Your danger is increased by the spirit of independence and self-confidence--connected, as of course it must be, with inexperience--which young men of your age are apt to assume
when they have not their own dear parents to watch over them and stir the tender chords of affection in the soul. You feel that it is time for you to think and act for yourself. "I am a young man, and no longer a child. I am capable of discriminating between right and wrong. I have rights, and I will stand for them. I am capable of forming my own plans of action. Who has authority to interfere with me?" These have been some of your thoughts, and you are encouraged in them by youth who are about your age.
You feel that you may assert your liberty and act like a man. These feelings and thoughts lead to wrong action. You have not a submissive spirit. Wise is that young man and highly blest who feels it to be his duty, if he has parents, to look up to them, and if he has not, who regards his guardian, or those with whom he lives, as counsellors, as comforters, and in some respects as his rulers, and who allows the restraints of his home to abide upon him. Independence of one kind is praiseworthy. To desire to bear your own weight, and not to eat the bread of dependence, is right. It is a noble, generous ambition that dictates the wish to be self-supporting. Industrious habits and frugality are necessary.
You have been placed in unfavourable circumstances for the development of a good Christian character; but you are now placed where you may build up a reputation, or blast it. The latter we do not believe you will do. But you are not secure from temptation. In one single hour you may take a course which will afterward cost you bitter tears of repentance. By yielding to temptation, you may estrange hearts from you, lose the respect and esteem you have been acquiring from those around you, and also stain your Christian character. You have the lesson of submission to learn. You consider it beneath you to do duties about the house--chores and little errands. You have a positive dislike for these little requirements;
but you should cultivate a love for these very things to which you are so averse. Until you do this, you will not be acceptable help anywhere. When engaged in these necessary small things, you are doing more real service than when engaged in large business and in labourious work.
I have a case now in mind of one who was presented before me in vision who neglected these little things and could not interest himself in small duties, seeking to lighten the work of those indoors; it was too small business. He now has a family, but he still possesses the same unwillingness to engage in these small yet important duties. The result is, great care rests upon his wife. She has to do many things, or they will be left undone; and the amount of care which comes upon her because of her husband's lack is breaking her constitution. He cannot now overcome this evil as easily as he could in his youth. He neglects the little duties and fails to keep everything up tidy and nice, therefore cannot make a successful farmer. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."
Naaman the Syrian consulted the prophet of God as to how he could be cured of a loathsome disease, the leprosy. He was bidden to go and bathe in Jordan seven times. Why did he not immediately follow the directions of Elisha, the prophet of God? Why did he refuse to do as the prophet commanded? He went to his servants, murmuring. In his mortification and disappointment he became passionate, and in a rage refused to follow the humble course marked out by the prophet of God. "I thought," said he, "he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?
So he turned and went away in a rage." His servant said: "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash [merely], and be clean?" Yes, this great man considered it beneath his dignity to go to the humble river Jordan, and wash. The rivers he mentioned and desired were beautified by surrounding trees and groves, and idols were placed in these groves. Many flocked to these rivers to worship their idol gods; therefore it would have cost him no humility. But it was following the specified directions of the prophet which would humble his proud and lofty spirit. Willing obedience would bring the desired result. He washed, and was made whole.
Your case is similar in some respects to Naaman's. You do not consider that in order to perfect a Christian character you must condescend to be faithful in the littles. Although the things you are called to do may be of small account in your eyes, yet they are duties which you will have to do just as long as you live. A neglect of these things will make a great deficiency in your character. You, my dear boy, should educate yourself to faithfulness in small things. You cannot please God unless you do this. You cannot gain love and affection unless you do just as you are bidden, with willingness and pleasure. If you wish those with whom you live to love you, you must show love and respect for them.
It is your duty to do all in your power to lighten the cares of the sister with whom you live. You see her, pale and feeble, cooking for a large family. Every extra job she has to perform wears upon her and lessens her vitality. She has no young hands and feet to perform little errands. They received you into their family, as they told you and us at the time, expressly to do these things. Now if you neglect to do the very things they think will help them most, and choose to
follow your will in an independent course of your own choosing, you must lose your place, and they must have one that will do the very things you consider too small for you to do. You are now doing larger and heavier work than your strength will admit. You love to do the work of a man. You have a set will of your own which must be given up. You must die to self, crucify self, gain the victory over self. You cannot be a true follower of Christ unless you take hold of this work resolutely.
I saw that you do not naturally possess reverence and respect for those older than yourself. You should be faithful in the little errands and duties you are required to perform, and not go murmuringly about them as though they were a drug. You cannot see how unpleasant and unlovely you make yourself. You cannot thus be happy yourself, nor make those around you happy. You should bear in mind that God requires of you, as His servant, to be faithful, patient, kind, affectionate, obedient, and respectful. You cannot attain to Christian perfection unless you possess perfect control of your own spirit. You allow feelings to arise in your heart which are sinful, which are a great injury to you, and which tend to encourage a hard, defiant spirit, unlike the spirit of Christ, whose life you are commanded to imitate.
