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  654

SERMON CXIII.

Of Christians walking worthy of their Calling; what to walk worthy implies, and what are the Properties and Actions that will become and grace our holy Calling.


EPHES. 4. 1.
I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith ye are called.

THe Apostle in this Epistle, as for the most part in others, divideth his Di∣scourse into two parts; The first whereof is didactical, informing and con∣firming in matters of Faith and Doctrine. The second is moral and practi∣cal, wholly tending to form us in a Christian and heavenly life. Now in the be∣ginning of this Chapter, wherein my Text is the first verse, the Apostle betakes himself to an wholsome and savoury Exhortation, to live in the powerful ex∣pression of all the graces of Gods Spirit. And first, he layeth down his Exhor∣tation in the general; and then instanceth in particulars.

The general Duty is my Text; wherein observe,

1. The Duty it self, Walk worthy: To walk implieth the perpetual course and exercise of a mans life. He that steps now and then occasionally in such a path, is not said to walk in it: To be godly by fits, to have some pangs and sudden re∣solution; for what is good, and the presently to let all vanish, is not to walk. To walk worthy; This is not worth of merit or congruity antecedent to Gods grace calling us. No, he plainly supposeth the grace of God hath called us al∣ready: and therefore, as it to be shewed, it denoteth only a worth of condecen∣cy and fitnesse that is subsequent to this holy calling, that all our thoughts, words and actions should be decent, and becoming such an heavenly call. Even as John bid them, Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, Luk. 3. 8. that is, fit and beseeming repentance.

2. You have the object of this Duty, and that is The Vocation wherewith ye are called; by this he means, that outward favour of God calling them from their former ignorance and sins, to the profession of faith and obedience to the Gospel. They are not now what they were once; They must be other men; They must consider their heavenly dignity and condition. As Paul said, While he was a childe, he did all things as a childe; but when a man, he left those childish things, and did as a man: Thus it is here, when thou wast ignorant, prophane, and a stranger from God, thou didst as such do, but when called by God, then thou takest up more holy and divine resolutions.

3. There is the argument to inforce it, and that is from the outward conditi∣on of him, that doth thus intreat them, A prisoner of the Lord; one that is in bonds and prison for the Lords sake. This he doth to excite their affections, for Page  655 how well might they part with their lusts and unlawful pleasures, when he had parted with his liberty, and was ready to lose his life for the Lords sake! And see here the gracious disposition of Paul, who being now in prison and bonds, is not sollicitous about himself, doth not write about means to set himself at li∣berty; but all his care is, that these Ephesians might do nothing which should be a scandal to Christianity, a reproach to the Gospel, that all their life should be a praise and a glory to that calling God had called them with.

That it is the earnest and hearty desire of the faithful Ministers of the Gospel, that*all Christians should live such a life, that is worthy and beseeming so excellent a Calling.

There are no sadder objects, then to see a prophane, a debaucht, an ungodly Christian; to see men professe Christ in words, and in works to deny him; For these things their souls mourn in secret. Because of this, they intreat, beseech and exhort without ceasing: See the like hot affection burning out in Paul to the Thessalonians, 2 Thess. 1. 11. VVe pray alwayes for you, that our God would count you worthy of his calling. We pray alwayes for you; This we never forget; This is alwaies in our heart, that ye may be a people becoming this glorious cal∣ling. And indeed its a most absurd and even loathsome sight, to see a man with the same mouth pray to God, yet to curse, swear and blaspheme; with the same body, to worship God in the Congregations, and to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Solomon hath two excellent sayings together, Prov. 26. v. 7. and v. 9. The first is, The legs of the lame are not equal, so is the parable in a fools mouth. A fool is the wicked man, and a parable is a grave, holy sentence: Now, saith he, as those that are lame and halt, they shew an uncomely inequality in their going, such a deformity there is in a wicked man, that yet hath holy truths in his mouth. The second is, As a thorn goeth up in the hand of a drunkard; so is a parable in the mouth of a fool. The drunkard he feeleth no smart, though a thorn run into his hand. Thus a wicked man, though the obligations of Christianity, and his Baptism be never so piercing and powerful to godlinesse, yet he feels no efficacy in them.

