BY SISTER VIRGINIA VIGILANT
FOREMOST among the problems which confront sisters in war-time is the claim of the State upon them in the matter of Civil Defence. So wide are the powers, and so urgent are the needs of the Government, that most sisters come within their scope, and there is need for a clear understanding of the principles which govern the relations between the servants of God and the State. The first duty of every sister is to be fully conversant with the Scriptural reasons for the stand which the brethren have taken since conscription was first introduced during the last war. Jesus declared, "My kingdom is not of this world," and addressing his disciples he said, "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." The out-working of this principle of separation precludes the possibility of enrollment in any of the State organisations connected with the war effort. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the followers of Christ to "obey God rather than men." They must not sacrifice their liberty of conscience or freedom of action. Yet obedience to the "Powers that be" is divinely enjoined when their laws do not conflict with the laws of God. Whilst, therefore, enrollment is excluded, submission to human law must be rendered on every possible occasion.
It is evident that no sister can consistently join the various branches of the Women's Services attached to the fighting forces, nor any organized units under Government control. Yet obedience to Christ requires that there shall be compliance with the Tribunal's directions to take up work compatible with conscience. In many cases this submission involves considerable sacrifice. Good posts must be relinquished, homes must be left; possibly isolation must be experienced. Unaccustomed, and sometimes uncongenial, work must be undertaken, involving long hours and hard manual labour. How shall the sister fortify herself in these depressing circumstances? Let her first remember that, notwithstanding all her unpleasant experiences, she is still "the Lord's freeman." Let her rejoice in her liberty, and see in all her changeful days the guiding hand of a loving and tender Father. Let her reflect that she is called to be "a follower of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises"; and again, that "all things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose." With these divine assurances, she will cheerfully accept her lot, and endeavour to use it as an opportunity to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
In undertaking work of national importance, a wise sister will be careful in her choice of occupation. She will avoid the munition factory, and, as far as possible, any work which deprives her of reasonable opportunity of meeting with those of "like precious faith." She will seek the advice of the "mothers in Israel" concerning the suitability of her choice, and the possible temptations and trials it entails. She will not give grudging or unwilling service, even though the work may be irksome and disagreeable. For Christ's sake, she will do her best, knowing that faithful conscientious service to an earthly master, performed by a disciple of the Lord, is accepted as rendered unto Him. Above all, she will see that her mode of life, and graceful, gentle bearing is consistent with her profession, which, by the very nature of her circumstances, is "known and read of all men."
Among the claims of the State upon the sisters is the obligation to carry out "fire-watching." It is generally considered by the brethren that this service can be rendered voluntarily and privately, but not in compliance with an enrollment order. The difference between that which is permissible and that which is not is entirely a matter of principle. To perform the duty voluntarily is to "do good unto all men as we have opportunity." None would hesitate to assist a neighbour in distress if his house were on fire. But to be enrolled is to surrender liberty of conscience, and become incorporated in an organization whose avowed object is to assist in winning the war. "Fire- watching" has its temptations and trials. Long hours spent in the company of the alien, who, perhaps, is a member of the opposite sex. Whole evenings and nights with no other duty than waiting for possible contingencies. How careful a sister needs to be in such dangerous circumstances! The safeguards lie in utilizing the time profitably. Reading, letter- writing, sewing and knitting, will pass the time happily and usefully. If conversation with a fellow-watcher is desirable on the grounds of sociability, no opportunity will be lost to introduce the gospel message. Many have been attracted to the Truth since the outbreak of war by faithfulness in this matter. Realizing the dangers inherent in the situation, the wise sister will contrive to avoid undesirable companions, and the schemes they devise for their amusement during the waking and waiting hours. Doubtless, earnest, spiritually-minded sisters will find the situation trying and perplexing, but prayer and faith will avail much, and engender courage and fortitude equal to every experience. "Thou God, seest me." That is the sisters' confidence in all the problems created by the universal unrest associated with the end of Gentile times. With the Psalmist they can exclaim, "I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou has been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." (Psalm 63:6.).
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