Woman’s Work

Address by Mrs. S.M.I. Henry - March 7, 1899


Brethren, I should be dumb before the greatness of my theme, and of the work which God has given me, but for the work which God has given me, but for the fact that He is in it all. I have before me a task that would be impossible if God should not so translate to you whatever He has to say through me that we shall understand each other; but it is very necessary that we should understand each other, because of the interests that are at stake. 

This morning I feel led to speak concerning the necessity which is upon us as a people; the necessity which has been upon the church in every age, and which God laid upon me more than twenty-five years ago, but which I have never yet been able to do just as I felt it should be done. I believe that I have been led up toward this morning’s opportunity all these years. God has at last given me an opportunity—and O, how I praise Him for it! He has given me an opportunity among a people who can understand the work which came upon me as an intolerable burden more than twenty-five years ago, and under which I struggled, and wept, and consecrated myself, starting out to do things that were impossible, but which must be made possible, which must be made practical.

The Gospel to Go to Every Creature

There is an imperative command to the church: but what is the church?—A body composed of individuals. Therefore this command is spoken to every individual, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. And where is that “every creature”? Where is that every creature to be found? [Voices: In all the world.] Yes, in all the world, but somewhere else. All the world is a very big place. [Voice: Right near us.] How near?—Right in your home. Everything that comes into the world that concerns human life anywhere must come in through the home. To this there is no exception. Everything, good or bad, which helps or hinders originates in the home; every need of every human soul originates in the home, and the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was manifested in the earth, originated in that humble home in Nazareth. And in the progress of the work of the Gospel in the world it long ago became manifest that this “every creature” was not being reached; there was something wrong somewhere: a world perishing in ignorance, under the dispensation of a perfect Gospel, and no one able to discover where the lack was. It was about thirty years ago that the burden first became so intolerable in mission fields that it could not be endured. There was a power somewhere in every heathen land which prevented the progress of the Gospel. A man might acknowledge the truth of the new religion; but he was strangely hindered in living it: and it was discovered that this hindrance was to be found in the harem and zenana. The mother and the wife might be a slave; but she had the power to make it very hard for the men in her family to be Christians. She had a power that was able to prevent the progress of the Gospel, and make the work of the missionary very discouraging indeed.

A Woman Ministry

I do not need to go into the story of the efforts and plans which finally resulted in the organization of work for women by women. It was recognized that the Gospel could not be carried to every creature without a woman ministry; it was impossible for men to reach the women in zenana or harem. There was a sharp and very bitter conflict in the churches over the movement to organize women’s missionary societies. It was feared that these societies would draw funds and interest from the parent board; but the need was so imperative that the conflict, although sharp, was decisive, in favor of woman’s work; and today there is no other denomination that would think of doing without its organized woman’s missionary work.

Twenty-five years ago, we discovered that there were people in our own land who could not be reached without a woman ministry,—men who were in the saloons and women known as profligates. It was the effort to reach those people who could not be reached by any other lines of effort, that produced the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. That organization was called into existence by the Spirit of God, to do a certain, specific work, which, if the organization had done it, would have carried the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

There is a prophecy recorded in Psalm 68:11, which reads: “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” In the Revised Version it reads: “The Lord gave the word, and the women who published it became a great host.” In the Jewish Bible it reads: “The Lord gave the happy tidings; and it was published by the female messengers, a numerous company.” I believe that prophecy referred especially to woman’s work in the church. That work still remains to be done; it must be done by the women who know the truth, who have been trained in obedience to it, who can be trusted to stand against the wiles of Satan,—God has made a call for a company of women who can be trusted with the very heart of the third angel’s message,—a company which can be trusted to stand against the perils and the temptations of these last days, and take this Gospel to those who cannot be reached except by a woman ministry.

