Women Speaking in Mixed Assemblies by J. B. Hawthorne – Page 1 WOMEN SPEAKING IN MIXED

Women Speaking in Mixed Assemblies by J. B. Hawthorne – Page 1
By J. B. Hawthorne
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner September 5, 1992.
Do the Scriptures permit women to speak in mixed
assemblies? “Let your women keep silence in the
churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
but they are commanded to be under obedience,
as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything,
let them ask their husbands at home: for it
is a shame for women to speak in the church. What?
came the word of God out from you? or came it
unto you only? If any man think himself to be a
prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the
things that I write unto you are the commandments
of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be
ignorant” (I Cor. 14:34-38).
“Let the women learn in silence, with all subjection,
but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
authority over the man, but to be in silence. For
Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was
not deceived, but the woman being deceived was
in the transgression” (I Tim. 2:11-14).
If through God’s infinite mercy, I am ever permitted
to see the face of the apostle Paul, I shall feel that I owe
him an humble apology for having many times tried to
believe, that in some unaccountable way he had made
a prodigious mistake, and inflicted on woman a cruel
injustice in forbidding her to speak in the church. My
sympathies, my prejudices and three-fourths of my reading
and thinking have been on the woman’s side of this
question. But the conflict is over. After a long and painful
struggle I have made an unconditional surrender to
conscience and Paul and the Holy Ghost.
What do the Scriptures teach upon this subject? The
discussion must be limited to this single question. Your
feelings, the opinions of men, and the spirit of the nineteenth
century cannot be admitted into this controversy.
It is a subject upon which God has spoken, and we cannot
array human opinion, or human feeling against his
truth, without aligning ourselves with Robert G. Ingersoll
and his followers.
On the question now before us, we find in this “Book
by inspiration given”, a thus saith the Lord. “Let the
women keep silence in the churches, for it is not
permitted unto them to speak.” By these words Baptists
have stood through all the centuries of their existence,
and by them they will continue to stand “till time’s
last thunder shakes the world.”
1. It is claimed by some, not many, that the apostle
Paul did not intend to forbid women to take in any serious
discussion, but to prohibit them from indulging in
idle chatter.
In answering this view, Dr. Broadus, one of the greatest
teachers of New Testament Greek, says; “The word
which commonly means to talk, to speak, is sometimes
used in classical Greek for chattering, and is sometimes
applied to animals. But there are no clear examples of
any such use in Biblical Greek, and the word is applied
to apostles, Saviour, God”
If there is any authority for translating the Greek so
as to make the passage read, “It is not permitted unto
them to chatter”, there is the same authority for saying,
that Paul chattered to the Athenians, or that Christ chattered
to the multitudes.
2. Others claim that Paul’s prohibition is limited to
speaking in the church, and that while it would be unlawful
for women to speak in a church, it is permissible
in a prayer meeting. In answer to this it is sufficient to
say, that a meeting of this congregation for prayer, is
just such a meeting of the church, as a meeting to hear
the preaching of the gospel. The word church was applied
by the New Testament writers to meetings in private
3. There are some who contend that Paul could not
have forbidden to speak upon religious subjects in meetings
of the church, because there were prophetesses in
those days, and such were allowed to speak. There is no
conclusive evidence to show that either Christian or Jewish
prophetesses delivered their prophecies before public
assemblies. Do the women of this day, who go into
mixed assemblies and speak, claim to be prophets? Do
they claim that what they say is a revelation from God?
If they do, and their claim be true, their utterances should
be written down and incorporated with the other sacred
Scriptures. If they are indeed prophets, inspired
and accredited as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul
and John were, then we have abundant material to make
a new Bible every week. But are they prophets? They
cannot be if Paul has spoken the mind of God. What
does he say? Immediate conception with these words
forbidding women to speak in the church, he says: “If
any man thinketh himself a prophet, or spiritual
let him acknowledge that the things which I write
unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” He
makes the acknowledgement of his inspiration the test
of their claim, not only to the gift of prophecy, but to
any spiritual gift. They may sincerely believe themselves
to be spiritual, but if they refuse to acknowledge his
authority, he says they are not spiritual. Now where there
Women Speaking in Mixed Assemblies by J. B. Hawthorne – Page 2
is this conflict between Paul and the women what shall
I do? What ought I to do? The Lord knows how distressful
it is for me not to go with the women. Without
their sympathy and fellowship this world would be to
me a solitude. But having Adam’s experience before
me, how foolish it would be for me to follow these daughters
of Eve in violating a law as simple and legible as
God could make it.
4. The position on which the advocates of this new
doctrine and practice rely more than any other, and to
which they cling with greatest persistence, is that the
law which Paul lays down in this letter to the Corinthians,
was intended only for the Corinthian church—that it was
purely a local regulation made necessary by a peculiar
and exceptional state of things among the Christians of
This position is utterly untenable. Anyone can see at
a single glance that Paul did not make this law for the
Corinthian women only. He wrote the same thing to
Timothy that he might apply it to the churches in the
region about Ephesus. In his letter to Timothy he assigns
two reasons for not permitting to teach and pray
in a mixed assembly.
