For the Advancement of
their true and greateſt
Printed for R. Wilkin at
the King’s Head in St. Paul’s
A Serious Proposal To the Ladies, For the Advancement of their true and greateſt Intereſt.
Since the Profitable Adventures that have gone abroad in the World, Bhave 2 B1v 2 have met with ſo great Encouragement, tho’ the higheſt advantage they can propoſe, is an uncertain Lot for ſuch matters as Opinion (not real worth) gives a value to; things which if obtain’d, are as flitting and fickle, as that Chance which is to diſpoſe of them. I therefore perſuade my ſelf, you will not be leſs kind to a Propoſition that comes attended with more certain and ſubſtantial Gain; whoſe only deſign is to improve your Charms and heighten your Value, by ſuffering you no longer to be cheap and contemptible. It’s aim is 3 B2r 3 is to fix that Beauty, to make it laſting and permanent, which Nature with all the helps of Art, cannot ſecure: And to place it out of the reach of Sickneſs and Old Age, by transferring it from a corruptible Body to an immortal Mind. An obliging Deſign, which wou’d procure them inward Beauty, to whom Nature has unkindly denied the outward; and not permit thoſe Ladies who have comely Bodies, to tarniſh their Glory with deformed Souls. Wou’d have you all be wits, or what is better Wiſe. Raiſe you above the VulgarB2 gar 4 B2v 4 gar by ſomething more truely illuſtrious, than a founding Title, or a great Eſtate. Wou’d excite in you a generous Emulation to excel in the beſt things, and not in ſuch Trifles as every mean perſon who has but Mony enough, may purchaſe as well as you. Not ſuffer you to take up with the low thought of diſtinguiſhing your ſelves by any thing that is not truly valuable; and procure you ſuch Ornaments as all the Treaſures of the Indies are not able to purchaſe. Wou’d help you to ſurpaſs the Men as much in Vertue and Ingenuity,genuity, 5 B3r 5 genuity, as you do in Beauty; that you may not only be as lovely, but as wiſe as Angels. Exalt and Eſtabliſh your Fame, more than the beſt wrought Poems, and loudeſt Panegyricks, by ennobling your Minds with ſuch Graces as really deſerve it. And inſtead of the Fuſtian Complements and Fulſome Flatteries of your Admirers, obtain for you the Plaudit of Good Men and Angels, and the approbation of him who cannot err. In a word, render you the Glory and Bleſſing of the preſent Age, and the Admiration and Pattern of the next.B3 And 6 B3v 6
And ſure, I ſhall not need many words to perſuade you to cloſe with this Propoſal. The very offer is a ſufficient inducement; nor does it need the ſet-off’s of Rhetorick to recommend it, were I capable, which yet I am not, of applying them with the greateſt force. Since you cannot be ſo unkind to your ſelves, as to refuſe your real Intereſt; I only entreat you to be ſo wiſe as to examine wherein it conſiſts; for nothing is of worſer conſequence than to be deceiv’d in a matter of ſo great concern. ’Tis as little beneath your Grandeur as your Prudence, to examine curiouſly 7 B4r 7 curiouſly what is in this caſe offer’d you; and to take care that cheating Huckſters don’t impoſe upon you with deceitful Ware. This is a matter infinitely more worthy your Debates, than what Colours are moſt agreeable, or whats the Dreſs becomes you beſt? Your Glaſs will not do you half ſo much ſervice as a ſerious reflection on your own Minds; which will diſcover Irregularities more worthy your Correction, and keep you from being either too much elated or depreſs’d by the repreſentations of the other. ’Twill not be near ſo advantagious B4 to 8 B4v 8 to conſult with your Dancing-maſter as with your own Thoughts, how you may with greateſt exactneſs tread in the Paths of Vertue, which has certainly the moſt attractive Air, and Wiſdom the moſt graceful and becoming Meen: Let theſe attend you, and your Carriage will be always well compos’d, and ev’ry thing you do will carry its Charm with it. No ſolicitude in the adornation of your ſelves is diſcommended, provided you employ your care about that which is really your ſelf; and do not neglect that particle of Divinity within you 9 B5r 9 you, which muſt ſurvive, and may (if you pleaſe) be happy and perfect when it’s unſuitable and much inferiour Companion is mouldring into Duſt. Neither will any pleaſure be denied you, who are only deſir’d not to catch at the Shadow and let the Subſtance go. You may be as ambitious as you pleaſe, ſo you aſpire to the beſt things; and contend with your Neighbours as much as you can, that they may not out- do you in any commendable Quality. Let it never be ſaid, that they to whom preeminence is ſo very agreeable, can be tamely content B5 that 10 B5v 10 that others ſhou’d ſurpaſs them in this, and precede them in a better World! Remember, I pray you, the famous Women of former Ages, the Orinda’s of late, and the more Modern D’acier and others, and bluſh to think how much is now, and will hereafter be ſaid of them, when you your ſelves (as great a Figure as you make) muſt be buried in ſilence and forgetfulneſs! Shall your Emulation fail there only where it is commendable? Why are you ſo prepoſterouſly humble, as not to contend for one of the higheſt Manſions in the Court of Heav’n? Believelieve 11 B6r 11 lieve me Ladies, this is the only Place worth contending for; you are neither better nor worſe in your ſelves for going before, or coming after now; but you are really ſo much the better, by how much the higher your ſtation is in an Orb of Glory. How can you be content to be in the world like Tulips in a Garden, to make a fine ſhew and be good for nothing; have all your Glories ſet in the grave, or perhaps much ſooner? What your own ſentiments are, I know not, but I cannot without pity and reſentment reflect, that thoſe Glorious Temples on which your 12 B6v 12 your kind Creator has beſtow’d ſuch exquiſite workmanſhip, ſhou’d enſhrine no better than Egyptian Deities; be like a garniſh’d Sepulchre, which for all it’s glittering, has nothing within but Emptineſs or Putrifaction! What a pity it is, that whilſt your Beauty caſts a luſtre round about, your Souls which are infinitely more bright and radiant (of which if you had but a clear Idea, as lovely as it is, and as much as you now value it, you wou’d then deſpiſe and neglect the mean Caſe that encloſes it) ſhou’d be ſuffer’d to overrun with Weeds, lye fallow and 13 B7r 13 and neglected, unadorn’d with any Grace! Altho the Beauty of the Mind is neceſſary to ſecure thoſe Conqueſts which your Eyes have gain’d; and Time that mortal Enemy to handſome Faces, has no influence on a lovely Soul, but to better and improve it. For ſhame, let us abandon that Old, and therefore one wou’d think, unfaſhionable employment of purſuing Butterflies and Trifles! No longer drudge on in the dull beaten road of Vanity and Folly, which ſo many have gone, before us; but dare to break the enchanted Circle that cuſtom has placed 14 B7v 14 plac’d us in, and ſcorn the vulgar way of imitating all the Impertinencies of our Neighbours. Let us learn to pride our ſelves in ſomething more excellent than the invention of a Faſhion: And not entertain ſuch a degrading thought of our own worth, as to imagin that our Souls were given us only for the ſervice of our Bodies, and that the beſt improvement we can make of theſe, is to attract the eyes of men. We value them too much, and our ſelves too little, if we place any part of our worth in their Opinion; and do not think our ſelves capable of Nobler 15 B8r 15 Nobler Things than the pitiful Conqueſt of ſome worthleſs heart. She who has opportunities of making an intereſt in Heav’n, of obtaining the love and admiration of God and Angels, is too prodigal of her Time, and injurious to her Charms, to throw them away on vain inſignificant men. She need not make her ſelf ſo cheap, as to deſcend to Court their Applauses; for at the greater diſtance ſhe keeps, and the more ſhe is above them, the more effectually ſhe ſecures their eſteem and wonder. Be ſo generous then Ladies, as to do nothing unworthy of you; ſo true 16 B8v 16 true to your Intereſt as not to leſſen your Empire, and depreciate your Charms. Let not your Thoughts be wholly buſied in obſerving what reſpect is paid you, but a part of them at leaſt, in ſtudying to deſerve it. And after all, remember, that Goodneſs is the trueſt Greatneſs, to be wiſe for your ſelves, the greateſt Wit, and that Beauty the moſt deſirable, which will endure to Eternity.
Pardon me the ſeeming rudeneſs of this Propoſal, which goes upon a ſuppoſition that there is ſomething amiſs in you, which it is intended 17 B9r 17 intended to amend. My deſign is not to expoſe, but to rectify your Failures. To be exempt from miſtake, is a priviledge few can pretend to, the greateſt is to be paſt Conviction, and too obſtinate to reform. Even the Men, as exact as they wou’d ſeem, and as much as they divert themſelves with our Miſcarriages, are very often guilty of greater faults; and ſuch as conſidering the advantages they enjoy, are much more inexcuſable. But I will not pretend to correct their Errors, who either are or at leaſt think themſelves too wiſe to receive Inſtructiontion 18 B9v 18 tion from a Womans Pen. My earneſt deſire is, that you Ladies, would be as perfect and happy as ’tis poſſible to be in this imperfect ſtate; for I love you too well to endure a ſpot upon your Beauties, if I can by any means remove and wipe it off. I would have you live up to the dignity of your Nature, and expreſs your thankfulneſs to God for the benefits you enjoy by a due improvement of them: As I know very many of you do, who countenance that Piety which the men decry, and are the brighteſt Patterns of Religion that the 19 B10r 19 the Age affords; ’tis my grief that all the reſt of our Sex do not imitate ſuch illuſtrious Patterns, and therefore I would have them encreas’d and render’d more conſpicuous, that Vice being put out of countenance, (becauſe Vertue is the only thing in faſhion) may ſneak out of the world, and it’s darkneſs be diſpell’d by the confluence of ſo many ſhining Graces. Some perhaps will cry out that I teach you falſe Doctrine; for becauſe by their ſeductions, ſome amongſt us are become very mean and contemptible, they would fain perſuade the reſt to be as deſpicablepicable 20 B10v 20 picable and forlorn as they. We are indeed oblig’d to them for their management, in endeavouring to make us ſo; who uſe all the artifice they can to ſpoil, and deny us the means of improvement. So that inſtead of inquiring why all Women are not wiſe and good, we have reaſon to wonder that there are any ſo. Were the men as much neglected, and as little care taken to cultivate and improve them, perhaps they wou’d be ſo far from ſurpaſſing thoſe whom they now deſpiſe, that they themſelves wou’d ſink into the greateſt ſtupidity and brutality. The prepoſt- 21 B11r 21 prepoſterous returns that the moſt of them make, to all the care and pains that is beſtow’d on them, renders this no uncharitable, nor improbable Conjecture. One wou’d therefore almoſt think, that the wiſe diſpoſer of all things, foreſeeing how unjuſtly Women are denied opportunities of improvement from without, has therefore by way of compenſation endow’d them with greater propenſions to Vertue, and a natural goodneſs of Temper within, which if duly manag’d, would raiſe them to the moſt eminent pitch of Heroick Vertue. Hither Ladies, I deſire you wou’d 22 B11v 22 wou’d aſpire, ’tis a noble and becoming Ambition; and to remove ſuch Obſtacles as lye in your way, is the deſign of this Paper. We will therefore enquire what it is that ſtops your flight, that keeps you groveling here below, like Domitian catching Flies, when you ſhould be buſied in obtaining Empires?
Whatever has been ſaid by Men of more Wit than Wiſdom, and perhaps of more malice than either, that Women are naturally Incapable of acting Prudently, or that they are neceſſarily determined to folly, I muſt by no means grant 23 B12r 23 grant it; that Hypotheſis would render my endeavours impertinent, for then it would be in vain to adviſe the one, or endeavour the Reformation of the other. Beſides, there are Examples in all Ages, which ſufficiently confute the Ignorance and Malice of this Aſſertion.
The Incapacity, if there be any, is acquired not natural; and none of their Follies are ſo neceſſary, but that they might avoid them if they pleaſed themſelves. Some diſadvantages indeed they labour under, & what theſe are we ſhall ſee by and by, and endeavour to 24 B12v 24 to ſurmount; but Women need not take up with mean things, ſince (if they are not wanting to themſelves) they are capable of the beſt. Neither God nor Nature have excluded them from being Ornaments to their Families, and uſeful in their Generation; there is therefore no reaſon they ſhould be content to be Cyphers in the World, uſeleſs at the beſt, and in a little time a burden and nuiſance to all about them. And ’tis very great pity that they who are ſo apt to over-rate themſelves in ſmaller matters, ſhou’d, where it moſt concerns them 25 C1r 25 them to know, and ſtand upon their Value, be ſo inſenſible of their own worth.
The cauſe therefore of the defects we labour under, is, if not wholly, yet at leaſt in the firſt place, to be aſcribed to the miſtakes of our Education; which like an Error in the firſt Concoction, ſpreads its ill Influence thro’ all our Lives.
