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2 Peter 3:12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

posted 9 Jul 2014, 12:26 by Stephen OldPaths   [ updated 9 Jul 2014, 12:27 ]



2 Peter 3:12. 

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

THE wisest knowledge of things, is to know them in their causes: But there is no knowledge of causes so happy and useful, as clearly to know, and firmly believe, the universal dependence of all things upon the first and highest cause, the cause of causes, the spring of being and goodness, the wife and just Ruler of the world.

This the Psalmist, Psalm xxxiv. 15, 16. and here with him the Apostle, gives as the true reason of that truth they have averred in the former words, the connection of holiness and happiness. If life, and peace, and all good be in God's hand to bestow when it pleaseth him, then, sure, the way to it, is an obedient and regular walking, in observance of bis will; and the way of sin is the way to ruin: For the eyes if the Lord are upon the righteous, (ire. and his face is against them that do evil.

In the words there is a double opposition; of persons, and of their portion.

1st, Of persons, the righteous and evil-doers. These . two words are often used in the Scriptures, and particularly in the book of Psalms, to express the godly [[494]] and the wicked; and so this righteousness is not absolute perfection or sinlessness, nor is the opposed evil, every act: of sin, or breach of God's law: But the righteous be they that are students of obedience and holiness, that desire to walk as in the fight of God, and to walk with God, as Enoch did; that are glad when they can any way serve him, and grieved when they offend him; that feel and bewail their unrighteousness, and are earnestly breathing and advancing forward; have a sincere and unfeigned love to all the commandments of God, and diligently endeavour to observe them; that vehemently hate what most pleases their corrupt nature, and love the command that crosses it most. This is an imperfect kind of perfection, Phil. iii. 12. 15.

On the other fide, evil-doers are they that commit sin with greediness; that walk in it, make it their way, that live in sin as their element, taking pleasure in unrighteousness, as the Apostle speaks, 2 Thess, xi. 12.; their great faculty and their great delight lies in sin; they are skilful and cheerful evil-doers: Not any one man in all kind of fins, that is impossible; there is a concatenation of sin, and one disposes and induces to another; but yet, one ungodly man is commonly more versed in, and delighted with, some one kind of sin, another with some other. Pie forbears none; because it is evil and hateful to God, but as he cannot travel over the whole globe of wicked-ness, and go the full circuit, he walks up and down in his accustomed way of sin. No one mechanic is good at all trades, nor is any man expert in all arts; but he is an evil-doer that follows the particular trade of the sin he hath chosen, is active and diligent in that, and finds it sweet. In a word, this opposition lieth mainly in the bent of the affection, or in the way it is set. The godly man hates the evil he, possibly by temptation, hath been drawn to do, and loves the good he is frustrate of, and, having intended, hath not attained to do, The sinner, that hath [[495]] his denomination from sin, as his course, states the good that sometimes he is forced to do, and loves that sin which many times he does not; either wanting occasion and means, and so he cannot do it, or, through check of an enlightened conscience, possibly dares not do: And, though so hound up from the act, as a dog in a chain, yet the habit, the natural inclination and desire in him, is still the fame; the strength of his assertion is carried to sin; as in the weakest godly man, there is that predominant sincerity and desire of holy walking, according to which he is called a righteous person. The Lord is pleased to give him that name, and account him so, being upright in heart, though often failing. There is a righteousness of a higher drain, upon which his salvation hangs, that is not in him but upon him; he is clothed with it: But this other, of sincerity, and of true and hearty, though imperfect obedience, is the righteousness here meant, and opposed to evil-doing.

idly, Their opposite condition or portion is expressed in the highest notion of it; that wherein the very being of happiness and misery lieth, the favour and anger of God. As their natures differ moll, by the habit of their affection towards God, as their main distinguishing character, so the difference of their estate consists in the point of his affection towards them, spoke here, in our language, by the divers suspects of his countenance; because our love and hatred usually looks out, and shews itself that way.

Now for the other word, expressing his favour to the righteous, by the openness of his ear, the opposition in the other needed not to be expressed; for, either the wicked pray not, or, if they do, it is indeed no prayer, the Lord doth not account nor receive it as such; and if his face be let against them, certainly his ear is shut against them too, and so shut that it openeth not to their loudest prayer: Though [[496]] they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them, says the Lord, Ezek. viii. 18.

And, before we pass to the particulars of their condition, as here we have them, this we would consider a little, and apply it to our present business, who are the persons whom the Lord thus regards, and to whose prayer he opens his ear.

This we pretend to be seeking after, that the Lord would look favourably upon us, and hearken to our fuits, for ourselves, and this land, and the whole Church of God within these kingdoms. Indeed, two fervent prayer of a faithful man availeth much, [πολθισχυει] it is of great strength, a mighty thing, that can bind and loose the influences of heaven, (as there is instanced, Ja. v. 16, 17.); and the prayer of a righteous man, be it but of one righteous man; how much more the combined cries of many of them together. And, that we judge not the righteousness there and here mentioned, to be a thing above human estate, Elias, says the Apostle, was a man, and a man subject to like passions as we are, and yet such a righteous person as the Lord had an eye and gave ear to in so great a matter. But, where are thole righteous falters and prayers in great congregations? How few, if any, to be found, that are but such in the lowest sense and measure, real lovers and inquirers after holiness? What are our meetings here, but assemblies of evildoers, rebellious children, ignorant and profane persons, or dead formal professors, and so the more of us the worse, incensing the Lord more; and the multitude of prayers, though we could and would continue many days, all to no purpose, from such as we: Though ye make many prayers, when ye multiply prayer, I will not hear: And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you, Isa. i. 11. Your hands are so filthy, that if you would follow me to lay hold on me with them, you drive me further off; as one with foul hands, following a person that is neat, to catch held of him: And if you spread[[497]] them out before me, my eyes are pure, you will make me turn away. I cannot endure to look upon them, I will hide mine eyes from you. And falling, added with prayer, will not do it, nor make it pals; When they fast, I will not hear their cry, Jer. xiv. 12.

