CHRIST AND THE CHRISTIAN: Both as a bruised reed.

Taken and adapted from, “The Bruised Reed”
Written by Richard Sibbes

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The Reed and the Bruising

The prophet Isaiah, being lifted up and carried with the wing of a prophetical spirit, passes over all the time between him and the appearing of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Seeing with the eye of prophecy, and with the eye of faith, Christ as present, he presents him, in the name of God, to the spiritual eye of others, in these words: `Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth’ (Isaiah 42:1 3). These words are alleged by Matthew as fulfilled now in Christ (Matthew 12:18 20). In them are propounded, first, the calling of Christ to his office; secondly, the manner in which he carries it out.

CHRIST’S CALLING

God calls him here his servant. Christ was God’s servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was, a chosen and a choice servant who did and suffered all by commission from the Father. In this we may see the sweet love of God to us, in that he counts the work of our salvation by Christ his greatest service, and in that he will put his only beloved Son to that service. He might well prefix it with ‘Behold’ to raise up our thoughts to the highest pitch of attention and admiration. In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in that they need to be roused up to behold him in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls. In temptations it is safest to behold nothing but Christ the true brazen serpent, the true `Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’, (John 1:29). This saving object has a special influence of comfort to the soul, especially if we look not only on Christ, but upon the Father’s authority and love in him. For in all that Christ did and suffered as Mediator, we must see God in him reconciling the world unto himself (2 Corinthian 5:19).

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 a 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! For his love rests in a whole Christ, in Christ mystical, as well as Christ natural, because he loves him and us with one love. Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, and in him God’s love, and build our faith safely on such a Savior 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 to it, and Christ himself executes the office of a Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity.

HOW CHRIST PURSUES HIS CALLING

This is here said to be done modestly, without making a noise, or raising dust by any pompous coming, as princes are accustomed to do. `His voice shall not be heard.’ His voice indeed was heard, but what voice? `Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden’ (Matthew 11:28). He cried, but how? `Ho, every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters’ (Isaiah 55:1). And as his coming was modest, so it was mild, which is set down in these words: `A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.’

We see, therefore, that the condition of those with whom he was to deal was that they were bruised reeds and smoking flax; not trees, but reeds; and not whole, but bruised reeds. The church is compared to weak things: to a dove among the fowls; to a vine among the plants; to sheep among the beasts; to a woman, which is the weaker vessel.

God’s children are bruised reeds before their conversion and oftentimes after.

Before conversion all (except such as, being brought up in the church, God has delighted to show himself gracious to from their childhood) are bruised reeds, yet in different degrees, as God sees fit. And as there are differences with regard to temperament, gifts and manner of life, so there are in God’s intention to use men in the time to come; for usually he empties such of themselves, and makes them nothing, before he will use them in any great services.

WHAT IT IS TO BE BRUISED

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 pretenses 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, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption makes him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man. This is such a one as our Savior Christ terms `poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice. He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and thereupon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it.

THE GOOD EFFECTS OF BRUISING

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by leveling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we `begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge.

Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them?

Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways. This is often the cause of relapses and apostasy, because men never smarted for sin at the first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law. Hence this inferior work of the Spirit in bringing down high thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) is necessary before conversion. And, for the most part, the Holy Spirit, to further the work of conviction, joins with it some affliction, which, when sanctified, has a healing and purging power.

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. Such bruising may help weaker Christians not to be too much discouraged, when they see stronger ones shaken and bruised. Thus Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). This reed, till he met with this bruise, had more wind in him than pith when he said, `Though all forsake thee, I will not’ (Matthew 26:33). The people of God cannot be without these examples. The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do. Thus David was bruised until he came to a free confession, without guile of spirit (Psalms 32:3 5); nay, his sorrows did rise in his own feeling unto the exquisite pain of breaking of bones (Psalms 51:8). Thus Hezekiah complains that God had `broken his bones’ as a lion (Isaiah 38:13). Thus the chosen vessel Paul needed the messenger of Satan to buffet him lest he should be lifted up above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7).

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’ (Isaiah 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.

Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God’s ways in bringing his children to heaven, censure broken-hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.

Christ Will Not Break the Bruised Reed

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.

The Art of Self-Humbling

Taken, adapted and condensed from, “Josiah’s Reformation, Laid Open in Four Sermons”
Sermon II, Published in 1637,
Written by Richard Sibbes.

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“Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heard his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humblest thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me….”—2 Chron. 34:27.

Tenderness of heart and humbling a man’s self go both together…

…for things that are hard will not yield nor bow. A great iron bar will not bow, a hard stony heart will not yield. Now, therefore, humbling of ourselves, the making of us as low as the ground itself, is added unto tenderness; for the soul being once tender and melting, is fit to be humbled, yea, cares not how low it be abased, so mercy may follow.

