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  606

SERMON CIV.

Of true spiritual Wisdom, the Nature and Pro∣perties of it, discovering who are the real wise men in the world.


1 COR. 1. 26.
Not many wise according to the flesh.

THe passage introductory of the matter contained in the Text, hath been dispatched. Let us observe the particulars of the distribution, which the Apostle here intendeth: And

First, There is that which is a Goddess, as it were, in the world, admired by all; Not many wise men. Several Countries have heretofore striven about the appropriating of the famous seven wise men to themselves; some striving to make this man their Countrey man, others to make that: But here you see God passing over such, and choosing the babes and foolish ones of the world: So that you have the persons passed by, described, first, By their absolute qua∣lity, Not many wise, 2. By a restriction or limitation of this wisdom, Not many wise men after the fiesh. Now wisdom after the flesh may have a twofold sense; as flesh hath, 1. That which is earthly, corrupt, and sinful craftiness, which the Scripture in many places speaks against. 2. For Humane civil prudence; as flesh is sometimes used for man, denoting indeed weakness, because not God or Angel, but not sinfulness: And this political civil prudence, is a natural perfection, and a good gift of God; yea, its a duty, to which the people of God are exhorted; but even of such political wise men, God doth not choose many, though some he doth: Thus Solomon had such wisdom to admiration; and Da∣niel* is noted for a wiseman, because Tyre is reproved for her foolish confidence, thinking her self wiser then Daniel, Ezek. 28. 3. and Heman, that made the fa∣mous Psalm of one troubled and afflicted in conscience, distracted with the ter∣ror of the Lord daily, 1 King. 4. 31. yet the Scripture speaks of him as one of the great wise men in his time. We read of Achitophel, a man so politically wise, that his counsel was accounted as the Oracle of God, yet he was rejected by God, and his wisdom proved fatal to him; but of this more in time. For the present consider, how the Apostle doth imply a distinction of necessary use, about wisdom, onely he names one part of the distribution, A wisdom after the flesh, the compleat sense is this, There is an heavenly wisdom, a wisdom after the spirit, highly esteemed by God, which all that are called do partake of: And there is A wisdom after the flesh, in an earthly, carnal, and worldly manner, when * men savor not the things of God, but what makes for their own advantages; insomuch, that the Scripture sometimes describes them by this, That they are wise to do evil, Ier. 4. 22. I purpose to speak something largely to this head; for godliness is reputed of, as folly, madness, and simplicity; and fleshly or crafty practices, or sublime and high reaches, these are judged the onely wisdom in the world. Let a man set upon the powerful way of godliness, let him endeavor to walk upright∣ly, Page  607 not conforming himself to the present course of the world, he is presently branded for an unwise man; he immediately looseth all his reputation: As Ter∣tullian said in his days, when a wise considerable man turned Christian, they would say, Miror quod Cajus vir bonus & sapiens fit Christianus, I wonder such a wise and prudent man will turn Christian.

Observation is that which is an implyed Doctrine by the Apostle; *

That there is an excellent, heavenly, and spiritual wisdom.

He that speaks of a wisdom after the flesh, necessarily supposeth a wisdom of a more excellent and admirable nature, even that which is after the spirit: Though you call a man able to transact matters of great importance, who is ap∣prehensive of the times and seasons for all things to be done, a great wise man; yet there is a wisdom far transcending all this; and that is, in heavenly matters, to know how to walk in a pleasing way to God, and at last; to partake of ever∣lasting happiness by him: The Theam of wisdom hath been often treated on by the Heathen, but their eyes were upon this glorious subject, like those of the Bas or the Owls to the resplendent Sun beams. Aristotle when he speaks more strict∣ly, makes wisdom to be the knowledge of more excellent and heavenly things, with the causes of them; but at other times, he makes wisdom to be the know∣ledge of any Arts or Sciences. But I shall speak of wisdom, as the Scripture useth it: And

First, It is taken for original and substantial wisdom; and thus God is said To be the onely wise God, Rom. 16. 27. Why art thou repining and discontented at the hand of God, though never so heavy on thee? God is the onely wise God; none hath wisdom but he? And thus Christ is often in the Parables called Wisdom; he is the increated wisdom; and as he was the Mediator, the treasures of wisdom were hid in him.

