Archives For Richard Sibbes

* Note: I will do the random drawing for the winner of January’s giveaway tomorrow, and I will announce the winner Monday. If you do not have your name on the list, be sure to sign up by tomorrow by commenting on the introductory post!

As I shared in my introductory post to the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge, the goal behind the reading is precisely the goal of the Puritans, namely that it would be useful to your Christian life. No doctrine is without application, and no truth is not without uses. As the Puritans were passionate about not only rightly dividing God’s Word but also rightly applying it to their lives (i.e. “experimental” Christianity), so we too want to follow in that tradition of being doers and not hearers (or readers!) only.

The purpose of this post is to serve as an open thread for you to respond by sharing how The Bruised Reed has encouraged and ministered to you. More specifically, it would be great if you could answer the question,

“What use(s) will The Bruised Reed have in your personal relationship with Christ and/or your ministry in the future?”

In 500 words or less, please take a moment and exhale what you have inhaled for the past month. Let others hear what God has taught you, challenged you, helped you, or provoked you. Perhaps your words could be an encouragement and inspiration to others.

Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts!

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Richard Sibbes in Review

Tim Brister —  January 31, 2008 — 2 Comments

Below is a compilation of posts on Richard Sibbes covered here on P&P as part of the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. Later tonight, I have scheduled the final post for January, the open thread where you will have an opportunity to post your thoughts on The Bruised Reed. I look forward to hearing how the book has impacted your life and/or ministry!

Richard Sibbes in Review

1. Who Is Richard Sibbes?
2. Richard Sibbes on the Webb
3. What Others Have Said about Richard Sibbes
4. Blogspotting the Puritan Challenge, 1
5. Puritan Reading Challenge Book Giveaway (January)
6. About Those Bruised Reeds – Discussion 1
7. Osteen Endorses the Puritan Reading Challenge
8. About Those Smoking Flax – Discussion 2
9. Interview with Mark Dever on Richard Sibbes (download here)
10. Blogspotting the Puritan Challenge, 2
11. “What Does Your Heart Say About Christ?” Sibbes and Piper on the Affections
12. The Bruised Reed Since 1630
13. Mining the Works of Richard Sibbes
14. What Shall We Say Then? – Discussion 3
15. Don’t Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True, Says Sibbes

** Calling for Truth Radio Show – Richard Sibbes and The Bruised Reed (download here)

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You might be thinking, “Timmy, that’s Elvis, not Sibbes! You are just stuck on Sibbes.” Okay, maybe, but . . .

On the Calling for Truth radio show yesterday, the first caller (I believer her name was Gwen) made a wonderful confession–that she had been told that the Puritans were hard, dry, boring, and strict–you know, the kind of people who think it is more spiritual to be sour than sweet. Well, she was obviously impressed by the tenderness and pastoral sensitivity of Richard Sibbes in his care for the souls of men and women in their state.

I think her perception of the Puritans has been popularized by many today to the point that folks are expecting to find unhappy legalists from the Puritan divines. Of course, this could not be further form the truth! Sibbes is a great example of the kind of sweetness and tenderness you find from the Puritans. Here are just some of the quotes I retrieved from The Bruised Reed to make my point:

Sibbes the Sweet Dropper

“Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgment upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who `was bruised for us’ (Isa. 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him” (5).

“Let this support us when we feel ourselves bruised. Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever enter into heaven. Think when in temptation, Christ was tempted for me; according to my trials will be my graces and comforts. If Christ be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair, nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces” (10).

“We must beware of false reasoning, such as: because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all. By false conclusions we may come to sin against the commandment in bearing false witness against ourselves” (35).

Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavors. But when, with faithful endeavor, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, as we said before, with endeavor of growth, is our perfection” (52).

“Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him. `Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden’ (Matt. 11:28). Why should we not make use of so gracious a disposition?” (61)

“When we are troubled in conscience for our sins, Satan’s manner is then to present Christ to the afflicted soul as a most severe judge armed with justice against us. But then let us present him to our souls as offered to our view by God himself, holding out a scepter of mercy, and spreading his arms to receive us” (62).

