- The Least Spark of Grace is Precious
- Support the Weak
Sibbes begins by giving us two reasons that Christ does not quench the smoking flax. 1) It is his own. 2) it tends to the glory of his powerful grace. After this Sibbes expounds upon the truth that the least spark of gracious. He again gives numerous evidences from Scripture that this is so. From Emmaus to Peter to the bleeding woman, Sibbes gives numerous examples of Christ taking the least spark of grace and treating it as precious.
We are then entreated to do the same. Christ, who will not quench the smoking flax, is compared with man that will. Yet, Christ "cherishes even the least beginnings". We are urged then by Sibbes to do the like. He encourages us to deal tenderly with new believers and to sometimes overlook their defects. As we are helping these new believers, or even sometimes weak believers, to grow up in the Lord we must be careful with our liberties. We must labor to not cause an offense nor to take offense. Along the same lines we must be careful not to despise the gifts and grace of God in others. We see in this the great work of Christ that he uses men in their weakness and refuses to lift up those in their strengths.
We are then encouraged to deal with secure sinners sometimes with a rod. Yet, in Sibbes mind, this seems to be the exception. Mostly, our weaker brothers should be dealt with gently. Always we must remember that the refining of Christ is not complete this side of glory.
Of all the chapters thus far this is probably my least favorite, though it is probably the most pastoral. Perhaps none of this struck me as deeply because this is something that the life of John Newton has been teaching me for a few months now. This chapter simply confirmed that which I had already been learning. It does have a few sections that carry significant weight and adds arsenal in my fight with being ill-tempered with doctrine. What I mean by that is that this chapter will help us to deal graciously with "weaker" believers.
My favorite statement from this chapter is this one: "When blindness and boldness, ignorance and arrogance, weakness and wilfulness, meet together in men, it renders them odious to God, burdensome in society, dangerous in their counsels, disturbers of better purposes, intractable and incapable of better direction, misreable in the issue". I fear that I have often been the fool described here. I am thankful for the Lord's grace in tempering my arrogance and wilfulness, while at the same time rescuing me from blindness, ignorance, and weakness.
This chapter also encourages us to sometimes bear the rod. It is sound advice that Sibbes gives in this chapter. It seems that our default with sinners should be gentleness. But at times Scripture encourages us to pull men out of the fire. As Sibbes says, "A sharp reproof sometimes is a precious pearl and a sweet balm". It has been my experience that Christian's are either truthful jerks or candy-coated pansies. I've been both in varying extremes. Sibbes is encouraging us here to sometimes speak the truth in love without sparing the rod, and to sometimes speak the truth in love with much gentleness. We need counsel like this in our day.
Pearls and Diamonds:
"It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labour to give no offence, and the other to labour to take none." (p.23)
"When blindness and boldness, ignorance and arrogance, weakness and wilfulness, meet together in men, it renders them odious to God, burdensome in society, dangerous in their counsels, disturbers of better purposes, intractable and incapable of better direction, misreable in the issue" (p. 23)
"The scope of true love is to make the party better, which concealment oftentimes hinders." (p. 24)
"The wounds of secure sinners will not be healed with sweet words." (p. 24)