Project Canterbury

The Ladies Calling
attributed to Richard Allestree

Oxford: Printed at the Theater, 1673

The Close.

1. I HAVE now gone through both Parts of the propos'd Method. The former has presented those Qualifications which are equally necessary to every Woman: These, as a Root, send sap and vigor to the distinct Branches, animate & impregnate the several successive States through which she is to pass. He that hath pure Ore or Bullion, may cast it into what Form best fits his use, nay may translate it from one to another; and she who has that Mine of Virtues, may furnish out any Condition; her being good in an absolute consideration, will certainly make her so in a relative. On the other side, she who has not such a Stock, cannot keep up the Honor of any State; like corrupted Liquor, emty it from one Vessel to another, it still infects and contaminates all. And this is the cause that Women are alike complain'd of under all Forms, because so many want this Fundamental Vertu: were there more good Women, there would be more modest Virgins, loyal and obedient Wives, and sober Widows.

2. I must therefore intreat those who will look on this Tract, not only to single out that part which bears their own Inscription, but that they think themselves no less concern'd in that which relates indefinitely to their Sex; endeavor to possess themselvs of those excellencies which should be as universal as their kind: and when they are so stor'd with Matter, they may leave Providence to diversifie the Shape, and to assign them their Scene of Action.

3. And now would God it were as easie to persuade, as it is to propose; and that this Discourse may not be taken only as a Gazet for its newness, & discarded as soon as read; but that it may at least advance to the honor of an Almanac, be allowed one Year ere it be out of date: and in that time, if frequently & seriously consulted, it may perhaps awaken some Ladies from their stupid Dreams, convince them that they were sent into the World for nobler purposes, then only to make a little Glittering in it; like a Comet, to give a blaze, and then disappear. And truly, if it may Operate but so far as to give them an effective sense of that, I shall think it has don them a considerable Service: They may, I am sure, from that Principle, deduce all necessary Consequences, and I wish they would but take the pains to draw the Corollaries; for those Inductions they make to themselves, would be much more efficacious then those which are drawn to their hands. Propriety is a great endearment, we love to be Proselytes to our selves; and People oft resist others Reasons, who would upon meer partiality pay reverence to their own.

4. But besides this, there would be another Advantage, if they could be but got to a custom of considering, by it they might insensibly undermine the grand Instrument of their ruine. That careless incogitancy, so remarkably frequent among all, and not least among Persons of Quality, is the source of innumerable Mischiefs; 'tis the Delilah, that at once lulls and betrays them; it keeps them in a perpetual Sleep, binds up their Faculties, so that, though they are not extinct, yet they becom useless. Plato used to say, That a man asleep was good for nothing: and 'tis certainly no less true of this Moral drousiness then the Natural. And as in Sleep the fancy only is in motion, so these inconsiderate Persons, they rather dream then discourse entertain little trifling Images of things, which are presented by their Senses, but know not how to converse with their Reason. So that in this drousy state, all temtations come on them with the same advantage, with that of a thief in the night; a Phrase by which the Scripture expresses the most inevitable unforeseen danger, 1 Thess. 5, 2. We read in Judges, how easily Laish became a prey to a handful of men, meerly because of the supine negligent humor of the Inhabitants, which had cut them off from allintercourse with any who might have succor'd them, Jud. 18. 27, 28. and certainly it gives no less opportunity to our Spiritual Assailants, leaves us naked and unguarded to receive all their Impressions. How prodigious a thing is it then, that this state of dulness and danger should be affectedly chosen? yet we see it too often is, even by those whose qualities & Education fit them for more Ingenious Elections; nay, which is yet more riddle, that very aptness disenables, sets them above what it prepares them for. Labor is lookt on as utterly incompatible with Greatness, and Consideration is lookt on as a labor of the mind; and there are some Ladies, who seem to reckon it as their Prerogative, to be exemted from both; will no more apply their Understandings to any serious Discussion, then their Hands to the Spindle and Distaff; the one they think pedantic, as the other is mean. In the mean time, by what strange measures do they proceed? they look on Idiots as the most deplorable of Creatures, because they want reason, and yet make it their own excellence and preheminence, to want the use of it; which is indeed so much worse then to want the thing, as sloth is worse then poverty, a moral defect then a natural. But we may see by this, how much civil & sacred estimates differ: for we find the Bereans commended, not only as more diligent, but as more noble too, Act. 17. 11. because they attentively consider'd, and strictly examin'd the Doctrine preach' a to them. By which they may discern, that in Gods Court of Honor, a stupid Oscitancy is no ennobling Quality, however it comes to be thought so in theirs.

