John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

The mother at home; or, The principles of maternal duty familiarly illustrated online

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottThe mother at home; or, The principles of maternal duty familiarly illustrated → online text (page 1 of 10)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1833, by Crocker &
Brewster, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

Right of publishing transferred to the American Tract Society.

By Bxct
Army And Navy Qiyfo




This book is most affectionately dedicated. For
the principles here inculcated, I am indebted to the
instructions I received, and the scenes I witnessed,
at your fireside. That God may render them avail-
able in conferring the same joy upon other families
which they have so richly shed upon yours, is the

prayer of your



The object of this book is practical utility, not
literary effect. It was written for mothers in the
common walks of life. There are many mothers,
in every village of our land, who are looking eagerly
for information respecting the government of their
children. It is hoped that the following treatise
may render them some assistance.

Some persons may object to the minuteness of
detail, and the familiarity of illustration, occasion-
ally introduced. We, however, are persuaded that
this objection will not be made by mothers. Edu-
cation consists in attention to little things.

The religious sentiments inculcated in this book
are those usually denominated evangelical. We
have proceeded upon the principle that here is the
commencement of eternal existence, and that the
great object of education is to prepare the child for
its heavenly home.

When a person writes upon the subject of family


government, the first thought which arises in the
minds of many readers, is, "We will see how he
succeeds in his own family." There are many
motives, such as indolence, false tenderness, etc.,
operating to induce a parent to neglect known duty.
The principles' contained in this book may be cor-
rect, even though the author should fail to enforce

This treatise was commenced with particular
reference to the mothers who attend my ministry.
That it may be of assistance to them, in their efforts
to lead their children to the Saviour, is the earnest
prayer of their friend and pastor,




Anecdote. The Mother of Washington. Byron. Newton.
The Sailor. Consequences of a daughter's sin. The
Maniac. The way to avoid maternal anguish, .... 9


Necessity of obedience. What is meant by obedience. The
sick child. The way to obtain obedience. Scene in a farm-
house. Instance of maternal faithfulness. Motfiers' ex-
cuses. Two family scenes. A mother's power, . . 24



Contests with children. Anecdote. The way to avoid con-
tests. Variations of feeling. Difference of natural dispo-
sition. Variations of punishment. Unjust punishment.
Illustrations. Time to commence government. Effects of
severity, 39



Necessity of self-control. Illustration. Necessity of resolu-
tion. The unhappy widow. Anecdote of Bonaparte.
Fatal indulgence of sick children. Importance of harmony
of views between both parents. Family saved from ruin
by a mother, 62



Talking about children in their presence. Anecdote. Self-
conceit, how produced. Injudicious remarks of visitors.


The vain child. Making exhibitions of children's attain-
ments. Repeating hymns. Remarks of an English gen-
tleman. Secluding children from society. A family scene.
Loquacity. Anecdote. Deceiving children. The phy-
sician. Good effects of approbation. Basil Hall. Imagin-
ary fears. Apalling consequences of resorting to them for
punishment, 80



A mother's influence. Importance of deep devotional feeling.
Dying scene. The cheerful aspect in which religion should
be presented. Appropriate occasions for religious instruc-
tion. Tenderness of feeling. The storm. Sickness. The
death of a child. Anecdote. The summer's morning.
Loss of a ball. The gentleman and the cabin-boy. Inap-
propriate occasions. Excitement. Tedious conversa-
tion, 107



Indefinite views of heaven. Vivid description of the inspired
writers. Intellectual delight. Rapture of Melody. Joy
of friendship. Beauty of scenery. The Saviour. Im-
pression a Saviour's love produces on the mind of a child.
Nathan Dickerman. Prayer with children. The gambler.
English gentleman. Teaching children to pray. Mode.
Anecdote. Expect success. Sources of encouragement.
Evil consequences of giving publicity to the hopeful piety
of a child, 127



'A mother's joys. A mother's influence on future generations.

