¶ A confession
& declaratió of praiers added ther-
A DECLARATION WHAT TRUEPRAYER IS, HOW WE SHOULDPRAY,
AND FOR WHAT WE SHOULDPRAY. SET FORTH BYJOHN
KNOX, PREACHER OF GOD'S HOLY WORD:
UNTO THE SMALL AND DISPERSED FLOCK OFJESUSCHRIST.
How necessary is the right Invocation of God’s name (otherwise called perfect Prayer) becometh no Christian to misknow [mistake]; seeing it is the very branch which springeth forth of true Faith, whereof if any man be destitute, notwithstanding he be endued with whatsoever other virtues, yet in the presence of God is he reputed for no Christian at all. Therefore a manifest sign it is, that such as in prayer always are negligent, do understand nothing of perfect Faith: For if the fire be without heat, or the burning lamp without light, then true Faith may be without fervent Prayer. But because, in times past was (and yet alas! with no small number is) that reckoned to be Prayer which in the sight of God was and is nothing less, I intend shortly to touch the circumstances thereof.
WHAT PRAYER IS. - Who will pray, must know and understand that Prayer is an earnest and familiar talking with God, to whom we declare our miseries, whose support and help we implore and desire in our adversities, and whom we laud and praise for our benefits received. So that Prayer containeth the exposition of our dolours [troubles, sorrows], the desire of God’s defence, and the praising of his magnificent name, as the Psalms of David clearly do teach.
WHAT IS TO BE OBSERVED INPRAYER. - That this be most reverently done, should provoke us [to] the consideration in whose presence we stand, to whom we speak, and what we desire; standing in the presence of the Omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth, and of all the contents thereof; to whom assist and serve a thousand thousand of angels, giving obedience to his eternal Majesty; and speaking unto Him who knoweth the secrets of our hearts, before whom dissimulation and lies are always odious and hateful, and asking that thing which may be most to his glory, and to the comfort of our conscience. But diligently should we attend, that such things as may offend his godly presence, to the uttermost of our power, may be removed. And first, that worldly cares and fleshly cogitations (such as draw us from contemplation of our God), be expelled from us, that we may freely, without interruption, call upon God. But, how difficult and hard is this one thing in Prayer to perform, knoweth none better than such as in their prayers are not content to remain within the bands of their own vanity, but, as it were ravished, do intend [strive to attain] to a purity, allowed of God; asking not such things as the foolish reason of man desireth, but which may be pleasing and acceptable in God’s presence. Our adversary, Satan, at all times compassing us about, is never more busy than when we address and bend ourselves to Prayer. O! how secretly and subtly creepeth he into our breasts, and calling us back from God, causeth us to forget what we have to do; so that frequently when we (with all reverence) should speak to God, we find our hearts talking with the vanities of the world, or with the foolish imaginations of our own conceit.
HOW THE SPIRIT MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US. - So that without the Spirit of God supporting our infirmities (mightily making intercession for us with unceasing groans, which can not be expressed with tongue, [Rom. 8.26,]) there is no hope that any thing we can desire according to God's will. I mean not that the Holy Ghost doth mourn or pray, but that he stirreth up our minds, giving unto us a desire or boldness for to pray, and causeth us to mourn when we are extracted or pulled therefrom. Which things to conceive, no strength of man sufficeth, neither is able of itself; but hereof it is plain, that such as understand not what they pray, or expound not, or declare not the desire of their hearts clearly in God's presence, and in time of prayer (to their possibility) do not expel vain cogitations from their minds, profit nothing in prayer.
WHY WE SHOULD PRAY, AND ALSO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE DO PRAY. - But men will object and say, Albeit we understand not what we pray, yet God understandeth, who knoweth the secrets of our hearts; he knoweth also what we need, although we expound not, or declare not, our necessities unto him. Such men verily declare themselves never to have understanding what perfect Prayer meant, nor to what end Jesus Christ commandeth us to pray; which is, First, That our hearts may be inflamed with continual fear, honour, and love of God, to whom we run for support and help whensoever danger or necessity requireth; that we, so learning to notify our desires in his presence, he may teach us what is to be desired, and what not. Secondly, That we, knowing our petitions to be granted by God alone, to him only we must render and give laud and praise, and that we ever having his infinite goodness fixed in our minds, may constantly abide to receive that which with fervent prayer we desire.
WHY GOD DEFERRETH TO GRANT OUR PRAYER. - For some time God deferreth or prolongeth to grant our petitions, for the exercise and trial of our faith, and not that he sleepeth or is absent from us at any time, but that with more gladness we might receive that which with long expectation we have abided; that thereby we, assured of his eternal providence (so far as the infirmity of our corrupt and most weak nature will permit), doubt not but his merciful hand shall relieve us, in most urgent necessity, and extreme tribulation. Therefore, such men as teach us that necessarily it is not required that we understand what we pray, because God knoweth what we need, would also teach us that neither we honour God, nor yet refer or give unto him thanks for benefits received; for how shall we honour and praise him, whose goodness and liberality we know not? And how shall we know, unless we receive and some time have experience? And how shall we know that we have received, unless we know verily what we have asked?
