The Way of Safety by Unknown

Dear grandma is one of those who "being dead yet speaketh."

She was not a preacher, or a lecturer—much less a censurer or reprover; but she was that most agreeable of teachers to childhood and youth, a story-teller. Yet, let no one suppose that she told us tales of fairy lore or ingenious romance, as pernicious as they are false. Not so; the stories to which we listened with so much delight, were all true, and all from the capacious store-house of her own memory.

We had returned from the church one Sabbath afternoon, and as usual, hastened to grandma to repeat as much as we could remember of the sermon. The text was that solemn command of the wise man: "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not;" and our pastor had made it the ground-work of a powerful exhortation to the young especially, to beware of the many temptations, snares, and allurements which they should meet; and warned them of the consequences of yielding to the seductive influences by which they might be surrounded.

"That reminds me of a young man whom I knew before any of you were born," grandma remarked, when we had reported as much as we could remember of the sermon. "You have heard me speak of Jacob Wise?" she said, addressing my father.

"Yes, mother," he replied, "please tell the children about him. I am sure your account of his experience will be a very suitable addition to our afternoon sermon."

"O yes, grandma, please do!" we exclaimed; and, drawing our seats around her, we prepared for what we knew would be a treat. The good old lady did not need to be urged, but, after pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, began as follows:—

"Jacob Wise was the son of a near neighbor when I was a happy wife in my Western home. His father was a plain, practical man, respected for his uprightness, good sense, and piety; and he brought up his son in his own sound principles, at the same time giving him all the education that was within his reach.

"When Jacob was about fourteen years of age, he was sent to Louisville for the benefit of a year's instruction in a large school there.

"There were, also, other sons and daughters around his father's hearth. It therefore appeared expedient that Jacob should be allowed to develop his taste for commercial pursuits.

"The first circumstances of any note, that I remember, which particularly marked his character, occurred at the time of his first practical acquaintance with business.

"While in Louisville, he received much attention from the family of a wealthy man who kept a large store in the city; and when, at the close of his school term, he was offered a place behind the counter of his friend, he found no difficulty in obtaining his father's permission to accept of it.

"The merchant, Mr. Rankin, was a smooth, bland, good-tempered man, and in his intercourse with the world maintained outwardly a fair and honest character.

"But Jacob had not been many weeks in intimate connection with him before he discovered that his dealings were not all conducted with scrupulous adherence to divine law; neither was a conscientious regard to his neighbor's interests a very deep-seated principle. This caused the lad much uneasiness; and a feeling of nervous disquiet took possession of the hitherto happy boy.

"He hesitated as to which was the more honorable course: to obey his employer without question, or to sacrifice his own ideas of strict integrity.

"But he was not long left in doubt. One day a carriage drove to the door, and a richly dressed lady entered the store, and asked to be shown some children's necklaces. Jacob, who attended in that department, was proceeding to wait on her, when Mr. Rankin came forward smiling, and with the ease and courtesy for which he was noted, took the lad's place, and spread before the lady an assortment of glittering trinkets which, judging from her gay appearance, he knew would please her eye.

[Illustration: "<i>To all this Jacob listened with grief and astonishment</i>."]

"An animated dialogue ensued between the merchant and his customer, respecting the style and value of the various articles under view. The lady was made to believe that this elegant display had been imported with great cost and difficulty from the manufacturing cities of Europe, and, in consequence of the immense and rapid demand for them, the obliging trader had been satisfied with moderate profit, and was now willing to dispose of the remainder of the stock at fabulously low prices.

[Illustration: "<i>Thought it quite impossible that they could agree</i>."]

"To all this, which he knew to be utterly and shamelessly false, Jacob listened with equal grief and astonishment, and it was with difficulty that he restrained his honest indignation as he saw one after another of the tinsel gewgaws transferred to the shopping bag of the deceived customer at prices which were five times their value, while she was duped with the flattering persuasion that she was receiving unequaled bargains.

"All doubts as to the unlawfulness of his remaining another hour under the roof where this swindling transaction had taken place, were immediately removed from the mind of the noble and upright youth.

