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.


That there is a Work of God upon a mans heart which is called Grace, and why inward holiness is called Grace.

HEB. 13. 9.
For it is good to have the heart established with Grace, and not with meats, &c.

THe former Doctrine being dispatched, we now come to treat upon that which I chiefly intended this Text for: viz. That subject matter which doth establish and confirm the heart: For Grace here is made the ballast, the pondus, the weight that doth establish and settle the soul. Now howsoever the word grace be of divers significations in the Scripture, and it is very necessary to un∣derstand it aright, because mistakes in this, have caused all those dangerous errors in Popery: For wheresoever we read that justification and salvation is by grace, they understand it presently of some good thing in us, and so take us off from looking on Christ, to rest in our selves; but we are justified as some Philosophers say we see, intus recipiendo, non extra mittendo, By receiving from God, not giving any thing to God.

Briefly therefore to inform you, take notice that Grace hath its less principal, and more principal or noble significations; lesse principal, as when it is used for the external glory, comliness, or loveliness of a thing. In which sense it is said, The grace*of the flower perisheth, or for thankfulness and gratitude, 1 Cor. 14. as the Latinists say, Habere gratias, the Alms and Charity also of Believers, is stiled 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Grace. But the more noble significations are for Active Grace, or Passive Grace: active Grace, I call that love, and free mercy of God without us, whereby we are justi∣fied and accepted to salvation: In this sense Grace is said to justifie, and we have remission of sins by grace, i. e. by the favour and love of God onely, not any thing that we have done. This true explication overthroweth the main pillars of Pope∣ry: and in this sense where you read of grace in the New Testament it is most fre∣quently used.

2. There is Passive Grace, and that two fold, either for to be accepted of God, to be in Grace and favour with him, as the phrase is often, to finde grace in a mans eyes. And thus the Virgin Mary is saluted, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Greatly favoured and beloved, not full of inherent Grace, as the popish writers grosly pervert this place. Or secondly and lastly, Grace is used for those holy qualities infused into the soul, and that heavenly help God vouchsafeth to us in our way to heaven. Thus faith is a Grace, repentance is a Grace, zeal is a Grace, &c. The Papist takes the word Grace in this sense altogether; but we say, this is not the most noble use of Page  323 the word; and the Grace of the Gospel so often magnified, is not any thing within us, but Gods favour and love without us: Yet we deny not, but those holy quali∣ties within us are called grace sometimes in the Scripture. Indeed there are Divers too rigid, who contend that the word Grace, when it relates towards a hea∣venly sense, is alwaies taken for the favour of God, and that it never signifieth godlinesse which is in us, or done by us. But there are some places, though not ma∣ny, wherein is clearly demonstrated this use of the word as it beto kens somthing inhering, and abiding in us, as 2 Pet. 2. ult. Grow in grace, and the knowledge of Je∣sus Christ. To grow in grace musts needs be understood of those holy gifts of Gods Spirit in us, which are daily to be improved: so Sing with grace in your hearts, Col. 3. 16. And again, Let your speech administer grace to the hearers, Col. 4. 6. And if it be acknowledged by all, that the common gifts of Gods Spirit, such as pro∣phesying, working of miracles, yea, and offices in the Church, are called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, why should it be thought hard those sanctifying gifts may be also named Graces? And in this sense Grace is taken in this Text: for that holy work of God upon the heart, whereby he doth establish and confirm it in godly wayes. From this sense we observe,

