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  505

SECT. X. Of the Nature of Grace, under the Expressi∣ons of Taking away the Stoney-Heart, Giving a Heart of Flesh, and, Writing Gods Law in the heart, with the counterfeit thereof.

SERMON LXXXV.

Displayeth Gods Soveraignty and Dominion over the hearts of men.


EZEK. 32. 26.

the latter part.

I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

AT Verse 21. in this Chapter, God begins to open the trea∣sures of his mercies. We may say, This latter part of the Chapter is like the Land of Canaan, a Land of Promise, flowing with spiritual milk and honey; for here is the pro∣mise of reduction from their miserable Captivity, Verse 24. But because outward mercies are nothing, without spiri∣tual, therefore there is 1. The promise of the pardon of their sins: It was not enough to be delivered from the power and rage of their Enemies, unless also they were saved from the guilt of their sins; this is promised Verse 25. But if men have pardon of sin, and not saved from the power of it, they will every moment make themselves obnoxious to their former misery; therefore Verse 26. there is a promise of Conversion and San∣ctification, with the consequent effects of it, in the 27. Verse: So that this Text, if opened, is like a Box of precious Ointment; or like the Tree in the Revela∣tion, not onely the fruit, but the very leafs, every particular word hath its efficacy. And for the better method, consider, 1. The Author and Efficient cause of the mercy promised, I will take away, I will give: See here Gods So∣veraignty, and immediate power over mens hearts. No King or Emperor in Page  506 the world is able to say so, I will give men other hearts. 2. The mercy promised, and that is 1. By removing the obstruction or contrary, I will take away the stony heart. 2. By the position of the good vouchsafed, and that is set down, 1. In the root. in the habit or fountain, A heart of flesh. 2. In the fruit, stream or actual operations, I will cause them to walk in my statutes, &c. 3. There is observable, 1. The manner of Gods vouchsasing this, it is by way of promise, I will do thus and thus; an absolute promise, not suspended upon mans merits or pre-requisites. 2. The manner of the working of this, its irresistably, insupera∣bly, omnipotently: So that the heart of a man is a subject meerly patient to re∣ceive it; not a free Agent to co-operate with this mighty grace In all these particulars, we shall finde what Sampson did in the Lyons carcass, many honey combs of spiritual honey: And let us begin with the first, The sole efficient cause, who hath the dominion over mens hearts: I will take away the heart of stone; he that by his omnipotent word could say, Let there be light, and there was light; doth also here say, Let the stony heart become soft; let the hard heart become tender, and it presently yields, it doth not withstand God; as if God had said, I know your hearts are too hard for you, you cannot master them, you cannot change them, but I can do it: Whence observe.

That God hath an immediate dominion and power over men hearts.*

This is the sole prerogative of God, he can raise what terror and horror he pleaseth there, and all the world cannot asswage it: He also can give peace and comfort, and all the Devils in hell cannot take it away: If they were so affect∣ed, as to cry out, What manner of person is this, whom the winds and seas obey? how much rather may we cry out, What is that God, how great and wonderful, who works in the hearts of men what he pleaseth? Thus Psalm 33. 15. an ex∣cellent Psalm against Atheism, wherein the Psalmist giveth several arguments to prove the providence of God, that things are not carried in this world, as mens lusts and counsels would have it, but as God orders it, either in mercy or justice: This, I say, the Psalmist would have men believe; for when we see things done in the world, contrary to that we judge righteousness, and yet no judgements immediately following, we are ready to be tempted about our faith. As Pompey, when he was overcome by Caesar, fled to Athens, and there disputed there was no providence, because he thought he was deserted in a just cause: But this is to be ignorant of God, and not to be able to plough with his heifer, to understand the Scripture, by which all those Divine Riddles may be opened. Now among other arguments, he brings one that confirms my Doctrine, He fashoneth their heart alike: The Argument is this, He that makes the heart know∣eth every thing in the heart, and can make it think, will and love, as he pleaseth. As the Artificer that makes a clock, he knoweth all things about the clock, and makes it strike when and where he pleaseth: And the words are Emphatical, He fashioneth; the same word is used of Gods fashioning mans body out of the dust at first: So that God can as easily form and fashion the souls of men, as he can their bodies; he can as easily strike them with fear, as the body with diseases. Again, He fashioneth them alike; in the Hebrew 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Simul; that is, as some expound, all mens hearts, there is not one mans excepted; or else as others, totally and wholly, there is nothing can arise in the heart, not the least thought, or the least motion, but it comes by Gods providence. Hence Prov. 21. 1. the Kings heart is said to be in the hand of the Lord: A Kings heart, the greatest of men, and whose counsels and purposes seem to be most hidden, and most potent to be effected; And its in the hand of the Lord: A notable expression, to shew how easily he can govern and turn as he pleaseth; and then he useth an excellent similitude, He turneth it as the Rivers of waters: That as a stream of water running down the torrent, can easily by the husbandman be stopt and turned down another course, either to refresh his ground, or annoy it: Thus the Lord turneth the hearts of those that rule in the world, either for mercy or Page  507 judgement, as he pleaseth. Now the better to clear this truth, we will am∣plifie this Soveraign Dominion of God over mens hearts, in three particu∣lars: * 1. As in the way of his general Providence. 2. In the way of his Justice 3. In the way of his Grace: And in all these three particulars God is admirable.

In the way of his Providence, his power over hearts is manifested:

First, In a suddain changing and raising up of their hearts by his mighty work for such imployments, that they were no ways able for before: That which * all the men in the world could not give; That which all the Angels in heaven could not, that God doth immediately. Thus Saul, when he was appointed to be King over Israel, he was of the meanest Tribe, the mean∣est Family in the Tribe, an ordinary man; and yet it is said, God gave him another heart; and when he had that, with what courage and boldness did he take the Government upon him: That other spirit, was not a spirit of Grace and Godliness, as the Arminians would have it, but of Government, and Political Abilities; in token whereof, Samuel at the Sacrifice, gave him a shoulder of it; to shew the Government upon his shoulders, and how he must bear the people: And as this was wonderful for God to make such a change in him, so on the people also to receive him for their King: All those followed him, whose hearts God had touched, saith the Text, 1 Sam. 10. 26. God did but touch their hearts, as the Musician doth the strings of his instrument, and they sound what he would have them: Such a spirit of Government, those seventy Elders had, that were to assist Moses; God took of Moses his spirit, and bestowed on them: Thus the Judges that God raised up in Israel, when they were in so many extremities, especially Joshua, whom some say, was the Heathens Hercules: These all felt the mighty work of God upon their hearts.

