Reformation Books: The Bruised Reed

I had reason recently to return to this little book full of pastoral wisdom, gentle correction and spiritual encouragement. It is written by the Puritan Richard Sibbes who ministered in London and Cambridge in the seventeenth century. Then he was known as ‘The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ on account of his powerful application of God’s Word to the cure of souls.

Richard Sibbes wrote The Bruised Reed in 1630 as an exposition and application of Isaiah 42:1-3 and Matthew 12:18-21. In the book he outlines the calling of Christ to his office and the manner in which he carries it out. He emphasises the Father’s love for us who are included in Christ Jesus through our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.

Often times the tendency in Christians, after being saved, is to turn back to their own actions as evidence of salvation and for assurance of God’s love for them. For ministers we may look to the strength or health of our churches as a sign of God’s approval, consequently we may become discouraged and disheartened when we do not see our expectations fulfilled.  Many in our congregations doubt God’s call upon their lives because they do not see their lives bearing the fruit they anticipated. In response to this Sibbes reminds us that God has always likened his church to ‘weak things’ and that ‘God’s children are bruised reeds before conversion and oftentimes after.’

From there Sibbes guides us through the good effects of bruising (leading to salvation, purging us of pride, evoking free confession, conforming us to Christ who was bruised for us) to Christ’s response towards bruised reeds (which is grace pure and simple both in mercy, not giving us what our sins deserve, and in blessing, giving us that which we do not deserve).

Throughout the book there are gems that cannot help but encourage disheartened believers:

‘Let us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elect to be ‘holy and without blame’ (Eph 1:4)… Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto.’

‘Christ refuses none for the weakness of parts, that none should be discouraged, but accepts none for greatness, that none should be lifted up with that which is of so little reckoning with God.’

‘We must not judge of ourselves always according to present feeling, for in temptations we shall see nothing but smoke of distrustful thoughts.’

‘In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer.’

Sibbes pastoral experience shines through the book as he reminds preachers:

‘That spirit of mercy that was in Christ should move his servants to be content to abase themselves for the good of the meanest.’

‘Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.’

‘Love is the best entertainer of truth; and when it is not entertained in the love of it (2 Thess. 2:10), lovely though it is, it leaves the heart and will stay no longer.’

In many similar words Sibbes encourages ministers to keep preaching with knowledge and affection the grace of God to our congregations. For our victory in Christ is certain, as Sibbes says, ‘The victory lies not with us, but with Christ, who has taken on him both to conquer for us and to conquer in us.’


About James Church

I'm a Minister of the Gospel serving Radford Road Church and Lillington Free Church in Royal Leamington Spa. I grew up as a son of the manse, but I came to personal faith in my early teens. I am committed to the authority of Scripture and the truths found there that by grace through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God to His praise and glory.

Posted on August 22, 2012, in Wednesday Books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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