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captains of ships belonging to his employers. Sailors are a hospitable class of men, and both on board their ships and on shore he was often pressed to partake of intoxicating /Irink, but he always resolutely refused. It was matter of surprise to those above him that he returned so speedily from the messages on which he was sent; but that was one great reason of his special promptitude.
"Will you come and spend to-morrow evening with me at my lodgings?" said Charlton to him one afternoon. "It will be my birthday. I expect Eogers and two or three more."
George hesitated a little. He was disengaged on the evening proposed, so that he could not plead that he was not at liberty. As yet, too, he had seen nothing about Charlton and his friends that was positively bad; and they were .very pleasant. He felt, too, that it was kind in Charlton to invite them, especially as he was some years his senior. So, though scarcely satisfied that they were the class of young men with whom he should associate, he thanked Charlton for his invitation and accepted it.
His mother looked somewhat grave when he told her what he had done, but she scarcely deemed it wise to advise him to retract his acceptance. It might seem, she thought, uncourteous and distrustful; and, besides, he would have to learn to think and act for himself.
The party met at seven o'clock for tea; and very soon after tea was over, cigars, wine, and spirits were put on the table.
"What will you take?" asked Charlton.
"Nothing, thank you."
"Nothing! Oh, come, that will never do. It is not social. If you don't care for spirits, you will find this wine very good."
"I am much obliged to you," said George, "but I never take either wine or spirits, or anything of the kind."
"You're surely not a teetotaller?"
"Yes, I am."
The whole party looked at him with something like contemptuous pity.
"Take a cigar, then," said Charlton.
"Thank you, but I can't smoke."
"Everybody smokes now," said one of the party; "you had better learn as soon as you can."
But he declined, very quietly and firmly,""and no one
?ssed him further.
The young men talked for a while on general subjects, but they gradually glided into others, in which George took no interest. The races were approaching, and they were all looking forward to them with high expectation. Every one of the party had betted more or less heavily, and their respective favourites were discussed. There was a dramatic company in the town at the time, and the conversation turned on the merits of the actors and actresses, and on the pieces which were in course of representation. As the evening proceeded, and the drink began to exert its power, some of the party threw out hints of even more doubtful pleasures; the mention of which, however, was promptly frowned down by the rest, for George's presence acted in some degree as a restraint upon them. At length cards were produced, stakes were laid down, and some of them began to play.
George wished himself anywhere rather than in such company, and he resolved to retire as soon as possible. It was his habit to reach home in the evening at ten o'clock, or a few minutes later. He had told his mother that he might perhaps take an hour longer, but he determined that as soon as it struck ten he would take his leave, although he felt that it would require no small effort to do so. Accordingly, as soon as a neighbouring church clock had given the hour, he rose, and begged Charlton to excuse him.
Loud protestations rose from every side. The evening, they said, had only just begun, and surely, for once, he might take another hour. He stood firm, however, in his refusal to resume his seat, and left the party.
"We have not broken the leading-strings yet," said one of the number to Charlton, when he returned from seeing Rutherford to the door.
"Not yet," replied Charlton, "and I doubt whether we ever shall. However, we shall see."
"My idea is," said another, "that it is not the leadingstrings that keep him, he has notions of his own."
The young man had rightly read George Rutherford's character. Thanks to his careful training, thanks to the wise counsels of his friends, but thanks most of all to the grace of God, there were established in his heart principles so strong that all the temptations by which he was assailed proved powerless to lead him astray.
It was with a sense of indescribable relief that he stepped out into the street from Charlton's lodgings. He thought he had never felt the cool air blow so refreshingly as he did that night after breathing the close atmosphere of a not very large room, polluted by the smoke of seven or eight cigars, mingled with the fumes of hot spirits.
"It is the first time," said he to himself, as he walked quietly homeward, "that I have ever been in such a company as that, and I will take good care it shall be the last. It shall be a lesson to me for all my life to go into no company that I can avoid, respecting which I have reason to suspect that it "is not the right company for me."
He was confirmed in his resolve by what he saw the following morning of those who had composed the party; for their pallid countenances and bleared eyes told plainly enough that they had sat late, and that they had indulged to excess.
