Letters concerning the love of God between the author of the Proposal to the ladies and Mr. John Norris, wherein his late discourse, shewing that it ought to be intire and exclusive of all other loves, is further cleared and justified
Norris, John, 1657-1711., Astell, Mary, 1668-1731.
Page  [unnumbered]Page  [unnumbered]


THE Letters herelaid open to thy View are a late Correspondence between my self and a Gentlewoman, and to add to thy Wonder, a young Gentlewoman. Her Name I have not the Liberty to publish. For her Person, as her Modesty will not suffer me to say much of her, so the present Productions of her Pen make it utterly needless to say any thing, unless it be by way of Pre∣vention to obviate a Diffidence in some who from the surprizing Excellency of these Writings may be tempted to que∣stion whether my Correspondent be really a Woman or no. To whom my Answer is, that indeed I did not see her write Page  [unnumbered] these Letters, but that I have all the moral and reasonable Assurance that she did write them▪ and is the true Author of them, that can be had in a thing of this Nature, And I hope my Credit may be good enough with those that know me to be believed upon my serious Word, where there is no other Satisfaction to be given.

The Subject of this Correspondence is the best and greatest that the Thought of an intelligent Creature can possibly exer∣cise it self about, the Love of GOD. And 'twere much to be wished that this were made more the Subject not only of our Conversations and Letters (instead of those many empty and impertinent Fox∣malities that usually fill and ingross them) but even of our Books and more elaborate Composures, which I think would be better imployed in laying good Foundations for the Love of GOD, and raising the low-sunk Practice of it, than Page  [unnumbered] in curious Researches of his Nature, and an eternal Contention and tedious Chicane about the Trinity. Men may wrangle for ever about these abstruse Theories, and sooner dispute themselves out of Charity than into Truth, but our Wills have at present a larger Capacity than our Understandings, and our Love of GOD may be very flaming and sera∣phick, when after the greatest Elevati∣on and Soar of Thought our Conceptions of him are but faint and shadowy, and we see him but in a Glass darkly. But if we would even make this Glass more transparent, 'tis Love that must clari∣fie and refine it. An affectionate Sense of GOD will discover more of him to us, than all the dry Study and Specula∣tion of Scholastick Heads, the Fire of our Hearts will give the best and truest Light to our Eyes, and when all is done the Love of GOD is the best Contem∣plation

Page  [unnumbered] However, I am sure it is the best Practice. Love is not only the shortest and most compendious Way to Perfecti∣on, but the greatest Heighth and Pitch of it. The more we have of Love, the nearer Advances we make to GOD, who is Love it self, and who breaths forth from him essential and substantial Love, the more fit we are to taste the Sweetness of Divine Communion and religious walking with him here, and the better prepared to relish and enjoy the fuller Display of his sovereign Ex∣cellence hereafter.

Heaven is but a State of the most perfect and comsummated Love, and therefore the best thing we can practice upon Earth is to tune our Hearts to this Divine Strain, to set them as high as we can, for sure the best Preparati∣on for Love must be Love it self. But whatever other Qualifications are requi∣site, a Heart once truly touched with Page  [unnumbered] this divine Passion cannot long want them. Love will draw along after it all other Virtues, will perfect and im∣prove them, and will at least hide those Faults of them which it cannot correct. For this is that universal Ex∣cellency which supplies the Defects of other Works, but which if wanting (such a necessary and vital Part it is) nothing else can supply or compound for. Neither Tongues, nor Prophecy, nor Knowledge, nor Faith, nor Alms, nor even Martyrdom it self signifie any thing without Charity. The Heart is the Sacrifice that GOD demands, and unless that be offered, the richest Ob∣lation will find no Acceptance. Other Gifts and Graces, whether intellectual or moral, come indeed from Heaven, but they often leave us upon Earth. Love only elevates us up thither, and is able to unite us to God. 'Tis this indeed that gives us the strictest Uni∣on Page  [unnumbered] on with him in this Life. By Faith we live upon GOD, by Obedience we live to him, but 'tis by Love alone that we live in him. And so St. John, God is Love, and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God and God in him. A Passage that makes highly for the Privilege of Love, and which I can∣not mention without calling to mind a most Divine Remark which the Port Royal, Abrege de la Morale des Epistres, &c. Tom. 4. Pag. 112. in their late Abstract of the Morality of the New Testament has upon it. O great God, you are all Love in your self, and all Love for Man and Man, dares deliberate whether he should love you, and to inquire when and how far he is obliged to do it. If to love GOD be to possess him, and to be possessed by him, what an Emptiness is there in that Heart which does not love God, or of Page  [unnumbered] what is it full if not of Vanity and Indigence it self?

