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CA. They make a great merit, however, of thus voluntarily submitting to this kind of servitude.
EU. They who do so, preach a doctrine worthy of the Pharisees. St. Paul's doctrine is a very different one; for he teaches that whoever becomes a Christian when in a state of freedom, should not willingly be made a slave: while, on the other hand, the slave who becomes a Christian, should, if an opportunity of freedom presents itself, avail himself of it. But, farther, the servitude we are speaking of is the more galling from your having to submit to more masters than one, and these, too, for the most part fools and profligates; while, in addition to this, you are kept in a state of continual uncertainty from the changes that occur amongst them from time to time. Now, answer me a question,--Do the laws release you from the authority of your parents?
CA. By no means.
EU. Are you at liberty to buy or sell a farm against their will P
CA. Certainly not.
EU. What right, then, can you have to give yourself to I know not whom, in express opposition to the will of your parents? Are you not their most valuable possession—that which is in a peculiar sense their own P
CA. Where religion is concerned, the laws of nature cease.
EU. Religion has respect chiefly to baptism; the present question relates merely to a change of dress, and to a mode of life which in itself is neither good nor bad. Consider, also, how many advantages you part with when you lose your liberty. You are now free to read, pray, or sing, in your own chamber, as much and as long as may be agreeable to you; or, when you become weary of the privacy of your chamber, you have it in your power to hear sacred songs, attend divine worship, and listen to discourses on heavenly themes. Moreover, should you meet with any one remarkable for his piety and wisdom, or with any matron or maiden of superior virtues and endowments, you can enjoy the advantage of their conversation and instructions, for improvement in all those graces that become the female character. You are free, besides, to esteem and love the preacher who teaches in sincerity the pure doctrines of Christ. But if once you retire into a convent, all these superior opportunities of improvement in a sound and rational piety are lost to you for ever. CA. But, in the mean time, I shall not be a nun. EU. Is it possible that you can still be influenced by the sound of a mere name? Consider the subject with attention. Much is said about the merit of obedience; but will there be any want of this merit if you obey those parents whom the ordinance of God himself has made it your duty to obey—if you obey also your bishop and your pastor? Or will you be deficient in the merit of poverty, where every thing belongs to your parents? In former times, indeed, holy men thought it highly praiseworthy in females, dedicated to the service of God, to be liberal towards the poor; yet I do not very well perceive how they were to exercise this virtue of liberality, if they had nothing themselves to give. Further, the jewel of your chastity can suffer no diminution in its lustre by your remaining under the same roof with your parents. In what, then, consists the superiority of the state for which you are so eager to leave your own home? truly, in nothing but a veil, a linen dress worn outside instead of inside, and a few ceremonies which of themselves maké nothing for piety, and commend no one in the sight of Him with whom favour can be obtained only by purity of heart and life. CA. You preach strange doctrine.
EU. Not the less true, however, for being strange. But, tell me, since you are not released from the authority of your parents, and you have not a right to sell either a dress or a field, how can you prove that you have a right to put yourself under the perpetual control of strangers? CA. The authority of parents, they say, cannot prevent the claims of religion. EU. Did you not make profession of your faith in your baptism? CA. Yes. EU. And are not they religious persons who follow the precepts of Jesus Christ? CA. Undoubtedly. EU. Then what, I pray you, is this new religion which makes void what the law of nature has sanctioned,—what the ancient law has taught, what the gospel has approved, and the doctrine of the apostles established and confirmed? I tell you, that such a religion is the invention of a parcel of monks, not the decree of God. CA. Do you then think it unlawful for me to become the spouse of Christ without the consent of my parents? Eu. You are already espoused to Christ—we have all been espoused to him; and who, I pray you, ever thinks of being married twice to the same person? The subject in debate is merely a question of place, dress, and ceremony; and certainly I cannot think that the authority of parents is to be slighted and set at nought for things like these. CA. But the persons I speak of affirm, that there cannot be an act of greater piety than to disregard one's parents on such an occasion. EU. Demand, then, of those doctors, to produce you a single passage out of the holy scriptures in which any such society at home, of which your husband should be the father and yourself the mother. CA. I will rather die than give up my purpose. EU. A virgin life, if purity attend it, is no doubt an excellent thing; but it does not require you so to bind yourself to a particular convent as to be unable afterwards to leave it. Surely, you may live at home with your parents, and preserve at the same time your virgin honour? CA. True; but not with equal safety. EU. In my opinion, you will preserve it there much more securely than amongst so many fat and bloated monks:–fathers they are called, and fathers they not unfrequently are, in more senses than one. Remember also, that in former times young maidens were considered to live nowhere more honourably than at home with their parents; nor had they any father, according to the religious sense of the word, except the bishop. But tell me, I beseech you, what nunnery is it that you have fixed upon as the place of your servitude and seclusion ? CA. The Chrysertian. EU. I know it. It is close to your father's house. CA. Just so. EU. And well, too, do I know the whole of the worthy fraternity for which you would give up father and mother and the excellent family to which you are related. As for the patriarch of this venerable society, he has long been foolish, both from infirmities of age and nature, and from indulgence in the pleasures of the table. His knowledge is now confined to his bottle. He has two companions, John and Jodocus, both worthy of him. John, though not perhaps a bad man, has nevertheless nothing of the man about him but his beard—not one grain of learning, and a very slender stock of prudence. As for Jodocus, he is so stupid, that, if it were not for the recommendation of his sacred dress, he might walk about in public, in the cap and bells of a fool. CA. They seem to me, however, to be very good men. EU. My dear Catharine, I know them better than you can do. But I suppose that these are your patrons with your father and mother;-the persons who would make you their proselyte? CA. Jodocus is very favourable to my wishes. Eu. Oh worthy patron But let it be granted that these men are now both learned and good, it will not be long before you will find them both ignorant and wicked; and you will, moreover, have to bear with every one that meets you. CA. The frequent entertainments that are given at home are very disagreeable to me; nor is everything that is spoken there between those who are married, such as is suitable to a maiden's ear: besides, I cannot sometimes refuse a kiss. EU. They, who would avoid every thing that can give offence, must needs depart out of this life altogether. Our ears must be accustomed to hear every thing, but transmit to the mind only what is good. Your parents, I suppose, allow you a private chamber? CA. Certainly. EU. Thither, then, you may retire, if any entertainment should happen to become disorderly. There, while the rest are drinking and trifling, do you hold holy converse with Christ, your spouse; praying, singing, and giving thanks. Your father's house cannot defile you; while you, on the contrary, may impart to it a character of greater sanctity. CA. Yet, it is safer to be in a convent of nuns. EU. . I say nothing against a society of such nuns as are