GOLDEN STEPS TO RESPECTABILITY, USEFULNESS, AND HAPPINESS
Being a Series of Lectures to Youth of Both Sexes, on Character, Principles, Associates, Amusements, Religion, and Marriage
JOHN MATHER AUSTIN
Author of Voice to Youth, Voice to Married, etc., etc.
Auburn: Derby, Miller, and Company
"Onward! onward! Toils despising, Upward, upward! Turn thine eyes, Only be content when rising, Fix thy goal amid the skies."
LECTURE I. THE VALUE OF A GOOD REPUTATION
LECTURE II. THE PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES OF LIFE
LECTURE III. SELECTION OF ASSOCIATES
LECTURE IV. THE HABITS AND AMUSEMENTS
LECTURE V. THE RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS
LECTURE VI. MARRIAGE
The Lectures embraced in this volume, were written for the pulpit, in the usual manner of preparation for such labor, without any expectation of their appearing in print. The author is but too sensible that they are imperfect in many features, both in matter and style. It is only in the hope that they will be of some benefit to the class to whom they are addressed, that he has consented to submit them to public perusal. He has aimed at nothing eccentric, odd, or far-fetched; but has sought to utter plain and obvious truths, in a plain and simple manner. There is no class more interesting, and none which has higher claims on the wisdom, experience, and advice, of mature minds, than the young who are about to enter upon the trying duties and responsibilities of active life. Whatever tends to instruct and enlighten them: to point out the temptations which will beset their pathway, and the dire evils which inevitably flow from a life of immorality; whatever will influence them to honesty, industry, sobriety, and religion, and lead them to the practice of these virtues, as "Golden Steps" by which they may ascend to Respectability, Usefulness, and Happiness, must be of benefit to the world. To aid in such a work, is the design of this volume. If it subserves this end—if it becomes instrumental in inciting the youthful to high and pure principles of action, in hedging up the way of sin, and opening the path of wisdom, to any—if it drops but a single good seed into the heart of each of its readers, and awakens the slightest aspiration to morality, usefulness, and religion—it will not have been prepared in vain. With a prayer to God that he would protect and bless the youth of our common country, and prepare them to preserve and perpetuate the priceless legacy of Freedom and Religion, which they will inherit from their fathers, this book is given to the world, to fulfil such a mission as Divine Wisdom shall direct.
THE AUTHOR. AUBURN, June, 1850.
The Value of a Good Reputation.
"Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come."—1 Tim. vi. 19.
In this language St. Paul asserts a principle which should commend itself to the mature consideration of every youthful mind. If the young would have their career honorable and prosperous—if they would enjoy the respect and confidence of community; if they would have the evening of their days calm, serene, and peaceful—they must prepare for it early in life. They must lay "a good foundation against the time to come"—a foundation which will be capable of sustaining the edifice they would erect. The building cannot be reared in strength and beauty, without it rests on a secure "corner-stone." The harvest cannot be gathered unless the seed is first cast into the ground. A wise Providence has so ordered it that success, prosperity, and happiness through life, and a respected and "green old age," are to be enjoyed only by careful preparation, prudent forecast, and assiduous culture, in the earlier periods of our existence.
"True wisdom, early sought and gained, In age will give thee rest; then improve the morn of life, To make its evening blest."
The youthful live much in the future. They are fond of gazing into its unknown depths, and of endeavoring to trace the outline, at least, of the fortunes that await them. With ardent hope, with eager expectation, they anticipate the approach of coming years—confident they will bring to them naught but unalloyed felicity. But they should allow their anticipations of the future to be controlled by a well-balanced judgment, and moderated by the experience of those who have gone before them.
In looking to the future, there is one important inquiry which the young should put to their own hearts:—What do I most desire to become in mature life? What position am I anxious to occupy in society? What is the estimation in which I wish to be held by those within the circle of my acquaintance?
The answer to these inquiries, from the great mass of young people, can well be anticipated. There are none among them who desire to be disrespected and shunned by the wise and good—who are anxious to be covered with disgrace and infamy—who seek to be outcasts and vagabonds in the world. The thought that they were doomed to such a condition, would fill them with alarm. Every discreet youth will exclaim—"Nothing would gratify me more than to be honored and respected, as I advance in years; to move in good society; to have people seek my company, rather than shun it; to be looked up to as an example for others to imitate, and to enjoy the confidence of all around me."
Is not his the desire of the young of this large audience? Surely there can be none here so blind to the future, so lost to their own good, as to prefer a life of infamy and its ever-accompanying wretchedness, to respectability, prosperity, and true enjoyment? But how are these to be obtained? Respectability, prosperity, the good opinion of community, do not come simply at our bidding. We cannot reach forth our hands and take them, as we pluck the ripe fruit from the bending branch. Neither will wishing or hoping for them shower their blessings upon us. If we would obtain and enjoy them, we must labor for them—EARN them. They are only secured as the well-merited reward of a pure and useful life!
The first thing to be aimed at by the young, should be the establishment of a GOOD CHARACTER: In all their plans, anticipations, and prospects for future years, this should form the grand starting-point!—the chief corner-stone! It should be the foundation of every hope and thought of prosperity and happiness in days to come. It is the only basis on which such a hope can mature to full fruition. A good character, established in the season of youth, becomes a rich and productive moral soil to its possessor. Planted therein, the "Tree of Life" will spring forth in a vigorous growth. Its roots will strike deep and strong, in such a soil, and draw thence the utmost vigor and fruitfulness. Its trunk will grow up in majestic proportions—its wide-spreading branches will be clothed with a green luxuriant foliage, "goodly to look upon"—the most beautiful of blossoms will in due time, blush on every twig—and at length each limb and bough shall bend beneath the rich, golden fruit, ready to drop into the hand. Beneath its grateful shade you can find rest and repose, when the heat and burden of life come upon you. And of its delicious fruit, you can pluck and eat, and obtain refreshment and strength, when the soul becomes wearied with labor and care, or the weight of years. Would you behold such a tree? Remember it grows alone on the soil of a good reputation!! Labor to prepare such a soil.
Believe not, ye youthful, that God has made the path of virtue and religion hard and thorny. Believe not he has overhung it with dark clouds, and made it barren of fruit and beauty. Believe not that rugged rocks, and briers, and brambles, choke the way, and lacerate the limbs of those who would walk therein! No! he has made it a smooth and peaceful path—an easy and pleasant way.—"Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."
The young who overlook these considerations—who lay their plans, and cherish their expectations, in reference to their future career, without any regard to the importance of a good character—who, in marking out their course, lose sight of the necessity of laboring to establish a worthy reputation to commence with—who, in building their hopes of success and happiness, are not convinced that "a good name" is the only foundation on which such hopes can legitimately rest—have commenced wrong. They have made a radical and lamentable MISTAKE at the outset. A mistake, which, unless speedily corrected, will prove most disastrous in all its influences, and be keenly felt and deplored throughout life.
Those who fall into error on this point, who view a good reputation as a matter of no moment—well enough if you can secure it without much trouble, but not worth laboring for, with zeal and perseverance—have placed themselves in a most critical position. They are like a ship in the midst of the wide wastes of ocean, without chart compass, or rudder, liable to be turned hither and thither by every fickle wind that blows, and dashed upon dangerous reefs by the heaving billows. Failing to see the importance of establishing a good character, they fall easy victims to sinful temptations, and, ere long, verging farther and farther from the path of rectitude, they at length find every fond hope, every fair prospect, blasted for life.
To a young man, a good character is the best capital he can possess, to start with in life. It is much better, and far more to be depended on than gold. Although money may aid in establishing a young man in business, under favorable circumstances, yet without a good character he cannot succeed. His want of reputation will undermine the best advantages, and failure, and ruin, will, sooner or later, overtake him with unerring certainty!!
When it is known that a young man is well-informed, industrious, attentive to business, economical, strictly temperate, and moral, a respecter of the Sabbath, the Bible, and religion, he cannot fail to obtain the good opinion and the confidence of the whole community. He will have friends on every hand, who will take pleasure in encouraging and assisting him. The wise and good will bestow their commendation upon him; and parents will point to him as an example for their children to imitate. Blessed with health, such a youth cannot fail of success and permanent happiness.
But let it be known that a young man is ignorant or indolent, that he is neglectful of business, or dishonest; that he is given to intemperance, or disposed to visit places of dissipation, or to associate with vicious companions—and what are his prospects? With either one or more of these evil qualifications fixed upon him, he is hedged out of the path of prosperity. To cover up such characteristics for a great length of time, is a moral impossibility. Remember this, I beg you. It is beyond the power of mortals to conceal vicious habits and propensities for any long period. And when once discovered, who will repose confidence in such a youth? Who will trust him, or encourage him, or countenance him? Who will give him employment? Who will confide anything to his oversight? Who will render him assistance in his business affairs, when he is straitened and in need of the aid of friends? Behold his prospects! How unpromising, how dark!! It is impossible for such a young man to succeed. No earthly power can confer prosperity upon him. He himself undermines his own welfare, blackens his own name, and dashes down the cup of life which a wise and good Providence has kindly placed to his lips, and calls upon him to drink.
