( Originally Published 1879 )
MEN glory in raising great and magnificent structures and find a secret pleasure to see sets of their own planting grow up and flourish; but it is a greater and more glorious work to build up a man; to see a youth of our own planting, from the small beginnings and advantages we have given him, to grow up into a considerable fortune, to take root in the world, and to shoot up into such a height, and spread his branches so wide, that we who first planted him may ourselves find comfort and shelter under his shadow.
Much of our early gladness vanishes utterly from our memory; we can never recall the joy with which we laid our heads on our mother's bosom, or rode our father's back in childhood; doubtless that joy is wrought up into our nature as the sunlight of long past mornings is wrought up in the soft mellowness of the apricot.
The time will soon come—if it has not already—when you must part from those who have surrounded the same paternal board, who mingled with you in the gay-hearted joys of childhood, and the opening. promise of youth. New cares will attend you in new situations; and the relations you form, or the business you pursue, may call you far from the "play-place " of your " early days." In the unseen future, your brothers and sisters may be sundered from you; your lives may be spent apart; and in death you may be divided; and of you it may be said
"They grew in beauty, side by side,
Let your own home be the cynosure of your affections, the spot where your highest desires are concentrated. Do this, and you will prove, not only the hope, but the stay of your kindred and home. Your personal character will elevate the whole family. Others may become degenerate sons, and bring the gray hairs of their parents with sorrow to the grave. But you will be the pride and staff of a mother, and an honor to your sire. You will establish their house, give peace to their pillow, and be a memorial to their praise.
Spend your evening hours, boys, at home. You may make them among the most agreeable and profitable of your lives, and when vicious companions would tempt you away, remember that God has said, "Cast not in thy lot with them; walk thou not in their way; refrain thy foot from their path. They lay in wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. But walk thou in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous."
Keep good company or none. Never be idle. If your hands cannot be usefully employed, attend to the cultivation of your mind. Always speak the truth. Make few promises. Live up to your engagements. Keep your own secrets, if you have any. When you speak to a person, look him in the face. Good company and good conversation are the very sinews of virtue. Good character is above all things else. Your character cannot be essentially injured except by your own acts. If one speak evil of you, let your life be such that none will believe him. Drink no kind of intoxicating liquors. Always live, misfortune excepted, within your. income. When you retire to bed, think over what you have been doing during the day. Make no haste to be rich if you would prosper. Small and steady gains give competency with tranquility of mind. Never play at any kind of game of chance. Avoid temptation through fear that you may not be able to withstand it. Never run into debt, unless you see a way to get out again. Never borrow if you can possibly avoid it. Never speak evil of any one. Be just before you are generous. Keep yourself innocent if you would be happy. Save when you are young to spend when you are old. Never think that which you do for religion is time or money misspent. Always go to meeting when you can. Read some portion of the Bible every day. Often think of death, and your accountability to God.
An honest, industrious boy is always wanted. He will be sought for; his services will be in demand; he will be respected and loved; he will he spoken of in words of high commendation; he will always have a home; he will grow up to be a man of known worth and established character.
He will be wanted. The merchant will want him for a salesman or a clerk; the master mechanic will want him for an apprentice or a journeyman; those with a job to let will want him for a contractor; clients will want him for a lawyer; patients for a physician; religious congregations for a pastor; parents for a teacher of their children; and the people for an officer.
He will be wanted. Townsmen will want him as a citizen; acquaintances as a neighbor; neighbors as a friend; families as a visitor; the world as an acquaintance; nay, girls will want him for a beau and finally for a husband.
To both parents, when faithful, a child is indebted beyond estimation. If one begins to enumerate their claims, to set in order their labors, and recount their sacrifices and privations, he is soon compelled to desist from his task. He is constrained to acknowledge that their love for him is surpassed only by that of the great Spring of all good, whom—to represent in the strongest language our measureless indebtedness to Him—we call '" Our Father in Heaven."
