Sympathy and wisdom, and a readiness to take trouble, make a good woman's influence, in, this department of work for the Church, not only a great happiness to herself, but of the highest value for souls. One of the most common and most pernicious things in our own days is a sort of sentimental philanthropy. Some things with a mixture of good and bad in them will never do the work of Christian faithfulness. Tea-parties, holiday treats, Sunday-school festivals," flower services," "egg services," organ recitals, lectures on every conceivable subject except those which touch the spiritual life, bazaars, sales of work, Band of Hope meetings, etc., may in some cases have a good side, but can never take the place of the worship of God, nor act instead of that quiet hidden work by which hearts are kindled by the love of God in other hearts which are filled with that love.
Work done by sympathetic, self-denying women will do more for the suffering poor than a hundred noisy committees and fussy, self-advertising philanthropists. These ye should have done, and not leave the other undone."
True women workers have never forgotten the material needs of the poor, but they have remembered, above all, their spiritual necessities. The work of the Church is indeed to alleviate human misery, but it is not so much to make people comfortable as to make them holy. No woman not bound by special claims upon her time need, while the "poor are with us," lead an idle life.
There are what I may call intermediate institutions, where woman's work is found to be valuable in our time. For instance, I believe in some English dioceses there are deaconesses authorised by special authority.
There is also instituted by our bishops an order of "Grey Ladies," who are doing good work. The distinctive mark, which differentiates these from sisterhoods, is that their vows are not for life, and that they can, if they please, and without breach of solemn pledges, return, after a time, to ordinary domestic occupations.
The work of nurses must not be left un-mentioned as a useful vocation for women. Their usefulness has been widely felt, especially since the heroic devotion of Florence Nightingale. "Pain," it is truly said, "is the first, the most familiar, the most enduring experience of man." " The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" is the expression of one side of the truth; the Lord " healeth those that are broken in heart, and giveth medicine to heal their sickness " is the other.
Who does not know the inestimable value of a good nurse in hours of pain and sickness ? It is a special call of the highest usefulness to women - to fulfil the office of nursing the sick. A good woman, possessing this vocation, and having the high self-denial required, and proper training and skill of hand and sympathy, and kindness of heart, has here a wide future of usefulness. She remembers the sacredness of "the body of our humiliation," and in doing so is invaluable as a religious consoler and helper in the sufferings of the soul.
To the very large number of women in England now unclaimed by ties of home this gives an opening for a really useful and happy life. But that happiness and usefulness will, of course, depend upon their having an inward call to help the suffering, and upon their diligence in " learning the trade," and upon their sincere religious principle. A bad, unskilled, selfish and unsympathetic nurse is as great a curse as a good, sympathetic, unselfish and skilful nurse is a blessing.
In connection with this, it ought to be remembered how, in these days, ladies with leisure, not necessarily skilled in nursing, but endowed with Christian kindness and common-sense and business-like habits, may be of vast usefulness as members of boards of guardians for seeing to the working of our Poor Laws. There is, happily, some thought at present of a reform of our Poor Laws. But even in their present lamentable condition, the lot of the very poor who have to come under their action is immeasurably ameliorated by the work and wise diligence of good women on the boards of guardians.
There is another walk in life now, more than ever, open to woman, where she may exercise an ennobling influence, and so help on the work of the Church of Christ. There must be many women who may not feel themselves called to any of the useful occupations which I have suggested, and who yet have gifts of taste, imagination, feeling, and cultivation which fit them for usefulness in literature.- In the vast increase of magazines, newspapers, novels, or serial stories there is a field opened for able and good women writers. There can be no doubt that modern literature - of whatever sort - exercises considerable influence on a vast mass of readers quite untouched by the classical masterpieces
The Rev. W. J. Knox Little, Canon and Sub Dean of Worcester Cathedral, who has written the accompanying brilliant and outspoken article specially for "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia." His eloquence has made him one of the greatest of living preachers
It is not necessary to write what are known as " religious stories " for these; but when we consider how literature has been, and is, degraded in this country, too often by following French modes, when we see how much that is read is positively vile, how much, too, that is not quite that, but yet tends in its whole tone to destroy all sense of sin and of moral responsi-blity, and to weaken the minds of the young, the sacred sanctions which guard society from demoralising influences, surely there is room for literary work - not dry and uninteresting, but appealing to the nobler instincts of the young, which women are specially fitted to take in hand ?
The amount of good done by Miss Charlotte Yonge in her stories has been incalculable. The blase or worldly may sneer at them, but they did interest the young, and stood on a high and healthy level. "Young England," in spite of many evil influences of this age, is very far from being altogether demoralised. There is still among our young people, especially when real Church influences have touched them, a vast fund of good-feeling, of humility and patience, of good-mindedness and noble heartedness, of truth and purity, of courage and unselfishness and love, and good and generous and interesting writers, especially among women, can make good use of this and raise our young generations.
Stories in magazines and romantic adventures, to say nothing of comic tales, full of harmless humour and pure fun, appear especially to appeal to the young. Why should not good and gifted women seize on the tendency and use it for noble purposes ? If this be done, it is a distinct help to the work of the Church in benefiting mankind.