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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TIDINGS OF PEACE TO BEE SPOKEN to Consciences distressed.

Psal. 85. ver. 8.
— God will speak peace un∣to his people, and to his Saints, &c.—

THE maine thing intended to bee insisted upon out of these words is dis∣patcht, yet that I may not leave so faire and fruitfull a crop still stand∣ing upon the ground un∣reaped, I will goe on more briefly to have in the rest of that harvest Page  246 the Text affords.

This Psalm (as was said) was penned as a Prophe∣cy of and prayer for the re∣turne of Gods people out of the Captivity of Baby∣lon, and the setling and establishment of that Church and State upon its former Basis, yet so as therein there is a further and more especiall aime had to the peace and glo∣ry to bee brought in by Christ, till when this Pro∣phecy otherwise had but a poore and slender ac∣complishment, in regard of much outward glory or peace that that Church enjoyed.

And therefore the peace here spoken of and Page  247 promised for the present is to be extended largelier then to outward prospe∣rity, or an happy issue out of that calamity, even to speaking peace to droop∣ing and weather-beaten consciences: and accord∣ingly we finde this kinde of peace to have beene specially promised by the Prophet Isaiah to the peo∣ple at their returne out of the Captivity, both in Isaiah 48. from 20. to the end, and Isaiah the 57. from the 14. to the end, there being many broken hearts that had wanted the light of Gods counte∣nance long, having beene during the Captivity, ba∣nisht from the Ordinan∣ces Page  248 of the Temple, hang∣ing up their harps mour∣ning, whose thoughts were as if God had meant to destroy them, as appeares Ier. 29. 11. who afterwards were refreshed with in ward peace, at the restau∣ration of those Ordi∣nances, as well as with outward, as by those pla∣ces doth appeare. There∣fore in relation to this kind of peace onely I will at this time handle the words.

In the words you have a discovery of Gods proceedings in treating of peace or proclaiming war with his people and sub∣jects.

[Obser. 1] 1. You see that some∣times Page  249 God doth not seake peace to his owne children. This was their state for the present, when this Psalme was penned: Hee will speake peace, therefore at present he did not; yea, it may incline us to think that God at present spake the contrary, for the Pro∣phet speaks this by faith, as contrary to sense, and present experience; hee beleeves God intends to come againe to a treaty of peace, though now hee seemes to have nothing but anger, and blood, and war in his looks, speeches, and actions; and to threa∣ten and proclaime warre, and take up Armes against them. And thus God of∣ten Page  250 deales with his owne Children, whether a peo∣ple or a particular man: so with a nation, Esay 63. 10. They rebelled, and hee fought against them: so with a particular man, God frowned upon and rated his Child Ephraim, and spake bitter things a∣gainst him, (it is the phrase used, Ier. 31. 20.) though yet Ephraim is my pleasant Child sayes he: David had not a good word from him a long time, Psal. 51. 8. Make me to heare againe of joy and gladnesse. And Psal. 50 7. Heare oh my peo∣ple, and I will speake, but not against them they might hope, because hee ownes them for his peo∣ple: Page  251Heare oh Israel, and I will testifie against thee: and yet it followes, I am the Lord thy God. Iob (sayes, he did not speake onely a∣gainst him, but also wrote bitter things, hee wrote as it were bookes against: him, Iob 13. 26. hee wri∣ting over in his Consci∣ence the sinnes of his youth in letters of blood and wrath and terrors for them.

