Faith Of Our Mothers
May 9th, 1954
2 Timothy 1:1-5
THE FAITH OF OUR MOTHERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:1-5
5-9-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the Mothers’ Day sermon entitled The Faith of Our Mothers. In the last letter that Paul ever wrote, the second letter to Timothy, he begins his epistle to his son in the ministry with these words:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:1-5]
“When I call to remembrance the faith . . . of thy mother,” 2 Timothy 1:5; The Faith of Our Mothers.
Someone changed a little word in that grand old hymn, “Faith of our Fathers,” a marching song of the church, and they changed it to read like this:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
For youthful longing, struggle, doubt,
How blurred our vision, blind our way,
Thy providential care without:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
In truth beyond our manmade creeds,
Still serve the home and save the Church,
And breathe thy spirit through our deeds:
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
[“Faith of Our Mothers,” A. B. Patten]
“The faith that dwelt in thy mother” [2 Timothy 1:5].
The old prophets had a habit of calling Israel, the people of God, back to the memory of the days when they were born, when the nation was first born; and by those memories and recollections called the people on to a higher, nobler life in God. Isaiah one time said, “Look, look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged. Look, look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you” [Isaiah 51:1-2]. The faith of our mothers is the formative faith of our religion.
In the beginning of the chosen race of God, there were three great mothers: Sarah, the mother of Isaac [Genesis 2:2-3]; Rebekah the mother of Jacob [Genesis 25:21, 24, 26], who was named Israel [Genesis 32:28]; and Rachel, the mother of Joseph [Genesis 30:22-24]. The beginning of the Hebrew nation was in the heart of a little boy, who in the providence of God was nursed by his own mother [Exodus 2:1-9]. The people of Israel were a nomadic people until they went down into the land of Egypt [Hebrews 11:8-10]. There in slavery they were welded together into a great nation. But they were in bondage, in servitude; and as they multiplied and became numerous in the land, a pharaoh that knew not Joseph [Exodus 1:8] said, “All of the male children that are born to the Hebrew mothers must be exposed to death” [Exodus 1:22]. There came into the arms of a precious Hebrew family, Amram and Jochebed, there came a little boy born. He was a beautiful child. And when they could no longer hide him, the mother made a little ark, and daubed it with pitch to make it waterproof, and laid the little infant in the cradle, and took it down by the side of the river and hid it among the flags that grew up on the bank [Exodus 2:1-3]. She was wise enough to place it at that part of the river that laved the shore of Pharaoh’s palace, and where his daughter came down to bathe. And when Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the bank of the river with her maidens, one of the maidens had spied the little ark resting in the water, there among the flags of the river. She told her mistress of it, and Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Fetch it.” And they recovered the ark, and opened it, and there on the inside was this little babe [Exodus 2:5-6]. And Miriam, the little baby’s sister, standing by to see what would happen [Exodus 2:4], when she saw the little child found favor in the sight of Pharaoh’s daughter, she ran to the queen, to the princess, and said, “Shall I find someone to nurse it for you?” [Exodus 2:7]. And the princess said, “Go” [Exodus 2:8]. And Miriam found a nurse for the little child. You know whom she found. She brought to the princess the little child’s mother; and the princess said, “Take this child, and nurse it for me; and I’ll pay thee a wage” [Exodus 2:8-9]. And the mother took the child, and nursed it, and cared for it; and he grew up in her heart, on her bosom [Exodus 2:9-10]. He was Pharaoh’s daughter’s son. He was adopted. He was the heir to the throne. He was to be the prince of all of the ancient Egyptian Empire. But when he came of years, and looked out over his people, and they were in bondage and in servitude, he made a great decision: he forsook the throne of Egypt, with all its pomp and glory, and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God [Exodus 2:11-15; Hebrews 11:24-25]. I wonder why? You know why. As the little boy grew up in the arms of his mother, she taught that boy the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And the boy grew up with the faith of his mother in his soul and in his life. That was the beginning of the Hebrew nation.
The beginning of the long line of prophets, which has been the glory of the Old Testament and of the Hebrew religion through the centuries, the beginning of the prophets is found in a broken-hearted prayer of a sorrowing mother [1 Samuel 1:11-18]. She had no child; God had shut up her womb [1 Samuel 1:5]. And when her husband went up to Jerusalem to worship, she with a heavy heart and a sorrowing spirit went up with her husband [1 Samuel 1:8-9]. Old Eli was the pastor of the church, and as old Eli sat in the gate of the temple, he noticed a woman, who there with long, long hours and days of waiting, moved her lips, but she did not say anything. Old Eli noticing her and noticing her again, there she was, her lips moved, but she did not say anything. Old Eli came over there to her, and said, “How long will you be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee” [1 Samuel 1:9-14]. And she lifting up her eyes, said, “Thine handmaid is not drunken; but I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have a burden on my heart” [1 Samuel 1:15-16]. And old Eli said, “The Lord grant thee the desire of thy heart and thy prayer to God” [1 Samuel 1:17]. And she arose, and broke bread, and she was happy in her soul. She had an answer from God [1 Samuel 1:18]. And according to the season of life, the Lord laid in her arms a little child; and she called his name Samuel, “Asked of God” [1 Samuel 1:20], and he was the first prophet [1 Samuel 3:20].
The beginning of the kings is in the story of a wonderful mother, Ruth, who was the mother of Obed, of whom Jesse was born, of whom David was born [Ruth 4:17, 21-22]. Back in those beginnings, in those beginnings you will find the faith of a great mother.
When I turn to the New Covenant, the first verse, the first syllable, the first sentence: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” [Matthew 1:1], the book of the birth roll of Jesus Christ.”
