- False Despair of Christ's Mercy
- False Hope of Christ's Mercy
- Resisting Christ's Mercy
- Presuming on Christ's Mercy
- Seeking Another Source of Mercy
- Mistreating the Heirs of Mercy
- Strife Among the Heirs of Mercy
- Taking Advantage of the Bruised
- Despising the Simple Means of Mercy
Sibbes has been very gracious in his words up to this point. He has labored to portray the astonishing grace and mercy of our Savior. He has said such sweet things as, "there is more mercy in Christ, than sin in us". Yet there are those that "offend deeply against this merciful disposition". Sibbes now discusses the various ways that we might offend Christ deeply.
All of these listed have one thing in common, they reject Christ in his mercy. Whether it be disbelieving him to be merciful, presuming upon his mercy while living in sin, or treating others without mercy. All of these have at their foundation a misunderstanding, or even outright rejection, of the mercy of Christ.
The man that has a false despair is not trusting in Christ's mercy and is therefore quenching the Spirit. The man that has a false hope of Christ's mercy is drawing further away from Christ into the shackles of sin, and is therefore quenching the Spirit. Some even go so far as to resist the mercy of Christ, because they will not be troubled with the light of these sparks of grace. Others will presume upon Christ's mercy. Much like those that have a false hope, because of our carnal disposition we can still struggle with presuming upon his mercy.
Even in the midst of our spanking Sibbes stops to remind us of the mercy and power of Christ in holding us. Sibbes reminds us of all the "means whereby Christ preserves grace": Holy communion (in which I believe Sibbes is referring to fellowship with other believers, especially at the Lord's Table), holy duties, the gospel ministers of Jesus and His gospel, and the fact that grace is strengthend by the exercise of it. Yet all of these are not what sustains us but the means that Jesus uses to do so; therefore let us glory and boast in Him!
After Sibbes reminds us again of the keeping power of Jesus he takes up again pointing out the ways that we can quench the Spirit. Some men will forsake the mercy of Christ by searching out other sources. Did not the Israelites do this often? Do we not still? Another way that we deeply offend the merciful disposition of our Lord is in our merciless acts towards other believers. This seems to be Sibbes point in the last few pages of this chapter. And finally, he points out that we are quenching the Spirit when we despise the simple means of mercy.
This is a great chapter. Timmy Brister has some excellent discussion on this chapter as well. There are a few things left for us to discuss from this chapter. It is a longer chapter (especially for Sibbes) and it is packed with thoughts. Here are a few questions for us to ponder:
- In his section on resisting Christ's mercy, Sibbes seems to be suggesting that the Holy Spirit can be resisted. We know that Sibbes was a Puritan that held dearly to the doctrines of grace. What then would be his thought on irresistible grace? Does this statement not contradict irresistible grace: "If men appeal to their own consciences, they will tell them that the Holy Spirit has often knocked at their hearts, as willing to have kindled some holy desires in them. How else can they be said to resist the Holy Ghost, but that the Spirit was readier to draw them to a further degree of goodness than was consistent with their own wills?" Our understanding of this question will reveal whether or not we really understood what the Puritans and early Reformers meant by irresistible grace. If we fail to preach as Sibbes did here, I believe we abandon what the Scriptures reveal that there is a sense in which the Spirit of God is actively rejected and resisted. Yet, we must also understand as Sibbes did that there is an effectual drawing of men that will not be resisted. Thoughts?
- When Sibbes says, "what spirit shall we think them to be of that take advantage of the bruisedness and infirmities of men's spirits to relieve them with false peace for their own worldly ends...", do you see modern evangelicalism, or even the SBC? (I point out the SBC because that is where God has planted me). Are we not doing what Sibbes says here if we take sinners that are bruised and weak and we quickly lead them through a prayer and do whatever we can to alleviate their bruising even if it means giving them false peace? Are we not sometimes very quick in bringing men on to make "decisions" so that we can pad our numbers? Sibbes begins railing against popery. My question is, are we that far removed from popery?
Pearls and Diamonds:
"None are damned in the church but those that are determined to be..." (p.67)
"...all comfort should draw us nearer to Christ" (p.68)
"Infirmities are a ground of humility, not a plea for negligence, nor an encouragement to presumption." (p.71)
"One word spoken in season will do more good than a thousand out of season." (p.74)