Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Response to and excerpt from Sibbes' "The Bruised Reed"

Yesterday I finished reading The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes as part of the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. [Yes, I know I was a day late, but I started reading about 20 days late.]


As this work has blessed Christians for over 300 years now, offering any response is clearly judging my superior. However, I will say that The Bruised Reed is not an easy read. For this reason, I would not suggest that someone unfamiliar with Puritan works begin with this particular book. Nor would I suggest that someone who is in a "bruised" (i.e. "distraught") condition- the intended audience of this work- be handed this book, as they will likely only become frustrated due to the difficult sentence structures. However, I would suggest that anyone going into full-time ministry read this work as an excellent example of how to help hurting people by directing them to a consideration of Christ. Also, I would definitely suggest that anyone teaching on Isaiah 42:3 or Matthew 12:20 (the verses that this work is focused upon) study Sibbes' thoughts on the text. This is the real genius of the Puritans- how they can give laser-like focus to a single passage of Scripture, drawing numerous valid connections to other texts and offering insightful applications, so that sometimes (as in the book under examination) they produced a whole volume on a single verse. Finally, for someone who has learned much of Christ and who may even be tempted toward pride due to his or her knowledge of Him, I would certainly suggest he or she study this book, as Sibbes destroys human arrogance (by demonstrating that we are all 'bruised reeds') and employs God's Word to deepen his readers' affection for the Lord Jesus.


The following is my favorite passage from The Bruised Reed, coming near the end of the final chapter; this passage shows the Christ-centeredness of this work and demonstrates the relentless application of the text, characteristic of the Puritans:

Let us strive a little while, and we shall be happy for ever. Let us think when we are troubled with our sins, that Christ hath this in charge of his Father, 'that he shall not quench the smoking flax,' until he hath subdued all. This putteth a shield into our hands to beat back all 'the fiery darts of Satan,' Eph. vi. 16. He will object, (1.) thou art a great sinner; we may answer, Christ is a strong Saviour; but he will object, (2.) thou hast no faith, no love; yes, a spark of faith and love; but (3.) Christ will not regard that; yes, 'he will not quench the smoking flax;' but (4.) this is so little and weak, that it will vanish and come to nought: nay, but Christ will cherish it, until he hath brought judgment to victory.



Blogger Nathan White said...

Andrew, you said:
"I would not suggest that someone unfamiliar with Puritan works begin with this particular book. Nor would I suggest that someone who is in a "bruised" (i.e. "distraught") condition- the intended audience of this work- be handed this book, as they will likely only become frustrated due to the difficult sentence structures."

I completely agree with your assessment. As one who has read at least a dozen Puritan books within the last year, I believe Sibbes, next to Owen, is one of the very toughest to follow. He's just not very organized, and his thoughts (even the good ones) come somewhat at random. But don't get me wrong, the book is certainly pure gold. To one seasoned in old works, it will prove its great value. But it would be a bad place to start if one is not familiar with Puritan writings.

I was beginning to wonder if I was the only guy who felt this way --thanks for sharing, and for making me see that I'm not crazy :)

9:16 PM  
Blogger Terry Delaney said...

Wow, I must say I completely disagree that Sibbes is a difficult read. I am not saying this to show that I am better than anyone, but I truly thought this was one of the easiest "meaty" books I have read in quite some time.

What Sibbes said was deep and profound, yes, but I don't know that it was too deep for someone to understand. Granted, I have been reading the likes of Nietzche and Wittgenstein for some time now as well as Edwards and Owen (I do think Owen is difficult), but I don't know that made that much a difference in the readabilit of Sibbes.

I also would have (and have alread) suggested to a "bruised" friend to read this book. I found its exhortations to persevere in duties despite our bruising and the reminder that our sin yesterday is just as fresh to God today because of his existence outside of time to be a "sweet balm" to a hurting heart.

I am not calling y'all crazy! I just disagree with your assessment. My wife, who has never read any Puritan writing, thought it was a wonderful book and found it to be an easy read.

However, I do appreciate your thoughts because I will not be as likely to suggest this book to the next person or friend who comes along without some further research into the person I am talking with. I don't know that I would have ever thought to see it from this perspective. God bless.

7:57 AM  
Blogger ajlin said...

Re: thanks for... making me see that I'm not crazy

-I don't know if I'd go that far! :)


I don't know that the concepts are hard to understand, but I do think that the sentence structures are- especially if one has not read anything from the early 17th century in awhile, as I had not before I picked up this book. Also, I agree with Mark Dever that the Puritan works are easier to understand when read aloud.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Nathan White said...


I should probably add in the qualifier that I don't believe Sibbes' sentence structure is hard to follow, rather, it's his flow of thought. I would come across a wonderful statement, look up at the heading it was under, and wonder how in the world it fits with his outline. Not a huge deal, but I find it increasingly hard to stay interested given the randomness. I have never encountered this with any other Puritan works. I found the same thing when I read another work by Sibbes, Glorious Freedom, a few months ago.

Nevertheless, I still recommend it, but only to those well versed in Puritan works.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Terry Delaney said...

I wonder how much of our "structured" thinking is imposed on the writings of Sibbes. I can see what you are saying, but I struggle with having to have everything outlined and sticking to said outline in a rigid manner.

I would think that the way the Puritans wrote is nothing like the way we wrote. At the same time, I am also willing to give the benefit of the doubt that the "stray" point is somehow germane to the major heading. Also, how many of those headings were added in later editions so as to be an aide to reading kinda like the chapters and verses found in the Bible.

I also agree that the Puritans are best understood when read aloud--I find the same to be true for anything by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Weren't most of their works (I know all of Lloyd-Jones' were) basically sermons or papers written in order to be preached?

Please don't think I am attacking. On the contrary, I am enjoying this conversation as it is not one I would have even thought about on my own.

10:22 PM  

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