Parents do wrong in keeping their children hanging around home, sheltered and enervated by parental indulgence. The eagle does better. It stirs up its nest when the young eagles are able to fly. They are cornpelled to shift for themselves, for the old eagle literally turns them out, and at the same time tears all the down and feathers from the nest. 'Tis this rude and rough experience that makes the king of birds so fearless in his flight and so expert in the pursuit of prey. It is a misfortune to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, for you have it to carry and plague you all your days. Riches often hang like a dead weight, yea like a millstone about the necks of ambitious young men. Had Benjamin Franklin or George Law been brought up in the lap of affluence and ease, they would probably never have been heard of by the world at large. It was the making of the one that he ran away, and of the other that he was turned out of doors. Early thrown upon their own resources, they acquired the energy and skill to overcome resistance, and to grapple with the difficulties that beset their pathway. And here I think they learned the most important lesson of their lives—a lesson that developed their manhood—forcing
upon them Necessity, the most useful and inexorable of masters. There is nothing like being bound out, turned out, or even kicked out, to compel a man to do for himself. Rough handling of the last sort has often made drunken men sober. Poor boys, though at the foot of the hill, should remember that every step they take toward the goal of wealth and honor gives them increased energy and power. They have a purchase, and obtain a momentum, the rich man's son never knows. The poor man's son has the furthest to go, but without knowing it he is turning the longest lever, and that with the utmost vim and vigor. Boys, do not sigh for the capital or indulgence of the rich, but use the capital you have—I mean those God-given powers which every healthy youth of good habits has in and of himself. All a man wants in this life is a skillful hand, a well informed mind, and a good heart. In our happy land, and in these favored times of libraries, lyceums, liberty, religion and education, the humblest and poorest can aim at the greatest usefulness, and the highest excellence, with a prospect of success that calls forth all the endurance, perseverance and industry that is in man.
We live in an age marked by its lack of veneration. Old institutions, however sacred, are now fearlessly, and often wantonly, assailed; the aged are not treated with deference; and fathers and mothers are addressed with rudeness. The command now runs, one would think, not in the good old tenor of the Bible, " Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right," but thus : Parents obey your children. Some may go so far as to say this is right. "Why should I, who am so much superior to my father and my mother, bow down before them? Were they equal to me; did they appear so well in society; and, especially, were they not in destitute circumstances I could respect them. But "—my young friend, pause—God, nature, and humanity forbid you to pursue this strain. Because our parents are poor, are we absolved from all obligations to love and respect them ? . Nay, if our father was in narrow circumstances, and still did all that he could for us, we owe . him, instead of less regard, an hundred fold the more. If our mother, with scanty means, could promote our comfort and train us up as she did, then, for the sake of reason, of right, of common compassion, let us not despise her in her need.
Let every child, having any pretence to. heart, or manliness, or piety, and who is so fortunate as to have a father or mother living, consider it a sacred duty to consult at any reasonable, personal sacrifice, the known wishes of such a parent, until that parent is no more; and our word for it the recollection of the same through, the after pilgrimage of life will sweeten every sorrow, will brighten every gladness, will sparkle every tear drop with a joy ineffable. But be selfish still, have your own way, consult your own inclinations, yield to the bent of your own desires, regardless of a parent's commands, and counsels, and beseechings, and tears, and as the Lord liveth your life will be a failure; because, "the eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagle shall at it."
Consider, finally, that if you live on, the polluted joys of youth cannot be the joys of old age; though its guilt and the sting left behind, will endure. I know well that the path of strict virtue is steep and rugged. But, for the stern discipline of temperance, the hardship of self-denial, the crushing of appetite and passion, there will be the blessed recompense of a cheerful, healthful manhood, and an honorable old age. Yes, higher and better than all temporal returns, live for purity of speech and thought; live for an incorruptible character; have the courage to begin the great race, and the energy to pursue the glorious prize; foresee your danger, arm against it, trust in God, and you will have nothing to fear.