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  426

SERMON LXX.

Answering some Prejudices and Cavils of un∣godly men, against Conversion, or turning unto God.


EZEK. 33. 11.
Turn ye, turn ye, Why will ye dye, O house of Israel?

THis subject of Conversion, is like Ezekiels waters, that rise higher and higher; therefore marvel not, if we continue long upon it, for the mat∣ter will still be new, though it be the same Text. The last day our en∣deavor was, to use all those forcible Reasons, that might perswade you to turn from your sins to God; although indeed, the very naming of it, doth carry so much light and truth with it, that it argueth incredible stupidity and obstinacyin all those, who yet wilfully continue in their iniquities: that therefore every moun∣tain may be made level, & every valley raised, to make a prepared way for Christ, I shall answer those Objections, or Prejudices, or Cavils, which are as a great gulf between them and conversion. The Objections that arise from a carnal vain heart, I will call The mountains that must be made low; the objections from a discouraged or dejected heart, that doubteth of its acceptance with God, if it doth return, or imagineth strange impossibilities for its own particular; this I call The valley that must be exalted: And first, let us endeavor to prevail with the carnal man, to have so much faith, as to throw this mountain into the sea. That objection which I shall begin with, is this:

To turn unto God, is to leave all those pleasures, that delight and carnal mirth, I have had in my sinful ways: If so be I were to be a Cloistered Monk, or a solitary * Hermit; If I were persecuted, flying into caves and dens, that it would deprive me of all my pleasure, then such contemplations, and holy meditations might be im∣braced; but for me, that finde such pleasure, such jollity in my wicked ways, to turn to God with mourning and humiliation, is to bid me be no more Naomi, but Marah: Thus the voluptuous man, the unclean man, the drunkard, the glutton, the earthly and coveteous man; yea, all who finde iniquity, like honey in their mouth; these all speak like the Fig-tree and Olive-tree in Judges, Shall I leave my fatness, and my sweetness, and forsake all my former pleasures, to mourn and fast, and reform, and to live a strict life of mortification? Thus every man is drawn aside by pleasure. To take you off in this respect:

First consider, That the Scriptures judgement about sin, is wholly con∣tradictory to thine: The word of God acknowledgeth no pleasure, no de∣sireableness * in sin; but the clean contrary, Gall, and Wormwood, and Bitterness, and Death, Wrath, and Terror, and Curses, and Torments: How then comest thou to speak of pleasures and delight in sin, when Gods word knoweth no such thing? Now the Scripture is the wisdom of an All-knowing God, and we are to believe that, more then our own sense and apprehension: We see diseases do so infect the palate, that it many times judgeth bitter sweet, and sweet bitter, Page  427 but the nature of things is not changed because the palate is changed; and thus it is here, by reason of that corrupt frame of heart in thee, thou judgest sin pleasant; no ordinances, no godly objects have any savour or delight in them: but these do greatly affect thee; know all this is a disease, a sickness upon thy heart, as some diseases make the sick parties eat black coals, and such loathsom rash: This is a disease. The word of God, which onely revealeth true wisdom, speaketh otherwise: Oh then! call no more thy lusts sweet, thy sins pleasant, its a disease on thee makes thee think so, if thy palate and taste were spiritual, thou wouldst with dislike, reject every temptation of sin, as Christ did the vinegar they gave him to drink. Paul told Elymas, He was in the state of gall and bitter∣ness, Acts 8. 23. Elymas did not think so, nor feel so: And thus is every wicked man, in a condition of gall and misery; if his heart were truly qualified, he would cry out of the bitterness of those sins, which he now saith are sweet: Judge then righteous judgement about thy iniquities, and thou wilt quickly forsake them.

Secondly, Grant thy sins have pleasure and delight in them, yet they are plea∣sant onely to the bruitish and sensual part of a man; the eyes, the ears, the body, the*imagination, these for the most part are pleased in the actings of sin: Now what an unworthy and irrational thing is it for thee, to pursue those pleasures, which are common to thee, with beasts? Sin haply may bring bodily pleasures, bo∣dily delight; but how low should these things be to thee that hast a soul, whose true good and happiness lyeth in godly actions, and enjoying of God? Did not the rich man in the Gospel, shew himself like a beast, when speaking of his barns full, he said, Soul, take thy ease, for thou hast much good laid up for thee, Luke 12. 19. Soul! O brutish expression, what were these good things to his soul? he might have said, Body, take thy case, but Soul he could not: when therefore the pleasures of sin, have painted themselves, like Jezebel, to intice and deceive thee, reject them with disdain: These are not pleasures for an immaterial, immortal soul; these are not a proper delight, for the chief and most noble part of me; If I were onely a body, and not a soul; then there might be greater reason to admit them.

