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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*CHAP. 2.

Three cases propounded: The first, concerning prayers for the Church, and for the accomplishment of such promises as may fall out in ages to come.

NOw as for rules, and helps to find out Gods meaning towards you in your prayers, and to spie out answers; and how to know when God doth any thing in answer to your prayers, this is the next thing to bee handled: wherein first, I will an∣swer some cases, and que∣ries which may fall out in severall sorts of prayers, Page  33 about the answering of them▪

1 As first, concerning prayers put up for the Church, for the accom∣plishment of such things as fall out in Ages to come.

2 Concerning praiers made for others of your friends, kinred, &c.

3 Concerning those praiers, whether for your selves or others, wherein others joine with you.

For the first.* First, there may bee some prayers, which you must bee con∣tent, never your selves to see answered in this world; the accomplish∣ment of them not falling out in your time: such as Page  34 are those you haply make for the calling of the Iews, the utter downfal of Gods enemies, the flourishing of the Gospel, the full pu∣rity and liberty of Gods Ordinances, the particu∣lar flourishing and good of the society and place you live in: all you whose hearts are right, doe trea∣sure up many such praiers as these, and sowe much of such precious seed, which you must bee content to have the Church (it may be) in after Ages to reape: All which prayers are not yet lost, but will have an∣swers: for as God is an eter∣nall God, and Christs righte∣ousnesse an everlasting righ∣teousnesse, and therefore of Page  35eternall efficacie, Dan. 9. 24 Being offered up by the eter∣nall Spirit, Heb. 9. 14. So are prayers also, which are the worke of the eternall Spi∣rit of Christ, made to that God in his Name, and in him are eternally accep∣ted, and of eternall force, and therefore may take place in after Ages. So the prayer that S. Stephē made for his persecutors, tooke place in Saul when S. Ste∣phen was dead. So Davids prayer against Iudas, Psal. 109. 8, 9. took effect above a thousand yeeres after, as appeares, Acts 1. 20. So the prayers of the Church for three hundred yeeres in the Primitive times, That Kings might come to Page  36 the knowledge of the truth, and they leade peaceable and quiet lives in all godlinesse and honesty, (which S. Paul in Nero's time exhorted unto, 1. Tim. 2. 2.) were not answered, & accomplish∣ed till Constantines time, whē the Church brought forth a Man-childe.* So Esay 58. after hee had ex∣horted to, and given dire∣ctions for fasting & pray∣er in a right manner, hee adjoyneth this promise: Thou shalt raise up the foundation of many genera∣tions; thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, name∣ly for this, because his fa∣sting, and prayers might have influence into many ages yet to come, in the Page  37 accomplishment of what was prayed for. And that which Christ saies of the Apostles, reaping the fruit of S. Iohn the Baptists mi∣nistery, and the seed he had sowne, is in like ma∣ner herein verified; Iohn 4. 37. One soweth and ano∣ther reapeth. And in this sense that which the Pa∣pists say is true, that there is a common treasury of the Church, not of their merits, but of their praiers: there are bottles of teares a filling, Vials a filling to be powred out for the de∣struction of Gods enemies: what a collection of pray∣ers hath there been these many Ages towards it? and that may bee one rea∣son Page  38 why God will do such great things towards the end of the world, even because there hath beene so great a stock of prayers going, for so many ages, which is now to be retur∣ned: and herein it falls out to us in our prayers, as in their prophecies to the Pro∣phets of old,*The Spirit in them did signifie the suffe∣rings of Christ, and the glo∣ry that should follow. Vnto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but un∣to us they did minister the things that are now revea∣led: and thus is it in the spirit of prayer, which is in∣stead of the spirit of prophe∣cy: for wee pray through the guidance of the Spirit Page  39 (who teacheth us what to aske) for many things that come to passe in after ages.

Onely at present,* it may bee, in prayer thou hast revealed unto thee by a secret impression made on thy spirit, that these things shall come to passe, and so hast thy faith con∣firmed in them, and with∣all an evidence, that even for thy prayers, among o∣thers, God will performe them; and that the contri∣bution of thy prayers, doth help to make up the summe: and upon such prayers God usually for the present also testifies the acceptation of a mans person, and reveales him∣selfe Page  40 most to him that hee is his; as he did to Moses; he never revealed his love to Moses more, then when he praied most for Gods people. And haply thou hast that as one of thy best evidences of the upright∣nesse of thy heart, that thou canst pray for the Churches good, though for a long time to come which thou maiest never behold with thine eyes even as David also did, and rejoyced in it.*

And when they are ac∣complished, and thou in heaven, thy joy will sure∣ly bee the more full for these thy praiers: as at the conversion of those thou hast prayed for, so at Page  41 the ruine of the Churches enemies, &c. whom thou didst pray against; For if there bee joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, (as at the birth of a new Prince and Heire of hea∣ven) then haply in a pro∣portion hee shall rejoyce most, whose prayers had most hand in it, and a spe∣ciall interest therein. And so as thy other workes, so thy prayers follow thee, and the fruit of them,* as Ieremy speakes: and how ever, yet at the day of Judge∣ment thou shalt rejoice, as well as they that enioyed the fruit of thy prayers in their times, thou having sowne the seed of their happinesse; both hee that Page  42 sowes, and hee that reapes shall then rejoyce together, as Christ sayes, Iohn 4. 36.