Letter 18

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
July 25, 1845.
I had been looking for a little word from you, beloved sister, and your letter was very welcome to me. But do not think yourself debtor to me, for I know that you cannot sit easily at the paper with pen and ink as I do. But the Lord is with you, beloved, manifesting Himself, as is the common way of His glory in the weakness and trial of His dear elect ones. I send you a little word on 1 Corinthians 11 and as to the breaking of bread, would only say that I feel a hesitation to break bread save on the first day of the week and in the place of the assembled saints. I may be inapprehensive of the simple and free mind of the Lord in this, as I know that generally brothers find their liberty much beyond this. But I do not, and I have a great dread of soiling the simplicity of faith, and introducing to the heart or even to the eye anything to interfere with the precious sufficiency of Christ, or to divide the confidence of the heart between faith and any ordinance. I always am tempted to fear, if I hear of people taking the Lord's Supper in sick rooms, that there is want of simplicity in the soul's assurance, though I know that this is not the case in many such cases. But my judgment may be below the measure of the light and liberty of the Spirit in this. Our united love to yourself and to your dear mother. She has known her sorrows, but the thought that "whom He loves He chastens," and that all shall work good when looked at in the light of eternity, are blessed provisions for the soul's comfort. My love also to dear Mr. S.... and to Dr. T..., tell him I once breakfasted with him, and was happy with him in the days of Mr.  ... . and Mr.  ... . at Tor; he will remember me. I send you a little word on "Hagar." I never print anything, dear sister, but if others like any MS. of mine and wish to do so, I do not object. This has been the history of that on "Heaven and Earth," and "The Scriptures," and I judge it to be a safer plan than putting forth anything on the authority of one's own mind. You may give "Rebecca" and this of "Hagar" to whom you like.
I saw dear Mrs. M..... yesterday. Any letter to her had better be directed here, perhaps, as I could send it to her every day. I had not heard of dear W. J....'s illness, and shall be very glad to know that he is better. A gloomy, disappointing scene, beloved, but bright, unspeakably so, to faith and hope. How the death of Sir W. Follett speaks the vanity of human hopes! He and I were the dearest companions at Exeter school in the year 1812. But those days are gone. The Lord bless you, beloved sister.
1 Corinthians 11:3-18
Covering is the proper sign of woman. It expresses the subjection she owes. But the woman is mystically the Church; and thus, if a woman appears in the congregation covered, she appears duly, with the sign of subjection to Christ or the man (Eph. 5:24.) But it expresses also the protection she receives. And thus, if she does not appear covered, she publishes her own shame. For she does not carry the token of her proper state, but appears rather as a captive, or as a suspected woman. (See Num. 5; Deut. 21.) She ought therefore on these two accounts in the congregation to appear covered. But there is another reason why this should be. She should be covered "because of the angels"—for angels are learning lessons from or through the Church (Eph. 3:10), and the uncovered head of the woman would teach them a wrong lesson. Or, if "the angels" be the elders or ministers, then because of them the woman should be covered, lest she should afterward have to confess her error (Eccl. 5:6). But the man is not to be covered in the congregation, because, mystically, the man is Christ, and "the image and glory of God"—and it belongs not to Christ to bear the signs of either subjection owed, or of protection claimed—quite different from the woman, who is, mystically, as I said, only the Church, "the glory of the man." Christ is Lord and Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23.); that is, claims my subjection, and rendering protection, instead of owing subjection and claiming protection. If the man, therefore, were covered, he would sadly dishonor his head, Christ. The covered head, accordingly, is most suitable to the woman, but most unsuitable to the man, in the assembly; and the Spirit, speaking by the apostle, would not allow it to be neglected, though most graciously he pleads the question with the saints, to lead themselves to approve it.
As to verse 5 of this chapter, I judge that the apostle means simply the place where praying or prophesying is going on, as in the Church or assembly of the saints. I do not think that his language implies that the women were themselves either to pray or to teach, because in verse 4 the very same words are used as to the man, and we are sure that all the men are equally to be uncovered in the place of prayer, though most of them may never engage actively in it. And so also those men, or male brethren, who do at times in the assembly either teach or pray, yet when merely sitting silent in their places, are to be as much uncovered, as when they are actually ministering. So that I judge, the apostle speaks of the place of prayer and teaching, or of the condition of the assembly. He legislates that, without assuming, that women necessarily are either to teach or to pray. In 1 Timothy 2, on the other hand, it is not the mere condition of things in the place of prayer, or the mere appearance of the male and female, the apostle has in hand, but the actual services of the assembly, and then he expressly requires the silence of the woman.