"When Mr. Rankin returned after having very politely attended the lady to her carriage, and placed the parcel containing her purchases by her side, he was met by Jacob, who, with an air of grave rebuke rarely assumed by lads of his years, informed him that from what he had seen of his method of conducting business he thought it quite impossible that they could agree.

"He was, therefore, resolved to return without delay to his father's house, and he was glad that the terms upon which he had entered the establishment left him free to do so.

"The firm and fearless bearing of the boy awed the man of unjust practices, and he neither attempted to vindicate his own meanness nor to oppose the departure of his right-minded assistant. At once Jacob returned to the old homestead, his character more permanently formed by the ordeal through which he had passed."

"But do you think, grandma," inquired Henry, "that Jacob would have acted so independently if he had had no home to return to?"

"Yes, dear, I think he would," was the prompt reply. "He had learned to obey the commands of God and to believe His promises. He knew that the injunction, 'Come out from among them,' was followed by the assurance, 'I will receive you,' and such was his trust in his heavenly Father's word that no thought for his future provision would have interfered with the performance of what he deemed to be his duty."

"Well, grandma," said Henry, "I like the stand taken by the honest boy. Please go on with the story."

"Jacob remained at home for the next three years, making himself useful in teaching his younger brothers and sisters, besides assisting his father in the management of his affairs. In the meantime his own education was advancing. Nor was he without receiving many offers of clerkship in the neighboring cities, whither the good report of his honesty and integrity had come.

"But a cousin of his father, who was a merchant of some eminence in New Orleans, had proposed to take him into his counting house in a confidential capacity when he should reach a more mature age, and for this important post he was qualifying himself.

"Accordingly, when he was eighteen years of age, at the request of his relative, he again left home. This time his departure was a more serious affair than it had been when, a few years before, he left for school in Louisville.

"Now he was going to a large and populous city, where fashion and vice walked hand in hand, and where snares and pitfalls were spread for the simple and unwary, with scarcely a finger-mark cautioning them to beware.

"All the neighborhood was moved with anxiety and friendly interest for the youth, and the last Sabbath of his attendance at our rural church, the good pastor made an earnest and affectionate address from the same text which the minister presented to-day.

"Our friend's journey to the great maritime city of the South was not without incident. Mr. Wise accompanied his son to Louisville, and, after the necessary preliminary arrangements, went with him on board the boat that was to bear him down the broad waters of the Mississippi.

"The parting advice and benediction of his father were then given. He reminded him of the subject of his pastor's last sermon, and closed by giving him, as the motto of his life, the imperative charge, 'Come out from among them.'

"Then, as he desired to return home by daylight, and the boat was not to start for a couple of hours, he once more committed his son to the care and guidance of heaven, and left him, with a calm trust that he would be kept in the way of safety.

"After a pleasant trip on board the 'Southern Belle,' our young friend arrived in New Orleans.

"Jacob was much pleased with his new situation. He found his relative a man of the most honorable character. Accommodations were procured for him in a first-class boarding-house, where none but persons of the best standing were admitted. And, whether owing to his attractions of mind or person, the sterling worth of his character, or the independent position of his family, or perhaps all these combined, he soon found himself an object of marked interest and attention to all with whom he came in contact.

[Illustration: <i>The Steamboat Trip Down the Mississippi</i>.]

"Naturally of a social disposition, and disposed to look at everything in the most favorable light, Jacob saw none of those vicious traits and habits which he had been cautioned to shun.

"He did not partake of the mirthful spirit by which the unwary are enticed into scenes of folly, neither did he deny himself innocent recreations.

"And now to the unsophisticated youth, life presented the fairest aspect. His religious duties were carefully attended to, and in the faithful discharge of his business engagements no one could be more careful and punctual. His evenings were devoted to the society of those who were congenial to him. But it was not long before the hidden thorns of the flowers that strewed his path began to make themselves felt, nor was it without pain that conscience awoke him from the repose in which he had been lulling himself.

"Among the many charming sojourners at the establishment in which he had taken up his abode, was the family of a wealthy planter, who had come to the city for the winter. Mr. and Mrs. De Veaux were a lively and fashionable couple, and their children partook of the gay and careless temperament of their parents.

