Our meeting today has special reference to ourselves and to our children. We meet as mothers, to provoke one another to love and to good works--to call up to remembrance our past negligences, and to combine our renewed determinations to serve God in our families, with earnest supplication for the divine assistance and blessing. Standing, as we do, on the brink of the old year and the borders of the new, surely it is an appropriate season for devout acknowledgment, tenderhearted confession, and united prayer. If our heavenly Father will require at our hands that which is past, shall we not carefully review it, and seriously inquire, "What have I done?" What have I done for my own soul--what have I done for the eternal welfare of my beloved children? Have I been faithful to my solemn responsibility? Have I walked before my house with a perfect heart? Have I uniformly regarded my children as a sacred trust, and has it been my unremitting concern to train them up for Christ? Have I had my heart deeply affected with their lost and unsaved condition? Have I wept over their impenitence and unbelief, and have I tried by every means, and by every discussion, to bring them to the Great Physician? Have I sought His aid by hearty, frequent, and special prayer, nothing doubting, but "strong in faith, giving glory to His name?" Have I consulted the Bible as the rule of my conduct towards them, just as diligently as I should consult a guidebook, if I had to undertake a long and arduous journey? Have I conversed with them, according to their ages and circumstances, on spiritual subjects, so as to touch their consciences, to win their affections, and to convince them that there is nothing so important to me as their salvation? Have I endeavored for their sakes to be spiritually minded, to cultivate my mind, to restrain my appetites, to control my feelings, and to grow in the exercise of every Christian grace?
Alas for us, my friends! Who can lay her hand upon her heart and say, "I have washed my hands in innocency?" Not one. Are we not individually ready to confess our manifold offenses towards our offspring? Do we not, even on this hasty recollection, call to mind much that we would fain obliterate? Are we not sensible of yielding to slothfulness and indifference? Have we not often restrained prayer, or prayed with faint expectation of success? Has not our example been frequently of the worst description--worldly, trifling, and unprofitable? Have we not given them an unlovely representation of the religion we profess, by the indulgence of those dispositions which Christianity is mighty to subdue? If, then, dear friends, our children are still in darkness--still in spiritual bondage--still unsanctified, let us not reflect upon Providence, but upon ourselves. If we are to have a change in them, ought there not also to be a change in us? Let us, as mothers, apply ourselves more seriously to discover our individual errors. One may err by excessive indulgence--another by undue severity; one may slight prayers--another may neglect corresponding effort. There are innumerable ways in which we may prejudice their minds and harden their hearts. What then are we to do? And here I would say, we must be more thoughtful. Inconsideration is at the root of much that is wrong in families and individuals. We do not devote sufficient time to quiet, patient, solitary thought. We adopt a system suited to our inclinations, and pursue it with little examination as to its effects. We are contented to do as others do, not striving to do better. Then we must be more in earnest for our children's salvation. If we were truly set on this, how should we explore the Word of God for its hidden consolations--its promises and its instructions! How should we pursue our inquiries of those whom God has been pleased to bless, and how should we watch as those who must soon give their account! Look at the vigilance and care of the gardener, rising early and late, taking no rest, anticipating every atmospheric change, studying every characteristic variety in his tender plants, now exposing them to the sun, now screening them from its power, and pursuing the greatest diversity of means to one end--the perfection of the young vegetable. Ah! Have we the hearts of mothers, and can we be satisfied whilst any one of our children is living "without God and without hope in the world?" Impossible! The supposition shocks us; and yet, to exemplify and carry out this earnestness, involves a life of much diligence, of daily self-denial, of increasing devotedness. Added to this, and connected with it in all its details, must be prayer--importunate, unceasing prayer: not the prayer which is offered up and forgotten, but the prayer which is attended by an unquenchable desire, and succeeded by a well-directed effort;--prayer founded on the promise of the covenant, and which will not be denied. When we have such consideration, such earnestness, and such prayer, we shall not be long without a blessing.
Should we not embrace every day as a favorable opportunity put into our hands, and redeem it for advancing their spiritual interests? If every mother would keep this subject uppermost in her thoughts, and secretly resolve to let no day pass without a direct effort for her children's good, much would be gained. If she would apply herself to their characters, tastes, and habits, sympathize with them in their useful pursuits, invite their confidence, and accommodate herself to their youthful feelings, she might persuade them to cooperate with her in higher and holier undertakings. O, how desirable it would be to gather our children around us at the opening or at the close of each day, and read with them a portion of the sacred Scriptures, making our own remarks, and inviting theirs! And surely this may be done, if we set about it in the right way, and in the right spirit. Let children themselves arrange the plan, and they will carry it out with greater interest. Let them keep a short record of the time thus profitably spent, and they will recur to it with much satisfaction. Especially let us enter afresh into our closets, and there implore a double measure of divine grace to rest upon us. We all feel how much our usefulness to others depends on the state of our own souls. Let us therefore begin at home--begin with ourselves, and proceed, as Job proceeded, to intercede for every individual of our beloved circle. O, we ought not to despair of the divine goodness! God waits to be gracious; he loves to be entreated; and instead of rebuking us for our importunity, He says, "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."