It is the sin of his people that provokes him, instead of looking favourably upon them, to have his eyes upon them for evil and not for good, as he threatens, Amos ix 4.; and therefore, without putting away of that, prayer is lost breath, and dot!) no good.

They that Hill retain their fins, and will not hearken to his voice, what can they expect but that justly threatened retaliation, Prov. i. 26. 28. and that the Lord, in holy scorn, in the day of their distrels, should fend them for help and comfort to thole things which they have made their gods, and preferred before him in their trouble? They will say, Arise and fave us; but where are the gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can fave thee in the time of thy trouble, Jer. ii. 28.

And not only do open and gross impieties thus disappoint our prayers, but the lodging of any sin in our affection. If I regard iniquity in my heart, (says the Psalmist, Psalm lxvi. 18.) the 'Lord will not hear my voice; the word is, if I see iniquity, if mine I ye look pleasantly upon it, his eye will not look so upon me, nor shall I find his ear so ready and open. He says not, if I do sin, but, if I regard it in my heart. The heart entertaining and embracing a sin, though it be a smaller sin, I more than the simple tailing into sin. And as the ungodly do, for this reason, lose all their prayers, a godly man may suffer his way, in some degree, upon some degree of guiltiness; this way the heart seduced, it may be, and entangled for a time by some sinful lust, they are lure to sin a stop in their prayers, that they neither go nor come so quickly and so comfortably as before. Any sinful humour, as rheums do our voice, binds up the voice of prayer, makes it not so clear and thrill as it was wont; [[498]] and the accusing guilt of it ascending, shuts up the Lord's ear, that he doth not so readily hear and answer as before. And thus that sweet correspondence is interrupted, which all the delights of the world cannot compensate.

If, then, you would have easy and sweet accesses to God in prayer, i. Seek an holy heart, entertain a constant care and study of holiness; admit no parley with sin; do not so much as hearken to it, if you would be readily heard.

2. Seek a broken heart, the Lord is ever at hand to that, as it is in Psalm xxxiv. whence the Apostle cites the words now under our consideration, lie is nigh unto them that are of a contrite spirit, ver. 18. &c. it is an excellent way to prevail. The breaking of the heart multiplies petitioners, every piece of it hath a voice; and a very strong and very moving voice, that enters his ear, and stirs the bowels and compassions of the Lord towards it.

3. Seek an humble heart. That may present its fuits always; the court is constantly there, even within it; the great King loves to make his abode and residence in it, Isa. lvii. 15. This is the thing that the Lord so delights in and requires, he will not fail to accept of it, it is his choice. Mic. vi. 6. 8. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, &c. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy: There is this righteousness, and that as a great part making it up, to walk humbly with thy God; in the original, humble to walk with thy God; he cannot agree with a proud heart; he hates and refills it, and two cannot walk together unless they be agreed, as the Prophet speaks, Amos iii. 3. The humble heart only is company for God, hath liberty to walk and converse with him. He gives grace to the humble: he bows his ear, if thou list not up thy neck: Proud beggars he turns away with disdain, and the humblest suitors always speed hest with him, the righteous, not such in their [[499]] own eyes, but in his, through his gracious dignation and acceptance. And, is there not reason to come humbly before him, bafe worms, to the most holy and most high God?

The eyes of the Lord.] We fee i. That both are in his fight, the righteous and the wicked, all of them, and all their ways; his eye is on the one, and his face on the other, as the word is, but so on these as against them. It is therefore rendered his eye of knowledge and of observance, marking them and their actions equally upon both. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves, Job xxxiv. 22. Foolishly and wretchedly done, to do that, or think that, that we would hide from the Lord, and then to think that we can hide it! the Prophet speaks wo to such. Wo to them that dig deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Isa xxix. 15. And this is the grand principle of all wickedness, not, it may be expressly stated, but secretly lying in the foul, an habitual forgetting of God and his eye, not considering that he beholds us; ye that forget God, says the Psalm 1. 22. thence all impiety proceeds; and on the other fide the remembrance of his eye is a radical point of piety and holiness, in which the [[cxxxix. Psalm>>Psa. 139]] is large and excellent.

But, as the Lord doth thus equally fee both, so as his eye and countenance imports his mind concerning them, and towards them, the manner of beholding them is different, yea contrary. And from the other, beholding in common, knowing their ways, arises this different beholding, which (as usually words of sense signify also the affection [Verba sensus connotant affectus.]) is the approving and disliking, the loving and hating them, and their ways: So he peculiarly knows the righteous and their ways, Psalm i. 6. And knows not, never knew, the workers of iniquity, even those that by their profession would [[500]] plead most acquaintance, and familiar converse, eating and drinking in his presence, and yet I know you not, whence are you? Luke xiii. 26. It is not a breaking off from former acquaintance; no, he doth not that, he disavows none that ever were truly acquainted with him. So the other Evangelist hath it, Matt. vii. 29. of those that thought to have been in no small account. I never knew you, depart from me; and the convincing reason lies in that, ye workers of iniquity; none of his favourites and friends are such.

Thus here, his eye, his gracious eye for good, is on the righteous; and his face, his angry looks, his just wrath, against evil-doers.

In the [[xith Psalm>>Psa. 9]], we have this expressed much after the fame way, First, what we spoke of his knowing and beholding in common the righteous -and wicked, and their ways, is represented by his fitting on high, where he may mark and fee clearly throughout all places and all hearts, His throne is in heaven, his eyes behold, his eye-lids try, the children of men, [[ver. 4>>Psa. 9:4]]. He fits in heaven, not as in a chair of reft, regardless of human things, but on a throne, for governing and judging; though with as little uneasiness and disturbance, as if there were nothing to be done that way. His eyes behold, not in a fruitless contemplation or knowledge; but his eye-lids try, which signifies an intent inspection, such as men usually make with a kind of motion of their eye-lids. Then upon this is added the different portion of the righteous and wicked, in his beholding them and dealing with them; he tries the righteous, [[ver. 5>>Psa. 9:5]]. approves what is good in them, and by trial and affliction doth purge out what is evil; and in both these is love; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his foul hateth, and therefore, as here, his face is against them. His foul and face are all one; but these things are expressed after our manner. He looks upon them with indignation; and thence come the storms in the next verse, snares rained down, [[ver. 6>>Psa. 9:6]], the wariest: foot cannot [[501]] not avoid such snares, they come down upon them from above; fire, and brimstone, and burning tempest, alluding to Sodom's judgment as an emblem of the punishment of all the wicked; this is the portion of their cup. There is a cup for them; but his children drink not with them. They have another cup, the Lord himself is the portion of their cup, Psalm xvi. 6. his favour, as the [[xith Psalm>>Psa. 9]] closes, The righteous Lord loveth righteousness, his countenance doth behold the upright; that is another beholding than the former; gracious, loving beholding, as here, his eyes are upon the righteous.

