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  27

SERMON VI.

Shewing the Difference between true Assurance and Presumption.


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

IN the next place we are to consider, What are the Characteristical Differences between Assurance and Presumption? You have heard it to be the greatest de∣lusion and madness that can be, to have a false perswasion of our estate, as if sound and godly, when its the contrary; and yet the greatest part of Christians are delivered up to such a carnal confidence, and are like that mad Athenian who thought all the Ships on the Sea were his. How many are there, who when they hear the exact Discoveries that are made of Grace, whereby they may evi∣dently conclude, That they are for the present shut out of this Kingdom, do yet blesse themselves, as if all were well with them! It is therefore worth the while to ransack such false Evidences, to discover between Drosse and Gold, Honey and Gall, what is of the Flesh and what is of the Spirit.

In the first place, We may finde a vast Difference in the efficient cause or principle*that is procreant of the one and the other. And although causes are like the root un∣der the ground, not so visible, yet they make much to the differencing of things. Assurance is a Fruit, whose Root is in Heaven, the Spirit of God in a two-fold act, Enlightening or Revealing, and Adopting or Corroborating the heart with Filiall Evangelical Affections; but carnal presumption is a rush that groweth in the pudled mire of our own hearts; There being these internal causes that give life and breath to it.

First, An ignorance with an unexperienced apprehension of the depth of sinne, and*danger thereby. They have never yet with Paul found the Law alive, and them∣selves dead; They have not seen the great abominations of their Nature; The foulness of sinne, the purity of the Law, the exactness of Gods justice; and for want of these Discoveries and Apprehensions, they come quickly to be per∣swaded that every thing is well with them; This was Pauls case, he was alive before these thoughts came into him, he had great confidence in himself; and generally this was the state of the Pharisees who justified themselves, and the Jews who trusted in their own righteousness, not that there was any ground for them so to do, but only they were blinde and ignorant, not knowing themselves, as those of Laodicea, who thought themselves rich and full, when they were poor and miserable: So that the presumption of unregenerate men ariseth from the stupidity and blindeness in them; whereas the godly Assurance is wrought out of a gracious Illumination about the heighth, depth and breadth of sinne, with a tender affection about the weight and burden of it. Art thou then one who presumest of the love of God, and restest in the goodness of thy heart? know, that if thou wert acquainted with all the wounds sinne hath made upon thee, if thy eyes were opened to perceive the filthiness and vileness of thy nature and wayes, thou wouldst sit like Job upon the dunghill, abhorring and loathing thy self.

Page  28 Secondly, Another internal cause is self-love; that is, the Ivy which cleaveth * so close unto us, till it hath devoured our substance; by this means we flatter our selves, making everything to be good within us, and to be God, whereas it's altogether fleshly and carnal. The wise-man observeth it, That every mans wayes are clean in his own eyes, but God pondereth the heart. Quisquis se excusat sibi, accusat Deo, Whosoever doth excuse and acquit himself to himself, doth accuse himself to God. This was also the epidemical disease of the Jews, what Pro∣phet could perswade them their hearts were not right with God? Who could bring them out of love with themselves? Art thou therefore fully perswaded of thy good estate? Dost thou blesse God for thy good heart and affections? Whence is the ground of this? Is it not from self-flattery and a carnal love to thy self? If thou wert diligent and observing of thy self, this would be found indeed the real ground of all thy carnal confidence; Whereas a godly Assurance ariseth from an utter displicency, and loathing of our selves.

A second vast Difference is, From the Motives and Grounds. The godly Assu∣rance * is from and through the word of God; That which is the means of our Regeneration, is also of our Assurance, That we through the Scriptures might have comfort, saith the Apostle, 2 Cor. 1. whereas a vain presumption comes from base and unworthy motives, As

