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  654

SERM. CXXXIX.

What is implyed in Gods giving us the earnest of his Spirit?


2 COR. 1. 22.
Who hath also given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

THe Spirit of God with the graces thereof (as we have heard) received and perceived by a beleever, are a sure earnest of future glory.

In the handling of which hitherto, we have only treated of the dissi∣militude that is between this heavenly earnest, and an earnest amongst men: our work is now to shew positively, wherein the resemblance doth consist, or what is comprehended in this metaphorical expression. *

And First, Hereby is declared Gods will and infallible purpose to bring us unto eternal glory; of which this grace received is an earnest. For (as you heard) it is not grace as grace, but grace as an earnest, that doth deserve an accent, as it were, upon it: The emphasis lieth in this. So that by these beginnings of Gods Spirit upon me, I may unquestionably conclude my future glory. And this Chrysostome upon the place doth well observe: He doth not (saith he) singly and barely call it the spirit, but an earnest,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that from this thou maist have boldnesse and confidence upon the whole, for if he did not intend to give thee all (saith he) he would not have given thee this earnest in vain, and so as to lose it. Thus Macarius also an holy Writer, from this similitude gathereth, that such who have this earnest may rejoyce, and be as confident as if they were already crowned with glory, and reigning in heaven. Homil. 17. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; oh then the unspeakable happinesse of such who do finde this earnest in their hearts! God would be found unfaithful, and to break his promise, if as he hath begun, so he should not also finish this work of grace in thee. So that the Arminian exception is very frivolous and absurd, saying, It is true, this is an earnest, but we may lose it: We may fall into such sinnes as shall wholly cast us out of the favour of God: for this earnest is given us on purpose, to assure us that God will so preserve us, and by his grace so guide us, that we shall never fall out of this ark into the waters. What comfort and encouragement were in this expression, if it did denote no more then a conditional security; No, it is a positive and absolute security. Therefore that learned Vossius was under some temptation surely, when he wrote that Pelagian History; for in that he hath this passage, where speaking of some Ancients, who from the metaphor of an anchor and earnest conclude the certainty of eternal life, glosseth after this manner, Histor. Pelag. lib. 6. Thes. 13. Certos nos dicunt, quamdiu habemus ar∣rhabonem spiritus sancti sed arrhabonem hunc siquis abjiciat, hinc certitudinem simul salutis amittere: We are certain of eternal life, as long as we have this an∣chor, Page  655 this earnest; but if we lose it, we lose our certainty also of salvation. How inexcusable is this, though some learned men, great friends to that excellent Authour say, that he promised to review that History of Pelagian heresie in time? For therefore is this earnest given us to take away our fears about the future: Whereas in their sense we must needs be as uncertain as before; and besides this earnest would need another earnest, and so in infinitum. The Scripture then by calling it an earnest would hereby inform us of Gods will, that he who hath given us the first-fruits will in time also give us the lump or harvest it self: he will so preserve us, that not only any thing without, as the devil and the world, but also any thing within us, our own hearts, our own lusts shall not betray us, and become our destruction: and certanily that rea∣son of Chrysostowe, which is also grounded upon the Scripture, is among o∣thers very remarkable. If God of his free-grace did (while enemies) convert us, and bestow his spirit as an earnest upon us, will he not much rather do it for us, since he hath received us into his friendship? To this purpose the A∣postle also argueth very strongly, Rom. 5. 9, 10. While we were yet sinners, Christ dyed for us, much more then being now justified by his bloud, shall we be saved from wrath through him: for if when we were enemies we were reconciled by death of his Sonne, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his lise. If then God hath done the greater, will he not do the lesse? when we wal∣lowed in our lusts, when we tumbled in our filth, even then the grace of God did speak unto us to live, even then it did put comelinesse and beauty upon us, and shall he not much more do it since he hath made us his own? So that the same grace of God which received us, though unworthy, will preserve us, though unworthy: and as our rebellious heart did not finally withstand con∣verting grace, but was overcome by it, so will the grace of perseverance watch over us, that this earnest shall not be totally lost. For this end we have many glorious promises to encourage us in this particular; we must not then look upon our own dead womb, but the power and promise of God, concluding by this, Lord, I know thy will is, that I shall be saved, by this I am perswaded, that nothing, no, not I my self, shall separate my self from thy love, for thy grace will alwaies prevent my will.

