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The emperor refused. He goeth away, burneth half the books, doubled the price, and then cometh to the emperor, and offered him them at that rate. The
refuseth again. He went away, and burnt the half of those books which were left, and doubled the price : which the emperor considering, gave him the whole money which he desired. So now, it may be, you may have the welfare, the peace, the life of the churches for prayer; time may come, wherein though you add to your prayer your estates, to your estates your liberties, to your liberties all your welfares, and to your welfares your lives, yet you may go without it. Now, it may be had at this good rate, will you not take this good commodity whilst it is offered to you?
It may be the business of the churches stayeth upon your prayer. If that midwife would come away, the woman would be delivered. Rev. vii. Four angels were sent out to punish the world; and after that a fifth angel is commissioned to go bid them hold their hand, until the servants of the living God are sealed in their foreheads. Angels' work must stay until they be sealed, saith Hezekiah. Isa. xxxvii. 3 : “ This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy, for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” So say I, brethren, it may be the Lord your God will hear the words of all Rabshakahs, whom the enemies of the church have employed to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words, which the Lord your God hath heard: wherefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that are left. God said to Moses, “ Let me alone;" but to you otherwise, Why do you let me alone ? I stay for you, if you pray earnestly I will come quickly.
I put you but this disjunction ; either, O Jacob, thou bast thy brother Esau to meet withal, or else thou hast not: if not, what meaneth thy fears? if thou art to meet with rough Esau, then remember what one night's sweating in prayer did, how it first obtained the face of God, then of Esau. Gen. xxxii. 24; xxxiii. 10; Isa. liv. 26, 17; lviii. 14. The promise is made to you. Every promise is a new footstep for prayer, wherefore you that ever prayed, pray now; nay, you that never prayed, pray now; now is a praying time, and it is good pulling whilst God is coming, begging whilst God is giving. And hath Gol dealt out nothing to the churches
in these last times? Do but observe which
Do but observe which way the wheel turneth in these latter days.
But why do you exhort us to pray? We are here purposely, and come to pray.
True, we are so, but we must pray at other times too. We are here this day to pray, that we may pray hereafter, that we may set wheels of prayer on going; prayer doth fit for prayer ; but yet pray for the present. And so we are come to note :
Fifthly, When the people of the land go forth to war, the people of the Lord should go forth to prayer. When the ark removed, then said Moses, “ Arise, O Lord,” &c. Our prayers are to lead armies into the field. i Josh. xvii., see how the people led forth Joshua : “According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee; only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses." You know the prayer of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and other worthies, to this purpose. Reasons of it, are these especially :
Every business is to be led forth by prayer. Prayer is a leading duty to all our duties; and the greater any business is, the more prayer is to be made. The business of war is a great business, almost miraculous. When I see an army, methinks I see a company of walking towns. It is a great matter, and will you not have so great a business led on by prayer.
But if a man have a business to do, which requireth haste, by attending to prayer he may lose his business.
For that purpose, consider but that one place in answer to this, Josh. v. 2. In the foregoing chapter the children of Israel went through Jordan, and came into their enemies' country; and in this verse the Lord said unto Joshua, “ Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time," Josh. v. 2. Now upon their circumcision they were sore: verse 8, it is said, “ They abode in their places in the camp till they were whole.” Now being come through Jordan, and lying before Jericho, among all their enemies, the natives could not but hear that they were circumcised, and how sore they were; insomuch as the children of Israel might have objected and said, Oh, Lord, if we be circumcised, we shall hinder our designs, weaken our
66 Seek ye
selves, advantage our enemies, that they may fall upon us in our trenches. But as the Lord commanded, so did they, they were circumcised; neither did this act of religion hinder their business. And therefore let none say, If I stay upon prayer my business will take despair; no, no, precedent prayer will make it prosper : trust God and you will find it.
Solomon saith, “ All things are beautiful in their season : there is a time for all things,” Eccl. iii. 1, 11. Therefore a time for prayer; and though we are to pray continually, yet there is some time wherein we are especially to draw near to God. Saith the psalmist, Ps. xxxii. 6, “ For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, in a time that thou mayest be found.” Grace maketh one pray; the wisdom of grace maketh one know the occasion, season, and time of prayer.
Fearing times are times of prayer. Saith the psalmist, “ At what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee;" and true faith soon worketh itself into prayer.
