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  270

SERMON XLIV.

Answering those Carnall Objections men are apt to make against such a change in themselves.


GAL. 6. 15.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing, but a new creature.

WE have already declared the nature of this New Creature, Negatively, Positively & Oppositely to those old things which are passed away: is also the excellency of this New creature above all other Creatures. I shall now examine the weaknesse and insufficiency of those grounds and obstructions which mens corruptions are prone to make against such a change in themselves; for the wicked heart of man makes many objections against this new creature; and that it may not seem to do so unjustly, and unreasonably, it maketh many plausible excuses and fair pretences: The Apostle James speaking of a man pretending to the title and name of religion, yet opposite to the reality and power of it. James 1. 26. saith 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, He deceiveth, he makes a false Syllogism, and so cousens his own soul. The heart of a man is a cunning Sophister; think not to say within your selves (saith John to the Jews) There are no Auditors; but when a pricking powerful truth is pressed upon them, they have many things to say within them∣selves for their justification.

Let us therefore see those strong reasons they can produce for themselves in this matter.

And First, It is plausibly Objected if we should become thus new in all things, in a∣nimal,*civil, religious, and moral actions, as is urged, this would bring a necessity of condemnation upon all our former waies. We shall in effect proclaim to all the world that we were naught and rotten before; and then we must pull down all our former building, acknowledge we have prayed in vain, came to the assemblies in vain, and lastly, it is enough to drive us into despair; for if once we be perswaded that the condition we are in is damnable, and that the life we live is abominable and contrary to God, What shall we do? Must we not cry out with Cain? Our sins are greater then we can bear.

Answ. Thus here is a three-fold cord of absurdity which bindes them hand and foot, although if they did judge of things after a spiritual, and a Scripture man∣ner, * they would break these bonds asunder as easily as Sampson did his green cords.

For let us consider them in order.

The First grand absurdity is a self-condemnation, and a publick manifestation to all the world that thou wast not in a good way before. Now it is unreasonable to pretend this.

Page  271 For 1. This is the very necessary ingredient in our conversion and turning to * God: For in that thou art not admitted to pardon and consolation, either God must be blamed, or thou must be blamed: seeing God was an adversary to thee, and thou an enemy to him, the fault is somewhere, and either God must acknow∣ledge (I speak with reverence) that he hath done ill to threaten thee, to afflict thee, to break thee, or thou must confesse the blame lyeth upon thee. Now it would be blasphemy to charge God so foolishly; but it is piety to charge thy self heavily; and what do the words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Repent, or be wise after the fact? but imply that thou hast been foolish, and out of thy wits all the while thou livedst in such ungodly courses; so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, admonition, which the ungodly man is with all readi∣nesse to receive, is as much as putting a mind, an understanding in a man, as if a man were a beast before, and when he is converted, God breaths a rational soul into him again, at least gives a sanctified, and right use of reason. Again the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Conversion, doth it not suppose an aversion, or a turning away from God? So that the reason thou bringest against this change, is most for it. Goliah is cut off with his own sword: Thou pleadest if thou art a new Creature, thou must condemn all thy former life, all thy by-past conversation: very good reason; For how is it repentance else? How is it conversion else? Neither is this such dishonour, for God onely cannot repent because of his infinite perfection, ha∣ving no ignorance in his understanding, or mutability in his will, which are the grounds of repentance: But as for man naturally corrupted and defiled, he is Ad ni∣hil aliud, quam paenitentiam natus, Born, at least new regenerated to do nothing but repent of his former conversation. Do not then think with thy self, If I leave my old life, my former courses, I shall confess a blame upon my self. Alas, in this ve∣ry thing lieth the great work of a new creature; in this particular thou art often to excercise thy self.