‘Thou didst humble thyself.’ He was both the agent and the patient, the worker and the object of his work: it came from him, and ended in him. Humiliation is a reflected action: Josiah humbled himself. And certainly this is that true humiliation, the humbling of ourselves; for it is no thanks for a man to be humbled by God, as Pharaoh was; for God can humble and pull down the proudest that do oppose his church. God by this gets himself glory. But here is the glory of a Christian, that he hath got grace from God to humble himself; which humbling is, from our own judgment, and upon discerning of good grounds, to bring our affections to stoop unto God; to humble ourselves. Many are humbled that are not humble; many are cast down that have proud hearts still, as Pharaoh had. It is said, ‘Thou humblest thyself.’ Then we learn,

The actions of grace are reflected actions. They begin from a man’s self, and end in a man’s self; yet we must not exclude the Spirit of God; for he doth not say, thou from thyself didst humble thyself, but ‘thou didst humble thyself.’ We have grace from God to humble ourselves. So that the Spirit of God doth work upon us as upon fit subjects, in which grace doth work. Though such works be the works of God, yet they are said to be ours, because God doth work them in us and by us. We are said to humble ourselves, because we are temples wherein he works, seeing he uses the parts of our soul, as the understanding, the will, and the affections, in the work. Therefore it is foolish for the papists to say, good works be our own, as from ourselves. No; good works, say we, are ours, as effects of the Spirit in us.

And true humiliation is of spiritual respects, when we judge aright how base and vile we are in regard of our natural corruption, that we are by nature not only guilty of Adam’s sin, but that we have, besides that, wrapt ourselves in a thousand more guilts by our sinful course of life, and that we have nothing of our own, no, not power to do the least good thing. When we look upon any vile person, we may see our own image. So that if God had not been gracious unto us, we should have been as bad as they. In a word, inward conviction of our natural frailty and misery, in regard of the filthy and foul stain of sin in our nature and actions, and of the many guilts of spiritual and temporal plagues in this life and that which is to come, is that inward humiliation in the judgment or understanding.

Again, Inward humiliation, besides spiritual conviction, is when there are affections of humiliation. And what be those? Shame, sorrow, fear, and such like penal afflictive affections. For, upon a right conviction of the understanding, the soul comes to be stricken with shame that we are in such a case as we are; especially when we consider God’s goodness to us, and our dealing with him. This will breed shame and abasement, as it did in Daniel. Shame and sorrow ever follow sin, first or last, as the apostle demands, Rom. 6:21, ‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?’ After conviction of judgment there is always shame; and likewise there is sorrow and grief. For God hath made the inward faculties of the soul so, that upon the apprehension of the understanding, the heart comes to be stricken through with grief, which works upon our souls. Therefore we are said in Scripture to afflict ourselves; that is, when we set ourselves upon meditation of our deserts. Hereupon we cannot but be affected inwardly, for these sorrows are so many daggers to pierce through the heart.

There is also a fear and trembling before God’s judgments and his threatenings, a fear of the majesty of God, whom we have offended, which is able to send us to hell if his mercies were not beyond our deserts. But his mercy it is, that we are not consumed. A fear of this great God is a part of this inward humiliation. So we see what inward humiliation is: first, a conviction of the judgment; and then it proceeds to inward afflictive affections, as grief, shame, fear, which, when upon good ground and fit objects, they are wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, they are parts of inward humiliation. But as for the wicked, they drown themselves in their profaneness, because they would not be ashamed, nor fear, nor grieve for them. But this makes way for terrible shame, sorrow, and fear afterwards; for those that will not shame, grieve, and fear here, shall be ashamed before God and his angels at the day of judgment, and shall be tormented in hell for ever.

If we would have humble spirits, let us bring ourselves into the presence of the great God: set ourselves in his presence, and consider of his attributes, his works of justice abroad in the world, and open ourselves in particular.

Consider his wisdom, holiness, power, and strength, with our own. It will make us abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes. Let us bring ourselves into God’s presence, be under the means, under his word, that there we may see ourselves ripped up, and see what we are. As Job, when he brought himself into God’s presence, said, ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,’ Job 42:6. Job thought himself somebody before; but when God comes to examine him, and upon examination found that he could not give a reason of the creature, much less of the Lord’s, afflicting his children, then he saith, ‘I abhor myself.’ So Abraham, the more he talked with God, the more he did see himself but dust and ashes. This is the language of the holy men in Scripture, when they have to deal or think of God. ‘I am not worthy,’ says John Baptist, John 1:27. So Paul: ‘I am not worthy to be called an apostle,’ 1 Cor. 15:9. So the centurion: ‘I am not worthy thou shouldst come into my house,’ Mat. 8:8. ‘I am less than the least of thy blessings,’ saith Jacob, Gen. 32:10. Thus let us come into the presence of God, under the means of his word, and then we shall see our own vileness, which will work humiliation; for, as the apostle saith, when a poor simple man doth come, and hears the prophecy that is, the word of God, with application unto himself, laying open his particular sins, doubtless he will say, God is in you, 1 Cor. 14:24, 25.

