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.

SERMON VIII.

Holding forth divers Propositions and Distinctions about Marks and Assurance.


2 COR. 13. 5.
Examine your selves whether ye be in the Faith, &c.

WE come now to the second general part of the second Doctrine, which is, That there are such Characters and Signs of Grace, whereby a man may know whether he be in the state of Grace or no. It is a point worth dis∣cussion, and I know not any thing more necessary at this time, seeing there are many who wholly cry down Ministers that preach signs of Grace, and discourage Christians that use such a method for a trial. It is also necessary, because there is much prudence required in the Minister, while he preaches about signs; and it is an art of arts for a Christian, to manage that way, so as not to split himself upon some rock or other. Therefore that this whole Doctrine may be more exact∣ly discovered, consider these introductory particulars.

First, That by the inherent Grace of Sanctification in us, we come to have a super∣natural*being. So that as natural things have a natural being by that natural form which is in them: Thus also the godly have a spiritual and supernatural by that infused principle of an holy life in them, 2 Pet. 1. 4. we are hereby said to be Par∣takers of the divine nature, 2 Cor. 5. 17. Such a regenerated man is called a new creature, and indeed the very word of regeneration, or new birth, supposeth a new being not essentially, but in respect of those gracious habits and qualities which the Spirit of God worketh in him; This also is called the inward man, 2 Cor. 4. 16. Nerimbergius the Jesuite thinketh Paul fetcheth that distinction of an inward and outward man from Plato, who maketh such a difference; This work of Grace is that image of God in us, whereby we resemble him, so that godliness is not a notion, a meer fiction, but a supernatural, power full reality, whereby a man hath a new denomination, of ungodly he is become godly, even Page  38 as in natural things by a physical motion there is a reall transmutation, as of cold to become hot; or in moral things, as of a fool to become wise. Let not there∣fore any dream of holiness in themselves, unlesse there be such a powerfull alte∣ration from the state of sinne. Hence it is compared to the Resurrection, and indeed Regeneration makes no lesse glorious change of the soul, then that doth of the body, as by the latter Our vile bodies are made like his glorious body; so our vile and corrupted souls are become like his gracious and holy soul. Tully said, in regard of our souls, which he thought a divine spark from the glorious Essence of God, Scito te esse Deum, Know thy self to be God: This was upon a danger∣ous foundation; but we may truly say, because of those supernatural principles, even the image of God within thee, what God once did ironically, Behold, man is become like one of us.

Secondly, Inherent Grace being thus in us as a supernatural permanent principle*of holy actions, it hath therefore as all other things have, something that is internal and constitutive of it, and something that is consecutive or flowing from it. That which is constitutive of godliness, is the nature of the habits of graces with all their particular differences, as animal rationale is that which intrinsecally makes a man. 2. There are properties which do flow and issue from these, and these are properly the marks and signs, whereby we come to know that grace in us: for as in Philosophy, Formae nos latent, we do not know the forms or internal constitutive differences of things, Vitrum lambimus, pultem non attingimus, as Scaliger said, only we come to know the nature of things by their properties and effects; hence we have few definitions, but many descriptions of things from their properties and effects, all our knowledge being for the most part a posterio∣ri, rather then a priori, as a man that cannot see the Sun it self, because of it's glorious lustre, can behold it in a bason of water. Hence some have denied that we have a demonstrative knowledge of things, which is from the causes to the effects. To apply this to our purpose, the inward principles and immediate na∣ture of grace, is not evidenced unto us, but by the effects and proper motions, even as in a natural life there is no discerning of it, but by the motions of life; hence by inherent grace we are said to live, Gal. 2. 19, 20. Rom. 1. 17. So that as natural motions discern natural life, thus do supernatural a supernatural life; with this difference, that to this latter there is required also a peculiar illumination of Gods Spirit, Rom. 8.

Thirdly, There are differences about the signs of Grace, even as Grace it self is di∣stinguished. The Scripture cals those several gifts of extraordinary Office, Apo∣stleship, *&c.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Graces; so that all who have an immediate call from God to any Duty, they have a grace from God; now howsoever all extraordinary Prophets have not wrought miracles to confirm their Doctrine, as John wrought no miracles, yet many times they were furnished with such a power; hence Christ and his Apostles by vertue derived from him, wrought divers miracles, insomuch as Gal. 3. this is made an argument of the presence of Gods Spirit among them.