The Soil is rich and would, if well cultivated, produce a noble Harveſt, if then the Unskilful Managers not only permit, but incourage noxious Weeds, tho’ we ſhall ſuffer by their Neglect, yet C they 26 C1v 26 they ought not in juſtice to blame any but themſelves, if they reap the Fruit of their own Folly. Women are from their very Infancy debar’d thoſe Advantages, with the want of which, they are afterwards reproached, and nurſed up in thoſe Vices which will hereafter be upbraided to them. So partial are Men as to expect Brick where they afford no ſtraw; and ſo abundantly civil as to take care we ſhou’d make good that obliging Epithet of Ignorant, which out of an exceſs of good Manners, they are pleas’d to beſtow on us! One 27 C2r 27 One wou’d be apt to think indeed, that Parents ſhou’d take all poſſible care of their Childrens Education, not only for their ſakes, but even for their own. And tho the Son convey the Name to Poſterity, yet certainly a great Part of the Honour of their Families depends on their Daughters. ’Tis the kindneſs of Education that binds our duty faſteſt on us: For the being inſtrumental to the bringing us into the world, is no matter of choice, and therefore the leſs obliging. But to procure that we may live wiſely and happily in it, and be capable of C2 endleſs 28 C2v 28 endleſs Joys hereafter, is a benefit we can never ſufficiently acknowledge. To introduce poor Children into the world, and neglect to fence them againſt the temptations of it, and ſo leave them expos’d to temporal and eternal Miſeries, is a wickedneſs, for which I want a Name; ’tis beneath Brutality, the Beaſts are better natur’d, for they take care of their off-ſpring, till they are capable of caring for themſelves. And, if Mothers had a due regard to their Poſterity, how Great ſoever they are, they wou’d not think themſelves too Good to perform what Natureture 29 C3r 29 ture requires, nor thro’ Pride and Delicacy remit the poor little one to the care of a Foſter Parent. Or, if neceſſity inforce them to depute another to perform their Duty, they wou’d be as choice at leaſt in the Manners and Inclinations, as they are in the complections of their Nurſes, leaſt with their Milk they transfuſe their Vices, and form in the Child ſuch evil habits as will not eaſily be eradicated.
Nature as bad as it is, and as much as it is complain’d of, is ſo far improveable by the grace of God, upon our honeſt and hearty endeavours, that if we are not C3 wanting 30 C3v 30 wanting to our ſelves, we may all in ſome, tho not in an equal meaſure, be inſtruments of his Glory, Bleſſings to this world, and capable of eternal Bleſſedneſs in that to come. But if our Nature is ſpoil’d, inſtead of being improv’d at firſt; if from our Infancy, we are nurs’d up in Ignorance and Vanity; are taught to be Proud and Petulent, Delicate and Fantaſtick, Humorous and Inconſtant, ’tis not ſtrange that the ill effects of this Conduct appears in all the future Actions of our Lives. And ſeeing it is Ignorance, either habitual or actual, which is the 31 C4r 31 the cauſe of all ſin, how are they like to eſcape this, who are bred up in that? That therefore women are unprofitable to moſt, and a plague and diſhonour to ſome men is not much to be regretted on account of the Men, becauſe ’tis the product of their own folly, in denying them the benefits of an ingenuous and liberal Education, the moſt effectual means to direct them into, and to ſecure their progreſs in the ways of Vertue.
For that Ignorance is the cauſe of moſt Feminine Vices may be inſtanc’d in that Pride and Vanity which is uſually imputed to us, and C4 which, 32 C4v 32 which, I ſuppoſe, if throughly ſifted, will appear to be ſome way or other, the riſe and Original of all the reſt. Theſe, tho very bad Weeds, are the product of a good Soil; they are nothing elſe but Generoſity degenerated and corrupted. A deſire to advance and perfect its Being, is planted by God in all Rational Natures, to excite them hereby to every worthy and becoming Action; for certainly, next to the Grace of God, nothing does ſo powerfully reſtrain people from Evil, and ſtir them up to Good, as a generous Temper. And therefore to be ambitious of perfectionsfections 33 C5r 33 fections is no fault; tho to aſſume the Glory of our Excellencies to our ſelves, or to Glory in ſuch as we really have not, are. And were Womens haughtineſs expreſs’d in diſdaining to do a mean and evil thing; wou’d they pride themſelves in ſomewhat truly perfective of a Rational Nature, there were no hurt in it. But then they ought not to be denied the means of examining and judging what is ſo; they ſhould not be impos’d on with tinſel ware. If by reaſon of a falſe Light, or undue Medium, they chuſe amiſs; theirs is the loſs, but the Crime is the C5 De- 34 C5v 34 Deceivers. She who rightly underſtands wherein the perfection of her Nature conſiſts, will lay out her Thoughts and Induſtry in the acquiſition of ſuch Perfections. But ſhe who is kept ignorant of the matter, will take up with ſuch Objects as firſt offer themſelves, and bear any plauſible reſemblance to what ſhe deſires; a ſhew of advantage is ſufficient to render them agreeable baits to her, who wants Judgment and skill to diſcern between reality and pretence. From whence it eaſily follows, that ſhe who has nothing elſe to value 35 C6r 35 value her ſelf upon, will be proud of her Beauty, or Money, and what that can purchaſe; and think her ſelf mightily oblig’d to him, who tells her ſhe has thoſe Perfections which ſhe naturally longs for. Her imbred ſelf-eſteem, and deſire of good, which are degenerated into Pride, and miſtaken ſelf-love, will eaſily open her Ears to whatever goes about to nouriſh and delight them; and when a cunning deſigning Enemy from without, has drawn over to his Party theſe Traytors within, he has the Poor unhappy Perſon at his Mercy, who now very glibly ſwallows 36 C6v 36 ſwallows down his Poyſon, becauſe ’tis preſented in a Golden Cup; and credulouſly hearkens to the moſt diſadvantagious Propoſals, becauſe they come attended with a ſeeming eſteem. She whoſe Vanity makes her ſwallow praiſes by the whole ſale, without examining whether ſhe deſerves them, or from what hand they come, will reckon it but gratitude to think well of him who values her ſo much; and think ſhe muſt needs be merciful to the poor diſpairing Lover whom her Charms have reduc’d to die at her feet. Love and Honour are what every one 37 C7r 37 one of us naturally eſteem1 characterflawed-reproduction they are excellent things in themſelves, and very worthy our regard; and by how much the readier we are to embrace what ever reſembles them, by ſo much the more dangerous, it is that theſe venerable Names ſhould be wretchedly abus’d, and affixt to their direct contraries, yet this is the Cuſtom of the World. And how can ſhe poſſibly detect the fallacy, who has no better Notion of either but what ſhe derives from Plays and Romances? How can ſhe be furniſhed with any ſolid Principles whoſe very Inſtructors are Froth and 38 C7v 38 and emptineſs? Whereas Women were they rightly Educated, had they obtain’d a well inform’d and diſcerning Mind, they would be proof againſt all theſe Batteries, ſee through and ſcorn thoſe little ſilly Artifices which are us’d to enſnare and deceive them. Such an one would value her ſelf only on her Vertue, and conſequently be moſt chary of what ſhe eſteems ſo much. She would know, that not what others ſay, but what ſhe her ſelf does, is the true Commendation, and the only thing that exalts her; the loudeſt Encomiums being not half ſo ſatisfactorytisfactory, 39 C8r 39 tisfactory as the calm and ſecret Plaudit of her own Mind; which moving on true Principles of Honour and Vertue, wou’d not fail on a review of it ſelf to anticipate that delightful Eulogy ſhe ſhall one day hear.
Whence it is but from ignorance, from a want of underſtanding to compare and judge of things, to chuſe a right end, to proportion the means to the end, and to rate ev’ry thing according to its proper value; that we quit the Subſtance for the Shadow, Reality for Appearance, and embrace thoſe very things, which if we underſtood, we ſhou’d hate and fly; 40 C8v 40 fly, but now are reconcil’d to, merely becauſe they uſurp the Name, tho they have nothing of the Nature of thoſe venerable Objects we deſire and ſeek? Were it not for this deluſion, is it probable a Lady who paſſionately deſires to be admir’d, ſhou’d ever conſent to ſuch Actions as render her baſe and contemptible? Wou’d ſhe be ſo abſurd as to think either to get love, or to keep it, by thoſe methods which occaſion loathing, and conſequently end in hatred? Wou’d ſhe reckon it a piece of her Grandeur, or hope to gain eſteem by ſuch exceſſes as really leſſen her in the eyes of all conſiderateſiderate 41 C9r 41 ſiderate and judicious perſons? Wou’d ſhe be ſo ſilly as to look big, and think her ſelf the better perſon, becauſe ſhe has more Mony to beſtow profuſely, or the good luck to have a more ingenious Taylor or Milliner than her Neighbour? Wou’d ſhe who by the regard ſhe pays to Wit, ſeems to make ſome pretences to it, undervalue her Judgment ſo much as to admit the Scurrility and profane noiſy Nonſenſe of men, whoſe Fore-heads are better than their Brains to paſs under that Character? Wou’d ſhe be ſo weak as to imagine that a few airy Fancies, joyn’d with a great deal of Impu- 42 C9v 42 Impudence (the right definition of modern Wit) can beſpeak him a Man of ſenſe, who runs counter to all the ſenſe and reaſon that ever appear’d in the world? than which nothing can be an Argument of greater ſhallowneſs, unleſs it be to regard and eſteem him for it. Wou’d a woman, if ſhe truly underſtood her ſelf, be affected either with the praiſes or calumnies of thoſe worthleſs perſons, whoſe Lives are a direct contradiction to Reaſon, a very ſink of corruption; by whom one wou’d bluſh to be commended, leſt they ſhou’d be miſtaken for Partners or Con- 43 C10r 43 Connivers at their Crimes? Will ſhe who has a jot of diſcernment think to ſatisfy her greedy deſire of Pleaſure, with thoſe promiſing nothings that have again & again deluded her? Or, will ſhe to obtain ſuch Bubbles, run the riſque of forfeiting Joys, infinitely ſatisfying and eternal? In ſum, did not ignorance impoſe on us, we would never laviſh out the greateſt part of our Time and Care, on the decoration of a Tenement, in which our Leaſe is ſo very ſhort, and which for all our induſtry, may loſe it’s Beauty e’re that Leaſe be out, and in the mean while neglect a more 44 C10v 44 more glorious and durable Manſion! We wou’d never be ſo curious of the Houſe, and ſo careleſs of the Inhabitant, whoſe beauty is capable of great improvement, and will endure forever without diminution or decay!
Thus Ignorance and a narrow Education, lay the Foundation of Vice, and imitation and cuſtom rear it up. Cuſtom, that mercileſs torrent that carries all before. And which indeed can be ſtem’d by none but ſuch as have a great deal of Prudence and a rooted Vertue. For ’tis but Decorous that ſhe who is not capable of giving 45 C11r 45 giving better Rules, ſhou’d follow thoſe ſhe ſees before her, leſt ſhe only change the inſtance, and retain the abſurdity. ’Twou’d puzzle a conſiderate Perſon to account for all that Sin and Folly that is in the World, (which certainly has nothing in it ſelf to recommend it,) did not cuſtom help to ſolve the difficulty. For Vertue without queſtion has on all accounts the preeminence of Vice ’tis abundantly more pleaſant in the Act, as well as more advantagious in the conſequences, as any one who will but rightly uſe her reaſon, in a ſerious reflection on her ſelf, and the nature 46 C11v 46 nature of things, may eaſily perceive. ’Tis cuſtom therefore, that Tyrant Cuſtom, which is the grand motive to all thoſe irrational choices which we daily ſee made in the World, ſo very contrary to our preſent intereſt and pleaſure, as well as to our Future. We think it an unpardonable miſtake, not to do what others do round about us, and part with our Peace and Pleaſure as well as our Innocence & Vertue, meerly in complyance with an unreaſonable Faſhion. And having inur’d our ſelves to Folly, we know not how to quit it; we go on in Vice, not becauſe we find ſatisfactionfaction 47 C12r 47 faction in it, but becauſe we are unacquainted with the Joys of Vertue.
Add to this the hurry and noiſe of the world, which does generally ſo buſy and pre-ingage us, that we have little time, and leſs inclination to ſtand ſtill and reflect on our own Minds. Thoſe impertinent Amuſements which have ſeiz’d us, keep their hold ſo well, and ſo conſtantly buz about our Ears, that we cannot attend to the Dictates of our Reaſon, nor to the ſoft whiſpers and winning perſuaſives of the divine Spirit, by whoſe aſſiſtance were we diſpos’d to make uſe of it, we might ſhake 48 C12v 48 ſhake off theſe Follies, and regain our Freedom. But alas! to complete our misfortunes, by a continual application to Vanity and Folly, we quite ſpoil the contexture and frame of our Minds; ſo looſen and diſſipate, that nothing ſolid and ſubſtantial will ſtay in it. By an habitual inadvertency we render our ſelves incapable of any ſerious & improving thought, till our minds themſelves become as light and frothy as thoſe things they are converſant about. To all which, if we further add the great induſtry that bad people uſe to corrupt the good, and that unaccountabletable 49 D1r 49 table backwardneſs that appears in too many good perſons, to ſtand up for, and propagate the Piety they profeſs; (ſo ſtrangely are things tranſpoſed, that Vertue puts on the bluſhes, which belong to Vice, and Vice inſults with the authority of Vertue!) and we have a pretty fair account of the Cauſes of our non-improvement.
