Posted tagged ‘Richard Sibbes’

Open Thread: Your Thoughts on The Bruised Reed

January 31, 2008

* 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!

Richard Sibbes in Review

January 31, 2008

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)

Don’t Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True, Says Sibbes

January 31, 2008

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?”

Join Me Tomorrow at 1:00 PM EST on Calling for Truth

January 29, 2008

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!

What Shall We Say Then? – Discussion 3

January 28, 2008

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.)

Mining the Works of Richard Sibbes

January 26, 2008

As we are nearing the end of reading Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, I thought I’d provide you a topical smattering of other works by the “sweet dropper.” Perhaps this might encourage you to save up and buy his seven-volume Works. 🙂

On Assurance:

The Matchless Love and Inbeing. Vol. 6, 383-412.
Salvation Applied. Vol. 5, 385-408.
The Touchstone of Regeneration. Vol. 7, 127-37.
Yea and Amen; or Precious Promises and Privileges. Spiritually unfolded in their nature and use. Driving at the assurance and establishing of weak believers. Vol. 4, 113-49.

On Christ:

A Description of Christ. Vol. 1, 1-31 (Sibbes intended this as an intro to The Bruised Reed).
Christ’s Exaltation Purchased by [His] Humiliation. Vol. 5, 323-56.
Christ’s Suffering for Man’s Sin. Vol. 1, 351-69.
Miracle of Miracles. Vol. 7, 105-26.
The Church’s Riches by Christ’s Poverty. Vol. 4, 489-527.
The Fountain Opened; or The Mystery of Godliness Revealed. Vol. 5, 457-540.
The Rich Pearl. Vol. 7, 253-60.
The Sun of Righteousness. Vol. 7, 165-78.
The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax. Vol. 1:33-101.

On Second Coming of Christ:

The Bride’s Longing for Her Bridegroom’s Second Coming. Vol. 6, 535-60.
The Christian’s Watch. Vol. 7, 298-305.
The Church’s Echo. Vol. 7, 535-46.
The Coming of Christ. Vol. 7, 306-15.

On Union with Christ:

A Christian’s Portion; or the Charter of a Christian, wherein are laid upon those unsearchable riches and privileges, he hath by his interest in Christ; whom enjoying, he possesseth all things else. Vol. 4, 1-38.
The Spouse, Her Earnest Desire After Christ. Vol. 2, 197-208.

On Communion with God:

Bowels Opened, Being [twenty untitled] Expository Sermons on Cant. 4:16-6:3. Vol. 2, 1-195.
A Breathing after God, or a Christian’s Desire of God’s Presence. Vol. 2, 209-48.
The Saint’s Happiness: Shewing Man’s Happiness is in Communion with God. Vol. 7, 65-78.

On the Conscience:

Antidotum contra Naufragium Fidei et Bonae Conscientiae. Vol. 7, 547-60.
The Demand of a Good Conscience. Vol. 7, 478-91.
The Tender Heart. Vol. 6, 29-43.

On Physical Death:

Balaam’s Wish. Vol. 7, 1-15.
Christ is Best; or St. Paul’s Strait. Vol. 1, 335-50.
The Vanity of the Creature. Vol. 7, 33-47.

On Spiritual Depression:

Discouragement’s Recovery. Vol. 7, 49-64.
The Soul’s Conflict with Itself, and Victory over Itself by Faith. A treatise of the inward disquietments of distressed spirits, with comfortable remedies to establish them. Vol. 1, 119-294.

On Faith:

The Life of Faith. Vol. 5, 357-84.
The Rich Poverty; or the Poor Man’s Riches. Vol. 6, 229-63.
The Saint’s Hiding-Place in the Evil Day. Vol. 1, 401-25.
Salvation Applied. Vol. 5, 385-408.

On Forgiveness:

The Matchless Mercy. Vol. 7, 151-64.
The Saint’s Comforts: An Exposition upon Psalm 130. Vol. 6, 159-80.
Sin’s Antidote. Vol. 7, 261-79.

On the Gospel:

The Success of the Gospel. Vol. 7, 280-87.

On Humility:

The Art of Self-Humbling. Vol. 6, 44-58.
The Church’s Complaint and Confidence. Vol. 6, 181-203.

On Mourning:

The Art of Mourning. Vol. 6, 59-75.
Spiritual Mourning. Vol. 6: 265-92.