That we may humble ourselves, let us be content to hear of our sins and baseness by others. Let us be content that others should acquaint us with anything that may humble us. Proud men are the devil’s pipes, and flatterers the musicians to blow these pipes. Therefore it is, that though men have nothing of their own, yet they love to give heed to flatterers, to blow their bladder full, which do rob them of themselves; whereas a true, wise man, will be content to hear of anything that may humble him before God.

That we may humble ourselves, look to the time to come, what we shall be earth and dust; and at the day of judgment we must be stripped of all. What should puff us up in this world? All our glory shall end in shame, all magnificence in confusion, all riches in poverty. It is a strange thing that the devil should raise men to be proud of that which they have not of their own, but of such things which they have borrowed and begged; as for men to be proud of themselves in regard of their parents. So, many there are who think the better of themselves for their apparel, when yet they are clothed with nothing of their own, and so are proud of the very creature. But thus the devil hath besotted our nature, to make us glory in that which should abase us, and to think the better of ourselves, for that which is none of our own. Nay, many in the church of God, are so far from humbling themselves, that they come to manifest their pride, to shew themselves, to see and to be seen. Thus the devil has inflicted many thousand silly creatures, that come in vainglory into the house of God; that whereas they should humble themselves before him, they are puffed up with a base empty pride, even before God. Therefore let us take notice of our wonderful proneness to have a conceit of ourselves; for if a man have a new fashion, or some new thing, which nobody else knows besides himself, how wonderful conceited will he be of himself! Let us take notice, I say, of our proneness to this sin of pride; for the best are prone to it. Consider, it is a wonderful hateful sin, a sin of sins, that God most hates.

If we would humble ourselves, let us set before us the example of our blessed Saviour; for we must be conformable to him, by whom we hope to be saved. He left heaven, took our base nature, and humbled himself to the death of the cross, yea, to the washing of his disciples’ feet, and among the rest, washed Judas’s feet, and so suffered himself to be killed as a traitor, Philip, 2:5–7; and all this to satisfy the wrath of God for us, and that he might be a pattern for us to be like-minded. Therefore, if we would humble ourselves by pattern, here is a pattern without all exception. Let us be transformed into the likeness of him; yea, the more we think of him, the more we shall be humbled. For it is impossible for a man to dwell upon this meditation of Christ in humility, and with faith to apply it to himself, that he is his particular Saviour, but this faith will abase the heart, and bring it to be like Christ in all spiritual representation. A heart that believeth in Christ will be humbled like Christ. It will be turned from all fleshly conceit of excellency, to be like him. Is it possible, if a man consider he is to be saved by an abased and humble Saviour, that was pliable to every base service, that had not a house to hide himself; I say, is it possible that he which considers of this, should ever be willingly or wilfully proud?

Do we hope to be saved by Christ, and will we not be like him? When we were firebrands of hell, he humbled himself to the death of the cross, left heaven and happiness a-while, and took our shame, to be a pattern to us. We know that Christ was brought into the world by a humble virgin. So the heart wherein he dwells must be a humble heart. If we have true faith in Christ, it will cast us down, and make us to be humbled. For it is impossible that a man should have faith to challenge any part in Christ, except he be conformed to the image of Christ in humility.

Further, There is an order, method, and agreement in these reflected actions, when we turn the edge of our own souls upon ourselves and examine ourselves; for the way that leads to rest is by the examination of ourselves. We must examine ourselves strictly, and then bring ourselves before God, judge and condemn ourselves; for humiliation is a kind of execution. Examination leads to all the rest. So, then, this is the order of our actions; there is:

1. Examination of ourselves strictly before God,
2. Then indicting ourselves,

3.  After that comes judging of ourselves.

Oh that we could be brought to these inward reflected actions, to examine indict, judge, and condemn ourselves, that so we might spare God a labour, and so all things might go well with us!

