Every stage of life presents its own peculiar set of challenges and it would appear that the youthful stage is the most crucial as it a molding stage where certain key decisions are made that often carry lifelong consequences. Given how society takes for granted that young men must ‘sow their wild oats’ and how it is generally expected–and in our days becoming increasingly accepted–of young men to be irreligious and rebellious does not help much in shaping the character of the young generation who are going to be the future leaders.
This is why I was excited when a kindly brother handed me a copy of J. C. Ryle’s Thoughts For Young Men which I enjoyed avidly! In this small book, Ryle does a masterful job in diagnosing the general dangers that often beset young men, observing that “youth is a time when our passions are strongest and cry loudest for indulgence” and as such, it is not uncommon to find that young men are usually high minded, head-strong, and impatient to counsel.
Though many may not bother to correct this behavior as it’s generally accepted as typical of young men, the author thinks otherwise and goes on to highlight some of the notable dangers that will likely befall young men who persist in having their own way with everything. Chief among these is pride. Usually fueled by ignorance and naiveté of young age.
The author notes that young men tend to be “full of conceit of their own wisdom and often regard the elderly and especially their relatives to be stupid, dull and slow. They imagine they need no teaching or instruction because they understand everything. They must be independent and have their own way.”
This he pointed is the main ingredient in the recipe for disaster and as such young men need admonishing as it is highly probable that what young men will be in the future depends on what they are now!
The author then goes on to proffer some general counsel on how to overcome these youthful tendencies and sets down some rules of conduct which he believes when adhered to will be to the eventual benefit of young men as it will save them from a lot of future sorrows. He suggests getting a “clear view of the evil of sin”, “seek to become acquainted with our Lord Jesus Christ”, never forgetting the importance of one’s soul among other similar advice!
Ryle ends the book with some rules of conduct befitting young men.
The book has several strengths which makes it outstanding on several levels. Firstly, the book makes for easy reading as it avoids technical language and uses very practical daily experiences associated with growing up thus making it easy to identify with author’s train of thought.
Secondly, it is deeply steeped in sound biblical advice! The author consistently draws attention away from self—which is the genesis of the malady of young men–to Christ, our only hope of a life well lived!
Thirdly, the book is personal. One does not get the impression of being talked at by a know-it-all snob old man, but rather, the author is very relatable as he makes it abundantly clear that he has had his own share of bad choices which he does not wish to see replicated in the younger generation.
Finally, I found it amazing that the book, though dated, the author gives timely advice relevant for now! If we are to make the most of our time here on earth, we must heed advice from the aged and experienced and better still, from those that have left a godly legacy!
I highly recommend Thought For Young Men to all my brothers in the faith!