Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
Power of Example
The power of a woman's example and influence is extremely great. It was Eve who led Adam into sin; it was Abigail who diverted David from sin. It was the faith of Hannah that resulted in the birth of Samuel, one of Israel's greatest sons; it was the fury of Jezebel that brought depression to Elijah, one of Israel's most courageous prophets. Sisters such as the mother of the Lord, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna "and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance" (Luke 8:3) provided helpful assistance and encouragement in his ministry. They were emulated by Dorcas (Act 9:36), Mary (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14), the daughter of Philip (Acts 21:8-9), and others. Paul, likewise, mentioned with favour the following Sisters to whom he sent greetings: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Julia, the sister of Nereus, Apphia, Lois and Eunice (Rom. 16; 2 Tim. 1; Philemon). He instructed at length upon the work and example of such; and his teaching elevated the womenfolk of the ecclesias to a higher status and dignity than did the philosophy of the ancient or modern worlds. He employed sisters in the service of the Gospel where such was appropriate (Rom. 16:1-3; Phil. 4:3); and guided the elder widows and sisters of experience in paths whereby they could help and support others (1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9-10, 16). He taught that sisters can find an independence in Christ not possible in the world (Gal. 3:28), whilst commending their submission to their husbands as an example of what is required of all towards Christ (Eph. 5:22). He recommended marriage, even for widows, and he praised the joys of wifehood and motherhood (1 Cor. 7:39; 1 Tim. 2:15; 4:3; 5:14), whilst also warning that there are circumstances when it is better "not to marry" (1 Cor. 7:26-29,37). His practical advice to brethren in regard to those sisters who strive to aid the Ecclesia and its labours is, "Help those women" (Phil. 4:3). A wonderful opportunity of service thus opens out to sisters in the Truth. They are called to manifest a co-operative way of life that can be encouraging and elevating to the brethren. Their example will then provide a powerful exhortation to all.
Proverbs 31 describes the character of the ideal wife or mother. So wonderful are the characteristics of this woman, that sisters despair of ever being able to attain unto her standard, whilst brethren live in hope that they may find a wife that comes somewhere near the character described.
There is no doubt that The Virtuous Woman was no single personality, but the wise man's estimation of the ideal woman, on account of which he elucidates the positive virtues of such a woman. It is also equally true that the woman in question was not as the ordinary housewife of today, but more the supervisor of a large household wherein she exercised control over her "maidens" (v. 15), who would assist in the daily tasks of such an house, making possible her achievements as described.
Sisters in today's society must learn to cope almost single handed in the daily round of household chores and need not despair if they cannot reach unto the ideal spoken of here. Even so, ideals are set that we may aspire to be like them. If sisters give up in their attempts to emulate the virtues of this woman, there is Iittle hope that they wiII ever aspire to be "like him" who is our heavenly Bridegroom.
In order then that sisters may better understand the virtues set out in Proverbs 31, we list them under various headings, and couch them in language more familiar to our generation.
As A Wife
As A Mother
Her Home Management
Her Economic Sense
Her Personal Character
Where among these virtues is there room for the demands of so called Women's liberation? Where indeed? All the virtues here listed are opposed to that degrading spectacle of women trying to ape the opposite sex, and achieving nothing more or less than that which Bro. Thomas said would be the tragic result: "In proportion as they rise in assurance they sink in all that really adorns a Woman" (Elpis Israel p. 122).
Sisters who pattern their lives on the God given ideal of Proverbs 31 will in no way feel degraded by their loving submission to their husbands, but will find in that subjection is the crowning fulfilment of God's purpose with them. Indeed by their submission they will share the dominion allotted to the man in whom they lovingly and willingly lose their own identity. Again to quote Bro. Thomas: "They will then rule in the hearts of their rulers, and so ameliorate their own subjection, as to convert it into a desirable sovereign obedience" (Elpis Israel p. 122).
