THE RIGHTEOUS MANS REFVGE.
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great & mighty things, which thou knowest not.
THe Prophet Ieremiah in this & the foregoing Chapter, layes down sundry and e∣minent mercies that he in∣tends for the good of his elect people; notwithstanding their provoking of God by their severall relapses & sun∣dry backslidings; & though their ene∣mies also did threaten them with utter desolation, and that they should be de∣solate Page 192 without man, and without in∣habitant, and without beast, yet the voice of joy and the voice of glad∣nesse, the voice of the Bridegroom & the voice of the Bride, the voice of them that shall say, praise the LORD of hosts, for the Lord is good▪ for his mercy endureth for ever; this voice shall be to the inhabitants of Ierusa∣lem. But by what means shall these mercies be bestowed on then? in this Text, he tells them where ever they are afflicted or in any great distresse, call unto me, and I will answer thee. And as Christ in the Gospell, having the book of the Prophet Esaias deli∣vered unto him, when he was in the Synagogue, read apart of it, then closed the book, and began his ser∣mon to the people; this day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears, Luke 4.21. So may I say of this Text, that we have out of this Prophecy read unto you.
Behold this day hath the Lord full∣filled this word of his in our ears be∣fore our eyes. And therefore is it that Page 193 we are all here this day met before the Lord, that we may witness unto this his good word and promise, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. In the two last Verses of this Chapter, the Lord promiseth to establish a Covenant with David and raise up a deliverance to the seed of Ia∣cob, and cause them to return out of their captivities, & he will have mer∣cy on them.
That which he saith to his people, he speaks it plainly and openly, I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. The heathen Gods did speak darkly and ambiguously to their worshippers, that they knew not what to make of their words; but I have not done so to you, saith God. They would have you worship them, but they cannot help you when you have so done; it is not so with me, Thus saith the Lord, if my Covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then will I cast away the Page 194 seed of Iacob, that is, the Church of God, the Saints.
You will say, Why are the people of God called the seed of Iacob, rather then the seed of Abraham, or the seed of Isaac? the seed of Iacob. The reasons may be these two. First, because that all Iacobs posterity were the Church of God; all Iacobs children the Pa∣triarchs, were every one of the Church; All that came from Abra∣ham were not so, Ishmael was not so; All that came from Isaac were not so, Esau was not; But all Iacobs children were: therefore speaking of the peo∣ple of God, of the Church that should be to the end of the world, they are said here to be the seed of Iacob, rather then the seed of Abraham, or of Isaac.
Then secondly, the seed of Iacòb, be∣cause the Lord is here speaking of the blessing of his seed, namely in the hearing of their prayers. Call unto me, and I will answer thee. Now because Iacob was the most eminent in prayer, (though Abraham and Isaac Page 195 no question were mighty with God in prayer yet,) the Scripture doth not put such an eminency either upon A¦braham or Isaac for prayer as upon Iacob. You have the most eminent expression for prayer that ever was spoken of any man, never the like. Gen. 32.28. And he said, thy name shall be called no more Iacob, but Israel: for as a Prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. O how e∣minent was he in prayer. Therefore it is rather said, the seed of Iacob, then of Abraham or Isaac.
But you will say, then they should rather have been called the seed of Israel: for his name of Israel was gi∣ven him upon his prevailing with God.
We must not be too inquisitive. These names are used promiscuously. But, this is one reason that is given, and it seemeth to have probability with it.
In Scripture when God speaks of the Church in a low condition, he puts the name of Iacob on them ra∣ther Page 196 then Israel: Fear not, thou worm Iacob: and it follows, ye men of Israel, Isa. 41.14. He puts them in mind of their low condition by this name ra∣ther then Israel; Fear not thou worm Iacob: For before Iacobs name was changed, ye know what a low condi∣tion, and what streights he was in. So here, the Lord speaking of his Churches deliverance out of distress, he calls them the seed of Iacob, that they might see how by their prayers they were brought from their streights, as Iacob was brought from his streights by prayer. When he was Iacob before he was Israel, he was in great streights: so shall the Church be till they seek God. Call unto me and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.
That is, first, I did require it of them, and my requiring did prevail with them: I did not exhort them to it, or require it, and my words fell to the ground and they did not call unto me; but what I required of them was Page 197 effected in them. When God speaks to a people, and they do not what he requires, his word may seem to be slighted, there being no efficacy in his words to prevail. But saith God, Call unto mee, and I will answer thee, that is, I called not on my people to call unto me and they went their own way; but what I spake to them pre∣vailed with them, and in them, and they did that which I required. This is a blessed thing that we do that which the Lord requires of us to be done. That is the first observa∣tion.
Secondly, call unto me, and I will answer thee, that is, I did not onely command, but I did promise to an∣swer them. They calling unto me in a right manner, by that way & means which I directed them, I promised to answer their desires, when that they should call unto me.
I suppose that the principall scope of the holy Ghost is that which the words plainly present to our view; That we must call upon God, before Page 198 he will hear and answer our requests. God requires his people to call unto him, and he is pleased to be found of them; and not onely to answer them, but to do abundantly for them.
So then this point ariseth plainly out of the words, When God requires a people to him, he will make it good to them that he will answer them.
Before I open this point I will give you a Scripture or two, one in the old Testament, and another in the new, Deut. 4.7. For what Nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? Here is an experi∣ment of the fruit of calling unto God; and it is spoken to shew the honour of Gods people, the priviledge of the seed of Iacob, and the eminent condi∣tion they were in. God is nigh to them in all things they call upon him for: therefore they are not required to seek God in vain. So Matth. 21.22. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. A very strange expression: Here might Page 199 seem to be a tautologie. One would think that it had been large enough to have said, Whatsoever ye shall ask, ye shall receive: but here is, all things whatsoever. We would not speak so in ordinary language. I will give you all things whatsoever. Yet it may be, this may be intended, and I believe it is; And all things, here is the generall promise, that all things that ye ask ye shall receive: and whatsoever, may re∣ferre to particulars, every particular thing that ye ask ye shall receive. You will say, any one that understands rea∣son or Logick knoweth that particu∣lars are included in the generall. But there is this illogicall reasoning of un∣belief; that though we agree to the premises in generall, yet when we come to particulars, we think they will not be made good to us. I suppose you find your unbelieving hearts so irrationall, that though they believe the generall promise, yet when it comes to particulars, and you cannot but say that such a particular is in the generall, yet your hearts will not Page 200 come up to it. Therefore our Saviour saith not onely, all things in generall, but also, whatsoever, in particu∣lar.
So, Jam. 5.16. The effectuall fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. There is but one word in the origi∣nall, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the working prayer; but it is translated by two, effectuall, fer∣vent. Surely then prayer and seeking of God is the ordinance which he hath appointed for the turning about of the great affairs of the world. T•… is the engine that doth it inwardly▪ there are indeed a great many out∣ward wheeles used, but the spring of all is within, prayer turns all about. God never made use of any created power so much as of this. He never did such great things by any created power as by the ordinance of prayer. The Word is appointed for the con∣verting of souls, but a great part of the blessing of the Word dependeth on prayer.
In the opening of this point I will first give you some evidences of it; Se∣condly, Page 201 shew you what great things prayer will do. Thirdly, wherein the efficacy and power of it lyeth. Fourth∣ly, the objections of troubled unbe∣lieving spirits against it. And then come to apply all. The evidences here∣of are first the many famous records in Scripture of the noble and glorious exploits of prayer. If any of you should come to me to ask, as that King did of the prophets servant, 2. Kings 8.4. What great things hath thy master done? so what great things hath prayer done in the world? truly we might spend houres and dayes in returning you an answer, a great part of holy Scripture being spent in this very ar∣gument. And it is a very good exer∣cise for you in the night, when you cannot sleep, or at other times when you are troubled, to do as that King did, Esther 6.1. call for the book of the Records of prayer. You that read the Scriptures, mark what you read. The word of God will tell you how prayer hath stopped the Sunne in the firmament, opened heaven, and shut it Page 202 again, raised from death to life, opened the prison doores, and what not?
Secondly, all Gods people are able to tell you great stories of what they have gotten by prayer. This poor man cryed, saith David of himself, Psalm. 34.6. and the Lord heard him. Who is it that cannot tell histories of Gods gracious dealing with him upon his calling unto him? to be sure▪ our Na∣tion hath many things to say this way; and every particular godly soul hath many things to say: they would not lose their income of prayer for all the world.
Thirdly, surely it is not in vain to call unto God: for there was never any soul that ever would leave off, but would continue as long as he lived seeking him: he would seek his face evermore; if he had had no answer, he would have left off. When we see a Bee stick on a Flower, and will not be driven off, or if she be driven off, she will come again, we conclude certain∣ly it finds honey there. So all the Page 203 Saints of God that have ever sought God truly, they would never be beaten off this way. Let the world do what it will, persecute them, set spies to watch them in their meetings of prayer, let it punish and imprison them, let all the malice and rage of men be against them, yet they cannot hinder them either from praying in their closets, or from injoying the benefit of the communion of Saints in prayer. Daniel had rather lose his life then be kept from his prayers, though but for a day: but pray he would, and that openly, yea three times a day, as he was wont; he would not forbear one time. He did stick to prayer find∣ing honey & sweetnesse in it. Oh how unlike are we to Daniel, though the performance of this duty was exceed∣ing hazzardable to Daniel, yet he would not be deterred from it; but every light trifle taketh off our hearts.
It is not in vain for wicked men to call upon God, though they are not able to seek God as they ought. The Page 204 prayer of the wicked is abominable, saith Solomon. Prov. 15.8. That is not to be understood of the prayer of every man that is unregenerate, wickednesse is not so to be taken in that place. For we know that God hath regarded the prayers of men unregenerate. The prayers & fasting of Niniveh were re∣garded of God: the praying & fasting of Ahab was regarded of God. God hath granted the wicked some mer∣cies, he hath looked on them as his creatures. Though God seeth enough in their prayers to cast them off, yet God hath manifested his regard to them. Therefore if it be not in vain for the wicked to call unto the Lord, much lesse is it in vain for the seed of Iacob, the elect of God, to call unto him.