To open this Doctrine, consider,

First, What it is to walk worthy 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of this holy calling; and that impli∣eth * these things:

First, To do nothing but what is sutable and connatural with this calling. Those actions are worthy such an agent, as are sutable and proper for him. All Agents have their sutable operations; the fire ascends, the stone descends. If therefore the fire should descend and go downwards, it would be against nature, it would argue great violence. Thus the sutable and connatural actions of a Christian are to avoid sin, to walk holily, to be above the world, to keep our selves unspotted from it. Now if any one that is called a Christian be not thus, he doth unnatu∣ral actions. His principles, his obligations are against these things. Oh (Be∣loved) if men were real Christians, as well as titular, you should see no more prophane and ungodly persons amongst us, then venemous and poisonous crea∣tures will be in some countreys; It should be even a wonder, a strange thing, that any one should among Christians be found in the way of wickednesse: Oh then reflect upon all thy words, all thy actions! Are these sutable? Are these proper? Do these agree with my Baptism, with my profession of Christ? How can I call on Christ, and do the things Christ hateth?

Secondly, The word implieth besides sutablenesse, a conveniency and decency, to*do such things as are comely, that are no reproach or debasement unto our holy profes∣sion. VVhatsoever things are comely, whatsoever things are pure and just, Phil. 4. 8. If there be any praise, any vertue, think on these things. Its a rule that Tully gives in Moral Offices between man and man, that we should observe the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, what is convenient and decent: Though happily Pagans and Hea∣thens, Page  656 and such who never heard of Christ may glory in all excesse of riot, yet this is not decent or becoming a Christian. The Apostle forbids foolish jesting, which is not convenient, Ephes. 5. 4. how much more then thy oaths, thy lusts! Oh how indecent and unbecoming are such words and actions! Though other men might drink wine, yet it was not befitting a Nazarite, who by vow had se∣parated himself to God, promising abstinence from these things; and so though the world lieth in wickednesse, and glory in their impieties, yet these things are not for thee to do, who art separated to God. What then shall we think of such persons, who account their oaths a grace to their mouth, who judge strictnesse and precisenesse of walking, the most indecent and ridiculous way? Oh what do such persons think of their Divine Vocation? Hath God called us to unclean∣nesse, to lusts? Where are your consciences? Why do they lie so fast asleep in your brests, and are not awakened?

Thirdly, The word implieth glory, and an ornament to this heavenly calling, which*is more then meer comelinesse and decency. Glory is clara notitia, a famous and illustrious manifestation of such godlinesse in our lives, that thereby all others may honour the Gospel, and love that Christianity, which instruct them in such things. This our Saviour meaneth, when he commands, That our light should so shine before men, that others may glorifie God for us, Matth. 5. 16. Oh, every Chri∣stian is to be like a Star or the Sun in the firmament; as lights in the dark night, so these in the midst of a crooked and perverse people: Oh its a wofull thing to be an offence or a stumbling block to others, and that is, so to live, as that others are more confirmed and encouraged in their wickednesse! Look we then upon mens lives, and compare them with their Christian calling, here is no more agree∣ment then with light and darknesse: Oh the reproach and scandal they are to Christianity! Salvian a godly Ancient doth excellently describe this, What do Pagans say, when they see Christians live wickedly? They think Christ taught them no better, he instructed them in no more holinesse. Christiani sanctè vixis∣sent, si Christus sancta docuisset; Christians would have lived holily, if Christ had given them holy commands: Oh blasphemy! Yet thus is the name of Christ blasphemed by thy ungodly life.

