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Occasional Thoughts in Reference to a Vertuous or Christian life by Lady Damaris Masham

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is, that one Error unhappily produces another, and the partial regard
of some to the Doctrine of Faith (which yet they misrepresent) as if
the whole business of our Salvation consisted in That, has been an
occasion to other Men of as partially espousing the Doctrine of Good
Works; whilst in their heat against what is contrary to Truth in
respect thereof, they establish not sufficiently that Justifying Faith
of the Gospel, by which alone Men shall obtain Eternal Life, and not
by their Works: the best Men's Obedience having (as has been already
observ'd) imperfection in it; from whence all are necessarily
condemn'd by the Rigour of the Law, and must accordingly be found
Guilty, by him, _Who is of Purer Eyes than to behold Iniquity_; had
not God, in Mercy to Mankind, been pleas'd to establish _a New
Covenant of Grace_ in compliance with the Terms whereof, _viz._ Faith
in his Son, they may obtain Eternal Life. A Doctrine (as has been
seen) the most highly conducing that is possible to the making Men
labour after the perfectest Obedience. The Exalters of _Faith_
therefore in opposition to _Good Works_ do not more undermine
_Morality,_ than the Advancers of the Doctrine of _Good Works_ to the
Exclusion of _Free Grace,_ do undermine Reveal'd, and in consequence
thereof, Natural Religion also. The which two sort of Men divide, if
one may so say, a good Christian betwixt them; the latter whereof take
the Soul and Spirit of Christianity, but cannot be acquitted of
neglecting what is not less essential in the Doctrine of our
Salvation; and that not only because what God has joyn'd Man cannot
disjoyn; but also because it is an Eternal Verity, that such Creatures
as we are, cannot consistently with the Attributes of God, any other
way than that of Justification by Faith, be intitled to Eternal Life.
For the Dispensation of the Gospel is not a meerly Arbitrary thing;
but is the result of Infinite Wisdom, and Goodness, for the Salvation
of Men. And if the Beauty and Harmony of its Divine Contrivance is not
to all Men evident, it is because they search not for the Christian
Religion purely, as it is deliver'd in the Scriptures, but take it up
together with the mixtures of Humane inventions, and conceits; wherein
Additions and Substractions have been made to the Truth of God, at
Mens Pleasure: Whose several Systems and Notions, whilst every one yet
indeavours to support by Scripture Authority, many become thereby
discourag'd from the study of those Holy Oracles, as being perswaded
from hence that the Bible is (at best) a Book too difficult to be
understood by them; if not truly, a Rhapsodie of contradictions, that
may be brought alike to assert any thing that shall come into Men's
Fancies to prove from thence.

What then should those who would cure, or prevent all Mistakes
prejudicial to the right understanding the Christian Religion so
carefully do, as to perswade and ingage People diligently and with
unprejudic'd Minds to study the Scriptures; and not (as is usual) to
embrace Opinions concerning Religion first, and then consult the
Scriptures only to fortifie from thence their preconceiv'd Sentiments?
for doing thus they do in effect, but rely blindly upon the Teachings
of Men, and such Men too (as God knows have themselves for the most
part) as blindly follow'd others; whilst here and there some few (as
having more refin'd Wits, and disdaining such Shackles as the
generality like to wear, yet not loving the Truth in the Simplicity
thereof) have sought to improve and adorn it by their Philosophical
Conceits, and Notions; a Thing no less dangerous than the Former. For
to such as are better pleas'd with curious Speculations, than plain
and obvious Verities, it is very apt to happen that a Favourite
Hypothesis, or Opinion, shall run quite away with their Reason and
Judgment: which when it does, the Scriptures are sure to be
interpreted with conformity to that as if it were an Eternal, and
Unquestionable Principle of Truth. And thus too often is it seen that
the Sacred Doctrines of Divine Revelation are submitted to be try'd by
Philosophical Fancies, as a Criterion of their Truth; which is truly a
more direct disservice to Christianity than the above-mentioned
implicite Faith, since this evidently exposes even the Divine
Authority of the Christian Religion to be question'd. For when any,
especially if such whose profession it is to be Teachers of this
Religion, shall either argue against the plain Sense of what is
deliver'd in the Scriptures, meerly because it is not reconcileable to
their preconceiv'd Sentiments: or to those of their Admir'd Masters of
Reason; or else shall insist upon some of their own or these Mens
Theorems as necessary to be believ'd in confirmation of any thing
taught by our Saviour, or his Apostles; what can the Natural effect of
this be, but to make such as have not the leisure, or inclination to
examine the Truth of this Revelation, Sceptical in regard thereof; by
perswading them that those themselves who are rational Men amongst the
very Teachers of the Christian Religion, are not very clearly and
fully convinc'd of its Divine Authority; since if they were, they
would certainly submit their Opinions to be try'd by the Scriptures,
and not warp the Scriptures to a compliance with their Opinions; or
think the Doctrines contain'd in them needed any other confirmation to
support them. And wherefore must it be thought that such Men, as
these, are not convinc'd of the divine Revelation of the Christian
Religion, but from hence, that they (who will be presum'd to have
examin'd this matter the best of any Men) do find indeed some flaw or
just cause of doubt in the evidence thereof? From whence it is that
they prefer their Natural Reason as a surer Teacher than that
Revelation; however on some occasions they speak highly of it. And as
Men of this Philosophical Genius have usually more Vertue than those
who hoodwink'd follow their Leaders; or than such who look upon
Vertue as no part of Religion; there will, on this account, as also
for the Reputation of their uncommon Science, be probably a
distinguishing esteem had of such: Whence the apparent want of
deference in these Men to the Scriptures (liable to be look'd upon as
some degree of Scepticism) is of dangerous Example; which is obviously
manifest in that direct tendency this has to satisfie those in their
infidelity, who cannot, or will not, find leisure to examine for
themselves the Truths of Religion. But there is also a farther ill
influence which apparent want of deference to Scripture Authority in
those who pretend to believe (and, much more, to teach the Gospel)
has: And that is to the countenanceing too much that Multitude who
preferring the Christian Religion, do in their Practical that which
these Men do in their Speculative Opinions, _viz._ make the dictates
of the Gospel their Rule so far only, as they are vouch'd for and
Authoriz'd by their Reason, infected, as it is, by Custom, Passion, or
Worldly Interest; which is done by very many who would be offended to
have their belief of the Scriptures Question'd. But however they
profess to own them, none who act thus can be rationally thought to be
sincerely perswaded of their divine Authority, altho' it is possible
that many such Men may have no intire disbelief thereof neither; it
being barely not assenting, which is the Natural Effect of Ignorance
in those who have good Sense enough to see that it is irrational, to
be confidently assur'd of what they have not sufficient Reason to be
so assur'd of.

Now this want of a firm assent to the Divine Authority of the
Scriptures in such as yet profess to own them for the word of God, is
unquestionably evident when such Men acquiesce not in the Precepts of
the Gospel, as the Rule of their Actions, any farther than they find
those Precepts to be Authoriz'd by the Testimony of their Reason: Of
which manner of acting many very common examples may be easily

It is true that how much soever a Man is perswaded of the Authority of
any Rule, a strong Passion, or Apparent Interest may yet seduce him
from the Obedience due to its prescriptions; but such a Transgression
being accompanied with Regret, or followed with Repentance, the Rule
is still as much acknowledg'd as if it were obey'd; and none, on the
score of a contrary practice, are chargeable with a disbelief thereof,
but such who do, on a deliberate Choice and without Remorse,
transgress against it; which many professing to be Christians not
only themselves do, but even teach their Children the like: in which
latter case it cannot be suppos'd that they are misled by the strength
of any prevailing Passion.

That we should forgive our Enemies and be patient under injuries (for
instance) are, as plainly as words can make them so, commanded in the
Scriptures; yet how many are there professing to believe that the
Scriptures are the Word of God, who, as if no such Commands as these
were deliver'd by Christ, or his Disciples, do both Practice and
Teach, the not putting up Affronts unreveng'd; and this only because
the Fashion of the Country has establish'd it, that a Gentleman cannot
do so with _Honour_? A Term which herein signifies nothing, but
agreeably to certain measures of acting that Men have Arbitrarily made
for themselves, and which are not founded upon any Principle of right
Reason; however to be obey'd, it seems, by a Gentleman preferably to
the Commands of Christ. If there are Cases wherein from want of a due
provision in Governments against some sort of Injuries it may be
thought that Men are excusable in asserting their own Cause, yet thus
much is at the least certain, That this Precept of Forgiveness could
not be transgress'd against, as it very frequently is, by Men
professing to believe the Authority of the Scriptures, if such were
indeed fully perswaded that it was a divine Command which prohibited
the avenging of our selves.

