Phoebe Palmer


Exemplification Of Holy Heroism.

"I would the precious time redeem,
And longer live for this alone,
To spend, and to be spent, for them
Who have not yet my Saviour known;
Fully on these my mission prove,
And only breathe, to breathe thy love."

Says the Rev. G. Coles, who has recently introduced to the Christian world many veritable "Heroines," not of those who have distinguished themselves, as Joan of Arc, in the sanguinary scenes of the battlefield, but such as have shown themselves singularly brave in withstanding sin, and in fruitful endeavors to establish the peaceful kingdom of Christ on earth, —

That woman, in her first creation, was inferior to man in physical strength, is cheerfully admitted; and in this sense, perhaps, more than in any other, is she to be regarded as the 'weaker vessel.' But is she inferior in mental endowment and moral courage, in spiritual attainment and in holy enterprise? No, indeed; far from it. What saith the Scripture? What saith reason? Reason would say that that which by universal consent is esteemed the better half cannot be the worse. That which was twice modeled and fashioned by the Creator, and of course doubly refined, cannot be inferior. The Holy Book seems to intimate that in those cases where the trial was a fair one the weaker vessel was the stronger reasoner. Witness the case of Deborah and Barak, Manoah and his wife, Abigail and David, Huldah and Josiah, the wise woman and Joab.

Are they, then, inferior in literary capabilities and attainments? Never, where they have had equal opportunities with men. Witness the instances a Hannah More, a Mrs. Somerville, a Mrs. Sigourney, and others, whose works are read, if not with everlasting wonder, yet with perpetual delight. Neither are they inferior in spiritual gifts. Experience shows that many women are equally gifted and more acceptable in their religious exercises in social meetings than their brethren. They may not be as fierce in controversy, but their improvements are often far more edifying whenever they pray or speak in the name of the Lord.

The supposition that, under the gospel dispensation, women are prohibited from exercising their spiritual gifts, is purely gratuitous, and is completely set aside by the plain declarations of the New Testament. The author of the Acts of the Apostles informs us, (Acts i. 14,) that all the apostles continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women. To suppose that the men prayed in the presence of the women, and not the women in the presence of the men, seems to be a far-fetched and overstrained interpretation of the text.

Says another writer, the Rev. H. Woodruff,
Christian women can talk; and it is generally thought that they are more eloquent, winning, and persuasive, in proportion to their educational advantages, than the other sex. But they have not only the gift of utterance; they have influence to give force to their teaching, and weight to their example. Dr. Adam Clarke calculates the influence of one woman to be equal to seven men and a half. If this be true, her responsibilities must be great, and her means of doing good of the most effective and delightful character. Let it be brought to bear upon the interests of the church, and where it can serve for the world's salvation.

Christian women have souls to save, and their growth in grace is affected by the exercise of their gifts, and in bearing the cross. Personal interest, and the interest of the church, and the interest of the general cause, all combine, and seem to urge upon our female friends the importance of immediate and efficient action. When the Spirit of God is received into the heart, God will be honored, known, and confessed, in their private and public devotions. The Spirit of God is 'like fire pent-up in the bones; it must accomplish the end whereunto it was sent.' 'In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.' They shall teach by example and precept; their mouth shall be opened; words of angelic eloquence shall fall from their lips.

Our brethren are frequently so entangled with the world, such alliances are formed, and business transactions subject their reputations to censure, and their motives are impugned in such a way, that their means of doing good are often curtailed, and their influence disparaged. In this respect the female part of the church have the advantage. Retired from the turmoil and perplexities of business life, the mind is, or may be, free from the anxiety and distraction of debts, or business competitions, with a reputation and religious influence that have not been scathed and trammeled by exposure to the storms and combative elements of business or political life, they are free to throw their whole souls most effectively into the work of God.

Dr. T. E. Bond, Jr., observes, "that women should love Jesus of Nazareth, and devote themselves to sustain and spread the doctrines of the cross, was a natural consequence of the fact, that, of all the religions of the earth, Christianity was the only one that placed women upon an equality with men. The thing was unheard of; even the Jews had never conceived the true relation of the sexes. Husbands, love your wives as your own flesh. Your obligations to them are as strong and wide reaching as theirs to you. Marriage is a mutual conveyance of right, a mutual abnegation of sovereignty, a mysterious coalescence and intermerging of being. All this was strange, and to most men utterly absurd teaching; to women it was music from heaven, and they responded to it from every faculty of their nature. They were the strength of the early church, as they are the strength of the church today. They did more to extend it, to hallow it, and adorn it, and immeasurably less to mutilate and disgrace it, than men did; and to this day the love of Christ glows in their hearts with a steadier and purer power than the harder and coarser nature of man can exhibit."

