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.

SERMON XVII.

Spiritual Performance of Duties a Sign of Grace.


1 JOH. 4. 13.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

THe Apostle John, as he was the beloved Disciple, so doth he frequently and vehemently presse the duty of love to the Church of God, for that being a spiritual body, love is as necessary to preserve them, as nerves and ligaments are in a natural body.

The Arguments used in this Chapter for love are many: As

First, That love is a stream issuing from no lesse glorious fountain then God himself is.

Secondly, That it is a demonstration of our spiritual Nativity, That we are born of God.

Thirdly, From the Nature of God, He is love, viz. Originally and Causally, which he proveth by a clear and unparallel'd manifestation of it, He gave us his only begotten Sonne; which love he also amplifieth by the removal of any impul∣sive cause on our part, it was not because we loved him first; and withall he giveth a reason, why a natural man loveth not God, because he seeth him not. The di∣sputes about the Vision of the Essence of God, and that by corporal eyes, is wholly impertinent to this place, for the Greek word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and signifieth a Page  91 contemplation and constant beholding of the beauty and lustre of Gods Attri∣butes, his Wisdom, Holinesse, but especially his Love to us in Christ, all which doth kindle love in us again. And from this beholding of God doth arise that neer union with God, which is Gods dwelling in us, and we in him. All which the Apostle makes manifest to us by the effect, viz. by the Spirit, of which he hath given us. It is needlesse to trouble you with the several acceptions of the word Spirit; It is enough to know, That by Spirit is not meant the essence of the Spi∣rit, for that is impartible; nor of any immediate testimony of the Spirit, as the phrase will imply, He hath given us of his Spirit, which denoteth some effects of the Spirit, and of effects, not the common effects, for they are not a sure Argu∣ment of Gods dwelling in us, and we in him; it remaineth therefore that it be understood of the gracious works of Gods Spirit, whereby in all our duties we are lifted up by Gods Spirit to do them in an higher manner, then natural strength could enable us unto: so that the Observation is,

The spiritual performing of holy duties, is a sure sign and demonstration of our be∣ing*in God. and God in us.

Thus the same Apostle 1 John 3. 24. for as miracles did truly demonstrate those that did them, to be endued with the power of Gods Spirit from above, and they wrought miracles to confirm men in this belief, that they were sent of God; Thus the spiritual doing of those things required of thee, are a kinde of miracles to confirm thy soul, that thou art of God. And as actual discourse and laugh∣ter do infallibly prove a rational life, because these actions transcend a sensitive life; so do spiritual praying, hearing, &c. evidence a spiritual life, because of their transcendency.

For the opening of this point, which is necessary (and the want of which Paul did so greatly bewail in the Corinthians, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as carnal) take notice of these things by way of a foun∣dation.