But others there are (contrary to these Men) who would find it
altogether condemnable for a Man to hazard his own, and anothers Life
in a Duel, or Rencounter (tho' caus'd by the Transport of ever so just
a provocation) who would see no Evil in his mispending of his Time,
consuming Day after Day, and Year after Year, uselesly to himself, or
others, in a course of continual Idleness and Sauntring; as if he was
made only to Eat and to Drink, or to gratifie his Senses. And how few
Parents are there of Quality, even among such as are esteem'd the most
vertuous, who do not permit their Daughters to pass the best part of
their Youth in that Ridiculous Circle of Diversions, which is pretty
generally thought the proper business of Young Ladies; and which so
ingrosses them that they can find no spare Hours, wherein to make any
such improvements of their understanding, as the leisure which they
have for it exacts from them as rational Creatures; or as is requisite
or useful to the discharging well their present, or future Duties?

Some formal Devotions are (perhaps) necessary to some of These, to
preserve them even in their own good esteem; and they that can
regularly find half an Hour, or an Hour in a Day to employ in private
upon this, and in reading some pious Book, together with, it may be, a
certain Number of Chapters in the Bible, need nothing more to make
them be cry'd up for great examples to the Age they live in; as if all
this while there were no Precepts for these People in the Gospel,
concerning the improvement of their Time, and Talents, as things
whereof they must one Day be accountable. For others it may be they
cannot but see that there are such Commands; but the Sacred Law of
Fashion has made endless Idle Visits, and less Innocent
Entertainments, the indispensibly constant Employment of those of
their Condition: and when they are grown Old in the perpetually
repeated round of such Impertinence and Folly, they have but labour'd
much in their Calling.

Another Instance how little many, who profess to believe the
Scriptures, do apparently look upon them as the Rule of their Actions,
we have in regard of the Precept _not to Covet_; which is as much
forbidden by the Law of God as _not to Steal_, or Cozen a Man of what
is his property: And yet the same Parents who have bred their Children
in such a Sense of the Enormity of these last Vices, as that they
oftentimes seem to them like things that they are Naturally uncapable
of, are so far from teaching them to restrain their Exorbitant
Desires, that very oft they themselves with care inspire these into
them: Whence it is sufficiently clear that the difference made between
Stealing and Cheating, or Coveting (alike forbidden by the Law of God)
is from hence, That Ambition is thought a Passion becoming some Ranks
of Men, but Cheating or Stealing not Vices proper for a Gentleman. A
distinction that must needs refer to some other Rule than that of the
Gospel; which therefore is not That which, as a Divine Law, does
prescribe to such Men the Measures of their Actions.

To bring but one instance more of the Commands of Christ being
comply'd with but so far only, as they do comply with some other Rule
prefer'd thereto by such as yet pretend to be Christians; _Chastity_
(for example) is, according to the Gospel, a Duty to both Sexes, yet a
Transgression herein, even with the aggravation of wronging another
Man, and possibly a whole Family thereby, is ordinarily talk'd as
lightly of, as if it was but a Peccadillo in a Young Man, altho' a far
less Criminal Offence against this Duty in a Maid shall in the
Opinion of the same Persons brand her with perpetual Infamy: The
nearest Relations oftentimes are hardly brought to look upon her after
such a dishonour done by her to their Family; whilst the Fault of her
more guilty Brother finds but a very moderate reproof from them; and
in a little while, it may be, becomes the Subject of their Mirth and
Raillery. And why still is this wrong plac'd distinction made, but
because there are measures of living establish'd by Men themselves
according to a conformity, or disconformity with which, and not with
the Precepts of Jesus Christ, their Actions are measur'd, & judg'd of?
A thing which would be unaccountable if Men were indeed heartily
perswaded of the Divine Revelation of our Saviours Doctrine; and did
not profess to believe this but because it is the Fashion of their
Country so to do; and that their Parents have done so before them;
or, at most, that possibly they may have receiv'd from their Education
some impressions which will not permit them to reject the Christian
Religion, any more than firmly induce their Assent to the Truth of it.

That Men who have any Vertue, or Sobriety, and who are not intirely
destitute of good Sense, can suffer in themselves such an uncertainty
about what is of so great moment to them as the Truths of the
Christian Religion, is indeed strange; but as the slightest Arguments
against any Truth have some weight to those who know not the Evidence
of that Truth, so also such as have never been accustom'd, whilst
Young, to exercise themselves in any Rational Inquiry, do usually in a
more advanc'd Age look upon the easiest Labour of this kind as
painful: And thence (for the most part) do either lazily think it
best to acquiesce, as well as they can, in such Mens Sentiments as
they have imagin'd the best to understand this matter; or else are
readily inclin'd from the disagreement, and contrariety of Peoples
thoughts about it, to take a Resolution of not troubling themselves at
all concerning it; as being a thing wherein there is no certainty to
be found, and probably therefore but little Truth: An Opinion which
the too commonly avow'd Scepticism of the Age helps much to confirm
unthinking People in; and that the more, because to doubt of what the
most believe (tho' few have any other Reason for so doubting but that
others do not doubt) has very much prevail'd in our Days to intitle
Men to the Reputation of more than ordinary Wit and Sagacity. But the
Scepticism among us has truly been so far from being the effect of
uncommon Light, and Knowledge; as that it has been, and is much owing
to the preceding fashionableness of a very general Ignorance, both in
regard of Religion, and also of other useful Sciences; for Men's not
knowing how profitably, and with pleasure to employ their Time, is
apparently one great cause of their Debauchery; and so long as the
Consciousness and Shame of not acting like rational Creatures is not
extinguished in them, the uneasiness of that remorse puts them
Naturally upon seeking out Principles to justifie their Conduct upon;
few Men being able to indure the constant Reproaches of their own
Reason: Whence if they do not conform their Actions to the dictates of
that, they will Naturally indeavour to warp their Reason to a
compliance with their practices: A reconcilement one way, or other,
between these, being necessary to the making Men, that are not very
profligate indeed, in good conceit, or even at Peace with themselves.

By that want of Knowledge which I have ventur'd to say is fashionable,
I understand not only ignorance among Men, who have leisure for it, of
Arts and Sciences in general; but also, and especially the want of
such particular Knowledge as is requisite to every one for the well
discharging either their Common or peculiar Business and Duty; wherein
Religion is necessarily included, as being the Duty of all Persons to
understand, of whatever Sex, Condition, or Calling they are of. Now to
affirm that the greater part of People are ignorant concerning that
which is not only their Duty to know, but which also many are so
sensible they ought to know, as that they pretend to understand it
enough to be either zealous about, or else to contemn it; and to
assert likewise that they want the knowledge of what is peculiarly
belonging to them, in their particular Station, to understand; are
such Charges as ought not to be alledg'd, if they are not so evidently
true, as that we cannot open our Eyes without seeing them to be so.

In respect of Religion, it is, I think, universally allow'd to be true
of the common People of all sorts (tho' surely not without Matter of
Reproach to some, or other, whose Care their better Instruction ought
to be) that they are very ignorant. But we will consider here only
such superior Ranks of Persons, in reference to whom what has already
been said, has been spoken: And to begin with the Female Sex, who
certainly ought to be Christians; how many of these, comparatively,
may it be presum'd that there are, from the meanest Gentlewoman to the
greatest Ladies, that can give any such account of the Christian
Religion, as would inform an inquisitive Stranger what it consisted
in; and what are the grounds of believing it? Such Women as understand
something of the distinguishing Opinions of that Denomination they
have been bred up in, are commonly thought highly intelligent in
Religion; but I think there are but very few, even of this little
number, who could well inform a rational Heathen concerning
Christianity itself: Which is an Ignorance inexcusable in them, tho',
perhaps, it is very often the effect only of the want of other useful
Knowledge, for the not having whereof, Women are much more to be
pitty'd than blam'd.

