THE RETVRNE OF PRAYERS. A TREATISE WHEREIN this Case [How to dis∣cerne Gods answers to our pray∣ers] is briefly resolved, WITH OTHER OBSERVA∣TIONS UPON PSAL. 85. 8. concerning GODS spea∣king PEACE, &c.
BY THO: GOODVVIN. B. D.
HAB. 2. 1.
I will watch to see what he will say to mee.
LONDON, Printed for R. Dawlman, and I. Fawne, at the signe of the Brazen Serpent in Pauls Church-yard. 1636.
TO THE MUCH HONOVRED KNIGHT, SIR NATHANIEL RICH.
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.
- CHAP. 1. The maine observation: That
Gods people are diligently to observe
the answers of their prayers. Pag. 5.
- The sinfulnes of the neglect hereof demon∣strated
by seven reasons. 7
- 1▪ reas. An ordinance of God taken in vain ibid.
- 2. reas. Gods attributes taken in vain. 12
- 3. reas. God in answering made to speake in vaine 16
- 4. reas. God provoked not to answer. 19
- 5. reas. We shall not returne thanks. 21
- 6. reas. We shall lose much experience. 23
- 1. Of Gods faithfulnesse ibid
- 2. Of our own wayes towards him. 25
- 7. reas. We shall lose much comfort. 28
- The sinfulnes of the neglect hereof demon∣strated by seven reasons. 7
- CHAP. 2. Three Cases: The first concer∣ning
prayers for such promises as may bee
accomplished in ages to come. 32
- 1 § Such prayers the Church to come doth reape 33
- 2 § Yet wee at present may have an answer about them. 39
- 3 § In heaven, and at the last day wee shall rejoyce for their accomplishment. 40
- Page [unnumbered]CHAP. 3. Second Case: Concerning pray∣ers
made for others of our friends, &c.
How answered. p. 42
- 1 § Such prayers oft granted. 44
- 2 § Yet not alwayes in the very thing
prayed for. 46
- Such promises but indefinite. 49
- As all temporall promises are 51
- Our faith towards them not required to be assurance. 53
- Vnlesse God give a speciall faith 58
- 3 § Such prayers returned into our owne bosomes. 61
- 4 § God in the end casts some out of our prayers 65
- 5 § Those prayers answered in some o∣thers. 68
- CHAP. 4. Third Case: How the influence
of our owne prayers, when others pray also
for the same thing with us, may bee dis∣cerned.
- 1 § If our hearts are affected with the
same holy affection 73
- Vnbeknowne each to other. 75
- 2 § By some speciall endeavor: as,
- 1 Some notable circumstance. 76
- 2 By joy in the accomplishment. 79
- 3 By thankfulnesse for the accomplish∣ment. 81
- Page [unnumbered] 3 §. This lesse to be doubted when the thing prayed for by us doth concerne our owne particular. p. 82
- 1 § If our hearts are affected with the same holy affection 73
- CHAP. 5 Common directions helpfull in all
cases, and prayers: taken first from obser∣vations
from Before and In praying. p. 85
- 1 § BEFORE: when God prepares the
- Difference between Satans motions to prayer and Gods. 89
- 2 § IN prayer: Gods speakings in prayer
are evidences of hearing: and discer∣ned
by 4 things. 93
- 1 Giving a quietnes by praier about the thing prayed for. ibid
- 3 § 2 By revealing his love, in and upon
such petitions. 99
- A caution herein. 103
- Reasons why God draws nigh when he grants not the thing 104
- 4 § 3 God sometimes gives a particular
- A caution herein. 111
- 5 § 4 By giving a restlesse importunity to pray for a particular mercy. 117
- 1 § BEFORE: when God prepares the heart. 86
- CHAP. 6 Observations made upon the di∣sposition
of the heart AFTER prayer:
Vntill the ISSVE of the thing prayed for
- Page [unnumbered] 1 § When God gives an obedient depen∣dant heart. pag. 119
- 2 § when God gives an heart waiting for and expecting it. 123
- CHAP. 7 Observations made AFTER
prayer Vpon the ISSVE: first If Accom∣plisht:
whether as the fruit of prayer, or
of common providence. 125
- 1 § God sometimes answers the prayer in the very thing and maner desired. 126
- 2 § Directions to discerne that things thus
obtained are in answer to prayers. 134
- 1 From the maner of Gods performance.
A more then ordinary hand discovered
in things accomplisht by prayer, instan∣ced
in 5. particulars. ibid
- 1 By bringing it to passe through dif∣ficulties. 135
- 2 By facilitating all meanes. 137
- 3 Effecting it suddenly. 139
- 4 With addition of other mercies a∣bove what was desired. 141
- 5 By some speciall circumstance as a token of his hand in it. 142
- 1 From the maner of Gods performance. A more then ordinary hand discovered in things accomplisht by prayer, instan∣ced in 5. particulars. ibid
- 3 § 2 From the Time, wherein it is ac∣complisht.
- As first when we were most instant in prayer. 147
- 2 In the fittest time for us. Then, 150
- Page [unnumbered] 1 When we have most need. 151
- 2 When the heart was best prepared to receive it. 154
- 4 § 3 From the proportion which may bee observed betwixt Gods dealings in the accomplishment, and our prayers. 158
- CHAP. 8. Seven observations more, from
the Effects, which the accomplishment of
the mercy hath upon the heart. 163
- 1 § If it draw the heart nearer to God. ibid
- 2 § Enlargeth the heart with thankful∣nesse. 166
- 3 § And encourageth the heart the more to pray, for other things. 169
- 4 § If it makes more carefull to performe the vowes made to obtaine it. 170
- 5 § If by faith a man sees and acknow∣ledgeth Gods sole hand in the accom∣plishment. 174
- 6 § By an assurance which comes some∣times with the mercy. 178
- 7 § By the event: Things obtained by prayer prove stable mercies. 179
- CHAP. 9. Considerations, to quiet us, and
to helpe to discerne an acceptation of the
prayer, when the thing is Not Accom∣plisht.
- 1 § The thing not alwayes granted, when
yet the prayer is heard. ibid.
- Page [unnumbered] An objection answered. 186
- 2 § Some blessings not absolutely promi∣sed,
nor absolutely to be prayed for. 188
- In which a deniall is to bee interpre∣ted as best for us in Gods judge∣ment. 190
- 3 § There may be a reservation in the de∣niall, for some greater mercy. ibid
- 4 § There may bee a transmutation into some other blessing of the same kind. 193
- 5 § God when hee denies, yet answereth to the ground of our prayers. 196
- 6 § And yeelds farre in it, to give satis∣faction to his child. 203
- 7 § Wee may know that the prayer not∣withstanding
is accepted, by the effects
upon the heart, which are 4. 206
- 1 If we acknowledge God righteous in the deniall. ibid.
- 2 If God fills the heart with content∣ment in the deniall. 207
- 3 If the heart bee thankfull out of faith. 209
- 4 If not discouraged, but prayes still. 210
- 1 § The thing not alwayes granted, when yet the prayer is heard. ibid.
- CHAP. 10. Application: A reproofe of
them that pray, but looke not after the
Returnes of their prayers: The causes
of this neglect: are 212
- Page [unnumbered]
1 Temptations: 1 From want of assu∣rance
that our persons are accepted, 216
- 2 From the weaknes of our prayers: three answers to it. 221
- 3 From not obtaining what wee formerly prayed for, answered by 4. things. 227
- 2 More sinfull discouragements as, 231
- 1 From slothfulnesse in praying. 232
- 2 Looking at prayer as a duty only, and not as a meanes to obtaine. 236
- 3 Falling into sinne after prayers. 240
- Page [unnumbered] 1 Temptations: 1 From want of assu∣rance that our persons are accepted, 216
- Sixe Observations more out of the Text.
- 1 Observ. That God doth sometimes not speake peace to his owne people. 245
- 2 Obser. The cause thereof some folly. 251
- 3 Observ. God only can speak peace. 258
- 4 Observ. God easily can give peace. 267
- 5 Observ. God will certainly speak to his people. 278
- 6 Observ. After peace spoken his people should returne no more to folly. 283
- The sin and folly of relapsing shewne by 7. reasons. 29•
- Temptations from relapse into the same
sinne after peace spoken, answered
- By Scriptures. 32•
- By 3 Examples. 33•
- By 4 Reasons. 34•
- 5 Cautions. 36•
THE RETVRNE OF PRAYERS.
PSAL. 85. 8.
THis Psalme was penned, in the name and for the comfort of the whole Page 2 Church of the Iewes, both as a Prophecie of, and a Prayer for their returne out of the Babylonish Cap∣tivity, and the flowing in again of that ancient glo∣ry, peace, administration of Justice, liberty of Gods Ordinances, plenty and increase, which formerly they enjoyed, but had now suffered an ebbe of seventy yeares continu∣ance. And first he begin∣neth with Prayer, from the first verse to this wee have in hand, putting the Lord in minde of, and ur∣ging Him with His graci∣our dealings in former times unto His Church: this is not the first time (saith he) that the Church Page 3 hath beene in Captivity, and that thou hast return∣ed it, (as out of Aegypt, &c.) and therefore wee hope that thou wilt doe so againe; Thou hast beene fa∣vourable unto thy Land, &c. His Prayer being finished and hee having spoke, he now stands, and listens, as you use to doe when you expect an Eccho, what Eccho hee should have, what answer would bee returned from Heaven, whither his Prayer had al∣ready come, I will heare what the Lord will speake: or as some reade it, I heare what the Lord doth speake: for sometimes there is a present Eccho, a speedy answer returned to a Page 4 mans heart, even ere the Prayer is halfe finished, as unto Daniel, Dan. 9. 20. 21. And in briefe it is this, The Lord will speake peace unto His people: this an∣swer hee findes written at the bottome of the peti∣tion, but with this clause of admonition for time to come, added, But let them not returne againe to folly: a good use to bee made of so gracious an answer.
The maine observation and subject of this Discourse thence deduced: That Gods people are dili∣gently to observe the answers to their Pray∣ers: The reasons of it.
THese words being e∣specially spoken in re∣lation to the answer of God returned to his Pray∣er made, therefore in that relation I meane princi∣pally to handle them.
The observation is this; That when a man hath put up Prayers to God, hee is to rest assured, that God will in mercy answer his Prayers,Page 6 and to listen diligently, and observe how his Prayers are answered: both are here to bee observed. I will heare what God will speake, that is, how Hee will ac∣complish them: and with∣all he confidently expres∣seth an assurance, that God will speake peace. Thus doth the Church, Mich. 7. 7, 8. I will looke to the Lord, I will wait, my God will heare mee: Shee was both sure of gracious audience with Him, my God will heare me: and she will wait till hee answers her, and observe how hee doth it, I will looke to the Lord: and vers. 9. I will heare the in∣dignation of the Lord, till he plead my cause. So Habak∣kuk,Page 7 hee having made a Praier against the Tyran∣nie of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first Chapter, having ended it, hee begins the second Chapter thus, I will stand upon my watch tower, and see what hee will answer mee:* and in the end an answer comes vers. 2. and as hee thus waited for a Vision (for sometime their Prophecies were in answer to their prayers) so should wee for an an∣swer unto ours.
1. Reason,* because o∣therwise you take an Or∣dinance of God in vain in your hearts, which is to take Gods Name (with whom in that Ordinance you deale) in vaine: for it Page 8 a signe you thinke your prayer not an effectuall meanes to attain that end it is ordained for; and say secretly in your hearts, as they Iob 21. 15. What profit have we, if we pray to him? for if we use any meanes, and expect not the end, it is a signe wee thinke the meanes vaine to accom∣plish that end. Whereas every faithfull prayer is ordained of God to bee a meanes to obtaine what wee desire and pray for, and is not put up in vain, but shall have answer: 1. Ioh. 5. 14, 15. This is the con∣fidence that we have in Him, that if we aske any thing ac∣cording to His will, He hea∣reth us: tis true, God hea∣reth Page 9 an enemy, but to heare with favour, is the hearing there meant; and is so used in our ordinary speach, as we say of a Fa∣vourite, that he hath the Kings eare; and if a man bee obstinate to a mans counsell, we say, hee would not heare, though hee give the hearing; so here, to heare is a word of gracious inclination to doe the thing required; and thus Gods eares are said to bee open to their prayers; and so it followes there, that if he heareth us, whatsoever we aske, wee know that we have the petitions that wee desired of Him. Assoone as wee have prayed, wee are said to have our petitions, that is, Page 10 they are then granted, and we may be confident they are assented unto by God; although in regard of outward dispensation, the command for accomplish∣ment is not yet come forth: even as a petitio∣ner is said to have his suit, when the word of the King is gone forth that it shall be done, though it passeth not the seale, or bee not signed a good while after. And like as when a wick∣ed man sinneth, assoone as the act is committed, so soone doth sentence from God goe forth against the sinner, but the Execution overtakes him not (it may bee) a good while after, according to that of Solo∣mon, Page 11 Sentence against an e∣vill doer is not presently exe∣cuted,* it is presently senten∣ced, as the words imply, but not executed: so in like manner falleth it out, when a godly man praies, that as soone as the praier arrives in Heaven (which is in an instant) so soone is the petition granted, (So Dan. 9. at the beginning of his praier the Command came forth ver. 23. though the Angel, who brought the answer, arrived not at him till towards the end in the Evening, ver. 21.) but the reall accomplish∣ment of it may be defer∣red. So as no prayer in re∣spect of an answer to it is in vaine; but where Page 12 God hath given a heart to speake, Hee hath an eare to heare, and love to re∣turne answer: which not to regard, is to take an Ordinance in vain, which is Gods Name.
And secondly,* not sim∣ply Gods name, as in an Or∣dinance made knowne, but also His name, that is, His Attributes are taken in vaine. For it is a signe you thinke of that God you pray to, that either his eare is heavy, that hee cannot heare: or his hand shortned, that he cānot save: or his heart straitned, and his bowels restrained, that he will not: And thus you rob him, and despoile him of one of his most royall Page 13 Titles, whereby he styles himselfe,* a God that hea∣reth prayers; who is so re∣gardfull of them, that in the first of Kings 8. 59. they are said to be nigh the Lord day and night, they are all before him, and he sets them in his view, as wee doe letters of friends which wee sticke in our windows, that we may re∣member to answer them; or lay them not out of our bosomes, that wee might be sure not to forget thē: so the petitions of his people, passe not out of his sight, till hee sends an answer, which is called speaking here; God speaking as well in his workes as in his word. But you, by your Page 14 neglect herein, make an Idoll God of him, such as were the vanities of the heathen, as if hee had eares and heard not, eyes and saw not your need, &c. Such a God as Elias mockt, You must speak aloud, (saith he) he may be in a journey, &c. Even such a God doe you make the God of heaven & earth to bee, whilest you put no more confidence in him, or make no more reckoning of your prayers to him, then the heathens did of their sacrifices to their Gods. Petitioners do not onely put up their re∣quests, but use to wait at great mens doores, & en∣quire, and listen what an∣swer is given unto them; Page 15 and it is part of an honour to great men that we doe so: and for the same end are wee also to waite on God, As an acknowledge∣ment of his greatnesse, and our distance from him, and dependance upon him; as the eyes of the servants looke to the hand of their Masters,*so doe we (saith David) on thee, till thou hast mercy on us. And Psalm. 130. after he had prayed ver. 2. Hee saith, hee waited more then they that watch for the mor∣ning, like those that ha∣ving some great businesse to doe on the morrow, long for the day light, and looke often out to spy the day, so hee for a glimme∣ring, and dawning of an Page 16 answer. The like we have Psal. 5. 3. In the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and looke, that is, for an answer.
Againe,* 3. If God doth give you an answer, if you minde it not, you let God speake to you in vaine, when you doe not listen to what hee answers: if two men walke together, and the one, when him∣selfe hath said, and spoke what hee would, listens not, but is regardlesse of what the other answers, hee exceedingly slights the man: As non responde∣re pro convitio est, not to answer againe is con∣tempt, so non attendere, not to attend to what one Page 17 sayes: Now our speaking to God by prayers, and his speaking to us by answers thereunto, and to study out his dealings with us, by comparing our praiers and his answers together, which are as Dialogues be∣tween us and him, is one great part of our walking with God. It is said of Sa∣muels prophecy,*that not a word of it fell to the ground: and so it may bee said of our prayers; and so it ought to bee of Gods an∣swers, not a word of them should fall to the ground: as there doth, if you by your observation, and listning therunto catch them not (as Benhadads servants are said to doe Ahabs words,) Page 18 apprehend, and observe them not: & by the same reason, that you are to observe the fulfilling of Gods promises, you are of your prayers also: now, 1. Kings 8. 56. it is said, not one word failed of all hee promised, Solomon had ob∣served this by a particular survay, and register made of all that God had spoken and done for them, and found not a promise un∣performed: and there is the like reason both of an∣swers to prayers, (for pray∣ers are but putting promises into suite;) and for our observing of them: and therefore Salomon brings those words in there, to this very purpose, to con∣firme Page 19 firme their faith in this, that no prayers made, would faile, being groun∣ded on a promise, thereby o encourage others, and his owne heart to dili∣gence herein, as also as a motive unto God to hear him; for vers. 59. hee in∣ferres upon it, Let my words be nigh thee, &c. See∣ing thou alwaies thus per∣formest thy good word unto thy people.
4. Yea,* you will pro∣voke the Lord not to an∣swer at all, he will forbear to answer, because hee sees it will be thus in vain. When a man is talking to one that listens not to him, hee will cease to an∣swer, and leave off speak∣ing, Page 20 and so will God. So as that which the Apostle saith of faith,* that it is not enough to beleeve, but when you have done the will of God, you have need of pati∣ence to eke out faith, that you may inherit the promi∣ses, may bee also said, and is alike true of praying: it is not enough to pray, but after you have pray∣ed, you have need to li∣sten for an answer, that you may receive your prayers; God will not ful∣fill them else. As he said, the Sermon was not done, when yet the Preacher had done, because it is not done, till practised: so our prayers are not done, when yet made, but you Page 21 must further waite for, and attend the accom∣plishment.
5. If you observe not his answers,* how shall you blesse God, and returne thankes to him for hear∣ing your prayers: Psal. 116. 1, 2. I love the Lord, because hee hath heard my voice, and my supplication, and therefore he goes on to thanke him, through∣out the whole Psalme. You are to watch unto pray∣er with thanksgiving:* and therefore, as to watch, to observe, and recollect your owne wants, which you are to pray for, that you may have matter of requests to put up, so also to observe Gods answers Page 22 for matter of thankesgi∣ving; and many fill that common place head full of matter, to furnish them for petitioning, but as for this other of thankesgi∣ving, they watch not un∣to it against they come to pray, nor study matter for that head also; and if any study will furnish you this way, it is the studying out of Gods answers to your prayers: The reason you pray so much, and give thankes so little, is, that you minde not Gods an∣swers: you doe not study them. When we have put up a faithfull prayer, God is made our debtor by promise, and wee are to take notice of his pay∣ment, Page 23 and give him an ac∣knowledgement of the receipt of it, hee loseth of his glory else.
6. As God loseth,* so your selves also the expe∣rience which you might get hereby.* 1. Both expe∣rience of GOD and his faithfulnesse, which will cause in you, hope and confidence in God ano∣ther time, when you have found him againe and againe answering your prayers. It was a speech of one eminent in holi∣nesse, upon occasion of the accomplishmēt of a great request made to God by him, That God having ne∣ver denied him any re∣quest, I have tryed God Page 24often, now (sayes he) hence∣forth I will trust him; if the hearing the prayers of a∣nother, will encourage us to goe to God, (as Psal. 33. 5. For this cause shall every one that is godly pray unto thee) much more when we observe, and have ex∣perience that our owne are heard: Therefore (sayes David) Psal. 116. 1, 2. The Lord hath heard me, and I will call upon him as long as I live: as if hee had said, Now that God hath heard mee, now I know what to doe: this experiment, if I had no more, is enough to encou∣rage me for ever to pray unto God: I have learned by it to call upon him, Page 25 as long as I live. And also 2. by observing Gods an∣swers to your prayers,* you will gaine much in∣sight into your own harts, and wayes, and prayers; and may thereby learne how to judge of them. So Psal. 66. 18, 19. Davids an∣surance that he did not re∣gard iniquity in his heart, was strengthned by Gods having heard his prayers: for thus he reasons, If I re∣gard iniquity in my heart, God will not heare me: But God hath heard me. For 1. if God doth not grant your petitions, it will put you to study a reason of that his dealing: & so you will come to search into your prayers, and the car∣riage Page 26 of your hearts there∣in, to see whether you did not pray amisse; according to that, Ye lust & have not, because ye aske amisse, Iames 4. 3. As if you send to a friend, who is punctuall in that point of friendship of returning answers, and useth not to faile, and you receive no answer from him, you will beginne to thinke there is something in it: And so also here, When a Petition is deni∣ed, you will be jealous of your selves, & inquisitive, What should be the mat∣ter, and so by that search come to see that in your prayers, which you will learne to mend the next time. Or 2. if they be an∣swered, Page 27 yet because that therein usually God deales in a proportion with you to your prayers, (as you might perceive if you would observe his dea∣lings with you) you would by this meanes come to have much insight into Gods acceptation, and o∣pinion of your wayes: For you should see His dealings with you, and yours with Him, to be ex∣ceeding parallel and cor∣respondent, and hold pro∣portion each with other. So Psal. 18. 6. In my distresse I called upon the Lord, and so verse 7, 8, &c. hee goes on to describe his delive∣rance which was the fruit of those prayers, and then Page 28 at 20, 21. verses, &c. hee addes his observation up∣on both, According to the cleannesse of my hands hath he dealt with mee, &c. For with the pure thou shalt shew thy selfe pure.
