more busy than it is now; not that it is now more generally professed by the thinking and intelligent portion of the community; quite the contrary. Literature and science, rank and fashion, pay far more external, though it may not be sincere, homage to religion, than they did in times gone by—infidelity as a profession is no longer the boast of those who occupy the high places of society. True religion is obviously gaining ground among them. But the efforts of infidels to diffuse their principles among the common people and middling classes are peculiarly energetic just now. The subtleties of Hume, the pompous deism of Bolingbroke, and the artful insinuations of Gibbon—have given place to the ribaldries of Paine, and recently to the absurdities of Owen. The system, if system it may be called, of the latter, is obtruded upon public notice under the guise of an attractive misnomer, and pushed forward with a zeal which reminds us of the activity of its parent—the father of lies.

Absurd in its principles, contradictory to every man's sound judgment, and repudiated even by the conscience of its abettors, infidelity cannot long impose upon the credulity of even the laboring classes, among whom it has yet been chiefly successful. Amid a jargon of pretended metaphysics, at war with the first principles of sound logic and our moral constitution, it announces as its leading dogma, that man is entirely the creature of circumstances; is in no sense the author of his opinions and volitions; nor the founder or supporter of his own character. If this be correct, he is a mere machine, gifted with faculties which can be of no use to him; without freedom, without responsibility, without conscience; to whom it is useless to offer inducements, and on whom instruction is wasted; so circumstanced by necessity, that he can neither originate nor sustain any self-improvement; a being, in reference to whom law is mockery, sin impossible, and punishment injustice.

As if it were not enough to shock the public mind by a system so monstrous, the public taste, and all our social feelings are outraged, by the unblushing avowal of its author, that it is his design and wish to abolish the institution of marriage, and reconstruct society upon the basis of the unlegalized cohabitation of the sexes and the unrestricted freedom of divorce. Absurd and demoralizing as such a system is, it is popular with many; the reason is obvious, its very immorality proves to them its recommendation. If they can believe it, they feel that, commit what crimes they may, accountability is gone, and remorse is extinguished—the blame rests not on them, nor any sin whatever—but on the circumstances which led to it—a short way to be very wicked, and yet very easy. Young man, can you believe it? No, your reason revolts from it, and so would your heart, too, if you could witness the moral ravages it has committed. "Call it not infidelity—call it devilism; for it has made me more a devil than a man," exclaimed a poor dying man in my neighborhood—to one of our town missionaries who visited him on his death-bed. "I got into company that led me to infidelity and to drinking. I rejected the Bible, denied the Savior, and persuaded myself that there was no hereafter; and as the result, acted the part of a bad father, and a bad husband. I have the testimony of my employer, that I was a steady and respectable man until I listened to the infidels; but since that time I have become a vagabond, and they who formerly knew me, have shunned me in the streets."

Such is the testimony of a dying victim and martyr of infidelity—and a similar confession has been made by many others. I have seen man moral happy and useful, so long as he professed true religion—and have seen him in misery poverty and ruin, since he has thrown it off—I have heard the impassioned accents of his heart-broken wife, so far as weakness allowed her to be impassioned, exclaiming, as she looked at her miserable companion, "O sir, he has been a destroyed man, ever since he went among the infidels!" Such is infidelity.

It must be obvious, that between immorality and infidelity there is a close connection. A young man falls into temptation, and commits sin—instead of repenting, as is his duty and his interest, he in many cases attempts to quiet his conscience by persuading himself that Christianity is all hypocrisy, and the Bible untrue. His infidelity now prepares him to go greater lengths in sin—thus vice calls in the aid of error, and error strengthens vice, while both together lead their victim to ruin and misery. To guard yourselves against such dangers, study well the evidences of Christianity; but above all, let the power of true religion be felt in your heart, as well as the evidence of it perceived by your judgment. True religion in the heart is the only thing to be relied upon as a defense against the attacks of infidels, and the influence of their principles. But this will be insisted upon at greater length in a subsequent chapter.

Such are the most common and pressing dangers to which youth are exposed on leaving the protection of their parental habitation, and going from beneath the sheltering wing of paternal care. "I send you forth," said the Savior to his disciples, "as sheep among wolves;" and the same remark may be made by parents to their children, substituting the term lambs for sheep—when they place them out in this wicked and ensnaring world. It has been a dark day in the annals of myriads of families, when a son bade adieu to his parents, and commenced his probation and his struggles in the great business of human life. The tears that fell on that occasion were a sad presage, though unknown at the time, of others that were to flow in long succession over the follies, vices, and miseries of that unhappy youth. The history of ten thousand prodigal sons; the untimely graves of ten thousand broken-hearted parents; and the deep and heavy woes of ten thousand dishonored families, attest the fact of the dangers that await a youth on leaving home—and he is most in danger, who is ignorant of what awaits him, or who, on being informed, treats the subject with indifference, smiles at the fears of his friends, and feels no fear for himself.