The races came on in due course, and the office was closed on two afternoons for holiday. The young men whom George had met at Charlton's all went, and some of them asked him to accompany them; but they were received with a negative so firm and decided, though still expressed most courteously, that they saw it was altogether hopeless to induce him to go. Of course his refusal was not suffered to pass without a few passing sneers, most of which he left unnoticed. Once, indeed, when it was said to him that he was a poor, spiritless fellow, tied to his mother's apron-string, he replied, that he had so much respect and love for his mother, that even if he saw no harm in going, for her sake he would keep away, if she disapproved of it. But he added, that he had quite as strong an opinion on the subject as his mother had. He then gave some reasons, which, though they did not convince the persons to whom he spoke, were such as they could not well answer. He was equally resolute in his refusal to accompany them on their Sunday excursions, and very soon he was left to take his own way.
George Eutherford saw afterwards great occasion for thankfulness that he had been enabled to take so decided a stand at his first entrance on business. Shortly after the events we have narrated, Charles Elwood, a youth who, like himself, had been carefully and religiously trained, entered the office. He had attended the same ministry as Eutherford; they had sat together in the same class in the Sunday-school; they were both members of Mr. Croft's Bible-class; and their parents were intimate friends. Hearing that Elwood was about to go to business, Mr. Croft had spoken to him in a similar strain to that in which he had spoken to George, and Elwood's father had asked him to show his son what attention and kindness were in his power. As was natural, the two associated together a good deal at first, but by and by Elwood was gradually drawn aside. He lacked Eutherford's firm decision, and he was, besides, keenly sensitive to ridicule. He was flattered by the notice taken of him by his fellow clerks; there was a certain smartness about them which attracted him; and he was dazzled, too, by the pictures they drew of the pleasures to which they were addicted. Step by step he was led astray. First, Eutherford noticed with regret that one of the young men, of whose character he could not entertain a high opinion, was gradually gaining an ascendancy over him; then the minister's Bible-class was first attended irregularly, and then altogether forsaken; and in the same way his own class in the Sunday-school was given up. His friend ventured to remonstrate; and at first his remonstrances were received kindly, although, at the same time, Elwood maintained that there was neither wrong nor danger in what he was doing, and that it was altogether needless to be so straitlaced and puritanical. Ere long, however, he listened impatiently, and at last he gave his anxious counsellor to understand that he would not be interfered with. The petulant irritation with which he ppoke told his friend too plainly that his conscience was ill at ease. Seeing that it was altogether useless, Eutherford ceased to remonstrate; and, sad to say, Elwood drifted completely away from all religious associations, and became as wild and reckless as any of his new companions.
Time rolled on, till Elwood was just turned two-andtwenty. He and Eutherford were still in the same office, although, whilst the latter had gained the full confidence of his employers, and had risen to a position of trust, the question had been more than once debated by the partners, whether Elwood should be retained or dismissed. At length, returning home early one bitter winter's morning from a boisterous merry-making, he caught a severe cold, which settled on his chest. His constitution had been undermined, or most probably, after a short time, he would have thrown it off easily. Symptoms of consumption supervened; and after many alternations of hope and discouragement, it became evident that there was no prospect of recovery. He was visited at first by his former companions, but through God's great mercy he had been led to see the vanity and sinfulness of his life, and to desire forgiveness. As will be readily believed, he received their visits with little pleasure, and they found just as little pleasure in going to see him; but scarcely an evening passed in which Eutherford did not visit him, and he was always gladly welcomed. His clear expositions of the truth, and his encouraging assurances of Christ's mercy, were of great service to the dying young man; and at last, after many struggles, he was enabled to cast himself wholly on the Eedeemer's power and love, and he died in peace.
"Ah, George!" he said, one evening towards the end, "if I had only taken your advice, I should very likely not have been as I am. But all the while I turned away from you so unkindly, I felt in my heart that you were right. I am sure, however, you have long since forgiven me, and I hope God has too. But it is wonderful that he should pardon such a sinner."
"Thank God," 6aid his friend, "it is not less true than it is wonderful. The Lord's own words are, you know, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'"
"Will you tell them," he said, mentioning the names of some with whom he had been associated in the days of his wandering from God, "that I should like to see them once more before I die?"
Several of the persons thus sent for went to take their last farewell. With deep seriousness and solemnity he spoke to them of his own course of life and theirs; told them how deeply he regretted the manner in which he had lived; and entreated them to seek the Saviour, in whom he had found forgiveness. They could not but be powerfully affected by his appeals, and as they followed him to the grave, they looked very sad and thoughtful. Whether the impression was a permanent one remains to be seen.
A CONTRAST. M— is a man of more than seventy years. He has been industrious and active, and has a competence of worldly wealth. He has always lived where he could attend the house of God upon the Lord's day, and he has been frequently seen there, apparently a respectful worshipper.