A Woman-Ministry

The monthly shepherdess column.

Mrs. S.M.I. Henry

Part I

I should have been stricken with silence before the great­ness of the work to which God has called me in this last-day message, and my sisters with me, but for the fact that with the call there has come what I should have considered, under other cir­cumstances, a reckless daring, but which is only an expression of my faith in the voice through which God spoke to me, and through me to my sisters in this precious truth.

I know that I can only be understood as God shall take these words of mine and trans­late them to you, so that they will mean the same to us all; but I trust Him to do that, for He knows how necessary it is that we should all see eye to eye concerning the interests of His kingdom.

There is a great necessity upon us as a peo­ple,—the same which has been upon the church in every age; the same as that which God laid upon womanhood more than twenty-five years ago when He called the Woman's Christian Temperance Union into existence.

It was an imperative command which the Lord gave to the church,—"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every crea­ture." "Every creature?" But who is he? where is he to be found? how recognized?

He is in every home. Through this gateway he enters the world, and with him comes every­thing which concerns human life. Every human need, everything which helps or hinders, origi­nates in the home with him. The salvation which was to go to the whole world began to be manifested in the person of Jesus in that humble home in Nazareth.

A perfect salvation, it was to be a perfect alleviation of the sorrows of a world groan­ing under a most painful sense of need. It was winged Bread for the starving, and was moved by Almighty power; but how slow was its progress! Generation after generation passed and yet it seemed to stand still, like a train with a stalled engine, while the world was perishing for the provisions which it had on board, and no one could locate the point of weakness. Many of its hindrances have been recognized; and for each there seemed to have been provided a remedy in the gospel itself. Then why did it not go? Why was not "Every Creature" reached?

About thirty years ago the burden of this question fell heavily, with the sorrows of the heathen world, upon the missionary. He found himself unaccountably handicapped. There was a hindrance to the progress of the gospel which he could not locate. In India, in China, and every heathen country the experience was the same. A man might acknowledge the truth of the new religion, but he was for some reason strangely slow to embrace it.

At last this hindering cause was discovered where it had been hidden for centuries in the harem and zenana. The wife and mother might be a slave, but she had the power to make it very difficult for the men in her family to be­come Christians. She whom the missionary had never seen, whom he could never be allowed to approach, had the ability to prevent the progress of the gospel, to make it prac­tically fruitless; for back of all this that, in woman and the home, hindered was also that same divine power, and God insisted that both the home and the woman in it should become understood and appreciated to their full value. So He allowed the gospel of His Son to come right up against them to a point from which it could go no farther while it ignored God as represented in this center of influence.

It is almost everywhere true that what the mother believes and lives in her home, her children will believe, and, if necessary, fight for; and her husband will at least reverence.

After the discovery of the heathen mother and wife as a hindering cause, the question came to be, How was she to be reached and changed into a helper? Every ancient custom, every hallowed thought and habit of life, seemed to have been for centuries kept busy in building a hedge about her for the very purpose of keeping her away from Christ and of retaining her as His chief antagonist when the day for the deliverance of the captives should fully come.

The manner in which the first little break in this wall of prejudice was effected is very suggestive. The wife of a missionary had em­broidered, and at Christmas presented to her husband, a pair of slippers. These were very much admired by a Hindu visitor, and he wished that his wife might be taught so that she could make him a pair just like them. The missionary's wife promised to make the attempt, and with some trepidation called upon her heathen neighbor for that purpose. She, delighted at what promised to be an agreeable change from the monotony of her life, and as glad to please her husband as a wife would naturally be, welcomed the offer. The material was purchased and the work be­gun; and it was during the hours that these two sat together in that zenana boudoir over their embroidery that the Christian woman saw and seized the first opportunity of the generations to reveal Christ the Liberator to her enslaved sister, whose whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, was galled by the chains that bound her. And as the missionary lady opened up to the heathen woman's wondering comprehension her own happy domestic life, the starved heart that had never tasted nor even dreamed of such possibilities in a home, and was yet instinctively able to recognize at sight this bread of heaven for her soul, threw herself upon the breast of her teacher, and begged with tears to be taught how to become a Christian, and how to make a Christian home.