The Second thing to be observed in perfect Prayer is, That standing in the presence of God, we be found such as do bear to his holy law reverence; earnestly repenting our iniquity past, and intending to lead a new life; for otherwise in vain are all our Prayers, as it is written, "Whoso withdraweth his ear that he may not hear the law, his Prayer shall be abominable." [Prov. 28.9.] Likewise Isaiah and Jeremy say thus, "You shall multiply your Prayers, and I shall not hear, because your hands are full of blood," that is, of all cruelty and mischievous works. [Isaiah 1.15.] Also the Spirit of God appeareth by the mouth of the blind (whom Jesus Christ did illuminate) by these words, "We know that God heareth not sinners," [John 9.31,] (that is, such as glory and do continue in iniquity); so that of necessity, true repentance must needs be had, and go before perfect Prayer, or sincere Invocation of God's name.
WHEN SINNERS ARE NOT HEARD OF GOD. - And unto these two precedents must be annexed the Third, which is, The dejection of ourselves in God's presence, utterly refusing and casting of our own justice, with all cogitations and opinion thereof. And let us not think that we should be heard for anything proceeding of our selves, for all such as advance, boast, or depend anything upon their own justice [righteousness], from the presence of his mercy, repelleth and holdeth with the high proud Pharisee: and therefore, the most holy men we find in prayers most dejected and humbled. David saith, [Psalm 79.9,] "O Lord, our Saviour, help us, be merciful unto our sins for thy own sake. Remember not our old iniquities. But haste thou, O Lord, and let thy mercy prevent us." Jeremy [14.7] saith, "If our iniquities bear testimony against us, do thou according to thy own name:" and behold Isaiah [chapter 64], "Thou art angry, O Lord, because we have sinned, and are replenished with all wickedness; and our justice is like a defiled cloth. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are clay, thou art the workman, and we are the workmanship of thy hands: Be not angry, O Lord, remember not our iniquities for ever." And Daniel, greatly commended of God, maketh in his prayer most humble confession, in these words, "We be sinners, and have offended; we have done ungodly, and fallen from thy commandment, therefore, not in our own righteousness make we our prayers before thee, but thy most right and great mercies bring we forth for us. O Lord, hear! O Lord, be merciful and spare us! O Lord, attend, help, and cease not; my God, even for thy own name's sake do it; for thy city and thy people are called after thy own name." Behold that in these prayers is no mention of their own justice, their own satisfaction, or their own merits. But most humble confession, proceeding from a sorrowful and penitent heart; having nothing whereupon it might depend, but the free mercy of God alone, who had promised to be their God, (that is, their help, comfort, defender, and deliverer), as he hath also done to us by Jesus Christ in time of tribulation; and that they despair not, but after the acknowledging of their sins, called for mercy and obtained the same. Wherefore it is plain, that such men as, in their prayers, have respect to any virtue proceeding of themselves, thinking thereby their prayers to be accepted, never prayed aright.
WHAT FASTING AND ALMSDEEDS ARE WITH PRAYER - And albeit to fervent prayer be joined fasting, watching, and alms-deeds, yet are none of them the cause that God doth accept our prayers; but they are spurs which suffer us not to vary, but make us more able to continue in prayer, which the mercy of God doth accept. But here it may be objected, that David prayeth, "Keep my life, O Lord, for I am holy; O Lord, save my soul, for I am innocent; and suffer me not to be consumed." [Psalms 33, 86.] Also, Hezekiah, "Remember, Lord, I beseech thee, that I have walked righteously before thee, and that I have wrought that which is good in thy sight." [2 Kings 20.] These words are not spoken of men glorious, neither yet trusting in their own works. But herein they testify themselves to be the sons of God, by regeneration; to whom he promiseth always to be merciful, and at all times to hear their prayers.
THE CAUSE OF THEIR BOLDNESS WAS JESUS CHRIST. - And so their words sprung from a wonted, constant, and fervent faith, surely believing that as God of his infinite mercy had called them to his knowledge, not suffering them to walk after their own natural wickedness, but partly had taught them to conform them to his holy law; and that for the promised Seed's sake; so might he not leave them destitute of comfort, consolation, and defence in so great and extreme necessity. And so their justice allege they not to glory thereof, or to put trust therein, but to strengthen and confirm them in God's promises. And this consolation I would wish all Christians in their prayers; a testimony of a good conscience to assure them of God's promises; but to obtain what they ask must only depend upon him, all opinion and thought of our own justice laid aside. And, moreover, David, in the words above, compareth himself with King Saul, and with the rest of his enemies, who wrongfully did persecute him; desiring of God that they prevail not against him, as he would say, Unjustly do they persecute me, and therefore, according to my innocence defend me. For otherwise he confesseth himself most grievously to have offended God, as in the precedent places he clearly testifieth.
HYPOCRISY IS NOT ALLOWED WITH GOD. - Thirdly, in Prayer is to be observed, that what we ask of God, that we must earnestly desire the same, acknowledging us to be indigent and void thereof; and that God alone may grant the petition of our hearts, when his goodwill and pleasure is. For nothing is more odious before God than hypocrisy and dissimulation, that is, when men do ask of God things whereof they have no need, or that they believe [trust] to obtain by others than God alone. As if a man ask of God remission of his sins, thinking never the less to obtain the same by his own works, or by other men’s merits, doth mock with God and deceive himself. And in such cases do a great number offend, principally the mighty and rich of the earth, who, for a common custom will pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” that is, a moderate and reasonable sustentation; and yet their own hearts will testify that they need not so to pray, seeing they abound in all worldly solace and felicity. I mean not that rich men should not pray this part of prayer, but I would they understood what they ought to pray in it, (whereof I intend after to speak,) and that they ask nothing whereof they felt not themselves marvelously indigent and needful. For unless we call in verity, we [He] shall not grant; and except we speak with our whole heart, we shall not find him.
