First! An Address to Christian Boys

By Henry Drummond

I have three topics to give you.  The first is “Geography,” the second is “Arithmetic,” and the third is “Grammar.”


First.  Geography tells us where to find places.

Where is the Kingdom of God?  It is said that when a Prussian officer was killed in the Franco-Prussian war, a map of France was very often found in his pocket.  When we wish to occupy a country, we ought to know its geography.  Now, WHERE is the Kingdom of God?  A boy over there says, “It is in heaven.”  No; it is not in heaven.  Another boy says, “It is in the Bible.”  No; it is not in the Bible.  Another boy says, “It must be in the Church,” No; it is not in the Church.  Heaven is only the capital of the Kingdom of God; the Bible is the guide-book to it; the Church is the weekly parade of those who belong to it.  If you turn to the seventeenth chapter of Luke you will find out where the Kingdom of God really is:  “The Kingdom of God is within you”—within YOU.  The Kingdom of God is INSIDE PEOPLE.

I remember once taking a walk by the river near where the Falls of Niagara are, and I noticed a remarkable figure walking along the river bank.  I had been some time in America.  I had seen black men, and red men, and yellow men, and white men; black men, the Negroes; red men, the Indians; yellow men, the Chinese; white men, the Americans.  But this man looked quite different in his dress from anything I had ever seen.  When he came a little closer, I saw he was wearing a kilt; when he came a little nearer still, I saw that he was dressed exactly like a Highland soldier.  When he came quiet near, I said to him:

“What are you doing here?”

“Why should I not be here?” he replied; “don’t you know this is British soil?  When you cross the river you come into Canada.”

This soldier was thousands of miles from England, and yet he was in the Kingdom of England.  Wherever there is an English heart beating loyal to the Queen of Britain, there is England.  Wherever there is a boy whose heart is loyal to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God is within him.

What is the Kingdom of God?  Every Kingdom has its exports, it products.  Go down the river here and you will find ships coming in with cotton; you know they come from America.  You will find ships with tea; you know they are from China.  Ships with wool; you know they come from Australia.  Ships with sugar; you know they come from Java.

What comes from the Kingdom of God?  Again, we must refer to our Guide-book.  Turn to Romans, and we shall find what the Kingdom of God is.  I will read it:  “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, joy”—three things.  “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, joy.”  Righteousness, of course is just doing what is right.  Any boy who does what is RIGHT has the Kingdom of God within him.  Any boy who, instead of being quarrelsome, lives at peace with the other boys, has the Kingdom of God within him.  Any boy whose heart is filled with joy because he does what is right, has the Kingdom of God within him.  The Kingdom of God is not going to religious meetings, and hearing strange religious experiences; the Kingdom of God is doing what is right—living at peace with all men, being filled with joy in the Holy Ghost.

Boys, if you are going to be Christians, be Christians as boys, and not as your grandmothers.  A grandmother has to be a Christian as a grandmother, and that is the right and the beautiful thing for her; but if you cannot read your Bible by the hours as your grandmother can, or delight in meetings as she can, don’t think you are necessarily a bad boy.  When you are your grandmother’s age you will have your grandmother’s kind of religion.  Meantime, be a Christian as a boy.  Live a boy’s life.  Do the straight thing; seek the kingdom of righteousness and honor and truth.  Keep the peace with the boys about you, and be filled with the joy of being a loyal, and simple, and natural, and boy-like servant of Christ.

You can very easily tell a house, or a workshop, or an office where the Kingdom of God is NOT.  The first thing you see in that pace is that the “straight thing” is not always done.  Customers do not get fair play.  You are in danger of learning to cheat and to lie.  Better a thousand times to starve than to stay in a place where you cannot do what is right.

Or, when you go into your workshop, you find everybody sulky, touchy, and ill-tempered, everybody at daggers-drawn with everybody else, some of the men not on speaking terms with some of the others, and the whole FEEL of the place miserable and unhappy.  The Kingdom of God is not thee, for IT is peace.  It is the Kingdom of the Devil that is anger, and wrath and malice.

If you want to get the Kingdom of God into your workshop, or into your home, let the quarreling be stopped.  Live in peace and harmony and brotherliness with everyone.  For the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of brothers.  It is a great Society, founded by Jesus Christ, of all the people who try to live like Him, and to make the world better and sweeter and happier.  Wherever  boy is trying to do that, in the house or on the street, in the workshop or on the baseball field, there is the Kingdom of God.  And every boy, however small or obscure or poor, who is seeking that, is a member of it.  You see now, I hope, what the Kingdom is.


I pass, therefore, to the second head; What was it?  Arithmetic.  Are there any arithmetic words in this text?  “Added.”  What other arithmetic words?  “First.”

Now, don’t you think you could not have anything better to seek “first” than the things I have named to do what is right, to live at peace, and be always making those about you happy?  You see at once why Christ tells us to seek these things first—because they are the best worth seeking.