2. There are common Graces of Gods Spirit, and to this there are common effects*and signs sufficient, such are, an historical belief, a visible profession, an outward acceptation of Christ and his Laws, when there may be no inward change of the heart at all: for as God doth call many by an outward call, whom he doth not inwardly call; so many do outwardly accept of, and prosesse the faith of Christ, which do it not inwardly; and by this means they have a visible holiness as op∣posite to the unconverted world, 1 Cor. 7. 14. There is holiness and believing op∣posed to Heathenism and Paganism; hence Heb. 10. 29. that Apostate who never had true sanctifying grace, is yet said to be sanctified by the bloud of Christ. Hence also because of the outward Sacraments men are said to be in Christ, and to have put on Christ Jesus; and upon this ground the Apostle writeth to the Churches as a company of Saints, regarding the term from which they are called, viz. the Page  39 world, and the term to which, viz. Communion and fellowship with Christ. Now the notes and marks of this common grace are easie and plain, and it may fall out that a visible number of people may have these, so that they are to be accoun∣ted a visible Church, and the Ordinances not denied to them, yet be without those signs that do indeed accompany Salvation. But we intend not to speak of such notes and characters that are enough to make one a visible member of the Church, and so to qualifie us that we may not have the Ordinances denied us, in which sense the Apostle, vers. 7. of this present 13th Chapter praieth to God, that the Corinthians may do no evil, which is not meant of evil absolutely, but restrictedly, viz. such an evil for which the Apostle should punish with Church-censures, as the context doth abundantly witness. It is true, the greatest sort of Christians satisfie themselves with common characters and signs, such as Baptism, external profession, and outward abstinence from sin; hencefrom arguing for their Sanctification and Acceptation with God: But more of this hereafter. As we must not make the signs of grace higher then the Scripture makes them, so nei∣ther ought we to draw them down lower.

Fourthly, The Scripture speaks of such marks of grace, whereby others may know that we belong to God, and of such as we may in our own hearts be evidenced thereof.* Of the first see Joh. 13. 35. By this shall all men know ye are my Disciples, if ye love one another; He doth not say, If ye work miracles, if ye raise up the dead, but if ye love one another; now what a kinde of love this ought to be, the Scripture in other pla∣ces describeth, viz. not a love in word, but in deed and in truth; now the knowledg we have of other mens graces is but charitative and conjectural; The Apostle ex∣presseth it by a supposing and a perswasion that faith is truly in such; Though men may give clear and undoubted signs of their wickedness and naughtiness, yet they cannot of their godliness and piety; because there is not any thing in Religion which may be expressed to another, which may not flow from an hypocritical heart, as well as a sound; yet the Scripture 1 Cor. 11. speaks of the end of here∣sies, That the approved may be made manifest, viz. to others: So 2 Cor. 3. 3. the *Corinthians are said to be manifestly declared To be the Epistle of Christ; but this in respect only of a moral certainty, so farre as men can perceive, otherwise it is made Gods prerogative to know who are his: Therefore the Apostle cals the in∣wards of a man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The hidden things of the heart. In the second place, The Scripture makes such signs, whereby we may know in our selves that we are of God, and his Spirit dwelleth in us, 1 John 2. 3. Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments; and John is very frequent in describing grace by way of signs, in his Epistles, as is more largely to be shewed; now this knowledge and evidence which the godly have in themselves of their own grace, is farre more clear and certain, then what they have of anothers; Insomuch that it is made by some to be a certainty of faith, or at least the sense and experiment of faith, howsoever such a knowledge it is that it cannot deceive us, or be de∣ceived.

Fifthly, Those signs which the Scripture gives of grace are proper and peculiar to*the godly man only. So that whosoever hath these hath grace, and he that is with∣out them must also be without grace. Thus Matth. 13. the good ground, which is also the good and honest heart, is described by such a temper and constitution, that it differs specifically from those works which are upon hypocrites: So that howsoever that be true of Calvin, Reprobates (simili firmè sensu afficiuntur ac electi) are affected almost in like manner with the elect, yet it is but almost, and the difference between them is not gradual, but specifically, as is more largely to be shewed against Antinomians on the one side, and Arminians on the other; so that the sorrow, the faith which the godly have differ from that tanquam, as it were, sorrow and faith, which the hypocrites have, as the Philosophers say, The matter of the heavenly bodies, which they make quintessential, distereth from Page  40 that of the sublunary; so that no extension of parts, intension of degrees, pro∣tension of time, could ever make temporary faith saving faith, for Species non fit ex specie, as the maxim in Philosophy is, One distinct kinde is not compound∣ed of another, but this matter is of larger debate.

