LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 27

 

 

WOMEN PREACHERS

 

 

The Prophet Joel tells of a time that should come afterward, in which the Spirit of the Lord would be poured on all flesh, and in that dispensation their sons and their daughters should prophesy. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, declared that day had come, and now the daughters were as free to prophesy as the sons. Since then, whenever the Holy Ghost comes on a people, God has laid His hands on some choice women and called them into the work of the ministry.

Paul tells us in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians that women may pray or prophesy with their heads covered, and in the same chapter he tells us that a woman’s hair was given to her for a covering. What is it to prophesy? “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3).

Satan has always opposed the work of the Lord, and if he can get the men to quit preaching and return to secular work, and intimidate the women until they will fear to enter the ministry, he will in a large measure stop the preaching of holiness and the testimony to the same.

While in a great revival in Texas some years ago, in a neighborhood where there was great opposition to women speaking in church or exercising in any way in public, many of the women began to get into the experience of entire sanctification, and then, of course, they would shout the praises of God and testify at every opportunity. There lived in that neighborhood an old maid, about thirty-five years of age, who was much opposed to women testifying in church. It made her very nervous when her women friends of her own church swept into the experience of holiness and would testify freely to the experience. One night she became more excited than ever, and sprang to her feet in the midst of the testimony service, and told the preacher that she did not get up to testify, for she did not believe it was allowed by the Scriptures. Then she asked, “What did Paul mean when he said, ‘Let your women keep silent in the church’?” The preacher replied, “I do not know. But the next verse says, ‘If they will learn any thing let them ask their husbands at home.’ Suppose you try it.” She instantly flew into a rage, and immediately left the church never to return. Whether she found a husband to ask or not was never learned.

Did you ever notice that immediately following the statement just referred to in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35, the very next verse contains three question marks? “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it from you only?” Verse 37, “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.” He had just written in verse 31, “For ye may all prophesy one by one.” No man ever heard of a church composed entirely of men, therefore the women have a right to prophesy, for he gave the whole church the right. Philip had four daughters who were women preachers “who did prophesy.” it was the order of the Pentecostal church, and when the church returned to Pentecostal days in the early days of the holiness movement the same order of things prevailed, and there were many women preachers, who did much to plant holiness.

Among the prominent preachers of those days were Mrs. Peppers and Mrs. Mary Hogan, who conducted many great revivals in Texas. They were Free Methodists. Mrs. E. J. Rutherford (now Mrs. E. J. Malone), who was in the Methodist Protestant Church, was almost constantly engaged in revival work and in demand in campmeetings. She was a preacher of some note. Mrs. Mary Lee Harris (now Mrs. Mary Lee Cagle), has for twenty-five years done much aggressive preaching and organizing in the holiness movement. It was through her that the Church of Christ was brought to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. She was a real pioneer, and full of fire and zeal. Mrs. Annie Fisher, the wife of Rev. W. E. Fisher, for years worked with her husband in revival work. Mrs. Lula B. Rogers, the wife of Tom Rogers, was a very magnetic and fervent preacher in these pioneer days. Mrs. Mary McGee Snell, of Mississippi, did much evangelistic work throughout the South. Mrs. Johnny Jernigan, one of the pioneer rescue workers, for years labored alongside of her husband until she was called of God to take charge of the Nazarene Rescue Home at Bethany, Okla., where over seven hundred girls were cared for in nine years; and in that home at the Sunday afternoon preaching services and the Wednesday night prayermeetings there were over five hundred conversions.

There were also bands of girl preachers who went out two and two as evangelists, one a preacher and the other a singer. Of these were Miss Essie Osborne and Miss Mae Sallee. This band has done a mighty work in Oklahoma and throughout the South. Miss Osborne is a master preacher.

Then Miss Lula Mae Dillbeck and Miss Verdie Sallee, who labored incessantly together until the death of Miss Dillbeck in October, 1918.

