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  643

SERMON CXI.

Of Election and Reprobation, and of the Few∣ness and Properties of those that are chosen; An∣swering the Objections of men, and clearing the Justice of God.


MAT. 22. 14.
For many are called, but few are chosen.

I Have dispatched the former Proposition, Many are called, and now come to the adversative, or exceptive Proposition, But few are chosen,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; though this Greek word may sometimes be taken as an adjective, signifying as much as excellent, choice and precious; yet it is here a Participle, and doth not so much denote any inward dignity and excellency, as an external act of God, selecting and choosing some to eternal life, and leaving others; thus the word is used very plainly against the Arminian glosse, that would have it be an Adjective, Mark 13. 20. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉for the Elects sake, whom he hath chosen; So that this word doth signifie an extrinsecal favour and priviledge of God, who doth all things according to his own will; why of these called, God chooseth one and not another, Noli Scrutari, said Augustine, do not curiously pry; and again Quaerat doctiorem, sed caveat ne inveniat praesumptiorem. We cannot tell the reason why of those many called, some have grace given them to obey, and others remain in their obstinacy. And as we cannot tell why this man, and not another; so neither why few, and not many. For as the glory of a King is in the multitude of his Subjects; so we would, think, the glory of God would lie in the multitude of those that are saved, but we see the peremptory assertion in the Text, Few are chosen.

That of those many who are called, and enjoy the priviledges of grace, few are cho∣sen*to eternal life.

Thus Christ called his people A little flock, Luk. 12. 32. Fear not little flock; As the number of precious stones is few to the pibble and gravel ones that lie in the fields; and as the weeds are farre more then the flowers; so its here: In the Church of God there are more that are drosse then gold, more that are stubble for hell fire, then prepared persons for glory.

Now let's open this Doctrine; And

First, This truth about the paucity of those that are elected, may be handled either sinfully or profitably; sinfully, as when it is treated on onely to satisfie curiosity, and to keep up a meer barren speculative dispute. Thus that man was exercised, who came to our Saviour, and asked him, Whether there were few that should be saved? Luk. 13. 23. Therefore our Saviour did not directly answer to the Question, because he would not nourish that sinful humour in man. This point then of Election but of a remnant and few of mankinde, is not to be agi∣tated in a verbal and contentious way, but in a saving way, to make us tremble, Page  644 and to set us upon a more diligent and close striving with God in prayer and all other duties. Hence our Saviour though he would not encourage that Questio∣nist in a way of curiosity, yet he did indirectly answer it, by bidding the same person, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for broad was the way that did lead to death; but narrow was the way that did lead to eternal life, and few enter therein; So then this Doctrine, if any other, should produce sobriety, holy fear and trembling. For what prayer, agonies, conflicts should this work in every hearer?

Secondly, Consider the aggravation of the Doctrine, Many are called and few*are chosen, even of those that are called; and therefore, as you heard, it is an in∣ference made from the man who came to the feast, sate down with all boldness, and yet because he had no wedding garment, was wholly excluded; and this indeed makes the consideration of this point more terrible and sharp; for had it been said, Of all the men in the world, there are but a few that are elected to eternal glory, this would not have struck so much trembling; for who would not have thought it very probable, that those who are within the Church, those that are within the Ark, none of them should perish? But this should wound at the very heart, that even of those who have called Lord, Lord, who have prophesied, wrought miracles, enjoyed the Ordinances, that an handful of these should be saved: Oh the depths of the counsel of God! How can man sit and hear these things, and not be dared into the very heart? As they cried out when Christ said, One of you shall betray me, Is it I Lord? Is it I Lord? And thus now when the Scripture speaks, Many of you persons called shall be dam∣ned, Is not every one to say, Is it I Lord? Is it I Lord?

Thirdly, That notwithstanding few are elected comparatively to those that are left*by God; yet if you take the number of the elect absolutely in themselves, so there is a great number of them. Hence many are said to come and sit down with Abraham, Matth. 8. 11. in the kingdom of Heaven; and the spiritual seed that is given unto Christ, is very great, compared to the dew of the morning, Psal. 110. Hence in the Revelation you reade of many thousands sealed in every Tribe. It hath been a conceit of some of the Ancients, that so many shall be repaired out of man-kinde, as will make up the number of the Angels that fell. Their opinion is, That for the many Angels that fell, there shall rise up so many men in their room, and God will have that number compleated; but here is no ground for this out of the Scripture; We may truly say, that howsoever it be a few in re∣spect of others, yet it is an All absolutely considered in themselves; and there∣fore they are sometimes called the world, and all men, as some Divines do expound those places.

