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LETTER VII.

CHOICE OF COMPANIONS.

MY DEAR -

I must now take a somewhat wider range of view; and entreat you to learn wisdom from myself, and others who have gone before you, concerning the important subject of the Choice of Companions. Society we all must have; and it is most natural for us to choose our friends from the circle in which we our selves move—that is, among persons of about the same age, circumstances, and pursuits with ourselves. But how to do this wisely, is a matter that will require many suggestions and cautions.

1. The first general thought I would suggest, is this—Aim to be worthy of a friend worth having. I might even word it thus-Earn your friend. Do not selfishly seek merely one who shall please you; but, by active, obliging, friendly offices, show yourself ready to give, to the full, as much as you take. Selfishness soon betrays itself in boyish friendships; and on this account they are often very short-lived. Being

usually made up of hasty promises and high expectations on both sides, they soon end in disappointments. Young persons who have tasted a little of this sort of experience (and most have) should bethink themselves of something more generous and disinterested. The inexperienced may, indeed, still meet with some disappointments, from their inability to fathom the motives of others as young as themselves. But do not grudge bountifulness in the acts and sacrifices of friendship. Abound in genuine friendliness ; “ Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.” View kindness as a debt, “ still paying, still to pay."

2. Next, let me hint, Be not in too great haste to seek friends. They will be brought to you by Providence, if you are really friendly: and the best friendships are those which come in a natural way. But eager spirits overdo the thing at first, and then undo it in a short time. Valuable friendships are too serious a thing to be concerted at once: they grow by degrees.

3. At the same time, take this caution with regard to friendships, even those that are most sincerely formed — Let you and your friend not expect too much from each other. Intimacies, as they expand, give scope for our infirmities, as well as our best affections, to play. Those who have most to do with one another-who converse, discuss, study, walk, and unbend their minds in one another's company—will oftenest discover in what they differ. Beware that such differences do not occasion disagreements. Opinions will clash; tastes may be not quite alike; plans may be opposite; in the choice of fresh companions, we may not always suit the inclinations of former friends. Thus there will be much room for remembering the good old rule,“ Bear, and forbear.” We must not be so absolute in our own opinions, as to require our acquaintances to be entirely of our own way of thinking: nor must we be so foolish as to expect it of them.

4. I trust that I need not guard you against making friends with an Idler. You might as well make friends with a pick-pocket. Both steal, unawares to the person robbed : only, the one pilfers a little money from your purse; the other steals away your invaluable time, spirits, and credit. Among the young there are, alas ! too many very busy in helping one another to do nothing. Parties of pleasure are generally made up for this purpose. Further, when matters come to such a pitch, as that Clubs are formed for amusement of various kinds, such combinations have this evil about them, that they inveigle young persons by a false spirit of honour: “You must go with your party-at whatever hour-at whatever sacrifice-to whatever length.” On this topic you had the opportunity of knowing my mind fully, some weeks since, when we made a College visit together. I would abridge no reasonable, healthful, moderate pleasure: but when an insinuating friend invites to systematic and extended diversions, it is high time to stand off.

5. By all means avoid the company of those who are rude and loose, and inclined to immorality in their language or conduct. With regard to such persons, religious principle is the grand preservative: it makes even the young, bold. “Have no fellowship with them "_"ra. ther reprove them”—are precepts most binding on the conscience. The maxim, too, “ Evil communications corrupt good manners,” is one which carries conviction with it, the instant it is quoted. Should a former acquaintance, one formerly considered a good-hearted playmate, be tempted to follow evil courses, he will (unhappily for himself) shun his more steady early acquaintances: or if he do not shun them, they must, with much concern, shun him; unless, perhaps, some one of them has wisdom and influence sufficient, occasionally, to expostulate with him, or to reprove him with a silent look. If any thing is said, in your hearing, of a profane or indelicate nature, frown upon it; if possible, instantly withdraw from such infectious company. Wit can make no amends for the mischief produced by this kind of language. Especially shun those who can coin a jest out of Scripture; or freely, and unfeelingly, ridicule pious persons.

6. One class of friends I would caution you about: those, namely, who pass away their time in desultory religious conversation. There is, you know, in most situations, such a thing as gossip: there is political, and literary, and neighbourly gossip; perhaps, the last-named ought to have been called, unneighbourly, for

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