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  458

SERMON LXXVI.

That Conversion puts a Man upon leaving his Be∣loved Sin; The reason of the difference of Dar∣ling Sins in men, and the Signs by which a Man may know his beloved Sin.


JEREM. 18. 11.
Return ye now, every one from his evill wayes.

THese words (you heard) were the second part of Jeremiah's Commission, the matter whereof is exhortatory, and in that the duty, and the time of the duty have been considered. The third thing in order to be prosecuted, is the subject, with the appropriation of it, Every man from his evill wayes. Be∣sides the common and general sins, wherein all had defiled themselves, there were also peculiar darling and beloved sins, that every one had espoused particularly to themselves: If therefore they would declare their sincere, and unfeigned Con∣version unto God, they were to throw away these Dalilah's to sacrifice these Isaacs, their onely sins, which they loved so much. A man may leave many sins without any trouble, so as it be not that to which he is dearly ingaged.

That true Conversion will put a man upon the forsaking his dear and beloved sin: He will not as Lot, desire to have a little one spared: So, Lord, I will pray, hear, * turn unto thee; onely in this spare me. Some say, that Naaman the Syrian was not truely converted, because he stuck at one beloved sin; for when he proffered his service to the true God, promising to take him for the only Lord, he addeth, Par∣don thy Servant in one thing, that when I goe down into the house of Rimmon, and my Master lean on me, I also then bow down, 2 King. 5. 18. They that make him not a true Convert, say, here was hypocrisie. This Office was a place of honour and profit, and so though he would acknowledge the true God in many things; yet this his evill way he would not leave; I will not determine that point of his true Conver∣sion; but certainly this is a very frequent miscarriage in these dayes; Many hear the Word gladly, receive it with some joy, and do many things willingly; but then they are held in one string, there is one dead Fly, and that marreth the Box of oynt∣ment, so that it passeth a Diminitive but on a man, and all his Religion. As in that Naaman we instanced in, it is said he was a great man, and of great authority in the land, but he was a Leper, and that marred all: so it is here, he prayeth, he heareth, he conformeth to many godly things; but there is such a finne, such a lust, and that undoeth all; and as every man may have his particular sin; so its observed, that Na∣tions have their proper sins. The Jewes in former times were above all sins proue Page  459 to Idolatrie; therefore its thought God did exercise them in such a bodily way of worship; and so many external and glorious Ceremonies were commanded them; that if possible, they might not desire Idolatrous worship. The Corinthians, their sin was uncleannesse and wantonnesse, therefore the Apostle doth so much presse Arguments against that. The Cretians are branded to be alwayes Lyars; and the Apostle confirmeth this testimony. Thus Nations have their proper sins, as well as particular persons, yea particular Towns and Villages, by one reason or other, are observed to be more prone to some kind of sin then others: But I shall limit my self to particular mens darling corruptions, which is the root to be plucked up, the Fountain to be dryed up; and every Christian should be so far a spirituall Physici∣an to himself, as to be able to know, what is that particular sin to which he is most inclined; for at that breach hell and damnation will enter.

But to make this point naked and open, consider, That Originall sin, though it*be the seed of all kind of wickednesse, and there cannot be an instance given of any horrid crime in the world, but this would carry a man unto it, yet this poison in every man vents it self in one way, rather than another: Even as in every mans body there is a seed and principle of death; yet in some there is a pronenesse to one kind of disease more than to another; and this may be called that mans proper sin, his evill way. As Philosophy tels us, Though all the individuals of one kind agree in one common specifical nature, yet every one hath a particular difference, whereby it is distinguished from another, which they call Hecciety; so its here, though there be many sins acted in common by all, yet several men have their particular corrup∣tions, which are like the Prince of Devils, that commands all their other sins. Its true, there is no sin committed by any man, but thou hast cause to blesse God, that thou art not as desperately intangled in it, as others. Therefore what the Psalmist speaks of the worst of wicked men, and highest enemies to the Church of God, the Apostle Romans 3. applyeth to everie man. Yet evetie man hath his inclina∣tion to one kind of sinne rather than another: and this difference of darling∣beloved sinnes may arise from two grounds, the one internal, the other ex∣ternal.