5. And if this one point might be gain'd, if they would but so far actuate their Reason, as deliberatly and duly to weigh their Interest, they would find that so strictly engaging them to all that is vertuous; that they must have a very invincible resolution for ruine, if that cannot perswade them: and I hope all women are not Medea's, whom the Poet brings in avowing the horridness of that fact, which yet the resolv'd to execute. They are generally rather timorous, and apt to start at the apprehension of danger; let them but see a serpent tho at a great distance; they will need no homilies or lectures to be perswaded to fly it. And sure did they but cleerly discern what a sting there is in those vicious follies they embrace, their fear would make them quit their hold; put them in such a trembling, as would, like that of Belshazzars, slacken their joints, and make those things drop from them, which before they most tenaciously grasped. For indeed in sin there is a conspiration of all that can be dreadful to a rational being, so that one may give its compendium by the very reverse of that which the Apostle gives of Godliness, 1 Tim. 4. 8. for as the one has the promises, so the other has the curses of this life, and of that to come.

6. In this life every deprav'd act (much more habit) has a black shadow attending it; it casts one inward upon the conscience in uncomfortable upbraidings and regrets. 'Tis true indeed, some have the art to disguise that to themselves by casting a yet darker over it; suppressing all those reluctings by an industrious stupefaction; making their souls so perfect-night, that they cannot see those black images their consciences represent. But as this renders their condition but the more wretched; so neither can they blind others tho they do themselves. Vice casts a dark shadow outwards too, not such as may conceal but betray its self: and as the evening shadows increase in dimension, grow to a monstrosity and disproportion; so the longer any ill habit is continued, the more visible, the more deform'd it appears, draws more observation and more censure.

7. 'Twere indeed endless to reckon up the temporal evils to which it exposes its votaries; immodesty destroi's their fame, a vain prodigality their fortune, anger makes them mad, pride hateful, levity renders them despis'd, obstinacy desperate, and irreligion is a complication of all these, fills up their mesure both of guilt and wretchedness, so that had vertue no other advocate, her very Antagonist would plead for her: the miserable consequences of vice, would like the flames of Sodom send all considering persons to that little Zoar, which how despicable soever it may have appear'd before, cannot but look invitingly when safety is inscrib'd on its gates.

8. But it must infinitly more do so, if they please to open a Visto into the other World, make use of divine perspectives to discern those distant objects which their grosser senses do here intercept. There they may see the dismal Catastrophe of their Comedies, the miserable inversion of all unlawful or unbounded plesures: there that Prophetic menace concerning Babylon which we find, Rev. 18. 7. will be literally verified upon every unhappy soul, According as she exalted her self and lived delicately, so much the more tribulation give her; the torment of that life will bear proportion to the pride and luxuries of this. It wil therefore be necessary for those who here wallow in plesures, to confront to them the remembrance of those rivers of Brimstone, and ask themselves the Prophets question, Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? We find Esay, when he denounces but temporal judgments against the daughters of Zion, he exactly pursues the Antithesis, and to every part of their effeminate delicacy he opposes the direct contrary hardship; instead of sweet smels there shall be a stink, instead of a girdle a rent, in stead of well-set hair baldness, in stead of a stomacher a girding with sackcloth, and burning in stead of beauty, Esai. 3. 24.

9. It were well the daughters of our Zion would copy out this lecture, and prudently forsee how every particular sin or vanity of theirs will have its adapted punishment in another World. And sure this consideration well digested, must needs be a forcible expedient to cleanse them from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, as the Apostle speaks 2 Cor. 7. 1. For is it possible for her to cherish and blow up her libidinous flames here, who considers them but as the first kindlings of those inextinguishable ones hereafter? Can she make it her study to please her appetite, that remembers that Dives's unintermitted feast ends in as unallaied a thirst? Or can she deny the crumbs of her table to that Lazarus, to whom she foresees she shall then supplicate for a drop of water? In fine can she lay out her whole industry, her fortune, nay her ingenuity too, in making provision for the flesh, who considers that that flesh will more corrupt by pampering, and breed the worm that never dies? Certainly no woman can be so desperately daring, as thus to attaque damnation, resist her reason and her sense, only that she may ruine her soul; and unless she can do all this, her foresight will prove her escape, and her viewing the bottomless pit in Landskip and picture will secure her from a real descent into it.

