The Balanced Mr Sibbes

6 01 2008

Post No.2 on The Timmy Brister Challenge

One of the chief benefits of reading many of the Puritans is their pastoral perspective on preaching and proclaiming the Word of God. Their approach is not that of a dry academic addressing the minds of his hearers, but of a servant of God appealing to the hearts of the Lord’s people. For anyone not familiar with Puritan writings it can come as a real surprise that one of the outstanding features of these men was their warm and devotional hearts. Such sentiments dispel the warped connotations which the word ‘Puritan’ carries to the modern ear of paralysing austerity and hard heartedness.

‘The Bruised Reed’ is a particularly good example of this. Sibbes is concerned to encourage the hearts of his readers and to bolster the confidence of those who may be doubting their salvation. (For a post related to this theme, please see ‘Living with a Lion’). He assures his readers that the Lord will not break the bruised reed, but will use this bruising as a means of edifying and strengthening the true child of God. Sibbes knows that some of his hearers/readers will need to be bruised, and will need the humbling experience of realising their own unworthiness and depravity. For others, however, such bruising can be destructive rather than constructive. A balance is thus needed in addressing the hearts of the Lord’s people. Sibbes sums it up in this way:

‘It is dangerous, I confess, in some cases, with some spirits, to press too much and too long this bruising, because they may die under the wound and burden before they be raised up again. Therefore it is good in mixed assemblies to mingle comfort that every soul may have its due portion. But if we have this for a foundation 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’

How wise is such counsel! How true preaching must balance fearlessness and faithfulness with the love and compassion to the hearts of hearers. How we must not be afraid to bruise the conscience of those who need to be confronted about their standing with God. But me must also not fear the opinion of some if we sound a note of comfort and consolation and bring balm to the hearts of those who are worried and wondering about their true standing with God.




2 responses

10 01 2008

Well, whether it’s in our purpose or not … I’ve now ordered a copy for myself. 😉

10 01 2008
Andrew and Carolyn

Thanks for your comment, Mark. Looking forward to reading your own thoughts on ‘The Bruised Reed’ in days to come.

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