The internall cause of a beloved sin is the complexion and bodily constitution of a*man: For as one mans body inclines to cholerick diseases, another to melancholick; so the very natural constitution, while a man is under the power of sinne, hurrieth one way rather than another: Not that this excuseth a man, to say, its his inclination to do thus and thus, he cannot help it, for sanctifying grace will work in a man, a contrarie inclination, put another predominant principle within him; and besides this doth not extenuate, but aggravate his sin; for the more it is rooted, and clea∣veth to him, the more difficult will his recoverie be; so then a mans peculiar sin, that he is most addicted unto, may arise from his bodily constituion, that may be a more prepared instrument for some vice rather than another. Or our darling sinne*may arise from some externall causes, and they may be these.

First, Custome and use in some kind of sinne. Frequent custome doth at last breed an habituated delight, and becomes a second nature; so that men who have been in long Captivity and service to lusts, they willingly have their eares boared, and are never willing to leave that Service. We see dayly sad experience of this truth. Men who through long continuance in sinne, have now turned it into their nature, They say of that sin, as Christ of grace, One thing is needfull; They add Drunkennesse to Thirst, as Moses calls it, Deuteronomie 29. 19. That is, after they have committed sinne, they are vehement and fervent for it a∣gain.

Secondly, A darling Sin may arise from the condition, or relation we are in. There may be some temptations sutable to the inward lusts of an heart, that we cannot leave such sins, unlesse we quite forsake such a condition, or calling. Ju∣das his beloved sin was Covetousnesse; and his condition he was in, carrying Page  460 the Bag, that was a continual blast to blow up the fire of lusts; so if ambitious men get to the pinacle of honour; if covetous men to places of profit and gain, here the Serpent in their breasts gets the warm beams of the Sun, there is a daily incentive to add many Cubits to the stature of their lusts; and its a very ill and malignant constellation, when a mans outward condition, and his peculiar sinne meet together, he had great need to pray to be delivered from the mouth of such Lions.

Secondly, In the next place, that may be called a mans particular way of sinning, which yet we cannot call his beloved sin. For it may be a great grief and torment * to him, it may be a Tyrant usurping power over him, not the delight of his soul. Some say David was very prone to the sin of lying; its plain, that being in many streights by Saul, he used many unlawfull shifts: Now this was an heavy burden to him, Deliver me from the way of lying, Psalme 119. 9. He doth earnestly pray against this Sinne: And so in another place, Psalm 31. 10. He speaks of being kept from mine iniquity: so the godly may be more prone to fall into one sin then another; some into inordinate passion, some to cow∣ardly fear, some to diffidence in the promises; yet these are not their beloved sinnes, but their hated enemies, they mourn and complain with Paul, That this Law of sinne within them leadeth them Captives; They cry out, and say, Their souls suffer violence within them: No sinne, but Christ, is the beloved of their souls; he is the chiefest of ten thousands; yet some corruption or other beateth them often down; they are more overtaken in such a corruption then in any; Therefore they say, This is my iniquity, this is the Saul that is always pursuing of me. Its necessary the godly should understand this difference between a sinne beloved, and a sin violently tyrannizing over them: for this is most certain, who∣soever giveth up himself willingly to one kind of sin, he is yet in the state of nature and wrath, he is not turned unto God.

Thirdly, As many of Gods people have found their hearts weakest to resist some kinde of sins: so the godly have for the most part some grace or other wherein they*doe most excell. They have their way of grace, wherein they are most admi∣rable: Thus Moses is marked for his meeknesse, David for sincerity and a faithfull heart, Paul for zealous labour in promoting the Gospel. Hence the godly are exhorted to think better of one another than their own selves; because there is no grace, but one man may exceed another in: This should teach the head or eye not to despise the foot; for even that member hath some peculiar serviceablenesse which the other hath not.

In the next place, consider the Signs or Discoveries of a beloved sin, and they will appear thus: *

First, That which swallowes and devoureth all thy other sins. All other sinnes are but streams emptying themselves into that Fountain, and Ocean; this is the dar∣ling * sinne. The Pharisees peculiar sinne was vain-glory, because all things were referred to that: For seeing such a sinne is in the room of God to them, whole belly is their God, saith the Apostle, Phil. 3. 19. Therefore they refer all to that. The Adulterer, if he be greedy toget gain, its but to consume upon his lusts; for that is the Idol of his heart; so Covetousnesse in an earthly man is called Idolatry; because all the sins he commits, all the fraud and wrong he doth, its to satisfie this: As in a mans body, where there is one great wound, all the humours will run thi∣ther.

