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  84

SERMON XVI.

Growth in Grace a Sign of Grace.


JOHN 15. 2.
And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit.

A Fifth sign of the state of grace, shall be growth and further progresse in san∣ctification, out of these words, which are a part of that valedictory or fare∣well Parable our Saviour spake to his Disciples, encouraging them in their duty and consolation: For in the former Chapter our Saviour having informed them of two particulars, which might justly trouble their hearts, whereof one was his departure from them, and the other the sad calamities which would fall upon them: By this Parable he giveth a twofold remedy to that twofold grief. For the first, though he be corporally absent, yet he is spiritually present, and that with a very near union, for he is the Vine and they the branches, so that spirituall efficacy shall alwaies be communicated to them. 2. For the latter, he exhorts them to per∣severe and abide in him, notwithstanding all persecutions, from arguments ab effectu utili & pernicioso: This is the scope.

In the Parable you have first the similitude laid down generally, I am the true Vine, and my Father the Husbandman. The true Vine 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because the properties of a naturall Vine to its naturall branch, are nothing in respect of what Christ is to his spirituall branches.

In the second verse you have a distinction of two kinde of branches in Christ, which also doth insinuate exhortation to look to our selves. The first kinde of branch is, that which is in him not bearing fruit. He doth not by this mean an hea∣then or a flagitious wicked man, but an hypocrite that hath the visibility of a branch but not the reality: he doth not say, Every briar or nettle that bringeth not forth fruit, but every branch; But how is an hypocrite in Christ? not by any in∣ternall union, but outward profession, by the Sacraments, and in the judgement of others, he is in Christ, as a sciens newly grafted on a tree, which yet hath no coa∣lition with it, or receiveth any juyce or nourishment from it, and see that terrible judgement that impendeth this unprofitable branch: A nettle in the garden, weeds among corn, ill branches in a vine, are in the greater danger, and so is a Christian in the Church, not inwardly participating of efficacy from Christ. In the first place he doth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, take him away, which is more particularly amplified ver. 6. he is cast forth of the vineyard, Christ bids them depart, then he withers, for though he had no fruit, yet he had leaves, and all this decaies; and lastly, he is cast into the fire to be burnt. The other kinde of branch is that which being in Christ brings forth fruit, and concerning this observe the care and love of the vine-dresser, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he purgeth it, for that is necessary for vine-branches: Therefore the Hebrew word for a branch or vine is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Zamorah a resecando, Numb. 3. 24. Ezek. 15. 2. because it must be often pruned. Now although this purging be commonly under∣stood of afflictions and persecutions, which like dung, though noisome in it self, yet makes this ground fruitfull; yet we are to understand it more generally of all Page  85 those means which God hath appointed for our progresse and encrease in grace, especially the word of God, as appears ver. 3. Now ye are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (the same word in the originall with the former) through the word I have spoken unto you. In the next place our Saviour describeth this purging from the end, that ye may bring forth more fruit: now that they may be partakers of this growth, he useth severall arguments worthy observation, Verse 4. Abide in me, and I in you, because the branch cannot bear fruit, separated from the vine, no more can ye (saith Christ:) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, without or rather separated from me: he doth not say, saith Austin, that ye can do no greater thing without me, but no thing, and he doth not say ye cannot perficere perfect, but facere, ye cannot do; which our Saviour doth not apply unto that generall aid of God that is needfull in all naturall and morall actions, but of the speciall assistance of grace, whereby as branches we bring forth spirituall fruit, and observe that there is our abiding in Christ, and Christs abiding in us, and Christs immanency or indwelling in us, is properly the cause of spirituall fruit, not our dwelling in him; as the branch beareth fruit, not so much because it is in the vine, as because the vine is in it communicating juyce to it. Lastly, This growth and fruitfulnesse is spoken of as an absolute property, in my Text: And vers. 8. If ye bring forth fruit, so shall ye be my Disciples; that is, this is a necessary property to demonstrate that ye are indeed my Disciples, and then our Saviour speaks of it as a sign, v. 11. These things have I spoken, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full; now they could have no joy in these things, unlesse they could know they did bring forth fruit, and therefore were Christs Disciples.

