Walking Alone With God
There are some women among us who have been compelled to learn how to walk alone with God, just as we must all do sooner or later. At some time in their lives Satan has been able to shut them into some close, dark place in hope to have them alone indeed, and at his mercy; but happily they kept themselves under the protection of the Abiding Spirit, whom he could not shut out, for He was within, and would go with them wherever they had to go; and in those shut-in days they have learned many things for which others are perishing. And this woman-ministry consists in bringing together, for the good of both, those who need so much and those who have so much laid by in stores of experience to impart.
Misused experience will, like cream, become stale, and breed all manner of deadly germs. The richer it was in the beginning the more offensive it may become. There is a strong feminine force among us which must be used, or spoil. Those women who have been taught in the school of experience have had opened to them, in this call of God, the most blessed work that ever came into mortal hands; which entails both the highest privilege and the most solemn responsibility, such as cannot be ignored.
Women Must Do the Work of Women
A woman-ministry must of necessity differ from a man-ministry, and must be received directly from God Himself, since He alone can know her well enough to give her any assignment. There was a significant expression in that portion of the letter from Sister White, which was sent out with the "Call" of Dec. 6, 1898. She said, "You are to undertake this work under the supervision of God." That "you" means every individual woman, and teaches that each must come into direct touch with the great Master Mind.
One of the first impulses which we experience under the first burden of responsibility is to fly to some man or woman for counsel; and the seeker after counsel is sure to find somebody ready to give it. There is need of counsel, but from whom shall we take it? Human counsel has been darkness from the beginning. Especially has every work ever attempted by women been marked by the meddlesome interest of ambitious men who have had enough appreciation of what might result from her efforts to be afraid to leave her to the unaided control of the Holy Spirit. But we are to remember that the same divine intelligence that is accessible to man is open to woman, that it knows just as well how to teach and lead a woman as a man. No man knows any woman well enough to cut out a life work for her to take up. The necessity is upon every woman to learn the short cut to the Source of all wisdom. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
Men must do their work in the fields to which they naturally belong, to which their activities naturally take them. They must do it with men's voices, with men's strong limbs, with men's methods of thought; and woman must find her ministry in the place which God has given her in the home, the social life, and the church. She must do her work with womanly gifts, with the grace of God run into feminine molds, or fail. For any woman to attempt to work in a mannish way is to become ridiculous, and ignominiously fail.
Some have asked me how, believing this, I ever came to preach the gospel. I answer: For the same reason that God had to do some things. He had to profane the princes of the sanctuary, give Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproach, because our first father sinned, and our teachers transgressed against the Lord; because nothing was any more as it had been in the beginning; because an emergency like that of a railroad smash-up was upon us as a race, and everyone who could get hold of a light must carry it out into the darkness, and take a hand in the work of rescue, regardless of age, sex, or condition; each, however, led by the same light, hearing and understanding the same voice of command, and then following, each according to his or her ability.
A woman-ministry does not, necessarily, involve a multiplication of public meetings, nor public speaking; but per contra less of public effort or display of every sort for all concerned. The public meeting has become a craze, and its remedy is in that quiet, steady, personal home and neighborhood work which consists in living Christ instead of talking doctrine.
Doctrine is not to be despised nor ignored. An intelligent knowledge and use of doctrine is necessary to a true life; but it must have become so assimilated as to be a part of the bone, blood, tissue, brain, and nerve,—a thing of the daily life. Any doctrine held in such solution of love, or precipitated in the common service of one humble home maker, is worth more than tons of it in printed pages, or spoken at the rate of five hundred words a minute from any argumentative tongue.
If the women in our homes had heretofore performed their share of this gospel ministry, many men who are now traveling far and wide, with no opportunity to cultivate the acquaintance of their own children, might have grown up with their families; and many a woman who is doing distasteful public work might have continued to occupy the quiet place and to have performed the quiet service which is more suited to woman's voice and presence.
Many women have written me, saying, "I want to do something. I realize the need in the community, and I would like to do something to extend the truth. But what can I do? How can I do it?" Several have written again and again in this effort to obtain specific instructions, asking, "What shall I do?" or saying, "I have received your letter, but you did not tell me what to do, or just how to proceed." No; I do not tell any woman what or how to do. I do not know enough. The only thing that any of us can safely do for any other is to help her by a living testimony, to see what we must BE; and when we come, by the power and light of the Holy Spirit, to BE what we ought to be, there will be no trouble about the doing.
