Female Pre-eminence, OR THE Excellency of that Sex above the Male.
ALmighty God, to whose eff•••cious •ord all things owe their original, a∣bounding in his own glorious Essence with infinite goodness and fecundity, did in the beginning 〈◊〉 Man after his own likeness, Male and Female, created he them; the true di∣stinction of which Sexes, consists meerly in the different site of those parts of the body, wherein Generation necessarily requires a Diversity: for both Male and Female he impartially endued with the same, and altogether indifferent Page 2 form of Soul, the Woman being pos∣sess'd of no less excellent Faculties of Mind, Reason, and Speech, than the Man, and equally with him aspiring to those Regions of Bliss and Glory, where there shall be no exception of Sex. For though at the last Trumpets universal Alarm, when our recollected bodies shall start up amazed, to find themselves releas'd from their Prisons of Darkness, we may perhaps appear in our resp•ctive proper Sexes, yet shall we not then either ne•d or 〈…〉 use of Sex, but are promise• by him who is Truth it self, a Conversation resembling that of blessed Angel• in Heaven. Hence 'tis evident, that as to the es∣sence of the Soul between Man and Wo∣man, there can no Pre-eminence at all be challenged on either side, but the 〈◊〉 innate worth and dignity of both, the Image of their Creator being stampt as fairly, and shining as brightly in one, as t'other; whereas in all other respects the noble and delicate Feminine Race, doth almost to infinity excell that rough-hew•, boisterous kind, the Male.
Page 3This may at first perhaps seem an odd Assertion, and extravagantly Paradoxical, but will appear a certain Truth, when we have prov'd it (which is our present undertaking) not with empty flourishes of words, or gawdy Paint of Rhetorick, nor with those vain Logical Devices, where∣with Sophisters too frequently inveigle unwary understandings, but by the Au∣thority of the most Approved Authors, unquestioned Histories, and evident Rea∣sons, as likewise with Testimonies of ho∣ly Writ, and Sanctions of both Civil and Canon Laws. Since Names are signs of things, and that all matter presents it self to us cloathed in words, the Learn∣ed have advis'd us in all Discourses, First, To consider diligently the No∣tations or Appellations of those things whereof we intend to Treat, which if we reduce to practice in our present Sub∣ject, we may observe, that Woman was made at first so much more excellent than Man, by how much she had given her a Name more worthy than he; the word Adam, signifying but Earth, whereas Eve, is interpreted Life; Page 4 whence it seems, Woman is no less to be preferr'd before Man, than Life it self before sordid and contemptible Earth. Nor let any weak heads fancy this Argument lame or invalid, because from names it passes judgement on things, since it must be acknowledged, that the All-wise Contriver both of names and things, well knew the things before he imposed names on them; and therefore (it being impossible he should be deceived) did undoubtedly bestow on them such fit and apposite names, as might best express their in∣trinsick Natures and Dignity. Nor is it only the holy Tongue that intimates this Sexes Pre-eminence, the Latines too seem very express in asserting it, amongst whom Woman is named Mu∣lier, quasi Melior, as much as to say, Better or more worthy than Man. And in our English Language, al∣though
Tis too great a derogation from the known prudence and piety of our An∣cestors, to imagine them at once so in∣jurious and impious, as to brand this no∣ble Sex with a Name, diametrically thwarting that Character which Hea∣ven it self had given of its Nature. We may with much more probability, (the only Compass to sail by in an Ocean of Etymologies) suppose the word, woman, to be derived, quasi Woe man, she being the Loadstone of Mans Desires, and the sole adequate Object of his Affections, whom he is to woe, court, and settle his Love on; or else from With Man, abbreviated in the pronunciation, intimating the need Man hath of her presence and company, and his dull heartless condition without her. Society is the Life of Life, and Women the Life of Society, compar'd with whom all other pleasures and di∣versions are but flat and melancholy; Page 6 whereof the Protoplast, even whilest he was in his state of Innocency, and had a Garden of pleasure for his Habitation, was not insensible; of whom thus a minor Poet,
However if we shall not be allow'd the priviledge of contriving for the Ho∣nour of the Female Sex, such advanta∣geous Etymologies, yet let us at least affirm from the mysterious Learning of the Cabalists; that the Womans Name in the original Language, hath a much nearer Affinity with the ineffable Te•ra∣grammaton, or sacred Name of the Divine Essence, than the Mans, which hear• no Resemblance thereto either in Page 7 Characters, Figure, or Number.
But waving (at present) this ab∣struser mode of proof, as a matter read by few, understood by fewer, and re∣quiring a more ample Explication, than our leisure, no less than the Readers pa∣tience, can here allow of, we proceed from words to things, and come to in∣vestigate and display Female Excellency, not barely from the Name, but in Reali∣ty from its intrinsick worth and proper Endowments; for long Jangling about Nominals, whilest Substances fleet by unregarded, may argue some smatter∣ing in Grammar, or Sophistry, but no great stock of solid or usefull Learn∣ing.
L•• us then (as we are commanded) search the Scriptures, and dating our Discourse with the Worlds original, examine what Dignity was alotted to Woman above Man, by order of Cre∣ation. We know that all things made by the Almighty Architect, may not un∣fitly be branched into these two Ranks, some remaining ever incorruptible, others subject to corruption and mutati∣on; Page 8 in the Creation of both which, Divine Wisdome proceeded in a Me∣thod of Descension and Ascension, be∣ginning with the more noble of the one, and concluding with the most noble of the other. Hence he first Created those purer Essences, immaterial Angels and Souls, (for so the great St. Augustine contends, that the Soul of our first Pa∣rent was created together with the An∣gels, before the production of his body) then the incorruptible bodies, as the Hea∣vens, and those vast numbers of glori∣ous Stars, wherewith the same are em∣broidered; as also the Elements, incor∣ruptible too, but obnoxious to various mutations, of which last he composed all other things liable to corruptio•, be∣ginning with the meanest, and so pro∣ceeding upwards again by several de∣grees of dignity, to the perfection of the Universe; so as first Minerals were brought forth, then sprouted up Vege∣tables, Plants, Herbs and Trees, after∣wards Plant-Animals, then Living Creatures in order, creeping, swim∣ming, flying, and four-footed; and Page 9 last of all he formed our first Parents, after his own similitude, first the Man, and then the Woman, in whom was compleated the Heavens and the Earth, and all the glory of them, for after her Creation the great Creator rested, as having nothing more honourable to frame; and so well resented the pleasure of having finisht this glorious work so happily, that he instituted a day of each seven to celebrate its Festival. Wo∣man then being the last of Creatures, the end, complement, and consummation of all the works of God, what Igno∣rance is there so stupid, or what Impu∣dence can there be so effronted, as to de∣ny her a Prerogative above all other Creatures, without whom the World it self had been imperfect; it being im∣possible the same should be compleated, but in some Creature most perfect; and absurd to dream, that Infinite Wis∣dome would conclude so noble a Fabrick, with a thing any way trivial or defective: for the whole Universe being Created by God, as an entire and perfect Circle, it was requisite the same should be made Page 10 up, and finisht in such an exact and ab∣solute particle, as might with a most strict Tye unite and glew together the first of all things with the last. Thus the Woman in relation to time indeed was formed last, but in respect of Dignity, first of all conceived in the divine Idaea, (as 'tis written, Before the Heavens were created I chose her;) the End, according to the Catholick Creed of Philosophers, being ever first in Intention, though last in Execution: but Woman was the End, and last work of God, and intro∣duced into the World, not unlike a Queen into her Royal Palace, Paradise her Metropolitan Residence, being fitted and prepared before-hand for her Re∣ception and Entertainment, where the Man seem'd only her Harbinger or At∣tendant. Deservedly therefore doth every Creature love, and pay respect and homage to her, who is of all Crea∣tures the Queen, perfection and glory; for which cause the wise Man saith, He glorifies the Generosity of the Woman, ha∣ving 〈◊〉 with God, the Lord of all hath loved her.
Page 11But further, in reference to the place of her Creation, how much Woman doth surpass Man in Dignity, sacred Oracles liberally inform us, witnessing her to be Created in Paradise, a place no less noble, than pleasant and delight∣full; but the Man out of Prradise, in a rural Field, with irrational Brutes. And therefore as great Personages, of noble Extraction, though by the ma∣lice of Fortune reduc'd to Extremities, retain still some marks of Grandeur, and a Mean different from the Vulgar, so Woman carries yet an Air of Paradise, something that speaks her sublime dis∣cent, her Inclinations being generally more pious and devout, and her Coun∣tenance Angelical, and (as accustomed to that sublime place of her first Birth) she enjoys this peculiar priviledge, that looking downwards, though from never so high a precepice, she is not seiz'd with that dizziness or dimness of sight, which frequently in such acci∣dents happens to Men. As also if a Man and Woman together chance to be exposed to danger by Water, (deprived Page 12 of all external aid or assistance) you may behold her a long time floating o• the Chrystal Superficies, the compassio∣nate Element seeming unwilling to con∣tract the guilt of destroying so much Excellency; whilest the Man streight •inks, and (like other gross bodies) tends to the bottome, as his proper Cen∣ter. Now that the dignity of the place of Nativity conduces not a little to the enobling a person, both the Civil Laws, and sacred Canons plainly intimate, and the Custome of all Nations confirms; and that not only in Men, but in all other Animals, yea inanimate Crea∣tures, esteeming each so much more ge∣nerous and noble, as they come from a more wo•thy place. Thus Isaac com∣mands his Jacob not to take a Wife of the Land of Canaan, but of the then more renowned Countrey, Mesopotamia of Syria: not unlike which is that in John, where Philip relating, that he had found Jesus of Nazareth, Nathana∣el (that true Israelite) nimbly que∣ries, If any thing good could come thence?