First, As in natural things there is a sensitive soul above the vegetative, and a ratio∣nal above the sensitive, so (with more disproportion) there is a spiritual life vouchsa∣fed by the holy Ghost above a rational. Insomuch that take the most rational man, that is endued with all intellectual abilities and moral perfections; so that he be Ultimus conatus naturae, as one said of Aristotle, yet he is no more able to do any thing spiritually, or to apprehend what are those spiritual operations, then a worm can comprehend the reason of the most wise men. Thus Paul saith, The natural man perceiveth not the things of God,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, one who doth excolere animam, minde the polishing and dressing of his soul, such as Plato and Seneca. Now howsoever prophane men mock at the word Spirit, and the works thereof, yet that there is such an immediate participation of the holy Ghost in the operations thereof, the Scripture doth abundantly testifie, John 3. 6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit, where our Saviour makes such a spiritual birth absolutely necessary to salvation, and sheweth two contrary kinds of sinne, one carnal, abiding in the condition they were born in, the other spiritual, made so by God; and the Apostle in both pla∣ces useth the abstract for the concrete, for more efficacy. This afterwards he cals, Being born of the Spirit. So that as a man born of a man, hath indolem humanam, is and doth more then a beast: so he that is born of the Spirit, hath indolem di∣vinam, and doth more then a man. Indeed our Saviour makes the original of this spiritual being unknown to us, which he expresseth by a comparison from the winde, or as Maldonat will have it from the soul of a man, which we do not perceive infused into us, or how we come by it; so in this great work of Gods Spirit, Motum sentimus, modum nescimus; God breathed into Adam a natural life, and a soul, but this is a great mercy which God doth for his people. And be∣cause the spiritual being and working is of such important consequence, you may observe the Scripture in other places diligently inculcating of it. Therefore ob∣serve Page  92 them diligently, whether you finde such things in you or no, for notwith∣standing all parts and religious duties, if the Spirit of God dwell not and work in you, you are no more a true member of Christ, then an Ape is a man. Rom. 8. 1, 5, 6, 9, 13, 14. where the Apostle speaking of the glorious benefit of Justification, See to whom he appropriateth it, To those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, whereupon he is industrious to make a difference between the one and the other; and he useth several descriptions, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Who are after the Spirit, which he explaineth by being spiritually minded:〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 denoteth not only acts of the understanding, but chiefly of the will and affections; it seemeth to answer the Hebrew word Jetzer, The imaginations or frame of the heart. So that as the ima∣gination and frame of a carnal heart is wholly upon things of the flesh: Thus the affections, imaginations, designs and purposes of a spiritual man, are upon spiri∣tual things. As the Apostle cals them 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so vers. 9. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Those that are in the Spirit, that is, Possessed of the Spirit, as if the holy Ghost were as wonderfull in gracious operations upon the heart of man; as in those pro∣phetical and extatical Afflatusses, for they were said at those times, To be in the Spirit, and the Grecians call such 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; it is a similitude, saith Grotius, taken from those who are guarded on every side by keepers, and are wholly under their power; so mighty and efficacious is Gods Spirit in believers; and (by the way observe) this is called promiscuously, The Spirit of God, The Spirit of Christ, The Spirit of the Father, and that dwelling in us, which doth prove the holy Ghost to be a person, not a meer vertue and force, or power from God, as some hereticks of old would have it; and a person that is one in the Trinity, not the chiefest of the created Angels, as one of late would blasphemously maintain. In Adam, the holy Ghost wrought his holinesse, as the third Person in the Godhead; but now he worketh grace in us by another oeconomy or dispensation, as the Spirit of the Father, and of Christ. And that all this operation of Gods Spirit may not be rejected as a fancy, he saith, He dwels in us as in his Temple, which deno∣teth a fixed permanency, and abiding in us; It is true, the godly dispute, Whe∣ther a godly man be made partaker of the graces of Gods Spirit only, or besides these of the Spirit it self? The learned differ herein, but certainly these expressi∣ons do inferre, That the godly do not only receive the graces of Gods Spirit, but the Spirit also it self, only how to explain this, seemeth to me very difficult, if not impossible.

Secondly, As the Spirit of God doth thus dwell in his children, and thereby they*have an habitual, supernatural, spiritual being, so is the same Spirit acting, lead∣ing and moving of them unto those things that are holy. Hence the godly are said to be led by the Spirit, Rom. 8. Gal. 5. which doth not denote the first enlivening of us; in which sense the poet said, Mens agitat molem, but a powerfull conti∣nual inclination of our hearts unto those things that are spiritual; and this deno∣teth that even in the progresse of Sanctification, we need a continuall help and influence from Gods Spirit, according to that of Augustine, Et agis & ageris, & tunc benè agis, si à bono agaris, and when we obey these conducts of Gods Spirit, We are said to walk in the Spirit. Thus Gal. 5. 24. Living in the Spirit, and walk∣ing in the Spirit, are distinguished as the cause and the effect; we therefore walk in the Spirit, because we live in it, and the Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth import a care∣full, orderly, methodical walking; A spiritual walking is a methodical walking; so then, as original sinne by the Scripture is described to be in us, not as a sluggish idle quality, but as alwaies working, as a fountain alwaies streaming, insomuch that though it be not peccatum actuale, yet it is actuosum; Thus the Spirit of God doth powerfully send forth vertue and strength unto those in whom he * dwelleth.

