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“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church at Cenchrea. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us.” — Rom. 16: 1, 3, 6.
In the early Christian church the piety of females was a very efficient piety. They were as active, as successful, and as important in spiritual labors as were men. Though they labored in a somewhat different sphere, as nature would dictate, they accomplished not less for the cause of Christ, and were esteemed and honored not less as Christ's friends and helpers. Observe, it was not the mere amiable, silent, negative piety which the apostle commends in these three females. Phebe is called a “servant” (a deaconess, as it is in the Greek) “ of the church.” Priscilla is called a “helper in Christ Jesus.” Of Mary it is said, she “bestowed much labor on us." And there is much similar language applied to Christian women throughout the New Testament and the history of the church in the first centuries.
We go farther, and affirm that in the succeeding ages of the church militant the Saviour designed and expected that the active piety and real usefulness of woman should fully equal if not outweigh that of
If to man was given the more public duties and external and commanding agencies, to woman was given as a full offset the greater real influence. As cultivation increases, and taste develops in the world, the winning graces of woman will prove an overmatch for man's rougher strength. Delilah is stronger than Samson, and Isaac, though religiously educated, will not be safe with one of the daughters of Heth for his wife. The mothers of heroes have generally made them heroic.
Moreover, woman is more susceptible to religious truth and attainment than man, both by her nature and her position in life. Hence their greater numbers, and, shall we say, higher devotion in the churches.
What an argument is here presented for the encouragement of the female portion of the churches to usefulness and earnest Christian life! What fields are open in this age for their peculiar personal influence ! Shall they even seem to live for outward adorning and vain show?
What has not Christianity done for them, and who are more indebted to Christ than they ?
“Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall
be lent to the Lord.” — 1 Sam. 1: 28.
SAMUEL is one of the best and greatest men presented to us in history. And what he was is to be attributed, under God, to his mother's wise piety.
1. His goodness and greatness are indisputable. He was not so showy in character and deeds as many. But he possessed that firm, even, and uniform goodness which could not fail to make him wonderfully great both with God and men. Throughout his youth and his long life of responsibility and unceasing, trying toil, he steadily grew in favor with God, and in restraining power over Israel. And this, too, in a very corrupt age, and surrounded by the worst influences. The people never forsook him. It was only when they saw that he was growing old, and that his sons walked not in his ways, that they asked for a king. While he lived, Saul was only second to Samuel in influence and esteem. Surrounding nations recognized his greatness. It is recorded that “the Philistines were subdued so that they came no more into the coast of Israel ; and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.”
2. The goodness and greatness of Samuel is due instrumentally to the piety and fidelity of his mother. She believingly dedicated him to God and his service; she carefully educated and restrained him in early life; she sought not an ambitious place of business for him, but separating him from gay and wicked associates, placed him in the tabernacle ; and retained her pious influence over him, for it is said, “ his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” In these ways are mothers still making and moulding ministers, missionaries, and able laborers for the church. Samuel's father was a praying man, but his religious influence at home was doubtless neutralized by that life-mistake which he made in marrying a second wife during the lifetime of the first, contrary to the original institution, bringing perpetual strife into the family, as in the case of Abraham and Isaac. But the sore trials thereby brought upon Hannah were the means of developing the deepest piety.
Let it be asked, why may not mothers now have the same success with their children? Hannah bad not one advantage or one promise or encouragement more than mothers at the present day; while it be would hard to find greater obstacles than she had to overcome.
Does any mother reply, “Samuel was naturally good, and not like my boys ?”
It is a great mistake. Samuel had an evil heart like all children, and an uncommonly strong will and high courage and mettle. Witness the grasp which he so long held upon wayward Israel ; see with what severity he could rebuke Saul; and how he could hew Agag in pieces with his own hand.
What Hannah did, any wise and praying mother may do.
Day's Revival Sermons. By Rev. Norris Day. Vol. I. pp. 388.
Boston : Bradley, Dayton & Company. 1860.
We have paid some attention to this volume, because it is a representative book. Its title indicates its origin, sphere, and constituency. It has a marked excellence in its simplicity of style. The dullest reader can be at no loss as to the author's meaning. This simplicity is also accompanied with great directness of expression, which amounts at times to bluntness and even harshness. As thus, on the duty of forgiving if we would be forgiven:
" Says God: I will not hear until you forgive. But what shall I do? says one; I cannot give up praying, and I cannot forgive. You may as well give up praying as to pray. God will not hear you, and he will not save you, unless you forgive. Some seem to think they can bring God over by teazing him for a season. My brother, you mistake your Maker. His terms are like himself, unchangeable. He would sooner let the whole world go to hell than change them in the least.” p. 195. At the same time there is a straightforward, personal, practical drift that we admire, and wish were more common in the pulpit. The ser. mons lack finish, and grace of expression, which could well be added without detracting from their power. A few phrases will show this point. After speaking of Nebuchadnezzar, Mr. Day says: " It would
“ probably be a blessing to this nation if God should turn out to grass,
not only seven years, but during life, some of its lordly legislators,” &c. p. 326. And of God's infinite power : “ With one glance of his eye he can look them all into eternity.” p. 318.
