I don’t normally read the Puritans but now that I’ve been reading some Sibbes for the Sunday school class I intend to teach over the next two weeks, I think I might need to change some of that. Oh sure, some of them can seem a bit overly pious in their writings, but let me convey a couple of amazing quotes by Sibbes that help to show that some of them also really understood God’s grace!
The glass of the gospel is excellent and eminent above all other glasses. It is a mirror that changes us. When we see ourselves and our corruptions in the glass of the law, we see ourselves dead. The law finds us dead and leaves us dead; it cannot give us any life. But when we look into the gospel and see the glory of God, the mercy of God, and the gracious promises of the gospel, we are changed into the likeness of Christ, whom we see in the gospel. This excellent glass has a transforming power to make beautiful. Such a glass would be much prized in this proud world; such a glass is the gospel.
Richard Sibbes, Glorious Freedom, 125
The adversaries of the grace of God quarrel with us, because we preach justification by the free mercy and love of God in Christ. They say this is to deaden the spirits of men, so that they do not care about good works. But can there be any greater incentive and motive in the world to sanctification, to express Christ and to study Christ, than to consider what favour and mercy we have in Christ; how we are justified and freed by the glorious mercy of God in Christ? There cannot be any greater. We see here that they depend upon one another. By seeing in the glass of the gospel the glory of God, we are transformed from glory to glory. An excellent glass the gospel is: by seeing God’s love in it we are changed.
Glorious Freedom, 128
Sibbes also has some incredible words for those with tender consciences who long for growth in grace, but begin to doubt whether God is truly at work in them:
Some Christian of a weaker sort want to be in Canaan just as soon as they are out of Egypt, and I cannot blame them. But they are dissatisfied. As soon as they have grace in them they want, out of spiritual covetousness, to advance immediately. ‘Oh,’ they say, ‘that I had more knowledge and more victory!’ These desires are good; for God does not put desires into the hearts of his children in vain. But they must be content to be led from glory to glory, from one degree of grace to another. Christ himself grew more in favour with God and man. As that little stone grew to a mountain (Dan. 2:35), so we must be content to graw from grace to grace. Progress is gradual in the new creature. We cannot immediately be in Canaan. God will lead us through the wilderness, through temptations and crosses, before we come to heaven. Many who see themselves far short of other, stronger Christians think they have no grace at all.
Glorious Freedom, 151
Some, because they cannot see themselves growing, think they are not growing at all. That is only ignorance: we see that the sun moves, though we do not see it moving, and we know things grow, though we do not see them growing. So, if we do not perceive our growth from grace to grace, it does not mean that we are not growing.
Glorious Freedom, 158-59
Very warm. Very pastoral. Very beautiful!