1. THE next state which can succeed to that of Marriage is Widowhood, which tho it supersedes those duties which were terminated meerly in the person of the husband, yet it endears those which may be paid to his ashes. Love is strong as death, Cant. 8. 6. and therefore when it is pure and genuine cannot be extinguisht by it, but burns like the funeral lamps of old, even in vaults and charnel houses, the conjugal love transplanted into the grave (as into a finer mould) improves into piety, and laies a kind of sacred obligation upon the widow to perform all offices of respect and kindness which his Remains are capable of.
2. Now those Remains are of three sorts, his body his memory, and his children. The most proper expession of her love to the first, is in giving it an honorable Enterrment; I mean not such as may vye with the Poland extravagance (of which 'tis observed that two or three neer succeeding funeralls ruin the family) but prudently proportion'd to his quality & fortune, so that her zeal to his Corps may not injure a nobler relique of him, his Children. And this decency is a much better instance of her kindness, then all those Tragical Furies wherwith som. Women seem transported towards their dead Husbands, those frantick Embraces and caresses of a Carcass, which betray a little too much the sensuality of their Love. And it is somthing observable, that those vehement Passions quickly exhaust themselvs, and by a kind of Sympathetic Efficacy as the Body (on which their affection was fixt) moulders, so does that also, nay often it attends not those lesurely degrees of dissolution, but by a more precipitate motion seems rather to vanish then consume.
3. The more valuable Kindness therefore, is that to his Memory, endeavoring to embalm that, keep it from perishing; and by this innocent Magic (as the Egyptians were wont by a more guilty) she may converse with the dead, represent him so to her own thoughts, that his life may still be repeated to her: and as in a broken Mirror the refraction multiplies the Images, so by his dissolution every hour presents distinct Ideas of him; so that she sees him the oftner, for his being hid from her eies But as they use not to Embalm without Odors, so she is not only to preserve, but perfume his Memory, render it as fragrant as she can; not only to her self but others; by reviving the remembrance of whatever was praise-worthy in him, vindicating him from all calumnies and false accusations, and stifling (or allaying) even true ones as much as she can. And indeed, a widow can no way better provide for her own honor, then by this tenderness of her Husbands.
4. Yet there is another expression of it, inferior to none of the former, and that is, the setting such a valu upon her relation to him, as to do nothing unworthy of it. 'Twas the dying charge of Augustus to his Wife Livia, Behave thy self well, and remember our Marriage. And she who has bin Wife to a Person of Honor, must so remember it as not to do any thing below her self, or which he (could he have foreseen it) should justly have bin ashamed of.
5. The last Tribute she can pay him is in his children. These he leaves as his Proxies to receive the kindness of which himself is uncapable; so that the Children of a Widow may claim a double portion of the Mothers love, one upon their Native right, as hers; the other, as a bequest in right of their dead Father. And indeed, since she is to supply the place of both Parents, 'tis but necessary she should put on the affections of both, and to the tenderness of a Mother, adde the care and conduct of a Father. First, in a sedulous care of their Education: and next, in the prudent managery of their Fortune; an order that is somtimes unhappily inverted, and Mothers are so concern'd to have the Estate prosper in their tuition, that the Children cannot; whilst (by an unseasonable frugality) to save a little expence, they deny them the advantages of an Ingenious and Gentile Breeding, swell their Estates perhaps to a vast bulk, but so contract and narrow their minds, that they know not how to dispose them to any real benefit of themselves or others. And this is one of the most pernicious Parsimonies imaginable, a Mother by this seems to adopt the Fortune, and abdicate the Child, who is only made the Beast tobear those loads of Wealth she will lay on, and which she evidently owns as the greatest Tresure, since in tenderness to that she neglects him.