Thirdly, Grant further, that sin hath pleasure with it, yet its such a pleasure, that causeth death, a pleasure that brings damnation with it; like some deadly and * mortal herbs, that they say, will put a man into laughing till he dyeth: Plea∣sant delightful things, do sooner cause diseases, then bitter: Much honey, quickly turneth into much choler; so that sins imbracement of thee, is like that of the Ivy, which secretly devoureth the thing it cleaveth to. Consider what the Wiseman, that had got the true experience of all things, affirmeth, I said of laughter, It was madness, Eccles. 2. 2. and, It is better to go to the house of mourning, then of mirth, Eccles. 7. 2. do not then like thy sins the better, because sweet and delightful. Poyson that kills presently, may be made sweet; and so those sweet lusts, and those sweet sports of sin, convey death and hell in their pleasure.

Fourthly, Let it be still granted, that sin hath pleasure in it, yet it is but for a moment, its but like the blazing of some crackling thorns in the fire: That which * the Scripture speaks about a mans vanity of life; its but a Vapor, a Shadow, a Bubble, is true of all the pleasures of sin; they pass away in the enjoying of them: The godly comfort themselves in this, That these present afflictions are but light and momentany, in respect of that eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. 4. 7. and the con∣trary a wicked man may say, That these present momentany pleasures, are no∣thing to that eternal weight of torment: Thus the grace of Moses is commend∣ed, That he chose rather to endure the reproaches of Christ, then to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, Heb. 11. They are but pleasures for a season; O then! when thou art but a mortal sinner, and thy joy a mortal joy, all is fading; why then art thou so importunate after these shadows?

Fifthly, Although sins may have sweetness for the present, yet they have a tor∣ment*Page  428and a sting afterwards. A man that in his hot blood hath got a dangerous wound, he feels it not presently; but when he is cold, then he begins to be sensible of it: And thus it is here, a man in the hot and violent pursuit of lusts, feels no∣thing, apprehends nothing; but when his conscience is once awakened and ter∣rified, then he cryeth out, O the wounds, the sting, the blows that sin giveth him: Thus Solomon, speaking against drunkenness, not to be inticed with the occasions of it, he addeth his reason, Look not upon the wine, while it moveth it self in the cup, for at last it biteth like a Serpent, and stingeth like an Adder. Prov. 23. 32. Little doth the drunkard think, he had as good swallow down so many live Adders, and stinging Serpents. The Apostle tells us, That sin hath a sting, 1 Cor. 15. How then is it, that thou perceivest the honey, but not the sting of it? but its no wonder, for this is at last: At last it biteth like an Adder, at the time of death, at the time of fears and grievous judgements, then it puts forth those sharp and poysonous stings. It was Aristotles advice, we should look upon pleasures going and notcoming, they leave horror and terror behinde them: Commune therefore with your own hearts, sit down and consider, This sweet∣ness will be turned into gall; this is the Devils subtilty, to present the pleasure, but not the torment of a sin; see what a sting it made in Cains conscience, what a sting in Judas, and it will be such a scorpion in thy side one time or other.

Sixthly, Thou wilt not turn to God, because of the pleasure in sin? Oh! but what pleasures and joy doest thou indeed deny thy self, by not turning to him: If husks * and dross hath pleasure, how much hath true repentance, and the exercise of the graces of Gods spirit, which is the true manna? If a wilderness be such a delight? what may Canaan be? If these drossie and filthy lusts do affect thee, then how may glorious objects move thee, if thy heart were spiritual? At thy right hand (saith David) are rivers of pleasures for evermore, Psal. 16. 11. and, We believe with joy unspeakable and full of glory, saith Peter, 1 Pet. 1. 8. Therefore if pleasure and sweetness do move thee, Oh taste and see how good God is, and all the ways of godliness. The pleasures of the world are like muddy puddling waters; but these are pure streams: Thou wilt finde one hours praying, better then a thousand of prophane fudlings; one hours enjoyments of Christ as thy husband, by faith, then all the wanton dalliances and unchast imbracements of unlawful objects: Oh then! thou art an enemy to thy true joy, to thy true peace, as long as thou doest not turn to God.

