Covering is the proper sign of woman. It expresses the subjection she owes. But the woman is mystically the Church; and thus, if a woman appear in the congregation covered, she appears duly, with the sign of subjection to Christ or the man. (Eph. 5: 24.) But it expresses also the protection she receives. And thus, if she do not appear covered, she publishes her own shame. For she does not carry the token of her proper state, but appears rather as a captive, or as a suspected woman. (See Num. 5; Deut. 21) She ought therefore on these two accounts in the congregation to appear covered. But there is another reason why this should be. She should be covered "because of the angels"--for angels are learning lessons from or through the Church (Eph. 3: 10), and the uncovered head of the woman would teach them a wrong lesson. Or, if "the angels" be the elders or ministers, then because of them the woman should be covered, lest she should afterwards have to confess her error. (Ecc. 5: 6.) But the man is not to be covered in the congregation, because, mystically, the man is Christ, and "the image and glory of God"--and it belongs not to Christ to bear the signs of either subjection owed, or of protection claimed--quite different from the woman, who is, mystically, as I said, only the Church, "the glory of the man." Christ is Lord and Saviour of the body (Eph. 5: 23.); i.e., claims my subjection, and rendering protection, instead of owing subjection and claiming protection. If the man, therefore, were covered, he would sadly dishonour his head, Christ. The covered head, accordingly, is most suitable to the woman, but most unsuitable to the man, in the assembly; and the Spirit, speaking by the apostle, would not allow it to be neglected, though most graciously he pleads the question with the saints, to lead themselves to approve it.
As to verse 5 of this chapter, I judge that the apostle means simply the place where praying or prophesying is going on, as in the Church or assembly of the saints. I do not think that his language implies that the women were themselves either to pray or to teach, because in verse 4 the very same words are used as to the man, and we are sure that all the men are equally to be uncovered in the place of prayer, though most of them may never engage actively in it. And so also those men, or male brethren, who do at times in the assembly either teach or pray, yet when merely sitting silent in their places, are to be as much uncovered, as when they are actually ministering. So that I judge the Apostle speaks of the place of prayer and teaching, or of the condition of the assembly. He legislates that, without assuming, that women necessarily are either to teach or to pray. In 1 Timothy 2, on the other hand, it is not the mere condition of things in the place of prayer, or the mere appearance of the male and female, the Apostle has in hand, but the actual services of the assembly and then he expressly requires the silence of the woman.
MY VERY DEAR SISTER,
I am more thankful than you are that I went down to see you, so entirely does my soul before the Lord approve the little journey, though to add anything to you or to any soul how unfeignedly do I feel and own my poverty. However, there is refreshment in "the mutual faith," and I have found it at times in looking, as from a distance, at one in whom you know the truth dwells and shall dwell for ever.
I send a copy of the thought on Mark 5: 33, to you, and also another little meditation I have had since I saw you, something connected with it. I will not now say more on Romans 14, 15. It may be so at another time if the heart incline to the subject. Not only to your dear mother, but to dear Mrs. . . . . and family, Dr. . . . ., and the dear . . . . give my love in the Lord Jesus. All would unite in love to you, and my Mary's thanks for your living recollection of her. She had been very poorly, but is up again.
He is dealing with you as one of the stones in His great and various quarry, beloved. The workmanship there is very various. The hammer may be heard, or the saw, or the chisel, but the Workman has His purpose in His eye, while His vessel is in the wheel. The Lord give you abundant thought and refreshing, and the stillness of believing.
Ever your affectionate brother,
J. G. B.
Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. T . . . . in christian love, and to dear sister.