6. Yet somtimes the same Effect springs from another Cause, and Children are ill bred, not because the Mother grudges the charge, but out of a Feminine fondness, which permits her not to part with them to the proper places for their education; like Jacob to Benjamin, her Soul is so bound up in them, that she cannot lend them a while even to their own most necessary concerns; and this, tho not so ignoble a motive as the other, is of no less mischief, at least to her Sons, who being by it confin'd to home, are consequently condemn'd to be poyson'd (if with nothing else, yet) with the flatteries of Servants and Tenants, who think those the best expedient to secure their own station. And with these the young Master or Landlord is so blown up, that as if his Manors were the confines of the World, he can look at nothing beyond them; so that when at last he breaks loose from his Mothers arms, and comes abroad, he expects scarce to find his Equals, much less his Betters; thinks he is still to receive the same fawning Adorations which he was used to at home: and being possest with this insolent expectation, he will scarce be undeceived, but at the price of many Affronts, nay, perhaps he may buy his experience with the loss of his life; by his ill maners draw on a Quarrel, wherein he finally perishes. That this is no impossible Supposition, some unhappy Mothers have found to their unspeakable affliction.
7. 'Tis not to be denied, but there are also dangers consequent to the breeding Children abroad, Vice having insinuated it self even into the places of Erudition, and having not only as many, but the very same Academies with Vertu & Learning; so that the extreme depravation of the times new states the Question, and we are not to consider which is best, but which is the least ill disposure of Children. And in that competition sure the home Education will be cast; for there they may suck in all the Venom, and nothing of the Antidote; they will not only be taught base things, but (as I before observ'd) by the basest Tutors, such as will add all the most sordid circumstances to the improving of a Crime. Whereas abroad they are first not like to meet with any whose interest is so much to make them Vicious: And secondly, they may (as ill as the world is) meet with many who may give them both Precepts & Examples of a better kind. Besides, the Discipline used in those Communities makes them know themselves; and the various sorts of Learning they may acquire, will not only prove useful divertisement (the want of which is the great spring of mischeif) but will, if rightly apply'd, furnish them with Ingenious & Vertuous principles, such as may set them above all vile & ignoble practises. So that there seems a conspiration of motives to wrest the child from the relucting mother, & to perswade her for a while to deny her self that desire of her eies, that so he may at last answer the more rational desire of her heart.
8. As to the other part of her obligation, the managing of their fortune, there is the same rule for her as for all other persons that have a Trust, viz. to do as for themselves; that is, with the same care and diligence (if not a greater) as in her own peculiar concern. I do not say that she shall confound the property, and make it indeed her own by applying it to her particular use. A thing I fear which is too often don, especially by the gayer sort of widows, who to keep up their own equipage, do somtimes incroach upon their sons peculiar, & I wish even that (tho bad enough) were the only case wherein it were don. But 'tis sometimes to make her a better prize to a second husband: she goes into another family, and as if she were a Colony sent out by her son, he must pay for the planting her there; indeed the oft repeating this injury, has advanc't it now into a custom, and the management of the minors estate is reckon'd on as part of the widows fortune. But I confess I see not what there is in the title of a mother, that can legitimate her defrauding her child; it rather envenoms the crime and adds unnaturalness to deceit. Besides 'tis a preposterous sort of guilt. Orphans and Widows are in Scripture link't together as objects of Gods and good mens pitty, and of ill mens oppression, and how ill alas does civill war look among fellow sufferers; the Widow to injure the orphan is like that uncouth oppression Solomon speaks of Prov. 28. 3. A poor man that oppresseth the poor, is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food. Such kind of rapins are as excessive in their degree as prodigious in their kind, and I believe there are many instances of sons, who have suffer'd more by the guardianship of their Mothers, then they could probably have don by the outrage of Strangers.
9. How well such Mothers answer their obligations to their dead Husbands, I must leave it to their own consciences to discuss: I shall only offer them these steps of gradation by which to proceed. First, that injustice of any sort is a great sin; secondly that when 'tis in a matter of trust tis complicated with treachery also, thirdly that of all trusts those to the dead have allwaies bin esteem'd the most sacred: if they can find any allay to these by the two remaining circumstances, that tis the trust of a husband, and the interest of a child, I shall confess them very subtil casuists.
