WORK FOR WOMEN.
As soon as I began the work in New Orleans I tried to show the women how they could help their neighbors, in their own home, on the street, and in the church. Also by reading the Bible and prayer in their neighbors' homes in a quiet way, by helping the poor, etc. They were not able to do this work well, but trying to help others made them more careful about their own conduct. It was very encouraging to see the improvement.
At our weekly prayer meeting they brought report of work done. Received correction and encouragement. I have a report for March, 1880, the following: 59 women, from ten different churches, in one month, visited 693 families, read the Bible and prayed in 142 homes. Often they only talked to those visited without prayer and reading. Many of them could not read, but their talk was not idle gossip; often their mission was caring for the sick. They found 200 children who did not attend Sabbath school and brought into the school 120 of them; they found also 152 persons who didn't attend church, and persuaded 46 of them to attend at least once; most of them came oftener. They gave 140 garments to the poor, these garments were given to them by missionaries from supplies sent from the North. You see how we multiplied ourselves by the help of these women.
There was a little church in St. James parish, surrounded by Catholics. In a membership of nine, there was only one man. He said, "I am praying that I may get a brother to stand by me." The women were certainly a power for good. A pastor in New Orleans once said, "We have only a few brothers in the church, but we have good sisters, who have built this church, and earned every cent by washing or other hard work." I have told you how they were also building up the spiritual church. At a union meeting one minister said to another, "Sisters are coming in mighty slow, you won't get much money to-day." The other minister replied, "That's so. Sisters do give the most money."
All these years I have warned our sisters not to run ahead of the men but to keep their God-given place as "helpers," thus avoiding any confusion with the church. I always said, "Sisters, if the pastor objects to any of your plans, be quiet. Be good at home, teach your children and your neighbors and wait till God opens the door of the church." It meant much for our work to have the pastor present to hear the reports of the sisters and the lessons that I taught.
I said there was no discussion between the pastor and myself respecting women's place in Christian work, but when our sisters came to the front and began their visiting and collecting missionary money, etc., there was a difference of opinion. I said to our women, "We will take our place in the church as 'workers together with God,'" and said to our brethren, "You find your place and then you will know we are not far apart." But that did not quite settle the question, therefore I prepared a paper which seemed to satisfy the pastors and the women, and which was largely distributed in 1883; from this I give some extracts:
"That woman has a work to do in the Christian church no one will deny. All are willing that she work and work hard, but what shall she do? If we can know God's plan that should settle it; therefore 'to the law and to the testimony.' In Exodus 15:20, we find Miriam led the women in song as they praise God for his wonderful deliverance. Surely she has a right to sing. After the children of Israel entered Canaan Deborah was appointed as one of the Judges, seemingly with the same power to control as Gideon, Judges 4.
"Passing on to the time of Josiah when he found the long lost Bible he goes to the prophetess, Huldah, and she tells him what to do, 2 Kings, 22d chapter. We mention this to show that she may be a leader and a teacher. Years after, we find Anna, the prophetess, side by side with old Simeon, rejoicing over the infant Savior, and she spake of him to all. Luke 2: 36-38. Passing the long list of devoted women who earnestly obeyed the Savior through his weary years of suffering, we come to the Acts of the Apostles, and find Peter quoting the words of Joel, 'I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters, there is neither male or female in Christ,' Gal. 3:28. In Acts 21, we are told that Philip had four daughters who prophesied. In Romans 16, Paul mentioned a long list of women who labored with him in the Gospel, and gives Phoebe a letter of introduction to the church sending her on a Christian mission, requesting the church to help her, not as they thought best, but as she "had need of them." Again we find John, the aged, dedicating an Epistle to the 'elect lady.'
"Those women were doing something more than simply cooking dinners for preachers and collecting money for the churches. That service is all right, but her work does not end there. Beloved sisters, your greatest work will doubtless be a quiet one in your own home and in the homes of your neighbors. The women we mentioned knew their Bibles or they could not have been teachers. Sisters, study the Word of God.
WOMEN'S WORK IN THE HOME.
"All know the many duties that devolve upon woman as a wife and mother. These she must never neglect. The prosperity of our Nation depends upon our homes and home is what mother makes it to a large extent. Yes, sister, you are needed in many places, but in no place as much as at home. Sorrow and ignorance darken our homes because mothers have not had a good chance to acquire useful knowledge, or because they would not open their eyes to the light. First make your home bright and happy, and then try to help the homes of your neighbors.
"But dear mothers, let me remind you that most of your work is done under the shelter of the home roof. God has been so good to mothers and wives that He has brought their work and laid it in their arms or in some way gathered it around the dear center of home. Through the influence of your own dear home you can help your neighbors and your neighbors' children, and the stranger who spends a night in your home. All will be helped if you have a good home.
"This leads me to speak of the work of the Women's Baptist Home Mission Society which we represent. It was organized five years ago (1877), and now (1882) employs twenty-eight white and eight colored missionaries. Its work is not confined to the South. It has two missionaries in the far West, two with the Germans, two among the Mormons and Chinese, two with the Danes and Swedes, and two among the Indians. The other twenty-four are at work among the colored people of eight different stations. Its great object is to reach the neglected citizens of the United States. This is done by its missionaries, of whom I am one, going from house to house with Jesus by our side, the Bible in our hands and the old story of Jesus and his love on our lips, telling it over and over again, till darkness and sin are gone. We do not wait for sinners to come to our churches, but go into all the homes we have time and strength to reach, for we know that among the rubbish of sin are some of the precious jewels that will shine in the Savior's diadem, and with God's help we will find them.
"Besides these visits we have sewing schools and children's meetings. Our first lesson is Jesus, and that dear name is the power that reforms and makes beautiful the children we find in our visits. We teach them to keep their clothes, their homes, and their persons neat and clean, and to be kind and helpful to their parents.
"This is a great work and the laborers are few. One of our great duties as missionaries is to set others at work. I know two of the excuses you will make: 1, 'I have no time,' and 2, 'I do not know how.'
"As to time, you have twenty-four hours every day. Do not spend it in idle gossip. Suppose we ask you to give thirty minutes each day to a quiet earnest Bible lesson with your neighbors, or some poor lost sinner. Remember, it should be quiet. I heard a sister, the other day, call across the street these words: 'You wicked sinner, you better go and pray,' etc. That was not right. This is a sacred subject, and you should strive to speak of it when your friend is alone and you can kneel beside her and ask the Holy Spirit to give power to your words.
"Somewhere along the streets going or coming from work, you can take a little neglected child by the hand and coax its mother to let it come to Sabbath school; or you can call on some careless member of the church. Sisters, if you will ask God, He will give you every day a little piece of work to do for him. It is the people who work hard every day that do the best Christian work, and not the women who sit for hours on the door steps with folded hands or gossip on the street corners.
"Now about the second excuse, 'I do not know how.' Well, let me see what you do know. You know how to be a good faithful wife and mother, sending or rather bringing your own children to church and Sunday school. If so, your example will help your neighbor. Do you know God's love and peace in your own soul? If so, the Holy Spirit will teach you how to tell others. Remember you do not know how to do this work unless you do it for God's honor and glory and not to get a big name for yourself. Self coming up for praise is likely to be what will spoil your Christian work more than anything else. "Four years ago we organized special mission work in Louisiana. Many grew weary because they did not get the praise they thought they deserved. Sisters, we are working for Christ; we can afford to wait for our pay till Jesus takes us by the hand and introduces us to the glories of heaven with the blessed words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"
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