"I hold it to be a great error," says Rev. Mr. Jobson, "to maintain that woman has no veritable mission in the church. No class of persons has contributed more largely to the Christian ministry, and to the Christian church, than Christian females. Not only Timothy Cecil, John Newton, and the Wesleys, but thousands more, who have been eminent for their usefulness, have acknowledged this. Women were also associated with the apostles with the first scenes of Christianity at Jerusalem; and we learn from St. Paul's tender salutations and greetings at the end of his Epistles how they continued to be valued for their labors among the saints."

That Christian women have indeed a veritable mission in the church it is our aim to establish. While we would not have it inferred that their mission has been utterly disregarded in some portions of the Christian church, yet in others it has been treated with neglect or contempt, and in not a few wholly withstood. In the future pages of our work, we shall refer to a few of the many instances of this sort which have come under our observation. We shall now proceed to adduce still further testimony that the God of the Scriptures has not forgotten his ancient promise, but that the spirit of prophecy is still being poured out upon the daughters of the Lord. In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. We shall therefore continue, throughout the process of our work, to bring forth our witnesses from among those accredited Christian females upon whose head the tongue of fire has fallen. Says Burder, in his History of Pious Women, of the late lamented Mrs. Fletcher, formerly Miss Bosanquet,—

She was altogether an extraordinary person, endowed with strong understanding, great decision of character and simplicity of mind, heroic zeal, and unbounded benevolence. In the apostolic age she would have been a Priscilla, and have taken her rank among the presbyteresses or female confessors of the primitive church. She had all the spirit of a martyr. Had she been born within the Romish communion, she would. probably have been enrolled among the saints of the calendar. The community to which she attached herself alone afforded a sphere suited to the energies of her character, which might otherwise have remained dormant, because, under ordinary circumstances, zeal such as hers is apt to be regarded as the worst of heresies.

This eminent Christian lady was born at Laytonstone, in the county of Essex, England, September, 1739. At five years of age she was powerfully wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, and much concerned to find out the way to heaven. About that time a Methodist servant maid came to live in the family, who knew something about experimental religion, and, finding the sister of Miss Bosanquet under a concern for her soul, talked with her on the subject. The sister related the conversation to Miss Mary. This was made the occasion of a deep and ineffaceable impression on the mind of Mary. How little did this pious servant maid know what she was doing, when she threw this little germ into the impressionable soil of lovely childhood! Could she have imagined that this little germ of grace Was destined to grow up to such a plant of renown, whose fragrance and sheltering foliage was destined to be so blessed to the poor and the rich, and whose fruit was to be so precious to the taste of unborn thousands?

When Miss Bosanquet was between seven and eight years old, according to her own account, she experienced the pardoning love of God. In a letter to Mrs. Taft she says, "When about twelve years old, I used to read and pray with some poor neighbors (before my parents were up) in one of the little cottages near our garden."

When about the age of sixteen, she had a heavy cross to take up. Having been brought up in the gayeties and amusements of fashionable life, when she saw the sinfulness of following and being led by them, she was determined to renounce them altogether; and, when requested by her father to go to the play, she begged to be left at home, and laid open her whole mind to him on the subject. The result was finally, as may be seen in her Memoirs, written by herself, that she had to leave her father's house, and take lodgings in an obscure street and in unfurnished rooms in the city of London. Before she took that step, she says, "A particular person used to upbraid me with the reflection, 'You will soon find the difference between your father's house and such poking holes as you will live in. There you will not have one inch but the common street; whereas you have been used to large and fine gardens, in Which you much delighted. And how tired you will be of such trash as you will provide, instead of the plentiful provision of his table! Before you have lived so for six months, I will engage you will wish yourself back again, and your religion out of the way.'" But was it so? Ah, no! Once indeed she was sick, and thought, "If I had some spice boiled in water, and port wine with it, it would help me." But she was unwilling to break in upon that rigid system of economy which she had adopted, and made it a matter of prayer, and was answered almost as by miracle; "for at that very time," she says, "a relation called, and brought me a quantity of spice as a present; and the very next day my father called in his chariot, and brought me a hamper of port wine; neither of them knowing any thing of my wants."