Secondly, In that it is called an earnest, there is implyed, that grace here and*glory hereafter are of the same nature; that they differ only gradually: Even as in an earnest amongst men, that is part of the full payment, and of the same nature with it. Thus grace is nothing but glory begun, and glory grace perfected; for which cause it is called glory, 2 Cor. 3. 18. We are changed into the same image from glory to glory, that is, from grace to grace, till we come to inhabit glory: For which cause also the Apostle compareth our state of grace here to the state of a childe, and that of glory hereafter to a virile estate, 1 Cor. 13. Now as a childe differeth from himself when made a man but gradually, he is the same individuall person still. Thus it is here, thy grace will not be a∣bolished thou hast here, but perfected: We do but think and understand in hea∣venly things as children only; comparatively to what shall be done in heaven. Even as these individual bodies shall put on immortality and incorruptibility: They shall not be new bodies, but changed bodies. It is true, there are some graces which suppose an imperfection in the subject, while he is here in the way, at least in their actings, and so farre as there is imperfection, it shall be abolished: as 1 Cor 13. Thus saith, as it justifieth, as it is opposed to vision, and hope as opposed to enjoying; repentance likewise as it is sorrow for sin, and patience which supposeth afflictions. These things cannot be put forth in heaven, but probably the habits of these graces may continue there, as be∣ing an ornament and perfection of the soul; it being extrinsecal only, and by accident, that the occasion of the exercise of those graces is removed, Hence Page  656 (some say) but not probably, that the Spirit of God is a pledge in respect of faith and hope, because they shall cease, but an earnest in respect of charity, which abideth for ever. Salmeron in loc. No wonder then if grace be an ear∣nest of glory, seeing they are the same thing in nature, and differ only as per∣fect and imperfect; yet when we say, that grace is only glory begun, that must be understood in a sound sense: for some of the Papists make an inward con∣dignity between grace and glory: we are not then to think, that grace of it self would in a naturall and necessary way spring up into glory, as an Acorn would (in a physicall manner) breed up into an Oak, being seminally and cau∣sally contained in it. No, but in a moral sense, by the gracious appointment and order of God; grace is glory begun, otherwise such is the imperfection and drosse that is in our graces while in this life, that when we have arrived to the highest pitch, we might justly be deprived of glory. Grace in the A∣postate Angels formerly, was not glory seminally and radically, for then they had not missed it: But if we do now regard the covenant of Gods grace, he hath so appointed it, that whosoever hath grace here, that shall be preserved and kept so faithfully, that it shall be perfected into glory hereafter. And thus the earnest is of the same nature with the full payment it self.

Thirdly and lastly, This similitude doth not only declare Gods purpose and * effectuall will concerning us, but it is also to assure and perswade us of heaven, as if we were already in it: and this is indeed one of the main ends of this si∣militude. God will by this inform us of the transcendant excellency of the co∣venant of grace above that of works, which he made with Adam; Thus our Saviour saith, Joh. 5. 24. He that beleeveth is passed from death to life, he is al∣ready, and therefore is sure of everlasting happinesse; so that in this similitude there is not only the perseverance of the Saints denoted, but also their assurance and certain perswasion of it. And the truth is, great is the necessity of this doctrine; for while a godly man looketh upon what is to come, he seeth such a terrible wildernesse he is to go through, such a Red Sea to passe over, such Anakims in the way to be destroyed, that had he not this certain perswasion, that he shall overcome all these difficulties, and that God would daily hold him in his arms of grace, that he shall not fall, his doubts and fears would wholly dishearten him. And thus much is comprehended in the metaphor of an ear∣nest. It is not my purpose at this time to lanch into that ocean of the doctrine of perseverance, as also the certainty of it. I shall therefore amplifie this do∣ctrine, with some few propositions, and so conclude it; for the excellency and comfortablenesse of it will not let us wholly passe it by: This precious flower can be found only in the paradise of the Scripture; Therefore Austin was weary of Platonical Books, because they had not these excellent things in them, the Scripture hath, whereof this arra spiritus, the earnest of the spirit is one he instanceth in, lib. confes. cap. 7.

As first, We must know, that comfort of perseverance is only improved by*those, that are certain of the present work of grace in their souls. He that findeth grace for the present in his soul, may undoubtedly conclude of his salvation hereafter; but if a Christian do lie in doubts, whether he hath grace or no, this doctrine will not be as the honey-comb to him, for he hath not laid the foundation that this must be built upon: but if his thoughts about the present work of grace be hopefull only in him, then also are his thoughts about per∣severance hopefull only: He may have some comfort, but not such a certainty as the Scripture propoundeth: Neither can he use those triumphing expressions of holy confidence, which Paul Rom. 8. speaketh not of himself, by any peculiar revelation, but of all the children of God, that nothing shall separate him from the love of God in Christ.

Page  657 Secondly, There are some Doctors and Teachers, who make the certainty*of our present grace, and of perseverance therein, two distinct, yea, and separa∣ble things. They will grant that a man may be certain of the present grace he hath, but then they deny he is to be certain that he shall continue and per∣severe in this; for they affirm, that a man may have true grace, and yet totally and finally fall from it; others say, that a man may have grace, and not be elect∣ed, and such may lose it, but he that hath true grace and elected, that man shall never lose his interest in heaven: Nay, some of these Teachers do not only de∣ny any such certainty of perseverance in our present grace either ordinarily possible or necessary. But say such a certainty would be very dangerous and destructive to all vigilancy and carefulnesse in an holy life; for what a man is assured of, he cannot fear he shall lose, let him live how he will; but this up∣on another account is in time to be more largely debated. Therefore for the present I only adde this third Proposition, viz.