* * * * *
If a good character, a spotless reputation, is all-essential to the prosperity of a young man, what must it not be to a young woman? A well-established character for morality and virtue is of great importance to people of every class, and in all circumstances. But to a young lady, a "good name" is a priceless jewel. It is everything—literally, EVERYTHING—to her. It will give her an attraction, a value, an importance, in the estimation of others, which nothing else can impart. In possession of a spotless character, she may reasonably hope for peace and happiness. But without such a character, she is nothing! Youth, beauty, dress, accomplishments, all gifts and qualities will be looked upon as naught, when tainted by a suspicious reputation! Nothing can atone for this, nothing can be allowed to take its place, nothing can give charm and attraction where it exists. When the character of a young woman is gone—all is gone! Thenceforward she can look for naught else but degradation and wretchedness.
The reputation of a young woman is of the most delicate texture. It requires not overt acts of actual wickedness to tarnish its brightness, and cast suspicion on its purity. Indiscreet language, careless deportment, a want of discrimination in regard to associates, even when no evil is done, or intended, will often bring into question her character, greatly to her injury. Many are the instances where a single word, spoken at random, in the giddy thoughtlessness of youthful vivacity, without the slightest thought of wrong, has cast a shadow upon the character of a young woman which it required years to efface. How important that every word uttered, and every deed performed, should be maturely weighed. A discreet lady will not only be careful to avoid evil itself, but will studiously refrain from everything which has even the appearance of evil.
"Whatever dims thy sense of truth, Or stains thy purity, Though light as breath of summer air, Count it as sin to thee."
Young women frequently err in their understanding of what it is that gives them a good name, and imparts their chief attraction. Many seem to imagine that good looks, a gay attire, in the extreme of fashion, and a few showy attainments, constitute everything essential to make them interesting and attractive, and to establish a high reputation in the estimation of the other sex. Hence they seek for no other attainments. In this, they make a radical mistake. The charms contained in these qualities, are very shallow, very worthless, and very uncertain. There can no dependence be placed upon them.
If there is one point more than another, in this respect, where young ladies err, it is in regard to DRESS. There are not a few who suppose that dress is the most important thing for which they have been created, and that it forms the highest attraction of woman. Under this mistaken notion—this poor infatuation—they plunge into every extravagance in their attire; and, in this manner, squander sums of money, which would be much more profitably expended in storing their minds with useful knowledge, or, in some cases, even in procuring the ordinary comforts of life.
There is a secret on this point I would like to divulge to young women. It is this—That any dress, which from its oddness, or its extreme of fashion and display, is calculated to attract very particular attention, is worn at the expense of the good name of its possessor. It raises them in the estimation of none; but deprives them of the good opinion of all sensible people. It gives occasion for suspicion, not only of their good sense, but of their habits of economy. When a young woman is given to extravagant displays in dress, it is but publishing to the world, her own consciousness of a want of other attractions of a more substantial nature. It is but virtually saying, "I seek to excite attention by my dress, because I have no other good quality by which I can secure attention."
Could a young woman who passes through the streets decked out extravagantly in all that the milliner and dress-maker can furnish, realize the unfavorable impression she makes upon sensible young men—could she but see the curl of the lip, and hear the contemptuous epithet which her appearance excites, and know how utterly worthless they esteem her—she would hasten to her home, throw off her foolish attire, and weep tears of bitterness at her folly.
Parents are often much to be blamed for this indiscretion in their daughters. They should give them better advice; and instruct them to cultivate other and worthier attractions than the poor gewgaws of DRESS! Do they not know that the worthless and abandoned of the female sex dress the most gaily and fashionably? Should they not urge their daughters to seek for a higher excellency, a more creditable distinction than this?
Here is another secret for young ladies:—All the attraction they can ever possess by means of dress, will be derived from three sources, viz. Plainness, Neatness, and Appropriateness. In whatever they deviate from these cardinal points, they will to the same degree make themselves ridiculous—weaken their influence, and lose the good opinion of those they are the most anxious to win. I beg these truths to be impressed deeply on the mind.
Dress, personal beauty, and showy accomplishments, go but a short way to establish the reputation on which the happiness of woman really depends. Instead of placing reliance on these, they should seek to cultivate those qualities, habits, and dispositions, which will give permanent merit and value, in the estimation of those whose attention and regard they are desirous to cultivate. A sweet and gentle disposition—a mild and forgiving temper—a respectful and womanly demeanor—a mind cultivated, and well-stored with useful knowledge—a thorough practical acquaintance with all domestic duties; (the sphere where woman can exhibit her highest attractions, and her most valuable qualities,) tastes, habits, and views of life, drawn not from the silly novels of the day, but from a discriminating judgment, and the school of a well-learned practical experience in usefulness and goodness:—these are the elements of a good name, a valuable reputation in a young woman. They are more to be sought for, and more to be depended upon, than any outward qualification. They form an attraction which will win the regard and affection of the wise and enlightened, where the fascinations of dress, and other worthless accomplishments, would prove utterly powerless.
I desire the young, of both sexes, to remember that it is one thing not to have a bad reputation, but quite another thing to have a good one. The fact that an individual does nothing criminal, or offensive, although creditable in itself considered, does not bestow the amount of merit after which all should seek. They may do nothing particularly bad, and nothing very good. It is meritorious to refrain from evil; but it is better still to achieve something by active exertion, which shall deserve commendation. The Apostle exhorts us not only to "cease to do evil," but to "learn to do well." The young, while striving to avoid the evils of a bad reputation, should assiduously seek for the advantages of a good one.
How can the young secure a good character? Its worth, its importance, its blessings, we have seen. Now, how can it be obtained? This is a question, worthy the serious consideration of every youth. Let me say in reply:—
1. That a good character cannot be inherited, as the estate of a father descends to his heirs. However respectable and worthy parents may be, their children cannot share in that respect, unless they deserve it by their own merits. Too many youth, it is to be apprehended, are depending upon their parents' reputation as well as their parents' property, for their own standing and success in life. This is an insecure foundation. In our republican land, every individual is estimated by his or her own conduct, and not by the reputation of their connections. It is undoubtedly an advantage in many points of view, for a young person to have respectable parents. But if they would inherit their parents' good name, they must imitate their parents' virtues.
2. A good character cannot be purchased with gold. Though a man or a woman may have all the wealth of the Indies, yet it cannot secure a worthy name—it cannot buy the esteem of the wise and good, without the merit which deserves it. The glitter of gold cannot conceal an evil and crabbed disposition, a selfish soul, a corrupt heart, or vile passions and propensities. Although the sycophantic may fawn around such as possess wealth, and bow obsequiously before them, on account of their riches, yet, in fact, they are despised and contemned in the hearts even of their hangers-on and followers.
3. A good character cannot be obtained by simply wishing for it. The Creator has wisely provided, that the desire for a thing does not secure it. Were it to be thus, our world would soon present a strange aspect. It is, undoubtedly, much better that it should be as it is. We have the privilege to wish for whatever we please; but we can secure only that which we labor for and deserve. Were the traveller to stand throughout the day, at the foot of the hill, wishing to be at the summit, his simple desire would not place him there. He must allow his wishes to prompt him to proper exertion. It is only by persevering industry, and patient toil, contented to take one step at a time; that his wish is gratified, and he finds himself at length upon the brow of the eminence.
In like manner, the youthful, to obtain possession of a good character, must earn it. It must be sought for, by an earnest cultivation of all the graces and virtues, which are commended by God and man. It cannot be secured in a moment. As the edifice is erected by diligently laying one stone upon another, until it finally becomes a splendid temple, piercing the heavens with its glittering spire, so a good name must be built up by good deeds, faithfully and constantly performed, as day after day carries us along amid the affairs of life.
Let the youthful fix their eyes upon this prize of a good reputation—the only end worth striving for in life. Let them studiously avoid evil practices, corrupt associates, and vicious examples. Let them patiently and faithfully lay the foundations of virtuous habits, and practice the lessons of wisdom and the precepts of religion—and in due time the prize shall be theirs. The spotless wreath of a virtuous character shall rest upon their brow. The commendation, the confidence, and the good-will of man shall accompany them; and the choicest of the blessings of God shall rest upon them, and sweeten all their days.
The Principles and Purposes of Life.
"The heart of him that hath understanding, seeketh knowledge."—Prov. xv. 14.
The practical wisdom of Solomon is seen in this simple precept. The youthful, who have the slightest understanding of the journey of life—who have been impressed, even in the smallest degree, with the perils to which they are exposed; the trials to be endured; the vicissitudes through which they must necessarily pass; the obstacles they must overcome; the deceptions and allurements they will have to detect and withstand—cannot fail to acknowledge the wisdom of seeking for knowledge to enlighten and prepare for the exigencies which await the inexperienced traveller through this world's wayward scenes.