Fourthly, The powerful and effectual preaching of this Doctrine, is no just ground*of despair to any. None can rationally conclude, Because there are so few that shall be saved, therefore its likely I shall be damned, I have no hopes. Oh if this be true, then farewell all comfort and all joy, would I had never been made a man, &c! The beasts of the field, and the birds of the air are happier. But this is gathering poyson out of a sweet herb; for howsoever this be true, yet no man in his particular may conclude himself a reprobate; for these Rea∣sons:

First, God layeth it as a duty upon every one to repent and to believe, to come to him,*and he shall have rest to his soul. If then it be thy duty to believe, to repent, what dost thou trouble thy self about thy election or reprobation? The way to make this Election sure to thee, is by giving all heed and diligence unto every work of grace: If then thou believest, thou repentest, this may be a sure testi∣mony unto thee of thy everlasting glory; so then notwithstanding this truth, Few are chosen, yet those things are likewise true, Whosoever shall believe, whosoever shall repent, shall be saved; And Whosoever comes unto Christ he will in no wise cast out. Therefore this election of God doth not infringe those uni∣versal Page  645 promises and invitations that the Scripture holds out. Neither may a man thus query, Am I elected or reprobated? But, Is it my duty to repent or not? Is it my duty to draw nigh unto God or not? And therefore you may observe, That those who hold Absolute Election, can go as farre in administring comfort to any troubled sinner, as those that hold Universal Grace or Redemption; for no Arminian dare say, God will save thee whether thou believe and repent or not, that is all one; but thou must believe and repent, then mercy is prepared for thee; and thus universally can and may the Orthodox say.

Secondly, This is no ground of despair, because no man can know his reprobation.* No man can ever truly say, I know I am not chosen, I know I am not elected. Its true, some have said so in temptations, some have cried out so in the horror of conscience that hath been upon them; but as Peter in a transfiguration spake he knew not what; so these in a black and sad temptation. Secret things belong unto God, revealed things unto us: God keeps that book of mens names that are eternally left by him in his own custody: Even as the day of Judgement, the time of it, is kept secret. Its true indeed, There may be a certain knowledge of our Election, not as it is in the fountain and decree of God, but by the sure and blessed effects thereof, which the Scripture doth abundantly witnesse; and there is great use of such necessity, because hereby God hath the greater praise and glory; and a man is more imboldened and encouraged in all the afflictions that do accompany the profession of Christ. See how Paul doth triumph over all by the sense of this love comforting his heart. But now if a man should know he were reprobated in this life, it would breed in him all desperate obstinacy to commit all wickednesse with all delight, and he would take himself disobliged from all the duties commanded, that he was not bound to repent or believe, or to pray, no more then the already damned in hell.

Thirdly, Therefore this cannot breed despair, because if there be any soul broken*for sinne, troubled under the guilt of it, we Ministers of the Gospel have a Commissi∣on to preach peace and pardon to such a soul. Oh then there is no cause thou shouldst bewail thy reprobate condition, that God had no thoughts of thee, but rather thy hard and stony heart, that will not relent, that will not grieve, that will not hunger and thirst after Christ. For let us meet with such a soul, as the bo∣dy of that man of Jericho, wounded with sin, and we must pour oil into it. We dare not keep comfort from any one who discovers unfeigned signs of repent∣ance; yea if need be, we may in particular absolve, and acquit in the name of the Lord, such a sinner from his sins, and the Lord he will confirm it, Whose sins ye loose on earth, shall be loosed in Heaven, Matth. 18. Oh then that we had such oc∣casions, as to administer this balme of Gilead! Oh that we could meet with such persons, and we would say, Be of good comfort, thy sinnes are forgi∣ven thee.

Fourthly, It cannot be any ground of despair, for there is more possibility of thy*Salvation, by Gods absolute Election, then by Universal Grace or Redemption, as the Authors of that Doctrine maintain it; So that if a man were put to choose which Doctrine he would have, as putting him into the greater possibility of sal∣vation, he would rationally choose the former way. For by an Absolute Ele∣ction some are sure to be saved, but by the Doctrine of those universalists, not∣withstanding Universal Grace, and Christs dying for all, not one man may be sa∣ved; God may lose all the glory of his mercy, and Christ all the fruit of his sufferings, and a mans salvation is hereby made the more unlikely, in that they have not been able to instance of any one Heathen amongst many thousands that improved his naturals so well, as to have Grace given him.