My dear boy, commence anew, determined by God's help to follow the things which are true, lovely, and of good report. Let the fear of God, united with love and affection for all around you, be seen in all your actions. Be faithful and thorough; rid yourself of everything like slackness. Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. Be accommodating, kind, cheerful, and agreeable. Then you can win your way into the hearts of those with whom you associate. One thing ever bear in mind: No young man can be possessed of a right spirit who does not respect women and
seek to lighten their cares. It is the worst sign that can be found in a young man to consider it beneath him to lighten the labour of women. Such a man is marked. No woman would commit the keeping of her life to such a man; for he will never make a tender, careful, considerate husband.
The boy is the type of the man. I entreat of you to face rightabout. Do everything that needs to be done in the shape of small duties, disagreeable though they may be. Then you will have the approval of those around you, and, what is to be more highly prized, you will have the approval of God. You cannot be a Christian unless you are a faithful servant in that which is least. If you pray, and strive to do your best to perform every duty, God will bless and help you. When Jesus comes to take His faithful ones to Himself, do you wish to have Him say to you: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"? Do you desire to have all imperfections removed from your character, that you may be found without fault before the throne of God? If so, you have a work to do for yourself which no one else can do for you. You have an individual responsibility before God. You can walk in the light, and daily receive strength from God to overcome every imperfection, and finally be among the faithful, true, and holy in the kingdom of God. Yield not to temptation. Satan will annoy you and seek to control your mind, that he may lead you into sin. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you."
Remember that the eye of God is ever upon you. When you answer disrespectfully, God sees and hears you. The time is coming when all shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body. You will have a part to act in the judgement. Jesus will either receive or reject you. Flee to Him for strength and grace. He desires to help you, to be the guide of your youth, and to so strengthen you that you can bless others with
your influence. God loves you and will save you if you come in His appointed way; but if you rebel and choose your own course, it will be to your eternal loss. Pray much, for prayer is one of the most essential duties. Without it you cannot maintain a Christian walk. It elevates, strengthens, and ennobles; it is the soul talking with God.
Do not think you can cease your efforts or vigilance for a moment; you cannot. Study God's word diligently, that you may not be ignorant of Satan's devices, and that you may learn the way of salvation more perfectly. Your will must be submerged in God's will. Seek not your own pleasure, but that of those around you; and in so doing you cannot but be happy. Come to Jesus with all your needs and wants, and in simple confidence crave His blessing. Trust in God, and seek to move from principle, strengthened and ennobled by high resolves and a determination of purpose found only in God.
You should not be easily provoked. Let not your heart become selfish, but let it expand with love. You have a work to do which you must not neglect. Endure hardship as a good soldier. Jesus is acquainted with every conflict, every trial, and every pang of anguish. He will help you; for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet He sinned not. Go to Him, dear boy, with your burdens. Take no one into your confidence, and tell no one your difficulties, but us. Make Jesus your Burden Bearer, and seek a more thorough experience in religious things. God help and bless you, is my sincere prayer.
My tenderest sympathies are aroused for orphans. You indeed have no home. The grave has taken your father and your mother, and the home of your childhood others inhabit. You cannot have as distinct recollections of your godly father as of your mother. You remember that you sometimes grieved her. You had not learned submission; you have yet but
partially learned the lesson. But the prayers of your parents, that you may be among those who love and fear God, have found a lodgement in heaven.
Oh, this is a cold and selfish world! Your relatives, who should have loved and befriended you for your parents' sake if not for your own, have shut themselves up in their selfishness, and have no special interest for you. But God will be nearer and dearer to you than any of your earthly relatives can be. He will be your friend and will never leave you. He is a father to the fatherless. His friendship will prove sweet peace to you and will help you to bear your great loss with fortitude. Seek to make God your father, and you will never want a friend. You will be exposed to trials; yet be steadfast, and strive to adorn your profession. You will need grace to stand, but God's pitying eye is upon you. Pray much and earnestly, believing that God will help you. Guard against irritability and petulance, and a spirit of tantalizing. Forbearance is a virtue which you need to encourage. Seek for piety of heart. Be a consistent Christian. Possess a love of purity and humble simplicity, and let these be interwoven with your life.
By educating yourself to fear God, and to love all around you, yours can be a useful, happy life, and your example can be such as to lead others to choose the humble path of holiness. Have moral courage at all times to do right and to honour your Redeemer. I implore you, dear boy, to seek true holiness.