2. Stick not at this to shame and condemn thy former life: For this is the on∣ly * necessary qualification for thy admssion into grace. Thou must come with a sacrifice of atonement if thou wilt be accepted: That is, Christs blood which is on∣ly shed for those that feel themselves lost. If we confesse our sins, is often the con∣dition expressed, for the Scepter of Grace to be held out to us, Levit. 5. 5. 1 John 1. 9. And the Apostle Paul, If we would judge our selves, we should not be judged of the Lord, 1 Cor. 11. And David, He confesseth and bewaileth his folly, that God may be justified and cleared when he is judged, Psalm 51. God will receive a Publi∣can, not a Pharisee. If thou givest glory to God, by judging thy own ways, clearing him, though he should damn thee, this is the most compendious way to obtain grace. Plutarch saith, Some heathens in their supplications to their gods, would not carry either Gold, or Iron, or a staff into the Temple with them, but lay all aside when they went to pray, to signifie they did not trust in earthly wealth or greatness, but Gods goodness and power only. And thus it ought to be in our spiritual suppli∣cations to the true God, we must lay aside our own righteousness, and go to Christ, as the menstruous woman who had spent all she had upon Phisitians, yet could not be cured: Oh therefore be so far from fearing this duty, that rather thou wilt forwardly offer thy self thereunto: say the way to get honour and praise with God, is to dishonour my self, and magnifie him. His mercy in pardoning, his grace in forgiving, will be so much the more admirable, by how much unworthy and vile I am in my own eyes.

3. If thou art once sensible of the guilt and filth of thy old waies, thou canst not but*glory in that thou art changed. Paul said, When he was a child, he spake as a child, but when a man, as a man. Thou wilt say, When I was a beast, I lived as a beast, but since a new creature, as a new Creature. What profit have you of those things whereof yee are now ashamed? Rom. 6. 21. Thus Paul, With what shame and bit∣terness doth he recall his Blasphemies, and persecutions? 1 Tim. 1. 13. If there∣fore God hath once made thee ashamed of thy old waies, thou wilt not fear to ac∣knowledge all thy former life was out of the way: Thou wilt remember the daies Page  272 of old and be troubled: See how are Job and David affected with the sins of their youth; yea godly men are so far from fear of condemning themselves from for∣mer sins, that when their sins have been scandalous to the Church of God, they have acknowledged, and bewailed them in the publick assemblies: And this was that publick confession of sin and penance, which afterwards by popish Doctrines was so corrupted. If any of the Church had been overtaken by a foul sin, they had no peace in their hearts till they had thrown themselves down in the publick assemblies, crying out with him, Calcate me insipidum salem, Tread upon me as unsavory salt; No less wouldest thou do, if the glory of God, and the edification of the Church did require it for thy own sinful waies. Know therefore, that this ex∣cusing thy self, is but so much accusing of thee with God. Thou art afraid to be thought a new man, that thou hast done amisse heretofore: Oh if thou wert truly wrought upon, all the world could not make thee keep in those accusations and in∣dictments which thou makest against thy self daily at Gods tribunal.

4. A new creature sticks not at this self-condemnation, because those former wayes*repented of, are used as an advantage by him to set up the praise and glory of God in shewing mercy to him. Thus Paul, he is often willing to make mention of all for∣mer impieties, that so the grace of God may be made the more illustrious; and this is one reason why you have the sins of the Godly recorded in the Scripture to all eternity as it were. Noahs drunkennesse, Moses his unbelief, Aarons base com∣pliance in Idolatry, Davids Adultery and Murther, Peters Abjuration of Christ, not to defame them, but to have perpetual monuments of Gods grace & goodness to them. Thus the Apostle when he would stir up the Ephesians and others to thank∣fulnesse, and to admire the riches of Gods grace to them, he puts them in minde of their former conversation what they were once, Ephes. 2. and this they did not take ill, as a matter of upbraiding of them, but as a whetstone to sharpen their thankfulnesse. Why then shouldst thou be afraid to confesse thy self once out of the way? seeing this will make for Gods grace, which left the ninety nine sheep, and fetched thee home upon its shoulders who was gone astray.

A second Scarcrow that men pretend against this new creature is, That hereby they*must begin all anew, and pull down that whole building of religion which they thought was good and sure.

