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.
Page  163

*CHAP. VIII.

Seven Observations more, from the effects which the accomplishment of the mercy hath upon the heart, &c.

*FOurthly, thou mayest discerne whether they bee in answer to thy pray∣ers, by the effects upon thy heart.

As 1. If the thing that is granted upon thy pray∣ers, draw thy heart more neere unto God, it is then certaine, that it was gran∣ted as an answer to thy prayers. Things granted out of ordinary provi∣dence onely, doe increase Page  164 our lusts, and are snares to us; as Saul gave David his daughter Michol to be a snare to him:* So their full tables are made snares: so GOD gave the Israelites their will, the things they desired, but withall gave them up to their lusts, Psal. 106. 15. hee gave them their requests, but sent leannesse into their soules; the Quailes might fat some of their bodies that survived, yet their soules grew leane: there was a curse upon their Spirits: this new delicate food made their bodies more lustfull, they did eate and drinke,*and rose up to play. But things obtained by prayer are sanctified to us, Page  165 for every thing is sanctifi∣ed by prayer,* so as it shall not insnare nor intangle our hearts: a thing obtai∣ned by prayer; as it came from God; so a man will returne it to God, and use it for his glory: So Hannah having obtained Samuel by prayer, shee returnes him unto God, 1. Sam. 1. 27 28. For this childe I prayed, and God gave me my petiti∣on, and therefore also I have lent him to the Lord as long as hee liveth. If therefore thou findest this his dea∣ling with thee, in answe∣ring thee, to be a kindely motive to cause thee to mourne for sin, and to bee as a restraint against sin, it is a signe it was the fruit Page  166 of praier: Thus it wrought with David, Psal. 6. 8. Away from mee yee that work ini∣quity: God hath heard the voice of my weeping.

Also if thou rejoycest in God, more than in the thing obtained: so Hannah begins her song when she blesseth God for her child; My heart rejoyceth in the Lord, &c. 1. Sam. 2. 1. Shee rejoyceth not so much in the gift as in the giver; and his favour more in this that her prayer was answered, then in the thing obtained: this is a signe of having obtained the mercy through pray∣ers, when it is thus sancti∣fied unto a mans spirit.

*2 Prayers answered Page  167 will inlarge thy heart with thankefulnesse, and thus usually they doe; selfe-love makes us more forward to pray, than to give thankes; for nature is all of the craving and ta∣king hand: but where grace is, there will be no eminent mercie gotten with much strugling, but there will be a continued particular thankfull re∣membrance of it a long while after, with much in∣largement: and As prayers abounded, so will thanksgi∣ving abound also. Hannah, shee makes a Song, 1. Sam. 1. 2. Great blessings that are wonne with prayer, are worne with thankful∣nesse: such a man will not Page  168 ask new, but he will with∣all give thankes for old. Thankfulnesse, of all du∣ties, proceeds from pure grace, therefore if the spi∣rit stirs thee unto it, it is a signe he made the prayer; What thankes shall I render to God, for the joy I have in you, saith S. Paul, 1. Thess. 3. 9, 10? So in all his other Epistles, all those hee writes to, as he prayes for them, so hee tells them, he gives thanks for them, and for their graces which he had prayed for. And if answering prayers for others, makes S. Paul so thankfull, what when for himselfe? Prayer and thanks, are like the dou∣ble motion of the lungs, Page  169 the ayre that is sucked in by prayer, is breathed forth againe by thanks: Is thy heart afresh inlarged, as to mourne for past sins long since committed, so in like manner, to give thankes for past mercies wonne with long prayers, and this for a long while after? it is a sign that they were obtained by prayer.

*3 If the mercy obtai∣ned doth encourage thee to goe to GOD another time, to pray againe the more confidently and fer∣vently, it is a signe thou hast got the former that way: For the Holy Ghost having once shewed thee this way of procuring mercy, hence it is, thou Page  170 art thus ready to take the same course another time. Psal. 116. 2. The Lord hath heard mee, and I will call on him as long as I live. I know (sayes hee) now what course to take, if I be in any want, even to call up∣on him; and he calls upon others to doe so too.

*4 When God having heard thy prayers upon solemne vowes made by thee, thy heart is made carefull to pay those vowes, which thou didst make in the time of thy suing to GOD for that mercy, this may be an ar∣gument to thee, the thing being granted, that thy prayer was heard. For first, it argueth, that thy Page  171 heart it selfe doth secretly make such an account, that upon them God did grant the thing, and thou dost therefore make con∣science to return all again to God in service, as the condition of thy Inden∣tures made with him; and as an homage due, and an acknowledgement for e∣ver, that such a mercy was won by prayer; and by this preservest the memo∣ry of the receit of that mercy: vowes being of the nature of homage: and secondly, in this also it is an evidence, that the thing was obtained by prayer, in that God cals for those vowes from thee, by his Spirit in thy heart, Page  172 and stirs thee up to per∣form them; it argues that in relation to thy prayers answered, He takes them as dues from thee, that ha∣ving dispatcht thy suite, He now calls for what was agreed to bee given him when it should bee performed. And thirdly, in that also he doth accept the payment of these thy vows of thee, he acknow∣ledgeth that those vowes and prayers were heard: for as Manoah said in ano∣ther case, If hee meant to have destroyed us,*hee would not have accepted a sacri∣fice: so in this case it may be said, if God had not heard thy prayers, hee would not have accepted Page  173 thy vowes after thy pray∣ing. Thus David, Psal. 66. 13, 14. I will pay thee my vowes, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in my trouble; the reason follows, v. 17, 19. because that Veri∣ly God hath heard me, when I cryed to him: and so Eli∣phaz in Iob doth connect and hang these two toge∣ther, Iob 22. 27. Thou shalt make thy prayer to him, and he shall heare thee, and thou shalt pay thy vowes: This which he speakes of pay∣ing his vowes, was not onely as it was to be his duty, but also as a conse∣quent that would follow the other, that when his prayers should be heard, Page  174 he thereupon would per∣forme his vowes: for his scope is to move Iob to turne to God, shewing what benefit would accrue to him by it, and amongst others this: The hearing his prayers, and perfor∣ming his vowes.