10. I have hitherto spoke of what the widow ows to her dead husband; but there is also somewhat of peculiar obligation in relation to her self. God who has plac'd us in this World to pursue the interests of a better, directs all the signal acts of his providence to that end, and intends we should so interpret them. So that every great change that occurs, is designed either to recall us from a wrong way, or to quicken our pace in the right, and a widow may more then conjecture, that when God takes away the mate of her bosome, reduces her to a solitude, he does by it sound a retreat from the lighter jollities and gaieties of the world. And as in compliance with civill custom she immures her self, sits in darkness for a while; so she should put on a more retir'd temper of mind, a more strict and severe behavior, and that not to be cast off with her veil, but to be the constant dress of her widowhood. Indeed that state as it requires a great sobriety and piety, so it affords many advantages towards it: the Apostle tells us, that she who is married careth for the things of the World how she may please her husband 1 Cor 7. 34. There are many things which are but the due compliances of a wife, which yet are great avocations, & interrupters of a strict devotion; when she is manumitted, from that subjection, when she has less of Martha's care of serving, she is then at liberty to chose Mary's part, Luk. 10. 42. She has her time and her fortune at her own command, and consequently may much more abound in the works both of piety and charity. We find God himself retrench the wive's power of binding her own soul Num. 30. Her vows were totally insignificant without her husbands confirmation; but the widow might devote her self to what degree she pleas'd, her piety has no restraint from any other inconsistent obligation, but may swell as high as it can. Those hours which were before her husbands right seem now to devolve on God the grand proprietor of our time: that discourse and free converse wherewith she entertain'd him, she may now convert into colloquies and spiritual entercourse with her maker; and that love which was only human before, by the change of its object acquires a sublimity, is exalted into divine; from loial duty and conjugal affection becomes the eternal work and happiness of Angels, the ardor of a Cherubim. Thus may she in a higher sense verify Sampsons riddle, Judg. 14. fetch hony out of a carcasse, make her husbands Ashes (like those of the heifer under the law, Heb. 9. 13.) her Purification; his corruption may help to put on incorruption, and her loss of a temporary comfort may instate her in an eternal.
11. And as her self so her fortune may also be consecrated; and indeed if she be, that will also If she have made an escape out of Egypt, there shall not a hoof be left behind her, Exod. 10. 26. No part of her possessions will be assign'd to vanity and exccss. She who hath really devoted her self to Piety, fasted and praied with Anna Luk. 2. 37. will also be full of good works & alms-deeds with Tabitha, Act. 9. 36. Thus she may be a mother when she ceases to bear; and tho she no more increase one family, she may support many; and certainly the fertility of the womb, is not so valuable as this of the bowels. Fruitfulness can be but a happiness, Compassion is a vertue. Nay indeed 'tis a greater and more certain happiness; a child is not brought forth but with pangs & anguish, but a work of mercy is produc'd not only with ease, but delight. Besides, she that bears a Child, knows not whether it may prove a Blessing or a curse; but Charity gives certain title to a Blessing, and engages the most solvent Paymaster, even God himself, who owns all such disbursments as a loan to him. He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord: and that which he hath given will he pay him again, Prov. 19. 17.
12. There was in the Primitive Times an Ecclesiastical Order of Widows, which St. Paul mentions 1 Tim. 5. whose whole Ministry was devoted to Charity. They were indeed of the poorer sort, fit rather to receive then give Alms; yet the less they could do with their Purses, the more was required of their Persons, the humbler offices of washing the Saints feet, the careful task of bringing up children, and a diligent attendance on every good work. And sure there is parity of Reason, that those who upon the score of their Wealth, exemt themselvs from those Laborious Services, should commute for it by more Liberal Alms. In the warmth and zeal of Christianity, Women of the higest Quality performed both sorts of Charity, forgot their Greatness in their condescensions, yet assum'd it again in their bounty; founded Hospitals, and yet with a labor of love, as the Apostle stiles it, Heb. 6. 10. disdain'd not sometimes to serve in them. But these are Examples not like to be transcrib'd in our daies, Greatness is now grown to such an unweildiness, that it cannot stoop tho to the most Christian Offices, and yet can as little soar up in any Munificent Charities: it stands like Nebuchadnezzars Golden Image, a vast Bulk only to be ador'd.
