The Right Decision
It was the beginning of vacation when Mr. Davis, a friend of my father, came to see us, and asked to let me go home with him. I was much pleased with the thought of going out of town. The journey was delightful, and when we reached Mr. Davis’ house everything looked as if we were going to have a fine time. Fred Davis, a boy about my own age, took me cordially by the hand, and all the family soon seemed like old friends. “This is going to be a vacation worth having,” I said to myself several times during the evening as all played games, told riddles, and laughed and chatted merrily as could be.
At last Mrs. Davis said it was almost bedtime. Then I expected family prayers, but we were very soon directed to our chambers. How strange it seemed to me, for I had never before been in a household without the family alter “Come,” said Fred, “mother says you and I are going to be bedfellows,” and I followed him up two pair of stairs to a nice little chamber which he called his room; and he opened a drawer and showed me a box, and boat, and knives, and powder-horn, and all his treasures, and told me a world of new things about what the boys did there. He undressed first and jumped into bed. I was much longer about it, for a new set of thoughts began to rise in my mind.
When my mother put my portmanteau into my hand, just before the coach started, she said tenderly, in a low tone, “Remember, Robert, that you are a Christian boy.” I knew very well what that meant, and I had now just come to a point of time when her words were to be minded. At home I was taught the duties of a Christian child; abroad I must not neglect them, and one of these was evening prayer. From a very little boy I had been in the habit of kneeling and asking the forgiveness of God, for Jesus’ sake, acknowledging his mercies, and seeking His protection and blessing.
“Why don’t you come to bed, Robert?” cried Fred. “What are you sitting there for?” I was afraid to pray, and afraid not to pray. It seemed I could not kneel down and pray before Fred. What would he say? Would he not Laugh? The fear of Fred made me a coward. Yet I could not lie down on prayerless bed. If I needed the protection of my heavenly Father at home, how much more abroad. I wished many wishes; that I had slept alone, that Fred would go to sleep, or something else, I hardly knew what. But Fred would not go to sleep.
Perhaps struggles like these take place in the bosom of everyone when he leaves home and begins to act for himself, and on his decision may depend his character for time and for eternity. With me the struggle was sever. At last, to Fred’s cry, “Come, boy, come to bed,” I mustered courage to say, “I will kneel down and pray first; that is always my custom.” “Pray?” said Fred, turning himself over on his pillow, and saying no more. His propriety of conduct made me ashamed. Here I had long been afraid of him, and yet when he knew my wishes he was quiet and let me to myself. How thankful I was that duty and conscience triumphed.
That settled my future course. It gave me strength for time to come. I believe that the decision of the “Christian boy.” By God’s blessing, made me the Christian man; for in after years I was thrown amid trials and temptations which must have drawn me away from God and virtue, had it not been for my settled habit of secret prayer.
Let every boy who has pious parents, read and think about this. You have been trained in Christian duties and principles. When you go from home do not leave them behind you. Carry them with you and stand by them, and then in weakness and temptation, by God’s help, they will stand by you. Take a manly stand on the side of your God and Saviour, of your Father’s God. It is by abandoning their Christian birthright that so many boys go astray, and grow up to be young men dishonoring parents, without hope and without God in the world.
Yes we are boys, always playing with tongue or with pen,
And I sometimes have asked, shall we ever be men?
Will we always be youthful, and laughing and gay,
Till the last dear companions drop smiling away?
Then Here’s to our boyhood, its gold and its gray
The stars of its winter and the dews of its May
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,
Dear Father, take care of thy children, the boys.
Oliver Wendall Holmes