(1) “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Now,
the Corinthians were not the only people in the world
who had descended from Adam and Eve. I trust that
the members of the First Baptist Church have not ceased
to believe that even they are the descendants of Adam
and Eve. I entreat these female apostles of the new Gospel
and new dispensation to permit us to hold to that
much of the Bible. If we have descended from Adam
and Eve, then Paul’s law forbidding women to speak in
mixed assemblies was not local, and is binding on the
women of “all the churches.”
“Adam was first formed.” The man was formed
out of the dust of the earth. The woman was formed out
of the man. She was formed for him, for his help and
companionship. Here lies the strength of the reason
which the apostle gives for the divine law that woman
shall be in subjection to the man. She is to be in subjection
to the man, not so much because she was made
after the man, for she and the man were both created
after the beasts of the field, but because she was made
out of the man, and for the man. So the woman’s subjection
to the man, is according to the laws of nature
and creation.
Now Paul says when a woman goes to church and
teaches or preaches in the presence of men, she reverses
God’s order and violates the laws of her own nature
and creation. “I suffer not a woman to teach or usurp
authority over the man.” Teaching implies authority
over those who are taught, and as a woman has not,
according to God’s economy, authority over the man,
she is not permitted to stand up in a public assembly
and teach. God knows that millions of women have the
ability to teach men; but he does not permit them to do
it, at least in a public way, because it has the appearance
of authority.
(2) The second reason Paul had for prohibiting women
from speaking in mixed assemblies was, that Adam was
not deceived; but the woman being deceived was in the
transgression. If that was a sufficient reason for not permitting
the women to speak in the church at Corinth, it
is a sufficient reason for the same regulation in the First
Baptist Church of Atlanta. The women to whom I speak
today are just as much involved in the consequences of
Eve’s conduct as the women to whom Paul spoke and
wrote. “Our mother took the poisonous cup and tainted
all our blood.”
“Adam was not deceived.” This positive assertion
is to be taken without limitations or qualifications. Adam
was not deceived at all. He was not deceived by the
serpent with whom he had not talked, nor was he deceived
by his wife. He knew what he was doing. He
knew what would be the consequences of eating the
forbidden fruit. He understood God’s law. He knew that
the violation of it would bring death to him, to Eve, and
all their countless posterity. He ate because his wife had
eaten it and became mortal, and he loved her so well
that he would rather die with her, than be left alone in
the world. Inasmuch as he sinned wilfully, and against
light and knowledge, without any deception, his sin was
greater than hers, and his punishment more severe.
But the woman was deceived. She really thought the
serpent spoke the truth, and that she and her husband
should not die if they ate of the fruit.
“And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall
not die, for God doth know that in the day that ye
eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and
ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” That
was what caught the dear woman. She wanted to know
as much as God, so that she might be independent of
Him. That was what caught her, and there she has shown
her weakness ever since. She wants to know too much.
She is restive under her sense of inferiority to anyone.
Out of this natural weakness grows her insubordination
to Paul.
When a woman looks upon a thing, and is pleased
with, charmed by it, she believes it to be right, no matter
what the authorities say about it. Bear with me, gentle
sisters, while I suggest some of the natural infirmities of
your sex. The infirmities of your brothers are much more
In these latter days, when, according to prophecy, all
manner of strange things must occur, it has appeared
unto some women that it would be pleasant and beautiful
for them to step out of their divinely appointed
sphere, and do some of the things which God has committed
solely to men. Some invisible artist has set before
their mind’s eye pictures of women in the pulpit,
women on the rostrum, women at the ballot-box, women
on the Judge’s bench, and women in the halls of Congress.
These pictures have charmed them, bewitched
them, and thus deceived. They have reached the conWomen
Speaking in Mixed Assemblies by J. B. Hawthorne – Page 3
clusion that the Bible and God’s order need amendment;
and one of the amendments which they propose is, to
strike out from the Divine Book Paul’s words forbidding
a woman to speak in the church. Paul bases this
law upon the fact that the man was not deceived, and
the woman was deceived. Well, what has that to do with
a woman preaching? It has a great deal to do with it.
Basing his prohibitory law upon the fact that she was
deceived, he means that a creature who can be made to
believe that a law signifies something radically different
from its obvious meaning, or that it is wise and good in
some things to disobey the Almighty, cannot be safely
trusted with the office of the Christian ministry.
God said unto woman, “I will greatly multiply thy
sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou
bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy
husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
That was God’s punishment of woman for the part
she took in the first transgression. Has it been removed?
Is it not just as real today as it was thousands of years
ago? It remains, and will remain till the end of time, to
remind woman how the devil beguiled her and robbed
her of her innocence.
Now Paul says that his law forbidding women publicly
to teach men is based upon the sentence which
God pronounced against woman in the garden. Has that
sentence been revoked? If it has been annulled, who
did it, and when and where was it done? The curse upon
the serpent remains. The curse upon the man continues.
