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Advice to Children
by Elder Jas. H. Oliphant
From the book: Principles and Practices of the Regular Baptists
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Society is divided into two classes as respects moral condition, and every reader of these pages who lives to manhood, or womanhood, will take a position in one of these classes. You will be honorable, truthful and chaste; or, you will he dishonorable, a liar, and indecent. You will be intelligent, and have a well-stored mind with useful knowledge, or you will be ignorant. How important it is to you, and to your parents, and to all your friends, that you should be honorable, informed, truthful, and pure in all your moral habits. It would brighten your path through life, and make you an unfailing source of happiness to others. How anxious you should be to attain to this high position in life. "A wise son maketh a glad father," and so thousands of fathers have found it; "but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." Nothing so gladdens parents as that of seeing their children run in the path of virtue and honor.
It is my desire in these pages to give some hints and suggestions suited to urge and aid you to reach a point of usefulness and happiness. I assure you that much is required of you. You have many things to watch and many to do. One important thing is to watch yourself, and another is to take care of your time. Your health and strength of body is a matter of more importance than you are aware of. You should take care of your strength by temperate habits in everything. Intemperate habits of eating in childhood are followed by bad results in old age. If you could think of it now, while young, and form a habit of regular and temperate eating, it would be a great blessing to you in after life. The habit of being out all night, exposed to all sorts of weather, in the pursuit of pleasure, is a sad mistake, and too dear a price for pleasure. Regularity of habits in eating, sleeping, and exercise, is of more importance to your happiness amid well being than you can imagine. Your mental powers depend much upon your physical powers. A well developed mind needs a strong physical constitution.
1st - As a rule, it is safe to say that the use of tobacco is no advantage, but a disadvantage to health; besides, it is an expensive, filthy habit that should be avoided. I would recommend that you never begin a habit that is at once injurious, expensive, and filthy.
2d - I think that we should discourage the use of spirits. Never treat any one, nor suffer any one to treat you, as a mere compliment. You should not enter inside of a grog-shop, nor form a habit of taking a dram when you go to town. These little beginnings may end in painful results. Thousands have been utterly ruined by spirits; therefore you have reasons to BEWARE.
3d - The places you frequent, and the company you keep, will have much to do in moulding your character in the eyes of the world, as well as in fixing the habits that will follow you through life. As the bullet is shaped by the mould, so your habits and thoughts will be shaped by the company you keep. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Persons who drink, swear, or indulge in profanity, are not likely to be of any real use to you. You should never make them feel that you are above them, but you should avoid their society. You should never seek the company of persons unless you feel willing that the public should class you with them, for you will, in the eyes of the public, be classed with the company you keep. "Birds of a feather will flock together," is a saying I heard when I was a boy, and so the masses of men will have it. I read, when a boy, of a dog called Tray, who was sorely beaten for no other thing than that of being found in bad company. It is often the case that young folks are unwilling for parents to choose company for them. As a rule, parents know better what company is best for you to keep, and you should pay great respect to their judgment in this matter. Fairs, shows, dances, frolics, etc., are not good places to learn moral habits, and they often prove to be expensive. How desirable that you should reach manhood or womanhood without a spot or stain on your good name. You can not too carefully guard yourself in these things.
4th - Your own good behavior in company will add much to your credit in the world. If your language is habitually chaste, your jests modest and sensible and your actions in good taste, you will be respected. At church, take pains to observe good order, listen to the sermon, no matter how contrary to your opinion, and when meeting is out go quietly out, and indulge in no loud talking or laughing while about the house. Avoid all foppery or strutting in company. These things are disgusting to all sensible people. Never suffer yourself to talk in a proud, whining manner. Talk plainly, and in the same common way you do at home, or among your schoolmates at school. And walk in a natural, easy way in company. It is a sad sight to see young ladies entering church, as we sometimes see them, in a proud and haughty manner. Strutting shows a want of common sense; therefore avoid it. Don't speak unnecessarily of the faults of others; it will cause them to look for your faults, and you are sure to have them. Never refer to yourself in the way of praise as to your beauty, dress, education, influence, or religion, remembering the old saying, "self-praise is half scandal." The wise man says: "Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth, a stranger and not thine own lips." You should suffer no one, however ignorant or poor, to think that you are above him in your feelings; remember that "when pride cometh, then cometh shame," and if you are entertaining a proud and haughty spirit it will be followed by shame; "before destruction the heart of man is haughty," and when your beauty, wealth, learning, or good name makes you proud, you have reason to be uneasy. Cultivate a habit of apologizing for the mistakes of others; it will cause others to apologize for you. Form a habit of cheerfulness when in company; it will make your company pleasant to others. Never be hasty to give your advice or opinion, it will cause people to think that you think you are "smart; " and for the same reason, you should not do all the talking yourself, remembering the proverb, "a fool is known by his multitude of words." -- Solomon. Franklin has it: "A still tongue makes a wise head." Make it a point when in company to learn something. If the conversation is unedifying, you could bring up something that would be profitable.
