This article was given me by William G. Bass many years ago. Its author was not identified, but it is clear that it was taken from a publication of the day. I have tried to locate it on the internet and in librarries, but have not been successful. I believe that it might be from the pen of Alexander Campbell, Robert Richardson, or perhaps Tolbert Fanning when editor at the Gospel Advocate. I have a better than average library of Campbell and Robertson’s published works, and although Campbell did pen an article with the same title in 1869, it is not this one. If any reader knows its source I would gladly credit it here.
The article does not deal with the once divisive issue of coverings except in passing. It is as titled, concerning women’s work in the assemblies, with the bulk of its substantiation taken from the first letter to Corinth and in history from the Old Testament. As it was written long ago, the language is more detailed than the modern reader is often equipped to handle. But as when eating fish, while there are bones – the effort has its own reward. The author makes some critical and useful points, and offers scriptural insights that I suspect are often misunderstood or overlooked today. We hope that you might find it both interesting and thought provoking. (RAV)
The interests involved in the subject herein to be treated are becoming so manifest that we can no longer either safely or innocently disregard them. To aid an investigation that may discover the whole truth as to womans privileges in the kingdom of God, and that may ultimate in practical illustration her unknown powers of “laboring in the gospel,” is the purpose of this brief attempt. It is a principle well settled among philosophers, that when any general ground-swell is felt in the public mind, even if it seek expression in some abnormal or monstrous development, there is, nevertheless, some truth, or some want in the heart of the community, that causes it, to which it is always well to give heed. Enceladus will turn sometimes, and all Aetna can not keep him still. His groanings will be heard through some mouth-piece, in fiery eloquence that will alarm the indifferent, and compel attention to the relief of his heavy load.
Ever since the introduction of Christianity into this world woman has been rising from her heathen position toward her true relation as “partaker of the grace of life” with man. Her condition has paralleled the progress of civilization; and this has been marked by the progress of Christianity. And although the present demand for still extended rights to women does not prove an unjust limitation now, it at least demands an impartial re-examination of the whole question. It may be that the modern cry for “womans rights” even to suffrage and political office seeking, is but the rebound of the mind from a sphere of action really too contracted, from a life too inactive and useless, the soul having had no outlet for a due expression of its active forces. A plant prevented from growing in its natural direction will seek abnormal growth. If the feet or other parts of the body, be compressed in their growth, the vital forces will express themselves in some deformity that could have been prevented by removing the obstructions to a natural and healthy development. It is not certain, but very probable, that had woman, during the last generation, enjoyed all her natural, civil, and religious privileges and outlets for doing good as the Bible teaches, these excrescent growths would never have appeared – so far, at least, as Christian women are concerned. While therefore we suggest no apology for the course of some political women, nor for their over polite male attendants, whose feeble kindness leads only to the dethronement of woman from the sacredness of the position she now occupies, yet a certain palliation suggests itself even for the most extreme views of those ladies who seem to be politicians “born out of due time.”
As the present purpose is to discuss her work in the church, it will of course, be out of the way to say any thing scarcely concerning her civil rights. Others have written up this part of the subject better than it could be done here. The opportunity, however, should not be lost of expressing the conviction that some of our civil laws relating to the property of women – especially widows – are exceedingly unfair; that much of the prejudice against her making a living by certain kinds of secular employment, is wholly inexcusable. That popular opinion should, for example, frown upon her studying medicine under female teachers, and practicing it among her own sex especially, and among children, is as unpardonable on the part of men as would be the desire of a woman to stump the state in a political campaign. But as this is not our theme we shall leave it to other hands, and try to preserve our unity of thought by examining the New Testament as to the work of woman in the Christian church.
