Addressed to Two Young Men
Last December I was shown the dangers and temptations of youth. The two younger sons of Father O need to be converted. They need to die daily to self. Paul, the faithful apostle, had a fresh experience daily. He says: "I die daily." This is exactly the experience that these young men need. They are in danger of overlooking present duty and of neglecting the education that is essential for practical life. They regard education in books as the all-important matter to be attended to in order to make life a success.
These young men have duties at home which they overlook. They have not learned to take up the duties and bear the home responsibilities which it is their duty to bear. They have a faithful, practical mother, who has borne many burdens which her children should not have suffered her to bear. In this they have failed to honor their mother. They have not shared the burdens of their father as was their duty, and have neglected to
honor him as they should. They follow inclination rather than duty. They have pursued a selfish course in their lives, in shunning burdens and toil, and have failed to obtain a valuable experience which they cannot afford to be deprived of if they would make life a success. They have not felt the importance of being faithful in little things, nor have they felt under obligation to their parents to be true, thorough, and faithful in the humble, lowly duties of life which lie directly in their pathway. They look above the common branches of knowledge, so very necessary for practical life.
If these young men would be a blessing anywhere, it should be at home. If they yield to inclination, instead of being guided by the cautious decision of sober reason, sound judgment, and enlightened conscience, they cannot be a blessing to society or to their father's family, and their prospects in this world and in the better world may be endangered. Many youth receive the impression that their early life is not designed for caretaking, but to be frittered away in idle sport, in jesting, in joking, and in foolish indulgences. While engaged in folly and indulgence of the senses, some think of nothing but the momentary gratification connected with it. Their desire for amusement, their love for society and for chatting and laughing, increases by indulgence, and they lose all relish for the sober realities of life, and home duties seem uninteresting. There is not enough change to meet their minds, and they become restless, peevish, and irritable. These young men should feel it a duty to make home happy and cheerful. They should bring sunshine into the dwelling, rather than a shadow by needless repining and unhappy discontent.
These young men should remember that they are responsible for all the privileges they have enjoyed, that they are accountable for the improvement of their time and must render an exact account for the improvement of their abilities. They may inquire: Shall we have no amusement or recreation? Shall we work, work, work, without variation? Any amusement in which they can engage asking the blessing of
God upon it in faith will not be dangerous. But any amusement which disqualifies them for secret prayer, for devotion at the altar of prayer, or for taking part in the prayer meeting is not safe, but dangerous. A change from physical labor that has taxed the strength severely may be very necessary for a time, that they may again engage in labor, putting forth exertion with greater success. But entire rest may not be necessary, or even be attended with the best results so far as their physical strength is concerned. They need not, even when weary with one kind of labor, trifle away their precious moments. They may then seek to do something not so exhausting, but which will be a blessing to their mother and sisters. In lightening their cares by taking upon themselves the roughest burdens they have to bear, they can find that amusement which springs from principle and which will yield them true happiness, and their time will not be spent in trifling or in selfish indulgence. Their time may be ever employed to advantage, and they be constantly refreshed with variation, and yet be redeeming the time, so that every moment will tell with good account to some one.
You have thought that it was of the highest importance to obtain an education in the sciences. There is no virtue in ignorance, and knowledge will not necessarily dwarf Christian growth; but if you seek for it from principle, having the right object before you and feeling your obligation to God to use your faculties to do good to others and promote His glory, knowledge will aid you to accomplish this end; it will help you to bring into exercise the powers which God has given you, and to employ them in His service.
But, young men, if you gain ever so much knowledge and yet fail to put that knowledge to a practical use you fail of your object. If, in obtaining an education, you become so absorbed in your studies that you neglect prayer and religious privileges, and become careless and indifferent to the welfare of your souls, if you cease to learn in the school of Christ, you are selling your birthright for a mess of pottage. The object for which
you are obtaining an education should not be lost sight of for a moment. It should be to so develop and direct your faculties that you may be more useful and bless others to the extent of your ability. If by obtaining knowledge you increase your love of yourselves, and your inclination to excuse yourselves from bearing responsibilities, you are better without an education. If you love and idolize books, and allow them to get between you and your duties, so that you feel a reluctance to leave your studies and your reading to do essential labor that someone must do, you should restrain your desire to study and cultivate a love for doing those things in which you now take no interest. He that is faithful in that which is least will also be faithful in greater things.