Now, the persuasion of this truth is the main establishment of a godly mind, amidst all the present effusions that appear in things; and it is so here i tried, and in the Psalm I have mentioned, and throughout the Scriptures.

To look upon the present flourishing and prosperity of evil-doers, and on the distresses and sorrows of the godly, is a dark obscure matter in itself; but the way to be cleared and comforted, is to look above them to the Lord, They looked unto him and were lightened, Psalm xxxiv. 5.; that answers all doubts, to believe this undoubted providence and justice, the eye of God that fees all, yea, rules all these things. And, in the midst of all the painted happiness of wicked men, this is enough to make them miserable, the Lord's face is against them; and they shall finely find it lb. He hath wrath and judgment in (lore, and will bring it forth to light; will execute it in clue time; he is preparing for them that cup spoke of, and they shall drink it. So, in the saddest condition of his church and a believing foul, to know this, that the Lord's eye is even then upon them, and that he is upon thoughts of peace and love to them, is that winch fettles and composes the mind. Thus in that Psalm before cited, it was such difficulties that did drive David's thoughts to that for satisfaction, If the foundations be defrayed, what can the righteous do?

[[502]] Psalm xi. 2. In the time of such great makings and confusions, the righteous man can do nothing to it, but the righteous Lord can do enough; he can do all: The righteous Lord that loveth righteousness. While all seems to go upside down, he is on his throne, he is trying and judging, and will appear to be Judge. This is the thing that faithful fouls should learn to look to, and not lose view and firm belief of, and should desire the Lord himself to raise their minds to it when they are like to link. Natural strength and resolution will not serve the turn; floods may come that will arise above that; something above a man's own spirit must support him: Therefore say with David, Psalm Ixi. 2. When my spirit is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. They think sometimes it is so hard with them, he regards not; but he allures them of the contrary, I have graven thee upon the palms of mine hands, Isa. xlix. 16. I cannot look upon my own hands, but I must remember thee: And thy walls are continually before me. This is that the spouse seeks for, Set me as a seal upon thine arm. Cant. viii. 6.

Now, a little more particularly to confider the expressions, and their scope here, how is that made good which the former words teach, that they that walk in the ways of wickedness can expect no good, but are certainly miserable? Thus, the face of the Lord is against them. Prosper they may in their affairs and estates, may have riches, and posterity, and friends, and the world caressing them, and smiling on them on all hands; but there is that one thing that damps all, the face of the Lord is against them. This they feel not indeed for the time; it is an invisible ill, out of fight and out of mind with them: But there is a time of the appearing of this face of the Lord against them, the revelation of his righteous judgment, as the Apostle speaks, Rom. ii. 5. sometimes precursory days of it here, but however one great prefixed day; a day of darkness to them indeed, [[503]] wherein they shall know what this is, that now founds so light, to have the face of the Lord against them; a look of it is more terrible than all present miseries combined together; what then shall the eternity of it be! to be punished (as the Apostle (peaks) with ever lofting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory op his power! 2 Thess. i. 9.

Are we not then impertinent foolish creatures, that are so thoughtful how our poor businesses here succeed with us, and how we are accounted of in the world, and how the faces of men are towards us, and scarce ever enter into a secret serious inquiry how the countenance of God is to us, whether favourably mining on us or still angrily set against us, as it is against all impenitent sinners?

The face of the foul being towards God, turned away from the world and sin, argues for it, that his face is not against it; but that he hath graciously looked upon it, and by a look of love hath drawn it towards himself; for we act not first in that; non amatur Deus nifi de Deo. It is he that prevents us, and, by the beams of his love, kindles love in our hearts. Now, the foul that is thus set towards-him, it may be, doth not constantly fee here his face mining full and clear upon it, but often clouded. Nay, it may be, such a foul hath not yet at all seen it sensibly; yet this it may conclude, feeing my defines are towards him, and my chief desire is the sweet light of his countenance, though as yet I find not his face mining on me, yet I am persuaded it is not set against me to destroy me. Mi (belief, when the foul is much under its influence, and distempered by it, may suggest this sometimes too; but yet dill there is some spark of hope that it is otherwise, that the eye of the Lord's pity is even in that estate upon us, and will in time manifest itself to be so.

To the other question, What assurance have the godly for that feeing of good, these blessings you (peal; of? This, the eyes of the Lord are upon them, [[504]] and his ears open to their prayer. If you think Him wife enough to know what is good for them, and rich enough to afford it, they are fine of one thing, he loves them; they have his good will, his heart is towards them, and therefore his eye and his ear. Can they then want any good? If many days, and outward good things be indeed good for them, they cannot mil's of these. He hath given them already much better things than these, and hath yet far better in store for them; and what way soever the world go with them, this itself is happiness enough, that they are in his love, whose loving-kindness is better than life, Psalm Ixiii. 3. Sweet days have they that live in it. What better days would courtiers with, than to be still in the eye and favour of the king, to be certain of his good-will towards them, and to know of access, and of a gracious acceptance of all their fuits? Now, thus it is with all the servants of the great King, without prejudice one to another; he is ready to receive their requests, and able and willing to do them all good. Happy estate of a believer! He must not account himself poor and destitution any condition, for he hath favour at court; he hath the King's eye and his ear; the eyes of the Lord are upon him, and his ears open to his prayers.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous.] This hath in it, iff, His love, the propension of his heart towards them. The eye is the servant of the affection; it naturally turns that way most where the heart is. Therefore, thus the Lord is pleased to speak of his love to his own. He views still all the world, but he looks upon them with a peculiar delight; his eye is still on them, as it were towards them from all the rest of the world. Though he doth not always let them fee these his looks, for it is not laid they always are in light of it; no, not here; yet still his eye is indeed upon them, by the beauty of grace in them, his own work indeed, the beauty that he himself hath put upon them. And on the [[505]] other of his ear too, he is willing to do for them what they ask; he loves even to hear them speak; finds a sweetness in the voice of their prayers, that makes his ear not only open to their prayers, but delirious of them, as sweet music. Thus he speaks of both, Cant. ii. 14. My dove, let me fee thy countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