The principle difficulty in our way arises from apparent contradictions in the epistles as to her privileges in the Church. In two instances she is commanded to be in “silence,” not to “teach, not to usurp authority over the man,” and “if she will learn any thing, let her ask her husband at home.” On the other hand, she had the gift of prophecy, which seems to have endowed her with the right to edify the church. And this allusion obliges us, before proceeding farther, to determine the real meaning of the word “prophesy” as used in the New Testament, and then to ascertain whether prophecy was truly part of a womans work in the primitive church. For the etymological definition of the term involving its common use we refer to Dr. Wm. Smiths Bible Dictionary: “The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is… derived from the verb signifying ‘to bubble forth’ like a fountain. Hence the word means one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God. The English word comes from the Greek prophetes, which signifies, in classical Greek, one who speaks for another, especially one who speaks for a god, and so interprets his will to man. Hence, its essential meaning is interpreter. The use of the word in its modern sense, as ‘one who predicts,’ is post-classical.” Foretelling was but a small part of the prophets work. See Nathan rebuking David, Jonah preaching repentance to the Ninevites, and all the major and minor prophets reproving and instructing Israel and Judah, restoring and expounding the law, and they will appear as teachers – Jewish preachers – rather than as mere foretellers. Pro means for, rather than before. They spoke for God, “reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
John the Baptist was a greater prophet than any of his predecessors, the chief business of whose life was to preach repentance, and prepare a people for the Lord. Jesus was a prophet of God, mighty in word and deed, and yet but little of his time was spent predicting.
With the practical definitions of the word as used previous to the establishment of the church of Christ, what might we expect “prophesy” to mean in the New Testament with no hint given of a change in the work of a prophet? And that such is its meaning in the New Covenant is manifest from the writings of Paul in several places. “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation and comfort.” (1 Co. 14:3) “He that prophesieth edifieth the church” (verse 4) in the following verse prophesying is made the equivalent of speaking with tongues and interpreting, “that the church may – in both cases alike – receive edifying.” Again: “Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted.” Without burdening the page with quotations, it is plain that prophesying was for comforting, edifying, and exhorting, that all might learn. It is not denied that foretelling future events belonged to the prophets, but neither in the Old or New Covenant was this the principal part of their labor.
We are now ready to inquire whether women possessed the gift of prophecy in the primitive church, or whether it was confined to men. Here again we must appeal to the scriptures as our only guide in a dark place. “It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ and on my servants and on my handmaidens will I pour out my Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2: 17, 18) This is a quotation from the prophet Joel, uttered in reference to the Christian dispensation and the Christian church.
In the same book – Acts of the Apostles – we learn that Philip the Evangelist had “four daughters who did prophesy.” That is, four daughters who, in some way, aided in the edification and instruction of the church. In 1 Co. 11: 5, also we read: “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head, for that is even all one as if she were shaven”- a mark or penalty sometimes fixed upon the disreputable, and of course, to be avoided by Christian women. “And if it be a shame for her to be shaven or shorn, let her then be covered”while prophesying. This injunction, as to covering the head, doubtless grew out of the habits of the times and of society, and was intended to guard the church from evil report; and although the occasion for such caution may have entirely passed away, the fact remains that women in the primitive church did prophesy. Whatever this fact may lead to – the subversion of long settled convictions, or even of public ministry of women in the congregation – the fact itself remains no more to be ignored or denied than that the disciples met together on the first day of the week to break bread.
Anna was a prophetess fourscore years of age. (Lk. 2) Deborah was prophetess, and judged Israel. (Judges 4:5) “She was not so much a judge as one gifted with prophetic command.” Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, the three deliverers – Micah 6:4 – was also a “prophetess” – a gift that expressed itself in her poetry and music. (Ex 15: 20) But above all the Jewish prophetesses, Huldah, the wife of Shallum, stands preeminent in being appealed to by the king, when Hilkiah, the priest, found the book of the law, to obtain an authoritative opinion concerning it. When the king “inquired of the Lord” he sent to Huldah.