The improvements of Reason, however requisite to Ladies for their
Accomplishment, as rational Creatures; and however needful to them for
the well Educating of their Children, and to their being useful in
their Families, yet are rarely any recommendation of them to Men; who
foolishly thinking, that Money will answer to all things, do, for the
most part, regard nothing else in the Woman they would Marry: And not
often finding what they do not look for, it would be no wonder if
their Off-spring should inherit no more Sense than themselves. But be
Nature ever so kind to them in this respect, yet through want of
cultivating the Tallents she bestows upon those of the Female Sex, her
Bounty is usually lost upon them; and Girls, betwixt silly Fathers and
ignorant Mothers, are generally so brought up, that traditionary
Opinions are to them, all their lives long, instead of Reason. They
are, perhaps, sometimes told in regard of what Religion exacts, That
they must _Believe_ and _Do_ such and such things, because the Word
of God requires it; but they are not put upon searching the Scriptures
for themselves, to see whether, or no, these things are so; and they
so little know why they should look upon the Scriptures to be the Word
of God, that but too often they are easily perswaded out of the
Reverence due to them as being so: And (if they happen to meet with
such bad examples) are not seldom brought from thence, even to scoff
at the Documents of their Education; and, in consequence thereof, to
have no Religion at all. Whilst others (naturally more dispos'd to be
Religious) are either (as divers in the Apostles Days were) _carry'd
away with every wind of Doctrine, ever learning and never coming to
the knowledge of the Truth_; Weak, Superstitious, Useless Creatures;
or else, if more tenacious in their Natures, blindly and conceitedly
weded to the Principles and Opinions of their Spiritual Guides; who
having the direction of their Consciences, rarely fail to have that
also of their Affairs and Fortunes. A Wife of which sort proves, very
often, no small unhappiness to the Family where she comes; for this
kind of ignorant Persons are, of all others, the most Arrogant; and
when they are once intitl'd to Saintship for their blind Zeal, as
nothing is more troublesome than they in finding fault with, and
censuring every one that differs from them, so to their Admirers (who
lead them as they please) they think they can never pay enough for
that Incence which is offer'd them: The dearest Interests of Humane
Life being, oftentimes, thus sacrific'd to a vain Image of Piety;
_whilst makers of long Prayers_ have _devour'd Widows Houses_.

But what is here said implying that Ladies should so well understand
their Religion, as to be able to answer both to such who oppose, and
to such who misrepresent it; this may seem, perhaps, to require that
they should have the Science of Doctors, and be well skill'd in
Theological Disputes and Controversies; than the Study of which I
suppose there could scarce be found for them a more useless
Employment. But whether such Patrons of Ignorance as know nothing
themselves which they ought to know, will call it Learning, or not, to
understand the Christian Religion, and the grounds of receiving it; it
is evident that they who think so much knowledge, as that, to be
needless for a Woman, must either not be perswaded of the Truth of
Christianity; or else must believe that Women are not concern'd to be
Christians. For if Christianity be a Religion from God, and Women
have Souls to be sav'd as well as Men; to know what this Religion
consists in, and to understand the grounds on which it is to be
receiv'd, can be no more than necessary Knowledge to a Woman, as well
as to a Man: Which necessary Knowledge is sufficient to inable any one
so far to answer to the Opposers or Corrupters of Christianity, as to
secure them from the danger of being impos'd upon by such Mens
Argumentations; which is all that I have thought requisite for a Lady;
and not that she should be prepar'd to challenge every Adversary to

Now that thus much knowledge requires neither Learned Education, or
great Study, to the attaining of it, appears in that the first
Christians were mean and illiterate People; to which part of Mankind
the Gospel may rather be thought to have had a more especial regard
than that they are any way excluded from the Benefits thereof by
incapacity in them to receive it. In the Apostles Days _there were not
many Wise who were call'd_, and he tells us that _after that the World
by Wisdom knew not God: it pleased God by the foolishness of Preaching
to save them that believe_, and tho' _to the perfect_ the same Apostle
says, he did _Preach Wisdom_, yet it was the simplicity and plainness
of the Christian Religion that made it _to the Jews a stumbling block,
and to the Greeks foolishness_. From whence, we see that all Theorems
too abstruse for Vulgar Apprehensions, which Christianity is believ'd
to Teach, however Divine Truths, are yet no part of the Doctrine of
Salvation. There is not therefore this pretence to impose upon any one
the belief of any thing which they do not find to be reveal'd in
Scripture; the doing of which, has not only caus'd deplorable
dissentions among Christians, but also been an occasion to multitudes
of well meaning People of having so confus'd and unsatisfactory
conceptions and apprehensions concerning the Christian Religion as
tho' perhaps not absolutely, or immediately prejudicial to their
Salvation, yet are so to their seeing clearly that Christianity is a
rational Religion; without which few will be very secure from the
infection of Scepticism, or Infidelity, where those are become
fashionable, and prevailing. A danger to which many Women are no less
expos'd than Men, and oftentimes, more so. Whence it is but needful
that they should so well understand their Religion as to be Christians
upon the Convictions of their Reason; which is indeed no more than one
would think it became every Christian, as a rational Creature, to be;
were this not requisite in regard of Scepticism, and Infidelity, as
to some it is not; there being, no doubt, many a Country Gentlewoman
who has never in her Life heard Question'd, or once imagined that any
one in their Wits could Question the Articles of her Faith; which yet
she her self knows not why she believes.

From the too Notorious Truth of what has been said in reference to the
little that Women know concerning Religion, it must be granted that
the generality of them are shamefully Ignorant herein. As for other
Science, it is believ'd so improper for, and is indeed so little
allow'd them, that it is not to be expected from them: but the cause
of this is only the Ignorance of Men.

The Age, we live in, has been, not undeservedly, esteem'd a knowing
one: But to the Learned Clergy much has been owing for its having
obtain'd that Character; and tho' some few Gentlemen have been the
greatest advancers of Learning amongst us; yet they are very rare who
apply themselves to any Science that is curious: And as for such
knowledge as is no less than requisite for Men of Families, and
Estates to have in regard of the proper business of their Station; it
may, I think, be said that never was this more neglected than at
present; since there is not a commoner complaint in every County than
of the want of Gentlemen Qualified for the Service of their Country,
_viz._ to be Executors of the Law, and Law Makers; both of which it
belonging to this Rank of English Men to be, some insight into the Law
which they are to see Executed, and into that Constitution which they
are to support, cannot but be necessary to their well dischargeing
these Trusts: Nor will this Knowledge be sufficiently Servicable to
the Ends herein propos'd, without some Acquaintance likewise with
History, Politicks, and Morals. Every one of these then are parts of
Knowledge which an English Gentleman cannot, without blame, be
Ignorant of, as being essential to the duly Qualifying him for what is
his proper business.

But whether we farther look upon such Men as having Immortal Souls
that shall be for ever Happy or Miserable, as they comply with the
Terms which their Maker has propos'd to them; or whether we regard
them as Protestants, whose Birthright it is not blindly to _Believe_,
but to Examine their Religion; Or consider them only as Men whose
ample Fortunes allow them leisure for so important a Study, they are
without doubt oblig'd to understand the Religion they profess. Adding
this then to what it is above concluded a Gentleman ought to know,
let us examine how common such Knowledge only is amongst our
Gentlemen, as we see, without just matter of Reproach to them, they
cannot want: No one, I think, will deny that so much knowledge as this
is so little ordinary, as that those are apparently the far greater
number who have never consider'd any part hereof as an Acquisition,
which they ought to make; and that they are but a few comparatively,
and pass among us for Men extraordinary, who have but a competent
knowledge in any one of the above-mention'd things.

What is by the Obligations of their Duty exacted from them in this
regard, seems to be very little reflected on by them; and as for other
Considerations, which, as Gentlemen, might be thought to induce them,
their Ancestors care has distinguish'd them from their Tenants, and
other inferior Neighbours, by Titles and Riches; and that is all the
distinction which they desire to have; believing it, in respect of
Knowledge, sufficient, if they did once understand a little Latin or
Logick in the University; which whoso still retains, altho' he has
made no use thereof to the real improvement of his understanding, is
yet thought very highly accomplish'd, and passes (in the Country) for

As to Religion, by the little which most Gentlemen understand of that,
and by the no shame which they ordinarily enough have in avowing this
their ignorance, one cannot but suppose that it is pretty commonly
thought by them a matter, the understanding whereof does not concern
them: That the Publick has provided others to do this for them: And
that their part herein is but to maintain (so far as by their
Authority they can) what those Men assert.

