Spiritual refining: or A treatise of grace and assurance Wherein are handled, the doctrine of assurance. The use of signs in self-examination. How true graces may be distinguished from counterfeit. Several true signs of grace, and many false ones. The nature of grace under divers Scripture notions or titles, as regeneration, the new-creature, the heart of flesh, vocation, sanctification, &c. Many chief questions (occasionally) controverted between the orthodox and the Arminians. As also many cases of conscience. Tending to comfort and confirm saints. Undeceive and convert sinners. Being CXX sermons preached and now published by Anthony Burgess sometime fellow of Emanuel Colledge in Cambridge, and now pastor of the church of Sutton-Coldfield in Warwickshire.
Burgess, Anthony, d. 1664.
Page  12

SERMON III.

Resolving, Whether Hypocrites may not attain to some measure of practical Knowledge in matters of Religion?


2 COR. 13. 5.
Examine your own selves, prove your own selves, &c.

I Shall absolve this Doctrine, in handling of one practical Question, and that is, Whether Hypocrites may not attain to some measure of practical Knowledge in matters of Religion? Is that ignis, which in the godly is Calidus & lucidus, in hypocrites Lucidus tantúm? Can unregenerate men go no further then to meer knowledge and illumination? may not this oil poured upon their heads fall down upon the will and affections also? As they have imperfect knowledge, so may they not have inchoate affections about good things? and if they may, wherein shall we be able to give sound differences, or exact bounds and limits between the practical knowledge in the one and the other? This is a point of universal usefulness; And for the opening of this, consider there are three general sorts of men who go under the name and title of Christians, all pretending a right and interest to all the priviledges of the Covenant of Grace,

The first is of those who have only the Name and outward Ordinances of the * Christian Religion, but have not the least influence or power from it, In works they deny him. These are like some Apothecary boxes that may have the inscripti∣on of some cordial, but within is deadly poison; They are in names Christians, in actions Heathens; and the Prophet called the Rulers of the Jews for their wickedness, though circumcised, Princes of Sodom and Gomorrah. These are (as a Father said) Sine Christo Christiani, yea contra Christum, Christians with∣out Christ, yea against Christ. Howsoever in some respects they may be said to be better then Heathens, in which sense Arnobius said, Melior invenietur ju∣dicio Christianus fornicator, quàm castissimus idololatra. A Christian even in for∣nication is better then a most chast idolater; yet in other respects he is far worse: such as these are have no real and saving benefit by Christ, for Non actibus, sed finibus pensantur officia; They being like dead corpses, that have sweet fragrant flowers strewed upon them, but yet are not in the least degree made more savoury by them; and certainly it is an aggravation of the wickedness of such, that when moral Philosophy, and the principles of reason have been able to cure the outside ungodliness of many men; The truths of Christianity, which have a power to regenerate, and to work a new nature, should not so much as change the skinne of men. Yet if we cast our eye upon the greatest number of those who yet are baptized into the name of Christ, shall we not finde them in the rank of those, who have only a name in Christianity, and nothing else, who derive not the least efficacy or power from Christ, but are as a dead hand, or a withered branch, whose lives are a continual blasphemy to the Gospel of Christ?

2. Another sort is of those, who besides the name, have also some influence *Page  13 and operations of the Spirit of God upon them, and many of them are in such a way as an embryo to a childe, only they prove abortive, Matth. 13. The second and third kinde of hearers were in this number; Divines as they attribute to the former sort a meer historical faith, such as the devils have, though it may be thought they have no faith at all in any respect or notion, unlesse it be an hu∣mane assent; so they give to these later a temporary faith, which they make to differ from historical thus, because it is carried with some kinde of affections, both in revelantem, the person revealing it, who is God, and in rem revelatam, the matter revealed, whereas historical faith is without any affections at all; now although these who are in this condition, be in respect of their estate carnal and unregenerate, yet they differ from the former, as much as copper from dung, and howsoever comparatively to the godly, they are but counterfeit and false, yet they are as pearls and starres respectively to prophane men, for these have a pra∣ctical experience of some power of divine truths upon them (and howsoever the Spirit of Christ doth not dwell in them, because they are not members of the body of Christ, and as the soul of a man works not as a form to any part that is not uni∣ted to the body; so neither doth the Spirit of Christ operate savingly, but to the body of Christ) yet the Spirit of God works as an outward efficient cause breathing upon them. The Spirit of God works not in them, Ut in domicilio, but ut in organo, an instrument, which he useth for the good of the Church; Now in this sort there is a great latitude, some having a greater measure of these workings then others, as the third kinde of ground went beyond the second.