13. Now certainly, if any Women be qualified to avert this reproch, it must be the Dowagers of great Families and Fortunes, they have none to controul their Visits to the sick and afflicted, or to resent a disparagement from their humility, neither have they an account to give of their Possessions to any but God and themselves; to him sure they can bring none so like to procure them the Eulogy of well don thou good and faithful servant, Matth. 25. 21. as a Catalogue of their Alms. Nor indeed can they any other way dispose their Fortune so much to their own contentment; they may indeed cloy and satiate their senses, make provision for the flesh; but that no way satisfies their reason, much less their Conscience. The Soul, which is the superior part; is quite left out in that distribution, nothing is communicated to it but the guilt of those dear bought Excesses. The only way it has to be a sharer in their Wealth, is by a charitable dispensing. The Poor are its Proxies as well as Gods, and tho in all other respects we may say to the Soul, as the Psalmist does to God, Ps. 16. 2. my goods extend not to thee: yet by this way, it becomes not only a partaker, but the chief proprietor, and all is laid out for its use. The harboring an out-cast, builds it an everlasting habitation, Lu. 16. 9. The clothing the naked, arrays it in pure white linen, Rev. 19. 8. and the feeding the hungry, makes it a guest at the supper of the Lamb. v. 8. nay, it gains not only an indefeisible title to these happy Reversions, but it has a great deal in present possession, a huge rational Complacence in the right applying of Wealth, & doing that with it for which 'twas design'd; yet more, it gives a sensitive delight, nothing being more agreeable to human nature, then the doing good to its own kind. A seasonable Alms leavs a greater exultation & transport in the Giver, then it can ordinarily raise in the Receiver; so exemplifying the Maxim of our Blessed Lord, that it is a more blessed thing to give then to receive, Act. 20. 35. This indeed is a way to elude the severe denuntiation of the Apostle, 1 Tim. 5. 6. A widow that liveth in this plesure, is not dead whilest she liveth; but on the contrary, shall live when she dies; when she resigns her Breath, shall improve her being; the Praiers of the Poor, like a benign gale, shall assist her flight to the Region of Bliss; and she who has here cherish'd the afflicted Members, shall ther be indissolubly united to their Glorious Head.
14. And now methinks Widow-hood, under this aspect, is quite transform'd, is not so forlorn; so desolate an estate as 'tis usually esteem'd. And would all Widows use but this expedient, thus devote themselves to Piety and Charity, it would like the healing Tree, Exod. 15. 25. sweeten the Waters of Marah, render the condition not only supportable; but plesant; and they would not need to make: such affrighted; such disadvantageous escapes, as many do, from it. 'Tis true, the Apostle's affirmation is unquestionable, that the wife, when her husband is dead, is at liberty to be married to whom she will, 1 Cor. 7. 39. But the advice he subjoins is authentic too, she is happier if she so-abide. She that may solace her self in the Society, in the Love of her God, makes an ignoble descent to Human Embraces; she that may purchase Heaven with her Wealth, buys a very dear Bargain of the best Husband on Earth; nay indeed, upon a meer secular account, it seems not very prudent to relinquish both Liberty and Property, to Espouse at the best a Subjection, but perhaps a Slavery; it a little resembles the mad Frolicks of freed Gallyslaves, who play away their Liberty as soon as they regain it.
15. Marriage is so great an Adventure, that once seems enough for the whole life; for whether they have bin prosperous or adverse in the first, it does almost discourage a second attemt. She that has had a good Husband, may be suppos'd to have his Idea so fixt in her Heart, that it will be hard to introduce any new Form: nay farther, she may very reasonably doubt, that in this commond earth of Virtu, two good Husbands will scarce fall to one Womans share, and an ill one will become more intolerable to her, by the reflections she will be apt to make on the better. On the other side, if she have had a bad, the smart sure cannot but remain after the rod is taken off; the memory of what she has suffer'd should, me thinks, be a competent caution against new adventures. Yet experience shews us that women (tho the weaker sex) have commonly fortitude enough to encounter and baffle all these considerations. It is not therefore to be expected that many will by any thing that hath or can be said be diverted from remarrying: and indeed she that does not preserve her widowhood upon the accounts fore-mentioned, may perhaps better relinquish it. St Paul we see advises that those Widows who found no better emploiment then going from house to house, that grew by their vacancy to be tatlers and busy bodies 1 Tim. 5. 13. should marry again; it being the best way to fix these wandring planets, to find them business of their own at home, that so they may not ramble abroad to intermeddle with that of others. And the truth is they that cannot brook the retiredness and gravity which becomes a widow, had better put themselves in a state that less requires it; and, if they resolve not to conform their minds to their condition, to bring their condition to their minds; but in the doing that there will be some cautions very necessary to be observ'd. I shall reduce them to two, the one relating to the times, the other to the equality of the match.
