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Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Anthony Burgess

Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. Anthony Burgess.

THIS laborious and much distinguished puritan divine, was the son of a learned schoolmaster at Watford in Hartfordshire, and received his education in St. John’s college, Cambridge, from which he was chosen to a fellowship in Emanuel college, merely for his merit as a scholar. He was much esteemed in the university for his piety and learning, and likewise for his superior tutorship and powers of disputation. Mr. Burgess afterwards became pastor of the church of Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire; where his exemplary life, and conscientious labors, soon procured him an excellent reputation; and here he continued, diligently discharging the duties of his office, till the civil war had commenced, that the royal army, by plundering, insulting, and otherwise maltreating and threatening him and his family, forced them to retire to Coventry for safety. The officers of the king’s army were chiefly men of dissolute lives, who made a jest of religion; and the privates, having no regular pay, lived for the most part by plundering the people. When they took possession of a town, they rifled the houses of all who were accounted puritans; nor were they nice in their discriminations when occasions were pressing. Mr. Baxter says, “That after the battle of Edgehill, more than thirty worthy divines had retired to Coventry for safety from the soldiers and the fury of the rabble. The popular preachers, and persons of pious and godly lives, were the greatest sufferers; while such as prayed in their families, were heard singing psalms or repeating sermons, were accounted rebels, and most severely handled.” At the time that Mr. Burgess fled to the garrison of Coventry, it was full of men of this description, who had a lecture every morning, in which service lie took his regular course. About this time he was called to sit in the assembly of divines at Westminster, where he was generally and greatly esteemed for his solid learning and judicious deportment. He was repeatedly called to preach before the parliament, at their fasts and other public occasions. He was for some time preacher at Lawrencejury, and earnestly solicited, by the London ministers, to give a course of lectures against the antinomian errors of these/ times; which sermons were afterwards published at the request of the learned body at whose solicitation they had been given. “We, the president and fellows of Sion college, London, earnestly desire Mr. Anthony Burgess to publish in print his elaborate and judicious lectures upon the law and the covenants, against the antinomian errors of these times, which, at our entreaty, he hath preached, and for which we give him hearty thanks, so that the kingdom at large, as well as this city, may reap the benefits of those his learned labors. Dated at Sion college, June 11th 1646, at a general meeting of the ministers of London there assembled. Arthur Jackson, President, in name and by appointment of the rest.”

In 1538, one John Agricola, a native of Eisleben, made a declaration of his sentiments, wherein lie maintained, that the law was neither fit to be proposed to the people as a rule of life, nor to be used in the church as a mean of instruction; and that the gospel alone ought to be inculcated and explained, both in the churches and in the schools. The followers of this man were called antinomians, from their opposition to the law. They hold, that the law has neither use nor obligation under the economy of grace; and the tenor of their doctrines evidently supersede the necessity of good works and a holy life. These antinomian tenets were greatly prevalent in England during and part of the seventeenth century. Dr. Crisp, who was born at, London in 1600, was an enthusiastic asserter of these opinions; and the publication of his Posthumous Works occasioned much disputation in the country. But Mr. Burgess unmasked and refuted them, in the most satisfactory manner, by his lectures at Laurencejury. Having finished his labors at London, he returned to discharge the duties of his pastoral office at Suttou Coldfield, where he remained till 1662, that he was ejected by the act of conformity; after which he spent the remainder of his days in great comfort, piety, and respect. Before he left his place, the new bishop of Coventry and Litchfield sent for him, as he also did for several other worthy divines of his diocese, hoping to gain them over to the prelatical order; and though he failed in his design, he was so candid as to express his good opinion concerning them. Of Mr. Burgess he said, “That he was fit to fill a professor’s chair in an university.” Fuller says, in his account of Emanuel college, “Among the learned writers of this college I have omitted many who are still alive, as Mr. Anthony Burgess, the profitable expounder of the much mistaken nature of the two covenants.” Dr. Wilkins enrolls him among the most eminent of the English divines for sermons and practical divinity. Dr. Cotton Mather says, in his Student and Preacher, “Of A. Burgess, I may say, he has wrote for thee excellent things.”

His works are, 1. The Difficulties of, and Encouragements to, Reformation—2. Judgments Removed where Judgment is Executed.’1—3. The Magistrate’s Commission from Heaven.— 4. Rome’s Cruelty and Apostacy.—5. The Reformation of the Church more to be endeavored than that of the Commonwealth.—6. Public Affections Pressed.—7. Vindicaa Legis, or a Vindication of the Moral Law and the Covenants, from the errors of: Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and more especially Antinomians.—8. The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted and Vindicated. 9. A Treatise on Justification.—10. Spiritual Refining.’—11. One hundred and fortyfive Expository Sermons.—12. The Doctrine of Original Sin.—13. The Scripture Directory for Church Officers and People.—14. Commentary on the whole first chapter of 2 Cor.

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