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Archive for April, 2012

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
(Matthew 25:35,36)
Caroline Chisholm took these words of our Lord seriously and devoted her entire adult life to helping those who could not help themselves. She became known as the “Emigrant’s Friend” even in her own day. Thousands of emigrants owed their new lives to her.

Caroline Jones was born on a farm in Northampton, England in 1808. Her parents were godly people and her father was known as a man who was generous and kind. When Caroline was only five years old, her father helped a refugee priest from France who was being abused by the villagers. This was during the time of the Napoleonic War and many Christians had to flee from France where religious people were being severely persecuted. Though Caroline’s family was Protestant, her father treated all people with equanimity. While the priest lived with them he told Caroline many stories about France and other far away lands. Caroline loved these stories and was impressed with the humble character of this man. Later, she would become a Catholic, but more importantly, she would desire to carry on her father’s tradition of helping others.

So firm was she in her resolve to make her life’s work one of helping others that she told her fiancé, Archibald Chisholm, a Lieutenant in the infantry, that she would not marry him unless he was willing to let her have the freedom to do the works of service that she desired. She asked him to part from her for one month and think about it. Thirty-one days later, he came back to the Jones’ home and asked Caroline to marry him. From then on they had an understanding about what really mattered in life. They were able to build their marriage on trust and friendship while maintaining their dignity and individual personality. In fact, Archie would support Caroline’s ventures later in their lives when he retired from the infantry.

In the early part of their marriage, Archie was sent to India. Caroline had a hard time fitting in with the other officer’s wives. She did not want to live their life of ease and frittering away their time with gossip. She noticed that the children of the poorer soldiers were mistreated. She went to work starting a school for them. Besides teaching them to read, write, and do sums, she gave them a practical education. They learned cooking, housekeeping, and moral values. In 1838, when Archie was transferred to Australia, she was sad to leave her school, but she had established it well and others were able to take it over and run it successfully.

It was in Australia where Caroline really came into her own. She noticed that the young immigrant girls who arrived in Sydney would stand around at the docks, lost and lonely. She tried to find a place for them to work and succeeded in locating homes for many of them where families needed help. This helped a few girls, but shipload after shipload arrived with young women and the government was doing nothing to help them.
Caroline began to study the immigration problem. She gathered and compiled thousands of pages of statistics, evidence, and personal stories to give to the British government in an effort to get them to help with the problem. The government’s policies for immigration were abysmal. They basically ignored their penal colony in Australia.
There were so many more girls than Caroline could find places for in the short term, that she set up hostels for them. In Sydney, she fought for and finally obtained an old building to house them in.

A story that illustrates her determination, her love for the girls, her humility, her genius, and her strong courage is the story of the night she spent with the rats.

Caroline was determined to show that her work among the homeless immigrant girls could be successful. When she finally obtained a small space from the Australian government to house the young women, she spent much of her own time cleaning it up. Then she decided to spend the first night there alone. Well, she thought she was alone. Eventually she shared her space with about thirteen rats!

Just as she was beginning to fall asleep, a large rat jumped up on her shoulder. Then two more quickly followed. She shook them off, got out of bed and went to look for something to distract them. She had some slices of bread and butter with her. She put them on the floor with a dish of water and watched as they and ten more rats devoured the food. She sat up reading and watching the rats until four in the morning.

The next day she obtained some arsenic. When she went back to her little room, she put out more bread and butter laced with this rat poison. Again she watched as the creatures devoured the food. In this enterprising way she rid herself of the rats.
Caroline was able to open the barracks to ninety women after this. Her problems did not end there. She had to protect the reputation of the girls, and insisted that no men be allowed. In order to ensure their safety, she lived with them for a year. How she missed her own children, but the Lord blessed Caroline’s sacrifice. In that year she cared for over 1000 immigrant girls.

With the laws in England for immigration being so bad, Caroline knew that there was only so much she could do. So she and Archie moved back to London where she could lobby for improvements. The work was slow and took a few years, but finally the government came around to a more humane way of thinking about the emigrants.

