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