by John Abbott, 1833, Worcester, Mass.
Published by the American Tract Society


Frequent allusion has been made in the preceding chapters, to the fatal consequences which must attend the neglect of duty. In view of this, some parents may have been oppressed and dejected. It is most surely true that the misconduct of children, subjects the parents to the utmost intensity of suffering. But it must be remembered, that when parental faithfulness is attended with its usual blessing—joys, nearer akin to those of heaven than of earth, are the result. The human heart is not susceptible of more exquisite pleasures than the parental relation affords. Is there no joy when the mother first presses her infant to her heart? Is there no delight in witnessing the first placid smile which plays upon its cheek? Yes! The very earliest infancy of the babe brings "rapture a mother only knows!" The very care is a delight. And when your little son has passed through the dreamy existence of infancy—and is buoyant with the activity, and animated with the intelligence of childhood—are not new sources of pleasure opened to your mind? Are there no thrilling emotions of enjoyment in hearing the hearty laugh of your happy boy—in witnessing the unfoldings of his active mind—in feeling his warm kiss and ardent embrace? Is there no delight in seeing your boy run to meet you, with his face full of smiles and his heart full of love—and in hearing him, in lisping accents, call you mother?

As you receive daily new proofs of his affection and obedience—and see that his little bosom is animated with a generous and a noble spirit—you feel repaid a hundred fold for all your efforts, troubles and toils. After a few years your children arrive at maturity, and with that divine blessing which we may expect to accompany our prayerful efforts—they will be found with generous affections and established principles of piety. With what emotions do parents then look around upon their happy and prosperous family! They are receiving the earthly recompense of reward. What an affecting sight it is, to see an aged and widowed mother leaning upon the firm arm of her son, as he accompanies her to the house of God! And how many parents have had their declining years cheered by the affectionate attentions of a daughter! Who will so tenderly watch over you in sickness as a daughter—whose bosom is animated by the principles of piety which you have inculcated?

Among the sweetest earthly joys to be experienced in old age—is the joy of looking around upon happy and grateful children. The marks of esteem and love you receive from them, will daily be rewarding you for all your toil. And when your children's children cluster around you, giving unceasing tokens of respect and affection—you will find in their caresses the renewal of your youth. When all other earthly joys have faded—you will find in the little prattlers of the fireside untiring enjoyment!

But there is a scene of still brighter happiness. The Christian family will meet again! Parents and children will be associated in heaven! And when the whole household are happily assembled there—when they sit down together in the green pastures and by the still waters—when they go in and out at the mansions which God has prepared for them—then, and not until then, will they experience the fullness of the enjoyment with which God rewards parental faithfulness!

How full of rapture is the thought—that the whole family may meet again in the world of songs and everlasting joy—where sorrow and sighing shall forever flee away! As from that happy state of existence you look back upon your pilgrimage on earth, you can never regret—any amount of labor you have expended—any sacrifices you have made—any sufferings you have undergone—to train up your children to be with you the heirs of a glorious immortality. O there is enough, abundantly enough—to encourage every parent to unwearied exertions! As with the deep emotions of parental love, you look upon the obedient and affectionate children who surround your fireside—your thoughts may be carried away to enjoyments infinitely richer, and forever enduring, in the world to come!

We may be called upon to follow our children to the grave. And heart-rending is such an affliction. But if we have reason to believe that they have gone to the mansions which the Savior has prepared—much of the bitterness of the affliction is taken away. They have gone home before us! They are sheltered from every storm! They are protected from every sorrow! Soaring in angelic flights—and animated with celestial joys—they are ready to welcome us when God in his own good time shall give us entrance to those happy worlds!

A gentleman was once asked if he had lost any of his children. "No," he replied, "I have two in heaven—but have lost none." To a truly Christian family, the death of any one of its members is but a temporary absence—and not an eternal separation.

