April 30, 2012

Anthony Burgess (d.1644) on Common Love and Outward Mercies

2. If it should be granted that those temporal mercies thou aboundest with, come from the light of his countenance, yet it is only in temporal things. If we do suppose that they come from Gods love to thee, yet this is but a common and general love: It doth not at all make to thy peculiar happiness, neither doth it tend to the special favour 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 Romanes had that great Dominion given them, because of their justice. And so the Scripture saith, a diligent hand maketh rich, Prov. 10.4. But what is this common love without a special? What is it for God so to love thee, as to make thee strong, healthy, wealthy, and not give Christ and Heaven to thee? Oh, therefore rest not in the enjoying of these outward mercies, but look to that which is the chiefest of all! If thou hast grace, pardon of sin, and Christ, thou canst not be damned; but if thou have the great things of this world, thou mayest 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 hath given to wicked and ungodly men, it's but mica [Latin unclear] canis, a crumb 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 Gods 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, then that they had such abundance; for that hath made Hell seven times hotter: That hath been like oil poured into the flame, which hath made the first burn more terribly. That which Solomon observed of wealth, (Eccl. 5.13.) is true of all other outward mercies, Beauty, Strength, Honours; 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 then 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 Camels bunch; This is that which chokes the Word. The Pharisees, because they were covetous, derided Christ. If then, you comfort yourselves, because God hath 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? Doth 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, 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 they good things be not given thee here, and thou have nothing hereafter.
Anthony Burgess, The Godly Man's Choice (London, Printed by Abraham Miller for Thomas Underhill at the Signe of the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard, 1659), 27–28. [some spelling updated and modernized]


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