- Rules for Right Judgment
- Keeping Our Judgment Clear
- Reasons for Seeming Lack of Progress
- All Should Side with Christ
It seems like Sibbes has developed in these latter chapters a propensity for list making. He offers us several lists again. They are indeed very important for us to consider. It is not in list form but Sibbes begins by giving several rules for right judgment. They appear to be questions to ask yourself in making decisions. I will try to reformat them into a question form list:
- Does it help or hinder my main purpose?
- Does it make me more or less spiritual?
- Does it bring me nearer the fountain of all goodness; God Himself?
- Will it bring me peace or sorrow?
- Will it commend me more or less to God?
- What was the consequence of similar reflections in the past? Did it lead to grace?
- How does God judge this?
- How do men, with nothing invested, advice in the matter?
After considering rules for right judgment, Sibbes now will consider seven ways to keep our judgment clear. First, we ought to "store up true principles in our hearts, and refresh them often, that, in virtue of them, our affections and actions may be more vigorous". Secondly, "because knowledge and affection help one another, it is good to keep up our affections of love and delight by all sweet inducements and divine encouragements; for what the heart likes best, the mind studies most". Thirdly, we should discover where our weaknesses are. Fourthly, we should "use all means by which fresh thoughts and affections may be stirred up and preserved in us". Fifthly, "we must keep grace in exercise". Sixthly, all of these resolutions must be made in the strength of Christ. Lastly, we should labor to discover what frame our soul ought to be in. In other words we ought to labor to be always prepared.
Some will object to this, and ask, "Why do I remain at a standstill"? Sibbes offers two quick responses. 1) Grace grows in ways that we know not. It may appear that you are at a standstill but you are actually growing. 2) Sometimes victory is suspended because of sin or because we are betraying our helps. How do we gain victory? "First, to get the victory over the pride of our own nature by taking shame to ourselves, in humble confession to God; and then, secondly, to overcome the unbelief of our hearts by yielding to the promise of pardon; and then, thirdly, in confidence of Christ's assistance, to set ourselves against those sins which have prevailed over us."
It is almost as if the last section does not belong in this chapter. Sibbes closes by urging all souls to side with Christ. He will be victorious, therefore, we ought to side with the victor. Not only because He is the victor, but because, "Where Christ is, all happiness must follow. If Christ goes, all will go."
What do you think of Sibbes' tips on making right judgments? Would you add anything? Do you agree with all that are there? Is such a list beneficial? Can it be simplified?
Sibbes says, "For what the heart likes best, the mind studies most". How might we get our hearts in such a frame that we will study most what our heart should like best?
Pearls and Diamonds:
"...faith is an obedient and wise grace." (p.101)
"True judgment in us advances Christ, and Christ will advance it. All sin is either from false principles, or ignorance, or thoughtlessness, or unbelief of what is true." (p.102)
"If Christ has possessed the affections, there is no dispossessing of him again. A fire in the heart overcomes all fires without". (p.103)
"...how can we think that Christ will lead us out to victory, when we take counsel with his and our enemies?" (p.104)
"It is not sleepy habits, but grace in exercise, that preserves us." (p.104)