Secondly, Gods power over mens hearts in a general way, is seen, In the*abating and asswaging those fierce affections, and angry resolutions that men have one against another: God in a moment can command those waves and winds to be still. We have two famous examples for this; the former, in Esau and Jacob; what resolved malitious intentions were in Esau, after the mourning for his father was over to kill Jacob? and now there was a full opportunity put into his hand; Jacob had no power to withstand him, and of a sudden Esaus affections are wholly changed to him, Gen. 33. 20. How cometh this black cloud to blow away so immediately? was it not because God wrought, and moved upon his heart. The latter instance, is of Laban and Jacob, he goeth out also in a great fury against Jacob; but what saith God to him? See thou doest not speak any word to Jacob, Gen. 31. 24. and this presently softned his heart: We might adde to this, the meltings of Sauls heart towards David some∣times, when otherways he was full of poyson and venom: Thus also Joseph found favor in the eyes of Pharaoh: And a notable instance there is, 2 Chron. 18. 31. where the Army of the Syrians surprizing Iehoshaphat, and thinking to destroy him, he cryed out, and God helped him; But how? the Text saith, God moved them to depart from him. So that we see, all our applications should be to God. Men have not their hearts in their own power; men can∣not think hurt to thee, yea, they cannot but think and purpose good to thee, wherefore God moves the hearts of men thereto: Thus he saith to these waves, Hitherto thou shalt go, and no further; he bindes up these clouds in the air.

Thirdly, Gods Providential working on mens hears, is seen in the inclination*and determination of them (when they are indifferent in themselves) to such ways, as whereby he will bring honor and glory to himself: In nothing under the heavens is Gods Soveraignity so much seen, as here: For the hearts of men, are those great instruments, by which he produceth so many notable ef∣fects in the world: Nebuchadnezzar is remarkable herein; the Prophet de∣scribeth Page  508 him as standing at two ways, Ezek. 21. 21, 22. either to fight against Israel, or another Nation: Now it was all one to him, which way he went, yet God so ordered, that he should go against them. Thus as God is said to ponder and weigh mens hearts in one sense; so in this sense also, he layeth mens hearts in a ballance, and they easily incline this way or that way, and God he puts in something that inclineth their hearts rather this way then that way. Hence the great Monarchs of the world, the Babylouian and Persian, they are compared to Hatchets, to Hammers, to Bees, over which God hath a command. The whole world is his Host, and God is the Emperor or Com∣mander; and he bids this go, and he goeth, that come, and he cometh; as the Centurion did his men under him: What a wonderful work was that up∣on Cyrus his heart, and his Successors, to let the Jews build their Temple un∣to God again; yea, what a strange passage was that of good to Mordechai, when the King could not sleep, that he should call for a Book to read, ra∣ther then for sports or pleasures; and that of all Books, the History or Chronicles of memorable things done in the Kingdome; and in that Histo∣ry, he should pitch on the good service Mordechai had done, and was not rewarded. Its remarkable also, that when God intended to punish Abimi∣lech and the Sechemites, Iudges 9. its said, God sent an evill spirit between them, and that was their ruine at last: Oh then how much is this God to be feared, to be obeyed, who doth in Heaven and Earth what he wills! Its not as Great men, as Mighty men, as Wise men will; but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand.

Lastly, God in the Old Testament had a notable way of bringing about the hearts of men for his great and mighty works by Dreams.*

There are three kindes of Dreams, Natural, Diabolical, by way of delu∣sion: or Supernatural, immediately raised in men by God. In such a way God * formerly did inform men sometimes: Thus Iacob laying his head on a stone, had a dream; and Ioseph a dream about his Superiority over his Brethren, Gen. 48. 12. yea, Pilates wife had a dream, which she told Pilate, that he should have nothing to do with that just man, to shed his innocent blood, Mat. 27. 19. But that is disputed, whether the Devil did not put that dream into her, because he would not have Christ crucified, knowing that by Christs death, his Kingdom would be dissolved; But how doth that agree with Satans entring into Iudas heart, tempting him to betray his Master. There were two great Kings, and Heathens, such as had no knowledge of God, and yet God did visit them by dreams, of things to come; as Pharaoh by seven years of barren∣ness, and seven of fruitfulness; Nebuchadnezzar of the change of his King∣dom, and the mighty alienation of it in time: But these did not understand them, till Ioseph, and Daniel, revealed the mystery to them.

Secondly, In the next place, Gods power over the hearts of men, in a way of*Iustice, is also admirable: And that in two respects:

First, In infatuating the counsels and thoughts of wise men: He strikes the great ones of the world, when he is angry, with the spirit of madness and gid∣diness, Isa. 24. 45. Thus David prayed, That God would turn Achitophels coun∣sel into folly, onely God could do it: And the Princes of Zoan and Egypt, that thought they were wise, and none like them, God stroke them with folly and giddiness: So true is that old observation, Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dor∣mentat, When God intends to destroy and ruine man, he first beginneth with their understanding, inflicting giddiness upon that: The eyes of a man first dye, theu say, and so men perish first in their counsels, thoughts and designs, after∣wards in other things: Thus God is said To catch the crafty in their own wis∣dom, and he knoweth that the thoughts of the wise they are vain, 1 Cor. 3.

Secondly, Gods Iustice upon mens hearts is, in the spiritual blinding and harden∣ing*of them: Thus God is said to harden Pharaohs heart; and Elys sons would Page  509 not heaken to good counsel, because it was of the Lord to destroy them: Whom he will, he hardens, saith the Apostle, Rom. 9. But this is a tender point, Divines are large about it; onely know, that God doth not infuse hardness of heart, nor any evil disposition in men, for he cannot be the author of that of which he is the Avenger; but it is by withdrawing and denying his mollifying Grace: And then as the withdrawing of fire from the water, makes it presently cold, and return to its native temperament; so it is here, God forsaking the heart by denying his mollifying and softning oparations, it cannot but grow stiff and obdurate against God.

Thirdly, In the last place, Let us view the glorious power of God, over the hearts of*men in a gracious way; and that is properly intended in the Text: I will give an heart of flesh. Now Gods work on the heart, when he changeth it, in these particulars:

First, He convinceth and enlightens the minde with such a glorious light, that*the person converted stands amazed at it: That we should shew forth his praise who hath translated us out of darkness, into his marvellous light, 1 Pet. 2. 9 And you that were darkness, are now made light, Ephes. 4. This is the seeing eye that God vouchsafeth to some men: Now then, if to restore eyes to the blinde, was so won∣derful a work, how wonderful is it to give a man new light? God gives a man new abilities to see; he doth not onely bring the object, and the medium, but the ability also; and till this be done, its impossible men should ever love or de∣sire what is good: Oh look up then to this! you are apt to be wise in your own eyes, you are apt to say, as the Pharisees did, We see: But pray earnestly to God for this spirit of illumination; thou wilt then finde as much difference in thy self, as one in a dark close dungeon; and another, that is come out into the open Sun-shine.