The Fourth Rule necessary to be followed in Prayer is, A sure hope to obtain what we ask. For nothing more offendeth God, than when we ask doubting whether he will grant our petitions; for in so doing we doubt if God be true, if he be mighty and good; such (saith James) obtain nothing of God: And therefore Jesus Christ commandeth that we firmly believe to obtain whatsoever we ask; for all things is possible unto him that believeth. And therefore, in our prayers always is to be expelled [all] desperation. I mean not that any man in extremity of trouble can be without a present dolour, and without a greater fear of trouble to follow.
TROUBLES ARE THE SPURS TO STIR US TOPRAY. - Trouble and fear are very spurs to prayer; for when man compassed about with vehement calamities, and vexed with continual solicitude, having, by help of man, no hope of deliverance, with sore oppressed and punished heart, fearing also greater punishment to follow, from the deep pit of tribulation doth call to God for comfort and support; such prayer ascendeth into God’s presence and returneth not in vain.
GOD DELIVERETH HIS OWN FROM THEIR TROUBLE AND ENEMIES. - As David, in the vehement persecution of Saul, hunted and chased from every hold, fearing that one day or other he should fall into the hands of his persecutors, after he had complained that no place of rest was left to him, vehemently prayed, saying, “O Lord, which art my God, in whom I only trust, save me from them that persecute me, and deliver me from my enemies. Let not this man (meaning Saul) devour my life, as a lion doth his prey: for of none seek I comfort but of thee alone.”
In the midst of these anguishes the goodness of God sustained him, that the present tribulation was tolerable, and the infallible promises of God so assured him of deliverance, that fear was partly mitigated and gone, as plainly appeareth to such as diligently marketh the process of his prayers. For after long menacing and threatening made to him of his enemies, he concludeth with these words, “The dolour which he intended for me shall fall upon his own pate; and the violence wherewith he would have oppressed me shall cast down his own head. But I will magnify the Lord according to his justice, and shall praise the name of the Most High.” This is not written for David only, but for all such as shall suffer tribulation to the end of the world. For I, the writer hereof, (let this be said to the laud and praise of God alone,) in anguish of mind and vehement tribulation and affliction, called to the Lord when not only the Ungodly, but even my faithful Brethren, yea, and my own self, that is all natural understanding, judged my cause to be irremediable: (Note: Knox here refers to his bodily and mental sufferings during the time of his confinement on board the French galley)And yet in my greatest calamity, and when my pains were most cruel, would His eternal wisdom that my hands should write far contrary to the judgment of carnal reason, which His mercy hath proved true. Blessed be His holy name! And therefore dare I be bold, in the verity of God’s Word, to promise that notwithstanding the vehemency of trouble, the long continuance thereof, the desperation of all men, the fearfulness, danger, dolour, and anguish of our own hearts, yet if we call constantly to God, that beyond expectation of all men he shall deliver.
WHERE CONSTANT PRAYER IS, THERE THE PETITION IS GRANTED. - Let no man think himself unworthy to call and pray to God, because he hath grievously offended his Majesty in times past; but let him bring to God a sorrowful and repenting heart, saying with David, “Heal my soul, O Lord, for I have offended against thee. Before I was afflicted, I transgressed, but now let me observe thy commandments.” To mitigate or ease the sorrows of our wounded conscience, two plasters hath our most prudent Physician provided to give us encouragement to pray (notwithstanding the knowledge of offences committed), that is, a precept and a promise. The precept or commandment to pray universal, frequently inculcated and repeated in God’s Scriptures: “Ask, and it shall be given unto you.” [Mat. 7.] “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” [Psa. 50.] “Watch and pray that ye fall not into temptation.” [Mat. 26.] “I command that ye pray ever without ceasing.” “Make deprecations incessable and give thanks in all things.” [1 Thes. 5.] Which commandments, whoso contemneth or despiseth, doth equally sin with him that doth steal; for in this commandment thou shalt not steal is a preceptnegative;so thou shall pray is a commandmentaffirmative. And God requireth equal obedience of and to all his commandments. Yet more boldly will I say, He who, when necessity constraineth, desireth not support and help of God, doth provoke his wrath no less than such as make false gods, or openly deny God.
HE THAT PRAYETH NOT IN TROUBLE, DENIETH GOD. - For like as it is to know no physician or medicine, or in knowing them refuse to use and receive the same; so not to call upon God in thy tribulation, is like as if thou didst not know God, or else utterly deny him.
NOT TO PRAY, IS A SIN MOST ODIOUS. - O! why cease we then to call instantly to his mercy, having his commandment so to do. Above all our iniquities, we work manifest contempt and despising of him, when, by negligence, we delay to call for his gracious support. Who doth call upon God obeyeth his will, and findeth therein no small consolation, knowing nothing is more acceptable to his Majesty than humble obedience. [Jer. 2.4-8.]
