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The Bruised Reed (Puritan Paperbacks) Paperback – March 1, 1998
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From the Publisher
The Bruised Reed
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), one of the most influential figures in the Puritan movement during the earlier years of the seventeenth century, was renowned for the rich quality of his ministry. 'The Bruised Reed' shows why he was known among his contemporaries as ‘the sweet dropper’.
'The Bruised Reed' is now issued for the first time in a smaller format in the Puritan Paperbacks series. Some of the language and punctuation have been modernized to make the work more accessible.
|Communion with God by John Owen||The Glory of Christ by John Owen||The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson|
|Topic||Spiritual Growth, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit||Spiritual Growth, Encouragement, Jesus Christ||Spiritual Growth, Salvation, Repentance|
|Series||Puritan Paperbacks||Puritan Paperbacks||Puritan Paperbacks|
|Original Pub Date||1657||1684||1668|
Richard Sibbes was born at Tostock, Suffolk, in 1577 and went to school in Bury St Edmunds. His father, ‘a good sound-hearted Christian’, at first intended that Richard should follow his own trade as a wheelwright, but the boy’s ‘strong inclination to his books, and well-profiting therein’ led to his going up to St John’s College, Cambridge in 1595. He was converted around 1602-3 through the powerful ministry of Paul Bayne, the successor of William Perkins in the pulpit of Great St Andrew’s Church.
After earning his B.D. in 1610, Sibbes was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.
There is no better introduction to the Puritans than the writings of Richard Sibbes, who is, in many ways, a typical Puritan. `Sibbes never wastes the student's time,' `he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.' (C. H. Spurgeon) Richard Sibbes was known in London in the early 17th century as "the Heavenly Doctor Sibbes." The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax; is a masterful exposition of Matthew 12:20. In this the author explains what the reed refers to, then he explains what is to be "a bruised reed."
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Here are a few things I enjoyed about this book:
1. Centrality of Christ
Sibbes doesn’t just point out the sinfulness in the heart of man. He wants the heart of his readers to be captivated by Christ. According to Sibbes, God mercifully bruises followers of Jesus in order to soften their hardheartedness and awaken love for Christ. He writes: “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” (4).
This kind of Christ-centeredness is found throughout the book: “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us” (13). “We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ” (61). “In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet” (62). “He who died for his enemies, will he refuse those, those desire of whose soul is towards him?” (65). “Whatever may be wished for in an all-sufficient comforter is all to be found in Christ” (66). Sibbes reminds readers of the importance of always keeping Christ at the center of everything we do especially in ministry to others.
2. Clear Concise Sentences
I recall during one of my college writing courses coming to an understanding of communicating in short concise sentences as opposed to long narrative. This is one of the things I loved about Sibbes work. He not only makes complicated ideas plain but makes statements so concise they are easily tweet-able.
For example, Sibbes asks the probing question, “What is the source of discouragements to duties?” At this point, one might expect a complicated reply. But instead, Sibbes gives this simple, three-fold answer: “Not from the Father…Not from Christ…Not from the Spirit… Discouragements, then, must come from ourselves and from Satan, who labours to fasten on us a loathing of duty” (56-57). If you feel discouraged about going to God in prayer, then Sibbes exhorts you to preach to yourself that this discouraging lie is coming from your flesh or from the Devil, the father of lies. The holy, loving Triune God longs for his children to boldly draw near to his throne of grace.
“The Bruised Reed” is less a commentary on Matthew 12:20, and more of a blueprint of the Christian walk. It begins by discussing the tenderness of Christ. The heart of the Father. “As a mother tendereth most the most diseased and weakest child, so doth Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest child, and likewise putteth an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support.” Sibbes instructs that we not consider ourselves loftier than Christ, but in likewise manner, condescend to those individuals within which there is a spark of the divine work. “The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. O that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the like merciful disposition!”
Sibbes throughout delves into the riches of “weakness” in the economy of God. “A pearl, though little, yet is of much esteem: nothing in the world is of so good use, as the least dram of grace.” He welcomes a faltering and struggling faith and urges that we do so as well: “A weak hand may receive a rich jewel; a few grapes will show that the plant is a vine, and not a thorn. It is one thing to be wanting in grace, and another thing to want grace altogether.” Correspondingly it is the haughty that are in greater danger: “Hypocrites need stronger conviction than gross sinners, because their will is naught, and thereupon usually their conversion is violent.” Sibbes calls us to not despise the day of small things in weak Christians, but in the model of our Savior, help fan into flame the sparks.
The bruised reeds and smoldering wicks do not remain bruised and smoldering, however. The final chapters discuss the eventual outcome of the judgment or rule of God in the heart of man. “Christ sets up his chair in the very heart, and alters the frame of that, and makes his subjects good, together with teaching of them to be good. Other princes can make good laws, but they cannot write them into people’s hearts.” The joy of the Christian walk is that our Lord does not leave us the way he finds us, but through his transformative work, He will make us something we are not.
Perhaps what I appreciated most in this volume is the Christian, pastoral wisdom offered to those striving to live the Christian walk. How do we call our minds to live in a manner worthy of Christ? How do we battle discouragement when we see so little fruit within us? How do fight complacency through the seasons where we experience apparent ease? This rather short book is a fountain of such wisdom, and something I will go back and read again.
I will say that “The Bruised Reed” though short, takes time to read. The older language and depth of topic require a little more focus than typical books require. While I am by no means a quick reader, I found myself frequently mouthing the words to track with the flow. All in all, an amazing (life changing?) work. One I will reread again and again, and pass on to friends.
You should read it as well.
“A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child, as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us.”