Page 13But to proceed; as in order and place, so also in matter of her Creation, Wo∣man far excells Man. Things receive their value from the matter they are made of, and the excellent skill of their maker: Pots of common Clay must not contend with China-Dishes, nor Pewter Utensils vye dignity with those of Sil∣ver. One Line drawn by Appelles his exquisite Pencil, is more to be esteem∣ed, than whole Portraitures per∣form'd by the slubbering hands of vulgar Artists. Woman was not composed of any inanimate or vile dirt, but of a more refined and purified substance, en∣livened and actuated by a Rational Soul, whose operations speak it a Beam, or bright Ray of Divinity. Man was taken out of the Earth, which of its own nature, with the co-operation of Cele∣stial Influxes, is wont to bring forth li∣ving Creatures: but Woman, above all Influence of the Heavens, or aptitude of Nature, without any assisting virtue, or co-operating power, was formed mi∣raculously by God himself, out of that Ribb taken from dormant Adam's side, Page 14 whereby Man became maim'd and im∣perfect; and thence ever since, as a Needle that hath suffered the Magnetick Touch, stands alwayes trembling till it looks full on its beloved North; so He can never rest, till by taking a Woman, and Incorporating her with himself, he retreive that loss, and render himself again intire and perfect. The rare Art exercised in rea•ing this Female-Fabrick, is not obscurely intimated by the Di∣vine Historian, in his Original Lan∣guage, where God is said to make Man, but to have built Woman; that imply∣ing but common work, this, much curio∣sity, and contrivance: insomuch that Man seems little more than the producti∣on of Nature; Woman, the more im∣mediate handywork of the God of Na∣ture. And therefore for the most part Woman is more susceptible of, and re∣plenisht with divine splendor and irradia∣tions, than Man, of which her incom∣parable Neatness, and charming Beauty, may be a pregnant evidence; for Beau∣ty is nothing but the brightness or radi∣ancy of Divine Light, s•••ing in created Page 15 Essences, and casting on us its glorious Reflections from fair bodies, as illustri∣ously as our weak eyes are capable with∣out dazleing to behold it. And this most frequently chooseth to reside in Woman, rather than Man; whence she becomes beyond all expression amiable and delightfull, her Flesh •ender and de∣licate, her Colour bright and clear, her Hair most becoming, her Locks (Cu∣pids Fetters, and the only Threads wherewith he strings his Bow) soft, long, and glittering, her Countenance more August and Majestical, her Looks more sprightly, vivid and joc•••; a snow-white Neck, and large smooth high Fore-head; sparkling Eyes, armed with irresistable Glances, and yet tem∣pered with a lovely grace and chearful∣ness, Arched over with stately Eye-browes, (half Moons, that boast more Conquests, than the proud Turkish En∣signs) which being divided with a be∣seeming, plain, and equal distance, her well proportioned Nose leads to her pretty Mouth, and that displaying with an amorous smile, the rosie Portals of its Page 16 soft ruddy Lips, discovers a Row of in∣estimable Pearl, her fine small Teeth, even, and out-vying Ivory for white∣ness, yet fewer in number than Mans, as having less occasion to use them, be∣ing neither great Eater, nor Biter. Then her modest Cheeks, whose Co∣lours are so purely mixt, that Lillies and Roses seem there to contend for su∣periority, and her pretty round Chin, beautified with a Love-dimple; a Voice she hath most sweet and inchanting; Breasts which seem two sphears of Snow, or swelling Mountainets of De∣light; long Arms, little Hands, inter∣woven with a curious La••• y••th of Azure Veins; long slender Fingers, nimble Joynts, and all parts of her body plump, juicy, and attractive. Besides, her Gate is so modest, her Motions de∣cent and natural, her Gesture more free and noble, her Air more taking and complacent, and the whole Form, Ha∣bit, and Symmetry of her person, grace• with such innumerable Charms, as without injuring truth, we may affirm, That in the whole series of Creatures, Page 17 there is nothing so much to be admir'd, or miracle so deserving to be seen, since in her alone all that have not their eyes blear'd with prejudice, or envy, may clearly see, the great Creator (who is the Fountain of all that is good and ami∣able) hath epitomized the Beauty of all his other works; for those perfections which sparkle here and there in them, are collected and constellated in her, whom we may call, a Draught of the whole Creation in Miniature, or a Copy of that vast Volume done in exquisite Short-hand. Hence all Creatures ad∣mire, love, and almost adore her; for so (*)Pliny (that great Clark of Na∣tures Closet) relates, That the Lion which spareth no other Creature, trem∣bles at a Woman, and hardly proffereth her that violence which usually he doth to Man; as if Nature had taught that savage Animal the Respects due to so fair a presence. Nor is it only the Con∣ceit of fond Opinion, but a very credi∣ble Truth, That even spiritual Natures, incorporeal Essences, and Daemons, have many times been enamoured on Page 18 Women with wonderfull passion; for omitting those Stories Poets tell us, of the Amours of their fabulous Deities, as Apollo and Daphne, Neptune and Salmo∣nea, or rampant Hercules with his three Wenches, Hebe, Jole, and Omphale, &c. The holy Scripture seems to in∣timate no less; as in Genesis we find, That the Sons of God seeing the Daugh∣ters of Men were fair, took of them for their Wives: to which we might adde, (if it be not thought too Apochryphal) the ill spirit Asmodeus, who so jealously Courted the Lady, that he destroy'd all his Rivals, in the History of Tebit. Indeed these sacred Rolls are frequent in recommending this divine Ornament, Beauty, and furnish us with various Ex∣amples of its power and excellency. Thereby it was Abigail preserved her churlish Husbands Life and Fortune, from the fury of incensed David; for thus the Royal Captain accosts her, Re∣turn in peace, I have heard thy voice, and honoured thy face, (or as other Versions render it, Accepted thy person.) All beauty is either intellectual, vocal, or Page 19corporeal; in each of which this Lady is recorded to have been eminently ac∣complisht, being both prudent in mind, eloquent of speech, and beautifull in person; for which excellent perfections▪ David after Nabal's decease accepted her for one of his Wives. Hesters Beauty was a means to deliver her peo∣ple out of the jaws of destruction, to which proud Haman had devoted them. And fair Judiths Charms infatuating the besotted General, preserved her Nati∣on from a Ruine which seem'd inevitable. After those various temptations and te∣dious afflictions of holy Job, Heaven (as if it could not bestow a better earth∣ly Reward on such a stupendious and in∣imitable Patience) blest him with three Daughters so sweet, fair and attractive, that they surpast those Graces Poets fa∣ble of, and the whole World (Bank∣rupt of such other Excellency) could not produce their Parallels. Who reading the Legends of the sacred Vir∣gins, can but admire in them that trans∣cendent Beauty, which the Church vouchsafes to celebrate with such solemn Page 20 Eulogies of Honour? especially that immaculate Virgin, the blessed Mary, whose Beauty is said to be so exactly temper'd with Chastity and Holiness, that though it captivated all hearts, yet it never tempted any to folly, so much as in thought. Nor is Beauty only esteemed amongst Men, but seems also to be particularly regarded even by God himself, (as indeed how can he but re∣spect his own Reflection.) Thus we sometimes read him commanding all the Males (even Children) should be slain, but the Women that were fair to be saved alive. And in Deuteronomy, liberty is indulged to the Israelites, to take one of their Captives to Wife, if she were beautifull, which otherwise was unlawfull.