Yea, the Lord heareth the cry of the very Ravens & the beasts, Psalme 147.9. and Psalme 104.21, 27, 28. Therefore the people of Niniveh would have the beasts eat nothing, that they might cry unto God, Ionah 3.7, 8. Surely if the brute beasts and Page 205 the fouls be heard when they cry, it is good for the people of God, to call unto him.
There is very great reason that we should call unto God, because the peo∣ple of God that have been wise and have conversed with God, and have known much of the mind of God, have given up themselves and all their strength to the duty of prayer. Now it were a weak part and an idle thing for any one to give up his strength & all his might to that which in reason we could not expect, and whereby there is no great thing to be obtained. It is said of Iehoshaphat 2. Chron. 20.3. that he feared, and set himself to seek the Lord. It is translated composuit fa∣ciem suam, he set his face, he gave him∣self up fully to seek the Lord. They know what they doe that give up themselves wholly to seek God.
Indeed carnall hearts condemn the people of God because they see them so earnest in those things that they think to be frivolous: For it argueth weaknesse in any man to give up him∣self Page 206 with all his strength to things that are vanity, and have no strength in them. Therefore because carnall men look upon the way of Religion, as a thing that hath no end, they think it foolish for men to be so earnest to give up their strength & their whole souls for it: But the Saints of God know what they do when they give them∣selves up to seek the Lord, they know if they call unto him, he will answer them.
Again, this is an evidence that there is much advantage by prayer, because men that were wise and holy have so prized the prayers of the Saints, and made such high account of them. Mark the expression of the Apostle, writing to the Saints for their prayers. Rom. 15.30. Now I beseech you, bre∣thren, for the Lord Iesus Christs sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together in prayer with me in your hearts to God for me. The Apostle Paul, so great a man, and one that had a migh∣ty spirit in prayer, writing to private Christians in the Church of Rome, he Page 207 beseecheth them for the Lords sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that they strive in prayer for him: He knew that there was much to be had this way.
Yea further, God is found of them that sought him not, Isaiah 65, 1. then surely, the people of God that call up∣on him, shall receive answer from him.
Yea yet further, God when he in∣tends to shew no mercy, giveth a streight charge to his people not to pray, or he shutteth up their hearts that they are not able to pray. This is an argument that prayer is prevalent, because when God will not shew mercy, he would not have such a pre∣cious thing lost and spent to no pur∣pose.
Lastly, it is not in vain, because if it should, then a praying heart were not alway a mercy from God: but cer∣tainly it is. Therefore though perhaps you cannot find the thing granted that you pray for, yet to have a continuall praying heart, know that it is a great Page 208 mercy from God. And those that are spirituall, prize more the continuance of a praying heart many times, then the granting of the thing they pray for. All these put together are full evi∣dences, that it is not in vain to call un∣to the Lord.
There be many other evidences which I passe by one purpose, that I may have as much time as may be for application.
But now, wherein doth it appear that it is not in vain to seek the Lord? what doth prayer do?
First, it is not in vain to seek God, if there were nothing else in prayer but the right exercise of the faculties of our souls and of our graces; this alone were worth our time. The gra∣ces of our souls must be exercised about somewhat: Now prayer serveth for the exercise of all graces.
Secondly, it is not in vain if it were nothing but the performance of our duty as creatures to God. There are many people that are weary of prayer, because they have not that by it that Page 209 they expect: But know that there are two arguments to prayer; the perfor∣mance of duty, and the obtaining of mercy: If there were but onely the former, that alone should suffice to keep thee praying as long as thou livest.
Thirdly, it were not in vain if it were nothing but the tendering that homage and worship that we owe to God. Prayer is not onely a duty, but a great part of the worship that God hath in the world. While we are worshipping of God it is worth the time.
Again, it is not in vain, if there were nothing but this, that we come and shew what side we are of, that we joyn and side with God against his adver∣saries and for his people. But these are not the things here intended.
Further, it is not in vain, because there is no faithfull prayer that ever was made but God accepts of it in heaven. There was never one of the seed of Iacob, that ever put up a faith∣full petition to God, but God took it Page 210 in his hand and read it. A King or any superiour, when you come with a pe∣tition may refuse to take it, but God never refuseth to take any petition from a faithfull soul. Therefore saith the Psalmist, Psal. 6.9. The Lord hath heard my supplication, the Lord will re∣ceive my prayer. He will take it, and look on it, and read it; and not onely so, but he will also accept it, and take pleasure in it: A Prince may take a pe∣tition, and look on it, and after frown and shew anger in his countenance; but God doth not so with the prayers of his people: The prayer of the upright is his delight, Prov. 15.8. he never reads a petition that his people ten∣ders, but with a smiling countenance. If it be a faithfull petition, he accepts it of them and receives it graciously. It is an expression of Luther speaking of the prayer of a contrite heart, The least sigh of a contrite heart so fills hea∣ven with noise, that there is no noise of any thing in heaven or earth heard at that time, but onely the noise of prayer. Certainly a faithfull prayer taketh the Page 211 heart of God very much, yea every faithfull prayer is recorded in heaven. You keep your letters upon the file, that you may readily find them, when you have occasion to look on such a letter sent from such a countrey: so God hath his file in heaven where all faithfull prayers are kept upon re∣cord. As Princes have their paper of∣fices, where transaction between one State and another are kept, so the Lord hath his prayer-office, where he keeps all the prayers of his Saints that ever were put up to him. Revel. 8.3. Another Angel came and stood at the Altar, having a golden censer, and there was given him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all Saints. Where were those prayers of all the Saints that he must take a cen∣ser and offer incense with? God had them recorded with him, and now they were to be offered to him. And see what great things follow upon the offering of the prayers of the Saints, vers. 4. The smoak of the incense which came with the prayers of the Saints, Page 212 ascended up before God out of the Angels hand. And the Angel took the censer, &c. and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. These followed upon the prayers of the Saints. It signified the time wherein all should come in remembrance be∣fore the Lord, as if an Angel were of∣fering, yea, Christ the Angel of the Covenant, hath a time to take the prayers presented long ago, and to of∣fer them to God with his own incense. They are all recorded in heaven, there∣fore they are not in vain. When a pe∣tition is taken and put upon record, the petitioner petitioneth not in vain, his petition is not thrown out. God doth take all the petitions of the Saints and recordeth them; they are all filed up in heaven.
Yet further, there is no faithfull pe∣tition but God puts his fiat to the bot∣tom of it, at the instant that it is put up to him. There is a decree in heaven issued out for mercy, at the very in∣stant that the petition is put up, God dealeth not with us in this kind, as Page 213 men do who are counted very gra∣cious, if they please to tell us they will consider of our petition: no; but your petition is presently granted. A peti∣tioner when there is time taken to consider of his petition, trembles and shakes for fear it should not be grant∣ed: but the petitions of the Saints of God are granted presently. When Da∣niel had been seeking God at the even∣ing sacrifice, an Angel comes to him, and tells him, that at the beginning of his prayer there was a decree to grant it, and that he was sent to him at the beginning of his prayer, Dan. 9.23. & Psa. 56.9. When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know, for God is for me. Did not Da∣vid cry oft, and yet his enemies did not turn their backs when he cryed? He cryed oft when his enemies pre∣vailed: yet he saith, When I cried then mine enemies turned back: and this I know, why? for God is for me. The meaning must be this, that at that in∣stant that he cryed, there was a decree in heaven; the thing was done. He Page 214 looked on it as done, even as certainly as if he had seen it with his eyes.
This is the reason that the Saints after they have prayed, though the thing be not actually done, fall to prai∣sing and blessing of God. We have a notable example in Iehoshaphat, of whom we read 2. Chron. 20.3. that being in a great fear bad set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Iudah. He did not seek God slightly, but set himself to seek the Lord. And what his prayer was, ye may see from vers. 6. to 12. And Ie∣hoshaphat said▪ O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven, and rulest over all Kingdomes? Mark how he pleadeth with God for the Covenant he had made, vers. 8. Speaking of the Sanctuary they had built for his names sake; If when evil commeth upon us, as the sword, judgement, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help. He urgeth the promise made to Solomon at the Page 215 dedication of the Temple. For that prayer of Faith which Solomon made, and God accepted, hath the strength of a promise in it. O our God, saith he, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great com∣pany that cometh against us, neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee.* Though he profest that his enemies were so many, that he knew not what to do, and that they had no might to resist them, yet after his prayer was done, and before the battell began, when he had consulted with the peo∣ple, he appointed singers unto the Lord, that should praise the beau∣ty of holinesse, as they went out before the Army, and to say, Praise the Lord, for his mercie endureth for e∣ver, vers. 21.
Mark: he had not yet gotten the vi∣ctory, the battell was not fought, yet as soon as he had ended his prayer, he praised the Lord for his mercie in∣dureth for ever. He made account that the thing was done: It was de∣creed in heaven. Therefore surely the Page 216 people of God are answered when they call upon him.
Nay, it is not onely decreed, but ere long God will satisfie his people, & fill their longing souls with goodnesse, Psal. 107.9. A time shall come when they shall they say their prayers are heard, and that they have enough. Yea the Lord giveth more sometimes then his people mention in their prayer, they ask temporall blessings, and he bestoweth spirituall, yea he gi∣veth them himself, and that is all in all. Surely then the prayers of the Saints are heard and answered.
But wherein lyeth the efficacy of prayer? What makes prayer so power∣full with God?
One thing is, because God de∣lighteth in mercy, and in communi∣cating himself to the children of men. He taketh more pleasure in doing good, then any can in seeking it; yea, then any can in enjoying it from him. Our hearts cannot be so strongly set to seek for any mercy from God, as he is to communicate mercy to us. Who Page 217 is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgres∣sion of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, be∣cause he delighteth in mercy, Mic. 7.18.
Another thing that rendreth pray∣er so effectuall, is Gods Covenant and promise to his people. It was the speech of Alchimedes, Give me a place to set my Engine in, and I will shake the whole earth. Let prayer have a sure foundation to set foot on, and it will do mighty things. Now the promises are the foundation of pray∣er, whereof we have great abun∣dance Numb. 23. You shall find abun∣dance of promises to the Saints of God, when Balaam was brought to curse the people. But in Deuter. 33. there are admirable promises. There is none like unto the God of I•shurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and on the skie in his excellency. The eternall God is his refuge, and underneath are the everlasting armes: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before Page 218 thee, and shall say, destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety a∣lone, the fountain of Iacob shall be upon a land of Corn and Wine, also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is that sword of thy excellency, and thine enemies shall be found lyars un∣to thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places. Here are promises to the Saints of God. They shall have all things that are good, and God will manifest himself, especially against his enemies. There must be a mighty efficacy in such a plea, when there are such large promises. So in the 14. Chapt. of this book of Isaiah, there are diverse promises for Gods people, For the Lord will have mercy on Ia∣cob, and will yet choose Israel and set them in their own land, & the stranger shall be joyned with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Iacob, and the people shall take them and bring them to their place: and the house of Page 219 Israel shall possesse them in the land of the Lord for servants and hand∣maids: and they shall take them ca∣ptives, whose captives they were, and they shall rule over their oppressours. And it shall come to passe that in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, &c. I make no question but some of the people of God have been pleading this pro∣mise in prayer where the Lord hath promised to have mercy on Israel, and to give him rescue from his sorrows, and fears, and hard bondage. It was hard bondage that we were made to serve in, not long ago; here is a pro∣mise that God will give us rest from it; and upon the pleading of this pro∣mise God hath made it good to his people.
And in Isa. 41.8. there are large pro∣mises in that Chapter to the Saints of God. But thou Israel my servant, Iacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, Thou whom he have taken Page 220 from the ends of the earth. Here are pro∣mises for prayer to set foot upon, no marvell if it hath so much power and efficacy.
There are divers others, and ma∣ny things behind of the efficacy of prayer, as it depends upon the pro∣mise & covenant that God hath made with his people: for every promise is but a severall branch and expression of the covenant of God: therefore we are to referre them all to the Co∣venant. I will give you but one Scri∣pture, Ier. 30.10, 11. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Iacob, nei∣ther be dismaied O Israel: for lo, I will save thee from a far, and thy seed from the land of their captivity, and Iacob shall return and be in rest and quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations, whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in mea∣sure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished. There is somewhat that Page 221 God doth, but yet still he remembers his promise in the middest of afflicti∣on, that he will leave nothing of that undone: therefore though his people be under great afflictions, the Lord will be good to them according to his promise.
Now again the Lord will regard the prayers of his people; the effica∣cy of their prayers depends upon this, because it is Gods own work. That which is the work of God is not in vain: God made none of his works in vain. Now all their calling upon God, it is from God; it is Gods own work, and a most glorious piece of the work of God. Every prayer that comes from the poorest Saints of God; every gracious, and faithfull prayer it is a glorious piece of Gods work; It is a work of the holy Ghost, and therefore it is not in vain.
Again, as their prayers come from God, they seek God from God; so they seek God for God, they seek the Lord for himself. If the people of God seek God onely for Corn, Page 222 and Wine, and Oyle; if they did seek him onely for their own ease, and outward liberties, and accommoda∣tions, and for the lives of their ene∣mies, perhaps they might seek in vain. No, but when they seek God, they seek God for God, & thence they pre∣vail so much with God, Ye ask amisse, that ye may spend it on your lusts. Iames 4.3. You pray to God oft to be deli∣vered from enemies, and you think your prayers (if it be in such a time as this) they come in vain: No marvell if so you pray that you may have li∣berty to trade, and deliverance from taxations; (these may be sought,) but the house of Iacob seeks God for his name, that that may not be dishonour∣ed, and for his Gospell, that that be not taken away, and the power of god∣linesse trodden as dirt in the street. When they seek God for God, no que∣stion, but God will hear and an∣swer.
But the great efficacy of prayer is this, it is part of the purchase of the bloud of Christ: that God might hear Page 223 the prayers of the Saints, it comes from the merits of Christ, it is a part of his purchase that God should re∣gard them, it is in his name that we pray; so we are taught. It is by Christ that we have accesse to the throne of grace, our priviledge of seeking God is that which Christ hath purchased by his bloud. So that our seeking of God is not onely a duty, and benefi∣ciall to us, but it is a high priviledge purchased by the bloud of Christ; by him we have accesse with boldness, the word is, with liberty of speech: li∣berty of speech is by the bloud of Christ, that we may come before the Lord, and open our minds fully, cer∣tainly there is a great deal of efficacy in prayer. Whatsoever our prayers are, as they are from us, though they be vain as they are from us, yet take them as Christs purchase, here lies the great efficacy of prayer.
Think not that the efficacy of prayer lies in earnestnesse, or enlargement: though it be a comfort and an evi∣dence that God enlargeth us by his Page 224 Spirit, (it is not parts that enlarge, but the Spirit) but the virtue of prayer lies not here: the strength whereby prayer doth great things, it lies in se∣cret, in the purchase of Christ.
Again, Christ takes all the prayers of his people, and tenders them up to his Father for acceptance. We have a more glorious way of coming to God then Adam had in innocency, yea in some respects then the Angels themselves, by having such an Inter∣cessor that takes all our prayers and carries them to his father.
Yea, not onely so, but he joins with us to the Father. There is a place in the Hebrews quoted out of the Psalms, that shews that Christ prai∣seth God in the congregation; it is not onely the Saints that praise God but Christ himself. Heb. 2.12. I will de∣clare thy name unto my brethren, in the middest of the Church will I sing praises unto thee. Christ in the middest of the Church sings praise to God. When people meet to praise God, Christ praiseth him. It is a mighty encou∣ragement Page 225 in praising God. So in pray∣er, when we meet to seek God Christ seeks him: for he is at the right hand of the Father, making continuall inter∣cession for the Saints; Christ himself joynes with them in the work that their prayers may be heard and an∣swered.
Again, it is the stile and title that God glories in, to be a God hearing prayer, therefore he will hear and an∣swer.
Again, prayer is the pouring forth of the spirit to God; the spirit that is so be beautified with the graces of his own spirit; now the pouring forth of such a precious spirit to God so beau∣tified, and principled with the graces of the holy Ghost, certainly this can∣not but be answered by God. Indeed, the Scripture saith of the heart of the wicked, that it is little worth: Let their heart be poured fourh, God doth lit∣tle mind, or regard it: but the heart of the righteous is much worth; it is very precious before God: therefore when their hearts are poured out, Page 226 and God sees the beauty and glory of his graces on them, it is exceeding de∣lightfull to him, and such pouring out of their hearts, are heard and answer∣ed. If God have a bottle for all their tears, he hath a bottle also for all their expressions, and pouring out of their hearts in prayer.
Further, the exceeding delight that God hath in his Saints must needs cause God to regard their calling unto him. They are his darlings: now there is no man that loves to deny a suit to any that he delights in.
Lastly, it were not for the honour of God, that his people should call un∣to him, and not be answered, nor re∣ceive that comfort they pray for. It is reported of Titus, though he were a heathen Emperour, yet he would not that any man should go sad out of the presence of the Prince. God accounts it an honour that none should go sad out of his presence. Therefore those are called on to rejoyce that seek the Lord. Let the hearts of them rejoyce that seek the Lord, Psalm. 105.3. not onely Page 227 let the heart of them rejoyce that find the Lord, that obtain that they seek, but those that seek the Lord, while they are seeking should rejoyce in seeking him.
But now I will onely take away that great objection, and reasoning, that is in the hearts of many men a∣gainst this point, and then come to the application.
You tell us that the prayers of Gods people are not in vain. But when they call unto him he will answer them, and by Gods mercy now and then, we have found some comfortable hear∣ing from heaven: but ordinarily we find it otherwise. How many prayers have we put up to God, and find not the issue? we pray, and pray, and the enemies prevail, though now and then God give us help.
Now for the taking away of all un∣believing reasonings against this point, I will not go from the Text at this time.
Therefore the first answer is this: You say you have sought God, and Page 228 have not what you would have, and therefore God hath not answered when you have called.
Though perhaps this that you now say is something, yet it makes not the text void. Remember what hath been before: heretofore you have sought God, and God had answered your seekings, remember the times of old, let that for the present a little stay you. It was that that stayed the Psalmist, he began to reason as you do, that he had sought God without answer, Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? &c. Psalm, 7, 8. here seems to be as much unbelief as in your rea∣soning, but mark what follows, v. 10. And I said this is my death: but I will re∣member the years of the right hand of the most high. O, it is my sinne, and weak∣nesse that I should reason thus, I con∣sider not what to do when I reason thus: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high, vers. 11. I will remember the works Page 229 of the Lord: sure•y I will remember the wonders of old. v. 12. I will medi∣tate also of all thy works, and talk of thy doings. Thy way O God is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders, thou hast declared thy strength among the people, v. 14. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Iacob and Io∣seph, v. 15 Mark, at length he reco∣vers himself with this, though pre∣sent things seem to go hard, yet he re∣membred what God had done; so do thou in this case. In this book of Isaiah, you have a complaint of unbe∣lieving hearts, as if God had been sought in vain. Isa 40.27. Why sayest thou O Iacob, and speakest O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judge∣ment is passed over from my God. Art thou one of the seed of Iacob, and hast sought God and sayest, thou hast had no answer? God reasons the case, and will confute their unbelief. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Page 230 creator of the ends of the earth, faint∣eth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint, & to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. v. 28, 29, 30, 31. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as Eagles; they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk & not faint. Hath not God done great things heretofore, in 88. and in the powder plot and at other times? and though we be in some streights, re∣member what God did before.
This should appease your hearts, what though thou have not present audience for the thing thou seekest: yet think, I deal with a God that hath an understanding that I cannot search. God it may be lets the adversary pre∣vail sometimes, I cannot tell what glo∣ry God may get by it, I cannot con∣ceive how God can bring his own glory about when Israel flees before Page 231 the Philistines. But why sayest thou so O Iacob? there is no searching of Gods understanding, God sees further then thou canst see: that thing that thou thinkest will make against his name may make for it: therefore lay thine hand upon thine heart. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might. God stayes till men have no might, till they faint, and are ready to fail, and then he comes and helps them. That is the meaning of that Scripture in Luke, where Christ saith, God will avenge his elect that cry night and day to him, though he tarry, he will avenge them, he will hear their prayers, he will answer their requests. But it follows upon it, not∣withstanding when the Sonne of man comes shall he find faith on earth? I verily think that that want of faith, hath reference to that very promise specially, that God will hear his elect that cry: but God may stay so long, as that the very time when God shall come to perform it, and shall intend to do it, it may be a time when their Page 232 faith is overcome, and fails in the pro∣mise, that they begin to give over, and think they have sought God in vain. And usually the time when God comes to fulfill his promise, and to answer the prayers of his people, it is that very time when they fail and are ready to s•ck. Therefore that may be another argument, it may be thou hast not believed this promise. Thou sayest thou hast prayed, and thou thinkest thou hast not answer: hast thou believed this promise in the Text? hast thou relyed on it? God hath commanded it, and hast thou done as he commanded with belief, Call unto me and I will answer thee.
The word of God shall be made good, but how? upon our faith: it shall be made good to us upon our belie∣ving: though we be never so godly, and pray never so well, yet if we will have the promises made good, it must be upon believing. If thou hast not laid the weight of thy soul on the pro∣mise, thou hast no cause to say that God hath not made his word good; it Page 233 may be thou hast not faith: learn to believe the word, and then thou shalt have it fulfilled. Thou wouldest have it made good, and then thou wouldest believe it; no, thou must first believe the word, and then expect that God should fulfill his promise.
Again, God is a great God that we call unto, and it is fit for us to wait, & and to wait long. He is great, and we call for great things, and we are poor, mean, vile wretches. God hath his prerogative sometimes to answer pre∣sently, sometimes not so. Elias was a great praying man, he is set for an example of prayer; he prayes at one time for fire to come on the sacrifice, and fire came down presently; another time he prayed for rain, and then he prayed seven times, and bowed his head between his knees, and sent his servant, and sent him again and again. At one time God comes in at the first, at another time not till the seventh hour; it is Gods prerogative.
And take this note; it is a true sign of a gracious spirit, though God defer, Page 234 yet still for the soul to cling to God, to think well of God, and of the wayes of God, and of the duty of prayer; it is an excellent sign, and the ready way to find favour with God. You have sometimes two beggers follow you for alms; one perhaps hath true need, pure need, and is of a soft tender spi∣rit, the other is a sturdy rugged beg∣gar, you deny them both; he that hath pure need, and hath a soft tender spi∣rit, he thinks he is unworthy that the other man should be bountifull to him and he falls a weeping: yet he thinks well of the man, and will be ready to beg of him upon another oc∣casion, he hath good thoughts of him. But the sturdy begger rails, & breaks into an angry passionate mood, and he will ask no more; who of them is like to prevail, the soft spirit that hath an ingenious disposition, or the sturdy spirit that soon breaks off? Thus there are many passionate hearts, that are not froward with men, but with God, they come, and ask mercy of God, but their hearts are stiff, and froward Page 235 and sturdy, if they have not that they would, they presently break off, and say, why should we wait on God, and cry, it is in vain to seek the Lord. But now a gracious, tender, ingenious disposition, though the thing come not that he prayes for, he justifies God in all, and speaks well of God, and well of prayer, and loves that still, and waits on God in that way: this is the soul that is likely to pre∣vail.
But further, (to answer from the Text) it may be thou hast not called unto God, Call unto me, saith God. It may be it is somewhat else that thou hast sought in prayer then God: though thou name God in thy prayer, it may be thy heart hath been after creature-helps, and thou hast made more account of the help of the crea∣ture, of Armies, and strength, thou hast made account that they would do it rather then prayer; and if there be no help but prayer, thou thinkest it but a dry businesse.
A carnall hearted man when he Page 236 hears of an army of twenty thousand men well clothed and the like, he thinks much may be done, but for the prayers of Gods people they think they be nothing. Now if thou have sought help by creatures, rather then by God, thou hast not sought God all the while, Or if it have been but out∣ward safety, that thou hast sought and not the face of God, thou hast not sought God, Seek my face, saith God, Psalm 27. This is the generation of them that seek thy face, O Iacob. Psalm. 24. Thou seekest not God, without thou seek Gods face, without thou seek God for himself. And ordinarily, God is not sought, but thy estate is sought; and thou cryest out for the danger thou art in. Therefore thou hast no cause to say, it is in vain, look to thy prayers, take up thy prayers a∣gain. Do as the fishermen do; if they find that there comes nothing up, that they do not catch, they take up their net, it may be there is a hole, a rent in the net. And so the Angler, if the fish do not bite he takes up the bait, it Page 237 may be there is somewhat wanting on the hook. So look to thy prayers, it may be it is not God that thou hast sought, take them up and see what is amisse in them.
Another answer is this, it may be thy prayers have been vain and there∣fore no marvell if nothing but vain come of them. Surely; God will not hear vanity, Iob 35.13. If there be nothing but vanity, how canst thou expect that God should hear them? Our pray∣ers are ordinarily without form, and void, that is, there is nothing but va∣nity in them. Not that God regards so much the setting of a mans words in form handsomely: for the grones and sighs of the spirit of God are acce∣pted, though they be not methodi∣call, as the making of a speech to men; God looks not to that. Many pray, and they know not why, but because o∣thers do; but they propound not the true end of prayer.
I appeal to thy conscience; when thou hast gone to pray to God, hast thou propounded this end? I am go∣ing Page 238 to tender up that worship and ho∣mage, that I a poor creature, owe to to the infinite glorious first being of all things: you call your families sometimes to come to prayer, and ne∣ver think what you do, what you aim at. I and my family are now going to seek the great God in prayer, I am now going to joyn with my father or my master, now that we are altogether in this family to tender up that worship and homage that we poor creatures owe to that infinite glorious first be∣ing of all things whereby to testifie our high respect, and esteem of him. Now if thy prayer be a customary way of prayer it is vanity, it hath not a right end.
It may be thou goest to prayer meerly to satisfie conscience· Or some have this by end in prayer, a wicked end, that is, they think to satisfie God for their former sinfull wicked wayes. They take liberty in company to drink and please the flesh, and as they served themselves then, so now they will serve God, and set one against another. Page 239 Sometimes they will give liberty to the flesh to take contentment that way, but they will not alway do so, sometime they will be devout & serve God. There is no man so wicked as to be alwayes in the acts of wickednesse, but they think God must have his turn, and they must have their turn sometimes. And this is the prayer of many people, to put their sins in one scale, and so many devout prayers in the other scale, and the one shall poize the other. This is vanity, this is not the end of prayer.
When God doth not see thy ex∣pressions filled with the graces of the Spirit: this is vanity; Take heed of vain expressions, when there is no∣thing but nature in prayer; though there be never so much earnestnesse in prayer, if there be but a naturall spirit it is vanity, we must pray in the spirit as the Scripture speaks.
And take heed of sluggishnesse in prayer, that makes it vanity. The breath that comes from life in mans body is warm, but the breath that Page 240 comes from bellows is artificiall and cold, some mens breath in prayer is artificiall and cold, but the prayer that comes from life, is warm breath that comes up to God.
Again, vanity in prayer is this, when all is eaten out with vain thoughts, thy heart roves in prayer, thou knowest not where thou art, thou canst not call that which thou makest a prayer. A prayer with vain thoughts it like beer, or wine that is dead, and hath lost the spirits. Vain thoughts are worms that eat out the strength of a duty: would you present a dish to your superiour that were worm eaten, or that were gnawn on before? when we let out our thoughts in duties, and present them to God, they are worm-eaten, and torn, the strength of them is quite gone.
And after you have prayed, take heed that you make not your prayers vain, by not looking after them, for the accomplishment of them; or by being proud of your prayers & gifts, by resting in them.
Page 241And again it is vani•y when thou undoest all as soon as thou hast done, by going contrary to thy prayer in thy life, not adding watchfulnesse to prayer. If a man take pains to weave a web, and spend so many hours in it, and then ravell it out, this man spends his time in vain. So do most people with their prayers, they pray for mer∣cie, and grace, and as soon as they have done they go quite contrarie and ra∣vell and undo all, is not this vanity? No marvell if thou thinkest it in vain, when there is nothing but vain thoughts in thy prayers.
And take heed that you make not the prayers of others vain. Luther writes to Melancthon angerly, in re∣gard of his fear of the power of his adversaries, saith he. You make our prayers void. So it may be said of ma∣ny that are cold, and luke-warm, and dead-hearted, and do not take to heart the cause of God; that fear the dis∣pleasure of this bodie, and that bodie; you make our prayers void. You that have praying friends, it may be fa¦thers, Page 242 & mothers that are dead whose prayers are put up in heaven, take heed that you make not their prayers void; that you give them not cause if they should come to live again from the dead to weep and cry out, O how are our prayers made void by the prayers of such and such.
But you will say; Lord, what will become of us? we have abundance of vanitie in our prayers.
Therefore, that you may not be dis∣couraged, know, that though there be manie vain thoughts in prayer, yet if there be sighing and mourning, and humbling of the soul, and panting of the heart after God in groning, and sighing, & though there be a mixture of vanitie, yet there is a working of the Spirit of God, and of grace in the heart after God; know that the Lord will not charge this vanitie on thee, the Lord will do away thy sin, there∣fore let not that discourage thee. The efficacy lies not in the excellencie of thy prayer, but in the merits of Christ, and his mediation: Onely Christ will Page 243 have somewhat of thy self in thy prayer, he will have thy heart pant, & work after him: but there may be abundance of vanitie, thou drawest a line, and makest a blot, and another line, and another blot, Christ draws all fair again, and presents to his Fa∣ther.
*But another question is this, you say it is vain to pray. Can you make good that you are one of the seed of Iacob? This priviledge belongs to them; it may be you are of the seed of Esau.
The seed of Esau, what is that?
*The Apostle speaks of Esau what his guise was. Heb. 12.6. and saith, Take heed that none of you be such as E∣sau, lest there be any fornicatour or pro∣fane person as Esau, who for one morsell of meat sold his birth-right. Now if thou prove a fornicatour thou art of the seed of Esau, or a profane person; what is that? for one morsell of meat he sold his birth-right, that is, to please, and satisfie and content the flesh he sold his birth-right, that was Page 244 the land of Canaan; & so typified the priviledges of the Church of God, and even a type of heaven it was. His birth-right had a spirituall meaning, it had reference to the spirituall pri∣viledges, that the Saints of God have to this day in all the ordinances of God.
That man or woman that priseth any carnall contentment before spiri∣tuall priviledges, they are of the seed of Esau, and not of Iacob. Thou thinkest there is some savour in mo∣nie, and in a good trade, and in good chear, and such a day as this Novem∣ber 5. is better then a fastday, because of the good chear: but for the spiri∣tuall duties of this day, to come and magnifie God, and to attend upon his word, thou thinkest they are circum∣stances, and by matters, and thou art troubled if the Sermon be too long to hinder thee of thy dinner; thou art a prophane Esau, all that I have said be∣longs not to thee, thou dost not be∣long to Iacob but to Esau, that pre∣ferrest carnall things for the flesh be∣fore Page 245 the spirituall priviledges of the Saints.
*But how shall I know that I am one of the seed of Iacob.
How do you know such an ones child, but by his likenesse to his fa∣ther? One that hath the spirit of Iacob is of the seed of Iacob. There are ma∣nie things that the Scripture speaks concerning Iacob, and see if you do answer them.
First,* Iacob was a mightie man in prayer, he was a wrestler with God, & he wrestled till the day broke, & was as strong at the last as at the first: hast thou the spirit of thy father Iacob? art thou not discouraged in prayer? though mercy come not presently, yet dost thou wrestle all night, & resolve whatsoever come, if thou die, thou wilt die wrestling; here is a child like the father, therefore thou art of the seed of Iacob.
Secondly, Iecob was one that feared God, when God appeared to him he looked on the presence of God as dreadfull, How dreadfull is this place? Page 246 Genesis 28. because God was there. So dost thou look on the presence of God as dreadfull, that thou canst say the fear of the great God is on thy soul: when thou comest into his pre∣sence? mark, for this is that expression in the Psalm, Ye that fear the Lord praise him, all the seed of Iacob glorifie him, and fear him all ye seed of Israel, Psalm. 22.23. If you will be sure not to seek God in vain, but that you may praise him in seeking him, fear the Lord all the seed of Iacob.
Thirdly, Iacobs heart was disinga∣ged from the creature, a little of the creature would serve his turn, Gen. 28. Lord saith he, if thou wilt give me meat to eat & raiment to put on. He looked no further, he minded no great matters. Therefore in Ps. 24. there the generation of Iacob is set out, and one thing is, he that hath not lift up his soul to vanity. The men of the world have great things in their eyes, they are vanitie in Gods eye, though they be great in theirs, and they lift up their hearts to them. Now the sons of Ia∣cob Page 247 do not lift up their hearts to vani∣tie, though the things of the world be present, their hearts stirre not, they rise not; but if God and Christ, and heavenly things be presented, their hearts are lifted up. If thy heart be lifted up to vanitie, if thy heart be as iron and the vanities of the world come and draw it up, thou art not a son of Iacob: a little would serve Ia∣cob though he were a great heir, He was a plain man and dwelt in tents, Ge∣nesis 25. and had a plain spirit, he did not look after great things; where∣as Esau looked after great things abroad.
Again, he was one of a tender spi∣rit: therefore where it is said he pre∣vailed with the Angel, it is said he wept, and made supplication unto him, he found him in Bethel, & there he spake with us. That storie of Iacob concerns us how God dealt with our Father. If now thou have a tender spi∣rit as he had; if when thou goest into the presence of God thou find thy spirit yield and melt, and re∣lent, Page 248 thou art one like thy father Ia∣cob.
Again further, Iacob did in the time of his streights repair to the co∣venant, that was a great satisfaction to his heart; he looked to the covenant, he fastned on that, and there he held as the main support of his spirit. Gen. 32.9. And Iacob said, O God of my Fa∣ther Abraham, and God of my Father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, re∣turn unto thy countrey, and to thy kin∣dred, and I will deal well with thee. &c. He heard that Esau was coming a∣gainst him with a great company; & what doth Iacob? he gets him to God, O God of my Father Abraham, & of my Father Isaac, the Lord which said unto me return into thy countrey, &c. He repairs to the Covenant: Remember thy Covenant with Abraham and Isaac, and with me to, I went on thy word. Here was the guise of Iacob: canst thou in a straight get thee a word, and a promise, and brood thy soul o∣ver it, and clasp it close, and say this is the promise that must, and will do me good?
Page 249Again, Iacob was of an humble spirit, I am not worthy of the least of thy mercies. He admired at the mercy of God that he had any thing, & Gods mercies made him more humble; this is an excellent disposition, we are ma∣ny times humble and lowly when we are under the hand of God in afflicti∣on: but when mercies make us hum∣ble, that the more God is gracious the more vile we are in our own eyes, this is excellent.
And he looked back to his former condition, he looked upon his poor beginning and gives God the glory: I passed over this Iordan with my staff; Many of you came with your staff, and God hath given you two bands, you are grown great, are you willing to think of it, and to acknowledge the poor estate that once you were in, and to give God the glorie, I was thus, & thus, of poor parentage, and see how God had dealt with me.
Another thing remarkable is, that Iacob contented himself with God alone, he accounted that he had Page 250 enough in God alone, though all were taken from him, he did not look upon himself as undone, but he had that that might make him for ever. In Gen. 33. compare the 9. and 11. verses, you shall find a notable difference be∣tween Esau and Iacob, yet the word in our books is the same, but this Scri∣pture is much wronged by the trans∣lation. In vers. 8. Esau when he comes to Iacob, when Iacob would have gi∣ven him his present, saith he, what meanest thou by all these droves which I met? he said these are to find grace in the sight of my Lord: and Esau said, I have enough my brother. It was a strange speech of Esau: A covetous wretch that is alway pyning and murmuring for having no more, and thinks, he shall want before he dye, he doth not come so farre as Esau, and Esau could say, I have enough, are there not many of you that never say you have e∣nough? I pray thee take my present saith Iacob, for I have all things, nay saith Esau, I have enough. The one saith I have enough, the other saith I Page 251 have all things, for •o the word is Col; Esau had enough, he did not want, he had meat and drink, and he saw none to interrupt him, he was satisfied with his estate, as his portion; he had e∣nough, he cared for nothing more, they might talk of other things, but that was enough to him. Iacob comes, and saith I have enough; but this was another manner of enough: Esaus e∣nough is his estate, but Iacobs enough is God, for he saith, I have all, Iacob was meaner for his outward condition then Esau, for he had nothing but what he had gotten in hard servitude. Now Esau saith, I have enough: Iacob saith, I have all: that is, God is enough in the want of all, if Esau should strip him of all he had, yet he had all in God. Now one that is of the seed of Iacob, in the time of want (as some of you may be plundered, and then all is gone you say;) no, if thou be of the seed of Iacob if thou have God thou hast all. There is such a promise, He that overcometh, shall inherit all things. How is that? and I will be his God, Re∣vel. Page 252 21.7 Therefore whatsoever thou wantest if God be thine, if thou be Gods child, thou hast all.
Further, one of the seed of Iacob is one of the Church of God: for all Ia∣cobs posterity was so: therefore the blessing in Ruth is,*The Lord blesse thee like Rachel and Leah, which two did build up the house of Israel. Why is it not, the Lord blesse thee as Rebec∣cah, or Sarah, but as Rachel & Leah. (It was a blessing upon a marriage con∣dition) the reason is, because from Rachel and Leah, came onely those that were of the Church, that were members of the Church of God; but there came others from Rebeccah, & of Sarah came onely Isaac, but Abra∣hams posterity was otherwise. And that Church that was then was but a type of that which should be after; that is of a company of people elect∣ed, and called out from the world to be partakers of the Priviledges of Ie∣sus Christ. The people of the Iews, the seed of Iacob were the Church of God, as the seed of such an one. And Page 253 this typified the Church that should be after; a company that are taken out of the world, to partake of the privi∣ledges of Iesus Christ. Canst thou say that thou art of the Church? The word that we translate Church is a company that is called out from the world. Canst thou ever tell of a work of God separating thee from the world, that when thou wentest ac∣cording to the world, God gave thee a mighty call that made a separation between thee and the world? For it is said so of the seed of Iacob, Numb. 23.9. From the tops of the rocks I saw him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, they shall not be reckoned among the Nations. All the seed of Iacob are called out of the world, they are separated from them by a mighty work of God to partake of Christ, and be a member of him.
And upon this, such an one mighti∣ly longs after all the outward privi∣ledges of the Church, to enjoy all the outward ordinances of Christ after his Page 254 way, those that are of the seed of Ia∣cob, they prize the excellency of Ia∣cob as the greatest excellency, their hearts are towards it, and they rejoyce in that above all the excellency in the world. If you ask what this excellen∣cy of Iacob is? it is the joyning of Gods people in the way of ordinan∣ces, and duties of Gods worship in the purity of them. This in Scripture is called the excellency of Iacob, Psal. 47.4. He shall chuse our inheritance for us, the excellency of Iacob whom he lo∣ved. It is an excellent Scripture. O, it is a blessed thing to give all to God, to let God chuse our inheritance. What is our inheritance? The excel∣lency of Iacob whom he loved. What was that? The worship of God, and his ordinances, joyning with the peo∣ple of God in the way of his ordinan∣ces, in his temple, those were the things that were the ordinances of God in those times; those are called the excellency of Iacob; and so it is now the excellency of a people to en∣joy Gods ordinancies.
Page 255You have another expression to the same purpose. And I will bring forth a seed out of Iacob, and out of Iudah an inheritour of my mountain, and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. Isaiah 65.9. What is the mountain of God? Gods Ordi∣nances in his Church, I will bring a seed out of Iacob, and Iudah, and they shall in∣herit my mountain. So that the greatest inheritance of the seed of Iacob is the mountain of the Lord: communion with the Church of God, and his or∣dinances: if you be of the seed of Ia∣cob, your hearts prize, and rejoyce in this, and that you have in Psalm. 24. vers. 3, 4, 5. you shall find how the seed of Iacob prize the enjoyment of God in his Ordinances. Who shall ascend in to the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lift up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceit∣fully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousnesse from the God of his salvation. This is the genera∣tion of them that seek him: that seek thy Page 256 face O Iacob. It is so in the book▪ but the particle O, is not in the originall: and therefore it may be read thus, That seek the face of Iacob; it may be read in the Genitive case, as well as in the Vo∣cative. This is the generation of them that seek him, even of Iacob, and then he turns to God, that seek thy face: but be∣cause his heart was full of this, of seek∣ing Gods face, (though he intend to mention what generation it was, the generation of Iacob) he puts in that before, the generation of Iacob that seek thy face: that is, this is the gene∣ration that so prise God in his ordi∣nances, and account it such a blessing of God; that joyn themselves to the Church of God, and set up his ordi∣nances and wayes; this is the blessed generation, these are those that seek God truly. We seek not God truly unlesse we seek him in his own wayes, unlesse we seek him in all his ordi∣nances, we cannot comfort our souls that we seek him in truth. For as in the way of obedience, we cannot have comfort in our obedience that it is Page 257 true, except it be universall to all Gods commandments, so we cannot have comfort in our seeking that it is true, except it be in all his ordinances, and wayes: therefore we must be of the generation of them that seek the face of the Church, that seek thy face O Iacob. So it follows in that place, lift up your heads O ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in. Where should the King of glory come but into his Church? Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and allmighty: still the Church is called on to entertain Christ in his glory, so this is spoken of the Church. Thus you may know, whether you be of the seed of Ia∣cob.
Again, if you be the seed of Iacob you have the inheritance of Iacob, & account it your inheritance. What was Iacobs inheritance? Deuter. 33.2. The Lord came from Sinai and from his right hand came a fiery law. The law of God is a fiery law; yet in verse 4. Moses commanded us a law, even the Page 258 inheritance of the congregation of Iacob. So that though the law be a fiery law, a strict law, a severe law, yet it is the inheritance of the congregation of Iacob. If you be of the congregation of Iacob you account the law of God to be part of your inheritance: not o∣nely to be that which you are bound to, that you must obey whether you will or no, but you rejoyce in the law of God as your inheritance. For my part I know not a more sure note of a gracious heart then this; one that re∣joyceth in Gods law as his inheri∣tance: as you know what expressions David hath, he rejoyced in it more then in Gold and Silver, more then in the honey, and the honey-comb. It is one thing to obey Gods Law, and an∣other to rejoyce in it as an inheritance. If thou be of the seed of Iacob, thou hast the inheritance of the seed of Ja∣cob.
Another is, he that is of the seed of Iacob is faithfull in the place that God hath set him. Iacob in serving of La∣ban, Gen. 31.6. though he were chur∣lish, Page 259 he professeth that withall his power he served his father. It is an ex∣cellent Text for servants; you would fain have time to seek God, and God forbid, but there should be some time allowed the poorest and meanest ser∣vant to seek God alone. But art thou of the seed of Iacob? then be like him in this, to serve with all, thy power, though thou have a froward master or mistris, as Laban was, though they use you hardly, yet shew godlinesse in that relation. And for servants to seem godly, he must go hear, this Sermon, this man, and the other man, and be very earnest: (I blame them not for loving the word and desiring it: but for servants to be earnest in hearing the word, & injoying the ordinances, and crying out against superstition, and Antichristianisme, & yet be slug∣gish, and unfaithfull in their service, and so as to give just offence to their governours, it is a dishonour. Shew your godlinesse in your relation: cer∣tainly there is no man or woman god∣ly, but those that are so in the rela∣tions Page 260 and places that they are set in: therefore manifest your selves thus to be the seed of Iacob.
Again, the seed of Iacob is a taught seed, God teacheth them, Psal. 147.19. He hath not dealt so with other Na∣tions, he gave his law to Iacob, and his word to Israel. So in Deut. 33.10. Levi is appointed to teach Iacob. There is ne∣ver a one of the seed of Iacob that is ignorant, that is a fool in matters of re∣ligion, he is taught.
And then, one of the seed of Iacob, is one that hath a care of his family: so we read of Iacob, Gen. 35.1. God said to Iacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then said Iacob to his houshold and to all that were with him, put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, &c. When he was to go into Gods presence, he laboured to reform his family. When God calls you to fast dayes, and to the Sacrament, do you cleanse your families, do you look Page 261 what evills are in your families, and put out your power to cleanse them?
But there is one more that I may not omit, that is, Iacob, when he was to die, though he himself was to go the way of all flesh, yet this was his great comfort and the comfort of those that he left behind, that God would make good his word to his Church and people, Gen. 48.21. and Israel said to Ioseph, Behold, I die, but God will visit you, and bring you again to the land of your Fathers. Behold I die, but I die in faith of the promise: be∣cause I am taken away shall I think the promise shall be of no effect? no; God shall bring you to the land of your fa∣thers. Now when God shall cast you on your sick beds can you say, Behold I die; but go you on, God will make good his word, I die in faith that it shall go well with the Churches of God: there will be a time when they shall get the victory, when Christ shall reign, and the Saints shall be delivered from their oppressours? Here was the Page 262 spirit of Iacob: if you be such a seed of Iacob you shall not seek Gods face in vain, but when you call unto him, he will answer you.
But you will say, it is true, some men may call unto God, and he will hear him, but I am a poor con∣temptible and wretched creature, and if I do call unto him, he will not hear nor answer me.
That place in the Psalm fully an∣swers any objection against our po∣verty, or the poverty of our prayers, Psalm. 102.17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not de∣spise their prayers. The prayer of the destitute, the word signifies a poor shrub in the wildernesse, a contempti∣ble shrub, that is trodden on by the feet of beasts, and none regards it; God regards such prayers.
If I could make an excellent prayer it were somewhat: No, he doth not despise thy prayer. It may be thy prayer is such as thou despisest, & that others would despise, but God will not despise it.
Page 263But this was spoken perhaps to some in those times.
Mark what follows; This shall be written for the generation to come. This Scripture, this promise of God, it is written for the generations to come. And the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord. We that were not made then, but were created since, let us praise the Lord for this Scripture, that God will regard the prayers of poor shrubs, and not despise them.
But they are great things that I stand in need of, and it may be in vain for me to pray for such great things at Gods hands; perhaps if I did pray for ordinary things there might be hope, but I am to pray for great things, mercies for the Church and for the Kingdom, & people of God; is it not in vain for such a poor wretch as I to pray for such great things?
We may think that the things we pray for at Gods hands are too great for us to beg, but they are not too great for God to give. It is observed Page 264 of Perilla, when Alexander would have him ask a dowrie for his daugh∣ter; Alexander presently promised him 50. talents; it is too much saith he, 10. talents are sufficient; Alexan∣der answered him, if it be too great for you to ask, it is not too great for me to give. God loves that his people should ask great things of him: yea he loves that the poorest, and meanest of his people should ask him great things; and therefore he sayes in this Text, Call unto me & I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things. This is a promise to every one of the seed of Iacob.
But when I pray in the time of af∣fliction, and Gods hand is on me, will it not be in vain to call unto him then?
It is true; to neglect God in former times, and then to pray onely in affli∣ction, it is a dangerous condition: but this temptation comes upon such as have sought God before. I, now you seek God, but this is in your affliction, and will God regard you now? I speak Page 265 it onely to comfort such as are care∣full to seek God in the time of their health: yet if thou hast been negli∣gent; it is possible that God should re∣gard thee in the time of affliction. Ionah prayed, and said, I prayed and cryed by reason of mine affliction to the Lord, and he heard me, Ionah 2.2.
But suppose it be affliction for sin: for so the objection may arise. It is true, if I did call unto God in the time of affliction that God did send for tryall, it may be God would hear me: but suppose Gods hand be on me for sin, will God hear my prayers?
That one notable example of Da∣vid may help the people of God a∣gainst such a temptation: Gods hand was on him for his sin, when he fled before Absolom, God threatned that warre should not depart from his house: yet David then prayed against that wicked politition, and counsel∣lour, that the Lord would turn his counsell to folly; and God heard Da∣vids prayer in his affliction that was for sinne, And the Lord turned the coun∣sell Page 266 of Achitophel to folly. Let us not be discouraged though polititians work never so craftily; though Gods hand be on us, and we have conscience ac∣cusing us, and say, I this is for your sins that God leaves you thus in the hands of your enemies, that God gives them such power; that they find such fa∣vour with the Prince as they do, though this be for our sins, yet let us seek to God to turn the counsell of Achitopell to folly. It shall not be, nor hath not been in vain, we have found it so, that in our affliction, and afflicti∣on for sin, yet crying to God to turn the counsell of Achitophel to folly, God hath done so graciously, & hath incouraged us more and more to cry and call unto him for that end.
But what need I seek to God, God hath decreed and determined what he will do, what God intends to do, he hath decreed from eternity, therefore whether we pray or no it shall come to passe, if we do not pray it shall come to passe. If God have in∣tended to deliver me out of a sick∣nesse, Page 267 it shall be done whether I pray or no; & when any ones time is come they shall die; and so when the time of a Kingdome is come it shall be de∣stroyed, and not till then; therefore what good can prayer do?
Though I suppose you cannot but be satisfied, and think that this obje∣ction hath little weight, yet for an∣swer, I will give you a Scripture or two, Psalm. 2. I will declare the decree, The decree of God concerning the advancement of Christ in his resurre∣ction, and so of the successe of the work of Christs mediation. I will de∣clare the decree, the Lord hath said thou art my son this day have I begotten thee: Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession. Gods giving of Christ the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession; it was decreed of God, yet Christ must ask it of his Father notwithstanding Gods decree. And another Text re∣markable is in the prophesie of Da∣niel, Page 268 where the Text saith Dan. 9.2. In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books, the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Ieremiah the Prophet, that he would accomplish 70. years in the desolation of Ierusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplica∣tions. Mark, Daniel understood by books what God had determined con∣cerning Ierusalem; what need Daniel go further, he knew Gods mind what he would do whether he did pray or no? but mark, vers. 3. I set my face to seek the Lord. After he knew what God had decreed, and what he would do, and what he had promised. Now we know not Gods decree: but if we did certainly know the decree of God in shewing mercy to the Land, yet it could no way hinder us, but encou∣rage us to set our faces to seek the Lord, and to seek him more ear∣nestly: therefore that is a vain obje∣ction.
Again, it is not in vain to call unto the Lord, if we examine all we have Page 269 had already: though we have not all we would have, yet if we consider the supporting mercies, the preventing mercies, and the guiding mercies that God hath granted us, we shall find that it is not in vain that we have sought him. There are abundance of mercies that thou hast had already. It is an evill thing to complain of Gods grace, when God hath bestowed such mercies. Thou thinkest thou hast no∣thing, because thou hast not all thou wouldest have; as a froward child be∣cause it hath not every thing to its mind casts away all. God hath been exceeding gracious to us; other souls would have adored God, and have blessed him with their faces to the ground, if they had had but the hun∣dred part of those mercies that we have; yet because we have not all we desire, we are ready to think it is in vain. O let us take heed of dishonour∣ing the grace of God.
Again, further thou thinkest it is in vain, because God sometimes denies in granting, and grants in denying. Page 270 Many times God grants that we pray for in denying it, and denies that we pray for in granting it: our denyals are grants to us. Wo to us, if all were granted to us that we pray for. Much good may be gotten out of Gods de∣nyalls: and God denyes us to do us good, and to prepare us for mercies: therefore it is not in vain that thou hast fought God, because it is not in vain that thou art denyed.
But further, it may be God delights more in thy praying, then in thy prais∣ing voice, therefore though thou have not that thou hast sought for, give leave to God to delight in thee which way he pleaseth. There is the pray∣ing, and the praising voice of Gods people, thou delightest that God should hear thy praising voice, it may be God delights to hear thy praying voice, and it may be he should not if thou haddest what thou wouldest have. Saith God to the Church, Let me hear thy voice, for it is sweet. There is no man that will think the King de∣nies his petition, as long as the King Page 271 loves to read it. If one present a peti∣tion to the King, he doth not say he will presently do it: but if he read it, and when he hath read it, calls for it again, and again, will any man think it in vain that he hath put up that peti∣tion? as long as the King hears it, and delights to read it, it is not in vain. So, as long as God loves to hear thy voice, and to read thy petition it is not in vain. As for thy praising voice, God shall have enough of that in heaven, but he shall have none of thy praying voice: therefore why shouldest thou not be willing that God should have more of thy praying voice here? All that ever God shall have of thy pray∣ing voice it is in this worln, and after a little time God shall never hear us pray more. Therefore let us be wil∣ling to go on, and continue in prayer, and not to wonder why God keeps us on in a way of praying, because all the time that ever God shall have to de∣light himself in the praying voice of his people it is in this world: and for our praising voice, we would fain Page 272 spend all our dayes in praising God for his mercies, but that is reserved for another world.
Further, it may be Gods way to stay till he bring a great deal of mercy together, and not by bitts and drops. As when men deal with great mer∣chants, they expect not to have pay∣ments, by six pences or shillings or Crowns at once: but though there be two or three or ten pounds due, they stand not on that, but stay for a greater summe. Now little traders that deal by retail, they take it in by pence, and little summes, Christians that are to deal with God, they deal for great things, and there are great transactions between God and a gracious heart: therefore think not much that God stayes with a greater summe. For as God deals with the wicked in the way of justice, so he deals with godly men in a way of mercy. He lets wick∣ed men go on a great while, he comes not to judgement for sin, but stayes till all come together, till a great summe of wrath and judgement come Page 273 together. So he deals with the saints he comes not with lesse mercies, but he stayes till abundance come, and when Gods time is come mercies will come to the full indeed.
Further, it may be God hath so much mercy that thou hast not a ves∣sell capable of it. Onely know that heaven, and earth and all are working for thee. Is the plowing, and the sow∣ing of the husbandman, and all the showers in vain; because the corn is not in the barn? we account it not so: so we must not account our prayers lost, because the thing we pray for is not presently graunted and owe pray∣ers answered. Now for Applica∣tion.
First, if it be so, that God saith, call upon me, and I will answer thee, cer∣tainly there are great things for the Church to build on: God is to do marvelous things for his people in these latter dayes. Why? because all the Saints from the beginning of the world have been seeking God, not onely for their own times but for the Page 274 Church to this very day: all their prayers are upon the fyle, and must be answered one day. O what a glorious harvest will it be! blessed are they that shall live to partake of it. We have a little, but certainly, there are glorious things for the Church; because everie prayer shall be an∣swered.
Secondly, you that are the Saints of God, know your honour, though you be never so poor otherwise, God hath given you that which makes you rich: you have the key of heaven, you may open the treasures in heaven, and it shall never be in vain. Gods people are such as are exceeding honourable in the eyes of God, and in this regard that they have credit in heaven, that their prayers shall be heard and an∣swered. Bathsheba saith to Solomon, 1 King. 2.20. I desire one petition of thee, I pray thee, say me not nay, It is translated by some, Ne confundas fa∣ciam, confound not my face. Indeed, the denying of a petition, it is a disho∣nour, and a confounding of the face: Page 275 but God will not confound the faces of his people.
O, here see your priviledge, and your riches, all the prayers that you have made in your life time they are all trading in heaven, they are not lost. If a man have ventured a stock abroad to the Indies, and do not hear of it in a great while, he thinks it is lost & gone: but if he hear certain news that all his stock is safe, & in the place where he would have it, and those that are there faithfully improve his stock, he is revived by this, it rejoyceth his spi∣rit, and he can say blessed be God; I hope to be a rich man for all this. I say to thee be of good comfort thy stock is not lost, it is trading in hea∣ven, and everie prayer that thou hast put up is there. We should account our prayers as riches, as adventures sent to heaven, and not as children that shoot arrows and do not mind them.
And then learn this, it is a great pri∣viledge to have a praying friend, a praying companion. Manie of you Page 276 love friends that are delightfull, of a cheerly nature, and merry; but are they praying ones: praying friends are the speciall friends: because prayer can prevail with God. To have a friend in the Court, that can obtain any peti∣tion, we think it a priviledge; to have one great friend in heaven is a great priviledge. Many people when they lie on their sick beds, they send to such and such to pray for them: why do they not send to their companions, that they did drink with, and swear with, to pray for them? O, they dare not. Here is enough to convince anie mans conscience, who are the best men, whatsoever they say.
Suppose thy condition were thus, that thou diddest lie on thy death-bed, and thy life did depend upon the prayers of four or five men. If God should speak thus from heaven, thou art at the brink of destruction, onely this favour thou shalt find; thou shalt have leave to choose where thou wilt four or five men to pray for thee, and according as they pray so it shall be Page 277 with thee; thou hast liberty to choose through the world whom thou wilt. I appeal, would a drunkard choose four or five drunkards, or a swearer choose swearers, or unclean ones that they most delighted in all their life time? If all should depend upon it thou wouldest not choose such; there∣fore thou art convinced in thy con∣science, thou knowest that those are not precious in Gods eyes, (however thy lust have prevailed) but that the other are better men, that are gracious and have more credit in heaven. Learn to prise praying friends, that can pre∣vail with God.
And let us set the crown upon pray∣ers head, in the mercies we have from God, in publick mercies, and private deliverances of friends; attribute it not to second means, to fortune and chance, take heed of denying God his glorie.
It is a sign of a carnall spirit, when God hath glorified himself in answer∣ing the prayers of his people, to attri∣bute it to any other means.
Page 278As I remember, I read of the Por∣phirian atheists, that followed the a∣theisme of Porphyrie, they darkned the work of God in delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt thorough the red sea. They say that Moses had learned of the Egyptians, and they were great Astronomers: and Moses knew when it would be a low tyde, and what constellations there would be at that time, and that the tyde would prove low then, more then ever in the age of man, and Moses took the nick of time, end lead them through the sea. Thus atheists would darken the works of God, & put them of to naturall causes. So I find it re∣lated of the old Prophet in Ieroboams time; Iosephus hath it related of him, he sent to Ieroboam to stretch out his hand, he tells us that this was by acci∣dent, he was wearied all the day long, and now he had the Palsie, and after it was restored again; that which was done by prayer, he would have it by naturall means.
Iust thus it is, when God hath so Page 279 magnified his mercy to England, and wrought such wonders yet manie car∣nall atheisticall spirits, say this was an accidentall thing, and the policie of such men brought it to passe, they at∣tribute all to naturall causes, it is a sign of wretched profane heart: For if God ever magnified prayer he hath done it in these dayes. There are 2 or 3 Scriptures that since the world be∣gan were never more magnified, then by Gods working at this day.
One is in Exodus 13. In the thing wherein they dealt proudly, God was above them. Never since the world began was that more fulfilled. A se∣cond is that in the 10. Psalme, The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. If ever there were a ful∣filling of that Scripture since the be∣ginning of the world, it is as this day. A third is this in the Text. I said not to the seed of Iacob; seek ye my face in vain. God (as I said) hath raised a spirit of prayer among the seed of Iacob more then ever any in the world knew; there was never the like spirit of prayer Page 280 raised, nor never the like things done for prayer.
And the Lord the rather honoured the ordinance of prayer now, because men so dishonoured it before and per∣secuted it, that the people of God could not meet and assemble to fast and pray, but presently it was a con∣venticle, and they were persecuted as factious people. Because God saw this way despised, he hath honoured it, and the former, and the latter mer∣cies that we have received, we are to attribute to the goodnesse of God by prayer, they were obtained by prayer. Let us still be incouraged to call unto God for what we would have: for God hath said, call upon me and I will answer thee.