"Isabel, the eldest, was now in her sixteenth year, and the faultless beauty of her face and figure was only equaled by the child-like sweetness of her disposition. She had been brought up without much restriction or control, and now that she was entering society for the first time, being gay, spirited, and witty, she flung herself into the enjoyments of fashionable pleasure with all the zest of her nature.

"The winter glided along with its witching gayeties, and, though the young Christian was never tempted to join the giddy multitude in their unlawful pastimes, yet his views were more lax than they had been.

"With the hope of his presence having a restraining effect upon the fair being who had touched the tenderest chords of his nature, he suffered himself to be led into scenes such as sober conscience could not approve.

"At length, however, the alarm came that was to disturb his security. A sermon was to be preached by a celebrated minister before the members of the 'Young Men's Christian Association.' Jacob attended, and heard with startled interest the minister deliver, as his text, the very same verse which the pious pastor of his country home had made the subject of the last discourse he had heard from him: 'My son, when sinners entice thee consent thou not.'

"The young man of irreproachable life had no idea that this exhortation could be applied to his case; he had been careful that 'sinners' were granted no opportunity of enticing him.

"But to many of the young men present, who were not so cautious, he hoped the sermon would prove of benefit. So he settled himself comfortably to listen to the brilliant orator.

"But his self-complacency did not last long. It was that very class to which he belonged, that the preacher addressed. He exposed the cunning temptations of Satan, and told how he labored to lead even those who hated vice, to join in the pleasures of the world, without requiring them to commit one apparent sin.

"Thus the enemy sought to lead even the Christian, and to turn his heart from God, from holiness, and from heaven.

"Painfully solemn were the feelings with which Jacob left the house of God at the close of the service. The film had passed from his eyes, and he saw that while his outward walk had been strictly correct, his heart had wandered from its true allegiance.

"When he reached home he found a gay party of young people, dancing and making merry in the brilliantly lighted parlors. But the sickening sensations that ran through his frame, at the thought of time thus wasted, and creatures fashioned in their Maker's image perverting their fine intelligences, showed the change that had been made in his views within the last hour.

"He went at once to his chamber, and with earnest prayer, he gave himself anew to his Master.

"He decided at once that Isabel must be given up, with all her attractions. How lone and cheerless the future appeared. Casting himself upon his knees, he prayed for help to bear the blow which had descended upon his hopes.

"With Jacob Wise, to know his duty was to do it. Having felt the evil influence of intimate association with light and giddy worldlings, he determined to change his boarding place to some more retired spot where no similar temptation should waylay him. And so, the next morning, he called on his pastor, stated the circumstances in which he was placed, and asked his help in obtaining board in some private family connected with the church.

[Illustration: "<i>The next morning he called on his Pastor</i>."]

"The minister sympathized with his young friend, and after a few minutes' thought, mentioned a pious couple of his charge, whose only son had lately gone from home, and into whose vacant room he thought it likely Jacob might be admitted.

"It was as he had hoped. When Mrs. Bennet heard the case, she was glad to be able to give a home to the young man. No other difficulty now remained but his parting with Isabel.

"He found her seated at the piano, and a long conversation ensued, in which opinions and sentiments entirely opposite were maintained by each. On subjects of vital importance they were disagreed. So that finally they, whose hearts had received their first tender impressions from each other, with an apparent calmness inconsistent with their true feelings, separated, to meet no more."

Grandma paused, and for several minutes no one seemed disposed to speak. Each of us was looking into his own heart to see if there were grace enough there to bear us conquerors through such trials as might be in store for us. The silence was broken by Henry, inquiring the sequel of the young Christian's career.

"Well," said grandma, "Jacob continued to live a consistent, Christian life. He visited his parents every summer, gladdening their hearts by the purity and simplicity of his life.

"When he had been six or seven years in New Orleans, he was taken into partnership by his kinsman and employer; and shortly after he married the daughter of his pastor, whose sweet companionship was a great help to him in his Christian life.

"It is a long time since I have had an opportunity of hearing of Jacob Wise; but I dare say, if still living, he is an example of moral dignity, truth, and uprightness, and an honor to the church of which he has been, from childhood, a steady and consistent member."