But I may be concerned to plead as well as to recommend the Greatness of our Subject, which indeed is so sub∣lime and vast, has such immense Di∣mensions, such Heighths and Depths in it, that there needs no other Apology than the Theme we treat of to excuse the Defectiveness of our Meditations upon it. If there be any Argument that will oppress a Writer with its Weight, daz∣zle him with its Glory, and make eve∣ry thing that he shall think or say up∣on it appear little, it is this certainly of the Love of God, which is a Theory of too exalted a Nature for any humane Pen, and such as Angels alone are fit to write upon.

They that contemplate the Face of GOD can tell it may be in some Measure how lovely he is, and the very Tran∣sport of their high Passion, would fur∣nish Page  [unnumbered] them with Expression, but 'tis hard for a Soul that sees only his Back-parts to give any tolerable Representation of his Beauty, and for a Spirit that dwells and converses upon Earth to speak the Language of Heaven. There are My∣steries in the Love of God as well as in other Parts of Religion which to the Minds of Men arm'd as they are with sensible Prejudices, will appear very difficult, and which the most purged and illuminated Spirits will not presently comprehend, and which even those that do will not easily explain so as to make them intelligible to others. Practice and Experiment will go furthest here, but after all we must be often forced to cry, O the Depth! St. Paul seems to have been sensible of this when he prayed for his Ephesians, that being rooted and grounded in Love, they might be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the Breadth and Page  [unnumbered] Length and Depth and Heighth, and to know the Love of Christ which passes Knowledge. This perhaps may be chiefly meant of the Love of God to us, but 'tis as true of our Love to him, which has its Dimen∣sions too, a Depth which we can hardly sound, and a Heighth which we can hardly reach.

Some it may be will be ready to say here that we have reached beyond it, by carrying the Measures of Divine Love to too great a Heighth. But let me only desire them to consider (besides what they will find for the Iustification of our Measure in the following Papers) that the Love here discoursed of and recom∣mended is the Love of a God, that is, of all that is good, of all that is perfect, of all that is lovely, of all that is desi∣rable, in short, of all that truly is, and can any Love be too great or too high for such an Object? Or rather does he not Page  [unnumbered] deserve infinitely more than we or any of his Creatures can bestow upon him? What can an infinite good be loved too much, or is any Degree of Love too high for him who is infinitely lovely, and who infinitely loves himself? Is the Heart of Man too great a Sacrifice for a God, though it were intirely offered and wholly burnt and consumed at his Altar? Especially since he himself de∣mands it all, requiring us to love him with our whole Heart, Soul, and Mind. And would we present him with less? What do we think the whole too great for him that we thus mince and divide it! But does not our Conscience secretly re∣proach us when we do so? Yes, it con∣tinually upbraids to us the Love of Crea∣tures, and is always like a faithful Ad∣vocate pleading in the Behalf of God, and asserting his sovereign Right. And why then should it be thought such a Stretch of the Love of God to make it in∣tire Page  [unnumbered] and exclusive of all other Loves? Can we love God too much, or Crea∣tures too little? Or is it such a Para∣dox to make the Church speak to Christ in the same Language wherein he conde∣scendes to speak to her, my Love, my undefiled is but one.

But after all, is this such a rare and unheard of Conclusion that God ought to be the sole and intire Object of our Love, to be so stared at as I find it is, and lookt upon as such a Singulari∣ty! No certainly, nothing more ordi∣nary in Books of Piety and Devotion, than to meet with Expressions of this Kind. St. Austin's Devotional Tracts are full of them, and so are our modern Writers who commonly run upon the same Strain, as may be seen at large (for 'tis endless to make particular Quotations here) in all those Books that are written after the mystical and spiritual Way, particularly in the Page  [unnumbered] Works of the great Spanish Seraphick St. Theresa, especially in her Pensées Sur L'Amour de Dieu, in Cardinal Bona's via Compendii ad Deum, Chrestien Interieur, Thomas a Kem∣pis of the Imitation of Christ, and the great French Poet Corneille in a Book of Divine Poems upon the same Subject, where he has this memorable Passage.