7. You will lose much of your comfort:* there is no greater joy than to see prayers answered, or to see souls converted by us, Iohn 16. 24. Aske and you shall receive, that your joy may be full: the receiving answers makes joy to a∣bound and overflow. Yea, even when we pray for o∣thers, if our prayers be an∣swered for them, our joies are exceeding great; much more when in our owne behalfe: and therein, even Page 29 in the smallest things which a Christian doth enjoy, doth his comfort exceed anothers, that hee hath them by vertue of prayers, and promises: he knowes how hee came by them; If stolne waters bee sweet, And bread eaten in secret,*&c. (as Solomon saies) to wicked men; beg'd meat is much more sweet to god∣ly men: yea, in the very praying for outward mer∣cies, there is more sweet∣nesse, than they have in enjoying them. As it is joy to a good heart to see any one converted, but much more to him that is the meanes of it. I have no greater joy (saies S. Iohn) then that my children walke Page 30 in truth: So to see God doe good to his Church, and heare others prayers is a comfort, but much more to see him do it at a mans own praiers. There∣fore when God restores comfort to a drooping soule, he is said, Esay 57. To restore comfort also to his mourners, that is, to those that prayed and mourned for him, as well as unto that soule it selfe, it be∣ing a comfort to them to see their praiers answe∣red. Comfort it is many wayes: [ 1] The heare from God; as to heare from a friend, though it bee but two or three words, and that about a small matter, if there be at the bottome Page 31 this subscription, Your lo∣ving Father, or, Your assu∣red friend, it satisfies abun∣dantly: so also, [ 2] To know that God is mindfull of us, accepts our works, fulfills his promises: [ 3] How doth it rejoice one to find ano∣ther of his mind in a con∣troversie: but that God and we should be of one mind, and concurre in the desire of the same things;*not two in the earth onely agree, but God who is in heaven and we to agree, this rejoiceth the heart exceedingly. And thus it is when a man perceives his prayer an∣swered. Therfore you lose much of your comfort in blessings, when you do not observe answers to your prayers.
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.
The second Case, concerning prayers made for others: of our friends, &c. How they are answered?
THe second case is, con∣cerning answers to our prayers for others, for particular men, as friends, and kinred, &c. and like∣wise for temporall bles∣sings.
Pray for others you know wee must:* so the Elders of the Church for Page 43 those that are sick, Iam. 5. 15, 16. Pray one for ano∣ther, sayes S. Iames: as in case a man is troubled with a lust, tell some pri∣vate friend of it, Confesse your sins one to another; that when a mans owne pray∣ers are not strong enough to cast it out, it may bee done by the help of ano∣thers praiers joyned with his. (So it followes, That yee may bee healed, ver. 16. For in that sense I under∣stand healing, in ver. 16.) So also, 1. Iohn 5. 16. If a man see his brother sin a sin, which is not unto death, that is not against the Holy Ghost, hee shall aske life for him, and God shall give him life, that sins not unto death.
Page 44 Concerning this case I give these considerations, how such prayers are an∣swered.
1. Consideration.* Such prayers God often hea∣reth; why else are any such promises made? as That they shall bee healed in their bodies, James 5. 15. Healed of their lusts, ver. 16. Converted to life, 1. Ioh. 5. 16. God hath made these to encourage us to pray, and to testifie his abun∣dant love to us; that it so overflowes and runs over, that he will heare us, not onely for our selves, but for others also: which is a signe we are in extraor∣dinary favour. So God in∣timates concerning Abra∣ham,Page 45 to Abimelech, Gen. 20. 7. He is a Prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and as he was a Prophet, so wee are Priests; as for our selves, so for o∣thers also, to God our Fa∣ther: and it is a preroga∣tive we have through the fellowship wee have, and communion of Christs Priestly office,*who hath made us Kings and Priests, to prevaile and intercede for others; and a speciall token and pledge of ex∣traordinary love. For if God heares a mans pray∣ers for others, much more for himselfe in his owne behalfe. So when Christ healed the man sick of the palsie, it was, as it is said, Page 46For the faith of the standers by, Matth. 9. 2. Hee seeing their faith, said, Thy sinnes are forgiven thee; the mea∣ning is, not as if for their faith sake he forgave that man his sins,* for, The just doth live by his (owne) faith: but to encourage them, who out of faith brought that sick man to him; and us all in like ma∣ner to bring others, and their plaints, by prayer, before him; he therefore then tooke occasion to declare and pronounce forgivenesse to that poore man;* hee therefore then said,*Thy sinnes are forgi∣ven thee.
2. Consideration: yet secondly, prayers for o∣thers Page 47 may often also not obtaine the particular thing prayed for them. So Samuels prayer for Saul, 1. Sam. 15. 35. So Da∣vid for his enemies, Psalm. •7. 13.
For it is in this,* as it is •n the use of other means and ordinances for the good of others; God ma∣king such like kinde of promises to our prayers herein, as hee hath made to our endeavours to con∣vert when wee preach to men: that looke as wee preach to many, and yet but few beleeve,* for, Who hath beleeved our report? even as many as are ordai∣ned to eternall life; wee be∣come all to all, and winne but Page 48 some: So we pray for ma∣ny, not knowing who are ordained to eternall life, which whilest wee know not, wee are yet to pray for them, 1. Tim. 2, 3, 4. Onely as where God hath set his Ordinance of Prea∣ching, it is more then a probable signe hee hath some to convert, and usually the word takes a∣mong some, though often but a few: So when hee hath stirred up our hearts to pray for others, it is a signe God will heare us for some of those we pray for: yet so as we may be denied. For God doth re∣quire it as a duty on our parts, because it is an out∣ward meanes ordained by Page 49 God, by which sometimes Hee useth to bring things to passe: but yet not as such a certaine, and infallible meanes, as hee hath tied himselfe universally unto, to bring the thing to passe on his part.
And though indeed his promise to heare and ac∣cept the praier is generall and universal:* yet the pro∣mise to heare it, by gran∣ting the very thing it selfe praied for, is but an inde∣finite promise; such as he makes to other meanes of doing men good, as to our admonitions and re∣proofes, and to our prea∣ching, &c. Hee makes such promises, because sometimes hee doth heare and convert Page 50 by them. For instance, that promise, Iam. 5. 15. of healing the sick, cannot be univer∣sall: for it might then be supposed as a truth im∣plied in it, that sick men might never die, whē as it is appointed for all men once to die,* seeing it may bee supposed that the Elders may at all such times of danger of death stil come and pray with them: but the meaning is, that it is an Ordinance, which God hath made a gracious pro∣mise unto, because he of∣ten doth restore the sick at their praiers: and there∣fore upon every such par∣ticular occasion, wee are to rely upon God for the performance of it, by Page 51 an act of recumbencie; though with an act of full assurance that we shall ob∣tain it, we cannot; the pro∣mise being not universall, out indefinite.
Of the like nature are all other promises of things temporall and outward,* (of which wee herein speak) as when God pro∣miseth to give long life to them that honour their pa∣rents; riches and honours to them that feare Him; the tenour and purport of which promises is not, as if absolutely, infallibly, & universally God doth al∣wayes performe these to those that are yet truely qualified with the condi∣tions specified in those Page 52 promises; The contrary both Scripture, instances, and common experience shewes: they are therefore indefinitely meant, and so to bee understood by us; for, because when ever God doth dispense any such mercies to any of his, hee would doe it by promise; All his wayes to His being truth, that is, the fulfilling of some truth promised; and also God having purposed in his outward dispensation of things here in this world, to bestow riches and ho∣nours upon some that fear him, (though not up∣on al, for how then should all things fall alike to all?* Poverty and cotempt up∣on Page 53 them that feare God, even as well as those that feare him not.) Hee hath therefore indefinitely ex∣pressed His gracious dis∣pensation herein:* requi∣ring answerably an act of saith (which principle in us is suited to a promise, as a faculty is to its proper object) suitable to that his meaning in the promise; That as hee intended not in such promises an abso∣lute, infallible, universall obligation of himselfe to the performance of them to all that feare him: so the act of faith which a man is to put forth to∣ward this promise, in the application of it for his owne particular, is not re∣quired Page 54 to be an absolute, infallible perswasion, and assurance that God will bestow these outward things upon him, having these qualifications in him; but onely an indefi∣nite act (as I may so call it) of recumbency and submissi∣on; casting and adventu∣ring our selves upon him for the performance of it to us, not knowing but he may in his outward dis∣pensations make it good to us, yet with submissi∣on to His good pleasure, if otherwise Hee dispo∣seth it.*
It is true indeed, that that act of generall assent, which faith is to give to this promise in the gene∣rall Page 55 abstract truth of it, is to bee an assured certaine perswasion and beleefe, that God hath made this promise, and that He cer∣tainely will, and doth per∣forme it unto some accor∣ding to his purpose ex∣pressed therein; which act of generall assent, is that beleeving without waver∣ing, namely of the truth of the promise in general, which S. Iames calls for in prayer, Iam. 1. 6. But yet that speciall act of applica∣tion (as Divines call it) re∣quired in this faith, wher∣by I am to rest upon it, for my owne particular, is not required to be such an undoubted perswasion, as to thinke that I shall cer∣tainly Page 56 have this particular promise in kinde fulfilled to me; for the truth, pur∣pose, and intent of the promise, is not universall, but indefinite. So as it is but an it may bee (as God elsewhere expresseth such promises, as Zeph. •. 1, 2.) That it shal be performed to mee: and yet because it may be God wil perform it unto mee, therefore my duty is to cast my self up∣on God, and put in for it, with submission to His good pleasure for the per∣formance of it to me. So that so farre as the truth and intent of it, is revea∣led to be infallible & cer∣tain, so far a man is bound to have an answerable act Page 57 of faith, of certaine and infallible perswasion to∣wards it, as to beleeve without wavering that God hath made such a promise, and will perform it according to His intent in making it, which is unto some: but yet withall be∣cause the tenour of it is but indefinite, and in that respect, whether it shal be performed to mee or no, is not therein certainely revealed; Therefore God requires not of mee in the application of such a pro∣mise, an absolute full per∣swasion that He will per∣forme it to mee in such or such a manner, &c. But only an act of dependance and adherence with refer∣ring Page 58 it to his wise and righteous good pleasure towards me.
And yet againe if God should at any time give a man such a speciall faith concerning any such par∣ticular temporall blessing for himselfe or another,* then hee is bound to be∣leeve it thus in particular: as when Hee gave power to any to work miracles, (as to his Apostles Hee did, with a Commission to work them,) then they were bound to beleeve that such and such a mira∣cle should infallibly bee wrought by them; as that the Devils should be cast out by them, &c. And therefore in this case Page 59 Christ rebukes His Disci∣ples, for not beleeving thus upon such particular occasions, Matth. 17. 20. And then it is also true, that if God give such a faith, Hee will infallibly perform it: and thus those his words are to bee un∣derstood, Matth. 27. 22. Whatsoever yee aske in faith beleeving,*yee shall receive, hee speakes it of the faith of miracles, for 21. ver. he had said, If ye beleeve and doubt not, yee shall say to this Mountaine, remoove into the sea, and it shall be remooved: so that, when God works such a faith, and wee are called to it, we are bound to beleeve with a certain perswasion that such a Page 60 thing will be done, and it shall bee done: but unto such a kinde of speciall faith in temporall promi∣ses for our selves or o∣thers, God doth not now alwayes call us. If indeed at any time wee did be∣leeve and doubted not, by reason of a speciall faith wrought by God, that GOD would remove a mountaine into the Sea, or bestow any outward mercy, it should be done: for he that stirred up such a faith, would accomplish the thing: but it is not that, which God requires of beleevers, that they should without doubting thus beleeve concerning outward things; the pro∣mises Page 61 thereof being not universall, but indefinite; and therefore answerably a man is not absolutely bound to beleeve that God wil certainly bestow such a temporall blessing on him, no not though he should have the qualifica∣tion, which the promise being not universal, made •o all so qualified, but in∣definite to some of such so qualified. The case is the same of beleeving promi∣ses made to our praying for others, which is the thing in hand.
*3. When the prayers •re thus made out of con∣cience of our duty for such, whom yet God doth Page 62 not intend that mercy un∣to, then they are returned againe into our owne bo∣somes to our advantage: even as S. Paul saith, that his rejoycing that others preached, though they lost their labour, should turne to his salvation, Phil. 1. 20. So prayers for others, though to the parties themselves we prayed for they prove in vaine, yet they turne to our good So Psalm. 35. 12, 13. When his enemies were sick, David he praied and humbled him∣selfe; and my prayers (saies he) returned into my bosome David did by this his prayer in secret for his enemies, testifie the since∣rity of his heart to God Page 63 and his true forgivenesse of them (for it is the usuall disposition of Gods chil∣dren, to pray for them that are the greatest ene∣mies to them,) and this prayer though it did not profit them, yet it turned to Davids owne good, it came back, and home a∣gaine to him, with bles∣sings to himselfe; God de∣lighting in, and rewarding such a disposition in his childe, as much as any o∣ther; * because therein we resemble Christ so truely, and shew that God is our Father, and our selves to have his bowels in us; and God stirreth up this pray∣ing disposition in his chil∣dren for their enemies, Page 64 not alwaies that he means to heare them for them, but because he meanes to draw forth, and so have an occasion to reward those holy dispositions, which are the noblest parts of his image in them and wherewith hee is so much delighted; and so their prayers returne into their owne bosome, and it is taken, as if they had prayed for themselves all that while. Thus in like maner, when Moses pray∣ed so earnestly for the people of Israel, God of∣fered to returne his pray∣er into his owne bosome, and doe as much for him alone, as hee had desired that God would doe for Page 65 them.*I will make of thee a great Nation (saies God to him) for whom I will doe as much for thy sake, as thou hast prayed I should doe for these. As in preaching the Gospel, Christ told the Disciples, That if in any house they came to preach peace, there were not a Sonne of peace, Luke 10. on whom the message might take place, and their peace rest, Your peace (saies hee) shall returne unto you againe. So is it, if your prayers take not place.
*4. If wee have prayed long for those, whom God •ntends not mercy unto, hee will in the end cast them out of our prayers Page 66 and hearts, and take our hearts off from praying for them. That which he did by a revelation from heaven to some Prophets of old, as to Samuel and Ieremiah, the same hee doth by a more undiscer∣ned worke; that is, by withdrawing assistance to pray for such; by with∣drawing the spirit of sup∣plication from a man, for some men, and in some businesses. Now thus he did with Samuel; Why dost thou mourne for Saul?* 1. Sam. 16. 1. So with Iere∣miah, Jer. 7. 16. Pray not for this people: and this he doth, because he is loath when his people doe pray but to heare them; and Page 67 would not that such pre∣cious breath as that of prayer is, should bee with∣out its full and direct suc∣cesse, or be in vaine: there∣fore when he meanes not to heare, he layes the key of prayer out of the way, so desirous is hee to give answers to every prayer. It falls out in this case of praying for another, as in reproving another. One whom God intends not good unto, God will lock up a mans heart towards such a man, that hee shall not bee able to reprove him, when towards ano∣ther God doth inlarge it as much, where hee in∣tends good; thus it is sometimes in praying for Page 68 another; so as in praying a man shall not be able to pray for, as not to reprove such a man, though his heart was to doe both: but it fareth with him as God threatneth concern∣ing Ezekiel towards that people, that he makes his tongue cleave to the roofe of his mouth.*
*5. God will heare those prayers for, and answer them in some others, in whom wee shall have as much comfort, as in those wee prayed for: and so it often proves and fals out. God,* to shew he lookes not as man lookes, nor choo∣seth as hee chooseth, lets our hearts be set on work to pray for the conversi∣on Page 69 or good of one hee in∣tends not mercy to; and then answers them in some other, whom Hee makes as deare unto us. When God had cast off Saul, still Samuels heart lingred after him, and hee mourned for him: but God at the same time, when hee bids him cease mourning for Saul, 1. Sam. 16. to shew that yet hee accepted that his mourn∣ing as it came from him; Goe (saies hee) and anoint one of the sonnes of lesse, 1. Sam. 16. 1. Samuel desi∣red to see a good succes∣sor in that government, and he having been their ruler, it was his speciall care; and he having an∣ointed Page 70Saul, it exceed∣ingly grieved him, that he should prove so wick∣ed; and God saw and an∣swered the ground of his desires; and therefore im∣mediately upon his pray∣ers, sent him to anoint the best King that ever was upon that Throne, who was the issue and Man-childe of those his prayers. And again, when Samuel came to anoint one of the sonnes of Iesse; when he saw Eliab, ver. 6. Surely (saies he) the Lords anointed is before me: If Sa∣muel had been to choose, hee would have chosen him, and would have prayed for and desired him: but God seeth not as Page 71 man seeth, ver. 7. and choo∣seth not as man chooseth: but in David was his prai∣er fully heard, and answe∣red, and that better. So Abraham he had prayed for Ishmael; and Oh let Ish∣mael, live in thy sight! Gen. 17. but GOD gave him Isaac in stead of him. So perhaps thou prayest for one childe more then for another, out of thy natu∣ral affection, looking on his countenance and stature; as Samuel did on Eliabs: but yet thy prayers being sincere in the ground of them, in that thou desi∣rest a childe of Promise, God therefore answers thee, though in another, for whom yet haply, thy Page 72 heart was not so much stirred; who yet when he is converted, proves to thee as great a comfort; and it is as much as if that other thou diddest most pray for, had bin wrought upon.
The third Case, about such prayers wherein others joine with us. How therein to discern the in∣fluence of our own prayers.
THe third Case to bee considered is, when a man prayes for some∣thing with others; or Page 73 which others likewise pray for with him, so as he is not alone in it; how then should he know, that his prayers have a hand in obtaining it, as well as theirs? For in such cases Satan is apt to object; though the thing is gran∣ted indeed; yet not for thy prayers, but for the prayers of those others joyned in it with thee.
*1. If thy heart did sym∣pathize, and accord in the same holy affections with those others in praying, then it is certaine thy voice hath helpt to carry it; If two agree on earth (sayes Christ) Matt. 18. 19. the word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, if they harmonially a∣gree Page 74 to play the same tune: for prayers are mu∣sick in Gods eares, and so called Melody to God, Ephes. 5. 19 It is not simply their agreeing in the thing prayed for, but in the affe∣ctions: for it is the affecti∣ons that make the consort and the melody: now if the same holy affections were toucht, and struck by Gods spirit in thy heart, that in theirs, then thou doest help to make up the consort; and without thee it would have beene im∣perfect: yea, without thee the thing might not have been done; for God stands sometimes upon such a number of voices, and one voice casts it; as when he Page 75 named ten righteous per∣sons to save Sodome: when therefore the same holy motives and affections acted thee in thy prayer, which did them in theirs, it was the worke of the same spirit, both in them and thee, and God hath heard thee.
Especially if God did stir up the same secret in∣stinct in thee,* to sympa∣thize with another in praying for such a thing unbeknowne one to ano∣ther, as sometimes it falls out; then surely thy pray∣ers are in it as well as his. You shall observe some∣times a generall instinct of the Spirit, put into Gods peoples hearts, ge∣nerally Page 76 to pray for or against a thing, without each others stirring up one another: even as Eze∣kiel by the river Chebar prophecied the same things Ieremiah did at home at Ierusalem. Thus against the time that Christ the Messiah came in the flesh, there was a great expectation raised up in the hearts of the godly people, to look and pray for him, Luke 2. 27. and 38.
*2 God doth usually, & often evidence to a man, that his prayers contribu∣ted, and went among the rest towards the obtai∣ning of it; as,
1 By some circumstance: Page 77 as for example, sometimes by ordering it so, that that man that prayed most for a thing of con∣cernement, should have the first newes of it when it comes to bee accom∣plisht: which God doth, as knowing it will bee most welcome newes to him. God doth herein, as wee doe with a friend, who we know is cordiall in, and wisheth well to a busi∣nesse; hee sends him the first word of it, who was most hearty in it, & pray∣ed most about it. Good old Simeon, had surely been earnest in seeking the Lord, as wel as the rest in Ierusalem, to send the Messiah into the world, Page 78 to restore and raise up the ruines of Israel, for God did reveale to him, that hee should see him before he died: and therefore to evi∣dence to him his respect to his prayers, God carry∣ed the good old man into the Temple, just at the time when the Child was brought into the Temple, for to bee presented to the Lord, Luk. 2. 27, 28. And in like manner good Anna, who had served God with fasting and praier, night and day: God ordereth it so, that she must also come in at the same instant, Luke 2. 38. By some such like peculiar circumstance or other, doth God often use to witnesse to a mans Page 79 heart, that hee hath heard him in businesses, prayed for in common with o∣thers.
