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  511

SERMON LXXXVI.

Of the Heart of stone, and what wickednesse that name implies.


EZEK. 36. 26.
I will take away the stony heart, &c.

THe second thing observed in this Magna Charta, or grand promise of conversion is, the good it self spoken of, which is described, 1. Nega∣tively, or by removing the opposite. 2. Positively. Let us consider what is that grand obstruction which must be taken away, ere we can have an heart of flesh; and that is the heart of stone must be removed. The word stone when it is used Tropically in the Scripture, it is sometimes taken in a good sense, and sometimes in a bad sense: In a good sense, for that which is firm and induring; thus Christ is called a foundation stone, Isa. 28. 16. and Believers living stones, 1 Pet. 2. 5. because of their solid and firm compacting and union with Christ. In which sense Bonaventure said the clean contrary to this promise, Nolo Domine cor carneum, da lapideum, O Lord, I will not have an heart of flesh, that is, flexi∣ble, and easily drawn any way; but a stony heart, that is firm and induring in good against all opposition whatsoever. But in this place the word stone is used in an ill sense, for a senseless, stupid and rebellious heart against Gods word. As the stone in the fire will sooner fly in the face of him that sits by, then melt. So the heart of every man by nature will sooner oppose, gainsay, and rage at those who reprove or instruct then melt, or yield obedience: Whereas, Ier. 23. Gods word is said to be an hammer, beating the very rocks in pieces; here it will have no such operation, unless God make this promise effectual.

That every man naturally in respect of any divine or spiritual good, hath a very*heart of stone.

The disease of the stone in the body is an exquisite and unexpressible torment, how much would men give to be eased of it. But this stone in the heart, where∣by we are wholly senseless and stupid about heavenly things, moved neither with love or fear, or grief, is above all this torment, if men did rightly judge of it. It was the Poets fiction, that men were made of stones, Inde genus durum sumus: to be sure, there is this spirituall stone on the heart; whereby we are an hard, tough, rugged, and untractable people; insomuch that wheresoever God con∣verts men by the Ministry, there he raiseth up children to Abraham out of stones, there he makes water to gush out of rocks, there he makes dry bones to gather together and live. To amplifie this, let us consider how much wickednesse this * Epithete (stony) doth imply to be in every man naturally.

And first, It denoteth senselesnesse and stupidity; for so commonly we expresse that by a stone. We say of a senseless, irrational man, As good speak to a stone. Thus Nabals heart is said to be dead within him, and become like a stone, he was astonished and amazed through the danger coming upon him, he was made stupid, and apprehended nothing. The Scripture delights by way of contempt to call the Heathen Idols, wood and stones, because they had eies and saw not, feet and Page  512 walked not: Just such stocks and stones are all men by nature; they have cors and hear not, they have hearts and understand not. That whereas the Prophet cryed to that insensible Altar of stones, O Altar, Altar, 1 King. 13. 2. and presently it rent asunder, here the Ministers of God may cry aloud, and no man is sensible of his sin, or crieth out, What have I done? Oh then pray that God would re∣move that heavy stone, which lieth upon thy heart, that under all preaching and teaching makes thee still so insensible, that Ministry or no Ministry, judgements or no judgements are all one to thee. Do not then be any longer like the stones in the wall, who know nothing, understand nothing, though they are built in the wals of the Church where much preaching is. Some derive 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the people, from a stone, I know for other reasons, but we may say, because of the stony heart, and insensibleness that is in them.

Secondly, It implieth incapacity and indisposedness unto any thing that is holy. As they are not sensible, so much less prepared and fitted for any spiritual duty. * The building of the material Temple was a type of believers. Now as the stone could not polish and fit it self for the Temple, so neither have we any power in our selves to take away the least enmity that is against God. Insomuch that this text doth triumph over all those corrupt doctrines that advance free-will, and power in man to spiritual things. What, can a stone make it self to live? Can Ezekiels dry bones produce life of themselves? Could the bone taken out of A∣dams side, make it self a living woman? Its true, man hath reason, understanding and a will, and so in that sense he is not a stone; but he hath no reason to think what is good, no will to choose what is good, and so in that respect is like a stone. And hence it is. that we need not wonder, if men of great parts and wisdom are yet so foolish and void of all love and delight in what is good, for a man may be very quick and apprehensive in all matters of learning and humane perfections, and yet be a very stone about what is godly. Nicodemus had great understand∣ing in the law of God, yet how unfit for that doctrine about Regeneration!

