[We devote considerable space in this issue to the consideration of woman's sphere, as viewed from the Bible standpoint; especially in the light of the Apostle Paul's teachings. A very general misunderstanding of the Apostle's words has fostered a spirit of doubt as to his divine inspiration, and thus proved a steppingstone to Infidelity. Such doubts having once gotten control of the mind are apt to lead to the very extreme of so-called Woman's Rights—forcing some to an extreme on that side of the question as others have gone to an extreme on the opposite side: making women mere slaves, drudges or entertainers for men—erroneously supposing that the apostles so taught. These articles may therefore be considered as supplemental to our defense of the apostolic authority and inerrancy, presented in our issue of May 1st, and are called forth in response to many inquiries.]
WHILE we recognize the fact that, as spiritual new creatures in Christ Jesus, we are not esteemed of God on account of pedigree, station or sex; that, in his estimation of worthiness for the heirship of the coming Kingdom, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28), and are "all called in one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4), it is nevertheless true that we are still in the flesh and that we have to do with earthly conditions; and, further, that upon our proper attitude in the various relationships of life, and our faithful observance of the teachings of the Scriptures with reference to them, our worthiness or unworthiness of divine favor is judged. While every question of moral rights and obligations is pushed to the front in this "day of preparation" (Nahum 2:3), this subject is coming forward for consideration and ventilation, as many Infidels and even Christians are claiming that the Bible teaches domestic slavery.
It will therefore be our endeavor to present as briefly as possible what we believe to be the Scriptural view of this subject, assured that, whatever may be the human prejudices of various individuals, God's Word is the only safe guide to the truth. His Word is by no means silent with reference to it; and an examination of all its testimony on the subject will, we believe, entirely silence in the estimation of all fair minded Christians the above mentioned charge against the Bible.
The first testimony of the Bible on this subject, aside from the statement that the man was made first and the woman subsequently as his capable helper and suitable companion, is found in God's statement to the woman after the eating of the forbidden fruit—"Thy desire shall be unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." While authority to rule is naturally implied in the headship of the man (1 Cor. 11; 1 Tim. 2:13), yet, it is not difficult to see that the Lord referred to something more than this; for its mention is in connection with the penalty put upon woman, because of her share in the original sin. The implication is that her husband's rule would be tyrannical, and that she would suffer injustice under it, which she would not have suffered otherwise. And such has been the case: the rule or headship of the husband, which in perfection would have been a rule for the protection and in the interest of all the members of his family—a rule of love, a guidance rather—has in a majority of cases become, through the fall, a rule of selfishness, and fear, and general imposition. Indeed some men will use this very Scripture as a justification of their course of selfish tyranny.
But while facts fully corroborate the Lord's testimony on this subject, it is a great mistake to suppose that God's will is done by those who thus misuse their natural headship. On the contrary, we should see in the expression God's prophecy of the evil that would come upon womankind by reason of the fall of man from his original likeness of God. And, be it noted, the more degraded the man the more unfeeling will be his treatment of the one whom he should love and cherish as his own body.
Man's sphere in the world is pretty clearly defined as the head or chief of the creation, while the woman's sphere as a help, meet for him, is a much more debatable one. The question is, "To what extent may she help him?" While we believe that, according to the Bible teaching, she may help him to the extent of her ability and opportunity—in the home, the church and the world—we hear [R1549 : page 201] many dissenting voices in favor of very considerably circumscribing her influence, if not in the home, at least in the church and in the world. Let us hear, therefore, first, What saith the Scripture concerning—
Peter, addressing the whole Church, without respect to sex, says, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,...that ye [all—male and female] should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9.) And again we read (Isa. 61:1), "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach," etc. See also Luke 4:18-20, where our Lord quotes and applies only a part of this prophecy to himself, leaving another portion of the commission which was not due in his day for the body of Christ—male and female—to declare. The word "because" shows that the anointing is for the very purpose of fitting those so anointed—whether male or female—to preach the good tidings. Therefore all of the anointed, male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free, are anointed to preach.
In Heb. 5:12 Paul upbraids the Church, making no distinction of sex, for inability to teach on account of neglect of opportunities to fit themselves for the work, saying, "For when for the time [spent] ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat." Again we read (1 Pet. 4:10), "As each one [male or female] has received a free gift, so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." "Moreover," says Paul (1 Cor. 4:2), "it is required in stewards that they be found faithful." There is no distinction of sex here: each one, male or female, who possesses a talent or gift, becomes a steward of the same; and in the reckoning day the Lord will require each steward to give an account of his stewardship. Faithfulness is required of all in the use of all talents possessed.—Matt. 25:14-30.
In harmony with the teaching of these scriptures, that women, as well as men, are accountable to God for the use of their talents in the Church, be they many or few, and also with the teaching of Paul, that the activity of every member of the body of Christ is necessary to the general health of the whole body, we have numerous precedents established in the Scriptures. Thus (1) the women who were the first at the sepulcher on the morning of the resurrection were sent by the Lord to bear the first message of his resurrection to the apostles. (2) The woman of Samaria with whom the Lord conversed, and to whom he was pleased to reveal himself as the Messiah, was not forbidden to go into the city and declare the news to many—which she did at once, leaving her water-pots and going in haste. And the result was that many believed through her testimony, however she may have declared it.—John 4:28-30,39.
