About Those Bruised Reeds – Discussion 1

So here’s the deal. I am going to post some random discussion posts for anyone who would like to talk about the portion of the book I cover here. Each month, I am going to wait until the 15th (or two weeks) before posting discussion posts so that everyone will have a chance to get some reading done. Obviously, there is no way that we can discuss everything in the book, so I am going to my selective and sometimes random. My guess is that I will post somewhere between 4-6 discussion posts for each month, but don’t hold me to it!

An Outline of Chapters 1-2:

> Text: Isaiah 42:1-3

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

> Thesis:

“In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals” (7).

> The Promises of God in Christ:

A. As seen in the Trinitarian work of redemption, our grounds of comfort:

“What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ! . . . Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, an in him God’s love, and build our faith safely on such a Saviour that is furnished with so high a commission. See here, for our comfort, a sweet agreement of all three persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies it, and Christ himself executes the office of Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity” (2).

B. As seen in Christ’s offices:

“As a prophet, he came with blessings in his mouth . . .” (8).
“He came to die as a priest for his enemies” (8).
“He is a meek king; he will admit mourners into his presence . . .” (8).
“He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart” (8).

[Commentary]

See here how Christocentric and Trinitarian Sibbes is! His focus is preeminently on Christ, his character, offices, and work of redemption. Other times you will hear Sibbes speak of Christ as Mediator, Friend, Husband, Shepherd, and Brother. It is clear that he wants us to be assured and comforted that God is for us in His Son wherein all the promises of God, even the one in Isaiah 42:1-3, are “yes and amen” to the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:20). The starting point we must have is not our corruption but God’s character which is infinitely good, loving, and faithful.

> The Bruised Reeds:

A. Who Are the Bruised Reeds:

“The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another . . .” (3-4).

The bruised reed represents a man who experiences the time “when conscience is once awakened, all former sins and present crosses join together to make the bruise the more painful” (11).

B. Bruising Before Conversion:

“This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by levelling [sic] all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. . . . Our hearts, like criminals, until they are beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the Judge” (4).

C. Bruising After Conversion:

“After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy” (5).

D. Counsel for Bruised Reeds:

“Hence we should learn that we must not pass too harsh judgment upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising” (5).

“Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, ‘If I may but touch his garment’ (Matt. 9:21)” (9).

E. The Goal of Bruising – That We Might Treasure Christ!

“A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as (1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had; and (2) that we reform that which is amiss, though it be the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye” (12).

“But if we have this for a foundation of truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, or pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things” (12-13).

Discussion:

1. A bruised reed is “sensible of sin and misery,” but how does a sinner come to this point? We know that sinners often have a seared conscience, hard heart, and depraved mind. So how does the Spirit of God bring about the bruising before conversion?

2. Sibbes’ argued that God bruises after conversion, to deal with indwelling sin and corruption. Have you ever experienced such post-conversion bruising? Care to share?

May we all feel the weight of the words, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us”! Are you bruised? Be of good comfort. He calls you . . . to treasure Him, sweetest of all. O that we may taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8)!

Amen.

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8 Comments on “About Those Bruised Reeds – Discussion 1”

  1. Jerry Says:

    2. Sibbes’ argued that God bruises after conversion, to deal with indwelling sin and corruption. Have you ever experienced such post-conversion bruising?

    Yes

    Care to share?

    Not particularly, except to say that it wasn’t pleasant, but it was needful.

  2. David Says:

    1. A bruised reed is “sensible of sin and misery,” but how does a sinner come to this point? We know that sinners often have a seared conscience, hard heart, and depraved mind. So how does the Spirit of God bring about the bruising before conversion?

    The WCF Larger Catechism Q&A 155 deals well with this point when it asks:
    “How is the word made effectual to salvation?”
    A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preachng of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing nigh unto Christ … etc.

    Acts 2:37Now when they heard this (ie, the Gospel), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

    The great need, then, for the lost is that they hear the word, and that word preached. Reymond puts it well “he saves by the Spirit’s direct and immediate operation by and with the Word upon the soul.” (Systematic Theology. P. 472)

    2. Like Jerry says “Yes” and “Not particularly” 🙂 Suffice to say that it involved humiliation for pride. I am pleasantly aware now of my reed status and am not an oak.

  3. Dave Bignell Says:

    1. A bruised reed is “sensible of sin and misery,” but how does a sinner come to this point? We know that sinners often have a seared conscience, hard heart, and depraved mind. So how does the Spirit of God bring about the bruising before conversion?

    This is a great question,…its simple and complex at the same time. We’re all aquainted with misery, a basic element of the human condition. But how do you know sin apart from the law? Both realizations must come together (realization of sin and misery over it) and man must come to an end of himself. I know that’s kinda how it went with me,…after a youth of hard living. When I think of the Apostle Paul, I wonder of the type of ‘goads’ that he felt before he met Christ along the road?