5th - Economy should be carefully cultivated. Your future happiness greatly depends upon it. You must distinguish between economy and stinginess or parsimony. "There is that that scattereth and yet increaseth, and there is that that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." Economy does not forbid charity; it forbids wastefulness Economy, therefore, is the friend and source of charity; by its practice we are able to supply our own wants and have something for the poor. Remember the saying: "A penny saved is worth a penny earned." "Take care of the cents and the dollars will take care of themselves." A careful, saving wife is worth a, dozen of a wasteful, spendthrift disposition. Pride and extravagance are the forerunners of poverty, and often lead to fraud and dishonesty. If you are proud you should mark Solomon's words: "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." Pride will lead you to desire to live beyond your means, and will ultimately bring you to need. "If you buy what you don't need now, you will, some day, be unable to buy what you do need." Don't form a habit of wanting to buy everything you see, because it is nice; this tempter, if submitted to, will enslave you and your parents; and you should not desire pride to be your master. It is a sad sight to see children dressed in fine clothing and their parents owing for them. A young lady strutting in laces, ribbons and silks, and a mortgage on her father's home, is a woeful sight; what sensible young man would want her for a wife? and of what use or comfort is she to her parents? And so, a young man, dressed in extravagance, and often with a cigar in his mouth, a bottle or revolver in his pocket, or both, and a fiddle under his arm presents a sickening sight and yet we often meet with it. Take care of your books, at school and at home; take care of your clothes, don't be ashamed of patched trousers or boots, or of wearing an old hat or bonnet. It is a grand sight to see an intelligent, modest young man or woman at work with patched clothes on, seeing after the farm or kitchen. This is the very foundation of usefulness and success in life. In this way you save money for future wants, and what sensible person will fail to admire you for it. Never let your merchant think that he can sell you such things as are of no value; he will know that you are worthless as soon as he finds that you will bite at his breastpins, rings, ribbons, silks, perfumery, paint, prize-boxes, and such things as he has only to catch sap heads; let him know that you want no goods except what are of real solid use, and he will admire you for it. Don't buy things "because they are cheap." Don't seek to be the finest dressed one at church; always be clean, and keep your clothes so. Don't be stingy; there are things necessary for your comfort; the poor and sick need a little charity; a day's work, or something that you can spare that they need, will help them much, and give them a bright spot in life, and make your conscience feel good; these things you should pay for and do, but bear in mind there are many traps set to catch the fruit of your labor, which you must watch. Every lottery in the land is a swindle, and should be let alone. Keep your eye on our book peddlers, pill peddlers, lightning-rod peddlers, clock fixers, pack peddlers and patent right peddlers, etc., you are in danger of getting bit by them, and when they bite you they will laugh far most at your folly.
6th - Honesty is indispensable to every one who ever expects to be truly great or good. Let it be said "he is honest," and he can get any place he is able to fill; no merchant, banker or officer wants a dishonest clerk; no one wishes to leave or entrust his money or valuables to one he knows to be dishonest. You should use the greatest pains to secure to yourself the reputation of being honest, and you should feel within that you ARE HONEST. If you are conscious that you are dishonest, you never can feel that independence that you ought to feel; you can not feel that you are truly noble, for you know that you are not noble. If you want to succeed well, keep a good conscience; and to do this, keep a good opinion of yourself; and to do this, let your plans and actions be such that you are willing for all to know all about them; this will make you feel that you are noble. It will give you a bright clear open countenance, and enable you to face your employer, and face the world and your accusers, and your Creator. You will have a firmness and steadfastness of character that will be of infinite worth to you through life. Many years ago I took particular interest in the sixty-third lesson in the Indiana Fourth Reader, which I would recommend you to study carefully: "If you would have your tongue worth anything to you in business, never employ it to misrepresent things with." "A merchant or tradesman who habitually lies about his goods, will be detected, and then his tongue is useless to him in business." "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord." "The lip of truth shall be established forever." "A just weight and balance are the Lord's." Don't sell anything with a hidden fault; always keep and live above such things as selling over-salted butter, or old feathers for new ones, or spoiled eggs, or tainted meat, or dirty wet rags, or damping your feathers or wool, or greasing your wool with old grease before you sell it, or sprinkling your dried apples or peaches or wool before you sell them, or over-feeding or slopping your hogs or cattle before they are weighed. Never charge an unjust or extravagant price for your work or goods, when it is all left to you.
