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

by Harvey Newcomb, 1847


"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." Philippians 4:12

The true secret of happiness is to be contented. "But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6 These two are great gain, because, without them, all the good things in the world will not make us happy. Young people are apt to think, if they had this thing or that, or if they were in such and such circumstances, different from their own—they would be happy. Sometimes they think, if their parents were only rich, they would enjoy themselves. But rich people are often more anxious to increase their riches than poor people are to be rich; and the more their artificial desires are gratified, the more they are increased. "Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content." Ecclesiastes 1:8

Solomon was a great king, so rich that he was able to get whatever his heart desired. He built great palaces for himself; he filled them with servants; he treasured up gold and silver; he bought gardens, and vineyards, and fields; he bought herds of cattle, with horses and carriages; he kept male and female singers, and players on all sorts of instruments; whatever his eyes desired he kept not from them; he withheld not his heart from any joy; but with it all he was not satisfied. He called it all "vanity and vexation of spirit." So you may set your heart at rest—that riches will not make you happy. Nor would you be any more happy, if you could exchange places with some other people, who seem to you to have many more means of enjoyment than yourself. With these things that dazzle your eyes, they have also their trials; and if you take their place, you must take the bitter with the sweet.

But young people sometimes think, if they were only adults, and could manage for themselves, and have none to control them, then they would certainly be happy, for they could do as they please. But in this they are greatly mistaken. There will then be a great increase of care and labor; and they will find it more difficult to do as they please than they do now. If they have none to control them, they will have none to provide for them. True, they may then manage for themselves; but they will also have to support themselves. Those who have lived the longest, generally consider youth the happiest period of life, because it is comparatively free from trouble and care, and there is more time for pleasure and amusement.

But there is one lesson, which, if you will learn it in youth, will make you happy all your days. It is the lesson which Paul had learned. You know that he suffered great hardships in traveling on foot, in various countries, to preach the gospel. He was often persecuted, reviled, defamed, beaten, and imprisoned. Yet he says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." There are several things which should teach us this lesson.

In the first place, God, in his holy providence, has placed us in the condition where we are. He knows what is best for us, and what will best serve the end for which he made us; and of all other situations, he has chosen for us the one that we now occupy. Who could choose so well as he?

And then, what can we gain by fretting about it, and worrying ourselves for what we cannot help? We only make ourselves unhappy.

Moreover, it is very ungrateful and wicked to complain of our lot, since God has given us more and better than we deserve. It is better to look around us, and see how many things we have to be thankful for; to look upon what we have, rather than what we have not. This does not, indeed, forbid our seeking to improve our condition, provided we do it with submission to the will of God. We ought to use all fair and lawful means to this end; but not in such a spirit of discontent and repining, as will make us miserable if we are disappointed. If you desire to be happy, then, BE CONTENTED.