A Sovereign Obedience. What a wonderful expression. Queens by their very submission, and so to be enthroned by their influence in the practise of humility. May the ideal set forth in Proverbs 31 have its fruit in the lives of Sisters, by being translated into actions, so that it may be said of them: "Let her own works praise her in the gates" (Prov. 31:31). - J. Martin
Where Women Excell
We hear much in some parts of the world of the political rights and equality of women with men; and of their preaching and teaching in public assemblies. We need wonder at nothing which emanates from the unenlightened thinking of sinful flesh. There is no absurdity too monstrous to be sanctified by unspiritualized animal intellect. Men do not think according to God's thinking, and therefore it is that they run into the most unscriptural conceits; among which may be enumerated the political and social equality of women. Trained to usefulness, of cultivated intellect, and with moral sentiments purified and ennobled by the nurture and admonition of the Lord's Truth, women are "help meet" for the Elohim; and much too good for men of ordinary stamp. The sex is susceptible of this exaltation; though I despair of witnessing it in many instances till "the Age to come". But, even, women of this excellency of mind and disposition, were it possible for such to do so, would be guilty of indiscretion, presumption, and rebellion against God's law, in assuming equality of rank, equality of rights, and authority over man, which is implied in teaching and preaching. It is the old ambition of the sex to be equal to the gods; but in taking steps to attain it, they involve themselves in subjection to men. Preaching and lecturing women, are but species of actresses, who exhibit upon the boards for the amusement of sinful and foolish men. They aim at an equality for which they are not physically constituted; they degrade themselves by the exhibition, and in proportion as they rise in assurance, they sink in all that really adorns a woman. -Elpis Israel
A Godly Woman's Etiquette
Such has been written concerning the position of woman by those who look at her from a merely secular point of view. Her rights have been discussed; they have been advocated, they have been vindicated, or they have been denied according to the temper of the writers who have taken her case in hand.
But to the woman professing godliness, these utterances amount to nothing for practical guidance. She may, sometimes, allow herself to be entertained by them, but she will not take her cue from such sources, lest she be led astray. To her there is but one standpoint from which to view her own position; and from which to judge what is becoming and dutiful. To the Scriptures of Truth she must turn for guidance. In them she must find her "model", her manual for direction in all the affairs of life; her book of fashion, and her instructor in true etiquette.
The world's etiquette is mostly the beautiful form of emptiness, or worse. A godly woman's etiquette will be without dissimulation. Her love will be genuine, springing from principle rather than the impulse of partiality, which will render the service of her hands more graceful, engaging, and acceptable than all the elegant posing of her deluded sisters in the flesh. Having, by the belief of the glad tidings and union with Christ in baptism, placed herself under law to him, the object of her greatest solicitude will be, in all cases, to ascertain the will of Christ concerning her ways. It matters little to her, and ought really to affect her little, what any outside of His law may think of her; and, indeed, she must not even allow the opinion of her brethren and sisters to unduly influence her conduct. Christ first, must be her motto, and the desire to please him must be the guiding principle of her life. She must make up her mind to encounter difficulties. -Jane Roberts
The Service of Sisters
Paul has said, "let your women keep silence in the ecclesia: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." There is a tendency with some to drive this doctrine to an extreme. I have heard some speak contemptuously of the sisters as "mere women, only fit to nurse babies, and look after the pudding." Against such a doctrine every true brother will earnestly protest. It is not only degrading to her whom God has given us for an "helpmeet," but it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel which teaches that there is neither male or female in Christ; that we are all one in Christ Jesus. It is probably the natural extreme of the theory which flourishes on the other side of the water, and is equally to be reprobated in Christ. The one puts women too high, and the other most certainly too low. Paul commends to the attention of the Roman ecclesia in chapter 16, one Phoebe, a sister, whom he distinguishes as "a servant of the ecclesia at Cenchrea." This implies a prominent, active position on the part of the sister in question. He further distinguishes her by making her the bearer of the epistle to the Romans of which, for a time, she was the sole custodian. He entreats the whole Roman ecclesia on her behalf, saying of her that "she hath been a succourer of many, and of me also." In the next verse he mentions another sister -- Priscilla, as one who had with her husband, for Paul's life, laid down her own neck. In verse 6 he sends love to "Mary, who bestowed much labour on him." Further down he salutes, among others, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Julia, and the sister of Nereus, and the mother of Rufus. This is a standing apostolic recognition of the high place which sisters may fill in the Lord, if, in the grace of God, they have wisdom sufficient. True, there are not many such, but that is a misfortune of our times, and not a necessity of the thing itself. In may account for the cynical view of some, but ought not to be allowed to justify an unnatural, mischievous, and unscriptural theory. Sisters are never likely to develop into noble servants of Christ if the door is shut in their face, by a theory which would consign them to cradles, pots and pans. I do not mean to suggest the cradles and pans are incompatible with higher duties any more than are hammers, shoe lasts or baking troughs of their rougher brethren, but a doctrine which would tie them all the time to these, is an offence and a mischief. It is the part of true nobility to shine in the performance of the humblest duties. We will not say "stoop" or "condescend," because there is no stooping in the case. These humble duties, which are the most important in the economy of life, become exalted in the hands of intelligence and worth. But to insist on confining sisters to these, would be to ignore the fact that they have brains as well as bodies; and that men have other needs of help-meetship beside those of knife and fork. Such a boorish doctrine would destroy companionship, where brethren need it most, and unfit their wives to fulfil the highest function of motherhood, which is to bring up their chilaren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In fact, it is a doctrine to be opposed and detested as much as any hurtful doctrine may be. Jesus marks the position of women in a very distinct manner, and on more than one occasion. He rebuked Martha for her zeal in the very department where our friends think women ought exclusively to shine.
