From Woman and the Republic by Helen Kendrick Johnson. This edition originally published in 1913.
The etext has been reformatted, redesigned and hyperlinked to add to its usefulness as a research document.
This version: Copyright © 2000 Jone Johnson Lewis. All Rights Reserved.
WOMAN SUFFRAGE AND THE CHURCH.
The eighth count in the Suffrage indictment reads: "He allows her in Church, as well as in State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church."
More than thirty years later than this, Mrs. Stanton, Miss Anthony ,and Mrs. Gage wrote in the preface to their "History of Woman Suffrage:" "American men may quiet their consciences with the delusion that no such injustice exists in this country as in Eastern nations. Though, with the general improvement in our institutions, woman's condition must inevitably have improved also, yet the same principle that degrades her in Turkey insults her here. Custom forbids a woman there to enter a mosque, or call the hour for prayers; here it forbids her a voice in Church councils or State legislatures. ... The Church, too, took alarm, knowing that with the freedom and education acquired in becoming a component part of the Government, woman would not only outgrow the power of the priesthood, and religious superstitions, but would also invade the pulpit, interpret the Bible anew from her own standpoint, and claim an equal voice in al ecclesiastical councils. With fierce warnings and denunciations from the pulpit, and false interpretations of Scripture, women have been intimidated and misled, and their religious feelings have been played upon for their more complete subjugation. While the general principles of the Bible are in favor of the most enlarged freedom and equality of the race, isolated texts have been used to block the wheels of progress in all periods; thus bigots have defended capital punishment, intemperance, slavery, polygamy, and the subjection of woman. The creeds of all nations make obedience to man the corner-stone of her religious character. Fortunately, however, more liberal minds are now giving us higher and purer expositions of the Scriptures."
It is fifteen years since these statements were made, and we have now the first instalment of "the Bible interpreted anew from her own standpoint," which presumably issues, in their view, from more liberal minds, and is higher and purer than the old one. In the Introduction to that Suffrage Woman's Bible (which is as yet only a commentary on the Pentateuch), Mrs. Stanton says: "From the inauguration of the movement for woman's emancipation the Bible has been used to hold her in her divinely appointed sphere prescribed by the Old and New Testaments. The canon and civil law, Church and State, priests and legislators, all political parties and religious denominations, have alike taught that woman was made after man, of man, and for man,-an inferior being, subject to man. Creeds, codes, Scriptures, and statutes are all based on this idea. The fashions, forms, ceremonies, and customs of society, church ordinances, and discipline, all grow out of this idea. ... So perverted is the religious element in her nature, that which faith and works she is the chief support of the Church and Clergy,-the very powers that make her emancipation impossible."
I know that many believers in Suffrage are also believers in the Bible and in denominational Christianity. Mrs. Helen Montgomery says, in the Woman's edition of the Rochester "Post-Express," that one reason for her favorable consideration of it is, that "Two-thirds of the membership of the Christian church cannot express their conviction at the polls, since women may not vote." "Much of the callousness of politicians to church opinion," she adds, "comes from the knowledge that that opinion is backed by few votes." I also know that many of those who disbelieve in Suffrage may also disbelieve in the Bible, the clergy, and the Church. I further recognize the fact that the church and religion are not synonymous terms. I have no attacks to make, and no special pleading to do. I am discussing the question of Suffrage as I find it in the writing and the speech of its proposers and its present conspicuous advocates. Each American woman has this mighty problem before her, and she must settle it according to her own conscience and best enlightenment.
Mrs. Stanton admits with shame that woman is one of the chief supporters of the Church. Mrs. Montgomery says with delight that she forms two-thirds of the Christian Church. Individual members of Suffrage organizations may be in sympathy with Christianity, or against it; but the movement itself cannot be on both sides of this question. What is its record? I will endeavor to trace it, and will them, as best I may, attempt to say a few words upon the general subject of the "subordination of woman."
