Saturday, August 29, 2009

1. The Beginning.—There is a charm in opening manhood which has commended itself to the imagination in every age. The undefined hopes and promises of the future—the dawning strength of intellect—the vigorous flow of passion—the very exchange of home ties and protected joys for free and manly pleasures, give to this period an interest and excitement unfelt, perhaps, at any other.

2. The Growth of Independence.—Hitherto life has been to boys, as to girls, a dependent existence—a sucker from the parent growth—a home discipline of authority and guidance and communicated impulse. But henceforth it is a transplanted growth of its own—a new and free power of activity in which the mainspring is no longer authority or law from without, but principle or opinion within. The shoot which has been nourished under the shelter of the parent stem, and bent according to its inclination, is transferred to the open world, where of its own impulse and character it must take root, and grow into strength, or sink into weakness and vice.

3. Home Ties.—The thought of home must excite a pang even in the first moments of freedom. Its glad shelter—its kindly guidance—its very restraints, how dear and tender must they seem in parting! How brightly must they shine in the retrospect as the youth turns from them to the hardened and unfamiliar face of the world! With what a sweet sadly-cheering pathos they must linger in the memory! And then what chance and hazard is there in his newly-gotten freedom! What instincts of warning in its very novelty and dim inexperience! What possibilities of failure as well as of success in the unknown future as it stretches before him!

4. Vice or Virtue.—Certainly there is a grave importance as well as a pleasant charm in the beginning of life. There is awe as well as excitement in it when rightly viewed. The possibilities that lie in it of noble or ignoble work—of happy self-sacrifice or ruinous self-indulgence—the capacities in the right use of which it may rise to heights of beautiful virtue, in the abuse of which it may sink to the depths of debasing vice—make the crisis one of fear as well as of hope, of sadness as well as of joy.

5. Success or Failure.—It is wistful as well as pleasing to think of the young passing year by year into the world, and engaging with its duties, its interests, and temptations. Of the throng that struggle at the gates of entrance, how many may reach their anticipated goal? Carry the mind forward a few years, and some have climbed the hills of difficulty and gained the eminence on which they wished to stand—some, although they may not have done this, have kept their truth unhurt, their integrity unspoiled; but others have turned back, or have perished by the way, or fallen in weakness of will, no more to rise again; victims or their own sin.

6. Warning.—As we place ourselves with the young at the opening gates of life, and think of the end from the beginning, it is a deep concern more than anything else that fills us. Words of earnest argument and warning counsel rather than of congratulation rise to our lips.

7. Mistakes are Often Fatal.—Begin well and the habit of doing well will become quite as easy as the habit of doing badly. "Well begun is half ended," says the proverb: "and a good beginning is half the battle." Many promising young men have irretrievably injured themselves by a first false step at the commencement of life; while others of much less promising talents, have succeeded simply by beginning well, and going onward. The good, practical beginning is to a certain extent, a pledge, a promise, and an assurance of the ultimate prosperous issue. There is many a poor creature, now crawling through life, miserable himself and the cause of sorrow to others, who might have lifted up his head and prospered, if, instead of merely satisfying himself with resolutions of well-doing, he had actually gone to work and made a good, practical beginning.

8. Begin at the Right Place.—Too many are, however, impatient of results. They are not satisfied to begin where their fathers did, but where they left off. They think to enjoy the fruits of industry without working for them. They cannot wait for the results of labor and application, but forestall them by too early indulgence.