But besides this charming Excellen∣cy, which not only invites, but com∣mands our admiration; Woman is en∣dowed with another natural Ornament, not vouchsaft to Men; her Hair growing to that becoming length, as to veil those more reserved parts, whereof Modesty commands conceal∣ment; Page 21 and indeed of that blushing Virtue this sweet Sex may justly challenge the far greatest share, it having been o•t ex∣perienced, (*) That in desperate Diseases, they have chosen to expose themselves to Deaths Imbraces, rather than to the view and handling of Chyr••∣gions for cure. Nor can Death it self rifle them of this modest bashfulness; for when drowned, (as Pliny relates, and Experience proves) they lye in the Water with their Faces downwards, Nature sparing their Modesty; whereas a Man in such case swims on his back, exposing all his shame and nakedness to publick view. Further, the most worthy part of us, whereby we chiefly differ from Brutes, is the Head, and of that, especially the Face. Now in Men, that noble member the Head, is often by Age or other Infirmity plun∣dered of Hair, its native Ornament, and grows deformed with a despicable Baldness; from which misfortune Wo∣men by an extraordinary priviledge of Nature are exempt. As likewise their Faces remain alwayes smooth and come∣ly; Page 22 whereas Mens are frequently so be∣set with over-grown Beards, and sordid Hair, that 'tis difficult to distinguish them from Beasts; whence by the Law of the Twelve Tables, it was pro∣vided, Women should not shave their •heeks, lest it might occasion the growth of Beards, and destroy their na∣tive pudor and comeliness. Now of the cleanness and purity of this Sex, this oft-try'd Experiment cannot but be a proof beyond exception; for when a Woman hath once washt her self clean, let her wash again in fresh Water, and it shall receive no spot or tincture of foul∣ness; but a Man never so well washt, as oft as he washes again, will still leave behind some filth and sordities▪ Nor may we omit, That Nature hath given Women the greatest share in the procre∣ation of Mankind; for according to the opinion of those great pillars of the Art of Healing, G•len and Avicenna, she contributes most to the matter and nu∣triment of the Birth, which may be the reason that most Children resemble their Mothers many times in external fea∣tures, Page 23 but almost alwayes in Genius and Inclinations; for where Mothers be simple, the Children generally prove Fools, and where they are wise, these are witty: but on the contrary, the wi∣sest Fathers have most times Idiots to their Sons, and foolish Fathers fre∣quently get wise Children, provided the Mother be but possest of a compe∣tent stock of discretion. And hence it should seem, Mothers become more fond and indulgent to Children, as being sensible of having a greater share and in∣terest in them; in requital whereof for the same cause, we are naturally more affected towards our Mothers than to our Fathers, so as we seem but to respect our Father, and to love only our Mo∣ther. And this leads us to make some reflection on that which is our first Com∣mons in this World, our Mothers Milk, a thing of that Catholick virtue, that it not only nourishes Infants, cherishes the sick, and restores consumptive and lan∣guishing Nature, but may in case of ne∣cessity suffice for the preservation of life to persons of any age; a notable In∣stance Page 24 whereof we read in Valerius, of a poor young Woman, who therewith preserved her aged Mother in prison, that otherwise had inevitably been swal∣lowed up by the devouring jaws of Fa∣mine, whereby
Furthermore, to omit that Women are more early ready to accomplish that great end of our being, generation, and the propagation of Posterity, than Men; and that stupendious Miracle of Nature, their Longing, when many times with∣out danger they greedily feed on raw Flesh or Fish, and not seldome on Coals, Dirts, Stones, and other Trash▪ which without damage they concoct▪ and convert into healthfull Nutriment: We only at present adde, That accor∣ding to the Traditions of Philosophers and Physitians, ratified by Experience▪ Women have obtained this excellent Boon from the indulgence and bounty of Nature, That in all Dise•ses what∣ever▪ they of themselves, from their own proper stock, are furnisht with Re∣medies▪ and can cure themselves, with∣out praying maid of any forreign Help, or 〈…〉.
Page 26But that which transcends all wonder, is, that Woman alone, without Man, should be able to produce humane Na∣ture, which Man alone never could pre∣tend to; and yet this is commonly af∣firmed by the Turks and other Mahume∣tans, to be feazible; amongst whom many are believed to be conceiv'd with∣out Fathers, whom in their own Tongue they call Nef•fogli. Stories likewise go of Islands, where the Women are conceived to Conceive by the Wind; but this we dare not admit into our Creed, for thereby we should injuriously rob the blessed Mary of her Honour, whose alone Prerogative it was to Conceive without the knowledge of Man, when she brought forth her natural Son, our Saviour, of her proper substance, be∣ing Impregnated by the holy Spirit, and remaining still a pure and Immacu∣late Virgin, such fruitfulness attending the precedent Benediction, that she needed not Mans help in reference to Conception. But of brute Animals•is more confidently affirmed, some Females conceive without the •••pany Page 27 of the Male; as Origen against Faustus, delivers on the credit of History, con∣cerning she-Vultures; and Antiquity of certain Mares, which went to Foal by the fruitfull Gales of Zephyrus; of which the Poet,
What shall we say of Speech, that di∣vine Faculty differencing us from Brutes, whereby the Soul puts concep∣tions into words, and makes her Appre∣hensions audible, which the profound Tresmigistus prizes at no lower rate than Immortality; and the Poet Hesiad de∣servedly stiles our best Treasure. I ap∣peal to each Mans own Experience, (and some I know have had cause to observe it) whether Women are not naturally Page 28 more eloquent of Speech, than Men and their Tongues more apt and volub• to cloath their thoughts in Language and express their sentiments on any oc¦casion. How sweet and insinuating ar• their Complements? how close an• home their Objurgations? how sudden their Answers? how ingenious their Re∣torts? how ready their Excuses? how neat their Evasions? how irresistable their Intreaties? Did not every one of us first learn to speak from no other Tu∣tors than our Mothers or Nurses? and in this behalf Nature (like a carefull Go∣verness) so wisely provides for Huma∣nity, that scarce ever any of that Sex are found dumb. Nor is this sure any mean or vulgar honour, but meriting the greatest regard, to surpass Men in that, wherein Man himself chiefly excells other Creatures.
But pretermitting these more vulgar and prophane Instances of Feminine su∣periority, let us return to sacred Letters, deducing the Rivulets of our Discourse from the very Fountains of Religion; where we may observe, That Man was Page 29 first blest for the Womans sake, God vouchsafing no benediction on him till after her Creation, as if before he had been unworthy that celestial favour. Consonant whereunto is that Proverb of Solomon, He that finds a good Woman, finds a good thing, and shall receive a bles∣sing from the Lord. And that in Eccle∣siasticus, Blessed is the Husband of a good Woman, the number of his years shall be doubled. Nor indeed can any vye dig∣nity with him whose good fortune 'tis to enjoy a good Wife; for (as the same Siracides saith) she is a Grace above all Graces: and therefore the wisest of Kings calls her, The Crown; and the great Apostle, The Glory of the Man: Now Glory is defined to be the consum∣mation and perfection of a thing acqui∣escing and delighting in its end, viz. when nothing more can be thereto ad∣ded to augment its perfection. There∣fore Woman being the Complement, Felicity, Blessing, and Glory of Man, 'tis but requisite every Man should love and respect her accordingly; and he that doth not do so, or shall be so barbarousPage 30 as to hate or dis-esteem her, is not only a stranger to all Virtues and Graces, but a very Rebel against Humanity.
Hereto we might, perhaps not impro∣perly, refer those Cabalistical mysteries, how that Abraham was blessed of God in some respect through means of his Wife Sarah; for by taking the Letter H from her Name, and adding it to his, he came to be called Abraham. As also that Jacobs blessing was acquired by a Woman, his Mother: of which sort there are in Scripture several other pas∣sages, not requisite here to be unfolded. This may suffice to let us see, that the blessing was bestow'd for the Womans sake, but the Law given to the Man: to him was forbidden the fruit of that unhappy Tree, which set all Posterities Teeth on edge; not to the Woman, who was not then so much as Created. For although St. Gregory(*) read the Prohibition, You shall not eat, as though it were spoken to both Man and Woman, yet the Original delivers it in the singular number. And St. A•stin(*) taketh away the Doubt, and tell∣eth Page 31 us, That by Tradition the Woman received this Commandment from the Man, not by immediate delivery from God; which if so, we thence conclude, That by reason thereof the Woman might chance more easily to break this Law, than the Man; since the All-glo∣rious Majesty of God that commanded, should take deeper impression in Man, than the equality of person that related, could in the Woman; the roaring of a Lion being more trembled at, than the braying of an Ass; the Commands of a King more powerfull, than the words of ones Companion. At most, when Woman fin'd, she did it, poor Soul, unwittingly, being deluded by the insi∣nuating Serpent: so that it appears the Man sinned against perfect knowledge, and the positive Command of his Ma∣ker; the Woman out of ignorance, se∣duced by the crafty wiles of the Tempter, with whom for a considerable time she disputed the matter, and lost not the glo∣ry of the day without a fair Com•ate, though at last she fell an unhappy Trophy to his stratagems: whereas no sooner Page 32 was that too-pleasing Apple proffered to the Man, but without scruple he gree∣dily falls on, and, Rebel as he was, would needs tast its fancied sweetness, whose bitter rellish remains to this day, and hath left on us those original stains, which nothing but Divine Blood can fetch out.
That Woman was first set upon by the Adversary, may be an Argument of her Excellency; for we know, that the sharpest points are soonest blunted, and the perfectest white most easily soil'd.
