The returne of prayers A treatise wherein this case how to discerne Gods answers to our prayers is briefly resolved, with other observations vpon Psal. 85.8. concerning Gods speaking peace, &c. By Tho: Goodvvin. B.D.
Goodwin, Thomas, 1600-1680.
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TO THE MUCH HONOVRED KNIGHT, SIR NATHANIEL RICH.

SIR,

GOd, who from all eternitie hath had an infinit Masse of grace and glory lying by him, to bestow upon his Church: and did according∣ly provide a treasury and Magazin sufficient wherein Page  [unnumbered] to store up all, [the Bosome of his Sonne:] in whom are hid,*riches so un∣searchable, as cannot bee told over, much lesse spent to all eternity.

Hee hath as richly shed his holy Sprit on us:* that we, who could never have known of any thing bequea∣thed us, nor what to pray for as wee ought, might both, fully from him know all that God hath given us; and through him lay claime thereto, who ma∣keth intercession for us; and so doth furnish us with a privy key to all that Trea∣sury, which otherwise, is fast shut up to all the world.

Through which Spirit of of prayer, and supplicati∣onsPage  [unnumbered] thus powred foorth, beleevers come to bee at once anointed to the fellow∣ship, and execution of those three glorious Offices of Christ their head. Not only 1. of Priests; by offering up their prayers, as spiri∣tuall sacrifices, acceptable to GOD, through Jesus Christ: but 2. of Kings; to rule with God, Hos. 11. 12. Being hereby made of Privy Councell to the King of kings,* so as their Coun∣cels, and desires exprest in their Petitions, are said to be fulfilled; and their de∣crees in their Praiers made,* ratified, and esta∣blisht. Nay further, by ver∣tue of this priviledge, ad∣vanced to such height of fa∣vour, Page  [unnumbered]* as by their strength in praier alone, to have po∣wer with God himselfe; and not onely with him, but also over him; and in their wrestlings to prevaile: Yea to command: Himselfe hath said it; Thus saith the Lord, the holy One of Israel and his Maker, ASKE of me, of things to come, concerning my sonnes, and concerning the worke of my hands, COMMAND ye ME, Isai. 45. 11. which so trans∣cendent priviledge of power, is likewise by the expresse words of this great Charter, universally extended unto all transactions of this lower part of his dominions; whe∣ther Ecclesiasticall, which Page  [unnumbered] doe concerne his sonnes, that is, his Church: or what ever other, the more ordina∣ry works of his hands, that appertaine to common providence.

And for as much as these grand affaires of this his Kingdome,* as future, and to come, are commended to their praiers, as their most proper subject, about which they are to treate, Aske of mee of things to come: in this respect, they doe be∣come as truely. 3. Prophets also: though not in so full and compleate, yet in some kinde of true resemblance; not by foretelling, yet by forespeaking in their pray∣ers, things that come to passe. To demonstrate which, God, Page  [unnumbered] who made and upholds this world, and all things in it, by the word of his power, doth likewise rule and go∣verne it, by the Presidents, and prescript rules, of the word of his will: exactly di∣spensing unto men,* both re∣wards and punishments, ac∣cording to the tenour of some or other, of his promises and threatnings, and former like proceedings therein recor∣ded: though with such va∣rious liberty, in respect of the particulars, that his wayes remaine unsearcha∣ble and past finding out: That looke how he appointed in the heavens, those ordi∣nances of the Sunne, Moone, and Starres, by their light, heate, and motion, to rulePage  [unnumbered]the day and night, to di∣vide, and cause the severall seasons of the yeare, and all the changes and alterations that doe passe over this ani∣mall, and naturall world▪ in like manner hath hee stretched out that so excee∣ding broad expanse of his word and law,* (to which the Psalmist doth assimulate it) over this rationall world,* of Angels and Men; and therein set his Statutes, and his Judgements, that by the light of Precepts, and their influences in rewards and punishments, they might order and direct these his creatures reasonable, and all their actions; also dispose, and set out all the issues of them. And seeing his SaintsPage  [unnumbered] they are a people in whose hearts is his Law; and their delight is to meditate therein, both day and night, they daily calculating and observing the various aspects, conjunctions, and mixt influences of those in∣numerable precepts, promi∣ses, and threatnings, which themselves and others, Na∣tions or Men, stand under; and by a Judgement thence resulting,* so farre as they have attained, endeavou∣ring to frame their suppli∣cations and petitions accor¦ding to Gods will: Hence their praiers oft, full hap∣pily succeed, and aforehand doe accord, to those issues and events, that afterwards fall out. That like as it some∣times Page  [unnumbered] falls out, that the earth comes to bee just under the Sun and Moone, in some of their conjunctions; so their desires and praiers, sometimes in a direct line fall under, and subordinate∣ly concurre with Gods secret purposes, and some revealed promise met in conjunction, to produce such and such ef∣fects. The Spirit also, here∣in helping their infirmi∣ties, sometime so guiding and directing them, by a gracious preinstinct, though unbeknowne to them, to pitch their requests upon such par∣ticulars, as God hath fully purposed to bring to passe; becomming thereby, as it were, the Spirit of prophecy unto them; respectively, in Page  [unnumbered] some measure and degree.