“Again, considering this gracious nature in Christ, let us think with ourselves thus: when he is so kind to us, shall we be cruel against him in his name, in his truth, in his children?” (73)

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Furthermore, allow me to post a few quotes on true happiness. In this sense, Sibbes was a true 17th century Christian hedonist!

Sibbes the Christian Hedonist

“Only those that will take his yoke and count it a greater happiness to be under his government than to enjoy any liberty of the flesh; that will take whole Christ, and not single out of him what may stand with their present contentment; that will not divide Lord from Jesus, and so make a Christ of their own, may make this claim” (80).

“Where Christ is, all happiness must follow” (107).

“The happiness of weaker things stands in being ruled by stronger. It is best for a blind man to be guided by him that has sight. It is best for sheep, and other feckless creatures, to be guided by man. And it is happiest for man to be guided by Christ, because his government is so victorious that it frees us from the fear and danger of our greatest enemies, and tends to bring us to the greatest happiness that our nature is capable of. This should make us rejoice when Christ reigns in us” (108).

Happy men will they be who have, by Christ’s light, a right judgment of things, and suffer that judgment to prevail over their hearts” (112).

“And it is our happiness that it is so safely hid in Christ for His, in one so near to God and us” (116-17).

“Let us strive a little while, and we shall be happy for ever” (123).

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The only question, then, is, “Are you happy in Jesus?”

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Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to talk with Pastor Kevin Boling, talk show host of Calling for Truth, about tomorrow’s radio show in which we will be talking about the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge and more importantly Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed.  What is exciting is not only that Kevin in on the challenge, but he has encouraged folks in his church to join as well – even purchasing a set for the library for folks to check out and read if they cannot purchase them for themselves.  How cool is that?!

I know that many of you will either be in school or tied up at work, but if you have the opportunity, I want to encourage you to listen in.  More than that, I want to ask you to join me in discussing The Bruised Reed by calling in and sharing your thoughts and questions.

Here’s the deal.  It is a live radio broadcast from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST, and you can listen two ways:

1.  If you live in SC or parts of NC, GA, or TN, you can listen in at Talk 660.
2.  If you are like me and live elsewhere, you can listen online by going here.

The toll-free number to call in is 1.888.660.9535, and if the lines are busy just call back (they might be full).   It would be great to have as many of you on the show as possible as I am sure there is much more to be said and discussed than I could bring to the table.  Plus, I would much rather listen and hear from others than be on the mic.  :)

In the days ahead, I will put together a summary post of all the stuff I have written on Richard Sibbes, and included in that post will be the MP3 of the Calling for Truth radio show that can be downloaded for your keeps.  I am excited and grateful for Calling for Truth for giving us the opportunity to spread the word about the Puritan Reading Challenge, but more importantly, for helping amplify the importance of knowing our Savior, His gospel, and the church through our faithful guides from the 17th century.

So don’t forget!  Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. EST.  Hope to see you there!

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There are numerous places that I would like to continue the discussion regarding The Bruised Reed, but time is running out and February is right around the corner. I would like to post one more, however, from Sibbes’ chapter on “Quench Not the Spirit.”

Excerpt from Sibbes

Instead of putting a detailed outline, I would like to quote Sibbes at length to set the stage for the discussion. Below is a portion of his section dealing with “Presuming on Christ’s Mercy.” Sibbes writes (emphasis mine):

“You know the apostle’s prohibition, notwithstanding, `Quench not the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19). Such cautions of not quenching are sanctified by the Spirit as a means of not quenching. Christ performs his office in not quenching by stirring up suitable endeavors in us; and there are none more solicitous in the use of the means than those that are most certain of their good success. The reason is this: the means that God has set apart for the effecting of any thing are included in the purpose that he has to bring that thing to pass. And this is a principle taken for granted, even in civil matters; for who, if he knew before that it would be a fruitful year, would therefore hang up his plough and neglect tillage?

Hence the apostle stirs us up from the certain expectation of a blessing (1 Cor. 15:57-58), and this encouragement from the good issue of victory is intended to stir us up, and not to put us off. If we are negligent in the exercise of grace received and the use of the means prescribed, suffering our spirits to be oppressed with many and various cares of this life, and take not heed of the discouragements of the times, for this kind of neglect God in his wise care suffers us often to fall into a worse condition in our feelings than those that were never so much enlightened. Yet in mercy he will not suffer us to be so far enemies to ourselves as wholly to neglect these sparks once kindled. Were it possible that we should be given up to abandon all endeavor wholly, then we could look for no other issue but quenching; but Christ will tend this spark and cherish this small seed, so that he will always preserve in the soul some degree of care.