Why should woman’s curse be removed? What
evidences have we that the disabilities imposed upon
her in Eden have been cancelled? The Bible contains
no such doctrine. Jesus Christ and His apostles did not
teach it. Woman’s sorrow has not been removed and
the law putting her in subjection to man has never been
Under the old Jewish dispensation there were no female
priests, and women were not allowed to speak in
the synagogue in any capacity. Christ did not interfere
with this regulation. In organizing His own dispensation
He said nothing and He did nothing to warrant a
departure from the Jewish doctrines and practices in
reference to women. He chose twelve apostles. There
was not a woman among them. Among the seventy
whom He commissioned to preach there was not a
Brethren, do you appeal from the authority of this
divine book? If you do not the question is settled, and
the uniform practice of the churches from the apostles
till now must stand.
It is due to the Christian women of the nineteenth
century, that only a few of them comparatively, have
joined this rebellion against God’s order. The great mass
of them are content to remain in the sphere prescribed
for them by the precepts of the Bible, and the laws of
their own nature.
In the field of Christian activity there are tasks for
woman that are great enough to tax her utmost capacity,
and high enough to satisfy every lawful aspiration
of her soul. Within the great circle of her own sex, she is
permitted to teach, admonish and exhort to her heart’s
I have always had some sympathy with Adam, because
I know the bewitching power of female eloquence.
It requires a desperate struggle of the will to overcome
it. Women are naturally so much better than men, so
much gentler and kinder and sweeter, that men are apt
to think it a virtue to yield to them, even when they
know them to be in error.
But he is woman’s best friend who dares to oppose
her in a wrong course. He is most loyal to woman’s
welfare, happiness and honor, who is most persistent
and determined in his efforts to deter her from those
undertakings that are incompatible with the laws of her
being. Woman, self-willed, contentious, arrogant, noisy,
combative, is a hideous monstrosity. There is nothing
on earth, or under the earth that has less attraction for a
right-minded, true-hearted, manly man. But woman
clothed with purity, modesty, humility, a gracious temper
and a calm spirit; woman cultured in mind and heart,
and lovingly and loyally moving in her divinely appointed
orbit, is exalted to her highest estate, and in
that estate is man’s angel, a wayside sacrament, a handwriting
of God, a window opening towards a world of
Whence comes this new craze? Whence comes this
challenge of apostolic inspiration and authority? Whence
comes this clamor for the transmutation of woman?
Whence comes this new slogan, “Down with Paul and
up with woman?” Whence comes the cry that calls
woman to the pulpit, the rostrum, the political caucus,
the ballot-box, and the legislative hall? It comes from
the same region where every ism that has cursed the
country for the last century. It comes from a section
which applauded theodore Parker for saying, “If Jesus
Christ did teach the doctrine of eternal punishment, I
do not believe it.” It comes from a community so tolerant
of heresy that a man can be elected to a chair of
theology in a college once distinguished for its orthodoxy
who says that are three ways to God and heaven—
the way of the church, the way of the Bible and the way
of reason—and that man is perfectly safe in choosing
any one of them. It comes from the birthplace of the
new theology, whose liberality is another name for infidelity.
I confess I would be less suspicious of it, if it had
first seen the light of day on a soil less prolific of evil.
From the birth of the republic to the present day, this
sunny Southland has been singularly free from that
latitudinarianism in religious belief, and that irreverent
spirit towards God’s word which has been the blight
and mildew of other sections. There has been nothing
in our Southern soil and atmosphere to give nutriment
to these noxious weeds. Let us abide in the spirit of loyalty
to God and His truth. Let us present to these propaWomen
Speaking in Mixed Assemblies by J. B. Hawthorne – Page 4
gandists of a diluted and perverted Christianity an unbroken
front and calmly and trustfully to Him, who
giveth us the victory, stand with the deathless devotion
of martyrs by the old flag of the old faith.
It has been my fear of the sources from which these
mischievous innovations come, that has made me, for
five years a persistent advocate for the creation of a
Southern Baptist literature for Southern Baptist Sunday
Schools. Such a literature would do much to keep the
South “solid” for all time to come. The South needs to
be solid; solid not for sectionalism, but against it; solid
for the union our fathers framed; solid for good government;
solid against class legislation; solid against laws
that are golden girdles for the rich, and galling shackles
for the poor; solid for peace and fraternity on the basis
of mutual respect and confidence, and equal protection
and freedom; but above all solid against looseness of
religious belief and practice; solid against every appeal
from God’s book to the tribunal of human reason, or
human consciousness; solid for a living ministry of men
whose lips and lives are pure, and who will know among
men, but Christ, and Him crucified; solid for God’s order
in the church and the whole social economy; solid
against the folly and sin of robbing woman of her natural
modesty, humility, loveliness and dignity by thrusting
her out of her native sphere into unnatural relations,
and clothing her with functions which she was not born
to wear; in a word, solid for God and against everything
that is false, and wrong and hurtful to man. Heaven
grant that my life be lengthened to see the time when
not only the South, but the North, the East, and the West,
all this bounteous birth-land of the free, shall have no
creed but the Bible, and no Savior but Christ, and when
this great people shall consecrate their magnificent resources
to the world’s redemption!

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