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Title: A serious proposal to the Ladies, for the advancement of their true and greatest interest (In Two Parts)
Author: Astell, Mary
Language: English
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  A Serious





  Advancement of their

  True and Greatest


  In two Parts.

  _By a Lover of her SEX._


  Printed for _Richard Wilkin_ at the _King’s-Head_
  in St. _Paul’s Church-Yard_, 1697.

A Serious





Since the Profitable Adventures that have gone abroad in the World
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. Its aim 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 Vulgar by something more truly illustrious, than a sounding 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 Money 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, 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.

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-offs of _Rhetorick_ to recommend it, were I capable,
which yet I am not, of applying them with the greatest force. Since you
can’t 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 worse 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 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 what’s 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 advantageous 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 _Mien_: 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, 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 pre-eminence is so
very agreeable, can be tamely content 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 Heroins, 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 ’tis commendable? Why are you so preposterously
humble, as not to contend for one of the highest Mansions in the
Court of Heav’n? Believe 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 can’t without pity and resentment reflect, that those
Glorious Temples on which your kind Creator has bestow’d such exquisite
workmanship, shou’d enshrine no better than _Ægyptian_ Deities; be
like a garnish’d Sepulchre, which for all its glittering, has nothing
within but emptiness or putrefaction! What a pity it is, that whilst
your Beauty casts a lustre all around you, 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 over-run with Weeds, lie fallow 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’s abandon that _Old_, and therefore one wou’d
think, unfashionable employment of pursuing Butter-flies 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 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 imagine
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 desert in their Opinion; and don’t think
our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some
worthless heart. She who has opportunities of making an interest in
Heaven, 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 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’s something amiss in you, which it is intended
to amend. My design is not to expose, but to rectifie your Failures.
To be exempt from mistake, is a privilege 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
Instruction 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 Age affords; ’tis my
grief that all the rest of our Sex do not imitate such Illustrious
Examples, 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 its
darkness be dispell’d by the confluence of so many shining Graces.
The Men 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 despicable and
forlorn as they. We’re 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 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 aspire,
’tis a noble and becoming Ambition, and to remove such Obstacles as
lie 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

Altho’ it 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 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

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
pleas’d themselves. Some disadvantages indeed they labour under, and
what these are we shall see by and by and endeavour 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 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 through 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 the Neglect, yet they ought not in
justice to blame any but themselves, if they reap the Fruit of this
their foolish Conduct. 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 would 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 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 offspring, 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 Nature
requires, nor through 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, left 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 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 Petulant, Delicate and Fantastick, Humorous and Inconstant,
’tis not strange that the ill effects of this Conduct appear in all
the future Actions of our Lives. And seeing it is Ignorance, either
habitual or actual, which is 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 which I suppose if throughly sifted, will appear to be some way
or other, the rife 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 perfections 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 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 being 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 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 inbred 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 down his Poyson, because ’tis Presented in a Golden Cup, and
credulously hearkens to the most disadvantageous Proposals, because
they come attended with a seeming esteem. She whose Vanity makes
her swallow praises by the wholesale, 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 despairing Lover whom her Charms
have reduc’d to die at her feet. Love and Honour are what every one
of us naturally esteem, 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 than
what she derives from Plays and Romances? How can she be furnished with
any solid Principles whose very Instructors are Froth 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 those
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 satisfactory, 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 is it 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, 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 considerate and
judicious persons? Wou’d she be so silly as to look big and think her
self the better person, because she has more Money 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 Impudence and ill-nature (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 in or 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 and 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 its Beauty e’er that
Lease be out, and in the mean while neglect a 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 for ever 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 it, 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 better Rules,
shou’d follow those she sees before her, least 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 advantageous in the _Consequences_, as any
one who will but rightly use her reason, in a serious reflection on
her self and the 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 as our neighbours
do, and part with our Peace and Pleasure as well as our Innocence
and 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 satisfaction 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 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 them. By
an habitual inadvertency we render our selves incapable of any serious
and improveing 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 unaccountable back wardness 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 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 the gazing herd, 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 celebrated
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 examine why, and wherefore, belongs not
to her. And therefore, though her Piety may be tall and spreading,
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 setting
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, whole 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, ’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 among whom she lives; 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 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 what’s the reason that
we sometimes see persons unhappily falling off from their Piety, but
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 high but
will not last long. For the Affections are various and changeable
mov’d by every Object, and the last comer easily undoes whatever its
Predecessor had done before. Such Persons are always in extreams, they
are either violently good or quite cold and indifferent; a perpetual
trouble to themselves and others, by indecent Raptures, or unnecessary
Scruples; there is no Beauty and order in their lives, all is rapid and
unaccountable; they are now very furious in such a course, but they
cannot well tell why, and 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 imaginable, they expose it to the contempt and ridicule
of the censorious World. Their Devotion becomes ricketed, starv’d
and contracted in some of its 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 practise, and a mockery to adore those
Perfections we 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
Woman 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
ancient 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 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 _Monastery_, 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 superstitious
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 the 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 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 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 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 despise them. You will 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 _own_ base ends for the
seasonable Reproofs and wholesome 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 prospect of it
sufficient to out-weigh all the Pains of Religion, were there any in
it, as really there are none. All that is requir’d of 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’ll 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 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. No Provocations will be given in this Amicable
Society, but to Love and to good Works, which will afford such an
entertaining employment, that you’ll 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 a great and dear affection to each
other. Envy that Canker, will not here disturb your Breasts; for how
can she repine at anothers well-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 to 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 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 and only Good, whom now
she embraces and acquiesces in with such an unspeakable pleasure, as is
only intelligible to those who have tried and felt it, which we can no
more describe to the dark and sensual part of Mankind, than we can the
beauty of Colours and harmony of Sounds to the Blind and Deaf. In fine,
the place to which you are invited is a Type and Antepast of Heav’n,
where your Employment will be as there, to magnify GOD, to love one
another, and to communicate that useful _knowledge_, which by the due
improvement of your time in Study and Contemplation you will obtain,
and which when obtain’d, will afford you a much sweeter and more
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’d
and 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 useless and
impertinent Animals, which the ill conduct of too many has caus’d ’em
to be mistaken for.

[Sidenote: Mr. _Nor. Conduct of Hum. Life_.]

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 its true Beauty, but when it is accompanied 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, 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 intended 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, 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; 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 great 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 _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
extremely 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_ (says he) _that the fair Sex seem’d to believe
that_ Greek _and_ Latin _added 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 15 and 1600._

[Sidenote: Mr. _Wotton’s Reflect. on Ant. and Mod. Learn. p. 349, 350_.]

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 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 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
& exalts any Faculty, so thro’ want of using it becomes crampt &
lessened; if therefore we make little or no use of our 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,
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 our Beatitude 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? 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, and 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,
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 against
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) _Des Cartes_, _Malebranche_ 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 really
deserves our Imitation! 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_, _Scudery_, &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 tast 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 lies, 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,
catechiz’d the eloquent _Apollos_ and the great Apostle found no fault
with her. It will therefore be very proper for our Ladies to spend part
of their time in this Retirement, in adorning their minds with useful

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 neither 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.

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 Holy-day, and a course of solid instructive
Preaching and Catechizing; our _Religious_, considering that the holy
JESUS punctually 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 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 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
fansie 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 intend 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 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 innocent 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 petulancy 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 refining them; keeping our Appetites in that due regularity 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’ll
content themselves with such things as are fit and convenient, without
occasioning scruple to themselves or giving any trouble or offence
to others. She who considers to how much better account that Money
will turn which is bestow’d on the Poor, than 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, nor any Wash so beautifying as her
own tears. For her Heroick 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 perpetually 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 whole 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 Good-will. 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? what progress they’ve 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 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 humane 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 awaken the secure, & 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 and affability.
Sagacious in discovering the very approaches of a fault, wise in
preventing, and charitable in bearing with all pityable Infirmities.
The sweetness of whole 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 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 loosening the Reins of
discipline. But 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 together being improv’d and heighten’d by grace,
may make up an accomplish’d _Christian_, for she who is 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 She converses with? 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 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 than 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’ll save me the labour of 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 who 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 devourer and its concomitants, and no more than necessity
requires in sleep and eating; so that here’s a vast 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 inconveniencies 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; 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 tast 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 it derives from sensation, being unacquainted with
those more excellent ones which arise from its own 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, _viz. 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 and awkward notions of them, conformable only to
those _Ideas_ sensation has furnish’d us with, which 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 in our way.

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 serious Religious matter. They are then so dull you’ll 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
betwixt scorn and pity, 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 Souls, nay,
perhaps more seriously than 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 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 form clear Ideas in
the mind, without which it can receive but little benefit from the
Discourses of the Pulpit, and perhaps the neglect of the former, 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._ the constant flattery of external
Objects, arises that querulousness and delicacy observable in most
Persons of fortune, and which, betrays them to many inconveniencies.
For besides that it renders them altogether unfit to bear a change,
which considering the great uncertainty and swift vicissitudes of
worldly things, the Greatest and most established ought not to be
unprepar’d for; it likewise 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 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 frowardness, and
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 indication of a weak and
injudicious mind. For it supposes us either so ignorant as 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 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 weakened 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 tamely hear him, our best Friend and Benefactor
affronted and swallow 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 Treasure 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 out Money, 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 rectifie the disorders there.
And such an unthinking mechanical way of living, when like Machines
we are condemn’d every day to repeat the impertinencies of the day
before, shortens our Views, contracts our Minds, exposes to a thousand
practical Errors, and renders 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 concerning 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 prudence 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 would 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 then is to
retire from the World, as the _Israelites_ did out of _Ægypt_, 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 squandered 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 business 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

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 the pleasures we formerly pursued, we never attended to that most
noble and delicious one which is to be found in the chase of truth;
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 of our hearts, when the croud and noise of our Vanities would
not suffer us to regard or hear him, and could find no admittance
when our house was so fill’d with other company. Here therefore is
the fittest place for his Entertainment, for being freed from outward
disturbances, we are 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 mind 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 greatest
fervour petition for those of another; and living always in a lively
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 habitually
fit to approach, and likewise stir us up to be more careful in our
actual preparations when we do. For besides all other 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, of Errors in Speculation, and Indecorums in Practice; for
as GOD is the noblest Object of our Understanding, so nothing is more
necessary or of such consequence to us as to busie 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 plac’d at our feet,
at such a distance from us, that the steams of its corruptions shall
not obscure our eye-sight, 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 our Felicity, that they 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 Air, or gall your fingers?
To want or to enjoy them, is equally tormenting; the one produces in
you the Pain 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.
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; 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 who fills a Throne! A Blessing, which next
to the love of GOD, is the choicest Jewel in our Celestial Diadem;
which, were it duly practis’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
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 benumb’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)
a kind of revenging our selves on the narrowness of our Faculties,
by exemplifying 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 pernicious consequence to Mankind. That institution therefore
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 abroad 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 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 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 that blessed place, what shou’d hinder, but that two Persons of a
sympathizing disposition, 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 entering 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, 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 Religion
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 recommends it, bravely win its strongest Fort and
turn 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 Paradise which Religion presents them
with, and are therefore too sublime and refin’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
and 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 alone, for that’s
a narrowness of mind too much beneath their God-like temper, would
like the glorious Lights of Heaven, or rather like him who made them,
diffuse their benign Influences where-ever they come. Having gain’d an
entrance into Paradise themselves, they wou’d both shew the way, and
invite 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 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 Entertainments. ’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 glorifie GOD, and to benefit their Neighbours, and she who
does not thus improve her Talent, is more vile and despicable than the
meanest Creature that attends 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 Money
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 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 though 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 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. 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 discreet and vertuous Gentlewoman will make a better Wife than 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 GOD’s 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 such as lie 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 humane Nature, 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 impossible
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 for which she came into the World,
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 within
her Sphere; 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 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 on ev’ry Side.

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 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 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 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
_Block-head_, 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 leave therefore to
hope, that no Gentleman who has honourable designs, will hence-forward
decry Knowledge and Ingenuity in her he would pretend to Honour; 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 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 were given away, a person thus bred, will easily make it
up by her Frugality & 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 thousands 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 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 Qualified 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 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 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 mischief, 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; there’s
nothing indeed which witty Persons may not argue _for_ and _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; the comfort
is, whilst they impotently endeavour to throw dirt on her, they are
unable to soil her Beauty, and only defile and 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-sense; who fansie 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, no wonder
that they object against our _Proposal_: ’Twou’d 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; 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 of 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 them opportunity to profess themselves their Slaves so long till
at last they become their Masters.

What now remains, but to reduce 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, 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 wou’d
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 far and near; 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 intreat 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
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 forbidden in Vertue but
her uncouthness. Acquaint your selves with her a little, and you’ll
wonder how you cou’d be so foolish as to delight in any thing besides!
For you’ll 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 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 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 living
up to the dignity of our Natures, being so sensible of our own worth
as to think our selves too great to do a degenerate and unbecoming
thing; in passing indifferently 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 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 or endanger the Victory her
eyes had gain’d! For when the Passion of a Lover is Exchang’d for
the Indifference of a Husband, and a frequent review has 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 tranquill, 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 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


  _Your very humble Servant_.


Letters concerning the Love of GOD, between the Author of the Proposal
to the Ladies, and Mr. _John Norris_; wherein his late Discourse,
shewing that it ought to be intire and Exclusive of all other Loves, is
farther clear’d and Justified, 8_vo._

  Printed for _Richard Wilkin_.

  A Serious





  Wherein a Method is offer’d
  for the Improvement
  of their Minds.


  Printed for _Richard Wilkin_ at
  the _King’s Head_ in St. _Paul_’s
  Church-yard, 1697.

  To her Royal Highness


  Princess _ANN_ of Denmark.


_What was at first address’d to the Ladies in_ General, _as
seeming not considerable enough to appear in your Royal Highnesses
Presence, not being ill receiv’d by them, and having got the Addition
of a Second Part, now presumes on a more_ Particular _Application to
Her who is the Principal of them, and whose Countenance and Example
may reduce to Practice, what it can only Advise and Wish._

_And when I consider you Madam as a Princess who is sensible that the
Chief Prerogative of the Great is the Power they have of doing more
Good than those in an Inferior Station can, I see no cause to fear
that your Royal Highness will deny Encouragement to that which has
no other Design than the Bettering of the World, especially the most
neglected part of it as to all Real Improvement, the Ladies. It is by
the Exercise of this Power that Princes become truly Godlike, they
are never so Illustrious as when they shine as Lights in the World by
an Eminent and Heroic Vertue. A Vertue as much above Commendation as
it is above Detraction, which fits equally Silent and Compos’d when
Opprest with Praises or Pursu’d with Calumnys, is neither hurt by
these nor better’d by the other; for the Service of_ GOD, _and
the Resembling Him, being its only Aim, His Approbation in a soft and
inward Whisper, is more than the loud_ Huzza’s _and Plaudits of
ten thousand Worlds._

_I shall not therefore offend your Royal Ear with the nauseous strain
of Dedications; for what can one say, when by how much the more any
Person deserves Panegyric, by so much the less they endure it? That
your Royal Highness may be All that is truly Great and Good, and have
a Confluence of Temporal, Sanctify’d and Crown’d with Spiritual and
Eternal Blessings, is the unfeigned and constant desire of_


  Your Royal Highnesses

  Most Humble and most

  Obedient Servant.



  Containing a farther




  To endeavour the

  Improvement of their Minds.

The favourable reception which the graver and wiser part of the World
were pleas’d t’afford to a former Essay towards th’improvement of the
Ladies, has encouraged her who made it to prosecute that design a
little further, and to try if she can reduce to Practice what appears
so well in Notion and Speculation. For how customary soever it be
for Writers to mind no more than their own Reputation, to be content
if they can make a handsom flourish, get a Name among the Authors,
come off with but a little Censure and some Commendations; or if there
are a few generous Souls who’re got above either the Hope or Fear of
vulgar Breath, who do not matter much what is dispens’d more commonly
by fancy or passion than by Judgment, they rest satisfied however in
a Good Intention, and comfort themselves that they’ve endeavour’d
the Reformation of the Age, let those look to’t who will not follow
their Advices: Yet give her leave to profess that she desires the Good
of the World rather than its Applauses, and cou’d with much greater
pleasure have found her Project condemn’d as foolish and impertinent,
than see it entertain’d with delight and approbation, and yet no
body endeavouring to put it in Practice; since the former wou’d only
have reproach’d her own Understanding, but the latter is a shame to
Mankind, as being a plain indication that tho they discern and commend
what is Good, they have not the Vertue and Courage to Act accordingly.
Were’t altogether impossible t’improve her Sex, were Women irremediably
condemn’d to folly and impertinence, how much soever she desires their
amendment, she wou’d make a Vertue of Necessity and endeavour to be
content without it, but it will give her the greatest uneasiness to’ve
found out a Method which every one judges so much to their advantage,
if she can’t persuade them to make use of it.

And can you Ladies deny her so cheap a Reward for all the Good-will she
bears you, as the Pleasure of seeing you Wise and Happy? Can you envy
her the Joy of assisting at _Your_ Triumphs; for why does she contend
for Laurels but to lay ’em all at the Ladies feet? Why won’t you begin
to think, and no longer dream away your Time in a wretched incogitancy?
Why does not a generous Emulation fire your hearts and inspire you
with Noble and becoming Resentments? The Men of Equity are so just as
to confess the errors which the Proud and inconsiderate had imbib’d
to your prejudice, and if you still allow them the preference in
Ingenuity, they’re convinc’d it is not because you _must_, but because
you _will_. Can you be in Love with servitude and folly? Can you dote
on a mean, ignorant and ignoble Life? Shall an Ingenious Woman be
star’d on as a Prodigy, since you have it in your power to inform the
World, that you can every one of you be so, if you please your selves?
It is not enough to wish and to would it, or t’afford a faint Encomium
upon what you pretend is beyond your Power; Imitation is the heartiest
Praise you can give, and is a Debt which Justice requires to be paid to
every worthy Action. What Sentiments were fit to be rais’d in you to
day ought to remain to morrow, and the best Commendation you can bestow
on a Book is immediately to put it in Practice; otherwise you become
self-condemn’d, your Judgment reproaches your Actions, and you live a
contradiction to your selves. If you _approve_, Why don’t you _follow_?
And if you _Wish_, Why shou’d you not _Endeavour_? especially since
that wou’d reduce your Wishes to Act, and make you of Well-wishers to
Vertue and Good sense, become glorious Examples of them.

And pray what is’t that hinders you? The singularity of the Matter? Are
you afraid of being out of the ordinary way and therefore admir’d and
gaz’d at? Admiration does not use to be uneasy to our Sex, a great
many Vanities might be spar’d if we consulted only our own conveniency
and not other peoples Eyes and Sentiments: And why shou’d that which
usually recommends a trifling Dress, deter us from a real Ornament?
Is’t not as fine to be first in this as well as any other Fashion?
Singularity is indeed to be avoided except in matters of importance,
in such a case Why shou’d not we assert our Liberty, and not suffer
every Trifler to impose a Yoke of Impertinent Customs on us? She who
forsakes the Path to which Reason directs is much to blame, but she
shall never do any thing Praise-worthy and excellent who is not got
above unjust Censures, and too steady and well resolv’d to be sham’d
from her Duty by the empty Laughter of such as have nothing but airy
Noise and Confidence to recommend them. Firmness and strength of Mind
will carry us thro all these little persecutions, which may create us
some uneasiness for a while, but will afterwards end in our Glory and

Is it the difficulty of attaining the Bravery of the Mind, the Labour
and Cost that keeps you from making a purchase of it? Certainly they
who spare neither Money nor Pains t’obtain a gay outside and make a
splendid appearance, who can get over so many difficulties, rack their
brains, lay out their time and thoughts in contriving, stretch their
Relations Purses in procuring, nay and rob the very Poor, to whom the
Overplus of a full Estate, after the owners Necessaries and decent
Conveniencies according to her Quality are supplied, is certainly due,
they who can surmount so many difficulties, cannot have the face to
pretend any here. Labour is sweet when there’s hope of success, and
the thing labour’d after is Beautiful and Desireable: And if Wisdom
be not so I know not what is; if it is not worth while to procure
such a temper of mind as will make us happy in all Conditions, there’s
nothing worth our Thoughts and Care, ’tis best to fold our hands with
_Solomon_’s Sluggard and sleep away the remainder of a useless and
wretched Life.

And that success will not be wanting to our Endeavours if we heartily
use them, was design’d to be evinc’d in the former Essay, and I
hope I have not lost my Point, but that the Theory is sufficiently
establish’d; and were there but a General Attempt, the Practice wou’d
be so visible that I suppose there wou’d remain no more place to
dispute it. But this is your Province Ladies: For tho I desire your
improvement never so passionately, tho I shou’d have prov’d it feasible
with the clearest Demonstration, and most proper for you to set about;
yet if you _will_ believe it impossible, and upon that or any other
prejudice forbear t’attempt it, I’me like to go without my Wishes; my
Arguments what ever they may be in themselves, are weak and impertinent
to you, because you make them useless and defeat them of the End they
aim at. But I hope better things of you; I dare say you understand your
own interest too well to neglect it so grosly and have a greater share
of sense, whatever some Men affirm, than to be content to be kept any
longer under their Tyranny in Ignorance and Folly, since it is in your
Power to regain your Freedom, if you please but t’endeavour it. I’me
unwilling to believe there are any among you who are obstinately bent
against what is praise-worthy in themselves, and Envy or Detract from
it in others; who won’t allow any of their Sex a capacity to write
Sense, because they want it, or exert their Spleen where they ought
to shew their Kindness or Generous Emulation; who sicken at their
Neighbours Vertues, or think anothers Praises a lessening of their
Character; or meanly satisfie ill-nature by a dull Malicious Jest at
what deserves to be approv’d and imitated. No Ladies, Your Souls are
certainly of a better Make and Nobler temper, your Industry is never
exerted to pull down others but to rise above them, the only Resentment
that arises at your Neighbours Commendations is a harmless blush for
your own Idleness in letting them so far outstrip you, and a generous
Resolution to repair your former neglects by future diligence; One need
not fear offending you by commending an other Lady in your Presence,
or that it shou’d be thought an affront or defect in good breeding to
give them their lawful Eulogies: You have too just a Sentiment of your
own Merit to envy or detract from others, for no Body’s addicted to
these little Vices but they who are diffident of their own worth; You
know very well ’tis infinitely better to _be_ good than to _seem_ so,
and that true Vertue has Beauty enough in her self t’attract our hearts
and engage us in her service, tho she were neglected and despis’d
by all the World. ’Tis this therefore you endeavour after, ’tis the
approbation of GOD and your own Consciences you mainly esteem, which
you find most ascertain’d by an humble Charity, and that you never
merit Praise so much, because you never make so great a progress in
what is truly praise-worthy, as when your own defects are often in your
eyes t’excite you to watch against and amend them, and other peoples
Vertues continually represented before you in their brightest lustre,
to the end you may aspire to equal or surpass them.

I suppose then that you’re fill’d with a laudable Ambition to brighten
and enlarge your Souls, that the Beauty of your Bodies is but a
secondary care, your Dress grows unconcerning, and your Glass is
ne’er consulted but in such little intervals of time as hang loose
between those hours that are destin’d to nobler Employments; you now
begin to throw off your old Prejudices and smile on ’em as antiquated
Garbs; false Reasoning won’t down with you, and glittering Non-sense
tho address’d to your selves in the specious appearance of Respect
and Kindness, has lost its _haut goust_; Wisdom is thought a better
recommendation than Wit, and Piety than a _Bon-mien_; you esteem a
Man only as he is an admirer of Vertue, and not barely for that he
is yours; Books are now become the finest Ornaments of your Closets,
and Contemplation the most agreeable Entertainment of your leisure
hours; your Friendships are not cemented by Intrigues nor spent in
vain Diversions, but in the search of Knowledge, and acquisition of
Vertuous Habits, a mutual Love to which was the Origin of ’em; nor
are any Friends so acceptable as those who tell you faithfully of your
faults and take the properest method to amend ’em. How much better are
you entertain’d now your Conversations are pertinent and ingenious,
and that Wisdom never fails to make one in your Visits? Solitude is
no more insupportable; you’ve conquered that silly dread of being
afraid to be alone, since Innocence is the safest Guard, and no Company
can be so desirable as GOD’s and his holy Angels conversing with an
upright mind; your Devotion is a Rational service, not the repetition
of a Set of good words at a certain season; you read and you delight
in it, because it informs your Judgments, and furnishes Materials for
your thoughts to work on; and you love your Religion and make it your
Choice because you understand it; the only Conquest you now design
and lay out your care to obtain is over Vice and Prophaneness; you
study to engage men in the love of true Piety and Goodness, and no
farther to be Lovers of your selves than as you are the most amiable
and illustrious examples of ’em; you find your Wit has lost nothing
of its salt and agreeableness by being employ’d about its proper
business, the exposing Folly; your Raillery is not a whit less pleasant
for being more Charitable, and you can render Vice as ridiculous as
you please, without exposing those unhappy Persons who’re guilty of
it; your Humour abates not of its innocent gaity now that it is more
upon the Guard, for you know very well that true Joy is a sedate and
solid thing, a tranquility of mind, not a boisterous and empty flash;
Instead of Creditors your doors are fill’d with indigent Petitioners
who don’t so often go without your Bounty as the other us’d to do
without their just demands; nor are you unjust to some under colour
of being Charitable to others, and when you give Liberally, give no
more than what is lawfully your own. You disdain the base ungenerous
Practice of pretending Kindness where you really mean none; and of
making a poor Country Lady less instructed in the formalities of the
Town than your selves, pay sufficiently for your seeming Civility and
kind Entertainment by becoming the Subject of your mirth and diversion
as soon as she is gone; but one may now pretty securely relie on your
Sincerity, for when this lower sort of Treachery is abhorr’d, there
can certainly be no place for that more abominable one of betraying
and seducing unwary Innocence. I do not question Ladies but that this
is the Practice of the greatest number of you, and would be of all
the rest were it not for some little discouragments they meet with,
which really are not so great as their own modesty and diffidence of
themselves represent ’em. They think they’ve been bred up in Idleness
and Impertinence, and study will be irksome to them, who have never
employ’d their mind to any good purpose, and now when they wou’d they
want the method of doing it; they know not how to look into their
Souls, or if they do, they find so many disorders to be rectified, so
many wants to be supplied, that frighted with the difficulty of the
work they lay aside the thoughts of undertaking it. They have been
barbarously us’d, their Education and greatest Concerns neglected,
whilst their imprudent Parents and Guardians were busied in managing
their Fortunes and regulating their Mien; who so their Purse was
full and their outside plausible, matter’d not much the poverty and
narrowness of their minds, have taught them perhaps to repeat their
Catechism and a few good Sentences, to read a Chapter and _say_
their Prayers, tho perhaps with as little Understanding as a Parrot,
and fancied that this was Charm enough to secure them against the
temptations of the Present world and to waft them to a better; and
so thro want of use and by misapplying their Thoughts to trifles and
impertinencies, they’ve perhaps almost lost those excellent Capacities
which probably were afforded them by nature for the highest things.
For such as these I’ve a a world of Kindness and Compassion, I regret
their misfortune as much as they can themselves, and suppose they’re
willing to repair it and very desirous to inform themselves were’t not
for the shame of confessing their Ignorance. But let me intreat them
to consider that there’s no Ignorance so shameful, no Folly so absurd
as that which refuses Instruction, be it upon what account it may. All
good Persons will pity not upbraid their former unhappiness, as not
being their own but other Peoples fault; whereas they themselves are
responsible if they continue it, since that’s an Evidence that they
are silly and despicable, not because they _cou’d_ not, but because
they _wou’d_ not be better Informed. But where is the shame of being
taught? for who is there that does not need it? Alas, Human Knowledge
is at best defective, and always progressive, so that she who knows the
most has only this advantage, that she has made a little more speed
than her Neighbours. And what’s the Natural Inference from hence? Not
to give out, but to double our diligence; perhaps we may out-strip
’em, as the Penitent often does him who needs no Repentance. The worst
that can be is the perishing in a glorious attempt, and tho we shou’d
happen to prove succesless, ’tis yet worth our while to’ve had such a
noble design. But there’s no fear of ill success if we are not wanting
to our selves, an honest and laborious mind may perform all things.
Indeed an affected Ignorance, a humorous delicacy and niceness which
will not speculate a notion for fear of spoiling a look, nor think
a serious thought lest she shou’d damp the gaity of her humour; she
who is so top full of her outward excellencies, so careful that every
look, every motion, every thing about her shou’d appear in Form, as
she employs her Thoughts to a very pitiful use, so is she almost past
hopes of recovery, at least so long as she continues this humour, and
does not grow a little less concern’d for her Body that she may attend
her Mind. Our directions are thrown away upon such a temper, ’tis to no
purpose to harp to an Ass, or to chant forth our Charms in the Ears of
a deaf Adder; but I hope there are none so utterly lost in folly and
impertinence: If there are, we can only afford them our Pity for our
Advice will do no good.