O Qu' heureux est Celuy qui de Coeur & d' esprit
Scait gouster ce que C'est que d' aimer Jesus Christ,
Et joindre à cest amour le mépris de soy-mesme!
O qu' heureux est Celuy qui se laisse Charmer
Aux Celestes attraits de sa Beaute supréme,
Jusqu' à quitter tout ce qu' il aime
Pour un Dieu qu' il faut seul aimer.
Ce doux & saint Tyran de nostre Affection
A de la jalousie & de l' Ambition,
Il veut regner luy seul sur tout nostre Courage,
Il veut estre aimé seul, & ne scauroit Souffrir
Qu'autre amour que le Sien puisse entrer en partage,
Ny du Coeur qu' il prend en Ostage,
Ny des Voeux qu' on luy doit offrir.

Page  [unnumbered]Monsieur Jurieu has also a great deal to the same Purpose in his Book of Chri∣stian Devotion, and I might name several among our own Writers, but there is one that delivers himself so full and home to the Business that I need mention no more, but shall only present the Reader with a Passage out of him. It is Bishop Lake, who in his seventh Sermon upon those Words, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, &c. Matth. 22. and 37. (the very Text we build upon) expresses himself thus: In the Que∣stion of Perfection Divines require a double Perfection, one partium, the other graduum. There is a Perfection of the Parts in Man, which must be seasoned with the Vertue, and the Vertue in those Parts must arise unto its full Pitch. This Text requires both these Per∣fections in Charity. The Perfecti∣on Page  [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page  [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page  [unnumbered] on of the Parts of Man are intima∣ted in the Enumeration of the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength, unto which all our inward and out∣ward Abilities may be reduced. So that there is no Power or Part of Man that must not be qualified with the Love of God. But of this Perfection I have spoken when I shewed you the Seat of Love. I made it plain unto you that there was to be in our Charity a Perfecti∣on of Parts. That with which we have now to do is the Perfecti∣on of Degrees. The Text will tell us that it is not enough for every of those Parts to have the Love of God in them, they must also be wholly taken up therewith. And this Perfection is noted by the Word (all) which is added to Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength.

A Commandment is the sooner Page  [unnumbered] admitted if the Reasonableness of the ground thereof be first discover∣ed. I will therefore first discover the ground upon the Reasonable∣ness whereof this great Measure is required. The ground is twofold, one in GOD, another in us. The ground that is found in God is taken from the Preface of this Text, as Moses has delivered it, and St. Mark repeated it. The Preface is, hearken O Israel, the Lord thy God is one. But one, therefore the in∣tire Object of our Love. He will not give this his Glory to any other, neither will he indure any Corsival herein. The Beginning, the Middle and the End of this Ob∣ject is only he that is Alpha and Omega, the first and last. Had we many Lord Gods then might we have many Objects of our Love. The Object can no more be multi∣plied Page  [unnumbered] than he can. Take all the Parts of his Title asunder, and you shall find Oneness and Intire∣ness therein. After a particular Examination of and Descant up∣on which he proceeds. I suppose if you have well heeded what I have said you will acknowledge that there is a fair ground in the Lord our God why he should challenge all our Love. Let us come now and look upon our selves, and see what ground thereof we can find there.

When the Question was moved unto Christ whether the Iews ought to pay Tribute to Caesar or not, he called for the Coin and ask∣ed whose Image and Superscription it bare. And when they answered him Caesar's, he replied, give unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's. But he addeth to our Purpose, that upon the same grounds they must Page  [unnumbered] give unto GOD those things which are GOD's. If the Image and Su∣perscription were a just ground why Coin should be paid unto Caesar, where GOD's Image is found there is as good a Reason that that should be rendred unto him. Now God's Image is found in us by Nature, for we were made according to his Image, so that all which we receive from him we owe unto him by the Law of Creation. A second way is God's Image in us, by Grace. For our Regeneration is but a se∣cond Creation, wherein we are re∣formed unto that Image according to which God at first created us. All then is due unto God a second time, by the Law of our Redemp∣tion, so that whether we look upon our Heart, our Mind, our Soul, or Strength, it may be demanded of us, Quid habes, quod non accepisti? Page  [unnumbered] What hast thou, &c. And if we have received it all, the Exaction is but reasonable, Si totum exigit a te qui totum fecit, refecit te. Surely St. Paul thought so when he wills the Corinthians to glorifie God with their Bodies, and with their Souls, adding this reason, for they are God's.

