Woman's Station and Work

by David Lipscomb

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 10 October 1888, 6–7)

I think if we will read carefully and thoughtfully the article from sister Holman on woman's work in the church, we can find a pretty good reason why the Lord did not suffer a woman to teach and lead in his church. When she wants a thing so, her strong emotional nature and intense love will see and have it that way any how.

Our sister can't understand language like this: “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness.” That is too dark and mysterious. She cannot see that the Holy Spirit is telling, I suffered you to take the lead once; your strong emotional nature led you to violate God's word and to shipwreck a world, I cannot again trust you to lead. She cannot see that Paul is telling the woman must not become the teacher, ruler, leader over man, that she is to be in subjection, because Adam was first formed, given the preeminence. A reason of universal application, showing the truth based on it is universal in its bearing.

Her unfitness to lead and teach arises from her strong emotional nature causing her to be easily deceived and to be ready to run after anything or body that might strike her fancy against reason and facts. This is still strongly woman's characteristic, as the article of our sister plainly shows. Paul says, notwithstanding this characteristic that unfits woman for a leader and teacher of assemblies, if she will devote herself to bearing children, in faith and charity and holiness, as her true work, she shall be saved.

Then, too, this language is dark and mysterious. “Let your women (it means spiritually endowed women) keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted a woman to speak; but they are commanded to be in obedience as saith also the law. And if they will learn anything let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church. What came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only. If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” Now Paul tells the church, “Let your women keep silence,” the reason given is, it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church, and then he refers to the fact that the law commanded the same thing, yet it is only a special case arising out of the condition of society at Corinth, or it just means women must not ask questions or dictate in church!! Asking questions or seeking information certainly does not involve ruling or dictating more than public teaching would. To ask a question is to become a learner not a dictator. And if they are not allowed to ask questions in public, much less could they assume the role of teacher. That bears much closer relation to ruling and dictating than asking questions does. He follows the idea up, they are to ask their husbands at home, the reason, It is a shame for the women to speak in the church. Then he asks, “What came the word of God out from you or came it unto you only?” There is diversity as to whether this refers to the church at Corinth or to the women. Whichever it may be, the question is propounded as a reproof to church or women, assuming to change the order of those from whom the word of God came, in permitting women to speak. If it refers to women it is a reproof for assuming to lead when God had not entrusted the word of God to her.

Then he adds, “If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge these things written by me (concerning these gifts) are the commandments of God.” Those who claim to be spiritually endowed and would so claim power to teach the will of God are to be tested by a willingness to receive these as commandments of God and to be set aside. It seems to me the Holy Spirit could not have hedged this teaching that it should not be set aside more carefully. For one to call it in question was to advertise himself as not spiritual or a prophet.

“But is it not singular that these spiritually endowed women must ask their husbands at home to learn instead of relying on their own inspiration?” That question arises from a misapprehension of spiritual powers and their work. Spiritual powers did not reveal all truth to each one who possessed them. Paul and Barnabas were spiritually endowed men, but must needs go up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles. Paul consulted with the chief apostles privately lest he had run in vain. Even the apostles must consult one another and get all that had been revealed to each, before the full truth was known. It is not strange then that endowed women should desire to learn and be referred to their husbands.

But our sister says, There are a large number of women who have no husbands or homes, and they should teach. That is a strange reason, that those deprived of one chief source of learning should because of that deprivation be called on to teach. Paul settled the case about these. “The younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” 1 Tim. v: 11–14. Here Paul so far differs from our sister as to tell these unmarried women they ought to marry, bear children, guide the house (train the children) and give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully, as they do when they undertake to preach or make public speakers. This agrees with his promise, she shall be saved in child bearing, if she will quit trying to lead and teach and fulfill [sic] her own mission.

While our sister can no more see the teaching of God's word in these plain, carefully explained and guarded Scriptures than mother Eve could see death in the goodly fruit that pleased her, she can see as bright as the noonday sun, women must publicly preach. Why is this? Our sister struck it when she spoke of her “emotional nature, her intensely loving heart.” These blind her to facts, shut out reason and lead her headlong where her emotions prompt her and so unfit her for leadership. An emotional man is not fit for leadership. Her nature fits her for work, earnest, true, loving work, just as essential as the leading or teaching of public assemblies, and that for which her nature fits her, God assigns to her.