To this commandment he addeth his most undoubted promise in many places, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.” [Matt. 7.] And by the Prophet Jeremy [chapter 29], God saith, “Ye shall call upon me, and I shall hear you.” “Ye shall seek and shall find me.” And by Isaiah, he saith, “May the Father forget his natural son, or the Mother the child of her womb? and although they do, yet shall I not forget such as call upon me.” And hereto correspond and agree the words of Jesus Christ [Luke 11], saying, “If ye being wicked can give good gifts to your children, much more my heavenly Father shall give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him.” And that we should not think God to be absent, or not to hear us, accuseth Moses, saying, “There is no nation that have their gods so adherent, or near unto them as our God, which is present at all our prayers.” [Deut. 4.] Also the Psalmist, “Near is the Lord unto all that call upon him in verity.” And Christ saith, “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
READINESS OFGOD TO HEARSINNERS. - That we shall not think that God will not hear us, Isaiah saith, “Before ye cry I shall hear, and while they speak I shall answer;” and also, “If at even come sorrow or calamity, before the morning spring I shall reduce [bring back] and bring gladness.” And these most comfortable words, doth the Lord speak not to carnal Israel only, but to all men sore oppressed, abiding [awaiting] God’s deliverance, “For a moment and a little season have I turned my face from thee, but in everlasting mercy shall I comfort thee.” [Isa. 54.]
THE HOPE TO OBTAIN OUR PETITIONS SHOULD DEPEND UPON THE PROMISES OF GOD. - O! hard are the hearts whom so manifold, most sweet, and sure promises doth not mollify; whereupon should depend the hope to obtain our petitions. The indignity or unworthiness of our selves is not to be regarded; for albeit, to the chosen which are departed in holiness and purity of life, we be far inferiour, yet in that part we are equal, in that we have the same commandment to pray, and the same promise to be heard. For his Gracious Majesty esteemeth not the prayer, neither granteth the petition for any dignity of the person that prayeth, but for his promise’s sake only; and therefore saith David, “Thou hast promised unto thy servant, O Lord, that thou wilt build a house for him, wherefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray in thy sight, now even so, O Lord, thou art God, and thy words are true: Thou hast spoken these things unto thy servant, begin therefore to do according to thy promise; multiply, O Lord, the household of thy servant.” [1 Kings 7.] Behold, David altogether dependeth upon God’s promise. As also did Jacob [Gen. 32], who after he had confessed himself unworthy of all the benefits received, yet durst he ask greater benefits in time to come, and that because God had promised. In the like manner, let us be encouraged to ask whatsoever the goodness of God hath freely promised. What we should ask principally, we shall hereafter declare.
OBSERVATION IN GODLY PRAYER. - The Fifth Observation which godly Prayer requireth, is perfect knowledge of the Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediatour.
OF NECESSITY WE MUST HAVE A MEDIATOUR. - For, seeing no man is of himself worthy to compear or appear in God’s presence, by reason that in all men continually resteth sin, which by itself doth offend the Majesty of God; raising all debate, strife, hatred, and division betwixt his inviolable justice and us: For the which, unless satisfaction be made by another than by ourselves, so little hope resteth that anything from him we can attain, that no surety with him may we have at all. [1 John 2.] To exeme [exempt, deliver] us from this horrible confusion, our most merciful Father has given unto us his only beloved Son to be unto us justice, wisdom, sanctification and holiness. [1 Cor. 1.] If in him we faithfully believe, we are so clad that we may with boldness compear and appear before the throne of God’s mercy; doubting nothing but whatsoever we ask, by our Mediatour, that same we shall obtain most assuredly. [Heb. 8, 4.]
NOTE DILIGENTLY, BY WHOM WE MUST PRAY. - Here is most diligently to be observed, that without our Mediatour, Fore-speaker, and Peace-maker, we enter not into prayer; for the incalling of such as pray without Jesus Christ, are not only vain, but also they are odious and abominable before God. Which thing to us, in the Levitical Priesthood, most evidently was prefigured and declared: for as within theSanctum Sanctorum(that is the most Holy Place), entered no man but the High Priest alone; and as all sacrifices offered by any other than by priests only, provoketh the wrath of God upon the sacrifice maker [2 Chron. 26]; so who doth intend to enter into God’s presence, or to make prayers without Jesus Christ, shall find nothing but fearful judgment and horrible damnation.
TURKS AND JEWS. - Wherefore it is plain, that Turks [Islamic Idolaters,orMuslims] and Jews, notwithstanding that they do, apparently, most fervently pray unto God, who created heaven and earth, who guideth and ruleth the same, who defendeth the good and punisheth the evil, yet never are their prayers pleasing unto God; neither honour they his holy Majesty in any thing, because they acknowledge not Jesus Christ, for who honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father. [John 5.23.]
WHEN WE BE NOT HEARD. - For as the Law is a statute that we shall call upon God, and as the promise is made that he shall hear us, so are we commanded only to call by Jesus Christ, by whom alone our petitions we obtain; for in him alone are all the promises of God confirmed and complete; whereof, without all controversy, it is plain, that such as have called, or calleth presently unto God by any other name than by Jesus Christ alone [1 Cor. 1], do nothing regard God’s will, but obstinately prevaricateth, and do against his commandments. And therefore, obtain not they their petitions, neither yet have entrance to his mercy. For no man cometh to the Father (saith Jesus Christ) but by me. He is the right way; who declineth from him erreth, and goeth wrong; he is our Leader, whom without [unless] we follow we shall walk in darkness; and he alone is our Captain, without whom neither praise nor victory ever shall we obtain.