And then it starts. And how does it start? It starts with a woman’s story. You would never have known it, never have heard it, had it not been for a great godly physician, Dr. Luke, the beloved physician, who in those matters of such sublime delicacy was able to probe out and define for us those intimacies that went into the birth of the two men that God sent into the world: first John, the son of Zechariah [Luke 1:5-25, 57-80], and then Jesus the Son of the Virgin Mary [Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-16]. All of those things did the physician write in God’s Book. The book of the generation of the birth roll of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 1:1], and it’s a woman’s story; it’s the story of Elizabeth and her son John, and it’s the story of Mary and her Son, the Lord Jesus. The beginning of the New Covenant is the beginning in the love and prayer and the yieldedness of a virgin mother [Luke 1:46-55].
The beginning of the days of His immortality is a story of woman. He first appeared to Mary of Magdala [John 20:11-18], whom the disciples said, “She is mad when she said, But I have seen Him; He is alive, He is risen indeed” [Luke 24:10-11], and the story of the other women [Luke 24:1-9] whose tales were like old wives’ tales, said the disciples when they said, “He is alive, and we have seen Him” [Luke 24: 10-11]. It’s a story of woman.
The story of the beginning of the gospel in Europe is a story of a woman. Her name was Lydia, and she opened her heart, and she opened her home, and she opened her household to the apostles of God—to Paul, to Silas, to Luke, to Timothy—Lydia, the first convert in Europe [Acts 16:14-15, 40].
And the story of the beginning of the gospel of Jesus in places and lands and times unknown is a story of womanhood. In the second epistle of John, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children” [2 John 1:1]. You who are in the Eastern Star know her by the name of Electa, Electa. “The elder unto the elect lady, unto Electa, and her children.” Where did she live? We do not know. In what family did she belong? We do not know. Somewhere in lands unknown, in tongues we’ve never heard did womanhood open heart and home to the messengers of God and to the preaching of the gospel of Christ; the faith of our mothers [Acts 16:14-15; 2 John 1:1].
And the faith of our mothers has always greatly exalted womanhood. Some of you have traveled extensively over this earth. What is a woman in a land where the Muslim religion is dominate and preeminent? She’s a slave; one of a polygamous family. What is a woman in the vast subcontinent of Hinduism? A man, when he is cursed, the transmigration of his soul back into the world—he’ll be a woman if he’s cursed. What is womanhood in animism, in Orientalism? Nothing but a beast of burden. What is a woman in the great Hebrew Christian tradition? What is a woman? She is the flower and the crown and the creation of Almighty God. To an ancient woman, the prophetess Anna, did God reveal the glorious birth and meaning and messiahship of the little Babe that Mary brought to the temple [Luke 2:36-38]. To a woman did the Lord reveal His messiahship, “I that speak unto thee am He” [John 4:26]. To a woman did Jesus make the greatest pronouncement that the world has ever heard, the spirituality of true worship [John 4:24]. To a woman did the disciples come when the Lord said, “Look, no one has ever given as fully and freely and bountifully as she, a poor widow” [Mark 12:41-44]. In behalf of a woman did he stop the procession in the little town of Nain and give back to a widow’s heart her only son [Luke 7:11-15]. In behalf of a woman and her sister did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. It was of a woman that He said, “Wherever this gospel is preached, this will be told of her, what she has done for Me” [Matthew 26:13]. It was for a woman that on the cross He said to the disciple that He loved, “Take her to your home, and care for her as long as she lives” [John 19:25-27]. The faith of our mothers is a faith that has always preeminently glorified womanhood.
We don’t realize it today; there was a time when it looked, seemed as if Mithraism would be the religion of the whole civilized world. Mithra, the god Mithra, you never heard of Mithra, nor did anybody else except those who would read those old dust-covered books that tell the story of the beginnings of modern civilization. Why didn’t Mithra continue as the religion of the civilized world? One little simple sentence answers: because it was a religion for men only. And Christianity was a religion for mothers, and wives, for children, for womanhood.
The faith of our mothers, mother’s religion, mother’s God, mother’s Book, mother’s church, mother’s Christ, mother’s prayers, mother’s hope, mother’s heaven, this is mother’s religion. And it expresses itself in the devout home: her Bible, her prayer, her faithful church attendance, the guiding hand, the words we never forget. And it expresses itself in the eternal, unending, never wearying care by which they love us and seek us for good and for God, forever and forever.
I think sometimes, as the night draws nigh,
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossomed-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when at last the night came down,
Hushing their merry din,
Mother would always look around and ask,
“Are all the children in?”
‘Tis many and many a year since then.
And the old house on the hill
No longer echoes to childish feet,
And the yard is now so still.
But I see it all, as the shadows creep,
And though many the years have been,
I still can hear my mother ask,
“Are all the children in?”
I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short, earthly day,
When we say goodbye to the world outside,
All tired with our childish play,
When we step out into that other Land,
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask, just as of old,
“Are all the children in?”
[“Are All the Children In?”; Florence Jones-Hadley]
Are we? Are we? Are we? Are we all in the circle of His love? Are we in His fold? Are we in His will? Are we in His kingdom? Are we in His church? Are we? Are all her children in? Are we?
As we make appeal this morning, we sing the song of invitation, anywhere, somebody you, come down that aisle, “Here, pastor, here I am, and here I come. Here’s my family. Here’s my family, we’re all coming today, pastor.” Or one somebody you, while we, while we sing, to come by confession of faith, to come by baptism [Matthew 28:19], to come by letter, to come by promise of letter, however God shall say the word and lead the way, while we make appeal would you come? To the farthest seat, from side to side, while we sing the song today, would you make it now? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” While we stand and while we sing.