The black Prince of the Air, that subtle degraded Seraphin, well knew Woman to be the most accomplisht of all Creatures; and seeing (as St. Ber∣nard observes) her amazing Beauty to be such, as before his Lapse he had be∣held in the Divine Light, and which above the sublimest Hierarchies enjoys Communion with God, did thereup∣on meerly out of envy, plot how he Page 33 might dismount her from that Throne of Perfection, and endeavoured by his malitious Darts first of all to wound her innocency, and sully her glory, whose transcendent Lustre above others, his hellish nature could not but most of all repine at. Nor want we further intima∣tion of the fair Sexes Dignity and Pre-eminence, if we reflect, That when the promised seed of Woman, that bruised this cursed Serpents head, I mean our blessed Saviour, left the bosome of his Eternal Father, and the splendo•s of in∣accessible Light, to become visible in these lower Regions, and veiling the Majesty of his glorious presence, cloath'd himself with humane flesh, coming into the World in the lowliest manner imaginable, that by his humi∣lity he might expiate the pride of our first Parents sin; we may with all hum∣ble Reverence conjecture, That he was therefore pleas•d to assume the Male, as the meanest and inferior Sex; contri∣ving by his infinite wisdom, that since Mans offence had reduced us all into this forlorn condition, (for had the Page 34 Woman only sin'd, we never had had such cause to cry out, Oh Adam! what hast thou done? nor the Apostle to say, In Adam we all dyed) satisfaction for sin should be made in that Sex, from whom that ocean of impiety which hath over∣whelm'd the World, had its first source and origine. But although this blessed Immanuel took not on him the Female Sex, yet he so far honoured it, as to assume his Flesh only from the Wo∣man; and is therefore entituled, Filius hominis, in respect of her, not of Man, (which our vulgar Translations seem to have forgot.) This was that stupendi∣ous miracle, the contemplating where∣of put the admiring Prophet into an Ex∣tasie, That a Woman should encom∣pass a Man; that is, Christ be con∣ceiv'd in a pure Virgins womb, Impreg∣nated without the Contact of two proli∣fick Sexes; that Divinity should be embodied in an earthly Tabernacle, and have its glories shut up in a Cloud of Flesh, like Sun-beams in Curtains of Chrystal. Nor did our Lord after∣wards when he had dissolv'd the powers Page 35 of the Grave, and destroy'd deaths Empire by his miraculous Resurrection, vouchsafe his first appearance to Men, but Women, who are not known at any time to have quitted the faith, or turn'd their backs on true Religion; whereas Men immediately after his Ascension began to Apostatize. Nor can it be proved, that ever any Persecution, Heresie, Schism, or Error in the Church, had Women for its first Au∣thors, but alwayes Men. By that per∣fidious and cruell Sex was our blessed Jesus the Lord of Life, and King of Glory, betray'd, sold, bought, accu∣sed, condemned, crucified, and slain: yea when he was denied by his own great confident, Peter, and abandon'd by all the rest of his Male Disciples, even then the Women left him not, but ac∣companied him still to the Cross and Sepulchre; and Pilate's heathen Wife endeavoured more his preservation, than any of the Men which profess'd belief in him. Whereto we may adde, That almost all School-Divines concur in opi∣nion, That the Church at that instant Page 36 remained wholly and solely in a Wo∣man, viz. The Virgin Mary; and therefore this Sex is deservedly by them stiled sacred and Religious.
But if any object with Aristotle, That the Male is generally much the strongest, and therefore to be more va∣lued; we desire such to consider, how contemptible a Glory 'tis to boast of big bones, or brawny Arms, and what mean Trophies they can hope to raise to them∣selves by excelling Women, by those advantages wherein they must confess themselves inferior to hundreds of Beasts. If strength alone must give the pre-eminence, let Men give place to their Horses, confess their Oxen their Masters, and pay homage to Elephants. But in truth they have little reason to vaunt of the strength or prudence, the valour or subtilty of their Sex, having been alwayes shamefully baffled by those whom they vainly call the weaker ves∣sels. What Man was ever able to vye strength with Sampson, whose single Arm no better weapon'd than with an Asses Jaw-bone, could at once sacrifice a Page 37thousand Lives to his fury? yet did this prodigious Hero (like Hercules) truckle to a Distaff, and was ridiculously capti∣vated by a Woman. Who could boast a more severe chastity than just Lot, whose righteous soul did daily suffer pangs of grief and indignation, seeing the Sodomites Debaucheries? yet Wo∣men easily inticed him to Ebriety and Incest. Who more religious than Da∣vid? yet a bathing Beersheba caused him at once to sully the pure Robes of his Sanctity, with the black stains both of Adultery and Murder. Who so wise as Solomon, who seems to have been Natures Privy-Counsellor, and to have had the honour to behold her undrest? yet was not all his wisdome Amulet suf∣ficient to guard him against Womens Charms, but that he still placed more felicity in their enjoyment, than in all the curious Contemplations and Re∣searches of Philosophy; and even aban∣don'd the worship of that God, who had bestowed those stupendious parts on him, to wantonnize in their Imbraces. Who more fervent and resolv'd in the Page 38 faith, than Peter, the chief of the A∣postles? yet a silly Damsel caused that great Pastor of the Church thrice to de∣ny his Master.
But methinks I hear some whispering, That all this makes more against than for Women, and tends rather to their infamy, than praise. To whom we Answer, That the evil of the before-re∣counted actions redounds chiefly to Men the actors, rather than to the Women, who were only accidentally the occasion of them. And if the Suns Lustre by dazling our weaker eyes, bring on us any inconvenience, shall we accuse his glorious brightness; or rather ought we not to bewail the imbecillity of our own Opticks, unable to Cope with so much •plendor? Besides, admitting Women to be in some of these Cases Criminal, we could (if we delighted to be paradoxical) alledge, That even the holy Scripture seems to put a more favourable construction on their lapses and failings, than on Mens. Is not Rachel commended, who with a neat invention deluded her Father, in his Page 39 search for her Idols? And Rebecca, who by fraud procured Jacob his Fathers blessing? Rahab with a lye deceived those that sought for Joshuah's Spies, and 'tis accounted to her for Righteous∣ness. Jahel most perfidiously destroy'd Sisera, as he lay innocently sleeping in her Tent, whither with an entire confidence he had committed himself for preservation; which signal Treache∣ry notwithstanding, 'tis said, Blessed amongst Women shall Jahel be, &c. Read the Story of Judith; observe well her dissembling Insinuations to Ho∣lofernes, and those flatteries wherewith she having lull'd him to sleep, cut off his Head, for which she is applauded and extolled to the skies. Lot's Daugh∣ters pass uncondemn'd for their Incest; and yet their Father is not excused, but hath his succession excluded from the Church of God. Lascivious Thamar is defended, and said to be more just than the Patriarch Judah; and by that frau∣dulent Incest obtains the honour to be named in our Saviours Genealogy. But 'tis time we dis-entangle our self from Page 40 this odd Digression and return to the prosecution of our Subject.
There needs not any more evident Argument of this happy Sexes Pre-emi∣nence, than to reflect, That the most worthy of all Creatures that ever was or will be, was a Woman, viz. the blessed Virgin. Nor is this any other than one of Aristotle's own Arguments, That kind of which the best is more noble than the best of another kind, is it self more noble than that other kind: now of the Female kind the Virgin Mary is the best. In the Male there arose not a greater than John Baptist; and how much that sacred Virgin, who is exalted above all the Quires of Angels, doth surpass him, there is no Catholick so ignorant but un∣derstands. In like sort we may argue, That kind whose worst is worse than the worst of another kind, is it self infe∣rior to that other kind: but we know, that the worst and vilest of all Creatures is Man; whether we understand it of that wretched Judas, who committed high treason against the King of Kings, and of whom 'tis said, It had been good Page 41 for him not to have been born; or whe∣ther there shall hereafter arise an Anti∣christ worse than he, in whom shall dwell all the power of Satan. And here by the way give us leave to re∣mark, that the Scriptures mention di∣vers Men banisht to eternal torments; whereas we no where read of any Wo∣man damn'd. But to proceed;
Nature her self gives a suffrage to our Assertion; for in all her productions, when any thing is to be framed more excellent than ordinary, she makes it a Female. Thus the Eagle, the noblest of Birds, and Queen of all the winged Troops, is never found a Male. And the wondrous Ph•nix (to which the World is too poor to yield a Mate) is related by the Egyptians to be 〈◊〉 of the Female Sex. But on the 〈◊〉, The King of Serpents, whom they call the Basilisk, the most mortal of all poisons, is alwayes, and cannot but be a Male, as the more proper receptacle of venome and destructive qualities. Whereas the Excellency and Innocency of this other sweet-natur'd Sex, which Page 42 we here recommend, is hence abun∣dantly manifest, in that all those black crimes and crying enormities which in∣cense Heaven, and infest Earth, derive their pedigree from Men. Adam the first Man, first lockt up the Gates of Pa∣radise, and by presuming to transgress the Law of his Maker, rendred all us his unhappy Posterity obnoxious to sin, and consequently entituled to the wages thereof, death. And his first-born Son unlockt the Gates of Hell; first of all introducing that infernal Train, Envy, Murder, Paracide and Despair into the World. The first that ventured on Polygamy was Lamech; the first Drun∣kard, Noah; the first setter up both of Tyran•• and Idolatry, Nimrod, that mig••• Hunter, who thereby at once 〈◊〉 his cruelty both on body and so••▪ Men they were that first esta∣blisht a commerce with the Regions of darkness, by treating and making com∣pacts with infernal spirits, and inventing prophane Arts. Men they were whose raging lusts first transported them to offer violence to Nature, whereof the Page 43 ruines of Sodom and Gomorrah (once fa∣mous Cities) calcin'd by that unnatu∣ral heat, remain to this day a dreadfull monument. To read of Men that have abandon'd themselves to all kind of brutish sensualities; had two or more Wives; or been Adulterers, or Whore∣mongers, is not at all rare or unfre∣quent. How many Wives had Abra∣ham, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Samp∣son, Saul, David, Solomon, R•boam, A∣hashuerus, and a numberless number more, who besides their Wives, had Concubines; and yet not satisfied, could not refrain tampering with their Servants and Handmaids. But we find not one Woman (except Beersheba) mentioned, but was content with one Man; nor any that made a second Choice, if she had Issue by the first: for Women are naturally far more chast and continent than Men; insomuch that perceiving themselves unfruitfull, they have oft abstained from their Husbands Bed, and brought in others to supply their places, as Sarah, Rachel, Leah; and others voluntarily offered their Maids Page 44 to their Husbands Embraces, to raise them up posterity. But what Man pray ever was there, though never so old, cold, impotent, or unfit for Chamber-practice, that had either so much piety or pity, as to substitute any in his place, that might Impregnate his Wives fruit∣full womb with a generous off-spring. We read indeed, that Lycurgus and So∣lon (persons rankt by Antiquity a∣mongst the wisest of Legislators) esta∣blisht Laws to this effect, That if any Man weakned with age, or otherwise uncapable of sacrificing to Venus, and performing the Rights of the Nuptial Bed, had taken a young Wife, she should not be confin'd wholly to his fumbling Courtship, but might make choice of some sprightly young Friend, to pay her those Arrears of Benevolence, due from her insolvent Husband, whose Issue should be deemed the Husbands to all intents, and not at all illegitimate. But we find not these Ordinances put in practice; not so much by reason of the Mens obstinacy in obstructing, as the Womens modesty and continency, refu∣sing Page 45 the liberty thereby indulged.
