2008 Essay Contest, 2nd Place: What Today's Boys and Girls can Learn from the Writings of R. M. Ballantyne
By Joshua Horn — August 05, 2008
Books can have a great effect on our lives. Boys need to read books when they are young that encourage them to be godly men who fear no one but God. Books of this type are hard to find in this modern, entertainment-centered world. But if we go back in time, we can find books that our fathers and grandfathers read which teach these Christian character qualities. We discover authors like R. M. Ballantyne, G. A. Henty and others who wrote books that encourage boys in this way. Recently, companies have started republishing these books. One of my personal favorites are the books of R. M. Ballantyne, republished by Vision Forum. From these great Christian books, boys and girls of today can learn about courage, duty, and honor.
One Christian virtue that we can learn from the writings of Ballantyne is honor. Honor is reverence and esteem for someone. Firstly, the characters of Ballantyne's works honor God foremost. In Hunted and Harried, when the Scottish Covenanters are told to reject their belief in God by the civil authorities, they realize that they must honor God first, and not man. The boys of today can learn this from these books. Boys must also learn when they are young to honor their parents through obedience. They must show them the honor and respect that they deserve because of the authority role that God has given them. In the book, Blue Lights, the hero, Miles, leaves home without his parents' permission. He repents throughout the book and realizes how much better it would have been for him to obey his father's wishes. Other characters succeed better than Miles, like Martin Rattler, who constantly misses his aunt, who raised him after his parents died, because he had been forced to go to sea against his wishes. Ballantyne's characters also honor and protect women and children. Ballantyne shows in his books that men have a duty to protect and defend the women and children around them. In Red Rooney, when the men hear that the women are attacked by robbers, they go at once to help them without thought to their own safety. In these books, the men and boys are kind to women and they recognize themselves as the protector of the helpless. Ballantyne says, "Our Scottish forefathers, believing-in common with the lower animals and lowest savages-that it was a duty to defend their females and little ones, naturally availed themselves of the best means of doing so." Boys need to learn this virtue, especially in this wicked culture, and they can see examples of people doing this in Mr. Ballantyne's books.
In many of Ballantyne's books, the heroes are put in very dangerous and frightening situations. To survive they must not be afraid, but be quick-thinking and bold. Boys and girls of today also need courage, because they will have frightening and possibly dangerous situations ahead of them in which they will need to trust God and do what God commands boldly, without any fear of man. In these classic works, the boys remember to trust God in trying circumstances. With this trust in mind, they know that they can be bold because God holds their life in his hand. Here is what one character, Martin Rattler, did while he was captured by Indians, "No sooner did the firm determination to escape or die enter into Martin's heart, than he sprang from his seat, and, falling on his knees, prayed to God, in the name of our Redeemer, for help and guidance. ... All he knew was that he had made up his mind to [escape,] if God would help him." In Hunted and Harried, Mr. Black is brought before the religious authorities and told to recant his beliefs in God. He refuses, even though he knows he will be fearfully tortured, but he has courage because he knows that God will bear him through the trial. There are many examples of Ballantyne' characters demonstrating courage in fighting wild beasts, pirates, escaping from wild Indians, and many others. The list goes on and on. When boys read these tales of adventure, they will relish the thought of demonstrating their courage in dangerous situations. And because they read these adventure stories full of courage and danger, they will face dangers in the real world with a character containing the same kind of Godly courage.
Another Christian character quality that Ballantyne incorporates into his books is a sense of duty. The heroes of the books know that it is their duty above everything else to obey God's commands. Here is what Miles Milton thinks in the Blue Lights, "Duty! His heart sank as [his conscience] within him became suddenly active, and whispered, 'How about your duty to parents? You left them in a rage. ... No man can fully do his duty to his fellows until he has begun to do his duty to God.'" Miles decided that he would make duty his life's watchword. Here Ballantyne has Miles being convicted that he has not done his duty in honoring his parents, and that he needs to do that before he can be a proper soldier. In Hunted and Harried, the Scots do their duty to obey the Bible and protect their families, even though it could cost them them their lives. The boys of today can learn a lot about duty of Ballantyne. Boys need to learn that they have responsibilities that they need to fulfill, and they need to fulfill them even if it is very hard. One great way for modern children to learn this is by reading these books by Ballantyne.
We have just briefly looked at what R. M. Ballantyne's books can teach us about duty, honor, and courage. Here are some lessons that I, and other boys and girls, can take away from these books. First, we should honor our parents. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:1-2, "Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (KJV) It is important that they learn to honor their parents when they are young, and they can do this by reading Ballantyne's books and seeing examples of children doing this set before them. Another thing we can learn is to be courageous in doing our God-given duties and dangers that we may encounter on the way. God gives us difficulties to test us, and we should be brave because we know that He protects us. Boys also need to learn that they are a protector of women and children. One of the most important things for men, and other boys and girls around us, is to learn to do our duty whatever may be the difficulties and consequences. We must obey God, even when it will be hard, and Ballantyne emphasizes this very well. We can learn even more than these few things by reading these tales full of adventure, duty courage and honor!
Joshua HornJoshua Horn is 13 years old. He is the son of Daniel and Kendra Horn and lives with them and his brother and sister in North Carolina. He enjoys reading and studying history. He also works as a computer programmer for his father's company.
— Joshua Horn