Miss Dillbeck was converted in Fannin County, Texas, in 1903, and a few months later was gloriously sanctified in a meeting held by Rev. J. A. Selcer, and immediately began preaching, but opposition to women preachers was so strong that she feared to push on, being naturally a timid girl, yet in her teens, but assisted her brother in revival work for some time before doing much active preaching. In August, 1905, she went with her brother, W. D. Dillbeck, for a meeting at Hennepin, Okla. Here Miss Verdie Sallee, who was at that time a member of the Baptist Church, was sanctified, and called into the Master’s work, as song evangelist, and like the spirits of Jonathan and David, they were instantly joined together, and from that day were seldom seen apart. For six years they were united in evangelistic work, and planted some splendid Pentecostal Nazarene churches. They built a home at Bethany, living there alone when not in meetings, except when some of their kindred stayed there with them for a short time.

When Miss Sallee was sanctified her pastor had her arraigned for heresy, and after a church trial she was expelled from the church, but some months after he came to her and begged her pardon, telling her at the same time that he had sinned against God for turning her out of the church, and that in trying her for heresy he had sinned against light, for he knew better all the time. But now, a miserable backslider and away from God, he begged her to pray for him and often he was at their altars seeking restoration, but until this day he remains a miserable backslider. The church that took action against her was soon disorganized and its people scattered. Great persecution followed and many strange stories were told on the “girl preachers,” but God gave them greater power and the tide swept away the refuge of lies, and they did a great work. Their first meeting was near Erick, Okla., and since then God has given them hundreds of souls.

They worked with Rev. Mr. Dillbeck, a Methodist preacher, the brother of Miss Lula, for awhile. While in a meeting at Paul’s Valley, Okla., a Methodist steward became mightily enraged at his pastor for preaching holiness, and having a woman preacher with him. He tried all day to telephone his presiding elder to get him to come over and stop the holiness meeting, that he thought was tearing up the Methodist church. Somehow he failed to get in connection that day. That night he got under such awful conviction that he could not sleep, but went out into his corn field, and prayed all night. Like Jacob, just at the break of day the heavenly light broke in on him, and he was gloriously sanctified. The next day the presiding elder, who had heard of the meeting and his effort to “phone” him, came over with the necessary committee of preachers, and preferred charges against Rev. Mr. Dillbeck, and attempted to stop the meeting. He was too late. When the steward could not get through to talk with the elder, he tried another line and telephoned to heaven, and the answer came, and when the presiding elder arrived he was shouting the victory, and told the elder that he had arrived too late. The meeting swept on with greater power, and that night there were twenty at the altar seeking holiness, and all prayed through.

Among the pioneer women preachers in Oklahoma and the Indian Territory was Mrs. U. D. T. Murray, a woman of mighty faith, who, together with her husband, did splendid work in the early days in schoolhouses and in rural districts, and in some of the towns of Oklahoma. She held meetings in Clay County, Texas, and was assisting in the meetings where the Roberts Boys were sanctified at Deer Grove. Later she held meetings near Marlow, Duncan, Erick, and in other localities in Oklahoma Territory.

She reports some very remarkable cases of healing in her ministry, a special case of a child that had been blind for years, near Grapevine, Texas, who was healed of blindness, and is healed to this day. Persecutions followed, and at one place where she went to hold meetings she was left alone with her husband to sleep in the schoolhouse overnight, but God gave the victory, and thirty souls were saved at that meeting. At Chickasha, Okla., she had a great meeting in 1907 where there were 130 professions.

She is at this writing doing jail work in Oklahoma City, with some other workers, and there are an average of fifteen saved in the jail each month.

Miss Mattie Mallory was also one of the prominent women preachers in Oklahoma, and did much to plant a safe work in that state. She also started a school, an orphanage, and a rescue home at Oklahoma City, which we have told you about in the chapter on Oklahoma.

Mrs. E. J. Sheeks, of Arkansas, did a splendid work in that state, in the early days of the movement, planting the church work as she went, thus conserving her work, much of which stands today. Also Mrs. Fannie Hunter, who for some time labored with Mrs. Harris; and others whom I can not recall, but their names are in the book of life.