Anthony Burgess on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Burgess was a member of the Westminster Assembly



Spiritual Refining: or A Treatise of Grace and Assurance, 1652 (reprint edition: Ames, Iowa, 1990)

Section 5, Sermon 44

2… For those loaden and burdened ones, who are invited to come to ChristMatt 11[:28], 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 justify 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 opposite to the Gospel; 


Section 8, Sermon 64

2.  This Covenant is dispensed in an external, and visible administration, by the Word and Sacraments.  The preaching of the Gospel is the solemn promulgation of this Covenant, and invitation to enter therein: The Sacraments are seals to ratify and confirm this holy and sacred agreement.  Now because all know not the work of Grace, to whom this Covenant is externally administered, hence arises that necessary distinction of an external Covenant, and an internal.  

4.  The offer and tendering of this Covenant is not enough to make a people outwardly holy, but there must be an outward and visible accepting of it.  The Gospel has been preached to many people, who yet rejected it; and therefore not taking the Covenant, continued still in their natural pollution and uncleanness; and this is necessarily to be pressed upon you: for most Christians know not, or attend not to what they do.  There is none of you who are Baptized, and own the title of Christians, but ye have entered into a Covenant with God, you have promised to be his, you have resigned up your selves unto him, as your Lord, whose laws you will obey.



Sermon 66, “Showing that the Damnation of Wicked Men is unpleasing to God, and that which He delights not in.” p. 403-408.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.


Showing that the damnation of wicked men is unpleasing to God, and that which He delights not in.

“As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

Ezekiel 33:11


I shall now in the next place, consider the work of Grace, under the notion of Conversion, or Turning unto God, which is one of the most frequent words in the Scripture to denote that duty.  For the better opening of the words upon which I intend to build this discourse, we may observe God himself, inditing a Sermon for Ezekiel the Prophet to Preach, wherein there is:


1. The Doctrine, I have no pleasure in the death of a wicked man.
2. The confirmation of it by an Oath, which God Himself makes, As I live, saith God.
3. The use of Exhortation, Turn ye, Turn ye.
4. The Motive, Why will ye dye?


For the occasion of these words, you may see God giving Commission to Ezekiel to be a Watchman, admonishing him by several Arguments to discharge his trust faithfully; and in that all Ministers are concerned: It was Chrysostom’s wonder, if any spiritual Officer, who had charge of souls committed unto him, could be saved; for if a man is not able to give an account for his own sin, how shall he do it for other?  Therefore the forepart of his Chapter should be the faithful Ministers Looking glass, wherein he should often look: And if there be so much joy in heaven, for the reducing of one sheep that goes astray, how much rather for the conversion of a wandering Shepherd!  Another part of his duty is, to vindicate and justify God; for the Jews quarreled and repined at Gods providence, as if his ways were unequal, or as if God did delight in the destruction of men, yea, though they turned from their wicked ways.  Now my Text is an Apology unto that calumny, where the clear contrary is confirmed by an Oath of God Himself; who though He cannot lie, and so his word is enough, yet for condescension to our capacity, and to confirm our faith, does swear, That He delights not in the death of a wicked man, O beatos nos quorum causa Deus jurat, O miserrimos si nec juranti Domino credimus. Tertullian.
Now this Text is frequently urged and debated upon in the matter of Reprobation, corrupt Teachers concluding from hence, that there is no Election or Reprobation absolutely, because God does seriously will every man’s life, and no wicked man’s death.  Some answer, that this place is wholly impertinent to that question; for (say they) the Prophet speaks not here of eternal life, but temporal, and that which is by the violence of the sword: And (say they further) the antecedents and consequents do evidently show, that the sense is, God does not will the death of a wicked man, if He will turn from his wickedness; for the Jews charged God foolishly, as if they were punished unjustly, for they persuaded [sic] themselves they turned to God, and yet their calamities were not taken away: This is probable, but grant the Text to be comprehensive of Eternal death, as many other places are; such that, God would not have any to perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, &c. 1 Tim. 2.:4.  Then the answer is known, which may easily be made good, though it be not my work now, God has an approving will, and an effective or decreeing will.  God’s approving will is carried out to the objects, as good in it self; but Gods Effective will is, when He intends to bring a thing about.  God had an approving will, that Adam should stand, therefore He gave him a command, and threatened him if he did fall; yet He had not an effective will, to make him to stand, for then who could have hindered it?  Thus Christ’s tears over Jerusalem (How often would I have gathered thee, and thou wouldest not?) were not Crocodiles’ tears (as some say the Calvinists make them) for though Christ, as God, had not decreed the conversion of the Jews, yet the thing it self was approved of, and commanded, and he as the Minister of the New Testament, affectionately desired it: So here in the Text, God by this pathetical expression, does declare, how acceptable and desireable a thing it is in itself, that the Jews should be converted; how distasteful and unpleasant their damnation was: therefore mark the expression, He does not say, I do not will the death of the wicked, but I have no pleasure in it: And if that of the Arminians be true, that God does effectually will the conversion of all, why then are not all converted?  Who hath resisted his will? but I intend grapes, and not thorns; practical not controversal matter from this Text.


The first Observation is, That the damnation and destruction of a wicked man, is unpleasing to God, is not that which he delights in.


Before I open the point, you may object one known and evident place (there being many others also equivalent to it) Prov. 1:26, I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh: This argues their destruction was pleasing to him, Hence judgments upon the wicked are compared to Sacrifices, because they are so acceptable to him.


To Answer this; Both these are true, God delights not in the death of a sinner, yet He will laugh at their Destruction: For if you consider death and hell, as the sinner’s misery merely, and as sin brings it, so it is displeasing to God; but as it is an act of justice punishing the impenitent for his wickedness; so it is well pleasing to God, for He is just as well as merciful.  Even as a just Judge that condemns a Malefactor, may pity the man condemned for his Crimes, and the execution be grievous to him, as its the man’s misery; yet as He is a just Judge, so He delights also to have justice done: but this is handled in Controversies.


