Women in the Church

by David Lipscomb

(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 21 November 1888)

Please read sister Holman's article on another page before reading this.

We think our sister should not excite or encourage a desire in other women that is so repugnant to her own womanly instincts and feelings.

We have nowhere said that woman was inferior to man in talent or position. We have said she has not the same talent, taste, combination of faculties, moral, social or physical. Hence is not adapted to the same work.

Hers is a more quiet, less public work, but the quiet, less showy work is the more important work in all departments of life. Training children at home has more to do with the moral and of religious life and character of the children and the world than public preaching. If the world is only to receive the benefit of a good home training from Christian mothers, or to hear public preaching, we say by all means let it have the home training of Christian mothers. Because this is absolutely necessary to the child, the mother is doubtless prohibited by God from all public work because it would interfere with this her special work and the important work for the world. The most sacred trust committed to mortals is the training of children for immortality. This God committed to women, and cut her off from all other works that would distract her from this work. Certainly this is not saying woman is inferior to man or has been assigned an inferior position. Still she is not suited for the work which has been assigned to man. If each follows the work for which God fitted them and to which he has called them they exactly complement each other and it takes both and the work of both to carry out the work of the Lord. There need be no question of inferiority or superiority. Men and women in the same community stand about equal in regard for morality and virtue. Man is much what woman makes him, woman is much what man demands she must be.

Our sister thinks that if woman voted, there would be no licensed saloons, nor gambling houses, nor whore houses, nor places tempting men and women to sin. She seems to think these evils all exist because wicked man votes to license them. Well, my dear sister, man is what his mother makes him. The great and good men are always conceded to be the work of their mothers. The bad men are just as much the work of their hands. Then the whore house, and the gambling houses are not licensed. Strong laws to suppress them have been enacted. The license of the saloon does not encourage drinking. The license was intended as a restriction and discouragement of the use of intoxicants. In the natural state, every man made, sold and drank as much whiskey as he pleased. There was no license then. The trouble was mothers and fathers raised their boys to so love and drink whisky, it became such a crying evil, men and women concluded the good of the community demanded that restrictions should be thrown around the manufacture and sale, to check its use. They forbid anyone making or selling it without paying a tax and securing a license, which license contained restrictions intended to guard and discourage the use of it. It may be that the time has come when a still greater prohibition can be laid on it, but when a man or woman lays the love and custom of drink to the license they do not know what they talk about.

Woman has done much to cultivate the love of drink in her children. She has done and is now doing much to discourage the use of it, but her effective work is done at home, in teaching her children the evil of it and instilling into them principles of morality and religious integrity. Without this strength of moral principle all the laws in the world will not check intemperance or sin of any kind. She finds other motives than the love of public life hindering women from child-bearing. Most certainly, yet it had its origin in the same homes, grew in the same soil with her love for the rostrum. The idea of its being not wrong once admitted many occasions for committing the crime is found. Here are statistics furnished by Mr. Talmage:

According to the statistics of Prof. Dikes in one year in moral New Hampshire there were 241 divorces; in temperate Maine, 478 divorces; in good old Massachusetts, 600 divorces, and in New England of “steady habits,” 2,113. In one county in Illinois 830 divorce suits were begun in one year, and in many places it seems as if a new arrangement had been made of the commandments, and instead of ten there were only nine, the seventh commandment having been left out. When you see how many husbands and wives are parted by law, and know of so many who would like to dissolve conjugal partnership, do you not come to the conclusion that Satan is engaged in mighty industries.

Woman and men are about equals in morality. It is probable God overrules Miss Willards course to bring some good out of it to humanity. He does most usually overrule mans rebellion, to bring good out of it to man. Man would be in a deplorable condition if he did not. But I have no more doubt that her course as a whole is hurtful to humanity and dishonouring to God.

Paul said an unmarried woman could devote her time to God with more undivided consecration than the married one. He said this could be done in the then crisis of a persecution, “the present distress,” 1 Cor. vii 26 resting upon them, just as a woe was pronounced on those who were with child and who gave suck when certain terrible days where to come on them. Nor do I understand that Paul intended to declare that every woman should marry. But those who love to make themselves conspicuous, officious, seek publicity and are forward in seeking to lead in the church. These are certainly commanded to marry, guide the house and give no occasion to speak evil of the cause. A woman may devote herself to the work of the church today and never make a public speech. Thousands do. Our sister seems to have the idea that no service can be done for God except by public harangue. The same hurtful idea hinders men from trying to do personal service to God, unless they can make public harangues.

Dr. Clark said “The structure of womans body plainly proves that she was never designed for those exertions required in public life.” “God has not only rendered her unfit for it, but he has subjected her (expressly) to the government of men.”

That is plain. If he anywhere says she ought to engage in the public ministries he contradicts himself. But he does use an expression that may be so construed, and our sister construes the plain by the doubtful as she does Pauls language.

Did the Holy Spirit say woman had “wrecked a world” when leading and so he could not trust her again to lead? Not in so many words. But God speaking through Paul, giving a reason why she should not speak and lead in the assemblies says, “Adam was not deceived, but woman being deceived was in the transgression.” The transgression in which she led turned the world over to the devil and wrecked it.

But he tells her “she shall be saved,” notwithstanding that fatal misstep in turning the world over to the devil, “in child-bearing, if they will continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

While I think it clearly a mistake that we can find no example of women singing or partaking of the Lords supper, I only add if it were true, and then coupled with a declaration of Holy Writ, “I suffer not a woman to sing or to partake of the bread and wine,” I would say woman ought not to sing or partake of the Lords Supper.

But all did speak on the day of Pentecost! Well if our sister will look back into the first chapter she will see the all did not include the women. In verse 14th, “These all (apostles) continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brethren,” showing that these all were the apostles, and the women and the mother of Jesus and his brethren are in addition to these all. Then Peter in speaking of what these all must do recognized only, “men and brethren.” When the day of Pentecost was come fully, these all were in one accord in one place. These same all were filled with the Holly Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. Now it is not certain a single woman was present, if so they were in addition to the all mentioned. Then again when the public preaching began only Peter with the eleven taught the public assembly. This last is positive and there is not the shadow of ground for saying a woman spoke on this occasion, nor can I with a number of commentators at hand, find one that so construes it. There is no doubt women received spiritual gifts during the apostolic age, but not the least evidence that these led her to speak in public.

The Holy Spirit said, “It is a shame for women to speak in the church.” It says that Priscilla and Aquilla did teach Apollos the way of the Lord more perfectly. But our sister believes if it is right for a woman to teach one it is right for her to teach a hundred and there is no difference between public teaching and private. In this persistence she thoroughly vindicates her womanly nature. She wants it so—and it is so, and that is the end of it. But now if our sisters will train their own children to be true Christians, true and faithful to God, the conversion of the world will be speedily accomplished without women entering public life.

(e-text: JoAnne Toews)

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