Nor are Examples wanting of divers Illustrious Ladies, surpassing the best of Men, not only in an exact and rigid Chastity, but also for entire Conjugal Af∣fection. Some out of a passionate ten∣derness, not enduring to survive their Husbands, have violently cast them∣selves into the Graves or funeral Piles, together with the beloved Corps. Others have thought no Tomb but their own Bodies, worthy to inshrine the Ashes of their dearest Mates. How re∣ligiously have they preserved their Loves flames, as pure and undecaying as vestal fires? What means have they left un∣attempted? What hazards have they not embraced, to serve those to whom Hymens sacred Band hath united them? Witness Cornelia, who so dearly affect∣ed her Pompey, that she would not suffer him to go into the Wars, (though he were the Worlds Terror) unless her self in person might wait on him. Witness Demotia, who having lost her Leosthe∣nes, could not find her self, and there∣fore through solitariness made a speedy Page 46 voyage to death after him. Witness Sulpitia, who being adjudged to stay, and watched that she should stay at Rome, when her Husband Lentulus was banisht thence, did yet (notwithstand∣ing the Senates Command, her Prince∣ly Fathers Charge, the Love of her Ci∣ty and Countrey, the loss of Friends and Family) alone expose her self unto the danger of the night, beguiled the watchfull eyes of her strict Guard, brake forth of the City, and Lacquied after him along the fields, until she became the joyfull Companion of his wofull banish∣ment, so little she esteem'd all the Worlds felicity in regard of her dear Lentulus; and for her Lentulus so wil∣lingy she incurr'd whatsoever misery. Witness Panthaea, Rhodogune, Laode∣mia, Martia, Valeria, Portia, Lucretia, Penelope, Alcinoe, and millions more, whose singular fame herein as it hath caused Antiquity to invest them in eter∣nal shrines of honour, so may their re∣hearsal enforce Posterity to receive them as the fruitfull patterns of imitation, and so far proselyte the bitterest Woman-hater,Page 47 as to convert his aversion into an admiration of this Sexes Heroick vertues; especially if in his thoughts to these mi∣racles of Affection, he adde those mir∣rours of Chastity, who have bravely slighted all both temptations and torments to preserve their Honour, which they not only scorn'd to prostitute for sordid gain, or aiery Titles, for a flattering Complement, or prodigal Treat, but also withstood the Importunities of Grandees, and defi'd the Menaces of Tyrants, va∣luing their Virgin-purity more than Crowns, or Kingdomes, or Life it self; as the Calidonian Atlanta, the Volcian Camilla, the Grecian Iphigenia, Cassan∣dra and Crise, and divers Lacedemonian, Spartan, Theban, and other Virgins, whose Names are embalm'd in History, for the wonder and imitation of Poste∣rity.
But here perhaps some barking Zoilus may interrupt us, by objecting the fa∣tal Matches of Sampson, Jason, Dei∣phobus, Agamemnon, &c. and those Tragedies thence ensuing: in most, if not all which, if we narrowly inspect all Page 48 circumstances, we may easily find the Women to be wrongfully accused; for scarce ever do ill Wives happen to any but bad Husbands, and such as by their own vitious Examples debauch them, and teach them to be wicked by a Pre∣sident. We are more easily sway'd by patterns, than by precepts: every Exam∣ple is a most pleasing Invitation, where the eye is guided unto present action, not the ear fed with fained speculation. A lascivious Husband will make a wan∣ton Wife; a spend-thrift Husband an extravagant Wife; and a modest, honest, carefull Husband, a modest, honest, care∣full Wife. We should therefore take St. Austin's counsel, and such as we would have our Wives appear unto us, the same should we first approve our selves to them. 'Tis an impudent and impious fellow (saith Seneca(*)) that requires of his Wife an undefiled Bed, yet he himself defiles it. For this reason (as Diogenes struck the Father, when the Boy swore, because he had taught him no better) so in some places the Husbands are punisht only for the faults of their Page 49Wives; as in Catalonia, whoever is Cuckolded, payeth a summe of money; and in Paris; he rides in disgrace through the City, the Cryer proclaiming these words before him, So do, so have; from which our English Custome of Ridings is not much different. Nor do these deplorable Consequences alwayes arise from any extream ill habit or dispositi∣on of either of the parties, but from their indiscreet Conjuncture; their Tem∣pers disagreeing cause their Discord, and their Humours being contrary, are unfit for so close an union; such jarring Notes can produce no harmony, but rather dismal effects: as a fiery Vapour inveloped in the arms of a cold Cloud, breaks forth with amazing Flashes, and terrible Thunderclaps. A mature deli∣beration is requisite before such an eter∣nal Bond be entred into: The mutual Affection of each party; the consent of Pa∣rents; the approbation of Friends; the tryal of Acquaintance; the special obser∣vation of Disposition, Genius, Kindred, Education, and Behaviour, ought seri∣ously to be weigh'd, before one con∣clude Page 50 for better, for worse, and tye that Gordian knot, which cannot be loos∣ed till death cuts it. Now then if a Man make his Choice with these due respects, his Marriage cannot but prove a merry Age, and be crown'd with joy and felicity, because he is guided by Prudence, which never faileth her fol∣lowers. But if not, he may well be stiled a Fool, since he is hurried on with passion, and a giddy fancy, which easily impoison the best designs. He there∣fore that is truely wise, cannot but choose a vertuous Wife, and by conse∣quence live happily with her; and if any take one that proves vitious, it argues his own folly, and so by good reason he ought patiently and without repining to endure her, as the effect of his own In∣considerateness, and not to aggrandize his misfortune, by quarrelling with his own Choice.
Besides, as the Lion in the Fable re∣ply'd to the Fellow upbraiding him with a Picture, wherein was drawn a Man kil∣ling a Lion; Were we Lions Painters, you should see one Lion tearing a thousand Page 51 Men. So had Women but the power of making Laws, and writing Histories, what Tragedies might they not justly have published of Mens unparalleld vil∣lany? Amongst whom are daily found so many Murderers, Theev•s, Ravishers, Forgers, Fi•rers of Cities, and Traytors, who in the time of Joshua and King Da∣vid, robb'd in such vast multitudes, that they march'd in a posture of War, and made them Captains of their pad∣ding Bands, (a trick they have scarce forgot at this very day) whence so many Prisons become crowded, and so many Gibbets loaded with their Carkas∣ses. Whereas on the contrary, to Women we owe the invention of all things usefull or beneficial to Mankind, which may either adorn and enlighten our dark minds, or relieve and accom∣modate the necessities of our frail bodies. Hence both the Muses and the Graces are said to be Shees; and the Names of all Arts, Sciences and Vertues, are Femi∣nine, and drawn by Painters in the ha∣bit of Women. Nor was there a∣mongst all kinds of Idolaters,••y so Page 52 much celebrated for Learning and Pru∣dence, as those who paid their Adora∣tions at the Altars of Female-Deities; such being the veneration and esteem of this Sex of old, that those three princi∣pal parts (which Antiquity conceited to be all the World) were Christned after the Names of Women; one taking its Denomination from Asia the Nymph; the other from Europa, the Daughter of Agenor; and the third from Lybia, the Daughter of Epaphus, which is also called Africa.