As for those who are desirous to improve and only want to be assisted
and put into the best method of doing it, somewhat was attempted in
order to do them that service in the former Essay, in which they may
please to remember that having remov’d that groundless prejudice
against an ingenious Education of the Women, which is founded upon
supposition of the impossibility or uselessness of it, and having
assign’d the reasons why they are so little improv’d, since they are
so capable of improvement, and since ’tis so necessary that others
as well as themselves shou’d endeavour it; which reasons are chiefly
Ill-nurture, Custom, loss of Time, the want of Retirement, or of
knowing how to use it, so that by the disuse of our Faculties we seem
to have lost them if we ever had any; are sunk into an Animal life
wholly taken up with sensible objects; either have no Ideas of the
most necessary things or very _false_ ones; and run into all those
mischiefs which are the natural Consequences of such mismanagement; we
then proceeded to propose a Remedy for these Evils, which we affirm’d
cou’d hardly be rectified but by erecting a Seminary where Ladies
might be duly Educated, and we hope our Proposition was such that all
impartial Readers are convinc’d it wou’d answer the Design, that is,
tend very much to the real advantage and improvement of the Ladies.
In order to which it was in general propos’d to acquaint them with
Judicious Authors, give them opportunity of Retirement and Recollection
and put them in a way of Ingenious Conversation, whereby they might
enlarge their prospect, rectify their false Ideas, form in their Minds
adequate conceptions of the End and Dignity of their Natures, not only
have the Name and common Principles of Religion floating in their Heads
and sometimes running out at their Mouths, but understand the design
and meaning of it, and have a just apprehension, a lively sentiment
of its Beauties and Excellencies; know wherein the Nature of a true
Christian consists; and not only feel Passions, but be able to direct
and regulate their Motions; have a true Notion of the Nothingness of
Material things and of the reality and substantialness of immaterial,
and consequently contemn this present World as it deserves, fixing
all their Hopes upon and exerting all their Endeavours to obtain the
Glories of the next. But because this was only propos’d in general, and
the particular method of effecting it left to the Discretion of those
who shou’d Govern and Manage the Seminary, without which we are still
of Opinion that the Interest of the Ladies can’t be duly serv’d, in the
mean time till that can be erected and that nothing in our power may be
wanting to do them service, we shall attempt to lay down in this second
part some more minute Directions, and such as we hope if attended to
may be of use to them.

  Second Part


    _Of the Mutual Relation between Ignorance and Vice, and Knowledge
    and Purity._

[Sidenote: Part I. page 22, _&c._]

What are Ignorance and Vice but Diseases of the Mind contracted in its
two principal Faculties the Understanding and Will? And such too as
like many Bodily distempers do mutually foment each other. Ignorance
disposes to Vice, and Wickedness reciprocally keeps us Ignorant, so
that we cannot be free from the one unless we cure the other; the
former part of this Proposition has been already shewn, and the latter
may easily be made apparent; for as every Plant does Naturally draw
such juices towards it as serve for its Nutrition, as every Creature
has an aptness to take such courses as tend to its preservation; so
Vice that spawn of the Devil, that _Ignis fatuus_ which can’t subsist
but in the dark night of Ignorance, casts forth Vapours and Mists to
darken the Soul and eclipse the clear light of Knowledge from her
View. And tho a Wicked Man may pretend to Wit, tho he have never so
much Acumen and Facetiousness of Humour, yet his Impiety proclaims
his Folly; he may have a lively Fancy, an Intriguing Cunning and
Contrivance, and so may an Ape or a Fox, who probably if they had but
Speech, tho destitute of Reason, wou’d outdo him in his own way; but
he wants the Ingenuity of a Man, he’s a Fool to all Rational Intents
and Purposes. She then who desires a clear Head must have a pure Heart;
and she who has the first in any Measure will never allow her self to
be deficient in the other. But you will say what degrees of Purity are
requisite in order to Knowledge, and how much must we Know to the end
we may heartily endeavour to Purify?

Now in Order to satisfie this demand I consider, That there are certain
Notices which we may call the Rudiments of Knowledge, which none who
are Rational are without however they came by them. It may happen
indeed that a habit of Vice or a long disuse has so obscur’d them that
they seem to be extinguish’d, but it does only _seem_ so, for were
they really extinguish’d the person wou’d be no longer Rational, and
no better than the Shade and Picture of a Man. Because as Irrational
Creatures act only by the Will of him who made them, and according to
the Power of that Mechanisme by which they are form’d, so every one
who pretends to Reason, who is a Voluntary Agent and therefore Worthy
of Praise or Blame, Reward or Punishment, must _Chuse_ his Actions and
determine his Will to that Choice by some Reasonings or Principles
either true or false, and in proportion to his Principles and the
Consequences he deduces from them he is to be accounted, if they are
Right and Conclusive a Wise Man, if Evil, Rash and Injudicious a Fool.
If then it be the property of Rational Creatures, and Essential to
their very Natures to Chuse their Actions, and to determine their
Wills to that Choice by such Principles and Reasonings as their
Understandings are furnish’d with, they who are desirous to be rank’d
in that Order of Beings must conduct their Lives by these Measures,
begin with their Intellectuals, inform themselves what are the plain
and first Principles of Action and Act accordingly.

By which it appears that there are some degrees of Knowledge necessary
before there can be _any_ Human Acts, for till we are capable of
Chusing our own Actions and directing them by some Principle, tho we
Move and Speak and do many such like things, we live not the Life of a
Rational Creature but only of an Animal. If it be farther demanded what
these Principles are? Not to dispute the Number of ’em here, no body I
suppose will deny us one, which is, _That we ought as much as we can
to endeavour the Perfecting of our Beings, and that we be as happy
as possibly we may_. For this we see is Natural to every Creature of
what sort soever, which endeavours to be in as good Condition as its
Nature and Circumstances will permit. And now we have got a Principle
which one would think were sufficient for the Conduct of our Actions
thro the whole Course of our Lives; and so indeed it were, cou’d we as
easily discern wherein our Happiness consists as ’tis natural to wish
and desire it. But herein lies our great mistake and misfortune, for
altho we all pursue the same end, yet the means we take to obtain it
are Indefinite: There needs no other Proof of this than the looking
abroad into the World, which will convince us of the Truth and raise
our Wonder at the absurdity, that Creatures of the same Make shou’d
take not only so many different, but even contrary Ways to accomplish
the same End! We all agree that its fit to be as Happy as we can, and
we need no Instructor to teach us this Knowlege, ’tis born with us, and
is inseparable from our Being, but we very much need to be Inform’d
what is the true Way to Happiness. When the Will comes to ask the
Understanding this Question, What must I do to fill up my Vacuities, to
accomplish my Nature? Our Reason is at first too weak, and afterwards
too often too much sophisticated to return a proper Answer, tho it
be the most important concern of our Lives, for according as the
Understanding replies to it so is the Moral Conduct of the Will, pure
and right if the first be well Inform’d, irregular and vitious if the
other be weak and deluded. Indeed our power of Willing exerts it self
much sooner than that Rational Faculty which is to Govern it, and
therefore ’twill either be left to its own range, or to the Reason of
another to direct it; whence it comes that we generally take that
Course in our search after Happiness, which Education, Example or
Custom puts us in, and, tho not always, yet most commonly, we tast of
our first seasoning; which shou’d teach us to take all the care we can
that it be Good, and likewise that how Good soever it appear, we be not
too much Wedded to and biass’d by it. Well then, the first light of our
Understanding must be borrow’d, we must take it on trust till we’re
furnish’d with a Stock of our own, which we cannot long be without if
we do but employ what was lent us in the purifying of our Will, for as
this grows more regular the other will enlarge, if it clear up, that
will brighten and shine forth with diffusive Rays.

Indeed if we search to the bottom I believe we shall find, that the
Corruption of the Heart contributes _more_ to the Cloudiness of the
Head, than the Clearness of our Light does to the regularity of our
Affections, and ’tis oftner seen that our vitious Inclinations keep
us Ignorant, than that our Knowlege makes us Good, For it must be
confess’d that Purity is not _always_ the product of Knowlege; tho
the Understanding be appointed by the Author of Nature to direct and
Govern the Will, yet many times its head-strong and Rebellious Subject
rushes on precipitately, without, its directions. When a Truth comes
thwart our Passions, when it dares contradict our mistaken Pleasures
and supposed Interests, let the Light shine never so clear we shut our
Eyes against it, will not be convinc’d, not because there’s any want
of Evidence, but because we’re _unwilling_ to Obey. This is the Rise
of all that Infidelity that appears in the World; it is not the Head
but the Heart that is the Seat of Atheism. No Man without a brow of
Brass, and an Impudence as strong as his Arguments are weak, cou’d
demur to the convincing Proofs of Christianity, had not he contracted
such diseases in his Passions as make him believe ’tis his Interest to
oppose _those_ that he may gratify _these_. Yet this is no Objection
against what we have been proving, it rather confirms what was said
concerning the mutual Relation between the Understanding and the Will,
and shews how necessary it is to take care of both, if we wou’d improve
and advance either.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: _Where we must begin._]

The result of all then, and what gives a satisfactory Answer to the
Question where we must begin is this; that some Clearness of Head,
some lower degrees of Knowledge, so much at least as will put us on
endeavouring after more, is necessary to th’obtaining Purity of Heart,
for tho some Persons whom we vulgarly call Ignorant may be honest
and Vertuous, yet they are not so in these particulars in which they
are Ignorant, but their Integrity in Practising what they know, tho
it be but little, causes us to overlook that wherein they Ignorantly
transgress. But then any eminent degree of Knowlege, especially of
Moral and Divine Knowlege, which is most excellent because most
necessary and useful, can never be obtain’d without considerable
degrees of Purity: And afterwards when we have procur’d a competent
measure of both, they mutually assist each other; the more Pure we are
the clearer will our Knowlege be, and the more we Know the more we
shall Purify. Accordingly therefore we shall first apply our selves
to the Understanding, endeavouring to inform and put it right, and in
the next place address to the Will, when we have touch’d upon a few
Preliminaries, and endeavour’d to remove some Obstructions that are
prejudicial to both.


    _Containing some Preliminaries, As_ I. _The removing of Sloth
    and stupid Indifferency_. II. _Prejudices arising._ (1.) _From
    Authority, Education and Custom._ (2.) _From Irregular Self-Love,
    and Pride. How to cure our Prejudices. Some Remarks upon Change
    of Opinions, Novelty and the Authority of the Church._ III. _To
    arm our selves with Courage and Patient Perseverance against_
    (1.) _The Censures of ill People, and_ (2.) _our own Indocility_.
    IV. _To propose a Right End._

[Sidenote: §. I.]

The first thing I shall advise against is Sloth, and what may be
joyn’d with it a stupid Indifference to any thing that is excellent;
shall I call it Contentedness with our Condition how low and imperfect
soever it be? I will not abuse the Word so much, ’tis rather an
ungenerous inglorious Laziness, we doze on in a Circle with our
Neighbours, and so we get but Company and Idleness enough, we consider
not for what we were made, and what the Condition of our present State
requires. And we think our selves good humble Creatures for this, who
busy not our Heads with what’s out of our Sphere and was never design’d
for us, but acquiesce honestly and contentedly in such Employments
as the generality of Women have in all Ages been engaged in; for why
shou’d we think so well of our selves as to fancy we can be wiser and
better than those who have gone before? They went to Heav’n no doubt,
and we hope that by treading in their steps we likewise in due time
may come there, And why should we give our selves any farther trouble?
The lowest degree of Bliss in that happy place is more than we deserve,
and truly we have too much Humility and Modesty to be Ambitious of a

Thus we hide our faults under the borrowed name of Vertue; an old
device taught us by the Enemy of our Souls, and by which he has often
deceiv’d us. But ’tis all mistake and nonsense to hope to get to
Heaven, if we stint our Endeavours and care for no more but just to
get there. For what’s at the bottom of this pretended humble temper?
No real Love to GOD and longing to enjoy him, no appetite for Heaven,
but since we must go thither or to Hell when we quit this dear beloved
World, a taking up with that as the more tolerable place. Had we
indeed any true Idea of the Life to come, did we but fix our Eyes
and Thoughts in the Contemplation of that unconceivable Blessedness,
’twou’d be impossible not to desire it with the warmest vigor, not
to be Ambitious of all we are able to attain. For pray wherein do
the Joys of Heaven consist, but in the Fruition of GOD the Only and
All satisfying Good? and how can we Enjoy Him but by Loving him? And
is it not the property of that Passion to think it can never Enjoy
enough but still to thirst for more? How then can we Love GOD if we
do not Long and Labour for the _fullest_ Enjoyment of him? And if we
do not Love Him how are we like to Enjoy Him in _any_ the _least_
Degree? He needs neither our Services nor our Company, He loses nothing
of His Happiness, tho we will not fit our selves to receive those
Communications of it He is desirous t’impart to us; and therefore we’ve
no reason to think He will force His Bliss upon us, render those
Faculties He has given us needless, and make us Happy how unfit soever
we are for Beatitude. What did we come into the World for? To Eat and
to Drink and to pursue the little Impertinencies of this Life? Surely
no, our Wise Creator has Nobler Ends whatever we have; He lent us
hither to pass our Probation, to Prepare our selves and be Candidates
for Eternal Happiness in a better. And how shall this be done but by
Labour and Industry? A Labour indeed, but such as carries its Reward
with it, besides what it is entituled to hereafter.

The Truth is, that the Condition of our Present State is such, that
we can’t do _any_ thing, much less what’s Great and Excellent without
some Pain and Weariness of the Flesh; even our very Pleasures are
accompanied with Pain, nor wou’d they relish without it, this is the
Sauce that recommends them. And why then shall we be averse to the
taking a little Pains in that Case only in which ’twill be worth our
while? A Title, an Estate, or Place, can neither be got nor kept
without some difficulty and trouble; an Amour, nay even a paltry Dress
can’t be manag’d without some Thought and Concern, and are our Minds
the only thing that do not need, or not deserve them? Has our Bountiful
Lord set no limits to our Happiness but the Capacity of our Nature, and
shall we set less, and not strive to extend our Capacities to their
utmost reach? Has the obliging Son of GOD thought · no difficulties too
mighty, no Pain too great to undergo for the Love of us, and shall we
be so disingenuous and ungrateful as to think a few hours Solitude, a
little Meditation and Watchfulness too much to return to his Love? No
certainly, we cannot have such narrow groveling hearts; no we are all
on Fire, and only want to know wherein to employ our Activity, and how
to manage it to the best advantage, which if we wou’d do we must in the
next place.

§. II. Disengage our selves from all our former Prejudices, from our
Opinion of Names, Authorities, Customs and the like, not give credit to
any thing any longer because we have once believ’d it, but because it
carries clear and uncontested Evidence along with it. I shou’d think
there needed no more to persuade us to this, than a consideration of
the mischiefs these Prejudices do us. These are the grand hindrance
in our search after Truth; these dispose us for the reception of
Error, and when we have imbib’d confirm us in it; Contract our Souls
and shorten our views, hinder the free range of our Thoughts and
confine them only to that particular track which these have taken;
and in a word, erect a Tyranny over our free born Souls, whilst they
suffer nothing to pass for True that has not been stampt at their own
Mint. But this is not all their mischief, they are really the root of
Scepticism; for when we have taken up an Opinion on weak Grounds and
stifly adher’d to it, coming afterwards by some chance or other to be
convinc’d of its falseness, the same disposition which induc’d us to
receive the Premises without Reason, now inclines us to draw as false a
Conclusion from them; and because we seem’d once well assur’d of what
now appears to have nothing in’t to make us so, therefore we fancy
there’s nothing certain, that all our Notions are but Probabilities,
which stand or fall according to the Ingenuity of their Managers, and
so from an unreasonable Obstinacy we pass on to as unreasonable a
Levity; so smooth is the transition from believing too easily and too
much, to the belief of just nothing at all.

But pray where’s the force of this Argument, "This is true because
such a Person or such a Number of Men have said it. Or, which commonly
weighs more, because I my self, the dear Idol of my own Heart have
sometimes embrac’d and perhaps very zealously maintain’d it?" Were we
to Poll for Truth, or were our own particular Opinions th’Infallible
Standard of it, there were reason to subscribe to the Sentiments of the
_Many_, or to be tenacious of our _Own_. But since Truth tho she is
bright and ready to reveal her self to all sincere Inquirers, is not
often found by the generality of those who pretend to seek after her,
Interest, Applause, or some other little sordid Passion, being really
the Mistress they court, whilst she (like Religion in another Case) is
made use of for a Stale to carry on the Design the better; since we’re
commonly too much under the power of Inordinate Affections to have our
Understandings always clear and our Judgments certain, are too rash,
too precipitate not to need the assistance of a calmer thought, a more
serious review; Reason wills that we shou’d think again, and not form
our Conclusions or fix our foot till we can honestly say, that we have
without Prejudice or Prepossession view’d the matter in Debate on all
sides, seen it in every light, have no bias to encline us either way,
but are only determin’d by Truth it self, shining brightly in our eyes,
and not permitting us to resist the force and Evidence it carries.
This I’me sure is what Rational Creatures ought to do, what’s then the
Reason that they do’t not?

Laziness and Idleness in the first place; Thinking is a pain to those
who have disus’d it, they will not be at the trouble of carrying on a
thought, of pursuing a Meditation till it leads them into the confines
of Truth, much less till it puts ’em in possession of her. ’Tis an
easier way to follow on in a beaten road, than to launch out into the
main Ocean, tho it be in order to the making of new Discoveries; they
therefore who would be thought knowing without taking too much pains to
be so, suppose ’tis enough to go on in their Fore-fathers steps, to say
as they say, and hope they shall get as much Reputation by it as those
who have gone before.

Again Self-love, an excellent Principle when true, but the worst and
most mischievous when mistaken, disposes us to be retentive of our
Prejudices and Errors, especially when it is joyn’d as most commonly
it is with Pride and Conceitedness. The Condition of our present State
(as was said before) in which we feel the force of our Passions e’re we
discern the strength of our Reason, necessitates us to take up with
such Principles and Reasonings to direct and determine these Passions
as we happen to meet with, tho probably they are far from being just
ones, and are such as Education or Accident not right Reason disposes
us to; and being inur’d and habituated to these, we at last take them
for our own, for parts of our dear beloved selves, and are as unwilling
to be divorced from them as we wou’d be to part with a Hand or an Eye
or any the most useful Member. Whoever talks contrary to these receiv’d
Notions seems to banter us, to persuade us out of our very Senses, and
does that which our Pride cannot bear, he supposes we’ve been all along
deceiv’d and must begin anew: We therefore instead of depositing our
old Errors, fish about for Arguments to defend ’em, and do not raise
Hypotheses on the Discoveries we have made of Truth, but search for
Probabilities to maintain our Hypotheses. And what’s the result of all
this? Having set out in a wrong way we’re resolv’d to persist in it, we
grope in the dark and quarrel with those who wou’d lead us out of it!

But is there no Remedy for this disorder, since we hope that All are
not irrecoverably lost, tho too many are so invellop’d in Prejudice
that there’s little probability of disengaging them? Why really the
best that I can think of at present is, to Resolve to be Industrious,
and to think no Pains too much to purchase Truth; to consider that our
Fore-fathers were Men of like Passions with us, and are therefore not
to be Credited on the score of Authority but of Reason; to remember
likewise our own Infirmity, the shortness of our Views, and the bias
which our Passions and secular Interests give us; generously to
disengage our selves from the deceptions of sense, from all sinister
and little Designs, and honestly to search after Truth for no other
End but the Glory of GOD, by the accomplishing of our Own and our
Neighbours Minds, and when we have humbly implor’d, as now we may very
well hope for the Divine Assistance, that the Father of Lights will
shine upon us, and that He who is _the Way, the Truth and the Life_
will lead us into all Truth; why then we shou’d do well to take notice,
That it is of no great consequence to us what our old Opinions are
any farther than as we persist in ’em; that there’s no necessity that
they shou’d be true, but ’tis highly necessary we shou’d fix on what
is so; therefore these also must be made to pass the Scrutiny, and be
cashier’d if they stand not the Test of a severe Examination and sound

’Tis a great mistake to fancy it a reproach to change our Sentiments,
the infamy lies on their side who wilfully and unreasonably adhere to
’em. Not but that it is mean and shameful to be ever on the tip-toe,
and indeed to change in any Case where pure and disinteress’d Reason
does not oblige us to it. To be once willing to alter our sentiments
if there be just occasion for’t, wou’d for ever after secure us from
Changing, to which the Precipitate and Obstinate are most liable;
whereas such as suspend their Judgments till after a sufficient
Examination and Weighing of all things they see cause to fix them,
do seldom Change, because they can hardly meet with any Reason to do
so; and indeed whatever may be the Character of a Wit, Stay’dness and
Deliberation is that of a Wise Person.

But as there is an extream on one hand in being too resolutely bent on
our Old Opinions, so is there on the other in inordinately thirsting
after Novelty. An Opinion is neither better nor worse for being Old
or New, the Truth of it is the only thing considerable; tho properly
speaking all Truth is Antient, as being from Eternity in the Divine
Ideas, ’tis only New in respect of our Discoveries. If we go about
to assign a Reason for this insatiable desire of Novelty, I know not
how to find a better than our Credulity and easy assent to things
inevident. Truth being the proper Object of the Understanding it does
naturally search after it, and tho this search will never wholly cease,
because our Understandings are more capacious than our Discoveries,
and the view of one Truth is but a Preparative to look farther; yet
had we clear and certain Evidence for our Conclusions, tho that wou’d
not end our Inquiries, it wou’d however satisfie us, so far at least
as they had gone. Whereas on the contrary your hunters after Novelty
are commonly never satisfied, they pull down to day what they had built
up yesterday, and Why? But because they concluded too soon? and their
Novel Hypothesis is founded on Fancy or Passion, or any thing rather
than Right Reason.

But when I speak of the little deference that is to be given to Names,
Authorities, and receiv’d Opinions, I extend it no farther than to
matters purely Philosophical to mere Humane Truths, and do not design
any Prejudice to the Authority of the Church which is of different
consideration. For tho it be necessary even in this Case, to deposite
whatever may look like a Prejudice, arising from that particular way
of Worship, whereby that Communion in which we’ve been Educated is
distinguish’d from all other Christians, yet as to the Substantials
of Faith and Practice, tho every one be allow’d to Examine, for they
will bear the Test, yet it is not fit that he shou’d draw Conclusions,
contrary to what has been already determin’d by the Catholick Church,
or even by that particular Church of which he is a Member, unless where
it does plainly and evidently contradict that sense of Holy Scripture
which has been receiv’d by the Church Universal. Nor is this a giving
up our selves to Authority barely as such, ’tis only a modest deference
to Truth. Philosophical Truths are not open to every Inquirer, an
elevated Genius and great application of Mind is requir’d to find them
out, nor are they of that importance but that Men may give Scope to
their Thoughts, and very often think, tho indeed unreasonably, that
they’re oblig’d in point of Honour to defend their own Hypotheses.
But the Articles of our Faith and the great Principles of Christian
Morality are of another Nature, GOD _wou’d have all Men to be sav’d and
to come to the Knowlege of_ these _Truths_, tho he did not design ’em
all for Philosophers, and therefore they carry a Proof and Evidence
suited to the very Vulgar, which he who runs may read, which every one
ought to acquiesce in, tho according to their leisure and capacity ’tis
fit they inquire why. And being a matter of the highest concern such
as our Eternal Happiness or Misery depends on, it may reasonably be
suppos’d (tho to the shame of our Folly we sometimes find the contrary)
that Men won’t play fast and loose in a Business of so vast importance,
but that all Christians have as they are oblig’d seriously and fully
consider’d it, and especially those who are more peculiarly set apart
by the Divine Appointment for the study of Sacred Truths. So that to
acquiesce in the Authority of the Church, so far as it is here pleaded
for is no more than this, The calling in to our assistance the Judgment
and Advice of those whom GOD hath set over us, and consequently whom he
assists in a more especial manner, to discharge that Function to which
he has call’d them; and, in such disputable points as we’re not able
to determine for our selves, a quiet submission to the Voice of our
Guides, whom Modesty will incline us to think have greater Abilities
and Assistances, as well as more Time and Opportunity to find out the
Truth than we.

As Prejudice fetters the Understanding so does Custom manacle the Will,
which scarce knows how to divert from a Track which the generality
around it take, and to which it has it self been habituated. It wou’d
be too large a digression, to examin throughly a Subject so fit to be
consider’d, being it is the root of very much Evil, the last refuge of
Vice where it fortifies it self when driven from all other retreats.
We shall therefore forbear to enquire from what mistakes it draws its
force, what Considerations are proper to disarm it of its power, and
what else might be of use to deliver us from its Slavery, and only
remark; That tho great deference is to be paid to the Ways and Usages
of the Wise and Good, yet considering that these are the least number
of Mankind, ’tis the Croud who will make the Mode, and consequently
it will be as absurd as they are: Therefore Custom cannot Authorise a
Practice if Reason Condemns it, the following a Multitude is no excuse
for the doing of Evil. None but the Weak and Inconsiderable swim down
with the Torrent, brave Spirits delight to stem the Tide, they know
no Conquest so Glorious, because none so difficult, as that which is
obtain’d over foolish and ill-grounded Maxims and sinful Customs; What
wou’d they not do to restore Mankind to their Lawful Liberty, and to
pull down this worst of Tyrannies, because it enslaves the very Souls
of Men?

§ III. But a Generous Resolution and Courageous Industry are not only
necessary to enable us to throw off Sloth and to Conquer the Prejudices
of Education, Authority and Custom, the same Resolution and Courage
which help’d us to this Victory, must secure and continue to us the
Fruits of it. We shall have need of Patience and constant Perseverance
thro the whole course of our Lives if we mean to prosecute the noble
Design we have begun; we must not think the Business is over when we
have smooth’d the entrance; there will still be Difficulties, tho no
insuperable ones, but such as will wear off by degrees, the greatest
uneasiness being in the first effort. And tho our Progress shou’d
not happen to be answerable to our Desires, there’s no reason to be
discourag’d, we shou’d rather be animated by such noble Desires to
greater Industry. Where’s the Glory of an easy Victory? ’Tis Labour
and Cost that inhanses the value of every thing. And to the end we
may not be discourag’d, ’tis fit that we arm our selves against all
Accidents by considering them before hand. We have the Malice and
Industry of many Cunning and Powerful Adversaries, as well as our
own indocility to contend with. The grand Enemy of Mankind is very
unwilling that they shou’d arrive at that State of Innocence and
Perfection from which he fell, and of all the Artifices he makes use of
to hinder it, scarce any’s more effectual than the mischief he excites
us to do one another. What are they employ’d in but his Service who
will neither do any thing that’s excellent themselves, nor if they
could hinder, suffer it to be done by others? Who employ all their
little Wit and Pains in Scoffing at such who they say in derision
wou’d be wiser then their Neighbours? We must be content to suffer
a scornful fleer, a parcel of hard Names and a little ridiculing,
if we’re Resolv’d to do such things as do not deserve ’em. Dogs will
bark at the Moon, and perhaps for no other reason but because she is
out of their reach, elevated above them. But the Author of our Nature
to whom all the Inconveniencies we are liable to in this Earthly
Pilgrimage are fully known, has endow’d us with Principles sufficient
to carry us safely thro them all, if we will but observe and make use
of ’em. One of these is _Generosity_, which (so long as we keep it
from degenerating into Pride) is of admirable advantage to us in this
matter. It was not fit that Creatures capable of and made for Society,
shou’d be wholly Independent, or Indifferent to each others Esteem
and Commendation; nor was it convenient considering how seldom these
are justly distributed, that they shou’d too much regard and depend
on them. It was requisite therefore that a desire of our Neighbours
Good Opinion shou’d be implanted in our Natures to the end we might be
excited to do such things as deserve it, and yet withall a Generous
neglect of it, if they unjustly withheld it where it was due. There’s
so little reason that we shou’d be discourag’d from what is truly
excellent and becoming on account of being Scoft and Laugh’d at for
it, that on the contrary this is a new accession to our Glory, we
never shine so Illustriously as when we break thro these little Clouds
and Oppositions which impotently attempted to obscure our Rays. To be
Reproach’d for Weldoing is a higher Encomium, than the loftiest Praises
when we do not deserve them: So that let the World think as it list,
whilst we are in the pursuit of true Wisdom, our Reputation is secur’d,
our Crown is furbishing and tho it do not shine out in this Envious and
Ill-natur’d World, it will however, which is infinitely more desirable
appear in all its Lustre and Splendor in a better.

And as we disregard the Censures of ill People, so are we patiently to
bear with our own backwardness and indocility. There goes a good deal
of Time and Pains, of Thought and Watchfulness to the rooting out of
Ill-habits, to the fortifying our Minds against foolish Customs, and
to the making that easie and pleasant which us’d to be irksom to us.
But we ought not to be disheartn’d, since ’tis necessary to be done,
and we cannot reasonably say ’tis Impossible, till we’ve attempted and
fail’d in’t. But then let’s attempt it in the most prudent Method, use
the properest Means, allow sufficient Time for their Operation and to
make the essay: Let’s not set about it by fits, or in one or two good
Moods, nor expect it will be done on a sudden, but by degrees and in a
proper season, making it our main Design and Business, and then I dare
confidently affirm the success will answer the Pains we have spent
about it.

§. IV. But one thing more, and then I shall go on as well as I can,
to lay down what seems to me the best Method for Improvement. Whoever
wou’d Act to purpose must propose some End to themselves, and keep it
still in their Eye thro’out their whole progress. Life without this
is a disproportionate unseemly thing, a confused huddle of broken,
contradictory Actions, such as afford us nothing but the being asham’d
of ’em. But do we need to be taught our End? One wou’d rather think
there were no occasion to mention it, did not Experience daily convince
us how many there are who neglect it. What End can Creatures have but
their Creators Glory? And did they truly understand their own Happiness
’tis certain they wou’d have no other, since this is the only way of
procuring their own Felicity. But it is not enough to have barely an
implicit and languid desire of it, ’twere much better to hold it ever
in view, and that all our Actions had in their proportion a warm and
immediate tendency thither. This wou’d stamp the impression of Holiness
upon the most indifferent Action, and without this what is Materially
and to all outward appearance very good, is really and truly no better
than a specious folly. We are not made for our selves, nor was it
ever design’d we shou’d be ador’d and idoliz’d by one another. Our
Faculties were given us for Use not Ostentation, not to make a noise in
the World, but to be serviceable in it, to declare the Wisdom, Power
and Goodness, of that All-Perfect Being from whom we derive _All_ our
Excellencies, and in whose Service they ought _Wholly_ to be employ’d.
Did our Knowlege serve no other purpose than the exalting us in our
own Opinion, or in that of our Fellow Creatures, the furnishing us with
Materials for a quaint Discourse, an agreeable Conversation, ’twere
scarce worth while to be at the trouble of attaining it. But when
it enlarges the Capacity of our Minds, gives us nobler Ideas of the
Majesty, the Grandeur and Glorious Attributes of our adorable Creator,
Regulates our Wills and makes us more capable of Imitating and Enjoying
him, ’tis then a truly sublime thing, a worthy Object of our Industry:
And she who does not make this the End of her Study, spends her Time
and Pains to no purpose or to an ill one.