First of all it is necessary to be filled with the Holy Spirit. With many of our sisters we must begin with the effort to inspire them with courage to even believe that their sins can be forgiven; to even believe that Truth is the truth; so darkly has the despair of doubt gathered about them.
A great work is in our hands; a work which no woman can perform alone. It will take the whole body of this people—the prayers and faith of men and women as well as the power of God—to do that work which God has laid upon us as women.
Every woman who knows her sins are forgiven, and that she is a child of God, has a special part in this last message of mercy. This woman-ministry is the very core, the vital point of the gospel message. That message cannot go without the women of the church. This fact must be appreciated by both men and women alike. Our brethren must have a solemn, earnest conviction of this truth, or they will hinder that which if hindered will bring irretrievable loss. Any who do not receive the spirit of discernment will soon begin to try to "tinker" that which God will commit to the interference of no man.
The Young Women Also
There is a work for the young women of the church. O, my heart goes out to the young people of the remnant church! They stand in a peculiar situation,—with the heart of youth, quick, alert, eager,—just the same kind of heart that is in youth everywhere, the same desires, the same impulses after that which is attractive, the same longing for companionship, for music, for light, and gladness,—the natural heart of youth, just as God intended it should be, except for the touch of sin. Man is at this period more like what God intended him to be than he can ever be again until he has been born to immortality. The child is nearer than the man to the original thought of God, and every year which is added takes him as a rule further away from it.
These young women growing up out of dainty girlhood are naturally attracted by the world as its allurements draw heavily upon them. The other churches have recognized this in their young people's societies. These societies mark the progress of an effort to appease the natural hunger of youth for association. Those churches are wise that gather their youth together, in safe companionship, and give them an opportunity to work out together whatever their convictions of truth work within them. And since our young people have the same instincts, but have not found at home the same opportunities, it must be expected that complications and questions will arise. They come in contact with the Christian Endeavorers in school, in neighborhood, in business; why not in Christian work? is the natural question. These young Christians breathe out the Spirit of Christ. They are earnest, consecrated; many are filled with the Spirit, walking in all the light they have. The young people in the Seventh-day Adventist church, however, by the very conditions in which they were born, stand in a larger, clearer light, far in the advance. But who shall say that the others, also walking in all the light they have, are not hastening on in the way that shineth more and more unto the perfect day? Surely our young Seventh-day Adventist sister may be excused if she does not at once see that if she would walk with them, she must turn her back on the light, and in the shadow of her own selfishness go with her face toward the darkness to meet them.
Our youth hear the voices of this goodly company who are coming on. The heart of youth leaps out to meet the heart of youth everywhere, and many of our young people still question, "Why can't I go into these societies? They are Christians." One said recently, "They know more about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit than I ever heard of until lately. I could learn a great deal from them. Why can't I just go in with them, and work with them? Why must I stand in this peculiar isolation because of our belief? Is it absolutely necessary to my salvation that I keep the seventh day? They are Christians,—they will be saved,—and they don't keep the Sabbath. Why can't I go in with them if they do keep the first day of the week? God is evidently with them in their work and experience."
These are live questions which our mothers should be wise enough to forestall, or at least to answer when they are asked.
These young people of the Christian Endeavor societies honestly believe that our people are in error. And our young people must meet all the power which this conviction carries with it into personal influence and effort.
There is, coupled with the natural attraction which one young person has over another, the earnest desire upon the part of Christian Endeavorers to save our young people from supposed error. They pray for it. They discover a Seventh-day Adventist young woman, and they say to each other, "That is a good, kind, clean, lovely young woman: she ought to be drawn away from that peculiar error. Let us pray for her;" and they will pray that she may be made to see that the seventh-day is not the Sabbath, but that Sunday is the Sabbath. They will put into that effort all the zeal and earnestness of a great conviction. And the sincerity of that purpose, the honesty and integrity with which they are following all the light they have, will give power to their work, even if it is against the truth itself.
