The Church and the Young Man.
A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 4, 1866,

In The First Presbyterian Church, Troy,

At The Request of The Young Men's Christian Association.

2 Sam. xviii, 5. "And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai saying, deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom."

There are few passages of Holy writ more beautiful or suggestive than this. Notwithstanding the astounding character of Absalom's rebellion; though the mind of the sovereign and father of his people is torn with indignation at this outrage upon his throne and person, and is busy with plans for the security of his kingdom and the repulse of the invader; though David is stunned and bewildered at this high handed display of ingratitude and rebellion on the part of his favorite child, the father finds place to assert itself amid the cares of the sovereign, and to breathe a word of caution to his generals respecting the person of his dearly loved boy.

In accordance with the request of the Young Men's National Christian Convention to the churches, I propose to devote this service to a discussion of their relations to the church. I take this text as setting forth a similar charge given by our Lord and King Christ to his militant church, to deal gently with the young man. I therefore invite your attention to the following points respecting the relations of young men to the church:

I. The church must deal with them.
II. The church ought to deal with them.
III. How the church should deal with them.

I. The church must deal with young men.

Absalom, however foolish and wicked his revolt, however strange his rebellion against his royal father, notwithstanding his youth and inexperience, was a stubborn fact, with which the leaders and counselors and armies of the kingdom found themselves obliged to deal. Otherwise David would have been dethroned and his authority violently usurped. If not dealt with so as to suppress him, he must be dealt with in the more unpleasant capacity of a suppressor and tyrant.

Young men are a fact in society; and as such cannot be without relations to the church. Not only so, they are an important fact; a prominent fact; a potent fact. They are a force in the business, the social, the political, the governmental relations of the community. If they have not wisdom, they have strength and energy. If they have not caution, they have enterprise. If they have not experience, they have tact, intelligence and knowledge. If they refuse to follow old rules, they succeed ofttimes in the use of their own methods. Society concedes much to them, entrusts them with serious responsibilities, seeks them for positions of power and influence, is powerfully swayed in whatever direction they choose, as a body, to throw themselves, applauds and welcomes their success.

The relations of such a body to the church of Christ must be important. This mass of manly strength, energy, independence, intelligence and enterprise must, if set on fire with Christian ardor and enlisted on her behalf, greatly conduce to her prosperity; while it cannot but be a serious hindrance to her success if this element is neutral, or arrayed against her. If neutral, indeed, it is against her. If she have not the young men incorporated with her membership, at work in her sabbath schools, in regular attendance on her ordinances, woven into her social relations, throwing their strength and generosity and enthusiasm into her benevolent enterprises, contributing their fresh thought to her assemblies, working, through the closer intimacies which mark their age, to increase her numbers, she will have to move under the drag applied by their indifference, resist their fascinations exerted in drawing others away from her standard, contend sharply against the skepticism to which youth is naturally prone, and if they are won at last, win them when the freshness of youth is gone, and by a double expenditure of power. The church must deal with them as the friends or as the enemies of religion; must appropriate or resist their power. They come to her in the flush of their manly strength, like the Roman envoys to Carthage, holding in their robes peace and war, and offering the church her choice.

II. The church ought to deal with them.

1. In simple consistency with her own principles. Not only to touch them where she must, but where she can. Not to regard them as aside from her peculiar work, but as constituting a peculiarly important and interesting part of her work. She professes to labor for the salvation of men, where can she find excuse for failing to provide special appliances if need be, for the salvation of young men? She professes to be an educator as well as an evangelizer. Here is material in its most inviting shape, and at the stage best adapted for her moulding. She professes to provide for the extension of her doctrine and spirit. Can she, with any show of reason, neglect the force furnished her in this mass of youthful energy and enthusiasm. She professes to rescue men from danger. Does she see any danger more imminent than those which menace young men, any temptations more seductive, any ruin more pitiable? Does she see any more susceptible of these influences than youth with their high spirits, superfluous energy and glowing passion? Does she see any victims which appeal more powerfully to her compassion than these sons and brothers in whose success and virtue are bound up the hopes and affections of thousands of parents, every one of whom cries to the world and to the church, "deal gently for my sake with the young man?"

