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  569

SERMON XCVII.

The Hammer of Arminianism: Demonstrating; That God in Converting and Changing a Sinner, works after an Omnipotent, Efficacious and Ir∣resistible Manner. Against the Patrons of Free-Will and Power of man to Supernaturall things.


EZEK. 36. 26.
A new heart also will I give you, and I will take away the heart of stone and give you an heart of flesh.

ITs now time to draw nigh to a conclusion concerning this full and quintessenti∣all Text. There remain two particulars onely to be improved, that were taken notice of in the main division of the Text. For as we told you, here was obser∣vable, the precious mercie promised, described both positively, and oppositely. Here was also the efficient cause of this mercie, and the fruit thereof: So we told you there was a two-fold mdus, or manner observable about this mercie: There was modus rei, and modus dicti; The manner of Gods working this grace in those whom he Converts; and that is, By his mighty omnipotent power, efficaciously, insuperably, irresistably: For consider with what authoritie God speaks it, I will take away the heart of stone, I will give an heart of flesh. God will doe it, and Mans will shall not hinder: Here is no conditionate, suspended operation, as if God would not convert, or turn our hearts to him, till we also by our Free-will began to turn to him: So that this Text is an Hammer to beat in pieces all those Doctrines of old, and which now of late multiply, concerning Free-will, and the power of man to super naturall things. May not this Text satisfie every man? Doth it not make eve∣rie mans heart by nature a stone, insensible and stupid about holy things? Doth not God here appropriate the whole work of Conversion to himself? I will give an heart of Flesh, I will take away the stony heart: Yea doth he not also declare the manner how he will doe this by his Soveraign, Omnipotent, and irresistable pow∣er, so that the heart cannot but bow and yield, and give it self up. Whereas now, if the Patrons of Nature and Free-will, who are enemies to Gods grace, did speak truth, then God should have said no more but this, I will give you an heart of flesh if you will; I cannot doe it alone, unlesse your Free-will goe along with it also; 〈◊〉 must suspend, or stay my work till I see what you will doe. This is the first manner observable. Then there is modus dicti, the second manner how God will vouchsafe this, and that is by way of Gift, by a free absolute Promise, I will do thus, and thus; he doth not suppose any previous, or antecedent Conditions on our part. I shall at Page  570 this time pitch onely upon the manner how God works this glorious mercie in us. And from thence observe,

That God in Converting and changing our hearts works after an omnipotent, effica∣cious,*and irresistible manner. When God speaks to the soul to believe, to repent, to reform, it cannot, it will not but repent, he makes of unwilling willing: Even as at the first Creation God said, Let there be light, and there was light: There was no power in the Creature to reject Gods Omnipotency: so it is, when God seeth a man wallowing in his bloud, or dead in his sin: if he say, Arise and walk, Come forth out of the grave of sinne, as he did to Lazarus, presently the soul obeyeth. This point both Doctrinally, and Practically, is very necessary. The Orthodox handling of it, makes much for the excellent praise of grace, and the utter over∣throw of those dangerous and proud errors that advance Free-will, giving it either all, or part, in the work of conversion. Contrarie to the whole scope of the Scripture, which continually debaseth man, discovering his impotencie and unworthines, but giving all to the power of God. Let us first explain this Doctrine, and then prove it. *

First therefore, we distinguish between a man in his first Conversion, and after∣wards in the progresse of it. In the first moment and instant of Conversion, which is the taking away the heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh; there we say man * is meerly a subject passive, and receiving the work of God, he doth not any wayes co-operate, he hath no strength or power to joyn with God; but as Austin saith well, These things are wrought in nobis, sine nobis, in us, yet without us, God works this spirituall life, this tender heart in us, without our help or strength; E∣ven as when Christ raised up any dead men, he put natural life into them, this was done in them, yet without their help; Life was put into Lazarus, and Lazarus had no helping hand to effect this: I shall prove this in the grounds of the Doctrine, I onely now explain it. This then is the truth of God, and plainly grounded on Scripture, that man in the first instant of Conversion, hath no Free will, no power working with God, but is a meer passive subject, receiving the mighty work of God upon his soul: but if you consider man in the progresse of Sanctification, thus having received this heavenly supernatural life, he is not a meer patient, but being acted and moved by God, he also acts and moveth: Then in∣deed we need grace to quicken and inliven those principles of grace, as before was proved; but yet we doe not need a new life to be infused into us.

