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The Book is so big that I must make no longer Preface, than to give you this necessary, short account, 1. Of the Quality; 2. and the Reasons of this work.
I. The Matter you will see in the Contents: As Amesius's “Cases of Conscience” are to his “ Medulla,” the second and practical part of Theology, so is this to a “Methodus Theologiæ” which I have not yet published. And 1. As to the method of this, it is partly natural, but principally moral, * secundum ordinem intentionis,' where our reasons of each location are fetched from the end. Therefore unless I might be tedious in opening my reasons 'à fine' for the order of every particular, I know not how to give you full satisfaction. But in this practical part I am the less solicitous about the accurateness of method, because it more belongeth to the former part (the theory), where I do it as well as I am able.
2. This book was written in 1664 and 1665 (except the ecclesiastic cases of conscience, and a few sheets since added). And since the writing of it, some invitations drew me to publish my“Reasons of the Christian Religion,” my “Life of Faith,” and “ Directions for Weak Christians;" by which the work of the two first chapters here is more fully done; and therefore I was inclined here to leave them out; but for the use of such families as may have this without the other, I forbore to dismember it.
3. But there is a great disproportion between the several parts of the book. 1. The first part is largest, because I
thought that the heart must be kept with greatest diligence,
But the rest must be spoken to; to whom that is unprofitable which is most suitable and pleasant to more exercised and accurate wits. The Grand Directions are but the explications of the essentials of Christianity, or of the baptismal covenant, even of our relation-duties to God the Father, Son (in several parts of his relation), and of the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of Temptations is handled with brevity, because they are so numerous ; lest a due amplification should have swelled the book too much; when a small part of their number maketh up so much of Mr. John Downame's great and excellent treatise, called “The Christian Warfare.” The great radical sins are handled more largely than seemeth proportionable to the rest, because all die when they are dead. And I am large about Redeeming T'ime, because therein the sum of a holy, obedient life is included.
4. If any say, 'Why call you that a Sum of Practical Theology which is but the directing part, and leaveth out the explication, reasons, various uses, marks, motives, &c. ?' I answer, 1. Had I intended sermonwise to say all that might well be said on each subject, it would have made many volumes as big as this. 2. Where I thought them needful, the explication of each duty and sin is added, with marks, contraries, counterfeits, motives, &c. And uses are easily added by an ordinary reader, without my naming them.
5. I do especially desire you to observe, that the resolving of practical cases of conscience, and the reducing of theoretical knowledge into serious Christian practice, and promoting a skilful facility in the faithful exercise of universal obedience, and holiness of heart and life, is the great work of this treatise; and that where I thought it needful, the cases
1 1 Tim. iv. 16.
are reduced to express Questions and Answers. But had I done so by all, many such volumes would have been too little; and therefore I thought the directing way most brief and fit for Christian practice; for if you mark them, you will find few directions in the book, which may not pass for the answer of an implied question or case of conscience; and v when I have given you the answer in a direction, an ingenious reader can tell what question it is that is answered. And so, many hundred cases are here resolved, especially in the two first parts, which are not interrogatively named.
6. And I must do myself the right as to notify to the reader, that this treatise was written when I was (for not-subscribing, declaring, &c.) forbidden by the law to preach, and when I had been long separated far from my library and from all books, saving an inconsiderable parcel which wandered with me, where I went; by which means this book hath two defects: 1. It hath no cases of conscience, but what my bare memory brought to hand : and cases are so innumerable, that it is far harder, methinks, to remember them, than to answer them; whereby it came to pass that some of the ecclesiastical cases, are put out of their proper place, because I could not seasonably remember them. For I had no one ca- Į suist but Amesius with me. But (after about twelve years 1 separation), having received my library, I find that the very sight of Sayrus, Fragoso, Roderiquez, Tolet, &c. might have helped my memory to a greater number. But perhaps these will be enough for those that I intend them for. 2. And by the same cause the margin is unfurnished of such citations as are accounted an ornament, and in some cases are very useful. The scraps inserted out of my few trivial books at hand being so mean, as that I am well content (except about Monarchy, Part IV.) that the reader pass them by as not worthy of his notice.
And it is likely that the absence of books, will appear to the reader's loss in the materials of the treatise ; but I shall have this advantage by it, that he will not accuse me as a plagiary. And it may be some little advantage to him, that he hath no transcript of any man's books, which he had be
fore; but the product of some experience, with a naked, unbiassed perception of the matter or things themselves.
7. Note also, that the Third and Fourth Parts are very defective of what they should contain, about the power and government of God's officers in church and state; of which ño readers will expect a reason but strangers, whose expectations I may not satisfy. But as I must profess, that I hope pothing here hath proceeded from disloyalty, or disrespect to Authority, Government, Unity, Concord, Peace or Order ; or from any opposition to Faith, Piety, Love, or Justice; so if unknown to me, there be any thing found here that is contrary or injurious to any one of these, I do hereby renounce it, and desire it may be taken as 'non-scriptum.'
II. The Ends and Uses for which I wrote this book are these: 1. That when I could not preach the Gospel as I would, I might do it as I could. 2. That three sorts might have the benefit, as followeth,
1. That the younger and more unfurnished, and unexperienced sort of ministers, might have a promptuary at hand, for practical resolutions and directions on the subjects that they have need to deal in. And though Sayrus and Fragoso have done well, I would not have us under a necessity, of going to the Romanists for our ordinary supplies. Long have our divines been wishing for some fuller casuistical tractate: Perkins began well; Bishop Sanderson hath done excellently de juramento;' Amesius hath exceeded all, though briefly: Mr. David Dickson hath put more of our English cases about the state of sanctification, into Latin, than ever was done before him. Bishop Jeremy Taylor hath in two folios but begun the copious performance of the work. And still men are calling for more, which I have attempted: hoping that others will come after, and do better than we all.
If any call it my pride, to think that any ministers or students are so raw as to need any thing that I can add to them, let him but pardon me for saying that such demure pleadings for a feigned humility, shall not draw me to a confederacy with blindness, hypocrisy, and sloth, and I will pardon him for his charge of pride.