Category Archives: Richard Sibbes
Puritan Richard Sibbes on the end and aim of gospel preaching (Works, 2:232):
When the beauty of Christ is unfolded, it draws the wounded, hungry soul unto him. The preaching of the word doth that that shows the sweet love of God in Jesus Christ. This makes the ordinance of the ministry so sweet. The ordinance of the ministry is that that distributes the portion to every child of God. The ministers of God are stewards, as it were, to distribute comfort and reproof to whom it belongs. Now where there is a convenient distributing of the portion to every one, that makes the ordinance of God so beautiful, when the waters of life are derived from the spring of the Scripture to every particular man’s use.
The word, in the application of it, is a sweet thing. For good things, the nearer they are brought home, the more delightful they are. This ordinance of preaching, it lays open the ‘riches of Christ.’ There may be a great deal of riches wrapped up in a treasury, but this opens the treasury, as St Paul says, ‘ to lay open the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Eph 3:8). The ministry of the word is ordained to lay open the treasure to God’s people, that they may know what riches they have by Christ; and the end of the ministry is to win the people’s love to Christ.
Therefore they come between the bride and bridegroom to procure the marriage; therefore they lay open that that procures the contract here, and the consummation in heaven; so to woo for Christ, and ‘beseech them to be reconciled to God’ (2 Cor 5:20). This is the end of the ministry. This makes the church of God so beautiful, that it hath this ordinance in it [preaching], to bring God, and Christ, and his people together: to contract them together. There be rich mines in the Scripture, but they must be digged up. The ministry serves to dig up those mines.
Puritan Richard Sibbes, in a short book titled A Christian’s Portion [Works, 4:2–38], fleshed out 1 Corinthians 3:21–23. At one place he makes the point that the Church possesses all truth, even that of non-Christian authors. In one passage Sibbes writes [page 18]:
Again, ‘all things are ours’ [1 Cor. 3:21]. Therefore truth, wheresoever we find it, is ours. We may read [a] heathen author. Truth comes from God, wheresoever we find it, and it is ours, it is the church’s. We may take it from them as a just possession. Those truths that they have, there may be good use of those truths; but we must not use them for ostentation. For that is to do as the Israelites; when they had gotten treasure out of Egypt, they made a calf, an idol of them. So we must not make an idol of these things. But truth, wheresoever we find it, is the church’s. Therefore with a good conscience we may make use of any human author. I thought good to touch this, because some make a scruple of it.
Yes, some do even to this day.
Reformed Theological Seminary has blessed the wider Church by offering many class lectures for online download. These are available trough the iTunes store and come through your computer (for free!). Recently RTS may have added their best resource yet – History and Theology of the Puritans, a 16-part series delivered by Dr. J.I. Packer. [Packer penned the popular, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway: 1994).]
In over 11 hours of lectures, Packer covers …
1. The Puritan Identity – pt. 1 (45:14)
2. The Puritan Identity – pt. 2 (33:10)
3. Puritan Theological Concerns – pt. 1 (45:54)
4. Puritan Theological Concerns – pt. 2 (45:03)
5. The Bible in Puritan Theology – pt. 1 (46:53)
6. The Bible in Puritan Theology – pt. 2 (46:01)
7. Salvation by Grace – pt. 1 (46:41)
8. Salvation by Grace – pt. 2 (46:37)
9. Faith and Assurance – pt. 1 (46:32)
10. Faith and Assurance – pt. 2 (46:16)
11. The Good Fight – pt. 1 (46:22)
12. The Good Fight – pt. 2 (31:45)
13. Conscience (44:06)
14. Reformed Monasticism (43:01)
15. The Christian Minister (44:22)
16. Worship, Fellowship, and Discipline in the Church (27:40)
I hear you asking, So how do I enjoy this yummy goodness?
1. First, install the program iTunes on your computer by clicking here and following directions. Check first because there is a chance iTunes is already installed on your computer.
2. Once you have iTunes loaded you need to go to this website and click on the button under “Click to launch RTS on iTunes.”