In the course of the first clause of their accusation, the women say: "Claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry." In view of the fact that Paul frequently alludes to the teaching and ministrations of women, it has come to be generally thought among Christian Scholars, I believe, that this injunction that they "keep silence in the churches," referred to the propriety of their conduct in the moral,-or rather the immoral,-atmosphere by which the Church at Corinth was surrounded. This seems reasonable, because it may be observed that, in writing to Timothy, who was in Macedonia, to Titus, who was in Crete, and to the Church at Ephesus, while he repeats his general injunctions of woman's submission to man, and especially to her husband, he says nothing relative to her public work in the church. But if Paul had been writing to the church in New England, in 1634, and in New York in 1774, his injunction to silence might well have been applied to the first woman preachers to whom Americans were called upon to listen. When Anne Hutchinson, in Boston, preached that "the power of the Holy Spirit dwelleth perfectly in every believer, and the inward revelations of her own spirit, and the conscious judgment of her own mind are of authority paramount to any word of God," she shook the young colony to its foundation, as no man had shaken it. The militia that had been ordered to the Pequot war refused to march, because she had proclaimed their chaplain to be "under a covenant of works, and not under a covenant of grace." Her influence, and not her ballot, if she had one, threatened anarchy in the state, and caused a schism in the church such as might have crushed out the life from the infant body to which Paul was writing.
In 1774 appeared the next public woman preacher, Ann Lee. She proclaimed that God was revealed a dual being, male and female, to the Jews; that Jesus revealed to the world God as a Father; and that she,-Ann Lee, "Mother Ann,"-was God's revelation of the Mother, "the bearing spirit of the creation of God." She founded the sect of Shakers, whose main articles of belief, besides the one above mentioned, were: community of goods; non-resistance to force, even in self-defence; the sinfulness of all human authority, and consequently the sinfulness of participation in any form of government; absolute separation of the sexes, and consequently no marriage institution. Her mission as "the Christ of the Second Appearing," began with her announcement of God's wrath upon all marriage, and the public renunciation of her own. In New York, as in New England, her proclamations against government and war tended directly to anarchy, and in the momentous year 1776 she was for that reason imprisoned in Poughkeepsie, whence she was released by Governor Clinton's pardon.
The next pulpitless preacher, in the succession we are considering, appeared in this country in 1828. Her name was Frances Wright. She was a person of totally different mind and methods from Anne Hutchinson and Ann Lee. She was professedly an enemy of religion. Anne Hutchinson attacked church and state in the name of Christian human perfection. Ann Lee attached church and state in the name of woman; she preached communism and separation of the sexes in the name of Christ; she taught the abolition of marriage. Frances Wright preached communism and sex license in the name of irreligion. In opening the columns of the "Free Inquirer" to discussion, in New York, in 1828, she said: "Religion is true-and in that case the conviction of its truth should dictate every human word and govern every sublunary action,-or it is a deception. If it is a deception, it is not useless only, it is mischievous; it is mischievous by its idle terrors; it is mischievous by its false morality; it is mischievous by its hypocrisy; by its fanaticism; by its dogmatism; by its threats; by its hopes; by its promises; and last, though not least, by its waste of public time and public money." While deciding that it was a deception, she revealed the evil results to which abandonment of all faith can lead a woman with a clever brain and a fearless tongue. She constantly denounced religion as the source of all injustice and bigotry and of the "enslavement of women."
The editors of the "Suffrage History" say: "As early as 1828 the standard of the Christian party in politics was openly unfurled. Frances Wright had long been aware of its insidious efforts, and its reliance upon women for its support. Ignorant, superstitious, devout, woman's general lack of education made her a fitting instrument for the work of thus undermining the republic. Having deprived her of her just rights, the country was now to find in woman its most dangerous foe. Frances Wright lectured that winter in the large cities of the western and middle States, striving to rouse the nation to the new danger which threatened it. The clergy at once became her most bitter opponents. The cry of infidel was started on every side, though her work was of vital importance to the country and undertaken from the purest philanthropy."
It was high time that a Christian and a non-Christian party in politics should unfurl a banner; for to the dauntless courage of the land from which she came-Scotland-she added the polished manner of the country from which came D'Arusmont, the husband from whom she was soon parted. To the zeal of the Covenanter, the moral blackness of the infidel, and the political creed of the Commune, she united the doctrine of Free Love. As she set these forth with blandishments of speech and manner, the country did indeed find in this woman a most dangerous foe. When "Fanny Wright societies" sprang up in New York and the West, horror might well be felt by lovers of the Republic.
Lucretia Mott was the next public preacher in this succession. Pure in personal character, lofty in spirit, winning in address, she took for her motto, "Truth for Authority, not Authority for Truth." As authority for that truth, she took Elias Hicks.