*2. By filling the heart with much joy in the ac∣complishment of what a man prayed for: which is an evident argument that his prayers did move the Lord to effect it, as well as the prayers of others. Thus that good old Sime∣on, seeing his prayers now answered, hee was even willing to die through joy; and thought he could not die in a better time, Lord now let thy servant de∣part in peace. For when the desires have vented and laid out much of themselves, then when the Page 80 return comes home, they have an answerable part and share in the comfort of it: and as desires aboun∣ded in praying, so will joy and comfort also in the accomplishment. As when a Ship comes home, not onely the chiefe owners, but every one that ventu∣red shall have a share out of the returne, in a pro∣portion to the adventure: so here, though some one whom it mainly concerns hath especiall interest in the mercy obtained, yet thou shalt have thy pray∣ers out in joy from God, that the thing is granted. S. Paul had planted a Church at Thessalonica, but hee could not stay to Page 81 water it with his owne preaching, yet when ab∣sent, hee waters those Plants which hee had set, with prayers, night and day; 1. Thes. 3. 10. Night and day praying exceedingly for you, sayes hee: and as his prayers were exceeding abundant for them, so was his joy as aboundant in them, when hee had heard that they stood stedfast, and fell not back againe; Now wee live, if yee stand fast in the Lord, ver. 8. And what thanks can we render to God for all the joy wherewith wee joy for your sakes, before the Lord? ver. 9.
*3. If God give you a heart thankfull for a bles∣sing Page 82 vouchsafed to ano∣ther, prayed for by you with others, it is another signe your prayers have some hand in it: S. Paul knew not what thankes to give for the answering of his prayers, as in that fore∣mentioned place. Old Eli had put up but one short ejaculatory petition that wee reade of, for Hannah, & that was The Lord grant thy petition, 1 Sam. 1. 17. & for the returne of that one prayer when Hannah rela∣ted how God had answe∣red her, ver. 26, 27. hee re∣turned solemne thankes, And he worshipped the Lord there. ver. 28.
*And lastly, in case the thing concerned thy self, Page 83 which was prayed for by others helping thee there∣in, what cause hast thou but to thinke that it was granted for thy owne prayers, and not for theirs onely? seeing God stirred up their hearts to pray for thee, and gave thee a heart to pray for thy selfe, and besides, gave thee the thing which thou desiredst: which argues thou art beloved aswell as they, and accepted as well as they. I know this shal turn to my salvation through your prayers, saith S. Paul, Phil. 1. 19. though their prayers went to the busi∣nesse, yet had not S. Paul beene accepted himselfe, the prayers of all the men Page 84 in the world, would have done him but little good. God may heare the pray∣ers of the godly, for wic∣ked men, when they doe not pray themselves, in temporall things; so hee did heare Moses for Pha∣raoh, Abraham for Abi∣melech; and he may heare godly men the sooner for others prayers; so hee heard Aaron and Miriam the sooner, for Moses his sake, Numb. 12. 13: But if God stirs up thy heart to pray for thy selfe, as well as others for thee; then God that gave thee a heart to pray, hath heard thy prayers also, and hath had a respect to them more in it then to theirs, Page 85 because it concerned thy selfe, as a more speciall mercy unto thee.
Common directions help∣full in all cases and pray∣ers. First, from such ob∣servations as may be ta∣ken, from before, and in praying.
HAving premised these Cases, I come now to more generall and common directions to help you in discerning and observing the minde of God, and his answers to you in your prayers. All which dire∣ctions Page 86 are such, as may be helpfull in all the fore∣mentioned cases, and in all sorts of prayers what∣ever. And they are taken from observations, to bee made upon your prayers, &c. Both before, in, and af∣ter praying;
*First, Before praying; when God bespeakes a prayer, (as I may so speak) that is, when God secret∣ly speakes to the heart to pray much about a thing; I expresse it thus accord∣ing to that phrase of Da∣vid, Psal. 27. 8. Thou saidst seeke my face: and I said, Thy face Lord will I seeke: now God then speakes to the heart to pray, when not onely hee puts upon Page 87 the duty by saying to the conscience, this thou oughtest to doe: but Gods speaking to pray is such, as his speech at first was, when hee made the world, when hee said, Let there be light, and there was light: so hee sayes, Let there be a prayer, and there is a prayer, that is, hee powres upon a man a spirit of grace and supplica∣tion, a praying disposition; hee puts in motives, sug∣gests arguments and pleas to God; all which you shall finde come in readi∣ly, and of themselves; and that likewise with a quick∣ning heat, and inlarge∣ment of affections, and with a lingring, and long∣ing, Page 88 and restlessenesse of spirit to bee alone, to powre out the soule to God, and to vent and forme those motions and suggestions into a prayer, till you have laid them to∣gether, and made a prayer of them. And this is a speaking to the heart: and observe such times when God doth thus, and neg∣lect them not; then to strike, whilest the iron is hot; thou hast then his eare, it is a speciall op∣portunity for that busi∣nesse, such an one as thou mayest never have the like. Suitors at Court ob∣serve mollissima fandi tem∣pora, their times of beg∣ing, when they have Page 89 Kings in a good mood, which they will be sure to take the advantage of; but especially if they should finde that the King him∣selfe should beginne of himselfe to speake of the businesse which they would have of him: and thus that phrase of Psal. 10. 17. is understood by some, that God prepares the heart, and causeth the eare to heare; that is, hee fashi∣ons it, and composeth it into a praying frame. And sure it is a great signe that God meanes to heare us,* when himselfe shall thus indite the Petition.
And by the way let me give this note of diffe∣rence, betweene these Page 90speakings to the heart, and those whereby Satan puts us upon such duties at un∣seasonable houres and times; as when we are o∣therwise necessarily to be imployed in our callings, to eate, or to sleepe, &c. then to put upon praying, is a device of his he useth, to tire out new converts with. The difference will appeare in this, the devill comes in a violent impe∣rious manner upon the conscience, but inlargeth not the heart a whit unto the duty: but whensoe∣ver God at such extraor∣dinary by-times doth call upon us, hee fits and pre∣pares the heart, and fills the soule with holy sug∣gestions, Page 91 as materialls for the duty; for whatsoever he calls to, he gives abili∣ties withall to the thing he calls for.
And thus usually, when hee will have any great matters done & effected, hee sets mens hearts a worke to pray, by a kinde of gracious pre-instinct; hee stirres them up and toucheth the strings of their hearts, by his Spirit sent downe upon them: Thus against the returne of the captivity he stirred up Daniels heart, Dan. 9. 1. Hee knowing by bookes, the time to be neere expiring was stirred up to seek God:* and so hee that made this Psalme, Salvation being Page 92 then nigh, ver. 9. 10. then God stirred him up to pray, and pen this prayer for their returne: which God had foretold hee would doe, Ier. 29. 10, 11, 12. For having promised ver. 10. I will cause you to returne after seventy yeares: Then (sayes he, ver. 12.) shall ye call upon me, and ye shall goe and pray unto mee, and I will hearken unto you: he speakes it not onely by way of command, what it was they ought to doe; but as prophecying also what they should doe; for then he meant to stirre up their hearts; as then hee did, as appeares by those forementioned instances. Therefore observe what Page 93 things, God, thus by an instinct doth inlarge thy heart to pray for at times, and sometimes at extra∣ordinary by-times, when haply thou diddest not think to pray about any such thing, yet hee then stirred thee up most, it may be, as thou wert wal∣king, &c. and having spare time, he drawes thee into his presence and moves thee in that maner speci∣fied.
*Now secondly: as God thus speakes to the heart to pray, so also in praying; and his speaking to the heart in prayer may bee discerned by these parti∣culars.
*1. When God quiets, Page 94 and calmes, and contents the heart in prayer, which is done by speaking some∣thing to the heart, though what is spoken, be not al∣wayes discerned: If you should see one, who was an earnest and importu∣nate suitor and exceeding anxious when he went in to a great man, but behold him after comming out from him contented, and quieted, and cheerefull in his spirit, you would con∣ceive that certainly some∣thing had beene said to him, which gave him en∣couragement, satisfaction and contentment in his suit; Thus when thou goest to God, and hast been importunate in a bu∣sinesse, Page 95 (as suppose for Christ, Oh give me Christ, or else I die!) and thy de∣sires were exceedingly up for it; But thou risest up with thy minde calmed and satisfied, and feelest the anxiousnesse, the soli∣citude of thy heart about the thing taken off, and dispelled; This is a good sign that God hath heard thy Prayer, and hath spo∣ken something to thy heart, which makes it thus composed. When Hannah out of much bit∣ternesse and with strong desires (which by a long delay had bin made more violent, so as her heart was much disquieted (for, Prov. 13. 12. Hope, and by Page 96 the same reason, desire al∣so deferred makes the soule sick) when out of the a∣bundance of her griefe, shee had poured her soule out before the Lord, 1. Sam. 1. 16. Eli the Priest joyning in prayer also for her, The Lord grant thy petition! after that prayer she found her heart so quieted, that shee looked no more sad, as the Text sayes there; She arose quieted, and calmed, and it was that prayer, that did both fill Elies mouth, with that word of prophecie, and her heart with quietnesse, and a se∣cret word from God ac∣companying it, that did still those waves: and ac∣cordingly God gave her a Page 97 Son, a Son of her desires. And the like God doth now, by speaking (as I said) something to the heart: as by dropping in some promise or other in∣to the heart, or some like consideration; saying as it were to the heart, even as Eli from God did to her, The Lord grants thy petition; As to S. Paul, when he was earnest with God about removing his buf∣fetings by Satan (which whether they were the stirring up a lust, or tem∣ptations of blasphemy, I doe not now dispute) I besought God thrice, that is, earnestly (sayes hee,) that it might depart; and to this hee had an answer in Page 98 the meane time given him, till it should bee ta∣ken away; enough to still and quiet him, so 2. Cor. 12. 8, 9. And he said, that is, in prayer the Lord did put in this consideration and promise into his thoughts, And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee, and my power is made perfect in weaknesse: This answer thus comming in, this promise thus seasona∣bly suggested stayed and quieted Pauls heart. In like manner thou hast (it may bee) been long pray∣ing against poverty, or the like distresse, and God lets fall this or the like pro∣mise into thy heart, I will never leave thee,*nor forsake Page 99 thee, which quiets and contents thy minde. This is an answer, and observe such answers, for they are precious.
*2. If whilest thou art a praying, God doth draw nigh to thy soule, and re∣vealeth himselfe to it, in and upon such, or such a particular petition. As in case thou didst mainely intend when thou diddest begin to pray, to set thy selfe to beg some tempo∣rall mercie at his hands, some great matter for the good and prosperity of the Church (as Daniel, Chap. 9. did set himselfe to seeke God for the returne of the Captivity:) and e∣ven before thou commest Page 100 to aske it, or in asking it, God smiles upon thee, welcomes thee: falleth a∣bout thy neck and kisseth thee: This thou art to ob∣serve as a signe hee heares thy prayer, and accepteth both thee and it; when there is such a strong sense of Gods favour, and presence, whilest thou art upon such a suit and request, more then at other times, or then in other passages of the same prayer, this is a token God heares thee, in that particular, and thou art to observe this his speak∣ing to thy heart: When thus thou shalt no sooner come into his presence to enquire of him, but Page 101 hee sayes, Here I am, as the promise is, Esay 58. 9. Therefore, Psal. 69. 17, 18. Heare me speedily sayes Da∣vid; and (that I may know thou hearest mee) draw nigh to mee: therefore when God drawes nigh to thee, it is a signe hee heares thee. Daniel ha∣ving fasted and prayed for three weekes together, Dan. 10. 2, 3: Then an Angell came, and one of the three Persons came and told him, hee was a man greatly beloved, ver. 11 and 19. when in like ma∣ner God by his Spirit comes downe, and meets thee, and tells thy heart in secret that thou art His beloved, and Hee is thine,Page 102 then thy prayers are cer∣tainly heard: for if hee accepts thy person, much more thy prayers, 1. Iohn 5. 19, 20. Men, false men, (false upon the ballance, as David speakes, when they come to bee tried and weighed,) they will out of cunning use suitors most kindly then, when they meane to put them off, and deny them their requests: But God who is truth and faithfulnesse it selfe, doth not use so to deale, but when he means to answer the prayer, Hee withall sometimes reveals his free grace most, to the end they may see and acknowledge the foun∣taine of all, to be his ever∣lasting Page 103 love, and so take the thing granted as a fruit of it, and thereby come to bee the more a∣bundantly thankfull.
Onely let me adde this Caution,* which may bee of great use to you. That it is not alwayes infalli∣bly true, that when God drawes nigh to you in a particular request, that that request in particular, shall bee granted in that maner you desired, but it is a certaine evidence that thy prayer is heard, and that the thing thou askest is agreeable to his will, and that hee approves of thee and thy request ex∣ceedingly, and thinketh the better of thee for it, Page 104 and hee will give thee it, or something that is bet∣ter▪ There may be herein and sometimes is a mi∣stake of Gods meaning, to thinke that alwayes, then the thing shall be granted, when God drawes nigh to a man: experience sometimes shews the con∣trary.
[Quest.] But you will say, Why doth God draw so nigh if he meanes not to grant it?
[Answ.] 1. He shewes thereby His approving will of the thing prayed for. Now GOD approves many things, hee decrees not. *There is his approving will and his decreeing will. God may shew his appro∣ving Page 105 wil of the thing thou askest, (as suppose it bee in view a matter which is of great consequence for the Church;) which hee doth for thy encourage∣ment: but yet it followes not, that his decreeing wil is for the accomplish∣ment of that very thing in particular.
2. God may accept the person and the prayer, when hee doth not grant the thing prayed for; and by that drawing nigh witnesse his acceptation of thy person and the prayer. Yea,
3. That revealing of himselfe is oftentimes all the answer he intended to such a prayer, and it is an∣swer Page 106 enough too, to enjoy in the stead of a particular mercy the assurance of Gods love. As suppose thou didst pray against some evill comming upon his Church, which he yet intends to bring; which hee did set thy heart a worke to pray against, thereby to manifest the sincerity therof; and then hee seeing thee thus sin∣cere drawes nigh to thee, and tells thee, however, it shall go well with thee, and that thou art greatly beloved of Him: Thou art sometime to take this for all the answer hee meanes to give. And this hee doth sometimes also to content the heart, and Page 107 prepare it for a deniall in the thing: whereas, other∣wise, the deniall of what a Christian hath been ear∣nest in, might occasion (as in many it doth) a questi∣oning and doubting of Gods love.
*3 When God stirres up in the heart a particular faith in a businesse: as sometimes He doth, and upholds the heart to wait for it, maugre all discou∣ragements. So hee did in David, Psal. 27. 3. David was then in great hazards by reason of Saul or Ab∣salom, and those such and so often, as that to sense and outward probabili∣ties hee was like never to live quietly againe at Ieru∣salemPage 108 and enjoy Gods Or∣dinances there in peace; but for this David had prayed, and had made it as the grand request of his whole life (as every man hath some one great re∣quest of all other, even as Hee hath some speciall grace above all other, or gift, &c. so request to God next to His salvation, as haply for his Ministery, or the like, therefore sayes David, verse 4. This one thing have I desired) and ac∣cordingly God gave him a speciall faith in this thing above all other, be∣cause it was his great re∣quest, In this will I be con∣fident▪ verse 3. And though an hoste of men should a∣gaine Page 109 and againe incom∣passeme, saies he, yet in this I will be confident, that I shall still escape, and see Ierusalem againe, and en∣joy the Ordinances and live in peace; and though his faith failed him often (as in the persecution of Saul it did) for he said he should one day perish by the hand of Saul:* yet at other times his faith was mar∣vellously upheld, and hee was confident in this. Hee used not to be so, in other requests thus absolutely particularly and distinct∣ly, and therefore he sayes, In this, &c. As there is a witnesse of the Holy Ghost immediate to the heart, sealing up adoption to a Page 110 mans person, so in some cases, there is the like te∣stimony for the obtaining of some eminent thing we have asked. Which parti∣cular speciall faith, doth in a kind of similitude ans∣wer to the faith of mira∣cles of old, whereby a man had a particular confidēce, that God would doe such a miracle by him: so in & by meanes of prayer, in some things there may be a particular strengthning & assuring the heart, that God will doe such a thing for a man: which I confesse is rare and extraordinary, as also that immediate te∣stimony concerning our persons is, which many want that goe to heaven. Page 111 And haply this other con∣cerning the accomplish∣ment of speciall mercies, is much more rare; and but in some businesses; and is a thing which some men are not acquainted with, but yet may bee in some cases existent to some mens spirits, as it was to Davids in the thing mentioned.
And concerning this al∣so I will also adde a Cau∣tion, * as about the former. That it doth not alwayes fall out upon all such kind of evidences made to a mans spirit, and that by God, that the thing pray∣ed for doth come to passe. For these very perswasi∣ons stirred up by God, Page 112 may bee and are often but conditionall, though thus immediately made to a mans spirit, and are so to bee understood, and not peremptory and absolute. It cannot bee imagined that all these should al∣wayes be of greater abso∣lutenesse and perempto∣rinesse, than were many of those revelations made by God to the Prophets, wherein Hee manifested his gracious purpose to∣wards such a man or peo∣ple, either to vouchsafe them such a mercie, or bring such a judge∣ment; which forewar∣nings though they were particular and expresse, yet limited and intended Page 113 with a condition, accor∣ding to the performance, or not performance of which, it fell out, either the judgement expresly threatned was diverted, or that good thing which was as directly and fully promised, was not be∣stowed: as it was in the case of Ionas threatning the destruction of Nine∣veb; and so in the pro∣mise concerning Ely's house, 1. Sam. 2. 30. I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father should walke before mee for ever, but now the Lord sayes, it shall not bee so: For they had broken the condition which was implied in it; they had despised the Page 114 Lord; and them that despise me, sayes God there, I will despise. In like manner is Gods meaning, expressed towards us in such like perswasions wrought in us by prayer, to be under∣stood; as that such mer∣cies will surely come to passe, but still under a condition of obedience, and performing of those vowes, which a man joy∣ned with those his petiti∣ons, to move the Lord to grant the things; which if a man faile in, or ceaseth to goe on to beleeve, it may and doth often come to passe, that things fall out contrary to that per∣swasion, and then wee are apt to question whether Page 115 it was from God or no; which it might bee, and truely wrought by his Spirit and yet not alwaies absolutely meant (that was your mistake so to take it) but conditionally onely. For in such great requests of the soule unto God there use to passe mu∣tuall covenants betweene God and us; and Inden∣tures are drawne and sea∣led unto by us, that is, we in prayer, offer and pro∣mise to doe thus and thus, if God will vouchsafe us such a mercy, and pleade it to God to move him to bestow it; and God, hee thereupon (it may bee) seales a covenant on his part to grant the thing, & Page 116 works such an undoubted perswasion; but if wee in that interim of waiting for that mercy, doe deale falsely in that covenant which we made; and this even whilest wee are yet in dependance upon God for it; whereby it appeares that we would have done so much more after wee should have received it once, in this case God de∣nies the thing, and yet notwithstanding, that per∣swasion and evidence was from God that heard the prayer. He said indeed he would doe thus and thus for thee: (as he told Da∣vid, I would have given thee much more:) because thou saidst to him, thou wouldst Page 117 walke thus and thus, or didst vow this or that to him; thou failest in thy word, upon which God ut∣tered his; and thereupon sayes God as to Ely, Now it shall not be so, and yet God had spoken it afore, and not Satan, nor thine owne heart onely.
*4. When God doth put a restlesse importunity in∣to the heart, maugre all discouragements. So in that Psalme 27. 4. One thing I have desired, and I wil seek after it, that is, as I have sought it, so I will not leave seeking to God for it: when God maintaines this in the heart, it is a signe he heares, and will answer: for you know the Page 118 Parable, that the unjust Iudge heard her for her im∣portunity; therefore when God puts an importunity into the heart, he meanes to heare.
Onely this likewise is to be added in this,* There is a double importunity: one out of such an inordi∣nate desire to a thing, as the heart knows not how to be without such a mer∣cie, and so continues to ask, but asketh amisse, and so receives not, Iam. 5. But there is an importunity joyned with a subjection to Gods will; which when it runs along with it, then God hath stird it up, and then looke for something to come; otherwise you Page 119 may bee importunate, as they seeke mee daily, when yet God heard not, Esay 58. 2.
Further Observations to be made, on the dispositi∣ons and carriage of our hearts, after Prayer: un∣till the issue of the thing prayed for.
NExt: after thou hast prayed, observe, what God doth towards thee.
*As first, how hee doth guide thy feet and heart after praying: there is much in that: that which was Page 120 the Spirit of supplication in a man when he prayed, rests upon him as the spi∣rit of obedience in his course; so as that depen∣dance hee hath upon God for the mercy hee seekes for, is a speciall motive, & meanes to keep him feare∣full of offending, and dili∣gent in duty; to looke to his paths to walke and be∣have himselfe as becomes a suitor, as well as to come and pray as a suitor. Thus David, he walked by this principle, Psal. 66. 18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not heare me; that consideration still came in as a curb unto sinne; and without this a man pro∣vokes God, and so casts Page 121 himselfe behind-hand a∣gaine, and by sinning lo∣seth what ground hee had got by praying. There∣fore David, Psal. 145. 8, 9, 10. when he was to pray, even as for his life, (as then he did, it being a de∣liverance from his ene∣mies he sought) he speci∣ally prayes God to direct him and keepe him, that hee might not sin against him; for he knew by sin∣ning hee should enervate and spoile all his prayers: not onely heare me speedily (sayes he) but also Cause me to know the way wherein I should walke; Teach me to doe thy will; this he especi∣ally prayes for, and more then for deliverance, for Page 122 else he knew God would not heare him. Therefore when thou art in treaty with God for any mercy, observe, doth God still af∣ter praying keep thee in a more obedient frame of spirit? it is a signe hee in∣tends to answer thee; as in like manner, when hee keeps thee from using ill meanes, &c. When hee meant to give David the Kingdome, hee kept him innocent, and his heart tender, that it smote him but for cutting off the lap of Sauls garment: he was not so tender after. Therefore in Psal. 18. when hee was delivered from all his ene∣mies, hee sayes, God dealt with him according to his Page 123 uprightnesse: for I kept my selfe from mine iniquity. So also Psal. 27. 11.
