Tuesday, March 15, 2005

a bruised reed, a smoking flax

“In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals.”
from The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes, taken from Matthew 12:20

Every once in a while you come across a writer who is able to reach right down inside of your heart, a writer who surprises you by discussing just the very things that you have been pondering yourself.

Such has been my experience with Richard Sibbes, reading of late The Bruised Reed, originally published in 1630. A Puritan pastor whose writings have greatly influenced men such as Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, and D. Martin-Lloyd Jones, Sibbes was known as “the sweet dropper” because his words were as a medicine for the soul, a balm in Gilead, words of comfort and encouragement to those who were down-trodden.

on bruised reeds:

Every Christian is a bruised reed, bruised from sin, either their own or another’s. He is the man who comes to Christ, poor in spirit, indebted to divine justice. Sibbes says “This bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good.”

on smoking flax:

“Christ will not quench the smoking flax but will blow it up till it flames….let us not, therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elected to be “holy and without blame.” Sibbes goes on to talk about the importance of gently leading and teaching new believers and children, and in ministering to those who are struggling. He admonishes us never to use a heavy hand. He points out that their sanctification comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, not by us, and to that end we must be careful and always moderate in our application of the law.

Sunday afternoon there was a large grass fire west of town. 10 acres of prairie brush and weeds and grasses turned to a charred mass with the help of a blustery March wind. This was a good thing for the farmer’s field; the prairie is always the better for such fire. The weeds are destroyed, allowing the burgeoning grasses to flourish.

But, at the edge of that field sits a used trailer park, owned by a man who reconditions and guts used mobile homes. By Monday morning, 15 hours after the first alarm sounded and a dozen or more fire engines later, half of his inventory was destroyed. The man had no insurance.

Such is the lot of the bruised reed who is without the hope of the gospel of grace. In the end, all is destroyed. But the one whose hope is in the Lord, no matter how small that hope, that man is surely under the watchcare of a gentle, compassionate shepherd, one who will preserve to the end.

In a couple weeks, that field will once again be restored, indeed, will be green and fruitful. So it shall be with those of us who come through the fire, clinging to God as He rids us of the stubble!

More from Richard Sibbes later.


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