Dr. Jacobi, in "Common Sense," says: "The abolitionists were declared to have set aside the laws of God when they allowed women to speak in public: and, by a pastoral letter, the Congregational churches of Massachusetts were directed to defend themselves against heresy, by closing their doors to the innovators. The Methodists denounced the Garrisonian societies as no-government, no-Sabbath, no-church, no-Bible, no-marriage, women's rights societies." Not the Methodists alone, but the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Unitarians, the Universalists, and the Quakers so denounced that faction of them in which culminated many of the doctrines of Anne Hutchinson, Ann Lee, Frances Wright, and Lucretia Mott.
In an appeal to the women of New York, in 1860, signed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lydia Mott, Ernestine Rose, Martha C. Wright, and Susan B. Anthony, we read: "The religion of our day teaches that, in the most sacred relations of the race, the woman must ever be subject to the man; that in the husband centres all power and learning; that the difference in position between husband and wife is as vast as that between Christ and the Church; and woman struggles to hold the noble impulses of her nature in abeyance to opinions uttered by a Jewish teacher, which, alas! the mass believe to be the will of God."
In 1895, among the names of those responsible for the Suffrage Woman's Bible, we find three to which the title "Rev." is prefixed. The opening commentary on the first verses of Genesis, where the creation of man is described, says: "Instead of three male personages, as generally represented, a Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son would seem more rational. The first step in the elevation of woman to her true position, as an equal factor in human progress, is the cultivation of the religious sentiment in regard to her dignity and equality, the recognition by the rising generation of an ideal Heavenly Mother, to whom their prayers should be addressed, as well as to a Father." Here is Ann Lee's doctrine revived with a mocking suggestion that savors more of Frances Wright than of its poor, half-crazed author. The soul-sufficiency of Ann Hutchinson, the spiritual anarchy of Lucretia Mott, the infidelity and the veiled coarseness of Frances Wright, have all found fit setting in this commentary on the Pentateuch. I know that Miss Anthony repudiates the Suffrage Woman's Bible in the name of the Association of which she is President. It certainly does not represent the faith or the culture of the doctrines of many who belong to that body; but she cannot really repudiate if for herself or for them. It was promised in the History of which she is co-editor, it was foreshadowed in her circular quoted above, as well as in innumerable speeches of hers in convention. Those Christian and philanthropic bodies that have attached themselves to the Suffrage movement have this book to account for and with. Whatever they may personally decide to think or say of it, it is the consummate blossom of the spirit of the Suffrage movement, and the names it bears upon its title-page represent the varied classes that have worked for the political enfranchisement of woman. By the world outside it will so be dealt with.
Few movements have been started, especially among women, that did not professedly stand upon high moral and religious ground. Fourierism was superhuman in its intention,-in this country, at least. Free-thinking hopes to deliver the soul from the bondage of superstition in all religion. Mormonism was founded as "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Communism at Oneida wa professedly built upon the doctrine of human perfection in Christian love. The disaster to the soul is in proportion to the amount of perversion of a living faith. Every movement must be judged, not by what its advocates suppose themselves to believe, but by that which time proves they do believe.
But to return to the Suffrage charge. "American men may quiet their consciences with the delusion that no such injustice exits in this country as in Eastern nations. Though, with the general improvement in our institutions, woman's condition must inevitably have improved also, yet the same principle that degrades her in Turkey insults her here." American men may quiet their consciences, while striving to enlighten them further. The answer to Mohammedanism is Turkey. The answer to Christianity is America. Ceremonial uncleanness is absolutely unlike religious and social orderliness in the distribution of duties. How came there to be "general improvement in our institutions?" There has been no improvement in Turkey, in China, in India, or in Japan, except such as is creeping back from the Christendom of which these Suffragists speak with a sneer. Freedom and education have not been appreciably advanced by "woman's becoming a component part of the government" in any land. The lands where she has the most apparent governmental control are the ones that are least educated and least free among those of modern civilization.
