There are some boys, who carelessly go any where that they can find
amusement, without regard to the character of their company. They not
only associate indiscriminately in general society, where they are
obliged to go, as at school; but they seek the company of bad boys, or
permit themselves to be enticed into it, because it affords them some
momentary enjoyment.

A bad boy is one who has a _bad disposition_, which has never been
subdued; or one of corrupt principles and bad habits. A boy with a bad
disposition will be rough, quarrelsome, malicious in his temper, fond
of mischief, and rude and unmannerly in his general behavior. A boy of
corrupt principles is one who will not scruple to break the commands
of God, when they stand in the way of his own gratification. He acts
from the mere selfish desire of present enjoyment. A boy of bad habits
is one who is in the habit of disobeying his parents, breaking the
Sabbath, using bad language, lying, stealing, gaming, drinking, or
doing wanton mischief. Any of these habits shows a character thoroughly

If you go into the company of persons that are sick with the measles,
hooping-cough, smallpox, or any contagious disorder, in a short time
you will be taken with the same disease. The very atmosphere of the
room where they stay is full of contagion, and you will draw it in
with your breath. So, likewise, _moral diseases_ are contagious. There
is an atmosphere of moral contagion and death surrounding persons of
vicious habits. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” The sight
of evil deeds, or the hearing of bad language, hardens the heart, and
diminishes the abhorrence of sin, which is felt by those to whom vice
is not familiar. If you consent to go into bad company, you will soon
find yourself falling into their habits. And if you keep company with
bad boys, you will soon have the reputation of being a bad boy yourself.

Bad company will lead you into practices that will end in your ruin and
disgrace. If you could read the history of those who have been sent to
prison or otherwise punished for their crimes, you would be surprised
to find how many of them were led, insensibly, into the evil courses
which ended in their ruin, by frequenting bad company. I will give you
a single example, which is only one among thousands that might be set
before you, to show the dangerous influence of evil companions. There
was a boy in Stockport, (England,) who went to the Sabbath school,
and was esteemed a very good boy; so that he was appointed a teacher
of one of the classes. But about this time his father died; and his
mother, being poor, was obliged to send him to work in the factory.
There he met with bad boys, who were addicted to evil practices. They
gradually led him into their own evil courses, till, at length, he
lost all the good impressions he had received in the Sabbath school.
He began to drink, and drinking led him to committing petty thefts. He
became so dissolute that his mother could do nothing with him. He was
turned out of his employment, and obliged to enlist as a soldier. He
was sent into Spain. There he indulged his evil courses, and supplied
himself with the means of gratifying his evil desires, by plundering
the inhabitants. At the close of the war, he returned home. Soon after
landing, he and his evil companions began to break into people’s houses
and commit robberies. He was detected, tried, and condemned to death,
at the age of twenty-one.

Let me especially caution you against indulging a mischievous
disposition, or joining with others in any schemes of mischief. I
know of nothing more likely to get you into serious difficulty, or
to lead you into vicious habits and dissolute practices. A few years
ago, a young man was hung, in one of our seaport towns, for piracy. He
was one of the _bad boys_ of whom I have been speaking. He had a bad
disposition, which had never been subdued. At home, he was turbulent
and unsubmissive; abroad, he was a ringleader in mischief; at school,
he was disobedient to his teacher, and set himself to work to organize
the boys to resist the authority of their teachers. At length, he went
to sea; and there he carried out the same disposition. He headed the
sailors against the authority of the captain. After he had been some
time at sea, he persuaded the rest of the crew to set the captain and
mate of the vessel upon the ocean in an open boat. They then took
possession of the vessel, and turned pirates, robbing every vessel they
could find. They were captured; and this young man was brought home,
tried and condemned, and hung for his crime. This was the result of a
turbulent and ungovernable boy giving up himself to be a ringleader in

Boys who go from the country to the city are very apt to be drawn into
bad company. Cities abound with boys who are old in mischief and crime.
They take great delight in leading astray the simple-hearted; and if
boys from the country come within the reach of their influence, they
are almost sure to be ruined. The great number of boys found in the
houses of correction and reformation, and in the city prisons, are so
many beacons to warn the unwary of the danger of shipwreck on the rocks
and shoals of evil company.