Further, in the Scripture, wisdom is sometimes used, for those abilities men have to discharge their callings and relations; so Aholiab and Bezaleel are said To be filled with wisdom by God for that work of the tabernaele; and Solomon had wisdom given him, to be a skillful Pilote, to govern the ship of the Commonwealth committed to his trust.

Sometimes wisdom is taken for the worldly crafty shifts and abilities men have to contrive mischievous designs, or save themselves from danger.

Sometimes for an opinion or conceit that men have of themselves, as wise, when indeed they are but empty shadows. And

Lastly, For true godlines, in which sense the Scripture often useth it, making the fear of God the beginning of wisdom; & condemning all wicked menfor fools, Deu. 4. 6.

In the next place, let us observe in what this wisdom is discovered: And

First, Its not acquired by study, and experience, and a prompt quick nature much working with these, as humane prudence is; humane wise men are both born and * made soborn, because all the book-knowledge & consulting with those dead coun∣sellors, cannot produce wisdom, if a man have not a dextrous inclination there∣unto, yet an apprehensive nature without those helps, proveth also very in∣sufficient: Now this heavenly wisdom, it was neither bred in our bones, or ac∣quired by our endeavors, but it comes from God onely: If any man want wis∣dom (saith Iames) let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, James 15. and therefore its called Wisdom from above, Iames 3. 17. both originally, because it comes from above; and finally, because it carrieth a man up to God: Hence also its called The spirit of wisdom, Ephes. 1. and Paul prayeth, God would bestow it upon the Ephesians: So then, those that are partakers of this heavenly jewel, they are wrought upon by God; they were foolish, and even like beasts that understand nothing, till God makes them spiritually wise.

Secondly, The rule of this wisdom is the word of God: The Scriptures are able*to make even a Timothy, wise to salvation, 1 Tim. 3. 15. Though Tacitus and Maehiavel, are the politicians Bible, and they follow the instructions delivered Page  608 by these Authors; yet the childe of God deriveth all his wisdom from the Scri∣pture: Those Proverbs of Solomon may be called a Treasury of wisdom; What hath a man to do as a man, as a Christian, as in any Office, Relation or Condi∣tion, for which he may not fetch Divine rules from thence? Thus in Deut. 4. 6. a place alledged before; all Nations would wonder, and say, What a wise and great people were the Jews, who had these wise and holy Commandments to walk by? and needs must the word of God be the rule of all wisdom, because its the word of a wise God, he knoweth all things better then we can: Oh then take heed of leaning to thy own understanding, of hearkning to carnal counsel, against the word of God; for what that bids thee do, and what that bids thee foroear, thou wilt finde to be the wisest counsel that may be. Our Saviour saith, What will it profit a man, to win the whole world, and loose his own soul? yet thou despisest this counsel, if thou hadst many souls, thou wouldst damn them, to get a little part of the world; now thou thinkest thy self so wise in this, thou blessest thy self, and applaudest thy own wisdom: Oh remember, Gods word is wisdom, he is a wise man, that thinketh and believeth, and practiseth accordingly.

Thirdly, Wisdom from above, is seen in the discerning and judging of what are the most excellent things: What is true, and what is false, what is good, and * what is evil; what is to be imbraced, and what is to be shunned, Sapiens est cui res sapiunt prout sunt, He is a wise man, to whom things are represented and perceived as they are. That is a distempered palate, which judgeth the most so∣veraign and excellent meat bitter and loathsom: Its a great glory attributed to the spiritual man, The spiritual man judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man, 1 Cor, 2. 14. A spiritual man, so far as he is spiritual, is indowed with that admirable knowledge, as that he can judge between good and evil; they have their senses exercised to make this difference: And herein lieth a great part of heavenly wisdom, it quickly discovereth what are the sins that will prove de∣ceitful or dangerous to him: If the very beasts have a natural instinct to difference that which is good to them, from that which is hurtful; how much more doth God give such necessary wisdom to his own children: To every wicked man we may say, Thou fool, who swallowest down thy poyson, who desperately wound∣est and damnest thy own soul, yet takest no notice of it; when wilt thou be wise? when wilt thou seek out for understanding? We say of the bodily health, every man is either a fool, or a Physician; its certain, every ungodly man is a fool, and no Physician about his soul; he knoweth not what is good for him, he doth not wisely consider what is for his advantage, and spiritual welfare: Give me (saith he) that which is pleasant or profitable, though it damn me.

