Faith of Our Mothers
May 12th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
THE FAITH OF OUR MOTHERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:1-5
5-12-68 8:15 a.m.
Now you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Faith of Our Mothers. It is from the first chapter of 2 Timothy and is a very, very and decided scriptural commendation from God’s Holy Word. We often think of the faith of our fathers, and the song is written like that, but this passage of Scripture speaks of The Faith of Our Mothers:
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 Christ Jesus 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 in thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:1-5]
So when we speak of the faith of our mothers, we are speaking of a Bible presentation so beautifully presented here in this text; “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, a faith which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:5].
The faith of our mothers; it is a faith so largely shaped by them. The old prophets had a habit of calling Israel back to a remembrance of their forefathers and their foremothers. For example, Isaiah, in Isaiah 51: 1 and 2 says:
Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you.
And as we turn our memories back to the beginning of the chosen race, the Hebrew people, it was a choice so largely framed by the mothers of the families that began God’s chosen people. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is the mother of Isaac [Genesis 21:1-3], and Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, is the mother of Jacob [Genesis 25:24-26]. And Rachel, the wife of Jacob, is the mother of Joseph [Genesis 30:22-24], out of whom came Ephraim and Manasseh [Genesis 41:51-52].
In the beginning, the faith of our mothers; in the beginning of the nation, it was so largely framed by the influence of a great mother. Israel was nomadic. They were like those Bedouin Arabs. But they became a people and a nation in Egypt and in the wilderness. And God raised up a [woman] to frame and to form that nation that was peculiarly God’s—and her name was Jochebed [Exodus 2:1-2, 6:20; Numbers 26:59].
When the Pharaoh said, “All of the male children of Israel shall be slain” [Exodus 1:16, 22], she took her beautifully born baby son [Moses] and put him in a little ark and set him among the flags on the river bank of the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter came oft to bathe. And she put her little daughter, Miriam, to watch to see what should happen to the child that was destined for death and placed on the bosom of the waters in that little ark [Exodus 2:2-3]. And the story is familiar even to our boys and girls: when Pharaoh’s daughter saw the ark floating in the water, and opened it and looked upon the beautiful countenance of the child, Pharaoh’s daughter said, “I shall take the child.” And the sister seeing the child in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter asked if she might find a nurse for the child. And Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Yes.” And Miriam, the sister, ran and got the child’s mother. And the mother reared the child for Pharaoh’s daughter [Exodus 2:4-10]. And when he came to years there faced him a tremendous choice [Hebrews 11:24-26]. He was the heir apparent, he was the “Prince of Wales,” he was next in line in succession to the throne in Egypt.
And he was learned, the Bible says, in all of the wisdom and the science of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. But when the time came to make a decision whether to be King and Pharaoh of Egypt or to suffer affliction with the people of God, he chose rather to identify himself with the slaves rather than with the throne [Hebrews 11:24-26]. Where did that come from?
I can just see day after day and year after year as the little baby grew to be a child and the child grew to be a teenager and the teenager approached young manhood, I can just see that faithful and godly mother, Jochebed, as she taught the little fellow the name of God and the name of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All of those things are the fruit of a godly and consecrated mother. And the day came when Moses made his tremendous choice and cast his life and lot with the people of God [Exodus 2:11-15; Hebrews 11:24-26]. It is a faith, I say, largely framed by our mothers, so the beginning of the chosen families and so the beginning of the chosen nation.
And it was no less so in the beginning of the prophets, for there was a godly woman named Hannah, with a great burden on her heart for she had no child, she was barren, she was sterile [1 Samuel 1:1-2, 6-7]. And she prayed in God’s house that God would give her a little child. And the old pastor, Eli, seeing her pray—Hannah moved her lips when she prayed, but she prayed in her heart—she didn’t pray out loud, and old Eli, the pastor of the church, said, “Woman, what are you doing here drunk? Put your wine away.” And she said to him, looking up from her knees, “I am not drunk. But I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit.” And rebuked by the godly, prayerful tone and posture of that woman, old Eli the pastor said, “May the Lord grant thee thy petitions” [1 Samuel 1:9-17] And God answered prayer, and according to the time of life, He laid in her arms a little child, a little boy, and she named him Samuel, “asked of God” [1 Samuel 1:20]. And the following verses say that as the lad grew up, God let none of His words fall to the ground, and all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was ordained to be a prophet of God; the last of the judges and the first of the prophets [1 Samuel 3:19-20].
It is an unusual thing, but the beginning of the story of the kings, lies in a great woman and a great mother. Before you get to the anointing of Saul [1 Samuel 10:1], or the anointing David [1 Samuel 16:12-13], first you have the story of Ruth, and Ruth was the wife of Boaz [Ruth 4:13]. And Ruth was the mother of Obed, of whom came Jesse, of whom came David [Ruth 4:21-22]. And in recounting the story of the great king of Israel, you have the story first of the great-grandmother of King David [Ruth 4:13-17].
