I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Who can help observing how many females are mentioned here [in Romans 16]?―Phebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia, the sister of Nereus. All these, with the exception of two, are not only mentioned, but commended; and these two would not have been saluted by name unless they had been persons of religious excellence, for Paul valued no other qualities compared with this. But all the rest of these worthies have ascribed to them some attainment or service “in the Lord.”
C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): “Women who laboured with me in the gospel,” Philippians 4:3. There are many and varied ways in which women can “labour in the gospel” without the unseemliness of public preaching.*
WILLIAM JAY: Servants have blessed God for pious mistresses.
AUGUSTUS TOPLADY (1713-1778): Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, was once speaking to a workman who was repairing a garden wall and pressing him to take some thought concerning eternity and the state of his soul. Some years afterward, she spoke to another man on the same subject, and said to him, “Thomas, I fear you never pray, nor look to Christ for salvation.”
“Your ladyship is mistaken,” answered the man, “I heard what passed between you and James at such a time, and the word you designed for him took effect on me.”
“How did you hear it?”
“I heard it on the other side of the garden, through a hole in the wall, and shall never forget the impression I received.”
WILLIAM JAY: Let not therefore females suppose that they are cut off from usefulness in the cause of Christ. The most eminent servants of God have acknowledged their obligations to them, and ascribe no little of their success to their care and kindness. The public ministry is not indeed open to them*―and good sense will acquiesce in the distinctions and determinations of heaven, especially when it is seen that they are not founded on any principle of degradation, but in the obvious proprieties of life. But if they have not authority, they have influence, which is far better and more deeply effective.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The first lessons I ever had in theology were from an old cook in the school at Newmarket where I was an usher. [Mary King] was a good old soul, and used to read The Gospel Standard. She liked something very sweet indeed, good strong Calvinistic doctrine, but she lived strongly as well as fed strongly. Many a time we have gone over the covenant of grace together, and talked of the personal election of the saints, their union to Christ, their final perseverance, and what vital godliness meant; and I do believe that I learnt more from her than I should have learned from any six doctors of divinity of the sort we have nowadays.
There are some Christian people who taste, and see, and enjoy religion in their own souls, and who get at a deeper knowledge of it than books can ever give them, though they should search all their days. The cook at Newmarket was a godly experienced woman, from whom I learned far more than I did from the minister of the chapel we attended. I asked her once, “Why do you go to such a place?”
“Well, there is no other place of worship to which I can go.”
“But it must be better to stay at home than to hear such stuff.”
“Perhaps so,” she answered, “but I like to go out to worship even if I get nothing by going. You see a hen sometimes scratching all over a heap of rubbish to try to find some corn; she does not get any, but it shows that she is looking for it, and using the means to get it, and then, too, the exercise warms her.”
So the old lady said that scratching over the poor sermons she heard was a blessing to her because it exercised her spiritual faculties and warmed her spirit. On another occasion I told her that I had not found a crumb in the whole sermon, and asked how she had fared. “Oh!” she answered, “I got on better tonight, for to all the preacher said, I just put in a not, and that turned his talk into real gospel.”
ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): My dear sisters, yours is a great work. In the first place, there were women who helped to advance the good cause; and we are indebted nearly as much, under God, to the services of your sex as to those of our own. It is for you to strengthen the hands of your companions, by a cheerful demeanour under their various discouragements, by [godly conversation], by keeping order in the family, by setting an example of modesty and affection, by economy and industry.
JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): I read not, that ever any man did give unto Christ so much as one groat; but the women followed Him, and ministered to Him of their substance. It was a woman that washed His feet with tears, and a woman that anointed His body to the burial. They were women that wept, when He was going to the cross, and women that followed Him from the cross, and that sat by His sepulchre, when He was buried. They were women that were first with Him at His resurrection-morn; and women that brought tidings first to His disciples, that He was risen from the dead. Women, therefore, are highly favoured, and show by these things that they are sharers with us in the grace of God.
WILLIAM JAY: Women are at home in almsdeeds, like Dorcas, who made garments for the poor; and are peculiarly adapted to visit the sick and the afflicted. The wife may win the irreligious husband without the word, and fan his devotion and give speed to his zeal when he is in the way everlasting. Who would keep them from those public meetings where feelings are to be excited, which they will be sure to carry away and improve at home?
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Earth has nothing gentler than the female heart in which piety dwells.
J. R. MILLER (1840-1912): The law of kindness is on the tongue of the excellent woman. She has trained her speech to gentle tones. A woman’s voice is a wonderful revealer of her character…Every woman wants to be beautiful. The secret of true beauty is stated in Proverbs 31:30: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Some women sacrifice everything to win favour, to become popular. This word tells us how worthless, how empty and vain is the world’s favour. Nothing is worth striving for in womanhood, but pure, noble, lovely character. That is gotten only by being a Christian, by loving God and doing His will, and staying near Him all the time.
WILLIAM JAY: In a word, women have the finest heads and hearts and hands and tongues for usefulness in the world. Who does not wish to see them always under a religious principle? Who would not have them, appropriately, more encouraged and employed together with the servants of Christ? “Help,” therefore says the apostle, those women that “laboured with me in the gospel, whose names are in the book of life.”
JOHN BUNYAN: When women keep their places, and men manage their worshipping of God as they should, we shall have better days for the church of God in the world.
*Editor’s Note: For some further discussion on the subject of women preaching, see the post entitled Modern Theology.