When a poor Young Lady is taught to value her ſelf on nothing but her Cloaths, and to think ſhe’s very fine when well accoutred. When ſhe hears ſay, that ’tis Wiſdom enough for her to know how to dreſs D her 50 D1v 50 her ſelf, that ſhe may become amiable in his eyes, to whom it appertains to be knowing and learned; who can blame her if ſhe lay out her Induſtry and Money on ſuch Accompliſhments, and ſometimes extends it farther than her miſinformer deſires ſhe ſhould? When ſhe ſees the vain and the gay, making Parade in the World, and attended with the Courtſhip and admiration of all about them, no wonder that her tender Eyes are dazled with the Pageantry; and wanting Judgment to paſs a due Eſtimate on them and their Admirers, longs to be ſuch a fine and celebratedted 51 D2r 51 ted thing as they! What tho’ ſhe be ſometimes told of another World, ſhe has however a more lively perception of this, and may well think, that if her Inſtructors were in earneſt, when they tell her of hereafter, they would not be ſo buſied and concerned about what happens here. She is, it may be, taught the Principles and Duties of Religion, but not acquainted with the Reaſons and Grounds of them; being told, ’tis enough for her to believe, to examin why, and wherefore belongs not to her. And therefore, though her Piety may be tall and ſpreading, D2 yet 52 D2v 52 yet becauſe it wants foundation and Root, the firſt rude Temptation overthrows and blaſts it; or perhaps the ſhort liv’d Gourd decays and withers of its own accord. But why ſhould ſhe be blamed for letting no great value on her Soul, whoſe nobleſt Faculty, her Underſtanding is render’d uſeleſs to her? Or cenſur’d for relinquiſhing a courſe of Life, whoſe Prerogatives ſhe was never acquainted with, and tho highly reaſonable in it ſelf, was put upon the embracing it, with as little reaſon as ſhe now forſakes it? For if her Religion it ſelf, be taken up as the Mode of the Country 53 D3r 53 Country, ’tis no ſtrange thing that ſhe lays it down again, in conformity to the Faſhion. Whereas ſhe whoſe Reaſon is suffer’d to diſplay it ſelf, to inquire into the grounds and Motives of Religion, to make a diſquiſition of its Graces, and ſearch out its hidden Beauties; who is a Chriſtian out of Choice, not in conformity to thoſe about her; and cleaves to Piety, becauſe ’tis her Wiſdom, her Intereſt, her Joy, not becauſe ſhe has been accuſtom’d to it; ſhe who is not only eminently and unmoveably good, but able to give a Reaſon why ſhe is ſo; is too firm and ſtable D3 to 54 D3v 54 to be mov’d by the pitiful Allurements of ſin, too wiſe and too well bottom’d to be undermin’d and ſupplanted by the ſtrongeſt Efforts of Temptation. Doubtleſs a truly Chriſtian Life requires a clear Underſtanding, as well as regular Affections, that both together may move the Will to a direct choice of Good, and a ſtedfaſt adherence to it. For tho the heart may be honeſt, it is but by chance that the Will is right, if the Underſtanding be ignorant and Cloudy. And whats the reaſon that we ſometimes unhappily ſee perſons falling off from their Piety, but becauſe 55 D4r 55 becauſe ’twas their Affections, not their Judgment, that inclin’d them to be Religious? Reaſon and Truth are firm and immutable, ſhe who bottoms on them is on ſure ground: Humour and Inclination are ſandy Foundations; and ſhe who is ſway’d by her Affections more than by her Judgment, owes the happineſs of her Soul in a great meaſure to the temper of her Body; her Piety may perhaps blaze higher, but will not laſt ſo long. For the Affections are various and changeable, mov’d by every Object, and the laſt comer eaſily undoes whateverD4 ver 56 D4v 56 ver its Predeceſſor had done before it. Such Perſons are always in extreams; they are either violently good, or quite cold and indifferent, a perpetual trouble to themſelves & others, by indecent Raptures, or unneceſſary Scruples; there is no Beauty and order in their lives, all is rapid and unacoccountable; they are now very furious in ſuch a courſe, but they cannot well tell why, & anon as violent in the other extream. Having more Heat than Light, their Zeal out runs their knowledge and inſtead of repreſenting Piety as it is in it ſelf, the moſt lovely and inviting thing 57 D5r 57 thing imaginable, they expoſe it to the contempt and ridicule of the cenſorious World. Their Devotion being ricketed, ſtarv’d and contracted in ſome of it’s vital parts, and diſproportioned and over grown in leſs material inſtances; whilſt one Duty is over done, to commute for the neglect of another, and the miſtaken Perſon thinks the being often on her knees, attones for all the miſcarriages of her Converſation: Not conſidering that ’tis in vain to Petition for thoſe Graces which we take no care to Practice, and a mockery to adore thoſe Perfections we D5 run 58 D5v 58 run counter to: and that the true end of all our Prayers and external Obſervances, is to work our minds into a truly Chriſtian temper, to obtain for us the Empire of our Paſſions, and to reduce all irregular Inclinations, that ſo we may be as like God in Purity, Charity, and all his imitable excellencies, as is conſiſtent with the imperfection of a Creature.
And now having diſcovered the Diſeaſe and its cauſe, ’tis proper to apply a Remedy; ſingle Medicines are too weak to cure ſuch complicated Diſtempers, they require a full Diſpenſatory; and what wou’d a good womanman 59 D6r 59 man refuſe to do, could ſhe hope by that to advantage the greateſt part of the world, and improve her Sex in Knowledge and true Religion? I doubt not Ladies, but that the Age, as bad as it is, affords very many of you who will readily embrace whatever has a true tendency to the Glory of God, and your mutual Edification, to revive the antient Spirit of Piety in the World, and to tranſmit it to ſucceeding Generations. I know there are many of you who ſo ardently love God, as to think no time too much to ſpend in his ſervice, nor any thing too difficult to do for 60 D6v 60 for his ſake; and bear ſuch a hearty good-will to your Neighbours, as to grudge no Prayers or Pains to reclaim and improve them. I have therefore no more to do, but to make the Propoſal, to prove that it will anſwer theſe great and good Ends, and then ’twill be eaſy to obviate the Objections that Perſons of more Wit than Vertue may happen to raiſe againſt it.
Now as to the Propoſal, it is to erect a Monaſtry, or if you will (to avoid giving offence to the ſcrupulous and injudicious, by names which tho innocent in themſelves, have been abus’d by ſuperſtitiousſtitious 61 D7r 61 ſtitious Practices.) we will call it a Religious Retirement, and ſuch as ſhall have a double aſpect, being not only a Retreat from the World for thoſe who deſire that advantage; but likewiſe, an inſtitution and previous diſcipline, to fit us to do the greateſt good in it; ſuch an inſtitution as this (if I do not mightily deceive my ſelf,) would be the moſt probable method to amend to preſent, and improve the future Age. For here, thoſe who are convinc’d of the emptineſs of earthly Enjoyments, who are ſick of the vanity of the world, and its impertinencies, may find more ſub- 62 D7v 62 ſubſtantial and ſatisfying entertainments, and need not be confin’d to what they juſtly loath. Thoſe who are deſirous to know and fortify their weak ſide, firſt do good to themſelves, that hereafter they may be capable of doing more good to others; or for their greater ſecurity are willing to avoid temptation, may get out of that danger which a continual ſtay in view of the Enemy, and the familiarity and unwearied application of the Temptation may expoſe them to; and gain an opportunity to look into themſelves, to be acquainted at home, and no longer the greateſt ſtrangers to 63 D8r 63 to their own hearts. Such as are willing in a more peculiar and undiſturb’d manner, to attend the great buſineſs they came into the world about, the ſervice of God, and improvement of their own Minds, may find a convenient and bliſsful receſs from the noiſe and hurry of the world. A world ſo cumberſom, ſo infectious, that altho’ thro’ the grace of God, and their own ſtrict watchfulneſs, they are kept from ſinking down into its corruptions, ’twill however damp their flight to heav’n, hinder them from attaining any eminent pitch of Vertue.You 64 D8v 64
You are therefore Ladies, invited into a place, where you ſhall ſuffer no other confinement, but to be kept out of the road of ſin: You ſhall not be depriv’d of your grandeur, but only exchange the vain Pomps and Pageantry of the world, empty Titles and Forms of State, for the true and ſolid Greatneſs of being able to diſpiſe them. You wi ll only quit the Chat of inſignificant people, for an ingenious Converſation; the froth of flaſhy wit for real wiſdom; idle tales for inſtructive diſcourſes. The deceitful Flatteries of thoſe who under pretence of loving and admiring you, really ſerved their 65 D9r 65 their own baſe ends, for the ſeaſonable Reproofs and wholſom Counſels of your hearty well-wiſhers and affectionate Friends; which will procure you thoſe perfections your feigned lovers pretended you had, and kept you from obtaining. No uneaſy task will be enjoyn’d you, all your labour being only to prepare for the higheſt degrees of that Glory, the very loweſt of which, is more than at preſent you are able to conceive, and the proſp ect of it ſufficient to out-weigh all the Pains of Religion, were there any in it, as really there is none. All that is requir’d of you 66 D9v 66 you, is only to be as happy as poſſibly you can, and to make ſure of a Felicity that will fill all the capacities of your Souls! A happineſs, which when once you have taſted, you’l be fully convinc’d, you cou’d never do too much to obtain it; nor be too ſolicitous to adorn your Souls, with ſuch tempers and diſpoſitions, as will at preſent make you in ſome meaſure ſuch holy and Heavenly Creatures, as you one day hope to be in a more perfect manner; without which Qualifications you can neither reaſonably expect, nor are capable of enjoying the Happineſs of the Life 67 D10r 67 Life to come. Happy Retreat! which will be the introducing you into ſuch a Paradiſe as your Mother Eve forfeited, where you ſhall feaſt on Pleaſures, that do not, like thoſe of the World, diſappoint your expectations, pall your Appetites, and by the diſguſt they give you, put you on the fruitleſs ſearch after new Delights, which when obtain’d are as empty as the former; but ſuch as will make you truly happy now, and prepare you to be perfectly ſo hereafter. Here are no Serpents to deceive you, whilſt you entertain your ſelves in theſe delicious Gardens.dens. 68 D10v 68 dens. No Provocations are given in this Amicable Society, but to Love and to good Works, which will afford ſuch an entertaining employment, that you’l have as little inclination as leiſure to purſue thoſe Follies which in the time of your ignorance paſs’d with you under the name of love; altho’ there is not in nature two more different things, than true Love, and that brutiſh Paſſion which pretends to ape it. Here will be no Rivalling but for the love of God, no ambition but to procure his Favour, to which nothing will more effectually recommend you than 69 D11r 69 than a great and dear affection to each other. Envy, that Canker, will not here diſturb your Breaſts; for how can ſhe repine at anothers wel-fare, who reckons it the greateſt part of her own? No Covetouſneſs will gain admittance in this bleſt abode, but to amaſs huge Treaſures of good Works, and to procure one of the brighteſt Crowns of Glory. You will not be ſolicitous to encreaſe your Fortunes, but enlarge your Minds; eſteeming no Grandeur like being conformable to the meek and humble Jesus. So that you only withdraw from the noiſe and trouble, the 70 D11v 70 the folly and temptation of the world, that you may more peaceably enjoy your ſelves, and all the innocent Pleaſures it is able to afford you, and particularly that which is worth all the reſt, a noble, Vertuous and Diſintereſs’d Friendſhip. And to compleat all that acme of delight which the devout Seraphic Soul enjoys, when dead to the World, ſhe devotes her ſelf entirely to the contemplation and fruition of her Beloved; when having diſengag’d her ſelf from all thoſe Lets which hindred her from without, ſhe moves in a direct and vigorous motion towards her true 71 D12r 71 true and only Good, whom now ſhe embraces and acquieſces in, with ſuch an unſpeakable pleaſure, as is only intelligible to them who have tried and felt it, which we can no more deſcribe to the dark and ſenſual part of Mankind, that we can the beauty of Colours, and harmony of Sounds, to the Blind and Deaf. In fine, the place to which you are invited will be a Type and Antipaſt of Heav’n, where your Employment will be as there, to magnify God, and to love one another, and to communicate that uſeful knowledge, which by the due improvement of your 72 D12v 72 your time in Study and Contemplation you will obtain; and which when obtain’d, will afford you a much ſweeter and durable delight, than all thoſe pitiful diverſions, thoſe revellings and amuſements, which now thro your ignorance of better, appear the only grateful and reliſhing Entertainments.
