William W. (William Weston) Patton.

The death of a mother : a discourse delivered in the 1st Congregational Church, Chicago Illinois, Sabbath, August 2, 1857 online

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Online LibraryWilliam W. (William Weston) PattonThe death of a mother : a discourse delivered in the 1st Congregational Church, Chicago Illinois, Sabbath, August 2, 1857 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Psalm xxxv. 14.
"I bowed down lieavily, as one that mourneth for liis mother."

There is no sound in tlie English language, if we
except that which expresses the name of our Savior,
which falls upon the ear ^vith so sweet and touching a
cadence as the word Mother. From the earliest
hours of dependent and affectionate childhood to the
last moment.^ of expiring age, it is, of all words Avhicli
relate to earth, the most precious, retaining its charm
through every change of life, and breathing music into
the verj ear of death. The face upon which our eyes
first learned to look with love in this world, remains
fixed in memory — as it were daguerreotyped on the
heart — until the pulse ceases to beat and we j)ass to
a world where the relationships of time merge in those
of eternitv.

Tliis feeling of interest and afJ'ectiou is the result of
a divine constitution. God ordained tliat every hu-
man being, subsequent to the first created pair, should
liave a mother. Not even "-the man Christ Jesus"
was exempt from this law of ontj-anco into mortal life.


Tliougli lie acknowledged no father but God, lie was
tlie son of a virgin, and learned in cliildliood to lisp
the precious name of mother! Tliis divine arrange-
ment was intended to secure numerous and important
ends, through the mutual love of mother and child.
It is, therefore, an interesting study to inquire into the
facts connected with this phase of the family.

First, then, I remark, that the relation of a


the physical fact of birth. Tlie child derives its being
from its mother, and is emphatically "bone of her
bone and flesh of her flesh." She has borne the child
with all that special suffering which, in every language
under heaven, has been made the flgure of the most
intense agony. At the risk, and sometimes at the ex-
pense, of the mother's life, does every child enter the
world. This constitutes a link between the two, such
as binds in no other relation. Tliere can be no ap-
proximation of any other person, in the eyes of a
mother, to her own child. Tliere can be no substitute,
on the other hand, in the eyes of a child, for a mother.
Tliey are peculiarly one, as trunk and branch are one,
as the sun and its light are one. Tlie mother never
forgets that her children are her oflspring, with her
blood in their veins, her life in their heart.

Then follows the fact of early, protracted, self-
denying and all-embracing rare. Tlie new l)orn babe,


utterly helpless, is cast upon the care of the mother, -
who from that moment assumes a responsibility which
only maternal love could sustain, and enters upon long
years of labor and sacrifice. By day and by night, in
health and in illness, without intermission save in an
anxious sleep which the slightest disturbance ends,
does the mother wait uj^on the wants of her little one.
To guard it from harm and to promote its happiness,
is the one thought ever present in her mind, con-
sciously cherished during the greater portion of the
time, and abiding in the depths of her heart even
when, for brief periods, she is drawn to other duties.
JS'o person but herself sustains this relation of perpet-
ual care, to ward off actual aiid possible harm, to sup-
ply every bodily want, to minister comfort in the
many but brief griefs of childhood, and to be a con-
tinual sunshine around the young plant. God thought
of this maternal symi^athy, when he said lovingly to
his people, "Then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne
upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees ; as
one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort
you." And the Bible also presents a very natural and
affecting illustration in the case of the little son of the
Shunammite woman, wlio, being taken ill, as he
watclied the reapers, cried out, "My head! my
head;" upon which the father said, "Carry him to
his mother;" and we read that "he sat on her knees


till noon, and then died." Yes, it is tlie mother whose
all-embracing care is at hand in every emergency, and
who may be said to live for her child.