3. You should now be in the RTS page in the iTunes store. Under “RTS Virtual Courses” click on “Church History.”
4. Then click on “History and Theology of the Puritans.” This will take you to the page for downloads.
5. To download just click the button “Get tracks” on the top (to get them all at once) or the button “Get” on the right side of each track (for individual downloads). The audio files will be downloaded into iTunes on your computer and from here you can listen to the mp3s, burn them to audio CDs, etc.
6. And be sure to download a PDF copy of the course syllabus.
And that, my Puritan friends, is how you get the yummy goodness of Packer on the Puritans into your computer and into your head!
Happy listening. And thank you to the gracious folks at RTS!
Puritan fashion is hot! No kidding. A top designer recently announced the resurgence of the Puritan doily! Yes, that white thing around Richard Sibbes’ neck is coming back. [Once for a college video project to portray John Winthrop I cut a neck hole in a table doily. Yes, there are pictures of me sportin’ the thing. No, you’ll never see them.]
There is more to the Puritans than hip doily fashion. So who were they? This question receives a great deal of answers but one book relinquishes definition of Puritan culture to the words of the Puritans. The book is titled The Puritans: A Sourcebook of their Writings (Dover: 2001) edited by Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson.
Perry Miller (1905-1963) was a professor at Harvard and is remembered as a fine Puritan scholar and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Narrowed specifically on the American Puritans, this 1,000 book is loaded with original source writings and helpful introductions covering the true Puritan in their manners, customs, behaviors, poetry and their thoughts on art, education, politiks and science. It provides a fascinating background in the search to understand true Puritan culture.
Here are a few choice cuts from the intro:
“Without some understanding of Puritanism, it may be safely said, there is no understanding of America … In the mood of revolt against the ideals of previous generations which has swept over our period, Puritanism has become a shining target for many sorts of marksmen. Confusion becomes worse confounded if we attempt to correlate modern usages with anything that can be proved pertinent to the original Puritans themselves. To seek no further, it was the habit of proponents for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment during the 1920’s to dub Prohibitionists ‘Puritans,’ and the cartoonists made the nation familiar with an image of the Puritan: a gaunt, lank-haired kill-joy, wearing a black steeple hat and compounding for sins he was inclined to by damning those to which he had no mind. Yet any acquaintance with the Puritans of the seventeenth century will reveal at once, not only that they did not wear such hats, but also that they attired themselves in all the hues of the rainbow, and furthermore that in their daily life they imbibed what seem to us prodigious quantities of alcoholic beverages, with never the slightest inkling that they were doing anything sinful. … if first of all we wish to take Puritan culture as a whole, we shall find, let us say, that about ninety per cent of the intellectual life, scientific knowledge, morality, manners and customs, notions and prejudices, was that of all Englishmen … They were not unique or extreme in thinking that religion was the primary and all-engrossing business of man, or that all human though and action should tend to the glory of God.”
This book is not Cross-centered but very useful in illustrating the Puritan Cross-centered spirituality existed within a cultural sensitivity to art, politiks, education, science and the world around them. Very useful to confront the caricature that the Puritans were dry, culturally withdrawn and excessive zealots.
Thursday morning (4/12/07)
Breakout seminar #2
Mark Dever: “Watch the Past: Living Lessons from Dead Theologians”
GAITHERSBURG, MD – Being one who loves to read the books of dead theologians and preachers, Mark Dever’s session was a personal highlight. The point was to encourage us to broaden our theological and biographical reading to at least 12 different authors, each to be read for one month annually. Dever himself uses a yearly reading plan where he reads a specific author each month of the year (like Augustine in February). Then every April he moves on to John Calvin, reading a new biography or theological work. Each year the reading plan starts over.
For readers of the Together for the Gospel blog, this will sound familiar. On February 1, 2006 Dever wrote a short post titled “An apostolic agenda” outlining this very thing. On Thursday morning at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Leader’s Conference, Dever filled out the details.