It was not long thereafter before the hus­band came to his missionary brother to be in­structed in the same things; and from that homemade new, the gospel began to go to the homes of India.

But the customs and habits of centuries could not be overcome in a day or a year; nor could the conversion of one man and woman bring social liberty to the home-maker of that or any heathen land. But the eyes of the church were opened, and an immediate de­mand was made for a change in mission meth­ods such as should meet this newly discovered need.

The compass of this booklet will not permit a narration of that most interesting chapter in the history of the progress of the Kingdom, which details the efforts to organize a woman's work for woman.

In many churches there was a sharp and bitter conflict at the first proposition to or­ganize woman's missionary societies. It was feared that these societies would draw funds and interest from the parent boards; but since it was evident that the gospel must go into zenana and harem, or all was lost; that it could not go without woman, but that she could take it; and that the hand of the Lord was upon her for that purpose; since the conflict was with an imperative need; since God and every conviction were all on one side; although the controversy was sharp, it was short and de­cisive; and to-day there is no denomination that would think of doing without its organ­ized woman's work.

In our own land there was discovered at about the same time a kindred evil. Something that did not appear to ordinary vision, hin­dered the work of every church among every people, and seemed to nullify the gospel on every hand.

A young minister came to my home to say to me, "I am afraid that the gospel is losing its power." He was consecrated and zealous. He knew the power of Christ in his own life, and could but marvel that that body of Christ called the church was so helpless before the world. I was then able, although ignorant of much that has since been made clear, to say things that gave him comfort and brought a rested look to his face. But his trouble was a living one. The cause of it is not yet dead. But it has been located, which is half the battle.

It, however, took years, and the moving of the Holy Spirit to locate it; for no human mind could have reasoned it out, no "water-witch" with his enchanted willow crotch could have found it; and when found it must always be by the individual for himself and not for another. Its discovery is always a personal shock; and like the tremulous quiver of the earth, and the low muttering of its voice as if in pain, it means more than anything else anywhere.

The lack was found in the HOME, where, as has been before said, everything both good and bad must originate; and we have come to believe that when for any reason any existing cause must needs be discovered, it is perfectly safe to turn for it directly to this book of Genesis which we call the home life.

If a minister makes a confession of sinful infirmity; if a sister complains of intolerable burden; if a child grows up into unbelief; wherever there is a show of weakness, although the cause may appear to lie out in the world, it will sooner or later be traced through all the ins and outs which are so like a worm­hole, back to the secret place of power in the home, and in the lack of a right appreciation and use of woman in it.

The Work of Women

It was in 1873 that we first discovered that there were people in our own land who could not be reached without a woman-ministry: men in the saloons; women known as profligates, who had long ago lost all confidence in man, in whose hearts God had, however, preserved one little spot of fruitful soil for Himself, in the instinctive confidence of the human being in motherhood, if not in his or her own mother; and it was the effort of aroused motherhood to reach those lost souls who could not be reached by man-made efforts that produced the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

That organization was called into existence by the Spirit of God, to do a certain specific work. It should have carried the whole gospel for the whole man to the whole world in the twenty-five years since it was inaugurated; and would have done it if the Holy Spirit could have had control of it without the interference of men, who, trying, as they have been wont to say after Paul, to "help those women," have unquestionably hindered its God-appointed work.

There is a prophecy in Ps. 68:11 which reads: "The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those that published it." In the Revised Version it reads: "The Lord gave the word; and the women that published it became a great host." In the Jews' Bible it reads: "The Lord gave happy tidings; they are pub­lished by the female messengers, a numerous host." I fully believe that that prophecy re­ferred especially to woman's work in the church; that all these efforts by women have been in the line of its fulfilment, but that its real accomplishment is still future. All former efforts have led up and prepared the way; they have been in the nature of a John the Bap­tist to the last proclamation by the great host of woman-messengers which shall prepare the world for the return of our Lord. This last work must be done by women who have been trained both in the knowledge of, and in obe­dience to, the truth; who can be trusted to stand against the wiles of Satan, the lusts of the flesh, and any flattering suggestions from am­bitious men; but supported by the practical sympathy of men who are so true to principle as to be able to recognize that woman alone can do the work of woman.

