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 XXI.

Fully clearing that there may be affections and sweet motions of Heart in holy things, which yet evidence not Grace, nor accompany Salva∣tion.


HEB. 6. 9.
But (beloved) we hope better things of you, and things that accompany Sal∣vation.

THe Text hath an adversative respect to the verses precedent, as the first word (But) plainly denoteth: For it is put in by way of mollifying and softening, after those severe and terrible expressions the Apostle had used before. At the 4. verse there is an Hypothetical Proposition, containing Beneficium Dei, The goodness and mercy of God: and Maleficium hominis, The ingratitude of man, with the sentence or judgement upon him. I shall not now speak to that con∣troversal matter, which is usually debated by the learned upon these words: you may briefly observe the mercies of God bestowed upon this supposed Apostate re∣duced to two heads

First, That which concerneth his intellectuals, in that expression, Enligh∣tened.

Secondly, Those that relate to his Affectionate part: and herein are most par∣ticulars, viz. tasting of the heavenly Gift, partakers of the Holy Ghost, tasting of Page  117 the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. These things (God willing) shall be more distinctly handled when we shall discourse of the Grace of Conversion, and the counterfeit of it, (and then we shall vindicate the Orthodox interpretation from all corrupt oppositions) In the Second place, you have the Ingratitude, or wickedness of the man abusing these mercies, and that is, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which may be proved of an universal Apostacy, not a fall in some particular gross sin, Toti, in totum, de toto, as Junius: which mistake made the Novatians deny any Church-reconciliation to lapsed sinners, and which made the Roman Church delay the receiving of this Epistle into the number of Canonical. In the Third place, there is the heavie doom of such, It is impossible to renew them again,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the word is in the Active sense, and signifieth there are no Tea∣chers, no Doctors, no Ministry, no Sermons can ever instrumentaly reduce them to godliness: and the Apostle saith, it is impossible, not absolutely to God, nor in that sense, as it is impossible for every man by nature of himself to recover out of his sins, seeing that it is common to every natural man: but here he speaketh of a special impossibility. Therefore its impossible from a special decree of God, where∣by he doth threaten to such abusers, and contemners of his Grace and mercy, a to∣tal substraction of all his favours, and goodness from them: even as a branch once grafted in, and afterwards disjointed is hardly capable of a second coalition. Now this the Apostle

1. Aggravateth from the cause, because they crucifie the Sonne of God afresh, viz. as much as lyeth in them: if they be restored, there must be a new Christ, or a new oblation of Christ, Those that fall in Adam Christ repair∣eth, but if a man fall off from Christ, and reject him, there is no further reme∣dy appointed by God, but such are in as hopelesse a condition as the Apostate Angels.

2. He illustrateth by the earth, drinking in rain, yet bringing forth thistles, which is near to cursing. Now having thus wounded them, and powred salt in their wounds, at last he powreth oyl to supple them, telling them that he doth not think they are these Apostates, partly because his judgement is they have bet∣ter things then these, partly because God is just and faithfull, and will therefore perfect the good work begun in them: My Text is the first mollifying expression, wherein you have,

1. The Apostle his charitable judgement expressed by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which accord∣ing to the subject matter is sometimes to be understood of such a divine faith and hope that cannot be deceived, sometimes of such a certainty as we have by charitable construction and morall prudence, and in this sense it is taken here.

2. There is the object of this charitable judgement, better things, that is, better things then those fore-mentioned benefits (though seemingly very glorious) which hypocrites may have, and at last fall away; better then to be meerly inlightned, better then to have a taste only, and some sweet affections in holy things, and for better explication sake, he addeth, and things that accompany salvation,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, harentia saluti, saith Austin, that cleave to salvation, that cannot be disjoyned from it: such things as whosoever hath, cannot but be saved; implying that those * benefits though they were good things and gifts of Gods Spirit, yet were not neces∣sarily accompanying salvation.

That although affections and sweet motions of heart in holy things are much relyed upon as evidences of grace and salvation, yet they are not indeed any true signs or in∣fallible testimonies.