Those who commence their career without forethought, or discrimination in regard to the moral principles by which they will be governed, and without selecting the best and safest path of the many which open before them, are involved in a blindness of the most pitiable description. They would not manifest this want of discretion on matters of much less importance. The commander of the ship does not venture his voyage to sea without his compass, his chart, and a full supply of stores. We would not sail an hour with him, if we believed him ignorant or indifferent to the necessity of these important preparations. How hazardous, how foolish the youth who launches away on the momentous voyage of life, without compass, or chart, or any preparation which extends beyond the present moment. True, the ship destitute of all these essentials, may leave the harbor in safety, with her gay pennons flying, her swelling sails filled with a favorable breeze, a smiling sun above, a smooth sea beneath, and all the outward indications of a prosperous voyage. But follow her a few hours. The terrific storm-king spreads abroad his misty pinions, and goes forth in fury, ploughing up the waters into mountain billows, and shrieking for his prey. The gloomy night settles down upon the bosom of the mighty deep, and spreads its dark pall over sea and sky. Muttering thunders stun the ear, and the lightning's vivid flash lights up the terrific scene, and reveals all its indescribable horrors. Where now is the gay ship which ventured forth without needful preparation? Behold her, tossed to and fro by the angry waves. All on board are in alarm! The fierce winds drive her on, they know not whither. Hark to that fearful roar! It is the fatal breakers! Hard up the helm! Put the ship about! See, on every hand frowns the fatal lee-shore! Pull taught each rope—spread every sail. It is in vain! Throw out the anchors! Haste! strain every nerve! Alas! It is all too late. The danger cannot be escaped. On drifts the fated craft. Now she mounts the crest of an angry wave, which hurries forward with its doomed burthen. Now she dashes against the craggy points of massive rocks, and sinks into the raging deep. One loud, terrific wail is heard, and all is silent! On the rising of the morrow's sun, the spectator beholds the beach and the neighboring waters strewn with broken masts, rent sails, and drifting fragments—all that remains of the proud ship which yesterday floated so gaily on the ocean waters!!
Behold, O ye youthful, a picture of the fate of those who rush upon the career of life, without forethought or preparation, and without the light of well-selected moral principles to guide them. All may appear fair and promising at the outset, and for a season. But before many years can elapse, the prospects of such youth must be overclouded; and ere long disappointment, overthrow, disgrace and ruin, will be the closing scenes of a life, commenced in so much blindness.
"Well begun is half done," was one of Dr. Franklin's sound maxims. A career well begun—a life commenced properly, with wise forecast, with prudent rules of action, and under the influence of sound and pure, moral and religious principles—is an advance, half-way at least, to ultimate success and prosperity. Such a commencement will not, it is true, insure you against the misfortunes which are incident to earthly existence. But if persevered in, it will guard you against the long catalogue of evils, vexatious penalties and wretchedness, which are the certain fruit of a life of immorality; and will bestow upon you all the real enjoyments, within the earthly reach of man.
As people advance in years, they perceive more and more the importance of commencing life properly.
See that wretched outcast! Poor and miserable, shunned by all but depraved associates, he drags out the worthless remnant of his days. Does he think he has acted wisely? Hark to his soliloquy—"Oh, could I begin life again:—could I but live my days over once more—how different the course I would pursue. Instead of rushing on blindly and mindlessly, without forethought or care, and allowing myself to become an easy prey to temptation and sin, I would reflect maturely, and choose wisely the path for my footsteps. Faithfully I would search for the way of virtue, honesty, sobriety, and goodness, and strictly would I walk therein!" The opportunity he so eagerly covets, and to obtain which he would deem no sacrifice too great, is now before every youth in the assembly.
This thought is beautifully elaborated in the following allegory:
"It was midnight of the new year, and an aged man stood thoughtfully at the window. He gazed with a long, despairing look, upon the fixed, eternal, and glorious heaven, and down upon the silent, still, and snow-white earth, whereon was none so joyless, so sleepless as he. For his grave stood open near him; it was covered only with the snows of age, not decked with the green of youth; and he brought with him, from a long and rich life, nothing save errors, crimes, and sickness—a wasted body, a desolate soul, a breast filled with poison, and an old age heavy with repentance and sorrow. The fair days of his youth at this hour, arose like spectres before his mind, and carried him back to the bright morning, when his father had first planted him at the starting-point of life; whence, to the right, the way conducts along the sunny path of virtue, to a wide and peaceful land, a land of light, rich in the harvest of good deeds, and full of the joy of angels; whilst, to the left, the road descends to the molehills of vice, toward a dark cavern, full of poisonous droppings, stinging serpents, and dank and steaming mists.
"The serpents clung around his breast, and the drops of poison lay upon his tongue, and he knew not where he was.
"Senseless and in unutterable anguish, his cry went forth to heaven: 'Grant me but youth again! O, father, place me but once again upon the starting-point of life, that I may choose otherwise!'
"But his father and his youth were far away. He beheld wandering lights dance upon the marshes, and disappear upon the graveyards; and he exclaimed, 'These are my days of folly!'
"He beheld a star shoot through the heaven, and vanish: it glimmered as it fell, and disappeared upon the earth. 'Such, too, am I!' whispered his bleeding heart; and the serpent-tooth of remorse struck afresh into its wounds.
"His heated fancy pictured to him night-wandering forms slow-creeping upon the house-tops; the windmill raised its arm, and threatened to fell him to the earth; and in the tenantless house of death, the only remaining mask assumed imperceptibly his own features.
"At once, in the midst of this delirium, the sounds from the steeple, welcoming the new year, fell upon his ear, like distant church music.
"He was moved, but to a gentler mood. He gazed around, unto the horizon, and looked forth upon the wide earth; and he thought of the friends of his youth, who, happier and better than he, were now teachers upon the earth, fathers of happy children, and blessed each in his condition.
"'Alas! and I, too, like ye, might now be sleeping peacefully and tearless through this first night of the year, had I willed so! I too might have been happy, ye dear parents, had I fulfilled your new-year's wishes and admonitions!'
"In the feverish reminiscences of his youth, it seemed to him as if the mask which had assumed his features in the house of death arose, and grew into a living youth, and his former blooming figure stood before him in the bitter mockery of illusion.
"He could look no longer; he hid his eyes, a flood of hot tears streamed forth and were lost in the snow. And he sighed, now more gently, and despairing, 'Return but again, O youth, come once again!'
"And youth did return; for he had but dreamed thus fearfully in the new-year's night. He was still young; but his sinful wanderings, they had been no dream; and he thanked God that he could yet turn from the miry ways of vice, and again choose the sunny path which leadeth unto the pure land of the harvest of righteousness.
"Turn thou with him, young man, if thou standest upon his path of error. This fearful dream will in a future be thy judge; but shouldst thou ever exclaim, in the bitterness of remorse, 'Return, fair time of youth!'—youth will not come when thou dost call for her."
It is much easier to start right and keep right, than to start wrong, and then endeavor to get right. Although those who take the wrong path at the commencement, should afterwards seek to obtain the right one, and persevere until they find it, still the labor to retrieve the early error will be difficult. It is painful to walk in the way of wickedness—it is painful to break away from it, when once there. It is painful to continue on—it is painful to turn back. This is in consequence of the nature of sin. It is a path all evil, all pain, all darkness—everything connected with it is fruitful of wretchedness. Those who stray therein, find themselves beset with perils and troubles on all sides. Avoid it, as you love happiness!
"Ne'er till to-morrow's light delay What may as well be done to-day; Ne'er do to-day, what on the morrow Will wring your heart with sighs and sorrow."
A young man may, in early life, fall into vicious habits, and afterwards turn from them. Some have done so. But they declare that the struggles they were compelled to make—the conflicts and trials, the buffeting of evil passions, and the mental agony they endured, in breaking away, were terrible beyond description. Where one, who has fallen into bad habits in youth, has afterwards abandoned them, there are a score who have continued their victims, until ruin, and a premature death, closed their career. How much safer, how much easier and pleasanter, how much more promising and hopeful, to commence life with good habits well established, with high principles, sound maxims, enlightened rules of conduct, deeply fixed in the soul. This is a plain, pleasant, prosperous path—readily found, and easily followed. In no other can you secure true enjoyment.
"We cannot live too slowly to be good And happy, nor too much by line and square. But youth is burning to forestall its nature, And will not wait for time to ferry it Over the stream; but flings itself into The flood and perishes. ******* The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat Oneself. **************"
There is nothing more essential to the young than to accustom themselves to mature reflection, and practical observation, in regard to the duties of life, and the sources of human enjoyment. This is a task, however, which but few of the youthful are inclined to undertake. The most of them are averse to giving up their thoughts to sober meditation on the consequences which accrue from different courses of conduct, or to practical observation on the lessons taught by the experience of others. The Present!—the Present!—its amusements, its gayeties, its fashions, absorbs nearly all their thoughts. They have little relish to look towards the future, except to anticipate the continuance of the novelty and joyousness of the spring-time of life. The poet utters a most salutary admonition in his beautiful lines:
"The beam of the morning, the bud of the Spring, The promise of beauty and brightness may bring; But clouds gather darkness, and touched by the frost, The pride of the plant, and the morning are lost. Thus the bright and the beautiful ever decay— Life's morn and life's flowers, oh, they quick pass away!"
I would not cast one unnecessary shadow on the pathway of the young; but they should be often reminded, that the season of youth, with its romance and light-heartedness, soon, too soon, departs! Spring, with its budding beauties, and fragrant blossoms, does not continue all the year. It is speedily followed by the fervid summer, the mature and sober autumn, and the dreary snows of winter. In order to have thriving and promising fields in summer, rich and abundant harvests in autumn, and bountiful supplies for comfort and repose in winter, "good seed" must be sowed in the spring. So, also, if you would have the summer of life fruitful of prosperity—its autumn yield a rich and bountiful harvest, and the winter of old age made comfortable and peaceful—the good seed of pure habits, and sound moral and religious principles, must be carefully sowed in the rich soil of the heart, in the budding spring-time of youth.