, Consequences of a father's neglect of duty. Necessity of
studying the subject of education. Consequences of igno-
rance. Keeping journals. Extracts from a mother's note-
book. Cessation of toil, and a heavenly home, . .149





A few years ago, some gentlemen who were
associated in preparing for the ministry, felt inter-
ested in ascertaining what proportion of their num-
ber had pious mothers. They were greatly surprised
and delighted in finding that out of one hundred
and twenty students, over a hundred had been borne
by a mother's prayers, and directed by a mother's
counsels, to the Saviour. Though some of these had
broken away from all the restraints of home, and
like the prodigal, had wandered in sin and sorrow,
yet they could not forget the impressions of child-
hood, and were eventually brought to the Saviour,
to be a mother's joy and blessing. Many interest-
ing facts have, within a few years, drawn the at-
tention of Christians to this subject. The efforts


which a mother makes for the improvement of her
child in knowledge and virtue, are necessarily re-
tired and unobtrusive. The world knows not of
them ; and hence the world has been slow to per-
ceive how powerful and extensive is this secret and
Bilent influence. But circumstances are now direct-
ing the eyes of the community to the nursery, and
the truth is daily coming more distinctly before the
public, that the influence which is exerted upon the
mind during the first eight or ten years of existence,
in a great degree guides the destinies of that mind
for time and eternity. And as the mother is the
guardian and guide of the early years of life, from
her goes the most powerful influence in the forma-
tion of the character of man. And why should it
not be so ? "What impressions can be more strong,
and more lasting, than those received upon the mind
in the freshness and the susceptibility of youth ?
What instructor can gain greater confidence and
respect than a mother ? And where can there be
delight in acquiring knowledge, if not when the
little flock cluster around a mother's knee to hear
of God and heaven ?

"A good boy generally makes a good man." Said
the mother of Washington, " George was always a
good boy." Here we see one secret of his greatness.
George Washington had a mother who made him a
good boy, and instilled into his heart those princi-
ples which raised him to be the benefactor of hia


country, and one of the brightest ornaments of the
world. The mother of Washington is entitled to a
nation's gratitude. She taught her boy the princi-
ples of obedience, and moral courage, and virtue.
She, in a great measure, formed the character of
the hero, and the statesman. It was by her own
fireside that she taught her playful boy to govern
himself ; and thus was he prepared for the brilliant
career of usefulness which he afterwards pursued.
We are indebted to God for the gift of Washington ;
but we are no less indebted to him for the gift of
his inestimable mother. Had she been a weak, and
indulgent, and unfaithful parent, the unchecked
energies of Washington might have elevated him
to the throne of a tyrant ; or youthful disobedience
might have prepared the way for a life of crime and
a dishonored grave.

Byron had a mother just the reverse of lady Wash-
ington ; and the character of the mother was trans-
ferred to the son. We cannot wonder then at his
character and conduct, for we see them to be the
almost necessary consequence of the education he
received, and the scenes witnessed in his mother's
parlor. She would at one time allow him to diso-
bey with impunity ; again, she would fly into a rage
and beat him. She thus taught him to defy all
authority, human and divine ; to indulge, without
restraint, in sin ; to give himself up to the power
of every maddening passion It was the mother of


Byron who laid the foundation of his preeminence
in guilt. She taught him to plunge into that sea
of profligacy and wretchedness, upon whose agitated
waves he was tossed for life. If the crimes of the
poet deserve the execration of the world, the world
cannot forget that it was the mother who fostered
in his youthful heart those passions which made
the son a curse to his fellow-men.

There are, it is true, innumerable causes inces-
santly operating in the formation of character. A
mother's influence is by no means the only influence
which is exerted. Still, it may be the most power-
ful ; for, with God's ordinary blessing, it may form
in the youthful mind the habits, and implant the
principles, to which other influences are to give per-
manency and vigor.

