The Christian Needlewoman
Acts 9:36-43
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas…

There is in Joppa a woman with her needle, embroidering her name ineffaceably into the charities of the world. In the room where she sits are the pale faces of the poor. She listens to their plaint, and with gifts she mingles prayers and Christian encouragement. Then she goes out, and all through the street the cry runs: "Dorcas is coming." That night a half-paid shipwright reaches home; sees his little boy well clad, and they tell him: "Dorcas has been here." But there is a sudden pause in that woman's ministry. All through the haunts of wretchedness the news comes: "Dorcas is sick!" And now, alas, for Joppa! there is wailing. That voice which had uttered so many cheerful words is hushed; that hand, which had made so many garments for the poor, is cold and still. In every place in that town, where there is sickness, or hunger, or guilt, or sorrow, there are despairing looks and streaming eyes as they cry: "Dorcas is dead!" They send for Peter. He urges his way through the crowd, kindly orders that the room be cleared, prays, and in the strength of Him who is the resurrection, exclaims: "Tabitha, arise!" We see in this subject Dorcas —

I. THE DISCIPLE. If I had not seen the word "disciple," I would have known this woman was a Christian. Such music as that never came from a harp which is not stringed by Divine grace. I wish that the wives, and mother, and daughters of this congregation would imitate Dorcas in her discipleship. Before you sit with the Sabbath class, or cross the threshold of the hospital, etc., attend to the first, last, and greatest duty — the seeking for God and being at peace with Him.


1. History has told the story of the crown and of the sword; the poet has sung the praises of nature; I tell you the praises of the needle. From the fig-leaf robe prepared in Eden, to the last stitch taken last night, the needle has wrought wonders of kindness. It has preached the gospel, it has overcome want with the war cry of "stitch, stitch, stitch." Amid the mightiest triumphs in all ages and lands, I set down the conquests of the needle.

2. I admit its crimes. It has butchered more souls than the "Inquisition"; it has punctured the eye; it has pierced the side; it has struck weakness into the lungs; it has sent madness into the brain; it has pitched whole armies of the suffering into crime and wretchedness.

3. But now I am talking of Dorcas, I shall speak only of the charities of the needle. This woman was a representative of all those women who make garments for the destitute, knit socks for the barefooted, prepare bandages for the lacerated, who make up bales of clothing for missionaries.

4. What a contrast between the benevolence of this woman and a great deal of the charity of this day! Dorcas did not spend her time planning how the poor of Joppa were to be relieved; she took her needle and relieved them. She was not like those who sympathise with imaginary sorrows, and then laugh at the boy who has upset his basket of victuals, or like that charity which makes a rousing speech on the benevolent platform and goes out to kick the beggar from the step. The sufferers of the world want not so much tears as dollars, not so much smiles as shoes, not so much "God bless you's" as jackets and frocks. There are women who talk beautifully about the suffering of the world, who never, like Dorcas, take the needle and assault it.

5. I am glad that there is not a page of history which is not a record of female beneficence. The Princess of Conti sold all her jewels that she might help the famine struck. "Maud, the wife of Henry I, went down amid the poor, and washed their sores and administered to them cordials. But why go so far back or so far away? Before the smoke had gone up from Gettysburg the women of the North met the women of the South on the battlefield, forgetting all their animosities while they bound up the wounded and closed the eyes of the slain!

III. THE LAMENTED. There may have been women there with larger fortunes and handsomer faces; but there was no grief at their departure like this at the death of Dorcas. There are a great many who go out of life and are unmissed. There may be a large funeral, high-sounding eulogiums, a marble tomb, but the whole thing may be a sham. The Church has lost nothing; the world has lost nothing. It is only a nuisance abated, or a grumbler ceasing to find fault; or an idler stopped yawning, or a dissipated fashionable parted from his wine cellar. While, on the other hand, no useful Christian leaves this world without being missed. When Josephine was carried out to her grave, there were a great many women of pride and position that went out after her; but I am most affected by the story that two thousand of the poor of France followed her coffin, wailing until the air rang again, because they lost their last earthly friend. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them!"

IV. THE RESURRECTED. In what a short compass the great writer put that, "she sat up!" What a time there must have been when the apostle brought her out among her old friends! How the tears of joy must have started! You and I have seen the same thing — not a dead body resuscitated, but the deceased coming up again after death in the good accomplished. If a man labours up to fifty years of age serving God, and then dies, we are apt to think that his earthly work is done. No! Services rendered for Christ never stop. A Christian woman toils for the upbuilding of a Church through many self-denials and prayers, and then she dies. Now hundreds of souls stand up and confess the faith of Christ. Has that Christian woman who went away fifteen years ago nothing to do with these things? The good that seemed to be buried has come up again. Dorcas is resurrected. After a while all these womanly friends of Christ will put down their needle forever. After making garments for others, someone will make the last robe for them. Then, one day there will be sky rending, and that Christian woman will rise from the dust, and will be surrounded by the wanderers whom she reclaimed, by the wounded souls to whom she administered. The reward has come. Dorcas is resurrected!

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

WEB: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did.

The Appropriate Duty and Ornament of the Female Sex
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