We have no better way of finding out the true End of any thing, than by
observing to what Use it is most adapted. Now the Art of _Well-Living_,
the Study of the Divine Will and Law, that so we may be Conformable to
it in all things, is what we’re peculiarly fitted for and destin’d
to, what ever has not such a Tendency, either Directly or at least
Remotely, is besides the purpose. Rational Studies therefore next to
GOD’s Word bid fairest for our Choice, because they best answer the
Design above mention’d. Truths merely Speculative and which have no
influence upon Practice, which neither contribute to the good of Soul
or Body, are but idle Amusements, an impertinent and criminal wast
of Time. To be able to speak many Languages, to give an Historical
Account of all Ages Opinions and Authors, to make a florid Harangue, or
defend right or wrong the Argument I’ve undertaken, may give me higher
thoughts of my Self but not of GOD, this is the _Knowlege that pufeth
up_, in the Words of the Apostle, and seldom leads us to that _Charity
which Edifieth_.

And as the Understanding so the Will must be duly directed to its End
and Object. Morality is so consonant to the Nature of Man, so adapted
to his Happiness, that had not his Understanding been darkn’d by the
Fall, and his whole Frame disorder’d and weakened, he wou’d Naturally
have practis’d it. And according as he recovers himself, and casts
off those Clouds which Eclipse his Reason, so proportionably are his
Actions more agreeable to Moral Precepts, and tho we suppose him
ignorant of any higher end, he will however do such things as they
enjoyn him, to th’intent he may be easy, obtain a good Reputation, and
enjoy himself and this World the better. Now were we sure that Reason
wou’d always maintain its ground against Passion and Appetite, such an
one might be allow’d to be a good Neighbour, a Just Ruler, a plausible
Friend or the like, and wou’d well enough discharge the Relative Duties
of Society, and do nothing misbecoming the dignity of Human Nature.
But considering how weak our Reason is, how unable to maintain its
Authority and oppose the incursions of sense, without the assistance
of an inward and Spiritual Sensation to strengthen it, ’tis highly
necessary that we use due endeavours to procure a lively relish of our
true Good, a Sentiment that will not only Ballance, but if attended to
and improv’d, very much out-weigh the Pleasures of our Animal Nature.
Now this is no otherwise to be obtain’d than by directing the Will in
an elicit Act to GOD as its only Good, so that the sole End of all its
movements, may be to draw near, to acquiesce in and be united to him.
For as all Natural Motions are easie and pleasant, so this being the
only Natural Motion of the Will must needs be unspeakably delightful
to it. Besides that peculiar delectation, which this Fountain of Joy
bestows as a Donative, on all who thus sincerly address themselves to
him. So that it is not enough to be Morally Good because ’tis most
Reputable and Easie, and most for our Pleasure and Interest in the
present World, as this will never secure our Duty, so is it too low an
End for a Creature Capable of Immortality to propose, nothing less than
an intire devoting of our selves to the End for which we were made, the
Service and Enjoyment of the most amiable and only Good, can keep us
Constantly and Uniformly in our Duty, or is a Design that’s worthy of


    _Concerning the Improvement of the Understanding._ I. _Of the
    Capacity of the Humane Mind in General._ II. _Of Particular
    Capacities._ III. _The most common Infirmities incident to
    the Understanding and their Cure._ IV. _A Natural Logic, And_
    V. _Rhetoric propos’d._ VI. _The Application and Use of our

The perfection of the Understanding consisting in the Clearness and
Largness of its view, it improves proportionably as its Ideas become
Clearer and more Extensive. But this is not so to be understood as if
all sorts of Notices contributed to our Improvement, there are some
things which make us no wiser when we know ’em, others which ’tis
best to be ignorant of. But that Understanding seems to me the most
exalted, which has the Clearest and most Extensive view of such Truths
as are suitable to its Capacity, and Necessary or Convenient to be
Known in this Present State. For being that we are but Creatures, our
Understanding in its greatest Perfection has only a limited excellency.
It has indeed a vast extent, and it were not amiss if we tarried a
little in the Contemplation of its Powers and Capacities, provided
that the Prospect did not make us giddy, that we remember from whom
we have receiv’d them, and ballance those lofty Thoughts which a view
of our Intellectuals may occasion, with the depressing ones which the
irregularity of our Morals will suggest, and that we learn from this
inspection, how indecorous it is to busy this bright side of us in mean
things, seeing it is capable of such noble ones.

Human Nature is indeed a wonderful Composure admirable in its outward
structure, but much more excellent in the Beauties of its Inward, and
she who considers in whose Image her Soul was Created, and whose Blood
was shed to Redeem it, cannot prize it too much, nor forget to pay
it her utmost regard. There’s nothing in this Material World to be
compar’d to’t, all the gay things we dote on, and for which we many
times expose our Souls to ruin, are of no consideration in respect of
it. They are not the good of the Soul, its happiness depends not on
’em, but they often deceive and withdraw it from its true Good. It was
made for the Contemplation and Enjoyment of its GOD, and all Souls are
capable of this tho in a different degree and by measures somewhat
different, as we hope will appear from that which follows.

§. I. Truth in general is the Object of the Understanding, but all
Truths are not equally Evident, because of the Limitation of the Humane
Mind, which tho’ it can gradually take in many Truths, yet cannot
any more than our sight attend to many things at once: And likewise,
because GOD has not thought fit to communicate such Ideas to us, as are
necessary to the disquisition of some particular Truths. For knowing
nothing without us but by the Idea we have of it, and Judging only
according to the Relation we find between two or more Ideas, when we
cannot discover the Truth we search after by Intuition or the immediate
companion of two Ideas, ’tis necessary that we shou’d have a third by
which to compare them. But if this middle Idea be wanting, though we
have sufficient Evidence of those two which we wou’d compare, because
we have a Clear and Distinct Conception of them, yet we are Ignorant
of those Truths which wou’d arise from their Comparison, because we
want a third by which to compare them.

To give an instance of this in a point of great consequence, and of
late very much controverted tho to little purpose, because we take
a wrong method, and wou’d make that the Object of Science which is
properly the Object of Faith, the Doctrin of the Trinity. Revelation
which is but an exaltation and improvement of Reason has told us, That
the Father is GOD, the Son is GOD, and the Holy Ghost is GOD, and our
Idea of the Godhead of any one of these Persons, is as clear as our
Idea of any of the other. Both Reason and Revelation assure us that
GOD is One Simple Essence, Undivided, and Infinite in all Perfection,
this is the Natural Idea which we have of GOD. How then can the Father
be GOD, the Son GOD, and the Holy Ghost GOD, when yet there is but
One GOD? That these two Propositions are true we are certain, both
because GOD who cannot lie has Reveal’d ’em, and because we have as
clear an Idea of ’em as it is possible a Finite Mind shou’d have of
an Infinite Nature. But we cannot find out how this should be, by the
bare Comparison of these two Ideas without the help of a third by which
to compare them. This GOD has not thought fit to impart to us, the
Prospect it wou’d have given us wou’d have been too dazling, too bright
for Mortality to bear, and we ought to acquiesce in the Divine Will. So
then, we are well assur’d that these two Propositions are true, _There
is but one GOD_; And, _There are three Persons in the Godhead_: but we
know not the _Manner_ how these things are. Nor can our acquiescence be
thought Unreasonable, nor the Doctrin we subscribe to be run down as
absurd and contradictory by every little warm Disputer and Pretender
to Reason, whose Life is perhaps a continual contradiction to it, and
he knows little of it besides the Name. For we ought not to think it
strange that GOD has folded up his own Nature, not in Darkness, but
in an adorable and inaccessible Light, since his Wisdom sees it fit
to keep us ignorant of our own. We know and feel the Union between
our Soul and Body, but who amongst us sees so clearly, as to find out
with Certitude and Exactness, the secret ties which unite two such
different Substances, or how they are able to act upon each other? We
are conscious of our own Liberty, who ever denies it denies that he
is capable of Rewards and Punishments, degrades his Nature and makes
himself but a more curious piece of Mechanism; and none but Atheists
will call in question the Providence of GOD, or deny that he Governs
_All_, even the most Free of all his Creatures. But who can reconcile
me these? Or adjust the limits between GOD’s Prescience and Mans
Free-will? Our Understandings are sufficiently illuminated to lead us
to the Fountain of Life and Light, we do or may know enough to fill
our Souls with the noblest Conceptions, the humblest Adoration, and
the intirest Love of the Author of our Being, and what can we desire
farther? If we make so ill a Use of that Knowledge which we have, as
to be so far puffed up with it, as to turn it against him who gave it,
how dangerous would it be for us to have more Knowledge, in a State
in which we have so little Humility! But if vain Man will pretend to
Wisdom, let him first learn to know the length of his own line.

Tho the Human Intellect has a large extent, yet being limited as we
have already said, this Limitation is the Cause of those different
Modes of Thinking, which for distinction sake we call Faith, Science
and Opinion. For in this present and imperfect State in which we know
not any thing by Intuition, or immediate except a few first Principles
which we call Self-evident, the most of our Knowlege is acquir’d by
Reasoning and Deduction: And these three Modes of Understanding,
Faith, Science and Opinion are no otherwise distinguish’d, than by the
different degrees of Clearness and Evidence in the Premises from whence
the Conclusion is drawn.

Knowlege in a proper and restricted Sense and as appropriated to
Science, signifies that clear Perception which is follow’d by a firm
assent to Conclusions rightly drawn from Premises of which we have
clear and distinct Ideas. Which Premises or Principles must be so clear
and Evident, that supposing us reasonable Creatures, and free from
Prejudices and Passions, (which for the time they predominate as good
as deprive us of our Reason) we cannot withhold our assent from them
without manifest violence to our Reason.

But if the Nature of the thing be such as that it admits of no
undoubted Premises to argue from, or at least we don’t at present
know of any, or that the Conclusion does not so necessarily follow as
to give a perfect satisfaction to the Mind and to free it from all
hesitation, that which we think of it is then call’d Opinion.

Again, If the Medium we make use of to prove the Proposition be
Authority, the Conclusion which we draw from it is said to be Believ’d;
This is what we call Faith, and when the Authority is GOD’s a Divine

Moral Certainty is a Species of Knowlege whose Proofs are of a
compounded Nature, in part resembling those which belong to Science,
and partly those of Faith. We do not make the whole Process our
selves, but depend on another for the _immediate_ Proof, but we our
selves deduce the _Mediate_ from Circumstances and Principles as
Certain and almost as Evident as those of Science, and which lead us
to the immediate Proofs and make it unreasonable to doubt of ’em.
Indeed we not seldom deceive our selves in this matter, by inclining
alternately to both extremes. Sometimes we reject Truths which are
Morally Certain as Conjectural and Probable only, because they have
not a Physical and Mathematical Certainty, which they are incapable
of. At another time we embrace the slightest Conjectures and any thing
that looks with Probability, as moral Certainties and real Verities,
if Fancy, Passion or Interest recommend them; so ready are we to be
determin’d by these rather than by solid Reason.

In this enumeration of the several ways of Knowing. I have not
reckon’d the Senses, in regard that we’re more properly said to be
_Conscious_ of than to _Know_ such things as we perceive by Sensation.
And also because that Light which we suppose to be let into our Ideas
by our Senses is indeed very dim and fallacious, and not to be relied
on till it has past the Test of Reason; neither do I think there’s any
Mode of Knowlege which mayn’t be reduc’d to those already mentioned.

Now tho there’s a great difference between Opinion and Science, true
Science being immutable but Opinion variable and uncertain, yet there
is not such a difference between Faith and Science as is usually
suppos’d. The difference consists not in the Certainty but in the
way of Proof; the Objects of Faith are as Rationally and as Firmly
Prov’d as the Objects of Science, tho by another way. As Science
Demonstrates things that are _Seen_, so Faith is the Evidence of such
as are _Not Seen_. And he who rejects the Evidence of Faith in such
things as belong to its Cognizance, is as unreasonable as he who denies
Propositions in Geometry that are prov’d with Mathematical exactness.

There’s nothing true which is not in it self demonstrable, or which
we should not pronounce to be true had we a Clear and Intuitive View
of it. But as was said above we see very few things by Intuition,
neither are we furnish’d with Mediums to make the Process our selves
in Demonstrating all Truths, and therefore there are some Truths which
we must either be totally ignorant of, or else receive them on the
Testimony of another Person, to whose Understanding they are clear and
manifest tho not to ours. And if this Person be one who can neither be
Deceiv’d nor Deceive, we’re as certain of those Conclusions which we
prove by his Authority, as we’re of those we demonstrate by our own
Reason; nay more Certain, by how much his Reason is more Comprehensive
and Infallible than our own.

Science is the following the Process our Selves upon Clear and Evident
Principles; Faith is a Dependance on the Credit of another, in such
matters as are out of our View. And when we have very good Reason to
submit to the Testimony of the Person we Believe, Faith is as Firm, and
those Truths it discovers to us as truly Intelligible, and as strongly
Prov’d in their kind as Science.

In a word, as every Sense so every Capacity of the Understanding has
its proper Object. The Objects of Science are things within our View,
of which we may have Clear and Distinct Ideas, and nothing shou’d be
determin’d here without Clearness and Evidence. To be able to repeat
any Persons _Dogma_ without forming a Distinct Idea of it our selves,
is not to Know but to Remember; and to have a Confuse Indeterminate
Idea is to Conjecture not to Understand.

The Objects of Faith are as Certain and as truly Intelligible in
themselves as those of Science, as has been said already, only we
become persuaded of the Truth of them by another Method, we do not
_See_ them so clearly and distinctly as to be unable to disbelieve
them. Faith has a mixture of the Will that it may be rewardable, for
who will thank us for giving our Assent where it was impossible to
withhold it? Faith then may be said to be a sort of Knowlege capable of
Reward, and Men are Infidels not for want of Conviction, but thro an
_Unwillingness_ to Believe.

But as it is a fault to Believe in matters of Science, where we
may expect Demonstration and Evidence, so it is a reproach to our
Understanding and a proof of our Disingenuity, to require that sort
of Process peculiar to Science, for the Confirmation of such Truths
as are not the proper Objects of it. It is as ridiculous as to reject
Musick, because we cannot Tast or Smell it, or to deny there is such a
thing as Beauty because we do not hear it. He who wou’d See with his
Ears and Hear with his Eyes may indeed set up in _Bedlam_ for a Man of
an extraordinary reach, a Sagacious Person who won’t be impos’d on, one
who must have more Authentick proofs than his dull Fore-fathers were
content with. But Men of dry Reason and a moderate Genius, I suppose
will think Nature has done very well in allotting to each Sense its
proper employment, and such as these will as readily acknowlege that
it is as Honourable for the Soul to Believe what is truly the Object
of Faith, as it is for her to Know what is really the Object of her
Knowlege. And were we not strangely perverse we shou’d not scruple
Divine Authority when we daily submit to Human. Whoever has not seen
_Paris_ has nothing but Human Authority to assure him there is such a
place, and yet he wou’d be laugh’d at as ridiculous who shou’d call it
in question, tho he may as well in this as in another Case pretend that
his Informers have designs to serve, intend to impose on him and mock
his Credulity. Nay how many of us daily make that a matter of Faith
which indeed belongs to Science, by adhering blindly to the Dictates of
some famous Philosopher in Physical Truths, the Principles of which we
have as much right to examine, and to make deductions from ’em as he

To sum up all: We may know enough for all the purposes of Life, enough
to busie this active Faculty of Thinking, to employ and entertain the
spare Intervals of Time and to keep us from Rust and Idleness, but we
must not pretend to fathom all Depths with our short Line, we shou’d
be Wise unto Sobriety, and reckon that we know very little if we go
about to make our _Own_ Reason the Standard of all Truth. It is very
certain that nothing is True but what is conformable to Reason, that
is to the Divine Reason of which ours is but a short faint Ray, and
it is as certain that there are many Truths which Human Reason cannot
Comprehend. Therefore to be throughly sensible of the Capacity of the
Mind, to discern precisely its Bounds and Limits and to direct our
Studies and Inquiries accordingly, to Know what is to be Known, and
to Believe what is to be Believ’d is the property of a Wise Person.
To be content with too little Knowlege, or to aspire to over-much is
equally a fault, to make that use of our Understandings which GOD has
Fitted and Design’d them for is the Medium which we ought to take. For
the difference between a Plow-man and a Doctor does not seem to me
to consist in this, That the Business of the one is to search after
Knowlege, and that the other has nothing to do with it. No, whoever has
a Rational Soul ought surely to employ it about some Truth or other,
to procure for it right Ideas, that its Judgments may be true tho
its Knowlege be not very extensive. But herein lies the difference,
that tho Truth is the Object of every Individual Understanding, yet
all are not equally enlarg’d nor able to comprehend so much; and they
whose Capacities and Circumstances of Living do not fit ’em for it,
lie not under that obligation of extending their view which Persons of
a larger reach and greater leisure do. There is indeed often times a
mistake in this matter, People who are not fit will be puzling their
heads to little purpose, and those who are prove Slothful and decline
the trouble; and thus it will be if we do not throughly understand our
selves, but suffer Pride or Ease to make the estimate.

§. II. It is therefore very fit that after we have consider’d the
Capacity of the Understanding in general, we shou’d descend to the view
of our own particular, observing the bent and turn of our own Minds,
which way our Genius lies and to what it is most inclin’d. I see no
reason why there may not be as great a variety in Minds as there is
in Faces, that the Soul as well as the Body may not have something in
it to distinguish it, not only from all other Intelligent Natures but
even from those of its own kind. There are different proportions in
Faces which recommend them to some Eyes sooner than to others, and tho
_All_ Truth is amiable to a Reasonable Mind, and proper to employ it,
yet why may there not be some particular Truths, more agreeable to each
individual Understanding than others are? Variety gives Beauty to the
Material World and why not to the Intellectual? We can discern the
different Abilities which the Wise Author of all things has endow’d
us with, the different Circumstances in which he has plac’d us in
reference to this World and the Concerns of an Animal Life, that so
we may be mutually useful, and that since each single Person is too
limited and confin’d to attend to many, much less to all things, we
may receive from each other a reciprocal advantage, and why may we not
think he has done the like in respect of Truth? that since it is too
much for one, our united Strength shou’d be employ’d in the search of
her. Especially since the Divine Being who contains in himself all
Reality and Truth is Infinite in Perfection, and therefore shou’d be
Infinitely Ador’d and Lov’d; and If Creatures are by their being so
uncapable of rendering to their Incomprehensible Creator an Adoration
and Love that’s worthy of him, it is but decorous that they shou’d
however do as much as they can. All that variety of sublime Truths of
Beautiful and Wondrous Objects which surround us, are nothing else but
a various display of his unbounded Excellencies, and why shou’d any of
’em pass unobserv’d? Why shou’d not every individual Understanding be
in a more especial manner fitted for and employ’d in the disquisition
of some particular Truth and Beauty? ’Tis true after all our researches
we can no more sufficiently Know GOD than we can worthily Love him,
and are as much unable to find out all his Works as we are his Nature,
yet this shou’d only prompt us to exert _All_ our Powers and to do our
best, since even _that_ were too little cou’d we possibly do more. We
can never offer to him so much Praise as he deserves, and therefore it
is but fit that he shou’d have _All_ that Mankind can possibly render
him. He is indeed immutable in his own Nature, but those discoveries
we daily make of his Operations will always afford us somewhat New and
Surprizing, for this All-glorious Sun the Author of Life and Light is
as inexhaustible a Source of Truth as he is of Joy and Happiness.

If then we are convinc’d that there’s some peculiar Task allotted
us, our next business will be to enquire what it is. To know our own
Strength and neither to over not underrate our selves is one of the
most material points of Wisdom, and which indeed we are most commonly
ignorant of, else we shou’d not reach at all, how unable soever we are
to attain it, nor make so many successless attempts and be forc’d to
come off with that pitiful Apology, _I was mistaken, I did not think
it_. But we can scarce duly estimate our Understandings till we have
regulated our Wills, reform’d Self-love and a train of immortified
Passions, which it is not our Business to speak of here, we shall have
occasion to do’t hereafter. Let it suffice that we remark a frequent
Error which these engage us in, that is, an aptness to lessen the Human
Mind, to detract from its Grandeur and abridge its Powers when we
consider it in General, and as great a forwardness when we look on our
selves to extend our Abilities beyond their bounds. Are we conscious
of a Defect? the shallowness of Human Reason at large must bear the
blame, we Harangue very excellently on the Ignorance and Vanity of
Mankind, and it were well if we rested there, and wou’d forbear to
murmur even at our Creator himself for allowing us so scanty a Portion.
But if Reason has shone out, dispelling those Clouds which Eclips’d the
bright face of Truth, we arrogate all to our selves. _My_ Discovery,
_My_ Hypothesis, the Strength and Clearness of _My_ Reasonings, rather
than the Truth are what we wou’d expose to view; ’tis that we Idolize
our selves and wou’d have every one Admire and Celebrate. And yet all
this is no more perhaps than another has done before us, or at least
might have done with our Opportunities and Advantages. The reverse of
this procedure wou’d become us better, and it were more Glorious as
well as more Just to ascribe the Excellencies of the Mind to Human
Nature in the Lump and to take the Weaknesses to our selves. By this
we shou’d both avoid Sloth, (the best use we can make of our Ignorance
and Infirmity being first to be humbled for, and then sedulously to
endeavour their Amendment) and likewise secure our Industry from the
Mixtures of Pride and Envy. By looking on our own Acquisitions as a
general Treasure, in which the Whole have a Right, we shou’d pretend
to no more than a share; and considering our selves as Parts of the
same Whole, we should expect to find our own account in th’ Improvement
of every part of it, which wou’d restrain us from being puft up with
the Contemplation of our Own, and from repining at our Neighbours
Excellencies. For let Reason shine forth where it may, as we can’t
engross, so neither can we be excluded from sharing in the Benefit,
unless we wilfully exclude our selves; every one being the better for
True Worth and Good Sense, except the little Soul’d Enviers of ’em.

To help us to the Knowledge of our own Capacities the Informations
of our Friends, nay even of our Enemies may be useful. The former if
Wise and True will direct us to the same Course to which our Genius
Points, and the latter will industriously endeavour to divert us from
it, and we can’t be too careful that these don’t disguise themselves
under the specious appearance of the former, to do us an ill-turn the
more effectually. For it is not seldom seen that such as pretend great
Concern for us, will press us on to such Studies or Ways of Living as
inwardly they know we are unfit for, thereby to gratify their Secret
Envy, by diverting us from that to which our Genius disposes, and in
which therefore they have reason to suppose we wou’d be Excellent. But
tho we may make use of the Opinions of both, yet if we will be Sincere
and Ingenuous we cannot have a more faithful Director than our own
heart. He who gave us these Dispositions will excite us to the Use and
Improvement of ’em; and unless we drive him from us by our Impurity,
or thro negligence and want of Attention let slip his secret Whispers,
this Master within us will lay most in our view such Lessons as he
wou’d have us take. Our care then must be to open our Eyes to that Beam
of Light which does in a more especial manner break in upon us, to fix
them steadily, and to examine accurately those notices which are most
vividly represented to us, and to lay out our Thoughts and Time in the
Cultivation of ’em. It may be our Humor won’t be gratified, nor our
Interest serv’d by such a Method. Other Business or Amusements put on
a finer Garb, and come attended with more Charms and Grandeur, these
recommend us to the World make us Belov’d and Illustrious in it: Whilst
the followers of Truth are despis’d and look’d askew on, as fantastick
Speculatists, unsociable Thinkers, who pretend to see farther than
their Neighbours, to rectifie what Custom has establish’d, and are so
Unmannerly as to Think and Talk out of the Common way. He who speaks
Truth makes a Satyr on the greatest part of Mankind, and they are not
over apt to forgive him, he contradicts the vogue of the Times, is so
hardy as to lay open Mens darling Errors, to draw a lively Picture of
their most secret Corruptions, a Representation which they cannot bear.
Their Gall is touch’d proportionably as their Wounds are more deeply
search’d into, altho it be only in order to a Cure. They therefore who
Love Truth shall be Hated by the Most, who tho they openly pretend to
Honour, yet secretly Malign her, because she reproaches them. And as
a plausible Life is not often a very Religious one, which made the
best Judge pronounce a Wo on those whom all Men shall speak well of,
so neither is the most Just and Illuminated Understanding the most
admir’d and trusted to, but a plausible Speaker, as well as a plausible
Liver, commonly bears away the Bell. If then we consult our Passions
and Vanity we shall go near to determine amiss, and make that use of
our Intellectuals which Fancy or Interest pushes us on to, not which
Nature has fitted us for. Hence it is that those who might have done
very well in some Studies and Employments, make but bungling work when
they apply themselves to others. We go on apace when the Wind and Tide
are on our side, but it costs us much Labour, and we make little speed,
when we Row against both.

And as a due Consideration of our Particular Capacity wou’d put us
right in our own Studies, so wou’d it keep us from clashing with our
Neighbours, whom we many times Contend with not so much out of a Love
to Truth, as thro a humor of Contradiction, or because we think this
the best way to shew our Parts, and by this tryal of Skill to exalt
our selves above them. But is there no better way to discover our
Penetration, and to try our Strength, than by a Malicious and Litigious
Opposition? The field of Truth is large, and after all the Discoveries
that have been made by those who have gone before, there will still
be untroden Paths, which they who have the Courage and Skill may beat
out and beautify. If then instead of Jostling and Disputing with our
Fellow Travellers, of bending all the force of our Wit to Contradict
and Oppose those advances which they make, we wou’d well understand,
duly Employ and kindly Communicate our Peculiar Talent, how much more
Service might we do our Lord, how much more useful might we be to one
another? What vast Discoveries wou’d be made in the wide Ocean of
Truth? How many Moral Irregularities wou’d be observ’d and rectify’d?
We shou’d be restrain’d from aspiring to things above our reach, move
regularly in our own Sphere, not abuse those good Parts which were
given us for Common Benefit, to the Destruction of our selves and
others, be in a fair way to discern the Defects of our Mind and to
proceed to the Cure of ’em.

§. III. We have already exprest our thoughts concerning the Capacity
and Perfection of the Understanding, and what has been said if duly
consider’d, is sufficient to bring every particular Person acquainted
with their own defects. But because they who need Amendment most, are
commonly least dispos’d to make such reflections as are necessary to
procure it, we will spend a few Pages in considering for them, and in
observing the most usual defects of the Thinking Faculty.

If we are of their Opinion who say that the Understanding is only
Passive, and that Judgment belongs to the Will, I see not any Defect
the former can have, besides Narrowness and a disability to extend
it self to many things, which is indeed incident to all Creatures,
the brightest Intelligence in the highest Order of Angels is thus
defective, as well as the meanest Mortal, tho in a less degree. Nor
ought it to be complain’d of, since ’tis Natural and Necessary, we may
as well desire to be Gods as desire to Know all things. Some sort of
Ignorance therefore, or Non perception we cannot help; a Finite Mind,
suppose it as large as you please, can never extend it self to Infinite
Truths. But no doubt it is in our Power to remedy a great deal more
than we do, and probably a larger Range is allowed us than the most
Active and Enlightned Understanding has hitherto reach’d. Ignorance
then can’t be avoided but Error may, we cannot Judge of things of which
we have no Idea, but we can suspend our Judgment about those of which
we have, till clearness and evidence oblige us to pass it. Indeed in
strictness of Speech the Will and not the Understanding is blameable
when we Think amiss, since the latter opposes not the Ends for which
GOD made it, but readily extends it self as far as it can, receiving
such Impressions as are made on it; ’tis the former that directs it to
such Objects, that fills up its Capacity with such Ideas as are foreign
to its Business and of no use to it, or which does not at least oppose
the incursions of Material things, and deface as much as it is able
those impressions which Sensible Objects leave in the Imagination.
But since it is not material to the present Design, whether Judgment
belongs to the Understanding or Will, we shall not nicely distinguish
how each of ’em is employ’d in acquiring Knowledge, but treat of ’em
both together in this Chapter, allotted to the Service of the Studious,
who when they are put in the way may by their own Meditations and
Experience, rectifie the mistakes and supply the Omissions we happen to
be guilty of.

They who apply themselves to the Contemplation of Truth, will perhaps
at first find a Contraction or Emptiness of Thought, and that their
Mind offers nothing on the Subject they wou’d consider, is not ready
at unfolding, nor in representing correspondent Ideas to be compar’d
with it, is as it were asleep or in a Dream, and tho’ not empty of all
Thought, yet Thinks nothing clearly or to the purpose. The Primary
Cause of this is that Limitation which all Created Minds are Subject
to, which Limitation appears more visible in some than in others,
either because some Minds are endow’d by their Creator with a larger
Capacity than the rest, or if you are not inclin’d to think so, then
by reason of the Indisposition of the Bodily Organs, which cramps and
contracts the Operations of the Mind. And that Person whose Capacity
of receiving Ideas is very little, whose Ideas are disorder’d, and not
capable of being so dispos’d as that they may be compar’d in order to
the forming of a Judgment, is a Fool or little better. If we find this
to be our Case, and that after frequent tryals there appears no hopes
of Amendment, ’tis best to desist, we shall but lose our Labour, we
may do some Good in an Active Life and Employments that depend on the
Body, but we’re altogether unfit for Contemplation and the Exercises of
the Mind. Yet e’er we give out let’s see if it be thus with us in all
Cases: Can we Think and Argue Rationally about a Dress, an Intreague,
an Estate? Why then not upon better Subjects? The way of Considering
and Meditating justly is the same on all Occasions. ’Tis true, there
will fewest Ideas arise when we wou’d Meditate on such Subjects as
we’ve been least conversant about; but this is a fault which it is
in our power to remedy, first by Reading or Discoursing, and then by
frequent and serious Meditation, of which hereafter.