Secondly, Although this is the good truth of God, yet hereby we doe not take away*the nature of a man, and make him a beast, as the Adversaries calumniate. Oh say they, this is to turn man into a stock or stone, to deprive him of reason and liber∣tie of will. No, we deny the consequence; for although we say, That he is thus * passive for the initial working of Grace; yet we say he hath his understanding, his reason still, he hath a will still; onely, to discern, or will what is good, that he can∣not: So then we deny not but a man hath understanding, hath a natural libertie of his will, he cannot be a man if he have not these: but yet in respect of that which is holy, so his mind is blind, his will is obstinate, and rebellious against it. So that in man here are these three things; To be able to understand, to be able freely to will; this is of meer nature. To have a corrupt understanding, and a corrupt will, is of defiled nature. To understand and will what is good, is of sanctified nature: So then, what is the true state of the question, not whether there be an understan∣ding, and the natural faculty of Free-will in a man, or not. None denyeth that, every man hath Free-will in natural and civill actions; onely the question is about the object of these, whether he hath power to understand or will things that are meerly spirituall and supernatural; and this the Scripture doth expresly deny.

Thirdly, When we say, God doth work grace thus powerfully and irresistibly, the meaning also is not, as if the heart of a man in conversion did not resist and * reject the work of the Spirit, in some measure, and in some degrees; for there is no question but the heart of a man doth naturally refuse and oppose the Spirit of God. Stephen told the Jews, They had alwayes resisted the Spirit of God, Acts 7. Page  571 and the word of God is said to cast down those strong holds, and every high thing that exalteth it self against God, 2 Cor. 10. So that as there is a natural contrarietie, and active opposition between fire and water; thus there is a constant enmity and active resisting of Gods Spirit by our spirit; for if this combate and conflict remain still in a godly man, how much more in natural men that are altogether carnal? You must therefore distinguish between a prevalent, conquering resisting, and a graduall: God in Conversion so works, that he takes away the prevalent, but not the gradu∣all resisting. Though a man before he be converted, is froward and full of cavils and prejudices, is unwilling to be saved, cannot abide the truth, doth what he can to stifle all good motions; yet if he belong to Election, God will at last over-ma∣ster his heart, and make him of unwilling willing: his hard heart cannot refuse this Converting grace, because the first thing it doth, is to take away the hardnesse of heart.

Fourthly, Therefore its not every kind of grace that a man may acknowledge is e∣nough,* unlesse it be such a grace as is antecedently efficacious to our will, and omni∣potently bowing, and changing of it. Austin said, That the Pelagians did use the word Grace, ad frangendam invidiam, to decline the hatred that their opinion might get; so those that cry up Free-will: They will acknowledge grace, and God for∣bid they should speak against grace: But thou must know, there hath been in this point an horrible abuse of well-meaning men, by acknowledging grace, but not such a grace as we told you, that is efficacious of it self by its inward power, not depending upon mans will. Pelagius of old, when he saw his opinion was univer∣sally distasted, as if he disputed against grace; he then to avoid such an odium, be∣gan to use the word, and to acknowledge it: insomuch that he deceived an whole Counsel, by his ambiguities and generalities, who acquitted him: yea Austin him∣self who was so diligent an opposer of him, was almost deceived by him. If there∣fore any who dispute for Free-will, speak also of grace, & they say they are for grace; remember its not every kind of grace that is enough, but such as shall mightily change the heart; not that shall work with Free-will, but first make the will free, which was a Servant, and a Captive to lust: Tunc est liberum, quando liberatum, Then are ye free if the Son hath made you free, John 8. 32.