INTERCESSION TO SAINTS. - Against such as depend upon the Intercession of Saints no otherways will I contend, but shortly touch the properties of a perfect Mediatour. First, are the words most sure of Paul, “A Mediatour is not the mediator of one,” that is, wheresoever is required a mediator, there are also two parties; to wit, one party offending, and the other party which is offended; which parties by themselves may in no wise be reconciled. Secondly, the mediator which taketh upon him the reconciling of these two parties must be such an one as having trust and favour of both parties, yet in some things must differ from both, and must be clear and innocent also of the crime committed against the party offended. Let this be more plain by this subsequent declaration: The Eternal God standing upon the one part, and all natural men descending of Adam upon the other part. The infinite Justice of God is so offended with the transgression of all men, that in no wise can amity be made, except such one be found as fully may make satisfaction for man’s offences. Among the sons of men none was found able: for all were found criminal in the fall of one. And God, infinite in justice, must abhor the society and sacrifice of sinners.
[OUR HEAVY AND GREAT SINS EXCEEDS THE STRENGTH OF ANY OF US. WHEREFORE IT IS NECESSARY THAT THOU, O CHRIST, THYSELF, MAKE SATISFACTION FOR US. - MARGIN.]
ANGELS CAN NOT BE MEDIATORS. - And unto the Angels what prevailed the prevarication of man, who (albeit they would have interponed themselves mediators), yet they had not the justice infinite. Who then shall here be found the Peace-maker? Surely the infinite goodness and mercy of God might not suffer the perpetual loss and repudiation of his creatures; and therefore his eternal wisdom provided such a Mediatour, having wherewith to satisfy the justice of God; differing also from the Godhead; his only Son, clad in the nature of manhood, who interponed himself a Mediatour, not as man only.
JESUS CHRIST, GOD AND MAN, OUR MEDIATOR. - For the pure humanity of Christ (of itself) might neither make intercession nor satisfaction for us, but God and Man: In that he is God, he might complete the will of the Father, and in that he is Man, pure and clean without spot or sin, he might offer sacrifice for the purgation of our sins and satisfaction of God’s Justice. So, without [unless] Saints have these two, Godhead equal with the Father, and Humanity without sin, the office of mediators Saints may not usurp.
Objection. But here will be objected, Who knoweth not Jesus Christ to be the only Mediatour of our redemption; but that impedeth or letteth [hindereth] nothing Saints and Holy Men to be Mediatours and to make intercession for us.Answer. As though that Jesus Christ had been but one hour our Mediatour, and after had resigned the office unto his servants!
WHO MAKETH OTHER MEDIATOURS NOR [THAN] JESUS CHRIST TAKETH HONOUR FROM HIM. - Do not such men gently intreat Jesus Christ, detracting from him such portion of his honour? Otherways speaketh the Scriptures of God, testifying him to have been made man, and to have proved our infirmities; to have suffered death willingly; to have overcome the same; and all to this end, that he might be our perpetual High Sovereign Priest, in whose place or dignity none other might enter. As John saith, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the just.” [See Hebrews 6, 7, 9, 10.]
Mark well these words: John saith, We have presently a sufficient Advocate [1 John 2], whom Paul affirmeth to sit at the right hand of God the Father, and to be the only Mediator between God and Man. [Rom. 8.] “For he alone, (saith Ambrose,) is our mouth, by whom we speak to God; he is our eyes, by whom we see God, and also our right hand, by whom we offer any thing unto the Father;” [Libro de Isaac et Anima,] who, unless he make intercession, neither we, neither any of the Saints, may have any society or fellowship with God. What creature may say to God the Father, Let mankind be received into thy favour, for the pain [punishment] of his transgression, that have I sustained in my own body? For his cause was I compassed with all infirmities, and so become the most contemned and despised of all men; and yet in my mouth was found no guile nor deceit, but always obedient to thy will, suffering most grievous death for mankind: And, therefore, behold not the sinner but me, who, by my infinite Justice [righteousness], hath perfectly satisfied for his offences. May any other (Jesus Christ excepted) in these words make intercession for sinners? If they may not, then are they neither mediators nor yet intercessors. “For albeit (saith Augustine) Christians do commend one another unto God in their prayers, yet make they not intercession, neither dare they usurp the office of a Mediatour; no not Paul, albeit under the Head he was a principal member, because he commendeth himself to the prayers of faithful men.” [Libro Contra Epist. Parmen.] But if any do object, Such is not the condition of the Saints departed, who now hath put off mortality, and beareth no longer the fragility of the flesh: Which albeit I grant to be most true, yet are they all compelled to cast their crowns before Him that doth sit in the throne, acknowledging themselves to have been delivered from great affliction, to have been purged by the blood of the Lamb; and therefore none of them do attempt to be a Mediatour, seeing they neither have being, nor justice [righteousness], of themselves.
[NOTE THIS WELL: - MARGIN.]