Well then we have found fair grounds of this Measure. For if God be such and such to us, as you have heard, the only lovely thing, and all that can be beloved, and we are all his, and all that we have is due unto him, both by Nature and by Grace, then ought we with all to express our Love towards him. But what is it to love him with all! Surely it is to love him sine divisio∣ne & sine remissione. None of our Abilities must be divided, none of them must be slack in doing this Work. First of the Division, we Page  [unnumbered] must not divide our Hearts, that is, as the Scripture speaks, have a Heart and a Heart, a Heart for God, and a Heart for the World, &c. Again, all Division of our Abilities is a plain a∣bandoning of the Love of God, for no Man can serve two Masters as Christ tells us, &c. God will have all or none, &c. Again says he, What is the Use of all this but to make us see how little we perform of this Com∣mandment, and how little Cause we have to boast of the best that we do therein. VVho is he that can de∣ny that his Abilities are divided, and that he loves more things than God, yea most things more than God, &c.

You see here is a great Man that not only expresly delivers the same Conclu∣sion; but endeavours to prove it too. Whether his way of reasoning be conclu∣sive or no I leave the Reader to judge. All that I am at present concerned to re∣mark Page  [unnumbered] is, that the Conclusion it self is far from being such a Novelty or Singularity as many imagin and object. No, it is fre∣quently to be met with, and all that I have here and elsewhere done is only to reduce a common Conclusion into clear and distinct Principles, such as are founded in the Nature and Reason of Things. So that if what I advance be no Truth, yet I am sure it is no Pa∣radox, which is enough to fence me from Prejudice, and I am content that Rea∣son should decide the rest.

When I have desired the Reader to be so just to me as not to meddle with these Papers till he has first carefully perused the Discourse to which they relate, and which contains the Principle upon which they proceed, I have nothing more to say here unless it be to give some account of the Reasons of our communicating a pri∣vate Correspondence to the Publick, concerning which I shall leave the Rea∣der Page  [unnumbered] to satisfie himself out of the Two ensuing Letters, which contain my Pro∣posal of a Publication, with the Reason and Manner of my Correspondents Com∣pliance. The Letters are as follows.


SInce we have now both of us conclu∣ded our Parts, and so sealed up our Divine Subject with a double Seal, it would be a little indecorous to break it open again, especially for me who can∣not think' it Prudence to travel on even in so pleasant a Road after my Guide has left me, to proceed further in a Subject where you think fit to end, or to vitiate with any Additions of mine the Relish of an Argument upon which you have left such a pleasing and delicious Fare∣wel. No Madam, let it stand as you have left it, for though it should not be absolutely finished (as indeed who can say of such an immense Subject that it ever is) yet 'tis most just and fit that where-ever you please to end, there should be the Conclusion, after which, as in Apelles's Venus, there can be no ad∣ding Page  [unnumbered] without Presumption. I shall not therefore be guilty of it, only give me leave to lament a little that you conclude so soon your Meditations and my Plea∣sures. For methinks I could eternally hear your Discourse upon this ever fruit∣ful, ever ingaging and entertaining Theme, which as great as it is receives such an Advantage from your Manage∣ment, as might recommend it to those dull cold Spirits whom its own natural Excellency would never affect. The very Tunings and looser Touches of a sweet and well toned Instrument are pleasant, and what then is the Harmo∣ny when it comes to be played on by a Masterly Hand! And how is the musi∣cal Hearer grieved when he sees the me∣lodious Artist unstringing it and laying it aside. But Madam, there are some Pleasures that are always short, if Time be their Measure, and were your Discour∣ses here never so prolix I should still think and be ready to complain they were done too soon, so great and noble is the Sub∣ject, and so admirable both your Thoughts and Expressions upon it, such Choiceness of Matter, such Weight of Sense, such Art and Order of Contri∣vance, Page  [unnumbered] such Clearness and Strength of reasoning, such Beauty of Language, such Address of Style, such bright and lively Images and Colours of things, and such moving Strains of the most natural and powerful Oratory, and all this season∣ed with such a Tincture of Piety, and seeming to come from a true inward vi∣tal Principle of the most sincere and set∣tled Devotion. But why do I say seem∣ing, when 'tis next to impossible that such lively and favoury Representations of the Love of God should proceed from one that is not intimately acquainted with the Mysteries and Secrets of it, or that there should be any such Knowledge without the most hearty and affectionate Sense of it, which alone is able to teach and make it known. For, contrary to the Method of other Sciences,' tis Practice here that begets Theory, and those only who have their Hearts thoroughly warmed and animated with the Love of God can either know or describe its Pro∣perties.