It is not necessary that we take up the Scriptures which she has quoted and which her strong emotional nature has warped to teach what they do not teach the most remotely. Her first quotation, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” is tortured to mean there are no duties peculiar to one class and not to another. This we know is not true. The Holy Spirit made certain duties obligatory on freemen that were not on slaves, some on slaves that were not on freemen. Woman is continually allowed addressed in her own character with duties peculiar to herself and vice versa. As well say because a woman and man are one in marriage, they have the same functions to perform, the man must bear children and guide the house as well as the woman.

Her prophecies say nothing of public teaching. The church is frequently called the daughter of Zion and doubtless was the subject of the prophesy, but because it is feminine she finds women preachers. Her strong emotional nature making an idol of public preaching, finds, the Savior's telling Mary had chosen the better part, authority to lead assemblies in public addresses. She thinks the woman would have announced the resurrection to 10,000; doubtless, but the Master chose she should do it to one or two at a time and then that the men should proclaim it to the multitudes. We are seeking not what she would do, but what the Master wishes her to do.

She finds the women speaking in public at Pentecost. But only because the idol of her love demands she should see it. It is not in the Bible. The apostles are clearly recognized as the ministry, they supplied the vacancy of Judas by the election of Matthias, and Peter with the eleven spoke. None others were commissioned to speak at this time. She says there were deaconesses; deacon means one who serves, the connection must show whether the service was official or not. Women may have been official servants, yet not public speakers. Some elders even did not teach publicly, labor in word and doctrine. Our sister wonders why they were spiritually endowed if not to speak publicly. She answers it in another place when she says comparatively little of the teaching was done in public discourse, but in private and individual effort. Our sister gives a one-sided view of Dr. Clark's teaching. He said, “They have equal rights, equal privileges and equal blessings, and let me add they are equally useful.” And so say I. He did not say they had the same faculties, abilities, or work. I believe woman is equally useful with man. Have frequently said, were I going to a new place to introduce the gospel I would much prefer a good devoted Christian woman to help than a man. She can supplement my work in a way a man cannot. Her's is equally useful with mine but it is not the same. Dr. Clark says on 1st Timothy ii: 13, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” “And by this very act God designed that he should have the preeminence. God fitted man by the robust construction of his body, to live a public life, to contend with difficulties, and to be capable of great exertions. The structure of woman's body proves that she was never designed for those exertions required in public life.” Again, “God has not only rendered her unfit for it (ruling) but He has subjected her (expressly) to the government of the man.” Adam Clark did not believe women should become public teachers. Her ideas of the condition of women among the Jews while having nothing to do with the question are greatly fanciful. Smith's Bible dictionary as also Strong and McClintock's say, “Instead of being immured in a harem, or appearing in public with the face covered, the wives and maidens of ancient times mingled freely and openly with the other sex in the duties and amenities of ordinary life. Rebecca traveled on a camel with her face unveiled, until she came into the presence of her affianced (Gen. xxiv: 64). Jacob saluted Rachel with a kiss in the presence of the shepherds. Each of these maidens was engaged in active employment, /7/ the former in fetching water from the well, the latter in tending the flock. Sarah wore no veil in Egypt, and yet this formed no ground for supposing her married.” Again, with regard to the use of the veil, “It is important to observe that it was by no means so general in ancient as in modern times.” “Generally speaking women, both married, and unmarried, appeared in public with their faces exposed, both among the Jews (Gen. xii: 14; xxiv: 16; xxix: 10; 1 Sam'l i: 12,) and among the Egyptians and Assyrians, as proved by the invariable absence of the veil on the sculpture and paintings of these people.” “Much of the scrupulousness in respect to the use of the veil dates from the promulgation of the Koran, which forbade women appearing unveiled except in the presence of their nearest relatives.” So it is all a figment about this veiling and modesty of women being a relic of paganism. It is ordained of God and stamped in the true woman's nature. The covering for the head was a token of her submission and as such was proper when she worshipped. Not one of her examples from the Bible, nor from Church history finds women leading in public address. She went with Paul and labored with him and taught Apollos, but never once does she find her addressing multitudes.