A third sort is of those who are indeed incorporated into Christs body, and * so do receive vivifical influence from him, that are in him, as a living branch in the Vine, as a living member in the body, and so are animated by that Spirit, though with an infinite disproportion, which Christ himself their head is; these are born of God, have an immortal seed in them, shall never perish, because Christ will not lose any of his mystical members; and these only have a proper, clear and full experimental knowledge of Christs sufferings and resurrection upon their soul; and these do differ from the former not gradually, as some thought, but specifically; a regenerate man though the lowest in that kinde, differeth from the hypocrite though the highest in his kinde, as much as the heavens, which according to some Philosophers is made of a fifth essence, from the sub∣lunary bodies, and the works of Gods Spirit upon hypocrites, if increased ne∣ver so high, would not come up to saving grace, as copper will never be gold. In the next place observe, That howsoever hypocrites, or temporary believers, do not attain to that which is indeed saving, yet great are the works of Gods Spi∣rit upon them, and they have many experimental motions of the truths in religion wrought on them. I will choose out some material ones, to awaken you, and make you tremble, least you be not in a form above them, yea happily many have not come up so far as they.

In the first place, They have an experimental knowledge of the common gifts of*Gods Spirit; They feel what it is to have assistance from God in those administrati∣ons. Thus Matth. 7. Have not we prophesied and cast out devils in thy Name? They did it by the power of Christ, and in virtue from him; and although we told you, this was not the whole scope of the Apostle here, to prove Christ was in them, by the miracles and wonderful works done amongst them, yet this was included as part: Thus Saul had another spirit, not in the way of sanctification, but political administration, whereby he had an experimental knowledge of Gods power and assistance in his place. And thus many a Christian may finde great assistance in duties, in parts and abilities, and may finde the power of the Lord going along with him; but this be nothing to his sanctification. And it is to be feared that in these times this is the furthest practical experience of Gods help that most have; if it be not so, why is it that people do so abound in opi∣nions, Page  14 disputations, and are so little in mortification and vivification, they sprout out into suckers and leaves, not into fruit; and we see in the Corinthians, that na∣turally men are more prone to desire the gifts of Gods Spirit, which are for publick administration, more then the graces of sanctification. But (alas) to be a good prea∣cher, a good disputant, to be able to make good enlarged prayers, do argue only Spiritum moventem, not inhabitantem, the Spirit of God breathing on thee, not dwelling in thee; neither doth God bestow this on thee for any love to thy soul, but because of his Church, as nurses to Princes children feed on delicate fare, not for their own sake, but for the childrens sake to whom they give milk: Hence it is that they preach that Gospel, that faith, that Christ to others, which they do not partake off, and so are like those posts in high-wayes, with hands on them, directing to such or such a way, but they never stirre out of the place they are in: Oh therefore that the Ministers of God could become sons of thun∣der in this matter, you have had experience of God inabling, inlarging, in∣creasing the common gifts of his Spirit, but what have you felt of Gods renew∣ing, sanctifying and healing of your lusts?