On Prayer:

The Knot of Prayer Loosed. Vol. 7, 229-52.
The Spiritual Favourite at the Throne of Grace. Vol. 6, 91-108.

On Repentance:

The Returning Backslider. Vol. 2, 249-435.
God’s Inquisition. Vol. 6, 205-228.

On the Holy Spirit:

A Fountain Sealed. Vol. 5, 409-456.
The Fruitful Labour for Eternal Food. Vol. 6, 357-81.
The Excellency of the Gospel above the Law. Vol. 4, 201-305.
The Saint’s Privilege. Vol. 7, 357-66.
The Witness of Salvation. Vol. 7, 367-85.

On Spiritual-Mindedness:

The Hidden Life. Vol. 5, 203-218.
Mary’s Choice. Vol. 7, 289-97.
The Spiritual Man’s Aim. Guiding a Christian in his affections and actions through the sundry passages of this life.  So that God’s glory, and his own salvation may be the main end of all. Vol. 4, 39-58.
The Power of Christ’s Resurrection. Vol. 5, 195-201.

On Zeal:

Violence Victorious. Vol. 6, 293-314.

* Of course, there is much more there in his Works, but I thought I’d provide these topics and works to whet your appetite.  More information is available by going to Ralph Martin’s A Guide to the Puritans (from which I retrieved this information).

The Bruised Reed Since 1630

January 24, 2008

It has been 377 years since the first printing of Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed. If you listened to my interview with Dever, he mentions that his book has virtually been in print since its publication–a feat that very few books have accomplished. I thought I’d post a little of the chronology of the book (retrieved from Dever’s bibliography).

1630 – 1st edition
1631 – 2nd edition, enlarged
1631 – 3rd edition
1632 – 4th edition
1635 – 5th edition
1638 – 6th edition
1646 – Dutch translation edition
1649 – Dutch translation, 2nd edition
1650 – Dutch translation, 3rd edition
1657 – Dutch translation, 4th edition
1658 – 7th edition
1659 – Dutch translation, 5th edition
1794 – 8th edition, Bath
1808 – 9th edition
1818 – 10th edition
1821 – 11th edition
1822 – 12th edition,
1824 – 13th edition, L.B. Seeley & Son
1828 – 14th edition, Pickering
1838 – 15th edition, Pickering (collection with A Fountain Sealed and A Description of Christ)
1878 – 16th edition, Edinburgh
1973 – 17th edition, Banner of Truth (Works)
1998 – 18th edition, Banner of Truth (paperback)

I wonder if there were any Puritan reading parties back in the 17th and 19th centuries?  Have you thought about the kind of conversations believers will have in heaven?

Just a thought.  🙂

“What Does Your Heart Say About Christ?” Sibbes and Piper on the Affections

January 24, 2008

“The soul is never quiet till it comes to God . . . and that is the one thing the soul desireth.”
– Richard Sibbes, “A Breathing After God,” in Works. Vol. 2:217-18.

“A man knows no more in religion than he loves and embraceth with the affections of his soul.”
– Richard Sibbes, “Fountain Opened,” in Works. Vol. 5:478.

“The Christian will desire to see the beauty of God in his house, that his soul might be ravished in the excellency of the object, and that the highest powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections might be fully satisfied, that he might have full contentment.”
– Richard Sibbes, “A Breathing After God,” in Works. Vol. 2:237-38.

“Therefore, when we find our heart inflamed with love to God, we may know that God hath shined upon our souls in the pardon of sin; and proportionally to our measure of love is our assurance of pardon.  Therefore we should labour for a greater measure thereof, that our hearts may be the more inflamed in the love of God.”
– Richard Sibbes, “The Returning Backslider,” in Works. Vol. 2:264.

“The brain could not give convincing witness to conversion because religion could be well known to the understanding, and yet a stranger in the heart.  Such was the case with hypocrites.”
– Mark Dever, quoting Richard Sibbes, “Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations,”  in Works. Vol. 7:200-01.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
– John Piper

The Bruised Reed on Calling for Truth – LIVE Next Week

January 23, 2008

As you may have already seen from the sidebar, Calling for Truth, a live call-in radio program of Dr. Paul Dean and Pastor Kevin Boling, has joined the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. Calling for Truth broadcasts every afternoon from 1:00-2:00 pm EST, originating from Greenville, South Carolina (Talk 660 – covering SC and parts of NC, GA, and TN). They also stream their radio show live on the internet, and the shows are available for download at the audio archives or their SermonsAudio page.

