‘For his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.’
It is not a pleasant service, but one for which there always seems to be occasion, to speak on the theme of bad mothers. If there is a human being in this world who is more to be pitied than any one else it is a child with a bad mother. Bad as others may be, there can be little doubt that a bad mother stands unrivalled in her evil eminence. Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. It was a fatal blood to have in one’s veins—that of Jezebel.
I. This woman was a mother, and she used the sacred relationship of a mother, and the measureless influence of a mother, to make her own child the servant of criminal baseness.—‘For his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.’ As she had wrought the ruin of her husband Jehoram, and had made his reign so discreditable and hateful that when he was dead they refused to bury him in the sepulchres of the kings, so she wrought the ruin of her son, and made his name a standing reproach to the nation. Shrewd, scheming, exceptionally influential, this mother used the confidential relationship—a relationship which ought always to be so sacred—in which she stood to her son, and all her power of fascination, to make him a wicked ruler, unjust, immoral, false to God, and false to the state.
II. It is a gratification to think there are not many mothers in the world who are fashioned after the type of this Athaliah mother.—For it is simply impossible to believe there can be any considerable number of mothers, even among those who give little expression to a sense of their religious obligations, open to the depraved purpose intelligently and deliberately to counsel their children to do things they know to be wrong and criminal.
III. Is it easy to conceive of anything more dismal, or more to be regretted, than that of a boy going down into dishonesty and vice and crime through the counsel of his own mother—or if not through her direct counsel, through her implied assent?—When Jehoram was dead the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his stead. They would have been glad to be loyal to him. Evidently there were qualities in him which commended him to the favour of the people, and this favour, so essential to his usefulness and happiness, he might have retained to the end. It only needed that he do right. But his mother ruined him.
IV. The mischief of being a bad mother is further emphasised by the consideration that a mother, in virtue of being just what she is, independent of any influence she may exert by positively evil counsels, is and must be so much to her child.
V. How fortunate Samuel! How inexpressibly unfortunate was Ahaziah.—Hannah thanked God for the gift of her boy, and consecrated him early to the Lord. Athaliah waited upon her boy with malign influence, and turned him away from God.
‘Children are what the mothers are.
No fondest father’s fondest care
Can fashion so the infant’s heart
As those creative beams that dart,
With all their hopes and fears, upon
The cradle of a sleeping son.
His startled eyes with wonder see
A father near him on his knee,
Who wishes all the while to trace
The mother in his future face;
But ’tis to her alone uprise
His waking arms; to her those eyes
Open with joy and not surprise.’
‘The mother in her office holds the key
Of the soul, and she it is who stamps the coin
Of character, and makes the being, who would be a savage