Thus wretchedly destitute of all that Knowledge which they ought to
have, are (generally speaking) our English Gentlemen: And being so,
what wonder can it be, if they like not that Women should have
Knowledge; for this is a quality that will give some sort of
superiority even to those who care not to have it? But such Men as
these would assuredly find their account much better therein, if
tenderness of that Prerogative would teach them a more legitimate way
of maintaining it, than such a one as is a very great impediment or
discouragement, at the least, to others in the doing what God requires
of them. For it is an undeniable Truth that a Lady who is able but to
give an account of her Faith, and to defend her Religion against the
attaques of the Cavilling Wits of the Age; or the Abuses of the
Obtruders of vain Opinions: That is capable of instructing her
Children in the reasonableness of the Christian Religion; and of
laying in them the Foundations of a solid Vertue; that a Lady (I say)
no more knowing than this does demand, can hardly escape being call'd
Learned by the Men of our days; and in consequence thereof, becoming a
Subject of Ridicule to one part of them, and of Aversion to the other;
with but a few exceptions of some vertuous and rational Persons. And
is not the incuring of general dislike, one of the strongest
discouragements that we can have to any thing?

If the assistance of Mothers be, as I have already affirm'd it is,
necessary to the right forming of the Minds, and regulating of the
Manners of their Children; I am not in the wrong in reckoning (as I
do) that this care is indispensibly a Mothers Duty. Now it cannot, I
think, be doubted, but that a Mothers Concurrence and Care is thus
necessary, if we consider that this is a work which can never be too
soon begun, it being rarely at all well performed, if not betimes
undertaken; nothing being so effectual to the making Men vertuous, as
to have good Habits and Principles of Vertue establish'd in them
before the Mind is tainted with any thing opposite or prejudicial
hereunto. Those therefore must needs much over-look the chief Business
of Education, or have little consider'd the Constitution of Humane
Nature, that reckon for nothing the first eight or ten Years of a Boys
Life; an Age wherein Fathers, who seldom are able to do it at any
time, can neither charge themselves with the care of their Children,
nor be the watchful inspectors of those that they must be trusted to;
who usually and unavoidably by most Parents, are a sort of People far
fitter to be Learners than Teachers of the Principles of Vertue and
Wisdom; the great Foundation of both which consists in being able to
govern our Passions, and subject our Appetites to the direction of our
Reason: A Lesson hardly ever well learnt, if it be not taught us from
our very Cradles. To do which requires no less than a Parents Care and
Watchfulness; and therefore ought undoubtedly to be the Mothers
business to look after, under whose Eye they are. An exemption from
which, Quality (even of the highest degree) cannot give; since the
Relation between the Mother and Child is equal amongst all Ranks of
People. And it is a very preposterous Abuse of Quality to make it a
pretence for being unnatural. This is a Truth which perhaps would
displease many Ladies were it told them, and therefore, probably, it
is that they so seldom hear it: But none of them could be so much
offended with any one for desiring hereby to restrain them from some
of their expensive and ridiculous Diversions, by an employment so
worthy of Rational Creatures, and so becoming of maternal tenderness,
as it is just to be with them for neglecting their Children: A Fault
that women of Quality are every way too often guilty of, and are
perhaps more without excuse for, than for any other that they are
ordinarily taxable with. For tho' it is to be fear'd that few Ladies
(from the disadvantage of their own Education) are so well fitted as
they ought to be, to take the care of their Children, yet not to be
willing to do what they can herein, either as thinking this a matter
of too much pains for them, or below their Condition, expresses so
senseless a Pride, and so much want of the affectionate and
compassionate Tenderness natural to that Sex and Relation, that one
would almost be tempted to question whether such Women were any more
capable of, than worthy to be the Mothers of Rational Creatures.

But natural Affection apart, it should be consider'd by these, that no
one is Born into the World to live idly; enjoying the Fruit and
Benefit of other Peoples Labours, without contributing reciprocally
some way or other, to the good of the Community answerably to that
Station wherein God (the common Father of all) has plac'd them; who
has evidently intended Humane kind for Society and mutual Communion,
as Members of the same Body, useful every one each to other in their
respective places. Now in what can Women whose Condition puts them
above all the Necessities or Cares of a mean or scanty Fortune, at
once so honourably and so usefully, both to themselves and others, be
employ'd in as in looking after the Education and Instruction of their
own Children? This seems indeed to be more particularly the Business
and Duty of such than of any others: And if example be necessary to
perswade them that they will not herein do any thing mis-becoming
their Rank, the greatest Ladies amongst us may be assur'd that those
of a Condition superior to theirs, have heretofore been so far from
thinking it any abasement to them to charge themselves with the
instruction of their own Children, that (to their Immortal Honour)
they have made it part of their Business to assist to that of other
Peoples also, who were likely one day to be of consequence to the
Common-wealth. And could the bare Love of their Country induce, among
many more, the great _Cornelia_, Mother of the _Gracchi_, and
_Aurelia_ the Mother of _Julius Caesar_, to do this for the Sons of
Noble-men of _Rome_ to whom they had no Relation but that of their
common Country, and shall not the like consideration, or what is
infinitely beyond this, that of their Children being hereafter for
ever happy or miserable, accordingly as they live in this World,
prevail with the Ladies of our Days, who call themselves Christians,
to employ some of their Time and Pains upon their own Off-spring? The
care of which (as has been said) should begin with the first Years of
Childrens Lives, in curbing at the earliest appearance thereof, every
their least evil inclination; and accustoming them to an absolute,
constant, and universal Submission and Obedience to the Will of those
who have the disposal of them: Since they will hardly ever after
(especially in a great Fortune) be govern'd by their own Reason, who
are not made supple to that of others, before they are able to judge
of fit and unfit, by any other measure than as it is the Will, or not,
of such whom they believe to have a just Power over them. As they do
become capable of examining and determining their Actions by Reason,
they should be taught never to do any thing of consequence heedlesly;
and to look upon the Dictates of their Reason as so inviolable a Rule
of their Determinations, that no Passion or Appetite must ever make
them swerve therefrom. But instead of following this Method, it is
commonly thought too soon to correct Children for any thing, 'till the
Season is past for this sort of Discipline; which, if it come too
late, is commonly so far from producing the good it was design'd for,
that losing the benefit of Correction (which, if duly apply'd, is of
infinite use) it turns to a Provocation; and renders stiff and
incorrigible a Temper it was meant to supple. Nor is it seldom that
through this wrong tim'd Discipline, together with that remisness and
inequality wherewith Childrens Inclinations are over-rul'd, their
Parents Government over them seems to them not a Natural, and just
right establish'd for their benefit, but a Tyrannick and Arbritary
Power, which accordingly they without Remorse disobey, whenever they
believe that they can do so with Impunity: And what is still worse,
their evil Dispositions, for the most part, are not only not timely
enough restrain'd, but Children are actually taught to indulge to
their naturally irregular Inclinations, by those Vicious or wretchedly
ignorant People, who are plac'd about them; and who almost
universally instil down-right Vice into them, even before they can
well speak; as Revenge, Covetousness, Pride and Envy: Whilst the silly
Creatures who do them so unspeakable Mischiefs are scarce capable of
being made to understand the harm that they do; but think Parents
ill-natur'd, or that they have fancies fit only to be smil'd at, who
will deny their Child a thing for no other reason, it may be, but
because he has desir'd it: And who before he is trusted to go alone
will check his Resentment, Impatience, Avarice, or Vanity, which they
think becomes him so prettily; neither will suffer him to be rewarded
for doing what they bid him to do.

This I am sure, that who so has try'd how very little Sense is to be
met with, or can be infus'd into Nurses, and Nurse-Maids; and with
what difficulty even the best of them by those who make it their
business to watch over them, are restrain'd from what they are
perswaded has no hurt in it, will soon be satisfy'd how little fit it
is to trust Children any more than is necessary, in such Hands. And no
wiser than such, if not much worse, are the greatest part of those who
are usually their immediate Successors, _viz._ young Scholars and
French Maids, erected into Tutors and Governesses, only for the sake
of a little Latin and French.