2. But the church ought to deal with them, in the absence of other appliances to reach them. The church has few enough, far too few; but there are fewer elsewhere. Take business. What does it furnish? It deals with the young man. Not always gently either. It deals with his youthful strength; with his clear and active brain; with his enterprise and energy. It uses these to build up trade and accumulate wealth. It deals, I say, not always gently. It is often exacting and severe. It often binds burdens too heavy for youthful shoulders. It often refuses leisure which health imperatively demands, and denies compensations which might furnish less temptation to crime. But I am not here to speak of these now. How does it deal with the young man morally? Does business take into the account, to any great extent, the fact that young men are moral and intellectual beings? How much leisure does it afford them for mental or religious culture? Alas, with the most charitable view of the case, with the noble exceptions clearly recognized, business presents a sad aspect in this regard. The maxim "business is business" is carried too far. What the world may think or do in this matter is not the question here; but to Christian men, who believe or profess to believe that religion belongs everywhere, business should be something more than business. How many Christian business men recognize in its contact opportunities for the exertion of Christian influence as well as for making money? How many see in their clerks something besides the hired arms or brains to carry on their trade? How many recognize them as beings with social instincts as well as with sharp wits; immortal souls as well as clear heads; susceptibilities to temptation as well as to self-interest; young men who are to fill a place in these democratic communities, to cast their votes, exert their influence, be each the centre of a greater or smaller circle, be fathers to train up children and perpetuate their own moral character and sentiments whatever they be? How many consider the influence which their position of employer gives them over the moral destiny of these youth; the power they may wield through the truly affectionate and confidential relations subsisting between them? How many concern themselves as to where their clerks go after business hours, what associations they form, whether they have a place of worship or not? How many of you business men, here to-day, are in the habit of asking the young men in your employ to accompany you to church, or to Bible class, or to prayer-meeting?

Take the community at large. Its influence, if exerted in this direction, must be chiefly confined to furnishing some counter attraction, moral, but not necessarily religious, to the attractions of the haunts of sin. And a great work can be done here, in which men of the most opposite religious theories, and men with no religion at all can unite. There, for instance, is the temperance question. There is a variety of views on the subject; but all agree that intemperance is an awful evil, and one which all moral and religious men are called on to resist and suppress by every possible means. We believe that the only effectual method of reforming a drunkard, or of keeping a man from becoming one, is to make him a Christian. That will reform in all respects. But we cannot bring the community to agree on this platform. Here then is one where all can unite, namely, in organizing some force to overbalance the attractions of the dram shop. It need not be distinctively religious, only free from vicious associations. The saloon keeper understands perfectly that not one young man in ten comes to his haunt originally to drink or in which to gamble. He wants a warm and pleasant room to sit down and chat with his companion; to read his evening paper, or it may be to procure a meal. So this minister of corruption proceeds to make provision for these natural and healthy cravings, that, through them, he may excite those unnatural and depraved desires, the satisfaction of which constitutes his chief source of profit. He furnishes his rooms tastefully and comfortably. He provides food of all kinds prepared to please the most fastidious palate. A small sum will secure a quiet and cosy retreat where the youth and his friends may pass an evening. But he furnishes the bar with its tempting array of liquors. He gathers there his array of well dressed and gentlemanly confederates who are always ready to challenge to drink, and to sneer at the principle which refuses. He has his licentious pictures to stimulate the passions, and abundant facilities for their gratification. And thousands of youths who went thither at first, only because they could find no other retreat, have come at last to frequent it for the gratification of the basest appetites, and have gone from its doors at last, hopeless, homeless drunkards.