Fiftly, Although God thus omnipotently bow the heart, and grace be vorticordis, *as Austin called it, yet there is great use of the Ministrie; of exhortation, of reproof, of commands, of promises and threatnings; for presently men are apt to cavill and say, If God work all, why then is the Ministry? Why are we exhorted, when we have no power! why doth God command, when we have no ability? For exhortation and the Ministry is necessary, because its the instituted means, by which God will worke this, as Christ did not in vain say to Lazarus, Lazarus come forth, because it was a practical powerful word, and thus it is here; the Ministrie speaks not in vain, we exhort not in vain, because in and by this, God inflames the heart, and quickens it to Good. And so the commands to turn to God, to love him above all things, are not in vain, because they are not to demonstrate our power but our duty. The Creditor may lawfully demand of his prodigal Debtor the sum of money he oweth, though he be not able to pay, especially we being full of self-righteousnesse, carnal confidence, and earthly adherence, these commands are the more earnestly to be pressed, that we may be ashamed and confounded.

Sixtly, It cannot be denyed but that this Doctrine of Gods sole power, and efficacie of*Grace in Conversion, hath been and may be abused, and that two wayes, either to sluggishnesse and negligence, men thinking, that if God take away the stony heart, what need I care? I may sit down and take my ease: Or to Enthusiasm, such as will not pray, nor go to the Ordinances, they will onely stay at home, and expect the Spirits immediate working on them; and these were two reasons, saith Chem∣nitius, why Pelagius a Brittan, otherwise an ingenious man and famous, as also very innocent in his life, did fall into his error on the other side. But there is no truth of God can be preached, but carnal hearts will abuse it. Paul doth abundantly Page  572 testifie this, when he speaks of those corrupt inferences some made from his prea∣ching of grace: and the best truths corrupted prove most dangerous: as when they did not use the Manna according to Gods Institution, it degenerated into noisome worms.

Let us discover the grounds of this truth: And First, All those places of Scrip∣ture which doe describe the totall, and universall pollution of man, making him not * so much a sinner, as even sin it self; doth plainly argue, that Gods converting grace is all in all; that man is a meer patient, and cannot actively consent to the least good thing. Thus Gen. 6. The imagination of the thoughts of a mans heart are only evil, and that continually: What can be said more, Every imagination or thought that stirreth in a man, its evil, and only evill, and that continually! How then can this consent, or be active to God? so Ephes. 2. You hath he quickned that were dead in sins: What doth a dead man do to get life again? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. That is, no man, God only doth: Our Saviour saith, A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit; especially Rom. 8. A naturall man per∣ceiveth not the things of God, Neither can he; he doth not, and he cannot. See what pregnant places of Scripture here are; Mark them because that unsavorie error doth so much spread. If these Texts be true, all our thoughts and affections are onely evill; we are dead in sin, we do not, we cannot so much as perceive the things of God: how then dare any think of the power of nature, and her ability to what is holy?

Secondly, This is fully proved by those excellent and empharicall similitudes which are used to declare the work of Conversion; which the Spirit of God on purpose u∣seth * to declare Gods glorious power in us. As its called often A Creation, and Grace is A new Creature: we are said to be Created to good works. Now Creatio fit ex nihilo, Creation doth suppose nothing pre-exsistent, either physically or mo∣rally. Was the world when it was created any wayes co-operant to its Creati∣on? Neither is it here. Remember then is he that hath made us, and not we our selves: If we did not make our selves men, shal we make our selves new Creatures, better then men? so its expressed by the similitude of a new Birth. He hath begot∣ten us by his word. A godly man is said to be born of God. Now these are full ex∣pressions to shew that we are not born by our free-will, or consent, but by Gods sole power; as John 1. Lastly, its compared to the Resurrection; You that were dead hath he quickned. Now was there ever any man that could raise up himself out of the grave, and give life to himself? yea Ephs. 1. Its compared to that glorious power of God in raising up Christ, the very self same power is here said to work in those that believe. Now how can any man answer these comparisons the Scrip∣ture useth? for howsoever similtudes must not be stretched beyond the scope of him that useth them: yet the Holy Ghost doth for this end use such expressions, that we should attribute all to God, be debased in our selves, saying, Not unto us Lord, not to our free-will or our power, but to thy Name be all glorie.