2. The phrase exprefl.es his good providence and readiness to do them good; to supply their wants, and order their affairs for them; to answer their desires, and thus to let them find the fruits of that love that so leads his eye and ear towards them. His eye is upon them; he is devilling and thinking what to do for them; it is the thing he thinks on moll: His eyes are on all; but they are bulled, as he is pleased to express it, they run to and fro through the earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them, whose heart is perfect towards him, &c. 2 Chron. xvi. 9. So Deut. xi. 12. His eyes are all the year en the land: And no wonder, then, he answers their fuits in what is good for them, when it is still in his thoughts before; he prevents them with the blessings of his goodness, Psalm xxi. 3.; they cannot be so mindful of themselves as he is of them.

This is an unspeakable comfort, when a poor believer is in great perplexity of any kind in his out ward or spiritual condition. " Well, I fee no way; " I am blind in this; but there are eyes upon me that " fee well what is belt. The Lord is minding me, " and bringing about all to my advantage. lam " poor and needy indeed, but the Lord thinketh on me, " Psalm xl. 17." That turns the balance. Would not a man, though he had nothing, think himself happy, if some great prince was busily thinking how to advance and enrich him? much more, if a number of kings were upon this thought, and devising together? yet these thoughts might perish, as the Psalmist speaks, Psalm cxlvi. 4. How much more solid happiness is  [[506]] it to have Him, whose power is greatest, and whose thoughts fail not, eying thee, and devising thy good, and asking us as it were, What shall be done to the man whom the king will honour?

And his cars are open unto their prayer.] What fuits thou haft, thou mayest speak freely; he will not refuse thee any thing that is for thy good. I but I am not righteous, and all this is for " the righteous only." Yet thou wouldest be such a one. Wouldest thou indeed? then in part thou art. As he modestly and wifely changed the name of wife-men into philosophers, lovers of wisdom: Art thou not righteous? yet (φιλοδικαιος) a lover of righteousness thou art; then thou art one of these. If still thine own unrighteousness be in thine eye, it may, and should be so, to humble thee; but if it should scare thee from coming unto God, and offering thy fuits with this persuasion, that bis ear is open; should it make thee think that his favourable eye is not toward thee; yet there is mercy, creep in under the robe of his Son. Thou art sure he is Jesus Christ the Righteous, and that the Father's eye is on him with delight, and then it shall be so on thee, being in him. Put thy petitions into his hand, who is the Great Matter of requests; thou canst not doubt that he hath access, and that ear open to him, which thou thinkest shut to thee.

The exercise of prayer being so important, and bearing so great a part in the life and comfort of a Christian, it deserves to be very seriously considered. We will therefore subjoin some few considerations concerning it.

Prayer is considerable in a threefold notion: i. As a duty we owe to God. As it is from him we expect and receive all, it is a very reasonable homage and acknowledgment thus to testify the dependence of our being and life on him; and the dependence of cur fouls upon him for being, and life, and all good; that we be daily suitors before his throne, [[507]] and go to him for all. 2. As the dignity, and the delight, of a spiritual mind, to have or near access unto God, and such liberty to speak to him. 3. As a proper and sure means, by divine appointment and promise, of obtaining at the hands of God those good things that are. needful and convenient for us. And although some believers, of lower knowledge, do not (it may be) so distinctly know, and others not so particularly consider, all these in it, yet there is a latent notion of them all in the heart of every godly person, that stirs them and puts them on to the constant use of prayer, and to a love of it.

And as they are in these respects inclined and bent to the exercise of prayer, the Lord's ear is in like manner inclined to hear their prayer in these respects.

1. He takes it well at their hands, that they do offer it up as due worship to him; that they deli re thus as they can to serve him. He accepts of those offerings graciously, passes by the imperfections in them, and hath regard to their sincere intention and desire. 2. It pleases him well, that they delight in prayer, as convene with him; that they love to be much with him, and to speak to him often, and still aspire by this way to more acquaintance with him, that they are ambitious of this. 3. He willingly hears their prayers as the expressions of their necessities, and desires, being both rich and bountiful; he loves to have blessings drawn out of his hands that way, as full breads delight to be drawn. The Lord's treasure is always full, and therefore he is always communicative. In the first respect, prayer is acceptable to the Lord as incense and sacrifice, as David desires, Psalm cxli. 2.; the Lord receives it as divine worship done to him. In the fecund, prayer is as the visits and sweet entertainment, and discourse of friends together, and so is pleating to the Lord, as the free opening of the mind, pouring out of the heart to him, as it is called in Psalm lxii. 8.; and Psalm v. 1. calls it his meditation; and the word for that [[508]] signifies discourse or conference. And, in the third sense, he receives prayer as the fuits of petitioners that are in favour with him, and that he readily accords to. And thus the words for supplication in the original, and the word here for prayer, and that for cry in the Psalm, do mean; and in that sense the Lord's open ear and hearkening hath in it his readiness to answer, as one that doth hear, and to answer graciously and really, as hearing favourably.

I shall now add some directions, 1. For prayer, that it may be accepted and answered. 2. For observing the answers of it.