We find, too, that women, as well as men, shared the gift of prophecy, which the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 14:3,4) defines to be "speaking to edification, exhortation and comfort"—i.e., teaching or exhorting according to the measure of the gift of God. (See also 1 Cor. 12:31.) And in 1 Cor. 11, Paul admits the propriety of women publicly praying and prophesying, provided they do so with becoming modesty, of which the covering of the head was in those times a special mark, particularly among the Greeks, here addressed. To ignore such a custom, as some seemed inclined to do when they began to realize the liberty of the gospel, would have brought reproach upon the cause of Christ, and also upon "the angels," messengers or ministers of the Christian faith—the apostles and others.
We have some examples of prophesying, by women,—for instance, Anna (Luke 2:36-38); Philip's four daughters (Acts 21:8,9); Miriam (Micah 6:1-4); Huldah (2 Chron. 34:21-28) and Deborah (Judges 4:4-24). And, further, we have the remarkable prophecy of Joel 2:28,29, of which Peter claimed there was at least a partial fulfilment on the day of Pentecost, when the holy Spirit descended in power upon all present. (Acts 2:17,18.) Paul also mentions with evident appreciation the activity [R1549 : page 202] of certain females in the early Church—notably Priscilla, Tryphena, Tryphosa, the mother of Rufus and Julia, the sister of Nereus. (Rom. 16; also Phil. 4:3.) And in every instance, except 1 Cor. 16:19, where Priscilla and her husband Aquila are mentioned, Priscilla is mentioned first, as if she were the more prominent and active of the two. (See Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19; Acts 18:18,26 R.V.) She and her husband also accompanied Paul on one of his journeys from Corinth to Ephesus, where they met Apollos and were both diligent in instructing him more perfectly in the truth. (Acts 18:18-26.) Although the Scriptures are not addressed to the world, they utter no voice and establish no precedent contrary to female activity in the various legitimate pursuits of life for which nature and education have fitted her. And though in times past female education was at a very low ebb, and women were seldom fitted for other than domestic pursuits, we have a worthy example of one efficient female Judge in Israel—Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth (Judges 4:4-24; 5:1-31) who was also a prophetess and evidently a woman of great ability and influence. Huldah, the wife of Shallum (2 Kings 22:14-20), was also a prophetess to whom the king of Israel sent.
From all these indications we gather that God, who is no respecter of persons, requires faithfulness on the part of female as well as male stewards in the use of all their talents, with no other restrictions than that they do so with that modesty which is specially becoming to their sex; and that, if God gives to any female member of the body of Christ a talent or special ability for teaching or prophesying, as she has done in the past, it is her privilege, and not only so, but her duty, to earnestly cultivate and use that talent as a wise and faithful stewardess. This the Apostle Paul also clearly teaches in 1 Cor. 12:28-31, when, after naming teaching as one of the best gifts, he urges all, without distinction of sex, to "covet earnestly the best gifts."
Let us next note what some consider a direct contradiction of the foregoing Scriptural findings in the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 2:12)—"I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" [hesuchia, quietness]. But the Apostle proceeds to give his reason for the restriction; and in doing so he refers us back to the original relationship of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, saying, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, became a transgressor." Turning to Genesis (2:16-18) we see that, before Eve was created, "God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
It is plain, then, that the Lord did not communicate directly with Eve, but with Adam, and that Eve received this warning from God through Adam. Thus Adam, under God, was the teacher, and Eve the learner. And it was right and proper, in this instance at least, that the woman should "learn in silence with all subjection," as the Apostle counsels in 1 Tim. 2:11. What right had she to object? God had taught her husband, and in giving her to him had imposed upon him the duties of a husband (a care-taker and provider for her), and in fulfilling this obligation Adam had communicated to Eve this knowledge which was necessary to her preservation and her harmony with God. Thus God taught the headship of man, which the Apostle would have the Corinthian Church distinctly understand.—1 Cor. 11:3.
In addressing himself to Eve the Adversary tempted her to disregard the warning of God through her husband. This she did, and that without even consulting Adam as to the propriety of heeding this new and strange instructor, who was evidently out of harmony with God. In acting thus, independent both of God and of the natural protector which God had provided, the woman became a transgressor; and since she thus ignored God, she was left to her own judgment entirely, and was deceived; not, however, as to the unrighteousness of her course, but as to the result of that [R1549 : page 203] course, which she presumed would lead to greater blessing (knowledge), instead of to death. And not only did she thus ignore Adam and the instruction of God through Adam, and act entirely upon her own judgment, but she further assumed to lead or teach Adam her new doctrine, thus reversing the divine order of headship. And in following this reversed order of headship, Adam, though not deceived, also became a transgressor.