*2 When God after pray∣er strengthneth the heart to wait for the mercy. So Psal. 27. ult. David having prayed, sayes to his soule, Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he will streng∣then thy heart. Honest men, when they nourish hopes in one that is in depen∣dance on them, who wai∣teth and is obsequious up∣on the hopes he hath of a suite, use not to deny him: it were dishonesty in thē to keep a man underhand, and then frustrate his expectations; Therefore when God keeps thy soule after praying in such a de∣pendant Page 124 frame, looke for some good answer. And indeed when a man hath prayed long, in the end he begins to wait (as I may so say) rather thā pray (though he pray still) because now he looks God should per∣forme: before, and at first, he told the Lord he desi∣red it, but now he can with some boldnesse tell him, that he waits for it and ex∣pects it. The hope of a god∣ly man and his expectati∣on should make him ashamed if it were not answered, therefore in this case ans∣wers use to come.
Both these two last we have together joyned Psa. 37. 34. Wait on the Lord, & keep his waies, and he shal ex∣alt thee.
Observations to be made after prayer, upon the is∣sue of what was prayed for: and first, if accom∣plished, whether as the fruit of prayers, or out of common providence; Helps herein.
WHen a man hath thus waited, and kept his way, then let him observe the issue and con∣clusion of what he sought for, how things are cast by God. Now of necessity, one of these two must fall out, that either the thing desired is accomplished, or not accomplished; and in ei∣ther Page 126 of these he may come to spie out answers to his prayers; for prayer may be answered, though the thing be not done.
I meane to insist seve∣rally on these.
*1 If the thing thou prayedst for doth come to passe, then what needst thou doubt of an answer, and whether God heard thee or no? For thou be∣holdest it with thine eies: and so often it falls out, that God doth grant ac∣cording to the desires of a mans heart; and not on∣ly so, but also fulfils his counsell therein, as it is, Psal. 20. 4. that is, fulfils not onely his desire, and aime of his prayer, but in that Page 127 very way, by that very meanes, which his judge∣ment and counsell pitcht upō in his own thoughts. The desire of the heart may be satisfied, when God gives some other thing, but the counsell of the heart is then fulfilled, when a man is answered in that particular, which his own judgment pitcht upon as best for him. For counsell is an act of the understanding, delibera∣ting about meanes to an end, & directing to choose a particular meanes tend∣ing to an end: so that as Eliphaz sayes to Iob, 22. 27, 28. Thou shalt make thy prayer to God, and hee shall hear thee: & decree a thing, Page 128 and it shall be established to thee, that is, a man is gui∣ded to decree and pitch upon such mercies in his prayers, as God makes good in particular: hee saies what he would have, and God performs it: and this priviledge thou shalt have (sayes Eliphaz there) if thou wilt turne to him, and be acquainted with him, and receive the Law from his mouth: thou shalt not erre in praying; but what thou settest upon to pray for, shall be accor∣dingly granted to thee▪ such a man shall have the priviledge, Fingere sibi fortunam in a right sense, to be his owne chooser, and carver of his owne Page 129 mercies; and as Christ said, Be it according to thy faith, so God sayes some∣times, Be it according to thy prayers; and Eliphaz speaks of it as of a speciall favour, that whereas other mens prayers are answered ob∣liquely, thine sayes hee shall be answered directly, which is more comforta∣ble; as direct beames are, and have more heate in them then collaterall and oblique. Thus if a man will heare God and obey him, God will heare him: for if a man be subject to Christ; Kingly Office, his Propheticall Office shall guide him, and cause him not to erre in his Petiti∣ons; but by an unerring Page 130 providence & preinstinct infused by his spirit, God will so guide him, as to ask evē that very thing which GOD intends to give; whereas of himselfe hee knowes not what, nor how to aske. So David asked long life, and God gave it him, Psal. 21. 2, 3, 4. God not onely gave him his hearts desire, but the re∣quest of his lips, v. 2. Hannah askt a sonne, and God an∣swered her in the very thing shee desired, and therefore shee called him Samuel, 1 Sam. 1. 20. Be∣cause (sayes she) I askt him of the Lord: and Verse 27. For this child I prayed, and the Lord (did not give an∣other thing in stead of it, Page 131 but) hath given me my Pe∣tition I asked of him. So, 1. Chro. 4. 10. labesh called on God (tis said) and God gran∣ted him the thing hee re∣quested. And thus God of∣ten deales with his chil∣dren. And to this end hath God given us his Spirit; and made Christ Wisedome unto us, who knowes what is good for us, though we doe not. And hath there∣fore also commanded us to spye out mercies for our selves, and then come to him for them: and to this end hath made such particular promises of par∣ticular mercies, which he would have us have an eie unto in our prayers; all which is, because often he Page 132 means to bestow the very things we aske.
And yet because,* al∣though we have the very things wee did aske and desire, such is the jealousie & infidelity of our hearts, that we often discern not, nor acknowledge that it was our prayers, that ob∣tained them from God: but we are apt, when once wee have them, either to look but to things below, and the second causes of them, though before wee did earnestly seeke them of God, or else still dis∣trustfully to questiō whe∣ther or no it was at our prayers that hee granted them, or out of common providence. Thus Iob in Page 133 his distemper, Iob 9. 16▪ although I had called, and God had answered me, yet (sayes he) I would not be¦leeve that he had hearkened to my voice, that is, not that he did it in respect to my prayer and request, be∣cause he now deales so fe∣verely with me, For hee breaketh me with a tempest, Ver. 17. And thus doe our distrustfull hearts, (which are apt to bee un∣satisfied with all the clee∣rest pledges of Gods fa∣vour, and still to miscon∣strue and pervert them,) although God doth an∣swer us upon our calling upon him, yet we will not beleeve that he hearken∣ed to our prayer in it. Page 134 Therefore that you may be further inabled to dis∣cerne, how, and when things you prayed for, come in by prayer; I give you these further directi∣ons.
*1. When God doth a thing in answer to pray∣ers, hee often doth it in such a maner, that his hand may bee in a more then ordinary maner seen in it.* There are few pray∣ers, wherein a man hath sought God much, but in the answers of them God discovers himselfe much, and turnes many great wheeles in the accom∣plishment of them, and manifests (as David de∣sires, Psal. 17. 7.) his mar∣velous Page 135 loving kindnesse; and indeed, when GOD heares prayers, that have beene a long while a ma∣king, Hee shewes usually halfe a miracle one way or other.
Now GOD discovers his immediat hand in the answers of prayers many wayes.
*1. When hee carries a thing through many diffi∣culties, when there were a great many crosse wards in a businesse prayed for, the least whereof would have kept the key from turning: when GOD shall make (as it were) a key on purpose to unlocke it; when God plots and con∣trives all the passages in a Page 136 businesse thou didst pray for, and so accomplisheth it; This is a signe, it is a fruit of prayer, and that prayer had been a making that key all that while: So in bringing David to the Kingd me; Ioseph out of prison; Mordecai to honour: and likewise S. Peter out of prison, which was done at the prayers of the Church, Act. 12. He was sleeping betweene two souldiers: if they had waked, he had beene dis∣covered: and hee was in chaines, but they fall off, ver. 6. 7. And the Keepers stood before the doore, but they mind him not, ver. 6. and when one watch is past, hee passeth Page 137 quietly through another, ver. 10. and when both those were past, an Iron gate flyes open of its own accord, ver. 10. Now such difficulties are there in many businesses, which yet in the end are accom∣plished by prayer: Iron chaines fall off, Iron gates, enemies hearts flye open of their own accord; and though not in that mira∣culous manner, by the meanes of an Angell, yet no lesse wonderfully.
*Or secondly when God facilitates all meanes to accomplish the thing which was prayed for, so as all meanes doe in view conspire and combine in it, that thou hast winde Page 138 and tyde, and a faire day, and all the way paved; or as David sayes, hast thy way made plaine before thee; and there falls out a great conjunction and meeting of many circumstances to∣gether to effect it, which had influence into it, whereof if any one had beene wanting, haply the thing had not been done, when the thing prayed for is thus granted, prayer then hath done it. Thus, when hee delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, which was the ac∣complishment of their long desires and prayers, (their cry came up the Text sayes) how were all things facilitated! they that de∣tained Page 139 them doe them∣selves come, and intreate them to goe out, yea, are urgent, sayes the Text; and that at midnight: nay, hire them to goe out, with their eare-rings; and Pharaoh himselfe then parts lovingly and fairely with them, and desires their prayers,*Blesse me also: Yea, to shew there was no resistance, the Text sayes, a Dog did not move his tonguee: The bruite Creatures did not disturb thē, though at midnight, when those Creatures use to be most obstreperous through noises.
*3. When hee doth it suddenly, and accompli∣sheth the thing thou hast Page 140 long prayed for, ere thou art aware of it: as the re∣turne of the Captivity of Babylon, which was the conclusion of many pray∣ers, was done in a trice, they were as men in a dream, Psal. 126. 1. they could scarce beleeve it was so, when it was done, it was because they had sowen many prayers which came up on the suddaine, ver. 5, 6. So Peter, hee was fast asleepe, and did not so much as dreame of deli∣verance. So Iosephs deli∣very out of prison, and advancement to bee the greatest man in the King∣dome, the suddennesse of it shewed it was Gods re∣membring of him, and Page 141 hearing his prayers.
*4. When God grants the thing with an over∣plus, above what wee did ask, & casteth many other mercies in together with that which we long pray∣ed for; this also may be a signe God did heare our prayers in it: for when he doth heare indeed, hee useth to doe above what wee did aske or thinke, thereby the more to overcome the heart. So David asked long life, and he gave him more then he asked, Psal. 21. 2, 3, 4, 5. So Solomon he asked but wisdome, and hee gave him more then he asked, Peace, Riches, Ho∣nour, and all with it, 1 Kin. 3. 12, 13. Hannah shee as∣ked Page 142 but one male childe, 1 Sam. 1. 10. but God gave her three sonnes more and two daughters, Chap. 2. 21. When prayers are answered, usually mercies come thicke, they come tumbling in; the thing we prayed for comes not alone: as when sinnes are punished, then miseries also they come like ar∣mies in troops upon us: as temptations likewise come together, and we fall into many of them at once,* as S. Iames speakes: Thus doe mercies also.
*5. When the thing is granted by prayers, there is often some particular circumstance of provi∣dence concurrent with it, Page 143 which is a token for good, and sealeth to us that it is from God; such often as a man himselfe takes notice of, and which others take notice of also. Shew mee a token for good, sayes Da∣vid, Psal. 86. 17. that others may see it and be ashamed: and such tokens doth God often make small circum∣stances to bee. Things small in themselves, may bee magna indicia, great signes and tokens: for example Moses and Aa∣ron, and the Israelites had long cryed to GOD for the deliverance of his people, and laid up many prayers; their cry came up, as was said; and when God doth deliver them, Page 144 what tokens were there of good? and of GODS hand in it, and of his an∣swer to their prayers? The Text notes (as was observed before) that a dog did not barke at their going out, Exod. 11. 7. which was a small circumstance, but it was magnum indici∣um, and so intended by God; for the Text addes, That ye may know that God puts a difference between the Israelites and the Egypti∣ans. This was a •oken of Gods hand, to over-rule the tongues of rude bruit creatures, that use to stir at such unusuall noises, and at travellers especial∣ly in the night. So when Isaac and Abraham, and Page 145 his servant also, had pray∣ed for a Wife for Isaac, see by what a token God shewed he had heard their prayers; Rebekkah was the first that came out to the servant sent to bring a wife for him: and if shee be the woman appointed for Isaac (saies the servant) Let her offer me drinke,*and my Camels also: this was a small thing in appea∣rance, but a great indicium of Gods hand in it, and therefore the servant bow∣ed at it, and worshipped: and the signe in it selfe was such, as argued a good nature in her, and a kinde courteous dispositi∣on, which therefore (it may bee) hee singled out, Page 146 as a token of a meet wife, as a thing especially to be looked at in the mariage choise.
*Againe, the considera∣tion of the time, wherein the things we have asked▪ are granted, may much help us to discerne, whe∣ther it be in answer to our prayers. For God who doth all things in weight and measure, shewes his wisdome and love, as much in the season, as in giving the thing it selfe: GOD considereth all times of thy life, and still chosseth the best and fittest to an∣swer thy prayers in, In an acceptable time have I heard thee. So Esay 49. 8. As Da∣vid (in like maner sayes) Page 147 hee prayed in an acceptable time, Psal. 69. 13. So accor∣dingly God answers in the best and most acceptable time to us; for he waits to be gracious, for he is a God of judgement, Esay 30. 18. that is, Hee is a wise God that knowes the fittest times and seasons, where∣in to shew kindnesses, and to deale forth his favours in.
*As first, it may be, that at that very time when thou hast beene most in∣stant and earnest, yea even whilest thou art a pray∣ing or presently after, the thing is done and accom∣plisht. To this purpose is that of Esay 65. 24. That as sometimes he heares be∣fore Page 148 they call (which ar∣gues much love to give mercies unsought) so also whilest they are speaking, I will heare, and grant the thing, which argues no lesse love; and he culs out that time on purpose, that they might rest assured that it was in answer to their prayer. Thus to as∣sure Hezekiah his prayer was heard, God sent the Prophet in unto him whi∣lest hee was a praying and weeping, with his head tur∣ned towards the wall. So Isaac going out to pray in the field, meets his Re∣bekkah then a comming;* that blessing of a good Wife, being surely the great request temporall Page 149 hee was then in Treaty with God for: this Rebek∣kah was the fruit of many prayers. So when S. Peter was in prison, the Church being gathered together to pray for him, S. Peter comes and knocks at the same houre, Acts 12. from the 12. ver. to the 18. So as it often falls out herein, as to the Ruler in the Gospel, Iob. 4. 52. who in∣quiring diligently, found that the same houre that Christ had said to him, Thy sonne liveth, his son recove∣red, and so he beleeved, and his whole houshold: So also here, that sometimes the thing is done, or the newes of it comes the same houre or soone after, Page 150 wherein a man was pray∣ing about it, and haply then when the heart was most stirred about it, more then at any time else: this is a signe it was an answer of prayers, and may help to confirme a mans faith in it, as that al∣so did his.
*Or secondly, when it is the most acceptable and every way the fittest time to have the thing granted. At that time, 1. when thou hadst most neede, and 2. when thy heart was most fit for it. For in answering prayers, God aimes especially at two things: 1. To shew his mercy, that a man might magnifie and exalt that: Page 151 And 2. To have the heart satisfied and filled with joy and contentment in his answer, and the thing made sweet, and a mercy indeed to him: in briefe, that his goodnesse might be delighted in, and his mercy exalted.* And for these two purposes he culs out such times, when we have most need; and also when our hearts are most subdued, and our lusts mortified. For then we are fittest to rellish his goodnesse alone, and not to bee drawne away with the carnall sweetnesse that is in the thing. The one you have exprest, Esay 30. 18. Hee waits to bee gracious to have his mercy exalted. The se∣cond Page 152 intimated Iames 5. Ye aske and receive not, be∣cause ye aske amisse, to con∣sume upon your lusts; Such prayers, whilest the heart is in this temper, the Lord denies, or deferres in mer∣cie till the heart bee wea∣ned.
*For the first of these: As, suppose thou diddest pray long for assurance of salvation, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and when thou hadst most need of it, either when thy spirit would have failed without it, as Esay 57. 16. Or a∣gainst some great afflicti∣on approaching, or some great encounter with the world for the Name of Christ, then God filled thy Page 155 heart with it, &c. that was the fittest time: now hath God heard thy pray∣er. As S. Peter hee was in Prison, and had beene so for many dayes, as ap∣peares by the fourth and fifth verses, Acts 12. God could haue delivered him at any time, while the Church prayed for him, ver. 5. But God kept him in on purpose, till that very night, when in the next morning Herod meant to bring him forth to execution, and then God delivered him at the prayers of the Church; then was the most fit time; As the Psalmist sayes, The full time to have mercy on him was come.* And then Page 154 to receive an answer, is a signe God did it out of speciall love, which love hee would have exalted by thee, as Esay 30. 18.
*If 2. when thy heart was most fit for the mercy, it was granted, then art thou also heard in an ac∣ceptable time: for God doth not with hold mer∣cies from those that are his, out of want of love; neither so much for what is past, as for the present evill disposition of their hearts, whereby they are unfit to receive them: and in this sense likewise may that bee understood, that God prepareth the heart: and heareth the pray∣er, Psal. 10. 17.
Page 155 As first, when thy heart is most weaned from that temporall mercy (suppo∣sing it such) granted thee upon seeking of it: So David, when had hee the Kingdome in possession given him? then, when hee was as a weaned child, and had his high thoughts (which haply at the first newes of it had risen in his minde) purged out, Psal. 131. 2. I have no high thoughts, &c. sayes hee then; Thus, when thy heart had let all carnall ends goe, and had beta∣ken it selfe alone to God, for thy portion to be had alone out of him then the thing prayed for comes to passe: this was the Page 156 fittest season.
[Object.] .But you will bee ready to say, To have a thing when my heart is taken off from it, and even con∣tented not to have it, makes it to be as no mer∣cy: for where there is no desire, there is no rejoy∣cing.
[Answ.] If thy desire bee taken off the thing, then thou wilt rejoyce the more in GOD now; and though the thing of it self should now give thee lesse satis∣faction, yet God by the thing wil give thee more, and he will make it up; for thou wilt rellish his love and sweetnesse in it now, which is better then life, and therefore much bet∣ter Page 157 than that thing enjoy∣ed; and indeed the vio∣lence of the desire before, would have made it lesse sweet, for the thing alone would not have filled and contented that desire, when it was an inordinate lust, and so thou wouldst have beene vexed with it, rather than satisfied, and found a greater vanity in it: but now when it is be∣come a subordinate de∣sire unto God, that the desire is downe, and the heart quieted and con∣tented with God in the thing: the heart sayes as she said, I have enough. So 2. likewise thou maist have an affliction thou pray∣edst long against taken off Page 158 then, when thy heart was most willing to accept thy punishment (as Moses's phrase is,*) and to submit to God in it.
*A third thing you are to observe concerning the accomplishment of the thing prayed for, whereby you may discern whether granted in ans∣wer to prayers, is, when thou seest God in his dea∣lings with thee, and an∣swering of thee, to deale in a kinde of proportion with thy manner of pray∣ing and seeking of him, and of walking with him whilest thou were depen∣dant on him, for such or such a mercy. And as you may see a proportion be∣tween Page 159 sinnes and punish∣ments, which are the re∣wards of them; that you can say, such a sin brought forth this affliction, it is so like the Father: so you might see the like pro∣portion, betweene your prayers, and your walking with God, and Gods ans∣wers to you, and his dea∣lings with you. So did David, Psal. 18. 24. Accor∣ding to the cleannesse of my hands hath he recompenced me, &c. His speech notes some similitude or like∣nesse: as for example, The more by-ends or carnall desires you had in pray∣ing, and the more you mingled of these with your holy desires, and the Page 160 more want of zeale, fer∣vency, &c. were found in your prayers, the more you shall (it may be) finde of bitternesse mingled with the mercy, when it is granted; and so much imperfection, and want of comfort in it: so sayes Da∣vid in the same Psal. verse 25. 26. With the pure thou wilt shew thy selfe pure. Pure prayers have pure blessings; & è contra: With the foward thou wilt shew thy selfe froward: and a∣gaine, as you in praying sometimes slackened and grew cold, so you might see the businesse in like manner to coole, and cast backward: as when Moses hands were downe, Amalck Page 161 prevailed; but when they were lifted up, Israel had the better, Exod. 17. 12. God let him see a propor∣tion, which argued his prayer was the meanes of prevailing. A man findes in praying, that his suite sometimes sticks, and goes not on as he expected, this is because he gives not so good a fee as he was wont, and doth not ply God, and solicite him; but on the contrary, when hee was stirred up to pray, then still hee found things to goe well: by this a man may clearely see, that it was the praier which God did heare and regarded. Thus likewise when a man sees hils and dales in Page 162 a businesse, faire hopes of∣ten, and then all dasht a∣gaine, and the thing in the end brought to passe, let him looke back upon his prayers: didst not thou in like maner just thus deale with God? When thou hadst prayed earnestly, and thought thou hadst even carried it, then dash all againe, by interposing some sin, and thus againe and againe? Herein God would have you observe a proportion; and it may help you to discern, how, and when they are answe∣red, and obtained by pray∣er; because God deales thus with you therein in such a proportion to your prayers.
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.
Considerations to quiet the heart, and to help it to dis∣cerne an answer to, and acceptation of the prayer when the thing is not accomplisht.
*BUt now the next and more difficult questi∣on is, When the thing is not granted, how shall we then discerne and know, that God doth notwithstand∣ing heare the prayer?