As those we have been speaking of are hindred in their search after
Truth, thro a want of Ideas out of which to deduce it, so there are
another sort who are not happy in their Enquiries, on account of
the multitude and Impetuosity of theirs. Volatileness of Thought,
very pernicious to true Science, is a fault which People of warm
Imaginations and Active Spirits are apt to fall into. Such a Temper is
readily dispos’d to receive Errors and very well qualified to propagate
them, especially if a volubility of Speech be join’d to it. These thro
an immoderate nimbleness of Thinking skip from one Idea to another,
without observing due Order and Connexion, they content themselves
with a superficial view, a random glance, and depending on the vigor
of their Imagination, are took with Appearances, never tarrying to
penetrate the Subject, or to find out Truth if she float not upon the
Surface. A multitude of Ideas not relating to the matter they design to
think of rush in upon them, and their easie Mind entertains all comers
how impertinent soever; instead of examining the Question in debate
they are got into the Clouds, numbring the Cities in the Moon and
building Airy Castles there. Nor is it easie to cure this Defect, since
it deceives others as well as those who have it with a shew of very
great Ingenuity. The vivacity of such Persons makes their Conversation
plausible, and taking with those who consider not much, tho not with
the Judicious; it procures for them the Character of Wit, but hinders
them from being Wise. For truth is not often found by such as won’t
take Time to examine her Counterfeits, to distinguish between Evidence
and Probability, Realities and Appearances, but who thro a conceit of
their own sharp-sightedness think they can pierce to the bottom with
the first glance.

To cure this Distemper perfectly perhaps it will be necessary to
apply to the Body as well as to the Mind: The Animal Spirits must be
lessen’d, or rendred more Calm and Manageable; at least they must not
be unnaturally and violently mov’d, by such a Diet, or such Passions,
Designs and Divertisments as are likely to put ’em in a ferment.
Contemplation requires a Governable Body, a sedate and steady Mind,
and the Body and the Mind do so reciprocally influence each other,
that we can scarce keep the one in tune if the other be out of it. We
can neither Observe the Errors of our Intellect, nor the Irregularity
of our Morals whilst we are darkned by Fumes, agitated with unruly
Passions, or carried away with eager Desires after Sensible things and
vanities. We must therefore withdraw our Minds from the World, from
adhering to the Senses, from the Love of Material Beings, of Pomps and
Gaieties; for ’tis these that usually Steal away the Heart, that seduce
the Mind to such unaccountable Wandrings, and so fill up its Capacity
that they leave no room for Truth, so distract its Attention that it
cannot enquire after her. For tho’ the Body does partly occasion this
fault, yet the Will no doubt may in good measure Remedy it, by using
its Authority to fix the Understanding on such Objects as it wou’d have
Contemplated; it has a Rein which will certainly curb this wandring,
if it can but be persuaded to make use of it. Indeed Attention and
deep Meditation is not so agreeable to our Animal Nature, does not
flatter our Pride so well as this agreeable _Reverie_, which gives us
a pretence to Knowledge without taking much Pains to acquire it, and
does not choak us with the humbling thoughts of our own Ignorance, with
which we must make such ado e’re it can be enlightened. Yet without
Attention and strict Examination we are liable to false Judgments on
every occasion, to Vanity and Arrogance, to Impertinent Prating of
things we don’t understand, are kept from making a Progress, because we
fancy our selves to be at the top already, and can never attain to true
Wisdom. If then we wou’d hereafter think to purpose, we must suffer our
selves to be convinc’d how oft we have already thought to none, suspect
our Quickness, and not give our desultory Imagination leave to ramble.

And in order to the restraining it we may consider, what a loss of
Time and Study such irregular and useless Thoughts occasion, what a
Reproach they are to our Reason, how they cheat us with a _shew_ of
Knowledge, which so long as we are under the power of this giddy Temper
will inevitably escape us. And if to this we add a serious perusal of
such Books as are not loosly writ, but require an Attent and Awakened
Mind to apprehend, and to take in the whole force of ’em, obliging
our selves to Understand them throughly, so as to be able to give a
just account of them to our Selves, or rather to some other Person
intelligent enough to take it and to correct our mistakes, it is to be
hop’d we shall obtain a due poise of Mind, and be able to direct our
Thoughts to the thorow discussion of such Subjects as we wou’d Examine.
Such Books I mean as are fuller of Matter than Words, which diffuse a
light through every part of their Subject, do not Skim, but Penetrate
it to the bottom, yet so as to leave somewhat to be wrought out by the
Reader’s own Meditation; such as are writ with Order and Connexion,
the Strength of whose Arguments can’t be sufficiently felt unless we
remember and compare the whole System. ’Tis impossible to prescribe
absolutely, and every one may easily find what Authors are most apt
to stay their Attention, and shou’d apply to them. But whenever they
Meditate, be it on what Object it may, let ’em fix their Minds stedily
on it, not removing till it be throughly Examin’d, at least not until
they have seen all that’s necessary to their present purpose.

Doing so we shall prevent Rashness and Precipitation in our Judgments,
which is occasion’d by that Volatileness we have been speaking
of, together with an over-weaning opinion of our Selves. All the
irregularities of our Will proceed from those false Judgments we
make, thro want of Consideration, or a partial Examination when we do
consider. For did we Consider with any manner of Attention, we cou’d
not be so absurd as to call Evil, Good, and Chuse it as such, or
prefer a less Good before a greater, a poor Momentary Trifle, before
the Purity and Perfection of our Mind, before an Eternal and Immutable
Crown of Glory! But we seek no farther than the first Appearances of
Truth and Good, here we Stop, allowing neither Time nor Thought to
search to the bottom, and to pull off those Disguises which impose on
us. This Precipitation is that which gives birth to all our Errors,
which are nothing else but a hasty and injudicious Sentence, a
mistaking one thing for another, supposing an Agreement or Disparity
amongst Ideas and their Relations where in reality there is none,
occasion’d by an imperfect and cursory view of ’em. And tho’ there are
other things which may be said to lead us into Error, yet they do it
only as they seduce us into Rash and Precipitate Judgments. We love
Grandeur and every thing that feeds our good Opinion of our Selves, and
therefore wou’d Judge off hand, supposing it a disparagement to our
Understandings to be long in Examining, so that we greedily embrace
whatever seems to carry Evidence enough for a speedy Determination,
how slight and superficial soever it be. Whereas did we calmly and
deliberately Examine our Evidence, and how far those Motives we are
acted by ought to Influence, we shou’d not be liable to this Seduction.
For hereby the Impetuosity of a warm Imagination wou’d be cool’d, and
the extravagancies of a Disorderly one Regulated; we shou’d not be
Deceiv’d by the Report of our Senses; the Prejudices of Education; our
own Private Interest, and readiness to receive the Opinions whether
True or False of those we Love, or wou’d appear to Love because we
think they will serve us in that Interest; our inordinate thirst
after a great Reputation, or the Power and Riches, the Grandeurs and
Pleasures of this World, these wou’d no longer dissipate our Thoughts
and distract our Attention, for then we shou’d be sensible how little
Concern is due to them. We shou’d neither mistake in the End and Object
by not employing our Understandings at All about such things as they
were chiefly made for, or not Enough, or by busying them with such as
are out of their reach, or beneath their Application; nor shou’d we be
out in the Method of our Meditation, by going a wrong or a round about
way. For the GOD of Truth is ready to lead us into all Truth, if we
Honestly and Attentively apply our selves to him.

In sum, whatever false Principle we embrace, whatever wrong Conclusion
we draw from true ones, is a disparagement to our Thinking Power, a
Weakness of Judgment proceeding from a Confuse and Imperfect view of
things, as that does from want of attention, and a hasty and partial
Examination. It were endless to reckon up all the false Maxims and
Reasonings we fall into, nor is it possible to give a List of them, for
there are innumerable Errors opposite to one single Truth. The General
Causes have been already mention’d, the Particulars are as many as
those several Compositions which arise from the various mixtures of
the Passions, Interests, Education, Conversation and Reading, _&c._ of
particular Persons. And the best way that I can think of to Improve
the Understanding, and to guard it against all Errors proceed they
from what Cause they may, is to regulate the Will, whose Office it
is to determine the Understanding to such and such Ideas, and to
stay it in the Consideration of them so long as is necessary to the
Discovery of Truth; for if the Will be right the Understanding can’t
be guilty of any Culpable Error. Not to Judge of any thing which we
don’t Apprehend, to suspend our Assent till we see just Cause to give
it, and to determine nothing till the Strength and Clearness of the
Evidence oblige us to it. To withdraw our selves as much as may be from
Corporeal things, that pure Reason may be heard the better; to make
that use of our Senses for which they are design’d and fitted, the
preservation of the Body, but not to depend on their Testimony in our
Enquiries after Truth. Particularly to divest our selves of mistaken
Self-love, little Ends and mean Designs, and to keep our Inclinations
and Passions under Government. Not to engage our selves so far in any
Party or Opinion as to make it in a manner necessary that that shou’d
be Right, lest from wishing it were, we come at last to persuade our
selves it is so. But to be passionately in Love with Truth, as being
throughly sensible of her Excellency and Beauty. To embrace her how
opposite soever she may sometimes be to our Humours and Designs, to
bring these over to her, and never attempt to make her truckle to
them. To be so far from disliking a Truth because it touches us home,
and lances our tenderest and dearest Corruption, as on the contrary
to prize it the more, by how much the more plainly it shews us our
Errors and Miscarriages. For indeed it concerns us most to know such
Truths as these, it is not material to us what other Peoples Opinions
are, any farther than as the Knowlege of their Sentiments may correct
Our Mistakes. And the higher our Station is in the World, so much the
greater need have we to be curious in this particular.

The mean and inconsiderable often stumble on Truth when they seek not
after her, but she is commonly kept out of the way, and industriously
conceal’d from the Great and mighty; either out of Design or Envy, for
whoever wou’d make a Property of another must by all means conceal
the Truth from him; and they who Envy their Neighbours Preeminence in
other things, are willing themselves to excel in exactness of Judgment,
which they think and very truly, to be the greatest Excellency. And to
help forward this deception, the Great instead of being Industrious in
finding out the Truth, are generally very impatient when they meet with
her. She does not treat them so tenderly and fawningly, with so much
Ceremony and Complaisance as their Flatterers do. There’s in her that
which us’d to be the Character of our Nation, an honest Plainness and
Sincerity, Openness and blunt Familiarity: She cannot mould her self
into all Shapes to be rendred agreeable, but standing on her Native
Worth is regardless of Out-side and Varnish. But to return from this

Above all things we must be throughly convinc’d of our entire
Dependance on GOD, for what we _Know_ as well as for what we Are, and
be warmly affected with the Sense of it, which will both Excite us to
Practise, and Enable us to Perform the rest. Tho’ we are Naturally
Dark and Ignorant, yet in _his Light we may_ hope to _see Light_,
if with the Son of _Syrac_ we Petition for _Wisdom that sits by his
Throne_ to _labour with us_, and Sigh with _David_ after his _Light
and Truth_. For then he who is _The Light that Lightneth every one who
comes into the World_, the Immutable Truth, and Uncreated Wisdom of
His Father, will _Teach us in the way of Wisdom and lead us in right
Paths_, he will instruct us infinitely better by the right use of our
own Faculties than the brightest Human Reason can. For in him are all
the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowlege which he Liberally dispences to
all who Humbly, Honestly and Heartily ask ’em of him. To close this
Head: Whatever the Notion That we see all things in GOD, may be as to
the Truth of it, ’tis certainly very commendable for its Piety, in that
it most effectually humbles the most dangerous sort of Pride, the being
Proud of our Knowlege, and yet does not slacken our Endeavours after
Knowlege but rather Excites them.

[Sidenote: _Art of Thinking._]

§ IV. As to the _Method_ of Thinking, if it be proper for me to say
any thing of that, after those better Pens which have treated of it
already, it falls in with the Subject I’me now come to, which is, that
_Natural Logic_ I wou’d propose. I call it natural because I shall not
send you further than your Own Minds to learn it, you may if you please
take in the assistance of some well chosen Book, but a good Natural
Reason after all, is the best Director, without this you will scarce
Argue well, tho you had the Choicest Books and Tutors to Instruct you,
but with it you may, tho’ you happen to be destitute of the other. For
as a very Judicious Writer on this Subject (to whose Ingenious Remarks
and Rules I am much obliged) well observes, “These Operations [of the
Mind] proceed meerly from Nature, and that sometimes more perfectly
from those who are altogether ignorant of Logic, than from others who
have learn’d it.”

That which we propose in all our Meditations and Reasonings is, either
to deduce some Truth we are in search of, from such Principles as
we’re already acquainted with; or else, to dispose our Thoughts and
Reasonings in such a manner, as to be able to Convince others of those
Truths which we our selves are Convinc’d of. Other Designs indeed
Men may have, such as the Maintenance of their Own Opinions, Actions
and Parties without regard to the Truth and Justice of ’em, or the
Seduction of their unwary Neighbours, but these are Mean and Base ones,
beneath a Man, much more a Christian, who is or Ought to be endow’d
with greater Integrity and Ingenuity.

Now Reasoning being nothing else but a Comparison of Ideas, and a
deducing of Conclusions from Clear and Evident Principles, it is
in the first place requisite that our Ideas be Clear and Just, and
our Principles True, else all our Discourse will be Nonsense and
Absurdity, Falshood and Error. And that our Idea may be Right, we
have no more to do but to look attentively into our own Minds, having
as was said above, laid aside all Prejudices and whatever may give a
false tincture to our Light, there we shall find a Clear and Lively
Representation of what we seek for, unsophisticated with the Dross
of false Definitions and unintelligible Expressions. But we must not
imagine that a transient view will serve the turn, or that our Eye will
be Enlightened if it be not fix’d. For tho’ Truth be exceeding bright,
yet since our Prejudices and Passions have darkned our Eye-sight, it
requires no little Pains and Application of Mind to find her out,
the neglect of which Application is the Reason that we have so little
Truth, and that the little we have is almost lost in that Rubbish of
Error which is mingled with it. And since Truth is so near at hand,
since we are not oblig’d to tumble over many Authors, to hunt after
every celebrated Genius, but may have it for enquiring after in our
own Breasts, are we not inexcusable if we don’t obtain it? Are we not
unworthy of Compassion if we suffer our Understandings to be over-run
with Error? Indeed it seems to me most Reasonable and most agreeable
to the Wisdom and Equity of the Divine Operations, that every one
shou’d have a Teacher in their own Bosoms, who will if they seriously
apply themselves to him, immediately Enlighten them so far as that is
Necessary, and direct them to such Means as are sufficient for their
Instruction both in Humane and Divine Truths; for as to the latter,
Reason if it be Right and Solid, will not pretend to be our sole
Instructor, but will send us to Divine Revelation when it may be had.

GOD does nothing in vain, he gives no Power or Faculty which he has
not allotted to some proportionate use, if therefore he has given to
Mankind a Rational Mind, every individual Understanding ought to be
employ’d in somewhat worthy of it. The Meanest Person shou’d Think as
_Justly_, tho’ not as _Capaciously_, as the greatest Philosopher. And
if the Understanding be made for the Contemplation of Truth, and I know
not what else it can be made for, either there are many Understandings
who are never able to attain what they were design’d and fitted for,
which is contrary to the Supposition that GOD made nothing in Vain, or
else the very meanest must be put in a way of attaining it: Now how
can this be if all that which goes to the composition of a Knowing
Man in th’account of the World, be necessary to make one so? All have
not leisure to Learn Languages and pore on Books, nor Opportunity to
Converse with the Learned; but all may _Think_, may use their own
Faculties rightly, and consult the Master who is within them.

By Ideas we sometimes understand in general all that which is the
immediate Object of the Mind, whatever it Perceives; and in this large
Sense it may take in all Thought, all that we are any ways capable of
Discerning: So when we say we have no Idea of a thing, ’tis as much
as to say we know nothing of the matter. Again, it is more strictly
taken for that which represents to the Mind some Object distinct
from it, whether Clearly or Confusedly; when this is its import, our
Knowledge is said to be as Clear as our Ideas are. For that Idea which
represents a thing so Clearly, that by an Attent and Simple View we may
discern its Properties and Modifications, at least so far as they can
be Known, is never false; all our Certainty and Evidence depends on
it, if we Know not Truly what is thus represented to our Minds we know
nothing. Thus the Idea of Equality between 2 and 2 is so evident that
it is impossible to doubt of it, no Arguments could convince us of the
Contrary, nor be able to persuade us that the same may be found between
2 and 3.

And as such an Idea as this is never False, so neither can any Idea
be said to be so, if by False we mean that which has no Existence;
our Idea certainly Exists, tho’ there be not any thing in Nature
Correspondent to it. For tho’ there be no such thing as a Golden
Mountain, yet when I think of one, ’tis certain I have an Idea of it.

But our Ideas are then said to be False, or rather Wrong, when they
have no Conformity to the Real Nature of the Thing whose Name they
bear. So that properly Speaking it is not the Idea but the judgment
that is False; we err in supposing that our Idea is answerable to
something without us when it is not. In simple Perceptions we are
not often deceiv’d, but we frequently mistake in Compounding them,
by Uniting several things which have no Agreement, and Separating
others which are Essentially United. Indeed it may happen that our
Perceptions are faulty sometimes, thro the Indisposition of the Organs
or Faculties, thus a Man who has the _Jaundice_ sees every thing ting’d
with Yellow, yet even here the Error is not in the Simple Idea but in
the Compos’d one, for we do not mistake when we say the Object appears
Yellow to our Sight, tho’ we do, when we affirm that it does, or ought
to do so to others. So again, when the Mind does not sufficiently
Attend to her Ideas nor Examine them on all sides, ’tis very likely
she will Think amiss, but this also is a false Judgment, that which
is amiss in the Perception being rather the Inadequateness than the
Falshood. Thus in many Cases we enquire no farther than whether an
Action be not Directly Forbidden, and if we do not find it Absolutely
Unlawful, we think that sufficient to Authorize the Practise of it,
not considering it as we ought to do, Cloathed with the Circumstances
of Scandal, Temptation, _&c._ which place it in the same Classes with
things unlawful, at least make it so to us.

Rational Creatures shou’d endeavour to have right Ideas of every thing
that comes under their Cognizance, but yet our Ideas of Morality, our
thoughts about Religion are those which we shou’d with greatest speed
and diligence rectifie, because they are of most importance, the Life
to come, as well as all the Occurrences of This, depending on them. We
shou’d search for Truth in our most abstracted Speculations, but it
concerns us nearly to follow her close in what relates to the Conduct
of our Lives. For the main thing we are to drive at in all our Studies,
and that which is the greatest Improvement of our Understandings is the
Art of Prudence, the being all of a Piece, managing all our Words and
Actions as it becomes Wise Persons and Good Christians.

Yet in this we are commonly most faulty; for besides the deceits of our
Passions, our Ideas of Particular Vertues and Vices, Goods and Evils,
being an assemblage of divers simple Perceptions, and including several
Judgments are therefore liable to mistake, and much more so considering
how we commonly come by them. We hear the Word that Stands for such
a Thing, suppose Honor, and then instead of enquiring what it is at
the Fountain-head the Oracles of GOD, and our own, or the Impartial
Reason of the Wisest and the Best, Custom and the Observations we
make on the Practice of such as Pretend to it forms our Idea, which
is seldom a Right one, the Opinions and Practices of the World being
very fallacious, and many times quite opposite to the Dictates of
Reason wou’d we but give ear to them. For what a strange distorted Idea
of Honor must they needs have, who can think it Honourable to break
a Vow that ought to be Kept, and Dishonourable to get loose from an
Engagement that ought to be Broken? Who cannot endure to be tax’d with
a Lye, and yet never think fit to keep their Word? What do they think
of Greatness who support their Pomp at the Expence of the Groans and
Tears of many Injur’d Families? What is their Idea of Heaven, who
profess to Believe such a thing, and yet never endeavour to Qualifie
themselves for the Enjoyment of it? Have they any Idea at all of these
things when they speak of ’em? Or, if they have, is it not a very false

Now that we may avoid mistake the better, and because we usually join
Words to our Ideas even when we only Meditate, we shou’d free them from
all Equivocation, not make use of any Word, which has not a Distinct
Idea annex’d to it, and where Custom has join’d many Ideas to one
Word, carefully separate and distinguish them. For if our Words are
Equivocal, how can we by Pronouncing such and such, excite the same
Idea in another that is in our own Mind, which is the End of Speech,
and consequently how can we be Understood? And if sometimes we annex
one Idea to a Word, and sometimes another, we may for ever wrangle
with those who perhaps wou’d be found to agree with us if we Understood
each other, but can neither Convince them, nor clear up the Matter
to our own Mind. For Instance: Shou’d I dispute Whether Evil were
to be Chosen? Without defining what I mean by Evil, which is a Word
customarily apply’d to things of different Natures, and shou’d conclude
in the Affirmative, meaning at the same time the Evil of Pain, or any
Corporal Loss or Punishment, I were not mistaken, tho’ another Person
who annexes no other Idea but that of Sin to the word Evil, might
Justly contradict me and say that I was. Or if in the Process of my
Discourse, I shou’d without giving notice of it, substitute the Idea
of Sin instead of that of Pain, when I mention Evil, I shou’d argue
falsly. For it is a Maxim that we may Chuse a less Evil to avoid a
greater, if both of them be Corporal Evils, or if one of them be so,
and we chuse it to avoid a Sin, between which and the Evil of Pain
there is no Comparison: But if the two Evils propos’d to our Choice
be both of them Sinful, that Principle will not hold, we must Chuse
neither, whatever comes on’t, Sin being Eligible no manner of way.

Thus many times our Ideas are thought to be false when the fault is
really in our Language, we make use of Words without joyning any, or
only loose and indeterminate Ideas to them, Prating like Parrots who
can Modify Sounds, and Pronounce Syllables, and sometimes martial them
as a Man wou’d, tho without the use of Reason or understanding any
thing by them. So that after a long Discourse and many fine Words, our
Hearer may justly ask us what we have been saying? And what it is we
wou’d be at? And so a great part, of the Good Breeding of the World,
many Elegant Complements pass for nothing, they have no meaning, or
if they have, ’tis quite contrary to what the Words in other Cases

From the Companion of two or more Ideas clearly Conceived arises
a Judgment, which we may lay down for a Principle, and as we have
occasion Argue from. Always observing that those Judgments which we
take for Axioms or Principles, be such as carry the highest Evidence
and Conviction, such as every one who will but in the least Attend may
Clearly see, and be fully convinced of, and which need not another
Idea for their Demonstration. Thus from the Agreement which we plainly
perceive between the Ideas of GOD and of Goodness singly consider’d,
we discern that they may be joyn’d together so as to form this
Proposition, _That GOD is Good_: And from the evident disparity that
is between GOD and Injustice, we learn to affirm this other, _That
he is not Unjust_. And so long as we Judge of Nothing but what we see
Clearly, we can’t be mistaken in our Judgments, we may indeed in those
Reasonings and Deductions we draw from them, if we are Ignorant of the
Laws of Argumentation, or Negligent in the Observation of them.

The First and Principal thing therefore to be observed in all the
Operations of the Mind is, That we determine nothing about those things
of which we have not a Clear Idea, and as Distinct as the Nature of
the Subject will permit, for we cannot properly be said to Know any
thing which does not Clearly and Evidently appear to us. Whatever we
see Distinctly we likewise see Clearly, Distinction always including
Clearness, tho this does not necessarily include that, there being many
Objects Clear to the view of the Mind, which yet can’t be said to be

[Sidenote: _Les Princip. de la Philos. de M. Des Cartes._ Pt. I. §. 45.]

That (to use the Words of a Celebrated Author) may be said to be
“Clear which is Present and Manifest to an attentive Mind; so as
we say we see Objects Clearly, when being present to our Eyes they
sufficiently Act on ’em, and our Eyes are dispos’d to regard ’em. And
that Distinct, which is so Clear, Particular, and Different from all
other things, that it contains not any thing in it self which appears
not manifestly to him who considers it as he ought.” Thus we may have
a Clear, but not a Distinct and Perfect Idea of GOD and of our own
Souls; their Existence and some of their Properties and Attributes
may be Certainly and Indubitably Known, but we can’t Know the Nature
of our Souls Distinctly, for Reasons too long to be mentioned here,
and less that of GOD, because he is Infinite. Now where our Knowlege
is Distinct, we may boldly deny of a subject, all that which after a
careful Examination we find not in it: But where our Knowlege is only
Clear, and not Distinct, tho’ we may safely Affirm what we see, yet
we can’t without a hardy Presumption Deny of it what we see not. And
were it not very common to find People both Talking and Writing of
things of which they have no Notion, no Clear Idea; nay and determining
Dogmatically concerning the intire Nature of those of which they cannot
possibly have an Adequate and Distinct one, it might seem impertinent
to desire them to speak no farther than they Apprehend. They will tell
you Peremptorily of Contradictions and Absurdities in such matters as
they themselves must allow they cannot Comprehend, tho others as Sharp
sighted as themselves can see no such thing as they complain of.

As Judgments are form’d by the Comparing of Ideas, so Reasoning
or Discourse arises from the Companion or Combination of several
Judgments. Nature teaches us when we can’t find out what Relation one
Idea bears to another by a Simple view or bare Comparison, to seek for
a Common Measure or third Idea, which Relating to the other two, we may
by Comparing it with each of ’em, discern wherein they agree or differ.
Our Invention discovers it self in proposing readily apt Ideas for this
Middle Term, our Judgment in making Choice of such as are Clearest and
most to our purpose, and the excellency of our Reasoning consists in
our Skill and Dexterity in Applying them.

Invention indeed is the hardest part, when Proofs are found it is not
very difficult to manage them. And to know precisely wherein their
Nature consists, may help us somewhat in our enquiries after ’em. An
Intermediate Idea then which can make out an Agreement between other
Ideas, must be Equivalent to, and yet Distinct from those we compare by
it. Where Ideas agree it will not be hard to find such an Equivalent,
and if after diligent search we cannot meet with any, ’tis a pretty
sure Sign that they do not agree. It is not necessary indeed that our
Middle Idea be Equivalent in all respects, ’tis enough if it be in such
as make the Comparison: And when it is so to one of the Compar’d Ideas
but not to the other, that’s a Proof that they do not agree amongst

All the Commerce and Intercourse of the World is manag’d by
Equivalents, Conversation as well as Traffick. Why do we Trust our
Friends but because their Truth and Honesty appears to us Equivalent
to the Confidence we repose in ’em? Why do we perform Good Offices to
others, but because there’s a proportion between them and the Merit
of the Person, or our own Circumstances? And as the way to know the
Worth of things is to Compare them one with another, so in like manner
we come to the Knowlege of the Truth of ’em by an Equal Ballancing.
But you will say, Tho I may learn the value of a _Spanish_ Coin by
Weighing, or Comparing it with some other Money whose Standard I
know, and so discern what proportion it bears to those Goods I wou’d
exchange; yet what Scales shall I find to weigh Ideas? What Hand so
even as to poize them Justly? Or if that might be done, yet where shall
I meet with an Equivalent Idea when I have occasion to use one?

In answer to this Demand I consider, that as Light is always visible
to us if we have an Organ to receive it, if we turn our Eyes towards
it, and that nothing interpose between it and us; so is Truth, we are
surrounded with it, and GOD has given us Faculties to receive it. If
it be ask’d, Why then do we so seldom find it? The Reason is, because
instead of making right use of our Faculties we employ them in keeping
it out; we either shut our Eyes, or if we vouchsafe to open them,
we are sure to view it thro such unsuitable Mediums as fail not to
misrepresent it to us. As for those few Noble Spirits, who open the
Windows of their Souls to let in Truth, and take the Films of Interest,
Passion and Prejudice from before their Eyes, they will certainly be
Enlighten’d, and cannot miss of obtaining as much Truth as they are
capable of Receiving. For, to go on with the Comparison, as we can See
no farther than our own Horizon, tho the Light shine never so bright
around us; and as we cannot discern every Object even within that
Compass Clearly, nor Any Distinctly but what we particularly apply
our selves to; So neither are our Capacities large enough to take in
_All_ Truth, as has been often said, nor are we capable of attaining
_Any_, without Attention and diligent Examination. But if we carefully
Consider those Ideas we already have and Attend to those Truths we
are acquainted with, we cannot want Mediums to discover more, if our
Enquiries be after that which is within our Reach. He who is the
Fountain of Truth is also a GOD of Order, and has so regularly connex’d
one Truth with another, that the discovery of one is a step towards a
further Progress; so that if we diligently Examine those Truths which,
we Know, they will clear the way to what we search after: For it seldom
happens but that the Question it self directs us to some Idea that will
serve for the Explanation or Proof of it.

There is no Object, no Accident of Life but affords us matter of
Instruction. GOD has so dispos’d all the Works of his Hands, all the
Actings of his Providence, that every one of ’em ministers to our
Improvement, if we will but Observe and Apply them. Indeed this Living
_Ex Tempore_ which most of us are guilty of, our making no Reflections,
our Gay and Volatile Humour which transports us in an Instant from one
thing to another, e’re we have with the Industrious Bee suck’d those
Sweets it wou’d afford us, frequently renders his gracious Bounty
ineffectual. For as the Diligent-hand maketh Rich, whil’st the Slothful
and Prodigal come to nothing, so the Use of our Powers improves and
Encreases them, and the most Observing and Considerate is the Wisest
Person: For she lays up in her Mind as in a Store-house, ready to
produce on all Occasions, a Clear and Simple Idea of every Object that
has at any time presented it self. And perhaps the difference between
one Womans Reason and anothers may consist only in this, that the one
has amass’d a greater number of such Ideas than the other, and dispos’d
them more Orderly in her Understanding, so that they are at hand, ready
to be apply’d to those Complex Ideas whose Agreement or Disagreement
cannot be found out but by the means of some of ’em.