This induction, together with the definition and use of the term, demonstrate that when the Jewish church was being merged into the Christian, the latter would feel no shock of its sense of propriety in seeing women possessed of the gift of prophecy. They knew that both Huldah and Deborah had interpreted the will of God, that Miriam had borne a conspicuous part with her brothers in the exodus of their nation, and were hence not unprepared to see the “daughters” and “handmaidens” receive the gift of prophecy, and to speak to the “comfort, exhortation, and edification of the church.” (1 Co. 14:5)
That women did labor in the gospel in some way is evident from many scriptures. “I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are mentioned in the book of life.” (Ph. 4:3) who these women were we are not informed. Lydia may have been among them. Whoever they were, they were in the habit of “laboring in the gospel” not only with Paul, but “with Clement also,” and other ministers of the gospel – Pauls “fellow laborers.” All ministers visiting and laboring in Philippi – Timothy, Erastus, and Silas were doubtless among them – were aided by these sisters in some way in the furtherance of the gospel.
Of Phoebe, servant – diakonos – of the church at Cenchrea, it is said, “She hath been a succorer of many, [ministers] and of myself also.” Here again we are uninformed as to the particular way in which she was “a helper of many,” but it is very plain that she was more than a servant of the church in merely carrying the epistle to the Romans from the hand of Paul; for it was her habit to succor all ministers who came to Cenchrea. Whether she or any other woman was deaconess in an official sense, or simply a volunteer in every good work, is a matter of little consequence in this paper, as it is their work, official or unofficial, we are seeking to ascertain. That she was useful in the cause of Christ in more ways than one is more than probable, since it was customary in those days to make messengers of those who could not only bear tidings, but do good in other ways at the same time. The brethren in Antioch sent their contributions to Jerusalem “by the hands of Barnabus and Saul.” The church at Philippi sent pecuniary aid to Paul by Epaphroditus, “a companion in labor and fellow soldier.” Also when the collections were sent from Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem, Paul and other ministers were selected for that purpose – perhaps in order that more than one purpose might be affected by the same instrumentalities; and Phoebe, being the bearer of this important letter, was probably able also to do other service suitable for Christian women.
Having now seen that, while the platform is not the scene of womans activities in the church, and also that her ministries are not confined to the closet nor even to private indoor labors, we proceed to specify a few of the many fields of Christian activity that open to her, and which she must enter if the work of the Lord is to prosper in our hands.
The modern notion that teaching, prophesying, and all kindred ministries are, for the most part, to be performed in the pulpit, or in some way before public assemblies, is the chief cause of confusion on this subject. The field of action being considered so circumscribed and the true scene of labor, where most of the Christian activities ought to present themselves, being practically ignored or despised, a rush is being made for the pulpit as the only outlet for those sisters who would “labor in the gospel.” The logical conclusion of many reasoning is that unless we lay upon Christian women the burdens of evangelists, bishops, elders, circuit riders, curates, rectors, immersers, and traveling revivalist, there is little for them to do. The pulpit mania is characteristic of these degenerate days. Teaching is all to be done in the pulpit, not “from house to house.” Paul was behind the times. “By the space of three years he ceased not to warn every one, distributively, night and day, with tears.” Individual improprieties that require mainly personal correction must be harangued at from the pulpit. Warnings to sinners must all come at long range from the pulpit. Christianity is to be taught, young disciples are to be encouraged, meeting houses to be built, missionary cause to be promoted, prayer meetings and Sunday schools to be kept up, and almost every other good to be monopolized by the pulpit. Not that this mania has seized the good women especially, but such seems to be the teaching and practice of the times; and women assuming it to be correct, have felt the narrowness of their sphere, and seek expression in what seems to be the almost only method of laboring in the gospel. And in this view it is not easy to see how Phoebe could be a “succorer of many” preachers; or how those other women who “labored with Paul, with Clement, and other fellow laborers,” could do so without occupying the platform. It is assumed that prophesying was all performed in public, and hence the apparent contradiction between this and Pauls prohibition of public preaching as to the sisterhood. It is admitted that prophesying was not a closet observance; neither can it be proved that this work was done upon the platform, nor is it necessary, as there is a wide field of operations embraced by neither of these.