Thirdly, The stoniness of the heart doth imply, not only indisposition, but active contrariety and resistency to what is holy. Thus the Jews are called a people of a * stiff neck, that is the same with a stony heart, Act. 7. Ye have alwaies resisted the holy Ghost,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, you fall like an heavy stone with violence upon the word of God, and all divine exhortations. The stone is not only indisposed for polish∣ing, but as much as lieth in it, doth resist, and beat back again the hammer that fals upon it. Oh this active enmity and vigorous opposition which is in all men by nature, to that which is holy, is much to be lamented. The Apostle, Rom. 8. speaks of this enmity of the flesh, which doth so far prevail, that it makes a man not only not subject, but it cannot be subject to the law of God, for these two are contrary, the spiritual law and the carnal heart, and so as light and darkness, fire and water cannot accord, so neither can these. Marvell not then if ye see men, whose thoughts, purposes, affections, and all ineavours are against godli∣ness: Their hearts to conceive mischief against it; their tongues to be alwaies railing or deriding of it: For can the toad vent hony? can the serpent spit cor∣dials? no more can these indure what is supernatural.

Fourthly, This describeth the hardness of the heart, and impenetrableness of it. Its a stone, and though the word be a two edged sword, yet is it any wonder, if * a sword cannot pierce through an hard stone. The Scripture, Ephes. 4. 18. speak∣eth of a threefold hardness, natural, acquired, by voluntary sins against conscience, and judicial, inflicted as a just judgement by God upon those who have rebelled against the light; now this which we speak of is the natural hardness, that which is in every man and woman. Take the most civil and ingenuous man, who is so tractable in all things of morality, yet he hath an hard heart to that which is spi∣ritual. The doctrine of repentance, mortification, and powerfull walking with God, is that which can finde no entrance in him. Oh therefore that this spiri∣tual hardness were more apprehended; you can complain of hard times, of hard Page  513 dealings in the world. Oh what hard dealing hath God from thee! His judge∣ments have not broke thy heart, his mercies have not melted thy heart, Oh think if there were any softness, if any drops in thee, if any meltings in thee, thou hadst not to this day continued such a rebellious wretch against God. Illud est cor du∣rum, quod non trepidat ad nomen cordis duri; If thy soul doth not break, and trem∣ble, and melt at the very preaching about a stony heart, its because thou art over-whelmed by it. This hard heart is else where called an heart of adamant, which is as much as that, which cannot be turned: Oh this is thy case; nothing hath tamed thee, or humbled thee to this day.

Fiftly, This word holds out the pertinacy and immoveableness of the heart from*the way of sin. A great heavy stone lieth many years in the same place; and thus it is with every man naturally, how self-willed, how unmoveable! you cannot stir him out of his former waies of impiety. Though he hear much, though he be intreated, reproved, and constantly warned over and over again, yet he is still the same man he was. Thus as the godly are commended for their immoveable state in godliness and in happiness, they stand like Zion, which can never be moved; the same are they in a state of wickedness and impiety. Oh then, how doth experience daily witness this pertinacy of mens hearts in adhering to wick∣edness. When they are so convinced, that they can say nothing for their sins, they must needs confess its their duty to be other men; they cannot say one word for self-justification, yet they will not move from their former course of impieties. What kinde of hearts we have, was typically represented by Moses, when the law was commanded to be written in stones, for albeit one main reason was to preserve the laws perpetually; as Heathen lawgivers have commanded their laws to be ingraven on brasse, or cypresse trees, that will not putrifie: Yet the Apostle alludes to an Allegory, when he tels the Corinthians, they were his Epistle not written (2 Cor. 3. 3.) in tables of stone, but fleshy tables of the heart. So that to have hearts of stone, is to be pertinacious, wilfull; say what you can, bring the Scripture never so plainly, demonstrate and convince the haynousness of sin ne∣ver so clearly, yet nothing shall make any alteration in them; they will be wick∣ed, because they will be.