Let us see wherein it appears, that this is not well pleasing to God; and that therefore the whole fault and blame of a mans perdition, is wholly on his own head:


First, Gods unwillingness to damn, is seen in the original and primitive institution and creation of man:


He made him after his own Image; endued him with all sufficient power and ability to persevere: There was no spot, or blemish, or defect in him, only he was mutable, and might Apostatize from this happy estate if he would: Seeing then God withheld nothing from him, that might make him happy and in him He covenanted with all mankind, intending the like good to them; hence it does appear, how well pleasing it was unto God, that man should continue in a state of holiness before Him:


Sin then came into the world, and by it death through Adam’s voluntary transgression: There was no Antecedaneous decree from God, necessitating him to sin: It was his own willful choice, and that when he knew the penalty to the contrary; but yet so, that God’s permissive decree of his fall, did precede, though not necessitating: If therefore sin had been inbred in mans heart at first, as it is now since his fall, then the cause would have been imputed to God; but then he had that privilege of power to do that which is good; and to withstand what is evil.


Secondly, Gods unwillingness is seen, even since mans revolt;


For whereas he might have dealt with us as the lapsed Angels, who are left without any remedy, He has appointed an Ark to save some Righteous persons.  There was never such offers and tenders to Angels, as here in the Text, Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye be damned? 


Now the means God has appointed for a man’s recovery are divers:


First, There are means by way of love and goodness: There are also means by way of chastisements and afflictions


By way of Love; How winning and overcoming should that be?  Love does surround you; it’s love that you live, that you breath; its love, you are preserved from hell and damnation; its love, that you have any support at all; therefore the goodness of God in all the Creatures you enjoy, should lead you to repentance, Rom. 2.  The Sun that shines to you, the Earth that brings forth fruit for you, the health and perfection of the senses, should melt you always into good.  


Again, because naturally we are slavish, and so moved rather by judgments than mercies; rather driven with whips than drawn with silken cords of love; therefore God leaves not that way unattempted also: Hence the Prophets are so diligent in informing the Israelites, what was the cause of their plagues, famines, the sword and captivity, even their sins; and therefore they should not be so much weary of them, or cry out of them, as of their iniquities: God does not punish willingly, says the Scripture, Ps. 104, like the Bee that naturally gives honey, but stings not unless provoked.  As the Physician does not willingly put his Patient to torments, but for his good: Thus it is here, God sees all his love upon you will do you no good, you do abuse it, and grow wanton under it, therefore He will take another course, He will throw you sometimes into the water, to see if that will get the filth out of you; sometimes into the fire, to see if that will fetch the dross out: If therefore God would leave you incurable, He would let you alone, and punish you no more, as he threatens some, Hosea 4:14.  O then know there is never a mercy, or an affliction, never a smile from God or frown from him, but he will have an account of it: How has it made you weary of your sins, and willing to repent?


Secondly, The means God hath appointed, are either external or internal.


External, are the Scriptures, and the preaching of the word of God.  As where the Sun shines, that is to give light and life; so where the Gospel arises, that is to beget spiritual and supernatural life: The word of God therefore, and the preaching thereof, is compared to all effectual and energetical things, to Mustard-seed; to Leaven, to a Sword, to an Hammer, to Fire: Now why does God cause this noise always to sound in your ears, but because you should hearken and be obedient?  It is true indeed, we must distinguish of wicked men, they are either such as live in Paganism, in the ignorance of God, and without the Church (though God has not left such without a testimony and witness, their consciences within, and the creatures without, bearing witness of God) yet we cannot say, that God so immediately wills their salvation, as of others, still keeping to the first distinction we mentioned, and not contradicting that: Why indeed God should thus differently dispense the means of grace to some, and not to others; yea neglect the far greater part of mankind, is a mystery too deep for us to wade in: Gods ways are always most just, when they are most secret and unknown to us; yet even of such destitute persons, we may say, God hath no pleasure in their death, according to our premised sense; for He gives them warnings against sin, and implanted a thousand witness within them, to accuse them, if ever they do evil: or such wicked men, who live under the sound of the trumpet that are awakened, and reminded every day of their transgressions; to such as these God discovers, how unwilling He is, that they should perish in their impieties. Consider therefore, that every leaf in the Scripture, every Sermon you hear, will be a terrible matter of account at that dreadful day: God will say, How often would I have converted thee, instructed thee, but thou wouldst not!  [Ps. 81:13]  


Then there are internal means, of which anon.


Thirdly, Gods pleasure in the conversion of wicked men is seen, by those pathetical and affectionate expressions, which we see the Scripture useswhich do not only argue Gods will, but the height and strength of his will: As here in the Text;


First, God’s Oath, As I live (saith God) then the ingemination of the duty: Turn ye, turn ye; lastly, a vehement expostulation, Why will ye die?  So you may read many times in the Scripture those exclamations, Oh that my people were wise, that they would consider their latter end; and we see Christ Himself, though in the midst of all the pomp and glory which was attributed to Him; yet weeping over Jerusalem, Oh that thou hadst known the things that belong to thy peace, etc. Luke 19:42.  The truth of this also will further be amplified, if you consider what zealous and importunate Messengers his Prophets are: We beseech you, and entreat you to be reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. 5. 20. If ye will not hear (says Jeremiah) my soul shall mourn in secret for you, Jer. 13:17.   The consistency of these things, with their adversaries calumniously fasten upon them, See in Controversial Writers.


Fourthly, That the death of a wicked man is displeasing to God, appears in that sin, which is the cause of death, is the only evil hated by Him, and that only which He has decreed to punish to all eternity:


Thou art of purer eyes, than to behold iniquity, Hab. 1, and, God is angry with the wicked every day: He that commands us to hate it, how much rather must He Himself loath it?  God therefore is not the author and lover of sin; for Non est author ejus, cujus est ultor, He is not the Author of that which He is the Avenger: How then can God delight in your damnation, when the cause of it is so abominated by Him!  Indeed (as you heard) seeing damnation is an act of Justice, and so has the nature of good, God does delight in it; but as it is the ruin of the creature by sin, so it is not acceptable to Him.