He commended Mary for her preference for spiritual things and spiritual society. To "the women" he first appeared after his resurrection, and sent his first message to the disciples through them. Shortly before he suffered, one showed exuberance of her affection by anointing him with expensive ointment. A certain brother standing by (John 12:4), who probably thought women were "only fit to look after babies and puddings", said, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" It was a hypocritical plea, for the speaker, who "bare the bag", was a thief, and sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. Hypocrites always oppose the deeds of righteousness under pious pretences. How did Jesus receive his very proper, very prudent, very judicious protest against such useless "extravangance"? He said, "Let her alone: why trouble ye the woman? she hath wrought a good work upon me.... Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her" (John 12:5; Matt. 26:13). And wheresoever during the past eighteen centuries these apostolic records have been read, this incident has been made mention of to the credit of a woman -- a sister -- a beloved Mary, who very likely put all her spare money into the act.
If a sister is an intelligent, active, useful, noble servant of Christ, her being a woman is no disqualification or barrier; it only precludes her from the act of public speaking, and involves subjection to her husband. It does not shut her up to babies, pots and pans, though these will dutifully receive the right share of attention at her hands. She is a partner, a helper, a fellow-heir in all things pertaining to Christ.
But of course, there are trying women, women of no sense, or perhaps little sense with a clattering tongue -- just enough to comprehend the trifles -- smart in a small way, with large relish and capacity for the small things of life. They may even talk about "the truth" in the glib fashion in which they talk about Mrs. Jones. Such women are not sisters, though they bear the name. Such women may covet the respect shown to real sisters; they cannot get it. They may envy the appreciation and love exhibited towards true Marys, but they can no more get what they want than a farmer can reap harvest who does not sow in spring. They may steal a little by surprise, but stolen goods have to be given up with bitterness. Insipid, petty, gossiping, garrulous, spiteful women are amongst the most grievous nuisances of creation. The great super abundance of them has probably led to cynical extremes against their sex; but it does not exclude the fact that there are noble daughters of the Lord God Almighty, nor does it justify the refusal of the right position to such when happily they make their appearance.
For both men and women, there is a place in the Kingdom of God. Though they neither marry nor are given in marriage, we may depend upon it that God, who never makes mistakes, has a place in the higher state for the companionship arising out of the natural and radical differences between man and woman as constituted in this preliminary state.
This is one of the sweet secrets we wait to see disclosed. Meanwhile, they stand related to the same rules of admission. Each must be faithful to Christ in their several spheres. The man must be enlightened, believing, courageous, trustful, prayerful, and obedient; and the woman must be no less in her contracted circle aiming particularly at those active, repeated, and untiring good works in the Lord which obtained for sisters of old the approbation of the Lord and the praise of his apostles. Thus may they earn for themselves a good degree which will shine forth with glorious lustre in the blessed ages that are to succeed the present evil world. -Robert Roberts, Seasons of Comfort
Christian women should not copy after the god-aspiring Eve, but after Sarah the faithful mother of Israel, who submitted herself in all things to Abraham "calling him Lord". Nor should their obedience be restricted to Christian husbands only. They should also obey them "without the word"; that is, those who have not submitted to it, in order that they may be won over to the faith when they behold the chaste and respectful behaviour of their wives produced by a belief in the Truth.
Their wisdom is to be quiet, and to make their influence felt by their excellent qualities. They will then rule in the hearts of their rulers, and so ameliorate their own subjection as to convert it into a desirable and sovereign obedience.
Such are the statutory provisions enacted in the world's constitution at the beginning, with respect to the position of women in the body social and political. Any attempt to alter the arrangement is rebellion against God and usurpation of the rights of men to whom God has subjected them. Their wisdom is to be quiet, and to make their influence felt by their excellent qualities. They will then rule in the hearts of their rulers, and so ameliorate their own subjection as to convert it into a desirable and sovereign obedience. -Elpis Israel