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 XIX.

Church-priviledges no Sign of Grace.


ROM. 2. 28, 29.
For he is not a Jew that is one outwardly, &c.

THe Apostle his scope is in this latter part of the Chapter to convince the Jews that they are equally in a sinfull and wretched condition with the Gentiles, and therefore need Christ and Justification by his grace, as well as they. And that he may the better awaken them herein, who were apt to dote upon empty and vain priviledges, he takes this me∣thod to cure them.

First, By way of concession, he reckons up the priviled∣ges they enjoyed, which are divers.

1. Thou art called a Jew; Whereas the people of Israel formerly were called Is∣raelites, after the captivity into Babylon they were called Jews, and in this they gloried, as among us some do in the name Christian.

2. He is said to rest in the Law, viz. as given by God to that Nation, which he had not done unto any other people, and he useth an emphaticall word; They made the Law that to them which Christ should have been, a rest to their wearied souls.

3. Thou makest thy boast in God: The Prophet speaks of glorying in God as a duty: but here it is a sinne, for they boasted of him in a carnall, factious way, as their God; Even as the Heathen boasted of their God, (or as the Turks of Maho∣met,) or as the Apostle of some Corinthians, who when others were for Paul, o∣thers for Apollo, these were for Christ, that is, they set up Christ in a way of party and faction against others.

4. The Jew did know Gods will, for to him it was revealed.

5. He discerned the things that were excellent, or profitable, or differentt, or Page  104 convenient, for all this the word will bear, if he was instructed out of the Law, as it were catechized.

6. He was confident of being a guide to the blinde, a light, an instructer, a tea∣cher, and that he had a form of the truth and knowledge of the law. The Apostle doth not take 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in an ill sense, as in Timothy; for the Jew was not confident that he had but a form only, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is here as much as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in another place, a method and way to inform others about the truth. Thus far is the conces∣sion of their Priviledges.

In the second place is the aggravation of their sinne from these very preroga∣tives, partly because they sinne against knowledge and conviction, partly because their circumcision and the like visible signs of Gods favour did not at all profit without holinesse, yea, an Heathen and a Jew without this became both a∣like.

Hence in the third place he amplifieth this assertion by a distinction of a Jew, and of circumcision, for it was the hardest Paradox and most offensive to a Jewish ear, that could be, to say, circumcision did not profit: for they so glo〈…〉 in it, that they were wont to say, it was equall to all the Commandements, and that heaven and earth could not stand if there were not circumcision. The Apostles di∣stinction is like an Axe laid to the root of the tree, it takes away the foundation of all their glory. There is (saith he) a Iew outwardly, that hath only circumcision of the flesh, and this is not really and properly a Jew, he is not a Jew, nor is this circumcision saith the Apostle. 2. There is a Jew inwardly, a circumcision in the heart, in the spirit, and this is a Jew, this is a circumcision, and his praise is of God, not of man; God regards such only. Now this is also very applicable to the times of the Gospel, he is not a Christian, that is one outwardly, nor is that Baptism which is of the flesh but that which is inwardly and of the spirit. No visible signs or du∣ties in Christianity profit, if a man walk not according to Gods Word.

Although men are very prone to rest upon Church-priviledges, and visible signs or*duties therein, yet they are no testimonies or signs of the truth of grace.

This point deserveth a lively discovery, because it's the only prop and evidence of most Christians for heaven; And whereas in other things they would judge a title without reality to be a miserable comfort, to be titularly rich, and really poor. To have the name of health, and to be indeed diseased and pained, herein they would judge it mockery; yet in religion they are strongly contented to have the name and repute of Christians, baptized persons, professors of Christs doctrine, and yet know not the power of thse things, being like dead corpse with sweet flowers strewed upon them. Therefore to explicate this necessary point consider some things by way of foundation.