Except your boy and girl shall know why they are Seventh-day Adventists, except in addition to the knowledge of the theory, they have also the personal revelation from God to their own souls that it is true, and unless the theory of the truth is vitalized by the Holy Spirit in them, it is not to them a living power; but only a dead form; and will go down before the honest zeal of those who, while they do not know the truth, practise error in righteousness. Such a thing is possible; for as truly as one can hold the truth in unrighteousness others can hold error in that faith that is accounted for righteousness, and which will give it a might of its own.
No simple theory of the truth can be alive. And in the homes where there is no power of the Holy Spirit, where the mother has become so discouraged that she has fallen into fretfulness, constantly chafing the life of father and children; where the father is full of his own peculiar cares and forms of sin and unbelief, the atmosphere must be so deadly that nothing but the coldest form of theory can be preserved in it for the instruction of the children, and they must grow up in unbelief, unless, indeed, as sometimes happens, some child receives such a manifestation of God as lifts him above the level of the home, and makes him a teacher of his father and mother. God can do that; He has done it; and to some young woman who reads this I send this message: "You, as a daughter, may have a special mission to bring up your father and mother in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
It is a serious task for a girl in her teens to have to bring her father and mother to know the Lord. But many have just that task on their hands. One young man learned this from the Christian Endeavorers. He had received through their work a knowledge of what the baptism of the Holy Ghost means. This knowledge gave life to the cold, dead theory of the truth which he had brought from his home, and made him a Seventh-day Adventist indeed, and he went back to teach in his own home what it means to be "in the Truth."
This work has been set in motion to bring every woman, young and old, among us into that direct personal relation with God, through the Holy Spirit, which will constitute her not only the center of the home life, but a living power wherever she lives and moves. She may be isolated,—God bless and comfort the isolated ones among us! The revelations of heroism that have come from such through my correspondence have thrilled my heart to the very core. Just to think of standing alone for the truth for twenty years, never having seen a minister, nor heard a sermon! and yet not to find one word of discouragement to breathe out through a letter; only thanksgiving for the privilege of holding up a light in a dark place for twenty years, and of gratitude that God had at last made a special call for woman's work in the message. If it is possible for one woman to stand alone like this for the truth, it is possible for every woman.
But, first of all, she must have physical health. She must know the principles of health refotin before she can apply them. But many have no way of learning. They cannot buy books. They do not know how to get much out of any book but the Bible, and are not able to find the health principles there without assistance. Such a woman can be helped by a personal letter or interview, with simple studies, as by no other means; and these methods of work especially belong to a woman-ministry.
One writes, "I don't know anything about these principles, and I want to know how to prepare suitable food for my children." Another, a leader in health teaching, wrote, "Send me for correspondence the names of women who need me most." And it is beautiful to see how these two fit each other.
It Must Pervade All
The church with its various departments has been likened to a perfectly proportioned tree, each department a branch of the tree; and this woman's work has been called a "department." But it cannot be a department by itself, like other lines of work. A woman-ministry must touch everything which concerns the church. No line of effort can be carried on without woman. This work is to the whole church what the foliage is to the tree: not simply for beauty and grace; 0 no, although that is not to be despised; but for life. A tree without foliage is either asleep and fruitless, as in the winter, or it is dead. The leaves are the lungs through which it breathes. A woman-ministry must be that through which the church breathes in and breathes out the fragrant life of the Holy Spirit from every department of church work; the invigorating fragrance of heaven distilled through the body of Christ into the atmosphere of the world.
The leaf on the farthermost twig receives from the root through its branches that which gives it color, life, and beauty; and, in turn, it reaches up and takes hold of sunlight, dew, and all the essential elements of the atmosphere, and sends them back through every twig and branch down into the roots, thus keeping up the circulation of life from root to branch.
Woman, more than any other, is the channel of the world's intercommunication. She is the chief point of human contact in church, society, and business. The retail trade of commerce is largely in the interests of the home over which she presides; and a properly organized woman-ministry will carry the messages farther, and more safely, and will support every legitimate public effort as can be done by no other agency. When every woman among us accepts the call and takes up her work, the way of the Lord will soon be prepared.
But the call to each must be personally from God. Each must receive her work directly from Him, through His Word and Spirit, responsible to Him alone; and be ready not to need sympathy and help from others, but to give it to all,—herself drawing from the Fountain of Life the power which is in God, always filled, always paying out to a needy world.
(To be continued)