It is for this reason, says the Apostle, that I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man. But how to harmonize this restriction with the seemingly contrary scriptures already referred to still remains a difficult question to many; one, however, to which there surely must be some solution. First, we would inquire, Does this order of headship inhere in mankind as a class, distinct from woman-kind? or does it apply merely in the relationship of husband and wife? That the former is true, is, we think, quite evident from 1 Cor. 11:3, which reads, "I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
What, then, we would inquire, is implied in this office of headship? The figure, we see, is drawn from that important member of the human body, the head, which is the chief member—the member in which inheres the right of leadership and authority. And this interpretation is borne out by the perfect illustration of headship in [R1550 : page 203] the relationship of Jehovah to Christ. In the one inheres the legislative, in the other a delegated executive power. In accordance with the illustration, therefore, the relationship of man to Christ and of woman to man should be that of subserviency; and if men and women were perfect the beautiful harmony of such a relationship would yield perfect satisfaction to both. Man would be in harmony with Christ, woman in harmony with man, and all in harmony with Jehovah. Thus the divine order of headship would unify all in the bonds of mutual love and peace.
But the question arises, How is this idea of headship compatible with the idea of individual liberty—the glorious liberty of the sons of God? Is the illustration of head and body to be pressed to its utmost limit here? The human body in health never performs an act except by the authority and consent of the head; and the mystical body of Christ (the Church), in health always delights to know and to do the will of Christ; and Christ has ever sought to know and do the Father's will. And so likewise if the human family were unimpaired by sin woman would enjoy her station and man would not misuse his strength, mental or physical, tyrannically. Looking again at the perfect illustration of this relationship between Jehovah and Christ, we see that the order of headship, rightly exercised, is entirely compatible with the glorious liberty of sons of God. For although Jehovah is the head of Christ we see him delighting to honor his Son, making him in turn the head of all principality and power (Col. 2:10; 1:16; Eph. 1:10—Diaglott), and calling upon all men to "honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" [for he is the Father's representative and the express image of his person]. We see him also committing all judgment unto the Son. He first proved him and found him worthy of confidence; and then, having made known his plans to him, he committed to him their execution. And so we read, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22), and, again, that "all power in heaven and in earth" is given unto him.—Matt. 28:18.
Surely there is no semblance of bondage in this relationship of Christ to Jehovah; but under Jehovah's supreme headship there is the fullest liberty and the widest scope for the development and use of all Christ's noble powers. And Christ, on his part, as subject to Jehovah, his head, is in all his works subject to those principles of action and that plan of work which the wisdom and goodness of Jehovah have decreed. Within these metes and bounds of Jehovah's headship, then, is the glorious liberty of the only begotten Son of God. Thus should man also be subject to his head, which is Christ, whose supervision, like that of Jehovah, is also sufficiently generous to admit of the widest range and development of all his [R1550 : page 204] manly powers. And thus, also, should the headship of man be exercised toward woman—not to degrade and dwarf her powers under the bondage of tyranny, but to elevate and ennoble her; granting to her, under his leadership and encouragement, the fullest liberty for the legitimate use of all her powers.
But to return to Paul's statement, "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man," we see that, in harmony with the reason given for the restriction, and also with the fact that they did teach on numerous occasions mentioned in the Scriptures, we must interpret the former clause of this statement in the light of the latter, viz., that the woman is not to usurp the natural position of the man as leader and teacher, and, disregarding his headship, to take that attitude herself—an attitude contrary to nature, incompatible with womanly grace, and unlovely in the eyes of all right-thinking people. With this interpretation of the Apostle's language here, his teaching elsewhere, for instance in 1 Cor. 11:5, is in entire harmony.
The idea is not to debar woman from her privilege and duty of making good use of all her talents as a wise stewardess, and as one who must give an account of her stewardship, nor to prohibit her from teaching the truth to others, but rather to point out to her the excellent and most effective ways for the use of her influence in life. Nature would, doubtless, generally indicate to both men and women their proper spheres for usefulness; but alas! none can be found in a natural condition:—all are fallen, mentally, physically and morally; and some more than others and in different ways. No womanly woman takes as her ideal a noisy declaimer, an assertive debater, an obtrusive public speaker, nor an ambitious leader. And yet, on fitting occasions, where the interests of the truth require it, she may, in a womanly way and without the least assuming the manly prerogatives of headship, declare the good tidings of great joy to as many as will hear her, whether male or female; and on some occasions the interests of the truth may necessitate her debating a question, which can often be just as effectively done in a suggestive, as in an assertive, way; and generally much more so, as some men, as well as women, have learned. Those who understand human nature best, know that frequently more can be done in the way of disarming prejudice and establishing the truth by the latter, than by the former method.
A woman may thus, in the full exercise of her liberty as a child of God, bring forth all her strong reasons before as many as desire to hear, and may clearly state her own convictions of the truth, but always with that moderation and candor which, acknowledging the natural headship of man, would avoid even the appearance of dictation or usurping of authority; and if there be a man present who can and will relieve her of the responsibility of so prominent a position, her natural modesty should decline the undertaking. The "silence" or quietness enjoined by the Apostle in the above text, is not to be understood in an absolute sense, but rather in that relative sense which would harmonize with his admission of woman's right to pray, or prophesy, or explain the truth, as they evidently did in the apostles' days, when they had ability and opportunity. In 1 Thes. 4:10,11 the Apostle similarly exhorts the brethren to quietness saying, "We beseech you, brethren,...that ye study to be quiet and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we commanded you." The same word is also used in 1 Tim. 2:2.