Seventhly, Call not that pleasure, which when thy soul is powerfully wrought upon by Gods grace, will be onely bitter and miserable to thee: Look upon all the true * converts unto God, how have they been affected with sin: Did not Mary Magdalene with anguish of heart, cause floodgates of sorrow to be opened? Did not David upon his after-conversion to God, being turned aside by murther and adultry, lie roaring through anguish of spirit? What profit, saith the Apostle, have ye of those things, whereof you are now ashamed, Rom. 6. 21. And so here, What pleasure and sweetness is there in that, which you now finde so bitter? And if thou hast not such a merciful time here to finde it bitter? thou wilt have a terri∣ble and just time to finde it so in hell: What? do the damned souls feel any pleasure? is there so much as one drop of honey, in all the gall they are to drink? If not, where is thy wisdom and judgement, that doest not throw away thy sins as so much hemlock, and imbrace godliness in the room thereof, which brings its pleasant well-come with it, even much tranquillity and quietness of conscience.

Thus we have unmasked this Objection, and made that appear to be a serpent, which was taken for so pleasant a fish, if we may allude to our Saviours ex∣pression.

The next obstruction in the way, which doth commonly keep men from turning to God, is the profit and great advantage they finde in those sins they live in: If they * be sins of Iujustice, Violence, Oppression, any unlawful way of gain; Oh 〈◊〉Page  429 hard then, not to cry out, Great is Diana: The Apostle speaks of some, that thought gain was godliness, 1 Tim. 6. 5. not godliness gain, as it is indeed great gain: Thus ambitious men, covetous men, those that are immoderately affected to any thing, they care not what laws they break, what violation they offer to Gods Commands, so that they may be rich, and great, and honored in this world, that is all they look at; so that a too attentive eye to worldly profit, is that many times which keeps from turning to God.

This is also easily answered, if a man go into Gods Sanctuary, or plow with his Heifer: For

First, If there be profit in thy sinful ways, it is about worldly fading things, which*will leave thee at last, as Judas his thirty pieces did, in a tormenting hell: Our Sa∣viour tells us, That if a man should get the whole world, and lose his own soul, it will not avail him, Mat. 16. 26. whereas that is indeed profit, which is immortal, which will continue for ever, which is profit in life time, and profit in death time, which will be profit when thy body is buried, and rotting in the grave: Thou then that gettest profit, and this earthly profit comes upon thee daily, still remember thy grave will be a period to it: There is a sudden storm arising, that will make all this suffer shipwrack, and thou must swim naked, as it were, to Gods Tribunal, to be judged there.

Secondly, Never call sin profitable, for to that are all the curses of God threatned,* How then can that be profitable to thee, which makes a man cursed at home, and cursed abroad, cursed in all his store and abundance? Oh do not deceive thy self! it is not wealth, but Gods wrath thou art treasuring up every day: In∣deed, godliness is profitable for all things, as the Scripture saith; and hath the promise of this world, and the world to come; but wickedness is profitable for nothing, but hath the curses of this world, and the world to come: Do not then account of any increase by sin, God hath threatned to blast it, it will melt away like the dew, it will turn to garvel in the belly; all these profitable mor∣sels God will make thee vomit up. Hence the Scripture doth so commend a little with Gods favor, and obtained in Gods way, then all treasures with iniquity, * call not then that profitable, which is either the moth to eat thee secretly, or the fire to destroy thee violently.

Thirdly, That is onely profitable, which is profitable to the greatest good that we*stand in need of, and to divert the greatest evil that can befal us: Now no sins are profitable to that, but the clean contrary; for the greatest good that we are ca∣pable of, is the favor of God, the light of his countenance: This David doth so often pray for in his straights, as being the onely Sun to dispel that dark night which was upon him; and on the contrary, no evil, no not of misery, torment, and pain, is like that of Gods anger and fury against sin. Now take all the pro∣fit and advantages thou hast got in a sinful way, what do these help, for the ob∣taining of the one, or repelling of the other? Oh take Cain and Judas burning and scalding in the guilt of sin, can they buy Gods favor? can they purchase the light of his countenance? Doth not the Scripture make the rust of their mo∣ney, * and the timber in the wall, to cry out, and witness against the wicked man? Then be ashamed ever to pretend this any more, that the wicked ways thou livest in, are in so many respects hopeful to thee, for that cannot be, it destroyeth the main, and is contrary to the true happiness.

Fourthly, That cannot be called profitable, which as it cannot help to the good we cannot want; so neither at the time, when we are in the greatest extremity. Riches*will not avail in the day of wrath. Iudas had the bitter experience of this; if there∣fore thou couldst finde any true profit in the way of sin, it might then be dis∣covered, when at the time of death, or at the time of fearful and heavy judge∣ments, thou art in the greatest extreamity: But (alas!) how truly mayest thou take up that, Ye are miserable comforters all; who doth not then cry out of his sins? who doth not then bewail the time, and his folly, that ever he entertained Page  430 such a bitter-sweet as sin is: Take up then at last principles of wisdom, lay up treasure for an evil day, provide against a sad storm arise, and what will that be? The hour of death, the hour of Gods judgements: Oh! then to have an Ark to run into, then to have a mark upon thee, that the destroying Angel may not con∣sume thee, is a great mercy: But this will never be obtained in a sinful way; so that if thou turn to God, and art constant in the daily exercise of grace, then thou hast the onely Cordial, the onely Oyl to be poured in thy wounded soul.