Secondly, Gods work on the heart, is to raise up such affections as may make the*yoke of Christ easie: That may make thee with delight and joy, to imbrace what is good: for here is the great obstruction against conversion, men have carnal and earthly hearts, they delight in what is evil, they imbrace the dunghill, they love the mire, like swine. hence all heavenly and spiritual objects are grievous and burthensom to them: Now then God he can turn this clod of earth, in∣to a star in the sky; he can change this heavy lumpish temper, into a gracious spiritual disposition: And when he doth thus, then what was once tedious and grievous, now becomes pleasant and joyful.

Thirdly, He doth make the heart tender and melting: And this is the great mer∣cy * here promised: for naturally the heart is a stone in spiritual things; it hath o apprehension, no joy, no sense; lay all the wrath of God before it, and you cannot move it, you cannot make it mourn and grieve; but when God puts forth this power, then a dry wilderness is turned into a pool of water; then the mountains melt like wax before him; then rocks are turned into streams of water: O then admire, and pray for this mighty work of God! doest thou complain thy heart is like the neather milstone? Oh it will not melt, it will not change, it will not yield to God! go to this heart maker, and he will be an heart breaker.

Fouthly, That which is the most admirable operation upon the heart, is the bow∣ing*and bending of it, so as to make it of unwilling willing: Thus this expression of the Text, I will give an heart of flesh, doth denote the efficacy and in∣timateness of his power; and so the Apostle saith, God worketh in us to will; and in this very point, upon this hinge hangs that great and special truth, which the Orthodox maintain against Arminians and Papists: They will grant an ir∣resistable work of light upon the understanding, they will grant a potent work upon the affections, but this they will not yield, that God makes the will to will, that he so boweth and changeth the heart, that it readily imbraceth, what once it abhorred; yet in all that are converted, this power so efficacious, must Page  510 be needs put forth; for will not experience witness, that every mans will, be∣fore converting grace came, was as opposite to God, as averse to all holiness, as any natural mans in the world? did he not dispute, argue, refuse, and shew all unwillingness, till God broke open the gate of the soul; he comes into the heart while the doors of it are shut: Thus he is said to open the heart of Lydia, Acts 16. and Paul, was he willing to receive Christ? did not he oppose, persecute and violently pursue the Church of God; and while he was in these furious out∣rages, did not God in a moment bow his heart, that he cryeth out, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do: But of this more in the manner of Gods conversion.

Lastly, The soveraignty of Gods power, is to be adored, that he can comfort the*heart with heavenly joy, or wound it with sad and heavy temptations and desertions when he pleaseth! Our hearts are calm and tempestuous, even as he speaks the word, Job 34. 29. who can give trouble, if he speak quietness, whether to a per∣son or a nation. God struck the heart of great Nebuchadnezzar, and made him like a beast; and he can strike the heart of a wicked man, and make him roar like one damned in hell: Thus we see David sometimes complaineth of the great terrors that he was even distracted with; and at another time, his heart over-floweth with joy: This ebbing and flowing is according to the presence or ab∣sence of Gods favor.

This point is worthy of all practical improvement: And *

First, It sheweth what poor, weak and empty shadows all the great, wise, powerful and mighty men of the world are: They are not the masters of their own hearts, they cannot tell what they shall think, what they shall purpose, much less, do, the next day. Well doth the Psalmist say, They are lighter then dust orvanity: What a folly then is it to put confidence in such, to trust in any arm of flesh: You see a shadow is not able to move it self, but is this way or that way, as the body stirreth; so is all earthly and humane power: God useth these Rods, these Axes, which way he pleaseth: Oh then say, nothing is great but God, hope in nothing, trust in nothing but in God. An hill or an high mountain may be something, if compared with the low valleys; but if with the heavens its but a pins point: So earthly power and greatness, may be a terrible thing to those that are weaker. Gyants are tall things to Grashoppers, but compare them with God, and they are nothing, yea less then nothing.

Use 2, Is God thus powerful over the heart, then let the godly be comfort∣ed, * who finde their hearts too strong for them; O their proud heart, their hard heart, their unbelieving heart, their earthly heart, what shall they do? Its true, shouldst thou pray the Potentates of the world, yea the Angels of heaven, to give thee a better heart, they could do nothing: O but God he is gracions, ready, willing and able.

Lastly, Of terror to wicked men, how easily can he raise terrors and horrors * in that jolly heart of thine: If Iudas and Cain would have given all the world for a quiet heart, they could not have purchased it: Do not then presume too long; do not still venture to offend him; he can send thee home with a roar∣ing, restless heart, he can make thee cry out, There is no help for me, O for a drop of ease.

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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.

Page  516

SERMON LXXXVII.

Of Gods making a true Converts heart tender and flexible for every duty. Also what Heart of flesh implies, with the effects and consequents of it.


EZEK. 36. 26.
And I will give you an heart of flesh.

WE come in the third place to consider the mercy, as it is positively set down, I will give an heart of flesh. If flesh were taken here properly for a massie part, then it could be no gracious promise, for every mans heart by nature is of flesh; but flesh is taken improperly or metaphorically; for when it is used in the Scripture improperly, it is either taken in a good sense, or a bad sense: In a bad sense, it either denoteth fragility, misery and vanity. Thus All flesh is grasse; and thine horses are flesh, not spirit. Or else sinfulnesse and cor∣ruption: Thus, John 3. Whatsoever is born of the flesh is flesh. And In my flesh dwel∣leth no good thing, Rom. 7. It should greatly humble us, that the Scripture cals sin in us by such names, for it argueth sin to be innate, inbred in us, that we and sin are all one as it were: as if we were not so much sinners as sin it self; it cleaveth to us as the flesh to the bones. But secondly, this word [fle••] is used in a good sense, though not so frequently, signifying a tender, pliable and flexible heart to what is godly, and is by way of opposition to a stone. Thus, 2 Cor. 3. The hearts of the Corinthians which so readily received Pauls doctrine, are called fleshy ta∣bles; and here it is used in this sense in the text, I will give an heart of flesh: We may justly admire the mighty work of God in making waters to gush out of the rock, in touching mountains, so that they melt like wax; but above all, this mighty power of God, that makes hearts so story and impenetrable, to be rea∣dy and capable for all duties.