The expression of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 14:34,35, we need to remember, was addressed to a class of Greek converts to Christianity whose habits were altogether different from the civilization of to-day, as well as from those of the Hebrew and Roman civilizations of that day. While Greece was the center of learning in its day, the women of Greece were very degraded and ignorant, so that it was necessary to speak to some of them with a degree of force which the Apostle never used in speaking to either Hebrew or Roman Christian women. From this epistle, we see that the Church at Corinth was in a very disorderly condition, and that their assemblies were often confused and unprofitable. The Apostle, in this chapter, is laying down some very necessary rules and [R1550 : page 205] regulations, so that all things might be done "decently and in order" (verse 40); and the disorderly women as well as men (verses 28,30,33; chap. 11:17-22,31-34; 6:5-11; 5:1-13; 3:1-3) came in for their share of the needed reproof. It was a shame for those women to speak in the Church, first, because any publicity of their women was so regarded there and then; and, secondly, because they were unfitted to do so intelligently, and so it was better that they should listen in silence at the meetings of the Church, and inquire further of their husbands [literally, men] at home. To force the application of this instruction upon the whole Church during the entire age, would do violence to the general tenor of Scripture teaching with reference to woman's sphere of action and responsibility of service as man's worthy and suitable help-mate, which the Lord pronounced her to be. As well might we bind upon the entire Church the obligations of literally washing one another's feet and greeting one another with a holy kiss, which are repeatedly enjoined (See Rom. 16:15,16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thes. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14), but which we instinctively recognize in spirit, but not in letter; the courtesies and civilities of our times being somewhat different from the customs of that day, although equally hospitable.
In order that all may see clearly the conditions which necessitated the Apostle's seemingly harsh language to the women of the Corinthian Church, we make a few brief quotations from noted authors, showing the state of society in Corinth, Ephesus and the principal cities of the Greek civilization of that time.
"In Athens we find two classes of women who were not slaves. There was one class who could scarcely move one step from their own rooms, and who were watched and restricted in every possible way. There was another class on whom no restrictions whatever were laid, who could move about and do whatever seemed good in their own eyes. The citizen women [the wives] had apartments assigned to them, generally in the upper story. They were forbidden to be present at any banquet. The men preferred to dine with themselves rather than expose their wives to their neighbor's gaze. Seemingly the education of girls was confined to the merest elements. It is scarcely possible to conceive that such a marvelous crop of remarkable men, renounced in literature and art, could have arisen if all the Athenian mothers were ordinary housewives. [But they were not: multitudes of the mothers were not wives, but were of the educated though dissolute class, above mentioned, who were granted every [R1551 : page 205] liberty.] But though there never was in the history of the world such a numerous race of great thinkers, poets, sculptors, painters and architects in one city at one time, as in Athens, not one virtuous Athenian woman ever attained the slightest distinction in any one department of literature, art or science.
"We pass from the citizen women [the wives] of Athens to the other class of free women—the strangers or courtesans. These stranger women could not marry. They might do any thing else they liked. The citizen women were confined to the house and did not dine with the men; but the men refused to limit their associations with women to the house. Accordingly they selected these stranger women as their companions; and 'Hetairai,' or companions, was the name by which the whole class was designated. The citizen women had to be mothers and wives, nothing more. The stranger women had to discharge the duties of companions, but to remain outside the pale of the marriageable class. They were the only educated women in Athens. Almost every one of the great men in Athens had such a companion, and these women seemed to have sympathized with them in their high imaginations and profound meditations.
"But the Athenian women, even the citizens, had no political standing. They were always minors. Such, however, was the force of character of these 'Hetairai,' or such their hold on powerful men, that not infrequently their sons were recognized (by special decree) as citizens. The names of virtuous wives are not to be found in history; but the influence of the 'Hetairai' comes more and more into play. They cultivated all the graces of life; they dressed with exquisite taste; they were witty. But it must not be forgotten that hundreds and thousands of these unprotected women were employed as the tools of the basest passions, seeking only, under the form of affection, to ruin men and send them in misery to an early grave."
Every statement here quoted from Prof. Donaldson is amply supported by citations from [R1551 : page 206] Greek authors in the writings of Prof. Becker, of Germany, who is quoted by all recent writers as unquestioned authority upon ancient Greek and Roman life. In his "Charicles," page 463, he says:—
"At this time, and in the very focus of civilization, the women were regarded as a lower order of beings; naturally prone to evil, and fitted only for propagating the species and gratifying the sensual appetites of man. There were no educational institutions for girls, nor any private teachers at home. They were excluded from intercourse, not only with strangers, but also with their own nearest relations, and they saw but little even of their fathers and husbands. The maidens, especially, lived in the greatest seclusion until their marriage, and, so to speak, regularly under lock and key." Page 287—"At Athens it was a thing unheard of for any free woman to make purchases in the market."
