- Grace is Little at First
- Grace is Mingled with Corruption
Sibbes' major concern here is to display for us what is meant by a smoking flax. He sees the smoking flax as that which has a little bit of light and it is mixed with smoke. Hence, the outline he follows. He begins by showing us that grace is little at first. The better a thing is the harder it is for it to become perfect. A mushroom becomes perfect (completed) much quicker than a mighty oak tree, so it is with the believer. It is important then for us to see in this growth process that, "Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto." Even the least bit of grace is the most glorious thing.
"Grace is not only little, but [also] mingled with corruption", says Sibbes. Grace is not perfect as soon as we are saved. Some corruption is left for believers to fight with. He then labors to prove his point that grace is mingled with corruption; or in other words light is mixed with smoke. He gives several examples from Scripture that this is so.
Sibbes closes by discussing the reason and results of this mixture. The reason, Sibbes says, is to "preserve us from those dangerous rocks which our natures are prone to dash upon, security and pride, and to force us to pitch our rest on justification, not sanctification, which, besides imperfection, has some stains". The result then is that sometimes people feel "well persuaded of themselves" and sometimes "at a loss".
As stated earlier, the beginning of the chapter did not speak to me nearly as much the latter half. I can, however, see that it would be very soothing to a new believer that is struggling with feelings of having little grace. It is not as if I feel that I have a ton of grace and that I have arrived, I guess as a child feels a little more confident at age 9 than he does at age 3; so am I spiritually. I feel more confident in grace. But, I often feel the weight of "mingled corruption".
I especially liked what Sibbes said regarding this mingled nature causing us to rest on justification and not sanctification. I have been learning a ton about that lately. It is vitally important to ground our faith in the objective work of Christ in justification instead of the subjective work of sanctification in our lives. Sanctification indeed shows the evidence of justification, but it is never the grounds for it. Sibbes does an excellent job of showing this. He also helps us to better understand why sometimes we feel as if we've got this "walk with Christ" thing down, and other times we wonder if we are even saved. When we look at the work of grace we are encouraged. When our eyes are fixed on the remaining corruption we are discouraged.
A couple of questions for us to discuss: Why do you think Sibbes considers security a "dangerous rock"? And also, probably more importantly, do you believe it is biblical that we "carry about us a double principle, grace and nature"?
Pearls and Diamonds:
"Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto."
"Grace, though little in quantity, yet is much in vigour and worth."
"Broken hearts can yield but broken prayers."
"The people of God have so different judgments of themselves, looking sometimes at the work of grace, sometimes at the remainder of corruption, and when they look upon that, then they think they have no grace...so sometimes they are well persuaded of themselves, sometimes at a loss."