The Home Atmosphere

As I said in the beginning, everything that is good or bad must originate in the home. For some reason the Gospel has never gone as it ought to have gone. Our ministers have made confessions of weakness. Our brethren have seemed to be crippled. There has seemed to be something not discernible upon the surface, which has hindered the progress of the Gospel; and I want to tell you, brethren, no matter how much you may look abroad for these things, how much these hindrances may seem to come from the world, I want to tell you that if everything was all right in the homes which are represented by this people, the gates of Hell could not prevail against you. The hindrances are in the home; and considering the necessities which are urging us forward, it is of the first importance that we shall put forth efforts which will be adequate to meeting this need,—that something shall be done by which these hindrances, these defects which are in the homes, shall be got out of the way; so that the ministry, our brethren who are going abroad in the work, shall go out feeling strong, courageous, refreshed; so that every man, as he steps over his threshold, and goes out to stand before the people with the Gospel message, shall know that everything is all right in the homes of his people, in his own home, among his own children, in the atmosphere which he has left behind him, and which he carries with him. If there is something in the home which is continually chafing and fretting, if the children are not growing up as they ought to, if the affairs of the home are not pervaded by the Spirit of God, if its atmosphere is not sweet with fragrance of Heaven,—how can a man go out, and be strong to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus? If, when he arises in the pulpit before his people to preach to them, there is something behind him, in his own home, which is chafing, fretting, making his heart heavy, and causing his brain to work all the time around a domestic trouble, how can he take up the sacred message, and make it clear to the people?

In the short time since this work began, I have had a marvelous revelation, through the letters which pour in upon me. I have been given to see into the homes of this people. There has been opened up before me the sore places in the heart of our Zion; and so I have come burdened. I have sat here all through this conference, burdened for the homes that are back of us,—for the people who are not here, whom you represent, whom we all represent, hoping that this Gospel might in some way do its full and complete work in the very center of this church. The home is the heart of the church; and the mother in the home is its center of life. What the mother is, so is the home; and what the home is, so is the husband and father, either in his strength or in his weakness. It cannot be otherwise. He may be a man of sincere and honest purposes, and with a tender heart. He may desire to do right; but if he realizes that there is something that he cannot control, or cannot understand, in the home life; if it is not all going smoothly as it should go, if Jesus does not live there, represented in the life of the mother and the wife in his home, he is crippled and weak in spite of all that he can do or be. God has opened up to me the necessity that there should be a work done in the homes of this and every other people; and it should go from the women of our people. Our women must be able to live this message of a domestic Gospel, and it must be carried from our homes into other churches, and out into the homes of the world. There is many a man today in business life, professing to be an unbeliever, whose heart is turned from every tender thing, that would lead him to anything like a confession of his need, simply because he feels it to be hopeless. And all because he has seen how different is the life of the men and women who profess to be Christians as they live before the world, in the home, and he has lost faith in its power. It fails in the home, and he says, The place where I would like to have Christ manifested is in my home; failure there is failure everywhere. Many a man has said to me. If I could only see Christianity manifested in the home life, so that the home of the minister, the home of the man and woman who profess to be Christians, should be in harmony with their profession, I would be glad to seek it and to accept it. Before the Gospel can be taken to every creature, there must be the equipment of the power in those who stand in, and go forth from the center of this work. It will not be very long (the time is even now here) before those who represent this work will be set in that strong light before the world where their every act will tell for or against the truth. Every home must be able to stand the test when it is criticized; when the world shall turn its telescope upon it, and analyze it. It must find the mother a true representative of Jesus Christ; the home atmosphere permeated with the very odor of Heaven; and the influences scattered abroad by the children, and all who pass in and out over the threshold, such as shall tell for Christ.

Seventh-day Adventists are a highly favored people; and at first I believed them a perfect people. With longing eye I looked upon those who had been brought up in these great principles. I envied them because of the high point of privilege which they occupied. I thought every one must be true because it cost so much to become a Seventh-day Adventist. It must take all of self out of any man. I could see nothing to lead one to come in among this people, except an unconditional surrender to truth, a fidelity to truth which would lead to a renunciation of everything fleshly, everything not of Christ. Brethren, I believe that this view of what Seventh-day Adventists must be is just what God intends they shall be. I don’t think I imputed one thing in the line of perfection to this people which God does not intend they shall reach. Since I have come to be one with you, since I have accepted these reproofs as personal, since my life and my heart have been knit together with you in these bonds of Christian fellowship and labor, I have come to feel that we are all called together, that we are driven by every possible consideration, up to those heights of attainment which mean perfectness in Christ, perfectness in everything which belongs to the outgrowth and development of character. The world has a right to call upon us for perfectness. The time is soon at hand when it will not excuse imperfections in us; and in order that we may be able to meet the expectations of God and a lost world, there must be a great work done in these homes.

