The Return of Prayer: But if God gives you an answer, and you don’t want to listen…

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for dynamic thought and sense

7d0ed581-186e-42bc-ba26-3e8d3f79d2baBut if God gives you an answer, and if you don’t want to listen…

…you let God speak to you in vain, because you are not listening to what he has to tell you. If two men are walking along, and if one has spoken what’s on his mind but ignores the other man’s answers, he greatly insults the man.

Now if you want to study God’s dealings with us, do so by comparing our prayers with his answers; that is, by our speaking to God in prayer, and his speaking to us by way of answers. Why? Because  in essence, these dialogues between us and him comprise the greater part of our walk with God. It is said of Samuel’s prophecy, “that not a word of it fell to the ground,” 1 Sam.3:19; and so it may be said of our prayers; and so it ought to be of God’s answers as well; not a word of them should fall to the ground.

Now in 1 Kings, 8:56, it is said,”there hath not failed one word of all his good promises.” Solomon had observed this by painstaking survey, and by making comparisons of all which God had spoken and done for them, and he found not one promise unfulfilled.

 And so Solomon brings these exact words here for a very specific purpose: to confirm their faith in this, that no prayers would fail, if grounded on a promise. 

This was done to encourage others, and to even encourage his own heart to diligence. And it was also done as a motive for God to hear him; for in verse 59, he infers,”Let my words be nigh thee,” seeing you always thus perform your good word unto your people. Yes, if you don’t listen, you will provoke the Lord to not answer at all; he will forbear to answer, because he sees that talking to you will be in complete vain.

When a man is talking to someone that’s not listening, he will cease to talk, and completely leave off communicating, and so will God.

The Return of Prayer: Believing the Answers to Our Prayers

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

images (1)It is a sign, that you think that the God you pray to, either has a heavy ear…

…or that he cannot hear; or his hand shortened, that he cannot save; or his heart straitened, and he is restrained, that he will not. And thus you rob him, and despoil him of one of his most royal titles, whereby he styles himself “a God that hears prayers,” Psalm 65:2; who is so regardful of them that, in the passage of 1 Kings,8:59, they are said to be “nigh the Lord day and night;” they are all before him, and he sets them in his view as we do letters of friends, which we place in some conspicuous place, that we may remember to answer them, or lay them out of sight, that we may be sure not to forget them.

So the petitions of God’s people pass not out of his sight till he sends an answer, which is called ” speaking” as in the text; God speaking as well in his works as in his word. But you, by your neglect herein, make an idol god of him, such as were the vanities of the heathen; as if he had “ears and heard not, eyes and saw not” your need. Such a god as Elijah mocked, ” You must speak aloud (says he), he may be in a journey.” Even such a god do you make the God of heaven and earth to be, while you put no more confidence in him, or make no more consideration of your prayers to him, than the heathen did of their sacrifices to their gods.

11540542765000980kVQVZD0kcPetitioners do not only put up their request, but they are used to waiting at great men’s doors, and inquiring, and listening as to what answer is to be given unto them, and it is part of an honour to a great men that we do so: and for the same end are we also to wait on God, as an acknowledgment of his greatness, and our distance from him, and dependence upon him; “As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters, so do we (says David) on thee, till thou hast mercy on us,” Psalm 123:2.

And Psalm 130, after he had prayed, verse 2, he saith he “waited more than they that watch for the morning;” like those that, having some great business to do on the morrow, long for the daylight, and look often out to spy the day, so he for a glimmering and dawning of an answer. The same we have Psalm 5: 3, “In the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and look,” that is, I will look for an answer.

The Return of Prayer

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

10844269.
.
“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8

 

“THE CONNECTION OF THE WORDS”

This psalm was penned, in the name and for the comfort of the whole church of the Jews, both as a prophecy of -and a prayer for their return from the Babylonian captivity. It is also a prayer for the flowing in again, of that, ancient glory, peace, administration-of justice, liberty of God’s ordinance, plenty, and increase, which formerly they enjoyed but now suffered an ebb of seventy years continuance.

And first, he begins with prayer, from the first verse to this we have in hand, putting the Lord in mind of and urging him with his gracious dealings in former times unto his church: this is not the first time (says he) that the church has been in captivity, and that thou hast restored it (as out of Egypt, etc.) and therefore we hope that thou wilt do so again: “Thou hast been favorable unto thy land.”