Tlien we nmst add the fact, that to tha mother is
committed the earliest and most important instruction
and training of the child. It is she who has nnder
sole charge the tender mind in its most susceptible
stage, w^hen the deepest impressions are made ot
thought and feehng, and the first directions are given
to the will. Solomon, even from the throne, looked
back to the instruction which he had received from
his mother; for in the book of Proverbs we find such
sentences as these frequently recurring: ''My son, for-
sake not the law of thy mother;" "I was tender and
only beloved in the sight of my mother;" "Tlie words
of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught
him." And so every man, who has been blessed w^ith
a faithful and pious mother, will remember that his
earliest lessons were learned in his mother's lap, and
that from her lips' and kneeling by her side, he was
taught to pronounce the name of God and to articulate
the words of prayer. 'No other person has that full
authority, deep interest, constant access and perpetual
presence, which make a mother's instructions the very
atmosphere in which the child moves and breathes.
Tlie infantile years of life, which are, beyond doubt,
the forming period of character, are placed at her sole


disposal, so tliat in no untrue sense she may be said to
be tlie mother of the child in soul and body alike.
Secondly, we should notice the fact, that fkom this


love is, on both sides, partly blind and instinctive, and
partly intelligent and cultivated. God has implanted,
even in brutes, a strong affection for their offspring, at
least during the period in which the latter need pro-
tection. Tlie human mother has this passion devel-
oped permanently in its highest form. Tlie first sight
of her new born babe is attended with a gush of feel-
ing such as she has never before experienced, and
from that moment a fountain of deep and tender emo-
tion is opened, which never ceases to flow while life
continues, for it is increased by all the contact, labor
and self-denial of subsequent years, with their results
of good in the child. Indeed, this becomes the master
passion of her nature, and for the defence and happi-
ness of her children, she will sacrifice every personal
blessing which earth can afford. Hence God himself
appeals to this all-engrossing and imperishable love, as
an illustration of his love for Zion, in the well known
passage commencing with the words, '' Can a woman
forget her sucking child, that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb ?" Tlie use, also,
which Solomon made of maternal love in deciding to


wliom a disputed child belonged, will occur at once to
every mind.

The instinctive love of the lower animals for their
offspring ceases when the latter have arrived at matu-
^•ity. The lioness cares not for her cub when it has
become a full grown lion. Tlie female bird, that will
try every possible art and display the most sm^Drising
com'age to conceal and protect her brood, deserts them
w^hen they can provide for themselves. j^Jot so does
maternal love expire in the human breast. A mother's
eye never loses sight of a child when manhood or wo-
manhood is reached ; a mother's heart never ceases to
rejoice m the prosperity and to sorrow in the afflic-
tions of her children. Let the man of middle age
come to honor, and it may be said to him then, as
truly as in the days of liis childhood, in the language
of Solomon, "Tliy father and thy mother shall be glad,
and she that bore thee shall rejoice." Let him fall
into sin and dishonor, and the bowed head of his gray-
haired mother will proclaim how intensely she feels it,
who a half century before gave birth to him in min-
gled joy and agony ; for as the wise man observed,
"A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother" — "a
grief to his father and bitterness to her that bore him."

" Sweet is the image of the brooding dove !
Holy as heaven, a mother's tender love —
The love of many prayers and many tears,
Which changes not with dim, declining years."


And tliis afFection is returned, thongli in a weaker
degree, by tlie child. Tlie first and strongest affection
of our nature is given to our motlier, whose loving
face hangs over our infancy, and to whose arms we
leap with joy from all other embrace. This natural
clinging to the mother does indeed, in a few years, be-
come less close, especially with boys, and during youth
there is often an abatement of filial afiection, particu-
larly in cases where restraint is unw^elcome. But as
soon as reason regains her sway, parental claims are
more respected than ever, and the word mothek thrills
on the ear with more than wonted power. Every
noble nature is highly susceptible of this filial regard,
and we instinctively honor the young man wdiose
attention is lavished upon his mother, and to whom
her word is law now as in younger days. It is one of
the most touching traits in our Savior's character, that
eminent as was his station, many and sorrowful his
trials, he was ever thoughtful of her who, in virgin
purity, bore him ; so that in the hour of his agony, as
he hung upon the cross, at whose foot stood the w^eep-
ing Mary, he tenderly committed her to the protection
of the beloved disciple, saying to her, "liehold thy
son!" and to John, ''Behold thy mother!" And who
does not admire the respect with which Solomon, at
the time the most illustrious and powerful sovereign
in the world, treated his mother, when she came be-


