The Signs of the Times


September 15, 1881

A Lesson for Mothers


While Israel was sorely harassed by the children of Ammon on the east, and the Philistines on the west, the Lord hearkened to the prayers of his people, and began to work for their deliverance. After eighteen years of oppression, they made war against the Ammonites, and effectually destroyed their power. But a backsliding and idolatrous people soon forgot the lesson which divine wisdom had so often sought to teach them. As they continued to depart from God, he permitted them still to be oppressed by their powerful enemies, the Philistines. ST September 15, 1881, par. 1

For a period of forty years the children of Israel were constantly harassed, and at times completely subjugated, by this cruel and warlike nation. They had mingled with these idolaters, united with them in commerce, in pleasure, and even in worship, until they seemed to be identified with them in spirit and interest. Then these professed friends of Israel became their bitterest enemies, and sought by every means to accomplish their destruction. ST September 15, 1881, par. 2

There is still, as with ancient Israel, a constant tendency among the professed people of God to depart from the Lord's instructions, and to imitate the customs and practices of worldlings. The people of the world have given themselves to the service of Satan; and their hearts are opposed to the religion of Jesus Christ. They may profess to acknowledge him as their Redeemer, but they have the same hostility as did the heathen of old, to that religion which calls for self-denial and self-sacrifice. The spirit of the world today is the same that prompted the rejection and crucifixion of the Prince of Life; the same that has consigned his followers to imprisonment, exile, and death. The Christianity which will yield to the influence of the world, and conform itself to their principles and customs, is looked upon with favor by men who are the enemies of God. But when the necessity for holiness of heart and life is presented, then the world feels that its rights are endangered. When the church rebukes fashionable follies, demoralizing amusements, extravagance, and self-indulgence; when Christianity is spiritual, positive, earnest, and aggressive,—then the opposition of the world will be excited. ST September 15, 1881, par. 3

Our Saviour plainly taught that there could be no harmony between his followers and the world. “Marvel not that the world hate you. Ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” The world will love its own. Those who value the things which it values, will enjoy its friendship. It is the spirit of the world that separates us from God. It is the love of those things which he has condemned that brings his displeasure upon us. As in olden times, the Lord still sends his messengers with words of warning and reproof. He makes it our duty to hear, to understand, and to obey. There are evils among the people of God that call for reform. The light of the present age, the experience of the church in ages past, the teachings of the sacred word for this time,—all bid us go forward. ST September 15, 1881, par. 4

There were still in Israel true-hearted ones whose souls were filled with anguish because of the condition of their people. Their prayers of confession, penitence, and faith, went up without ceasing before God. He was not indifferent to their cries, but while there was apparently no response, his providence was preparing for them help suited to their condition. There was not to be found in all Israel a man through whom the Lord could work for the deliverance of his people. The erroneous education given to children, indulgence of appetite, and conformity to the practices of heathenism, had greatly lessened both physical and moral power. ST September 15, 1881, par. 5

Godly fathers and mothers looked with gloomy forebodings to the future. Many a mother had secretly cherished the hope that she might give to God and to Israel a son who should deliver his people from the oppressor's power. But as parents saw their children coming up with perverted appetites and uncontrolled passions, the inquiry arose, What will the end be? What part will these youth and children act in the great drama of life? In the hearts of many mothers, hope battled against fear; but in other hearts reigned only discouragement and despair. What could the mother do to avert the threatened evils? How could she train her children for God? How banish the nameless terror which oppressed her soul? “Spare us, O God, spare us!” was the oft-repeated prayer. “Let not thy people perish; let us not see our children a prey of the enemy.” ST September 15, 1881, par. 6

At this time the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah, an Israelite of the tribe of Dan, and informed her that she should have a son; and in view of this, he gave her special instruction concerning her own habits, and also for the treatment of her child. “Now therefore, beware, I pray thee, and drink neither wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing.” He also directed that no razor should come upon the head of the child, for he was to be consecrated to God as a Nazarite from his birth, and through him the Lord would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. ST September 15, 1881, par. 7