In a work on "Old Greek Education," by Prof. J. P. Mahaffy, of Trinity College, Dublin—page 11—he mentions the frequency with which children were exposed or left to die of starvation and neglect, and says:—
"We cannot really doubt that the exposing of new-born infants was not only sanctioned by the public feeling, but actually practiced throughout Greece. Plato practiced infanticide under certain circumstances in his ideal state. Nowhere does the agony of the mother's heart reach us through their literature, save where Socrates compares the anger of his pupils when first confuted out of their opinions, to the fury of a young mother deprived of her first infant. There is something horrible in the allusion, as if, in after life, Attic mothers became hardened to this kind of treatment. The exposing of female infants was not uncommon."
The bearing of this general condition of woman under the Greek civilization upon the language of the Apostle Paul to some of them, is still more clearly seen when we consider that Corinth was one of the worst of the Grecian cities. Prof. Becker says:—
"Corinth seems to have surpassed all other cities in the number of its Hetairai, to whom the wealth and splendor of the place, as well as the crowd of wealthy merchants, held out the prospects of a rich harvest."
From these observations it is clear that when Corinthian men became Christians, and, disregarding the prevailing public sentiment, brought their wives with them to meetings of the Church, the women were very ignorant and lacking in essential decorum and were inclined to disturb the meetings by asking unprofitable questions, which the Apostle instructed them to inquire of at home of their husbands, who could give them the simple instruction which they needed; for it was an improper thing for those women to speak in the Church and to disturb its proper, orderly worship, etc. We must remember, too, that Christianity then, as now, did not generally make its converts among the great men and philosophers, but among the poorer classes—the common people.
This condition of the Corinthian women also makes very clear the necessity of the Apostle's instructions in 1 Cor. 11, about the covering of the head, which among that people specially was an indication of modesty. To have suddenly disregarded the custom, when they began to see the liberty of the gospel, would have been misunderstood, and would probably have cultivated in them, in their ignorance, a disposition to ignore the headship of man, and to become self-conscious and self-assertive.
"The Roman housewife always appears as the mistress of the whole household economy, instructress of the children, guardian of the honor of the house, and equally esteemed with her husband, both in and out of the house. The women frequented public theaters, as well as the men, and took their places with them at public banquets."
The freedom of women in Hebrew society is so manifest from the Scriptures as to need no further proof. They freely conversed with the Lord and the apostles, and other male disciples, [R1551 : page 207] attended the meetings of the Church and Synagogues, and went about with entire freedom. Consequently, when Christianity took hold of them, it found them ready for Christian work without being hampered by the restraints of hereditary custom, which among other peoples must be measurably adhered to until a gradual reconstruction of public sentiment could be brought about, lest otherwise reproach be brought upon the cause of Christ.
"And Jehovah said, It is not good that the man should
be alone: I will make him a help suitable for him....
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl
of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam
there was not found a help suitable for him....And
the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made
he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam
said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.
She shall be called woman [ishah], because she was
taken out of man [ish]."—Gen. 2:18,20,22,23.
In pursuing our study of woman's appointed place in the divine economy of creation, we turn to the above brief account of her first introduction to the earth and to man; for the Apostle says, "the woman was created for the man." (1 Cor. 11:9.) As the account indicates, the object of woman's creation was that she might be a suitable help for man. That man needed just such a help is indicated, not only by the Lord's statement that it was "not good" for him to be "alone," but also by the statement that among all the animals there was none found to be "a suitable help." True, they were all in perfect subjection to him as their lord and master, and perfectly obedient in rendering all the service required. Many of them were strong to bear his burdens, some fleet to run his errands; some gratified his love of the beautiful in form and proportions, and some in plumage; some charmed his ear with strains of music; and all manifested more or less of intelligence and affection; yet in all there was a lack. The perfect man did not crave a burden-bearer, nor an errand-runner, nor a gay butterfly to please the sight, nor a charming musician: what he craved was an intelligent sympathetic companion; and this lack, the "suitable help," which God subsequently provided, exactly supplied.
When God had created her and brought her to the man, Adam named her woman. That the word was not used to specially indicate the power of motherhood, is manifest from the fact that when God said that she should become a mother, Adam changed her name to Eve, because she was to be the mother of all living. (Gen. 3:20.) We also read (Gen. 5:2) that [R1552 : page 207] "God called their name Adam in the day when they were created." Thus both God and the man recognized this new creature as of the same nature as the man, and yet differing from him both physically and intellectually. She was not another man, but another human being, the counterpart of the man, and therefore a suitable helper for him.
She was a help in that she was a companion for him. Before she came, Adam, though surrounded by a host of the lower animals, was "alone," and in need of the help of companionship which they could not supply. That the help needed was not merely in the work of propagating the species is clear, from the fact that she was recognized and accepted as the suitable and desired help from the very beginning, and before the propagating of the race was mentioned—which did not begin until after the fall. This was a merciful providence, in order that, as Paul shows, every member of the race might share the blessings of redemption through Christ.—Rom. 5:12; 11:32,33.