If your merchant makes a mistake in your favor, in counting, weighing, or measuring, or settling, or changing money, always correct; be as ready to correct mistakes in your favor, as you are those against you. Whatever you find return to its owner. Do no one private injury in his person or property; never circulate a false report about any one. In all I have said I wish you to understand that we should be honest with ourselves; and, therefore, we should ever with manly energy contend for our own rights, while we give others justice. We should do justice by ourselves, therefore in all our buying and selling and mixing with men, we should have an eye to our own rights as well as those of others. In contending for our rights, let us be cautious; law suits are expensive things, and therefore should be a voided; better be loser than make an enemy sometimes. "If you are defrauded and have no other way to get redress, let it go and say nothing." This is better than to add an enemy to the injuries you have already sustained. "Let it pass and afterwards watch."
7th - Faithfulness and punctuality are of vast importance. When you make a promise, however small, charge your mind with it, and do it. If it be to mail a letter, pay a small sum of money, bring some little article from town, or bear a message to a friend, make it a point through life to perform it. It will become a part of your character, and will be of great worth to you. Notice that some men when they promise a sum of money on a certain time, or to be at a certain place, etc., that they are very careful to do it. It is of vast importance to you that when you make a promise people depend on your fulfilling it. In this way you get good credit. Your word becomes as good as your note, with good security. You should set a high estimate on your word, and so live that others will. This is the sure road to usefulness, and happiness, and honor. Young man, run in it.
8th - The wise man says: "Hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." There is no one on earth who has a better right to your obedience than your parents. Children ought to love their parents with a pure and disinterested love. The love of a mother is intense. She has had your interest and well-being at heart from your infancy. You may be sure that she often prays for you, and desires that you may be good and useful. She is pained when she sees your conduct imprudent. You ought, while young, seek to make your parents happy. Make them feel that you love them, and delight to do their wishes. Parents are taught in the Bible to "chasten their children while there is hope." -- Prov. xix, 18. Your parents may find it necessary to use the rod on you, but this they should do in love for you. When you become grown up you will see that the chastisements of parents were a blessing to you. But you should so conduct yourself as to need no correction. If your parents love you they will endeavor to have your conduct good. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." -- Prov. xiii, 24; see, also, Proverbs xxii, 15; and, also, xxiii, 13: "Withhold not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die; thou shalt beat him with the rod and shall deliver his soul from hell." The responsibility of parents is very great. They should have the control of their children, and secure their obedience. When your parents grow old do not forget them; try to make them happy, visit them, and give them the full assurance that you love them. Now, while you are little, they labor for you and study your interest, and so when they are old do not forget it. Give them all the sunshine you can. They will love and appreciate your visits, or presents, or expressions of love. You should not, while young, make your parents blush with shame for your bad conduct. I have seen parents blush with shame for the ugly conduct of their children. Think of this. You may, when they are dead and gone, regret your course toward them now. Respect them, and the church, and remember that their credit as church members is affected by your conduct. Baptist parents love their children, and long to see them become good and useful; they wish them to be sincere, quiet, truthful and prudent. "Obey your parents" is a commandment of heaven. You should, with utmost care, mind what they tell you. If at times they ask too much, you should nevertheless obey them. It is ruinous to yield to a spirit of disobedience, and will give your parents pain, and you a bad name. Obey your teacher at school. Make him feel that you intend to obey him with pleasure. He will love you, and feel an interest in you, and will abundantly repay your kindness. Doing right is sowing seed that will ripen some time; some will ripen immediately, and some may not ripen for many years, but all will ripen. A good action is never lost; it will bless him who performs it. The "royal path" to honor, usefulness and happiness lies in the unwavering habit of doing right.
