An expository comment, doctrinal, controversal, and practical upon the whole first chapter to the second epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians by Anthony Burgesse ...
Burgess, Anthony, d. 1664.
Page  525

SERM. CXIII.

Of Principles in general, and a godly mans in particular.


2 COR. 1. 17.
Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh?

HItherto we have been discovering what principles of flesh there are, which natural men do walk by, whereby they are made so mutable and incon∣stant. We are now to shew the godly mans principles, who purposeth things according to the Spirit, and thereby he is alwayes the same, because God and the Scripture is alwayes the same; yea hereby as Nazianzen saith, it may be said of him as of God (though with infinite disproportion) I am God, and change not: So the godly man having the Image of God stampt upon him, he is godly, and he changeth not. But before we come to specifie the principles of the godly who purpose after the Spirit, let us take notice of something in the general, relating both to the spiritual and carnal man: As

First, Herein are men differenced from bruit beasts, that they are carried forth to*operations by some principles within them, where as the bruits are acted by a natural instinct. The Schoolmen make a Question, Whether the bruit beasts do worke for some end, or no? And they conclude negatively, because they have no rea∣son or understanding; yet by God, the first cause, they are acted to an end, which they do not understand: according to that Rule, Opera naturae, sunt ope∣ra intelligentiae. But now man he being a rational creature, as he hath some end to which he referreth all his actions; so he hath several principles guiding of him to that end. These principles are like the wings to the Bird, the oars to the ship; legs to a man to bring him to his end. So that principles having such powerfull influence into what a man doth; it behoveth a man above all to look to them, to have sanctified and spiritual principles, to consult, choose, and act by.

Secondly, These principles whereby all men do walke, are either speculative, or*practical, such as regard truth, to be imbraced, or good to be practised. Indeed there are in all men some general and common principles; but of those we speak not. There are superadded to these, acquired principles, or infused; and these are more proxim and particular than the former. It is a general remote princi∣ple, That good is to be imbraced, evil to be avoided. But (alas) come to the practical improvement of this, and then you would think the clean contrary were true, that evil only was to be loved, and good to be eschewed; and the reason is, because the corrupt heart of man acquireth practical sinfull princi∣ples * to walk by. So that untill God infuse heavenly principles, he doth no more incline to, and delight in good, than swine can in pleasant flowers.

Thirdly, Such is the universal corruption of man by nature, till regenerated, Page  526 that all the principles he walketh by are sinfull, carnal, and earthly. And there∣fore Paul alledgeth out of the Psalms, Rom. 3. That there is none understand∣eth, none seeketh after God, there is none that doth good, no not one. And is it any wonder? For can men of corrupt principles do holy actions? Every man is as his principles are; they make him a good tree, or a bad tree. As a man is affected, so he judgeth, so he loveth, so he hateth, so he liveth and worketh in all things. Hence with the Schoolmen, we have often this assertion, That what principles are to conclusions, the same is the end in things to be done. And therefore as from false principles a man can never gather true conclusions; so neither from a cor∣rupt end is a man ever able to perform a good action. They have also another Rue, That what the forme is in natural things giving being unto them, the same is the end in moral things, and that humane actions are specified from the end. They are gold or drosse, as the end intended is; all which shew the necessity of a mans attending to his principles; what they are that move him and carry his soul out to work. For it is not so much a mans actions and wayes, as his prin∣ciples therein that do denominate him; and seeing they are either the Spirit or the flesh; every one either walketh in the flesh or the Spirit; let a man faith∣fully search into his own bosome, and observe what hath the predominant effi∣cacy; what he may call his principles he purposeth, and liveth by: and the ra∣ther, because

