Rev. J. Addison Smith

H.L. Mencken

Baltimore Morning Herald/March 6, 1899

Ten Years Pastor of Aisquith-Street Church.

The Care of Mothers

Subject of His Anniversary Sermon Preached Yesterday to a Large Congregation-Bringing Up of Children.

Rev. J. Addison Smith, D. D., yesterday ended the 10th year of his pastorate at the Aisquith-Street Presbyterian Church. He preached at the evening service on the “Responsibility of the Mothers of Baltimore,” and said:

“The Responsibility of the mothers of Baltimore is supreme, for they are very largely to determine the destiny of our city. Its future does not hinge upon the movements of the dominant political parties, but upon the mothers, and the Baltimore of the next century, in its intellectual, social, domestic and commercial life, will owe everything to them. The responsibility of the mother is found in the fact that she is an agent through which immortal beings come into existence.

“Children are immortalities. They are not for a day or a year, but for eternal ages. They stand for an existence that must endure forever. The mother, with Appeles, the painter, can say: ‘I work for eternity,’ for her children will endure after the Archangel has sung the dying sun asleep and wept behind the funeral of the moon.

The stars shall fade away, the sun himself grow dim with age, and nature sink in years. But they shall flourish in immortal youth Uahurt amid the war of elements. The wreck of matter and the crash of worlds.

“But these children have not only immortal destiny before them, but obligations that involve temporal and eternal rewards and penalties. If they are true to these obligations they will uprise to higher and diviner forms and a completer life here and throughout the endless future; but if these obligations are ignored, remorse will follow them in this life and hereafter. This fact makes the work of the mother august, for she deals with eternal entitles capable either of rapture or of woe.

“The responsibility of the mother is found in the fact that her personality begins its work early, goes deep, and reaches far. If science is true the personality of the mother begins its momentous work very early in the history of her children, often deciding their destiny in advance of their birth.

“Napoleon meant volumes in his reply to this marshal when the latter urged him to educate his little son so as to replace himself at the head of the Army. His reply was: ‘I cannot replace myself. I am the child of heredity and circumstances.’ He referred to the fact that his military genius was predetermined by the personality of his mother even before his birth. His mother gave cast to his destiny by the war atmosphere in which she lived. She accompanied her husband on his campaigns and rode on horseback with the gallant braves to martial music. The military ozone she breathed shaped the future of her brilliant, but brutal son.

“The personality of the mother, whether noble or the reverse, influences deeply the physical, mental, moral and spiritual qualities of her children. There is a family in this country descended from a beautiful, but ghastly mother, who figured prominently in the history of an English monarch 200 years ago, and her children, even to this day, posses her beauty of person, elegance of form, grace of carriage and her moral  infamy. The same reach of the personality of the mother is found in the tragic history of ‘Margaret, the Mother of Criminals,’ whose character has shaped the ominous destiny of seven generations. Her 1,200 descendants by their criminal acts, have cost the State of New York more than $1,250,000.

“The responsibility of the mother is found in the power which her personality possesses by reason of her position. 

“If we turn to the Old Testament we see Samuel, clad in the ermine of a judge in Israel, a power for God, and we find the explanation of his noble character in his devoted mother, Hannah. We wonder not that Abishai, Joab and Asahel were majestic braves when we see their heroic mother, Zeruiah. So with the kings on the throne of Judah; for when a good king is mentioned the name of his mother is given side by side with his own. We wonder not that heavenly John and devoted Timothy were seraphic men when we know Salome and Eunice, their mothers.

“The same is true of the rulers of the world. Marcus Aurelius was the purest man that ever graced the throne of the Caesars, and his moral grandeur we understand when we see his mother. So with Alfred the Great. Well has it been said that “his mother made him all that he was to his own age, and all that he has been to ours.” So with Cromwell. Back of his triumph on the field of Naseby and Dunbar we spy his mother.

“So with the Presidents of the United States. Many of these, through the early deaths of their fathers, have been reared by their mothers alone, God in this way desiring to teach the mothers of the Republic the molding power which they possess.

“The father of Washington died when he was 12 years of age, the father of Jefferson when he was 14, the father of Jackson before his birth, the father of Madison when he was young, the father of Garfield when he was an infant, the father of Tyler when he was 13, the father of Johnson when he was 4 and the fathers of Hayes and Cleveland when they were young, and it is suggestive that very near every President has attributed his success in life to this mother. This was true of Washington, John Quincy Adams, Buchanan and Lincoln, and the most eloquent letter that Cleveland ever wrote was the one to his brother on his election to the Governorship of New York, in which he attributed his success in life to the prayers of his mother.

“So with statesman. Randolph, Benton, Hill, of Georgia, and others affirm that their mothers made them the leaders in state. So with college presidents. The noblest presidents that Princeton. Yale and other institutions have ever had were made by their mothers. Finley, Davies and Edwards, of Princeton, and Timothy Dwight, of Yale, are proof of the statement. So with men of genius, who have left such an imperial impress upon the world. Bacon, Carlyle, Dante, Goethe, Guizot, Humboldt, Sam Johnson, Sir William Jones, Ruskin, Walter Scott and others testified that their mothers made them.

“So with ministers. The greatest human force shaping them for this holy work has been the mother. So agree Augustin, Bernard, Cecil, Chrysostom, Adam Clark, Joseph Hall, Robert Hall, Hervey, Swartz, Talmage and Wesley.

“The responsibility of the mother is found in the fact that very often her specific care and skill are needed to break the force of ancestral drift. In the light of science heredity is most potent in shaping destiny, and when the influence of an inherited failing shows itself a child is doomed unless the mother works to combat its dismal but giant force. The mother of an American Senator has a son whose father and grandfather were both bright but dissipated men. She was conscious of the power of this great ancestral law, and she battled like a heroine to save her brilliant boy. He grew up to be a great man, one who was an actor in the history of our nation, and he testified, in after life, that it was the pleading, imploring face of his mother which saved him from a drunkard’s grave. The responsibility of the mother is found in the fact that if she marries a man that will not do his duty she must assume the religious education of the children. In the light of the Bible the father in an especial sense is charged with the spiritual development of the children.

“But suppose the father shirks his duty? In such an event the mother, already burdened, perchance, with home tasks, must come to the rescue and teach her children of God, His claims, the way to find rest with Him here and enjoy His mercy forever.

“Many the mothers of Baltimore remember their supreme responsibility in the vision of God. May they remember that children are eternal entities, that their personality begins its work early, goes deep and reaches far, and that position of the mother means power in the destiny of her children. Remembering this, may they give themselves tenderly and lovingly to their children, so that no child of theirs may, says, as one did say, that it made her weep to see mothers caress their children as her mother never caressed her.

“Remember, mothers: the future of Baltimore is in your keeping.

“ ‘For the hand that rocks the cradle

Is the hand that rules the world.’”

Dr. Smith’s sermon was heard by a large congregation.   


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