1. IT is now many years since an Address was made to the Gentry of this Nation, to perswade them to that Vertue, which would be both their Pleasure and Reward. I cannot, I confess, boast any such Effect of that, as should much inspirit the hopes of a new Attemt; yet since we see in our proper secular Concerns, Defeats do may times animate no less then Success, I know not why in this more charitable Design I should sit down discouraged. Men usually raise not a siege upon the first repulse, but reinforce their Batteries, observe more curiously which are the most assailable accessible parts, and accordingly dispose their assault: It will then be no unreasonable imitation in the present case, if, after a succesless Attemt upon the more impregnable Masculine part of the Gentry, I now essay the Feminine, whose native Softness and Gentleness may render them less apt for that resistance of good Counsel, wherein too many Men place their Gallantry.
2. I presume those to whom that little Tract was at first design'd, will be so willing to relinquish their Title, that I might without imputation of robbery, exchange my Patrons, and by a new Dedication supersede the labor of a new Book. And indeed, since what was there said was founded more on the distinction of Qualities than of Sex, there would not need many razures to render it as proper for the one as the other; and I shall take so much advantage of it, as to assure the female Gentry, that they may there find much of the Duty incumbent on them, in respect of that Rank and Condition they hold in the World: and therefore, tho I shall somtimes make some reflexions on it; yet, as to the main, I shall think it the easiest course, as well for them as my self, to direct them thither.
3. But it may seem to have too much of the Pedant, to entertain new Scholars only with the cast or nauseated learning of the old; and when I remember I write to Ladies, who use to think the newness of any thing a considerable Addition to its valu; I conceiv my self oblig'd as well in civility to their humor, as charity to their needs, to give them somthing which they may own as their peculiar. And to render it the more unalienable, I shall affix it to their Sex; and make it the Subject of my present inquisition, what in respect of that, are the proper and distinct Obligations, under which, by the assignment of God and Nature, they are placed.
4. That the Obligation to Moral & Christian Vertues is in it self universal, and not confin'd to any Sex or Person, is not to be denied: yet, as in human Constitutions there are often Precepts, which (tho not exclusive of any, do yet) more peculiarly and eminently level at som particular rank or order of Men; so in the laws of God and Nature, there appears the like distinction. That all-wise Creator, who hath put peculiar proprieties and inclinations into his Creatures, hath accordingly design'd their actuating and improving them: and altho in mankind, which differs nor in species but in gender, the variety may seem less; yet there is still enough to found som diversity, either in the kind or degree of duty. This sure is shadowed to us in that particular caution given to the Jews, not to confound the habit of the several Sexes, Deut. 22. 5. and yet more clearly evinced in the Precept which the Apostles address to women, 1 Tim. 2. and 1. Pet. 3. Nay, this is so granted a truth, that all Ages and Nations have made som distinction between masculine & feminine Vertues, Nature having not only given a distinction as to the beauties of their outward form, but also in their very mold and constitution implanted peculiar aptnesses and proprieties of mind, which accordingly vary the mesure of decency; that being comely for the one Sex, which often is not (at least in the same degree) for the other. It will therefore be no absurd attemt to decipher those excellencies, which are the genuine and proper ornaments of Women: which tho in som instances they may perhaps prove coincident with those of Men; yet even those which are equally inclusive of both, by the divine command may have som additional weight on the female side, in respect of decency, fame, or som other (not despisable) consideration.
5. For the better directing our present inquisition, it will be most regular, first to inquire what those Vertues are which are universally necessary to Women in all Ages and circumstances of their lives: such which, like the first matter, are prerequir'd for all forms; which, like a firm and solid Basis, must support all various events, all changes of their condition or relations. And secondly, we shall consider them in those changes, track them through the several stages and periods of life, through those several states which create the most considerable mutations to them; and in each of those consider, what are the new and proportionate accessions of duty.
6. As in the outward accommodations of life the things of most daily and indispensible use deserve the greatest valu; so in moral or divine Endowments, the benefit of possessing is best mesured by the misery of wanting them. This first rank therefore of female Vertues which we are to treat of, will have that to recommend them; they being so strictly necessary, that their absence is not only a privative ill, but also exposes to a deluge of all positive mischiefs consequent to that privation.