As first, We finde it such a sinne that generally the people of Israel were guilty of.* Insomuch that the great contestation between the Prophets in the Old Testament and the Israelites living then, between Christ and his Apostles and the Jews living then, to have been upon this very particular. No Minister, no Sermon, could take them of from this, that because they had the externall priviledges, therefore they did belong to God, and were the children of Abraham, Jer. 9. 25, 26. see how the Prophet reckons the Jews because uncircumcised in heart, among the Moabites and Aegyptians uncircumcised in flesh, and God would punish them both alike: Now compare this with Ier. 7. 4. see how Paradoxall this was to the Jews, they cryed, The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord are these. They thought such visible symbols of Gods presence would preserve them, though their lives were unreformed. Thus Isa. 1. The Prophets whole scope is to let them know, that all their sacrifices and religious worship were but so much detestable abomination unto God. Thus it was also in the New Testament, how excellently doth our Savi∣our discover this point twice, Mat. 3. 9. Joh. 8 33. where the Pharisees whole support was in their carnall priviledge, and our Saviour sheweth notwithstanding all this, they were of their Father the devil. Thus Gal. 5. Circumcision and uncircum∣cision,Page  105 that is, the Jewish dispensation, and the Gospel dispensation of Ordinances is made nothing, but a new creature; and certainly if Christ himself be no more to be born after the flesh, much lesse may any visible Ordinances which are not e∣quall to Christ. Thus you see it was the Jews sin.

But secondly, If you look over all Chrstianity, you shall finde this the Catholick and*universall sin: whereby Christ and regeneration with powerfull godlinesse is whol∣ly neglected, and a fleshly carnall confidence in the titles and Ordinances of Chri∣stianity established; so that all those expostulations which the Prophets and Apo∣stles had in those daies may be justly revived again, seeing those sinnes are revived: What circumcision, and sacrifices, and the Temple were to the Jews; the same are baptism, the Lords Supper, and frequenting our religious Assemblies: and as the Jews in the midst of all their duties, had wholly laid aside Christ and sanctification, o have generally Christians now. Thus as the Apostle argued severely, you that rest in circumcision, that rest in the Law, you are fallen from Christ, you are igno∣rant of the spirit, the same may be said to formall protestants, you have turned all Gospel-dispensations into externals meerly; and so are Christians of the flesh and not of the spirit: Ye are of Agar and not of Sarah, ye are not children of the Promise; Your being is not by the meer word and power of God, all power in nature, being in this respect but a dead womb, but only by carnall and externall badges, Rom. 9. 6, 7. see how admirably the Apostle discourseth of this in the Jews case, and applies it to Christians. Oh therefore take heed of this epidemicall di∣sease, be not dammed or troden down in this crowd.

3. To demonstrate the connaturality of this sinne, observe how ingenious the fleshly*mindes of men have been by arguments and opinions to encourage a carnall confidence in these externals: for what other practicall use can be made of those Popish do∣ctrines that the Sacraments do conferre grace ex opre operato, from the very work done and application of them to the soul; and this made Melancthon wish the very Word Sacrament were removed out of the Church, because as people then were informed, they thought in the elements of a Sacrament, some inward supernaturall force lay couched to save them, and therefore they took these Sacraments as men would medicinall potions, that by an inward physicall power produce their effects: by this means all visible Ordinances were turned into meer idols. They attributed that to baptism which belonged only to Christs bloud, they would give that glory to a Sacrament which belonged only to Christ, and made as much of the linnen wherein Christs body lay, as the body it self.

In the next place, while we give this explication, you must by way of caution * take heed of two other extreams, And that is,

1. To cry down the very being and use of these externall Ordinances, as being but forms, and the spirituall frame of the heart is made all in all. Thus there are blasphemous Hereticks that cry down the Sacraments, the Ministry, yea, the Scri∣pture it self, yea Christ himself, as being but formes, and we ought to have com∣munion with God immediatly. But it is elsewhere to be shewed, that Christ hath appointed an externall form of communion in his Church, which consisteth in read∣ing, and preaching of the Word, Administration and receiving of Sacraments, Praier, and Church-government, and Censures, with a Ministry from him, all which are of a perpetuall institution for the substantials of them, and to cry down these forms, which God hath appointed as means to beget and encrease grace, which are in the gracious use of them a solemn acknowledging and owning of God, is a Beelzebub errour as I may so say, and a false doctrine in the first magnitude: we are therefore to sail between these extreams neither resting upon Externals in re∣ligion, as enough without Christ, and regeneration, or on the contrary abolishing and neglecting the use of them.