Now suppose a community should say (and no individual with a shadow of moral sense could say otherwise), the rumseller takes an unfair advantage. He unites things which may just as well be separated. There is no necessity that all the light and comfort and retirement should be associated with liquor and licentiousness. Let us furnish these to the hundreds of poor young men who have no retreat but their offices and boarding houses. Let us build a house or hire a large suite of rooms. Let us have a suitable person employed to dispense proper refreshments at a reasonable price. Let us have a reading room furnished with the best papers and periodicals, and with a good library. Let us have a conversation room, where young men can chat or play their game of chess or backgammon. Let us have a ten pin alley, and even a smoking room. Would not this be in the interest of temperance as well as of many other virtues? Would it not keep scores of young men from the gin palaces? Could not society, independently of any religious views, easily inaugurate and carry out such a plan? It has been done, and has worked wonders. The slight approach towards it made by our Young Men's Christian Association, saying nothing now of the religious adjuncts, has proved what a strong, well organized effort might effect in this direction. And yet what has our communities of this character? What organized appliance have our cities anywhere to act upon young men? There I know are the Young Men's Associations, and they are good as far as they go; but they make provision chiefly for intellectual wants. Their libraries, and reading rooms, and lecture courses are doing a good work; but after all it is for the community at large, male and female, as well as for young men. There is a lower class of wants peculiar to young men, and to young men of a certain class, which will be supplied somehow, and which a proper effort may supply judiciously, without injury to the youth, and in a way to create wants and lead to associations of a higher character. If the moral and Christian part of the community do not supply them, the immoral part will.

3. But the church ought to deal with young men, because she has the means. She has organization. The community at large is not organized to carry out such efforts. Special organizations have to be made when such a movement is undertaken by it; and even then the personal sympathy and cooperation of individuals, except perhaps through their purses, is not secured. A moral movement agitated outside the church requires a good deal of time and effort to bring it into contact with men's minds, and to get them enlisted in it. It has to work principally upon individuals. But the moment a question of moral reform starts with the church, it works from the very first upon and through an organization. That is the reason why the agents of all great benevolent enterprises and reform movements try first to get before the churches. The subject is presented to masses. It reaches the larger part of the community through their religious detachments, so to speak, and by the mouth of their chosen and respected religious instructors. The organization is already formed to discuss the question, to decide upon it, to raise means for carrying out the enterprise, to delegate men to represent this or that branch of the church in it. Added to this is the personal sympathy evoked. As a moral question it is brought home to the church on her own ground. If it concerns the salvation of men, every individual, as well as the church at large has to do with it. It appeals to him as a man and as a brother; to his prayers, to his pocket, to his effort.

The church has the wealth. I need only say, that the church represents by far the largest proportion of the money of our communities. Take our own city for instance, and count up our wealthiest men, and you will find that the most of them are not only members of congregations, but also members of churches.

4. The church ought to deal with young men, because she represents the only restraining and reforming power.

No reform that is not Christian in its essence is radical. No restraint that is not Christian is permanently effective. Other influences are partial in their operation. They modify one side of character. They protect it partially at one or two weak points. They touch the outward developments of the life merely; trying to regulate it from the circumference. This goes to the very seat of life, purges the fountain head of impulse and desire, creates a new man to do new works, and does not simply ingraft new works on the old character, putting the new piece into the old garment. This brings the thought and will into conformity with the law of Christ, and develops the man as a whole, makes him something, as well as restrains him from evil. Without this, who can say that any restraint will be effectual; that any memories will be sacred enough, any admonitions forcible enough, any associations attractive enough, any moral purpose strong enough to keep one pure? Alas, the shore of life is strewn so thickly with wrecks of youthful hope and promise, the annals of crime embrace so many youth of noble aims and high attainments, reared under the holiest influences of home and sanctuary, that we may well ask -- who is safe?

While then, I would not discourage an effort at reform made in good faith by society, yet without any distinctively religious character, while I believe that many such efforts have done good in their sphere, I say distinctly, that their sphere is not large enough. Their influence does not reach deep enough. They help reform or restrain certain developments of the life; but they do not inaugurate any positive moral development. Nay, the very fact that many of them are forced, as a condition of their existence, to denude themselves of anything but the most general and vague religious character, makes them incapable of fostering any high moral development. To take the instance cited a few moments since. The community establishes a coffee room, or reading room, or resort of any kind for young men, without the vicious attractions of the fashionable restaurant or saloon. It does a good and laudable thing. Its influence is good as far as it goes, in keeping young men away from worse places. But the moral influence exerted, depends entirely upon these outside appliances. In other words, this institution keeps them from evil so long as they can have recourse to it, but does not implant within them a principle which, in the event of their being deprived of this privilege, would cause them to forego their comfort and recreation, rather than seek them amid debasing associations.