That God in conversion doth make a mans heart tender and flexible for every duty he requireth.*

The example of all converts witnesseth this; when Mathew is converted, he leaveth his custom feat, though full of profit, and followeth Christ, which could not be without much self-deniall and persecution. Is not here a stone made flesh? Zacheus the Publican, no sooner wrought upon by grace, but he makes restituti∣on and satisfaction: even above the exact command of the law; but his heart is made so tender that he had rather be beyond, then come short of his duty. Mary Magdalen a notorious sinner, called the sinner by an emphasis, when wrought upon, this dry wilderness is made a fountain of water. The Jailer a cruel harsh man to the Apostles, when his heart is touched, in what amazements doth he fall, how tender and compassionate to the Apostles whom he had wronged; he that did cast them in prison, put chains and etters upon them, in a moment is alter∣ed, and washeth their soars. And let Paul close all, what a stony heart had he! Page  517 His heart was like the stones they stoned Stephen with, and although he stoned not Stephen with his own hands, yet he was consenting to it, and kept their gar∣ments, insomuch that Austin saith, Omnium lapidantium manibus lapidavit, he stoned him with the hands of all them that threw stones at him. He that compel∣led the disciples to blaspheme, and was mad against them, see how in a moment his stony heart is taken away, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Oh tender heart, now he is willing to do and suffer any thing! Thus God wheresoever he vouchsafeth this converting grace, of an obdurate, averse stony heart, he makes tender and pliable.

To open this, let us consider first, What is implyed in this heart of flesh; for that * comprehends several gracious qualities: And

First, A tender melting heart is principally intended. The heart of stone will neither yeeld to threatnings, or be softened by mercies; but the fleshy heart, that is tender under both. Thus Josiah is commended for his tender, melting heart, while the threatnings of the law were read, 2 Chron. 34. 27. and certainly thou∣sands of people discover, this promise was never effectual to them; for how ob∣durate and wilfull are they against the word of God! they rage and roar like bears and tigers with vexation, rather then tenderly be softened about the mat∣ters of religion. Oh then consider, how tender thy spirit is about Gods com∣mands, doth it presently thaw? is it immediatly softened when Gods word comes to thee? this is a good sign. I know the people of God do much com∣plain their hearts are not so tender and softened as they desire: They complain they are very stocks and stones sometimes; as the Church, Why hast thou harden∣ed our hearts from thy fear, Isa. 63. 17. But yet because they feel this stoniness, and they can tenderly bewail this, therefore it's a plain argument the work of grace is in their souls, though it be imperfect, and so it is not to be expected that all stoninesse should be removed out of the heart in this life. Contra vitia pugnamus non ut penitus vincamus, sed ne vincamur, Seneca.

Secondly, From this tender softnesse of heart floweth A quick sensiblenesse,*and a lively apprehension of any spiritual thing that concerneth it. The tender skin doth presently feel the least offence, whereas that which is brawny and rugged is not so sensible. Thus it is in the true convert, he is very sensible, he is quick in understanding, as the Scripture expresseth it. And this sensiblenesse is discerned in several particulars; as first, he can discern between things that differ, Heb. 6. He hath senses exercised, to discern between good and evil. He is compared to an Eagle, his eye will quickly discern afar off. He is the spiritual man that judgeth all things; so that the true convert is not easily seduced by errors and false doctrines, for he hath a tender sensible heart: he is not easily inticed by Satan to sinfull lusts, for he is presently sensible. So secondly, his tendernesse appears, in that the least sins, the very motions, the very inclinations are an heavy burden unto him: Thus Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, 2 Chron. 32. 26. David when he numbered the people, though the act it self were lawfull, yet because he did not keep Gods order, he did it out of vain glory, and Gods anger broke out because of it: See how tenderly be is affected, Let thy anger be upon me and my fathers house, What have these sheep done? When he cut off the lap of Sauls gar∣ment, his heart smote him. Paul, how sadly and miserably doth he cry out of the inward lusts of sin within him! Thus the fleshy heart is so tender, that it feels the very weight of a mote, as well as of a beam.

Thirdly, The sensiblenesse of it is discovered, in that When he repents of sin, he*is much affected because of the unkindnesse that is in sin against God. Against thee, this only have I sinned, Psal. 51. These Israelites should loath and abhorre them∣selves when God was pacified towards them, Ezek. 16. 63. This fleshy heart is so sensible of the ill requitall that is in all sin, for God his favour and love to them, that this affects them abundantly.

Fourthly, This fleshy heart implies Tractablenesse and dociblenesse in the under∣standing,*Page  518and flexibility in the will. Tractablenesse in the understanding, that whereas a man naturally shuts his eyes against the light, he will not hear or un∣derstand, but is froward, cavilling and alwaies disputing against the things of his everlasting peace; now he hath obtained that religion which the Apostle calls 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, easily to be perswaded. This is one great corruption in man, that his un∣derstanding exalteth it self against the word, and he hath many carnall cavils and and prejudices against grace: now when God worketh on the heart, the under∣standing is captivated and brought into obedience, 2 Cor. 10. 5. The word of God destroyeth all those strong holds, and they are glad that this spiritual light should enter into their hearts. Oh there is little hopes of a proud, froward, ca∣villing person, that loveth to be arguing and contradicting those things that make for purity and godlinesse: When a man is taught of God, he is easily brought off to beleeve, to submit, A little childe can lead them, as Isaiah prophesieth, Isa. 11. 6. As tractablenesse in the understanding, so flexibility in the will, is also implied in this heart of flesh. The will of man, that is the hardest part of the stone in a man, that is contumacious, wilfull, opposite; that is the King, the Lord, the gover∣nour; till that be mastered, till that stoop, nothing in man will turn to God: but this converting grace makes willing of unwilling, makes it to choose and imbrace that which once it abhorred; as Paul, What wilt thou have me to do? Oh it's thse wills of men, that are the great enemies to godlinesse. Hence God is said to work in us to will, as well as to do, Phil. 3. To will, this is admirable; oh pray importunately that God would give thee to will good, that God would give thee to choose and imbrace it. It's wonderfull to consider how this hard iron, when melted by grace, will be put into any frame or fashion.

