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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Early Religious Impressions the Appropriate Work of Mothers

Jabez Burns

From Mothers of the Wise and Good, 1860

The subject of parental responsibility, which has formerly been so imperfectly appreciated, and still more imperfectly practiced, is at the present day, frequently and powerfully presented for consideration. Yet there is no danger of exhausting the subject. To reflecting minds, and especially those of parents, it must rise in importance in proportion as it is dwelt upon.

No parents, then, need hesitate in bringing forward the fruits of their observation and experience. Although I have read much, thought much, and heard much; yet the subject now presents itself with the firmness and force of a new idea, particularly on the point of maternal responsibility. When I look at it, it seems as if the character, the present and eternal welfare of the rising generation, were placed almost exclusively and unqualifiedly in the hands of mothers.

This conviction is not the result of abstract reflection, but of actual observation. God has, indeed, been pleased to recover to himself some who have not been brought to him in his appointed way. With regard to those who, we have reason to fear, have been lost, and to those who we now see in the broad way to destruction, we may challenge the scrutiny of an accurate inquirer; and we would not fear for the ground which we take, that among that unhappy number, few will be found who were blest with judicious, pious, praying mothers, who had the training of the first years of their children's life.

In reply to this, it may be said, we have known or heard of many of the children of pious parents who have lived and died irreligious. But if these cases were to be individually and faithfully investigated, a very different impression would remain on the mind. Among those who are nominal professors, how many realize as they ought their duties and responsibilities?

Sometimes these examples, which are held up to disprove the argument, may have been the children of a pious father, but not of a pious mother; or the mother may have become pious after the children had passed that early and impressible period, within which the rudiments of the character are formed. And there are also pious parents who have not suitably estimated or fulfilled these duties, and so far have committed sin.

Again, there are some who have appeared, in their childhood, to have enjoyed faithful religious instruction, and pious prayers and example, and yet have been among those who are wandering far from God, and throwing off all the restraint of education and conscience. But if you will observe their course, you will find that among the converted and recovered wanderers, those who have had these advantages form much the greater proportion.

I am led to trace the history of such an individual. Little E. had the misfortune of losing his excellent mother before he reached his sixth year. Although, during his infantile years, her health had been so imperfect as to interfere with the discharge of her maternal duties, yet she had offered her children in faith to God. She had aimed to instill into their minds, on the first dawning of reason, a sense of their obligations and duties to their Creator, of whom she spoke to them as their Heavenly Father — their kind Preserver, and bountiful Benefactor.

She cultivated sentiments of devotion by storing their minds with forms of prayer, and instructive hymns suited to their comprehension. And these instructions seemed to fall on good ground, and promised to bring forth fruit; and were not only thus implanted, but were watered with importunate prayers and tears. It pleased God, whose ways to us are inscrutable, to bereave this child of this precious blessing; and he was left, as it were, at the mercy of a wicked world, or as a helpless lamb without a shepherd.

Little E. was left very much to the society and baneful example and influence of unprincipled servants. Soon all the gentle admonitions and pious instructions of his mother were effaced from his volatile mind. His conscience, which was once alive and tender, was soon seared; and when he was led into evil, he had no compunctions. As might be expected, as he advanced in years, he advanced in sin, from wanton indulgence, unchecked and unrestrained. As he progressed toward manhood, snares thickened around him, and he was thrown among evil companions. He advanced from one stage of wickedness to another, and still another, with fearful strides.

The cavilers enjoyed the triumph of saying, “There is the child of a pious mother.” They may enjoy this triumph. But in after years, if they beheld this youth in his headlong career arrested—if they could see the tears of contrition which he was brought to shed, and hear him recall his early impressions received from the lips of his tender mother, especially her dying advice, which, amidst all his wanderings, would sometimes recur—would they not yield their prejudices, and acknowledge that early impressions may radically affect the character and destiny of man?