7. This will be found true in all the severals we are to pass through, but in none more eminently then in that we shall chuse to begin with, the Vertue of Modesty; which may be considered in a double notion, the one as it is opposed to boldness and indecency, the other to leightness and wantonness. In the first acception, Zeno has not ill defin'd it, to be the Science of decent motion, it being that which guides and regulates the whole behavior, checks and controles all rude exorbitancies, and is the great civilizer of conversations, It is indeed a vertu of a general influence; does not only ballast the mind with sober and humble thoughts of ones self, but also steers every part of the outward frame. It appears in the face in calm and meek looks, where it so impresses it self, that it seems thence to have acquir'd the name of shamefacedness. Certainly, (whatever the modern opinion is) there is nothing gives a greater luster to a feminine beauty: so that St. Paul seems, not ill to have consulted their concerns in that point, when he substitutes that as a suppletory ornament to the deckings of Gold & Pearl and costly Array, 1 Tim. 2. But I fear this now will be thought too antiquated a dress, and an Apostle be esteemed no competent Judg in this Science; which is now become so solemn a thing, that certainly no Academy in the World can vie numbers with the Students of this Mystery. Yet when they have strein'd their art to the highest pitch; an innocent modesty, and native simplicity of Look, shall eclipse their glaring splendor, and triumph over their artificial handsomness: on the other side, let a Woman be decked with all the embellishments of Art, nay and care of Nature too, yet if boldness be to be read in her face, it blots all the lines of beauty, is like a cloud over the Sun, intercepts the view of all that was otherwise amiable, and renders its blackness the more observable, by being plac'd neer somwhat that was apt to attract the eyes.
8. But Modesty confines not its self to the face, she is there only in shadow and effigie; but is in life and motion in the words, whence she banishes all indecency and rudeness, all insolent vauntings and supercilious disdains, and what ever else may render a person troublesom, or ridiculous to the company. Nor does she only refine the language, but she tunes it too, modulates the tone and accent, admits no unhandsome earnestness or loudness of Discourse, the latter whereof was thought so undecent in Carneades (tho in his public Lectures) that the Gymnasiarch reproved him for it: and sure, if 'twere not allowable in a Philosopher in his School, 'twill less become a woman in ordinary converse; and if we consult Prov. 7. 11. and 9. we shall find loudness and clamor in women coupled with such other epithets, as will surely not much recommend it. A womans tongue should indeed be like the imaginary Music of the sphers, sweet and charming, but not to be heard at distance.
9. And as Modesty prescribes the manner, so it does also the mesure of speaking; restrains all excessive talkativeness, a fault incident to none but the bold; the monopolizing of discourse being one of the greatest assumings imaginable, and so rude an imposing upon the company, that there can scarce be a greater indecency in conversation. This is ingeniously exprest by our divine Poet Herbert,
A civil guest,
Will no more talk all, then eat all the Feast.
He that engrosses the talk, enforces silence upon the rest, & so is presumed to look on them only as his auditors & Pupils, whilst he magisteriously dictates to them: which gave occasion to Socrates to say, It is arrogance to speak all, and to be willing to hear nothing. It is indeed universally an insolent unbecoming thing, but most peculiarly so in a woman.
10. The ancient Romans thought it so, much so that they allowed not that sex to speak publicly, tho it were in their own necessary defence; insomuch that when Amesia stood forth to plead her own cause in the Senate, they lookt on it as so prodigious a thing; that they sent to consult the Oracle what it portended to the State: and tho these first severities were soon lost in the successes of that Empire, Valerius Maximus could find but two more, whose either necessity or impudence, perswaded them to repete this unhandsom attempt.