On this point then I am avaricious. I want the church to control all schemes of reform. I want them to originate in the church as their only legitimate source, so that in every effort put forth for the protection, or restoration, or training of youth, the gospel of Christ, the only power which can ever thoroughly regenerate individual or society, may be paramount: so that the effort may be not only a conservative but an aggressive force, winning youth to Christ as well as keeping them away from Satan, creating positive developments of character as well as securing simple safety or harmlessness, narrowing the boundaries of the devil's empire as well as keeping Christ's from infringement. For this reason I am anxious that instead of its being left for secular organizations to inaugurate such movements, the church should enlarge her Christian organizations so as to take in and sanctify every force that is requisite to meet the demands of the various characters with which she has to deal.

And just at this point, I want to call your attention to a thought which bears especially upon our city churches.

It is commonly thought that the city is the fountain head of all vice, and with some reason I admit. Parents have a traditional horror of sending their sons into large cities. They think they are going into the very jaws of death and destruction. They draw a fearful picture of the gayeties and the temptations of city life. They look upon young men reared in cities with suspicion. They are inclined to regard them all as loose in morals, and as taking naturally to sin.

Now I do not believe that, as a rule, young men or any other men are worse in cities than elsewhere. Sin is pretty much the same thing, I apprehend, among grain and trees, as it is on sidewalks. Propensities just as vicious, passions just as furious and debased, exhibitions of vice quite as disgusting, more so, perhaps, because more coarse and pronounced, are to be seen in farming districts and in country villages as in cities. The appliances of vice are quite up to the proportion of the population in the former, both in quantity and in quality. A good deal of injustice is done the city in this respect. It is often said that a young man's ruin commences from the time he leaves his quiet country home and goes to the city. But the fact is that, in many cases, the city only completes what was well begun at home, begun in evenings spent in country grocery stores, and on the piazzas of village taverns.

But there is another aspect of this matter which would perhaps startle those who think that all piety and orthodoxy reside in the rural districts; and that is, that the city, as it is, affords far greater encouragements to well developed piety than the country; and that if the church were fully awake to her duty towards young men, and actually employing all the means afforded her by her wealth, organization and influence to shield, restrain, influence and reform them, the city would be the safest place on earth for a youth. If the city is the stronghold of vice, it is in the church's power to make it the stronghold of virtue. For it is admitted that, in other respects, the city affords superior advantages. Young men leave the country store and come thither if they desire to learn business on a large scale. They are obliged to seek the city for large literary opportunities. The great popular literary attractions seldom move out of the track of the cities. Here the pulse of life beats quicker. Men live faster. Thought is more energetic and prompt. The same is in a measure true of religious life. It develops more activity, more benevolence. It invests religious instruction with more attractions, and throws more life and power into social worship. Go into such a prayer meeting, for instance, as you can find in scores of churches in our large cities, where the large numbers present augment the sympathy of each with the common object, where thoughtful, practical, energetic men pour into the common treasury streams of fresh, living thought, where the singing is an inspiration, and say what you will, a man will be stirred and stimulated as he cannot be in the thin assemblies of too many country churches, where the minister is chiefly depended on to give interest to the meeting, where the singing is faint and slow. I know God is often in the one place as in the other. I know there is true religious life there, and that souls are converted there. But so long as men remain human, their piety will not be insensible to such influences. So too, the influences of the city churches tend more to develop young men. My impression is that in country districts age is a prime qualification for responsibility; young men are kept back, and not expected to bear a prominent part in religious services until later in life. With us, it is part of our creed to educate young men by responsibility. We love to hear them speak or pray, not only because they bring us good and fresh and profitable thoughts, but because we know that these exercises are developing them into strong men for the future leaders of the church. Not only so, but our larger religious machinery, the wider sphere of our activity, furnish places for them to work. We must depend largely upon them to carry on our mission schools, and to carry out other practical schemes of benevolence. Under these influences, I say, they develop faster, and as I think better. As a rule, the young man of a city church is more capable, more efficient, than one of the same age and of equal natural abilities in a rural district.

