|CHAPTER V. -- A Period of Stern Opposition.|
The Lord permitted a few of our Bible women to grow strong under this special ministry of grace known as the Bible Band work. This strength led the women to contend for the Bible plan of church government in the discipline of members, in supporting churches, and in preaching and teaching the gospel. The common evil practices of intemperance in beer drinking, tobacco using, excessive eating and dressing, and the desecrating custom of using church houses for fairs, festivals and other worldly amusements were all strongly condemned by our Bible women, while righteousness, holiness, purity and all the kindred graces of Christianity were upheld and emphasized. Ministers and laymen, who looked with disdain upon a criticism that came from a woman, and all those who were jealous of the growing popularity of the woman's work, as if there was some cause of alarm for the safety of their own positions of power and honor, all
rose up in their churches, with all the influence and power of speech they could summon to oppose the woman's work and break it up if possible. The work had taken root too deeply in the hearts of our women ever to be uprooted, but we were given a good shaking, and thrashing, and for a season the work seemed to stand still. The separate associational meeting was broken up, many local Bible Bands disbanded, and the good women patiently waited in silence; praying for God's will to be done. Virginia continued to hold meetings where she could find an opportunity. As God has always provided some way of escape for his servants, He provide for Virginia, for there were some preachers who never closed their churches against our work, and hence an opportunity was given for self-defense in the thickest of the fight. Brethren would come to our meetings to catch every word spoken, if thereby they might have some just cause to condemn our teaching, as being false doctrine. One minister was so desirous to destroy the work like Saul of Tarsus, he desired letters of authority that he might follow in the wake of our missionaries and destroy whatever good they might have accomplished. We praise God that just as He arrested Paul in his wild career and caused him to repent, He also stopped that minister, turned him around completely and made him one
of the strongest friends to our work we have in all the land.
While in his rage, desiring to destroy our work, he came to hear Virginia speak for the expressed purpose of getting a just case against her. Virginia was totally ignorant of this scheme, but she did notice the reverend gentleman sat with his back toward her while she spoke, as if warming himself near the stove. She spoke in her usual earnest, impressive manner, and from the sequel that we will now relate, it is quite evident she spoke more wisely than she knew. When she concluded her remarks and asked those who wished to speak to express themselves, this Rev. H. arose and made a marvelous confession. He told of his purpose in coming to that meeting, as already stated, and then said that he was regarded by his church as a fluent speaker, but he was then unable to speak and only rose to make a confession. The following are his words:
"I have been washed, rinsed, starched, hung up, dried, sprinkled and ironed, and am now ready for service; not to destroy, but to do all in my power to forward this branch of God's work as jealously as I had determined to oppose it."
He has kept his word and today our woman's work has no better friend among the able ministers of the race than that brother. This minister had a brother, Frank, who lived in the town where we met him. The
brother was so opposed to our work when Miss King and Virginia called to see his wife, who was specially interested in their work, he left his own house, refusing even to meet the missionary women. He went to his work, and from his own testimony, he became so troubled he could not work, but was compelled to come down to the church and hear what those women said Suffice it to say, just as his brother was so wondrously transformed during Virginia's discourse, so was he. Great joy came to all our sisters in that place, for those two men's friendship meant much to the existence of our work there.
Another brother who opposed our work said, on a certain occasion, "I would rather take a rail and flail the life out of a woman than to hear her speak in the church." As he spoke, not knowing what he said, God forgave him, brought him to the light, and he made an open confession of his fault.
There was another brother in the Durhamville district who took special delight in harassing the weaker women in the absence of their teacher. Upon a certain occasion, when Virginia was visiting that section, the sisters reported that brother and asked Virginia to speak to him. As usual an opportunity was given the missionary to present her work to the church. All believers rejoiced as she spoke, and the enemies were
silenced for the time being. In concluding her address she said: "If any one present is not convinced of the Divine authority of the woman's work, ask any question and a far as I am able I'll gladly give the Bible teaching relating to it." No one asked a single question, although the brother was present that had given the sisters of that church so much annoyance. When the service closed, however, we met the brother and rejoiced to learn that he had been won over to the cause of missions and he joined heart and hand with the Bible women to push the Lord's work on to victory. He never faltered after that day, but ever defended and supported our cause to the day of his death.
When the opposition raged fiercely, a certain minister, Bob. T. by name, came to one of our churches with the expressed intention to throw Virginia out of the window. God was manifestly present that night, and raised up friends to protect her and maintain the cause she represented, that she had never known before, and no hand was raised against her. Glory be to God for his great power of deliverance, as shown on that special occasion.
In some places church houses were locked against our Bible women, and violent hands even laid upon some. Dear Sister Nancy C. said had not Sister Susan S. come to her rescue she would have been badly
beaten for attempting to hold a woman's meeting in her own church.