The church is an ever-growing body, and its clergy hold widely differing beliefs. The Egyptian priesthood guarded the sacred mysteries and ruled the state. Through the utmost that natural religion can do for man, they had gleaned the secret of a Supreme Maker and Ruler of the universe. Moses, who was "learned in all their wisdom," led the first exiles across the sea to find "freedom to worship God," and from that day to this, the ministers of religion have stood as public guard over the mysteries of faith and, in the beginnings of each civilization, have ruled the state. Whenever they have forgotten the lesson that Moses taught, the lesson that Paul more clearly taught, that to God alone is any soul responsible, they have proved stumbling-blocks to progress. It is true that religious bigots, as Suffrage writers say, have "defended capital punishment, intemperance, slavery, polygamy, and the subjection of woman." But capital punishment is defended by many besides bigots. Intemperance funds not only its strongest but its most effective foes in the Christian ministry and the Christian church. Slavery in our country rent in twain several great religious bodies. James G. Birney says that "probably nine-tenths of the Abolitionists were church-members." With polygamy came woman's subjection and woman suffrage into our free States. And the bigots outside the Christian ministry and church must share the same condemnation with any who, professing freedom, have yet forgotten the injunction of the Bible and the Christ.
She would invade the pulpit." Invasion seems a strange word to use in regard to woman's entrance upon one of the highest of human duties. A pulpitless teacher she is and always has been. Missionary women have taught multitudes of beings. The Salvation lassie has no thought of invasion, or of self-exaltation, when she leads the service of a thousand souls; and I am not willing to believe that a single woman who has entered the regular ministry has any more. It is the spirit of Suffrage that looks upon woman's advance as an attack.
But times have changed, say Suffrage leaders. Mrs. Cornelia K. Hood, in her report of the King's county Suffrage work for 1895, says: "A circular letter was addressed to all the clergymen known to be friends, asking them that a sermon might be preached by them in favor of woman suffrage. The request met with a liberal response, and many able addresses were made on the Sunday morning set for that purpose." In her report of the Suffrage campaign in New York city in the winter of 1895-96, Dr. Jacobi says, speaking of the parlor meetings: "Several prominent clergymen joined us-Mr. Rainsford, the Rev, Arthur Brooks, Mr, Perey Grant, Mr. Eaton, Mr. Leighton Williams." In referring to the last regular meeting of the Country Suffrage Association held that winter in Cooper Union, she says: "The meeting was addressed by Samuel Gompers President of the Federation of Labor, by Dr. Peters, an Episcopal clergyman, by Father Ducey, the Catholic priest, Dr. Saunders, a Baptist minister, and Henry George, the advocate of single tax." In her address before the Constitutional Convention, she said: "The Church, which fifty years ago was a unit in denouncing the public work of woman-even for the slave-is now divided in its councils." The church never was a unit in denouncing the public work of woman, and much of her noblest public work has been done under its auspices. The behavior of suffrage women in slavery times caused scandal to church and state. The right of private judgment, claimed always by Protestant Christianity, has divided the clergy on all questions; and "a clergyman, a priest, and a minister" were as free to believe, and speak what they believed, on suffrage, as were Samuel Gompers, who lately offended the Labor organization by inviting two anarchists to address it, and Henry George, whose single-tax theories have lately turned law and order upside down in Delaware.
"Interpret the Bible anew from her own standpoint." The volume in which a beginning has been made in this work is a thick pamphlet bearing a motto from Cousin on one cover, and the picture of a piano as an advertisement on the other. It is with a profound sense of sadness and disgust that any woman who honors God and loves her own sex turns its pages. Behold the first dilemma in which the commentators find themselves involved. Mrs Stanton opens the comments on the Creation as follows: "In the great work of the creation, the crowning glory was realized when man and woman were evolved on the sixth day, the masculine and feminine forces in the image of God, that must have existed eternally, in all forms of matter and mind. ... How then is it possible to make woman and after thought?... All those theories based on the assumption that man was prior in the creation, have no foundation in Scripture. As to woman's subjection, on which both the canon and civil law delight to dwell, it is important to note that equal dominion is given to woman over every living thing, but not a word is said giving man dominion over woman. No lesson of woman's subjection can be fairly drawn from the first chapter of the Old Testament."
