The Faded Leaf!
George Everard, 1885
"We all fade and shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6
Walking along the street in Cambridge which runs past the principal colleges, my eye followed the constantly flowing rivulet which runs down by its side. And as I looked I thought I saw something of a parable of Cambridge life. I noticed a faded leaf carried along by the current, and it seemed to me something of an illustration of the above text, and also a picture of what is too often seen at the University. Many a young fellow comes up in the brightness and comparative innocence of early youth, but before he leaves the University, the beauty and glory of his life is gone, and he is rapidly carried away by the influences of evil that are so strong around him.
Let me give an example. Between forty and fifty years ago, a young man went up to the University, clever, well disposed, and in every way one of whom much might have been expected. For the first three terms he did well, but his staying there for the long vacation proved a great injury to him. A young fellow of a different stamp had rooms close by him, and gradually drew him into evil courses. He fell, and he fell rapidly. Headlong he rushed into every kind of sin. Drunken brawls were heard in his room, and outside the College he plunged into darker haunts of evil. Very soon he was compelled to leave the University, and all his fair hopes of a bright and honorable course were gone forever. It was just the faded leaf on the stream. And when his uncle, who was then one of the most eloquent preachers in our Church, shortly afterwards preached from the words, "He who walks with wise men shall be wise — but a companion of fools shall be destroyed," he drew such a picture of the downward path of a young man caught in the snare of bad company that there was scarcely a dry eye in the whole church, and not a few could tell the sad cause of his special earnestness.
Who can tell out all the sorrow and the loss, the broken health, and it may be to a parent the broken heart, besides the lifelong outcomes of hindrance and difficulty, and perhaps poverty and need — which come from hearkening to the voice of the tempter?
I remember a remarkable picture I once saw. It was called, "They had been boys together." But one had risen — and the other had sunk, from some such cause as I have spoken of, and now the one was glad to seek some scanty alms from the one with whom he had played as a lad.
Even when a timely repentance leads one who has fallen to retrace his steps — yet many of the sad results of the past clog his steps. "Oh, what rocks and stones I have put in my own way!" was the sorrowful confession of a youth who was striving to pick his way through a host of troubles and temptations which his previous conduct had put in his path.
Very earnestly would I entreat you to be on your watch in the matter of purity. With many a lad, it is one-half the battle they have to fight.
Thank God, there is a White Cross Army — a band of young fellows who are knit together in a steadfast purpose to resist all that is unchaste and impure in word and deed, and to forward everything that makes for purity among others.
But, alas! there is a Black Cross Army too — seducers, defilers, polluters of themselves and others, destroyers both of body and soul, laying hold of the young and inexperienced, and dragging them down to the same abyss of evil with themselves!
I pray you take the right side. "Flee youthful lusts." Stand fast in spite of evil companions and of base desires that arise from within. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
But what is your safety? How may you surely avoid such dangers? We might find it in the words of Paul to Timothy, "My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
If you would not be the sport of temptation, and lose all the brightness of an upright and holy life — here is to be the ground of your confidence. Let your sole dependence be on the King of grace. Lean not on yourself, your resolutions, your character, or on anything about you — but lean on the Lord Jesus as your pillar of strength, and as the arm of your defense. He gives pardon and power. He freely forgives through His Sacrifice, and then mightily upholds and strengthens the heart in His fear and love.
Let your chosen associates be the men of grace. Give a very wide berth to all doubtful characters. If a lad by word or deed shows that he is set on evil, whoever else chooses his society — you must avoid it. But where you find those whose lips are clean, and whose life is pure, and who wish to ascend an upward path — make them your friends, and so do your utmost to stand firm against all the foes of your faith.
Nor forget one other point. Look upwards for the Spirit of grace. He will make you strong in will and persevering in action as to that which is according to the will of God. Let but the Holy Spirit dwell within you in power, and you will be no faded leaf, carried away by the force of evil — but you will be a good soldier, a mighty warrior on the side of truth and godliness. You will fight a good fight and win a glorious crown; and when your warfare is accomplished here you will receive a joyful welcome from your Captain on the further shore.
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" Matthew 25:23