His prayer being finished, the end having been spoken, he now stands and listens, as you do when you expect an echo, what echo he should have, what answer would be returned from heaven, whither his prayer had already come; “I will hear what the Lord will speak;” or, as some read it, “I hear what the Lord doth speak;” for sometimes there is a present echo, a speedy answer returned to a man’s heart, even before the prayer is half-finished, as unto Daniel, Dan. 9:20, 21.

And in brief, the answer to his prayer is this, “The Lord will speak peace unto his people;” this answer he finds written at the bottom of the petition, but with this clause of admonition for the time to come is added, “but let them not return again to folly;” a good use is to be made of so gracious an answer.

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Meet Thomas Goodwin, a pastor and theologian and part of your Christian heritage:  Thomas Goodwin (October 1600 –1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. He served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and was imposed by Parliament as President of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650. Goodwin is seen to be in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.  He studied at Cambridge from August 1613, and was an undergraduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1616.

In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. At this time he was influenced by John Rogers of Dedham. Goodwin rode 35 miles from Cambridge to Dedham to hear this Puritan preacher. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. n 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical  Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favor with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

Meet John Rogers, a passionate pastor for Christ, as well as part of your Christian heritage:  John Rogers (c. 1570–1636), sometimes referred to as “Roaring” John Rogers, for his fiery preaching style, was a well-known English Puritan clergyman and preacher. His parents were John Rogers (died 1601), a shoemaker from Moulsham in Essex, and his wife, Mary (died 1579). Richard Rogers, his uncle, provided for his education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he seems to have graduated in 1591/2. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough, as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became lecturer, not vicar as some scholars believe, of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being “one of the most awakening preachers of the age.” The vicars and lecturers are listed inside the church by the north door. On his lecture days his church overflowed. On one occasion, according to John Howe based on a report by Thomas Goodwin, Rogers rebuked the congregation for their woeful neglect of the Bible. His eloquence, some would say anointed preaching, moved many to tears and loud weeping. On market days he preached to hundreds of people from the tower by the muniment room above the north porch. This muniment room holds some early editions of his works. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig that Rogers would “do more good with his wild notes than we with our set music.” His lecture was suppressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin, one of his converts, never saw him wear a surplice, and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory.

He died on 18 October 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church on the north wall of the sanctuary. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard.

Character excerpts from Wikipedia

 

The Faith and Strength of Prayer…

Taken from, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, The Return of Prayers, p. 400
Written by Thomas Goodwin
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.         

                                                                                                        –Philippians 4:4-7, ESV

Men are mistaken in judging of the weakness of their prayers…

…They judge of the weakness of their prayers by their expressions, and gifts in performing them, or by the stirring and overflow of affections; whereas the strength and vigor of prayer should be estimated from the faith, the sincerity, the obedience, the desires expressed in it. As it is not the loudness of a preacher’s voice, but the weight and holiness of the matter, and spirit of the preacher, that move a wise and an intelligent hearer; so not gifts, but graces in prayers are they that move the Lord. The strength of prayer lies not in words, but in that which it is fitted to prevail with God. One prayer is not more strong than another, except in how it is so framed, it hath power with God more or less; as of Jacob it is said, ‘He had power with God,’ Hosea 12. 

Now prayers move God, not as an orator moves his hearers, but as a child moves his father.

Two words of a child humbled, and crying at his father’s feet, will prevail more than penned orations, Rom. 8: it is the meaning of the spirit that God looks unto, more than the expression; for the groans there are said to be unutterable. Hezekiah’s expressions were so rude and broken, that he says, Isa. 38:14, that he did but ‘chatter,’he being then sick, even as a crane;’ yet God heard them.

Do you need comfort as well as pardon? Consider Well the Name of God!

