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.
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SERMON CIII.

Stirring up to serious and fixed Meditations upon this Calling, in respect of the manner and time of it, and the persons called.


1 COR. 1. 26.
For ye see your Calling (Brethren) how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, &c.

THe Apostle at the 18. Verse, begins an excellent discourse about the maner and way which God taketh to convert and save men; for whereas the eye of reason doth look for some Wise, Eloquent, and Externally glori∣ous manner; the Apostle sheweth, that God taketh the clean contrary way, by that admirable position, verse 26. to be engraven on all our hearts, and which is of daily use, both in Religious and Civil Affairs, The foolishness of God is wiser then men; and the weakness of God stronger then men; the Apostle calls the foolishness and weakness of God, that which in humane thoughts and re∣spects is so: Now he considers, that the things of God, which have this out∣ward despicable appearance, yet have glorious operations; whereupon the Apostle amplifieth this transcendent method of God, as in the manner of preach∣ing the Gospel, so in the persons that are converted thereby, in the Text read: where First, we have the introduction to observe. Secondly, The matter to be considered. The introduction, For ye see your calling; some read it imperative∣ly, See and take notice of your calling; which way soever you take it, it amounts to this, That Gods calling of men from a state of sin, to grace, is like Ezekiels waters, that rise up higher and higher; we may still take notice of some more excellent and admirable aggravations in it: The looking upon the Creation, and considering of the Creatures, it may justly stir up men to glorifie the Wis∣dom and power of God: But this much more; and that which the Apostle doth especially take notice of in this Text is, the persons whom he hath called, and they are described, first, Negatively, then Positively. Negatively, Not ma∣ny wise, not many mighty, not many noble; where he doth not absolutely deny, no wise, no mighty, no great ones; for examples in Scripture are recorded, of some few such, but not many: This is a serious consideration, to shame and confound all flesh; Who do not look upon these things, as making men happy and glorious? but God overlooketh them all. Now to fix us the more upon this consideration, he illustrates it on the contrary, God hath chosen foolish and weak, and base things in the world: The Apostle in this Argument, makes cal∣ling and choosing all one, because they necessarily agree, as the cause and ef∣fect together, Election and efficacious calling follow one another. Lastly, the Apostle instructs us about the end of Gods dispensation in all these things; and that is twofold; 1. To confound the wise, and to bring to nought the mighty things that are. 2. Which is a consequent of the former, That no flesh should glory in his presence; that none may say, It was his power, wisdom, or any humane Page  602 excellency that did thus advance him, but Gods grace onely. Let us first consider the introduction, You see, or, See your calling: And observe,

That Gods calling of us, is worthy of many serious and fixed meditations.

Its like Tapestry folded up, which when opened, makes a glorious shew. If * the Queen of Sheba had her spirit faint within her, with admiration of Solomons wisdom, how much rather may we, in beholding of the wisdom and goodness of God herein? Our Saviour saith, The kingdom of heaven comes not by observation, Luke. 17. 10. that is, the excellent works of grace, which are the Kingdom of Heaven; and the Gospel, which is the instrument of these; they come not as * great Kings and Emperors to a place, with a great deal of pomp and osten∣tation, to say, Here it comes, and there it goeth; but it is after a spiritual and invisible maner; even as the wind, which seemeth to be nothing, we cannot see it with the eye, or feel it with the hand, yet it hath mighty and powerful operations: As it was with Christ himself, he was in a despicable form, a worm and no man, accounted amongst the wicked, when yet he was at the same time a glorious and infinite God; but yet because of that outward appearance, they despised him, Is not this the Carpenters Son; And he was accounted of no reputation: Even so it is with the called ones of God, they are such that the world despiseth, contemneth, the learned ones and great ones of the world, they do none of these things; not considering what rich jewels are in these course Cabinets: So that as our Saviour saith, Blessed is he that is not offended at me; so also, blessed is he that is not offended at the way and manner of Gods calling: But now let us go into this Temple, and behold the wonderful works of God. And

First, The grace of God it self in calling any, though never so few, is with heart and mouth to be always acknowledged: God who had his onely * son to delight in, and millions of Angels to serve him, that he should call thee so poor, so weak, so inconsiderable, this should set thee upon the very pinacle of admiration. How often do you see Paul gathering up this manna, and eve∣ry day, like a true spiritual Dives, he fareth deliciously upon comfortable me∣ditations, sometimes the grace of God, sometimes the riches of his grace, some∣times the unsearchable riches of his grace: Oh how unexcusable are the people of God for their unthankfulness, dulness, and unbelief in this particu∣lar! They are not affected to ravishment with the grace of God calling them, they do not aggravate every meditation, they do not set home every thing that may make their souls run over, to make them say, O Lord, my heart suffers vio∣lence within me, I can hold no longer; thy love, thy grace in calling me, doth even overwhelm me.