Fifthly, This few number that are said to be chosen, are so precisely determined*and ordained by God, that it can neither be lessened or multiplied. When the Apo∣stle had spoken of the fall of some eminent persons, he addeth, Neverthelesse the foundation of God standeth sure, 2 Tim. 2. 19. having this title, The Lord knoweth Page  646 who are his: So that if the daies of a mans life are numbred with God, that there cannot be one day taken from them, or added to them; much more must this hold in that soveraign and glorious decree. Insomuch that it is false Doctrine to say to any man, If thou art not predestinated, pray thou maiest be; for this is Gods eternal purpose before the foundations of the world were laid, and are farre stronger then those Decrees of the Medes and Persians, which were so im∣mutable that they could not be changed; and such a prayer would be as if we would intreat God to create the world. There is none of these chosen ones shall ever be cast away as a reprobate, None of the bones of Christ were broken, much lesse will he lose any of his living members; The love of God is unchangeably pla∣ced upon his people, and those that are his Ammi, his people, in this sense have this mercy, he will never say to them, Loammi, you are not my people.

Sixthly, These that are thus chosen by God, of his meer good will and gracious*pleasure, God findes not any thing in one called person more then another that should distinguish them. Paul said, Who hath made thee to differ from another? 1 Cor. 4. 7. And indeed if in these earthly mercies, its God that gives some riches, and not another; some wealth, and not another; some health, and not another; How much rather then is it God, that gives one grace to repent, and not ano∣ther; one a broken and a contrite heart, and not another? Thus alwaies in the Scripture, you shall finde that repentance is Gods gift. To believe and under∣stand the mystery of the Gospel, is given to one and not to another. Those then that are thus chosen, are to be ravished with the consideration of free Grace, that God out of his good pleasure should make such a large difference between him and others that it may be have been lesse sinners, and have lesse dishonoured God then he hath done. How thankful must the Israelite needs have been to see the destroying Angel passe by his house, and strike at the next Aegyptian house to him! How much more then are the godly to rejoyce, who have the stroak of eternal damnation passing by them, but falling heavily upon others!

And if you object, saying, All is of Gods meer pleasure, and its wholly of God,*that one is left, and another is taken; then a mans damnation and destruction is whol∣ly to be imputed unto God; then a man is no more in fault; for who hath resisted his will?

To this we answer: That howsoever it be Gods Soveraign good pleasure to * choose some and not others, yet a mans damnation is wholly of himself in respect of the meritorious cause; for no man is damned precisely, because God hath not chosen him, because he is not elected, but because he is a sinner, and doth wil∣fully refuse the means of grace offered: insomuch that there is no sinner, but he doth as willingly and readily sinne with as much choice and delight, as if he were not at all left by God; and therefore the Scripture doth wholly attribute a mans destruction to his own self: Let no man think then to evade Gods Ju∣stice under this pretence. No, God will be justified, and every man will be found to be a sinner. Neither may this be thought injustice in God, for if he had not saved one man, none could have blamed him; we see he did not spare one of the Apostate Angels; Thus also might he have done with all man-kinde. Let us therefore admire the goodnesse of God that chooseth any to eternal life.

But a second Objection, which cavillers use to make, is, If God hath thus*chosen some, and left others, then all our labours and endeavours after God∣linesse, are in vain; Why should I pray? Should I seek after God, all may be in vain?

To this the Answer is easie: Thou must live by the revealed will of God, not * by the secret: Now Gods revealed will cals for such duties, commands such graces of every one. What is Gods secret will none can tell thee, but in the Word he hath shewed thee, O man, what thou art to do: Do not thou then Page  647 cavil, and argue against thy Duty? But hear what the Scripture saith, Tremble under what God doth require of thee, thou art sure the neglect of these Du∣ties will be unto thee an evident token of perdition. Neither do the Orthodox assert such an Absolute Decree as doth oppose ordered means, but Conditions suspended upon the uncertain will of man. We see the Scripture positively as∣serting such an Election of God before the foundations of the world: we see it also as positive and peremptory in commands for the use of the means. There∣fore these two things may stand together: Let not then the difficulty of recon∣ciling them make thee deny either; and if upon prayer and study thou canst not pitch on a way for their concord (for several learned men differ herein, some going one way, some another) do then rather submit thy understanding, then presumptuously deny the truth, as thou doest in the matter of the Trinity; and this counsel, about a point very near it, not all one with this, doth Cajetan the sub∣til Schoolman give.

And thus much for Explication: The ground why of many called, few are * chosen à priori, is, as you heard, Gods will, Who doth in Heaven and Earth what pleaseth him. Paul in the ninth of the Romans hath so fully determined this, that its a wonder any have had the fore-head to rise up and dispute against it; We rather are to admire the mercy of God, that a few are chosen, rather then to di∣spute why not more, or all. The Church in her temporal affliction did blesse God for the remnant that was saved; and we are much more to praise God for any that are elected to eternal life.