That growth and encrease in grace is a necessary property and an infallible sign of our*being in the state of grace. Our Saviour saith not, Every branch in me, that is green and flourisheth with leaves and blossomes, but that beareth fruit, he makes it to bring forth more fruit. It is not every Christian that hath the flourishing green∣nesse and leaves of common abilities, and parts in religion, that is regarded by God, but that man whose talent of grace, as five, hath gained ten: Therefore in that Pa∣rable our Saviour bid them all negotiate, play the merchants, and trade in the waies of grace, and one man hath his portion among hypocrites, though he had not idlely spent his talent, but because he had not improved, propter lucrum cessans, though not propter damnum emergens; so that the opening of this mark will be of great use, because encrease of grace is so rare: and whereas all men endeavour to have their health, wealth and estates better, they are not carefull to have better gra∣ces, to pray better, to hear better, to be more strong in beleeving and heavenly-mindednesse. To affect you therefore herein, consider first,

That as there is a necessity of being converted and translated from sinne to a state of grace, so there is also a necessity when we are put therein, to grow and encrease to a fur∣ther stature in holinesse. Thus in the Text, Every branch he purgeth to bring more fruit, Eph. 4. 16. Col. 2. 19. In which places every godly man is said to be knitted to Christ, and thereby partaketh of his spirit and nourishment, wherein he encrea∣seth with the encrease of God, that is, with a divine and spirituall encrease, in op∣position to the naturall growth of the body: so that whosoever findeth himself set∣led upon his lees, continuing still in the same formall, empty, barren way, he may justly suspect whether he be of the body of Christ; but as the glasse eye and artifi∣ciall leg receiveth no nourishment from the body, but have still the same dimen∣sions, is no longer or broader, so is every unregenerate man destitute of the vivifi∣call influence of Christs spirit, and therefore is the same without any change, he was many years ago. Yea, that the necessity of the growth of grace may appear, the Apostle Eph. 4. 12, 13. makes it the great end of the Ministery, the end why God hath given Pastors and Teachers to his Church, not only for conversion, but further edification, till we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fulnesse of Christ: which is not to be understood in the life to come, but in this life, as ap∣peareth by the verse following, that we be not hence forth like children carried with every winde of doctrine; so that God hath appointed a Ministery not only for lay∣ing Page  86 the foundation of godlinesse in the peoples hearts, but for superstruction; and oh that the Ministers of God could see this glorious effect. What hast thou been more instructed in? wherein hast thou been more quickned up to godlinesse since thou hast enjoyed the Ministery? Oh (beloved) if Christ should come and look up∣on our persons, families, may he not curse us with the figtrees curse, never fruit grow on you? Know God is not only angry with thee in the state of sin and love thereof, but also with the coldnesse, lukewarmnesse, that thou hast not thriven and en∣creased more in every grace. Hence are those manifold exhortations to this duty, 2 Pet. 3. 18. 1 Pet. 2. 2. so that the blessing which God gave at first to the creatures, encrease and multiply, is especially to be seen in the new creature.

2. As growth is thus necessary, so it can only be, where there is an inward princi∣ple of life pre-existent. Nothing groweth but what hath either a vegetative, sensi∣tive, or rationall life in it. Rowl a snow-ball up and down, though you make it much bigger, yet it doth not grow, because it is by extra-addition, not by intra-reception. An house made larger and bigger, yet doth not grow, because here is no vitall principle within. By this means a civill man, a formall man, a temporary beleever, he cannot grow spiritually, because he doth not live spiritually. There may be indeed a growth in knowledge, parts, inlargements, and duties, but this doth not prove a true growth. These sproutings are not from internall union with Christ, but are outwardly in a common way bestowed by Christ upon them. As in a field of corn, the weeds have a better flourishing then in a barren wilder∣nesse, yet the husbandman was not at all that cost and charges to have weeds come up, but corn; so Christ died not, or set his Officers in the Church to furnish the wicked with any abilities, but yet living in his Church, they partake of several pri∣viledges by him, which yet were not the chief intent of his death: so then, there only is a supernaturall growth, where there is a supernaturall life, and as you see the picture of a childe, it will never come up to be a man, because it is a picture only, there is no life; so in any man, that hath only a form of godlinesse, not feel∣ing the power of it; he is still upon the same hinges where he was, he goeth on in the circle of duties, prayeth as he did, cometh to Church as he; but if you en∣quire for encrease, Hast thou more faith? more communion and fellowship with God? dost thou partake of more vertue and efficacy from him? herein they are wholly ignorant. Oh that we who desire better times, better trading, better setling, did also desire, better beleeving, better mortification; but this cannot be unlesse there be some great work of God within first. As he said to his picture which he would fain have had stood, and it would not, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, there wants something within, life within; so may we say, thou praiest, thou hearest, thou pro∣fesest, but there wants something within; till grace be infused, it cannot in thy conversation be diffused, It must be shed in thy heart before it can be shed abroad in thy life.