Now from these two laid together, two Corollaries issue,

First, That to have the Spirit of God in the Scripture sense, is more then to be a mo∣ral, honest, civil man. This is no more a testimony that we are of God, then any Page  93 baser mettal can plead it self to be gold, because of some common accidents there∣with, and therefore their morality, intellectual perfections are altogether flesh∣ly; for so it's good to know that as Spirit differs from Spirit, one spiritual man from another, as one Starre differs from another in glory, insomuch that one would wonder how the same heaven should at last receive men so different: so one carnal man differeth from another carnal man, as much as a garden from a dunghill, and one would wonder that the same hell should be at last the same re∣ceptacle of so different conversations. Corruption is not only in grosse actions, but in the minde and understanding of a man, yea the more glorious it appeareth to be many times, it is the more carnal; As you see the Devils are called unclean spirits, who yet are not guilty of grosse bodily sinnes. Oh therefore that you would consider, there is an higher and more glorious way of living then that which most attain unto: Christianity stampt upon a meer civil man, destitute of Gods Spirit, is but like the Kings Picture upon a brasse shilling, as long as the materials are counterfeit, the superscription will not advantage. Baptism, Chri∣stianity, and all other glorious superscriptions put upon thee abiding in a morall estate, is no advantage for heaven; there must be power from Gods Spirit in thee.

A second Corollary is, That the gracious and sanctifying works of Gods Spirit,*are only a testimony of being in God, not those common gifts of his Spirit, such as parts, abilities, assistance and enlargements in Duties, no nor Prophecies and Revelations, if such were to be had. These indeed men most covet after, as accompanied with more applause and admiration; but it's better to speak one word with the grace of Gods Spirit, then ten thousand with the meer gift of his Spirit. One would wonder indeed, why God should distribute such glorious gifts to those, whom he doth not love to eternal life; but his waies are alwaies just, though some∣times unknown to us; yea there are other workings of Gods Spirit that come nearer to sanctification, and yet are not it. Such are, some sorrow about sinne, some illumination in judgement, some joy and delight in the Ordinances, yet these argue only Gods Spirit working in us, not dwelling in us. And these opera∣tions are only transient not permanent; and it is a good rule of Bonaventures, Illa tantum dicuntur esse in animâ, quae sunt in eâ per modum quietis, caetera sunt magis ab animâ, quam in animâ. Those things are properly in the soul which are in it by way of rest, and centre in it. Yea hence it is (which is much to be observed) that all those operations of Gods Spirit in an unregenerate man, whether of the for∣mer or latter sort, they are provocative or excitative of the flesh onely in a man. Thus Judas by all those gifts of Gods Spirit to him, was made more fleshly. A temporary believer by all his faith and joy is made more fleshly; for hereby he groweth more confident in himself, lesse poor in his Spirit, and so lesse perceiving the need of Christ, and his grace, by which he is more setled in a carnal way. There∣fore observe, whether all thy assistance, enlargements, transient motions of Gods Spirit, have not this event in thee, to make thee carnal and corrupt in a refined manner.