Madam, I am very sensible what Ob∣ligations I am under to you for the Privi∣lege of your excellent Correspondence, though I can never hope that my Thanks Page  [unnumbered] should ever equal either the Pleasure or the Advantage I have received by it, or that I should be ever able to express the Value I set upon your Letters, either as to their Ingenuity or their Piety. The former of which might make them an Entertainment for an Angel, and the lat∣ter sufficient (if possible) to make a Saint of the blackest Devil. I am sure for my own Part I have particular reason to thank you for them, having received great spiritual Comfort and Advantage by them, not only Heat but Light, in∣tellectual as well as moral Improvement. For (as many Discourses as there are up∣on the Subject) to my Knowledge I ne∣ver met with any that have so inlighten∣ed my Mind, inlarged my Heart, so en∣tered and took Possession of my Spirit, and have had such a general and com∣manding Influence over my whole Soul as these of yours. And I question not but that they would have the same Effect upon other Readers if they were but ex∣posed to their View, and would help to fan and blow up that divine Fire which our Saviour came to kindle upon Earth, but which the Neglect of careless Men has let almost go out.

Page  [unnumbered] And indeed never was there more need of such warm quickning Discourses than in this cold frozen Age of ours, where∣in the Flame of divine Love seems not on∣ly to burn with a blue expiring Light, but to hang loose and hovering, just rea∣dy to fly away and be extinct. Some have not the Knowledge of God, was the Complaint of St. Paul, and the chief Character of his Time. But that of ours is Want of the Love of God, and which equally redounds to our Shame. Per∣haps more, since the natural Capacity of our Wills is greater and more extensive than that of our Understandings, and he that knows but little may yet love much. But to our Shame the Reverse of this is now true. There is a great deal of Knowledge now adays and but little Love. Knowledge indeed is now in its Meridian, diffusing at once a very bright and universal Light, but the Love of God is declining and just ready to set. Strange that our Heads should be so full of Life and Spirits, and yet that the Pulse of our Hearts should beat so low! But the Ends of the World are come upon us, and a double Prophecy must be fulfilled, viz. That in the later Page  [unnumbered] Days Knowledge shall increase, and that the Love of many shall wax cold.

O divine Love whither art thou fled, or where art thou to be found? How little art thou understood, and how much less art thou considered and practi∣sed! What Discoveries of thee have been made by the Son of God, and yet what a Riddle art thou still to the World! What a Divine Teacher hast thou had, and yet how few are thy Disciples! How charming and ravishing are thy Pleasures, and yet how very few hast thou inamour∣ed by them! While in the mean time Co∣vetousness and Ambition have their nu∣merous Altars and Votaries, and sensual Love is continually spreading its Victo∣ries, and leading in triumph its inglorious Captives. O God that thou shouldst be so infinitely lovely, and yet so little be∣loved! That ever Mortal Beauties should be suffered to vye with thine, that thy Creatures should fall in love with one another and in the mean time neglect thee, thou infinite, thou only fair, who alone art worthy to have, and who alone canst reward their Passion? What a just Indignation must every true Lover of God conceive at this strange Disorder, Page  [unnumbered] and how willing and ready will he be to help it by promoting and propagating as far as he can the Love of God in the World! For this is one great Effect and Sign of the Love of God (and the only one I would have added to those you have mentioned) that whereas the Lovers of created Beauties are jealous of them, and willing to ingross them to themselves, being conscious of their Incapacity to suffice for many, those that truly love God are desirous to have others love him too, to multiply his Votaries, and to make the whole World if they can, of∣fer up their Sacrifices upon the same di∣vine Altar. There cannot be a greater Pleasure to a true Lovers of God than to see him loved by others, nor a greater Grief than to think what vast Numbers of evil Spirits there are in Hell, and wicked Men upon Earth who either hate him or imperfectly love him. And what would not such a Soul do, what would she not suffer to gain Proselytes to the Love of God, and promote the Pow∣er and Interest of it in the World, that so God might be loved in Earth as he is in Heaven? And how would it rejoyce her to find her Endeavours succeed, to find Page  [unnumbered] that by careful fanning and blowing, she has at length lighted the Fire under the Sacrifice, and that by her zealous Endea∣deavors it burns and consumes, and sends up to Heaven a grateful Fume? What Satisfaction would she take, and how comfortably would she warm her self at the Fire which she has kindled.