This Point needeth a powerfull and a wary discovery: Therefore for explica∣tion sake, let us consider what religious affections and motions the Scripture de∣clareth to be in some, who yet are not truly regenerated. The known and famous instance is Mat. 13. 20. where the third kinde of hearers is said to receive the word with joy. This is tasting the good Word of God, finding some sweetnesse Page  118 and power in the Ordinances, yet that this hearer was not hereby regenerate is plain, partly because he is said to have no root, partly because he is opposed to the good ground, that is, the good and honest heart (what is said by Arminians to these things, hereafter shall be discussed) so Joh. 5. 35. you have a plain instance of some that had light and heat in them, yet not godly. Ye did for a season rejoyce in Johns light and Ministery, so that men who shall at last be thrown in utter darknesse, may yet for a while rejoyce in the light of Gods word: Thus Herod put∣teth it also out of all question, Mar. 6. 20. for he heard John gladly, and the motive was religion, for it's said he feared or reverenced him, because he was a just man. I look upon this point as fundamentall in practice; and which if true, may strike like an arrow into our hearts, and therefore have brought undeniable places of Scri∣pture to assert this truth; Affections in holy administrations with delight and joy, may be in those who yet have no true grace: I will instance only in another affe∣ction, and that is sorrow and grief about sinne, even this may be in a man unsea∣soned with grace, Mat. 27. 3. it is expresly said of Judas, he repented himself and confessed I have sinned in betraying the innocent bloud, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the word is properly used of that sorow, grief and care, which is in the affectionate part of a man: Ahabs humiliation, 1 King. 21. is so great, that God taketh notice of it; Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself? The Israelites how often were they in their humiliations and mournings for sin? though these laud flouds were dried up again, insomuch that Gregory did well compare them to the grashoppers which make sudden leaps from the earth, as if they would fly to heaven, but presently fall down upon the ground again. Take one place for many, Psal. 78. 34. They sought him and they teturned, and they enquired early after God: Great ex∣pressions! Do you not think God like that Father in the Parable will presently kisse them, put robes upon them, prepare a fatted calf for them? No, vers. 36. marreth all. Neverthelesse their hearts were not stedfast within him. Now it's remarkable, as the Scripture cals these actions, repentance, humiliation, returning and seeking after God, giving the name of grace to them, because they have the outward lineaments of grace, so also the Scripture attributeth pardon of sin and forgivenesse unto them, vers. 38. he being full of compassion forgave their ini∣quities, Numb. 14. 20. God upon Moses his praier, saith he had pardoued their in∣iquity: now this cannot be a true and proper pardon of sin. for Heb. 3. it is plain, All these perished because of their unbelief. Therefore when the Scripture saith, that upon such humiliation and repentance God doth pardon sin, especially speak∣ing of an whole body of people, it's to be understood in a particular sense thus, for not punishing them at that time, but either quite taking away, or at least dif∣ferring the temporall affliction, but is still abiding them, for no unconverted man, truly and properly ever hath any sin pardoned him: so that as to a godly man re∣penting, God taketh away eternall punishment, but lets a temporall chastisement sometime abide, so to the unconverted repenting, God doth sometimes take away the temporall, but causeth the eternall punishment to continue. By all this you see the Scripture speaking of some, as rejoycing in that which is good, and mourning for that which is evill, whereupon their sins are said to be forgiven, that yet all this while are men whose hearts are not right within them: and this is no wonder, see∣ing they are said to beleeve, Mat. 12. they beleeve for a season, yea, Joh. 2. 23. un∣converted men are said 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to beleeve in the name (which some make the highest expression of beleeving) now according to the collustration of their understandings by faith, suteable are the motions of their affections in their heart. As they beleeve, so they rejoyce, mourn, desire, and delight in things be∣lieved.