In commenting on the second account of the Creation, Ellen Battelle Dietrick says: "It is now generally conceded that some one (nobody pretends to know who) at some time (nobody pretends to know exactly when) copied two creation myths on the same leather roll, one immediately following the other. Modern theologians have, for convenience sake, entitled these two fables, respectively, the Elohistic and the Jahoistic stories. They differ not only in the point I have mentioned above, but in the order of the creative acts, in regard to the mutual attitude of man and woman, and in regard to human freedom from prohibitions imposed by deity. Now, it is manifest that both of these stories cannot be true; intelligent women who feel bound to give the preference to either, may decide according to their own judgment which is more worthy of an intelligent woman's acceptance. My own opinion is, that the second story was manipulated by some wily Jew, in an endeavor to give heavenly authority for requiring a woman to obey the man she married." Lillie Devereux Blake takes still another horn of the dilemma. She says: "In the detailed description of creation we find a gradually ascending series. Creeping things, great sea-monsters, every bird of wing, cattle and living things of the earth, the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens; then man, and, last and crowning glory of the whole, woman. It cannot be maintained that woman was inferior to man, even if, as asserted in chapter ii., she was created after him, without at once admitting that man is inferior to the creeping things because created after them."
These commentators, on the whole, agree that the first account of creation does not teach woman's subjection to man; that, although "some wily Jew" inserted the second account in an endeavor to give "heavenly authority for requiring a woman to obey the man she married," he has been outwitted after all, for the ascending series of creation really teaches the same lesson as the first account, and from it woman's inferiority cannot be maintained. And yet it would seem that she must be an "afterthought" if she is to be superior.
Mrs. Stanton, in summing up the concensus of opinion on a matter which is not of the slightest importance to any of them, except that they feel an interest, for the cause of Suffrage, in endeavoring to release woman from the long bondage of superstition, says: "The first account dignifies woman as an important factor in the creation, equal in power and glory with man. The second makes her a mere afterthought. The world in good running order without her, the only reason for her advent being the solitude of man. There is something sublime in bringing order out of chaos; light out of darkness; giving each planet its place in the solar system; oceans and lands their limits,-wholly inconsistent with petty surgical operation to find material for the mother of the race. It is in this allegory that all the enemies of woman rest their battering-rams, to prove her inferiority. Accepting the view that man was prior in the creation, some Scriptural writers say that, as the woman was of the man, therefore her position should be one of subjection. Grant it. Then, as the historical fact is reversed in our day, and the man is now of the woman, shall his place be one of subjection? The equal position declared in the first account must prove more satisfactory to both sexes; created alike in the image of God-the heavenly Mother and Father. Thus, the Old Testament, in the beginning, proclaims the simultaneous creation of man and woman, the eternity and equality of sex; and the New Testament echoes back through the centuries the individual sovereignty of woman growing out of this natural fact. Paul, in speaking of equality as the very soul and essence of Christianity, said, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. With this recognition of the feminine element in the Godhead in the Old Testament, and this declaration of the equality of the sexes in the New, we may well wonder at the contemptible status woman occupies in the Christian Church to-day."
So the woman who spurns the Bible as the book that is responsible for woman's degradation, who denies that it is the word of God, who pours out upon Paul the vials of her wrath, finds in them both her highest warrant for believing in the "equal position" of woman, "the perfect equality of the sexes." When the wrath of woman thus praises God, the one who believes that through woman's status in the Bible and in the Christian Church this perfect equality is being worked out day by day need not take up controversial cudgels. Ribaldry in woman seems more gross than in man, and this is woman's ribaldry. It is profane to speak of the "feminine element in the Godhead." God is spirit. There is no more a feminine than a masculine element in the Godhead. Sex belongs to mortal life and its conditions. It begins and ends with this earth. Christ has told us so: There will be in another world "no marrying, nor giving in marriage, but we all shall be as the angels in heaven." The equality of which Paul spoke as "the very soul and essence of Christianity" is the equality of the essence and soul of male and female humanity, and the oneness of the believer's soul with that of the Christ in whom his soul believes. The soul of humanity, as well as its body, is bound by sex conditions as long as it draws the breath of this transitory life. Every thought and every act reveal the governing power of the sex mould in which its form is cast for this world's uses. The use of this world is to give preparation for another and a better one; final spiritual triumph is the end to be attained. Humanity is now in the image of God only in the essential sense in which the full corn in the ear may be said to be wrapped up in its kernel, and it can unfold only according to the laws of its being. The first account of Creation sets forth, with the beautiful imagery of the Orient, the general and ultimate truth. The second account, with the same grand simplicity, foreshadows the method and the long, slow process by which this ultimate end is to be attained.
