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Women adorned with Good Work
‘Let women adorn themselves; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but through good works. Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old, well reported of for good works; . . . if she hath diligently followed every good work.— 1 Tim. 2:10, 5:9, 10
In the three Pastoral Epistles, written to two young pastors to instruct them in regard to their duties, ‘good works’ are more frequently mentioned than in Paul’s other Epistles. In writing to the Churches, as in a chapter like Romans 12 he mentions the individual good work by name. In writing to the pastors he had to use this expression as a summary of what, both in their own life and their teaching of others, they had to aim at. A minister was to be prepared to every good work, furnished completely to every good work, an ensample 91 of good works. And they were to teach Christians—the women to adorn themselves with good works, diligently to follow every good work, to be well reported of for good works; the men to be rich in good works, zealous of good works, ready to every good work, to be careful and to learn to maintain good works. No portion of God’s work presses home more definitely the absolute necessity of good works as an essential, vital element in the Christian life.
Our two texts speak of the good works of Christian women. In the first they are taught that their adorning is to be not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment, but, as becomes women preferring godliness, with good works. We know what adornment is. A leafless tree in winter has life; when spring comes it puts on its beautiful garments, and rejoices in the adornment of foliage and blossom. The adorning of Christian women is not to be in hair or pearls or raiment, but in good works. Whether it be the good works that have reference to personal duty and conduct, or those works of beneficence that aim at the pleasing and helping of our neighbor or those that more definitely seek the salvation of souls—the adorning that pleases God, that gives true heavenly beauty, that will truly attract others to 92 come and serve God, too, is what Christian women ought to seek after. John saw the holy city descend from heaven, ‘made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.’ ‘The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints’ (Rev. 21:2, 24:8). Oh! that every Christian woman might seek so to adorn herself as to please the Lord that loved her.
In the second passage we read of widows who were placed upon a roll of honour in the early Church, and to whom a certain charge was given over the younger women. No one was to be enrolled who was not ‘well reported of for good works.’ Some of these are mentioned: if she has been known for the careful bringing up of her children, for her hospitality to strangers, for her washing the saints’ feet, for her relieving the afflicted; and then there is added, ‘if she hath diligently followed every good work.’ If in her home and out of it, in caring for her own children, for strangers, for saints, for the afflicted, her life has been devoted to good works, she may indeed be counted fit to be an example and guide to others. The standard is a high one. It shows us the place good works took in the early Church. It shows how woman’s blessed ministry of love was counted on and encouraged. It shows how, 93 in the development of the Christian life, nothing so fits for rule and influence as a life given to good works.
Good works are part and parcel of the Christian life, equally indispensable to the health and growth of the individual, and to the welfare and extension of the Church. And yet what multitudes of Christian women there are whose active share in the good work of blessing their fellow-creatures is little more than playing at good works. They are waiting for the preaching of a full gospel, which shall encourage and help and compel them to give their lives so to work for their Lord, that they, too, may be well reported of as diligently following every good work. The time and money, the thought and heart given to jewels or costly raiment will be redeemed to its true object. Religion will no longer be a selfish desire for personal safety, but the joy of being like Christ, the helper and saviour of the needy. Work for Christ will take its true place as indeed the highest form of existence, the true adornment of the Christian life. And as diligence in the pursuits of earth is honoured as one of the true elements of character and worth, diligently to follow good works in Christ’s service will be found to give access to the highest reward and the fullest joy of the Lord.
1. We are beginning to awaken to the wonderful place woman can take in church and school and mission. This truth needs to be brought home to every one of the King’s daughters, that the adorning in which they are to attract the world, to please their Lord, and enter His presence is—good works.
2. Woman, as the image of ‘the weakness of God,’ ‘the meekness and gentleness of Christ,’ is to teach man the beauty and the power of the long-suffering, self-sacrificing ministry of love.
3. The training for the service of love begins in the home life; is strengthened in the inner chamber; reaches out to the needy around, and finds its full scope in the world for which Christ died.
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