Phoebe Palmer



CHAPTER XVI.

A minister's experience.



"There is a resurrection power in truth, under the beams of spiritual light and heat. It is the vitality of genuine growth, as in the celebrated instance of seeds disinterred from the mummy cases of Egypt, which, after twenty centuries, have germinated in the hothouses of British naturalists."

REV. DR. ALEXANDER.

THE church estranges herself from woman's gift; or is the church a potter's field?

Just as we were about closing the preceding chapter, the activities of our pen were interrupted by the call of a valued minister of the gospel, whose early religious training was in the bosom of a sect where the testimony of Jesus, from the lips of woman, was not permitted in the church. We will introduce him to our readers. He tells us of an experience, in connection with the theme of our work, with which some husbands may sympathize. But we will let him speak for himself.

THE SEAL BROKEN.


Never shall I forget the conflicting emotions of my poor heart, when, for the first time, the voice of my wife was heard in a religious meeting. She had been trained from childhood in the Congregational Church, her father having been a deacon in the same for fifty years. I had been born and raised, and educated, for the ministry, in the Episcopal Church. All know the oppressive silence imposed on woman's lips by both these denominations "in their social meetings for prayer and Christian conference. But the voice of my wife, now for the first time, breaks upon my ear. We had only joined the Methodist Church the evening previous. I had anticipated some things in the new church not altogether in harmony with my views and tastes. But never had it entered my heart that my wife should so far forget her sense of propriety as to break that time-honored custom of silence among females in the house of God.

My mortification for a few moments was indescribably keen. I would have dissolved our union with the church instantly, and retraced our steps, had it been possible. Such license, such disobedience to custom, I felt for the moment to be intolerable. My mortification arose, not from a conviction that God was dishonored, Christ displeased, or the Holy Spirit grieved, but that the community, our former friends in the church we had just left, would be grieved, and some point the finger of scorn. It was not a care of God's pleasure, so much as a dread of violating long established customs, wounding the hearts of old friends, that troubled me.

It was suggested to my mind that I had not religion enough to allow my wife to do what she deemed to be a duty to her Saviour; that my prejudices must be her standard of activity. I at once saw the injustice, both to my wife and to my Saviour, of thus thrusting my feelings and preferences between her and the cross. I was deeply humbled, and lifting up my heart to God in prayer, forgiveness was at once bestowed. I was made happy, and blessed with power to enjoy woman's voice, in spite of former prejudices, in prayer and prophesying.

"I would have consulted you, my dear husband, had I imagined before going to church such a duty would have been impressed upon me," said my wife.

"It is well you did not, for my consent could not have been obtained, It is done now. It nearly killed me for the moment; but I have the victory, and your testimony both rebuked and encouraged me. Henceforth, please Christ, and not your husband."

I have often thought, since then, how cruel to woman it is to compel her to stifle her convictions, to grieve the Holy Spirit, to deny the Saviour the service of her noble gifts, because the pleasure of the church (not surely the world, for it favors woman's liberty) must be regarded above that of God.

The church in many places is a sort of potter's field, where the gifts of woman, as so many strangers, are buried. How long, O Lord, how long before man shall roll away the stone that we may see a resurrection?

The church a potter's field where the gifts of women are buried! And how serious will be the responsibilities of that church which does not hasten to roll away the stone, and bring out these long-buried gifts! Every church community needs aid that this endowment of power would speedily bring. And what might we not anticipate as the result of this speedy resurrection of buried power! Not, perhaps, that our churches would be suddenly filled with women who might aspire to occupy the sacred desk. But what a change would soon be witnessed in the social meetings, of all church communities! God has eminently endowed woman with gilts for the social circle. He has given her the power of persuasion and the ability to captivate. Who may win souls to Christ, if she may not?

And how well nigh endless her capabilities for usefulness, if there might only be a persevering effort on the part of the ministry to bring out her neglected gifts, added to a resolve, on the part of woman, to be answerable through grace to the requisition! Our friend speaks too truly of the church as the only place where woman's gifts are unrecognized; that is, the church estranges herself from woman's gifts. To doubt whether woman brings her gifts into the church would be a libel on the Christian religion.

Let us contemplate that lovely, fascinating lady, whose cultivated tastes, richly-endowed mind, and unrivaled conversational powers, made her the soul and star of every worldly circle in which she moved. Did she move in the festive hall, or the refined social circle, charmed worldlings, irrespective of sex, gathered around her, and as they greeted her gifts by unrestrained manifestations of approval, acknowledged themselves won by her endowment of power over mind.

Surely there has been no tardiness in the children of this world in acquainting themselves with her gifts. But the Holy Spirit comes to the heart of this interesting worldling, bringing to her remembrance that she is not her own, but bought with the price of her Redeemer's blood. She now apprehends, though the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, that all her various gifts have been purchased at an infinite price, and must all be brought into the Lord's storehouse, in order that they may be used for his glory.