fore liis throne to make a request? "And the kmg
rose up to meet her and bowed himself unto her and
sat down on his throne and caused a seat to be set for
the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand."
Who does not detect the swelling of filial love in the
royal heart, as in persuasive tones he encourages her
to speak, saying, "Ask on, my mother; for I will not
say thee nay?" And if we turn to the delightful
verses of Cowper — all of which deserve to become
"household words," so replete are they with purity of
imagination and refinement of feeling, and so full of
domestic pictures — which of them strikes a more re-
sponsive chord, than those lines upon the recej)tion of
his departed mother's portrait, which the coldest tem-
perament can scarce peruse without tears? How his
grateful memory ran back over the scenes of child-
hood, as he spake of the home that was for a brief
time their own.

"Short-lived possession! but the record fair
That memory keeps of all thy kindness there,
Still outlives many a storm that has effaced
A thousand other themes less deeply traced.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made,
That thou mightst know me safe and warmly laid;
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home,
The biscuit or confectionery plumb ;
The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestowed
By thine own hand, till fresh they shone and glowed ;


All this, still legible in memory's page,

And still to be so to my latest age,

Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay

Such honors to thee as my numbers may ;

Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere,

Not scorned in heaven, though little noticed here."

It is only tlie most hardened and debased heart, if
any, that extinguishes this love for a mother. Long
years of crime cannot efface the remembrance of the
sweet voice which spake of God, and truth, and right,
in the ear of childhood. You may go into the largest
prison, and" select the most desperate character within
its cells of guilt and shame — the wretch who has mur-
dered his fellow-man and blasi3hemed his God, and
who meets all accusations and reproaches with stern
defiance and brazen scorn — and you shall take his
hand and talk with him of his boyhood and early
home, and ask him whether he remembers his mother,
and the deep-drawn sigh, followed by the trickling
tear, will convince you, that in that callous soul one
tender spot remains, in which lies buried the memory
of a mother's love. And how often has this single
and last cord sufficed to draw the victim of sin back
to \dii:ue, as he has been led to hope that he might yet
become what his mother had thought to see him, or at
least might be prepared to meet her in a world of
purity above. How often the first step in vice and
crime has been arrested, when just about to be taken,


by the sudden recollection of a mother's liopes and
prayers and tears. Yes, God made tlie mother to be
loved, and as He implanted in her heart an intense
yearning over her children, that storge of which the
Greek classical writers make such frequent mention,
so has he placed among the nobler instincts of om*
nature, an answering iilial aifection.

Hence, it follow^s, thirdly, that there is a peculiar


afflictions are precisely ahke, for they assail different
interests and different classes of affections. The
grief occasioned by tl^e loss of property or the defeat
of an important enterprise, is not the same as that
which results from the death of a relative or friend.
And so the death of an infant is felt in another
manner from that of an adult son or daughter, while
we mourn the loss of a husband or w^ife as we do not
that of a child. As peculiar links bind us to each
class of relatives, so our sorrow at their death assumes
varied tyj)es. Where a beloved mother is removed
by death, the heart is wounded in a part of exquisite
tenderness. Our grief is at once deep and gentle.
We feel that a thousand little tendrils of affection
that fastened upon om* mother, have been suddenly
and rudely torn asunder. We seem to bleed as from
a multitude of wounds. With the love wdiich we
cherish for a father is mingled much of that awe,


reverence and snbniission, whicli create something of
distance ; but tlie mother lies in the closest proximity
to tlie heart, and when she is taken, we feel specially
deserted and sorrowful. This is the view of the
Psalmist in the text, who uses the grief felt at the
death of a mother, as a strong and somewhat hyper-
bolical illustration of the sorrow which he had
benevolently exhibited for the calamities of those
w^ho had subsequently repaid him with the grossest
malignity. ''But a^ for me, when they were sick,
my clothing was sackcloth. I humbled my soul with
fasting, and my prayer returned into my own bosom.
I behaved myself as though it (he) had been my
friend or brother ; I bowed down heavily as one that
mourneth for his mother."