9th - "Control your temper." Form a habit of governing your temper. You can accustom yourself to anger on every provocation, or you can cultivate a quiet, even temper. When one is drunk with rage he is not fit to act or speak. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty." "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." The man who controls his temper while others are abusing him, is a greater conqueror than he that takes a garrisoned city. Your enemy, while in a rage, is a fool, and it is your highest wisdom to make pleasant answers. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." The cold hammer moulds and shapes the hot iron. If you keep cool you may have your own way in the end, and feel much better yourself, and have the approval of others. Never become the settled and fixed enemy of any one, and be careful to make no enemies of this kind. "It is an honor for a man to cease from strife." It often occurs that men disagree in business, and ever afterwards entertain malice to their mutual injury. If possible, avoid this thing. It is far better to have the good will of a man, however worthless and evil, than to have his ill will. Let your course of life be honorable and kind, and you will have friends. "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly." Do not become a party to strife between others. You may seek to make peace, but never become a party in strife. Solomon says: "He that passeth by and meddleth with strife is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." He is likely to get bit himself. You should not make friendship with a mad man. If he is now mad and in a rage with another, he will soon be so with you, and you do not need him for an intimate friend.
10th - Accustom yourself to diligence in your business. Be willing to work with your hands; this is an honorable and healthy way of gaining a living. Remember that good management is of vast importance; therefore, consider what is best to be done, and when; lay your plans and work to them, and keep up with your business. Know the state of your flocks, your fields, shops, or whatever your business is. Avoid unnecessary bodily exposure, which leads to loss of time from business--and doctor bills. Maintain the purest, friendship with your companion in life, and mutually cultivate a habit of close economy, and you will certainly become a substantial citizen. The man who can manage his own business will be called to take the care of others. "Seest thou a man diligent in business, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."'
11th - You will of necessity have to take an interest in the political affairs of our country. We all have reasons to love our government that has for so long a time secured to us the rights we have enjoyed. And you should embrace such views as will best maintain our institutions. Do not be governed by a low party spirit, but let your views be elevated, broad, and national; let your aims be to promote the general good, bearing in mind that all the goodness is not in one party, nor all the evil in the other. These sentiments within you will lead you to talk with moderation to others; your views will be better respected, and your influence greater, by pursuing a conservative course. Be honest and conscientious in your actions, and never seek to carry your ends by unlawful means. Our institutions are in greater danger from bribery than any other cause. If the people are left to act with no influence upon them but reason and sound argument, our government is safe, but if bribery rules we will drift to ruin. Never, in any way, countenance unlawful means to carry political ends.
12th - My dear young friend, the Almighty, who upholds all things, has the first and highest claims upon our affections. He is the great source of our being. It is he that keeps us. All our plans will prove worthless without his blessing. We read in his Word: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." He justly claims your love and purest affection. You are under the strongest possible obligation to turn away from sin and its love; and to God, with a true penitence of heart for sin.
God's indignation is eternally against sin, and you will not live a life of rebellion against him, and escape his wrath. For sin God once drowned the world; he sent down showers of fire upon the cities of the plain; he directed the entire destruction of whole nations; he destroyed Pharaoh and his host. He is the same God to-day that he was then; his claims are just and reasonable. He claims your heart, your affections and service; and, within, you are convinced that you should give these to him. He will on a time say, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," and "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." Those who live lives of sin will make up this company. For sin he spared not his own Son. He will punish sin in his rebellious creatures. Oh child, it is a great thought that you are under the government of God. It may be unpleasant to you to know that you are accountable to God for every evil word, thought, or action; you need not say that you can not repent or turn from sin, or love your Creator; for though that may be true, yet it grows out of your unwillingness to do that which your heart tells you is right, and therefore in your inability lies your sin. How needful that you be reconciled to God, that you feel within that there is a settled peace with God, that you enjoy his great approval. You may dam against sin by moral habits, and seek to hedge it in by reformation, but all this will not cure the disease. You must have Christ within you, his own Holy Spirit must renew you. How gracious are his appeals, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Oh, if you were truly weary with sin; if you did but feel a willingness to give the dear Redeemer your whole heart; if you felt within the force of the words, "God be merciful to me a sinner," then all would be easy. Your greatest trouble lies in your fixed love for evil, and your fixed unconcern about eternal things. In this lies your greatest danger. Do not be deceived about this matter. "You must be born again." Without this your church connection would be of no value, for as the sow returns to her wallow in the mire, so you will return to your sin. The root of sin must be cured or killed within. Never be satisfied about your state religiously, until you feel that you are dead to sin; until you have from your own heart repented of your sin, and realized that God's Holy Spirit bears witness with yours that you are a child of God. With this blessing you are prepared to live, and prepared to die. May God give you this matchless blessing!