That there is a work of God upon a mans heart, which is called Grace. *

This point is of admirable use; For without grace here, there can be no glory hereafter. And this grace of God is rarely to be found: there go many counter∣feits for this precious jewel: we are apt to call any moral virtue, any ingenuous and civil conversation, with the excellent Title of Grace. It is therefore a subject worth the treating on, to shew what are the effects and symptomes of this Grace upon a man; for nothing in the whole world is so desirable as Grace: no created excellency comes near to grace. A rich man without grace, is like a dead carkasse with glorious garments upon it. A learned man without grace, is also like a dead corps with sweet flowers strewed over it. It is the absence, or presence of Grace that makes a man happy or miserable: Oh therefore that before this subject be en∣ded, it might turn you all into the likenesse thereof; That as fire turneth every ob∣ject it worketh upon into its own nature, so grace might make every hearer graci∣ous. That the word might be the seal, and your hearts the wax to receive that Divine impression: That so ye may be as Paul saith, An Epistle to be seen and read of all men; that all men may behold and admire the grace of your lives, which is wrought by the word of Grace. To imprint this upon you. I shall discover first the proper Grounds and Reasons why it is called Grace, with the noble effects thereof.

Onely in the first place I must necessarily remove a false ground, or effect attri∣buted to it, and that by all Papist Writers, who say, Therefore this inward holinesse in us is called Grace, because it makes us perfectly accepted, and gracious with God. so that thereby we have a right to eternal happinesse. Hereupon they speak most of Grace as that which doth Gratum facere, Make a man accepted unto God from the inward condignity and worth of it. This is to take away the true child, and to put a dead one in the room: to take away Gospel grace, evangelical grace, and to put something done by us in the room of it. For although it be true, that the god∣ly actions we do are above humane strength, and we are enabled thereunto by the power of God onely; and are therefore called Grace; Yet they are not done so perfectly and purely, as thereby to make us accepted with God. This is good to know, that so we might give all glory to Christ, and be debased in our selves. It is a great piece of wisdome in Christianity not to confound grace justifying, and grace sanctifying: Grace justifying is an action of God, grace sanctifying is a quality wrought in us: Grace justifying is perfect, grace sanctifying hath much imperfection cleaving to it. Now that no grace in any godly man doth make accep∣ted to eternal life, appeareth

First, From the reliques of corruption in every man, though regenerated, as we see*in Paul, whereby he dare not trust in himself, but in Christ onely. He findes evil when Page  324 he would do good; for which reason the best Saints have begged earnestly for pardon, and have been afraid with David, lest God should enter into judge∣ment with them, and so they not be justified, Psal, 143. 2. Nehemiah when he mentioned those high acts of grace which he did, yet prayeth often, Remember me O Lord, and spare me, Neh. 13.

Secondly, Grace within us cannot justifie us, because the Scripture layeth that*wholly on God and Christ. God the Fathers grace, as the efficient cause of it; and God the Sons merits, as the ground of it; and by faith we are to put it on as a gar∣ment: so that we are still in a passive sense said to be justifyed, and not in an active to justifie our selves, unlesse in that ill sense as the Pharisee is said to justifie him∣self. None doth so Divinely, and admirably prove this point by several arguments, as Paul in his Epistles doth, insomuch that one would wonder how any Popish writer can make Commentaries upon his Epistles, and not be convinced of their errour. So that our happinesse, and the ground of all our peace, lyeth not in what we have done, but what we have received, and in what Christ hath done for us. This doctrine is like the hony Sampson found in the dead Lyon, in Christ crucified, which we are to instruct all burthened sinners in. Bellarmine comes off at last with his Tutissimum est, It is most safe to rest wholly upon Christ, not our righteousnesse. I know it is hard to call godlynesse grace, and not to think that it must be all in all; and how prone we are to leave the fountain, Christ, and to run to the Cisterns, our own graces, every mans heart can easily suggest. This stumbling-stone being re∣moved out of the way.

Let us in the next place take a view of the true reasons why it is called Grace, as also the properties of it.