When a mother is removed, it seems as though we
buried wdth her no small j)ortion of our ow^n, and of
the family life. Who so Avell acquainted as she, with
the numberless little interesting particulars of our
childhood ? Who else can tell us all we wish to know
of the early days of our brothers and sisters ? Who
but she can describe what our father was in his
youthful days, and during his first labors and trials ?
Her memory was the family record, and she the
historian whom all loved to consult. And now she is
gone, we have parted, as it w^ere, with whole years of
life. There is no one left w^ith whom to o-o lovino^ly


over tlie past, searcliing out the forgotten incidents,
and renewing former experience. Xo ; henceforward
we consign it all to oblivion.

And then how poor we feel, when sensible that we
are no longer the objects of the pecidiar love of a
MOTHER. Ah ! now we begin to prize a mother's
afiection, a mother's prayers, counsels, and tears I
AVe rise above the gross materialism of our daily
pursuits, and bethink us, that love is of more value
than o:old ; and that it were better to have the wealth
of a mother's pure, generous, disinterested affection,
than to possess all the treasures of California. We
contrast her undvinor reo:ard with the iiimsv friend-
ships of ordinary associates, and realize that it is a sad
thing to be left in this cold world without a mother's
heart to feel for us.

And then comes the crowning element of wo, that
a MOTHER can never be replaced, that we have met
vdih a loss which can never be made good. When
parents part with a child, though the pang be severe,
"there is the knowledore that other children remain to
cheer their home, or that God may send a like
precious gift in its place. When the young man parts
from his chosen companion, and with mitold anguish
lays the precious body in the tomb, though he seems
to bury the hopes of life, we know that time will
assuage grief, and that another gentle soul, frill of


syiiipatliy and love, may become one with liis own,
and be to him all that is implied in the precious name
of wife. But we can have only one mother. The
tie is a blood tie, peculiar and alone. We can be
born into the w^orld but once, and of all the loving
hearts of womankind that throng the earth, but one
can know and feel that we are her offspring. Hence
we grieve with special sorrow, when Death snatches
away what earthly life can never replace. We say to
ourselves, again and again, as we strive to realize the
sad event, " Can it be that we have no mother ? that
that sacred word can never be addressed again to one
who shall sustain the endeared relati<Hi? that here-
after we are to look back to the enjoyment of maternal
love, as to a past blessing ?" Even the child, with
the mere half-knowledge of boyhood, or girlhood, has
an intuitive sense of a great and irreparable loss, when
a mother is taken away. How touchingiy CoTv^^er
adverts to such grief :

" My Mother! wlien I learned that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the teare I shed ?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun ?
Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss ;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss."

There may, indeed, be for a young child the out-
ward attention from another which his mother would


give — all that the word duty implies may be faithfully
done for him ; but the gush and yearning of a mother's
heart, that may not be had, for it cannot be the
creature of volition ; it must have for its som-ce the
consciousness that the very life of the child is de-
rived from its own. And, therefore, when we bury
our MOTHER, and especially when we do it in our adult
years, we do it with a special burden of sorrow, and
the spot where she is laid becomes sacred above all
other ground.