A humble heart is a vessel of all graces. It is a grace itself, and a vessel of grace. It doth better the soul and make it holy, for the soul is never fitter for God than when it is humbled. It is a fundamental grace that gives strength to all other graces. So much humility, so much grace. For according to the measure of humiliation is the measure of other grace, because a humble heart hath in it a spiritual emptiness. Humility empties the heart for God to fill it. If the heart be emptied of temporal things, then it must needs be filled with spiritual things; for nature abhors emptiness; grace much more. When the heart is made low, there is a spiritual emptiness, and what fills this up but the Spirit of God? In that measure we empty ourselves, in that measure we are filled with the fulness of God. When a man is humbled, he is fit for all good; but when he is proud, he is fit for all ill, and beats back all good. God hath but two heavens to dwell in; the heaven of heavens, and the heart of a poor humble man. The proud swelling heart, that is full of ambition, high conceits, and self-dependence, will not endure to have God to enter; but he dwells largely and easily in the heart of a humble man. If we will dwell in heaven hereafter, let us humble ourselves now. The rich in themselves are sent ’empty away;’ the humble soul is a rich soul, rich in God; and therefore God regards the lowly and resists the proud. As all the water that is upon the hills runs into the valleys, so all grace goes to the humble.

How may we know holy from hypocritical humiliation? 

First, Holy humiliation is voluntary; for it is a reflected action, which comes from a man’s self. It ends where it begins. Therefore Josiah is said to humble himself. But, on the contrary, the humiliation of other men is against their will. False humiliation is not voluntary, but by force it is extorted from them. God is fain to break, crush, and deal hardly with them, which they grieve and murmur at. But the children of God have the Spirit of God, which is a free Spirit, that sets their hearts at liberty. For God’s Spirit is a working Spirit, that works upon their hearts, and hereby they willingly humble themselves, whereas the wicked, wanting this Spirit of God, cannot humble themselves willingly, but are cast down against their wills. For God can pluck down the proudest. He can break Pharaoh’s courage, who, though he was humbled, yet he did not humble himself. A man may be humbled, and yet not humble. But the children of God are to humble themselves, not that the grace whereby we humble ourselves is from ourselves; but we are said to humble ourselves, when God doth rule the parts he hath given us, when he sets our wits and understanding on work to see our misery, and then our will and affection to work upon these. Thus we are said to humble ourselves when God works in us. A hypocrite God may humble and work by him. He may work by graceless persons, but he doth not work in them. But God’s children have God’s Spirit in them, not only working in* them his own works, as he doth by hypocrites and sinful persons, but his Spirit works in them. So that here is the main difference between true humiliation and that which is counterfeit. The one is voluntary, being a reflected action, to work upon and to humble ourselves; but the other is a forced humiliation.

True humiliation is ever joined with reformation. Humble thyself and walk with thy God, saith the prophet: Micah 6:8, ‘He hath shewed thee, O man, what he doth require of thee, to humble thyself, and walk with thy God.’ Now the humiliation of wicked men is never joined with reformation. There is no walking with God.

Sin must appear bitter to the soul, else we shall never be truly humbled for it. There is in every renewed soul a secret hatred and loathing of evil, which manifests the soundness both of true humiliation and reformation.

There must be a constant endeavour to avoid the occasions and allurements of sin. Thus Job made a covenant with his eyes, that ‘he would not look upon a maid,’ Job 31:1; and thus every unclean and filthy person should make a covenant with themselves against the sins which they are most addicted unto.

There must be a hatred and loathing of sin in our confessions. We must confess it with all the circumstances, the time when, and place where.

Sin is the bane of all comfort. That which we love more than our souls undoes us. It embitters every comfort, and makes that we cannot perform duties with spiritual life. Our very prayers are abominable to God so long as we live in known sin. What makes the hour of death and the day of judgment terrible but this?

Another difference between true humiliation and false is, that with true humiliation is joined hope, to raise up our souls with some comfort, else it is a desperation, not a humiliation. The devils do chafe, vex, and fret themselves, in regard of their desperate estate, because they have no hope. If there be no hope, it is impossible there should be true and sound humiliation; but true humiliation doth carry us to God, that what we have taken out of ourselves by humiliation, we may recover it in God. Therefore humility is such a grace, that though it make us nothing in ourselves, yet doth it carry us to God, who is all in all.

Hypocrites are also sorrowful for the judgment that is upon them; but not for that which is the cause of the judgment, which is sin; but the child of God, he is humbled for sin, which is the cause of all judgments. As good Josiah, when he heard read out of Deuteronomy the curses threatened for sin, and comparing the sins of his people with the sins against which the curses were threatened, he humbled himself for his sin and the sins of his people. For God’s children know, if there were no iniquity in them, there should no adversity hurt them; and therefore they run to the cause, and are humbled for that. Whereas the wicked, they humble themselves only because of the smart and trouble which they do endure.

When we have wrought our souls to a hearty grief that we have offended God, when we have a perfect and inward hatred of all sin, and when thou dost shew the truth of thy grief by leaving off thy sinful courses. So then, do thou hate and leave thy sinful course? Then thou art sufficiently humbled. Go away with peace and comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee.