It is quite certain that no very large part of the labors, either of Jesus or of his apostles, was performed in the public assemblies. They “went about doing good.” “Daily in the Temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. ” Philip preaches to the eunuch in a carriage on the way. Paul and Silas preached to the jailer and his house at midnight. On the dispersion at Jerusalem the disciples went everywhere, preaching to whomsoever they met “in season and out of season.” The habits of these times encourage preaching in season – at regular appointments, at stated times, in congregations convened to hear preaching – but not out of season – “when thou comest in and when thou goest out; when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,” by the wayside, from house to house, without appointment, and without invitation. Were this method of preaching still recognized, there would be no lack of opportunity for godly women to “labor in the gospel” to the full extent of their ability, just as they did in the days of the apostles. We do not claim that the New Testament specifies that every act of service a Christian woman can perform, but that there is light enough to guide her in the highest and holiest efforts for the Savior.
It is competent for her to do any work a Christian ought to do, except the one act of pulpit preaching, which is the division of labor that God has assigned to men. And this is no disparaging of her usefulness in the church any more than mans usefulness is underestimated by the assignment of a certain work to women that men could not very well perform. (See Titus 2:5) man is just as unfit to teach “the young women to be chaste, keepers at home,” etc. as woman is to be a presiding elder. All member of the body can not and ought not to perform the same part of the work. If, however, divine wisdom had intimated no division of labor between Christian men and women, “nature itself would teach us,” that the rostrum part of it is not that which woman could perform the best; and even if the abstract right to be a traveling evangelist through heat and cold, over sea and land, in the highways and in the hedges, and to bear the brunt as Paul did, be granted, it might still be a question whether this would be the most judicious division of labor. Horace Mann said: “A woman has the right to sing bass,” but the fact that singing bass would not be the most useful exertion of her vocal capacity, would of itself suggest her true vocal rights. God, who made each member of the body, has assigned to each its own work, and woman has no more right to complain (as only a few do) of the inhibition as to public preaching than man has of the implied prohibition mentioned above referred to. It is very probable that when Christianity began to release woman from her menial heathen condition, the rebound of mind to another extreme, developing some of the obnoxious features of our modern “strong minded” women, inducing confusion in the church, was the immediate cause of Pauls commands. Certainly the intention was not to restrict them in any good work to which their gifts and calling adapted them. Any thing, then, that a Christian may do, may be done by a Christian woman, with the single exception named; and under this generalization may be noticed the following specifications:
The gift of prophecy belonged to both men and women. Men prophesied both from “the sacred desk,” as the moderns would say, and also in a more private way; women in the latter method only, which is the more important of the two, as appears from the fact that all of the womans powers and time, and the greater part of the mans were anciently engaged in this way. That prophesying means speaking to edifying, exhortation, and comfort of the church, is also patent from 1 Co. 11:3. That edifying the church does not necessarily involve public preaching has been proved before. A broad field lies open to every disciple in personal labor from house to house, in Sunday schools, in private Bible classes, and in a thousand ways overlooked by the constant gaze on the pulpit as the coveted field of usefulness. Such is the tendency, even with some ministers, to overlook the value of al labor outside of the pulpit that no greater blessing, perhaps could come upon them and their churches than some civil disability that would forbid their public preaching by the space of five years, at least, leaving them no means of access to the public mind but that of teaching “from house to house.” This would be followed by good results. It would train the preachers mind to habits of laboring “out of season;” it would teach him how to preach privately; it would bring woman into the field by exalting that kind of labor she is so eminently fitted to perform; it would drive from the ministerial office all men possessed of too little religion to labor in this way; it would develop a new class of men not possessed, indeed, of much pulpit ability, but capable of building up the saints by private ministrations in their most holy faith; it would convert the whole world, revive the church and inaugurate a new era among men. How many men of God burdened with the desire to continue day and night in the temple, if only their families could be fed and clothed, are kept out of the field because they are not pulpit orators? How many women would gladly labor in the Lord if their abilities and their proper field of labor were recognized by men? The number of laborers that could be brought in to the field from these two classes would astonish the very men are constantly praying “the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest. No marvel that in ancient days “multitudes were added to the Lord,” when multitudes of laborers were in the field. Those scattered abroad on the persecution that arose about Stephen, went everywhere – to Samaria, Cyprus, Phenice, and Antioch – preaching the word, whether they could perform well in the pulpit or not. Philip the Evangelist, and some others doubtless preached publicly, but many women as well as men, prophesied from house to house pressing the word home to the consciences of thousands who would listen to no public discourse.
