Richard Sibbes


Anglican Theologian, Biblical Exegete, Representative, with William Perkins and John Preston, of what has been called "main-line" Puritanism

Author Quotes

It is the policy of the devil to labor to make us slight the gracious work of conviction, for he knows that whatsoever is built upon a false foundation will come to nothing, and therefore he makes us slight the work of self-examination and searching ourselves; but slight this and slight all, for if you are careless in searching and examining yourself, you will also be partial in your repentance and obedience.

Our whole life under the Gospel should be nothing but thankfulness and fruitfulness. But oh! take heed therefore of turning the grace of God into wantonness. The honor, grace and authority of the Gospel all require that we should deny all ungodliness, and worldly lust, and live righteously, and soberly, and godly in the present world. Therefore, when we find ourselves tempted to act otherwise, instantly we should think - oh! this is not the life of a Christian under the gospel.

That man has made good progress in religion that has high esteem of the ordinances of God, and though perhaps he may find himself dead and dull, yet the best things have left such a taste and relish in his soul that he cannot be long without them.

The Word of God dwells in our hearts when it rules in the soul, when it directs our thoughts, affections and conversations, so that we dare not do anything contrary thereunto. but we shall be checked. Who shall get out that which God's finger has written in our hearts? No fire nor faggot, no temptation whatever.

This is a common rule, that we cannot converse with company that are not spiritual, but if they vex us not they will taint us, unless we are put upon them in our callings; we should therefore make special choice of our company, and walk in continual watchfulness.

Watchfulness is an exercise of all the graces of the Spirit, and these are given to keep our souls awake. We have enemies about us that are never asleep, and our worst enemy is within us, and so much the worse because so near. We live also in a world full of temptations, and wicked men are full of malice; we are passing through our enemy's country and therefore have need to be ever vigilant. The devil also watches us to spoil every good action, therefore we have need to pray always and watch that all our graces be in perpetual exercise. We should constantly watch with a fear of jealousy, taking heed of a spirit of drowsiness and laboring also to keep ourselves unspotted from such a defiling world.

Whatsoever is good for God's children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to heaven; therefore, if poverty be good, they shall have it; if disgrace be good, they shall have it; if crosses be good, they shall have them; if misery be good, they shall have it; for all is ours, to serve for our greatest good.

When we pray God oftentimes refuses to give us comfort because we are not on good terms with Him; therefore we should still look back to our past life. Perhaps God sees you running to this or that sin, and before He will hear you, you must renew your repentance for that sin, for our nature is such that it will knock at every door and seek every corner before we will come to God? so that God will not hear before we forsake all helps and all false dependence upon the creature, and then He gets the greatest glory and we have the greatest sweetness to our souls. That water which comes from the fountain is the sweetest, and so divine comfort is the sweetest when we see nothing in the creature, and God is the best discerner of the fittest time to bestow His own consolations.

It may be asked, how shall we know the Scriptures to be the Word of God? For answer, grant first, that there is a God, it will follow then that He must be worshipped and served, and that this service must be discovered to us, that we may know what He requires; and then let it be considered what Word of God can be different from this. Besides, God has blessed the superstition of the Jews (who were very strict to every letter) to preserve it for us; and the heretics, since the primitive church, have so observed one another that there can be no other than this Word. But we must further know that we must have something in our souls suitable to the truths contained in it before we can truly and savingly believe it to be the Word of God, so that we find it has a power in working upon our hearts and affections: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32). Again, it has a divine operation to warm and pacify the soul, and power to make a I Felix tremble; it has a searching quality to divide between the marrow and the bone. We do not therefore only believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God because any man says so, or because the church says so, but also and principally, because we find it by experience working the same effects in us, that it speaks of itself. Therefore let us never rest till when we hear a promise, we may find something in us by the sanctifying Spirit that may be suitable to it, and so assuring us, that it is this Word alone that informs us of the good pleasure of God to us and of our duty towards Him.

Partial obedience is not obedience at all; to single out easy things that do not oppose our lusts, which are not against our reputation, therein some will do more than they need; but our obedience must be universal to all God's commandments, and that because He commands it. Empty relationships are nothing; if we profess ourselves God's servants and do not honor Him by our obedience, we take but an empty title. Let us seek grace to make our professed relationship good, at least in our affections, that we may be able to say, I desire to fear Thy Name; yea with my spirit within me will I seek thee early (Isaiah 26: 8-9).

That we may be convinced of sin, the Spirit must work a clear and commanding demonstration of our condition by nature. He takes away therefore all excuses, turnings "and windings; even as when we see the sun shine we know it is day. The Spirit not only convinces us in general that we are sinners, but in particular and that strongly, "Thou art the man." This conviction is also universal, of sins of nature, of sins of life; sins of the understanding, of the will and of the affections; of the misery of sin, of the danger of sin, of the folly and madness of sin; of sins against so many motives, so many favors. Proud nature arms itself with excuses, ready evasions, many mitigations. It is necessary therefore that the Holy Ghost should join with men's consciences to make them confess, "I am the man."