1. Mothers have as powerful an influence over the welfare of future generations—as all other earthly causes combined. Thus far the history of the world has been composed of the narrations of oppression and blood. War has scattered its unnumbered woes. The cry of the oppressed has unceasingly ascended to heaven. Where are we to look for the influence which shall change this scene—and fill the earth with the fruits of peace and benevolence? It is to the power of divine truth, to Christianity—as taught from a mother's lips! In a vast majority of cases the first six or seven years decide the character of the man. If the boy leaves the paternal roof uncontrolled, turbulent and vicious—he will, in all probability, rush on in the mad career of self-indulgence. There are exceptions—but these exceptions are rare. If, on the other hand, your son goes from home accustomed to control himself—he will probably retain that habit through life. If he has been taught to make sacrifices of his own enjoyment that he may promote the happiness of those around him, it may be expected that he will continue to practice benevolence, and consequently will be respected, and useful, and happy. If he has adopted firm resolutions to be faithful in all the relations in life, he, in all probability, will be a virtuous man and an estimable citizen, and a benefactor of his race.

When our land is filled with pious mothers—then will it be filled with virtuous men! The world's redeeming influence, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, must come from a mother's lips. She who was first in the transgression, must be yet the principal earthly instrument in the restoration. Other causes may greatly aid. Other influences must be ready to receive the mind as it comes from the mother's hand—and carry it onward in its improvement. But the mothers of our race must be the chief instruments in its redemption. This sentiment will bear examining, and the more it is examined, the more manifestly true will it appear. It is alike the dictate of philosophy and experience. The mother who is neglecting personal effort, and relying upon other influences for the formation of virtuous character in her children, will find, when it is too late—that she has fatally erred. The parent who hopes that schools and education, and the general diffusion of knowledge—will promote the good order and happiness of the community, while family government is neglected—will find that he is attempting to purify the streams which are flowing from a corrupt fountain!

It is maternal influence, after all, which must be the great agent—in the hands of God—in bringing back our guilty race to duty and happiness. O that mothers could feel this responsibility as they ought! Then would the world assume a different aspect. Then would we less frequently behold unhappy families and broken-hearted parents. A new race of men would enter upon the busy scene of life—and cruelty and crime would pass away! O mothers! Reflect upon the power your Maker has placed in your hands! There is no earthly influence to be compared with yours. There is no combination of causes so powerful in promoting the happiness—or the misery—of our race—as the instructions of home! In a most peculiar sense God has constituted you the guardians and the controllers of the human family.

2. Perhaps someone asks, "Is there nothing for FATHERS to do?" There certainly is much—very much. But this treatise is prepared to impress upon the mind the duties of mothers. Yet, lest it should be inferred from what has been written, that the whole duty of family government rests upon the mother, I would briefly remark—that no father can be excusable for releasing himself from a full share of the responsibility. A father will often make many excuses to release himself from his duty, but alas! he cannot release his children from the ruin—or himself from the woe—which his neglect occasions. It will be a poor solace to him, as he goes in shame and sorrow to the grave—to reflect that he was busily engaged in other employments while leaving his children to develop for ignominy and disgrace! What duties can be paramount to those we owe our children?

A clergyman sometimes says he has so much to do, his time is so fully occupied, that he is compelled to neglect his children. And who has the first claim upon his attention—his congregation or his children? God has placed him over a congregation, and has also made him the father of a family—and which duty does God regard as most imperative? And yet not a few instances might be pointed out, in which clergymen of devoted piety and extensive usefulness, have given their whole attention to the labors of the study and public duties—and have left their unhappy children to grow up unchecked and vicious! No one can enjoy the privilege of being a father—without having duties to perform which will require time and care.

And can any time be more usefully employed than that which is passed in training up a family of children—who shall remain to do good in the world long after we are silent in the grave? Can we have any influence equal to that of pious sons and daughters? Can we bequeath the world a richer legacy—than the fervent piety and active usefulness of our children? O there is no sin which reaches so far, and extends such wide-spreading desolation—as parental neglect! No father can be guiltless in retiring from these responsibilities. The first duty enjoined upon us, is to keep our own hearts with diligence—the second, to lead our families to God—the third, to consult for the spiritual welfare of our neighbors—the fourth, to do all in our power to evangelize the world. And yet how many Christian ministers have paralyzed their influence, destroyed their peace of mind, and broken their hearts—by neglecting the duties they owe their children!