And first, It is called grace, because it comes freely from the grace of God. The * effect is dignified with the Title of the cause; it is called grace, because it comes of grace. It is true, all good things come from God: Every good and perfect gift is from him, the Father of lights; as all light is from the sun mediately, or immedi∣ately: yet we do not call the good things of nature, Grace, as Pelagius did, because they come from God in a general way, as the Author of nature, this in a more spe∣cial and appropriated way, as the Author of Grace: So that if thou hast grace in thy heart and life, the very name of grace should make thee humble, thankful, lowly in thy own eyes. If it be grace, then it is not by thy natural strength and power: If it be Gods gift, it is not thy ability. Oh then admire the goodnesse of God: If thou hast an heart to love God, to believe in a promise, to minde hea∣venly things, say, This is grace. It is not nature, nature hath no power to do thus, nor no will to do thus: No power, for godly actions are wholly a∣bove the sphere of humane power; humane power and humane actions are com∣mensurate, but a humane strength, and Divine actions have no congruity. And as nature hath no power, so also no will, or inclination to it, but rather delights in the clean contrary.

Secondly, Godliness in the heart and life is called grace, not onely because it is be∣stowed freely by God upon us, but because we were unworthy, and deserved the clean*contrary. It is the judgement of Pareus a learned Divine, that the image of God stampt on Adam, though it was the systeme of all Godlinesse, yet it could not be called grace; and therefore reproveth Bellarmine for stiling his book, De gratiâ primi hominis, Of the grace of the first man. It was indeed godlinesse, and holinesse (saith he) but it was not grace; because though it was freely bestowed on Adam, yet he being not in a sinful condition, but that original righteousnesse was a perfe∣ction due to him (as the Orthodox in a sound sense maintain against the Papists,) therefore it could not be called grace. I will not determine this; but to be sure, now since man hath fallen, that work of God sanctifying our natures, healing our corruptions, is grace, because it is vouchsafed unto us, lying in a clean contrary, and opposite condition. Thus not onely grace justifying and evangelical was ad∣mirable to Paul, when he had been the chiefest of many sinners, but grace sancti∣fying Page  325 also. That God should make such a blackmore white, such a noysome weed a pleasant flower, How great was that regenerating grace which made such a change? Lye down then in spiritual shame and confusion, Oh thou godly soul, and say, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy grace let all glory be given: For what was there in thy former life time, that should merit at Gods hand to make such a change? Wast thou not ignorant as others, it may be, prophane as others, seeking for happinesse in the bowels of the Creatures as others? How often doth Paul minde converted persons, with their former vain conversations, that so the remarkable change made by grace upon their souls might be the more wel∣come?

Thirdly, This work of godlinesse is called grace, because it is arbitrarily bestowed by God upon whom he pleaseth, and when he pleaseth: Whom he will he calleth. Paul* is ravished with the unsearchable depths of Gods wisedom in dispensing his grace, especially God useth not to give his grace, where there might any outward excel∣lency seem to deserve it, for that grace might appear out of measure gracious: He selects those objects, that have the least shew, and that are most contemptible in the eyes of men. Therefore saith the Apostle, He hath not called many noble, many wise, many learned; For if he had taken that method, men would have thought God had been affected with such humane excellencies, and therefore received the rich rather then poor, the learned rather then ignorant; this also is an overwhelming consideration of Gods love. Who art thou that God hath given grace to thee, and not to many thousand others? It may be God hath chosen thee, one out of all the family, all thy kindred, yea all the town where thou livest. Did God lay An∣gels aside, one whereof was able to do more service to God, then millions of men, and take thee? Oh grace! Again, hath God laid many noble men, many great men aside, and given grace to thee a poor mean man? Oh unsearchable riches of grace! Further, hath God laid many men aside, who by their Sexe could have been more active and vigorous for God, and bestowed grace on thee a poor weak wo∣man? Oh admirable grace! The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like o∣ther men; but he did it from a principle of presumption and arrogance: But thou mayest with humble thankfulnesse, and great fear and trembling, acknowledge the mercy of God, that he hath not left thee in thy filthy lusts, as he hath done other men. Christ aggravated Gods providence and care to the widow of Sarepta, that there were many widows in that place besides her, yet the Prophet was sent to her only. But here is a greater aggravation, how many men and widows are there in the place where thou livest, yet grace is vouchsafed to thee rather then others? This should put fire in thy bones and bowels, it should make thee active for God; for thou should est think if God had called others, given grace to others, they would have been busie and fervent men; they would have been zealous for his glory. Oh let me not requite the goodnesse of God after so ill a manner: by giving grace to me, and denying it to another of more learning, parts, boldnesse, and courage, he seemeth to lose by it; others would have improved his Talents better then I have done: Certainly this consideration should be a goad in thy side, thou shouldst say, Lord, it is fit that I should do thee all that service which others would have done, if converted, in my room. It is not fit thou shouldst be a loser by me.