Therefore it is not a slight humiliation that will serve the turn, but our hearts must be wrought unto a perfect hatred and leaving of all sins; for if this be not, we are not sufficiently humbled as yet. And when we find ourselves to hate and leave sin in some measure, then fasten our souls by faith, as much as may be, upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. For the soul hath two eyes, the one to look upon itself and our vileness, to humble us the more; the other, to fasten upon the mercy of God in Christ, to raise up our souls.

Let this be a rule of discerning true religion; for surely that is true religion which doth make us go out of ourselves; that takes away all from ourselves and gives all the glory to God; which makes us to plead for salvation by the mercy of God through the merits of Christ. But our religion doth teach us thus. Therefore it is the true religion, and will yield us sound comfort at the last. Thus much for inward humiliation, the humbling of ourselves, as Josiah did.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Discouragements from Within. Part 4

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

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Let us now look at some of the particular causes for discouragements within us.

There is often cause in the body of those with whom a melancholy temper prevails; this causes a darkness which makes them fearful. For with melancholy persons they are in a perpetual darkness, –all things seem black and dark unto them. Their spirits as it were seems to be as though dyed black.

Now to him that is in darkness, all things seem black and dark, the sweetest comforts are never sweet enough for those who are deep in melancholy.

It is, with great the watchfulness that Satan’s uses with his own weapons to hurt the soul, which by reason of its closeness and sympathy with the body is subject to be misled. As we see where there is a darkening of the mind’s eye by reason of depression and melancholy of the spirit, for whatsoever is presented to a melancholy person, comes in through a dark way to the soul. From there, corrupted by their perspective, they judge amiss, even of the plainest things. Often, they are
sick of such and such a disease,or subject to such and such a danger, when it is nothing of the sort. So, how fit are they then to judge of things removed from senses, in particular, as of their spiritual estate in Christ?

To come to causes more near the soul itself, as when there is want of that which should be in it, as of knowledge in the understanding, etc. Ignorance (being darkness) is full of false fears. In the night time men think every bush a thief; our forefathers in time of ignorance were frighted with every thing; therefore it is the policy of popish tyrants, to teach them from the prince of darkness, in order to keep the people in darkness, that so they might make them fearful, and then abuse that fearfulness to superstition; that they might the better rule in their consciences for their own ends: and that so having entangled them with false fears, they might heal them again with false cures.

Again, though the soul be not ignorant, yet if it be forgetful and mindless, as the Apostle says in Hebrews 12, “You have forgotten the consolation that speaks unto you…” so then, we have no present actual comfort. However we do have a memory: help a godly man’s memory, and you help his comfort; for a memory is like charcoal which having once been kindled, is the more easy to take fire. He that hath formerly known things, takes ready acquaintance of them again, as old friends: things are not strange to him.

But beware of setting a price upon your comfort; as the Israelites were afflicted for discounting Canaan. This was a great fault,when (as when they said to Job the consolation of the Almighty seem light, and small unto us, Job 14: 11,) unless we have some physical comfort which we are seeking after.

And also beware of a childish kind of peevishness: when they could not have immediately what they wanted, they like children, throw away everything; an action which was very offensive to God. Yet, this is a problem which often happens to men otherwise gracious. Even Abraham himself, wanting children (See Genesis 16) undervalued all his other blessings. Jonah, because he was aggravated with of his dead gourd, was weary of his life. The like may be said of Elijah, fleeing from Jezebel. This peevishness is increased by paying too much attention to their grief; which many go so far as to justify their attitudes; like Jonah, who would do well to he angry even unto death. Jonah :9.

Willful men are most vexed when they are crossed: it is not for those to be willful that have not a great measure of wisdom to guide their wills; for God delights to impose his will of those that are wedded to their own wills: as in Pharaoh. No man more is more subject to discontentment than those who would have all things their own way.

Again, one main ground for our discontentment is false reasoning, and error in our discourse, as when we are lacking grace and feeling none.

However, feeling is not always a fit rule to judge our spiritual state. Some believe that God has rejected them because they have messed up in outward things, and believe that this rejection stems from God’s wisdom and love. How many imagine their failings to he fallings, and their fallings, to be fallings away? They feel their infirmities to be presumptions, and they believe that their every sin against conscience, to be the sin against the Holy Ghost. Thus unto misapprehensions, these weak and dark spirits are subject. And Satan, as a cunning rhetorician, here enlarges their fancy, to apprehend things bigger than what they are. Satan also abuses confident spirits in another contrary way; that is to apprehend great sins as little sins, and little sins as none at all. Some also think that they have no grace, because they have not grown so much as Christians: though they have grown several ages in Christ.