Concerning which, I must premise this, that it is true, that alwayes the very thing it selfe desi∣red is not granted, when yet the prayer is heard. Page 184 Christ prayed, the Cup might passe from him, which though some in∣terpret the word passing, for the short continuance of the brunt, and that therefore in that respect hee was heard directly in what he asked: yet if so, why was that clause if it be possible, added? that argues his petition was for a to∣tall removall, yet with subjection to Gods will; for he knew there was no great impossibility in a short removall of it: nay, it was impossible but that it should passe, Acts 2. 24. But howsoever, it is plain in Moses, about his go∣ing into Canaan: Deut. 3. 26. I besought the Lord,Page 185 sayes hee, ver. 23. and hee was angry with mee, and would not heare me. ver. 26. Likewise ere I come to re∣solve the case, an objecti∣on is also to be removed, which is,
That if the Spirit of GOD doth make every faithfull prayer in us, as Rom. 8. 26. it is said Hee doth; wee know not what to pray for, but the Spirit help∣eth our infirmities, &c. and he searcheth the deep things of God, as it is said, 1 Cor. 2. that therefore hee know∣ing that GOD will not grant such a thing, you may think that he should not stirre up the heart to pray for that which God meanes to deny, but al∣wayes Page 186 guide the heart a∣right, and not let us erre or misse in the things wee pray for. To this, in briefe by way of answer.
*1. The Spirit makes not prayers in us, alwayes according to what Gods secret will and foreknow∣ledge is,* but according to his revealed will to us, both in his word, and in his providence, as things therein are presented to us, and doe lie before our view, and so not alwayes according to what hee meanes to doe, but accor∣ding to what it is our duty to pray most for: for hee concurres to assist us to pray, as he doth in preach∣ing or using other such Page 187 like meanes and Ordinan∣ces, wherein though the spirit knowes whom God meanes to convert, whom not, yet he assists us Mini∣sters in our spirits often∣times as much to preach to those hee meanes not to convert, as to those hee meanes to convert: Hee dealing with us therein according to what is our duty, not according to what is his decree.
Againe, secondly, that phrase helpes to answer this, when hee is said to helpe our infirmities, and therefore not according to his owne vast know∣ledge, doth he frame our prayers, but so, as hee ap∣plies his assistance to our Page 188 infirme, weake, and nar∣row apprehensions, and stirres up desires in us to such things, as according to our knowledge wee are in duty to conceive, and which by all wee can see, by what is afore us re∣vealed in his providence, we thinke to be most for our good, and his glory; and God accepts such de∣sires as from us, but yet doth for us according to the largenese of his owne love.
*And so now to come to the case propounded, and therein unto helps to pacifie, and direct the heart about those prayers at which the things are not granted.
Page 189 And first, how diddest thou frame thy prayer for that thing which is deny∣ed thee? Didst thou pray for it absolutely, and per∣emptorily as simply best for thee? thou must not then think much, if such a prayer bee denyed, for therein thou wentest be∣yond thy commission: but if thou didst pray for it conditionally, and with an (if) as Christ did, if it be possible (which instance is a strong ground for such kinde of prayers) and not my will, but thy will be done, so, as thou didst referre it unto, and trust Gods judge∣ment in the thing, and not thine owne, onely didst put him in mind as thy Page 190 duty was, of what was re∣presented to thee as best for thee in view, and so left it to him to cast, and didst, referre it to His will and wisedome:* Then thy prayer may be most fully answered and heard, and yet the thing denied, and thou art to interpret, and God takes meaning and mind revealed in the e∣vent in the best sense, which way soever it falls: for otherwise, CHRIST had not been heard, when yet, the Text sayes, Hee was heard in all hee feared, Hebr. 5. 7.
*2. Observe, if there were not a reservation in that denial, for some grea∣ter and further mercy, Page 191 whereof that deniall was the foundation. Thus 1 oftentimes some great crosse is prevented, by the deniall of a thing, which we were urgent for: if we had had many of our de∣sires, we had been undone: So it was a mercy to Da∣vid, that his childe was taken away, for whose life he was yet so earnest, who would have been but a li∣ving monument of his shame. It was also a mer∣cy to David, that Absalom was taken away, (whom surely he prayed much for, for hee loved him much) who if he had lived, might have beene the ruine of him and his house. As a wicked mans deliverance Page 192 and the granting his re∣quest layes a foundation, and is a reservation of him to a worse Judge∣ment: So, the deniall of a Godly mans prayer is for his greater good, and is laid as a foundation of a greater mercy: 2 and a∣gaine, oftentimes the ve∣ry deniall breaks a mans heart, and brings him nea∣rer to God, puts him upon searching into his wayes, and estate, and in his pray∣ers to see what should be amisse therein, which a∣lone is a great mercy; and better then the thing, see∣ing by the losse of that one thing hee learns how to pray better, and so to obtaine a hundred better Page 193 things afterward. Christ desired the Cup might passe, it did not; and that was the foundation of our sal∣vation, & the way to His glory: Hee being to passe through that suffering in∣to His glory: The woman that had the bloody issue, though shee used many meanes, and haply prayers among the rest, and all in vaine, yet none tooke ef∣fect; that in the end shee might come to Christ, and have both body and soule healed at once.
*3 Observe if there be to a transmutation and a translation or turning of •he thing desired into some other greater bles∣•ing of the same kind: for Page 194 God (all whose wayes are mercy and truth to His peo∣ple) doth improve, hus∣band, and lay out the pre∣cious stocks of their pray∣ers, to the best advantage, in things, whereby the greatest returns and gains may accrue: as old Iacob laid not his Hand of bles∣sing as Ioseph would have guided them, but laid the right hand upon the yon∣ger Sonne, whom Ioseph did set at his left: So of∣ten doth God take off his hand of blessing from the thing we prayed for, and laies & discovers it in an∣other more for our good: and as God giving Isaac the power and priviledge to blesse a sonne, though Page 195Isaac hee intended it for Esau, yet God unbeknown to him transmitted it to Iacob, yet so, as the bles∣sing was not lost: Thus is it in our prayers for bles∣sings both upon our selves and others. There is of∣ten a transmutation, ne∣ver a frustration of them: which may as truely and directly bee called an an∣swer to the prayer; As if a factor beyond Sea, when the owner sends for such and such commodities, supposing them more ven∣dible and advantagious, but the Factor know∣ing the state of things, and the prices, sends him •ver in stead of them, such as shall sell better, Page 196 and bring in more profit, may be said to answer his letters, and that better, then if hee had sent those very commidities he writ for; Thus Abrahams pray∣ers for Ishmael were tur∣ned for Isaac: Davids for the Childe to Solomon.
*4 Observe if in the end God doth not answer thee still according to the ground of thy prayer: that is, see if that holy end, intention, and affection, which thou hadst in pray∣er, be not in the end fully satisfied, though not in the thing thou didst de∣sire: for God answers, Secundum cardinem, accor∣ding to the hinge which the prayer turnes upon. Page 197 As when a General is sent out with an Army, by a King or a State, who give him many particular di∣rections, how to order and dispose, and manage the war, although in ma∣ny particulars that fall out, wherein they could not foresee to give so pun∣ctuall and particular dire∣ctions, he swerve from the directions, yet if he keeps to the intent of their Commission, and doth what is most advantagi∣ous for their ends, he may bee said to keepe to his Commission. For as they say of the Law, Mens leg is est lex▪ the mind of the Law is the Law, not the bare words it is printed in: so Page 198 the Meaning of the Spirit is the prayer, Rom. 8. 27. and not simply the things desired, wherein wee ex∣presse those our desires: and still the meaning, the intent, the ground of our prayers shall be answered. To open this, the maine ends, and meanings of our hearts in our requests are Gods glory, the Chur∣ches good, and our owne particular comfort and happinesse: we can desire but comfort, and a man looketh out, and spieth out such a particular mer∣cie, which hee thinketh tends much to Gods glo∣ry, and his happinesse, and yet that thing is deni∣ed; yet notwithstanding Page 199 God will answer him ac∣cording to the meaning of his prayers, his glory shall certainely be advan∣ced, even for that prayer of his, some other way, and his comfort made up, which is the common de∣sire of all mankinde: and thou canst have but com∣fort, let the thing bee what it will that con∣veighs it to thee; and God will take order that that comfort thy soule desired, thou shalt have come in one way or other, which when it doth, thou canst not but say thy prayers are heard. For as God ful∣fils his promises, so hee heares prayers, there is the same reason of both: Page 200 now God hath promised, Hee that leaves Father and Mother, shall have an hun∣dred fold: not in specie, as we say, in kinde, this can∣not alwayes bee fulfilled, for an hundred Fathers he cannot have. God ful∣fills it not therefore al∣wayes in the same kinde, but in some other things, which shall be more then a hundred Fathers would bee.
Moses hee prayes hee might goe into Canaan, God answers the ground of his prayer, though not in the matter in it expres∣sed and desired, and that both for Moses his com∣fort and his owne glory; for hee takes him up to Page 201 heaven, the true Canaan, whereof that Canaan was but a type, and hee ap∣points Ioshua a fresh and a young man, comming on in the world, and one whom Moses himselfe had tutored and brought up, and was his pupill, ser∣vant and attendant, Num. 6. 11, 28. and this was more for Gods glory, for Ioshua was therein to bee he type of Christ lead∣ing us to heaven, which the Law (of which Moses was the type) could not bring us unto by reason of the weaknesse of it; and he being yong did it better: and it was not so much al∣so for Gods glory, that one man should doe all; Page 202 and whereas Moses desired to have the honour of it; in that his servant that at∣tended him, and had been brought up by him, and had all from him, that hee was the man should doe it, was well nigh as great an honour to Moses, as if hee had beene the leader himselfe. And so David when hee desired to build the Temple and an house to God, for the like rea∣sons God denied it, but yet honoured him to pre∣pare the materialls, and to draw the patterne, as also in that his Son did it, who was therein also the like type of Christ, being a Prince of peace, but David a man of blood and war, Page 203 and likewise God accep∣ted this of David, as if he had built it, and will re∣compence him as much.
*5. Observe, if in the thing which thou hast prayed much about, though it be denyed thee, yet if God doth not en∣deavour to give thee (as I may so speake) all satisfa∣ction that may be, even as if hee were tender of de∣nying thee, and therefore doth much in it for thy prayers sake, though the conclusion proves other∣wise, as being against some other purpose of his, for some other ends: As when hee denied Mo∣ses to goe into the Land of Canaan, hee did it with Page 204 much respect (as I may so speak with reverence) to Moses: he yeelded as far as might bee, for hee let him leade them, till hee should come to the very borders; and hee let him see that good Land, carry∣ing him up to an hill, and (as it is thought) by a mi∣racle inabled his sight to view the whole Land; and the man hee chose to performe this work, was his servant, which was a great honour to Moses; that one brought up by him should succeed him. So when Abraham prayed for Ishmael, Oh let Ismael live in thy sight, Gen. 17. 18. God went as far in gran∣ting his request as might Page 205 be; for, sayes hee, ver. 20. I have heard thee, and I have blessed him, and I will make him fruitfull, and multiply him exceedingly, and hee shall beget twelve Princes; but my covenant I will esta∣blish with Isaac. So like∣wise, when in casting that thing, thou didst seeke at his hands, he shews an ex∣traordinary hand in tur∣ning it; it is a signe he had a respect to thee, that hee would vouchsafe to dis∣cover his hand so much in it; let the thing fall which way it will, if Gods hand appeare much in it, thou mayest comfortably con∣clude, that there is some great thing in it, and that prayer wrought that mi∣racle Page 206 in it, to dispose it so; and that there is some great reason why hee de∣nies thee, and a great re∣spect had to thy prayers, in that he is pleased to disco∣ver so extraordinary a providence about it.
*Lastly, looke into the effect of that deniall upon thine owne heart; as,
1 If thy heart be inlar∣ged to acknowledge God, to be holy and righteous in his dealings with thee, and thine own unworthi∣nesse the cause of his de∣nying thee. Thus we of∣ten find the Saints expres∣sing themselves in their prayers: that Psal. 22. though typically made of Christ; yet as it was pen∣ned Page 207 by David, and as it may concerne his person, it may serve for an in∣stance for this, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not: this might have made him jealous of God; but saies he, Thou art holy, &c. and dealest now with me in an holy manner, and art just in it: Others have called on thee, and have been heard, though I now for my unworthinesse am denied: But I am a worme. It might have put a man off, when he should think, others are heard, but not I, but it puts not him off, but humbles him, I am a worme, &c. And Thou art holy.
*2 If God fill thy heart Page 208 with an holy contentmēt in the deniall; if he speak to thy heart, as he did to Moses, when hee denied him, Deut. 3. Let it suffice thee; if as to S. Paul, when hee was so earnest about removing that buffeting, if thou gettest but such an answer as that to him, My grace is sufficient; or that some such like considera∣tion is dropt in that stayes thee: It was the effect of Davids seven dayes fast∣ing, that he did so conten∣tedly beare the losse of the Childe, which his ser∣vants thought would have overwhelmed him, 2. Sam. 12. 19, 20, 21. But a consi∣deration was dropt in, which was the fruit of his Page 209 prayer, That he should goe to him, not hee returne hi∣ther; and his minde was comforted thereby, in so much, as it is said, ver. 24. That he comforted Bath she∣ba also.
*3 If thou canst bee thankfull to God out of faith, that God hath cast and ordered all for the best, though hee hath de∣nyed thee; and although thou seest no reason, but that the thing prayed for, would have beene for the best, yet art thankfull up∣on the deniall of it, out of faith resting in Gods judgement in it: As Da∣vid, in all those foremen∣tioned places was, Thou art holy, that inhabitest the Page 210 prayses of Israel; he praises God for all this: David before he did eate, after his seven dayes fasting for the childe, arose, And went first into the Temple and worshipped, 2. Sam. 12. 20. and of what kinde of worship it was, appeares by his anointing himselfe and changing his raiment, which was in token of re∣joycing and thanksgi∣ving, and it fell out to him according to his faith, for presently after, Solomon was begotten, vers. 24.
*4 If thou canst pray still and givest not over, although thou standest for mercies which thou missest; if when thou hast Page 211 mercies granted, thou fea∣rest most, and when deni∣ed, lovest most, and art not discouraged, thy pray∣ers are heard, Psal. 80. 4. Though God seemed an∣gry with their praiers, yet they pray, and expostu∣late with him, and give not over, for they made that Psalme as a Prayer, And how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? So Psal. 44. 17. Though wee are cast among Dragons, yee wee have not beene false in thy Covenant. So say thou, I will pray still, though I never have an answer in this life. It moves ingenuous natures to see men take repulses and denialls well, which Page 212 proud persons will not doe: and so it moves God.
Application: A reproofe of those that pray, but looke not after the returne of their prayers: The causes of this neglect.
THe use of all is,* to re∣prove those, who put up prayers, and are ear∣nest in begging, but looke not after them when they have done, no more than if they had not prayed: who still venture, & have a great stock of prayers Page 213 going, but looke not after the returns that are made, cast not up their com∣mings in and gainings by prayers; and when they have prayed, sit down dis∣couraged, as not making account in earnest that ever they shall heare of their prayers againe, even as if they had been but as words cast away: as beat∣ing the ayre; as bread cast upon the waters, which they thinke sinks, or is carried away, and they shall finde it no more; but herein you despise Gods Ordi∣nance, and erre, not knowing the power of prayers; and yee contemne the Lord But you wil say as they in the Prophet said, Where∣in Page 214 in doe wee contemne him? if you askt a man a questi∣on, and when you had done, did turne your back upon him, as scoffing Pi∣late askt in scorne of Christ, What is truth? but would not stay for an an∣swere, did you not con∣temne him? as not to an∣swer when a question is asked you, is contempt, so not to regard the answer made, when you have beene earnest in begging, is no lesse contempt also: if you had writ letters to a very friend about im∣portant businesse, and had earnestly solicited him for an answer, and hee were carefull in due time to send one, if you should Page 215 make account to heare of him no more, should you not wrong him in your thoughts? Or if hee did write, if you should not vouchsafe to reade over his answer, were it not a contempt of him? so is it here, when you have been earnest with God for bles∣sings, and regard not the answer: and because veri∣ly this is a fault among us, I will therefore endevour to discover to you the cau∣ses and discouragements,* which though they keepe you not from praying, yet from this earnest expecta∣tion, and reall, and true making account to heare of answers of your pray∣ers; onely my scope is, not Page 216 to shew you so much the reasons, why God denies you many requests, as why even in your owne hearts you are discoura∣ged after you have pray∣ed, as if they would not bee answered, although God doth answer them. These discouragements are partly temptations, partly sinfull impediments wherein wee are more faulty.
*1 Because your assu∣rance that your persons are accepted, is weake, therfore your confidence that your prayers are heard, is weake also: For as God doth first accept the person, and then our prayers: so the beliefe, Page 217 that God doth accept our person is that which al∣so upholds our hearts in confidence that our pray∣ers shall be granted: this you may finde in 1 Iohn 5. 13, 14, 15. in the 13. vers. he sayes. These things have I written to you, that ye may know you have eternall life: and upon that assurance this will follow, Vers. 14, 15. And this is the confi∣dence that we have in him, that if we aske any thing ac∣cording to his will, he heares us, &c. And if we know he heares us, we know we have the petitions wee desired of him. Marke how he links these three together, as effects and consequences each of other. 1. These Page 218 things I write unto you, that you may be assured, that life and heaven is yours, as in 12. and 13. verses. And up∣on that 2. this confidence wil follow in your hearts, That God hears you, that is, that you have his eares o∣pen to you, and his heart enlarged towards you: and then 3. if you be assu∣red that God heares you, then from this will follow an assurance, that You shall have any thing granted you desire; yea, and he makes this one of the maine and immediate effects of As∣surance of justification; therefore he sayes, this is the confidence that we have in him; that is, this effect there is of this confidence, Page 219 for whereas they might say, what benefit will ac∣crue to us by this assu∣rance? why this saies hee, which is one of the great and maine priviledges of a Christian, even assurance that God will heare him; and not only so, but grant him all his prayers. For when a man is assured God hath given him his Son, he will then easily be induced to beleeve and expect, How shal he not with him give mee all things? Rom. 8. 32. If once he looks upon God as a Father, he will then easily conceive that which Christ sayes, If Fathers that are evill can give good things to their Children, how much more Page 220 shall not your Father give his spirit, and all good things to them that aske them: and if he gave his Son, when wee did not pray to him, how much more shall hee not with him give us all things wee pray for? If a man comes to sue to any man whose mind he knew not, whether hee loved him or not, he would have small hope or expectation of having his suite gran∣ted, though hee came a∣gaine and again; but if he be assured he is in favour with him, according to that degree of favour, hee supposeth himself to stand in with him, hee is assured and confident of obtain∣ing his request.
Page 221* 2 Discouragement is the weaknesse of their prayers: though a man thinks his person is accep∣ted, yet alas sayes he, my prayers are so poore and weake, as surely God will never regard them. To remove which, let mee first aske thee this questi∣on: [ 1] Doest thou pray with all thy might? then though that thy might be weak in it selfe, and in thine owne apprehension such, yet because it is all the might which thou hast, and which grace hath in thee, it shall be accepted. For God accepts according to what a man hath, and not ac∣cording to that he hath not. 2 Cor. 8. 12.
Page 222 [ 2] 2. Thou art to consi∣der that God doth not heare thee for thy prayers sake, though not without them, but for his Names sake, and his Sons sake, and because thou art his child, as the mother when her child cryes (suppose it be a weake child) doth not neglect to heare and re∣lieve it: but tenders it not because it doth cry more lowd, but because it cries; and pities it the more the weaker it is.
[ 3] 3. Againe, though the performance in it selfe be weake, yet confidered as a prayer, it may be strong, because a weake prayer may set the strong God a worke, as faith for the act Page 223 of it, as produced by us may be weak, yet because its object is Christ, there∣fore it justifies: so it is in prayer, it prevailes, not because of the perfor∣mance it selfe, but because of the name, which it is put up in, even Christs name; and therefore as a weake faith justifies, so a weake prayer prevailes as well as a stronger; and both for the like reason in both, for faith attributes all to God, and so doth prayer; for as faith is meerly a receiving grace, so prayer a begging grace. And therefore dost thou think thy prayers are ac∣cepted at all, notwithstan∣ding their weaknesse? if Page 224 that they are accepted, then they must be accep∣ted as prayers, now if they be accepted as prayers, then as effectuall motives to prevaile with God to grant the thing you aske; for if hee should not ac∣cept them to that end, for which they were ordai∣ned, it is as if hee accepted them not at all. As there∣fore when he approves of any mans faith as true and sincere, hee approves and accepts of it to that pur∣pose, for which it was or∣dained, which is to save and justifie, and to this end doth as fully accept the weakest act of faith, as the strongest; so is it with their prayers, which Page 225 being ordained as a means to obtaine mercies from him, if hee accepts them at all, it is with relation to the accomplishment of them, which is their end.
4. Men are mistaken in judging of the weak∣nes of their prayers, they judge of the weaknesse of their prayers by their ex∣pressions, and gifts in per∣forming them, or by the stirring and overflow of affections, whereas the strength & vigor of pray∣er should be estimated from the faith, the since∣rity, the obedience, the desires exprest in it. As it is not the lowdnesse of a Preachers voice, but the Page 226 weight and holinesse of the matter, and spirit of the Preacher, that moves a wise, and an intelligent hearer: so not gifts, but graces in prayers are they that move the Lord. The strength of prayer lies not in words, but in that it is fitted to prevaile with God; one prayer is not more strong then ano∣ther, further then it is so framed as it hath power with God more or lesse; as of Iacob it is said, he had po∣wer with God, Hos. 12. Now prayers move God, not as an Oratour moves his hearers, but as a child moves his father: two words of a childe hum∣bled, and crying at his fa∣thers Page 227 feet, will prevaile more then penned orati∣ons. Rom. 8. It is the mean∣ning of the spirit, that God lookes unto, more then the expressions: for the groans there are said to be unutterable. Hezechiahs ex∣pressions were so rude and broken, that he sayes, Esay 38. 14. that he did but chatter, (hee being then sick,) even as a crane, yet God heard them.