But not only has Calling for Truth joined the challenge, they have invited me (and YOU) to talk about the PRC on their radio program at the end of each month! I am scheduled to be their guest next Wednesday, January 30, to discuss the PRC and more importantly The Bruised Reed and Richard Sibbes. All of you participating in the reading program are invited to call-in (1.888.660.9535) during the program (1:00pm until 2:00pm EST) with your questions and/or comments.

Help me get the word out, if you don’t mind. 🙂 I would love to get the chance to talk with you guys next week!

Blogspotting the Puritan Challenge 2

January 22, 2008

Here’s is roundup number two of my perusal around the Puritan Reading Challenge Bloggers. Enjoy!

* David reflects on the first two chapters, concluding, “I barely got three pages before I had to stop and really think about the implications of what I was reading and thereafter the page count between needs for meditation did not increase.” He also has some very kind words about RHB, a leading sponsor of the PRC.

* Jennifer Partin has contributed her thoughts in two good posts (here and here). Regarding the second chapter, Jennifer writes, “Feeling discouraged and weak? Are you at the end of your rope? Take heart because this chapter gives great comfort and hope!” Amen Jennifer!

* Mike Leake has continued with his thoughts and quotes from The Bruised Reed with posts on chapters two, three, four, and five. Mike begins his most recent post thus: “After reading this chapter, if I were a web designer I would craft a picture of my rear and Richard Sibbes kicking it.” I hear you Mike!

* Caleb Burnison says that reading Sibbes reminded him of Bunyan and provides five thoughtful questions for his youth. Would that more youth ministers be distilling the Puritans to teenagers!

* Andrew and Carolyn continue with their creative series with three contributions: The Compassionate Mr. Sibbes and The Contemporary Mr. Sibbes, and The Encouraging Mr. Sibbes.  Great stuff!

* Jerry (who I have noticed has quite the alliteration going on at his blog) continues to be the pace-setter with posts on chapters eleven, twelve, and thirteen (and also has included excerpts from The Valley of Vision and other Puritan literature).

* Andrew Upton has summarized, in individual posts, the first three chapters of The Bruised Reed. For a summary overview, check out his posts on chapters one, two, and three.

* Stephen Newell shares his thoughts about the purpose of Sibbes in writing The Bruised Reed.

* Kevin Rhyne talks about coming before the throne of grace, the smoking flax, pastoral care of Sibbes, and simple preaching of sound doctrine.

* A Fish Out of Water writes about Sibbes on the Spirit of God.

* Justin Nale continues to enjoy reading Sibbes as he blogs on the fourth chapter of The Bruised Reed.

Interview with Mark Dever on Richard Sibbes

January 21, 2008

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to interview Mark Dever on the life and ministry of Richard Sibbes. As you will find while searching the internet, there are several interviews of Dever on a number of issues, but I am not aware of any specifically focused on his doctoral dissertation, Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England. I am not one to do many interviews, but I thought this was a great time to approach Dever regarding his expert knowledge of Richard Sibbes, whose sermons (which comprise The Bruised Reed) we are reading. I want to say a special thanks to Tony (King Kummer) who came over to assist with the technical aspects of the interview (and for laughing at me throughout).

The questions I asked Dever include:

* Why Sibbes?
* On Friendships
* On Assurance
* How Sibbes Personally Impacted Dever’s Life
* On the Works, Which Piece You Recommend Next
* On Ecclesiology, Moderation, and WWSD (What Would Sibbes Do?)
* Chief Theological Contribution of Sibbes
* Sibbes the Affection Theologian and Jonathan Edwards
* Words of Encouragement and Advice to Those Reading for 1st Time

Listen or download my interview with Mark Dever:

Interview with Mark Dever on Richard Sibbes

Let me know what you think or if there is anything you want to discuss. 

About Those Smoking Flax – Discussion 2

January 19, 2008

Previous Discussion:
1.  About Those Bruised Reeds

>> “The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others” (23).