But in so great light of the Gospel which now is beginning, (praise be to the Omnipotent!) it is not necessary upon such matter long to remain. Some say, We will use but one Mediatour, Jesus Christ, to God the Father; but we must have Saints, and chiefly the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, to pray for us unto him.
AGAINST SUCH AS WOULD HAVE MEDIATOURS TO JESUS CHRIST. - Alas! whosoever is so minded, showeth plainly themselves to know nothing of Jesus Christ rightly. Is he who descended from heaven, and vouchsafeth to be conversant with sinners, commanding all sore-vexed and sick to come unto him [Matth. 11], (who, hanging upon the Cross, prayed first for his enemies) become now so intractable that he will not hear us without a person to be a mean? O Lord! open the eyes of such, that they may clearly perceive thy infinite kindness, gentleness, and love toward mankind.
Above all precedents [points previously mentioned] is to be observed, that what we ask of God ought to be profitable to ourselves and to others, and hurtful or dangerous to no man. Secondly, we must consider whether our petitions extendeth to Spiritual or Corporal things. Spiritual things, such as are deliverance from impiety, remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and of Life everlasting, should we desire absolutely, without any condition, by Jesus Christ, in whom alone all these are promised. And in asking hereof, we should not pray thus: “O Father! forgive our sins if thy will.” For his will he hath expressed, saying, “As I live, I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he convert, and live;” which immutable and solemn oath who calleth in doubt maketh God a liar, and so far as in him lieth, would spoil God of his Godhead: For he cannot be God except he be eternal and infallible verity. And John saith [1 John 5], “This is the testimony which God hath testified of his Son, that whoso believeth in the Son hath eternal life;” to the verity whereof, we should steadfastly cleave; although worldly dolour apprehend us. As David, exiled from his kingdom, and deprived of all his glory [2 Sam. 15], secluded not from God, but steadfast believed reconciliation by the promise made, notwithstanding that all creatures in earth had refused, abjected, and rebelled against him: “Happy is the man whom thou shalt inspire, O Lord.”
[CORPORAL THINGS: - MARGIN.]
In asking Corporal things, first let us inquire if we be at peace with God in our conscience by Jesus Christ, firmly believing our sins to be remitted in his blood? Secondly, let us inquire of our own hearts, if we know temporal riches or substance not to come to man by accident, fortune, or chance, neither yet by the industry and diligence of man’s labour; but to be the liberal gift of God only, whereof we ought to laud and praise his goodness, wisdom, and providence alone?
WHAT SHOULD BE PRAYED FOR. - And if this we do truly acknowledge and confess, let us boldly ask of him whatsoever is necessary for us, as sustentation of this body; health thereof; defence from misery; deliverance from trouble; tranquility and peace to our Common-weal; prosperous success in our vocations, labours, and affairs, whatsoever they be, which God will, we ask all of him, to certify us that all things stand in his regiment and disposition. And also by asking and receiving these corporal commodities, we have taste of his sweetness, and be inflamed with his love, that thereby our faith of reconciliation and remission of our sins may be exercised and take increase.
WHY GOD DEFERRETH OR PROLONGETH TO GRANT US OUR PETITIONS. - But in asking for temporal things, we must observe, first, That if God deferreth or prolongeth to grant our petitions, even so long that he seemeth apparently to reject us, yet let us not cease to call, prescribing him neither time, neither manner of deliverance; as it is written, “If he prolong time, abide patiently upon him,” and also, “Let not the faithful be too hasty, for God sometime deferreth, and will not hastily grant to the probation of our continuance,” as the words of Jesus Christ testify; and also, that we may receive with greater gladness that which, with ardent desire, we long have looked for: as Anna, Sarah, and Elizabeth, after great ignominy of their barrenness and sterility, received fruit of their bosoms with joy. Secondly, because we know the Kirk at all times to be under the Cross, in asking temporal commodities, and specially deliverance from trouble, let us offer unto God obedience, if it shall please his goodness we longer be exercised that we may patiently abide it; as David, desiring to be restored to his kingdom (what time he was exiled by his own son) offereth to God obedience, saying, “If I have found favour in the presence of the Lord, he shall bring me home again; but if he shall say, Thou pleases me not longer to bear authority, I am obedient: let him do what seemeth good unto him.” [2 Sam. 15.]
BETTER IT IS TO OBEY GOD THAN MAN. - And the Three Children unto Nebuchadnezzar did say, “We know that our God whom we worship may deliver us; but if it shall not please him so to do, let it be known to thee, O King, that thy gods we will not worship.” [Dan. 3.] Here gave they a true confession of their perfect faith, knowing nothing to be impossible to the Omnipotence of God; affirming also themselves to stand in his mercy; for otherwise the nature of man could not willingly give itself to so horrible a torment; but they offer unto God most humble obedience, to be delivered at his good pleasure and will. As we should do in all afflictions, for we know not what to ask or desire as we ought; that is, the frail flesh, oppressed with fear and pain, desireth deliverance, ever abhorring and drawing back from obedience giving.
O Christian Brethren, I write by experience: but the Spirit of God calleth back the mind to obedience, that albeit it doth desire and abide for deliverance, yet should it not repine against the goodwill of God, but incessantly ask that it may abide with patience: How hard this battle is, no man knoweth but he which in himself hath suffered trial.