Many of the most eminent statesmen are thus afflicted and dishonored. And the affliction must be aggravated by the consciousness that they are reaping as they have sown! I would not willingly inflict a pang upon the heart of any parent who reads these pages, but I cannot refrain from raising a warning voice, in a view of the destruction which has gone forth, and is still going forth, from the cause we are now contemplating. The temptation is very great, for men who are engaged in literary pursuits, and overwhelmed with public cares, to neglect their domestic duties. But how ruinous is this to usefulness and happiness! It is better to be a poor man, and it is better to be a humble man—than to be disgraced in life by the profligacy of those who call us father—and to have a dying pillow planted with thorns by our children's hands! Every man, whatever be his situation in life, is bound to regard the duties he owes his children as among the most sacred he has to discharge. If he neglects them, he must reap the bitter consequences.

One other remark I must here make, as it is intimately connected with a mother's duty. A father should always endeavor to teach his children to honor their mother. If the father does not do this, the difficulties of the mother will be vastly increased. But where harmony of design is seen to exist between the parents, authority is strengthened. There is something in loving and revering a mother, which exerts a delightful influence upon the heart—it refines and elevates the character—and is a strong safeguard against degrading vice. Boys in particular will not long respect a mother, if they see that their father does not treat her with kindness. You can hardly find a dissolute young man, who has been accustomed from infancy to look to his mother with respect and love. It is in disobedience to a mother that the career of crime generally commences. The way is thus prepared for the disregard of all parental authority. And then the progress is rapid to the boldest defiance of all the laws of God and man. Many an unhappy criminal has, from the gallows, traced back his course of guilt to the early periods of childhood, when he commenced with disobedience to a mother's commands—and he has felt and acknowledged that, had he then been habituated to obey, his whole following course of life had probably been different. It is therefore of the first importance that nothing should be omitted tending to give the mother great and unceasing influence over the minds of her children.

3. The subject of EDUCATION must be attended to with persevering study. And yet how many parents neglect this duty! Nothing surely can be of greater importance to the parents and child—than a correct system of family government. Every mother admits her need of information. There are many valuable books, easy of access, which will afford great assistance. A mother should consider it one of her first duties to inform herself upon this subject, as far as her means will admit. The art of influencing and guiding the youthful mind is susceptible of almost boundless improvement, and we are unfaithful to our children if we do not become familiar with the results of the experiments of others. We ought not to stumble in darkness, when light is shining around us. There are fundamental principles in operating upon the human mind, as well as in any other science. And many an anxious mother has committed error to the serious injury of her children, which she might have avoided, had she consulted the sources of information which are at every one's hand.

How great must be the affliction of that mother, who, in consequence of neglect, has been unsuccessful with her family! She looks upon her ruined sons, and reproaches herself with the just reflection, that if she had pursued a different course, they might have been her joy and blessing. Perhaps even they throw reproaches upon her, and attribute all their guilt and wretchedness to her bad parenting. Few more miserable men have passed through the world than Lord Byron; and he had distinctly attributed the formation of his character, and consequently all his crime and woe, to his mother's unrestrained passions, and neglect of proper government.

How must such an incrimination from a dissolute son, pierce the heart of a pious mother! Knowledge of duty might have been attained, but she neglected to attain it, and through inexcusable ignorance ruined her child. An affectionate mother would be overwhelmed with anguish, if she had ignorantly administered some poisonous drug, and had seen her child in consequence expiring in agony. But how much more dreadful is it to see moral ruin caused by our own criminal ignorance! Who would not rather see a son or a daughter lie down in the grave—than see them in the wretchedness and disgrace of profligacy!

"Be an example . . . in speech, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6