Commentary: 

The purpose of this discussion to talk about the smoking flax, and in particular, his discussion about the mixture of nature and grace which constitutes the smoke (corruption) and light (grace).  The key text for this discusssion is the following:

“The reason for this mixture is that we carry about us a double principle, grace and nature.  The end of it is especially to preserve us from those two dangerous rocks which our natures are prone to dash upon, security and pride, and to force us to pitch our rest on justification, not sanctification, which, besides imperfection, has some stains” (19). 

I think is would be helpful here to provide a little background to this issue of justification and sanctification.  Sibbes lived in a time during the English Reformation, less than a century that the Church of England had broke away from Rome (RCC).  According to the Roman Catholic Church, justification was not punctiliar (a moment where God declares you righteous) but a process as you partake of the sacraments.  The issues Sibbes was facing was both theological and pastoral; theological in the Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, and pastoral the relationship of salvation and assurance, especially in dealing with how one comes to experience comfort and peace in the midst of doubt and uncertainty.  One the one hand, Sibbes cautioned people from having a false sense of security; on the other hand, he warned against spiritual pride.  As a smoking flax, Sibbes helps us understand the truth of right standing from God’s perspective in Christ and brings us to examine ourselves rightly–to realize our nature and its corruption and remember our Savior’s gracious invitation and gentle treatment of those with just “a few sparks” (17).  Biblical Christianity does not allow for mere nominalism (superficial Christianity) or pharisaism, and what is great about Sibbes is that in dealing with bruised reed and smoking flax, both are rejected in favor of a genuine, grace-based and gospel-centered faith which creates glory in us as we pursue the humility of Christ in examining ourselves as well as ministering to others.   

One of the things Sibbes is adamant about is to help us see the work of God’s grace in us, the “spark of hope.”  Let me lay out some select phrases he uses throughout the first half of the book:

“spark of hope” (4)
“a little spark of faith” (13)
“a little light” (16)
“a few sparks” (17)
“this spark is from heaven” (20)
“a spark of fire is fire” (36)
“beam of light” (38)
“kindled from heaven” (42)
“a little fire is fire, though it smokes” (52)

Often we hear Christians say, “I want to be ‘on fire’ for God!”  We sing hymns entitled, “Set My Soul Afire.”  And yet, for many Christians, especially new Christians, we are not a flaming fire but “a little spark.”  When these little sparks see such bright flames, there is a tendency to get discouraged and think they have no light at all.  The bright flames look down at such small sparks and think, “What’s wrong with you?  Why can’t you be like me, on fire for God?” 

Sibbes is quick to address both these questions tenderly and beautifully.  He reminds us that, though corruption remains due to our sinful nature, the spark that we have is a true spark, a spark from heaven, lighted by God Himself.  And it is God’s promise to us that he will not quench the smoking flax, but rather fan it into a flame.  What an encouragement this is to us as we pursue to imitate Christ!  How tenderly must we care for new believers who have just come out of darkness and into the light!  We must be careful to not place a yoke upon Christians, especially new Christians, that expects them to be fully mature, overcoming sin, and living the “victorious Christian life.”  If we do that, we will not deal honestly with our sin, deceving ourselves, and pretending to be more righteous before others all the while knowing we are empty inside. 

Whether we are such “sparks” or others who have seemingly “little beginnings,” Christ has left us his promise and his example.   

A.  His Promise

Christ will not quench the smoking flax because “this spark is from heaven; it is his own, it is kindled by his own Spirit,” and “it tends to the glory of his powerful grace in his children that he preserves light in the midst of darkness, a spark in the midst of the swelling waters of corruption” (20).

B.  His Example

“Man for a little smoke will quench the light.  Christ, we see, ever cherishes even the least beginning. . . . Can we have a better pattern to follow than this from him by whom we hope to be saved” (21)?

Christ refuses none for weakness of parts, that none should be discouraged, but accepts none for greatness, that none should be lifted up with that which is of so little reckoning with God” (23). 

I can personally attest that there have been many I have led to Christ that I have not tenderly cared for and loved as I should.  I am reminded that Paul, to the Thessalonians, considered himself as “a nursing mother caring take care of her own children” (1 Thess. 2:7) as well as “a father with his children” (1 Thess. 2:11).   Why?  Because they were his “glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:20).  To the Corinthians, perhaps the best examples of New Testament smoking flax, Paul affectioned stated that he became their “father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15) and that his heart is “wide open” to them (2 Cor. 6:11).  The Galatians, who were being led astray by “another gospel,” Paul considered himself as someone who is “in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed” in them (Gal. 4:19).  As we all are to some degree, we should “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).  If Christ could care for such smoking flax as Thomas and Peter, and if Paul could exhort us with his life and teaching to love and nurture the smoking flax with our lives, then why can’t we?  Why aren’t we?