That the certainty which the godly have, is not such an absolute abstracted one,*as that it doth not include the means leading to salvation, but rather doth necessarily connote them. Insomuch that if any godly man should be left to such a desperate frame of heart, as to say, I am sure of heaven, let me fall into the most abo∣minable impieties that are, these shall not hinder salvation; such an one would certainly be damned: but that is not to be supposed, that such who have the true seed of grace, will ever be given up to such a prophane spirit. The cer∣tainty then that a beleever hath, is in the use of means to attain their desired end; So that it's like, the assurance that Paul had concerning the preservation God would vouch safe to all his fellow-passengers in the ship with him, which yet did relate to the necessary use of means, as Paul exhorteth them; or like that of Hezckiah, to whom God promised the addition of fifteen years longer to his life. Now he was assured of this, God could not lye, yet he did not neg∣lect to eat and drink; he knew Gods promise implyed the use of the means, so that the adversaries to this Truth do fully mistake, when they say, we preach such a certainty of perseverance, that though a man fall into any enormous crimes, yet he shall enjoy this still: This is oppositum in apposito to suppose, that if fire be water, it will refrigerate.

Fourthly, We are further to distinguish of a two-fold certainty in this matter of*salvation and perseverance in the way therein. The first I call a dogmaticall cer∣tainty, and that is when a man is fully convinced out of the Scripture of this truth in the generall, that whosoever hath once had true grace, shall never fall from it, but certainly shall be saved; and he that hath this, differeth from those corrupt and erroneous Teachers that affirm the contrary, as the Armini∣ans and their complyers in this respect: for there is no more reason to doubt of this doctrinal point, than others that are maintained by the Orthodox a∣gainst that party; so that there is no more reason to make this a problematical point, wherein learned men may dissent from one another, then any other in the Arminian controversies. But 2. there is a personal or reflexive certainty;* and that is when a man doth not only beleeve this position as a truth, that he who hath true grace cannot fall from it, but also is perswaded, that he hath true grace in his own heart, and therefore that he is built upon such a rock, that no storms or tempests shall be able to overthrow him, and this is that every god∣ly man is to presse after: This text is a speciall furtherance in this work, for the spirits fealing perswadeth of the grace already wrought in us, and the earnest doth assure us of that which is to come. If you ask, what grounds there are, why * he who findes grace in himself may thus conclude infallibly for heaven hereaf∣ter? I shall amongst many give three only, which is such a threefold cord that can never be broken.

As first, That all true grace is the proper effect of predestination; so that who∣soever Page  658 is effectually called in time, is thereby declared to be predestinated before the world began. Thus the Apostle, Rom. 8 30. whom he did predestinate, he cal∣led; and those he justifieth, and those he glorifieth. You see it's a chain of Gods making, and so cannot be dissolved; therefore Tit. 1. 1. it's called the faith of Gods elect: so Eph. 1. 4. he hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy. We see then, that holinesse and true faith is proper to the elect only, and therefore to distinguish of a two-fold Sonship of God; some by pre∣sent grace only, and some by election also, and that there are persevering sons and apostatizing, wherein election maketh the difference (which opinion some attribute to Austin) is wholly inconsistent with Scripture, and Austin him∣self in other places, if that were his opinion. The godly then are to look upon the grace of God wrought in them as the effect of Gods immutable and un∣changeable love, which will certainly obtain its end.

Secondly, Their certainty of salvation, and so of perseverance therein, is * built upon the many promises of God, which are made to this very end, as that fa∣mous one, Jer. 32. 40. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me. What can be more pregnant than this? God cove∣nants he will not turn from them; and withall to put such fear in their hearts that they shall not turn from him. So also Phil. 1. 6. being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will also finish it. His confidence was not in them; for alas, we should prove the prodigals, and lose all; but it is in Gods grace, and that because he had begun; for none shall say of him, he began to build, and could not finish: So that the wisedom, mercy, and glory of God is interested in our perseverance, and indeed if our sinnes should hinder him from continuance of his grace, why did they not from the beginning at first? were we not then objects of his displeasure? So that in our conversion the grea∣test work was done; then we had, as Chrysostome saith upon the place, the be∣ginning and root of what was to come.

Lastly, The union that is between Christ and a beleever being indissoluble, doth necessarily infer the certainty of his salvation, a member of Christs body shall * not be taken from him, and thrown into hell; for from this union as their bodies shall necessarily rise to glory, so their souls also shall be prepared for the same.