Secondly, They may have some practical experience of the bitternesse of sinne, and*the terrors that come by it. We may not think that the terrours upon Cain and Ju∣das, were by a meer natural light of conscience, for such could quickly be di∣stinguished, but there was also the Spirit of God convincing and setting sinne home upon the conscience, Hence Rom. 8. the Spirit of God is called, The Spi∣rit of bondage and fear, because it works such fear and trouble in the heart of a sinner, not the sinfulness of them, but the troublesom motions and stirrings of them in our souls: Thus we may not say, that those humiliations of Ahab and the Israelites, when they cried out to God because of their sins, were by the meer power of their natural free-will, but by the common work of the Spirit of God; and thus those many gripes and wounds of heart, which are inflicted up∣on many in the preaching of the Word, whereby the memory of their sins is like wormwood and gall to them, floweth from the Spirit of God; whatsoever is wrought instrumentally by the Word, is efficiently from Gods Spirit; and this experience confirmeth that many men who yet are not made new creatures, have an hell sometimes in their hearts, their consciences can tell that it is a bit∣ter thing to sinne against God. Yea because the time hath been, when they have had such wounds and blows, they therefore conclude, that they were in the new birth, and although they brought forth nothing but winde in all that pain, yet they rejoyce as if a man-childe, a new creature were born. It may not therefore be denied, but even one who is a wilde olive, and not yet implanted in Christ, may have the inward feeling of Gods displeasure for sinne, may be able to tell you the time hath been they could not eat, or drink, or sleep, but cry∣ed out, Oh their sins, sins, sins; but yet do not demonstrate Christ dwel∣ling in them.

Thirdly, They may have practical experience of desires and longing affections after things that are good. They having sudden and confused apprehensions of the goodness of spiritual things, may have some such general affections and desires after them; In such a temper they cry out, Joh. 6. 34. Lord give us evermore this bread; Christ told them, He was the manna and bread of life, and speaks of the benefits that come to such who eat and feed on him, it is bread not only that nourisheth, but giveth life (which no other bread doth) Hereupon in a confu∣sed manner with some good affections, they cry, Give us evermore this bread; They were like Peter in a transfiguration, not knowing what they said; Thus Balaam he is in such a transfiguration, for he foreseeing the happiness of the peo∣ple of God, Wishes to die the death of the righteous; yea is affected with the spi∣ritual Ordinances and worship of God among them, How beautifull are thy ta∣bernacles, O Israel? (saith he) in those sudden flashes upon him; How often are people deluded in this, because in some fits they have good affections and desires.

Page  15 Fourthly, They have a practical experience of some sweetnesse and joy in the Ordi∣nances*of God, and some assurance of Gods favour flowing thencefrom. Thus Matth. 13. They received the word with joy; and Johns hearers were said for a while to re∣joyce in his light; Ezckiel was to his hearers, As a pleasant Song; And Hebr. 6. Those, who had not things accompanying salvation, are said, To taste of the word of God; They did taste it as Jonathan did a little honey, but had not the full of it. Whereas the people of God are said to eat his flesh, and drink his bloud, yea rivers of living water are said to flow out of their belly; and from these experimental tastings arise some confidence of their condition, which is de∣clared in the foolish virgins, who with much boldness, and without any suspi∣tion of their want of oil, Go out to meet the Bridegroom; Now this is thought a great matter, if so be their hearts have been at any time sweetned and mollified in the Ordinances of God.

Fifthly, They have such an experimental working, as that it hath influence upon*their lives and conversations, it makes some alteration and change there. 2 Pet. 2. 10. Those Apostates who returned to their own vomit, and so never had true grace, are said to escape the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Christ, and therefore they are called Virgins, Matth. 25. though foolish ones, because they were kept from the prophaneness of others; Now, a man would think this were all in all, what would you have more? Those that stole steal no more, those that were drunk are so no more, those that were filthy are so no more; but yet as the Swine are Swine for their natures, though washed from their mire; thus are they unregenerate and filthy still, though outwardly cleansed: By these instances you see, that even men who are not in the faith after a sanctifying and saving manner, may yet have many seeming works of grace on their soul.

But yet there is a difference many waies, I shall but briefly and generally * touch at the differences, because they will come in more properly in the coun∣terfeits.