And then the ground à Posteriori, or which is rather a sign that few are sa∣ved, may be evidenced by considering the lives of those that are called, View then and judge by the Scripture, and you must then conclude few are chosen. For out of the number of those that are called outwardly, Take

First, All ignorant Persons; and then you remove a great number. That no grossely ignorant person, living and dying so, is chosen, appeareth plainly, Be∣cause God would have men come to the knowledge of the truth, and so to be saved, 1 Tim. 2. 4. And conversion is an enlightning of the minde; its the giving of a man a spiritual understanding; They are a people of no understanding, therfore he that made them will not save them, Isa. 23. 11. So then, we are to bid all ignorant people, Stand you by, you are not of the chosen ones by any outward sign. As yet you are in a damnable condition: Oh pray that God would open your blinde eyes!

Secondly, From those that are called. Take away the prophane and ungodly man in his life, and then the number is still lesse and lesse. Are not the ignorant and the prophane men the greater part of called persons? But now if any man be a vici∣ous and ungodly person, he must also stand aloof off: Here are no signs of thy Election, as yet; yea there are the Plague-tokens for the present of Gods eter∣nal displeasure.

Thirdly, There is a third sort to be taken away, and that is, Of those indeed who live a civil and unblameable life, unspotted from all sinne and wickednesse, but yet have never felt within themselves the mighty power of God renewing their natures. What a small number by this time will that of the chosen persons be, when those that live in a fair and ingenuous way, but never tasted the good word of God upon their hearts, are also bid to depart, here is no comfort for them.

Lastly, Yet once more take away all those, who have the common gifts and graces of Gods Spirit, who have some inward workings of illumination, and joy, and sor∣row in their hearts; but yet because they do not dig deep enough, and want root, are therefore carried no further then hypocrites and reprobates: Such there are, and our Saviour doth often give his Disciples warning, lest they go no further then these. Now then put all these together, The Ignorant Person, The Prophane, The Civil, and the Temporary Believer, and take the rest, and you will say, Oh how few are chosen!

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Page  648Use of Examination. Try your selves under this truth, Hath Christ spoken it * once and twice? It will prove true, That though Many are called, yet few are chosen: Oh then search, and again search and try your wayes! Oh enquire, whether thou art in the number of those chosen ones or no! for the thing may be known. The Scripture gives many characters of those that are thus chosen, Do thou then fall upon this study. Oh do not hear and hear, but fall presently upon the work! The signs are these:

First, Those that are chosen to glory, they are likewise chosen to grace here. Election will in due time have its effectual vocation. If God appoint thee to eternal life, he doth here in this world appoint thee to a gracious and heavenly life. As thy glory and happinesse is a choice mercy, so are thy thoughts, thy actions choise actions. Is thy whole conversation selected and removed from sinne and filthinesse. This is a sure argument, No Sanctification no Election, No choice Grace no choice Glory. Thou art to be a precious jewel here, ere God will make thee up at that great day.

Secondly, Those that are chosen, they have the Spirit of God bestowed on them: He is the fruit of this Election, and a three-fold work the Spirit of God puts forth in them: Its

1. A Spirit of Prayer, Rom. 8. which teacheth us how to pray, and what to pray; which makes our hearts full of conflicts and spiritual agonies in prayer. Thy earnest, effectual prayers demonstrate thy Election.

2. Its the Spirit of Adoption, enabling us to call God Father: This is a comfor∣table fruit in those that are chosen; They have a Filial and Evangelical frame of heart. They have a godly boldnesse and confidence in Gods love.

3. Its a witnessing and sealing Spirit to them, it assures and seals unto them the love and favour of God, and by the Spirits assistance they come to be thus per∣swaded. Alas, they have no such certainty of themselves, as the choisest colours cannot be seen without the benefit of the light.

Thirdly, Those that are thus chosen, they have a heavenly delight and excellent joy in drawing nigh to God; His Ordinances are excellent, his Word is excellent, his Sabbaths are a delight. They prize those things more then the worldly man his treasure, the voluptuous man his pleasures.

Lastly, They that are thus chosen, they walk with an holy fear and trembling. Their heavenly joy and assurance doth not degenerate into presumption or neg∣lect of the means. No, Paul beats down his body, that he may not become a re∣probate; and he giveth this general rule, Work out your Salvation with fear and trembling. These are the fruits of Election, not as if all that were chosen had them at all times, or altogether, or in a perfect manner, but with much conflict and imperfection.