Caroline also wrote many pamphlets that included the stories of the people who had moved to Australia. By personalizing the situation in that far away land, she also won the hearts of the public. Many began to see emigration as a real possibility for a better life. This was especially true for the Irish. The potato famine was going on at this time. Many Irish had moved to England looking for work and sustenance. The hope of possessing their own land and being free appealed to them.

In order to help these desperate people, Caroline developed a plan whereby the émigrés could borrow the money to take the ships to Australia and pay it back later. They borrowed enough to purchase land and get the supplies they needed to be successful. Here is one place where Archie showed how much he meant it when he promised Caroline his love and support. Even though they had seven children by this time, he moved to Australia, taking their oldest son with him, to manage the collection of the money at the other end. Eventually he would return to England, leaving their “bank” in capable hands.

In her old age, Caroline suffered from several severe ailments, including a bad heart. By this time, Archie had moved back to England to be with her. They had given away a lot of their own money to help others. They did have a small pension but it only kept them in modest circumstances. They did not complain. To her dying day, Caroline thought only of the plight of the poor.

Caroline succumbed to bronchitis in March 1877. It is a shame that only a few English papers noted her death. The Australian papers would not have printed a notice at all if her children had not paid for it. She was forgotten by society, but only temporarily.
In the 1960’s, it was decided to depict her on the 5-dollar bank note, where her picture remained for over twenty years.

Many women recognized the valuable role Caroline played in reforming society, including Florence Nightingale, who later wrote that she modeled herself after Caroline Chisholm. Caroline is an inspiration for women today. There is a renewed interest in courageous, historical, under-recognized women who made a difference in the world. Caroline Chisholm’s story deserves to be taught to all of our daughters as a shining example of faith, strong family values, determination in the face of opposition, and a love for justice.

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“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10)

When a woman becomes the wife of a great man, and especially a world renowned minister, she has a difficult task and she will need all of the humbleness and strength of character she can get. Probably no finer example of selfless love and service can be found than Susannah Thompson Spurgeon.

As a tremendous helpmeet to her husband, Susannah often had to forget, to a certain extent, her own particular wishes and wants. This is not because she was a lesser person than her husband, or that her life was not as important as his, but because a popular man of God will also be giving up his own selfish desires in order to serve the Lord. Susannah’s husband was called to a special ministry, and neither did he seek to live as ordinary people did. Their time would be for the task that God had set before them.

In January 1856, Susannah Thompson (1832-1903) married Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), probably the most famous preacher who has ever lived. She knew what she was getting into when she married him. She felt it was her blessing to be the life partner of so great a man. She was thankful to God for the privilege to be able to serve alongside a man who touched millions of lives. Charles Spurgeon often had to travel and Susannah missed her husband, but was willing to make the sacrifice because she knew that God had called him to a special ministry.

He also missed her terribly as his frequent letters show. Husband and wife both sacrificed in order to bring God’s teaching to many thousands of people. He wrote of Susannah, that she was indeed “an angel of God” to him.

Susannah went from being a shy, modest young woman to a place of prominence, but she did not succumb to the temptation of being lifted up in pride. Instead, she met every circumstance that God brought into their lives with grace and piety. Though her husband was popular, he often had to bear abuse and slander. Susannah proved to be his strong port in the storms.

On September 20, 1856, Susannah gave birth to twin boys at their New Kent Road home. She remained weak for some time after the birth of her sons and, though she eventually recovered, she never again regained her full health. Much of Susannah’s life was spent suffering from physical ailments that kept her bedridden for weeks or months.

Although weak and ailing much of her adult life, Susannah brought up her two sons in Christian doctrine and she had the joy of seeing them both become Christians at an early age. Both of the boys acknowledged their godly mother’s influence in their lives when they became grown men.

In sickness and in health, good times or bad, Susannah supported her husband in all of his work. She took her vows seriously, and her frequent sicknesses did not stop her from pouring all of her effort and even much of her own finances into the work God had given them.

Because of her poor health, no one would have blamed her if she took it easy and did not make so many sacrifices. But her entire life was devoted to serving Christ. She is a shining example of what can be done, even by those who are weaker than others.

When it became known that there were large numbers of new, young ministers who could not afford many books for their libraries, Susannah took it upon herself to do something about it. She founded a Book Fund in order to supply them with theological books.