Young man, there is hope of you if this representation shall awaken alarm, produce self-distrust, and excite vigilance and caution. Inexperienced and rash—with all your appetites sharpening—and all your passions strengthening—with a lively imagination—an immoderate or unwholesome curiosity—and a heart susceptible—eager to act for yourself—panting to try your scarcely fledged wings on leaving the nest—and perhaps ambitious of distinction—you are in imminent peril of the lusts of the flesh and of the mind. All but yourself are aware of, and concerned about your danger. Pause, and consider what you may become—an ornament of the profession you have chosen, a respectable member of society, a holy professor of true religion, a useful citizen of your country, a benefactor of your species, and a light of the world.

But according to the height to which you may rise, is the depth to which you may sink—for as the bottom of the ocean is supposed to be proportioned in measurement to the tops of the mountains, so the dark gulfs of sin and perdition into which you may plunge, sustain a similar relation to the summits of excellence and happiness to which you may ascend. Your capacity for ruin is equal to what it is for salvation. Survey for a moment the sphere which you may occupy and fill up with misery, desolation, and ruin. See what opportunities of destruction are within your reach, and to what suicidal and murderous havoc sin may lead you—if you give yourself up to its influence and government.

You may destroy your physical constitution by a more slow but not less sure process, than if you swallowed arsenic, or discharged a pistol at your heart. There are vices of the flesh that bring their own immediate punishment—in the diseases which they entail. The martyrs of licentiousness are far more numerous, and the amount of their sufferings inconceivably greater, than the martyrs for true religion. Millions die annually, the victims of drunkenness and debauchery, who long before the grave receives them to its dark domain, present a hideous and loathsome mass of corruption. Your financial interests may be ruined. Many on whom the morning of life dawned in brightness, and its prospects opened in beauty, have seen their sun suddenly go down, and all before them covered with clouds, and ravaged with the storms of adversity; not that Providence was against them, not that man was unjust to them—but they were the destroyers of their own interests, by habits of extravagance, indolence, and indulgence, acquired in youth.

You can ruin your reputation. After building up with great care your good name, for some years, and acquiring respect and esteem from those who knew you, "in one single hour, by yielding to some powerful temptation, you may permanently fix a dark stain upon your character, which no tears can ever wash away, or repentance remove—but which will cause you to be read and known of all men, until the grave receives you out of their sight. You may render yourself an object of the universal disgust and abhorrence of the pious—and be the taunt and scorn of the wicked; so that wherever you turn your eyes, you will find none to bestow upon you a single smile of complacency. How many in this condition, bitterly realizing that, 'without a friend, the world is but a wilderness,' have, in a paroxysm of desperation, committed suicide.

Your intellect, strong by nature, and capable of high cultivation, may, like a fine flower, be allowed to run wild by neglect—be trodden down by brute lusts—or be broken by violence. Your affections, given to be your delight by virtuous exercise on right objects, may be all perverted so as to become like so many demons, possessing and tormenting your soul, because they are set on things forbidden, and indulged to excess. Your conscience, granted to be your monitor, guide, and friend—may be wounded, benumbed, seared, until it is insensible, silent, and deaf—and of no use in warning you against sin, in restraining or reproving you for it. In short, you may destroy your immortal soul; and what ruin is like that of the soul—so immense, so horrible, so irretrievable? You may break the hearts of your parents; make your brothers and sisters ashamed to own you; be a nuisance and pest to society; a bane to your country; the corrupter of youthful morals; the seducer of female virtue; the consumer of the property of your friends; and, to reach the climax of your mischief, you may be the Apollyon (the destroyer) of the circle of immortal souls in which you move, sending some to perdition before you reach it yourself, and causing others to follow you to the bottomless pit—where you will never escape the sight of their torments—nor the sound of their curses!

How great the power, how malignant the virulence of sin, that can spread its influence so widely, and exert its force with such deadly effect, not only destroying the sinner himself—but involving others in his ruin! No man goes alone to perdition, no one perishes alone in his iniquity! This is a consideration which every transgressor should regard—he sustains the character not only of a suicide—but of a murderer, and the worst of all murderers, for he is the murderer of souls!

What a critical position you now occupy, between the capability of rising to so much excellence—or sinking to ruin so deep, and misery so intense! Reflect! Oh that you were wise! that you understood this! that you would consider your eternal end!