2. We are also deficient when although we doe not cry down formes wholly, yet we*give too little to these institutions of Christ. As we may give too much to baptism and the Lords Supper, o also we may give too little; in former times of supersti∣tion Page  106 the first sin was common: In these latter times, I fear the latter doth over-flow. The Remonstrants, they say, that the doctrine which the Protestants deliver about the Sacraments is valdè suspecta greatly suspected by them of falshood. And the Socinians they make them only commemorative of some former mercy: they deny any reall exhibition or encrease in grace thereby. Hence it is their expression, As, say they, when the Israelites in eating of the Paschall lamb, made thereby a commemoration of their deliverance out of Aegypt God did then bestow no new mercy on them, only there was a remembrance of the old; so in the Lords Sup∣per there is no new conveyance of any grace, but a remembrance of an old former mercy, but this cometh too short: for those Scripture-expressions 1 Cor. 10. The bread that we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ &c. and in the very words of the institution, Take, eat, this is my body, do evidently prove more then 〈◊〉 meer commemoration. The Scripture when men are apt to rest upon Sacraments, speaks contemptibly of them; Your Fathers ate Manna and died, Circumcision pro∣fiteth nothing, he that eateth unworthily eateth damnation to himself: but when it re∣gards the institution and proper use of them, and not the subject receiving them, then it speaks gloriously. These things are premised by way of explication and caution.

In the third place let us consider why people are so apt to rest upon these as comfortable testimonies, and there are severall reasons. *

1. Because they being duties commanded, when performed, that gives some ease and comfort to a naturall conscience. To be circumcised was Gods command, To be ba∣ptized, to hear his Word, to receive Sacraments are duties injoyned by God, so that the very neglect of them is threatned with condemnation; now then when we are diligent to discharge all these, a mans conscience hath not so much to ac∣cuse him and condemn him, and we are apt to take any partiall ease and comfort of conscience for a generall acquittance.

2. We are apt to rest in these things because they are easie to be done: Whereas the way of mortification is troublesome and tedious to flesh and bloud: Hence it's cal∣led *crucifying the flesh and cutting off the right hand, and pulling out the right eye. The Jews would bring multitude of sacrifices, They would kill many bullocks and rams rather then any lusts. They would not sacrifice themselves or their lusts, yea, they proffered their first-born, when yet they would not leave their sins. Oh beloved, the duty of mortification and powerfull godlinesse is an hell to flesh and bloud: Christianus est perpetua naturae violentia, and therefore few, set on that; whereas to come to Church, to hear, to pray, these are done without much trouble. Every naturall man had rather perform a thousand religious duties, then crucifie one pleasant or profitable sinne: Oh then see upon what sandy foundations you build all your hope, whose lives are not sanctified, ho are strangers to the power of god∣linesse, yet stay your souls with externall religious duties.

3. Therefore men rest upon these because they are ignorant of the work and necessi∣ty of regeneration: You see Nicodemus an old man, much versed in the religious * worship of God, yet though a master in Israel, knew not this thing. Oh it's to be feared there are many great Scholars, there are many ancient, noble, rich Christi∣ans, that yet are strangers to the whole inward work of Gods Spirit by way of change upon them. The Apostle cals circumcision of the heart, circumcision made without hands; and so baptism and the Sacraments in the heart, which are not visi∣ble in the eies of the world, make us esteemed before God. Be not then idol Chri∣stians that have eyes and see no, hearts and understand not the inward vertue and spirituall efficacy of Christ in his Ordinances. It was Chrysostomes complaint in his aies, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉&c. Alas, how are all the grave and holy Or∣dinances in the Church of God turned into meer outsides and formalities! Thus in Popery when reall holinesse began to be persecuted, then they set up a deal of su∣perstitious holinesse, holy Images, holy Altars, holy Temples, holy vestments, and in the mean while, true, reall holinesse was scorned: and here is too much Page  107 of this Pope in the belly of many formall Protestants.

4. They put confidence in them because they are ignorant of the righteousnesse by*faith in Christ. There is no man but the godly that looks for any justification, but by the works he doth, and so they turn the Gospel into the Law, and make the duties and administrations under the Gospel, what the Jews did the legall admini∣strations in the Law: You cannot have a clearer instance of this then in Paul, Phil. 3. he giveth in a catalogue of many priviledges, and he saith, he thought them great gain to him once, but after he came to the knowledge of the righteousnesse by faith in Christ, he counted them dung and drosse, and desired to be found in Christ only. The Apostle useth an excellent expression, Heb. 4. 18. speaking of the godly and their consolation in the Covenant of grace, he saith, they have fled for a refuge to lay hold on this hope. Every godly man is in as much fear of his sinne, whose guilt by vertue of the Law pursueth him, as among the Jews the man was that had slain another: Now with what haste, trembling and desire he fled to the City of refuge, the same doth a godly man use in laying hold on Christs righteousnesse: Alas, his duties, his religious worship, it is not a City of refuge: If therefore thou knewest the necessity of Christ, and what righteousnesse by faith means, thou couldst not rest in these externall duties.