And truly Madam, I know no better Fuel wherewith to kindle and nourish this sacred Fire than such Discourses as yours, which therefore I think are too useful to the Publick not to be due to it. Treasures you know ought not to be concealed, and so great is the Disorder when they are, that Ghosts oftentimes think it worth while to come into our World on purpose to have them disclo∣sed. To be plain and free, I do verily think nothing can be more conducive (next to the Breathings of the holy Spi∣rit, and the Writings by him inspired) to promote the Love of God, than your Divine Discourses, nothing more effe∣ctual to inlarge its Empire in the Hearts of Men, which is so excellent an End, that I can hardly see how you can possi∣bly dispense with your self from serving it when you have it so far in your power. Page  [unnumbered] But I shall not assume to be your Casu∣ist. You know best what your Oppor∣tunities, and what your Obligations are. Only this, if you communicate your Letters you will be a general Bene∣factor to Mankind, who will be highly obliged to thank you, and which is more, to bless God on your Behalf. But if you deny the World so rich a Trea∣sure, all that I have to set against the publick Loss will be my own greater Pri∣vilege, which however for the common Benefit would willingly be exchanged by


Your very humble Servant J. NORRIS. Bemerton,

Iuly 2nd.


SInce 'tis your Pleasure to close this ex∣cellent Subject, that I might not with it put an End to those great Advan∣tages which such an agreeable and in∣structive Correspondence affords me, I Page  [unnumbered] designed (when I had taken notice of some few incidentals in our former Let∣ters) to propose a new Subject in this, or else to desire you would please to make choice of such an one as you shall judge of greatest Usefulness, but that in good Manners I think I am obliged to return an Answer to that Request with which you conclude the old Subject before I in∣troduce a new one. Perhaps by this time, and upon maturer Consideration, you have altered your Desire, which I should be glad of for your sake, lest the World which so justly values your Judgment in other things, should have too much oc∣casion to decry it in this. I am not ig∣norant that Persons who have a great deal of Worth themselves, are too apt to over rate the least Appearances of it in others, and give such Characters of their Friends as better express what they would have them be, than what they re∣ally are. It being the Property of those only who are diffident of their own Me∣rit, to envy and endeavour to lessen their Neighbours, and because they are little, imagine that others are so, whilst those who have noble Souls themselves, form their Ideas of others according to their Page  [unnumbered] own worth: And thus it comes that you pass so undeserved a Character on my Letters, concerning which I believe ve∣ry few will be of your Mind. Is the World do you think such an equitable Censor that I should care to make it my Confessor, and expose to its View Pa∣pers writ with the same Freedom with which I think? Many are the Faults I find in them my self, though we are ge∣nerally over partial to our own Producti∣ons. Like fond Parents we think our own Brood the fairest, how disagreeable soever they appear to disinteressed Judg∣es. What think you then will the Beaux Esprits discover? How will it grati∣fie that which they call Wit, but is more truly ill Nature, to find so much Matter to work on? For truly Sir, when we ex∣pose our Meditations to the World, we give them a Right to judge, and we must either be content with the Judg∣ment they pass or keep our Thoughts at home. Charity and Wisdom indeed would restrain them from that ungo∣vernable Liberty they usually take; they may censure so it be with Candor; judge equitably; ay, and pass Sentence too, provided it be impartially. But though Page  [unnumbered] 'tis the Business of a true Critick to disco∣ver Beauties