We thus see that man found in the woman an intellectual companion, one capable of sharing and appreciating all his joys (he had no sorrows) and of participating with him in all his interests. Had she come short of such capacity she would not have been a suitable companion or help, and Adam would still have been to some extent alone. As the sons and daughters of men have multiplied, the same characteristics as in the beginning continue to distinguish the two sexes, with the exception that both have suffered from the fall; hence the two sexes still stand similarly related to each other—man the "head" of the earthly creation, and woman a "suitable help" for him. And this, as the Apostle shows (1 Cor. 11:3), is regardless of the marriage relation. Man, in the image and glory of God, was created the [R1552 : page 208] sovereign of the earth; and woman, "the glory of man" in all the natural relationships of life, but especially that of wifehood, is his worthy companion and joint heir, his queen. And in this sense, God gave to them both, originally, the earthly dominion—over the fish, fowl, beasts of the field, etc.—Gen. 1:27,28; Psa. 8:6-8.
It is therefore fitting that this natural relationship of the sexes should always be observed; that woman should remember that she is not the head, the chief, the leader, in the world's affairs, though there is ample scope for the use of all her powers under a proper and generous exercise of the headship of man. And it is equally necessary and proper that man should fully recognize, appreciate and accept of the help which woman is capable of rendering in all the affairs of life where such capability is manifest. If God has given to her talents, they were given her for cultivation and use, in order that she might be a more efficient help for man; and it would not be right, nor can man afford, to refuse such help and seek to dwarf such talents. Let the "help" help as much as possible, even though in the present imperfect condition, as is sometimes the case, the help may outstrip the head in ability, either natural or acquired. So long as the woman's work is done in a modest, womanly way—with no disposition to lord it over the divinely appointed head or king of earth—let her do with her might what her hands find to do.
As a general thing, however, woman's special helpfulness is in the sphere to which her special work of necessity usually confines her—as wife, mother, sister, friend—in the home, the schoolroom, and in the duties which naturally fall to her in religious and in social life, and occasionally in business life. Let woman bring into all these relationships her highest moral and intellectual attainments, the finest touches of art, and the most noble physique which nature and cultivation can give, and she will the most truly answer the ends of her existence as a worthy and suitable help to earth's intended king—man. True, man and woman have lost the dominion of the earth originally bestowed upon them as king and joint-heir; but still, though under the burden of the curse, woman can be a help, meet for man, in the struggle upward toward perfection; and no true man will despise such helpfulness when tendered in a spirit of sisterly interest.
Having seen that the natural attitude of women in general to men in general is that of suitable helps, and not of heads, let us now consider the Scriptural position respecting woman as a wife. In alas too many cases, this, the dearest relationship of earth, is degraded to a domestic slavery. And the slave-holding tyrants too often pervert or misinterpret the teachings of the apostles to the support of their course—some unwittingly. It is therefore our purpose to examine such scriptures as are frequently urged in the interest of domestic tyranny and in the dwarfing and degrading of woman in her noblest sphere on the natural plane,—as a true wife.
We are free to assert in the outstart that the Scriptures, rightly interpreted, teach no such thing; and one of the best evidences that they do not, is seen in the fact that the Lord has chosen this relationship as a type of the relationship between himself and the glorified Church—a consummation so glorious, that it is held out as a prize to the faithful children of God all through the Gospel age; a prize worthy of the sacrifice of every temporal interest, even unto death. The type of such a relationship ought, indeed, in some sense, to manifest that coming glory.
We have already seen that in the relationship of head and body, to which the Apostle compares husband and wife, and which is gloriously illustrated in the relationship of Jehovah to Christ Jesus, and between our Lord Jesus and the Church, there is nothing incompatible with "the glorious liberty of the sons of God," and hence that the other headship of man over woman, rightly exercised, is likewise compatible with a similarly glorious liberty.
We have also seen that the headship of man is not designed to debar woman from the privilege and duty of making the fullest use of her talents as a wise stewardess in the service of the [R1552 : page 209] Lord; but rather to increase her usefulness by putting her powers and energies in co-operation with a still stronger power.
As an illustration of the apostolic teaching presumed to imply a servile subjection of the wife to the husband, we are sometimes referred to Eph. 5:22-24—"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; he is the preserver of the body. Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in every thing."
If the office of the head inheres in men in general, and should be observed by women in general, the argument gathers force in the special relationship of husband and wife; for the reverence which woman naturally feels for the opposite sex, ought indeed to be intensified in the case of the man she has accepted as her husband. The manner in which the wife is counselled to submit herself to her husband is clearly set forth by the Apostle to be—"as the Church is subject unto Christ." It behooves us, therefore, to note just how the Church is subject unto Christ. We see that the subjection of the Church to Christ is a willing subjection, and that it is inspired by love, veneration, gratitude and implicit confidence and trust in the Lord's love and care for us, and in his superior wisdom to do better for us than we could do for ourselves. And so perfectly did the Apostle himself take this attitude toward Christ, that it was his effort, he said, to bring every thought into subjection to him. (2 Cor. 10:5.) That such an attitude on the part of the wife toward her earthly head is not always possible, he also admits, when he says to the husbands (Eph. 5:33), "Let each one of you, individually, so love his own wife as himself, in order that [hina, so rendered in Eph. 3:10, Diaglott] the wife may reverence her husband."
