I have been reading Sarah Willis’ book Caper Sauce, under her pen name Fanny Fern she amongst other things coined the phrase “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”
She was fiesty woman, who married three times, was the highest paid columinst of her day and came in for lots of criticism for her autobiography, ‘Ruth Hall’
I was heartened by this piece which eventually gets to the issue of parenting and she has sound advice for those of us going through a time with our care.
The Good Old Hymns by Fanny Fern
Did you never know any person who was brought up on the good old Zion-hymns, whom they ever failed to move to the foundations when heard? The feet moving on unholy errands linger on their way past the church door, as the melody floats out upon the air. That man—who has wasted life, and energy, and talent, which might have blessed mankind, to reap only the whirlwind—he is back again with his little head upon his mother’s lap, while she sings that same hymn, which will never grow old, about “the beautiful river.” His eyes moisten as he thinks how pained she would be, were she living, to know him now. The hymn ceases, and the low benediction follows, and as the worshippers emerge, he recollects himself, and with an impatient pshaw! passes on. What, he moved at a “conventicle hymn”? He, who for years has never crossed the threshold of a church! He? who believes neither in prayer nor priests, Bible nor Sundays? He, who has “outgrown all that”? Ah! but he hasn’t. He can’t outgrow it. It is there. It will come, whether he desires it or no. Come in spite of all his efforts to laugh or reason it away. Come, though he lives in open derision and mockery of that religion whose[Pg 186] divine precepts he cannot efface from his mind. Come, as it did to John Randolph, who, after years of atheism and worldliness and ambition, left on record, “that the only men he ever knew well and approached closely, whom he did not discover to be unhappy, were sincere believers of the Gospel, who conformed their lives, as far as the nature of man can permit, to its precepts.” “Often,” he says, “the religious teachings of his childhood were banished wholly by business or pleasure; but after a while they came more frequently, and stayed longer, until at last they were his first thoughts on waking and his last before going to sleep.” Said he, “I could not banish them if I would.”
“Now and then I like to go into a church,” said a young man apologetically to a companion who was deriding the idea. “Priestcraft! priestcraft!” exclaimed his companion. “Tell me what possible good can it do you?” “Well,” said the young man, “somehow, when I hear those hymns it is like hearing the pleading voice of my mother as I left home to become the graceless fellow I am now. I cannot tell you how they move me, or how they make me wish I were better. If I ever do become better, it will be because I cannot separate them from all that seems, in my better moments, worth embodying in the word ‘home.'” Walter Scott said to his son-in-law, when he was on his death-bed, “Be a good man, Lockhart—be a good man; nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here.” It were easy to multiply instances where earth’s gifted[Pg 187] and greatest have borne similar testimony, after having tested all that the world had to offer, as an equivalent for “that peace which passeth all understanding.”
Parents sometimes say with tears, my boy has forgotten all my teachings. You don’t know that. You can’t say that till the grave closes over him. Said a good mother I knew, who kept on singing those hymns, and whose faith never faltered through long years, when her only son disgraced the family by intemperance, “John will come right by and by. He must.” And day after day, when he was brought home helpless, the mere wreck and libel of manhood, she smilingly repeated to all cavillers: “John will come right. I know it. Every day I ask God to give him back to himself, and I know He will do it.”
And John did come right. Out of that horrible pit of degradation he emerged “clothed and in his right mind.” He is now in good business standing, owns the house he lives in, is the comfort and pride of the patient wife who, with his mother, waited woman-like, Christ-like, all those weary years for his return. I myself have seen him in church, when the Sacramental wine was passed to him, bow his head reverently and humbly over the cup without raising it to his lips.
Never despair of a child who strays away from those hymns. Somewhere between the cradle and the tomb be sure those hymns will find him out.
Only he to whom heaven is a reality, can possibly [Pg 188] preserve his self poise in the jarring conflict of life. How can man, constantly disheartened and disappointed as he is, by the apparent triumph of wrong over right, by the poverty of those of whom the world is not worthy, in contrast with the gilded, full fed, honoured wickedness which seems to give the lie to everything to which our better natures cling, how can man, under such circumstances, walk hopefully in the narrow path, if beyond and through the mists of the valley he discerns not the serene mountain-tops? No—only the Christian can say in view of earthly loss and disappointments: “It is well—let Him do what seemeth to Him good.” Only the Christian—nor need he be—nor is he—of necessity a “church member,”—can say—”Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”