In continuing their comments, the editors say: "In chapter v., verse 23, Adam proclaims the eternal oneness of the happy pair, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; no hint of her subordination. How could men, admitting these words to be divine revelation, ever have preached the subjection of woman? Next comes the naming of the mother of the race. She shall be called woman, in the ancient form of the word, womb-man. She was man and more than man, because of her maternity. The assertion of the supremacy of the woman in the marriage relation is contained in chapter v.,24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife. Nothing is said of the headship of man, but he is commanded to make her the head of the household, the home, a rule followed for centuries under the Matriarchate."
A rule that has been followed rudely through all centuries, and is followed to-day with far greater approach to perfect obedience. Maternity was to be God's method of working out the problem of changing the innocence of ignorant savagery to the holiness of enlightened civilization. To this end, the more delicate and complex organism of the womb-man must be cared for by the strength and steadiness that could find full play because that subtler task was not demanded of it.
In commenting on chapter iii, which contains the account of the Garden of Eden and the eating of the apple, they say: "As out of this allegory grow the doctrines of original sin, the fall of man and of woman the author of all our woes, and the curses on the serpent, the woman and the man, the Darwinian theory of the gradual growth of the race from a lower to a higher type of animal life is more hopeful and encouraging."
The Christian doctrine is more hopeful and encouraging still. It reveals the growth of the race from a low type of animal life to the perfect life of the soul.
We do not need to go back to the garden where our first parents dwelt, to look for the substantiation of the eternal truth of this whole wondrous story. Amid the landscape of the civilization of the noblest country that the world possesses, we have the drama repeated. In the work of Anne Hutchinson, Ann Lee, Frances Wright, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton, Susan Anthony, Ellen Dietrick, Lillie Blake, and their fellow-commentators, we have re-enacted the Temptress and the Fall. Woman first aspired. She stretched forth her eager hand to seize the good, and in so doing snatched the evil that grew beside it. The woman in Eden had not learned what maternity taught her later-that she could point the path, but could not lead in entering it. Wherever woman has forgotten this hard-won but glorious lesson, she has been the most dangerous of guides. The conscience, that intellect of the soul, woke first in woman. By her obedience to its voice, the faith that worketh by love had its perfected work, and the promise that was given to her was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. A Creation story without a gospel is chaos without gravitation, primal darkness without the sun. Forward to divinity in human form woman was able, through obedience, to point mankind. Backward to divinity in human form she points again, until humanity itself shall become divine. If she loses the final vision, or substitutes her own, she can neither point nor guide. No wonder woman has been a mystery to the church. No wonder a witch was not allowed to live, while a wizard might; she was more dangerous. No wonder Paul was perplexed by the woman question. No wonder monks fled to the desert. Christ has spoken the final words of woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee." From the anguish of His cross he said: "Woman, behold thy son!" "Behold thy mother," and the beloved disciple "took her to his own home from that hour."
In the Suffrage appeal of 1860, the writers said: "The difference between husband and wife is as vast as the difference between Christ and his Church." Christ himself says that the difference between him and his Church is that of degree, not of kind, and that the resemblance is that of essential oneness. He says: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Could union be more completely pictured? The fruit-bearing branch cannot say to the strength-giving vine, "I have no need of thee." The vine cannot say, "I have no need of thee." Man in his imperious folly has pictured the relationship as that of oak and vine which have no organic union; but, despite imperiousness and folly, both men and women, through mutual obedience to God, have thus far worked out, and are still working out, the nobler destiny for both.
In summing up their opinion of the Pentateuch, the editors of the Suffrage Woman's Bible say: "This utter contempt for all the decencies of life, and all the natural personal rights of women, as set forth in these pages, should destroy, in the minds of women at least, all authority to superhuman origin, and stamp the Pentateuch at least as emanating from the most obscene minds of a barbarous age." So low can woman fall in ignorance and shameless audacity when the faith that works by love is lost. As the spirit of the Commandments comes to prevail, the decencies of life and the natural personal rights of woman become more secure. Here again Christ has spoken the ultimate word. He says: "Ye have heard by them of old time Thou shalt not commit adultery, but I say unto you whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." This is the standard of chastity to which mankind must com. When the Hebrew mother in living faith cast the bread of her own life's being upon the Nile, she was to find it after many days in the great law-giver of her people. The Commandments received through him were the foreshadowing of those greater oracles in which Christ summed up the whole duty of man. The individual liberty which Moses was the first to proclaim to a whole people, in the Pentateuch, Christ, his anti-type, proclaimed to a whole world, and on his proclamation rests to-day the freedom of woman and of the American Republic. The Bread of Life, again cast on the troubled waters of this world, by woman's faith, through Mary the Virgin Mother, is returning after many days.