Perhaps you have wondered, my dear people, that
I should have selected such a subject as this, as a
theme of discourse to-day. I have done so, guided l)y
the safe principle that the pen should follow the
heart, and that the preacher will best interest his
people, by allowing the overflow of his soul to stream
through his lips. Sudden tidings of the almost in-
stant death of my beloved mother,'^' reached me on
Monday last, and the thoughts of the week have
naturally shaped themselves into this sermon. You
were strangers to her person and her worth, and it
w^ere, therefore, inappropriate for me to dwell, in your
presence, upon the features of her life. " The heart
knoweth its own bitterness," and I shall parade
neither the fact nor the reason of my filial grief before

"^ Mrs. Mary Weston Patton, wife of Kev, William Patton, D, D., of
New York city, who died at Stonington, Ct., July 25, IBS'?.


the public. Suffice it, that she was my mother, the
faithful, loving wife of my father, the parent of all his
children, the partner, from the beginning, of his labors,
the sharer of his successes, the comfoi-ter of his
sorrows ; that she w^as, from an early period of her
life, a disciple of Jesus Christ, at first taking a stand
as such alone in her immediate circle, and never
ceasing from her love of the Savior and of his people,
till she was called to the prepared mansion ; and that
my own earliest associations and memories are con-
nected wdth the instructions of her who taught me my
very letters from the Bible, and w^lio has followed
ine through life, with the love which a mother
bears her eldest, living son. Often she j^ieaded
with me for Christ, in the days of my sin, and it was
with the joy of one who has brought her son to a
second birth, that she hailed my conversion. And
to-day do I seem- to see the tears of holy joy, wiiich
gathered in her eye and trickled down her cheek,
when first, as a licensed candidate for the ministry, I
stood up, in my father's pulpit, to preach the gospel
of the Son of God. Subsequently she became (within
a few years), a member of the church to which I
ministered in Hartford, Conn., and with mingled
Christian and maternal pleasure, heard the Truth
from the lips of her son, and received the emblems of
Jesus' death from his hands. It was not my privilege


to see her in cleatli, nor to lay lier remains in the
bosom of God's earth — the act by which I turned
my back on my former home to come and serve
the Master here, took me forever, in this workl,
from the sight of that dear face. But I believe in
God ; I have confidence in Jesus Christ ; I have faith
in the resurrection of the dead ; I know there is a
heaven. I shall again see my mother, washed in the
blood of the Lamb, purified forever from sin, and
clothed eventually with an immortal body, "like to
that glorious body" in which her Savior represents
redeemed humanity in the upper world ; and the
meeting that shall then take place shall be eternal !

Witli this brief reference to the occasion of such a
discourse, I pass, in conclusion, to a few ]3ractical
remarks, which grow out of the subject :

1. Let me urge those w^ho have a mother still
living, to give her their highest respect and affection.
You will never regret, at a future day, that you
did so. Filial love assumes new beauty as years roll
away and we look back upon it from the decline of
life. Young men, as they advance out of boyhood,
often cherish or yield to a miserable, false shame of
being subject to a mother's control. They ridicule
those who strive to please a pious mother, and think
it shows a manly spirit to go contrary to her counsels
and entreaties.


*' One angel lyinister is sent
To guard and guide us to the sky,
And still her sheltering wing is bent,
Till manhood rudely throws it by.
Oh, then with mad disdain we spurn
A mother's gentle teaching ; throw
Her. bosom from us, and we burn
To rush in freedom, where the glow
Of pleasure lights the dancing wave —
We launch the bark we woo the gale.
And reckless of the darkling grave
That yawns below, Ave speed the sail!"

My joiiHg friends, believe me when I say, that such
conduct is unworthy of a son, and will at a future day
toi-ture your soul with cruel remorse. When that
dear mother lies cold in death, and you would give all
this world's wealth to recall her to life, then will you
remember her kindness and your disobedience, and
every act of waywardness will be a dagger to your
heart. Be kind to her now, and when she is called
away, memory will pour balm into your wounded
soul. " Despise not thy mother when she is old,"
said the wise man. I^o, rather let every added day
of her life make her dearer to your heart. You will
never have any one else to love you with an affec-
don so pure and so lasting. Blessed are they who
3an have a mother's voice and smile to cheer them far
on in their pilgrimage ! Then amid earth's darkest


disappointments, tliej can say with one of England's
sweetest and saddest female poets :


Online LibraryWilliam W. (William Weston) PattonThe death of a mother : a discourse delivered in the 1st Congregational Church, Chicago Illinois, Sabbath, August 2, 1857 → online text (page 1 of 2)