3. As growth is alwayes upon a supposed principle within, so it is uniform and aptly proportionable: as the Apostle implyeth in that comparison, every part hath its proportionable nourishment, so that in true growth of grace, every particular grace hath its sutable encrease, and herein the people of God are very negligent; if they grow in beleeving, they do not the same time grow in repentance and hu∣miliation, if they grow in joy, they do not encrease in fear and trembling. This is their weaknesse and corruption, for all true encrease of grace is uniform. As in naturall bodies, every part groweth, one as well as the other, the little finger as well as the great, whereas now if one part prove bigger then in proportion it should to the other parts, we call it not growth but a disease: a tympany, a wen, are not growth in the body, but tumours, neither doe they come from a naturall life, but from some accidentall defect: so then, if thou growest in knowledge, in abilities, and not in a practicall conformity to them, this is not properly growth, but swellings. And is not this the sad calamity of this age, men growing out into suckers not into fruit, into opinions, parts, not holinesse, how many monsters 〈◊〉Page  87 there to be seen, whose heads are bigger then all their bodies? and so the hypocrite with his partiall obedience, Jehu with his severall acts of reformation, Herod with his many things he did, yet encreased not in grace, because here was not an u∣niform proportion in all.

3. In growth though every part do grow as well as the other, yet not equall to the other; aequè but not aequalitèr. This is that uniformiter difformiter, as the Phi∣losophers speak of so much, and Eph. 4. The Apostle speaks of the particular mea∣sure of grace suteable to every part, so that the eye groweth with the nourishment peculiar to the eye; the hand with nourishment peculiar to the hand, and so one part needeth not so much nourishment as another, because it is not to grow so big as another: and this is diligently to be noted, for where there is true grace, there is a peculiar encrease of grace, according to the relation thou art in: If a Magi∣strate, in the graces of a Magistrate, if a Minister, in the graces of a Minister, If a husband, a childe, a servant, in the graces sutable to those relations: and again, this is also for comfort, because many of Gods servants are troubled, as if they had no grace, because they have not so much as others; They have not such an ex∣cellent temper as Paul and David had, they cannot finde themselves able to doe such things as they did, and therefore they doubt of their grace, but this is as if the little finger should think it doth not grow, because it is not as big as the arm or leg. Every member in Christs body hath not the same occasions, is not under so many obligations, stands not in such particular relations as others do: and there∣fore the personall graces of the one do farre transcend the other, insomuch that some are dwarfs, and others gyants, some are babes and others are strong men.

4. Whereas in naturall growth there is a terminus prefixed both for the time, and dimensions, insomuch that when there is an arrivall to such a stature and age, they grow no more; there is nutrition alwaies but not augmentation; Nature hath her maximum quod sic, beyond which she moveth not: but now it is not so in the way of grace; For there we cannot attain to any such degree of grace, but still there is a large room for more; and it is our sinne if we presse not forward to at∣tain it, Phil. 3. Paul did forget all that was behinde, and did〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉ear∣nestly pursue and endeavour after that before him. It is true indeed, God hath ap∣pointed to every man that measure of grace he shall receive in this life; yet not so, but that it is his duty to do more, even as much as the perfect Law of God re∣quireth, so that here is no time to stand still. Thy faith ought to be greater and stronger, there is no grace in thee but it might be better: Thou canst never say of thy spirituall good things, as Dives of his temporall; Soul, take thy ease, thou hast enough laid up in store for thee.

5. In naturall growth, the progresse is carried on by naturall strength, with the generall concourse of Gods providence. But in this spirituall progresse, the en∣crease is of God. At our first conversion we being wholly dead in sinne, God puts into us supernaturall principles of grace, wherein man is not cooperant, but meer∣ly a subject recipient, but afterwards the heart of man being enlivened and healed thus by grace, he doth cooperate with the grace of God, yet so as that a further degree of any grace is wrought by God: Hence he is said in those that are alrea∣dy converted to work the will and the deed, and that good man praied to God to encrease his grace, and Gods promises are also frequent in the Scripture, to com∣pleat and perfect that grace already begun in us. God doth not beleeve or repent in us, these flow immediatly and formally from a man regenerated, but Gods grace doth efficiently excite and stir up the will to do these good actions: hence it is that when the people of God have through negligence or any corruption grieved the spirit, that doth forsake him, and so his Sunne goeth many degrees backward; for that assertion is no waies justifiable, that a godly man cannot fall from any degree of his grace; for its plain David did, who therefore praieth to have a new heart created in him; and the Church is blamed for falling from her first love, and so is com∣manded Page  88to repent, and to do her first things, to strengthen the things that are ready to die. The ordinary comparisons are, that a godly man may be like the tree in winter, that hath life in the root, but yet the branches and outside discover none, or as the fire that lyeth buried up in ashes.