Fourthly, The word doth imply a giving the preheminence and excellency to those things that beseem this calling; That we minde this in the first place. Many they * attend to keep up their state, their pomp, their pedigree; but the true godly man, he seeketh this in the first place, how he may adorn that holy profession, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and is properly from that side of the scales or balance that weighs down the other; so it is here: Those things that become this holy cal∣ling, that make for the glory of it, they should wiegh down all other thoughts and affections: whatsoever is chief, precious and vigorous in thee, it should go to glorifie this heavenly calling. So that this shameth those, who never seri∣ously consider nor meditate, what this Christian profession binds them to; As Nehemiah said, Shall such a man as I flee? He thought it a great dishonour to him, whatsoever it might be to others. And so do thou reflect, Shall such an one as I swear, curse, deal unjustly, be proud and earthly? Oh when thou hast been overcome with such things! say truly to thy self, that which Michal did falsly to David, Thou hast made thy self like one of the vile and base ones of the earth. Thus you have heard what the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 worthy doth imply. *

Now let us consider, VVhat are those properties or constant actions that will thus become and grace our holy calling. And

First, They walk worthy of this calling, who have heartily and totally left all that former life God hath called them out from, and have no desires to return to that a∣gain. By this call God takes us from all those former customary wayes of im∣pieties, that we lived in: Were we prophane? we are so no more: Were we proud, earthly, unjust? we are so no more. God hath called us from such a wretched and cursed estate of life. Now a man cannot walk in a meer unwor∣thy Page  657 way of this call, then to desire to return to his former lusts; To think it was better then with us, then now; we had more pleasures, more love in the world, more content and esteem, then since we have followed God thus calling of us: Oh wherein can we shew our selves a people more unworthy of this mercy, then in so doing! As it was with the people of Israel, when God had delivered them out of that place of bondage, and by a mighty hand had wrought wonderful deliverances for them; wherein did they demonstrate their horrible ingratitude more then in this, That they would go back again to Egypt? They pri∣zed not the Manna, but thought of their old flesh-pots. Thus its as unsufferable wickednesse in any man, whom God hath called from his former lusts, and he begins to desire them again, and to do as he hath done: Oh what is this, but to repent of thy marriage to God! To proclaim to the world, that thou didst finde more pleasure and content in lusts, then in the service of God! Remember Lots wife; when God had by a merciful hand pulled her out of Sodom, she looks back and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt. Augustine said, It was to season us; but the Hebrew word for salt, may signifie brimstone, or such ma∣terials, and so she was punished in some measure like the Sodomites, partaking of their punishments, because she had some compliance with their sins: Oh then consider thy self! Hast thou forsaken all thy former dear lusts? Hast thou bid them all Be gone? Is the very memory of thy former life a shame and a bitter∣nesse to thee? Art thou daily blessing God, that he hath given thee eyes to see and an heart to understand thy former life, and that for thousands of worlds, thou wouldst not be the man thou once wert? This is to walk worthy of so ho∣ly a calling.

Secondly, Those that walk worthy of this heavenly call, they keep themselves*unspotted from the wickednesse of the world, they are not conformed to the wayes and customs thereof. Thus the Apostle prayeth earnestly, Rom. 12. That they might not be conformed to the world, but transformed in their minde; & true religion is that which keeps a man unspotted from the world, Jam. 1. 28. If God hath called thee out of this dungeon, out of this noisome and filthy place, its for thee to cast off all thy rags, and not to carry about thee so much as the smell thereof. The whole world lieth in wickednesse, saith the Apostle; And if ye were of the world, saith Christ to his Disciples, the world would love you. Though the godly are in it, yet not of it. Thou dost therefore then walk in a way beseeming this holy profession, when thy life is singular, and contrary to the world, thou hatest what that loveth, thou lovest what that hateth. Thy thoughts and affections are above these things. As God made the fowls at first out of the waters, but they left them, and fle up in the air towards the heavens: So it ought to be with us; though we are born of flesh and blood, and have one being from below, yet we are to soar above. Do not then defile thy self with the pitch here below. Be as the Sun-beams up∣on the dunghil, that are not polluted by the vapours thereof. Be as those three worthies in this fire, and yet not have thy garments singed.