But then these influences do not reach the class of unconverted youth directly. They have no interest in prayer meetings, little in sermons. This is the plain question before us then:

III. How shall the church deal with the Absaloms: the erring youth or those of no religious bias, the careless and pleasure loving? There is such a class. Are you surprised at my stating a fact which seems self evident? I state it because it seems to have been practically forgotten. Some men frame their schemes of reform on the principle that every one must be appealed to by the same influences which appeal to them. For instance, when it is proposed to furnish, under Christian supervision, certain innocent appliances which may counterbalance the attractions of the saloon, and perhaps lead to the exercise of some more distinctively religious influence, we are flatly told by some that there is no need of recreation. Youth are on the brink of the grave, and should find enjoyment in singing psalms. Others tell us there is recreation enough in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies, and of the beauties of nature, and that these ought to satisfy the soul without its having recourse to lower joys. Now you and I like to sing psalms. They are suggestive to us of many rich and comforting thoughts. Some of you can find sufficient enjoyment in the beauties of nature, not only because God has opened your eyes to see him in all things, but because study and knowledge have prepared your mind to discern and appreciate the wonders of creation. I don't think you particularly loved to sing psalms before Christ touched your heart. And the practical point we have got to meet, and meet as Christians and with Christian methods is, that there is a large class that cannot be appealed to by the beauties of nature and the charms of literature, and the glory of the starry heavens. Have we anything to do with these? Just as indubitably as David's army had to do with the erring Absalom. And we have got to deal gently with them too; not force them upon the procrustean bed of our methods, and give them their choice of these or none. If the church says to these unconverted, careless ones, "If you will not come to our prayer meetings, if you will not listen to our sermons, we have done our duty and cleared our skirts, and you may go on to perdition as fast as you please," I say the church is awfully in error. Her skirts, are in that event, soaked with the blood of ruined youth, and it cries aloud against her from the ground.

What are we to do then? If the church has a duty to this class, has she also means to discharge it? Is it in her power to make the city the best place for irreligious as well as for pious youth? I say, yes. But she will be obliged to enlarge her scheme of work. She must sanctify new forces to this end, if she has to take them out of the devil's hand. She must institute new attractions, under her own control, to draw youth within the sphere of her influence, and to hold them when drawn. She must employ forces with a view merely to restrain from worse influences, until she can bring direct religious influences to bear. Without compromising principle one iota, abstaining from the very appearance of evil, she is nevertheless to press into her service everything that she can separate from low associations, everything that will enhance her own social attractions, everything which will amuse, interest, instruct, to keep these away from the palaces of hell, and to draw them into contact with the influences of the gospel. The wisdom of Christianity is shown in its dealing with men as they are. In reaching them at their own level; and the church will best show her wisdom by not trying to be wiser than her Lord. The mountain will not go to Mahomet, and Mahomet must go to the mountain. We have a variety of characters to deal with, and must use a variety of means. Gather such a band of youth together, and preach to them that they ought to be satisfied with the beauties of nature, or with books, or the like, and you simply drive them the faster from religious influences, and cut every tie between you. Here is one young man who loves books. Let the church give him books. Let him know that he receives this high and pure pleasure from the hand of Christianity. Here is another that loves pictures. Let Christian art adorn the walls, and Christian liberality pay the price. But here is another of a lower grade of culture. Not vicious, not specially inclined to dissipation, but finding little interest in books or pictures. Throw him among these higher influences, of course, for they will insensibly educate him; but if a checker board or a game of dominoes will attract him, and keep him for an evening away from the liquor saloon or the theatre, pray tell me why Christian hands should not furnish him these, and a pleasant, quiet place in which to play his innocent game, where no profanity greets his ears, where no bar presents its seductions. Another loves music; why should not Christian liberality furnish him the gratification of this taste, and Christian hands and voices join with him in swelling the harmony in which his heart delights?

