Pure living beforehand is more than a lifetime of agonizing prayer afterwards. Each has its own ministry and influence. The pure life beforehand isn't enough. It needs the praying afterwards to accomplish the desired results. And praying afterwards without the pure life is awfully handicapped. It must try to carry two loads, its own and another's. It has a far more difficult task to perform. That task will take much longer time, and greater steadiness and insistence because of increased resistance.
One of the greatest illustrations of a mother's power to affect radically her child's bent of mind and whole career is found in the life-story of one of the most noted infidels of recent times. He was a brilliant orator, a cultured gentleman, and with a peculiarly stubborn type of infidelity which overcast all his thinking. Yet acquaintance with his prenatal condition would have surely awakened a real sympathy which could have greatly helped.
His father was a clergyman of an old type now fortunately much less common than once. He preached a stern, severe, unlovable theology. And, as if it cast a spell over him, he showed the same sort of a spirit in his home, making it utterly miserable. The brunt of it all came upon the mother, of course. It affected her sorely and sadly. During the time when this son was maturing to birth, she was in bitterness of soul, doubting if there could be a God after all. And in such an atmosphere her son was being moulded during all of those tenderly impressionable months.
Can one wonder at his bent of mind, and the peculiar stubbornness of his scepticism? That was a horrid heredity. It could have been overcome without doubt to a very large degree. But even though overcome to the extent of acceptance of Christian truth, without question there would have been a distinct effect upon his whole mentality clear to the end.
But there are fully as many striking instances of the sort that bring cheer and gladness, if not more. Though there's a David blot on the old pages of this precious God - book, there is a Hannah spot of unusual brightness. If there be a crafty Rebecca making a contemptible Jacob, there is a Joseph, son of the later, better man that grew up in Jacob. There is a Jeremiah, (Jer_1:4-5 <http://www.crossbooks.com/verse.asp?ref=Jer+1:4>.) and a Paul, (Gal_1:15 <http://www.crossbooks.com/verse.asp?ref=Gal+1:15>.) called of God while yet under that potent parental influence, and in all likelihood called through that influence. It is no matter of mere chance that the teller of the story in these sacred pages so often records the names of the mothers of its leading men.
"Oh wondrous mystery of motherhood!
That with one life another should be blent
In union perfect, till each good intent
Or thought of ill that drives away the good;
The mother's strong desire or wayward mood,
Should to the soul unborn, a secret bent
For good, or ill, impart. When, heaven-sent,
Before the Virgin blest the angel stood,
And to her, meek, submissive, did impart
That she the hope of all mankind should bear;
Tho' reassured that not a thought of guile
Should mar that perfect life; yet, must her heart
Have sought release from sin, in constant prayer,
Lest she, by aught impure, his life defile." (May Barnes Clarke.)