Fourthly, It is called Grace, because it enableth a man to do those things which ex∣ceed*all humane power. In this sense grace and nature are alwaies immediately oppo∣site; for as those common gifts of Gods spirit, working of miracles, speaking with tongues, and prophesying, are called grace, because not procured by humane indu∣stry, but vouchsafed by Gods benevolence; so much more the enabling of us weak and impotent sinners, to do that which is holy and heavenly, may much rather be called grace. This point, if rightly considered, would make men look upon grace as a more rare and admirable thing then men generally account it to be. Alas, thou livest as thou hast been trained up; thou walkest according to thy education, thou comest to holy Duties as the custome and manner is, but never thinkest until a Page  326 man be prepared by grace from above, he can no more do any thing holily then a poysonous serpent can vent hony. Grace therefore is that, which if once infused in∣to a man, so far as that is operative, makes him live not as a man, much lesse as a beast, but upon Divine and heavenly principles; hence it is that the godly are said to be partakers of the divine nature, and Christ is said to live in them, Ephes. 3. Oh the heavenly Metamorphosis and change which is wrought on a man by grace: For how is it possible that a man should love the glory of God, more then his own comforts, wealth, or life it selfe, if a Divine power did not enable him? How could it be that a man should finde more joy in God, then they have had when their wine and oyle encreaseth, did not grace work thus mightily? All civility, morali∣ty, ingenuity, and humane piety, or devotion, is but a ridiculous Ape to true grace.

Fifthly, It is called grace, because it is the most choice and excellent perfection of a man in relation to his ultimate end, which is the enjoyment of God. The glory, beau∣ty, * and excellency of any thing, is called the grace of it: and we in English say, such a thing is the grace of a man: Now nothing may be so well said the grace of a man, as grace or godlinesse. It is not wealth, honour, greatnesse sets out a man, so much as grace: there is scarce any perfection of sense, but the bruit beasts do in some sense or other exceed a man; and as for intellectual abilities, the Divels do far transcend man; onely grace puts a man in an higher degree then these can attain unto: onely there is required a spiritual eye and judgement, to judge grace the most excellent thing. Certainly if solid reason might take place, thou wouldst quickly be convinced that grace is the choycest perfection by this Argument; That is the choysest qualification which disposeth a man to his choyeest end: now wealth, health, and such sensible mercies, they onely prepare for a sensible, and animal good: Parts, learning, and political wisedom, they onely fit for a civil good; but grace and godlynesse, they dispose for a spiritual good, though not perfectly, much lesse meritoriously. If therefore every thing be prized for its instrumental use and service, Why are not all things neglected to obtain grace? And howsoever with Heathens and Pagans this Doctrine may not be acknowledged, yet with you Chri∣stians who receive the word of God, and professe a subjection to it, How can it be denied? Oh then think not thy self better for any outward temporal mercy, but by his grace. Let that be thy first question, Am I godly? You do not judge of an horse by his outward trappings, and goodly ornaments said the Heathen: so nei∣ther may we esteem of a man by the many outward mercies he enjoyeth, but the work of God upon his soul.