A pious and faithful mother may have a dissolute
child. He may break away from all restraints, and
God may leave him to " eat the fruit of his own
devices." The parent thus afflicted and broken-
hearted can only bow before the sovereignty of her
Maker, who says, " Be still, and know that I am
God." The consciousness, however, of having done

.one's duty ; divests this affliction of much of its bit-
terness. And besides, such cases are rare. Profli-

' gate children are generally the offspring of parents
who have neglected the moral and religious educa-
tion of their family. Some parents are themselves
profligate, and thus not only allow their children to


grow up unrestrained, "but by their example lure
them to sin. But there are others, who are very
upright and virtuous, and even pious themselves,
who do, nevertheless, neglect the moral culture of
their children ; and as a consequence, they grow up
in disobedience and sin. It matters but little what
the cause is which leads to this neglect. The neg-
lect itself will ordinarily be followed by disobedi-
ence and self-will.

I Hence the reason that children of eminent men,
both in church and state, are not unfrequently the
disgrace of their parents. If the mother is unaccus-
tomed to govern her children, if she look to the fa-
ther to enforce obedience and to control, when he
is absent all family government is absent, and the
children are left to run wild; to learn lessons of dis-
obedience ; to practise arts of deception ; to build,
upon the foundation of contempt for a mother, a
character of insubordination and iniquity. But if
the children are under the efficient government of
a judicious mother, the reverse of this is almost
invariably the case. And since, in* nearly every
instance, the early .years of life are intrusted to a
mother's care, it follows that maternal influence,
more than any thing else, forms the future char-

The history of John Newton is often mentioned
as a proof of the deep and lasting impression which
a mother may produce upon the mind of her child,


He had a pious mother. She often retired to her
closet, and placing her hand upon his youthful head,
implored God's blessing upon her boy. These pray-
ers and instructions sunk deep into his heart. He
could not but revere that mother. He could not
but feel that there was a holiness in such a charac-
ter, demanding reverence and love. He could not
tear from his heart, in after-life, the impressions
then produced. Though he became a wicked wan-
derer, though he forsook friends and home and eve- .
ry virtue, the remembrance of a mother's prayers,
like a guardian angel, followed him wherever he
went. He mingled in the most dissipated and dis-
graceful scenes of a sailor's life, and while sur-
rounded with guilty associates, in midnight revelry,
he would fancy he felt the soft hand of his mother
upon his head, pleading with God to forgive and
bless her boy. He went to the coast of Africa, and
became even more degraded than the savages upon
her dreary shores ; but the soft hand of his mother
was still upon his head, and the fervent prayers of
his mother still thrilled in his heart. And this"' influ-
ence, after the lapse of many guilty years, brought
back the prodigal a penitent and a child of God,
elevated him to be one of the brightest ornaments of
the Christian church, and to guide many sons and
daughters to glory. What a forcible comment is
this upon the power of maternal influence ; and what
encouragement does this present to every mother to


be faithful in her efforts to train up her child for
God. Had Mrs. Newton neglected her duty, had
she even been as remiss as many Christian mothers,
her son, to all human view, might have continued
in sin, and been an outcast from heaven. It was
through the influence of the mother that the son
was saved. Newton became afterwards a most suc-
cessful preacher of the gospel, and every soul which
he was instrumental in saving, as he sings the song
of redeeming mercy, will, through eternity, bless
God that Newton had such a mother.

The influence thus exerted upon the mind in
early childhood, may, for many years, be apparently
lost. When a son leaves home, and enters upon
the busy world, many are the temptations which
come crowding upon him. If he leaves not his
mother with established principles of religion and
self-control, he will most assuredly fall before these
temptations. He may indeed fall, even after all a
mother has done, or can do ; and he may become
deeply involved in guilt. But he may apparently
forget every lesson he learnt at home, while the
influence of a mother's instructions and a mother's
prayers is yet working powerfully and effectually
in his heart. He will think of a mother's tears
when remorse keeps him awake at midnight, or
when danger threatens him with speedy arraign-
ment at the bar of God. The thoughts of the sa-
credness of home will often throw bitterness into his


cup of guilty pleasure, and compel him to sigh for
the virtue and the peace he has forsaken. Even
though far away, in abodes of infamy, degraded and
abandoned, he must occasionally think of a broken-
hearted mother. Thus may he, after many years,
perhaps long after she has gone down to the grave,
be led by the remembrance of her virtues to forsake
his sins.