*5 When thou art ina∣bled by faith, to see cleer∣ly Gods hand shewed forth in the effecting of that mercy over and above the power of second causes, and to acknowledge it to his glory: for the truth is, one maine cavilling rea∣son in our blinde hearts, whereby wee are usually hindred and put by from apprehending our pray∣ers to be answered, when Page  175 yet the thing is done, wee shall find to be, that our eyes are terminated and bounded in second cau∣ses, and not raised to see Gods hand in the thing: therefore on the contra∣ry, when God inableth thee to see that hee hath done thee this kindnesse, so as thy minde is cleere in it, this is a fruit of his hearing thy prayers: And this you will usually finde to be true, that so much faith and dependance as you had upon God in prayer for the obtaining of a mercy, so much faith and acknowledgement you will have in the accomplishment of it. Parallel with this rule is that other, which in a∣nother Page  176 case is usually gi∣ven, that in performance of duties, so much as the soul did goe out of it selfe to God, for strength to performe them, so much, when they are perfor∣med, will the heart ac∣knowledge Gods assistance and be humbled: And this is a signe of prayer being heard upon this ground, because Gods end of hea∣ring prayers is, that wee might glorifie him. So Psal. 50. 15. Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will de∣liver thee, and thou shalt glorify mee. Therefore when the heart hath pray∣ed much for a mercy, with dependance before the obtaining of it, and then Page  177 is enabled to exalt God when it is obtained; it is a signe that God did it in relation to those prayers. For there is that connexi∣on made betweene these, as between the cause and the effect, I will heare thee, and thou shalt glorifie me. David, when he was deli∣vered out of all his trou∣bles, (as when hee made that 18. Psal. he was, as ap∣peares by the title of it) then at the 6. verse, he re∣lates how he had prayed, and how hee was heard; and see thereupon how his heart was enlarged to acknowledge God alone to have done all, in the rest of that Psalme; so from the 27. and also from the Page  178 31. ver. When wee see Angels from God, be∣yond the power of se∣cond causes descending, it is a signe, that prayers, as Angels, first ascended, and obtained that mercy. Thus also the Church Esay 26. having obtain∣ed those deliverances by prayer, ver. 17. (for which there she makes that song by way of thankfulnesse) she ascribes all unto God, ver. 12. Thou hast wrought all our workes for us, and ver. 18. Verily we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.

*6 When with the mer∣cy there commeth the as∣surance of Gods love, and an evidence of his favour, Page  179 when GOD sends not a bare token only, but a let∣ter also with it, to beare witnesse of his love, in which the token is wrapt. I need not make that a sign, for when this comes with a mercy, it carries its owne evidence, you will then know well enough that it is the fruit of pray∣er.

*7 Lastly, it will be evi∣dent by the event; things obtained by prayer have few thornes in them, the curse is taken out, but what comes but by ordi∣nary providence, comes as it were up of it selfe a∣lone, and like the earth untilled, is full of thornes, and bryers, and many ve∣xations: Page  180 The reason is, for what comes in by prayer comes as a blessing, and so no sorrow is added to it; and also because prayer killeth those inordinate lusts, which is the cause of that vanity and vexati∣on which is in the things enjoyed. But when the blessing of God maketh rich, he addeth no sorrow with it, Prov. 10. 22. Things long deferred, at last obtained by prayer, prove most cō∣fortable, and in a setled manner such; they prove standing and stable bles∣sings; and what trouble the heart was put to in the deferring, it is recompen∣ced by the more setled constant immixt sweet∣nesse Page  181 in the enjoying; prayer having long perfu∣med it, and the thing be∣ing steeped therein, it proves exceeding plea∣sant. So Prov. 13. 12. Hope deferred makes the heart sicke, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life, and heales that sicknesse, and abundantly comforts the heart. Thus Isaac found Rebekkah a great blessing, and a comfortable wife to him, Gen. 24. ult. Such a comfort also was Isaac to Abraham, Gen. 17. 18, 19. A sonne indeed, a sonne of laughter, as his name sig∣nifies: and such was Sa∣muel to Hannah, shee had not onely a sonne of him, but a good son, a blessed Page  182 son, a Prophet, and the Judge of the people of God: whereas Iacob get∣ting the blessing, but with∣out prayer, how imbitter∣ed was it to him, (though a blessing to him in the e∣vent) by twenty yeeres banishment from his mo∣thers house? When Israel themselves set up a King, but not by me, as God saies, what a punishment was he to them? given in wrath, and taken away in anger: Hos. 13. 11.