Good habits are of the greatest importance. If they are cultivated by the young, they become fixed and permanent. Evil habits, unless they are corrected, will increase in number and strength. The young should beware of the first evil habit. A boy does not become a bad boy all at once: he gives way to one bad habit, and then to another. One small sin prepares the way for another and a greater one. Dr. Clarke says, “Sin is a small matter in its commencement; but by indulgence it grows great, and multiplies itself beyond all calculation.” The old rabbins used to say it was like a spider’s web at first, and that it increased till it was like a cart-rope. This is seen in the case of Charles Duran. His expulsion from school did not improve him: he grew up in the indulgence of his bad temper, and, instead of being a lovely, industrious boy, fond of his studies, and attentive to his various duties, he was idle, lazy, and vicious. When he ought to have been in school, he was fishing, and idling away his time along the margins of the brooks and rivers. He soon learned to use a gun, and much of his time was spent in the woods, hunting birds, squirrels, and rabbits. Idle habits are very dangerous. A boy or man that is habitually idle cannot be good,—mark that. The devil will always find mischief for such persons, and he will be very sure to get them into it.
[Illustration: Charles hunting.]
Charles had, what many boys desire, a gun, and was very fond of shooting. Besides shooting squirrels and birds, he would shoot at marks on his father’s out-buildings and fences. There was not a door, not a board, not a post, and scarcely a rail, in all the out-buildings and fences, that was not full of shot-holes. This kind of shooting was a dangerous practice. I wondered, when I examined the premises, that the barn and sheds had not taken fire from the burning wads. It was dangerous also to the poultry and cattle. But he thought nothing of these things; from day to day it was shoot! shoot! shoot!
Pursuing this course, it is not strange that Charles should grow up rough in his manners, and coarse in his language. Gentleness is lovely always, wherever found; but it appears most lovely in children and youth. It indicates a good heart, and good training. It helps young persons into the best society, and secures them warm and valuable friends. Roughness of manner drives our friends from us, and prevents many from becoming friends. This fact is illustrated in the history of this spoiled boy. He might have had a large circle of friends, but now few, very few indeed, loved or esteemed him.
One vice does not long remain alone. Idleness begets vice. Viciousness shows itself in various forms: in lying, Sabbath-breaking, theft, swearing, and intemperance. Charles grew worse and worse,—adding sin to sin. He became greatly addicted to swearing. He frequently spent the Sabbath in wandering about the fields, instead of attending church. He found, as the depraved always do, kindred spirits, with whom he associated. With these he learned to drink to excess, and was not unfrequently under the influence of strong drink.