Dever began with a lengthy quote from C.S. Lewis’ introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation which outlines some reasons why old books are important. Lewis writes,
There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire. …
The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
With this introduction, Dever launched into his “canon of theologians.” He encouraged us to read on theological issues that are not a particular struggle at the time. Let the theologians talk about what they want to talk about. Dever then outlined his own personal reading plan.
The ‘canon of theologians’
January – Early church writings (1st-3rd centuries). Recommended reading: Many and various works and authors were mentioned like the Epistle of Dionysius, The Didache, Clement, The Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Penguin paperback, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (0140444750). When asked if he used the early church writings in his expositional research, he said ‘no.’ He is familiar with the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture but has not found them exegetically beneficial. [This helps answer an important question we asked earlier this year]. Dever’s use of the early church fathers is predominantly theological and historical.
February – Augustine (354-430). The most influential extra-biblical theologian in the West. Recommended: City of God and The Confessions (Henry Chadwick edition). Dever’s disagreement: That the church is the conduit of salvation. “Augustine got it bad wrong on ecclesiology.”
March – Martin Luther (1483-1546). Lessons learned: 1. Justification is by faith alone, all of sheer grace. Luther “cleanses the church from the barnacles of traditionalism.” 2. Luther’s boldness. Read biography Here I Stand. Recommended reading: 95 Theses and Bondage of the Will. You can read Bondage of the Will out loud to children and they will be engaged because of the vigorous prose and Luther’s name-calling towards Erasmus (Dever is very funny). Best bio being Here I Stand by Roland Bainton (0452011469).
April – John Calvin (1509-1564). The greatest theologian of the Reformation period. Lessons learned: 1. God’s glory at the center of everything. The world is the “theater” of God’s glory. 2. Centrality of man’s depravity, shown especially in the heart’s perpetual idol production. 3. He was careful with Scripture. Calvin had a very rare combination of gifts that balanced the theological, linguistic, pastoral, and exegetical. 4. He filled both the offices of pastor and scholar. 5. The diligent training of his spiritual children even as he knew sending these pastors back into France would mean certain death [see the concept of “Calvin’s School of Death”]. Disagreements: That the state is responsible for the church. He confused the church and state, a distinction we take for granted today. Recommended: Sermons on the Ten Commandments, commentary on 1 Cor. 12-14, The Institutes of the Christian Religion and anything written by T.H.L. Parker. He does not recommend modern bios of Calvin and especially warned against McGrath.
May – Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). Lessons learned: 1. The tenderness of Christ. The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax a great example of Jesus’ tenderness and it makes for a great read together with your spouse. Sibbes was able to point out evidences of grace very well. 2. “Diagnostic evangelism.” Sibbes continued to hold out the biblical truth of what a genuine Christian looks like and, by consequence, sorted out those who nominally professed faith. By authenticating the Christian life he naturally separated the sheep from the wolves and goats. He was clear that one’s salvation does not come through assurance but rather assurance comes from genuine salvation. Sibbes pointed those who were never converted to run to grace in the Cross. Disagreement: Infant baptism. Recommendations: Sibbes stuttered in his preaching so he kept his sentences relatively short and this makes him easier to read than his contemporaries. Start with the sermons in volume seven of his collected works.
June – John Owen (1616-1683) and John Bunyan (1628-1688). John Owen is known for his argument on limited atonement in Death of Death. It’s a good book to scare Arminians, but there exist better exegetical ways to argue for limited atonement. Lesson learned: Linger with Scripture. “Diligent meditation reaps great rewards.” Dever especially recommends the Owen volumes by Kris Lundgaard (The Enemy Within and Through the Looking Glass) and those by Kapic and Taylor (Overcoming Sin and Temptation). … John Bunyan was a “pot-repairer with extraordinary preaching gifts.” Bunyan clearly expresses himself without the use of long, Latin sentences. His life was marked by a sincere pastoral concern. Recommended: Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (autobiographical) and The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Pilgrim’s Progress being a “great systematic theology” built around the “centrality of heaven.”
July – Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). There are many lessons and warnings from the life of Jonathan Edwards. Lessons learned: 1. Diligent meditation. “Edwards can stare at an idea” and has “a powerful ability to think out and illustrate” that idea. An excellent example of this is Edward’s sermon The Excellency of Christ. 2. Edwards demonstrates a zeal for the purity of the church. 3. Understands the connection between his ministry and his congregation. In his Farewell Sermon, after Edwards was fired, he tells his congregation “I’ll see you before the throne.” Disagreements: 1. Infant baptism. 2. The logic of God’s centrality seemed a bit philosophical rather than always biblical. 3. He shows some pastoral carelessness especially with the “young folks’ Bible” controversy [see chapter 18 in George Marsden’s biography]. Nevertheless, Edwards demonstrates a powerful ability to think out and illustrate. Read his sermons and especially his sermon The Nakedness of Job which he wrote when he was 18 years old! As an interesting side note, Dever has preached an Edwards sermon to his congregation. On October 5, 2003 he took Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, marked up the manuscript as he would his own and preached it. You can listen to the final product here.
August – C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). Lessons learned: 1. Evangelism. Spurgeon preached the gospel from any and every text. “More than anyone else, I think of Spurgeon when I prepare my sermons.” Preach each sermon as though someone may be converted. 2. His life is filled with stories of God’s kindness upon his ministry. Read Spurgeon’s autobiography and be amazed at the stories. Spurgeon’s autobiography “may be the most fun thing to read apart from Scripture.” It will encourage you to see that we have a glorious God. 3. He had a lively faith. Spurgeon had “a heightened God-consciousness.” Even in the midst of a prolonged depression, Spurgeon shows that depression drives a faithful Christian to God. Read his Morning and Evening devotional.
September – B.B. Warfield (1851-1921). “Warfield strengthens my faith.” Like John Calvin, Warfield had a wonderful mix of scholarship and piety. Disagreements include infant baptism and Presbyterian polity.
October – Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). Not much in disagreement. Lessons learned: 1. Gave his life to preaching and lived confident in the power of God’s Word. 2. Deadly earnest. It was no light thing for him to preach. The pulpit was the “desk of God.” Recommended: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Preaching and Preachers, Spiritual Depression and his biography by Iain Murray.
November – C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and Carl F.H. Henry (1913-2003). Because time ran short, Dever simply finished off his list of writers he reads in November and December without further comment or recommendation.
December – Contemporary authors like John Stott, J.I. Packer, Iain Murray, R.C. Sproul and John Piper.
This breakout session encourages me to pursue the study of the early church writers, although I’ve become more convinced that they will not prove as helpful in my expositional research and sermon preparation as others. It also encourages me to narrow my focus to a handful of great writers and focus attention on their writings each year. I’m in the process of creating my own “canon of theologians” for annual study. In summary, this was an excellent session and if these small notes interest you, I would recommend getting the audio file for $2.00 to hear all the details that spilled faster than I could corral in my notes.
Related 2007 SGM LC sessions:
With men it is confess and have execution,
but with God confess and have mercy.
We should never lay open our sins but for mercy.
So it honors God;
and when he is honored,
he honors the soul with inward peace and tranquility.
We can never have peace in our souls
till we have dealt roundly with our sins,
and favour them not a whit [bit];
till we have ripened our confession to be a thorough confession.
What is the difference between a Christian and another man?
Another person slubbers [is careless] over his sins
and he thinks if he comes to the congregation,
and follows the minister,
it will serve the turn [end].
But a Christian knows that religion is another manner of matter,
another kind of work than so.
He must deal thoroughly and seriously,
and lay open his sin as the chief enemy in the world,
and labor to raise all the hatred he can against it,
and make it the object of his bitter displeasure,
as being that that hath done him more hurt than all the world besides;
and so he confess it
with all the aggravations of hatred
and envy that he can…
That we in our confessions
(in our fastings especially)
ought to rank ourselves among the rest of sinners.
Perhaps we are not guilty of some sins that they have been guilty of.