In Mr. L---- s excellent _Treatise of Education_, he shews how early
and how great a Watchfulness and Prudence are requisite to the forming
the Mind of a Child to Vertue; and whoso shall read what he has writ
on that Subject, will, it is very likely, think that few Mothers are
qualify'd for such an undertaking as this: But that they are not so
is the Fault which should be amended: In the mean time nevertheless,
their presum'd willingness to be in the right, where the Happiness of
their Children is concerned in it, must certainly inable them, if they
were but once convinc'd that this was their Duty, to perform it much
better than such People will do, who have as little Skill and Ability
for it as themselves; and who besides, that they rarely desire to
learn any more than they have, are not induc'd by Affection to do for
those under their care all the Good that they can. Since then the
Affairs either of Men's Callings, or of their private Estates, or the
Service of their Country (all which are indispensibly their Business)
allows them not the leisure to look daily after the Education of their
Children; and that, otherwise, also they are naturally less capable
than Women of that Complaisance and Tenderness, which the right
Instruction and Direction of that Age requires; and since Servants are
so far from being fit to be rely'd upon in that great concern, that to
watch against the Impediments they actually bring thereto, is no small
part of the care that a wise Parent has to take; I do presume that
(ordinarily speaking) this so necessary a Work of forming betimes the
Minds of Children so as to dispose them to be hereafter Wise and
Vertuous Men and Women, cannot be perform'd but by Mothers only. It
being a thing practicable but by a very few to purchase the having
always Wise, Vertuous and well Bred People, to take the place of a
Parent in governing their Children; and together with them such
Servants and Teachers, as must peculiarly be employ'd about them; For
the World does not necessarily abound with such Persons as these, and
in such circumstances as not to pretend to more profitable
employments than Men of one or two thousand Pounds a Year (and much
less those great numbers who have smaller Estates) can often afford to
make the care of governing their Children from their Infancy to be.
The procuring of such a Person as this may (by accident) sometimes be
in such a ones Power; but to propose the ingaging for reward whenever
there shall be need for them, vertuous, wife, and well-bred Men and
Women, to spend their time in taking care of the Education of young
Children, is what can be done but by a very few; since the doing this
would not be found an easy charge to the greater part of almost any
rank amongst us; unless they would be content for the sake hereof to
abridge themselves of some of their extravagant Expences; which are
usually the last that Men will deny themselves.

It is indeed wonderful (if we consider Men as rational Creatures) to
see how much Mony they will often bestow, not upon their Vices only,
(for this is not so unaccountable) but upon meerly fashionable
Vanities, which give them more Trouble than Pleasure in the enjoyment:
Yet at the same time be as sparing, as is possible, of cost upon a
Child's Education; and it is certain, that for Rewards considerable
enough to make it worth their while, those of a far different
Character from such as for the most part undertake it, would be
induc'd to accept even the early charge of Childrens Instruction. But
every Gentleman of a good Family, or good Estate also, is not in
Circumstances to propound such sufficient Rewards; and for what the
most can afford to give, very few capable of performing this matter
well, will trouble themselves about it; at least with such Pupils as
must be attended with Nurses or Maids. Wherefore no other remedy, I
believe, can be found but in returning still to our Conclusion, That
this great concernment, on which no less than Peoples Temporal and
Eternal Happiness does mightily depend, ought to be the Care and
Business of Mothers. Nor do Women seem less peculiarly adapted by
Nature hereunto, than it can be imagin'd they should be, if the Author
of Nature (as no doubt he did) design'd this to be their Province in
that division of Cares of Humane Life, which ought to be made between
a Man and his Wife. For that softness, gentleness and tenderness,
natural to the Female Sex, renders them much more capable than Men are
of such an insinuating Condescention to the Capacities of young
Children, as is necessary in the Instruction and Government of them,
insensibly to form their early Inclinations. And surely these
distinguishing Qualities of the Sex were not given barely to delight,
when they may, so manifestly, be profitable also, if joyn'd with a
well informed Understanding: From whence, _viz._ from Womans being
naturally thus fitted to take this care of their little Ones, it
follows, that besides the injustice done to themselves thereby, it is
neglecting the Direction of Nature for the well breeding up of
Children, when Ladies are render'd uncapable hereof, through the want
of such due improvements of their Reason as are requisite hereunto.

That this has been no more reflected upon from a Principle of Pitty to
that tender Age of Children which so much requires help, seems very
strange: For what can move a juster Commiseration than to see such
poor innocents, so far from having the Aid they stand in need of, that
even those who the most wish to do them good, and who resent, with
the deepest Compassion, every little Malady which afflicts their
Bodies, do never attempt to rescue them from the greatest evils which
attend them in this Life, but even themselves assist to plunge them
therein, by cherishing in them those Passions which will inevitably
render them miserable? A thing which can never be otherwise whilst
Women are bred up in no right Notions of Religion and Vertue; or to
know any use of Reason but in the service of their Passions and
Inclinations; or at best of their (comparatively trivial) Interests.

To assert upon this occasion, that Ladies would do well, if, before
they came to the care of Families, they did imploy some of their many
idle Hours in gaming a little Knowledge in Languages, and the useful
Sciences, would be, I know, to contradict the Sense of most Men; but
yet, I think, that such an Assertion admits of no other Confutation
than the usual one which opposite Opinions to theirs are wont to
receive from People who Reason not, but live by Fancy, and Custom;
_viz._ being laugh'd at: For it cannot be deny'd that this Knowledge
would hereafter be more, or less, useful to Ladies, in inabling them
either themselves to teach their Children, or better to over-see and
direct, those who do so: And tho' Learning is perhaps the least part
in Education, it is not to be neglected; but even betimes taken some
care of, least a Habit of Idleness, or Inapplication of the Mind be
got, which once contracted, is very hardly cur'd.

This being so, and that the beginnings of all Science are difficult to
Children (who cannot like grown People fix their Attention) it is
justly to befear'd that they should by the ill usage they receive from
the impatience and peevishness of such Teachers, as Servants, or Young
Tutors, take an Aversion to Learning (and we see in effect, that this
very frequently happens). For the Teaching of little Children so as
not to disgust them, does require much greater Patience and Address,
than common People are often capable of; or than most can imagine, who
have not had experience hereof. But should such Teachers as we have
spoke of, have the necessary complaisance for those they Teach, there
is then, on the other side, a yet greater danger to be apprehended
from them, which is that their Pupils will become fond of them; the
bad effect of which will be, That by an Affectation Natural in
Children of imitating those they Love, they will have their Manners
and Dispositions Tinctur'd and Tainted by those of Persons so dear to

Now both the inconveniences here mention'd, might, at least in great
measure, if not wholly, be Remedy'd, would Mothers but be at so much
Pains as to Teach their Children either altogether, or in good part
themselves, what it is fit for them to learn in the first Eight or Ten
Years of their Lives. As to Read English perfectly; To understand
ordinary Latin; and Arithmetick; with some general knowledge of
Geography, Chronology, and History. Most, or all of which things may
at the above-said Age be understood by a Child of a very ordinary
capacity; and may be so taught Children as that they may learn them
almost insensibly in Play, if they have skilful Teachers: It seems to
me therefore that Young Ladies cannot better employ so much of their
Time as is requisite hereto, than in acquiring such Qualifications as
these, which may be of so great use to them hereafter; however, if any
who have not made this early Provision of such Science, are yet truly
desirous to do their Children all the good that is in their Power to
do them, they may, tho' not with the same Facility, yet be able to
instruct them alike, notwithstanding that disadvantage; and Mr. L----
on the Experience thereof, has asserted, That a Mother who understands
not Latin before hand, may yet teach it to her Child; which, if she
can, it is not to be doubted but that she may do the same of all the
rest; for such a Superficial Knowledge as will serve to enter any one
in every of the above-named Sciences, is much easier attain'd than the
Latin Tongue; and if a Mother have ever so little more Capacity than
her Child, she may easily keep before him, in teaching both him and
her self together; whereby she will make herself the best Reparation
that she can for her past neglect, or that of her Parents herein: Who
yet, perhaps, not from negligence may have declin'd giving her this
advantage. For Parents sometimes do purposely omit it from an
apprehension that should their Daughters be perceiv'd to understand
any learned Language, or be conversant in Books, they might be in
danger of not finding Husbands; so few Men, as do, relishing these
accomplishments in a Lady. Nor, probably, would even the example of a
Mother herself who was thus qualify'd, and likewise understood, as is
afore-said, her Religion, be any great incouragement to her Daughters
to imitate her example, but the contrary. For this Knowledge, one part
whereof is so strictly the Duty of a Christian, and the other so
inconsiderable to those whose Time commonly lies upon their Hands,
would in itself, or in the consequences of it, expose a young Woman of
Quality (especially if not thought unfit for the fashionable Commerce
of the World) to be characteriz'd or censur'd, as would not be very
pleasing to her. For if it be consider'd, that she who did seriously
desire to make the best use of what she knew, would necessarily be
oblig'd (for the gaining of Time wherein she might do so) to order the
Course, and manner of her Life something differently from others of
her Sex and Condition, it cannot be doubted but that a Conduct, which
carry'd with it so much Reproach to Woman's Idleness, and
disappointment to Men's Vanity, would quickly be judg'd fit to be
ridicul'd out of the World before others were infected by the example.
So that the best Fate which a Lady thus knowing, and singular, could
expect, would be that hardly escaping Calumny, she should be in Town
the Jest of the _Would-be-Witts_; tho wonder of Fools, and a Scarecrow
to keep from her House many honest People who are to be pitty'd for
having no more Wit than they have, because it is not their own Fault
that they have no more. But in the Country she would, probably, fare
still worse; for there her understanding of the Christian Religion
would go near to render her suspected of Heresy even by those who
thought the best of her: Whilst her little Zeal for any Sect or Party
would make the Clergy of all sorts give her out for a _Socinian_ or a
_Deist_: And should but a very little Philosophy be added to her other
Knowledge, even for an Atheist. The Parson of the Parish, for fear of
being ask'd hard Questions, would be shy of coming near her, were his
Reception ever so inviting; and this could not but carry some ill
intimation with it to such as Reverenc'd the Doctor, and who, it is
likely, might be already satisfy'd from the Reports of Nurses, and
Maids, that their Lady was indeed a Woman of very odd Whimsies. Her
prudent Conduct and Management of her affairs would probably secure
her from being thought out of her Wits by her near Neighbours; but the
Country Gentlemen that wish'd her well, could not yet chuse but be
afraid for her, lest too much Learning might in Time make her Mad.