Sixtly, An heart of stone is an heart altogether cold, and destitute of any warmth*or heat of grace. A stone is nothing but hardened earth, and as siccity and frigidi∣ty are the two properties of that element, so are they of a stone. Hence, it was a miracle to bring water out of the rock: Citius e pumice aquam, is a Proverb. Stones have these two qualities, as the earth out of which they are generated, Siccity or driness, there is no moisture, there is no wateriness in them, and thus it is in every mans heart, a dry barren spirit, there is no juyce, no sap of any grace. Therefore the Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 hardness, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, doth excellently ex∣press this cursed temper, for that is properly the driness of any herb, when it is withered, its then good for nothing, all the juyce is out of it. And thus men by nature have not the least dropping or melting of soul: And observe this, A man may have a very tender, juicy heart, as it were, about earthly things; Jet an husband, wife, or any earthly advantage be lost, and rivers of water can gush out of thine eies: They may be of a pitifull and tender complexion, and yet as dry and barren as a very stone about the sins they have committed, and the iniquities they are guilty of. Indeed David speaks of a drought upon his soul, that it was like a parched wilderness. Psal. 42. 1. but that was in a gracious sense, because of the earnest pantings and longings he had for the injoyment of Gods favour. But this is in a very wicked and desperate sense, when men have not the least mel∣tings, or thawings of soul upon any divine administrations. The other property is frigidity, or coldness, As cold as a stone, we say; and thus every mans heart is destitute of all that fire and heat which doth usually accompany the life of grace. Hence men are said to be dead in sins, Eph. 2. 4. death and coldness go together. The Spirit of God in its operations is compared to fire, because of the efficacy and Page  514 fervency of it; now men destitute of this spirit, are wholly liveless; and cold in any thing that is good.

Seventhly, Seeing a stone is nothing but a product of the earth, it hath also the pro∣perty of the earth, which is heaviness or gravity, an inclination to descend, to fall down∣wards.* And this also is wonderfully seen in every mans disposition by nature: His affections are wholly set upon earthly things, though he hath a body streight up towards heaven, and so excelling other creatures, yet his soul is bowed down to the ground, so that in this sense, as well as others, we may say, he is a worm and no man. The bodily curse of the serpent, is spiritually fulfilled on him, To lick the dust of the earth, and to make that his food; this is the heavy portion of every man by nature, to swallow down iniquity like water, to center upon earthly objects, as naturally as the stone fals downward; Wonder not then, if you see men wholly plunged in earthly affairs, they minde not, they regard not, they un∣derstand not heavenly things; for (alas) how can the earth ascend upwards? how can a clod of clay move of it self towards the skies? here must be a change of our natural properties, before these things can be done.

Having thus described the properties of this stony heart, and how much the word may purport. Let us now consider ome effects or signs, which do abun∣dantly * discover, that men by nature have such hearts of stones.

And first, What can be a greater evidence, then the security, quiet, and ease, which men naturally have, though thus obnoxious to guilt, and the wrath of God. Do but consider what the word of God saith of every man by nature, how it aggravates his sin and misery, makes him every moment ready to fall into eternal torments, that all within him and without him is hated of God all the day long: Consider all this and believe it. Now what a stone and stock is man, that for all this truth of God, thus informing, thus threatning, thus cursing, is no more troubled and affected about himself! Certainly were not men like Niobe, turned into very mar∣bles and stones, they could never be thus stupid, yea they would run up and down crying out, What shall we do to be changed? How may this stone, this moun∣tain be removed and thrown into a sea of tears and sorrow? Do ye then doubt, whether men be thus by nature so stupid and senseless about divine things? What need ye go any further, see how they can eat, drink, rejoyce, and be secure, when yet so many woes are denounced against them: Oh then say, Lord give me a soft heart, give me a broken heart; yet Lord it is not broken, yet it is not broken. Oh let any judgement fall upon me rather then this hard heart. Oh let any affliction lye upon me rather then this heart of stone.