6. As in naturall growth, there are many pull-backs, sometimes a progresse and then a regresse. Thus it is with corn, trees, and man himself before he comes to his term prefixed, and therefore we must not say Such corn doth not grow, because for such a season it may wither and go back: it is enough that in the end it cometh to its full growth and ripenesse: so it is with a godly man, he is not to passe sentence of himself according to some seasons and temptations, for how often is he in a withered and barren condition? but he is to compare one season with another. Yea, godly mens slumblings do many times make them go the faster: as sometimes after sicknesse children grow the faster, so true is that of Luther, that to the godly not only their mala passiva, but also mala activa, through the goodnesse of God further their growth in holinesse.

These principles are laid down to explain the nature of encrease in grace. In the next place consider how many waies we may improve grace.

1. We bring forth more fruit, when the habits of our graces are more intense and enlarged: for in this supernaturall habits agree with morall, that they are capable of intension, whereby faith may be made stronger, love more active, patience more refined. Their natures do not consist in indivisibili, neither do any attain to the utmost of any grace, Christ only had fullnesse, and the spirit of God was gi∣ven unto him without measure; but in us it is otherwise: hence the Disciples fallen into some ambition, our Saviour tels them, except ye be converted, that is, further converted and carried on in sanct fication, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of hea∣ven; so it is said of the disciples upon some remarkable passage which Christ did, that they beleeved on him, which is not to be understood, as if they did not before beleeve on him, but they were confirmed more. Oh therefore look upon it as a necessary testimony of grace, to thrive more in godlinesse, to have many cubits added to thy stature, say with thy self, oh if the life of grace were in me, should I alwaies be at such a stay, would it be no more active and operative; do wicked men grow worse and worse, and shall not I better and better? We complain of our children if sent to school, and they are still the same, stand at a stay; and may not the Ministers of God complain of their people, if they be still the same? how severely and terribly doth Paul speak to the Hebrews, because they were babes stil, when they might have been strong men? he threatens them with the sinne against the holy Ghost, and totall apostasie, for not to go forward is to go backward, as it is with the boats in the river, if they cannot go on, they are driven backward: Now these habits of grace may be made more intense, partly by more fervency, when our graces arise to a greater heat, our faith and love more burning within us; partly by more easinesse, the waies of godlinesse are not so difficult, corrupti∣on is more subdued, for habits are like a second nature, which doth facilitate and make all actions welcome, so that his Commandements are not grievous; partly by more delight and joy, for this floweth from the former: hence when the peo∣ple of Israel offered so willingly, they rejoyced in that they had such hearts. Now see if thou maist not in all thy graces be more fervent, more delighting, how often art thou languishing, dull, and unwilling? how often are good things even irksome and tedious to thee? Oh dost thou not need purging to bring forth more fruit.

2. Our graces may encrease by a deeper rooting of them in our hearts; The more they root downwards, the more they bear fruit upward. The Schoolmen dispute whether habits do encrease by addition of new degrees, or deeper radication in the subject: But I take it for granted, that in supernaturall habits both these are different; If therefore thou wouldest take any comfort from thy grace, see whe∣ther holy things e now ingrafted in thee, do cleave closer to thy heart; for cer∣tainly true grace brings such sweetnesse with it, that it makes the soul have more Page  89 plenty and fullnesse of it, 1 Pet. 2. 3. and would be transformed into it, I no lon∣ger live, saith Paul, but Christ in me. As therefore originall corruption is seated in thee and soaked into thy very bones, so do thou desire grace may be incorpora∣ted into thee: you see meat while it is in the mouth, it may be taken away, but when it's once turned to nourishment, turned into our flesh and bloud, then it's impossible to take it out of our body. The unhappy builder therefore suffered that losse, because he did not dig deep enough.