A short time since, a gentleman in one of our
most populous cities was going to attend a sea-
man's meeting at the mariner's chapel. Directly
opposite the chapel there was a sailor's boarding-
house. In the door-way sat a hardy, weather-beat-
en sailor, with arms folded, and smoking a segar,
watching the people as they gradually assembled
for the meeting. The gentleman walked up to him
and said, "Well, my friend, wont you go with us
to the meeting?" "No," said the sailor, bluntly.
The gentleman, who, from the appearance of the
man, was prepared for a repulse, mildly replied,
"You look, my friend, as though you had seen hard
days ; have you a mother?" The sailor raised his
head, looked earnestly in the gentleman's face, and
made no reply.

The gentleman continued : " Suppose your moth-

'er were here now, what advice would she givo

you?" The tears rushed into the eyes of the poor

sailor ; he tried for a moment to conceal them, but

could not ; and hastily brushing them away with


the back of his rough hand, rose and said, with a
voice almost inarticulate through emotion, " I'll go
to the meeting." He crossed the street, entered the
door of the chapel, and took his seat with the as-
sembled congregation.

What afterwards became of the man is not known.
It is however almost certain that he must have had
a mother who had given him good instruction ; and
when the gentleman appealed to her, hardened as
the sailor was, his heart melted. It is by no means
improbable that this interview may have checked
this man in his sins, and led him to Christ. At any
event, it shows the strength of maternal influence.
It shows that years of wandering and of sin cannot
erase from the heart the impression which a mother's
instructions and a mother's prayers have left there.

It is a great trial to have children undutiful when
young ; but it is a tenfold greater affliction to have
a child grow up to maturity in disobedience, and
become a dissolute and abandoned man. How many
parents have passed days of sorrow and nights of
sleeplessness in consequence of the misconduct of
their offspring. How many have had their hearts
broken, and their grey hairs brought down with sor-
row to the grave, solely in consequence of their own
neglect to train up their children in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord. Your future happiness is
in the hands of your children. They may throw
gloom over all your prospects, imbitter every enjoy-

Mother at Home. o


ment, and make you so miserable, that your only
prospect of relief will be in death.

That little girl whom you now fondle upon your
knee, and who plays, so full of enjoyment, upon
your floor, has entered a world where temptations
are thick around. What is to enable her to resist
these temptations, but established principles of
piety ? And where is she to obtain these principles,
but from a mother's instructions and example ? If,
through your neglect now, she should hereafter yield
herself to temptation and sin, what must become of
your peace of mind ? 0, mother, little are you
aware of the wretchedness with which your loved
daughter may hereafter overwhelm you.

Many illustrations of the most affecting nature
might be here introduced. It would be easy to ap-
peal to a vast number of living sufferers, in attesta-
tion of the woe which the sin of the child has occa-
sioned. You may go, not only in imagination, but
in reality, to the darkened chamber where the moth-
er aits weeping, and refusing to be comforted, foi
a daughter is lost to virtue and to heaven. Still,
no person can imagine how overwhelming the ago-
ny which must prey upon a mother thus dishonored
and broken-hearted. This is a sorrow which can
only be understood by one who has tasted its bitter-
ness and felt its weight. We may go to the house
of piety and prayer, and find the father and mother
with countenances emaciated with suffering ; not a


smile plays upon their features, and the mournful
accents of their voice tell how deeply seated is their
sorrow. Shall we inquire into the cause of this
heart-rending grief ? The mother would only reply
with tears and sobs. The father would summon all
his fortitude, and say, " My daughter" — and say no
more. The anguish of his spirit would prevent the
further utterance of his grief.

Is this exaggeration ? No. Let your lovely daugh-
ter, now your pride and joy, be abandoned to infa-
my, be an outcast from society, and you must feel
v/hat language cannot express.