But because Examples are more familiar than Precepts, as condescending
to shew us the very manner of Practising them, I shall endeavour to
make the matter in Hand as plain as I can by subjoining Instances to
the following Rules, which Rules as I have not taken wholly on Trust
from others, so neither do I pretend to be the Inventer of ’em.

We have heard already that a Medium is necessary when we can’t discern
the Relation that is between two or more Ideas by Intuition or a
simple View. Could this alone procure us what we seek after, the
addition of other Ideas wou’d be needless, since to make a shew of Wit
by tedious Arguings and unnecessary Flourishes, does only Perplex and
Incumber the Matter, Intuition being the Simplest, and on that account
the best way of Knowing.

_Rule_ I. And therefore we shou’d in the first place, _Acquaint our
selves throughly with the State of the Question, have a Distinct Notion
of our Subject whatever it be, and of the Terms we make use of, knowing
precisely what it is we drive at_: that so we may in the second.

_Rule_ II. _Cut off all needless Ideas and whatever has not a necessary
Connexion to the matter under Consideration_, which serve only to
fill up the Capacity of the Mind, and to Divide and Distract the
Attention. From the neglect of this comes those causless Digressions,
tedious Parentheses and Impertinent Remarques which we meet with in
some Authors. For, as when our Sight is diffus’d and extended to many
Objects at once we see none of them Distinctly; so when the Mind grasps
at every Idea that presents it self, or rambles after such as relate
not to its Present Business, it loses its hold and retains a very
feeble Apprehension of that which it shou’d Attend. Some have added
another Rule (_viz._) _That we Reason only on those things of which
we have Clear Ideas_; but I take it to be a Consequence of the first,
and therefore do not make it a distinct one: For we can by no means
Understand our Subject, or be well acquainted with the State of the
Question, unless we have a Clear Idea of all its Terms.

_Rule_ III. Our Business being stated, the next Rule is _To conduct our
Thoughts by Order, beginning with the most Simple and Easie Objects,
And ascending as by Degrees to the Knowlege of the more Compos’d_. I
need not tell you, that Order makes every thing, Easie, Strong and
Beautiful, and that the Superstructure is neither like to Last or
Please unless the Foundation be duly laid, for this is obvious to the
most Superficial Reader. Nor are they likely to solve the Difficult,
who have neglected or slightly pass’d over the Easie Questions. Our
Knowledge is gradual, and by passing Regularly thro Plain things, we
arrive in due time at the more Abstruse.

_Rule_ IV. In this Method we are to practise the Fourth Rule which
is, _Not to leave any part of our Subject unexamin’d_, it being as
necessary to Consider All that can let in Light, as to shut out what’s
Foreign to it. We may stop short of Truth as well as over-run it; and
tho we look never so attentively on our proper Object, if we view but
half of it, we may be as much mistaken, as if we extended our Sight
beyond it. Some Objects agree very well when observ’d on one side,
which upon turning the other shew a great disparity. Thus the Right
Angle of a Triangle may be like to one part of a Square, but compare
the Whole, and you’l find ’em very different Figures. And a Moral
Action may in some Circumstance be not only Fit but Necessary, which in
others, where Time, Place, and the like have made an alteration, wou’d
be most Improper; so that if we venture to Act on the former Judgment,
we may easily do amiss, if we wou’d Act as we ought, we must view its
New Face, and see with what Aspect that looks on us.

To this Rule belongs that of _Dividing the Subject of our Meditations
into as many Parts, as we can, and as shall be requisite to Understand
it perfectly_. This is indeed most necessary in difficult Questions,
which will scarce be unravell’d but in this manner by Pieces: Ever
taking care to make Exact Reviews, and to Sum up our Evidence justly
e’re we pass Sentence and fix our Judgment.

_Rule_ V. To which purpose we must _Always keep our Subject Directly
in our Eye, and Closely pursue it thro all our Progress_; there being
no better Sign of a good Understanding than Thinking Closely and
Pertinently, and Reasoning dependently, so as to make the former part
of our Discourse a support to the Latter, and _This_ an Illustration
of _That_, carrying Light and Evidence in ev’ry step we take. The
neglect of this Rule is the Cause why our Discoveries of Truth are
seldom Exact, that so much is often said to so little purpose; and many
Intelligent and Industrious Readers when they have Read over a Book
are very little wiser than when they began it. And that the two last
Rules may be the better observ’d, ’twill be fit very often to look over
our Process so far as we have gone, that so by rendring our Subject
Familiar, we may the sooner arrive to an Exact Knowlege of it.

_Rule_ VI. All which being done we are in a fair way towards keeping
the last Rule, which is, _To judge no further than we Perceive, and
not to take any thing for Truth which we do not evidently Know to be
so_. Indeed in some Cases we are forc’d to content our selves with
Probability, but ’twere well if we did so only where ’tis plainly
Necessary. That is, when the Subject of our Meditation is such as
we cannot possibly have a Certain Knowlege of, because we are not
furnish’d with Proofs which have a Constant and Immutable Connexion
with the Ideas we apply them to, or because we can’t perceive it,
which is our Case in such Exigencies as oblige us to Act presently,
on a cursory view of the Arguments propos’d to us, when we want time
to trace them to the bottom, and to make use of such means as wou’d
discover Truth.

I cannot think we are often driven to such straits in any considerable
Affair, tho I believe that very many Subjects may be propos’d to us,
concerning which we cannot readily pass our Judgment, either because we
never consider’d them before, or because we are wanting in some Means
that lead to the Knowlege, of ’em. In which Case Reason wills that we
suspend our Judgment till we can be better Inform’d; nor wou’d it have
us remit our Search after Certainty, even in those very Cases in which
we may sometimes be forc’d to Act only on Probable Grounds. For Reason
can’t rest satisfy’d with Probabilities where Evidence is possible, our
Passions and Interest may, but _That_ does not incline us to leave
off Enquiring lest we happen to meet somewhat contrary to our Desires.
No, Reason requires us to continue our Enquiries with all the Industry
we can, till they’ve put us in Possession of Truth, and when we have
found, enjoyns us to follow her, how opposite soever she may cause our
Latter Actions to be to our Former. But by this we may learn (and so
we may by every thing that such weak and fallible Creatures as we are,
perform) to think Candidly of those whose Opinions and Actions differ
from our own. Because we do not know the necessity of their Affairs,
nor in what ill Circumstances they are plac’d in respect of Truth.

And now to Apply what has been said; The State of the Question being
Distinctly known, and certain Ideas fixt to the Terms we make use of,
we shall find sometimes that the Difference which was suppos’d to be
between the Things themselves, is only in words, in the divers ways we
make use of to express the same Idea.

For if upon looking into our selves we discern, that these different
Terms have but one and the same Idea, when we have corrected our
Expressions the Controversie is at an End, and we need enquire no
further. Thus, If we are ask’d _Whether GOD is Infinitely Perfect_?
There needs no Intermediate Idea to compare the Idea of GOD with that
of Infinite Perfection, since we may discern them on the very first
view to be one and the same Idea differently express’d, which to go
about to explain or prove were only to cumber with needless words,
and to make what is Clear, Obscure. For we Injure a Cause instead of
Defending it, by attempting an Explanation or Proof of things so Clear,
that as they do not need, so perhaps they are not Capable of any.

But if it be made a Question _Whether there is a GOD, or a Being
Infinitely Perfect_? We are then to Examin the Agreement between
our Idea of GOD and that of Existence. Now this may be discern’d by
Intuition, for upon a View of our Ideas we find that Existence is a
Perfection, and the Foundation of all other Perfections, since that
which has no Being cannot be suppos’d to have any Perfection. And tho
the Idea of Existence is not Adequate to that of Perfection, yet the
Idea of Perfection Includes that of Existence, and if _That_ Idea were
divided into parts, one part of it wou’d exactly agree with _This_. So
that if we will allow that _Any_ Being is Infinite in All Perfections,
we cannot deny that that Being Exists; Existence it self being one
Perfection, and such an one as all the rest are built upon.

If unreasonable Men will farther demand, _Why is it necessary that All
Perfection shou’d be Centred in One Being, is’t not enough that it
be parcel’d out amongst many? And tho it be true that that Being who
has all Perfection must needs Exist, yet where’s the Necessity of an
All-Perfect Being?_ We must then look about for Proofs and Intermediate
Ideas, and the Objection it self will furnish us with one. For those
_Many_ whose Particular Ideas it wou’d have joyn’d together to make a
Compound one of All-Perfection, are no other than Creatures, as will
appear if we consider our Idea of Particular Being and of Creature,
which are so far from having any thing to distinguish ’em, that in all
Points they resemble each other. Now this Idea naturally suggests to us
that of Creation, or a Power of giving Being to that which before the
exerting of that Power had none, which Idea if we use it as a Medium,
will serve to discover to us the necessity of an All-Perfect Being.

For in the first place, what ever has any Perfection or Excellency
(for that’s all we mean by Perfection here) must either have it of it
self, or derive it from some other Being. Now Creatures cannot have
their Perfections from themselves because they have not their Being,
for to suppose that they Made themselves is an Absurdity too ridiculous
to be seriously refuted, ’tis to suppose them to Be and not to Be at
the same time, and that when they were Nothing, they were able to do
the greatest Matter. Nor can they derive either Being or Perfection
from any other Creature. For tho some Particular Beings may seem to
be the Cause of the Perfections of others, as the Watch-maker may be
said to be the Cause of the Regular Motions of the Watch, yet trace it
a little farther, and you’l find this very Cause shall need another,
and so without End, till you come to the Foundation-head, to that
All-Perfect Being, who is the last resort of our Thoughts, and in
whom they Naturally and Necessarily rest and terminate. If to this it
be Objected that we as good as affirm that this All-Perfect Being is
his own Maker, by saying he is Self-Existent, and so we fall into the
same Absurdity which we imputed to that Opinion which supposes that
Creatures were their own Maker. The reply is easie, That we do not say
he Made himself, we only affirm that his Nature is such, that tho we
can’t sufficiently Explain because we can’t comprehend it, yet thus
much we can discern, that if he did not Exist of himself no other Being
could ever have Existed. So that either All must be swallow’d up in an
Infinite Nothing, if Nothing can properly have that Epithet, and we
must suppose, that neither we our selves, nor any of those Creatures
about us ever had, or ever can have a Being, which is too ridiculous to
imagine, or else we must needs have recourse to a Self-Existing Being,
who is the Maker and Lord of all things. And since Self Existence
must of necessity be plac’d somewhere, is it not much more Natural
and Reasonable to place it in Infinite Perfection, than amongst poor,
frail Creatures, whose Origin we may trace, and whose End we see daily

To Sum up all: Since there are Innumerable Beings in the World, which
have each of them their several Excellencies or Perfections; Since
these can no more derive their Perfections than their Being from
themselves or from any other Creature; Since a Self-Existing Being is
the result of our Thoughts; the First and only True Cause, without
whom it is impossible that any thing should ever have Existed; since
Creatures with their Being receive all that depends on it from him
their Maker; Since none can give what he has not, and therefore he who
Communicates an innumerable variety of Perfections to his Creatures,
even all that they enjoy, must needs contain in himself all those
Beauties and Perfections he is pleas’d to Communicate to Inferior
Beings; nothing can be more Plain and Evident than that there is a GOD,
and that the Existence of an All-Perfect Being is Absolutely necessary.

Perhaps these Arguments are not in Form, I do not oblige my Self to
follow servilely the Rules of Art, nor know I what better Judges will
think of ’em, but they seem to me to be Clear, Rational and Concluding,
which is all I aim at. And I hope the Reader will receive from hence
more light into the way of Arguing, than she cou’d have gain’d had I
spent as many Pages in prescribing Rules and giving trifling Examples,
which when they are known, merit only to be forgot again. But if some
are better pleas’d with the usual way of Syllogism, and think an
Argument cannot be rightly managed without one, for their Satisfaction
we will add another Instance.

Suppose the Question were put _Whether a Rich Man is Happy_? By a Rich
Man understanding one who possesses the Wealth and Good things of this
World, and by Happy the Enjoyment of the Proper Good of Man. We compare
the two Terms Riches and Happiness together, to discern if they be so
much one and the same, that what is affirm’d of the one may be laid of
the other; but we find they are not. For if Riches and Happiness were
terms Convertible, then all who are Happy must be Rich, and all who are
Rich must be Happy, to affirm the last of which is to beg the Question,
and the contrary appears by the following Argument, which makes use of
_Satisfaction with ones own Condition_ for the middle Idea or Common

He who is Happy is satisfied with his Condition and free from Anxious
Cares and Solicitude (for these proceeding from the want of Good, he
who enjoys his proper Good cannot be subject to them.) But Riches do
not free us from Anxieties and Solicitude, they many times encrease
them, Therefore to be Rich and to be Happy are not one and the same

Again, If there are some who are Happy and yet not Rich, then Riches
and Happiness are two distinct things. But a Good Poor Man is Happy (in
the Enjoyment of GOD who is better to him than Thousands of Gold and
Silver,) therefore Riches and Happiness are to be distinguish’d.

We may further consider, that if the Enjoyment of Riches can make a Man
Happy according to our Notion of Happiness, they must be his Proper
Good. Now if we compare the Idea of Riches with that which we have of
Man, we shall find in the former nothing but what’s Material, External
and Adventitious, but our Idea of the latter represents to us somewhat
that Thinks, and so is of an Immaterial and more noble Nature, a Nature
altogether different from the former, and much more excellent and
Superior to it; and by Consequence the less Noble cannot be the Good of
the more, nor a Body or an Extended Substance, the Proper Good of the
Mind, a Spiritual or Thinking Substance. So that upon the whole matter
we find, that we cannot affirm a Man is Happy because he is Rich,
neither can we deny it; Riches consider’d absolutely in themselves,
neither make a Man Happy nor hinder him from being so. They Contribute
to his Happiness or they Obstruct it according to the Use he makes of

As for the Common Rules of Disputation they do more frequently Intangle
than Clear a Question, nor is it worth while to know any more of them
than may help to guard us from the Sophistry of those who use them,
and assist us in the managing an Argument fairly, so long as it is
Tenable, and till we are driven from it by the meer dint of Truth. To
be able to hold an Argument Right or Wrong may pass with some perhaps
for the Character of a Good Disputant, which yet I think it is not,
but must by no means be allow’d to be that of a Rational Person; it
belongs to such to detect as soon as may be the Fallacies of an ill
one, and to establish Truth with the Clearest Evidence. For indeed
Truth not Victory is what we shou’d contend for in all Disputes, it
being more Glorious to be Overcome by her than to Triumph under the
Banners of Error. And therefore we pervert our Reason when we make it
the Instrument of an Endless Contention, by seeking after Quirks and
Subtilties, abusing Equivocal Terms, and by practising the rest of
those little Arts every Sophister is full of, which are of no service
in the discovery of Truth, all they can do is to Ward off an Opponents
blow, to make a Noise and raise a Dust, that so we may escape in the
Hurry, our Foil being undiscover’d.

It were endless to reckon up all the Fallacies we put on our selves
and endeavour to obtrude on others. On our selves in the first place,
for however we may be pleas’d in the Contemplation of our own Craft
or to use those softer Names we are apt to give it, our Acuteness and
Ingenuity; who ever attempts to impose on others is first impos’d on
himself, he is cheated by some of those grand Deceivers, the World,
the Flesh, and the Devil, and made to believe that Vain-glory, Secular
Interest, Ambition or perhaps Sensuality or Revenge, or any the like
contemptible Appetites are preferable to Integrity and Truth.

[Sidenote: _Art of Thinking_ Pt. 3. Ch. 19, 20.]

Neither is it necessary to reduce the most usual Sophisms to general
Heads, since that’s already very well perform’d in a Book to which
I’de rather refer you, than be at the trouble of Transcribing, having
nothing to add but this, that if I be not mistaken, all the false
Arguings enumerated there, and what others you may happen to meet
with may be discover’d and avoided by the Rules already given, and do
indeed proceed, so far as they relate to the Understanding, from the
Non-observation of some of ’em.

But it is to little purpose to guard our selves against the Sophisms of
the Head, if we lie open to those of the Heart. One irregular Passion
will put a greater Obstacle between us and Truth, than the brightest
Understanding and clearest Reasonings can easily remove. This every
one of us is apt to discern in others, but we’re blind to it in our
selves. We can readily say that it is Pride or Obstinacy, Interest
or Passion or in a word Self-love that keeps our Neighbour from
Conviction, but all this while imagine our own Hearts are very clear of
’em, tho’ more Impartial Judges are of another Mind.

I wish there were no Reason to think that there are some who attempt to
maintain an Opinion which they know to be false, or at least which they
have cause to suspect, and therefore industriously avoid what wou’d
manifest their Error. ’Tis hop’d however that the greatest part of the
Disputers of the World are not of this number, and that the reason why
they offer their Neighbours Sophistical Arguments, is because they
are not aware of it themselves; That what makes them so Positive is
their firm persuasion that they are acted only by a Zeal for GOD, an
honest Constancy and Stanch Integrity, tho at the very same time quite
different Motives move them under these Appearances.

And indeed he must be an extraordinary good Man, a Wonder scarce
produc’d in an Age, who has no Irregular Passion stirring; Who
receives no Manner of Tincture from Pride and Vitious Self-Love,
to which all are so prone, and which hide themselves under so many
disguises; Who is got above the World its Terrors and Allurements,
has laid up his Treasure in Heaven, and is fully Contented with his
Present Circumstances, let them be what they will, having made them
the boundaries of his Desires; who knows how to live on a Little very
happily and therefore receives no Bias from his own Conveniency, nor is
weigh’d down by the dead Weight of his Appetites and Interests; which
ought to be the Temper of every Person who wou’d find out Truth, and
who desires to make a Right Judgment in all things.

We all pretend to this it’s true, and think our selves Injur’d if
it be not believ’d that we are Disinteress’d and free from Passion,
that no Humour or Private End, nothing but an honest Zeal for Truth
gives warmth to our Discourses; and yet it often happens that e’re we
Conclude them, we give just occasion to have it thought, that how large
soever our Knowlege in other things may be, we are not well acquainted
with our own Hearts. All which consider’d, how confidently soever we’re
perswaded of our own Integrity, tho we think we have penetrated to the
very bottom of our Hearts, it wou’d not be amiss to suspect our selves
sometimes, and to fear a Bias, even at the very instant we take care to
avoid one.

For Truth being but One, and the Rational Faculties not differing
in Kind but in Degree, tho there may be different Measures of
Understanding, there could not be such Contradictions in Mens Opinions
as we find there are, even in those who examin as well as in those
who do not, were they acted only by the Love of Truth, and did not
Self-Love perswade them that they shall find their own particular
account by such an Opposition. I wou’d not be so understood as if I
thought that in all Controversies one side must needs be Criminal,
if not by Wilfully Opposing Truth, yet at least by an indulgence of
such unmortifi’d Passions as estrange them from her. No, without doubt
great allowances are to be made on the score of Education, Capacity,
the Leisure, and Opportunity of Information we have had. But this we
may venture to say, that had we but a Modest Opinion of our selves,
believing it as possible for us as for those who contradict us to be
mistaken, did we behave our selves answerable to such a belief; were
we seriously convinc’d that nothing is so much our Interest as a
readiness to admit of Truth, from what ever Hand it comes, greatest
part of our Disputes wou’d have a better Issue than we generally find.
At least if we cou’d not be to happy as to Convince one another, our
Contests wou’d be manag’d with more Temper and Moderation, wou’d not
conclude in such a breach of Charity, or at best in such a Coldness for
each other, as they usually do.

If we consider wisely we shall find it to be our Present Interest as
well as our Future, to do that in Reality which all of us Pretend to,
that is, to Search after and to Follow Truth. And to do it with all
that Candor and Ingenuity which becomes a true Philosopher as well
as a good Christian, making use of no Arguments but what we really
believe, and giving them up contentedly when we meet with stronger.
Our _Present Interest_, which is that which weighs most with the
generality, and to which we make all other considerations give place;
For what is it we Contend for? They who have such little Souls as to
bait at any thing beneath the highest End, make Reputation their Aim,
and with it that Authority and Wealth which usually attends it. But
now Reputation cannot be acquir’d, at least not a lasting one, by
Fallacious Reasonings; we may perhaps for a while get a Name by them
amongst unwary Persons, but the World grows too quick-sighted to be
long impos’d on. If a Love of Truth do not, yet Envy and Emulation
will set other heads a Work to discover our Ignorance or Fraud, they
are upon the same Design, and will not suffer us to go away with the
Prize undeservedly. And besides, with how ill an Aspect must he needs
appear who does not Reason fairly, and by consequence, how unlike is
he to gain on those who hear him? There are but three Causes to which
false Arguments can be refer’d, Ignorance, Rashness, or Design, and the
being suspected for any one of these hinders us very much in acquiring
that Reputation, Authority or Preferment we desire. I must confess were
we sure the Fallacy wou’d not be detected, and that we shou’d not lie
under Suspicion of it, we might gain our point; for provided the Paint
do not rub off, good Colouring may serve a present turn as well as a
true Complection: But there is little reason to hope for this, because
of what was just now mention’d, and for other Reasons that might be

Now what can be more provoking than the Idea we have of a Designing
Person? of one who thinks his own Intellectuals so strong and ours
so weak, that he can make us swallow any thing, and lead us where
he pleases? such an one seems to have an Intention to reduce us to
the vilest Slavery, the Captivation of our Understandings, which we
justly reckon to be the highest Insolence. And since every one puts in
for a share of Sense, and thinks he has no reason to complain of the
distribution of it, whoever supposes that another has an over-weaning
Opinion of his own, must needs think that he undervalues his Neighbours
Understanding, and will certainly repay him in his own Coin, and deny
him those advantages he seems to arrogate.

The most we can say for our selves when the weakness of our Arguments
comes to be discover’d, is that we were mistaken thro Rashness
or Ignorance, which tho more pardonable than the former, are no
recommending Qualities. If we argue falsly and know not that we
do so, we shall be more pittied than when we do, but either way
disappointed. And if we have added Rash Censures of those who are not
of our Mind, Pride or Positiveness to our Errors as we cannot so
handsomely Retreat so neither will so fair a Quarter be allow’d as
those who Argue with Meekness, Modesty and Charity may well expect.
So that when we have cast up our Account and estimated the Present
Advantages that false Arguings bring us, I fear what we have got by
a Pretence to Truth, won’t be found to countervail the loss we shall
sustain by the Discovery that it was no more. Which may induce us (if
other Considerations will not) to be wary in receiving any Proposition
ourselves; and restrain us from being forward to impose our Sentiments
on others.

After all, ’tis a melancholy reflection that a great part of
Mankind stand in need of Arguments drawn from so low a Motive as
Worldly Interest, to persuade them to that to which they have much
greater inducements. It is strange that we shou’d need any other
considerations besides the bare performance of our Duty, and those
unspeakable advantages laid up for all such as do it sincerely,
hereafter. When we have the Approbation of GOD and the infinite Rewards
he has propos’d to those who study to recommend themselves to him,
for our Encouragement, how low are we sunk if the Applause of Men and
the little Trifles which they can bestow weigh any thing with us! I
am therefore almost asham’d of proposing so mean a consideration, but
the degeneracy of the Age requir’d it, and they who perhaps at first
follow Truth as the Jews did once, for the Loaves only, may at last be
attracted by its own Native Beauties.

[Sidenote: L’art de Penser, p. 22.]

§. V. As Nature teaches us Logic, so does it instruct us in Rhetoric
much better than Rules of Art, which if they are good ones are nothing
else but those Judicious Observations which Men of Sense have drawn
from Nature, and which all who reflect on the Operations of their own
Minds will find out ’emselves. The common Precepts of Rhetoric may
teach us how to reduce Ingenious ways of speaking to a certain Rule,
but they do not teach us how to Invent them, this is Natures work and
she does it best; there is as much difference between Natural and
Artificial Eloquence as there is between Paint and True Beauty. So that
as a good Author well observes, all that’s useful in this Art, “is the
avoiding certain evil ways of Writing and Speaking, and above all an
Artificial and Rhetorical Stile compos’d of false Thoughts, Hyperboles
and forc’d Figures which is the greatest fault in Rhetoric.”

I shall not therefore recommend under the name of Rhetoric an Art
of speaking floridly on all Subjects, and of dressing up Error and
Impertinence in a quaint and taking garb; any more than I did that
Wrangling which goes by the name of Logic, and which teaches to dispute
_for_ and _against_ all Propositions indefinitely whether they are
True or False. It is an abuse both of Reason and Address to press’em
into the Service of a Trifle or an Untruth; and a mistake to think
that any Argument can be rightly made, or any Discourse truly Eloquent
that does not illustrate and inforce Truth. For the design of Rhetoric
is to remove those Prejudices that lie in the way of Truth, to Reduce
the Passions to the Government of Reason; to place our Subject in a
Right Light, and excite our Hearers to a due consideration of it.
And I know not what exactness of Method, pure and proper Language,
Figures, insinuating ways of Address and the like signify, any farther
than as they contribute to the Service of Truth by rendring our
Discourse Intelligible, Agreeable and Convincing. They are indeed very
serviceable to it when they are duly managed, for Good Sense loses much
of its efficacy by being ill express’d, and an ill stile is nothing
else but the neglect of some of these, or over doing others of ’em.

Obscurity, one of the greatest faults in Writing, does commonly
proceed from a want of Meditation, for when we pretend to teach others
what we do not understand our selves, no wonder that we do it at a
sorry rate. ’Tis true, Obscurity is sometimes design’d, to conceal an
erroneous opinion which an Author dares not openly own, or which if it
be discover’d he has a mind to evade. And sometimes even an honest and
good Writer who studies to avoid may insensibly fall into it, by reason
that his Ideas being become familiar to himself by frequent Meditation,
a long train of ’em are readily excited in his mind, by a word or two
which he’s us’d to annex to them; but it is not so with his Readers who
are perhaps strangers to his Meditations, and yet ought to have the
very same Idea rais’d in theirs that was in the Authors mind, or else
they cannot understand him. If therefore we desire to be intelligible
to every body, our Expressions must be more plain and explicit than
they needed to be if we writ only for our selves, or for those to whom
frequent Discourse has made our Ideas familiar.

Not that it is necessary to express at length all the Process our Mind
goes thro in resolving a Question, this wou’d spin out our Discourse
to an unprofitable tediousness, the Operations of the Mind being much
more speedy than those of the Tongue or Pen. But we shou’d fold up our
Thoughts so closely and neatly, expressing them in such significant
tho few words, as that the Readers Mind may easily open and enlarge
them. And if this can be done with facility we are Perspicuous as well
as Strong, if with difficulty or not at all, we’re then perplext and
Obscure Writers.

Scarce any thing conduces more to Clearness, the great Beauty of
writing, than Exactness of Method; nor perhaps to Persuasion, for by
putting every thing in its proper place with due Order and Connexion,
the Readers Mind is gently led where the Writer wou’d have it. Such a
Stile is Easy without Softness, Copious as that signifies the omission
of nothing necessary, yet not Wordy and Tedious; nor stuft with
Nauseous Repetitions, which they who do not Think before they Write and
dispose their Matter duly, can scarce avoid. The Method of Thinking has
been already shewn, and the same is to be observ’d in Writing, which if
it be what it ought; is nothing else but the communicating to others
the result of our frequent and deep Meditations, in such a manner as
we judge most effectual to convince them of those Truths which we
believe. Always remembring that the most natural Order is ever best;
that we must first prepare their minds by removing those Prejudices and
Passions which are in our way, and then propose our Reasons with all
the Clearness and Force, with all the Tenderness and Good-Nature we can.

[Sidenote: _Lock_ of Hum. Und. B. 3. Ch. 7.]

And since the Clearness and Connexion as well as the Emphasis and
Beauty of a Discourse depends in a great measure on a right use of the
Particles, whoever wou’d Write well ought to inform themselves nicely
in their Proprieties. an _And_, a _The_, a _But_, a _For_, &c. do very
much perplex the Sense when they are misplac’d, and make the Reader
take it many times quite otherwise than the Writer meant it. But this
is not a place to say all that this Subject deserves; they who wou’d
have much in a little, may consult an Ingenious Author who has touch’d
upon’t, and from thence take hints to observe how these little words
are applied in good Authors, and how themselves may best use them to
express the several Postures of their own Minds.

In a word, I know not a more compendious way to good Speaking and
Writing, than to chuse out the most excellent in either as a Model
on which to form our selves. Or rather to imitate the Perfections of
all, and avoid their mistakes; for few are so perfect as to be without
fault, and few so bad as to have nothing good in them. A true Judgment
distinguishes, and neither rejects the Good for the sake of the Bad,
nor admits the Bad because of the Good that is mingled with it. No sort
of Style but has its excellency and is liable to defect: If care be
not taken the Sublime which subdues us with Nobleness of Thought and
Grandeur of Expression, will fly out of sight and by being Empty and
Bombast become contemptible. The Plain and Simple will grow Dull and
Abject; the Severe dry and Rugged, the Florid vain and impertinent. The
Strong instead of rousing the Mind will distract and intangle it by
being Obscure; even the Easy and Perspicuous if it be too diffuse, or
ever delicate tires us instead of pleasing. Good Sense is the principal
thing without which all our polishing is of little Worth, and yet if
Ornament be wholly neglected very few will regard us. Studied and
artificial periods are not natural enough to please, they shew too much
solicitude about what does not deserve it, and a loose and careless
Style declares too much contempt of the Public. Neither Reason nor Wit
entertain us if they are driven beyond a certain pitch, and Pleasure it
self is offensive if it be not judiciously dispenc’d.