In conclusion, let me commend to you the wholesome warning and advice
of Solomon: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” “Enter
not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep
not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away,
unless they cause some to fall.”

The human system is formed for alternate labor and rest, and not for
incessant activity; and to provide for this, the night follows the day
and the Sabbath the six days of labor. But not only is rest necessary
after labor, but activity in a different direction. When you are
carrying a burden of any kind, you find relief in a change of position.
A poor boy was employed in turning a wheel, by which he was enabled to
do something for his mother. A lady, observing him steadily employed at
what appeared to be a very laborious occupation, inquired whether he
did not get tired. He replied that he was often very tired. “And what
do you do when you are tired?” she further inquired. “O,” said he, “I
take the other hand.” He had learned that a change of position gave him
rest. Neither the mind nor the body is capable of being incessantly
exerted, in one direction, without injury. Like the bent bow, they will
lose their elasticity. The body, after labor, and the mind, after
study, need unbending, especially in youth, while the muscles of the
body have not acquired maturity or solidity, and the powers of the mind
are yet developing. At this period of life relaxation and amusement are
especially necessary; and those young persons who eschew all play, and
confine themselves to books and labor, must, in the natural course of
things, suffer both in health and spirits. Healthful play is natural
to the young, throughout the whole animal creation. The lamb, that
emblem of innocence; is seen sporting in the fields, blithely bounding
over the hills, as if desirous of expressing a grateful sense of its
Creator’s goodness. There is no more harm in the play of children than
in the skipping of the lambs. It is necessary to restore the bent bow
to its natural elasticity. It is the voice of nature, which cannot be

But having said so much, it is necessary to guard against improprieties
and excesses in amusements. And yet, to determine what amusements
are to be allowed, and what condemned, is no easy matter; for, while
some kinds of amusement are evil in their own nature, and necessarily
injurious, others are evil and injurious only on account of their
_excess_, or of the _manner_ in which they are pursued, or of the
evils that are associated with them. My object is, not so much to point
out what amusements are wrong, as to give you some rules by which you
can judge for yourself.

I. Never engage in recreation at an _unsuitable time_.–To neglect
_duty_ for the sake of amusement is not only wrong, but it will exert
a bad influence upon your character. It tends to produce an immoderate
love of amusement, and to break up all orderly and regular habits. Let
your invariable rule be, “BUSINESS FIRST, AND THEN PLEASURE.” Never
suffer any kind of amusement to break in upon the time appropriated to
labor or study.

II. Never do any thing that is _disapproved by your parents_ or
_guardians_.–They desire your happiness, and will not deprive you of
any enjoyment, unless they see good reason for it. They may see evil
where you would not perceive it. They regard your highest welfare. They
look beyond the present, to see what influence these things will have
on your character and happiness hereafter. They are also set over you
of the Lord; and it is your duty not only to submit to their authority,
but to reverence their counsel.

III. Engage in no amusement which is _disapproved by the most devoted
and consistent Christians_ of your acquaintance. I do not mean the few
_cross_ and _austere_ persons, who always wear an aspect of gloom, and
cannot bear to see the countenances of youth lighted up with the smile
of innocent hilarity. But I mean those Christians who wear an aspect
of devout cheerfulness, and maintain a holy and consistent life. Their
judgment is formed under the influence of _devotional feeling_, and
will not be likely to be far from what is just and right.

IV. Do nothing which you would be _afraid God should see_.–There is
no darkness nor secret place, where you can hide yourself from his
all-searching eye. Contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ as walking by
your side, as he truly is in spirit; and do nothing which you would be
unwilling that he should witness, if he were with you in his bodily

V. Do nothing the preparation for which _unfits you for religious
duty_.–If an amusement in which you are preparing to engage so takes
up your mind as to interfere with your devotional exercises; if your
thoughts run away from the Bible that you are reading to anticipated
pleasures; or if those pleasures occupy your thoughts in prayer; you
may be sure you are going too far.

VI. Engage in nothing _on which you cannot first ask God’s blessing_.
Do you desire to engage in any thing in which you would not wish to be
blessed and prospered? But God only can bless and prosper us in any
undertaking. If, therefore, your feelings would be shocked to think of
asking God’s blessing on any thing in which you would engage, it must
be because your conscience tells you it is wrong.