Fifthly, This fleshy heart implieth, An obediential resignation of our selves up into Gods hands. That now we stand at nothing, we refuse nothing, we object * nothing, we do not pick and chuse in our obedience, This (O Lord) I could do, but excuse me in the other thing. No, a fleshy heart is that which is all over yielding and submitting: He doth not say, I will give them an heart partly of stone, and partly of flesh; for although stoninesse be in the regenerate heart, yet because it is not there by constant prevalency and universality, therefore it is still an heart of flesh, so that nothing will discover this work upon thy soul, sooner then an obediential resignation to all duties. He that breaks one is guilty of all, in this sense, because he breaks vinculum obedientiae, the bond of obedience, which is the authority of the law-giver: For to be fleshy supposeth a capacity and easi∣nesse to receive any impression: wheresoever it findes a command, there it crieth out, Lo here am I to do thy will, O God: Thy law is written in my heart. We shall not inlarge this particular more, because the explication of a stony heart, doth by way of contrariety illustrate this fleshy heart. Let us therefore take notice of the severall effects and consequents of a fleshy heart, and they are remar∣kable. *

First, This heart of flesh is accompanied with an awfull fear and trembling under the word of God, and his glorious Majesty. They have deep thoughts of fear and reverence when they come before God. Thus Iosiah, whose heart was tender, and melting, did also tremble at the threatning in the word of God. If Abraham was so deeply debased in his spiritual approach to God, because he was but dust and ashes, how much rather because of sin! We may then quickly discover grace in the tenderness of it, if it be not prophane, careless, and formall in religious duties. If thy heart be a melting heart, thy praiers are melting praiers, thy hearing is melting hearing, thou wouldst not be so senselesse, carelesse in these duties as most men ae. Oh then cry out of thy self, for the want of this gracious dispo∣sition. Thou findest thy heart like brasse and Iron, not like flesh, when thou com∣est to him.

Secondly, A gracious fleshy heart doth readily bow and yield to God in all afflicti∣ons and chastisements for sin. The stubborn oak, that will sooner break then bow; *Page  519 but the tender withe, that will move every way, as it is desired: and thus it is here, Men of stony hearts, unbroken hearts, if any waies afflicted or chastised for sin, how full of rage, discontent, fury, and all manner of vexation, fretting even at God himself and all his instruments! but the tender fleshy heart that pre∣sently accepts of the punishment of its sin, as God calls upon, Levit. 26. 41. It saith with the Church, I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sin∣ned against him. It wholly studieth to clear and justifie God, but to condemn and accuse it self: O then let the people of God in the midst of all the waves and tempests that rise in their soul, remember to allay all by this, that they are fleshy and not stone. That as God made it an argument to take off his afflicting hand, because it was frail weak flesh; Gen. 6. My spirit shall not alwaies strive with man, because he is flesh: so he may also abate his anger, because thou art gracious and tender flesh. This is a precious symptom of grace, when thy soul afflicted, is like a box of precious oyntment broken, or like sweet flowers pounced, many precious and fragrant graces discover themselves. As the fire doth discover the mettals, whether good or bad; and tempests and windes, whether trees be well rooted or no; so do calamities, whether men be gracious or no; and in nothing doth thy grace more manifest it self then justifying God, and abhorring thy self. Have any frettings, any repinings made a commotion in thy heart? quiet all, and remember, the work of grace is to make a man yielding and readily sub∣mitting.

Thirdly, The godly heart of flesh is so tender, that it doth not only avoid sin it self,*but the occasions of it, the appearance of it. Abstain from all appearance of evil, 1 Thes. 5. 22. David would not drink the water of Bethlehem, because it had the appearance of mens bloud, and thus the godly are to provide all things honest in the sight of all men. Christ that would not wash his hands before meal, though otherwise a civil custom, in it self lawfull, yet he refused, that he might not con∣firm the Jews in their superstitious conceit about it, did hereby instruct us that we should not only keep from the fire of sin, but also from the very flame. The first sin that proved so fatall to all mankinde came by occasions and temptations; Eve saw the fruit that it was good, and desirable. God had not commanded her to forbear looking on it, but this became a temptation to her, and by those win∣dows of her eies death comes in. This made Paul keep down his body. This caused Job to make a covenant with his eies; and David to set a watch before his mouth. Look then to this, wouldst thou know whether this gracious ten∣der heart be in thee or no; art thou then afraid to come near the brink of sin, any thing that hath the appearance of it, thou runnest away from it, as Moses did from his rod, when turned into a serpent. This you should especially observe who venture into the occasions of wickednesse, haunt the places where the pro∣phane lusts of the flesh are daily committed: You do like the moth, that never leaveth buzzing and flying about the candle, till she hath burnt her self. The He∣brews that were to eat no unleavened bread in the Passeover for seven daies, were so carefull, that they did diligently search the house, to see none was there, yea they would not so much as make mention of the word signifying bread, lest it should do hurt, and tempt any. And wilt not thou be afraid to come where the infection of the plague of any sin is? Dost thou fear the infection of the body, and not that of the soul? come not then near this mountain, least thou beest de∣stroyed.

Fourthly, A godly heart of flesh is tender and apprehensive of all inward heart-sins,*and secret sins, as well as publick and notorious. Paul had a soft heart of flesh, when he could finde those motes in his eies, and complains of them as beams, Rom. 7. and indeed because the dishonour of God, and offending of him, is the great mountain and weight upon his soul, therefore whatsoever sin is done in secret, he is as sensible of it, as if it had been done in the eies of the whole world. That is a known instance of the tender heart of Joseph, when in the temptation Page  520 of secresie in sinning, he cried out, How can I do this and sin against God! Oh then this discovers the many degrees thousands are off from the tender work of grace: For its a shame to speak of what is done by many in secret. Secret un∣cleannesse, secret injustice and fraud, secret theeving, secret drunkennesse, if it can be carried so that the world may not know it, that reproach may not brand them for it, they care not. Oh men of stony hearts! Did not God behold thee? Is not darknesse and light, night and day all one to him? Never be incouraged to sin in hope of secresie, for God will bring out those deeds of darknesse, without repentance, one time or other, to thy great confusion. I know no such differen∣tiall mark from an hypocrite and a true godly man, as this. An hypocrite may have as great abilities and inlargements, may have as external a strict conversati∣on as a godly man: but then in this he alwaies fails, he doth not humble himself for, or mortifie inward motions and lusts of sins. He is not affected with heart-corrup∣tions, because God looks into the heart, and beholds the heart. Oh then, that the word of God might powerfully work upon you in this respect. Its not an heart of flesh, as long as wicked, proud, earthly, unclean thoughts can lodge in thy soul, though they break not out into action.