3. Graces grow by the actuall exercise of them, by actuall loving and beleeving the habits of faith and love are more firm and strong. Hence the commands of God are for the acts of grace. Thou shalt love, and this is his commandment to beleeve. The habits are commanded obliquely as the fountain, the acts as the stream. In morall Philosophy acts make the habits more intense. In Christs Parable of the talents, he only is said to have, that doth exercise and actually improve his graces; and as our graces encrease by the exercise of them, so by the cooperation of them all together: Adde to your faith temperance, to temperance brotherly kindenesse: which is not to be understood of the habits of grace, for they are all infused toge∣ther; and a man may as well be happy with one particular act of glory, as regene∣rate with one habit of grace: but we are to interpret it of adding the acts to one another.

4. The growth of grace is by meliorating or making better the means and instru∣ments of grace. The Word and Ordinances are appointed by God as the means to grow, and to cleanse us more and more. Now if thou wouldest have thy gra∣ces flourish, thou must be more diligent and carefull in the prepared use of them; hear better, pray better, make a better improvement of the Ministery. The Dis∣ciples were mending their nets because they were instruments to get their fish. The Artificer must sharpen his tools, if he would live by his trade. Now these exter∣nall Ordinances are the spiritual tools and instruments by which the soul is promo∣ted in the way of godlinesse, and if thou languishest and art carelesse here, it will quickly appear in thy whole conversation.

5. Where growth is, there is a speciall care, of all graces to look to that which helps to nourishment, and that is Faith. Faith is the mouth to suck the milk of the promi∣ses, it is the bunch of hysop that sprinkles Christs bloud upon us to puriie us, it is the feeding upon Christ: Now then if a man would be nourished and encrease in grace, he must be sure this grace hath no obstructions. As a man is justified only by faith, so in some sense, we may say a man is sanctified, that is, encreaseth in new obedience, by faith: By faith the branch is preserved in the olive-tree, and par∣taketh of the fatnesse thereof. Christ praied for Peter, that his faith might not fail, as if that grace were kept up, then his courage, zeal, self-deniall, and all other graces would be kept up: Non per opera venitur ad fidem, sed per fidem ad opera.

6. There is a growth objectively, and that is, when the glorious fullnesse of God is manifested to us more and more. Though the Sun cannot in it self encrease or be glo∣rious, yet it may to us more and more: therefore it hath its dawning, and its noon; so though God and Christ cannot be better or more lovely objects then they are, yet they may be so to thy affections and desires, Christ a new Christ, grace new grace, because there are further apprehensions and applications of their sweetnesse and efficacy.

Now to prevent mistakes, there is a twofold disposition like growth, that is not.

1. An encrease in knowledge, parts, and abilities. This is not growth of grace: There is an encrease (as you heard) quoad amplitudinem scientia, and quoad efficaci∣am, the latter is the crown and the perfection of the former.

2. There is a growth in temporary faith, and love, and such affections, Which hy∣pocrites may have, but temporary faith will never grow to be justifying; no more then an Ape would grow to be a man, or copper to be gold, for these differ specifi∣cally.

Page  90 3. There is a growth in externals meerly, men are grown more civil and reformed in their lives. We may behold a wonderfull alteration and change in them, but yet because there is no inward juice of grace, therefore it's not growth of godli∣nesse; and such Peter speaks of, Who had escaped the pollutions of the flesh, yet were dogs and swines in their inward disposition.

4. There is a growth in additionals of worship and service. When men judge not the prescribed way by God enough, but institute of their own. This is a mon∣strous growth, as if a man should have two heads or six fingers. Thus superstiti∣on is an excesse in worship, not in the quality of worship; for a man can never worship God too purely, too fervently, but in the quantity, by instituting new means. Hence growth of grace doth not lie in multiplication of duties more then God requireth, but the intention of qualities therein.

Use of Exhortation, Judge your selves by this touchstone. Let this Sermon be * to you what Elisha's body was to the dead body that fell on it, make life to come into you. Do you increase in grace? Are you not at a stand? the same ve were many years ago? consider God is provoked not only against grosse sins, but lazy, decaying duties. Do you grow in light but not in heat; in enlargements, but not mortifications? Oh let thy soul be afraid and tremble under this truth! In∣treat God, as he did about his withered hand, Oh Lord, restore this withered hand, this withered soul of mine! I doubt me, in these times many have broke in their Religion, as well as in their states, as Paul said to Timothy, Let your pro∣fiting appear to all.