VII. Engage in no amusement which _unfits you for devotional
exercises_.–If, on returning from a scene of amusement, you feel no
disposition to pray, you may be sure something is wrong. You had better
not repeat the same again.

VIII. Engage in nothing which _tends to dissipate serious
impressions_.–Seriousness, and a sense of eternal things, are
perfectly consistent with serenity and cheerfulness. But thoughtless
mirth, or habitual levity, will drive away such impressions. Whatever
you find has this effect is dangerous to your soul.

IX. Reject such amusements as are generally _associated with evil_.–If
the influences which surround any practice are bad, you may justly
conclude that it is unsafe, without stopping to inquire into the nature
of the practice itself. Games of chance are associated with gambling
and dissipation; therefore, I conclude that they cannot be safely
pursued, even for amusement. Dancing, also, is associated with balls,
with late hours, high and unnatural excitement, and dissipation; it is
therefore unsafe. You may know the character of any amusement by the
company in which it is found.

X. Engage in nothing which necessarily _leads you into temptation_.–You
pray every day, (or ought to,) “lead us not into temptation.” But you
cannot offer up this prayer sincerely, and then run needlessly in the
way of temptation. And if you throw yourself in the way of it, you have
no reason to expect that God will deliver you from it.

XI. If you engage in any recreation, and return from it with a _wounded
conscience_, set it down as evil.–A clear conscience is too valuable
to be bartered for a few moments of pleasure; and if you find your
conscience accusing you for having engaged in any amusement, never
repeat the experiment.

XII. Practise no amusement which _offends your sense of propriety_.–A
delicate sense of propriety, in regard to outward deportment, is in
manners what conscience is in morals, and taste in language. It is not
any thing that we arrive at by a process of reasoning, but what the
mind as it were instinctively perceives. It resembles the sense of
taste; and by it one will notice any deviation from what is proper,
before he has time to consider wherein the impropriety consists. There
is a beauty and harmony in what is proper and right, which instantly
strikes the mind with pleasure. There is a fitness of things, and an
adaptation of one thing to another, in one’s deportment, that strikes
the beholder with sensations of pleasure, like those experienced on
beholding the harmonious and beautiful blending of the seven colors
of the rainbow. But when _propriety_ is disregarded, the impression
is similar to what we might suppose would be produced, if the colors
of the rainbow crossed each other at irregular angles, now blending
together in one, and now separating entirely, producing irregularity
and confusion. The sensation produced upon the eye would be unpleasant,
if not insufferable. Among the amusements which come under this rule
are the vulgar plays that abound in low company, especially such as
require the payment of forfeits, to be imposed by the victor. In
such cases, you know not to what mortification you may be subjected.
_Frolics_, in general, come under this head, where rude and boisterous
plays are practised, and often to a late hour of the night, when all
sense of propriety and even of courtesy is often forgotten.

XIII. Engage in nothing of _doubtful propriety_.–The apostle Paul
teaches that it is wrong to do any thing the propriety of which we
doubt; because, by doing that which we are not fully persuaded is
right, we violate our conscience. It is always best to keep on the safe
side. If you were walking near the crater of a volcano, you would not
venture on ground where there was any danger of breaking through, and
falling into the burning lake. You would keep on the ground where it
was safe and sure. And so we should do, in regard to all questions of
right and wrong. _Never venture where the ground trembles under your

XIV. Do nothing which you will _remember with regret on your dying
bed_.–It is well always to keep death in view; it has a good effect
upon our minds. The death-bed always brings with it pains and sorrows
enough. It is a sad thing to make work for repentance at such an hour.
That is an honest hour. Then we shall view things in their true light.
Ask yourself, then, before entering into any scene of amusement, how it
will appear to you when you come to look back upon it from your dying