When I turn to the New Testament, I find no difference in that pattern. As I open the page of the Bible to the New Testament, the first sentence begins, “The book of the birth roll of Jesus Christ,” in the King James Version, translated “the book of the generation” [Matthew 1:1]. Many of your translations will say, “The book of the birth roll of Jesus Christ.” In the days of the beginning of His flesh, you have the story first of a glorious devout maiden girl in Israel. And the intimacies of that story could only have been known and told by a doctor, a physician. And God raised up a beloved physician, Doctor Luke, who told the intimacies of the story of the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-25, 57-64], and the birth of Jesus the Christ to the sweet virgin Mary [Luke 1:26-35, 2:1-16].
The story begins with the story of a woman and her child. In the introduction of the Lord to His disciples and to the church, after His resurrection from the dead, you have that first introduction to a woman, Mary of Magdalene [John 20:11-18]; then to the other women who ministered to Him from Galilee [Matthew 28:9-10]. What an amazing thing that when the Lord was raised from the dead, the beginning of His fleshly immortality begins with the story of a woman.
And as the story of the gospel continues, the first introduction of the preached message to Europe was to a woman named Lydia [Acts 16:14-15]. And in unknown places throughout the Greco-Roman world was the gospel introduced through godly mothers and godly women.
We don’t know who she is, but John the sainted apostle writes his second letter and begins it like this: The elder, unto eklektē, whom I love in the truth and her children [2 John 1:1]. Sometimes they will translate that, “The elder unto the elect lady,” but most of your translations will use it as a personal name, “The elder John, unto eklektē,” a glorious woman and mother somewhere unknown in the Greco-Roman world. I am just briefly reviewing the fact that so much of the faith presented to us in God’s Word is a faith that was shaped by them.
Now a second avowal: this is a faith that honors womanhood and motherhood. You don’t realize that because we have grown up in a faith and in a church where our mothers and where womanhood and girlhood is so largely honored. But all you have to do to find what a different world we live in is either to visit other religions or to read of them in books.
The Mohammedan religion has, from its beginning, degraded womankind and womanhood. According to the Mohammedan faith, a man is limited to four wives—four of them! But that doesn’t mean that he can have just four; it means he can have only four at a time. At any time, any day, any hour that a Mohammedan is weary of one of his wives, he has nothing else to do but to dismiss her and bring in another one, and another one, and another one, and another one. That vast Mohammedan world, either in a desert, or it makes a desert, begins at Dakar in Africa and swings clear around through Indonesia. I’ve been over there several times, and as I’ve talked to those Mohammedans again and again, scores and hundreds of them, I oft time asked them about the home and about the wives.
Now I want you to understand I am going to use a vile word, a curse word, but it will be typical of a Mohammedan. I was talking to a Mohammedan who could understand me, and I was asking him about his four wives. And I said, “Are those four wives of yours lovingly, wantingly kept?” And he couldn’t understand. And I tried to explain to him, “Do they, are they in your home and in your heart because you love them, and you want them?” And as he began to understand what I was asking, he finally bluntly said to me, “No!” He said, “I got four, and any time I don’t want one of them I say, “Get the ‘h’ out of here!” And he dismisses one of his wives and then brings in another one. That is the Mohammedan religion, and that is the attitude of the Mohammedan faith toward womankind. And the whole idea of the Mohammedan heaven is where a man has illimitable wives, a harem. That’s his idea of glory.
I find the thing even more degrading in Hinduism; Hinduism believes in the transmigration of the soul. That’s the reason they do not kill any animals there. The land is overrun with vermin and with rodents and with all kinds of things that are creeping and alive because they believe in the transmigration of the soul. And these rodents, and these vermin, and this creeping life is their ancestors according to their religion. And they think that if a man is vile in this life, he comes back as a monkey, and if he is still more vile, he comes back as a spider, but if he has been especially vile, he will come back in the lowest form of human life known—in the form of a woman. That is the Hindu religion.
When we turn to the Christian faith, you turn to another world. Another atmosphere, another attitude, it is altogether different. As I pick up the Bible, the New Testament faith, God revealed to a woman, the old prophetess Anna, that this Child was the Messiah of God [Luke 2:36-38]. It was to a woman that Jesus revealed His messianic ministry, and she a despised Samaritan harlot. And it was to that same despised, outcast woman that the Lord delivered the greatest sermon on spiritual worship that the world has ever known [John 4:7-27]. Isn’t that surprising? A despised prostitute, yet in His sight, womanhood was so pure and so worthy and so to be honored that when He delivered His tremendous sermon on worship, He did it to that harlot.
It was to a woman that Jesus pointed His apostles and said, “Look at her, a poor widow giving to God all that she has. These others,” He said, “out of the superfluity and out of the abundance of their possessions bring and give to God, but this dear woman, a widow, has given God all that she has, even all her living. Look at her, look at her” [Mark 12:41-44].