The treatment of these great truths, and specially where God is introduced, is much wanting in reverence. Herein the volume is characteristic and indexical of the class to whieh the author belongs. We cite an illustration here and there. Speaking of the angel at the tomb of our Lord :
“ He just rolls back the stone, takes his seat upon it, barely casts a look upon these armed fellows, and they fall like dead men at his feet.” p. 183. “God knows what he means by the phraseology he has used to express his ideas; and he is competent to define for himself.” p. 198. 6 God is an honest God.” p. 199. “ Now, says God, lean upon and glorify the minister, if you will; but the people will go to hell, and I will hold you accountable.” p. 237. “Will he [God] neglect his duty to the universe ? No, never! He knows his duty too well,” &c. p. 323. “ Says one, I want forgiveness at the hand of my Maker. Very well, says God; when ye stand praying, forgive them, and then I will forgive you." p. 193. With the rough and unlearned such familiar and colloquial and offhand references to God may have some effect, but not for reverence or solemnity.
The clearness, frankness and boldness with which the truth is stated are to be much commended, yet even these excellences are overwrought, and the sermons show a great lack of tenderness, gentleness, and sympathy. Here we identify the author, the preacher, and the itinerant school. There is a coldness and a sternness toward the sinner, and almost an indifference to his fate. Severe and frigid and unfeeling remarks and allusions are made, as if scolding were a means of grace. We quote but two examples :
God “must not dispense his blessings so as to sanction our wickedness, and he will not, if we all go to bell.” p. 186. Says one, “I cannot forgive certain individuals.' Very well, if that is true, your doom is fixed for eternity. You are lost in that case, irrecoverably lost. God declares he will not forgive, unless you forgive others, and of course you must go to hell.”
The theology of the sermons is of the Oberlin and improved school. It places sin in action alone, and not at all in possessing any dormant passions and propensities to sin (p. 274). It makes the prayer of faith to consist in the certainty of obtaining the very thing we pray for, instead of faith or trust in God to grant such answer as he sees fit. In ridiculing the truth, as we think, our author at the same time thus gives his view of the prayer of faith :
“Well, if that is all there is to be seen after praying here seven times, we may as well give it up; it will not amount to much. This undertaking to force things, says he, [Elijah,] is not the correct course. I believe in waiting God's time. What! we undertake to get up a storm any time we take it into our heads we need rain ? I do not believe in such things. God will send us rain in his own good time. Come, he remarks to his servant, let us go down and wait, and let God manage this matter. Was this the reasoning of Elijah ? Not by any means. He expected a blessing. He looked for an answer to his prayers, and he knew it would come.” p. 208.
In the same way the doctrine and spirit of the volume deny discretionary power to God to pour out the Spirit, when men insist on “ getting up a revival.”
Regeneration is effected under the motive-power alone of truth. Little depth or scope is given to the idea of a new creation. Conversion is mainly a resolution of the individual. There is no recognition of sovereign and efficacious and certain grace, beyond the presentation of truth. Its moral force, and not any divine creating power, is
new creature” is God's “ workmanship” more than man's, only as the Spirit is the more effectual preacher in urging the truth. Where this theory of conversion by resolution is preached, inefficient professors and the falling away of converts should not surprise us. The human element is too prominent to insure perseverance and activity in the supposed new life. The eighth and ninth sermons, which are on man's moral agency and God's moral government, show a laboring anxiety lest God should regenerate a man against his will, or make him “ willing in the day of his power,” and “compel” him to come in. A fair sermon on the text, “Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” is needed to stand between these two, compelling their adaptation to the teachings of the Scriptures about regeneration.
The sermons as a whole show a want of completeness. Truth does not fit to truth, even where they are free from essential errors. Nor are they full-orbed, like occasional sermons. They are fragments or parts. But as they are, they are truthful, and so profitable, representations of the labors of a professed “revivalist.” They sustain the same relations to the sermons of a settled minister that the work of a “ revivalist” does to the proper work of the ministry. They want the relations and proportions and adaptations of such sermons as a good pastor writes, who has the responsibilities of sowing and reaping and separating the tares from the wheat, from year to year, in the same field. A reading of them increases our doubts as to the utility of such labors. The sermons lack a wholeness of scope in the points of which