Whether an order of women was set apart in the apostolic churches called “deaconesses” is not certain. The simple circumstances of Phoebes being called a diakonos of the church of Cenchrea is hardly conclusive, since the term is as generic in its use as the Latin word minister. Christ was called a deacon (diakonos) of the circumcision. Paul was a deacon, Timothy a deacon (“a good diakonos of Jesus Christ”). Satan also has his deacons, who are transformed as the diakonos of righteousness – sometimes in an official and unofficial sense. Still, there are several circumstances to be stated, which, if they fail to prove a very special work for them to do in the furtherance of the gospel.
Phoebe was servant of the church at Cenchrea. She served the church, then, in some way. Could this be said of every sister in that church? If so, a diakonos of a church means simply a member of that church. If diakonos means anything more that a member or even an active member, Phoebe must have held some appointment under the church authorities. A servant of God, a servant of the king, a government, and a servant of a church would each seem to be under employ.
We are told in Titus 2:3 that “the aged women should be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Here, although no official position is predicated of these aged women, an abundant work is laid before them – a work of teaching, prophesying, speaking, though not in the pulpit, yet “speaking unto edification, exhortation, and comfort.” This passage is perhaps the foundation of the convictions of many that certain godly women ought to be set apart in every church to minister in many things among their own sex. Of old women teach the younger to love their husbands, and to be keepers at home, they would not be suspected of self interest, as men might be; and surely exhortations to be obedient to their won husbands and especially to be chaste, would come with more propriety from the aged women than even from the oldest bishops of the church. The entire field of labor lying in this direction is not only open to women, but legitimately belongs to them under the superintendence of the elders. If in Crete there was no order of deaconesses set apart for this business, it is very certain that the ministers of the churches were to enlist the “aged women” in this service. Paul commanded Titus to see that this work was done by the older sisters. Titus was responsible for putting all the church forces into operation, and if by modern ministers is felt the same responsibility there would be fewer idlers in the church than now, more laborers in the vineyard, fewer lifeless members, because fewer that have nothing to do.
In the last chapter of Romans the names of six different women are given, with the following notices:
Phoebe “has been a succorer of many and of myself also.”
Aquila and Priscilla for Pauls life “laid down their own necks,” to whom “not only he but all the churches of the gentiles give thanks.” She helped her husband save Pauls life.
Mary – “who bestowed much labor on us.”
Tryphena and Tryphosa – “who labor in the Lord.”
The beloved Persia – “who labored much in the Lord.”
Upon these passages we may remark,
First. That the Greek word here translated labor signifies “labor unto weariness or fatigue,” so that the services rendered by those women were not an occasional visit to the sick or the preparing of an occasional meal for the apostle. They “labored much in the Lord,” and “bestowed much labor on us.” Besides the expression “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord,” seems to indicate a habit of so laboring then existing, and not an occasional good deed. And if it be asked what particular duties these all performed, we reply, they did anything the Bible enjoins Christians, except the public preaching and government of the church, which God in the division of labor, has laid upon men.