*A third discourage∣ment is faylings of ans∣wers; I have prayed often and long, and I have been seldome or never answe∣red, and therefore I make little account of my pray∣ers, that they are heard: o∣thers have the revenewes Page 228 of their prayers comming in, but I doe misse whatso∣ever almost I stand for: Therefore say they as those, Why have we fasted, and thou regardest it not? Isay 58. 3.
[ 1] To remove this, consi∣der, 1. That thou hast the more reason to wait, for thou hast the more ans∣wers to come: for as wick∣ed men treasure up wrath, so doe godly men mercy, and especially by their prayers; & therefore mer∣cies, and answers do often come thick together, even as afflictions also doe.
[ 2] Suppose thou shouldst have few answers concer∣ning the things thou see∣kest for here, either in Page 229 praying for thy selfe or others, yet thy reward is with the Lord. It is in pray∣ing as in preaching, a man may preach faithfully many a yeere, and yet not convert a soule, and yet a man is not to give over waiting, but to observe after every Sermon what good is done, and whe∣ther God will give men repentance, as it is, 2 Tim. 2. 25. And if none be con∣verted, yet as Esay 49. 4. A mans reward is with the Lord. Every man shall re∣ceive his own reward accor∣ding to his own labour. 1 Cor. 3. 8. and not according to the successe of his labour only. So it is in praying, though thou missest a∣gaine Page 230 and again, & nothing succeeds thou prayest for, yet be not discouraged, for thy reward is with the Lord, which will come in one day.
[ 3] 3. God doth it, not that hee heares thee not, but to try thee; for a man to say as David sayes, Psal. 116. 1, 2. God hath heard my prayer, therefore I will call upon him as long as I live, that is nothing so much as to be able to say, Well, I have prayed thus long, and for these many things, and never sped, and yet I will call upon him whilst I live, though I find no answer in this life. To finde commings in, in a trade, and yet to hold out Page 231 trading still, argues not so much faithfulnesse in a mans calling, as when a man hath losses, and ca∣stings behind hand, and yet to follow it.
[ 4] 4. God usually stayes so long that we have done expecting, Luke 18. 8. The Elect cry day and night, but God stayes so long, ver. 7. that when he comes hee findes not faith, they have done expecting, have for∣got their prayers, and then hee doth things,*they looked not for.
*Other discouragements there are wherein we our selves are more faulty, and which are our sins, more then our temptations, which yet weaken the ex∣pectation Page 232 of having our prayers answered: as,
*1 Slothfulnesse in pray∣er, when wee doe not put to all our might in pray∣ing, and then no wonder, we doe not onely not ob∣taine, but that our owne hearts misgive us, that we look for little successe and issue of such prayers, Qui frigidè rogat, docet negare; he that shews himself cold in a suite, teaches him he sues to to deny him; if wee see one seeking to us faintly, and slightly, wee are not then sollicitous to deny him, but thinke hee will be easily put off, and not thinke much; so ac∣cordingly when wee shall observe so much by our Page 233 selves, and see our selves slothfull in praying, and praying as if we prayed not, no wonder if by reason of that consciousnesse, wee looke not after the suc∣cesse of such prayers, which in the performance wee slighted; when wee pray, as if wee were wil∣ling to bee denyed, wee knowing that the Scrip∣ture sayes, that the fervent prayer onely prevailes, that prayer which is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that sets all the faculties on worke, Iames 5. 16. How should wee then ex∣pect that God should grant any good thing to us? For though God sels nothing to us for our prayers, but gives freely, Page 234 yet hee would have his gifts accepted: now with∣out large desires, and lon∣gings they would not be accepted: and what is fer∣vent prayer, but the ex∣pression of such fervent desires? Iacob wrestled when he obtained: many seeke to enter, sayes Christ, but you must strive. Now when wee know these things, and yet are sloth∣full, how can wee expect any answers at all? will not the consciousnesse of it quell all our expectati∣ons? and hence it comes to passe that God propor∣tioning his dealings with us to our prayers, because we seeme to pray, and yet pray not to purpose, Page 235 therefore God hee some∣times seemes like one a∣sleepe, and then some∣times to wake, and make faire offers to helpe, and yet falls as it were asleepe againe, because we were thus drowsie in our pray∣ers; those prayers that a∣waken God, must awa∣ken us: Those prayers that stir God, must first stirre us to lay hold on God as Isaiah speakes: as obe∣dience strengthens faith and assurance, so ferven∣cy in prayer begets confi∣dence of being heard. In all other things slothful∣nesse doth discourage and weaken expectation: doth any man expect that rich∣es should come upon him Page 236 when hee doth his busi∣nesse negligently? for it is the diligent hand that ma∣keth rich: doth any man expect a crop and a har∣vest, if hee takes not pains to plow, and sowe his Corne? no more if you doe not take paines with your hearts in Prayer, can you expect an answer, or indeed will you.
*2 Cause: or sinfull discouragement herein, is looking at prayer onely as a duty to be performed, and so performing it as a taske, and not so much out of desires stirred up after the things to be ob∣tained, nor out of faith that we shall obtain them; which is as if a PhysitianPage 237 having a sick servant, to whom he prescribeth, and commandeth to take some physicke to cure him, and his man should take it in∣deed because it is com∣manded and prescribed by his master, looking at it as an act of duty as hee obeyes him in other busi∣nesses, but not as looking at it as a medicine, or meanes, that will have a∣ny worke upon him to cure him, and therefore orders himselfe as if hee had taken no such thing. Thus doe most in the world pray to God, take prayer as a prescription on∣ly, but not as a meanes: they come to God daily, but as to a Master onely in Page 238 this performance, not as to a Father, and thus do∣ing, no wonder if they looke for little effect of prayers: for our expecta∣tion never exceeds or reaches further then our end and intention, which we had in any businesse. If I perform any Ordinance, but as a duty, then I rest therein, and expect no fur∣ther: as if a man preach∣eth for filthy lucre onely, he performs his duty and then lookes for his hire, but lookes not after any other effect of his Ser∣mons: so nor will men doe after their prayers for answers to them when they performe them as duties onely. Now to Page 239 help you in this, you are to looke to two things in prayer.* First to a command from God. Secondly to the promise of God: and so to consider it in a dou∣ble relation, first as a duty, in respect to the Command, secondly as a means to ob∣taine or procure blessings at Gods hand in relation to his promise: therefore in prayer, first an act of obe∣dience, secondly an act of faith is to bee exercised, aske in faith nothing waver∣ing, Iam. 1. Now the most in the world performe it as an act of obedience on∣ly, and so rest in the pre∣sent performance and ac∣ceptation of it, but if a man pray in faith, hee will Page 240pray with an eye to the promises; and looke on prayer as a meanes for time to come to obtaine such or such a mercy at Gods hands; and if so, then he is not satisfied till hee hath an answer of his prayers, and till then will wait, as the Church sayes, Shee would wait till hee did arise and plead her cause.
*A third sinfull discou∣ragement is returning to sinnes after prayers, when a man hath prayed for some mercy, and riseth full of much confidence that his prayers are heard, and so a while he walkes, yet falling into a sin, that sin doth dash al his hopes, undoes his prayers, (as he Page 241 thinkes) and calls them backe againe, meetes as it were with the answer, which is Gods messenger, and causeth it to returne to heaven againe. How often when God had even granted a petition, and the decree was a com∣ming forth, and the grant newly written, and the seale a setting to it, but an act of treason com∣ming betweene, stops it in the seale, and deferres it, blots and blurreth all, both prayer and grant when newly written, and leaves a guilt in the mind, which quells our hopes, and then wee looke no more after our prayers; and this especially if when we Page 242 were a sinning, such a thought came in, (as of∣ten it doth to restrain us) are you not in dependāce upon God for such a mer∣cy, and have prayed for it, and are faire for it, how then dare you doe this, and sin against him? when in this case the heart goes on, this blots all the prayer, and discou∣rageth a man; for saith the conscience, will God hear sinners? (as he said.) And thus farre it is true that sinning thus between, in∣terrupts and hinders the obtaining our petitions, that answerably as wee doe thus dash and betray and undoe our prayers,* so in a proportion, we finde Page 243 in the way to our obtain∣ing the thing wee prayed for, so many rubbes and difficulties doe arise; for as wee lay blocks in Gods way comming towards us to doe us good, so hee in ours: therefore often when a businesse goes prosperously on, and wee think wee shall carry it, comes some accident be∣tweene the cup and the lip, that casts all behinde hand againe, because an∣swerably wee dealt with God. For when wee had prayed, and were encou∣raged and in good hopes, then by some sinne or o∣ther wee spoyld all, and bereaved our selves of our expectation. But yet this Page 244 you are to consider, that as in the end praying useth to overcome sin in Gods Children, so also God in the end overcomes diffi∣culties, and brings the matter to passe: and know it is not sins past so much that hinder the prayers of Gods people, as the pre∣sent unfitnesse and indis∣position of their hearts for mercy.
TIDINGS OF PEACE TO BEE SPOKEN to Consciences distressed.
Psal. 85. ver. 8.
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.Page [unnumbered]Page 289
THE FOLLY OF RELAPSING after Peace spoken.
Psal. 85. ver. 8.
[Obser. 6] THE sixth Obser∣vation is, That Peace being spoken to their hearts by GOD, they should returne no more to folly. See this Ezra 9. 13, 14. Thou having punisht us lesse then wee deserve, Page 290 and given us such a delive∣rance as this, should wee againe breake thy Comman∣dements, wouldst thou not be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us?
[Reas. 1] 1 Reason: Because it will be a greater aggrava∣tion in sinning; It is made the aggravation of Solo∣mons sinne, 1 Kings 11. 9. That God had appeared to him twice: they were e∣speciall appearances and manifestations of mercy; and though such doe now cease, yet wee reade of such as are analogicall to them, as Iohn 14. 21. Christ promiseth to ma∣nifest himselfe, which is by shedding abroad his love, and his Fathers love Page 291 into the heart, which is e∣vident by the former words, he shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and after he saith, wee will come to him, and make our abode with him, ver. 23. and 27. My peace I will give unto you. Now such appea∣rances will be set upon the score of every sin, many yeares after, as they were upon Solomons. And the reason is, because nothing wounds an ingenuous lo∣ving Nature more, then matter of unkindnesse: if it had beene my enemy sayes David, I could have borne it, Psal. 55. 12, 14. but it was thou ôh man, mine acquaintance, we tooke sweet counsell together, a bosome Page 292 friend to whom I had committed my secrets, o∣pened my heart: Thus when God hath unbo∣somed himselfe as it were to a man, and told him what was in his heart to∣wards him, this goes nigh him, if hee lifts up the heele against him. And the reason of that further also is, 1 because of all things else, a man cannot endure to have his love abused, you come nigh him when you doe so, for his love is himselfe, and commands all in him, so that abuse his love, and you strike at his heart; it is lesse to abuse any excel∣lency in a man, to re∣proach and extenuate his Page 293 parts, learning, &c. though these are deare to him, but his love is his bowels. And therefore, when God hath opened his heart to a man, and set his love up∣on him, and revealed it to him, and hee carries him∣selfe unworthily, it paines him at the heart. Besides, 2. it is against the law of Nature and of Nations, to seeke out for a peace, and get it concluded, and then secretly to prepare for, and enter into a war; nothing more hatefull, or can exasperate two Nati∣ons one against another more then this. It was the aggravation of Absa∣loms sin, that being newly reconciled with his father, Page 294 and taken into favour a∣gaine, after two yeeres discountenance, hee then began to rebell more closely.
[Reas. 2] 2 Reason is intimated in the word folly, as if the Lord should have said, Set aside the unkindnesse and wrong you doe to me, yet therein you befoole your selves; you will have the worst of it. And indeed, when God doth after∣wards draw nigh to a man againe, upon that his re∣covery of his peace, it ap∣peares to be folly, even in that mans owne appre∣hension; when hee hath tasted how sweet God is, then come and aske him, What, will ye returne to Page 295 sin againe? hee will then say, Aske mee if I will wound or cut my flesh: It is impossible, thinkes he, I should any more be so besotted; if there were no other motives, hee thinkes it the greatest fol∣ly in the world. And there∣fore GOD on purpose chooseth out that ex∣pression, and placeth it here in this case, because it is indeed the greatest folly in Gods sight; and is so apprehended by our selves, looking upon sinne after peace is spoken to us. It is folly to sin against GOD at any time, but especially then, and that will appeare by these par∣ticulars.
Page 296 1. Because, before a man had that peace, hee felt the bitternesse of sin, for GOD never speakes peace, till that bee felt: now that is an argument even to sense, never to re∣turne to it againe; which a foole will be warned by; A burnt Child dreads the fire; even as a Child will take heed being taught by sense. When a man shall be in great distresse, and his Conscience shall sug∣gest to him, as Ier. 4. 18. Thy wayes and thy doings have procured these things to thee, this is thy wickednes: a speech like that when you say to your Children, when they have gotten a∣ny harme or cold, or sick∣nesse, Page 297 this is your playing and gadding and going in the Snow, and your eat∣ing of fruit, &c. so doth GOD speake there, to them when they were in distresse, this is your wic∣kednesse, for it is bitter, it reacheth to the heart, it woundeth the Consci∣ence, the wounding of which, of all else is the greatest misery. When once a man after this hath peace restored to him, and hee comes newly out of such a distresse, aske him then how he likes turning to such a sin againe, and he will tell you, it is the grea∣test folly in the world: aske David if hee will murther any more after Page 298 his bones have been bro∣ken, and set againe.
2 Thou wilt easily ac∣knowledge, it is folly to return to sin again, if thou considerest the terms, up∣on which thou didst ob∣taine thy peace. Reckon what paines it cost thee, to wash out the guilt and staine, which sinne had made, what vows and re∣solutions thou madest, what bonds thou didst seale unto, what promises never to returne, what prayers and teares, what rappes and knocks at Hea∣ven Gates, ere thou coul∣dest get an answer, or God to speake one word, he making as if hee had not beene within: why is Page 299 it not folly now to lose that in an instant, thou hast beene a getting so long, haply many yeares, and with so much paines and cost? You use it as an excuse to prodigalls to say, things lightly come by, are lightly gone; and yet you count them, and call them fooles for it, as not knowing what it is to earne a penny: how much more folly is it, when a man having afore morga∣ged his peace, and God re∣stored it again after much suite, and waiting many a term, then to come home, and venture to cast all a∣way at one throw at dice? such a fool art thou, when thou returnest to sinne; to Page 300 drink that at one draught, which thou hast been get∣ting many a yeare, what madnesse is it? when thou hast taken much paines, to wash thy selfe, then to wallow in the mire again, and make thy selfe new worke, what folly is it? who but Children and fooles will doe thus? That which the Church said in another case, may well be alluded to in this, Cant. 5. 31. I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?
3 Consider, what it is thou dost hazard, to lose by returning to folly: thy peace. David lost it, as ap∣peares, Psal. 51. 12. there∣fore sayes he, restore to me Page 301 the joy of thy salvation; In losing of which, thou wilt be so much a loser, that if the sinne thou choosest▪ were able to give thee all the world, it could not re∣compence thee; no not the losse of one houres communion with God, which in a moment will bring thee in more sweet∣nesse, than all thy sins can doe, to eternity. If all the pleasures of sin were con∣tracted, and the quintes∣sence of them strained in∣to one cup, they would not afford so much, as one drop of true peace with God doth, being let fall into the heart. It is peace which passeth understand∣ing. Few pleasures here do Page 302 exceed the senses, nay, the senses are capable of more than the things can give; but this passeth under∣standing. Gods loving kind∣nesse is better than life. If it were propounded to thee, thou must lose thy life next moment, if thou shouldst commit such a sinne, wouldest thou ven∣ture, if thou didst beleeve it? Now The loving kind∣nesse of God is better than life, and wilt thou lose the enjoying of it, though but for a moment?
4. It is folly to returne againe, because the plea∣sures of sin will be much lesse to thee after thou hast had peace spoken. Take them at the best, Page 303 when they are freshest, and when thy palate was most in relish, and taste with them, when thou wert carnall, and ere thou knewest what sweetnesse was in God, and they then were but poor sorry plea∣sures: but now, they will prove farre more empty than before; they are empty vaine pleasures e∣ven to him that hath thē in their flower, and in his season of sinning; and therefore all wicked men are weary, and do inward∣ly complain of their con∣dition, onely they cannot finde sweetnesse in God, and so are faine to keepe themselves to their husks; but alas, to thee they are Page 304 farre lesse worth than to another man, who knows not God, and therefore thou art like to have a worse bargaine of it; ano∣ther man can make more money of a sinne, and get more pleasure out of it, than thou art able to doe.
For first, thy conscience having beene scorched with sinne, as scalt flesh deares more, and is more sensible in comming to the fire, than other parts of the body, is become of a quicker sense; whereas wicked mens is seared, and so they commit all uncleannesse with greedi∣nesse: but thine is tender & galled in the act, which Page 305 allayes much of the plea∣sure of thy sinne, and min∣gleth the more bitternesse with it.
And 2. besides this gal∣ling of conscience, which is common to thee with many an unregenerate man, thou hast a principle of grace, an inner man, which is dead to such, pleasures, that tasts them not, that is like Barzillai, who through age 2 Sam. 19. 35. could not taste ei∣ther what he ate or drank, as young men doe; no more can that New man in thee, and therefore it can be but halfe as pleasant to thee as to another man. If one side of a man be taken all with a numbe palsey, Page 306 what pleasure is it to that man, to exercise his limbs in the actions of life? He is but halfe a man, and lives but halfe a life; so it is with thee, when thou hast grace in thy heart, but halfe thy heart can take pleasure in sinning, that new man the other halfe, reluctates, grieves for it, hates what thou do∣est; and all this must needs strike off much of the pleasure.
But 3. If wee adde to this, that this new man in him having once tasted what sweetnes is in God, and How good the Lord is, is then like a man that hath eaten sweet-meats, other things are out of Page 307 taste with him, and there∣fore also it is folly to re∣turne. No man (sayes Christ, Luke 5 ult.) having dranke old wine desireth new, for hee saith the old is better; a manused to high fare cannot agree so well with thinne dyet: so the soule having beene used to taste of great pleasures in God, the impression & remembrance of them leaves his soule lesse satis∣fied than another mans; a stomack that hath beene enlarged to full diet, looks for it, and riseth more hungry from a slender meale: now communion with God inlarges the fa∣culties, and widens them and makes them more ca∣pable Page 308 of greater joyes, than other men have, and therefore the creature is lesse able to fill them; still he remembers with much griefe, whilest he is eating his huskes, what fare hee had in his fathers house: and oh, Then it was better with me, than now. Call me not Naomi, but call mee Marah, as she said, For I went out full, and am come home empty; so doth hee say, when he comes from the act of sinning, he went with his heart full of peace, and meeting with a bargaine of sinning, thought to eke out his joy, and make it fuller, but hee comes home empty.
Page 309 [Vse 1] 1 Use, is to those who have had peace spoken to them, let them at such times feare themselves and God most, for then comes in this, as you see here, as the most seasona∣ble admonition that can be given, to returne no more to folly. 1. Feare God then most: for of all times else, then sins pro∣voke him most; to come and call him Father, and the guide of your mouth, and yet to fall to sinne, this is to doe as evill as you can, you cannot doe worse. Ier. 3 4, 5. So Ezra 9. After such an escaping, should we againe breake thy Comman∣dements, wouldest thou not be angry till thou hadst con∣sumed Page 310 us? In times of af∣fliction it is the property of a good childe to love GOD most: in times of speaking peace, to feare God most and his goodnesse, and to fear to offend him for his goodnesse sake. Did I onely say, that God is provoked most then, if you return to folly? Nay, I adde further, he is grie∣ved, which is more then to be provoked; and ther∣fore you shall marke that expression and admoniti∣on not to grive Gods Spi∣rit, then comes in, when the Spirit hath sealed us up to the day of redemption, Ephes. 4. 30. Then by sin∣ning wee are said more properly to grieve him Page 311 then before, when hee hath so far ingaged him∣selfe to love a man, and expressed himself to him, and set his seale upon him for his. God is angry with wicked mens sins, but hee is grieved for yours. To grieve him is more then to anger him. Meere an∣ger is an affection can ease it selfe by revenge, and by comming even againe with the party, and when wee can or intend to doe so, our mindes are not so much aggrieved, but please themselves rather to thinke of the revenge which wee meane to ex∣ecute: so when wicked men sinne whom GOD meanes to meet with, hee Page 312 is said to be angry rather then grieved; and sayes, I will ease my selfe of mine adversaries: Isay 1. 24. and avenge my selfe of mine enemies. But here, as when a mans wife that lies in his bosome, or his child shall wrong him: so is it when one sins, whom God hath set himselfe to love, and done much for, and made knowne his everlasting kindnesse unto, and sea∣led to the day of redemp∣tion: this goes to his heart, grieves him rather then angers him, and such are the truest and deepest griefes. What should hee doe with you in this case? if afflict you, and by that meanes goe about to Page 313 turne you from your ini∣quity, therein he shall but afflict himselfe as it were; for Though they rebelled, yet when they were afflicted hee was afflicted, Esay 63. 9, 10. As when a Father that is a Magistrate, or as one that maintaines a Student in a Colledge, if either punisheth a childe, or pu∣pill in his purse, he puni∣sheth himselfe, so must God afflict himselfe to af∣flict you. Put not the Lord into these straits if you have any love in you. And 2. as thou art there∣fore to feare God most then, so thy selfe most, and to be more watchfull over thy own heart; thou art then apt to returne to Page 314 folly, if thou takest not heed; as when a man hath beene very hot, or sweat much, hee is apt to take the greatest cold. Heze∣kiah, after GOD sealed peace to him and answer∣ed his prayers, and renew∣ed the lease of his life, his heart got cold, he did re∣turne to folly. The reason is, because then the heart is apt to grow lesse watch∣full, and to thinke it selfe fortified enough against any tentation. As S. Peter having seene Christ trans∣figured in the Mount, grew confident in his own strength. And know that the Devill watcheth such an opportunity most, for hee gets a great victory if Page 315 he can foile thee then, af∣ter hee hath beene foiled himselfe, and when thou art most triumphing over him; how many battels have beene lost through security of victory and recoyling of the enemy? and besides our corrupt nature so farre as unre∣newed, is apt to gather heart to it selfe, to slight sinne, as thinking its par∣don easily gotten.