Likewise, some people are much troubled, because they calculate by a false method their spiritual estates. These people will begin with questioning the doctrine of election, which is the highest step of the ladder; whereas they should begin from a work of grace wrought within their hearts, from God’s calling them by his Spirit, and their answer to his call, and so raise themselves upwards to know their election by their answer to God’s calling. Give all diligence, says Peter, to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1): that is, making your election sure by your calling. God descends down unto us from election to calling: and so to sanctification : we must ascend to him beginning where he ends. Otherwise it is as great folly as in removing of a pile of wood, to begin at the lowest first, and so, besides the needless trouble, to be in danger to have the rest to fall upon our heads. Which besides ignorance argues pride,appearing in this, that they would bring God to their conceits, and therefore be at an end of their work before they begin.

This great secret of God’s eternal love to us is Christ. And the Spirit brings to the soul so much life and sense of God’s love to us, that it draws the soul to Christ, and from Christ, the soul draws so much virtue that it changes the character, and makes the soul alive to its duty. But these duties are not in themselves the grounds of our spiritual state in grace, but these duties issue, springing from a regenerated state, and thus they help us, in the judging of our condition, that though they be not to be rested in, yet as streams they lead us to the spring-head of grace from whence they arise.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Dealing With Discouragements from Without. Part 3

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

face-in-the-apocalypse

It is God himself, who sometimes withdraws the beams of his countenance from his children…

…whereupon the soul even of the strongest Christian is disquieted; when together with the cross, God himself seems to be an enemy unto them. The child of God, when he sees that his troubles are mixed with God’s displeasure, and perhaps his conscience tells him that God hath a just quarrel against him, because he hath not renewed his peace with his God, then this anger of God puts a sting into all other troubles, and adds to the disquiet. There were some ingredients of this divine temptation, (as we call it,) in holy David at this time: though most properly a divine temptation be, when God appears unto us as an enemy, without any special guilt of any particular sin, as in Job’s case.

And no marvel if Christians can feel this spiritual disquiet; for when the Son of God himself, who always before enjoyed sweet communion with his Father, when he was feeling that estrangement so he might be a curse for us complained of nothing else, but My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Matt, 27:46. So it is with the godly in this case, for as with vapors drawn up by the sun, by which (when the extracting force of the sun leaves them,) fall down again to the earth from where they are drawn. Just so when the soul, raised up by the beams of his countenance, is left of God, it presently begins to sink. We see this when there is any thing that comes between God’s gracious countenance and it.

Besides, if we look down to inferior causes, the soul is oft cast down by Satan, who is all for casting us down, and for upsetting us. For being a cursed spirit, cast and tumbled down himself from heaven, where he is never to come again, he is hereupon full of disquiet, carrying a hell about himself, whereupon all that he labors for is to cast down and disquiet others, that they may be (as much as he can procure,) in the same cursed condition with himself. He was not ashamed to set upon Christ himself with this temptation of casting down, and thinks Christ’s members never low enough, till he can bring them as low as himself.

By his envy and subtlety we were driven out of Paradise at the first, and now he envies us the paradise of a good conscience: for that is our paradise until we come to Heaven; into which no serpent shall ever creep to tempt us. When Satan sees a man strongly and comfortably walk with God, he cannot endure that a creature of meaner rank by creation than himself should enjoy such happiness. For the devil when he sees men will to Heaven, and that they have good title to it, then he follows them with all dejecting and uncomfortable temptations that he can; it is his continual trade and course to seek our disquiet.

Again, what Satan cannot do by himself and by immediate suggestions, he labors to work by his instruments, who do the best they can to cast down of those who stand in their light, as those in the Psalm, who cry, Down with him,down with him, even to the ground; a true testimony of the character and stamp of these men’s dispositions. “Mine enemies,” says David, “reproach me.” As sweet and as compassionate a man as he was, to pray and put on sackcloth for them, yet he had enemies, and such enemies, as did not suffer their malice only to boil and concoct in their own breasts, but from the meanness of their hearts, they reproached him in words. There is nothing that man’s nature that makes him more sensitive than that of scornful reproaches; for there is no man so low in life, but thinks himself worthy of some regard, and such a reproachful scorn shows an utter disrespect, and this disrespect issues from the very superfluity of malice.

Malice is an insatiable monster, it will minister words, as rage ministers weapons.

But what was it that they said so reproachfully? What was it that they said daily? Where is now thy God? (verse 3), they reproached him with his singularity, they did not say, “Where is God?” but, “Where is thy God, that thou dost boast so much on,” as if you hadst some special reason to trust Him?

This is where we see that the scope of the devil and wicked men is to shake the godly person’s faith and confidence in God. For as Satan labors to divide between Christ and his Father, so he labours to divide between the Father and Son and us. Here in these men laboured to bring God in jealousy with David, as if God had neglected him, bearing himself so much upon God. They had some sense of this, for God at this time had veiled himself from David, as he does oft from his best children, for the better discovery of the malice of wicked men: and doth not Satan tip the tongues of the enemies of religion now, to insult the Church over how it now lays bleeding? What becomes of their reformation, of their gospel?