If we particularly take an impartial Survey of all kinds of Virtues and Ex∣cellencies, we shall find that Women may in each without usurpation chal∣lenge the principal place. If we look on Chastity, 'twas a Woman first vow'd Virginity to God. If the gift of Pro∣phesie be required, Lactantius, Eusebius, and St. Austin, can tell us with what a divine spirit the Sybils were inspired: and holy Writ records Miriam the Sister of Moses, and Olda, Jeremiah's Unkles Wife; and no less than four Sisters, Daughters of Philip, all eminent Pro∣phetesses. Page 53 If constancy and perseverance in virtue be regarded, you will find Ju∣dith, Ruth, and Hester, so gloriously celebrated by the holy Spirit, Indirer of those sacred Volumes, that the Books themselves retain their Names. If a lively, vigorous, and stable faith be expected, we shall see Men generally come short of Women. The poor Widdow of Sarepta believed the Pro∣phet Elias, though the things he told her could not but to carnal reason ap∣pear in the shape of impossibilities. Za∣charias was reprehended for his Infideli∣ty by the Angel, and struck dumb; but his Wife Elizabeth prophesies both with her womb and her voice, and loudly celebrates the praises of the blessed Vir∣gin-Mother, saying, Blessed ar• thou who hast believed the things which are said unto thee by the Lord. To omit the Sa∣maritan Woman, with whom Christ en∣tertain'd Discourse at the Well, and being satisfied with the more accepta∣ble dainties of her stedfast faith, refused the Apostles provision. And that irre∣sistable belief of the Woman of Cana∣naa; Page 54 and her who had the Issue of Blood, who seem'd to storm Heaven, and offer a welcome violence to their Sa∣viour, not to be put off with any deni∣al. Was not the faith and confession of Martha equal to that of Peter? What a noble constancy of faith and resolution do we find in Mary Magdalen, verify∣ing that saying, She to whom much was forgiven, loved much. For when the Priests and Jewes, blinded with rage and ignorance, Crucified that Messias, whom they had so long passionately ex∣pected, she stands weeping by the Cross, a floud of tears flowing from her fair eyes, to see those streams of blood and water trickle from his precious side. After∣wards she brings spices and precious oyntments to embalm his body, but missing it in the Tomb, enquires of the supposed Gardiner, and soon acknow∣ledgeth him to be God; goes with as much speed as 〈◊〉 to the Apostles, and tells them her Lord is risen: They all doubt the miracle, or rather deride her narration, as if 'twere only some dream of her melancholly fancy; but still her Page 55 confidence continues, and her faith re∣mains unshaken, even when all those Pillars of the Church seem'd weak and tottering. What shall we say of holy Priscilla, who instructed Apollo, a per∣son learned in Law, and (as Ecclesia∣stical Histories inform us) Bishop of Co∣rinth, which great Apostolical Man was so much a stranger to the pride and conceited humour of our giddy Age▪ that he thought it no shame to learn of a Woman what he might teach in the Church.
If we consult primitive Histories▪ and turn over Martyrologies, we shall find, those Women who have testified their faith in the flames of Martyrdome, and embraced death and torments, ra∣ther than renounce true Religion, not to have been out-numbred by the Men; all which particularly to enumerate we should be infinite: only give us leave not to forget that wonderfull Matron, deserving a place in all good mens me∣mories, who not only with a divine and incredible patience, beheld her seven Sons perishing in her fight by cruel Mar∣tyrdome, Page 56 but also couragiously exhort∣ed them to death; and putting her en∣tire confidence in God, was afterwards her self destroyed for the Laws of her Countrey.
To this good-natur'd Sex, (as instru∣ments of providence) whole Nations stand indebted for their faith, and owe their Conversion. Did not Theodilina, the Daughter of the King of Bavaria, convert the Lombards? Greisil, the Sister of the Emperour Henry the First, the Hungarians? Clotidis, the Daugh∣ter of the King of Burgundy, the Francks? and a poor she-Apostle of very mean Extraction, the Hiberti? each of them illuminating with the bright Beams of the Christian Faith, many thousand souls which before lay gro∣ping in the hellish darkness of Pagan Su∣perstiti•n and Idolatry. By this method of Beneficence, doing good to the better part of those we converse with, and pro∣moting the eternal Concerns of Man∣kind, is true Honour only acquir'd. This alone is the Royal Road to that im∣mense Glory, which will still remain Page 57fresh and sparkling, when Pyramids shall lye buried in rubbish, and the noise of victories be forgot; for so Divinity as∣sures us, They that turn many to righte∣ousness, shall shine as the Stars in the Fir∣mament for ever and ever.
But lest any scrupulous heads should doubt of Womens abilities, to dispatch all those affairs which are usually trans∣acted by Men, let us joyn Issue, and try the matter by Examples, and we shall find, That never any difficult Office was manag'd, hazardous undertaking at∣tempted, or brave, generous Exploit at∣chieved by Men, but the same hath been perform'd as famously, and with as much dexterity and success in every re∣spect by Women. That of old they were Priests, is evident; for Melissa amongst the Gentiles was so eminent in the Priest∣hood of the Goddess Cybele, that all that succeeded her were called Melissa. And to pass by Hype•a•stria, the Priest∣ess of Minerva; Mera of Venus; Iphi∣genia of Diana, &c. it may be nothing unpleasant to repeat those various Names, wherewith Bacchuse's she-Priests Page 58 were honoured; as Thyades, Bacchae, Menades, Eliades, Mimallonides, Aedonides, Eubyades, Bassarides, Triate∣rides, &c. Amongst Gods own peo∣ple too, the Jewes, Mary, Moses's Sister, used to accompany Aaron into the Sanctuary, and was by all reveren∣ced as a Priest. Nor are there wanting at this day many holy Recluses, whom Antiquity scrupled not to call (Sacerdo∣tes) Priests.
Famous for Prophesie hath this Sex been amongst all Nations; witness Cassandra; all the Sybils; Moses his Sister, mentioned but now; Deborah, Hulda, Anna, and others of old; be∣sides divers more modern, as Bridget, Hildegard, &c.
In Magick, or the inexpugnable Dis∣cipline of good or ill Spirits, (which many talk of, most condemn, and few understand,) Circe and Medaea wrought more wonders than Zoroastes himself, though most believe him the first inven∣ter of these black Arts.
For profound knowledge in the ab∣strusest parts of Philosophy, were emi∣nent, Page 59Thaeana, Pythagoras his Wife, and his Daughter Dama, excellent at explaining her Fathers mysterious Sen∣tences; Aspasia and Diotima, Scholars of Socrates; Philesia and Axiochia, both Disciples of Plato; Pl•tinus extolls Ge∣mina and Amphiclea; Lactantius ap∣plauds Themiste; the Christian Church glories in St. Katherine, a Lady that alone for Learning surpast all the wisest Men of that Age. Nor may our Me∣mory here without an impardonable crime, let slip the mention of Longi∣nus; the Philosopher's excellent Pupil Queen Zeno•ia, for her vast knowledge in Letters, and clear understanding, called Ephinissa, whose devout Works Nichomachus rendred into Greek. If we proceed to those soul-charming faculties, Oratory and Poesie, behold a whole Troop crowd about us; as Armesia, sirnamed Androgenia, Hortensia, Lucre∣tia, Valeria, Copiola, Sappho, Cor••na, Erimua, Telia, or Tesbia, sirnam'd the Epigrammatist; Semprania in Salust; and amongst the Lawyers, Calphurnia.
'Tis a proud self-flattering Conceit Page 60 of the Bearded-Tribe, to arrogate all Learning to themselves, or think the noble Female Sex incapable of making as generous flights towards the top of Par∣•assus, as they. Womens Phantasies are much more quick and searching; their memories as tenacious and faithfull; their judgements as solid; all their facul∣ties as ready; and their thirst after knowledge and fame no less intentive, than Mens. Why then should they not with the same advantages, make at least an equal progress in Literature? 'Tis true, our male Dictators strive to mo∣nopolize Learning, and having by a bru∣tish custome barr'd the Doors of the Muses Temple against Women, do now pretend they are unable and unfit to enter: yet vain are these their envious designs, to depress or cloud the Glories of this Sex: for indeed Women by na∣ture alone do excell the Professors of Arts, even in those particular Arts which they pretend to; those Sciences and Accomplishments which Men ac∣quire not without a vast expence of time, waste of spirits, and other incon∣veniencies, Page 61 being all in Women as it were innate and con-natural. That this may not seem a naked affirmative, or inconsiderate Rant, be pleas'd to consi∣der, That although Grammarians proud∣ly boast themselves Masters of the Art of well-speaking, as if all must be dumb, or at least barbarou•, that have not sub∣mitted to the tyranny of their Ferula; yet we learn far better to speak from our Mothers and Nurses, who are continual∣ly engaging us to prattle, and correcting the errors of our lisping Tongues, than from the crabbed Instructions of those supercilious Pedagogues. 'Twas Cor∣neliaes Industry that form'd her Sons the Gracchi's Tongues, to such an admired height of Eloquence; nor had the King of Scythia's Son Siles any other Tutor to teach him the Greek Tongue, but his Mo∣ther Istrinea. When Colonies are plant∣ed, and several Nations mingled, do not the Children alwayes retain their Mothers Languages? For which reason, both Plato and Quintilian have been so exact in giving Precepts for the choice of a fit Nurse, that Childrens speech Page 62 may rightly be ordered, and discreetly moulded from their infancy.
Are not the Poets in their trifling fa∣bles surpast by hundreds of old Women? and Logitians in their contentious brawl∣ings out-done by each Billingsgate-Fish-wife?
Your smooth-tongu'd Orators seem al∣most Almighty in words, and able at pleasure to raise or calm the passions, by the Magick of their Rhetorick; yet where was there ever any of them so happy, but that a pretty obliging Wench would out-go him in the Art of perswa∣sion? What subtle Arithmetician is able to mis-reckon a Woman when he goes to pay her a Debt; or cheat her of a pen∣ny by all his rules of practice or falshood? What Musitian can equal her for sing∣ing; or dare compare the squeeking of his Crowd to the melody of her ravishing voice?