Thus doth that great King, imploy his nearest ser∣vants, as his under-Officers, and Sherifes to serve his Writs, & executions upō his Enemies; to execute the Judgement written in his threatnings, Psalm. 149. 9. and to accomplish his mer∣cies written also; by putting all the promises in suit; to be as man-midwives (as He∣zekiahs allusion, when hee sent a visiting to the Prophet Esay,* for his voice and suf∣frage, seemeth to import) to help and assist his promises and decrees in their travell with mercies and delive∣rance, * when these their chil∣dren doe come unto the birth, and there is noPage  [unnumbered]strength to bring them forth.

In all which, they shall therefore have the honour to bee accounted Co-workers to∣gether with God, in his grea∣test works of wonder. And at the latter day, when that great and last Edition, both of all Gods works, and like∣wise ours, then compleate and finished, shall be publi∣shed to all the world, they shall finde their names put to them, together with his owne; and the same by him acknowledged, to be as truely the works of their hearts and prayers, as that they are the sole worke of his hands and power. Such honour have all his Saints.

And if all the workes ofPage  [unnumbered]GOD are so exceeding great, and his thoughts therein so very deep, Psal. 92. 5. that every Iota of them, doth deserve our dee∣pest studies, and intentions; and thereunto require a pro∣per skill and wisedome, to reade his hand, peculiar unto the Saints, ver. 6. whereun∣to there must be adjoined the most diligent search,* and attentive observation to finde out his meaning in them; and withall a speciall inclination, and delight to be conversant therein, Thy workes are very great, sought out of those that have pleasure in them, Psal. 111. 2. And if, of all the rest, those choiser pieces, his workes of mercy may Page  [unnumbered] challenge our best regard: in which his heart and de∣lights are most;* on which his wisedome hath laid on the richest workmanship, in the most curious contrive∣ments of his love: Then surely that selected volume of more speciall mercies [His Epistles:] vouchsafed in answer to our prayers, is a∣bove all other, most exactly to be studied, and most dili∣gently to bee perused by us. Wherein God doth unbo∣some himselfe, and lay open his heart, more sweetly, more familiarly unto us; which are directed, and in a maner dedicated more particularly unto our selves alone; Many of them written with his owne hand, in a more imme∣diate Page  [unnumbered] maner discovered and appearing in them: and all of them come sealed with the impresse of everlasting love, and downe laden with the enclosure of the most precious tokens of his speciall favour.*Who so is wise, will observe these things; and they shall understand the loving kindnesse of the Lord.

Neither have such fa∣vours, onely more of mercy in the things themselves be∣stowed, but are further in∣deared to us, by being made our owne mercies, by a more peculiar title to them: by which the kindnesse in them is rendred double. For therein wee have that royall liberty to become our owne Page  [unnumbered] choosers, and contrivers of our owne condition; having all the promises throwne downe to us, with blanks for us to write our names in which of them wee please; which is the greatest liberty. And Wee have withall his Spirit secretly directing, and fixing the needle of our desires, to the same point, wherein his great intentions towards us doe meete with our best good: which is in∣deed the truest liberty. And to be made our selves, whom we love so well, and there∣fore delight to do good unto, the chiefest instruments un∣der him of our owne greatest happinesse, is a priviledge, then which, the creature is not made capable of a more Page  [unnumbered] transcendent royalty. And yet when the greatest love, thus rectified, which possibly we can beare our selves, hath opened its mouth widest, and stretched our desires in praying, to their utmost com∣passe; then will Gods infi∣nite vast love, not onely fill them, but doe for us above all that we are able to ask, yea to thinke; exceeding abundantly above all; as farr above, as his thoughts are above our thoughts; which is farre more then the heavens are higher then the earth.