Fifthly, Gods unwillingness that the wicked should perish, appears in those internal means, and inward works of God’s Spirit, that are vouchsafed to many:


God thinks it not enough to give the word, and the ordinances, and thus outwardly to knock at the door; but He also opens the door in some measure.  Hence come those convictions of Conscience, those illuminations of the understanding, and many such secret motions of Gods spirit, that if possible, the soul might at last bewail its sins, and turn unto God.  It’s true, thus far God does not go with every one, neither are all admitted unto such favor, but many within the means of Grace, have their hearts thus continually beaten upon, and their consciences thus convinced and smitten: And therefore such who shall yet retain their natural pravity and wickedness, when so many remedies shall be applied, argue the greater obstinacy, and judgement of God upon them.


Now to all this, there is one grand and main Objection; which is, If God do thus will and delight in the conversion of men, If those invitations are serious, and so pathetical, Why then does not God change the hearts of all? why are not all converted? why are any damned?  


To this there is a true Answer and a false Answer returned:


The false Answer is by Arminians and others; Therefore some are converted and not others (say they) because some do receive the grace of God offered, and not others: But this is to put all the glory of man’s conversion upon his own will; for why do some receive the grace of God, and not others?  Can any receive grace, without the help of grace?  Must there not be supernatural life breathed into a man before he can stretch out his hand towards God? besides, this opposes all those places of Scripture, which describe man dead in sin, and unable to any good; and conversion is not the awakening of a man asleep, but the resurrection of one that is dead:


Therefore the true answer is, that although God has revealed his approving will thus, about the salvation of sinners; yet the Scripture does plainly limit his effective will, to those that are elected, not to all men, but to some, Rom. 9.  There this question is on purpose handled, and the Apostle’s conclusion is, On whom he will, he showeth mercy, and whom he will, he hardens, And does there silence all those cavils, that proud sinners may make; even this very Objection He instances in, Who hath resisted his will?  So that you must compare one Scripture with another; and be sure to keep sobriety and humility in this great mystery, not launching further into this Ocean, than the Scripture is a star to guide you in.


Secondly, Though God does thus will the salvation of sinners, yet He is also a God of Sovereignty and Power:


None may prescribe to Him; He is of boundless Wisdom and Counsel, and none can search out or know the depths of God, but the spirit of God.  How many things does the Scripture reveal, as objects of faith, which cannot be comprehended by us; that are above all human reason though not contrary to sound reason!  Our Savior has taught us an excellent way to resolve these dispensations of God, Even so Father, for so it pleaseth thee, Mat. 11.  As Ipse dixit must be the ground of faith; so Ipse voluit of our submission.


Use [Application] 1. Of instruction, concerning the inexcuseableness of wicked men, who perish in their sins?


Who may be blamed but thy own self? Although we have it from Adam, to lay our sins off from ourselves, yet these fig-leaves will not cover our nakedness, for to God you cannot impute your ruin:  O Israel, thy perdition is of thyself, Hosea 13.9.  Let no man say, when he is tempted, that he is tempted of God, for he tempts no man, but every one is led aside by the lusts of his own heart, James 1.  Oh you! that in this lifetime flatters yourself, your sins must not be owned by you, none may put you in mind of what you are; when God shall at the Day of Judgement, discover all hidden things of darkness, then it will be manifest, you, even your own self, have undone yourself: God has done like a gracious, good, just and merciful God, but thou have been a cruel enemy unto your own soul, Qui voluntatem Dei spreverant invitantem, voluntatem Dei Sentent vindicantem, You shall find his power in punishments; who have despised his grace and mercy in offers thereof. Austin.  Neither may you excuse yourselves, by casting your sins on Satan; for although he be a Tempter, and does continually suggest corrupt lusts unto your heart; yet this is only by temptation, by suggestion, he does not make you sin, whether you will or no: You are stubble, and that makes the sparks of fire which come from him, so easily inflame.  As some Heathens have imputed their miscarriages to I know not what, Fate, and the constellation of Stars; so many Christian people, put their iniquities off either to God or the Devil: What would you have them to do? they cannot help it; How could God punish and damn you for these sins, if He caused them in you?  God indeed has a just and terrible providence about the sins of men, He is not an idle spectator of them, but yet He does not infuse any wickedness into men; that they have of themselves, only God may guide and order it to wise ends, and cause it to run down what channels He pleases.


Use 2. The aggravation of the wickedness of those sinners, who stand out willfully against the goodness and patience of God, that would lead them to repentance;


For how shall any mouth be opened for you? who shall plead for you? What excuse have you?  Consider, that God desires thy conversion, who does not need you, who can be honored, though you are damned in hell: He can raise up children to Abraham out of stones: When therefore God shall thus invite you for your good and advantage only, He is not bettered by you, not made the more happy, then your forehead must be brass, that does not blush at such ingratitude; cry out, Who am I, Lord? what am I, that I should be regarded? wilt not thou have praise, and honor and glory though I be a cast-away? why should my life and salvation be so dear to You, who am naturally a cursed enemy to You?


Use 3. Of consolation to broken and tempted Christians, who sit down like Job upon the dunghill, abhorring themselves; they are loathsom in their own eyes, and because so, therefore they think God will not receive such Monsters into his presence:


Oh, they say, though God take pleasure in the life and salvation of others, yet he will not surely do so to me: But Oh this Text, should be sweeter than the honey or honey comb to you; God says, As He lives, He delights not in your damnation: Are you therefore weary of your sins? do you renounce your lusts?  Then be not afraid to come, Those that come to him he will in no ways cast off: God saiys, Why will ye dye, O house of Israel? Do you turn the Text, and say, Why shall I die, O God of Israel? set this Scripture against Hell, Devil and all accusations of conscience, God does not delight to bruise and break you with those many temptations, that are worse than death it self.


Use 4. Of direction unto Christians, under all their miseries and troubles, not to repine at God, but to blame and humble themselves.