Only true love and true nobility of character can command such reverence; otherwise it would be impossible for the wife to submit herself to her husband as the Church is subject unto Christ. Nor would it be right either to reverence or to submit to that which is ignoble and unholy. But both the reverence and the submission are possible, as well as natural, notwithstanding the fallibility of the earthly head, where there is that nobility of character on the part of the man which, humbly acknowledging its fallibility, is amenable to the voice of God in the Scriptures, and to reason.
It will be noticed, further, in the apostolic counsel to husbands (verses 25-29), that the stated object of Christ's supervision of the Church, and of her submission to him, is not the clipping of her spiritual or intellectual opinions, nor the dwarfing or degrading of her powers, nor to attain any ignoble or selfish ends; but, on the contrary, it is for the more complete sanctification and cleansing of the Church with the washing of water by the Word, that she might be holy and without blemish, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. And this disposition on the part of Christ toward the Church is made manifest to her by the self-sacrificing spirit of him who loved the Church and gave himself for it. And, says the Apostle, "So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies," that thus they may command the reverence and loving submission of the wife, "in every thing"—not, of course, in every thing unholy, impure and selfish, but in every thing tending to holiness and purity and that true nobility of character whose principles are set forth in the Word of God. We have a very marked example of the Lord's displeasure against the improper submission of a wife to a husband, in the case of Sapphira, the wife of Ananias.—Acts 5:7-10.
It would indeed be a blessed and happy condition of affairs if all the husbands and all the wives were students of the example of Christ [R1553 : page 209] and the Church; but the lamentable fact remains that but few apply their hearts unto the instruction here furnished; and many husbands, forgetting to observe Paul's instructions to follow the model, imagine they have a right to arbitrary and selfish authority, against which the wives feel a righteous indignation and an opposition which is far from submission; and, failing to understand the Scriptures on the subject, they claim and think that the Bible teaches domestic tyranny and slavery; and thus the way is paved to doubt and infidelity.
But what shall I do? says the Christian wife whose husband is not guided by Christian principles, except to the extent of claiming his presumed right to rule in selfishness. Well that would depend on circumstances: it would have been better if in your youth you had remembered the Apostle's counsel to marry only in the Lord; and you must now pay some penalty for your error. But in the first place you should remember not to violate conscience in order to please any one; for Peter says, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29; 4:19,20.) But where conscience does not interpose its dictum, the Apostle gives to such wives the same counsel that he gives to servants who have unreasonable masters. (1 Pet. 2:18-23; 3:1,2.) To the servants he says, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear [i.e., with caution, lest you offend]; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward;" this because it is better to suffer wrongfully than to be contentious, even for our rights. "For this is well-pleasing, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully; for what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults ye shall take it patiently? But if when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." Then he points to the example of Christ in carrying out the same principle, saying (verse 21), "For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also died for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow his steps;" and "the servant is not above his Lord." (Matt. 10:24.) Then he adds, "Likewise, ye wives [ye who have froward husbands], be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the Word, they may without the Word be won by the conduct of the wives, while they behold your chaste conduct coupled with fear [with carefulness to avoid giving offence]"—thus manifesting a spirit of loving forbearance, rather than of contention.
And while the wife is here specially counselled to imitate Christ's humility, the husband is urged to imitate Christ's generosity—"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [your wives] according to knowledge [wisely and generously], giving honor unto the wife [taking pleasure in her progress and in all her noble attainments and achievements], as unto the weaker vessel [using your strength for her support and encouragement, and not for her oppression], and as being heirs together of the grace [the favors and blessings] of life."
The same spirit of submission, rather than of contention, is likewise enjoined upon the whole Church in its relationship to the civil ordinances of men. Thus Peter says, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake"—i.e., so that his spirit or disposition may be manifest in you—"For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." (1 Pet. 2:13-17.) And Paul says, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers," etc. (Rom. 13:1,5); and to Titus (3:1) he writes: "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work."
This duty of submission (specially enjoined upon the wife in the domestic relation) is also enjoined upon the whole Church individually, in their relationship one to another. Thus the Apostle Peter says, "The elders which are among you I exhort:...Feed the flock of God. ...Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock [ensamples of humility, brotherly love, patience and faithfulness]. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."—1 Pet. 5:1-6; Eph. 5:21.
Doubtless if there were one perfect man in the Church the counsel to the remainder of its membership would be to submit to his leading and instruction. But, instead of an infallible man in the Church, we have the infallible written Word, by which we are each and all counselled to prove all things. And, therefore, the first duty of submission is to the written Word, and afterward to each other in that secondary sense which first proves all things by the Word; and lastly in the sense that our [R1553 : page 211] manner and language should be tempered with moderation and brotherly and sisterly kindness and candor, that this spirit of submission or humility might always be manifest in all.