Written by Thomas Goodwin.
Taken from, “A Child of Light Walking in Darkness”

nameThe Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” –Exodus 34:5-7, ESV

The name of God, that is, God’s attributes and Christ’s righteousness…

…do sufficiently and adequately and fully answer all wants and doubts, all objections and distresses we can have, or can be in.  Whatsoever our want or temptations may be, he has a name to make supply.  For example, take the attributes as mentioned Exodus. 34: 5-6.  Consider every attribute ascribed to his name, and every one of them answers to some temptation we experience.  Are you in misery and great distress?  He is merciful; ‘The Lord merciful.’  The Lord, therefore is able to help you; and merciful, therefore willing.  Yes, but you will say, I am unworthy; I have nothing in me to move him to mercy.  Well, therefore, he is gracious; now grace is to show mercy freely.  Yes, but I have sinned against him long, for many years; if I had come in when I was young, mercy might have been shown to me.  To this he says, ‘I am long-suffering.’  Yes, but my sins abound in number, and it is impossible to account for them and they abound in heinousness; I have committed the same sins again and again; I have been false to him, broke promise with him again and again.  His name also answers this objection, he is abundant in goodness; he abounds more in grace than you do in sinning. 

Though you have been unfaithful again and again to him, and broke all covenants, yet he is abundant in truth; also better than his word, for he cannot to our capacities express all the mercy that is in him for us.  Yes, but I have committed great sins, aggravated with many and great circumstances, against knowledge, willfully, etc.  He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; sins of all sorts.  Yes, but there is mercy thus in him but for a few and I may be none of that number.  Yes, there is mercy for thousands.  And he keeps it; the treasures of it are with him, and are kept, if men would come and take them.  Object to what you can but his name will answer you. 

Do you need comfort as well as pardon? 

He is both ‘Father of mercies ‘ and ‘God of all comforts’; that is his name, 2 Corinthians 1:3.   Do you need peace of conscience, being filled with terrors?  He is the ‘God of peace,’ 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  Yes, but I have a heart empty of grace and holiness, and full of corruptions.  He is the    ‘God of all grace’ to heal you, as well as of peace to pardon you.  Do you need wisdom and direction?  He is the ‘Father of lights,’ as the Apostle says.  Is your heart inconsistent and full of double-mindedness?  He’s ‘unchangeable’ also, as he speaks of in  James 1:17.  Thus all objections that can be made may be answered out of his name.  Therefore, it is all-sufficient for faith to rest upon.

 

O Lord, do whatever You wish to do to us, but take not your Bible away!

prayingman300px[It is not often that I get to read of the personal lives of some of the great Puritan Divines.  Much of what I know about them is derived from their writings, where I only get little glimpses of their domestic lives and personalities. Sometimes a Puritan pastor can occasionally be somewhat shaky on a doctrinal point, but may have other strengths, such as being a tremendous counselor, like Baxter.  Here in this snippet is Thomas Goodwin, already a very strong theologian, and is perhaps in the prime of his life. This scene occurs during a time of widespread persecution in the country. People were suffering cruelly and dying for the Word of God –so it is precious here. In this moment, Goodwin is feeling hungry for a little personal ministry in his own life from the Word of God, and he sets off on horseback to hear John Rogers, a fiery and passionate pastor, to preach Christ, and he is not disappointed. From this snippet, we see how precious God’s word is to the true believer.  Little does Goodwin know which direction his own life will take. All either of them know is how precious the Word of God is –and that is what is conveyed. –MWP]

When the famous Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, was a youth, and a student at Cambridge, and after having heard much of John Rogers, of Dedham, he took a 35 mile journey to hear him preach on one of his week-day lectures which were very numerously attended.

Pastor John Rogers was at that time discussing the subject of the Scriptures, and on this occasion was expostulating with his hearers on the neglect of the Bible. He represented God as addressing them,  

“I have trusted you so long with my Bible; yet you have slighted it; my Bible lies in your houses covered with dust and cobwebs; you have not taken care of it, you have not to look into it. Do you misuse my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”

He then took up the Bible from the cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it, and carrying it from them, but immediately turned again, and, impersonating the people answering God, fell down on his knees, wept, and pleaded most earnestly,

“O Lord, do whatever You wish to do to us, but take not your Bible away from us! –Kill our children –Burn our houses –Destroy our goods –Only spare us Your Bible!”

Then he addressed the people as from God,

–Say you so?  Well, I will try you a little longer; here is my Bible for you. I will yet see how you will use it –Whether you will love it more, whether you will observe it more, whether you will practice it more, and live more according to it.”

