Phoebe Palmer



CHAPTER XV.

Meaning of the word preach.



"But who is thus to preach the gospel? What would be the answer to this question, if we listened to the voice of common humanity? When the brazen serpent was lifted up, who was to carry the good news throughout the camp? When the glad tidings of peace arrived in the city, who was to proclaim it to his fellow-citizens? When the news of peace with God, through the blood of the covenant, is proclaimed to us, who of us shall make it known to those perishing in sin? The answer in each case is, EVERYONE."

DR. WAYLAND.

NO one would regret more deeply than ourselves the error of writing one line that might seem to diminish the influence of an officially ordained ministry; yet it has for many years been our belief, that the modern ideas of preaching, and apostolic preaching, differ greatly.

What is meant by preaching the gospel? Says the devoted Dr. Wayland, "The word preach in the New Testament has a different meaning from that which at present commonly attaches to it. We understand by it the delivery of an oration, or discourse on a particular theme, connected more or less closely with religion. It may be the discussion of a doctrine, an exegetical essay, a dissertation on social virtues or vices, as well as a persuasive unfolding of the teaching of the Holy Ghost. No such general idea was intended by the word, as it is used by the writers of the New Testament. The words translated
preach in our version are two. The one signifies, simply, to herald, to announce, to proclaim, to publish. The other, with this general idea, combines the notion of good tidings, and means to publish, or be the messenger of good news." And in this exposition of the word, we believe most, and perhaps all other Bible expositors agree. And if this be the scriptural meaning of the word preach, then where is the Christian, either of the clergy or laity, but would have every man, woman, or child, who had an experimental knowledge of the saving power of Christ, herald far and near the tidings of a Saviour willing and able to save? When the ten lepers were healed, how reasonable it would have been, if they had neighbors or friends afflicted in the same manner, to have hastened with the glad tidings to them! And thus either men or women who wove the power of the heavenly Healer, the first impulse of their renewed nature is to proclaim the good news, so that all may be induced to come to the divine Restorer.

If this be the true scriptural idea of
preaching, to this we believe every individual called, whether male or female, who has been brought to an experimental knowledge of the grace of Christ, as the Saviour of sinners. And it is thus only that the command can be obeyed, and the gospel preached to every creature. How varied are the processes of grace on the human heart, in leading it from sin to holiness! And just so diversified, and correspondingly varied in interest, would be the proclamation of the healing, saving power of Christ, in the assemblies of the saints, if the same ideas of preaching now prevailed as in the primitive days of Christianity.

Next to our divine Model, the Prince of preachers, perhaps we may present the example of Paul. And judging of Paul's preaching by the specimens given by the express dictation of the Holy Spirit in the sacred records, it signally differs from the ordinary ideas of preaching of the present day. Would the Holy Spirit so have ordained that Paul should have been moved so often to refer to his own experimental testings of the grace of God, if it were not to teach those who might in all succeeding ages follow him in preaching the gospel, lessons of simplicity singularly at variance with modern ideas of preaching? And may we not also from this infer, that in proclaiming the gospel, there is no class of truths so effectual in the conviction of unbelievers as those which we have individually learned, from our
personal experiences, of the power of the gospel? Is it not therefore that the Holy Spirit has caused it to be written for the admonition of man yet again and again, in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, "Ye are my witnesses," saith the Lord? And of what are witnesses called to testify but of that of which they have had personal knowledge? "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen," says the Saviour. Have women nothing whereof to testify for their Lord? Think of the great cause pending! Behold the multitudes of unbelievers surrounding us! How these skeptical worldlings, and the yet more numerous class which compose the many of whom the Saviour said, they "shall seek to enter into the kingdom, and shall not be able," encompass the faithful few! They mingle in all our church assemblies and prayer circles.