Strange that we should forever turn back, as if the application of any essential truth were finished. The child walks by faith. The childhood of the world walked by faith, and left in the Bible the evidence of things that are not seen but are eternal. The Suffrage movement has a quarrel with the Bible because the Creator is there represented, for the reverence of the race, under the guise of a Heavenly Father, and not a Heavenly Mother, or rather, not as a human pair, equal in dignity and power. If the first impulsion of love toward God had come into this world through the mind of man, he would have represented the divine love that his soul conceived under the guise of that being on earth whom he most loved. But love was born with the "disabilities" of woman; it was evolved through motherhood; and the same impulse that gave it, exalted, not itself, but what it loved and trusted. "I have gotten a man from the Lord" said the first recorded mother, who had learned to know the Lord through motherhood; and the boy she bore was taught to look up with confidence to the strength and protection of his father. She told him that the pity of his father, which made him bring food and raiment, and which guarded his home, was an image of the feeling that was felt for him by the divine being. Could man have learned the lesson first, we can see that the story would have been different, because man has named every beautiful and gracious thing for woman. Virtue, temperance, truth, purity, love, faith, hope, liberty, grace, beauty charity, the inspirers of art and science, of music and literature, of justice and of religion, all are feminine. When man says: "Our Father which art in heaven," he prays as his mother taught him. Through the self-abnegation that was unconscious of its sacrifice, woman was to be the instrument for bringing human life up, on, to the God who, being spirit, could act upon a clay-bound mind only through the highest human thing that love could know. Men as well as women, have misunderstood and misinterpreted this. The love that "is not puffed up," "doth not behave itself unseemly," cannot proclaim its own virtue-to arrogate it is so to lose it. But the secret of the Lord has been with those who feared Him, and it has led the world aright in spite of blunder and of sin.
If man, in his ignorant conceit, has fancied that this was the subjection of woman, it has been a part of his mother's lesson to correct that impression. If woman, in hr folly, has allowed herself to make the same mistake, that, too, is working out its cure through the love that so arranged human nature that "a man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain should be one flesh," and that " her desire should be to her husband" in those matters wherein the mutual interest required that he should bear sway. If there is a minister of religion who holds to the perverted notion that, because woman ate the original apple in disobedience to God's command, she was the bringer of original sin into the world, and for that was and is punished by arbitrary subjection to the authority of man, that minister does not deserve the support of women. The fact that he would have few listeners, and fewer followers, if women were not the bringers and the maintainers of religious faith is sufficient proof against such an exposition of scripture. As a matter of fact, while the dogmatism of belief, like the dogmatism of unbelief, has made assertions that have dishonored both divine and human nature, the practical working of formulated faiths of all names has been to approach the standard laid down in the Old and the New Testament. The model of being set by Christ is that of a little child. "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." The natural characteristics of the child are faith, and hope, and love-the virtues that abide. When the virile apostle to the Gentiles "put away childish things," he kept these childlike qualities. If woman first attains them in perfection, she is superior; if man, he is superior. In the race toward the final goal, to be equal in accomplishment it is needful to be equal in obedience. The key-note of Paul's preaching was obedience-the obedience of all human beings to God in Christ, the obedience of all men and women to lawful civil authority for the sake of Christ and the promotion of his kingdom,-the obedience of men to one another in the churchly offices, for the sake of that "decency" that he loved and enjoined-the obedience of thee equal wife to the husband who was the external representative of family life.
With Eastern nations the veil was the sign of retirement, of domestic life, and it was assumed by wives when they were in the street or in a public assembly. In heathen and barbarous countries it was also deemed a sign of woman's subjection and inferiority. The Hebrews were the first people to attain any truly spiritual conceptions, and they began to have a commensurately higher idea of the possibilities of woman's nature and work. When Christian women, in their new-found freedom, would have thrown aside the veil, just as Christian men, in their new-found reverence for God, would have repudiated the heathen wife, Paul said to them both that Christian liberty was individual,-it changed the character, not the sex relations. In arranging for church discipline, he advised that men should uncover the head, and women should wear the veil. But he said, in reference to that veil, that "woman should have power on her head, because of the angels." The angels are spoken of in the New Testament as veiling their faces in the very presence of the Creator. In that truer symbolism of Christianity, man was to uncover his head in token of reverence to God and acceptance of the responsibility of the guardianship of the earth. Woman was to cover her head in token of her acceptance of man's guardianship and of her dominion over his heart, to which she had revealed God's will.