as well as Blemishes, and by a due ballancing of both, to pass a found Judgment on the whole, such Equity is not to be expected where so much Envy abounds, where every Man reckons another's Praises his Detraction, and never thinks his Fame will reach so high as when 'tis built on the Ruins of his Neighbours. A very preposterous Way in my Opinion, to get or encrease Reputation. For where is the Glory of excelling those who have little or no Ex∣cellency in them? No, let them shine as bright as they can, and if then I can out-shine them, I have made some con∣siderable Addition to my Character. The Censure therefore that abounds in the World is one Reason why I am against Printing. If a Body have no Worth, to what End should they expose themselves, and bring their Weakness to the Light? And if they have, Conceal∣ment is their wisest Choice, since they shall be sure to find more Envy than En∣couragement? For it is the Custom of the World when they behold a shining Virtue, to strive rather to reduce it to their Level, than to raise to its exalted Page  [unnumbered] Heighth. 'Tis odds whether such a Man can benefit others, who are too oft resolved not to be benefited by him, but he is certain to suffer himself. Every busie finger will be pulling the Flie out of his Box of Oyntment, not to advance but to lessen its Price. If he be guilty of a little Mistake or Inadvertency (and who is secure therefrom?) Charity shall never be called on to dispose of it, but it shall be bandied about, heightened and aggravated, not only to his, but even to the Reproach of Wisdom and Virtue it self. Since then the Air is so unkind, let's keep our tender Plants beneath a Glass; 'tis enough that they lie open to the Observation and Influence of the Sun of Righteousness, and that when Occasi∣on serves, a Friend may be admitted to view and take them. These and some other Considerations have recommended to me, my darling, my beloved Obscuri∣ty, which I court and doat on above all Earthly Blessings, and am as ambitious to slide gently through the World, with∣out so much as being seen or taken notice of in it, as others are to bustle and make parade on its Theater. And therefore, though I desire by all laudable means to Page  [unnumbered] secure a good, I will most industriously shun a great Reputation. Not that I want Ambition, perhaps there is too much of that in my Temper, but because I cannot endure to have my Glory and Reward forestalled, nor can be content ito receive my Plaudit from any but an infallible Judge. 'Tis enough for me to do well, let who will take the Praise of doing it, there being in my Opinion no Encomium comparable to that which they shall one Day hear, who seek GOD's Glo∣ry and despise their own. And though I bear in me too much Allay to be appre∣hensive of great Commendations; yet, to confess the Truth, I as little care for Censure, having not yet obtained that perfect Indifferency to publick Fame which I endeavour after, because I sup∣pose 'tis scarce possible to command our selves, and arrive at a true Generosity of Temper, till we are perfectly mortified to Praise and Dispraise as well as to other things.

But besides this, me thinks the very Form of a Letter renders such Compositi∣ons improper for publick view. Those ci∣vilities which are but necessary, especially when an Acquaintance is founding, will Page  [unnumbered] give the captious World occasion to sneer and laugh. It favours too much of Mon∣taigne's Affectation to trouble the World with such Particularities of our Humour, and Infirmities as we may in private ve∣ry laudably descend to, and which I re∣member make a Part of some of my Let∣ters. Alas Sir, we are too prone to over∣rate our selves, and consequently to va∣lue whatever relates to us on no other Account but because it does so, but we must not expect to find People so com∣plaisant as to bear with this Temper, or perhaps, so civil as not to ridicule and expose it.