1. A meer naturall light and judgement about the state of Regeneration and*Grace; but (as you heard) Assurance comes by the light of the Spirit shining in Gods word, and the works of Grace in our hearts can be no more discerned by a natural light, then the sensitive part can apprehend the actings and workings of reason, or the natural faculty of the Will have power to do that which is su∣pernaturally good. We see a clear instance in Nicodemus, how blockish was he about the work of Regeneration? Now this is the Motive of most mens Assu∣rance, their gross mistake about the work of Grace what it is. Do not the most of men think this Godliness consistent with frequent and constant Practices of Im∣pieties and daily neglect of holy Duties? How many say, They have a good heart, notwithstanding their bad tongues and lives? But if they are not so grosse as to be deluded herein, Do not many take a fair, civil and moral Conversation, void of scandal, to be the Scripture-godliness, and because they are so, though they have no more, are therefore perswaded of their sanctified condition? Nay, a mans mistake may yet go farre higher, viz. when they take those workings of Gods Spirit which are but for a season, or are in some imperfect and short De∣grees, being without root in the soul, for the peculiar saving work of Grace, which is in the truly regenerated only. Now how easie is to be deceived one of these wayes, and with the foolish Virgins Matth. 25. to die confidently, and boldly go to meet the Bridegroom, when yet they want oil? See therefore if the Motive of thy Assurance be not an absolute mistake about the nature of san∣ctifying Grace.

2. The Motive of a godly Assurance is not from any Worth, Merit or Perfection*we deem in our selves, but only from the Truth and Sincerity of Grace, with many defects that are washed away by Christs bloud. Hence Paul, Though he knew nothing by himself, yet he was not thereby justified. Therefore the Popish description of their Hope making it to arise partly from the merits of Christ, and partly from their own merits, is bold Presumption. We do not defend such an Assurance as shall arise from a full and perfect Obedience unto Gods Law; (nay we have an Assurance, such an Obedience cannot be in this life) but only a certain perswa∣sion of the uprightnesse of our hearts in the wayes of God. Now the Popish Arguments, they militate against Assurance chiefly upon this ground, Because none can say, he hath a clean heart, and that in many things we offend. These places argue indeed strongly against a perfection in this life, but not against a gra∣cious Assurance.

3. A carnal Presumption ariseth many times from the outward comforts and plenty*Page  29they enjoy. They look upon their Riches, Children, Honours, as so many Te∣stimonies of Gods Love to them, and Arguments of the Reward of their Obe∣dience. Because the Scripture hath many temporal Promises unto those that walk in Gods waies, they finding themselves blessed with such advantages, do thencefrom infer their Piety. But the Scripture gives many Antidotes against this tumor and swelling, telling us that such stand in slippery places, yea that these things may become a snare unto them, encreasing both their sinne and torment. Quandoque divitae dantur ad poenam, said Augustin, as Solomon observed, Riches, for the hurt of the owners. That place in Ecclesiastes, No man knoweth love, or ha∣tred by these things below, doth not, as the Papists would have it, prove no Assu∣rance at all, but no Assurance by outward mercies and favours, Dives received his good things in this life, and Lazarus evil things; but a genuine Assurance that is most powerfull and operative in all outward distresses and miseries. You see it in David by some of his Psalms, how confident in God, when all outward things did witnesse the contrary! Thus Hezekiah when under the stroke of death, is supported with the truth of Grace in his soul: but all carnal confidence vanish∣eth in time of distresse, they then rage and rave, not knowing what to do; See then what it is that beareth up thy heart, that keeps up thy Spirit: Is it thy Wealth, thy Estate? Alas, how are these things bestowed many times upon those whom God hates, if these go to happiness then Christ was not happy, who be∣came poor that we might be rich? It was well observed by Augustin, That God giveth Riches sometimes to wicked men, that we may not think they are good in themselves; and sometimes he giveth them to godly men, that we may not think them evil in themselves. God may give thee these things, and not Christ, but if he giveth us Christ, how shall he not with him give us all things else?

The third Difference is In respect of the Manner and Method the Spirit of God*doth usually work Assurance. For although The winde bloweth where it list, and Gods waies are many times diversified unto his people, yet commonly as Face an∣swereth face, so do the hearts of Gods people one another; Insomuch that what is Communis sensus fidelium, though it be not like Scripture, yet is of grave and serious Authority, now in these wayes the people of God come to have As∣surance,

1. By a deep and serious Humiliation for sin, and feeling the burden of it. Matth. * 11. such only are promised to finde rest in their souls; Christ did not assure Mary Magdalen Her sins were forgiven, till she wept much for them. We do not limit this to any time or degree of Humiliation, but unto the truth of it. Come we then to a man who is confident of all things, as well with him; Oh, But what travails hath thy soul had before the joy of such a man-childe born unto thee. Rom. 8. The Spirit of God, is a spirit of bondage, before it is a spirit of Adoption. And this very particular is enough to shake the foundations of many mens build∣ings. What deep digging was there in thy heart before this superstruction? I know this true and safe practical Divinity is rejected by some upstart flashie spirits, who turn Religion into Notions and Opinions. But Paul Rom. 7. and Chap. 8. doth fully describe such a progresse and method upon himself; first, The disco∣very of sin by the Law, whereby he judged himself miserable and out of measure sinfull, and then the apprehension of Christs Grace upon this. This Assurance will not grow upon an heart not ploughed up. The Needle must pierce the heart before this silk can follow.