Nay, rather what’s become of your eyes, we may say back unto them? For God is nearest to his children when he seems farthest off. In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. Gen. 22:14, God is with them, and in them, though the wicked be not aware of it.

Where is now thy God?

In heaven, in earth, in me, everywhere but in the heart of such as ask such questions, and yet there they shall find him too in his time, filling their consciences with his wrath; and then, Where is their God? where are their great friends, their riches, their honours, which they set up as a god? What can avail them now ?

But how was David affected with these reproaches? Their words were as swords, as with a “sword in my bones,” ver. 10, they spake daggers to him, they cut him to the quick when they touched him in his God, as if he had neglected his servants, when as the devil himself regards those who serve his turn. True it is, that when you touch a true godly man in his religion, and you touch his life and his best freehold, he lives more in his God than in himself; so that we may see here, there is a murder of the tongue, a wounding tongue, as well as a healing tongue: men think themselves freed from murder, if they kill none, or if they shed no blood, whereas they cut others to the heart with bitter words.

We see David therefore upon this reproach to be presently so moved, as to become upset with himself for it. “Why art thou so cast down and disquieted, O my soul?” This bitter taunt ran so much in his mind, that he expresses it twice in this Psalm; for he was understands that they struck at God through his sides; what they spake in scorn and lightly, he took heavily. And indeed, when religion suffers, if there be any heavenly fire in the heart, it will rather break out, than not discover itself at all. We see by daily experience, that there is a special force in words uttered from a subtle head, a false heart and a smooth tongue, to weaken the hearts of professors, by bringing an evil report upon the strict profession of religion: as the cunning and false spies did upon the good land, Judges 1:24, as if it were not only in vain, but dangerous to appear for Christ in evil times.

But forgetting everyone else, we need not go further than ourselves, to find all sorts of causes for discouragement, there is a whole seminary of discouragements within us. Our flesh, is an enemy so much the worse because it is so much nearer it is to us, and our own heart will always ready to scornfully reproach us within our consciences with the words, “Where is now thy God?”

And how can you stand out with your Christian profession if you don’t have an answer?

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Dealing With the Soul’s Grief. Part 2

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.

David's_Grief_Over_Absolom_(Bible_Card)..
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Why art thou cast down, O my soul? 
And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. –Psalm 42
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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.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? How David handles Grief. Part 1

Taken from, “The Soul’s Conflict and Victory Over Itself By Faith”
Written by Richard Sibbes, July 1, 1635, at Grays-Inn.

grief

Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
And why art thou disquieted within me?
Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him,
who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

–Psalm 42

The Psalms are, as it were, the anatomy of a holy man…

…which lay the inside of a truly devout man outward to the view of others. If the Scriptures be compared to a body, the Psalms may well be the heart, they are so full of sweet affections, and passions. For in other portions of Scripture God speaks to us; but in the Psalms holy men speak to God and their own hearts: as,

In this Psalm we have the passionate passages of a broken and troubled spirit.
At this time David was a banished man, banished from his own house, from his friends, and, which troubled him most, from the house of God, upon occasion of Saul’s persecution, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains. See how this works upon him.

1. He lays open his desire springing from his love. Love being the prime and leading affection of the soul, from whence grief springs, from being crossed in that we love. For the setting out of which his affection to the full, he borrows an expression from the dear; no dear, being chased by the hunters, pants more after water, than my heart doth after thee, O God, ver. 1 : though he found God present with him in exile, yet there is a sweeter presence of him in his ordinances, which now he wanted and took to heart: places and conditions are happy or miserable, God generously grants his gracious presence more or less; and therefore, When, O when shall it be, that I appear before God?

2. Then after his strong desire, he lays out his grief, which he could not contain, but must needs give a vent to it in tears: and he had such a spring of grief in him, as fed his tears day and night, verse, 3; all the ease he found was to dissolve this cloud of grief into the shower of tears.

But, why gives he this way to his grief?

Because together with his exiling from God’s house, he was reproached by his enemies, with his religion: where is now thy God? ver. 3. Grievances come not alone, but, as Job’s messengers, follow one another. These bitter taunts, together with the remembrance of his former happiness in communion with God in his house, made deep impressions in his soul, when he remembered how he went with the multitude into the house of God, ver. 4, and led a goodly train with him, being willing, as a good magistrate and master of a family, not to go to the house of God alone, nor to Heaven alone, but to carry as many as he could with him; oh! The remembrance of this made him pour forth (not his words or his tears only, but) his very soul. Former favors and happiness make the soul more sensible of all impressions to the contrary; hereupon, finding his soul over sensible, he expostulates with himself, why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?”