Due observation and reflection will enable the young to sow the right kind of seed at the right time. There is much in this. Those who sow late will be likely to have their harvest blighted by chilling rains and nipping frosts. The earlier the seed is cast into the ground, the greater the certainty that it will produce an abundant crop. Reflection and discrimination are all-essential to the youthful. Those who think deeply will act wisely. They will detect and avoid the dangers which beset their pathway, and into which the thoughtless so easily fall. They will readily penetrate the specious appearance, the harmless aspect, the deceptive veil, which vice and immorality can so readily assume. They will understand the old maxim, that "all is not gold that glitters." This is a simple truth, and yet how few of the young practise upon it. See this young man. How easily he gives way to temptation—how readily he is led astray. Why does he thus turn aside from virtue's path? Why thus trample upon the affectionate counsel and admonition of wise parents and kind friends? Ah! he sees a glittering bauble in the way of sin, and imagines it is the shining of the gold of true and solid happiness. Eagerly he presses on to secure the prize. He plunges into the wickedness to which, it tempts him—he seizes the dazzling treasure, and finds—what? Pure gold?—true delight?—unalloyed happiness? Alas, foolish youth! No! That which he took for the glitter of gold, proves to be worthless ashes in his hand. And the high pleasure he was anticipating, results in naught but disappointment, disgrace, wretchedness.
"Teach me the flattering paths to shun, In which the thoughtless many run; Who for a shade the substance miss, And grasp their ruin in their bliss."
A well-established habit of practical observation, enables the youthful to guard against the mistakes of conduct, into which others have fallen, and to make the shortcomings of their fellow-beings, salutary admonitions for their own instruction. When thoughtful, observing young persons, see an individual do a mean, unmanly action, they will reflect much upon it. They will notice how contemptible it makes him appear—how it degrades him in the estimation of the honorable and high-minded—how it belittles him in the view of society at large—and how unworthy it makes him appear even in his own eyes. These observations, if faithfully made, will guard them against like acts themselves.
When they behold one arraigned at the bar of public justice, to answer to the offended laws of his country, they will make it a salutary lesson of instruction. They will realize the deceptive and ruinous nature of wrong-doing—how, while promising them the very elixir of happiness, it pours naught but bitterness and poison into the cup of life, entailing degradation and wretchedness upon its victims. They will become satisfied of the solemn truth of the words of the Most High, that "though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished."
When they see neighbors, who might promote each other's enjoyments, by living peaceably together, fall out in regard to some trivial misunderstanding, and engage in angry disputes, and a bitter warfare, disturbing the harmony of the neighborhood, and destroying their own happiness—the young who exercise practical observation, will be instructed, to avoid similar troubles in their own affairs. They will realize the folly and blindness of such a course, and the necessity of exercising a forbearing and forgiving spirit, and the wisdom of submitting to injuries, if need be, rather than to become involved in angry recriminations and hostilities.
Thus by a constant habit of observation and reflection, the youthful can turn the failings of others to their own account. As the industrious bee extracts honey from the most nauseous substances, so can the thoughtful and observing draw instruction not only from the example of the wise, but from the folly of the wicked!
In preparations for future usefulness and success, the young should establish certain fixed principles of moral conduct, by which they will be steadfastly governed in all their intercourse with the world. Without some well-defined landmarks, by which they can be guided in emergencies, when everything depends on the course of conduct to be pursued, they will be in imminent peril. Temptations are strewed along the pathway of the young, and assail them at every turn. If they could clearly contemplate the effects of giving way to temptation—were all the unhappy consequences to stand out visibly before them—they would never be induced to turn aside into sin. Could the young man as he is tempted to quaff the fashionable glass of intoxicating beverage, see plainly the ignominious life, the poverty and wretchedness, and the horrid death by delirium tremens, to which it so often leads, he would set it down untasted, and turn away in alarm. But it is the nature of temptation to blind and deceive the unwary, and lead them into sin, by false representations of the happiness to be derived from it. Hence the young need to establish, in their calm, cool moments, when under the influence of mature judgment and enlightened discretion, certain fixed rules of conduct, by which they will be governed, and on which they will depend in every hour of temptation.
One of the first and most important rules of life which should be established by the youthful, is the constant cultivation of purity of heart. This is the great safeguard of the young. It is their brightest jewel—their most attractive ornament—the crowning glory of their character and being. It adds a captivating lustre to all charms of whatever description; and without it all other excellencies are lost in perpetual darkness. It should be a fixed rule, never to violate the dictates of purity either in action, language, or thought. Many imagine it is a matter of small moment what their thoughts may be, so long as in action they do not transgress the requirements of virtue. This, however, is a serious error. The outward action is but the expression of the inward thought. Wicked deeds would never have birth, were they not first prompted by wicked desires. Hence if the young would have their words and deeds characterized by purity, they must see that their hearts and thoughts are constantly pure.
"Pure thoughts are angel visitants! Be such The frequent inmates of thy guileless breast. They hallow all things by their sacred touch, And ope the portals of the land of rest."
The heart is the source of all actions. A dark, muddy fountain cannot send forth clear waters. Neither does a pure fountain send forth muddy waters. A foul heart, the receptacle of unclean thoughts and impure passions, is a corrupt well-spring of action, which leads to every vicious practice. Let the hearts of the youthful be pure as crystal, let their thoughts be sanctified by virtue and holiness; and their lives shall be as white and spotless as the driven snow—winning the admiration of all who know them. With purity as a shield, they are doubly guarded against sin. However enticing temptation may be—however artfully or strongly it may assail them—they are prepared to rise above it, in any and every emergency.
Another of the fixed rules of conduct should be to aim high in all the purposes of life. The great obstacle to success with many of the young, is that they adopt no standard of action for their government; but allow themselves to float along the current of time like a mere straw on the surface of the waters, liable to be veered about by every puff of wind and whirling eddy! If the current in which they float happens to waft them into the smooth waters, and the calm sunshine of virtue and respectability, it is a matter of mere fortunate chance. If they are drawn into the dark stream of sin, they have but little power to resist, and are soon hurried into the surging rapids, and hurled over the boiling cataract of ruin! True, they may not utterly perish even in plunging down the cataract. They may possibly seize hold of some jutting rock below, and by a desperate effort drag themselves from the raging waters. But they will come forth bruised, bleeding, strangling, and half-drowned, to mourn the folly of their thoughtlessness. How much wiser and better to have taken early precaution, and guarded in the first place against the insidious current, which compelled them to purchase wisdom at so dear a rate.
To avoid this great folly, the youthful should establish a fixed purpose for life. They should set their mark, as to what they wish to become; and then make it the great labor of their lives to attain it. And let that mark be a high one. You cannot make it too elevated. The maxim of the ancients was, that although he who aims at the sun will not hit it, yet his arrows will fly much higher than though his mark was on the earth. A young man who should strive to be a second Washington or Jefferson, might not attain to their renown. But he would become a much greater and better man, than though he had only aspired to be the keeper of a gambling-house, or the leader of a gang of blacklegs. In all your purposes and plans of life, aim high!
"Again a light boat on a streamlet is seen, Where the banks are o'erladen with beautiful green, Like a mantle of velvet spread out to the sight, Reflects to the gazer a bright world of light. The fair bark has lost none of its beauty of yore, But a youth is within it,—the fair child before; And the Angel is gone—on the shore see him stand, As he bids him adieu with a wave of the hand. Ah! a life is before thee—a life full of care, Gentle Youth, and mayhap thou wilt fall in its snare. Can thy bark speed thee now? without wind, without tide? Without the kind Angel, thy beautiful guide? Ah! no;—then what lures thee, fair youth, to depart? Must thou rush into danger from impulse of heart? Lo! above in the bright arch of Heaven I see The vision, the aim so alluring to thee: 'Tis the temple of Fame, with its pillars so fair, And the Genius of Wisdom and Love reigneth there. Advance then, proud vessel,—thy burden is light,— Swift speed thee, and guide his young steps in the right; For in life's 'fitful changes' are many dark streams, And paths unillumed by the sun's golden beams."
Cherish self-respect. Have a deep regard for your own estimation of your own merits. Look with scorn and contempt upon low and vicious practices. Cultivate pride of character. I care not how proud the youthful are of all their valuable attainments, their correct habits, their excellings in that which is manly, useful, and good. The more pride of this description, the better. Though it should reach even to egotism and vanity, it is much better than no pride in these things. This pride in doing right is one of the preserving ingredients, the very salt of man's moral character, which prevents from plunging into vice.
Live for something besides self. Build with your own hands, the monument that shall perpetuate your memory, when the dust has claimed your body. Do good. Live for others, if you would be embalmed in their recollections.
"Thousands of men breathe, move, and live—pass off the stage of life, and are heard of no more. Why! They did not a particle of good in the world; and none were blessed by them; none could point to them as the instruments of their redemption; not a line they wrote, not a word they spoke could be recalled, and so they perished; their light went out in darkness, and they were not remembered more than the insects of yesterday. Will you thus live and die, O man immortal? Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never Destroy. Write your name by kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of the thousands you come in contact with year by year, and you will never be forgotten. No, your name—your deeds—will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind, as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as brightly on the earth as the stars of heaven."
"Up! it is a glorious era! Never yet has dawned its peer; Up, and work! and then a nobler In the future shall appear. 'Onward!' is the present's motto, To a larger, higher life; 'Onward!' though the march be weary, Though unceasing be the strife.
"Pitch not here thy tent, for higher Doth the bright ideal shine, And the journey is not ended Till thou reach that height divine. Upward! and above earth's vapors, Glimpses shall to thee be given, And the fresh and odorous breezes, Of the very hills, of heaven."