God has been merciful to us and kept us in obedience in some things.
There is none of us all
but we have had a hand in the sins of the times.
- Richard Sibbes, Works 6:188-189
No man is more ready to charge the church
than she is to confess her infirmities.
She never hideth them,
she never justifieth them;
she is black,
she hath afflictions,
she kept not her own vine,
she wants [lacks]
She never denies it,
but confesses all freely from her heart;
she hides not her sin,
but tells what she is,
what she hath done,
that so she may give glory to the Lord God of Israel.
And indeed, it makes much for the honor of Christ,
and commends his grace,
that he, such a king,
will set his heart and his eye
upon such a deformed slut as the world deems her to be.
It makes for the comfort of her poor children,
and much stayeth [sustains] them,
when they shall hear the church in all ages,
and in her Abraham, David, and Paul, saying,
‘I am black,’
I have affliction,
as well as others.
It makes for the silencing of all saucy [flippant] daughters
that will upbraid her;
an ingenuous confession,
stops their mouths,
and puts them all to silence.
It much quickens her to the use of the means,
and maketh her cry,
‘Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest.’
And to seek her comfort in Christ Jesus.
Oh it doth her good to receive the sentence of
that so she may be found in Christ,
arrayed with the rich robes of his righteousness.
Hence her plain-hearted openness in her confession.
Let us do the like,
and leave it to the harlot and whore of Babylon
to say herself is a queen, she is glorious, she cannot err.
But let us say with the church, we are black;
yea, let us see it,
let us speak it
as the saints have done,
and be so affected with our estate,
that it may truly humble us,
and cause us to say,
‘It is the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.’
And let us so confess it in ourselves,
that we pity others,
and bear with them,
though full of sins and miseries;
so confess it,
that we stir up others thereby to run,
as Paul did,
and use the ordinances with all diligence,
to pray much,
to read much,
and be humble
A verbal confession of frailties,
without the use of the means,
If we will speak with the church,
we must feel what we say,
and so well understand ourselves and our estate,
that we may gain
- Richard Sibbes, Works 7:97-98
We may observe the ingeniousness of the church in laying open her own state. It is the disposition of God’s people to be ingenious in opening their state to God, as in David, Nehemiah, Ezra, etc.
The reason is thus:
(1.) By a free and full confession we give God the honor of his wisdom in knowing of our own condition, secret and open. We give him the honor of mercy that will not take advantage against us, the honor of power and authority over us, if he should show his strength against us [in judgment]. We yield unto him the glory of all his chief prerogatives; whereupon Joshua moved Achan to a free confession, ‘My son, give gory to God,’ Joshua 7:19.
(2.) We shame Satan, who first takes away shame of sinning, and then takes away shame for sin. He tempts us not to be ashamed to do that we are ashamed to confess, so we, by silence, keep Satan’s council against our own souls. If we accuse ourselves, we put him out of office who is the ‘accuser of the brethren,’ Rev. 12:10.
(3.) We prevent, likewise, malicious imputations from the world. Augustine answered roundly and well when he was upbraided with the sins of his former age: ‘What thou,’ saith he, ‘findest fault with, I have condemned myself before.’
(4.) This ingenious dealing eases the soul, giving vent to the grief of it. While the arrow’s head sticks in the wound, it will not heal. Sin unconfessed is like a broken piece of rusty iron in the body. It must be gotten out, or else it will, by ranking and festering, cause more danger. It is like poison in the stomach, if it be not presently cast up it will infect the whole body. Is it not better to take shame to ourselves now, than to be shamed hereafter before angels, devils, and men?
- Richard Sibbes, Works 2:38-39
Click on pictures for larger image.
Not pictured – Manton on CD, Bunyan 3 vol. works, Goodwin works, Reynolds works and volumes 3-12 of the Boston works. Each day the full sets are coming together.
UPDATED 10/3 … new pictures
Works of Edward Reynolds
(Soli Deo Gloria)
Works of Thomas Goodwin
(Reformation Heritage Books)