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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And one ancient widow for a deaconess


old spirit of the Huguenots has not died out of France, and with that ready susceptibility to noble ideas which is a marked characteristic of the French character, we can expect to see the deaconess cause thrive and prosper as it has done in other lands.

[50] Speak to God about the little ones, rather than to the little souls of God. [51] See a sympathetic study of the work by Maxime du Camp, a member of the French Academy, in his book _Paris Bienfaisant_.



To learn the first facts about deaconesses in England, we must go back to the early days of the Puritans. In 1576, under Queen Elizabeth, about sixty non-conformist ministers of the eastern counties assembled to make regulations concerning Church constitution and discipline, and one of them was as follows: "Touching deacons of both sorts, namely, both men and women, the Church should be admonished what is required by the apostle, that they are not to choose men by custom or course, or for their riches, but for their faith, zeal, and integrity; and that the Church is to pray in the meantime to be so directed that they may choose them that are meet. Let the names of those that are thus chosen be published the next Lord's Day, and after that their duties to the Church, and the Church's duty toward them.

Then let them be received into their office with the general prayers of the whole Church."[52]

There are other references in the works of the early Puritans that indicate that the office of deaconess was as well known and recognized as were the other offices that were named in accordance with the usages of the primitive Church.

In the early part of the seventeenth century it still survived, as we shall see from a quaint and curious picture that is of especial interest to all Americans, because it portrays what took place in that community of pious souls who furnished us the men we delight to honor as the Pilgrim Fathers. A number of these heroic souls, who could give up their country, but would not yield their faith, went forth from England in 1608, and settled in Amsterdam. They preserved in a foreign land their own Church usages, as the following words show: "In Amsterdam there were about three hundred communicants, and they had for their pastor and teacher those two eminent men before named (Johnson and Ainsworth); and had at one time four grave men for ruling elders, three able, godly men for deacons, and one ancient widow for a deaconess, who did them service many years, though she was sixty years of age when she was chosen. She honored her place, and was an ornament to the congregation. She usually sat in a convenient place in the congregation, with a little birchen rod in her hand, and kept little children in awe from disturbing the congregation. She did frequently visit the sick and weak, especially women, and as there was need called out ladies and young women to watch and do them other helps as their necessity should require; and if there were poor she would gather relief for them of those that were able, or acquaint the deacons. And she was obeyed as a mother in Israel and an officer of Christ."[53]

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