[Footnote 1: Dr. Chalmers.]
Among the fixed principles which you should establish for your government, by no means overlook Honesty and Integrity. The poet never uttered a truer word than that
"An honest man's the noblest work of God."
Honesty is approved and admired by God and man—by all in heaven, and by all on earth. Even the corrupt swindler, in his heart, respects an honest man, and stands abashed in his presence.
In all your actions, in all your dealings, let strict and rigid honesty guide you. Never be tempted to swerve from its dictates, even in the most trivial degree. There will be strong allurements to entice you from this path. The appetite for gain—the voice of avarice—will often whisper that honesty may be violated to advantage. There will be times when it will seem that its dictates may be placed aside—that a little dishonesty will be greatly to your benefit. Believe not this syren song. This is the time you are in the most danger of being deceived to your serious injury. Although there may be occasions when you will seem actually to lose by adhering to honesty, yet you should not shrink a hair's breadth. Whatever you may lose, in a pecuniary point of view, at any time, by a strict submission to honesty, you will make up an hundred-fold in the long-run, by establishing and preserving a reputation for integrity. Looking at it in simply a pecuniary point of view, community will give their countenance, their patronage, and business, much quicker to a man who has established a reputation for honesty, than to one who is known, or suspected of being fraudulent in his dealings. Every consideration which can bear upon the young, religious, moral and pecuniary, unite to urge them to establish, in the outset of life, the rule of unswerving honesty and integrity, as their constant guide. Let it not be forgotten, that in every possible point of view, and in every conceivable condition of things, it will always be true, that "Honesty is the best policy."
I would have the young also cultivate and establish as it fixed rule of life, a friendly and accommodating disposition. This is all-essential to make their days pleasant and happy. Other virtues will influence the world to respect you; but an affectionate disposition will cause those with whom you have intercourse, to love you. Those who wish the friendship and good will of others, must themselves manifest a friendly disposition, and a spirit of kindness. Whoever would be accommodated and assisted, must themselves be accommodating, and ready to aid those who require it. In all these things we see the wisdom of the Saviour's golden rule—"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." Be kind, accommodating, loving, and peaceful, in the whole current of your disposition, and the cup of your life will be sweetened with peace and joy.
I exhort the young to adopt the noble motto of the coat-of-arms of New York—"EXCELSIOR!"
"The shades of night were falling fast, As through an Alpine village passed A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice, A banner with the strange device, EXCELSIOR!"
Let it be the aim of every youth to lift aloft this glorious banner, and soar upward to a surpassing excellency. Let them seek to excel in all tilings high, and good. Let them never stoop to do an evil act, nor degrade themselves to commit a wrong. But in their principles, purposes, deeds, and words, let their great characteristics be Truth, Goodness, and Usefulness!
"Be just and fear not! Let all the ends thou aim'st at, be thy country's, Thy God's, and Truth's!"
Selection of Associates.
"Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them; for their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief."—Prov. xxiv. I, 2.
There is nothing more important to the youthful, or that should receive more serious consideration at their hands, than the selection of Associates. We are by nature social beings. We desire, we seek, and enjoy, the society of our fellow-creatures. This trait is strongly developed in the young. They yearn for each other's companionship, and they must have it, or they pine away, and sink into misanthropy. This disposition may properly be indulged; but great care and prudence should be exercised in regard to it.
While mingling in each other's society, it is natural, almost unavoidable, that the youthful should imbibe much of the leading characteristics of their associates. Being highly imitative in our nature, it is impossible to be on social and familiar terms with others, for any great length of time, without copying somewhat of their dispositions, ways, and habits.
Let a young man, however upright and pure, associate habitually with those who are profane, Sabbath-breaking, intemperate, and unprincipled—who are given to gambling, licentiousness, and every low, brutal and wicked practice—and but a brief space of time will elapse before he will fall into like habits himself, and become as great an adept in iniquitous proceedings as the most thorough-paced profligate among them. When a young woman associates with girls who are idle, disrespectful and disobedient to parents—who are vulgar, brazen-faced, loud talkers and laughers—whose chief occupation and delight is to spin street-yarn, to run from house to house and store to store, and walk the streets in the evening, instead of being at home engaged in some useful occupation—whose whole conversation, and thoughts, and dreams, relate to dress, and fashion, and gewgaws, and trinkets, to adorn the person, utterly negligent of the ornaments of the mind and heart—whose reading never extends to instructive and useful books, but is confined exclusively to sickly novels and silly love-stories;—how long will it be before she will become as careless and good-for-nothing as they?
This predisposition of the young to imitate the characteristics of those with whom they associate, has been so well and so long known, that it has given rise to the old proverb—"Show me your company, and I will show you your character." So perfectly did Solomon understand this, that he uttered the wise maxim—"Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go; lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul."
The young should remember, that people will judge them by the company they keep. This principle is perfectly correct. In selecting their associates, they act voluntarily. They choose such as they please. When they seek the society of the ignorant, the vulgar, the profane and profligate, they give the best of reasons for believing that they prefer profligacy and vulgarity to virtue and purity. To what other conclusion can the observer come? If they preferred virtue and purity, they would certainly seek pure and virtuous associates. Hence society have adopted the very correct principle of judging the young, by the character of their associates. If they would be thought well of, they should strive to associate with those who are known to be virtuous and good. However blameless and upright young persons may have been, if they begin to associate with those whose reputation is poor, and whose conduct is improper, they will soon be esteemed no higher than their companions.
These reflections show the youthful how important it is, that their associates should be of the right stamp. They should see the necessity of selecting their companions. The great difficulty with the young is, that they leave this important matter altogether too much to "chance." If they happen to fall into good company, it is very well; and their associates and intimate friends will be likely to be of that class. But if, unfortunately, they meet with the vicious and unprincipled, and are, to any great extent, thrown in their way, they are as likely to form intimacies with them as with any others.
Such negligence is exceedingly unpromising and dangerous. Whoever allows it, will be in far more danger of falling under the influence of the vicious than the exemplary. Instead of this heedlessness, they should carefully and thoughtfully select their associates. They should not be willing to form terms of intimacy with, every one into whose society they may be casually thrown. They should inform themselves of their tastes, habits, and reputation. And from the circle of their acquaintance should choose those with whom they would form terms of intimacy.
Be cautious to select aright. The entire career in after-life depends very much on this. How many a young woman of fine attractions has had her reputation injured, and her prospects for life destroyed, by associating with those whose character and habits proved to be bad. When once young women get a taint on their reputation in this way, or in any other manner, it is exceedingly difficult to wipe it out.
The ruin of multitudes of young men can be traced to the same origin—a bad selection of associates. I have in my mind's eye now, a case in point. A young man, born in this city, and known to most of you, was naturally endowed with the rarest abilities and the finest talents. He belonged to one of the most wealthy and respectable families. He had every advantage for cultivation, and for the highest and most thorough education. Had he been thoughtful and wise to have improved his opportunities, the way was open for him to the highest advancement. He might have been blessed with respectability, wealth, and honors. He could have risen to the most dignified positions in life. His voice might have been heard in strains of persuasive eloquence, from the sacred pulpit, or in the halls of justice, or in the senate chamber of our state or national councils. He might have occupied a seat on the bench of the highest courts, or have aspired to the executive chair of the nation. But where is he now, and what are his circumstances and his position in the world? See issuing from the door of yonder filthy groggery; a wretched specimen of humanity—the distorted caricature of a man! His garments are thread-bare and patched—his eyes are inflamed, sunken and watery—his countenance bloated and livid—his limbs swelled and tottering. Although but in the morning of his manhood, yet the lines of premature old age and decrepitude are deeply carved upon his pale, dejected face; and in his whole aspect, there is that forlorn, broken-spirited, anguished look of despair, which shows he himself feels that he has sunken, beyond earthly redemption, into the awful pit of the confirmed drunkard! This is the young man whose early opportunities were so favorable, and whose prospects were so bright and flattering. He has become a curse to himself, he has brought disgrace and wretchedness on his connections, and is an outcast and vagabond, with whom no young man who now hears me would associate for a single hour!
What has brought him to this pitiable condition—this state of utter wretchedness? It was a want of forethought. He totally neglected the considerations I have endeavored to impress upon the young. He was careless and indifferent in regard to his associates. He would not be admonished to turn from the company of the vicious, and seek the society of those of good habits and upright character. Despite the counsel of parents and friends, he would associate with companions of corrupt habits—with the profane, the drinking, the Sabbath-breaking—those whose chief delight was to visit oyster-cellars and grog-shops—whose highest ambition was to excel in cards, and dice, and sleight-of-hand tricks—and who sought for no better employment than to range the streets and alleys, to engage in midnight adventures and Bacchanalian revelries. Mingling with such as his associates, and falling unavoidably into their habits, he is now reaping the bitter—BITTER fruits of his folly. His time misspent—character destroyed—health ruined—every source of happiness obliterated—his life wasted and literally thrown away—his days, a blank—ah! worse than that—filled with the terrific visions, the horrid dreams, the flames of the unquenchable fire, which float and burn in the veins of the confirmed inebriate!
Young men! Do you shudder at the condition of this wretched youth, whose form yet flits like a shadow through our streets? Would you avoid his fate? Do you start back in affright at the mere thought of becoming the poor, cast-off wreck of humanity that he is? Then avoid the rock on which he foundered his bark. Shun, as you would a nest of vipers, the company of the reckless and profligate. Avoid all association, all companionship, all intimacy, with those whose habits deviate from the high rules of rectitude, purity, and virtue.
