Anne Dutton, "A Letter to such of the Servants of Christ, who may have any Scruple about the Lawfulness of Printing any thing written by a Woman" (1743)

A Letter to such of the Servants of Christ, who have any Scruple about the Lawfulness of Printing any thing written by a Woman: A Friend and Servant of Theirs, sendeth Greeting.


Honour’d Brethren,

            Having heard that some of you have objected against my appearing in Print; as if it was contrary to the revealed Will of God: I thought it my Duty, meekly and humbly to offer to your Consideration, what is satisfactory to my own Soul in this regard: And,

            First, I beg Leave to assure you, that my Design in publishing what I have written was only the Glory of God, and the Good of Souls. This End I know you approve of, And that the Means I have made Use of to attain it, is Lawful and Right, will be evident, if you consider,

            Secondly, That my appearing in Print, is not against any of the Laws of Christ in the sacred Records. These I highly [4] value, and desire ever to obey with the greatest Delight. It is not against that, I Tim. ii. 12. But I suffer not a Woman to Teach, nor to usurp Authority over the Man, but to be in Silence. Nor yet against that, I Cor. xiv. 34, 35. Let your Women keep Silence in the Churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under Obedience, as also saith the Law. It is plain from these Texts, that it is a Publick Authoritative Teaching in the Church, that is here forbidden unto Women: And that it is in this regard only, they are commanded to be in Silence. And Printing is a Thing of a very different Consideration.

            For tho’ what is printed is published to the World, and the Instruction thereby given, is in this regard Publick, in that it is presented to every ones View: Yet it is Private with respect to the Church. Books are not Read, and the Instruction by them given in the public Assemblies of the Saints: But visit every one, and converse with them in their own private Houses. And therefore the Teaching, or Instruction thereby given is private: and of no other Consideration than that of Writing a private Letter to a Friend, or of having private Conference with him for [5] his Edification. And this is not only permitted to all the Saints, of whatever Sex they be, But,

            Thirdly, It is commanded, Rom. xiv. 19. Let us therefore follow after the Things which make for Peace, and Things wherewith one (any one, Male or Female) may edify another. If it is the Duty of Women to seek the Edification of their Brethren and Sisters; then is it their Duty to use the Means of it, whether it be in speaking, writing, or printing: sine all these are private, and proper to the Sphere which the Lord has allotted them. Thus any Believer, Male or Female, that is gifted for, and inclin’d to publish their Thoughts in Print, about any Truth of Christ, for the private Instruction and Edification of the Saints; is permitted, yea, commanded so to do. And unless Women were excluded from being Members of Christ’s mystical Body, their Usefulness, in all due Means, ought not to be hindred. Since it is declar’d, that from Christ the Head, the whole Body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every Joint supplieth, according to the effectual Working in the Measure of every Part, maketh Increase of the Body, to the edifying of it self in Love, Eph. iv. 16. If the whole [6] Body, from Christ the Head, has Nourishment ministred to it, by that which every Jointsupplieth, even those weak ones, of the Female Sex; then must they have some Way of communicating what they receive from Christ, to the rest of their Fellow-members. And if it should be said, this ought to be in private Converse: I must beg Leave to add, and in Printing too. For this is one Way of private Converse with the Saints: Only it is a more extensive one, of talking with Thousands, which otherwise could not have been spoke with, nor can ever be seen Face to Face in the Flesh. And is it the worse on this Account? Nay, surely, this kind of Communion with the Saints, in regard of the Numbers it extends to, is far preferable to that of personal Communion, because of its narrow Bounds: and yet it is as private. But, 

            Fourthly, As private Instruction is the Duty of Women as well as Men; so we have an Example thereof, Acts xviii. 26. Where we are inform’d that Aquila and Priscilla took unto them, even an eloquent Apollos, a Man mighty in the Scriptures, and Expounded unto him the Way of God more perfectly. And this of communicating ones Mind in Print, is as private, with respect to particular Persons, as if one did [7] it particularly unto every one by himself in ones own House. There is only this Difference: The one is communicating ones Mind by Speech, in ones own private House: The other is doing it by Writing, in the private House of another Person. Both are still private. And to this last, there needs not the publick authority of Christ in his church; (as there does for Preaching) because this is not publick, but private Teaching. That which is exhibited in Books, can never be prov’d to be publick Teaching, unless the books were design’d for the Instruction of publick Assemblies, and are accordingly read in them.       