Sin has its short-lived pleasures, and she has enjoyed the pleasure of securing the smiles of an appreciative world. But the Holy Spirit assures her that she must come out from the world and be separate, and she sees that she must renounce the world and sin, and through Christ give herself up to God and his church, if she would become a member of the household of faith, and secure life everlasting. How crucifying to flesh is the struggle! but she has resolved rather to endure the death of nature than to perish everlastingly. The struggle is severe. Nature, unreproved by God, will often suffer intensely, in passing through the struggle which ensues, in emerging from the death of sin to a life of holiness. God will not reprove, because he knows that nature clings to earth. But the struggle past, the emancipated soul, with all its redeemed powers, is at once taken to the heart of infinite love. This point gained, it is the divine order that all the issues of future life should flow out upon a redeemed world, in unison with the Head of the church. The church militant is Christ's visible body.

And now these gifts, so often in requisition, and so prized in the social assembly of the children of this world, have been brought into the church. We said it were a libel on the religion of Jesus to assert that natural gifts of a high order, bestowed by the God of nature, are recalled or buried, when the possessor becomes a recipient of grace and a child of the kingdom. The God of nature is also the God of all grace, and whatsoever was lovely becomes now more lovely, and that which was of good report becomes of far better report, through the refinings of grace, and far more effectual for good.

And now that these natural endowments of power, which were so captivating and commanding, and so appreciatively recognized in worldly assemblies, are laid as a sacrifice on the altar of the service of the church, what becomes of them? Does the church acquaint herself with these gifts? No! She is both a stranger to them, and estranges herself from them. In most church organizations she authorizes no church assemblies, where she brings her sons and daughters together, to call out these gifts for mutual edification and comfort. What means of grace does she acknowledge where her female members, in common with her male members, may use the gift of utterance with which God has endowed her? And if the church authorizes no means by which she may acquaint herself with the gift which God has bestowed on woman, what becomes of them? Why, of course, they are buried. And where is the sepulcher in which they are entombed? Why, the church.

And when the Head of the church comes to receive his own with
usury, and demands that these buried gifts be brought forth, who will be required to meet the demand? Church communities are made up of individuals. Will it be some one individual member of that church session? or will it be that minister who has failed to acquaint himself and his church session, and other members of his flock, of their responsibility before God, in thus entombing an endowment of power which might have been instrumental in the spiritual life of thousands? What wonder, then, that our devoted friend said, that the church is as a potter's field to bury strangers in, for the church estranges herself from woman's gifts, and buries them within her pale.

But the spirit of inspiration within us and around us, from every point, seems to say that the time is coming, and now is, when woman's gifts, so long entombed in the church, shall be resurrected. The command, Come forth! is already penetrating the sepulcher where these gifts have been buried. Faith sees the stone being rolled away. And what a resurrection of power shall we witness in the church, when, in a sense answerable to the original design of God, women Shall come forth, a very great army, engaging in all holy activities; when, in the true scriptural sense, and answerable to the design of the God of the Bible, woman shall have become the "help meet" to man's spiritual nature! The idea that woman, with all her noble gifts and qualities, was formed mainly to minister to the sensuous nature of man, is wholly unworthy a place in the heart of a Christian.

And here, in the presence of the God of the Bible, we are free to declare that a consistent Christian man we mean one who has been baptized into the Spirit of his divine Master — will not cherish such an idea. Nominal or meager Christianity may tolerate it; and we think we see reasons most palpable, and such as should alarm all professing Christians, why the ancient tempter, in his enmity towards woman, should have thrust this repulsive particle of old leaven into the church, and have taken so much pains to keep it there. We sincerely believe, before God, that it is this repulsive doctrine that has so much to do towards keeping Christianity meager may, so repulsively meager that men of the world, who believe in the doctrines of Christianity, fail to see in many so-called Christian churches any thing really answerable to a social want of man's spiritual nature; a want which the God of nature hath himself implanted in the human heart, and which would: be abundantly met in the precious bosom of the church, if it were not for this ingredient of wrong which has been thrown in by the arch enemy. We speak with confidence and with carefulness in the presence of Christ, the glorious Head of the Church, who would have her stand forth before the world in symmetrical proportions of unrivaled beauty, and in inviting attitude.

In the name of the Lord Jesus, who hath purchased the church with his blood, and hath made abundant provision, not only for her purification, but for her beauty and strength, we implore those who minister at the altar of Christian churches to look at this subject. Christ would not have the church unseemly in the eyes of his enemies. How grievous in his sight that repelling influences should emanate from her whom he would call his beloved, and would fain have her stand forth without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing, so attractive in beauty and strength as to draw all men to her holy shrine!

Surely the church should present a model of all the blessed proprieties of grace. He by whose forming hand she should be modeled would have her inward construction and exterior surroundings all so truly in the
beauty of holiness as to invite investigation and admiration. Why should she not be an embodiment of every thing pure, lovely, and of good report? And such she must, in fact, be through Christ, or her Lord can never receive her approvingly, and say to her, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." Yet such she cannot be, while she entombs in her midst the gift of prophecy intrusted to her daughters.

O, the endless weight of responsibility with which the church is pressing herself earthward through the depressing influences of this error! How can she rise while the gifts of three fourths of her membership are sepulchered in her midst? Can we hope to see her clothed in strength, and coming up out of "the wilderness leaning on her Beloved, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners"?

"Daughter of Zion, from the dust
Exalt thy fallen head;
Again in thy Redeemer trust,—
He calls thee from the dead."