Fourthly, True wisdom lieth in propounding a good and happy end to a mans*self, the enjoyment whereof will make a man indeed happy: The ultimate end of a man, is that wherein his happiness doth consist; now we read, even among wise men, how much this hath been disputed; some placed it in riches, some in honors, some in pleasures; and certainly, there are many men, who propound the same happiness with beasts, even an earthly, sensual pleasure: The Apostle describeth such, Whose belly is their God, who minde earthly things, Phil. 3. 19. and David on the other side, describeth his utmost end, when he saith, Whom have I in heaven but thee, and whom in earth in comparison of thee? And often he makes God his Portion, his Shepherd, his all in all: So then, consider with thy self, its the great part of wisdom, to propound some end to our selves in all our actions, otherwise we act irrationally: Its the first question in good Cate∣chisms, What ought to be the chiefest and highest end of every man in this life: Hence, as Aristotle in his Moral Phylosophy, doth first treat of the end of all humane actions as the chiefest thing, and if that be not first determined, we shoot at rovers: So some Divines say, because Divinity is wholly practical, we must first inform, what is the chief end of all our duties, why we live and move, why we eat and drink, why we have a being in this world, and at what mark we Page  621 are to shoot: Is it then the glory of God, the enjoyment of him, and salvation of thy own soul, that thou aimest at? If from morning to evening, and again, from evening to morning, thou art set upon this; then art thou a wise man: But O the folly and simplicity of most men, who have no greater ends, then to be hap∣py and glorious in this world! and although experience teacheth them the vani∣ty of riches, the uncertainty of honors, and the Tragical ends of all earthly great∣ness, yet they are resolved for no other course: Oh that you who read the Bible, profess your selves Christians, acknowledge a day of judgement, believe a resur∣rection of the dead, should yet be bowed down to these earthly things! O boast not any longer, in that thou art wise for to get great things in this world! for that should not be the utmost end; and nothing is happy, but in proportion to its ultimate felicity: Shew thy self a rational man; To what end do I labor and weary my self all day? What is it that my soul would have? what doth it de∣sire? Can any thing but God satisfie it? can I have any rest or quietness in my spirit, till the light of his countenance shine upon me? Canst thou sit down with Jonah, though not with such impatiency, and seeing a worm devouring thy gourd, something or other consuming thy outward hopes, cry out, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity; the Lord onely satisfieth and sufficeth my soul.

Fifthly, True wisdom lieth in the election or choice, and full execution of all those means which conduce to that end: Election is a great part of wisdom con∣cerning means, as well as intention about the end: Now as God, and the see∣ing of him, is the onely end, thus godliness and holiness is the onely way: See you a man studious of godliness, careful not to sin or to offend God; this man is a wise man, because he keepeth in the direct way to his end: The paths of godliness end at last in happiness; and therefore godliness is so often called wisdom, and The fear of the Lord. by which men depart from sin, and dare not offend him: though accounted a foolish precise thing, yet its the beginning of all wisdom; Who then is a wise man, and a prudent? even such an one who chooseth those ways, and is diligent in those actions that make for eternal hap∣piness: Oh if thou couldst leave off those pleasures of sin, if thou couldst pray more frequently, reform more studiously, thou wouldst finde this the sum of all wisdom.