Lastly, A tender heart of flesh is greatly afflicted with the dishonour that is done to God by other mens sins as well as his own. David must needs have a very soft heart, * when rivers of water came from his eies, because men kept not Gods Law. Flesh is easily wounded, it is easily pierced, and thus is a godly mans heart, because God is not owned, is not magnified where he liveth. The Prophet Isaiah cried out, We is me because I dwell among men of unclean lips, Isa. 6. 5. How then do other mens impieties work upon thee? are they like a sword in thy bowels? Doth the tearing and rending of Gods Name by blasphemous courses, even tear and rend thy heart? Doth the prophane naming of the wounds and bloud of Christ, even make wounds and bloud in thy heart? then thou maiest praise God, that he hath not left thee without zeal for his glory. Is thy soul grieved and tormen∣ted with seeing and beholding the wickednesse of men done in the world?

Use. 1. Of consolation and comfort to those to whom God hath vouchsafed this tender and soft heart. Its such a mercy thou couldst not help thy self to, nor * all the world could vouchsafe it to thee. Say, Blesse the Lord O my soul, and ad∣mire his grace, who hath thus melted thee. The time was when thou wast harden∣ed and bold in sin, thou couldst swallow down great Camels, and it did not trouble thee; thou couldst commit such and such impieties, and thy heart would never smite thee for it. Oh but now if there be any distemper, any rebellion, any unkindnesse in thy life to God; it dissolves thee, it moveth thy bowels: go on blessing God for this mercy. Do not think it a losse to thee, nor a reproach to thee: Not a losse, for happily thou maiest say, If I had not such a tender heart, if I were not so afraid to sin against God, I might get such earthly advantages: If I were as bold and as large in my principles as others, then I could thus inrich my self; but this tender heart of mine hinders me. Do not judge this a losse but again; the later end of this will be a rich crop, though for the present thou hast but gleanings: God doth with thee as Boaz with Ruth; first he gave her but gleanings, and a little measure of Corn, but afterwards he gave her himself and all that he had. Thus God at last will give the injoyment of himself and eternal glory, when hardened sinners shall vomit up their advantages, which will be like gravel in the mouth. Nor do not thou judge it a reproach; the world judgeth it pusillanimity, a tender heart, a foolish, scrupulous heart. But as it is said of God, He can do all things, only he cannot sin, for that is an impotency, Potentissimè hoc non potest; so it is here, thou darest loose thy comforts, thy advantages; thou darest be hated, persecuted, only thou darest not sin, Magnanimiter hoc non audes! At the day of death, at the day of judgement, what boldnes, what confidence wilt thou have? when the great bold men of the world shall tremble like leaves, and have fear round about them.

Page  521

SERMON. LXXXVIII.

Holding forth Inducements to get this promised Heart of Flesh; Also shewing the Counter∣feit of it.


EZEK. 36. 26.
I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and give you an heart of flesh.

THe Doctrine about An heart of flesh, hath already been explained, and some practical use made of it: And the matter being so exceeding necessary; (for without this Heart of flesh, we preach in vain, you hear in vain, Gods mercies, and Gods chastisements are in vain;) I shall therefore adde another Use, by way of Exhortation, Not to have any rest or quiet in your souls, till God vouchsafe this mercy to you: God here promiseth it, as the main mercy, to qualifie and sanctifie all their temporal mercies; as if return∣ing from Captivity, injoying their own Countrey, their Liberties, Houses and Comforts again, were nothing, if this Heart of flesh was not also bestowed up∣on them. And to speak to our condition; though God hath brought us to∣gether, that by the last wars were scattered one from another; though many of those fears and terrors that did then overwhelm, are in some measure abated; yet if God give not this Heart of flesh, a worm will quickly arise and consume this gourd: Be therefore as importunate with God, as the Widow was with the unjust Judge; for God loveth importunity, he loveth seeking, knocking, fervent praying; and if the unjust Judge was overcome by importunity, how much rather will the bowels of a gracious God move towards thee? How graci∣ously did God reward that Petition of Solomons, because he did not ask for riches, long life, the life of his enemies, but wisdom to discharge his trust: So will God say to thee, Because thou hast not asked temporal mercies, nor earthly greatness, but a tender soft heart, be it according to thy desire. As David therefore resolved, He would give no sleep to his eyes, or slumber to his eye-lids, till he had settled the Ark: So do thou resolve to have no rest in thy minde, or to let God alone, but importune him day and night, till he hath made that heart of stone flesh within thee: Oh! why are you solicitous about earthly things! what you shall eat, what you shall drink, what you shall put on? and not in a godly manner enquiring, How may I pray, hear, live, dye, with this soft and tender heart? And if reason may be any motive to you, consider, how much may be spoke for this particular.

First, This heart of flesh will be a constant Antidote, and Preservative against*sin: This bitter potion will kill all those worms of temptation, that may crawl in thy breast; the Devil can never come and finde the room of thy heart swept and ready garnished for him; he is continually upon his Watch-Tower, that Page  522 hath an heart of flesh. Davids heart when it began to be stony and senseless, see how willfully he falls from one sin to another; whereas if his heart had been as tender as at other times, the very entrance and appearance of sin would have amazed him. As it is the nature of sin to harden, and to make obstinate, so of grace to mollifie and soften: Now there is always in every condition, in every occurrence of providence, something that would stiffen the heart against God, were not grace a continual thawer of the heart by the heat thereof: If there∣fore thou wouldst be preserved from those sad falls, and wretched backslidings, which others have been tumbled into, Keep up this heart of flesh; Oh it could never be that thou wouldst entertain such monstrous Doctrines, or do such unjustifiable practices, if thy heart were of flesh: No, it is of steel and iron, of a rock, or adamant, and that makes thee bold to commit such sins, which tender godly persons have their hearts ake at, and their ears tingle to hear.

Secondly, As this tender heart of flesh preserveth from sin; So from the con∣sequents,*and the woful effects of it; which are woes, wounds of conscience, hor∣ror of heart, darkness and gloominess of soul, sad tears, lest God hath for ever forsaken them; the loss of all their former sweet peace and communion they had with God: Oh! God of a gracious father, is now become a frowning ene∣my; their hearts are made like an hell, wherein legions of sad unbelieving thoughts do constantly lodge: This is the portion of those godly men, who by negligence, carelesness and hardness of heart, come to fall off from their former measure of holiness: Oh but a tender heart of flesh, as it prevents the cause of these, so the effects likewise; it will keep thee from this roaring Lyon: So that as soon as ever thou findest this soft heart abating in thee, do thou then fear some grievous storm may be coming on thee, if God prevent not.