Tropical uncertain times are times of prayer. the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, if so be that ye may be hid in the day of the Lord's wrath,” &c. Zeph. ii. 3. When the world laboureth under uncertainty, then should the saints labour in prayer. Again, the morning time is a time of prayer: "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning; O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee,” Ps. v. 3. There is a morning of every year, as well as a morning of every day; there is a morning to every business, as well as a morning to every day: now is the year's morning, now is the morning of our great business; wherefore now up in the morning of this great work, let us direct our prayers to the Lord, and look up. Pray now, my brethren, for now it is seasonable.
As the promise is the only hold that we have on God, so prayer is the only odds that we have of our enemy. Beloved, the enemies have most commonly the outward advantage of God's people; look upon both, and you shall find that outwardly they have much odds, either more men, more money, or more munition: what shall weigh down this odds but prayer? Many times prayer doth more than the whole army.
Consider Ps. Ixxvi. 3; 66 There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the battle." Where?
In Salem, in Sion, ver. 2. He doth not say in the field. The arrow's are first broken in the assemblies by the saints' prayers, after that in the field by the Lord's soldiers. It is said of Archimedes, being a mathematician, that he did more by drawing his lines, than any soldier did by his valour. So God's people may do more by the lines they draw, and the prayers they make, than others can do any other way. Prayers are the saints' scaling ladders, wherewith they leap over walls, and their strength whereby they break through hosts. You know usually there is much disorder in armies; the soldiers have much evil and sin among them; though the soldiers be outwardly strong, yet many of them are inwardly weak, and prayer cometh in to gather up the weak forces. Numb. xii. 15, you may see how that for the sin of one woman, the whole host of Israel was stayed, and could not marchi Her sin hindered their march; she was but one, and a
It may seem therefore strange, that the whole body of the army should stay upon her; yet so it was, and they could not remove until prayer came in : ver. 13, “ Moses cried to the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.” Then she was healed, and the people journeyed. Thus prayer ordereth the ranks, fetcheth up the weak forces, leadeth on the army upon the enemy, and cometh in the
Without prayer then there is no footing. We are not fit to strike until our armies be in joint, and prayer jointeth us; we are not fit to be exalted until we be humbled, and prayer humbleth us; and if it be so, then by way of use :
You may see what work we have to do this day, we are to lead forth this well-formed army, as you heard in the mandate sent unto us by the States, of a well-formed leaguer, under the command of that noble and worthy general, the Prince of Orange; and methinks he doth, as it were, put prayer
in office, and saith, I will not be commander, prayer shall; I will be only lieutenant unto prayer; let prayer go first, let prayer strike the first stroke. Methinks I hear a dialogue and conference between him and the country. We desire you, Sir, to take the care of this great army; we commit it to your wisdom; go and prosper. But, saith he, I dare not go until prayer go; I am under prayer; give me prayer first, and then I will go: first smite with your prayers, and then we will smite with our weapons, Smiting prayers
are now expected; and though there are divers motives which I have used, to stir up your hearts to pray for the churches in general; yet take three or four more, which may have some special relation unto this people, and you amongst them.
The enemies which you pray against, are the most wicked enemies that God hath. Of all enemies, those are most wicked that are most crafty; the artificial sinner is the worst sinner, as the naturalized grace is the most gracious ; such are the antichristian enemies of the church: for as, (Gregory observeth it,*) Jesus Christ did choose simple, poor men, to preach the truth ; so antichrist chooseth those which are crafty, subtle, to disperse errors. Of all enemies those are most vile which are most cruel; and those are most cruel unto the churches, that have once made profession of the truth and proved apostates. The Scripture pointeth at three especially in this particular, the devil, the Jews, and antichrist. The devil is cruel unto mankind, he is the grand apostate; the Jew is cruel unto all christians, he is a vile apostate ; antichrist is cruel to all the present churches, and he is a great apostate, yet not only an apostate, but apostacy in the abstract, 2 Thess. ii. 3, and therefore cruelty itself. In the book of the Revelation, Rome and the antichristian party is called Sodom, it is called Egypt, and it is called Babylon. You know the unkindness of Egypt, the cruelty of Babylon, and the villainy of Sodom unto God's people. Why should Rome and the antichristian party stand under all these names, but because they are guilty of all their evils. And the worse they are, the more hold you have on them to pray against them. Arius was a vile enemy to the churches, , and very cruel; yet he was destroyed. How so? Historians tell us, orationis opus fuit, non morbi; his death was the work of prayer, not of his disease. Such effects may your prayers have; what stubble can stand before the flame of prayer. Oh that our hearts were much inflamed in this great service.
Consider you are here in your possessions, in your lot; hidden when others of your brethren are not come to their
* Sicut pauperes spiritus et simplices ad predicandum elegit, ita astutos et duplices antichristus ad falsitatis predicationem assumet.- Greg. inor. lib. 12,