In the fourth place, These principles, though efficacious, yet are manytimes la∣tent*and hidden. It is a Rule, Principia sunt maxima virtute, minima quantita∣te. Therefore being thus secret and inward, it is not easily found out, what principles we walk by. Do those that walk after the flesh, know they do so? Do they believe so? Do they complain of such a rotten and sandy foundation? No they rather applaud themselves: even the most carnal men that are, do judge their principles good and right; they have a good heart, and good ends. No doubt when Paul persecuted the Church, opposed so zealously the way of Christ, though in all this he was acted by fleshly principles, yet he thought them Religion and service of God. It is therefore our duty to examine, and search into every corner of our hearts, to find out the bottome of thy soul. For thou art never able to judge of thy condition, whether good or evil, till thy princi∣ples are made manifest in thee. How often mayest thou flatter thy self, as doing things for God and his glory, when it is thy own corrupt self, thy own glory, thy own advantage?

Fifthly, These principles of the flesh, are not onely in our external dealings*with men, or in grosse bodily sins, but in religious duties, and our sacred per∣formances. Oh consider this diligently! A man may pray after the flesh, hear after the flesh, preach after the flesh, and that is, when a fleshly motive putteth us upon spiritual duties. The Pharisees when they prayed, they did walk according to the flesh; and those who adored Angels, and introduced volun∣tary worship, these had a fleshly mind, Col. 2. 18. Men are in the flesh, and walk in the flesh, not onely in respect of grosse sinnes, and bodily iniquities, but even when in spiritual duties they are led by sinfull motives. Thus Jehu, when he purposed the destruction of Ahab, and his family, the overthrow of Baal and his worship, he did all this after the flesh. When Judas resolved to follow Christ, to be his Disciple; all this was a resolving according to the flesh. Now this we should hear with trembling, and an holy fear; my religion may be flesh, my holy duties flesh, my profession of godlinesse, nothing but flesh. For though the duties themselves are good, and commanded by God, yet the prin∣ciples from which they flow, may be the flesh in thee. Do not take therefore all holy performances to come from a principle of sanctification in thee. Did hypocrites and temporary believers diligently consider this, it would be a special means to prevent their final destruction.

Page  527 Lastly, The principles of the carnal, and the spiritual are directly contrary to one another, even as light and darknesse; and therefore one can never agree*with the other. Prov. 29. 27. An unjust man is an abomination to the just; and he that is upright in his way, is an abomination to the wicked. Every god∣ly man cannot but abominate the way of the wicked; and then the wicked abo∣minateth the way of the godly, so that there can never be any agreement. Now both strive for their principles, dispute for their principles. The godly man ur∣geth his, and would bring men off to them. The wicked man is as resolute for his principles, and is active to have them take place. And from hence is that enmity between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. Now it's a godly mans duty to keep close to his principles, not for a moment to depart from them; This is to betray God and his conscience. But the wicked man he is bound to leave his, to come out of them with all haste, for they will be his damnation at last.

In the next place, let us consider, What are the principles of a godly man, by*which he thinketh, purposeth and liveth. So that if at any time he deviateth from this, his heart is smitten, his soul melteth, saying, This is not according to my principles, I have not thought, said, or done like my self.

Now there are two general principles of a godly man, whereby he is kept * from purposing or living according to the flesh. The one I may call Principium cognoscendi: The other Principium essendi, or rather efficiendi.