1. For prayer, the qualification of the heart that offers it. 2. The way of offering it.

1. As to the qualification of the heart, it must be in some measure a holy heart, according to that word here, the righteous; there mull be no regarding iniquity, entertaining of friendship with any sin, but a permanent love and desire of holiness, Thus, indeed, a man prays within himself, as in a sanctified place, whither the Lord's ear inclines, as of old to the temple; he need not run superstitiously to a church, &c. intra te ora, fed vide pri___ùs an fis templum Dei. The sanctified man's body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, as the Apostle speaks, 1 Cor. vi. 19. and his foul the priest in it, that offers sacrifice: Both holy to the Lord, consecrated to him. idly, It must be a believing heart, for there is no praying without this. Faith is the very life of prayer, whence springs hope and comfort with it, to uphold the foul, and keep it steady under storms, with the promises; and, as Aaron and Hur to Moses, keeping it from fainting, strengthening the hands when they would begin to fail. Such is the force of that word, Psalm x. 17.;' for the preparing of the heart, which God gives as an assurance and pledge of his inclining bis car to hear, it signifies the establishing of the heart, as that indeed is a main point of its preparedness, and due disposition for prayer. Now', this is done by faith; without [[509]] which, the foul, as the Apostle St James speaks, is a rolling unquiet thing, as a wave of the fen, of itself unstable as the waters, and then driven with the wind and tossed, James i. 6. to and fro with every temptation. See and feel thine own unworthiness as much as thou canst, for thou art never hid to believe in thyself, no, but that it is countermanded as faith's great enemy. But what hath thy unworthiness to lay against free promises of grace, which are the basis of thy faith? So then believe, that you may pray; this is David's advice, Psalm lxii. 8. Trust in him at all times ye people, and then pour out your hearts before him. Confide in him as a moll faithful and powerful friend, and then you will open your hearts to him.

2. For the way of offering up prayer; it is a great art, a main part of the secret of religion to be killed in it, and of great concern for the comfort and success of it. Much is here to be considered, but for the present take these advices briefly, i. Offer not to speak to him, without the heart in fume treasure seasoned and prepossesed with the sense of his greatness and holiness. And there is much in this; considering wifely to whom we speak, the King, the Lord of Glory, and setting the soul before him, in his pretence; and then reflecting on ourselves, and feeing what we are, how wretched, and bale, and filthy, and unworthy of such access to such a Great Ma. jelly. The want of this preparing of the heart in speak in the Lord's ear, by the consideration of God and ourselves, is that which fills the exercise of prayer with much guiltiness, makes the heart careless, and flight, and irreverent, and so displeases the Lord, and disappoints ourselves of that comfort in prayer, and answers of it, that otherwise we would have more experience of. We rush in before him with any thing, provided we can tumble out a few words; and do not weigh these things, and compose our hearts with serious thoughts and conceptions of God. The [[510]] soul that studies and endeavours this most, hath much to do to attain to any right apprehensions of him; for, how little know we of Jinn! yet should we at lead set ourselves before him, as the purest and greatest Spirit; a Being infinitely more excellent than our minds, or any creature, can conceive. This would fill the foul with awe and reverence, and balast it, so as to make it go more even through the exercise; to confider the Lord, as that Prophet saw him, fitting on his throne, and all the boil of heaven standing by him, on his right hand, and on his left, 1 Kings xxii. 19. and thyself a denied sinner coming before him, as a vile frog creeping out of some pool [Velute palude fua vilis ranunculus, Bern.]: How would this fill thee with holy fear? Oh!. his greatness and our baseness, and Oh! the distance. This is Solomon's advice, Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God, for God is in heaven and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few, Eccl. v. 2; This would keep us from our ordinary babblings, that heart nonsense, which, though the words be sense, yet, through the inattention of the heart, are but as impertinent confused dreams in the Lord's ears, as there follows, ver. 3.

2. When thou addressest thyself to prayer, desire and depend upon the assistance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God; without which thou art not able truly to pray. It is a supernatural work, and therefore the principle of it must be supernatural. He that hath nothing of the Spirit of God cannot pray at all. He may howl as a beast in his necessity or distress; or may speak words of prayer, as some birds learn the language of men; but pray he cannot. And they that have that spirit ought to seek the movings and actual workings of it in them in prayer; the particular help of their infirmities, Heb. iv. 15. teaching both what to ask, a thing, that of ourselves we know not, and then enabling them to ask; breathing forth their desires in such lights and groans, [[511]] as are the breath not simply of their own, but of God's Spirit.

3. As these two precautions are to be taken before prayer, so, in the exercise of it, you should learn to keep a watchful eye over your own hearts throughout for every step of the way, that they start not out; by the keeping up of a continued remembrance of that presence of God, which, in the entry of the work, is to be set before the eye of the foul. And our endeavour ought to be, to fix it upon that view, that it turn not abide, nor downwards, but, from beginning to end, keep light of him, who fees and marks whether we do so or no. They that are most inspective, and watchful in this, will still be faulty in it; but certainly the less watchful the more faulty: And this we ought to do, to be aspiring daily to more liability of mind in prayer, and driving out somewhat of that roving and wandering, that is so universal an evil; and certainly so grievous, not to those that have it most, but that observe and discover it most, and endeavour most against it. A strange thing! that the mind, even the renewed mind, should be so ready, not only at other times, but in the exercise of prayer, wherein we peculiarly come so near to God, yet even then to flip out and leave him, and follow some poor vanity or other instead of him. Surely the godly man, when he thinks on this, is exceedingly ashamed of himself, cannot tell what to think of it: God bis exceeding joy, whom, in his right thoughts, he esteems so much above the world, and all things in it, yet to tile him thus, when he is speaking to him; to break oil" from that, and hold discourse, or change a word, with some bale thought that steps in, and whispers to him; or, at the bell, not to be steadfastly minding the Lord to whom he speaks, and possest with the regard of his presence, and of his business and errand with him.