The Book Fund had a simple beginning, but God blessed Susannah’s efforts and over the years it grew from a few hundred works, many donated by caring clergymen, to over 10,000 volumes annually. With the addition of copies of her husband’s sermons, and other publications, there was a total of over 30,000 pieces of literature by 1885. In all, after twenty-seven years, there were 199,315 valuable theological works placed into the hands of ministers, preachers, and missionaries too poor to purchase them.

Besides supporting her husband in his work, raising and training her boys, and founding and maintaining the Book Fund, Susannah Spurgeon found time to write. In the last years of her life, she worked tirelessly on, “C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, compiled from his Diary, Letters, and Records”. She had wonderful literary talent and the world can be grateful for her efforts. She also kept accounts of the work with the Book Fund and recorded those in two books –  “Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund” and “Ten Years After”. Her devotional works are also read and enjoyed by many. Several of these include: “A Cluster of Camphire; or, Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls” and “A Basket of Summer Fruit”.

Susannah’s beloved husband died in 1892. Although she grieved, she knew that some time in the future she would join him in Heaven where there are no more partings. She allowed this thought to comfort her as she continued to work until her death. Several years after his death, in 1898, she wrote:

Ah! My husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land and worship together before the throne!

Susannah continued to give sacrificially of her time and money to the Book Fund in her remaining years. She not only kept the Book Fund going, but she had also continued to oversee the Pastors’ Aid Fund which she had founded to help poor ministers with other needs for their young families.

In the summer of 1903, Susannah had a severe attack of pneumonia which forced her to be bedridden from this time until her death. She waned for several months, slowly growing weaker and weaker. She had the comfort of her two sons who took turns visiting her daily to cheer her.

In October 1903, Susannah Spurgeon gave her parting blessing to her sons. Near the end, she clasped her hands together and exclaimed, “Blessed Jesus! Blessed Jesus! I can see the King in His Glory!” Then she went to be with her beloved husband and her Savior.

In his biography of Susannah Thompson Spurgeon, the author, Charles Ray, closes with these words:

If greatness is determined by the amount of good a person does in the world, if it is only another name for unselfish devotion in the service of others – and surely true greatness is all this – then (Mrs. C. H.) Susannah Spurgeon will go down in history as one of the greatest women of her time.

 

 

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More Book Reviews

More Books About Extraordinary Women

 

I just realized that it has been a while since I put the information about the resources that I use in telling the stories of the very amazing and godly women on this blog. I hope that you are enjoying the stories and that you found these women fascinating enough to want to read more about them.

Here are some books that will inspire and encourage you.

Crosby, Fanny J., Fanny J. Crosby – An Autobiography, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts, 2008).

There probably isn’t anyone who attends church who hasn’t sung one of the over 8,000 hymns that Fanny Crosby wrote. When you realize that she was blind since an infant, it just staggers the imagination. When you read her story you will be uplifted, and maybe a little bit ashamed if you have ever complained about your hard life. Fanny overcame her handicap and became a much-loved poet, speaker, and teacher. She had to overcome prejudice as well. By our standards, she was terribly underpaid, yet she gave of her meager earnings to the poor. She never complained and was not bitter against the Lord, but joyfully said, “How in the world could I have lived such a helpful life as I have lived had I not been blind?” This is one of the most inspirational stories ever written.

Dyer, Helen S., Pandita Ramabai – The Story of Her Life, (Morgan and Scott, LD, London). The copy I have is a reprint put out by Kessinger Publishing.

Pandita Ramabai Dongre Medhavi lived in India in the latter half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Even today, women are badly mistreated in India, but during the time of her story the belief of many men in India was, “Women have no minds. They are lower than pigs.” Pandita’s father, a wealthy Hindu guru, recognized that women are just as intellectual as men and should be educated. Many thousands in India had cause to be grateful that he overcame prejudice against women and educated his daughter. Pandita would go on to eventually aid tens of thousands of widows and children during times of famine. She asked of God and received many great things in His name. One thing that I really like about the book is the pictures. They are a bit “grainy” but add much to the story. Pandita Ramabai has been thought to be the greatest woman of nineteenth century India. Her story shows us just how great God is.