In the next place, Let us consider in what way this spirituality is manifested. * And

First, The nature of them is different from all meer humane actions. The acts of faith, love, and other graces, are above the whole sphear and power of nature; Jannes and Jambres were able to do some wonderfull things, as well as Moses, but there were others again, in which they had no power at all. Thus there are ma∣ny humane actions of prudence and justice, that make men very lovely and ad∣mirable in the eyes of others; but then there are other actions, such as the ope∣rations of habitual graces, and to this they can no more reach, then a dwarf can touch the heavens. Hence the Scripture sometimes addeth the word Spirit, when it would difference grace from humane actions, 2 Cor. 4. 13. Having the same Spi∣rit of faith, Ephes. 6. 18. Supplication in the Spirit. Phil. 3. 3. Which worship God in Page  94 the Spirit. Col. 1. 18. Your love in the Spirit. Now this addition [in the Spirit] im∣lieth that there are many actions that are done by us, but unlesse they be per∣formed in the Spirit, they come short of that divine and excellent nature, which God looketh at. Gratia non tollit, sed attollit naturam, Grace doth not destroy the natural faculties and actions of the soul, but it elevateth or sublimateth them to a more noble consideration; and this is the reason why a natural man can do no∣thing that is truly and theologically good, because of the transcendent excellen∣cy of it's nature, but this is hardly discerned; and if there be many, yea most things in nature, whose essence we perceive not, it is no wonder if we be so dull in supernatural.

Secondly, Spiritual actions are discovered by the fountain from whence they flow,* A spiritual principle, which the Scripture cals a divine nature, yea the life of God. As Isaac is called A childe of the promise, because he was born by the meer word and power of God, Sarahs womb being a dead womb; Thus also all godly actions, are actions of the promise, having their existence meerly by that, mans natural power being altogether a dead womb. And this also can little help as a signe, be∣cause the root of our actions, like those of trees, lieth under ground, and is so un∣discerned.

Therefore thirdly, In spiritual actions, those motives and ends that are attractive*are spiritual. Every action is specified by the formality of the object, and so re∣ligious actions they are spiritual, when the reason or motive of doing them is spi∣ritual. Hence they are called Virgins, and they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. This is that godly simplicity Paul speaks of in himself, whereby, as of God, and to God he did all things. For want of this, God by the Prophet rejects the humi∣liations and fastings the Jews did, which yet were specious enough, because they did it not to him, even to him; and this is a sign that may by the help of Gods Spirit be discerned in us. For as the voluptuous man is carried out to sinful plea∣sures, because of the sweetnesse in them; or as a rational man is desirous to finde out truth, because truth is a pleasing connatural object to his understanding; so is a spiritual man inclining to all spiritual objects, because of those spiritual con∣siderations that are therein. Delicata anima quasi abominatur, per modum commodi vel praemii diligere Deum. Now in all religious duties there are many spiritual at∣tractives, such as the command of God, enjoying of, and communion with him, the light of Gods countenance and increase of grace. Goe therefore and exa∣mine thy own self, What is the loadstone in all holy Duties? What is the mark thou aimest at? It is the intention that is the pulse to feel how thy heart is.

Fourthly, Spirituality is discerned by the manner. Where the Spirit of God is * there is zeal, fervency, activity. So that a formal, customary, superficial perfor∣ming of holy duties is extreamly opposite to a spiritual deportment in them. Nes∣cit tarda molimina Spiritus sanctus. Hence it was that it appeared in fire, and in a mighty rushing winde. Thus Stephen and others are said to be full of the holy Ghost, when there was strong and powerful workings of grace in them. Elias was a man of fire and zeal for God, and God gave him a sutable reward, He was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, as a conquerour triumphing over all enemies. This the A∣postle speaketh of, when Rom. 7. 6. he speaks of the oldnesse of the letter, and the newness of Spirit. It is an excellent expression, and an happy frame of heart, though some of late have abused that phrase to dangerous errours. Hence the Scripture in an Hebraism cals the excellency and efficacy of a thing, The Spirit of it; As the Spirit of wisdom, The Spirit of understanding, The Spirit of meeknesse. As the body without the soul is dead, so is a mans spirit without Gods Spirit in any duty. Oh think of this, you who spend your daies in an empty formal way of Religion; call as God by the Prophet doth, Come, O winde, and cause these dry bones to gather together and live. Cry as the Church doth, Arise, O North, and blow, O South, upon our Gardens, that our spices may smell; How few spiritual Christians? How few spiritual Duties, publick or private are there? The ship of Page  95 thy soul brings home no rich traffick, because it wants this winde. Not that a man who finds himself dead and cold, without the effectual power of Gods Spi∣rit, should neglect Praier and other Duties, till the Spirit breathe on him, as some have perniciously taught. For our Saviour Matth. 7. supposeth that we are to pray for the Spirit; and David, how often doth he pray, That God would quic∣ken him? But truly such is the coldnesse, emptinesse, that now all Religion is fallen into, that if ever one might desire a Sermon to be cloathed with as much dread and terrour as the promulgation of the Law was, it might be desired in this point. Till therefore thou eject those spirits that are so contrary to Gods Spirit, as the Spirit of the world especially, never look to take any comfort by thy Religion.

