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MR. CHARLES FORBES BUCHAN.
MY DEAR SON,
OUR unwearied attention to the cause of truth, your indefatigable thirst after knowledge, and the rapid progress you have made in your education, with other good qualities you possess, induce me to select you from among your brothers, and from the world, as the most proper person to whom I shall DEDICATE the following work on PHILANTHROPY.
In this Epistle, I also intend giving you a few parental advices, or directions, whereby you may govern yourself, your secular und religious concerns, in your journey through life.-You have not yet attained to that age which is generally tainted with the sins and follies of youth; nor have you had that experience necessary to teach you to shun them; nor to guard against the deceit, the ingratitude, and tyranny of a world of envy, of sorrow, and of pain; which will render the few following hints more useful and acceptable to you, as they are founded on the scrutiny of many years' careful observation.
In the first place, I shall give you a summary account of your birth and ancestors, (your parentage, for the two last generations, you know.) Your christian name, CHARLES FORBES, was given you at your baptism by the late Rev. Dr. George Moir, as a testimony of my respect for a gentleman of that name. Your surname, BUCHAN, is taken from the name of the district where you were born, and which was once a county over which an earl presided. The present DAVID STEUART ERSKINE, with whom I have the honour of being acquainted, enjoys that title.
In the various histories and chronicles of Scotland, &c. that I have read, I have found this name spelt no less than eighteen different ways. To give you a list of the whole, would be but
spending time to gratify a curiosity of so little importance to you,as I shall decline it for the present; suffice it to know that, one of the ancient ways is Buchquhane; but the most modern is Buchan, which signifies, in the language of the Gauls, a payer of tribute of oxen and sheep, with which, (at the time it got its name,) it abounded.
Cumyn was the original of your surname; and from Cumyn, earl of Buchan, you are lineally descended. As it is but right you should know how this change was brought about, it was as follows;-In the time of the civil commotion, and dispute which happened between John Baliol and Robert Bruce, for the crown of Scotland, and which kept the nobility in a ferment, the Cumyns were a powerful people, and had great interest and influence over the principal families of that nation, and also with Edward, king of England; so that John, commonly called the red Cumyn. being aided and assisted with his relations, the flower of the Scottish noblemen, and having encouragement from Edward, flattered himself with becoming king of Scotland, as being heir to Donald Bane, and cousin-german to John Baliol. Various attempts were made for the accomplishment of this purpose, but they were always, by some means or another, frustrated. The last attempt was at the battle of Inverurie, where he measured swords with king Robert Bruce, was defeated, and afterwards killed by him in the Franciscans Church of Dumfries in the year 1306. His lands and estates, of course, were confiscated to the king, who bestowed them upon others whom he considered more deserving of them. To cover this, and some of the former guilt, the family changed their name of Cuniyn to that of their designation and title, Buchan, which years brought into use.
The first of the race, and descendants of Cumyn, earl of Buchan, who had returned from England, (whither they went after the discomfiture with Bruce.) that I can read of, and who uses the name publicly, was a colonel Buchan, who resided for sometime in the parish of Rathen, where he had his seat. This colonel Buchan you will find mentioned in the Cloud of Witnesses, as one of the persecutors of the poor and oppressed Covenantors, in the time of the impious Charles the second. From this family, on the father's side, you are descended. And from that ancient and most respectable family of Drum, on
the mother's side; your great grand-mother's name being Margaret Irvine, grand-daughter to Irvine, Esq. of Drum. This is but a short sketch ofyour pedigree, but it is sufficient for the present, as you can make yourself more acquainted with it when you come to those years of wisdom, in which you will be consulting the records of your country. I do not give you this information to raise your vanity above your fellows, but that you may walk worthy of your noble descent, be an honour to the families from which you have sprung, the name you bear, and to the country to which you belong. Many become intolerable to society, and to the company in which they are placed, by vainly boasting of their ancestors, (which is often all they have to boast of,) their ill-suited frivolities, and disgusting egotism. Be not therefore, like them, my dear Charles, but rather endeavour to be the first of an honourable race than the last of an ancient.