All which, when put to∣gether, (if well considered,) how would it provoke us to call in all that precious stock of our time, thoughts, and Page  [unnumbered] intentions which wee cast a∣way on trifles, to lay out the choisest portion of them in this thriving trade of enter∣course with God; the re∣turnes whereof, are better then the merchandise of silver, and the gaine ther∣of, then fine gold. It is the praying Christian that alone imployes the riches of the promises, which wee usually let lie by us like dead stocke unimproved: whilst hee, like a wise and diligent Merchant, looks abroad up∣on all the affaires of Iesus Christ, that are afloat here in this world, and adven∣tures in them all; is watch∣full to spy out all advanta∣ges, and with an holie 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, intermedlethPage  [unnumbered]in every businesse that may bring in glory unto God, good unto the Church, grace and comfort to his owne soule. And how infinitely rich must that man needes become, that puts even Gods riches out to use, with the increase of ten Talents for one, yea an hundred fold!

The due estimate whereof, would no lesse quicken us to as diligent an inquiry, what becomes of all those goodly adventures, the prayers we make; to listen what haven they arrive at, how, and when, and with what fraught they doe returne.

In which great duty, and most necessary property of all true Merchants, yet many of the best and greatest dea∣lers, Page  [unnumbered] that are diligent enough in praying, are still found failing and deficient; that omit no gainfull opportunity of adventure, but are care∣lesse and unobservant of their returnes.

Some through ignorance (it may be) that this is at all a duty, or of any such im∣portance, are carefull onely how to lade in praiers enough, not expecting to finde any of this bread cast upon the waters, untill that great and generall returne of themselves, & all the world, with joy bringing their sheaves with them. O∣thers, though at present, many of their praiers come home after a few daies, and richly laden; yet through Page  [unnumbered] want of skill to reade those Bills of Exchange which God often writes in an ob∣scurer character, they lie un∣regarded by them. Many when voyages prove long, (though to their greater ad∣vantage, when once they doe returne, yet in the meane time) through discourage∣ment, they give all for lost, as we doe ships at Sea we can∣not heare of. The most are commonly complaining, that their adventures still misca∣ry, and that little or nothing comes of all their prayers. And All are negligent of keeping their bookes of ac∣counts, to cast up their com∣mings in, and goings out, the one with the other. By which they lose the chiefest portion Page  [unnumbered] of that comfort, which for the present, God hath here allotted us to live upon [the revenues of their prayers.] And God also, is not onely robbed of that Custome of his glory which should thence accrew; but wrong∣ed also by standing still as debtor in their accounts to many prayers, in the return of which he hath been credi∣tor long agoe.

I have endevoured there∣fore in this small Treatise to convince beleevers of the grand importance of this du∣ty, which is so full of gaine: To discover likewise the causes of the neglect herein, and remove the temptations and discouragements which doe occasion it; and have Page  [unnumbered] briefly resolved such cases as doe more usually occurre in the practise of it. But principally, my desire was to give in some few experi∣ments, and observations, which may help to teach the weaker sort, though not per∣fectly to reade, yet here and there to spell, (and especially out of the impressions in their own hearts) Gods mea∣ning towards them in his answers. I have cast in some scattered calculations of broken praiers cast up, which though they wil not amount, to make generall and per∣fect Tables out of, yet may serve, as Instances and ex∣amples, for yong beginners, to direct them in the exer∣cise of this most usefull skill, Page  [unnumbered] and wisedome, how to com∣pute and ballance their ac∣counts by comparing their prayers and their returnes together.

This small and imperfect embryon, I have presumed to send forth into the world; and directed it first of all to present its service unto you; and make an honourable and thankefull mention of your Name. Your worth deserves a more costly, large, and la∣sting monument for this in∣scription. Your owne abili∣ties of learning, eloquence, and depth of wisedome in humane affaires, would you be perswaded to lay them out, as you are able, would erect such a remembrance and sumptuous memoriall of Page  [unnumbered]you, when you are gathe∣red to your Fathers, as would beare some proportion to your great worth. But that which emboldned me was the neere affinity which meditations of this nature doe hold, with those other your more retired thoughts you thinke to none but God and your owne soule. You have beene long a frequent and constant dealer in this blessed way of entercourse with God in private: Those that know you, know your strict observance of those exchange houres you have devoted to meet with God, and enjoy communion with Him. But above all, it was that personall obligation, un∣der which a great and speci∣all Page  [unnumbered] all favour from you long since brought me, upon which I devoted (with my selfe) the first of my labours unto your service. And it be∣came one great reliefe unto my thoughts, weighing the many inconveniences of ap∣pearing thus in publique, that it gave so full occasion to pay my vowes thus openly before all the world; which having now done, God that is rich in mercy to all that call upon him, fill you with all Grace, and grant all your petitions; so prayes

Your Worships obliged to love and serve you THO: GOODVVIN.