To Answer this, consider it is no new thing for many men to be such foolish * master builders in matters of religion, as that all must be taken down again; there is nothing more ordinary then to have some crack in the foundations: our Saviour doth fully clear this, when he speaks of one who built upon the sand, the winds blew, and tempests arose, and then the fall of that house was great, Mat. 7. 26. Thus also the Apostle chargeth the Galatians, Have ye suffered so many things in vain, Gal. 2. So that it is very ordinary for a people to go on many years in a rode of religion; and in the practice of holy duties, yet they do all these things in vain: All must be undone and a better foundation laid. If thou hast built hay and stuble, the fire will consume it all at last: Do not therefore do in thy spiritual condition, as bankrupts use to do in their temporal, never care to look to their accounts, afraid to consider of their debts, but still hope to rub it out, till at last all be too late: So many a man hath inwards thoughts and fears that his estate is not right, that this will never hold when he comes to account, but he is unwilling to dwel in his thoughts upon these things.

2. As this is ordinary, so we have plain instances in Scripture of men accustomed * a long time in the way of religious duties, yet this hath been earnestly urged to them to become New: Nicodemus a teacher in Israel, and so of long standing, and acquainted with the Scripture, in prayer often, yet unlesse he be born again, he can∣not enter into the Kingdom of heaven, John 3. And thus all those Jews that were converted by John Baptist, by Christ and the Apostles Ministry, they were all di∣ligent in that outward worship of God he had commanded, but by their preaching they saw a necessity of being born again: And this is the most happy, and necessary Page  273 lesson thou canst learn, to see thou must pray anew, hear anew, make an universal change in thy life.

3. Thou art the rather to make the more diligent enquiry here, because of all * vanities that is the soarest which is in religion. If it be found that thou hast thus many years come to Church in vain, not laid good foundations, and right principles, this is the most dangerous vanity of all: for to take pains in vain about temporall things, is but an outward momentary loss; but to pray in vain, to hear in vain, is a spiritual and eternal loss: Its an happiness for a traveller to know betimes that he is out of the way; but if he should travel the whole day in unseasonable sharp wea∣ther, and dangerous rodes, and then at night be told he is clear out of the way, What sad tydings would it be to him? And thus it is here: if a man should live for∣ty or threescore years in many sad exercises, and outward miseries, and when he comes to dye be truly told, Oh sir, you are quite out of the way to heaven, you have been travelling to hell this many years: How must he cry out, Oh why did not I think of this before? Why did I not know it before?

4. Let not the consideration of losing all that is past so much deject thee, as to * quicken thee up to be the more diligent for the future: As the Travaller goeth the faster when he knoweth he hath been out of the way; thus the Apostle, redeem the time, Ephes. 3. Thou must make up all thy former lost duties, by future fervency, diligence, and fruitfulness: say, Oh Lord, it troubles me that I loved thee so late, that it was so late e're I could do any duty after a spiritual godly manner; but now I shall press forward after the mark, I will labour to do much in a little time: Oh then think, If all my former time hath been lost, I have the greater cause to be up and to be doing.

And as for the Third pretended absurdity, That to question our former condition,*or to suppose it naught, would plunge us into despair: to that there are several An∣swers.

1. It argueth ignorance of the breadth, and depth of Original corruption to * argue so: Thou forgettest in what state thou art born, and how unclean thou art by natural propagation; otherwise if this were acknowledged, thou wouldst easily see that there is a necessity of being born again: What, thou wert not born with the image of God upon thy soul, Thou wert not born a Childe of Grace, but of wrath: As this corruptible body must put on incorruption, e're it can be made glorious, so this defiled soul must put on purity e're it can be made happy in hea∣ven. So that there is a necessity upon thee to conclude, That thou art wholly in sin, and shut up under wrath; thou must see thou art undon: And from hence it is that men desire not more this New Creature: they think their old life will serve. They perceive not the Ruines that are on their souls, and by this means rest contented, though in an undone estate.

2. Thou who art afraid of despairing, if all be found naught in thee, consider that*it is necessary thou shouldst despair and have no hope or stay in thy self, or any thing thou dost. For those loaden and burthened ones, who are invited to come to Christ, Mat. 11. can find no rest or ease in themselves till they come to him: Insomuch that none are further off from grace and mercy, then those who justifie themselves, as the Pharisees did. It is true, through the sense of sin to despair of the grace of Christ offered, and to neglect that salvation, is a crimson sin, and immediately oppo∣site to the Gospel; but to despair of our selves, and to have no hope in what we do, is a necessary qualification, and hereby we give glory to God; and therefore if we did despair more in our selves, our condition would be lesse desperate: And this is the condemnation of men, that they presume in the mercy of God, and blesse themselves in their hearts, when yet there is but a step between them and hell.

