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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From Mothers of the Wise and Good, 1860
When I say that there is a connection between the piety of mothers and the salvation of their children, I do not mean the connection which God has instituted in the covenant of grace; for this covenant applies equally to both parents. There is something peculiar in the case of a mother so that, independently of the covenant of God, maternal piety is more likely to be followed by the conversion of children than the piety of a father.
1. A mother's piety is peculiarly affectionate. There is nothing severe or ceremonious in its exercise, but it mingles itself with the numberless little natural kindnesses by which the heart of a child is won, and acquires a hold on the first rising affections of his mind. A pious mother, while she watches over her sleeping or sick child, while she guides his tottering steps, or furnishes him for his school, or his pastime, or leads him up to the house of God, has a yearning of the soul over his soul, and cherishes and often expresses a feeling of solicitude for his eternal welfare, which diffuses a restraining and chastening influence over his mind while it is precious also in the sight of God.
Her prayers, which she pours out over him, are in those wonted accents of tenderness and love, which have always soothed his mind, and kindled his affection. Her counsels, and admonitions, and chastisements, are the manifest dictates of a heart laboring with desires for his conversion and salvation, and carry with them, on that account, an authority which truth and reason alone would be unable to exert.
2. A mother's piety is familiar. It labors with her child, and before God on his behalf, in a style which he understands and feels. The language of her counsels and her devotions is a simple and artless expression of her desires adapted to his youth, his inexperience, his infirmities and temptations. It comes home to his heart. He recognizes the voice that speaks to him to be the same which has always lulled him into his evening slumbers, and greeted him with morning salutations; and he feels that it means as much kindness for him, when speaking in counsel, or in prayer, as when it has soothed his pains, or tempted his smiles, or encouraged his festivities. If a father's efforts for the spiritual good of his child produce more of reverence, solemnity, and fear; yet a mother applies herself more directly to the heart, and fastens there a cord which holds the affections and the sensibilities when the other more powerful emotions have subsided.
A mother will teach her child, will soften, or restrain, or encourage him, with incomparably more facility and effect than any other individual. She will fix in his mind an outline of the whole history of the Bible, of its system of doctrines and precepts, sooner and better than any other person can initiate him into the first principles of Divine knowledge. He understands her tones, her looks, her gestures. They all speak to him, and they fix an impression which is always sure and abiding. And there is no time when a pious mother cannot have access to her child.
How soon will she penetrate his heart, and ascertain the causes of all his troubles; how soon will she allay the storm of passion; how soon apply to him the admonitions of Providence; how soon excite an inquisitive spirit, and how successfully follow up a father's sterner reproof and correction, with heart-breaking expostulations, reducing him to penitence, and fortifying him against future temptation. A pious mother is a sort of better conscience to a child, a messenger of God ever the most ready and the most able, next to the Holy Spirit, to rescue him from the power of his depravity, and turn his feet into the paths of peace.
3. A pious mother has peculiar opportunities of saving her children. She is ever at their side to restrain their corrupt propensities, to regulate their inordinate desires, and encourage them to obedience. She can turn almost every event of Providence into an occasion of salutary instruction, can mingle counsel as it were with their medicine and their food, can be ever distilling upon them the wholesome words of eternal life, as the dew upon the tender herb, and the soft rain that waters the earth. Her mind is not burdened with cares for their sustenance, but with anxieties for their salvation; and while preparing for them their raiment, while superintending their tasks or their sports, she can be lifting up to God her desires for their everlasting happiness.
Her watchful eye can pierce through their duplicity, and search out their secret sins, while the leisure that God gives her for this very purpose can be employed in explaining to them the obligations and sanctions of the Divine law, the nature of their corruptions, the consequences of their sins, and the way of salvation, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
It is hers to commend them to God, when she commits them to their pillows, and when she leads them out to the employment of the day. They may enjoy her guidance as their constant monitor, till they are qualified to go out to another residence. And her daily prayers and frequent correspondence may afterward keep alive the precious instructions of their childhood, and procure for them the better teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit. To the mother belongs most appropriately the duty and privilege of administering line upon line, and precept upon precept.
To bring up her children for God is her great business, her honorable distinction, and it is connected in the Divine Providence with results the most encouraging and glorious. Not, indeed, that there is any intrinsic efficacy in the means which she employs, not that any means will necessarily procure the salvation of the soul, but so it is that God accomplishes the purposes of his mercy. He saves according to his pleasure, may be educated for his kingdom. He blesses her counsels and her prayers, because to this end He qualified her to promote the interests of his Kingdom.
We cannot better conclude these forcible remarks than by the following affecting testimony and beautiful verses:
"When I was a little child," said a good old man, "my mother used to bid me kneel down beside her, and place her hand upon my head while she prayed. Ere I was old enough to know her worth she died, and I was left too much to my own guidance.
“Like others, I was inclined to evil passions, but often felt myself checked, and as it were drawn back by a soft hand upon my head. When a young man, I traveled in foreign lands, and was exposed to many temptations; but when I would have yielded, that same hand was upon my head, and I was saved. I seemed to feel its pressure as in the days of my happy infancy, and sometimes there came with it a voice in my heart, a voice that must be obeyed—‘O do not this wickedness, my son, nor sin against thy God.’”