And who as witnesses, who have personally tested the most precious truths of the gospel, shall be brought here to convince the unlearned or unbelievers, so that they may be constrained to acknowledge that God is of a truth with his people? Here are both male and female disciples. But above all, the Lord of the disciples is here; yes, the Head of the church is here, demanding testimony. It is his will that these unlearned or unbelieving persons should be convicted of the truth. And here in the midst is our Lord and Saviour, calling forth his witnesses. Many of the witnesses summoned to be present are females. Various are the cases to be met. Rank unbelief and a subtle skepticism have their various causes and phases. And here are a diversity of witnesses, empowered, from their diversified experiences, to meet the varieties of each case.

And now the Lord and Master of this assembly, in his own order, calls out his witnesses. Not only has he an eye to testimonies differing, but to gifts differing. For he has distributed to each severally as he will. Here are the learned and unlearned, male and female, parents and children, masters and servants; and He whose eye is minutely scanning the necessities of each, and is no respecter of persons, would have each individual case met. Unbelief is the great sin of the world; but who can tell how varied its forms.

Is it not therefore reasonable to suppose that truths not wholly suited to the tastes of the fastidious might sometimes be brought out? But does a judge rule out, in a court of law, a strong, unsophisticated testimony, because not suited to the taste of the fastidious? Is not rather its evident sincerity the ingredient of power which makes it the more effectual?

But here is a witness prepared with a class of varied, well-digested, religious truth. So closely has she followed the Saviour, and listened to his teachings, and so rich, and deep, and diversified is her experience of the grace of God, that she is prepared from this personal experience to bring out of the treasury things new and old. She is a mother in Israel, and has learned with Deborah, the ancient mother in Israel, to be valiant for God. Scores and hundreds of times has she met the demon of unbelief in his various and specious forms, and through Christ has she conquered him, and now comes forth a soul-inspiring victor, Her Saviour, who has been witness of her many conquests, in honor of his name, would now have her testify before this multitude of his all-conquering power, and in obedience to his demand she stands forth.

But who can conceive the result? "Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askelon!" Our hearts are indeed pained when we think of the crucifying results which have, from time to time, come to our knowledge. Were we to tell some particulars in connection with restrainings, which have occurred on the part of church communities and individuals, we fear that we might tarnish our page. But the well-known fact, that earnestly-pious and intelligent women are ever withstood, and the testimony of their lips ruled out, with but few exceptions, in the presence of the men, in nearly all church communities, seems of itself more like a return to barbarism than a perpetuation of Christianity. And the reader will, in this connection, excuse us for saying, that we have been informed, from a source which we know to be true, of a member of a church session who actually advised a brother member to resort to corporal punishment, if he could not otherwise restrain his wife, who felt that Christ would have her testify of his grace.

The lady was a deeply-experienced Christian, and we presume none doubted her blessed experience in the divine life. And we could bring up more than one case similar to this. Our heart sickens and our pen falters over such recordings, and we could not consent to the task but from the hope that these revelations, so suited to the darker ages, may have a tendency to arouse the brethren of other church communities who are withstanding in woman the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy, to the danger of receding from the enlightening and ennobling principles of Christianity, and going back to the dark ages.

Such recordings may seem strange; but though passing strange, similar trials are ever recurring. Within a few hours of the time we are now writing, a beloved female disciple, whom we have long known as more than ordinarily devoted and influential in her piety, has been in; she is also a member of a Christian community where the testimony of women is wholly proscribed. Her religious life, as far as we have knowledge, with all its antecedents, has set forth the power and beauty of holiness, quite beyond what is ordinarily witnessed. Occasion had recently demanded a change of residence, and she was thus about being brought under the care of another pastor.

Attending a social meeting, prior to her anticipated union with this portion of the household of faith, her heart was greatly relieved when she heard the pastor, with earnestness and importunity, press upon all the privilege and duty of opening their lips in testimony for Jesus. And, as with grateful surprise she heard him repeat with emphasis his wish that all should speak, she indulged in joyous anticipations that the Lord, in his gracious providence, was now, by her removal, opening a way for her to be answerable to those pressing convictions of duty which had been so irrepressibly urged upon her ever since the eventful time when she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, several months previous.