But though the remembrance of the former sweetness of God’s presence did somewhat stay him, yet his grief would not so be stilled, and therefore it gathers upon him again; one grief called upon another, as one deep wave follows another, ver. 7, without intermission, until his soul was almost overwhelmed under these waters; yet he recovers himself a little with looking up to God, who he expected would with speed and authority send forth his loving kindness with command to raise him up and comfort him, and give him matter of songs in the night, ver. 8. For all this, his unruly grief will not be calmed, but renews assaults upon the return of the reproach of his enemies. Their words were as swords, ver. 10, unto him, and his heart being made very tender and sensible of grief, these sharp words enter too deep; And thereupon he hath recourse to his former remedy, as being the most tried to chide his soul, and charge it to trust in God.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Richard Sibbes (or Sibbs) (1577–1635) was an English theologian. He is known as a Biblical exegete, and as a representative, with William Perkinsand John Preston, of what has been called “main-line” Puritanism.

He was the author of several devotional works expressing intense religious feeling — The Saint’s Cordial (1629), The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax (1631, exegesis of Isaiah 42:3), The Soules Conflict (1635), etc.  The clerical leaders of the Feoffees, Davenport, Gouge and Sibbes, all adhered to Calvinist covenant theology, as shaped by the English theologians Perkins, Preston, William Ames, and Thomas Taylor. 

His works were much read in New England. Thomas Hooker, prominent there from 1633, was directly influenced by Sibbes, and his “espousal theology”, using marriage as a religious metaphor, draws on The Bruised Reed and Bowels Opened. Sibbes was cited by the Methodist John Wesley. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon studied his craft in Sibbes, Perkins and Thomas Manton. The evangelical Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in the highest terms of his own encounter with the work of Sibbes.

NO CREDIT ? … NO PROBLEM ! Or, Don’t pretend that your unworthiness and inability keeps you away from God.

Written by Richard Sibbes

“And this is the will of him who sent me,
that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me,
but raise it up on the last day.” 

–John 6:39 (ESV)

111Don’t pretend that your unworthiness and inability keeps you away from God…

…for this is the way to keep you aware.  If any thing help us, it must be God; and if ever he help us, it must be by casting ourselves upon him: for then he will reach out himself unto us in the promise of mercy to pardon our sin, and in the promise of grace to sanctify our natures.  It was a good resolution of the lepers,  “If we enter into the city, the famine is there, and we shall die”, say they; “if we sit still, we shall die also: let us therefore fall into the host of Assyrians, if they save us, we shall live; if they kill us, we shall but die.”

So we should reason: if we sit still under the load of our sin, we shall die; if we put ourselves into the hands of Christ, if he save us, we shall live; if he save us not, we shall but die. No, surely he will not suffer us to die. 

Did ever Christ thrust any back from him, that put themselves upon him?  Unless it were by that means to draw them nearer to him, as we see in the woman of Canaan, His denial was but to increase her recourse.  We should therefore do as she did, gather all arguments to help our faith… 

Suppose I am a dog, says she,
…yet I am one of the family, and therefore have right to the crumbs that fall. 

So, Lord, I have been a sinner,
…yet I am thy creature; and not only so, but such a creature as you have set over the rest of the works of your hands;

And not only so, but one whom you have introduced into your Church by baptism,
…whereby you would bind me to give myself unto you and your family beforehand;

And more than this, you have brought me under other means of grace,
…and by doing so, you have showed your will concerning my turning towards you. 

You have not only offered me conditions of peace,
…but you have wooed me by your ministers to give up myself unto you, as yours in your Christ.

Therefore, I dare not suspect your good meaning towards me, or question your intent,
…but I therefore, resolve by your grace, to take your counsel, and put myself upon your mercy. 

I cannot think, if you had meant to cast me away, and not to own me for your own,
…that you would have ever kindled these desires in me.

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Taken from the “Soul’s Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself by Faith” by Richard Sibbes
Edited for thought and sense.

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Richard Sibbes (or Sibbs) (1577–1635) was an English theologian. He is known as a Biblical exegete, and as a representative, with William Perkinsand John Preston, of what has been called “main-line” Puritanism.

He was the author of several devotional works expressing intense religious feeling — The Saint’s Cordial (1629), The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax (1631, exegesis of Isaiah 42:3), The Soules Conflict (1635), etc. The clerical leaders of the Feoffees, Davenport, Gouge and Sibbes, all adhered to Calvinist covenant theology, as shaped by the English theologians Perkins, Preston, William Ames, and Thomas Taylor.

His works were much read in New England. Thomas Hooker, prominent there from 1633, was directly influenced by Sibbes, and his “espousal theology”, using marriage as a religious metaphor, draws on The Bruised Reed and Bowels Opened. Sibbes was cited by the Methodist John Wesley. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon studied his craft in Sibbes, Perkins and Thomas Manton. The evangelical Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in the highest terms of his own encounter with the work of Sibbes.