In the first place, There is a difference in the very nature of them. That which is in the godly differs from that in the most refined hypocrite, as much as gold from drosse, or true pearls from counterfeits; Hence Matth. 13. the fourth ground, or kinde of hearers, are only said to have an honest and good heart. So that the soil of one ground differs essentially from the other, and this may be abundantly cleared, in that the promises of Justification and eternal life are not made to any kinde of faith that an hypocrite hath, but they are made to the faith of a godly man, though it be in the least degree; so that a little infant in true grace, may by the hand of faith receive Christ, when a Gyant-like hypocrite, cannot take him: but more of this in time.

A second difference is in clearnesse and evidence; That which they do know * about the things of God is in a more confused manner, because that light in them is but by way of flash, and a sudden enlightning, not as permanent and abiding light in them; a little sip or taste of heavenly things cannot inable a man exactly to comprehend the excellency and worth of them. Therefore they see these things, as the man not perfectly cured of his blindeness, That saw men walking by like trees. It is true, the holiest that are do but see in part; and David prayeth, That his eyes may be opened to see the wonderfull things in Gods law. Thus Paul also prayeth for the Ephesians, who yet were light in the Lord, that their eyes might be opened, and they have the spirit of wisdom and revelation: but yet is not like the purblinde hypocrite, who doth by a question rather judge of godly things, then any way else.

A third difference is in the operation, for the experience of the godly inclineth * them spiritually, makes them more holy, carrieth them out of themselves, where∣as all that is done upon the unsound Christian ends in carnal effects, it makes him puffed up, vainly confident in himself. Thus the Pharisees, though they did abound in the duties of the Law, yet their greatest corruptions did run out there. Page  16 Hence a Pharisee praying, a Pharisee giving alms, was a Pharisee in all the pow∣er of his corruption. John 3. He that is not born of the Spirit, is flesh; and this flesh doth extend not only to his sins and corruptions, but also to his duties; Therefore observe whether the duties that for the matter of them be spiritual, are also spiritual in the effect, that they leave thee more humble, outed of thy self, more depending upon Christ and his grace, more mortified to the world, and the temptations thereof. It may fall out that a mans religious duties be the stage up∣on which all a mans lusts do eminently act, as the Pharisees who did all things to be seen of men.

We might be larger in giving you symptomatical differences, but because they will fall in upon the several particulars, or in the next Doctrine about the signs * and characters of grace, I forbear, concluding with a Use of Exhortation, not to be too credulous and facile in believing our selves to be good and right. Wo∣full may the cosenings and supplantations of thy own heart be. What may you not be? What may you not do, and yet be unsound? Oh how burdensome will it be when men shall say, Lord, Have we not been enlarged in thy service? Lord, Have we not mourned in thy presence? Have we not rejoyced in the good Word that hath been preached to us? and yet God to return this, Inas∣much as you did it not upon sound and sincere grounds, you did it not to me, Depart ye workers of iniquity. Draw off all your thoughts, disputes, medi∣tations from other points, and mind this one necessary thing. Thou disputest, Whether there be a true Church, a true Ministery, true Ordinances, Oh con∣sider, Whether there be true grace in thy heart. The Pharisees kept the feast of purifications, or cleansing of the Temple, but were foul and unclean in their own souls. As God declared his invisible Attributes of wisdom, power and good∣ness by the visible works he did in the Creation of the world, so do thou mani∣fest that secret and hidden efficacy of Christ in thee, by a powerfull and vigor∣ous life of godliness; These are miracles that will confirm thee to come from God. Good is that of Austin, when pride tickleth thee and would puff thee up, say, Ovem te putas, hircum fortè novit te Deus, Thou thinkest thy self a sheep, but it may be God knoweth thee to be a goat; and again, when despair and unbelief assaults thee, say, Hircum te putas, ovem te fortè Deus novit. Thou thinkest thy self a Goat, but God knoweth thee to be a sheep it may be. Not as if we perswaded you to doubting, or commended uncertainty, as the Papists do, but an holy fear and trembling to make our calling and election sure, which the Apostle Peter doth.