Sixthly, The Scripture describing the Marks of a godly man makes them*of different sorts, some Negative, some Positive, and the Positive do signifie more evidently then the Negative. James 1. 27. Pure Religion is described by ma∣ny Positives, and by one Negative: to be unspotted from the world. Psalm. 15. is a professed description of a godly man, wherein are six Positives and six Ne∣gatives; Now it is true, neither Negatives or Positives, as they are outwardly and visibly expressed, can be a sure testimony of godliness; for a man may doe that which is good, and abstain from that which is evil upon severall cor∣rupt grounds, every one of which is a dead Flie in a box of Ointment. In the first Psalm, a godly man is described by his Negatives; first, That he doth not sit in the counsell of the wicked, nor walketh with the ungodly, onely Ne∣gative signes doe not come up to so full a manifestation of grace, as Positive; and the reason is, because grace lieth most in the things we ought to doe, and good is more good then evil is evil, and therefore our love to the one is more to be exercised then our hatred of the other; Therefore it is a deceitfull and vain way, to argue our grace from Negatives onely, as the Pharisee did, I am no extortioner, no adulterer. For God at the day of Judgement will proceed in this form, according to the good things we have done; yet the generality of people have no other claim or plea, but what is upon Negatives, they are no such wic∣ked or prophane persons; But godliness doth not denote a meer absence of evil, but a Positive concurrence of good.

Seventhly, The Properties and Effects of Grace, may be considered Absolute∣ly,*as they are Properties, or Relatively, as they are Signs. Now the Scripture speaks of these both wayes, Gal. 6. 25. He that is Christs, hath mortified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof. So 2 Cor. 5. 17. He that is in Christ is a new creature; Old things are past away, and all things are become new. Thus also Rom. 8. 1. Those that are in Christ Jesus are said to walk after the spirit, not after the flesh. All these Texts and the like, are only indicative, and descriptive of those subjects who are godly in their Properties; but John in his Epistles doth speak of these as they are signes, whereby we know we are of God; as more largely is to be shewed. There is a great difference between these two, for a Christian may have all the adjuncts and fruit of grace, and yet they not be signes to him, for he may be ignorant that they are in him, yea he may be strongly perswaded through temptation that he hath them not; and how often are the people of God in this sad darknesse, concluding themselves hypocrites, A barren wilder∣nesse, unsavoury salt, when yet they are the pleasant Garden of Christ! Now if these Effects were in them by way of signes, it is impossible but they should conclude themselves in a state of grace and peace: So that to be a signe is a Rela∣tive Being, by which we are brought into remembrance of something else. Thus the Sacraments are signes. Thus Rahabs red thred was a signe to remember the Israelites for her preservation. Then are the Effects of Grace by way of Marks and Signes, when in the beholding of them, we see the causes that wrought them, we see Election, Justification, Adoption and Rege∣neration from whence these flow, concluding thus, All these great and heaven∣ly things could not be in my soul, were not Christ and his Spirit there; this rich and glorious furniture could not be in my soul, were not the King of Glory there. The flowers of this garden would not smell so sweetly, did not the winde blow upon them.

Eighthly, Signs (as to our purpose) may be divided into two ranks. Natu∣ral,* which by a necessary consequence signifie; Thus smoke doth signifie there Page  41 is a fire; or Voluntary by will and appointment, such as the Sacraments are; for howsoever there be some natural Analogy and fitnesse in the Sacraments be∣tween the signes, and the things signified, yet the determinate appointing of such a signification, is meerly by the appointment of God; now concerning the Properties and Effects of Grace, as they are signes, we cannot say, they are meerly Natural, nor meerly Voluntary, but of a mixt Nature; They are not meerly Naturall, because then whosoever hath grace working in him, would perceive and know he hath so, but experience confuteth that; therefore the Spirit of God witnessing and assuring is required, besides the presence of grace in us. It is true, that saying of Augustines is much celebrated and used against Popish doubting, Quisquis credit, sentit se habere fidem in corde, Whosoe∣ver doth believe, perceiveth in himself that he doth believe. Hence it is that our Divines say, As he that hath fire in his bosom feeleth fire is there; He that tasteth of a sweet object, perceiveth the sweetnesse of it, and he that is awake, knoweth he is awake; so he that hath the operations of Gods Spirit, knoweth that these are wrought by God in him, and that he is not deceived. But howsoever these are true in re∣spect of the genuine and proper work of that supernatural life in us, yet there may be several impediments from within through sinne, especially unbelief inter∣vening, or obstructions without, by Gods desertion and forsaking of us, that we cannot perceive the good things God hath done for us, Thus they are not Signes in a meer Natural way. Nor yet can we say they are meerly Voluntary signes, for the Effects of grace are the proper and genuine fruit of grace; and wheresoe∣ver Sanctification is, there is supposed Justification inseparably. They are there∣fore evidences of our interest in Christ, yet so as they manifest this, Onely by the light of the Spirit; as some Philosophers say of the Starres, that they have an in∣nate light of their own, but yet they are not conspicuous and visible without the light of the Sunne. The gracious fruit of those supernaturall principles in us, have an aptitude and fitnesse to make us know that we are in Christ, but they cannot actually remove all darknesse without the Spirit of God, even as the light of the Sunne onely, not that of the Starres, can dispell the darknesse of the night.