Secondly, A beloved sin is that, wherein a man cannot endure to be reproved and rebuked sharply. They can with great delight, hear you preach against such * and such sinnes; but then come to that wherein they are most intangled, then all their malice and venome works, so that there is no such discovery of a darling sinne, as a mans impatience, and fretting against those who faithfully rebuke. When Herodias desireth Johns head in a Platter, it was because his Tongue Page  461 had reproved her beloved sin. Thus because the Pharisees were reproved by Christ for their beloved sins, hypocrisie, and Self-righteousnesse, they were moved with envy and hatred against him. Try then thy self, canst thou endure the sharp Rasor should come upon the sorest part? Is there nothing that is in the Word cutting like a two-edged sword, but thou art willing it should enter into thy very heart? This is very comfortable.

Thirdly, That is a mans beloved sinne, on which his minde, his heart, and all his*labour is spent. The Voluptuous man is described to be one that maketh provision for the flesh. The Adulterer is brought in by Solomon diligently observing the time for his Lusts. The malicious Enemy to Godlinesse is said by David to go up and down the street like a Dog waiting for an opportunity, and cannot sleep till he hath accomplished mischief. As Joseph was known to be Jacobs Darling, because he bestowed a more excellent coat upon him than the rest, and so the elder Sonne was to have a double Portion, as most beloved; So that sinne which hath a double Portion above others, that which hath more of thy Cares, thy Thoughts, thy heart; that is thy Darling sinne: Oh kill that, crush that in the Egge, before it come to be a Cockatrice. Men should commune with their own hearts, and study themselves more than they do in this matter.

Fourthly, That is thy darling sinne, which thou wouldst have spared above all. Thou wouldst never stand delaying, but turn immediately to God, but for that. * That which thou hidest in time of danger, as Iehojadah did young Ioas, hoping in time to make him King. This is the Goliah of all the Philistims: Common∣ly when the Grace of God comes close to a mans heart, begins to wrestle and combate with sinne; then there is no such sturdy and potent enemy as that be∣loved sin. All the difficulty is in throwing down that mountain. When there was a man very forward, and not very far from the Kingdom of Christ, our Savi∣our to trie his sincerity, presently puts him upon the leaving his indeared sin, and then saith the Text, He went away exceeding sorrowful. This was the cup of Je∣lousie-water that did presently make his thigh to rot. What then is the sinne that hinders thee alway? That is the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the milstone about thy neck 〈◊〉 If it were not for that, thou couldst gladly run in the way of Gods com∣mandments: This is the great enemy to thy souls peace, spare it not but de∣stroy it.

Fiftly, The darling sinne may be found out by the easinesse to be overcome by it. Sampson is easily perswaded by Dalilah, when none else in the World could * steal away his heart. The Apostle bids us lay aside the sin that doth so easily bese us, Heb. 12. 1. Its the general Rule of the Scripture, Of what a man is overcome, that he is in bondage unto: and if the man be easily without any resistance over∣come, then its an argument he is the more in bondage. Consider then what that sinne is, which thou canst hardly refuse, what that is which finds the door always open, and there know all thy Calamity ariseth by that, Its an heavy slavery (if the soul could be sensible) to be at the command of any sinne; when it faith, Go, thou goest; and when Come, thou comest: Thou canst deny nothing to it, as Herod could not to Herodias; Ask not half, but the whole Kingdome of Hea∣ven, and thou will part with it to enjoy thy lusts.

Thus you have heard how this particular sin of a man, which is his own indeared corruption may be found out.

Now lets consider, Why Conversion to God doth in a speciall manner make * a man leave this: The work of Grace doth in a peculiar manner take off this yoke 〈◊〉 That what Amnon did by unnaturall, carnall lust; he hated Tamar as much and more than ever he loved her: so when men are once truely humbled for sin and turn to God, those particular lusts which were their delight, their sport, their constant practice, they are now most set against them; of all sins their Page  462 hearts do most is and swell with an holie indignation against them. Now the grounds are these:

First, This beloved sinne was the strength and power of all other sinnes. They all runne into this: This is a kinde of an original mother sinne, that bred and * nourished all other transgressions. As Sampsons strength lay in his hair, so all the power and effiacie of sin in a man, ran into that Channel of his beloved sin. That was the premum mobile which carried all the rest with it; so that as it was given in command to the Souldiers, that they should not fight with little, or great, but with the King of Israel: so grace in the heart of a man doth not so much assault lesse sinnes as this great one. Come, saith grace, let us destroy this, and all is ours, This is the strong man that must be bound ere the house can be taken: This is the Dim that must first be destroyed. No wonder then, that a man intangled in any close beloved sin, can promise himself any true comfort or hope, for he is under the strong power of sin and Satan, as long as this is upon him.