The saving of but one Soul from Destruction, is, it is true, a noble
recompense for ten Thousand such Censurers as these; but it is
wondrous strange that only to be a Christian, with so much other
Knowledge as a Child of Nine or Ten Years Old may, and ought to have,
should expose a Lady to so great Reproaches; And what a shame is this
for Men whose woful Ignorance is the alone Cause thereof? For it is
manifestly true that if the inimitable Author of _Les Caracteres, ou
les Moeurs de ce Siecle_, had demanded in _England, who forbids
Knowledge to Women_? It must have been answer'd him, the Ignorance of
the Men does so; and the same Answer I think he might have receiv'd in
his own Country.

_Monsieur Bruyere_ says indeed, and likely it is, _That Men have made
no Laws, or put out any Edicts whereby Women are prohibited to open
their Eyes; to Read; to Remember what they Read, and to make use
thereof in their Conversation, or in composing of Works_. But surely
he had little Reason to suppose, as he herein does, that Women could
not otherwise than _by Laws and Edicts_ be restrain'd from Learning.
It is sufficient for this that no body assists them in it; and that
they are made to see betimes that it would be disadvantageous to them
to have it. For how few Men are there, that arrive to any Eminence
therein? tho' Learning is not only not prohibited to them _by Laws and
Edicts;_ but that ordinarily much Care, and Pains, is taken to give it
them; and that great Profits, oftentimes, and, always, Honour attends
their having it.

The Law of Fashion, establish'd by Repute and Disrepute, is to most
People the powerfullest of all Laws, as Monsieur _Bruyere_ very well
knew; whose too Satyrical Genius makes him assign as Causes of Womens
not having Knowledge, the universally necessary consequences of being
bred in the want thereof. But what on different occasions he says of
the Sex, will either on the one part vindicate them, or else serve
for an Instance that this Ingenious Writers Reflections, however
witty, are not always instructive, or just Corrections. For either
Women have generally some other more powerful Principle of their
Actions than what terminates in rendering themselves pleasing to Men
(as he insinuates they have not) or else they neglect the improvement
of their Minds and Understandings, as not finding them of any use to
that purpose; whence it is not equal in him to charge it peculiarly
(as he does) upon that Sex (if it be indeed so much chargeable on them
as on Men) that they are diverted from Science by _une curiosité toute
differente de celle qui contente l'Espirt: ou un tout autre gout que
celuy d'exercer leur Memoire_.

Yet since I think it is but Natural, and alike so in both Sexes, to
desire to please the other, I may, I suppose, without any Injurious
Reflexion upon Ladies, presume, that if Men did usually find Women the
more amiable for being knowing, they would much more commonly, than
now they are, be so.

But the Knowledge hitherto spoken of has a nobler Aim than the
pleasing of Men, and begs only Toleration from them; in granting
whereof they would at least equally consult their own advantage: as
they could not but find, did They not by a common Folly, incident to
Humane Nature, hope that contradictions should subsist together in
their Favour; from whence only it is that very many who would not that
Women should have Knowledge, do yet complain of, and very impatiently
bear the Natural, and unavoidable consequences of their Ignorance.

But what sure Remedy can be found for Effects whose Cause remains? and
on what ground can it be expected that Ignorance and uninstructed
Persons should have the Venues which proceed from a rightly inform'd
Understanding, and well cultivated Mind? or not be liable to those
Vices which their Natures incline them to? And how should it otherwise
be than that they, who have never consider'd the Nature and
Constitution of Things, or weigh'd the Authority of the Divine Law,
and what it exacts of them, should be perswaded that nothing can be so
truly profitable to them as the Indulgence of their present Passions,
and Appetites? Which whoso places their Happiness in the satisfaction
of, cannot fail of being themselves miserable, or of making those so
who are concern'd in them.

Humane Nature is not capable of durable satisfaction when the Passions
and Appetites are not under the direction of right Reason: And whilst
we eagerly pursue what disappoints our expectation, or cloys with the
Enjoyment, as all irregular pleasures, however Natural, do; and whilst
we daily create to our selves desires still more vain, as thinking
thereby to be supply'd with new Delights, we shall ever (instead of
finding true Contentment) be subjected to uneasiness, disgust and
vexation: The unhappy state more, or less, of all who want that
Knowledge which is requisite to direct their Actions suitably to the
Ends which as rational Creatures they ought to propose: and as can
inable them profitably to employ their Time.

But since Examples do the best perswade, let us see, with respect to
Women, in the most considerable Instances, what plainly are the
Natural consequences of that Ignorance which they usually are bred in;
and which Men think so advantageous to themselves. We will suppose
then a Lady bred, as the generality of Men think she should be, in a
blind belief concerning Religion; and taught that it is even
ridiculous for a Lady to trouble her Head about this matter; since it
is so far from being a Science fit for her, that it indeed properly
belongs only to Gown-Men: and that a Woman very well Merits to be
laugh'd at who will act the Doctor: Her Duty in the case being plain
and easie; as requiring only of her to believe and practice what she
is taught at Church, or in such Books of Piety as shall be recommended
to her by her Parents, or some Spiritual Director.

This is generally, I think, the Sense of Men concerning the Knowledge
which Ladies ought to have of Religion: And thus much, I doubt not may
suffice for their Salvation. But the saving of their Souls (tho' it
were herein as sure as it is possible) is not, I suppose, all that
Men are Solicitous for in regard of their Wives; their own Honour in
that of those so near to them, does I think, much more frequently and
sensibly employ their Care: And that, too often, appears to be but
very weakly secur'd by such an implicit Faith as this. For these
Believers (especially if they are thought to have any Wit, as well as
Beauty) will hardly escape meeting some time or other, with those who
will ask them _why they Believe_; and if they find then that they have
no more Reason for going to Church than they should have had to go to
Mass, or even to the Synagogue, had they been bred amongst Papists or
Jews, they must needs, at the same time, doubt whether, or no, the
Faith they have been brought up in, is any righter than either of
these; from whence they will, (by easy steps) be induc'd to question
the Truth of all Religion, when they shall be told by those who have
insinuated themselves into their Esteem and good Graces, that indeed
All Religions are, alike, the Inventions and Artifices of cunning Men
to govern the World by; unworthy of imposing upon such as have their
good Sense: That Fools only, and Ignorants are kept in Awe, and
restrain'd by their Precepts; which, if they observe it, they shall
ever find, are the lest obey'd by those who pretend the most to
obtrude them upon others.