The Jews here, had the devouring sword come upon them, which did cut them off father and son together; now they thought Gods ways were not equal herein: And thus Solomon, The wickedness or foolishness of a man, perverts his own ways, and then his heart frets against the Lord, Prov. 19. 3.  As God has no pleasure in the death of a man repenting, so neither in the troubles, calamities, and sad afflictions he lies under: He does not afflict willingly; Were it not our rebellion and untowardness, we should not have so many stripes and scourges from Him: Oh this is an excellent way to humble ourselves in the dust; why should a living man complain for the punishment of his sins? Lam. 3.



Sermon 67

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way: Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways.”

Eze. 33:11


This text has informed us how unpleasing the death of a wicked man is to God. We now proceed to the inference made from that proposition, Therefore the wicked should turn from his evil ways.  Turn ye, turn ye.  The ingemination [repetition] denotes the vehement affection and desire of God, as also our stupidity and love to our sins, when once [God is] calling we will not awaken, but we must over and over again be called upon.  


Section 9, Sermon 68

Lastly, Those are [with] difficultly brought home to God, who are ensnared and entangled in wicked and ungodly company, who have ungodly relations, live in ungodly families: For whensoever such are invited to turn to God, then their carnal friends become impediments in their way…  


Section 9, Sermon 69

God does here invite the sinners of Israel in what quality soever, to turn to God; now this is a great encouragement, the very possibility of turning to God.  Ah, How justly might God strike you dead in your sins, send you with your goat blood to hell, and leave you hopeless and helpless?  But He has not shut the door against you: He has not yet bid you depart into everlasting fire, He knows you not.  It should be like oil in your bones to think such a thing may be.  O Lord, Is not my condition desperate?  Is there any hope left for me?  Am I not past all favor?  Is not my time spent?  Oh, What a mercy is this?

Thirdly, It is not only probable, but your turning to Him is very acceptable and welcome.  You are sure to have the door opened to you: Never any man turned to God that was put back again: Come unto me, ho, every one that thirsts come, come and buy without money, Isa. 55:1.  No man that comes unto me, will I in any wise cast off, John 6:37, so that this should be like fire in every sinner’s bowels.  Oh Lord, when men have been offended, and grievously injured, they many times become so implacable, that no submission, no satisfaction can content them.  But God after all the despite and disdain done unto Him, is willing to be reconciled: this goodness and mercy of God should abundantly change your heart.  And certainly you do not seriously and fully ponder these things in your heart, if you did, you would not a moment longer stay from running to Him: You would not only turn, but run to Him; Draw us, and we will run after you, prays the Church, Cant. 1.  God does not only powerfully over-rule the soul, but so sweetly inclines it to delight in good and holy objects, that when the heart has once tasted of the goodness of God, nothing can keep it from Him: Seeing therefore your turning unto God is so acceptable to Him, is so vehemently desired by Him, Why should it not make you shake off all slothfulness, and address yourself to Him?


Section 9, Sermon 72

First, The Israelites in the text, were sinners in as high a degree as ordinarily could be: If you regard the nature and quality of their sins, if the means against which they rebelled, the obstinacy and refractariness in them; all these things made them bloody and crimson sins; yet to these how pathetically and compassionately does God speak, Turn ye, turn ye! [Eze 33:11] and it is universal; He does not say, Turn ye only, that are sinners of such a degree, but as for the rest, they are incureable; but He speaks generally: So Jer. 3:7I said unto her, after she had done all these things, Turn ye unto me; and in that chapter many times, though they were an adulteress and a backsliding people, yet He invites her to return: Therefore let not that cast you down.


Sermon 74

but by the texts forementioned, and in several other places, its also evident, that even to those who are sinners, and remain in an unconverted estate, God reaches out his gracious offer in their troubles…


Sermon 75

Secondly, Turn now, because the day of Grace and salvation offered unto you, is as uncertain in continuance as your life.  Thus the Apostle, Behold, now is the time acceptable, now is the day of Salvation, 2 Cor. 6:2, therefore receive not the grace of God in vain: and our Savior, Work while ye have day, for the night is coming, and no man can then work, John 9:4.  If a black night for ordinances and the ministry should be coming upon you, the sun and the stars be turned into blood: Oh then, whither will you run? and what will you do? gather the manna therefore while it falls; come in while the door of Grace stands open: take heed of being like Esau, coming too late for a blessing, like Saul, that cannot have God answer him any way, by Urim, or Thummim, or any other manner…


Sermon 78

1. In their peremptory negation, And they said, there is no hope: Although it was God’s goodness to invite them to turn to Him, it was their advantage, not his; and although He threatens them with that evil he is preparing for them, yet they say, No: And herein their rude and obstinate rebellion is more evident, in that they make no excuses, pretend no reasons, but barely say, They will not turn unto God from their sins.  Those in our Savior’s parable, that were invited to a feast, though it was their great sin to make any thing in the world an impediment to their coming, yet they feigned reasons, and were willing to be excused; 


Section 12, Sermon 101

Use of Admonition; Let all those particular terms from which, and to which in this calling, be so many vehement motives and strong goads to obey this call.  Does God call you to your loss?  Does He offer you any wrong, when He invites you?  He calls you from a dungeon to a Palace, from hell to Heaven, from slavery to liberty, and yet will you refuse?  Oh you are a man of no reason, no consideration, no faith, else your heart would echo presently to God’s call!  Oh consider that as God has this gracious call inviting you; so He has dreadful terrible calls for those that refuse Him!  The Scripture tells of God’s calling for a Famine, of his calling for a Sword; God calls for judgments as well as for mercies; He that calls you now graciously, will one day call to the devils to torment, to the flames of hell eternally to scorch you.


Sermon 99

There is a twofold calling, one external only, consisting in the tender and offer of grace, inviting of men to come in; in which sense our Savior said, Many are called, but few are chosen. 

