The Young Man's Guide to the Harmonious
Development of Christian Character

by Harvey Newcomb, 1847


There are some boys, who carelessly go anywhere that they can find amusement, without regard to the character of their company. They not only associate indiscriminately in general society, where they are obliged to go, as at school; but they seek the company of bad boys, or permit themselves to be enticed into it, because it affords them some momentary enjoyment.

A bad boy is one who has a bad disposition, which has never been subdued; or one of corrupt principles and bad habits. A boy with a bad disposition will be rough, quarrelsome, malicious in his temper, fond of mischief, and rude and unmannerly in his general behavior. A boy of corrupt principles is one who will not scruple to break the commands of God, when they stand in the way of his own gratification. He acts from the mere selfish desire of present enjoyment. A boy of bad habits is one who is in the habit of disobeying his parents, using bad language, lying, stealing, gaming, drinking, or doing wanton mischief. Any of these habits shows a character thoroughly corrupt.

If you go into the company of people that are sick with the measles, hooping-cough, smallpox, or any contagious disorder, in a short time you will be taken with the same disease. The very atmosphere of the room where they stay is full of contagion, and you will draw it in with your breath. So, likewise, moral diseases are contagious. There is an atmosphere of moral contagion and death surrounding people of wicked habits. "Evil company corrupt good manners." The sight of evil deeds, or the hearing of bad language, hardens the heart, and diminishes the abhorrence of sin, which is felt by those to whom vice is not familiar. If you consent to go into bad company, you will soon find yourself falling into their habits. And if you keep company with bad boys, you will soon have the reputation of being a bad boy yourself.

Bad company will lead you into practices that will end in your ruin and disgrace. If you could read the history of those who have been sent to prison or otherwise punished for their crimes, you would be surprised to find how many of them were led, insensibly, into the evil courses which ended in their ruin, by frequenting bad company. I will give you a single example, which is only one among thousands that might be set before you, to show the dangerous influence of evil companions. There was a boy in Stockport, (England,) who went to the Sabbath school, and was esteemed a very good boy; so that he was appointed a teacher of one of the classes. But about this time his father died; and his mother, being poor, was obliged to send him to work in the factory. There he met with bad boys, who were addicted to evil practices. They gradually led him into their own evil courses, until, at length, he lost all the good impressions he had received in the Sabbath school. He began to drink, and drinking led him to committing petty thefts. He became so dissolute that his mother could do nothing with him. He was turned out of his employment, and obliged to enlist as a soldier. He was sent into Spain. There he indulged his evil courses, and supplied himself with the means of gratifying his evil desires, by plundering the inhabitants. At the close of the war, he returned home. Soon after landing, he and his evil companions began to break into people's houses and commit robberies. He was detected, tried, and condemned to death, at the age of twenty-one.

Let me especially caution you against indulging a mischievous disposition, or joining with others in any schemes of mischief. I know of nothing more likely to get you into serious difficulty, or to lead you into wicked habits and dissolute practices. A few years ago, a young man was hung, in one of our seaport towns, for piracy. He was one of the bad boys of whom I have been speaking. He had a bad disposition, which had never been subdued. At home, he was turbulent and unsubmissive; abroad, he was a ringleader in mischief; at school, he was disobedient to his teacher, and set himself to work to organize the boys to resist the authority of their teachers. At length, he went to sea; and there he carried out the same disposition. He headed the sailors against the authority of the captain. After he had been some time at sea, he persuaded the rest of the crew to set the captain and mate of the vessel upon the ocean in an open boat. They then took possession of the vessel, and turned pirates, robbing every vessel they could find. They were captured; and this young man was brought home, tried and condemned, and hung for his crime. This was the result of a turbulent and ungovernable boy giving up himself to be a ringleader in mischief.

Boys who go from the country to the city are very apt to be drawn into bad company. Cities abound with boys who are old in mischief and crime. They take great delight in leading astray the simple-hearted; and if boys from the country come within the reach of their influence, they are almost sure to be ruined. The great number of boys found in the houses of correction and reformation, and in the city prisons, are so many beacons to warn the unwary of the danger of shipwreck on the rocks and shoals of evil company.

In conclusion, let me commend to you the wholesome warning and advice of Solomon: "My son, if sinners entice you, consent not." "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall."