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A SERMON Shewing the Suitableness, and the Benefit of PRAYER IN Affliction.

By Jeremiah Wise, A. M. Pastor of the Church in Berwick.

Hos. 5.15

In their Affliction they will seek me early.

2 Chron. 33.12, 13.

When he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and prayed unto him, and he was intreated of him.

Boston, Printed by John Allen, for Nicholas Boone, at the Sign of the Bible in Cornhill, 1717.

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TO THE Reader.

TO Pray to God is a Duty in­cumbent on every man in the World. An External as well as an Internal Adorati­on is due to him, on the account of his being our Creator. Psal. 95.6. O come let us worship & bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

It is true concerning Unregenerate men, that they sin in their Prayers. Nevertheless, Prayer is their Duty. They sin because they do not Pray from a right Principle, nor for a right End, nor after a right manner; yet the Act is not a sin but a duty. Si­mon Magus who was a very wicked man, was bid to pray God if perhaps the thought of his heart might be forgi­ven. And the Gracious God does sometimes so far regard the Prayers [Page] of Ungodly men, as to remove Tem­poral Afflictions and Judgments upon their Praying to him; as we see in Ahab, Rehoboam, and in the Men of Niniveh. Notwithstanding which, there are many Prayerless Ones in the World. It were well if there were none such in New-England. They will have their doom with the Workers of Iniquity at the Last Day. Psal. 14.4. Have the Workers of Ini­quity no knowledge, they call not on the Lord. A Prayerless man is most cer­tainly an Ʋngodly man. Psal. 32.6. Every one that is godly will pray. A man does no sooner begin to be a re­al Christian, but it will be said of him, Behold he prays, Acts 9.11. Yet it is reported there are many Prayerless Families. There was a time when there were few such Families in New-England. Whether there are any such in the Town where this Sermon was Preached, the Lord knows. If there are such, this Word will be a Witness against them another day. And there is a Scripture which may strike Ter­ror into the heart of every Prayerless Master of a Family; It is that, Jer 10.25. Pour out thy fury upon the Hea­then [Page] that know thee not, and upon the Families that call not on thy Name. Such Families, altho' they may call themselves Christians, are no better than Heathen. Nay, they are less Religious. For the Heathen had their Penates, their Houshold Gods.

Prayer is always a duty, but espe­cially in a time of Affliction. Some that never Prayed before, when Dis­tress and danger has attended them, have betaken themselves to their Prayers. Hence it has been a Pro­verbial saying, Qui nescit orare, discat Navigare. 'Tis noted of Jonah's Ma­riners, that when they were in dan­ger of being Cast away, they Cried every one to his God, and said to Jonah, Call upon thy God, if so be God will think upon us, that we perish not. It argues great stupidity and hardness of heart, when it can be said of any, the People turn not to him that smiles them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts, Isa. 9.13.

To Excite and Direct Afflicted Ones in Prayer to God, is the Pious Design of the Author of this Dis­course. [Page] His Modesty made him un­willing to grant a Copy of his Ser­mon for Publication; but the Im­portunity of the principal of his Hearers, has at last obtained it from him, who has also desired my pe­rusal of it. I find a serious Spirit in it, & a godly design to promote the Interest of Religion, and the good of Souls, and hope it will prove beneficial not only to those that heard it, but to others likewise.

It was a signal Favour of God to his People, that he raised up of their Sons for Prophets, and of their Young men for Nazarites. This has he done for his New-England People, whereof the Writer of this Sermon is an encouraging Instance.

I am leaving the World, having been a very Unprofitable Servant therein, and an unworthy Preacher of the Gospel, for the space of Threescore Years. Most of the pre­sent Ministers in New England, have come into the World since that; Many of them, (and this Author in particular) were once under my [Page] Inspection and Praesidentship. If the Words of one that is (so far as I can understand) the Oldest Mini­ster now alive in New-England, may be of any regard, I would say to the Younger Ministers, Be Stedfast in the Profession and Practice of that Faith and Order of the Gospel, which your now Glorified Prede­cessors have left as a Legacy to their Posterity.

Increase Mather.
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The Suitableness and Benefit of PRAYER in Affliction.

Jam. 5.13.

Is any among you afflict­ed? Let him Pray.

AT the seventh verse forego­ing, the Apostle exhorts the Christians to whom he wrote this Epistle, and to­gether with them, all the Saints and People of God, in all Succeeding. A­ges and Generations, to be patient under the Sufferings it should please their Sovereign Lord and Master, to exercise them with. Be patient Bre­thren—As tho' the Apostle had said, bear up with Christian Courage and Fortitude, under all the sore and hea­vy Trials; undergo the most pres­sing Calamity, with a firmness and [Page 2] stayedness of mind, becoming the Character of Christ's Servants: Nei­ther manifest any uneasiness under the Cross, or impatience under any affliction which is unbecoming the Relation you stand in to the meek and lowly Jesus; and the Profession you have made of taking up the Cross, and following him: Of look­ing more at the things that are Ʋn­seen & Eternal, then at visible, tem­poral or sensible things.

And to quicken them thus to be patient until the Coming of their Lord, which he also in the same verse adviseth them of; he further tells them in the next verse, That the time was drawing on apace, when their Lord and Head, who at present sympathizes with them, will appear the second time without Sin unto Salvati­on; when he will deliver them out of all their Distresses, wipe all tears from their Eyes; take away the Body of Sin, as well as the burden of Sorrow; and make them Everlastingly Blessed and Happy.

Again, He endeavours further to fortifie their minds against all Dis­couragements, by the Example of [Page 3] the holy Prophets, which have spo­ken in the Name of the Lord, vers. 10. who though they were very dear to God, were yet notwithstan­ding maligned, traduced and perse­cuted by men; and are Exemplary for their unfainting perseverance un­der the most grievous Sufferings from the tongues and hands of men. Take the Prophets—for an Example of suf­fering affliction and patience; they are set forth as Examples of both; ‘that if Christians suffer the same things, they may suffer with the same minds.’

Lastly, He Encourages them by the Consideration of the present, as well as future Happiness, that doth accrue to Christians by their Suf­ferings; especially by their patience under them, Ver. 11. Behold we count them happy which endure. Which Assertion, he Exemplifies in the Case of afflicted patient Job; Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord. ‘The good issue that God gave to all his troubles, in restoring him to his former State, and doubling his Prosperity.’ Which instance of [Page 4] Goodness & Mercy, (for it is God here ascribed to his merciful Nature) should Encourage his People to trust in him, (being the same yesterday, to day and for ever) to expect and hope for a good end to all their troubles, whatever they be, and therefore to wait with patience for it.

Now our Text comes in as a word of Advice, under the foregoing Ex­hortation, wherein the Apostle di­rects Christians under Afflictions, what method to take to obtain Grace whereby to Glorify God, and carry it becomingly under them; and that is by believing fervent Prayer, as you may see by comparing the Text and Context.—Is any among you afflict­ed? let him Pray. Where the Apo­stle supposeth there might be those a­mong them, that were afflicted: And this he might well, since the People of God especially are liable to trou­ble in this World. Is any among you Christians, Professors of the Name of Christ, the Servants of the true and living God, afflicted Personally, or Relatively, by inward or outward Trouble? This Question implies a strong affirmation, that as such are [Page 5] liable to, so they may be under Affli­ction; they may be Exercised as well as others, with Sickness, Poverty, Dis­grace; with the loss of dear Relati­ons, and the like. Now in this Case, what method shall a Christian take, what shall he do, when afflicted in a­ny of these, or any other Regard? The Apostle answers in the next words: Let him pray, as though the Apostle had said, let him seek unto God, & commit his Cause unto him, who doth great things, and unsearchable, marvellous things without number; who setteth up on high those that be low, that those which mourn may be ex­alted to safety. Job 5.8, 9.11, 15. Let him Pray. It is exprest in the Impe­rative Mood, and denotes duty; this is a Christian's duty, and very suita­ble at such a time. When a Christian is under the Smiles of Divine Provi­dence, then it is suitable for him to Rejoyce. Is any merry, let him sing Psalms? and thereby express and give vent to his Spiritual and Religious Joy. But when he is under a dark Cloud, (like one of those, which in Winter days intercepts the Beams of the Sun) that deprives him of all [Page 6] present Comfort; it becomes him then the cast himself down & Worship God (as Job did.) Then he should speak out of the Ground, and his Speech should be low out of the dust, as the Prophet speaks. The Doctrine which the words afford, is this, viz.

Doct. That Prayer is a Duty very suitable and necessary in a time of Affliction.

This is a Duty suitable & necessary at all times; for the Light of Nature teacheth it, as well as Divine Revela­tion Enforceth it. The Fundamental Reasons of which flow from the Di­vine Perfections and Excellencies, and that Relation we stand in to God, as our Creator, Preserver & Benefactor; which strongly Infer an indispensible Obligation lying upon us, to Worship Him. Hence the very Heathens, who had only the dim Light of Nature to Guide them, paid a Natural Homage unto him (tho' in a blind manner;) and since we have the super-added Light of Revelation (which they had not) we can be no ways Excused in the neglect of a duty, which is so [Page 7] strongly Enforced therein. But tho' this Duty be so suitable and necessary at all times, yet it is peculiarly so in a time of Affliction; then God calls us to it more especially, and our own necessities put us upon it. The Doc­trine may be Explained and Confirm­ed under two Propositions.

As Namely,

Proposition I. That Christians are liable to, and do often meet with Af­fliction in this World.

Proposition II Prayer is a Duty ve­ry suitable and necessary in a time of Affliction.

Proposition I. Christians are liable to, and do often meet with Affliction in this World. This is the settled Portion and Inheritance of all men in this Life: Who are born unto trouble, as the Sparks flie upward. Tho' man's life in this World, be but of few days, yet it's full of trouble. And the best men in the World meet with so much as may justly cause them to cry out with the Wise man, Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity and vexation of [Page 8] Spirit. The Psalmist tells us, That the afflictions of the Righteous are ma­ny. Psal. 34.19. And we many instance in some of them. As namely,

First, in Poverty, which the Godly have no more security against, than any others: But they as often fall into low, mean, abject Circum­stances, as any other men. Many that are rich in Faith, are however the poor of this World, James 2, 5. And this Condition has great temp­tation accompanying it, as well as a full and plentiful Estate; and there­fore Agur deprecates them both, lest being full he should deny God; or being poor, he should be tempted to take indirect ways to maintain him­self and his; and so take the name of God in vain. Prov. 30.8, 9.

Again, Bodily Sickness is another Worldly Trouble, which they are not freed from by Christ, but are as liable to as others: It being appoint­ed unto all men once to die, and Sick­ness being Death's Harbinger, or Forerunner. Yea, many times, they are Exercised with lingring, pining Sickness, with constant and strong pain all their Lives, which take away [Page 9] the Comfort of Life. It's the porti­on of many Godly Persons to have this thorn in the flesh. Thus it was with Gaius, who had a healthy Soul in a weakly Body. 3 Epist. Joh. v.2. And on this account, they may say, that they are in deaths oft.

Further, God sometimes suffers them to be afflicted with Reproaches and Disgrace: Who have been more vilifi­ed and contemned, than the Servants of God? Whose Names have been more loaden with contumely or re­proach, than theirs? and as this is a great trial, (Reproach hath broken my heart, says the Psalmist, Psal. 69.20.) so it is a great aggravation of it, when they have given their Enemies too much cause to Reproach them, by their imprudent or sinful Carriage▪ Every man has a tender Regard to the honour of his Name. A Good One is rather to be chosen than Great Riches; yea, it is next to life, and when that is touch't, a man is touch't in a very tender part. And tho' a man's Innocency is a good support to him, and the hope that some time or other, it will be clear'd up to the World; that this Good Name will be [Page 10] taken out of the dirt, and be win'd clean; yet in the mean time, a man can't but be uneasie under this shock­ing Trial.

Once more, God sometimes Exerci­ses his Children (and that very fre­quently) with the loss of dear Rela­tions, or with their miscarriages, which is near as bad; God sometimes afflicts his People with the Death of dear Relations. And tho' there be those Considerations to be fetch't from the Word and Covenant of God, which should still and quiet them un­der such trials; as that it's the Will of God it should be so; and that as to godly Deceas'd Friends, it's better for them to be absent from the Body, and to be present with Christ; their Death being an out-let to the trou­bles of this World, and an in-let to the Joys of the next: Yet notwith­standing, when the parting time comes, it's a great trial to them, a sore fight of affliction. The Natural Affections and Passions will have vent, they will take their turn as well as Grace. Patient Job could not help giving vent to his grief and sorrow of heart, at the Death of his Chil­dren; [Page 11] he rent his Mantle, and shaved his Head; which actions were tokens of grief in use amongst those Eastern Nations.

Next to this Trial by the Death of Relations, is that other; when those that are dear to them, take up with a licentious course of Life, and give up themselves to commit all Iniquity with greediness, especially when they are irreclaimable; so that the Advice, Reproofs or Counsels of Friends, or any means that can be used with them will not do, to prevent their running head-long to destruction. This cuts them to the quick, and makes their very Souls bleed within them. This is in some sort more grievous than to bury them; for hereby they are continued as living Crosses, and they are mourned for every day.

Lastly, The Godly sometimes meet with inward as well as ouward Trou­ble. God sometimes hides his face from them, and they are troubled, as it was with the Psalmist, Psal. 30.7. Sometimes they suffer his terrours, as Heman did; who says, in Psal. 88.15, 16. I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy [Page 12] terrours, I am distracted. This the Godly are liable to, and do meet with more or less▪ They have their ups and downs, in respect of Inward Spiritual Peace and Comfort; their Spring and Fall, Summer and Winter. This is their state of probation, and therefore not their Rest: God sees it best sometimes thus to Exercise them, to bring them to a more immediate Dependance upon himself, in whom all their springs are. And this they must not think strange of, nor think it hard dealing, since it is agreeable to the tenour of the New-Covenant of Grace, and no ways inconsistent with the faithfulness of God, who tho' he will and does Correct them when there is need of it; Yea, sometimes to show his Sovereignty: Yet he will not suffer his Faithfulness to fail, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth, Psal. 89.30, 31, 32, 33.

Prop. II. That Prayer is a Duty very suitable and necessary in a time of Affliction.

Here we may shew two things.

1. That Prayer is very suitable and necessary in time of Affliction. And,

[Page 13]2. How the Duty must be then managed; or how Afflicted Christi­ans must Pray.

1. We are to show, That Prayer is a very suitable and necessary Duty in Affliction. Afflicted Christians should then go to God by Prayer.

1. Because God is the Author of Affliction. I make Peace, I Create E­vil, (says God) Is there Evil in the City, and the Lord has not done it? Ames 3.6. Which is not to be meant of the Evil of Sin, for that's an E­vil, which the perfectly infinitely Holy God can never be the Author of; But it's meant of the Evil of Punishment, or Affliction; for of this God is the Author. Affliction, (let the immediate Causes be what they will) is from the Hand of God. Some look upon afflictions as the pro­ductions of Natural Causes, or as Casualties, or as the Effects of the displeasure or injustice of men: If they are Sick, they are ready to at­tribute it to the Heat, or Cold; if a Loss comes in their Estates, they as­scribe it to the carelessness or false­ness of their Servants, but they o­verlook the Hand of God. Now to [Page 14] whom should Christians have Re­course, for relief and help under Af­fliction, but to the Author of their troubles; for he that sends trouble, can remove it again. That hand that strikes, can cause it self to cease from striking. Remove thy stroke from me▪ I am consumed by the blow of thy hand. Psal. 39.10.

2. Because this is one end God aims at in afflicting his, that they may be thereby stirr'd up to this Duty; they should therefore pray and seek his face at such a time, in compliance with his design therein. Many times when his Children grow remiss or negligent in this duty, he afflicts 'em for it; it may be they are visited with Sickness, or with some loss in their Estates; their Outward Affairs don't prosper tho' managed with ne­ver so much prudence; or they may be deprived of desirable Relations, &c. Now the peculiar intent of God in those afflictions and troubles, which light upon careless and slothful Chri­stians, is to humble them, for their neglects, and to quicken them to du­ty. Agreeably, says God, I will go, & return to my place, (i. e.) withdraw [Page 15] my gracious Presence, or carry it in my Providence towards them, as though I had: till they (my People) acknow­ledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me ear­ly, Hos. 5.15.

3. Because their own benefit and interest obliges them to it. In this way only can they expect support under, a sanctify'd improvement of, and deliverance out of their afflicti­ons; for God only can do this for them, and for this he will be enqui­red of to do it for them. God only is able to support a Christian under affliction: The least Evil being too heavy for him to bear up chearfully under, unless the Everlasting Arms be underneath him; Otherwise a Christian will soon grow impatient and disontented, or sink under discou­ragement. How little a thing made Jonah angry, and wish to die, when his Spirit was out of frame. Jon. 4.9. But what will a Christian do when he comes into the swellings of Jor­dan? When he meets with great and sore Trials, which he must expect, un­less his hands be made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob. Surely God's Grace only is sufficient [Page 16] for him, and therefore he must [...] to God for his help, that he may nei­ther slight his hand, nor faint under his rebukes. Heb. 12.5.

Again, God only can and will make the Affliction turn to our Benefit, thro' Prayer and the supply of the Spirit; whatever affliction a Christi­an meets with, the Almighty designs it for good and advantage to him. The Fathers of our flesh correct us many times for their pleasure only; but whom the Lord corrects, he does it for our benefit, that we may be par­takers of his Holiness, Heb. 12.10. He hath promised, that all things shall work together for good to them that love God, Rom. 8.28. and afflictions are some of those things; they will not alone do us any good, 'tis not so much from a­ny natural property, or inherent Ver­tue, that they do us good, as from the sanctifying Grace of God, and there­fore when Christians are under God's afflicting hand, they should pray for a sanctified Improvement thereof.

Lastly, God only can deliver the Af­flicted Christian out of his troubles: This God assumes to himself, as his Prerogative. I kill and I make alive, [Page 17] (says God) I wound and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. Ʋnto God the Lord, belong the issues from death. Psal. 68 20. He knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations. 2 Pet. 2 9. Many are the afflictions of the Righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psal. 34.19. But this he will be sought unto for; accor­dingly we may and should pray for deliverance. As we may deprecate afflictions, so we may pray to have them removed. So the Psalmist prays to God, to remove his stroke away from him. Psal. 39.10. The Apostle pray'd that the trouble he was un­der, which was a Thorn in the flesh, might be removed. 2 Cor. 12.8. God expects that such should call upon him in the day of trouble, and has promised he will deliver them. Psal. 50.15.

4. Because God has so expresly required, that Christians should pray to him, as at other times, so parti­cularly in time of Affliction. Is a­ny among you afflicted? Let him Pray in their affliction, they will seek me early.

[Page 18]2. We come to shew how afflict­ed Christians should pray. And here I would say.

1. They must pray in the Name of Christ, relying on his Oblation and Intercession for a gracious an­swer of Prayer for all they ask a­greeably to the Will of God; par­ticularly for support under, delive­rance from, and a sanctified improve­ment of their afflictions; it is only in the Name of Christ, that God will be sought unto. Whatever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus; giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Col. 3.17. So we must pray to the Fa­ther by him; and our blessed Lord has told us, that whatsoever we ask the Father in his Name, believing, we shall receive. Joh. 16.33, 34. If we would pray in a time of afflicti­on, or indeed at any other time, so as to be heard and answered; we must pray with Faith in the Name of Christ. We can be heard in no other Name, nor in his Name ex­cept we believe. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God,—but [Page 19] but let him ask in faith. Jam. 1.5, 6. The holy Spirit of God must help our Infirmities, and make Intercessi­on for us, with groanings that can­not be uttered, who know not what to pray for as we ought. Rom. 8.26.

2. Afflicted Christians must pray with Fervency. The fervent effectual Prayer of the Righteous man availeth much. v. 16. Context. But then this Fervency must be more, than a meer natural earnestness of Expression, e­ven vehemency of Spiritual Affecti­ons; an earnestness springing from a sense of a persons need, and the worth of the Mercies he is praying for. One that is sensible of these, will be earnest indeed; will wrestle with God as Jacob did, and not give over till he hath obtained the Blessing. Cold and dead Prayers argue indif­ferency, and tempt God to deny; but fervent prayers argue persons to be in good earnest; they will turn to account. It's the Fervent Prayer that is Effectual.

3. Persons at such a time, must pray with Frequency and Constancy. [Page 20] Their troubles should send them often to the Throne of Grace. Our Lord Jesus return'd upon his Father, he pray'd thrice that the Cup might pass. And the Apostle, that God would re­move that affliction he was under. And as they should be frequent, so they should be constant in Prayer; Praying always, says the Apostle, Eph. 6.8. Pray without ceasing. 1 Thes. 5.17. Where the Apostle don't intend, that Christians should spend their whole time in this Duty; there being other Duties of great Consequence also to be attended: Some time must be spent in Reading, Hearing, Meditating; & not only our General, but our Parti­cular Calling must be attended in their season. One Duty must not justle with, or thrust out another. The Apostle therefore intends only this, that Christians should persevere in Prayer, be frequent and constant therein. In this sense the Psalmist is to be understood, in Psal. 109▪4. I give my self unto prayer. As tho' he Devoted himself wholly to it. But he means no more, than that he did a­bound in this duty. He pray'd seve­ral times in a day: Evening, Morn­ing, [Page 21] and Noon will I pray. Psal. 55.17. As he was a man of many sor­rows, so he was a man of many Pray­ers. Our Blessed Lord spake a Para­ble to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. Luke 18.1. There is the same reason they should persevere in Prayer, as engage in it at first; and that is because God is our Sovereign Lord; he is thy God, and worship thou him. This is the way to speed; in due time ye shall reap, if ye do not faint. It is indeed a great trial to a Christians faith and patience, to have the answer deferr'd; yea, to be treated by God, as though he did not hear or regard him in his affliction; this is a temptation to him to give over the duty: But this should make a Christian the more earnest; and if thro' the help of Divine Grace, he holds out and perseveres, and obtains, it will be infinite Mercy.

4. Afflicted Christians should pray will all prayer. Eph. 6.18. Praying always, with all prayer, (i. e.) with all the kinds, and with all the parts of Prayer. They should pray with Publick, Private, Secret, and Ejacula­tory [Page 22] Prayer; with others, & alone. Prayer is more powerful, when many joyn and unite together in it. In so­litary Prayer, a person may be more free in opening his Case to God. Psal. 119.26. I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me. A person may by Ejaculatory Prayer, or prayer in the heart, dart up his desires to God many times in a day; yea, in the midst of his Worldly Business, or in Company. Hannah thus eased her mind▪ in 1 Sam. 1.13. Again, a per­son must Confess his Sins at such a time, as well as Petition for Mercy; and this is the way to obtain it. Prov. 28.13. He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find mercy. And as he should confess his Sins, so give God thanks for his Mercies, which he remembers in Judgment. There is no Christian so low and mean of [...], so afflicted and distress'd, but he has cause of Thanksgiving; if on no other account, yet on this, that God punisheth him less than his de­serts, as [...] acknowledges. Chap. 9.1 [...].

[Page 23]5. They should pray with Sub­mission to the Will of God. God is the Creatures Sovereign, and there­fore he should not dare to prescribe to him; as he would, if he did not pray with submission; he must there­fore submit it, whether the Lord will please for the present only to support him under, and afford his gracious, sanctifying presence in, or deliver out of affliction: Whether he will give the Christian ease and deliverance, or only patience to bear his afflicting Hand. He must also leave it to him, when and how to deliver him; wait­ing for deliverance in God's time and way: Then it's likely to come in Mercy. God may delay out of love and kindness: He mill take the fittest time, wherein his Glory may shine forth, and the mercy be most conspi­cuous. The Christian must not ven­ture upon any unlawful means for help, nor escape at some back-door of sin; but should stand still and see the Salvation of God. 2 Chron. 20.17. and wait upon Him in the use of means; seeking with submission.

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Improvement.

Use I. Of Information in two Infe­rences.

Inference I. Hence we Learn, that it's Unsuitable; yea, sinful to neglect Prayer in a time of Affliction; so it is indeed at any time: But to do it in Affliction, is an aggravation of the Crime. Eliphaz blames Job, because (as he supposed) he neglected this duty, when he was so sorely afflicted. Chap 15.4. Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God. To neglect Prayer, when God is Cor­recting a Person or a People to stir up a Spirit of Devotion in them, and to quicken them in their Addresses to God; it's very criminal. It's a sad thing, when afflictions find us in the neglect of this Duty, when we don't meet them, as our Lord did his, in a praying posture; but it's more sad and awful for them to leave us, as they found us; as negligent of our Duty, as regardless of God, and our Souls, as we were before; it's a sign, that either the Christian is not duly humbled; for if he were, he would be brought down to God's foot; it's a sign that God's Rod has been spent in [Page 25] vain, as on his People of old; whose afflictions serv'd only to discover their pride and obstinacy, whilst they did not return to him, nor seek him after all. Hos. 7.10. Or it's a sign that the Christian is over pow'rd with Temp­tation, and Discouragement, which is as great an Evil on the other hand, & will as effectually take him off from his duty; therefore the Apostle cau­tions against both. Heb. 12. Despise not thou the Chastening, &c.

Infer. II. Hence we learn the Ex­cellency of Divine Grace, which can cause Afflictions (that are part of the Curse) to turn to our benefit. Tem­poral Afflictions are Paenal Evils, part of the Curse which Sin has subjected Mankind unto. But tho' they be, and are not desirable in themselves, but are Evils to be deprecated; yet by the Grace of God, they may turn to our benefit. Indeed, (as has been hinted already) they can do us no good in themselves, but as they are improved by God's Grace for this end. We see many Wicked men that are emptied from vessel to vessel, and harrassed with all sorts of afflictions, continue as bad as ever; it may be [Page 26] whilst God's Chastening was upon them, they promised fair, and pour'd out a Prayer to God. Isa. 26.16. But when the affliction is removed, they are as regardless of God as ever, and thereby evidence that they flattered him with their mouth, and lied unto him with their tongues. Psal. 78 34, 36. But when the Sanctifying Grace of God co-operates with Afflictions, they then turn to the Benefit of those that are Exercised with them. The Grace of God can bring meat out of this Eater, extract treacle out of this poyson; and turn the very Curse in­to a Blessing. When the affliction is sanctified, it makes persons more humble, holy, watchful, prayerful, o­bedient. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have learnt to keep thy Commandments. Psal. 119.67. In their affliction they will seek me early.

Use II. Of Conviction, and Awa­kening, to those that do not Pray, when under Affliction; or are remiss & negligent in this Duty. Consider,

1. That this shews a very stubborn and incorrigible frame of Heart: When God corrects a Christian, he stands over him (as it were) as a [Page 27] Parent over a disobedient Child, & says, ask my Pardon, and confess your fault, and I will spare you, as a Fa­ther doth his Son. Psal. 103.13. Like as a Father pitieth his Children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. Mal. 3.17. And I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. And they that are negligent of this Duty, under affliction, they do (as it were) say, they will not beg, they will not pray tho' they die & perish; as some stubborn Children will say when they are Corrected. The Wick­ed thro' the pride of his Countenance will not seek after God.

2. Consider, That this is high Con­tempt of God; not only of his Au­thority, but his Power and Justice: By neglecting Prayer, persons con­temn God's Authority in the Com­mand; by neglecting it in affliction, they contemn his Justice and Power also; for hereby they dare him to do his worst: hereby they run upon the point of his Sword, charge upon the the thick bosses of his buckler. What horrid Contempt is this? Wherefore should the Wicked contemn God? Are they stronger than He?

[Page 28]3. Consider, That this is very pro­voking to him. It's very provoking to Parents, when their Children slight their authority, and contemn the rod of Correction. But how much more provoking must it needs be, for God's Children or People to contemn His Authority, Justice & Power: as they do, when they are not humbled, re­claimed, or brought on their Knees by his Afflicting Hand? There is a Woe denounced against such in Zeph. 3.1, 2. which denotes God's Anger. Wo to her that is filthy and polluted— she obeyed not the voice (i e.) the voice of God in affliction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God. Hereby God will be provo­ked to do one of these two things; either to Correct such the more, or to leave off Correcting of them. If the still walk contrary to God, he will walk contrary to them, and punish them yet more. Lev. 26.21. If not, he will cease Correcting of them. Why should ye be stricken any more? Isa. 1.5. And tho' this may be pleasing to such (ease being what they desire) yet nothing can be more fatal to them; for here­by they are given over to a reprobate [Page 29] mind, and vile affections to go on undi­sturbed in their Sins, which is the greatest Judgment in this World: 'tis better to be afflicted, yea with the greatest Soul Con­flicts, for these may issue in Conversion and Salvation; but the other is a black mark of Reprobation.

Use 3. Of Examination or Trial in two Respects.

1. As to the End of God in Affliction. Affliction cometh not out of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground: But it is ordered by an Infinitely Wise God, and therefore for some wise End. Let Affli­cted Christians Examine what the End of God therein may be. Shew me says Job, wherefore thou comendest with me? Ch. 9, 10. So let Christians Enquire, what it is that God aims at in afflicting them; whether it be to scourge them for their Sins, or to try them; sometimes God afflicts to try the Grace of his Children, as in the Case of Job, tho' his Friends tho't otherwise, & he himself could not well tell what to make of his afflictions at first. But most­ly, he does it to scourge and chastise them for their sins. Let us then Examine, whe­ther the Afflictions we have been under by the Wasting Sickness that has been in this place, & by the Death of so many amongst us, especially of Leading and Principal Men: 1 (No sooner was the Sword of [Page 30] the Wilderness sheathed in its Scabbard, but a just and holy God hath drawn the Sword of Pestlilence against us, whereby possibly many more persons have been cut off, than by the late War; yea, than by all the Calamities that have been in this place many years:) Now has God done this meerly to try us, how we could sub­mit and stoop to his Sovereignty, & bear his Afflicting Hand? Or has he not done it also and chiefly, to humble us for our Sins? And what Sins hath God thus Cor­rected us for? May we not conclude, that he has herein been avenging the Quarrel of his Covenant, according to Rev. 26.25. That our abuse of Gospel Mercies, our slighting God's Instituted Worship, our Neglect of Prayer in our Families, and Closets, and our Lukewarmness and In­differency in the things of God; have had a peculiar hand (as the meritorious Cause) in bringing this sore Calamity upon us, which we should never forget▪ (nor the mixture of Mercy with the Judgment▪) And when we remember the Wormwood and the Gall, our Souls should be hum­bled within us: We have been often warned for these and our other Sins, from the Word of God, (I trust with faith­fulness) for these God has been doubtless [Page 31] Correcting us. Let us therefore search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord. Lam. 3.40

2. Let it put us upon Trying our selves, as to our Carriage under, & the Improve­ment we have made of Affliction, that we may know whether God's End hath been attained. And this we may know by these things.

1. When Affliction serves to Embitter Sin to a Christian, & to Mortifie his Cor­ruptions. There is a tendency in Affli­ction to do this, as it shews the Evil Na­ture of Sin, in the ill Effects; & if mens Eyes were opened to see this, they would hate Sin more than ever they loved it: There is nothing like sanctified afflictions to Mortifie Sin, and to Crucify the Flesh▪ with the corrupt affections and [...]. Is Sin embittered to us? Are our Lusts mor­tified by our Afflictions?

2. Have they served to humble us under God's mighty Hand? This is another sign of their being beneficial: Mens hearts are apt to rise against God, when he Corrects them by his afflicting Hand; when it's so▪ not only at their first meeting with affli­ction, (for then there may be too little difference between the Saint and Sinner) but in their parting with it, it's a sign that the Affliction don't work kindly; but when it serves to bring the Christian to the foot of God, and to purge out the re­maining rebellion and stubornness of the [Page 32] heart, then it works kindly indeed.

3. If Grace be Excited, and a Christian thereby quickened to Duty. Afflictions tend to quicken Grace, to draw it forth into Exercise. Tribulation works patience, patience experience, &c. Rom. 5.3, 4, 5. If there be any Grace in the heart, it will be discovered at such a time, as well as Corruption. Have your Afflictions, Chri­stian, stirr'd up & exercised your Grace? Have they also quickened you to Duty, in which you might be remiss or negli­gent? Have you made one Prayer the [...]? Or have you pray'd at all? Have you pray'd more earnestly, & constantly? If it hath been thus, it's to be hop'd that Affliction hath been sanctified, and God's People have not been Corrected in vain.

Use IV. Of Exhortation to the Afflicted to Pray. Farther, to quicken to Prayer.

1. Consider the Relation you stand in to God. The Rod is in the Hand of a Father. It's your Heavenly Father, Chri­stian, that Corrects you. Whatever In­strument is made use of, it is God that orders it. He makes use of it to Correct you; and he does it out of Love and Compassion to your Souls. Whom the Lord oves he chastens, and corrects every son whom he receives. He Corrects them to prevent their Everlasting Ruine; therefore says the Apostle, in 1 Cor. 11.32. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the Word. [Page 33] Be not discouraged therefore by the Affli­ctions; but let them rather quicken and encourage you to go to God by Prayer, with all holy Reverence and Confidence, as Children to a Father, able and ready to help you.

2. Consider, That Christ hath merited for you all you need, he Offers your Prayers with the Incense of his Merit; yea, he ever lives to make Intercession. Christ hath not only Redeemed you from the Curse, by being made a Curse for you, but hath purchased Grace, Glory, and e­very good thing for Believers: all that is needful to carry them well through this World, and to Crown them in the next. So that you may go boldly to the Throne of Grace, and ask for all the fruits of Christ's purchase; for tho' you are not worthy, Christ is; and in the virtue of his own merit he presents your Addresses, and intercedes with the Father, to grant your Petitions: He is therefore repre­sented as standing at the Golden Altar with much Incense, to offer it with the Prayers of the Saints; And the smoke of the Incense, which came up with the Prayers of the Saints ascended up before God. Rev. 8.3, 4. Having therefore Brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest, by the Blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath Consecrated for us, through the [...], that is to say his flesh; and having an High Priest over the House of God▪ [Page 34] let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of Faith. Heb. 10 19—22.

3. Consider the Advantage and Benefit of Prayer in a time of Affliction, to get & keep a good frame of heart, to strengthen Faith and Patience to bear the burden of it. It's beneficial,

1. To get and keep a good frame of heart, even a humble, resigned, composed frame. This frame of heart is needful for all Christians, when under Afflictions. This brings Glory to God, and makes the Cross sit easy. Now Prayer tends to be­get and keep up this frame, by bringing the Soul to God's presence, and awing it with his Sovereign Power, Wisdom and Authority. It's meet to be said unto God, I have born Chastisement; this makes the will submit, and the tumultuous passions are kept under a due regulation. Here­by it's made sensible of its own vileness, and ill deserts, which stop the mouth of Complaint. Shall a living man complain? Man for the punishment of his Sin? Nay by Prayer the Soul breaths out its troubles. Griefs (as one says) are eased by Groans: The heart is cooled and disburthened by Spiri­tual Evaporations. The Mind is by this means made and kept calm and easie. There is an Halcyon Calm within, many times, when it's all stormy and tempestu­ous round about.

2. Prayer is needful to strengthen Faith and Patience: To strengthen Faith. [Page 35] Faith is the Souls prop under Affliction. I had fainted unless I had believed, says the Psalmist. Psal. 27.13. This will buoy up the Soul, when the breaking Billows of Affliction go over its head, ready to swal­low it up. Unless thy Law had been my De­lights, I should then have perished in mine af­fliction. Psal. 119.92. The meaning is, That if he had not believed in, and laid hold of God's gracious Promises, which were his comfort and delight, he could not have been carried thro' his Afflicti­ons. Now Prayer serves to strengthen Faith in Christ, and the precious Promis­ses, that are Yea in him, & in him Amen; hereby new strength and vigour is derived from the Fountain to the Soul. Thus doubtless it was, with respect to Peter's Faith upon our Lord's Praying for him, that his Faith might not fail. Luke 22.31, 32. Tho' he fell, his faith did not utterly fail. Thus Paul's Prayer in his affliction, brought new and fresh supplies of Grace▪ tho' he had not present speedy deliverance, yet he had support, strengthening Grace, which was better. My Grace shall be suffi­cient for thee. 2 Cor. 12.9.

Again, Prayer is necessary to strengthen and increase a Christian's Patience. This is also a very useful Grace under Affli­ction: This makes a Christian easie in his mind, even when God's hand presseth him fore. Impatient, discontented persons, they are so far from being easie, that their [Page 36] uneasiness [...] other troubles▪ Now Prayer is useful to strengthen pati­ence, and perfect it; it must have its per­fect work. Jam. 1.4. in making Christians absolutely subject to God's Will, & con­stant to the end, under afflictions; and the way the Apostle directs to, for the strengthening of it, is by Prayer, in the [...]th verse. If any of you lack Wisdom? Let him ask it of God: Where (as one says upon the place) Wisdom is to be restrain­ed, according to the Circumstances of the Text, and taken for wisdom or skill to bear Afflicti­ons▪ so. as to Rejoice in them. Our Lord prefaces his Sufferings▪ with Prayer, to show us the benefit and necessity of it in Affliction: and who so patient, meek, & lamb-like as He: Go then, (thou poor afflicted Christian, go) to God in the Name of Christ, and tell him, how hard thou art put to it, what a grievous bur­den lieth upon thee, how weak thou art in thy self; that thou dost not desire ease & a release, so much as Faith and Pati­ence, to bear what he is pleas'd to lay up. on thee; and wait thus upon him, and surely it will not be in vain.

Use V. Of Consolation, to those under Affliction; who are thereby quickened to Prayer; that find on experience, that their hearts go out to God, for his Presence and Grace, as well as for deliverance; for faith & patience to bear his Afflicting Hand, as well as for ease and relief under it; who [Page 37] pray more earnestly, constantly, and be­lievingly, than ever. This is matter of Comfort to you: In that,

1. You have therein a good evidence, a sure token that God is with you, and will never leave nor forsake you. It is the fruit of his Gracious Presence to quicken your hearts to, and in this Duty. If then you feel your hearts begin to move God-ward, and Christ-ward in the way of Du­ty; or to move more livelily than ever: If your troubles cause you to look up in good earnest, to the Throne of Grace, 'tis a sign that God is present with you by his Grace, and what a comfortable Conside­ration is this. We count it a great privi­lege to have our Friends near us when we are Sick, or under any other Afflicti­on; but what is this to the having GOD present with us, at such a time, enliven­ing, quickening and comforting us? As 'tis a great aggravation of trouble, for the Lord to withdraw the comfortable sense of his Presence and Love: This puts an edge upon Affliction▪ So on the contrary, his favourable, gracious, comforting, quick­ening Presence, is a great alleviation thereof. Therefore the Psalmist prays God not to be far off, because trouble was near. Psal. 22.11. Now this is a good Token that he is present with such, when their hearts are quickened by his Grace; And it should be a Comfort to such. This was the Psalmist's Comfort in his Afflicti­on: [Page 38] That God's Word had quickened him. Psal. 119.50. And as this is a sign that God is with such, so that he will never leave them, nor forsake them utter­ly. Indeed he may hide his face from them, or forsake them for a moment, as he speaks. Isa. 14.7, 8. But with great Mercies will he gather them. In a little wrath I hid my face,—But with everlast­ing kindness will I have mercy on thee, &c. So that God will not leave such ut­terly, and so he hath expresly engaged. Heb. 13.5. And this is evident from their sanctified afflictions, wherein they may read their Heavenly Father's Love. And those whom he once loves, he always loves. The gifts & calling of God be­ing without Repentance. What a com­fort may this justly be, to an Afflicted Soul! Well may a Christian say. Though God afflicts me, yet he will not forsake me, nor cast me off for ever; and as long as I am sure of this, I can the better bear what he is plea­sed to lay upon me.

2. This is a sign that their Afflictions shall do them good, and end well. The chief thing that gracious Souls should look at under Affliction is, that they may Glorify God, and get good by it. And they should be afraid of nothing so much, as the contrary. Now when they see the present fruits, in a humble resigned frame of Spirit in a Soul quickened to Duty: Why, this gives them comfortable encou­raging [Page 39] grounds to hope, that it shall turn to their benefit. Yea, this shows them that it is so already. Now what a Comfort is this, to an afflicted Christian; who may be ready sometimes under temp­tation to fear and say, as Job did, in his Calamities, Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine Enemy? Job 13.24. They may be ready to fear that God is punishing as a Judge, and not correcting as a Father; and indeed if a Christian were to bear Affliction only as the pu­nishment of his Sins, or the beginning of it, and were to receive no benefit by it; this were a killing Consideration: But this no humble prayerful Soul has any reason to fear. He has no reason to look thus upon his Afflictions, how grievous soever; but as a Rod in the hand of a Father, who is seeking his benefit, & not his ruine: Who does not willingly grieve the Children of men, much less his own; and who, when he does it, aims at their profit, that they may be partakers of his Holiness: And the afflicted Christan finds the truth of this, in God's causing Affli­ons to work for his good already, and not afflicting him in vain.

And such Afflictions will end happily. How grievous soever they are at present, they will in the end, yield the quiet and peaceable fruits of Righteousness to them which are Exercised thereby. They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy: Weeping [Page] may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psal. 30.5. Though a Child of God hath [...] among the pots, yet he shall be as the wings of a Dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold: Psal. 68.13. Though none can tell how long God may please to Ex­ercise the Christian with this or that Af­fliction, yet the Scripture assures us, that the troubles of God's People shall End happily: And this light Affliction which is but for a moment, shall work out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory. 2 Cor. 4.17. The question being asked. Rev. 7.13. What, or who are these, which are arrayed in white Robes? And whence come they? The Answer is, verse 14. —These are they which come out of great tribulation, and have washed their Robes, and made them white in the Blood of Lamb. Amen.

FINIS.

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