Livingstone, W. P., Christina Forsyth of Fingoland; The Story of the Loneliest Woman in Africa,  (George H. Doran Co., New York, originally published in 1919). The copy I have is a reprint.

Christina Forsyth earned her nickname of the “Loneliest Woman in Africa” because she lived alone for thirty years in an isolated mission station in Fingoland, South Africa from about 1886 to 1916. She never went further than twenty miles from her home. She was one of the most amazingly brave of women, because she lived among wild heathen tribes. It was said of her, “not one woman in five hundred … could have lived the life she lived.” She was very tough, and yet as you read the story you will see her humbleness. Inspired by the story of Mary Slessor’s life, she always worked as hard as she could, only stopping when her heart began to fail. Her desire was to see all of Africa, even the world, won to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is another inspiring story of a truly great woman. This book also has some wonderful pictures in it of Mrs. Forsyth as well as pictures of the Fingo natives.

Pitman, Mrs. E. R., Elizabeth Fry, (The copy I have is a reprint put out by Book Jungle, Champaign, IL).

Elizabeth Fry is deservedly remembered for her work in the prison system in England in the early 1800’s. Prison conditions were appalling and Mrs. Fry undertook to get laws changed so that the inhumane treatment of prisoners, especially the female prisoners, would change. She personally worked among them even though warned by others not to. For that she was loved and respected very much.
A summary of her story is given by the author, “Mrs. Fry dealt with women principally … there can be no doubt that she did a large service to society in taking possession of (the children of the fallen mothers) and educating them while with their mothers… it’s results no pen can compute. Woman-like, she aimed at the improvement of her own sex; but the reform which she inaugurated did not sop there. … it widened and extended and spread until she and her work became household words among all classes of society, and in all civilized countries.”
One of the more interesting things about the book is that many excerpts from the writings of Elizabeth Fry are included. Extracts from her journal bring the reader closer to this godly and amazing woman.

Ray, Charles, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, (Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, Texas, 1903). My copy is a reprint, dated 2003.)
It must be really hard to be married to a man who is world famous. When Susannah Thompson married Charles Haddon Spurgeon, he was already well known and in demand as a speaker. Susannah was up to the task. She loved her husband dearly, and he returned the feelings completely. Even when she had health problems, he was a very attentive husband when he was home. It was lonely for her when he had to be gone, but she knew that God was using him for great things and she was willing to forego her own wants. She is an example of unselfishness and godliness for us.
Here is the story of a woman who did not let her physical ailments keep her from finding a way to serve God. Susannah Spurgeon started a book society that mailed literally thousands of books to ministers who could not otherwise afford them. Even after Spurgeon died, she carried on the work and in her will she directed funds to be given to the Book Fund. Her story will inspire and encourage you. This book also has some wonderful historical photographs.

 

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“There is something so noble, so commanding and so engaging about her that I am quite captivated with her ladyship. She is an honour to her sex and the nation.”
King George III

What would you do if your very wealthy husband died leaving you in charge of his entire fortune? Would you travel? How about a huge mansion and lots of servants? Maybe the thought of finding a new equally rich husband is entrancing.

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, did none of those things. She devoted her entire fortune to the spread of the Gospel. She devoted the rest of her life to telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ. She worked hard towards converting the upper class in England. She funded over 60 chapels, led missions from England, even to the  “Colonies”, and founded the Trevecca House (a college to train preachers) in Wales.

She did not just use her husband’s money, but she also sold her own country homes, jewelry, and other valuables and gave the money to the cause of Christian work. She was totally sold out for Christ. She bequeathed her entire estate to support the work of evangelism at her death.

Selina Shirley, born in 1707, the daughter of Lord Washington Shirley, Earl of Ferrars, and Lady Mary Shirley, had been raised to fear God. She married Theophilus Hastings, the ninth Earl of Huntingdon in 1728 at the age of twenty-one. They had seven children.