[Obser. 2] There must needs be some great reason for this they being his people, which is the second thing that is intimated, and may be observed out of these words, namely, the reason, or moving cause provo∣king God thus to inter∣rupt Page  252 the peace of his peo∣ple: they had fallen into some grosse folly or other, some sinfull inordinate dispositions had beene in∣dulged unto, and nourish∣ed in them, which is usu∣ally, though not alwayes, the cause of this his dea∣ling: this is evident by this, that the conclusion of their peace, when it is made up againe hath this clause, as the onely article of reconciliation between them, that they returne no more to folly, implying they had formerly runne out into some inordinacy, which to reduce them from, God had tooke up armes against them, and thereby taught them wis∣dome Page  253 to take heed of losing, and then buying peace at so deare a rate a∣gaine. And indeed all the quarrells, that God hath against a Nation, a parti∣cular place, or person, that belongs to him, doe begin there; They rebelled, and Hee fought against them, Esay 63. 8. For the iniquity of his covetousnesse I was wroth, Isa 57.

[Reason.] The reason is, for an∣ger is out of love as well as hatred, which therefore he expresseth though with griefe, hee should be put to quarrell with those, hee hath set himselfe to loue. And as wicked men, whom hee alwaies hates, may out of his patience Page  254 have a truce; so on the contrary, with his owne, God may take up a quar∣rell, yet He loves them, & remembers them with e∣verlasting kindnesse.

The Vses of both are these.

[Vse 1] 1 As peace with God is deare to you, so to take heed of turning unto fol∣ly. Onely take this adver∣tisement, that they are not meere follies or igno∣rances that doe interrupt or breake the peace: as it is not simply the outrage of some Pirats that will cause two States at peace to enter into a warre, un∣lesse that State consent to their act, and maintaine them in their rapine. So it Page  255 is not simply the rising of lusts that warre in our members against the Law of the minde, that breake the peace betweene God and us, unlesse they be appro∣ved of, and consented un∣to, nourished and main∣tained with some pre∣sumption; whilst wee maintaine, and take up a constant fight against Gods enemies in us, and disavow the outragious risings of our lusts, the peace may hold and of∣ten doth; for whilst wee are not at peace with sin, God may be at peace with us and our Spirits; but so much peace as wee give them, so much warre God takes up.

Page  256 [Vse 2] The second Vse is: Doth God take up quarrells a∣gainst His owne? then up∣on any breach made, goe forth to meet Him: It is Saint Pauls exhortation, not to let the Sunne goe downe upon thy wrath, but to reconcile thy selfe ere night, with thy offended brother; but I turne the exhortation, Let not the Sunne goe downe upon Gods wrath towards thee; but every day make and re∣new thy peace with God, ere thou sleepest, that as David sayes, thou mayest lie downe and sleepe in peace, Psal. 4. 8.

[Vse 3] The third Vse: If the peace of Gods owne peo∣ple be thus often inter∣rupted, Page  257 who yet are the Sons of peace: Luk. 10. what wrath is reserved for the children of disobedience,* and open Rebells? that are children of wrath, be∣cause of disobedience. There is no peace to the wicked, sayes my God, Esa. 57. God is a preparing against thee, who ever thou art, that goest on in sinne, if thou turne not, Psal. 7. 13. thou art prest for hell, and art thither bound, to encoun∣ter with the wrath of the great God, thither where no truce is to bee had, there is no discharge in that warre, as Solomon sayes, Eccles. 8. 8. Think of this, you that sinne, and will sinne; whose peace is not Page  258 struck up betweene God and you, who never yet so much as entred into a∣ny treaty of peace with God, who never appre∣hended God and your selves at oddes.

[Obser. 3] The third thing to be observed out of the Text is this; That when the Child of God wants peace, he can have no peace till God speak it; God must speak peace, if ever his people have it: therefore sayes hee here, I will heare what God will speake: he speaks in oppo∣sition to the voice of man, and the helpe of second causes, and of all meanes whatever, which in time of distresse, of themselves can doe no good.

Page  259 [Reas. 1] Reason first: Because God is the King of all the world, the Soveraigne Lord of all. Now treaties of war and peace are the prerogative of Kings, and of them alone: they may consult with their subjects about establishing good Lawes, as they use to doe, &c. but the proclaiming Warre and Peace with forreigne States, they have ever held in their owne hands; and so doth God who is the King of Kings.