It was for a woman that God in Christ stopped the procession at Nain and gave back—raised from the dead—her only son [Luke 7:11-15]. It was for two wonderful sisters that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. It was for a woman that Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel is preached, this will be told in honor and memory of her, breaking the alabaster box” [Matthew 26:13]. And it was for a woman, His mother, that He said to the apostle John as He died on the cross, “John, look at your mother,” and turning to His mother said, “Mother, look on your son” [John 19:26-27], commending her to the sainted apostle John.
And I said it was to a woman that He first appeared when He was raised from the dead [John 20:11-18]. If there is any one thing above anything else to be said about the Christian religion, it is this: Christianity and the faith of Christ is mother’s religion, and it is woman’s religion. It has done more to exalt womanhood and motherhood than all the other forces of religion and civilization in the world.
Did you know—and it is hard for us to realize—did you know that there was a time when it looked as if the entire civilized world would be worshippers of Mithra? And most of you have never heard of Mithra, but there was a time in the first Christian centuries when the entire civilized world—the government, the emperor, the soldiers—the civilization was turning toward Mithra. Now, I haven’t time to discuss why, but I have time to tell you why the faith died. Only a man could come into the mysteries and the rights of Mithra; just the man, just the man. But Christianity was mother’s religion and the woman’s faith, and Mithra died and Christianity continues to live in the faith of mother, and wife, and daughter.
I copied here that famous poem:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
For youthful longing, youthful doubt,
How blurred our vision, blind our way,
Thy providential care without:
Faith of our mothers, holy faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
And truth beyond our man-made 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, 1865]
Now I have a last avowal. I have spoken of the faith so largely shaped by our foremothers. I have spoken of the faith that honors her and womanhood. I now speak of the faith as it is expressed in her life and in her devotion.
Did you have a godly, Christian mother? If you do, or if you have had, you will know every syllable of which I speak. It is the mother that makes the home. I don’t know why a man cannot quite make all that a woman can in a home, but he can’t. And when mother is gone or when mother dies, it is a different world. And the atmosphere in the home, its intangible sweetness and glory, is so largely the fruit of her hands.
Why, I can never get away from listening, the memory of listening to my mother sing. She sang as she worked in the kitchen all the time. What did she sing? She sang those beautiful hymns from the church. I never saw her use a book singing at church. She sang all of those songs just out of her heart, every one of them. As I, as a little boy, and would always open the book; I was amazed at mother, singing every one of those songs just out of her heart. And working in the kitchen singing those songs:
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.
[“Blessed Assurance”; Fanny J. Crosby]
Thou, my everlasting portion,
More than friend or life to me.
All along this pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.
[“Close to Thee”; Fanny Crosby 1874]
Singing, singing the songs of Zion.
There was a group talking about what translation of the Bible they liked best, and some said, “I like the King James Version”; some said “I like Mrs. Montgomery’s version”; some said “I like the Revised Standard Version,” but one of the fellows stood up and said, “I like mother’s version best.” Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t that the truth? And if you had a godly, Christian mother, that is why you are a Christian more than anything else.
At a service in the church, in a revival meeting, my mother with tears turned to me and said, “Today, son, today will you take Jesus as your Savior?” “Yes, mother,” I said, “Today, this day, I will give my heart to Jesus.” Think how long ago that has been; forty-eight years ago this spring, forty-eight years ago. But the memory of it and the meaning of it has been sweeter as the days go by. And that is mother’s love and mother’s care for us, that we all be saved. There is no sweeter poem I have ever read than this one, so familiar but so dear:
I oft-times think as the night draws nigh
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when at last the night came down,
Hushing their merry din,
Mother would 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 the childless feet,
And the yard is now so still.
But I see it all as the shadows move
And though many the years have been,
I can still hear my Mother ask,
“Are all the children in?”
I wonder if, when the shadows fall
On that 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 all saved? Are we all in the fold? When someday we stand before God’s throne of grace will the circle be unbroken? God grant it. God grant it. Mother there, Dad there, you there, all of us there, God grant it.
And that is why we preach the sermon, and that is why we sing the song, and that is why we gather in this holy place to encourage you to have a Christian home, and to have a Christian family, and to rear your children in the love and nurture of the Lord; do it. Do it. Do it.
There is no finer hour, there is no more precious day than to come down this aisle right now, today, Mother’s Day, and give your heart to Jesus, give your life to the Lord, put your home together in Him. In a moment we will stand to sing, and as we sing our hymn of appeal, we’re going to sing one of the songs that I used to hear my mother sing over and over again as she worked in the kitchen, “Close to Thee.”
While we sing that precious and beautiful song, a family you come this morning, a couple you, or one somebody you, while we make this appeal, do it now. In the balcony round, at the front and at the back on either side, there is a stairwell, come. Come. On this lower floor down here to the front, come, come. Make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.