Secondly, The time and season when God calls his people, deserves meditation: Not onely mercies themselves, but the times and seasons of them, are wisely or∣dered * by God: Some God calls in the morning, some in the noon, some in the evening of their age: And to every one, this grace of God hath its full mat∣ter of consideration; he that is called betimes, he may consider Gods goodness to him so early, that God thought on him so quickly; he might have gone on and provoked God, carrying guilt and a sadded conscience, even to the ve∣ry grave: He heareth others cry out, O Lord, it troubleth me I loved thee no sooner; Oh how much time have I lost! how shall I recover and redeem those lost hours, and lost days? but as for thee, God instructed thee betimes to take heed of sin: He that is called at the latter end of his days, having the guilt of many sins upon him, he also may be quickned to glorifie God, that he would not despise him for all his rebellions, that he would not remember all his un∣kindenesses, that such a long and old enemy of his should be taken into favor: yea, at that very time when they have been in full pursuit of their lusts, hath God called them, as it was with Paul, yea, and is to every man; When, Lord, I was thinking and working evil against thee, thou wast preparing good for me; when I, Lord, had no delight, but in my lusts, and those things that did grieve Page  603 thy spirit, even then thy thoughts of kindeness were to me: Oh think on these things! what, is there nothing but your children, your husbands, your wives, your temporal mercies to be delighted in? Yes, that grace of God calling thee should possess thy whole man.

Thirdly, The persons whom God calleth: They afford many considerati∣ons; As *

First, They are the meanest in outward condition: If you read the Evangelists, you shall finde, that the greatest part of persons called, were of no pomp, no noise or fame in the world: Though the material Temple was built of precious stone, and excellent wood, and adorned with gold, whereby it was the magni∣ficentest wonder in the world; yet there is no such beauty in the spiritual Temple of God, in his Church and children: This hath always been objected against the ways of Christ. Julian objected it, the Papists objected it against our Martyrs, that suffered by their cruel violence: Now God hath delighted to take such a way, not onely in heavenly things, but even in the Government of the world, he hath many times shewed such remarkable passages: Joseph a con∣temptible prisoner, hath his irons taken off, and he is admitted to the greatest honor in the Land: Moses, from what contemptible originals, did he arise to be the chief Governor of the people; and thus David also! So that as God to make himself glorious in the outward Government of the world, hath advanced men of no degree; thus he makes heirs to the incorruptible crown of glory, men accounted as dung and off-scouring of the world: Take heed then, that as the Pharisees looked for a glorious Messias, and that was their stumbling block; so thou also look for the great, and rich, and mighty men of the world, to be as they are, to live as they do, and that prove thy spiritual undoing: Oh the wisdom and goodness of God! how unsearchable his ways? those who have scarce cloathes to cover their nakedness, shall have the crown of glory, and the robes of immortality upon them; those who have scarce a cottage to live in, shall be set on thrones of glory; those who are despised and contemned by men, are highly prised by God, and loved by Angels: This honor have all the Saints.

Secondly, Consider also, That the persons called, are many times the worst of men, great and hainous sinners: As they are the meanest for their external con∣dition, * so the worst for their Moralities, that all the world may be convinced, and say, It was not such a mans goodness, his ingenuity, his honest endeavors, his willing desires, but God spake unto him, while wallowing in hit blood, To live. The Pharisees, who gloried in an external strictness, and knew no further then an outward godliness, did upon this consideration, labor to defame Christ and his Doctrine, that he kept company with publicans and sinners; as the Israelites murmured that Moses married a Blackamoor, and as the contempti∣ble and vilest of men followed David; so it was a great stumbling block, that Christ called great sinners to repentance, that he rejected the Pharisees, the seeming glory of the world. Our Saviour in many places he discovers, that prophane and open sinners, did sooner obtain the kingdom of heaven, then those civil, moral men; and if you diligently eye Gods way, you shall finde it still true, That the rich he sendeth empty away, and the hungry he fills with good things; that none are further from being effectually called, then such who say, They are full, rich, and want nothing; their own righteousness, their own goodness, their own self-sufficiency, is that which beareth up their hearts; and being thus whole in their own apprehensions, they seek out for no physitian: Oh its worthy of our serious consideration, to take notice of how many thousands are forsaken and passed over by God, who are perswaded all is well with them. Despairing men are but few to presuming men, they are like the sands upon the sea shore; go from one man to another, and you shall finde them all content∣ed in themselves; there are no groans for Christ, there are no pantings for a Page  602〈1 page duplicate〉Page  603〈1 page duplicate〉Page  604 Saviour; there are no restless and unquiet complaints of the soul, Oh who will ease me, who will cloath my nakedness, who will satisfie my hungry soul! Oh that this truth might burn like fire; you that have the best thoughts of your selves, are, it may be, in the worst condition; you that have no trouble, de∣serve to have the greatest; you that eat, and drink, and live without any in∣ward checks of conscience, have the greatest cause to fear and tremble: Oh think, God doth not use to call such self-flatterers, such self-righteous men as I am: Who is further from the Kingdom of heaven then I am?