. . . As we look, therefore, for the comfort of this doctrine, let us not favor our natural sloth but exercise ourselves rather to godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), and labour to keep this fire always burning upon the altar of our hearts. Let us dress our lamps daily, and put in fresh oil, and wind up our souls higher and higher still. Resting in a good condition is contrary to grace, which cannot but promote itself to a further measure. Let none turn this grace `into lasciviousness’ (Jude 4). Infirmities are a ground of humility, not a plea for negligence, nor an encouragement to presumption. We should be so far from being evil because Christ is good that those coals of love should melt us. Therefore those may well suspect themselves in whom the consideration of this mildness of Christ does not work that way” (69-72).

I find this passage in The Bruised Reed to be one of the most important parts of his treatise, because it is here that Christ’s offices and promises could be taken advantage of and the promises of God presumed upon in a deadly way. Let me set the table for discussion.

Personal Commentary

Sibbes present the person of Christ as a gentle Savior with tender words–a Savior who is meek and mild in heart. If there is mercy to be found anywhere, Sibbes rightly argues, it is found in Jesus Christ. To be sure, there is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us (13). Perhaps Sibbes was thinking of Paul, when speaking to the Romans, stated,

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21).

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more! Is that not a wondrous comfort to those who are bruised by the misery of their sin? Yet, consider how some may twist such sweet sayings to rationalize their own sinful pursuits:

“I can go ahead and do it because God will forgive me anyway.”
“God loves me no matter what, so _____________ .”
“If God’s love towards me is unconditional, then it does not matter that I _____________ .”

Do you see where I am getting? If there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, then someone might argue that we can be great sinners, and Christ’s mercy will be greater still! Or, in Paul’s quote, we can increase in sin because grace will abound all the more!

Paul recognized this line of thinking, and the very next verse following Romans 5:21, he writes,

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2)

What Paul was arguing regarding our right response to God’s grace, Sibbes was arguing in our right response in not quenching the Holy Spirit in presuming upon the mercy that is in Christ. Rather than thinking that such a mild and tender Savior as a license or loose living, Sibbes affectionately tells us that such tenderness should stir us up to “suitable endeavors,” to “exercise ourselves for the purpose of godliness,” to give ourselves to the “right use of means,” and to “labour to keep the fire burning always upon the altar of our hearts.”

The mercy found in Christ should never encourage us to be slothful in pursuing holiness, but quite the contrary. For in Romans 12:1, it says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It should be the mercies of God, when in full view, that should lead us to offer ourselves entirely to God as a sacrifice. The mercy we found when we first saw Christ our Redeemer brought about genuine repentance and faith as a response to such richness of mercy and greatness of love, and such a response of repentance and faith never ceases until we are perfected in glory.

Because we know that Christ will cherish the little spark in us does not give us freedom to live in a contrary manner. In the words of Paul, “May it never be!” Instead of presuming upon God’s mercy with indifference or apathy, we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12-13), knowing that such a working is brought about both by God’s will and working within us and by the uniting of our affections and will to walk in obedience to God’s commands which have been sweetened by grace. When we labor and grow in Christ, we confess with the apostle Paul that we are what we are by the grace of God, for it was not us, but the grace of God that is with us (1 Cor. 15:10). Such grace does not merely provide a free ticket to heaven and the freedom to live as you choose; rather, such grace works with such perseverance to carry us upward and onward into deeper humility, greater dependence, and higher affections for treasuring Jesus Christ until that day.

Discussion

1. Sibbes several times mentioned the use of means in this excerpt. What are some examples of such means that are prescribed to prevent us (and others) from presuming upon God’s mercy and grace?

2. What would you say to the person who views salvation as a “Get out of hell free” ticket? How would you counsel the unconverted sinner who simply wants to be “left off the hook” and adopt a minimalist attitude to the Christian life? (Feel free to use Sibbes’ quotes if you like.)

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