11. And this great indecency of Loquacity in Women, I am willing to hope is the reason why that Sex is so generally charged with it; not that they are all guilty, but that when they are, it appears so unhandsom, as makes it the more eminent and remarkable. Whether it were from that ungracefulness of the thing, or from the propension Women have to it, I shall not determin; but we find the Apostle very earnest in his cautions against it; 1 Cor. 14. 35. he expresly enjoins Women to keep silence in the Church, where he affirms it a shame for them to speak: and tho this seems only restrain'd to the Ecclesiastical Assemblies, yet even so it reaches home to the gifted Women of our age, who take upon them to be Teachers; whereas he allowed them not to speak in the Church, no not in order to learning, tho a more modest design then that of teaching. But besides this, he has a more indefinit prescription of silence to Women, 1 Tim. 2. 11. Let Women learn in silence; and again, v. 12. to be in silence. The Apostle seems to ground the Phrase, not only on the inferiority of the woman in regard of the creation and first sin, v. 13, 14. but also on the presumtion that they needed instruction; towards which, silence has alwaies bin reckoned an indispensible qualification, the introductory precept in all Schools, as that wherein all attention is founded. If som women of our age think they have outgon that novice state the Apostle supposes, and want no teaching; I must crave leave to believe, they want that very first Principle which should set them to learn, viz. the knowledg of their own ignorance: a science which so grows with study and consideration, that Socrates after a long life spent in pursuit of Wisdom, gave this as the sum of his learning, This only I know, that I know nothing. This proficiency seems much wanting to our female Talker, who, in this, seem to confute the common maxim, and give what they have not, by making their ignorance visible to others, tho it be undiscernable to themselves: and to such we may not unfitly apply the Sarcasin of Zeno to a talkative Youth; their ears are faln into their tongue.
12. But besides this assuming sort of talkativeness, there is another usually charged upon the Sex, a meer chatting, pratling humor, which maintains it self at the cost of their neighbors, and can never want supplies as long as there is any body within the reach of their observation.
This I would fain hope is most the vice of the vulgar sort of Women; the education of the Nobler setting them above those mean entertainments. Yet when 'tis remembred that St. Paul 1 Tim. 5. 13. makes Tatling the effect of Idleness, it may not unreasonably be feared, that where there is most of the Cause, there will be som of the Effect. And indeed, it would puzzle one to conjecture, how that round of formal Visits among Persons of Quality should be kept up without this: That their Visits should be only a dumb Shew, none will suspect among women; and when the unfashionable themes of Houswifery, Piety, &c. are excluded, there will not remain many Topics of Discourse, unless this be called into supply. And this indeed is a most inexhaustible reserve, it having so many springs to feed it, that tis scarce possible it should fail. And when 'tis farther considered, how apt a minister it is to Envy, Spleen, Revenge, and other feminine Passions, we cannot suppose it can be unacceptable where any of those bear sway. But I believe it is not more frequently introduc'd by any thing then the vanity of Wit, which has no where a more free and exorbitant range than in censuring and deriding; nay, finds not only Exercise but Triumph too, vain Persons seldom considering the Infirmities or Follies of others, without som Complacencies, and assuming reflections on themselves; which how unagreeable it renders this liberty of talking to that Modesty we recommend, is obvious enough, and would God 'twere only oppost to that; but it is no less so to all the obligations of Justice and Charity also, which are scarce so frequently violated by any thing, as by this licentiousness of the tongue.
13. There yet another vice of it, for which the female Sex has bin generally accus'd, and that is reveling of secrets; an infirmity presum'd so incident to them, that Aristotle is said to have made it one of the three things he solemnly repented of, that he had ever trusted a Secret with a Woman. But by how much the greater prejudice they lie under in this respect, the greater ought to be their caution to vindicate not only their Persons, but their Sex, from the imputation, which is indeed extreamly reprochful: this blasting humor being a symptom of a loose, impotent soul, a kind of incontinence of the mind, that can retain nothing committed to it; but as if that also had its Diabetic passion, perpetually and almost insensibly evacuating all. And indeed however we are willing to appropriate this to the Sex, yet the fault is owing only to this ill constitution of the mind, which is oft-times no less visible in men; as on the contrary, those women who by reason and vertu have acquir'd a Solidity and Firmness of mind, are as sure repositories of a Secret, as the most masculine confident: and such I have no intent to involve in this charge, but rather, by proposing their example to the rest, shew that nature has put them under no fatal necessity of being thus impotent. A secret is no such unruly thing, but it may be kept in: they may take the Wise mans word for it, Ecclus. 19. 10. If thou hast heard a word let it die with thee, and be bold, it will not burst thee.