Secondly, Therefore a man must forsake this beloved sinne, because in true conver∣sion unto God, we are to leave sinne upon such spirituall and Scripture grounds*which are true in every sinne, as well as in any. The grounds of turning from sinne are, because its contrarie to an holy God, it opposeth an heavenly and pure Law, it grieveth Gods Spirit, its the noisome filthinesse and dung of the soul: Why then if this be thy ground, then all this is true of thy beloved sin as much as any; for that is against Gods holy will, that is opposite to a spirituall Law that is contrary to purity and the beauty of the soul. Its an hypocritical Conversion, when men leave some sins, and not others; they can part with some kind of cocorruptions; but then there are others of which they say, as was of Goliah's sword, None like that. Now all this is but deceit and frowardnesse of heart, this is but halting before God; for if thy beloved lust be sinne, if an enemy to God, if an adver∣sarie to his glorie, how canst thou lodge it in thy soul? Oh that people would attend more to the true spiritual and acceptable ground of leaving a∣ny sinne, for that would sweep all away, it would not leave an Hoof in E∣gypt.

Thirdly, Therefore in Conversion, a man will be sure to leave his peculiar sin, because all repentance and humiliation is a kinde of revenge, and spirituall judg∣ing*and condemning of our selves. If we would judge our selves we should not be judged of the Lord; so the Corinthians, that had been too conniving at the incestuous person, not indeavouring to purge out the old Leaven as they should: when they began to turn from this sin, then saith the Apostle, What fear? yea what zeal, what indignation and revenge? 2 Corinth. 7. 11. In all things ye have la∣boured to clear your selves in this matter. Thus it is with a godly man; of all sinnes, that which was his greatest delight, his greatest practice, now his greatest zeal and indignation is against: Was uncleannesse his beloved sinne? Now he doth especially abound in purity; that so all the world, yea and God also may see him clear. Was pride his darling sinne? then of all graces he is most cloathed with Humilitie. Pauls great sinne was persecuting and destroying the Church of God once: but when converted, who had such Fatherlie bowels? who had the Church in his heart so much as he? As Cran〈…〉er, that had subscribed with his right hand to that which was against his Conscience, afterwards with re∣venge put that first into the Flames; So doth the true Convert; Of all sins I will be revenged most of that, by which I most dishonoured God. Thus Mary Magdalen takes that hair of hers which had been used to allure others, and washes Christs Feet with it. And those eyes that had been wanton Snares, doe now stand beblubbered with Water. Thus the godly man will be avenged upon his spiritual lusts.

Fourthly, Conversion to God is the bringing of a man to true and solid Wise∣dome.*Page  463 Now that will presently advise him to take heed of that sin which will most easily seduce him: He will take heed of that fire which hath so grievously scorched him; He will remember the deadly wounds and bloudy stroaks such sinnes have given his Conscience; and therefore he is afraid, and trembleth at the verie approach of such sinnes. David when he had been throughly humbled for his Murder of Uriah, afterwards refused to drink the Water that men jeoparded their lives for: This is the bloud of man, he cryeth out: So will the true Convert be afraid to come near the borders, near the temptations of his old former sins.

Lastly, Therefore doth Conversion make a man leave his darling sinnes, because*it puts a man upon shewing the greatest love he can to God, who hath shewed so much to him. Now wherein can he shew more service and love to God, than by kill∣ling his Absolom, by offering his Isaac? Now, saith God, I know thou lovest me, because thou hast not spared thy onely beloved Sonne. So God, Now I know thou art truely converted to me, for thou dost not spare thy dear lusts, thou dost not hide thy beloved sinnes any more: Love to God will put a man upon this; and no wonder, for it puts a man to lose his Wife, Children, yea his dear life for Christs sake: is it then any wonder, if it parts a man and his beloved sinnes?

Use of Instruction, That all they are still in their Hypocrisie, and lye under * Gods wrath, who retain any beloved sinne. What though thou doest ma∣ny things, yet if thou wilt not part with thy Herodias, thou art in Gall and Wormwood. And this is the rather to be observed, because a man may goe for in the profession of Religion, yet have some secret beloved finne that he hugs in his Bosome all the while. Oh throw that Toad out of thy heart; Christ cannot, will not dwell in thy heart, till that enemy of his be dis∣lodged. Oh let a Iudas be a Pillar of Salt to season you: Did not he pray, hear, work Miracles in Christs Name, and yet lived in a secret belo∣ved sinne? God will unmask such Hypocrisie, and make thy sinne finde thee out.