This is no I'm all piece of our nailery here; theft-wanderings are evidence to us that we are net at home: But though we should be humbled for this, [[512]] and still labouring against it, yet should we not be so discouraged, as to be driven from the work. Satan would desire no better than that; it were to help him to his wish; and sometimes a Christian may be driven to think, What! shall I do Mill thus, abiding my Lord's name, and the privilege he hath given me? I had better leave off. No, not so by any means; strive against the miserable evil in thee, but cast not away thy happiness. Be doing still. It is a froward childish humour, when any thing agrees not to our mind, to throw all away. Thou mayest come off as Jacob, with halting from thy wrestlings, and yet obtain the blessing for which thou wrestled, Gen. xxxii. 24, &c.

4. Those graces, which are the due qualities of the heart, disposing it for prayer in the exercise of it, should be excited and act.ed; as holiness, the love of it, the desire of increase and growth of it, so the humbling and melting of the heart, and chiefly faith, which is mainly set on work in prayer, to draw forth the sweetnesses and virtues of the promises, to desire earnestly their performance to the foul, and to believe that they (hall be performed; to have before our eyes His goodness and faithfulness, who hath promised, and to rest upon that. And, for success in prayer, exercising faith in it, it is altogether necessary to interpose the Mediator, and look through him, and to speak and petition by him; who warns us of this, that there is no other way to speed, No man cometh to the Father but by vie, John xiv. 6. As the Jews, when they prayed, looked toward the Temple, where was the mercy-feat, and the peculiar presence of God [Schechinah;} thus ought we, in all our praying, to look on Christ, who is our propitiatory, and in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, Col. ii. 9. The forgetting of this may be the cause of our many disappointments.

5. Fervency; not to seek coldly, that presages refusal. There must be fire in the sacrifice, otherwise [[513]] it ascends not. There is no sacrifice without incense, and no incense without fire. Our remiss dead hearts are not likely to do much for the Church of God, nor for ourselves. Where are those strong cries that should pierce the heavens? His ear is open to their cry. He hears the fainted, coldest, prayer, but not with that delight and propenseness to grant it; his ear is not on it, as the word here is, dial, iv. 17.; he takes no pleasure in hearing it, but cries, heart-cries. Oh! thole take his ear, and move his bowels; for these are the voice, the cries, of his own children. A strange word of encouragement to importunity, Give him no rest, Isa. lxii. 7.; differ him not to be in quiet, till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. A few Inch suitors in these times were worth thousands such as we are. Our prayers stick in our breads, scarce come forth, much less do they go up and ascend with that piercing force, that would open up the way for deliverances to come down.

But in this mull be some difference of temporal and spiritual things. The prayer, in the right drain, cannot be too fervent in any thing, but the desire of the thing in temporals may be too earned. A feverish distempered heat diseases the foul, therefore, in these things, a holy indifferency concerning the particular, may, and should, be joined with the fervency of prayer. But, in spiritual things, there is no danger in vehemency of desire; covet these, hunger and thirst for them, be incessantly ardent in the fuit; yet even in those in some particulars, as for the degree and measure of grace, and some peculiar furtherances, they should be presented so with earnestness, as that, withal, it be with a reference and resignation of it to the wisdom and love of our Father.

a. For the other point, the answer of our prayers, which is in this openness of the ear, it is a thing very needful to be considered and attended to; if we think that prayer is indeed a thing that God takes notice of, and hath regard to in his dealing with his [[514]] children, it is certainly a point of duty and wisdom in them to observe how he takes notice of it, and bends his ear to it, and puts to his hand to help, and so answers it. This both furnishes matter of praise, and stirs up the heart to render it. Therefore, in the Psalms, the bearing of prayer is so often observed and recorded, and made a part of the song of praise. And, withal, it endears both God and prayer unto the foul, as we have both together, Psalm cxvi. 1. I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my applications; the transposition in the original is pathetical, I love, because the Lord hath heard my voice. I am in love, and particularly this causes it, I have found so much kindness in the Lord, I cannot but love; He hath heard my voice. And then it wins his esteem and affection to prayer, feeing I find this virtue in it, we shall never part again; I will call upon him as long as I live. Seeing prayer draweth help and favours from heaven, I shall not be to seek for a way in any want or strait that can befal me.

In this there is need of direction: But too many rules may as much confuse a matter as too few, and do many times perplex the mind and multiply doubts, as many laws do multiply pleading. Briefly then,

1. Slothful minds do often neglect the answers of God, even when they are most legible in the grant of the very thing itself that was desired. It may be through a total inadvertence in this kind, never thinking on things as answers of our requests; or, possibly, a continual eager pursuit of more turns away the mind from considering what it hath upon request obtained; still so bent upon what further we would have, that we never think what is already done for us, which is one of the most ordinary causes of ingratitude.

2. But though it be not in the fame thing that we desire, yet when the Lord changes our petitions in his answers, it is always for the better j he regards (according [[515]] cording to that known word of St Augustin [Si non ad voluntatem, ad utilitatem.]) our well more than our will. We beg deliverance, we are not unanswered, if he give patience and support; be it under a spiritual trial or temptation, My grace is Sufficient for thee. And where the Lord doth thus, it is certainly better for the time than the other would be. Observe here, his ears are open to the righteous, but his eyes are on them too: They have not so his ear as blindly to give them what they ask, whether it be fit or no, but his eye is on them, to fee and confider their estate, and to know better than themselves what is best, and accordingly to answer. This is no prejudice, but a great privilege and happiness of his children, that they have a Father that knows what is fit for them, and withholds no good from them. And this commutation and exchange of our requests a Christian observing, may usually find out the particular answer of his prayers; and if sometimes he doth not, then his best way is not to subtilise and muse himself much in that, but rather to keep on in the exercise, knowing (as the Apostle speaks in another cafe) this for certain, that their labour shall not he in vain in the Lord, 1 Cor. xv. ult. and as the Prophet hath it, Isa. xlv. 19. He hath not said unto the house of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.