Secondly, This stony senseless heart is manifested, in that Though in the generall they commend holiness and godliness, and so in the general detest and abhorre vice, yet*when it cometh to the particular, then they act and love that which they did in the gene∣ral condemn. As now, Come to any prophane man wallowing in any grosse sin, and ask, Is it not an excellent, admirable thing, a life to be desired, to live with the fear of God, to obey his law, to take heed of impiety, to walk religiously, so∣berly and righteously? Oh without doubt they will say: and yet the same men live in direct opposite waies to this piety. Now if men were not stones and stocks; they could not but see their contradiction, they could not but see, how vainly they oppose their own selves; for if wickedness be to be abhorred, then thy wick∣edness, those lusts thou livest in are to be loathed.

Thirdly, That men have this heart of stone, appeareth, in that they consider not the extream contrariety that is in their wicked lives to that holy profession they take upon*them. Whosoever is baptised into the name of Christ, and owneth his law, doth thereby ingage himself to live as Christ his Lord hath commanded. The Apostle James at large sheweth the vanity and insufficiency of such a faith as doth not make a man give an universal obedience to what God commandeth: and the A∣postle cals upon us, Phil. 1. 27. that our conversation should be as that which be∣cometh the Gospel of Christ, to be sheep and not swine. Now if men were not Page  515 meer idols, having eies and see not, hearts and perceive not, it were impossible they should joyn an unholy life to an holy faith, an impure, prophane life, to so sa∣tred and pure a profession. Canst thou see or observe any thing, and doest thou not this? Why hath Christ called thee out of the world but to live in an unspot∣ted manner?

Lastly, Herein we discover stony hearts, That neither the unexpressible wrath*of God revealed in the Scripture, nor the love of Christ, and the joyes of heaven promi∣sed, do work us ont of our sins. Oh what can be a greater argument of our stupidity then either of these neglected? The wrath of God manifested in the word, how unsupportable is it! Is not hell described by every thing that is terrible, fire and brimstone, chains of darkness, despairing horror; a death without death, crying for death and it cannot be had? so that the damned in hell can neither kill them∣selves, nor others destroy them, and this torment to continue to all eternity, which is a perpetual woe, wherein there is no past or to come. That all this fury should be made known to a sinner, yet he to go on in his sins desperately venturing up∣on it, must you not cry out, Oh men, no men, but stones! And then on the con∣trary, To consider the love of God described in the Gospel, to see Christ, God and man, made poor, miserable, ignominious, lying under spiritual agonies, grapling with the infinite anger of God, and at last dying that cursed death for our sakes, would not this make the very stones melt? and yet our hearts are not softned by this love. The Temple clave asunder, the very sun was in a fainting eclipse, as histo∣rians say; and thy heart is not rent, nor doth thy spirit faint within thee. Besides the joyes of heaven so full, pure and eternal, which are tendered to thee, if thou wilt forsake thy sin; might not they be like the hot sun beams that arise and melt the ice? but with man naturally all is in vain. Earthly comforts they are most lo∣ved and desired before the injoyment of them, and when injoyed they do not satisfie and so are less esteemed; but heavenly joyes they are lesse desired and lo∣ved before injoyment; but when partaken of, the desire will increase, and love shall then imbrace more then faith could believe, or hope desire.

Use 1. Not to wonder if men after much preaching, yea after many judgements * and mercies, remain obdurate and immoveable in their wickedness. This text tels you the cause of all. They have hearts of stone, yea how many are worse then stones, for gutta cavat lapidem; continual dropping will make impression upon a very stone, and consume it at last. But the word of God hath often distilled like a soft rain upon thee, and behold thou art not at all softened, not one lust is yet washed away. And stones upon the change of weather will stand on a dew, as if they were sensible of the alteration, but how many changes and alterations doth God make by his just judgements on sinners, and thy heart is not affected? Oh then let this be thy daily praier, Lord I finde a load upon me, a mountain, an heavy stone upon me, I cannot pray for it, I cannot mourn for it: Lord whatsoever thou shalt deny me, deny not the removall of this.