Fifthly, Never pretend profit, for all the while thou doest not turn to God, thou art in every thing a loser: Who can enumerate all thy losses which come through sin? * There is the loss of all true joy and peace of conscience; there is the loss of eternity in happiness, of heaven, and all the glory therein, which is more then can enter into the heart of man to conceive; there is loss of thy immortal soul, which is more worth then all the world; and lastly, there is the loss of God, the fountain of all good and happiness, Bonum in quo omnia bona, That Ocean of good, in which all the several streams of goodness empty themselves: Oh then that ever thou shouldst be so seduced, as to say, Its better to live in my sins as I do, then to turn unto God! for what? is it better to have that present profit, then Heaven, Happiness, and God to all eternity? Oh say rather! These my sins will never make satisfaction for the loss incur by them; these my corrupti∣ons will never get me as much, as I lose through them: I keep coals and dung; and part with gold and precious pearls. Its the great ignorance and pravity of our corrupt natures, that knoweth not how to put a right prize and esteem upon things.

Sixthly, If thy profit keep thee from turning to God, and thou thinkest it a great part of wisdom and prudence to continue in this saving way, as thou callest * it: Then how doth this condemn all the holy Martyrs and Confessors for the faith of Christ, of the greatest folly and madness that ever was; They may then lay aside those Robes of Glory they are adorned with; For what did not they lose? their wealth, their riches, their pleasures, their lives to follow God; they thought turning to Christ more profit, then turning to any carnal safe way in the world. Did not the Martyrs take the spoiling of their goods joyfully? Did not they as willingly lay down their bodies at the stake, as men do their cloathes to sleep? Certainly, sin and the world did then tempt them to turn out of Gods way, but they would go forward; and thereby our Saviour had given them an excellent Antidote, He that will save his life, shall lose it; and he that will lose it, shall save it: And thus we have cast this mountain down, that exalted it self against our conversion.

The third Cavil is, The custom and habit they have in sin: That now they say; It is vain to attempt this work; had they in their yonger years set themselves up∣on * such courses, there might have been hope; but now, none can make this crooked thing straight, they are too far gone, ever to turn again, To remove this stone: Consider

First, That God is ready to stretch forth his hand to thee, who are willing to swim cut of this sea of corruption: This very thought or desire at last to turn to him, cometh from God: Thou art as unable of thy self, to have a good thought of turning to God, as to turn unto God. The women could not remove the stone from our Saviours Sepulchre, and there comes an Angel, who did it: Thou canst not remove or stir thy heart, but God can: And

Therefore in the second and last place (because this may be more spoken to, when we come to remove the discouraging Objections that are in some * mens hearts;) Although to change this custom of sin, and to make the Blacka∣more white, be impossible to flesh and blood, yet with God all things are pos∣sible; and therefore say, Though the work be too hard for me, yet it is not to God. Lezarus was many days dead in the grave, yet Christ raised him to life, Page  431 as well as those that were lately dead. Consider how Autoratively God speaks. I will take away an heart of stone, and give an heart of flesh; I will doe it, who can * hinder? I will not depend upon the consent and co-operation of Free-will. Can God do wonderfull things, and miraculous works upon the whole Creation, upon mens bodies, and cannot he also upon the souls? Is not he the Father of Spirits, as well as the God of all flesh? Therefore be thou awakened and look up to heaven, who changeth the natures of things? who cureth diseases that have been from the very birth?

Use of Admonition to all those who are bound in any of these Cords. Arise, * like Sampson, and break them in pieces: speak not of delight and pleasure when thou leavest the wayes of God; speak not of profit when thou losest God and Heaven. Oh, no man is in the state of bitterness if thou art not, none are undone men if thou art not. Why should not reason perswade you? Why should not Scrip∣ture counsell you? Suppose Wisdome (as Solomon describeth it) calling aloud to you; Why do ye passe by O ye simple and foolish? Come in to me, I have my Feast * provided, my glory prepared: Why shall not this prevail with you? What, shall lusts and sin stand at the door and say, Come in, turn into me; and you readily go in, though her paths lead to the gates of death; and do ye refuse Gods Calling? Will you not be justly condemned at that great day? Shall not heaven and earth bear witnesse against you? Oh turn from sin now; fot in hell and torments there is no turning from them.