Every Child a Publisher

Every child is a publisher. A family of children is a publishing association. It publishes that which is supposed to be secret in the life of the father and mother. That which has been uttered in the secret heart of the parents; that which is supposed to be hidden in the four walls of the home, is taken abroad, and published upon the street corners, by that which the children themselves are.

By nothing have I been kept so busy since I came among this people, as by the inquiries of fathers and mothers as to how they should be able to correct the living of their children. “What can I do with my boy?” writes a father to me; and then he will go on to say that his boy is fifteen or sixteen years old, and has already begun to slip away; he is out on the street, has begun to form associations with street boys, to smoke cigarettes, to use bad language; he has become unmanageable. What shall be done with him?

“Why is it that my child will not obey me?” is the cry that comes continually from fathers and mothers. I cannot, of course, go into the discussion of the why of all this in detail; but I will just indicate that which is at the root of the whole matter. If it does not apply to you personally, it applies to somebody whom you ought to reach with the truth: The child in the home deals by the father and the mother, and the principles which they represent, precisely as you—the father and the mother—deal by your Heavenly Father, and the principles which He represents.

There is no deviation from that rule. The manner in which you deal by your Heavenly Father, and the principles which He represents, and which He has given, which He has taught in His Word, which He has taught in human relations, determines the manner in which your child will deal by you and those same principles as you profess to represent them. I know that this is a hard thing to say; but it is an awfully hard thing to be. A continual cry is going up, “How can we save our young people?”

Yesterday I opened a letter in which one sister wrote for another. A mother and father, whose hearts were breaking, were too heartsick and sore themselves to write to me; and so this friend wrote for them, telling me about their boy. He had been a good, kind, gentle boy in the home; but she says a change is coming over him; he says that he “has got to begin to do for himself pretty soon, and that he does not see how he can do for himself, and keep the Sabbath.” Then this sister cries, “O, I am so discouraged! I am so disheartened. How can we preserve our young people against the day of our Lord’s coming?”

That is the cry. The obligation is upon this people to preserve their children unto the Lord’s coming. How shall we answer for our children? If the Lord comes and finds that our children are not with us, how shall we answer when our names are called in the Judgment? How will our case stand if we cannot say, “Here am I, and the children whom Thou hast given me”?

I replied: Tell those parents that their boy ought never to have been left to think for one moment of such a thing as “striking out for himself.” What does it mean,—“strike out for himself”?—It means a repudiation of the whole obligation of the individual to Christ. Every effort that is made by a Christian man to earn a living is a repudiation of Christ; every thought of earning a living is a repudiation of Christ; and where that thought is in the heart of the father and the mother, it is a thistle seed, out of which will grow a whole harvest of thistles.

 “To earn a living”! I presume if I should go out among the people in this congregation, I would find scores who are burdened this Sabbath morning as to just how they are going to get along next week in the effort to earn a living. I want to tell you that there is nothing in the world so hard for a Christian man as to earn a living, because God is not in it. He will not help him at all. He must fight God every step of the way if he undertakes to earn a living. He is here in this world for another purpose, and that purpose was indicated in the purpose for which Christ came into the world. What did Christ come for?—To seek and to save that which was lost. If you read in the First Epistle of John, fourth chapter, seventeenth verse, you will find this: “As He is, so are we in this world.” So we are here for no other purpose than to try to bring back to God that which Satan stole away from Him. Each one is to help every other to get back to God; to bring the home back to the plane upon which it was started; to bring the business of the world up to the level of the Gospel; to be true representatives of Jesus in every walk of life. We are here for that one purpose, and for no other; and God intends that we shall use everything which comes into our lives—shall handle the affairs of this world, the material things about us—simply as opportunities for manifesting Christ, for witnessing for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

He has set us in families for that purpose. He has placed men and women together, in the relationship of husband and wife and parents and children, that there might be that intimate and close relation which would make it possible for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace to be illustrated, so as to become a living reality to the glory of God. He has placed fathers, mothers, and children in that intimate and close relation, that the children might be shaped, developed, educated, built up, and made able to go out into the world, and take it just as Satan changed it, at its very worst; and instead of being overcome by it, to overcome it, subdue it, and bring back, each man, for the use of God, at least one little section of the world (the home), redeemed from the curse.