For the first, which is the principle of knowledge, by which we are to regu∣late our selves in faith and manners, that is the holy Scriptures, which are a per∣fect, sufficient and adequate Rule to live by, how contemptuously soever the Papists on the one hand, and Enthusiasts on the other, do speak of it. We see the Apostle Paul, 2 Tim. 3. 15, 16. directing Timothy, though so eminent in the Church of God to the Scriptures, not to the immediate inspirations, but unto them which he had known from his youth, giving admirable commendati∣ons of them from the efficient cause, they were by the inspiration of God, who would not regard what God himself saith? That will prove true, and every thing contrary to it a lie: and then the adjunct property, holy; they are holy Scriptures; By these alone thou wilt be enabled to have an holy nature, and to live an holy life. As those that keep in Apothecaries shops, smell of the oint∣ment: thus those who exercise themselves in the holy Scriptures, they become holy, they are conformed thereunto. Such a man is like a tree by the water∣side, bringing forth his fruit in due season. Again, they are commended from their end, which is to make us wise to salvation. This is the desirable and ul∣timate end of all men to be saved. But we are ignorant of the way, how to at∣tain it; we mistake the paths that lead thereunto; and therefore the Scripture only giveth us wisdome herein. Furthermore, they are commended from a four-fold effect, For Doctrine, correction, reproof and instruction in righteous∣nesse, with the consequent thereof, That the man of God (even Timothy, and such who are in holy Offices of the Church) may be throughly furnished for every good work. By this we see, what is the Rule a godly man walketh by, it is the Scriptures; he believeth according to them, he worshippeth according to them, he liveth according to them. Oh the holinesse and admirable lovelinesse that is in his life, who thus walketh according to Scripture! Oh remember that you have no other Rule to walk by in reference to heavenly things! Thy Religion must be a Scripture-religion, thy faith a Scripture-faith, thy repentance a Scri∣pture-repentance, thy godlinesse a Scripture-godlinesse; else at the day of judgement, thou wilt have that sentence upon thee, which was an hand-writing in the wall against that great King, Thou art numbered and weighed in the ba∣lance, and art found too light and wanting. But oh the horrible neglect here∣in! who mattereth what the Scripture saith? Who ordereth his life according Page  528 to that Canon? What art thou a drunkard by Scripture, a swearer by Scripture? Know assuredly, that he which learneth not holinesse from the Scripture, shall never find comfort from the Scripture; that hath precepts as well as promi∣ses; and without obedience to one, we cannot reap any comfort from the other.

Secondly, The other principle of a godly mans, but efficiently, is the Spirit*of God enlightning and sanctifying by the Scripture. The Word is the Rule, the Spirit of God is the efficient cause; The Scripture is like Christs garment, the Spirit is the virtue and power of God communicated to the soul thereby. Hence are those descriptions of a godly man, that he is in the Spirit, that he liveth in the Spirit, walketh in the Spirit, is led by the Spirit; which must not be wrested to any immediate Revelations, and Enthusiastical motions, and thereby opposed to the Word, but the Word is subordinate to the Spirit. This is the pool, wherein the Spirit of God descends and vouchsafeth healing to the soul therewith. Now Chrysostome maketh this a great part of Paul's meaning, he did not purpose according to the flesh; that is, he could not dispose of him∣self, and his journeyes to come and go whither he desired, because he was whol∣ly at the command of the Spirit, to be directed thereby. For we read, when Paul had a mind to preach the Gospel in some places, he was hindered by the Spirit, and so could not go; but those directions of the Spirit and Revelations, were extraordinary, and for that present age of the Church, and are not now to be expected: The Spirit doth now enlighten, sanctifie, direct and guide us by Scripture-rules. And hereupon it is, that the godly are said to be led by the Spirit, and to walk by the Spirit; and this should provoke the godly to all ho∣liness. Oh is pride from the Spirit of God? Is worldliness, is envy, is passion from the Spirit of God? Remember alwayes from what Spirit it is, that thou doest things. The Apostles thought it a good zeal, when they would have fire from Heaven to come and destroy the Samaritans, Luk. 9. 55. but Christ rebu∣ked them, saying, Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of. Take heed then thy own Spirit, or a deluding spirit be not the principle that moveth thee instead of Gods good Spirit. Thus you see the two general Rules, that we should order our lives by; the Word and the Spirit: whatsoever is not accord∣ing to these is not suitable to Christianity.

