By Clovis G. Chappell
"Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy wages." This text refers to one of the big events of human history. This is one of the most stupendous happenings that was ever recorded. I doubt if there was ever a battle fought that was so far reaching in its influence. I doubt if all the fifteen decisive battles of the world taken together were of greater importance than this event that took place here on the banks of the Nile.
It is a simple story. An Egyptian princess, with her attendants, has come to the riverside for a bath. To her amazement she discovers a strange vessel lying at anchor upon the waters of the river. Her curiosity is aroused. When the vessel is brought to land its cargo is discovered. And what a cargo it is. It is so wonderful, it is so amazingly great that we marvel that any ship should be large enough to hold it. We are amazed that any sea should be vast enough to float such a vessel.
What was this cargo? It was a baby, a baby boy. He is waving dimpled hands and kicking chubby feet, and he is crying. And the vessel upon which he sails becomes a battleship. He at once begins to lay siege to the heart of the princess. He pelts her with his tears. He pierces her through and through with his winsome weakness. He cannonades her with his lovely helplessness till she capitulates and gathers him in her arms. And this princess is no wicked woman, I am sure of that. She had a mother heart. I think I can hear her across the centuries talking to this little waif. She hugs him close. "Yes, yes," she said. "You shall be my baby. The big, old soldiers shan't have you. They shan't kill mother's little boy." And she loved him as her own.
Now, two bright eyes had been witnessing this wonderful scene. There was a little girl hidden nearby and she watched all that happened. And when she saw the princess take her little baby brother to her heart she understood. She felt sure at once that the baby was safe. And a glad and daring thought took possession of her and she hurried from her place of hiding and approached the princess. And this is her word, "My lady, may I get a nurse for your baby?"
And the princess did not despise the little girl. I feel perfectly confident that the spirit of God was moving upon the heart of this princess. She listened to the child and accepted her services. And I can see that little girl as with flying feet she hurries to her mother with the good news. "Mother, they have found Little Brother, but they are not going to kill him. The Princess found him and I told her that I would get somebody to nurse him for her. Come, and we may have him for our own again."
Now, I take it that it was an important event when the Princess decided that the child was to live. The death sentence had gone out against him. You know that. The death sentence had been pronounced against every son of the Hebrews. But an even more important event took place when the Princess decided who should be the baby's nurse. When she decided who should have the training of the child, then she decided what the child was to be. Suppose, for instance, she had determined to train him herself, she would have made him like herself. Moses would have become a heathen in spite of the blood in his veins. He was destined to be a genius, but his genius might have been very far from being the helpful something that it was. Wrongly trained it might have been as brilliant as the lightning's flash, but also as destructive.
But this woman chose, all unwittingly, it is true, to give her baby to be nursed by his own mother. And this Jewish woman was not a heathen. She was a faithful servant of the Lord. I can see her as she hurries down to the banks of the Nile. And as she goes there's a wonderful light in her eyes. And her lips are moving, and she is saying, "Blessed be the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, who has heard the prayer of His servant and who has granted the desire of her heart."
And I love to look again upon this scene. The Egyptian princess is handing over the precious little bundle of immortality into the arms of a Jewish slave. And that Jewish slave is hugging her own child to her hungry heart. And the princess is talking to her proudly, haughtily, as becomes her rank, "Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy wages." And away goes this mother, the happiest mother, I think, in all the world.
Now, had you met this mother with her child so wonderfully restored to her and had asked her whose was the child and for whom she was nursing it, I wonder what she would have said. I know what the attendants of the princess thought. I know what they would have said. They would have said that she was nursing the child for the Princess. They would have said that the Princess was her employer. They would have said that Moses was the Princess's baby. But this mother never thought of it in any such way. She laughed in the secret depths of her heart at the idea of her being employed by the Princess. Who was her employer? I know what she thought. She believed that God was. She had a pious fancy that God was speaking through the lips of that Princess and that He was saying, "Take the child and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy wages." She thought her child was God's child. Therefore, she believed that it was to God, and not to the Egyptian Princess, that she was to account at the last for the way in which she trained and played the mother's part by her boy.
Yes, I feel confident that this mother believed that God was her real employer. She believed that she was His minister. She believed that she had been chosen for the task that was now engaging her. And she was right in her belief. When God, who had great plans for Moses, sought for some one who was to make it possible for Him to realize His plans, whom did He choose? To whom did He commit this precious treasure, from whose life such infinite blessings should come to the world? He did not commit him to a heathen. He did not commit him to a mere hired servant. He committed him to his mother. When God wants to train a child for the achieving of the best and the highest in life He sends him to school to a godly mother.
Now, when God chose the mother of Moses for his nurse and his teacher He made a wise choice. The choice was wise, in the first place, because this mother of Moses was eager for her task. She was a willing mother. Whatever glad days may have come in her life history, I am sure no gladder time ever came than that time when she realized that to her was going to be given the matchless privilege of mothering her own child. I know there are some mothers who do not agree with her. I know there are some that look upon the responsibilities of motherhood as building a kind of prison, but not so this immortal mother. She looked upon her duty as her highest privilege. She entered upon her task with an eagerness born of a quenchless love.