In the years 1761 and 1762, a great revival of religion took place in the Methodist society in London of which she was a member. A wonderful outpouring of the Spirit of God was experienced, both by the preachers and the people. At that time "the people of Laytonstone," she says, "were much on my mind. I had both my birth and maintenance from that place, and I could not help thinking I owed something to their souls." The particulars of her removal to that place are related in her Memoirs. There she opened, in her own house, an asylum for the poor and the orphan. To these she devoted her time, her heart, and her fortune. Mr. Wesley often visited her establishment, and speaks of it with admiration. It appeared to him the only perfect specimen of a Christian family he ever saw. Here she spent the prime of her life in acts of heavenly charity. Here she began to exhort, to read and expound the Scriptures.

In 1768 she removed from Laytonstone, and settled in Yorkshire, where she remained till November 12, 1781, when she was married to that eminently holy and useful minister of the gospel, Mr. Fletcher. "A happier union has seldom, if ever, occurred. Two spirits more congenial never met in the pathway of life. Their union was a source of ineffable happiness to themselves, and a blessing to the people among whom they lived." But it was of short duration. By a most inscrutable providence, one of the happiest, holiest, most gifted, and most devoted of Wesley's sons in the gospel, was taken to his final reward in heaven, in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and fourth of his married life. And his widow, one of the holiest and best of women, was left to supply his lack of service in the parish of Madely for thirty years. Perhaps there never was a widow, since the days of St. Paul, more worthy of "double honor" than Mrs. Fletcher; "well reported of for good works;" having "brought up children," having "lodged strangers," having "relieved the afflicted," having "followed every good work." Did "Tryphena and Tryphosa labor in the Lord"? so did Mrs. Fletcher. Did "the beloved Persis labor much in the Lord"? so did she. "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."

In her spirit and conduct she manifested much of the power of religion; unfeigned sincerity, humility, and cheerfulness were conspicuous in her at all times. She had the happy art of adapting her conversation to both rich and poor, and by sound reason, and her winning manners and conduct, she was the blessed instrument of bringing many to Jesus Christ.

Mr. Fletcher, and after his death Mrs. Fletcher, were the principal instruments in building and fitting up several rooms, or small chapels, in the parish of Madely; and in addition of the pulpit in each of those chapels, Mrs. Fletcher had a seat elevated a step or two above the level of the floor. In those enclosed and elevated seats, she exercised her talents in publishing salvation in the name of Christ. In expounding the Scriptures she manifested great wisdom; and what is much better, faithfulness and truth; giving her readers a clear and comprehensive view of the whole counsel of God. Some of her discourses were remarkable for ingenuity and originality. Had she been a woman of feeble mind, or a mere formal professor, she could not have retained her influence and popularity for so many years in the same place; for her congregations were full as large after thirty years' labor as when she first opened her commission among them.

As a public speaker, Mrs. Fletcher was not only luminous, but truly eloquent; and although her discourses were not strewed with many flowers, they displayed much good sense, and were fraught with the riches of the gospel. Sometimes her style was rather vehement, though she did not overstep the modesty of her nature. At other times it was pathetic, soft, and flowing. She excelled in that property of an orator which can alone supply the place of all the rest — that eloquence which goes directly to the heart.

'Truth from her lips prevailed with double sway,
And they who came to mock remained to pray.'

In a word, she was the honored instrument of doing much good; and the fruit of her labors is now manifest in the lives and tempers of many, who will be the crown of her rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus. —
Hodson's Funeral Sermon.

Says the Rev. Henry Moore, editor of her Memoirs, "In truth, her preaching was but an enlargement of her daily and hourly conversation. Her family, her visitors, might be said to be her congregation. And as she never, in her more public efforts, meddled with the government of the church, usurped authority over the man, or made any display of a regular authoritative commission, but merely strove to win souls by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, while she was herself the servant of all, may not every pious Churchman and Methodist say, 'Would to God all the Lord's people were such prophets and prophetesses'?"

To those of the Wesleyan faith, who are disposed not to sympathize with the exercise of this gift of prophecy in woman, permit us to say, that an unwillingness to recognize, or to call into use, this endowment from on high, should certainly be unlooked for from this portion of the sacramental host of God's elect. Mr. Wesley, as a minister of the Established Church of England, was slow to admit any thing, however specious, that might seem to be a departure from the usages of that, honored church. It was therefore that he would at once have put a stop to the preaching of
laymen, and he regarded all as laymen who had not received Episcopal ordination.

He was not in London when his first lay preacher began to extemporize, and on hearing it, in his zeal for his church, he hastened home, and would quickly have put a stop to it, had not his mother, who was also a strong Church woman, interfered. With true motherly and Christian dignity she bids her son beware, and said, "I charge you before God, take care what you do, for that man is as truly called of God to preach the gospel as ever you were." He was thus kept from a hasty execution of his purpose; and if he had not been thus withheld, what may we conjecture would have been the state of the great Wesleyan body today? May we not rather ask, Would there have been any distinct body bearing the Wesleyan name? and thousands among the most successful preachers, who have ever proclaimed the everlasting gospel of the Son of God, would never have been permitted to enter the field?