XV. Do nothing in the midst of which you would be _afraid to meet
death_.–When preparing for a scene of pleasure, how do you know but
you may be cut down in the midst of it? Sudden death is so common
that it is folly to be in any place or condition in which we are not
prepared to meet it. Many persons have been cut down in the midst of
scenes of gayety, and the same may occur again. A man in Germany was
sitting at the gaming table. His card won a thousand ducats. The dealer
handed over the money, and inquired how he would continue the game. The
man made no reply. He was examined, and found to be a corpse! Similar
scenes have occurred in the ball-room. In the midst of the merry
dance, persons have been called suddenly out of time into eternity.
A gentleman and lady started in a sleigh, to ride some distance to a
ball, in a cold winter’s night. Some time before reaching the place,
the lady was observed to be silent. On driving up, the gentleman called
to her, but no answer was returned. A light was procured, and he
discovered, to his amazement, that he had been riding with a corpse! At
no moment of life are we exempt from sudden death. He who holds us in
his hand has a thousand ways of extinguishing our life in a moment. He
can withhold the breath which he gave; he can stop the vital pulsation
instantly; or he can break one of the thousand parts of the intricate
machinery of which our mortal bodies are composed. No skill can provide
against it. We ought not, therefore, to trust ourselves, for a single
moment, in any place or condition where we are unwilling to meet death.

XVI. Do nothing for which you will be _afraid to answer at the bar of
God_.–There every secret thing will be revealed. What was done in the
darkness will be judged in open day. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy
youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; and walk
in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know
thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” A
young man, on leaving home to enter the army, was supplied with a small
Bible, which, though a thoughtless youth, he always carried in his
pocket. On one occasion, after a battle, he took out his Bible, and
observed that there was a bullet hole in the cover. His first impulse
was, to turn over the leaves, and read the verse on which the ball
rested. It was the passage just quoted. It brought before his mind all
the scenes of mirth and sinful pleasure in which he had been engaged,
and pressed upon him the fearful truth, that for all of them he was to
be brought into judgment. It was the means of awakening him to a sense
of his condition, and led to a change of heart and life. And why should
not the same solemn impression rest upon your mind, with respect to all
scenes of pleasure, and lead you carefully to avoid whatever you would
not willingly meet at that awful tribunal?

If you apply these tests to the various amusements that are in vogue
among young people, you may readily discern what you can safely pursue,
and what you must sternly reject. It will lead you, especially, to
detect the evils of all theatrical performances, balls, cards, and
dancing parties, country frolics, and all things of a like nature.
But it will not deprive you of one innocent enjoyment. A girl, ten or
twelve years old, made a visit to a companion about her own age. Both
of them were hopefully pious. On returning home, she told her mother
she was sure Jane was a Christian. “Why do you think so, my daughter?”
inquired the mother. “O,” said the daughter, “_she plays like a
Christian_.” In her diversions she carried out Christian principles,
and manifested a Christian temper. This is the true secret of innocent
recreation; and it cuts off all kinds of amusement that cannot be
pursued in a Christian-like manner.

The apostle James says, the _tongue_ is an unruly member, and that it
is easier to control a horse or a ship, or even to tame wild beasts and
serpents, than to govern the tongue. And, though a very little member,
it is capable of doing immense mischief. He even likens it to a fire.
A very small spark, thrown into a heap of dry shavings, in a wooden
house, in a great city, will make a terrible fire. It may burn up the
whole city. So a very few words, carelessly spoken by an ungoverned
tongue, may set a whole neighborhood on fire. You cannot, therefore, be
too careful how you employ your tongue. It is of the highest importance
to your character and usefulness, that you early acquire the habit of
controlling this unruly member. For the purpose of aiding you in this,
I shall give a few simple rules.


I. _Think before you speak._–Many persons open their mouths, and set
their tongues a-going like the clapper of a wind-mill, as though the
object was, to see how many words could be uttered in a given time,
without any regard to their _quality_,–whether _sense_ or _nonsense_,
whether good, bad, or indifferent. A tongue, trained up in this way,
will never be governed, and must become a source of great mischief. But
accustom yourself, before you speak, to consider whether what you are
going to say is worth speaking, or whether it can do any mischief. If
you cultivate this habit, your mind will speedily acquire an activity,
that will enable you to make this consideration without waiting so
long before answering your companions as to be observed; and it will
impose a salutary restraint upon your loquacity; for you will find
others often taking the lead of conversation instead of yourself, by
seizing upon the pause that is made by your consideration. This will
be an advantage to you, in two ways. It will give you something better
to say, and will diminish the _quantity_. You will soon perceive that,
though you say less than some of your companions, your words have more

II. _Never allow yourself to talk nonsense._–The habit of careless,
nonsensical talking, is greatly averse to the government of the tongue.
It accustoms it to speak at random, without regard to consequences.
It often leads to the utterance of what is not strictly true, and thus
insensibly diminishes the regard for truth. It hardens the heart, and
cherishes a trifling, careless spirit. Moreover, if you indulge this
habit, your conversation will soon become silly and insipid.