Secondly, Take notice of the full sufficiency and happiness of God, who thus calls you to communion with Him.  It is not for any want [lack] or indigency [unable to pay], that day by day He thus calls and invites you to come in: No, God is blessed, and all-sufficient: had He not created angels, or the visible world, He had been gloriously happy in the enjoying of himself, but yet out of his goodness He is willing to invite and call in men, that they also may be made happy; Christ in his parable expressed this, when He sent out his servants to invite men unto the feast, and when they refused then he sent for the lame and blind, Luke 14:21, such as He could have no need of, but they did exceedingly need Him; and so there is no day that God sends us his servants to invite you to this spiritual feast, but this consideration should wound you and make you ashamed: Oh why does God thus call me?  Why am I thus invited?  Is not God happy and glorious enough? though I perish and be damned in my sins?  What is man, Lord, and the son of man that thou shouldst be thus mindful of him? as if God could not be a God, a happy, blessed God, unless you also were brought into happiness.

Fourthly, this call of God, it does always speed.  There is a present hearing and obedience in those that are thus called.  Indeed there is an outward calling, and many who are so called do sinfully and wickedly reject it, and of such, few are saved comparatively;

In the next place consider the instrument of God’s call, and that is the preaching of the Word.  You may say, Where does God call, and when does the call, we have no immediate voice from Heaven speaking to us, How then can this be?  The answer is, God calls you by the ministers, we are ambassadors coming in his name to you; so that you who refuse them speaking the word of God, you refuse God Himself calling to you.  They are the voice of God crying, Prepare ye a way for the Lord; so that every Sabbath-day God calls you by the Ministers, and you that think that if you should have an immediate voice from Heaven calling to you, then you would obey and submit; know you would not do it, if you refuse the word of God delivered to you by the Ministry: Our Savior said, That they who would not believe Moses, nor the Prophets, neither would if one should rise from the dead, and come unto them, Lk. 16:29.  It is neither our calling or speaking, but Christ by us that you refuse and contemn; and how great and far your judgement will be who neglect this great salvation, the Scripture bids every man think within himself, Heb. 2:3.  Indeed there are many things have a voice to call us besides the Word; The Heavens and all the creatures are so many tongues calling unto us; The rod of affliction, that has a voice, and we are commanded to hear what that speaks; but the preaching of the word that is the powerful voice, and the immediate motions and inspirations of the Spirit accompanying it, these give life and quickening in speaking: That as God has a voice of the Trumpet and the Archangel, to raise men from the dead; so He has also of the Word, to raise men out of their security in sinning.  Thus you have the efficient and instrumental cause of God’s calling.  Many practical Uses [applications] may be made of this: As

First, To magnify and adore the love of God to mankind, that does vouchsafe such a gracious and merciful call to man fallen.  This is more than He has done to the apostate angels, Heb. 2:16.  To which of them has He appointed a word of Ministry and Reconciliation? not only the Priest and the Levite, but even the good Samaritan has passed by these, and taken no notice of them: yea come we to man, Is there not far the greater number of mankind, that though they have a witness enough to condemn them, yet have not the external offer and call of God?  The name of Christ and faith has not sounded within their coasts; yea come we closer still, How many thousands and thousands are there who have the outward call, but are wholly destitute of the inward call?

Use 2.  Of terrror to those who willfully resist the outward call of God.  God speaks once, twice, yea many times, and you hear not; Oh consider, that if you call your servant again, and again, if yet he will not come, you presently judge it disobedience and rebellion; How then shall God account of you otherwise?  Again, remember this time of God’s gracious calling is very uncertain; this may be the last day, the last hour: To day, if ye will hear, harden not your hearts; you have put off many days already, tremble exceedingly, lest this day of grace be setting in a black dismal night.  Lastly, consider, now God calls you, and you hear not; the day of death, and other miseries will be coming on you, when you will call on God, and He will mete your own measure to you: See Proverbs 1, and the latter end; then you will call to God, to Christ, to angels, to saints; and none will hear.


Sermon 100

First, and as it’s [divine calling] external, so it does primarily and principally lie in the preaching of the wordThe merciful and gracious invitation of sinners to come in by the Gospel, is the very essence of external calling: So that the word of God preached to you, whether it be in Commands, Promises or Threatenings, is to be received by you as the voice and calling of God from heaven to you: The Scripture commanding to leave such a sin, and obedience to such a duty; is as truly the voice and call of God, as any immediate extraordinary call that God ever vouchsafed to any; it’s as truly and as really, and with as much faith to be obeyed, though it be not so immediately and miraculously: As for example, Paul had this wonderful voice from heaven, Paul, Paul, why persecutest thou me?  Now every profane, ungodly man, has as really God’s voice from heaven by the word speaking to him, Turn, turn ye, why will ye die? [Eze. 33:11]  It’s said, when Jerusalem was so near its destruction, they had a call from heaven, saying, Migremus hinc, Let us depart hence: No less does every ungodly man hear everyday, when he is bid to depart from iniquity, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.  It’s noted as a great mercy of God to Lot, that He sent an Angel to call him out of Sodom, when fire and brimstone was immediately to be poured from heaven upon it; and whereas Lot delayed and delayed, the Angel even pulled him out, who was unwilling for his own good; This is a fit representation of our spiritual calling out of sin; the angels are the Ministers of God, that cry daily, Come out of the world, lest you partake of the judgments of the world; and men are so unwilling, they do so dearly love their Sodom, though it will cost them fire and brimstone, that we are to compel you out of it: This then is a main fundamental principle, introductory to our conversion, when we consider God as speaking and calling to us by his word, to look upon it as truly and really the call of God, as if there were immediate voices from heaven speaking to us by name: Heb. 10.  Christ is said still to speak to us from heaven; And how is that but by the word? and the Scripture is called The Word of God; God speaks it now, as well as at first when he commanded it to be written: Oh then tremble, lest you should be in the number of those who reject God calling of you: Should God send innumerable company of Angels from heaven to you, to call you out of your lusts, to the state of grace, it would not be more really (though more immediately) the voice of God, than what we out of the word declare unto you: This then undoes you, you do not believe God Himself by the word speaking to you, you do not think this is God’s voice, that He speaks thus and thus to me, and therefore you are still settled in a willful way of sinning.  Now the word preached is Gods calling:

First, instrumentally, as it’s the word of God, the word that comes out of his mouth: All the Ministers of God, faithfully discharging their trust, are voices crying unto you, Prepare a way for the Lord; and to preach is to be the Lord’s solemn herald, to offer peace to rebellious enemies, if they will come in; and if not, in a solemn and dreadful manner, to denounce his heavy wrath and curse: Look not then on ministers in their ambassage, as weak frail men, subject to the like passions with others, but as ambassadors, as coming in the name of God, that cry out, Thus says the Lord, Oh you sinner, wash you from your iniquity; thus says the Lord, and not man.  And

Secondly, The word preached does call men objectively; the matter of it is so precious, good, excellent and necessary, as that it does strongly invite every man…  If therefore ye would consider, both how great that infinite majesty is, who does call you; and what that bait is He does invite you to, even great and admirable privileges, this would excite in you such vehement and impatient desires after them, that all the lusts and pleasures of sin, would be accounted as dross and noisome vomit: Oh then think more and more, and consider of this calling.  Shall the Devil and lusts call, and you run after them, though into hell’s mouth? but God calls, and you refuse Him: Come unto me all ye that pass by, says the whorish woman; and in the same manner, every kind of sin, and how many venture into her snares!  But come unto me, says Christ, all ye that labor, and you shall find rest unto your souls, Matt 11[:28], in this men are refractory [obstinate, stubborn].

…hearing, is often put for obedience in the scripture: Thus, as Paul, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, Acts 26:19, so is every man when inwardly called, he does no longer resist and refuse the gracious offers of God, he stands it out no more; yea it grieves and troubles him at the very heart, that he has withstood the call of God so often; it might now be too late, God might justly refuse to hear him, as he refused to hear God.  Now this obedience unto God calling, has these properties:

First, Its a ready obedience: When once this powerful [inward] call manifests itself, there is no more disputing, there is no more arguings; It’s God that calls, I must obey: Indeed, the outward offer of grace is too often rejected, and many Antecedaneous motions to conversions are suffocated; but when God gives this last call [inward], then the dead come out of the grave and live; then says Paul, Immediately I consulted not with flesh and blood, Gal. 1.  


Section 12, Sermon 108

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matt 22:14

…The first word in the front, For, shows its connection with what was precedent, and is a parable largely propounded by our Savior for this end, to show the goodness of God in offering the word of grace to a people, and the different event of this in the hearers, some rejecting it, and that with great malice…  For by the feast here made, described to be a marriage-feast of a King’s Son, where all glory and pomp used to be shewn, is meant the privileges and grace of the Gospel that are tendered daily by the preaching of the Word unto you: sometimes that eternal blessedness and heavenly glory is compared in the Parables to a great feast, made by a chief and mighty man…  Now though thus great and admirable, yet see the rebellion and disobedience of the persons invited; some matter it not; some make excuses; some maliciously and cruelly handle the messengers: If you ask, Why? what is the matter?  What is the wrong done to them?  Nothing at all.  It’s because He gives this honour to them, to invite them to a Marriage Feast.  He does not come as an oppressour to them, requiring their estates, and goods, and lives, but He tenders them all comforts and refreshments; and for this kindness and condescension, they do thus ill requite Him;

To consider this point let us observe, What this outward calling is, and the event of it.  And because I have already shown, wherein the nature of the outward calling of God does consist, I shall only take so much as is implied in the similitude this parable does hold forth; for when we see Christ Himself fishing with such a suitable bait as this is, when He that is truth itself does use such expressions, Who can but believe? Who can but receive?

Sometimes it is called The Kingdom of Heaven, sometimes The rich Pearl that a man is to sell all for to obtain, and here to a great Marriage Feast.  By which resemblances the Spirit of God would raise up our thoughts and hearts, that we should have a high and great esteem of the Gospel preached.  Now though thus great and admirable, yet see the rebellion and disobedience of the persons invited; some matter it not; some make excuses; some maliciously and cruelly handle the messengers: If you ask, Why? what is the matter?  What is the wrong done to them?  Nothing at all.  It’s because he gives this honor to them, to invite them to a Marriage Feast.  

Now these expressions imply two things:

1. That there ought to be in all men a hungering and thirsting after Christ, and the privileges He offers.

Christ is said To knock at the door (the outward call here spoken of) and if any admit Him, He will come in and sup with him, Rev. 3:20.  So then you see, to be called to the graces and duties of the Gospel, is matter of great joy and comfort; Insomuch that the kingdom of Heaven is said to be in righteousnes, peace and joy in the holy Ghost, yea it’s called unspeakable joy and full of glory.  Oh then how great is the madness and folly of all recusants [persons who refuse to submit to authority or comply with a regulation] to this gracious offer!

Thirdly, Here is by this phrase implied: The great glory and honor that God would put on all those whom He calls.  He makes you his choice friend, and gives you this token of friendship; David expressing a friend, said, We ate bread together.  Haman, how did he boast when the King made a great feast for the Queen, And I am invited also, saith Haman.  And certainly we cannot be capable of greater honour, than to be called to this communion and fellowship with God, yea to this familiarity; hence all the faithful, as Abraham, are called God’s friends; Now were faith alive in men’s breasts, they would never refuse God’s calling, for is it not from slavery and bondage to an heavenly freedom?  Is it not from communion with the devil in his works of darkness, to society with God and his angels?

Thus you see how eminently this Parable sets forth the privileges of the Gospel in the tender thereof, you would wonder any in the world should refuse, that all did not come in by an holy violence: yet in the next place, see the sad event, how ill this love is requited…

Secondly, There are the sottish and stupid worldlings who have the Serpent’s curse on them, to feed only on the dust of the earth.  These make no matter of this gracious invitation; so in this Parable, and in another to this purpose, it is said, When they were called, that they had bought their fields and their oxen, Luke 14:19, and so they went to see their earthly possessions; and thus though Pharisees, who were covetous, are said To deride Christ, Luke 16:14.  As the earth of all elements is the heaviest, and inclines to the center; so these who mind earthly things have their thoughts and affections furthest off from God, and his calling.  These earthly affections do at first resist the very entrance of good affections, and if yet they be received, then they quickly choke them

Thirdly, There is a higher degree of wicked men, who do not only neglect and slight this call of God, but they do wickedly and cruelly abuse and persecute the very messengers that come to invite them.  As here in this parable, when they were called to the feast, They took the messengers, and some they mocked, and some they killed: Oh barbarous wickedness!  What is the hurt that is done to them?  They are invited to a feast, and for this they stone the messengers. Thus the prophets in all ages have been entertained: Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee! Matt 23:37.  Yea Christ the Son and Heir, He was put to death for inviting them to this feast: and was this wickedness only in the former times?  Is there not that venom and enmity in many men’s hearts?  What hurt do the ministers of God unto you?  Because they would reclaim you from your wickedness, save you from your lusts; this makes you embittered against them; forgive them this wrong.