Allow me to conclude with this ecnouraging and powerful word by Sibbes: 

“Let us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elected to be ‘holy and without blame’ (Eph. 1:4).  Let us look on our imperfect beginning only to enforce further striving to perfection, and to keep us in a low opinion of ourselves.  Otherwise, in case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ does, who looks on us as those he intends to fit for himself.  Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto” (17).

Discussion:

Sibbes’ talks about the “secure sinners” and “weak Christians” and that we need to have “the tongue of the learned” in order to know when and how to “raise up” (in the case of the weak Christian) or “cast down” (in the case of the secure sinner).  He said that offering sweet words to secure sinners will not heal them but be “cruel pity”; on the other hand, “a sharp reproof sometimes is a “precious pearl” and “seet balm.”  How do you diagnose the “secure sinners” from the “weak Christians”? 

As ministers of mercy, what are some ways we can be pastorally sensitive to the smoking flax in our midst?  Either from Sibbes or in your own words, what principles can we apply as we minister to people today?

About Those Bruised Reeds – Discussion 1

January 16, 2008

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.

Blogspotting the Puritan Challenge 1

January 15, 2008

I know I am going to miss some of the blogposts in attempting to do this, so let me go ahead and make the disclaimer that i am in no way trying to leave anyone out! If you are blogging through the Puritan Challenge and I miss your posts, please let me know by either emailing me (outpostministries[at]yahoo[dot]com) or commenting in the post, leaving me the links to your posts.

This is my first installment in blogspotting The Puritan Challenge. I will be randomly adding more installments in the days and weeks to come.

* Andrew and Carolyn at Double-Usefulness have gotten of the blocks with three posts already. They are Meet Mr. Sibbes, a biographical introduction, The Balanced Mr. Sibbes, a glimpse of Sibbes godly counsel, and The Illustrative Mr. Sibbes, a compilation of Sibbes’ preaching illustrations.

* Jerry at Minor Mutterings has been rockin’ it out with posts on ten chapters already!  Here they are: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten.  Jerry, you are going to keep me very busy!

* Caleb Burnison (or it is Josh Gelatt?) answers the question, “Why Read the Puritans?”

* Mike Leake begins with a nicely outlined post including tailored discussion and “diamonds and pearls.”

* David at Presbyterian & Reformed provides an excellent memoir of Sibbes’ life from an 1809 edition of Sibbes’ Works.

* Justin Nale adds his thoughts on the first, second, and third chapters of The Bruised Reed.

* Kevin Rhyne loves the language of 17th century plain speaking prose as found in Sibbes.

* Terry Delaney is five chapters in and already finding personal application to what he is reading.  Very cool.

Again, more to come. I am setting up my Google alerts and going blog-fishing, so be sure to lure me in with some good bait!

What Others Have Said About Richard Sibbes

January 14, 2008

“I shall never cease to be grateful to . . . Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period of my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. . . . I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as ‘The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes” was an unfailing remedy . . . The Bruised Reed . . . quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed me.”

– Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Sibbes never wastes the student’s time; he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon

“Of this blest man, let this just praise be given: heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.”

– Izaak Walton (contemporary of Sibbes)

“No man that ever I was acquainted with got so far into my heart or lay so close therein.”

– Zachary Catlin (contemporary of Sibbes)

“His theology is thoroughly orthodox, of course, but it is like the fuel of some great combustion engine, always passing into flame and so being converted into energy thereby to serve God and, even more, to enjoy and relish God with the soul.”

– Maurice Roberts

“No writings in practical theology seem to have been so much read in the mid-seventeenth century among the pious English middle classes as those of Sibbes.”

– David Masson

“Sibbes sermons were the most brilliant and popular of all the utterances of the Puritan church militant.”

– William Haller

“Sibbes concentrated on exploring the love, power, and patience of Christ, and the riches of the promises of God. He was a pioneer in working out the devotional application of the doctrine of God’s covenant of grace.”

– J.I. Packer