But becauſe we were not made for our ſelves, nor can by any means ſo effectually glorify God, and do good to our own Souls, as by doing Offices of Charity and Beneficence to others; and to the intent, that every Vertue, and the higheſt degrees of every Vertue, may be exercis’dercis’d 73 E1r 73 ercis’d & promoted the moſt that may be; your Retreat ſhall be ſo manag’d as not to exclude the good Works of an Active, from the pleaſure and ſerenity of a contemplative Life, but by a due mixture of both, retain all the advantages, and avoid the inconveniencies that attend either. It ſhall not ſo cut you off from the world, as to hinder you from bettering and improving it; but rather qualify you to do it the greateſt Good, and be a Seminary to ſtock the Kingdom with pious and prudent Ladies; whoſe good Example it is to be hop’d, will ſo influence the reſt of their Sex, that Women may no longer paſs for thoſe little E uſleſ 74 E1v 74 uſeleſs and impertinent Animals, which the ill conduct of too many, has caus’d them to be miſtaken for.
We have hitherto conſider’d our Retirement only in relation to Religion, which is indeed its main, I may ſay, its only deſign; nor can this be thought too contracting a word, ſince Religion is the adequate buſineſs of our lives and largely consider’d, takes in all we have to do; nothing being a fit employment for a rational Creature, which has not either a direct or remote tendency to this great and only end. But becauſe, as we have all along obſerv’d, Religion never appears in it’s true Beauty, but when it is accompaniedcompanied 75 E2r 75 companied with Wiſdom and Diſcretion; and that without a good Underſtanding, we can ſcarce be truly, but never eminently Good; being liable to a thouſand ſeductions and miſtakes; for even the men themſelves, if they have not a competent degree of Knowledge, they are carried about with every wind of Doctrine. Therefore, one great end of this inſtitution, ſhall be to expel that cloud of Ignorance, which cuſtom has involv’d us in, to furniſh our minds with a ſtock of ſolid and uſeful Knowledge, that the Souls of women may no longer be the only unadorn’d and neglected things. It is not intendedE2 tended 76 E2v 76 tended that our Religious ſhou’d waſte their time, and trouble their heads about ſuch unconcerning matters, as the vogue of the world has turn’d up for Learning; the impertinency of which has been excellently expos’d by an ingenious Pen, Mr NorNorris. Conduct of Hum.Human Life. but buſy themſelves in a ſerious enquiry after neceſſary and perfective truths; ſomething which it concerns them to know, and which tends to their real intereſt and perfection, and what that is, the excellent Author juſt now mention’d, will ſufficiently inform them, ſuch a courſe of Study will neither be too troubleſome nor out of the reach of a Female Virtuoſo;oſo; 77 E3r 77 oſo; for it is not intended ſhe ſhou’d ſpend her hours in learning words but things, and therefore no more Languages than are neceſſary to acquaint her with uſeful Authors Nor need ſhe trouble her ſelf in turning over a huge number of Books, but take care to underſtand and digeſt a few well-choſen and good ones. Let her but obtain right Ideas, and be truly acquainted with the nature of thoſe Objects that preſent themſelves to her mind, and then no matter whether or no ſhe be able to tell what fanciful people have ſaid about them: And throughly to underſtand Chriſtianity as profeſs’d by the Church of E3 England, 78 E3v 78 England, will be ſufficient to confirm her in the truth, tho ſhe have not a Catalogue of thoſe particular errors which oppoſe it. Indeed a Learned Education of the Women will appear ſo unfaſhionable, that I began to ſtartle at the ſingularity of the propoſition, but was extreamly pleas’d when I found a late ingenious Author (whoſe Book I met with ſince the writing of this) agree with me in my Opinion. For ſpeaking of the Repute that Learning was in about 150 years ago: It was ſo very modiſh Mr. Wottons Reflect.Reflections on Ant.Ancient and Mod.Modern Learn.Learning p. 349, 350. (ſays he) that the fair Sex ſeem’d to believe that Greek and Latin addedded 79 E4r 79 ded to their Charms; and Plato and Ariſtotle untranſlated, were frequent Ornaments of their Cloſets. One wou’d think by the effects, that it was a proper way of Educating them, ſince there are no accounts in Hiſtory of ſo many great Women in any one Age, as are to be found between the years 150015 and 16001600.
For, ſince God has given Women as well as Men intelligent Souls, why ſhould they be forbidden to improve them? Since he has not denied us the faculty of Thinking, why ſhou’d we not (at leaſt in gratitude to him) employ our Thoughts on himſelf, their nobleſt Object, and not unworthily beſtow them on Trifles and Gaities E4 and 80 E4v 80 and ſecular Affairs? Being the Soul was created for the contemplation of Truth, as well as for the fruition of Good, is it not as cruel and unjuſt to preclude Women from the knowledge of the one, as well as from the enjoyment of the other? Eſpecially ſince the Will is blind, and cannot chuſe but by the direction of the Underſtanding; or to ſpeak more properly, ſince the Soul always Wills according as ſhe Underſtands, ſo that, if ſhe Understands amiſs ſhe Wills amiſs: And as Exerciſe enlarges and exalts any Faculty, ſo thro’ want of uſing, it becomes crampt and leſſened; if we make little or no uſe of our Under- 81 E5r 81 Underſtandings we ſhall ſhortly have none to uſe; and the more contracted, and unemploy’d the deliberating and directive Power is, the more liable is the elective to unworthy and miſchievous options. What is it but the want of an ingenious Education that renders the generality of Feminine Converſations ſo inſipid and fooliſh, and their ſolitude ſo inſupportable? Learning is therefore neceſſary to render them more agreeable and uſeful in company, and to furniſh them with becoming entertainments when alone, that ſo they may not be driven to thoſe miſerable ſhifts, which too many make uſe of to put off their time, E5 that 82 E5v 82 that precious Talent that never lies on the hands of a judicious Perſon. And ſince our Happineſs in the next world depends ſo far on thoſe diſpoſitions which we carry along with us out of this, that without a right habitude and temper of mind, we are not capable of Felicity; and ſeeing out Beautitude conſiſts in the contemplation of the divine Truth and Beauty, as well as in the fruition of his Goodneſs, can Ignorance be a fit preparative for Heaven? Is’t likely that ſhe whoſe Underſtanding has been buſied about nothing but froth and trifles, ſhou’d be capable of delighting her ſelf in noble and ſublime Truths? 83 E6r 83 Truths? Let ſuch therefore as deny us the improvement of our Intellectuals, either take up his Paradox, who ſaid, That Women have no Souls; which at this time a day, when they are allow’d to Brutes, wou’d be as unphiloſophical as it is unmannerly; or elſe let them permit us to cultivate and improve them. There is a ſort of Learning indeed which is worſe than the greateſt Ignorance: A woman may ſtudy Plays and Romances all her days, & be a great deal more knowing, but never a jot the wiſer. Such a Knowledge as this ſerves only to inſtruct and put her forward in the practice of the greateſt Follies;lies; 84 E6v 84 lies; yet how can they juſtly blame her, who forbid, or at leaſt, won’t afford opportunity of better? A rational mind will be employ’d, it will never be ſatisfy’d in doing nothing; and if you neglect to furniſh it with good materials, ’tis like to take up with ſuch as come to hand.
We pretend not that Women ſhou’d teach in the Church, or uſurp Authority where it is not allow’d them; permit us only to underſtand our own duty, and not be forc’d to take it upon truſt from others; to be at leaſt ſo far learned, as to be able to form in our minds a true Idea of Chriſtianity, it being ſo very neceſſary to fence us againſtgainſt 85 E7r 85 gainſt the danger of theſe laſt and perilous days, in which Deceivers, a part of whoſe Character is, to lead captive silly Women, need not creep into Houſes, ſince they have Authority to proclaim their Errors on the Houſe top. And let us alſo acquire a true Practical Knowledge, ſuch as will convince us of the abſolute neceſſity of Holy Living, as well as of Right Believing, and that no Hereſy is more dangerous, than that of an ungodly and wicked Life. And ſince the French Tongue is understood by moſt Ladies, methinks they may much better improve it by the ſtudy of Philoſophy (as I hear the French Ladies do,) DesCartes, Malebranch, 86 E7v 86 Malebranch, and others, than by reading idle Novels and Romances. ’Tis ſtrange we ſhou’d be ſo forward to imitate their Faſhions and Fopperies, and have no regard to what is truly imitable in them! And why ſhall it not be thought as genteel, to underſtand French Philosophy, as to be accoutred in a French Mode? Let therefore the famous Madam D’acier, &c. and our own incomparable Orinda, excite the Emulation of the Engliſh Ladies.
The Ladies, I’m sure, have no reaſon to diſlike this Propoſal, but I know not how the Men will reſent it, to have their encloſure broke down, and Women invited to 87 E8r 87 to taſt e of that Tree of Knowledge they have ſo long unjuſtly monopoliz’d. But they muſt excuſe me, if I be as partial to my own Sex as they are to theirs, and think Women as capable of Learning as Men are, and that it becomes them as well. For I cannot imagine wherein the hurt lyes, if inſtead of doing miſchief to one another, by an uncharitable and vain Converſation, women be enabled to inform and inſtruct thoſe of their own Sex at leaſt; the Holy Ghoſt having left it on record, that Priſcilla as well as her Husband catechis’d the eloquent Apollos, and the great Apoſtle found no fault with her. It will therefore be 88 E8v 88 be very proper for our Ladies to ſpend part of their time in this Retirement, in adorning their minds with uſeful Knowledge.
To enter into the detail of the particulars concerning the Government of the Religious, their Offices of Devotion, Employments, Work, &c. is not now neceſſary. Suffice it at preſent to ſignify, that they will be more than ordinarily careful to redeem their time, ſpending no more of it on the Body than the neceſſities of Nature require, but by a judicious choice of their Employment, and a conſtant induſtry about it, ſo improve this invaluable Treaſure, that it may neitherther 89 E9r 89 ther be buried in Idleneſs, nor laviſh’d out in unprofitable concerns. For a ſtated portion of it being daily paid to God in Prayers and Praiſes, the reſt ſhall be employ’d in innocent, charitable, and uſeful Buſineſs; either in ſtudy (in learning themſelves, or inſtructing others; for it is deſign’d that part of their Employment be the Education of thoſe of their own Sex) or elſe in ſpiritual and corporal Works of Mercy, relieving the Poor, healing the Sick, mingling Charity to the Soul with that they expreſs to the Body, inſtructing the Ignorant, counſelling the Doubtful, comforting the Afflicted, and correcting thoſe that err and do amiſs. And90 E9v 90
And as it will be the buſineſs of their lives, their meat and drink to know and do the Will of their heavenly Father, ſo will they pay a ſtrict conformity to all the Precepts of their holy Mother the Church, whoſe ſacred Injunctions are too much neglected, even by thoſe who pretend the greateſt zeal for her. For, beſides the daily performance of the Publick Offices after the Cathedral manner, in the moſt affecting and elevating way, the celebration of the Holy Euchariſt every Lords Day and Holyday, and a courſe of ſolid inſtructive Preaching and Catechizing; our Religious, conſidering that the holy Jesus punctuallyally 91 E10r 91 ally obſerv’d the innocent uſages of the Jewish Church; and tho in many inſtances the reaſon of the Command ceas’d as to him, yet he wou’d obey the letter to avoid giving offence, and to ſet us an admirable pattern of Obedience; therefore, tho’ it may be thought ſuch pious Souls have little occaſion for the ſeverities of faſting and mortification; yet, they will conſider it as a ſpecial part of their Duty, carefully to obſerve all the Faſts of the Church, viz. Lent, Ember, and Rogation days, Fridays and Vigils; times ſo little heeded by the moſt, that one wou’d ſcarce believe them ſet apart for Religious Purpoſes, did we 92 E10v 92 we not find them in the antiquated Rubricks. And as their Devotion will be regular, ſo ſhall it likewiſe be ſolid and ſubſtantial. They will not reſt in the mere out-ſide of Duty, nor fancy the performance of their Faſts and Offices will procure them licenſe to indulge a darling Vice. But having long ſince laid the Ax to the root of ſin, and deſtroy’d the whole body of it, they will look upon theſe holy times of recollection and extraordinary Devotion (without which Faſting ſignifies little) as excellent means to keep it down, and to pluck up every the leaſt Fibre that may happen to remain in them. But we intendtend 93 E11r 93 tend not by this to impoſe any intolerable burden on tender Conſtitutions, knowing that our Lord has taught us, that Mercy is to be prefer’d before Sacrifice; and that Bodily Exerciſe profiteth but a little, the chief buſineſs being to obtain a divine and God-like temper of Mind.