The choice was fortunate, in the second place, because she was a woman of faith. In the letter to the Hebrews we read that Moses was bidden by faith. Both the father and the mother of Moses were pious people. They were people of consecration, of devotion to God, of faith in God. It is true they were slaves. It is true they had a poor chance. It is true they lived in a dark day when the light was dim, but they lived up to their light. And their home was a pious home and its breath was sweet and fragrant with the breath of prayer.
And I have little hope for the rearing of a great Christian leader in any other type of home. I have no hope of rearing a new and better civilization in any other type of home. Our national life is discordant and hate-torn to-day. We are living in a time of intense bitterness and selfishness and sordid greed. But what civilization is to-day, the home life of yesterday has made it. And what civilization will be to-morrow the home life of to-day will make it. If we do not have Christian homes, believe me, we will never have a Christian civilization.
"I know Abraham," God said, "that he will command his children and his household after him." And there are two remarkable assertions made of Abraham in this text. First, He said, "I know that Abraham will command; I know Abraham will control his own household. I know that Abraham will control his children." And God considered that as highly important. Of course we are too wise to agree with Him to-day. We believe it best to let our children run wild and do largely as they please. We believe that Solomon was an old fogey when he spoke of "sparing the rod and spoiling the child." And I am not here this morning to tell you just how you are to control your child. But what I do say is that you cannot commit a greater blunder than to fail to control it. A child is better unborn than untrained.
Then God said of Abraham next, not only that he would command his children and his household, but that he would command them after him. He would not only exercise the right kind of authority, but he would exert the right kind of influence. He would set the right kind of example. He knew that Abraham would be in some measure what he desired his children to be, that by authority and by right living he would Christianize his own home.
And so when God wanted to raise up a man Moses who was to remake the world, He put him in a pious home. He gave him a godly father and mother. And the dominant influence in the life of Moses was his mother. No woman ever did a greater work. But it was a work that she accomplished not because of her high social standing. Nor was it accomplished because of her great culture. It was accomplished because of her great faith.
And while I am not in any sense a pessimist, I cannot but tremble in some measure for the future because of the decay of home religion. And this decay, while traceable in some measure to the madness for money and pleasure among men, is traceable even more to this same madness among women. The woman of to-day is in a state of transition. She has not yet fully found herself. There has come to her a new sense of freedom, and this freedom has not made her better. She has become in considerable measure an imitator of man. And sad to say, she imitates his vices instead of his virtues. She often patterns after what is worst in him instead of what is best.
I am told that in the Woman's Club of this city the handsomest room in the building is the smoking room. Now, a woman has a right to smoke. Who says that she has not? A woman has a right to swear, and that right she is exercising with growing frequency. I am not going to deny her right to do that. But what I do say is this, that I have absolutely no hope for the rearing of a right generation at the hands of a flippant cigarette-smoking mother. The child of such a mother is, in my candid opinion, half damned in its birth. Remember, the mother of Moses was a pious mother. If she had not been I am persuaded that the Moses who has been one of the supreme makers of history, might never have been known.
Now, what was this woman's task? Hear it. I take these words as embodying not the will of the princess, but the will of God, "Take this child and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy wages." This mother was not to govern the world. She was not to lecture in the interest of suffrage. I have nothing to say against the woman who does so. She was not to be the center of a social set. She was not to turn her child over to some colored woman while she went gadding about to every sort of club. She had just one supreme job. She had one highest and holiest of all tasks. It was for that cause that she came into the world. She was to train her child for God. And whoever we are and whatever may be our abilities, we can have no higher task than this. The training of a child to-day is the biggest big job under the stars. He is the center of all our hopes and possibilities.
Did you ever read the story of the "Little Palace Beautiful"? In the Little Palace Beautiful there are four rooms. The first is a room called Fancy. In this room looking out toward the south sleeps a little child, a beautiful baby. It is the Child-that-Never-Was. It was longed for, hoped for, dreamed of, but it never came. In the west room looking out toward the sunset, the room called Memory, is the Child-that-Was. Here sleeps the little fellow that came and stayed just long enough to gather up all our heart's love and then he went away. In the room toward the north, the room of Experience, is the Child-that-Is. He is the little fellow that now plays in your home in your Sunday School class. And in the room looking out toward the sunrise, the room called Hope, is the Child-that-Is-to-Be.
Now, we are interested in all four of these children, but our interest in the four is to be expressed in our care for just one, and that is the Child-that-Is. We think tenderly of the Child-that-Never-Was. We think sadly of the Child-that-Was. But we bring the love that we might have given and did give, to lavish it upon the Child-that-Is. We think hopefully of the Child-that-Is-to-Be, but we realize that all his possibilities are locked in the Child-that-Is. And so the world's future salvation is in our cradles, in our homes and in our nurseries to-day. To train our Children for God is the highest of all high tasks.