16. First in respect of time, common decency requires that there be a considerable intervall between the parting with one husband & the chusing another, This has bin so much observed by nations that were at all civiliz'd, that find Numa made it a law, that no widow should marry under 10 months, and if any did she was to sacrifice as for the expiation of a crime; and this continued in force many ages after, in so much that when upon reasons of State Augustus found it usefull to marry his sister Octavia to Antonius, nothing less then a decree of the Senate could license the anticipating the time; so zealous observers were they of this point of Civility, that they thought the whole state was concern'd in the violation. 'Tis true we have no law in the case, but we have somewhat of custom, I know not how long we shall have, since the frequent breaches of it threaten quite to cancell it: yet a woman that is ten er of her honor will scarce give her example towards the rescinding it. The wounds of grief are seldom heal'd by any hand but that of time, and therefore too sudden a cure shews the hurt pierc'd not deep; and she that can make her mourning veil an optic to draw a new lover neerer to her sight, gives cause to suspect the sables were all without.
17. The next thing considerable is the equality of the match. Marriage is so close a link, that to have it easy 'tis good to have the parties as even proportion'd as may be. And first in respect of quality and fortune, 'tis to be wisht there should be no eminent disproportion. Those that meet most upon a level, are least subject to those upbraidings that often attend a great descent of either party; it is therefore no prudent motive, by which some Widows are swai'd, who marry only for a great title; who often do not meet with so much of obeisance from strangers, as they do with contemt from their husbands and his relations. There have bin many examples of Lords, who have used rich, but inferior, widows like spunges, squeez'd them to fill themselves again only with the air of a big name. On the other side for a woman to marry very meanly and too much below her self is rather worse; those kind of matches are ordinarily made in a transport of passion, and when that abates and leaves her to sober reflections, she will probably be so angry with her self, that she will scarce be well pleas'd with her husband. A state of subjection is a little sweetned by the worth and dignity of the ruler: for as it is more honorable, so 'tis also more easy; the serviler spirits being of all others the most imperious in command. And sure 'twill not a little grate a woman of honor, to think she has made such a one her Master, who perhaps would before have thought it a preferment to have bin her servant. Nay farther, such marriages have commonly an ill reflection on the modesty of the Woman, it being usually presum'd that where the distance was so great, as to discourage such an attemt on his part, there was some invitation on hers. So that upon all accounts she is very forlorn who thus disposes of her self: yet 'tis too well known such matches have oft bin made, and the same levity and inconsideration may betray others to it; and therefore 'tis their concern well to ballast their minds and to provide that their passion, never get the ascendant over their reason.
18. Another very necessary equality is that of their judgment as to Religion. I do not mean that they are to catechize each other as to every minute speculative point; but that they be of the same profession, so as to join together in the worship of God. It is sure very uncomfortable that those who have so closely combin'd all their other interests, should be disunited in the greatest; that one Church cannot hold them, whom one house, one bed does; and that religion which is in it self the most uniting thing, should be the only disagreement between them. I know 'tis oft made a compact in such matches, that neither shall impose their opinion upon the other: yet I doubt 'tis seldom kept, unless it be by those whose carelesness of all religion abates their zeal to any one. But where they have any earnestness in their way, especially where one party thinks the other in a damnable error, twill scarce be possible to refrain endeavoring to reduce them; and that endeavor begets disputes, those disputes heats, those heats disgusts, and those disgusts perhaps end in aversion; so that at last their affections grow as unreconcilable as their opinions, and their religious jars draw on domestic. Besides if none of these personal debates happen, yet the education of the children will be matter of dispute; the one parent will still be countermining the other, each seeking to recover the others proselytes. Nay it introduces faction into the inferior parts of the family too: the servants, according to their different perswasions bandy into leagues and parties; so that it endangers, if not utterly destroies all concord in families: and all this train of mischiefs, should methinks be a competent prejudice against such matches.