Hence in the ninth place, We must take heed that we do not so gaze upon our selves*to finde graces in our own hearts, as thereby we forget those Acts of Faith, whereby we close with Christ immediately, and rely upon him onely for our Justification. The fear of this hath made some cry down totally the use of signes, to evidence our Justification. And the truth is, it cannot be denied but many of the children of God, while they are studying and examining, Whether grace be in their souls, that upon the discovery thereof, they may have comfortable perswasions of their Justification, are very much neglective of those choise and principall Acts of Faith, whereby we have an acquiescency or recumbency up∣on Christ for our Acceptation with God. This is as if old Jacob should so re∣joyce in the Chariot Joseph sent, whereby he knew that he was alive, that he should not desire to see Joseph himself. Thus while thou art so full of joy, to perceive grace in thee, thou forgettest to joy in Christ him∣self, who is more excellent then all thy graces: But of this more after∣wards.

Tenthly, The Scripture attributeth Blessednesse and Salvation to several Signs*thereof. Sometimes Fear of God is a signe, sometimes Poverty of Spirit, some∣times Hungring and thirsting after Righteousnesse, sometimes Repentance, some∣times Love, and sometimes Patience: So that if a godly man can finde any one of these in himself, he may conclude of his Salvation and Justification, though he cannot see all those in him; and many times the people of God perceive one sign in them, when they cannot another. So that it is not here in the signes of our Justification, as the Learned speak about the marks and signes of Christ and Page  42Antichrist, it may fall out that some other have some of the signs which did be∣long to the Messias, but none could have them all, but he that was truly Christ indeed: So there are many descriptions of Antichrist, and it may fall out that some other besides him may have some of those marks, but none have them all cumulatively and collectively, but the true Antichrist. It is not so with the marks of grace, for if a man upon good grounds can be perswaded but of one, he may undoubtedly conclude he hath all the rest, though he doe not yet feel them in himself.

Eleventhly, The Signes and Marks which the Scripture makes of true grace, are*to be insisted upon or used, although it may fall out that Hypocrites may be strongly confident they have them, when indeed they have them not. It is therefore no argu∣ment against signes of grace, because an hypocrite is confident he hath them, and yet is deceived. The wise Virgins who had prepared oyl, knew their Bride-groom, and went out to meet him; although the foolish who wanted oyl, went out at first to meet the Bridegroom as confidently as the wise; doe not therefore despair of discerning the true marks of grace in thy self, because many have falsly perswaded themselves thereof. Many a dreamer hath pleased himself that he en∣joyed such riches or delicacies in his dream; yet that hindreth not, but that the man awake knoweth when he hath riches, and is not deceived. An hypocrite then, he may be bold, he is secure of Gods favour, he dieth with confidence, calling God his God, and Christ his Christ, it cannot be denied; but this hin∣dereth not, that the true believer knoweth he is in the right, and not deceived. As in matter of Religion, the Turk is confident of his, the Jew of his, the Pa∣pist as he, yet it followeth not that the Protestant therefore may not confident∣ly know, he is in the truth, and all other deceived.

Twelfthly, Signes or Notes of any thing must be according to the Nature of that*which they notifie: So that if the Essence be imperfect, then the marks thereof have also imperfection. This is a rule of grand comfort in practice, for the godly they look for perfect signes of grace in themselves, and if they finde hypocrisie, carnal ends, lukewarmnesse, or any such distempers, they begin to doubt of their whole estate, but they must consider, that as their graces themselves are not perfect; so neither can the signes thereof be perfect. Hence it is, that al∣though we grant that the godly may, as Hezekiah and Paul did, take comfort from the truth of grace in themselves, yet it was not from it as a cause, or merit of their Justification, for even at the same time they did also espie much imperfe∣ction in themselves.