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Oh ! let Him hear the glad and swift response
Rise from thy heart :
Thy "vessel," Lord !'
Worker beloved !
By thine own hand.
Thine every need;
The women workers of the Bible. By the Rev. J. E. Sampson, Vicar of Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire.
E know nothing of Phæbe except what we gather from the first
and second verses of that deeply interesting chapter, Romans
xvi. She is called by St. Paul'our sister. The Church of God is a family. The members of the family, born of God, cry unto God, Abba, Father; and their new relation to each other is that of brothers and sisters. The relationship is real; it is of the Holy Ghost; it is ' in Christ. He has made us His brethren, His sisters. Remember, are not His words, “Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister,' yea also, and mother'?
Have we not then a loving responsibility for our Zenana-workers ? They are not independent units, ladies who have given themselves to a good work, whom we have helped, and may occasionally help, in the future, but in whom we have no personal interest. They are our sisters. They are more : they are the sisters of our Saviour. We may not leave
them without thought, without sympathy, without prayer and praise. Let us rather esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.
Phoebe is also a servant of the church which is in Cenchrea.' Cenchrea was a few miles from the city of Corinth, a port on the coast, of no great importance. Paul had already been there, and there, perhaps by his ministry, a church had been formed. And of this church Phæbe was 'a servant.' She was truly, then, one of the women-workers of the Bible.'
The word “servant' may also be rendered 'deaconess,' and the question arises whether Phoebe held an official position, so styled, in the Cenchrean church. Our Revisers appear to think not, for though their fingers evidently itched to make changes where they could by reasonable possibility be made, they have retained the word servant, and have placed the word deaconess in the margin. The term is not necessarily official, and yet it must be said that it is the term which would be used if the position held by Phoebe had been official.
I notice too, that the Revisers have given us the word women in 1 Tim. iii. 11, instead of wives, implying that the instructions given in that verse were addressed to women-deacons, and not to wives of deacons. The learned Bishop Ellicott also soʻrenders the word, and points out the absence of all reference to domestic duties, which is not the case when the deacon is instructed (ver. 12), but he admits “that it is somewhat difficult to decide.'
We will not here pursue the discussion. This at least is clear, that Phæbe was “a servant of the church.' She had voluntarily devoted herself to the work of God, and that in meek subjection to the church of which she was a member. Not as a bond-servant, but that she might minister in things temporal or spiritual to others. Though she was an active and earnest Christian, she did not act apart from other Christians. She remembered that if she were a servant,' she was also a “sister.'
I cannot say precisely in what works her service lay, but the apostle tells us she was ‘a succourer of many.' I suppose she might be seen with her basket in the house of distress, smoothing the pillow of the sick, and especially carrying in her vessel (see the beautiful words of Jesus in Acts ix. 15) the Name which is above every name, pouring forth the precious ointment, and filling many a dull chamber with the sweet odour
In those days of the Church's infancy she would have many occasions for this. The widows and the aged would claim her care ; the sick and troubled, the persecuted and forsaken. Among these she had earned a
of the Name.
good degree. The record of inspiration tells us she was a succourer of many.' There were, there are now, 'many' who need the succour which only a Christian heart can devise, which only a woman's hand can bestow.
I think she must have been the almoner of others' wealth, especially when I remember that she not only did service, but that she is expressly called 'a servant.' It would be well if our congregations would look upon our kind, and often self-sacrificing, district visitors and labourers, far and near, and intrust them with the means of being more bountifully the succourers of many.'
I know not in what way Phoebe had succoured the apostle-preacher. Perhaps, like Lydia, she had opened her house to receive, and her store to support, him when he was at Cenchrea. Or perhaps when he was in trouble there she had, like Onesiphorus, ‘sought him out very diligently,' and had oft refreshed' him, not ashamed of his chain. However it might be, the apostle had a grateful recollection of her succour.
Let me never forget the kindness which, in my sorrow, has sought me out and solaced me.
And she did it not by proxy, but herself. The Revised Version brings this out, saying, ‘for she herself also hath been a succourer of many.' This little bit of colouring in the picture is very beautiful, very suggestive. She brought herself in contact with the sufferings she relieved. Her own heart was touched by what she herself saw. Her sympathies were stirred, her prayers called forth, her praises awakened. The mere sub
. scriber, in our days, loses all this. To visit the fatherless and widow' is a means of grace. What cares, but what joys, our sisters have in the close and stifling Zenanas! But if a sister' may not 'she herself' be a succourer' (for all are not called to this), still let her help, and pray for, and rejoice with, those that are.