19. There is yet a third particular wherein any great disproportion is much to be avoided, and that is in Years. The humors of youth and age differ so widely, that there had need be a great deal of skil to compose the discord into a harmony. When a young woman marries an old man, there are commonly jealousies on the one part and loathings on the other; and if there be not an eminent degree of discretion in one or both, there will be perpetual disagreements. But this is a case that does not often happen among those I now speak to: for tho the avarice of Parents sometimes forces maids upon such matches, yet widows who are their own choosers seldom make such elections. The inequality among them commonly falls on the other side, and old women marry young men. Indeed any marriage is in such a folly and dotage, they who must suddenly make their beds in the dust, what should they think of a nuptial couch? And to such the answer of the Philosopher is apposite, who being demanded what was the fittest time for marrying, replied, For the young not yet, for the old not at all.
20. But this dotage becomes perfect frenzy and madness when they choose young husbands: this is an accumulation of absurdities and contradictions. The husband and the Wife are but one person; and yet at once young and old, fresh and wither'd. 'Tis a reversing the decrees of nature, and therefore 'twas no ill answer which Dionysius the Tyrant gave his mother, who in her age design'd such a match, that tho by his regal power he could dispense with positive laws, yet he could not abrogate those of nature; or make it fit for her an old woman to marry a young man. 'Tis indeed an inversion of seasons, a confounding the Kalender, making a mungrel month of May and December: and the conjunction proves as fatal as it is prodigious; it being scarce ever seen that such a match proves tolerably happy. And indeed 'tis not imaginable how it should, for first 'tis to be presum'd she that marries so must marry meanly, no young man who does not need her fortune will take her person. For tho some have the humor to give great rates for inanimate antiquities, yet none will take the living gratis. Next she never misses to be hated by him she marries: he looks on her as his rack and torment, thinks himself under the lingring torture devis d by Mezentius, a living body tied to a dead. Nor must she think to cure this by any the little adulteries of art: she may buy beauty, and yet can never make it her own; may paint, yet never be fair. 'Tis like enameling a mud-wall, the coursness of the ground will spoil the varnish; and the greatest exquisitness of dress serves but to illustrate her native blemishes. So that all she gains by this is to make him scorn as well as abhor her.
21. Indeed there is nothing can be more ridiculous, then an old Woman gaily set out; and it was not unaptly said of Diogenes to such a one, If this decking be for the living, you are deceived; if for the dead, make hast to them: and I doubt many young husbands will be ready to say as much. Nay because death comes not quick enough to part them, there is few have patience to attend its loitering pace: the man bids adieu to the Wife tho not to her fortune, takes that to maintain his luxuries else where, allows her some little annuity, and makes her a pensioner to her own estate. So that he has his design, but she none of hers: he married for her fortune, and he has it; she for his person, and has it not: and which is worse buies her defeat with the loss of all; he commonly leaving her as emty of mony as he found her of wit.
22. And truly this is a condition deplorable enough, and yet usually fails even of that comfort which is the last reserve of the miserable, I mean Pitty. 'Tis the Wise man's question, Eccles. 12. 13. Who will pitty a charmer that is bitten with a Serpent? he might have presum'd less on his skill, and kept himself at a safer distance; and sure the like may be said of her. Alas, what are her feeble charms, that she should expect by them to fix the giddy appetites of youth? And since she could so presume without sense, none will regret that she could be convinc'd by smart. Besides, this is a case wherein there have bin a multitude of unhappy Presidents which might have caution'd her. He that accidentally falls down an undiscover'd precipice is compassionated for his disaster; but he that stands a great while on the brink of it, looks down and sees the bottom strew'd with the mangled carcasses of many that have thence fallen; if he shall deliberately cast himself into their company, the blame quite extinguishes the pitty; he may astonish, but not melt the beholders. And truly she who casts her self away in such a match, betraies not less but more wilfullness. How many ruins of unhappy women present themselves to her, like the wracks of old vessells, all split upon this rock? And if she will needs steer her course purposely to do the same, none ought to grudg her the shipwrack she so courts.