            Once more, since Women are allow’d the Liberty of the Press, and some have us’d it about Trifles, and as it is to be fear’d under the Dictates of Satan, to the Propagation of his Kingdom: Shall none of that Sex be suffer’d to appear on Christ’s Side, to tell of the Wonders of his Love, to seek the Good of Souls, and the Advancement of the Redeemer’s Interest? – Surely, I look upon the Opposition made hereto, to be an Artificeof Satan, to hinder the rising Glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and the Knowledge of Him, spreading itself over all the [8] Earth. And therefore the Children of Light should beware of this Wile of the Prince of Darkness. For Satan never has been, nor will be wanting to oppose the Lord’s Servants, of whatever Sex, Rank, or Age they be. He always has had, and will have something to object against them, under one specious Pretence or other, if possible to hinder their Usefulness. Either he will say, They are unfit for such a Work, or unworthy of it, that they are arrogant and assuming, that they take too much upon them, and run before they are sent; or one thing or other, he will always have to object, as a Reason why they should be disregarded. Christ, the Head of the Church, when as the Father’s Servant, he came to finish the Work which he had given him to do on the Earth, was thus treated by Satan. And thus it far’d with those which he set first in the Church, the Apostles. And so has it been with all his Ministers ever since. And so great is the evil’s Rage against Christ, that he will not let any, even the least and last of all, that appear for Him, go free, without shooting his Arrows at them. And he never wants Instruments to spread his Insinuations. Yea, so wilily doth he [9] work, that he sometimes gets indiscernibly into the Lord’s Servants themselves, and causeth them to oppose one another in the Serviceof their great Master. Thus he got into Peter, when he dissuaded our Lord from going thro’ with the great Work of Redemption which his Father gave him to do: Upon which he said unto him, Get thee behind me Satan, Mat. Xvi. 23. And thus, no doubt, under his Influence, the Disciples had Indignation against the Woman who pour’d the Box of precious Ointment upon Christ’s Head; and said unto her. To what purpose is this Waste? For this Ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the Poor. To whom our Lord reply’d: – Why trouble ye the Woman? For she hath wrought a good Work upon me. – Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole World, there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a Memorial of her, Mat. Xxvi. 7, &c. From hence it is evident, That the Servants of Christ themselves, when under the Influence of Sin and Satan, may with Indignation oppose one another in his Service, for those good Works, which the Lord himself will own and honour. And therefore we had need to watch over [10] our own Spirits, and against the Suggestions of Satan: lest we oppose the Honour and Interest of our dear Lord, and step aside into the Service of his grand Enemy, before we are aware. – And however weak any Servant of Christ is, or his Performances may be, yet ought he not therein to be despis’d of those who are, or esteem themselves to be strong. Since the Lord hath not despised the Day of small Things. If any Person is fully persuaded in his own Mind, from the Word and Spirit of Christ, that it is his Duty to engage in any Piece of Service for God; it is sufficient Warrant for him so to do. Nor ought he to be judged and condemned by his Fellow-Servants; since in this Affair, to his own Master he stands or falls. Nor can any Person justly say, that such a Performance will be useless to all; which is of no Benefit to him. For evident it is, that Gifts, whether greater or lesser, are to be us’d, and were not given in vain: And that the Exercise of those Gifts, which may be of little or no Use to some, are of great Service to others. – Let us therefore improve all the Talents given us; and whether we have received Gifts for publick or private Instruction, let us use the [11] same, nothing doubting, but our Lord of his infinite Grace, will crown our Labours with the promis’d and design’d Success.

            Imagine then, my dear Friends, when my Books come to your Houses, that I am come to give you a Visit; (for indeed by them I do) and patiently attend to the Lispings of a Babe: Who knows but the Lord may ordain Strength out of the Babe’s Mouth? And give you a Visit Himself, by so weak a Worm, to your strong Consolation? It is all one to Omnipotence, to work by Worms, as by Angels. And remember, that the more contemptible and weak the Instrument is that the Lord works by, the more it commands the Glory of his Grace, and the Excellency of his Power.

            But yet, if after all that has been said, any of you are not willing to have Communion with me in this Way: The Will of the Lord be done! There is another Way in which I shall, thro’ divine Assistance, endeavour to have Communion with you, and seek your Good: And this is by Prayer unto God for you. For as for me to live is Christ; so while I live in the Flesh, it is my earnest Desire, some [12] Way or other, to serve Him, his Interest and People: And when in any Respect, or Degree I can do it, I think my self happy. – Thus wishing all Peace and Prosperity: I am,

                        Gentlemen and Brethren,

                                    Your most affectionate,

                                                Humble Servant,

                                                            In our Glorious LORD,

A.    D. 



Text: A. D. [Anne Dutton]. A Letter to such of the Servants of Christ, who may have any Scruple about the Lawfulness of Printing any thing written by a Woman: to shew, that Book-teaching is Private, with respect to the Church, and permitted to private Christians; yea, commanded to those, of either sex, who are gifted for, and inclin’d to engage in this Service. By A.D. London: Printed by J. Hart in Poppings-court, Fleetstreet; and sold by J. Lewis, in Bartholomew-Close, near West-Smithfield; and E. Gardner, at Milton’s-Head, in Gracechurch-Street, 1743. [Price One Penny.]