Second. The fullest account we have of the labor of any one woman in the primitive church is that of Priscilla. Banished from Rome with her husband, Paul found them at Corinth, with whom he worked at tent making and whom he probably converted by private preaching – preaching “out of season.” He took them with him to Ephesus, where the two took Apollos apart and “expounded to him the way of the Lord more perfectly.” In this case the woman was found capable of teaching a man, nor was it any infraction of the law, for they took him “unto themselves” and taught him. If Aquila was a public teacher, the manner of her assistance may have been illustrated by the labors of a Christian woman traveling with her evangelist husband. While he taught “publicly and from house to house, ” she “ceased not in every house to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” She could reach many to whom he had no access. Besides this she, every morning, had a large Bible class, intended principally for her own sex, but which was soon filled up with all classes of hearers, many of whom learned the way of the Lord more perfectly who might never have been affected from the pulpit. This was one of those women who “labored much in the Lord;” and while she never threw away the charm of female modesty on the rostrum, she often spoke to edification, to comfort, and to exhortation.
Priscilla seems to have traveled somewhat with her husband in this holy ministry. She was in Corinth, in Cenchrea, in Syria, in Ephesus, and back again in Rome, where a congregation of disciples met in their house, and was so committed to the work that, with her husband, she had been a succorer of many ministers, and at one time was willing to lay down her neck for Pauls life, and received the thanks of all the Churches of the Gentiles therefore.
But if we desire modern instances of what Christian women can do in the Gospel of Christ, look at the missionary women in the Orient. More than one half of all the labor done to rescue the heathen is the work of women. They teach religion in families, read the Scriptures to them, distribute Bibles, tracts, and other religious literature, educate the youth, instruct the heathen women in the knowledge of God. Of such Paul would say, “Help those women who labored in the Gospel with me and with Clement also, and other of my fellow-laborers whose names are in the Book of Life.” “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord,” and “the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.” Seeing there was no need to detail the special kinds of work they performed when, with a single exception, the whole field of Christian activity lies open before them, and, as before intimated, had not the people almost deified the pulpit as the almost only sphere of usefulness, no clamor for wider fields would ever have been heard from these “helpers in Christ Jesus.”
In confirmation of what has been said of the usefulness of womans labor as missionaries, we quote from the Eighth Report of the Womans Union Missionary Society, under the caption of “Womans Work:”
“If ever there was a work adapted to Christian women it is that which this Society represents. It was organized and incorporated in 1861, and has gone on with increasing usefulness until now. Its object is the conversion of their Oriental sisters, and the lifting up to higher and more intelligent existence the secluded, we may almost say imprisoned, females of India and China.”
“Shut up in their zenanas, they pass a listless, languid existence, the mere playthings of their sensual masters, having no aspirations above the daily insipid routine of animal life. How shall these precious souls be reached, and roused, and made to feel that they are immortal and responsible? Our men missionaries cannot get access to them. A veteran in mission work said to Mrs. N.: “The Gospel needs to be taken to the women of India, but, as a man, I feel myself cut off from half the people. “It is utterly impossible, says another, “for a preacher of the Gospel in heathen lands to make any attempt for the culture of women. “Raise the women of India, says another, “and you lift 200,000,000 from gross idolatry. It is God who started this enterprise. Single women, moved by love to Christ and the soul, have found their way into the zenanas, and, sitting beside the imprisoned inmates have told them of Jesus and his love, and the languid eye has kindled and the heart has been touched. ”
Thus may women labor in the Gospel; and thousands are already there, where thousands more should be sent, to carry the light to those who sit in the region and shadow of death.