14. This is a piece of daring manliness, which they may affect without breach of Modesty; would God they would take it in exchange for that virile Boldness, which is now too common among many even of the best Rank. Such a degenerous age do we now live in, that every thing seems inverted, even Sexes; whilst men fall to the Effeminacy and Niceness of women, and women take up the Confidence, the Boldness of men, and this too under the notion of good Breeding. A blush (tho formerly reputed the color of Vertu) is accounted worse manners then those things which ought to occasion it, and such as nothing but the simplicity of a Country Girl can excuse. But the infirmity for the most part proves very corrigible; a few weeks of the Town Discipline wears off that piece of Rusticity, and advances them to a modish Assurance. Nor is that design'd to terminate in it self, but it is to carry them on, till they arise to a perfect Metamorphosis, their Gesture, their Language, nay somtimes their Habit too being affectedly masculine; so that what Tacitus speaks of Vitellius in relation to his being a Prince, we may apply to them and say, that If others did not remember them to be women, themselves could easily forget it.
15. Yet, were this affectation confin'd only to the more innocent indifferent things, 'twere more tolerable; but alas it extends farther, and there are women who think they have not made a sufficient escape from their sex, 'till they have assumed the Vices of men too. A sober modest dialect is too effeminate for them: a blustring ranting stile is taken up, and (to shew them proficients in it) adorn'd with all the Oaths and Imprecations their memory or invention can supply; as if they meant to vindicate their sex from the imputation of Timerousness by daring God Almighty. 'Tis true indeed, an Oath sounds gratingly out of whatever mouth, but out of a womans it hath such an uncouth harshness, that there is no noise on this side Hell can be more amazingly odious; yet this is a music this discordant age hath introduc'd, no former having I think ever heard it in places at all civiliz'd: so that the female swearers want that poor shadow of excuse the men pretend to, it having bin so far from customary, that the unwontedness could not but force them to some industry and pains, ere they could acquire the habit, and set up for female Hectors; an essay, wherein they have been very kind to the masculine, by shewing the world there can be somthing worse.
16. 'Tis said there want not some who compleat the demonstration by the other parallel quality of Drinking also; a vice detestable in all, but prodigious in women, who put a double violence upon their nature, the one in the intemperance, the other in the immodesty; and tho they may take their immediate copy from men, yet (to the praise of their proficiency) they outdo their Exemplar and draw near the original: nothing human being so much beast as a drunken woman. This is evident enough if we look only on the meer surface of the crime; but if we dive farther into its inferences and adherencies, the affirmation is yet more irrefragable. She who is first a prostitute to Wine, will soon be to Lust also; she has dismist her Guards, discarded all the suggestions of reason, as well as Grace, and is at the mercy of any, of every assailant. And when we consider how much fuller the world is of Amnons then Josephs, it will not be hard to guess the fate of that womans Chastity, which has no other bottom then that of mens. So that unless her vice secure her virtue, and the loathsomness of the one prevent attemts on the other; 'tis scarce imaginable a woman that loses her Sobriety should keep her honesty: so that indeed I might more properly have made this reflection when I come to speak of Modesty in the second notion of it, as it is oppos'd to Lightness and Wantonness, but it falls not much amiss now, to be the introduction to it.
17. And if we consider Modesty in this sense, we shall find it the most indispensible requisite of a woman; a thing so essential and natural to the sex, that every the least declination from it, is a proportionable receding from Womanhood, but the total abandoning it ranks them among Brutes, nay sets them as far beneath those, as an acquir'd vileness is below a native. I need make no collection of the verdicts either of the Philosophers or Divines in the case, it being so much an instinct of nature, that tho too many make a shift to suppress it in themselves, yet they cannot so darken the notion in others, but that an Impudent woman is lookt on as a kind of Monster; a thing diverted and distorted from its proper form. That there is indeed a strange repugnancy to nature, needs no other evidence then the strugling, and difficulty in the first violations of Modesty, which always begin with regrets and blushes, and require a great deal of Self-denial, much of vicious Fortitude, to encounter with the recoilings and upbraidings of their own minds.