And as this inſtitution will ſtrictly enjoyn all pious and profitable Employments, ſo does it not only permit but recommend harmleſs and ingenious Diverſions, Muſick particularly, and ſuch as may refreſh the Body, without enervating the mind. They do a diſſervice to Religion who make it an enemy to innocentnocent 94 E11v 95 nocent Nature, and injure the Almighty when they repreſent him as impoſing burdens that are not to be born. Neither God nor Wiſe men will like us the better, for an affected ſeverity and waſpiſh ſourneſs. Nature and Grace will never diſagree, provided we miſtake not the one, nor indulge the petulency of the other; there being no Diſplacencies in Religion, but what we our ſelves have unhappily made. For true Piety is the moſt ſweet and engaging thing imaginable, as it is moſt obliging to others, ſo moſt eaſie to our ſelves. ’Tis in truth the higheſt Epicuriſm, exalting our Pleaſures by refiningfining 95 E12r 94 fining them; keeping our Appetites in that due regul arity which not only Grace, but even Nature and Reaſon require, in the breach of which tho’ there may be a Tranſport, there can be no true and ſubſtantial delight.
As to Lodging, Habit and Diet, they may be quickly reſolv’d on by the Ladies who ſhall ſubſcribe; who I doubt not will make choice of what is moſt plain and decent, what Nature, not Luxury requires. And ſince neither Meat nor Cloaths commend us unto God, they’l content themſelves with ſuch things as are fit and convenient, without occaſioning ſcruple to themſelves, or giving any trou- 96 E12v 96 trouble or offence to others. She who conſiders to how much better account that Money will turn, which is beſtow’d on the Poor, then that which is laid out in unneceſſary Expences on her ſelf, needs no Admonitions againſt ſuperfluities: She who truly loves her ſelf, will never waſte that Money on a decaying Carkaſs, which if prudently disburs’d, wou’d procure her an eternal Mansion. She will never think her ſelf ſo fine, as when the backs of the Poor do bleſs her; and never feaſt ſo luxuriouſly as when ſhe treats an hungry perſon. No perfume will be thought ſo grateful as the Odour of Good Works; 97 F1r 97 Works; nor any Waſh ſo beautifying as her own tears. For her Heroic Soul is too great to ambition any Empire but that of her own Breaſt; or to regard any other Conqueſt than the reſcuing poor unhappy Souls from the ſlavery of Sin and Satan, thoſe only unſupportable Tyrants; and therefore what Decays ſhe obſerves in her Face will be very unconcerning, but ſhe will with greateſt ſpeed and accuracy rectify the leaſt Spot that may prejudice the beauty of her lovely Soul.
In a word, this happy Society will be but one Body, whoſe Soul is love, animating and informing it, and perpetuallyF tually 98 F1v 98 tually breathing forth it ſelf in flames of holy deſires after God, and acts of Benevolence to each other. Envy and Uncharitableneſs are the Vices only of little and narrow hearts, and therefore ’tis ſuppos’d, they will not enter here amongſt perſons whoſe Diſpoſitions as well as their Births are to be Generous. Cenſure will refine into Friendly Admonition, all Scoffing and offenſive Railleries will be abominated and baniſh’d hence; where not only the Words and Actions, but even the very Thoughts and Deſires of the Religious, tend to promote the moſt endearing Love, and univerſal Goodwill;will; 99 F2r 99 will; for tho’ there may be particular Friendſhips, they muſt by no means prejudice the general Amity. Thus theſe innocent and holy Souls ſhou’d run their Race, meaſuring their hours by their Devotions, and their days by the charitable Works they do. Thus wou’d they live the life of Heaven whilſt on Earth, and receive an Earneſt of its Joys in their hearts. And now, what remains for them to do at Night, but to review the Actions of the Day? to examine what Paſſions have been ſtirring? How their Devotions were perform’d? in what temper their Hearts are? what good they have done? and what F2 progreſs 100 F2v 100 progreſs made towards Heaven? and with the plaudit of a ſatisfied Conſcience ſweetly to ſleep in peace and ſafety, Angels pitching their Tents round about them, and he that neither ſlumbers nor ſleeps, rejoycing over them to do them good!
And to the end, that theſe great deſigns may be the better purſu’d, and effectually obtain’d, care ſhall be taken that our Religious be under the tuition of perſons of irreproachable Lives, of a conſummate Prudence, ſincere Piety, and unaffected Gravity. No Novices in Religion, but ſuch as have ſpent the greateſt part of their lives in the ſtudy and practice of Chriſti- 101 F3r 101 Chriſtianity; who have lived much, whatever the time of their abode in the world has been. Whoſe underſtandings are clear and comprehenſive, as well as their Paſſions at command, and Affections regular; and their knowledge able to govern their Zeal. Whoſe ſcrutiny into their own hearts has been ſo exact, that they fully underſtand the weakneſſes of human Nature, are able to bear with its defects, and by the moſt prudent methods procure its Amendment. Plentifully furniſh’d with inſtructions for the ignorant, and comfort for the diſconſolate. Who know how to quicken the ſlothful, to awakenF3 waken 102 F3v 102 waken the ſecure, and to diſpel the doubts of the Scrupulous. Who are not ignorant when to uſe the Spur, and when the Rein, but duly qualified to miniſter to all the ſpiritual wants of their Charge. Watching over their Souls with tenderneſs and prudence; applying fitting Medicines with ſweetneſs & affability. Sagacious in diſcovering the very approaches of a fault, wiſe in preventing, and charitable in bearing with all pityable Infirmities. The ſweetneſs of whoſe Nature is commenſurate to all the reſt of their good Qualities, and all conſpire together to make them lov’d and reverenc’d. Who have the perfect 103 F4r 103 perfect government of themſelves, and therefore rule according to Reaſon, not Humour, conſulting the good of the Society, not their own arbitrary ſway. Yet know how to aſſert their Authority when there is juſt occaſion for it, and will not prejudice their Charge, by an indiſcreet remiſsneſs and looſning the Reins of diſcipline. Yet what occaſion will there be for rigour, when the deſign is to repreſent Vertue in all her Charms and native Lovelineſs, which muſt needs attract the eyes, and enamour the hearts of all who behold her? To joyn the ſweetneſs of Humanity to the ſtrictneſs of Philoſophy, that both to gether F4 gethe 104 F4v 104 gether being improv’d and heighten’d by grace, may make up an accompliſh’d Chriſtian; who (if truly ſo) is certainly the beſt-bred and beſt-natur’d perſon in the world, adorn’d with a thouſand Charms, moſt happy in her ſelf, and moſt agreeable and beneficial to all about her. And that every one who comes under this holy Roof, may be ſuch an amiable, ſuch a charming Creature, what faults they bring with them ſhall be corrected by ſweetneſs, not ſeverity; by friendly Admonitions, not magiſterial Reproofs; Piety ſhall not be roughly impos’d, but wiſely inſinuated by a perpetual Diſplay of the Beauties 105 F5r 105 Beauties of Religion in an exemplary Converſation, the continual and moſt powerful Sermon of an holy Life. And ſince Inclination can’t be forc’d, (and nothing makes people more uneaſy than the fettering themſelves with unneceſſary Bonds) there ſhall be no Vows or irrevocable Obligations, not ſo much as the fear of Reproach to keep our Ladies here any longer then they deſire. No: Ev’ry act of our Religious Votary ſhall be voluntary and free, and no other tye but the Pleaſure, the Glory and Advantage of this bleſſed Retirement, to confine her to it.
And now, I ſuppoſe, you will ſave me the labour of F5 proving, 106 F5v 106 proving, that this inſtitution will very much ſerve the ends of Piety and Charity; it is methinks ſelf-evident, and the very Propoſal ſufficient proof. But if it will not promote theſe great ends, I ſhall think my ſelf mightily oblig’d to him that will ſhew me what will; for provided the good of my Neighbour be advanc’d, ’tis very indifferent to me, whether it be by my method or by anothers. Here will be no impertinent Viſits, no fooliſh Amours, no idle Amuſements to diſtract our Thoughts, and waſte our precious time; a very little of which is ſpent in Dreſſing, that grand devoure, and its concomitants; and 107 F6r 107 and no more than neceſſity requires in ſleep and eating; ſo that here’s an huge Treaſure gain’d, which for ought I know, may purchaſe an happy Eternity. But we need not reſt in generals, a curſory view of ſome particulars will ſufficiently demonſtrate the great uſefulneſs of ſuch a Retirement; which will appear by obſerving firſt, a few of thoſe inconveniences to which Ladies are expos’d, by living in the world, and in the next place the poſitive advantages of a Retreat.
And firſt, as to the inconveniences of living in the World; no very ſmall one is that ſtrong Idea and warm perception it gives us of its Vanities; 108 F6v 108 Vanities; ſince theſe are ever at hand, conſtantly thronging about us, they muſt neceſſarily puſh aſide all other Objects, and the Mind being prepoſſeſs’d and gratefully entertain’d with thoſe pleaſing Perceptions which external Objects occaſion, takes up with them as its only Good, is not at leiſure to taſte thoſe delights which ariſe from a Reflection on it ſelf, nor to receive the Ideas which ſuch a Reflection conveys, and conſequently forms all its Notions by ſuch Ideas only as ſenſation has furniſh’d it with, being unacquainted with thoſe more excellent ones which ariſe from its own opera- 109 F7r 109 operations and a ſerious reflection on them, and which are neceſſary to correct the miſtakes, and ſupply the defects of the other. From whence ariſes a very partial knowledge of things, nay, almoſt a perfect ignorance in things of the greateſt moment. For tho we are acquainted with the Sound of ſome certain words, ve.g. God, Religion, Pleaſure and Pain, Honour and Diſhonour, and the like; yet having no other Ideas but what are convey’d to us by thoſe Trifles we converſe with, we frame to our ſelves ſtrange & awkard notions of them, conformable only to thoſe Ideas ſenſation has furniſh’d us with, which ſome 110 F7v 110 ſometimes grow ſo ſtrong and fixt, that ’tis ſcarce poſſible to introduce a new Scheme of Thoughts, and ſo to diſabuſe us, eſpecially whilſt theſe Objects are thick about us.
Thus ſhe who ſees her ſelf and others reſpected in proportion to that Pomp and Buſtle they make in the world, will form her Idea of Honour accordingly. She who has reliſh’d no Pleaſures but ſuch as ariſe at the preſence of outward Objects, will ſeek no higher than her Senſes for her Gratification. And thus we may account for that ſtrange inſenſibility that appears in ſome people when you ſpeak to them of any ſeriousrious 111 F8r 111 rious religious matter. They are then ſo dull you’l have much ado to make them underſtand the cleareſt Truth: Whereas if you rally the ſame perſons, or chat with them of ſome Mode or Foppery, they’ll appear very quick, expert, and ingenious. I have ſometimes ſmil’d to hear Women talk as gravely and concernedly about ſome trifling diſappointment from their Milliner or Taylor, as if it had related to the weightieſt concerns of their Soul, nay, perhaps more ſeriouſly that others who wou’d paſs for Good, do about their eternal Intereſt; but turn the talk that way, and they grow as heavy and cold as they 112 F8v 112 they were warm and ſenſible before. And whence is this, but becauſe their heads are full of the one, and quite deſtitute of ſuch Ideas as might give them a competent notion of the other; and therefore to diſcourſe of ſuch matters, is as little to the purpoſe as to make Mathematical Demonſtrations to one who knows not what an Angle or Triangle means. (Hence by the way, will appear the great uſefulneſs of judicious Catechizing, which is neceſſary to ſtir up clear Idea’s in the mind, without which it can receive but little benefit from the Diſcourſes of the Pulpit, and perhaps the neglect of the formermer 113 F9r 113 mer is the reaſon that the great plenty of the latter has no better effect.) By all which it appears, that if we wou’d not be impos’d on by falſe Repreſentations and Impoſtures, if we wou’d obtain a due knowledge of the moſt important things, we muſt remove the little Toys and Vanities of the world from us, or our ſelves from them; enlarge our Ideas, ſeek out new Fields of Knowledge, whereby to rectify our firſt miſtakes.
From the ſame Original, viz.videlicet the conſtant flattery of external Objects, ariſes that querulouſneſs and delicacy obſervable in moſt Perſons of Fortune, and which betraystrays 114 F9v 114 trays them to many inconveniencies. For beſides that, it renders them altogether unfit to bear a change, which conſidering the great uncertainty, the ſwift viciſſitudes of worldly things, the Greateſt and moſt eſtabliſhed, ought not to be unprepar’d for; beſides this, it makes them perpetually uneaſy, abates the delight of their enjoyments, for ſuch perſons will very rarely find all things to their mind, and then ſome little diſorder which others wou’d take no notice of, like an aching Tooth or Toe, ſpoils the reliſh of their Joys. And tho many great Ladies affect this temper, miſtaking it for a piece 115 F10r 115 piece of Grandeur, ’tis ſo far from that, that it gives evidence of a poor weak Mind; a very childiſh Humour, that muſt be cocker’d and fed with Toys and Baubles to ſtill its froorwardneſs; & is like the crazy ſtomach of a ſick Perſon, which no body has reaſon to be fond of or deſire.