A silly Gammars predictions have of∣ten been answered with suitable events; whilest the Prognostications of great Ma∣thematicians, and famous Star-readers, (that boast themselves of Heavens Page 63 Cabinet-Councel) serve only to prove their Authors either lying fools, or flat∣tering knaves. How frequently is the Art of the most eminent Physitians forc'd to veil to the skill of a Countrey-Matron? who with an ordinary Receipt chases away those sullen Distempers, which bid defiance to all the slops and hard words levied against them by Master Doctor.
Nor need any of these Artists resent this ill, since Socrates, the wisest of Men (if you'l credit an Oracle) thought it no shame in his wisest Age to learn of Aspasia: nor did Apollo the Divine blush to receive instruction from good Priscilla.
Having thus briefly vindicated the fair Sexes Reputation in the Schools, we next proceed to the Court and Camp, and find them there not at all deficient in policy of State, or that civil prudence requisite for the conduct of humane af∣fairs: not so ignorant as many imagine, in State-craft; that refined skill which dis-imbroils the Intrigues of the Court; which teacheth the Science of War, Page 64 and the dexterity of treating for peace; Womens Wi•s having generally been esteemed more quick and ready in sud∣den exigents, and most fertile and dex∣terous for the plotting and carrying on any politick design, or subtle contri∣vance.
Of these she-Machiavils and Femi∣nine Hectors, History copiously affords us Examples; as Opis, reverenced by the Aegyptians as a Deity; Plotina, the Wife of Trajan; Amalasmutha, the Queen of the Ostrogothi; Deborah, to whom in all cases of difference the Israe∣lites repair'd for judgement, and rescu'd themselves from slavery, by a memora∣ble victory under her conduct. Semi∣ramis, who for forty years with much honour and renown governed the Assy∣rians; and Candaces, Queen of Ethio∣pia, no less eminent for prudence, than power and magnificence, of who• some Page 65 mention is made in the Acts: but won∣ders are related by that worthy Register of Antiquity, Josephus, for laying the foundations of Empires, and building Cities; Semiramis, Dido, and the Ama∣zons, for both skil and success in War; Thomiris, Queen of the Massagetae, who conquer'd Cyrus, that great Mo∣narch of the Persians; as also Camilla, of the Nation of the Volci; and Valisca, of Bohemia, both potent Queens. To whom might be added the Indian Pan∣de, and the Women of Phocia, Chios, and Persia; with many other Illustrious Viragoes, who in the greatest exigencies, and most desperate shocks of Fortune, have preserv'd their gasping Countreys; of whom the noble Judith and fair Hester deserve to lead the van, as the glory of their own, and shame of the other Sex. Whilst Rome stands, the Name of that grave Matron Vetr•ria, will be famous; who by checking the inordinate rage of her Son Cori•lanus, preserv'd that Em∣perial City, the young Captain at his Mothers perswasions desisting from his unnatural hostility against his Mother-Countrey.Page 66 Nor can the brave Art•e∣misia want her due applauses, who de∣stroy'd the Rhodian Navy that invaded her, and to return the civility of their intended visit, subdued their Island, erecting an ignominious Statue in the midst of their chief City, to remain there as a perpetual brand of infamy and reproach.
The English Nation were most un∣gratefull, should they ever forget their Obligations to this Sex, to whose cou∣ragious resolution alone, they owe their deliverance from the insufferable tyran∣ny of the Danes. Nor is the most Chri∣stian King less engaged, whose totter∣ing Crown was once refixt on his An∣cestors Head by a Female hand. That strange ridling Prodigy of valour, Joan of Arc, (celebrated by some as a Saint, and branded by others for a Witch,) when the English had almost spred their victorious Ensigns over the whole King∣dome of France, and wanted little to compleat its total conquest, taking Arms like an Amazon, arrested their fortune, put a stop to the torrent of their Page 67 victories, and by degrees restor'd the withering de Luce• to their former lustre; in honour of which gallant Enterprise, a Statue sacred to her memory stands e∣rected on the Bridge at Orleans.
An innumerable Catalogue could we here produce of most excellent Wo∣men, out of both ancient and modern Histories of the Graecians, Romans, and other Nations; Plutarch, Valerius, Boc∣cace, and many others, having written largely of them: but we study brevity, that our Work may not overflow its in∣tended limits; for we fancy not those over-grown Treatises which are divided into Tomes and Volumes; so that we shall not here say so much in Womens praise, but that we shall conceal much more that might, and deserves to be said; being not so extravagantly ambi∣tious, as to undertake to comprehend or display the infinite Excellencies and Virtues of that Sex, in so curt a Dis∣course. What Mortals Pen, or Angels Tongue, is sufficient to enumerate and proclaim their praises, on whom de∣pends our very being, and the preserva∣tionPage 68 not only of particular Families, and Republicks, but of all humane kind, which without them would soon decay, and the World in one Century droop in∣to a solitary Desart.
This Rome's first Founder well under∣stood; and rather than want Women, chose to incur a sharp hazardous War with the Sabines, for stealing away their Daughters, without whom his in∣tended Empire had quickly mouldred away, and never arriv'd at that proud Grandeur, to give Laws to all the World. Upon which quarrel, when afterwards the Sabines intending a rescue, had taken the Capitol, and a bloody fight was begun in the midst of Romes Market-place, the good-natur'd Wo∣men rushing in between both Armies, their Husbands on the one side, their Fathers on the other, procured by their entreaties a cessation from that unnatural conflict, which ended in an indissoluble peace, both Nations being glew'd toge∣ther in perpetual amity. Whereupon Romulus caused the Womens Names to be inrolled in the Courts; and by com∣mon Page 69 consent it was Enacted, That none of them should be put to grynde, or do Kitchin-Drudgery, or any such servile employment; nor should receive any thing as a gift from her Husband, nor he from her; that they might not dream of any particular propriety, but know, that whatever either of them enjoy'd, was common to both: •or he that makes a present to his Wife, offers an injury in a Complement, pretending to entitle her to that by his donation, which is hers before in her own right. This gave birth to that Custome, when the Bride was brought home, to use these solemn words; Ubi tu, Ego; (that is) Where you are Jack, I'le be Jill; Where you are Master, I will be Dame.
After the expulsion of Kings, when the Forces of the Volsci, who had espou∣sed the Tarquins quarrel, were advanc'd within five miles of Rome, they were beat back by the sole courage of the Women; for which gallant service a fa∣mous Temple was built, dedicated to Female-Fortune; and many notable marks of dignity and honour conferr'd Page 70 on them by Decrees of the Senate: as to have the upper hand in walking, the Men standing up, and giving place when they pass by; as likewise leave to wear Purple with Gold-fringe, Ear∣rings, Jewels, Gold Chains, and other ornaments. And by a Law of later Emperou•s, Women were enabled to succeed in Inheritances, and take Ad∣ministrations; and suffered to have their Funerals publickly celebrated with En∣comiastick O•ations, as well as the most Illustrious Men. And twas provided, That in all Edicts prohibiting the wear∣ing of any Apparel, Women should not be included: an Indulgence they well deserv•d, since they knew so well how to part with their Ornaments on a good occasion. For when Camillus had vow'd a Present to Apollo of Delphos, and the whole City could not yield Gold enough to make up the summe, the Women freely open'd their Cabinets, and brought in their Rings, Bracelets; &c. so ready were they to support the honour of their Countrey, though with the loss of what their Sex is said most to Page 71delight in. In the War which Cyrus waged against his Grandfather Astiages, the Persian Army being put to flight by the prowess of the Medes, was reinforc'd by the seasonable reproof and exprobra∣tion of the Women; for thereupon shame and indignation infusing fresh courage, they fac'd about again, rout∣ed their pursuers, and came off, crown∣ed with the Lawrels of victory; for which good service Cyrus ordain'd, That as oft as the Kings of Persia entred the City, they should bestow on each Woman a Medal, or piece of Gold; which was frequently performed accor∣dingly; yea, and doubled to such as were with Child.
Thus were Women, by those anci∣ent Princes of Persia, and the valiant Romans, from the very infancy of their Empire, treated with all kind of respect and honour; and to this day, by how much each Nation is more civiliz'd, and refin'd from Barbarism, so much greater liberty and honour do Women there enjoy. Nor is there a surer Cha∣racter of a noble birth, or any thing that Page 72 sooner discovers a generous education, than a respective carriage, and com∣placent deportment towards Ladies.
That the renowned Justinian had a particular veneration for this Sex, is evident; for that he thought fit to con∣sult his Wife in the modelling of his Laws, and framing those Institutes, whose excellent prudence all succeeding generations have admir'd: and no won∣der, since the Law it self affirms, That the Wife shines in an equal sphear of ho∣nour with the Husband; so as how much soever he is preferr'd in dignity, so much she too, is advanc'd. Thus an Emperours Wife is stiled Empress, and a Kings, Queen, and a Prince's, the Princess, and Illustrious, though they are never so meanly descended. So Ʋlpian, The Prince (he means the Emperour) is absolv'd and free from the Coercive power of the Laws, but the Empress his Wife, though of her self she be not freed therefrom, yet her Husband con∣ferrs on her the same priviledges which he hath himself. Hence by the Civil Law 'tis permitted to noble Women to Page 73judge, arbitrate, purchase, sell, and de∣cide controversies between their Te∣nants, or Vassals, and sometimes to re∣tain peculiar Servants, and give Name to a Family, so as the Children shall be called by the Mothers Name, not the Fathers, with several other priviledges, in relation to their Dowers, exprest in divers places throughout the whole bo∣dy of the Law: Which also provides, That a Woman of honest fame shall not be imprisoned for Debt; and that the Judge who shall commit her, shall in such case be liable to capital punish∣ment: And if she be apprehended on suspition of any crime, she shall be put into a Monastery, or delivered to the custody of persons of her own Sex. Moreover, a Woman in the eye of the Law is of a better condition than a Man, so that in the very same kind and degree of Crime, he is esteemed a greater of∣fender, and worthy of severer punish∣ment than she. Hence a Man found in Adultery is punisht with death, the Woman only shut up in a Monastery. Many other priviledges of Women you Page 74 may read, collected by Az•, in his ••mme on the Title, Senatusconsultum Velleianum, and Speculator of Renuncia∣tions, and others.
