IV. Application: How Should we Pray, “Do Good to Us”?
Use. Which should teach us not to limit the Holy One of Israel in our desires of any outward thing whatsoever.
1. What then should we pray?
Especially desire forgiveness and spiritual good things, leaving the rest to his wise disposing.
2. Does this mean we should not pray for relief from trials?
Yet notwithstanding, out of the sense of pain and grief, we may pray either for the mitigation or removing of a cross, if God be so pleased.
He considers this proposition from two different angles. First, our desire to be relieved. Second, our contentment if God wills otherwise
a. We may pray for relief in our circumstances.
Because he hath put in us self-love, not sinful, but love of preserving our nature, therefore he permits us, if it may stand with his good pleasure, to desire the good of our outward man, as, Lord, give us bodily health, for we cannot else be instruments of serving thee.
b. We must be content with God’s determination of our circumstances
With reservation of God’s good pleasure, we may desire such and such things, conditionally, that when we see God will have it otherwise, we rest contented, sit down quietly, knowing that whatsoever health, sickness, or crosses he sends, it comes from his goodness and love, and shall turn to our good at length. If we love God, all shall work for good.
B. How we are to pray for pardon
‘Take away our iniquity, and do us good.’
1. The Scope of this prayer
We should make this petition for the church and ourselves. Pardon our sins, and do good to us, to our persons, to the state, to the times wherein we live, to the church at home and abroad, do good to all.
2. The benefits of such a prayer
And we may observe this from the order, and know what good we have. It comes from God in love, when it comes after forgiveness of sins.
When we become conscious of the good with have coming from love, it will give our good state a greater blessedness.
How then, may we take comfort of all the good things we have enjoyed, having seen many good days, enjoyed many good blessings, in health, wealth, good magistracy, ministry, peace, plenty, and the like! If all this goodness of God lead us to God, and draw us nearer to him, ‘after forgiveness of sins,’ grounded on the former evidences I spake of, then they come in love.
Here he provides a warning: One cannot tell whether a thing is a blessing or a curse without knowing (first) our standing before God. Giving wealth or power to a wicked a king is not a blessing to that king but rather a ground for God to judge the king for the misuse of such things. But when we are right with God, we can rightly receive these good things as a blessing.
But never let us think to have true comfort with a blessing, or any good thing we enjoy, till we have assurance of God’s love and mercy in the forgiveness of sins, lest God strip us naked of all the good things we have, and make us as naked as Dives in hell, who had not anything that was good to refresh his body or soul. So that all good things we enjoy here without this, will only aggravate our condemnation.
This leads to a conclusion:
Let us observe, therefore, how all our good things are joined with spiritual good (whether we ourselves are made better by them or not), having our sins pardoned.
Keep short accounts with God:
I beseech you, let us renew our requests for forgiveness of sins every day, making our accounts even with God, desiring grace to set our souls in a holy and sanctified frame with God, that ourselves may be good, our conversation good, and that then he would ‘do good to us’ all other ways, and sanctify all other things.
All of our trouble stems from our breach with God. Accordingly, we must first remedy the breach and then seeks ways to ease our pilgrimage.
This is the method of God’s Spirit in setting us right onwards in our heavenly journey, first to have forgiveness of sins, then sanctification, to be better ourselves, and then to look for peaceable and comfortable days in this world, if God see it good. What can be more? ‘Take away all iniquity, and do us good,’ all manner of good.
C. An exhortation to communion With God
This section comes as a development of the proposition that (1) all good comes from God, and (2) we must be reconciled to receive that God. Therefore, our chief end must be in our actually relating with and to God:
Therefore, since all good comes from God, the first and chief good, let us labour to have communion with him by all sanctified means, that so he may take away our ill, and do us every way good to our souls, bodies, conditions.
Something to note here, which is often missing from those who are theologically sound and desire to avoid the excesses of the “prosperity preachers.” We seek God because it is our good to do so. It is our duty and obligation as creatures; but our Creator has imposed this duty upon so that He may do us good.
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work, and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
All the Almighty can do,
He who with love doth befriend thee.
Oh, what a blessed thing is it for a Christian to keep a strict and near communion with the fountain of goodness, who can do more for us than all the world besides! When we are sick on our deathbeds, or when conscience is thoroughly awaked, then to speak peace comfortably to us in this great extremity, is more worth than all this world.
Therefore let us labour to keep communion with God, that he may speak peace to our souls when nothing else can.
1. An exhortation:
I beseech you, therefore, let us take heed how we break or walk loosely with God, seeing we can have no further comfort of any good thing we enjoy, than we are careful to keep and maintain our peace and communion with him at all times.
What happens then we sin and break communion:
And when we run into arrearages with God, then be sure we lie not in sin, but say, ‘Take away all iniquity, and do good to us,’ labouring to be in such an estate as God may give us his Holy Spirit, both to make us good and to sanctify unto us all other good.
2. The good of communion
At this point he says something of profound importance. We tend to think of our sanctification as primarily a matter of our refraining from bad conduct and the exertion of our will. What Sibbes says here is that by being in communion with God we become sanctified. (2 Cor. 3:18) We become like the company we keep. God does not say become perfect and then you may come to me – rather he says come to me so that you may be made good. Sanctification is something God does in and through us; not something we achieve for ourselves. Yes, we are quite busy in this work, but it is God who works in us. (Phil. 2:13)
There be good things which are good of themselves, and which make all other things good. Thus, by communion with God, we ourselves are made good, and all other things likewise are made good to us, all his ways being mercy and truth unto those who fear him.
Like a phsycian, the good God does us may not always be pleasant and often may be painful.
Therefore, resign we ourselves and all that we have unto his wisdom and disposing, because ofttimes there is good where we imagine the worst of evils to be, as it is sometimes good to have a vein opened to be purged. The physician thinks so, when yet the patient, impatient of reason’s issue, thinks not so. But as the physician is wiser than the patient, to know what is best for him, so God is wiser than man, to know what is good for him, who intends us no hurt when he purgeth us by affliction.
All our care, therefore, should be to annihilate ourselves, to come with empty, poor souls to God, ‘Do good to us.’ In which case it is no matter what our ill be, if he do us good, who hath both pardon and rich grace to remove the evil of sin, and convey all grace unto us out of his rich treasury.