The Doctrine of Fasting and Praier, and Humiliation for Sinne
AND PRAIER, AND
Humiliation for Sinne.
In sundry Sermons at the Fast appointed by
publique authority, in the yeere 1625.
By that Late Faithfull and Worthy Minister
of Jesus Christ.
Printed by George Miller, for Edward Brewster, and are to
be sold at his shop at the great North-doore of S.Pauls
at the signe of the Bible. 1633.
PUBLISHED BY George Miller
PUBLISHED FOR Edward Brewster
5. In publike and generall calamities that are upon Gods people, or hang over them, publike and generall prayers should be used for them. This course Jehosaphat tooke in that case, 2 Chron. 20. 13. All luda stood before the Lord in that fast. And so did the Ninivites likewise, Jon. 3. 5. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least of them. And the more publike and solemne the prayers are that are made in this case, the more pleasing they are unto the Lord. This appeareth, Judg. 20. 26. they had before gone up to the house of God, and asked counsell of God, Vers. 18. they had gone up the second time to seeke the Lord, and then did weepe also before the Lord, Vers. 23. but prevailed not: the third time they prevailed. Why? What did they more now, than they did before? 1. They fasted. 2. All the children of Israel, and all the people went up. An evident proofe of this, that when Gods judgements are publike and generall [Page 30] upon Gods people, our prayers and humiliations should be as publike and generall as is possible: and the more publike, the more pleasing unto God.
Reason. First, The Lord is He that both layeth the judgement upon any of our brethren, and He that must take it off, and therefore the best way we have to helpe them, is to seeke to Him in their behalfe. It is the Lord that sends the pestilence, I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt, saith the Lord, Amos 4 10. And it is He, and He only that moderates and sets bounds unto it. He saith to it as to the sea, Job 38. 11. Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed. He hath set downe in His counsaile and decree, whom it shall smite, and whom it shall spare. The just number that He hath appointed shall die of it, use they what meanes they can (which they are bound to do, because this is a secret unto them) to avoid it. Jer. 15. 2. Such as are for death, (that is, for the pestilence, as it is expounded, Jer. 21. 7.) to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. And it shall not touch any of them whom He will have to be spared, though they live in never so much danger, Psal. 91. 7. A thousand shall fall at Thy side, and ten thousand at Thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh Thee. And it is the Lord onely that removes it when He pleaseth, that saith to the destroying Angell, It is enough, stay now thy hand, 2 Sam. 24. 16. And lastly, it is He onely that can cure those that are smitten with it, 1 Sam. 26. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; He bringeth downe to the grave, and brings up againe. So that to [Page 31] conclude this reason, we may say with the Prophet, Amos 3. 6. Shall there be evill in a City, and the Lord hath not done it? The plague is in the City, and that is one great evill; secondly, it increaseth there wonderfully, that is another evill; thirdly, the people in the out-parishes will not be restrained, nor kept in, that is another evill; fourthly, many perish with famine, that is another evill. And hath not the Lord done all this? What better course then can we take for their good, than to seeke to the Lord for them?
Secondly, The Lord hath commanded us to do this; He desires and lookes for this at our hands, and is highly pleased with it, when we (seeing his judgements upon our brethren) become suiters to Him in their behalfe. He hath commanded, 1 Tim. 2. 1. Before all things, let supplications, &c. be made for all men. Yea He desires it greatly, and lookes for it, even when He is most offended with a people, to be thus sought unto in their behalfe, Ezek. 22. 30. I sought for a man amongst them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: Esa. 59. 16. He wondred that there was no intercessour. Yea He is highly pleased with this, in which respect Jeremy desires God to take notice of this grace in him, and remember it, Jer. 18. 20. Remember that I stood before Thee to speake good for them, and to turne away Thy wrath from them. So that it is a sinne against God to neglect this duty unto our brethren, 1 Sam. 12. 23. God forbid that I should sinne against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