Allow me to paint you a picture of an opposite character, drawn also from real life. I have another young man in my mind's eye, who originated in our own county. He had but few of the advantages of him whose melancholy career I have painted. He was the son of parents who possessed but little means, and who could afford him no assistance after the days of childhood. He was early placed to the hard labor of a mechanic. But he did not sink into lewdness and vice, under the pressure of his adverse circumstances. He would not spend his leisure hours at public resorts, in the midst of the profligate and reckless. Each moment of respite from labor, he applied himself to study and the improvement of his mind. With great wisdom he avoided the company of idle, profane and vicious youth; and would associate with none but the discreet, the intelligent and virtuous. He was determined to RISE in the world, and to win a name which should live long after he should pass from the earth. He placed his mark high! With indomitable courage and unwearied perseverance, he pursued the path he had chosen for himself. He cut his way through every obstacle, and overcame every hindrance and difficulty, though they might seem to tower mountain high. Friends came to his aid, as they will to the assistance of every youth who is industriously seeking to rise in the world by the strength of his own merits. At length, after great exertions, he obtained a profession, and entered into a field where he could bring into active exercise the fund of knowledge he had been acquiring under so many difficulties. One thus industrious, thus pure in his habits, thus upright and honorable in all his transactions, could not fail to receive the commendation and confidence of his fellow-citizens. Rapidly he rose from one post of honor to another. Ere long he was sent to the Legislature of our State. Soon he entered the halls of Congress, where he won the confidence of his compeers, and arose to honorable distinction. From step to step he advanced—high and higher still he ascended the ladder of fame—until now, the poor mechanic boy of Montville, occupies the second place in the gift of the American people—within one step of the highest pinnacle of fame to which man can attain on the earth! How noble the career—how splendid the example—placed before the youth of our country, in the history of this eminent man! How honorable to himself—how worthy of imitation.
I need not ask the young men of this audience, which place they would prefer to occupy, the position of the poor inebriate of whom I have spoken, or that of the Vice-President of the United States? It is instructive to inquire why the one, with opportunities so good, sunk so low, and the other, with early advantages so limited, has arisen so high? This disparity in their condition is to be attributed to the different paths they selected at the outset of life. While the one trampled on all his advantages, and foolishly associated with the vicious and unprincipled, the other diligently applied himself to the acquisition of useful knowledge, and was scrupulous to associate with none but those who were discreet and virtuous, and whose influence was calculated to elevate and purify him.
These two cases, drawn from real life, are but a specimen of instances with which the world is filled. They show how immensely important it is for the young to reflect maturely on the course they would pursue, and the necessity of selecting for their associates such as have habits, tastes, and principles, proper for commendation and imitation.
Most of those who come under the influence of corrupt associates, are led thither more from sheer thoughtlessness, than from any disposition to become depraved. They fall into the company of those who are gay, sociable and pleasant in their manners; who make time pass agreeably, and who contrive many ways to drive dull care away, which do not, in themselves, appear very bad. The thoughtless youth becomes attached to their society, and gradually gives himself up to their influence. Almost imperceptibly to himself, he follows them farther and farther from the path of rectitude, until, before he is aware of it, some vicious habit has fixed its fangs upon him, and made him its wretched slave for life.
The difficulty in these cases, is the want of a due exercise of reflection and discernment. The young should guard against being deceived by outward appearances. Beneath a pleasant, agreeable exterior—beneath sociability and attractive manners—there may lurk vicious propensities, depraved appetites, and habits of the most corrupt nature. Hence the young should look beyond the surface, and guard against deceptive appearances. It should not be enough to make a young man or a young woman your associate, that they are sociable and attractive in their manners, and can make their company agreeable. Search farther than this. Strive to know their tastes, their habits, their principles. Inquire how, and where, they spend their leisure hour's—in what company do they mingle—what practices do they approbate—what is their general conduct and demeanor? If in all these respects, they are found to be discreet, virtuous, and worthy of imitation, then hesitate not to associate with them, and allow yourself to be influenced by them. But if you find them deficient in any of these characteristics, however attractive they may be in other respects, shun their company, and avoid their influence. The effect of associating with them would be to lead you astray, to your ruin.
In selecting associates, studiously avoid those who are low, coarse, and vulgar in their behavior and manners. Rudeness and vulgarity are unbecoming any age. But they are especially offensive and indecorous in youth. The young man, or young woman, who has not sufficient self-respect and pride of character to deport themselves with modesty, circumspection, and politeness, is unfitted to be an associate. A bold, brazen, forward demeanor, indicates a heart far from possessing those delicate and amiable traits, which are alone worthy of imitation. Vulgarity in language or demeanor, indicates a vitiated heart. Cultivation and refinement of manners are, to a good degree, evidence of a pure spirit, and high and honorable feelings.
The youth who is truly polite, has a great advantage, in every respect, over those who are deficient in this desirable qualification. Many, however, entertain very erroneous views of the nature of politeness. It does not consist in putting on an air, a simper, a strut, or a bow. Neither is it to be manifested in high-flown words, or a fashionable pronunciation. Many young persons who can make very accomplished bows, and go through all the postures and attitudes of the schools, are still ignorant of the first principles of genuine politeness, and violate them every day. Politeness is not to be learned of the dancing-master, the fop, or the belle. Do you inquire where it can be obtained? I answer, in the gospel of our Saviour. True-hearted Christians are always polite. They cannot be otherwise, while influenced by the Christian spirit. For the first great principle of true politeness is found in the Saviour's golden rule—"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, and you cannot fail of being polite. Treat them as you wish not to be treated, and you are ill-bred and vulgar, though you may be dressed in the extreme of fashion, and steeped in Cologne! Politeness, in its true acceptation, is but another word for kindness. The truly polite man and woman, are not haughty, nor exclusive—they are not starched, nor supercilious. They show their politeness in being respectful to the feelings of persons of every rank, condition, and complexion. They treat all kindly and gently; and seek to make those in their presence to feel easy and happy. The whole secret of politeness may be summed up in a single sentence—Make yourselves agreeable and pleasant to whomsoever you meet. With this intent, your manners will be easy and natural; and you will be polite in every true sense of the word, though brought up in the centre of the wilderness.
In selecting those they would imitate in regard to politeness, the young should not choose the starched fop, the gaudily-dressed dandy, who may owe all their attractions to the unpaid tailor—nor the fashionable belle, who sneers upon everything plain and useful. They, more than all others, violate the first principles of politeness in their demeanor. But select the plain-dressed, the modest, the affable, the kind and friendly at heart. In these you find the true lady—the genuine gentleman.
* * * * *
In regard to this whole subject of the selection of associates, I would earnestly counsel the young to listen respectfully to the advice of their parents, guardians, and elder friends. They should not be headstrong, nor wise in their own conceits; but should yield to the counsel of others. Your parents are far better calculated to judge of associates than themselves. You are liable to be blinded to their defects, and deceived by specious appearances. But parents scrutinize them from a different position. They have been through the school of experience, and are much better prepared to judge of character. Listen, O ye youthful! to their warning voice. They are moved by love for you—they speak for your good. When they entreat you to avoid the society of certain individuals, and escape their influence, heed their exhortations. Your own heart will tell you, that your father and mother would not speak, simply to thwart your feelings; but that they see danger hovering around you, and would snatch you away, as the bird from the fowler's snare! That is a wise and promising son—a prudent and hopeful daughter—who pays respectful deference to the counsel of parents, and yields a cheerful compliance with their wishes!
"So live, that when thy summons comes, to join The innumerable caravan, that moves To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take His chamber in the silent halls of death, Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, Scourged to his dungeon; but, sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams!"
Habits and Amusements.
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established."—Prov. iv. 20.
There is not a youth present this evening, who will not acknowledge this to be sound and wholesome advice. Were you walking in a slippery, dangerous way, amid the darkness of midnight, you would give the strictest heed to the friendly precaution—"Ponder the path of thy feet. Be careful where you step. When you put your foot down, see to it, that it rests on something well-established—some rock, some spot of earth, that is firm and solid." This advice would be heeded, because of your consciousness that by stepping heedlessly, you would be in danger of stumbling into a pit, or falling over a precipice, where your limbs would be broken, or life destroyed. Simple discretion would bid you beware, under such circumstances. The youthful should fully realize that they are walking in a pathway, which to them is wholly untried and unknown. It is a road surrounded by many dangers, unseen by the careless traveller; where he is liable to be lured aside to ruin, by a thousand fascinations and temptations, and where multitudes possessing the best advantages, the highest talents, the brightest genius, the rarest gifts, have stumbled and fallen, to rise no more on earth. While pressing on ardently and thoughtlessly in this dangerous highway, apprehending no difficulty, and fearing no peril, a voice from on high calls to the young, and urges them to "Ponder the path of their feet, and to let all their ways—their footsteps—be established!" There is wisdom, prudence, goodness, in this exhortation.
Question the old man—the aged traveller—who has passed over this pathway of life, and is just ready to step up into the mysterious road of a higher existence. Ask him as to his experience—beseech him for advice. Looking back through the vista of his long and chequered way, of light and shadow, of joy and sorrow, he will exclaim—"O ye youthful! Give heed to the admonition of the wise man—'Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.'"