Every Author almost has some beauty or blemish remarkable in his Style
from whence it takes its name; and every Reader has a peculiar tast
of Books as well as Meats. One wou’d have the Subject exhausted,
another is not pleas’d if somewhat be not left to enlarge on in his
own Meditations. This affects a Grave that a Florid Style; One is for
Easiness, a second for Plainness, a third for Strength, and a fourth
for Politeness. And perhaps the great secret of Writing is the mixing
all these in so just a proportion that every one may tast what he likes
without being disgusted by its contrary. And may find at once that by
the Solidity of the Reason, the purity and propriety of Expression, and
insinuating agreeableness of Address, his Understanding is Enlightned,
his Affections subdued and his Will duly regulated.

This is indeed the true End of Writing, and it wou’d not be hard for
every one to judge how well they had answer’d it, wou’d they but lay
aside Self-Love, so much of it at least, as makes them partial to their
own Productions. Did we consider our own with the same Severity, or
but Indifferency that we do anothers Writing, we might pass a due
Censure on it, might discern what Thought was Crude or ill exprest,
what Reasoning weak, what passage superfluous, where we were flat and
dull, where extravagant and vain, and by Criticizing on our selves do
a greater kindness to the World than we can in making our Remarques on
others. Nor shou’d we be at a loss, if we were Impartial, in finding
out Methods to Inform, Persuade and Please; for Human Nature is for the
most part much alike in all, and that which has a good effect on us,
will generally speaking have the same on others. So that to guess what
success we are like to have, we need only suppose our selves in the
place of those we Address to, and consider how such a Discourse wou’d
operate on us, if we had their Infirmities and Thoughts about us.

And if we do so I believe we shall find, there’s nothing more improper
than Pride and Positiveness, nor any thing more prevalent than an
innocent compliance with their weakness: Such as pretends not to
dictate to their Ignorance, but only to explain and illustrate what
they did or might have known before if they had consider’d it, and
supposes that their Minds being employ’d about some other things was
the reason why they did not discern it as well as we. For Human Nature
is not willing to own its Ignorance; Truth is so very attractive,
there’s such a natural agreement between our Minds and it, that we care
not to be thought so dull as not to be able to find out by our selves
such obvious matters. We shou’d therefore be careful that nothing pass
from us which upbraids our Neighbours Ignorance, but study to remove’t
without appearing to take notice of it, and permit’em to fancy if they
please, that we believe them as Wise and Good as we endeavour to make
them. By this we gain their Affections which is the hardest part of our
Work, excite their Industry and infuse a new Life into all Generous
Tempers, who conclude there’s great hopes they may with a little pains
attain what others think they Know already, and are asham’d to fall
short of the good Opinion we have entertain’d of ’em.

And since many wou’d yield to the Clear Light of Truth were’t not
for the shame of being overcome, we shou’d Convince but not Triumph,
and rather Conceal our Conquest than Publish it. We doubly oblige
our Neighbours when we reduce them into the Right Way, and keep it
from being taken notice of that they were once in the Wrong, which is
certainly a much greater satisfaction than that blaze of Glory which is
quickly out, that noise of Applause which will soon be over. For the
gaining of our Neighbour, at least the having honestly endeavour’d
it, and the leading our own Vanity in Triumph are Real Goods and such
as we shall always have the Comfort of. It is to be wish’d that such
Propositions as are not attended with the Clearest Evidence were
deliver’d only by way of Enquiry, since even the brightest Truth
when Dogmatically dictated is apt to offend our Readers, and make
them imagine their Liberty’s impos’d on, so far is Positiveness from
bringing any body over to our Sentiments. And besides, we’re all of us
liable to mistake, and few have Humility enough to confess themselves
Deceiv’d in what they have confidently asserted, but think they’re
obliged in Honour to maintain an Opinion they’ve once been Zealous
for, how desirous soever they may be to get rid on’t, cou’d they do it
handsomely. Now a Modest way of delivering our Sentiments assists us in
this, and leaves us at liberty to take either side of the Question as
Reason and Riper Consideration shall determine.

In short, as Thinking conformably to the Nature of Things is True
Knowledge, so th’ expressing our Thoughts in such a way, as most
readily, and with the greatest Clearness and Life, excites in others
the very same Idea that was in us, is the best Eloquence. For if our
Idea be conformable to the Nature of the thing it represents, and
its Relations duly stated, this is the most effectual way both to
Inform and Perswade, since Truth being always amiable, cannot fail
of attracting when she’s plac’d in a Right Light, and those to whom
we offer her, are made Able and Willing to discern her Beauties.
If therefore we throughly understand our Subject and are Zealously
affected with it, we shall neither want suitable words to explain, nor
perswasive Methods to recommend it.

And since Piety and Vertue shou’d in spite of the mistaken Customs
of the Age be the principal Theme of a Christians Conversation; that
which those who bear that Sacred Name ought always to regard some way
or other, even when it might be unseasonable to speak of it directly,
the way to be good Orators is to be good Christians, the Practice of
Religion will both instruct us in the Theory, and most powerfully
inforce what we say of it. Did we truly relish the Delights of GOD’s
Service, we cou’d neither refrain from talking of the Pleasure, nor be
so ill-natur’d as not to strive to Communicate it; and were we duly
warm’d with a Zeal for his Glory and concern for our Neighbours Soul,
no Figures of Rhetoric, no Art of Perswasion wou’d be wanting to us. We
shou’d diligently watch for Opportunities, and carefully improve them,
accommodating our Discourse to the Understanding and Genius of all we
cou’d hope to do good to.

Besides, by being True Christians we have Really that Love for others
which all who desire to perswade must pretend to; we’ve that _Probity_
and _Prudence_, that _Civility_ and _Modesty_ which the Masters of this
Art say a good Orator must be endow’d with; and have pluck’d up those
Vicious Inclinations from whence the most distastful faults of Writing
proceed. For why do we chuse to be Obscure but because we intend to
Deceive, or wou’d be thought to see much farther than our Neighbours?
One sort of Vanity prompts us to be Rugged and Severe, and so possess’d
with the imagin’d Worth and Solidity of our Discourse, that we think
it beneath us to Polish it: Another disposes us to Elaborate and
Affected ways of Writing, to Pompous and improper Ornaments; and why
are we tediously Copious but that we fancy every Thought of ours is
extraordinary? Contradiction is indeed for our advantage as tending to
make us wiser, yet our Pride makes us impatient under it, because it
seems to Lessen that Esteem and Deference we desire shou’d be paid us.
Whence come those sharp Reflections, those imagin’d strains of Wit,
not to be endur’d amongst Christians, and which serve not to Convince
but to Provoke, whence come they but from Ill-nature or Revenge, from
a Contempt of others and a desire to set forth our own Wit? Did we
write less for our selves we should sooner gain our Readers, who are
many times disgusted at a well writ Discourse if it carries a tang
of Ostentation: And were our Temper as Christian as it ought to be,
our Zeal wou’d be spent on the most Weighty things, not on little
differences of Opinions.

I have made no distinction in what has been said between Speaking and
Writing, because tho they are talents which do not always meet, yet
there is no material difference between ’em. They Write best perhaps
who do’t with the gentile and easy air of Conversation; and they Talk
best who mingle Solidity of Thought with th’ agreableness of a ready
Wit. As for _Pronunciation_, tho it takes more with some Auditors
many times than Good Sense, there needs little be said of it here,
since Women have no business with the Pulpit, the Bar or St. _Stephens
Chappel_: And Nature does for the most part furnish ’em with such a
Musical Tone, Perswasive Air and winning Address as renders their
Discourse sufficiently agreeable in Private Conversation. And as to
spelling which they’re said to be defective in, if they don’t believe
as they’re usually told, that it’s fit for ’em to be so, and that to
write exactly is too Pedantic, they may soon correct that fault, by
Pronouncing their words aright and Spelling ’em accordingly. I know
this Rule won’t always hold because of an Imperfection in our Language
which has been oft complain’d of but is not yet amended; But in this
case a little Observation or recourse to Books will assist us; and if
at any time we happen to mistake by Spelling as we Pronounce, the fault
will be very Venial, and Custom rather to blame than we.

I’ve said nothing of _Grammar_ tho we can’t Write properly if we
transgress its Rules, supposing that Custom and the reading of English
Books are sufficient to teach us the Grammar of our own Tongue, If
we do but in any measure attend to them. And tho Women are generally
accus’d of Writing false English, if I may speak my own Experience,
their Mistakes are not so common as is pretended, nor are they the only
Persons guilty. What they most commonly fail in is the Particles and
Connexion, and that generally thro a Briskness of temper which make
them forget, or Hast which will not suffer ’em to read over again what
went before. And indeed, those who Speak true Grammar unless they ’re
very Careless cannot write false, since they need only peruse what
they’ve Writ, and consider whether they wou’d express ’emselves thus in

[Sidenote: Art of speaking.]

But for this and for _Figures_, &c. and indeed for all that relates
to this Subject, I must refer you to an Ingenious Treatise which
handles it fully, and to which I’me oblig’d in great measure for what
little skill I have. Observing only, that whatever it is we Treat of,
our Stile shou’d be such as may keep our Readers Attent, and induce
them to go to the End. Now Attention is usually fixt by Admiration,
which is excited by somewhat uncommon either in the Thought or way
of Expression. We fall a sleep over an Author who tells us in an
ordinary manner no more than we knew before: He who wou’d Take must
be Sublime in his Sense, and must cloath it after a Noble way. His
Thoughts must not be superficial, such as every one may fall into at
the first glance, but the very Spirits and Essence of Thinking, the sum
of many hours Meditation folded up in one handsome and comprehensive
Period, whose Language is Intelligible and Easy that the Readers
may not lose the pleasure of the Kernel, by the pain they find in
cracking the Shell. The most difficult Subject must be made easy by
his way of handling it; tho his Matter may deserve a Meditation, yet
his Expressions must be so Clear that he needs not be read twice to
be Understood; _these_ are to be Natural and Familiar, condiscending
to the meanest Capacity, whilst his Thoughts are Great enough to
entertain the highest. He Discourses always on a Useful Subject in a
manner agreeable to it, and pleases that he may Instruct; Nothing seems
Studied in his whole Composition, yet every thing is Extraordinary, a
Beautiful Harmony shining thro all its parts. No Sentence is Doubtful,
no word Equivocal, his Arguments are Clear and his Images Lively; all
the Ideas he excites in your Mind, as nearly resemble the thing they
represent as Words can make them. Whilst th’ exactness of his Method,
and Force of his Reason Enlighten and Convince the Mind; the Vivacity
of his Imagination and insinuating Address, gain the Affections and
Conquer the Will. By the weight and closeness of the former you wou’d
take him for an Angel, and the tender and affable sweetness of the
last bespeaks him a Friend. He considers that as mere Florish and
Rhetorick are good for nothing, so neither will bare Reason dull and
heavily express’d perform any great matter, at least not on those who
need it most, whose Palates being deprav’d their Medicines must be
administred in a pleasing Vehicle. Since Mankind are averse to their
Real Happiness, he does not only tell ’em their Duty but Interesses
them in it; and thinking it not enough to run ’em down with the
strength of Reason, he draws ’em over to a Voluntary Submission by
th’ attractives of his Eloquence. For he has a peculiar Turn and Air
which animates every Period, so that the very same Truth which was
dry and Unaffecting in a vulgar Authors words, Charms and Subdues you
when cloath’d in his. He shews no more warmth than may convince his
Readers that he’s heartily persuaded of the Truths he offers them; and
if it is necessary at any time to make use of Figures to give a more
Lively Representation than plain Expressions cou’d, to discribe his
own Passions and excite the same in others upon a just occasion, in
a word to awaken a Stupid and Clear the Mind of a Prejudic’d Reader,
his Figures are duly chosen and discreetly us’d. For he knows that
scarce any thing speaks a greater want of Judgment than the shewing
concern where there needs none, or is a worse fault in Oratory than
the polishing a Wrong or a Trifling Thought, the neatness of whose
dress may strike with Admiration perhaps at first sight, but upon a
review it will certainly appear Contemptible. And therefore as he does
not abound in Superfluous Ornaments, so neither does he reject any
thing that can promote his End, which is not his own Reputation, but
the Glory of his GOD and his Neighbours Edification. He considers the
narrowness of the Humane Mind, and says all that is necessary but no
more; Understands it so well as to know what will move and Please,
and has so much command of himself as to give over when he has done
enough. Yet he can exhaust the most fruitful Subject without making
the Reader weary; for when he enlarges it is in Things not Words, and
he mingles Variety without Confusion. All the divers excellencies of
different Stiles meet in his to make up a perfect one, Strength and
Ease, Solidity and Liveliness, the Sublime and the Plain. He’s neither
so Lofty as to fly out of Sight, nor so humble as to become Creeping
and Contemptible. His Strength does not make him Rugged and Perplext
nor his Smoothness Weak and Nice; tho every thing is Neat, there’s not
a grain of Affectation; he is gratefull to the Ear, but far remov’d
from jingling Cadence. Brief when there is occasion without Dryness
or Obscurity, and Florid enough to entertain th’ Imagination without
Distracting the Mind. There’s not an Antiquated or Barbarous Word to be
found in him, all is Decent, Just and Natural; no peculiar or Affected
Phrases, whether Courtly or Clownish, Grave or Burlesque. For Plain and
Significant Language is ever best, we have a mistaken Idea of Learning
if we think to pretend to’t by sending our Reader every minute to the
Dictionary. Words out of the common way are only allowable when they
express our Sense with greater Force than Ordinary ones cou’d, or when
they are so significant as to ease us of Circumlocutions, a hard word
which I cou’d not avoid without using half a dozen words.

After all, it may not be amiss to take notice that Ornaments are common
to Falshood and Truth, but Clearness and strength of Reasoning are not.
They who wou’d propagate Error usually disguise it in Equivocal Terms
and Obscure Phrases; they strive to engage our Passions, rather than
to Convince our Reason, and carry us away in the torrent of a warm
Imagination. They endeavour to refute, or if they can’t do that, to
Ridicule the contrary opinion, and think this Sufficient to establish
their own. Being much better skill’d in pulling down former Systems
than in building new ones, for it requires no great skill to Object,
and there are many Truths which we’re very Certain of, and yet not able
to answer every Impertinent Enquiry concerning ’em. Their greatest Art
is in confounding things, in giving a probable Air to what they write,
in pretending to Demonstration where the nature of the Truth does not
require’t, and in evading it where it does. An Immoral or Heretical
Discourse therefore may be _Cunningly_ but not _well_ writ, for we can
never plead for Error and Vice with true Eloquence. We may trick’em
up in a handsom Garb, adorn’em with quaint Expressions, and give them
such a plausible turn as may enable them to do very much Mischief; but
this is only a fulsom Carcass, the substance and Life are not there if
Vertue and Truth are wanting.

§. VI. For it is to little purpose to Think well and speak well, unless
we _Live well_, this is our Great Affair and truest Excellency, the
other are no further to be regarded than as they may assist us in this.
She who does not draw this Inference from her Studies has Thought in
vain, her notions are Erroneous and Mistaken. And all her Eloquence is
but an empty noise, who employs it in any other design than in gaining
Proselytes to Heaven. I am therefore far from designing to put Women on
a vain pursuit after unnecessary and useless Learning, nor wou’d by any
means persuade them to endeavour after Knowledge cou’d I be convinc’d
that it is improper for ’em. Because I know very well that tho a thing
be never so excellent in it self, it has but an ill grace if it be not
suitable to the Person and Condition it is apply’d to. Fine Cloaths
and Equipage do not become a Beggar, and a Mechanic who must work
for daily bread for his Family, wou’d be wickedly Employ’d shou’d he
suffer ’em to starve whilest he’s solving Mathematical Problems. If
therefore Women have another Duty incumbent on ’em, and such as is
inconsistent with what we here advise, we do ill to take them from it:
But to affirm this is to beg the Question, and is what I will never
grant till it be better prov’d than as yet it appears to be. For if the
Grand Business that Women as well as Men have to do in this World be to
prepare for the next, ought not all their Care and Industry to Centre
here? and since the matter is of Infinite Consequence is it equitable
to deny ’em the use of any help? If therefore Knowledge were but any
ways Instrumental, tho at the remotest distance, to the Salvation of
our Souls, it were fit to apply our selves to it; and how much more
when it is so necessary, that without it we can’t do any thing that’s
Excellent, or Practise Vertue in the most Perfect manner. For unless we
Understand our Duty and the Principles of Religion, we don’t perform
a Rational Service, it is but by Chance that we are Good or so much as
Christians. We are their Property into whose hands we fall, and are led
by those who with greatest Confidence impose their Opinions on us; Are
as moveable as the different Circumstances that befall us; or if we
happen to be Constant in our first way, it is not Reason but Obstinacy
that makes us so. A great deal of Good will be omitted, and very much
Evil, or Imperfection at least, stick to us, if we are not throughly
acquainted with the Law of God and the secret springs and windings of
our Hearts, which is scarce to be obtain’d without much Meditation and
the helps that study affords.

And as when a rash young Traveller is about to run into dangerous
places beset with Thieves and full of Precipices, if you have any
hearty concern for his safety, you’l not think it enough barely to
shew him his way, or even to tell him of the Danger, especially if
the entrance seems fair and inviting and treacherous Companions are
upon the watch to decoy him into it: But you’l expose it in all its
frightful Circumstances, endeavour to quicken his vigilance and excite
his Passions, and all little enough for his Security. So it cannot be
thought sufficient that Women shou’d but just know whats Commanded and
what Forbid, without being inform’d of the Reasons why, since this is
not like to secure them in their Duty. For we find a Natural Liberty
within us which checks at an Injunction that has nothing but Authority
to back it; And tho Religion is indeed supported by the Strongest
Reasons, and inforc’d by the most powerful Motives, yet if we are not
acquainted with ’em, ’tis all one to us as if it were not. But having
spoke of this in the first part we shall not farther enlarge on it here.

Perhaps it will be objected that we’ve said _the great Truths of
Religion carry a force and Evidence suited to the very Vulgar, and that
GOD has not design’d All for Philosophers_. And therefore if the way
to the most necessary Knowlege be so very plain, and all Capacities
are not fitted for higher attainments, what needs this ado about th’
Improvement of our minds? the only thing necessary is to be good
Christians, and we may be that without being Philosophers. Suppose we
may: This will Justify such as want Time and Capacity, but can never
excuse the Sloth and Stupidity of those who have both.

For unless we have very strange Notions of the Divine Wisdom we must
needs allow that every one is placed in such a Station as they are
fitted for. And if the necessity of the world requires that some
Persons shou’d Labour for others, it likewise requires that others
shou’d Think for them. Our Powers and Faculties were not given us for
nothing, and the only advantage one Woman has above another, is the
being allotted to the more noble employment. No body is plac’d without
their own fault, in such unhappy Circumstances as to be incapable of
Salvation, but some are plac’d in such happy ones as to be capable of
attaining much greater degrees of Happiness than others if they do not
neglect them: And shou’d these last do no more than the very utmost
that is expected from the former, I know not how they wou’d acquit
themselves, or what account they cou’d give of their great Advantages.
And therefore tho no body shall be condemn’d because they _Cou’d_ not,
yet we have reason to fear if our Case be such as that we _Might_ but
_Wou’d_ not receive Instruction. She then who makes this Objection must
not take it amiss if we Judge of her in other Cases according to what
she Pleads in this: She must never set up for a Wit, or a censurer
of her Neighbours, must not pretend to be a fine Lady or any thing
extraordinary: but be content to herd amongst the Drudges of the World
who eat Their Bread in the Sweat of their Brows, if she says she wants
Leisure; or in a less acceptable rank amongst the Fools and Ideots,
or but one degree above them, if she says she wants Capacity for this
Employment. It is one thing to be content with Ignorance, or rather
with a less degree of Knowledge, on account of the Station that GOD
has plac’d us in, and Another to Chuse and Delight in’t thro a Stupid
Carelesness, a fear of Trouble, or an Inordinate pursuit of the Cares
and Pleasures of this Mortal Life. This last only shews our Disesteem
of our Souls, our Contempt of GOD and the Talents he has given us,
and exposes us to all the dreadful consequences of such a neglect; to
Punishments to which not only those who misemploy their Lord’s Talent,
but even they who don’t employ it at all, are Obnoxious.

And indeed as unnecessary as it is thought for Women to have Knowledge,
she who is truly good finds very great use of it, not only in the
Conduct of her own Soul but in the management of her Family, in the
Conversation of her Neighbours and in all the Concerns of Life.
Education of Children is a most necessary Employment, perhaps the chief
of those who have any; But it is as Difficult as it is Excellent when
well perform’d; and I question not but that the mistakes which are made
in it, are a principal Cause of that Folly and Vice, which is so much
complain’d of and so little mended. Now this, at least the foundation
of it, on which in a great measure the success of all depends, shou’d
be laid by the Mother, for Fathers find other Business, they will not
be confin’d to such a laborious work, they have not such opportunities
of observing a Childs Temper, nor are the greatest part of ’em like
to do much good, since Precepts contradicted by Example seldom prove
effectual. Neither are Strangers so proper for it, because hardly any
thing besides Paternal Affection can sufficiently quicken the Care
of performing, and sweeten the labour of such a task. But Tenderness
alone will never discharge it well, she who wou’d do it to purpose must
throughly understand Human nature, know how to manage different Tempers
Prudently, be Mistress of her own, and able to bear with all the little
humours and follies of Youth, neither Severity nor Lenity are to be
always us’d, it wou’d ruin some to be treated in that manner which is
fit for others. As Mildness makes some ungovernable, and as there is a
stupor in many from which nothing but Terrors can rouse them, so sharp
Reproofs and Solemn Lectures serve to no purpose but to harden others,
in faults from which they might be won by an agreeable Address and
tender application. GOD himself waits to be gracious and administers
his Medicines in the most proper season, and Parents shou’d imitate
him in this, for the want of observing it, and of accommodating their
Methods to the several Dispositions they have to deal with, is perhaps
the reason that many Pious Persons lose the fruit of their Pains and

Nor will Knowledge lie dead upon their hands who have no Children to
Instruct; the whole World is a single Ladys Family, her opportunities
of doing good are not lessen’d but encreas’d by her being unconfin’d.
Particular Obligations do not contract her Mind, but her Beneficence
moves in the largest Sphere. And perhaps the Glory of Reforming this
Prophane and Profligate Age is reserv’d for you Ladies, and that the
natural and unprejudic’d Sentiments of your Minds being handsomly
express’d, may carry a more strong conviction than the Elaborate
Arguments of the Learned. Such as fence themselves against the Cannon
they bring down, may lie open to an Ambuscade from you. And whilst the
strong arguings of the Schools like the Wind in the Fable, seems but to
harden these Sturdy Sinners, your Persuasions like the Suns mild and
powerful rays, may oblige them to cast off that Cloak of Maliciousness
in which they are so much intangled. And surely it is worth your while
to fit your selves for this: ’Tis a Godlike thing to relieve even
the Temporal wants of our Fellow Creatures, to keep a _Body_ from
perishing, but it is much more Divine, to _Save a Soul from Death_! A
Soul which in his estimate who best knows the value of it, is worth
more than all the World. They who are thus _wise shall shine as the
brightness of the Firmament, and they who turn many to Righteousness
as the Stars for ever_; which is a Glory we may honestly Contend for,
a Beauty we may lawfully Covet; O that we had but Ambition enough to
aspire after it! O that we had but so much at least as we see daily
thrown away on a poor transitory Earthly Diadem, which sets uneasy on
his head who wears it, and which a longer arm may wrest from his Brows!
But alas it was in our fore-fathers days that the Kingdom of Heav’n
was took by violence; they thought nothing, and we think every thing
too much to Do or Suffer to obtain it! Not but that it is still as
bright and glorious, as truly attractive, but we are dull and stupid we
shut our eyes and won’t behold its Charms. Were we but duly sensible
of this we shou’d think no Posterity so desireable as the Offspring
of our Minds, nor any state so great as the carrying a large Train of
Followers with us to the Court of Heaven! So much Knowledge therefore
as is necessary to engage and keep us firm in our Christian Course, to
fit us to help others in theirs, to stir us up to pursue, and direct us
in our endeavours after one of the brightest Crowns of Glory, does very
well become us; and more than this I do not contend for, being far from
desiring that any one shou’d neglect her Necessary Affairs to amuse her
self with nice Speculations. No; She who has a Family is discharging
part of her Christian Calling whilst She’s taking care for its Support
and Government, and wou’d be very much out, if she lock’d her self in
her Study, when her Domesticks had need of her direction. But there
are few of those to whom I write, who have not a good deal of time to
spare, if you reckon whats thrown away on fantastic Impertinencies,
and ’tis this I wou’d have better employ’d: Were not a Morning more
advantageously spent at a Book than at a Looking-Glass, and an
Evening in Meditation than in Gaming? Were not Pertinent and Ingenious
Discourse more becoming in a visit, than Idle twattle and uncharitable
Remarks? than a Nauseous repetition of a set of fine words which no
body believes or cares for? And is not the fitting our selves to do
Real Services to our Neighbours, a better expression of our Civility
than the formal performance of a thousand ridiculous Ceremonies, which
every one condemns and yet none has the Courage to break thro?


    _Concerning the Regulation of the Will and the Government of the

As the Capacity which we find in our selves of Receiving and Comparing
Ideas is what we call the Understanding, so the Power of Preferring
any Thought or Motion, of Directing them to This or That thing rather
than to another is what we mean by the Will: Whose Regularity consists
in a constant Tendency towards such things as ought to be Prefer’d, or
in a word, in Conformity to the Will of GOD. That GOD’s Will is the
Rule of ours is methinks so plain that it needs no proof; for why do
we Prefer a thing but because we Judge it Best? and why do we Chuse it
but because it Seems Good for us? Now GOD being Infinitely Wise all his
Judgments must be Infallible, and being Infinitely Good he can Will
nothing but what is best, nor prescribe any thing that is not for our
Advantage. This is I dare say what every one Thinks if they think at
all about the matter and is the Rule they wou’d Act by did they give
themselves leave upon all occasions duly to Consider and Weigh what is
propos’d to them.

But as there are some Ideas which our Understandings receive so early
that they seem to be born with us, which are never totally absent from
our minds, and are in a manner the source of all the rest; so there
are certain Motions or Inclinations inseparable from the Will, which
push us on to the use of that Power, and determine it to the Choice
of such things as are most agreeable to them. Nor shou’d we do amiss
in following these Inclinations did they keep that Impression which
the Author of Nature gave them, which is towards Good in general, or
towards himself, for he only is our True Good, and these are the Wings
of the Soul which shou’d carry it on vigorously towards him.

Whether there is not in us an Inclination to do what is _Fit_, that is
to think and Act agreeably to a Rational Nature, without considering
our own particular advantage I shall not here dispute. For whether
this be so or no, ’tis certain that in our present Circumstances, we
cannot separate _Fit_ and _Good_ in Reality, tho we may have distinct
Ideas of them. What is really proper for Rational Creatures to do,
tending necessarily to their Happiness, and nothing being able to make
them truly Happy but that which is fit to be done. Besides, so pure an
Inclination being wholly abstracted from Self-Love and Prejudice is not
subject to any Irregularity, and so needs not be spoken of here; and
perhaps so few are acquainted with it, that it will hardly be known
what we mean by it.

An Inclination therefore after Happiness is that to which we shall at
present reduce all the rest; which Happiness we pursue by removing
as far as we can from that which is uneasie to us, and by uniting
our selves as much as we are able to some Good which we suppose we
want. The former of these being indeed a pursuit of Good, tho not
so Directly as the latter. Good then is the Object of the Will, and
hitherto one wou’d think there were no probability of our straying from
the Will of GOD, and that there were so little need of advising us
to Will as GOD Wills that it is impossible we shou’d Will otherwise;
because whenever we oppose our Wills to his, we change in a manner the
very Constitution of our Nature and fly from that Happiness which we
wou’d pursue.

But the misfortune is as has been once observ’d already, that we
Will e’re we are capable of examining the Reasons of our Choice, or
of viewing our Ideas so exactly as we must if we wou’d Judge aright.
And the frequent repetition of such unreasonable Choices makes them
Customary to us, and consequently gives a new and wrong bias to our
Inclinations, which upon all occasions dispose the Will to the Choice
of such things as we suppose, tho by mistake, to contribute to our
Happiness. Add to this, that the Passions which are certain Commotions
in the Bloud and Animal Spirits accompanying these Inclinations,
design’d in the Order of Nature for the good of the Body, as the
Inclinations were intended for the Good of the Soul, do so unite
us to sensible things, and represent ’em with such advantage, that
Spiritual Good which seems at a greater distance relishes very little,
and abstracted Truths do not find us so Impartial as to examin them
throughly, and to give them their due Weight, when they’re ballanc’d
against such things as may be Seen and Felt; these being commonly
preferr’d, not for their intrinsic worth, but for their outward Shew
and the Bulk they carry.

That we always endeavour to be Happy is sufficiently evident, and that
we too frequently fly from GOD who only can make us so, Experience
sadly Demonstrates. Which cou’d not be did we not grosly mistake our
Happiness, as we certainly do whenever we Will any thing in opposition
to the Will of GOD, whatever Appearance of Good it may happen to carry.
’Tis true the Will does always pursue Good, or somewhat represented to
it as such, but it is not always, or rather very seldom, determin’d
to the Choice of what is in it self the greatest Good. And though I
suppose we always Chuse that which in that Juncture in which it is
propos’d seems fittest for our Present turn, yet it is often such
as we wou’d not prefer, did we impartially examin and observe the
Consequences. But we will not do that, chusing rather to Act by the
Wrong Judgments we have formerly made, and to follow blindly the
Propensities they have given us, than to suspend our Inclinations as
we both May and Ought, and restrain them from determining our Will,
till we have fairly and fully examin’d and ballanc’d, according to the
best of our Knowledge, the several degrees of Good and Evil present
and future that are in the Objects set before us. The neglect of which
is at once both our Fault and Misery; Our Fault in that we precipitate
our Choice, refusing to Consider sufficiently to rectifie our Mistakes.
And our Misery because we shall certainly be Disappointed sooner or
later, and be convinc’d that what was so Hastily and Unreasonably
Chosen, ought not even then to have been prefer’d, how Pleasant soever
it appear’d, seeing it neither Was nor Cou’d be Good for us.