[Reas. 2] Secondly, because God is the Judge of all the world and the party offen∣ded, at whose suite all ar∣rests and controversies doe come; now when a Page  260 condemned man stands at the barre, let all the stan∣ders by say what they will, bid him be of good comfort, and tell him that his cause will goe well, yet till hee heare the Judge himselfe speake as much, he cannot be at rest in his minde: the Judge onely can acquit him and ab∣solve him The King alone speakes pardons; and so doth God peace; all affli∣ctions are his arrests; thou must therefore make thy peace with him, if thou wilt be at peace.

[Reas. 3] Thirdly, peace especi∣ally of conscience, is a thing must be created, for our hearts of themselves are full of nothing but tur∣moile; Page  261 as the raging sea, which cannot rest. I create the fruit of the lips, peace. Isaiah 57. 19. men may speake it, but I must cre∣ate it; A word of power, such as went forth when light was created, must goe forth from God, or else there is no peace; for otherwise our hearts are as the sea, that rests not.

[Reas. 4] Fourthly, the wounds of conscience which are in Gods people, are of that quality, that none but God can cure them; for, the chiefe thing that wounds them, is the losse of Gods favour, not simply his wrath: for it is the glory of God, and his fa∣vour, Page  262 not selfe-love onely that makes them seeke him; therefore nothing gives peace, but the resto∣ring of his favour, and the light of his countenance; the same dart that woun∣ded, must heale againe; Isay 57. I smote him, and I will heale him: And as one that is sick with love, whē love is the disease, no phy∣sick, no perswasion of friends can cure it, no∣thing but onely the love of the party beloved; so when a soule is wounded for the losse of Gods love, not all the things in the world can cure the heart, but one word from him, one good looke, one pro∣mise from him that wee Page  263 are his, stills all, and onely can give peace. Like to a poore child, that cryes for its mother, let who will dandle it, and play with it, and use it never so kindly, yet it will not be stilled till the mother comes; so it is with a poore soule that cryes after God day and night.

[Vse 1] 1 Vse. In case thou art in distresse, especially of spirit, and want of peace of Conscience, waite up∣on GOD, in the use of meanes for peace; friends may come to thee, and say, Why shouldest thou be troubled? thou hast no such cause to bee cast downe; but all these are miserable comforters, (as Page  264Iob said) unlesse God speak peace: David heard by the Prophet Nathan that his sinne was pardoned, but yet his soule was not at quiet, til God would se∣cond it immediately by his Spirit; therefore sayes he, when Nathan had been with him, Psal. 51. 8. Make me to heare of joy and glad∣nesse. Art thou baited with hellish blasphemies cast into thy soule? God must speake peace, and rebuke Satan for thee, and take him off thee; all thy friends, all the men in the world cannot doe it; they can only say as the Arch∣angell said, The Lord re∣buke thee. And hee can as easily doe it, as he did re∣buke Page  265Laban, and forbade him speaking roughly to Iacob, the same charge hee can give in an instant to Satan: therefore wait up∣on God, and looke up to him.

[Vse 2] 2 Consider this against the time you come to die; all your desire is to die in peace, and, Oh let thy ser∣vant depart in peace! is the speech and desire of all; But who is it, that must speake peace to you then? God onely. At death you will send for a good Mi∣nister, or a good friend, to give you some comfort, (as you call it) but, if God will not speake it, how can they? if you could call all the Angels out of Page  266 Heaven, and all the Saints both in earth, and Hea∣ven; and so could have all that whole Colledge of Physicians about you, and they, should desire to comfort you with all their cordialls; yet if God will not speake it, who is able to doe it? Iob 34. 29. If he hides his face, who can behold him? None can shew his face, as the opposition in the next words shewes. False daubers may come to you, & say, Peace, peace, as they in the Prophet said; but listen what God will speak, he onely must, and can doe it; and be sure you make sure of him be∣fore you come to die. Would any wise Prince Page  267 deferr the treaty of peace with his enemy, till hee come into the field, and when the battel is begun? how foolish then are those, who neglect seek∣ing after God, till the as∣sault of death comes, and the King of feares with all his terrours, hath encom∣passed them round?