It is, of course, impossible for me to go into details here, but the general principle I think is clear. It seems to me that the only way in which the church can reach any large proportion of these young men, is by the judicious union of attractive and direct influences; by bringing under her own control and using all those appliances which appeal to the social instinct, to the taste, to the intellect, to the necessity for recreation, freeing them from debasing associations, and thereby drawing the unconverted youth within the range of direct religious influences. She must be content to keep them out of the hands of evil for the time, if she cannot fully commit them to piety. But then, let it be clearly understood that these things are to be under the control of religion. That the salvation of the young men is the great end toward which these are only means. The moment our Young Men's Christian Associations, to which we must chiefly look to carry out this plan, let their rooms become mere lounging places; the moment the prayer meeting is dropped; the moment the young men cease to be on the watch for opportunities to speak the word of religious counsel, that moment they are no longer the allies of the church; they will have become no better than clubs. I want to say to the young men of our own association who have so boldly and, thus far, so successfully carried out this theory, you must guard yourselves here. The Troy Association has drawn the eyes of the church throughout a large part of the country upon itself by its course in this matter. It is thought by many a bold experiment. By many it is openly denounced. Many predict that the result will be the ruin instead of the salvation of young men. If you would silence and convert your opponents, if you would convert the wavering into enthusiastic supporters of your policy, guard well the religious side of your work. Infuse the gospel spirit into everything. Strictly enforce the rules which Christian prudence lays down for the use of means and attractions not distinctively religious. Let the word Christian be in the largest letters on your sign. Remember your great object, the duty thrown upon you by the nature of the case, thrown upon you by similarity of age, by congeniality of taste and pursuits, thrown upon you by the church, thrown upon you by Christ; the church's head, is the salvation, not the entertainment of the young men. You use these appliances to entertain, only that thereby you may bring other forces to bear, which may make them Christians, add their power to the various churches of the community, and unite them with you in the work of saving others. The moment you forget this, Ichabod will be written upon your banners, and the cause of Christ receive a blow which all the good you have heretofore accomplished can scarcely heal.

The practical working of this theory is the best answer to its opponents. We have this answer among us to-day, and I am thankful from my inmost heart that the Young Men's Christian Association is to-day, what it was not two years ago, among the great religious forces of our city. Those who have opposed its later proceedings have some stubborn facts to get round. These facts demonstrate this: that since the Young Men's Christian Association inaugurated the policy of attracting youth to its head-quarters, its distinctively religious force has increased ten-fold. As one evidence of this, the city missionary says, "since we entered upon our present plan, a larger number of young men than ever before have been brought to sympathize with me and my work, are ready to sit up with the sick, to visit the needy, to labor for the spiritual good of their fellows. Our rooms have resulted in increasing the effective force of spiritual co-laborers with me, more than ten-fold." Last month, the daily prayer meeting from twelve to one, was attended by an average of twenty-two daily, mostly young persons, and generally conducted by young men converted under the agency of the association. Some of you remember the old noonday prayer meeting, and to such I need say nothing as to the contrast. The call for this noonday meeting was signed by about fifty young men. The call itself was drawn and circulated by a young man who, six months ago, came to our city penniless, was made to feel at home in our rooms, was furnished with employment by the agencies of the association, came to the weekly prayer meeting, was converted, and is now counted among our most earnest Christian workers. Young men are being converted through this agency. I give you one instance out of a number. A young man visited the rooms on Thursday night, and was invited with others down to the young men's prayer meeting. He went, and was deeply interested, and immediately after the meeting returned to the parlor, and was seen earnestly studying a Bible at one of the reading tables. At the hour of closing, some of the Christian young men accompanied him home, and urged upon him the subject of personal religion. They followed him up for two or three days, until he gave his heart to God; and he has since been an active co-laborer with the young men in the work of the association.

One more incident. A young man came to one of the members of this church sometime since, saying, "I came to the city two years ago. I was a member of a church at home; but here, no man seemed to care for my soul. I have neglected my duty, have sought for no church home; but I was attracted to your rooms. I went to the association prayer meeting. My heart was stirred, and I became ashamed of my neglect and inconsistency; and now I want to know when your next communion season is, that I may give my letter to your pastor."

I could give you others, but these speak volumes for the value of this policy; and, from the bottom of my heart this morning, I say God bless the Young Men's Christian Association, and pledge them my poor efforts and influence, and prayers to help forward the work so nobly begun.