5. Therefore men rest on them because they look on these duties as satisfactory and*compensatory to God. We think by these ordinances we have made amends to God. It is Bellarmines doctrine, that praier as it is laboriosa and poenalis, undergone as a laborious penance, is compensatory to God. Now though the doctrine of Popery be renounced, yet unregenerate persons abound in the practice of it.

Lastly, Therefore do carnall people rely on these, because they mistake the nature of*them. They look upon them as those things which will of themselves make them acceptable to God, notwithstanding any preparation or spirituall managing of them: whereas setting aside the Word of God that works the first grace in us, all other duties they are but as cloaths or garments to the body, which cannot warm or heat a dead body; but if there be life in the body to heat them first, then they will encrease the heat. And thus it is here, if there be spirituall life in thee, and thou put it forth in these duties, then these duties will corroborate and strengthen it more.

We come to the second generall part of the Doctrine, to shew, That the ha∣ving*and enjoying such seals is not sign sure enough for our being in the state of grace.

And first That they are not, may appear, in that the Scripture makes it not only possible for such to be damned, but doth foretell even actuall damnation; and that to*the greater part of such persons. Thus Mat. 7. some condemned at that great day are brought in thus pleading, Have we not eat in thy presence? The Jews will say so in respect of their sacrifices, the Christians in regard of the Lords Supper, so that it is a wonder to them that they are cast out of Gods presence, and howsoever in the parable of the great Feast the Master of the Feast spieth out but one that came in without a Wedding garment, for which he is apprehended and cast into utter darknesse, yet that doth not imply few only will be without a Wedding garment, though at the Feast; for in that one is represented an universall or multitude; Therefore our Saviour makes this inference, for many are called but few are chosen, which would be a conclusion wholly repugnant to the premise, had not a gene∣rality been intended in that one; so our Saviour in another place, The children of the Kingdom shall be cast out; who are those children of the Kingdom, but such that were partakers of all the Ordinances of the Church called the kingdom of heaven? Oh then it is in vain to pleade that, which many damned in hell have been partakers of. And whereas if true grace be in any man, though in the least de∣gree, he can never be excluded; none can say, Lord did we not truly fear thy Name, reform our lives, walk spiritually? and yet God bid them Depart, he knoweth Page  108 them not. And that this sad portion will be to the greatest part of those that have enjoyed those pridiledges, appears by that fore-mentioned, Many are called, but few are chosen, which are not so much words, as thunder and lightning. Oh then think not these an Ark sure enough to keep thee in the deluge of many waters.

2. The Scripture reckons the condition of a man with these priviledges, and one with∣out*them in the same condition if there be not holinesse. Thus as you heard the Pro∣phet Jeremiah makes the uncircumcised in heart, though circumcised in flesh, all one with the worst of Heathens, the Moabites and the Ammonites. And to this pur∣pose also the Apostle in the verses before, Shall not thy circumcision be accounted uncircumcision, if thou keep not the Law. So that as long as wickednesse is in thy life, thy Baptism doth no more advantage thee then the Heathens no-Baptism. It shall not avail thee, thou hast called upon Christ, thou hast so many times received the Sacrament. Hence it is, that the Prophet cals the wicked Princes and Gover∣nours, though of Israel, yet Princes of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so may the Mi∣nisters of the Gospel call prophane and wicked men, ye men of Scythia or Ame∣rica, for this badge and mark of Christianity is not regarded by God, if not ac∣companied with true godliness; so the Apostle saith, 1 Cor. 11. This is not to eat the Lords Supper, it was as if they had not received at all.

