A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.
– Proverbs 15:20
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 22:6
A noble civilization can withstand the bereavement of its sons and daughters through warfare, through pestilence, and famine. Yet there is a ruination which, when it comes down upon the head of a people, signifies their impending doom with an ominous foreboding. This tragedy of tragedies, this point of no return, is the turning away of the hearts of a people’s posterity.
That gentle connection, that loving nurture which attaches father and son, mother and daughter, generation after generation, is necessary for the preservation of any culture. Once broken, a gulf which cannot be spanned begins to open. This unbridgeable gap is not the physical destitution of a mother who’s sons have been claimed by war, it is the distance of heart which appears between flesh and blood in the twilight of a civilization.
Southern poet and essayist, John Crowe Ransom once wrote, “Affections, and long memories, attach to the ancient Bowers of life in the provinces; but they will not attach to what is always changing.”
And change, not pursued for betterment but merely for change itself, or hatred of the past, has become the only stable factor in our land today. Men’s hearts burn within them for something new. Fools forsake that which money cannot buy in vain attempt to satiate their material desires. Everywhere the “ancient Bowers of life” are forsaken for that which is fleeting. And it shows.
We have become a people with no soul, no culture, and no nobility of character. To quote C.S. Lewis “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
Indeed there are traitors in our midst. Men who betray the hopes and labors of their forefathers to pursue the terminally trendy expectations of society gone mad. Men seek to attach dollar values to the tender affections of a mother towards the children she has born or the humble pride which a man takes in his sons. Yet these things can never be purchased, they must be earned.
What is it that truly makes up the “ancient Bowers of life?” Is it not found in the patience of a man who builds his legacy through toil and tears? Is it not found in the gentle yet tenacious hopes of the frugal woman whose love makes a house a home?
The heart breaks for every abandoned home which once sheltered the labors of a man and a woman engaged in that most virtuous of endeavors: the rearing and discipleship of a posterity and the preservation of a way of life.
Where are her children today? At what point did they cease to appreciate their patrimony and become wooed by that which slips through the hand? The empty kitchen which once knew the elegant bustle of a mother. The dinner table which was once the center of instruction. The tools of a trade, passed from one generation to another. All of these things forsaken, and for what? The deserted home-place is our true national symbol.
19th century theologian Robert Dabney once wrote, “The instrumentalities of the family are chosen and ordained of God as the most efficient of all means of grace—more truly and efficaciously means of saving grace than all the other ordinances of the church. To family piety are given the best promises of the gospel, under the new, as well as under the old dispensation.”
The true and proper estate of religion in our land will never be restored until the hearts of families return to one another. Men need not wonder from whence their deliverance will come until they regain the hearts of their children.
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
– Jeremiah 6:16