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Words: Arthur Bardwell Patten (b. Mar. 26, 1864; d. May 10, 1952)
Music: St. Catherine, by Henri Frederick Hemy (b. Nov. 12, 1818; d. June 10, 1888)
Note: To Frederick Faber’s Faith of Our Fathers, Pastor Patten has added Faith of Our Mothers. I see in the Cyber Hymnal there is also a Faith of Our Brothers, though the poetry seems rather forced and inferior in that case. (And yes, there is an adaptation of Faber’s original that includes “Faith of our sisters” in one stanza.)
Many can testify to the influence of their mother on their own faith in God. In my case, it was my mother who led me to personal faith in the Lord Jesus when I was seven. She continued to have a positive influence on my life until the Lord took her home in 2001.
Another mother who’s had a tremendous impact on the church at large is Susanna Wesley (1669-1742). The daughter of a pastor, she was the twenty-fifth of his twenty five children. She married Samuel Wesley, another pastor, when she was sixteen, and had nineteen children of her own, though only eight survived. She was a gifted and strong-willed woman, far ahead of her time in many ways.
Susanna believed in firm discipline, balanced with a warmth of affection. She was largely responsible for the education of her children. The day after each child turned five, schooling began. There were classes six hours a day, and school subjects included Latin and Greek. She also organized her time so she could give some individual attention to each of her children, every day.
She conducted a Sunday afternoon church service for her children, in which they would all sing psalms, and she would read one of her father’s or her husband’s sermons. Clearly, she believed the Bible’s admonition, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). As adults in the community learned what she was doing, they asked if they could attend those services. Eventually there were over two hundred people who did so!
Though she never wrote a book, or preached a sermon of her own, Susanna Wesley is sometimes called the Mother of Methodism. Two of her sons, John and Charles went on to have a worldwide influence in their service for Christ. John, the founder of the Methodist movement, traveled about 225,000 miles on horseback around England, preaching the gospel in more than 40,000 sermons. He looked back with great fondness on the loving care and influence of his mother.
Charles, the premier hymn writer of the eighteenth century, produced more than 6,500 of them, many of which are still in use. It is only possible to give a sampling of his songs here:
Christ, the Lord, is Risen Today
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Depth of Mercy, Can There Be
Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending
Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
O for a Heart to Praise My God
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Rejoice, the Lord Is King
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim
Two of his songs, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and Jesus, Lover of My Soul, have long been considered among the finest hymns in the English Language.
It is right and proper for us to honour the contribution of mothers to our life and service for Christ, and to the strength of our own families. In 1920, American pastor Arthur Patten wrote a hymn about that. Clearly, it was designed as a partner to Frederick Faber’s Faith of Our Fathers, written seventy years before, and makes use of the same tune.
Thus we have both a special day of the year, and a unique hymn to “Honour [our] father and mother” (Eph. 6:2). To honour (in Greek timao) is to value as precious, to express our esteem for. That is what God calls us to do regarding our parents. Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation shows that this is in a continuous tense. It’s something we are to keep on doing: “Be always honouring your father and your mother.”
Patten’s hymn says:
CH-1) Faith of our mothers, living still
In cradle song and bedtime prayer;
In nursery lore and fireside love,
Thy presence still pervades the air:
Faith of our mothers, living faith!
We will be true to thee to death.
CH-2) Faith of our mothers, loving faith,
Fount of our childhood’s trust and grace,
Oh, may thy consecration prove
Source of a finer, nobler race:
Faith of our mothers, loving faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
CH-3) 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, guiding faith,
We will be true to thee till death.
1) What contribution did your own mother make to your life and service for Christ?
2) What do you believe to be the greatest contribution a mother can make in the lives of her children?