The admonition of the text is important in reference to the Habits and Amusements of the youthful. We are all more or less the creatures of habit. Our ways, from earliest infancy, are more the result of the force of habit, than we are generally aware. The actions, words, and thoughts of men, form for themselves certain channels, in which they continually seek to flow, unless turned aside by a strong hand, and a painful effort.
Habits are formed insensibly. We are not aware of any moment when they are created; but the first consciousness of their being fixed upon us, is, when their great power is felt impelling us strongly to certain courses. A single deed does not create a habit. One thread of hemp forms not a rope. It contains but a very slight amount of strength. But when a large number of threads are laid and twisted together, they make the mighty cable, which, attached to the ship, enables lier to bid a proud defiance to the fierce gales and mountain billows of ocean. Thus the young are continually, yet unconsciously, spinning the threads of habit. Day by day the strands increase, and are twisted tighter together; until at length they become strong and unyielding cords, binding their possessor to customs and practices which fix his character and prospects for life.
It is of the greatest importance that the young should inquire faithfully into the nature of the habits they are forming. They should not fall into self-deception—a common error, on this subject. The love of indulgence should not be permitted to blind them to the legitimate consequences of careless habits. Let them look abroad on their fellow-beings, and critically study the tendencies and fruits of their habits. When they see one prosperous in life—one who is respected, confided in, and beloved by all—who leads a quiet, pleasant and peaceful life,—mark his habits, and strive to imitate them. They will bless them as well as him, if faithfully practised. And when they behold a man disliked and despised by his neighbors, especially by those who know him best—or one who has fallen into disgrace and ruin; who has, lost his character, his health, his happiness, and become an outcast and vagabond,—let them not fail to learn what his habits have been. Look at them carefully and critically. Ponder well the effect they have had upon him. And then strive to avoid them. Shun them as the poisonous viper whose sting is death. Let them wind not a single coil of their fatal chains around the free spirit of the young. The same appalling consequences will be visited on every youth who indulges them, that have fallen on those whose condition excites Loth pity and loathing in their breasts.
In youth, habits are much easier formed and corrected, than at a later period of life. If they are right now, preserve, strengthen and mature them. If they are wrong—if they have any dangerous influence or tendency—correct them immediately. Delay not the effort an hour. The earlier you make the attempt to remedy a bad habit, the easier it will be accomplished. Every day adds to its strength and vigor; until, if not conquered in due time, it will become a voracious monster, devouring everything good and excellent. It will make its victim a miserable, drivelling slave, to be continually lashed and scourged into the doing of its low and wretched promptings. Hence the importance of attending to the habits in early life, when they are easily controlled and corrected. If the young do not make themselves the masters of their passions, appetites, and habits, these will soon become their masters, and make them their tool and bond-men through all their days.
Usually at the age of thirty years, the moral habits become fixed for life. New ones are seldom formed after that age; and quite as seldom are old ones abandoned. There are exceptions to this rule; but in general, it holds good. If the habits are depraved and vicious at that age, there is little hope of amendment. But if they are correct—if they are characterized by virtue, goodness, and sobriety—there is a flattering prospect of a prosperous and peaceful life. Remember, the habits are not formed, nor can they be corrected, in a single week or month. It requires years to form them, and years will be necessary to correct them permanently, when they are wrong. Hence, in order to possess good habits at maturity, it is all-important to commence schooling the passions, curbing the appetites, and bringing the whole moral nature under complete control, early in youth. This work cannot be commenced too soon. The earlier the effort, the easier it can be accomplished. To straighten the tender twig, when it grows awry from the ground, is the easiest thing imaginable. A child can do it at the touch of its finger. But let the twig become a matured tree before the attempt is made, and it will baffle all the art of man to bring it to a symmetrical position. It must be uprooted from the very soil before this can be accomplished. It is not difficult to correct a bad habit when it commences forming. But wait until it has become fully developed, and it will require a long and painful exertion of every energy to correct it.
Permit me to enumerate a few of the more important habits, which the young should seek to cultivate.
First of all—the most important of all—and that, indeed, which underlies and gives coloring to all others—is the habit of TEMPERANCE. Surely it is needless for me, at this day, to dwell upon the evils of intemperance. It cannot be necessary to paint the bitter consequences—the destruction to property, health, reputation—the overthrow of the peace of families, the want and misery, to which its victims are frequently reduced. The disgrace, the wretchedness, the ruin, the useless and ignominious life, and the horrid death, which are so often caused by habits of intemperance, are seen, and known to all. No one attempts, no one thinks of denying them. The most interested dealer, or retailer in intoxicating drinks—the most confirmed inebriate—will acknowledge without hesitation, that intemperance is the direst evil that ever cursed a fallen race!! The deleterious consequences of other vices may sometimes be concealed for a season, from outward observation. Not so with intemperance. It writes its loathsome name, in legible characters, upon the very brow of its wretched victim. "I am a drunkard!" is as plainly to be read as though a printed label was posted there!
Need I warn—need I exhort—the young to avoid the habit of intemperance. Perhaps there is not a youth present, who is not ready to say, "To me this exhortation is needless. I have not the slightest expectation of becoming a drunkard!" Of course not. There never was a man who desired, or expected, to become a victim to intemperance. The great danger of this habit is, that it creeps stealthily and imperceptibly upon the unwary. It does its work gradually. The most besotted inebriate cannot tell you the day, nor the month, when he became a confirmed drunkard. It is in the nature of this habit, that those who expose themselves at all to its assaults, become its victims, while they are entirely unaware of it.
The only safeguard and security, against this scourge of man, is total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks!! Here is the true, the safe ground for the young. There is no other condition of entire security. No man who drinks, however sparingly, has assurance of a sober life. He needlessly, and foolishly, places himself in danger—turns his footsteps into the only path that can possibly lead to the drunkard's ruin and the drunkard's grave!
Drink the first drop that can intoxicate, and your feet stand at the very brink of the ocean of intemperance. Its briny waters are composed of human tears. Its winds, the sighs of those made poor and wretched by the inebriation of husbands, fathers, sons. Its billows, ever tossing, are overhung with black and lowering clouds, and illuminated only by the lightning's vivid flash, while hoarse thunders reverberate over the wide and desolate waste. Engulphed in this dreary ocean, the wretched drunkard is buffeted hither and thither, at the mercy of its angry waves—now dashed on jagged rocks, bruised and bleeding—then engulphed in raging whirlpools to suffocating depths—anon, like a worthless weed, cast high into the darkened heavens by the wild water-spout, only to fall again into the surging deep, to be tossed to and fro on waters which cannot rest! Rash youth! Would you launch away on this sea of death? Quaff of the intoxicating bowl, and soon its hungry waves will be around you. Would you avoid a fate so direful? Seal your lips to the first drop, and the drear prospect will sink forever from your vision!
Young men who would guard themselves against the baleful habit of intemperance, should shun all resorts where intoxicating drinks are vended. They should avoid throwing themselves in the way of temptation. "Lead us not into temptation," should be the constant prayer of the young. When by any combination of circumstances, they find themselves in the company of those who quaff of the poisoned bowl, whether in public or private, they should exercise a manly pride in firmly refusing to participate in their potations. This is a legitimate and commendable pride, of which the young cannot have too much. Let them place themselves on the high rock of principle, and their feet will not slide in the trying hour.
"Oh! water for me! bright water for me, And wine for the tremulous debauchee! It cooleth the brow, it cooleth the brain, It maketh the faint one strong again! It comes o'er the sense like a breeze from the sea, All freshness, like infant purity. Oh! water, bright water, for me, for me! Give wine, give wine, to the debauchee."
"The young man walks in the midst of temptations to appetite, the improper indulgence of which is in danger of proving his ruin. Health, longevity, and virtue depend on his resisting these temptations. The providence of God is no more responsible, because a man of improper indulgence becomes subject to disease, than for picking his pockets. For a young man to injure his health, is to waste his patrimony and destroy his capacity for virtuous deeds.
"If young men imagine that the gratification of appetite is the great source of enjoyment, they will find this in the highest degree with industry and temperance. The epicure, who seeks it in a dinner which costs five dollars, will find less enjoyment of appetite than the laborer who dines on a shilling. If the devotee to appetite desires its high gratification, he must not send for buffalo tongues and champagne, but climb a mountain or swing an axe. Let a young man pursue temperance, sobriety, and industry, and he may retain his vigor till three score years and ten, with his cup of enjoyment full, and depart painlessly; as the candle burns out in its socket, he will expire."
[Footnote 2: Horace Mann.]
Next to Temperance in importance, I would rank the habit of INDUSTRY. We were evidently made for active occupation. Every joint, sinew, and muscle plainly shows this. A young person who is an idler, a drone, is a pest in society. He is ready to engage in mischief, and to fall into vice, with but little resistance. It is an old saying, that "an idle brain is the devil's workshop." Those who are not actively employed in something useful, will be very likely to fall into evil practices. Industry is one of the best safeguards against the inroads of vice. The young, whatever may be their condition, or however abundantly they may believe their future wants already provided for, should actively engage in some honorable occupation or profession—in something that will benefit mankind. They should be fired with the high and noble ambition of making the world better for their living in it. Who can wish to pass a blank existence? Yet this is the life of every idler, poor or rich. Be stirring in anything which is useful—anything which will make others happy. Then you will not have lived in vain. Behold how a good man can devote his life to labors for the benefit of others. Would you partake of the immortal fame of a Howard? Imitate, to the extent of your ability, the example of industrious benevolence he has placed before the world.