But I just as earnestly believe that women should work in the gospel as any one can. I am anxious that she should do it, only that she should do it as a woman not as a man. The Bible encourages her to work in the gospel. It nowhere either in the law or the gospel encourages her to teach or lead in public assemblies. I believe God knew what was best for her, for the human family and where she would do most effective service. It was not in public speaking. There is not an example of her doing this in the New Testament. She was not sent to preach in the public use of that word as was man. The early church used her under the guidance of the Spirit, but never as the teacher of public assemblies. The churches that most effectively use women to-day do not permit her to teach public assemblies. The Roman church and the Episcopal are examples. The churches that permit her to preach are those that have made least growth and are most loose in faith—the Congregational. The Methodist are beginning to tolerate it. The communities where this is most popular are not more religious than others, but they are growing infidel. New England three hundred years ago zealously religious is now sceptical. The marriage relation is lightly esteemed. Marriage is loose, divorce easy, child-bearing avoided. This must be the natural result of women in public affairs, a woman with a thirst for the publicity and applause of the rostrum, wont bear children and guide the house, foeticide is said to be common where this sentiment prevails. So that New England is becoming Romish in its faith because puritan women wont bear children and the Romish do. The puritan stock is said to be decreasing all over the country from the same cause. On the other hand, where woman has married, borne children, guided the house, given no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully as she does when she enters public life, the people are the most religious. When the Bible and experience both condemn it why should Christian women desire it? The southern people are more religious than the northern—a much greater proportion are church members.

Then wherefore should women desire to preach publicly? Alexander wept because he had no more worlds to conquer. But he had conquered the one before him before he wept for another. Woman, or some women, only a few I am glad to say, are hunting for new fields of action, weeping for new worlds to conquer. But have they conquered the one committed to them? To bear and raise children is a work given to her by God—to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Has she finished and completed this work that she so longs to step over and supplant man and conquer his world for him? The place at which above all others the Christian religion fails, is in that work committed especially to women, the raising and training of children for the Lord. The gambling rooms, the whisky shops, the whore-houses, theatres, the schools of crime and sin and shame, the penitentiaries and prisons, are all manned and filled with the children of Christian mothers. The leaders of infidelity, the rogues and murderers of every shade and degree were brought up by Christian mothers, but not in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Gross, glaring, perfidious failure in the family is the curse and the weakness of the church. This is the place at which it fails most fearfully and disastrously. Were the children borne by Christian mothers all trained and saved to the Lord, the conversion of the world would be easy and speedy. Woman is not alone to blame for this failing. But home is her realm, her children her subjects. Until she trains them to be loyal and true to her religion and her God, it is simply shameful folly as well as treason to herself, her children, her race, and her God, to seek to occupy man's field of labor. They cannot swap functions, nature or work. Man cannot bear children, no more can he guide the house. That's woman's duty. Really the public preaching is much better done than the home training, the private work. There is no call yet for women to weep for other worlds to conquer, her world is not conquered. She can lighten the public preacher's work. She can labor most effectually with man in the gospel, by bearing children and guiding the house for God. When this is done the world, the whole world will be quickly converted to God. She can help and labor with every preacher in the gospel, when so far as her duties to her family will permit, she modestly and quietly appeals to men and women to be Christians.

My dear sisters, God has committed to you a work surpassed in importance and second in sacredness to no other work in the world - that of bearing and training immortals for his home. Here your strong emotional nature and intense love may find their true field for useful and loving work without danger of misleading. No other can occupy this field save you. It is an unnatural, unwomanly, ungodly ambition that would prompt women to leave this for any other work in the world. Do this well, you become then true helpmeets and co-workers with man in the gospel. It complements and supplements his as his does this. One cannot do both—the twain shall be one, and the twain work makes the true perfect work of the one body in Christ. Your work is the foundation of man's. It is of the two really the more necessary and important.

D. L.

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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