And notice that this woman was to receive wages for her work. What were her wages? I suppose the princess sent down a little coin at the end of each week, but do you think that is all the pay that this mother got? I feel confident that she never counted this as pay at all. But she received her reward, she received her wages. And they were wages that were rich in worth beyond all our fondest dreams. First, there was given unto her the fine privilege of loving. And Paul, who knew what was priceless, Paul, who knew what was of supreme value, said that love was the soul's finest treasure. And he meant not the privilege of being loved, as fine as that is, but the higher privilege of loving. And it has been given by the grace of God to the mothers of men to be the world's greatest lovers.
"If I were hanged on the highest hill, Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine! I know whose love would follow me still, Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
"If I were drowned in the deepest sea, Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine! I know whose tears would come down to me, Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
"If I were damned of body and soul, I know whose prayers would make me whole, Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!"
To her was given, in the second place, the fine reward of self-sacrifice. She had the privilege of giving. She had the privilege of offering her life a willing sacrifice upon the altar of her home. It is blessed to receive, but it is more blessed to give. And the rewards of motherhood are the highest rewards because she is the most godlike giver that this world knows.
Then, she was rewarded, in the third place, by the making of a great life. She became the mother of a good man. Her faith became his faith. "By faith Moses was hidden." That was by his mother's faith. But in the next verse we read this, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." That was by his own faith. Where did he get that rare jewel? He got it from the training of his mother. He saw it in her life. It looked out from her eyes. It spoke through her lips. He drank it in as he lay in her arms.
"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 is in thee also." Oh, if you are here a man of faith, a woman of faith, the chances are you secured that precious treasure at the hands of a God-loving and a God-trusting mother.
So this despised slave woman, this mother has this to her credit, that she mothered and trained one of the greatest men that ever set foot on this earth. She took a little boy named Moses to her heart and trained him for God. She had him for a little while. Then he went away to the big University. But he stood true. She speaks to him as she holds him close in the twilight. She says, "Laddie, do not forget how God has watched over you. One day when death was suspended above your baby head by a thread, one day when your life was frailer than a gossamer thread, I took a queer little basket and lined it with pitch, and also with faith and with prayer. And I put you afloat, and God preserved you and sent you back into these arms. And I carried you and cared for you. And now when you are grown you won't forget. You won't prove disloyal to your mother and you won't forget your mother's God."
And Moses did not forget. And one day the little laddie who had once been carried about in the arms of a slave mother, was a big broad-shouldered man. And he had a big broad-shouldered faith, and he trusted in a big broad-shouldered God. And in the strength of that faith, and in the might of that God he lifted an enslaved people in his arms and carried them clean across the wilderness. And he made possible an Isaiah and a Jeremiah and a David. And he made possible the birth of Jesus Christ. And he became the blesser and enricher of all the nations of the earth. And this mother, whose name is not well known in the annals of men, but whose name is known in Heaven to-day, had the rich reward of knowing that she mothered a man who fathered a nation and blessed a world.
Oh, it is a blessed reward, the reward of success in the high enterprise of motherhood. I know of no joy that can come to a father's or a mother's heart that is comparable to the joy that their own children can give them. I have seen sweet-faced mothers look upon their children when there was enough joy in those faces to have raised the temperature of Heaven.
But while it is true that none can bring us so much joy, it is also true that none can so utterly break our hearts. To see disease take our children in hand and wreck their bodies is painful, but it is as joy in comparison to seeing sin steal the moral rose from their cheek and the sparkle of innocence and purity from their eyes. But the deepest of all damning griefs is that grief that comes to us when we realize that we failed, and that their ruin is due to sin and unfaithfulness in ourselves.
Do you hear the wild outcry from that broken-hearted king named David? There he stands upon the wall and looks away across the wistful plain. A lone runner is coming. He knows he is a messenger from the battlefield. "Good tidings," he shouts. But the king has no ear for good tidings. His one question is this, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" And the runner does not rightly answer his question. Then the second messenger comes with the news of his son's death. And there is no more pathetic cry in literature than that that breaks from the lips of this pathetic king. "O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!" He is sobbing over his lost boy. But there is an added pang to his grief. It is the awful pang that comes from the torturing fear that he himself is in large measure responsible for the loss of his boy. And there is no more bitter agony than that.
Oh, men and women, let us who are fathers and mothers spare ourselves David's terrible agony. Let us spare our children Absalom's tragic ruin. Let us give ourselves the joys of this old time mother. While our children are about us, may we hear the very voice of God speaking to us on their behalf, saying: "Take this child and train it for me and I will give thee thy wages." And wages we shall receive just as surely as did this mother of Moses. We will be privileged to love, to give, to bless. And God Himself can give no richer reward than that.