It was not until after the death of four of her children, and her own severe illness, that Selina realized that she did not have a personal relationship with God. She began to seek Him and was converted in 1739 during the time of revival that came to England. Selina gave her heart totally to Christ and began working as a faithful witness right away. She was willing to help with her own time and effort as well as financially. Her husband does not appear to have been as religiously zealous as she was, but he did not stop her from helping.

She made friends with John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, evangelists who were leading in the revival that had come. Because of her position, she was able to open many doors for these men. They visited her in her home and preached in her town.

But it was after her husband’s untimely death in 1746 that Selina was able to begin to pour herself fully into the work of evangelism. She spoke of Jesus to everyone she met and her witness spread far and wide, even among the aristocracy. The King himself held her in high regard.

Now, here is a part of her story that is really interesting to us women in the 21st century. Imagine a woman standing up against a large institution in our day. We have some heroines who are fighting against abortion, for example. We applaud them, but do not think it too unusual in our times. But in the 18th century, it was unusual for a woman to take a firm stand against a national institution. I am talking about Selina’s stand for religious freedom against the Anglican Church.

You might think that the Church would be thrilled with all of the conversions and would be really happy with Selina. They were not. When there was a dispute involving who would be able to preach in the chapels that were founded by Selina, officials from the Anglican Church pressed a case against her. They tried to get Methodist ministers to disassociate with Selina’s offices and towns.

After unsuccessfully trying to come to an agreement with the Anglican Church, she finally had to give up. She wrote to a former student, John Hawksworth, “I am to be cast out of the Church now only for what I have been doing this forty years—speaking and living for Jesus…. Blessed be God, I have not one care relative to this event but to be found faithful to God and man through all. You will smile and rejoice with me in all I may suffer for our dear Immanuel’s sake.” Selina had not wanted to leave the Church. She was not personally in favor of “dissenting”. She wanted to get along, but she wanted the Church to recognize the Methodist practices as valid means to worship.

Selina tried to get around their ruling by registering her chapels as “dissenting places of worship” that was allowed by the “Toleration Act”. Her chapels would no longer be subject to the Anglican Church hierarchy and her preachers could occupy pulpits in any diocese in the land without fear of recriminations.

It is hard for us to understand why this should happen. How can one Church, the Anglican Church, tell everyone else how to worship? Remember, in England, the church stayed under the authority of the Monarch ever since the days of Henry VIII. The Anglican Church was the official and highest authority. The Wesley’s had struggled with this issue but decided not to pursue the freedom to worship as they believed.

Selina and one brave minister stood alone against Church. She went on to persevere against the opposition until her death in 1791. She was a woman ahead of her time.
While she was registering her churches with the Dissenters in 1782, there were 251 total groups that applied under the Toleration Act. Her brave action brought courage and conviction to many others and by the early 1790’s, 832 churches registered as Dissenters. Selina had set the precedent.

Trevecca College trained many ministers and is still in existence today. Many of the chapels that Selina founded are still in use. Her influence went across the ocean to the Colonies. Though she was sympathetic to the Colonists, she tried to remain loyal to England during the American War for Independence. There was however a college founded in Alabama, Huntingdon College, which still stands today in her honor.

Lady Selina Huntingdon is still remembered, not just for the money she was so generous with, but because of her personal involvement. She touched the lives of everyone with whom she came into contact. And at her deathbed, her concern was only about the salvation and welfare of others. Her last words were, “My work is done. I have nothing to do, but go to my Father.”

Upon her death, a friend wrote of her in a letter, “… I feel consolation in acknowledging, that of all the daughters of affliction, she exhibited the greatest degree of Christian composure that ever I witnessed; and that submission to divine allotment, however sever and painful, which nothing but divine aid could inspire…. Wherever a fellow creature existed, so far her prayers extended.” Even on her deathbed, Selina was talking about sending missionaries to Otaheite, in the South Seas, to introduce this group of people to Christ. “… indeed, her whole life seemed devoted to one great object: the glory of God, and the salvation of his creatures.” John C. Lettsom, 18 June, 1791.

Though most of us are not born wealthy or have great wealth, we do have the same message to extend to others – Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It would have been easy for Lady Selina Hastings to just give money to organizations and live a comfortable life of luxury and ease. But she devoted herself to Christ tirelessly. We can do the same.

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