3. Only this we mould always remember, not to set bounds and limits to the Lord in point of time, to fee him a day, that thou wilt attend so long and no longer. How patiently will some men bellow long attendance on others, where they expect some very poor good or courtesy at their hands? But we are very brisk and hasty with him, who never delays us but for our good, to ripen those mercies for us, that we, as foolish children, would pluck while they are green, and have neither that sweetness and goodness in them which they (hall have in his time. All bis works are done in their season. Were there nothing Jo check our impatiences but his greatness, and the [[516]] greatness of thole things we ask for, and our own un-worthiness, these might curb them, and persuade us how reasonable it is that we wait. He is a King well worth waiting on; and there is in the very waiting on him an honour and happiness far above us: And the things we seek are great, Forgiveness of fins, evidence of sonship and heirship; heirship of a kingdom; and we condemned rebels, born heirs of the bottomless pit. And shall such as we be in such haste with such a Lord in so great requests! But further, the attendance that this reason enforces, is sweetened by the consideration of his wisdom and love, that he hath foreseen and chosen the very hour for each mercy fit for us, and will not flip it a moment. Never any yet repented their waiting, but found it fully recompensed with the opportune answer in such a time as then they are forced to confess was the only heft. I waited patiently, says the Plaintiff, in waiting I waited, but it was all well bestowed, He inclined to me and heard my fry, brought me up, &c. Psalm xl. 1,; and then he afterwards falls into admiration of the Lord's method, his wonderful workings and thoughts to usward. "While I was waiting and saw nothing, thy thoughts were " towards and for me, and thou didst then work when thy goodness was most remarkable and wonderful.

When thou art in great affliction, outward or inward, thou thinkest (it may be) he regards thee not; yea, but he doth. Thou art his gold, he knows the time of refining thee, and then taking thee out of the furnace; he is versed and skilful in that work. Thou sayest, " I have cried long for power against sin, and " for some evidence of pardon, and find no answer " to either:" yet leave him not, he never yet cast away any that fought him, and staid by him, and resolved, whatsoever came on it, to lie at his footstool, and to wait, were it all their lifetime, for a good word or a good look from him. And they choose well that make that their great desire and expectation; [[517]] for one of his good words or looks will make them up, and make them happy for ever; and as he is truth itself, they are sure not to miss of it, Blessed are all they that wait for him. And thou that sayest, thou canst not find pardon of sin, and power against it; yet consider whence are those desires of both, that thou once didst not care for. Why dost thou hate that sin which thou didst love, and art troubled and burdened with the guilt of it, under which thou wentest so easily, and didst not feel before? Are not these something of his own work? Yes sure. And know he will not leave it unfinished, nor forsake the work of his hands, Psalm cxxxviii. 8. His eye may be on thee, though thou seest him not, and his ear open to thy cry, though, for the present, he speaks not to thee as thou desirest. It is not said that his children always fee and hear him sensibly; but yet when they do not, he is beholding them and hearing them graciously, and will shew himself to them, and answer them seasonably.

David says, Psalm xxii. 2. I cry in the day-time, and thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent; yet will he not entertain hard thoughts of God, nor conclude against him; on the contrary, acknowledges, thou art holy, [[ver. 3>>Psalm xxii. 3]]. where, by holiness, is meant his faithfulness (I conceive) to his own, as follows, that he inhabits the praises of Israel, to wit, for the favours he hath shewed his people, as [[ver 4>>Psalm xxii. 4]]. Our fathers trifled in thee.

Let the Lord's open ear persuade us to make much use of it [Clavis diei et sera nectis.]. Be much in this sweet and fruitful exercise of prayer, together and apart, in the sense of these three considerations mentioned above; the duty, the dignity, and the utility of prayer.

1. The duty: It is due to the Lord to be worshipped and acknowledged thus, as the fountain of good. How will men crouch and bow one to another upon small requests; and shall he only be neglected by the [[518]] most, from whom all have life, and breath, and all things! as the Apostle speaks in his sermon, Acts xvii. 25. And then,

2. Consider the dignity of this, to be admitted into so near converse with the highest Majesty. Were there nothing to follow, no answer at all, prayer pays itself in the excellency of its nature, and the sweetness that the foul finds in it. Poor wretched man, to be admitted into heaven while he is on earth, and there to come and speak his mind freely to the Lord of heaven and earth, as his Friend, as his Father! to empty all his complaints into his bosom, to refresh his foul in his God, wearied with the follies and miseries of the world! Where there is any thing of his love, this is a privilege of the highest sweetness; for they that love find much delight to discourse together, and count all hours short, and think the day runs too fast, that is so spent; and they that are much in this exercise, the Lord doth impart his secrets much to them, Psalm xxv. 14. And

3. Confider, again, it is the most profitable exercise; no lost time, as profane hearts judge it, but only gained. All blessings attend this work; it is the richest traffic in the world, for it trades with heaven, and brings home what is most precious there. And as holiness fits to prayer, so prayer befriends holiness, increases it much. Nothing so refines and purifies the foul as frequent prayer. If the often converting with wife men doth so teach and advance the foul in wisdom, what then will the converse of God? I This makes the foul to despise the things of the world, and, in a manner, makes it divine; winds up the foul from the earth, acquainting it with delights that are infinitely sweeter.

The natural heart is full fluffed with prejudices against the way of holiness, that dissuade and detain it, and therefore the holy Scriptures are most fitly much in this.point, of asserting the true advantage [[519]] of it to the foul, and in removing those mistakes it has of that way.

Thus here, and to press it the more home, [[ver. 10>>Psalm xxv. 10. See. the Apostle having used the Psalmist’s words, now follows it forth in his own, and extends what was laid concerning the particular way of meekness and love, &c. in the general doctrine, to ail the paths of righteousness.

The main conclusion is, that happiness is the certain consequent and fruit of holiness; all good, even outward good, so far as it holds good, and is not inconsistent with a higher good. It we did believe this more, we should feel it more, and so, upon feeling and experiment, believe it more strongly. All the heavy judgments we feel or fear, are they not the fruit of our own ways, of profaneness, and pride, and malice, and abounding ungodliness? All cry out of hard times, evil days; and yet, who is taking the right way to better them? Yea, who is not still helping to make them worse? Are we not ourselves, the greatest enemies of our own peace? Who looks either rightly backward, reflecting on his former ways, or rightly forward, to direct his way better that is before him? Who either says, What have I done? Jer. viii. 6. or, What ought I to do? Acts xvi. 30. And, indeed, the one of these depends on the other [Consilium futurum ex preterito venit. Sen.], I considered my ways, (says David), turned them over and over, (as the word is), and then I turned my feet unto thy testimonies, Psalm cxix. 59.

