Posted by: rcottrill | April 19, 2017

Tell Mother I’ll Be There

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Words: Charles Millard Fillmore (b. July 15, 1860; d. Sept. 17, 1952)
Music: Charles Millard Fillmore

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Fillmore tried for several years to get this song published and was turned down. Finally it was published in a small magazine, from which someone clipped it out and sent it to Charles Alexander, the music director for evangelist R. A. Archer Torrey. Alexander began using it extensively in men’s meetings. Its effect is illustrated by the following incident reported by Alexander.

“When the meeting was over, one big burly engineer came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Alexander, I promised my mother on her deathbed that I would become a Christian, but instead of that I have been going to the devil faster than ever. Preaching never touched me, but that song did.’”

For over a century, Mother’s Day has been celebrated internationally on the second Sunday in May. It’s an occasion to honour our mothers, and motherhood in general. But there’s a sense in which they deserve honour and appreciation all the year round. We owe them so much.

There are famous mothers in history, who demonstrated unusual devotion and self sacrifice for their children. To borrow some words of the Apostle Paul’s, what comes upon them daily is their “deep concern [the burden of responsibility]” for all their children (cf. II Cor. 11:28).

Susanna Wesley (1669-1792) was herself one of a family of twenty-five children. She and her pastor husband Samuel had nineteen children. She was a strict disciplinarian, but also a loving mother who tried to give each child individual attention. Two of her sons, John and Charles were used of God to bring many to faith in Christ, and Charles wrote over six thousand hymns.

Sojourner Truth (circa 1797-1883), born into slavery in early America, gained her freedom and became an influential abolitionist and human rights activist. Her son Peter, five years old, was sold as a slave and sent to Alabama. This was illegal, as Sojourner lived in New York State and there was a law against sending slaves out of state. She took the matter to court and won. Her son was found and returned. He had been beaten and abused, but now he was safe.

The Bible says “a nursing mother cherishes [tenderly cares for] her own children” (I Thess. 2:7), and there are examples in the Scriptures of mother love (Exod. 2:3; I Sam. 2:10). However, it’s clear that the gentle love of a stepmother, or a woman’s love for an adopted child, can be powerful and enduring too.

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987) is mostly known because of the popular musical The Sound of Music. The musical has the basic story right, though it’s not accurate in every detail. Widowed George von Trapp married Maria because he felt his children needed a mother. She wrote of this, “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children. I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”

On the other side of things, to sons and daughters, God’s instruction is, “honour [value as precious and show esteem for]” your…mother” (Eph. 6:2). One who did so was William McKinley. His mother was very proud of him, and had the hope that he would become a Methodist bishop. He became president of the United States instead.

In 1897, his mother was taken gravely ill, and was near death. As she lived some distance from the capital, he wired the family, “Tell mother I’ll be there,” and left to keep his word. The next morning, the report of her death was in the newspapers, and the words of his telegram were published too.

One who saw them was gospel song writer and pastor Charles Fillmore. He pictured the words as the prayer of a repentant prodigal who asked the Lord to tell his mother he’d trusted in the Saviour, and looked forward to seeing her again in heaven. His sentimental song may seem mawkish today. Yet it’s said it was used of God to bring more men to faith in Christ than any other song.

CH-1) When I was but a little child–
How well I recollect–
How I would grieve my mother
With my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to heav’n
I miss her tender care:
O Saviour, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Tell mother I’ll be there,
In answer to her prayer;
This message, blessèd Saviour, to her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there,
Heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.

1) What has your own mother meant to your life?

2) What have you done to show honour her, and show your appreciation?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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