lordsdaypreacherSIBBES’ LIFE 

In 1577, Richard Sibbes was born to Paul and Joanne Sibbes in Tostock.  This was only five years after the death of John Knox and thirteen after John Calvin.[1]  His father Paul was known to be a strong Christian man, who worked hard at wheel making.[2]  When he was very young, his parents moved away from Tostock to Thurston. 

During his early schooling, Sibbes walked about a mile back and forth to school in Pakenham (North of Thurston).[3]  After going to school in Pakenham from around 1587, he walked to Edward VI Free School at St. Edmunds.  This school was over four miles from his home.  The work at the school was quite rigorous.  They were “to memorize and recite the creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments in English and Latin regularly.  Through recitation they learned Latin and Greek.”[4]  The only recreation the students were allowed was shooting arrows.  He later would use this imagery in his writings.  They went to school from 6:00 AM until 5:00pm.

Sibbes’ education did not cease at this point, but was furthered with help of some local men.  They noted his “predilection for study.”[5]  These local men, Leonard Graves and Mr. Rushbrooke, without the permission of Sibbes’ father, arranged a meeting for him at St, John’s College, Cambridge.  Among the people at this meeting, was the “Puritan Chief” John Knewstub.[6]  Here Sibbes met his first person of note.  Knewstub was the vicar of Cockfield.  With the help of these men, Sibbes attended St. John’s. 

During his time as a student, William Perkins was lecturing at St. Andrew the Great.  Of Perkins, Dever remarks, “Perkins was a popular lecturer among the students and had a wide influence among those in the generations immediately following him.”[7]  In the list of those students who listened to Perkins, were Sibbes, William Ames, and William Gouge (A good friend of Sibbes). 

When Sibbes entered the college during the mid 1590’s, it was without a doubt a place where students and scholars alike could hear different views of the protestant gospel.[8]  There was also much controversy about the doctrine of grace around the time in which Sibbes studied at St. John’s.  However, this showed that deep theological questions could be raised and discussed.  Sibbes enrolled at St. John’s in 1595 under the teaching of William Whitaker, who was a Calvinist.[9]  However, not very long after Sibbes arrived at St. John’s, Whitaker died.[10]  A month after Whitaker’s death, Cambridge hired Richard Clayton.  Commenting on this unstable time at St. John’s, Dever says,

“it is clear that Sibbes had entered a setting in which college sermons, divinity lectures, and conversations in the hallways must have revolved around conformity…the college that Sibbes entered was theologically turbulent and socially unruly.”[11]  

Sibbes finished his degree (B.A.) from St. John’s in 1599.  While he was there, the Lambeth articles produced a setting for Calvinistic doctrine, which the Church of England and the universities subscribed to.[12] 

In 1603, at the Hampton Court Conference, James VI decided that the Puritans should conform to the law of the Church of England.[13]  This conformity included the affirmation of the Three Articles of Canon 36, which espoused the supremacy of the king in the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer and the ecclesiastical structure of the church were not in opposition to the word of God, the Book of Common Prayer must be used in its form in public worship and nothing else, and that the 39 articles were biblical.[14]  In 1607, Paul Baynes had to leave his fellowship because he refused to subscribe or conform.  William Ames, in 1610, was silenced for speaking out about the ills of the church.  He eventually left England and went to the Netherlands as a chaplain.[15] 

 


[1] Sidney H. Rooy, The Theology of Missions in the Puritan Tradition: A Study of Representative Puritans: Richard Sibbes, Richard Baxter, John Eliot, Cotton Mather & Jonathan Edwards (Laurel, MS: Audubon Press, 2006), 15.      

 

[2]  Mark E. Dever, Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Macon, GA: Macon University Press, 2000), 12.     

 

[3] Dever, Sibbes, 13.  

 

[4] Ibid., 14.

 

[5] Ibid., 16.  

 

[6] Ibid., 17. 

 

[7] Ibid., 18. 

 

[8] Ibid., 18.

 

[9] Ibid., 20. 

 

[10] Ibid., 21.  

 

[11] Ibid., 23. 

 

[12] Ibid., 26.  

 

[13] Ibid., 27.  

 

[14] Ibid., 28.  

 

[15] Ibid., 29.

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