"From realm to realm, with cross or crescent crowned, Where'er mankind and misery are found, O'er burning sands, deep waves, or wilds of snow, Mild Howard journeying seeks the house of woe. Down many a winding step to dungeons dank, Where anguish wails aloud and fetters clank, To caves bestrewed with many a mouldering bone, And cells whose echoes only learn to groan; Where no kind bars a whispering friend disclose, No sunbeam enters, and no zephyr blows;— He treads, inemulous of fame or wealth, Profuse of toil and prodigal of health; Leads stern-eyed Justice to the dark domains, If not to sever, to relax his chains; Gives to her babes the self-devoted wife, To her fond husband liberty and life,— Onward he mores! disease and death retire; And murmuring demons hate him and admire."
To young women industry is equally essential and commendable. An idle woman is a poor and worthless thing. For what does she imagine she was created? Of what service is she to the world? In what respect would not the world be as well without her? A do-nothing young lady is most assuredly pitied and despised by those whose good opinion she is most anxious to secure.
It is not enough that a young woman can play skilfully, sing delightfully, dance gracefully, dress fashionably, and has an abundant flow of "small talk." The world looks beyond these outward ornaments, and asks—Has she a good heart and gentle disposition? Is she affectionate and forbearing? Can she rule her temper and control her tongue? Does she respect and obey her parents? Has she a well-cultivated and well-stored mind? Is she industrious, prudent, economical? Is she able and willing to engage in household duties? Accomplishments are not to be overlooked. But the qualities above enumerated are essential, indispensable, to the character of a good daughter and a useful wife.
"ACTION! That's the word. The great world itself throbs with life. Action, untiring harmony pervades the Universe of God. The Creative Power has so ordained it. The physical formation of the world, and all therein, forbids inactivity. The vast machinery must move, or the whole cease to exist. Man was never designed to be a drone. Had he lived pure in the first Paradise, he could not have been idle. Sick or well, in cold or heat, day or night, he machine moves on, the heart, like a steam-engine, throbs away, and faithfully pumps its crimson currents unceasingly to every part of the animal frame. Action is one of the first elements of health and happiness. The mind will stagnate and engender moral miasma, as much as the pool never stirred by a tide or swept by the winds.
"God has written action on the Heavens. Silent, but ceaseless, the worlds that gleam out upon us, keep on their course. Every orb follows the track marked out for it. The Ocean rolls and heaves. The spring gushes out from the hill-side and dances from rock to rock, and the brook hums and murmurs its melody as it goes. Upon the meadow, the springing grass tells of the process that annually clothes the turf with wealth and beauty. The leaves put out, rustle in the winds, and fall to their rest, while others follow. The fierce, fiery energy of the lightning writes the truth upon the scudding clouds. The formless waves that in the atmosphere ripple and dash against the cheek, tell of a restless ocean around us, a medium of health and sound. From the world that rolls, to the summer flies that float on the air and glance in the sun, the truth is proclaimed that all is activity. Man cannot be idle—should not."
[Footnote 3: T.W. Brown.]
"One of the most mischievous phrases in which a rotten Morality, a radically false and vicious Public Sentiment, disguise themselves, is that which characterizes certain individuals as destitute of financial capacity. A 'kind, amiable, generous, good sort of man,' (so runs the varnish,) 'but utterly unqualified for the management of his own finances'—'a mere child in everything relating to money,' &c. &c.—meaning that with an income of $500 a year, he persisted in spending $1000; or with an income of from $2000 to $3000, he regularly spent from $5000 to $8000, according to his ability to run in debt, or the credulity of others in trusting him.
"The victims of this immorality—debtor as well as creditor—are entitled to more faithful dealing at the hands of those not directly affected by the misdemeanors of the former. It is the duty of the community to rebuke and repress these pernicious glosses, making the truth heard and felt, that inordinate expenditure is knavery and crime. No man has a moral right thus to lavish on his own appetites, money which he has not earned, and does not really need. If public opinion were sound on this subject—if a man living beyond his means, when his means were commensurate with his real needs, were subjected to the reprehension he deserves—the evil would be instantly checked, and ultimately eradicated.
"The world is full of people who can't imagine why they don't prosper like their neighbors, when the real obstacle is not in the banks nor tariffs, in bad public policy nor hard times, but in their own extravagance and heedless ostentation. The young mechanic or clerk marries and takes a house, which he proceeds to furnish twice as expensively as he can afford; and then his wife, instead of taking hold to help him earn a livelihood by doing her own work, must have a hired servant to help her spend his limited earnings. Ten years afterward, you will find him struggling on under a double load of debts and children, wondering why the luck was always against him, while his friends regret his unhappy destitution of financial ability. Had they, from the first, been frank and honest, he need not have been so unlucky.
"Through every grade of society this vice of inordinate expenditure insinuates itself. The single man 'hired out' in the country at ten to fifteen dollars per month, who contrives to dissolve his year's earnings in frolics and fine clothes; the clerk who has three to five hundred dollars a year, and melts down twenty to fifty of it into liquor and cigars, are paralleled by the young merchant who fills a spacious house with costly furniture, gives dinners, and drives a fast horse, on the strength of the profits he expects to realize when his goods are all sold and his notes all paid. Let a man have a genius for spending, and whether his income is a dollar a day or a dollar a minute, it is equally certain to prove inadequate. If dining, wining, and party-giving won't help him through with it, building, gaming, and speculation will be sure to. The bottomless pocket will never fill, no matter how bounteous the stream pouring into it. The man who (being single) does not save money on six dollars a week, will not be apt to on sixty; and he who does not lay up something in his first year of independent exertion, will be pretty likely to wear a poor man's hair into his grave.
"No man who has the natural use of his faculties and his muscles, has any right to tax others with the cost of his support, as this class of non-financial gentlemen habitually do. It is their common mistake to fancy that if a debt is only paid at last, the obligation of the debtor is fulfilled; but the fact is not so. A man who sells his property for another's promise to pay next week or next month, and is compelled to wear out a pair of boots in running after his due, which he finally gets after a year or two, is never really paid. Very often, he has lost half the face of his demand, by not having the money when he needed it, beside the cost and vexation of running after it. There is just one way to pay an obligation in full, and that is to pay it when due. He who keeps up a running fight with bills and loans through life, is continually living on other men's means, is a serious burden and a detriment to those who deal with him, although his estate should finally pay every dollar of his legal obligations.
"Inordinate expenditure is the cause of a great share of the crime and consequent misery which devastate the world. The clerk who spends more than he earns, is fast qualifying himself for a gambler and a thief; the trader or mechanic who overruns his income, is very certain to become in time a trickster and a cheat. Wherever you see a man spending faster than he earns, there look out for villainy to be developed, though it be the farthest thing possible from his present thought.
"When the world shall have become wiser, and its standard of morality more lofty, it will perceive and affirm that profuse expenditure, even by one who can pecuniarily afford it, is pernicious and unjustifiable—that a man, however wealthy, has no right to lavish on his own appetites, his tastes, or his ostentation, that which might have raised hundreds from destitution and despair to comfort and usefulness. But that is an improvement in public sentiment which must be waited for, while the other is more ready and obvious.
"The meanness, the dishonesty, the iniquity, of squandering thousands unearned, and keeping others out of money that is justly theirs, have rarely been urged and enforced as they should be. They need but to be considered and understood, to be universally loathed and detested."
[Footnote 4: Horace Greeley.]
Nearly allied with the Habits of the young, are their Amusements. That the youthful should be allowed a reasonable degree of recreation, is universally admitted. The laws of health demand relaxation from the labors and cares of life. The body, the mind, constantly strained to the highest exertion, without repose, and something to cheer, refreshen, and re-invigorate it, will speedily fall into disease and death. The very word recreation—(re-creation)—indicates that to a degree, proper amusement has the power to revive the wearied energies, supply afresh the springs of life, and give a renewed elasticity and endurance to all the capacities of our nature.
Yet there is no subject surrounded with greater difficulties, than the amusements of the youthful. There is no amusement, however harmless and proper in its nature, but what can be carried to such excess, as to inflict deep injury. It is while searching for recreations, that the youthful meet the most dangerous temptations, and fall into the most vicious practices. How important that they should make this a matter of mature reflection and acute discrimination. Pleasure we all desire. It is sought for by every human being. But it is essential to distinguish between true pleasure, which we can enjoy with real benefit, and false pleasure, which deceives, demoralizes, and destroys. The poet truly describes the nature of this distinction, when he says,
"Pleasure, or wrong, or rightly understood, Our greatest evil, or our greatest good!"
One of the first things requisite to be understood is, that in order to enjoy any amusement, a previous preparation is necessary. That preparation is to be obtained by useful occupation. It is only by contrast that we can enjoy anything.—Without weariness, we can know nothing of rest. Without first enduring hunger and thirst, we cannot experience the satisfaction of partaking of food and drink. In like manner, it is only by faithful and industrious application to business of some kind—it is only by occupying the mind in useful employment—that we can draw any satisfaction from recreation. Without this preparation, all amusement loses its charm. Were the young to engage in one unceasing round of pastimes, from day to day, with no time or thought devoted to useful occupation, recreation would soon be divested of its attractions, and become insipid and painfully laborious. To be beneficial, amusements should be virtuous in their tendencies, healthful in their influence on the body, and of brief duration.