This alſo diſpoſes them to Inconſtancy, (for ſhe who is continually ſupply’d with variety, knows not where to fix,) a Vice which ſome women ſeem to be proud of, and yet nothing in the world ſo reproachful and degrading, becauſe nothing is a ſtronger evidence of a weak and injudicious mind. For it ſuppoſes us either ſo ignorant as to 116 F10v 116 to make a wrong Choice at firſt, or elſe ſo ſilly as not to know and ſtick to it, when we have made a right one. It beſpeaks an unthinking inconſiderate Mind, one that lives at Random, without any deſign or end; who wanting judgment to diſcern where to fix, or to know when ſhe’s well, is ever fluctuating and uncertain, undoing to day what ſhe had done yeſterday, which is the worſt Character that can be given of ones Underſtanding.
A conſtant Scene of Temptations, and the infection of ill company, is another great danger, which converſing in the world expoſes to. ’Tis a dangerous thing to have all the 117 F11r 117 the opportunities of ſinning in our power, and the danger is increas’d by the ill Precedents we daily ſee of thoſe who take them. Liberty (as ſome body ſays) will corrupt an Angel. And tho it is indeed more glorious to conquer than to fly, yet ſince our Vertue is ſo viſibly weakned in other inſtances, we have no reaſon to preſume on’t in this. ’Tis become no eaſy matter to ſecure our Innocence in our neceſſary Civilities and daily Converſations; in which, if we have the good luck to avoid ſuch as bring a neceſſity on us, either of ſeeming rude to them, or of being really ſo to God Almighty, whilſt we 118 F11v 118 we tamely hear him, our beſt Friend and Benefactor affronted, and ſwallow’d it, at the ſame time, that we wou’d reckon’t a very pitiful Spirit to hear an Acquaintance traduc’d and hold our Tongue; yet, if we avoid this Trial, our Charity is however in continual danger, Cenſoriouſneſs being grown ſo modiſh, that we can ſcarce avoid being active or paſſive in it; ſo that ſhe who has not her pert jeſt ready to paſs upon others, ſhall as ſoon as her back is turn’d, become a Jeſt her ſelf for want of Wit.
In conſequence of all this, we are inſenſibly betray’d to a great loſs of time, a Treaſureſure 119 F12r 119 ſure whoſe value we are too often quite ignorant of, till it be loſt paſt redemption. And yet, conſidering the ſhortneſs and uncertainty of Life, the great work we have to do, and what advantages accrew to us by a due management of our time, we cannot reconcile it with prudence to ſuffer the leaſt minute to eſcape us. But beſides our own laviſh Expences (concerning which one may ask as Solomon does of Labour, What Fruit have we of all that Sport and Paſtime we have taken under the Sun?) So unreaſonable is the humour of the World, that thoſe who wou’d reckon it a rudeneſs to make ſo bold with our 120 F12v 120 our Mony, never ſcruple to waſte, and rob us of this infinitely more precious Treaſure.
In the laſt place, by reaſon of this loſs of time and the continual hurry we are in, we can find no opportunities for thoughtfulneſs and recollection; we are ſo buſied with what paſſes abroad, that we have no leiſure to look at home, nor to rectify the diſorders there. And ſuch an unthinking mechanical way of living, when like Machines we are condemn’d every day to repent the impertinencies of the day before; ſhortens our Views, contracts our Minds, expoſes to a thouſand practical Errors, and renders Improve- 121 G1r 121 Improvement impoſſible, becauſe it will not permit us to conſider and recollect, which is the only means to attain it. So much for the inconveniences of living in the World; if we enquire about Retirement, we ſhall find it does not only remove all theſe, but brings conſiderable advantages of its own.
For firſt, it helps us to mate cuſtom, and delivers us from its Tyranny, which is the moſt conſiderable thing we have to do, it being nothing elſe but the habituating our ſelves to Folly that can reconcile us to it. But how hard is it to quit an old road? What courage as well as prudenceG dence 122 G1v 122 dence does it require? How clear a Judgment to overlook the Prejudices of Education and Example, and to diſcern what is beſt, and how ſtrong a reſolution, notwithſtanding all the Scoffs and Noiſes of the world to adhere to it! For Cuſtom has uſurpt ſuch an unaccountable Authority, that ſhe who wou’d endeavour to put a ſtop to its Arbitrary Sway, and reduce it to Reaſon, is in a fair way to render her ſelf the Butt for all the Fops in Town to ſhoot their impertinent Cenſures at. And tho a wiſe Woman will not value their Cenſure, yet ſhe cares not to be the ſubject of their Diſcourſe. The only way 123 G2r 123 way then is to retire from the world, as the Israelites did out of Egypt, leſt the Sacrifice we muſt make of its Follies, ſhou’d provoke its Spleen.
This alſo puts us out of the road of temptation, and very much redeems our Time, cutting off thoſe extravagancies on which ſo much of it was ſquandred away before. And furniſhing us conſtantly with good employment, ſecures us from being ſeduc’d into bad. Great are the Benefits of holy Converſation which will be here enjoy’d: As Vice is, ſo Vertue may be catching; and to what heights of Piety will not ſhe advance, who is plac’d where the ſole BuſineſsG2 ſineſs 124 G2v 124 ſineſs is to be Good, where there is no pleaſure but in Religion, no contention but to excel in what is truly commendable; where her Soul is not defil’d nor her Zeal provok’d, by the ſight or relation of thoſe Villanies the World abounds with?
And by that Learning which will be here afforded, and that leiſure we have, to enquire after it, and to know and reflect on our own minds, we ſhall reſcue our ſelves out of that woful incogitancy we have ſlipt into, awaken our ſleeping Powers, and make uſe of that reaſon which God has given us. We ſhall then begin to wonder at our Folly, that amongſt all 125 G3r 125 all the pleaſures we formerly purſued, we never attended to that moſt noble and delicious one which the chaſe of truth affords us; and bleſs our ſelves at laſt, that our eyes are open’d to diſcern how much more pleaſantly we may be entertain’d by our own Thoughts, than by all the Diverſions which the world affords us. By this means we are fitted to receive the influences of the holy Spirit, and are put in a due frame of Devotion. No doubt but he has often knock’d at the door or our hearts, when the croud and noiſe of our Vanities would not ſuffer us to regard or hear him; and could find no admittance G3 when 126 G3v 126 when our houſe was ſo fill’d with other company. Here therefore is the fitteſt place for his Entertainment, when we are freed from outward diſturbances, and entirely at leiſure to attend ſo divine a Gueſt. Our Devotions will be perform’d with due attention, thoſe Objects that uſed to diſtract being now remov’d from us; ſimplicity of deſire will beget ſimplicity of thought, and that will make our minds moſt intenſe and elevated, when we come to addreſs our ſelves to the Throne of Grace. Being dead to the things of this world, we ſhall with greater fervour petition for thoſe of another; and living always in a lively and 127 G4r 127 and awful ſenſe of the divine Majeſty, our hearts will ever be diſpos’d to approach him in the moſt ſolemn, ſerious and reverent manner. ’Tis a very unſeemly thing to jump from our Diverſions to our Prayers; as if when we have been entertaining our ſelves and others with Vanity, we were inſtantly prepar’d to appear in the ſacred preſence of God. But a Religious Retirement and holy Converſation, will procure us a more ſerious Temper, a graver Spirit, and ſo both make us conſtantly fit to approach, and likewiſe ſtir us up to be more careful in our preparations when we do. For beſides all other G4 improve- 128 G4v 128 improvements of knowledge, we ſhall hereby obtain truer Notions of God than we were capable of before, which is of very great conſequence, ſince the want of right apprehenſions concerning him, is the general cauſe of miſtakes in Religion, and Errors in Practice; for as he is the nobleſt Object of our Underſtanding, ſo nothing is more neceſſary or of ſuch conſequence to us as to buſy our thoughts about him. And did we rightly conſider his Nature, we ſhou’d neither dare to forget him, nor draw near to him with unclean hands, and unholy hearts.
From this ſacred Mountain where the world will be 129 G5r 129 be plac’d at our feet, at ſuch a diſtance from us, that the ſteams of its corruptions ſhall not obſcure our eyeſight; we ſhall have a right proſpect of it, and clearly diſcern that all its Allurements, all thoſe Gaities and Pageantries which at preſent we admire ſo much, are no better than inſignificant Toys, which have no value but what our perverſe Opinion impoſes on them. Things which contribute ſo very little to our real Good, that even at present, which is their only ſeaſon, we may live much happier without than with them; and which are ſo far from being neceſſary to true Felicity, that they G5 ſhall 130 G5v 130 ſhall vaniſh and be no more when that is conſummate and perfect. Many are the Topic’s from whence we might declaim againſt the vanity of the world, but methinks Experience is ſo convincing, that it ſuperſedes all the reſt, and wou’d certainly reclaim us from the immoderate love of earthly enjoyments, did we but ſeriouſly hearken to it. For tell me Ladies, if your greateſt Pleaſures are not attended with a greater ſting; when you think to graſp them, do they not either vaniſh into froth, or gall your fingers? To want, or to enjoy them, is equally tormenting; the one produces in you the Pain of 131 G6r 131 of Hunger, the other of Loathing. For in reality, there is no good in them, nothing but the Shadow and Appearance; if there were, you cou’d not ſo eaſily loath your old Delights, and be ſo fond of variety, what is truly deſirable never ending in diſguſt. They are not therefore Pleaſures but Amuſements which you now purſue, and which, through your ignorance of better Joys, pretend to fill their place; toll you on with fair pretences, and repay your Labour with defeated Hopes. Joys, not near ſo laſting as the ſlighteſt toy you wear; the moſt capricious Humoriſt among you is more conſtant far than they. 132 G6v 132 they. Come hither therefore and take a true view of ’em, that you may no longer deceive your ſelves with that which profits not; but ſpurning away theſe empty nothings, ſecure a portion in ſuch a Bliſs as will not fail, as cannot diſappoint you! A Felicity which depending on God only and your own Minds, is out of Fortunes reach, will place you above the Batteries of the world, above its Terrors and Allurements, and enable you at once to triumph over, and deſpiſe it. And what can be more glorious, than to have a mind unſhaken by the blandiſhments of Proſperity, or the rough ſhocks of Adverſity;verſity; 133 G7r 133 verſity; that paſſes thro both with the ſame indifferency and integrity, is not to be tempted by either to a mean unworthy and indecent Action?
