Eloquent Statements of the Word of God

January 4, 2010

Bible Study, Theology

From Richard Sibbes

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I hold many of the puritan divines in high regard.  I was introduced, first, to Samuel Rutherford back in the mid 90’s.  A depth of passion and conviction for God I never heard from anyone else’s writings.  Shortly after, I came to know some familiar names: John Bunyan and Jonathan Edwards.  They represent the giants of reformed protestant thought.  But it wasn’t until about two years ago that I started reading them in force and came to understand their depth of thought and love of God.  Men like Thomas Watson, William Guthrie, Richard Baxter, John Owen, and Thomas Boston represent the heart of the Puritan era.  Modern evangelicalism is sadly missing out by marginalizing Puritan church history.

The fellow above and to the left is Richard Sibbes.  He was born in 1577 in Tostock, Suffolk of Old England.  As a preacher, scholar and teacher he wrote some of the most gracious and beautiful words of commentary on God’s Word.  Below are a few of his thoughts on the Word of God.   

The Word from the mouth of God is more ancient than the Scripture, for the first word of Scripture was the promise, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The Scripture is but the mode, the manner of conveying the Word of God. This Scripture is the rule whereby we must walk and the judge also of all controversies of religion, and in spite of the church of Rome it will judge them. Augustine has an excellent remark; “When there is contention betwixt brethren, witnesses are brought, but in the end, the words, the will of the dead man is brought forth, and these words determine. Now shall the words of a dead man be of force, and shall not the word of Christ determine? Therefore look to the Scripture.”

Those that care not for the Word of God reject their comfort; all comfort must be drawn out of the Scriptures, which are the breasts of consolation; many are bred up by education to know the truth and are able to discourse of it, but they lack the Spirit of truth, arid that is the reason why all their knowledge vanishes away in time of trial and temptation.

A man may know that the Word has wrought upon his conscience when he comes to hear and learn and reform. A man that has an heart without guile is glad to hear the sharpest reproofs because he knows that sin is his greatest enemy. But if we live in a course that we are loath should be reproved it is a sign our hearts are full of guile. Corrupt men mould their teachers and fashion them to their lusts, but a good and upright heart is willing that divine truths should have their full authority in the soul, and continues in the way of duty, though never so contrary to flesh and blood.

He that attends to the Word of God, not only knows the words (which are but the shell) but he knows the things. He has spiritual light to know what faith and repentance are. There is at that time a spiritual echo in the soul. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27. 8). Therefore must men judge of their profiting by the Word, not by carrying it in their memories, but by being made able by it to bear crosses and to resist temptations.

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.

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