By these actions he produced among his congregation general weeping. The great Dr. Thomas Goodwin himself, when he left to take his horse again, hung on his neck and wept for a considerable time before he had power to mount, so great was the impression produced on his mind by having been thus reproved with for the neglect of the Bible.

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Meet Thomas Goodwin, a pastor and theologian and part of your Christian heritage:  Thomas Goodwin (October 1600 –1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. He served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and was imposed by Parliament as President of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650. Goodwin is seen to be in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.  He studied at Cambridge from August 1613, and was an undergraduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1616.

In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. At this time he was influenced by John Rogers of Dedham. Goodwin rode 35 miles from Cambridge to Dedham to hear this Puritan preacher. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. n 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical  Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favor with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

Meet John Rogers, a passionate pastor for Christ, as well as part of your Christian heritage:  John Rogers (c. 1570–1636), sometimes referred to as “Roaring” John Rogers, for his fiery preaching style, was a well-known English Puritan clergyman and preacher. His parents were John Rogers (died 1601), a shoemaker from Moulsham in Essex, and his wife, Mary (died 1579). Richard Rogers, his uncle, provided for his education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he seems to have graduated in 1591/2. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough, as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became lecturer, not vicar as some scholars believe, of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being “one of the most awakening preachers of the age.” The vicars and lecturers are listed inside the church by the north door. On his lecture days his church overflowed. On one occasion, according to John Howe based on a report by Thomas Goodwin, Rogers rebuked the congregation for their woeful neglect of the Bible. His eloquence, some would say anointed preaching, moved many to tears and loud weeping. On market days he preached to hundreds of people from the tower by the muniment room above the north porch. This muniment room holds some early editions of his works. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig that Rogers would “do more good with his wild notes than we with our set music.” His lecture was suppressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin, one of his converts, never saw him wear a surplice, and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory.

He died on 18 October 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church on the north wall of the sanctuary. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard.

Character excerpts from Wikipedia

When You are Thoroughly Chastened and Corrected by Well-Meaning Pastors and Churchmen Who are Wrong.

An Example From the Reformers (Richard Sibbes and Thomas Goodwin).

Richard-Sibbes[I have NOT edited the following letter for thought and content, or even the 16th century grammar, as I usually strive to do. However, you should be mindful that the following is a personal and private letter. And even with the whole of the letter, we are left without the complete context. In this case, I want you to also see the emotional heart of the matter…  Goodwin has poured out his heart and soul to Sibbes and instead of receiving encouragment and support, Sibbes lashes out at Goodwin for “the haynousnesse of this sin.”

thomasgoodwinWith this in mind, I bring this letter to your attention (though it may take a little extra work to read) because it is between two great lights of the early Reformers; Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) and Thomas Goodwin D.D. (1600-1679), who has been designated the Atlas and patriarch of Independency from the Church of England. Sibbes is 25 years older than Goodwin and is acting as a senior pastor with a lot of experience in such matters.  Sibbes is also admonishing Goodwin, who he loves and respects, and so he is doing it to help, strengthen and turn Thomas Goodwin around, not to injure him, and that is important.  But the fact of the matter is, that Sibbes, in this instance, may indeed be grievously wrong. Others have correctly pointed out, that Sibbes would have acted more faithfully as well as more consistently, had he followed the example of his friends, Goodwin, John Cotton, John Davenport, Thomas Hooker, Samuel Stone, and their compatriots. The spirit that pervades his letter is worthier than his arguments.

The letter comes from the Memoir of Richard Sibbes, and it is a letter from him to “An Afflicted Conscience”, taken to be to Goodwin, on very good evidence that we shall not go into here. The letter sheds a fascinating light on the reasoning behind the thinking of the “Stayers” when confronted by the “Separaters” from the Church of England at a time when Popish ceremonies were being introduced by Bishops and King, and the ordained ministers are ordered to administer them, or face banishment, loss of goods, loss of livelihood, and even death.   Sibbes continued to preach the Gospel, did not give in to ritualism, but stays in by the powerful influence of his many friends, and though certainly, summoned before Star Chamber and High Commission, he holds on in his way of preaching the same gospel everywhere by means of his friends and the power of his sermons. That explains his remaining within the church. 

