[Morality] “The Choice of Companions” (reprinted from the Sunday School Journal ; from Youth’s Companion, October 12, 1831; p. 83)
A friend has kindly suggested to us the high importance of this subject in the education of children, especially their religious education. “The character of youth,” he says, “is very much formed, or at least materially modified, by the opinions and practices of those whom they select as familiar companions. Nothing, therefore, is more important, in order to training them [sic] in the way they should go, than that they receive wholesome advice on this subject.” Our friend then proposes the following extract, the appropriateness of which is very obvious:
“1. Be not over anxious about society. Do not take up the opinion that all happiness centres in a friend. Many of you are blest with a happy home, and an agreeable circle around your own fire-side.* Here seek your companions in your parents, your brothers and sisters.
“2. Determine to have no companions rather than an improper one. The one case is but a privation of what is pleasant, the other is the possession of a positive evil.
“3. Maintain a dignified but not proud reserve. Do not be too frank and ingenuous. Be cautious of too hastily attaching yourselves as friends to others, or them to you. Be polite and kind to all, but communicative and familiar with few. Keep your hearts in reserve, till your judgment has most carefully examined the character of those who wish to be admitted to the circle of your acquaintance. Neither run nor jump into friendships, but walk towards them slowly and cautiously.
“4. Always consult your parents about your companions, and be guided by their opinions. They have your interests at heart, and see further than you can.
“5. Cultivate a taste for reading and mental improvement. This will render you independent of living society. Books will always furnish you with intelligent, useful and elegant friends. No one can be dull who has access to the works of illustrious authors, and has a taste for reading. And after all, there are comparatively few whose society will so richly reward us as this silent converse with the mighty dead.
“6. Choose none for your intimate companions but those who are decidedly pious, or persons of high moral worth. A scrupulous regard to all the duties of morality; a high reverence for the Scriptures; a belief in their essential doctrines; a constant attendance on the means of grace, are the lowest qualifications which you should require in the character of an intimate friend.”
* Let me here address a word to parents. As you would not drive your children to seek improper companions abroad, seek to make them contented and happy at home. Render their own houses pleasant to them, and they will rarely feel a desire to seek happiness in the houses of others. Be you there companions and friends, and they will not be anxious to seek foreign ones. As far as circumstances will admit, be much at home yourselves, and that will keep your children there. Spend what evenings you can in the bosom of your family. Point out to your children what books to peruse. Read with them and to them. Converse with them in a free and engaging manner. Do not be household tyrants; driving your children from your presence by severity, petulance, and ill humour: but conduct yourselves with that affection and affability which shall render your return welcome to your family, and draw your children in a little crowd of smiling faces round you the moment you enter the room.