Lastly, There are those who do not refuse, but come in upon invitation. They sit down at the feast, none finds fault with them; The messengers they admit him, the fellow-guests they eat with him, only the Lord, He spies him without a wedding garment: Now by such an one is meant all those who have an external profession of Christ, and so enjoy all the outward privileges in the Church, none may prohibit them; yet for all that are without a wedding garment, and at last to be cast out.  And this is properly the person externally called that I intend to treat on: As for the other, they are only called on God’s part, there is no manner of consent on their part.

Use of Instruction. How inexcusable all they will be, who refuse God calling?  Is it not to a feast, to matter of satisfaction, delight, plenty and honour?  Why then do you reject this call?  Go at the day of Judgement, and say, O Lord, it is true, I was invited, I was convinced, I saw it was better to obey than not; but my present lusts, my present pleasures, they drew me aside: say unto God, unto Christ, unto angels, I know you were better company, more glory and happiness there was with you, yet I forsake you to be tormented with the Devil and his angels to all eternity.


Sermon 109

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matt 22:14

The persons called by God, who yet are not chosen, are of two sorts, as you heard:

First, Those, who, though so graciously invited, do yet obstinately and peremptorily refuse, and these are actively only called on God’s part.

The second sort is of those who do give consent, and yield to their call, but because they do not rise up fully to all that is required, therefore they are cast away.

[Note the passive language “yield”.  One can only yield, that is give in, to a force or will acting upon oneself for a certain purpose.  This implies that the call in the gospel is a positive will and influence to the hearer.]


To open this Doctrine, let us consider,

First, Wherein lies this outward obedience to God’s call, which yet is ineffectual; for can any thing more concern you, than that you should not be Christians in vain? that all your praying, and frequenting of holy duties, may not be in vain? that God may not take you from this feast, as Haman was from his, in which he so much boasted, to be put into confusion, and everlasting fear?

Sixthly, those that are called, but not chosen, they are forward for the privileges of this calling, but not the duties of the callingThe Jews had many privileges by their outward calling, they were thereby the people of God, Gods presence and power was among them.  The apostle, Rom. 9:4, reckons up many prerogatives every Jew had by being a member of that Church; and thus under the New Testament, every one externally called, though not inwardly sanctified, partakes of many advantages; The promise is made to him and his seed, he is within the outward administration of the Covenant, he is accounted of the Church, and the body of Christ…



Sermon 110

Now the plain meaning of this Parable is thus much, I am called to be a Christian, I am invited to the precious feast and dainties of the Gospel; now if I go to them, and accept of them, my conscience tells me, I must live the life of a Christian, I must not dishonor that Christ, whose servant and disciple I profess myself to be…


Sermon 111

Few are chosen, yet those things are likewise true, Whosoever shall believe, whosoever shall repent, shall be saved; And Whosoever comes unto Christ he will in no wise cast out.  Therefore this election of God does not infringe those universal promises and invitations that the Scripture holds out.  Neither may a man thus query, Am I elected or reprobated?  But, Is it my duty to repent or not?  Is it my duty to draw nigh unto God or not?  And therefore you may observe, That those who hold Absolute Election, can go as far in administering comfort to any troubled sinner, as those that hold Universal Grace or Redemption…

To this we answer: That howsoever it be God’s sovereign good pleasure to choose some and not others, yet a man’s damnation is wholly of himself in respect of the meritorious cause; for no man is damned precisely, because God has not chosen him, because he is not elected, but because he is a sinner, and does wilfully refuse the means of grace offered: insomuch that there is no sinner, but he does as willingly and readily sin with as much choice and delight, as if he were not at all left by God; and therefore the Scripture does wholly attribute a man’s destruction to his own self…


Sermon 119

So the promise here, is that gracious Covenant of God, whereby He offers grace to those that do accept it; now those that accept it are such as are inwardly sanctified, and these have the inward Covenant as well as the outward administration of it.  But secondly, others do only outwardly accept of it, and profess their obedience to it, are not inwardly regenerated, and these only have the external Covenant, and a right to Church-privileges, being destitute of the saving benefit by them: So that this promise of grace in the outward offer of it, as also in the Church-privileges, are dispensed to such, who sometimes have an external profession only, but are without the inward efficacy of it.



Sermon 120

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Acts 2:39

In the third place, take notice of a twofold saving callingThe one is only external, and saving in respect of the ability and sufficiency; the other is saving effectually, and in respect of the event.  Now when the apostle says in the text, As many as God shall call, it comprehends both; those that are called effectually, as well as outwardly: they have not only the outward administration of the promise, and the privileges thereof, but all the inward profit thereof; on the other side, those that have only the outward call, they have only external privileges: And as Ishmael had many gifts from Abraham, but not the inheritance; so have these many favors and privileges from God, both for themselves, and their posterity, but none of the inheritance itself.  Now you may understand the doctrine of both these calls, not all of mankind are called with so much as an outward call, and of those that are called with an outward call, not many, but few are called with an inward call; according to that text, Many are called, but few are chosen: So then, behold the wise and dreadful ways of God herein; not the greatest, but the least part of mankind are called with this outward invitation; and of those who enjoy this outward invitation, not the greatest, but the least part partake of the inward power and efficacy thereof.