I know not where to stop. My heart is so full that it seems as if I could spend the day on this theme. But I must stop, and, in conclusion I say, first to the church, accept frankly the responsibility which God throws on you in the persons of these young men. You are the appointed agency, the proper agency, and the only agency to save and restrain and protect them. You cannot shirk it, especially as city churches. Into these centres of trade and education God pours the young men, and he asks you and me this morning if we are ready for them; if, while business and education are multiplying their facilities, the gospel of Christ, represented by the churches, is multiplying its facilities to make the city the best place for the education of young men in virtue. He asks these churches if there is nothing significant, no message to her in the concentration of the mass of our young men and the mass of Christian culture, organized power, and wealth, at one point? Have these things no relation to each other? Yes, brethren, they have. There is no evading it. The finger of Providence points unswervingly to these city churches as the great sources of Christian influence upon young men. Let us not fail to hear these voices. The ten thousand appliances of vice, confronting the church with brazen defiance, or with devilish ingenuity and secresy sapping the foundations of manly honor and integrity, call to us, deal gently with the young man. Fathers and mothers, the yearnings of whose hearts you read full easily in your love for your own sons, whose happiness, whose very lives are bound up in the honor and prosperity of these sons and brothers, call to us from their distant homes in quiet villages, and on the open farm lands, call to us with agonizing earnestness -- deal gently for our sakes with the young man. Our community, our country, calls to us. Oh, when I look upon society and see what characters ride rampant there, when I look at government and see the awful corruption festering there, when I see how men in power, from the chief magistrate of the nation down to the humblest postmaster, will sell their souls for party, and betray their country to its enemies through lust of power, or something else, God knows what; when I see drunkenness holding high carnival in the nation's capitol, reeling in the seat of the President, and retailing its maudlin declamation before a sickened country from Washington to Chicago, I can only turn to God and the future. Our only hope is in the work of the Christian church through all its agencies, social, ecclesiastical and educational, moulding out of the glorious material so abundantly at its disposal, a band of men who shall convert the seats of power into seats of righteousness, and make government and purity synonymous terms. The young men themselves appeal to us. This mass of intelligence, clear wit, energy, tact, education; these noble brows on which God has set the seal of power; these frank, manly, generous natures, these enthusiastic impulses, all speak to us, saying, deal gently with us, and teach us by the power of Christian love how to use our power; they speak to us, and warn us against letting so much power and energy and culture be turned against us, or left to hang as a drag on our wheels. And Christ speaks to the church, Christ who loves these young men, Christ who died for these young men; Christ who from his seat of glory at the Father's right hand, yearns over these young men, Christ is calling to his church to-day, to you, to me, to all the pastors and congregations of this city, "take care of them, take care of them, deal gently for MY sake with the young men."

Christian young men, you have heard the call, and in some sort are obeying it. In proportion as you have not feared to use the range of gospel agencies, in proportion as your love has been kindled for the souls of these youths, and your hands and tongues have been devoted to this end, God has blessed you. Go on as you have begun. Go on, not defiantly, but firmly, boldly, prudently. Dare to be singular, if it will compass your end. Take the word of God as your highest authority. Use no means that is not sanctioned by it. Use none of doubtful expediency, but enlarge the range of your agencies. Wrest from the devil attractions which belong to you rather than to him. Leaven them. Separate them from the debasing associations with which sin has identified them, and in the name of Christ your Master, set up your banners, rally your forces and join the churches in their work of salvation.

And you, unconverted young men, one word to you. For your own souls' sake, for the sake of your best interests, for the sake of the parents who love and hope in you, for the sake of your country, for Christ's sake, deal gently with yourselves. Remember, the only true manhood is Christian manhood. No restraints which the church can throw round you will ensure your safety against temptation; no strength of resolution on your part will keep you pure, if you be not the children of Christ. Come to Jesus. Come this very morning. Come and learn of him. He will deal very gently with you. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. The life he gives you is full of the highest impulses and of the purest enjoyments -- a living spring of water -- and the eternal rewards he promises are such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.

the true nonconformist
Top of Page
Top of Page