That this is Language which Women often hear is certain: And such a
one as knows no reason for what she has been taught to believe, but
has been reprov'd, perhaps, for demanding one, can very hardly avoid
being perswaded that there is much appearance of Truth in this; whence
she will soon come to conclude, that she has hitherto been in the
wrong, if upon any scruple of Religion, she has not gratify'd her
Inclination, in whatever she imagines might tend to make her Life more
pleasing to her. And should a young Lady, thus dispos'd, find a Lover
whom she thinks has a just value for all her good Qualities, which at
best, perhaps, procure her but the cold Civility of her Husband, it is
odds that she may be in danger of giving him cause to wish she had
been better instructed, than may possibly suffice for her Salvation:
Which, whatever happens, none can pronounce, may not be secur'd from
the allowances due to so great Ignorance, or at least by any timely
Repentance: Whilst Honour, if not intirely Ship-wrack'd, it is scarce
reasonable to hope, should suffer no Diminution on such an occasion;
the which, that Women the most vertuously dispos'd, may never be
within distance of, will, in an Age like this, be best provided for
by their being betimes instructed in the true Reasons and Measures of
their Duty; since those, who are so, are not only better able to
defend their Vertue, but have also the seldomest occasion for such a
defence. Men, how ill soever inclin'd, being aw'd by, and made asham'd
to attaque with so pittiful Arguments, as Vice admits of, such as they
see are rationally Vertuous; whilst easy ignorance is look'd upon as a
Prey expos'd to every bold Invader: And whatever Garb of Gravity or
Modesty it is cloath'd withal, invites such very often, even where the
Charms of the Person would not otherwise attract them.

But as such Men who think that the understanding of Religion is a
thing needless to Women, do commonly much more believe all other
rational Knowledge to be so; let us see how reasonably these same Men
who willingly allow not to Ladies any employment of their Thoughts
worthy of them as rational Creatures, do yet complain, that either
Play is their daily and expensive pastime; or that they love not to be
at home taking care of their Children, as did heretofore Ladies who
were honour'd for their Vertue; but that an eternal round of idle
Visits, the Park, Court, Play-houses and Musick Meetings, with all the
costly Preparations to being seen in publick, do constantly take up
their Time and their Thoughts. For how heavy an Accusation soever
this, in itself, is, may it not justly be demanded of such Men as we
have spoken of, what good they imagine Mothers who understand nothing
that is fit for their Children to know, should procure to them by
being much in their Company: And next, whether they indeed think it
equitable to desire to confine Ladies to spend the best part of their
Lives in the Society and company of little Children; when to play with
them as a more entertaining sort of Monkeys or Parroquets, is all the
pleasing Conversation that they are capable of having with them? For
no other Delight can ignorant Women take in the Company of young
Children; and if to desire this, is not equitable or just, must it not
be concluded, that the greatest part of those, who make the
above-mention'd Complaints, do really mean nothing else thereby, but,
by a colourable and handsome pretence, to oblige their Wives, either
to be less expensive, or to avoid, it may be, the occasions of gaining
Admirers which may make them uneasy? Neither can such, possibly, be
presum'd upon any Principle of Vertue, to disapprove those ways of
anothers spending their Time, or Mony, which themselves will either
upon no consideration forbear; or else do so only, from a preference
of things as little, or yet less reasonable; as Drinking, Gaming, or
Lew'd Company. Such Persons of both Sexes as These, are indeed but fit
Scourges to chastise each others Folly; and they do so sufficiently,
whilst either restraint on the one side begets unconquerable hatred
and aversion; or else an equal indulgence puts all their Affairs into
an intire confusion and disorder: Whence Want, mutual ill Will,
Disobedience of Children, their Extravagance, and all the ill effects
of neglected Government, and bad Example follow; till they make such a
Family a very Purgatory to every one who lives in it. And as the
Original cause of all these mischiefs is Peoples not living like
rational Creatures, but giving themselves up to the blind Conduct of
their Desires and Appetites; so all who in any measure do thus, will
accordingly, more or less, create vexation to each other, because it
is impossible that they should ever be at ease, or contented in their
own Minds.

There being then so very few reasonable People in the World, as are,
that is to say, such who indeavour to live conformably to the Dictates
of Reason, submitting their Passions and Appetites to the Government
and Direction of that Faculty which God has given them to that end;
what wonder can it be that so few are happy in a Marry'd Estate? And
how little cause is there to charge their Infelicity, as often is
done, upon this Condition, as if it were a necessary Consequence

The necessities of a Family very often, and the injustice of Parents
sometimes, causes People to sacrifice their Inclinations, in this
matter, to interest; which must needs make this State uneasy in the
beginning to those who are otherways ever so much fitted to live well
in such a Relation; yet scarce any vertuous and reasonable Man and
Woman who are Husband and Wife, can know that it is both their Duty
and Interest (as it is) reciprocally to make each other Happy without
effectually doing so in a little time. But if no contrary Inclination
obstruct this Felicity, a greater cannot certainly be propos'd, since
Friendship has been allow'd by the wisest, most vertuous, and most
generous Men of all Ages to be the solidest and sweetest pleasure in
this World: And where can Friendship have so much advantage to arrive
to, and be maintain'd in its Perfection, as where two Persons have
inseparably one and the same Interest; and see themselves united, as
it were, in their common Off-spring? All People, it is certain, have
not a like fitness for, or relish of this pleasure of Friendship,
which therefore, however preferable to others in the real advantages
of it, cannot be equally valuable to all. But where there is mutually
that predominant Disposition to vertuous Love, which is the
Characteristick of the most excellent Minds, I think we cannot frame
an Idea of so great Happiness to be found in any thing in this Life,
as in a Marry'd State.

It seems therefore one of the worst Marks that can be of the Vice and
Folly of any Age when Mariage is commonly contemn'd therein; since
nothing can make it to be so but Mens Averseness to, or incapacity for
those things which most distinguish them from Brutes, Vertue and

But it were well if Mariage was not become a State almost as much
fear'd by the Wise, as despis'd by Fools. Custom and silly Opinion,
whose consequences yet are (for the most part) not imaginary, but real
Evils, do usually make it by their best Friends thought adviseable for
those of the Female Sex once to Marry; altho' the Risque which they
therein run of being wretched, is yet much greater than that of Men;
who (not having the same inducements from the hazard of their
Reputation, or any uneasie dependance) are, from the examples of
others Misfortunes, often deter'd from seeking Felicity in a condition
wherein they so rarely see, or hear of any who find it; it being too
true that one can frequent but little Company, or know the Story of
but few Families, without hearing of the publick Divisions, and
Discords of Marry'd People, or learning their private Discontents from
their being in that state. But since the cause of such unhappiness
lies only in the corruption of Manners, were that redress'd, there
would need nothing more to bring _Mariage_ into credit.

Vice and Ignorance, thus, we see, are the great Sources of those
Miseries which Men suffer in every state. These, oftentimes, mingle
Gall even in their sweetest Pleasures; and imbitter to them the
wholesomest Delights. But what remedy hereto can be hop'd for, if
rational Instruction and a well order'd Education of Youth, in respect
of Vertue and Religion, can only (as has been said) rectify these
Evils? For vicious and ignorant Parents are neither capable of this,
or generally willing that their Children should be instructed or
govern'd any other ways, than as themselves have been before them.

One might hence therefore, it may be, reasonably believe, that God
reserves to himself, by some extraordinary interposition of his
providence, that Reformation which we are assur'd, will some time be
effected. But yet if all Persons, eminent by their Quality, who merit
not to be rank'd among the Vicious and Ignorant, would give the
Example, much would thereby be done towards the introducing of a
general amendment: Since these could make a greater care of Education
in the above-mention'd Respects, become, in some degree, Fashionable:
And even a reasonable thing will not want Followers, if it be once
thought the Fashion. We have seen also that Mothers, in regard of
their Childrens Instruction, ought to take upon themselves, as their
proper Business, a very great part in that concernment; and one would
think that there were no inconsiderable number of Ladies amongst us,
who might, with hopes of success, be address'd to, that they would
indeavour to acquit themselves herein of their Duty. I mean all such
as are unhappily Marry'd; for what so good Reparation can they find
for the misfortune of having foolish and vicious Husbands, who neglect
or treat them ill, as the having Children honour'd for their Vertue,
and who shall honour and love them, not only as their Parents, but as
those to whom they owe much more than their Being?