[NOTE WELL. - - FLESH STRIVETH AGAINST THE SPIRIT - - PERSECUTION OF THE FAITHFUL - - COMFORT TO THE AFFLICTED. - - MARGIN.]
THE PETITION OF THE SPIRIT. - It is to be noted, that God sometime doth grant the petition of the Spirit, while he yet deferreth the desire of the flesh. As who doubteth but God did mitigate the heaviness of Joseph, although he sent not hasty deliverance in his long imprisonment; [Gen. 39.] and that as he gave him favour in the sight of his jailor, so inwardly also gave he unto him consolation in spirit. And moreover God sometimes granteth the petition of the spirit, where alluterlie [entirely] he repelleth the desire of the flesh; for the petition always of the spirit is, that we may attain to the true felicity, whereunto we must needs enter by tribulation, and the final death, which both the nature of man doth ever abhor, and therefore the flesh, under the cross, and at the sight of death, calleth and thirsts for hasty deliverance. But God, who alone knoweth what is expedient for us, sometimes prolongeth the deliverance of his chosen, and sometime permitteth them to drink before the maturity of age, the bitter cup of corporal death, that thereby they may receive medicine and cure from all infirmity. For who doubteth that John the Baptist desired to have seen more the days of Jesus Christ, and to have been longer with him in conversation? Or that Steven would not have laboured more days in preaching Christ's gospel, whom, nevertheless, he suffered hastily to taste of this general sentence? [Acts 7.] And, albeit we see therefore no apparent help to ourselves, nor yet to others afflicted, let us not cease to call, thinking our prayers to be vain. For, whatsoever come of our bodies, God shall give unspeakable comfort to the spirit, and shall turn all to our commodities beyond our own expectation.
IMPEDIMENTS COMETH OF THE WEAKNESS OF THE FLESH. - The cause that I am so long and tedious in this matter is, for that I know how hard the battle is betwixt the Spirit and the Flesh, under the heavy cross of affliction, where no worldly defence, but present death does appear. I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh; I know the anger, wrath, and indignation which it conceiveth against God, calling all his promises in doubt, and being ready every hour utterly to fall from God. Against which rests only faith, provoking us to call earnestly and pray for assistance of God's Spirit; wherein if we continue, our most desperate calamities shall he turn to gladness, and to a prosperous end. To thee, O Lord, alone be praise, for with experience I write this and speak.
WHERE, FOR WHOM, AND AT WHAT TIME WE OUGHT TO PRAY, is not to be passed over with silence.
[PRIVATE PLACES TO PRAY IN. - - MARGIN.]
PRIVATE PRAYER - Private prayer, such as men secretly offer unto God by themselves, requires no special place; although that Jesus Christ commandeth [Matt. 6.6,] when we pray to enter into our chamber, and to close the door, and so to pray secretly unto our Father. Whereby he would that we should choose to our prayers such places as might offer least occasion to call us back from prayer; and also, that we should expel forth of our minds in time of prayer, all vain cogitations. For otherwise Jesus Christ himself doth observe no special place of prayer; for we find him sometimes praying in Mount Olivet, sometimes in the Desert, sometimes in the Temple, and in the Garden. And Peter coveteth to pray upon the top of the house. [Acts 10.9.] Paul prayed in prison, and was heard of God. Who also commandeth men to pray in all places, lifting up unto God pure and clean hands [1 Tim. 2.8]; as we find that the Prophets and most Holy men did, whensoever danger or necessity required.
APPOINTED PLACES TO PRAY IN, MAY NOT BE NEGLECTED. - But public and common prayers should be used in places appointed for the Assembly, from whence whosoever negligently extracteth themselves is in no wise excusable. I mean not, that to absent from that place is sin, because that place is more holy than another; for the whole earth created by God is equally holy. But the promise made, that "Wheresoever two or three be gathered together in my name, there shall I be in the midst of them," [Matt. 18.20,] condemneth all such as contemneth the congregation gathered in his name. But mark well the word "gathered;" I mean not to hear piping, singing, or playing; nor to patter upon beads, or books whereof they have no understanding; nor to commit idolatry, honoring that for God which is no God indeed. For with such will I neither join myself in common prayer, nor in receiving external sacraments; for in so doing I should affirm their superstition and abominable idolatry, which I, by God's grace, never will do, neither counsel others to do, to the end.
WHAT IT IS TO BE GATHERED IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. - This congregation which I mean, should be gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, that is, to laud and magnify God the Father, for the infinite benefits they had received by his only Son our Lord. In this congregation should be distributed the mystical and last Supper of Jesus Christ without superstition, or any more ceremonies than he himself used, and his Apostles after him. And in distribution thereof, in this congregation should inquisition be made of the poor amongst them, and support provided, while [until] the time of their next convention, and it should be distributed amongst them. Also, in this congregation should be made common prayers, such as all men hearing might understand; that the hearts of all, subscribing [agreeing] to the voice of one, might, with unfeigned and fervent mind, say, Amen. Whosoever doth withdraw himself from such a congregation, (but alas, where shall it [be] found?) do declare themselves to be no members of Christ's body.
FOR WHOM, AND AT WHAT TIME WE SHOULD PRAY. - Now there remaineth, For whom, and at what time, we should Pray. For all men, and at all times, doth Paul command that we should pray. [1 Tim. 2.] And principally for such of the household of faith as suffer persecution; and for commonwealths tyrannously oppressed, incessantly should we call, that God, of his mercy and power, will withstand the violence of such tyrants.
