Gems From Richard Sibbes
Poverty of spirit should accompany us all our life long, to let us see that we have no righteousness of our own to sanctification; that all the grace we have is out of ourselves, even for the performance of every holy duty. For though we have grace, yet we cannot bring that grace into act without new grace; even as there is a fitness in trees to bear fruit, but without the influence of heaven they cannot. That which oftentimes makes us miscarry in the actions of our calling, is because we think we have strength and wisdom enough; and then what is begun in self-confidence, is ended in shame. We set upon duties in our own pride and strength of parts, and find success accordingly. Therefore it is a sign that God will bless our endeavours, when out of the sense of our own weakness we water our business with prayer and tears.
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Many men fall to questioning, Oh that I had assurance of my salvation! Oh that I were the child of God! Why, man, fall to obedience. Ay, but I cannot; for it is the Spirit that enables. But yet come to holy exercises, though we have not the Spirit; for many times in the midst of holy exercises God gives the Spirit; and therefore, attend upon the means until we have strength to obey. Wait upon God’s ordinances till he stirs in thy soul. All that love your souls, attend upon the means, and have a care to sanctify the Lord’s day: Revelation 1:10, ‘John was ravished in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.’
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As children in the womb have eyes and ears, not for that place, but for a civil life afterwards among men, where they shall have use of all members, even so our life here is not for this world only, but for another. We have large capacities, large memories, large affections, large expectations. God doth not give us large capacities and large affections for this world, but for heaven and heavenly things.
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As men do cherish young plants at first, and do fence them about with hedges and other things to keep them from hurt, but when they are grown, they remove them, and then leave them to the wind and weather, so God, he besets his children first with props of inward comforts, but afterwards he exposes them to storms and winds, because they are better able to bear it. Therefore let no man think himself the better because he is free from troubles. It is because God sees him not fit to bear greater.
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We should labour to agree mutually in love, for that wherein any Christian differs from another is but in petty things. Grace knows no difference; the worms know no difference; the day of judgment knows no difference. In the worst things we are all alike base, and in the best things we are all alike happy. Only in this world God will have distinctions, for order’s sake; but else there is no difference.
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Christians are like to many men of great means, that know not how to make use of them. We live not like ourselves. Bring large faith, and we shall have large grace and comfort. Labour to have a large faith, answerable to our large riches. And though Christians be low enough in outward things, and oftentimes poorer than other men, yet they are rich; for Christ is rich unto them, in their crosses and abasements, That which they want in this world shall be made up in grace and glory hereafter.
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We should watch and labour daily to continue in prayer, strengthening and backing them with arguments from the word and promises, and marking how our prayers speed. When we shoot an arrow, we look to the fall of it; when we send a ship to sea, we look for the return of it; and when we sow seed, we look for a harvest; and so when we sow our prayers into God’s bosom, shall we not look for an answer, and observe how we speed? It is a seed of atheism to pray, and not to look how we speed. But a sincere Christian will pray, and wait, and strengthen his heart with promises out of the word, and never leave till God do give him a gracious answer.
‘Sibbes‘, says Spurgeon, ‘never wastes the student’s time; he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.’
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