3. It is better despairing here with hopes, then despairing here after without any the*least ground of comfort. We had better know the worst here, while it may be prevented, then hereafter, when it will be in vain, Would not every one damned Page  274 in hell be a New Creature upon any terms, whatsoever it cost him, if it were pos∣sible? But we are foolish, like some foolish, infirm, and wounded person, who will not discover his wounds, nor make known his grief till it be too late: Lay it therefore home upon thy heart, and say, If I am afraid of the sight of sin here, What shall I do with it hereafter? If a spark be thus heavy and scorching, What will the whole flames be? Oh, but men are never wise till it be too late. Dives when he is in hell, then his eyes are opened, and he bewaileth his condition. Be assured of this, that God hath unchangeably decreed, thy sins shall be bitter to thee here, or hereafter. The word is gone out of his mouth, and it cannot be recalled: thou shalt either glorifie him by a voluntary confession, or by an extorted and con∣strained one hereafter: Therefore do not feed thy self with vain hopes, as if thou shouldst never find sin with a sting: no, at last it will bite like an Adder, and sting like a Scorpion, if it do not in this life.

And lastly remember, That trouble and pain which may be for a while in the pangs of this New creature, will be abundantly recompensed with the after joy and quietnesse*thou wilt have. Rejoyce in the Lord, ye upright in heart, and the Godly rejoyce with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, 1 Pet. 1. 8. Thou canst not imagine what sweet peace, and comfort of heart it will bring to thee, to think that once indeed thou wast captivated to such and such sins, but now thou hast broken those snares. Paul once a bitter adversary to the wayes of God, How much doth he rejoyce in the change made upon him? How often doth this New Creature cry out with gladness and thanks-giving, he would not for a world be as once he was? If he might have all the glory on earth, he would not live as he hath lived: And thus we have dis∣pelled that objection, grounded upon a three-fold absurdity.

A Fourth Objection, or Obstruction against this New Creature, Is the strictness and singular exactness of it. Not onely gross sins to be cast away, but even all lawful affections to be moderated, and dieted: They must not do as the world, not live as the world: this is to put themselves into a misery, as he said, Qui medicè vivit, misere vivit, because he must be so temperate, and abstemious in those things to which his appetite carrieth him. Now this cavill is wholly unreason∣able: for

First, Thy very Christianity, and the profession of it, carrieth thee not to do as men of the world doth. So that thou must either lay aside thy christianity, or else be * exact in thy life, and singular to the manners of the world. The Church of God is compared to a woman clothed with the Sun, and the moon under her feet, Revel. 12. 7. Doth not the Apostle exhort us, Not to be fashioned unto the world, Rom. 12. 1. We are not to have their fashion upon us: And why are we called a Church, but because we are called out of the world, and so have not our conversation ac∣cording to the principles thereof? And the Apostle James calls it Pure religion, and undefiled, to keep our selves unspotted from the World, James 1. 17. If therefore drunkennesse, lusts, pride, earthlinesse, immoderate affections to these things below, be things of the world, thou art no more to conform to them, then light to dark∣ness; and howsoever the world accounts those men of the best fashion, who are rich, great, and honoured, yet the Scripture saith, they are of the best fashion, who are not fashioned to the manners of the world: by this argument thou shouldest still lie in thy Paganisme, and Heathenisme; For why shouldst thou come out of the world in respect of thy faith, and not also in respect of thy life? Thou wouldest have a better faith then infidels, Why not also a better life? Answer that, if thou canst, God hath not only called us to imbrace his Doctrine, but unto holiness.