It was on the same principle that Mr. Wesley at first hesitated in recognizing female laborers; but when he saw that the divine unction attending their ministrations proved the divinity of their mission, he was satisfied that God had not only called laymen, but lay-women, to proclaim salvation through Christ. It was thus that this apostle of modern days was led to acknowledge that the Lord had indeed, in fulfillment of his ancient promise, poured out his Spirit upon his daughters alike as upon his sons.

His views on this point may be found in his correspondence with several of his female helpers who labored much in the Lord. Mr. Wesley was free to acknowledge that the whole work of God denominated Methodism was something out of the common order. In writing to his friend, the devoted Mrs. Fletcher, he says, "It is plain to me that the work of God termed Methodism, is an extraordinary dispensation of his providence. Therefore I do not wonder if several things occur therein which do not fall under the ordinary rules of discipline."

Mrs. Fletcher, as we observe in the preceding pages, felt that the Pentecostal flame had fallen on her head, and its consuming influence she felt absorbing her whole being, and constraining her lips to holy utterances. She felt, doubtless, as divinely assured that He whose name is Faithful and True had, in remembrance of his promise, poured out his spirit of prophecy upon her, as on either of the Marys, or other women, on the day of Pentecost. She had tarried at Jerusalem, in obedience to the command of her risen Saviour, in order that she might receive the baptism of fire; and now that it had fallen upon her, she felt moved to irrepressible utterances, and in obedience to these impellings of the Spirit, she had opened her lips for God, by way of expounding the Scriptures, in all the things concerning Christ and his glorious kingdom.

And now this heaven-baptized daughter of the Lord writes to this modern apostle concerning this her extraordinary call. In recognition of this call, Mr. Wesley, in reply, says, "My dear sister, I think the strength of the cause rests here — in your having an extraordinary call; so, I am persuaded, has every one of our lay preachers; otherwise I could not countenance their preaching at all." Thus we see that he who, under God, was the founder of the Wesleyan Church, regarded the divine commission of this daughter of the Lord as unquestionable as the call of any one minister in his connection. And it was in accordance with these convictions that this truly apostolic man did not hesitate in giving the right hand of fellowship; as did the Apostle Paul, to a goodly number of women who labored with him in the gospel. And if Mr. Wesley's sons in the gospel are not affectionately mindful in regarding the validity of the claim of their sisters in Christ, when they would open their lips for God, in obedience to the constrainings of the Spirit, which still continues to be poured out upon the daughters of the Lord, we can only say, to the degree they resist this claim, they refuse to be answerable to the principles of their founder. And in so doing, they also reject the united voice of many of those fathers who have been accounted among the strongest pillars in the great fabric of Methodism.

Says the Rev. Alexander Mather, an honored minister of the Wesleyan Church, in writing to a female disciple, on whose head the tongue of fire had fallen, "Your call is of God; I would have you go in at every open door, but do not wait till the door is thrown wide open; go in if it be on the jar."

The Rev. Mr. Bradburn, another of the more eminent ministers of his day, in writing on this subject says, "For my own part, I durst not hinder a woman herein, when I clearly discover nothing contrary to genuine piety; when I discover far greater abilities than I do in very many traveling preachers; when thousands of good and wise people are for woman's preaching; and when there is much good done by it wherever they go."

Rev. Dr. Taft says, "The fruit which has followed women's preaching, if not a positive, it is at least a presumptive proof, that those highly useful and laborious instruments are called of God to publish salvation by Jesus Christ. And that there have been, and now are, such instruments, I assert in the name and fear of God; and if required, can produce a cloud of signatures and witnesses; and some of the seals to female ministry are now among the Methodist itinerant ministry, and very many more are acting as local preachers, and others as class leaders among us." Writing to one of these female laborers, Dr. Taft says, "Multitudes of seals have been given you, and not a few in this place; your life of public labor is nearly over; and yet I trust it will still be said of you, as it was of another of your sex, 'that she hath done what she could.' The encouragement you have had in your work from many eminent ministers of the gospel, must be to you a source of high gratification. What Messrs. Pawson, Mather, Blackburn, Fenwick, Bramwell, Bradburn, Crook, Shaw, &c., thought of your call, and the manner in which it was fulfilled, their letters do abundantly testify."