I believe that in this message to my sisters God has made a call for a company who can be trusted with the very heart of the third angel's message; who will stand against the temptations and perils of the last days; who will with patient endurance and cheerful self-renunciation take this gospel to those who can­not be otherwise reached.

We are not called to attempt any work that is already being done, nor to step into any field sufficiently occupied by any teacher of the truth. We do not need to go abroad to search for a "cause," nor for a "sphere," in which to display any gifts that may be in our possession.

While the lanes, the byways, and highways must be searched, that every creature may be found and brought to the light; yet we do not need to search in order to find souls to save, a work to do, nor for a field to sow for our reaping by and by.

The Lord who knew how to put the food for beasts within reach of lambkin and giraffe, and who had said of man that if he would not work neither should he eat, knew also where to place the implements of labor so that they should be within reach of all, and how to arrange his work so that no man need forfeit his food from lack of employment. Under the system of divine economics, the least as well as the greatest; those who must creep and those who can fly; those who are hedged in and those who know no bounds; those who are under heavy burdens, and those who are stripped for the race; the old and the young; the learned and the un­learned; the uncouth and the cultured,—can each have his and her own place and work, and share in the final triumph of our King.

The motto is, "To every man his work" in his own place, and to every woman also. There is an individual place and opportunity for every one; and the needs are very great.

In the little time that has elapsed since the commission was given me to "set in motion lines of work by which our women could work together," I have had a revelation of that need through the letters which are continually pour­ing in. Through this medium I have been given to see into multitudes of homes. There has been uncovered to my eyes the sore place in the heart of our Zion; and I have realized as never before the relation of the home to every good or evil in the world.

The Home and the Church

In its relation to the church, the home is as the heart in the body, and the mother in the home is its life center. What the mother is, so is the home. What the home is, as a rule, so is the husband and father either in his strength or in his weakness. What the home is, what the father and mother are, such, other things being equal, are the children in their ability to resist, or in their certainty to fall under, the power of temptation. It cannot be otherwise without some special manifestation from the Spirit of God. It is therefore necessary that a work should be done in the home such as has never been attempted. It must go from our women to all homes the world over. And when each woman among our people shall come to appreciate her opportunity, and rejoice in it, realizing not the burdens that she must bear, but the abundant strength that is given with which to carry them, seeing not the danger from the lions in the way, but how they quail and fawn before the courage of even a weak woman's mighty faith; then shall our ministry go abroad in their work, strong, refreshed, vic­torious.

Every man, as he steps over his threshold to stand before the people with the gospel message, will be strong or weak, according to whether or not he knows that everything is secure in his own home, among his own chil­dren, in the atmosphere which he has left be­hind him.

Wherever something in the home is con­tinually chafing and fretting; wherever the chil­dren are growing up morally crooked; wher­ever the home is pervaded by a spirit of con­troversy with God; wherever the fragrance of heaven is lacking from the home atmosphere, there will be weakness and infirmity. No man can go out from a home in which such a lack exists strong to proclaim or to live the gospel; no woman can there live a healthy Christian life; in the midst of such an emptiness, no family of children can grow up to be true, and pure, and of good report.

Our women taught in the theory of the truth must be equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit so that they will be able to live this message of a domestic gospel; until from our homes it shall reach every church, and from thence overflow into all the world.

Many a man in business life, professing to be an unbeliever, hardening his heart against every tender thing such as might lead him to a confession of his need, is such because he feels that faith would be hopeless. He is sure that there is no really practical power available for the life of men and women such as the Christian profession claims. He has noted the difference between these professions and the lives lived, and judges Christ accordingly; and having thus lost the faith with which he per­haps started out, he is at sea, rudderless. Such a man is like one fumbling about in the dark for means to strike a light: and the world is full of him.

"I would like," said such an one, "to see the life of Christ really lived once. I would like it in my home. It is a beautiful dream which, if it could be realized, would be wel­come. But it is a failure everywhere, and I have no use for even a beautiful failure there. I want no sham in my home."