2. Thou complainest this is an exact strict way, full of difficulties: Is it not true this of every good thing? Is there any good thing either natural or moral to be ob∣tained * without much labour? so that the difficulty makes for the excellency of it: Strive to enter in at the straight Gate, Luke 13. 14. For the way to destruction is a broadway. You cannot get so much as the bread and food of your bodie with∣out the sweat of your brows: and think you to get the salvation of your souls so ea∣sily: Page  275 Learning cannot be obtained without great pains and study: Sudavit & al∣sit, saith he: If therefore this new creature be so difficult and rare, so hardly to be obtained, then thou hast the greater reason to presse the more about it. Thou art to fear the way thou walkest in is too broad a way: Thou must be a Jacob wrest∣ling, before thou canst be an Israel prevailing: You must run in a race, e're you can obtain a Crown: and indeed that Crown of glory is so rich and glorious, that these are but siliquae laboris, as Austin called them, the husks of labour in respect of that Manna hereafter.

3. Thou complainest of labour and paines, if thou dost observe it, every man takes*more pains to go to hell. A servant to sin is a far greater slave and drudge, then a servant to righteousness. Take the Adulterer, How doth he watch for the twi∣light? How full of fears and hopes to accomplish his lusts: Take the Ambitious man, How doth he break his sleep, toil his mind, and consumeth himself to accom∣plish his designe? Take the covetous earthly man. How is his soul pierced through with many cares? And how doth he drown himself in thoughts and fears about his estate? So that thy service in the wayes of Godliness would be far more comfor∣table, quiet, and profitable, then those of sin and Satan. It is a known story of Pambo, who seeing a strumpet taking pains about the dressing her self to please her Mate, cryed out and said, He could not take as much pains to please God; and this will appear true; men take more pains, are more turmoiled in going to hell, then they may be in going to heaven.

The last impediment I shall insist upon is, The reproach, contempt, and persecution*that doth follow this new creature, even as sharp pricks attend the sweet roses. Now to Answer this.

1. Our Saviour saith, Blessed is he that is not offended at me, Mat. 11. 6. The very * Doctrine of Christ, and the Christian faith is subject to all manner of slanders to the enemies thereof: Yet for all that thou art not ashamed of the Gospel, or the Protestant religion: To believe in a crucified God, What matter of reproach was it? What names were given Christians by way of contempt? And if the faith of Christ be subject to persecution, yet thou darest not Apostatize from that, Why then from the power of Godlinesse, though subject to troubles? How often doth the Scripture forwarn us in this respect? That we are not to think the fiery try all strange, 1 Pet. 4. 12. And we are to know that we are appointed to all afflictions and troubles in this world, 1 Thes. 3. 3. This demonstrateth the excellency of a New Creature: For if it were of the world, the world would love it as his own, John 15. 19.

2. These troubles and persecutions are not a misery, if rightly apprehended, but*are a blessing. Blessed are ye when men speak all manner of evil against you for my names sake, Mat. 5. 10, 11. And thus the Apostles when they were persecuted, went away rejoycing that they were accounted worthy to suffer any thing for Christs sake: they are several waies a blessing; for first, The more they are afflcted, the more of Gods Grace and support is vouchsafed unto them. The spirit of Glo∣ry rests on them, 1 Pet. 4 14. If they be upon Mount Calvary, they shall also be upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Nihil crus sentit in ligno quando animus est in Coelo, said Tertullian. Again they are a blessing, for they have a blessed operation. This fire is more precious then that which tryeth Gold: this is the file to get off the rust: the winnowing to blow away their chaff: And lastly, they are a blessing in the event, for they work an everlasting weight of glory, so that these troubles should not be discouragements to thee.

Use of Exhortation, Not to hearken to any of those cavils, or prejudices thy heart*may be filled full with, against this New Creature. Say, It is no longer disputing: shall I become a New creature? Is it wisdome to change my former life? But fol∣low the Scripture, and do as that directs thee. Oh if there were nothing but the peace and joy that accompanieth this life, that were enough to set thy heart on edge after it. It will be no grief of heart to thee to think of thy prayers often, thy Page  276 frequent exercises of grace. To dye a new Creature, is the putting of thee into a possession of eternall glory: But who hath believed our report? who begins to feel in himself hungrings and thirstings after this estate? who saith, I will return to God from whom by sinne I have wandred, for so it will be better with me than in all my sins? Alas, It's this new creature onely which hath the promise of this life, and of that to come.