Therefore when thou art tempted, labour often to renew those thoughts, which thou hadst of thy sinne at that time, when thou wert suing for peace, before thy peace was got∣ten; when thou wouldest have given a world for Page 316 Gods favour; & also what thoughts thou hadst of it, when God spake peace, how thou didst abhorr it, yea, thy self, & look what sin was most bitter to thee & an enemy to thy peace; as if uncleannesse, Idlenes, neglect of prayer, ill com∣pany, &c. and preserve in thy heart those bitter ap∣prehensions of it, & say of it, thou hast bin a bloody sin to me, as Moses wife said of her husband: and though I have got peace, & my life saved, yet it was a bloody sin to Christ, his blood was shed to purchase this my peace, & shal I return to it?
And when tempted to it again, have recourse to the kindnes God shewed thee Page 317 in pardoning, and say, how shall I do this, and sinne a∣gainst God? say as he said, Is this thy kindnesse to thy friend? 2. Sam. 16. 16. and what, shall I Absalom-like, now I am new reconciled to my Father, fall a plot∣ting treason again? what, shall I make more worke for prayer, more worke for God, breake my bones a∣gain, & lie roaring again? Think thus, I was burnt in the hād afore, I shal be rac∣ked surely now. Sin no more lest a worse thing befall thee.
Vse 3. The doctrine of assurance (if not abused) and of Gods speaking peace to men is no dange∣rous doctrin to make men secure and presumptuous Page 318 in sinning: when peace is preached in any mans heart, this use naturally flowes from that Doctrin, returne no more to folly. The very scope of the whole Epistle of S Iohn is to help all beleevers to assurance, as appeares by the 1. Iohn 1. 4, 5. and the 5. Chap. 13. These things I write to you, that yee might have com∣munion with God, and that your joy might be full. But this will open a way to all licentiousnesse. No sayes S. Iohn, Chap. 2. 1. These things I write unto you that ye sin not; nothing guards the heart more against tentations, then the peace of God: it is said to guard the heart, Phil. 4. 2. Yea Page 319 and if you doe sin, the as∣surance of Gods love is the speediest way to re∣cover you; so it followes: If any one doth sinne, wee have an Advocate with the Father, &c. And hee that hath this hope in him, that is, to live with Christ, and knowes what manner of love the Father beares us, puri∣fies himselfe as hee is pure, 1. Iohn 3. 1, 2, 3. If there were no more but selfe-love in a man, it were then no wonder if he doth abuse it. For selfe-love, where the love of God is wanting, is unthankfull and ungratefull, willing to take all the love and kindnesse which is afford∣ed, and abuse it, and work Page 320 upon it for its owne ad∣vantage; and it is true al∣so that because wee have too much of this principle unmortified in us, there∣fore God trusteth so few with much assurance, be∣cause they would abuse it. But where true love to God is seated, and much of it implanted, there the love of God & the peace of God doth as kindly and naturally enkindle and enflame and set it awork, even as arguments suta∣ble to self-love doe work upon, and stirre that prin∣ciple. For grace is more for GOD then for our selves, it being the image of Gods holinesse, whose holinesse consists in this, Page 321 to aime at himselfe in all: and therefore when Gods free grace towards a man is revealed, it raiseth him up to higher straines of love to God, and hatred of sin. And therefore it is observable, Psa. 51. 12. that David when he prayes for the restoring of the joy of his salvation, hee prayes not simply for it, or alone, but withall prayes for a free spirit, Establish me with thy free spirit: that is a spirit of ingenuity, which is kindly, sweetly and free∣ly wrought upon: there∣fore when we have a free spirit wrought in us, then that free love that is in God towards us will worke most kindly upon Page 322 it, and constraines us to love him that loved us first. The love of Christ constrains us, 2. Cor. 5. 14. Because we thus judge, that if Christ died for all, then they which live should not live unto thē∣selves but unto him that di∣ed for them: S. Paul gives the reason, why this love of Christ did thus con∣straine him, because hee did thus judge, that is, this consideration of Christs love, hee having a princi∣ple of love in his heart to Christ, hee found to be a powerfull prevailing rea∣son to perswade him to live to Christ. Having a new judgement hee saw force and strength in the argument. And so shall Page 323 we if we thus judge, and it will have this naturall consequence as naturally to follow upon it in our hearts, as any reason in any other kinde hath, that is brought to enforce any other conclusion. And therefore as the minde is constrained (as it were) to assent to a truth proved by force of reason, that if you grant this, then this or that will follow: so because we judge this rea∣sonable by an argument drawne out of loves To∣picks, that if Christ died for all, who otherwise must themselues have died, that then they should live to him, this will constraine us to love him, and live to him. Page 324Amor Dei est extaticus, nec se sinit esse sui luris.
THis Text and admo∣nition here gives a ust occasion to consider a little of that so often questioned case of Con∣science concerning relap∣ses of Gods Children into the same sinnes and folly againe,* and whether after peace spoken, Gods peo∣ple may returne againe to folly. Some have held, that a man after a second repentance could not fall into the same sinne again: others if he did, it exclu∣ded him from mercy for time to come. For the Page 325 comfort of some poore soules whose case and ten∣tation this may be, I will speake somewhat though sparingly and with cau∣tion.
1. The Scripture no where excludeth those from the state of grace, or barrs mercy from those, that have relapsed into the same sinne, especially so long as in regard of the manner of their sinning it be but folly, not wicked∣nesse or wilfull sinning, that is, rather proceeding out of errour of under∣standing, and heat, and impetuousnesse of foolish affections, then obstina∣cie and malice in the will, and with despite of the Spi∣rit Page 326 of grace, Heb. 10. 27.
Yea: 2. In Scripture wee meet with such pas∣sages and promises, as may undoubtedly uphold any soule, that hath so fallen after peace recei∣ved, into the same sinne, and preserve him from ap∣prehending himselfe ex∣cluded therefore from mercy and the state of grace: As Hosea 14. 4. I will heale their backslidings, I will love them freely; un∣lesse they had fallen after repenting & former hea∣ling, it could not have been called backsliding, and yet this hee promises to heale, & withall shewes the ground that mooved him to it, his loving them Page 327 freely: for if in any thing his free love is shewne to any of his children and drawne out, it is in hea∣ling againe such a back∣sliding soule after recove∣ry and peace given. For the falling into the same sinne, which hath been re∣pented of and healed, pro∣vokes God more then a thousand other acts of sinnes formerly commit∣ted though of the same kind. And therein also to shew his free love, that he can pardon even the abuse of love it selfe, he leaves some thus to sinne after his love shed abroad in their hearts. Some hee shewes his free love unto, in keeping them from Page 328sinning, others in pardon∣ing them, and giving them repentance: they are but severall wayes of drawing it forth; so that if in any thing, herein his free-love is shewne, for if it were not free, it would never endure it selfe to bee abu∣sed. And likewise the sure mercies of David are then showne, when God multi∣plies to pardon: so Esay 55. 3. having mentioned the promise of the sure mer∣cies of David, He promi∣ses to multiply to pardon, as it is in the Originall verse 7: which are thus joined, both because the surenesse of his Covenant, is there∣in shewne, and because wee might haply multi∣ply Page 329 to sinne; and at least it supposeth the possibility of it againe. God likewise runs upon such a supposi∣tion in that expression of his, to his owne people, Iere. 3. 1, 2. They say if a man put away his wife, and shee becomes another mans, shall not the Land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lo∣vers, yet returne againe to me, saith the Lord. Hee speakes to her as to one, had been his Wife, who though shee had not been put away by him, but had put away her selfe and run away, not once but often, and that with ma∣ny lovers, and sometimes in the midst of her whore∣domes, Page 330 had come in and made challenge of his former love and pleaded his former mercy to her, and yet fallen back againe verse 4. 5. (where he adds, Wilt thou not from this time cry, My Father, and thou art the guide of my youth, that is, I know sayes God, you will come now and cry as heretofore you have done and say, Oh thou art my Father and my Husband, and confidently still claim an interest in me upon my former kindnesse, and yet doe as evill as you can, for you cannot doe worse then thus to abuse my love) yet for all this at the 12. verse, Returne thou back∣sliding Israel, saith the Page 331 Lord, for I am married to you, verse 14. That which hee doth thus to a nati∣on, hee may doe to a par∣ticular man who is his child.
Againe, 3. There are not altogether examples wanting for this.
[Examp. 1] 1. Wee finde Sampson a godly man (whom yet wee would scarce have thought such but that we find his name in the list of those Worthies, Heb. 11.) ensnared with a Philistine woman against the coun∣sel of his parents, Iudg. 14. 3. who clearely laid open his sinne to him, and hee was in the event reproo∣ved for his folly, for his wife deceived him, told Page 332 his riddle to his enemies which hee in the end per∣ceived, and further to re∣proove him, in the issue shee was given away to another, verse 16, 17, 20 from all which passages of reproofe, an holy man that had his eyes in his head, could not but see his errour; and yet againe a long while after this, (twenty yeres after, Iudg. 15. 20. (when certainely ere that hee had repented of this his sinne, for which his parents before, and af∣ter, God so clearely did rebuke him,) hee went to Gaza, Iudg. 16. verse 1. and saw a harlot and went into her, and there scaped nar∣rowly with his life at mid∣night, Page 333 And verse 4. After that also it came to passe hee fell in love with ano∣ther, as bad as any of the former, Dalilah, who was his ruine. But his retur∣ning thus to folly cost him deare, for in the end he was taken as a Captive to the Philistims his ene∣mies, & that through her false-hood, deprived of his strength he had spent upon these women, had his eyes those betraying lights put out, that had ensnared him, and him∣selfe made a foole of, to make his enemies sport. So as no child of God can take any great encourage∣ment thus to returne to folly, for the future, by Page 334 his example, though com∣fort they may have there∣from in case they have returned for the time past.
2. Another example may be that of Ieboshaphat who commited a great sinne in joyning with Ahab that wicked King that sold himselfe to worke wickednesse, 2. Chron. 18. 1, 2, 3. and hee was foretold what would bee the suc∣cesse of that confederacy and journey by Michaiah before he went with him to battell, and after in the battell it selfe, where hee hardly escaped with his life, and by an extraordi∣nary providence at his prayer was delivered, verse Page 335 31, 32. and as if that were not sufficient, God sends another Prophet to him, Chap. 19. 2. who with open mouth reproves him and discovers to him his sinne, Shouldest thou helpe the un∣godlie, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord: which message to so good a man doubt∣lesse was not in vaine, but humbled him for that his sin, and wrought repen∣tance in him to avert that wrath. And yet after that great and miraculous deli∣verance of him and his people, Chap. 20. we finde him relapsing into the same sin ver. 35. After this did Iehoshaphat joyne him∣selfe Page 336 with Ahaziah King of Israel who did very wic∣kedly, and he joyned himselfe with him to make ships to goe to Tarshish: which ano∣ther Prophet in like man∣ner reprooveth, and like∣wise God himselfe rebu∣ked by the like ill successe of that league to the for∣mer, the ships were broken, verse 37.
3 Saint Peter a man, who seemed by other of his cariages, bold enough, was yet three severall times surprized with base feare: once when hee tempted Christ, not to ha∣zard himselfe at Ierusalem, where Christ had told him, that he was to suffer: Matth. 16. 21, 22, 23. Ma∣sterPage 337 (sayes hee) spare thy selfe: upon which speach Christ calls him, Satan, re∣buketh him more sharp∣ly, then at any other time, for which surely there was a more then ordinary cause. Saint Peter thought that if his Master should suffer at Jerusalem, that himselfe, and the rest should not be safe: That speech therefore procee∣ded from feare, and there∣fore Christ doth imme∣diately thereupon call for selfe deniall, and taking up the Crosse, verse 24. And this was immedi∣ately after peace spoken, verse 16, 17, 18. CHRIST had never more comfor∣tably given testimony to Page 338 Saint Peter, and his faith, then there. Yet againe, af∣ter this Christ had him up into the Mount and trans∣figured himselfe, to hear∣ten him against that try∣all to come, which made him so confident; yet then hee denied him, at his arraignment: when a∣gaine Christ immediatly upon that lookt back up∣on him with so sweet a looke as broke his heart for this his folly; and so he returned againe, and it cost him many a tear; and Christ after the Resurre∣ction, owned him againe, more then any of the rest, bad them that first met him, Goe tell Peter, Hee mentions him by name, Page 339 and in especiall, goe tell him the first newes of it: and then also hee asked him, Peter, lovest thou me? and hee said, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: as if he had said, Though I have played the wretch, yet I love thee: upō this, though hee grew more bold, Acts 4. 13. yet Gal. 2. 11, 12. we finde him falling into the grudgings of the same di∣sease, which cast him in∣to another fitt, hee dissem∣bled, fearing them of the Circumcision: this was a spice of the former sinne, though not so grosse; and though the outward acts in these sinnes were di∣vers in their occasions, yet they were all acts and Page 340 buds of the same root of bitternesse; and may as well bee called sins of the same kind, as the commit∣ting differing acts of un∣cleannesse, are recko∣ned falling into the same sinne.
In the fourth place, if the Scriptures had beene utterly silent in examples, yet reason consonant to other principles, and grounds of Divinity, and of the Scriptures might perswade the same.
[Reas. 1] 1. If hee may after the most serious, and through repentance fall againe, in∣to as grievous a sinne of a∣nother kind, and returne: why not into the same againe? I confesse there Page 341 is some disparity, which might make him more a∣verse, and set him in some more remotenesse, from the same sinne he hath par∣ticularly repented of, then another; which shall bee considered in its place. Yet, the difference, can∣not bee supposed such, as should make the one pos∣sible, and not the other: all true repentance work∣ing the heart, to an abo∣minating every sinne, as well as any; and therefore if it were true, it was for that particular sinne, as sin; and then it would worke the like against all, and every sinne, according to the measure of the sinful∣nesse; and though it may, Page 342 and doth worke a more keen, and speciall hatred against that particular sin, a man hath beene most stung with, yet still, this is but so farre, as this ag∣gravation, (to fall into the same sinne againe,) may cause such a relapse, to bee more sinfull then another sinne: and so farre, and up∣on that ground he is, and may bee more set and strengthened against it, then against another sinne. But then, if the supposi∣tion fall upon another grosse sinne, never before committed, the sole and single act of which, other circumstances make as heynous, even as this rei∣terated act of a sinne for∣merly Page 343 committed, can be; then the one is equally as possible as the other. But however yet still the dif∣ference, is but in degrees; namely in that the heart is elongated a degree, or so, further from that sinne formerly committed, then any other: which will not therefore so vary the case, (as magis & minus doe not) that it should bee made impossible to fall in∣to the one, and not into the other.
[Reas. 2] 2. Reason: If he may fall into some grosse sin, which at first conversion, hee did above all other humble himselfe for; and yet, that same initiall re∣pentance, did not put him Page 344 into such an impossibility of falling into that sinne againe: Why then should a renewed act of repen∣tance for the same, or for some other reiterated sin, be supposed to have such vertue in it, as to make him shot-free for ever, from the same fiery dart againe?
[Reas. 3] Againe thirdly: Let it be considered, frō whence it should be, that a renew∣ed, or indeed any act of true repentance, though never so great, and in∣tense, should have such a transcendent, eternall, and invincible vertue in it, and priviledge annexed to it; for how is it, that repentance doth streng∣then Page 345 us against sinne, but by restoring the decayed frame of Grace, to a bet∣ter constitution and grea∣ter degree of strength then before; and by rai∣sing it, above a mans lusts, and above that lust, more then all other? as in Da∣vid, when hee prayed, Create in me a cleane heart, which, through his sinne of uncleannesse, was in an especiall manner, defiled with a pronenesse to that sin: But yet withall re∣member, that, that new frame of heart, & strength gotten by that renew∣ed repentance, and that augmentation, and in∣crease of hatred against, and abominating that Page 346 sinne wrought by it, is all but a creature; as grace, and every new degree of Grace is: and therefore for preserving us, hath in it selfe but the power, and force of a created habit, which may bee prevailed against, by the sin that is in us; and can no more, nay much lesse put us into a state of confirmation a∣gainst any particular sin, then the grace of the An∣gels could of it selfe con∣firme them in a state a∣gainst all sinne. And as for the impression of that bit∣ternesse, which in our re∣pentance for that sin fal∣len into, was made upon our hearts: that also can bee supposed to have but Page 347 the like force upon our spirits, that the impressi∣on of joy unspeakable and glorious, hath upon the heart in those heavenly raptures, which beleevers sometimes enjoy; yea and the latter of these will easily be supposed to be of the greater efficacie of the two; and both but creatures: Now those ra∣vishing joyes, are not yet such immortall and ever∣lastingly quickning cor∣dialls, that put such spirits into a man, as to preserve him from swounds, and faintings of spirit for e∣ver: and though, whilst they abide and are pre∣sent to the heart, they do then raise it above all Page 348 thing here below: yet when a man hath beene a while off from that Mount, and hath conver∣sed a while with things here againe below; then that lustre weares away, as the glory that shined in Moses face did: and af∣ter a while, the sense and present tast of those joyes weares out; and when that is gone, the bare re∣membrance of thē which is left, hath not in their absence, such an infalli∣ble, though a great effica∣cy to preserve his minde in an everlasting disrelish∣ing former delights; but that hee may, and often doth fall in love againe too too much with them: Page 349 although indeed whilst the present sense of them did abide upon the heart, it abstracted the minde from all things here be∣low. And hence a man is apt to fall from his first love, Rev. 2. and from that high esteeme of spirituall things; as the Galathians, Gal. 4. 15. Where is the blessednesse you spake of, sayes Saint Paul to them? therefore answerably the remembrance of the bit∣ternesse of any sin felt in our deepest humiliations, is much lesse able to pre∣serve a man, nor is the im∣pression and dint made so lasting, nor the scarres and wounds of consci∣ence continuing for ever Page 350 so fresh, as everlastingly to preserve and deterre us from falling into the same sinne againe. For both are but creatures, and at best but arguments drawne from sense, and expe∣rience within our selves, and have but an humane created power which is not alwayes efficacious; especially seeing GOD hath ordained us to live by saith, more then by sense, for faith is appointed by God to be our more con∣stant keeper, 1. Pet. 1. 5. We are kept through faith unto salvation, and by it more surely and more constant∣ly then by impressions of joy, or sorow which are made to sense: and yet Page 351 wee are not kept by it of it selfe, but by the power of God: so then, wee are kept by the power of God as the principall supporter, and guardian, through faith as the instrumentall, and by it rather then by sense or any other grace of sor∣row or repentance; be∣cause faith caries the heart out of it selfe, and com∣mits it selfe wholly into the hands of God as a faithfull Creator (who is the strength of Israel, to keepe a man from everie evill worke,) as not being able to secure it selfe a∣gainst any sin through the power of any fortificati∣on, or strength that any other grace or degree of Page 352 grace hath built, no not for one moment; and therefore is as dependant upon God after a fall, and a renewed repentance out of it, yea and more then before hee fell, and his owne wofull experience hath reason to make him so. The like instance to illustrate the truth of this wee may draw from the assurance of faith it selfe. For even the assurance of faith it selfe, (which is an act properly belonging to that grace, called there∣fore the assurance of faith, Heb. 10. 22.) which doth strengthen us as much a∣gainst doubting when it is joyned with joy un∣speakable and glorious, as Page 353 repentance can do against any other sinne: and whilest it is upon us, in the strength of it a belee∣ver is apt to thinke him∣selfe armed and strengthe∣ned, and so establisht, as that hee shall never que∣stion Gods love any more, or the pardon of his sinnes: and yet, expe∣rience shewes it, that the guilt of sinne prevailes sometimes againe, after this, and the same doubts arise, and prevaile as much as ever; neither will the remembrance of the for∣mer assurance be alwayes of force enough to resist them; for hee may come to question that assurance it selfe also; and so for∣get Page 354 that hee was purged from his old sinnes. And if the guilt of sin prevaile in the Conscience againe, a∣gainst such a renewed and setled act of faith, why may not the power of a lust prevaile in the mem∣bers, after a renewed act of repentance?
[Reas. 4] 4. If it be said, that a renewed act of thorow repentance doth keepe a man, not by any peculiar vertue in it selfe alone, but by the power of God concurrent with it: Then I demand to see the pro∣mise wherin God hath in∣fallibly obliged and inga∣ged his power, upon such a renewed act of repen∣tance, to preserve from Page 355 falling into that sinne of all other for ever; with∣out which no man in faith can affirme it; and with∣out which there is an it may bee, and a supposition of such a possibility, as sometime falleth out, and is reduced to existence. GOD indeed hath said, that if we fall, hee will put, under his hand, to breake that fall that it shall not ruine us; but not so to keep us in his hands, as we shall bee out of danger of falling againe. A renewed act of repentance is in∣deed an ordinance sancti∣fied to preserve a man; yet, but in the same maner that other ordinances are, as Prayer, and the word Page 356 preacht, and admonition, &c. with which GOD doth not alwayes so in∣fallibly cooperate, as effi∣caciously to worke al∣wayes that which they serve to.