18. I make no doubt but this age has arriv'd to as compendious arts of this kind, as industrious vice can suggest, and we have but too many instances of early proficients in this learning; yet I dare appeal even to the forwardest of them, whether at first they could not with more ease have kept their vertu then lost it. Certainly such are the Horrors and Shames that precede those first Guilts, that they must commit a rape upon themselves (force their own reluctancies and aversions) before they can become willing prostitutes to others. This their Seducers seem well to understand, and upon that score are at the pains of so many preparatory courtings, such expence of presents too; as if this were so uncouth a crime, that there were no hope to introduce it but by a confederacy of some more familiar vices, their Pride or Covetousness.
19. The best way therefore to countermine those Stratagems of men, is for women to be suspiciously vigilant even of the first approches. He that means to defend a Fort, must not abandon the Outworks, and she that will secure her Chastity, must never let it come to too close a siege, but repass the very first and most remote insinuations of a temter. Therefore when we speak of modesty in our present notion of it, we are not to oppose it only to the grosser act of Incontinentcy, but to all those misbehaviors, which either discover or may create an inclination to it; of which sort is all lightness of carriage, wanton glances, obscene discourse; things that shew a woman so weary of her honor, that the next comer may reasonably expect a surrender, and consequently be invited to the Assault. Indeed they are such, that one would rather think them the result of many acts, then meerly the Prologue to one, and yet nothing but a custom of private sin, could supply impudence enough to do what is so publicly scandalous; and where this is found in those of any considerable age, charity it self can scarce pass a milder censure. Yet possibly in those of the youngest sort, they may at first be taken up (as their dress is) meerly in imitation of others, embrac'd implicitly upon the autority of those, whose examples govern the modes. When a poor girle, who has still so much of the child as to admire every thing that glitters, sees these things used by the gay people of the world, 'tis no wonder if she take these as part of their accomplishments, and, upon peril of that formidable calamity of being unfashionable, conform to them: Which yet does not so much extenuate the guilt of those few seduced persons, as it aggravats that of the Seducers, and attests the strange corruption of the age, that those things which the less hardned sort of prostitutes were formerly ashamed of, should now pass into the frequency and avowedness of a fashion, become a part of Discipline and Institution of youth; as if vice now disdain'd to have any punies in its school, and therefore by a preposterous anticipation, makes its pupils begin where they were wont to end, initiates them at first into that shamelesness, which was wont to be the product only of a long habit: what the end will be of these Piqueerers in impudence, who thus put their vertu on the forlorn hope, is easie to divine. Yet is not this the only state of danger: they who keep their ranks, and tho they do not provoke assaults, yet stay to receive them, may be far enough from safety. She that lends a patient ear to the praises of her Wit or Beauty, intends at first perhaps only to gratify her vanity; but when she is once charm'd with that Sirens song, bewitcht with that Flattery, she insensibly declines to a kindness for that person that values her so much and when that spark shall be blow'd up by perpetual remonstrances of Passion, and perhaps little Romantique artifices of pretending to dye for her, with a thousand other tricks, which lust can suggest, 'twill like the Naptha Naturalists speak of, in a moment grow to an unquenchable flame, to the ruine both of her vertu and honor.
20. Let no woman therefore presume upon the innocence of her first intentions; she may as well upon confidence of a sound constitution, enter a pest-house and converse with the plague, whose contagion does not more subtily insinuate it self, then this sort of temtation. And as in that case she would not stay to define what were the critical distance, at which she might approch with safty, but would run as far from it as she could; so in this, it no less concerns her, to remove her self from the possibility of danger, and (how unfashionable soever it be) to put on such a severe Modesty, that her very looks should guard her, and discourage the most impudent assailant. 'Tis said of Philopemen, that the Lacedemonians finding it their interest to corrupt him with mony, they were yet so possest with the reverence of his vertues, that none durst undertake to attaque him; and sure 'twere not impossible for women to arrive at the same security: such an autority there is in Vertu, that where 'tis eminent, 'tis apt to controle all loose desires, and he must not be only lustful but sacrilegious, that attemts to violate such a Sanctuary.