[Obser. 4] 4. Observation is, that let Gods people be in ne∣ver so great distresse, yet it is an easie thing for God to give peace to them; mark the expression used here, It is but speaking peace, that is, it is as easie for him to give peace, as it is for you to speake a word; it is no more to him: Then, our comfort is, that as he one∣ly Page  268 must doe it; so he easi∣ly can doe it, even with a word.

[Reas. 1] Reason 1. Because his speaking is creating: if he speaks, he makes things to be, even with a word; as at first, he did but say, Let there be light, and there was light; so still, if he but say, Let there bee peace, there is peace: hee made all, and up∣holds all by the word of his power. As therefore when the storme was at its height, and the waves most raging, yet at one word of Christs, they were all still: The sea and the winds obey him: so, when tentations are most fierce, and the doubts of thine owne heart most tumul∣tuous, Page  269 and raging, a word from him, can still them.

[Reas. 2] Secondly, because the light, which God gives to a mans spirit, when hee speaks peace, is a sure and infallible light, and there∣fore a satisfying light; so as when it comes, it must needs give peace; and no objection, no tentation can darken or obscure it, when it shines: If he give quietnesse, who can trouble? sayes he in Iob 34. 29. No creature is able to sepa∣rate from his love, or the assurance of it.

1 It is a certaine and in∣fallible light, which God gives, when hee speakes peace; The anointing from above, which enlighteneth Page  270 a mans eyes, is truth, and is no lie, 1. Ioh. 2. 27. that is, in teaching a man (of which hee there speakes, not onely what hee is in him∣selfe, but what hee is in teaching us) he doth it so, as a man is not deluded by it, and therefore it is added, None else need teach him; for did the spirit, (whē he did speak peace) speak so, as that that man to whom it is spoken, did not infallibly apprehend it, hee should speake in vaine: for so the Apostle reasons in case of unknown tongues, that if a trumpet give an uncertaine sound; or a man speakes so, as it shall not be knowne what hee speakes, hee beats the Page  271 aire: 1. Cor. 14. 9. Now therefore surely God, when hee speakes peace, speakes it so infallibly, and distinctly, that the soule knows the meaning of it; It is not a voice else; for, sayes the Apostle there, ver. 10. The end of all voices is to signifie, and therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, hee shall be as a Barbarian, that speakes to me: ver. 11. espe∣cially when the speaker undertakes to bee a wit∣nesse, as the Holy Ghost in speaking peace is, 1. Iohn 5. 6. Now to witnesse, is such a testimony, as is ta∣ken for infallible, for the end of it is to put an end to the controversie, and it Page  272 ends the strife betweene man and man; now the Holy Ghost when hee speakes, speakes as a wit∣nesse, and therefore puts an end to a mans doubts: he speakes infallibly.

And therefore in the second place, it is a satis∣fying light also; it is such a light, as dispells dark∣nesse, as answers all obje∣ctions; and so speakes peace home. As in a que∣stion, and Controversie in Divinity, or Logike, when some one bottome truth is understood, a man hath a light, which goes through all the Objecti∣ons, and answers them all; such a light doth the Spi∣rit give to a poore di∣stressed Page  273 soule, about the great controversie of his owne salvation, when hee doth speake peace; hee gives such a light, as satis∣fies the minde, as lets him see that in Gods free grace, and in Christ, which doth answer to all, hee, or all the devills can say against him, from what wants, or objections are in himselfe. Hee open∣eth, and no man, nor devill, is able to shut: And there∣fore when he doth speake peace, his testimony is ta∣ken and beleeved: If wee receive the witnesse of men, and rest in it: 1. Iohn 5. 9. The witnesse of God is grea∣ter, that is, of more pow∣er, and efficacie to per∣swade, Page  274 and satisfie the soule.