Thirdly, God calleth such men that have the least worldly abilities and sufficiency;* which besides their external meanness, makes them more contemptible; that the Apostle meaneth by the following phrase, Not many wise after the flesh; that is, not such who are indued with Political wisdom in humane affairs; those that have wisdom to rule and mannage the affairs of this world, are many times very ignorant fools about heavenly things: The children of this world are wiser in their generation, then the children of light. said Christ, Luke 16. So that as the Apostle saith about preaching of the Gospel, We preach not the wisdom of this world, so neither are those who are called, the wise men of this world: So that as worldly politicians laugh at the plain simplicity of those who truly fear God, and d••e not sin against him for the greatest advantages in the world; so on the other side, godly men may pity and bewail such wise and conceited men, that can every way promote their own advantages in this life, but yet are wholly ignorant about faith in Christ and repentance: Take the choicest wits, and the profoundest understandings that are, about worldly matters, and propound any thing about Regeneration, the work of Grace, and life of Faith, the very babes in Christ will understand more, and give a better account then they do.

Lastly, This is no mean thing to observe in Gods effectual calling, That he*chooseth the fewest number of mankinde: As God hath not chosen many wise, or many great ones, so not many men, comparatively to those millions of men, that he lets alone in the dungeon of their dark lusts: And truly this matter is full of terror, we have cause to tremble while we think of it, that such a little flock Christ should choose to himself; that the remnant of mankinde that shall be saved, should be no more then the remnant after an harvest or vintage: This our Saviour doth often press as a truth, that hath a sharp edge to enter into every mans conscience; if any thing in the world may startle thee out of thy security, it must be this, That few are chosen, God hath effectually cal∣led but a very little handful of men to eternal glory: You that make multitude an argument for your evil ways, and think its good to say, The most do this, the greatest part go this way: Oh the Scripture tells you, what will become of most men; its not for us presumptuously to pry into the secret ways of God, neither may we impudently expostulate, Why God should leave the greater part of mankinde, in their desperate and undone estate; it is enough for us to acknowledge Gods soveraignty herein, with fear and trembling. So then, hath God called but few? how possible is it for thee to be none of that small num∣ber; but eight persons were preserved in the Ark, when all others were drowned by the overflowing waters: Thus we have cause to behold the manner of Gods effectual calling of his people.

Use therefore of Exhortation, To take notice of the ways of God herein; * it hath been the Rock that many thousands have split themselves at, they have not wisely considered of this: What is the reason so many presume of their salvation, think its but putting out the hand, and they may when they will take this crown of glory? Why do the greatest part of men eat and drink in securi∣ty, blessing themselves, saying, If death comes, if sickness comes, it shall go well with them; all is from this, they consider not that, that God calls but a few, the greater part of men will be damned: This should make thy heart Page  605 quake for fear; its the Scripture truth, not our scare-Crow, you do not love to hear this spoken of; but Christ thought it fit to reveal it to the world, that the very foundations thereof may shake. Again, what is the reason so many are offended at the condition of godly men; that the ways of God are such a stumbling block? They do not rightly consider of Gods calling, they look that Christs Kingdom should be of this world, they expect the wisdom of the world, the greatness of the world, the wealth of the world; and God hath deter∣mined a clean contrary way. When John sent to Christ, to know whether he was the Messiah or no, he returneth this Answer, The blinde are made to see, the lame are healed, the poor receive the Gospel, and blessed is he that is not offended at me. Prejudices and carnal cavils against godliness, are the destruction of many thousands. Now it we will wisely consider of Gods calling his people out of sin, we shall attain to these notable Instructions:

First, We shall never judge our selves happy by any external greatness; and the Summum bonum, which humane wisdom pitched upon, will be found some∣times Magnum malum, an hinderance of that which is the greatest good indeed; yet when will the world be perswaded otherwise? How contrary are Gods thoughts to thy thoughts? how opposite are thy apprehensions, to his purposes? He layeth aside the wise things, the great things, the glorious things of the world: Oh you, that have these external advantages, fear they be not spiritu∣al disadvantages! Little cause there is to boast of these, if thou knewest all; These are the bunches in the Camels back, these are the snares to thy feet, the milstones about thy neck: Be then afraid, and think, If I had been poor, and were afflicted, I had been in a more hopeful condition. Disciples must follow Christ, and they can best follow, who have the least burthens: Oh judge no∣thing great outwardly, that may make thee little spiritually; count those things cursed, that may hinder thee from being blessed.

Secondly, Give God the glory of all the grace and spiritual mercies that he * vouchsafeth to thee; For who art thou, and in what to be accounted of, that art called by God? did thy greatness procure it? thy goodness deserve it? doth not God all things, to stop the mouthes of men, that there may be no boast∣ing, That none should glory in his presence? Humility and thankfulness is beseem∣ing a Christian called, nothing doth so become him; For what hath he that he hath not received? who hath made him to differ from others, that hapl had not sinned against God, so much as he hath done? And therefore should God be exalted, because this is his very end why he layeth aside all humane glory, that he himself may be magnified.

Thirdly, From hence learn, never to despise things, because outwardly weak * and vile, no rto be too confident, because they are great and potent; for you see its Gods way, To make things that are not, to confound things that are; dead things live, and live things dye; as God put back many of the Israelites, when they went to war, they were too many. God in all his mercies, whether of grace or civil things, delights to make himself onely known, he will not have his glory taken from him, and given to another: This gives hope in low things, and fear in lofty things.