Sixthly, Grace in the heart, is nothing but glory begun. Grace is glory begun * here, as glory is grace perfected hereafter, and this doth wonderfully extol the work of grace. Indeed here it is imperfect, and accompanied with many defects; there are worms in the best fruit, and so an unlovelinesse in us, as well as a comeli∣nesse; and therefore though it be present in the hearts of Gods people, yet they dare not appeal unto Gods justice, nor can they endure his tribunal. Now we be∣lieve in part, love in part, and we may say of all our graces, as the Heathen of his knowledge, His knowledge was not so much knowledge, as ignorance; so neither are our graces so much graces as infirmities: but yet in time this imperfection will be abolished, God will make thy love a glorious love, thy godlinesse glorious, when he shall add his ultimate perfection to it. Grace here is like a childe in its infan∣cy, and we speak and know as children, but in Heaven we become like men.

Lastly, The nature of grace inherent in us, lyeth in an irreconcileable opposition with sin; they are contrary one to another, as light and darkness, bitter and * sweet.

A three-fold contrariety we may acknowledge in them.

1. An effective opposition, as between fire and water. Thus the spirit lusteth a∣gainst the flesh; as the spirit of wine and poyson conflict together. Therefore *Page  327 when sin is at quiet in a mans life, and thou art ungodly, prophane, and there is no reluctancy, no opposition; this is an argument of little or no grace in thee. Oh con∣sider this all ye who lye down in sin with security; there is no complaining in thy heart, no trouble in thy conscience, no struglings in thy breast, no stirrings in fer∣vent prayer, Lord help me else I am overcom. Truely as the psalmist saith of some wicked mens death, They have no bonds, they are not in pain as other men, so al∣so in their life time they are not in that shame, grief, and trouble about sin, as the godly sometimes are.

2. There is a formal opposition. They are two immediate forms, (as it were) in * the soul as health and sicknesse, white and black: and howsoever it is a rule, that two contraries cannot be in the same subject, yet that is to be understood in the intense degree, otherwise as there is a crepusculum, when its partly night, and part∣ly day, so there is such a temperament in every godly man, a twilight; some sin and some godlinesse.

Lastly, There is a moral opposition. Where sin doth abound, there it procureth * at Gods hand either the denial, or withdrawing of some measure of grace already bestowed; and thus where grace is improved, there God hath made a promise to subdue sin, to overcome those rebellious Jebusites that yet lurk in our land: so that if grace be in a man, it lieth not idle: This will quickly be discovering it self, by crucifying and mortifying of sin. Therefore the next thing to be done, is to shew the characters of a gracious man: in the mean while make this use: If grace be of this nature, then it plainly discovers those to be gracelesse men that live in the wilfull committing of grosse sins, without repentance or reformation. Oh thou of no grace, How is it that thou art not affraid, and ashamed of thy self? If grace were in thy heart, would it not be in thy tongue, in thy life, in thy conversation? If grace be the chiefest excellency of a man, sets a man above all other creatures; then sin which is the immediate contrary, must needs be the greatest debasement of a man: all wickednesse is a shame, a reproach; it makes a man like a beast, like a divel. Oh then let all sinners tremble, and be confounded at their woful estate; when God comes in glory to judge thee for thy life, What grace shall he finde in thee? Thou hast desired wealth, but not grace; thou hast desired to be great, but not gracious.

Use 2. How vain a thing it is to hope for the grace of God, and his favour without us, if we have not grace within us. You heard godlinesse is called grace, because it comes from Gods grace; it comes from his love: so that when he loveth graciously, he maketh gracious: sin shall not have dominion over you, because you are under grace. In vain therefore do men hope for grace justifying, where they do not finde it sanctifying: In vain do they presume that Gods grace will pardon their sinnes, when it doth not deliver them from the power and dominion of it. Oh then, that men would not wilfully destroy their own souls by damnable presumption. Thou hopest in Gods grace who art an inordinate liver, a prophane swearer, and riotous person: No, shew me the grace that sanctifyeth thee, and then I dare promise thee (the grace that will justifie thee.