May 2009


This Monday marks my 7th trip to Brazil. The last trip I took was after I graduated in May of 2004. Recently, me and my lovely bride were watching some videos  that I had filmed while on this first trip. What struck me was the date May 25th 2004. This is the exact date of our departure on Monday from Richamond. Also, interestingly I have just graduated again. This time from seminary. 7th trip, same date, and after graduatio…hmm…either I just look into things too much or God is up to something. I don’t know if any of this has any significance, but I am just so blessed to be able to go there again with my wife.

Please pray for us and the people of Sao Paulo!

Advertisements

Therefore, St. John’s for Sibbes, Dever says, “Must have been not simply a training ground in Reformed divinity, but rsibin Reformed divinity exercised with political restraint.”[1]  With such pressure from inside and outside the church there is no wonder Dever would say that Sibbes learned political restraint.  His moderation or restraint would also show up later in his life, when it came to the question his own conformity.   

Sibbes was eventually elected to three of the most important positions at the college, Senior Dean and Lector Domesticus, senior fellow, which was the most important of the three, and Taxor.[2]  St. John’s was the place of his education and career, but most importantly the place of his conversion.  Dever says of Cambridge at this time, “Elizabethan Cambridge had many things to commend serious contemplation of religion, from regular sermons, to monthly communion, from required prayers.”[3]  He was converted during this time under the ministry of Paul Baynes.  Sibbes conversion does not seem to be dramatic, but one that was gradual. 

In 1608, Sibbes was ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England.[4]  At this time, Sibbes would have subscribed to the Three Articles.  He then began preaching, of which Dever comments, “Sibbes quickly gained a reputation as a good preacher among the people of Cambridge.”[5]  He would have acquired this reputation from the public sermons he delivered at St. John’s chapel.

In 1610, Sibbes became lecturer at Holy Trinity Church.[6]  His sermons became so popular there that an extra gallery needed to be added to seat everyone.  John Cotton another noted Puritan was converted under the preaching of Sibbes at Holy Trinity.  He had been sitting under the preaching of William Perkins which troubled him, but “Sibbes’ more hopeful preaching encouraged him.”[7]  Thomas Goodwin was also converted under his preaching.  He would later come to be one of the main editor’s to the works of Richard Sibbes.[8] 

In 1616, he was elected preacher at Gray’s Inn, which was the largest of the Inns of Court and the most influential.  The Inns of Court were bases of operation for Puritan clergy and laymen.[9]  At Gray’s Inn, his salary was increased twice and there were editions added onto building as well to accommodate the parishioners.[10]  Among those who would have heard his sermons throughout the years were: John Milton, William Gouge, Charles Chauncey, Joseph Mede, Jeremy Taylor, George Herbert, Matthew Wren, Bacon, Boyle, Cromwell, Drake, Nevill, Sindey and Winthrop.[11]   

Sibbes remains a distinct figure from many of his Puritan contemporaries for the fact that he conformed to the constraints of the Church of England, while many of them left their pulpits.  He saw the Church of England as a true church, because it had “sound preaching of the Gospell, right dispensation of the Sacraments, Prayer religiously performed, evill persons justly punished…many spiritual children to the Lord.”[12]  Sibbes thought that “separation and emigration were needlessly negative responses.”[13]  Therefore, he said, “must we make a rent in the church for…circumstantial evils?  That were a remedy worse than the disease.”[14]  This was the mindset of the man, Richard Sibbes who remained loyal to that church in which he received Jesus Christ and found salvation for his soul.  His heart was convinced to make room for peace and gradual reformation within the Church of England.

Sibbes was a man concerned not only with the unity and peace of the church, but was also consumed with bringing comfort and peace to the people who heard him preach.  In Packer’s foreword to Dever’s Richard Sibbes, Packer says of Sibbes, “He was called the Sweet Dropper by reason of his encouraging sermons.”[15]  In a time, when Sibbes could have like many walked away from the church or chose to speak in a veiled bitter manner about the church and its people, he chose instead to drop anchor and preach a gospel of comfort.  Furthermore, Dever describes Sibbes’ preaching as being, “distinguished by its more pacific tone, more concerned with comfort than controversy.”[16]     

 


[1] Ibid., 33.  

[5] Ibid., 36.  

[7] Ibid., 40. 

[10] Ibid., 75.  

[11] Rooy, Theology of Missions, 17.     

[12] Richard Sibbes, “Consolatory Letter to an Afflicted Conscience” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart.vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), cxvi.    

[13] Dever, Richard Sibbes, x.  

[15] Dever, Sibbes, ix.   

[16] Ibid., 1.  

[17] Richard Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart. vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 43.