Richard Sibbes was born in Suffolk, England in 1577 and was a minister of the gospel until his death in 1635. Perhaps the gentlest of the Puritans, The Bruised Reed speaks gospel comfort to those struggling with their faith. "Sibbes never wastes the student's time," wrote Charles Spurgeon, "he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands."
Following his compassionate healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, Matthew quotes from Isaiah 42 and says that Jesus will not break off "a bruised reed" and "a smoking flax he shall not quench." Jesus is filled with tenderness and mercy to those who are hurt, broken, and weak. The bruising is, in fact, from him. Sibbes shares that "After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may show themselves to be reeds, and not oaks." This bruising shows us that "we live by mercy."
Sibbes assures us that Christ is the King, but "He will not show his strength against those who prostrate themselves before him." Christ is merciful and his good news is a good news that meets us where we are. "What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ's obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy."
His love is a healing balm to those who are afflicted. “God has more mercy towards us than we have sin." In light of Christ's mercy, Sibbes exhorts the preacher to show the mercy of Christ to the congregation for "conscience is a tender and delicate thing."
But it is no cheap grace that Sibbes offers. Jesus is not merely our Savior, he is also our Sanctifier. As those bruised by our Savior, we are called by his mercy to fight sin, not weakly yield to it. "True peace is in conquering, not in yielding," Sibbes encourages us.
As we fight against sin, it is easy to grow discouraged, but as we look to Christ, our faces should brighten. Sibbes says, "Shall our sins discourage us, when he [Christ] appears there for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan's counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, `If I may but touch his garment' (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer... Never fear to go to God, since we have such Mediator with him, who is not only our friend but our brother and husband." Our glorious God's mercy is revealed in the beauty and the tenderness of our friend, our brother, our husband Jesus Christ.
Sibbes closes his book by assuring us that those who are smoking now, will glow gloriously in eternity. The flame of Christ in us will not be quenched. Christ will be victorious. I heartily commend Sibbes to you. The Bruised Reed is indeed balm for the soul and encouragement to the weary.
Photo credit: Jamie Dench/Unsplash