23. Nor has she only this negative discomfor to be depriv'd of pity, but she is loaded with censures and reproch. The World is apt enough to malicious errors, to fix blame where there is none, but 'tis seldom guilty of the charitative, does not overlook the smallest appearance of evil, but generally puts the worst construction on any act, that it will with any probability bear; and according to that mesure women in this condition can expect no very mild descant on them. Indeed such matches are so destitute of any rational Plea, that 'tis hard to derive them from any other motive then the sensitive. What the common conjectures are in that case, is as needless as it is unhansom to declare: I will not say how true they are, but if they be, it adds another reason to the former, why such marriages are so improsperous. All distortions in Nature are usually ominous; and sure such preternatural heats in Age, may very well be reckond'd as dismal Presages, & very certain ones too, since they create the ruine they foretell. And truly 'tis not only just, but convenient, that such motives should be attended with such Consequences; that the Bitterness of the one may occasion some reflexion on the Sordidness of the other. 'Tis but kindly, that such an Alhallontide Spring should meet with Frosts, and the unplesantness of the event chastise the ugliness of the Design; and therefore I think those that are conscious of the one, should be so far from murmuring, that they should be very thankful for the other; think it Gods discipline to bring them again to their Wits, and not repine at that smart which themselves have made necessary.
24. And now I wish all the Ancienter Widows, would seriously weigh how much 'tis their Interest not to sever those two Epithets; that of Ancient they cannot put off, it daily grows upon them; and that of Widow is sure a more proprotionable adjunct to it, then that of Wife; especially when it is to one to whom her Age might have made her Mother. There is a Veneration due to Age, if it be such as disowns not it self: The hoary head, says Solomon, is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness, Prov. 16. 32. but when it will mix it self with Youth, it is disclaim'd by both, becomes the shame of the Old, and the scorn of the Young. What a strange fury is it then which possesses such Women, that when they may dispose their Fortunes to those advantageous Designs before mention'd, they should only buy with them, so undecent, so ridiculous a slavery? that when they may keep up the reputation of Modesty and Prudence, they should expose themselves to an Universal Contemt for the want of both; and that they who might have had a reverence, put themselves even out of the capacity of bare compassion.
25. This is so high a Frenzy, as sure cannot happen in an instant; it must have some preparatory degrees, some rooting in the constitution and habit of the mind: Such Widows have sure some lightness of humor, before they can be so giddy in their Brains, and therefore those that will secure themselves from the Effect, must substract the Cause; if they will still be wishing themselves young, 'tis odds but within a while they will persuade themselves they are so. Let them therefore content them selves to be old, and as Fashions are varied with Times, so let them put on the Ornaments proper to their Season; which are Piety, Gravity, and Prudence. These will be not only their ornament, but their Armor too; this will gain them such a Reverence, that will make it as improbable they should be assaulted, as impossible they should assault. For I think one may safely say, It is the want of one or all of these, which betraies Women to such Marriages.
26. And indeed it may be a matter of Caution, even to the younger Widows, not to let themselvs too much loose to a light frolic humor, which perhaps they will not be able to put off, when it is most necessary they should. It will not much invite a sober Man to marry them while they are young; and if it continue with them till they are old, it may (as natural Motions use) grow more violent towards its end: precipitate them into that ruinous Folly we have before consider'd. Yet, should they happen to scape that, should it not force them from their Widow-hood, it will sure very ill agree with it: for how preposterous is it for an Old Woman to delight in Gauds & Trifles such as were fitter to entertain her gran-children? to read Romances with spectacles, & be at Masks and Dancings, when she is fit only to act the Antics? These are contradictions to Nature: the tearing off her Marks, and where she has writ fifty or sixty, to lessen (beyond the proportionof the unjust Steward) and write sixteen. And those who thus manage their widow-hood, have more reason to bewail it at last then at first, as having more experimentally found the mischif of being left too their own guidance. It will therefore concern them all to put themselvs under a safer Conduct, by an assiduous Devotion to render themselvs up to the leading of the One infallible Guide, who, if he be not a covering of the eyes, Gen. 20. 16. to preclude all second Choices, may yet be a light to them for discerning who are fit to be chosen; that if they see fit to use their liberty and Marry, they may yet take the Apostles restriction with it, 1 Cor. 7. 40. that it be only in the Lord. Upon such sober Motives, and with such due Circumstances as may approve it to Him, and render it capable of his Benediction.