But why do the Scriptures lay the preaching in public entirely on men? For two reasons:
It is the best division of labor. If women had a right to fell the forests, to act the warrior, to preach in the forum, to be bruised and battered to the polls, and assume the toga virilis, still the exercise of that right would be very questionable. We speak of mans sphere and womans sphere, but the truth is neither of them has a sphere, but each a hemisphere. The two united make a sphere, and God has forbidden the one to occupy the position of the other. The Jewish law forbade their dressing alike. “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a womans garment, for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord.” (Deut. 12:5) In the same spirit it is said, it is “a shame for a man to have long hair,” as it is also a shame for a woman to have “her head shaven or shorn.” The Lord does not love “manly women,” nor “womanly men.” They both alike are “abomination unto the Lord.” For a man to affect softness and delicacy, instead of strength and courage, is no less disgraceful than for a woman to affect masculinity and seek outdoor notoriety at the hustings, in the halls of Congress, or on the battle-field. She should neither be elected constable, sheriff, nor policeman; she should neither plow nor reap, nor gather into barns; she has no right to be a blacksmith, a grave-digger, nor a “rail-splitter;” a city scavenger, a steamboat captain, or a sailor; in brief she has no right to act the man. The Church has no need of such, nor the government, nor does any man fit to be a husband desire any such “strong-minded” woman for his wife. A true woman despises femininity in a man, because he is trenching upon ground he has no right to. What if men should clamor for some of the precious rights of woman, the right of protection, support, exemption from war, from field, and shop labor, etc., and claim that otherwise there was no equality has not God assigned each sex their proper place, and granted a certain superiority to each? That these respective hemispheres have been wisely marked out in the Bible every days experience and all sound philosophy continually attest.
Another reason for forbidding women to preach publicly grew out of the state of society then existing. Woman suddenly feeling the enfranchising power of the Gospel, and learning that in “Christ there is neither male nor female,” naturally enough committed some excesses that were about to place her among the discreditable in society. Throwing off the veil and other symbols of modesty seemed at once to classify her with certain disreputable women. Tacitus informs us (De moribus Germanorum) that the Germans of that day always punished prostitutes by cutting off their hair or shaving the head, to which suspicion Christian women were not allowed to expose themselves by any supposed liberty of the Gospel, or by any assumption of unveiled manliness. The dress of the sexes in those days being so much alike, the appearance of a woman with short hair was not dissimilar to that of a man, and presented an indecency about the same as if a woman would nowadays go about with mens clothes on. Paul was protecting women against slander and shame and should receive the thanks instead of the censures of women of modern times.
If women, by their dress, or the part they wish to take in public affairs, assume the place of men, they should be content to take mens fare, and renounce their special privileges. The special courtesies extended in public and private circles, on the streets, in public conveyances, and everywhere should never be looked for if there be no difference between the hemisphere of man and that of woman. But if there be such distinction marked out, both by nature and revelation, it involves distinctive duties for each, among which voting, holding political and military offices, public preaching, and baptizing certainly do not belong to women.
Another fact in ancient society that made it necessary for Paul to protect Christian women was found in the conduct of the heathen priestesses, whose unveiled ravings, disheveled hair, and disregard of female modesty made it necessary to avoid all appearance of effrontery on the part of sisters in the church, “that the word of God be not blasphemed,” and lest the prophesyings of the one and the Delphic afflatus of the other, should be confounded as one and the same. (See Aeneid 6:1-48) we hence conclude that, to secure the best division of labor, and to protect both the constitution and character of women, they are excused form the pulpit department of Christian labor. This would seem in no way to interfere with her songs, and prayers, and teachings in a more private way. Her influence in Sunday schools, social meetings, Bible classes, “from house to house – in raising money for missionary and other benevolent objects, in special instructions to her own sex, in praying with the sick and dying, in caring for young members, and in all the holy ministries now opening and soliciting her zeal in missionary labor, both at home and broad – into all these fields she should be called, nor will the church of Christ ever discover her innate power until woman is invited into these many fields of usefulness, and supported in the work. Already in foreign missionary fields there are two women for every man engaged, and happy is that people who can enlist the exquisite talent, the genius, the spiritual insight, the intuitions, and the unselfish, heroic affections of this prize essay from the hand of God; but let her ever be protected from the asperities intended only for the man, “because of the angels.”
Printed October 1869