The woman sought her husband, and after describing the heavenly visitant, she repeated the message of the angel. Then, fearful that they should make some mistake in the important work committed to them, the husband prayed earnestly, “Let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.” ST September 15, 1881, par. 8

In answer to this petition, the angel again appeared, and Manoah's anxious inquiry was, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” The previous instruction was repeated,—“Of all that I said unto the woman, let her beware. She may not eat of anything that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. All that I command her let her observe.” ST September 15, 1881, par. 9

Manoah and his wife knew not that the One thus addressing them was Jesus Christ. They looked upon him as the Lord's messenger, but whether a prophet or an angel, they were at a loss to determine. Wishing to manifest hospitality toward their guest, they entreated him to remain while they should prepare for him a kid. But in their ignorance of his character, they knew not whether to offer it for a burnt-offering or to place it before him as food. ST September 15, 1881, par. 10

The angel answered, “Although thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread; and if thou wilt offer a burnt-offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord.” Feeling assured, now, that his visitor was a prophet, Manoah said, “What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honor.” ST September 15, 1881, par. 11

The answer was, “Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is secret?” Perceiving the divine character of his guest, Manoah “took a kid, with a meat-offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord; and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.” Fire came from the rock, and consumed the sacrifice, and as the flame went up toward heaven, “the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.” There could be no further question as to the character of their visitor. They knew that they had looked upon the Holy One, who, veiling his glory in the cloudy pillar, had been the guide and helper of Israel in the desert. ST September 15, 1881, par. 12

Amazement, awe, and terror filled Manoah's heart, and he could only exclaim, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” But his companion in that solemn hour possessed more faith than he. She reminded him that the Lord had been pleased to accept their sacrifice, and had promised them a son who should begin to deliver Israel. This was an evidence of favor instead of wrath. Had the Lord purposed to destroy them, he would not have wrought this miracle, nor given them a promise which, were they to perish, must fail of fulfillment. ST September 15, 1881, par. 13

The words uttered by the angel convey an important truth. Our Creator himself declares that the mother's habits prior to the birth of her child will affect its character and destiny. In speaking to this one mother, the Lord spoke to all the anxious, sorrowing mothers of that time, and to all the mothers of succeeding generations. Yes, every mother may now understand her duty. She may know that the character of her children will depend vastly more upon her own habits before their birth, and her personal efforts after their birth, than upon external advantages or disadvantages. ST September 15, 1881, par. 14

If the mother would be a fit teacher for her children, she must form habits of self-denial and self-control before their birth. She imparts to them her own qualities of blood, her own strong or weak traits of character. If her ways are established in God, if she heeds the admonitions which he gives, she will do her part to give right character, right temper, and right appetites, to her offspring. ST September 15, 1881, par. 15

Said the angel, “Let her beware;” that is, be prepared to resist temptation, and stand firmly at her post. Let principle control her appetites and her passions. Of every mother it may be said, “Let her beware.” There is something to shun, a necessity of guarding herself if she would seek eminence for the gift of God in her child. If she is unstable, double-minded, unprincipled, she will in most cases cause the future ruin of her child. Her fixed principles of action, her unbending purpose to adhere to right rules, as the wisdom of God dictates, will give these same traits of character to her child. The Lord has spoken, and his words are not to be disregarded. ST September 15, 1881, par. 16

The divine command was very explicit, prohibiting the use of the fruit of the vine. Every drop of stimulant taken by the mother as a gratification of the appetite, endangers the physical, mental, and moral health of her offspring, and is a direct sin against her Creator. The accumulated misery and wickedness in our world exists in consequence of disregarding the express commands of God. The restrictions are given by the One who made man, who instituted the laws controlling his physical being, and who knows what is for his good. Dare any regard the lesson with indifference? ST September 15, 1881, par. 17