There are four things observable in the nature of love; first, an esteem of the party beloved, secondly a desire to be joined to him, thirdly a settled contentment, fourthly a desire to please the party in all things.

This life is a life of faith, for God will try the truth of our faith, so that the world may see that God has such servants as will depend upon His bare word; it were nothing to be a Christian if we should see all here; but God will have His children to live by faith, and take the promise upon His word.

We glorify God when we exalt Him in our souls above all creatures in the world, when we give Him the highest places in our love and in our joy, when all our affections are set upon Him as our greatest good. This is seen also by opposition, when we will not offend God for any creature; when we can ask our affections, "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" (Psalm 73:25).

Whatsoever is good in a natural man is depraved by a self-end; self-love rules all his actions. He keeps within himself and makes his chief end himself, and he is a god to himself. God is but his idol. This is true of all natural men in this world; they make themselves their last end, and where the end is depraved, the whole course is corrupted.

When we receive any good to our souls or to our bodies, whoever is the instrument, let us look to the Principal; as in the gifts we receive, we look not to him that brings but to him who sent them.

It were a thousand times better for many persons to be cast on a bed of sickness and to be God's prisoners, than so scandalously to abuse the health that they have had continued so long.

Poverty and affliction take away the fuel that feeds pride.

That which we drew from the first Adam was the displeasure of God; but we draw from the second Adam the favor of God; from the first Adam we drew corruption, from the second Adam we draw grace; from the first Adam we derive misery and death, and all the miseries that follow death; we draw from the second Adam life and happiness; whatsoever we had from the first Adam we have it repaired more abundantly in the second.

There are in the world many of the poor who yet are exceeding proud, but God sanctifies outward poverty to His children so that it promotes true poverty of spirit. As they are poor, so they have a mean esteem of themselves; it makes them inwardly more humble and more tractable to God's government. Therefore when we are under any cross let us observe how it works, see whether we join with God or not. When He afflicts us outwardly, whether inwardly we be more humble. When He humbles us and makes us poor, whether we become also poor in spirit. When God designs to humble us we should labor through grace to abase ourselves and mortify pride.

This life is not a life for the body but for the soul, and therefore the soul should speak to the body, "If you move me to fulfil your desires now, you will lose me and yourself hereafter." But if the body be given up to Christ, then the soul will speak a good word for it in heaven, "Lord, there is a body of mine in the grave in yonder world that did fast for me and pray with me:" it will speak for it as Pharaoh's butler to the king for Joseph.

We have oftentimes occasion to bless God more for crosses than for our comforts. There is a blessing hidden in the worst things to God's children, as there is a cross in the best things to the wicked; to the saints there is a blessing in death, a blessing in sickness, a blessing in the hatred of our enemies, a blessing in all losses whatsoever. Therefore in our afflictions we should not only justify God but glorify and magnify Him for His mercies, that rather than we should be condemned with the world, He will graciously take this course.

When God means to bestow any blessing on His church or children He will pour out upon them the spirit of prayer and, as all pray for everyone, so everyone prays for all; this is a great comfort to weak Christians when they cannot pray, that the prayers of others shall prevail for them.

When we shoot an arrow, we look to the fall of it; when we send a ship to sea, we look for its return; and when we sow seed, we look for a harvest; so likewise when we sow our prayers, through Christ, in God's bosom, shall we not look for an answer and observe how we speed? It is a seed of atheism to pray and not to look how we speed. But a sincere Christian will pray and wait, and strengthen his heart with promises out of the Word, and never leave praying and looking up till God gives him a gracious answer.

Joy is right when it proceeds from right principles, from judgment and conscience, not from fancy and imagination; when judgment and conscience will bear him out; when there is fellowship between them both, for our joy must spring from peace, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:2). The Apostles began their Epistles with mercy, grace and peace; mercy in forgiveness, grace to renew our natures, and peace of conscience. These are things to be gloried in. If we find our sins pardoned, our persons accepted, and our nature renewed; we may comfort ourselves in health, in wealth, in wife, in children, in anything, because all come from the favor of God. We may joy in afflictions because there is a blessing in the worst things to further our eternal happiness. Though we cannot joy in affliction itself as being contrary to our nature, yet we may in the outcome; so that we rejoice aright when, having interest in God, we glory in the testimony of a good conscience; when looking inward, we find all at peace; when each of us can say upon good grounds that God is mine, and therefore all is mine, both life and death and all things, so far as they may serve for my truest good.

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Anglican Theologian, Biblical Exegete, Representative, with William Perkins and John Preston, of what has been called "main-line" Puritanism