2. These affections we may for distinction sake call temporary affections in holy*things. As our Saviour cals it a temporary faith, so may we a temporary joy, a temporary mourning, a temporary 〈…〉ht in good things; Not as it were of the essence of these affections to apostatize at ast. It is true, faith is called temporary, Page  119 because when hot persecutions arose it presently withered, but had no such storms or tempests come, an house that is built upon the sand only, will not fall. It is the opinion of a learned man, Conradus Bergius, praxis Cathol. pag. 105. that it is not likely that any one dyeth a meer temporary beleever, but that at least when he cometh to die, seeing he must part with worldly comforts, which he alwaies loved more then God, he then fretteth and murmureth against God, and so ex∣tinguisheth that temporary faith and affections to God; or else resigneth himself up unto God, and of a temporary faith there is suddenly by the grace of God a saving faith; let the Authour see to the making of this good: We call it not tem∣porary, as if it were necessary there should be Apostacy from these. Certainly the foolish Virgins were such Christians as did live and die with temporary faith and affections to God, that had a lamp and shining, and so some oil, else their lamp could not shine, but not such store as would hold out: so then, these affections and motions of thy heart, may be all the pillar thou leanest upon, when yet many damned in hell have gone as far.

3. Christians with these temporary affections do not constitute a third kinde of be∣leevers*between converted and unconverted, but are in the state of unregenerate per∣sons. And the work upon the godly and those temporaries differ not only gradual∣ly or in duration, but essentially and specifically. They are then foolish Virgins, They are those that build upon the sand; They are the thorny ground: notwith∣standing these great promising hopes: So we say, that we can neither call them re∣generate nor unregenerate, nor yet make them a third kinde, but that they are like the Embrio, proving abortive, which we cannot call either a man or a beast, nor yet make it a third kinde, for it's only an inchoate, imperfect being: but by the Scripture we may surely enough place them in the rank of those who are not members of Christ, and not being united to him cannot be said to partake of the divine nature, and therefore must be in a carnall, sinsull temper, and are not like a tree rooted that sprouteth and flourisheth, but like some branch of a tree put in∣to the ground, that may sprout for a season.

4. The affections and motions that such may have in holy duties, may be upon se∣verall*grounds;

As in the first place, The novelty and the strangenesse of the doctrine may much af∣fect and delight: And this may be the reason why they rejoyced in John Baptists Ministery: What went you out for to see (saith our Saviour) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉: some strange, new sight; and thus while the doctrine of the Gospel is new, it hath ma∣ny admirers. Commonly in the work of the Ministery, a new Minister is much delighted in, while his parts, his abilities are new, men hear with joy: but through custome, their affections do abate: and such kinde of hearers I fear London hath many: We may say unto many, What go ye out to see rather then to hear. Therefore by the way take notice of what a frail ground many go upon; who say, since they left our Congregations, our Ministers; have gone into new waies of do∣ctrine, they say, they have found more comfort, more sweet affections then ever; What argument is this? All novell things will affect thus, and after use and cu∣stome in those waies they are in, and they go further into more new waies, upon new changes, they will finde new affections.

2, Men may be affected with the doctrine and truths of Christ, as it is comforta∣ble*or sad matter; without any respect to a spirituall operation. The Gospel is cal∣led 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, glad tidings, or good news, now a man may be affected in hearing this gracious counsell of God to save sinners discovered, as he would be about any State or Common-wealth good news wherein he is much concerned, and all this is but knowing Christ after the flesh; or else the sadnesse of the matter, the very History of Christ recorded by the Evangelists, may abundantly make a man mourn to see how the innocent and righteous one was put to death, meerly to satisfie the lusts of proud and carnall men; and thus as Austin saith of himself, when he read the story of Dido, he could weep over her dead, when he could not Page  120 weep for himself dead in sin; so thou maist be affected about Christs death, as it was a sad passion, and never be affected with those Scripture-Arguments that are propounded. In this sense, Christ forbad those women, weep not for me ye daugh∣ters of Jerusalem, but weep for your selves.

