A BIRTHRIGHT OR A MESS OF POTTAGE?
829. That false teaching derived from the Talmudic “Ten Curses of Eve,” (see par. 106), that God is punishing women, at certain times of anguish, for the sin of Eve, is a wicked and cruel superstition which has not support in Scripture and is unworthy of our intelligence. Genesis 3:16 furnishes a cloak for masculine selfish and hypocritical sensuality within the marriage relation, as perverted and read, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband.” The teaching is, moreover, a travesty on Divine Justice, for are not men as much the offspring of Eve as women? The punishment does not fall upon sin, but upon sex; and God Himself is alone responsible for the sex of an individual.
830. Furthermore, the teaching that woman must perpetually “keep silence” in the Church, be obedient to her husband, and never presume to teach or preach, because Eve sinned, blights the doctrine of the atonement, and robs Christ of glory, in that His death atoned for all sin, including Eve’s of course. It is entirely contrary to the spirit of Protestantism. Luther says: “It is a great error to seek ourselves to satisfy God’s justice for our sins, for God ever pardons them freely by an inestimable grace.”
831. And yet, amazing as it seems, Luther, as well as others, seems never to have grasped the idea of “free grace” for women. It is recorded of him that he said: “If a woman becomes weary and at last dead from bearing, that matters not. Let her only die from bearing; she is there to do it.” Luther made much of “liberty of conscience,” yet as regards women he said: “She must neither begin nor complete anything without man: where he is, there she must be, and bend before him as before a master, whom she shall fear and to whom she shall be subject and obedient.” He left no place for “liberty of conscience” for women.
832. Luther is not an exception to the general run of Bible expositors. He may be a little more vivid in his utterances than some others. Fortunately for women, when they have heard “free grace” heralded by ministers, they have taken it to themselves. And contrary to the supposed teaching of St Paul, women have of late years been encouraged to take part in public meetings in the churches, since it was discovered that the meetings were dull without their participation. But what right has the Church to endorse a line of doctrine which by its own practices it sets at defiance? Is it not time for the Church to either change its practice or expunge these teachings from its commentaries, making them consistent one with the other? The duty is laid specially upon women to bring about this reconciliation between their own practice, in taking part in public meetings, and the popularly supposed teachings of the Bible.
833. But if we banish from our belief and from our teaching, that God has laid a blighting hand upon the entire sex to which Eve belonged, because of Eve’s sin, then what will become of the teaching that the promise that the seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent’s head, belongs to all women? The difference is here: The sad prophecy of Genesis 3:16 has been abundantly fulfilled in the physically inherited sorrow and suffering of women. The glorious prophecy of Genesis 3:15 will be abundantly fulfilled also, not by a physical inheritance at all, but by a voluntary choice.
834. Prophecy is not fate. No woman is fated for the glorious destiny of fulfilling this prophecy, that the seed of the woman will bruise the serpent’s head. This will not come to me, in spite of myself,¾so that I can glory in what is coming, whatever I do. We are merely told that some women will grasp this prize of a high calling in Christ Jesus; and if I do not take my place with such, my humiliation, and my eventual punishment will be the greater, because the prize was set before me, and I despised it.
835. As we have said before, in all the Bible no sin is held up to human contempt more than Esau’s. He had a birthright in prospect, and a father’s prophetical blessing to follow that birthright. But these were things for the future, and might be long delayed in coming, while there was on him the urgent necessity of physical appetite. He might have stood in the line of ancestry through which Christ came into the world: but Christ was not coming for a long time,¾did not, in fact, come for about seventeen hundred years. He sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
836. The New Testament pronounces him “a profane person . . . who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright,” and adds, “Ye know how that afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected.” (Hebrews 12:16, 17). His father’s blessing on him as inheritor of the birthright, would have added much to his temporal advantage; but having sold that birthright, he could not inherit that blessing. The deed had been done long before. There was no place left for a change. He got a mess of pottage but he lost a double portion of his father’s estate, and the place of honor in the family. Isaac would not transfer the birthright-blessing he had uttered on Jacob back to Esau. He had perceived, as we think, that it was only the temporal advantages that Esau was after.
837. No greater contrast could be drawn than that between the case of Esau, and the case of Moses, of whom this same author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter . . . esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, which were all laid at his feet for self-indulgence (Hebrews 11:24-26). Think of it! This fine Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; son of the daughter of the king! He turns away from it all, and joins himself to slaves of Egyptians! What a fanatic! Looking for a Christ, and sacrificing all the world for that Christ, fifteen hundred years before Christ ever came!
838. And what will the women of our day do? Will they say: “The prospect is too remote to be attractive to me. If I could see that by much effort, and by practicing a great deal of self-denial, anything could be accomplished worthwhile, in my day, the case would be different. But the little that I can do to hasten the evangelization of the world, and the coming of Christ will make no difference. I do not care to teach, or preach, or pray in public. I do not wish to be among those who are all the time proclaiming that Christ is coming again, and He never comes. They are a laughing-stock. I cannot join them.” Such do not “esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.”
839. To which body will we belong? That is the question for each woman of us to answer to herself. This is not a matter concerning which indecision is of any avail. A great promise and prophecy¾the very greatest in all the Bible¾lies before us women. We cannot escape; we must either choose the best that could be, from the highest standpoint, or by failing to choose prove ourselves Esaus. God has given the challenge to our faith. Shall we despise our birthright? God forbid!