Many a man has said in effect, "If I could only see Christianity so lived out that the homes of the church and the ministry would be in harmony with the profession they make, I would be glad to seek it and accept it. I would be glad to teach it to my children, and to help my wife to live it."

All that can be hoped for such a man is that somewhere the light of the one true Life will fall upon his path, and that he will learn, as we all must, that truth can defend itself against even its own votaries, and so himself learn to stand alone with God.

Before the gospel can be taken to every creature there must be an equipment of power from those who stand in and go forth from the center of this work which will make the home a testimony to the truth. The time is al­ready at hand when those who represent the truth will be set before all the world in the strongest possible light; where every blemish will appear, where every act will tell for or against it.

In that coming day when everything shall be tested and proved, every Christian home (of which God will have a few as a witness) must be able to stand a crucial test. The eyes of heaven and earth will be upon it; the tele­scope of criticism will be turned upon it; and the principles of which it must be the expo­nent—the mother who, under God, made it-- will be obliged to be so hidden in God, so true to Truth, that, like an innocent suspect who is shadowed by detectives, she will always becaused to triumph in Christ, and to make mani­fest the savor of His knowledge in every place. All criticism and questioning will be only op­portunities of laying bare the principles upon which a true home must be built, and her children must, wherever they go, and by what they are, vindicate the methods by which they have been trained in the love of the truth.

(To be continued)


















Note:

About Mrs. S.M.I. Henry by Perri L. Cobb

From a semi-invalid condition at the time of her husband's death in 1871, Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, through prayer and vital, primitive faith, grew in physical strength and spiritual power to become one of America's farthest-heard voices in her day, the first to occupy the post of national evangelist of the then newly organized Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The power of the Spirit attended her meetings in an outstanding way, resulting in remarkable conversions and changed lives of both women and men, many of whom had be­come grossly depraved through drink and passion. In the strength of the Lord God she ministered to these lives, grappling with their most difficult problems and bringing about their solution in a vital spiritual experience.

After years of strenuous work, her heart gave way, and with a last hope she went to the Battle Creek Sanitarium, only to have the origi­nal diagnosis, incurable organic heart condi­tion, confirmed. It was while at the sanitarium she learned of the Sabbath; in her own words, "That had come . . . as by a flash of light." Her life being one of habitual simple faith and determined obedience, she was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in April of 1897. Not long thereafter, in answer to prayer, she miraculously arose from a condi­tion of complete helplessness to again take up the work of God in health and vigor, continu­ing for a time as national WCTU evangelist, then giving unstinted measure in service to the church she had so recently joined.

The Women's Gospel Work department of the General Conference was organized, with Mrs. Henry as its head, and space in the Review and Herald was given for the promo­tion of its ideals and to bring inspiration to women throughout the denomination. From the year 1897 through March, 1900, Mrs. Henry's articles appeared in 151 out of 169 consecutive issues of the Review and Herald. She traveled constantly to camp meetings, giv­ing voice to women's responsibilities, and oc­cupied a prominent hour during the 1899 General Conference session, the power of her message moving the entire assembly.

Her concept of the place and work of women raised the sights of homemakers throughout the ranks. She established cor­respondence with many, answering questions, helping solve problems, in a manner free from blame, prudery, or self-righteousness; showing the love and insight of Christ toward Mag­dalene; inspiring confidence that, despite dis­couragement, they could rise above overwhelm­ing circumstances and, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and homes, become a sustaining strength to their husbands and save their children.

Mrs. S. M. I. Henry joined her voice with that of Sister White in uplifting womanhood and the Christian home, and although sep­arated by the waters of the Pacific (Sister White being in Australia) the two felt a close friendship and carried on extensive corre­spondence.

Today we hear many in our own number voicing the urgent need of the Holy Spirit in the church. Mrs. Henry's stirring words con­tain a solemn message for Seventh-day Ad­ventist homes. Its challenge is more timely now than ever. This series should become an abiding inspiration to our ministers' wives, who likewise should carry the burden for the women of the church.

[EDITORIAL NOTE.-A stimulating biography of this remarkable woman has been written by her grand­daughter. Whirlwind of the Lord, by Margaret Ros­siter White, is available at your Book and Bible House.]


 


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Mrs. S.M.I. Henry

June 1955

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