In all your transactions and dealings with the world, be guided by the laws of justice, and actuated by the principles of honour. Do unto every man as you expect, or would wish him to do unto you in the same situation. Flattery, to a weakminded and choleric man, is like pouring oil upon the ruffled waves of the fiery ocean, it smooths and allays the fury of the clouded brow: but although this is often practised by the mean and selfish to gain their private ends, I would not, by any means, have you guilty of such silly devices; besides, it is taking advantage of an unguarded hour: for some, by means of having their vanity flattered, could be made to do any thing. Although you may not always be successful in the world,never repine; the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. It is the common lot of most men, at some period or other of their lives, to be ship-wrecked in their passage through life; to run on the rocks of disappointment, and be dashed to and fro on the sands of adversity, by the relentless waves of despair. Yet often a twinkling ray of hope darts thro' the thickened gloom when least expected, and brightens the darkened night, and gladens the cheerless mind. Adversity is a school wherein one may learn much; for in it in one day more wisdom is to be got than in twenty in the school of fortune; but its frowns, however, are hard to be borne. The fayours of fortune are not always to be courted; for, like the sting
of the asp, it tickles so as to make one laugh, till the poison by little and little gets to the heart, and then it pains more than ever it delighted. Be ye then like the righteous Agur, Who prayed thus, Prov. xxx. 8 & 9, Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. Also, follow the example of the indefatigable and praise-worthy Paul, who, in whatsoever state he was in, bad therewith learned to be content. Diogenes, although a heathen, had more contentment in his tub which sheltered him from the injuries of the weather, and with his wooden dish to eat and drink in, than Alexander had with the comforts of half the world.
As you approach the verge of life, you will find the road, in may places, strewed with thorns and briers; yet, on these briers are to be found roses of inestimable value; because, if plucked with the hand of piety, like Aaron's rod, their fragrance and beauty will swallow up every other evil that may fall in the way. There are also two paths which you will observe in the commencement of your journey, the path of VIRTUE, and the path of VICE. The one leadeth to corruptible pleasures here, the other to incorruptible hereafter. Choose ye, therefore, before your sun be clouded, the path of virtue, and walk ye therein: for, as you are but a probationer here on earth, there are many temptations to which you will be liable; but endeavour to shun those that lead to the gates of death and destruction. The most besetting sins that attend youth in their first entrance on the stage of the world, are sabbath-breaking, drinking, and bad company, particularly that of women.
You are desired to remember the sabbath-day, and to keep it holy. This can only be done by refraining from pursuing your own pleasures; seeking the communion and fellowship of God in prayer; walking with him in faith, and praising him for the bountiful mercies which you are daily permitted to receive at his hand. That want of reverence and holy respect which is due to the sabbath, has sunk many one in perdition, who would otherwise have been good and useful members in society.
Drinking, i. e. to excess, is also a vice of considerable magnitude, which I wish you by all means to avoid; for it is not only an evil of itself in wasting your substance, perhaps many
years' hard-earned gettings; robbing you of your health, the most precious temporal blessing we enjoy under heaven, but. leaves you a prey to every other temptation and evil. The ancient Greeks used to punish crimes committed when drunk with double severity. A curious story is thus told of a young man and the devil. The young man had made a contract with the devil, to comply with one of three requests he should make him, viz.-Murder his father, debauch his own sister, or get drunk. The young man choose the last, as by far the least shocking; but when he had got drunk, the devil took that opportunity of tempting him (which till he was drunk he never could effectually do,) to commit both the other. Thus he was
drawn into commit all the devil wanted; whereas if either of the other had been his choice, he would probably have escaped so complicated a guilt."
The company of bad women is also very pernicious to the morals of youth; and may be compared to a ship richly laden wrecking in the harbour before ever she put to sea. Solomon was aware of this, which made him urge his son so strongly to beware of the alluring smiles of harlots. He who gives himself up to their embraces, may be said to renounce his God and his Saviour and he who lives without God in the world, must be in a hopless condition. When you visit them, you must not go empty-handed; a present must be the harbinger of your welcome- -Your business neglected to serve them-Expences incurred to please them-Your friend sacrificed to their whimYour self no longer your own master, but a slave to the dupe of their ambition, and all to gratify the hypocritical smiles and fair blandishments of one who is at heart your professed, tho' not open enemy; and will, like the deceitful Delilah, shake off the mask in the end. Think of this, my dear Charles, and go not within the portals of their gates. Jerome tells a story of a Christian soldier, whom, when the pretor could not by any torments remove from Christianity, he commanded him to be laid on a bed in a pleasant garden, among the flourishing and fragrant flowers; which done, all others withdrawing, a most beautiful harlot came to him, and used all her art to destroy his soul; but the Christian soldier, being filled with the royal gift of the spirit, bit off his tongue with his teeth, and spit it in her face as she was tempting him, and so got the victory over all