Fourthly, It’s no injustice in God, though He do not give this universal call of grace to all men: For this has been the stumbling block at which many have fallen: How can God (say they) be proclaimed so merciful, an ocean of all honey, in whom is no gall? how can He be so compassionate, and full of tender bowels, yet not give the greatest part of mankind so much as a saving call outwardly; especially how are all those texts made true, God would have all men to be saved [1 Tim. 2:4]; and, I delight not in the death of a sinner, but that rather he should be converted and live [Eze. 33:11];…  

But Secondly, even reason enforced out of Scripture, may satisfy us in many things; for it’s no injustice in God, if He had not called any men in the world with a gracious call

Use of Exhortation, Come and behold the severity and goodness of God, as Paul in the like case; the severity of God, in that he passes over so many persons and nations in the world; and his goodness, in that he draws nigh to you; you are in the Land of Goshen, when others are in Egyptian darkness: This has amazed and astonished all the wisest men in the world, they have not been able to know what to say at this difference God makes; yea, many times God does not vouchsafe the offer of grace to such a people, who in all probability would be more affected with it, and gives it to such who refuse and reject it: How unsearchable is his wisdom, and his ways past finding out!  Does not our Savior tell the men of Capernaum, that had the wonderful means of graceMatt 11:31, If those things had been done in Tyre and Sidon (two heathenish places) they would have repented in dust, in ashes?  Its thought, true repentance and conversion is not here meant; but palpable and sensible demonstrations they would have made of some sorrow and humiliation; and therefore Christ threatens to take away the Kingdom of heaven from the Jews; viz. The Gospel, and give it to a nation bringing forth fruit better than they: Oh consider then, whether the very Heathens and Pagans would not give more respect, and show more joy at the word preached than you do: Take heed, for there are none further off grace, than those that have been called, and yet reject it: There is more hopes of those to whom the Gospel was never rendered; for those heavy judgments of an eye blinded, a heart hardened, do only belong to those that have refused this word of life: Then such are only fatted to destruction, who have been fed in these pleasant pastures of the Ordinances.


The Godly Man’s Choice, 1659

p. 27-28, this quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

2. If it should be granted that those temporal mercies you abound with, come from the light of his countenance, yet it is only in temporal things.  If we do suppose that they come from God’s love to you, yet this is but a common and general love: It does not at all make to your peculiar happiness, neither does it tend to the special favor of God.  It may not be denied, but God from a common love to men, who have been just and diligent in their ways, may bestow some outward mercies, as a temporal reward.  Thus Austin thought the Romans had that great Dominion given them, because of their justice.  And so the Scripture says, a diligent hand makes rich, Prov. 10:4.  But what is this common love without a special?  What is it for God so to love you, as to make you strong, healthy, wealthy, and not give Christ and Heaven to you?  Oh, therefore rest not in the enjoying of these outward mercies, but look to that which is the chiefest of all!  If you have grace, pardon of sin, and Christ, you cannot be damned; but if you have the great things of this world, you may have also the great torments of Hell hereafter.  As Ishmael had of Abraham, some rich gifts, but not the Inheritance: As Luther said, of the great Turkish Empire, which God has given to wicked and ungodly men, it’s but mica [Latin unclear] canis, a crum that the dog may have, but not the Children’s Bread.

3. Let it be given to wicked men thus, from a common love, yet it is withal from God’s anger and hatred, if you do regard them in a spiritual consideration.  For, they are not sanctified to them; they are not thereby made more holy, or drawn nearer to God.  They do become snares and occasions of sins to them: so that they will at the Day of Judgment, even curse the day that ever they had such abundance.  They will cry out, Oh that they had been poor, miserable, deformed!  That they had been under any calamity, than that they had such abundance; for that has made Hell seven times hotter: That has been like oil poured into the flame, which has made the first burn more terribly.  That which Solomon observed of wealth, (Eccl. 5:13) is true of all other outward mercies, Beauty, Strength, Honors; How often are they given to the hurt of them that have them?  Thus David’s imprecation is fulfilled in them, Let their Table become a snare unto them.  As too much blood endangers the body: especially these outward mercies are sure to be a snare to them; because they hinder and oppose all those Christian Qualifications which are absolutely necessary to every Disciple of Christ.  Thus it’s required, that a man must love Christ more than Father or Mother, or life itself; that he must deny himself, and take up his Cross.  All which cannot be, because of immoderate love to these outward mercies.  This is the Camel’s bunch; This is that which chokes the Word.  The Pharisees, because they were covetous, derided Christ.  If then, you comfort yourselves, because God has given you all outward fullness; examine how these are sanctified to you.  What spiritual effects do these mercies bring upon you?  Do you not pray the worse, hear the worse?  Are not your hearts the more distracted and divided?  Does not the earth make you forget Heaven?  Oh then, be afraid and tremble at these things, rather than confidently rejoice in them!  Did not Abraham tell Dives [the rich man], He had received good things in this life? but for eternity, he was not to receive so much, as a drop of water.  Pray unto God, that all these good things be not given you here, and you have nothing hereafter.



Spiritual Refining: or A Treatise of Grace and Assurance, 1652 (reprint edition: Ames, Iowa, 1990)

Section 3, Sermon 26

[Burgess below is speaking of conversion.  He says that Christ died and suffered for those who He invites through the gospel to salvation.  It does not appear that he means by this that the particular sins of those people were imputed to Him on the cross, as Burgess nowhere else (to the webmaster’s knowledge) speaks of a General Atonement, and all the rest of his writings are consistent with Limited Atonement.  Thus, it is likely, as the context shows, that Burgess intends that Christ had a merciful and loving design (though non-expiatory) in his death to all those to whom He invites to salvation through the gospel.]

You have this notably cleared Matt 19:25.  Where our Savior showing that it was as impossible for a rich man to be saved, as a camel to go through the eye of a needle: because it’s hard to have riches, and not to trust in them, or love them immoderately… Oh beloved, while we look upon God’s gracious promises, and Christ’s merciful invitations, while we think of his love in dying and suffering for us, we are apt to think it a very easy attainable thing to be saved, and no question the disciples looked on these considerations, else they would not have so startled, and been so amazed at Christ’s doctrine…




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