You and I can heartily understand that Goodwin could not have enjoyed listening and acting upon his conscience in opposition to Sibbes; an act which Sibbes describes to Goodwin as a “heinous sin”.  But scholars have pointed out that Goodwin’s reaction to Sibbes does not appear in any of Goodwin’s memoirs, which is much to his credit.  –MWP]

Deare Sir,

I understand by your Letter, that you have many and grevious tryals; some externall and bodily, some internall and spirituall: as the deprivall of inward comfort, the buffetings (and that in more then ordinary manner), of your soule, with Satan’s temptations: and (which makes, all those inward and outward, the more heavy and insupportable) that you have wanted Christian society with the Saints of God, to whom you might make knowne your griefes, and by whom you might receive comfort from the Lord, and incouragement in your Christian course.

Now that which I earnestly desire in your behalfe, and hope likewise you doe in your owne, is that you may draw nearer to God, and be more conformable to his command by these afflictions; for if our afflictions be not sanctified, that is, if we make not an holy use of them by purging out old leaven of our ingenerate corruptions, they are but judgments to us, and makes way for greater plagues: Ioh v. 14. And therefore the chiefe ende and ayme of God in all the afflictions which he sends to his children in love is, that they may be partakers of his holinesse, and so their afflictions may conduce to their spiritual! advantage and profit, Heb. xii. 10. The Lord aymes not at himselfe in any calamities he layes on us, (for God is so infinitely all-sufficient, that we can adde nothing to him by all our doings or sufferings) but his maine ayme is at our Melioration and Sanctification in and by them. And therefore our duty in every affliction and pressure, is thus to thinke with our selves: How shall we carry and behave our selves under this crosse, that our soules may reap profit by it? This (in one word) is done by our returning and drawing nearer to the Lord, as his holy Apostle exhorts us, Iames iv. 8. This in all calamities the Lord hath speciall eye unto, and is exceeding wroth if he finde it not.

The Prophet declares That his anger was not turned from Israel, because they turned not to him that smote them, Isa. i. 4, 5. Now it is impossible that a man should draw nigh to God, and turne to him, if he turne not from his evil wayes: for in every conversion there is Terminus a quo, something to be turned from, as well as Terminus ad quod, something to be turned to.

Now, that we must turn to, is God; and that we must turne from, is sinne; as being diametrally opposite to God, and that which separated betweene God and us.

To this purpose we must search and try our hearts and wayes, and see what sinnes there be that keepe us from God, and separate us from his gracious favour: and chiefly we must weed out our special bosom-sine. This the ancient Church of God counsels each other to doe in the time of their anguish and affliction, Lam. iii. 89, 40, Let us search and try our wayes, and turne againe to the Lord: for though sinne make not a final divorce betwixt God and his chosen people, yet it may make a dangerous rupture by taking away sense of comfort, and suspending the sweet inference of his favour, and the effectual operation of his grace.

And therefore (deare Sir) my earnest suit and desire is, that you would diligently peruse the booke of your conscience, enter into a thorow search and examination of your heart and life; and every day before you go to bed, take a time of recollection and meditation, (as holy Isaac did have private walkes, Gen. xxiv. 68), holding a privy Session in your soule, and indicting your selfe for all the sins, in thought, word, or act committed, and all the good duties you have omitted. This self-examination, if it be strict and rigid as it ought to be, will soone shew you the sins whereto you are most inclinable (the chiefe cause of all your sorrowes), and consequently, it will (by God’s assistance) effectually instruct you to fly from those venomous and fiery serpents, which have so stung you.

