1. Quest. Whether, according to the Truth de∣livered, it be lawful for a man to Pray against Af∣flictions, Since he knoweth not but that he may Pray Page 40 against his own good. Since, some by Experience have found, It was good for them that they were Afflicted.
Answ. Some have bin of this Opinion, that, It is unlawful to Pray against Afflictions; and that it was not the Errour of Tertullian, to say, Afflictions were to be sought for, and desired; and said, That men ought to be so far from praying against them, that they ought to pray for them and desire them. But this I look upon, as one of his Errours.
I shall give an Answer to the Question.
- 1. General.
- 2. Particular.
I. General. So I Answer; That, notwithstanding it so falls out that Afflictions are good for a man, yet they may be lawfully prayed against. And this Truth I shall clear up to you, by four things.
1. Afflictions are, in their own Nature, Fruits and Effects of Sin, and such as Nature abhors; such are Sickness, Poverty, all sorts of Losses and Crosses; they were brought in by Sin. The Apostle saith, Rom. 5. 12. Sin entred into the world, and Death by Sin. Death is there put for, All Miseries. As Life in Scripture is put for all Good; so Death is the To∣pick for all Miseries, being called the King of Fears; and so the King of Evils, being the King of what∣soever is fearful to man, and what Nature abhor∣eth. As Death, so all Evils (as Death's attendants) came into the world by Sin. Sin was the Mother, and Afflictions of all sorts are the Daughters. So then, looking upon them under this Notion, as the Effects of Sin, they may be prayed against. When Sin came into the world, these Evils crowded in with It; and when Sin shall be no more, these Miseries Page 41 and Evils shall be no more, Rev. 21. 4. There shall be no more Death, &c. The Thred followeth the Needle. Sin was the Needle, that drew in with it the Thred of Miseries and Afflictions. Man had ne∣ver known what Losses, and Crosses, and Miseries, and Afflictions had bin, had it not been for Sin.
2. Afflictions of themselves, do us no good; of them∣selves, they do not make a man better. The Good by Afflictions comes from a Superiour Work, from those admirable Influences and Concurrences of the Spirit of God, on, and with, the Afflictions. As our Saviour said, Man lives not by Bread only: So, man is not amended by Afflictions only. Put a Stone into the Fire, it cometh out a Stone still. No water, either hot or cold, will make a Black∣more White. Empty Vinegar from Vessel to Vessel, it will be Vinegar still. So, let a man be emplyed, from Condition to Condition, he is still the same. We know, the Plough breaks up the Earth, but of it self doth not better it; it leaveth it as it was, there is nothing put in by the Plough: If the Hus∣bandman Dung it, and cast in good Seed, when he hath broken it up with his Plough, then there is like to be a Harvest, else there is nothing but Weeds and Nettles. The Plough of Afflictions may break our Bodies, and Estates, and Spirits; but there will be no Harvest without something more, without an Heavenly Influence; Afflictions will bring forth only Briars and Thorns. The Expression of the Psalmist, is, Psal. 94. 12. Blessed is the Man whom thou chastenest and teachest out of thy Law. It is then happy, when Correction and Instruction go together.
3. As Afflictions are fruits of Sin, and of them∣selves Page 42 do no good; so oftentimes, through Mans Corruption, they prove occasions of Sin. They are so far from making men Better, that they often make men Worse. I have shewed before, what Evils are incident, both to a state of Prosperity and Adversity. Satan knoweth, how to make Afflicti∣ons to become Temptations: And therefore we find this to be the Reason, why Agur prayed against Poverty, Prov. 30. 9. lest I be Poor and Steal, and the Name of God be taken in Vain; q. d. Poverty may put me under a Temptation of using Unlawful means, to the Dishonour of God. Thus, Afflicti∣ons prove somtimes occasions of Sin; and we are taught to Pray, That we may not be led into Temp∣tation.
4. Consider again this, That the Saints and Servants of God have prayed against Afflictions: So, they have prayed for
- 1. The Preventing of them, and Keeping them off.
- 2. The Removing them, and Taking them off.
1. For the Preventing them, and keeping them Off. Thus did Agur, Prov. 30. 8, 9. where you have his Prayer; First, Against the Evils of Sin, Ver. 7. Take from me Vanity and Lying. Next, Against the Evils of Affliction, Ver. 8. Give me not Poverty.
2. They have prayed for the Removing them, and taking them off. And those have done it, who got as much good by their Afflictions, as any under Heaven. Thus David, Psal. 39. 10. Take a∣way thy Stroak from me. Psal. 119. 22. Turn away Shame and Reproach from me. Thus did Job, Job 9. 34. Let him take away his Rod from me. Job 13. Page 43 20, 21. Withdraw thine Hand from me, &c. Where, he Prayeth for Gods taking away his Afflicting Rod, and for his with-drawing his Afflicting Hand. And these Two men, got as much good by their being Afflicted, as ever any did.
Thus, in General, You see what we Answer to the Question, Whether Evils of Af∣fliction may be Prayed against?