Fifthly, Lest this Spirit should be a delusion, therefore in the next place, The*workings of Gods Spirit are orderly, not inordinate, but exactly to the Rule. I build this particular on the Greek word, Gal. 5. 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit, that is as the word implieth, orderly, methodically, as when it's said, As many as shall walk by this canon or rule, Peace be on them. The Spirit of God putteth a man upon nothing that is against the principles of nature and sound reason, nor against the word of God; but verbum est vehiculum spiritus, the word is that fiery chariot in which the Spirit of God cometh. When the Apostle in the Chapter before, vers. ult. had given us this as a sign of our being in God, that we have of his Spirit, presently he addeth, Believe not every Spirit. Whoso∣ever pretends operations, instincts and revelations from the Spirit for duties not justifiable by the Word, sets up a false and unholy spirit, for the pure and holy Spirit of God: But of this more largely in the false signs. All the motions and operations of Gods Spirit are soft, quiet, ordered and consonant to Gods word.

Sixthly, Where spiritual operations are, there is a free and spontaneous inclination*unto the duties God requireth. As there is in an hungry man to eat, and a thirsty man to drink. Gal. 5. 18. If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law. The Apostle meaneth not the Antinomian sense, as if they needed not the Law to di∣rect, guide and excite them, for he presseth with commands in the same Chapter to mortifie sinne; and they may as well deny the use of the whole Scripture, as the Law in that sense, for all the word of God is a rule and a guide; but he speaks of the terrifying threatning and extorting power of the Law, whereby a man doth that which is good with the same Spirit, as the Israelites made brick under Pharoahs oppression; of this the Apostle speaks, and that so farre as they are re∣generate, for the unregenerate part findes the Law a Pharaoh to it, commanding brick and giving no straw, injoining work and giving no strength. Therfore where the Spirit of God is, there they are a willing people, yea willingnesses, as Psa. 110. in the plural number, and abstract it self. And so again, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Lastly, Where the Spirit of God thus worketh, there are strong oppositions and com∣bats*by the flesh and unregenerate part. Gal. 5. And this opposition is not of the inferiour appetite to the understanding, but of every sanctified part to the un∣sanctified part in the same faculty, an holy regenerate will against the unholy un∣regenerate will; Therefore it's a great falshood of the Hemisnites, that say, Its impossible for the same will to be at the same time good and bad in part, therefore they say, It is successively good or bad, and so by this consequence a man may have a regenerate and unregenerate will successively a thousand times in a day. But of this combate we have spoken already.

Use of Exhortation, Not to rest in any Naturals, Morals or Intellectuals, but * to breathe after Spirituals. As the body of a man is first Natural, and then by the resurrection it will be made glorious; so it is with the soul. If therefore you take all your ingenuous and lovely perfections, which you have by educati∣on Page  96 or restraining grace for true saving grace, you take John Baptist (as it were) for Christ. Be therefore in the number of spirituall ones; Morall Philosophy, the Lectures of Socrates and other Heathens, have put a man upon an external Reformation, but Gods word only is the instrument to convey his Spirit into our hearts.