2. Another Method whereby God worketh Assurance, is by conflicts of doubts, and*opposition of unbelief. For seeing that Assurance is a fruit of Gods Spirit, and doubting a working of the flesh, it cannot be but the Apostles ru•• must be made good, The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. I like not the Assurance that never doubted; it is like the temper of that man, who said, All these have I kept from my youth. It cannot be thought that so great and spiri∣tual Page  30 a mercy should be brought into thy soul, and thy heart not be in many com∣motions. Apprehensions of Grace in us, accompanied with sense and feeling of our imperfections are alwaies good symptoms, as in that man, Lord, I believe (there was his Assurance of Grace in him) help my unbelief, There was a perceiving of his defects. As David hath sometimes the Sunshine of Gods favour, and it's clear with him; so at other times he is in the dark, and much wavering.

3. God worketh Assurance out of the vehement and fiery assaults of Satan. As * Christ himself escaped not his Arrows; so neither do his members. Wo to that man whose peace the Devil doth not disquiet. The strong one who is the Devil kept all things in quiet, till Christ the stronger come. As the Basilisk hateth the very picture of a man; so doth the Devil oppose the resemblance of Christ. Think therefore that vain Presumption, and not godly Assurance, which is not opposed by hell it self. It is an Aegyptian, not an Israelite, if Pharaoh do not oppresse him.

A fourth real Difference is In the Effects of godly Assurance, whereby it doth as*much out strip Presumption as light doth darknesse.

1. This godly Assurance is diligent in the use of the means, carefull to perform all Duties, and in the neglect of these it either perisheth, or is much weakned, Give all diligence (saith the Apostle) to make your calling and election sure, 2 Pet. 1. 10. So that where Diligence, and all Diligence is not used, there is no Assurance. This is the Oil which keeps the Lamp burning; in earnest Prayer, holy use of Sacra∣ments, walking universally in all Gods wayes, is this godly certainty maintain∣ed; whereas carnal confidence is big, and swelling even in the neglect, yea pro∣phane contempt of the means. A man that doth not pray, that polluteth himself with daily sins, yet he is throughly perswaded of his happiness. As therefore in the ordinary passages of Gods Providence, he is rightly judged a presumer who will perswade himself of life, when yet he will neither eat or drink, be assured of wealth and riches, when yet he will use no Diligence: such an arrogant sottishness is in a spiritual presumer.

2. Godly Assurance the more it is, the more doth it inflame the heart with love to*God. It is like the burning Glasse that by the reflection of the Sun-beams doth cause a fire to be kindled within, as we told you of David and Paul; and none do so highly blesse God and praise him, as those that have this Assurance: but carnal presumption worketh into a love of the creature, or comforts he enjoyes, and careth the lesse for God. As the Adulteresse the more confident she is of her husbands love, the more bold and impudent she is to abuse it. The Spirit of Adoption giving a filial Disposition, and Assurance of a Fathers love doth much melt a filial frame of heart; but if love be shewed to a servile slavish spirit, it makes more haughty and lofty. Consider therefore how thy Assurance worketh in thee, doth it put out all love to sin and the world? Doth it kill inordinate affections to things below, and raise up thy heart to God, delighting and rejoycing in him? This is a comfortable demonstration of good Assurance.