This is a dreadful subject, but it is one which
the mother must feel and understand. There are
facts which might here be introduced, sufficient to
make every parent tremble. We might lead you
to the dwelling of the clergyman, and tell you that
a daughter's sin has murdered the mother, and sent
paleness to the cheek, and trembling to the frame,
and agony to the heart of the aged father. We
might carry you to the parlor of the rich man, and
show you all the elegance and the opulence with
which he is surrounded ; and yet he would tell you
that he was one of the most unhappy of the sons
of affliction, and that he would gladly give all his
treasures if he Could purchase back a daughter's
virtue ; that he could gladly lie down to die, if he
could thus blot out the remembrance of a daugh*
ter's infamy. *


No matter what your situation in life may. be,
that little child, now so innocent, whose playful en-
dearments and happy laugh awaken such thrilling
emotions in your heart, may cause you years of
most unalleviated misery.

And, mother, look at that drunken vagrant, stag-
gering by your door. Listen to his horrid impreca-
tions, as, bloated and ragged, he passes along. That
wretch has a mother. Perhaps, widowed and in
poverty, she needs the comfort and support of an
affectionate son. You have a son. You may soon
be a widow. If your son is dissolute, you are doubly
widowed ; you are worse, infinitely worse than child-
less. You cannot now endure even the thought
that your son will ever be thus abandoned. How
dreadful then must be the experience of the reality !

I once knew a mother who had an only son. She
loved him most ardently, and could not bear to deny
him any indulgence. He, of course, soon learned
to rule his mother. At the death of his father,
the poor woman was left at the mercy of this vile
boy. She had neglected her duty when he was
young, and now his ungovernable passions had be-
come too strong for her control. Self-willed, turbu-
lent, and revengeful, he was his mother's bitterest
curse. His paroxysms of times amounted
almost to loudness. One day, infuriated against his
mother, he set fire to her house, and it was burned
to the ground with all its contents, and she was


left in the extremest state of poverty. He was im-
prisoned as an incendiary, and, in his cell, he he-
came a maniac, if he was not such hefore, and madly
dug out his own eyes. He now lies in perpetual
darkness, confined hy the stone walls and grated
bars of his dungeon, an infuriated madman.

how hard it must be for a mother, after all
her pain and anxiety and watchings, to find her
son a demoniac spirit, instead of a guardian and
friend ! You have watched over your child through
all the months of its helpless infancy. You have
denied yourself, that you might give it comfort.
When it has been sick, you have been unmindful of
your own weariness and your own weakness, and
the livelong night you have watched at its cradle,
administering to all its wants. When it has smiled,
you have felt a joy which none but a parent can
feel, and have pressed your much-loved treasure to
your bosom, praying that its future years of obe-
dience and affection might be your ample reward.
And now, how dreadful a requital, for that child to
grow up to hate and abuse you ; to leave you friend-
less, in sickness and in poverty ; to squander all his
earnings in haunts of iniquity and degradation !

How entirely is your earthly happiness at the dis-
posal of your child. His character is now, in an
important sense, in your hands, and you are to form
it for good or for evil. If you are consistent in your
government, and faithful in the discharge of your


duties, your child will probably through life revere
you, and be the stay and solace of your declining
years. If, on the other hand, you cannot summon
resolution to punish your child when disobedient ;
if you do not curb his passions ; if you do not bring
him to entire and willing subjection to your author-
ity, you must expect that he will be your curse.
In all probability, he will despise you for your
weakness. Unaccustomed to restraints at home, he
will break away from all restraints, and make you
wretched by his life, and disgraceful in his death.

But few parents think of this as they ought.
They are not conscious of the tremendous conse-
quences dependent upon the efficient and decisive
government of their children. Thousands of parents
now stand in our land like oaks blighted and scathed
by lightnings and storms. Thousands have had
every hope wrecked, every prospect darkened, and
have become the victims of the most agonizing and
heart-rending disappointment, solely in consequence
of the misconduct of their children. And yet thou-

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottThe mother at home; or, The principles of maternal duty familiarly illustrated → online text (page 1 of 10)