  4. Good thoughts, Timmy. It’s a real blessing to go back over Sibbes in a bit of finer detail and revisit parts of the book already read. Here’s a few of my meandering thoughts on your questions:

    1. A bruised reed is “sensible of sin and misery,” but how does a sinner come to this point? We know that sinners often have a seared conscience, hard heart, and depraved mind. So how does the Spirit of God bring about the bruising before conversion?

    It’s amazing to see God soften unbelievers, through His Holy Spirit applying the Word. From pastoral experience I’ve witnessed God do this bruising work in the hearts of the unconverted. At first there can be a sense of resistance and resentment as the individual becomes ‘sensible of sin and misery’. This can be expressed through anger or avoidance, but it is clear that God is sovereignly doing a work. Eventually this can lead to deep and sutained grief over sin. I’ve witnessed folks in almost physical distress as the conviction of sin bruises and troubles them. One woman whom I know came to the preaching services in our church and went home most Sunday nights weeping. When she eventually came to faith she expressed relief to belong to Christ and feel the weight of the conviction of sin lifted.

    2. Sibbes’ argued that God bruises after conversion, to deal with indwelling sin and corruption. Have you ever experienced such post-conversion bruising? Care to share?

    So many times that I have needed the kind of comfort that Sibbes offers to ‘bruised reeds’ on more occasions than I could mention. God has used his most severe providences to bring me to grief over my own corruption, and faith in His compassion and grace.


  5. Guys,

    Thanks for the good comments. There have been two things come to my mind with bruising before conversion.

    1. Scripture tells us that it is the ministry of the Spirit to bring conviction of sin. A person who is dead in their sin needs to be awakened to the darkness of their own heart, the rebellion of their ways, and the corruption and depravity in their nature. So much evangelism these days, I believe, do not consider this reality, namely the sinfulness of sin, and God as the only one who can awaken a sinner to their misery by bruising them.

    Sometimes, with good intentions, we believe we can make some feel bruised. We believe it is our work to show them the error of their way and make them feel guilty about it. Yet that is exactly what happens. It is not godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), but a sorrow and guilt that leads to regret and back to their sinful nature.

    So what then? Do we take a “hands off” approach and say, “Okay God. It’s up to you. I will sit back and wait until you make them feel miserable.” Of course not! But that’s the key. We must recognize our point and place in God’s work of bruising sinners. We are called to preach the gospel, uphold righteousness and the law, and call men everywhere to repent and believe. So, as Sibbes reminds us, God has given us means, albeit secondary means, by which we are accountable as instruments to bruise and not break. If we are not in his hands as his instruments, we will break and beat down sinners because we have not the Spirit nor his blessing in what we do.

    Which leads to my second point . . .

    2. We will be instruments of bruising by simply walking in the light, that is, being the light of the world in the midst of the “children of darkness.” In recent days, this reality has been refreshed as I go to change my baby’s diaper in the morning. He sleeps in the night in total darkness in our room, but when I change him, I take him into his room and must turn the lights on to see what I am doing. While at his age (one month old) he does not do much, but he knows what to do when the lights come on! Immediately he jumps, throws his hands up in the air, and starts crying. He was safe and asleep in the darkness, but turning the lights on to change his diaper “bruised” his eyes.

    See where I am getting? In the world that does their deeds in the dark lest the light expose them (John 3:19), by virtue of who we are in Christ, as his lights in this world, we will bruise the eyes of those asleep in darkness, safe in their sin, who want to be kept comfortable and unaccountable for their sinful lifestyle. But when they are made to see the righteousness of Christ in us, they see what they are not, and their conscience begins to work in them.

    Last night at work, I worked alongside a co-worker with whom I have had little conversation. I asked her what she thought about me as a co-worker and more importantly as a Christian. Her response was, “When I first came here, everyone told me to watch out for you, that you were really religious and wanted to talk about God all the time, and that I needed to watch what I say around you . . .”. She then proceeded to tell me about her interest in knowing more about Christianity as she “thinks she is one” but doesn’t really know the difference between Christianity and the other religions of the world. Who we are “in Christ” (being) and joining God in his mission to bring glory to his name through the redemption of sinners (doing) both bring bruising, only if done in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.

    Anyway, there is so much more running through my mind, but I thought I’d pass that along. For those of you who actually read this long comment, you get special brownie points! But seriously, I think the issue of how and where we come in regarding the bruising of “secure sinners” (as Sibbes calls them) is an important one. There are two extremes: thinking we can bruise people on our own, and on the other hand, disregarding the means God has given us (even living among unbelievers!) thinking it is only up to God. The former reminds me of Charles Finney; the latter reminds me of those who told William Carey to sit down because God will convert the sinners without us.


  6. […] In the meantime, go over to Timmy Brister’s and take part in the discussion on The Bruised Reed in this post. […]


  7. The Bruised Reed

    Like many, I’ve heard of the Puritans, read quotations of them, read other books that speak of them, but I’ve never read a book by them.  That is until this past week.  Timmy Brister has gotten me very excited about his Puritan Re…


  8. […] About Those Smoking Flax – Discussion 2 Previous Discussion: 1.  About Those Bruised Reeds […]


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