And though you have (as you say) committed many grievous sinnes, as abusing God’s gracious ordinances, and neglecting the golden opportunities of grace: the originall, as you conceive of all your troubles; yet I must tell you, there is another Coloquintida in the pot, another grand enormity (though you perceive it not) and that is you separation from God’s Saints and Servants in the Acts of his publike Service and worship. This you may clearly discern by the affliction it selfe, for God is methodical in his corrections, and doth (many times) so suite the crosse to the sinne, that you may reade the sin in the crosse. You confesse that your maine affliction, and that which made the other more bitter, is, that God tooke away those to whom you might make your complaint; and from whom you might receive comfort in your distresse. And is not this just with God, that when you wilfully separate your selfe from others, he should separate others from you? Certainly, when we undervalue mercy, especially so great a one as the communion of Saints is, commonly the Lord takes it away from us, till we learne to prize it to the full value. Consider well therefore the haynousnesse of this sin, which that you may the better conceive, First, consider it is against God’s expresse Precept, charging us not to forsake the assemblies of the Saints, Heb. x. 20, 25. Again, it is against our own greatest good and spirituall solace, for by discommunicating & excommunicating our selves from that blessed society, we deprive our selves of the benefit of their holy conference, their godly instructions, their divine consolations, brotherly admonitions, and charitable reprehensions; and what an inestimable boon is this? Neither can we partake such profit by their prayers as otherwise we might: for as the some in the naturall body conveyes life and strength to every member, as they are compacted and joyned together, and not as dis-severed; so Christ conveyes spiritual life and rigour to Christians, not as they are disjoyned from, but as they are united to the mysticall body, the Church.

But you will say England is not a true Church, and therefore you separate ; adhere to the true Church.

I answer, our Church is easily proved to be a true Church of Christ: First, because it hath all the essentialls, necessary to the constitution of a true Church; as sound preaching of the Gospel, right dispensation of the Sacraments, Prayer religiously performed, and evil! persons justly punisht (though not in that measure as some criminals and malefaetors deserve:) and therefore a true Church.

2. Because it hath begot many spiritual children to the Lord, which for soundnesse of judgemcnt, and holinesse of life, are not inferiour to any in other Reformed Churches. Yea, many of the Separation, if ever they were converted, it was here with us: (which a false and adulterous Church communicated.)

But I heare you reply, our Church is corrupted with Ceremonies, and pestered with prophane persons. What then? must we therefore separate for Ceremonies, which many think may be lawfully used. But admit they be evils, must we make a rent in the Church for Ceremonious Rites, for circumstantial evils? That were a remedy worse than the disease. Besides, had not all the true Churches of Christ their blemishes and deformities, as you may see in seven Asian Churches? Rev. ii. and iii. And though you may finde some Churches beyond Sea free from Ceremonies, yet notwithstanding they are more corrupt in Preachers, (which is the maine) as in prophanation of the Lord’s day, &c.

As for wicked and prophane Persons amongst us, though we are to labour by all good meanes to purge them out, yet are we not to separate because of this residence with us : for, there will bee a miscellany and mixture in the visible Church, as long as the world endures, as our Saviour shewes by many parables: Matth. xiii. If therefore we should be so overjust as to abandon all Churches for the intermixture of wicked Persons, we must salle to the Antipodes, or rather goe out of the world, as the Apostle speaks: so it is agreed by all that Noah’s Arke was a type and embleme of the Church. Now as it had been no lesse then selfe-murder for Noah, Sem, or Iaphet to have leapt out of the Arke, because of that ungracious Gains company; so it is no better then soule-murder for a man to cast himself out of the Church, either for reall or imaginall corruptions. To conclude, as the Angell injoyned Hagar to returne, and submit to her Mistris Sarah, so let me admonish you to returne your selfe from these extravagant courses, and submissively to render your self to the sacred communion of this truly Evangelicall Church of England.

I beseech you therefore, as you respect Gods glory and your owne eternall salvation, as There is but one body and one spirit, one Lord, one Baptisme, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all; so endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, Eph. iv., as the Apostle sweetly invites you. So shall the peace of God ever establish you, and the God of peace ever preserve you; which is the prayer of

Your rernembrancer at the Throne of Grace

R. SIBS.

As scholar and editor, Rev. Alexander Balloch Grosart points out, “Who doubts for a moment, that, if his mouth had been shut, as was Goodwin’s, on the ‘one thing,’ that Sibbes would have placed himself beside his friend. Perhaps there would have been more of lingering effort on Sibbs part to get Goodwin above the difficulties.  Perhaps, Goodwin would have had more pain in sundering of the ties that bound him to the church, more sway given to heart than head. Still the final decision, beyond all debate, would have been the same as that of the ‘two thousand’ that were oppressed of 1662. The more shame to those in power who compelled such loyal lovers of ‘the church’ to leave her.” 

From “Works of Richard Sibbes” Volume One. 
Pub. James Nichol, Edinburgh 1862