Do you know anything better than these three things, anything happier, purer, nobler?  If you do, seek them first.  But if you do not, seek first the Kingdom of God.  I do not tell you to be religious.  You know that.  I do not tell you to seek the Kingdom of God.  I tell you to seek the Kingdom of God FIRST.  FIRST.  Not many people do that.  They put a little religion into their life—once a week, perhaps.  They might just as well let it alone.  It is not worth seeking the Kingdom of God unless we seek it FIRST.

Suppose you take the helm out of a ship and hang it over the bow, and send that ship to sea, will it ever reach the other side?  Certainly not.  It will drift about anyhow.  Keep religion in its place, and it will take you straight through life and straight to your Father in heaven when life is over.  But if you do not put it in its place, you may just as well have nothing to do with it.  Religion out of its place in a human life is the most miserable thing in the world.  There is nothing that requires so much to be kept in its place as religion, and its place is what? second? third?  “First.”  Boys, FIRST the Kingdom of God; make it so that it will be natural to you to think about that the very first thing.

There was a boy in Glasgow apprenticed to a gentleman who made telegraphs.  (The gentleman told me this himself.)  One day this boy was up on the top of a four-story house with a number of men fixing up a telegraph wire.  The work was all but done.  It was getting late, and the men said they were going away home, and the boy was to nip off the ends of the wire himself.  Before going down they told him to be sure to go back to the workshop, when he was finished, with his master’s tools.

“Do not leave any of them lying about, whatever you do,” said the foreman.

The boy climbed up the pole and began to nip off the ends of the wire.  It was a very cold winter night, and the dusk was gathering.  He lost his hold and fell upon the slates, slid down, and then over and over to the ground below.  A clothes-rope stretched across the “green” on which he was just about to fall, caught him on the chest and broke his fall; but the shock was terrible, and he lay unconscious among some clothes upon the green.

An old woman came out; seeing her rope broken and the clothes all soiled, thought the boy was drunk, shook him, scolded him, and went for the policeman.  The boy with the shaking came back to consciousness, rubbed his eyes, and got back on his feet.  What do you think he did?  He staggered, half-blind, up the stairs.  He climbed the ladder.  He got on to the roof of the house.  He gathered up his tools, put them into his basket, took them down, and when he got to the ground again fainted dead away.

Just then the policeman came, saw there was something seriously wrong, and carried him away to the hospital, where he lay for some time.  I am glad to say he got better.

What was his first thought at that terrible moment?  His duty.

He was not thinking of himself; he was thinking about his master.

First, the Kingdom of God.

But there is another arithmetic word.  What is it?  “Added.”

You know the difference between ADDITION and SUBTRACTION.  Now, that is a very important difference in religion, because—and it is a very strange thing—very few people know the difference when they begin to talk about religion.  They often tell boys that if they seek the Kingdom of God, everything else is going to be SUBTRACTED from them.  They tell them that they are going to become gloomy, miserable, and will lose everything that makes a boy’s life worth living—that they will have to stop baseball and story-books, and become little old men, and spend all their time in going to meetings and in singing hymns.

Now, that is not true.  Christ never said anything like that.

Christ said we are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” and everything else worth having is to be ADDED unto us.  If there is anything I would like you to remember, it is these two arithmetic words—“first” and “added.”

I do not mean by “added” that if you become religious you are all going to become RICH.  Here is a boy, who, in sweeping out the shop tomorrow, finds a quarter lying among the orange boxes.  Well, nobody has missed it.  He puts it in his pocket, and it begins to burn a hole there.  by breakfast time he wishes that money were in his master’s pocket.  And by-and-by he goes to his master.  He says (to HIMSELF, and not to his master), “I was at the Boys’ Brigade yesterday and I was told to seek FIRST that which was right.”  Then he says to his master:

“Please, sir, here is a quarter that I found upon the floor.”

The master puts it in the till.  What has the boy got in his pocket?  Nothing; BUT HE HAS GOT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN HIS HEART.  He has laid up treasure in heaven, which is of infinitely more worth than the quarter.

Now, that boy does not find a dollar on his way home.  I have known that to happen, but that is not what is meant by “adding.”  It does not mean that God is going to pay him in his own coin, for He pays in better coin.

Yet I remember once hearing of a boy who was paid in both ways.  He was very, very poor.  He lived in a foreign country, and his mother said to him one day that he must go into the great city and start in business, and she took his coat and cut it open and sewed between the lining and the coat forty golden dinars, which she had saved up for many years to start him in life.  She told him to take care of robbers as he went across the desert; and as he was going out of the door she said:

“My boy, I have only two words for you—‘Fear God, and never tell a lie.’”

The boy started off, and towards evening he saw glittering in the distance the minarets of the great city.  But between the city and himself he saw a cloud of dust.  It came nearer.  Presently he saw that it was a band of robbers.