Thirdly, Without a tender heart of flesh, a man cannot perform any Religious*duty, in an acceptable manner to God: Prayer without this heart of flesh, is like a dry unsavory herb; hearing of the word, if it come not from an heart thus softned, is but desperate boldness against God, and so an immediate provocati∣on of his anger. Hence a broken heart is preferred above all sacrifices, Psal. 51. above all outward worship; they are the body, this is the soul; they must not be neglected, but this is the Benjamin, without whom, we must not see Gods face: Oh then as thou darest not but pray, and hear, and come to Church, so also be as much afraid, lest those duties be done without an heart of flesh.

Fourthly, A tender heart of flesh is accompanied with patience, under the sorest*afflictions, and thankfulness under the least mercies: What a sudden tempest and whirlwind of afflictions fell upon Iob; and yet in all that he did not charge God foolishly, Job 1. ult. but reproved his impatient wife with this saying, Shall we receive good, and not evil from the Lord? And as for thankfulness under the least mercies, see how the Church in the Lamentations can taste a little honey in an ocean of gall; Its of the Lords mercy that we are not consumed, Lam. 3. 22. and so the woman of Canaan, acknowledgeth her self a dog, and is glad of the crums that fall from the table, Mat. 15. 27. Now what a lovely and comely sight is this; to see a Christian patient under the greatest trouble, and thankful under the least mercies! and there is nothing will bring the heart to this admirable tem∣per, but the fulfilling of this promise.

Lastly, This tender heart of flesh, is the onely fit soil, wherein the word of God sown, will grow up, and bring a plentiful crop: For as they say of the soul, Animae*fabricat sibi domicilium, The soul fashioneth and prepareth the body, for it self to dwell in; as the Spider makes her own web, wherein she resides: Thus the word of God at first makes the heart of hard and stony, fleshy and soft, which when done, then is the heart ever afterwards a fit room to receive this spiritual guest: So that the word never thriveth or prospers, in respect of the progress Page  523 and increase of godliness, but where it meeteth with a tender heart. Lydia's heart is said to be opened to attend to the words of Paul, Acts 16. 14. Thus naturally mens spirits are bolted, the word findes a gate of brass upon it, till it be made tender, and after that its careful to lose nothing: Oh then that we could say of our hearers, what Paul of the Corinthians, The word is written in their fleshy tables of the heart, 2 Cor. 2. Now for the better clearing of these things, it may be demanded:

Whether all tenderness and softness of heart, be this work of grace here promised?*may not the soul be deceived about tenderness of heart?

Yes, very easily; for there is a twofold soft heart of flesh, which yet is not the heart in the Text.

There is a natural softness or aptness to relent, and to be pitifully affected; such as Austin speaks of in himself, when he read the History of Dido, Lord (saith he) I could not but weep when I read that, and yet at the same time I could not weep for my sins. That tender heart of Ioseph, whereby he dissolved into tears concerning his brethren, was not so much an act of grace, as of na∣tural tenderness: And it should seem he was a tender father to all Egypt, as some expound that name they gave Ioseph, when they blessed him, and cal∣led him Abrech, Tender Father.

Again, There is another tenderness or softness, whereby men are so melted under*the consideration of sin, as they refuse, like Rachel, to be comforted: It seemeth Mary Magdalene was too tender, by that remedy our Saviour applyed, when he bid her Be of good comfort, her sins were forgiven, Luke 7. 48. To be sure the Incestuous person was too soft this way, insomuch that he was even swallowed up with sorrow, 2 Cor. 2. 7. For as the string of the instrument, if it be too wet, can make no melodious sound; so neither can an heart overwhelmed with sor∣row, set forth the praise of God with faith and thankfulness.

It will be therefore worth the while, to discover this Counterfeit heart of*flesh, from a gracious one: And let us examine the first, which if put to the Touch-stone, will be thus discovered:

First, Natural tenderness ariseth from the bodily constitution, or natural tempera∣ment of a man; whereas this gracious sofness is the work of God in a superna∣tural way: Thus in the Text, I will give the heart of flesh: God as the Author of grace makes this; so Zach. 12. I will pour upon them the spirit of prayer, and they shall mourn for their sin, Rom. 8. Those groans unutterable, which came from an heart of flesh, are wholly attributed to the spirit of God; so that the tender heart of the one, is like Egypt, that is not made fruitful by rain from heaven; whereas the other comes onely from above: If then you go to the fountains from whence these streams flow, they are as far distant as heaven and earth; and if ye see them both melting and dissolving into tears, under the chastisements and judgements of God upon them; the one hath a spring from under the earth, the other from heaven above: Do not therefore presently con∣clude grace is there, when you see a tender, soft, yielding disposition, for this may come from nature, as well as grace; it may be a natural complexion, not a principle of Sanctification within.

Secondly, The instrument by which this softness and tenderness of heart is pro∣duced, is far different from the other: For the natural softness is wrought, by see∣ing the objects of pity and compassion; but this gracious softness is by hear∣ing, and by the word preached: So that the instrument by which a man comes to be thus changed from his obstinacy, is wholly by the word of God; that received by faith, hath been the furnace or coals of fire to the iron, that doth make it flexible for every shape; whereas the former is onely by a natural sym∣pathy between the eye and the heart: The eye affects the heart, Lam. 3. 51. and hereupon tenderness is wrought; its not a work of faith, which as it purifieth the heart, so it makes the heart tender. By faith Noah was moved with fear,Page  524 Heb. 11. and by faith we finde the rockiness of our heart subdued, and we readily yielding unto God.

Thirdly, The motive, Which is the very same thing in Morals, that the specifi∣cal form is in naturals; in this there is a great gulf between one and another: For the * onely motive of this natural tenderness, is outward evil and misery, not sin, or the displeasure of God: There are hundreds of people, that for the loss of dear friends, or outward comforts, can weep till they are able to weep no more, but are as a rock, and as hard as a stone, in respect of any consideration about sin; yet sin is the greatest evil, and that which depriveth the soul of the most excellent good: Thou art therefore very prone to sigh, to be troubled, thy heart is like a fountain of water; But what is the reason? outward discon∣tents, want of such mercies as thou doest propound to thy self: Alas, this is not an heart of flesh, in the sense of the Text; indeed it is too much an heart of flesh in another sense; for it is wholly carnal, and is carried out upon carnal con∣siderations: If therefore thy tenderness and softness of heart, be in the want of Gods favor, and the apprehension of his displeasure, as Davids so of∣ten was; no doubt but thou hast then felt the power of this promise to thee.