To perswade such whose Heads are full of Pleasure, and whose Hours
pass gaily, to seek their satisfaction in things of which they have
never yet had any tast, could not reasonably be thought other than a
vain Attempt: But they who are wretched, one would think, should be
easily prevail'd with to hearken to any Proposition, which brings but
the least glimpse of Happiness to them; and were that tenderness of
their Children, which ingages Mothers to do them all the good they
can, less natural than it is to Vertuous Women, one would imagine,
that when from these alone they must expect all their Felicity in
this Life, they should readily contribute what is in their Power to
the securing to themselves this only Blessing which they can propose;
and which they cannot miss of, without the greatest increase
imaginable to their present unhappiness: Childrens Ill-doing being an
Affliction equal to the Joy of their doing well. Which must be an
unspeakable one to such Parents as are conscious, that this is in
great measure the Fruit and Effect of their right direction. Nor is
there any thing which a vertuous Man or Woman does not think they owe,
or is too much for them to return to those to whom they believe
themselves indebted for their being such. How great a Felicity then
may a Mother, unhappy in the Relation of a Wife, (by procuring to
herself such Friends as these) lay up for her declining Age, which
must otherwise be more miserable than her unfortunate Youth? And how
much better would she employ her time in this care, than in the
indulging to a weakness, very incident to tender Minds, which is to
bemoan themselves, instead of casting about for Relief against their
Afflictions, whereby they become but yet more soften'd to the
Impressions of their Sorrow, and every day less able to support them?

They are usually (it is true) the most Vertuous Women who are the
aptest to bear with immoderate Grief, the ill Humour, or unkindness of
their Husbands: But it is pitty that such, who (in an Age wherein the
contrary is too often practis'd) have more Vertue than to think of
returning the Injuries they receive, should want so much Wit as not to
repay unkindness, with a just contempt of it: But instead thereof,
foolishly sacrifice their Lives, or the Comforts of them (which is our
All in this World) to those who will not sacrifice the least
inclination to their reasonable Satisfaction: And how much wiser and
more becoming Christians would it be for such Ladies to reflect less
upon what others owe to them, and more upon what they owe to
themselves and their Children, than to abandon themselves, as too many
do, to a fruitless Grief; which serves for nothing else, but to render
them yet less agreeable to those whom they desire to please; and
useless in the World: Diseases, and, in time, constant ill Health
being the almost never failing Effects of a lasting Discontent upon
such feeble Constitutions. But I take leave to say, that the fault of
those who make others thus miserable, and the weakness of such who
thus suffer their Minds to think under Adversity, are in a great
measure both owing to one and the same Cause, viz. Ignorance of the
true Rules and Measures of their Duty; whereby they would be taught
to correct every excess; together with the want of such other
Knowledge (suitable to the Capacity and Condition of the Person) as
would both usefully and agreably employ their Time: This Knowledge,
tho' not perhaps of a Nature immediately conducing to form, or rectify
the Manners, yet doing so, in a great measure, by restraining or
preventing the irregularities of them. For as ill natur'd and vicious
Men, if they know but how pleasantly and profitably to employ those
tedious hours which lye upon their Hands, would be generally less
Vicious, and less ill Humour'd than they are; so Women of the most
sensible Dispositions would not give up themselves to sorrow that is
always hurtful, and sometimes dangerous both in their Honour and
Salvation (excess of Tenderness, when abus'd, too often producing
Hatred, and that Revenge) if they were not only very little inform'd
as to what God requires of them; but also very Ignorant in regard of
any kind of Ingenious Knowledge, whereby they might delightfully
employ themselves, and divert those displeasing Thoughts which
(otherwise) will incessantly Torment, and Prey upon their Minds. She
who has no Inclinations unbecoming a Vertuous Woman, who prefers her
Husbands Affection to all things in the World; and who can no longer
find that pleasure in the ordinary Circle of Ladies Diversions, which
perhaps, they gave her in her first Youth, is but very ill provided to
bear Discontent where she proposes her greatest satisfaction, if she
has nothing within her self which can afford her pleasure,
independently upon others: Which is what none can lastingly have,
without some improvement of their rational Faculties; since as
Childhood, and Youth, wear off, the relish of those pleasures that
are suited to them, do so too; on which account the most happy would
not ill consult their advantage, if by contracting betimes a Love of
Knowledge (which is ever fruitful in delight to those who have once a
true taste of it) they provide in their Youth such a Source of
Pleasure for their Old Age as Time will not dissipate, but improve; by
rendring their Minds no less vigorous, and its Beauties yet more
attracting, when the short Liv'd ones of their Faces are impair'd, and
gone. Whilst those whose Youthful Time has been devoted to Vanities,
or Trifles, Age does inevitably deliver over either to melancholy
Repentance, or (at best) to the wearisome Languishings which attend a
Life deprived of Desire and Enjoyment.

Now in the pursuit of that Pleasure which the exercise and improvement
of the understanding gives, I see no Reason why it should not be
thought that all Science lyes as open to a Lady as to a Man: And that
there is none which she may not properly make her Study, according as
she shall find her self best fited to succeed therein; or as is most
agreeable to her Inclination: provided ever, that all such Knowledge
as relates to her Duty, or is, any way, peculiarly proper to her Sex,
and Condition, be principally, and in the first place her Care: For it
is indeed very preposterous for a Woman to employ her Time in
enquiries, or speculations not necessary for her, to the neglect of
that for Ignorance whereof she will be guilty before God, or blameable
in the Opinion of all Wise Men; And to do this, is plainly no less
irrational and absurd, than for one destitute of necessary Cloathing,
to lay out what should supply that want upon things meerly of
Ornament. There is yet, methinks, no difference betwixt the Folly of
such Learned Women, and that of Learned Men, who do the same thing,
except that the one is the greater Rarity.

But it is not perhaps very seasonable to propose that Ladies should
have any greater Accomplishments or Improvements of their
Understandings than the well discharging of their Duty requires, till
it is thought fit for them to have that: The advantages of which to
Men themselves, and the necessity thereof to a right Education of
their Children of both Sexes are too evident, when reflected upon, not
to obtain Encouragement of so much Knowledge in Women from all who are
Lovers of Vertue, were it not true that Conviction does not always
operate. The Law of Fashion or Custom, is still to be obey'd, let
Reason contradict it ever so much: And those bold Adventurers are
look'd upon but as a sort of _Don Quixots_; whose Zeal for any
Reformation puts them upon Combating generally receiv'd Opinions, or
Practices; even tho' the Honour of their Maker be concern'd therein:
Or (what is nearer to most) their own Private and Temporal Interests.
I am sure that a just consideration of both these furnishes every one
with very cogent inducements to make what opposition they can to
Immorality, both by amending their own faults, and by indeavouring to
prevail upon others to correct whatever has contributed to the making
us a vicious People. For, not to say that it is a rational as well as
Pious Fear that God by some signal Judgment upon such as have abus'd
many Mercies, should make an example of them for the deterring of
others, it is more certain (tho' usually less reflected upon) that it
is no way necessary to the punishment of any Wicked Ungrateful Nation,
that God should interpose, by some extraordinary act of his
Providence, to inflict upon them the due Reward of their
Disobedience, and Ingratitude: Since so fitly are all things dispos'd
in their Original Constitution, and the order of Nature to the
All-wise ends of their Maker, that (without his especial Interposition
in the case) the establish'd course of things does bring to pass the
effects that he sees fit in respect of the Moral, as well as of the
Natural World; nor scarcely can any People from the avenging Hand of
the Almighty, in the most astonishing Judgments which can render them
an eminent example of his Displeasure, receive any severer
Chastisement, than what they will find in the Natural result and
consequences of their Moral Corruption when grown to an Extremity.

It would be to enter into a large Field of Discourse to shew how
experience has always attested this. And we perceive, but too
sensibly, that Vice proportionably to its measure, carries along with
it, its own Punishment, to need that we should search for Foreign, or
Remote examples in proof hereof.

A general Contempt of Religion towards God: Want of Truth and Fidelity
amongst Men: Luxury and Intemperance, follow'd with the neglect of
industry, and application to useful Arts and Sciences, are necessarily
attended with misery, and have been usually also, the Fore-runners of
approaching Ruine to the best and most flourishing Governments which
have been in the World. And as in the same proportion that these
things do any where prevail, so must naturally the unhappiness of such
a People; it is evident, that for any Prophane, Debauch'd, or Vicious
Nation to expect a durable Prosperity, is no other than to hope that
God will in their Favour (who have justly incur'd his Indignation)
withhold the natural Effects of that Constitution and Order of things,
which he has with infinite Wisdom Establish'd: A Conceit too
contradictious to Reason, as well as too Presumptuous for any one, I
suppose, to entertain.


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