Farther yet, beſides that holy emulation which a continual view of the brighteſt and moſt exemplary Lives will excite in us; we ſhall have opportunity of contracting the pureſt and nobleſt Friendſhip; a Bleſſing, the purchaſe of which were richly worth all the world beſides! For ſhe who poſſeſſes a worthy Perſon, has certainly obtain’d the richeſt Treaſure! a Bleſſing that Monarchs may envy, and ſhe who enjoys is happier than ſhe 134 G7v 134 ſhe who fills a Throne! a Bleſſing, which next to the love of God, is the choiceſt Jewel in our Cæleſtial Diadem, which, were it duly practic’d, wou’d both fit us for heav’n, and bring it down into our hearts whilſt we tarry here. For Friendſhip is a Vertue which comprehends all the reſt; none being fit for this, who is not adorn’d with every other Vertue. Probably one conſiderable cauſe of the degeneracy of the preſent Age, is the little true Friendſhip that is to be found in it; or perhaps you will rather ſay, that this is the effect of our corruption. The cauſe and the effect are indeed reciprocal; for 135 G8r 135 for were the world better, there wou’d be more Friendſhip, and were there more Friendſhip we ſhou’d have a better world. But becauſe Iniquity abounds, therefore the love of many is not only waxen cold, but quite benum’d and periſh’d. But if we have ſuch narrow hearts, be ſo full of miſtaken Self-love, ſo unreaſonably fond of our ſelves, that we cannot ſpare a hearty Good-will to one or two choice Perſons, how can it ever be thought, that we ſhou’d well acquit our ſelves of that Charity which is due to all mankind? For Friendſhip is nothing elſe but Charity contracted; it is (in the words of an admired Author)thor)- 136 G8v 136 thor) a kind of revenging our ſelves on the narrowneſs of our Faculties, by exemplyfying that extraordinary charity on one or two, which we are willing, but not able to exerciſe towards all. And therefore ’tis without doubt, the beſt Inſtructor to teach us our duty to our Neighbour, and a moſt excellent Monitor to excite us to make payment as far as our power will reach. It has a ſpecial force to dilate our hearts, to deliver them from that vicious ſelfiſhneſs and the reſt of thoſe ſordid paſſions, which expreſs a narrow illiberal temper, and are of ſuch pernitious conſequence to mankind. That inſtitution therefore,fore, 137 G9r 137 fore, muſt needs be highly beneficial, which both diſpoſes us to be friends our ſelves, and helps to find them. But by Friendſhip I do not mean any thing like thoſe intimacies that are about in the world, which are often combinations in evil, and at beſt but inſignificant dearneſſes; as little reſembling true Friendſhip, as Modern Practice does Primitive Chriſtianity. But I intend by it the greateſt uſefulneſs, the moſt refin’d and diſintereſs’d Benevolence, a love that thinks nothing within the bounds of Power and Duty, too much to do or ſuffer for its Beloved: And makes no diſtinction betwixt 138 G9v 138 betwixt its Friend and its ſelf, except that in Temporals it prefers her intereſt. But tho it be very deſirable to obtain ſuch a Treaſure; ſuch a Medicine of Life, (as the wiſe man ſpeaks) yet the danger is great, leaſt being deceiv’d in our choice, we ſuck in Poyſon where we expected Health. And conſidering how apt we are to diſguiſe our ſelves, how hard it is to know our own hearts, much leſs anothers, it is not adviſable to be too haſty in contracting ſo important a Relation; before that be done, it were well if we could look into the very Soul of the beloved Perſon, to diſcover what reſemblance it 139 G10r 139 it bears to our own, and in this Society we ſhall have the beſt opportunities of doing ſo. There are no intereſts here to ſerve, no contrivances for another to be a ſtale to; the Souls of all the Religious will be open and free, and thoſe particular Friendſhips muſt be no prejudice to the general Amity. But yet, as in Heav’n, that region of perfect Love, the happy Souls (as ſome are of opinion) now and then ſtep aſide from more general Converſations, to entertain themſelves with a peculiar friend; ſo, in this little emblem of this bleſſed place, what ſhould hinder, but that two Perſons of a ſympathizing diſpoſition,on, 140 G10v 140 on, the make and frame of whoſe Souls bears an exact conformity to each other, and therefore one wou’d think, were purpoſely deſign’d by Heaven to unite and mix; what ſhou’d hinder them from entring into an holy combination to watch over each other for Good, to adviſe, encourage and direct, and to obſerve the minuteſt fault in order to its amendment. The trueſt effect of love being to endeavour the bettering the beloved Perſon. And therefore nothing is more likely to improve us in Vertue, and advance us to the very higheſt pitch of Goodneſs, than unfeigned Friendſhip, which is the moſt beneficial, 141 G11r 141 beneficial, as well as the moſt pleaſant thing in the world.
But to haſten; ſuch an inſtitution will much confirm us in Vertue, and help us to perſevere to the end, and by that ſubſtantial Piety and ſolid Knowledge, we ſhall here acquire, fit us to propagate it when we return into the World. An habitual Practice of Piety for ſome years will ſo root and eſtabliſh us in it, that Religion will become a ſecond Nature, and we muſt do ſtrange violences to our ſelves, if after that we dare venture to oppoſe it. For beſides all the other Advantages that Vertue has over Vice, this will diſarm it of Custom, the only thing that 142 G11v 142 that recommends it, bravely win its ſtrongeſt Fort, and turns its own Cannon againſt it ſelf. How almoſt impoſſible wou’d it be for her to ſin, whoſe Underſtanding being clearly illuminated with the knowledge of the Truth, is too wiſe to be impos’d on by thoſe falſe repreſentations that ſin wou’d deceive it with; whoſe will has found out and united it ſelf to its true Centre; and having been long habituated to move in a right line, has no temptation to decline to an Oblique. Whoſe affections have daily regaled on thoſe delicious Fruits of Paradice, which Religion preſents them with, and are therefore too ſublime and refin’dfin’d 143 G12r 143 fin’d to reliſh the muddy Pleaſures of ſenſual Delights. It muſt certainly be a Miracle if ſuch an one relinquiſh her Glory and Joy; ſhe muſt be as bad as Lucifer himſelf who after ſuch Enjoyments can forſake her Heaven. ’Tis too unreaſonable to imagine ſuch an Apoſtacy, the ſuppoſition is monſtrous, & therefore we may conclude will never, or very rarely happen. And then what a bleſſed world ſhou’d we have, ſhining with ſo many ſtars of Vertue! Who, not content to be happy themſelves, for that’s a narrowneſs of mind too much beneath their Godlike temper, would like the glorious Lights of Heav’n, or rather 144 G12v 144 rather like him who made them, diffuſe their benign Influences round about. Having gain’d an entrance into Paradiſe themſelves, they wou’d both ſhew the way and invite all others to partake of their felicity. Inſtead of that froth and impertinence, that Cenſure and Pragmaticalneſs, with which Feminine Converſations ſo much abound, we ſhould hear their tongues employ’d in making Proſelytes to heaven, in running down Vice, in eſtabliſhing Vertue, and proclaiming their Makers Glory. ’Twou’d be more genteel to give and take inſtructions about the ornaments of the Mind, than to enquire 145 H1r 145 enquire after the Mode; and a Lecture on the Faſhions wou’d become as diſagreeable as at preſent any ſerious diſcourſe is. Not the Follies of the Town, but the Beauties and the Love of Jesus wou’d be the moſt polite and delicious Entertainment. ’Twould be thought as rude and barbarous to ſend our Viſitors away uninſtructed, as our fooliſhneſs at preſent reckons it to introduce a pertinent and uſeful Converſation. Ladies of Quality wou’d be able to diſtinguiſh themſelves from their Inferiors by the bleſſings they communicated, and the good they did. For this is their grand Prerogative, their diſtinguiſhing Character, that they are plac’d in a condition which makes that which is every ones chief buſineſs, to be their only employ. They have nothing to do but to glorify God, and to H benefit 146 H1v 146 benefit their Neighbours, and ſhe who does not thus improve her Talent, is more vile and deſpicable than the meaneſt Creature about her.
And if after ſo many ſpiritual Advantages, it be convenient to mention Temporals, here Heireſſes and Perſons of Fortune may be kept ſecure, from the rude attempts of deſigning Men; And ſhe who has more Mony than Diſcretion, need not curſe her Stars, for being expos’d a prey to bold importunate and rapacious Vultures. She will not here be inveigled and impos’d on, will neither be bought nor ſold, nor be forc’d to marry for her own quiet, when ſhe has no inclination to it, but what the being tir’d out with a reſtleſs importunity occaſions. Or if ſhe be diſpos’d to marry, here ſhe may remain in ſafety till a convenient Match be 147 H2r 147 be offer’d by her Friends, and be freed from the danger of a diſhonourable one. Modeſty requiring that a Woman ſhould not love before Marriage, but only make choice of one whom ſhe can love hereafter: She who has none but innocent affections, being eaſily able to fix them where Duty requires.
And tho at firſt I propos’d to my ſelf to ſpeak nothing in particular of the employment of the Religious, yet to give a Specimen how uſeful they will be to the World, I am now inclin’d to declare, that it is deſign’d a part of their buſineſs ſhall be to give the beſt Education to the Children of Perſons of Quality, who ſhall be attended and inſtructed in leſſer matters by meaner perſons deputed to that Office, but the forming of their minds ſhall be the particular care of thoſe of H2 their 148 H2v 148 their own Rank; who cannot have a more pleaſant and uſeful employment than to exerciſe and encreaſe their own knowledge, by inſtilling it into theſe young ones, who are moſt like to profit under ſuch Tutors. For how can their little Pupils forbear to credit them, ſince they do not decry the World (as others may be thought to do) becauſe they cou’d not enjoy it; but when they had it in their power, were courted and careſs’d by it, for very good Reaſons, and on mature deliberation, thought fit to relinquiſh and deſpiſe its offers for a better choice? Nor are mercenary people on other accounts capable of doing ſo much good to young Perſons, becauſe, having often but ſhort views of things themſelves, ſordid and low Spirits, they are not like to form a generous temper in the minds of the Educated. 149 H3r 149 Educated. Doubtleſs ’twas well conſider’d of him, who wou’d not truſt the breeding of his Son to a Slave, becauſe nothing great or excellent could be expected from a perſon of that condition.
And when by the increaſe of their Revenue, the Religious are enabled to do ſuch a work of Charity, the Education they deſign to beſtow on the Daughters of Gentlemen who are fallen into decay, will be no inconſiderable advantage to the Nation. For hereby many Souls will be preſerv’d from great Diſhonours, and put in a comfortable way of ſubſiſting, being either receiv’d into the Houſe, if they incline to it, or otherwiſe dispos’d of. It being ſuppos’d that prudent men will reckon the endowments they here acquire a ſufficient Dowry; and that a diſecreet and vertuous Gentlewoman will make a better H3 Wife 150 H3v 150 Wife that ſhe whoſe mind is empty, tho her Purſe be full.
But ſome will ſay, May not people be good without this confinement? may they not live at large in the world, and yet ſerve God as acceptably as here? ’tis allow’d they may; truly wiſe and vertuous Souls will do it by the aſſistance of Gods Grace, in deſpite of all temptations; and I heartily wiſh, that all Women were of this temper. But it is to be conſider’d, that there are tender Vertues, who need to be ſcreened from the ill Airs of the world: Many perſons who had begun well might have gone to the Grave in peace and innocence, had it not been their misfortune to be violently tempted. For thoſe who have honeſt Hearts have not always the ſtrongeſt Heads; and ſometimes the enticements of the world, and the ſubtil inſinuations of 151 H4r 151 of ſuch as lye in wait to deceive, may make their Heads giddy, ſtagger their Reſolutions, and overthrow all the fine hopes of a promiſing beginning. ’Tis fit therefore, ſuch tender Cyons ſhou’d be tranſplanted, that they may be ſupported by the prop of Vertuous Friendſhip, and confirm’d in Goodneſs by holy Examples, which alas! they will not often meet with in the world. And, ſuch is the weakneſs of human Nature, that bad people are not ſo apt to be better’d by the Society of the Good, as the Good are to be corrupted by theirs. Since therefore we daily pray againſt temptation, it cannot be amiſs if we take all prudent care to avoid it, and not out of a vain preſumption face the danger, which God may juſtly permit to overcome us for a due correction of our Pride. It is not impoſſibleH4 poſſible 152 H4v 152 poſſible for a man to live in an infected Houſe or Town, and eſcape with Life and Health; yet if he have a place in the Country to retire to, he will not make ſlight of that advantage; and ſurely the Health of our Souls is of greater conſideration than the health of our Bodies. Beſides, ſhe has need of an eſtabliſh’d Vertue and conſummated Prudence, who ſo well underſtands the great end ſhe was ſent into the world about, and ſo faithfully purſues it, that not content to be wiſe and good her ſelf alone, ſhe endeavours to propagate Wiſdom and Piety to all about her. But neither this Prudence nor heroic Goodneſs are eaſily attainable amidſt the noiſe and hurry of the world, we muſt therefore retire a while from its clamour and importunity, if we generouſly deſign to do it good; and having calmly 153 H5r 153 calmly and ſedately obſerv’d and rectify’d what is amiſs in our ſelves, we ſhall be fitter to promote a Reformation in others. A devout Retirement will not only ſtrengthen and confirm our Souls, that they be not infected by the worlds Corruptions, but likewiſe ſo purify and refine them, that they will become Antidotes to expel the Poyſon in others, and ſpread a ſalutary Air round about them.
If any object againſt a Learned Education, that it will make Women vain and aſſuming, and inſtead of correcting, encreaſe their Pride: I grant, that a ſmattering in Learning may; for it has this effect on the Men, none ſo Dogmatical, and ſo forward to ſhew their Parts as your little Pretenders to Science. But I wou’d not have the Ladies content themſelves with the shew, my H5 deſire 154 H5v 154 deſire is, that they ſhou’d not reſt till they obtain the Subſtance. And then ſhe who is moſt knowing, will be forward to own with the wiſe Socrates, that ſhe knows nothing: nothing that is matter of Pride and Oſtentation; nothing but what is attended with ſo much ignorance and imperfection, that it cannot reaſonably elate and puff her up. The more ſhe knows, ſhe will be the leſs ſubject to talkativeneſs and its ſiſter Vices, because ſhe diſcerns, that the moſt difficult piece of Learning is, to know when to uſe and when to hold ones Tongue, and never to ſpeak but to the purpoſe.