These are my Reasons against a Pub∣lication, I know not how they will weigh with you, for I must needs confess one of yours overballances them all; whatever People may say of Temptation, to do good seems to me the only irresistible one. And indeed, could I be convinced any thing I have writ would serve the Ends of Piety, I should despise the Cen∣sure of the wou'd-be-Criticks, and reck∣on, that would more than compensate all other Inconveniencies. (And perhaps a little Censure is necessary to correct that Vanity your too good Opinion may Page  [unnumbered] have raised in me, and which I desire you would be less expressive of for the future. Tis enough for me to obtain the inward Esteem of any vertuous and deserving Person, the greatest Kind∣ness they can shew is to acquaint me with such Faults as lessen and obstruct it.) But if those excellent and elaborate Dis∣courses that are abroad, have so little Ef∣fect on the Generality of Mankind, how can I expect my crude Rapsodies should have any? Pardon me that I express so mean an Opinion of any thing you are pleased to commend, I would not do it in any other Case. But all Men will not see with your Eyes, whose Candor has bribed your Judgment, and I am ob∣liged to you as Homer and Virgil are to their Commentators for discovering Beauties in them which they themselves perhaps never so much as dreamt of. Have you indeed been affected with my Letters? 'Tis not through any Force of theirs but the Goodness of your own Temper. For Hearts so full of Love to GOD, like Tinder, catch at every Spark. But alas there is too much dry Wood in the World to expect that such a languid Flame should kindle it. Your Letters Page  [unnumbered] indeed would be extremely useful, and I think they are intire enough by them∣selves, nor do they need a Foil; so that I cannot imagine to what Purpose mine will serve, unless it be to decoy those to a Perusal of them, who wanting Piety to read a Book for its Usefulness, may pro∣bably have the Curiosity to inquire what can be the Product of a Womans Pen, and to excite a generous Emulation in my Sex, perswade them to leave their insignificant Pursuits for Employments worthy of them. For if one to whom Nature has not been over liberal, and who has found but little Assistance to surmount its Defects, by employing her Faculties the right way, and by a mode∣rate Industry in it, is inabled to write tolerable Sense, what may not they per∣form who enjoy all that Quickness of Parts and other Advantages which she wants? And I heartily wish they would make the Experiment, so far am I from coveting the Fame of being singular, that 'tis my very great Trouble it should be any bodies Wonder to meet with an ingenious Woman.

If therefore you over-rule me, and re∣solve to have these Papers go abroad, it Page  [unnumbered] shall be on these Conditions; first, that you make no mention of my Name, no not so much as the initial Letters; and next, that you dedicate them to a Lady whom I shall name to you, or else give me leave to do it. For though none can be less fond of Dedications, or has so little Ambition to be known to those who are called great; yet out of the Regard I owe to the glorious Author of all Per∣fection, I cannot but pay a very great Re∣spect to one who so nearly resembles him. And where can a Discourse of the Love of GOD be more appositely pre∣sented than to a Soul that constantly and brightly shines with these Celestial flames? One whom now we have duly sta∣the Measures, I may venture to say, I love with the greatest Tenderness, for all must love her who have any Esteem for unfeigned Goodness, who value an early Piety and eminent Vertue. All true Lovers of GOD being like excited Needles, which cleave not only to him their Magnet, but even to one another. A Lady, whom for the good of our Sex I would endeavour to describe, were I capable to write the Character of a compleat and finished Person; but it re∣quires Page  [unnumbered] a Soul as bright, as lovely, as re∣fined as her Ladyships, to give an exact Description of such Perfections! A Lady who dedicates that Part of her Life in∣tirely to her Maker's Service, which the generality think too short to serve them∣selves. Who in the Bloom of her Years, despising the Temptations of Birth and Beauty, and whatever may withdraw her from Mary's noble Choice, has made such Advances in Religion, that if she hold on at this rate, she'll quickly out∣strip our Theory, and oblige the World with what was never more wanted than now, an exact and living Transcript of Primitive Christianity. So good she is that even Envy it self has never a But to interfere with her Praises, and though Women are not forward to commend one another, yet I never met with any that had seen or heard of her, who did not willingly pay their Eulogies to this admirable Person, and if Praise be due to any Mortal, doubtless she may lay the greatest Claim to it. But not to relie wholly on Report, I my self have obser∣ved in her so much Sweetness and Mo∣desty, so free from the least Tincture of Vanity, so insensible of that Worth Page  [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page  [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page  [unnumbered] which all the World admires; such a constant and regular Attendance on the publick Worship of GOD, Prayers and Sacraments; such a serious, reverent and unaffected Devotion, so fervent and so prudent, so equally composed of Heat and Light, so removed from all Formali∣ty, and the Extremes of Coldness aud Enthusiasme, as gave me a lively Idea of Apostolical Piety, and made me every Time I prayed by her, fancy my self in the Neighbourhood of Seraphick Flames! But—my Expression are too flat, my Co∣lours too dead to draw such a lovely Piece! Would to GOD we would all transcribe, not this imperfect Copy, but that incomparable Original she daily gives us; that Ladies may be at last con∣vinced that the Beauty of the Mind is the most charming Amiableness, because most lasting and most divine, and that no Ornaments are so becoming to a Lady as the Robe of Righteousness and the Jewels of Piety. I am,


Your much obliged Friend and Servant.

July 17, 1694.