GOD'S SENTENCE MAY BE CHANGED. - And when we see the plagues of God, as hunger, pestilence, or war coming or appearing to reign, then should we, with lamentable voices and repenting hearts, call unto God, that it would please his infinite mercy to withdraw his hand; which thing, if we do unfeignedly, he will without doubt revoke his wrath, and in the midst of his fury think upon mercy; as we are taught in the Scripture by his infallible and eternal verities. As in Exodus, God saith, "I shall destroy this Nation from the face of the Earth;" and when Moses addressed himself to pray for them, the Lord proceeded, saying, "Suffer me that I may utterly destroy them." And then Moses falleth down upon his face, and forty days continueth in prayer for the safety of the people; for whom at the last he obtained forgiveness. [Exod. 32-34, Deut. 9.] David, in the vehement plague, lamentably called unto God. [2 Kings, last ch.] And the King of Nineveh saith, "Who can tell? God may turn and repent, and cease from his fierce wrath, that we perish not." [Jonah 3.] Which examples and scriptures are not written in vain, but to certify us, that God of his own native goodness will mitigate his plagues, (by our prayers offered by Jesus Christ,) although he hath threatened to punish, or presently doth punish: Which he doth testify by his own words, saying, [Jerem. 18,] "If I have prophesied against any nation or people, that they shall be destroyed; if they repent of their iniquity, I shall repent me of the evil which I have spoken against them."
[WEAKNESS OF PRAYER - - MARGIN.]
This I write, lamenting the great coldness of men, which under so long scourges of God, is nothing kindled to pray by repentance, but carelessly sleepeth in a wicked life; even as though the continual wars, urgent famine, and quotidian [daily] plagues of pestilence, and other contagious, insolent [unaccustomed], and strange maladies, were not the present signs of God's wrath, provoked be our iniquities.
A PLAGUE THREATENED TO ENGLAND. - O England! let thy intestine battle, and domestical murder provoke thee to purity of life, according to the word which openly hath been proclaimed in thee, otherwise the cup of the Lord's wrath thou shalt [shortly - 1554] drink! The multitude shall not escape, but shall drink the dregs, and have the cup broken upon their heads. For judgment beginneth in the house of the Lord, and commonly the least offender is first punished, to provoke the more wicked to repentance. But, O Lord! infinite in mercy, if thou shalt punish, make not consummation, but cut away the proud and luxuriant branches which bear no fruit: and preserve the Commonwealth of such as give succour and harbour to thy contemned messengers, which long have suffered exile in desert. And let thy Kingdom shortly come that sin may be ended, death devoured, thy enemies confounded; that we thy people, by thy Majesty delivered, may obtain everlasting joy and all felicity, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, to whom be all honour and praise, for ever. Amen.
Hasten, Lord, and tarry not.
HEREAFTER FOLLOWETH A CONFESSION,
OMNIPOTENTand everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by thy eternal providence disposes kingdoms, as best seemeth to thy wisdom: we acknowledge and confess thy judgments to be righteous, in that thou hast taken from us, for our ingratitude, and for abusing of thy most holy word, our Native King and earthly comforter.
Justly may thou pour forth upon us the uttermost of thy plagues; for that we have not known the days and times of our merciful visitation. We have contemned thy word and despised thy mercies; we have transgressed thy laws; for deceitfully have we wrought, every man with our neighbours; oppression and violence we have not abhorred; charity hath not appeared among us, as our profession requireth. We have little regarded the voices of thy prophets: thy threatenings we have esteemed vanity and wind. So that in us, as of our selves, rests nothing worthy of thy mercies; for all are found fruitless; even the princes with the prophets, as withered trees apt and meet to be burnt in the fire of thy eternal displeasure.
But, O Lord, behold thy own mercy and goodness, that thou may purge and remove the most filthy burden of our most horrible offences. Let thy love overcome the severity of thy judgments, even as it did in giving to the world thy only Son, Jesus, when all mankind was lost, and no obedience was left in Adam nor in his seed. Regenerate our hearts, O Lord, by the strength of thy Holy Ghost. Convert thou us, and we shall be converted: Work thou in us unfeigned repentance, and move thou our hearts to obey thy holy laws.
Behold our troubles and apparent destruction, and stay the sword of thy vengeance before it devour us. Place above us, O Lord, for thy great mercy's sake, such a head, with such rulers and magistrates as feareth thy name, and willeth the glory of Christ Jesus to spread. Take not from us the light of thy Evangel [Gospel], and suffer thou no Papist to prevail in this realm. Illuminate the heart of our Sovereign Lady Queen Mary with pregnant [fruitful] gifts of thy Holy Ghost. And inflame the hearts of her Council with thy true fear and love. Repress thou the pride of those that would rebel; and remove from all hearts the contempt of the Word. Let not our enemies rejoice at our destruction, but look thou to the honour of thy own name, O Lord; and let thy Gospel be preached with boldness in this Realm. If thy justice must punish, then punish our bodies with the rod of thy mercy. But, O Lord, let us never revolt, nor turn back to Idolatry again. Mitigate the hearts of those that persecute us; and let us not faint under the Cross of our Saviour, but assist us with the Holy Ghost, even to the end.