3. Godly Assurance is potent and able to keep up the heart under all discouragements*and desolations. Thus David in that sad exigence, Encouraged himself in the Lord his God. This Certainty of our Propriety and Interest in God, is an Ark to the soul in the midst of many waters; whereas take any carnal confident man, his heart becomes like a stone within him, when all carnal hopes fail. And this is a preci∣ous symptome, see in the midst of these confusions thou livest in, when Heaven and Earth seem to be mingled together, What makes thee rejoyce and to lift up thy head with gladness? Is it that Knowledge thou hast of God to be thy God? Is it those pledges and pawns in thy soul of his eternal love and goodness unto thee? This is something. But alas, as the hypocrites joy, so his confidence will quickly perish. It is not a Star fixed in the Orb made of quintessential matter, but a blazing Star composed of slimy materials, which will quickly consume and vanish away. True Adamant (saith Origen Hom. 3. in Jer.) is tried by this, if it Page  31 can endure the hammer, if under the hammer above, and the anvil below, it continue more obdurate, then it is true metal: So it is with true Assurance, it abideth though billows and waves come upon it. So that troubles will discern the truth of thy Graces and Comforts, sooner then any thing else. Hence Cameron observeth, That Mercies are never called Temptations in the Scripture, but Afflictions, because it is so difficult to be deprived of that we desire.

Fifthly, We may finde a palpable Difference in the Companions or Concomitants of*it. As

1. It's accompanied with holy fear and trembling, for as Gods Word doth not contradict it self, when in some places it cals upon us to make our Calling sure, and in other places to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling; So neither may these two Graces contradict one another, as they are in the subject. So then, they who are assured, though they rejoyce, yet they rejoyce with trembling. Those who are assured they shall stand, yet take heed lest they fall. As a man that looketh down from some place where Battlements are, though while he holds on them, he knoweth he cannot fall, yet when he looks to the ground, that is so deep below him, he cannot but fear he should fall; so that at the same time he hath both an Assurance of not falling, and a fear of falling, though not from the same considerations. Thus it is with the people of God, whereas carnal pre∣sumption excludeth all kinde of fear, obstructeth all diligence.

2. A second Companion is Humility and lowlinesse of minde. For the greater mer∣cies * God bestoweth upon his people, the lowlier they are in their own eyes, as the Virgin Mary witnesseth in her Song, and David in Gods kindness to him, whereas in carnal presumption, the more confidence, the more pride in our selves, and despising of others. How might we prove that a Pharisee had not Assurance of Grace in him, but vain-confidence; by this, viz. that he despised other men as sinners to him? And this may make us justly doubt, whether many that speak of immediate Revelations and Assurances they have from Gods Spirit, be not in a proud delusion, by contemning others as low, and not acquainted with the Spirit of God. For if there be such a danger even in godly men, when lifted up to great priviledges, as in Paul, Wrapt up into the third Heavens, of becoming proud, that Paul is assaulted with buffetings of Satan, to keep him low, and he repeats it twice 2 Cor. 12. 7. Lest I should be lifted up above measure, in the begin∣ning of the verse; and again, Lest I should be lifted up, in the end of the verse. Hierom compareth this Temptation of Satan exercising Paul in the midst of his Revelations, to the Boy that was a Monitor, who cried aloud to him that rode in triumph, Mementote esse hominem, Remember thy self to be a man. If, I say, there be such danger even in godly men, when they have the real works of Gods Spi∣rit, what cause is there of pride in corrupted men, who have only puff-paste de∣lusions of Satan? When therefore thy perswasion of Gods love to thee, raiseth up lofty mountains in thy soul, thou lookest upon thy self in heaven, while others grovel upon the ground, thou deemest thy self to be as much above other Chri∣stians, as an Angel is above a Worm; then fear this, coming from the devil trans∣forming himself into an Angel of light.

Lastly, It differeth in the contrary or opposite which will destroy it. Assurance be∣ing * wrought by Gods Spirit, is only interrupted by sin. Grieve not the Spirit of God, by which ye are sealed. So that even corrupt and idle communication, even little sins (as the world judgeth) may greatly disturb our certainty: But carnal presumption is not weakned through sinne, only outward troubles or horrours of conscience vanquish that. As the Casuists give a difference between me∣lancholy, and trouble of conscience for sinne; Melancholy is removed by bodi∣ly remedies, merry company, variety of imploiment; but trouble of consci∣ence can onely be taken away by comforts out of the Scripture. Though Cain travailed and builded Cities, yet that could not free him from that trembling guilt within him. Thus it is on the contrary, Peace in the holy Ghost wrought by Page  32 Assurance, is only excluded by sinne or lukewarmnesse in holy Duties: but sin∣full confidence abideth the same, till it be shaken, or removed by some outward troubles.