But the men if they rightly underſtand their own intereſt, have no reaſon to oppoſe the ingenious Education of the Women, ſince ’twou’d go a great way towards reclaiming the men; great is 155 H6r 155 is the influence we have over them in their Childhood, in which time, if a Mother be diſcreet and knowing as well as devout, ſhe has many opportunities of giving ſuch a Form and Seaſon to the tender Mind of the Child, as will ſhew its good effects thro’ all the ſtages of his Life. But tho’ you ſhould not allow her capable of doing good, ’tis certain, ſhe may do hurt: If ſhe do not make the Child, ſhe has power to marr him, by ſuffering her fondneſs to get the better of diſcreet affection. But beſides this, a good and prudent Wife, wou’d wonderfully work on an ill man; he muſt be a Brute indeed, who cou’d hold out againſt all thoſe innocent Arts, thoſe gentle perſuaſives, and obliging methods ſhe wou’d uſe to reclaim him. Piety is often offenſive, when it is accompanied with indiſcretion: but ſhe 156 H6v 156 ſhe who is as Wiſe as Good, poſſeſſes ſuch Charms as can hardly fail of prevailing. Doubtleſs, her Husband is a much happier Man, and more likely to abandon all his ill Courſes, than he who has none to come home to, but an ignorant, froward and fantaſtick Creature. An ingenious Converſation will make his life comfortable, and he who can be ſo well entertain’d at home, needs not run into Temptations in ſearch of Diverſions abroad. The only danger is, that the Wife be more knowing than the Husband; but if ſhe be, ’tis his own fault, ſince he wants no opportunities of improvement; unleſs he be a natural Blockhead, and then ſuch an one will need a wiſe Woman to govern him, whoſe prudence will conceal it from publick Obſervation, and at once both cover and ſupply his defects. Give me 157 H7r 157 me leave therefore to hope, that no Gentleman who has honourable deſigns, will henceforward decry Knowledge and Ingenuity in her he wou’d pretend to Honour: Or if he does, it may ſerve for a Teſt to diſtinguiſh the feigned and unworthy from the real Lover.
Now, who that has a Spark of of Piety, will go about to oppoſe ſo Religious a deſign? What generous Spirit that has a due regard to the good of Mankind, will not be forward to advance and perfect it? Who will think 500 pounds too much to lay out for the purchaſe of ſo much Wiſdom and Happineſs? Certainly, we ſhou’d not think them too dearly paid for by a much greater Sum, did not our pitiful and ſordid Spirits ſet a much higher value on Money than it deſerves. But granting ſo much of that dear Idol 158 H7v 158 Idol is given away, a perſon thus bred, will eaſily make it up by her Frugality and other Vertues: if ſhe bring leſs, ſhe will not waſte ſo much, as others do in ſuperfluous and vain Expences. Nor can I think of any expedient ſo uſeful as this to Perſons of Quality, who are over-ſtock’d with Children; for thus they may honourably diſpoſe of them without impairing their Eſtates. Five or ſix hundred pounds may be eaſily ſpar’d with a Daughter, when ſo many thouſand would go deep; and yet as the world goes be a very inconſiderable Fortune for Ladies of their Birth; neither maintain them in that Port which Cuſtom makes almoſt neceſſary, nor procure them an equal Match; thoſe of their own Rank (contrary to the generous cuſtom of the Germans) chuſing rather to fill their Coffers than to 159 H8r 159 to preſerve the purity of their Blood, and therefore think a weighty Bag the beſt Gentility, preferring a wealthy Upſtart before the beſt Deſcended and beſt Qualifyed Lady: Their own extravagancies perhaps having made it neceſſary, that they may keep up an empty ſhadow of Greatneſs, which is all that remains to ſhew what their Anceſtors have been.
Does any think their money loſt to their Families, when ’tis put in here? I will only ask what courſe they can take to ſave it, and at once to preſerve their Money, their Honour and their Daughters too? Were they ſure the Ladies wou’d die unmarried, I ſhou’d commend their Thrift; but Experience has too often ſhewn us the vanity of this expectation. For the poor Lady having paſt the prime of her years 160 H8v 160 years in Gaity and Company, in running the Circle of all the Vanities of the Town, having ſpread all her Nets and us’d all her Arts for Conqueſt, and finding that the Bait fails where ſhe wou’d have it take, and having all this while been ſo over-careful of her Body, that ſhe had no time to improve her mind, which therefore affords her no ſafe retreat now ſhe meets with Diſappointments abroad, and growing every day more and more ſenſible that the reſpect which us’d to be paid her, decays as faſt as her Beauty; quite terrified with the dreadful name of Old Maid, which yet none but Fools will reproach her with, nor any wiſe Woman be afraid of; to avoid this terrible Mormo, and the ſcoffs that are thrown on ſuperannuated Virgins, ſhe flies to ſome diſhonourable Match as 161 H9r 161 as her laſt, tho much miſtaken Refuge, to the diſgrace of her Family, and her own irreparable Ruin. And now let any perſon of Honour tell me, if it were not richly worth ſome thouſand Pounds, to prevent all this miſmiſchief, and the having an idle Fellow, and perhaps a race of beggarly Children to hang on him, and to provide for?
Cou’d I think of any other objection, I wou’d conſider it; theres nothing indeed which witty perſons may not argue for & againſt, but they who duly weigh the Arguments on both ſides, unleſs they be extreamly prejudiced, will eaſily diſcern the great uſefulneſs of this Inſtitution. The Beaux perhaps, and topping Sparks of the Town, will ridicule and laugh at it. For Vertue her ſelf as bright as ſhe is, can’t eſcape the laſh of ſcurrilous Tongues; 162 H9v 162 Tongues; the comfort is, whilſt they impotently endeavour to throw dirt on her, they are unable to ſoil her Beauty, and only render themſelves the more contemptible. They may therefore if they pleaſe, hug themſelves in their own dear folly, and enjoy the diverſion of their own inſipid Jeſts. She has but little Wiſdom and leſs Vertue, who is to be frighted from what ſhe judges reaſonable by the ſcoffs and inſignificant noiſes of ludicrous Wits, and pert Buffoons. And no wonder that ſuch as they, (who have nothing to ſhew for their pretences to Wit, but ſome ſcraps of Plays, and bluſtring Non-ſence; who fancy a well adjuſted Peruke is able to ſupply their want of Brains, and that to talk much is a ſign of Ingenuity, tho’t be never ſo little to the purpoſe,) object againſt our Propoſal; ’twou’d indeed 163 H10r 163 indeed ſpoil the Trade of the gay fluttering Fops, who wou’d be at a loſs, had they no body as impertinent as themſelves to talk with. The Criticiſm of their Dreſs wou’d be uſeleſs, and the labour of their Valet de Chambre loſt, unleſs they cou’d peaceably lay aſide their Rivalling, and one Aſs be content to complement and admire another. For the Ladies wou’d have more diſcernment than to eſteem a Man for ſuch Follies as ſhou’d rather incline them to ſcorn and deſpiſe him. They wou’d never be ſo ſottiſh as to imagine, that he who regards nothing but his own brutiſh Appetite, ſhou’d have any real affection for them, nor ever expect Fidelity from one who is unfaithful to God and his own Soul. They wou’d not be ſo abſurd as to ſuppoſe, that man can eſteem them who neglects his Maker; 164 H10v 164 Maker; for what are all thoſe fine Idolatries, by which he wou’d recommend himſelf to his pretended Goddeſs; but mockery and deluſion from him who forgets and affronts the true Deity? They wou’d not value themſelves on account on the Admiration of ſuch incompetent Judges, nor conſequently make uſe of thoſe little trifling Arts that are neceſſary to recommend them to ſuch Admirers: Neither wou’d they give opportunity to profeſs themſelves their Slaves ſo long, till at laſt they become their Maſters.
What now remains, but to red uce to Practice that which tends ſo very much to our advantage. Is Charity ſo dead in the world that none will contribute to the ſaving their own and their neighbours Souls? Shall we freely expend our Money to purchaſe Vanity,nity, 165 H11r 165 nity, and often times both preſent and future Ruin, and find none for ſuch an eminent good Work, which will make the Ages to come ariſe and call us Bleſſed? I would fain perſuade my ſelf better things, and that I ſhall one day ſee this Religious Retirement happily ſetled, and its great deſigns wiſely and vigorouſly purſu’d; and methinks I have already a Viſion of that luſtre and glory our Ladies caſt round about them! Let me therefore intreat the reſt of our Sex, who tho at liberty in the world, are the miſerable Slaves of their own vile affections; let me entreat them to lay aſide their Prejudices, and whatever borders on Envy and Malice, and with impartial eyes to behold the Beauties of our Religious. The native innocency and unaffectedneſs of whoſe Charms, and the unblameable Integri- 166 H11v 166 Integrity of their Lives, are abundantly more taking than all the curious Artifices and ſtudied Arts the other can invent to recommend them, even bad men themſelves being Judges, who often betray a ſecret Veneration for that vertue they wou’d ſeem to deſpiſe and endeavour to corrupt. As there is not any thing, no not the leaſt ſhadow of a motive to recommend vice, but its faſhionableneſs, and the being accuſtom’d to it; ſo there is nothing at all forbidding in vertue but her uncouthneſs. Acquaint your ſelves with her a little, and you’l wonder how you cou’d be ſo fooliſh as to delight in any thing beſides! For you’l find her Converſation moſt ſweet and obliging; her Precepts moſt eaſy and beneficial; her very tasks Joys, and her Injunctions the higheſt Pleaſures. She will not rob 167 H12r 167 rob you of any innocent delight, not engage you to any thing beneath your Birth and Breeding: But will put a new and more grateful reliſh into all your Enjoyments, and make them more delicious with her Sweetneſs . She’ll preſerve and augment your Honour, by allying you to the King of Heaven; ſecure your Grandeur by fixing it on a firm bottom, ſuch as the caprice of Fortune cannot ſhake or overthrow; ſhe’ll enlarge your ſouls, raiſe them above the common level, and encourage that allowable Pride of Scorning to do a baſe unworthy action. Make you truly amiable in the eyes of God and Man, preſerve even the Beauty of your Bodies as long as ’tis poſſible for ſuch a brittle thing to laſt; and when it muſt of neceſſity decay, impreſs ſuch a lovelineſs on your Minds, as 168 H12v 168 as will ſhine thro’ and brighten your very Countenances; enriching you with ſuch a ſtock of Charms, that Time which devours every other thing, ſhall never be able to decay. In a word, ’tis Vertue only which can make you truly happy in this world as well as in the next.
There is a ſort of Bravery and Greatneſs of Soul, which does more truly ennoble us than the higheſt Title, and it conſiſts in the living up to the dignity of our Natures, ſcorning to do a mean unbecoming thing; in paſſing differently thro’ Good and Evil Fortune, without being corrupted by the one or depreſt by the other. For ſhe that can do ſo, gives evidence that her Happineſs depends not on ſo mutable a thing as this world; but, in a due ſubſerviency to the Almighty, is bottom’d only on her 169 I1r 169 her own great Mind. This is the richeſt Ornament, and renders a Woman glorious in the loweſt Fortune: So ſhining is real worth, that like a Diamond it loſes not its luſtre, tho caſt on a Dunghill. Whereas, ſhe who is advanc’d to ſome eminent Station, and wants this natural and ſolid Greatneſs, is no better than Fortunes May-game, rendered more conſpicuous, that ſhe may appear the more contemptible. Let thoſe therefore who value themſelves only on external Accompliſhments, conſider how liable they are to decay, and how ſoon they may be depriv’d of them, and that ſuppoſing they ſhou’d continue, they are but ſandy Foundations to build Eſteem upon. What a diſappointment will it be to a Ladies Admirer as well as to her ſelf, that her Converſation ſhou’d loſe and endangerI ger 170 I1v 170 ger the Victory her eyes had gain’d! For when the Paſſion of a Lover is evaporated into the cool temper of a Husband, and a frequent review had leſſen’d the wonder which her Charms at firſt had rais’d, ſhe’ll retain no more than ſuch a formal reſpect as decency and good breeding will require, and perhaps hardly that; but unleſs he be a very good Man (and indeed the world is not over full of ’em) her worthleſneſs has made a forfeit of his Affections, which are ſeldom fixt by any other thing than Veneration and Eſteem. Whereas, a wiſe and good Woman is uſeful and valuable in all Ages and Conditions; ſhe who chiefly attends the one thing needful, the good part which ſhall not be taken from her, lives a cheerful and pleaſant Life, innocent and ſedate, calm and tranquile,quile, 171 I2r 171 quile, and makes a glorious Exit; being tranſlated from the moſt happy life on Earth, to unſpeakable happineſs in heaven; a freſh and fragrant Name, embalming her Duſt, and extending its Perfume to ſucceeding Ages. Whilſt the Fools, and the worſt ſort of them the wicked, live as well as die in Miſery, go out in a ſnuff, leaving nothing but ſtench and putrefaction behind them.
To cloſe all, if this Propoſal which is but a rough draught and rude Eſſay, and which might be made much more beautiful by a better Pen, give occaſion to wiſer heads to improve and perfect it, I have my end. For imperfect as it is, it ſeems ſo deſirable, that ſhe who drew the Scheme is full of hopes, it will not want kind hands to perform and compleat it. But if it miſs of 172 I2v 172 of that, it is but a few hours thrown away, and a little labour in vain, which yet will not be loſt, if what is here offer’d may ſerve to expreſs her hearty Good-will, and how much ſhe deſires your Improvement, who is
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