It seems indeed the greatest wonder in the World how any Man in his
Senses can prefer the short Pleasures of Sin, which are attended even
in this Life with Pain and Shame, and a thousand Inconveniencies,
to the Present Delights of Vertue, and the Prospect of a Felicity
Infinite and Eternal, if he does at all compare them. An Eternity of
Joys must needs be preferable to Fifty or Threescore Years of Sinful
Pleasures, weigh them in what Scales you please, and supposing these
much greater than ever any Sinner found ’em, especially since they are
attended with Eternal Pains, and no perverse Inclination can make us
think otherwise if it will allow us to consider. But it will not allow
Consideration, or if it does a little permit it, it deceives us however
with fallacious Salvoes. It fixes our Thoughts on a Present Uneasiness
which it says must be remov’d, and our Desires gratify’d at any rate,
without suffering us to weigh the ill Consequences of doing so. And
perhaps the Wrong bias which we receive from our Evil Inclinations does
not consist in the persuading us that a Present Sinful Pleasure or
Profit, is the Greatest Good, or that it ought to be Prefer’d before
the Favour of GOD and Eternal Beatitude, which whenever we Think of
we must needs acknowledge to be infinitely greater, but in keeping us
from a full Conviction that th’ one can’t be Chosen without Renouncing
th’ other, and in making us unwilling to examine throughly, lest we
shou’d want the pretence of Ignorance or Passion to excuse what our
Consciences can’t but Reproach us with as an unworthy Choice, whenever
we permit our selves to Reflect.

So that the great aggravation of Sin seems to consist in this, That
the commission of it is a pretending to be Wiser or Stronger than
GOD, an attempt to out-wit him by Fineness, or else by plain Force
to wrest his Felicity from him whether he Will or no. For seeing we
always Will Happiness, and yet wou’d be Happy after another manner than
GOD Wills we shall, we express a Desire, and an Endeavour so far as
we’re able to Oppose and Alter his Will and Order, by reconciling the
gratification of a present unreasonable Appetite with the Enjoyment of
Happiness, tho he has declar’d they can’t be reconciled, and made it in
the ordinary course of things impossible they shou’d.

[Sidenote: Mr. _Boyle_ Style of Scripture.]

The Will of GOD then is the Rule of ours, and if it be ask’d how we
shall come to the Knowledge of it? the Answer is ready, that the
Eternal Word and Wisdom of GOD declares his Fathers Will unto us, by
_Reason_ which is that Natural and Ordinary Revelation by which he
speaks to every one; and by that which is call’d _Revelation_ in a
stricter Sense, which is nothing else but a more perfect and infallible
way of Reasoning, whereby we are Clearly and Fully instructed in so
much of GOD’s Will as is fit for us to know. We must therefore Improve
our Reason as much as our Circumstances in the World permit, and to
supply its deficiency Seriously, Devoutly and Diligently study the Holy
Scriptures “than which (to use the words of a most excellent Person) a
Christian needs understand no other Book to know the duty of his Faith
and Life, tho indeed to understand it well, ’tis ordinarily requisite
that a pretty number of other Books be understood.”

[Sidenote: See P. 114, _&c._]

In the former Chapter we have laid down a Method of using our Reason so
as to discover Truth, by observing of which ’tis hop’d we may escape
from considerable Errors, and consequently from great Offences. And
tho I can’t say we shall never be Mistaken nor Chuse amiss, yet our
Infirmities will be very pitiable, such as our Just and Merciful Lord
God will never impute to us, tho we our selves ought to be humbled for
and always endeavouring to rectifie ’em.

After all, the best way to be further Instructed in the Knowledge of
our Duty is to Practise so much of it as we Know already. By keeping
GOD’s Commandments, we get such a sound and strong Constitution of
Soul, as leads us naturally to our True Good. For as a healthy person
whose Tast is not vitiated, is directed by that, without examining
the Philosophy of Bodys to such things as are fit for the nourishment
of his own: So a Divine Sensation gives us a lively relish of what’s
Good, and a perfect aversion to the contrary. It endues the Soul not
only with a Sagacity of Understanding to discern readily what is best,
but likewise with such a Regularity of Will, as makes it even Hate and
Abhor all evil ways.

A most desirable Temper no doubt, the very top of Human Felicity, but
how shall we obtain it? We find our selves under the power of quite
contrary Inclinations and Relishes, and how to get rid of ’em we know
not. This is indeed a very wretched condition, the only thing that
deserves our Sorrow, yet the Case is not so desperate, but that by the
help of an Almighty Physician we may be Cured, if in good earnest we
set about it. And because the not discerning our true Happiness and the
being accustom’d to pursue a false one is the cause of our Disorder,
somewhat must be done by way of Meditation and somewhat by way of

Now I know not any Subjects more proper for our Meditation on this and
all occasions, than our own Nature, the Nature of Material Beings, and
the Nature of GOD; because it is thro the mistake of some of these that
our Inclinations take a wrong bias, and consequently that we transgress
against GOD, our Neighbour and our selves. For did we consider what
we Are, that Humane Nature conflicts in the Union of a Rational Soul
with a Mortal Body, that the Body very often Clogs the Mind in its
noblest Operations, especially when indulg’d. That we stand not singly
on our own Bottom, but are united in some measure to all who bear a
Human Form, especially to the Community amongst whom we live, and yet
more particularly to those several Relations we may have in it. Did we
go on to consider what are the proper Duties and Enjoyments of such a
nature as ours, that is, what performances do naturally result from
those Capacities we find our selves endow’d with, which may therefore
be reasonably expected from us, and what sort of Pleasures we are made
to relish. Again, were we so far at least Philosophers, as to be able
to pass a due estimate on Material Beings, did we know ’em so well as
not to prize them above their real value. Did we in the last place
contemplate the Author of our Being, _from_ whom we Derive and _to_
whom we owe our _All_; and insted of prying saucily into his Essence,
(an insufferable presumption in Creatures who are ignorant of their
own) or pretending to know more of him than he has thought fit to
communicate in his Word, and in that Idea of Infinite Perfection which
he has giv’n us, Frequently, Seriously and Humbly Meditate on what he
has been pleas’d to unveil. Did we but employ so much of our Time and
Thoughts on these things as we do on our Sins and Vanities, we shou’d
not be long in discerning the good effects.

For I question not but that we shou’d be convinc’d that the Body is
the Instrument of the Mind and no more, that it is of a much Inferior
Nature, and therefore ought to be kept in such a Case as to be ready
on all occasions to serve the Mind. That the true and proper Pleasure
of Human Nature consists in the exercise of that Dominion which the
Soul has over the Body, in governing every Passion and Motion according
to Right Reason, by which we most truly pursue the real good of both,
it being a mistake as well of our Duty as our Happiness to consider
either part of us singly, so as to neglect what is due to the other.
For if we disregard the Body wholly, we pretend to live like Angels
whilst we are but Mortals; and if we prefer or equal it to the Mind we
degenerate into Brutes. The former indeed is not frequent, it is only
to be found amongst a few Scrupulous Persons, who sometimes impose
such rigors on the Body, as GOD never requires at their hands, because
they are inconsistent with a Human Frame. The latter is the common and
dangerous fault, for the most of us accustom our selves to tast no
other Pleasures than what are convey’d to us by the Organs of Sense, we
pamper our Bodies till they grow resty and ungovernable, and instead
of doing Service to the Mind, get Dominion over it.

Thus we learn what is truly to Love our selves: for tho Self-Love as it
is usually understood has a very ill Character and is the Root of Evil,
yet rightly apply’d it is Natural and Necessary, the great inducement
to all manner of Vertue. They cannot be said to Love their Body who
wou’d not willingly suffer a little pain in a Finger to preserve
an Arm, much more to save their Life; nor do they in reality love
themselves, who wou’d not readily suffer any uneasiness in their Body,
which may conduce to the good of their Mind; and who do not prefer the
least probability of bettering their condition in the next Life, to all
the Conveniencies of this, nay even to Life it self.

Again, when we consider that we are but several Parts of one great
Whole, and are by Nature so connected to each other, that whenever one
part suffers the rest must suffer with it, either by Compassion or else
by being punish’d for the want of it, we shall never be so absurd as
to fancy we can do ourselves a Service by any thing Injurious to our

And finding both that we’re endow’d with many excellent Faculties,
which are capable of great Improvement, such as bespeak in us somewhat
too Divine, to have it once imagin’d that it was made for nothing else
but to move a portion of Matter 70 or 80 Years; to Act only on the
Stage of an Unjust and Ill-natur’d World, where Folly and Wickedness
usually go away with the Reward that is due to Wisdom and Vertue: And
yet that for all these Excellencies, somewhat is still wanting to
complete our Happiness, we do not find intire Felicity in our selves,
but we are conscious of many wants which must be supply’d elsewhere.
We therefore look about to see where we may meet with this Supply, and
Material Beings with which were compass’d do first present themselves.
These are the Objects of our Senses, it is at their presence that the
Body tasts all its Pleasures, no wonder therefore if it endeavour to
persuade us that our Good is here, tho a little Consideration, if not
our frequent disappointments when we seek no further, were sufficient
one wou’d think to convince us that it is not. For when we come to
weigh ’em in an impartial consideration we discern, that as they are
GOD’s Work they have a Perfection suitable to their several Natures,
and are as perfect as is consistent with the several Ranks and Stations
they are plac’d in, so that consider’d Positively they are not to be
Contemn’d, since they set forth the Wisdom, Power and Goodness of their
Maker. But if we compare them with the Human Soul they appear of
little value, and of none at all in comparison of Him who made them;
and since their Nature is beneath, and their Worth much less than ours,
we cannot find our Happiness in ’em. They contribute ’tis true to the
Preservation and Ease of the Body, they help to make it fit for the
Service of the Mind; But since a very few of ’em will do this, the rest
are but a load and trouble, so far from being useful, that they indeed
hurt us, unless they’re made to minister to Charity and Contemplation.

Let then these little things be drawn aside, these Clouds that hide
the most adorable Face of GOD from us, these Mud-walls that enclose
our Earthly Tabernacle and will not suffer us to be pierc’d with the
Beams of his Glory, and wounded, not to Death but Life, with the Arrows
of his Love and Beauty. In him we find that infinite Good which alone
can satisfie us, and which is not to be found elsewhere! Somewhat in
which we lose our selves with Wonder, Love and Pleasure! Somewhat too
ineffable to be nam’d, too Charming, too Delightful not to be eternally
desir’d! And were we not sunk into Sense, and buried alive in a croud
of Material Beings, it might seem impossible to think of any thing but
Him. For whether we consider the Infinite Perfection of his Nature,
or the Interest we have in, and our intire dependance on him. Whether
we consider him as Maker and Governor of all things, as filling all
places, intimately acquainted with all Events, as Righteous in all his
ways, and holy in all his works. Whether we contemplate his Almighty
Power; or what seems more suitable to our Faculties and Condition, the
Spotless Purity of his Nature, the Moral Rectitude of his Will, which
guided by Infallible Wisdom always Chuses what is Best. And more
particularly his Infinite Goodness, his Beneficence to the Children of
Men; that he is not only Good in himself, but that he is also _Our_
Good, the only Amiable Being, who is altogether Lovely, and worthy
of All our Love, the Object of our Hope, the Sum of our Desire, the
Crown of our Joy, without whom we shall for ever Languish and Grieve;
Enjoying whom we have nothing to Fear, nor any thing to Hate but what
wou’d deprive us of that Enjoyment. If we consider how much he has
done to render us capable of this Happiness even when we fled from it;
what affronts he has put up, with what Patience he bears our Follies
and solicits our Return, in a Word, all the Wonders of his Love in
Christ Jesus! We cannot sure do less than fix our Thoughts for ever on
Him, and devote our selves Intirely to Him! All our Passions will be
Charm’d, and every Inclination attracted! We shall no more dispute his
Will, nor seek exemption from it, but with all Sincerity of Heart, and
ardent Desire cry out, _Lord what wilt thou have me to do? Not my Will
Lord, but thine be done!_ The business of our Lives will be to improve
our Minds and to stretch our Faculties to their utmost extent, that so
we may have the fullest enjoyment our Nature will admit, of this ever
satisfying and yet ever desirable, because an Infinite, and our True,

As to what is to be done by way of Exercise, not to enter too far into
the Philosophy of the Passions, suffice it briefly to observe: That by
the Oeconomy of Nature such and such Motions in the Body are annext
in such a manner to certain Thoughts in the Soul, that unless some
outward force restrain, she can produce them when she pleases barely
by willing them; and reciprocally several Impressions on the Body
are communicated to, and affect the Soul, all this being perform’d by
the means of the Animal Spirits. The Active Powers of the Soul, her
Will and Inclinations are at her own dispose, her Passive are not,
she can’t avoid feeling Pain or other sensible Impressions so long
as she’s united to a Body, and that Body is dispos’d to convey these
Impressions. And when outward Objects occasion such Commotions in the
Bloud and Animal Spirits, as are attended with those Perceptions in the
Soul which we call the Passions, she can’t be insensible of or avoid
’em, being no more able to prevent these first Impressions than she
is to stop the Circulation of the Bloud, or to hinder Digestion. All
she can do is to Continue the Passion as it was begun, or to Divert it
to another Object, to Heighthen or to let it Sink by degrees, or some
way or other to Modifie and Direct it. The due performance of which is
what we call _Vertue_, which consists in governing Animal Impressions,
in directing our Passions to such Objects, and keeping ’em in such a
pitch, as right Reason requires.

By which it appears that it is not a fault to have Passions, since
they are natural and unavoidable, and useful too; for as the
Inclinations are the Wings of the Soul, so these give Life and Vigor
to the Inclinations, by disposing the Body to act according to the
Determination of the Mind. But the fault lies here, we suffer ’em too
often to get the Mastry of the Mind, to hurry it on to what Objects
they please and to fix it there, so that it is not able to consider
any Idea but what they present. Whereas the Soul can if she please,
and if she makes use of her Authority in time, divert the Course of
the Spirits, and direct ’em to a new Object, by Limiting or Extending
her Ideas, and by laying aside those the Passions excited, and
entertaining new ones. Nay, if we do but forbear to revolve such
Considerations as are apt to continue the Commotion of the Spirits, it
will cease of it self. This is what we _can_ and _ought_ to do, and
if we do not perform it, we act rather like the Slaves of Sense than
Creatures endued with Reason; but if we do, we can hardly receive any
Injury from the Passions.

The way therefore to Govern ’em is to be always in a Temper fit for
this, Recollect and Compos’d, holding our Minds in as even a poise as
ever we can between Mirth and Melancholy, one of which Stupifies the
Soul and the other Dissolves it; and both of ’em weaken and dispose it
for Passion. Nothing but what feeds the ill humor will make Impression
whilst it is under the power of _this_, nor any useful thing stay
in it, but it lies open to all manner of evil, when it is violently
agitated by _that_. Too much of either rendring us unfit to Converse
with our selves or others; such a mixture of both as makes us Serious
without Sourness, and Chearful without Levity, being the happy Temper.
It is by surprize that the Passions injure us, they violently attack
our Reason when she is not prepar’d to receive them, so that the Will
is determin’d all of a sudden by Confuse Perceptions and Sensations.
Nor is it easie to repulse them when once they have gain’d ground,
because they often bribe our Guard, and get the Mastry of us by those
very Considerations which shou’d have been arm’d against ’em. But
Recollection, a sedate and sober frame of Mind, prevents this Mischief,
it keeps our Reason always on her Guard and ready to exert her self;
it fits us to Judge truly of all occurrences, and to draw advantage
from whatever happens. This is the true Art of Prudence, for that
which properly speaks us Wise, is the accommodating all the Accidents
of Life to the great End of Living. And since the Passiveness of our
Nature makes us liable to many Sufferings which we cou’d wish to avoid,
Wisdom consists in the using those Powers, which GOD has given us the
free disposal of, in such a manner, as to make those very things which
befal us against our Will, an occasion of Good to us.

For if we do not live like Machines, but like Reasonable Creatures,
that is if we Observe, Examine and Apply whatever comes under our
Cognizance, every Turn in our own and our Neighbours Life will be
Useful to us. It is not to be deny’d that we’re generally Critical
Observators on our Neighbours, but I’m afraid it is with an Ill not a
Good Design. We do’t to feed our Pride by an ungenerous insulting over
their Infirmities, or thinking to Excuse and Justifie our own Faults by
theirs. But we seldom set a mark on the Precipices from whence they
fell that we may avoid ’em, or note their False Steps, that ours may be
more Exact.

And indeed as things are usually manag’d, since Modesty, Breeding, or
Sheepish Cowardise, restrains even those who are capable of bettering
Conversation, from Edifying Discourses, the only use we can make of
that Time which the World borrows of us and Necessary Civility exacts,
is to lay in Matter of Observation. I do not mean that we shou’d make
Ill-natur’d Remarks, or Uncharitable Reflections on Particular Persons,
but only that we take notice of the several workings of Human Nature,
the little turns and distinctions of Various Tempers; there being
somewhat peculiar almost in every one, which cannot be learn’d but by
Conversation and the Reflections it Occasions. For as to the main, we
learn it by looking into our own Hearts, one Person being but the
Counterpart of another, so that they who thorowly Know themselves have
a right Idea of Mankind in general, and by making reasonable allowances
for Circumstances, may pretty well guess at Particulars.

But even the Knowledge of our selves is not to be had without the
Temper here recommended. For since the Passions do mostly depend on the
Constitution of the Body, Age, Education and way of Living; so that
the same Object does not only Affect several Persons differently, but
variously moves the very same Person at several Seasons; and there was
once a time perhaps, when that which puts us now in a ferment had no
power to move us: We must therefore to the general consideration of
Human Nature already spoken of, add a more minute inquiry into our own;
Observing our Particular Passions, that especially to which we’re most
inclin’d by Nature, on which all the rest in a manner depend; and all
the Peculiarities that are to be found in our own Temper. Very great
things many times depending on a trivial Humour; nor is it so often
Reason, as our particular way of using it that determines our Thoughts
and Actions. Now nothing less than a continual Watch and Application
can procure us a sufficient Acquaintance with our selves, we cannot
well discern what Objects most sensibly touch us; which is our weakest
side; by what means it is Expos’d or Strengthened; how we may Restrain
or rightly Employ a Passion we cou’d not Prevent; and consequently grow
strong by our very Infirmities, whilst we make them an occasion of
Exercising and Encreasing our Vertue unless we’re always in a watchful
Frame, unless we make Remarks even whilst the Passion is working,
and Constantly attend the least beatings of our own Heart. Our own
Heart which is indeed one of the best Books we can Study, especially
in respect of Morality, and one principal Reason why we’re no better
Proficients in useful Knowledge, is because we don’t duly consult it.

Again, we shou’d endeavour to render Spiritual and Future things as
Present and Familiar as may be, and to withdraw as much as we can from
sensible Impressions, especially from such as attack us violently.
She whose Mind is busied about the former will find ’em of Weight and
Moment sufficient to employ all her Passions, whilst the other will be
scarce taken notice of; or be look’d on with Indifferency, because they
appear to deserve very little Admiration, Joy, or Sorrow, and are not
of value enough to discompose the Mind. And tho we have not Ambition
to aspire to St. _Paul_’s Perfection, who was _Crucified to the World
and the World to him_, a greater Character than that of _Universal
Monarch_; tho we think it impossible to be wholly Insensible to it
whilst we live in it: Yet sure we can’t deny that it is Possible, and
very much our Duty, to be more indifferent to the Objects of Sense than
the most of us are. For we certainly do amiss if we fix our Eyes and
Thoughts so constantly on ’em, as that at last we take them for the
most considerable things, and imagine that our Happiness is here; or,
tho we can’t be so gross as to _believe_ this, yet if we _act_ as if
we did; It wou’d become us much better to argue, that the Possession
of these Worldly Advantages which Mankind so much contend for, is Good
if it can procure us Eternal Felicity; and that the Want of ’em is an
Evil, if it exclude us from the Kingdom of Heav’n.

By which we learn how necessary it is to Retire and Meditate
frequently; and how much it becomes us to keep out of the way of
Theatrical Shows and inordinate Merriments, and not so much as to
enter into a Parley with those Pomps and Vanities we renounc’d in our
Baptism. For tho some extraordinary Tempers may make use of these to
stir up the Powers of their Soul, and to give them a greater aversion
to Vanity, as some Poysons are said to be Antidotes against others,
yet for the most part they have an ill Effect: Because they deprive
the Soul of real Joy and divine Serenity, by making too strong an
Impression on the Senses, whereby the Animal Spirits are very much
Mov’d and Exhausted, and being spent on trifles the Mind is left Dull,
Unactive, and Melancholy too, especially if it Reflect on its Actions
as it ought; so natural and necessary is it, that Vain Mirth shou’d
conclude in Heaviness.

[Sidenote: _Les Passions de l’Ame._]

Again, the Passions consider’d as Bodily Impressions only, excite us
many times to the Gratification of the Animal in prejudice of the
Rational Nature. For tho Mankind had Originally no Appetites but what
might Innocently be satisfied; yet since our Degeneracy, and that we
have lost the true Relish of Good and Evil, they often give us false
alarms, stirring us up to Pursue or Avoid what indeed we Ought not,
if we consult our Good in the Main, and not the pleasing of a Part,
nay the Worst part of us. But if we consider ’em as attending our
Inclinations, they can do no hurt, let ’em be as Brisk and Active as
they can, provided they fix on their Proper Objects. Now what these are
is to be found by the Nature of the Passions, by which we are led to
the Use of ’em, since every thing ought to be employ’d about that which
it is fitted for. But this being already accounted for by _Des Cartes_
and _Dr. More_, in his excellent _Account of Vertue_, I cannot pretend
to add any thing to what they have so well Discours’d. Only as a
further confirmation of what has been already said we may observe; That
Admiration gives Rise to all the Passions; for unless we were Affected
with the Newness of an Object, or some other remarkable Circumstance,
so as to be attentively engag’d in the Contemplation of it, we shou’d
not be any wise mov’d, but it wou’d pass by unregarded. And therefore
’tis very necessary not to be struck with _little_ things, or to busie
our Minds about ’em, but to fix all our Attention on, and to keep all
our Admiration for things of the greatest moment, such as are those
which relate to another World.

We may further observe, that there is a leading Passion almost in
every one, to which the Temper of their Body inclines, and on which
the rest do in a manner wholly depend, especially if it be confirm’d
by Education and Custom, so that if we duly manage _this_, we have
the Command of all. Some are more subject to _Fear_, some to _Hope_,
to _Joy_, _Sorrow_ or the like, than others; but _Love_ seems to be
the predominant Passion in every one, and that which makes one of
the former more remarkable than another, is only because it has been
oftner mixt with Love. And indeed, since this is at the bottom of
all the Passions, one wou’d think they’re nothing else but different
Modifications of it, occasion’d by some Circumstance in the Subject
or Object of this Passion. Thus _Desire_ is a Love to Good consider’d
as Future; _Hope_ the Passion that disposes us to believe we may, and
_Fear_ that we shall not obtain it. _Joy_ is a pleasant Commotion
of the Soul in the Fruition of the Good we Love; and _Sorrow_ a
disagreeable one occasion’d by the want of it, or presence of its
contrary. The like may be said of the rest, for even _Hatred_ tho it
appear directly opposite to Love, may be refer’d to it, the very same
motion that carrys the Soul towards Good, carrying her also from those
things which wou’d deprive her of it, which on that account are call’d
Evils, and why do we Hate any thing, but because it does some way or
other hinder our Enjoyment of what we Love?

If therefore our Love be Right, the rest of our Passions will of course
be so; and our Love which is _a motion of the Soul to joyn it self to
that which appears to be grateful to it_, will then be right when our
Notions of Good and Evil are; That is, when we do not take up with
Imaginary or Particular, but pass on to the Sovereign Good, to GOD who
is the only proper and adequate Object of our Love, as Sin is of our
Hatred, all things else being no otherwise to be Pursued or Avoided,
than in proportion to the Relation they bear to these. So that if we
Love GOD with _All_ our Soul, as He certainly Deserves, and as we
certainly Must if we wou’d be Happy; we shall be so taken up with the
Contemplation and _Admiration_ of his Beauties, have so boundless an
_Esteem_, such an awful _Veneration_ for, and so great a _Contempt_ of
all things in Comparison of Him; that our _Desires_ will be carried
out after nothing but GOD, and such things as may further our Union
with Him. His Favour, and the Light of His Countenance will be the
Object of our _Hopes_, nor shall we much _Fear_ any thing but His
Displeasure. No _Grief_ will pierce our Heart but for our many Offences
against, and our Imperfect _Enjoyment of Him_. _We shall perfectly
Hate all evil ways_, be _Jealous_ of Sin at the remotest distance, and
_suspect_ every thing that has the least appearance of a Temptation. We
shall be extremely Watchful over all our Actions, and never Resolve
upon any till we’re fully assur’d it is conformable to his Will and
Pleasure. Whither will not our _Emulation_ rise, what Difficulties
won’t our _Courage_ surmount, when th’ Enjoyment of a GOD is what
we aspire to! The defects of our Services, and our failings in our
Duty towards Him, will be the only occasion of _Shame_; for Reproach
from Men when suffer’d for His sake will be counted a high Encomium,
and his Approbation our only _Glory_. If ever we are _Angry_ it will
be when His Laws are Contemn’d and Right Reason violated; a just
_Indignation_ will arise when the Worthless are Prefer’d, and Merit
is left unregarded. His Favourites will be ours, we shall dispense
our _Good-will_ to every one proportionably as they are dear to Him;
and shall think our _Gratitude_ can never enough express it self, to
that Bountiful Being from whom we receiv’d our All. And Oh! with what
_Joy_ and _Satisfaction of Mind_ shall we proceed in every step of
this! how pure and exalted is that Pleasure, how highly entertaining,
which results from the right use of our Faculties, and Fruition of the
Sovereign Good! Happiness is the natural Effect as well as the Reward
of an Ardent Love to GOD, and what necessarily flows from it, Universal
Piety: That Holy Soul is always serene, and full of unutterable Bliss,
whose Reason Directs, and whose Passions readily Obey, whilst both are
Guided by his Will and Spirit who is Infallible. She tasts a Pleasure
which the World can neither give nor take away, nor can Worldly Minds
so much as Imagine it: She is satisfied with the Past, Enjoys the
Present, and has no Solicitude for, but a Joyful Expectation of what’s
approaching. For why the Dawnings of a Blisful Endless Day, break
forth already in that Happy Mind, whose Temper and Constitution is
Heavenly; it has a Foretaste, and thereby a well-grounded Assurance, of
never-ceasing Joys to Come!

So far (by the way) is Religion from being an Enemy either to Nature
or Pleasure, that it perfects the one, and raises the other to the
greatest height. It teaches us the true Use of the Creatures, keeps
us from expecting more in them than we can ever find, and leads us to
the Enjoyment of the Creator who only can satisfie us. For I wou’d
fain know of any experienced Person, whether any of the Delights of
this World did ever answer Expedition when Enjoy’d, and whether the
Joys of Religion do not exceed it? We come to the first with mighty
hopes and are always Disappointed, to the last we approach with Fear
and Trembling, supposing it will rob us of all the Satisfactions of
Life, we shrink at the Pain and Difficulty, and thats the only thing
in which after a little Trial we find our selves much mistaken. Good
Christians being indeed the truest _Epicures_, because they have the
most tastful and highest Enjoyment of the greatest Good.

[Sidenote: Ladies Calling.]

For GOD is too Kind and Bountiful to deny us any Pleasure befitting
our Nature; he does not require us to relinquish Pleasure, but only
to exchange the Gross and Insipid for the Pure and Relishing, the
Pleasures of a Brute for those of a Man. He wou’d not have us enslav’d
to any Appetite, or so taken up with any Created Good whatever, as not
to be able to maintain the Empire of our Reason and Freedom of our Will
and to quit it when we see occasion. And this is all that the Rules
of Self-Denial and Mortification tend to so far as they are Rational,
they mean no more than the procuring us a Power and Disposition to do
that which we come now in the last place to recommend, which is, To
sanctifie our very Infirmities, to make even the disorderly Commotions
of our Spirits an occasion of producing Holy Passions. It were better
indeed if they were rais’d upon a right Principle; that the Passions
did not move the Mind, but the Mind the Passions; and that the Motives
to Religion were not Sensitive but Rational. However in the Infancy
of our Vertue, it may not be amiss to make some use of our Vices, and
what we advise if it serve no other end, ’twill help at least to break
Ill-Habits and that’s a considerable benefit. Agreeable to which did
an excellent Author bespeak the Ladies sometime ago: _Let her that
is Amorous, place her Love upon him who is the Chiefest among ten
thousand; she that is Angry turn her edg against her Sins; she that is
haughty disdain the Devils Drudgery; she that is Fearful dread him who
can destroy, both Body and Soul in Hell; and she that is sad reserve
her Tears for her Penitential Offices._ Which, with the rest of that
Authors Ingeniuous and Kind Advice, I heartily wish were not only to be
seen in their Closets, but transcrib’d in their Hearts and Legible in
their Lives and Actions.

Now in order to this, if our guard has been surpriz’d, and some
sensible Impression has strongly broke in upon us, so that we find our
selves all in a ferment, let us manage the Opportunity discreetly,
change the Object and hallow the Passion. Which is no very difficult
thing, for when a Passion is boyling it will spend it self on any
Object that we please to fix it on. And the Proper Objects of our
Passions, being most considerable in ’emselves, and naturally most apt
to move us if we’ll but give them fair play, that is allow ’em a place
in our Thoughts, they’ll work out the other, and make our Passions what
they shou’d be: We have a plain Instance of this in Afflictions, in
which our _Grief_ is at first excited by some outward Cause, and when
that has softned us, the Spirit of GOD who is never wanting unless we
Neglect or Quench him, improves this Worldly into a _Godly Sorrow_ that
worketh Repentance not to be Repented of.