Besides these general principles, we may instance in some particulars, that a * godly man doth walk by, and against which he dare not sinne. As

1. To keep a good conscience towards God and man. Paul professed he exer∣cised himself herein (Act. 24. 16.) towards God, therefore he taketh heed of any thing that may make his heart smite him; he had rather have his peace of conscience than all the advantages in the world. Hence in all things his Question is, Will not this trouble my conscience? Will not this disturb the peace of my con∣science? This is a blessed principle he keepeth close unto. And then again, in respect of man, he keepeth an inoffensive conscience, he lieth not, he defraudeth not, he injureth not, he looketh to righteousness as well as Religion; his principle is to be holy towards God, and just towards man; and in following this principle, he aboundeth with joy in his heart, he liveth chearfully and fruitfully, and withall doth awe the hearts of the most desperate enemies to the wayes of God.

2. Another principle is, To make sure of his ultimate end for which God made*him, and the necessary means conducing therunto. His end is glory and salvation here∣after. The necessary means therunto is grace and godlines here, while we are in this world; so that while other men walk according to their several principles, some will be rich, some will have their honours, others their profits; his principle is to be godly here, and saved hereafter. Hence he giveth all diligence to these two things. So that if you ask him, Why are you sollicitous? Why are you so carefull? Why so often in praying, so often in hearing? It is (he saith) to obtain grace here Page  529 and glory hereafter. This I must have, I dare not live and die without it: for want of this principle, men have such sluggish and dull affections to heavenly things.

A third principle is, To live and walk with daily expectations of death, and the day*of judgment, as if he heard alwayes that voice sounding in his ears, Arise, and come to judgement. He desireth to have such thoughts of sinne, as a man dying, as a man arraigned at Gods tribunal would then have. Death is certain, nothing can exempt him from it; and therefore he desireth to die daily, to be preparing for these great changes. In morte solâ non est fortassis, as Austin observed, In all things in the world there is a fortasse, a may be. Thou mayest be a rich, thou mayest be a great man, but we cannot say, It may be thou mayest die, it may be the time will come, when thou shalt fall into the grave. No this is without all doubt: hence the godly mans principle is so to live, that death and the day of judgement may be no new thing, or terrible dreadfull thing to him.

A fourth principle is, To judge sinne the onely, or the greatest evil, and god∣linesse*the greatest good. If this were a principle in mens hearts to live by, what reformed persons should we see every where? This principle in thy heart would be like fire there; if sinne be thought worse than any evil, then poverty, shame, misery, yea and hell it self, better be any thing than a sinner. How couldst thou give thy self up a servant thereunto? Though it were a pleasing sinne, a profita∣ble sinne, yet because it is a damning sinne, thou wouldst runne from it, thou wouldst say, Oh this sinne, though I love it, though I am used to it, yet it can never be good for me, it will be the poison of my soul! And then on the other side, a godly mans principle is, That godlinesse is more worth than all the great and glorious things of the world. His soul longeth for it more than silver and gold; he thinketh every rich man, every great man, a miserable man, if he be not godly. As Rachel cried, Give me children, else I die; so give me godli∣nesse, Lord, else I am damned. As Abraham did not so much rejoyce in his wealth and outward mercies, because he was still childlesse; so saith this man, It is not earthly comforts Lord, but grace that refresheth my heart, let me be poor, contemned, rather than not godly.

Use of Exhortation, To examine what are the principles you walk by. There are but these two, and they are contrary one to the other, the principle of the flesh, and the principle of the Spirit; and such as your principles are, such are ye. If thy principle be to be godly, to live by the Word, to save thy soul, then thou art daily in these things: thy heart is there, thy life is there. But if it be flesh that ruleth in thee, then this maketh thee like a worm and a moal alwayes in the earth. You cannot repent, you cannot believe, you cannot be saved, while these principles abide in you; for they make you prejudiced against godlinesse, they make you neglect repentance. Oh but when thou shalt lie howling and roar∣ing in hell, how wilt thou curse and bewail such principles? These have damned me, these have brought me to this place of torment, I would not entertain other principles.