- Our Rule is the Covenant of Grace
- The Presence of the Heavenly Fire
Whether Sibbes was one himself or dealt with many of the like, he accurately portrays "those that are given to quarrelling with themselves". It seems as if the entire chapter is devoted to such dear saints that "delight to be looking on the dark side of the cloud only". I have had seasons in my life where I felt this described me so this chapter serves as "balm to my soul".
Because so many ministers do not follow Chapter 5 I believe Chapter 6 becomes necessary. Because some ambassadors are "overbearing, setting up themselves in the hearts of people where Christ alone should sit as in his own temple" many young (and weaker) believers begin to have false reasoning. They begin to falsely reason that, "because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all". Sibbes in this chapter hopes to combat such false thinking.
He does so first by reminding us that believers are under the covenant of grace and not under the law. Sibbes points us to the fact that the Law demands perfect obedience from the heart, and violation of that results in a terrible curse. Moreover, the Law provides no strength. Contrast this with the merciful Savior. "Christ comes with blessing after blessing, even upon those whom Moses had cursed with healing balm for those wounds which Moses has made." Therefore, as we look at such a great Savior we must "look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame".
Sibbes then gives us 10 rules for the presence of the heavenly fire. They are:
- If there be any holy fire in us, it is kindled from heaven
- The least divine light has heat with it in some measure
- Where this heavenly light is kindled, it directs in the right way
- Where this fire is, it will sever things of diverse natures, and show a difference between such things as gold and dross.
- So far as a man is spiritual, so far is light delightful to him.
- Fire, where it is present, is in some degree active
- Fire makes metals pliable and malleable
- Fire, as much as it can, sets everything on fire
- Sparks by nature fly upwards
- Fire if it has any matter to feed on, enlarges itself and amounts higher and higher, and, the higher it rises, the purer the flame.
The key thing to note from this chapter is that "we must look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame". This is the entire point of Sibbes exposition. He is leading us from the beginning stages of the spark through the spark aflame. At the beginning he speaks tender words of encouragement to any believer that has but even a small spark of grace. But as Sibbes closes he raises the bar. "...it argues a false heart to set ourselves a low standard in grace and to rest in beginnings, alleging that Christ will not quench smoking flax".
Thinking in such a way helps us in our spiritual walk to strive toward more holiness. It also helps in ministering to the needs of others. Sibbes keeps us from being too severe and censuring those that do indeed have a spark of grace, and yet he also keeps us from being comfortable in beginnings.
Pearls and Diamonds:
"We must beware of false reasoning, such as: because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all." (p.35)
"We must look to grace in the spark as well as in the flame. All have not the like strong, though they have the like precious, faith." (p.36)
"Weak light produces weak inclinations, strong light, strong inclinations." (p.38)
"Where fire is, in any degree, it will fight everything contrary to it...grace will never join with sin, any more than fire with water." (p.41)