You need to cultivate love and affection for your parents and for your brothers and sisters. "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." Young men, you cannot afford to sacrifice your eternal interests for your school studies. Your teachers may stimulate you by applause, and you may be deceived by the sophistry of Satan. You may be led on step by step to seek to excel and to obtain the approbation of your teachers, but your knowledge in the divine life, in experimental religion, will grow less and less. Your names will stand registered before the holy, exalted angels and before the Creator of the universe and Christ, the Majesty of heaven, in a very poor light. Opposite them will be a record of sins, of mistakes, failures, neglects, and such ignorance in spiritual knowledge that the Father and His Son, Jesus our Advocate, and ministering angels will be ashamed to own you as children of God.
In attending school you are exposed to a variety of temptations to which you would not be exposed at home in your father's house, under the watchcare of God-fearing parents. If while at home you prayed by yourselves twice or three times a
day for grace to escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust, you need to pray as much more earnestly and constantly when at school, exposed to temptations and the contaminating influences which prevail in schools in this degenerate age, as your surroundings are more unfavorable to the formation of Christian character.
These young men have not sufficient strength of Christian character; especially is this the case with A O. He is not settled, rooted, and grounded in the truth. His hold of God has been so slight that he has not been receiving strength and light from above, but has been gathering darkness to his own soul. He has heard unbelief talked so much and has taken so little practical interest in the truth that he is not prepared to give a reason of his hope. He is unstable like a reed trembling in the wind. He is kind at heart, yet loves fun, idleness, and the company of his young friends. He has indulged this inclination to the sacrifice of his soul's interest. It is important, my brother, that you avoid mingling too much in the society of irreligious youth. The culture of your mind and heart, in connection with the practical duties of life, requires that a large share of your time be spent in the society of those whose conversation and faith will increase your faith and love for the truth.
You have tried to throw off the restraint that the belief of the truth imposes, but you have not dared to be very bold in your unbelief. Too often the levities of the world, and the society of those from whom self-communion and religion are excluded, have been your choice, and you have been, to all intents and purposes, reckoned with that class who bring the truth into contempt. You are not strong enough in faith or purpose to be in such society. In order to kill time you have indulged in a spirit of trifling which has done positive injury to you by blunting your conscience. You love approbation. If you gain this in an honorable way, it is not so sinful; but you are in danger of deceiving yourself and others; you need to be guarded on this point and see that you earn all the approval
you receive. If you are approved because of your sound principles and moral worth, this is your gain. But if you are petted and courted and flattered because you can make bright speeches and apt remarks, and because you are cheerful, lively, and witty, and not because of intellectual and moral worth, you will be looked upon by sensible, godly men and women as an object of pity rather than envy. You should be guarded against flattery. Whoever is foolish enough to flatter you cannot be your true friend. Your true friends will caution, entreat, and warn you, and reprove your faults.
You have opened your mind to dark unbelief. Close it in the fear of God. Seek for the evidences, the pillars, of our faith and lay hold upon them with firm grasp. You need this confidence in present truth, for it will prove an anchor to you. It will impart to your character an energy, efficiency, and noble dignity that will command respect. Encourage habits of industry. You are seriously lacking here. Both you and your brother have brilliant ideas of success, but remember that in God is your only hope. Your prospects may at times look flattering to you, but anticipations which exalt you above simple, humble home duties, and above religious duties, will prove a failure. You, my dear young friends, need to humble your hearts before God and be obtaining a rich and valuable experience in the Christian life by following on to know the Lord and blessing others by daily lives of spotless purity, of noble integrity, of thoroughness in the performance of Christian duty and the duties of practical life. You have duties to do at home; you have responsibilities to bear which you have not yet lifted.
That which ye sow ye shall also reap. These young men are now sowing the seed. Every act of their lives, every word spoken, is a seed for good or evil. As is the seed, so will be the crop. If they indulge hasty, lustful, perverted passions or give up to the gratification of appetite or the inclination of their unsanctified hearts; if they foster pride or wrong principles and cherish habits of unfaithfulness or dissipation, they
will reap a plentiful harvest of remorse, shame, and despair.
Angels of God are seeking to lead these young men to cry unto the Lord in sincerity: "Be Thou the guide of my youth." Angels are inviting and seeking to draw them from the snares of Satan. Heaven may be theirs if they will seek to obtain it. A crown of immortal glory will be theirs if they will give all for heaven.