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“even to the uttermost." It is as “life from the dead.” “It healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up its wounds."
My brother, are you a “wounded spirit ?” Are you finding, in every hour of a weary existence, that you cannot bear your own burden? Test the cure. “Taste and see.” “ Hear, and your soul shall live.” If you will not, then your soul can never “be in health and prosper," and the shadow of the second death is falling upon you.
WOMAN'S PLACE AND WORK
CHURCH OF CHRIST:
Rev. JOHN SMITH, M.A.,
“ The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did : is not this the Christ ? ”—John iv. 28, 29.
“Then she (Mary Magdalene) runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.”—JOHN XX. 2.
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."-1 TIM. ii. 12.
HERE We have an apparent contradiction. On the one hand, in these passages quoted from John's Gospel, we find mention made of two women,-one preaching, the other teaching, and both with the tacit approval of the Master. On the other hand, we hear Paul boldly saying, “I suffer not a woman to teach.” I ask your attention to a comparative study of these and other passages bearing on the same theme, that we may arrive at a clear and consistent view, based on Scripture teaching, of woman's place and work in the Church of Christ.
I have a distinctly practical end in view in taking up this subject. I believe it needs to be considered. We have an immense amount of latent force in the women as well as in the men who have espoused Christ's cause. And we must, if we would see that cause triumph, seek to set every power free.
Even in present circumstances, how great is the work being done by women! With the fragmentary and imperfect conceptions of duty entertained by many, how large a proportion of the Church's service to Christ comes from the hands and hearts our believing sisters! What might not be done, however, if they entered into the mind of God as to their place and work in His kingdom? I believe they would rival, in personal devotion, the women of the Gospels themselves, and vindicate, by the splendour and variety of their service, not only the strength and grandeur of their nature, but their title to a larger sphere, and their ability to wield a vaster influence in the kingdom of Christ.
Are there any who long for this ? Come, and let us traverse this subject as rapidly as we may.
And, first, let me, in brief space, give you a view of woman's position in Old Testament times. We all know,-indeed it is a commonplace of present-day thought, - that Christianity has raised the position of women. Care must be taken, however, not to exaggerate, by bold and sweeping statements, the elements of degradation in their pre-Christian condition. Especially is this caution needed, when we come to consider the Jewish nation. For, in their earliest annals we find, amid much that is gross, such examples of womanly dignity as the later history of the world does not greatly surpass; and such a position of honour and usefulness carved out for woman as placed her almost, if not altogether, on an equality with man. Sarah, Rachel,—ay, and Rebecca too, despite her one great sin,—were noble women. They were no tame drudges. Neither were they ministrants to man's lust. They won esteem, as well as love, because their higher qualities dignified them in their husbands' eyes. What Wordsworth says of Christian women in this nineteenth century is in large measure true of them. They were beings “ breathing thoughtful breath.” They had
“ Reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ;
With something of angelic light.”. It is of woman's place in the kingdom of God, however, that I would specially treat. Do we find any traces of female work and influence in the preparatory economy? We find many. In its own place and degree, God's revelation of Himself to His ancient people exerted, almost instantly, and continuously, an elevating influence on woman. See how, in times of trial, when the whole people were moved as the trees of the wood under the breath of the storm-wind, elect women, inspired by God, soared into lone pre-eminence, as the voice of the nation's heart, as the exponents of the nation's will. When Israel had crossed the Red Sea, the intense heat of the popular enthusiasm burst into flame, kindled by Miriam's song. In the earlier days of Israel's moral progress, Deborah soared, spirit-taught, to the highest and clearest realisation, hitherto attained, of God's mind and will, so that all men gloried in her rule, and even the princes of the people were content to own her sway, and toil in her service.
Again, and to descend now to the plain of calmer times, Hannah's consecration gave to Israel, Samuel, the grandest leader of the pure theocracy. Ruth, the sweet Old-Testament Mary, besides leavening her time and district with her lustrous purity, gave being to the household into whose holy calm,—the perpetuation of her influence,—the kingly David was yet to be born. All through the days of Saul and David, down even to Solomon's times, many women, true spiritual daughters of these, must have exerted a mighty influence on the land. In the closing chapter of Proverbs, a portrait, ideal possibly, yet closely true to fact, is drawn of a virtuous woman. Perhaps the increasing degradation of this class, owing to the introduction of heathen foreigners, led the writer to enshrine, in his description, the womanly excellences of earlier days. Let us mark those which bear specially on our theme.
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” She purifies the social atmosphere, and helps to create that mutual trust and esteem on which the intercourse of civilized people is based. “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor. The needy bless her. Strength and honour are her clothing." Her equals are deeply impressed by the grandeur of her character, and the nobility of her life. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” She purges society of its evil humours, at once sweetening and elevating it. “Her own works praise her in the gates.” Moving mainly within the circle of home, the power of her godly life permeates the community. Were these, think you, of small account in the Church, or in the world ? It is written in this book, which is a history, not of human society, but of the kingdom of God, “Her price is far above rubies.”
Of the Shunammite and others, I cannot wait to speak. Neither can I notice, by way of contrast, the mighty influence for evil exerted by Jezebel, nor the baneful reign of Athaliah. Prophetesses, some on the side of the Lord, as Huldah, some of the contrary part, as Noadiah, existed in the Church, amid all its
catastrophes, through all its vicissitudes, down to the time of Anna, who thanked God for a Christ come.
Keep these materials in mind. We shall need them, when, having reviewed the New Testament in this connection, we sum up the evidence.
Christianity dawned on the world in a woman's consecration of her being to God. She was willing—I refer, of course, to Mary-to become, in her body, the vehicle of Christ's advent to earth. There you have the Divine key-note to the melody of every noble woman's life. She overcomes, not so much by what she does (although, as we shall see, she has a large sphere of doing), as by what she is. To bring her whole being under law to Christ, to do every act to which her woman's nature prompts · her, for God's glory, so that the stamp of a holy purpose is upon her whole life,—that is her first and highest achievement. And is there anything more truly irresistible in its moral influence than a nature tremulous with emotion, yet loyal to Divine law,-intense in life, yet equally intense in purity,—nobly unconscious of evil, moving about the world like a holy presence, rebuking, by the sweet calm of her unperturbed being, everything in thought or feeling on a lower moral range than her own? Women of England! study that sweet Gospel of the childhood, as we have it in Luke. You will find the crown and flower of womanhood in that sweet mother of our Lord. What grace! What trust! What joy in God's will! What piercing vision into His eternal plan! And what a woman she is, while she is a prophet and a saint! I do not ask you to worship her. She would be the first to repudiate that. But I do ask you to imitate her trust, and to drink of her spirit.
But, having learned this first lesson, we must advance. Having drunk of Mary's spirit, how is the Christian woman to manifest it? Let me give you two pictures from the Gospels, that you may see.
And, first, take the narrative of the woman that was a sinner. Jesus is eating at Simon's house. The woman, arrested in her vile life, has got a great blessing on her soul. Her heart is bounding with love. What can she do for the man who has saved her ? She has an alabaster box of ointment in the house. It was intended for a very different end. But, now that her sinlife has vanished like a horrid dream, she will lavish it on Christ. Home she goes. Quiet, yet swift in her motions, she is back, and at Simon's door, in short space. Hardly waiting to think, she