Fourthly, A natural softness and tenderness, is flexible to any evil; it will receive any impression of sin: But this gracious softness, though it be flesh to what is * good, it doth easily receive that; yet its a stone and an adamant to what is e∣vil; and this is a remarkable difference: you have many soft and flexible hearts, and that is their fault, for none so insnared as they; they are like wax, that receive the stamp of any seal upon them; they are like the reed that is shaken up and down with every wind; now this is a great sin. It was Reubens curse, To be unstable like water: To be for good in good company, and for evil in evil company; to be such a Chamelion according to every company, is contrary to those many commands, To be stedfast and unmoveable in the work of the Lord, 1 Cor. 15. 58. And to confess Christ and his truth, in the midst of a crooked and per∣verse generation, Luke 12. 8. Their yea should be yea, and their nay, nay: Oh do not judge this the gracious heart of flesh; for he that hath this grace, though he be like a Lamb, and all sweetness of carriage be in him; yet he is also like a Lyon, in respect of courage and boldness for what is good: So then consider, that as the work of grace is in one sense making man tender; so in another sense it doth establish and settle upon a rock.

Lastly, This natural tenderness can, and often doth consist, without any trouble and grief for the dishonor of God, wrought by other mens sins. Now you have * heard, that a gracious heart of flesh was easily wounded and torn asunder in pain, for the wickedness of others: You heard, David had rivers of waters running down his eyes, because men kept not the Law of God; but how many may ye see of tender soft spirits, that are very senseless stones of the blasphe∣mies and impieties that others are guilty of! They have such in their families, they have such in their company, and in their delight; How can he be cal∣led a godly man, to whom a wicked ungodly man is not a torment and a bur∣then: Horror hath taken hold on me, saith David, because of the wicked, Psal. 119. 53. Oh if thy heart were sensible of Gods glory, horror and trembling would surprise thee, to see or hear others commit iniquity, even as if thou didst see them falling into the fire, or deep waters.

Secondly, In the next place, let us consider the other sinful tenderness, and * that is, When the heart is indeed godly for the main, but there is a degeneration: This tenderness doth go beyond its bounds: God indeed by his grace doth wound the heart, but then it bleeds too much, and so groweth the weaker thereby: Now the sinfulness of this softness will appear thus:

First, When it hinders a man from those other gracious duties that God doth re∣quire: All grace is consonant, and one grace is to be added to another, and they Page  525 are to cooperate one with another, even those that seem to be at the greatest distance; thus Joy and trembling, faith and fear, are to accompany one ano∣ther: Now there are some graces, that it is very hard to have co operate with this heart of flesh; and therefore we must take heed that our gold become not dross, that we do not take even sin for grace: This is worse then to take Iohn Baptist for Christ, this is to take a false Christ for the true one: And this is done first, when they cast both their eyes upon their sins onely, not at all eying Christ; as if the Israelite wounded by a Serpent, should always have cryed out of his pain and rosting, but never look up to the exalted Serpent: This the incestuous person was blamed for, he was ready to be swallowed up with sor∣row: When thy soul is so dejected, that it refuseth the comfort of the Go∣spel, will suffer no oil to be poured in its wounds, this is a sinful softness; this is as wetted paper, the moisture of it hinders any writing upon it; and so the softness of thy heart makes the glorious promise of the Gospel not to be writ on thy soul; for as God writes the Law of obedience in the hearts of the godly, so also the Gospel of comfort in their souls: And as hardness of heart hinders the former writing, so too much softness and moisture the latter: Know then, that all tenderness and softness, which keeps off from Christ, which re∣jects the promise of grace, is sinful, and is not of God.

Secondly, If thy tenderness and softness make thee more unable and unfit for any*service unto God: If it weaken thee, that thou canst not pray, do or suffer for God, this is also sinful; when it makes thee have feeble hands and knees, as the childrens bones and joynts are so soft at first, that they cannot go, this is sinful. The trees that have not their sap and juice excocted out, are not able to bear up any building; and so the soul that is inordinately tender, and sin∣fully softned, it cannot go through with the work of the Lord: See there∣fore that thy tenderness makes thee not less serviceable.

Lastly, If this tenderness makes thee slavishly and ignorantly scrupulous, that thou*canst not enjoy the Liberty of the Gospel, and the freedom of the spirit, which Christ hath purchased for thee: Though this may seem wonderful tenderness, yet it is not so indeed: Its true indeed, as we told you, the godly through their ten∣derness, abstain from all appearances of evil, and they fear sin may be, where it is not; yet they do not incourage a slavish, scrupulous disposition; but they labor for a sound minde, and a filial frame wrought by the spirit of adoption: So that although there are too too few in the world, that need the regulating or moderating of their tenderness; yet some there are, and this may be a word of season to them, Do not take that doubtful, fearful spirit of thine, for this heart of flesh; let not the water overflow the banks, for then it presently gets soil, and is turned into mud.

Let the conclusion be by way of Information, concerning the cursed and miserable estate of those, who have not this promised mercy of An heart of flesh. As Ezekiels Scrol had woe and lamentation written within and without; so hath such a wicked man the inward and outward curses of Gods word be∣longing to him: Oh thou rock and stone! that art neither by the instructi∣ons, exhortations or reproofs of the word, softned; nor yet by his mercies or judgements mollified: How could thy heart indure against all those ways God hath used to melt thee. Consider, that thy heart is naturally an heart of flesh, in respect of the frailty and weakness of it; Why then should it not be an heart of flesh in a gracious sense? Were thy heart of brass, and iron; were it immortal, and such as could not dye; then thou mightest go on with bold∣ness in thy sin, and say, Who shall contradict? but it being an heart of flesh, fainting, miserable, and always dying: Oh why should not this stir thee up to be partaker of this inestimable mercy! Oh cry out, and say, Lord, my weak frail flesh, cryeth out for that tender heavenly flesh; and further, thy heart being naturally of flesh, how unable is it to combate with the wrath of God, Page  526 who is an infinite spirit? Thy heart cannot keep off those sharp arrows, which he shall shoot into thy heart of flesh; Why then doest thou not take that coun∣sel, to agree with thy adversary in the way; with God, who for the present is thy enemy, while thou art in the way, before death come, and then there be no ransom: Oh that you would meditate of the terror of God, how easi∣ly he can fill that heart of flesh with hellish horror; how spedily he can make the Devils take thee by the throat, and hale thee to damnation; and if so, there is no remedy, but to cry out, Lord make good this promise to me: Oh it is this I want, this would make me happy.