21. But perhaps that sex may fear, that by putting on such a Strictness, they shall lose the glory of their Beauty, which is now chiefly estimated by the number of those who court and adore them. To this in the first place I must say, that they are miserable Trophies to Beauty that must be built on the ruins of vertu and honor; and she that to boast the length of her hair should hang her self in it, would but act the same folly in a lower instance.
22. But then secondly, 'tis a great mistake to think their Beauty shall be the less prized, since 'tis incident to mans nature to esteem those things most that are at distance, whereas an easie and cheap descent begets contemt. So long as they govern themselves by the exact rules of Prudence and Modesty, their lustre is like the Meridian Sun in its clearness, which tho less approchable, is counted more glorious; but when they decline from those, they are like that Sun in a cloud, which tho safelier gazed on, is not half so bright. But besides these collateral advantages, 'tis certain that Modesty gives an immediat and direct improvement to Beauty; for tho men for their own vicious ends wish them sever'd, yet they cannot but think they are the most amiable when united, and you shall hear them often commend the aspect of that Modesty, which they would fain circumvent.
23. But in the 3d. place, there is nothing but such a Reservedness that can indeed make their Beauty triumphant. Parly and conquest are the most distant things; and she that descends to treat with an assailant, whatever he may tell her of his being her captive, 'tis but in order to the making her his; which when she once is, there is no state of servitude half so wretched, nothing in the world being so slavishly abject as a prostitute woman. For besides all the interest of another life which she basely resigns, the sacrifices all that is valuable in this: her reputation she puts wholy in his power that has debauched her, and which is worse her reformation too. If she should have a mind to return to vertu, she dares not for fear he should divulge her former strayings from it: so that, like Catiline, she is engag'd to future evils to secure the past. Yea she subjects her self not only to his lust, but to all his humors and fancies, nay even to all those who have bin instrumental to their privacies, none of them all being to be displeas'd for fear of blabbing: and when 'tis remembred, what a sort of cattel they are, which are the engines in such affairs, There can fearce be any thing more deplorable then to be within their lash. 'Tis true indeed, some have found a way to cure this uneasiness by being their own delators, not only confessing but boasting their crime, and by an impudent owning prevent all accusations: yet even this serves but to attest the intolerableness of the former condition, when this worst of mischiefs is chose as a rescue. Their impatience of being alwaies in awe, makes them take up that resolution for infamy, which Cesar did for death, who said 'twas better to dye once then to be alwaies in fear. And tho this desperate remedy may cure the fear, yet it ascertains the reproch; for whereas in the impeachment of others there is place for doubt, and charity may promt some to disbelieve it, yet when the fact is justified by the offender, the evidence is uncontrolable, and withall doubles the infamy. For, besides that which adheres to the crime there is a distinct portion due to the impudence; yet like the Scorpion it must cure its own sting, and tho it increases the obloquy, yet it deadens the sence of it.