Thirdly, All those places prove this, which take all ability of good from man, and attribute it wholly to God: So our Saviour likeneth every man out of * him to a Branch separated from the Vine John 15. The Branch out of the Vin can bring forth no fruit; Thus every man out of Christ: Hence our Saviour concludes, Without me ye can do nothing. He doth not say, You cannot do any great thing, but nothing: And again, 2 Cor. 3. the Apostle saith, We are not sufficient of our selves to think one thought, viz. In reference to the good either of others, or of our selves. Thus you see how man is made utterly impotent. Well, then see those places that po∣sitively attribute all to God; Its God that works in us both to will and to do. You see all is given to him. And again, What hast thou that thou hast not received? But above all, how plain is this Rom. 9. Its not of him that willeth, or him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. This is a noble place, for who is likely to have it, but him that willeth, or that runneth? yet it is not of him, but of him that sheweth mercy; whereas if Free-will, or mans power had any co-partnership in this work, Page  573 we might as well say, Its not of him that sheweth mercy, but of him that willeth or run∣neth. So that this Doctrine robs God of all that honour and glory that is due to him both in the prayers and praises of his people. For how will the Patrons of Natures Free-will deport themselves in this Duty? Must they not in effect come to this? Lord, I pray thee mollifie and soften my heart, if I will. Again, Lord I praise thee, that thou gavest me an heart to repent, when I consented and was willing; And is not all this highly derogatory to Gods glory? This made pro∣found Bradwardine encourage himself to write against Plagius, because he could heartily pray for the grace of God to help him in that work, whereas his adversaries could not do so.

Lastly, If so be that the will and power of man, did make grace effectual to * us, so that Gods grace should not take away our stoninesse, till we consented, Then the greatest glory of a mans Conversion would belong to him: For we may sup∣pose God offering grace equally to the same men; They both live in the same Family, both under the same Ministery. Now what is the cause why one recei∣veth the Word, and not the other? Shall we say, because he by his free-will entertained the grace of God, and not the other? What derogation would this be to Gods glory? Doth not the Apostle say, Who hath made thee to differ from another? 1 Cor. 4. 7. Why was Peter converted, and not Judas? They both enjoyed the same means, they both saw the same wonderful miracles: Shall any man say, Because Peter used his free-will well, and not Judas? This were to make Peter no more beholding to Christ then Judas was. Oh a gracious heart knoweth not how to digest such presumptuous opinions! God made me to differ from others, By the grace of God I am what I am. So then, have all these argu∣ments in your eyes, they are plain and easie; and then though error be never so subtilly painted, yet it will not make you inamoured with it, especially if to all these places of Scripture, thou canst set to thy own experience of Gods won∣derful change upon thee. Art not thou able to say, That though ten thousand teachers should come and preach free-will, yet thine own experience in thy Con∣version will make thee not believe it, for thou wert so farre from consenting or agreeing to the work of grace, that all thy shifts and care was how to put off the work of God? How often didst thou labour to blinde thy own eyes, to har∣den thy own heart, how unwilling to be convinced, how sorry to part with thy dear lusts, how often didst thou put off and defer; saying, Yet a little more and still a little more, that had not God by his mighty power opened thy heart, made thee of unwilling willing, to this very day thou hadst still been wallowing in thy bloud!

Use of Instruction. Concerning a three-fold duty: 1. Of deep debasement * and humiliation, How vain, weak and unprofitable are we become? Of rich to become pooor, of honourable to become debased, is nothing to this; of holy and altogether holy, to become altogether sinful: Oh why doth not this wound thee? Is there any room left for pride, carnal jollity; and confidence, while in this polluted estate?

2. Of daily thankfulnesse to God, who hath put forth his great power on thee; Oh call upon thy soul, and all within thee, to speak for the grace of God.

3. Here is encouragement to pray to God for the subduing of any strong cor∣ruptions or passions: He that did the greater, take away the heart of stone at first; cannot he do the lesse?