No wonder then if those ancient Le∣gislators, Men grave for their wisdome, and prudent for science, Lycurgus, I 〈◊〉, and Plato, understanding by their diligent Researches into the most profound parts of Philosophy, that Women were not a whit either for ex∣cellency of wit, strength of body, or dig∣nity of nature, inferiour to Men, but equally able in all respects whatever; did thereupon ordain, That Women should exercise together with Men in Wrestling, and other publick games and pastimes; and as well as Men, make an inspection into all things appertain∣ing to Martial discipline, as shooting, slinging, casting Stones, darting, hand∣ling of Arms, both on foot and horse∣back, pitching of Tents, Leading up, Marshalling, and setting Armies in Ar∣ray, &c.
Let us peruse the Volumes of credi∣ble Historians, and they will assure us, Page 75 That by the custome in Getulia, •••tria, and Galletia, the Men devoted wholly to ea•e• made much of themselves at home, whilst the Women tilled the Ground, built, negotiated, rid up and down, went to the Wars, and trans∣acted all those affairs which amongst us are manag'd by Men. That amongst the Cantabrians, the Men brought the Women Portions; the Brothers were dispos'd of in marriage by the Sisters; and the Daughters were the Heirs. That amongst the Scythians, Thracians, and other Nations, all Offices were un∣dertaken by Women, as well as Men. And in their Treaties Women were con∣cern'd; as appears by the League made between Hannibal and the Celtae, in these words: If any of the Celtae complain that he is injured by any of the Carthagini∣ans, let the Magistrates or Commanders of the Carthaginians who shall be in Spain, judge thereof. If any Carthaginian shall receive damage from any of the Celtae, let the Women be Judges of the same. Nor did the ancient Brittains and Picts re∣gard any difference of Sex, for the so∣veraign Page 76 Command, but usually went to War under the conduct of Women, as both Tacitus and Beda witness.
From what hath been said, appears conspicuously, as if written with Sun∣beams on a Wall of Chrystal, That this Sex are not incapable of, nor were in the primitive and more innocent Ages of the World, debarr'd from managing the most arduous or difficult affairs, till the tyranny of Men usurpt the dispose of all business, and unjust Laws, foolish Cu∣stomes, and an ill mode of education, retrencht their liberties. For now a Woman (as if she were only the pass∣time of Mens idle hours, or a thing made meerly for trifling Courtiers to throw away their non-sensical Comple∣ments on) is from her Cradle kept at home; and as incapable of any nobler imployment, suffered only to knit, spin, or practise the little curiosities of the Needle. And when she arrives at riper years, is delivered to the tyranny of a jealous-pated Husband, or cloistered up in a Nunnery; all publick Offices are denied them; implead, or sue at Law Page 77 in their own Names, though never so prudent, they must not; no Jurisdicti∣on they can exercise; nor make any Contract that is valid without their Hus∣bands license; and several other hard Impositions they have laid on them.
By which unworthy, partial means, they are forc'd to give place to Men, and like wretched Captives overcome in War, submit to their insulting Conque∣rors, not out of any natural or divine reason, or necessity, but only by the prevalency of Custome, Education, Chance, or some tyrannical occasion: yet might Womens excellent good na∣tures possibly perswade them calmly to undergo this servitude, did not the male-usurpers adde shame and reproach to their tyranny. But as all slavery is miserable in the account of generous minds, so that which comes accompanied with scorn and contempt, stirs every ones in∣dignation, and can be endur'd by none whom Nature does not intend for slaves, as well as Fortune. Although 'tis evi∣dent, That unto Woman-kind the World oweth half of its life, and Man is Page 78 indebted the whole of his love, she be∣ing the only adequate object of his affe∣ctions on earth; yet Custome spreading like some Epidemick Contagion, hath made it common to undervalue this Sex, and bespatter their reputation with all kind of opprobrious Language, and slanderous Epethites. Each idle Poe∣taster hath a Rhime to reproach them; and every phantastick Gull a scandalous Sonnet or musty Proverb to impeach their Honour; particular reasons where∣of, many may be gather'd from the di∣vers humours of their Accusers. Some will dispraise that Woman, whom be∣fore they ador'd, because her modesty hath repell'd their unchast desires. Some turn their amorous Complements of wooing, into a barbarous stile of railing, because for want of desert they obtain not Love. Many love not Wo∣men, because they know not how to love them; and most of all Men being evil themselves, love but few things that are good, and thence entertain Women with hatred. Some to make ostentation of their parts, and acquire the Page 79 title of wits, few with any shew of rea∣son, and none on any just cause, have yet filled the World with Pamphlets, things no less idle in themselves, than disgracefull to Women. But Oh un∣manly Men, and stain of your Sex! Is this a point of Manhood, or any orna∣ment of your valour, to busie your selves for disgrace of Women? Is this the thankfull Tribute you return to the Authors of your Being? Is this the Re∣compence you afford them for their sor∣row and pains at your Birth, for their care and diligence in your Infancy, for their love and tenderness, their assistance and endearments throughout your Life? Such and so many obligations should not (methinks) be so easily cancelled, nor such courtesies forgotten, much less so injuriously remembred, as to be repaid with causeless detraction, and immerited invectives. But why speak we to these Men of Gratitude, the greatest of vir∣tues, who never were acquainted with any virtue at all? It can be no great dishonour to be evil spoken of by them, who never learn'd to speak well of any.
Page 80We shall not therefore so vainly spend our own or the Readers time, as to take notice of all those black scandals by them cast on this fair Sex, they be∣ing only fl•xes of gall, or the purgings of idle brains: only one we must briefly examine, which seems more plausible and passes for currant in the vogue of the World; and that is, their terming Women, Necessary Evils. This is in∣deed the common Tenure, and the Co∣mical Wits think they have very judici∣ously spoken, when thus they have defi∣ned them; which yet in truth is no other than an egregious Solecism; an er∣rour almost blasphemous. That they are necessary, we needs must grant; since he that made Man, saw it was not good that Man should be without them. That they are Evils, we utterly deny; since he that made Woman, saw that all he made was good. Is Woman good then in the judgement of God, and in your conceit also necessary? then change your phrase, and henceforth stile her, A necessary good. Those very Terms, Necessary, and Evil, are inconsistent: Page 81 All things that are necessary for Man, are good; food is necessary, it is good; Apparel necessary, it is good; the Fire, the Air, the Earth, the Water necessary, they are good; Women necessary, therefore good. For else if we suppose God hath bound Man in so hard a Condition, that some things are necessary for him, yet evil, we both impair the wisdome of God, and detract from his goodness.
To conclude: If Woman be so ne∣cessary for Man, and he of himself so weak and impotent, that he could not even in Paradise live without her; If Abraham the friend of God be com∣manded, by no less Authority than the voice of Heaven, to hear his Wife Sa∣rah whatsoever she should say to him; If Nature have so illustriously markt out Women for the most excellent of all Creatures, and crown'd them most prodigally with the choicest of her or∣naments; Since they in no respect come short of the most celebrated He∣roes, and that their Names and gallant Actions have swell'd the Records of Fame, and stand Registred there with Page 82 such obliging Eulogies; what remains but that without delay we render them those Homages which such extraordi∣nary Merits challenge? Let us no long∣er dis-esteem this noble Sex, or abuse its goodness, or usurp on its Prerogative. Let us allow them those Priviledges which God and Nature have invested them with. Let us re-inthrone them in their Seats of Honour and Pre-eminence. Let us regard them with that Reverence that is due; pay them that Devotion that becomes us; and treat them with all that respect and veneration which be∣longs to such Terrestial Angels.
Thus have we endeavoured to shew the Pre-eminence of the Female Sex, from the name, order, place, and matter of Creation; and what Dignity bounte∣ous Heaven hath vouchsaft thereto above the Male. We have also pro∣miscuously, yet plainly, demonstrated the same from Divinity, Nature, Hu∣mane Laws, various Authority, Reason and Examples; yet have we not said so much, but that we have left much more unsaid; for we took not up our Pen in Page 83 this Cause out of ambition, or design to purchase Applause by ostentation of Wit, or Reading; but meerly as conscious of our Duty, and out of loyalty to Truth, that we might not seem sacrilegiously to rob this worthy Sex of its due Praises, by an envious silence.
But if some more curious Head shall find (as easily he may) any Argument by us omitted, which he shall judge proper to be here inserted, we shall be ready to acknowledge our Obligations to him; esteeming it a Courtesie, not an Injury, if by his Wit and Learning he render this well-intended Work of ours better; to which, lest it swell to too great a Volume, we here affix a final Pe∣riod.