Machen’s Mother

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The little things sometimes make a big difference.  As parents (and even as pastors!), we should never lose sight of that.

In his book on the life and thought of J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), Stephen J. Nichols makes the following observation regarding Machen’s early childhood:

At the center of [his] upbringing was the Bible, the Shorter Catechism, and The Pilgrim’s Progress, all poured into the lives of the Machen boys by their mother. (J. Gresham Machen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, p.25-26)

Not only does this point out the value of such seemingly simple things as reading to and with your children, but it also highlights the powerful and lasting influence that a believing mother can have on her children (and through her children, on generations to come as well!).

His mother took the time to instill in her boys the knowledge of the Scriptures, the Shorter Catechism, and one of the Christian classics (The Pilgrim’s Progress).  This kind of thing was not always as remarkable as it might seem to us today, but used to simply be a part of growing up in a godly Presbyterian home.  It would be truly difficult to overestimate the lifelong benefits of this kind of upbringing.

Even though he is not exactly a household name within American evangelical circles, his influence for the good of the church is still being felt over 75 years after his death.  In his later years Machen would end up founding a seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia), a missions organization (The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions), and a denomination (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, or OPC).

And the impact that his mother had on his life should not be underestimated.  By the grace of God, those little things that she took the time to do with her sons, had a lasting influence.

What was Machen’s own estimation of his mother’s influence?  If you look at the dedication of his most well-known work, Christianity & Liberalism, you will see these three simple words:

To My Mother

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