One of the robbers left the rest and rode toward him, and said:

“Boy, what have you got?”

The boy looked him in the face and said:

“I have forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat.”

The robber laughed and wheeled around his horse and went away back.

He would not believe the boy.

Presently another robber came and he said:

“Boy, what have you got?”

“Forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat.”

The robber said:  “The boy is a fool,” and wheeled his horse and rode away back.

By and by the robber captain came and he said:

“Boy, what have you got?”

“I have forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat.”

The robber dismounted, and put his hand over the boy’s breast, felt something round, counted one, two, three, four, five, till he counted out the forty golden coins.  He looked the boy in the face and said:

“Why did you tell me that?”

The boy said:  “Because of God and my mother.”

The robber leaned on his spear and thought and said:

“Wait a moment.”

He mounted his horse, rode back to the rest of the robbers, and came back in about five minutes with his dress changed.  This time he looked not like a robber, but like a merchant.  He took the boy up on his horse and said:

“My boy, I have long wanted to do something for my God and for my mother, and I have this moment renounced my robber’s life.  I am also a merchant.  I have a large business house in the city.  I want you to come and live with me, to teach me about your God; and you will be rich, and your mother some day will come and live with us.”

And it all happened.  By seeing first the Kingdom of God, all these things were added unto him.

Boys, banish forever from your minds the idea that religion is SUBTRACTION.  It does not tell us to give things up, but rather gives us something so much better that they give themselves up.

When you see a boy on the street whipping a top, you know, perhaps, that you could not make that boy happier than by giving him a top, a whip, and half an hour to whip it.  But next birthday, when he looks back he says, “What a goose I was last year to be delighted with a top.  What I want now is a baseball bat.”

Then when he becomes an old man, he does not care in the least for a baseball bat; he wants rest, and a snug fireside and a newspaper every day.  He wonders how he could ever have taken up his thoughts with baseball bats and whipping-tops.

Now, when a boy becomes a Christian, he grows out of the evil things one by one—that is to say, if they are really evil—which he used to set his heart upon; (of course I do not mean baseball bats, for they are not evils); and so instead of telling people to give up things, we are safer to tell them to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” and then they will get new things and better things, and The old things will drop off of themselves.  This is what is meant by the “new heart.”  It means that God puts into us new thoughts and new wishes, and we become quite different.


Lastly, and very shortly.  What was the third head?  “Grammar.”


Now, I require a clever boy to answer the next question.  What is the verb?  “Seek.”  Very good:  “seek.”  What mood is it in?  “Imperative mood.”  What does that mean?  “A command.”  What is the soldier’s first lesson?  “Obedience.”  Have you obeyed this command?  Remember the imperative mood of these words, “SEEK first the Kingdom of God.”

This is the command of your King.  It MUST be done.  I have been trying to show you what a splendid thing it is; what a reasonable thing it is; what a happy thing it is; but beyond all these reasons, it is a thing that MUST be done, because we are COMMANDED to do it by our Captain.  Now, there is His command to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.  Have you done it?

“Well,” I know some boys will say, “we are going to have a good time, enjoy life, and then we are going to seek—LAST—the Kingdom of God.”

Now, that is mean; it is nothing else than mean for a boy to take all the good gifts that God has given him, and then give him nothing back in return but His  wasted life.

God wants boys’ LIVES, not only their souls.  It is for active, service that soldiers are drilled, and trained, and fed, and armed.  That is why you and I are in the world at all—not to prepare to go out of it some day, but to serve God actively in it NOW.  It is monstrous, and shameful, and cowardly to talk of seeking the Kingdom LAST.  It is shirking duty, abandoning one’s rightful post, playing into the enemy’s hand by doing nothing to turn his flank.  Every hour a Kingdom is coming in your heart, in your home, in the world near you, be it a Kingdom of Darkness or a Kingdom of Light.  You are placed where you are, in a particular business, in a particular street, to help on there the Kingdom of God.  You cannot do that when you are old and ready to die.  By that time your companions will have fought their fight, and lost or won.  If they lose, will you not be sorry that you did not help them?  Will you not regret that only at the last you helped the Kingdom of God?  Perhaps you will not be able to do it then.  And then your life has been lost indeed.

Very few people have the opportunity to seek the Kingdom of God at the end.  Christ, knowing all that, knowing that religion was a thing for our life, not merely for our death-bed, has laid this command upon us now:  “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.”

I am going to leave you with this text itself.  Every boy in the world should obey it.

Boys, before you go to work to-morrow, before you go to sleep to-night, resolve that, God helping you, you are going to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.  Perhaps some boys here are deserters; they began once before to serve Christ, and they deserted.  Come back again, come back again today!  Others have never enlisted at all.  Will you not do it now?  You are old enough to decide.  The grandest moment of a boy’s life is that moment when he decides to “SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”





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