Delivered by ELIZA C. ARMSTRONG, at the First Missionary Conference of Quaker Women in American, Indianapolis, April 1888.
Cox, Eliza Armstrong, Looking Back Over The Trail. Bloomington, IN: Women's Missionary Union of Friends in America, 1927.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.
To say on behalf of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society of Western Yearly Meeting, "You are welcome!" is to express our feelings so feebly, that the word seems almost out of place. Rather would we extend to you on this interesting occasion the fitting greeting of the great Apostle, "Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you for your fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which began a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ?"
There has been a latent, struggling missionary spirit in our church, from its rise, but only in this last quarter of a century, has it found a channel that seemed adapted to general effective service. So long ago as 1660, Mary Fisher left her home in England, to carry a Gospel message to the Sultan of Turkey. All who are familiar with the history of those times, the modes of travel and the Moslem idea of women, can vaguely imagine what an undertaking that was, Katherine Evans and Sarah Chevers embarked for Alexandria to lead its people to the "light of the world," and were imprisoned on the same island where Paul was once tossed, a shipwrecked missionary. Here they were kept in suffering for three years, but not without opportunity to preach the gospel to many people.
Elizabeth Fry, the eminent minister and philanthropist, is ours by a common inheritance. She is peerless, immortal, cosmopolitan. From the palace to the dungeon, all Europe felt the influence of her benign spirit. Again, coming down to our own time, contemporary with perhaps all of us, was our dear Sibyl Jones. We congratulate you, sisters of New England, upon the record she made. May God greatly multiply the Sibyl Jones' in your borders, and send them out with his gospel of love and peace. To this remarkable woman was given the privilege of starting the first school for girls under our auspices in the Holy Land, in the name of Christ and the Society of Friends.
To you, sisters of Indiana, the church will always stand indebted for your gift to the Home Mission work, of the heroic, dauntless missionary, Alida Clark, who for nearly a quarter of a century gave herself to the elevation of Africa's race on our own soil. The peace of God be hers, in this her evening time, and may her mantle fall upon scores of your daughters.
In this line of royal workers stands the honored name of Sarah Smith, England's first, then ours. Within this city stands her monument, erected by her own hands, through a life of sacrifice for her unfortunate sisters, for whom she felt Christ shed his blood the same as for herself. It gives us joy to know that among those whom we welcome today, is her daughter, Eliza W. Hiatt, of Indiana.
And to you of Ohio, coming from the state of presidents and the mother of the temperance crusade, we extend a cordial greeting. The honored president of your board, Sarah E. Jenkens, at the head of your delegation, bearing gracefully the weight of seventy years, was activity engaged in this foreign missionary work, perhaps before any other member of this conference had entered it. May the Lord spare her to see a strong foundation laid by her board in China, and crown her latest hour with joy.
But I cannot close this brief allusion to our missionary women, without referring to Emeline Tutfie, whom we are favored to have present with us. Her name is dear to every lover of Christ and his "children of the forest." Her work among the Modocs is historic and imperishable. We extend to her a "special welcome," and trust her presence among us may deepen our sense of obligation to the Indian. May the Angel of God's presence attend her steps.
"And down the slopes of sunset lead, As up the hills of morn."
We also esteem it a privilege indeed to be permitted to welcome to this Missionary Conference our dear sister Sarah Street, who gave long years of service for her Master in Madagascar. Her labor of love is recorded above and her reward awaits her.
Time as it advances brings developments. The missionary spirit of our sainted ancestors, that long lay like a germ unquickened, is springing up in scores of hearts as seed that had fallen in good ground, though it had waited for the latter rain. New methods must be found suited to new conditions. In 1871 the Yearly Meetings began to form their Missionary Committees. God's blessing was added and the work facilitated. Still there was a felt need. A more thorough consecration on the part of the church to this work was called for. Its avenues were not all open. Its resources not all in line of development. A cry came from abroad that women missionaries were greatly needed for a work which women only could do. And as her peculiar gifts and offices were an absolute necessity there, so a corresponding force was needed at home to supply a support for her and her work. The Holy Spirit always works in harmony with Himself and in His providence supply meets demand. While He calls upon women to go to the foreign field, He also calls upon women at home to combine for their assistance. Hence seven years ago this spring His urgings began in the hearts of the women of our denomination for an organization through which they might co-operate with Him more effectively than through existing agencies, or by individual effort. With a hearty good will the yearly meetings formed their Woman's Foreign Missionary Societies, until ten separate and distinct organizations now stand as a beautiful testimony of obedience to the divine call. After having followed the cloud for this length of time with such results, God's blessing and approval attending the movement all the way, to which this devoted band of witnesses is an irrefutable testimony, how can we accept this as any other than God's plan for us? As such, will not His further blessing be secured by our cherishing and developing it to the extent of our power under the leading of the Spirit? At the end of this seven years the result really seems wonderful. The heart exclaims, "What hath God wrought!" and takes up the poet's refrain:
"We are living, we are moving In a grand and awful time; In an age on ages telling To be living is sublime."
If it was a grand thing to be a Friend, when to be one required a baptism of persecution, imprisonment, and blood; and when in later years, we lived in seclusion and exclusion, preaching peace, honesty, and sobriety among ourselves; visiting the prisoner, liberating the slave, weeping with the sorrowing, surely it is no less grand to be one now, in this evening of the nineteenth century with all the virtues of the past undiminished, and this broader zeal aglow in our hearts.
We now take in the scope of the Great Commission to carry the gospel to every creature, as meant for the Friends as much as for any other body of believers.
Seven years ago those who went up into the mount to view the pattern of this, today, unfinished structure, were comparatively few and solitary. Now here we are assembled, the Women of the Society of Friends! From New England where our people suffered martyrdom; from beyond the Mississippi within whose territory is the "poor Indian" with whom "many, many long moons ago" the founder of your beautiful city of Philadelphia made his memorable treaty of peace; from the south where the slaves groan and the drivers lash filled the moral atmosphere with a deadly miasma, and in whose behalf our people were first to be heard; here we meet in this upper room, forgetting the things that are behind, really only on the threshold of our opportunity, ready to go and send the gospel of Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth. Seven years of patient toil and experience have passed in which the wise-hearted women have brought their blue and purple and fine-twined linen as an offering unto the Lord.
As I look from this period upon our first Missionary Conference I can almost imagine how good old Simeon felt when he beheld the infant Jesus; but unlike him, if it be God's will, I would rather remain until this infant reaches a more mature age.
Now as the shadows of this missionary century lengthen about us, and she gathers up her robes for departure, shall we not prepare ourselves as a solid body of true women to add our utmost contribution to the cause of missions, and the evangelization of our heathen sisters to Christ?
May the Holy Spirit be poured out upon this Conference in blessed fulness, and we be enabled to
discern His plans for us with clearness, and work them out with consecrated wills and intellects
endued with power from on high.
(See also the Welcome from the Indianapolis Missionary Society, from Jemima T. Pray, Delivered
at the same conference.)