In a similar, but in a stronger sense, the Apostle presents the duty of submission on the part of the wife in the domestic relation. It is a submission which savors of love, reverence, trust and humility; and which is also compatible with "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21), which always exists wherever the spirit of the Lord is (2 Cor. 3:17), and in which the Apostle Paul urges us to "stand fast."—Gal. 5:1.
We are referred by Peter to Sarah, Abraham's wife, as a proper example of a wife's submission. But notice that, while she did reverence Abraham, as indicated by her calling him lord (Gen. 18:12), and while she, no doubt cheerfully, left her native land and friends and, in obedience to the command of God to her husband, accompanied him in his sojournings to the land of promise, with him walking by faith, we see that her submission was not a blind submission which refrained from expressing a thought which differed from Abraham's; nor was there anything in Abraham's conduct toward her which indicated such expectation on his part. She was evidently a thinking woman: she believed the promise of God that they should have a son through whom the blessing of the world should come; and when nature seemed to fail she suggested a way in which the promise might be fulfilled. And when Hagar became boastful and despised her mistress, she complained to Abraham and claimed that the fault was partly his. She wanted no division of his heart with her servant. Abraham's reply assured her that there was no such division, that her maid was still under her control. And her subsequent course with Hagar was a discipline to correct her boastfulness and improper attitude toward her mistress. And when Hagar fled from her, the angel of the Lord met her and told her to return and submit herself to her mistress, which she did, and was evidently received and restored by Sarah.—Gen. 16.
On another occasion, after Isaac was born and the two boys were growing up together, the rivalry of Hagar again cropped out in Ishmael, who persecuted Isaac, Sarah's son. (Gen. 21:9; Gal. 4:29.) And again Sarah was grieved and appealed to Abraham to cast out the bond woman and her son; for she feared Abraham would make him heir with her son, which would not have been in accordance with the promise of God. (Gen. 21:10-12; 15:4; 17:17-19.) This, Abraham was not inclined to do, and as Sarah urged her claim, we read that "the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son," Ishmael, until God indicated his will in the matter.
This is further shown in this case to which Peter refers us for example, saying (to those who are similarly subject. to their husbands) "whose daughters ye are, doing good, and not fearing any terror"—any evil results. (1 Pet. 3:6.) The submission counselled by the apostles is a reasonable submission, compatible with a moderate, modest expression of the wife's sentiments and a proper consideration of the same by the husband, as in the case of faithful Abraham, who was by no means led about by the whims of a foolish wife, but who, in a reasonable consideration of his wife's sentiments and trials, waited to know the will of the Lord before granting her wishes.
From the above considerations it is obvious that the human relationship of husband and wife, which the Lord points out as an illustration of the beautiful relationship of Himself and the Church, is by no means an occasion for the exhibition of either tyranny or servility on the part of either party. And wherever such conditions do exist, they are out of the divine order. The Lord set his seal of approval upon marriage when he instituted the relationship and blessed the union of the first pair in Eden; and when, as king and queen—head and help-mate—he made them joint-inheritors of the earthly dominion (Gen. 1:27,28); and later, when he commanded children to honor and obey both parents.—Exod. 20:12; Eph. 6:1,2.
The curse of sin has rested heavily upon woman, as well as upon man; but the Christian man who would seek to bind the curse upon his wife, instead of endeavoring to lighten it and to help her bear it, sadly lacks the spirit of [R1553 : page 212] the heavenly Bridegroom. And so also the Christian wife: if she in selfishness demands of her husband an undue measure of the sweat of face entailed by the curse, instead of seeking to lighten his toil and share his cares, she sadly lacks that spirit which characterizes the true bride of Christ. It was sin that entailed the curse upon our race; but, as we strive against sin and aspire toward righteousness and God-likeness, we mitigate the evils of the curse for each other. And, thank God, the time is now fast approaching when "there shall be no more curse," and when, "the throne of God and of the Lamb" being established in the earth, the spirit of love, [R1554 : page 212] so beautifully exemplified between Christ and the exalted Church, will be gloriously reproduced on the earthly plane also; when, the curse being entirely lifted, woman will find her natural and honored position at the side of her noble husband, as his worthy helper and companion—"the glory of the man," as Paul describes her, and an "heir together with him of the grace of life," as he also appoints her, and as beautifully foreshown in the typical restitution of Job (Job 42:15), when he gave his daughters inheritance among their brethren.
In conclusion, then, the marriage relationship is an honorable and blessed one when viewed in the Scriptural light; yet it is one of the earthly blessings which the Apostle shows the saints are privileged to forego in many cases for the still higher privilege of serving the interests of the coming kingdom of God without distraction. (1 Cor. 7:32-35.) And when the sacrificing Church beholds the King in his beauty, and is recognized by him as his worthy bride and joint-heir, the blessedness of that companionship will have in it no savor of either tyranny or servility, but, instead, a blessed harmony of love and appreciation which will be ineffable bliss.