Besides, as there is a Pleasure in the Passions as well as in all the
genuine Operations of Nature, so there’s a Pain accompanying ’em when
misplac’d, which disposes the Mind to a readiness to rectifie them,
that so it may enjoy the Pleasure without mixture of Pain. If therefore
we assist it with a little Meditation, it will readily come over; and
tho we may find it difficult absolutely to quash a Passion that is once
begun, yet it is no hard matter to transfer it, so that it may pour
forth it self in all its pleasing transports, without fear of danger,
or mixture of uneasiness.

But a Caution will not be amiss, which is, that we don’t mistake the
Fits of Passion for a Spirit of Piety and Devotion. They are good
beginnings ’tis true, but if we’re only wafted up to Heaven in our
Closets, and shew forth nothing or very little of it in our Lives
and Conversations, we may cheat our selves with the conceit of being
Holy, but neither GOD nor Man will be so impos’d on. She who mourns
for her Sins, tho never so bitterly, and yet returns to them at the
next occasion, gives a very good Evidence of her Weakness, but none of
her Repentance. She who pretends to never so great transports of Love
to GOD, and yet is wedded to the world, can part with nothing for his
sake, nor be content and easie when He only is her Portion, gives Him
good words, and makes Him many fine Complements and that’s the whole
of the matter. She who makes shew of great Awe and Reverence towards
the Divine Majesty at Church and has no regard to Him in the World
his larger Temple, as good as declares that she thinks his Presence
confin’d to a place, or that she hopes to commute a Days neglect for
an Hours Observance, and expresses her Contempt of GOD much more than
her Veneration. How can she profess to Hope in Him who is Anxious and
Solicitous about the least Event? Or say that her Desires are fix’t on
GOD who has a great many Vanities and Sensual Aptites to be Satisfied?

Nor are we less out of the way when we tincture our Religion with our
Passions, and fashion an Idea of it according to our own Complection
not the tenor of the Gospel. Hence comes that great diversity we meet
with both in Practice and Theory, for as there is somewhat Peculiar
almost in every ones Temper, so is there in their Religion. Is our
Disposition Sad and Cloudy, are we apt to take Offence, Suspicious
and hard to be pleas’d? we imagine GOD is so, Religion is not our Joy
but our Task and Burden, we become extremely scrupulous and uneasie
to our selves and others. And if Resolution and Daring be joyn’d with
our Melancholy, and Temptations fall pat in our way, we discard such
a troublesome Religion and set up for Atheism and Infidelity. On the
other hand, if we’re Fearful and Timerous our Superstition has no
bounds, we pay less regard to those Laws our Maker has prescrib’d, than
we do to those Chimera’s our own Fancy has invented to reconcile Him.
A mistake which the Brisk and Jovial are sensible of, but not of the
contrary extreme they run into; they discern that GOD’s ways are ways
of Pleasantness, and all his Paths are Peace, that Good Christians
live the Happiest Lives, ’tis their Duty to Rejoyce evermore, and all
the good things of the World are at their service. All which is very
true, but then it is as true, that their Pleasures are not Sensual
but Rational and Spiritual, which is not a lessening, but an Addition
to their Character; that we are to Use the World so as not to abuse
either our selves or it, to testify on all occasions our Moderation and
Contempt of it, to be ready to quit it, nay even to part with Life it
self when ever they come in competition with our Duty. In a word, if
our Anger against our own Sins provokes us to be Peevish with others,
tho not so good as they shou’d be, it goes too far. If our Zeal finds
fault with all who do not come up to our Heights, or who don’t express
their Devotion in our way, it is not according to Knowlege, that is, it
is not Discreet and Christian. If our great Love to GOD takes us up so
much, that we think we may be morose and ill-natur’d to our Neighbour,
we express it in a very disagreeable way: And I dare say it wou’d be
more acceptable to Him, if insted of spending it all in Rapture and
Devotion, a part of it were employ’d in Imitating his Beneficence to
our Fellow-Creatures.

To wind up all; The Sum of our Duty and of all Morality, is to have a
Temper of Mind so absolutely Conform’d to the Divine Will, or which is
the same in other words, such an Habitual and Intire Love to GOD, as
will on all occasions excite us to the Exercise of such Acts, as are
the necessary consequents of such a Habit. This frame and Constitution
of Soul is what we must all our Life time Labour after, it is to be
begun, and some Proficiency made in it whilst we stay on Earth, and
then we may joyfully wait for its Consummation in Heaven, the reason
why we cannot be perfectly Happy whilst we tarry here, being only
because we can have this Temper but Imperfectly. The want of which is
the Hell of the Damn’d, the degree of their misery bearing a proportion
to their opposition to the Divine Will. For Happiness is not _without_
us, it must be found in our own Bosoms, and nothing but a Union with
GOD can fix it there; nor can we ever be United to Him any other wise
than by being like Him, by an Intire Conformity to his Will.

Now she who has obtain’d this blessed Temper, whose Will is Right, and
who has no Passion but for GOD’s Service, is pleas’d that his Wisdom
shou’d Chuse her Work, and only prepares to dispatch it with the
greatest Diligence and Chearfulness. She keeps All his Precepts, and
does not pick and Chuse such as are for her turn, and most agreeable
to her own Humor; but as she does every thing for His Sake, so is she
easy and pleas’d under all his Dispensations; is truly indifferent to
Applause, and fully content with GOD’s Approbation. Indeed the Conquest
of our Vanity is one of our last Triumphs, and a Satisfaction in all
GOD’s Choices for us, from a full Conviction that they are most for our
advantage, the best Test of a Regular Will and Affections. For these
are heights to which we can’t arrive till we have travers’d over all
the Paths of Vertue, and when once our Passions are reduc’d to this, I
know not in what they can oppose us.

Not but that we’re strictly oblig’d to _Provide for honest things in
the Sight of Men_ as well as of _GOD_, to do nothing but what is of
_Good Report_; _to Abstain from all Appearance of Evil_; not to _give
Occasion_ of Slander to those who desire and _Seek_ it; but to _Let
our Light so shine before Men, that they may see our Good-works and
Glorify our Father who is in Heaven_. But when we have done this, and
have taken all possible care to approve our selves to GOD and Man,
can we be at Ease if we fail in the latter? Are we more desirous of a
Good than a Great Reputation? and wou’d we not to get a Name amongst
our Fellow Servants, do any thing that may in the least Offend, or be
less acceptable to our Common Master? Can we bear the being Censur’d
as Singular and Laugh’d at for Fools, rather than comply with the evil
Customs of the Age? and are we much more Covetous of the Substance
_Vertue_, than of the Shadow _Fame_? If it be so we’re pretty sure
that all is Right, and that GOD’s will is the Rule, and his Glory the
End of all our Actions. It goes to a good Womans heart to receive that
Commendation which the good-nature or Civility of another bestows on
her, when she knows she does not Merit it, and to find whilst she’s
applauded abroad, a thousand Follies, Mistakes and Weaknesses in her
own Mind. All the use that she makes of her Credit and Esteem in the
World, is to excite her to Deserve it, tho at present perhaps she does
not, and _Really_ to come up to that Character which all are Ambitious
to have.

Again, what is said of Submission and a perfect acquiescence in the
Divine Will, is not to be so understood as if it were a fault to change
our Circumstances when we’re fairly and honestly call’d to’t, or that
we might not seek by honourable ways to enlarge them if they sit too
strait. But it is design’d to correct that Complaining humor, which
makes us always dissatisfied with the Present, and longing after a
Change; which, how Religious soever we wou’d appear, is a very sure
sign that our Passions are not mortified nor our Will reduced to a due
Regularity: As hers is without doubt who can be pleas’d when even her
most innocent Desires are denied, when she is disappointed in what she
thinks her Best Designs. For such an one has nothing in her Temper that
Sensible Impressions can so strongly fasten on, as to discompose her
Mind; and what can she meet with to seduce her to Unlawful, who desires
not to be her own Chuser in Lawful and Indifferent things?

The Laws of GOD have a Natural and Inward Goodness, which wou’d
recommend them to a Rational Mind tho they were not injoyn’d, and
therefore no wonder that Temper inclines one, Conveniency another, and
Reputation a third to the Practise of some of them. But a Will duly
regulated passes over these and is acted by a higher Motive, she who is
Religious upon a Right Principle regards the Will of GOD only, for that
and that alone is able to carry her Uniformly and Constantly thro all
her Duty. Thus Acts of Beneficence, Liberality and Charity, are full
of Lustre, they procure for their Possessor a lofty Character, and
therefore whether we Value them or no, we’re willing however to _seem_
to be fond of ’em. We fancy what mighty things we wou’d do were we in
such or such a Persons Circumstances, and long to be Rich and Great
that we may Relieve the Needy and Rescue the Oppressed. But we are
not so forward in aspiring after Poverty, tho nothing shews a Braver
Mind than the bearing it Nobly and Contentedly; we care not to be the
Oppressed Person, that we might exercise Meekness and Forgiveness,
Patience and Submission. Not but that the Vertues of Adversity are as
lovely in themselves, and as Acceptable to GOD as those of Prosperity,
or rather more so, because they express a greater Love to GOD, are
more opposite to Vicious Self-Love, and do more eminently declare the
Veneration we have for the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, which we can
Adore and Delight in, which we can Justify and Applaud even in the
most uneasy Circumstances. But they don’t make so great a Figure in
the World, they don’t feed our Vanity so much, nor are so agreeable to
Flesh and Bloud, and that’s the reason why we care not for them.

’Tis true we profess that we desire Riches and Honour, a great
Reputation and Theater in the World, on no other account but to do GOD
Service. But if we are real in this, why don’t we perform so much as
we might in our Present Station? Alas! we Cheat our selves, as well
as endeavour to impose on others; and under Pretence of seeking GOD’s
Glory, in Reality pursue nothing but our own. For had we indeed that
Esteem for GOD and Intire Conformity to his Will, which is at once both
the Duty and Perfection of all Rational Beings, we shou’d not complain
of his Exercise of that Power, which a Prince or even an Ordinary
Master has a Right to; which is, to set his Servants about such work as
he thinks them fittest for. If we allow that GOD Governs the Universe,
can we so much as imagine that it is not Govern’d with the Greatest
Justice and Equity, Order and Proportion? Is not every one of us plac’d
in such Circumstances as Infinite Wisdom discerns to be most suitable,
so that nothing is wanting but a careful observation whither they lead
us, and how we may best improve them? What reason then to complain of
the Management of the world? and indeed except in the Morals of Mankind
which are visibly and grossly deprav’d, I see not why we shou’d so much
as wish for any alteration. The Wicked Prosper sometimes and what then?
shall we grudge them their Portion _here_, since that’s their All, and
alas a very sorry one!

Besides, this world is not a soil for perfect Happiness to Grow in,
Good and Evil are blended together, every Condition has its Sweet and
Bitter, we maybe Made by Adversity and ruin’d by Prosperity according
as we manage them. Riches and Power put opportunities of doing Good
into our hands, if we have a Will to Use them, but at the same time
they furnish us with Instruments of doing Evil. They afford us at once
the Conveniences of Life and fuel for irregular Appetites. They make us
known to others, but many times hinder us from being acquainted with
our selves. They set us in view, so that if our Example be Bright it
becomes the more Illustrious; but we must also remember that our Faults
are as conspicuous as our Vertues, and that Peoples eyes are most
intent on _those_, and most inquisitive to find ’em, so that even our
innocent Liberties are many times misconstrued.

By Obscurity, and a Narrow Fortune, we’re depriv’d of somewhat
Necessary or Commodious to our Present Living, but are quickned to a
more diligent concern for a Life to Come; we don’t find our Good things
_here_, and common Prudence will teach us to take care that we may
enjoy them _hereafter_. If we do not Possess much, we have not much to
Lose, nor such great Accounts to make; have little Business and less
Authority with others, but hereby the more Command of our own Time and
Thoughts. Our Vertue is plac’d in an ill-light, and our Wisdom rejected
with a _What Impertinents are these, who pragmatically attempt to
Instuct their Betters_? but we have fewer Temptations to shock the one,
and greater Advantages, as things are commonly manag’d to improve both.
We’re expos’d to the Contempt and Outrage of the World, but that makes
us less in love with it, and more ready to welcome Death, whene’er it
brings the kind Releasing Summons.

It may be thought a considerable omission that no directions have bin
given, any further than the management of our _Own_ Inclinations and
Passions; tho’t be very advantageous to know how to deal with other
Peoples, both in regard of Education, and of the Influence that they
have on ours. But I have this to say, that Education is a beaten
Subject, and has been accounted for by better Pens than mine: And that
in this as in all other things, we are to treat our Neighbours as we
do our selves, shew ’em the unsuitableness of those Objects which
Irregular Affections pursue, and persuade them to a willing use of such
methods as we take to Cure our own. It requires I confess, no little
Skill to do this to purpose, and to convince them that, we’re really
their Friends, whilst we strive to divorce them from such Objects as
they’re endear’d and fastned to by a thousand tyes: And this is so nice
a matter, so laborious a task, that the more I consider it the more
unable I find my self to give sit Directions for the performance of
it. They who wou’d do that, must have a more exact Knowlege of Human
Nature, a greater Experience of the World, and of those differences
which arise from Constitution, Age, Education, receiv’d Opinions,
outward Fortune, Custom and Conversation, than I can pretend to. And
perhaps there is no need of Directions since few will attempt to
practise them; for if a Passion that is young and tender gives us work
enough, as the difficulty of Education plainly shews it does, they had
need be very Kind, very Good, and very Wise, who set about the Cure of
an Old and inveterate one. Nor can they who have so much Divinity in
their Mind as to design such a noble work, be thought to stand in need
of any advice how to perform it.

However, I’ll venture to say in general, that we must never oppose
Commotion with Commotion, nor be in Passion our selves if we wou’d
reform anothers, else we lose many good Opportunities and seem to seek
the gratification of our own humor rather than our Neighbours good. No
discouragements shou’d shock us, no ungrateful returns shou’d lower
our Temper, but we must expect and be prepar’d to bear many repulses
and wild disorders, and patiently sustain that greatest uneasiness to
a Christian Mind, the bitter appearance that our Hopes are lost, and
that all the Labour of our Love is ineffectual! We must abound both in
Good-Nature and Discretion, and not seldom make use of quite contrary
Means to bring about the End we aim at. Removing all Fuel from the
Passion sometimes; and sometimes Indulging it as far as Innocently we
may; and if nothing else will do, give it line enough, that so it may
destroy it self in its own Excesses.

But ah! will any one drive us to such a desperate Remedy as often
Kills, and cannot Cure without a very great Care, and a more than
Ordinary assistance of GOD’s Grace, which they have little reason
to hope for, who abandon themselves to Temptations, and push things
to such Extremities! Will nothing less than Temporal Ruin which
unreasonable Passions naturally end in serve to prevent Eternal? and it
were well if even that wou’d do, for they usually involve in both. If
therefore such as are in Passion are capable of hearing any thing but
what soothes ’em in their own way, I wou’d beg of ’em for GOD’s sake
and their own, to grant but this one very easy and equitable Request,
which is Calmly to Hear and to Consider what may be said against their
darling Passion. For if it be Right it will stand the test of all that
can be urg’d against it; if it be not, is it Good for them to retain
and cherish it any longer? And if they refuse to listen to the _Kind_,
tho according to them, unseasonable and mistaken advice that is given,
and seek no further than for Arguments to Justifie themselves, do
they not by so great a Partiality secretly confess that they are in
the Wrong, and wou’d not have it discover’d that they are so, because
they’re resolv’d with or without Reason to continue their irregular

And the cause of this strange Resolution seems to be this, That a
Passion of any sort having got the hank of one, it becomes so Natural,
so Agreeable, that the going about to wean them from it, looks like an
attempt to deprive them of all their Joy; and they’re hardly persuaded
to part with what’s a _Present_ Delight, let its Consequences be what
they may, and tho the quitting of it be in order to th’ enjoyment of
that much Sweeter, as well as Nobler Pleasure, which arises from
the due use of Reason; and with which those Wise and Holy Souls are
entertain’d, who prefer the relishes of a Rational before those of an
Animal Life.

But they ought not to think us their Enemies, when we endeavour their
Cure, tho we happen to Lance and Scarifie them. They who are Sick of
Passion are like People in a Lethargy, insensible of their Danger;
nay they’re fond of their Disease, and set themselves against our
Medicines; tho the greater unwillingness they show to be Disturb’d,
so much the more need of Rousing ’em out of their pleasing slumber.
The more secure they think themselves, the more wretched is their
Condition, for that’s a sign that the Passion has got an intire
Possession of their Soul, and has fortified all its Avenues against
Reason and Wholesome Advice. And ’tis worth being remarqued, that our
Inclinations how Innocent and Harmless soever they appear, are always
to be suspected if the Passions that accompany them are violent. For
Violence does not Answer but Destroy the Use of Passion, it hinders
th’ Operations of the Soul, insted of disposing the Body to follow her
Directions Vigorously.

And as to the Influence that another Persons Passion may have on us,
enough has bin said to warn us, not to dally with the Flame when our
Neighbours house is on Fire, lest we be consum’d in it; and carefully
to avoid doing any thing which may excite, or encrease their Passions.
But when we discern that the Plague is begun, let’s remove with all
possible speed out of the infected Air. Great Passions arise from very
small beginings, and that which appear’d Innocent at first if allow’d
on that account, does often become our Ruin, or gives us at least the
greatest trouble in overcoming it.


[Sidenote: P.72, _&c._]

Thus you have Ladies, the best Method I can at present think of for
your Improvement, how well it answers my Design the World must judge,
if you are so favourable as to think it comes up to’t in any measure,
what remains but to put it in Practise, tho in the way in which you
live, ’tis not probable that all of you either Will or Can, for reasons
mention’d in the first Part, and particularly because of the great
waste of your Time, without Redeeming of which there’s nothing to be
done. It is not my intention that you shou’d seclude your selves from
the World, I know it is Necessary that a great number of you shou’d
live in it; but it is Unreasonable and Barbarous to drive you into’t,
e’re you are capable of doing Good in it, or at least of keeping
Evil from your selves. Nor am I so fond of my Proposal, as not to
lay it aside very willingly, did I think you cou’d be sufficiently
serv’d without it. But since such Seminaries are thought proper for
the Men, since they enjoy the fruits of those Noble Ladies Bounty who
were the foundresses of several of their Colleges, why shou’d we not
think that such ways of Education wou’d be as advantageous to the
Ladies? or why shou’d we despair of finding some among them who will
be as kind to their own Sex as their Ancestors have been to the other?
Some Objections against this design have already been consider’d, and
those which I have since met with are either too trifling to deserve a
serious Answer, or too Ill-natur’d not to require a severer than I care
to give them. They must either be very Ignorant or very Malicious who
pretend that we wou’d imitate Foreign Monastries, or object against
us the Inconveniencies that they are subject to; a little attention
to what they read might have convinc’d them that our Institution is
rather _Academical_ than _Monastic_. So that it is altogether beside
the purpose, to say ’tis too Recluse, or prejudicial to an Active Life;
’tis as far from that as a Ladys Practising at home is from being a
hindrance to her dancing at Court. For an Active Life consists not
barely in _Being in the World_, but in _doing much Good in it_: And
therefore it is fit we Retire a little, to furnish our Understandings
with useful Principles, to set our Inclinations right, and to manage
our Passions, and when this is well done, but not till then, we may
safely venture out.

As for those who think so Contemptibly of such a considerable part of
GOD’s Creation, as to suppose that we were made for nothing else but to
Admire and do them Service, and to make provision for the low concerns
of an Animal Life, we pity their mistake, and can calmly bear their
Scoffs, for they do not express so much Contempt of us as they do of
our Maker; and therefore the reproach of such incompetent Judges is not
an Injury but an Honor to us.

The Ladies I hope pass a truer estimate on themselves, and need not
be told that they were made for nobler purposes. For tho I wou’d by
no means encourage Pride, yet I wou’d not have them take a mean and
groveling Spirit for true Humility. A being content with Ignorance is
really but a Pretence, for the frame of our nature is such that it is
impossible we shou’d be so; even those very Pretenders value themselves
for some Knowlege or other, tho it be a trifling or mistaken one.
She who makes the most Grimace at a Woman of Sense, who employs all
her little skill in endeavouring to render Learning and Ingenuity
ridiculous, is yet very desirous to be thought Knowing in a Dress,
in the Management of an Intreague, in Coquetry or good Houswifry.
If then either the Nobleness or Necessity of our Nature unavoidably
excites us to a desire of Advancing, shall it be thought a fault to do
it by pursuing the best things? and since we _will_ value our selves
on somewhat or other, why shou’d it not be on the most substantial
ground? The Humblest Person that lives has some Self-Esteem, nor is it
either Fit or Possible that any one should be without it. Because we
always Neglect what we Despise, we take no care of its Preservation and
Improvement, and were we throughly possess’d with a Contempt of our
selves, we shou’d abandon all Care both of our Temporal and Eternal
Concerns, and burst with Envy at our Neighbours. The only difference
therefore between the Humble and the Proud is this, that whereas the
former does not prize her self on some Imaginary Excellency, or for any
thing that is not truly Valuable; does not ascribe to her self what is
her Makers due, nor Esteem her self on any other account but because
she is GOD’s Workmanship, endow’d by him with many excellent Qualities,
and made capable of Knowing and Enjoying the Sovereign and Only Good;
so that her Self-Esteem does not terminate in her _Self_ but in _GOD_,
and she values her self only for GOD’s sake. The Proud on the contrary
is mistaken both in her Estimate of Good, and in thinking it is her
Own; She values her self on things that have no real Excellency, or
which at least add none to her, and forgets from whose Liberality she
receives them: She does not employ them in the Donors Service, all
her care is to Raise her self, and she little considers that the most
excellent things are distributed to others in an equal, perhaps in a
greater measure than to herself, they have opportunities of advancing
as well as she, and so long as she’s puft up by this Tumor of Mind,
they do really excel her.

The Men therefore may still enjoy their Prerogatives for us, we mean
not to intrench on any of their Lawful Privileges, our only Contention
shall be that they may not out-do us in promoting his Glory who is
Lord both of them and us; And by all that appears the generality will
not oppose us in this matter, we shall not provoke them by striving
to be better Christians. They may busy their Heads with Affairs of
State, and spend their Time and Strength in recommending themselves
to an uncertain Master, or a more giddy Multitude, our only endeavour
shall be to be absolute Monarchs in our own Bosoms. They shall still
if they please dispute about Religion, let ’em only give us leave to
Understand and Practise it. And whilst they have unrival’d the Glory
of speaking as _many_ Languages as _Babel_ afforded, we only desire
to express our selves Pertinently and Judiciously in _One_. We will
not vie with them in thumbing over Authors, nor pretend to be walking
Libraries, provided they’ll but allow us a competent Knowlege of the
Books of GOD, Nature I mean and the Holy Scriptures: And whilst they
accomplish themselves with the Knowlege of the World, and experiment
all the Pleasures and Follies of it, we’ll aspire no further than to be
intimately acquainted with our own Hearts. And sure the Complaisant and
Good natur’d Sex will not deny us this; nor can they who are so well
assur’d of their own Merit entertain the least Suspicion that we shall
overtop them. It is upon some other account therefore that they object
against our Proposal, but what that is I shall not pretend to guess,
since they do not think fit to speak out and declare it.

Some indeed are pleas’d to say, that tho this appears in Speculation
to be a very Happy and Useful way of Living, it will be quite another
thing when reduc’d to Practice. Variety of Humours will occasion
Resentments and Factions, and perhaps other inconveniencies not yet
foreseen; nor can we expect that every Person there will be of such
an agreeable, obliging and teachable Temper, as neither to Give nor
Take Offence. And supposing the first Company were as tractable and as
happily cemented by the mutual love of Vertue, and prudent Management,
as we cou’d desire, yet how can we be secure of their Successors, or
that this as well as other good Institutions shall not degenerate?

I agree so far with this Objection as to grant that our Proposal is
not such a piece of Perfection that nothing can be said against it,
but is there any thing in this World that is so? Or do Men use to quit
their Employments and Houses, their Wives and Children, Relations and
Friends, upon every little pet, or because they very often find trouble
or disagreeableness? do they not rather if they are good Christians,
bear with Infirmities and endeavour to mend them? He then who wou’d
Object to purpose must shew that the Good it may do is not equivalent
to the Evil which may attend it; that the Ladies will suffer greater
Inconveniencies with, than without it, and that it will not in the
_Main_ be best. Otherwise we shall take liberty to believe that it is
Humor, Covetousness or any thing rather than Reason which restrains him
from Approving and Promoting it. There is a certain Pride in the Mind
of Man, which flatters him that he can See farther and Judge better
than his Neighbour, and he loves to feed it by scrupling and objecting
against what another proposes, who perhaps has not over-look’d those
fine discoveries in which he hugs himself, but having view’d them on
all sides has discern’d and despis’d their insignificancy. I wou’d
only ask our Objectors whether they think the World so good as that
it needs none, or so bad as that it is not capable of Amendment? If
neither of these, let them tell me whether Complaining and Wishing will
ever do the business, or who is the greatest Benefactor to Mankind, he
who finds fault with every Project set on foot to better and improve
them, because it is not exactly after the Pattern in the Mount, that
is indeed according to his own tooth and relish; it is not beyond
exception, but has a touch of Humane Weakness and Ignorance mingled
with it? Or he who vigorously and sincerely with a pure heart and a
diligent hand, sets about doing what he Can, tho not so much as he
Wou’d, were his abilities greater? We’re all apt enough to cry out
against the Age, but to what purpose are our Exclamations unless we go
about to Reform it? Not faintly and coldly as if we were unconcern’d
for the success, and only wou’d do somewhat to still the reproaches
of our Consciences and to exalt us in our own Imaginations, with
the Pompous Idea of Zeal and Public Spiritedness; _but with all our
Might_, with an Unwearied Industry and Vigor, I’me asham’d to say
like that which the Instruments of Satan express in making Proselytes
to Wickedness and Prophaneness; but rather with such as becomes
the Servants of Christ, which bears some sort of proportion to the
Greatness of our Master, the Importance of the Work and the Excellency
of the Reward.

We do not expect that all who come into this Society will be perfect,
but we will endeavour to make them and our selves so as much as may
be. Nor shall any be admitted who either have not, or are not desirous
to have, that Divine yet humble, that Great and Generous, yet Meek and
Condescending Spirit, that unfeigned Love to GOD and all Mankind which
was in Christ Jesus. We set no other Rules than those of the Gospel,
Christianity being the highest Improvement of a Rational Nature, and
every one’s oblig’d to keep its Institutions whether they Live in such
a Society or out of it.

And as for that degeneracy which it may fall into, ’tis too general
an objection to have any weight, and may as well be urg’d against
Universities, all sorts of Government, and indeed against every
thing, as against this. _May be’s_ and _if’s_ are endless, and he
who undertakes to provide against all Future Contingencies, either
believes no GOD or fancies himself to be one. A Prudent Man will look
as far as he can, and provide to the utmost of his Knowlege and Power,
but when that’s done, he knows he’s but a Man and therefore can’t
possibly Forsee and Remedy all things.

Let’s then do what we _Can_, and leave the rest to our Great Benefactor
and Governor, but let us set about our own part, not only when the
way is open and easy, who shall give us thanks for that? but in spite
of all Difficulties and Discouragement, since we have so Glorious a
Leader, so indefatigable in his Labours, so boundless in his Love, such
an Omnipotent Assister who neither wants Power nor Will to help us. The
Peevishness and Obstinacy of such as Quarrel with our Labour of Love
and set themselves against all we can do to serve them, will only add
to our Laurels and enlarge our Triumphs, when our Constancy in doing
Good has at last o’ercome those Perverse Opposers of it.

_The End._


Page 22. Line 19. dele _yet_, p. 31. l. 13 d. _not only----but
against_, p. 76. l. 5. r. _imm’diate_, p. 87. l. 11. r. _Body_, p. 168.
l. 17.f. _of_ r. _the_, p. 109, l. 8, after _Thoughts_ add _to_, p.
135. Marg. l. 4. r. _Part_ I. §. 45, p. 180. l. 15.f. _a_ r. _an_, p.
185. l. 9. f. _bad_ r. _had_, p. 260. l. 3. r. _Ingenious_.

    _Books printed for_ Ric. Wilkin _at the_ King’s-Head _in St._
    Paul’s Church-yard.

A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their true and
greatest Interest: Part 1. By a Lover of her Sex, the 3_d._ Edition.

Letters concerning the Love of God, between the Author of the Proposal
to the Ladies and Mr. _John Norris_. 8^o.

Bishop _Patrick_’s Glorious Epiphany. 8^o.

---- His Search the Scriptures. 12^o.

Dr. _Abbadie_’s Vindication of the Truth of Christian Religion, against
the Objections of all modern Opposers. 8^o.

Dr. _Woodward_’s Natural History of the Earth. 8^o.

An Answer to _W. P._ his Key about the Quakers Light within and Oaths;
with an Appendix of the Sacraments. 8^o.

The Lives and Acts of the Holy Apostles comprehensively and plainly
related according to the Holy Scriptures and the Writings of the
Primitive Fathers of most approved Authority. 8^o.

A Letter to the Honourable Sir _Robert Howard_: Together with some
Animadversions on a Book entituled _Christianity not mysterious_. 8^o.

The Inhuman Cardinal, or Innocence betray’d, a Novel. 12^o.

_Ibrahim_, the 13_th._ Emperor of the _Turks_, a Tragedy: Both written
by Mrs. _Mary Pix_.

The Unnatural Brother: A Tragedy, by _Edward Filmer_, L.L.D.


[Transcriber’s Note:

The corrections listed in the Errata have been incorporated into the

Inconsistent punctuation and capitalization are as in the original.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]

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