There are many of us now that can do little else: if God have delivered you from sicknesse, and other evils, know that God hath delivered you to pray, the lesse you can do otherwise, the more you should do in prayer. I have read of a heathen, Nu•a Pom∣pylius, that he would never go about Page 281 any thing but he would go to the temple and pray: you that are instru∣ments intrusted with our lives, and li∣berties, you had need to pray much, go into your closets and sanctifie all your thoughts and resolutions by prayer, that your help and assistance may not be in vain to us. And all o∣thers had need to assist you in seeking God in prayer. This incouragement we have, that there is not any of us that seek God alone, but we joyn with thousands: why should our place be found empty? why should not our prayers joyn with the rest? We shall meet manie prayers in heaven; the prayers of our forefathers; the prayers of those that are dead and gone that did not live to enjoy the fruit of their prayers, yet when we pray for mercies our prayers meet with theirs in hea∣ven: therefore let us be incouraged to call unto the Lord.
And if mercies should come, what a daunting would this be to our hearts, that mercies are come, but we have not sought them? and if mercies Page 282 come not, conscience will flie in our face that we have been sensuall, car∣nall creatures, and it is for our neglect of calling unto God, that God hath denied us the mercies that we ex∣pected.
And then it should be a use of re∣buke to those that begin to seek God, and continue not. O wretch, why hast thou left? whether wilt thou go? Is it in vain to serve the Lord? certainly thou wert never acquainted with God and his wayes; thou wilt find it a dreadfull change, when it shall ap∣pear that thou had left God the foun∣tain of living water, and hast sought after vanitie, and forsaken thine own mercy.
But the main of all should have been for the applying of it to the pre∣sent occasion. The Lord hath made good his word this day, call unto me, and I will answer thee· This day testi∣fies it to be true that they are great things that prayer hath done. I have heard manie years ago by credible te∣stimonie, that on this fifth of No∣vember, Page 283 when we had such a great mercie so manie years ago, that verie day it was known, that a great manie godly people in the citie kept in fast∣ing and prayer, so as it was eminently known and delivered from hand to hand of them in the city at that time, and you know what God did.
But what hath he done of late? If our fathers should rise out of their graves, and we should tell them that now the high commission (that they were so troubled with) is down; that there shall be no more star-chamber, that cutting off of ears is gone, they would wonder how this should come to passe. And whereas Parliaments were wont to be snapped in sunder, that this Parliament is to continue by as firm an Act as any thing in the land is made by. And for oppressours, all the Courts and Bishops Chanceries, they are down, and gone, God hath extirpated them: they were first cast out of the house, and now out of the Kingdome. And though an armie did rise and seek to bring us into slaverie, Page 284 yet God hath given us victory (though some have suffered hardly) and brought the adversaries very low to surrender their towns, and castles and arms. And here we are to re∣joyce in God, and to blesse him for all.
If many of our ancestours should rise, and hear what we speak, how we hold up our hands and blesse God, with what hearts would they joyn in the praising of God, and wonder that ever such things should be done! Let not the grace of God be in vain, as God hath not said to us, seek my face in vain.
What use shall we make of it?
Let us give him reall praise, and not onely come to repeat it, and tell God of it, but make his praise glo∣rious, put a glorie on it; and then we do it, when we make a right use of his mercies, when we receive not his mer∣cies in vain.
What is to make use of the memo∣riall we celebrate?
First, the remembrance of these Page 285 mercies must humble us; that is a sweet humbling; it is better to be melted by the beams of the Sunne, then by the scorching of the fire.
You will say, humbled, for what?
There are three things that we have cause to be humbled for, upon the consideration of the mercy of God towards us,
First, the sinne of unbelief, con∣sider, when we were straitned at any time, when we heard ill news, that our armies fled, and came to danger, how our spirits were down as if all were gone. Let us check our hearts, God rebuked us in a kindly manner, we might have had a furious re∣buke.
Secondly, be humbled for all our murmuring and repining, and discon∣tent, O we did not think that the wars would have held so long, and O what taxations are upon us, and all our estates rent away? And how manie are there that had rather that all the good that God hath done for his peo∣ple Page 286 since these times should never have been done, then that they should suffer in their outward estates. Be rebuked for all your murmuring and repyning at such difficulties as you have met with in the great cause of God.
The third thing that this mercy should make us humbled for, & look back to, is that if ever there have risen this thought in any of our hearts, that it had been better for me if I had ne∣ver appeared so much. I see how things are like to be, the enemie pre∣vails and is like to overrun all: had it not been better that I had not ingaged my self so much? that I had not ap∣peared so much? are they not wiser men that have kept themselves quiet and silent, and done as little as they could, nothing but what they have been forced to? And when the Kings party come, if they tax us, they can do no more then force us. If thou have such a thought, pray to God to for∣give that thought: Let this that God hath done rebuke thee. Art thou sor∣ry Page 287 for what thou hast done? thou seest God will do it without thee. If thou have been a publick instrument, and hast done good and yet if in fear of successe thou hast repented? God re∣bukes thee this day.
Then labour to love prayer as long as you live, as David saith, I will call upon God as long as ever live. Pray∣er casts the scals, and hath the advan∣tage.
First, the other side they feared not to suffer much if they were over∣come; they think they have a head and they would be where he was, and he would countenance them, & make good their condition for them, but this side if they had been overcome, they had been men utterly undone: what a mighty advantage was there one way more then another?
Then the Kings side if he had pre∣vailed he had places of dignitie to be∣stow; if the Parliaments side prevail, we are but where we were, we do but maintain our own, we cannot expect to raise our condition. But how many Page 288 broken Gentry expected to raise their condition on the other side? As it is said concerning the Pope, and the ge∣nerall Counsell; the Pope prevailed, notwithstanding the generall Coun∣cell, though that were above him, why? the Pope had Cardinall ships, and Deaneries to bestow but the Councell had none; they had the ad∣vantage that way.
Again, those that appeared on the one side how were they discouraged extraordinarily? on the other side they were incouraged to the utmost. On the one side how unfaithfull have they been? on the other side they have kept to their principles, because their prin∣ciples are suitable to the flesh: but there are many on this side that have not gracious principles and had a pu∣blick cause, therefore they have been unfaithfull. We have use of men that have not principles to act by, but all the other go according to their own principles. The one part acts that they may gratifie mens lusts; now the ge∣nerality of the world love it; they Page 289 know if the one partie prevail they shall have liberty, and licensciousness, but if the other prevail they shall live under laws. Now men would have their lusts; therefore when they see on the one side they shall have their lusts, and on the other side they shall be more curbed, they strive hard for their lusts.
At the first I wondred that men should be so vile to fight to make themselves slaves: but when I consi∣dered, they shall have slaves under them, and have their lusts, and the o∣ther side be more curbed, then I was satisfied, and wondered that God should cast the scale the other way, they having all the advantages in a carnall way more then the other. On∣ly here it is, we have people that have prayed, and this hath cast the scale. Love prayer, and praying people, and joyn with them, be on their side, for God is with them, and will not suffer them to pray in vain: a praying Christian is a usefull Christian in the world.
Page 290Again, make this use of all that hath been done. Look how far thou thinkest the adversaries would have been hardned if they had prevailed against the cause of God, be thou so much the more resolute in the cause of God. If they had prevailed how would they have blasphemed? and manie thousands of Atheist; would have been made more then there was before: what a mightie offence, and stumbling block would this have been? Now since God hath turned it the other way, justifie God and his cause; settle your hearts in the love of God, and his cause, and settle your sel∣ves more strongly in the reformation in hand.
Further, let us give him reall praise, that we may not receive the grace of God in vain. By this grace we hope that he hath given us our estates that we were afraid would have been rent from us; we have the continuance of our liberties, and of the Gospell. Let our hearts be ingaged to God to give up our estates this day; let us re∣new Page 291 our ingagements to God in se∣cret, between God and our souls. Lord thou mightest have taken away my estate by the spoylers, it was near it; and thou hast done it to other of my brethren, and is mine conti∣nued! That estate that should have been spent for their lusts, I am re∣solved to spend it in thy service that hast preserved it; and I account it a great mercie that I have an estate to honour thy name, I feared I should not.
God expects, that ever hence∣forward you make a more holy use of your estates then before. And call your hearts to question, what do I do with my estate for God? what ho∣nour hath God from my estate more then before? God expects more, or else God may justly say, in vain have I preserved this wretched estate: there are manie of my servants, if I had preserved their estates, they would have improved them in the towns and places they lived in, and here is a wretch I have preserved his estate, Page 292 and he is more greedy and scrapes up for himself, and all his thought is, how to repair what he hath lost by taxations, &c. The Lord may re∣pent of what he hath done, and the curse of God may follow such a mans estate. Take heed, know that there is an ingagement after this time.
And so for the libertie of the Gospell, God expects that you should prise the Gospell more then ever. Lord, we were afraid the Gospell would have been gone, if thou hadst given us up into the hands of our ene∣mies, and our eyes should not have seen their teachers; we should not have heard things that refresh our hearts; shall we have the Gospell, and hope that our posterity shall have it? we hope that we shall never pro∣voke thee as we have done heretofore to take it away. A man that hath been in danger to loose his estate, and hath recovered it, will be carefull after. Our slighting of the Gospell because we had it so ordinarie might have caused God to take it from us; and Page 293 hath God restored it? let us take heed we provoke not God now, but attend upon the word more then ever we did.
Lastly, doth God say to us, Call upon me, and I will answer thee, then when God seeks us, let us be found of him. There is all the reason for it in the world. If God be so gra∣cious to poor base worms, sinfull creatures, that if we do but chatter, our prayers are answered: Is it not reason when God calls upon us, that we should call upon him? When God calls out of his word to per∣form such, and such duties, God seeks thee; then make use of this Text, I have called upon God, and he hath answered my requests. And now I go to hear the word, and out of the word he calls unto me, and seeks me, let me say, Lord what sayest thou to thy servant? The Lord is ready to hear your call, be you ready to re∣ceive his answer, and go on, go on with encouragement, the Lord hath incouraged us this day. And let all Page 294 your prayers and indeavours break through all difficulties, and the Lords mercy shall break through all oppo∣sitions: for he hath said, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.