God’s Object in the Home

The home was God’s first institution. He created it, like a machine, for a certain specific and definite work. He gave it its work; and for that work He set apart a certain proportion of power. Every good machinist, in making provision to apply power, will take into consideration three things: the work to be done, the amount and kind of work that the machine is to do, and the application of power according to that work. Then he takes into consideration the necessary friction that must be in the machine and in the performance of the work; and he makes provision for the application of power enough, over and above what is required for the work, to overcome this necessary friction. Then he takes into consideration that which must be left in reserve, to meet sudden emergencies.

Now God was just that kind of machinist. The work to be done by the home was the production of men and women who should be able to go out into the world, and take it, as I said before, just as they found it; and instead of being overcome by it, subdue and overcome it. God never intended that any boy or girl should go out of a Christian home, and go to ruin. Never! He made provision to apply sufficient power for the home to do its appointed work. Then He took into account the necessary friction; He weighed an evil heredity clear back to Adam; He took it up, and weighed and measured it. He knew just what part it was going to play in the lift of that child; He took up the evil influences that might be in the environment; He took up the temperament of the father and the mother; and He took up the saloon down on the corner, and the house of sin, and all the evil things that Satan could possibly bring to bear. I do not believe that God was ever taken by surprise by one thing that Satan ever did. He knew everything that the saloon meant to your boy, and what all the evil influences of the world meant to every boy and girl in any Christian home. He knew all about it; and in the face of all these things, He dared to say one thing to parents that is full of hope and inspiration and courage. In the second chapter of Acts we read concerning that wonderful manifestation of the Holy Spirit that is to come upon the church, —the outpouring of the fullness of the Holy Spirit: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

The promise of the Holy Ghost is to you and to your children. This states plainly that there shall be sufficient power to run this machinery of the home, so that the children that go out of it shall be able to act like men and women, to be true and reliable; that they shall be able to go into the world, and stand for the truth.

Just think what it would be to this message if the children in our homes everywhere, as they go among their young companions in school, and in the work of life, should second the message which the father preaches on the Sabbath day from the pulpit; so that people might say, “I believe in that man’s preaching, because I know his children;" “I believe in that woman’s testimony, because I know her home, because I know her children.” Do you not think this would help in the work of spreading the message?

I want to tell you that it is possible, even now, to do a work for these children who have gone astray, that will bring them back. That is the thing, my brethren and sisters, upon which I have set my heart. The burden that is upon my soul in this day, is that there shall be revived in the homes of this people a power which shall bring the children back by the force of the love of the truth—the force of God that is in it. But before that can be done, a work must be done for and by the mother.

I have had letters from mothers who were upon the verge of suicide. More than one mother has written to me, “Your letter came just in time. I was so discouraged.” I have had letters from women who had already, in their discouragement, begun to slip down that incline which leads to unbelief and infamy. You and I may not know just what it means to be caught in such a fog; but the very fact that any poor soul could be so caught has aroused all the sympathies of my heart. I said, years ago, that I will, by the grace of God, keep my heart alive and quick to any such need as that, and that I will answer to the very extent of my ability to that need. That is why I am here; and that is why God gave me this work,—because He knew that my heart was alive to these things.

One thing is apparent to me. I have been seeking for a solution of the problem of these conditions. How can such things be among a people with such principles? is the question; and this is the answer, as it has come to me: As the sweetest things, when they turn sour, become the most offensive, so to turn against the greatest light and truth is to fall into the greatest darkness and evil. This people have had wonderful light. All through these years, thirty-five or forty years, the light has been pouring in upon this people; and yet there are invalids, physical and moral, among us. This is to be accounted for by the fact that we have not walked in the light which God has given us. The truth has been held in unrighteousness; and to hold any truth in unrighteousness, is to make poison of it. The one thing that is before us as a people is to look everything squarely in the face, in the clear light which God has given us, and try to get ourselves ready to meet every emergency and every need, so that we may be ready to go out into the field, and do the work which belongs to us to do.


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