Taken from, “The Soul’s Conflict and Victory Over Itself By Faith”
Written by Richard Sibbes, July 1, 1635, at Grays-Inn.
Edited for thought and sense.
In general we may observe; that Grief when it comes to a head will not be quieted at the first.
We see here passions intermingled with comforts, and what bustling and hurting there is in his spirit before David can get the victory over his own heart: you have some short spirited Christians, for if they are not comforted at the beginning, they think all the spiritual labor with their hearts is in vain, and thereupon give way to their grief. But we see in David, as unhappiness builds upon unhappiness, so he gives check upon check, and charge upon charge to his soul, until at length he brought it to a quiet temper.
Again: In general observe in David’s spirit, that here is a gracious and living soul feeling most acutely the necessity of spiritual support. The reason is because the spiritual life desires after spiritual support.
We see in nature, that those things which press hardest on our spirits, are those things which touch upon the necessities of our life, rather than just upon everyday delights, for these further only our comfortable being; but the necessities uphold life itself: We see how famine forced the patriarchs to go into Egypt: where we begin to see how to judge those who willingly excommunicate themselves from the assemblies of God’s people, where the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are present, where the prayers of holy men meet together in one, and as it were to bind God, and pull down God’s blessing. No private devotion hath that report of acceptance from Heaven.
Another point is, that a godly soul, by reason of the inner life of grace, knows when it is well with it, and when it is ill, when it is a good day with it, and when a bad; and when God shines in support then the soul is as it were in heaven; when God withdraws himself, then it is in darkness for a time. Where there is no spiritual life, but only a principle of nature without sanctifying grace, there men go plodding on and keep their rounds, and they are at the end lives where they were at the beginning; not troubled with changes, because there was nothing within them to be troubled; therefore dead methods, living spiritual approaches, or no spiritual support at all, is the same with them, For their perspective is that of a dead soul.
Let us we come more particularly and directly to the words. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?”
The words imply, 1. The sad state that David found himself; and 2. The words express his dejection in that state. His state was such that in regard of outward condition, he was in variety of troubles; and of an inward disposition of spirit, that he was first cast down, and then disquieted.
Now for his disposition in this condition, he deals strongly with himself: Here, David reasons the case with David, and first he checks himself for being too much cast down, and then chides himself for being too distressed and too anxious. Then David lays a command upon himself to trust in God; because we have the duty he to trust in God. And what are the grounds of this duty? First, it comes from a confidence of better times to come, which will restore to him to a place of praising God. And then from a standpoint of seeing God, as a saving God in all troubles, including, as salvation itself. And then in view of everything that he had gone through to see God as an open glorious Savior: The salvation of my countenance, and all this coming from and reinforced from David’s concentration in God, “He is my God.”
From this observe, from the state he was now in, that since guilt and corruption hath been derived by the fall, into the nature of man, it hath been subjected to misery and sorrow, and to men and women in all walks of life, from the kings that sit on the throne to him that grinds at the mill. None ever hath been so good or so great, as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles.
And that the choice part of mankind, that is, the first fruits of mankind, (which we call the Church,) which includes the head, the body, and members of the Church. For the head Christ, he took our flesh as it was subject to misery after the fall, and was, in regard of what he endured, both in life and death, a man of sorrows. For the body the Church, may say from first to last as in Psalm 129, “From my youth up they have afflicted me.” The Church begun in blood, hath grown up by blood, and shall end in blood, as it was redeemed by blood.
For the members, they are all predestinated to a conformity to Christ their Head, as in grace and glory, so in abasement, Rom. 8: 29. Neither is it a wonder for those who are born soldiers to meet with conflicts, and for travellers to meet with hard usage, for seamen to meet with storms, for strangers in a strange country, (especially amongst their enemies,) to meet with strange entertainment.
A Christian is a man of another world, and here from home, which he would forget (if he were not trained here), and would take his passage for his country. But though all Christians agree and meet in this, that through many afflictions we must enter into heaven. Acts 14: 22; yet according to the diversity of place, parts, and grace, there is a different cup measured to everyone. And therefore it is but a plea of the flesh, to ask to be without a cross. You have heard it said, “Never was poor creature distressed as I am”: this is but self-love. For every person in the church; both of head, body, and members, goes through distresses, as we see here in David, and wasn’t he a principal member in the body of believers? When he was brought to this case, he had to reason the matter within himself,
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?”
From the frame of David’s spirit under these troubles, we may observe, that the case is the same with all God’s people, that we are all to be trained with troubles. We all feel them, often times, even to getting down and discouraged. And the reason is, all of us are flesh and blood, subject to the same passions, and made of the same mold, subject to the same impressions from without as other men; and our nature is upheld with the same supports and considerations as others, including the withdrawing of friendships and the needs and want which also affect others. And besides, those troubles we suffer in common with other men, by reason of our new advancement, and our new disposition we have in and from Christ our head, makes us feel more deeply in a peculiar way any of those troubles which touch upon our blessed condition, which from a new life we have in and from Christ.