3. The hearers affections may be much moved, or stirred at the Ministers abilities,* because of his parts, cloquence, elocution, affectionàte utterance. These things may much delight you, and you think this is a sign of grace. The Prophet Ezekiel was like a pleasant and sweet tuned instrument unto his hearers, whereupon God saith, they come in Troops, and sate as his people, but yet were not reformed. Austin while a Manichee was wonderfully affected with Ambrose his preaching, because of his eloquence: and certainly Rhetoricall elocution, especially that which is about the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the affections of men may much prevail: Insomuch that one Countrey made Hercules who was so famous for strength, the god of elo∣quence, implying thereby how strong that is, to turn and change man; There∣fore examine your hearts in the ground of your affections; The learning of the man may please your intellectuals; The powerfull utterance may satisfie your af∣fections, but all this while you are no more wrought upon in a spirituall way, then the Roman auditors were, when they heard Tullies Orations, veritas Christiano-rum pulchrior est Helena Groecorum. The truth of Christianity is fairer then the Graecians Helena: we may love a choice truth, as a man may be enamoured with a fair face; fine head notions may produce some affectionate heart-motions: but what symptome of grace is in all this?

4. Even corrupt lusts in men, such as pride, ambition, self seeking, may produce * great affections in holy duties, especially in publike administrations, where others may admire and applaud; Thus the Pharisees in their publique Expositions of the Law, and teachings in the Synagogue, as also in their praiers, might be much af∣fected from those carnall motives provoking of them; many times the more ex∣cellent a Sermon is, the more carnall the heart of a Preacher may be: Thus a pri∣vate Christian in praiers with others, the stronger his invention may be, the weaker his grace may be, and those expressions which seem excellent to others come from a root very bitter to God; Even as in a Meadow full of grasse and pleasant flowers, if you digge to the bottom of them, there is nothing but noy∣some earth; so if you go to the Fountain from whence all these expressions, ve∣hement expostulations, that are used in praier, do flow, you may see it's a poi∣soned fountain. As on the other side, an heart contrite, and full of grace before God may not be so admirable in expressions: As they say, the ground full of mines of gold is very barren for grasse. Do not then go away rejoycing from a duty, be∣cause of thy affections meerly in an holy duty. Let not this comfort thee, that thy soul was heated within, but consider whether the ground upon which all these are built, be solid and enduring.

Lastly, A mans affections may be inflamed not only from such base and unwor∣thy considerations, but even from the goodnesse and excellency of spirituall things;* yet because not radicated, not throughly changed in the bottome of the soul, all these affections be insufficient: and this was the cause of that joy and delight in those we instanced in, viz. The sweetnesse and excellency of holy things; They tasted the good Word of God, not the good worldly aims and respects by the Word of God, yet all this is in a vanishing unsetled way. They are affected with the world as well as with God, and thereby it is they miscarry: so that all affe∣ctions in holy things, and that because of their excellency, is not presently a cer∣tain * note of one who shall ioherit glory unlesse deeply rooted.

The grounds why Christians are apt to rely upon these are,

First, Because hereby we seem to have attained the end of all knowledge and abi∣lities in religion. For seeing all supernaturall revelation of heavenly truths is for practice and operation: if we finde some love and joy and affection both to the re∣vealer who is God, and the matter revealed, we are prone to think we are now Page  121 arrived as farre as we ought to be. Indeed it will be easily granted, for a man to hear, pray, or beleeve the Word of God without some inward affections thereup∣on, that he may be judged a cloud without water, a tree without fruit: but when this oyl runneth from the head to the inferiour parts, then may we not say All is well. But Balaams consideration of the good estate of the righteous, wrought in him affections to have such an end as they have.

2. We are prone to make these all in all, because affections are sensible and we feel them moving of us: Now we are affected and confirmed most by things of * sense. The reason why a godly man findeth it so hard to live by faith, is because we have so much of sense in us, and it is no mean work not to judge according to what we feel. Therefore that man who is in a false way, whether of doctrine, worship, or life, and yet findes comfort and consolation therein, is in a very sad and dangerous condition. The devil transforming himself into an Angel of light, of joy and comfort, doth the most incurably destroy. It is no good Argument I have comfort in this way, therefore it is of God, but let it be first discovered to be of God, and this will breed sound comfort.