Sixthly, True heavenly wisdom lieth in circumspection, and a diligent caution; and that two ways: First, To let go no opportunity that may advance grace or happiness: Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Ephes. 5. 15. and where∣in is that seen? By redeeming the time, because the days are evil: Oh thou art then wise, when thou considerest, My days are short, the opportunities of grace are few, I have been too long already a servant to sin, I will therefore take all occasions to further godliness; What hurt and hindrance is thy spiritual folly and imprudence to thee? He is accounted the wise Merchant, that takes the seasons and opportunities for his traffiquing: And thus it is for heavenly things; there is a season and opportunity, which if thou neglect, which if thou let pass, it may never be recovered again: This is called wise to do good. Secondly, This cir∣cumspection, lieth in the avoiding of all the temptations of sin and Satan, which are very subtil; and unless a Christian be an Argus, all over eyes, he cannot escape destruction by them. The little Horn in Daniel, was said to be full of eyes: Some Interpreters make that the Turkish power and government, which was base and contemptible at first, but by their care and industry, and diligent watch∣fulness, signified by those eyes, did presently biggen into a great Dominion: Thus even a godly man is to be full of eyes; for the deceits of lusts are many, and the methods of Satan are wilely and crafty; therefore its an high degree of wisdom to escape all these, whereas the fool goeth on blindefold. Every sin, every tem∣ptation of Satan, is a pit and snare to entrap him.

Seventhly, Wisdom consists in foresight and providence: To look to present pleasures or present advantages, not considering the future, is a part of a fool: He is blinde, not able to see afar off, saith the Apostle, 2 Pet. 1. Hence the life of a Page  610 Christian is compared to Watching. A Watchman on the Tower, is able to dis∣cern the Enemy a far off approaching: Now this foresight consists in two things:

First, To prevent after-repentings, that will be full of horror and perplexity, * but wholly vain: Thus the damned in hell are brought in, calling upon the hills and mountains to cover them, that they may avoid the wrath of the Lamb: In∣sapientis est dicere non putabam: Fools use to say, I did not think this, I never thought the miseries and guilt of sin, the flames of hell, the horror of conscience would have been thus horrible: He then that is wise, looks upon sin and the world, as one in hell would look on them, with amazement and astonishment, endeavoring to fly from it.

Secondly, Foresight lieth in attending to our latter end, that the present time * quickly flieth away: Oh that my people were wise, saith God, that they would re∣member their latter end, Deut. 32. 29. This is heavenly wisdom, to consider, that the present pleasures and advantages will immediately dye: The time is coming, when thou wilt, lie languishing on thy deaths-bed, that all friends and worldly comforts will take their leave of thee: This consideration would be a special preservative against sin; though the thoughts of death, and making up thy ac∣compt, are for the time bitter, yet they will make for thy future good: O then how foolish and bruitish are the greatest part of men! they never consider what will become of them, when dying, when standing at Gods Tribunal: Oh they think not what confusion will be on their faces, to see themselves cast in∣to utter darkness, when others are received, to be commanded to depart, as those that are cursed, into everlasting fire.

Thirdly, Herein lieth provident wisdom, to forecast for eternity, that we may * be happy for ever: Alas! no mans happiness consists in enjoying the great and glorious things of this life; no more then the Malefactor in the prison, that fareth deliciously, may be called an happy man, when he is immediately to be called out to the place of execution: Yet who can ever perswade the world, that there is any other wisdom, then to get the good things of this life? Give me to day (saith the prophane man) take thou to morrow; give me this life, take thou eternity. O beasts, rather then men! yet such worms are we, and no men: The Scripture doth represent eternity so distinctly, whether of happiness or misery; that its a wonder men should no more meditate about it, that they cry not out, O Eternity, eternity, to be with the Lord for ever, or the Devils and damned for ever: Oh this for ever, what an overwhelming word is it.

Use of Instruction: Who is the true wise man? not a man of the greatest * parts, of the greatest reach and craft; but one who is made wise by God, hath the Scripture the rule of his wisdom, and performs all those forementioned acts. This man is more wise then Solomon in some respects; yea, if all the learning and prudence of all the men in the world were put into one mans head, yet with∣out grace, he hath not so much knowledge and wisdom as the weakest babe in Christ: Oh when all accompts are cast up, and there will come to be a final de∣cision of all things, then all the world will see, who is a wise man, and who is a ool: Thou mayest lay thy car to hell, and hearken how the damned roar out, Oh their folly, their madness! they did not believe these things, which now bitter experience makes them feel: Now, indeed, the godly eem fools, are judged so by the world, but when you see them set on the Thrones of glory, and crowns of immortality put on their heads, then their wisdom will be publish∣ed to all the world.