Thirdly, The force and efficacy that there is in the prayers of Gods people to helpe and relieve them that are in misery, is very great. The prayers of [Page 32] Gods people have prevailed wonderfully with Him, even for wicked men. How oft did Moses prayer remove Gods plagues even from Pharaoh, Exod. 8. 13. 31. 9. 33. 10. 18, 19. When Ahab and his land were almost consumed with a drought and famine, Elias prayer delivered him from that judgement, and brought raine; yet he was a man subject to the like passions that we are, Jam. 5. 17, 18. Yea in this very judgement of the pestilence, ye shall see the force of prayer. For, when God hath drawne out this terrible sword of His in His fierce displeasure, and consumed many by it, and stretched out His arme to smite more, the prayers of Gods people have even stayed Him, and held His hand, and prevailed so with Him, that they have even overcome Him, and compelled Him to change His mind, and put up His sword. When wrath was gone out from the Lord, and the plague was begun, Aaron stood with his incense betweene the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed, Numb. 16. 48. When God had said unto Moses (against Israel for their idolatry) Exod. 32. 10. Let Me alone, that my wrath may waxe hot against them, and that I may consume them: Upon Moses prayer, Vers. 14. The Lord repented Him of the evill which He thought to do unto His people. The like He did upon Davids prayer, 2. Sam. 24. 16. The Lord repented Him of the evill, and said to the Angell that destroyed the people, it is enough; stay now thine hand. Is it in the power of man to overcome God, to withstand Him when He comes to take vengeance, to cause Him to change His mind? Yes verily; Jacob had that power, Gen. 32. 26. when the Lord had wrestled with Him, and said, Let Me go he would not let Him go; but Verse [Page 33] 28. as a prince he had power with God, and prevailed. And how did he overcome God thus? By prayer, as you may see Hos. 12. 4. He had power over the Angell, and prevailed; he wept, mad supplication unto him. Say not, those were rare men; for all Gods people have this name given them, they are all called the Israel of God, Gal. 6. 16. and therefore (as Princes) may prevaile with God this way. And no marvell, though Gods people may thus prevaile with God for the staying of His hand intemporall judgements, or removing of them from their brethren, seeing they are able to prevaile with God even for the pardon of their sinnes, which are the causes of those judgements, and for the converting and saving of their soules, Jam. 5. 15. The prayer of faith shall save the sicke, and if he have committed sinnes, they shalbe forgiven him. And 1 Joh. 5. 16. If any man see his brother sinne a sinne which is not unto death; he shall aske, and he shall give him life for them that sinne not unto death.
The Prophet complaineth of this as of a great sinne, Jer. 5. 3. O Lord thou hast stricken them and they have not grieved. It is said of Gods people, Ezr. 10. 9. that they trembled because of the great raine. And David, and the Elders of Israel humbled themselves greatly for the plague that God sent upon the land, 2 Sam. 24. 17. And so did Jehoshaphat, when God threatned an invasion, 2 Chron. 20. 3. When the state and government of the Kingdome of Israel, in the dayes of Saul, was so broken and out of order, had so many breaches in it that it did even shake and totter as ready to fall, and come to ruine, as the Prophet complaineth, Psal. 60. 2. Gods people were so troubled with the sensible token of Gods displeasure [Page 134] that they were even astonished with it, thou hast made us to drinke the wine of astonishment, as the Prophet speaketh, verse 3. And certainly this is a dangerous signe, that our people generally are given up of God to a marvellous hardnesse of heart, that the Lord having by all these tokens of his anger cald us to weeping and to mourning, as the Prophet speaketh, Esa. 22. 12. we have beene generally given to asmuch jollity in these times as ever we were, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till you dye, saith the Lord God of Hosts, as it followeth there, verse 14. Yet though it be a good thing to be humbled under Gods judgements, this is not enough to prove our humiliation to bee sound and sincere. Many an hypocrite hath gone so farre. Thus farre Ahab went, ô how he was humbled at the hearing of that fearefull judgement that God threatned by the Prophet to bring upon him and his house? 1 King. 21. 29. Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himselfe? Thus farre Jehoram his sonne and as bad a man almost as he went; when a grievous famine was upon the land, he greatly humbled himselfe, for though he were a King, he wore sackcloth, not as his upper garment as the manner was to expresse their humiliation outwardly, but secretly next his skin, 2 King. 6. 30. See how farre an hypocrite may goe in humbling himselfe under Gods judgements. But the true repentant though he is humbled for and can mourne for Gods judgements, yet, that is neither the onely nor the chief cause of his sorrow, his sinnes that have provoked God to those judgements trouble him most. I will declare mine iniquitie (saith David Psal. 38. 18.) and be sory for my sinne. And Ezek. 7. 16. They shall be on the mountaines like the [Page 135] doves of the valleyes, all of them mourning, every man for his iniquity. Yea even whe[n] Gods judgements do presse and humble him most, yet he is more troubled for his sinne, then for the affliction that is upon him, as wee shall see in that prayer of David, Psal. 25. 18. Looke upon my affliction, and my paine, and forgive all my sinnes. And so it is said of Gods people in Ezras time when the Lord by a judgement of immoderate raine had testified his displeasure against them, Ezra. 10. 9 They trembled because of this matter (their sinne in marrying Idolaters) and for the great raine. Their sinne was the chief thing they trembled for.