3. The Scripture goeth higher, and doth not only make them equal with Pa∣gans,* but God professeth his abomination of all their religious service, and thy wic∣kednesse is more noisome then all thy Religion is well-pleasing; See Isa. 1. how God expresseth himself concerning the Sacrifices and new Moons of the sinfull Israelites, He hated them, they were an abomination to him, it was like cutting off a dogs head; Oh how contrary are Gods thoughts, and thy thoughts about the same religious duties! The Prophet Haggai also Hag. 2. doth by an excellent instance shew, That if a man be unclean and sinful, his holy services do not take off from his uncleannesse, but his uncleannesse defiles them. Oh therefore consider, that thou hast many dead flies fallen into this box of ointment, and therefore cannot be savoury unto God! Thy swearing tongue doth more offend God then thy praying tongue doth please him; Thy sins will cry louder then thy prayers, yea God will answer thee according unto the abomination of thy Idols; he will answer thee not according to the duties thou art doing, but thy sins thou hast committed; he doth not look upon thee as one praying or hearing now, but as one unclean, dumb or vicious in some week-day. Oh why do your consciences lie in such a deep sleep in your bosoms! Why doth not that Serpent in thy breast begin to hisse and sting thee at the hearing of these things?

Lastly, These are so farre from being signs without grace, that they will be aggrava∣tions*of thy condemnation. As in some Countreys when their malefactors were to be burnt at the fire, they poured oil and pitch to encrease their torment the more, so will every Sacrament, every prayer, every Church-priviledge, make hell the hotter for thee. Woe be to thee Corazin and Bethsaida, Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, Heathenish persons, and that in the highest way of wickednesse shall have lesser torment then they; and so mark the Apostle here speaking of the Jew, he saith, that by the letter and circumcision he did transgresse the Law, How was that? Even by those Priviledges and Ordinances he was made the greater trans∣gressour.

Now the Reason why these are not sure signs, is, Because no promise of Justification or Salvation is made meerly to the use of them. Our Saviour saith not, He that is*baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth and is baptized. Thus as God com∣manded the Jews to circumcise their foreskin; So God promiseth as the mercy of all mercies, he would circumcise their hearts to love him. Look then over the Scri∣pture, thou canst not finde any one promise of pardon, or eternal glory to thee, because baptized only, because a Christian only, because receiving a Sacrament only, unlesse there be also renovation in thy life and conversation. I grant that Page  109 because of the very external profession of Christ, and his wayes, though there be no internal change, many Church-priviledges belong to them, and Ministers are bound to dispense them to them, if they be without scandal: I grant also, as may be fully proved out of this Text, that there is an external and internal Co∣venant, a man may have a Church-holinesse, a visible sanctity, whereby he and his children are intituled to Ordinances, although all this while there be no true grace in that man. But now we are speaking of the promises of Justi∣fication and salvation, and these are made to none but to the truly godly. Therefore till this be, thou art only in the outward Temple, not in the Holy of Holies. Oh therefore that these things were more considered by you: Suppose you hear God speaking from Heaven to you; Why are you weeds in my garden? Why are you Tares in my Wheat? Why are ye Chaffe in my Floor? Yea, think thou seest an hand-writing on every wall of thy House, and post of thy doors, like that of Belshazzars: Thou art numbred and weigh∣ed, and found too light: All thy religious profession, Ordinances, are found too light.

Use of Exhortation, Let this truth be to you what the Jealousie-water * was to the suspected person, let it not be said to you as to that Church, Thou hast a name that thou art alive but art dead, or as to another Church of some that said they were Jews but were not. Thou saist thou art a Chri∣stian, thou art baptized, thou hast Ordinances, but whose works are those which thou dost? who is the Father of that wickednesse, barrennesse, neg∣lect and contempt of true holinesse? Can the same Fountain send forth bit∣ter streams and sweet? Shall that tongue that hath here prayed to God af∣terwards blaspheme? and consider the Apostles Argument in this Chapter; The Jews wicked carriage caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles; Pagans, Papists, Hereticks blaspheme the truth, because of your evil deeds. How necessary is it that where we are orthodox we should 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 also? Salvian a zealous Father against the wickednesse of Christians, attributing all the grievous Judgements of God then upon the Church to their impious manners, he brings in the Heathen also blaspheming Christ, and laying all the fault here, that Christians were no better: Si Christus sancta docuisset, Christiani sanctè vixissent; If Christ (say they) had taught holy and godly things, then certainly the Christians would have lived holy lives. Take heed, for the condition of all Heathens and Pagans will be more tolerable at the day of judgement then yours.