Are there any, for all the judgments fallen on us, or that threaten us, returning apace, with regret and hatred of sin; hastening unto God, and mourning and weeping as they go; bedewing each step with their tears? Yea, where is that newness of life that the word has called for so long, and now the word and the rod together are so loud calling for? Who more refraining his tongue from evil, and his lips from guile; changing oaths, and lies, and calumnies, into a new [[520]] language, into prayers, and reverend speaking of God, and joining a suitable consonant carriage? Who is eschewing evil and doing good, labouring to be fertile in holiness, to bring forth much fruit to God? This were the way to fee good days indeed; this is the way to the longest life, the only long life and length of days, one eternal day, as St Augustin on these words, One day in thy courts is better than a thousand, Psalm lxxxix. 10. Millia dierum desiderant homines, et multum volunt hic vivere; contemnant millia dierum, desiderent unum, qui non habet ortum et occasum, cui non cedit hesternus, quem non urget crastinus.

The reason added, is above all exception, it is supreme, The eyes' of the Lord, idc. If he that made times and seasons, and commands and forms them as he will, if he can give good days, or make men happy, then the only way to it, sure, must be the way of his obedience; to be in the constant favour of the Great King, and still in his gracious thoughts; to have his eye and ear, if this will serve the turn, (and if this do it not, I pray you what will?); then the righteous man is the only happy man, For the eyes of the Lord are upon him, &c Surer happy days may be expected hence, than theirs that draw them from the aspect of the stars; the eyes of the Father of Lights benignly beholding them, the trine aspect or the blessed Trinity. The love he carries to them draws his eye still towards them; there is no forgetting of them, nor (lipping of the fit season to do them good, his mind, I may say, runs on that; he fees how it is with them, and receives their fuits gladly, rejoicing to put favours upon them. He is their assured Friend, yea he is their Father: What then can they want? Surely they cannot miss of any good that his love and power can help them to.

But his face is against them that do evil.] So our happiness and misery are in his face, his looks. Nothing so comfortable as his favourable face, nothing so terrible again as his face; his anger, as the Hebrew [[521]] word is often taken, that signifies his face: And yet, how many sleep found under this misery! But, believe it, it is a dead and a deadly sleep; the Lord Landing in terms of enmity with thee, and yet thy foul at eafe! Pitiful accursed ease! I regard not the differences of your outward estate; that is not a thing worth the speaking of. If thou be poor and bafe, and in the world's eye but a wretch, and withal under the hatred of God, as being an impenitent hardened sinner, those other things are nothing; this is the top, yea the total sum of thy misery: Or, be thou beautiful, or rich, or noble, or witty, &c. or all these together, or what thou wilt, but, is the face of the Lord against thee [spendida miseria]? think as thou wilt, thy estate is not to be envied, but lamented. I cannot say, Much good do it thee, with all thy enjoyments; for it is lure they can do thee no good; and if thou dost not believe this now, the day is at hand wherein thou shalt be forced to believe it, finding it then irrevocably true. If you will, you may still follow the things of the world, walk after the lusts of your own hearts, neglect God, and please yourselves, but, as Solomon's word is of judgment, Ecc. ix. 9. Remember that the face of the Lord is against thee, and in that judgment he Until unveil it, and let thee fee it against thee. Oh! the most terrible of all fights.

The godly often do not fee the Lord's favourable looks, while he is eyeing them; and the wicked usually do not fee nor perceive, neither will believe, that his face is against them: But, besides that the day of full discovery is coming, the Lord doth sometimes let both the one and the other know somewhat how he Lands affected towards them. In peculiar deliverances and mercies, he tells his own, that he forgets them not, but both fees and hears them, when they think he does neither, after that loving and gracious manner they desire, and is here meant; and sometimes he lets forth glances of his bright countenance, [[522]] darts in a beam upon their fouls, that is more worth than many worlds. And, on the other fide, he is pleased sometimes to make it known that his face is against the wicked, either by remarkable outward judgments, which to them are the vent of his just enmity against them, or to some he speaks it more home, in horrors and affrights of conscience, which to them are earnests and pledges of their full misery, that inheritance of wo reserved, as the joys and comforts of believers are, of their inheritance of glory.

Therefore, if you have any belief of these things, be persuaded, be intreated, to forsake the way of un-godliness. Do not flatter yourselves, and dream of escaping; when you hear of outward judgments on your neighbours and brethren, tremble and be humbled. Remember our Saviour's words, Think ye that those on whom the tower of Siloam fell were greater sinners than others? I tell you, nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, Luke xiii. 1-5. This seeming harsh word He that was wisdom and sweetness itself uttered, and even in it spoke like a Saviour; he speaks of perishing, that they might not perish, and presses repentance by the heavy doom of impenitence.

When you hear of this, there is none of you would willingly choose it, that the Lord's face should he against you, although upon very high offers made to you of other things. You think, I know, that the very found of it is somewhat fearful; and, on the other fide, have possibly some confused notion of his favour, as a thing desirable; and yet do not bestir yourselves, to avoid the one, and inquire after the other, which is certainly by reason of your unbelief. For if you think of the love of God, as his word speaks of it, and as you will say you do, whence is it, I pray you, that there is no trifle in this world that will not take more deeply with you, and which you follow not with more earnestness, than this great business of reconciliation with God, [[523]] in order to your finding his face not only not against you, but graciously towards you; His eyes upon you, and bis ears open to your prayer.

Your blessedness is not, no, (believe it), it is not where moil of you seek it, in things below you: How can that be? It must be a higher good must make you happy. While you labour and sweat for it in any thing under the fun, your pains run all to waste; you seek a happy life in the region of death. Here, here it is alone, in the love and favour of God, to have his countenance and friendship, and free access and converse; and this is no where to be found but in the ways of holiness.

THE END OF VOLUME FIRST. 


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