Paul adds: "For as the woman is of the man, so is the man also of the woman; but all things are of God." This relation was one of the mysteries that Paul said he did not comprehend, nor could he, till the lessons he taught should work out their results, and might serve as commentary.
Life itself, as well as all that life could come to mean, defended upon woman's consenting. The word "obey" in some marriage services seems, like what it really is, a survival. Obedience has brought its reward, and the consent of the heart is more than the consent of the lips. But if there is no consent of the heart to wifehood and motherhood, in time there will be no chivalry, no progress, no final emancipation for the race. Consenting is also commanding, and woman loses her life in order to find it in the fulfillment of her wish. It was consent to her own teaching. The chivalrous and tender-hearted Paul, who spoke of women with reverent affection, who adopted as his own the mother of Rufus, was repeating the lesson of every Jewish mother from Sarah to Deborah, and from Deborah to the women who were last at Christ's cross and first beside his tomb. Deborah, who was the judge, prophetess and poet, but first of all "a mother in Israel," under whom her degenerate people had peace for forty years, rebuked Barak and said, to their humiliation: "This day shall the Lord deliver Israel by the hand of a woman." From this teaching Paul uttered his rebuke to the wayward church at Corinth: "It is a shame for a man to cover his head, inasmuch as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man." And he added, in speaking of the wearing of the veil, "For this cause ought the woman to have power" "because of the angels." In the Epistle to the Ephesians Paul admonishes the Church to be "imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself for you, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." Again, he says: "Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." And as if to make doubly certain that no one should think that such submission implied bondage or inequality, he adds "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it." Again, he says: "So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. ... Even as the Lord the Church," adding with almost strained Oriental vehemence, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh."
The comment most readily suggested is, that through this teaching the use of the veil has now on such significance. The uncovering of the head is a token of respect, largely to woman. The retention of the bonnet is not dreamed of in connection with woman's relation to man, nor does it suggest woman's power in the moral world. The obedience through which love "constrained" a mind that had been bred to forms, was free. If anybody now holds that woman was intended to glorify God indirectly, through man, or to serve God by serving man, he makes an assumption long discredited, and not in accord with the spirit of Christ and of Paul. Man is as much the glory of woman as woman is the glory of man, and they reveal equally the glory of God.
In speaking of the proprieties of life, Paul said: "Does not nature herself teach you?" "If a man have long hair, it is a shame to him." "If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her." The badge of womanhood is a glory, and the "short-haired women and long-haired men" of the early Suffrage movement transformed the symbols of dignity and honor into those of contempt and disgrace.
Canon law grew up during the Middle Ages, when came great
"Death-grapple in the darkness, twist old systems and the Word."
The wondrous church that rose on the ruins of Roman militarism, and overthrew Norman feudalism, gave evidence, in its code, of the bitterness of the conflict and the rudeness of the time. The legal fiction that, in acknowledging the oneness of husband and wife, yet made the husband that one, was a perversion of Scripture.
And we have secular historic proof that woman has been founder of civilization through the establishment of its religious ideals. All historians relate that the ancient oracles controlled the conduct of rulers in peace and in war. Not an act was performed by Government except under the supposed leading of a divine instruction, and the mind that was the medium of the oracle, the hand that wielded the inspired pen, was woman's. Priestesses presided at the sacred shrines in Greece; Vestals fed the eternal fires in Roman temples, and this was the hidden spring of government. Time is pictured as a father, but the Hours are daughters, and the Fates are women. Yes, and the Furies also. The one that entered first into the moral world was woman, the taster of the tree of knowledge. She gave to man, not he to her. And it was a tree both of good and of evil. These she has taught, and the good is becoming conqueror. Roman law, the foundation of English law, had its source in woman's inspiration and man's execution. Statute law is the revision and completing of this from the same sources. If we recognize these steps, we may hasten the good time that is ahead.
[I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII]
[Table of Contents Index]