“There is a common treasure of the Church, not of their merits, but of their prayers…”
“There may be some prayers that you must be content never yourself to see answered in this world, the accomplishment of them not falling out in your time: such as those you haply make for the calling of the Jews, the utter downfall of God’s enemies, the flourishing of the Gospel…. All which prayers are not yet lost, but will have answers: for as God is an eternal God, and Christ’s righteousness an “everlasting righteousness”, and therefore of eternal efficacy ( Dan 9:24), so are prayers also, which are the work of the eternal Spirit of Christ, made to that God in his name, and in him are eternally accepted, and therefore may take place in after ages. So the prayer that St Stephen made for his persecutors took place in St Paul when Stephen was dead. So David’s prayer against Judas (Ps 109: 8, 9) took effect above a thousand years after, as appears, Acts 1:20. So the prayers of the Church, for three hundred years, in the primitive times, that kings might come to the knowledge of the truth, and they: lead peaceable and quiet lives, in all godliness and honest,” (which St Paul, in Nero’s time, exhorted unto 1 Tim 2:2) were not answered and accomplished till Constantine’s time…”
There are so many meaty things in this paragraph. I want to speak to only one for now and that is what is underlined above.
This Puritan writer saw the prayer of Paul and the early church fulfilled with the conversion of Constantine. How much more is it fulfilled today in Western democracies? The fact is we have the privilege of “leading peaceable and quiet lives, in all godliness and honesty” with no real interference from governments or state sponsored national religions. This great blessing is in answer to the faithful prayers of millions of Christians over many centuries and purchased by the blood of both patriots who fought for liberty and Christian martyrs who died at the hand of persecutors while living their faith in centuries past. I wonder how God will judge me on how I used such a great gift which came as an answer to those prayers spoken in previous ages? I am embarrassed to think how I have taken such a wonderful gift for granted.