Lastly, Therefore are we apt to rely on this most, because this doth look most like grace; Of all false signs these do come nearest. Temporaries are affected al∣most with the same feeling as the truly godly are, insomuch that some have thought (though falsly) the difference is only in degrees: so that it is easier to convince men of the unsoundnesse and weaknesse of all signs rather then of this, although men have therefore the greater cause to fear herein, rather then any where else.

Therefore in the next place consider, Why these affections are not to be looked upon as such an Ark that will save, when the deluge shall overflow.

And first, These motions argue only Gods spirit, working in thee, not dwelling in thee. Now the godly they are the temples of the holy Ghost, and being members of Christ they are animated with the spirit of Christ not only assisting but informing. The Spirit of God in a temporary is like an Angel appearing in some outward shape or body; there was an eating, a drinking, but the Angel was only a form assisting not informing that body: therefore the bodies they assumed did not live, neither were they nourished, or could grow by all the food they took, but the Spirit of God is in a godly man like the soul in the body. I do not speak of a personall union, as if they made up one, as the soul and body do one man, but of a morall union, or a union mysticall by faith, with a constant inhabitation. A woman may have many expressions of love from a man, but yet not presently such as give a conjugall affection, Therefore thou canst draw comfort from those things only which argue the spirits inhabitation, not the Spirits motion or operation.

Secondly, A second ground is in the Text, There are better things in the way of Heaven then these. Now we can take comfort in nothing but that which is the best work for its kinde, of Christ in us. There are better things then praying, hearing, with some affections; and that is a renovation of the heart, a deep radi∣cation of grace in thy soul: Whereas now if we speak of the saving graces in the godly, it would be absurd to say we hope better things, then truly to be∣leeve in Christ, really to mortifie sinne. It is true, there may be a graduall bet∣tering of them, but not a specificall.

Lastly, (because more of this in another place) They are not things that ac∣company salvation: If a man had the highest degree of temporary faith, temporary joy, yet no promise of justification or salvation is made to such a person: There are great promises made to the beleever, to him that rejoyceth in the Word of God, but they are not to be understood of a temporary faith, or a temporary joy: he that goeth no further then these, hath no promise in all the Scripture to comfort himself by: whereas the least degree of true faith and sincere joy, may with all boldnesse apply the promise.

Page  122 Use 1. of Instruction, How remote they are from all hopes of salvation, who go on in a rode, or round of the duties of religion, without the least savoury, affection in them! You whose hearts never thought of sinne, and were troubled, of whom God cannot say at any time as he did of Ahab, Seest thou how this man hum∣bleth himself? You, who pray, hear, and finde no more rellish in these things then in the white of an Egge, as Job speaks, Oh what a gulf is there between mercy and you, that neither mercy can come to you, or you to mercy! We have removed our Idols out of our glasse windows, but there are still too many Christian Idols, in our Pews and Congregations, who have eyes and see not, hearts and understand not, nor rejoyce in any thing that is good. Oh how un∣excusable is it, that thy soul hath found a sweetnesse, a savourinesse in the world, in lusts, and none in God! what is it because God is a wildernesse, and the creature a pleasant fountain?

Use of Exhortation, To take more diligent heed to thy self th•• ever: It may be thou hast no better evidences for heaven, then what th third kinde of hearers, then what the foolish Virgins have had: Oh how terrible will it be, when God shall say to you, I looked for better things, then that joy, that sorrow, that faith. I know not how alate we are all become frozen and very barren; many inchoate and imperfect workings there are upon mens hearts, but few have a solid, and tho∣row change wrought upon them. It's the opinion of Bergius before-cited, that the greater part of Christians are but temporaries, and it is to be feared that this opinion is too true: for if you do regard what little rooting grace hath in mens hearts, how weak their pulse beats that way, how strong their affections are to the world, and the things thereof; we Ministers may fear, that the greatest part of our seed is sown upon thorny ground. Oh therefore that this Sermon might be blessed by God to make some Embryo to become a perfect man, some that are almost, true beleevers, true rejoycers in good things, even altogether such: Oh this sluggishnesse and lazinesse, whereby people rest contented with some flashes of joy and sorrow, in the matters of God, will devour like a roar∣ing Lion.