24. But when they have thus steel'd their forheads against all impressions of Shame, they are still liable to many other painful effects of their sin. What fears of being abandoned, what jealousies of rivals, do often torture them? And indeed not without ground: for they cannot but know, that the same humor of variety which engaged their Paramors in their love, may do the same for another, and another, and so on; it being as possible to grasp the air, as to confine a wandring lust. Besides, what anxious apprehensions have they of the approch of age, which they are sure will render them loathed and despicable, as also of all intermedial decaies of Beauty? How critically do they examine their glass? and every wrinkle that it represents in their face, becomes a deep gash in the heart. But if they have at any time the lesure (or indeed the courage) to look inward the view is yet more dreadful, a deform'd foul, spoild of its innocence, and rendred almost as brutish as the sin it hath consented to. But tho it be in some respects like the beast that perisheth, it is not, it cannot be, in that which would most avail it; an endless being it cannot lose, nor can it expect any thing from that preeminence of its nature, but an infinity of misery. This is such an amazing contemplation, as, methinks, were it insisted on, should allay the hottest blood; no impure flames being so fierce as to contest with those of unquenchable fire. It is therefore tho a very impious, yet no unskilful artifice of those, who would vitiate women in their manners, to corrupt them in their Principles, and by extinguishing all hopes or fears of another World, perswade them to immerse boldly into all the abominations of this. 'Tis said, this is now an art of wooing, the modern preludium to the basest proposals: it seems this age dares not trust only to the former waies of seducement, fears there will not be women enough that will forget the interests of another World; and therefore is fain to set up a new party of others to disbelieve it. And I fear that design has bin too prosperous; many women are so much more concerned for their bodies then their souls, that they are contented the one should be elevated upon the depression and debasement of the other; and whilst with a vain transport, they can hear their outward form applauded as Angelical, or Divine, they can very tamely endure to have their better part vilified and despised, defin'd to be only a puff of air in their nostrils, which will scatter with their expiring breath, or, in the Atheist's phrase, Wisd. 6. 6. vanish as the soft air. Whereas they should consider, that they who preach this doctrin to them, design it only to infer a pernicious use. 'Tis a maxim in Politics, that those counsels are suspiciously to be scan'd, which carry in their front the advisers interest; which certainly is never more visible then in this case, he that once gains this point, never needing to contest for all the rest. For he that can perswade a woman out of her soul, will soon command her body, and then what was at first his interest, becomes hers at last; and her wishes of the mortality of her soul, are much stronger then 'tis possible her belief of it could be: which confirms abundantly my affirmation of the servile, wretched condition of such a person. For if we judg that a very severe slavery, which makes people desirous to resign a temporal being, what shall we think of that which provokes them to renounce an eternal?
25. And now by this gradation of mischiefs we may judg of the deplorable state of those who have abandoned their Vertu; wherein I doubt not the consciences of many cannot only attest, but much improve the description; and all I shall say to such, is, only to consult that bosom monitor, which till they do all Homilies will be insignificant. My design was not therefore to tell them what they too well feel, but only to point out their wracks as warnings others.
26. Let those therefore who are yet untainted, and by being so, have their judgments clear and unbiast, consider soberly the misery of the other condition, and that not only to applaud, but secure their own; and when ever the outward pomps and gaudy splendors of a vitiated woman seem, like that of Cresus, to boast their happiness, let them look through that Fallacy, and answer with Solon, that those only are happy who are so at their end. Their most exquisit deckings are but like the garlands on a beast design'd for Sacrifice; their richest gems are but the chains, not of their ornament but slavery; and their gorgeous apparel, like that of Herod, covers perhaps a putrid body, (for even that doth not seldom prove their fate) or however, a more putrid soul. They who can thus consider them, will avoid one great snare; for 'tis not alwaies so much the lust of the flesh, as that of the eyes which betrays a woman. 'Tis the known infirmity of the Sex, to love gaiety, and a splendid appearance, which renders all temtations of that sort so connatural to them, that those who are not arrived to a more sober estimate of things, will scarce be secure. It will therefore be necessary for them to regulate their opinions, and reduce all such things to their just valu, and then they will appear so trifling, that they can never maintain any competition with the more solid interests of Vertu and Honor. For tho those terms seem in this loose age to be exploded; yet where the things are visible they extort a secret veneration, even from those who think it their concern publicly to deride them: whereas on the other side a defection from them exposes to all the contemt imaginable, renders them despis'd even by those who betraid them to it, leaves a perpetual blot upon their Names, and their Family. For in the character of a woman, let Wit and Beauty, and all female accomplishments stand in the front; yet if wantonness bring up the rear, the Satyr soon devours the Panegyric, and (as in an Echo) the last words only will reverberate, and her vice will be remembred when all the rest will be forgot. But I need not declame upon this theme; the Son of Syrach has don it to my hand, in many passages, but especially Ecclus. 23. to which I refer the reader.