[Vse 1] 1. Vse, is an Use of comfort to poore soules, that are in distresse, and in such distresse some∣times, as they thinke, and say their case is desperate, and past recovery, so farre are their soules sometimes shot into despaire. Con∣sider, how easie it is for you to have your condi∣tion altered, and changed, even in a moment. I tell thee, though (it may be) thou hast been cast down this twenty yeeres, and thy soule is battered, bro∣ken, hardened, setled, fix∣ed in serious thoughts of thy ruine, and reprobati∣on, yet one good looke, Page  275 one good word from God shall in an instant dispell all, alter thy conceit and apprehension cleane; God can and doth often more with one word, in one moment, then Satan could doe in many yeeres, with all the objections he could muster up. The truth of this, in experience wee often finde and observe in our selves and others. Yea, and sometimes when hee doth speake peace, hee gives such satisfaction to a mans soule in that parti∣cular, that hee would bee content to bee as many yeeres more, in his spiri∣tuall conflicts, to enjoy but the like light, one halfe houre. Thus easie Page  276 is it, for God to speake peace. Though thou thin∣kest thy selfe never so far off from peace, yet he can speake peace to them, that are afarre off, as well as those who are neere: as him∣selfe sayes, Esay 57. 19. for, sayes hee, it is I that speake it. And when hee doth it, then all thy doubts and distresses, will bee for∣gotten, as the paines of a woman in travaile are when a man-childe is borne.

[Vse 2] Secondly, is the Church in any distresse? (as the Church here at this time was,) hee can redeeme it out of all with a word. A word spoken to Cyrus his heart, did set them in Page  277 their owne land againe, so you have it expressed, Esay 44. 26, 27, 28. The God that saith to Ierusalem, thou shalt bee inhabited, and to the Cities of Iudah, yee shall bee built; you see his maner of doing it, it is but with a word speaking; he sayes to Ierusale, be built; and though there be neuer so great impediments in the way, he will say to the deep, bee dry, that his people may passe over; hee dry∣ed up a whole Nation, a sea of people, namely the Babylonians, to make way for this deliverance. And when they are conquered, and Cyrus, a new King comes to have the sway of things, God speakes to Page  278 his heart also; That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepheard, and causeth him to say to Jerusalem, Be thou built. Therefore goe to him, and trust in him in all the distresses of the Church, as the Church also did, Psal. 44. 4. Thou art my king, command deliverances; A Mandamus from God doth it, and will doe it at any time.

[Obser. 5] Let God bee never so angry, and his peoples distresse never so great, yet he will speak peace in the end to his people: you heard before, that if wee have peace, he onely must give it; and then, that hee could, and was able with ease to doe it: and now Page  279 you shall heare, that hee will certainly doe it in the end.

The Reasons the Text suggests are these:

[Reas. 1] 1. If wee consider but, who this God is, that is to speake peace, I will heare what God the Lord will speake; he is the Lord, and therfore able to speak what pleaseth him; he is peculiarly the God of peace, and therefore willing to speake peace. Now, 1. when it is said, hee is the God of peace, and the God of comfort, the meaning is, hee is full of it, infinitely full of it, and out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speakes; thoughts of peace, and love to his, Page  280 doe boile within him, as hatred, or malice doth in a malicious man towards his enemy; so as hee can∣not containe and forbeare expressing it towards him; that as David sayes, his thoughts did burne within him, and at last, brake forth; so in God, I know the thoughts I thinke towards you (saies hee to them of the captivity) Ier. 29. 11. They are thoughts of peace, and not of evill. And 2. besides that these his thoughts of peace are ta∣ken up of himselfe, his Son also hath bespoken peace for us; and there∣fore God will speake it, Even as Ioseph, though he spake roughly a while to Page  281 his brethren, yet could not in the end containe, Gen. 45. 1. so nor God.