And now the apostle had a work for her to do. It may be she had business' of her own at Rome. But whether sent for this special purpose or not, she was intrusted to be the bearer of, perhaps, the most precious of all the Epistles. This was high honour. This shows how worthy of his confidence she was. She must have been a faithful 'servant' to be so trusted. Diligence always finds its reward. What a day of joy and wonder it must have been when, for the first time, that Epistle was read in the congregation !
The apostle commends his messenger to the Roman church,—'I commend unto you Phoebe, that ye receive her in the Lord.' He had said' He that receiveth you, receiveth Me.' Let me remember this when the deputation' is my guest.
He bids them also receive her • as becometh saints.' Let her feel that she is with the holy, that she is welcomed herself as holy. And as the apostle trusted her, so he would have them trust her, and in whatsoever matter she may have need of you,' he bids them to assist her.'
The Stricken City.
the Punjab brought in its wake cholera and fever, which ran
their course with the usual disastrous results in several cities and villages, and at last seemed to spend the full force of their terrible power upon Amritsar. For some weeks, while as yet the visitation was but beginning in other places, and before its severity was realised, Amritsar was regarded as healthy, and many people resorted to it in order to escape from sickness elsewhere, or to recruit strength after having suffered from it. Those who saw the crowds of such visitors thronging the public road into the city from the railway station every evening during the damp, sultry, unhealthy weather which prevailed through July and August, were not without reasonable fears that by becoming in this sense a 'city of refuge,' it was exposed to imminent peril. The sickness and poverty and want of cleanliness of the majority of the sojourners, combined with the inevitable overcrowding of every available native inn and lodging-house, formed sufficient ground for the entertainment of the worst fears. They were soon realised. The heavy thunder-clouds which hung over the city day after day, and burst ever and anon in terrific storms, were fit emblems of the oncoming plague. In August it began; people sickened in increasing numbers, and men's hearts began to fail them for fear. But for a time nothing worse was anticipated than that after two or three weeks of more or less severity, and the loss perhaps of a few hundreds of lives, the sickness would pass away, as it had done in other places. But steadily, alas ! it gained place and power, until in September there was no quarter of the city where it had not its victims, and daily scores of those who rose in fairly good health in the morning were carried forth out of the gates of the city for burial or for burning in the evening. Numbers of dispensaries were opened by the Government in different parts, easily accessible to all who could leave their houses, but the majority of the sufferers were unable to go even a very short distance to seek help, or to find friends or servants who could go for them.
Efforts were made to reach these poor dying creatures in their own homes, in order to minister to them in the hope of saving the body, or pointing to the only Saviour for the soul before it should be hurried away into His presence unready. These efforts could not be sustained; one who had resolved to persevere, and who had entreated the Lord and Giver of life for special bodily strength for the emergency, was on four successive occasions compelled to leave the scene of action faint and sick, and others had the same experience, so that all were driven to feel the utter powerlessness of human agency in itself. “He shall work, and who can let it?' When He wills He can take His workers aside from their work, or remove that beloved and perhaps idolised work from them, that He and He only, whether working in judgment or in mercy, may be glorified. God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.' Even had the health of the workers been equal to the trial, the circumstances of the sufferers (living as they were in filthy lanes and narrow streets, crowded into little houses, inhaling pestilential air at every breath, and satisfying their feverish unhealthy appetites with fruit, generally bad, and large quantities of water, always more or less impure) combined with their bigotry and prejudice and doctrines of fatalism to prevent the few efforts which could be made to help them from being at all effectual. Patients who could come into hospital to be properly nursed and fed, and those in their own houses who were not too panic-stricken or too imbued with the idea of death being inevitable to take medicine and obey injunctions, in many instances recovered. But what are these against those who died? It is terrible to think that in this one city, in this pestilence, about 13,000 souls have passed away.
If, however, we are so powerless to help in such a time of sickness and death, if it is so difficult to gain access to the sufferers to heal their bodies, and point out to them the way of salvation for their souls, why should we let our thoughts dwell on the details of this affliction ? In what relation does it stand to our duty ?
The lesson which every one of God's children who has witnessed the visitation must have been learning, with much sorrow for past shortcomings, with much prayer for more earnestness and zeal, and with many resolves for the future, must be this—while we have opportunity, when the people are well, and in circumstances to listen and learn, let us tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save. If all the thousands who have passed away had been prepared, how we should be now thinking of them with joy as swelling the glorious multitude of the redeemed, resting in the light and love of the presence of God, and serving Him for ever.