III. _Do not allow yourself in the habit of_ JOKING _with your
companions._–This tends to cultivate severe sarcasm, which is a bad
habit of the tongue. And, if you indulge it, your strokes will be too
keen for your companions to bear; and you will lose their friendship.

IV. _Always speak the truth._–There is no evil habit, which the
tongue can acquire, more wicked and mischievous than that of speaking
falsehood. It is in itself very wicked; but it is not more wicked than
mischievous. If all were liars, there could be no happiness; because
all confidence would be destroyed, and no one would trust another. It
is very offensive to God, who is a _God of truth_, and who has declared
that all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire
and brimstone. It is a great affront and injury to the person that is
deceived by it. Many young persons think nothing of deceiving their
companions, in sport; but they will find that the habit of speaking
what is not true, even in sport, besides being intrinsically wrong,
will so accustom them to the utterance of falsehood, that they will
soon lose that dread of a lie which used to fortify them against it.
The habit of exaggeration, too, is a great enemy to truth. Where this
is indulged, the practice of uttering falsehood, without thought or
consideration, will steal on insensibly. It is necessary, therefore, in
detailing circumstances, to state them accurately, precisely as they
occurred, in order to cultivate the habit of truth-telling. Be very
particular on this head. Do not allow yourself so little an inaccuracy,
even, as to say you laid a book on the table, when you put it on the
mantel, or on the window-seat. In relating a story, it is not necessary
that you should state every minute particular, but that what you do
state should be exactly and circumstantially true. If you acquire this
habit of accuracy, it will not only guard you against the indulgence of
falsehood, but it will raise your character for truth. When people come
to learn that they can depend upon the critical accuracy of whatever
you say, it will greatly increase their confidence in you. But if you
grow up with the habit of speaking falsehood, there will be very little
hope of your reformation, as long as you live. The character that has
acquired an habitual disregard of truth is most thoroughly vitiated.
This one habit, if indulged and cherished, and carried with you from
childhood to youth, and from youth upwards, will prove your ruin.

V. Remember that _all truth is not to be spoken at all times_.–The
habit of uttering all that you know, at random, without regard to times
and circumstances, is productive of great mischief. If you accustom
your tongue to this habit, it will lead you into great difficulties.
There are many of our own thoughts, and many facts that come to our
knowledge, that prudence would require us to keep in our own bosom,
because the utterance of them would do mischief.

VI. _Never, if you can possibly avoid it, speak any thing to the
disadvantage of another._–The claims of justice or friendship may
sometimes require you to speak what you know against others. You may
be called to testify against their evil conduct in school, or before a
court of justice; or you may be called to warn a friend against an evil
or designing person. But, where no such motive exists, it is far better
to leave them to the judgment of others and of God, and say nothing
against them yourself.

VII. _Keep your tongue from tale-bearing._–There is much said in
the Scriptures against tattling. “Thou shalt not go up and down as
a tale-bearer, among the children of thy people.” “A tale-bearer
revealeth secrets.” “Where no wood is, the fire goeth out; and where
there is no tale-bearer, the strife ceaseth.” Young people are apt to
imbibe a taste for neighborhood gossip, and to delight in possessing
family secrets, and in repeating personal matters, neighborhood
scandal, &c. But the habit is a bad one. It depraves the taste and
vitiates the character, and often is the means of forming for life the
vicious habit of tale-bearing. And tale-bearers, besides the great
mischief they do, are always despised, as mean, mischievous, and
contemptible characters.

If you will attentively observe and follow the foregoing rules, you
will acquire such a habit of governing the tongue, that it will be an
easy matter; and it will give dignity and value to your character, and
make you beloved and esteemed, as worthy the confidence of all.