5. If there were not such a possibility, as might and doth sometimes fall out; then every regene∣rate man, after such a re∣newed act of repentance, might secure himselfe against the committing that grosse act againe for ever; but so he can never doe against any particular act of sinne, but that sinne against the Holy Ghost. Saint Paul there∣fore exhorts, when a brother is fallen into a Page 357 sinne, to restore such an one with the spirit of meeke∣nesse; upon this consi∣deration, considering thy selfe, lest thou also bee temp∣ted; and hee layes the exhortation upon those who are most spirituall; Yee that are spirituall, re∣fore such an one, conside∣ring thy selfe lest thou also be tempted, Gal. 6. 1. so as hee speakes of such, as have their hearts raised up to the best frame, through the most deepe, and seri∣ous repentance: and now wee will suppose one, that hath formerly fallen him∣selfe into the same sinne, which another is fallen in∣to, but not yet restored, but himselfe is returned Page 358 by repentance out of it: (for indeed, such a spiritu∣all man, is of all other like to bee the meekest bone∣setter of a man fallen,) & even such doth Saint Paul exhort to consider, that themselves may for the time to come, be also or in like manner tempted, that is, fall as this man fell; and therefore so bee tempted as to fall into the same sinne againe, that he was fallen into. And if any man could bee secure from the like fall againe, hee had beene out of the reach of this exhortation to this duty upon that ground mentioned, as not capable of it. But the Holy Ghost hath else where, 1. Cor. 10. 13. Page 359 told us, that there is no tentation which is com∣mon to man, but is incident to befall any man, at any time; and therefore verse 12, exhorts him that stand∣eth, to take heed lest be fall: indeed, that temptation which is common to Devils with men, the sinne of fi∣nall despaire, and against the holy Ghost, &c. a rege∣nerate man may through the grace of Christ, secure himselfe against: but, all such sinnes as are common to man, from these or any of them, no man in any state, can without an ex∣traordinary revelation, se∣cure himselfe from the commission of.
Onely I adde these Page 360 Cautions concerning this case.
[Cautiō 1] 1. There are two sorts of corruptions. First, more grosse corruptions, which Saint Peter calls, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the de∣filements of the world, 2. Pet. 2. 20. they being the com∣mon mire, or kennell, wherein the uncleane swine of this world wal∣low, and which the Apo∣stle calls such workes of the flesh as are manifest, Gal. 5. 19. even to the light of Nature; such as are adul∣tery, fornication, drunken∣nesse, &c. and by those two expressions doe they di∣stinguish them from a sort of more spirituall and refined lusts. For second∣ly, Page 361 there are corruptions more spirituall, as pride, secret love of the world. Now, for those grosse corruptions, which are contrary, even to com∣mon honesty, and (to use Iobs phrase) are punisht by the Iudges, 31. Iob 11. which profane men wallow in, a godly man hath more strength against them, so as it is not so ordinary for him to bee entangled a∣gaine and againe with these; for where but mo∣rall principles are, these are abstained from, as we see in the Pharisee, I am no adulterer, &c. therefore, where grace is, much more. And some sinnes are more opposite to the spi∣rit Page 362 of holinesse, and lesse compatible with grace, as uncleanesse, of which Saint Paul sayes, God hath not called us to uncleanesse, but to holinesse, 1 Thes. 4. 7. it is in an especiall man∣ner, there opposed to holinesse: and such as these are works of the flesh which are manifest, even to Na∣ture, to civill men: and therefore when they are often fallen into, they doe manifest, that the heart is but flesh. And although the limits, how seldome or how often, cannot bee set concerning relapses into these, or any sinnes; yet, in an ordinary course it may be said, that few godly men fall into such Page 363 sinnes againe and againe: God keepes them from such in an ordinary pro∣vidence, that scandalls should not arise: they be∣ing sinnes which all the world takes notice of. But those other sinnes of rash anger, and love of the world, and spirituall pride, &c. these being lesse manifest, and sitting more close to our spirits, god∣ly men are more subject unto.
Yet secondly: we must againe distinguish.
1. There are the in∣ward lustings to those outward acts: now, though grace weakeneth the very lustings within, yet, takes them not wholly away: Page 364The spirit that is in us, (that is,) in us Saints, sayes S. Iames, lusteth to envy: and as to envy, so to all other sinnes.
And secondly, there are the outward grosse acts of such sins; and there in the weaknesse of sin in a rege∣nerate man, and strength of grace shewes it selfe most in preferving from them: for, as to will is present with me saies S. Paul to will what is good, yet how to performe it I am not able, Rom. 7. 18. So on the con∣trary, to lust the heart may bee ready, and lust may soone rise up in rebellion, but when it should come to the act, there is a weaknesse dis∣covered; Page 365 they come to the birth, and want strength often to bring forth; the contrary lusting and pre∣vailing of grace being then seene and discover∣ing it selfe: that it fareth with a regenerate man in this case often as with a man that is deadly woun∣ded, who riseth up to strike his enemy, and thinkes to runne him thorow, but sinks downe againe, medio conatu, when his sword is at his enemies breast, through a deficien∣cy of spirits; or as a man in a Palsie, or the Gout, who thinks hee is able to walke, til he comes to try, and then he finds a weak∣nesse which makes him Page 366 fall backe againe: Thus, even when the whole forces of lusts are mustred up, yet the weapons fall out of their hands. Hu∣mours in a healthfull con∣stitution, may stirre, and boake in the stomacke, when yet they come not up, nor prevaile unto vo∣miting. In that place a∣fore named, Gal. 5. the A∣postle seemes not to de∣ny but that in the most regenerate, lustings may arise, for the flesh (sayes he) lusteth against the spirit, ver. 17. but yet, as for outward acts, he tels them, verse 16. That if they walke in the spirit, that is, in the preva∣lency of the spirit, keep∣ing up a holy frame of Page 367 heart above the flesh, that then yee shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh: for that frame of heart so kept up, will hinder the outward fulfilling of the lust; which is never done till flesh and corruption is actually raised above the spirit, & gets more voyces to car∣ry it; till the spirit be un∣der hatches, and the flesh above, and so steeres the helme:otherwise the lust∣ing of the spirit against the flesh, will hinder the outward doing, and fulfil∣ling of a lust. For the rea∣son hee gives, verse 17. so as you cannot doe what you would, implyes, that not onely lustings, which arise without consent, may be Page 368 in such a man but further, much of the will may bee wonne to consent to them, to like them; when yet there is not strength enough to carry it on to the outward act; you cannot doe what you would. And what those works of the flesh are, which are mani∣fest workes of the flesh, and which Christians whilst they walke in the Spirit fulfill not, hee men∣tions and reckons up in the following words. And this is the more ordinary frame of a Christians heart; for verse 24. (sayes hee) they that are Christs have crucified the affections and lusts, that is, so farre, as not to fulfill them.
Page 369 3. He may more easily fall into a grosse sinne of another kinde, then into the same after speciall re∣pentance for it, and peace spoken in the pardon of it. Because true repen∣tance especially fortifies the heart against that sin which a man hath most repented him of; and sin∣cerity lies more in watch∣ing over that sinne then a∣ny other: so sayes David, Psal. 18. I was upright, and kept my selfe from mine ini∣quity, that especiall sinne which was eminently his sinne. A mans arme that hath beene broke, will, if well set, rather breake in some other place then where it was broke at the Page 370 first. Hence sometimes it falls out, that that which was a godly mans bosome sinne before conversion, continues not to be so af∣ter: but, another steps up in the roome of it, by rea∣son that hee then endea∣voureth to wash out that great staine, most; and spendeth the most of the Fullers sope, to purge himselfe from it; and so becomes, ever after, most watchfull over it; and sets in this his weakest place, the strongest garison, and a watch, to prevent the enemy. And, as an act of some presumptuous sinne, though it inclines the heart more to all sinne, then before, yet, especial∣ly, Page 371 to commit that kinde of sinne againe, rather then any other: so on the con∣trary, is it in a sound and solemne repentance, for some especiall sinne; and in the endeavouring, to mortifie some especiall member of the body of sinne: (to mortifie which, not only in the bulke and generall, but also particu∣larly and apart in the seve∣rall members of it, the Holy Ghost exhorts, Colos. 3. 5.) though thereby, the whole habit of the body of sinne is purged and weakned, yet that parti∣cular sinne which we aime especially to have morti∣fied, is through Gods bles∣sing more subdued then Page 372 any other. We see Idola∣try, was the sinne which the people of Israel relap∣sed into, againe and a∣gaine; yet when they were once throughly humbled by the Captivi∣ty for it, they never re∣turned to it, of all sinnes else, not to this day: so as it may bee said, as was foretold, haply in an o∣ther case, Ezek. 16. 43. Thou shalt not commit this lewdnesse of all thy abomi∣nations: Ionah, though he would haply never runne away from God againe, after his Gaole delivery out of the Whales belly; yet, immediately, after peace spoken to his heart hee falls into a sin of ano∣ther Page 373 kinde; into a passion of extreme anger and pee∣vishnesse, and quarrelling against God. And the rea∣son of this especiall ten∣dernesse to fall into the same sinne, is, because the Conscience lookes upon a relapse into that sinne, to bee more hainous, then into any other sinne of a∣nother kind; because of that aggravation of it, which thereby would staine and die it: and al∣though a sinne of another kind shewes the variety of corruption more; yet, this is more against the power and worke of re∣pentance it selfe, which was particularly exerci∣sed about that sinne: and Page 374 also breaks, and dissolveth all bands of a mans vows, covenants, prayers, &c. made against it in parti∣cular, and so is made more grievous. And this wee may see in Ezraes hum∣bling himselfe for that great sinne of the people, in joyning themselves in marriage with the people of the land, when hee did set himselfe to humble himselfe for them, toge∣ther with those that fea∣red God, Chap. 9. 4. What an hideous apprehension of the hainousnesse of that sinne, if they should again fall into it, did that dayes repentance raise his heart up unto? as appears v. 14. Should we againe breake thy Page 375 commandements, and joyn in affinity with them, wouldst thou not destroy us, till thou hadst consumed us, and till there was no escaping? Into which sinne, yet, the peo∣ple did againe fall, after they had repented of it, with a solemne confession and promise of amend∣ment, which is recorded, Chap. 10. v. 11, 12. &c. yet they returned to it againe the second time, as wee finde in Malachie, who li∣ved the last of the Pro∣phets, and after this pray∣er of Ezra. For Chap. 2. 12. the Prophet sayes, An abo∣mination is committed in Ie∣rusalem, for Iuda hath mar∣ryed the daughter of a strange god: and then fol∣lowes Page 376 the aggravation, v. 13. This ye have done again, that is, the second time, and in that respect are challenged to deale trea∣cherously; and that also in respect they had repented of it the first time, cove∣ring the Altar with teares, with weeping, and crying out, as Malachie there speakes: so as God regar∣deth not your offerings any more. And therefore also Psal. 78. 40. How oft did they (saith hee, as aggravating their sins) by murmuring provoke the Lord? and Numb. 14. 22. God reckons up, and mentions the times of their sinning, how often they had thus sinned, as an aggravation Page 377 of them, They have tempted me these ten times.
[Cautiō 4] 4. He may fall into the same sinne againe and a∣gaine, untill hee hath re∣covered himselfe, and his peace fully by a tho∣rough repentance, but yet seldome after. Lot committed incest two nights together; but the orifice of his lust, was not yet stopped by repen∣tance; the wound was not closed, and so bled againe afresh; but when it is hea∣led once, and the heart made perfect with God, and divorced from that sinne, and entred into Communion with God a∣gaine; then though it may fall out, yet a man more Page 378 hardly returnes. A wo∣man that is gone from her husband may play the whore a long while with him she ran away withall, till her husband fetches her again: but to run often away, after receiving a∣gain, is intolerable. That is not so ordinary in Gods childe.
[Cautiō 5] 5. Though wee can hardly set limits to say when, or when not, this shall fall out from the de∣grees of mens repentings: as that if they have such or such a degree of repen∣tance, then they fall no more: yet we may further consider a difference of their returnings to God, & repentings; and of Gods Page 379 speaking peace.
1. Of their Repentings: some are more imperfect, and but as it were thaw∣ings of the minde a little, by meanes of a little Sun∣shine of Gods love: some, are more thorow and deep; that recover a man, and put him into a sound and healthfull estate. As for example, a man in an ague hath well dayes, yet his fits returne, and it may be they leave him for a month or so; and yet they take him againe, as at Spring and Autumne; which is because all this while his body is not tho∣rowly recovered to a state of health: so is it with a mans heart in respect of Page 380 his lusts; though he may have many well dayes, wherein hee may eate his meate, and receive sweet∣nesse in the word, and or∣dinances: yet at times his distempers and aguish fits returne, he being aguish still; but in the end, after the peace of God hath more thoroughly establi∣shed his heart, he attaines to some setled constant victory over it; and when it doth not prevaile to victory, such aguish fits end usually in consump∣tions, in which long agues often end: as in Tem∣poraries, in whom, sinne overcomming GODS striving with them, it eates all good beginnings Page 381 out; but if they belong to GOD, then usually that aguish distemper, is in the end by a more tho∣rough repentance, so hea∣led, as that they attaine to more victory, and se∣curity against it then any other sinne; that as in those other kind of ten∣tations, it often falls out, that, that which a man doubted of most, hee comes in the end to bee most assured of, and to doubt no more; so also here, a man becomes most freed from that sinne, hee was long exercised with of all other. So also
2. For Gods dealings with his, there is much difference therein to bee Page 382 found: there are some kinds of speaking peace by God, and meltings of the heart of his people, which, yet are not of that force as to overcome, but wherein God doth but (as it were) strive with them; which strivings doe ever and anon worke their hearts to a repentance, and that true, and serious: which yet is not so deepe, and thorough, nor so healing the heart at the bottome, as it should. For GOD sometimes useth more imperfect kinde of stri∣vings, even with his own children, about some par∣ticular sinne they are to leave, which doe not so fully, at first prevaile, and Page 383 overcome in them; which God doth, to let them see the running issue of their natures, how grace would runne out at it,* (as the A∣postle speakes) and over∣come grace in them, if hee should let it alone: and so, lets out upon his child after many yeeres some lust, which had been long downe, which puts him to it exceedingly, so that he is in hazzard to bee un∣done, and is put into feares of it; and yet God visiteth his spirit by fits, and per intervalla at times strives with him; and though hee falls, yet hee puts under his hand, and gives him well dayes, and some comfortable visita∣tions; Page 384 yet such as are not deep enough to worke him fully off from it. For, as God strives with wic∣ked men, so he sometimes strives with his own also; which may seeme to bee the true meaning of that speech, Gen. 6. where, ha∣ving mentioned the sinne of his owne children, ver. 2. That the Sonnes of God tooke to them wives of that wicked seed of Cain, hee sayes, My Spi∣rit shall not alwayes strive with man, for that [he also] is but flesh: Hee meanes not this, of all mankinde, for he sayes, [hee also] is but flesh: now, with what other creatures, doth hee joyne them in this com∣parison, Page 385 but with others of the sonnes of men? so as the meaning is, I see my Children, that they also are corrupt, and degene∣rate as well as the rest of mankinde, and my Spirit hath striven with them. In which striving, GOD lets them see, how if hee did not in the end, shew foorth his free love to the full, in the rescuing of them, and healing their backsliding, they would bee undone: so as, in the end, through his grace which is sufficient, they obtaine the greatest con∣quest, over that lust of any other; when the heart is once thoroughly awake∣ned, and setled in a tho∣row Page 386 peace. And as, those doubts they were most troubled with once, (which though they had at times some light a∣gainst, yet by fits did still arise) are yet in the end, so overcome, as they a∣rise no more, but they en¦joy the greatest freedome from them: So is it often herein. And these strivings to not overcomming, I re∣semble to the thawings of the Ice, in a great frost, as when in the day time, the Sunne shines, and in the Sunshine it thaweth a lit∣tle: but yet, so as at night, or in the shade it freezeth; when sometimes, the wea∣ther also begins to change for a night, and yet falls a Page 387 freeing againe: so here, there is not such a tho∣row shedding abroad the love of God in the heart, as should make a thorow generall thaw, to the pur∣pose as wee say; and so, when the heat of that is withdrawen, it freezeth againe: but in the end there comes a more tho∣row and generall thaw, and change that carries all away, melts the heart, and so alters the temper and constitution of the wea∣ther, (as I may so speake) as it freezeth no more. And such a thawing of his heart had David, when Nathan came to him, and not afore; though it may bee hee had those lesser Page 388 relentings often before.
But let those that are in such a case, take heed they bee not hardened thorow the deceitfulnesse of sinne and of all the times, that passe over you, in your lives, these are the most clima∣ctiericall, and criticall, and most dangerous. For God will not alwayes strive, but if thou beest his childe, if such thawings will not do it, hee will use some great afflictions, in the end to divorce the heart, and thy sin; his love will one way or other, overcome thee, and in the end prevaile. As when Israel went on stubbornely in the way of his heart, (sayes God) I have seene his wayes and will heale Page 389 him and guide him, Esay 57. & the Lord may so heale thee, as those lusts of all other shall not in that grosse maner, breake forth any more. And in those times, when God dealeth thus with him, a man will after say, that in such pas∣sages of his life, hee had more free love spent on him, then in all his life time, before or after: and when he is freed and hea∣led, he will be more thank∣full, and fearefull then e∣ver before, or then other∣wise he would have been; and so get ground by his stumblings. If any of you, being now in such a con∣flict as this, in such a vicis∣situde and chance of war: Page 390 If yet thou findest a con∣stant fight against thy sin; and that those breakings, and meltings of thy heart by God, do winne ground of it; and that the com∣forts, and hope, which at times are vouchsafed, doe strengthen, & stablish thy heart in well doing: as 2. Thess. 2. ult; and makes thee more fearefull, every time thou risest, then e∣ver; so as to looke upon another fit if it should come, (which knowing the deceitfulnesse of the heart, thou fearest,) as the fit of some great sick∣nesse, lest it should returne againe: esteeming it as the greatest crosse that can befall thee; which Page 391 thou wouldest buy off with thy blood; and blee∣dest most of all to thinke, that thou hast so uncon∣stant a heart, which as it hath abused Gods love formerly, so thou fearest, will doe so againe; if thus thou go on to fight it out, the love of God will in the end overcome in thee; but if thou findest that those encouragements frō God, do through thy cor∣ruption, (which turnes Gods grace into wanton∣nesse) nourish thy lusts, and make thee lesse feare∣full against the next time; and thy heart harder, and secure, and to slight sinne more, because thou hast beene so oft visited from Page 392 on high, and pardoned: thy case is dangerous, and may prove desperate.
6. Though he may re∣turne, yet not presently: Luke 5. last. Hee that hath tasted old wine, doth not straightway drinke, and de∣sire new: not whilest the love of God, and the tast, and relish of it is fresh in his mouth: when the im∣pression is worne out in∣deed, and begins to bee forgotten, then haply he may returne.
[Vse.] To conclude with the use of this point; If it be folly to runne into the same sinne, though we re∣pent of it afterwards: then, what folly is it in them that utterly fall a∣way? Page 393 and after they have beene enlightned, and tasted of the good word of God, then fall againe to the pleasures of sinne and never repent of them? as many doe; that come, and try a little, what is in religion, and the wayes of God, and then returne a∣gaine to their vomits, and never returne to piety a∣gaine. Foolish soules, who hath bewitched you? are yee so foolish, that having begun in the spirit, yee end in the flesh? as Gal. 3. 3. Folly indeed: to spend the harvest of your time, in seeking God, and then to leave him, when you are about to take leave of the pleasures of sinne. Alas Page 394 poore soules, whither will yee goe? doe you ever thinke to have such a God againe? Thou hast the words of eternall life, said the Disciples to Christ: and as Saul said to his servants, to keep them from falling away unto David; Can the sonne of Iesse give you vineyards, and make you Captaines of thousands? 1. Sam. 22. 7: So, can the world give you that peace, that I can give you, may Christ say to you; yea and heaven be∣sides hereafter? Is the de∣vil, with all the wages of sinne, you post after, a∣ble to make you amends? you thereby dishonour God in returning to sinne,Page 395 and bring an evill report upon the good land; and discredit your Master, in changing your service; but withall you befoole your selves most: you returne to folly. For even that, which you thinke to gaine, the worlds good word and opinion by, even that you lose: for, though they make aspoile of you, and triumph in such, and glory in their flesh a while: yet they never in∣wardly think well of such a one; nor truely love him. A back-slider, is like luke-warme water, having been once heated, which good men spue out, and evill men regard not; for what use, can indeed bee Page 396 made of it? Like salt that hath lost its savour it is good for nothing, but the dunghill. Like one that hath beene maried, but lives divorced; she is un∣done for her mariage e∣ver after. Such is the con∣dition of those that fall a∣way and repent not: You who have but turned unto folly and are not grown to a despising and despiting Gods wayes, Returne, Oh Shulamite, returne. And you that have peace and commu∣nion with God, take heed you do not lose him, you will never have such a God againe.