32, What hath bin already said, is I suppose, sufficient to convince every woman how much it is her concern to keep her self strictly within the bounds of Modesty and Vertu. In order to which, there is nothing more important then a judicious choice of their Company; I mean not only for men, but women also: vice is contagious, and this especially has that worst quality of the Plague, that 'tis malicious, and would infect others. A woman that knows her self scandalous, thinks she is reprocht by the vertu of another, looks on her as one that is made to reprove her waies, as it is, Wisd. 2. 14. and therefore in her own defence strives to level the inequality, not by reforming her self, (that she thinks too hard a task) but by corrupting the other. To this end, such are willing to screw themselves into an acquaintance, will be officiously kind, and by all arts of condescention and obliging, endeavor to ensnare a woman of reputation into their intimacy. And if they succeed, if they can but once entangle her into that cobweb-friendship; they then, spider-like, infuse their venom, never leave their vile insinuations till they have poisoned and ruined her. But and if on the other side they meet with one of too much sagacity to be so entrapped; if they cannot taint her Innocence, they will endeavor to blast her Fame; represent her to the World to be what they would have made her; that is in the Psalmists phrase; such a one as themselves, Psal. 50. 24. so that there is no conversing with them, but with a manifest peril either of Vertu or Honor, which should methinks be a sufficient disswasive. 'Tis true, 'tis not alwaies in ones power to shun the meeting with such persons, they are too numerous, and too intruding to be totally avoided; unless, as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 5. 10. one should go out of the World. But all voluntary converse supposes a choice, and therefore every body that will may refrain that, may keep on the utmost frontiers of civility, without ever suffering any approach towards intimacy and familiarity.
33. And sure were this distance duly observed, it might be of excellent use, a kind of lay Excommunication, which might come very seasonably to supply the want of the Ecclesiastic now out-dated. And this seems very wel to agree with the sense of Solon, the wise Athenian Law-giver, who, besides that he shut the Temple-doors against them, interdicted them the sacred Assemblies; made it one of his laws, that an Adulteress should not be permitted to wear any ornaments, that so they might in their dress carry the note of their infamy. Should we have the like distinction observed, I sear many of our gaiest birds would be unplumed, and tho the same be not now an expedient practicable; yet the former is, and might be of very good use. For beside that already mentioned of securing the innocent, it might perhaps have a good effect on the guilty, who could not but reflect with som shame on themselves, if they were thus singled out and discriminated; whereas whilst they are suffered to mix with the best Societies, (like hurt Deer in a herd) they flatter themselves they are undiscernable.
34. But indeed the advantage of this course is yet more extensive, and would reach the whole Sex, which now seems to lie under a general scandal, for the fault of particular persons. We know any considerable number of smutty ears casts a blackness on the whole field, which yet were they apart, would perhaps not fill a small corner of it; and in this uncharitable age, things are apt to be denominated not from the greater but worser part: whereas, were the precious severed from the vile, by som note of distinction, there might then a more certain estimate be made: and I cannot be so severe to womankind, as not to believe the scandulous part would then make but a small shew which now makes so great a noise.
35. Besides this I can suggest but one way more for women of honor to vindicate their Sex, & that is by making their own vertu as illustrious as they can; and by the bright shine of that draw off mens eyes from the worser prospect. And to this there is required not only innocence, but prudence; to abstain, as from all real evil, so from the appearance of it too, 1 Thess. 5. 22. not, by any doubtful or suspicious action, to give any umbrage for censure but as the Apostle saies in another case, 2 Cor. II. 11. to cut off occasion from them that desire occasion; to deny themselves the most innocent liberties, when any scandalous inference is like to be deduc'd from them. And tho perhaps no caution is enough to secure against the malicious, and the jealous; tho 'tis possible some black mouth may asperse them, yet they have still Plato's reserve, who being told of some who had defam'd him, 'tis no matter said he, I will live so that none shall believe them. If their lives be but such, that they may acquit themselves to the sober and unprejudiced, they have all the security can be aspir'd to in this world; the more evincing attestation they must attend from the unerring Tribunal hereafter; where there lyes a certain appeal for all injur'd persons who can calmly wait for it.