We knew something of her experience personally, and if the pastor of that flock could have known of the absorption of mind, and intensity of purpose, with which this daughter of the Lord Almighty waited for this baptism of fire, we do not doubt, with his intelligent perceptions, he would have been as truly assured that she had received the grace for which she so ardently sought, as that those women on the day of Pentecost received the gift of power for which they tarried.

But though to the eye of faith he had seen the cloven tongue of fire sitting on the head of this disciple of modern days, we presume he would not have recognized the divine symbol, and his course had been the same. Though the invitation had been thus pressingly given for
all to speak, and this dear disciple, in her simplicity, thought that the pastor recognized females as a part of all, yet she was doomed, and in a manner most painful to her feelings to learn, that the identity of woman, as a witnessing disciple for Jesus, was so entirely unrecognized, that when she went to the pastor to inquire on the subject, he laughed at her simplicity in thinking it were possible that she could have imagined that women would be permitted to speak as the Spirit gave utterance in that church. With heart-crucifying disappointment she turns away from this pastor over the flock of Christ. He, of course, can have no sympathy for her in this her dilemma. But how blessed the privilege of turning away from the pastor who has not learned how to sympathize and lead forward his flock through straits where church prohibitions and the Holy Spirit conflict, to Jesus, the Head of the church, and tell him all. This she did, and she had not far to go to find him; for, since by the searching and refining fires of the Spirit he had prepared her heart for his indwelling, she had felt the abidings of his presence.

It is true she wept and wept, as though she would weep her life away; but did not that barb of pain which penetrated the tender heart of this beloved disciple first penetrate the heart of Christ, before it sped so deeply into her heart? If the angel of his presence is ever with those who, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, dwell within the veil, are not all their afflictions Christ's afflictions? And is it not thus that all the true members of Christ's body, such as at heart are in sympathy with Christ in carrying out the aggressive principles of his kingdom, are called to suffer with him? Yes, to know a
fellowship with Christ's sufferings, and thus made conformable to his death? But though the Christian may, with Paul, glory in the privilege of attaining to a fellowship with Christ's sufferings, yet if offenses must come, and Christ be crucified in his members, how pitiful that the instruments by which this crucifixion is accomplished should be by some specifically recognized ordainments in the church of Christ!

We know that the prohibition in this case, as in many others of like nature, came from persons who would not knowingly grieve Christ in his members. But surely it is a significant fact, and one of which many Christian pastors are aware, that it is only the most deeply pious of their flock that feel these constrainings of the Spirit to open their lips for Jesus. If it were those worldly conformed professors, who are at ease in Zion, that were disposed to ask the attentions of Christian pastors on this subject, there might seem to be a plea for turning aside from it. But where is the pastor who will not bear us testimony that these convictions of duty, in regard to testifying of the work of the Spirit on the heart, come from the most intelligently pious and useful of his flock? And to this significant fact we call the prayerful attention of all pastors.

For it is not in our heart to believe that any pastor, called by the Holy Ghost to the oversight of a people, would lord it over the conscience of any member of their flock, whether male or female. But we cannot disabuse our minds of the belief that
just what is wanting, in order to rectify this error in the church fully, is, that all ministers of Christ should seek a like baptism of the Spirit as did those early apostles. When this becomes the general experience of the ministry, then will they seek to bring out the gift of prophecy in woman. And, in fact, we have but little expectation that this neglected gift in the church will be properly recognized, as a gift of power, until the reception of the full baptism of the Holy Ghost becomes more general among the ministry. Neither do we doubt but that there are hundreds of ministers who are waiting with unutterable longings for this baptism of fire.

"Soldiers of the eternal King,
Speed the watchword! give it wing!
Let it through the churches ring!
Up for Jesus stand!

"Write it on the temple's spire!
Utter it with tongues of fire!
Sire to son and son to sire!
Up for Jesus stand!"