10. But now that this Tract may not make its exit in the shape of a fury, bring their meditations to hell and there leave them, it must now at last shift the Scene, and as it has shew'd the blackness of vice by that outer darkness to which it leads, we also will let in a beam of the Celestial light to discover the beauty of Vertue; remind the Reader that there is a region of joy as well as a place of torment, and piety and vertue is that milky way that leads to it; a state, compar'd to which the Elyzium of the heathen is as inconsiderable as it is fictitious, the Mahometan Paradise as flat and insipid as it is gross and brutish; where the undertaking of the Psalmist shall be compleatly answer'd, those that fear the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good, Ps. 34. 10. And this happy state is as accessible as excellent, God is not unsincere in his proposals, offers not these glories only to Tantalize and abuse us, but to animate and incourage mankind. He sets up an inviting prize, and he not only marks out, but levels the way to it; makes that our duty which is also our plesure, yea and our honor too: So has he contriv'd for our ease, that knowing how hardly we can divest our voluptuousness and ambition, he puts us not to it; all he demands is but that he may choose the objects, and in that he is yet more obliging, for by that at once he refines and satisfies the desires. He takes us off indeed from the fulsom plesures of sense, which by their grosseness may cloy, yet by reason of their emtiness can never fill us; and brings us to tast the more pure spiritual delights which are the true elixir of Plesures; in comparison whereof all the sensual are but as the dregs or feces in an extraction, after the spirits are drawn off. In like manner he calls us from our aspiring to those pinnacles of honor, where we alwaies sit totteringly and often full down, but yet invites us to soar higher, where we shall have the moon with all her vicissitudes and changes under our feet Rev. 12. 1. and enjoy a grandeur as irreversible as splendid.

11. Thus does he shew us a way to hallow our most unsanctified affections; thus, according to the Prophesie of Zeehariah, may holiness be writ even upon the bells of the horses, Zec. 14. 20. upon our most brutal inclinations; and thus may all those feminine Passions which now seduce women from Vertu, advance them in it. Let her that is amorous, place her love upon him who is (as the Spouse tells us, Cant. 5. 10.) 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, Matt. 5. 28. and she that is sad, reserve her tears for her penitential offices. Thus may they consecrate even their infirmities; and tho they cannot Deifie, or erect Temples to them, as the Romans did to their Passions, nay their Diseases; yet after they are thus cleansed, they may sacrifice them as the Jews did the clean Beasts in the Tabernacle. Only irreligion and profaneness is exemt from this Priviledg, no water of Purification can cleanse it, or make it serviceable in the Temple; that, like the spoils of Jericho, is so execrable, that it must be devoted to destruction, as an accursed thing, Jos. 6. 17. For tho God do not despise the work of his own hands, have so much kindness to his Creatures, that he endeavors to reduce all our native inclinations to their primitive rectitude, and therefore does not abolish, but purifie them; yet Atheism is none of those, 'tis a counterblast from hell, in opposition to that mighty wind in which the holy Spirit descended. Tho the subject in which it subsists may be reform'd, the person may turn Christian, and the wit that maintain'd its blasphemous paradoxes may be converted to holier uses: yet the quality it self is capable of no such happy Metamorphosis; that must be extirpated, for it cannot be made tributary; which shews how transcendent an ill that is which cannot be converted to good: even that Omnipotence which can out of the very stones raise children to Abraham, attemts not any transmutation of this; which ought therefore to possess all hearts with a detestation of it, and to advance them in an earnest pursuit of all the parts of Piety.

12. And that is it which I would now once more (as a farwel exhortation) commend to my female Readers, as that which vertually contains all other accomplishments; 'tis that pearl in the Gospel for which they may 'part with all and make a good bargain too. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom saies the wisest of men Prov. 1. 7. and by his experience he shews that it is the compleating end of it too; for he no sooner declin'd from that, but he grew to dotage and dishonor. Let all those therefore to whom God has dispenst an outward affluence, given them a visible splendor in the eies of the World, be careful to secure to themselvs that honor which comes from God only, Joh. 5. 44. unite their souls to that supreme Majesty who is the fountain of true honor who in his bestowing the Crown of righteousness proceeds by the same mesures by which he disposed the Crown of Israel, when he avow'd to Samuel that he lookt not on the outward appearance but beheld the heart, Sam. 16. 7. If God see not his own Image there, all the beauty and gaiety of the outward form is despicable in His eies, like the apples of Sodom only a Kind of painted dust. But if Piety be firmly rooted there, they then become like the Kings daughter all glorious within too; a much more valuable bravery then the garment of needle-work and vesture of Gold, Psalm. 45. 13. And this is it that must enter them into the Kings Palace, into that new Jerusalem, where they shall not wear, but inhabit pearls and Gems Rev. 21. 19. be beautiful without the help of art or nature, by the meer reflection of the Divine brightness; be all that their then enlarg'd comprehensions can wish, and infinitly more then they can here imagine.


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