In another vicinity Brother F. P. became so enraged he drew a gun on his wife after she had gotten in a wagon to go to one of our Bible Band meetings, and threatened to take her life if she went a step farther. Of course she was obliged to step that time and stay home, but that man soon died; he was not permitted to live long enough to prohibit that good woman a second time from going when her missionary sisters called a meeting. This incident did much to allay the persecution throughout that section. While men opposed and Satan strove our progress to retard, God was with us and was only permitting those trials our dross to consume and our gold to refine. Those opposition proved to be stepping stones to nobler and more extended endeavors. Virginia was soon appointed missionary by the W. B. H. M. S. Thus strengthened, she was better prepared to work than ever. She made two missionary tours through the North and East, This was a source of great strength and pleasure to her.
After such a season of conflict she needed the rest and desirable change the northern tours provided. In the great Saratoga meetings of the Northern Baptists Anniversary Virginia spoke twice and seemed to please the great audiences. The press complimented her addresses as being among the best delivered. All the
other lady speakers were of the Caucasian race. God used her in the North to touch many hearts by singing the plantation melodies.
In the great state meeting in Rochester, N. Y., Virginia was given a place on the program. The vast audience heard her gladly, and the reception committee gave her a queenly entertainment, several young women vying with each other to see that she was well supplied with the delicacies of the feast. The same hearty welcome was given her wherever she went as missionary of the W. B. H. M. S. in the states of New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. These northern meetings referred to were like oases in the desert to our heroic missionary. Such gracious words of cheer, such hospitable entertainment, such applause, such substantial endorsement Virginia had never before experienced.
One day, after canvassing until eventide in Saratoga, N. Y., in the interest of the B. & N. I. with no apparent success, she finally came to a wealthy man, Mr. A. Trask, that gave her a promise of one hundred dollars on a certain condition. She did not succeed in meeting the condition but the gentleman paid her $50 of the promised sum. You can imagine her joy from that experience. She was also quite highly favored by others in Saratoga and Troy, N.Y., when traveling in the interest of the school.
Returning south to her field of labor she came with new zeal and began afresh to develop the work she had so nobly begun.
New effort was put forth in the industrial feature of our work. Many beautiful quilts were made whereby our treasuries were considerably increased. A beautiful silk crazy patch quilt handsomely worked throughout with various designs and fancy stitches was made by the Memphis Bible women and sent to the W. B. H. M. S. as a donation to missions.
As Virginia traveled through the rural districts during the period of opposition it was difficult at times to get any conveyance. She was never particular, riding in anything that could be secured, from a wheelbarrow to a top buggy, and often walking when nothing could be secured. About this time God moved one of her country friends to dedicate his buggy and two horses to the work of missions. So whenever this friend, whom we will call Brother Jas. T., knew Virginia was expected, conveyance was always provided. The home of that dear brother and his beloved wife ever kept its doors open to God's traveling heralds, and was accordingly blessed both temporarily and spiritually. A certain meeting was appointed in that neighborhood and these good people, Brother J. T. and his wife, expected to meet Virginia there and convey her on her journey through the country. Virginia was
The work was fully explained and God used Virginia, little woman as she was, so gently, so sweetly, and so quietly that the good minister was soon led into the light of the gospel teaching regarding our work, and he quieted down as a shorn lamb, bade us go forward and assured us that he would encourage the work in his church. his church.
Not one of all our opposers would ever enter into single combat with Virginia.
We'll conclude this chapter on opposition with the following convincing and pathetic story. While the church and world were opposing, there were relatives of Virginia in sympathy with the opposition party and they would suggest that it was entirely out of place, unreasonable and unlike God to call a woman
Of course this family talk soon reached Virginia's ears, so she became very serious about her position, and began to think it did seem unreasonable that God would give her any work that called her so often from her home. Accordingly, while in this mood, she went to Stanton to hold a meeting. After the service one of the good women approaches her and said, "God surely sent you to us at this time; our hindrances are so great and so numerous that we could not possibly carry on our Bible Band work without an occasional visit from you." Virginia replied, "I don't know while I'll come again, for it seems that I ought to be at home with my children." Immediately there on the spot, this revelation was made to Virginia's in most soul, "What if God should take all the children away." So great was the change in Virginia's countenance as she quietly sat down the sisters desired to know what had happened to her.
Virginia returned to her home with the understanding she would come back to a neighboring town the following Saturday, if the weather was fair. (Should it rain the place could scarcely be reached, as a low, swampy territory intervened between the rail-road station and that country village.) During that week one of her children, dear little Selena, her third daughter, was taken ill. On Saturday morning, the
The home going of our darling little Selena is one of the most blessed experiences in the life of Virginia. Heaven has ever since seemed nearer; and what we call death only a transition, only a gateway into the Paradise of God. This darling child was laid to rest Friday afternoon. Virginia went on her mission Saturday morning. So mightily did God use her on that occasion that her bitterest opposers said: "Let that woman alone, God is truly with her." She has ever since been enabled to trust God for the care of her home and her children; nothing has been allowed to hinder her from doing her Master's bidding when sufficient light has been given her to direct her course. We praise God for afflictions; for in mercy they are all sent to bring us near to God.