[Reas. 2] Secondly, Let us consi∣der, who they are to whom hee is to speake it, they are his people, as the text hath it; and to them there is no question, but hee will speake peace; though hee seemes angry for a while. They are his people, that is the reason given, 1. Sam. 12. 22. Hee will not cast off his people: as also Easy 63. 8, 9. When they rebelled, he was wroth, yet hee said, surely, they are my people, so I was their Sa∣viour. They? why they are the sonnes of peace, Luke 10. 6. ordained for peace, and therefore shall Page  282 be sure to have it; and al∣though some differences may arise betwixt God and them, yet there is a naturall 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the Lord, that moves him to speake peace in the end to them: as the dumbe sonne of Craesus, when hee saw his father like to bee killed, though hee had never spake before, yet then out of an impetus of spirit, the strings of his tongue were unloosed, and hee cried out to the murtherer, Kill not King Craesus; so, when the enemies of his Church are ready to devoure his people, and Satan is rea∣dy to swallow his child up in despaire, then Gods bowells worke within Page  283 him, and hee can hold no longer, but cries, save my child, save my Church. Is Ephraim my pleasant child, (sayes God) Ier. 31. 20? Well sayes God, though I spake against him, and took him up, and chid him soundly, yet I cannot for∣get my child sayes he, nor my Fatherly affection to him, but my bowels are stir∣red, and I will surely have mercy on him.

[Reas. 3] Thirdly, otherwise if God did not in the end speake peace, they would indeed returne to follie, which is the third thing in the text. For his end of speaking peace, is that they might not returne to folly, Psal. 125. 3. The rod Page  284 of the wicked shall not al∣wayes lie upon the righteous, least they put forth their hand to iniquity, Therefore at the last verse, Peace shall be upon Israel. As for this cause he speakes outward peace, so also inward, and suffers not the rod of Sa∣tan, and of his owne hea∣vie displeasure to lie up∣on their hearts: for else they would returne to the pleasures of sinne; for every creature must have some delight; their spi∣rits would faile, and be ti∣red out else, and wearied in good duties, if GOD should not in the end speake peace, Esay 57. The spirit would faile be∣fore me. When the childe Page  285 swounds in the whipping, God lets fall the rod, and falls a kissing it, to fetch life into it againe. As tis a rule in Physicke, still to maintaine nature: and therefore when that shall bee in hazzard to bee de∣stroyed, they leave giving purging Physicke, and give cordials: so doth GOD with his people, though with purging physicke, he often brings their spirits very weake, and low, yet hee will up∣hold and maintaine their spirits, so as they shall not faile, and bee extinguisht, but then he will give cor∣dials to raise them up againe.

Vse 3. What good heart Page  286 that beares a child-like af∣fection to God, would of∣fend such a God, that bee thy distresses what they will bee, will certainely speake peace: then doe not put him to it, spend not upon that precious stock of his free grace and love. Tis true, he is maried to thee, and therefore though thou hast gone a who∣ring after many lovers, Ier. 3. 1, 2, 14. still hee sayes, Returne, for I am maried to thee: as therefore when man and wife are fallen out, they consider, wee must live together, and therefore they reconcile themselves againe: so consider it must bee be∣tweene God and thee, and Page  287 make it a meanes and mo∣tive to recover thee, as Samuel did to the Israe∣lites: 1. Sam. 12. 22. You have committed this great sinne, yet turn not aside from following the Lord, for God will not cast you off, you are his people. Goe home to him againe, he will speak peace. Thinke thus, the time will come wherein God will be friends again with me, he and I cannot be strange long; though I would, he will not, Esay 57. 18, 19. though he went on stubbornly, yet God healed him, and would not lose his childe, there∣fore I will returne of my selfe.