by Nicholas Byfield
This text has been initially updated from EEBO-TCP by Project Puritas (Logan West, with David Jonescue and Alex Sarrouf.) www.puritansearch.org. Further revision and editing done by Monergism. Copyright Monergism via universal text usage permission from the above.
The only thing intended in this Treatise is, to collect for thy use (Christian Reader) those directions scattered here & there in the Scriptures, which may, throughout the whole course of thy life, tell thee, what thou must do in the right order of thy conversation: How thou shouldst behave thy self toward God, and how thou shouldst carry thy self toward men, in all the occasions of thy life: In company, out of company: In all duties either of righteousness or mercy: and how thou shouldst dispose of thyself in affliction, and out of affliction, at all times.
And thou mayest be the more encouraged to study and practice these rules, because thou hast the most express & apparent word of God to warrant and require thy obedience herein.
Be not so profane, as to think, that here is more to do then needs, or that I burden the lives of Christians with a multitude of unnecessary Precepts, and so make the way harder then it is: For I require thy obedience in nothing, thou hast not reason to be persuaded to be enjoined thee by the pure word of God; And thou must know, to the confusion of thy security; that he that will walk safely, must walk by rule, Gal. 6. 16. He is yet in darkness, and walks on in darkness, and sees not what he doth, or whither he goeth, that doth not make the Word of God the light unto his feet, and the Lantern unto his paths: Psal. 119. There is a holy order of life commended in the godly, Col. 2. 5. and God's promises are made to such as will dispose of their ways aright. A loose conversation is an ill conversation; and if ever we would see the salvation of God, we must be at the pains to dispose of our ways, and to see to it, that we dispose of our ways aright, Psal. 50. vlt.
The benefit thou mayest reap by this Treatise, is much every way, if the fault be not in thyself: for here thou mayest briefly behold the substance of a godly life; thou mayest in a short time inform thy knowledge in that great doctrine of practical Divinity: But especially thou mayest, by the help of this Treatise see a sound way, how to beautify thy own conversation, with the addition of diverse rules, which, perhaps, hitherto thou hast not taken notice of: God hath promised much peace, and comfort unto such as will walk according unto rule, Gal. 6. 16. Yea, he hath promised, that they shall see the salvation of God, that dispose their way aright, Psal. 50. vlt. It is true, it is a greater labor to travail in the way, then to show it; but yet it is a great benefit to be shown the way. Howsoever, it may not be denied, but it is a greater glory to observe these rules, then to know them, or prescribe them.
It may be thou wilt object, that the rules are so many, thou canst never remember them, and so not profit by them. I answer:
If I have made the rules no more in number then God hath made them in his Word, thou mayest not find fault with me.
Secondly, no man that is to learn any Trade, or Science, but he meeteth with more directions, then he can on the sudden reach to, or practice, and yet he rejects not his Trade or Science, because in time he hopes to learn it all. Would we put on a resolution to serve a Prentiship to Religion, and to work hard one whole seven years: oh, what work would we dispatch! How many Rules and Knowledges would we grow skillful in! But alas, after many years profession of Christianity, the most of us, if all were put together, have not done the work, that might have been done in few days.
Thirdly, I answer, that it is not necessary thou shouldst lay all these Rules before thee at once, but mark out certain choice Rules, so many as thou canst well remember, and strive, by daily practice, to bring thyself to some kind of dexterity in observing them. There be some rules of each kind, which, if thou be a true Christian, thou knowest and observest already: These thou mayest continue to observe still, without loading thy memory about them. Now if those be omitted, then consider of the rest that remain, which of them do most concern thee, or would most adorn thy practice and profession, or are such as thou never hitherto didst make conscience of: Extract or mark out so many of those at a time, as thou wouldst in daily practice strive to attain, and when thou hast learned them, then go on, and prescribe to thyself new Lessons. To a carnal mind, all the way of godliness is impossible, but to a godly and willing mind all things, through the power and assistance of God, are possible: God will accept thy desire and endeavor, and will add strength and might, and encourage thee in all his ways. By prayer thou mayest form any grace in thee, by reason of the power the Lord Jesus hath to prevail for anything thou dost ask the Father in his name.
The last benefit may come to thee, if thou daily read these directions, is, that they will quicken thee to a great care of well-doing, and give thee cause to walk humbly with thy God, and abase thyself for thine own insufficiency: The Lord give thee understanding in all things, and unite thy heart unto his fear always, that thou mayest observe to do, as he commandeth thee, and not turn from the good way all the days of thy life.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER I: Containing the Preface, which shows the drift, warrant, profit, and use of the ensuing Treatise. CHAPTER. II: Containing such Rules as in general men must take notice of, as preparations and furtherances to a godly life.
CHAPTER III: Showing the things that are to be avoided by such as would order their conversation aright.
CHAPTER. IV: Containing the general Rules to be remembered in the manner of doing all good duties.
CHAPTER V: Intreating of the rules that concern our carriage towards God, and in particular about the knowledge of God.
CHAPTER VI: Rules, that order is about the manifestation of our love to God. CHAPTER VII: Rules, that concern the preservation of our love to God.
CHAPTER VIII: Containing general rules about God's service.
CHAPTER IX: Showing how we should carry ourselves in God's House.
CHAPTER X: Rules that order us about hearing of the Word.
CHAPTER XI: Rules about the Sacrament of Baptism.
CHAPTER XII: Rules about the Lord's Supper.
CHAPTER XIII: Rules about prayer.
CHAPTER XIV: Rules about reading the Scriptures.
CHAPTER XV. Rules about singing of Psalms.
CHAPTER XVI: Rules about Vowing and Swearing.
CHAPTER XVII: Rules about Fasting.
CHAPTER XVIII: Rules about the Sabbath.
CHAPTER XIX: Rules that show us how to carry ourselves, when we come into company, in respect of Religion.
CHAPTER XX: Rules that show us how to carry ourselves in company, in respect of the faults of others.
CHAPTER XXI: Rules that show us how to carry ourselves in company, and not give offense.
CHAPTER XXII: How we must carry ourselves out of company.
CHAPTER XXIII: Rules about works of Mercy.
CHAPTER XXIV: Rules that show us how to carry ourselves towards wicked men.
CHAPTER XXV: Rules that show us how to carry ourselves towards godly men.
CHAPTER XXVI: How we should preserve our love to the godly.
CHAPTER XXVIII: How we must carry ourselves towards such as are fallen.
CHAPTER XXIX: How we must carry ourselves: towards the weak Christian, &c.
CHAPTER XXX: Rules that concern ourselves: and so first in our general calling.
CHAPTER XXXI: Rules that order us in our particular Calling.
CHAPTER XXXII: How we should carry ourselves in the time of affliction.