Thirdly, They are very attentive and diligent to avoid all those wayes that may be*an active scandal or offence to others. To walk worthy of the Gospel is so to carry our selves, that others may love it, that we may win others by our life and conversation. Now on the other side, they walk unworthily of it, who give just offence and scandal to others, that are stumbling blocks in other mens wayes. This is an heavy sin: our Saviour crieth out of a woe to such men, Mat. 18. 7. and saith, It had been better they were thrown into the bottom of the sea with a milstone about their necks. They had better never have been born, that it might be said, There were never such men, then so to harden others in impiety. How unworthy was Judas of that gracious call he had, when by his secret theft and perfidious be∣traying of Christ, he gave him up to be crucified? What such a man to be found in the number of those that left all and followed Christ! What a scandal was thi•• Those that are tender of Gods glory, and of the repute of godlinesse they dare Page  658 not do such things as shall make Religion stink in the nostrils of men: Oh they have alwayes a care to that, that that may be well spoken of, may hear well! In∣deed there are passive scandals and offences, such as wicked men take by their own corrupt and malicious hearts, as the Pharisees did at Christ, but those are not to be mattered; such persons do destroy their own selves, and like Serpents they turn every thing they eat into poison; but we speak now of those things that give a just offence, that are not justifiable and warrantable. These things, those that desire to adorn religion will abstain from. If Augustus said, That an Emperor was not only to be free from crimes, but also from the suspition of them; How much more should Christians, who are commanded to abstain from all ap∣pearance of evil? 1 Thess. 5. 22.

Fourthly, They that walk worthy of his calling, they are endued with magnanimous and high resolutions sutable thereunto. They are said to be born of God; Fortes cre∣antur*fortibus. They resemble their father of whom they are born; Doth earth∣ly greatnesse and nobility make men put themselves in a different behaviour and deportment from those that are of an inferiour breed? we say, Such a man shew∣eth his breeding, he is a Gentleman every inch of him; How much rather may we say, Such a man sheweth his Christianity, He is a Christian in every particu∣lar, you may know who is his father, he scorneth to debase himself by sinne? yet many men think the only gallantry in the world lieth in the beastly pleasures of the flesh; Thus while they think themselves more then other men, they make themselves worse then the very beasts. Remember thy Christianity, and that will raise up thy heart to things that are indeed glorious and excellent; to mor∣tifie thy passions, to conquer thy lusts, to have fellowship and communion with God in holy duties, to be above the allurements or discouragements of the world, to fear nothing but sinne; these are magnanimous and generous things, and such only they do, who walk worthy of this calling.

Lastly, They walk worthy, who abound in the graces following this verse: For the Apostle of all other duties, instanceth in lowlinesse and meeknesse of minde, * with all long-suffering and forbearance. Lowlinesse of minde is that humility of heart, whereby we give all to Gods grace, and take nothing to our selves, Praise is comely for the upright. Nothing but grace, grace should come out of the mouth that is thus graciously called by God. Thus Paul often breatheth out the praises of the riches of Gods grace and long-suffering, with much patience intreating and exhorting others to come out of their dangerous estate they are in. They consider how much patience God and good men shewed to them, how often they were rebellious and refractory, yet God did not leave them. And certainly this is a very great grace, not to be wearied out, but still importuning those that gainsay, if God may yet give them grace to repent.

Use of Examination: Bring we our selves to these trials and touchstones. Is * all our calling thus holy? Is Christianity thus obliging unto all purity and god∣linesse? Oh then let the greater part of men amongst us be ashamed, and full of confusion! Whose zeal must not burn like fire to see the reproach and scandal to Christianity by the lives of those, who call themselves Christians, but indeed are not? They have a name that they live, but are really dead. Doth your Christian religion teach you to lie, swear, and live in all carnal jollity? Doth the Scripture, doth Christ teach you no better things? Let the heavens blush, and the earth tremble to hear and see, what is done among those, who yet pro∣fesse the faith of Christ: Oh either lay aside such titles, or lay aside those un∣godly practices! Thou art bound to thy good and godly behaviour, its not for sheep to lie and wallow in the mire like swine; its not for flowers to smell like weeds; not for the myrtle trees to become like the brambles; How long shall these things sound in your ears, and yet the Lord not give you understanding rightly to apply them? Cry out of your selves as unsavoury salt; stand aloof off as unclean Lepers, unworthy that God or good men should own you.

Page  659Use 2. To the godly: Let this be a god in their side, let not the same sins and infirmities be in them, as in men of the world: Art thou proud, earthly, passionate, discontented? say, How am I become thus like a beast, I forget my self, I forget my holy calling.