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Adam Bede

"And have you been long in the habit of preaching? For I understand you
preached at Hayslope last night."
"I first took to the work four years since, when I was twenty- one."
"Your Society sanctions women's preaching, then?"
"It doesn't forbid them, sir, when they've a clear call to the work, and when their
ministry is owned by the conversion of sinners and the strengthening of God's
people. Mrs. Fletcher, as you may have heard about, was the first woman to
preach in the Society, I believe, before she was married, when she was Miss
Bosanquet; and Mr. Wesley approved of her undertaking the work. She had a
great gift, and there are many others now living who are precious fellow-helpers
in the work of the ministry. I understand there's been voices raised against it in
the Society of late, but I cannot but think their counsel will come to nought. It isn't
for men to make channels for God's Spirit, as they make channels for the
watercourses, and say, 'Flow here, but flow not there.'"
"But don't you find some danger among your people--I don't mean to say that it is
so with you, far from it--but don't you find sometimes that both men and women
fancy themselves channels for God's Spirit, and are quite mistaken, so that they
set about a work for which they are unfit and bring holy things into contempt?"
"Doubtless it is so sometimes; for there have been evil-doers among us who
have sought to deceive the brethren, and some there are who deceive their own
selves. But we are not without discipline and correction to put a check upon
these things. There's a very strict order kept among us, and the brethren and
sisters watch for each other's souls as they that must give account. They don't go
every one his own way and say, 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"
"But tell me--if I may ask, and I am really interested in knowing it--how you first
came to think of preaching?"
"Indeed, sir, I didn't think of it at all--I'd been used from the time I was sixteen to
talk to the little children, and teach them, and sometimes I had had my heart
enlarged to speak in class, and was much drawn out in prayer with the sick. But I
had felt no call to preach, for when I'm not greatly wrought upon, I'm too much
given to sit still and keep by myself. It seems as if I could sit silent all day long
with the thought of God overflowing my soul--as the pebbles lie bathed in the
Willow Brook. For thoughts are so great--aren't they, sir? They seem to lie upon
us like a deep flood; and it's my besetment to forget where I am and everything
about me, and lose myself in thoughts that I could give no account of, for I could
neither make a beginning nor ending of them in words. That was my way as long
as I can remember; but sometimes it seemed as if speech came to me without
any will of my own, and words were given to me that came out as the tears
come, because our hearts are full and we can't help it. And those were always
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